Rev. Martin Junge: 2017 Commencement Mass Reflections

by Notre Dame News

Dear graduates, friends, dear sisters and brothers in Christ. It is time to face it. There is so much more that unites than what divides us. For decades and for centuries we were not able to see it because our focus was on what is different, because our focus was on explaining who we are in view of how we are different from the other. Our focus was not to describe who we are together in Christ, but our focus was to emphasize how different we were. Change has come into the life of our churches. I believe this change stems from prayer. There have been so many people praying for unity, picking up on Jesus’ prayer that there may all be one. And in praying together change has come about. But it has also come about because Lutherans and Catholics in different parts of the world came together in order to serve those who needed the service of the church. In my context, my own background in Chile, Catholics and Lutherans came together in view of the massive violations of human rights. And by coming together we began to recognize each other. Trust grew, and more importantly we began to see Christ in the other, recognizing how much we have in common, recognizing how much future is ahead of us. And change has come about because we talked to each other. President Jenkins was mentioning the year 1967 with the vision of a former president for this University. Friends, it was that year when Lutherans and Catholics at the global level began to talk. At that time, we met as strangers, beginning to build bridges, creating understanding among each other so that we could embrace the gift of unity, which is a gift from God. I want to give that message to you as graduates: Dialogue pays off. Dialogue pays off. We need to stick to dialogue. We need to hold fast to dialogue. We need to be very slow in dismissing each other but very determined to hold fast to dialogue. So, we are at a point as Lutherans and Catholics at this juncture of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, where we are determined about leaving conflict behind and facing the unity that is ahead of us as a gift of God. Not anymore the narratives of the conflict, but the vision and the promise of what God holds prepared to us needs to be the theme, and the issue and the matter of our conversation. We cannot undo history; we cannot change what has happened; we shouldn’t justify wrongdoings and violence. Instead, we need to take it up with a spirit of repentance and move on. Together, with that lesson that dialogue pays off, I want to leave you with a message that it’s also possible to leave conflict behind and to journey into what God holds prepared for us. I’m deeply grateful to the University for the honorary doctorate degree which will be bestowed on me as a recognition, I believe, to all these people who have been praying, talking and cooperating together. Dialogue pays off. It is possible to leave conflict behind. There is much more that unites us than what divides us. That is the journey which is ahead of us. May God lead us, may God inspire us, may God sustain us in what is ahead of us. Thank you very much.