The third letter of John warns us of a figure of the early Church named Diotrephes, who did not acknowledge Church authority, who made false accusations against others, who refused to accept emissaries from the Church and who prevented others from doing so. The scriptures do not record the reasons behind Diotrephes’ actions, but leave him as an example of what to avoid.
The third letter of John contains evidence of debate and disagreement in the early Church, but it also contains evidence of the high value placed on Church unity. In addition to censuring Diotrephes, the letter praises its recipient, Gaius, for living a Christian life, “according to the truth,” and for showing hospitality to visiting missionaries. The missionaries “have set out for the sake of the Name… therefore, we ought to support such persons, so that we may be co-workers in the truth.” When we support missionaries, or, indeed, anyone who is working formally to advance the mission of the Church, we become co-workers in the truth.
St. Josaphat, whose feast day we celebrate today, took these messages to heart. He worked tirelessly to reconcile Catholics and Orthodox in 17th century Belarus. He had told his people that “I would be happy to give my life for you. I am ready to die for the union of the Church under St. Peter and his successor, the Pope.” His labor on behalf of peace and unity bore great fruit in some quarters, but it also provoked hostility and even his own martyrdom. Today, may his intercession bring to all Christians the grace of visible unity and mutual support.