Here’s the Catholic version of church history in a nutshell: Jesus prayed for all Christians to be one (Jn 17:21); all Christians were one before the Photian schism, and then, with the Reformation, there has been escalating fragmentation so that we now have about 33,000 Protestant sects or denominations.
That’s a very intriguing take on Jn 17:21. On that interpretation, when God the Son Incarnate asked God the Father to make all Christians one, the Father answered his prayer by making Christians into 33,000 denominations. In other words, he gave his Son the polar opposite of what he asked for.
I suppose, if Jesus had it to do all over again (given the Catholic interpretation), he’d use reverse psychology on the Father.
And that’s not all. According to the Catholic interpretation, the prayer Jesus hasn’t merely gone unfulfilled. Rather, it’s gone progressively unfulfilled. The more time passes, the more unfulfilled it becomes. Christians started out as members of the one true church, back in the golden age before the Photian schism, but over time the prayer of Jesus has gone increasingly and exponentially unfulfilled.
On the Catholic interpretation of Jn 17:21, answered prayer is like a leaky container. God filled it to the brim, but as time goes by it drains away from full to three quarters full to half-full to a quarter full, and so on. Like watching a water cooler bubble and gurgle as it goes down…down…down.
So that’s how the Father “answered” Christ’s prayer. The answer is inversely proportional to the request. And with the passage of time it continues to diverge rather than converge. Indeed, to diverge at an ever accelerated pace.
That’s a very ingenious theology of prayer. It means that every good Catholic should have a pocket thesaurus of antonyms so that, whenever he prays, he can choose the right antonym to get exactly what he wants. First think of what you want, then look up a corresponding antonym which is diametrically opposed to what you want so that, by asking God for the antithesis of what you really want, he will unwittingly grant your wish by giving you just what you didn’t ask for.
It takes a bit of practice to get the hang of it. But it helps to periodically reread Through the Looking-Glass to get yourself in the right frame of mind.