Friday, January 18, 2013

Day 1 of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

Today is the first day of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. This week is organized yearly by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the World Council of Churches. All information I post (except for the ecumenism logo) comes directly from the Vatican website. The theme is from Micah 6:6-8:

‘With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt-offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with tens of thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?’ He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Day 1Walking in conversation

Genesis 11: 1-9The story of Babel and legacy of our diversity
Psalm 34:11-18“Come...listen”. God’s invitation to conversation
Acts 2: 1-12The outpouring of the Spirit, the gift of understanding
Luke 24: 13-25Conversation with the Risen Jesus on the road

To walk humbly with God means to walk as people speaking with one another and with the Lord, always attentive to what we hear. And so we begin our celebration of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity by reflecting on scripture passages which speak of the essential practice of conversation. Conversation has been central to the ecumenical movement, as it opens up spaces for learning from one another, sharing what we have in common, and for differences to be heard and attended to. In this way mutual understanding is developed. These gifts from the search for unity are part of our basic call to respond to what God requires of us: through true conversation justice is done, and kindness learnt. Experiences of practical liberation from all over the world make clear that the isolation of people who are made to live with poverty is forcefully overcome by practices of dialogue.

Today’s Genesis reading, and the story of Pentecost, both reflect something of this human action, and its place in God’s liberating plan for people. The story of the tower of Babel first describes how, where there is no language barrier great things are possible. However, the story tells how this potential is grasped as a basis for self-promotion: “let us make a name for ourselves”, is the motivation for the building of the great city. In the end this project leads to a confusion of speech; from now on we must learn our proper humanity through patient attentiveness to the other who is strange to us. It is with the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost that understanding across differences is made possible in a new way, through the power of Jesus’ resurrection. Now we are invited to share the gift of speech and listening orientated toward the Lord, and towards freedom. We are called to walk in the Spirit.

The experience of the disciples on the road to Emmaus is a conversation taking place in a context of travel together, but also of loss and disappointed hope. As churches living with levels of disunity, and as societies divided by prejudices and fear of the other we can recognise ourselves here. Yet it is precisely here that Jesus chooses to join the conversation - not presuming the superior role of teacher, but walking alongside his disciples. It is his desire to be a part of our conversations, and our response of wanting him to stay and speak more with us, that enables a living encounter with the Risen Lord.
All Christians know something of this meeting with Jesus, and the power of his word “burning within us”; this resurrection experience calls us into a deeper unity in Christ. Constant conversation with each other and with Jesus - even in our own disorientation - keeps us walking together towards unity.

Jesus Christ, we proclaim with joy our common identity in you, and we thank you for inviting us into a dialogue of love with you. Open our hearts to share more perfectly in your prayer to the Father that we may be one, so that as we journey together we may draw closer to each other. Give us the courage to bear witness to the truth together, and may our conversations embrace those who perpetuate disunity. Send your Spirit to empower us to challenge situations where dignity and compassion are lacking in our societies, nations, and the world.
God of life, lead us to justice and peace. Amen

  • Where do we practice true conversation, across the various differences that separate us?
  • Is our conversation orientated towards some grand project of our own, or towards new life which brings hope of resurrection?
  • What people do we converse with, and who is not included in our conversations? Why?

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