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It is not possible for the Lord to agonize over the unity of His disciples and for us to remain indifferent about the unity of all Christians. This would constitute criminal betrayal and transgression of His divine commandment.
Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople
Patriarchal and Synodal Encyclical on the Sunday of Orthodoxy, 21 Feb 2010
(and for your viewing edification, 60 Minutes interview with the Patriarch a couple months ago)
From the official material prepared by the World Council of Churches and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity
Genesis 18:1-8, Let me bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves.
Psalm 146, He who gives justice to the oppressed and gives food to the hungry.
Romans 14:17-19, Pursue what makes for peace and mutual edification.
Luke 24:41-48, Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures.
Today, electronic communication has made us neighbors in one small and overloaded planet. As in the time of Luke, many peoples and communities have had to leave their homes, wandering and journeying to strange lands. People of the world’s great faiths have arrived bringing new beliefs and cultures to our communities.
In the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity we recognize in our shared journey towards unity the hospitality and companionship of Christians of all churches. Christ also calls us to both offer and to receive the hospitality of the stranger who has become our neighbor. Surely, if we cannot see Christ in the other, then we cannot see Christ at all.
The story in Genesis describes how Abraham receives God in opening his house and offering hospitality to strangers. The God of all creation also stands with the prisoner, the blind, the stranger. Our psalm is an offering of praise for God’s everlasting faithfulness and all that God has done for us.
The text from Romans reminds us that the kingdom of God comes about through justice and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
The resurrected Christ brings his disciples together, eats with them and they recognize him again. He reminds them of what the scriptures said about him and explains what they did not understand before. Thus, he frees them from their doubts and fears and sends them out to become witnesses of these things. In creating this space for encounter with him he enables them to receive his peace, that implies justice for the oppressed, care for the hungry and the mutual up-building as the gifts of the new world of the resurrection. Christians throughout history have found the risen Lord as they have served others and been served by others in faith, so we too can encounter Christ when we share our lives and our gifts.
God of love, You have shown us your hospitality in Christ. We acknowledge that through sharing our gifts with all, we meet you. Give us the grace that we may become one on our journey together and recognize you in one another. In welcoming the stranger in your name may we become witnesses to your hospitality and your justice. Amen.
To what extent is the country in which you live hospitable to the stranger?
How in your own neighborhood can the stranger find hospitality and a space to live?
How might you show gratitude for those who have shown you hospitality by being available?
How does the cross show us that God’s hospitality is a hospitality lived out in total self-giving?
From the official material prepared by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the World Council of Churches:
Isaiah 50:5-9, The one who vindicates me is near.
Psalm 124, Our help is in the name of the Lord.
Romans 8:35-39, God’s love shown forth in Jesus Christ.
Luke 24:25-27, He interpreted to them the things about himself.
The reality of suffering is something that the Prophet Isaiah speaks about forcefully in today’s text, in which he reminds us that God is never resigned to seeing humanity suffer. In response the Psalm proclaims the trust that believers must maintain in their Savior.
The letter to the Romans proclaims the certainty that love is always strongest and that suffering and sorrow will never prevail. For before offering the resurrection to the world, Christ entered into a terrible death and into the dark depths of the tomb so as to be completely with us at our very lowest ebb.
In the Lord’s footsteps, Christians who seek full unity show their solidarity to those amongst them who are confronted in their lives with tragic situations of suffering, by confessing that love is stronger than death. And that it was from the extreme humiliation of the tomb that resurrection came like a new sun for humanity; a clamoring annunciation of life, forgiveness and immortality.
God our Father, look with compassion on our situations of poverty, suffering, sin and death, we ask you for forgiveness, healing, comfort and support in our ordeals. We give you thanks for all who manage to see light in their affliction. May your divine Spirit teach us the greatness of your compassion and help us stand alongside our sisters and brothers in difficulty. Filled with its blessings, may we in unity proclaim and share with the world the victory of your Son who lives for ever. Amen.
How can you show empathy to those who suffer and are in difficulties?
What wisdom and deeper understanding have you gained through suffering you have known in your own life?
How do you live out solidarity with the suffering and oppression that so many people living in poverty in our world experience, and what is your own experience of it?
How would you bear witness to the mercy of God and to the hope you find in the light of the cross of Christ?
From the official material prepared by the World Council of Churches and the Pontifical Council for Poromoting Christian Unity:
Jeremiah 1:4-8, Go to all to whom I send you.
Psalm 98, Sing to the Lord a new song.
Acts 14:21-23, They strengthened the souls of the disciples.
Luke 24:13-17a, What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?
Sharing our stories is a powerful way in which we give witness to our faith in God. Listening to one another with respect and consideration allows us to encounter God in the very person with whom we are sharing. The reading from Jeremiah offers us a powerful witness of God’s call to the prophet. He is to share what he has received, and so allow God’s Word to be heard and lived out. This call to proclaim God’s Word is also experienced by the disciples in the early Church, as witnessed to in the reading from Acts. Our psalm allows us to sing to God with a spirit of praise and thanksgiving.
Today’s gospel passage presents a Jesus who enlightens our blindness and dispels our disillusionment. He helps us to understand our stories within the one unfolding plan of God. During this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, we listen to the faith stories of other Christians in order to encounter God in the variety of ways God’s very self is revealed to us. In listening with attentiveness we grow in faith and love. In spite of the diversity of our personal and collective witness, we find ourselves intertwined in the one story of God’s love for us revealed in Jesus Christ.
God of history, we thank you for all who have shared their story of faith with us and so have given witness to your presence in their lives. We praise you for the variety of our stories both as individuals and churches. In these stories we see the unfolding of the one story of Jesus Christ. We pray for the courage and the conviction to share our faith with those with whom we come into contact, and so allow the message of your Word to spread to all. Amen.
Are you “gossiping the Gospel” or just gossiping?
How open are you or your church to be drawn into the stories of others?
How open are you to share with others your stories of faith, and so give witness to God’s presence in your personal experiences of life and of death?
Are you aware of the enormous potential for good that modern means of communication offer the Church today?