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Prayers for unity

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

Every year between January 18 and January 25 we commemorate the week of prayer for the unity of Christians. It is an ecumenical endeavor to ask the Holy Spirit for the gift of unity.

The division that exists among Christians is a grave scandal because it directly contradicts the teachings of Christ and his wish that those of us who have been incorporated to Him through Baptism be one just as He and the Father are one.

Since unity in the Church is a gift to be asked for, lived and cherished, prayer is key, as Pope Benedict XVI explained at the conclusion of the week of prayer for the unity of Christians back in 2006.

“The desire for unity on the part of every Christian Community and every individual believer and the power to achieve it is a gift of the Holy Spirit and goes hand in hand with a more profound and radical fidelity to the Gospel.

We realize that at the base of the commitment to ecumenism there is the conversion of heart, as the Second Vatican Council clearly affirms:  “There can be no ecumenism worthy of the name without interior conversion. For it is from newness of attitudes of mind, from self-denial and unstinted love, that desires of unity take their rise and develop in a mature way.”

God is love. The faith of the Church, in its entirety, is founded on this solid rock. In particular, the patient pursuit of full communion among all of Christ’s disciples is based upon it:  by fixing one’s gaze on this truth, summit of divine revelation, it seems possible to overcome divisions and not to be discouraged, even though they continue to be gravely serious.

The Lord Jesus, who broke down the “dividing wall of hostility” with the blood of his Passion, will not fail to grant to those who faithfully invoke him the strength to heal every wound…

If, under the human profile, love manifests itself as an invincible force, what must we, who “know and believe the love God has for us”, say?

True love does not eliminate legitimate differences, but harmonizes them in a superior unity that is not ordered from the outside but gives form from within, so to speak, to the whole.

As the mystery of communion unites man and woman in that community of love and life known as matrimony, it too forms the Church into a community of love, uniting a multiform wealth of gifts and traditions…

Asking together already marks a step towards unity between those who ask. This certainly does not mean that God’s answer is in some way determined by our request. We know well:  the hoped-for fulfilment of unity depends in the first place on the will of God, whose plan and generosity surpass the understanding of man and his own requests and expectations.

Relying precisely on divine goodness, let us intensify our common prayer for unity, which is more than ever a necessary and very effective means, as John Paul II reminded us in the Encyclical Ut Unum Sint:  “Along the ecumenical path to unity, pride of place certainly belongs to common prayer, the prayerful union of those who gather together around Christ himself”

 

When Christians gather to pray together, Jesus himself is in their midst. They are one with Christ, who is the only mediator between God and man.

The Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy refers precisely to this Gospel passage to indicate one of the ways that Christ is present:  “He is present when the Church prays and sings, for he has promised “where two or three are gathered together in my name there am I in the midst of them’.”

Yes, dear brothers and sisters, we Christians have the duty to be, in Europe and among all peoples, the “light of the world.”  May God grant us a quick arrival at the hoped-for full communion.

The reformation of our unity will make evangelization more effective. Unity is our common mission; it is the condition that enables the light of Christ to be spread better in every corner of the world, so that men and women convert and are saved.

The road stretches before us! And yet, we must not lose trust; instead, with greater vigor we must once more continue our journey together. Christ walks before us and accompanies us. We count on his unfailing presence and humbly and tirelessly implore from him the precious gift of unity and peace.”

Fr. Roberto M. Cid