Day 5: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

week_of_prayer_logo_216wDay 5, The Fellowship of the Apostles

Scripture

  • Isaiah 56:6-8, For my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.
  • Psalm 24, Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD?
  • Acts 2:37-42, They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
  • John 13:34-35, I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.

Meditation

Jesus’ commandment to love one another is not theoretical. Our communion of love with one another becomes concrete when we gather together intentionally as Christ’s disciples, to share fellowship and prayer in the power of the Spirit.

The more that Christians, especially their leaders, encounter Christ together in humility and patience, the more prejudice diminishes, the more we discover Christ in one another, and the more we become authentic witnesses to the Kingdom of God.

At times ecumenism can seem very complicated. Yet joyful fellowship, a shared meal and common prayer and praise are ways of apostolic simplicity. In these we obey the commandment to love one another, and proclaim our Amen to Christ’s prayer for unity.

Prayer:

God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may you give to all Christians, and especially to those entrusted with leadership in your Church, the spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that with the eyes of our hearts we may see the hope to which you have called us: one body and one Spirit, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above and through all and in all. Amen.

For Reflection:

  • What is our experience of encountering one another as brothers and sisters in Christ through Christian fellowship, shared meals and common prayer?
  • What are our expectations of bishops and other church leaders on the path towards the visible unity of the Church?
  • How can we support and encourage them?

We encourage you to share your personal reflections in the comments section.

Source: Greymoor Ecumenical and Interreligious Institute

“What is God trying to say to us in our busy lives? Be patient! Learn to wait—for each other, for love, for happiness, for God!”**

**Title quote from Carlo Corretto, Letters from the Desert

A Reflection for the Second Sunday of Advent by Sr. Donna Fannon, MHSH

Two-Purple-CandlesCertainly the thoughts of Carlo Corretto are underscored in the readings for this Second Sunday of Advent. Isaiah foretells of a time when the Lord will visit the Israelites and gather them in his arms like a shepherd gathers sheep so they may be comforted. St. Peter extols his readers to be patient for the return of Jesus Christ and to live today in hope and faith as we long for an intimate experience of God’s nearness and love. Finally we hear John the Baptist’s plea to prepare the way of the Lord in the desert—a time to clear away all that distracts us from realizing our utter dependence on God as well as God’s unconditional love for each of us.

What are we to make of all this waiting? In all of these readings there is an underlying sense of hope that God is somehow present to us in a real yet hidden way and also there is an awareness of a longing for a more immediate and personal experience of God’s care and love for each of us from moment to moment as we go about the art of living from day to day.

How do we live in the in-between time? How are we to be present to the not yet while we wait for a clearer and more intimate experience of God-with-us? The spiritual tradition offers some helpful practices that can help us remember our fundamental relationship with God that is grounded in our utter dependence on God’s generosity, beginning with every breath we take to every grace we receive day by day.

Advent is a good time in the year to call to mind and heart the goodness of God in our past life by remembering, appreciating and expressing gratitude for the many blessings we have received throughout our life. This practice is often called Remembering our Blessed History.

 Another helpful practice is to take some time each evening to review our quality of attention to the day that is just ending in order to become ever more aware of God’s presence moment by moment. In our prayer time we can ask God to reveal to us those moments when we were responsive to God’s invitation to act in a spirit of charity and compassion, and also to reveal to us those moments when we neglected to respond to (or did not even notice) that invitation. This practice is called an Examen of Consciousness. Over time the practice of an Examen can help us live more fully in the present, allowing God to heal our past and calling us to live in the now.

And finally, we can ask God to deepen our faith that God is present and active right now, loving us as we are, and calling us to greater generosity as we are led into a future that God intends for us.

Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart
and try to love the questions themselves.
Don’t search for answers, which could not be given to you now,
because you would not be able to live them.
And the point is to live everything.
Live the questions now.
Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it,
live your way into the answers
.
–Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

A Sacred Time – A Reflection for the First Sunday of Lent

By Marilyn Dunphy, MHSH

[Readings: Genesis 9: 8-15; Ps. 25: 4-5, 6-7, 8-9; 1 Peter 3: 18-22; Mark 1: 12-15]

As you contemplate the season of Lent, you might consider reflecting on its meaning to you now as well as at other times in your life.  For me, growing up in the ‘50s and early ‘60s, Lent was a time set aside for repentance, for “giving up” things that I liked, such as desserts or movies or even the sleep I could have had if I didn’t attend daily Mass.

In the parochial school I attended, participation in the weekly Stations of the Cross on Friday afternoons was mandatory, thus adding to the sense of obligation. While even then I appreciated the sacred nature of Lent experienced through the “smells and bells” of the pre-Vatican II Church, the emphasis was on self-denial and sinfulness.   The season often seemed interminable, oppressive and stark.

Today, Lent is a time that I actually look forward to, as the season seems to invite me to deeper contemplation.  My focus is not on deprivation, but on deepening my relationship with Jesus through prayer.  I think the change occurred when I started to go on weekend and then week-long silent retreats each year.  At first, these retreats truly felt like desert experiences.  Even though there were 30 or 40 other people in the retreat house, we passed our time (and each other) in silence.  Time took on a whole different feeling, with no particular structure to the day.  All the familiar distractions of television, email, internet browsing, phone calls etc, had been left behind.

In that environment, I was tempted to throw myself into reading the many spiritual books in the library, but I had a graced insight that this would only be a further distraction.  So I entered into what at first seemed like the unwelcome, solitary work of looking deeply into my own heart and mind, asking myself where I was in relationship to God, and what I (and God) wanted that relationship to be.

At first, this situation seemed almost as frightening as facing any amount of wild desert beasts.  I was not sure I wanted to head in this direction, and was afraid of what I might hear as answer in prayer.  But with trust in God and the patience of a skilled spiritual director, I was able to pass out of that narrow, somewhat desolate place in which I found myself.  What opened up for me was an abundance of new life.

The God who made a covenant with each of us waits for us to approach.  The psalmist reminds us that God’s ways are love and truth, that God is kind and full of compassion, desiring to guide us through our own personal and communal wildernesses.  With humility and trust, perhaps we can all spend some sacred time with God this Lent, knowing that God will provide us with what we need.

Lenten Prayer

Give yourself permission to carve out some time each day for prayer.  Give it whatever time you can, although 30 minutes or more is desirable.

You can pray with the scripture passages of the day, or with the many fine Lenten reflection books and guides that are available.  You can also simply pray from your own experience.

Tell God what is on your mind and in your heart.  Be sure to include a time of interior silence to listen to what God is saying to you.  Sometimes, just resting in the presence of God is the best prayer.

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity: Day 2 Prayer and Reflections

Day 2: Changed through patient waiting for the Lord.
Scripture

1 Samue1:1-20, Hannah’s trust and patient waiting.
Psalm 40, Patient waiting for the Lord.
Hebrews 11:32-34, Through faith they conquered kingdoms, administered justice.
Matthew 3:13-17, Let it be so now, for it is proper to fulfill all righteousness.
Meditation
From a Christian perspective victory is a long-term process of transformation. Transformative victory teaches us that it occurs in God’s time, not ours, calling for our patient trust and deep hope in God. Hannah witnessed to such patient trust and hope. After many years of waiting to be pregnant, she prayed to God for a child. When Eli assured her that God would grant her prayer, she simply trusted, waited, and was sad no longer. Hannah’s trust and hope results not only in her own transformation, but that of her people.
The psalmist echoes Hannah’s patient waiting. He gives thanks that God has transformed his shame and confusion, and continues to trust in God’s steadfast love.
The Letter to the Hebrews recalls the patience of people who were able to be victorious through their faith and trust in God. God’s intervention into human history eliminates the temptation to be triumphant in human terms.
Jesus, does not succumb to the temptation to usher in the Kingdom of God without delay, but patiently reveals what life in the Kingdom means through his own life and ministry which leads to his death on the Cross. While the Kingdom of God breaks through in a decisive way in the resurrection, it is not yet fully realized. The ultimate victory will come about only with the second coming of our Lord.
Our longing for the visible unity of the Church likewise requires patient and trustful waiting. Our prayer for Christian unity is like the prayer of Hannah and the psalmist. Our work for Christian unity is like the deeds recorded in the Letter to the Hebrews. Our attitude of patient waiting is not one of helplessness or passivity, but a deep trust that the unity of the Church is God’s gift, not our achievement. Such patient waiting, praying and trust transforms us and prepares us for the visible unity of the Church not as we plan it, but as God gives it.

For Your Reflection

On this day we concentrate on patient waiting for the Lord. To achieve any change, perseverance and patience are needed. Prayer to God for any kind of transformation is also an act of faith and trust in his promises. Such waiting for the Lord is essential for all who pray for the visible unity of the church this week. All ecumenical activities require time, mutual attention and joint action. We are all called to co-operate with the work of the Spirit in uniting Christians.

  1. In what situations in our life should we have a greater trust in God’s promises?
  2. What areas of church life are particularly at risk from the temptation to act hastily?
  3. In what situations should Christians wait, and when should they act together?

Prayer
Faithful God, you are true to your word in every age. May we, like Jesus, have patience and trust in your steadfast love. Enlighten us by your Holy Spirit that we may not obstruct the fullness of your justice by our own hasty judgments, but rather discern your wisdom and love in all things. For You who live and reign forever and ever. Amen.

Source: Greymoor Ecumenical and Interreligious Institute