The Catholic Church is urging its members to pray especially for unity (a period of 8 days, also known as an octave) during January 18-25th. This was brought to my attention by Bryan Cross, whose much-appreciated first post in several months is quite poignant.
For my part, I just want to draw your attention to the readings and commentary on Christian unity.
Will you read it with me? Pretty please? Apologies that day one was posted at the beginning of day two-I'm frightfully behind the times, at times. I'll be sure to have day 2 posted before day 3 begins, I promise...
Christian Communities Face-to-Face With Old and New Divisions
Ezekiel 37:15-19, 22-24a -- "One in your hand"
Thus the word of the LORD came to me:
Now, son of man, take a single stick, and write on it: Judah and those Israelites who are associated with him. Then take another stick and write on it: Joseph (the stick of Ephraim) and all the house of Israel associated with him.
Then join the two sticks together, so that they form one stick in your hand.
When your countrymen ask you, "Will you not tell us what you mean by all this?",
answer them: Thus says the Lord GOD: (I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and of the tribes of Israel associated with him, and I will join to it the stick of Judah, making them a single stick; they shall be one in my hand.
I will make them one nation upon the land, in the mountains of Israel, and there shall be one prince for them all. Never again shall they be two nations, and never again shall they be divided into two kingdoms.
No longer shall they defile themselves with their idols, their abominations, and all their transgressions. I will deliver them from all their sins of apostasy, and cleanse them so that they may be my people and I may be their God.
My servant David shall be prince over them, and there shall be one shepherd for them all
Psalm 103:8-13, or 18 -- "The Lord is merciful and gracious ... abounding in steadfast love"
Merciful and gracious is the LORD, slow to anger, abounding in kindness.
God does not always rebuke, nurses no lasting anger,
Has not dealt with us as our sins merit, nor requited us as our deeds deserve.
As the heavens tower over the earth, so God's love towers over the faithful.
As far as the east is from the west, so far have our sins been removed from us.
As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on the faithful.
1 Corinthians 3:3-7, 21-23 -- "Jealousy and quarrelling among you... you belong to Christ"
...for you are still of the flesh. While there is jealousy and rivalry among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving in an ordinary human way?
Whenever someone says, "I belong to Paul," and another, "I belong to Apollos," are you not merely human?
What is Apollos, after all, and what is Paul? Ministers through whom you became believers, just as the Lord assigned each one.
I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused the growth.
Therefore, neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who causes the growth.
So let no one boast about human beings, for everything belongs to you,
Paul or Apollos or Cephas, or the world or life or death, or the present or the future: all belong to you,
and you to Christ, and Christ to God.
John 17:17-21 -- "That they may all be one... so that the world may believe"
Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth.
As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world.
And I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth.
"I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.
Christians are called to be instruments of God's steadfast and reconciling love in a world marked by various kinds of separation and alienation. Baptized in the name of the Father and Son and Holy Spirit, and professing faith in the crucified and risen Christ, we are a people who belong to Christ, a people sent forth to be Christ's body in and for the world. Christ prayed for this for his disciples: May they be one, so that the world may believe.
Divisions between Christians on fundamental matters of faith and Christian discipleship seriously wound our ability to witness before the world. In Korea, as in many other nations, the Christian gospel was brought by conflicting voices, speaking a discordant proclamation of the Good News. There is a temptation to see current divisions, with their accompanying background of conflicts, as a natural legacy of our Christian history, rather than as an internal contradiction of the message that God has reconciled the world in Christ.
Ezekiel's vision of two sticks, inscribed with the names of the divided kingdoms of ancient Israel, becoming one in God's hand, is a powerful image of the power of God to bring about reconciliation, to do for a people entrenched in division what they cannot do for themselves. It is a highly evocative metaphor for divided Christians, prefiguring the source of reconciliation found at the heart of the Christian proclamation itself. On the two pieces of wood, which form the cross of Christ, the Lord of history takes upon himself the wounds and divisions of humanity. In the totality of Jesus' gift of himself on the cross, he holds together human sin and God's redemptive steadfast love. To be a Christian is to be baptized into this death, through which the Lord, in his boundless mercy, etches the names of wounded humanity onto the wood of the cross, holding us to himself and restoring our relationship with God and with each other.
Christian unity is a communion grounded in our belonging to Christ, to God. In being converted ever more to Christ, we find ourselves being reconciled by the power of the Holy Spirit. Prayer for Christian unity is an acknowledgement of our trust in God, an opening of ourselves fully to that Spirit. Linked to our other efforts for unity among Christians - dialogue, common witness and mission -- prayer for unity is a privileged instrument through which the Holy Spirit is making that reconciliation in Christ visibly manifest in the world Christ came to save.
God of compassion, you have loved and forgiven us in Christ, and sought to reconcile the entire human race in that redeeming love. Look with favour upon us, who work and pray for the unity of divided Christian communities. Grant us the experience of being brothers and sisters in your love. May we be one, one in your hand. Amen.