Day 4 – The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, 2008

(This is Neil)

Last year, Finland commemorated the four hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the death of the theologian Mikael Agricola, whose translation of the Bible had an immense impact on Finnish language and literature. This occasion emphasized anew the importance of Scripture for the Church, for individual Christians and for the whole of society. Truly, the Word of God is the foundation for our life; as Saint Jerome said: “Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Jesus Christ” (Comm. in Isaias, Prol.). Encountering the Word of God, especially as it resounds in the Church and in her liturgy, is also important for our ecumenical journey. As the Second Vatican Council stated, “By this Word sacred theology is most firmly strengthened and constantly rejuvenated, as it searches out, under the light of faith, the full truth stored up in the mystery of Christ” (Dei Verbum, 24).

— Pope Benedict, Address to an ecumenical delegation from Finland, 18.1.08 (For a brief description of the Lutheran bishop Mikael Agricola, see here and the next few pages.)

Day 4

Pray always for justice
See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all
(1 Thess 5:15)

Ex 3:1-12 God hears the cry of the Israelites
Ps 146 The Lord … secures justice for the oppressed
1 Thess 5: (12b)13b-18 See that none of you repays evil for evil
Mt 5:38-42 Offer no resistance to one who is evil

Commentary

Together as God’s people, we are called to pray for justice. God hears the cry of the oppressed, the needy, the orphan and the widow. God is a God of justice and answers with his Son, Jesus Christ, who commands us to work together in unity through peace and not through violence. Paul also emphasizes this in the words “see that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all”.

Christians pray without ceasing for justice, that every single human person will be treated with dignity and given a fair share in this world. In the United States of America, the injustice of the slavery of Africans ended only with a bloodletting civil war, followed by a century of state-sponsored racism. Even the churches were segregated according to color. Sadly, racism and other forms of bigotry, such as fear of the alien, still linger in American life.

Yet it was through the efforts of the churches, particularly the African-American churches and their ecumenical partners, and most especially through the non-violent resistance of the Rev. Dr Martin Luther King, Jr, that civil rights for all were enshrined in American law. His deep-rooted conviction that only Christ-like love truly conquers hate and brings about the transformation of society continues to inspire Christians, drawing them together to work for justice. Dr King’s birthday is a national holiday in the USA. Each year, it falls either just before or within the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

God heard and responded to the cries of the Israelites. God continues to hear and respond to the cries of all who are oppressed. Jesus reminds us that God’s justice is embodied in his own willingness to sacrifice his own security, his own power and prestige and his very life to bring to our world the justice and reconciliation through which all human beings are treated as equal in worth and dignity.

It is only as we hear and respond to the cries of the oppressed that we can move forward together on the road to unity. This also applies to the ecumenical movement, where we may be required to “go the extra mile” in our willingness to listen to one another, reject vindictiveness and act in charity.

Prayer

Lord God, you created humanity, male and female, in the divine image. May we pray without ceasing and with one mind and heart that those who are hungry in our world will be nourished, that those who are oppressed will be freed, that all human persons will be treated with dignity; and may we be your instruments in making this yearning a reality. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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