(This is Neil)
For we know, though we have to work hard for unity of all the people of God, unity is not our human work and achievement; it is a gift of the Spirit, the gift of a renewed Pentecost. So for the Second Vatican Council and for me personally, spiritual ecumenism is the very heart of ecumenism. When I left office at the end of June last year I remembered a metaphor of the father of spiritual ecumenism, Abbé Paul Couturier of Lyon, who called spiritual ecumenism an invisible monastery. In a visible monastery monks live and pray together, in the invisible ecumenical monastery Christians of different Churches in different countries and on different continents live separated from one another and they pray in different languages in different places; but they all are united in the same prayer and the same longing that all may be one.
It is my impression and my firm conviction that this spiritual monastery is growing and augmenting. Though there is much disaffection and disappointment among our faithful and in our clergy about the ecumenical development, and there are reasons for it. But my hope is put on the growing and augmenting ecumenical spiritual cooperation between groups and communities from different Churches in everyday prayers and in meetings where they read the Bible together, exchange their spiritual experiences and pray together. Mostly these are small groups, or sometimes big gatherings such as those organised by the Foccolarini, Sant’ Egidio and others in Stuttgart where thousands of participants came, and soon there will be another meeting in Brussels. This shows that ecumenism is not dead; it is vibrant and it is engaging in a new and hopeful phase of its history. It is going back to its origins and roots and reaching out for the future.
Cardinal Walter Kasper, Speech at a dinner for the Archbishop of Canterbury, Church House, London, 1.14.11
Empowered to Action in Prayer
Jonah 2:1-9 Deliverance belongs to the Lord!
Psalm 67:1-7 Let the peoples praise you, O God!
1 Timothy 2:1-8 …prayers should be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions …
Matthew 6:5-15 Your kingdom come, your will be done …
Following devotion to the Apostles’ teaching and fellowship and the breaking of the bread, the fourth mark of the earliest Church of Jerusalem is the life of prayer. It is experienced today as the necessary source of the power and strength needed by Christians in Jerusalem – as everywhere. The witness of Christians in Jerusalem today calls us to a deeper recognition of the ways we face situations of injustice and inequality in our own contexts. In all this, it is prayer that empowers Christians for mission together.
For Jonah the intensity of his prayer is met with dramatic deliverance from the belly of the fish. His prayer is heartfelt, as it arises from his own sense of repentance at having tried to avoid God’s will: he has abandoned the Lord’s call to prophesy, and ended up in a hopeless place. And here God meets his prayer with deliverance for his mission.
The Psalm calls us to pray that God’s face will shine upon us – not only for our own benefit, but for the spread of His rule ‘among all the nations’.
The apostolic Church reminds us that prayer is a part of the strength and power of mission and prophecy for the world. Paul’s letter to Timothy here instructs us to pray especially for those with power in the world so that we may live together in peace and dignity. We pray for the unity of our societies, and lands, and for the unity of all humanity in God. Our prayer for our unity in Christ reaches out to the whole world.
This dynamic life of prayer is rooted in the Lord’s teaching to his disciples. In our reading from Matthew’s Gospel we hear of prayer as a ‘secret’ power, born not from display or performance, but from humble coming before the Lord. Jesus’ teaching is summed up in the Lord’s Prayer. Praying this together forms us as a united people who seek the Father’s will, and the building up of His Kingdom here on earth, and calls us to a life of forgiveness and reconciliation.
Lord God our Father, we rejoice that in all times, places and cultures, there are people who reach out to you in prayer. Above all we thank you for the example and teaching of your Son, Jesus Christ, who has taught us to long in prayer for the coming of your Kingdom. Teach us to pray better as Christians together, so that we may always be aware of your guidance and encouragement through all our joys and distress, through the power your Holy Spirit. Amen.
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