“Your right hand, O Lord, glorious in power”- Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
This Sunday occurs during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. This Week of Prayer is an annual ecumenical celebration. Christians around the world are invited to pray for the unity of all Christians, to reflect on scripture together, to participate in jointly-organized ecumenical services, and to share fellowship.
The official website for the week encourages Christians to find ways to express the degree of communion already given to the churches, and to pray together that we may be more fully united in the one Christ.
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is traditionally held every year between the Feast of the Confession of Saint Peter and the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul.
Organizers of the Week tell us that in the Gospel of John, Christ prays for his disciples before going to the cross. He asks that his followers “may all be one,” as he and the Father are one, “so that the world may believe” and have life in his name (John 17).
Christian unity is here made central to the very being of the church and to its mission and witness. The official website stresses that today we live with divisions even as we yearn for the unity promised and commissioned by Christ.
The long and often painful history of Christianity has divided our churches for theological, liturgical, and political reasons. Many Christians now strive to heal these divisions, yet honour our diversity, through ecumenical dialogue, common action, and relationship-building. They also come together to pray for unity, joining Christ in his prayer to the Father
The worldwide celebration of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is both the seed and the fruit of this striving for ‘unity in diversity’. This time of shared prayer, reflection, and fellowship invites Christians of different traditions to deepen our relationships and to live and witness together throughout the year.
The theme for the 2018 Week of Prayer comes to us from the Caribbean region. “Your right hand, O LORD, glorious in power” (Exodus 15:6). The contemporary Caribbean is deeply marked by the dehumanizing project of colonial exploitation. In their aggressive pursuit of mercantile gains, the colonisers codified brutal systems which traded human beings and their forced labour.
Today Caribbean Christians of many different traditions see the hand of God active in the ending of enslavement. It is a uniting experience of God’s saving action which brings freedom.
The Caribbean ecumenical team chose the song of Moses and Miriam (Ex 15:1-21) – a song of triumph over oppression – as the motif of this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
Unity is needed not only within Christianity, but also within the specific Christian churches (including the Catholic Church). Each of us has our own stories of division within Catholicism and within individual parishes: political tensions, financial tensions, theological tensions, moral and ethical tensions, jealousy, hurt feelings, and so on.
Who’s in and who’s out? Who has a voice and power? Who has the ear of the pastor? Listen to the hurts and angers within the parish. We can easily enumerate the areas of disunity within our own local situation. Try to imagine bringing all of the Christian Church together. Let’s find and celebrate unity where it is possible.