Beginning of Week of Prayer For Christian Unity – 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time


This Sunday occurs as we begin the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Before considering unity among the broader Christian community, we have to consider unity among Roman Catholics. There are evident divisions, so often rooted in ideology and our various ways of celebrating the Eucharist and who can minister in what ways.

There are even divisions concerning relatively sensible matters such as the wearing of masks during the COVID crisis. Most days at the celebration of the Eucharist, one of my personal prayers is for those working with Pope Francis, but also those working against the Pope.

One would think that some members of the College of Cardinals would have in mind the peace and unity of the Church. I find it a sad statement about our Church that there are individuals spreading division and actively working against unity.

Prayers for peace and unity are always necessary, for the Catholic community and for the greater Christian community. The skirmishes and divisions have been there from the birth of the church. Take a look at the Acts of the Apostles and the Letters of Saint Paul.

Division and discord have a long history, whether between individuals or nations or faith traditions. The discord between Cain and Abel has been always with us. We cannot be united into one, like a melting pot. We can try all we like, but we have enough fundamental differences that we will never be one.

Nor should we be alike and forget our unique qualities! We need to celebrate and find hope in the very diversity of paths. That is part of why I have always appreciated Canada’s contrast to the melting pot. We speak of a mosaic, a whole composed of many little pieces.

This is the start of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. This year’s theme is from the 15th chapter of John’s Gospel: Abide in My Love … You Shall Bear Much Fruit. To abide in Jesus’ love is a reminder that we live in a community of diversity that is striving for unity.

We pray for the grace of closer communion with our brothers and sisters in Christ. We are living in a strange period of world history, certainly something that most of us know nothing about. We are likely discovering more about how small the world really is.

Are there any helpful words or images from scripture today? I like the image of the exceedingly large city of Nineveh. The city was an important junction for commercial routes crossing the Tigris on the path between the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean. In other words, the city served to unite the East and the West. Sounds pretty uniting to me!

Philip Shano, SJ has many years of rich and varied experience working with Ignatian spirituality: teaching, writing and using it in his ministry. He resides in the Jesuit community in Pickering, Ontario.

  • Peter Bisson
    Posted at 10:01h, 24 January Reply

    Thank you Philip!

  • Bernice Dookhan-Khan
    Posted at 16:00h, 24 January Reply

    Thanks for the reflection Fr. Shano. Hod bless.

  • Catherine von Zuben
    Posted at 17:15h, 24 January Reply

    Thank you for reminding us of this important week of prayer for Christian unity, and how very important it is at this particular time in history. Would that Pope Francis might mandate to the Cardinals throughout the world and most especially those in the United States, the reading and practising of the suggestions carefully spelled out in his encyclical ‘Fratelli Tutti, on Faternity and Social Friendship’. It is there that he and his friend, the Grand Imam Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, “declared that religions must never incite war, hateful attitudes, hostility and extremism, nor must they incite violence or the shedding of blood.” The world witnessed all of these horrors as we watched supporters of the former president fight to overthrow democracy, many having been encouraged to do so by church hierarchy. Let us pray for unity and respect among all people and most especially our Church leaders.

  • Philip Shano
    Posted at 15:57h, 28 January Reply

    Thanks for the reflections Catherine. I hope that you are staying warm and safe.

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