Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2022
Next week Christian Churches around the world will commemorate the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. From 18th – 25th January we will be praying for closer bonds between the various Christian denominations.
The annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity this year is based on the story of the Magi. It encourages us to serve the gospel in our communities with the Christians who live around us and further afield. Our faith challenges us to pray that Christians can work together more closely.
If there is a service for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity being held in your community, why not go along and be a part of that prayer? If not, check out the resources on the CTBI website and pray during that week with Christians throughout Britain and Ireland.’
The story of the Magi visiting the Holy Family in Bethlehem is one very familiar to us. The Magi have sometimes been seen as a symbol of the world’s diversity – different religions and cultures – that comes to pay homage to the Christ-child. The story might therefore represent the unity of all created that God desires. The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in 2022 has been prepared by the churches of the Middle East, the history of which was, and still is, characterised by conflict and strife, tainted with blood and darkened by injustice and oppression. The Christians of the Middle East offer these resources conscious that the world shares many of the travails and much of the difficulties that it experiences, and yearns for a light to lead the way to the Saviour who is the light that overcomes darkness.
Serving the Gospel today requires a commitment to the human being, especially the poorest, the weakest and those marginalised. It requires from the churches transparency and accountability in dealing with the world, and with each other. This means churches need to cooperate to provide relief to the afflicted, to welcome the displaced, to relieve the burdened, and to build a just and honest society. This is a call for churches to work together so that young people can build a good future according to God’s heart, a future in which all human beings can experience life, peace, justice, and love.
We saw his star in the East, and have come to worship him (Mt. 2: 1-2)
These words are found only in the Gospel of Matthew. They are pronounced by ‘wise men’ who have come from afar for a rather mysterious visit to the child Jesus. They are a small group of people who have undertaken a long journey, following behind a small light in the sky. They are in search of a greater, universal light, that is the King who has been born and is already present in the world. Nothing else is known about these men but this episode is rich in ideas that call for reflection and are relevant to Christian life.
This phrase was chosen by the Christians of the Middle East to celebrate the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity this year. [This time is a precious opportunity to set out again together, to be open to mutual acceptance, but even more to God’s plan to be witnesses of his love for every person and people on earth.
We saw his star in the East, and have come to worship him.
This is what the Christians of the Middle East write in the document that accompanies the proposals for this Week of Prayer: ‘…the star that appeared in the sky of Judea is a long-awaited sign of hope which leads the Magi and, indeed, all the peoples of the earth, to the place where the true King and Saviour is revealed. The star is a gift, an indication of God’s loving presence for all humanity… The Magi reveal to us the unity willed by God, of all peoples. They travel from distant countries and represent different cultures, yet they are all driven by the desire to see and know the new-born King. They gather together in the grotto of Bethlehem to pay him homage and offer their gifts. Christians are called to be a sign of the unity he desires for the world. Although they belong to different cultures, races and languages, Christians share a common search for Christ and a common desire to adore him. The mission of Christians, therefore, is to be a sign, like the star, to guide God’s humanity in its hunger for Christ and lead the way to him, and to be God’s instruments to bring about the unity of all peoples.’
The star that brought light to the Magi is for everyone: it first begins to shine in the depth of our consciences and then love enables it to burn more brightly. We can all catch a glimpse of it, set out to follow it and reach the goal of meeting God and our brothers and sisters in our daily lives, thus sharing our riches with everyone.
We saw the star in the East, and have come to worship him.
Paying homage to God is essential if we are to recognise who we truly are. We are fragile, small and always in need of mercy and forgiveness. As a consequence, we are sincerely disposed to show the same attitudes towards other people. This worship, due only to God, is fully expressed in adoration.
These words written by Focolare founder, Chiara Lubich, may help us:
‘…what does it mean to “adore” God? It is an attitude that is directed to him alone. To adore means to say to God: “You are everything,” that is: “You are what you are”; and life is giving me the immense privilege of recognising this… It also means… “I am nothing.” And not just saying so with words. To adore God, we must set ourselves aside and let him triumph in us and in the world… But the surest way to proclaim with our lives that we are nothing and that God is everything is an entirely positive action. In the place of our own thoughts we can simply think of God and his thoughts as revealed to us in the Gospel. In the place of our own will, we have only to do his will which is shown to us in the present moment. In the place of our wayward feelings, we need only to have love in our hearts for him and our neighbours, sharing their anxieties, their pain, problems and joys. If we are always “love”, without realising it, we ourselves are nothingness. And because we live our nothingness, our lives affirm the superiority of God, his being everything, enabling us truly to adore him.’
We saw the star in the East, and have come to worship him.
We can share in the conclusions of the Christians of the Middle East: ‘After meeting the Saviour and adoring him together, the Magi were warned in a dream to return to their countries by another road. In the same way, the fellowship we share in common prayer should inspire us to go back to our lives, our churches and the whole world along new pathways… Serving the Gospel today requires a commitment to defend human dignity, especially of the poorest, the weakest and the marginalised… The new road for the Churches is the way of visible unity which we pursue with sacrifice, courage and boldness so that, day after day, “God will indeed reign in all.” (1 Cor. 15: 28)’.