Pray Always That They All May Be One
Meditation for Day 8 of Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 24, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Here is the commentary prepared jointly by the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity and the Commission on Faith and Order of the World Council of Churches for Friday, the eighth and final day of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
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"Be at peace" (1 Thessalonians 5:13b)
"The wolf shall live with the lamb" (Isaiah 11:6-13)
"Peace be within your walls" (Psalm 122)
"Be at peace among yourselves" (1 Thessalonians 5:12a, 13b-18)
"That they all may be one" (John 17:6-24)
God's desire for human beings is that we live in peace with one another. This peace is not only an absence of war or conflict; the shalom desired by God is that which arises from a reconciled humanity, a human family which participates in and embodies the peace which God alone can give. Isaiah's image of the wolf living with the lamb, the leopard lying down with the kid, offers an imaginative glimpse of the future God desires for us. While this shalom is not something that we can create on our own, we are called to be instruments of the Lord's peace, artisans of God's reconciling work. Peace, like unity, is a gift and a calling.
Jesus' plea for the unity of his disciples did not take the form of a commandment or a request. It took the form of a prayer, words lifted up before the Father on the night before Jesus was put to death. It is a prayer which rises from the depths of his heart and of his mission, as he prepares his disciples for all that is to come: Father, may they all be one.
As we mark the 100th anniversary of the Octave/Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, celebrating it within the context of the yearnings, prayers and initiatives for the unity of Christians through the centuries, we do well to take stock of where we are on this Spirit-led journey. It is a time to give thanks for the many fruits of prayer for unity. In many places, animosity and misunderstanding have given way to respect and friendship between Christians and Christian communities. Christians who have gathered together to pray for unity have often joined together in acts of common witness to the gospel, and worked side by side in serving those in great need. Dialogue has assisted in building bridges of understanding, and has led to the resolution of some of the doctrinal differences that have separated us.
Yet it is also a time to repent, for in our divisions we continue to stand under the judgment of Jesus' prayer for unity and Paul's imperative that we be at peace among ourselves. In the present day, Christians are publicly divided on many issues: In addition to our ongoing doctrinal differences, we are often at odds with each other on moral and ethical questions, on matters of war and peace, on current issues where common witness is called for. Internally divided and in conflict with each other, we fall short of the lofty calling to be signs and instruments of the unity and peace willed by God.
What then shall we say? There is reason to rejoice, and cause for sorrow. It is a moment to give thanks for those of past generations who have spent themselves generously at the service of reconciliation, and a time to recommit ourselves to be artisans of the unity and peace which Christ desires. And it is a time to ponder again what it means to pray always, through our words and deeds, through the lives of our churches.
Lord, make us one: one in our words, that a single reverent prayer might rise before you; one in our yearning and pursuit of justice; one in love, serving you by serving the least of our sisters and brothers; one in longing for your face. Lord, make us one in you.