An image of Christian unity, imperfect though it may yet be…
Grace builds on grace as Archbishop David and Metropolitan Gennadios join Pope Francis not only in physically giving the blessing but in saying the words of the blessing at the end of the Papal Vespers for Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
From Pope Francis’ homily:
Reconciliation, he said, is a gift from Christ. Prior to any human effort by believers who strive to overcome their divisions, he said, reconciliation is God’s gift given freely to each one of us.
“How do we proclaim this Gospel of reconciliation today after centuries of division?”, the Pope asked. St Paul himself makes clear that reconciliation requires sacrifice and a revolution of our way of living, he said. Just as Jesus laid down his life for us, so we are called to lay down our lives, by living no longer for ourselves and our own interests, but living instead for Christ and in Christ.
Leave behind isolation and self-absorption
For Christians of every confession, the Pope said, this is an invitation not to be caught up with programmes and plans, not to be obsessed with contemporary fashions, but to be focused on the Cross where we can “discover our programme of life”. The Cross invites us to leave behind all isolation and self-absorption which prevents us from seeing how the Holy Spirit is at work outside our familiar surroundings.
Joint Reformation commemorations “a remarkable achievement”
While looking back can be helpful and necessary to purify our memory, the Pope said, being fixated on the past and the memory of wrongs done can paralyze us and prevent us from living in the present. Pope Francis recalled in particular the fact that Catholics and Lutherans are today joining in commemorating the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, something he described as “a remarkable achievement”.
Pray, proclaim and serve together
Greeting especially Metropolitan Gennadios, representing the Ecumenical Patriarchate and Archbishop David Moxon, representing the Anglican Communion, Pope Francis urged all those present to take advantage of every occasion to pray together, to proclaim together and to love and serve together, especially those who are the poorest and most neglected in our midst.
On this concluding day in the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, we pray
O God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, our only Savior, the Prince of Peace: Give us grace seriously to lay to heart the great dangers we are in by our unhappy divisions; take away all hatred and prejudice, and whatever else may hinder us
from godly union and concord; that, as there is but one Body and one Spirit, one hope of our calling, one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of us all, so we may be all of one heart and of one soul, united in one holy bond of truth
and peace, of faith and charity, and may with one mind and one mouth glorify thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Before he was elected pope, Benedict delivered a pivotal sermon calling for the Church to regain a common sense of what is truth, how to understand truth, and the real power of truth.
I have seen quite a bit of chatter about alternate facts being bandied about recently, but the issue goes deeper than partisan politics. This is one of the central, perhaps the central, artifact in Western thought that has become deeply fractured and has resulted in a host of societal and ecclesiastical confusion: what is Truth?
This is the sermon where Benedict coined a phrase: the dictatorship of relativism.
Worth reading, contemplating, and discussing, especially during this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
On this seventh day of Prayer for Christian Unity we pray
we praise you for sending your Son
to be one of us and to save us.
Look upon your people with mercy,
for we are divided in so many ways,
and give us the Spirit of Jesus to make us one in love.
We ask this gift, loving Father,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.