Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2016: Day One, “Let the Stone Be Rolled Away”Jan 18th, 2016 | By Tom Brown | Category: Blog Posts
Biblical text for 2016:
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were no people but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy but now you have received mercy. 1 Peter 2:9-10 (RSV).
The text for this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity comes from St. Peter’s letter to the persecuted churches of Asia. 1 Peter 2:9-10. We “are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation,” St. Peter tells his persecuted addressees, and us. In unity, they constituted one race, one priesthood, one nation. This makes sense, for they – for we – answer to but one Father, one High Priest, and one King. As with our forefathers, today God means for us to be united under Christ the King, so “that [we] may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called [us] out of darkness into his marvelous light.”
But we Christians are suffering from ‘family problems.’ As a result, our message to the world, declaring the Lord’s wonderful deeds in bringing us to light, is garbled by our disunity. And we suffer from broken bonds and a lack of trust, just as happens in a broken family. A healthy response to this pain is to seek reconciliation. This takes more than saying ‘sorry’ and ignoring disagreements. Within the family, we need to discuss honestly our feelings, perspectives, and understandings.
Have you ever needed to say something very important to a family member, and planned to have the discussion during a holiday reunion, road trip, or other time together? This can be hard to make happen, especially in situations where there is bitterness between family members. Sometimes we only get to have this conversation in a very forced, artificial way; and it’s not productive. Sometimes we find that the opportunity never presents itself at all; depending on the importance of the topic, it can leave us with profound anxiety and frustration. We feel powerless to get into the open whatever issue is weighing on our heart.
Would that we felt such sorrow over the separation of God’s children! With Him, all things are possible. Thanks to prayer and the power of the Holy Spirit, He can provide an opportunity for that needed conversation between family members. His love can roll away the stone that keeps us entombed in isolation from loved ones.5
Now, we cannot be like siblings who spend time together, but refuse to reconcile deep-seated causes of division. We cannot simply ignore our different ecclesiologies, theologies or philosophies. We must seize every precious opportunity for truth-seeking conversation with our separated brothers and sisters. We must implore the Holy Spirit to provide us with these opportunities, not just in terms of time and space, but in terms of open hearts earnestly seeking reconciliation.
These opportunities for reconciliation, and our need for them, become more plain through suffering. Praise God for allowing us to suffer, and for allowing the early Church to suffer greatly, so that unity could be so cherished for many centuries. I believe the Holy Spirit will answer our prayers in bringing about such occasions. He will answer prayers for the silencing of debate-filled noise that does not aim at the Truth or at reconciliation. Therefore, let us remember to pray during this week of prayer!
“Lord Jesus, you have always loved us from the beginning, and you have shown the depth of your love in dying for us on the cross and thereby sharing our sufferings and wounds. At this moment, we lay all the obstacles that separate us from your love at the foot of your cross. Roll back the stones which imprison us. Awaken us to your resurrection morning. There may we meet the brothers and sisters from whom we are separated. Amen.”6
Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you home into the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land; then you shall know that I, the LORD, have spoken, and I have done it, says the LORD.
Thy power and thy righteousness, O God,
reach the high heavens.
Thou who hast done great things,
O God, who is like thee?
Thou who hast made me see many sore troubles
wilt revive me again;
from the depths of the earth
thou wilt bring me up again.
Thou wilt increase my honor,
and comfort me again.
I will also praise thee with the harp
for thy faithfulness, O my God;
I will sing praises to thee with the lyre,
O Holy One of Israel.
My lips will shout for joy,
when I sing praises to thee;
my soul also, which thou hast rescued.
For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God.
Now after the sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the sepulchre. And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone, and sat upon it. His appearance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. Lo, I have told you.” So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Hail!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”
While they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place. And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sum of money to the soldiers.
- See today’s reflection on the Vatican website. [↩]
- Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Resources for The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity and the throughout the Year 2016, available here. [↩]