Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
This week is celebrated in the Southern Hemisphere between Ascension Sunday and Pentecost Sunday, thus from 16 May to 23 May in Aotearoa New Zealand for 2021. In the Northern Hemisphere it is celebrated in January each year.
The preparation of the resources for the Week of Prayer is overseen jointly by the World Council of Churches and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. This year they asked the ecumenical Monastic Community of Grandchamp in Boudry, Neuchâtel, Switzerland to prepare the resources. The community’s work was then adapted for Aotearoa New Zealand by the Catholic Bishops Committee for Ecumenism.
The resources are intended for parishes, schools, and any group which may be able to make use of them. The Eight Days of Prayer is particularly suitable for use by individuals, you can find these below.
The chosen theme, “Abide in my love and you shall bear much fruit”, is based on John 15:1-17
“Go into all the world and proclaim the Good News” (Mk 16:15)
Mark 16:15-20 | The Ascension the Great Commission
The disciples heard the call: “Go out into all the world”. Like them we are called to leave that which is familiar and go out into our communities, our workplaces.
By following the call that is addressed to us, we become a blessing for our loved ones,
our neighbours, and the world. The love of God seeks us. God became human in Jesus,
in whom we encounter the gaze of God. Touched by God’s love, we set out.
“Do you believe – at last?” (Jn 16:31)
John 16: 29-33 | I have conquered the world
The sustained time with Jesus enabled the disciples to understand the mission and believe in Jesus. Their understanding of Jesus grew and matured. The presence of Jesus in their lives nourished them. We too need a time with Jesus, an entire lifetime, in order to plumb the depths of Christ’s love, to let him abide in us and for us to abide in him. Without our knowing how, the Spirit makes Christ dwell in our hearts. And it is through prayer, by listening to the Word, in sharing with others, by putting into practice what we have understood, that the inner being is strengthened.
“Eternal life is this – to know you” (Jn 17:3)
John 17: 1-11 | Jesus’ prayer
Jesus prays that we may know God through our lives in community. He prays that life and love circulate through us as the sap through the vine, so that Christian communities be one body. But today as in the past, it is not easy to live together.
We are often faced with our own limitations. At times we fail to love those who are close to us in a community, parish, or family. There are times when our relationships break down completely. Christ is with us; we are protected and cherished. The recognition that we are loved by God moves us to welcome each other with our strengths and weaknesses. It is then that Christ is in our midst.
“So they may be one like us” (Jn 17:11)
John 17:11-19 | Jesus’ prayer for unity
God thirsts for relationship with us. God searches for us as he searched for Adam and Eve calling to them in the garden: “Where are you?” (Gen 3:9) In Christ, God came to meet us. Jesus lived in prayer. Sometimes Jesus prayed alone and at other times with the disciples. Prayer can be solitary or shared with others. Getting together in a group offers us support. Through hymns, words and silence, communion is created. If we pray with
Christians of other traditions, we may be surprised to feel united by a bond of friendship that comes from the One who is beyond all division. The forms may vary but it is the same Spirit that brings us together.
“May they all be one” (Jn 17:21)
John 17:20-26 | Jesus’ petition to God
The Word of God is very close to us. It is a blessing and a promise of happiness. If we
open our hearts, God speaks to us and patiently transforms that which is dying in us. God removes that which prevents the growth of real life, just as the vine grower
prunes the vine.
Regularly meditating on a biblical text, alone or in a group, changes our outlook. As we discover the wellspring hidden within our inner landscape, the hunger for justice, and the thirst to engage with others for a world of peace, grows in them. We are
constantly called to renew our commitment to life, through our thoughts and actions. There are times when we taste, here and now, the blessing that will be fulfilled at the end of time.
“Feed my sheep!” (Jn 21:17)
John 21:15-19 | Peter is called to radical love
When we let ourselves be transformed by Christ, his love in us grows and bears fruit.
Welcoming the other is a concrete way of sharing the love that is within us.
Even today Jesus draws us to be co-workers in his unconditional care. Sometimes something as small as a kind look, an open ear, or our presence is enough to make a person feel welcome. When we offer our abilities to Jesus, he uses them in a surprising way. We then experience that it is by giving that we receive, and when we welcome
others, we are blessed in abundance.
“Follow me!” (Jn 21:22)
John 21:20-25 | Challenge to witness to Christ
Each Christian tradition seeks to lead us to the heart of our faith: communion with God, through Christ, in the Spirit. The more we live this communion, the more we are connected to other Christians and to all of humanity. Paul had an inclusive and broad vision of Church “All are yours, and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God” (1 Cor 3:22-23). Paul welcomed all who came to visit him in prison no matter their faith stories. Christ’s will commits us to a path of unity and reconciliation. It also commits us to unite our prayer to his: “that they may all be one… so that the world may believe”.
“You too will be my witnesses (Jn 15:26)
John 15:26,27 16:12-15 | The Advocate will come
Even in the distress of our world the Spirit is at work encouraging us to become involved with all people of good will in tirelessly seeking justice and peace, and
ensuring the earth is once again a home for all creatures. We participate in the work of the Spirit so that creation in all its fullness may continue to praise God. When nature suffers, when human beings are crushed, the Spirit of the risen Christ far from
allowing us to lose heart invites us to become part of his work of healing. The newness of life that Christ brings, however hidden, is a light of hope for many. It is a
wellspring of reconciliation for the whole of creation and contains a joy that comes from beyond ourselves: “so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be
complete” (Jn 15:11).