The week of Jan.18th-25th every year has been designated by many Christian churches as the ‘Week of Prayer for Christian Unity’, when we pray along with Jesus in John 17, that we will be one, as the Father & He are one.
The work of building unity between Catholics and other Christians can be a slow, long and hard process, because of the history of misunderstanding, suspicion and distrust. Occasions for encouragement in this area can be few and far between, when disunity is so entrenched and formidable at times. As Pope John Paul II said in his encyclical ‘That They May Be One’, “Christians cannot underestimate the burden of longstanding misgivings inherited from the past and of mutual misunderstandings and prejudices” (Ut Unim Sint 2). We might even ask the question if such a unity is possible.
It is important to acknowledge that the kind of unity that Jesus prayed for in John 17:20-21 is beyond human energies & abilities. And yet we hope for it on the basis of it being God’s expressed will for us in Jesus’ prayer and that nothing is impossible for God. The basis for our hope is the prayer of Jesus for the Church, the love of the Father for us and in the power of the Holy Spirit active in us. “And hope does not disappoint us because the love of God is poured forth in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Rom.5:5). Let us then continue to persevere in prayer for this unity, joining our brothers and sisters around the world during this week of prayer.
The material for this year’s week of prayer has been put together by the Middle East Council of Churches based in Beirut, Lebanon. They have chosen the theme: “We saw the star in the East, and we came to worship him” (Matthew 2:2). More than ever, in these difficult times, we need a light that shines in the darkness and that light, Christians proclaim, has been manifested in Jesus Christ.
A prayer booklet to guide you in your prayer during these days is available in downloadable pdf format here: Prayer Booklet. Check it out; then ask God about how he might want you to join in this time of prayer – either on your own or together with others who carry this vision in their hearts.