Reflection: Praying for Unity

Kevin Mackin, OFM Features

The reflection below, timed for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity which is Jan. 18 to 25, is reprinted from the blog A Franciscan Journey. Its author urges finding ways to “all be as one” and describes how Catholics are linked with mainstream Christian churches.

And the word of God today centers on the family: God’s family.

God tells Jonah to go to Nineveh to preach repentance. Jonah is shocked. The Ninevites aren’t Jews; they’re Gentiles, “enemies.” But when Jonah preaches, the Ninevites shock Jonah: they repent; they recognize with new eyes of faith the awesome presence of God in their lives. The point is simple: God embraces all, only asking that we orient our lives to God.

In the Gospel according to Mark, Jesus urges us to orient our lives to God! The kingdom is at hand! And then Jesus begins to call some highly unlikely people to discipleship. They see in Jesus more than appearances. The disciples quickly recognize that “the spirit of the Lord was upon him … and that he brought glad tidings” to us:  God became one of us so that we could become God-like.

We are all one family, adopted sons and daughters of God our Father, all of us, created in the image and likeness of God.

But everywhere we find dysfunctional relationships, religiously, politically, economically, and socially.

We are now in the middle of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Why? Because Jesus prayed at the last supper that his disciples “may all be one as you, Father, are in me and I in you.”

We, in fact, are a divided Christianity. Today the world has about 1.2 billion Catholics; 800 million Protestants; and 260 million Orthodox. We are not always on the same page. Until Angelo Roncalli was elected Pope John XXIII in 1958, Catholics and Protestants generally emphasized what divided them.

Pope John XXIII created a transformation, especially in Catholic-Protestant-Orthodox relations.  With his affable, friendly and lovable personality and his sense of humor, he moved Christians from diatribe to dialog.

This search for unity reached a milestone among Catholics with the 1964 promulgation of the Decree on Ecumenism, which encourages conversations with our separated brothers and sisters about what unites and what divides us and how we can cooperate, especially in humanitarian projects.

Catholics are linked with mainstream Christian churches in many ways: through a common creed, baptism, the Bible and many justice and peace issues. We’re still divided on key issues (e.g., the authority of the pope). But together we have to find ways beyond what divides us to what unites us.

And so as we pray this week for Christian unity, let us give thanks to God for the faith community to which we belong:  a community that calls us to a life with God here, and to an indescribable heavenly life where we shall be like God, and see God as God really is.  Amen.

Fr. Kevin, a longtime educator and former president of Siena and Mount Saint Mary colleges and Christ the King Graduate School of Theology, is parochial vicar at St. Raphael Church in St. Petersburg, Fla. The previous reflection, about Martin Luther King Jr., was written by Abraham Joseph, OFM

Editor’s note: Friars interested in writing a reflection for HNP Today on a timely topic – a holiday, current event, holy day, or other seasonal themes – are invited to contact the HNP Communications Office at Additional reflections by friars can be found on the Spiritual Resources page of the HNP website.

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