"The celebration of a feast calls for everyone’s participation. No one is to be excluded" 

WPCU 2019 01
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in Rome began with Vespers celebrated at the Basilica of St Paul's Outside the Walls, in the presence of the Pope and representatives of Christian denominations from the city and around the world. We were joined by students from the Ecumenical Institute at Bossey, and seminarians from Nashotah House, Yale, and VTS in the USA, who are visiting Rome this month and using the Anglican Centre as their base.

The service began with the Pope, and ecumenical representatives, amongst whom was the Revd Dr Tim Macquiban, our friend and Methodist colleague, praying at the tomb of Paul, Apostle to the Gentiles. A simple act of silent prayer, with the heads of leaders of the churches bowed in acknowledgment of the courage and faithfulness of those who went before us in the Way of Christ, began the time of worship in an appropriately awe-ful way.

In his homily, Pope Francis noted the theme for this year's week of prayer: “Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue” (Deuteronomy 16:18-20). The reading at Vespers was the deuteronomic injunction to celebrate the three main feasts of the year for the Israelites, a celebration from which no one is to be turned away: "the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow who are among you" are to be called into the presence of the Lord. Furthermore, His Holiness noted, the celebration of the festivals is intimately bound up with the appointment of the judges of Israel: "Rendering honour and glory to the Lord in these yearly feasts goes hand in hand with rendering honour and justice to one’s neighbour, especially the weak and those in need."

WPCU 2019 02Christians today, "on the threshold of entering the Lord’s promised kingdom" need to recall God's summons to justice. In the pursuit of wealth, we endanger ourselves to "forget about the weak and those in need."

The worship befitting that kingdom, the worship demanded by justice, is a celebration that includes everyone, a feast in which gifts received are available to and shared by all.  To take the first steps towards the promised land that is our unity, we must first of all recognize with humility that the blessings we have received are not ours by right, but have come to us as a gift; they were given to be shared with others.   

God calls us to love another. God calls us to show our love for one another, God calls us to do that by worshipping God in unity, and by living our lives justly.

The full text of the Pope's sermon, in English, can be found here:
https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2019-01/pope-homily-for-beginning-of-week-of-prayer-for-christian-unity.html



 

Justin Lewis-Anthony, 21/01/2019