Friday, January 18, 2013

Prayer of Christian Unity

January 18th is the beginning of the prayer for Christian unity. This is the 105th year we Catholics are praying for worldwide unity.

The readings seemed fitting for the week-long prayer. In Mark's Gospel, a paralytic man is brought to Jesus as he recently returned home. News spread that he was at home and the crowds were so great that four men had to lower a paralytic through the roof of the house. People came to Jesus because of the power of his words.

In this week of prayer for unity, I cannot help but think of the church being the paralytic who is brought to Jesus. I want to be one of the four who brings the church before him so he can say the words that frees it.

It is helpful to see the church both as a worldwide church and also as the Roman Catholic church. We can't deal with the larger universal church unless we can make some amends in our own.

The intent of Jesus in this Gospel is not to heal the paralytic, but to free him from his sins. This is the major point: the words of Jesus bring reconciliation and forgiveness and there is such power in those words.

Words that achieve forgiveness are tremendously powerful. We need to accept these words that can do so much even though it is an invisibile presence. People will not obviously see the real power until a transformative process has occurred. We want quicker results.

The real power is to forgive sins.

When the opposition of Jesus is not impressed, Jesus heals the paralytic and sends him on his way. They only receive the lesser message and make it the larger one.

The church, universal and Catholic is broken. We cannot fix it or heal it. We need to bring it to Jesus who can do something with it.

However, we have been given the power to forgive sins.

The temptation we face with Christian unity is that to achieve unity, we want the other religion to conform to our own ideas. Their church ought to look the same as ours. Wrong!

Our lesson is to let the other be other. We have to learn to give freedom - through the forgiveness of sins and our understanding of the other. We do that by listening to their stories of faith. This is the power of the word. Both the reading from Hebrews and the Psalm make this same point. When we listen and hear, we allow ourselves to be enriched. This brings about unity. This brings about caring for the other.

When we realize the power that has been given to us by Jesus, we are amazed when we are able to stand up, pick up our mats, and walk - together as friends in the Lord. The answers are simple. They are not to be found in official decrees of the church. They are found in our personal listening, accepting the other, and gaining wisdom from the power of each other's word.