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Father Muench Says...

In prayer for the unity of all Christians

January 23, 2013

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

Each year in mid-January, the Catholic Church joins together with many other Churches to celebrate the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. 

In many communities, there will be a special service – an interfaith service – during which clergy and people from each of the churches in a town take part in an opportunity for all to pray together for Christian Unity.
I am always rather disappointed that only a few people turn out for these services.  I wish many more would participate; somehow I think it would be so good for the spirit of a community that even on one day a year, the people of that town would pray together.  Something good will happen.

In my recent study of the Second Vatican Council, I noticed that the Council felt ecumenism to be so important that the Council Fathers dedicated a separate document just to ecumenism. This document encourage us Catholics to be more ecumenical, always ready to be open to opportunities to make the world a better place by praying and working together with those of other Churches.

I have noticed in the Church’s liturgical year – especially at Christmas time – that there are several feast days that have an ecumenical character.  At Christmas itself, all Christians celebrate faith in the Incarnation of the Lord. Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior, chose to become one of us, to accept our humanity,  take on our flesh, to be born as an infant just as we all are, to live among us on this earth, to die for us on the cross, to come to resurrection to new life.  Our human race is special and consecrated because Jesus was one of us.  This faith in Jesus – his presence among us – unites us all in a very unique way.

On the Sunday after Christmas, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Holy Family, Jesus, Mary and Joseph. As we celebrate the Holy Family, we celebrate that we are family.  We pray for our own family and then we are encouraged to remember that we are members of a wider family, the family of all humankind, the family of the People of God.  As part of the People of God, our family includes our friends and neighbors of all those other Churches in town, as well as people everywhere in this world of ours.  This challenges us to live as a member of a family, this family of God, all of us united together in faith as a family, as the People of God. Our challenge is to make this a true family – as we live in respect and concern for each other – united in faith and hope.

Then we celebrate the Epiphany – the coming of the magi in search of the newborn, Jesus. Strangers were drawn by a star to find this newborn king yet, they found even more. They found Jesus, the Savior of all.  Their story is our story – the story of a journey, a journey of life in search of happiness and peace that can be found only in our faith in Jesus. 

As we walk on this journey – this search – we journey best when we unite together with others, joined as a family, working and praying together as a family. So, let us join together with all those in our world as they journey together, searching for peace. Along the way we will discover that we find it best as a family – as a People of God – united together in happiness.

So, let us journey together united in peace and unity as we pray together as the People of God in this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

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