VATICAN CITY, JAN. 24, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is a meditation jointly prepared by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Commission on Faith and Order of the World Council of Churches for the seventh day of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
The week continues through Sunday, the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, Apostle. The theme for 2009 is “That They May Become One in Your Hand” (Ezekiel 37:17).
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Christians Face-to-Face With a Plurality of Religions
Isaiah 25:6-9 — “This is the Lord for whom we have waited”
Psalm 117 :1-2 — “Praise the Lord, all you nations”
Romans 2:12-16 — “The doers of the law will be justified”
Mark 7:24-30 — “For saying this, you may go home happy”
Nearly every day we hear of violence in different parts of the world between followers of different faiths. We learn that Korea however is a place where different faiths — Buddhist, Christian, Confucian — mostly coexist in peace.
In a great hymn of praise, the prophet Isaiah speaks of all tears being wiped away and a rich feast for all people and nations! One day, asserts the prophet, all the peoples of the earth will praise God and rejoice in the salvation he offers. The Lord for whom we have waited is the host at the eternal feast in Isaiah’s song of praise.
When Jesus meets a non-Jewish woman who pleads for healing for her daughter he initially refuses to help her, in surprising terms. The woman persists, in similar terms: “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs”. Jesus affirms her insight into his mission to Jews and non-Jews alike, and sends her on her way with the promise of healing for her daughter.
The churches are committed to dialogue in the cause of Christian unity. In recent years, dialogue has also developed between people of other faiths, particularly those ‘of the Book’ (Judaism, Islam): encounters which are not only enlightening but also help promote respect and good relations between neighbors, and build peace where there is conflict. If our Christian witness is united by virtue of our faith in Christ, our opposition to prejudice and conflict will be all the more effective. And if we listen carefully to our neighbors of other faiths, can we learn something more of the inclusiveness of God’s love for all people, and of his kingdom?
Dialogue with other Christians should not lead to a loss of a particular Christian identity but to joy as we obey Jesus’ prayer that we become one, as he is one with the Father. Unity will not come today or even tomorrow; but together, with other believers, we walk towards that final, common destiny of love and salvation.
Lord our God, we thank you for the wisdom we gain from your scriptures. Grant us the courage to open our hearts and our minds to neighbors of other Christian confessions and of other faiths; the grace to overcome barriers of indifference, prejudice or hate; and a vision of the last days, when Christians might walk together towards that final feast, when tears and dissension will be overcome through love. Amen.
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On the Net:
Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/chrstuni/