How to Promote Christian Unity
User's Guide to Sunday
BY Tom and April Hoopes
January 15-28, 2012 Issue | Posted 1/6/12 at 1:23 PM
Sunday, Jan. 22, is the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time.
The week of prayer for Christian unity lasts from Jan. 18 to Jan. 25, the feast of the conversion of St. Paul. To find a great package of materials about the week of prayer for Christian unity, do an Internet search for: Vatican Christian Unity Week.
Conversion of St. Paul
Jan. 25 is a great feast day: the conversion of St. Paul. The Apostleship of Prayer created a nice YouTube presentation about this day during the Jubilee Year of St. Paul. To find it, search for: St. Paul conversion apostleship.
Today, share with your children the extraordinary manifestations of Christ you have either heard about or experienced. For instance, Tom talks about a day he randomly went to a church he doesn’t usually go to and sat in a seat that was out of the way — which turned out to be the only vantage point from which anyone could see a consecrated Host as it rolled off the altar and behind a chair. He told the priest and helped retrieve it.
If you don’t have that kind of story, you can tell of a visit to a Marian apparition site or a special confession or a beautiful liturgy.
It is important for your children to see you talk about the faith and know that God reaches out to his people today — even their own family.
Jonah 3:1-5, 10; Psalm 25:4-9; 1 Corinthians 7:29-31; Mark 1:14-20
God built the virtue of unity into nature in many ways.
When geese fly south for the winter, for instance, they fly in a V formation. This means each flap of each goose’s wing helps himself and the goose behind him. When a goose separates from the group, he hits a wall of wind resistance that makes his flight nearly impossible to sustain for the entire journey. Geese also honk continually to remind the others that they aren’t alone, and they look after those that fall behind, helping to catch them up with the group.
It’s a great message for the week of Christian unity: Together Christians can go far. Separated, we make it impossible to make headway and make our chance of reaching our destination more distant.
We see that all around us. The greatest tragedy in our day is the lack of unity between Christians. The lack of Christian unity has super-sized many of the problems that face the world today.
Our culture has what seems like a “zero-tolerance policy” toward significant moral distinctions. Pope Benedict XVI has called this angry insistence on relativism “the dictatorship of relativism.” But the growth of relativism has been greatly aided by the fact that Christians who follow the one true God simultaneously hold to different versions of his one truth.
There is also a militant secularism that has banished God from public institutions. This in a country that was founded by Christians for the sake of religious tolerance! We have come a long way from the days when Thomas Jefferson attended church services in the Capitol Building. This secularist slide has also been greatly aided by the fact that Christians can’t agree on what they believe about God to start with.
How do we regain unity that is so far gone? Today’s readings give a scriptural path toward Christian unity.
One thing we can all agree on is that we need to speak the truth of the Gospel to our world.
The first reading tells the story of Jonah in Nineveh. Jonah is sent to warn Nineveh that its ways would mean its destruction, and he sees God work a miracle of repentance there.
The second reading shows how St. Paul called the people of his own time to the same repentance, telling Christians in the world to recognize that “the world in its present form is passing away.”
In the Gospel, Jesus calls his apostles, telling them that they are to be “fishers of men,” meant to gather people to Our Lord.
This outward-focused mode of Christianity is a lot more conducive to unity than the inward gaze many Christians so often fall into. We have seen it in the pro-life movement, where evangelical Protestant Christians and Catholics work side by side, as they do in the March for Life, which is on Jan. 23 this year. Christians in countries threatened by war have also seen the need to band together.
We should pray fervently in this week of prayer for Christian unity that we will soon see this same unity of purpose and witness in the world at large. This will help us complete our pilgrimage together instead of facing the hostile winds of the world all on our own.
Tom and April Hoopes write from Atchison, Kansas,
where Tom is writer in residence at Benedictine College.
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