Today we close this year’s Christmas Season, as we celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. The Christmas season ends with a beginning — we celebrate Jesus’ baptism and initiation into his ministry. The ancient promise of justice to Israel is fulfilled in him whose mission, empowered by the Spirit, will focus on peace and justice. Our baptism mirrors his as the beginning of what we are called to be and do. We are all empowered to be instruments of peace and justice and to invite others to join us.
On Monday we return to Ordinary Time. Next Sunday will be the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time. From the beginning of and throughout his ministry, Jesus revealed who he was. Next weekend’s first reading describes God’s relationship with Israel in spousal terms, so it is not surprising that Jesus’ first sign took place at a wedding feast. All that he did was essentially about God’s unending love for us. Every aspect of life, including marriage, can speak to us of this deep, pervading, unifying love. How is that expressed in our own particular lives?
This evening Sunday, January 13: Our parish will host the “official” Archdiocesan observance of the Prayer for Christian Unity. Because of the Martin Luther King celebration the following weekend, during the actual Week of Prayer, we were asked to host this a week prior. (There will
be other observances throughout the Archdiocese.) At 7:00 p.m. various Christian Religious Leaders and Choirs, including our own choir, will be here for a special prayer service, with
Bishop Mark Rivituso, our Auxiliary Bishop, presiding. Bishop Robert Farr, of the Missouri Conference of the United Methodist Church, will be the preacher. There will be a reception following in the Msgr. Schneider Hall. Please consider attending this historic event. This year’s theme is: “Justice, Only Justice You Shall Pursue,” taken from the Book of Deuteronomy. I really hope that you would attend.
When speaking of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, officially observed from Friday, January 18 through Friday, January 25, we need to go back to the beginning of the 20th Century, when, in 1908, Father Paul James Wattson, then an Episcopalian Priest, had the concept and started the week in an Episcopal Church in a church some fifty miles from New York City.
The Graymoor Ecumenical Institute provides the following: To fully appreciate this stream that had been fed by some and had converged with others in the historical development of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, we will note some aspects of the movement’s early history. Two American Episcopalians, Father Paul James Wattson and Sister Lurana White, co-founders of the Franciscan Friars and Sisters of the Atonement, were totally committed to the reunion of the Anglican Communion with the Roman Catholic Church. As such, they started a prayer movement that explicitly prayed for the return of non-Catholic Christians to the Holy See. Needless to say, such an observance would attract few of our separated brothers and sisters except for a small number of Anglo-Catholics and Roman Catholics themselves. This idea of a period of prayer for Christian unity originated in a conversation of Fr. Wattson with an English clergyman, Rev. Spencer Jones. In 1907, Jones suggested that a day be set aside for prayer for Christian unity. Fr. Paul Wattson agreed with the concept but offered the idea of an octave of prayer between the Feast of St. Peter’s Chair on January 18 and the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul on January 25.
When Fr. Paul and Sr. Lurana became Roman Catholics, Pope Pius X gave his blessing to the Church Unity Octave and in 1916, Pope Benedict XV extended its observance to the universal church. This recognition by papal authority gave the Octave its impetus throughout the Roman Catholic Church. Until his death in 1940 Fr. Wattson promoted the Church Unity Octave, later known as the Chair of Unity Octave to emphasize its Petrine focus, through his magazine, The Lamp.
There is much more available at the website, www.geii.org. Suffice it to say the week has grown in its observance throughout the years to being a world-wide observance.
This year’s theme, “Justice, Only Justice You Shall Pursue,” was chosen by a joint committee of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Commission on Faith and Order of the World Council of Churches, located in Switzerland.
Again from the material provided by the Graymoor Ecumenical Institute: The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2019 has been prepared by Christians from Indonesia. With a population of 265 million, 86% of whom are reckoned to be Muslim, Indonesia is well known as having the largest Muslim population of any country. However, about 10% of Indonesians are Christian from various traditions. In terms of both population and the vast extension of the country Indonesia is the biggest nation in South East Asia. It has more than 17,000 islands, 1,340 different ethnic groups and over 740 local languages and yet is united in its plurality by one national language Bahasa Indonesia. The nation is founded on five principles called Pancasila, with the motto Bhineka Tunggal Ika (Unity in Diversity). Across the diversity of ethnicity, language and religion, Indonesians have lived by the principle of gotong royong which is to live in solidarity and by collaboration. This means sharing in all aspects of life, work, grief and festivities, and regarding all Indonesians as brothers and sisters.
This always fragile harmony is today threatened in new ways. Much of the economic growth that Indonesia has experienced in recent decades has been built on a system that has competition at its heart. This is in stark contrast to the collaboration of gotong royong. Corruption is experienced in many forms. It infects politics and business, often with devastating consequences for the environment. In particular, corruption undermines justice and the implementation of law. Too often those who are supposed to promote justice and protect the weak do the opposite. As a consequence, the gap between the rich and the poor has widened; and so a country rich in resources has the scandal of many people living in poverty. As a traditional Indonesian saying goes, “A mouse dies of hunger in the barn full of rice.” Meanwhile particular ethnic and religious groups are often associated with wealth in ways that have fed tensions. Radicalization that pits one community against another has grown and is exacerbated by the misuse of social media that demonizes particular communities.
Christian communities in such an environment become newly aware of their unity as they join in a common concern and a common response to an unjust reality. At the same time, confronted by these injustices, we are obliged, as Christians, to examine the ways in which we are complicit. Only by heeding Jesus’ prayer “that they all may be one” can we witness to living unity in diversity. It is through our unity in Christ that we will be able to combat injustice and serve the needs of its victims. There is more about the theme at the www.geii.org website.
I will also have Scriptural Meditation materials available for you if you call the office. Patty and Joan will have the material for you and will make copies for your prayer time!
The Pilgrimage to the Holy Land which will include a number of parishioners, begins this coming Friday when we depart Lambert Field. On Saturday we will be in Joppa, the site of the vision of Saint Peter and “unclean” animals, then on Sunday we will be north, near the Syrian Border, in Caesarea Philippi, where Peter made his profession of faith. Please pray for us, as we will pray for you.
Next week’s bulletin will have the full agenda.
Faithfully yours in Christ, the Son of the Living God,
Fr Joe Weber