You shall love the Lord your God… and your neighbor as yourself." (Luke 10:27)
Christians all over the world mark the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity on January 18-25, 2023 with fervent prayers seeking the divine mercy to help cement the aspired Christian unity. These prayers are concomitant with sincere pleas seeking Lord Jesus Christ's mercy and inspiration to help attain this noble goal.
The theme chosen for this year is “You shall love the Lord your God… and your neighbor as yourself." (Luke 10:27) It was selected by the Pontifical Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity, the World Council of Churches, and the Christian Churches in Burkina Faso.
The theme, taken from the first chapter of the Gospel of Luke, associates the relationship between love of God and love of neighbor with a particular concern for challenging the boundaries of who is considered "neighbor". In this Biblical pericope, Lord Jesus is questioned as to the path to eternal life. His answer was intended to imitate the love of God in the giving of self for another which calls for charity, mercy, justice, and unity.
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity began in 1908 as the Octave of Christian Unity and focused on prayer for Church unity. The dates of the week were proposed by Fr. Paul Wattson, co-founder of the Graymoor Franciscan Friars. He conceived of the week beginning on the Feast of the Confession of Peter, the Protestant variant of the ancient Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter, on 18 January, and concluding with the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul on 25 January.
Fr. Paul was an indefatigable servant of God whose work was to spread the Kingdom of God on Earth. He had the heart of a Franciscan and the missionary zeal of St. Paul.
In our modern time, His Holiness Pope Francis and other Catholic leaders have not missed any opportunity to assert the need to attain the long-awaited and overdue Christian unity. It is also important in this regard to note that the Catholic Church had earlier embarked on Christian unity with the establishment of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, whose origins are associated with the Second Vatican Council which met intermittently from 1962 to 1965. It is a pontifical council whose main objections are deigned to develop dialogue and collaboration with the other Churches and world communions, in addition to promote within the Catholic Church an authentic ecumenical spirit.
Christian unity is at hand, as sincere and stringent measures will definitely be undertaken to forge such a unity. The door for Christian unity is not closed but it is rather left ajar so that soon the winds of love, reconciliation will blow to keep it wide open, while the Holy Spirit hovers in hearts and minds while blessing this unbreakable unity.
With prayers lifted up for the attainment of Christian unity worldwide, let us trust the Prince of Peace Lord Jesus Christ's promise that such a target will be attained and all obstacles standing in the way will be surmountable.
May the week of prayer for Christian unity in 2024 usher in divine unity and that leads to welcoming the divine and nonpareil gift of unity.
We pray for Christian unity saying, “God, you are the source of our wisdom. We pray for wisdom and courage to do justice, to respond to what is wrong in the world by acting to make it right. We pray for wisdom and courage to grow in the unity of your Son, Jesus Christ, who with you and the Holy Spirit, reigns forever and ever.” Amen.
Let us consequently recall this noble verse form the Holy Bible which states, "And I say also unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18)