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Day 1, Christian communities face to face with old and new divisions
Ezekiel 37:15-19, 22-24a, One in your hand.
Psalm 103:8-13, 18, The Lord is merciful and gracious, ... abounding in steadfast love.
1 Corinthians 3:3-7, 21-23, Jealousy and quarreling among you... you belong to Christ.
John 17:17-21, That they may all be one… so that the world may believe.
Christians are called to be instruments of God's reconciling love in a world marked by separation and alienation. Baptized and professing faith in the crucified and risen Christ, we are a people who belong to Christ, a people sent forth to be Christ's body in and for the world. Christ prayed for this for his disciples: may they be one, so that the world may believe.
Divisions between Christians on fundamental matters of faith and discipleship seriously wound our ability to witness before the world. In Korea, as in many other nations, the Christian gospel was brought by conflicting voices, speaking a discordant proclamation of the Good News. There is a temptation to see current divisions as a natural legacy of our Christian history, rather than as an internal contradiction of the message that God has reconciled the world in Christ.
Ezekiel's vision of two sticks, inscribed with the names of the divided kingdoms of ancient Israel, becoming one in God's hand, is a powerful image of the power of God to bring about reconciliation. It is a highly evocative metaphor for divided Christians, prefiguring the source of reconciliation found at the heart of the Christian proclamation itself. On the two pieces of wood which form the cross of Christ, the Lord of history takes upon himself the wounds and divisions of humanity. In the totality of Jesus' gift of himself on the cross, he holds together human sin and God's redemptive steadfast love. To be a Christian is to be baptized into this death, through which the Lord, in his boundless mercy, etches the names of wounded humanity onto the wood of the cross, restoring our relationship with God and with each other.
Christian unity is a communion grounded in our belonging to Christ, to God. Prayer for Christian unity is an acknowledgment of our trust in God, an opening of ourselves fully to that Spirit. Linked to our other efforts for unity-dialogue, common witness and mission-prayer for unity is a privileged instrument through which the Holy Spirit is making that reconciliation in Christ visibly manifest.
God of compassion, you have loved and forgiven us in Christ, and sought to reconcile the entire human race in that redeeming love. Look with favor upon us, who work and pray for the unity of divided Christian communities. Grant us the experience of being brothers and sisters in your love. May we be one, one in your hand. Amen.
Day 2, Christians face to face with war and violence
Isaiah 2:1-4, They shall no longer learn war.
Psalm 74:18-23, Do not forget the life of your poor forever.
I Peter 2:21-25, His wounds have healed you.
Matthew 5:38-48, Pray for those who persecute you.
War and violence are still major obstacles to that unity willed by God for humanity and are the result of unhealed division which exists inside ourselves, and of the human arrogance which prevents us from recovering the real foundation of our existence.
Korean Christians long to put an end separation between North Korea and South Korea and to see peace established elsewhere in the world. The instability which prevails represents not only the pain of the one remaining nation in the world which is still divided; it also symbolizes the mechanisms of division, hostility and vengeance which plague humanity.
What can bring an end to this cycle of war and violence? Jesus shows us the power which can stop the vicious cycle of war and violence. To his disciples he teaches the renunciation of violence (Matthew 26: 51-52). Jesus reveals the truth about human violence. Faithful to the Father, he dies on the cross to save us from sin and death. Jesus' violent death marks the beginning of a new creation which nails human sin, violence and war to this very cross. He teaches the reestablishment of God's creation, hope and faith in the final coming of new heavens and a new earth. This hope encourages us to persevere in the search for Christian unity and in the struggle against all forms of war and violence.
Lord, who gave yourself on the cross for the unity of all humankind, we offer up to you our human nature marred by egoism, arrogance, vanity and anger. Reach out to us with compassion and take care of your people, so that we may enjoy the peace and joy integral to the order of your creation .May all Christians work together to bring about your justice. Give us the courage to help others to bear their cross, rather than putting our own on their shoulders. Amen.
Day 3, Christians face to face with economic injustice and poverty
Leviticus 25:8-14, The jubilee which liberates.
Psalm 146, (145), The Lord executes justice for the oppressed.
1 Timothy 6:9-10, The love of money is the root of all evil.
Luke 4:16-21, Jesus and the jubilee as liberation.
We pray for the kingdom of God to arrive. Today the world community is confronted with the growing precariousness of labor and its consequences. The idolatry of the market (profit), like the love of money appears as ‘the root of all evil'. What can and must the churches do in this context? Let us look at the biblical theme of jubilee which Jesus evoked to define his ministry.
According to the Leviticus text, during the jubilee, liberation was to be proclaimed. The jubilee implied a community ethic, the freeing of slaves and their return home, the restoration of financial rights and the cancellation of debts. For the victims of unjust social structures, this meant the restitution of law and of their means of existence.
The priorities of today's world, in which ‘more money' is seen as goal of life, can only lead to death. As churches, we are called to counter this by living together in the spirit of jubilee and following Christ. As Christians experience the healing of their divisions they become more sensitive to other divisions which wound humanity and creation.
God of justice, there are places in this world overflowing with food but others where there is not enough and where the hungry and the sick are many.
God of peace, there are those in this world who profit from violence and war and others who because of war and violence are forced to leave their homes and become refugees.
God of compassion, help us to understand that we cannot live by money alone but that we can live by the word of God, help us to understand that we cannot attain life and true prosperity except by loving God and obeying his will and his teaching. We pray in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
Day 4, Christians face to face with ecological crisis
Genesis 1:31-2:3, God saw everything he had made and it was very good.
Psalm148:1-5, He commanded and they were created.
Romans 8:18-23, The destruction of creation.
Matthew13:31-32,The smallest of all the seeds.
God created our world with wisdom and love and God saw that it was good. Today however the world is confronted with a serious ecological crisis. The earth is suffering from global warming as a result of our excessive consumption of energy. The extent of forested area on our planet has diminished while the deserts are spreading ever faster. Three quarters of ocean life has already disappeared. Every day more than one hundred living species die out. With the apostle Paul we can affirm: creation has been delivered into the power of destruction, it groans as in the pains of childbirth.
We cannot deny that human beings bear a heavy responsibility for environmental destruction. Together Christians must do their utmost to save creation. Before the immensity of this task, they must unite their efforts. It is only together that they can protect the work of the creator.
Christ shows great respect even for the smallest of all the seeds. With the biblical vision of creation as affirmation, Christians can contribute with one voice to the present reflection on the future of our planet.
God our Creator, the world was created by your Word and you saw that it was good. But today we are spreading death and destroying our environment. Grant that we may repent of our greed; help us to care for all that you have made. Together, we desire to protect your creation. Amen.
Day 5, Christians face to face with discrimination and social prejudice
Isaiah 58:6-12, Do not hide yourself from your own kin.
Psalm 133, How good it is when kindred live in unity.
Galatians 3:26-29, You are all one in Christ Jesus.
Luke 18:9-14, To some who trusted in their own righteousness.
In the beginning, human beings created in the image of God were but one in his hand. Sin, however, entered the hearts of men and women and since then we have built up all kinds of prejudice. In his earthly ministry, Jesus showed himself to be particularly sensitive regarding the common humanity of all men and women. He continually denounced discrimination of all sorts and the pride which some of his contemporaries derived from it.
Psalm 133 compares the joy of a life shared with sisters and brothers to the goodness of a precious oil or the dew of Hermon. We are given to taste this joy with our sisters and brothers, each time we let go of our confessional prejudices within our ecumenical gatherings.
The restoration of the unity of all humankind is the common mission of all Christians. Together they must struggle against all discrimination. It is also their common hope because all are one in Christ and there is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, man or woman.
Lord help us to recognize the discrimination and exclusion which damage societies. Direct our gaze and help us to recognize our own prejudices. Teach us to banish all contempt and to taste the joy of living together in unity. Amen.
Day 6, Christians face to face with disease and suffering
II Kings 20:1-6, Remember me, O Lord!
Psalm 22:1-11,Why have you forsaken me?
James 5:13-15, The prayer of faith will save the sick.
Mark 10:46-52, Jesus asked: What do you want me to do for you?
Common to all our still separated churches is the awareness of our Lord's compassion for the sick. Christians have always followed his example, by healing the sick and caring not only for the souls but also the bodies of God's children.
The deep rooted faith of Hezekiah supports him through sickness. In a time of sorrow, he finds words to remind God of his grace. Yes, those who are suffering might even use words from the Bible to cry out or struggle with God: Why have you forsaken me? When an honest relationship with God is well established, grounded in language of faithfulness and thankfulness in good times, it creates space also for a language to express sorrow, pain or anger in prayer when necessary.
The sick are subjects of faith, as the disciples must learn in the story of the gospel of Mark. The disciples who wanted to prevent the blind man getting near Jesus have to become the messengers of the Lord's caring response: Come, he is calling you.
It is only when the disciples bring the sick man to Jesus that they come to understand what Jesus wants. A healing community can grow when the sick experience the presence of God through a mutual relationship with their sisters and brothers in Christ.
God, listen to people when they cry to you in sickness and pain .May the healthy thank you and serve the sick with loving hearts and open hands. God, let all of us live in your grace and providence, becoming a truly healing community and praising you together. Amen.
Day 7, Christians face to face with a plurality of religions
Isaiah 25:6-9, This is the Lord for whom we have waited.
Psalm 117 (116):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.
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.
When Jesus meets a non-Jewish woman who pleads for healing for her daughter he initially refuses to help her. The woman persists: “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). 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.
Day 8, Christian proclamation of hope in a world of separation
Ezekiel 37:1-14, I will open your graves.
Psalm 104:24-34, You renew the face of the earth.
Revelation 21:1-5a, I am making all things new.
Matthew 5:1-12, Blessed are you...
As reflected upon in meditations of previous days, Christians live in the midst of a world which is marked by various kinds of division and alienation. Yet the stance of the church remains one of hope, grounded not in what human beings can do, but in the power and abiding desire of God to transform fracture and fragmentation into unity and wholeness.
Christian hope lives on even in the midst of profound suffering because it is born out of the steadfast love of God revealed on the cross of Christ. Hope rises with Jesus from the tomb, as death and the forces of death are overcome; it spreads with the sending of the Holy Spirit, which renews the face of the earth. The risen Christ is the beginning of a new and authentic life. His resurrection announces the end of the old order and sows the seeds of a new eternal creation, where all will be reconciled in him and God will be all in all.
“See, I am making all things new.” Christian hope begins with the renewal of creation, such that it fulfils God's original intention in the act of creating. In Revelation 21, God's new beginning ends the sin, divisions and finitude of the world, transfiguring creation so that it can take part in God's glory and share in God's eternity.
When Christians gather to pray for unity, they are motivated and sustained by this hope. The strength of prayer for unity is the strength which comes from God's renewal of the created world; its wisdom, that of the Holy Spirit which breathes new life on dry bones; its integrity, that of opening ourselves completely to the will of God, to be transformed into instruments of the unity Christ wills for his disciples.
Gracious God, you are with us always, amidst suffering and turmoil, and will be to the end of time. Help us to be a people deeply imbued with hope, living out the beatitudes, serving the unity you desire. Amen.