1, They devoted themselves...
Joel 2:21-22, 28-29, I will pour out my spirit on all flesh.
Psalm 46, God is in the midst of the city.
Acts 2:1-12, When the day of Pentecost had come.
John 14:15-21, This is the spirit of truth.
The journey of this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity begins
in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost. "They devoted themselves
to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking
of the bread and the prayers." The "they" is
the earliest Church born on the day of the Pentecost. All
who live in continuity with the day of Pentecost live in continuity
with the earliest Church of Jerusalem with its leader St.
James. This church provides the image or icon of the Christian
unity for which we pray this week.
According to an ancient eastern tradition,
the succession of the church comes through continuity with
the first Christian community of Jerusalem. It is linked with
the heavenly Church of Jerusalem, which in turn becomes the
icon of all Christian churches. The sign of continuity for
all the churches is maintaining the "marks" of the
first Christian community through our devotion to the "apostles'
teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of the bread and
The present Church of Jerusalem lives in continuity
with the apostolic Church of Jerusalem. Its witness to the
gospel and its struggles against inequality and injustice
remind us that prayer for Christian unity is inseparable from
prayer for peace and justice.
Almighty and Merciful God, with great power you gathered together
the first Christians in the city of Jerusalem. Grant that,
like this first church in Jerusalem, we may come together
to be bold in preaching and living the good news of reconciliation
and peace wherever there is inequality and injustice. We pray
in the name of Jesus Christ, who liberates us from the bondage
of sin and death. Amen.
Day 2, All who believed were together
Isaiah 55:1-4, Come to the waters.
Psalm 85:8-13 , Surely salvation is at hand.
1 Corinthians 12:12-27, For in one Spirit we were all baptized
into one body.
John 15:1-13, I am the true vine.
The Church in the Acts of the Apostles is the model of the
unity we seek today. It reminds us that prayer for Christian
unity cannot be for uniformity, because unity from the beginning
has been characterized by rich diversity. It is the model
or icon of unity in diversity.
The narrative of Pentecost tells us that there
were represented on that day all the languages and cultures
of the ancient Mediterranean world and beyond. As St. Paul
would later write, "For in the one Spirit we were all
baptized into one body... Jews or Greeks, slaves or free...
and we were all made to drink of one Spirit." It is not
a uniform community of like minded, culturally and linguistically
united people who were one in the apostles' teaching and fellowship.
The church was at unity within itself, and one with the Risen
Rich diversity characterizes the churches around
the world. Like the earliest church, Christians today remind
us that we are many members in one body, a unity in diversity.
Ancient traditions teach us that diversity and unity exist
in the heavenly Jerusalem. They remind us that difference
and diversity are not the same as division and disunity, and
that the Christian unity for which we pray always preserves
God, from whom all life flows in its rich diversity, you call
your Church as the Body of Christ to be united in love. May
we learn more deeply our unity in diversity and strive to
work together to preach, and build up the Kingdom of your
abundant love in all places. May we always be mindful of Christ
as the source of our life together. We pray in the unity of
the Spirit. Amen.
Day 3, Devoted themselves to the apostle's
Isaiah 51:4-8, Listen to me, my people.
Psalm 119:105-112, Your word is a lamp to my feet.
Romans 1:15-17, Eagerness to proclaim the gospel.
John 17:6-19, I have made your name known.
The apostles' teaching was their witness to the life, teaching,
ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus. The apostles' teaching
is exemplified by St. Peter's preaching on the day of Pentecost
and his use of the prophet Joel. He connects the Church with
the biblical story of the people of God.
The Word of God gathers and unites us despite
divisions. The apostles' teaching, the good news in all its
fullness, was at the center of unity in diversity. It is not
simply the "apostles' teaching" that united the
earliest church, but devotion to that teaching. Such devotion
is reflected in St. Paul's identifying the gospel as "the
power of God for salvation."
The prophet Isaiah reminds us that God's teaching
is inseparable from God's "justice for a light to the
peoples." Or as the psalmist prays, "Your word is
a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Your decrees are
my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart."
God of Light, we give you thanks for the revelation of your
truth in Jesus Christ which we have received through the apostles'
teaching. May your Holy Spirit continue to sanctify us in
the truth of your Son, so that united in him we may grow in
devotion to the Word, and together serve your Kingdom in humility
and love. In Christ's name we pray. Amen.
Day 4, Devoted themselves to... fellowship...
Isaiah 58:6-10, Is it not to share your bread with the hungry?
Psalm 37:1-11, Trust in the Lord and do good.
Acts 4:32-37, Everything they owned was held in common.
Matthew 6:25-34, Strive first for the kingdom of God.
The sign of continuity with the apostolic Church is "devotion
to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking
of the bread and the prayers." The Church of today, however,
points us to the practical consequences of such devotion --
sharing. Today's reading links such radical sharing with the
powerful apostolic "testimony to the resurrection of
Such a sharing of resources characterizes the
life of Christian people. It is a sign of their continuity
with the first Christians. It is a sign and a challenge to
all the churches. It links proclamation of the Gospel, the
celebration of Eucharist and the fellowship (or communion)
of the Christian community with radical equality and justice
for all. As such sharing is a testimony to the resurrection
of Jesus, and a sign of continuity with the apostolic Church
of Jerusalem, it is equally a sign of our unity with one another.
There are many ways of sharing. There is the
radical sharing of the apostolic church where nobody was left
in need. There is the sharing of one another's burdens, struggles,
pain, suffering, joys and achievements, blessings and healing.
There is also an "ecumenical gift exchange" in the
sharing of gifts and insights from one church tradition to
another even in our separation from one another. Such generous
sharing is a practical consequence of our devotion to the
apostles' teaching and fellowship; it is a consequence of
our prayer for Christian unity.
God of Justice, your giving is without bounds. We thank you
that you have given what we need. Inspire us to be instruments
of love, sharing all that you give us, as a witness to your
generosity and justice. As followers of Christ, lead us to
act together in places of want. We pray in the name of Jesus,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Day 5, Devoted themselves... to the breaking
Exodus 16:13b-21a, It is the bread the Lord has given you
Psalm 116:12-14,16-18, I will offer to you a thanksgiving
1 Corinthians 11:17-18, 23-26, Do this in remembrance of me.
John 6:53-58, This is the bread that came down from heaven.
For Christians the sharing of bread traditionally speaks of
friendship, forgiveness and commitment to the other. We are
challenged in this breaking of bread to seek a unity that
can speak prophetically to a world of divisions. In the breaking
of bread Christians are formed anew for the prophetic message
of hope for all humankind.
Today we, too, break bread "with glad
and generous hearts"; but we also experience, at each
celebration of the Eucharist, a painful reminder of our disunity.
Exodus relates how God responded to the grumbling of the people
he had liberated by providing them with what they needed.
The manna in the desert is a gift of God, not to be hoarded,
nor even fully understood. It is, as our Psalm celebrates,
a moment which calls simply for thanksgiving, for God "has
loosened our bonds."
What St. Paul recognizes is that to break the
bread means not only to celebrate the Eucharist, but to be
a eucharistic people, to become Christ's Body in the world.
St. Paul's words (1 Corinthians 10-11) serve as a reminder
of how the Christian community is to live. We live "in
remembrance of him."
As the reading from St. John teaches us, as
a people of the breaking of bread, we are a people of eternal
life -- life in its fullness. Our celebration of Eucharist
challenges us to reflect on how such an abundant gift of life
is expressed day to day as we live in hope as well as in difficulties.
God of Hope, we praise you for your gift to us of the Lord's
Supper, where, in the Spirit, we continue to meet your Son,
the living bread from heaven. We pray that you will hasten
the day when your whole church together shares the breaking
of the bread. As we wait for that day may we learn more deeply
to be a people formed by the Eucharist for service to the
world. We pray in Jesus' name. Amen.
Day 6, Devoted themselves... to the prayers.
Jonah 2:1-9, Deliverance belongs to the Lord!
Psalm 67:1-7, Let the peoples praise you, O God!
1 Timothy 2:1-8, Prayers should be made for everyone, for
kings and all who are in high positions.
Matthew 6:5-15, Your kingdom come, your will be done.
It is prayer that empowers Christians for our mission together.
For Jonah the intensity of his prayer is met with dramatic
deliverance from the belly of the fish. His prayer is heartfelt,
as it arises from his own sense of repentance at having tried
to avoid God's will. He had abandoned the Lord's call to prophesy,
and ended up in a hopeless place. And here God meets his prayer
with deliverance for his mission. The Psalm calls us to pray
that God's face will shine upon us -- not only for our own
benefit, but for the spread of His rule "among all the
Prayer is a part of the strength and power
of mission and prophecy for the world. Paul instructs us to
pray especially for those with power in the world so that
we may live together in peace and dignity. Our own prayer
for unity in Christ reaches out to the whole world.
In Matthew's Gospel we hear of prayer as a
"secret" power, born not from display or performance,
but from a humble coming before the Lord. Jesus' teaching
is summed up in the Lord's Prayer. Praying this together forms
us as a united people who seek the Father's will, and the
building up of His Kingdom here on earth, and calls us to
a life of forgiveness and reconciliation.
Lord God our Father, we rejoice that in all times, places
and cultures, there are people who reach out to you in prayer.
Teach us to pray better as Christians together, so that we
may always be aware of your guidance and encouragement through
all our joys and distress, through the power your Holy Spirit.
Day 7, The apostles' teaching... wonders
and signs... praising God.
Isaiah 60:1-3,18-22, You shall call your walls Salvation,
and your gates, Praise.
Psalm 118:1, 5-17, I shall not die, but I shall live.
Romans 6:3-11, We have been buried with Christ by baptism
into death... so we too might walk in newness of life.
Matthew 28:1-10, Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid."
The first Christians' devotion to the apostles' teaching,
fellowship, breaking of the bread and the prayers was made
possible, above all, by the living power of the Risen Jesus.
This power is still living and today's Christians witness
to this. The light and hope of the Resurrection changes everything.
As Isaiah prophesies, it is the transformation of darkness
into light; it is an enlightening for all peoples. The power
of the Resurrection shines out from Jerusalem, the place of
the Lord's Passion, and draws all nations to its brightness.
This is a new life, in which violence is put aside, and security
is found in salvation and praise.
In the Psalm we are given words to celebrate
the central Christian experience of passing from death to
life. This is the abiding sign of God's steadfast love. It
is the defining reality of all Christians. As St. Paul teaches,
we have in baptism entered into the tomb with Christ, and
been raised with him. We have died with Christ, and live to
share his risen life. And so we can see the world differently
-- with compassion, patience, love and hope. Even as divided
Christians, we know that the baptism that unites us is a bearing
of the Cross in the light of the Resurrection.
For the Christian this resurrection life is not some mere
concept or helpful idea. It is rooted in a vivid event in
time and space. From Jerusalem the Risen Lord sends greetings
to his disciples across the ages, calling us to follow him
without fear. He goes ahead of us.
God, you raised your Son Jesus to give hope for humanity and
renewal to the earth. Continue to strengthen and unify your
Church in its struggles that obscure the hope of the new life
you offer. This we pray in the name of the Risen Lord, in
the power of his Spirit. Amen.
Day 8, Called out by the Word we have heard.
Genesis 33:1-4, Esau ran to meet Jacob, and embraced him...
and they wept.
Psalm 96:1-13, Say among the nations, "The Lord is King!"
2Corinthians 5:17-21, God... reconciled us to himself through
Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.
Matthew 5:21-26, Leave your gift before the altar, and go:
first be reconciled to your brother or sister.
Our prayers of this week have taken us on a journey together.
Here we have seen devotion to the apostles' teaching, to fellowship,
to the breaking of bread and to the prayers. At the end of
our reflections we return to our own contexts -- the realities
of division, discontent, disappointment and injustice. Concluding
this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity the question is posed:
to what, then, are we called, here and now?
We pray for Christian unity so that the Church
might be a sign and instrument for the healing of divisions
and injustices and for the growing in understanding between
people of all faiths. In our personal and family lives, too,
the call to reconciliation must find a response. Jacob and
Esau are brothers, yet estranged. Their violence and the habits
of anger are put aside as the brothers meet and weep together.
The recognition of our unity as Christians
leads us into the Psalm's great song of praise for the Lord
who rules the world with loving justice. In Christ, God seeks
to reconcile to Himself all peoples. St. Paul celebrates a
life of reconciliation as "a new creation." The
call to reconcile is the call to allow God's power in us to
make all things new.
This "good news" calls us to change
the way we live. As Jesus challenges us in St. Matthew's gospel,
the call to prayer for Christian unity is a call to reconciliation.
The call to reconciliation is a call to action.
God of Peace, we thank you that you sent your Son Jesus, so
that we might be reconciled to yourself in him. Give us the
grace to be effective servants of reconciliation within our
churches. Fill us with love for one another and may our unity
serve the reconciliation that you desire for all creation.
We pray in the power of the Spirit. Amen.