Bulletin for the week of January 21st, 2007.
A sincere welcome to those who are new among us. We hope you find a warm and welcoming faith-home with us. Please introduce yourself after Mass and call the Rectory to register.
THE WEEK OF PRAYER FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY
Traditionally, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is held from January 18 to 25. This is the octave proposed by Paul Wattson in 1908, because it begins with the feat of St. Peter and ends with the feast of the conversion of St. Paul . In Canada , the Week is celebrated in 2007 from January 21 to 28. Especially in this week we want to be in harmony with people around the world, which brings its own graces.
The theme chosen for this year is Be Opened. It takes its inspiration from: “He even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak” Mark 7:37
The origins for the theme of this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity are found in the experience of the Christian Communities in the South African region of Umlazi, near Durban , who have undergone great suffering. A legacy of racism, unemployment and poverty as well as a shortage of schools, medical clinics and adequate housing, continues to raise formidable challenges that contribute to the high crime rate and problems of abuse. The biggest challenge in the informal settlements and townships, however, is HIV/AIDS.
This year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity brings two invitations to Christian churches: to pray and strive together for Christian unity and to join together in responding to human suffering. These two responsibilities are deeply intertwined. Because both relate to healing the body of Christ, the principal scripture text chosen is a story of healing.
By looking up to heaven, Jesus signified that this cure was done through divine power. His action directed the man to look up to heaven for relief. Jesus said to the man, ”Ephphatha”: that is, ”Be opened. ”These words served both parts of the cure: let the ears be opened, and let the lips be opened, so that the man could hear and speak freely. This word is sometimes used in baptisms in Umlazi.
In this healing, we hear Jesus’ compassionate response to suffering and need, in eloquent testimony to the mercy of God.
In restoring the man’s hearing and his ability to speak, Jesus manifests God’s power and desire to bring human beings to wholeness, fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy (35:5-6): “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy?’
The restoration of the man’s hearing allowed him to hear the good news proclaimed by Jesus; the restoration of his speech allowed the man, despite Jesus’ instructions to the contrary to proclaim to others what he had seen and heard. Most people will proclaim their own goodness, or, at least desire that others proclaim it. We, however, are called to follow Jesus’ example and take pleasure in doing good anonymously.
Those who witnessed the healing “were astounded beyond measure,” saying, “he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.” They are ready to witness for him — not only that he has not done any evil, but that he did a great deal of good, and did it well. “He makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.” So it is inexcusable for people to speak against him.
Like the man healed by Jesus, all who have been baptized in Christ have had their ears opened to the gospel. As the body of Christ, the Church is called to be one: the community that has heard and seen the marvels God has done, and has been sent forth to proclaim them to the ends of the earth. Part of our one mission is to attend to those who are suffering and in need. As God heard the cry and knew the sufferings of his people in Egypt , as Jesus responded with compassion to those who cried out to him, so too the Church is to give voice to the voiceless, listening to all who suffer and respond with compassion.
The man healed in this story did not have the satisfaction of hearing other people talk or of telling his own story, Jesus led the man away from the crowd to attend to him privately. We learn from Jesus to do good where no eye sees except for Christ himself. He put his fingers into the man’s ears, spat on his own finger, and then touched the man’s tongue. Drawing together two strands of the Church’s life and mission, this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity emphasizes the essential connection between efforts to pray for and seek unity among Christians, and initiatives to respond to human need and suffering. The same Spirit that makes us brothers and sisters in Christ also empowers us to reach out to every human being in need. The same Spirit that is at work in all efforts to make visible the unity of Christians also gives strength to every movement towards renewing the face of the earth. Every easing of human suffering makes our oneness more visible; every step towards unity strengthens the whole body of Christ.
The theme for this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity stresses the need to continue to work and pray for unity among all our churches and to hear and respond to the voices of people whose cry extends to the heavens. It is hoped that this theme will help to break the silence that oppresses and draw attention to an intrinsic relationship: between the search for Christian unity, and the churches’ work together as instruments of God’s compassion and justice in the world.
It would be appreciated if all group spokespersons could send dates and descriptions of activities to the PPC Secretary, Linda Cameron, as soon as possible, so that calendars can be available prior to the events.
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