Monday, 23 January 2012

Horsham Churches praying together

Last night's prayer service for Christian Unity at St. Mary's in the Causeway was excellent. If you weren't there you really did miss out. It was truly wonderful to see all these people who can seem so divided come together to worship and adore almighty God. We had readings in english and polish (this year's theme for the week of prayer came from an ecumenical council in Poland), lots of well sung hymns, even more prayers and Fr. Richard preached an excellent homily (sorry for the slightly grainy picture). He referred to Pope Benedict's audience at his Angelus at the start of the week for prayer. Here is part of his message which makes marvellous food for thought.

"The theme of the Week this year -- as we heard -- is taken from the First Letter to the Corinthians: “We Will All Be Changed By the Victory of Our Lord Jesus Christ” -- His victory will transform us. And this theme was suggested by the large ecumenical Polish group I just mentioned, which -- in reflecting on their own experience as a nation -- wanted to underscore how strong a support the Christian faith is in the midst of trial and upheaval, like those that have characterized Poland’s history. After ample discussion, a theme was chosen that focuses on the transforming power of faith in Christ, particularly in light of the importance it has for our prayer for the visible unity of Christ’s Body, the Church. This reflection was inspired by the words of St. Paul who, addressing himself to the Church of Corinth, speaks about the perishable nature of what belongs to our present life -- which is also marked by the experience of the “defeat” that comes from sin and death -- compared to what brings us Christ’s victory over sin and death in His paschal mystery.
The particular history of the Polish nation, which knew times of democratic coexistence and of religious liberty -- as in the 16th century -- has been marked in recent centuries by invasions and defeat, but also by the constant struggle against oppression and by the thirst for freedom. All of this led the ecumenical group to reflect more deeply on the true meaning of "victory" -- what victory is -- and "defeat." Compared with "victory" understood in triumphalistic terms, Christ suggests to us a very different path that does not pass by way of force and power. In fact, He affirms: “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all” (Mark 9:35). Christ speaks of a victory through suffering love, through mutual service, help, new hope and concrete comfort given to the least, to the forgotten, to those who are rejected. For all Christians, the highest expression of this humble service is Jesus Christ Himself -- the total gift He makes of Himself, the victory of His love over death on the Cross, which shines resplendent in the light of Easter morning.
We can take part in this transforming “victory” if we allow ourselves to be transformed by God -- but only if we work for the conversion of our lives, and if this transformation leads to conversion. This is the reason why the Polish ecumenical group considered particularly fitting for their own reflection the words of St. Paul: “We will all be changed by the victory of Christ, Our Lord” (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:51-58).
The full and visible unity of Christians for which we long demands that we allow ourselves to be ever more perfectly transformed and conformed to the image of Christ. The unity for which we pray requires interior conversion, both communal and personal. It is not simply a matter of kindness and cooperation; above all, we must strengthen our faith in God, in the God of Jesus Christ, who has spoken to us and who made Himself one of us; we must enter into new life in Christ, which is our true and definitive victory; we must open ourselves to one another, cultivating all the elements of that unity that God has preserved for us and gives to us ever anew; we must feel the urgency of bearing witness before the men of our times to the living God, who made Himself known in Christ."

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