Just Gospel: Pope Francis Prays for Christian Unity

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January 17, 2021

Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Kathleen Murphy reflects on Pope Francis’ January Prayer intention regarding Christian Unity.

January brings to us the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.  Perhaps we can even extend this to a prayer for unity of all who seek God’s ways.  Pope Francis leads us in this direction as he admonishes us to pray:  May the Lord give us the grace to live in full fellowship with our brothers and sisters of other religions, praying for one another, open to all.

Mansour Hallaj, born in 858 AD, was a Persian mystic, poet and teacher of Sufism. Among his writings we find the following poem about God.

“Before” does not outstrip Him,
“after” does not interrupt Him
“of” does not vie with Him for precedence
“in” does not inhabit Him
“when” does not stop Him
“if” does not consult with Him
“over” does not overshadow Him

“under” does not support Him
“opposite” does not face Him
“with” does not press Him
“behind” does not limit Him
“previous” does not display Him
“after” does not cause Him to pass away
“all” does not unite Him
“is” does not bring Him into being
“is not” does not deprive Him from Being.

His essence is without qualification.
His action without effort.

These haunting lines aptly describe the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; the God of Mohammed and the God of Jesus.  They describe the totality of our own God.  It is this month’s task to pray that the fabric of faith be rewoven, be mended back into one tapestry.  We are all children of the Creator, of God.  If we have learned various names for this loving Presence, this should not be our reason for disharmony.  If others have found other ways to pray and other ways of envisioning God’s face, this should not be our reason for discord.  If we take time to ponder it, we know that we do not possess the one true name of God, save the name of Jesus, His Son.  We find many titles in the Scriptures such as Adonai, Abba, and El Shaddai.  We do not have a snapshot, statue or sketch of the face of God.  We do not address God or see God any more accurately than others.  God is robed in mystery and is present to all His children.

God’s work needs active hands and feet in many places, in many languages and in many forms.  It is our prayer that all of us join with all believers in serving God’s purposes.  One of those purposes which has been present in our reflections is that of ending racism.  Our Bishops write in this regard:  “Certainly we cannot accomplish this task alone (abolishing racism).  We call on everyone, especially all Christians and those of other faith traditions, to help repair the breach caused by racism, which damages the human family.  Ecumenical and interreligious cooperation has been pivotal at key moments in our history, for instance, in the abolition of slavery and during the civil rights era.  The leadership of the civil rights movement, especially that of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., invited ecumenical and interreligious cooperation, as was seen when Catholics, Protestants, and Jews marched together.  That spirit is integral to the fight today.  As religious leaders, we must continue this tradition.  Open Wide Our Hearts, USCCB

Finally, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. included in a sermon, the following:  “If we are to have peace on earth, our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective.”   Amen to that!

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