Biblical Reflections and Prayers for the Eight Days
Jan 01, 2001
Is 43:1-7, 18, 19
"Do not let your hearts be troubled" (John 14: 1)
I will make a way in the wilderness
Why are you cast down, O my soul...Hope in God
On the threshold of the third millennium, we rejoice that we can praise the Lord for his faithfulness towards us through the ages and we perceive more clearly that Christianity is only just beginning. We may however be overwhelmed by paralysing fear. Will hope overcome fear when the tides of evil, injustice, violence and hatred are submerging the weak and poor? And when we encounter opposition as did Paul in Corinth?
Shall we despair when adverse winds threaten evangelization, so much so that we sometimes doubt that we shall ever win new generations to the Word?
On the contrary, in our prayer and apostolic action we sense that the Lord is always with us, as he was with the exiled people of Israel, with Paul, the apostle of the Gentiles when he was not accepted by his own people and with Jesus’ disciples when they were threatened by a violent storm.
Through the sending of his Spirit, God the Father is ever opening new paths through the desert of today’s world. God expects and supports the witness of the churches. All peoples of the world are destined to be his. We must therefore have no fear as we advance along the way to common witness.
True ecumenism seems to be under threat. Many still reject it. For some, progress along the road to unity becomes an excuse for introversion and even rupture. Some local groups have been deceived and hurt. Some communities come to fear ecumenical programmes whose biblical bases they contest.
"You of little faith!": Jesus’ cry to his disciples could include us. May we overcome our fear in the midst of adversity, through the love that we have within us. Let us pray with the psalmist, who whether he is full of hope or he falters, relies on the Lord who will support his cause by giving him strength, light and truth.
O most powerful God, respond to our prayer
that Christ may strengthen the church today
by speaking to its very heart: "Do not be afraid but continue
to speak out, do not be silent, for I am with you".
And send upon the church your spirit of strength
that your adoptive children may be renewed and confirmed in your grace. Amen
Ex 3: 6-10
Believe in God (Jn 14: 1b)
The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob
Today’s world invents its own new cardboard gods, painted in the colours of its own fears, anxieties and insane concerns, alternately derisory and terrifying. In contrast to these unreal creatures of smoke, Israel speaks to us of a totally different and ever-present Being.
Thus, the unknowable God of Sinaï before whom Moses hides his face is that same God of the passing on of the faith, handed down by the patriarchs and prophets. It is the God of the blessings of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
It is the God of whom the psalmist speaks, whose unlimited love bestows grace, pardon and freedom to his people and who offers them the splendour of his divine glory. He promises those who follow the way of faithfulness a new land in which flows the "milk and honey" of his love.
Coming from the very bosom of God the Father, from whom he receives the new teaching, Jesus is the favoured witness. Through his great humility he shows forth the goodness of God the Father, through the force of his teaching and his works he revives the divine blessings for the world.
Christians on their way towards full unity, show forth these unceasing blessings for the new age. Through their prayerful praise they witness to their One God, omnipresent and thrice blessed.
O God whom no words can describe, no thoughts fully understand, no space constrain, who called the patriarchs and allowed the Children of Israel to cross the Red Sea, and who now offers a new land to a thirsting people. Do not condemn us for our numerous sins of division but restore that longed-for unity to our daily life so that together we might witness to your great blessings, and praise and glorify your name, unpronounceable yet three times blessed. Amen.
2 Chr 6, 16-18
"Believe also in me" (Jn 14: 1b)
If only your children walk in my law
The gospel is the revelation of the Son by the Father and of the Father by the Son. The Father manifests himself by acknowledging his Son and in having him acknowledged: we must listen to the Son, who has made himself obedient, has accomplished the law and is the end of the law.
In obedience to the Son, we become sons and daughters of God, like the king of the past to whom God assured his throne as long as he kept his laws; like the Hebrews, whom God had taken out of bondage from Egypt, he has called home his Son.
This is why the men and women who become followers of the Way, follow in Jesus’ steps and listen to his words. Those who bear the name of ‘Christian’ cannot but be one and proclaim the one name necessary for salvation.
For those who have found or are still searching for a god and a place, the church offers a dwelling place in the house of the only true God and of his Envoy, Jesus Christ in the exaltation of the whole world.
Tremble at the presence of the Master, children of the earth;
With the earth, for he transforms rock into a pool of water,
With Abraham, you who see the day of the Lord;
With Elizabeth, you who greet your Lord;
With the peacemakers, who are called sons and daughters of God;
With the little ones of this world to whom the Father and the Son
have been revealed through the Holy Spirit.
Is 60: 4-7
"In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places" (Jn 14: 2)
They all gather together
Until today Christians from different churches have been slow to recognize each other. At present Christians are not yet able to share one table as a sign of full communion. When will it be so? This depends on how far Christians realize Jesus’ affirmation, that in his father’s one house there are many dwelling places.
The psalmist is singing about the place where humanity will be reconciled with God and with each other. It is the place where people of different nations, cultures and churches will come together. They will be together as one flock with one shepherd.
At the same time it is not a matter of indifference which teachings we follow. There are different places in the house of God, but the way which leads there is the way of Jesus Christ.
What a powerful sign it would be if at the beginning of the third millennium Christians from different traditions could make more visible that they are together on the same way towards God’s house. At the same time it will become clearer that in this house there is space for difference.
God, we praise you for being willing to welcome us into your own house in spite of our differences. Help us to open our hearts and minds to those who are different from us, discovering that you also offer space for them in your house. Help and sustain us on the way, which is your way, shown to us. Amen.
Joel 2: 28-32
"I will come again and will take you to myself" (Jn 14: 3)
I will pour out my Spirit
When Jesus Christ, our Saviour, comes for the second time, he will come as a judge. The whole creation will greet and welcome him.
We should not be found naked, we have to preserve the new clothes we received at our baptism, Christ himself. If we are found prepared, Christ will take us with him, and make us partakers in the life of the Holy Trinity. This comes about through Christ, in the Holy Spirit, for their works are not opposed.
The outpouring of the Holy Spirit, on the day of Pentecost, to which the prophet Joel bears witness is - in some churches - made personal through sacramental anointing. The Holy Spirit makes Christ wholly present within us. He conforms us to Christ, makes us like Christ. This process of growing into the form of Christ is continuous.
Those in whom this constant conforming to Christ, this transfiguration, takes place, will become humble and open to others. They will love their neighbours and welcome others. They will understand that Christians cannot judge whether others are saved or not. This will lead them to undertake steps together with others towards unity among Christians.
O heavenly King, the Comforter, Spirit of Truth You who fill all things and are in all places O treasury of good things and giver of life Come, and cleanse us from every stain And take up your abode in us, O God and save our souls, O Good God. Amen.
Ex 13: 20-22
"You know the way to the place where I am going" (Jn 14: 4)
The Lord went in front of them
Jesus Christ goes to prepare a place for his disciples. He calls them to follow him on his way by denying themselves and by taking up their cross. He goes ahead of them, showing the way like the pillar of fire and the pillar of cloud which led the people of Israel in the desert.
Thus Christians are united with their ancestors and with the people of Israel under the leadership of God.
But on the way Christians often fail and - like the psalmist, - have to ask anew for God’s leadership. This can be done because God has promised that he is faithful. He will not let his followers be tested beyond their strength. He helps to endure on the way by giving strength through spiritual food.
Thus Jesus Christ is himself the way, the leader, the light and the provider of food on the way.
Jesus Christ, you are the way
and you show us the way to the place you are going.
You go with us and you strengthen us.
Help us to go along the way in continuity with those who went before us,
to persevere on the way with those who go alongside us, and to prepare the way for those who come after us. Amen.
2 Kings 2: 9-12
"How can we know the way?" (Jn 14: 5 )
Let me inherit a share of your Spirit
Throughout the ages Christians have paused to seek God’s assurance and guidance. He continues to recognize our expressions of uncertainty and is quick to reassure us and equip us with a new confidence.
Even as we give thanks for the remarkable ecumenical progress of the last century, it is important that we ask ‘how can we go forward’? In seeking answers we know that all is not yet fully revealed. God calls us to seek the will of Christ, always encouraging us as we strive to move closer to one another. Questioning is a part of our pilgrimage in searching for the truth in order to grow in Christ and with one another. In discovering his will for us, we learn to see, hear and respect our brothers and sisters in Christ.
As the Holy Spirit draws us deeper into the mystery of Christ crucified and risen, he reveals that sacrifices may be demanded of us. Our uncertainty and the pain involved cause us anxiety. We are reluctant to let go of things familiar and which we treasure. We are assured the Spirit can take and transform that which is painful to us to the greater glory of Christ. The Spirit will give us greater confidence in Christ’s call. This is a sign that the ecumenical movement is maturing and that while the way may not be smooth, it is God’s will for his people.
Christians long to fulfil the call to be one. With renewed confidence that "the Spirit of truth will guide into all the truth" and will indeed speak, let us pray for the illuminating hope which is God’s promise to the world.
Lord, you are the way, the truth and the life.
We praise you for the gift of your Spirit who liberates us in our uncertainty.
Forgive us when we raise barriers that divide us or prevent us from seeking the truth which is the unity offered to us in Christ Jesus.
As we seek your will, release us from all prejudice so that we may be eager to journey more closely with one another and with you. Amen
Gen 33: 1-12
"I am the way, and the truth, and the life" (Jn 14: 6)
"I will go alongside you"
The Lord has stirred up in Christians a deep yearning for unity. He has enabled us to see that this longing, which is found among so many Christians of different traditions, is a sign that his Spirit has been at work in all of us, prompting us to recognize that in this too we must obey his will. When we look up, we now see brothers and sisters, from other Christian communities, offering us gifts that are the fruits of grace.
Painfully, often too slowly, we have acknowledged how much already unites us through our baptism into Christ and the faith we profess. Hesitantly, then with increasing confidence, we have said to one another: let us not settle here, "let us journey on our way, and I will go alongside you". The Lord’s own prayer is being answered: he has opened the way for us through his blood and his Spirit is guiding us along that way. His most precious gift will be when we do indeed dwell together in unity.
There is no turning back now. This road leads to the fullness of communion with one another and with the Blessed Trinity. Let us encourage one another to persevere in this search for full visible unity among Christians. Such a unity of faith and life will make possible a profoundly common witness, no longer marred by division, discord and rivalry. If there is one communion among Christians, who truly live and experience their healing and reconciliation, the world will see the truth of our words proclaiming Jesus Christ as the one the Father has sent, their Lord as well as ours.
"He who has promised is faithful" so we can hold fast to this hope without wavering. Even while the Lord has been revealing to us what we already share he has been urging us to go the whole way with him, to be fully united in his truth and in his life with the Father and the Holy Spirit. We can rightly feel responsible for each other since we see that we are brothers and sisters. We can give encouragement, pray together, explore our differences and work for their healing, provoke one another to love and to hear afresh the call to deeper conversion.
Father, on the very night your Son offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins he prayed that we and all who would come to believe in him might be one, as you are in him and he in you. Hasten the day when your will is done and we are so completely one that the world may believe in Jesus Christ whom you have sent. So may all women and men know that you love them as much as you love your only Son. Help us by your Holy Spirit to persevere courageously and confidently along this way together, through Christ our Lord. Amen