Monday, 20 January 2014

Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity

Homily for the Second Sunday after Epiphany,
Jan. 19, 2014 –  STM – Toronto
The Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity

“to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours . . .”

These are the words of St. Paul to the Corinthians in the First Evangelization, the first calling of people into fellowship and communion with Jesus Christ.
Ceiling mosaic Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta, Italy - Artist unknown

Paul echoes the words and actions of St. John the Baptist whom we hear today in the Gospel:  
“Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world.”
At every Mass we see and hear Jesus, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world. It is our mandate as Catholic Christians to echo the words and the actions of St. John the Baptist by constantly reaching out to people, by helping  them to see, to behold, Jesus in our midst giving his life for the life of the world. 

Jesus is present, truly present: body, blood, soul and divinity at the altar and in communion with his people. He is the one sinless Lamb to whom we are called as incomplete and sinful as we are. 

We are called to declare Jesus. With St Paul we declare to the world that Jesus is our living and truly present Saviour.  Jesus is, as St. Paul contends:  “both their Lord and ours.”  He is their Lord even if they do not recognize Him or are not yet in full communion with his Church.

We should never weary of declaring the one Lord Jesus in our words but perhaps more profoundly in our actions at home, at work, at play, declaring to other Christians, to Catholics and Protestants, to the agnostic and to the unbeliever, to those who are sympathetic and to those who are hostile: Jesus is Lord.

Jesus is the one true Lamb who sacrifices himself for us, for every one of us, in His one, full, complete and final sacrifice of the Cross, His sacrifice which is always accessible, always present and available at every Mass. He is the Saviour who calls us to share His sacrifice and to enter fully into His sacrifice for others, by serving “their Lord and ours” for the sake of the whole world.

If we were to follow on from the reading today in St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians we would read these words which speak directly to us about the main theme for this octave which is The Week or Octave of Prayer for Christian unity:

Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose.”

The same mind and the same purpose point everyone to Jesus, the Lamb of God. The purpose is for us and others to walk in fellowship with Jesus, sharing in his life. The goal is for all Christians to ultimately be if of one mind in full communion sharing in the real presence of Jesus at the altar.

This passage from First Corinthians 1 calls Christians around the world to reflect upon the call to real and substantial unity in the Body of Christ. It is a call to be of one mind and committed to one common purpose.

The Ordinariates around the world are a sign, a kind of first fruits of this unity as described by our Ordinary, Msgr. Steenson recently.

Those coming into the full communion of the Catholic Church as well as people of good will who are praying and working for true unity were encouraged by the words of Msgr. Steenson at the Dec. 14 celebration of priestly ordination in Ottawa.

As leader of the Ordinariate in North America in interviews Msgr. Steenson has repeatedly emphasized that we must allow ourselves to be a bridge to Christian unity and a force for true ecumenism rather than just a lifeboat for those who are surviving the shipwreck of secularism and relativism that is decimating mainline Protestantism.

He has said:

“If the Ordinariate is to be anything worthy and worth keeping for the long term, it must be an instrument of Christian unity”

“Ecumenism has been hurt because neither side has really been telling the truth to each other, or it’s the elephant in the living room they don’t want to talk about . . . . It’s important for Anglicans to understand there are certain things they have embraced in their common life that are simply forever irreconcilable with the Catholic faith.”

As our Ordinary, he went on to echo the call of both Pope Benedict and Pope Francis for a New Evangelization: 

“We need to strengthen . . .  parishes and make them attractive places that will function for the purpose they were created, to bring people into full communion.”

So, we are called to share the Good News of Jesus Christ as St. John the Baptist calls all of us to behold Jesus, the Lamb of God and as St. Paul exhorts all to unity:

“to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours . . .”


Fr. John L. Hodgins, POCSP
St. Thomas More Catholic Church,

Toronto, Ontario, CANADA

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