December 21, 2018

That All May Be One / Fr. Rick Ginther

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity a chance for us to ‘be one’

Fr. Rick GintherThe Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (WPCU) is annually celebrated on Jan. 18-25. This period is bracketed by the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter and the Conversion of St. Paul. This “octave” (eight days) offers an intense time for prayer “that all may be one.”

First Friends Meeting, 3030 Kessler Boulevard East Drive, in Indianapolis, will host the Christian community of greater Indianapolis for our annual WPCU worship service at 6 p.m. on Jan. 20. A reception will follow. All are welcome.

Each year, the Pontifical Commission for Promoting Christian Unity and the World Council of Churches choose a region of the world whose Christian leaders are invited to prayerfully prepare a prayer service.

Special care is taken in choosing the Scripture passages, symbols, gestures and songs reflective of the region’s history and culture. But these must be universal enough to be used in other regions of the world.

This year’s prayer service was prepared by a committee from Indonesia. The committee was comprised of representatives of the Communion of Churches in Indonesia and the Indonesian Catholic Bishops’ Conference.

The planners chose the Book of Deuteronomy 16:11-20, especially verse 20, “Justice and only justice you shall pursue” as the scriptural motif.

The service was prepared by Christians from Indonesia. Eighty-six percent of the population of the 17,000 islands are Muslim; 10 percent are Christians of various traditions.

As noted in the introduction of the WPCU packet for 2019, there are “1,340 different ethnic groups and over 740 local languages, and yet, it is united in its plurality by one national language—Bahasa Indonesia.”

The nation is founded on five principles called “Pancasila.” Those principles are: 1) belief in the one and only God; 2) just and civilized humanity; 3) the unity of Indonesia; 4) democracy guided by the inner wisdom in the unanimity arising out of deliberations amongst representatives; and 5) social justice for all people of Indonesia.

The country’s national motto is “Unity in Diversity.”

Our own experience knows that such a harmony could be fragile. And it is.

The enormous pressures of decades of economic growth built on competition are the antithesis of the historic Indonesian principle of “goton royong,” or “live in solidarity and by collaboration.”

Corruption in politics and business undermine justice and the implementation of law. The rich are getting richer, the poor, poorer. The richness of resources belies the number of people living in poverty. And ethnic and religious groups are too often associated with the rich or the poor.

The Christian communities which participated in preparing the 2019 prayer service were keenly aware of the lived reality of their nation. They decided to fashion the prayer to join “in common concern and common response to an unjust reality.

“Confronted by these injustices, we are obliged, as Christians, to examine the ways in which we are complicit,” they wrote. “Only by heeding Jesus’ prayer ‘that they all may be one’ can we witness to living unity in diversity. It is through our unity in Christ that we will be able to combat injustice and serve the needs of its victims.”

Come join Archbishop Charles C. Thompson and the leaders of many of our local Christian denominations for this prayer service.

Let us be as one in prayer, that “all may be one.”

(Father Rick Ginther is director of the archdiocesan Office of Ecumenism. He is also pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Indianapolis.)

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