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Caution: Putting a Sunday homily on the Website is tricky business. All the viewer has is a written text. A homily, on the other hand, is "an oral event". It may not have been said or heard the way it was written. In addition, a roughly ten-minute homily is part of a roughly one-hour worship event in which God and God's people communicate with each other by means of ritual, symbol, song, proclamation, prayer. Not everything in these homilies is original. As a homilist, I rely on and at times borrow from other homilists and writers who are not properly mentioned in this format. I am often indebted to them.

Father William Marrevee, s.c.j.

3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Observed by most Christian Churches , all over the world. Part of the search for greater unity among Christians. A healing process in the Christian family where serious splits have wounded the unity of the Christian family..

Two different kinds of splits. Until the 16th century there was the split between East and West. One could see it as two large branches that had sort of grown apart because of social, political and cultural factors. That growing apart took a more formal shape in 1054 when the real schism occurred. The principal issue here was the place of the Bishop of Rome, the Pope. They share with us the same Christian beliefs, but the authority of the pope is rejected by the Eastern Churches, usually identified as the Orthodox Churches.

But then in the 16th century the Christian family tree takes on a different appearance, at least in the West. The Church in the West was in a rather miserable state and was in need of some drastic reform. That is what some of the major figures, such as Luther, Zwingli and Calvin called for. They wanted to reform the Catholic Church they had grown up in. But, unfortunately, their call for reform went unheeded. As a result new branches sprung from the Western branch.

One could speak of four main branches:
  1. The Lutheran Churches
  2. The Reformed Churches
  3. The Church of England / Anglicans
  4. The Anabaptists.

They each have their distinctive teachings, liturgies, and structures. There are two basic principles that they hold on to:

  1. Faith alone as the means of salvation
  2. The Bible as the primary authority.

The four main branches handled these two principles differently. Once that process has been set in motion, new branches spring again from these four main branches. The result is a rather messy family tree, a bewildering multiplicity of churches that no longer live in communion with each other.

This cannot be right; in fact, it contradicts and goes against what Jesus on the eve of his death prayed for “that all may be one.”

Over the last century Christians have become more aware of the scandalousness of this situation of division. Out of this awareness has come the search for reconciliation: ecumenism. The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is part of that. Yes, prayer is the first element in it. The unity we seek is not one to be made, organized, negotiated by us, but it is a gift to be received. That prayer will have to be marked by a deeper conversion to Jesus Christ. The more deeply rooted we are in Jesus Christ, the more one we will be. It will make the churches also more credible, when they try to bear witness to what God gives our world in Jesus Christ: peace, reconciliation, healing, fullness of life…

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