Sunday in the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Homily by Cardinal Michael

Posted on 27th January, 2022

Third Sunday of Ordinary Time (C)

(Sunday in the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity)

(St Bride’s Anglican church, Liverpool)


It is a pleasure for me to come here and take part in this Sunday service at St Bride’s during this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity and I thank the team of St Luke-in-the-city for inviting me. I think the readings provided for this day are suitable for reflecting on the unity which we are invited to achieve and which we are striving for.


In the reading from the Book of Nehemiah, we have heard how the people gathered together to listen to the Law of Moses being read to them. It is said that Ezra, the priest did this from early morning until noon. Do not be afraid, I am not going to be so long. It is noted that all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law. It is this Book of the Law which brings about their unity, as they listen to it and try to apply it in their lives.


You may say: “But what has this to do with us? The time of Judaism is over.” We have to remember that Jesus came not to abolish the Law, but to fulfil it. In the synagogue of his home village he reads from the prophet Isaiah the text that we have heard and says: “This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen.” Notice that he does not say it has been fulfilled, but rather that it is being fulfilled. This fulfilment is something ongoing in which we are all involved.


Jesus, who has returned to his home region and his home town “with the power of the Spirit in him” as Luke says in his gospel, presents, as it were, his “manifesto”. It is inspired by the Spirit, and it is to be carried out not only by himself, but also by us, with the help of the Spirit.


This brings us to the passage from St Paul that has been proclaimed. It comes from Paul’s First Letter to the Christians in Corinth. Before the beginning of our passage Paul writes: “There is a variety of gifts but always the same Spirit; there are all sorts of service to be done, but always to the same Lord; working in all sorts of different ways in different people, it is the same God who is working in all of them.”


These words are very relevant today as we consider and pray for Christian Unity. We are called to continue the mission of Jesus. Would this not be more effective if we were united? We don’t need to be the same, nor to be doing the same things. We all have our gifts, given by the Spirit. What is required of us is to respect one another and to be ready to cooperate, work together, with the same concern for those who are disadvantaged, exploited, oppressed.


And when we say that we are “sent… to bring… to the blind new sight”, I think we should include ourselves. We get used to things, and don’t see them anymore.  We are used to be being divided as Christians, and often do not realize the scandal that this gives to people of other religions, or none. “When will these Christians get their act together?” people are inclined to say.


So we need to pray for ourselves, for our leaders, for our Churches, that we may be open to the Spirit, that the Spirit may convert us, make us truly faithful to the Gospel, so that we may be truly one and give a united witness.

Let this be our prayer today.


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