Archbishop Richard Smith spoke at the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity closing service.

WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ

Archbishop Richard Smith spoke at the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity closing service.

February 4, 2013
RAMON GONZALEZ
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

Christians are called to give witness to the world that real reconciliation, real peace and real unity are in fact possible, says Archbishop Richard Smith.

Yet this witness, to be effective, must be credible, he said. "Lack of unity weakens our credibility as witnesses to unity.

"How can we credibly call the world to reconciliation when we are separated from one another, indeed by walls that at times seem impossible to scale?"

Smith gave the homily at the celebration marking the closing of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity Jan. 27.

Bishops, leaders and lay people of about 13 Christian churches and organizations took part in the event at Good Shepherd Church in Edmonton.

Jasmine Pullukatt performed a dance honouring the Indian state of Kerala.

WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ

Jasmine Pullukatt performed a dance honouring the Indian state of Kerala.

The themes of Micah 6 and Indian Christianity featured prominently in the celebration as the focus of this year's Week of Prayer was on Christianity in India. Indian dances, prayers, songs and food were part of the evening.

Each year, in the third week of January, Christians worldwide organize liturgies, Bible studies and other activities to animate the Week of Prayer, which calls on God to restore unity within the global Christian family.

In Edmonton, the Week of Prayer was marked Jan. 20-27 with a host of ecumenical activities in homes and Christian churches throughout the city. There also was a display of religious artifacts from India at City Hall.

An ecumenical group from India wrote the materials this year.

There are almost 20 million Catholics in India, but they represent less than four per cent of the total population.

This year's scriptural theme for the Week of Prayer was taken from Micah 6.6-8: "What does God require of us?" The theme evokes the path of Christian discipleship rooted in justice, mercy and humility.

DIVIDING WALLS

The walls that divide Christians today, Smith said, are formed not by cement or bricks and mortar, but by historical events and doctrinal interpretation.

"However, even though these walls are different from the physical ones encountered in the Middle East, or the cultural ones of caste-ism in India, the roots are the same, namely, the internal divisions of the heart," the archbishop said.

"In fact, the light of our faith helps us to trace our divisions to that most fundamental internal rift we call original sin, the rupture between God and self, occasioned by a decision to allow trust in God to die and the consequent choice to listen to words and promptings other than those of God."

It is that deep division of the heart that leads to hardness of heart, the abiding resistance to the will of God, he lamented.

BURNING HEARTS

Smith said if we allow the Lord's word to burn in our hearts, he will lead us to Jerusalem, where effective unity was achieved by the Lord in his paschal mystery.

We will participate in that unity, in his unity that he shares with the Father, to the degree that we learn to turn to Jerusalem, he said. That means turning "away from destinations of our own choosing to that indicated by the Lord, away from journeying to an unknown locale and toward the Cross."

The Rev. Geri Redikopp of the Braemar Baptist Church led a prayer for unity at the celebration.

"Walking with the broken body of Christ, we are painfully aware that we are still unable to join in the breaking of bread together," he lamented. "Hasten the day we can realize the fullness of fellowship at the Lord's Table."