Today, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity begins. Here is the Biblical Text for 2023: Isaiah 1:12 – 18: ‘When you come to appear before me, who asked this from your hand? Trample my courts no more; bringing offerings is futile; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and sabbath and calling of convocation I cannot endure solemn assemblies with iniquity. Your new moons and your appointed festivals my soul hates; they have become a burden to me, I am weary of bearing them. When you stretch out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow. Come now, let us argue it out, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be like snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool’.
At first sight, this could seem a very severe text, but we should notice that the stress is on ‘doing justice’ to all those who are the special subjects of God’s love – the oppressed, the orphan, the widow. Amongst these there is nothing to divide us.
Here is a prayer from the Dicastery for Christian Unity: ‘Gracious and loving God, expand our vision that we might see the mission we share with all of our Christian brothers and sisters, to show forth the justice and loving kindness of your kingdom. Help us to welcome our neighbours as your Son welcomed us. Help us to be more generous as we witness to the grace that you freely give us. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen.