Your right hand, O Lord, glorious in power

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity: January 18–25

Scripture Passage: Exodus 15:1–21

Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the Lord: “I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; horse and rider he has thrown into the sea. The Lord is my strength and my might, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him. The Lord is a warrior; the Lord is his name.

Pharaoh’s chariots and his army he cast into the sea; his picked officers were sunk in the Red Sea. The floods covered them; they went down into the depths like a stone. Your right hand, O Lord, glorious in power— your right hand, O Lord, shattered the enemy. In the greatness of your majesty you overthrew your adversaries; you sent out your fury, it consumed them like stubble. At the blast of your nostrils the waters piled up, the floods stood up in a heap; the deeps congealed in the heart of the sea. The enemy said, ‘I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil, my desire shall have its fill of them. I will draw my sword, my hand shall destroy them.’ You blew with your wind, the sea covered them; they sank like lead in the mighty waters.

Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in splendour, doing wonders? You stretched out your right hand, the earth swallowed them.

In your steadfast love you led the people whom you redeemed; you guided them by your strength to your holy abode. The peoples heard, they trembled; pangs seized the inhabitants of Philistia. Then the chiefs of Edom were dismayed; trembling seized the leaders of Moab; all the inhabitants of Canaan melted away. Terror and dread fell upon them; by the might of your arm, they became still as a stone until your people, O Lord, passed by, until the people whom you acquired passed by. You brought them in and planted them on the mountain of your own possession, the place, O Lord, that you made your abode, the sanctuary, O Lord, that your hands have established. The Lord will reign for ever and ever”.

When the horses of Pharaoh with his chariots and his chariot drivers went into the sea, the Lord brought back the waters of the sea upon them; but the Israelites walked through the sea on dry ground.

Then the prophet Miriam, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand; and all the women went out after her with tambourines and with dancing. And Miriam sang to them: “Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; horse and rider he has thrown into the sea”.

International version of text for the Week of Prayer
from the Vatican
jointly published by
The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity
The Commission on Faith and Order of the World Council of Churches
with the Caribbean Region in mind

Invocation of the Holy Spirit

With the Christians of the Caribbean, let us call upon the Holy Spirit to set our hearts on fire as we pray for the unity of the Church.  Unite your servants in the bond of unity.

Come, Holy Spirit!

Teach us to pray.
Come, Holy Spirit!

Liberate us from the slavery of sin.
Come, Holy Spirit!

Help us in our weakness.
Come, Holy Spirit!

Restore us as your children.
Come, Holy Spirit!

Daily Reflections

Day 1:  You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt

  • Leviticus 19:33–34, You shall love the alien as yourself
  • Psalm 146, The Lord watches over the strangers
  • Hebrews 13:1–3, Some have entertained angels without knowing it
  • Matthew 25:31–46, I was a stranger and you welcomed me

After becoming the first independent black republic, Haiti extended hospitality to other enslaved peoples in search of freedom. Recent times have brought severe economic hardship to Haitians, many of whom have left home, making perilous journeys in hope of a better life. In many instances they have been met with inhospitality and legal barriers. The Caribbean Council of Churches has been involved in advocacy to challenge those nations that are restricting or stripping Haitians of citizenship rights.

Reflection

The Israelites’ memory of being strangers in the land of Egypt lay behind the Law’s instruction that God’s people were to welcome the stranger in their midst. The memory of their own exile was expected to prompt empathy and solidarity with contemporary exiles and strangers. Like Israel, our common Christian experience of God’s saving action goes together with remembering both alienation and estrangement – in the sense of estrangement from God and from his kingdom. This kind of Christian remembering has ethical implications. God has restored our dignity in Christ, and made us citizens of his kingdom, not because of anything we did to deserve it but by his own free gift in love. We are called to do likewise, freely and motivated by love. Christian love is to love like the Father, that is to recognize dignity and to give dignity, and thereby to help bring healing to the broken human family.

Day 2No longer as a slave but a beloved brother

  • Genesis 1:26-28       God created humankind in God’s own image
  • Psalm 10:1-10          Why, O Lord, do you stand far off?
  • Philemon                  No longer as a slave but more than a slave, a beloved brother
  • Luke 10:25-37         The Parable of the Good Samaritan

Reflection

One of the first things we learn about God in the Hebrew and Christian Bible is that God created humankind in his own image. However, this profound and beautiful truth has often been obscured or denied throughout human history. For instance, in the Roman Empire, the dignity of those enslaved was denied. The Gospel message is entirely different to this. Jesus challenged the social norms that devalued the human dignity of Samaritans, describing the Samaritan as the ‘neighbour’ of the man who had been attacked on the road to Jericho – a neighbour to be loved, according to the Law.  And Paul, made bold in Christ, describes the once-enslaved Onesimus as ‘a beloved brother’, transgressing the norms of his society and affirming Onesimus’s humanity.

Christian love must always be a courageous love that dares to cross borders, recognising in others a dignity equal to our own. Like St Paul, Christians must be ‘bold enough in Christ’ to raise a united voice in clearly recognising trafficked persons as their neighbours and their beloved brothers and sisters, and so work together to end modern-day slavery.

Day 3Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit

  • Exodus 3:4-10        God frees those who are in human bondage
  • Psalm 24:1-6           Lord, we are the people who seek your face
  • 1 Cor 6:9-20             Therefore glorify God in your body
  • Matthew 18:1-7      Woe to the one by whom the stumbling block comes!

Reflection

The book of Exodus demonstrates God’s concern for people in human bondage. God’s revelation to Moses at the burning bush was a powerful declaration of his will to free his people. God observed their misery, heard their cry and so came to deliver them. God still hears the cry of those who are subject to enslavement today, and wills to deliver them. While sexuality is a gift of God for human relationships and the expression of intimacy, the misuse of this gift through pornography enslaves and devalues both those caught up in producing it and those who consume it. God is not impervious to their plight and Christians are called to be similarly concerned.

St Paul writes that we are called to give glory to God in our own bodies, which means that every part of our lives, including our relationships, can and should be an offering pleasing to God. Christians must work together for the kind of society that upholds human dignity and does not put a stumbling block before any of God’s little ones, but, rather, enables them to live in the freedom which is God’s will for them.

Day 4Hope and Healing

  • Isaiah 9:2–7a, His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace
  • Psalm 34:1–14, Seek peace, and pursue it
  • Revelation 7:13–17, God will wipe away every tear from their eyes
  • John 14:25–27, Peace I leave with you

Day 5Hark, the cry of my poor people from far and wide in the land!

  • Deuteronomy 1:19-35, The Lord God goes before you and carried you
  • Psalm 145:9–20, The Lord upholds all who are falling
  • James 1:9–11, The rich will disappear like a flower in the field
  • Luke 18:35–43, Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!

Day 6Let us look to the interests of others

  • Isaiah 25:1–9, Let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation
  • Psalm 82, Maintain the right of the lowly and the destitute
  • Philippians 2:1–4, Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others
  • Luke 12:13–21, Be on your guard against all kinds of greed

Day 7Building family in household and church

  • Exodus 2:1–10, The birth of Moses
  • Psalm 127, Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain
  • Hebrews 11:23–24, Moses was hidden by his parents … because they saw that the child was beautiful
  • Matthew 2:13–15, Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt

Day 8:  He will gather the dispersed… from the four corners of the earth

  • Isaiah 11:12–13, Ephraim shall not be jealous of Judah, and Judah shall not be hostile towards Ephraim
  • Psalm 106:1-14, 43–48, Gather us to give thanks to your holy name
  • Ephesians 2:13–19, He has broken down the dividing wall
  • John 17:1–12, I have been glorified in them

We, as Christian people of the Caribbean, because of our common calling in Christ, covenant to join together in a regional fellowship of churches for theological reflection, inspiration, consultation, and cooperative action, to overcome the challenges created by history, language, culture, class and distance. We are therefore deeply committed to promoting peace, the holistic development of our people and affirming social justice and the dignity of all persons. We pledge to journey together in Christ and to share our experiences for the strengthening of the kingdom of God in the world.

— from the Preamble to the Caribbean Conference of Churches

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God provides a way back

Questions of the Day

  • Who in the netherworld can glorify God?
  • Who can be saved?
  • What must I do to inherit eternal life?
  • In which direction will you walk: away from Jesus, sad and weighed down or free, following in his footsteps?

Scriptures of the Day

Old Testament: Sirach 17:20 

To the penitent God provides a way back,
he encourages those who are losing hope
and has chosen for them the lot of truth.
Return to him and give up sin,
pray to the LORD and make your offenses few.
Turn again to the Most High and away from your sin,
hate intensely what he loathes,
and know the justice and judgments of God,
Stand firm in the way set before you,
in prayer to the Most High God.

Who in the nether world can glorify the Most High
in place of the living who offer their praise?
Dwell no longer in the error of the ungodly,
but offer your praise before death.
No more can the dead give praise
than those who have never lived;
You who are alive and well
shall praise and glorify God in his mercies.
How great the mercy of the LORD,
his forgiveness of those who return to him!

Psalm: 32:1–2, 5, 6–7

Blessed is he whose fault is taken away,
whose sin is covered.
Blessed the man to whom the LORD imputes not guilt,
in whose spirit there is no guile.

Then I acknowledged my sin to you,
my guilt I covered not.
I said, “I confess my faults to the LORD,”
and you took away the guilt of my sin.

For this shall every faithful man pray to you
in time of stress.
Though deep waters overflow,
they shall not reach him.

You are my shelter; from distress you will preserve me;
with glad cries of freedom you will ring me round.

Gospel: Mark 10:17–27

As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up,
knelt down before him, and asked him,
“Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus answered him, “Why do you call me good?
No one is good but God alone.
You know the commandments: You shall not kill;
you shall not commit adultery;
you shall not steal;
you shall not bear false witness;
you shall not defraud;
honor your father and your mother
.”
He replied and said to him,
“Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth.”
Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him,
“You are lacking in one thing.
Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor
and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”
At that statement, his face fell,
and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.

Jesus looked around and said to his disciples,
“How hard it is for those who have wealth
to enter the Kingdom of God!”
The disciples were amazed at his words.
So Jesus again said to them in reply,
“Children, how hard it is to enter the Kingdom of God!
It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle
than for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God.”
They were exceedingly astonished and said among themselves,
“Then who can be saved?”
Jesus looked at them and said,
“For men it is impossible, but not for God.
All things are possible for God.”

 

When you come to serve the LORD

Feast of Saint Peter Damian

Scripture of the Day: Sirach 2:1–11

My son, when you come to serve the LORD,
stand in justice and fear,
prepare yourself for trials.
Be sincere of heart and steadfast,
incline your ear and receive the word of understanding,
undisturbed in time of adversity.
Wait on God, with patience, cling to him, forsake him not;
thus will you be wise in all your ways.
Accept whatever befalls you,
when sorrowful, be steadfast,
and in crushing misfortune be patient;
For in fire gold and silver are tested,
and worthy people in the crucible of humiliation.
Trust God and God will help you;
trust in him, and he will direct your way;
keep his fear and grow old therein.

You who fear the LORD, wait for his mercy,
turn not away lest you fall.
You who fear the LORD, trust him,
and your reward will not be lost.
You who fear the LORD, hope for good things,
for lasting joy and mercy.
You who fear the LORD, love him,
and your hearts will be enlightened.
Study the generations long past and understand;
has anyone hoped in the LORD and been disappointed?
Has anyone persevered in his commandments and been forsaken?
has anyone called upon him and been rebuffed?
Compassionate and merciful is the LORD;
he forgives sins, he saves in time of trouble
and he is a protector to all who seek him in truth.

Sanctifying Gifts of the Holy Spirt
continued from yesterday

  • Fear is sovereign respect for God; to dread nothing as much as to offend Him by sin; fear that is the beginning of wisdom (detachment from worldly things)
  • Piety is filial affection for God as our most loving Father. Inspires us to love and to respect for His sake persons and things consecrated to Him, his Blessed Mother, the saints, the Church, the Pope, our parents, superiors, country, and its rulers. Not a burdensome duty: where there is love, there is no labor.

 

Living the feminine genius

Talks From the GIVEN 2016 Catholic Young Women’s Leadership Forum

There is nothing that we can do but love.

This past summer 300 women between the ages of 20 and 30 had the opportunity to attend GIVEN 2016, a 5-day conference during which participants focused on authentic femininity as expressed through three key themes:

  • receiving the gift you are
  • realizing the gifts you’ve been given
  • responding with the gift only you can give

So, if you are hearing about the forum after the fact, or if you heard about it in time, and were too old to apply to participate… organizers recorded and published the daily homilies and talks, so that we all may benefit. Following are just a few of the many great speakers.

The Feminine Genius – Dr Helen Alvare

Reclaiming the Public Square – Gloria Purvis
Giving counter-witness to the culture about what authentic femininity really is

What are you willing to risk to bring the Gospel Truth to the person in front of you?

Every young woman has been entrusted with a mission: to cultivate her own unique gifts and initiate positive change in the world through the love that is exclusively hers to give.
GIVEN 2016 Vision statement

The Temperament God Gave You – Laraine Bennet
“I used to think my husband was just like me, only bad.”

The Feminine Genius Unleashed in Education – Sister Amelia Hueller, OP
We are supposed to be in the process now of becoming more and more like God.

Reclaiming Beauty – Kara Eschbach
The media we consume affects the way we view ourselves and how we view other women.

How can we begin to see ourselves as God sees us?

Casting the Vision – Sister Mary Gabriel
God notices you. He waits for you and for your yes.

What do I desire? What do I think I need at this moment?
What does God desire here and now?

If you are tired of mainstream media junk and spin, visit givenforum.org to watch talks on Theology of Woman; Finding Balance in Life; Feminine Genius Unleased in the church, politics, and education; Living Motherhood; Entrusted with the environment, economic issues, and with the suffering of others.

The vocation of woman in its fullness changes everything forever.  The vocation of woman in its fullness ushers in a revolution of love that heals hearts and raises the dead to life.

Not afraid to let herself be loved.

Mother Teresa’s 1959 retreat – 12

Twelfth Day
Under the patronage of Mary, Queen of Heaven

Aim: Union with the Risen Jesus in His Great Glory; to acquire a great confidence in the goodness and greatness of my Redeemer

Examination: My Love for the Church

  1. Do I really look upon the Church as the “Mystical Body of Christ”?
  2. Do I burn with zeal to make the Church known and loved by all men?
  3. Do I try to conform my judgments with the directions given by the Church through the Encyclicals, Pastoral Letters, Directions, etc.?

Readings: Psalm 65; Matthew 28; Mark 16; Luke 24; John 20 & 21

The Imitation of Christ: Book 3, Chapter 49

Reflections of the Day:

Joy to thee, O Queen of Heaven
He whom thou was meet to bear
As He promised, hath arisen
Pour for us to Him thy prayer.

When we stand sooner or later at his judgment seat, the questions put to us will be:

What have you done?
How have you done it?
Why did you do it?

May America progress in virtue

USCCB President Archbishop Kurtz selected today, the Feast Day of Saint Peter Claver, as a Day of Prayer for Peace in Our Communities.

Prayer of the Day

Let us pray . . .
O Lord our God, in your mercy and kindness,
no thought of ours is left unnoticed,
no desire or concern ignored.
You have proven that blessings abound
when we fall on our knees in prayer,
and so we turn to you in our hour of need.
Surrounded by violence and cries for justice,
we hear your voice telling us what is required . . .
“Only to do justice and to love goodness,
and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).
Fill us with your mercy so that we, in turn,
may be merciful to others.
Strip away pride, suspicion, and racism
so that we may seek peace and justice
in our communities.
Strengthen our hearts so that they beat
only to the rhythm of your holy will.
Flood our path with your light
as we walk humbly toward a future
filled with encounter and unity.
Be with us, O Lord, in our efforts,
for only by the prompting of your grace
can we progress toward virtue.
We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

[source: USCCB prayer card]

USCCB Intercessions

Let us pray to the Lord:

  • For an end to the violence perpetrated by harsh words, deadly weapons, or cold indifference. May our homes, our nation, and countries around the world become havens of peace,
  • For the grace to see every human being as a child of God, regardless of race, language or culture,
  • For the wisdom to receive the stories and experiences of those different from ourselves and to respond with respect,
  • For the strength to teach our children how to resolve differences non-violently and respectfully, and the courage to model it in our own behavior,
  • For our faith community, that we may celebrate and welcome the diverse faces of Christ in our worship, our ministries, and our leaders,
  • For our faith community, that we may respond boldly to the Holy Spirit’s call to act together to end violence and racism,
  • For healing and justice for all those who have experienced violence and racism,
  • For the protection of all police and first responders who risk their lives daily to ensure our safety; for fair and just policing that will promote peace and wellbeing in all our neighborhoods,
  • For our public officials, that they will strive to work for fair education, adequate housing, and equal opportunities for employment for all,
  • For our parish, that we may cultivate welcome, extend hospitality, and encourage the participation of people of all cultures, ethnicities and backgrounds,
  • For the courage to have difficult conversations about racism, and for a better appreciation of how our words and actions – or even our silence – can impact our communities,
  • For solidarity in our global human family, that we may work together to protect those who are most vulnerable and most in need,

Lord, hear our prayer.

Quotes of the Day

We are most Catholic when we reflect our oneness of faith, worship, that is achieved in response to our rich mixture of human variety through the grace of the Holy Spirit. — Archbishop Wilton Gregory (Atlanta)

Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear-drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty. — Dr Martin Luther King, Jr

Take a Step Toward Peace and Reconciliation
Pray, Listen, Learn, Think, and Act

Following are five steps Archbishop Kurtz recommends that Catholics take to promote peace, justice, and respect for all people:

  1. Pray for peace and healing among all people.
  2. Study the Word of God and the social teaching of the Church in order to gain a deeper appreciation of the dignity of all persons.
  3. Make a sincere effort to encounter more fully people of different racial backgrounds with whom we live, work, and minister.
  4. Pursue ways in which Catholic parishes and neighborhoods can be truly welcoming of families of different racial and religious backgrounds.
  5. Get to know our local law enforcement officers. Let them know of our support and gratitude. And encourage young people to respect all legitimate authority.
[source: Statement on race relations at USCCB General Assembly, June 10, 2015]

Question of the Day

“How is your heart, today? Is it at peace? If it is not at peace, before speaking of peace, make sure your own heart is at peace. How is your family, today? Is it at peace? If you are not able to bring peace to your family, your rectory, your congregation, bringing it more peace, then words of peace for the world are not enough. This is the question that I would like to ask today: How is the heart of each one of us? Is it at peace? How is the family of each one of us? Is it at peace? That’s how it is, isn’t it? To achieve peace in the world.”
Pope Francis homily, September 8

Resources