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What does the Lord require of you?

We have been brought together by the Ecumenical Week of Prayer for Christian Unity to meet one another and walk side by side for a short while – but we should not be content simply with the joy of this meeting, for our task is a more profound one, to examine our relations with God our Creator, and with each other. In this we should be guided by the words of the prophet Micah (6:6-8) that serve as the text for this year’s Week of Prayer: “What does the Lord require of you?”

It was out of love that God created the world and human kind, and as God’s creatures we are, every one of us, unique, perfect and called to participate in the community of those fashioned in the love of God. The descent of mankind into sin has nevertheless meant that the beauty and purity of humanity has been defiled by pride and self-centredness, the effects of which can be seen in the life of every one of us and, through us, in the whole world.

The call goes out to us from the Psalmist, “Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord” (Ps. 34:11). This implies that our response to these weaknesses should not be to withdraw within our inner selves  but to seek God in the company of others, for it is only by encounter with others that we can learn to understand ourselves and those around us. In this way we can also grow in knowledge of God and of the greatness of His act of salvation.

The message of the Resurrection of Christ brings a new dimension into our lives, that of the Eighth Day. It is this that gives us hope and a belief in the possibility of eternal life.

With this in mind, today’s gospel in the material prepared for this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is the familiar encounter of two disciples with the Messiah on the road to Emmaus as recounted in St. Luke’s Gospel. Their conversation reflects the feelings of desperation and loss that had overcome the disciples at that time.

In the same way it has to be admitted that our ecumenical contacts and discussions also experience feelings of hopelessness and frustration from time to time. At such moments our fatigue and disappointment can easily give rise to suspicion of one another.  

After the Messiah had left them the disciples said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32). They were convinced that they had met the risen Christ – and the same enthusiasm amongst us in the presence of His teachings is a sure sign that our joint discussions are proceeding in the right direction and will ultimately bear fruit. 

It is not always so straightforward, however, and it is obvious that we, as churches and as individual Christians, need each other in order to gather the strength to continue in the service of Christ. St. Paul reminds us of this obligation in the passage read here from his Epistle to the Romans: “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please his neighbour for his good, to build him up” (Room. 15:1-2).

Our lives as individual Christians and as churches are grounded in love. We were created in love, we are called to love, and love should be the foundation of everything we do.  It is for this reason that we wish to follow the words of the prophet Micah (6:8): “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Sermon in Rome on 18th January, 2013

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