We Go Where God Calls Us…

Habits of the Heart

Belonging of Mother DemetriasA recent front-page article in the Towson Times put the spotlight on the Mission Helpers, whose home, since the 1920s, has been in the heart of Towson, but little known to most of its neighbors. The Towson Times is a weekly newspaper serving central and northern Baltimore County.

Click above on “Habits of the Heart” to see how the “Mission Helpers Community touches the world from its Towson motherhouse.”

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity: Day 8

Day 8, Called out by the Word we have heard.

Today (Tuesday, January 25) marks the eighth and final day in the eight day Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.  During this week, daily scripture references, meditations and prayers are offered for readers’ reflection.  (Material provided courtesy of the Graymoor Ecumenical & Interreligious Institute).

Day 8, Called out by the Word we have heard.
Scripture

Genesis 33:1-4, Esau ran to meet Jacob, and embraced him… and they wept.
Psalm 96:1-13, Say among the nations, “The Lord is King!”
2Corinthians 5:17-21, God… reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.
Matthew 5:21-26, Leave your gift before the altar, and go: first be reconciled to your brother or sister.

Meditation
Our prayers of this week have taken us on a journey together. Here we have seen devotion to the apostles’ teaching, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to the prayers. At the end of our reflections we return to our own contexts — the realities of division, discontent, disappointment and injustice. Concluding this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity the question is posed: to what, then, are we called, here and now?

We pray for Christian unity so that the Church might be a sign and instrument for the healing of divisions and injustices and for the growing in understanding between people of all faiths. In our personal and family lives, too, the call to reconciliation must find a response. Jacob and Esau are brothers, yet estranged. Their violence and the habits of anger are put aside as the brothers meet and weep together.

The recognition of our unity as Christians leads us into the Psalm’s great song of praise for the Lord who rules the world with loving justice. In Christ, God seeks to reconcile to Himself all peoples. St. Paul celebrates a life of reconciliation as “a new creation.” The call to reconcile is the call to allow God’s power in us to make all things new.

This “good news” calls us to change the way we live. As Jesus challenges us in St. Matthew’s gospel, the call to prayer for Christian unity is a call to reconciliation. The call to reconciliation is a call to action.

Prayer
God of Peace, we thank you that you sent your Son Jesus, so that we might be reconciled to yourself in him. Give us the grace to be effective servants of reconciliation within our churches. Fill us with love for one another and may our unity serve the reconciliation that you desire for all creation. We pray in the power of the Spirit. Amen.

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity:Day 7

Today (Monday, January 24) marks the seventh day in the eight day Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.  During this week, daily scripture references, meditations and prayers are offered for readers’ reflection.  (Material provided courtesy of the Graymoor Ecumenical & Interreligious Institute).

Day 7, The apostles’ teaching… wonders and signs… praising God.
Scripture

Isaiah 60:1-3,18-22, You shall call your walls Salvation, and your gates, Praise.
Psalm 118:1, 5-17, I shall not die, but I shall live.
Romans 6:3-11, We have been buried with Christ by baptism into death… so we too might walk in newness of life.
Matthew 28:1-10, Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid.”

Meditation
The first Christians’ devotion to the apostles’ teaching, fellowship, breaking of the bread and the prayers was made possible, above all, by the living power of the Risen Jesus. This power is still living and today’s Christians witness to this. The light and hope of the Resurrection changes everything. As Isaiah prophesies, it is the transformation of darkness into light; it is an enlightening for all peoples. The power of the Resurrection shines out from Jerusalem, the place of the Lord’s Passion, and draws all nations to its brightness. This is a new life, in which violence is put aside, and security is found in salvation and praise.

In the Psalm we are given words to celebrate the central Christian experience of passing from death to life. This is the abiding sign of God’s steadfast love. It is the defining reality of all Christians. As St. Paul teaches, we have in baptism entered into the tomb with Christ, and been raised with him. We have died with Christ, and live to share his risen life. And so we can see the world differently — with compassion, patience, love and hope. Even as divided Christians, we know that the baptism that unites us is a bearing of the Cross in the light of the Resurrection.
For the Christian this resurrection life is not some mere concept or helpful idea. It is rooted in a vivid event in time and space. From Jerusalem the Risen Lord sends greetings to his disciples across the ages, calling us to follow him without fear. He goes ahead of us.

Prayer
God, you raised your Son Jesus to give hope for humanity and renewal to the earth. Continue to strengthen and unify your Church in its struggles that obscure the hope of the new life you offer. This we pray in the name of the Risen Lord, in the power of his Spirit. Amen.


Week of Prayer for Christian Unity: Day 6

Today (Sunday, January 23) marks the sixth day in the eight day Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.  During this week, daily scripture references, meditations and prayer are offered for readers’ reflection. ( Material provided courtesy of the Graymoor Ecumenical & Interreligious Institute).

Day 6, Devoted themselves… to the prayers.
Scripture

Jonah 2:1-9, Deliverance belongs to the Lord!
Psalm 67:1-7, Let the peoples praise you, O God!
1 Timothy 2:1-8, Prayers should be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions.
Matthew 6:5-15, Your kingdom come, your will be done.

Meditation
It is prayer that empowers Christians for our mission together. For Jonah the intensity of his prayer is met with dramatic deliverance from the belly of the fish. His prayer is heartfelt, as it arises from his own sense of repentance at having tried to avoid God’s will. He had abandoned the Lord’s call to prophesy, and ended up in a hopeless place. And here God meets his prayer with deliverance for his mission. The Psalm calls us to pray that God’s face will shine upon us — not only for our own benefit, but for the spread of His rule “among all the nations.”

Prayer is a part of the strength and power of mission and prophecy for the world. Paul instructs us to pray especially for those with power in the world so that we may live together in peace and dignity. Our own prayer for unity in Christ reaches out to the whole world.

In Matthew’s Gospel we hear of prayer as a “secret” power, born not from display or performance, but from a humble coming before the Lord. Jesus’ teaching is summed up in the Lord’s Prayer. Praying this together forms us as a united people who seek the Father’s will, and the building up of His Kingdom here on earth, and calls us to a life of forgiveness and reconciliation.

Prayer
Lord God our Father, we rejoice that in all times, places and cultures, there are people who reach out to you in prayer. Teach us to pray better as Christians together, so that we may always be aware of your guidance and encouragement through all our joys and distress, through the power your Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity: Day 5

Today (Saturday, January 22) marks the fifth day in the eight day Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.  During this week, daily scripture references, meditations and prayers are offered for readers’ reflection.  (Material provided courtesy of the Graymoor Ecumenical & Interreligious Institute, Garrison, New York.)

Day 5, Devoted themselves… to the breaking of bread
Scripture

Exodus 16:13b-21a, It is the bread the Lord has given you to eat.
Psalm 116:12-14,16-18, I will offer to you a thanksgiving sacrifice.
1 Corinthians 11:17-18, 23-26, Do this in remembrance of me.
John 6:53-58, This is the bread that came down from heaven.

Meditation
For Christians the sharing of bread traditionally speaks of friendship, forgiveness and commitment to the other. We are challenged in this breaking of bread to seek a unity that can speak prophetically to a world of divisions. In the breaking of bread Christians are formed anew for the prophetic message of hope for all humankind.

Today we, too, break bread “with glad and generous hearts”; but we also experience, at each celebration of the Eucharist, a painful reminder of our disunity. Exodus relates how God responded to the grumbling of the people he had liberated by providing them with what they needed. The manna in the desert is a gift of God, not to be hoarded, nor even fully understood. It is, as our Psalm celebrates, a moment which calls simply for thanksgiving, for God “has loosened our bonds.”

What St. Paul recognizes is that to break the bread means not only to celebrate the Eucharist, but to be a eucharistic people, to become Christ’s Body in the world. St. Paul’s words (1 Corinthians 10-11) serve as a reminder of how the Christian community is to live. We live “in remembrance of him.”

As the reading from St. John teaches us, as a people of the breaking of bread, we are a people of eternal life — life in its fullness. Our celebration of Eucharist challenges us to reflect on how such an abundant gift of life is expressed day to day as we live in hope as well as in difficulties.

Prayer
God of Hope, we praise you for your gift to us of the Lord’s Supper, where, in the Spirit, we continue to meet your Son, the living bread from heaven. We pray that you will hasten the day when your whole church together shares the breaking of the bread. As we wait for that day may we learn more deeply to be a people formed by the Eucharist for service to the world. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity: Day 4

Today (Friday, January 21) marks the fourth day in the eight day Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.  During this week, daily scripture references, meditations and prayers are offered for readers’ reflection.  (Material provided courtesy of the Graymoor Ecumenical & Interreligious Institute, Garrison, New York.)

Day 4, Devoted themselves to… fellowship…
Scripture

Isaiah 58:6-10, Is it not to share your bread with the hungry?
Psalm 37:1-11, Trust in the Lord and do good.
Acts 4:32-37, Everything they owned was held in common.
Matthew 6:25-34, Strive first for the kingdom of God.

Meditation
The sign of continuity with the apostolic Church is “devotion to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of the bread and the prayers.” The Church of today, however, points us to the practical consequences of such devotion — sharing. Today’s reading links such radical sharing with the powerful
apostolic “testimony to the resurrection of Jesus.”

Such a sharing of resources characterizes the life of Christian people. It is a sign of their continuity with the first Christians. It is a sign and a challenge to all the churches. It links proclamation of the Gospel, the celebration of Eucharist and the fellowship (or communion) of the Christian community with radical equality and justice for all. As such sharing is a testimony to the resurrection of Jesus, and a sign of continuity with the apostolic Church of Jerusalem, it is equally a sign of our unity with one another.

There are many ways of sharing. There is the radical sharing of the apostolic church where nobody was left in need. There is the sharing of one another’s burdens, struggles, pain, suffering, joys and achievements, blessings and healing. There is also an “ecumenical gift exchange” in the sharing of gifts and insights from one church tradition to another even in our separation from one another. Such generous sharing is a practical consequence of our devotion to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship; it is a consequence of our prayer for Christian unity.

Prayer
God of Justice, your giving is without bounds. We thank you that you have given what we need. Inspire us to be instruments of love, sharing all that you give us, as a witness to your generosity and justice. As followers of Christ, lead us to act together in places of want. We pray in the name of Jesus, in the unity of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity: Day 3

Today (Thursday, January 20) marks the third day in the eight day Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.  During this week, daily scripture references, meditation and prayer will be offered for readers’ reflection.  (Material provided courtesy of the Graymoor Ecumenical & Interreligious Institute, Garrison, New York.)

Day 3, Devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching…
Scripture

Isaiah 51:4-8, Listen to me, my people.
Psalm 119:105-112, Your word is a lamp to my feet.
Romans 1:15-17, Eagerness to proclaim the gospel.
John 17:6-19, I have made your name known.

Meditation
The apostles’ teaching was their witness to the life, teaching, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus. The apostles’ teaching is exemplified by St. Peter’s preaching on the day of Pentecost and his use of the prophet Joel. He connects the Church with the biblical story of the people of God.

The Word of God gathers and unites us despite divisions. The apostles’ teaching, the good news in all its fullness, was at the center of unity in diversity. It is not simply the “apostles’ teaching” that united the earliest church, but devotion to that teaching. Such devotion is reflected in St. Paul’s identifying the gospel as “the power of God for salvation.”

The prophet Isaiah reminds us that God’s teaching is inseparable from God’s “justice for a light to the peoples.” Or as the psalmist prays, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Your decrees are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart.”

Prayer
God of Light, we give you thanks for the revelation of your truth in Jesus Christ which we have received through the apostles’ teaching. May your Holy Spirit continue to sanctify us in the truth of your Son, so that united in him we may grow in devotion to the Word, and together serve your Kingdom in humility and love. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity: Day 2

Today (Wednesday, January 19) marks the second day in the eight day Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.  During this week, daily scripture references, meditation and prayer will be offered for readers’ reflection.  (Material provided courtesy of the Graymoor Ecumenical & Interreligious Institute, Garrison, New York.)

Day 2, All who believed were together…
Scripture

Isaiah 55:1-4, Come to the waters.
Psalm 85:8-13 , Surely salvation is at hand.
1 Corinthians 12:12-27, For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body.
John 15:1-13, I am the true vine.

Meditation
The Church in the Acts of the Apostles is the model of the unity we seek today. It reminds us that prayer for Christian unity cannot be for uniformity, because unity from the beginning has been characterized by rich diversity. It is the model or icon of unity in diversity.

The narrative of Pentecost tells us that there were represented on that day all the languages and cultures of the ancient Mediterranean world and beyond. As St. Paul would later write, “For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body… Jews or Greeks, slaves or free… and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.” It is not a uniform community of like minded, culturally and linguistically united people who were one in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship. The church was at unity within itself, and one with the Risen Lord.

Rich diversity characterizes the churches around the world. Like the earliest church, Christians today remind us that we are many members in one body, a unity in diversity. Ancient traditions teach us that diversity and unity exist in the heavenly Jerusalem. They remind us that difference and diversity are not the same as division and disunity, and that the Christian unity for which we pray always preserves authentic diversity.

Prayer
God, from whom all life flows in its rich diversity, you call your Church as the Body of Christ to be united in love. May we learn more deeply our unity in diversity and strive to work together to preach, and build up the Kingdom of your abundant love in all places. May we always be mindful of Christ as the source of our life together. We pray in the unity of the Spirit. Amen.

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

WEEK OF PRAYER FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY: January 18-25, 2011 

Today (Tuesday, January 18) marks the first day in the eight day Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.  During this week, daily scripture references, meditation and prayer will be offered for readers’ reflection.  (Material provided courtesy of the Graymoor Ecumenical & Interreligious Institute, Garrison, New York.)

Chosen Theme: One in the Apostles’ Teaching, Fellowship, Breaking of Bread and Prayer(cf. Acts 2:42)

The theme for the annual celebration of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2011 has been announced by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Commission on Faith and Order of the World Council of Churches. The theme for the 2011 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is One in the Apostles’ Teaching, Fellowship, Breaking of Bread and Prayer. It comes from Acts Chapter 2 versus 42. For 2011, the churches in Jerusalem were the initial consultants to the Joint Working Group for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. The Christians of Jerusalem call upon their brothers and sisters to make this week of prayer an occasion of renewed commitment to work for genuine ecumenism grounded in the experience of the early Church.

Day 1, They devoted themselves…
Scripture
 

Joel 2:21-22, 28-29, I will pour out my spirit on all flesh.

Psalm 46, God is in the midst of the city.

Acts 2:1-12, When the day of Pentecost had come.

John 14:15-21, This is the spirit of truth.

Meditation
The journey of this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity begins in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost. “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of the bread and the prayers.” The “they” is the earliest Church born on the day of the Pentecost. All who live in continuity with the day of Pentecost live in continuity with the earliest Church of Jerusalem with its leader St. James. This church provides the image or icon of the Christian unity for which we pray this week.

According to an ancient eastern tradition, the succession of the church comes through continuity with the first Christian community of Jerusalem. It is linked with the heavenly Church of Jerusalem, which in turn becomes the icon of all Christian churches. The sign of continuity for all the churches is maintaining the “marks” of the first Christian community through our devotion to the “apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of the bread and the prayers.”

The present Church of Jerusalem lives in continuity with the apostolic Church of Jerusalem. Its witness to the gospel and its struggles against inequality and injustice remind us that prayer for Christian unity is inseparable from prayer for peace and justice.

Prayer
Almighty and Merciful God, with great power you gathered together the first Christians in the city of Jerusalem. Grant that, like this first church in Jerusalem, we may come together to be bold in preaching and living the good news of reconciliation and peace wherever there is inequality and injustice. We pray in the name of Jesus Christ, who liberates us from the bondage of sin and death. Amen.

“Just to Live in Peace”

By Anne Guinan, MHSH, Director, Mission Helper Productions

Mission Helper Productions has recently completed and released a 40-minute documentary entitled “Just to Live in Peace.”

Sister Caritas Kennedy, RSM, our Associate Director, and I have travelled extensively in the Holy Land producing a video Scripture course and leading tours.   Each time we return home we realize that many American Christians have no idea there are thousands of Christians in the Holy Land.  Many Arab Christians trace their heritage back to the first Pentecost!

As experienced videographers, we felt compelled to produce this documentary where residents of the Holy Land could speak for themselves and where viewers could see what life is really like there.  The U.S. media seldom reports the ongoing abuses.  We met with residents (young and old), educators, peace activists and key Muslim, Jewish and Christian leaders.

We became increasingly distressed by the deteriorating conditions we found in the West Bank and Gaza.  Now a 30-foot concrete wall is built on Palestinian land  isolating the Palestinians.  Bethlehem, for instance, is completely surrounded by the wall.  Children who live only five miles from Jerusalem have never seen the Holy Sepulcher because of travel restrictions.

Palestinian homes are demolished and centuries-old olive groves are destroyed.  Such collective punishment also includes rejection of Palestinian permits to build new homes and sudden curfews that cripple business and close schools.

We hope that those who see this DVD will join us in asking key questions:  How are the billions of dollars the U.S. gives to Israel being used?  Why are thousands of Palestinians still living in refugee camps in their own country or abroad, and why is Israel still occupying the West Bank and Gaza?

There is an old saying, “You have to go there to know there.”  We offer this video to “show there” so the viewer can feel more personally acquainted with the people and the situation.  Our hope and prayer is that the experience will motivate our fellow citizens to join in peacemaking in whatever way is possible for them.

This documentary is available by contacting ckennedy@missionhelpers.org or by calling 410-823-8585, ext. 241.   $12.50 plus postage.
 
The Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation has given its President’s Award to Sister Anne Guinan, MHSH, and Sister Caritas Kennedy, RSM, in recognition of their ongoing work for peace in the Holy Land.