The theme for this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is: We will all be changed by the Victory of our Lord Jesus Christ (cf. 1 Cor 15:51-58). It was suggested by a working group of representatives from the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church and Old Catholic and Protestant Churches active in Poland. The World Council of Churches and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity coordinated the choice and wording of the theme, which they thought especially appropriate for this year’s week of prayer and for the entire year.
The Polish group first thought of the theme because the world championship soccer game will be played in Poland and Ukraine this year. The theme trumps the competitiveness of our society in which only winning seems to count. Doesn’t how you play the game matter? Those who lose are forgotten; also-rans have no place in the victory parade. The gospel views things differently. Love of God and neighbor really matter in the struggle against evil. The book of life, will record how we fought as well as whether we won.
Paul’s exhortation to the Corinthians reflects these gospel values. He points out how Christ’s seeming defeat was, in the larger scheme of things, a victory. “Death, where is your victory; death, where is your sting?” he asks. “The sting of death is sin and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” He concludes: “Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”
Christ’s Victory and our Life
Christ’s life, death and resurrection inspire our desire for a modern victorious life of faith which expresses itself in social commitment in a spirit of humility, service and faithfulness to the Gospel. As he awaited suffering and death, Christ prayed that his disciples might be one so that the world may believe. This “victory” is only possible through spiritual transformation and conversion. It is achieved by integrating all Christians around the service of God and one’s neighbor.
The unity for which we pray may require the renewal of forms of Church life with which we are familiar. It is not merely friendliness and cooperation. It requires a willingness to dispense with competition between us. We need to open ourselves to each other, to offer gifts to one another and receive them from one another. In this way we can truly enter into the new life in Christ, which is the only true victory.
The Eucharist: Cross and Resurrection
The paschal mystery is both cross and resurrection. Those who killed Jesus Christ thought they had conquered, but Christ destroys death by his dying on a cross. The resurrection was a proof of that victory. We who receive the body and blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, though sinners, are forgiven and washed clean by the blood of the Lamb who was slain. We are given new life in the body of Christ which we become. Our labor is not in vain, it builds the kingdom of God. Our struggle leads to our victory with Christ. We share the resurrection and the glory in this life, and forever.
(The above article appeared in the Parish Bulletin of St. Jean Baptiste Catholic Church on February 12,2012.)