By Christopher Wells
On Friday, Pope Francis presided at the celebration of Vespers for the beginning of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
Justice and only justice you shall pursue
The theme for this year’s Week of Prayer — prepared by Christians from Indonesia — is “Justice and only justice you shall pursue”, taken from the book of Deuteronomy (16:18-20).
Reflecting on the reading from Deuteronomy, Pope Francis in his homily noted that this chapter describes the three main feasts of the year for the Hebrew community. Each of these feasts, he said, “requires Israel to give thanks for the good things received from God.” And, he added, “no one is to be excluded” from the celebration.
Pope Francis drew a connection between the celebration of the feasts and the appointment of judges in Israel, which follows immediately in the Biblical text. “The feasts themselves exhort the people to justice,” the Pope said, “stating that all are fundamentally equal and all equally dependent on God’s mercy.”
Inequality jeopardizes harmony
This was the inspiration for the people of Indonesia in their choice of a theme for this week. They were concerned, the Pope said, that the economic growth in their country was causing inequality, which “jeopardizes the harmony” of a pluralistic society.
This problem, however, is not limited to Indonesia, but is worldwide, Pope Francis said. “We have forgotten the wisdom of the Mosaic law: if wealth is not shared, society is divided.”
The strong must assist the weak
Citing St Paul, the Holy Father said that this same thinking applies to the Christian community: “Those who are strong must bear with the weak.” He continued, “Solidarity and shared responsibility must be the laws that govern the Christian family.”
Turning to the problem of divisions among Christians, Pope Francis said that we too risk forgetting about the weak and those in need. “It is easy to forget the fundamental equality existing among us,” he said. It is easy for us to imagine that the gifts we have received belong to us alone; and to be blinded to the gifts of other Christians.
Enriched by an exchange of gifts
On the contrary, Pope Francis said, “The worship befitting the kingdom, the worship demanded by justice is a celebration that includes everyone, a feast in which gifts received are available and shared by all.” And he said, it is necessary to recognize the gifts that have been given to others. “A Christian people renewed and enriched by this exchange of gifts,” he concluded, “will be a people capable of journeying firmly and confidently on the path that leads to unity.”