This year’s reflections for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity were prepared by the Churches in Malta and Gozo. We are sharing elements of their prayers, but follow the link for the full resources for personal or community prayer.
Naturally, the Maltese Christians draw our attention to the story in Acts 27-28 of how Paul, a prisoner in chains, was among a group who survived being shipwrecked on Malta.
Changing our hearts and minds
And when Paul had gathered together a bundle of sticks, and had laid them on the fire, a viper coming out of the heat, fastened on his hand. And when the barbarians saw the beast hanging on his hand, they said one to another: Undoubtedly this man is a murderer, who though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance doth not suffer him to live. And he indeed shaking off the beast into the fire, suffered no harm. But they supposed that he would begin to swell up, and that he would suddenly fall down and die. But expecting long, and seeing that there came no harm to him, changing their minds, they said that he was a god. (28:3-6)
Monster! The headlines tear like shards of glass through ripped reputations and tainted talents, to be heard no more.
Hordes! Names, stories, lives, compacted into an anonymised mass. Contempt for care, rejection made righteous.
When will we turn and dare to see the sister in the surge of displaced existence, and the brother in the monster’s shame?
Almighty God, we turn to You with repentant hearts. In our sincere quest for Your truth, purify us from our unjust opinions of others and lead the churches to grow in communion.
Help us let go of our fears, and so better understand each other and the stranger in our midst, and dare to love the rejected.
We ask this in the name of the Just One, Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.
The ancient painting of Saint Paul shaking off the viper can be found, though not by the casual viewer, in Saint Anselm’s Chapel, Canterbury Cathedral. MMB.