At the end of the 53rd Week of Prayer for Christian unity, Francis calls on the faithful “not to devote ourselves exclusively to our own communities, but to open ourselves to the good of all, to the universal gaze of God who took flesh in order to embrace the whole human race and who died and rose for the salvation of all.”
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis led the Second Vespers for the Solemnity of the Conversion of Saint Paul the Apostle, which marked the end of the 53rd Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
The pontiff noted that overcoming “the legacies of the past” to welcome the gifts of each confession will bring full Christian unity closer, which is something that “God ardently desires. It will also encourage greater openness between brothers of faith and towards those in need.
The welcome offered by the people of Malta to Saint Paul who survived the shipwreck on his journey to Rome is the text prepared by the Christians of Malta and Gozo for the current Week of Prayer for Christian unity and was the starting point taken by Pope Francis for his reflection.
Per tradition, the Vespers took place in the Papal Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls in the presence of top officials of other Christian denominations, including, among others, Metropolitan Gennadios, for the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and Ian Ernest, personal representative in Rome of the Archbishop of Canterbury, whom Francis thanked.
“The account of the shipwreck in Malta “from the Acts of the Apostles also speaks to our ecumenical journey towards that unity which God ardently desires. In the first place, it tells us that those who are weak and vulnerable, those who have little to offer materially but find their wealth in God, can present valuable messages for the good of all.
“Let us think of Christian communities: even the smallest and least significant in the eyes of the world, if they experience the Holy Spirit, if they are animated by love for God and neighbour, have a message to offer to the whole Christian family. Let us think of marginalized and persecuted Christian communities.
“As in the account of Paul’s shipwreck, it is often the weakest who bring the most important message of salvation. This was what pleased God: to save us not with the power of this world, but with the weakness of the cross (cf. 1 Cor 1:20-25). As disciples of Jesus, we must be careful not to be attracted by worldly logic, but rather to listen to the small and the weak, because God loves to send his messages through those who most resemble his Son made man.”
“The account in Acts reminds us of a second aspect: God’s priority is the salvation of all. As the angel said to Paul: “God has granted safety to all those who sail with you”. Paul insists on this point. We too need to repeat it: it is our duty to put into effect the paramount desire of God who, as Paul himself writes, “desires everyone to be saved” (1 Tim 2:4).
“This is an invitation not to devote ourselves exclusively to our own communities, but to open ourselves to the good of all, to the universal gaze of God who took flesh in order to embrace the whole human race and who died and rose for the salvation of all. If we, with his grace, can assimilate his way of seeing things, we can overcome our divisions.”
“The more we look beyond partisan interests and overcome the legacies of the past in the desire to move forward towards a common landing place, the more readily we will recognize, welcome and share these gifts.
“We thus arrive at a third aspect that was at the centre of this Week of Prayer: hospitality. In the last chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, Saint Luke says, with regard to the inhabitants of Malta, “The natives showed us unusual kindness” (v. 2).
“From this Week of Prayer, we want to learn to be more hospitable, in the first place among ourselves as Christians and among our brothers and sisters of different confessions. Hospitality belongs to the tradition of Christian communities and families. Our elders taught us this by their example: there was always something extra on the table of a Christian home for a passing friend or a person in need who knocked on the door. In monasteries a guest is treated with great respect. Let us not lose, indeed let us revive, these customs that have the flavour of the Gospel!”