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The theme of this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity “You shall love the Lord your God…and your neighbor as yourself” drawn from the Gospel of Luke 10:27. Jesus was considered as the expert of the law but he reduces the 613 precepts of the Mosaic Law into two: Love for God and love for neighbor. He further invites his listeners to take his yoke and learn from him and they shall have rest upon their souls. This is to say ‘follow me and I will teach you an interpretation of the law which is light and bearable.” Jesus seems to widen the concept of neighbor by telling of the parable of the Good Samaritan. The wounded man represents a man thrown out of the heavenly Jerusalem and rolls out to the desert of life with all its dangers and challenges. The robber is the devil tempting the outcast along the road and continuously attacking him and finally leaving him for dead. That is the fate of us all, to be attacked by the devil and to be left dying as we have been excluded from paradise through original sin. The Good Samaritan is Christ himself who comes to our aid, who is treating our wounds and brings us to the safety of an inn. The inn is the church that is where you are treated for your wounds, that is where you heal from the attacks of the devil. Pope Francis holds this imagery very dear to him, that the church is a field hospital where sinners find refuge as Jesus himself says ‘I did not come for the healthy but I came for the sick.’ The Good Samaritan and the owner of the inn recognized the goodness of God. He is love for us, He makes rain over the good and the evil – a love of loyalty and commitment, a love that is not limited by categories of good and evil. God, in fact plants his cross in the midst of all evil, he plants his cross in Golgotha, the hill of the skull, the hill of the death that is where he plants the tree of life. The love of God through Christ goes beyond human categories, identities or even theological concepts. This love is universal, inclusive and holistic. The attitude of human beings especially representatives of different churches priests, pastors etc. is very contrary to God’s embracing  and universal view , they tend to fix on their theological and canonical differences like the priest and the Levite In the parable. They had many reasons based on the Law of Moses not to touch that man who was left for dead along the road. They represent the different leaders of our times who sometimes do not really want to get involved because they are afraid that they might betray their own theological identity.  Christians are called to act like Christ and loving like the Good Samaritan. It is not shared identities that should prompt us to come to the aid of the other but love of our neighbor. However, the vision of the love of neighbor that Jesus puts before us is under the strain of the world today. Wars in many regions, imbalances in the International Relations and inequalities generated by western powers and external agencies, inhibit our capacity to love like Christ. It is by learning to love one another regardless of our differences that Christians become neighbors like the Samaritan. The Author of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2024 observes “some might be anxious that ecumenism might lead to a loss of denominational identity and prevent church growth” such rivalry between churches is counter to the prayer of Jesus that ‘all may be one’ John 17:21. Like the priest and the Levite, Christians often miss the opportunity to connect with their brothers and sisters out of fear. My prayer for you is that you may abound in grace and love to overcome the fear for loss of identity and maybe even unfaithfulness to our own heritage. Our focus should be on the love of God - a love of loyalty and commitment despite all our sins and our lack of love for one another – accepts us with all our limitations and sins, with all our confusion and darkness. Who are we not to love the other who shares exactly in the same challenges as we do? Prayer God of love, Who write love in our hearts, instill in us the courage to look beyond ourselves and see the neighbor in those different from ourselves, that we may truly follow Jesus Christ, our brother and our friend, who is Lord, forever and ever. Amen.


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