Monday, January 18, 2016

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity Day 1 reflection

Day 1 (January 18), Let the stone be rolled away


Matthew 28:1-10, He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said.

Do not be afraid.

Meditation—Obstacles to Spiritual Growth

On reaching the tomb, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary encountered an obstacle, the stone in front of the tomb. For me this symbolizes our obstacles to encountering Jesus and his message of mercy and healing.

Some obstacles, such as our fears, our broken relationships, our past hurts, and so forth, are within us and can be hard even to acknowledge. Yet only insofar as we accept that they are there can we begin the healing process.

Some obstacles are in our culture. Today as we remember Martin Luther King we recall his powerful nonviolent witness for racial justice. He encouraged people to reach out beyond their fears and social prejudices to follow Jesus message of love. We still need to hear this message. Racism and other prejudices are still in us and around us.

Healing, whether personal or communal, can take time. I still bear some of the negative marks of growing up in what Philadelphians called ‘the lily-white Northeast’ part of town. In my youth, civil rights were just beginning to be taken seriously. Our life experiences affect us. All of us need deeper healing in one form or another.

When the women met the Risen Jesus, He encouraged them not to be afraid. He offered them a form of healing. In His power we too can overcome personal and cultural obstacles to seeing others clearly and treating every person with respect.

Such mutual respect is at the root of social justice and of the search for Christian Unity.


Lord Jesus, you have always loved us from the beginning, and you have shown the depth of your love in dying for us on the cross and thereby sharing our sufferings and wounds. At this moment, we lay all the obstacles that separate us from your love at the foot of your cross. Roll back the stones which imprison us. Awaken us to your resurrection morning. There may we meet the brothers and sisters from whom we are separated. Amen.

Father John Crossin, OSFS is executive director of the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. He is a consultor to the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. He tweets @crossinusccb.​

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