Monday, February 22, 2016

Prayer and Listening: Lenten Reflections on Spiritual Ecumenism

We are all called to pray. Spiritual ecumenism would call us to pray every day for Christian Unity. An ideal prayer in this regard is the Our Father. This prayer that Jesus taught his disciples reminds us that we are to hallow God’s name, follow His will for us, seek and give forgiveness, avoid temptation and put our trust in the Father and not in our plans. 
As we pray we might listen for the Father to speak to us. Sometimes our divergences from other Christians seem insuperable or intractable. Then it is clear that we must listen most intently.
On the Mount of Transfiguration our Father told the disciples to listen to Jesus. Thus we need to go back to the Scriptures and ponder His words. We count on Jesus promise that the Holy Spirit will guide us.
What keeps us from listening? One of my favorite obstacles is ‘having too much to do.’ USCCB keeps me busy. But the truth often is that I seem to have more time after I take time to pray. 
I realize I have some internal obstacles as well—such as letting go of past hurts or asking forgiveness of my sins. I also encounter external obstacles such as my own (or others) prejudices and denial of obvious truths I (we) don’t want to deal with. Another favorite of mine is wanting God to follow my plan. 
I often need to acknowledge these obstacles and ‘pray my way through’ them.
Listening to the inspirations of the Spirit can be transformative. I once felt the strong inner movement of the Spirit as I sang the opening hymn of mass—in a gym. Sometimes I hear the Spirit speak to me through conversation with others. Many times the speakers have been Christian colleagues.  
Daily prayer for Christian unity can be full of unexpected and lasting inspirations.
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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