"How can you love God whom you do not see, if you do not love your neighbor whom you see, whom you touch, with whom you live."
-St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta
Two years ago, I went to an Unbound Leadership Conference in Malvern, Pennsylvania. This was a conference for team leaders or people who have been using the Unbound prayer model with others. I was so excited to be there and it was my first retreat that year. The conference consisted of various talks, witness, informational, small group and break out sessions. I soaked up a lot of material at the conference, but my favorite part of that weekend was the Praise and Worship. I have been exposed to minimal praise and worship before but this was something larger. There had to be between three hundred to four hundred people at this conference from all over the world. I met people from California, Texas, Mambaui, Scotland and Ireland. The last evening praise and worship song started with "Waymaker". There were people from every Christian denomination, pastors, priests, lay people singing and worshiping together. It was so intense and powerful that I fell back in my chair and was slain in the Spirit. The 300-400 people in the room were all connected; we were all one at that moment in time. There was no division, no separation and no labels of different denominations. It was a supernatural experience. That evening after the praise and worship was over, I went back to my room since it was almost midnight. However, I couldn't sleep. I was still in the presence of God together with everyone else. My heart was on fire for the Lord.
The week of January 18-25th is the week of Christian Unity. It is a Ecumenical Christian obersevance where every denomination prays for unity. It is celebrated internationally and this year it is titled "We saw the star in the east, and we came to worship Him"-Matthew 2:2
We sould pray not only for unity within the Christian church, but unity in our country, our families, workplaces and communities, big and small. We are currently living in a world that has become so divided. I am not sure how we ended up being this way, but it is a reality. Families have become distant with one another over opinions on certain topics. Friends and co-workers are at odds because of different political views and so forth. This is not the plan that Jesus had in mind. He wants unity. He wants all of us to get along and love one another. He prayed to God the Father in John 17:11, saying "that they may be one, even as we are one."
So, why is there so much division among people? Among races, classes and religions? Because where there is judgement, hatred, envy, jelaousy, deceit, lying, negativity, there is division. These are the works of the devil. The tactic/goal of the devil is to divide and conquer. But, where there is love, peace, kindness, gentless, self control, there is unity. These are the spirits of God. When two people disagree about a topic, it does not have to turn into hatred or anger. It does not have to turn into violence. It shows emotional maturity when a person can listen to another without geting upset when there are opposing views. Holding on to hatred or anger and can lead a person down a dark road and can cause division. We should be able to talk about two opposing topics with love and understanding. When we walk together with our brothers and sisters, then there is unity. Finding a common ground is the key. And acknowledging our differences respectfully helps with understanding. And where there is understanding, there is compassion and love.
Part of the Franciscan spirituality is finding connection with others. Not just people, but with animals, and nature - of all God's creation. God made the trees, grass, animals, people. So, since we are all made by one creator, we are all connected. We are all one in God's eyes. We have a commonality, one God, one Creator. When we know that we are loved by Him, we can share that love with others. Love is not meant to be selfish or hidden. It is meant to spread, like wildfire. And where there is love, unity follows.
In conclusion, pray for unity. Look for what you and your co-worker have in common, or a family member with whom you may argue with. When people work together to bring unity, it changes not only the individual person, but the community that person belongs to. So, take time this week to pray for unity. Below is a simple prayer that is from the website of usccb.org:
Gracious Lord, we pray for all the member of your holy Church, that all may abide in you and you in them, that they may be one in your love and bear much fruit. We also pray for the world, that all may come to believe in your love for them by the fruit of our witness. We know that our divisions are a source of scandal to your world, and we know that in love we are called to unite as one in the vine and branches. The vine is our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son. We are meant to be his branches. Help us we pray, to love, to forgive, to seek justice and to be your prophetic voice in the world. May your grace effect growth of good fruit among us, that our world may realize peace. We ask all this in the name of Jesus, your Son and in the power of the Holy Spirit, One God, for ever and ever. Amen.
About the Author: Donna L. Marotto is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, a Faith Formation Coordinator and a Third Order Franciscan. Her book Love Changes Everything can be found on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Her podcast can also be found on Spotify, Buzzsprout, google podcasts and deezer.