MARFAM 2023. “OUR WORLD, A FAMILY OF FAMILIES”
DAILY THOUGHTS MAY THEME: PARENTS FORM FAMILIES
DAILY THOUGHTS on www.marfam.org.za, facebook and twitter. Request email to [email protected]. Abbreviations: Pope Francis:LS = Laudato Si. AL = Amoris Laetitia FT = Fratelli Tutti. —————————————————————————————————
Overview. Parents form Families. Whether it is a study of biology, human physiology or spirituality, the gift of co-creation with God, in nature, should be recognized as one of God’s greatest gifts. It is the male and female in nature, in human families a man and woman, ideally through a loving committed relationship, who continue God’s creation as well as its sustenance and nurturance. Laudato Si week and Christian Unity week (from Ascension Thursday to Pentecost) commemorated this month can incorporate the theme too. Parents, human and animal, have the task of forming and educating their offspring and preparing them for adulthood. The ideal of the love of their father and mother for each other too is an important gift to children. Effective human parenting is amongst the most complex relationships today, with an awareness of the good and harmful seen so clearly in family relationships.
Pope Francis: The gift of a new child entrusted by the Lord to a father and a mother, begins with acceptance, continues with lifelong protection and has as its final goal the joy of eternal life. God allows parents to choose the name by which he himself will call their child for all eternity. AL166. Only if we devote time to our children, speaking of important things with simplicity and concern and finding healthy ways for them to spend their time will we be able to shield them from harm. Parents have to help prepare their children and adolescents to confront the risks of aggression, abuse or drug addiction. AL 260. In assessing the environmental impact of any project few careful studies are made of its impact on biodiversity. Little attention is paid to studying the reproductive patterns of species to prevent their depletion and imbalance of the ecosystem. LS 35.
Setting the scene. As usual, the reflections are set in the format of family groups. During Mary’s month of May all families are encouraged to include a special devotion to Our Lady. Some families, individually or as a family pray the Rosary, or a decade each day or even a Hail Mary or a simple prayer to Our Lady to be prayed daily.
HOLY MARY, MOTHER OF GOD , BE OUR MOTHER TOO. PRAY WITH US AND FOR US IN ALL THAT WE DO.
May 1. Workers Day. The Joseph the Worker. Workers’ Day has for the last century been a struggle for the rights of workers, a battle between employers and employees mainly about wages. Deacon Masibi had been a shop steward in his day and with other union members was pleased that the Church also made its contribution to workers’ rights. He told the members of the parenting group that 1st May was adopted by the communists as May Day, Workers’ Day, to commemorate the struggle for worker’s rights. In 1955 by making it a commemoration of St Joseph the Worker, Pope Pius XII added the Catholic Christian dimension as well as a focus on St Joseph himself who is an example for all workers. Catholic Social Teaching has a number of documents on the issue as the situation has changed over time. “But this is not just for us adults as workers alone, but also for us as parents to share with our children as they recognise the value of work and learn from doing their chores. Is life too easy for them these days? What do you think?” he asked the group.
Reflect, share, act. Scripture. “Whatever your task, work heartily, as serving the Lord and not men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward you are serving the Lord Christ. Col 3:24. Pope Francis: Labour makes possible the development of society and provides for the sustenance, stability and fruitfulness of one’s family. AL 24. We can appreciate the suffering created by unemployment. AL 25. We were created with a vocation to work. Work is a necessity , part of the meaning of life on this earth, a path to growth, human development and personal fulfilment. LS128. Pray. Mary, loving wife of Joseph, together you worked to build your family, pray for us.
May 2. When Mavis first recognized, after they had moved to the city where she had access to a paediatrician, that her little baby was blind she worried terribly how badly this would affect her life. She soon realised that other senses of hearing and touch would have to take over in how she would be able to communicate and understand her world. “It has been a most unusual experience in many ways,” she explained. “I have learned to talk to her all the time, about everything I see or do. As she too was learning to talk she would ask lots of questions too. ‘What do you and daddy look like, or what does this fluffy kitty look like? What does “fluffy” mean?’”
Reflect, share, act. Scripture. My sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow me. John 10:22-30. Pope Francis: If the family, in the light of faith, accepts the presence of persons with special needs, they will be able to recognize and ensure the quality and value of every human life with its proper needs, rights and opportunities. They render the Church and society a gift and an invaluable witness. Al 47. Pray. Mary, Mother of the afflicted, pray for us.
May 3. Blended family. Michael began by saying, “Our family is a so-called blended family, with my kids, her kids and our kids all trying to make a peaceful life together. Trying is the operative word and there are times when it is really difficult not to show favouritism but my kids are my kids, and Joan’s are hers. We don’t seem to have those same issues about “our” kids. Religion is one of our concerns as Joan and I don’t go to the same church, so where do the kids belong? I suppose ultimately we all have to take responsibility for ourselves.
Reflect, share, act. Scripture. If anyone hears my sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him, for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. He who rejects me and does not receive my sayings has a judge; the word that I have spoken will be his judge on the last day. John 12:44-50. Pope Francis. Develop the habit of given real importance to the other person. This mean appreciating them and recognising their right to exist, to think as they do and to be happy. Never downplay what they say or think even if you need to express your own point of view. AL 138. Pray. Mary, Mother of the afflicted, pray for us.
May 4. “Do children today really carry out what their parents tell them to do? Do they or should they?” “Are parents good examples? So many children don’t have a father in the home and not all father-figures are good examples.“ ”Mothers may be closer but they are also sometimes more interested in their careers or jobs and leave the children to a carer or granny.” But it remains the parents’ responsibility. Children, as they grow and become teens may lose respect and quite often disobey their parents.”
Reflect, share, act. Scripture. Jesus said, “I know whom I have chosen, and then he quoted scripture, “He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.” John 13:16-20. Pope Francis. It is essential to help children and adolescents to realise that misbehaviour has consequences. They need to be encouraged to put themselves in other people’s shoes and to acknowledge the hurt they have caused. Correction is an incentive whenever children’s efforts are appreciated and acknowledged and they sense their parent’s constant, patient trust. AL 268-9 Pray. Mary, Mother of the afflicted, pray for us.
May 5. Joan said, “Why are there so many floods all over the world these days? Hurricanes, cyclones, monsoons have got stronger, bigger and more destructive. Climate change is blamed on our human destructive actions towards the environment. It makes me think of Noah’s ark times, when innocent animals also had to suffer, because of the wickedness of the people. There are actually many stories like The Flood in other cultures too. But history also repeats itself, and we know that it was necessary for God to intervene again, and so God sent the Messiah. Still looking into the message, isn’t history repeating itself again today, with the most vulnerable members of creation suffering the effects the most?”
Reflect, share and act. Scripture. Paul stood up and said, “Men of Israel, and you that fear God, listen. God chose our father and made the people great. He led them out of Egypt. He bore with them in the wilderness, gave them their land, kings and prophets. Of this posterity God has brought to Israel a Saviour Jesus. Acts 13:13-25. Pope Francis: The lack of historical memory is a serious shortcoming in our society. A mentality that says, “then was then and now is now” is ultimately immature. Knowing and judging past events is the only way to build a meaningful future. AL193. Pray. Mary, Mother of the suffering due to climate change, pray for us.
May 6 . Conscience. The parenting groups had shared on some very sensitive issues around sexuality and family planning. Prisca had been a good facilitator and most of the time she had managed to avoid any arguments or judgements, stressing that people had a right to share their views but it did sometimes reach volatile levels and once Beauty had walked out. “The Church teaches …… “ Mrs Bonanza would say. “Yes but, the Church is out of date. We can’t afford to have half a dozen kids these days,” came a reply. Prisca pulled it together. “Yes, the Church does present us with a beautiful ideal but difficult teaching. We may not all agree and accept this, but we as a couple together in conscience before God have made our decision. I know that requires faith, love and commitment.” And she squeezed her husband’s hand while he smiled at her.
Reflect, share, act. pray Scripture. The Jews incited the devout women of high standing and the leading men of the city and stirred up persecutions against Paul and Barnabas and drove them out of their district. But they shook the dust from their feet against them and went to Iconium. Acts 13:50. Pope Francis: We find it hard to make room for the consciences of the faithful who very often respond as best they can to the Gospel amid their limitations and are capable of carrying out their own discernment in complex situations. We have been called to form consciences not to replace them. AL 37. Pray. Mary, Mother of the afflicted, pray for us.
May 7. 5th Sunday of Easter A. Fr Sylvester first invited all the men to stand up and then repeated the words of the 2nd reading from Peter, “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people.“ Then he added, “but these words are not for men, or priests, but for everyone, and in a special way for mothers who play such an important role in families. So let the mothers stand up so we can acknowledge them too. ‘You are a holy nation, God’s own people.’ We, every member of every family here present together through our baptism make up the holy nation, the royal priesthood in our homes, offering the sacrifices we make in our daily lives. We offer them together with Jesus in the Eucharist, making it a living sacrifice. Do you really understand this,” he asked them and left them to think. Let us prepare for Mother’s Day next week by keeping this in mind.
Reflect, share, act. Scripture. You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light. 1 Peter2:9. Pope Francis: Human beings, even if we postulate a process of evolution also possess a uniqueness which cannot be fully explained by the evolution of other systems. Each of us has his or her own personal identity and is capable of entering into dialogue with others and with God himself. Yet it would be mistaken to view other living beings as mere objects subject to arbitrary human domination. When nature is viewed solely as a source of profit and gain this has serious consequences for society. LS 81-82. Pray………….. Pray. Mary, Mother of the afflicted, pray for us.
MAY 8. Parenting one’s own older parents is a reality that many families experience these days and it is not the easiest thing on earth. Older people still want to be independent and can be very set in their ways and quite stubborn and mean too, even if they are not suffering from some form of dementia, which is fairly common in older people. George and Paula thought, “Maybe it is anxiety that they won’t have enough money to last them, and I accept that their values are different to ours but they’re really hung up about their money and their possessions. They’d be much happier if they would loosen up a bit. I wonder if they would maybe even feel fulfilled if they gave us a hand with varsity fees for our kids.“
Reflect, share and act. Scripture. We bring you good news that you should turn from these vain things to a living God who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. Acts 14:5-18, Pope Francis: Support of the elderly is a challenge to families. The church cannot and does not want to conform to a mentality of impatience, and much less indifference and contempt towards old age. AL191. From FAMILIES AND THE SYNOD: How are families a key point of communion in the Church – on the one hand, within themselves and, on the other, beyond themselves in the larger community? How is communion experienced within the family? How do families contribute to the building communion in the Church? Pray. Mary, mother and ancestor, pray for us.
May 9. James and George had been in a relationship for three years when they came to the realisation that they wanted to make their relationship permanent and even have a child. They shared with an understanding priest friend who explained that a marriage of gay men was not possible in the Catholic Church. So they settled for a pastor to witness their commitment in a same- sex union. A while later they began to explore the ways that they could have a child. They considered in vitro fertilisation with a surrogate mother or adoption. With the help of a counsellor they finally settled for adoption. A year later they were proud parents showing off their daughter to delighted grandparents, who were nevertheless still somewhat bemused. James and George smiled as they considered, “this whole business would have been much easier in animal families don’t you agree?”
Reflect, share and act. Scripture. Paul and Barnabas continued, strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. Acts 14:19-28. Pope Francis: Every person regardless of sexual orientation ought to be respected in their dignity. Those who manifest a homosexual orientation should be given respectful pastoral guidance so that they can receive the assistance they need to understand and fully carry out God’s will in their lives. AL 251. From FAMILIES AND THE SYNOD: Are families listened to within the Church? How can they be heard in this synodal process? Pray. Mary, mother most wise pray for us
May 10. Bearing fruit. Lots of comments came from the group on the day’s reading about bearing fruit. “Every parent must feel honoured but also challenged by this reading, I’m sure. Do we as parents bear good fruit, or is the focus on the number of children?” “But we also feel honoured that our bearing fruit in whatever way gives glory to the Father.“ ”I particularly like an image we heard of, that our children are the fruit of our love, we being attached to Jesus the vine. Much as I like it there is still a challenge and I pray every day for my husband to begin to understand its deeper meaning and that we can share this with one another. That would make our family planning decisions easier too. I was shocked when I was pregnant a fourth time and he suggested an abortion.”
Reflect, share, act. Scripture. Abide in me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, and you are the branches. He who abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. By this my Father is glorified that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. John 15:1-8. Pope Francis: A sense of deep comm union with the rest of nature cannot be real if our hearts lack tenderness, compassion and concern for our fellow human beings. I9t is clearly inconsistent to combat trafficking in endangered species while remaining completely indifferent to human trafficking, unconcerned about the poor, or undertaking to destroy another human being deemed unwanted. LS 91. Pray, Mother that your children will be fruitful in their service.
May 11. Moral issues. The debate about whether Gentiles should be circumcised like the Jews became a very interesting cultural but also a practical debate. Of particular interest was the comment that Jason picked up about God putting a yoke upon the neck which none was able to bear. Does that speak to us about the teachings on contraception, condoms and abortion or where do we draw the line? Those are some of the issues that were discussed at the Synods on the Family in Rome and by Pope Francis in his letter, Amoris Laetitia. His message is to study the teaching and develop and use our conscience on the question of carrying that yoke.
Reflect, share, act. Scripture. Peter said, “God made no distinction between us and the Gentiles but cleansed their hearts by faith. Now therefore why do you make trial of God by putting a yoke upon the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear. But we believe that we shall be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.” Acts 15:7-21. Pope Francis: On discernment: Conscience can do more than recognise that a given (irregular) situation does not correspond objectively to the overall demands of the Gospel. It can also recognise with sincerity and honesty what for now is the most generous response which can be given to God and come to see with a certain moral security that it is what God himself is asking while yet not fully the objective ideal. AL 303. Pray.. Mary, Mother most sensitive, pray for us.
May 12. Friends. Mrs Paulsen asked, “Does Jesus put friends above family. I sometimes wonder about that? In our little village there are some elderly people that have been friends for many years, almost their whole lives. I think they are closer to each other than they are to their own children. But you can’t deny that family is still family, a blood relationship even if friendships are so important. I believe that my friend Josephine would die for me. What do others think? Reflect, share, act. Scripture. Love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do want I command you. John 15:12. Pope Francis: I know that you are capable of great acts of friendship and goodness. With these you are called to build the future, together with others and for others, but never against others. Jubilee for Youth. Pray. Mary, Mother most loving, pray for us.
May 13. Our lady of Fatima. Moyra wondered, “Our Lady of Fatima appeared to three little children with her message, about their current social reality and a call to pray for peace. How many parents really talk with their children about social reality and the problem issues of today. Or maybe the kids should inform their parents, or whoever their carers are, as they learn far more about these matters at school then we ever knew. In many ways kids, the young, are better informed, more capable technologically and make us older people feel quite inadequate at times. However we must not forget how vulnerable young people also are to abuse, e.g. pornography, through their cellphones. Those are really important issues for family consideration. Devotion to Our Lady of Fatima can be a great support and happiness for families.
Reflect, share and act. Scripture. I will greatly rejoice in the Lord. For as the earth brings forth its shoots and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring for the before all the nations. Is 61:9-11. Pope Francis: Nowadays authority is often considered suspect and adults are treated with impertinence. They themselves become uncertain and so fail to offer sure and solid guidance to their children. AL176. From FAMILIES AND THE SYNOD. What role can the family play in the process of building a more synodal Church? How can this synodal process help us to better understand, promote and empower the mission of the family within the Church and in the world, as “a leaven of evangelization in society?” (AL 290) Pray. O God, who chose the Mother of your Son to be our Mother too. Grant us that persevering in penance and prayer for peace and the salvation of the world, we may further the reign of Christ. Let us pray once again for the conversion of Russia. Mother of peace, pray for your children.
May 14. MOTHERS DAY. 6th Sunday of Easter A. Fr Fidelis started by saying, “I almost don’t need to preach a sermon about mothers and motherhood. Just using the words of Jesus today is an examination of conscience and a test to see how deep our faith is. ‘If you love me you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father and he will give you another counsellor, to be with you for ever.’ But I would like you all, mothers included, to do an exercise . What commandment do you find most difficult to keep but still do so, just out of love for Jesus? Please feel free to share, especially with one another at home.”
Reflect, share, act. Scripture. If you love me you will keep my commandments. She who loves me will be loved by my Father and I will love her and manifest myself to her. John 14:15-20. Pope Francis: With great affection I urge all mothers : keep happy and let nothing rob your of the interior joy of motherhood. Your child deserves your happiness. AL 171. Social love is the key to authentic development. In order to make society more human, more worthy of the human person, love in social life- political, economic and cultural – must be gain renewed value, becoming the constant and highest norm for all activity. LS231
A MOTHER’S DAY REFLECTION AND BLESSING:
If I live in a house of spotless beauty with everything in its place
But have not love, I am a housekeeper – not a homemaker.
If I have time for waxing, polishing and decorative achievements,
But have not love, my children learn cleanliness – not godliness.
Love leaves the dust in search of a child’s laugh
Love smiles at the tiny fingerprints on a newly-cleaned window
Love wipes away the tears before it wipes up the spilled milk
Love picks up the child before it picks up the toys.
Love is present through the trials,
Love reprimands, reproves and is responsive
Love crawls with the baby, walks with the toddler, runs with the child,
Then stands aside to let the youth walk into adulthood.
Love is the key that opens salvation’s message to a child’s heart.
Before I became a mother I took glory in my house of perfection.
Now I glory in God’s perfection of my child.
As a mother, there is much I must teach my child
But the greatest of all is love.
PRAYER AND BLESSING
Lord God, thank you for the gift of motherhood and especially for our own mothers. Bless them and all
mothers on their special day in their families with all good things, especially health, joy, love and laughter.
Keep them in your care and protect them from all that is harmful.
We invite Mary, the mother of Jesus and our mother to care for our families as she cared for the Holy Family as we say her special prayer: Hail Mary………… .
May 15. International Day of Families. There was going to be a big celebration for this important day in their town and all the different communities were to be part of it because clearly family life and its challenges are the challenges for everyone. The Department of Social Development would be highlighting the international theme for the day, “Families and Demographics.” As families are the core units and a microcosm of society they manifest o many differences between and within families. A committee had been formed and the arrangements were well in hand when they struck a snag. Who, from which religious group would lead the opening prayer? Christians were in the majority but the minority groupings believed they had rights too. The problem was solved when the wise old missionary came not with who would preach but what the message was to be. He said to the committee, “It is very sad that religion can divide families rather than bring them together. There is an Old Testament Biblical saying that could be the foundation principle for all family living and of life in all kinds of communities. “Act justly, love tenderly and walk humbly with your God.” Micah. That is the way of peace and we could all pray it together, and maybe make it a project for all of us, to live it out!”
Reflect, share, act. Scripture. The Holy Spirit, the Counsellor whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you, not as the world gives do I give to you. John 14:23-29. Pope Francis: In addition to the small circle of the couple and their children there is the larger family which cannot be overlooked. The love of husband and wife and the love between members of the same family, parents and children, brothers and sisters and relatives and members of the household is given life and sustenance by an inner dynamism leading to deeper communion. AL 196 Pray. Mary, Mother of all families and communities pray for us.
May 16. Household conversion. “How powerful was the preaching of Paul to make people believe, or was it because of miracles and signs, like the gates of their prison opening miraculously?” The group discussed the question amongst themselves. Maysie was intrigued that a brilliant preacher could convert a whole household. “Who are the most sceptical amongst us, or the easiest to be influenced? Old, young, women?” Some older women didn’t quite dare to voice their opinions but knew that a powerful preacher could make a great impression especially on the youth. Mr Anderson told the group, “Pope Francis has this important message, for youth and for preachers, ” “Dear young people, Put on Christ in your lives. Christ awaits you in his word, listen to him. Christ awaits you in the Sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist. You can be joyful witnesses of his love, courageous witnesses of his gospel carrying to this world a ray of his light. Let yourself be loved by Christ, he is a friend that will not disappoint.” Chrisius Vivit…….
Reflect, share, act. Scripture. After their preachingPaul and Silas were attacked by the crowds and magistrates and put in prison. At night an earthquake shook the building and the prison gates opened but they did not escape. When they jailer found them praying and singing hymns he was overwhelmed by their faith. Paul told him “ Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, you and your household. The jailer washed their wounds and took them to his house and they were baptised. Read Acts 16:22- Pray. Pray. Mary, Mother of those imprisoned pray for them.
May 17. The unkown god. Bruce, was a counsellor running a parent-teen programme. He told them, “It’s hard to imagine what exactly we worship these days. Some kids addicted to drugs worship that in a way. But a parent too, father or mother can be addicted to work, alcohol, gambling, pornography or the internet. We might not think of those things as unknown gods, but our behaviour speaks otherwise. It would be wonderful if our “unknown gods” were the more positive things.
Reflect, share, act. Scripture. Paul said to the men of Athens, “As I passed along I found an altar with the inscription, ’to an unknown god.’ The God who made the world and everything in it, does not need to live in shrines made by man. Since he himself gives to all men life and breath and everything. Acts 17:15-22. Pope Francis: When media and the digital world become omnipresent their influence can stop people from learning how to live wisely, to think deeply and to love generously. The great sages of the past run the risk of going unheard amid the noise and distractions of an information overload. Efforts need to be made to help these media become sources of new cultural progress for humanity and not a threat to our deepest riches. LS 47. Environmental education should facilitate making the leap towards the transcendent which gives ecological ethics its deepest meaning. LS210 Pray. Mary, Mother of all creation, pray for us.
May 18. Mr and Mrs Post thought that it would be a good idea to make a short study of the history of the early Church so they told their children. “Now that Easter is over and all the left-over chocolate eaten, let’s go on a journey back in time and use the Acts of the Apostles as a bit of a route map. We already know a lot of what happened mainly from the gospels but we want to put the puzzle together a little bit. We hear many names in the news today of the places where Christianity began, places like Antioch, Damascus and Syria and Jerusalem.” “To start, after the Resurrection Jesus appeared to people alone or in groups, e.g Mary Magdalene who thought Jesus was the gardener, the apostles then went fishing, Thomas who had a special experience of touching Jesus’ wounds. The Acts of the Apostles was written as a continuation of the gospel of Luke and is mainly about Paul and his conversion and his missionary journeys. It begins with a short description of post-resurrection events, the promise of the Holy Spirit and Jesus’ farewell, his being taken from their sight.
Reflect, share, act. Scripture. His final words were, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8. Now it is up to us in our end of the earth. Could we as a family do more to bear witness? Let us discuss that and try to make a plan in these few days between now and Pentecost.” Pope Francis. In calling to mind the figure of St Francis of Assisi we come to realise that a healthy relationship with creation is one dimension of overall personal conversion, which entails the recognition or our errors, sins, faults and failures and lead to heartfelt repentance and desire to change. LS 217T. The ecological conversion needed to bring about lasting change is also a community conversion. LS219 It calls for a number of attitudes which together foster a spirit of generous care, full of tenderness. It entails gratitude, a recognition that the world is God’s loving gift and that we are called to imitate his generosity in self-sacrifice and good works. LS 220. Pray. Mary, Mother of the Christian churches of South Africa pray for us.
Christian Unity Week. Pray for the World Council of Churches, SA Council of Churches, Church Unity Commission, Minister Fraternal.
May 19. Joy. When they came to read the gospel passage that mentions the woman in labour Mr Clarke said, “That is a true to life example all right. I was pleased to be able to be with you when the children were born. I saw how you were in great pain but we were both so filled with wonder and joy when the baby arrived safely. That is the kind of joy I don’t mind sharing. I did, with the guys at work and they laughed at me but I didn’t mind.”
Reflect, share, act. Scripture. When a woman is in labour she has pain because her hour has come but when the child is delivered she no longer remembers the anguish for joy that a child is born into the world. John 16:20-22. Pope Francis. God sets the father in the family so that by the gifts of his masculinity he can be close to his wife and share everything. And to be close to his children as they grow – when then play and when they work, when they are carefree and when they are distressed, when they are talkative and when they are silent, when they are daring and when they are afraid, whey they stray and when they get back on the right path. Children need a father. AL177. Christian Unity Week Pray for the Roman Catholic Church.
May 20. Asking. May had been a parenting month for parents and for their children. They had talked about many things, spiritual and worldly too. As they were coming nearer to the end Joseph and Jocelyn suggested that they all spend some time considering what would be the greatest gift they could ask for from God, individually and as a family.
Reflect, share, act. Scripture. Truly, truly I say to you, “if you ask anything of the Father he will give it to you in my name. ask and receive that your joy may be full.” John 16:23-38. Pope Francis: “I would like to ask you, dear families, do you pray together from time to time as a family? Some of you do, but so many people say to me: But how?” As the tax collector does, it is clear: humbly before God. Each one with humility allowing themselves to be gazed upon by the Lord and imploring his goodness, that he may visit us. Homily for Family Day October 2013. Christian Unity Week. Pray for Covenant Churches.
The WEEK OF PRAYER FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY and THE LAUDATO SI WEEK this year coincide. The reflections below are an attempt to capture some of the spirit of both. Visit the respective website for more resources.
Prayer of Hope from Christian Unity Week
God of Hope,
Help us to remember that you are with us in our suffering.
Help us to embody hope for one another when hopelessness is a frequent unwelcomed guest in our hearts.
Grant us the gift of being grounded in your loving Spirit as we work together
to eradicate all forms of oppression and injustice.
Give us the courage to love what, whom and how you love, and to express this love in our actions.
Through Christ Our Lord. Amen.
WEEK OF PRAYER FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY FOR SOUTH AFRICA. ASCENSION TO PENTECOST 18 – 28 MAY
Theme: Do Good; seek justice. Is 1:17.
A leaflet produced by the SA Church Unity Commission provides instructions and the prayer below in 10 locally used languages. Eight readings are provided in two formats, 1. for the weekdays of the time from Ascension Thursday to Pentecost or 2. daily from Ascension Sunday to Pentecost Sunday. (SA Catholic churches celebrate the feast of the Ascension on the 7th Sunday of Easter not on Thursday, but the prayer for the different churches can be prayed every day from 18 to 28th May.
There is a text available for an ecumenical worship service with hymns to be celebrated at any time. These are all adapted and taken from the international programme produced jointly by the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity and the Commission on Faith and Order of the World Council Churches.
For South African leaflet go to www.churchunitycommission.org. for international go to www.vatican.va. and www.oikoumene.org/resources/documents/resources-for-the-week-of-prayer-for-christian-unity-2023
SA CHRISTIAN UNITY PRAYER. ENGLISH
Righteous and merciful God; we come to you in repentant hearts,
teach us to do good, give us courage to seek justice for all
and to seek a meaningful unity of the church,
so that: the oppressed may be liberated, the orphan and the widow may know justice
so that: peace, justice and love may prevail; through the one who is love, Jesus our redeemer,
and in the power of the one whose fruit is love, the enabling Holy Spirit. Amen.
LAUDATO SI WEEK 21-28 MAY 2023. theme: HOPE FOR THE EARTH. HOPE FOR HUMANITY
For logos, social media templates, prayers, events – screening of the film “The Letter” and links to organisations and for other materials. https://laudatosiweek.org/laudato-si-week-resources-2023/ and www.laudatosiactionplatform.org
Daily Prayer for Creation.
Creator, Redeemer, Holy Spirit,
thank you for the gift of Laudato Si’, which teaches us that “The Creator does not abandon us;
he never forsakes his loving plan or repents of having created us.
Humanity still has the ability to work together
in building and caring for the common home of all creation.
Creator, you give us life.
Help us to honor you as we care for your precious creation.
Redeemer, you give us hope.
Help us see new ways of living as we turn from the path of destruction.
Holy Spirit, you give us unity.
Help us find strength in the love between us as we seek healing for the Earth. Amen.
May 21. Ascension (Easter 7A). In Southern Africa Ascension can be celebrated on this Sunday.
WEEK OF PRAYER FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY & LAUDATO SI WEEK, Day 1. “Learning to do the right thing.” Scripture: Isaiah 1:17. “Learn to do good, seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.”
From CUW. God wants us not just to care for the oppressed, orphans and widoweds but always to do what is right and good for them and anyone marginalised by society. The Hebrew word for good means to be glad, joyful, pleasing, to do well, to make something beautiful.
To be Christian means to be a disciple. All Christians sit under the Word of God, learning together what it is to do good, and who it is that stands in need of this solidarity. As society becomes more indifferent to the needs of others, we, as the children of God, must learn to take up the cause of our oppressed brothers and sisters by speaking truth to power and if necessary, plead their case so that they may live in peace with justice. In doing this we will always do the right thing!Our commitment to eradicate and to be healed of the sin of racism requires us to be prepared and willing to be in relationship with our Christian sisters and brothers.
A lawyer asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?” Jesus’ response asks us to see beyond the divisions of religion, tribe and nationality to recognise our neighbour in need. Christians likewise must see beyond these divides and the divisions within the Christian family to recognise and love our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Challenge. Who are the marginalised or oppressed in your society? How might churches together walk with these brothers and sisters, respond to their need and speak up on their behalf?
Pray the Christian Unity prayer and the Laudato si’ prayer, for the African Independent churches.
May 22. WEEK OF PRAYER FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY & LAUDATO SI WEEK. Day 2. “When Justice is done.” Scripture: Matt 23:23. “Justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done”.
From CUW. The righteous rejoice when justice is done. But justice upsets the workers of iniquity. Christians, across their separations, should be united in joy when justice is done, and prepared to stand together when this justice brings opposition. Those who benefit from the structures buttressed by White supremacy and other oppressive ideologies such as patriarchy will seek to delay and deny justice, often violently. But to seek justice is to strike at the heart of the powers, making space for God’s just ordering and enduring wisdom in a world all too often unmoved by suffering.
And yet, there is joy in doing what is right. There is joy in seeking reconciliation with other Christians so that we may better serve the proclamation of the kingdom. Let that joy manifest itself through our shared experiences of God’s presence in community in the known and unknown spaces where God journeys with us.
The religious leaders Jesus addresses in the Gospel passage have grown accustomed and comfortable with the injustices of the world. They are happy to perform religious duties but neglect the weightier demands of justice, mercy and faithfulness. Similarly, Christians have grown accustomed and comfortable with the divisions that exist between us. We are faithful in our religious observance, but often we neglect the Lord’s challenging desire that all his disciples be one.
Challenge. How can local congregations support one another to withstand the opposition that may follow from doing justice? Pray the Christian Unity prayer and the Laudato si’ prayer for the Covenant Churches.
May 23. WEEK OF PRAYER FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY & LAUDATO SI WEEK. day 3 “ Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly.” Scripture: Mic 6:6-8. “ …and what does the Lord require of you.”
What does the Lord require of you? To do justice, and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God?” God has shown us what is good; to do justice by loving kindness and walking humbly with God means walking alongside others and therefore it is not just about the individual.
The love that God invites us into is always a love which gathers us into communion: This insight makes all the difference in how we “do justice”. As Christians we act justly to manifest something of God’s kingdom in the world. We are all loved equally as God’s children, and as God’s Church we are called to love one another as brothers and sisters and to invite others into that love.
To do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with our God, calls Christians to act together in bearing a united witness to God’s kingdom within our communities: we – not me.
“Walking humbly” was challenging for the rich young man who asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. He had obeyed all the commandments from his youth, but he could not take the further step to join Jesus’ disciples because of his wealth. It is difficult for Christians to let go of that which we perceive as riches, but which keep us from the greater wealth on joining Jesus’s disciples in Christian unity.
Challenge. How can our churches better respond to the needs of our most vulnerable neighbours? How can we honour every voice in our communities?
Pray the Christian Unity prayer and the Laudato si’ prayer for the Anglican/Episcopalian churches.
May 24. WEEK OF PRAYER FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY & LAUDATO SI WEEK. day 4. “Look, the tears of the Oppressed.” Scripture: Eccles 4:1 “Again I saw all the oppressions that are practiced under the sun. Look, the tears of the oppressed – with no one to comfort them!”
“Look, the tears of the oppressed.” One can imagine that the writer has witnessed atrocities like this, and yet perhaps this is the first time to see the tears of the oppressed, and their subjugation. While there is much to lament, in a new looking and a new seeing there is also a seed of hope: maybe this time this witnessing will lead to change, will make a difference.
A young woman looked and saw the tears of the oppressed. The video she shot on her phone of the murder of George Floyd in May 2020 was seen all around the world and unleashed a holy rage as people witnessed, and finally acknowledged, what African Americans have experienced for centuries: undue subjugation by oppressive systems in the midst of privileged blind bystanders. Acknowledging this has led to a global outpouring of overdue compassion in the form of prayer and protest for justice.
The progression from simply looking to seeing and understanding gives encouragement for us in this earthly reality: God can remove scales from our eyes to witness things in new and liberating ways. As those scales fall, the Holy Spirit provides insight, and conviction to respond in new and unfettered ways. One response the churches and communities made was a prayer tent at George Floyd Square, the place of his murder. Churches and communities were united in offering comfort to those who mourned and were oppressed.
Matthew’s account of the Beatitudes begins with Jesus seeing the crowds. He must have seen were peacemakers, the poor in spirit, the pure in heart, men and women who mourned, and those who hungered for justice. In the beatitudes Jesus not only names people’s struggles, he names what they will be: the children of God and inheritors of the kingdom of heaven. As Christians we are called to see the holy struggles of our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Challenge. How have you engaged with Christian groups addressing oppression in your neighbourhood? How can the churches in your locality come together to better show solidarity with those suffering oppression?
PRAY the Christian Unity prayer and the Laudato si’ prayer for the Lutheran/Moravian churches.
May 25. WEEK OF PRAYER FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY & LAUDATO SI WEEK. Day 5. “Singing the Lord’s song as strangers in the Land.” Scripture: Ps137:1-4. “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
The lament of the psalmist originates in the exile of Judah in Babylon, however, the pain of exile is one that reverberates across time and culture. Perhaps the psalmist shouted this refrain towards the heavens. Perhaps each verse was between deep sobs of grief. Perhaps this poem emerged with a shrug of indifference from living within injustice and feeling powerless to effect change. The heartache of this passage finds resonance in the hearts of those who are treated as strangers in other lands or in their own lands.
The demand in the psalm comes from the oppressor to smile and make merry, to sing the songs of a “happy” past. That demand has come to marginalized people throughout history. The message is as simple as it is cruel; your songs, your ceremonies, your cultural identity, that which makes you sacredly unique, is only allowable so long as it serves us. In this psalm generations of the oppressed ask, “How could we sing the Lord’s song when we are strangers in our own land? We sing not for our captors but to praise God. We sing because we are not alone for God has never abandoned us. We sing because we are surrounded by ancestors and saints to inspire us. They encourage us to sing songs of hope, songs of freedom, songs of liberation, songs of a homeland where a people is restored.
Luke’s Gospel records that people, many of them women, follow Jesus even as he carries his cross to Calvary. Jesus recognises their struggles and the suffering that they will have to endure in faithfully carrying their own crosses.
Thanks to the ecumenical movement, Christians today share hymns, prayers reflections and insights across traditions. We receive them from one another as gifts borne of the faith and loving discipleship, often enduring struggles, of Christians from different communities than our own. These shared gifts are riches to be treasured and give witness to the Christian faith we share.
Challenge. How do we raise up the stories of ancestors and saints who lived among us and have sung songs of faith, hope, and liberation from captivity?
Pray the Christian Unity prayer and the Laudato si’ prayer. for the Presbyterian/Congregational churches.
May 26. WEEK OF PRAYER FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY & LAUDATO SI WEEK. Day 6 “Just as you did it to one of the least of these….. you did it to me.” Scripture: Matt 25:40. “I tell you just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”
In the Gospel of Matthew, we are reminded that we cannot separate our love for God from our love for others. We love God when we feed the hungry, give the thirsty something to drink, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, care for the sick and visit the prisoner. When we care for and serve “one of the least of these,” we are caring for and serving Christ himself.
The years 2020 and 2021 made visible the immense suffering among God’s family members. The world-wide Covid-19 pandemic, along with economic, educational and environmental disparities, impacted us in ways that will take decades to repair. It exposed individual and collective suffering throughout the world and brought Christians together in love, empathy and solidarity.
God calls us to honour the sacredness and dignity of each member of God’s family. Caring for, serving and loving others reveals not who they are, but who we are as Christians, unified in our responsibility to love and care for others, as we are cared for and loved by God. In so doing, we live out our shared faith through our actions in service to the world. Unity is the Father’s desire for his people and he continues to bring about this unity, to make the flock whole, through the action of his Holy Spirit. Through prayer we open ourselves to receive the Spirit which restores the unity of all the baptised.
Challenge. How are the “least of these” invisible to you or your church? How can our churches work together to care for and serve “the least of these?”
Pray the Christian Unity prayer and the Laudato s’i prayer for the Methodist churches. :
May 27. WEEK OF PRAYER FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY & LAUDATO SI WEEK. Day 7 “What is now does not have to be.” Scripture: Lk 1:52. “He has brought down the powerful from their thrones and lifted up the lowly.”
We all have suffering that is manifested in our minds, bodies, and spirits. We may pull away from God and others. We may lose hope. Yet, as Christians, we are unified in our belief that God is with us in the midst of our suffering. On April 11, 2021 in Minnesota, Daunte Wright, a twenty-year old, unarmed African American man, was fatally shot by a White police officer during a routine traffic stop. This incident occurred during the trial for the killing of George Floyd.
It is easy to feel hopeless when we are reminded that we live in a fractured society that does not fully recognize, honour, and protect the human dignity and freedom of all human beings. According to Fr. Bryan Massingale, a leading Catholic social ethicist and scholar in racial justice, “Social life is made by human beings. The society we live in is the result of human choices and decisions. This means that human beings can change things. What human beings break, divide and separate, we can with God’s help, also heal, unite and restore. What is now does not have to be, therein lies the hope and the challenge.”
In prayer, Christians align their hearts and actions to the heart of God, to love what he loves and to love as he loves. Prayer with integrity therefore aligns the hearts of all Christians beyond their divisions. The Magnificat is Mary’s song of joy for all that she sees God is doing: restoring balance by raising up the lowly; righting injustice by feeding the hungry; and remembering Israel, his servant. The Lord never forgets his promises or abandons his people. It is easy to overlook or undervalue the faith of those who belong to other Christian communities, but the Lord makes his people whole by raising up the lowly so that the value of each is recognised. We are called to see as He sees and to value our Christian brothers and sisters as He values them.
Challenge. How can we come together in Christ with hope and faith that God will “shut injustice’s mouth?”
Prayer of Hope. .
God of Hope,
Help us to remember that you are with us in our suffering.
Help us to embody hope for one another when hopelessness is a frequent unwelcomed guest in our hearts.
Grant us the gift of being grounded in your loving Spirit as we work together to eradicate all forms of oppression and injustice. Give us the courage to love what, whom and how you love, and to express this love in our actions. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen.
Pray the Christian Unity prayer and the Laudato si’ prayer for the Reformed churches and the Orthodox churches.
May 28 .WEEK OF PRAYER FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY & LAUDATO SI WEEK Day 8 “The Justice that restores communion.” Scripture: PS 82:1-4. “Give justice to the weak and the orphan, maintain the right of the lowly and the destitute.”
The Book of Psalms is a compilation of prayer, praise, lamentation, and instruction from God to us. In Psalm 82, God calls for a justice that upholds the basic human rights to which all people are entitled: freedom, safety, dignity, health, equality and love. The Psalm also calls for the overturning of systems of disparity and oppression, and fixing anything that is unfair, corrupt, or exploitative. This is the justice that we, as Christians, are called to promote. In Christian community we join our wills and actions to God’s, as he works his salvation for creation. Division, always has sin at its root, and redemption always restores communion.
God calls us to embody our Christian faith to act out of the truth that every person is precious. Every person has a right and responsibility to participate in society, seeking together the common good and wellbeing of all, especially the lowly and the destitute. In Jesus and the Disinherited, Revd Dr Howard Thurman, spiritual adviser to the Revd Dr Martin Luther King Jr. states that: “We must proclaim the truth that all life is one and that we are all of us tied together. You must lay your lives on the altar of social change so that wherever you are, there the Kingdom of God is at hand.”
Jesus tells the parable of the widow and the unjust judge in order to teach the people “about their need to pray always and not to lose heart” (Lk 18:1). Jesus has won a decisive victory over injustice, sin and division, and as Christians our task is to receive this victory firstly in our own hearts through prayer and secondly in our lives through action. May we never lose heart, but rather continue to ask in prayer for God’s gift of unity and may we manifest this unity in our lives.
Challenge. As the people of God, how are our churches called to engage in justice that unites us in our actions to love and serve all of God’s family?
Pray the Christian Unity prayer and the Laudato si’ prayer for the Baptist/Pentecostal churches.
PENTECOST A. Scripture: There are varieties of gifts but the same spirit and they are gifts of service but the same Lord. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. Just as the body is one and has many members and all the members are one body so it is with Christ. Cor 12:4, 12
SUGGESTED ACTIVITIES THAT COULD BE DONE IN THE FAMILY TO CELEBRATE PENTECOST.
- Spend some time together to reflect, discuss and share what gifts and fruits you see in each other.
- Let each choose the gifts and fruits they believe they need for their own lives and pray together that the Holy Spirit will bless each member with what they have asked.
- As an activity – possibly with smaller children – talk about the meaning of the different gifts and fruits, make a poster of the picture and colour it in.
May 29 Mary, Mother of the Church. There was a young teenage group of altar servers who used to meet on a Sunday evening with the parish deacon, Benedict. He told them, “The Church has traditionally dedicated this month of May to Mary, the mother of Jesus. That is why we have Mother’s Day this month too. There was a time when I was growing up that almost every family had a great devotion to Mary. Many would say the Rosary every night and I must admit that most of us kids didn’t appreciate having to kneel next to our bed for that, although we did like to see her as our other mother who cares for us. Isn’t that how much of society has developed. We tend not to put our whole heart into things.” And he sighed quietly. “Except for sport, old man!” a voice piped up. “Ja, I suppose you’re right that sport has become the new religion. And while sport-madness is so often overdone, there are positives too.” “I love it when my mom comes to watch my matches. And always makes sure that I have clean gear to wear.” Abigail voiced her interest, while fingering her Immaculate heart of Mary medal. “My gran introduced me to the Rosary and to have a really special friendship with Mary. I know she has stood by many people over the years, and hope and pray that she will be my friend forever.”
Reflect, share, act. Scripture. The Lord said to the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head and you shall bruise his heel” The man called his wife’s name Eve because she was the mother of all living. Genesis 3:9-15, 20. Behold your Son. Behold your mother. John 19:25-34
Pope Francis: Mary, the Mother who cared for Jesus, now cares with maternal affection and pain for this wounded world. Just as her pierced heart mourned the death of Jesus, so now she grieves for the sufferings of the crucified poor and for the creatures of this world laid waste by human power. In her glorified body together with the Risen Christ, part of creation has reached the fullness of its beauty. She now understands the meaning of all things and we can ask her to enable us to look at this world with eyes of wisdom. LS241. Pray. Mary, Mother of the Church, pray for us.
May 30. When Ephraim read the Bible story of how the old man Tobit became blind and had to be cared for he felt quite sad. A picture of the young people standing with the blind beggars at street corners around the suburbs did come to mind. He’d been asked to stand and beg once with a blind person and had refused. When his own granny started losing her eyesight and eventually became blind he had a niggling feeling that this was a punishment for him so he volunteered to spendtime with her and actually started enjoying the relationship they were building up as he came and read to her and did a few chores each week.
Reflect, share, act. Scripture For four years I was unable to see. All my kindred were sorry for me and Abilcar took care of me for two years until he went to Elymais. From Tobit 2:9-14. Pope Francis.The larger family should provide love and support to teenage mothers, children without parents, single mothers, persons with disabilities needing particular affection and closeness, young people struggling with addiction, the unmarried, separated or widowed who are alone and the elderly and infirm who lack the support of their children. It should embrace even those who have made a shipwreck of their lives. AL 197. Pray. Mary, Mother of those in need pray for us.
May 31. Sarah was a pretty but shy 15 yearold. She had few friends and usually kept to herself. Trying to become more friendly she decided to attend a class party. Little did she know what was in store for her. Her drink was spiked with a drug and she completely lost all knowledge of what happened next. It was only at school the next week that she discovered that some boys had taken her and photographed her naked body in all kinds of obscene positions and were circulating these. Of course she was absolutely horrified. The only blessing was that she had not been raped. She couldn’t confide in anyone at school, didn’t have any siblings to talk to, but went home in a state of panic and even contemplated committing suicide. Fortunately when her mom came home she was able to extract the story, comfort her and take the necessary steps to report the case. Reflect, share, act. Scripture. When Sarah had gone up to her father’s upper room, she intended to hang herself. But she thought it over and said, “Never shall they reproach my father, saying to him. “You only had one beloved daughter but she hanged herself because of her distress.” From Tobit Chapter 3.
Pope Francis : From a Prayer in Union with Creation in Laudato Si. . “O Lord seize us with your power and light, help us to protect all life, to prepare for a better future, for the coming of your Kingdom of justice, peace, love and beauty. Praise be to you! Amen. Pray. Mary, Mother of the afflicted, pray for us.