SCRANTON – The Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, joined several other faith leaders for an Ecumenical Celebration of the Word of God on Jan. 19, 2022, at the Cathedral of Saint Peter.
The prayer service was the Diocese of Scranton’s keynote event for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2022. The theme for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity was, “We saw the star in the East, and we came to worship him” (cf. Matthew 2:2).
The theme, taken from the second chapter of the Gospel according to Matthew, is the Epiphany. Each year in January, the Church recalls the visit of the Magi to Bethlehem, highlighting God’s invitation to all of humanity to a new covenant in the Incarnation of Christ.
“The story of the magi, who are the last to arrive in Bethlehem in Matthew’s infancy narrative, carries with it all sorts of rich imagery even as their arrival in Bethlehem triggered the unleashing of evil and hatred aimed at the newborn Christ and his mission of mercy and salvation,” Bishop Bambera noted during his sermon. “Their arrival and welcome also revealed something else; Jesus’ message of hope was extended to all peoples through his self-sacrificing and unconditional love.”
More than ever before, the bishop said people need to embrace the message proclaimed in Scripture.
“Epiphany celebrates God’s all-inclusive love manifested in the life of his Son, Jesus, something integrally woven into the work of ecumenism,” he added. “Sadly, as with some of the earliest followers of Jesus, some of us still act as if God is our sole possession. Some still attempt to place parameters around where God is able to work, with whom and how.”
In the great prayer from the seventeenth chapter of Saint John’s Gospel, Jesus asks four times that his disciples be “one,” as he and his Father are one.
Bishop Bambera suggested three areas that can help fulfill Jesus’ prayer for unity.
First, the bishop said the work of official dialogues between Christian churches must continue.
“In the Catholic Church alone, when I completed my term as Chair of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, I was privileged to have overseen a dozen active dialogues in the United States alone, with more on the horizon,” the bishop explained.
The second area the bishop focused on was encouraging people to participate in the Synod on Synodality.
“Because a synodal Church is a Church which listens, we have been challenged to recognize that this listening should concern the totality of those who are honored by the name of Christian,” Bishop Bambera explained.
The third and final area that Bishop Bambera emphasized is our common witness to the love of Christ within us, which is poured forth in service to the least among us.