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A Report of the Visit of Brian Pierce, OP (Province of St Martin de Porres, USA. Former Promoter of the Nuns of the Dominican Order) and Timothy Radcliffe OP (Province of England. Former Master of the Dominican Order) to Iraq
Our brothers and Sisters in Iraq

At the invitation of fr. Amir Jaje OP, the Vicar of the Arabic Vicariate of the Province of France, we made a visit to Iraq, from January 8th to 16th. We are very aware of how superficial is our understanding of this complex and beautiful country and its suffering, but even so we would like to share what we have heard and seen, the hope that our brethren and sisters keep alive, and what we can do to support them. Please forgive any inaccuracies.

- See more at: http://www.op.org/en/content/our-brothers-and-sisters-iraq#sthash.kmkmRcQ9.ev5FHqNQ.dpuf

 

Resources for

THE WEEK OF PRAYER FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY

and throughout the year 2015

Jesus said to her: "Give me to drink"

(John 4:7)

25-Sunday2nd

BIBLICAL REFLECTIONS AND PRAYERS FOR THE EIGHT DAYS


DAY 8

WITNESS

Many believed because of the woman’s testimony (John 4:39)

Exodus 3:13-15

Moses at the Burning Bush

Psalm 30

The Lord restores us to life

Romans 10:14-17

"How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!"

John 4:27-30.39-40

Many believed because of the woman’s testimony

Commentary

With her heart transformed, the Samaritan woman goes out in mission. She announces to her people that she has found the Messiah. Many believed in Jesus "because of the woman’s witness" (John 4:39). The force of her witness stems from the transformation of her life caused by her encounter with Jesus. Thanks to her attitude of openness, she recognised in that stranger "a spring of water welling up to eternal life" (Jn 4:14)

Mission is a key element of Christian faith. Every Christian is called to announce the name of the Lord. Pope Francis told missionaries, "wherever you may go, it would do you well to think that the Spirit of God always gets there ahead of us". Mission is not proselytism. Those who truly announce Jesus approach others in loving dialogue, open to mutual learning, and respecting difference. Our mission requires us to learn to drink from the living water without taking hold of the well. The well does not belong to us. Rather, we draw life from the well, the well of living water which is given by Christ.

Our mission must be a work both of word and witness. We seek to live out what we proclaim. The late Brazilian Archbishop Helder Camara, once said that many have become atheists because they have become disillusioned by people of faith who do not practice what they preach. The witness of the woman led her community to believe in Jesus because her brothers and sisters saw coherence between her words and her own transformation.

If our word and witness is authentic, the world will hear and believe. "How are they to believe if they have not heard?" (Rom 10:14).

Questions

  1. What is the relationship between unity and mission?

  2. Do you know people in your community whose life story is a witness to unity?

Prayer

God, spring of living water,

Make of us witnesses of unity through both our words and our lives. Help us to understand that we are not the owners of the well, And give us the wisdom to welcome the same grace in one another.

Transform our hearts and our lives

So that we might be genuine bearers of the Good News.

And lead us always to the encounter with the other,

As an encounter with you.

We ask this in the name of your Son Jesus Christ,

In the unity of the Holy Spirit.

Amen.

 

Resources for

THE WEEK OF PRAYER FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY

and throughout the year 2015

Jesus said to her: "Give me to drink"

(John 4:7)

24-Saturday

BIBLICAL REFLECTIONS AND PRAYERS FOR THE EIGHT DAYS

DAY 7

TESTIMONY

"Give me to drink" (John 4:7)

Numbers 20:1-11

The Israelites at Meribah

Psalm 119:10-20

"I will not forget your word"

Romans 15:2-7

"May God…grant you to live in harmony with one another"

John 4:7-15

"Give me to drink"

Commentary

Christians should be confident that encountering and exchanging experiences with the other, even other religious traditions, can change us and help us to reach into the depths of the well. Approaching those who are strangers to us with the desire to drink from their well, opens to us the "wonders of God" that we proclaim.

In the wilderness God’s people were without water and God sent Moses and Aaron to bring water forth from the rock. In the same way God often meets our needs through others. As we call upon the Lord in our need, like the Samaritan asking Jesus, "Sir, give me this water," perhaps the Lord has already answered our prayers by putting into the hands of our neighbours that for which we ask. And so we need to turn also to them, and ask, "Give me to drink."

Sometimes the answer to our need is already in the life and goodwill of the people around us. From the Guarany people of Brazil we learn that in their language there is no equivalent word for the term "religion" as separate from the rest of life. The expression usually used literally means "our good way of being" ("ñande reko katu"). This expression refers to the whole cultural system, which includes religion. Religion, therefore, is part of the Guarany cultural system, as well as their way of thinking and being (teko). It relates to all that improves and develops the community and leads to its "good way of being" (teko katu). The Guarany people remind us that Christianity was first called "The Way" (Acts 9:2). "The Way," or "our good way of being" is God’s way of bringing harmony to all parts of our lives.

Questions

  1. How has your understanding and experience of God been enriched by the encounter with other Christians?

  2. What can Christian communities learn from indigenous wisdom and other religious traditions in your region?

Prayer

God of life, who cares for all creation, and calls us to justice and peace,

may our security not come from arms, but from respect.

May our force not be of violence, but of love.

May our wealth not be in money, but in sharing.

May our path not be of ambition, but of justice.

May our victory not be from vengeance, but in forgiveness.

May our unity not be in the quest of power, but in vulnerable witness to do your will.

Open and confident, may we defend the dignity of all creation, sharing, today and forever, the bread of solidarity, justice and peace.

This we ask in the name of Jesus, your holy Son, our brother, who, as victim of our violence, even from the heights of the cross, gave forgiveness to us all.

Amen.

(Adapted from a prayer from an ecumenical conference in Brazil, calling for an end to poverty as the first step on the path to peace through justice)



 

Resources for

THE WEEK OF PRAYER FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY

and throughout the year 2015

Jesus said to her: "Give me to drink"

(John 4:7)

23-Friday

BIBLICAL REFLECTIONS AND PRAYERS FOR THE EIGHT DAYS


DAY 6

TESTIMONY

Jesus said: "The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life" (John 4:14)

Exodus 2:15-22

Moses at the well of Midian

Psalm 91

The song of those who take refuge in the Lord

1 John 4:16-21

Perfect love casts out fear

John 4:11-15

"A spring of water welling up to eternal life"

Commentary

The dialogue that begins with Jesus asking for water becomes a dialogue in which Jesus promises water. Later in this same gospel Jesus will again ask for a drink. "I thirst," he says from the cross, and from the cross Jesus becomes the promised fountain of water which flows from his pierced side. We receive this water, this life from Jesus, in baptism, and it becomes a water, a life that wells up within us to be given and shared with others.

Here is the witness of a Brazilian woman who has drunk from this water and in whom this water becomes a spring:

Sister Romi, a nurse from Campo Grande, was a pastor in the Pentecostal tradition. One Sunday night, all alone in a shack, in Romi’s neighbourhood a sixteen year old indigenous girl called Semei gave birth to a baby boy. She was found lying on the floor and bleeding. Sister Romi took her to the hospital. Enquiries were made – where was Semei’s family? They were found, but they did not want to know. Semei and her child had no home to go to. Sister Romi took them into her own modest home. She did not know Semei, and prejudice towards indigenous people is great in Campo Grande. Semei continued to have health problems, but Sister Romi’s great generosity brought forth further generosity from her neighbours.

Another new mother, a Catholic called Veronica, breastfed Semei’s child as she was unable to do so. Semei named her son Luke Nathanial and in time they were able to move away from the city to a farm, but she did not forget the kindness of Sister Romi and her neighbours.

The water that Jesus gives, the water that Sister Romi received in baptism, became in her a spring of water and an offer of life to Semei and her child. Prompted by her witness, this same baptismal water became a spring, a fountain, in the lives of Romi’s neighbours. The water of baptism springing into life becomes an ecumenical witness of Christian love in action, a foretaste of the eternal life which Jesus promises.

Concrete gestures like these practiced by ordinary people are what we need in order to grow in fellowship. They give witness to the Gospel and relevance to ecumenical relations.

Questions

  1. How do you interpret Jesus’ words that through him we may become "a spring of water welling up to eternal life" (John 4:14)?

  2. Where do you see Christian people being springs of living water for you and for others?

  3. Which are the situations in public life to which the churches should speak with a single voice in order to be springs of living water?

Prayer

Triune God,

following the example of Jesus,

make us witnesses to your love.

Grant us to become instruments of justice, peace and solidarity.

May your Spirit move us towards concrete actions that lead to unity.

May walls be transformed into bridges.

This we pray in the name of Jesus Christ in the unity of the Holy Spirit.

Amen.



 

Resources for

THE WEEK OF PRAYER FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY

and throughout the year 2015

Jesus said to her: "Give me to drink"

(John 4:7)

22-Thursday

BIBLICAL REFLECTIONS AND PRAYERS FOR THE EIGHT DAYS

DAY 5

ANNUNCIATION

You have no bucket and the well is deep (John 4:11)

Genesis 46:1-7

God tells Jacob not to be afraid of going down to Egypt

Psalm 133

How good it is when kindred live together in unity

Acts 2:1-11

The day of Pentecost

John 4:7-15

"You have no bucket and the well is deep"

Commentary

Jesus needed help. After a long walk, fatigue strikes. Exhausted in the heat of noon, he feels hungry and thirsty (Jn 4:6). Furthermore, Jesus is a stranger; it is he who is in a foreign territory and the well belongs to the woman’s people. Jesus is thirsty and, as the Samaritan woman points out, he has no bucket to draw water. He needs water, he needs her help: everybody needs help!

Many Christians believe that they alone have all the answers and they need no help from anyone else. We lose a lot if we maintain this perspective. None of us can reach the depths of the well of the divine and yet faith demands that we delve deeper into the mystery. We cannot do this in isolation. We need the help of our Christian brothers and sisters. Only then can we reach into the depths of the mystery of God.

A common point in our faith, regardless of the church to which we belong, is that God is mystery beyond our comprehension. The search for Christian unity brings us to the recognition that no community has all the means to reach into the deep waters of the divine. We need water, we need help: everybody needs help! The more we grow in unity, share our buckets and join the pieces of our ropes, the deeper we delve into the well of the divine.

Brazilian indigenous traditions teach us to learn from the wisdom of the elderly, and at the same time, from the curiosity and innocence of infants. When we are ready to accept that we do need each other, we become like children, open to learn. And that’s how God’s Kingdom opens for us (Mt 18:3). We must do as Jesus did. We must take the initiative to enter into a foreign land, where we become a stranger, and cultivate the desire to learn from that which is different.

Questions

  1. Do you remember situations in which your church has helped another church or has been helped by another church?

  2. Are there reservations from the part of your church to accept help from another church? How can these reservations be overcome?

Prayer

God, spring of the Living water,

help us to understand that the more we join together the pieces of our ropes,

the more deeply our buckets reach into your divine waters!

Awaken us to the truth that the gifts of the other,

are an expression of your unfathomable mystery.

And make us sit at the well together

to drink from your water

which gathers us in unity and peace.

We ask this in the name of your son Jesus Christ,

who asked the Samaritan woman to give him water for his thirst.

Amen.



 

Resources for

THE WEEK OF PRAYER FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY

and throughout the year 2015

Jesus said to her: "Give me to drink"

(John 4:7)

21-Wednesday

BIBLICAL REFLECTIONS AND PRAYERS FOR THE EIGHT DAYS


DAY 4

RENUNCIATION

Then the woman left her water jar (John 4:28)

Genesis 11:31-12:4

God promises to make Abram a great nation and a blessing

Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd

Acts 10:9-20

"What God has made clean, you must not call profane"

John 4:25-28

Then the woman left her water jar

Commentary

The encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman shows that dialogue with the different, the stranger, the unfamiliar, can be life-giving. If the woman had followed the rules of her culture, she would have left when she saw Jesus approaching the well. That day, for some reason, she did not follow the established rules. Both she and Jesus broke with conventional patterns of behaviour. Through this breaking forth they showed us again that it is possible to build new relationships.

As Jesus completes the work of the Father, the Samaritan woman, for her part, leaves her water jar, meaning that she could go further in her life; she was not confined to the role society imposed on her. In John’s Gospel she is the first person to proclaim Jesus as the Messiah. "Breaking forth" is a necessity for those who desire to grow stronger and wiser in their faith.

That the Samaritan woman leaves behind her water jar signals that she has found a greater gift, a greater good than the water she came for, and a better place to be within her community. She recognizes the greater gift that this Jewish stranger, Jesus, is offering her.

It is difficult for us to find value, to recognize as good, or even holy, that which is unknown to us and that which belongs to another. However, recognizing the gifts that belong to the other as good and as holy is a necessary step towards the visible unity we seek.

Questions

  1. Meeting Jesus demands that we leave behind our water jars, what are those water jars for us?

  2. What are the main difficulties that prevent us from doing so?

Prayer

Loving God,

help us to learn from Jesus and the Samaritan

that the encounter with the other opens for us new horizons of grace.

Help us to break through our limits and embrace new challenges.

Help us to go beyond fear in following the call of your Son.

In the name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.



 

Resources for

THE WEEK OF PRAYER FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY

and throughout the year 2015

Jesus said to her: "Give me to drink"

(John 4:7)

20-Tuesday

BIBLICAL REFLECTIONS AND PRAYERS FOR THE EIGHT DAYS


DAY 3

DENUNCIATION II

"I have no husband" (John 4:17)

2 Kings 17:24-34

Samaria conquered by Assyria

Psalms 139:1-12

"O Lord, you have searched me and you know me"

Romans 7:1-4

"You have died to the law through the body of Christ"

John 4:16-19

"I have no husband"

Commentary

The Samaritan woman answers Jesus, "I have no husband." The topic of conversation is now about the married life of the woman. There is a shift in terms of the content of their dialogue – from water to husband. "Go, call your husband and come back" (Jn 4:16), but Jesus knows the woman has had five husbands, and the man she has now is not her husband.

What is this woman’s situation? Did her husbands ask for divorce? Was she a widow? Did she have children? These questions arise naturally when dealing with this narrative. However, it seems that Jesus was interested in another dimension of the woman’s situation, he acknowledges the woman’s life but remains open to her, to encounter her. Jesus does not insist on a moral interpretation of her answer but seems to want to lead her beyond. And as a result the woman’s attitude towards Jesus changes. At this point, the obstacles of cultural and religious differences fade into the background in order to give space to something much more important: an encounter in trust. Jesus’ behaviour in this moment allows us to open new windows and raise further questions: questions that challenge the attitudes that denigrate and marginalize women; and questions about the differences which we allow to stand in the way of the unity we seek and for which we pray.

Questions

  1. What are the sinful structures that we can identify in our own communities?

  2. What is the place and the role of women in our churches?

  3. What can our churches do to prevent violence and to overcome violence directed against women and girls?

Prayer

O you who are beyond all things,

how could we call you by any other name?

What song could be sung for you?

No word can express you.

What Spirit can perceive you?

No intelligence can comprehend you.

You alone are inexpressible;

all that is said has come from you.

You alone are unknowable;

all that is thought has come from you.

All creatures proclaim you, those who speak and those who are dumb.

Every one desires you, everyone sighs and aspires after you.

All that exists prays to you,

and every being that can contemplate your universe raises to you a silent hymn.

Have pity on us, you who are beyond all things.

How could we call you by any other name?

Amen.



 

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