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On Christian Unity

2/7/2007 - 6:00 AM PST

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"It Is Not We Who Organize the Unity of the Church"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 7, 2007 (Zenit) - Here is a Vatican translation of the homily Benedict XVI delivered Jan. 25 at vespers. It was the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul and the closing of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

The ceremony, held in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, was attended by representatives of other Christian confessions of Rome, including Orthodox Metropolitan Archbishop Gennadios of Italy; Bishop John Flack, director of the Anglican Communion's Center of Rome; and Pastor Holger Milkau, dean of the Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Italy.

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LITURGY OF VESPERS
ON THE FEAST OF THE CONVERSION OF ST PAUL
FOR THE CONCLUSION OF PRAYER FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY
HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls
Thursday, 25 January 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

During the "Week of Prayer" that will conclude this evening, the common entreaty addressed to the Lord for Christian unity was intensified in the various Churches and Ecclesial Communities across the world. Together, we meditated on the words of Mark's Gospel that have just been proclaimed: "He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak" (Mk 7:37), the biblical theme suggested by the Christian Communities of South Africa.

The situations of racism, poverty, conflict, exploitation, sickness and suffering in which they find themselves because of the impossibility of being able to make themselves understood in their needs, gives rise in them to an acute need to hear the word of God and to speak courageously.

Is not being deaf and mute, that is, being unable either to listen or to speak, a sign of a lack of communion and a symptom of division? Division and the inability to communicate, a consequence of sin, are contrary to God's plan. This year Africa has given us a theme for reflection of great religious and political importance, because the ability "to speak" and "to listen" is an essential condition for building the civilization of love.

The words "He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak" are good news that proclaim the coming of the Kingdom of God and the healing of the inability to communicate and of division. This message is rediscovered in all Jesus' preaching and work. Wherever he went, whether traveling through villages, cities or the countryside, the people "laid the sick in the market places, and besought him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment; and as many as touched it were made well" (Mk 6:56).

The healing of the deaf-mute, on which we have meditated in these days occurred while Jesus, having left the region of Tyre, was making his way to the Sea of Galilee through the so-called "Decapolis", a multi-ethnic and multi-religious district (cf. Mk 7:31), an emblematic situation even in our day.

As elsewhere, in the Decapolis too, they presented a sick man to Jesus, a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment (moghžlalon), begging him to lay his hands upon him because they considered him a man of God.

Jesus took the man aside from the multitude and performed gestures that infer a salvific contact: he put his fingers into his ears, and touched the tongue of the sick man with his own saliva, then, looking up to Heaven, he commanded: "Be opened!". He spoke this command in Aramaic (Ephphatha), in all likelihood the language of the people present and of the deaf-mute himself. The Evangelist translated this term into Greek as (dianožchthēti). The ears of the deaf man were opened, his tongue was released, and "he spoke plainly" (orthōs).

Jesus exhorted them to say nothing about the miracle. But the more he exhorted them, "the more zealously they proclaimed it" (Mk 7:36). And the comment full of wonder of those who had been there recalls the preaching of Isaiah concerning the coming of the Messiah: "He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak" (Mk 7:37).

The first lesson we draw from this biblical episode, also recalled in the rite of Baptism, is that listening, in the Christian perspective, is a priority.

In this regard, Jesus says explicitly: "Blessed ... are those who hear the word of God and keep it" (Lk 11:28). Indeed, to Martha worried about many things, he said that "one thing is needful" (Lk 10:42). And from the context it becomes evident that this "one thing" is the obedient listening to the Word. Therefore, listening to the Word of God is a priority for our ecumenical commitment. Indeed, it is not we who act or who organize the unity of the Church. The Church does not make herself or live of herself, but from the creative Word that comes from the mouth of God.

To listen to the word of God together; to practice the lectio divina of the Bible, that is, reading linked with prayer; letting ...

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