24 January 2023

Praying through the Week of
Christian Unity and with USPG:
24 January 2023

‘He has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things’ (Luke 1: 51-53) … an image of the Virgin Mary in a quiet corner at the High Leigh Conference Centre in Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Christmas is not a season of 12 days, despite the popular Christmas song. Christmas is a 40-day season that lasts from Christmas Day (25 December) to Candlemas or the Feast of the Presentation (2 February).

Throughout the 40 days of this Christmas Season, I have been reflecting in these ways:

1, Reflecting on a seasonal or appropriate poem;

2, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary, ‘Pray with the World Church.’

However, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity began last Wednesday (18 January 2023), and until tomorrow my morning reflections look at this year’s readings and prayers.

Later today, Churches Together in Milton Keynes continues to mark the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity this evening at 7:30 in Christ Church, Stantonbury, with an evening billed as ‘Any Questions?’

This has been a powerful week with great music, challenging ideas and powerful speakers. But, where next for ecumenical mission in Milton Keynes? This evening provides an opportunity to ask the big (or silly) questions? There may be a few answers, but this will definitely be a chance to shape the next steps.

The panellists include: the Right Revd Revd Alan Wilson, Bishop of Buckingham; Dorel Hayes, the Principal Officer for Ecumenical Development and Relations, Churches Together in England; Dr Fidèle Mutwarasibo, Lecturer in Work-Based Learning in the Faculty of Business and Law and Director of the Open University Centre for Voluntary Sector Leadership – Fidèle was a parishioner in Whitechurch Parish, Rathfarnham (Dublin), when I was a NSM curate there after ordination, and he has been a commissioner on the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission; and the Revd Tim Norwood, Area Dean of Milton Keynes in the Diocese of Oxford and chair of Churches Together in Milton Keynes, who led Choral Evensong in Saint Mary and Saint Giles Church, Stony Stratford, last Thursday.

The words of the canticle Magnificat carved on the wooden screen at the west end of the monastic church in Mount Melleray Abbey, Cappoquin, Co Waterford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Day 7: ‘What is now does not have to be’


Job 5: 11-16:

So the poor have hope, and injustice shuts its mouth.

Luke 1: 46-55:

He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly.


Job was living the good life and unexpectedly suffered the loss of his livestock and servants, and endured the devastation of the death of his children. He was suffering in his mind, body, and spirit. 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 11 April 2021 in Minnesota, Daunte Wright, a 20-year old, unarmed African-American man, was fatally shot by a white police officer during a routine traffic stop. This incident occurred during the Derek Chauvin trial for the killing of George Floyd.

It is easy to feel hopeless when we are once again reminded that we live in a fractured society that does not fully recognise, honour, and protect the human dignity and freedom of all human beings. According to Father 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 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, to love what, whom and how God loves, and to express this love in our actions.

Christian Unity:

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, particularly if those communities are small. 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 each of our Christian brothers and sisters as He values them.


How can we come together in Christ with hope and faith that God will ‘shut injustice’s mouth?’


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.

‘They meet with darkness in the daytime, and grope at noonday as in the night’ (Job 5: 14) … at night in Cosgrove, Northamptonshire (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

USPG Prayer Diary:

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity began last Wednesday (18 January), and the theme in the USPG Prayer Diary last week was the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. The theme this week is the ‘Myanmar Education Programme.’ This theme was introduced on Sunday with a reflection from a report from the Church of the Province of Myanmar.

The USPG Prayer Diary invites us to pray today in these words:

Let us pray for religious minorities persecuted for their faith. May their human rights be recognised and all forms of discrimination cease.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued Tomorrow

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