23 January 2023

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

‘I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak’ (Ezekiel 34: 16) … part of Rowan Gillespie’s ‘Famine’ memorial on Custom House Quay, Dublin (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 Wednesday 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 with an evening devoted to ‘Climate Unity’ at the Quaker Centre in Milton Keynes at 7:30.

The Climate Crisis is the single biggest issue facing the planet in this century. The Society of Friends has a strong tradition of working for justice through creative action and will help us address the challenge. They will bring people together this evening in a Meeting for Worship in the Quaker tradition, with a mixture of silence, spoken word and song.

‘All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats’ (Matthew 25: 32) … sheep and goats grazing together in a field in Platanias near Rethymnon in Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Day 6: Just as you did it to one of the least of these … you did it to me.


Ezekiel 34: 15-20

I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak.

Matthew 25: 31-40:

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. Meanwhile, in Minnesota, the murder of George Floyd by police officer Derek Chauvin exposed continued racial injustice. Floyd’s cry of ‘I can’t breathe’ was also the cry of many suffering under the weight of both the pandemic and oppression.

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, we must be 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.

Christian Unity:

The prophet Ezekiel describes the Lord God as a shepherd who makes the flock whole by gathering in those who have strayed and binding up those who are injured. 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.


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?’


God of Love,
We thank you for your unending care and love for us.
Help us to sing redemption songs.
Open wide our hearts to receive your love
and to extend your compassion
to the whole of the human family.
We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

‘I was ill and you visited me’ … ‘I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me’ (Matthew 25: 36) … a sculpture by Timothy Schmalz on the steps of Santo Spirito Hospital near the Vatican in Rome (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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 yesterday 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 to be good listeners. May we learn to pay attention and hear what is being said, and so seek to understand.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued Tomorrow

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