“From you shall come forth… one who is to rule Israel” (Mi 5:2-5a, 7-8).
“Do not be afraid, little flock” (Lk 12:32-40).
From the small and lowly city of Bethlehem, the Lord, the Son of God, made his entrance into the world. From the womb of a humble village girl, he took human flesh, and chose to live his humanity in obscurity and simplicity. Out of the obscurity has come a ruler, the shepherd and guardian of our souls. And though he is our shepherd, he became the Lamb who carried the sins of the world that we might be healed.
Bethlehem, a name that means the “house of bread,” can be a metaphor for the church that brings to the world the bread of life. The church continues to be a place where the weak, the powerless and the small are welcome because in her each has a place.
In the midst of political turmoil, Christians, like others in the Middle East, suffer persecution and experience a sense of marginalization, living in fear of violence and injustice. In Christ they find a model of humility, and from him they hear a call to overcome divisions and to be united in one flock. Though they are few, in their suffering they follow in the steps of the Lamb who suffered for the world’s salvation. Though few, they are sure in hope, lacking nothing.
Good Shepherd, the fragmentation of the little flock grieves your Holy Spirit. Forgive our weak efforts and slowness in pursuit of your will. Give us wise shepherds after your own heart who recognize the sin of division, and who will lead the churches with righteousness and holiness, to unity in you. We ask you, Lord, to hear our prayer. Amen.
Drawn from the resources for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity on the website of the Graymoor Ecumenical & Interreligious Institute.