January 18-25 is the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. This year’s observance is especially important because it marks the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. The theme of the week this year is “Reconciliation—The Love of Christ Compels Us.” The theme finds its origins in Pope Francis’ 2013 Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”) when he used the quote: “The Love of Christ Compels Us” from St. Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians 5:14-20.
This biblical text emphasizes that reconciliation is a gift from God, intended for the entire creation. “God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.” As a result of God’s action, those who have been reconciled in Christ are called in turn to proclaim this reconciliation in word and deed: “The Love of Christ Compels Us.” In choosing this theme, all Christians are encouraged to take steps toward reconciliation.
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity asks that every Christian highlight what we have in common rather than the issues that still divide us. If we work together in friendship despite our theological differences, we can bear witness to the love of Jesus and break down walls of division.
Our country and our world are in desperate need of reconciliation. There are so many divisions marked by hatred and violence, discrimination and terrorism. Reconciliation is not the work of a month or two; it is the ongoing mission of the Church, carrying out the mission of Christ himself.