The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity was first celebrated January 18- 25, 1908. Today, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, January 18-25, 2021, invites the whole Christian community throughout the world to pray in communion with the prayer of Jesus “that they all may be one” (John 17:21).
Theme: Abide in My Love...You Shall Bear Much Fruit (cf. John 15:1-17)
“My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit” (John 15:8). We cannot bear fruit on our own. We cannot bear fruit separated from the vine. It is the sap, the life of Jesus flowing through us, that produces fruit. Remaining in Jesus’s love, remaining a branch of the vine, is what allows his life to flow through us. When we listen to Jesus his life flows through us. Jesus invites us to let his word abide in us (John15:7) and then whatever we ask will be done for us. By his word we bear fruit. As persons, as a community, as the entire Church, we wish to unite ourselves to Christ in order to keep his commandment of loving one another as He has loved us (John 15:12).
The image of branches helps believers understand that we are all diverse as individuals, but brought together in the one Vine, who is Christ alive in the Church. It can also point out, in these times of growing ecumenical witness, that the differing expressions of Christian faith are also branches which cannot live on their own and still authentically proclaim the Gospel to all creatures. We preach Christ crucified and risen to a needy world, that the world may have hope. Separately, that “sap” which keeps all the branches healthy, gets stuck in blocked veins of animosity, distrust, bigotry, and ignorance. Only unblocked veins will allow the sap to flow. Only then can all the branches bear much fruit.
Therefore, abiding in Christ’s love, let us love one another. The events of Covid-19 and of 2020 in general were not foreseen in September 2019 when planning for the 2021 celebration of the Week for Christian Unity was done. Human society is reminded that through the struggle of 2020 and the tumultuous events of the first weeks of 2021 we are needier for love, fellowship and support than we have been in generations. So, let the sap flow! Let us bear much fruit.
Prayer: Gracious Lord, we pray for all the members of your holy Church, that all may abide in you and you in them, that they may be one in your love and bear much fruit. We also pray for the world, that all may come to believe in your love for them by the fruit of our witness. We know that our divisions are a source of scandal to your world, and we know that in love we are called to unite as one in the vine and branches. The vine is our Lord Jesus Christ, your son. We are meant to be his branches. Help us we pray, to love, to forgive, to seek justice and to be your prophetic voice in the world. May your grace effect growth of good fruit among us, that our world may realize peace. We ask all this in the name of Jesus, your Son, and in the power of the Holy Spirit, One God for ever and ever. Amen
Blessing: Be one, so that the world may believe! Abide in God’s love, go into the world and bear the fruits of this love. May the God of hope fill us with all joy and peace in faith, so that we may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
(Mostly from materials jointly prepared and published by and the Commission on Faith and Order of the World Council of Churches and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.)