Opening our hearts to the vulnerable.

By Msgr. John Wynand Katende

The first Friday of March is observed as annual World Day of Prayer (WDP) since 1927. It is a global ecumenical movement led by Christian women in prayer and action for justice and peace. WDP is the largest ecumenical movement, comprising of more than 120 countries worldwide, and is supported by Catholic and Protestant, Orthodox and Evangelical churches.

When Christians of different denominations and affiliations meet together for prayer, they realize unity in a spiritual sense. It is known a spiritual ecumenism. Although led by women, WDP belongs to all who believe in the power of prayer to change things. It may be acknowledged as God’s gift to the Church through women of faith.

WDP encourages women and all of us to embrace a vision of Christian unity as being very essential to the exercise of the Church’s mission to save the world. Jesus made Christian unity as essential condition for the world to believe in his messianic mission (John 17:21).

Through WDP women learn the great lesson of praying with, rather than for, their sisters of other races and nations. This enriches their experience and releases the power which must be theirs if they are to accomplish tasks expected of them.

The theme for this year, “Come, for everything is now ready”, is derived from the gospel of Luke 14:15-24. It reveals the open heart of God to all. The Old Testament background for this parable is found in Isaiah 25:6-9: “And the Lord of hosts will prepare a lavish banquet for all peoples on this mountain; a banquet of aged wine, choice pieces with marrow, and refined, aged wine.”

Jesus’s message of love is radical and it is expected that his disciples will radically put the teaching into practice. The Banquet is free, the invitation is by grace, but acceptance carries with it responsibility. Discipleship challenges one to be open-hearted like the Master.

God turns no-one away, and nor should we! We are invited to ponder upon God’s invitation which is open to all people, whatever their race, religion, gender, sexuality, age or handicap. We primarily respond to this invitation by coming together to praise, thank, and proclaim the kingdom of unconditional love.

This year’s WDP invites us to be in solidarity with the women in Slovenia. Their stories are the voices of the refugees and migrant workers, the mothers, the grandmothers, the

wives, and the Roma people. Roma people have a long history of living in Europe with a presence recorded from the 13th Century. They are now widely recognized as one of the Europe’s largest minority groups with an estimate of more than 10 million. Their stories reflect the political and economic situation from a socialist-communist state to today.

This WDP the women of Slovenia invite us to pray with them. While listening to their stories, we ask for forgiveness for being silent in the face of injustice, and we pray that God opens our hearts to compassion and understanding. We pledge to mutually support one another on the path of freedom, justice, and peace.

This WDP we thank God for giving us the opportunity to share and feast on his word in an ecumenical setting. We pray that we will have the wisdom to continue living in the moment of the feast with our hearts ready to receive the invitation of Jesus, regardless of our differences, and to open the heart to those whom we know nothing about.

St. Mother Teresa of Kolkata sets a very good example of today’s message. She lived a life of sacrifice in an effort to uplift society. She founded the Missionaries of Charity to care for the poorest of the poor; all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared for throughout society.

The coming Lenten season offers us a grand opportunity to open our hearts to the vulnerable, the refugees, the lame, the blind, the crippled, the unborn, the albinos, the sinners, and the poor and offer them divine hope, love, and joy.