By Dave Armstrong (6-2-07)
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
We come to You today, particularly on behalf of our brothers and sisters in Christ who do not regard us as brothers and sisters in Christ. We know that such disunity grieves the Holy Spirit and how scandalous it is to the observing world, since Your Son commanded us (His disciples) to be one as You and Your Son were one (John 17:11), and that this would cause the world to know that He was the Messiah and Son of God (John 17:21).
Please forgive them their errors in this regard; have mercy on them, and reveal to them the wickedness of Christian disunity. Help them to better understand that the Catholic Church is not what they think it is. Please forgive us, Father, our sins of language and lack of charity and cynicism and for unnecessarily striking back in anger or frustration, when responding to these brothers and sisters. Help us to be more compassionate and loving and gracious, as You are.
Lord, help us all to control our tongues and to have discernment and wisdom to know when humor or satire is proper and necessary (such as when Elijah mocked the false prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel or Your Son's criticisms of the Pharisees or Paul's sarcastic remarks about castration). Forgive us (through the blood of Jesus and Your Holy Spirit) our pride and arrogance and any haughtiness or triumphalism in our presentations of or defense of Catholic truths. Humor is Your gift to us also, but help us to sanctify it and to know when and where to utilize humor in the course of our proclamations and defenses of what we hold dear. We all often fall short in that, Lord. Help us to do better, with Your aid and guidance.
Bless these precious brethren abundantly, O Lord. Reward them for their zeal and desire to serve You and defend Christian truths. We thank You for the work these brothers in Christ do, that is very helpful and edifying, such as refuting the errors of theological liberalism, Mormonism, the radical homosexual movement, fighting for the right to life of preborn children,
against Islam and other errors, and so forth.
Help us, dear Father, to remember that many of us (especially Catholic converts) were also formerly blinded to many aspects of the Catholic Church. Like Paul, we persecuted and misrepresented that which we fought against, with great sincerity and correct motivation, but misguided and hurtful and divisive zeal. We sincerely believed that the Catholic Church was on the wrong side, and a promulgator of darkness and opposed to the gospel of grace. Help us remember that in our occasional exasperation over those who sadly believe the same things today. It is all by Your grace that any of us grasp any of Your truths.
We thank You that these brethren do care enough about truth to stand up and fight for what they believe in. Help them, Father, to see when they are blinded by various biases and environments, to hear when they listen to Catholic explanations, and to grasp what they presently do not comprehend.
Remove from all of us our blind spots, fallacies, errors, stubbornness, and pride. We ask that You bless our brothers and sisters who are most hostile to the Catholic Church (and all of our Christian brethren) with all good things: loyal, trustworthy friends, peace, happiness, freedom from sin and anxiety, the love of family, wisdom, discernment, effectiveness of witness and outreach when they are preaching Your truths, and all other blessed, edifying things.
Help us to remember that Your Son was accused of being demon-possessed, and that Your apostle Paul was persecuted for simply telling the truth. Help us to rejoice when all manner of falsehood is spoken against us, and to never fall into the same error regarding our critics and "enemies".
We pray, Lord, that all Christians can better seek to understand each other, pray for each other, rejoice in the many things we share, and to respectfully discuss those areas where we have honest, sincere disagreements. Don't let any of us fall into the sin of indifference, whereby we no longer think some Christian truth that You have revealed to us is not important enough to defend or to be mocked for holding.
Father, we fervently pray for Christian unity. As Catholics, we believe that our Church is the One True Church that You established. But we understand that not all who are not formally a member of the Catholic Church, are (for many reasons) necessarily deprived of Your grace, or fellowship with You, or of the many endowments of the Holy Spirit and knowledge of truths of Christianity. Quite the contrary. Your grace is not confined to institutional structures (however true or necessary those structures may be, in and of themselves).
Thank You for these brethren, Lord, and all of the many important contributions that they bring to the Body of Christ. We praise You especially for the sacraments of baptism and marriage, shared by these brethren with us.
Thank You for their zeal, their fire and witness, love of the Bible and prayer and fellowship; for their fervent worship and desire to make Your Son Jesus Lord of all of life, for their zeal and commitment to evangelism of the lost, and for their stance on traditional morality, and against the spirit of the age. Thank You for our pro-life separated brethren in Christ. We know that in many ways these brethren put us Catholics to shame. They have so much to teach us, in how to be day-to-day committed disciples of Your Son.
May we learn in these many ways from their praiseworthy examples, and the true and beneficial aspects of these various non-Catholic Christian traditions and ways of life, and we ask that we may also be good witnesses of the Catholic tradition, so that they may see some good thing in us and on our Church as well, by Your entirely undeserved mercy and grace.
Again, I ask for Your blessing, especially on our most hostile brothers and sisters in Christ, who know not what they do, in criticizing the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. Guide and protect them from evil and falsehood, Lord. Lead those who want to follow You, into the fullness of Your paths of truth and righteousness, for Your name's sake (Psalm 23:3), whether it is within the formal boundaries of the Catholic Church or not.
We know that these brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus are sincere and honest and believe what they do with all the passion and commitment that we bring to our own heartfelt doctrinal beliefs. Show all of us what is right and wrong, and true and false. Help us to appreciate each other and to pray for one another, and to (particularly) pray for those who may speak all manner of evil against us, and even to rejoice that they do, and not to return insult with insult (Matthew 5:11-12).
Be with all of us, Lord. We are Your people; miserable and divided and compromised and sinful though we may be. Guide our very footsteps, that we may not slip and fall (Psalm 17:5). Set us upon Your rock (Psalm 27:5). Don't let us fall into the great sin of divisiveness and discord against our brethren in Christ. Help us to guard ourselves, by Your grace, so that deadly poison may not proceed from our tongues (James 3:8). Help us to maintain pure thoughts (Philippians 4:8), and to love everyone around us, as Your Son loved us (John 15:12), lest we be mere clanging cymbals (1 Cor 13:1) or whitewashed tombs (Matthew 23:27).
Especially, we ask that You be with our separated brethren, Lord, and guide them; especially those who think we are not their brothers in Christ. Bless them, reward them for their devotion to You, and have mercy on us.
In Jesus' precious and glorious name, and by the grace made possible by His shed blood on the cross on our behalf; Amen.