October 29, 2017

Today we commemorate Reformation Sunday. This is an annual celebration all over the world, on the Sunday closest to October 31st, that Protestant churches celebrate as the beginning of the Reformation. Since the Second Vatican Council, Reformation Sunday has also been an occasion for Catholics and Protestants to come together and give thanks for the healing that has taken place in recent years, and to pray for more progress on the road to unity.

This year is an especially significant year as it marks the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s posting of his 95 Thesis (“Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences”) on the door of the castle church of All Saints in Wittenberg, Germany, on October 31, 1517.

On October 31, 2016, Pope Francis and Bishop Mounib Younan, President of the Lutheran World Federation, signed a “Joint Statement on the Occasion of the Joint Catholic-Lutheran Commemoration of the Reformation.” As we commemorate Reformation Day with our Lutheran brothers and sisters this Sunday, with events at St. Andrew Lutheran and St. Joseph, the words of Bishop Younan and Pope Francis can put our local commemoration in a wider context. Following are quotes from the joint statement.

“With this joint statement, we express joyful gratitude to God for this moment… as we begin the year commemorating the five hundredth anniversary of the Reformation. Fifty years of sustained and fruitful ecumenical dialogue between Catholics and Lutherans have helped us overcome many differences, and have deepened our mutual understanding and trust. At the same time, we have drawn closer to one another through joint service to our neighbors - often in circumstances of suffering and persecution. Through dialogue and shared witness we are no longer strangers. Rather, we have learned that what unites us is greater than what divides us.”

“While we are profoundly thankful for the spiritual and theological gifts received through the Reformation, we also confess and lament before Christ that Lutherans and Catholics have wounded the visible unity of the Church…”

“…As we move beyond those episodes in history that burden us, we pledge to witness together to God’s merciful grace, made visible in the crucified and risen Christ. Aware that the way we relate to one another shapes our witness to the Gospel, we commit ourselves to further growth in communion rooted in Baptism, as we seek to remove the remaining obstacles that hinder us from attaining full unity. Christ desires that we be one, so that the world may believe (cf. John 17:21).”

“Many members of our communities yearn to receive the Eucharist at one table, as the concrete expression of full unity. We experience the pain of those who share their whole lives, but cannot share God’s redeeming presence at the Eucharistic table. We acknowledge our joint pastoral responsibility to respond to the spiritual thirst and hunger of our people to be one in Christ. We long for this wound in the Body of Christ to be healed…”

“…We pray to God that Catholics and Lutherans will be able to witness together to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, inviting humanity to hear and receive the good news of God’s redeeming action…God summons us to be close to all those who yearn for dignity, justice, peace and reconciliation…We urge Lutherans and Catholics to work together to welcome the stranger, to come to the aid of those forced to flee because of war and persecution, and to defend the rights of refugees and those who seek asylum…”

May we take these words to heart, and may our gathering this Sunday with our brothers and sisters from St. Andrew’s help us to deepen our relationship and our common witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  

God Bless,
Fr. Gary Lazzeroni