Archbishop: Lutherans, Catholics share good news of Christ
This time, it was Archbishop George J. Lucas’ turn.
With a ceremonial knock on the door and a welcoming embrace from his host, the archbishop joined Lutheran Bishop Brian Maas in a demonstration of ecumenical unity at Kountze Memorial Lutheran Church in Omaha Sept. 11.
The joint Catholic-Lutheran prayer service, which attracted 450 people, was the second such event this year commemorating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. The first took place May 1 at St. Cecilia Cathedral in Omaha.
At the earlier service, the archbishop welcomed Bishop Maas, who gave the homily. This time, the archbishop gave the homily. During both services, they shared in prayer and blessing the faithful.
In his homily, Archbishop Lucas stressed the need to focus on the things the two Christian faiths hold in common and meet the challenge of preaching the Gospel in a hostile or indifferent world.
"Our challenge is to present the coming of Jesus Christ into the world as ‘the’ decisive event of all of human history – the event that changes everything," he said.
The love of God is so radical, so powerful, so self-giving, that it has overflowed into human history in a very personal way, the archbishop said.
"Our humanity is now changed forever, and changed at its root because of the coming of Jesus and his presence with us in the church and the world."
Listing examples from Scripture – the apostles Peter, James and John, the Samaritan woman at the well, the man born blind, and others – he spoke of the radical change that comes into people’s lives through Jesus.
So the common challenge, opportunity and blessing, he said "is to choose to let Jesus in and to let him change us, to let that encounter be decisive, so that we may see ourselves and others differently, to see the world in a new way."
"We’ve been given the same Holy Spirit that came on that first Pentecost," the archbishop said. "So let’s pray for one another … to witness to others what the world so desperately needs – the hope that this world-changing event, this living presence of Jesus, is offered to the world through us."
Gregg Wilson, executive director of Catholic Charities in Omaha, and his wife, Shelly, members of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Omaha, said the service was a wonderful opportunity to come together as one.
"Being here at this service, you can see so much similarity between the Catholic faith and the Lutheran faith," Gregg said, "and I think the more opportunities we have to work together, we should seize them."
Shelly said the archbishop’s homily brought tears to her eyes. "He breaks things down to a human level and what’s really important in the eyes of God."
The prayer services are a response to Pope Francis’ suggestion that the 500th anniversary of the Reformation would be an ideal time for Catholics and Lutherans to come together, said Father Ryan Lewis, ecumenical officer for the archdiocese.
"This is the ‘meat and potatoes’ of what’s going to drive Christian unity forward – prayer and focusing on things that are in common without ignoring the differences, but to build trust, build relationships, build love," he said.