December 16, 2022
by Eileen Wirth
Creighton University - Retired
click here for photo and information about the writer

Friday of the Third Week in Advent
Lectionary: 190

Isaiah 56:1-3a, 6-8
Psalms 67:2-3, 5, 7-8
John 5:33-36

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For my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.
Thus says the Lord GOD, who gathers the dispersed of Israel:
Others will I gather to him besides those already gathered.


Every week when we were kids, my sister and I would walk past the local Methodist Church enroute to the public library where we would check out our allowed three books. I used to wonder what went on in this forbidden building.

Forbidden? It was a house of prayer populated by good people from my rural town. But we Catholics debated about whether it was okay to attend even a wedding or a funeral at a Protestant church lest we show our approval of heretics.

The more sensible people opted for weddings and funerals but nothing as dangerous as a Sunday service. Some people would not attend weddings where one of the partners was a Catholic marrying “outside the Church.”

Then came the miracle of Pope John XXIII where we learned that our heretical neighbors were our “separated brethren” whom we should embrace.

Much like today’s wonderful passage from Isaiah, we learned that God’s house was a “house of prayer for all peoples” where he gathered people of many types in addition to the “already gathered” which we assumed meant us.

I thought of those treks past the Methodist Church many times during the 1970’s when I was a religion reporter covering the inspiring social and racial justice work being done by Nebraska Methodists. I interviewed Methodist ministers on fire with the Gospel and loved the way everyone joined in singing “Amazing Grace” at the end of their annual state meetings. Of course, “Amazing Grace” is a Methodist hymn which we have happily adopted along with other classic Protestant hymns like “How Great Thou Art.”

What an improvement our new expanded “house of prayer” was! I covered the consecration of two Episcopal bishops in our beautiful St. Cecilia’s Cathedral because it was larger than Trinity Episcopal Cathedral.  Creighton’s Jesuits especially embraced such outreach. Our campus even has a Muslim prayer room.

Now Pope Francis is discussing a common date for Easter with Orthodox Christians. Wonderful! It’s an important gesture of outreach and unity.

Thank you, Pope John, for tearing down the foolish walls with which we “protected” ourselves from other people of faiths in God’s universal house of prayer. Surely God wants to gather us all in love, especially during this sacred season.

A blessed Christmas to all!

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