Speak Lord: Come Holy Spirit

Papal visit

The second reading at Mass on Sunday is from St Paul’s letter to the Ephesians

May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give you a spirit of wisdom and perception of what is revealed, to bring you to full knowledge of him. May he enlighten the eyes of your mind so that you can see what hope his call holds for you, what rich glories he has promised the saints will inherit and how infinitely great is the power that he has exercised for us believers. This you can tell from the strength of his power at work in Christ, when he used it to raise him from the dead and to make him sit at his right hand, in heaven, far above every Sovereignty, Authority, Power, or Domination, or any other name that can be named not only in this age but also in the age to come. He has put all things under his feet and made him, as the ruler of everything, the head of the Church; which is his body, the fullness of him who fills the whole creation.

Ephesians 1:17-23

  • An odd question, maybe, but what do you not know of what God has revealed? Or what do you find it difficult to believe in what you know has been revealed?
  • What helps you deepen your knowledge and belief/love in God?
  • What draws you from belief in God?

The image is of the Holy Spirit, and is, I believe an image produced by Turvey Abbey in preparation for the visit to the UK of Pope Benedict.

In these days before Pentecost, how good to find ourselves beneficiaries of this prayer of Paul that his readers receive the spirit of wisdom…

To make his prayer your own you might like to join the Church in her novena of prayer for Pentecost. Don’t worry about joining late, someone somewhere, is sure to have been praying for you up to now…

You can find the Novena at http://wp.me/p4lRyj-jB



Speak Lord – God up there? Or within? Or ‘ground of our being’?

Ascension and Pentecost

Back in the ’60s, argument about the where, how and who of God were all the rage.

John Robinson in Honest to God, published in 1963, called contemporary Christians to a more sophisticated way of thinking of God, and speaking of God. It was unworthy of God, he argued, in a scientific age, to naively speak of heaven as up there, or God as up there.

No such problems seem to preoccupy the author of the psalm we sing on Sunday.

God goes up with shouts of joy; the Lord goes up with trumpet blast.

All peoples, clap your hands,
cry to God with shouts of joy!
For the Lord, the Most High, we must fear,
great king over all the earth.

God goes up with shouts of joy;
the Lord goes up with trumpet blast.
Sing praise for God, sing praise,
sing praise to our king, sing praise.

God is king of all the earth,
sing praise with all your skill.
God is king over the nations;
God reigns on his holy throne.

God goes up with shouts of joy; the Lord goes up with trumpet blast.

Psalm 46:2-3,6-9

  • Where is the God to whom you pray?
  • For what do you praise him?
  • What skills do you have that you use to praise and glorify God?

Image found at http://blog.logos.com/wp-content/uploads/Christs-Ascension.jpg

Speak Lord – Don’t stare at the skies, live: live well, on the earth.


As we begin to prepare for Sunday, the feast of the Ascension, it is a time for taking stock, of noting what responsibilities have been handed on to us.

Again, the first reading comes from the Acts of the Apostles, indeed is the very first sentences of that book…

In my earlier work, Theophilus, I dealt with everything Jesus had done and taught from the beginning until the day he gave his instructions to the apostles he had chosen through the Holy Spirit, and was taken up to heaven. He had shown himself alive to them after his Passion by many demonstrations: for forty days he had continued to appear to them and tell them about the kingdom of God. When he had been at table with them, he had told them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for what the Father had promised. ‘It is’ he had said ‘what you have heard me speak about: John baptised with water but you, not many days from now, will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.’

Now having met together, they asked him, ‘Lord, has the time come? Are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He replied, ‘It is not for you to know times or dates that the Father has decided by his own authority, but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and then you will be my witnesses not only in Jerusalem but throughout Judaea and Samaria, and indeed to the ends of the earth.’

As he said this he was lifted up while they looked on, and a cloud took him from their sight. They were still staring into the sky when suddenly two men in white were standing near them and they said, ‘Why are you men from Galilee standing here looking into the sky? Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven, this same Jesus will come back in the same way as you have seen him go there.’

Acts 1:1-11

  • Who last witnessed Christ’s power and glory to you?
  • To who did you last minister his power and glory?

With the Ascension Jesus bodily ministry on earth comes to an end, or at least his direct bodily ministry. His Body remains present as the Church and her members.

The prayer ascribed to St Teresa of Avilla makes this point with great simplicity and power:

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

Teresa of Avila (1515–1582)

  • How can you minister the love and compassion of Christ today?

Image of the Ascension is taken from the Rosary Triptych by Arthur Fleischman (c) the Fleischman Foundation. Photograph (c) Allen Morris.

Taste and See: Healing and newness, then and now?

Ivory of the Baptism of Jesus

The first reading on Sunday came from Acts of the Apostles. It was a reading about a very specific set of people at a very particular time.

Now it speaks to us, who are in many ways very different, and live at a very different time.

What did we hear on Sunday? What do we hear today?

Philip went to a Samaritan town and proclaimed the Christ to them. The people united in welcoming the message Philip preached, either because they had heard of the miracles he worked or because they saw them for themselves. There were, for example, unclean spirits that came shrieking out of many who were possessed, and several paralytics and cripples were cured. As a result there was great rejoicing in that town.

When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, and they went down there, and prayed for the Samaritans to receive the Holy Spirit, for as yet he had not come down on any of them: they had only been baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

Acts 8:5-8,14-17

In the Acts of the Apostles, Philip’s proclamation of Christ, the acceptance of the word of God brings healing. However in this episode from Acts, that is only the start of things. Acts present the gift of the Holy Spirit as also needed for the fuller entry into the life of God, to live as Christ in our daily lives. There is a ‘new Pentecost’ for those perviously ‘outisde’ but who now come to faith in Christ.

The radical new unity between ‘insiders’ and ‘outsiders’ is a work of Christ, effected in the Spirit. It is not that Samaritans join the Church, and are a part of it. The Church has changed, grown, and has to rediscover her meaning in this new diversity.

The (new) Christian community of Samaria is the Church in its locale, and so cannot be considered independent of the rest of the Church, defined simply by its (as it were, private) relationship with Christ. It needs to live by the Spirit, who binds and unites. The visible sign of the Spirit is given here by the apostles. Their ministry itself symbolising the unity of the Church, as well as the means by which, here, the Spirit is given.

Of course time are when the apostles need to grow and change and then the Spirit can even seem to work independent of them, to ensure the integrity and faithfulness of the Church and promote the integrity and faith of its ministers and institutions.

This, of course, is what we pray for at each Mass, when praying that the Holy Spirit will come upon us as the bread and wine, that together, but in our different ways, we become the Body of Christ.

Photograph (c) Allen Morris of Ivory carving of the Baptism of Jesus in the British Museum

Taste and see: with whom did you worship?


The Church teaches that Christ is present in our celebration of Mass in various ways, really present in diverse ways.

Christ is always present in His Church, especially in her liturgical celebrations. He is present in the sacrifice of the Mass, not only in the person of His minister, “the same now offering, through the ministry of priests, who formerly offered himself on the cross”, but especially under the Eucharistic species. By His power He is present in the sacraments, so that when a man baptizes it is really Christ Himself who baptizes. He is present in His word, since it is He Himself who speaks when the holy scriptures are read in the Church. He is present, lastly, when the Church prays and sings, for He promised: “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matt. 18:20) .

Sacrosanctum concilium 7 (Sacrosanctum concilium is the Latin title of Vatican II’s teaching document on the Liturgy, the worship of the Church)

Sometimes we focus almost exclusively on the presence of the Lord in the Eucharistic species – the Bread and Wine that is his Body and Blood, his very self and life offered us as food and drink.

Maybe the most scandalous presence of the Lord is in the gathering of the Church – the Lord present in this one, that one, each one who are members of the Body of Christ.

How and as whom did the Lord make himself present to you in the gathering for Mass on Sunday? A child? An elderly person? Someone filled with joy? Someone who seemed on the point of tears? Who?

What do you learn from His presence in them, as them?

Gandhi taught: ‘If you don’t find God in the next person you meet, it is a waste of time looking for him further’ Maybe he would have been delighted (and perhaps surprised) to know how literally the Church can take that.

Image found at http://flamecreativekids.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/thinking-about-body-of-christ.html

Taste and See: Help us to pray, help us to live


Notice the meaning (or at least some of the meanings) present in the Collect prayer from yesterday’s Mass.

Grant, almighty God,

We come before God needful…

that we may celebrate with heartfelt devotion these days of joy,

…even our (own) prayer is in some sense the work of God in us. The Catholic instinct, of course, is that we pray the Liturgy by joining with Christ and the Church in heaven, as well as here on earth and our own particular gathering

which we keep in honour of the risen Lord,

We are still in Easter, and the wonder of the Resurrection our inspiration…

and that what we relive in remembrance

Jesus asked us to ‘do this in memory of me’, so we specifically remember the gift of Eucharist, but all we do in the Mass is about remembering the saving love, and the saving actions, of God. But our remembering is not just a mental activity – we re-live in our remembering…

we may always hold to in what we do.

…so that through the sacred remembering, enabled by God, we may learn to live.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

Our Christian prayer is offered in and through Christ, to the Father, with (in) the Holy Spirit. Our present prayer somehow anticipates our hoped-for and sometimes longed-for final sharing in the life of God, the Three-in-One.

So much in one short prayer. Often on a Sunday there is little opportunity to give full attention to the Collect. Returning to the Sunday Collect in our private daily prayer can be a fruitful spiritual practice.

Image: restored fresco showing a Christian at prayer from early Christian Chapel in Lullingstone Villa, Kent. Fresco in British Museum. Photograph (c) Allen Morris

Praying with Pope Francis: Bethlehem


Today Pope Francis celebrates Mass in Bethlehem and pays a private visit to the grotto of the Nativity.

These photos show, first, the centre of Bethlehem, with views across Manger Square, away from the Basilica of the Nativity:



Views of the interior of the 6th Century Basilica




And then the grottos under the Basilica, first that which was used by St Jerome during his stay there, while working on the Vulgate translation of the scriptures.


And finally the grotto of the Nativity itself, with the star under the altar indicating by tradition the place where the Word was born, where Jesus Christ was born of Mary.


Bethlehem today is a town proud of its heritage but kept from most of the Palestinian people by the travel restrictions imposed by Israel. The justification was found in the acts of terrorism by Palestinians against Israelis. Other nations are not prepared to respond to…

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Speak Lord: Held in communion


The gospel reading for today’s Mass is taken from St John’s Gospel.

The passage comes Jesus’ words at the Last Supper. In that time, before his arrest and agony, his concern is for his ‘little flock’, for their security and well being.

We hear the words today, not in Passiontide, but during the season of Easter, in the latter days of the season, shortly before the feast of the Ascension, and before Pentecost. And we are reminded of the abiding presence of the Risen Lord, and that of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus said to his disciples:
‘If you love me you will keep my commandments.
I shall ask the Father,
and he will give you another Advocate
to be with you for ever,
that Spirit of truth
whom the world can never receive
since it neither sees nor knows him;
but you know him,
because he is with you, he is in you.
I will not leave you orphans;
I will come back to you.
In a short time the world will no longer see me;
but you will see me,
because I live and you will live.
On that day you will understand that I am in my Father
and you in me and I in you.
Anybody who receives my commandments and keeps them
will be one who loves me;
and anybody who loves me will be loved by my Father,
and I shall love him and show myself to him.’
John 14:15-21

The Gospel promises that the communion of life between Jesus and the disciples will be sustained, despite the separation effected by the Passion and Death of Jesus, and then, later, the Ascension.

That promise, which is fundamentally rooted in the love of God for all humankind, and for all Creation. We are never alone – always there is accompaniment in the love and mercy of God.

Yet the experience of being alone, of feeling abandoned, alone and afraid is a common one. It is an experience that especially informed the writings and thinking of the Existentialists in the 20th Century.

One particularly harrowing poem from an earlier age, but which witnesses to some of the same themes, is A E Houseman’s poem ‘The Laws of God, the Laws of Men’

The laws of God, the laws of man,
He may keep that will and can;
Not I: let God and man decree
Laws for themselves and not for me;
And if my ways are not as theirs
Let them mind their own affairs.
Their deeds I judge and much condemn,
Yet when did I make laws for them?
Please yourselves, say I, and they
Need only look the other way.
But no, they will not; they must still
Wrest their neighbour to their will,
And make me dance as they desire
With jail and gallows and hell-fire.
And how am I to face the odds
Of man’s bedevilment and God’s?
I, a stranger and afraid
In a world I never made.
They will be master, right or wrong;
Though both are foolish, both are strong.
And since, my soul, we cannot fly
To Saturn nor to Mercury,
Keep we must, if keep we can,
These foreign laws of God and man.

The one whose voice we hear in the poem (Houseman himself, perhaps) is ‘a stranger and afraid’. To survive in what he experiences as hostile and alien he resigns himself to conformity and, arguably, ‘bad faith’. Consider the agony of that.

Jesus offers something different, the Spirit who overcomes fear and separation and reverses experiences of alienation. His promise is that, even in this world, where we can feel ourselves alone and away from love, away from God, the one who seeks to love God and neighbour, will find God with them.

In the intimacy of God, Father, Son and Spirit, we are to find our home now and for ever.

What a message of hope we have to share with those who find themselves homeless, loveless, and afraid.

Image found at http://a396.idata.over-blog.com/5/24/99/04/Divers/agim-sulaj—l–etranger.jpg

Praying with the Pope in the Holy Land – Bethany


This evening Pope Francis prays at the Baptismal Site at Bethany beyond the Jordan.

Here are a few pictures of the place, taken from the Israeli side…




The visit to Bethany focuses on the fundamental Christian sacrament of Baptism – the sacrament that makes us members of the Body of Christ, fully members of the new people of God.

After the prayers at Bethany, Pope Francis moves on to pray with refugees and young people with disabilities. In our world unity and integrity are fragile things in the human family. Pray for peace and justice and generosity.

God of all nations,
in the gift of your Son
you have embraced the world
with a love that takes away our sin
and bestows perfect joy.

Grant to all who have been reborn in baptism
fidelity in serving you
and generosity in loving one another.

We ask this through Jesus Christ, the…

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Speak Lord: hope and its reasons

Dresden 041

The second reading at tomorrow’s Mass invites us to love God, and be ready to love others, even when they do not love us. We have responsibilities for their well-being, even if they are careless of ours.

Reverence the Lord Christ in your hearts, and always have your answer ready for people who ask you the reason for the hope that you all have. But give it with courtesy and respect and with a clear conscience, so that those who slander you when you are living a good life in Christ may be proved wrong in the accusations that they bring. And if it is the will of God that you should suffer, it is better to suffer for doing right than for doing wrong.

Why, Christ himself, innocent though he was, had died once for sins, died for the guilty, to lead us to God. In the body he was put to death, in the spirit he was raised to life.

1 Peter 3:15-18

  •  What is your hope? What makes a realistic hope? What places it in doubt (if anything)?
  • What accusations could people bring against you – in all justice? How/when do you yourself bring those things before God?