Speak Lord: Lead us into your ways of love, always, everywhere…

The Gospel for today, the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time, speaks of truth and power, exercised in love for the well-being of the world and all its peoples.

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi he put this question to his disciples, ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say he is John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ ‘But you,’ he said ‘who do you say I am?’ Then Simon Peter spoke up, ‘You are the Christ,’ he said, ‘the Son of the living God.’ Jesus replied, ‘Simon son of Jonah, you are a happy man! Because it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven. So I now say to you: You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.’ Then he gave the disciples strict orders not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.

  • What tests the integrity of the Church?
  • What tests your integrity as a Christian?
  • How do you serve the integrity of the Church?
  • How do you imitate Christ?

Who we say that Jesus is should lead us also to a more confident knowledge of who the others are who surround us. If he is Son of God, we are children of God. Each one of us, a brother or sister to Christ; each one, with us, a child of God.

And each one of us, and all those around us, is loved by God our Father – loved by God even as Jesus comes to save us from our lack of humanity.  

Now Peter in his turn is called to love the lambs, love the sheep.

And that call is made to us too. We do not share in precisely the same pastoral ministry of Peter. But in our ways we, too, are called to love each and every person, that through our love, sacrament of  Christ’s love, we (even we) might help them grow in their humanity, in their likeness to Christ.

A prayer attributed to St Francis, helps us to bring to God in prayer our need and desire to be more like Christ.

The Peace Prayer

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is error, the truth;
Where there is doubt, the faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled, as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.

 

Carving of St Peter in the cloister of the Cathédrale Saint-Sauveur d’Aix-en-Provence.
(c) Allen Morris, 2014

Speak Lord: and help us understand!

Joseph

The Second Reading at tomorrow’s Mass, the Mass of the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time, challenges us about what we ‘know’ of God, and invites us to a certain humility, and to awe, respect and praise.

How rich are the depths of God – how deep his wisdom and knowledge – and how impossible to penetrate his motives or understand his methods! Who could ever know the mind of the Lord? Who could ever be his counsellor? Who could ever give him anything or lend him anything? All that exists comes from him; all is by him and for him. To him be glory for ever! Amen.

Romans 11:33-36

  • What do you know of God?
  • What evades your knowledge?
  • What of yourself are willing to acknowledge before the Lord?
  • What do you (to no avail) try to ‘hide’ from him?

Bring your answers to God in prayer…

Emily Dickinson, a great American poet, wrote:

Tell all the Truth but tell it slant—
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth’s superb surprise
As Lightening to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind—

The image above, of St Joseph, after the first appearance of the angel announcing the Incarnation, does not do justice to his fuller eventual service of the Church, and of Jesus and Mary. However the sculptor does seem to have captured something of his bewilderment and being overwhelmed by the astonishing, seemingly incomprehensible things asked by God. Something we can probably all empathise with.

Image of carving in the cloister of St Trophime, Arles. Photograph (c) Allen Morris, 2014

Speak Lord: our help and our hope…

By Louis Botinelly Cathédrale Sainte-Marie-Majeure de Marseille

The responsorial psalm on Sunday may seem a strange mix of thanksgiving and a stretching out for hope beyond hope.

Well, welcome to what is life for many of us!

Your love, O Lord, is eternal: discard not the work of your hands.

 I thank you, Lord, with all my heart:
   you have heard the words of my mouth.
In the presence of the angels I will bless you.
   I will adore before your holy temple.

Your love, O Lord, is eternal: discard not the work of your hands.

I thank you for your faithfulness and love,
   which excel all we ever knew of you.
On the day I called, you answered;
   you increased the strength of my soul.

Your love, O Lord, is eternal: discard not the work of your hands.

The Lord is high yet he looks on the lowly
   and the haughty he knows from afar.
Your love, O Lord, is eternal,
   discard not the work of your hands.

Your love, O Lord, is eternal: discard not the work of your hands.

Psalm 137:1-3,6,8

In these present days when loss and the horror of human cruelty are daily before us, there is good reason to lament and to need to renew our trust.

  • Where does the work of the Lord’s hands seem in jeopardy?
  • What is permanent in our world? How do we know?
  • When did you last give thanks to God? Why?

Image of the Pieta is of carving by Louis Botinelly in the Cathédrale Sainte-Marie-Majeure de Marseille. Photograph (c) Allen Morris, 2014.

Speak Lord: Called to service…

Peter

The First Reading on Sunday, the 21st Sunday in Ordinary time, is a story of reversals, demotion and promotion, to better serve the needs of the kingdom.

Thus says the Lord of Hosts to Shebna, the master of the palace:

I dismiss you from your office,
I remove you from your post,
and the same day I call on my servant
Eliakim son of Hilkiah.
I invest him with your robe,
gird him with your sash,
entrust him with your authority;
and he shall be a father
to the inhabitants of Jerusalem
and to the House of Judah.
I place the key of the House of David
on his shoulder;
should he open, no one shall close,
should he close, no one shall open.
I drive him like a peg
into a firm place;
he will become a throne of glory
for his father’s house.

Isaiah 22:19-23

The dismissal of Shebna from office is absolute. In contemporary terms his desk is cleared and he’s exiting the door clutching a cardboard box containing a few personal posessions.

Eliakim is the new kid on the block, his newly gifted authority is established by use of word, symbol and ritual. There’s no mistaking the change that has been made.

Shebna’s fault has been self-aggrandisement. Eliakim, by contrast, is the one chosen for office, made by his master: his very name indicates it, for Eli’akim means ‘God will raise up’, or‘raised up by God’.

In the scriptures this political reshuffle has a deeper meaning, a meaning for the ages and not just for that time and place – for eyes that see, and ears that hear.

  • Who do you serve?
  • What are your priorities for today?
  • Who do you serve?

Taste and See: Turning the world upside down

star-cross

The second reading at Mass on Sunday had St Paul expressing a certain irony about his situation.

 Let me tell you pagans this: I have been sent to the pagans as their apostle, and I am proud of being sent, but the purpose of it is to make my own people envious of you, and in this way save some of them. Since their rejection meant the reconciliation of the world, do you know what their admission will mean? Nothing less than a resurrection from the dead! God never takes back his gifts or revokes his choice.

Just as you changed from being disobedient to God, and now enjoy mercy because of their disobedience, so those who are disobedient now – and only because of the mercy shown to you – will also enjoy mercy eventually. God has imprisoned all men in their own disobedience only to show mercy to all mankind.

Romans 11:13-15,29-32

If God is the God of surprises, maybe one of the most regular surprises is that God is the God of reverses, of irony and paradox.

If the Chosen people reject God’s Son then one of the tasks of the Christian people is to provoke envy so that their elder siblings might choose to choose. Seems we have a way to go yet!

Death can seem a snuffing out of life, but seen by eyes of faith more truly proves to be a step on the path to eternal life.

Freedom sometimes leads to chains, but God’s mercy overwhelms the both human justice and injustice and works to draws his new people to him in a fresh unity of life and love.

  • What is ‘surprising’ about God’s call to you?
  • And your response to God?

Image found here. 

Taste and See: let all the peoples praise you…

United-Nations-day

On Sunday the responsorial psalm we sang (if not, why not?!), rejoiced in God’s blessing of the peoples of the earth. It rejoices in it and prays for it.

Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you.

O God, be gracious and bless us
and let your face shed its light upon us.
So will your ways be known upon earth
and all nations learn your saving help.

Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you.

Let the nations be glad and exult
for you rule the world with justice.
With fairness you rule the peoples,
you guide the nations on earth.

Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you.

Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you.
May God still give us his blessing
till the ends of the earth revere him.

Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you.

The ‘all’ of the response is important.

Indeed that ‘response’ might well serve as a simple daily prayer for the success of the new Evangelisation called for by Pope John Paul II, Saint John Paul II, and actively promoted since by Pope Benedict and Pope Francis.

The first verse of the psalm reminds that mostly people are won for God when they experience his graciousness and ‘light’.

Evangelisation is at its best when it tries to draw people to God, and not push them!

  • Who have you helped know God’s blessing today?
  • Have you in any way ‘darkened’ God’s world today?

Image found here.

Taste and See: no favourites

 

magnifying-glass

What is it that makes for a good Catholic?

The first reading at Mass yesterday, the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, challenges our oft-times sense of what is important in the life of faith. Here is the Lord speaking through his prophet, Isaiah.

Thus says the Lord: Have a care for justice, act with integrity, for soon my salvation will come and my integrity be manifest.

Foreigners who have attached themselves to the Lord to serve him and to love his name and be his servants – all who observe the sabbath, not profaning it, and cling to my covenant – these I will bring to my holy mountain. I will make them joyful in my house of prayer. Their holocausts and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar, for my house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples.

Isaiah 56:1,6-7

God has no favourites, but blessed are those who favour God and walk in his ways.

Those who have ears to hear will be familiar with the proud and arrogant boasts of so many Christians… Let’s just mention those who trumpet that they are saved because they say ‘Jesus is Lord’. This word of the Lord punctures those boasts.

The true believer is to be characterised by humility and love, which relativizes all other distinguishing marks of culture or Creed. Faithfulness and love humbly lived has the capacity to draw out  the, so-often unexpected, potential for love of the Lord in all humankind.

The One God welcomes all, and all have the capacity to respond.

Image found here.