Speak Lord: as we sing your praises.

Heavenly host

The Gospel Acclamation we may sing at Mass today, the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, reminds what that acclamation is all about.

Alleluia, alleluia!
Blessings on the King who comes,
in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven
and glory in the highest heavens!
Alleluia!

cf.Lk19:38,2:14

The verse explains the meaning of our acclamation of the Gospel.

In this acclamation we greet the Lord who has already spoken to us in a more hidden or obscure way through readings from the inspired writings of the people of Israel and from the earliest Christians, and who now speaks to us more directly in the words of the Gospel. It is the same Lord Jesus, God’s Word, who speaks through readings from the Old and New Testament. But now, in the Gospel reading,  the words are accounts of his teaching, of his life and the impact he has on others. We more easily and, again, directly, recognise his personal presence.

And because of the primacy of the Gospel reading in the Liturgy of the Word, we stand to greet and hear it; we sing words of praise to greet the Gospel; we have a dialogue which again gathers and focuses us so we might hear the words well, and take the Word to heart, and respond in prayer.

In the Catholic tradition we sing Alleluia to greet the Gospel – except during Lent. The Orthodox retain it even in Lent.

Often people have sung it for years and never wondered what the word means. Our English word is a transliteration of the Hebrew הללו יה and simply means ‘Praise God’. The mellifluousness of the word lends itself to enthusiastic singing. That said, the singing of Alleluia can sometimes seem tired and unenthusiastic: going through the motions but seeming not to mean a word of it!

Maybe today at Mass we can recover the deep praise and gratitude evoked by the verse and the ancient Hebrew word. And maybe include a (quieter?) singing of the word in our daily prayer, singing the praise of God to gather ourselves for the time of prayer, or at its conclusion.

Maybe we more often think of angels singing ‘Glory to God’ or ‘Holy, Holy, Holy’. Listen carefully. The stone angels in the picture above are singing ‘Alleluia’, apart, that is, from the ones blowing their trumpets! Photograph shows detail of carving at the West door of St Trophime, Arles. (c) Allen Morris, 2014.

Speak Lord: speak love

Cardinal Manning

The Gospel at Mass tomorrow, the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, comes from Matthew’s Gospel. It is one of the longer parables, a parable that draws is into a consideration of the world as it ‘is’ so that we might consider afresh how the world might be, if God’s will is done.

Jesus told this parable to his disciples: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner going out at daybreak to hire workers for his vineyard. He made an agreement with the workers for one denarius a day, and sent them to his vineyard. Going out at about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the market place and said to them, “You go to my vineyard too and I will give you a fair wage.” So they went. At about the sixth hour and again at about the ninth hour, he went out and did the same. Then at about the eleventh hour he went out and found more men standing round, and he said to them, “Why have you been standing here idle all day?” “Because no one has hired us” they answered. He said to them, “You go into my vineyard too.” In the evening, the owner of the vineyard said to his bailiff, “Call the workers and pay them their wages, starting with the last arrivals and ending with the first.” So those who were hired at about the eleventh hour came forward and received one denarius each. When the first came, they expected to get more, but they too received one denarius each. They took it, but grumbled at the landowner. “The men who came last” they said “have done only one hour, and you have treated them the same as us, though we have done a heavy day’s work in all the heat.” He answered one of them and said, “My friend, I am not being unjust to you; did we not agree on one denarius? Take your earnings and go. I choose to pay the last comer as much as I pay you. Have I no right to do what I like with my own? Why be envious because I am generous?” Thus the last will be first, and the first, last.’

Matthew 20:1-16

Recently the Church in England celebrated the work of Cardinal Manning in helping to resolve the agony of the London Dock Strike of 1889, and helping dockers achieve their argued-for and just pay of a tanner (6d, 2.5p) an hour.

Here, in Jesus’ parable, the issue is not the withholding of a living wage, but an exceptionally generous employer, subject of (some of) his workers’ complaints.

The point Jesus makes, is that the kingdom of heaven is not only about fairness and justice. It is also, and surely is most of all, about love. Employers and workers alike are called to live by the primacy of love.

The image bears the insciption of the Cardinal Manning Lodge of the  Amalgamated Society of Watermen and Lightermen of Greenwich. It bears eloquent testimony to Cardinal Manning, one of the great leaders of the Catholic Church in the 19th Century.

Speak Lord: you in me and me in you

St Paul, Philippi

The second reading for next Sunday’s Mass, the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, comes from St Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Among other things, it expresses the gift of  unity and intimacy between the risen Lord and the disciple that is so central to Paul’s understanding of the life we are invited to.

Christ will be glorified in my body, whether by my life or by my death. Life to me, of course, is Christ, but then death would bring me something more; but then again, if living in this body means doing work which is having good results-I do not know what I should choose. I am caught in this dilemma: I want to be gone and be with Christ, which would be very much the better, but for me to stay alive in this body is a more urgent need for your sake.

Avoid anything in your everyday lives that would be unworthy of the gospel of Christ.

Philippians 1:20-24,27

What dignity Paul claims for himself – and not from pride, but because his unity with Christ is entirely Christ’s gift, that he has to struggle – even against himself – in order to receive and live.

  • How is the Lord glorified in your life?
  • What, at present, do you need to take  care to avoid because it would be unworthy of the gospel of Christ?

Photograph is of icon of St Paul from Philippi, showing him as founder of the ancient Church there. (c) Allen Morris, 2006.

Speak Lord: Come close…

emmaus 5

Sunday is the 25th Sunday of Ordinary Time. The responsorial psalm at Sunday’s Mass reminds of the closeness of the Lord.

The Lord is close to all who call him.

I will bless you day after day
and praise your name for ever.
The Lord is great, highly to be praised,
his greatness cannot be measured.

The Lord is close to all who call him.

The Lord is kind and full of compassion,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
How good is the Lord to all,
compassionate to all his creatures.

The Lord is close to all who call him.

The Lord is just in all his ways
and loving in all his deeds.
He is close to all who call him,
who call on him from their hearts.

The Lord is close to all who call him.

Psalm 144:2-3,8-9,17-18

That closeness of the Lord, of the loving, just and merciful Lord, is a precious gift. So often in our daily lives – let alone in the moments of extraordinary testings – reversals, losses, challenges, and joys! – to know that we are not facing them alone, gives a new strength and endurance.

The response to the psalm affirms the Lord’s closeness to those who call him. Thank God that he is close even when we forget to call!

The photograph is of a sculpted piece depicting the Emmaus story. Saved from the ‘net some eight years ago, I think it comes from Switzerland!

 

Speak Lord: That we may come closer

Detail, Picasso Self portrait Paris 2004

The first reading this Sunday, the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, comes from Isaiah.

Seek the Lord while he is still to be found,
call to him while he is still near.
Let the wicked man abandon his way,
the evil man his thoughts.
Let him turn back to the Lord who will take pity on him,
to our God who is rich in forgiving;
for my thoughts are not your thoughts,
my ways not your ways – it is the Lord who speaks.
Yes, the heavens are as high above earth
as my ways are above your ways,
my thoughts above your thoughts.

Isaiah 55:6-9

It’s far too early to be counting shopping days to Xmas – or Sundays to Christmas.

However the appearance of Isaiah, as the leaves of trees start to turn and fall, reminds of Advent and its promise. This particular passage provides an opportunity, even now to take stock, and prepare for the Lord.

  • What do you need to turn from?
  • What do you need to turn to?

The image is a detail of a self portrait of Pablo Picasso, from the Picasso Museum in Paris. A great self portrait. I can never decide whether it shows humility or someone who is self-satisfied. I think Isaiah would have us wonder the same about ourselves. Photo (c) Allen Morris, 2006

Taste and See: Come and See

Mystery of the Light, Preaching the Kingdom

At Sunday’s Mass – the Exaltation of the Holy Cross – the communion antiphon was the following

When I am lifted up from the earth,
I will draw everyone to myself, says the Lord.
Jn 12: 32

It is a prophesy that anticipates change and conversion.

But there is a gentleness to the  promised gathering that the Church (and the churches) have often betrayed in the various processes and strategies of evangelisation.

  •  What about your local Church community draws people?
  • What might turn them away?
  • How might the best practice be strengthened and the worst redressed?

Photo of mosaic in Medjugorje of Jesus preaching the Kingdom – one of the Mysteries of Light from the Holy Rosary. (c) Allen Morris, 2014

 

Taste and See: The love of the Lord made manifest love.

st-dominic-adoring-the-crucifixion-fra-angelico

The verse of the Gospel Acclamation at yesterday’s Mass of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, will be familiar to many people as a responsory used at the Stations of the Cross.

Alleluia, alleluia!

We adore you, O Christ,
and we bless you;
because by your cross
you have redeemed the world.

Alleluia!

Sometimes to the Cross we bring our adoration, at other times our agonies. But there, at the foot of the Cross, -perhaps strangely – we find ourselves in a safe and hospitable place.

At the foot of the Cross, because of the enormity of what Christ achieves there, our words don’t seem necessary. Just silence, but comfortable silence, a silence born of unity not of distance, of gratitude and acceptance and mutual presence. His love has brought us home.

In your prayer, go to the Cross, and pray there – maybe use the painting by Fra Angelico that heads this post as a focus, to help you to the silence.

For myself I find the following detail of the painting especially helpful as a focus for prayer. It is what comes to my mind every Good Friday in the veneration of the Cross.

st-dominic-adoring-the-crucifixion-fra-angelico-detail

Speak Lord: Speak, God of love.

Revelation John Reinhardt

The Gospel at today’s Mass – the Exaltation of the Holy Cross – recapitulates themes from the first and second readings and puts them in the context of God’s love. Salvation on a cosmic scale happens because of God’s love.

 Jesus said to Nicodemus:
‘No one has gone up to heaven
except the one who came down from heaven,
the Son of Man who is in heaven;
and the Son of Man must be lifted up
as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert,
so that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.
Yes, God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost
but may have eternal life.
For God sent his Son into the world
not to condemn the world,
but so that through him the world might be saved.’

John 3:13-17

If God did all this to save the world, then how much indeed did and how much God still does love the world.

If God loves the world, that too is surely our call, as God’s people called to share in his holiness.

  • How much do you love the world?
  • How do you show it?
  • What challenges do you face? And helps you in facing down those challenges?

Photograph is of a work, Revelation by John Reinhardt, displayed in St Trôphime, Arles. The symbols of the Light, Cross, World, Word – pages from scripture and paint signifying blood – play out against one another. Photograph (c) Allen Morris, 2014

 

Speak Lord: that we may echo your Word.

Sacred Heart church, Marseille

The second reading at tomorrow’s Mass – the Exaltation of the Holy Cross – turns our attention to the one raised on the Cross, for our sake.

His state was divine,
yet Christ Jesus did not cling
to his equality with God
but emptied himself
to assume the condition of a slave
and became as men are;
and being as all men are,
he was humbler yet,
even to accepting death,
death on a cross.
But God raised him high
and gave him the name
which is above all other names
so that all beings
in the heavens, on earth and in the underworld,
should bend the knee at the name of Jesus
and that every tongue should acclaim
Jesus Christ as Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:6-11

The simplicity of the language used by Paul is striking. Actually this passage is possibly the text of an early hymn, and so maybe the credit for the words in fact belongs to someone else.

This passage describe in basic language and simple sentences, with the slightest of rhetorical flourishes, an event that touches the heart and impacts on the whole of creation.

  • How would you describe Jesus, and the consequences of his life and death?
  • When did you last share the the Good News of Jesus, entrusted to us for the life of the world?
  • What did you learn from the experience? And how have you tried to apply the learning?

The love of Jesus crucified extends to the whole world. Apse mosaic at the  Basilique du Sacré-Cœur, Marseille. Photograph (c) Allen Morris, 2014

Speak Lord: That we may remember

Jesus in the Temple, Apparitions Hill

The psalm at Sunday’s Mass urges us to pay attention to the Lord’s teaching and, once more be helped by him, to understand the meaning of what has gone before us.

Never forget the deeds of the Lord.

Give heed, my people, to my teaching;
turn your ear to the words of my mouth.
I will open my mouth in a parable
and reveal hidden lessons of the past.

Never forget the deeds of the Lord.

When he slew them then they would seek him,
return and seek him in earnest.
They would remember that God was their rock,
God the Most High their redeemer.

Never forget the deeds of the Lord.

But the words they spoke were mere flattery;
they lied to him with their lips.
For their hearts were not truly with him;
they were not faithful to his covenant.

Never forget the deeds of the Lord.

Yet he who is full of compassion
forgave them their sin and spared them.
So often he held back his anger
when he might have stirred up his rage.

Never forget the deeds of the Lord.

Psalm 77:1-2,34-38

One of the most difficult things for people to deal with seems to be the ravaging effects of Alzheimers on a loved one’s ability to communicate and be communicated with. The loss of memory seems to bring about loss of the person and, in many ways, loss of  our relationship with them.

We are urged to live for today – to live well and lovingly for today. But if, today, we have lost touch with our yesterdays, and the people we have shared them with, there seems a huge amount missing. Our ability to live today well is compromised.

This is not only so for individuals, but for institutions too. In our much more mobile and transient society ‘institutional memory’ is regularly put in jeopardy. When such memory is lost, subsequent change is often made without benefit of wisdom. Then in the changes made we risk losing the institutional ‘form’ and ‘substance’ which bear great symbolic value, and are a repositories of the wisdom of years.

The Tradition is an important dimension of Church life. It is part of what helps us keep faithful, safe (or relatively safe) from the whims of a moment.

The psalmist urges – never forget the deeds of the Lord.

  • Which of his deeds do you most easily remember?
  • What do they teach you about how you are to live and love today?

Photograph of Jesus in the Temple – an interrogation of Tradition! A meditation plaque on the Hill of Apparitions in Medjugorje. (c) Allen Morris, 2014.