Speak Lord: God, on our side…

The Cruficied, Aix 2014With the second reading the logic of the Liturgy of the Word for the Second Sunday of Lent starts to reveal itself.

The first reading retold the story of the testing of Abraham.

The psalm has us confess the presence and care of the Lord for us in all our circumstances.

Now words from St Paul offer us still further encouragement and hope.

With God on our side who can be against us? Since God did not spare his own Son, but gave him up to benefit us all, we may be certain, after such a gift, that he will not refuse anything he can give. Could anyone accuse those that God has chosen? When God acquits, could anyone condemn? Could Christ Jesus? No! He not only died for us – he rose from the dead, and there at God’s right hand he stands and pleads for us.

Romans 8:31-34

Genesis tells us of the testing of Abraham, but that at the last God stopped the father sacrificing his Son. The New Testament tells us of God’s Son offering himself for the salvation of the world, and nothing would or could stop his self-offering.

St Paul says, after that what could shake our faith in God’s love and care for us.

  • What does cause you to fear or doubt?
  • In quiet trust, seek to bring that to the Lord in prayer, and know his love for you.

Photograph is of medieval Corpus, in Le Musée du Vieil Aix, Aix en Provence. (c) 2014, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Accompany us as we pass through this day

 

Agnus Dei, YorkOn the 2nd Sunday of Lent, the responsorial psalm would have us declare, in the midst of struggle and doubt, that we will walk with the Lord always, with the Lord who never deserts us.

I will walk in the presence of the Lord in the land of the living.

I trusted, even when I said:
‘I am sorely afflicted,’
O precious in the eyes of the Lord
is the death of his faithful.

I will walk in the presence of the Lord in the land of the living.

Your servant, Lord, your servant am I;
you have loosened my bonds.
A thanksgiving sacrifice I make;
I will call on the Lord’s name.

I will walk in the presence of the Lord in the land of the living.

My vows to the Lord I will fulfil
before all his people,
in the courts of the house of the Lord,
in your midst, O Jerusalem.

I will walk in the presence of the Lord in the land of the living.

Psalm 115:10,15-19

During Lent, counting our blessings commends itself to us as a spiritual practice in addition to seeking to know more fully our sins and faults.

Let the psalm encourage you to know afresh where the Lord has been with you, protecting and caring for you. Remember, and give thanks.

In earlier times the Agnus Dei was a wax disk blessed by the Pope and worn as a sacramental, or amulet, as a sign and reminder of the blessing and protection of God. The memory of this prompted today’s photograph, from York Minster. The Lamb of God is our hope and blessing, wherever, whenever. Photograph (c) 2007, Allen Morris.

CAFOD Lent Fast Day

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CAFOD Lent fast day

On Sunday, we were reminded of tomorrow’s Lent Fast Day. We heard the story of Kyin Nu who lives in a small jungle village in Myanmar and how through CAFOD we have been able to help her. If you want to read the story again, click the following link: CAFOD Lent talk 2015

Do remember that this year the Government is matching our donations to CAFOD pound for pound – donations made online or in your parish collection.

If you are able to make out a standing order the first three months of that are matched, pound for pound also.

  • So, how will you fast tomorrow?
  • How will you make your fast a time for prayer and reflection. (One suggestion might be to quietly re=read the story of Kyin Nu and her community, and pray for them and all in need.)
  • Will you make a donation to CAFOD? A one-off donation, or…

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Speak Lord: Of the unspeakable…

Abraham and Isaac York

The first reading on Sunday comes from the book of Genesis, and is one of the most morally troubling of text. How does one judge God to be in this story? And how does Abraham come out of it all?

God put Abraham to the test. ‘Abraham, Abraham’ he called. ‘Here I am’ he replied. ‘Take your son,’ God said ‘your only child Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. There you shall offer him as a burnt offering, on a mountain I will point out to you.’

When they arrived at the place God had pointed out to him, Abraham built an altar there, and arranged the wood. Then he bound his son Isaac and put him on the altar on top of the wood. Abraham stretched out his hand and seized the knife to kill his son.

But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven. ‘Abraham, Abraham’ he said. ‘I am here’ he replied. ‘Do not raise your hand against the boy’ the angel said. ‘Do not harm him, for now I know you fear God. You have not refused me your son, your only son.’ Then looking up, Abraham saw a ram caught by its horns in a bush. Abraham took the ram and offered it as a burnt-offering in place of his son.
The angel of the Lord called Abraham a second time from heaven. ‘I swear by my own self – it is the Lord who speaks – because you have done this, because you have not refused me your son, your only son, I will shower blessings on you, I will make your descendants as many as the stars of heaven and the grains of sand on the seashore. Your descendants shall gain possession of the gates of their enemies. All the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by your descendants, as a reward for your obedience.’

Genesis 22:1-2,9-13,15-18

  • Does God intend ‘only’ to test Abraham? If so is it a legitimate thing for God to do?
  • Can there be any justification for Abraham’s being willing to sacrifice his son? Can ‘just following orders’ be an acceptable response for such an action?

Abraham is no stranger to morally ambiguous behaviour. If you have forgotten this about our ‘father in faith’ do re-read the relevant chapters of Genesis. But note how in those cases his behaviour regularly becomes subject of the narrative. Here, in the (purposed) sacrifice of his son, he is simply, bravely (?), righteously (?), doing what God asks.

The book of Job warns us against judging God. Yet how can we not, if we are to do justice to our humanity?

This  passage pushes us to the limits. It stands as testimony to the unspeakable which is so regular an experience in human society: think Sophie’s Choice; think of the countless other situations where people find themselves faced by appalling choices.

Pray for them.

Otherwise we who merely listen and watch can but listen, notice, and be grateful that for us the moment passes…

 Carving of Abraham and Isaac, York Minster. Photograph (c) 2007, Allen Morris

 

The Word that is life

San Clemente

The 2015 Society of Saint Gregory Summer School is marking the 50th anniversary of Dei Verbum, Vatican II’s document on Scripture and Divine Revelation

The Summer school is being held from Monday, 27 to Friday, 31 July 2015  at High Leigh Conference Centre, Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire.

The keynote Speaker is Fr Thomas Whelan is Dean of the faculty of Theology and Spirituality at Milltown Institute in Dublin and member of the Irish Council for Liturgy.

The Summer School provides a helpful opportunity to deepen the formation of parish ministers of the Liturgy.

There will be a range of workshops to choose from led by: Stephen Dean, Caroline Dollard, Martin Foster, Kevin McGinnell, Allen Morris, Chris Olding, Cherry-Willow Pauls and Tom Whelan Plus… Keynote Talks, ‘Big Sings’, Bookshop, Bar and traditional social events.

For full details and booking form please click here – including day rates if you want to attend less than the whole conference

 

Taste and See: Lent-ing for Easter

Angel Charterhouse villeneuveThe Preface to the Eucharistic Prayer on Sunday last, the first Sunday of Lent, was proper to the day:

It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation,
always and everywhere to give you thanks,
Lord, holy Father, almighty and eternal God,
through Christ our Lord.

By abstaining forty long days from earthly food,
he consecrated through his fast
the pattern of our Lenten observance
and, by overturning all the snares of the ancient serpent,
taught us to cast out the leaven of malice,
so that, celebrating worthily the Paschal Mystery,
we might pass over at last to the eternal paschal feast.

And so, with the company of Angels and Saints,
we sing the hymn of your praise,
as without end we acclaim:

It associates us with the Lord’s fast of 40 day – a fast that led him to profess with great authority the nearness of the Kingdom.

In our day there are so many potential counter signs to that. Fasting, prayer, acts of charity – of love – all help us to learn to turn from evil and turn it out.

Rejoice in living Lent: it leads us to Easter life.

Angel in chapel of Chartreuse Notre-Dame-du-val-de-Bénédiction, Villeneuve-lès-Avignon. Photograph, (c) 2014, Allen Morris

Taste and See: The mercy of the Lord

 

Confessional, Lisieux

It is to be hoped that on Sunday we were not surprised by the response we sang to the psalm.

On the first Sunday of Lent what can we trust in, if not the faithfulness and love of God for those who keep the covenant?

Your ways, Lord, are faithfulness and love for those who keep your covenant.

Lord, make me know your ways.
Lord, teach me your paths.
Make me walk in your truth, and teach me:
for you are God my saviour.

Your ways, Lord, are faithfulness and love for those who keep your covenant.

Remember your mercy, Lord,
and the love you have shown from of old.
In your love remember me.
because of your goodness, O Lord.

Your ways, Lord, are faithfulness and love for those who keep your covenant.

The Lord is good and upright.
He shows the path to those who stray,
He guides the humble in the right path,
He teaches his way to the poor.

Your ways, Lord, are faithfulness and love for those who keep your covenant.

Psalm 24:4-6,7-9

What is remarkable is that God is faithfulness and love even for those who do not keep his covenant. As St Paul says, we may be unfaithful but God is always faithful.

It is in his great love that he calls us back to life, again and again. And in his great love that he offers us forgiveness and healing.

Photograph of the confessional where Therese of Lisieux celebrated the mercy of God, in the Cathedral of St Pierre, Lisieux. (c) 2014, Allen Morris.

For a guide to the celebration of the sacrament of Confession click here.