Taste and See: Different but united

Peter and Paul roundelThe Preface for Sunday last, the feast of Ss Peter and Paul, nicely describes the distinct and complementary ministries of the two Martyrs of Rome, Apostles to the whole Church.

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.
For by your providence
the blessed Apostles Peter and Paul bring us joy:
Peter, foremost in confessing the faith,
Paul, its outstanding preacher,
Peter, who established the early Church from the remnant of Israel,
Paul, master and teacher of the Gentiles that you call.

And so, each in a different way
gathered together the one family of Christ;
and revered together throughout the world,
they share one Martyr’s crown.

And therefore, with all the Angels and Saints,
we praise you, as without end we acclaim:
Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts…

Rather nicely, in the image above of a glass disk from the collection of the Vatican museum the two saints do indeed share a single crown!

So often in life we notice and then focus on what distinguishes us from one another. Too often we neglect what we have in common.

Jesus, by contrast,  seems to have specialised in finding common ground with those who others have excluded and set apart.

  • In a time of prayer and reflection consider where you might do the same.

Image from the Vatican Museum. 

Taste and See: Identity and Mission

Peter St Ps, Wolverhampton

The Gospels regularly present us with the fallibility of Peter.

The gospel chosen for the Feast of Ss Peter and Paul, kept yesterday in England and Wales, presents Peter in a better light.

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.’

Matthew 16:13-19

Peter confesses Jesus as the Christ and the Son of God. Quick as a flash Jesus makes a profession of faith and purpose regarding Peter.

Which of them was the most surprised at what they heard?

Both find in this exchange a description of their mission to the world – Jesus sent by the Father to be saviour of the world. Peter the one entrusted with ensuring that the message of salvation is made known to the world.

Master and servant are united in common purpose.

  • Pray for Pope Francis, successor of St Peter, for his faithfulness in continuing the ministry entrusted to him.
  • Pray for the whole Church for its steadfastness and humility in its service of teh world.

Jesus saving Peter from sinking. St Peter’s Church, Wolverhampton.
(c) 2015, Allen Morris
.

Speak Lord: Son of God.

Peter and Paul, extra muraThe Gospel reading of the Mass during the Day for the feast of Ss Peter and Paul (kept on Sunday this year, in England and Wales) comes from Gospel of Matthew.

It draws us into the profession of faith of the Apostles that forms the bedrock of Tradition.

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.’

Matthew 16:13-19

Peter and Paul lived and died for the Christ confessed as Son of God and known as Saviour.

They received the gift of life and love from him, and faithfully passed on to us the invitation to that same intimacy.

  • Why does the relationship of faith matter to you?
  • What would be the main aspects of faith that you would like to be known by others who do not have faith?

View of apse mosaic at St Paul outside the Walls. (c) 2014, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: that your gifts might be fruitful in us.

St Paul - icon extra muraThe second reading on Sunday, the feast of Ss Peter and Paul (in England and Wales), speaks of Paul’s empowerment by the Lord’s grace, and Paul’s offering the free gift of his life to the Lord.

My life is already being poured away as a libation, and the time has come for me to be gone. I have fought the good fight to the end; I have run the race to the finish; I have kept the faith; all there is to come now is the crown of righteousness reserved for me, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give to me on that Day; and not only to me but to all those who have longed for his Appearing.

The Lord stood by me and gave me power, so that through me the whole message might be proclaimed for all the pagans to hear; and so I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from all evil attempts on me, and bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

2 Timothy 4:6-8,17-18

That there might be such reciprocity between God and his creatures – he gives in love, we make return grateful. Reciprocity and a co-operation in mission – the Lord reaches out to us, and renewed we are helped to reach out to others.

  • What gifts are you aware of receiving from the Lord?
  • How do you make use of them, and for whose benefit?

Icon of St Paul, at Basilica of St Paul outside the walls. (c) 2014, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Our life, our joy

Roman Road, Tre Fontane

The Psalm for the Mass of the Day for the feast of Ss Peter and Paul (kept on Sunday, this year, in England and Wales) is a psalm of thanksgiving for deliverance,

From all my terrors the Lord set me free.
or The angel of the Lord rescues those who revere him.

I will bless the Lord at all times,
his praise always on my lips;
in the Lord my soul shall make its boast.
The humble shall hear and be glad.

Glorify the Lord with me.
Together let us praise his name.
I sought the Lord and he answered me;
from all my terrors he set me free.

Look towards him and be radiant;
let your faces not be abashed.
This poor man called, the Lord heard him
and rescued him from all his distress.

The angel of the Lord is encamped
around those who revere him, to rescue them.
Taste and see that the Lord is good.
He is happy who seeks refuge in him.

Psalm 33: 2-9

Again and again Christian tradition testifies to how martyrs display joy at the opportunity of joining with Christ in his suffering. Their confidence that death is not the end is powerful witness to the Church’s faith in the resurrection and the gift of eternal life to believers.

  • What challenges you in times of trial?
  • What sustains you in times of trial?

Roman Road at Tre Fontane, traditional place of the execution of St Paul, Rome. (c) 2014, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: set us free

Peter, Haverstock Hill

The first reading at the Mass during the day on Sunday, the feast of Ss Peter and Paul, comes from the Church’s Easter book, Acts of the Apostles. Like the season, this reading proclaims the gift of freedom.

King Herod started persecuting certain members of the Church. He beheaded James the brother of John, and when he saw that this pleased the Jews he decided to arrest Peter as well. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread, and he put Peter in prison, assigning four squads of four soldiers each to guard him in turns. Herod meant to try Peter in public after the end of Passover week. All the time Peter was under guard the Church prayed to God for him unremittingly.

On the night before Herod was to try him, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, fastened with double chains, while guards kept watch at the main entrance to the prison. Then suddenly the angel of the Lord stood there, and the cell was filled with light. He tapped Peter on the side and woke him. ‘Get up!’ he said ‘Hurry!’ – and the chains fell from his hands. The angel then said, ‘Put on your belt and sandals.’ After he had done this, the angel next said, ‘Wrap your cloak round you and follow me.’ Peter followed him, but had no idea that what the angel did was all happening in reality; he thought he was seeing a vision. They passed through two guard posts one after the other, and reached the iron gate leading to the city. This opened of its own accord; they went through it and had walked the whole length of one street when suddenly the angel left him. It was only then that Peter came to himself. ‘Now I know it is all true’ he said. ‘The Lord really did send his angel and has saved me from Herod and from all that the Jewish people were so certain would happen to me.’

Acts 12:1-11

In our devotion we often venerate images of St Peter which are hieratic or imperious. Such as the obviously much love figure photographed at the head of this blog.

Yet the Peter of the Gospels and the Peter of Acts is so different to that. Weak, fallible – in himself, vulnerable.

In the scriptures, mostly we see Peter struggling towards a complete reliance on God, from whom his strength and safety come. There are many times in his story when he realises ‘it is true’ but then fails to live to that recognition.

Us too, probably.

St Peter, pray for us.

And us, let us pray with St Peter and learn from his example, so generously shared with us.

Statue of St Peter, Dominican Priory, Haverstock Hill. (c) 2009, Allen Morris

Taste and See: It is the Lord

Painted Glass, London Colney

‘Who can this be?’, ask the disciples in the Gospel we heard on Sunday, ‘Even the wind and sea obey him?

At Mass the baptised pray in and with this ‘him’, Jesus, Son of God. And we pray with him to the Father in the Spirit.

Collect

Grant, O Lord,
that we may always revere and love your holy name,
for you never deprive of your guidance
those you set firm on the foundation of your love.
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.

And all this happens because God is love and saved by that love we are called to a fresh and deeper communion with God.

Jesus, Son of the Living God, have mercy on us, sinners.

Photo of image of symbol of the Holy Name, IHS, Jesus. All Saints, Pastoral Centre, London Colney. (c) 2007, Allen Morris

Taste and see: Life

Grave Benjamin Barker

The second reading at Mass on Sunday, the 12th Sunday of Ordinary Time, reminded us that in Christ  we who were dead (by consequence of Adam’s sin) now live. If we are in Christ.

The love of Christ overwhelms us when we reflect that if one man has died for all, then all men should be dead; and the reason he died for all was so that living men should live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised to life for them.

From now onwards, therefore, we do not judge anyone by the standards of the flesh. Even if we did once know Christ in the flesh, that is not how we know him now. And for anyone who is in Christ, there is a new creation; the old creation has gone, and now the new one is here.

2 Corinthians 5:14-17

Notice how Paul says that when he realises what he is saying, he is overwhelmed not by fear or dread but love. The fundamental truth is we are saved. Even when we were sinners. Even though we still are.

However, (sorry, Mr Gove! Or am I?), salvation takes root as we recognise that Jesus is not an optional extra to an ‘entry-level’ life, a sort of upgrade; still less a style choice, but he is the difference between life and death for us.

  • One ancient spiritual exercise is to contemplate our death, and consider the sort of epitaph we might receive, the words people might say about us as they gather for our funeral (should they gather…) You might give it a try.
  • Or you might attempt a brief apologia – an account of how you live and try to live. Take today, for example. Where did you choose life and reject death?

Image of graves in Kensal Green cemetery, London. (c) 2015, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: Living by faith

St ColumbcilleYesterday’s psalm, that set for the 12th Sunday in Year B, reminds of the challenges to ordered, fruitful life, and the power of God to protect and save.

O give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures for ever. or Alleluia!

Some sailed to the sea in ships
to trade on the mighty waters.
These men have seen the Lord’s deeds,
the wonders he does in the deep.

O give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures for ever. or Alleluia!

For he spoke; he summoned the gale,
tossing the waves of the sea
up to heaven and back into the deep;
their souls melted away in their distress.

O give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures for ever. or Alleluia!

Then they cried to the Lord in their need
and he rescued them from their distress.
He stilled the storm to a whisper:
all the waves of the sea were hushed.

O give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures for ever. or Alleluia!!

They rejoiced because of the calm
and he led them to the haven they desired.
Let them thank the Lord for his love,
for the wonders he does for men.

O give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures for ever. or Alleluia!

Psalm 106:23-26,28-32

In the Gospel passage we heard yesterday Jesus sounded genuinely astonished at the lack of faith displayed by the disciples. In his human nature Jesus himself had grown and matured into a deep personal faith. It is a journey he helps us on.

  • Where are we on that journey?
  • What helps us move forward?
  • What holds us back?

Photograph of window depicting St Columbcille in church dedicated to him, on Tory Island, Ireland. (c) 2002, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: call us on, closer to you

Window at St Columbcille's church, Tory Island

The Gospel for today, the 12th Sunday of Ordinary Time, once more shows the disciples on the journey to a deeper understanding of Jesus and his meaning for them – and us.

With the coming of evening, Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Let us cross over to the other side.’ And leaving the crowd behind they took him, just as he was, in the boat; and there were other boats with him. Then it began to blow a gale and the waves were breaking into the boat so that it was almost swamped. But he was in the stern, his head on the cushion, asleep.

They woke him and said to him, ‘Master, do you not care? We are going down!’ And he woke up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Quiet now! Be calm!’ And the wind dropped, and all was calm again. Then he said to them, ‘Why are you so frightened? How is it that you have no faith?’ They were filled with awe and said to one another, ‘Who can this be? Even the wind and the sea obey him.’

Mark 4:35-41

The disciples are revealed in all their frailty, a story told to allow us to benefit from their experience and to assist us in our living in communion with the master.

  • What are the storms of your life?
  • How did you , how are you, coping with them?
  • Afraid or not, strong in faith or not, have you invited the Lord to quieten the storm and bring you to deeper trust, deeper security in his love?

Window in church of St Columbcille, Tory Island, Ireland. (c) 2002, Allen Morris.