Speak Lord: Of life and death

discesa-al-limbo

The words of tomorrow’s second reading are plain and unadorned.

Yet what Paul says is stark, extraordinary, and challenging.

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

Were it not for Jesus we would all be dead. If we are alive, we live only because of him. Wow!

One of the challenges of Pope Francis encyclical, Laudato Si’, is to remind us of our responsibilities, so that we do all live. He invites us to a dialogue about our mutual responsibilities, mutual responsibilities deeply embedded in our Judeao-Christian tradition.

According to today’s Times, Lord Lawson has made his contribution to the dialogue!  ‘He condemned the  encyclical as “a mixture of junk science, junk economics and junk ethics”.’

So read it and make your own mind up.

Pope Francis notes

It needs to be said that, generally speaking, there is little in the way of clear awareness of problems which especially affect the excluded. Yet they are the majority of the planet’s population, billions of people.

These days, they are mentioned in international political and economic discussions, but one often has the impression that their problems are brought up as an afterthought, a question which gets added almost out of duty or in a tangential way, if not treated merely as collateral damage. Indeed, when all is said and done, they frequently remain at the bottom of the pile. This is due partly to the fact that many professionals, opinion makers, communications media and centres of power, being located in affluent urban areas, are far removed from the poor, with little direct contact with their problems.

They live and reason from the comfortable position of a high level of development and a quality of life well beyond the reach of the majority of the world’s population. This lack of physical contact and encounter, encouraged at times by the disintegration of our cities, can lead to a numbing of conscience and to tendentious analyses which neglect parts of reality. At times this attitude exists side by side with a “green” rhetoric. Today, however, we have to realize that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.

Laudato Si’, 49

Let’s face it, if you are reading this blog, you, like me are probably of that group that is complicit in the exploitation of the ‘excluded’.

I set before you life and death, said Moses. Choose life, good life. For yourself, your nearest and dearest – and those far away to whom, most days,  we may bearly give a thought.

Read Pope Francis. And choose.

Image of the harrowing of Hell, Christ restoring Adam to life (and in him all men and women), from the Basilica of San Clemente, Rome. Copyright © 2015. Basilica San Clemente

Speak Lord: Breath calm into our lives.

Wiseman's Bridge

The Psalm for the Liturgy of the Word at Mass on Sunday picks up the watery themes from the reading from Job presented yesterday as it prepares us for listening to the Gospel of the storm and the power of Jesus to quell the storm.

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 psalm the passage from storm to calm seems an easy one, albeit one that only the Lord can effect for us.

It is not always experienced that way in life.

  • What helps you to sustain hope and trust when the winds blow and the storm rises?
  • What helps or hinders your giving thanks for safe deliverance?

Photograph of beach at Wiseman’s Bridge, Pembrokeshire. (c) 2009, Allen Morris.

Laudato Si’, mi’ Signore – Praise be to you, my Lord

Canticle, SD

The Holy Father’s latest encyclical, Laudato Si, takes as its theme care for the earth and its communities of our brothers and sisters, our common home.

“LAUDATO SI’, mi’ Signore” – “Praise be to you, my Lord”. In the words of this beautiful canticle, Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. “Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs”.

This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she “groans in travail” (Rom 8:22). We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth (cf. Gen2:7); our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters.

Read the rest of the Encyclical here.

Image of St Francis writer of the Canticle of Creation. (c) 2014, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: who alone are God

Gower Peninsula

On Sunday, the 12th Sunday of the year, the First reading
comes from the book of Job.

From the heart of the tempest the Lord gave Job his answer. He said:

Who pent up the sea behind closed doors
when it leapt tumultuous out of the womb,
when I wrapped it in a robe of mist
and made black clouds its swaddling bands;
when I marked the bounds it was not to cross
and made it fast with a bolted gate?
Come thus far, I said, and no farther:
here your proud waves shall break.

Job 38:1,8-11

Humankind has so often come to see itself as Master over creation, Master over itself, ourselves. And in its pride humankind has stumbled, again and again, hurting itself, hurting our world.

Something else is called for: something more humble, more caring, and more respectful of our nature, our privileged nature as creature, but called to share in a unique way in the love and care of God.

As we wait for Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato sii, (published today, Sunday’s reading itself calls us to quiet recollection and reconsideration of who and how we are.

  • Where do you cooperate with God in the continuing life of a healthy world and human community?
  • Where do your actions militate against such cooperation?

Photograph of coast of Gower Peninsula, Wales. (c) 2002, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: The wisdom of God, the truth of the Kingdom

Mosaid St Saviour and St Peter's Eastbourne

The gospel reading on Sunday, the 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time, spoke of the Kingdom of God. And did so by means of parables – familiars that have been much heard and much loved in the 2000 years since their first telling.

Jesus said to the crowds, ‘This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man throws seed on the land. Night and day, while he sleeps, when he is awake, the seed is sprouting and growing; how, he does not know. Of its own accord the land produces first the shoot, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the crop is ready, he loses no time: he starts to reap because the harvest has come.’

He also said, ‘What can we say the kingdom of God is like? What parable can we find for it? It is like a mustard seed which at the time of its sowing in the soil is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet once it is sown it grows into the biggest shrub of them all and puts out big branches so that the birds of the air can shelter in its shade.’

Using many parables like these, he spoke the word to them, so far as they were capable of understanding it. He would not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything to his disciples when they were alone.

Mark 4:26-34

The parables of Jesus are very familiar to us. We might want to cut to the chase and is so far as we have not yet learnt what the Kingdom of God is, we’d like the advanced course offered to the disciples when they and Jesus were alone.

Unfortunately the very idea of the advanced course, with answers, might very easily be a Markan irony. Is there much evidence in his Gospel of the disciples learning anything directly from what Jesus taught them?

However the parables are familiar to us. They came seem safe and reassuring. Some of Jesus parables were like that, but often they were rather disturbing, albeit the disturbance and shock effect decorated by the glad rags of story.

As already noted when this passage was presented on this blog on Sunday, maybe the farmer was a lazy farmer – doing nothing to look after the crop from planting to harvest; maybe the mustard plant is simply a weed, colonising otherwise ‘productive’ land.

Perhaps what Jesus offered them when they were alone was something more like lectio divina. What did you hear? What does it say to you? What do you want to say to God in return? Responding to the tentativeness of the search for what the Kingdom of God is like, not the definitive conclusions as to what the kingdom is .

  • What in our world is like the Kingdom of God?
  • What in our world is unlike the Kingdom of God?
  • How do you live your response to the difference?

Photograph of mosaic in Anglican church of Christ the Saviour and St Peter, Eastbourne. (c) 2015, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: Parallel lines that meet…

Albrighton station bridge

One of the features of our Semitic heritage is a certain liking for and a certain facility with rhetorical use of parallelisms in liturgical speech: making two statements in parallel, sometimes with the second reinforcing the first, sometimes contrasting.

The grammatical structure was much in evidence in some of the presidential prayers provided for Mass on Sunday, the 11th Sunday of the Year..

Collect
O God, strength of those who hope in you,
graciously hear our pleas,
and, since without you mortal frailty can do nothing,
grant us always the help of your grace,
that in following your commands
we may please you by our resolve and our deeds.
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.

Prayer over the Offerings
O God, who in the offerings presented here
provide for the twofold needs of human nature,
nourishing us with food
and renewing us with your Sacrament,
grant, we pray,
that the sustenance they provide
may not fail us in body or in spirit.
Through Christ our Lord.

Prayer after Communion
As this reception of your Holy Communion, O Lord,
foreshadows the union of the faithful in you,
so may it bring about unity in your Church.
Through Christ our Lord.

When presiders are alert to this structure it helps them with their proclamation of the prayers. When other members are alert to it, it helps them with their hearing and response to the prayer, and to their cooperation with the grace of God – surely provided as God’s response to the Church’s prayer.

Albrighton station bridge. (c) 2008, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: So you can live and give thanks

Millstone and flowers

The Psalm for Mass on the 11th Sunday of the Year, in Cycle B, may have presented something of a challenge.

What was there to give thanks for?

The rather unexciting 11th Sunday, the dreary weather (at least in NW8), it had been a busy week and this day of rest was another busy day with which to begin what promises to be another busy week…

And yet, we sang…

It is good to give you thanks, O Lord.

It is good to give thanks to the Lord,
to make music to your name, O Most High,
to proclaim your love in the morning
and your truth in the watches of the night.

It is good to give you thanks, O Lord.

The just will flourish like the palm tree
and grow like a Lebanon cedar.

It is good to give you thanks, O Lord.

Planted in the house of the Lord
they will flourish in the courts of our God,
still bearing fruit when they are old,
still full of sap, still green,
to proclaim that the Lord is just.
In him, my rock, there is no wrong.

It is good to give you thanks, O Lord.

Psalm 91:2-3,13-16

It is good to give thanks for not all is busy, repetitious or dreary. But sometimes I (we?) lose hold of that truth.

The Liturgy in word and sacrament not only reminds us of the existential truth of the goodness of creation and our life as part of that. It offers us nourishment to live life, and live love. It offers us Christ – and he is always not only the heart of humankind’s great thanksgiving to the Father, he is also the Father’s first minister to us in our needs.

  • So, for what do you want to give thanks amidst the challenges of today?

Millstone and flowers, Vence. (c) 2005, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Of the harvest of life

Harvest sjw

The gospel reading today, the 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time, speaks of the Kingdom of God. And, inevitably, it does so in terms of metaphor.

Jesus said to the crowds, ‘This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man throws seed on the land. Night and day, while he sleeps, when he is awake, the seed is sprouting and growing; how, he does not know. Of its own accord the land produces first the shoot, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the crop is ready, he loses no time: he starts to reap because the harvest has come.’

He also said, ‘What can we say the kingdom of God is like? What parable can we find for it? It is like a mustard seed which at the time of its sowing in the soil is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet once it is sown it grows into the biggest shrub of them all and puts out big branches so that the birds of the air can shelter in its shade.’

Using many parables like these, he spoke the word to them, so far as they were capable of understanding it. He would not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything to his disciples when they were alone.

Mark 4:26-34

The Kingdom of God is, very nearly, that greater than which nothing can be conceived.

Yet Jesus offers as comparisons the abundant harvest which is gifted to the (maybe) lazy farmer (having sown the seed, he seems to have spent the growing season chilling out!); and to the weeds that provide plenty of ground cover to the birds (ever seen a mustard tree?)

So what is Jesus urging us to? A recognition that God’s goodness is great and generous; that  his goodness is provided not to impress but to benefit, and, whatever our deficiencies, when we know the goodness of what God offers, we will move ourselves to receive what is offered.

  • How well do you trust in the goodness of God and his faithfulness?
  • Where in the less well-regarded do you find signs of the in-breaking of the Kingdom of God?

Photograph of figure of the Risen Christ by Michael Clark and Tabernacle surround by Stephen Foster, Church of Our Lady, St John’s Wood. (C) 2004, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: that we may thank you.

thanks

The Psalm for Mass on the 11th Sunday of the Year, in Cycle B, reminds us of thankfulness. It is an attitude that is at the centre of Christian faith and living.

It is good to give you thanks, O Lord.

It is good to give thanks to the Lord,
to make music to your name, O Most High,
to proclaim your love in the morning
and your truth in the watches of the night.

It is good to give you thanks, O Lord.

The just will flourish like the palm tree
and grow like a Lebanon cedar.

It is good to give you thanks, O Lord.

Planted in the house of the Lord
they will flourish in the courts of our God,
still bearing fruit when they are old,
still full of sap, still green,
to proclaim that the Lord is just.
In him, my rock, there is no wrong.

It is good to give you thanks, O Lord.

Psalm 91:2-3,13-16

The thankfulness of the Christian is not so much for good fortune in this or that – health, wealth, family. Its reason is deeper yet, still more fundamental. It is for the gift of life – God’s free gift, lovingly bestowed and sustained. It is for a gift that endures through vicissitudes and triumphs.

Wordle created 13/6/15 (www.wordle.net)

Speak Lord: Waiting?

Beckett's tomb

The second reading for Mass on Sunday, the 11th Sunday of Ordinary Time, comes from St Paul’s 2nd letter to the Corinthians. We will hear passages from this letter over the next several weeks. You might like to find time to read the letter as a whole, to get a renewed sense of what Paul is writing about.

We are always full of confidence when we remember that to live in the body means to be exiled from the Lord, going as we do by faith and not by sight – we are full of confidence, I say, and actually want to be exiled from the body and make our home with the Lord. Whether we are living in the body or exiled from it, we are intent on pleasing him. For all the truth about us will be brought out in the law court of Christ, and each of us will get what he deserves for the things he did in the body, good or bad.

2 Corinthians 5:6-10

Samuel Beckett – whose tombstone is featured above – is perhaps best known for his play Waiting for Godot. St Paul in the passage above considers waiting too, considering the time between death and the general resurrection as a sort of exile from the body, from the who and how we are here and now.

And yet the exile is with the Lord and life in the body is perhaps exile from him, suggests Paul. This is our experience, often, and one that Beckett, especially, explores with great poignancy (and humour).

Yet, in truth, the Lord is never far from us, nor we from him. Judgement Day is not the only day we are with him. In this world we may – indeed, we surely will – have troubles. But we are also never without him, and his love, and his care.

Not sure that Beckett knew that, in this life – though hopefully he will now.

But it is gospel truth, and can transform our day, whatever else the day brings.

Tomb of Samuel Beckett, Montparnasse Paris. (c) 2013, Allen Morris.