Speak Lord: Call us, that we may be saints

Taberancle, DerryTomorrow is the Solemnity of All Saints.

The response to the psalm is somewhat reminiscent of a comment attributed to St Thomas Aquinas: the first thing required of a saint is that they should want to be a saint.

Such are the men who seek your face, O Lord.

The Lord’s is the earth and its fullness,
the world and all its peoples.
It is he who set it on the seas;
on the waters he made it firm.

Who shall climb the mountain of the Lord?
Who shall stand in his holy place?
The man with clean hands and pure heart,
who desires not worthless things.

He shall receive blessings from the Lord
and reward from the God who saves him.
Such are the men who seek him,
seek the face of the God of Jacob.
Psalm 23:1-6

To know God is to love God and is to seek to be like him.

To search for God, oddly, is to search also for your true self. It is to seek to find, to be, the one you have been created to be, but cannot be without the co-‘creation’, that is fruit of our fullest cooperation with the grace of God.

The psalm acknowledges that all belongs to God; that we must come to God empty, but ready for that cooperation, that life, that is communion with God.

  • Which Saint inspires you? Why?
  • In which way are you next called to learn of the holiness of God?

Tabernacle with saints, St Eugene’s Cathedral, Derry. (c) 2003, Allen Morris.

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Speak Lord: Of us

La VernaThe Second reading on Sunday, the Solemnity of All Saints, comes from the First Letter of St John.

The writer (which John and when is a controverted issue!) asks us to call to mind the love of God. Always a good thing to do.

Think of the love that the Father has lavished on us, by letting us be called God’s children; and that is what we are. Because the world refused to acknowledge him, therefore it does not acknowledge us.

My dear people, we are already the children of God but what we are to be in the future has not yet been revealed; all we know is, that when it is revealed we shall be like him because we shall see him as he really is. Surely everyone who entertains this hope must purify himself, must try to be as pure as Christ.

1 John 3:1-3

Our deepest, most fundamental identity is that we are God’s children. Our relationship with him began even before we knew ourselves (if we do indeed, even yet, know ourselves).

Our journey is towards a deeper knowledge and love of God and in that journey to also better find and know ourselves. Up-hill or down-dale, what a journey to be on.

  • Give thanks to God.

La Verna, Mountain retreat of St Francis. (c) 2014, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Of the Blessing of the Kingdom

Beatitudes 3

The Gospel for Sunday, the Solemnity of All Saints, is likely to be a very familiar one – the Beatitudes as presented in Matthew’s Gospel.

Seeing the crowds, Jesus went up the hill. There he sat down and was joined by his disciples. Then he began to speak. This is what he taught them:
‘How happy are the poor in spirit; theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Happy the gentle:  they shall have the earth for their heritage.
Happy those who mourn: they shall be comforted.
Happy those who hunger and thirst for what is right: they shall be satisfied.
Happy the merciful: they shall have mercy shown them.
Happy the pure in heart: they shall see God.
Happy the peacemakers: they shall be called sons of God.
Happy those who are persecuted in the cause of right:
theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
‘Happy are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.’

Matthew 5:1-12

The standards of life that belong to the kingdom are simple and clear.

How much more challenging they are to live to.

How rare it is, that these are the values to which the media draws our attention.

These are the values that unite. It seems to make better headlines when they can write and speak about things which divide.

These are the values that foster happy, blessed, life. Those other values hobble us, constrain us, and threaten to suffocate us.

  • How does life in your parish help you to live by the values of the kingdom?
  • How do you help others to live by the values of the kingdom?
  • What else help you yourself to faithful living?

Bring your reflections to God in prayer.

Sculpted figures of the Preaching of the Beatitudes, Domus Galilei, Galilee. Photograph (c) 2012, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: See and taste the goodness of the Lord

paul_strand_blind_1916The Gospel reading for Sunday, the 30th Sunday of the Year, centred on the need of a blind beggar, the response of the Lord, and the response of the blind beggar to the Lord.

As Jesus left Jericho with his disciples and a large crowd, Bartimaeus (that is, the son of Timaeus), a blind beggar, was sitting at the side of the road. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout and to say, ‘Son of David, Jesus, have pity on me.’ And many of them scolded him and told him to keep quiet, but he only shouted all the louder, ‘Son of David, have pity on me.’ Jesus stopped and said, ‘Call him here.’ So they called the blind man. ‘Courage,’ they said ‘get up; he is calling you.’ So throwing off his cloak, he jumped up and went to Jesus. Then Jesus spoke, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ ‘Rabbuni,’ the blind man said to him ‘Master, let me see again.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your faith has saved you.’ And immediately his sight returned and he followed him along the road.

Mark 10:46-52

It also reveals the shallowness of the crowd, one moment shushing Bartimaeus, the next aping Jesus’ welcome and revealing their hypocrisy.

The needs of so many are all too evident around us, if we have eyes to see, and ears to see. Some who see are metaphorically ‘blind’, some who have no physical sight have a perspicuity that puts others of us to shame.

  • So what needs are you able to notice in those around you today?
  • Which move you to action – if ‘only’ prayer?
  • Which you leave you unmoved?

Photograph by Paul Strand of a blind Beggar woman, 1906. In collection of Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Found here

Taste and See: Jesus with us and for us

Jessu St PeterDuring these last weeks of the Church’s Year the second readings at Sunday Mass come from the Letter to the Hebrews.

This Sunday, the 30th of the Year, the reading was the following:

Every high priest has been taken out of mankind and is appointed to act for men in their relations with God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins; and so he can sympathise with those who are ignorant or uncertain because he too lives in the limitations of weakness. That is why he has to make sin offerings for himself as well as for the people. No one takes this honour on himself, but each one is called by God, as Aaron was. Nor did Christ give himself the glory of becoming high priest, but he had it from the one who said to him: You are my son, today I have become your father, and in another text: You are a priest of the order of Melchizedek, and for ever.

Hebrews 5:1-6

Jesus was without sin – like us in all things but sin, Hebrews 4:15ff assured us – but with his people he offered sacrifice for sin. The text tells us this was for himself as well as for us, so close was/is his association with us.

Mary was preserved from all sin from her conception, from the first moment of her life. Jesus by virtue of his nature as God and Man could not sin – but he took our sinfulness to himself, not even letting the guilt and shame and hurt of sin separate us from him. So the self-righteous among his contemporaries would reject him, the Holy One of God, as a sinner among sinners, blasphemous, and kill him.

The way of the Lord is to embrace weakness, endure misrepresentation, and help the floundering to the firm ground of God’s love and truth.

  • What weakness in you does the Lord long to minister to?
  • How can you show solidarity today with those who struggle?

 Image of Jesus from the Collegiate Church of St Peter, Wolverhampton. (C) 2015, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: The Glory of God

Interior ParisThe Prayer over the Offerings at Mass yesterday, the 30th Sunday of the Year, reminds of the fundamental quality of Catholic worship and indeed of Christian prayer.

The words of the prayer are simple and easily understood. They put God in first place and us in second.

Look, we pray, O Lord,
on the offerings we make to your majesty,
that whatever is done by us in your service
may be directed above all to your glory.
Through Christ our Lord.

For the Christian, thanksgiving has a priority over intercession. (Here of course intercession is put at the service of thanksgiving, giving glory to God.)

This priority is not about putting us down, nor indeed is it about raising God up the scale. For we and God are so astoundingly different, no scale can exist. We are created, God is Creator.

However the prayer with its desire for the honouring, even by us, of the glory of God, does not come from nowhere. It is our response to God’s good-gifting of us.

If we are to be for God, and the fact of Creation should be enough for that, then we need to know that God is so fully and beautifully for us. Creator, Redeemer, Father, Teacher, Brother, Friend, Lover.

  • Count your blessings and give glory to God.

Church interior, Paris. (c) 2015, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Of hope

turkish-soldiers-stand-guard-syrian-refugees-wait-behind-border-fencesThe first reading at Mass today speaks of the hope for a great reversal, so that the people taken into exile will be restored to their homeland.

The Lord says this:
Shout with joy for Jacob!
Hail the chief of nations!
Proclaim! Praise! Shout:
‘The Lord has saved his people,
the remnant of Israel!’

See, I will bring them back
from the land of the North
and gather them from the far ends of earth;
all of them: the blind and the lame,
women with child, women in labour:
a great company returning here.

They had left in tears,
I will comfort them as I lead them back;
I will guide them to streams of water,
by a smooth path where they will not stumble.
For I am a father to Israel,
and Ephraim is my first-born son.

Jeremiah 31:7-9

Sadly in our day we are familiar with thousands again being driven to exile, suffering loss of home, employment, loved ones, security and hope.

The prophet assures there will be a time of restoration.

The theme is taken up in today’s Gospel where the once-blind Bartimaeus, sets out on a journey not to loss and exile, but following the Lord to holiness and wholeness.

  • Pray for those who are lost or in exile
  • Pray for justice and compassion amongst those who ‘receive’ them.
  • Pray for restoration

Photo from Reuters, found here