Taste and See: Hope born afresh

Jeremiah French Church

At a time when it is darker and colder and wetter, the Lord speaks of new life and hope..

See, the days are coming – it is the Lord who speaks – when I am going to fulfil the promise I made to the House of Israel and the House of Judah:

‘In those days and at that time,
I will make a virtuous Branch grow for David,
who shall practise honesty and integrity in the land.
In those days Judah shall be saved
and Israel shall dwell in confidence.
And this is the name the city will be called:
The-Lord-our-integrity.’

Jeremiah 33:14-16

 

Where in your life – or the lives of those around you – is hope most lacking?

What in the Gospel helps restore a realistic hope?

How might you and others play your part in bringing that hope founded on the Gospel to fulfilment?

Jeremiah from the French Church, Leicester Square, London.  (c) 2007, Allen Morris

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Speak Lord:to your people who wait

JeremiahThe season of Advent is a time for waiting for the Lord – waiting, of course, for the second coming; waiting for our celebration of his first coming in the birth of Bethlehem.

Our waiting can seem long and protracted, wearisome. It can seem that way in prospect, and in our living of it.

It is to that discomfort that the Lord speaks in the first reading today, the first Sunday of Advent.

See, the days are coming – it is the Lord who speaks – when I am going to fulfil the promise I made to the House of Israel and the House of Judah:

‘In those days and at that time,
I will make a virtuous Branch grow for David,
who shall practise honesty and integrity in the land.
In those days Judah shall be saved
and Israel shall dwell in confidence.
And this is the name the city will be called:
The-Lord-our-integrity.’

Jeremiah 33:14-16

There is reassurance in the word of the Lord to stiffen our sinews, restore us to an active watching, helping us to an eagerness in our anticipation for what is not yet, but is surely coming.

The altars of Oxford Street and shopping centres up and down the country proclaim happiness is found in spending. Their bright light seek to dispel any darkness, but they fail, of course. Look around…

But the time will come, the Kingdom will come – and for that we are to watch and wait and work…

Jeremiah from Abbey of St Peter, Mossac: a cast in the collection of the Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine, Paris. (c) 2015, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Call us by love

St Paul arrives in ThessalonikaThe second reading at Mass tomorrow – the first Sunday of Advent – comes from the earliest of the writings of New Testament, Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians.

May the Lord be generous in increasing your love and make you love one another and the whole human race as much as we love you. And may he so confirm your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless in the sight of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus Christ comes with all his saints.

Finally, brothers, we urge you and appeal to you in the Lord Jesus to make more and more progress in the kind of life that you are meant to live: the life that God wants, as you learnt from us, and as you are already living it. You have not forgotten the instructions we gave you on the authority of the Lord Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:2

The two key principles of Christian life are the love of God and the love of neighbour. The reading above touches on both, but especially the second. Love of neighbour, the ‘whole human race’, is to be our way to holiness

Sometimes we focus on love of God and love of neighbour as our obligation, and true enough they are. But here we are reminded that the love of God is first and foremost something we receive, long before we are able to respond to it. Same too, really, with love of neighbour – we benefit from the love and care of so many long before we have the chance to show love and care in our turn.

Paul speaks of his love for the Church and its members (and surely not only the Thessalonians!), and of the Lord’s love.

Soon we will be celebrating the greatest of gifts, the birth of Jesus, the Christ, God with us. First the Church looks to her way of life and takes stock. We count our blessings and we consider afresh how we respond to the Lord’s call to live love.

Mosaic of St Paul arriving in Europe, in Thessalonika. (c) 2006, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: That we might hear and learn

Jesus in the TempleThe Responsorial Psalm for Sunday, the first Sunday of Advent, has a pleasing simplicity about it, fitting to the season of quiet reflection which begins that day.

To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.

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.

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.

His ways are faithfulness and love
for those who keep his covenant and law.
The Lord’s friendship is for those who revere him;
to them he reveals his covenant.

Psalm 24:4-5,8-9,10,14

The psalm, proper to the first Sunday of Advent, is also  one of the Lectionary’s Common Psalms for Advent, offered to encourage congregational singing of the psalm. (See General Introduction to the Lectionary, 89) and p.950 of the edition of the Lectionary commonly used in England and Wales.

  • What in the Lord’s ways do you want him to teach you? (Imagine: being taught by the Lord of heaven and earth….)
  • How do you show reverence for the Lord?
  • In what way is humility part of how you live?

The finding of the child Jesus in the Temple. Madjugorje. (c) 2015, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Call us to your love

Sacred Heart Maryvale

The second reading on Sunday, the First Sunday of Advent, reminds of the call to all disciples to be strong in love, ministers in love.

May the Lord be generous in increasing your love and make you love one another and the whole human race as much as we love you. And may he so confirm your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless in the sight of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus Christ comes with all his saints.

Finally, brothers, we urge you and appeal to you in the Lord Jesus to make more and more progress in the kind of life that you are meant to live: the life that God wants, as you learnt from us, and as you are already living it. You have not forgotten the instructions we gave you on the authority of the Lord Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:2

Advent prepares us for the celebration of humble mercy that begins on December 24th – God taking flesh to save sinners, might be a pithy summary of the Mystery of Christmas.

It’s a celebration that lasts until the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. How will we sustain that celebration this year, when the world on December 26th gives up Xmas for New Year Sales and then groans back into work after the bank holidays?

And how will we carry the exploration of God’s mercy and the manifestation of that mercy even in our lives in the Year that Pope Francis invites us to, a Year of Jubilee to celebrate Mercy?

  • What are your parish or diocesan plans? How will you share in them?
  • What are your family plans? Which of those parish and diocesan events have you got in the diary? Are you going to make a family/friends pilgrimage this year?
  • What about you yourself? What might you begin in Advent to carry you fruitfully through the Year of Mercy?

Image of the Sacred Heart at Maryvale, one of diocesan centres for pilgrimage in the Archdiocese of Birmingham during the Year of Mercy. (c) 2015, Allen Morris.

Praying the Year of Mercy

Jubilee Year of Mercy- Final CoverA number of resources have been prepared for the Year of Mercy.

I’m sort of pleased to say that one of them remains somewhat distinctive.

It offers an oversight of the principal features of the year as can be seen from the contents page below. It will therefore serve as a useful companion to the Year, reminding of its key elements.

Contents

Most importantly though, the book especially focuses on the opportunity the Year offers for leading people into prayerful reflection on the Lord’s active and merciful presence in Scripture and in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

The Year of Mercy  is an invitation for the Church and the world to know afresh the mercy of God. Prayer – especially in response to the word of God, and in the celebration of the Sacraments – leads us into a deeper knowledge of the God of Mercy and Truth. They also help us to a more faithful and fruitful living, strong in love for God, strong in love for neighbour.

‘A Prayer Book’ seeks to sustain and encourage that process of renewal.

The book comes with a Foreword from Archbishop Bernard Longley, the Archbishop of Birmingham

The Jubilee Year of Mercy is rich with promise for the Church and for the world.

Pope Francis has reminded the Church that ‘We need constantly to contemplate the mystery of mercy. It is a wellspring of joy, serenity, and peace. Our salvation depends on it.’

This mercy, made known in Jesus Christ, is the source of our Christian identity. It is also the gift we are asked to share with the whole world. Pope Francis urges us to this also, to be effective signs of the Father’s action in our lives, living witnesses to others of the love God has for everyone.

This booklet helps us make the most of the Jubilee Year. It provides food for our private prayer, and support for times when we come together to pray with others. Used well, it will deepen our experience of God’s mercy, so that the Lord can make us more fit for mission, and strengthen our desire to share the good news of the mercy of God with our families and our neighbours.

+ Bernard Longley
Archbishop of Birmingham

Hopefully the book will be available from all good Catholic bookshops. Big discounts, however, are available if you go direct to the publisher…

Flier-A5

 

Speak Lord: speak caution and care

Villenueve les AvignonSunday sees the beginning of the Church’s new Year, and is the first Sunday of Advent.

The shops, for weeks and months, may have been exploiting Christmas for commercial benefit, but only now does the Church begain her preparation, and that preparation takes the form of a certain retreat from festivity!

Advent is not Lent and in particular lacks Lent’s strongly penitential character. However it is a time for recovering a sense of our need for Christ, of remembering humankind’s struggle against sin and exile from God. And how our liberation comes only because of Christ’s self gift.

The Gospel this Sunday, unsurprisingly, seeks to focus on on what is most important.

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘There will be signs in the sun and moon and stars; on earth nations in agony, bewildered by the clamour of the ocean and its waves; men dying of fear as they await what menaces the world, for the powers of heaven will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand erect, hold your heads high, because your liberation is near at hand.

‘Watch yourselves, or your hearts will be coarsened with debauchery and drunkenness and the cares of life, and that day will be sprung on you suddenly, like a trap. For it will come down on every living man on the face of the earth. Stay awake, praying at all times for the strength to survive all that is going to happen, and to stand with confidence before the Son of Man.’

Luke 21:25-28,34-36

As Advent begins there are indeed nations in agony, human beings are afraid, and we remain in need of the Saviour who has come.

In the first part of Advent we focus especially on the anticipated second coming, and our need to be ready, confident, prayerful, safe and saved. This readiness is not a private, personal, inner state: it is a being turned out in love and care for others.

  • When/how do I show care for my neighbour?
  • Where do I find myself caught up in self-indulgence and self-preoccupation? Why?
  • How will I use Advent to prepare myself (and others) for Christmas, the feast of the Incarnation? You might find some helpful suggestions here.

Window in parish church of Villeneuve-lès-Avignon. (c) 2014, Allen Morris.