Speak Lord: Make us one and make us for all

St George

The Gospel on Sunday, the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time, continues the teaching about the cost of discipleship – its rewards too, but especially its costs.

As the time drew near for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely took the road for Jerusalem and sent messengers ahead of him. These set out, and they went into a Samaritan village to make preparations for him, but the people would not receive him because he was making for Jerusalem. Seeing this, the disciples James and John said, ‘Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to burn them up?’ But he turned and rebuked them, and they went off to another village.

As they travelled along they met a man on the road who said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ Jesus answered, ‘Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’

Another to whom he said, ‘Follow me’, replied, ‘Let me go and bury my father first.’ But he answered, ‘Leave the dead to bury their dead; your duty is to go and spread the news of the kingdom of God.’

Another said, ‘I will follow you, sir, but first let me go and say goodbye to my people at home.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Once the hand is laid on the plough, no one who looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’

Luke 9:51-62

The choice to identify radically with  Jesus, to be a disciple ready to pay the price, might seem to separate the disciple from others, to form a radical group, separate from ‘the others’. Yet Jesus needs to teach the disciples that if they are to radically associate with him, they need also to tear down the barriers that exist between them and others. They belong to all, and also belong to no-one but Christ.

  • From whom do you separate? Why?
  • For whom do you care most and why?
  • In what way might that care unite you also with Christ? Is there a way in which that care is also in tension with your communion with Christ?

St George. St Leonard’s Church, Charlecote. (c) 2016, Allen Morris.

 

Taste and See: Fame

Pope and Dylan

Sunday’s Gospel spoke of Jesus’ identity.

He is identified under the role and names of prophets past and present; he is named as the Messiah, the Christ.

Jesus hears these identifications, and takes them on board. He then speaks of himself, and identifies himself, simply, simply as the Son of Man, destined to suffer, to be rejected and killed, and then to be taised -declares to the disciples that this ‘great man’ is to be robbed of his life and that he will then receive it back as gift.

He continues that those who wish to be associated with him, to follow him, must accept the same ‘fate’

One day when Jesus was praying alone in the presence of his disciples he put this question to them, ‘Who do the crowds say I am?’ And they answered, ‘John the Baptist; others Elijah; and others say one of the ancient prophets come back to life.’ ‘But you,’ he said ‘who do you say I am?’ It was Peter who spoke up. ‘The Christ of God’ he said. But he gave them strict orders not to tell anyone anything about this.

‘The Son of Man’ he said ‘is destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes and to be put to death, and to be raised up on the third day.’

Then to all he said, ‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross every day and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, that man will save it.’

Luke 9:18-24

Greatness cannot feature in the Christian world. Not greatness in terms of rank and position or fame; the only claim to greatness that can mean anything lasting is the claim that is based solely on faithfulness, solely on service. Talent, gifts can be used to sustain faithfulness and love, or they can draw us from that.

  • What do you use your gifts for?
  • For what do you seek life?
  • What matters most to you? Why?

Posters in Rome. (c) 2003, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: Very different but at one in Christ

Lourdes windowThe Second reading at Mass on Sunday, the 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time, spoke of the profound unity between Christians, by virtue of their faith and baptism.

That unity is deeper, more real, than any differences. Once these differences were used to distinguish one group against the other – and some still see them as that significance – but they are wrong, says Paul.

You are, all of you, sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. All baptised in Christ, you have all clothed yourselves in Christ, and there are no more distinctions between Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female, but all of you are one in Christ Jesus. Merely by belonging to Christ you are the posterity of Abraham, the heirs he was promised.                                                                                            Galatians 3:26-29

A unity more real than any differences and distinctions?

The ancient words of Paul – potent in their contemporary significance – this week will for many people have resonated have resonated with newly familiar words spoken just a year ago by Jo Cox MP, the recently murdered MP, in her maiden speech in the House of Commons.

Batley and Spen is a gathering of typically independent, no-nonsense and proud Yorkshire towns and villages. Our communities have been deeply enhanced by immigration, be it of Irish Catholics across the constituency or of Muslims from Gujarat in India or from Pakistan, principally from Kashmir. While we celebrate our diversity, what surprises me time and time again as I travel around the constituency is that we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.

From the maiden speech of  Jo Cox, MP  for the constituency of Batley and Spen, 3rd June 2015.

The human family is enriched by all sorts of difference and variety. These features are sometimes exploited to divide and separate people, even to set one community against others.

Saint Paul and Jo Cox may attribute the reasons for unity deeper than difference, but they too are maybe more different than opposed; more complementary than different.

  • What binds you to others who are different to you? How can you fruitfully cooperate with these?
  • What forces seek to separate you from them? How can you work to frustrate them? And rise above that which contradicts God’s will?

Window from parish church of Lourdes. (c) 2016, Allen Morris

Taste and See: Light for the world

Sunrise at Lindisfarne

The readings at Mass yesterday  – the 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time spoke of the call to the Cross made to all disciples. The Gospel Acclamation used another metaphor, in stark contrast to the image of Death that the world sees the Cross to be, but it reminds that the Cross does not end in death but glory and life eternal.

Alleluia, alleluia!
I am the light of the world, says the Lord;
anyone who follows me will have the light of life.
Alleluia!

Jn8:12

  • What draws you to the Lord and his goodness today?
  • What have you received from him that, today, you can share with others?

Sunrise at Lindisfarne. (c) 2008, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Lord of Mercy

Palce of Anoining

The first reading at Mass today comes from the prophet Zechariah.

On this, the 12th Sunday of Ordinary time, the readings direct us to the martyrdom of Christ – and, of course, his Resurrection – and the witness that each disciple is called to give in their lives.

It is the Lord who speaks: ‘Over the House of David and the citizens of Jerusalem I will pour out a spirit of kindness and prayer. They will look on the one whom they have pierced; they will mourn for him as for an only son, and weep for him as people weep for a first-born child. When that day comes, there will be great mourning in Judah, like the mourning of Hadad-rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. When that day comes, a fountain will be opened for the House of David and the citizens of Jerusalem, for sin and impurity.’

Zechariah 12:10-11,13:1

The Lord speaks to a people who have been complicit in a great wrong, but calls them to repentance and offers them not punishment for wrongs done, but healing, kindness and prayer.

This offer, this invitation is available still, to all who do wrong to God’s people. his human family.

Shrine at traditional place of the preparation of Jesus’ body for burial. Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem. (c) 2007, Allen Morris

 

Speak Lord: Source of living waters

Crossof life

The Psalm at Mass tomorrow, the 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time, speaks of a yearning for God: a longing for the one who alone can satisfy the deepest needs of the human person.

For you my soul is thirsting, O Lord my God.

O God, you are my God, for you I long;
for you my soul is thirsting.
My body pines for you
like a dry, weary land without water.

For you my soul is thirsting, O Lord my God.

So I gaze on you in the sanctuary
to see your strength and your glory.
For your love is better than life,
my lips will speak your praise.

For you my soul is thirsting, O Lord my God.

So I will bless you all my life,
in your name I will lift up my hands.
My soul shall be filled as with a banquet,
my mouth shall praise you with joy.

For you my soul is thirsting, O Lord my God.

For you have been my help;
in the shadow of your wings I rejoice.
My soul clings to you;
your right hand holds me fast.

For you my soul is thirsting, O Lord my God.

Psalm 62:2-6,8-9

Many and delightful are the other created goods which God provides for our well-being; still more are the relationships and the products of human culture than can enrich our lives.

And yet each of these are founded on God and his being. Ultimately it is in and from God that they find their truest meaning. And without our recognising this and making that part of our appreciation of them (and God!) they can become a source of distress and grief, draining from us authentic life and love. It is because of this that God and God’s love is better than life: No God no life, but in God life and goodness without end.

  • For what, today, do you give thanks?

The Cross and flowing waters. Medjugorje. (c) 2015, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord:Make us one

Crosses, Westminster

The Second reading at Mass on Sunday comes from Paul’s letter to the Galatians.

In it Paul asserts that in Christ, through faith in and baptism into Christ, all Christians are one in Christ.

You are, all of you, sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. All baptised in Christ, you have all clothed yourselves in Christ, and there are no more distinctions between Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female, but all of you are one in Christ Jesus. Merely by belonging to Christ you are the posterity of Abraham, the heirs he was promised.

Galatians 3:26-29

That unity takes on a particular somatic, ontological force through the sacrament of baptism. But in Christ we see all people, baptised or not, Christian, Muslim, Jew, humanist and atheist as one. They may not consider they have anything to unite them with each other or us, but we are to see them as Christ, and all of them as children of the Father. Paul traces the unity back to Abraham: and well he might he is speaking to Jews anxious for their patrimony and spiritual heritage. But the Jewish scriptures point to other common sources – Adam and Eve, obviously, but also the family of Noah, from whom, after flood,  ALL the nations of the world are derived.

The story of the flood and the sign of the rainbow given as sign of the covenant and God’s abiding commitment to his people, also contains within it signs of the disintegration and pain that can follow when we fail to respect our unity and live as family.

Unity is something to strive for, the good of others something to work for. Security and well-being are fragile possessions – especially when they are not shared. We learn that from what follows in Genesis, and after Galatians! And for those with eyes to see we see and learn it from current events too.

For a careful reflective piece on living together, careful of the Common Good, read Alex Massie’s Spectator blog, This day of infamy,  written after the murder of Jo Cox, MP.

When you encourage rage you cannot then feign surprise when people become enraged. You cannot turn around and say, ‘Mate, you weren’t supposed to take it so seriously. It’s just a game, just a ploy, a strategy for winning votes.’

When you shout BREAKING POINT over and over again, you don’t get to be surprised when someone breaks. When you present politics as a matter of life and death, as a question of national survival, don’t be surprised if someone takes you at your word. You didn’t make them do it, no, but you didn’t do much to stop it either.

Sometimes rhetoric has consequences. If you spend days, weeks, months, years telling people they are under threat, that their country has been stolen from them, that they have been betrayed and sold down the river, that their birthright has been pilfered, that their problem is they’re too slow to realise any of this is happening, that their problem is they’re not sufficiently mad as hell, then at some point, in some place, something or someone is going to snap. And then something terrible is going to happen.

Crosses in Westminster Cathedral Gift Shop. (c) 2009, Allen Morris