Speak Lord: Our Cure

Ad, Regents SquareThe first reading at Mass today, the 18th Sunday of the Year,  comes from the Book of Ecclesiastes. In a firm way the writer of this inspired book points to the way that the things of this world are passing, as indeed – in this world – so are we.

 Vanity of vanities, Qoheleth says. Vanity of vanities. All is vanity!

For so it is that a man who has laboured wisely, skilfully and successfully must leave what is his own to someone who has not toiled for it at all. This, too, is vanity and great injustice; for what does he gain for all the toil and strain that he has undergone under the sun? What of all his laborious days, his cares of office, his restless nights? This, too, is vanity.

Ecclesiastes 1:2,2:21-23

We find our lasting significance in the life of heaven, in our communion with Christ, in the household of God.

  • What matters to you?
  • Why?
  • What matters to God?

Street Sign, Regent Square. London. (c) 2016, Allen Morris.

 

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Speak Lord: Dying and Living

Memorial, Soutwark Cathedral

The Responsorial Psalm, at Mass tomorrow, the 18th Sunday of the Year, acknowledges that the Lord our God is not constrained by the rise or fall of people and nations here. Here we are passing – this is the strong theme of the Gospel and first reading at Mass tomorrow too – but in God we find our future and our point.

 O Lord, you have been our refuge
from one generation to the next.

You turn men back to dust
and say: ‘Go back, sons of men.’
To your eyes a thousand years
are like yesterday, come and gone,
no more than a watch in the night.

You sweep men away like a dream,
like the grass which springs up in the morning.
In the morning it springs up and flowers:
by evening it withers and fades.

Make us know the shortness of our life
that we may gain wisdom of heart.
Lord, relent! Is your anger for ever?
Show pity to your servants.

In the morning, fill us with your love;
we shall exult and rejoice all our days.
Let the favour of the Lord be upon us:
give success to the work of our hands.

Psalm 89:3-6,12-14,17

  • For what do you live? Why?

Memorial, Southwark Cathedral. (c) 2016, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Our Lord in all…

Tabernacle Blessing LourdesThe second reading at Mass on Sunday, the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time, continues the theme of previous Sunday’s readings from this letter, of the new life in Christ.

This new life – gift of God – requires and enables our dying to all that keeps us from the fullness of life in Christ.

Since you have been brought back to true life with Christ, you must look for the things that are in heaven, where Christ is, sitting at God’s right hand. Let your thoughts be on heavenly things, not on the things that are on the earth, because you have died, and now the life you have is hidden with Christ in God. But when Christ is revealed – and he is your life – you too will be revealed in all your glory with him.

That is why you must kill everything in you that belongs only to earthly life: fornication, impurity, guilty passion, evil desires and especially greed, which is the same thing as worshipping a false god; and never tell each other lies. You have stripped off your old behaviour with your old self, and you have put on a new self which will progress towards true knowledge the more it is renewed in the image of its creator; and in that image there is no room for distinction between Greek and Jew, between the circumcised or the uncircumcised, or between barbarian and Scythian, slave and free man. There is only Christ: he is everything and he is in everything.

Colossians 3:1-5,9-11

The best quality of our life is hidden in Christ. Sadly what is often all too evident of our present lives are those features who are of our earthly life and which must be let go of, ‘killed’.

The current Year of Mercy provides the sort of reminder we regularly need that though God surely hates sin, he loves the sinner. We are assured of all the help we need as we seek to progress to the perfection and holiness that characterises the lives of the saints of God.

Detail of tabernacle. Rosary Basilica, Lourdes. (c) 2016, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Our inheritence

Boscobel, 2016The Gospel reading on Sunday, the 18th Sunday of the Year, is the central reading in the Liturgy of the Word, a Liturgy which focuses on the virtues which are beyond the here and now, not perishable but enduring for ever.

A man in the crowd said to Jesus, ‘Master, tell my brother to give me a share of our inheritance.’ ‘My friend,’ he replied, ‘who appointed me your judge, or the arbitrator of your claims?’ Then he said to them, ‘Watch, and be on your guard against avarice of any kind, for a man’s life is not made secure by what he owns, even when he has more than he needs.’

Then he told them a parable: ‘There was once a rich man who, having had a good harvest from his land, thought to himself, “What am I to do? I have not enough room to store my crops.” Then he said, “This is what I will do: I will pull down my barns and build bigger ones, and store all my grain and my goods in them, and I will say to my soul: My soul, you have plenty of good things laid by for many years to come; take things easy, eat, drink, have a good time.” But God said to him, “Fool! This very night the demand will be made for your soul; and this hoard of yours, whose will it be then?” So it is when a man stores up treasure for himself in place of making himself rich in the sight of God.’

Luke 12:13-21

  • By what do you place store?
  • How does it help you mature in Kingdom values?
  • How does it frustrate that growth

Boscobel, Shropshire. (c) 2016, Allen Morris

Taste and See: Eternal life

Stephen Cloister Arles 2014

The Responsorial Psalm at Mass sung at Mass on Sunday, the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, celebrates the faithfulness of the Lord. and his protection of his people.

In the wake of the murder of Fr Jacques Hamel, yesterday in St Etienne-du-Rouvray, one may look somewhat askance at the sentiment of the psalm. But if we do it is a reminder of how often we collapse the promises of God into a promise of well-being in this life, here and now – and often regardless of how others fare. The promise of God is for our relationship with him, which sustains us now, but is also about life beyond the here and now.

To that life, and the love that pervades it, we commend Fr Jacques. To the loving God also let us pray for his killers, and for the parish of St Etienne, and the families of the killers and all who are caught up in this evil. For his love is eternal ,and he will not discard the work of is hands.

On the day I called, you answered me, O Lord.

I thank you, Lord, with all my heart:
you have heard the words of my mouth.
In the presence of the angels I will bless you.
I will adore before your holy temple.

On the day I called, you answered me, O Lord.

I thank you for your faithfulness and love,
which excel all we ever knew of you.
On the day I called, you answered;
you increased the strength of my soul.

On the day I called, you answered me, O Lord.

The Lord is high yet he looks on the lowly
and the haughty he knows from afar.
Though I walk in the midst of affliction
you give me life and frustrate my foes.

On the day I called, you answered me, O Lord.

You stretch out your hand and save me,
your hand will do all things for me.
Your love, O Lord, is eternal,
discard not the work of your hands.

On the day I called, you answered me, O Lord.

Psalm 137:1-3,6-8

For Catholics yesterday’s atrocity will have been especially poignant and shocking.

Yet these acts of violence are commonplace in our world. Sometimes only when they touch our religion, our culture, something close to home, do we pause and know more keenly the reality and horror. May this latest tragedy help us to a deeper spiritual communion with those communities of human beings, made in the image and likeness of God, who much more frequently face such violence and distress.

O God, who in your inscrutable providence
will that the Church be united to the sufferings of your Son,
grant, we pray, to your faithful who suffer for your name’s sake
a spirit of patience and charity,
that they may be found true and faithful witnesses
to the promises you have made.

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.

Collect for Mass for Persecuted Christians.
The Roman Missal.

 

Martyrdom of St Stephen (St Etienne), Arles. (c) 2014, Allen Morris

Taste and See: good and healthy…

Market CracowThe Collect on Sunday, the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, was somewhat more wordy than many. Its complexity and length ought not to deter our returning to it, to ponder it and pray with it in these days that follow (not least because this year it will not get much weekday use because of the saints’ feast and memoria days during the week).

There is a certain rise and fall in the business of the language of the Collect.

  • It starts quietly, and openly, with lots of ‘o’s, and ‘h’s, lots of breath, and softer consonants – m’s, n’s, f’s – and the digraph ‘th’.
  • Then the sound gets busier, more percussive (hard consonants, shorter words), and there is even a little change in complexity of language and rhythm, in consequence of its prepositional phrase, ‘with you as our ruler and guide’.
  • In its final section, things slow down again, evoking confidence that there is to be a spiritual soft landing for us, if we will avail of it!

Collect

O God, protector of those who hope in you,
without whom nothing has firm foundation, nothing is holy,
bestow in abundance your mercy upon us
and grant that, with you as our ruler and guide,
we may use the good things that pass
in such a way as to hold fast even now
to those that ever endure.
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.

A Collect of some verbal complexity that invites us to a simpler trust in God. A Collect that invites us to a more discriminating use of the things of this world – avoiding the bad and making best use of the good so that we might – with God’s help – participate in that which endures, sharing in the life of the kingdom.

  • What are the good things that help you become kingdom-ready?
  • Give thanks for them! And for God!
  • What are the things you do best to avoid? And what helps you with that?

Market, Cracow, Poland. (c) 2013, Allen Morris

Taste and See: Christ, Saviour.

Holy Name TabernacleThe Second reading at Mass yesterday, Sunday, the 17th Sunday of Ordinary Time, was a further reading from the Letter to the Colossians.

In the brief passage Paul speaks of the extraordinary effect of Christ’s Passion and Resurrection, the Paschal Mystery – and of our sharing in that Mystery through our baptism.

Death and Life each have the appearance of the other, but only that life that is entered into through a sharing in the death of Christ is real, is lasting. Life as the world knows it leads only to death. And with the new life comes freedom beyond the law: the law was to help to life with God but again and again the law fails, or we it. Only in and with Christ is life, eternal life, ours.

You have been buried with Christ, when you were baptised; and by baptism, too, you have been raised up with him through your belief in the power of God who raised him from the dead. You were dead, because you were sinners and had not been circumcised: he has brought you to life with him, he has forgiven us all our sins.

He has overridden the Law, and cancelled every record of the debt that we had to pay; he has done away with it by nailing it to the cross.

Colossians 2:12-14

The new life in Christ is not stained or diminished by our past sins, but our present sins place it in jeopardy, for they strain and test the authenticity of our life in Christ. His mercy is for us still, but without our repentance and our desire for change and renewal in Christ, our seeming health can be only a mask and deceit. Closeness to Christ in prayer, through word and Sacrament, is something we need to work to sustain. To this too he helps us; in these gifts he makes it possible for us to approach him and live in him still.

  • What appears of life in you, but masks sin and death?
  • How does the life-giving death of Christ manifest itself in your life?
  • Where/how, today, will you renew your communion with Christ?

Tabernacle in the Hidden Gem Church, Manchester. (c) 2016, Allen Morris. The image of the pelican feeding its young with its blood is a potent symbol for Christ our Mother.