Taste and See: the generous giver

Sacred Heart CheadleThe first reading at Mass on Sunday, the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary time, came from Israel’s Wisdom tradition. That tradition reflects on the business of human living. Those writings – for example Wisdom, Proverbs, Ecclesiasticus… – contain some passages that sometimes seem indistinguishable from a down-to-earth sort of good advice. Yet it comes from the practice of pondering on the ways of God as well as the ways of men. And sometimes, as in the passage this week, the two run into the other. We are urged to act in a particular way not just because it is a good way to be human, but because it is a way close to the Lord’s own heart.

My son, be gentle in carrying out your business, and you will be better loved than a lavish giver.

The greater you are, the more you should behave humbly, and then you will find favour with the Lord; for great though the power of the Lord is, he accepts the homage of the humble.

There is no cure for the proud man’s malady, since an evil growth has taken root in him. The heart of a sensible man will reflect on parables, an attentive ear is the sage’s dream.

Ecclesiasticus 3:19-21,30-31

  • From whom do you receive? And what do you receive?
  • What do you give? And to whom?
  • From whom do you hold back in giving? Why?
  • Bring your thoughts to God in prayer…

Statue of the Sacred Heart. St Giles, Cheadle. (c) 2003, Allen Morris

Taste and See: Charity

St Vincent de PaulThe Prayer after Communion after Communion on Sunday, the 22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time, recovered the urgings to love and service that were so strong a feature of the Liturgy of the Word. It reminds, too, of the reciprocity that the Eucharist is intended to enable.

God loves and serves us, even in our worship of him, so that we might be best enabled to love and serve others.

Renewed by this bread from the heavenly table,
we beseech you, Lord,
that, being the food of charity,
it may confirm our hearts
and stir us to serve you in our neighbour.
Through Christ our Lord.

  • Where how does your parish community engage in the works of charity?
  • How do you associate yourself with these?
  • In what way does your family live love for neighbour?

St Vincent de Paul, Church of St Nicolas, Nantes. (c) 2016, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: reverence

Brentwood Cathedral Altar

The Opening Prayer at Mass yesterday, the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, gives us much to ponder on, that we might make the prayer our own, and seek to live what we pray for.

Collect

God of might, giver of every good gift,
put into our hearts the love of your name,
so that, by deepening our sense of reverence,
you may nurture in us what is good
and, by your watchful care,
keep safe what you have nurtured.
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.

In the ‘Liturgy Wars’, – arguments about style, about what we sing etc- too often the attention is given to what we do, rather than who we worship.

The Collect of Sunday reminds that the most important work of the Liturgy is what God does, is the active presence of God. The most important thing we can do is attend to that.

The Altar and Ambo, Brentwood Cathedral. (c) 2007, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Teacher

Jesus Avignon Palais des Papes

The first reading at Mass today, the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary time, offers very simple practical advice.

My son, be gentle in carrying out your business, and you will be better loved than a lavish giver.

The greater you are, the more you should behave humbly, and then you will find favour with the Lord; for great though the power of the Lord is, he accepts the homage of the humble.

There is no cure for the proud man’s malady, since an evil growth has taken root in him. The heart of a sensible man will reflect on parables, an attentive ear is the sage’s dream.

Ecclesiasticus 3:19-21,30-31

It is advice in the art of being human. Sometimes we are so taken up with ‘how Jesus is God’ that we neglect to give equal attention to ‘how Jesus is human’. It is in living our humanity to the full, fulfilling its every potential for love and care, that we are helped – by God’s grace – to progress in holiness, to deepen our lived communion with Jesus: Fully human, fully divine.

  • Where / How / When might you be more human?

Fresco. Palais des Papes, Avignon. (c) 2015), Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Poor One, Humble One.

PovertyThe psalm at Mass tomorrow, the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, echoes the theme of the first reading, and prepares us for hearing the Gospel which extends the same theme. The theme? Care for the poor; solidarity within the human family; personal humility and attentiveness to the situation of others. As God is, so we are called to be…

In your goodness, O God, you prepared a home for the poor.

The just shall rejoice at the presence of God,
they shall exult and dance for joy.
O sing to the Lord, make music to his name;
rejoice in the Lord, exult at his presence.

In your goodness, O God, you prepared a home for the poor.

Father of the orphan, defender of the widow,
such is God in his holy place.
God gives the lonely a home to live in;
he leads the prisoners forth into freedom:

In your goodness, O God, you prepared a home for the poor.

You poured down, O God, a generous rain:
when your people were starved you gave them new life.
It was there that your people found a home,
prepared in your goodness, O God, for the poor.

In your goodness, O God, you prepared a home for the poor.

Psalm 67:4-7,10-11

  • Who are the poor and the needy who you have already ‘registered’? How have you responded to their need?
  • Who might be the poor and needy you have not noticed. Try looking for them as you go about your daily business today – in the shops, in the park, in your street, at church. How might you reach out to them?

Stained glass from Shrewbury Cathedral. (c) 2016, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Our Life

Holy Name El GrecoThe second reading on Sunday, the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, is a further reading from the Letter to the Hebrews.

It alerts us to the utterly transcendent gift we receive in Christ – the life of heaven, in communion with God. Mere creatures are raised to the life of the Kingdom.

What you have come to is nothing known to the senses: not a blazing fire, or a gloom turning to total darkness, or a storm; or trumpeting thunder or the great voice speaking which made everyone that heard it beg that no more should be said to them.

But what you have come to is Mount Zion and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem where the millions of angels have gathered for the festival, with the whole Church in which everyone is a ‘first-born son’ and a citizen of heaven. You have come to God himself, the supreme Judge, and been placed with spirits of the saints who have been made perfect; and to Jesus, the mediator who brings a new covenant and a blood for purification which pleads more insistently than Abel’s.

Hebrews 12:18-19,22-24

We are constrained in our experience and our understanding to the worldly and the passing. Except that again and again, in love, God draws us to experience which is right on the horizon of what we can experience, and which intimates to us, (makes us – almost -intimate with)  that which is beyond our experience and understanding. These flashes of eternity and the transcendent draw us on. The writer of Hebrews attempts to put into human language that more. He draws on the symbols and metaphors that gave Israel a sense of its identity on earth and expands them beyond what honestly can be can conceived.

Such is the privilege that is ours in Christ, through his saving love.

  • Count your blessings and give thanks!

Detail of ‘Adoration of the Holy Name’, by El Greco in the collection of the National Gallery, London. (c) 2015, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Of the way of humility

Canon T. Major LesterThe Gospel reading on Sunday, the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, invites us to humility, and an openness to those who are regularly marginalised.

The Kingdom has rules and perspectives very different to those of the world.

On a sabbath day Jesus had gone for a meal to the house of one of the leading Pharisees; and they watched him closely. He then told the guests a parable, because he had noticed how they picked the places of honour.

He said this, ‘When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take your seat in the place of honour. A more distinguished person than you may have been invited, and the person who invited you both may come and say, “Give up your place to this man.” And then, to your embarrassment, you would have to go and take the lowest place. No; when you are a guest, make your way to the lowest place and sit there, so that, when your host comes, he may say, “My friend, move up higher.” In that way, everyone with you at the table will see you honoured. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the man who humbles himself will be exalted.’

Then he said to his host, ‘When you give a lunch or a dinner, do not ask your friends, brothers, relations or rich neighbours, for fear they repay your courtesy by inviting you in return. No; when you have a party, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; that they cannot pay you back means that you are fortunate, because repayment will be made to you when the virtuous rise again.’

Luke 14:1,7-14

  • To whom do you feel ‘superior’? What might you have to learn from them? What might you do for their benefit?
  • To whom do you feel inferior? What might you have to teach them? How might you do that?

Detail of Memorial to Canon T. Major Lester, St John’s Garden, Liverpool. (c) 2007, Allen Morris