Speak Lord: Spring of mercy…

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The Lord is compassion and love.

My soul, give thanks to the Lord
all my being, bless his holy name.
My soul, give thanks to the Lord
and never forget all his blessings.

It is he who forgives all your guilt,
who heals every one of your ills,
who redeems your life from the grave,
who crowns you with love and compassion.

The Lord is compassion and love,
slow to anger and rich in mercy.
He does not treat us according to our sins
nor repay us according to our faults.

As far as the east is from the west
so far does he remove our sins.
As a father has compassion on his sons,
the Lord has pity on those who fear him.

Psalm 102(103):1-4,8,10,12-13

The psalm above is that which we will sing at Mass on Sunday, tomorrow, the 7th SUnday in Ordinary Time.

It speaks of mercy. As we approach the season of Lent it is good to remember the mercy of God. (When is it not!?!)

Sometimes there is talk of ‘Catholic guilt’. Often Catholics, like other people, have things about which we ought to feel ashamed and guilty. However, the distinguishing quality of Catholics is that we know the remedy for our guilt and are speedy in our recourse to the healing love of God.

  • Was there some experience in the recent Year of Mercy that stood out for you, and that symbolises the reason for our hope?
  • For what else do you give thanks?

Sign at the door of Mercy, at Lourdes. (c) 2016, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Build us up

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Didn’t you realise that you were God’s temple and that the Spirit of God was living among you? If anybody should destroy the temple of God, God will destroy him, because the temple of God is sacred; and you are that temple.

Make no mistake about it: if any one of you thinks of himself as wise, in the ordinary sense of the word, then he must learn to be a fool before he really can be wise. Why? Because the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God. As scripture says: The Lord knows wise men’s thoughts: he knows how useless they are; or again: God is not convinced by the arguments of the wise. So there is nothing to boast about in anything human: Paul, Apollos, Cephas, the world, life and death, the present and the future, are all your servants; but you belong to Christ and Christ belongs to God.

1 Corinthians 3:16-23

The reading above is the second reading that we will hear on Sunday, the 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

The Basilica of St Therese of Lisieux, in Lisieux is designed and decorated to give expression to her faith and her spirituality.

However perfect we are – remember the Gospel of Sunday which we considered yesterday? – we are unlikely to be afforded such honour.

However we do reveal our faith, our spirituality in our daily living in our choices and our attitudes, in our being. We bring glory to the Temple – by God’s grace! And sometimes we besmirch and sully it.

  • In what way does your daily living show you to be temple of God?
  • How does the life of your parish community reveal Christ?
  • How does it obscure him?

Basilica of St Therese. Lisieux. (c) 2015, Allen Morris

 

Speak Lord: Of perfection

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Jesus said to his disciples: ‘You have learnt how it was said: Eye for eye and tooth for tooth. But I say this to you: offer the wicked man no resistance. On the contrary, if anyone hits you on the right cheek, offer him the other as well; if a man takes you to law and would have your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone orders you to go one mile, go two miles with him. Give to anyone who asks, and if anyone wants to borrow, do not turn away.

 ‘You have learnt how it was said: You must love your neighbour and hate your enemy. But I say this to you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you; in this way you will be sons of your Father in heaven, for he causes his sun to rise on bad men as well as good, and his rain to fall on honest and dishonest men alike. For if you love those who love you, what right have you to claim any credit? Even the tax collectors do as much, do they not? And if you save your greetings for your brothers, are you doing anything exceptional? Even the pagans do as much, do they not? You must therefore be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect.’

Matthew 5:38-48

Of course, at some level, many of us think that we already are perfect! Even as at another many of us know we are far from perfect and that we are hurting ourselves and othersw as a result.

The Gospel for Mass on the Sunday of the 7th Week in Ordinary Time offers us counsel and guidance as, conflicted, we continue to respond to the invitation of the Lord to come close and learn from him, and be comforted by him.

And the guidance is to be open to the ‘other’, even those one we experience as aggresively other, as ‘enemies’. The way forward is to see them as like us, made in the image and likeness of God, and loved by him. We may hate what they do, and work to overcome the harm they do, but not by doing harm ourselves to the bond of love that rightly exists between all human beings. We are invited to build up communion, not to fragment it still further.

Think of someone you ‘hate’.

  • How are you different from them?
  • How the same?
  • What might help you reflect God’s love to them – to perhaps change them, and you?

‘Where’s the difference?’ Moscow. (c) 2015, Allen Morris

Taste and See: Us at one with God

rules

They are happy who follow God’s law!

They are happy whose life is blameless,
who follow God’s law!
They are happy who do his will,
seeking him with all their hearts.

They are happy who follow God’s law!

You have laid down your precepts
to be obeyed with care.
May my footsteps be firm
to obey your statutes.

They are happy who follow God’s law!

Bless your servant and I shall live
and obey your word.
Open my eyes that I may see
the wonders of your law.

They are happy who follow God’s law!

Teach me the demands of your statutes
and I will keep them to the end.
Train me to observe your law,
to keep it with my heart.

They are happy who follow God’s law!

Psalm 118:1-2,4-5,17-18,33-34

The Responsorial Psalm at Sunday Mass this week, the 6th week in Ordinary Time, reminds of the importance of the Law, God’s law.

There are many attempts to express what is good in human living – in our relationship to ourselves, our neighbour, and to God. None of them are perfect (cf the dialogue between different traditions regarding the Law in Judaism; the particular ‘take’ of Jesus, and that of Paul, and the tension between ‘Gospel’ and ‘Law’ in the Church subsequently.

 

The Judeo-Christian tradition is very familiar with laws and customs that arise within the community of faith, and which have their origins in the desire to hold the community together, and keep it healthy and faithful.

However none of these laws and customs are God. And what matters is God and us and our relationship with each other. It is our privilege not only to be gifted with life, but to be called into relationship, covenant, with God. Sometimes we find this in well-established ways: sometimes we are called to new ways…

  • What custom/habit presently weakens your relationship with God or others?
  • What custom/habit might help strengthen that relationship?

Poster, Beziers, France.  (c) 2015, Allen Morris

Taste and See: Love, only love

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We have a wisdom to offer those who have reached maturity: not a philosophy of our age, it is true, still less of the masters of our age, which are coming to their end. The hidden wisdom of God which we teach in our mysteries is the wisdom that God predestined to be for our glory before the ages began.

It is a wisdom that none of the masters of this age have ever known, or they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory; we teach what scripture calls: the things that no eye has seen and no ear has heard, things beyond the mind of man, all that God has prepared for those who love him.

These are the very things that God has revealed to us through the Spirit, for the Spirit reaches the depths of everything, even the depths of God.

1 Corinthians 2:6-10

The Second reading at Mass on Sunday, the 6th Sunday  in Ordinary Time, is packed with pungent Pauline ironies.

Who are those who have reached maturity? Surely not those who think they have reached it. How might we define maturity? In terms of  intellectual rigour? Well again and again, we see the ‘wise’ stumble because of their emotional immaturity. In terms of accumulated years? Well, just look at the incapacties aged brings! In terms of financial, life-style, security? Just a blip in the stock market or a change in government policy and we find ourselves exposed and on the rocks. All can seem acheived, mature, well,… until it isn’t!

And what is wisdom? The teachings of books; the cany of argument and rhetoric? Our acheivement, what we struggle to with great effort? No it is what God has thought, what God has intended before we ever began.

Paul speaks of maturity gifted by our receiveing and being sustained by what is at the heart of everything. And that, simply, is the love that is God and that is ours when we stop struggling and allow ourselves to be drawn into the current of that love that tears down and builds, that cherishes and trains, that allows us to lose ourselves and find ourselves, brought to wholeness in him.

  • What false wisdom do you hold onto?
  • What new security does the Gospel call you to?

Stained glass. Colombiers, Beziers, France. (c) 2015, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: Beyond healing?

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Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Do not imagine that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to complete them. I tell you solemnly, till heaven and earth disappear, not one dot, not one little stroke, shall disappear from the Law until its purpose is achieved. Therefore, the man who infringes even one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be considered the least in the kingdom of heaven; but the man who keeps them and teaches them will be considered great in the kingdom of heaven.

‘For I tell you, if your virtue goes no deeper than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.

‘You have learnt how it was said to our ancestors: You must not kill; and if anyone does kill he must answer for it before the court. But I say this to you: anyone who is angry with his brother will answer for it before the court; if a man calls his brother “Fool” he will answer for it before the Sanhedrin; and if a man calls him “Renegade” he will answer for it in hell fire. So then, if you are bringing your offering to the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, go and be reconciled with your brother first, and then come back and present your offering. Come to terms with your opponent in good time while you are still on the way to the court with him, or he may hand you over to the judge and the judge to the officer, and you will be thrown into prison. I tell you solemnly, you will not get out till you have paid the last penny.

‘You have learnt how it was said: You must not commit adultery. But I say this to you: if a man looks at a woman lustfully, he has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye should cause you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; for it will do you less harm to lose one part of you than to have your whole body thrown into hell. And if your right hand should cause you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; for it will do you less harm to lose one part of you than to have your whole body go to hell.

‘It has also been said: Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a writ of dismissal. But I say this to you: everyone who divorces his wife, except for the case of fornication, makes her an adulteress; and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

‘Again, you have learnt how it was said to our ancestors: You must not break your oath, but must fulfil your oaths to the Lord. But I say this to you: do not swear at all, either by heaven, since that is God’s throne; or by the earth, since that is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, since that is the city of the great king. Do not swear by your own head either, since you cannot turn a single hair white or black. All you need say is “Yes” if you mean yes, “No” if you mean no; anything more than this comes from the evil one.’

Matthew 5:17-37

The Gospel at Mass yesterday, the sixth  Sunday of Ordinary Time, was a huge list of commands and warnings. And not expressed in the most easily digestible language either…

Jesus though speasks to win us for love, and guard us from lies and from harm. He seeks to protect us, and to have us act to protect others.

Sin matters; hurt and harm are real. Sometmes wrong-doing blights a life in unconscionable ways, and in a manner that seems untreatable. Or at least again and again we will see people who for one reason or another have been so sinned against, so damaged, that they seem  inaccessible to the healing that love and God offers. Sin matters; hurt and harm are real.

  • Who do you know who is hurt and for whom you might pray today?
  • What actions of your might cause hurt, and how – with God’s help – mightyou turn from them?

Memorial to dead of the Vietnam War, Washington DC. (c) 2007, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Source of all that is good

DSC07826 Moses.jpgIf you wish, you can keep the commandments, to behave faithfully is within your power.

He has set fire and water before you;
put out your hand to whichever you prefer.

Man has life and death before him;
whichever a man likes better will be given him.

For vast is the wisdom of the Lord;
he is almighty and all-seeing.

His eyes are on those who fear him,
he notes every action of man.

He never commanded anyone to be godless,
he has given no one permission to sin.

Ecclesiasticus 15:16-21

The First Reading at Mass today, the sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time, urges us to keep the commandments. It reminds us that to keep them leads us to life, and to break them acquaints us with, draws us into the ambit of death.

The fundamental commandments – fundamental because they point to what allows us to be fully human, whole and holy – are to love God, love our neighbour, and our self.

  • Which do you most regularly need to be reminded is impotant?
  • Which seems to come to you more naturally?

Moses. Stained glass window at St Martin’s , Bullring, Birmingham. (c) 2015, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Call us to you

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They are happy who follow God’s law!

They are happy whose life is blameless,
who follow God’s law!
They are happy who do his will,
seeking him with all their hearts.

They are happy who follow God’s law!

You have laid down your precepts
to be obeyed with care.
May my footsteps be firm
to obey your statutes.

They are happy who follow God’s law!

Bless your servant and I shall live
and obey your word.
Open my eyes that I may see
the wonders of your law.

They are happy who follow God’s law!

Teach me the demands of your statutes
and I will keep them to the end.
Train me to observe your law,
to keep it with my heart.

They are happy who follow God’s law!

Psalm 118:1-2,4-5,17-18,33-34

The Responsorial Psalm at Mass tomorrow, the 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time, celebrates the community of grace, and gives expression to our longing to be part of it.

Christianity has a somewhat equivocal attitude to law. Jesus is innovative in his attitude to the Law, but insists he does not come to change a jot or a tittle of it.  Paul relativises the place of the Law, but sees himself as bound by Christ.

Authentic Christian following of God’s law comes from a personal and individual cohesion to the communion with God, in and with the Church. Laws are not irrelevant to this, far from it, but – inevitably – they are again and again inadequate expressions of what they are written to defend and promote.

Sometimes the law will be perceived as too strict; sometimes not demanding enough, as we seek to be true tothe call to live love. Sometimes our perception may be faulty; at othertimes not!

  • What law is closest to your heart?
  • Where does law seem to constrain your relationship with God, neighbour or self?

Bring your responses to God in prayer…

Reredos, San Jeronimo, Granada. (c) 2015, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: marvels in ordinary

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We have a wisdom to offer those who have reached maturity: not a philosophy of our age, it is true, still less of the masters of our age, which are coming to their end. The hidden wisdom of God which we teach in our mysteries is the wisdom that God predestined to be for our glory before the ages began.

It is a wisdom that none of the masters of this age have ever known, or they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory; we teach what scripture calls: the things that no eye has seen and no ear has heard, things beyond the mind of man, all that God has prepared for those who love him.

These are the very things that God has revealed to us through the Spirit, for the Spirit reaches the depths of everything, even the depths of God.

1 Corinthians 2:6-10

The Second reading at Mass on Sunday, the 6th Sunday  in Ordinary Time, speaks of wisdom – an extraordinary wisdom predestined for our glory before the ages began.

And yet that extraordinary wisdom is entrusted to very ordinary people

It is perhaps helpful to remember that although this wisdom is salvation for us, it is ministered to very ordinary people by very ordinary people (remember the 2nd reading last week and the week before?) and in very ordinary places and circumstances.

How gracious is God, how respectful of our condition! He calls us on to what is extraordinary, through the deeper owning of the ordinariness of ourselves.

  • What is extraordinary about faith as you experience it?
  • What is ordinary about it?

Corinth. (In the middle distance the arched Bema at which Paul preached.) (c) 2006, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Mercy

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Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Do not imagine that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to complete them. I tell you solemnly, till heaven and earth disappear, not one dot, not one little stroke, shall disappear from the Law until its purpose is achieved. Therefore, the man who infringes even one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be considered the least in the kingdom of heaven; but the man who keeps them and teaches them will be considered great in the kingdom of heaven.

‘For I tell you, if your virtue goes no deeper than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.

‘You have learnt how it was said to our ancestors: You must not kill; and if anyone does kill he must answer for it before the court. But I say this to you: anyone who is angry with his brother will answer for it before the court; if a man calls his brother “Fool” he will answer for it before the Sanhedrin; and if a man calls him “Renegade” he will answer for it in hell fire. So then, if you are bringing your offering to the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, go and be reconciled with your brother first, and then come back and present your offering. Come to terms with your opponent in good time while you are still on the way to the court with him, or he may hand you over to the judge and the judge to the officer, and you will be thrown into prison. I tell you solemnly, you will not get out till you have paid the last penny.

‘You have learnt how it was said: You must not commit adultery. But I say this to you: if a man looks at a woman lustfully, he has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye should cause you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; for it will do you less harm to lose one part of you than to have your whole body thrown into hell. And if your right hand should cause you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; for it will do you less harm to lose one part of you than to have your whole body go to hell.

‘It has also been said: Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a writ of dismissal. But I say this to you: everyone who divorces his wife, except for the case of fornication, makes her an adulteress; and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

‘Again, you have learnt how it was said to our ancestors: You must not break your oath, but must fulfil your oaths to the Lord. But I say this to you: do not swear at all, either by heaven, since that is God’s throne; or by the earth, since that is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, since that is the city of the great king. Do not swear by your own head either, since you cannot turn a single hair white or black. All you need say is “Yes” if you mean yes, “No” if you mean no; anything more than this comes from the evil one.’

Matthew 5:17-37

The Gospel this coming Sunday, the sixth of Ordinary Time, might be described as a counsel of perfection. It might also be experienced as check list for our faults and failings.

We may be innocent of the more grievous faults, but surely none of us can read the list and find ourselves innocent of each and every thing.

Jesus points to the seriousness of sin, and the importance of our seeking to avoid it. But in himself and in his welcome and compassion for sinners, Jesus shows that our sin is never to be allowed to be the last word. He offers compassion, mercy, healing. How lucky, how blessed, are we.

  • For what are you most grateful to have been forgiven?
  • Is there anything of which you are ashamed that you need help to bring to the Lord for his healing and forgiveness?

Justified Sinner. Tewkesbury Abbey. (c) 2016, Allen Morris