Taste and See: Discipleship

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The eleven disciples set out for Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had arranged to meet them. When they saw him they fell down before him, though some hesitated.

Jesus came up and spoke to them. He said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations; baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you. And know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.’

Matthew 28:16-20

The commission given to the disciples, and to the Church, is very clear: make disciples; baptise; teach them to observe the commands I gave.

The order of these things will vary according to Church practice, most notably whether infants or adults are baptised – sometimes learning the commands precedes baptism, sometimes it follows it.

However if the Church is truly to make disciples – and not ‘just’ perform liturgical rites – those being initiated need to be made aware of that abiding presence of Jesus to the Church and her members, and desirous to respond more and more to that presence through their lives.

It is through our presence to him, almost as much as through his presence to us, that discipleship is formed and fostered.

Baptistery, Metropolitan Cathedral, Liverpool. (c) 2006, Allen Morris.

 

Taste and See: United for love

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May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give you a spirit of wisdom and perception of what is revealed, to bring you to full knowledge of him. May he enlighten the eyes of your mind so that you can see what hope his call holds for you, what rich glories he has promised the saints will inherit and how infinitely great is the power that he has exercised for us believers.

This you can tell from the strength of his power at work in Christ, when he used it to raise him from the dead and to make him sit at his right hand, in heaven, far above every Sovereignty, Authority, Power, or Domination, or any other name that can be named not only in this age but also in the age to come. He has put all things under his feet and made him, as the ruler of everything, the head of the Church; which is his body, the fullness of him who fills the whole creation.

Ephesians 1:17-23

The Second reading at Mass on Sunday, the feast of the Ascension, From St Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, draws our attention to God as Father and God as Son…

  • God the Father who raises the Son from the dead…
  • God the Son who, in graceful cooperation with the Father, is Lord of all

The reference to the spirit, in lower case, in the first sentence above, might not be a reference to God the Holy Spirit, as such, but certainly is part of a prayer that we should share in the wisdom and all that is gift of the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father and is gifted by the Son, and who we will remember especially next Sunday, the feast of Pentecost.

Jesus was seen by at his Jewish opponents as blasphemous, claiming for himself that which is proper only to God.

Paul , converted to faith in Jesus, sees no competition between God the Father and God the Son, and indeed the Holy Spirit. They are perfectly at one in their saving work, the work of love, a work that seeks to make the whole of creation again one with God.

  • To whom do you give obedience for the sake of God’s saving work?

Carving. Ely Cathedral. (c) 2010

Taste and See: Saviour ever for us…

 

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It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation,
always and everywhere to give you thanks,
Lord, holy Father, almighty and eternal God.

For the Lord Jesus, the King of glory,
conqueror of sin and death,
ascended (today) to the highest heavens,
as the Angels gazed in wonder.

Mediator between God and man,
judge of the world and Lord of hosts,
he ascended, not to distance himself from our lowly state
but that we, his members, might be confident of following
where he, our Head and Founder, has gone before.

Therefore, overcome with paschal joy,
every land, every people exults in your praise
and even the heavenly Powers, with the angelic hosts,
sing together the unending hymn of your glory,
as they acclaim: Holy…

The Preface above is said on the day of the Ascension of the Lord.

The Preface above used at Mass yesterday, Ascension Sunday, highlights the way that the Ascension of Jesus is not simply a return to heaven for the one who came down from there. In the Ascension Jesus continues his saving work: he traces the path that we too, in time, are intended and purposed to trace.

The apostles are chided for gazing upward – or at least for lingering to long in their wonder – but the Preface tells us that the angels too gaze in wonder, as well they might!

The Prayer urges us to confidence in Christ’s saving work…

  • What grounds for such confidence do you hold to?
  • What difference does the saving love of Jesus Christ make for you and yours – and for your neighbour and ‘strangers’?

Carving. Cloister of St Trophime, Arles. (c) 2013, Allen Morris

 

Speak Lord: Ascended in Glory

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God goes up with shouts of joy; the Lord goes up with trumpet blast or Alleluia!

All peoples, clap your hands,
cry to God with shouts of joy!
For the Lord, the Most High, we must fear,
great king over all the earth.

God goes up with shouts of joy; the Lord goes up with trumpet blast or Alleluia!

God goes up with shouts of joy;
the Lord goes up with trumpet blast.
Sing praise for God, sing praise,
sing praise to our king, sing praise.

God goes up with shouts of joy; the Lord goes up with trumpet blast or Alleluia!

God is king of all the earth,
sing praise with all your skill.
God is king over the nations;
God reigns on his holy throne.

God goes up with shouts of joy; the Lord goes up with trumpet blast or Alleluia!

Psalm 46:2-3,6-9

The psalm at Mass today, Ascension Day, unites us in a song of praise to the glory of God.

The Lord who here served so well and at such cost is restored to heaven. We had no right to expect the ‘intervention’ of the Incarnation, to the ministry of God in flesh here on earth.  But here he came and now in celebrating the ‘return’ of God, we celebrate too that God returns, united in Jesus Christ with humanity.

The one who ascends and is now seated at the right hand of the Father still shares our flesh, and still works for us, in intercession, and in the sacramental order that we might share in his divinity.

12th C carving from Cologne, in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum. (c) 2007, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: the gift of life

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In my earlier work, Theophilus, I dealt with everything Jesus had done and taught from the beginning until the day he gave his instructions to the apostles he had chosen through the Holy Spirit, and was taken up to heaven. He had shown himself alive to them after his Passion by many demonstrations: for forty days he had continued to appear to them and tell them about the kingdom of God. When he had been at table with them, he had told them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for what the Father had promised. ‘It is’ he had said ‘what you have heard me speak about: John baptised with water but you, not many days from now, will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.’

Now having met together, they asked him, ‘Lord, has the time come? Are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He replied, ‘It is not for you to know times or dates that the Father has decided by his own authority, but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and then you will be my witnesses not only in Jerusalem but throughout Judaea and Samaria, and indeed to the ends of the earth.’

As he said this he was lifted up while they looked on, and a cloud took him from their sight. They were still staring into the sky when suddenly two men in white were standing near them and they said, ‘Why are you men from Galilee standing here looking into the sky? Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven, this same Jesus will come back in the same way as you have seen him go there.’

Acts 1:1-11

Tomorrow, the feast of the Ascension, we hear the account of Jesus’ ascending to the Father from the Acts of the Apostles. It is a scene of wonder and awe. This is not the sort of thing that happens every day!

And yet as the apostles stand there, gob-smacked, the two men in white appear and call them from peering into the heavens, and re-direct their attention to the things of earth. We might think of the two men in white as angels, but like God – Father, Son and Spirit – the things of the world matter greatly to them.

God who came to earth from heaven and returned there until he will come again, came to help us to live and love well here.

  • How do you respond to this gift?

Prayer at the Mosque of the Ascension, Jerusalem. (c) 2017, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Power and Grace

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May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give you a spirit of wisdom and perception of what is revealed, to bring you to full knowledge of him. May he enlighten the eyes of your mind so that you can see what hope his call holds for you, what rich glories he has promised the saints will inherit and how infinitely great is the power that he has exercised for us believers.

This you can tell from the strength of his power at work in Christ, when he used it to raise him from the dead and to make him sit at his right hand, in heaven, far above every Sovereignty, Authority, Power, or Domination, or any other name that can be named not only in this age but also in the age to come. He has put all things under his feet and made him, as the ruler of everything, the head of the Church; which is his body, the fullness of him who fills the whole creation.

Ephesians 1:17-23

In these days around the Ascension and Pentecost our focus is naturally enough on Jesus and on the Holy Spirit. This reading reminds us of the necessary role of the Father – the very focus of the spirituality and prayer of Jesus.

The Father manifests his power in his service of the Son, of Jesus Christ.

Power in God is displayed, not in self-agrandizement, but in service of the other. The power of God is manifest not only in mutual love and service of Father for Son, and Son for the Father, but the love and affirmation of the Holy Spirit – and all this overflows towards us, for our salvation.

  • How do you show your love?
  • How do you use your power?

Bring your thoughts to God in prayer…

Crypt Chapel ceiling. Church of St Cecilia, Rome. (c) 2016, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Risen and Ascended One

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The eleven disciples set out for Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had arranged to meet them.

When they saw him they fell down before him, though some hesitated. Jesus came up and spoke to them.

He said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations; baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you. And know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.’

Matthew 28:16-20

With the Ascension the physical presence on earth of Jesus in his humanity comes to an end – until the Second Coming.

In the meantime the real presence of Jesus is mediated in symbol and Sacrament. He is present in the Church and her continuing of his ministry; in the Sacraments, and in a particular way his presence abides in the transformed elements of Bread and Wine that communicate the entire Christ.

For Sacrament and symbol to be effective we need to minister them authentically and we need to receive them fruitfully. Otherwise they betray the one they re-present, and/or leave us untouched,  or at least unmoved, by the one who is Love and seeks to draw us ever-deeper into lives of love.

  • How do you seek to respond to the call of the Lord to his Church to ‘make disciples’?
  • Which commands of the Lord do you find most sympathetic?
  • And which most challenging?

Bring your response to the Lord in prayer.

Stained glass in St Mary’s Church, Shrewsbury. (c) 2016, Allen Morris

Taste and See: Fruits and mission

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Almighty ever-living God,
who restore us to eternal life in the Resurrection of Christ,
increase in us, we pray, the fruits of this paschal Sacrament
and pour into our hearts the strength of this saving food.
Through Christ our Lord.

Prayer after Communion for the 6th Sunday of Easter.

The 6th Sunday of Easter was the last before the Sundays of Ascension and Pentecost which deepen the focus on the mission and responsibility of the disciples, even as they tell of the Mysteries of Christ and the Holy Spirit.

We are gifted by God with faith, the promise of eternal life, and the gifts of the Spirit – but not only for our personal enrichment. These gifts are shared for the benefit too of those we are called to serve.

  • How has the Lord resourced you for the good of others?
  • In what way are you helped to serve the mission of Christ?
  • In what ways are you hampered?

Figs. Aix en Provence. (c) 2014, Allen Morris

Taste and See: Communion

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Philip went to a Samaritan town and proclaimed the Christ to them. The people united in welcoming the message Philip preached, either because they had heard of the miracles he worked or because they saw them for themselves. There were, for example, unclean spirits that came shrieking out of many who were possessed, and several paralytics and cripples were cured. As a result there was great rejoicing in that town.

When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, and they went down there, and prayed for the Samaritans to receive the Holy Spirit, for as yet he had not come down on any of them: they had only been baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

Acts 8:5-8,14-17

In the passage above we hear of Samaria and Jerusalem together receiving the good news of communion in Christ, and working together to share and build up the communion of the Church.

At the heart of Catholic Christianity is communion – communion in Christ and with the Church.

We are not Christian if we are alone with Christ for Christ is not Christ alone with himself.

We are not Church in our community, united with Christ, but outside of the communion of the Church – for the Church is the community of faithful, one in all places and at all times.

Finding and living this communion is rarely easy – for, like us, other Christians and other communities in the Church, are ‘peculiar’! But as Christ’s love embraces each of us and seeks to draw us to something beyond our uniqueness, uniting us in love and service of God and neighbour.

  • With whom do you find communion challenging?
  • For what aspect of communion are you most grateful?

Medieval Floor tile. Palais des Papes, Avignon, France. (c) 2014, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: As we journey on…

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Grant, almighty God,
that we may celebrate with heartfelt devotion these days of joy,
which we keep in honour of the risen Lord,
and that what we relive in remembrance
we may always hold to in what we do.
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 6th Sunday of Easter

The above prayer, prayed at Mass yesterday, reminds that what we celebrate should inform our lives. One image for our lives is that of pilgrimage from this fallen and marred world to the perfection of life wholly united with God in heaven.

The Lord himself provides the nourishment and the direction that we need to continue on that journey, and salve for when we fall, and fresh guidance for when we get lost.

  • What challenges do you find on your journey at present?
  • What helps you to keep seeing to move forward?

Pilgrim. Hereford Cathedral. (c) 2017, Allen Morris