Speak Lord: Our help, our hope.

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The Spirit comes to help us in our weakness. For when we cannot choose words in order to pray properly, the Spirit himself expresses our plea in a way that could never be put into words, and God who knows everything in our hearts knows perfectly well what he means, and that the pleas of the saints expressed by the Spirit are according to the mind of God.

Romans 8:26-27

The second reading at Mass on Sunday, the 16th in Ordinary Time, offers us the encouragement of knowing that our prayer does not rely on our ability to find the right words.

Prayer is an expression of our communion with God, our love for him. And our prayer finds inspiration from that communion, that love, which is the Spirit who comes to animate us..

Detail of grave marker, Cimetière des Roumiguières, nr Grasse, France. (c) 2007, Allen Morris.

 

Speak Lord: Surprise us

DSC07352.jpgJesus put another parable before the crowds, ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. While everybody was asleep his enemy came, sowed darnel all among the wheat, and made off. When the new wheat sprouted and ripened, the darnel appeared as well. The owner’s servants went to him and said, “Sir, was it not good seed that you sowed in your field? If so, where does the darnel come from?” “Some enemy has done this” he answered. And the servants said, “Do you want us to go and weed it out?” But he said, “No, because when you weed out the darnel you might pull up the wheat with it. Let them both grow till the harvest; and at harvest time I shall say to the reapers: First collect the darnel and tie it in bundles to be burnt, then gather the wheat into my barn.”’

He put another parable before them, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the biggest shrub of all and becomes a tree so that the birds of the air come and shelter in its branches.’

He told them another parable, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like the yeast a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour till it was leavened all through.’

In all this Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables; indeed, he would never speak to them except in parables. This was to fulfil the prophecy: ‘I will speak to you in parables and expound things hidden since the foundation of the world.’

Then, leaving the crowds, he went to the house; and his disciples came to him and said, ‘Explain the parable about the darnel in the field to us.’ He said in reply, ‘The sower of the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world; the good seed is the subjects of the kingdom; the darnel, the subjects of the evil one; the enemy who sowed them, the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; the reapers are the angels. Well then, just as the darnel is gathered up and burnt in the fire, so it will be at the end of time. The Son of Man will send his angels and they will gather out of his kingdom all things that provoke offences and all who do evil, and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth. Then the virtuous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Listen, anyone who has ears!’

Matthew 13:24-43

The Gospel this Sunday, the 16th in Ordinary Time is made up of a variety of parables, each speaking of the Kingdom, and each seeming to focus on something different.

In the first (though you’d scarcely guess it from the explanation appended later) there seems to be caution about rushing to judgement and decision; in the next the virtue of weeds is applauded; and in the third the corruption that is leaven is praised.

The Kingdom is a wonderful fruitful and lively thing – but maybe as yet it seems none of us is likely to see it quite as God does…

Detail from grave marker. National Arboretum. (c) 2016, Allen Morris

Taste and See: Love for us

 

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Thus says the Lord: ‘As the rain and the snow come down from the heavens and do not return without watering the earth, making it yield and giving growth to provide seed for the sower and bread for the eating, so the word that goes from my mouth does not return to me empty, without carrying out my will and succeeding in what it was sent to do.’

Isaiah 55:10-11

The first reading at Mass on Sunday, the 15th Sunday of Ordinary Time, encourages us to hope for the harvest; to renew our trust in the power and faithfulness of God.

And when we do this should lead us to a fresh awe that God, creator of all that is, should be attentive and caring for us, a tiny and seemingly passing part of Creation. And yet he he serves us…

How blessed are we to know this: not only to be loved, but to know we are loved.

Image from crypt chapel, St Mary’s University, Twickenham. (c) 2007, Allen Morris.

 

Taste and See: Harvest

Eden ProjectAlleluia, alleluia!
Blessed are you, Father,
Lord of heaven and earth,
for revealing the mysteries of the kingdom
to mere children.
Alleluia!

The alternative verse proposed for the Gospel Acclamation on Sunday, the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time, suggests, rather firmly, that if we are to know and live by the mysteries of the Kingdom we are to become like little children.

There is so much in our culture that encourages us to a sort of ‘adulthood’ – to an independence of thought and action, a separation from the (dangerous) other, things which veer towards selfishness.

Yet we are to learn adulthood from God our Father. And there we learn that Fatherhood is about reaching out to others;it is about compassion and care; about integration and healing.

We need to become as children before this Father to relearn what makes for maturity.

And then, in all of our diversity and in a new unity, we will prove a wonderful harvest for the Lord.

Flowers. Eden Project, Cornwall. (c) 2004.

 

Taste and See: Newness anticipated

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I think that what we suffer in this life can never be compared to the glory, as yet unrevealed, which is waiting for us. The whole creation is eagerly waiting for God to reveal his sons. It was not for any fault on the part of creation that it was made unable to attain its purpose, it was made so by God; but creation still retains the hope of being freed, like us, from its slavery to decadence, to enjoy the same freedom and glory as the children of God. From the beginning till now the entire creation, as we know, has been groaning in one great act of giving birth; and not only creation, but all of us who possess the first-fruits of the Spirit, we too groan inwardly as we wait for our bodies to be set free.

Romans 8:18-23

Images of the word and fruitfulness and its opposite dominated the Liturgy of the Word yesterday, the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time. The second reading, above, reminds that this is not a matter only for disciples, even for humans only. We have a privileged place but Paul says creation too longs for completion and fulfilment.

God made all that is and saw that it was good. In Christ it is to become better yet.. and we have our part to play in this – through our cooperation with God’s re-creative urge and by our patience.

  • How did you play your part yesterday?
  • And what might you do today?

Tomb of Paul Cézanne, Aix en Provence. (c) 2014, Allen Morris

 

 

Speak Lord: Conquer us

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Thus says the Lord: ‘As the rain and the snow come down from the heavens and do not return without watering the earth, making it yield and giving growth to provide seed for the sower and bread for the eating, so the word that goes from my mouth does not return to me empty, without carrying out my will and succeeding in what it was sent to do.’

Isaiah 55:10-11

The first reading at Mass today, the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time, speaks of the power of the word of God.

The prophet’s assertion that nothing can thwart God’s intention for his word. This might give us hope.

However it is something against which we need to set the caution and warning of Jesus in the parable of the sower and the seed: seed good, but not everyone is up to receiving it and benefiting from it.

Where does that leave us? Ultimately we may say God is all-powerful and have hope for his will to be done. But existentially, here and now, we recognise that we have a choice – to seek for God’s will to be done in us, with our consent and cooperation, to the extent we can, even with the admission we can feel powerless.

Let us rejoice in the faithfulness of God, and pray for a growth in faithfulness and desire for faithfulness in us.

Wet in the Valley of Rocks, Devon. (c) 2013, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: and speak again…

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Some seed fell into rich soil and produced its crop.

You care for the earth, give it water,
you fill it with riches.
Your river in heaven brims over
to provide its grain.

Some seed fell into rich soil and produced its crop.

And thus you provide for the earth;
you drench its furrows;
you level it, soften it with showers;
you bless its growth.

Some seed fell into rich soil and produced its crop.

You crown the year with your goodness.
Abundance flows in your steps,
in the pastures of the wilderness it flows.

Some seed fell into rich soil and produced its crop.

The hills are girded with joy,
the meadows covered with flocks,
the valleys are decked with wheat.
They shout for joy, yes, they sing.

Some seed fell into rich soil and produced its crop.

Psalm 64:10-14

The readings at Mass this Sunday, the 15th in Ordinary Time, all speak of fruitfulness and God’s desire that his word be fruitful for us.

The psalm sings these themes! And so the thankfulness of the faithful is amplified… to sing is to pray twice and the psalm, especially, is the congregation’s prayer as it listens to the word of God afresh.

Count your blessings. Where can you see that God’s word has been fruitful in your life and for others?

Eden Project (c) 2003, Allen Morris

 

 

Speak Lord: Our saving hope…

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I think that what we suffer in this life can never be compared to the glory, as yet unrevealed, which is waiting for us. The whole creation is eagerly waiting for God to reveal his sons. It was not for any fault on the part of creation that it was made unable to attain its purpose, it was made so by God; but creation still retains the hope of being freed, like us, from its slavery to decadence, to enjoy the same freedom and glory as the children of God. From the beginning till now the entire creation, as we know, has been groaning in one great act of giving birth; and not only creation, but all of us who possess the first-fruits of the Spirit, we too groan inwardly as we wait for our bodies to be set free.

Romans 8:18-23

The Second reading at Mass on Sunday, the 15th Sunday of the Year, re-engages us with Paul’s vision of the restoration, completion, of Creation that is offered in Jesus Christ. It is offered to us in a unique way through our participation in the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus.

Waiting… It is not always an easy thing to do. Eager waiting, especially, can be an exhausting thing. But we are not waiting without nothing else to do… The Gospel of the Day reminds of the work in clearing the ground, of preparing as best we can for that which is beyond our own achievement, but which through inaction and ennui we just could thwart…

Detail of Tabernacle surround (Stephen Foster). Our Lady, St John’s Wood. (c) 2011, Allen Morris.

 

Speak Lord: Urge us on…

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Jesus left the house and sat by the lakeside, but such large crowds gathered round him that he got into a boat and sat there. The people all stood on the beach, and he told them many things in parables.

He said, ‘Imagine a sower going out to sow. As he sowed, some seeds fell on the edge of the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Others fell on patches of rock where they found little soil and sprang up straight away, because there was no depth of earth; but as soon as the sun came up they were scorched and, not having any roots, they withered away. Others fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Others fell on rich soil and produced their crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Listen, anyone who has ears!’

Then the disciples went up to him and asked, ‘Why do you talk to them in parables?’ ‘Because’ he replied, ‘the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven are revealed to you, but they are not revealed to them. For anyone who has will be given more, and he will have more than enough; but from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away. The reason I talk to them in parables is that they look without seeing and listen without hearing or understanding. So in their case this prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled:

You will listen and listen again, but not understand,
see and see again, but not perceive.
For the heart of this nation has grown coarse,
their ears are dull of hearing, and they have shut their eyes,
for fear they should see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their heart,
and be converted
and be healed by me.

‘But happy are your eyes because they see, your ears because they hear! I tell you solemnly, many prophets and holy men longed to see what you see, and never saw it; to hear what you hear, and never heard it.

‘You, therefore, are to hear the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom without understanding, the evil one comes and carries off what was sown in his heart: this is the man who received the seed on the edge of the path. The one who received it on patches of rock is the man who hears the word and welcomes it at once with joy. But he has no root in him, he does not last; let some trial come, or some persecution on account of the word, and he falls away at once. The one who received the seed in thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this world and the lure of riches choke the word and so he produces nothing. And the one who received the seed in rich soil is the man who hears the word and understands it; he is the one who yields a harvest and produces now a hundredfold, now sixty, now thirty.’

Matthew 13:1-23

The Gospel for the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time is a very familiar one. The metaphor/parable seems so immediately accessible and understandable one wonders why the disciples needed it to be unpacked.

Perhaps the reason is not so much that they could not understand the application of the metaphor to life and the decisions we make, and more that (despite Jesus kind words) they, like us, find it hard to face up to and seek to reverse the bad decisions we make.

The man who lacks the rich harvest, in Jesus’ application of the parable is a victim of the evil one, or trial or persecution, or worries or riches. The only remedy offered is to be sure to have rich soil!

Maybe this rich soil comes to some by good fortune, but the remedy to those who – thanks to the parable, and the teachers of parables – is evident: take care, get digging, clear out the stones, get weeding… We have work to do, if we are to be healed by him.

New Hall Mill, Sutton Coldfield. (c) 2017, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: Hope in Christ

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O God, who in the abasement of your Son
have raised up a fallen world,
fill your faithful with holy joy,
for on those you have rescued from slavery to sin
you bestow eternal gladness.
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.

The Collect at Mass on Sunday, the 14th Sunday of Ordinary Time spoke of salvation won for the world through Christ’s humble service.

Christ is our hope, for we as yet share in the fallenness of the world. But again and again in ways we know of, and ways we do not know of, he reaches out to us, guide us forward, supports and protects us. He is our blessed hope and our joy. He came to us and even now draws us to himself.

Christ, Saviour of the World. St Mary’s Warwick. (c) 2016, Allen Morris