Taste and See: the good and the best

Philippi.jpg

Alleluia, alleluia!
You will shine in the world like bright stars
because you are offering it the word of life.
Alleluia!

Alternative Gospel Acclamation for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Philippians 2:15-16

The readings of this Sunday each dealt in their own way with power and glory – proper attributes of God, and qualities that we might sometimes seek after, for good or ill.

Paul, in Philippians, sees distinction coming the way of the faithful when we perform our primary mission as Christians – that we imitate Christ in his work of bring enlightenment to the world, of bearing his light to the world oft-times darkened by sin or distracted by false lights from the one and true light.

Our light is an acquired light, gift in return for service: not ours by right, but given in love.

  • Trying to avoid both pride and false modesty, where do you think your life might attract others to all that is good?

Philippi, Greece. (c) 2006.

 

Taste and See: Victory?

DSC06562.jpg

Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus,
whom he has taken by his right hand
to subdue nations before him
and strip the loins of kings,
to force gateways before him
that their gates be closed no more:

‘It is for the sake of my servant Jacob,
of Israel my chosen one,
that I have called you by your name,
conferring a title though you do not know me.
I am the Lord, unrivalled;
there is no other God besides me.
Though you do not know me, I arm you
that men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun
that, apart from me, all is nothing.’

First reading for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Isaiah 45:1,4-6

Isaiah gives Cyrus a good press! And it is a timely reminder how the Lord writes straight but often in lines that seem to us mighty angular and unpredictable… He is able to use Cyrus, conqueror of nations and seizer of empires, to further his intent for puny Israel, at this time almost smudged from the political map.

One wonders what comfort God’s restoration of the Chosen People that would be for the subdued nations, humiliated kings and pillaged cities.

God’s ways are not ours, and often enough we need to fall into awed silence before the revelation of God in human history. But it is sobering to reflect that so often in that history God’s ways are for us. And important for us to reflect on what do we do with the blessings that come our way, often won at such great cost.

Detail from stone panels of King Sennacherib (704-681 BC) at Nineveh (in modern northern Iraq) . British Museum, London. (c) 2017, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Direct us, rule us…

DSC08218.jpg

Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus,
whom he has taken by his right hand
to subdue nations before him
and strip the loins of kings,
to force gateways before him
that their gates be closed no more:

‘It is for the sake of my servant Jacob,
of Israel my chosen one,
that I have called you by your name,
conferring a title though you do not know me.
I am the Lord, unrivalled;
there is no other God besides me.
Though you do not know me, I arm you
that men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun
that, apart from me, all is nothing.’

First reading for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Isaiah 45:1,4-6

The Lord finds his chosen in unexpected places – shepherds, a dresser of sycamores, and a pagan king, just for example.

Cyrus, the pagan king, serves the Lord by restoring his people to their homeland from which they had been ripped and taken into exile.

All human power and dignity derives from God’s power and glory. All human power and dignity finds its final purpose in being used for good and for love. And when it is, and when we recognise it and honour it, something more of God’s purpose is recognised: there is a new unity found in a broken world, and in the fragmentation of the human family.

Whoever does good, and wherever, does the will of God and advances the dawning of the Kingdom of God.

Window commemorating Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II. Southwark Cathedral, London. (c) 2016.

 

Speak Lord: Reveal your glory….

DSC01280.jpg

Give the Lord glory and power.

O sing a new song to the Lord,
sing to the Lord all the earth.
tell among the nations his glory
and his wonders among all the peoples.

Give the Lord glory and power.

The Lord is great and worthy of praise,
to be feared above all gods;
the gods of the heathens are naught.
It was the Lord who made the heavens,

Give the Lord glory and power.

Give the Lord, you families of peoples,
give the Lord glory and power;
give the Lord the glory of his name.
Bring an offering and enter his courts.

Give the Lord glory and power.

Worship the Lord in his temple.
O earth, tremble before him.
Proclaim to the nations: ‘God is king.’
He will judge the peoples in fairness.

Give the Lord glory and power.

Responsorial Psalm for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Psalm 95:1,3-5,7-10

Give the Lord glory and power? Does God not have enough glory? enough power? What can we give that will add to what God already has in abundance?

Surely all that can be missing is our readiness to acknowledge and observe, respect, the glory and power of God? To allow it to give direction and order and point to our lives – to live by and for the glory of God. To be fully ourselves, revealing in that fulfilment the glory of God.

To be fully ourselves and to allow others the same dignity…

Church of Saviour of the Spilled Blood, St Petersburg, Russia. (c) 2015, Allen Morris.

 

 

 

Speak Lord: source and hope for love

P1000758 Thessaloniki.jpg

From Paul, Silvanus and Timothy, to the Church in Thessalonika which is in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ; wishing you grace and peace.

We always mention you in our prayers and thank God for you all, and constantly remember before God our Father how you have shown your faith in action, worked for love and persevered through hope, in our Lord Jesus Christ.

We know, brothers, that God loves you and that you have been chosen, because when we brought the Good News to you, it came to you not only as words, but as power and as the Holy Spirit and as utter conviction.

Second reading for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
1 Thessalonians 1:1-5

The love and commitment of Paul to the Churches echoes God’s love for the world. As with God it is not a love blind to fault and problems, but it is a love anxious for unity and for communion.

  • Where might you, today, prompt reconciliation and development?
  • How might you do it?

Rotunda of Galerius, Thessaloniki (one of the city’s first churches). (c) 2006, Allen Morris.

 

Speak Lord: King and Master

DSC04880 coin.jpg

The Pharisees went away to work out between them how to trap Jesus in what he said. And they sent their disciples to him, together with the Herodians, to say, ‘Master, we know that you are an honest man and teach the way of God in an honest way, and that you are not afraid of anyone, because a man’s rank means nothing to you. Tell us your opinion, then. Is it permissible to pay taxes to Caesar or not?’

But Jesus was aware of their malice and replied, ‘You hypocrites! Why do you set this trap for me? Let me see the money you pay the tax with.’

They handed him a denarius, and he said, ‘Whose head is this? Whose name?’ ‘Caesar’s’ they replied. He then said to them, ‘Very well, give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar – and to God what belongs to God.’

Gospel for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Matthew 22:15-21

The wit and radical vision of Jesus are evident in this episode. He employs them to reveal his position and to cut the ground from beneath the feet of his opponents.

Delight in the ‘play’ of the encounter, and the triumph of ‘our guy’, might distract us from the import of the teaching: to give to God what belongs to God and to Caesar what belongs to Caesar.

This teaching leaves the Christian as a sort of stranger in this world: here we have no abiding home, but are respectful of two (often opposed) jurisdictions – the Empire of this world and the Kingdom of God.

But how often instead we can seek to escape from both of these – by creating our own cocoon to isolate us from the rest of this world and insulate us from any too pressing concerns about the world to come, and the Kingdom of God.

  • What in your daily life do you see as belonging to God?
  • What to ‘Caesar’?
  • And what to you?

Imperial Coin. Manchester Museum. (c) 2016.

 

Taste and See: Keep asking for help

DSC02791.jpg

Alleluia, alleluia!
May the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ
enlighten the eyes of our mind,
so that we can see what hope his call holds for us.
Alleluia!

Alternative Gospel acclamation for the 28th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Ephesians 1:17,18

Each of the scripture readings of this Sunday reminded of the good that God intends for us and invited us, afresh, to step up to the plate.

The verse from Ephesians, above, reminds us that often enough we do not know the true goodness of what God offers us here and now and the glory to which we are called for the future.

And so, conscious of our frailty and weakness, we do what God longs for us always to do, which is turn to him in prayer. We are not intended to save ourselves! We need help and it is ready and available for us. But God will not force himself on us – the relationship we are invited to has a certain mutuality about it (however outclassed we might by the one who offers himself to us in partnership!)

Bethlehem. (C) 2017, Allen Morris.