Speak Lord: Wake us up!

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Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Be on your guard, stay awake, because you never know when the time will come. It is like a man travelling abroad: he has gone from home, and left his servants in charge, each with his own task; and he has told the doorkeeper to stay awake. So stay awake, because you do not know when the master of the house is coming, evening, midnight, cockcrow, dawn; if he comes unexpectedly, he must not find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake!’

Gospel for the 1st Sunday of Advent
Mark 13:33-37

With all the noise of the secular Xmas going on around us, even the the idea of the opportunity to sleep our way through the coming weeks might seem like a distant dream.

But Jesus calls us to a spiritual awaking, an awareness of the presence and the call of God who is always and everywhere with us.

In this first weeks of Advent the focus of the Church’s Liturgy tends towards the anticipated Second Coming of Jesus Christ at the end of time. But in between the First Coming of  the Incarnation and Nativity, and the Second Coming there is the abiding presence of Jesus Christ to us, not least (as we were reminded in last Sunday’s Gospel in our neighbour and especially those in need).

HMS Belfast, London. (c) 2009, Allen Morris

 

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Taste and See: Stumbling to love

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Jesus said to his disciples: ‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, escorted by all the angels, then he will take his seat on his throne of glory. All the nations will be assembled before him and he will separate men one from another as the shepherd separates sheep from goats. He will place the sheep on his right hand and the goats on his left.

‘Then the King will say to those on his right hand, “Come, you whom my Father has blessed, take for your heritage the kingdom prepared for you since the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you made me welcome; naked and you clothed me, sick and you visited me, in prison and you came to see me.” Then the virtuous will say to him in reply, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you; or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and make you welcome; naked and clothe you; sick or in prison and go to see you?” And the King will answer, “I tell you solemnly, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me.”

‘Next he will say to those on his left hand, “Go away from me, with your curse upon you, to the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you never gave me food; I was thirsty and you never gave me anything to drink; I was a stranger and you never made me welcome, naked and you never clothed me, sick and in prison and you never visited me.” Then it will be their turn to ask, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty, a stranger or naked, sick or in prison, and did not come to your help?”

Then he will answer, “I tell you solemnly, in so far as you neglected to do this to one of the least of these, you neglected to do it to me.”

‘And they will go away to eternal punishment, and the virtuous to eternal life.’

Gospel for Solemnity of Christ the King
Matthew 25:31-46

Jesus says to those he condemns. You NEVER came, you NEVER fed me. The Lord is not waiting to catch us out. We may fail, will fail from time to time, to respond to the invitations and opportunities to care for those in need. When we recognise the failing, the missed opportunity, we will often be ashamed.

But the Lord rejoices in the good we do and try to do. He comes to win us for life, not to condemn us to eternal punishment. One good deed, lovingly performed, counts for a good deal! And from it we might learn not to miss other opportuniteis. Win, win! For us and our neighbour…

Copy of mosaic of The Judgement from Ravenna. In collection of Hermitage, St Petersburg, Russia. (c) 2015, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: Love and care…

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The Lord says this: I am going to look after my flock myself and keep all of it in view. As a shepherd keeps all his flock in view when he stands up in the middle of his scattered sheep, so shall I keep my sheep in view. I shall rescue them from wherever they have been scattered during the mist and darkness. I myself will pasture my sheep, I myself will show them where to rest–it is the Lord who speaks. I shall look for the lost one, bring back the stray, bandage the wounded and make the weak strong. I shall watch over the fat and healthy. I shall be a true shepherd to them.

As for you, my sheep, the Lord says this: I will judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and he-goats.

First reading for the Solemnity of Christ the King
Ezekiel 34:11-12,15-17

That we might matter to God somewhat, perhaps we can accept fairly easily.

But that we might matter so much that he has given such thought to how he might care for us and make us safe:

I shall keep my sheep in view.

I shall rescue them from wherever they have been scattered during the mist and darkness.

I myself will pasture my sheep, I myself will show them where to rest–it is the Lord who speaks.

I shall look for the lost one, bring back the stray, bandage the wounded and make the weak strong. I shall watch over the fat and healthy.

I shall be a true shepherd to them.

All this for us. Imagine…

The Good Shepherd. Collection of the Hermitage, St Petersburg, Russia. (c) 2015, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: Renovation

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Collect for the Solemnity of Christ the King

Almighty ever-living God,
whose will is to restore all things
in your beloved Son, the King of the universe,
grant, we pray,
that the whole creation, set free from slavery,
may render your majesty service
and ceaselessly proclaim your praise.
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 Gospel of yesterday – the judgement of humankind, and separation of them out to those blessed by the Father, and those who are to depart with their own curse on them – can put the frighteners on us.

Fear is often a paralysing and debilitating thing, which inhibits life and love. It keeps us from the truth of things and confines us to the prison of our own worst imaginings.

The Collect for yesterday provides a healthy and helpful reminder of the reason for the teaching of Jesus about Judgement. It is offered here, now, to help us respond to it. To know afresh what love is, and the consequence of selfishness, here, now. And his love shown to us even in the telling is offered to assist us to what is good and best, and possible!

If the Lord knocks down, he does it to build up, and – together with us – to build up better.

  • What new thing might you do to cooperate with God’s love for you and for your neighbour?
  • What help might you provide to others to hear of the love of the Lord?

Building work. Paris, Left Bank. (c) 2017, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Who watch over us and all

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The Lord says this: I am going to look after my flock myself and keep all of it in view. As a shepherd keeps all his flock in view when he stands up in the middle of his scattered sheep, so shall I keep my sheep in view. I shall rescue them from wherever they have been scattered during the mist and darkness. I myself will pasture my sheep, I myself will show them where to rest–it is the Lord who speaks. I shall look for the lost one, bring back the stray, bandage the wounded and make the weak strong. I shall watch over the fat and healthy. I shall be a true shepherd to them.

As for you, my sheep, the Lord says this: I will judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and he-goats.

First reading for the Solemnity of Christ the King
Ezekiel 34:11-12,15-17

Today’s feast celebrates Christ as King. But Jesus himself knew himself in the context of his relationship not with us only but also and primarily in his relationship with his Father, God and King.

Love of the Father gives Jesus the motivation for his ministry = from the Incarnation to the Passion, Resurrection and Ascension and everything between before and since.

The love of God is shared with us by Jesus but is already ours before Jesus. Yet how unwilling human beings proved and prove to live generous in response to such love.

Love is ours; freely offered. But love is not blind. It knows our faults and our failures, and calls us to beware of becoming lost in them.

Carving from N Italy, 15C. Collection of the Louvre, Paris. (c) 2017, Allen Morris.

 

 

Speak Lord: Our help and guide

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The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

The Lord is my shepherd;
there is nothing I shall want.
Fresh and green are the pastures
where he gives me repose.

The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

Near restful waters he leads me,
to revive my drooping spirit.
He guides me along the right path;
he is true to his name.

The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

You have prepared a banquet for me
in the sight of my foes.
My head you have anointed with oil;
my cup is overflowing.

The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

Surely goodness and kindness shall follow me
all the days of my life.
In the Lord’s own house shall I dwell
for ever and ever.

The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

Responsorial Psalm for Solemnity of Christ the King
Psalm 22:1-3,5-6

Sometimes God, and the Lord Jesus, can seem so entirely other – possessed of such power and love that we struggle to find a place of connection.

We find it most securely in the ministry of God to us, expressed evocatively and potently in the metaphor of God and Jesus as shepherd. We may sometimes jib at the idea of our being sheep, but putting aside our sense of self-importance our hearts can be warmed and our lives enriched by knowledge of the Lord’s care and tending of his people. He is creator, and we the created. How different could we be. But as important as is that  difference we are also defined by the relationship of love – God’s love for us first, of course, but then our love for God offered in response. Distinctions remain, but they no longer separate. In love and care we become one…

Cast doors. St Peter’s Primacy. Galilee. (c) 2017, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Risen and life-giving

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Christ has been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of all who have fallen asleep. Death came through one man and in the same way the resurrection of the dead has come through one man. Just as all men die in Adam, so all men will be brought to life in Christ; but all of them in their proper order: Christ as the first-fruits and then, after the coming of Christ, those who belong to him. After that will come the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, having done away with every sovereignty, authority and power. For he must be king until he has put all his enemies under his feet and the last of the enemies to be destroyed is death, for everything is to be put under his feet. And when everything is subjected to him, then the Son himself will be subject in his turn to the One who subjected all things to him, so that God may be all in all.

Second reading for Christ the King
1 Corinthians 15:20-26,28

Sometimes we consider the Resurrection simply as an event in the life of Jesus. As St Paul reminds it is the event that transforms the potential of all human beings. The Resurrection of Jesus is the event that gives hope for the life of each one of us, living and dead.

Furthermore, the Resurrection is not a past event only but a present event. Christ continues to save and to set free. And we can not only be beneficiaries of this goodness and life, but ourselves work with Christ for the salvation of others, for the building up of the kingdom, the rule of God.

Jesus being raised from the dead. Hans Feisbuch. St Alban the Martyr. (c) 2014, Allen Morris