Speak Lord: minister of mercy and judge…

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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

Which of us can claim never to have neglected those in need: brothers and sisters who we could have assisted.

Sometimes our neglect has been wilful – and we can have all sorts of justification: ‘they brought it on themselves’; ‘they need to learn’; ‘I’m too busy; let someone else do it’, or just, ‘I don’t care’…

Sometimes our neglect has been unintended: we simply have been too busy, or too frightened to intervene, or, or, or…

The chilling parable is told by the Lord of mercy. He warns us of the harm we do to the community of love, to him himself and to our brothers and sisters, but he does it now out of love even for the unloving, the unlovely… He does it for us at our worst and out of love for us.

Detail of Judgement from Autun. Trocadero Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine. (c) 2011, Allen Morris

 

 

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Taste and See: Community and Hospitality

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Jesus spoke this parable to his disciples: ‘The kingdom of Heaven is like a man on his way abroad who summoned his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to a third one; each in proportion to his ability. Then he set out.

‘The man who had received the five talents promptly went and traded with them and made five more. The man who had received two made two more in the same way. But the man who had received one went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

‘Now a long time after, the master of those servants came back and went through his accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents came forward bringing five more. “Sir,” he said “you entrusted me with five talents; here are five more that I have made.”

‘His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have shown you can be faithful in small things, I will trust you with greater; come and join in your master’s happiness.”

‘Next the man with the two talents came forward. “Sir,” he said “you entrusted me with two talents; here are two more that I have made.” His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have shown you can be faithful in small things, I will trust you with greater; come and join in your master’s happiness.”

‘Last came forward the man who had the one talent. “Sir,” said he “I had heard you were a hard man, reaping where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered; so I was afraid, and I went off and hid your talent in the ground. Here it is; it was yours, you have it back.” But his master answered him, “You wicked and lazy servant! So you knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered? Well then, you should have deposited my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have recovered my capital with interest. So now, take the talent from him and give it to the man who has the five talents. For to everyone who has will be given more, and he will have more than enough; but from the man who has not, even what he has will be taken away. As for this good-for-nothing servant, throw him out into the dark, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.”’

Gospel for the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Matthew 25:14-30

The parable ends on a sad note. In a culture which sort of  feels it is unfair unless everyone wins, we might wonder about the morality of the Master. Maybe the frightened servant really couldn’t help how he behaved and needed love and care to gt over his ‘block… And maybe a better title for this parable than the usual ‘Parable of the Talents’ would be ‘The parable of the frightened servant’…

Maybe then we would see not only the consequences of responding to opportunity to trade effectively and the virtue of good capital investment, and how good managers reward good workers, but also see some shortcomings in the successful servants and in their master.

If only the ‘good’ servants have tried to share the good news with the one who is locked in disbelief and fear; if only the master had wondered why he was only ready to entrust this one with one talent… Things could have been so different.

As they are outside of the world of the parable where our Master comes in flesh for the sake of the sick, those who are told the mercy of God is not for them and who are fearful because of the lies and because of their sins and weaknesses.  He comes for them not to banish them but to help them find their home in him.

And he entrusts the message of sharing the good news to the fearful to the countless millions who already share his life and form his Church….

  • How does your parish or faith group reach out to the fearful?
  • What part do you play in this common work?

Art Gallery and Canal, Walsall. (c) 2017, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: Perfection!

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A perfect wife – who can find her?
She is far beyond the price of pearls.
Her husband’s heart has confidence in her,
from her he will derive no little profit.
Advantage and not hurt she brings him
all the days of her life.
She is always busy with wool and with flax,
she does her work with eager hands.
She sets her hands to the distaff,
her fingers grasp the spindle.
She holds out her hand to the poor,
she opens her arms to the needy.
Charm is deceitful, and beauty empty;
the woman who is wise is the one to praise.
Give her a share in what her hands have worked for,
and let her works tell her praises at the city gates.

First reading for the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Proverbs 31:10-13,19-20,30-31

This woman, this wife, gives security to her husband, is a source of blessing to her household, her children (mentioned in the fuller passsage, but not included in the Lectionary extract), her neighbours, her community.

She echoes the blessing that God offers to Israel and she incarnates it in her flesh and in her life.

This portrait of the perfect wife concludes The Book of Proverbs and it sets a challenge before all as to how we live and share the blessings of God.

Image of Saint. Walsall Art Gallery. (c) 2017, Allen Morris

 

Taste and See: Faithful to death…

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Alleluia, alleluia!
Even if you have to die, says the Lord,
keep faithful, and I will give you
the crown of life.
Alleluia!

Gospel Acclamation for the 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time
Revelation 2:10

The theme of the Gospel Acclamation might seem to come almost out of anywhere: why this talk of dying? The gospel is about money and money making and community – why the talk of death?

Perhaps it is because the Gospel parables we have been hearing over these last Sundays – of bridesmaids, talents – are parables told by Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel immediately before the events of his Passion. The discourse of faithfulness and commitment is not general abstract chat about faithfulness, it is about life lived in perfect love and ready to make the ultimate commitment to God and neighbour.

That lived commitment of Jesus is the model for us to follow; and the gift of his life and love is what even begins to make it possible for us…

Grave marker. Tikhvin Cemetery, Moscow. (c) 2015, Allen Morris

 

Speak Lord: of holy women

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A perfect wife – who can find her?
She is far beyond the price of pearls.
Her husband’s heart has confidence in her,
from her he will derive no little profit.
Advantage and not hurt she brings him
all the days of her life.
She is always busy with wool and with flax,
she does her work with eager hands.
She sets her hands to the distaff,
her fingers grasp the spindle.
She holds out her hand to the poor,
she opens her arms to the needy.
Charm is deceitful, and beauty empty;
the woman who is wise is the one to praise.
Give her a share in what her hands have worked for,
and let her works tell her praises at the city gates.

First reading for the 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time
Proverbs 31:10-13,19-20,30-31

The description of the perfect wife is surely born of close and affectionate, respectful observation of this woman, deserving of confidence, busy, creative, eager for the good, generous, caring, wise, worthy…

It is surely not plucked out of the air, but based on the description of the wife the author is happy to count as his own! We might even allow ourselves to imagine her hearing her husband speak these words in her hearing. Hopefully she found him as up to the mark as he found her!

And now this woman, in her goodness, is set before us all, women and men, as an example to follow, and to honour.

Clifton Cathedral. (c) 2004, Allen Morris.

 

Speak Lord: Paterfamilias

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O blessed are those who fear the Lord.

O blessed are those who fear the Lord
and walk in his ways!
By the labour of your hands you shall eat.
You will be happy and prosper.

O blessed are those who fear the Lord.

Your wife will be like a fruitful vine
in the heart of your house;
your children like shoots of the olive,
around your table.

O blessed are those who fear the Lord.

Indeed thus shall be blessed
the man who fears the Lord.
May the Lord bless you from Zion
all the days of your life!

O blessed are those who fear the Lord.

Responsorial Psalm for the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Psalm 127:1-5

The blessings of a secure family life are evident, and well worth recounting. Blessings are something to rejoice in.

But for the psalmist they are not a matter of good fortune only. Security and blessing in family life is not accidental, and it is not self-earned. Like all good things, ultimately it is ours as gift of God and fruit of our cooperation with him. And therefore our rejoicing will always find its most fit end in giving thanks and praise to God.

The life lived in fear – awe, love, honour, respect and worship – of God is a proper response to these gifts, and the most apt setting for the flourishing of these and all such gifts and blessings.

Art work. Moscow Metro. (c) 2015, Allen Morris

 

Speak Lord: God of Judgement, Father of Mercy

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You will not be expecting us to write anything to you, brothers, about ‘times and seasons’, since you know very well that the Day of the Lord is going to come like a thief in the night. It is when people are saying, ‘How quiet and peaceful it is’ that the worst suddenly happens, as suddenly as labour pains come on a pregnant woman; and there will be no way for anybody to evade it.

But it is not as if you live in the dark, my brothers, for that Day to overtake you like a thief. No, you are all sons of light and sons of the day: we do not belong to the night or to darkness, so we should not go on sleeping, as everyone else does, but stay wide awake and sober.

There is no place where God is not, no moment where we do not have the opportunity of choosing the godly or not, and no moment when we are not under the judgement of God.

And there is no moment when God wishes to withhold his mercy from us, embrace us with his love and restore us to life and health through his tenderness and compassion.

And if sometimes awareness of the former (combined with knowledge of our sinfulness and incompleteness) would paralyse us with fear and give up hope, being reminded of the latter will give us the encouragement we need to live as children of the light, of the day, children of the loving Father.

There is no way for us avoid the truth about ourselves, but every reason for us to embrace the truth about the loving Father.

  • For what do you ask God’s compassion today?
  • Of what brokenness do you repent and ask for help?
  • For what triumph of grace do you wish to give thanks to God?

Second reading for the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
1 Thessalonians 5:1-6