Taste and See: Help

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With God on our side who can be against us? Since God did not spare his own Son, but gave him up to benefit us all, we may be certain, after such a gift, that he will not refuse anything he can give. Could anyone accuse those that God has chosen? When God acquits, could anyone condemn? Could Christ Jesus? No! He not only died for us – he rose from the dead, and there at God’s right hand he stands and pleads for us.

Second reading for the 2nd Sunday of Lent
Romans 8:31-34

Struggling through Lent can be dispiriting. What makes it so much more bearable is knowing we do not do this alone, but have the support, the encouragement, the agency of Jesus himself to help us.

In our stumblings and our successes he is there with us guiding us, easing us on…

For this we give thanks.

Tewkesbury Abbey. (c) 2016, Allen Morris

 

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Taste and See: For us, still

DSC04574 Hereford

Jesus took with him Peter and James and John and led them up a high mountain where they could be alone by themselves. There in their presence he was transfigured: his clothes became dazzlingly white, whiter than any earthly bleacher could make them. Elijah appeared to them with Moses; and they were talking with Jesus. Then Peter spoke to Jesus: ‘Rabbi,’ he said ‘it is wonderful for us to be here; so let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ He did not know what to say; they were so frightened. And a cloud came, covering them in shadow; and there came a voice from the cloud, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved. Listen to him.’ Then suddenly, when they looked round, they saw no one with them any more but only Jesus.

As they came down from the mountain he warned them to tell no one what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. They observed the warning faithfully, though among themselves they discussed what ‘rising from the dead’ could mean.

Gospel for the 2nd Sunday of Lent
Mark 9:2-10

Confusion is never far from our human condition! Nor is fear and uncertainty and doubt…

But in the experience of the Transfiguration, after the event, the apostles knew they had experienced something key to who and how and why Jesus was, and who and why and how they were to be in him, and for others.

Hereford Cathedral. (c) 2017, Allen Morris

Taste and See: For us….

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God put Abraham to the test. ‘Abraham, Abraham’ he called. ‘Here I am’ he replied. ‘Take your son,’ God said ‘your only child Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. There you shall offer him as a burnt offering, on a mountain I will point out to you.’
When they arrived at the place God had pointed out to him, Abraham built an altar there, and arranged the wood. Then he bound his son Isaac and put him on the altar on top of the wood. Abraham stretched out his hand and seized the knife to kill his son.
But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven. ‘Abraham, Abraham’ he said. ‘I am here’ he replied. ‘Do not raise your hand against the boy’ the angel said. ‘Do not harm him, for now I know you fear God. You have not refused me your son, your only son.’ Then looking up, Abraham saw a ram caught by its horns in a bush. Abraham took the ram and offered it as a burnt-offering in place of his son.

The angel of the Lord called Abraham a second time from heaven. ‘I swear by my own self – it is the Lord who speaks – because you have done this, because you have not refused me your son, your only son, I will shower blessings on you, I will make your descendants as many as the stars of heaven and the grains of sand on the seashore. Your descendants shall gain possession of the gates of their enemies. All the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by your descendants, as a reward for your obedience.’

First reading for the 2nd Sunday of Lent
Genesis 22:1-2,9-13,15-18

Writers – theologians, philosophers and others – tussle with this episode. Is God just testing Abraham? If so, is it a morally-justifiable test? Is it -under any circumstances – a moral thing for Abraham to consent to the sacrifice of his son? And what is the impact of this on Isaac, and on Sarah? How do they deal with the aftermath of the event, let alone Abraham (and God?)? The questions are many but we will look in vain for answers in the passage itself. It is what it is, and it leaves us with the questions.

As does life in general, so often. We are where we are and we struggle and struggle to make sense of it.

There is of course the sequel to the story, another hill, other characters – but the same God. And this time the beloved Son of the Father is sacrificed, not by the Father, but by the Son’s offering of himself in solidarity with the Father and in love for the world.

Maybe, just maybe, we look in vain for ‘the meaning’ of the Abraham and Isaac story until we factor in the story of the Trinity and God’s love for all of humankind…

The same story needs factoring in to our attempts to understand our own story, or we struggle in vain to make sense of ourselves…

Detail of Doors, Basilica of the Annunciation, Nazareth. (c) 2017, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: light in darkness

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God put Abraham to the test. ‘Abraham, Abraham’ he called. ‘Here I am’ he replied. ‘Take your son,’ God said ‘your only child Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. There you shall offer him as a burnt offering, on a mountain I will point out to you.’
When they arrived at the place God had pointed out to him, Abraham built an altar there, and arranged the wood. Then he bound his son Isaac and put him on the altar on top of the wood. Abraham stretched out his hand and seized the knife to kill his son.
But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven. ‘Abraham, Abraham’ he said. ‘I am here’ he replied. ‘Do not raise your hand against the boy’ the angel said. ‘Do not harm him, for now I know you fear God. You have not refused me your son, your only son.’ Then looking up, Abraham saw a ram caught by its horns in a bush. Abraham took the ram and offered it as a burnt-offering in place of his son.

The angel of the Lord called Abraham a second time from heaven. ‘I swear by my own self – it is the Lord who speaks – because you have done this, because you have not refused me your son, your only son, I will shower blessings on you, I will make your descendants as many as the stars of heaven and the grains of sand on the seashore. Your descendants shall gain possession of the gates of their enemies. All the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by your descendants, as a reward for your obedience.’

First reading for the 2nd Sunday of Lent
Genesis 22:1-2,9-13,15-18

The story of the testing of Abraham takes us into a very dark place. Commonplace are stories of people with mental illness who account for their murderous actions by saying ‘the voices’ told them to do it.

Here God draws Abraham towards actions that will be forbidden in the commandments and that are deeply shocking to contemplate.

And yet Abraham’s obedience to the true God, the God of love, is such that he takes this path. His love meets with love, and he stands yet as our Father in Faith.

When we in our turn face darkness in our lives two things from this story are there to support us – firstly that faithfulness of Abraham, willing to obey God and put his trust in him, even when commanded to do things which would seem counter to everything else he knew and believed; secondly that God never stops loving Abraham and has promised never to stop loving his descendants…

Detail of 12th C. enamel. Collection of the Louvre, Paris. (c) 2017, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Moving on…

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I will walk in the presence of the Lord in the land of the living.

I trusted, even when I said:
‘I am sorely afflicted,’
O precious in the eyes of the Lord
is the death of his faithful.

I will walk in the presence of the Lord in the land of the living.

Your servant, Lord, your servant am I;
you have loosened my bonds.
A thanksgiving sacrifice I make;
I will call on the Lord’s name.

I will walk in the presence of the Lord in the land of the living.

My vows to the Lord I will fulfil
before all his people,
in the courts of the house of the Lord,
in your midst, O Jerusalem.

I will walk in the presence of the Lord in the land of the living.

Responsorial Psalm for the 2nd Sunday of Lent
Psalm 115(116):10,15-19

Our every day is a fresh step on our journey in faith. Some days we step forward, sometimes we back-slide. But always we walk in the presence of the Lord and his people; always we have the opportunity of responding in love to the Lord and his people…

  • Where and how are these opportunities present to you at present?
  • How are you responding to them?

Statue of St James. Civic museum, Beziers, France. (c) 2015, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Onwards

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With God on our side who can be against us? Since God did not spare his own Son, but gave him up to benefit us all, we may be certain, after such a gift, that he will not refuse anything he can give. Could anyone accuse those that God has chosen? When God acquits, could anyone condemn? Could Christ Jesus? No! He not only died for us – he rose from the dead, and there at God’s right hand he stands and pleads for us.

Second reading for the 2nd Sunday of Lent
Romans 8:31-34

Chosen, gifted the service of the Son, acquitted of sin, pleaded for…

How precious are we?

The thought gives us confidence, even as we contemplate fault and failure…

  • How might you share the good news with others?

Fresco. Old Cathedral, Assisi. (c) 2017, Allen Morris

 

Speak Lord: Light and Life

P1040162 St PetersJesus took with him Peter and James and John and led them up a high mountain where they could be alone by themselves. There in their presence he was transfigured: his clothes became dazzlingly white, whiter than any earthly bleacher could make them. Elijah appeared to them with Moses; and they were talking with Jesus. Then Peter spoke to Jesus: ‘Rabbi,’ he said ‘it is wonderful for us to be here; so let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ He did not know what to say; they were so frightened. And a cloud came, covering them in shadow; and there came a voice from the cloud, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved. Listen to him.’ Then suddenly, when they looked round, they saw no one with them any more but only Jesus.

As they came down from the mountain he warned them to tell no one what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. They observed the warning faithfully, though among themselves they discussed what ‘rising from the dead’ could mean.

Gospel for the 2nd Sunday of Lent
Mark 9:2-10

This episode echoes other epiphanies in the Gospels – the Nativity, the Baptism, the Resurrection among them, the miracles too – when the ‘more’ of Jesus is manifest and can be ignored and leaves us stammering and without the words…

They all remind us that for all of Jesus closeness to us in the flesh and in the matter of Sacraments, these things far from exhaust his reality and his meaning for us.

There is only Jesus present with us, but contained in him is all the wonder of Creation, Salvation, of Love.

Detail of Porta di San Raniero, Pisa. Plaster cast in collection of Victoria & Albert Museum. (c) 2007, Allen Morris