Speak Lord: Turn us upside down and inside out

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Jesus and his disciples made their way through Galilee; and he did not want anyone to know, because he was instructing his disciples; he was telling them, ‘The Son of Man will be delivered into the hands of men; they will put him to death; and three days after he has been put to death he will rise again.’ But they did not understand what he said and were afraid to ask him.

They came to Capernaum, and when he was in the house he asked them, ‘What were you arguing about on the road?’ They said nothing because they had been arguing which of them was the greatest. So he sat down, called the Twelve to him and said, ‘If anyone wants to be first, he must make himself last of all and servant of all.’ He then took a little child, set him in front of them, put his arms round him, and said to them, ‘Anyone who welcomes one of these little children in my name, welcomes me; and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.’

Gospel for 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mark 9:30-37

Again and again, Jesus in the Gospel says if we would see things right we must reverse everything. Poverty can mean riches;, foolishness wisdom; the sick find health, the healthy are sick…

And the way to authority and truth and power is service…

  • How do you serve?
  • Why?
  • Who do you welcome? And who do you turn from?

Ivory carving, 968 AD. Collection of the Louvre, Paris.  (c) 2017 , Allen Morris

Taste and See: Freedom and hope

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

I love the Lord for he has heard
the cry of my appeal;
for he turned his ear to me
in the day when I called him.

They surrounded me, the snares of death,
with the anguish of the tomb;
they caught me, sorrow and distress.
I called on the Lord’s name.
O Lord, my God, deliver me!

How gracious is the Lord, and just;
our God has compassion.
The Lord protects the simple hearts;
I was helpless so he saved me.

He has kept my soul from death,
my eyes from tears
and my feet from stumbling.
I will walk in the presence of the Lord
in the land of the living.

Responsorial Psalm for the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Psalm 114(116):1-6,8-9

The Lord overwhelms death and sin with his grace and mercy. Again and again he saves us from despair and draws us to himself.

  • What are the experiences that have persuaded you of this truth?
  • Rejoice and give thanks.

Cell, Chateau d’If, Marseille. (c) 2013, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: learning from the Lord

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Jesus and his disciples left for the villages round Caesarea Philippi. On the way he put this question to his disciples, ‘Who do people say I am?’ And they told him. ‘John the Baptist,’ they said ‘others Elijah; others again, one of the prophets.’ ‘But you,’ he asked ‘who do you say I am?’ Peter spoke up and said to him, ‘You are the Christ.’ And he gave them strict orders not to tell anyone about him.

And he began to teach them that the Son of Man was destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and to be put to death, and after three days to rise again; and he said all this quite openly. Then, taking him aside, Peter started to remonstrate with him. But, turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said to him, ‘Get behind me, Satan! Because the way you think is not God’s way but man’s.’

He called the people and his disciples to him and said, ‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.’

Gospel for the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mark 8:27-35

Again and again in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus adjures to silence those who know of his miraculous powers, and of his identity as Son of God and the like.

Here he invites the disciples to disclose how they know him. Peter gives the ‘right’ answer, but it is then immediately clear that he really does not understand what it means to be Jesus, the Christ. Nor does he understand, yet, what it means to be a disciple of the Christ.

What about us? What is our understanding of Christ and of discipleship? Does it pass muster?

  • How ready are we to take up the cross so as to be able to follow?
  • How do we understand being ready to lose our life for Jesus’ sake? Have we already had direct experience of this? Or seen it in the life and witness of others?

Christ teaching. Detail from plaster cast of Bernward column, Hildeshiem – in collection of Victoria and Albert Museum, London. (c) 2007, Allen Morris.

 

Taste and See: Who do we say that he is?

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Alleluia, alleluia!
I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, says the Lord;
No one can come to the Father except through me.
Alleluia!

Gospel Acclamation for the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time
(verse: John14:6)

In yesterday’s Gospel Jesus asked, ‘Who do you say that I am?’

The acclamation to greet the Gospel gave us one of his own self-descriptions.

  • Is that description confirmed in what you have learnt of Jesus through your own personal relationship with him?
  • How?

Stained glass. St Peter and Paul, Aston. (c) 2018, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Our Rock

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The Lord has opened my ear.

For my part, I made no resistance,
neither did I turn away.
I offered my back to those who struck me,
my cheeks to those who tore at my beard;
I did not cover my face
against insult and spittle.

The Lord comes to my help,
so that I am untouched by the insults.
So, too, I set my face like flint;
I know I shall not be shamed.

My vindicator is here at hand. Does anyone start proceedings against me?
Then let us go to court together.
Who thinks he has a case against me?
Let him approach me.
The Lord is coming to my help,
who will dare to condemn me?

First reading for the 24th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Isaiah 50:5-9

Again we hear the prophet ready to take the consequences of people’s opposition to him and his message and to him; and able to find the confidence for this in the protection of God for him.

That same message, and the opportunity for that same faithful trust in God is offered to us.

  • Where and how have you sought to share the message of hope and love?
  • Where have you met opposition?
  • How have, and how, now, do you, deal with the hurt and fear this provokes?

Stained glass, Knowle parish church. (c) 2018, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Lord of life

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

I love the Lord for he has heard
the cry of my appeal;
for he turned his ear to me
in the day when I called him.

They surrounded me, the snares of death,
with the anguish of the tomb;
they caught me, sorrow and distress.
I called on the Lord’s name.
O Lord, my God, deliver me!

How gracious is the Lord, and just;
our God has compassion.
The Lord protects the simple hearts;
I was helpless so he saved me.

He has kept my soul from death,
my eyes from tears
and my feet from stumbling.
I will walk in the presence of the Lord
in the land of the living.

Responsorial Psalm for the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Psalm 114(116):1-6,8-9

We are mortal beings, and subject to sin and sorrow and death. Except that Christ took flesh to accompany us in the experience of this ‘vale of tears’ died and rose to set us free.

Even now, therefore, we live, not finally subjects of death and darkness, but as friends of the Christ and co-heirs of the Kingdom.

Grave marker, Novodevichy Convent, Moscow. (c) 2015, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Keep us true

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Take the case, my brothers, of someone who has never done a single good act but claims that he has faith. Will that faith save him? If one of the brothers or one of the sisters is in need of clothes and has not enough food to live on, and one of you says to them, ‘I wish you well; keep yourself warm and eat plenty’, without giving them these bare necessities of life, then what good is that? Faith is like that: if good works do not go with it, it is quite dead.

This is the way to talk to people of that kind: ‘You say you have faith and I have good deeds; I will prove to you that I have faith by showing you my good deeds – now you prove to me that you have faith without any good deeds to show.’

Second reading for 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time
James 2:14-18

It is so easy to slip into selfishness and into neglect of others. Self-righteousness apes the righteousness that belongs to the just and truly faithful, but it exposes itself to ridicule.

And thank God for that: when hypocrisy exposed provides an opportunity for genuine conversion and a return to what is true.

  • Where do you fear your life compromises your faith?
  • What might other people question in your way of life

Dining in the Monastery. Vassily Perov. 1865. Russia Museum, St Petersburg. (c) 2015, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: who pays the price

Jesus and his disciples left for the villages round Caesarea Philippi. On the way he put this question to his disciples, ‘Who do people say I am?’ And they told him. ‘John the Baptist,’ they said ‘others Elijah; others again, one of the prophets.’ ‘But you,’ he asked ‘who do you say I am?’ Peter spoke up and said to him, ‘You are the Christ.’ And he gave them strict orders not to tell anyone about him.

And he began to teach them that the Son of Man was destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and to be put to death, and after three days to rise again; and he said all this quite openly. Then, taking him aside, Peter started to remonstrate with him. But, turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said to him, ‘Get behind me, Satan! Because the way you think is not God’s way but man’s.’

He called the people and his disciples to him and said, ‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.’

Gospel for 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mark 8:27-35

Discipleship – and leadership – costs. But the only price is love.

Manresa House, Birmingham. (C) 2016, Allen Morris

Taste and See: And speak?

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Returning from the district of Tyre, Jesus went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, right through the Decapolis region. And they brought him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they asked him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, put his fingers into the man’s ears and touched his tongue with spittle. Then looking up to heaven he sighed; and he said to him, ‘Ephphatha’, that is, ‘Be opened.’ And his ears were opened, and the ligament of his tongue was loosened and he spoke clearly.

And Jesus ordered them to tell no one about it, but the more he insisted, the more widely they published it. Their admiration was unbounded. ‘He has done all things well,’ they said ‘he makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak.’

Mark 7:31-37
Gospel for 23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time

The Messianic secret in Mark’s Gospel – Jesus telling people not to reveal who he is – has occupied scholars for  some while. And presumably will continue to do so, for no entirely persuasive account or explanation has been forthcoming.

My own view is that the ‘Messianic secret’ is born of an anxiety that enthusiastic embracing of the glory of Christ comes at an expense of accepting the (often) high cost of discipleship., and the Cross is so important in Mark’s Gospel.

Was it historically the case that Jesus asked this of people. Perhaps. But for sure it is something Mark exploits to ironic effect as he tells the Gospel: people ignore Jesus even as they proclaim him –  but the community of Rome, for whom traditions suggests the Gospel was written, has fallen silent, following a time of persecution!

In these days of the New Evangelisation we are regularly urged not to keep the good news to ourselves. But what do we say?

  • What are the good things of which we might speak?
  • And to whom?

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

Taste and See: New Life

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Say to all faint hearts,
‘Courage! Do not be afraid.
Look, your God is coming,
vengeance is coming,
the retribution of God;
he is coming to save you.’

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
the ears of the deaf unsealed,
then the lame shall leap like a deer
and the tongues of the dumb sing for joy;

for water gushes in the desert,
streams in the wasteland,
the scorched earth becomes a lake,
the parched land springs of water.

Isaiah 35:4-7
First reading for the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

The world changes because of the love of God.

That which seemed deathly can become a place for new life; and we who can seem destined for life in shadows can find ourselves drawn to light and warmth and flourishing…

God is our salvation, and our world is being made new.

Countryside at Serati, Turkey. (c) 2014, Allen Morris