Speak Lord: Speak of your love

Stained glass. Basilica of the Annunciation, Nazareth. (c) 2017, Allen Morris

Be ambitious for the higher gifts. And I am going to show you a way that is better than any of them.

If I have all the eloquence of men or of angels, but speak without love, I am simply a gong booming or a cymbal clashing. If I have the gift of prophecy, understanding all the mysteries there are, and knowing everything, and if I have faith in all its fullness, to move mountains, but without love, then I am nothing at all. If I give away all that I possess, piece by piece, and if I even let them take my body to burn it, but am without love, it will do me no good whatever.

Love is always patient and kind; it is never jealous; love is never boastful or conceited; it is never rude or selfish; it does not take offence, and is not resentful. Love takes no pleasure in other people’s sins but delights in the truth; it is always ready to excuse, to trust, to hope, and to endure whatever comes.

Love does not come to an end. But if there are gifts of prophecy, the time will come when they must fail; or the gift of languages, it will not continue for ever; and knowledge – for this, too, the time will come when it must fail. For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophesying is imperfect; but once perfection comes, all imperfect things will disappear. When I was a child, I used to talk like a child, and think like a child, and argue like a child, but now I am a man, all childish ways are put behind me. Now we are seeing a dim reflection in a mirror; but then we shall be seeing face to face. The knowledge that I have now is imperfect; but then I shall know as fully as I am known.

In short, there are three things that last: faith, hope and love; and the greatest of these is love.

Second reading for the 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time

1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13

Love is not – but how often we are – jealous; boastful or conceited; rude or selfish; ready to take offence, bear resentment; taking pleasure in other people’s sins…

Consequently. how much we need loving better…

Speak Lord: And help us listen

Stained Glass, Basilica of the Annunciation, Nazareth.
(c) 2017, Allen Morris

Jesus began to speak in the synagogue: ‘This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen.’ And he won the approval of all, and they were astonished by the gracious words that came from his lips. They said, ‘This is Joseph’s son, surely?’

But he replied, ‘No doubt you will quote me the saying, “Physician, heal yourself” and tell me, “We have heard all that happened in Capernaum, do the same here in your own countryside.”’
And he went on, ‘I tell you solemnly, no prophet is ever accepted in his own country.

‘There were many widows in Israel, I can assure you, in Elijah’s day, when heaven remained shut for three years and six months and a great famine raged throughout the land, but Elijah was not sent to any one of these: he was sent to a widow at Zarephath, a Sidonian town. And in the prophet Elisha’s time there were many lepers in Israel, but none of these was cured, except the Syrian, Naaman.’

When they heard this everyone in the synagogue was enraged. They sprang to their feet and hustled him out of the town; and they took him up to the brow of the hill their town was built on, intending to throw him down the cliff, but he slipped through the crowd and walked away.

Gospel for the 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time. 

Luke 4:21-30

How quickly the people switch from approval to hatred.

Jesus’ truth-telling provokes them, of course. But why? These are commonplace truths from the Jewish tradition. But they are truths about human limitations that often we find hard to apply to ourselves…

Contemporary Christians of course have the same problem. God is our God, and we are not so sure about whether he is ‘theirs’.

Often enough ‘they’ are not so sure whether our God is God indeed.

Taste and See: Trust

Synagogue, St Petersburg. Russia. (c) 2015, Allen Morris

Your words are spirit, Lord, and they are life.

The law of the Lord is perfect,
it revives the soul.
The rule of the Lord is to be trusted,
it gives wisdom to the simple.

The precepts of the Lord are right,
they gladden the heart.
The command of the Lord is clear,
it gives light to the eyes.

The fear of the Lord is holy,
abiding for ever.
The decrees of the Lord are truth
and all of them just.

May the spoken words of my mouth,
the thoughts of my heart,
win favour in your sight, O Lord,
my rescuer, my rock!

Responsorial Psalm for 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Law gets a bad press in much Christian discourse. We make easy contrast between the law of the Old Testament and the Gospel of the New Testament – at least until we read the Testaments more closely and discover how binding are the laws of the New Testament, and just how much good news is in the Old.

Law often gets a bad press in today’s society: it is seen as constraining freedom; of propping up the status quo; of disabling those not in the mainstream. Bad law does, but good law seeks to protect and foster genuine freedom. ‘Boo’ for bad law, ‘yay’ for good law!

The psalmist knows the goodness of the law of the Lord, and knows how it makes for a good life. The only doubt in his mind seems to be his own goodness – and he trusts in the Lord his rescuer to help him look to that…

The words of the psalm bring confidence to all believers, men and women…

  • What law helps you?

Taste and See: Good works

Synagogue, Capernaum. (c) 2007, Allen Morris

Almighty ever-living God,
direct our actions according to your good pleasure,
that in the name of your beloved Son
we may abound in good works.
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.

Collect for the 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

In the 4th form of the Eucharistic Prayer for use in Masses for Various Needs we find the following text.

Open our eyes to the needs of our brothers and sisters;
inspire in us words and actions
to comfort those who labour and are burdened.
Make us serve them truly,
after the example of Christ and at his command.
And may your Church stand as a living witness
to truth and freedom,
to peace and justice,
that all people may be raised up to a new hope.

It resonates powerfully with the text from Isaiah that Jesus prclaimed in the Gospel passage we heard at Mass yesterday.

The mission of Jesus continues in the Church, and it is one that we are commissioned for in our Baptism. It is the mission to which we are dismissed each Sunday – to go and glorify the Lord by our lives.

  • How, in particular, do you play your part?
  • What might be your next good work?

Taste and See: Love living

Synagogue. Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial. (c) 2018, Allen Morris.

Seeing that many others have undertaken to draw up accounts of the events that have taken place among us, exactly as these were handed down to us by those who from the outset were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word, I in my turn, after carefully going over the whole story from the beginning, have decided to write an ordered account for you, Theophilus, so that your Excellency may learn how well founded the teaching is that you have received.

Jesus, with the power of the Spirit in him, returned to Galilee; and his reputation spread throughout the countryside. He taught in their synagogues and everyone praised him.

He came to Nazara, where he had been brought up, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day as he usually did. He stood up to read and they handed him the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Unrolling the scroll he found the place where it is written:

The spirit of the Lord has been given to me,
for he has anointed me.
He has sent me to bring the good news to the poor,
to proclaim liberty to captives
and to the blind new sight,
to set the downtrodden free,
to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour.

He then rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the assistant and sat down. And all eyes in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to speak to them, ‘This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen.’

Gospel for 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time 
Luke 1:1-4,4:14-21

Luke undertakes to give an ordered, a reasonable and understandable account of Jesus and his work.

And – after his account of the conception and birth, and setting them in contex, and after the account of the Baptism and the immediate consequence of that – Luke continues with a rather strange and startling account of what happened in Nazara.

The Lectionary text is somewhat odd, I think – but it is more or less forced on us because the editors want to to give as much of Luke as they can and because they do not want to repeat on a Sunday texts that find a more fitting place on other Sundays or seasons. So we leap in today’s reading from the introduction to the start of the Nazara episode (which concludes in next week’s reading).

Jesus sets out for Nazara his self-understanding, and reminds of what God longs for. It is a vocation for all who seek covenant with the one true God.

The message is set before the world by Isaiah; fulfilled in his person by Jesus. It continues to represent a challenge to Jews and Christians who wish to live in covenant with God. A challenge, and an opportunity to live lovingly.

Speak Lord: Enliven us.

Portuguese Synagogue, Amsterdam. (c) 2008, Allen Morris

Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, consisting of men, women, and children old enough to understand. This was the first day of the seventh month. On the square before the Water Gate, in the presence of the men and women, and children old enough to understand, he read from the book from early morning till noon; all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law.

Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden dais erected for the purpose. In full view of all the people – since he stood higher than all the people – Ezra opened the book; and when he opened it all the people stood up. Then Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people raised their hands and answered, ‘Amen! Amen!’; then they bowed down and, face to the ground, prostrated themselves before the Lord. And Ezra read from the Law of God, translating and giving the sense, so that the people understood what was read.

Then Nehemiah – His Excellency – and Ezra, priest and scribe and the Levites who were instructing the people said to all the people, ‘This day is sacred to the Lord your God. Do not be mournful, do not weep.’ For the people were all in tears as they listened to the words of the Law. He then said, ‘Go, eat the fat, drink the sweet wine, and send a portion to the man who has nothing prepared ready. For this day is sacred to our Lord. Do not be sad: the joy of the Lord is your stronghold.’

First Reading for the 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Nehemiah 8:2-6,8-10

The people who have known exile and loss of faith and hope find a future restored to them through the proclamation of the Law.

The faithfulness of God breaks their hearts and then heals them.

The Gospel has the same power for people in our time – if they might hear it.

  • How do you and your community attempt to let people hear God’s good and healing word?
  • What helps? What hinders?

Speak Lord: Word of life, Law for love.

Your words are spirit, Lord, and they are life.

The law of the Lord is perfect,
it revives the soul.
The rule of the Lord is to be trusted,
it gives wisdom to the simple.

The precepts of the Lord are right,
they gladden the heart.
The command of the Lord is clear,
it gives light to the eyes.

The fear of the Lord is holy,
abiding for ever.
The decrees of the Lord are truth
and all of them just.

May the spoken words of my mouth,
the thoughts of my heart,
win favour in your sight, O Lord,
my rescuer, my rock!

Responsorial Psalm for 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Psalm 18(19):8-10, 15

The psalm makes it sound so straightforward. So simple.

But often our experience is quite other, and we find ourselves in all sorts of unsought confusions and upsets.

The solution though is always the same – to return to the Lord, whose love and wisdom is more generous than we know, and who cherishes us and helps us to come back, come home, and continue life with him.