Speak Lord: Lead us on

When this perishable nature has put on imperishability, and when this mortal nature has put on immortality, then the words of scripture will come true: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. Death, where is your victory? Death, where is your sting?’

Now the sting of death is sin, and sin gets its power from the Law. So let us thank God for giving us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Never give in then, my dear brothers, never admit defeat; keep on working at the Lord’s work always, knowing that, in the Lord, you cannot be labouring in vain.

Second reading for the 8th Sunday in Ordinary Time
1 Corinthians 15:54-58

Paul knows the cost of struggle; knows the ability of others to plant fear, to raise doubts and induce a sort of spiritual paralysis.

He also knows that nothing, nothing, can finally withstand the life-giving force that is God’s love in Jesus Christ. Christ has won the victory – and he shares it with us.

We face struggle, but it is also true that we are already in the victory parade, riding – as it were – on the Lord’s coat-tails.

  • For what might you thank God that he has already overcome? (even if, today, it still seems a challenge to you?)

Image: Exterior Wall Tiles. Near St James Market, London. (c) 2017, Allen Morris.

A section of Paul’s text is set to stirring effect in Brahm’s Ein Deutsches Requiem. A clip of the setting of vv 54, 55 is available here. The recording of Brahm’s own reduction of the full orchestral score for piano duet is here from The Sixteen’s own shop, but also from other suppliers!

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Speak Lord: for a flowering of grace

Jesus told a parable to his disciples: ‘Can one blind man guide another? Surely both will fall into a pit? The disciple is not superior to his teacher; the fully trained disciple will always be like his teacher. Why do you observe the splinter in your brother’s eye and never notice the plank in your own? How can you say to your brother, “Brother, let me take out the splinter that is in your eye,” when you cannot see the plank in your own? Hypocrite! Take the plank out of your own eye first, and then you will see clearly enough to take out the splinter that is in your brother’s eye.

‘There is no sound tree that produces rotten fruit, nor again a rotten tree that produces sound fruit. For every tree can be told by its own fruit: people do not pick figs from thorns, nor gather grapes from brambles. A good man draws what is good from the store of goodness in his heart; a bad man draws what is bad from the store of badness. For a man’s words flow out of what fills his heart.’

Gospel for the 8th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Luke 6:39-45

What effect have you had through speaking of or to others?

Speaking – offering praise or criticism – is easy. Most anyone can even find something helpful or sensible to say, even about most anything. But will it help? Will it be heard?

Also, why is it being said? To help the other or big oneself up?

By their fruits shall you know them. Not their noise!

  • What good in others can you lay some claim to have helped bring to birth?
  • Where have you benefited from the help of others?

Image: Tulips. New Place, Stratford upon Avon. (c) 2017, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: always, everywhere, mercy…

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘I say this to you who are listening: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who treat you badly. To the man who slaps you on one cheek, present the other cheek too; to the man who takes your cloak from you, do not refuse your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and do not ask for your property back from the man who robs you. Treat others as you would like them to treat you. If you love those who love you, what thanks can you expect? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what thanks can you expect? For even sinners do that much. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what thanks can you expect? Even sinners lend to sinners to get back the same amount. Instead, love your enemies and do good, and lend without any hope of return. You will have a great reward, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.

‘Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate. Do not judge, and you will not be judged yourselves; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned yourselves; grant pardon, and you will be pardoned. Give, and there will be gifts for you: a full measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be poured into your lap; because the amount you measure out is the amount you will be given back.’

Gospel for the 7th Sunday of Ordinary Time 
Luke 6:27-38

The news about sexual abuse in the Church continues. Often Catholics, Christians, are persecuted for things which are, in fact, good – and that has given the Church a language and practice in dealing with that – martyrdom, carry your cross daily, and so on…

When the things are truly bad, horribly bad, because of the sins of her members, the Church has less facility in responding. And clearly one common response has been for those in authority to simply to try and cover up the bad, for the sake of the ‘bubble’ that is reputation.

The Lord calls us to a something different. He calls the disciples, the original ones and us now) to a certain emptiness and poverty instead. He asks that we allow ourselves to lose those things we may have considered precious – opinion, reputation, authority – but which are less important than love, mercy and compassion which maybe no one can ever rob us off, but which we can very easily find we deny to others.

Love, mercy, compassion for those who are victims of abuse, of course – and in double measure. How could we not want to respond to the harm done to them, and the hurt they bear.

But love, mercy, compassion for the perpetrators also. Punishment must come their way too – from state and from Church – but also . And unless they offer honest admission and repentance love mercy and compassion may well be offered to no avail. But they too deserve the healing that is offered by the Lord, and that is entrusted to the Church.

Image: Our Lady of Mercy, Convent of Mercy Sisters, Handsworth. (c) 2018, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: to up your game…

Grant, we pray, almighty God,
that, always pondering spiritual things,
we may carry out in both word and deed
that which is pleasing to you.
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 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Left to our selves we often flounder and fail. To rise above this we need inspiration. The concept and the word are familiar to believers and non-believers alike.

But to the believer such inspiration is not only about the beginning of a new idea or a vision or a different perspective. It is also gift and it a gift that betokens the giver’s intimate relationship with us and the care that is taken of us.

The Lord uses all sorts to communicate the possibility of creative newness to us – word, sacrament, nature, the humdrum of a commonplace day, all sorts…

  • Where do you most frequently enounter the Giver and his gifts?
  • What might that teach you?

Image of prayer room. Coventry Cathedral. (c) 2018, Allen Morris

Taste and See: Reconciliation

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘I say this to you who are listening: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who treat you badly. To the man who slaps you on one cheek, present the other cheek too; to the man who takes your cloak from you, do not refuse your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and do not ask for your property back from the man who robs you. Treat others as you would like them to treat you. If you love those who love you, what thanks can you expect? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what thanks can you expect? For even sinners do that much. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what thanks can you expect? Even sinners lend to sinners to get back the same amount. Instead, love your enemies and do good, and lend without any hope of return. You will have a great reward, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.

‘Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate. Do not judge, and you will not be judged yourselves; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned yourselves; grant pardon, and you will be pardoned. Give, and there will be gifts for you: a full measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be poured into your lap; because the amount you measure out is the amount you will be given back.’

Gospel for the 7th Sunday of Orcinary Time 
Luke 6:27-38

The Lord created and he urges us to cooperate with his work of re-creation, of restoring what has been marred and marked by sin and carelessness.

The call is for us to rise above the limits imposed by resentment and selfishness; to share in divine charity, and to minister the same.

Image. Reconciliation. Figures by Josefina de Vaconcellos. Coventry Cathedral.  (c) 2018, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Mercy

Saul set off and went down to the wilderness of Ziph, accompanied by three thousand men chosen from Israel to search for David in the wilderness of Ziph.

In the dark David and Abishai made their way towards the force, where they found Saul lying asleep inside the camp, his spear stuck in the ground beside his head, with Abner and the troops lying round him.

Then Abishai said to David, ‘Today God has put your enemy in your power; so now let me pin him to the ground with his own spear. Just one stroke! I will not need to strike him twice.’ David answered Abishai, ‘Do not kill him, for who can lift his hand against the Lord’s anointed and be without guilt? The Lord forbid that I should raise my hand against the Lord’s anointed! But now take the spear beside his head and the pitcher of water and let us go away.’ David took the spear and the pitcher of water from beside Saul’s head, and they made off. No one saw, no one knew, no one woke up; they were all asleep, for a deep sleep from the Lord had fallen on them.

David crossed to the other side and halted on the top of the mountain a long way off; there was a wide space between them. He called out, ‘Here is the king’s spear. Let one of the soldiers come across and take it. The Lord repays everyone for his uprightness and loyalty. Today the Lord put you in my power, but I would not raise my hand against the Lord’s anointed.’

First reading for the 7th Sunday of Ordinary Time
1 Samuel 26:2,7-9,11-13,22-23

David had his faults. But amongst his virtues was a generosity of spirit, and a certain humility too.

And those qualities are beautifully displayed here in his willingness to spare his capricious enemy.

  • To whom might you show generosity and mercy?
  • Who has shown it to you? Why?

Image: Stained Glass. Notre Dame de Versailles. Versailles. (c) 2018, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Never-resting saviour.

The Lord is compassion and love.

My soul, give thanks to the Lord
all my being, bless his holy name.
My soul, give thanks to the Lord
and never forget all his blessings.

It is he who forgives all your guilt,
who heals every one of your ills,
who redeems your life from the grave,
who crowns you with love and compassion.

The Lord is compassion and love,
slow to anger and rich in mercy.
He does not treat us according to our sins
nor repay us according to our faults.

As far as the east is from the west
so far does he remove our sins.
As a father has compassion on his sons,
the Lord has pity on those who fear him.

Responsorial Psalm for 7th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Psalm 102(103):1-4,8,10,12-13

The Lord does not wish to let us be. His desire is to minister to us and raise us from where we are to where we might be with his help and our cooperation.

It is said, he loves us as we are but loves to too much to leave us as we are.

Thank God for the many ways in which he manifests himself and his saving love.

  • Which of these are most important to you?
  • Which do you most easily overlook?

Image: Assembly of glass fragments. Coventry Cathedral. (c) 2018, Allen Morris