Speak Lord: Help us in …


Through towns and villages Jesus went teaching, making his way to Jerusalem. Someone said to him, ‘Sir, will there be only a few saved?’ He said to them, ‘Try your best to enter by the narrow door, because, I tell you, many will try to enter and will not succeed.

‘Once the master of the house has got up and locked the door, you may find yourself knocking on the door, saying, “Lord, open to us” but he will answer, “I do not know where you come from.” Then you will find yourself saying, “We once ate and drank in your company; you taught in our streets” but he will reply, “I do not know where you come from. Away from me, all you wicked men!”

‘Then there will be weeping and grinding of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves turned outside. And men from east and west, from north and south, will come to take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.

‘Yes, there are those now last who will be first, and those now first who will be last.’

Gospel for 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time
Luke 13:22-30

To know of the Lord – even to know of him and to admire him, or to long for a share in his goodness – is not at all the same as knowing the Lord and beng known by him.

The Lord calls us to communion of life with him and with each other. In that communion we find strength, hope and protection.

To know of that goodness, but not to choose to live in communion, and benefit of it – that’s foolish…

And, as Jesus says, has consequences…

Photograph (c) 2010, Allen Morris. Disused church, Norwich.

Taste and See: Communion

O God, who have prepared for those who love you
good things which no eye can see,
fill our hearts, we pray, with the warmth of your love,
so that, loving you in all things and above all things,
we may attain your promises,
which surpass every human desire.
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 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Lord invites us to deepest communion with him, in this life and the next.

He calls us to himself and sends us out to be other-Christs to our neighbours, our brothers and sisters, so that all may be one in him.

To fulfil our mission we need to live in community with him. In our wholeness or in our brokenness he calls us to communion with him; finding nourishment in his love, fellowship in our struggles.

Every new day calls for the same generous response from us. Every new day promises us the same generous support from the Lord.

  • Give thanks!

Photograph (c) 2007, Allen Morris. Detail of plaster cast of the Hildesheim Font – Israel enters the promised Land, crossing the Jordan, carrying the Ark of the Covenant. Collection of Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Taste and See: Onwards, upwards…

With so many witnesses in a great cloud on every side of us, we too, then, should throw off everything that hinders us, especially the sin that clings so easily, and keep running steadily in the race we have started.

Let us not lose sight of Jesus, who leads us in our faith and brings it to perfection: for the sake of the joy which was still in the future, he endured the cross, disregarding the shamefulness of it, and from now on has taken his place at the right of God’s throne. Think of the way he stood such opposition from sinners and then you will not give up for want of courage. In the fight against sin, you have not yet had to keep fighting to the point of death.

Second reading for the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Hebrews 12:1-4

The Letter to the Hebrews urges confidence and encourages us to move forward in faith and mission. It encourages us to find strength in solidarity in what, now, we might call the communion of saints.

A Christian is never alone. A Christian is always participating in the life of Christ and benefiting from our communion with him. And we are supported by each other also – fellow-Christians now and all those who have preceded us.

There are things that hinder us, even grave things. But as we pause to shrug those off, we also breathe in deeply and then continue…

  • What irks and distracts you from your Christian vocation?
  • When has have you most been aware of the role of the communion of saints

Photograph (c) 2006, Allen Morris. Font at St Augustine of Hippo, St Austell, Cornwall.

Speak Lord: Help us choose you.

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘I have come to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were blazing already! There is a baptism I must still receive, and how great is my distress till it is over!

‘Do you suppose that I am here to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on a household of five will be divided: three against two and two against three; the father divided against the son, son against father, mother against daughter, daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law, daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.’

Gospel for the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Luke 12:49-53

For many of us, Baptism was something others chose for us. ‘Being Christian’ is part of the culture that we have been born into and raised to.

Baptism from the Church’s side and from Christ’s is a gift given to us, life in communion with Church and Christ. But it is also something that we are to choose, and for many the radical choice to be ‘one with Christ’, or not, is something we have been denied, by the practice of infant baptism.

Of course we are invited everyday to choose our baptism, to live according to its meaning and potential – but it’s not the same.

Jesus speaks of the second baptism, the baptism in blood, that is his at the Cross.

We might not be so eager for that! But every day, too, we have the choice to take the way of love that often enough will lead to division, persecution, mockery…

  • Why do you choose that way today – if you do. Or not, if you don’t?
  • How does your choice express itself in your life?

Photograph (c) 2016, Allen Morris. Font and Stations of the Cross. St Mary’s (The Hidden Gem) Manchester.

Speak Lord: win us for good


The king’s leading men spoke to the king. ‘Let Jeremiah be put to death: he is unquestionably disheartening the remaining soldiers in the city, and all the people too, by talking like this. The fellow does not have the welfare of this people at heart so much as its ruin.’ ‘He is in your hands as you know,’ King Zedekiah answered ‘for the king is powerless against you.’ So they took Jeremiah and threw him into the well of Prince Malchiah in the Court of the Guard, letting him down with ropes. There was no water in the well, only mud, and into the mud Jeremiah sank.

Ebed-melech came out from the palace and spoke to the king. ‘My lord king,’ he said ‘these men have done a wicked thing by treating the prophet Jeremiah like this: they have thrown him into the well, where he will die.’

At this the king gave Ebed-melech the Cushite the following order: ‘Take three men with you from here and pull the prophet Jeremiah out of the well before he dies.’

First reading for 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jeremiah 38:4-6,8-10

Ebed-melech comes to the rescue! And how? By challenging the king in his weakness, by pressing him to correct his error, to take a stand, to save the innocent.

It is not every time that we get a second opportunity, the chance to put right what we have made wrong. But when they come they are precious opportunities and not to be missed.

Often the opportunity comes not in the form of someone has forceful as Edeb-melech. More often the opportunity is quietly prepared for by qualms of conscience, troubling regrets, feelings that could be brushed aside but which are stirrings provoked by the Spirit that can lead us back to virtue, rightousness, and justice…

  • Where is your conscience troubled?
  • Why?
  • What will you do about it?

Photograph (c) 2004, Allen Morris. Sanctuary Screen, Ravenna, Italy.

Speak Lord: You have rescued me

I waited, I waited for the Lord
and he stooped down to me;
he heard my cry.

He drew me from the deadly pit,
from the miry clay.
He set my feet upon a rock
and made my footsteps firm.

He put a new song into my mouth,
praise of our God.
Many shall see and fear
and shall trust in the Lord.

As for me, wretched and poor,
the Lord thinks of me.
You are my rescuer, my help,
O God, do not delay.

Responsorial Psalm for the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Psalm 39(40):2-4,18

The Psalm’s function in the Liturgy of the Word this Sunday makes most sense when it is heard after the first reading – a reading which tells of Jeremiah’s unjust imprisonment and of his liberation.

The psalm puts the thanksgiving of the prophet on our lips too…

Photograph (c) 2007, Allen Morris. Detail of plaster cast of the Hildesheim Font – showing the Lord bringing Israel safely through the Red Sea. Collection of Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Speak Lord: Saviour

With so many witnesses in a great cloud on every side of us, we too, then, should throw off everything that hinders us, especially the sin that clings so easily, and keep running steadily in the race we have started.

Let us not lose sight of Jesus, who leads us in our faith and brings it to perfection: for the sake of the joy which was still in the future, he endured the cross, disregarding the shamefulness of it, and from now on has taken his place at the right of God’s throne. Think of the way he stood such opposition from sinners and then you will not give up for want of courage. In the fight against sin, you have not yet had to keep fighting to the point of death.

Second reading for the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Hebrews 12:1-4

Our baptism marks the beginning of our sacramental life in Christ. He gifts us the promise of his holiness, we are received into communion of life with him – with him we become children of the Father; and we are consecrated with a spiritual anointing.

Our new life begins with joy but has still to face the challenges of new temptations, fresh difficulties in sustaining hope, joy, faith. Jesus leads us to the fullness of life, but on the way of the Cross.

We make our way, accompanied by him, and sustained, as Hebrews says, by a great cloud of witnesses…

Photograph (c) 2007, Allen Morris. Font at Brentwood Cathedral.

Speak Lord: Refashion us

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘I have come to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were blazing already! There is a baptism I must still receive, and how great is my distress till it is over!

‘Do you suppose that I am here to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on a household of five will be divided: three against two and two against three; the father divided against the son, son against father, mother against daughter, daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law, daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.’

Gospel for the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Luke 12:49-53

The first Baptism of Jesus was in water, the next would be in his own blood. The first would be a proclamation of his dying to everything that was not of God; the second would be dying entirely to himself for the sake of neighbour and for love of God.

Both baptisms seem, on the face of it, to be about turning from the world and from its promises. In fact both prove to be acts of love for the world, Jesus working for the salvation of the world, realising his potential and helping us to fulfil ours.

  • What did you last do for the good of others?
  • And at what cost to you and them?

Photograph (c) 2007, Allen Morris. Detail of plaster cast of the Hildesheim Font. Collection of Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Taste and See: United in life and love

Almighty ever-living God,
whom, taught by the Holy Spirit,
we dare to call our Father,
bring, we pray, to perfection in our hearts
the spirit of adoption as your sons and daughters,
that we may merit to enter into the inheritance
which you have promised.
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 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

There may be a certain infelicity of phrasing in the English translation of the Collect this Sunday. We ask for the spirit of adoption to be brought to perfection in our hearts. But what does that mean?

Adoption is what we are offered in Christ – and there is no stinting, no imperfection there.

The spirit of adoption, however, is our response to the gift, rather than the gift itself. God’s gift is not lacking in any way, but our response to it might well be. And that is not so clear in the translation.

What we ask, and surely what we need, is to live more truly, more authentically, as daughters and sons of God, : we need help, but it is our job to live from our faith in God’s promises. For that we do well to pray!

Photograph (c) 2018, Allen Morris. Stained glass. St Peter’s, Oundle.

Taste and See: Life in love

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘There is no need to be afraid, little flock, for it has pleased your Father to give you the kingdom.

‘Sell your possessions and give alms. Get yourselves purses that do not wear out, treasure that will not fail you, in heaven where no thief can reach it and no moth destroy it. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

‘See that you are dressed for action and have your lamps lit. Be like men waiting for their master to return from the wedding feast, ready to open the door as soon as he comes and knocks. Happy those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. I tell you solemnly, he will put on an apron, sit them down at table and wait on them. It may be in the second watch he comes, or in the third, but happy those servants if he finds them ready. You may be quite sure of this, that if the householder had known at what hour the burglar would come, he would not have let anyone break through the wall of his house. You too must stand ready, because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.’

Peter said, ‘Lord, do you mean this parable for us, or for everyone?’ The Lord replied, ‘What sort of steward, then, is faithful and wise enough for the master to place him over his household to give them their allowance of food at the proper time? Happy that servant if his master’s arrival finds him at this employment. I tell you truly, he will place him over everything he owns. But as for the servant who says to himself, “My master is taking his time coming,” and sets about beating the menservants and the maids, and eating and drinking and getting drunk, his master will come on a day he does not expect and at an hour he does not know. The master will cut him off and send him to the same fate as the unfaithful.

The servant who knows what his master wants, but has not even started to carry out those wishes, will receive very many strokes of the lash. The one who did not know, but deserves to be beaten for what he has done, will receive fewer strokes. When a man has had a great deal given him, a great deal will be demanded of him; when a man has had a great deal given him on trust, even more will be expected of him.’

Gospel for the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Luke 12:32-48

The Gospel – somewhat chillingly – warns us against avoiding the life of love and service.

But the pull towards that life is truly love not fear. We have reason to fear the consequences of a life lived loveless, but what draws us to life is love, God’s love, his service of us.

A love and a service that seems never to end.

Photograph (c) 2018, Allen Morris. Mercy window, St Mary’s Convent, Handsworth.