This Sunday’s Gospel

Last Sunday’s Gospel had Jesus laud Peter and place in his hands the awesome responsibility for binding and loosing on earth, a binding and loosing which would be accepted by heaven too.

And yet now Peter, perhaps even consciously choosing to step up to the plate, and exercise some of that responsibility delegated to him, on behalf of Jesus and the disciples finds that he has over stepped the mark;, misjudged the situation;, failed to understand the full cost of discipleship; and is now called Satan by the Lord he knows to be the Christ the Son of the living God.

Peter who moments before was praised for learning from God the Father, is now firmly put in his place and told he thinks in man’s way but not as God thinks.

How easy it would have been for Peter to have slunk away, shamed and dispirited. Yet that he did not. The disciple learnt he was still disciple, and opened himself to correction and to learning anew from the Lord who served him.

Matthew 16:21-27

Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection
21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

Take Up Your Cross and Follow Jesus
24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.

28 Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”

Acknowledgements
~ Translation of Scriptures:the Jerusalem Bible © 1966, 1967 and 1968 by Darton, Longman  &  Todd, Ltd and Doubleday, a division of  Random House, Inc.
~ Commentary: (c) 2020, Allen Morris
~ Photo: (c) 2017, Allen Morris. St Peter. Detail of icon in collection of Ferens Gallery, Hull.

The second reading this coming Sunday

Catholic Christianity places great value on the symbols and rituals of our faith. And rightly so – not a few of these come to us directly from Jesus himself, and are means of his sharing his life and saving love with us.

And yet, these things can sometimes become substitutes for faith and faithful living, masks that can obscure for us the life of love for God and neighbour to which all Christians are called.

Other things of faith offer great help to faithfulness, but must never be seen as sufficient of themselves for the good life.

St Paul’s letter to the Roman continues beyond the verses which we hear this Sunday to identify a variety of aspects of loving living. Many of those verses do not appear in the Sunday Lectionary, but they are given below for our prayer and for an examination of conscience.

Romans 12:1-2

A Living Sacrifice

12.1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Gifts of Grace
3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7 if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

Marks of the True Christian
9 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Acknowledgements
~ Translation of Scriptures: English Standard Version (c) 2001-9, Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
~ Commentary: (c) 2020, Allen Morris
~ Photo: (c) 2016, Allen Morris. Reliquaries of Ss Peter and Paul, in the baldachino of St John Lateran, Rome.

The Responsorial Psalm this coming Sunday

The words of the psalm we will hear at Mass on Sunday could come from Jeremiah (see yesterday’s blog giving Sunday’s first reading)  – and certainly it is easy to imagine Jeremiah praying these words.

They are words formed in the heart of one who is exhausted and feels apart from God.

In our days, and in our present circumstances, there are many such – and we ourselves may be of their number.

And yet they are words of hope and of resilience. And surely pleasing to God, when they are prayed not out of immediate satisfaction of all our needs but from a vulnerable and testing place, and yet prayed with longing and trust in the faithfulness of God.

Psalm 62(63):2-6,8-9

(NB the text set for Sunday is given below in bold and in ‘quote sections’ below; the rest is the immediate biblical text from which the Lectionary text is extracted)

Psalm 63 (62)
 
1      A Psalm of David when he was in the desert of Judah.

2      O God, you are my God; at dawn I seek you;
       for you my soul is thirsting.
       For you my flesh is pining,
       like a dry, weary land without water.
3      I have come before you in the sanctuary,
       to behold your strength and your glory.
 
4      Your loving mercy is better than life;
       my lips will speak your praise.
5      I will bless you all my life;
       in your name I will lift up my hands.
6      My soul shall be filled as with a banquet;
       with joyful lips, my mouth shall praise you.

7      When I remember you upon my bed,
       I muse on you through the watches of the night.

8      For you have been my strength;
       in the shadow of your wings I rejoice.
9      My soul clings fast to you;
       your right hand upholds me.

 10    Those who seek to destroy my life
       shall go down to the depths of the earth.
11     Put to the power of the sword,
       they shall be left as prey for the jackals.
 
12     But the king shall rejoice in God;
       all that swear by him shall exult,
       for the mouth of liars shall be silenced.

Acknowledgements
~ Translation of Psalm: From The Revised Grail Psalms: A Liturgical Psalter. (c) 2010.~ Commentary: (c) 2020, Allen Morris
~ Photo: (c) 2016, Allen Morris. St Peter’s Square, Rome.

The first reading for this Sunday

Many Christians expect their relationship with God to be somewhat prim and proper.

Jeremiah, in this Sunday’s first reading, is caught up in something much more passionate and engaging than is common.

He feels he has been seduced, indeed ravished, by God. Indeed, he also feels that God has used him and cast him aside, or at least is very much aware that everyone else seems to think that, and he is humiliated by that and somewhat persuaded that they might be right.

And yet, there is still a certain fire in him, passion for the Lord.

It would be a mistake to think that Jeremiah was suffering from Stockholm Syndrome. Rather his relationship with God has roots deeper and thirstier for God than he knows. Jeremiah has some way to go in his relationship with the Lord – and his neighbours. He lives in challenging times but the love of the Lord will sustain him and free him.

Jeremiah 20:7-9

20.7   O LORD, you have deceived me,
and I was deceived;
you are stronger than I,
and you have prevailed.

I have become a laughingstock all the day;
everyone mocks me.
8  For whenever I speak, I cry out,
I shout, “Violence and destruction!”

For the word of the LORD has become for me
a reproach and derision all day long.

9  If I say, “I will not mention him,
or speak any more in his name,”
there is in my heart as it were a burning fire
shut up in my bones,
and I am weary with holding it in,
and I cannot.


Acknowledgements
~ Translation of Scriptures: English Standard Version (c) 2001-9, Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
~ Commentary: (c) 2020, Allen Morris
~ Photo: (c) 2007, Allen Morris. Detail of ambo, French church, Leicester Square, London.

The Collect for the coming Sunday’s Mass

Collect for the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

God of might, giver of every good gift,
put into our hearts the love of your name,
so that, by deepening our sense of reverence,
you may nurture in us what is good
and, by your watchful care,
keep safe what you have nurtured.

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.

This simple prayer bears quiet witness to our need for God’s help.

The prayer acknowledge the power of God; and that God is the source of every good gift.

We ask God to give us love of his name; to deepen our sense of reverence; nurture in us what is good; and keep watch over what he has nurtured.

Our only task is to cooperate with what the Lord comes – but how challenging we find this. And so we pray, mindful of all the help we need.

Acknowledgements
~ Translation of the Collect: English translation of The Roman Missal © 2010, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation. All rights reserved..
~ Commentary: (c) 2020, Allen Morris
~ Photograph: (c) 2019, Allen Morris. Manchester Cathedral.

The Gospel for this Sunday

As noted in the reflection on the first reading for this Sunday there is a certain ambivalence in the way that Peter is presented in the Gospel of Matthew.

In the episode we hear this Sunday Peter is lauded for his profession of faith, but in a passage which we do not hear until next week – Jesus calls Peter Satan!

We all have our blind spots, we all of us want to make the world as we would like, or as we expect, it to be. Sometimes we look for the dark side, pessimistic and afeared to hope for things to be better. Sometimes we look for the best and resist those who urge us to face the challenges and obstacles that lie ahead.

Jesus affirms and celebrates and shares the glory that is the nearness of God’s kingdom. He also bravely faces up to the worst that humankind that put his way – trusting in God, trusting that he will not be abandoned to evil and to death.

Jesus teaches Peter, patiently, carefully, and again and again, to be able to do the same. Peter may have been a slow learner, but he proved to be a faithful student, finally capable of walking surely in his master’s footsteps.

  • Where do you suspect your blind spots might lie?
  • What most helps you find confidence in addressing them?

Matthew 16:13-20

(NB the text set for Sunday is given below in bold and in ‘quote sections’ below; the rest is the immediate biblical text from which the Lectionary text is extracted)

Peter Confesses Jesus as the Christ
16.13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.

Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection
21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

Take Up Your Cross and Follow Jesus
24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. 28 Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
 
Acknowledgements
~ Translation of Scriptures: English Standard Version (c) 2001-9, Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
~ Commentary: (c) 2020, Allen Morris
~ Photo: (c) 2020, Allen Morris. Pew end carving of St Peter (disfigured by iconoclasts). St Lawrence church, Ludlow

Second reading for the coming Sunday

As the King in this week’s Responsorial Psalm, so too in the Second Reading St Paul hymns the glory and wisdom of God.

But in the Letter to the Romans Paul continues (in words which will be heard as next week’s second reading!) to encourage us to an imitation of God – and to do this by making sacrifice of ourselves to God:

Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

There is a resonance with the Gospel and First readings here – to truly acknowledge the Lord is to be obedient to the Lord, to live in tune with the Lord.

Paul urges us all to this – but not only as individuals but in community, each serving to the best of their ability, according to their gifts, but for the good of all

  • From whose gifts do you presently benefit?
  • To whose quality of life can you presently contribute?

Romans 11:33-36

(NB the text set for Sunday is given below in bold and in ‘quote sections’ below; the rest is the immediate biblical text from which the Lectionary text is extracted)

33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
34  “For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counsellor?”
35  “Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”
36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

A Living Sacrifice
12 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Gifts of Grace
3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7 if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness

Acknowledgements
~ Translation of Scriptures: English Standard Version (c) 2001-9, Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
~ Commentary: (c) 2020, Allen Morris
~ Photo: (c) 2017, Allen Morris. Lady Wisdom, Knowle Parish Church, Warwickshire.

Responsorial Psalm for the coming Sunday

The Psalm is presented as the song of the King of Israel – specifically King David – hymning the God of Israel for his faithfulness and love.

The implication is that Israel’s King is not only praising God for his virtue, but is expressing his desire to imitate these virtues in himself.

There is a poignancy in the final stanza, where the king seems to acknowledge his frailty, and entrusts himself and his failings to the mercy of God.

We will surely (hopefully) know our need to do the same.

Psalm 137(138):1-3,6,8

(NB the text set for Sunday is given below in bold and in ‘quote sections’ below; the rest is the immediate biblical text from which the Lectionary text is extracted)

Psalm 138 (137)
 
1      Of David.

       I thank you, Lord, with all my heart;
       you have heard the words of my mouth.
       In the presence of the angels I praise you.
2      I bow down toward your holy temple.
 
       I give thanks to your name
       for your merciful love and your faithfulness.
       You have exalted your name over all.
3      On the day I called, you answered me;
       you increased the strength of my soul.

4      All earth’s kings shall thank you, O Lord,
       when they hear the words of your mouth.
5      They shall sing of the ways of the Lord,
       “How great is the glory of the Lord!”

6      The Lord is high, yet he looks on the lowly,
       and the haughty he knows from afar.

7      You give me life though I walk amid affliction;
       you stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes.
 
       With your right hand you save me;
8      the Lord will accomplish this for me.

       O Lord, your merciful love is eternal;
       discard not the work of your hands.

Acknowledgements
~ Translation of Psalm: From The Revised Grail Psalms: A Liturgical Psalter. (c) 2010.~ Commentary: (c) 2020, Allen Morris
~ Photo: (c) 2020, Allen Morris. Stained Glass, Priory Church, Leominster

First reading for the coming Sunday

The first reading this coming Sunday anticipates the honour and responsibility with which Jesus invests Peter in the episode that is this Sunday’s Gospel reading.

It will be noted that in Isaiah first one steward – Shebna – is demoted and then another – Eliakim – is promoted. The reason is that Shebna has not put trust in the Lord, is not faithful.

There is something of the same tension in the Gospel episode. Peter is honoured for his confession of Jesus as Son of God but then challenged for his lack of faith and understanding. The way Matthew presents this is less stark than Mark does, but it is still somewhat startling.

Stewards for Israel and Bearers of the Keys of the Kingdom are honoured roles, but they are no guarantee of – and certainly no substitute for –  faithful living.

Isaiah 22:19-23

(NB the text set for Sunday is given below in bold and in ‘quote sections’ below; the rest is the immediate biblical text from which the Lectionary text is extracted)

22.8In that day you looked to the weapons of the House of the Forest, 9 and you saw that the breaches of the city of David were many. You collected the waters of the lower pool, 10 and you counted the houses of Jerusalem, and you broke down the houses to fortify the wall. 11 You made a reservoir between the two walls for the water of the old pool. But you did not look to him who did it, or see him who planned it long ago.

12  In that day the Lord GOD of hosts
called for weeping and mourning,
for baldness and wearing sackcloth;
13  and behold, joy and gladness,
killing oxen and slaughtering sheep,
eating flesh and drinking wine.
“Let us eat and drink,
for tomorrow we die.”

14  The LORD of hosts has revealed himself in my ears:
“Surely this iniquity will not be atoned for you until you die,”
says the Lord GOD of hosts.

15 Thus says the Lord GOD of hosts, “Come, go to this steward, to Shebna, who is over the household, and say to him: 16 What have you to do here, and whom have you here, that you have cut out here a tomb for yourself, you who cut out a tomb on the height and carve a dwelling for yourself in the rock? 17 Behold, the LORD will hurl you away violently, O you strong man. He will seize firm hold on you 18 and whirl you around and around, and throw you like a ball into a wide land. There you shall die, and there shall be your glorious chariots, you shame of your master’s house.

19 I will thrust you from your office, and you will be pulled down from your station. 20 In that day I will call my servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, 21 and I will clothe him with your robe, and will bind your sash on him, and will commit your authority to his hand. And he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. 22 And I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David. He shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open. 23 And I will fasten him like a peg in a secure place, and he will become a throne of honor to his father’s house.

24 And they will hang on him the whole honour of his father’s house, the offspring and issue, every small vessel, from the cups to all the flagons. 25 In that day, declares the LORD of hosts, the peg that was fastened in a secure place will give way, and it will be cut down and fall, and the load that was on it will be cut off, for the LORD has spoken.”

Acknowledgements
~ Translation of Scriptures: English Standard Version (c) 2001-9, Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
~ Commentary: (c) 2020, Allen Morris
~ Photo: (c) 2018, Allen Morris. Siloam, Kedron Valley, Jerusalem

The Collect for this coming Sunday

There is a lot of use of the first person plural in the Collect for next Sunday. And a certain contrast between that and the singularity of God (at least until the Trinitarian conclusion to the prayer) and the singularity of purpose.

What we pray for is that in and despite being numerous and varied we ourselves – all the faithful and all the people (of whom the faithful of the Church are a part but not the entirety) – might achieve something of that unity of being and purpose that is proper to God, but often a struggle for us.

There are many reasons for our estrangements and the like, but it is in God we find the medicine and salve for what does damage in our human family, in God’s human family…

Good reason to pray for help for ourselves (and those others who as yet we might not really think are of ‘us’.)

Collect for 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

O God, who cause the minds of the faithful
to unite in a single purpose,
grant your people to love what you command
and to desire what you promise,
that, amid the uncertainties of this world,
our hearts may be fixed on that place
where true gladness is found.

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.

Acknowledgements
~ Translation of the Collect: English translation of The Roman Missal © 2010, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation. All rights reserved..
~ Commentary: (c) 2020, Allen Morris
~ Photograph: (c) 2020, Allen Morris. Detail of altar frontal. Priory Church, Leominster.