Preparing for the 5th Sunday of Lent

The story of the restoring of dried bones to the fullness of life is so good that Ezekiel tells it twice. The first as vision, and the second as prophesy; the first given to Ezekiel to see and wonder at, the second for us all to be part of as we learn, by God, to live.

Yesterday evening Pope Francis spoke of the Lord’s call that we might learn to live anew, better, more fully.

The Lord asks us …, invites us to reawaken and put into practice that solidarity and hope capable of giving strength, support, and meaning to these hours when everything seems to be floundering. The Lord awakens so as to reawaken and revive our Easter faith. We have an anchor: by his cross, we have been saved. We have a rudder: by his cross, we have been redeemed. We have hope: by his cross, we have been healed and embraced so that nothing and no one can separate us from his redeeming love. In the midst of isolation when we are suffering from a lack of tenderness and chances to meet up, and we experience the loss of so many things, let us once again listen to the proclamation that saves us: he is risen and is living by our side. The Lord asks us from his cross to rediscover the life that awaits us, to look towards those who look to us, to strengthen, recognize and foster the grace that lives within us. Let us not quench the wavering flame (cf. Is 42:3) that never falters, and let us allow hope to be rekindled.

Embracing his cross means finding the courage to embrace all the hardships of the present time, abandoning for a moment our eagerness for power and possessions in order to make room for the creativity that only the Spirit is capable of inspiring. It means finding the courage to create spaces where everyone can recognize that they are called, and to allow new forms of hospitality, fraternity, and solidarity. By his cross, we have been saved in order to embrace hope and let it strengthen and sustain all measures and all possible avenues for helping us protect ourselves and others. Embracing the Lord in order to embrace hope: that is the strength of faith, which frees us from fear and gives us hope.

Lent is always a time for us to learn to let go of those things that keep us from true life – those false goods that impose themselves in the way of what is authentic and good; our fears and doubts that keep us in shadows and at a distance, unavailed of the grace that would enliven us.

This year, the realities of contagion and disruption of our regular ways of life, Lent presents us with grosser challenges, and ones which more evidently impact on how we see ourselves and others, how we seek to live as ourselves and with others.

These realities push us and shove us, and we have to choose how to respond to them. Sometimes our choices are unloving, uncaring, selfish, draw us to spiritual death. May they be only our first choices, and may we quickly learn to repent of them.

We are helped to repentance and to renewal by the example of many, many people who rise to the situation, serving generously, careful for their neighbour.

And we are helped to repentance and renewal by the word of God, speaking to us in the depth of our being, when we allow ourselves to listen, and speaking to call us to the fullness of life, in every circumstance and for ever.

The first reading: Ezekiel 37:12-14

(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)

The Valley of Dry Bones
37.1
The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. 2 And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. 3 And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord GOD, you know.” 4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. 5 Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. 6 And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the LORD.”

7 So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. 8 And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them. 9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.

11 Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.’

12 Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. 13 And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. 14 And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the LORD.”

I Will Be Their God; They Shall Be My People
15 The word of the LORD came to me: 16 “Son of man, take a stick and write on it, ‘For Judah, and the people of Israel associated with him’; then take another stick and write on it, ‘For Joseph (the stick of Ephraim) and all the house of Israel associated with him.’ 17 And join them one to another into one stick, that they may become one in your hand. 18 And when your people say to you, ‘Will you not tell us what you mean by these?’ 19 say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I am about to take the stick of Joseph (that is in the hand of Ephraim) and the tribes of Israel associated with him. And I will join with it the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, that they may be one in my hand. 20 When the sticks on which you write are in your hand before their eyes, 21 then say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will take the people of Israel from the nations among which they have gone, and will gather them from all around, and bring them to their own land. 22 And I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel. And one king shall be king over them all, and they shall be no longer two nations, and no longer divided into two kingdoms. 23 They shall not defile themselves anymore with their idols and their detestable things, or with any of their transgressions. But I will save them from all the backslidings in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them; and they shall be my people, and I will be their God.

24 “My servant David shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd. They shall walk in my rules and be careful to obey my statutes. 25 They shall dwell in the land that I gave to my servant Jacob, where your fathers lived. They and their children and their children’s children shall dwell there forever, and David my servant shall be their prince forever. 26 I will make a covenant of peace with them. It shall be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will set them in their land and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in their midst forevermore. 27 My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 28 Then the nations will know that I am the LORD who sanctifies Israel, when my sanctuary is in their midst forevermore.”

. . . . .

At the Easter Vigil we hear from the chapter before the chapter above, from chapter 36, where the Lord promises a refreshment, a cleansing to his people, a new heart, a new faithfulness to all that is good and right. That prophesy too has been and is being fulfilled.

Let us pray for each other, that this newness may be fulfilled in us, for our sakes and the sake of the world – may we be witnesses to the Paschal Mystery, of life and light flourishing where it seemed there could be only death and darkness.

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) 2013, Allen Morris. Charnel House, Isola di San Michele, Venice.

Preparing for the 5th Sunday of Lent

St Paul describes two ways that are distinctive ways of life, a metaphor for the the righteous and unrighteous lives, described variously in many different religious and spiritual traditions. St Paul describes these ways as life in the flesh and life in the Spirit.

Fundamentally what distinguishes between the two is whether the person lives in Christ or still bound to the way of sin and death.

The way of life in the Spirit is a way that unites us in life with Jesus, that has us live the Kingdom, and lived in love, as children of God.

It is a way that leads us to responsibility and freedom – the freedom to choose what is good; free because in raising Jesus from the dead God has freed those who believe from fear of failure and sin; freed us to strive for what is good. Strong in this faith we outface all that would sap our courage or our resolve.

…neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Second reading for the 5th Sunday of Lent: Romans 8.8-11

(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)

Life in the Spirit
8.1
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.

8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

Heirs with Christ
12 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

Future Glory
18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

God’s Everlasting Love
31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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) 2015, Allen Morris. Cemetery of Novodevichy Convent Moscow.

Preparing for the 5th Sunday of Lent

The Gospel this Sunday is the third of the great narratives of salvation, healing and new life that are associated with these Sundays preceding the Holy Week and the Great Easter Vigil and the celebration of the Sacraments of Initiation which make new Christians.

This year our churches will be empty of the faithful of God, but the restorative, renewing power of God will not be inactive. Our Catholic faith puts great emphasis on the celebration of the Sacraments, but our tradition puts still greater emphasis on the response of God for longing in the human heart for communion of life with him – long has the Church spoken of tings such as Baptism of Desire and Spiritual Communion, certain of God’s communicating love and grace independent of the usual sacramental, symbolic, ritual expressions of his grace.

And so it will be surely this Easter Vigil if prudence judges it better to postpone the sacramental preparation of 100s across the country who wait and prepare as the Elect of God. Keep them in your prayers, as surely they keep us…

The story of Lazarus is a poignant one for us to hear at this time of contagion and suffering, and death.

Can we hold to the truth that our illnesses too do not, of themselves, lead to ultimate death? Only sin does that, and the Lord and the Church work tireless to help us to be free from sin, and free for life and love – life and love that draws us to eternal life.

The exceptional and dramatic story of Lazarus reminds us of the more general and often less startling stories of our lives. Signs and wonders have their place, but as John’s Gospel cautions us we should not be distracted by their excitement and impress from the sustaining truth of how God is everywhere and always…

  • Pray for those who tend to the sick and to the dead.
  • Pray for those who mourn and those who have care for them.
  • Pray for peace and faith and hope – may these gifts lead us still more surely to the living Lord and to eternal life.

Gospel: John 11.1-45

(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)

The Death of Lazarus
11.1 Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. 3 So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” 4 But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. 7 Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” 8 The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?” 9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 10 But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” 11 After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” 12 The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” 13 Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. 14 Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, 15 and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” 16 So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

I Am the Resurrection and the Life
17 Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. 20 So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”

Jesus Weeps
28 When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29 And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32 Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. 34 And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?”

Jesus Raises Lazarus
38 Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” 44 The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

The Plot to Kill Jesus
45 Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him,

46 but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” 49 But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. 50 Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” 51 He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, 52 and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. 53 So from that day on they made plans to put him to death.

54 Jesus therefore no longer walked openly among the Jews, but went from there to the region near the wilderness, to a town called Ephraim, and there he stayed with the disciples.

55 Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before the Passover to purify themselves. 56 They were looking for Jesus and saying to one another as they stood in the temple, “What do you think? That he will not come to the feast at all?” 57 Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where he was, he should let them know, so that they might arrest him.

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) 2019, Allen Morris. Bloemaert’s Raising of Lazarus , Manchester Art Gallery

Responding to the 4th Sunday of Lent

A social-media posting this week read:

‘I did not know how much I was going to give up this Lent.’

Indeed.

In the past days

  • we may have lost, or at least known threats to, our peace of mind and sense of security.
  • we are, many of us, confined to our homes for self-protection or the protection of others – some of us, many of us 24/7
  • we are, many of us, working in ever-more stressful situations – health care facilities, schools, supermarkets and in the community – trying to give of our best, but tired and exposed and troubled.
  • we are careful, anxious for family and friends, and the more vulnerable members of the communities we are part of (real and virtual)
  • we may have found our health compromised; we may have and may yet face the death of loved ones
  • we are disappointed at things lost or now not to be – at least for a while (weddings, baptisms, holidays, family gatherings)
  • we have lost our hoped for ‘present’, our planned for ‘here and now’

But let us not just lose those things…

Let us allow the loss of them to be not just our experiences of the consequences of an international health crisis, – things done to us.

Let us make them things we experience and endure and then of ourselves make them things we ‘give up’ to the Lord.

We let go even of some good things, that we might know still better the good thing, the only fully and true good, which is our God.

Through our sadness and fear, the hurt and disappointment, if we still turn to Christ we learn of what is not passing. We learn of our being loved; home, held with him; precious in his sight,

Bright sadness is the true message and gift of Lent. Little by little we begin to understand, or rather to feel, that this sadness is indeed “bright,” that a mysterious transformation is about to take place in us.  It is as if we were reaching a place to which the noises and the fuss of life, of the street, of all that which usually fills our days and even nights, have no access–a place where they have no power.  All that which seemed so tremendously important to us as to fill our mind, that state of anxiety which has virtually become our second nature, disappear somewhere and we begin to feel free, light and happy.  It is not the noisy and superficial happiness which comes and goes twenty times a day and is so fragile and fugitive; it is a deep happiness which comes not from a single and particular reason but from our soul having, in the words of Dostoevsky, touched “another world.”  And that which it has touched is made up of light and peace and joy, of an inexpressible trust.  

Alexander Schmemann

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 22 (23)

1     A Psalm of David.

      The Lord is my shepherd;
      there is nothing I shall want.
2     Fresh and green are the pastures
      where he gives me repose.
      Near restful waters he leads me;
3     he revives my soul.

      He guides me along the right path,
      for the sake of his name.
4     Though I should walk in the valley of the shadow of death,
      no evil would I fear, for you are with me.
      Your crook and your staff will give me comfort.

5     You have prepared a table before me
      in the sight of my foes.
      My head you have anointed with oil;
      my cup is overflowing.

6     Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
      all the days of my life.
      In the Lord’s own house shall I dwell
      for length of days unending.

Acknowledgements

  • Translation of Psalms: From The Revised Grail Psalms: A Liturgical Psalter. (c) 2010.
  • Commentary: (c) 2020, Allen Morris
  • Alexander Schmemann from The Great Lent.
  • Photo (c) 2017, Allen Morris. Chartres Cathedral. France.

Preparing for the 4th Sunday of Lent

The prophet Samuel hobbles on, anointing the kings demanded by Isrel, and permitted by God – he hobbles on with the work entrusted to him but knowing all too well the disasters these kings will bring on Israel.

At the same time, the promises of God will find new fruitfulness in the promised Son born of David’s line, who, in his turn, will anoint the man born blind restoring him to sight and life, symbolising the Lord’s gifts to Israel and all his people; the promised Son who in our baptism anoints us to share in his rich ministry as prophet, priest and king.

May his gift and his trust, bear fruit in us.

First reading: 1 Samuel 16:1,6-7,10-13

(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)

David Anointed King
16 1The LORD said to Samuel,

“How long will you grieve over Saul, since I have rejected him from being king over Israel?

Fill your horn with oil, and go. I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.”

2 And Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears it, he will kill me.” And the LORD said, “Take a heifer with you and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.’ 3 And invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do. And you shall anoint for me him whom I declare to you.” 4 Samuel did what the LORD commanded and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling and said, “Do you come peaceably?” 5 And he said, “Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the LORD. Consecrate yourselves, and come with me to the sacrifice.” And he consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.

6 When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the LORD’s anointed is before him.” 7 But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”

8 Then Jesse called Abinadab and made him pass before Samuel. And he said, “Neither has the LORD chosen this one.” 9 Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the LORD chosen this one.”

10 And Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. And Samuel said to Jesse, “The LORD has not chosen these.” 11 Then Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but behold, he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and get him, for we will not sit down till he comes here.” 12 And he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy and had beautiful eyes and was handsome. And the LORD said, “Arise, anoint him, for this is he.” 13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers. And the Spirit of the LORD rushed upon David from that day forward. And Samuel rose up and went to Ramah.

David in Saul’s Service
14 Now the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and a harmful spirit from the LORD tormented him. 15 And Saul’s servants said to him, “Behold now, a harmful spirit from God is tormenting you. 16 Let our lord now command your servants who are before you to seek out a man who is skilful in playing the lyre, and when the harmful spirit from God is upon you, he will play it, and you will be well.” 17 So Saul said to his servants, “Provide for me a man who can play well and bring him to me.” 18 One of the young men answered, “Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, who is skilful in playing, a man of valour, a man of war, prudent in speech, and a man of good presence, and the LORD is with him.” 19 Therefore Saul sent messengers to Jesse and said, “Send me David your son, who is with the sheep.” 20 And Jesse took a donkey laden with bread and a skin of wine and a young goat and sent them by David his son to Saul. 21 And David came to Saul and entered his service. And Saul loved him greatly, and he became his Armor-bearer. 22 And Saul sent to Jesse, saying, “Let David remain in my service, for he has found favour in my sight.” 23 And whenever the harmful spirit from God was upon Saul, David took the lyre and played it with his hand. So Saul was refreshed and was well, and the harmful spirit departed from him.

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) 2019 Anointing of David. St Mary’s Hull. Allen Morris.

Preparing for 4th Sunday of Lent

It is easy – sometimes too easy – to talk about faith.

We live in especially testing times, which make it all the more important that we truly live by faith.

Often we hide our fears and distrust not only from others but also from ourselves.

Why not use the familiar psalm set to be sung this Sunday to feed a dialogue between yourself and the Lord – talk and listen to each other about what each phrase means and promises. Give space for silence to allow you to absorb the truths you learn, comfortable and uncomfortable.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 22 (23)

1     A Psalm of David.

      The Lord is my shepherd;
      there is nothing I shall want.
2     Fresh and green are the pastures
      where he gives me repose.
      Near restful waters he leads me;
3     he revives my soul.

      He guides me along the right path,
      for the sake of his name.
4     Though I should walk in the valley of the shadow of death,
      no evil would I fear, for you are with me.
      Your crook and your staff will give me comfort.

5     You have prepared a table before me
      in the sight of my foes.
      My head you have anointed with oil;
      my cup is overflowing.

6     Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
      all the days of my life.
      In the Lord’s own house shall I dwell
      for length of days unending.

Acknowledgements

  • Translation of Psalms: From The Revised Grail Psalms: A Liturgical Psalter. (c) 2010.
  • Commentary: (c) 2020, Allen Morris
  • Photo (c) 2019, Allen Morris. St Mary’s Priory, Chepstow.

Preparing for the 4th Sunday of Lent

To be Christian is to know we have received much and are called to be much – even in difficult circumstances…

2nd Reading: Ephesians 5:8-14

(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)

5.1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

3 But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. 4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. 5 For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not become partners with them;

8 for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. 13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,

“Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”

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. Stained glass. Notre Dame de la Dalbade, Toulouse