Taste and See: Work to do

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Console my people, console them’
says your God.

‘Speak to the heart of Jerusalem
and call to her
that her time of service is ended,
that her sin is atoned for,
that she has received from the hand of the Lord
double punishment for all her crimes.’

A voice cries, ‘Prepare in the wilderness
a way for the Lord.
Make a straight highway for our God
across the desert.
Let every valley be filled in,
every mountain and hill be laid low.
Let every cliff become a plain,
and the ridges a valley;
then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed
and all mankind shall see it;
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’

Go up on a high mountain,
joyful messenger to Zion.
Shout with a loud voice,
joyful messenger to Jerusalem.
Shout without fear,
say to the towns of Judah,
‘Here is your God.’

Here is the Lord coming with power,
his arm subduing all things to him.
The prize of his victory is with him,
his trophies all go before him.
He is like a shepherd feeding his flock,
gathering lambs in his arms,
holding them against his breast
and leading to their rest the mother ewes.

First Reading for the Second Sunday Of Advent.
Isaiah 40:1-5,9-11

The Lord offers to move heaven and earth to bring his people back to him. Valleys are filled in and mountains laid low so that the people God calls can travel more easily, more speedily, to return home to the Lord.

  • What are the barriers between God and his people?
  • How might you help shift or reduce these?
  • What are the barriers between God and you?
  • Who might you help shift or reduce these?

Image of Centenary Square, Birmingham, 2016. (c) 2017, Allen Morris

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Speak Lord: Help us to hope

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‘Console my people, console them’
says your God.

‘Speak to the heart of Jerusalem
and call to her
that her time of service is ended,
that her sin is atoned for,
that she has received from the hand of the Lord
double punishment for all her crimes.’

A voice cries, ‘Prepare in the wilderness
a way for the Lord.
Make a straight highway for our God
across the desert.
Let every valley be filled in,
every mountain and hill be laid low.
Let every cliff become a plain,
and the ridges a valley;
then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed
and all mankind shall see it;
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’

Go up on a high mountain,
joyful messenger to Zion.
Shout with a loud voice,
joyful messenger to Jerusalem.
Shout without fear,
say to the towns of Judah,
‘Here is your God.’

Here is the Lord coming with power,
his arm subduing all things to him.
The prize of his victory is with him,
his trophies all go before him.
He is like a shepherd feeding his flock,
gathering lambs in his arms,
holding them against his breast
and leading to their rest the mother ewes.

First Reading for the Second Sunday Of Advent.
Isaiah 40:1-5,9-11

​The message is indeed joyful. Freedom and wholeness, liberation and mercy is offered to those who have known punishment and confi​nement, frustration and misery.

The Lord orders the prophet to offer this goodness, because it is for the betterment of his people.

Though our baptism we share in the prophetic ministry of Christ and his Church. We too are called to be ministers of consolation in the world, missionary disciples who do not only talk to each other, but go further to those others who are also part of God’s people.

The message is joyful, but sometimes the intended messengers are hesitant or even refuse.

  • On a scale of 1-10 with 10 highest, where would you place yourself on the scale. And why would you find yourself at that point?
  • Where would you put your parish in its response to the call of the Lord?

Photograph: At a caravanserai, east of Konya, Turkey. (c) 2014, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Of new life

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Let us see, O Lord, your mercy, and give us your saving help.

I will hear what the Lord God has to say,
a voice that speaks of peace,
peace for his people.
His help is near for those who fear him
and his glory will dwell in our land.

Let us see, O Lord, your mercy, and give us your saving help.

Mercy and faithfulness have met;
justice and peace have embraced.
Faithfulness shall spring from the earth
and justice look down from heaven.

Let us see, O Lord, your mercy, and give us your saving help.

The Lord will make us prosper
and our earth shall yield its fruit.
Justice shall march before him
and peace shall follow his steps.

Let us see, O Lord, your mercy, and give us your saving help.

Responsorial Psalm for Second Sunday of Advent
Psalm 84(85):9-14

​it seems likely that many of us will gather for Mass tomorrow having made our ways through frost and snow.

The psalm we will sing  is redolent with the images and scents of spring, newness and freshness is promised and is promised for our flourishing.

We have known privation and suffering, but the time for that to end will come. And even now in the cold and the wet that hope lifts our spirits and gives us hope. ​

Photograph. Blossom at Abbey of Montserrat, Catalonia, Spain. (c) 2013, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Of your promise of newness

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There is one thing, my friends, that you must never forget: that with the Lord, ‘a day’ can mean a thousand years, and a thousand years is like a day. The Lord is not being slow to carry out his promises, as anybody else might be called slow; but he is being patient with you all, wanting nobody to be lost and everybody to be brought to change his ways. The Day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then with a roar the sky will vanish, the elements will catch fire and fall apart, the earth and all that it contains will be burnt up.

Since everything is coming to an end like this, you should be living holy and saintly lives while you wait and long for the Day of God to come, when the sky will dissolve in flames and the elements melt in the heat. What we are waiting for is what he promised: the new heavens and new earth, the place where righteousness will be at home. So then, my friends, while you are waiting, do your best to live lives without spot or stain so that he will find you at peace.

Second reading for Second Sunday of Advent
2 Peter 3:8-14

What wonders we wait for. Life is grace here and now and graced again and again. But but there is something more we wait and long for.

For here, now, life is marred too, again and again. And we wait for God who will bring that marring and miring to an end, and who offers to bring us and all to new and glorious life – ‘the place where righteousness will be at home’, and we too.

We advance the progress of that which is beyond this time and this place by seeking to live lovingly and well, to enjoy peace and share peace.

  • How might you do that today? And tomorrow?

Image is a detail from work by Žilvinas Kempinas displayed at the Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, 2016. (c) Allen Morris, 2016.

Speak Lord: News and Good!

 

DSC06301The beginning of the Good News about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is written in the book of the prophet Isaiah:

Look, I am going to send my messenger before you;
he will prepare your way.
A voice cries in the wilderness:
Prepare a way for the Lord, make his paths straight.

and so it was that John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. All Judaea and all the people of Jerusalem made their way to him, and as they were baptised by him in the river Jordan they confessed their sins. John wore a garment of camel-skin, and he lived on locusts and wild honey. In the course of his preaching he said, ‘Someone is following me, someone who is more powerful than I am, and I am not fit to kneel down and undo the strap of his sandals. I have baptised you with water, but he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.’

Gospel for the Second Sunday of Advent
Mark 1:1-8

It begins…

Ansd with what confidence and assurance Mark’s Gospel begins.

So much of the Gospel is concerned with challenge, failure, confusion and ambiguity, but there is no doubt that Mark is very clear about the importance of what he speaks and of whom he speaks. This is Gospel, and this is about the Son of God, and it is fulfilment of prophecy.

And the Gospel begins with ALL responding to John, welcoming the one who prepares the way, ALL of Judaea and ALL of Jerusalem make their way to him.

What follows in the 16 chapters of this the shortest Gospel demonstrates how hard it is for many of these to accept the newness of the Gospel and to let go of old ways that hide the glory of God and thwart his will.

As then, so now… We may find ourselves to be faithful to our religion and its expectations, but are we faithful to the love of God and neighbour? That’s the question.

  • So, are you, and how do you know?
  • If you are not, and are ashamed of that, then this is the Gospel for you, to encourage repentance and to instil fresh hope and even courage…

John the Baptist. St John Lateran, Rome. (c) 2016, Allen Morris

 

Taste and See: Awake, alert…

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Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Be on your guard, stay awake, because you never know when the time will come. It is like a man travelling abroad: he has gone from home, and left his servants in charge, each with his own task; and he has told the doorkeeper to stay awake. So stay awake, because you do not know when the master of the house is coming, evening, midnight, cockcrow, dawn; if he comes unexpectedly, he must not find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake!’

Gospel for the First Sunday of Advent
Mark 13:33-37

How it would be sad to miss the moment that matters: to be elsewhere busy or not, occupied by other things, when the moment comes for our meeting with the Lord…

And yet how easy it can be to find ourselves distracted, asleep…

Advent gives us an opportunity to acknowledge our faults and failings and to seek the Lord’s assistance to stay awake for his presence as himself, in the stirrings that come when he speaks to our hearts, for example, through word, sacrament, neighbour…

Basilica Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari. (c) 2004, Allen Morris.

 

Taste and See: our hope is sure

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You, Lord, yourself are our Father,
‘Our Redeemer’ is your ancient name.
Why, Lord, leave us to stray from your ways
and harden our hearts against fearing you?
Return, for the sake of your servants,
the tribes of your inheritance.

Oh, that you would tear the heavens open and come down!
– at your Presence the mountains would melt.

No ear has heard,
no eye has seen
any god but you act like this
for those who trust him.
You guide those who act with integrity
and keep your ways in mind.
You were angry when we were sinners;
we had long been rebels against you.
We were all like men unclean,
all that integrity of ours like filthy clothing.
We have all withered like leaves
and our sins blew us away like the wind.
No one invoked your name
or roused himself to catch hold of you.
For you hid your face from us
and gave us up to the power of our sins.
And yet, Lord, you are our Father;
we the clay, you the potter,
we are all the work of your hand.

First reading for the first Sunday of Advent.
Isaiah 63:16-17,64:1,3-8

The faithless one who now seeks to be faithful places themselves in the hands of the Father-Potter, longing to be made new, whole, right.

We may not judge ourselves to be faithless, entirely unclean and the like, but we too are surely in need of recovery and of being restored to health and wholeness. Advent gives us the chance to acknowledge this, again, and to renew our hope and trust in the Lord, in his compassion and kindness and care.

Sometimes our hope and trust might seem fanciful and without point. But  then we remember our history and salvation history and know afresh that God is faithful, always… We place our trust in him and follow our dreams.

  • What is the surest foundation for your faith in God?

Paradise under the ceiling. Ilya and Emilia Kabakov. Art Installation in Prison cell. Prison de Sainte Anne, Avignon. (c) 2014, Allen Morris