Collect for this coming Sunday…

We honour and venerate the Saints, and hopefully also we seek to find inspiration in them for how we live our own lives.

For myself, when I started to read lives of the saints, it came as a surprise to recognise how much they had to struggle – against their own frailties, often, but still more commonly against those who opposed their godly lives and godly mission. In the case of the martyrs the opposition was often from those outside of the Church; but in the case of others so very often the opposition came from within the Church.

Sometimes that opposition was from individuals jealous of their reputation; sometimes from people who feared the consequences of change and renewal that the saint was bringing about.

And very often the opposition took institutional form: the number of saints who were marginalised within or even hounded out of the very religious families they founded or reformed!

It is easier for us to honour the holy ones of God when they are dead and buried.

The Collect naturally enough acknowledges and values the relationship between us and the saints. But its principal focus is on the Lord: it is his gift that we venerate in honouring the merits of the saints; and reconciliation with God, especially, that we ask for.

In our trials and triumphs, let us keep focussed on the Lord of all goodness.

Collect for All Saints

Almighty ever-living God,
by whose gift we venerate in one celebration
the merits of all the Saints,
bestow on us, we pray,
through the prayers of so many intercessors,
an abundance of the reconciliation with you
for which we earnestly long.
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: © 2020, Allen Morris
~ Photograph:© 2019, Allen Morris. National Memorial Arboretum, Alrewas, Staffordshire

The Gospel for today’s Mass

An old joke, told by Jews (against themselves? or in their own defense?) goes:

A Jew is stranded on a desert island. When he is finally discovered after many years, his rescuers find that he has constructed two synagogues. “One, I go to. The other? The other I would never set foot in.”

A similar joke could be told about Christians. We are just as experienced at ‘splitting’ and anathematizing others of our tradition.

Over the centuries separation has been so great between Jews and Christians that we can forget how much we actually have in common. And in particular we forget how much more Jesus and his co-religionists had in common.

In the Gospel we hear debate and discussion between Jews of different traditions. Sadly the debate seems to get into making petty points, seeking to win the argument but at the cost of losting sight of what is most important. We are surely familiar with similar problems today, and not only in the area of religious debate.

We can most easily see this fault in others, but what about in our lives?

Let us pray for unity in love, and that it may lead us all closer to the living God.

Matthew 22:34-40
Gospel reading for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

(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)

Sadducees Ask About the Resurrection
23 The same day Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection, and they asked him a question, 24 saying, “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies having no children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother.’ 25 Now there were seven brothers among us. The first married and died, and having no offspring left his wife to his brother. 26 So too the second and third, down to the seventh. 27 After them all, the woman died. 28 In the resurrection, therefore, of the seven, whose wife will she be? For they all had her.”

29 But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. 30 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 31 And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.” 33 And when the crowd heard it, they were astonished at his teaching.

The Great Commandment
34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Whose Son Is the Christ?
41 Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, 42 saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” 43 He said to them, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying,

44  “‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
until I put your enemies under your feet”’?

45 If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” 46 And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.


 
 
Acknowledgements
~ Translation of Scriptures: English Standard Version (c) 2001-9, Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers
~ Commentary: © 2020, Allen Morris
~ Photograph:© 2017, Allen Morris. Floor tiles, Dormition Abbey, Jerusalem.

The second reading for Mass tomorrow

St Paul commends the Thessalonians for allowing their lives to be refashioned in Christ, for their service and for their readiness to entrust their future to Christ’s second coming.

  • For what might he commend you?
  • Or your church community?
  • And where might he focus his challenge?


1 Thessalonians 1:5-10
Second reading for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

(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)

Greeting
1.1 Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy,

To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.

The Thessalonians’ Faith and Example
2 We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, 3 remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. 4 For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5 because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.

You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. 6 And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, 7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. 8 For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. 9 For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.


Acknowledgements
~ Translation of Scriptures: English Standard Version (c) 2001-9, Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers
~ Commentary: © 2020, Allen Morris
~ Photograph:© 2016, Allen Morris. The Second Coming/Last Judgement. Byzantine Ivory carving. Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

The responsorial psalm for this coming Sunday

A famous passage from Annie Dillard’s Teaching a stone to talk. Expeditions and Encounters reads

Why do we people in churches seem like cheerful, brainless tourists on a packaged tour of the Absolute?

On the whole I do not find Christians, outside of the catacombs, sufficiently  sensible of conditions. Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake someday and take offence, or the waking god may draw us out to where we can never return.”

It is not a complaint that could be raised against the author of the Psalm from which the Church’s song for the Liturgy of the Word is drawn.

Sadly we will miss most of the passion and richness of the psalm.

Singing of the psalm is still absent from most of our church’s, and congregational singing of the psalm absent from all of them – so even the most stirring settings that evoke passion and gratitude will fall somewhat short.

And the editors of the Lectionary have omitted most of stirring imagery. Inevitable perhaps, unless we are to be in church an awful lot longer. But the missing verses do not feature on any other Sunday either. But they are rich and wonderful and help bring a range of emotions to prayer that maybe we too often neglect.

A question to ponder: what ways are available to us to help the rich resources of the Book of Psalms become more available to the faithful of God?

Psalm 17(18):2-4,47,51
Responsorial Psalm for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

(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 18 (17)

1For the Choirmaster. Of David, the servant of the Lord, who spoke the words of this canticle to the Lord when he had been freed from the power of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul
2He said:

I love you, Lord, my strength;
3           O Lord, my rock, my fortress, my savior;
            my God, my rock where I take refuge;
            my shield, my saving strength, my stronghold.
4           I cry out, “Praised be the Lord!”
            and see, I am saved from my foes.

5           The waves of death rose about me;
            the torrents of destruction assailed me;
6           the snares of the grave surrounded me;
            the traps of death confronted me.

7           In my anguish I called to the Lord;
            I cried to my God for help.
            From his temple he heard my voice;
            my cry to him reached his ears.

8           The earth then reeled and rocked;
            the mountains were shaken to their base;
            they quaked at his terrible anger.
 
9
          Smoke came forth from his nostrils,
            and scorching fire from his mouth;
            from him were kindled live coals.

10         He bent the heavens and came down,
            a black cloud was under his feet.
11         On a cherub, he rode and he flew;
            he soared on the wings of the wind.

12         He made the darkness his covering,
            the dark waters of the clouds, his tent.
13         A brightness shone out before him,
            with hailstones and flashes of fire.

14         The Lord then thundered in the heavens;
            the Most High let his voice be heard,
            with hail and coals of fire.
15         He shot his arrows, scattered the foe,
            flashed his lightnings, and put them to flight.

16         The bed of the ocean was revealed;
            the foundations of the world were laid bare
            at your rebuke, O Lord,
            at the blast of the breath of your nostrils.

17         From on high he reached down and seized me;
            he drew me forth from the mighty waters.
18         He saved me from my powerful foe,
            from my enemies, whose strength I could not match.

19         They assailed me in the day of my misfortune,
            but the Lord was my strong support.
20         He brought me out to a place of freedom;
            he saved me because he loved me.

21         The Lord rewarded me because I was just,
            repaid me, for my hands were clean,
22         for I have kept the ways of the Lord,
            and have not fallen away from my God.

23         For his judgments are all before me;
            his commands I have not cast aside.
24         I have been blameless before him;
            I have kept myself from guilt.
25         The Lord repaid me because I was just,
            and my hands were clean in his eyes.

26         With the faithful you show yourself faithful;
            with the blameless you show yourself blameless.
27         With the sincere you show yourself sincere,
            but the cunning you outdo in shrewdness;
28         for you save a lowly people,
            but bring low the eyes that are proud.

29         It is you who give light to my lamp;
            the Lord my God lightens my darkness.
30         With you I can break through a barrier,
            with my God I can scale a wall.

31         As for God, his way is blameless;
            the word of the Lord is pure.
            He indeed is the shield
            of all who trust in him.

32         For who is God but the Lord?
            Who is a rock but our God?
33         It is God who girds me with strength,
            and keeps my path free of blame.

34         My feet he makes swift as the deer’s;
            he has made me stand firm on the heights.
35         He has trained my hands for battle,
            and my arms to bend the bronze bow.

36         You gave me your saving shield;
            with your right hand, you gave me support;
            you bent down to make me great.
37         You lengthened my steps beneath me;
            and my feet have never slipped.

38         I pursued and overtook my foes,
            never turning back till they were slain.
39         I struck them so they could not rise;
            they fell beneath my feet.

40         You girded me with strength for battle;
            you made my enemies fall beneath me.
41         You made my foes take flight;
            those who hated me I destroyed.

42         They cried out, but there was no one to save them,
            cried to the Lord, but he did not answer.
43         I crushed them fine as dust before the wind,
            trod them down like dirt in the streets.

44         From the feuds of the people you delivered me,
            and put me at the head of the nations.
            People unknown to me served me;
45         when they heard of me, they obeyed me.

            Foreign nations came to me cringing;
46         foreign nations faded away.
            Trembling, they came forth from their strongholds.

47 The Lord lives, and blest be my Rock!
            May the God of my salvation be exalted,

48         the God who gives me redress
            and subdues the peoples under me.
 
49
        You saved me from my furious foes;
            you set me above my assailants;
            you saved me from the violent man.
50         So I will praise you, Lord, among the nations;
            to your name will I sing a psalm.

51 The Lord gives great victories to his king,
            and shows merciful love for his anointed,
            for David and his seed forever.


 
 
Acknowledgements
~ Translation of Psalm: From The Revised Grail Psalms: A Liturgical Psalter. (c) 2010 ~ Commentary: © 2020, Allen Morris
~ Photograph:© 2014, Allen Morris. Monument to members of the French resistance of 1940-44. Lisieux.

The first reading for this coming Sunday

The Jewish Bible establishes many laws for Jews – 613 according to medieval scholars. I have not counted them. Some of them appear in the passage from Exodus below.

These are laws particular to Israel’s unique covenantal relationship with God, as his chosen people. Early Christian debate established that Gentiles who were won to faith in Israel’s God through Christ were not bound to all of these laws (cf Acts 15)

That said, some of the laws have held a central place in Christian tradition – some permanently such as those cited by Jesus in this Sunday’s gospel, and the 10 Commandments themselves. Others have been held important for a time, but then abandoned – such as the commandment about usury below, and that of not permitting a sorceress to live.

Even those that are no longer applied literally often still have something to teach us about good living, godly living – for example 23.4-5 below. Our ‘enemies’ (if thus we choose to call them) may no longer have oxes or donkeys, but there are still many times when in charity they deserve our care.

  • Which of those below would you choose to observe?
  • What wisdom do you find in the one’s you reject, at least in the form they are given?

Exodus 22:20-26
First reading for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

(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)

Laws About Social Justice
22.16 “If a man seduces a virgin who is not betrothed and lies with her, he shall give the bride-price for her and make her his wife. 17 If her father utterly refuses to give her to him, he shall pay money equal to the bride-price for virgins.

18 “You shall not permit a sorceress to live.

19 “Whoever lies with an animal shall be put to death.

20 “Whoever sacrifices to any god, other than the LORD alone, shall be devoted to destruction.

21 “You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. 22 You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child. 23 If you do mistreat them, and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry, 24 and my wrath will burn, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless.

25 “If you lend money to any of my people with you who is poor, you shall not be like a moneylender to him, and you shall not exact interest from him. 26 If ever you take your neighbor’s cloak in pledge, you shall return it to him before the sun goes down, 27 for that is his only covering, and it is his cloak for his body; in what else shall he sleep? And if he cries to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate.

28 “You shall not revile God, nor curse a ruler of your people.

29 “You shall not delay to offer from the fullness of your harvest and from the outflow of your presses. The firstborn of your sons you shall give to me. 30 You shall do the same with your oxen and with your sheep: seven days it shall be with its mother; on the eighth day you shall give it to me.

31 “You shall be consecrated to me. Therefore you shall not eat any flesh that is torn by beasts in the field; you shall throw it to the dogs.

23.1 “You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with a wicked man to be a malicious witness. 2 You shall not fall in with the many to do evil, nor shall you bear witness in a lawsuit, siding with the many, so as to pervert justice, 3 nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his lawsuit.

4 “If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey going astray, you shall bring it back to him. 5 If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying down under its burden, you shall refrain from leaving him with it; you shall rescue it with him.

6 “You shall not pervert the justice due to your poor in his lawsuit. 7 Keep far from a false charge, and do not kill the innocent and righteous, for I will not acquit the wicked. 8 And you shall take no bribe, for a bribe blinds the clear-sighted and subverts the cause of those who are in the right.

9 “You shall not oppress a sojourner. You know the heart of a sojourner, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.

Acknowledgements
~ Translation of Scriptures: English Standard Version (c) 2001-9, Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers
~ Commentary: © 2020, Allen Morris
~ Photograph:© 2019, Allen Morris. Detail of Font cover, St Mary and St John’s, Wolverhampton.

This coming Sunday’s Collect

The virtues of faith, hope and love – active in us – draw us more fully into the life of the kingdom here on earth, and prepare us to enter into the life of heaven, with God for ever.

It is worth considering what hold their opposites might sometimes have over us.

The opposite of faith is not so much doubt, for often it is our uncertainty and questioning that leads us to renew faith, to deepen our trust in God. Rather it is likely to be a shallowness of relationship a sort of ‘what does it matter’ attitude. Faith is about commitment, its opposite is a drifting away.

Hope’s opposite is surely despair – and again what makes the difference is the breaking of that relationship with God. It is God’s love – manifested in so many ways, and most profoundly in the Paschal Mystery of Jesus’ dying and rising – that gives us hope. We lose it when we forget…

And love’s opposite? Hate, probably. Our tradition teaches of the principal forms of love – love of God, of neighbour and of self. Hate of self, hate of neighbour and hate of God go together to – either explicitly or implicitly. The cure? Jesus seems to have located it in God’s love for us – when we can attend to that, accept that, things change…

Collect for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Almighty ever-living God,
increase our faith, hope and charity,
and make us love what you command,
so that we may merit what you promise.
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: © 2020, Allen Morris
~ Photograph:© 2016, Allen Morris. Stained Glass, Tewkesbury Abbey.

Today’s Gospel for Mass

Now, far be it from me to correct or caveat what Jesus says, but…

In today’s Gospel reading Jesus concludes the debate with his opponents and critics by saying to them: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

So far fine… But those words have found a wider and more general application down the centuries as making a distinction between God’s realm and Caesar’s: between a secular world and the Church, even.

Jesus makes a valid point in the context of controversy, but he knows – as should we – that there is indeed one world, only one true kingdom, namely God’s. Ultimately, whatever respect it is proper to pay to “Caesar” and to Caesar’s laws, that needs to be within the limits of what is acceptable in God’s kingdom, whatever is in accord with God’s will.

Jesus’ quick-wittedness and irony demonstrates to his opponents they seem to have embraced a two worlds theory. How sadly ironic that Jesus words have subsequently been used to defend just such a theory.

But there is one kingdom. God’s.

This point is forcefully made in Pope Francis’ recent Encyclical Fratelli Tutti – take a look, for example, at paragraphs 118-120 about re-envisaging the social role of property. W emay find ourselves more ready to submit to the law of Caesar than we are to rise to the challenge of the love of neighbour!

Gospel reading for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Matthew 22:15-21

(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)

Paying Taxes to Caesar
15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words. 16 And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone’s opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances. 17 Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”

18 But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? 19 Show me the coin for the tax.”

And they brought him a denarius.

20 And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?”

21 They said, “Caesar’s.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

22 When they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away.

Sadducees Ask About the Resurrection
23 The same day Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection, and they asked him a question, 24 saying, “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies having no children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother.’ 25 Now there were seven brothers among us. The first married and died, and having no offspring left his wife to his brother. 26 So too the second and third, down to the seventh. 27 After them all, the woman died. 28 In the resurrection, therefore, of the seven, whose wife will she be? For they all had her.”
29 But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. 30 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 31 And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.” 33 And when the crowd heard it, they were astonished at his teaching.


 
 
Acknowledgements
~ Translation of Scriptures: English Standard Version (c) 2001-9, Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers
~ Commentary: © 2020, Allen Morris
~ Photograph:© 2020, Allen Morris. The Tribute Money, Titian: National Gallery, London

Second reading for this Sunday’s Mass

This Sunday we leave behind the letter to the Philippians and begin to hear passages from the First Letter to the Thessalonians – the earliest written text in our New Testament.

Most scholars hold that the letter was written – in Corinth – between years 49-51AD.

We will continue to hear extracts from this letter on Sundays until the end of this Liturgical year (except on the feasts of All Saints and of Christ the King).

In its way the letter which focuses on the Second Coming of Christ and how we respond to that, live mindful of that – anticipates some of the themes of early Advent.

Paul writes to the Church in Thessalonika, a Church established by him as he began his ministry in Europe, perhaps one or two years previously.

That Church is now challenged from within and without. Paul writes to offer them assurance and encouragement to hold fast to what they have been taught, what they have received from him and his co-workers.

  • To whom have you recently offered encouragement?
  • Who has offered you encouragement and reassurance?
  • To what effect?

Second reading for the Sunday in Ordinary Time
1 Thessalonians 1:1-5

(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)


Greeting
1.1 Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy,
To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
Grace to you and peace.

The Thessalonians’ Faith and Example
2 We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, 3 remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. 4 For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5 because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.

6 And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, 7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. 8 For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. 9 For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.


 
 
Acknowledgements
~ Translation of Scriptures: English Standard Version (c) 2001-9, Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers
~ Commentary: © 2020, Allen Morris
~ Photograph: © 2006, Allen Morris. Hagia Sophia, Thessaloniki.

The Responsorial psalm for this coming Sunday

Robert Adler introduces his commentary on this psalm by observing that this ‘new song to the Lord’ is in face ‘a weaving together of phraises and whole lines that appear elsewhere’, and references Yair Hoffman who charectirzes the psalm as a mosaic of lines drawn from other and familiar psalms.

This is no bad thing, indeed the allusions and quotations may well contribute to the popularity of the psalm, increasing its immediate accessibility to at least the community that it was orginally composed for.

Some of Israel’s psalms draw elements not only from her other scriptures and worship practice, sometimes from sources which pre-date the firmly monotheisitic faith that came to distinguish later Judaism from its earlier Hebrew antecedants and the polytheisitc traditions of her neighbours.

Adler notes that v 4, , rendered in the translation below as “For the Lord is great and highly to be praised,/ to be feared above all gods”, seems to be a line inherited from earlier Hebrew tradition.

He continues: “In this case, the psalmist immediately attaches a kind of monotheistic rejoinder to it by asserting that all the other gods have no real existence: ‘ungods’.” (In the translation below, “For the gods of the nations are naught.”)

The negation of these “other gods” is expressed in one Hebrew word, ‘elilim. Adler writes that “ elilim is a polemic coinage that appears frequently elsewhere, punnngly formed on ‘al (“no”, “not”) and ‘el (“god), to which a diminutive suffix is appended. The standard meaning in all subsequent Hebrew is “idols”.”

A sort of early variant on the “devil has all the best tunes”, but we do not need to sing his songs! We take his best and make it true, and new…


Psalm 95(96):1,3-5,7-10
Responsorial Psalm for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

(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 96 (95)

1           O sing a new song to the Lord;
            sing to the Lord, all the earth.

2           O sing to the Lord; bless his name.
            Proclaim his salvation day by day.

3           Tell among the nations his glory,
            and his wonders among all the peoples.

4           For the Lord is great and highly to be praised,
            to be feared above all gods.
5           For the gods of the nations are naught.
            It was the Lord who made the heavens.

6           In his presence are majesty and splendour,
            strength and honour in his holy place.

7           Give the Lord, you families of peoples,
            give the Lord glory and power;
8           give the Lord the glory of his name.

            Bring an offering and enter his courts;
9           worship the Lord in holy splendour.
            O tremble before him, all the earth.

10         Say to the nations, “The Lord is king.”
            The world he made firm in its place;
            he will judge the peoples in fairness.

11         Let the heavens rejoice and earth be glad;
            let the sea and all within it thunder praise.
12         Let the land and all it bears rejoice.

            Then will all the trees of the wood shout for joy
13         at the presence of the Lord, for he comes,
            he comes to judge the earth.
            He will judge the world with justice;
            he will govern the peoples with his truth.

Acknowledgements
~ Translation of Psalm: From The Revised Grail Psalms: A Liturgical Psalter. (c) 2010
~ Commentary: © 2020, Allen Morris
~ Photograph: © 2018, Allen Morris. Figure affixed to bridge over the Garonne, Toulouse.

First Reading for next Sunday’s Mass

The glory of the Lord is revealed in his using a foreign king to restore his people from exile to the promised land.

In Exodus God battled mightily against the king, the Pharoah, of Egypt who would not let God’s people go. It was a mighty battle and cost Egypt dear, but God triumphed and Israel, enslaved in Egypt, found freedom in the Promised Land.

In the liberation from captivity in Babylon, there is no battle, no struggle – just the offer of restoration to the lost land of Israel.

God demonstrates God’s glory as God chooses – humankind can but marvel and rejoice.

Isaiah 45:1,4-6
First reading for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

(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 Lord Redeems Israel
21  Remember these things, O Jacob,
and Israel, for you are my servant;
I formed you; you are my servant;
O Israel, you will not be forgotten by me.
22  I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud
and your sins like mist;
return to me, for I have redeemed you.

23  Sing, O heavens, for the LORD has done it;
shout, O depths of the earth;
break forth into singing, O mountains,
O forest, and every tree in it!
For the LORD has redeemed Jacob,
and will be glorified in Israel.

24  Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer,
who formed you from the womb:
“I am the LORD, who made all things,
who alone stretched out the heavens,
who spread out the earth by myself,
25  who frustrates the signs of liars
and makes fools of diviners,
who turns wise men back
and makes their knowledge foolish,
26  who confirms the word of his servant
and fulfills the counsel of his messengers,
who says of Jerusalem, ‘She shall be inhabited,’
and of the cities of Judah, ‘They shall be built,
and I will raise up their ruins’;
27  who says to the deep, ‘Be dry;
I will dry up your rivers’;
28  who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd,
and he shall fulfill all my purpose’;
saying of Jerusalem, ‘She shall be built,’
and of the temple, ‘Your foundation shall be laid.’”

Cyrus, God’s Instrument
45.1 Thus says the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus,
whose right hand I have grasped,
to subdue nations before him
and to loose the belts of kings,
to open doors before him
that gates may not be closed:

2  “I will go before you
and level the exalted places,
I will break in pieces the doors of bronze
and cut through the bars of iron,
3  I will give you the treasures of darkness
and the hoards in secret places,
that you may know that it is I, the LORD,
the God of Israel, who call you by your name.

4  For the sake of my servant Jacob,
and Israel my chosen,
I call you by your name,
I name you, though you do not know me.
5  I am the LORD, and there is no other,
besides me there is no God;
I equip you, though you do not know me,
6  that people may know, from the rising of the sun
and from the west, that there is none besides me;
I am the LORD, and there is no other.

7  I form light and create darkness;
I make well-being and create calamity;
I am the LORD, who does all these things.

8  “Shower, O heavens, from above,
and let the clouds rain down righteousness;
let the earth open, that salvation and righteousness may bear fruit;
let the earth cause them both to sprout;
I the LORD have created it.

9  “Woe to him who strives with him who formed him,
a pot among earthen pots!
Does the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’
or ‘Your work has no handles’?
10  Woe to him who says to a father, ‘What are you begetting?’
or to a woman, ‘With what are you in labor?’”

11  Thus says the LORD,
the Holy One of Israel, and the one who formed him:
“Ask me of things to come;
will you command me concerning my children and the work of my hands?
12  I made the earth
and created man on it;
it was my hands that stretched out the heavens,
and I commanded all their host.
13  I have stirred him up in righteousness,
and I will make all his ways level;
he shall build my city
and set my exiles free,
not for price or reward,”
says the LORD of hosts.

Acknowledgements
~ Translation of Scriptures: English Standard Version (c) 2001-9, Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers
~ Commentary: © 2020, Allen Morris
~ Photograph: © 2004, Allen Morris. Detail of the Processional Way, Ishtar Gate from Babylon. Pergamon Museum, Berlin.