Speak Lord: For whom we long

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A man came, sent by God.
His name was John.
He came as a witness,
as a witness to speak for the light, so that everyone might believe through him.
He was not the light, only a witness to speak for the light.

This is how John appeared as a witness. When the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ he not only declared, but he declared quite openly, ‘I am not the Christ.’ ‘Well then,’ they asked ‘are you Elijah?’ ‘I am not’ he said. ‘Are you the Prophet?’ He answered, ‘No.’ So they said to him, ‘Who are you? We must take back an answer to those who sent us. What have you to say about yourself?’ So John said, ‘I am, as Isaiah prophesied: a voice that cries in the wilderness: Make a straight way for the Lord.’

Now these men had been sent by the Pharisees, and they put this further question to him, ‘Why are you baptising if you are not the Christ, and not Elijah, and not the prophet?’ John replied, ‘I baptise with water; but there stands among you – unknown to you – the one who is coming after me; and I am not fit to undo his sandal-strap.’ This happened at Bethany, on the far side of the Jordan, where John was baptising.

Gospel for the 3rd Sunday of Advent
John 1:6-8,19-28

John the Baptist is a most exceptional witness. But in his humility he puts himself entirely at the service of the one who is to come.

Likewise the Church, when she seeks to share the Good News with others, speaks not of herself but of the Lord. Her witness prepares the way for their real and unique encounter with Christ too, an encounter which offers them eternal life…

Photograph of Reliquary for bone from arm of John the Baptist. Collection of the Louvre. (c)  2017, Allen Morris.

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Taste and See: Steadfastness

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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

A​ day can mean a thousand years, and a thousand years is like a day…

​In other words says Peter, let us not look today or tomorrow or the day after for fresh proof that the Lord is good and is fulfilling his promises. We are to walk ​​by faith and walk in hope.

There are and will be moments where we find reassurance of the Lord’s present care for us and the gift of consolation and salvation even now.

But there will surely be other days where there are no signs, when the heavens look firmly closed, and the Lord far away and unhearing, unresponsive. On those days faith may seem less like a gift we receive from God, but a gift we offer to God.

And on those days especially, as we strive to do our best, living holy and saintly lives’ finding in the consolation of that a foretaste of that infinitely more that God will offer to us…

Photograph of Unemployed Man by Gordon Herickx and Bag #9 by Gavin Turk. New Art Gallery, Walsall. (c) 2017, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: Hope

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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

In the congregation’s response to the verses of the psalm we sing our prayer to the Lord asking for his help..

In the verses the cantor develops our response, expressing assurance that the Lord will respond favourably and that we will make the most of what he offers to us; that we will listen; and that we will benefit from what we hear.

Even now, as we wait for the final fulfilment of our hopes, hope is granted to us, and hope enlivens us – if we look, if we listen.

Photograph of Fabric Hanging in Chapel at National Memorial Arboretum, Alrewas, Staffs. (c) 2017, Allen Morris.

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

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.