This Sunday’s Gospel…

In Jewish tradition there is a tradition of ‘taking the yoke’, of committing oneself to the study of Torah. It is a commitment that allows for those concerned to be relieved from governmental duties and worldly cares.

Debate about this relief is a live issue in the modern State of Israel, where some religious Jews are dispensed from, for example, military service because of their commitment to Torah study.

Learning from Jesus is promised to bring rest not by keeping us from service, but precisely by joining him in service of God and neighbour, not so much in scripture study but in practical and world-changing works of love

Matthew 11:25-30

25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Acknowledgements
~ Scripture translation: Translation of Scriptures: English Standard Version (c) 2001-9, Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
~ Commentary: (c) 2020, Allen Morris
~ Photograph: (c) 2015, Allen Morris. Museum of Liverpool.

The Psalm for next Sunday…

The psalm this week, like that set for Peter and Paul is an acrostic psalm, with each line beginning with a different letter of the Hebrew alphabet. You can find Knox’s translation here.

The Lectionary has selected a few verses for our use, but the full psalm is given below with the Leciontary verses indicated.

The psalm is recited in the three daily services of Judaism. It does not have the same regular prominence in the Church’s Divine Office, or in our Sunday Liturgy.

The psalm as a whole alternates between direct address to God and then speaking about God (to unnamed others). This pattern is retained in the selection of verses for the Lectionary. In a sense this alternation of addressee acheives what the psalmist promises in the first verses.

  • Where and when do you extol and bless God?

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 144(145):1-2,8-11,13b-14

1           Praise. Of David.

            I will extol you, my God and king,
            and bless your name forever and ever.

2           I will bless you day after day,
            and praise your name forever and ever.
3           The Lord is great and highly to be praised;
            his greatness cannot be measured.

4           Age to age shall proclaim your works,
            shall declare your mighty deeds.
5           They will tell of your great glory and splendor,
            and recount your wonderful works.

6           They will speak of your awesome deeds,
            recount your greatness and might.
7           They will recall your abundant goodness,
            and sing of your just deeds with joy.

8           The Lord is kind and full of compassion,
            slow to anger, abounding in mercy.
9           How good is the Lord to all,
            compassionate to all his creatures.

10          All your works shall thank you, O Lord,
            and all your faithful ones bless you.
11          They shall speak of the glory of your reign,
            and declare your mighty deeds,

12          To make known your might to the children of men,
            and the glorious splendor of your reign.
13          Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom;
            your rule endures for all generations.

            The Lord is faithful in all his words,
            and holy in all his deeds.
14          The Lord supports all who fall,
            and raises up all who are bowed down.

15          The eyes of all look to you,
            and you give them their food in due season.
16          You open your hand and satisfy
            the desire of every living thing.

17          The Lord is just in all his ways,
            and holy in all his deeds.
18          The Lord is close to all who call him,
            who call on him in truth.

19          He fulfills the desires of those who fear him;
            he hears their cry and he saves them.
20          The Lord keeps watch over all who love him;
            the wicked he will utterly destroy.

21          Let my mouth speak the praise of the Lord;
            let all flesh bless his holy name
            forever, for ages unending.



Getting Match-fit: Day 8

POPE FRANCIS:
Catechesis on

the Mass VIII

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning

Today we continue the catechesis on the Holy Mass. After pausing to reflect on the Introductory Rites, let us now consider the Liturgy of the Word, which is an integral part because we gather precisely to listen to what God has done and still intends to do for us. It is an experience which occurs “live” and not through hearsay because “when the Sacred Scriptures are read in the Church, God himself speaks to his people, and Christ, present in his own word, proclaims the Gospel” (General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 29; cf. Const. Sacrosanctum Concilium, 7, 33).

And how many times, as the Word of God is being read, are comments made: “Look at him… look at her; look at the hat she is wearing: it’s ridiculous…”. And the comments begin. Isn’t that true? Should comments be made while the Word of God is being read? [They answer: “No!”]. No, because if you are chatting with others, you are not listening to the Word of God. When the Word of God is being read from the Bible — the First Reading, the Second Reading, the Responsorial Psalm and the Gospel — we must listen, open our heart because it is God himself who is speaking to us, and we must not think about other things or talk about other things. Do you understand? I will explain to you what takes places in this Liturgy of the Word.

The pages of the Bible cease to be writings and become living words, spoken by God. It is God, who through the reader, speaks to us and questions us, we who listen with faith. The Spirit “who has spoken through the prophets” (Creed) and has inspired the sacred authors makes the Word of God that “we hear outwardly have its effect inwardly” (Lectionary, Introduction, 9). But in order to listen to the Word of God, we also need our heart to be open to receive the Word in our heart. God speaks and we listen to him, in order to then put into practice what we have heard. It is very important to listen. At times perhaps we do not fully understand because there are a few somewhat difficult Readings. Yet God speaks to us in another way; [we must be] silent and listen to the Word of God. Do not forget this. During Mass, when the Readings begin, let us listen to the Word of God.

We need to listen to him! It is in fact, a question of life, as we are reminded by the profound expression that “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Mt 4:4). Life which gives us the Word of God. In this sense, we are speaking of the Liturgy of the Word as a “meal” that the Lord prepares in order to nourish our spiritual life. The meal of the Liturgy is a lavish one which draws largely from the treasures of the Bible (cf. sc, 51), both the Old and the New Testaments, because in them, the Church proclaims the one and the same mystery of Christ (cf. Lectionary, Introduction, 5). Let us think about the richness of the Bible readings offered by the three Sunday cycles, which in the light of the Synoptic Gospels, accompany us throughout the Liturgical Year: a great richness. Here I wish to also recall the importance of the Responsorial Psalm whose function is to foster meditation on what was heard in the reading that precedes it. It is preferable that the Psalm be enriched by song, at least in the response (cf. girm, 61; Lectionary, Introduction, 19-22).

The Liturgical proclamation of the very same readings with the songs derived from Sacred Scripture expresses and fosters ecclesial communion by accompanying the journey of each and every one. It is thus understandable that some subjective choices such as the omission of readings or their substitution with non-biblical texts are forbidden. I have heard that when there is a news story, some people read the newspaper because it is the news of the day. No! The Word of God is the Word of God! We can read the newspaper later. But there, we are reading the Word of God. It is the Lord who is speaking to us. Substituting that Word with other things impoverishes and compromises the dialogue between God and his people in prayer. On the contrary, the dignity of the pulpit and the use of the Lectionary, the availability of good readers and psalmists [are required]. But we must look for good readers! Those who know how to read, not those who read [distorting the words] and nothing is understood. This is how it is. Good readers. They must be prepared and rehearse before the Mass in order to read well. And this creates a climate of receptive silence.

We know that the Word of the Lord is of indispensable help so as not to get lost, as is clearly recognized by the Psalmist who, speaking to the Lord, confesses: “Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Ps 119[118]:105). How can we face our earthly pilgrimage with its difficulties and its trials without being regularly nourished and enlightened by the Word of God which resounds in the Liturgy?

Of course it is not enough to listen with our ears without welcoming into our heart the seed of the Divine Word, allowing it to bear fruit. Let us remember the Parable of the Sower and of the results achieved by the different types of soil (cf. Mk 4:14-20). The action of the Holy Spirit which renders the response effective needs hearts that allow themselves to be fashioned and cultivated in such a way that what is heard at Mass passes into daily life, according to the admonishment of the Apostle James: “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (Jas 1:22). The Word of God makes a pathway within us. We listen to it with our ears and it passes to our hearts; it does not remain in our ears; it must go to the heart. And from the heart, it passes to the hands, to good deeds. This is the path which the Word of God follows: from our ears to our heart and hands. Let us learn these things. Thank you!


One of the principal tasks of the homilist is to help the congregation attend to the connect ion between ears, heart and hands, to help each one present recognise the light that is given to help us live more faithfully and fruitfully.

We hear, says Francis, what God has done, and what God still intends to do, – and it is our privilege to have a part to play in what God still intends to do.

The Liturgy of the Word can seem readings proclaimed to us, and homily preached at us. We may feel justified in thinking we are supposed to listen, but who listens to us.

Well the Lord for one, in the dialogue of voice and lives that he invites us to. But there is also need for us to dialogue with the rest of the parish too – what do we hear, how have we attempted to respond? What helps us respond? What makes it more difficult? What have we learnt from what we have tried but seem to have failed in? What have we learnt from we tried and seemed to succeed in?


If you would like to contribute to a discussion on the above – and especially what it might have to say to your local situation – it is suggested that Facebook is the most accessible platform for many people, so unless you have a strong aversion to FB, please post your reflections to the appropriate post at ‘Living Eucharist‘ – http://www.facebook.com/LEuch2015

Why this post? A reminder is available here.

The full sequence of catecheses is posted here.

A direct link to the writings and other teachings of Pope Francis is available here.

Photograph: Emmaüs: Chemin de Coix de la Prairie, Lourdes. (c) 2008, Allen Morris

The Collect for next Sunday

Why this focus on the Collect? Click here

Collect for the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

O God, who in the abasement of your Son
have raised up a fallen world,
fill your faithful with holy joy,
for on those you have rescued from slavery to sin
you bestow eternal gladness.

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.

The Collects are brief prayers, tightly written. Therefore they often use rhetorical devices to help them punch above their weight.

There is an example in this Collect

O God, who in the abasement of your Son
have raised up a fallen world…

The yoking of abasement and fallen and contrasting them with raised, economically confronts us with the wonder of the victory that Christ wins for us.

It echoes the hymn quoted in St Paul’s Letter to the Philippians.

Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Self-emptying, falling and rising; serving and being served, exaltation and honour, lead to a certain mutuality between God and his creatures – one enjoyed by gift and grace, humbly, not seized, not claimed as by right, even by Christ Jesus, who could have claimed this, and not claimed by us who are so very much aware of the way we have been loved and saved.

Self-emptying for love’s sake is at the very heart of Christian identity.

… fill your faithful with holy joy,

Happiness and contentment can be sought in all sorts of all ways. The marketing industry seeks to persuade us that we will find it in all sorts of things we can buy or pay for. The Gospel suggests it is to be found elsewhere.

  • How do you discriminate between the things that make you happy, or that you believe or act as though they will make you happy?For some happiness

…for on those you have rescued from slavery to sin

The horror of slavery has been much attended to in public discourse recently. The Black lives matter remind what damage the Atlantic slave trade has done to the integrity of the human family, and continues to do our community as people continue to face up to and deal with prejudice and discrimination.

The Gospel has much to say about the dignity of all human beings and the need for respect and just dealing by us all with each other. It also has much to say about the reality of another form of slavery – a slavery to sin, a form of bondage and disability which prevents us living in the freedom proper to the children of God, living free to love.

The greater love of God again and again breaks the bonds of sin

… bestow eternal gladness.

Again, some happiness or joy can be very transient, even illusory.

  • What makes the gift of the Lord different for you?

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

Getting Match-fit: Day 6

POPE FRANCIS:
Catechesis on

the Mass VI

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

Resuming the catecheses on the Eucharistic celebration, let us consider today, in the context of the Introductory Rites, the Penitential Act. In its sobriety, it favours the attitude with which we are prepared to worthily celebrate the holy mysteries, that is, by acknowledging our sins before God and our brothers and sisters, acknowledging that we are sinners. In fact the priest’s invitation is addressed to the whole community in prayer, because we are all sinners. What can the Lord give to one whose heart is already filled with self-importance, with one’s own success? Nothing, because a presumptuous person is incapable of receiving forgiveness, as he is satisfied by his presumed righteousness. Let us consider the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector, where only the latter — the tax collector — returns home justified, that is, forgiven (cf. Lk 18:9-14). One who is aware of his own wretchedness and lowers his gaze with humility feels God’s merciful gaze set upon him. We know through experience that only one who is able to acknowledge his mistakes and apologize receives the understanding and forgiveness of others.

Quietly listening to the voice of our conscience allows us to recognize that our thoughts are far from divine thoughts, that our words and our actions are often worldly, guided, that is, by choices contradictory to the Gospel. Therefore, at the beginning of Mass, as a community, we perform the Penitential Act through a formula of general confession, recited in the first person singular. Each one confesses to God and to his brothers and sisters to having “greatly sinned, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do”. Yes, even in omissions, that is, in having neglected to do the good I could have done. We often feel that we are good because — we say — “I did no harm to anyone”. In reality, it is not enough to refrain from doing harm to our neighbour; we must choose to do good, by seizing opportunities to bear good witness that we are disciples of Jesus. It is good to emphasize that we confess to being sinners both to God and to our brothers and sisters: this helps us understand the dimension of sin which, while separating us from God, also divides us from our brothers and sisters, and vice versa. Sin severs: sin severs the relationship with God and it severs the relationship with brothers and sisters, relationships within the family, in society and in the community: sin always severs; it separates; it divides.

The words we say with our mouth are accompanied by the gesture of striking our breast, acknowledging that I have sinned through my own fault and not that of others. Indeed, it often happens that, out of fear or shame, we point a finger to blame others. It costs us to admit being at fault, but it does us good to confess it sincerely. Confess your own sins. I remember an anecdote that an elderly missionary used to tell, of a woman who went to confession and started speaking about her husband’s failings. Then she moved on to talk about her mother-in-law’s failings and then the sins of her neighbours. At a certain point, the confessor said to her: “But, madam, tell me: have you finished? — Very well: you have finished with the sins of others. Now start telling your own”. Tell your own sins!

After the confession of sins, we ask the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Angels and Saints to pray to the Lord for us. In this too, the communion of Saints is valuable: that is, the intercession of these “companions and life examples” (cf. Preface of 1 November) supports us on the journey toward full communion with God, when sin will be abolished once and for all.

In addition to “I confess”, the Penitential Act can be performed with other formulae, for example: “Have mercy upon us, O Lord, / for we have sinned against thee. / Show us thy mercy, O Lord, / and grant us thy salvation” (cf. Ps 123[122]:3; Jer 14:20; Ps 85:8). Especially on Sundays, the blessing and sprinkling of water may be performed as a reminder of Baptism (cf. General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 51), which washes away all sins. It is also possible, as part of the Penitential Act, to sing the Kyrie eleison: with the ancient Greek expression, we praise the Lord — Kyrios — and implore his mercy (ibid., 52).

Sacred Scripture offers us luminous examples of “penitent” figures who, coming back into themselves after having committed sin, find the courage to take off the mask and open themselves to the grace that renews the heart. Let us think of King David and the words attributed to him in the Psalm: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to thy steadfast love; according to thy abundant mercy blot out my iniquity” (cf. 51[50]:1-2). Let us consider the prodigal son who returns to the father: “God, be merciful to me a sinner” (Lk 18:13). Let us also think of Saint Peter, of Zacchaeus, of the Samaritan woman. Measuring ourselves with the fragility of the clay of which we are molded is an experience that strengthens us: as it makes us take account of our weakness, it opens our heart to invoke the divine mercy which transforms and converts. And this is what we do in the Penitential Act at the beginning of Mass.


The necessary condition for someone to become Christian and to remain Christian, and to receive nourishment from their participation in Mass is that we know our certain emptiness, and need.

Only then will we want what the Lord offers; and only then will we recognise the need of others, and know what can satisfy us.

The same need draws us to both Mass and Mission.

  • Where and how does your community recognise and join in mutual acknowledgement of its weakness and need?
  • How and when do you share thoughts as to what might be the short or longer term mission of your community?

If you would like to contribute to a discussion on the above – and especially what it might have to say to your local situation – it is suggested that Facebook is the most accessible platform for many people, so unless you have a strong aversion to FB, please post your reflections to the appropriate post at ‘Living Eucharist‘ – http://www.facebook.com/LEuch2015

Why this post? A reminder is available here.

The full sequence of catecheses is posted here.

A direct link to the writings and other teachings of Pope Francis is available here.

Photograph: Emmaüs: Chemin de Coix de la Prairie, Lourdes. (c) 2008, Allen Morris

Getting Match-fit: Day 4

POPE FRANCIS:
Catechesis on

the Mass IV

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

Resuming the series of catecheses on the Mass, today we ask ourselves: why go to Sunday Mass?

The Sunday celebration of the Eucharist is at the heart of the Church’s life (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2177). We Christians go to Sunday Mass to encounter the Risen Lord, or better still to allow ourselves to be encountered by him, to hear his Word, to nourish ourselves at his table, and thus to become the Church, that is, his mystical living Body in the world.
From the first hour, Jesus’ disciples understood this; they celebrated the Eucharistic encounter with the Lord on the day of the week that the Hebrews called “the first of the week” and the Romans called “day of the sun”, because on that day Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to the disciples, speaking with them, eating with them, giving them the Holy Spirit (cf. Mt 28:1; Mk 16:9, 14; Lk 24:1, 13; Jn 20:1, 19), as we have heard in the Gospel reading. The great outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost also happened on a Sunday, the 50th day after Jesus’ Resurrection. For these reasons, Sunday is a holy day for us, sanctified by the Eucharistic celebration, the living presence of the Lord among us and for us. Thus, it is the Mass that makes Sunday Christian. The Christian Sunday revolves around the Mass. For a Christian, what is a Sunday in which the encounter with the Lord is lacking?

There are Christian communities which, unfortunately, cannot enjoy Mass every Sunday; they too, however, on this holy day, are called to reflect in prayer in the name of the Lord, listening to the Word of God and keeping alive the desire for the Eucharist.

Some secularized societies have lost the Christian sense of Sunday illuminated by the Eucharist. This is a shame! In these contexts it is necessary to revive this awareness, to recover the meaning of the celebration, the meaning of the joy, of the parish community, of solidarity, of the rest which restores body and soul (cf. ccc, nn. 2177-2178). Of all these values, the Eucharist is our guide, Sunday after Sunday. For this reason the Second Vatican Council wished to emphasize that Sunday “is the original feast day, and it should be proposed to the piety of the faithful and taught to them so that it may become in fact a day of joy and of freedom from work” (Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium, 106).

The Sunday abstention from work did not exist in the early centuries: it is a specific contribution of Christianity. According to biblical tradition Jews rest on the Sabbath, while in Roman society a day of the week was not provided for abstention from servile labour. It was the Christian awareness of living as children and not as slaves, inspired by the Eucharist, which has made Sunday — almost universally — the day of rest.

Without Christ we are condemned to be dominated by everyday weariness, with its worries, and by fear of the future. The Sunday encounter with the Lord gives us the strength to experience the present with confidence and courage, and to go forth with hope. For this reason we Christians go to encounter the Lord on Sunday, in the Eucharistic celebration.

Eucharistic communion with Jesus, Risen and ever-Living, anticipates the Sunday without sunset, when there will be no more weariness nor pain, nor sorrow nor tears, but only the joy of living fully and forever with the Lord. Sunday Mass also speaks to us of this blessed repose, teaching us to entrust ourselves during the course of the week to the hands of the Father who is in heaven.

How can we respond to those who say that it is of no use going to Mass, even on Sunday, because the important thing is to live well, to love our neighbour? It is true that the quality of Christian life is measured by the capacity to love, as Jesus said: “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13:35); but how can we practice the Gospel without drawing the energy necessary to do so, one Sunday after another, from the inexhaustible source of the Eucharist? We do not go to Mass in order to give something to God, but to receive what we truly need from him. We are reminded of this by the Church’s prayer, which is addressed to God in this way: “although you have no need of our praise, yet our thanksgiving is itself your gift, since our praises add nothing to your greatness but profit us for salvation” (Roman Missal, Common Preface IV).

In conclusion, why do we go to Mass on Sundays? It is not enough to respond that it is a precept of the Church; this helps to preserve its value, but alone does not suffice. We Christians need to participate in Sunday Mass because only with Jesus’ grace, with his living presence within us and among us, can we put his commandment into practice, and thus be his credible witnesses.


Sometimes the keeping of Sunday can seem a chore, and Sunday Mass just one more thing to fit into a busy weekend.

Pope Francis, in line with the tradition of the Church regarding Sunday – and, for example, the witness of Jews regarding the Sabbath – desribes Sunday as that which helps us to be free and energised for the other business that is proper to Christian life.

If we do not wish to live as Christians then we will not need Sunday.

But if we do wish to live as Christians we will know our need for the help – and the rest – that is brought when we keep Sunday well


If you would like to contribute to a discussion on the above – and especially what it might have to say to your local situation – it is suggested that Facebook is the most accessible platform for many people, so unless you have a strong aversion to FB, please post your reflections to the appropriate post at ‘Living Eucharist‘ – http://www.facebook.com/LEuch2015

Why this post? A reminder is available here.

The full sequence of catecheses is posted here.

A direct link to the writings and other teachings of Pope Francis is available here.

Photograph: Emmaüs: Chemin de Coix de la Prairie, Lourdes. (c) 2008, Allen Morris

The Psalm for Sunday’s Mass

On Sunday we celebrate the Solemnity of Ss Peter and Paul.

The first reading on Sunday – from Acts of the Apostles – tells of martyrdom and of the imprisonment and liberation of Peter.

Having heard that reading, the Church invites us to pray verses from Psalm 34.

The whole psalm is given below, with the verses set for the Liturgy of the Word marked in bold.

A few observations first.

  • The biblical superscription to the Psalm contains an error! David feigned madness before the Philistine king Achish (cf 1 Samuel 21.14), not Abimelech (cf Genesis 20).
  • The opening verses of the psalm apply most directly to the reading from Acts, but the latter verses are those maybe most directly related to 1 Samuel.
  • Psalm 34 is one the Psalter’s acrostic psalms. Beginning with the first line, each line of the psalm begins with the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet (though the 6th letter is missing, for some reason). The acrostic is not replicated in the English translation used at Mass, or the new translation given below, but it was there in the Knox translation. You can find that at the end of this post!
  • The psalm exhibits calm confidence in God, echoing aspects of the wisdom tradition that meets with challenge in the Book of Job.
    • Those reading on into the psalm might wonder how (or whether) it is true that ‘Many are the trials of the just man,/ but from them all the Lord will rescue him.’ The traditional answer in Christianity is that even if we meet with a martyr’s death in this life (cf James in the first reading on Sunday, and of course – later – both Peter and Paul) the Lord promises us eternal life.
    • The Psalm encourages us to trust in the saving love of God capable of defending the faithful in ways that we can trust in, but not necessarily comprehend. The words of Jesus come to mind: he offers us peace such that the world cannot give…

Psalm 34 (33)

1Of David, when he feigned madness before Abimelech, so that he drove him out, and he went away.

2              I will bless the Lord at all times;
            praise of him is always in my mouth.
3           In the Lord my soul shall make its boast;
            the humble shall hear and be glad.


4           Glorify the Lord with me;
            together let us praise his name.
5           I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
            from all my terrors he set me free.

6           Look toward him and be radiant;
            let your faces not be abashed.
7           This lowly one called; the Lord heard,
            and rescued him from all his distress.


8           The angel of the Lord is encamped
            around those who fear him, to rescue them.
9           Taste and see that the Lord is good.

            Blessed the man who seeks refuge in him.

10         Fear the Lord, you his holy ones.
            They lack nothing, those who fear him.
11         The rich suffer want and go hungry,
            but those who seek the Lord lack no blessing.

12         Come, children, and hear me,
            that I may teach you the fear of the Lord.
13         Who is it that desires life
            and longs to see prosperous days?

14         Guard your tongue from evil,
            and your lips from speaking deceit.
15         Turn aside from evil and do good.
            Seek after peace, and pursue it.

16         The Lord turns his eyes to the just,
            and his ears are open to their cry.
17         The Lord turns his face against the wicked
            to destroy their remembrance from the earth.

18         When the just cry out, the Lord hears,
            and rescues them in all their distress.
19         The Lord is close to the brokenhearted;
            those whose spirit is crushed he will save.

20         Many are the trials of the just man,
            but from them all the Lord will rescue him.
21         He will keep guard over all his bones;
            not one of his bones shall be broken.

22         Evil brings death to the wicked;
            those who hate the just man are doomed.
23         The Lord ransoms the souls of his servants.
            All who trust in him shall not be condemned.

Psalm-prayer
(Psalm-prayers are an optional feature of the Church’s Liturgy of the Hours. They provide an opportunity for those who have read the psalm to pause and apply it to their own situation)

Graciously hear us, Lord, for we seek only you.
You are near to those whose heart is right.
Open yourself to accept our sorrowful spirit;
calm our bodies and minds with the peace which surpasses understanding.

The Knox translation:

(Of David, when he feigned madness at the court of Abimelech, so that Abimelech sent him away, and he escaped. )
2 At all times I will bless the Lord; his praise shall be on my lips continually.
3 Be all my boasting in the Lord; listen to me, humble souls, and rejoice.
4 Come, sing the Lord’s praise with me, let us extol his name together.
5 Did I not look to the Lord, and find a hearing; did he not deliver me from all my terrors?
6 Ever look to him, and in him find happiness; here is no room for downcast looks.
7 Friendless folk may still call upon the Lord and gain his ear, and be rescued from all their afflictions.
8 Guardian of those who fear the Lord, his angel encamps at their side, and brings deliverance.
9 How gracious the Lord is! Taste and prove it; blessed is the man that learns to trust in him.
10 It is for you, his chosen servants, to fear the Lord; those who fear him never go wanting.
11 Justly do the proud fall into hunger and want; blessing they lack not that look to him.
12 Know, then, my children, what the fear of the Lord is; come and listen to my teaching.
13 Long life, and prosperous days, who would have these for the asking?
14 My counsel is, keep thy tongue clear of harm, and thy lips free from every treacherous word.
15 Naught of evil cherish thou, but rather do good; let peace be all thy quest and aim.
16 On the upright the Lord’s eye ever looks favourably; his ears are open to their pleading.
17 Perilous is his frown for the wrong-doers; he will soon make their name vanish from the earth.
18 Roused by the cry of the innocent, the Lord sets them free from all their afflictions.
19 So near is he to patient hearts, so ready to defend the humbled spirit.
20 Though a hundred trials beset the innocent, the Lord will bring him safely through them all.
21 Under the Lord’s keeping, every bone of his is safe; not one of them shall suffer harm.
22 Villainy hastes to its own undoing; the enemies of innocence will bear their punishment.
23 The Lord will claim his servant as his own; they go unreproved that put their trust in him.

Acknowledgements

  • Translation of Psalm: From The Revised Grail Psalms: A Liturgical Psalter. (c) 2010.
  • Commentary: (c) 2020, Allen Morris
  • Photograph (c) 2016, Allen Morris. David. Wolverhampton Art Gallery.

First Reading for Sunday’s Mass

This Sunday the Solemnity of Ss Peter and Paul displaces the celebration of the 13th Sunday of Ordinary Time.

We honour Peter and Paul not only as Apostles but also as martyrs – thus the red vestments stipulated for the Mass.

The first reading for the Mass during the Day immediately engages us with the theme of martyrdom. (Other readings are offered for the Vigil Mass, and the focus there is different)

Acts of the Apostles does not extend to the extra-biblical tradition of the martyrdoms of Peter and Paul in Rome, but it does tell us here of the martyrdom of James, and the apparent intention of Herod to kill Peter also.

The second reading set for Sunday has Paul speak of how he himself offers his life as a libation, a sacrifical offering.

Thoughts of martyrdom are not inappropriate as we honour these apostles. They lived and ministered in settings where such a death was regularly threatened.

The words of Peter that conclude the verses from Acts are words of confidence, and prepare us for the Responsorial Psalm that follows, given us to help our continued reflection on this reading.

James Killed and Peter Imprisoned

12.1 About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. 2 He killed James the brother of John with the sword, 3 and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread. 4 And when he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people. 5 So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.

Peter Is Rescued

6 Now when Herod was about to bring him out, on that very night, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison. 7 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands. 8 And the angel said to him, “Dress yourself and put on your sandals.” And he did so. And he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.” 9 And he went out and followed him. He did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. 10 When they had passed the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel left him. 11 When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.”

Preparing for the Mass of the 6th Sunday of Easter

We are coming to the end of the liturgical season of Easter – and very soon will be celebrating the great feasts of the Ascension and Pentecost.

Those feasts mark the Lord’s leaving the disciples to return to our heavenly Father, and the gift of the Holy Spirit to sustain them in faith and mission.

Our first reading this summer reminds of the fruitfulness of faith in the earliest days of the Church. The sections from the chapter of the Acts of the Apostles from which the first reading is drawn also reminds of how faith and religious allegiance can be abused – by Simon Magus – and how freely faith is given to those whose hearts seek the truth.

  • Where do you see faith and religion somewhat missing the point in your local community?
  • Where do you see faith active and attractive?

First reading: Acts 8:5-8,14-17

8.1b And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. 2 Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. 3 But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.

Philip Proclaims Christ in Samaria
4 Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word.

5 Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. 6 And the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip, when they heard him and saw the signs that he did. 7 For unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who had them, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. 8 So there was much joy in that city.

Simon the Magician Believes
9 But there was a man named Simon, who had previously practiced magic in the city and amazed the people of Samaria, saying that he himself was somebody great. 10 They all paid attention to him, from the least to the greatest, saying, “This man is the power of God that is called Great.” 11 And they paid attention to him because for a long time he had amazed them with his magic. 12 But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13 Even Simon himself believed, and after being baptized he continued with Philip. And seeing signs and great miracles performed, he was amazed.

14 Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, 15 who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 for he had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.

18 Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, 19 saying, “Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” 20 But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! 21 You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. 22 Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. 23 For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.” 24 And Simon answered, “Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may come upon me.”

25 Now when they had testified and spoken the word of the Lord, they returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel to many villages of the Samaritans.

Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch
26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place. 27 And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship 28 and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. 29 And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” 30 So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. 32 Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this:

“Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter
and like a lamb before its shearer is silent,
so he opens not his mouth.
33  In his humiliation justice was denied him.
Who can describe his generation?
For his life is taken away from the earth.”

34 And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. 36 And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” 38 And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. 39 And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. 40 But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he preached the gospel to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.

Photograph: Descent of the Holy Spirit. St Trophime, Arles. (c) 2017, Allen Morris

Preparing for the Mass of the 6th Sunday of Easter

The verses of the psalm provided for Sunday focus on the past works of the Lord, notably the saving of the people of Israel at the Red Sea.

Omitted though are the words about the saving actions of the Lord for the psalmist and his contemporaries – tested by having ‘men ride over our heads;’ having us pass ‘through fire and through water,’ but then bring ‘us to a place of plenty’. We perhaps need these additional words as we bring the words of the Liturgy to our prayer.

We ourselves, as individuals may not have had things too bad during the present crisis – at least not yet – but the Lord’s love and protection is there for us as a people whatever the particular trials and tribulations which have tested us as individuals.

Through thick or thin, God, does reject our prayer, nor withhold from ushis merciful love.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 65(66):1-7,16,20

Psalm 66 (65)

1     For the Choirmaster. A Song. A Psalm.

      Cry out with joy to God, all the earth;
2     O sing to the glory of his name.
      O render him glorious praise.
3     Say to God, “How awesome your deeds!

      Because of the greatness of your strength,
      your enemies fawn upon you.
4     Before you all the earth shall bow down,
      shall sing to you, sing to your name!”

5     Come and see the works of God:
      awesome his deeds among the children of men.
6     He turned the sea into dry land;
      they passed through the river on foot.

      Let our joy, then, be in him;
7     he rules forever by his might.
      His eyes keep watch on the nations:
      let rebels not exalt themselves.

8     O peoples, bless our God;
      let the voice of his praise resound,
9     of the God who gave life to our souls
      and kept our feet from stumbling.

10   For you, O God, have tested us,
      you have tried us as silver is tried;
11   you led us, God, into the snare;
      you laid a heavy burden on our backs.

12   You let men ride over our heads;
      we went through fire and through water,
      but then you brought us to a place of plenty.

13   Burnt offering I bring to your house;
      to you I will pay my vows,
14   the vows which my lips have uttered,
      which my mouth declared in my distress.

15   I will offer you burnt offerings of fatlings
      with the smoke of sacrificial rams.
      I will offer bullocks and goats.

16   Come and hear, all who fear God;
      I will tell what he did for my soul.

17   To him I cried aloud,
      with exaltation ready on my tongue.

18   Had I considered evil in my heart,
      the Lord would not have listened.
19   But truly God has listened;
      he has heeded the voice of my prayer.

20   Blest be God, who did not reject my prayer,
      nor withhold from me his merciful love.

Early Christian carving – Crossing of the Red Sea, Musée Départemental Arles Antique. (c) 2014, Allen Morris