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

This Sunday’s Gospel

As reported by Matthew, Jesus words in response to Peter’s confession of faith evoke a view of creation with the heavens above and hell beneath and the earth inbetween.

And Peter’s confession of faith is of cosmic significance – it is a recognition, a reconnection with the Lord of all. It marks a gear change in the relationship between humanity and the Creator, a fresh respnse to the gear-change that was the Incarnation.

God chose to be with us in Christ, and now for the first time in his adult life those gathered around him, his disciples, begin to acknowledge this truth.

They have a long way to go yet, in their entering into the fullness of communion with him. The Lectionary omits the sharp words between Jesus and Peter which follow shortly after this more eirenic exchange. But something new is established here which will flourish into profound and sacrificial discipleship in Peter and his fellows.

Peter Confesses Jesus as the Christ

16.13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”

16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

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

Preparing for the Mass of the 6th Sunday of Easter

What a pity that the Lectionary clips the passage from Peter’s First Letter so as to omit most of the reference to the Jesus’ descent to the dead, in the Resurrection, and his liberation of them.

In these days of Easter many communities use the Apostles’ Creed which makes reference to this profound and mythic event. It is is a truth of faith which reminds that the Resurrection is not ‘just’ an event in Jesus life but is an event of cosmic significance.

So much for what the reading does not offer us. What it does offer is a reminder of the continuing significance of the Resurrection – again not just an event in the life of Jesus, but in our on-going lives.

  • Where in your life do you need fresh help?
  • Where have you received it, and to what effect?

Second reading: 1 Peter 3:15-18

Suffering for Righteousness’ Sake
3.8 Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. 9 Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. 10 For

“Whoever desires to love life
and see good days,
let him keep his tongue from evil
and his lips from speaking deceit;
11  let him turn away from evil and do good;
let him seek peace and pursue it.
12  For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
and his ears are open to their prayer.
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

13 Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled,

15 but in your hearts honour Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defence to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behaviour in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.

18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit,

19 in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, 20 because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. 21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.

Stewards of God’s Grace
4.1 Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. 3 For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. 4 With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; 5 but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 6 For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.

7 The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. 8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: 11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Photograph. Print of the liberation of the dead. Beatrizet. Collection of the British Museum. (c) 2017, Allen Morris

Preparing for the Mass of the 6th Sunday of Easter

The Holy Spirit, a gift poured out for us by Father and Son, is a gift given to help sustain us in faithfulness. The Spirit helps us confront our challenges and concerns confident that fault and failing is never intended by God to separate us from him.

The Spirit strengthens us and sustains us in peace.

Like Judas in the passage below, we may want these gifts for ourselves, only. But they are gifts given to be shared. With us and by us – gifts for the whole world.

Gospel: John 14:15-21

I Am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life
14.1 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. 4 And you know the way to where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.

12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.

Jesus Promises the Holy Spirit
15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”

22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” 23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.

25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. 28 You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe. 30 I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, 31 but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here.

Image of the Holy Spirit. St Andrew’s Cathedral, Glasgow. (c) 2019, Allen Morris