Speak Lord: hold us close…

Jazz, Negresco Nice 2013

Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you.

O God, be gracious and bless us
and let your face shed its light upon us.
So will your ways be known upon earth
and all nations learn your saving help.

Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you.

Let the nations be glad and exult
for you rule the world with justice.
With fairness you rule the peoples,
you guide the nations on earth.

Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you.

Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you.
May God still give us his blessing
till the ends of the earth revere him.

Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you.

Psalm 66:2-3,5-6,8

The Responsorial Psalm for the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time

The readings of this coming Sunday all in their different ways deal with the diversity of God’s people and the call for them to know the new unity they are to discover in him.

The psalmist says that the way to this unity is to be found in the experience of the Lord’s face shining on us – a revelation of intimacy with the divine, and a revelation of love and compassion.

From that profound new beginning begins a process of renewal of broken human kind. The Book of Genesis tells the story of the alienation of the peoples of the world from God and from each other. All that follows in the Bible seeks to remind us that this is not how it was meant to be or needs to be.

And so the psalmist sings his prayer, and so we join our voices to that prayer…

Jazz, Negresco, Nice, France. (c) 2013, Allen Morris

 

Speak Lord: source of love for all

Ancient Agora of Athens from Areopagus Hill

Let me tell you pagans this: I have been sent to the pagans as their apostle, and I am proud of being sent, but the purpose of it is to make my own people envious of you, and in this way save some of them. Since their rejection meant the reconciliation of the world, do you know what their admission will mean? Nothing less than a resurrection from the dead! God never takes back his gifts or revokes his choice.

Just as you changed from being disobedient to God, and now enjoy mercy because of their disobedience, so those who are disobedient now – and only because of the mercy shown to you – will also enjoy mercy eventually. God has imprisoned all men in their own disobedience only to show mercy to all mankind.

Romans 11:13-15,29-32
The Second reading for 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Paul continues the reflection on the place of ‘pagans’ and ‘Jews’ in the Church. Last week we heard him heartbroken at the lack of response of his co-religionists to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Now he speaks to the non-Jews to whom he, in particular, has been sent. He urges them to rejoice at God’s generosity, but not to think that this comes at the cost of the Jews.

Schadenfreude has no place in the Kingdom. Let us take our pleasure only in what is good and best!

The ancient Agora of Athens, from the hill of the Areopagus. (c) 2006, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: but listen first…

DSC00117 WOman of Sidon, St Nicholas Chapel, Kings Lynn, 2016

Jesus left Gennesaret and withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. Then out came a Canaanite woman from that district and started shouting, ‘Sir, Son of David, take pity on me. My daughter is tormented by a devil.’ But he answered her not a word. And his disciples went and pleaded with him. ‘Give her what she wants,’ they said ‘because she is shouting after us.’

He said in reply, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.’ But the woman had come up and was kneeling at his feet. ‘Lord,’ she said ‘help me.’ He replied, ‘It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the house-dogs.’ She retorted, ‘Ah yes, sir; but even house-dogs can eat the scraps that fall from their master’s table.’

Then Jesus answered her, ‘Woman, you have great faith. Let your wish be granted.’ And from that moment her daughter was well again.

Matthew 15:21-28

Gospel for the 2oth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Does Jesus speak so curtly because he wants to draw this astonishing retort from the woman, that so ably demonstrates her human dignity, and wit? Or does he not yet have a more ample understanding of his mission than here he admits to?

The uncertainty remains unresolved in Matthew’s narrative. Perhaps it is enough that by the end of this incident, we breathe in relief that, yes, the Lord does know and does respond to her need and her faith.

If he responds so to her, maybe there is hope for us too?

Stained glass. St Nicholas Chapel, Kings Lynn. (c) 2016, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: The Lord present

IMG_6189 Bienealle Venice 2008

When Elijah reached Horeb, the mountain of the Lord, he went into the cave and spent the night in it. Then he was told, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord.’

Then the Lord himself went by. There came a mighty wind, so strong it tore the mountains and shattered the rocks before the Lord. But the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind came an earthquake. But the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire. But the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there came the sound of a gentle breeze. And when Elijah heard this, he covered his face with his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.

1 Kings 19:9,11-13
First reading for 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

St Irenaeus spoke of the Sacraments as loud silences in the mystery of God.

Often enough the heart of the Sacrament  is surrounded by all sorts of activity – that of the Liturgy, and that of our daily lives. That activity is not without its importance – not least the proclamation of the word that most immediately prepares us for the sacramental encounter with the Lord in the washing with water, anointing with oil, tasting of Bread broken and Wine poured out and shared.

But there needs to be the opportunity to enter into the silence, and depth, of that sacramental encounter… Sometimes the liturgy presents us with that opportunity, sometimes life… but when it does not come to us so easily we need to make time to seek it out, lest we have the experience and miss the meaning… receive the gift, but still lack the giver.

Installation, Venice Bienealle, 2008. (c) Allen Morris, 2018

Taste and See: faith alive

DSC00114a St Nicholas CHapel Kings Lynn 2016

Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side while he would send the crowds away. After sending the crowds away he went up into the hills by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, while the boat, by now far out on the lake, was battling with a heavy sea, for there was a head-wind. In the fourth watch of the night he went towards them, walking on the lake, and when the disciples saw him walking on the lake they were terrified. ‘It is a ghost’ they said, and cried out in fear.

But at once Jesus called out to them, saying, ‘Courage! It is I! Do not be afraid.’ It was Peter who answered. ‘Lord,’ he said ‘if it is you, tell me to come to you across the water.’ ‘Come’ said Jesus. Then Peter got out of the boat and started walking towards Jesus across the water, but as soon as he felt the force of the wind, he took fright and began to sink. ‘Lord! Save me!’ he cried. Jesus put out his hand at once and held him. ‘Man of little faith,’ he said ‘why did you doubt?’

And as they got into the boat the wind dropped. The men in the boat bowed down before him and said, ‘Truly, you are the Son of God.’

Matthew 14:22-33
Gospel for the 19th Sunday of Ordinary Time 

It is instructive how Peter’s putting himself to the test, and failing and falling, brings his companions to new and deeper faith.

They remained safe in the boat, fearful and perhaps unsure even after Jesus identified himself to them. Peter alone trusts – to the extent he can. It is only after Jesus rescue of this disciple and his being returned safe to the boat that the disciples join in doing him honour and confessing him as Son of God.

  • What prompts you to confession of faith and praise of God?

Stained Glass. St Nicholas Chapel, Kings Lynn. (c) 2016, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Balm for our souls

DSC05326 Liverpool Cathedral 2016

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.
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.

Psalm 84:9-14

Responsorial Psalm for the 19th Sunday of Ordinary Time.

As we strive to make the most of life in this world, again and again we find ourselves confused and disoriented; our best motives can be so mixed.

But when we look to the Lord, and allow ourselves space to listen and learn, what a difference we find. How much help and clarity we find. Not immediately, not always: but in time a new way opens for us that is a way of mercy and love: his way for us to follow…

Stained glass. Liverpool Cathedral. (c) 2016, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Saviour

DSC01319 Spilled Blood 2015

Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side while he would send the crowds away. After sending the crowds away he went up into the hills by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, while the boat, by now far out on the lake, was battling with a heavy sea, for there was a head-wind. In the fourth watch of the night he went towards them, walking on the lake, and when the disciples saw him walking on the lake they were terrified. ‘It is a ghost’ they said, and cried out in fear.

But at once Jesus called out to them, saying, ‘Courage! It is I! Do not be afraid.’ It was Peter who answered. ‘Lord,’ he said ‘if it is you, tell me to come to you across the water.’ ‘Come’ said Jesus. Then Peter got out of the boat and started walking towards Jesus across the water, but as soon as he felt the force of the wind, he took fright and began to sink. ‘Lord! Save me!’ he cried. Jesus put out his hand at once and held him. ‘Man of little faith,’ he said ‘why did you doubt?’

And as they got into the boat the wind dropped. The men in the boat bowed down before him and said, ‘Truly, you are the Son of God.’

Matthew 14:22-33

Gospel for the 19th Sunday of Ordinary Time 

One more it is Peter who is the fall guy in the story – and this time, one with a sinking feeling. It is Peter who comes forward strong in faith and then finds himself overcome by fear and doubt.

It is comforting to think that it might well have been Peter that told the story against himself, and in honour of the Lord who came here, as always, to his aid.

Inevitably for one reason or another we stumble and fail, and do it again and again. How helpful that the scriptures are full of stories and teachings that our shortcomings are never allowed to be the end of the story for us or for others.

  • What fear or failing might you bring to the Lord, even for this first time, for his counsel and consolation?

Cathedral of Spilled Blood, St Petersburg. (c) Allen Morris, 2015.