Taste and See: Living well…

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In his teaching Jesus said, ‘Beware of the scribes who like to walk about in long robes, to be greeted obsequiously in the market squares, to take the front seats in the synagogues and the places of honour at banquets; these are the men who swallow the property of widows, while making a show of lengthy prayers. The more severe will be the sentence they receive.’

He sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the treasury, and many of the rich put in a great deal. A poor widow came and put in two small coins, the equivalent of a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, ‘I tell you solemnly, this poor widow has put more in than all who have contributed to the treasury; for they have all put in money they had over, but she from the little she had has put in everything she possessed, all she had to live on.’

Gospel for the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mark 12:38-44

There is a tension between giving and getting.

One of the criticisms made of the scribes is they are on the take. The other actions for which Jesus criticises them is that they are anxious to ‘big themselves up’.

But the poor widow – poor, a woman and a widow (how marginalised among rich men of influence she must have appeared) has the freedom to give that which represents her own self…

  • How do you decide how to use, most morally and lovingly, what you have?
  • And what you are?

St Lawrence distributing alms. Mariotto di Nardo. Muee du Petit Palais, Avignon. (c) 2014, Allen Morris.

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Taste and See: Enough?

DSC09401.jpgElijah the Prophet went off to Sidon. And when he reached the city gate, there was a widow gathering sticks; addressing her he said, ‘Please bring me a little water in a vessel for me to drink.’ She was setting off to bring it when he called after her. ‘Please’ he said ‘bring me a scrap of bread in your hand.’ ‘As the Lord your God lives,’ she replied ‘I have no baked bread, but only a handful of meal in a jar and a little oil in a jug; I am just gathering a stick or two to go and prepare this for myself and my son to eat, and then we shall die.’ But Elijah said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, go and do as you have said; but first make a little scone of it for me and bring it to me, and then make some for yourself and for your son. For thus the Lord speaks, the God of Israel:

“Jar of meal shall not be spent,
jug of oil shall not be emptied,
before the day when the Lord sends
rain on the face of the earth.”’

The woman went and did as Elijah told her and they ate the food, she, himself and her son. The jar of meal was not spent nor the jug of oil emptied, just as the Lord had foretold through Elijah.

First reading for the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
1 Kings 17:10-16

The story has the prophet, the widow and her son fed by a miracle of the Lord. The author does not tell us how well they ate during the time of famine. Maybe there was plenty, maybe just enough, and maybe their understanding of what was enough was changed.

In the ‘developed’ world many of us are used to great choice, and have well stocked pantries and food stores to dip into as the fancy takes us.

  • Does the plenty and the choice meet our needs, or distract us, tempt us, from what is neceessary for us and helpful for others?
  • What is ‘enough’ for you?

Varieties of bottled water, La Grande Epicerie de Paris. (c) 2018, Allen Morris

 

Speak Lord: Generous giver…

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Elijah the Prophet went off to Sidon. And when he reached the city gate, there was a widow gathering sticks; addressing her he said, ‘Please bring me a little water in a vessel for me to drink.’ She was setting off to bring it when he called after her. ‘Please’ he said ‘bring me a scrap of bread in your hand.’ ‘As the Lord your God lives,’ she replied ‘I have no baked bread, but only a handful of meal in a jar and a little oil in a jug; I am just gathering a stick or two to go and prepare this for myself and my son to eat, and then we shall die.’ But Elijah said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, go and do as you have said; but first make a little scone of it for me and bring it to me, and then make some for yourself and for your son. For thus the Lord speaks, the God of Israel:

“Jar of meal shall not be spent,
jug of oil shall not be emptied,
before the day when the Lord sends
rain on the face of the earth.”’

The woman went and did as Elijah told her and they ate the food, she, himself and her son. The jar of meal was not spent nor the jug of oil emptied, just as the Lord had foretold through Elijah.

First reading for the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
1 Kings 17:10-16

Generosity earns its reward. This is one of the teachings we can derive from this story. It is  reflected also elsewhere in the Scriptures, not least in  the Beatitudes.

However there is no evident guarantee, (other than God’s word in the Scriptures! And how often we fail to place our immediate trust in that.) And so such generosity is always an act of faith – a reaching out in love to neighbour, in imitation of the love of God for all his people.

  • Where have you been generous?
  • Where have you benefited from the generosity of others? And to what effect?

Elijah and the widow of Zarepath. Drawing by Nicolaes Maes. Barber Institute, Birmingham (c) 2018, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Compassionate friend

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My soul, give praise to the Lord.
or
Alleluia!

It is the Lord who keeps faith for ever,
who is just to those who are oppressed.
It is he who gives bread to the hungry,
the Lord, who sets prisoners free.

It is the Lord who gives sight to the blind,
who raises up those who are bowed down.
It is the Lord who loves the just,
the Lord, who protects the stranger.

The Lord upholds the widow and orphan
but thwarts the path of the wicked.
The Lord will reign for ever,
Zion’s God, from age to age.

Responsorial Psalm for the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Psalm 145(146):7-10

The Lord does great things for the benefit of his people – especially the poor, the most vulnerable.

He so often does this work through the saints…

  • Where do you do the Lord’s work?
  • Where else might you ?

Visiting the sick. Stained glass. St Giles, Cheadle. (c) 2018, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: heavenly Lord

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It is not as though Christ had entered a man-made sanctuary which was only modelled on the real one; but it was heaven itself, so that he could appear in the actual presence of God on our behalf. And he does not have to offer himself again and again, like the high priest going into the sanctuary year after year with the blood that is not his own, or else he would have had to suffer over and over again since the world began.

Instead of that, he has made his appearance once and for all, now at the end of the last age, to do away with sin by sacrificing himself. Since men only die once, and after that comes judgement, so Christ, too, offers himself only once to take the faults of many on himself, and when he appears a second time, it will not be to deal with sin but to reward with salvation those who are waiting for him.

Second reading for the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Hebrews 9:24-28

Jesus explores the very limits of life on earth – through his loving service; through his enduring poverty and privation; through his suffering and death. And in the mystery of the Resurrection and Ascension he opens the way for us to a further transcendence…

Earth finds its completion heave; heaven is offered as service to earth…

Apse, Sacre Coeur, Paris. (c) 2018, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Keep us right…

DSC04878 Manchester.jpgIn his teaching Jesus said, ‘Beware of the scribes who like to walk about in long robes, to be greeted obsequiously in the market squares, to take the front seats in the synagogues and the places of honour at banquets; these are the men who swallow the property of widows, while making a show of lengthy prayers. The more severe will be the sentence they receive.’

He sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the treasury, and many of the rich put in a great deal. A poor widow came and put in two small coins, the equivalent of a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, ‘I tell you solemnly, this poor widow has put more in than all who have contributed to the treasury; for they have all put in money they had over, but she from the little she had has put in everything she possessed, all she had to live on.’

Gospel for the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mark 12:38-44

Front seats, places of honour and money – these can all be temptations, things hankered after because of the kudos they seem to represent to us. They can become ends not means to reward and honour those most deserving.

Sometimes people call them blessings: Jesus suggests they can sometimes be a sign of a blighted life!

  • Why does the woman offer all she is and has?
  • What do you offer?
  • What do you not offer?

Gold coin from reign of Decentius 351-3, bearing the Chi Rho. Collection of Manchester Museum. (c) 2016, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: Grace at work

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May the working of your power, O Lord,
increase in us, we pray,
so that, renewed by these heavenly Sacraments,
we may be prepared by your gift
for receiving what they promise.

Prayer after Communion for the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time

The gift we need, to bring us to the fullness of life, comes to us from God.

Our condition however, as human beings constrained by sin, is such that we always need  also God’s help to be ready and able to receive the gift he offers, and in order for us to cooperate with it.

How helpless, in truth we are. How blessed that God is with us and for us.