Speak Lord: Save them from us

Listen to this, you who trample on the needy and try to suppress the poor people of the country, you who say, ‘When will New Moon be over so that we can sell our corn, and sabbath, so that we can market our wheat? Then by lowering the bushel, raising the shekel, by swindling and tampering with the scales, we can buy up the poor for money, and the needy for a pair of sandals, and get a price even for the sweepings of the wheat.’

The Lord swears it by the pride of Jacob, ‘Never will I forget a single thing you have done.’

First reading for 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Amos 8:4-7

We may not be traders and exploit others in such evident ways.

But do we take unfair advantage of others in other ways?

Do we rely on position, privilege or power to serve our interests over those with greater needs?

What might we forget that the Lord will ever remember?

Photograph (c) 2014, Allen Morris. Installation by Berlinde de Bruckyere, St Anne’s prison, Avignon.

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Speak Lord: Who free us for good

Praise, O servants of the Lord,
praise the name of the Lord!
May the name of the Lord be blessed
both now and for evermore!

High above all nations is the Lord,
above the heavens his glory.
Who is like the Lord, our God,
who has risen on high to his throne
yet stoops from the heights to look down,
to look down upon heaven and earth?

From the dust he lifts up the lowly,
from the dungheap he raises the poor
to set him in the company of princes,
yes, with the princes of his people.

Responsorial Psalm for 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Psalm 112(113):1-2,4-8

We can bless the Lord’s name.

But, still more, we are called to live so as to be the reason others will bless the Lord’s name: that God will be praised for what we do who bear his name.

That might seem a little unjust. Don’t we deserve some credit too. Some, for sure. Yet, in truth, what good do we do that is not, first, fruit of God’s work?

He frees us so we might live.

Photograph (c) 2015, Allen Morris. Prison Doors, St Anne’s prison, Avignon.

Speak Lord: Save us – all of us

My advice is that, first of all, there should be prayers offered for everyone – petitions, intercessions and thanksgiving – and especially for kings and others in authority, so that we may be able to live religious and reverent lives in peace and quiet.

To do this is right, and will please God our saviour: he wants everyone to be saved and reach full knowledge of the truth. For there is only one God, and there is only one mediator between God and mankind, himself a man, Christ Jesus, who sacrificed himself as a ransom for them all. He is the evidence of this, sent at the appointed time, and I have been named a herald and apostle of it and – I am telling the truth and no lie – a teacher of the faith and the truth to the pagans.

In every place, then, I want the men to lift their hands up reverently in prayer, with no anger or argument.

2nd reading for the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time
1 Timothy 2:1-8

Petitions, intercessions and thanksgiving – Paul would have us pray for those in authority, and he gives us plenty of options. There may be leaders we do not want to thank God for, but certainly they need our prayers.

And they deserve it, as our brother or sister, made in the image of God, and called to communion with him.

It is a work of love we are called to, if not always gratitude for service given! We are asked to pray for their good and the good of all.

Photograph (c) 2019, Allen Morris. Street poster, Manchester.

Speak Lord: Help us to your riches…

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘There was a rich man and he had a steward denounced to him for being wasteful with his property. He called for the man and said, “What is this I hear about you? Draw me up an account of your stewardship because you are not to be my steward any longer.” Then the steward said to himself, “Now that my master is taking the stewardship from me, what am I to do? Dig? I am not strong enough. Go begging? I should be too ashamed. Ah, I know what I will do to make sure that when I am dismissed from office there will be some to welcome me into their homes.”

Then he called his master’s debtors one by one. To the first he said, “How much do you owe my master?” “One hundred measures of oil” was the reply. The steward said, “Here, take your bond; sit down straight away and write fifty.” To another he said, “And you, sir, how much do you owe?” “One hundred measures of wheat” was the reply. The steward said, “Here, take your bond and write eighty.”

‘The master praised the dishonest steward for his astuteness. For the children of this world are more astute in dealing with their own kind than are the children of light.

‘And so I tell you this: use money, tainted as it is, to win you friends, and thus make sure that when it fails you, they will welcome you into the tents of eternity. The man who can be trusted in little things can be trusted in great; the man who is dishonest in little things will be dishonest in great. If then you cannot be trusted with money, that tainted thing, who will trust you with genuine riches? And if you cannot be trusted with what is not yours, who will give you what is your very own? ‘No servant can be the slave of two masters: he will either hate the first and love the second, or treat the first with respect and the second with scorn. You cannot be the slave both of God and of money.’

Gospel for the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Luke 16:1-13

So if you are going to be a poor manager it is better to be a dishonest one too? Only if those you work for are likely to value deceit and theft after honesty and transparency.

At baptism we are asked will we follow Christ or the devil. Each master values different things – and, if they have their way, one will lead us to life, and the other to death…

Photograph (c) 2015, Allen Morris. L’homme qui pleure et rit. Jean Fbre, St Anne’s Prison, Avignon. 2015

Taste and See: For real?

Have mercy on me, God, in your kindness.
In your compassion blot out my offence.
O wash me more and more from my guilt
and cleanse me from my sin.

A pure heart create for me, O God,
put a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
nor deprive me of your holy spirit.

O Lord, open my lips
and my mouth shall declare your praise.
My sacrifice is a contrite spirit.
A humbled, contrite heart you will not spurn.

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Psalm 50(51):3-4,12-13,17,19 (Sung by all)

How sincere are our confessions of sin and guilt, fault and failing?

I can never make my mind up about the words of the Prodigal Son. Well rehearsed does he mean what he says about his offences, or is he really motivated by the need of a good meal.

Our motives generally get revealed in the fullness of time: sometimes by the consistency of our actions; sometimes by other means – secrets are hard to keep forever!

But if our motives are often mixed and sometimes downright dishonest, the love of the Father never is. He takes what he gets and does the best with it he can: sometimes simply by loving and sharing, sometimes – though still in love – by challenging.

  • Where are your motives most mixed? And why?
  • Where do you give others the benefit of ‘the doubt’?

Photograph (c) 2016, Allen Morris. Gloucester Cathedral.

Taste and See: Out of this world

The tax collectors and the sinners were all seeking the company of Jesus to hear what he had to say, and the Pharisees and the scribes complained. ‘This man’ they said ‘welcomes sinners and eats with them.’ So he spoke this parable to them:

‘What man among you with a hundred sheep, losing one, would not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the missing one till he found it? And when he found it, would he not joyfully take it on his shoulders and then, when he got home, call together his friends and neighbours? “Rejoice with me,” he would say “I have found my sheep that was lost.” In the same way, I tell you, there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one repentant sinner than over ninety-nine virtuous men who have no need of repentance.

‘Or again, what woman with ten drachmas would not, if she lost one, light a lamp and sweep out the house and search thoroughly till she found it? And then, when she had found it, call together her friends and neighbours? “Rejoice with me,” she would say “I have found the drachma I lost.” In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing among the angels of God over one repentant sinner.’

He also said, ‘A man had two sons. The younger said to his father, “Father, let me have the share of the estate that would come to me.” So the father divided the property between them. A few days later, the younger son got together everything he had and left for a distant country where he squandered his money on a life of debauchery.

‘When he had spent it all, that country experienced a severe famine, and now he began to feel the pinch, so he hired himself out to one of the local inhabitants who put him on his farm to feed the pigs. And he would willingly have filled his belly with the husks the pigs were eating but no one offered him anything. Then he came to his senses and said, “How many of my father’s paid servants have more food than they want, and here am I dying of hunger! I will leave this place and go to my father and say: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as one of your paid servants.” So he left the place and went back to his father.

‘While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with pity. He ran to the boy, clasped him in his arms and kissed him tenderly. Then his son said, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son.” But the father said to his servants, “Quick! Bring out the best robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the calf we have been fattening, and kill it; we are going to have a feast, a celebration, because this son of mine was dead and has come back to life; he was lost and is found.” And they began to celebrate.

‘Now the elder son was out in the fields, and on his way back, as he drew near the house, he could hear music and dancing. Calling one of the servants he asked what it was all about. “Your brother has come” replied the servant “and your father has killed the calf we had fattened because he has got him back safe and sound.” He was angry then and refused to go in, and his father came out to plead with him; but he answered his father, “Look, all these years I have slaved for you and never once disobeyed your orders, yet you never offered me so much as a kid for me to celebrate with my friends. But, for this son of yours, when he comes back after swallowing up your property – he and his women – you kill the calf we had been fattening.”

‘The father said, “My son, you are with me always and all I have is yours. But it was only right we should celebrate and rejoice, because your brother here was dead and has come to life; he was lost and is found.”’

Gospel for the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Luke 15:1-32

Set the father and his boys to one side for a moment.

Isn’t there something a little excessive about the shpherd who goes out at night risking life and limb to find one lost sheep when he still has ninety-nine?

And obsessive about the woman who searches for a lost coin and then when she find it blows it on a party with her friends.

Jesus makes the point to those who resent the love of God for all his children, and his desire for all to be saved, that yes, there really is something here that is, presently beyond their ken.

  • What are the limits of your love of God, self and neighbour for you?

Photograph (c) 2019, Allen Morris. Stained glass, St Mary Abbott’s Kensington.

Speak Lord: Of your unwarranted love

The Lord spoke to Moses, ‘Go down now, because your people whom you brought out of Egypt have apostatised. They have been quick to leave the way I marked out for them; they have made themselves a calf of molten metal and have worshipped it and offered it sacrifice. “Here is your God, Israel,” they have cried “who brought you up from the land of Egypt!”’ the Lord said to Moses, ‘I can see how headstrong these people are! Leave me, now, my wrath shall blaze out against them and devour them; of you, however, I will make a great nation.’

But Moses pleaded with the Lord his God. ‘Lord,’ he said ‘why should your wrath blaze out against this people of yours whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with arm outstretched and mighty hand? Remember Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, your servants to whom by your own self you swore and made this promise: “I will make your offspring as many as the stars of heaven, and all this land which I promised I will give to your descendants, and it shall be their heritage for ever.”’

So the Lord relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.

First reading for the 24th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Exodus 32:7-11,13-14

In our brokenness we can lose all heart and hope – but how wonderful if we continue to believe in the ‘rumour’ of God’s love and mercy, and turn to God once more, to seek that love for ourselves and for others.

Photograph (c) 2018, Allen Morris. The Prodigal Son. Etching by Galle after Heemskerk. Barber Institute 2018