Speak Lord: Direct us, rule us…

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Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus,
whom he has taken by his right hand
to subdue nations before him
and strip the loins of kings,
to force gateways before him
that their gates be closed no more:

‘It is for the sake of my servant Jacob,
of Israel my chosen one,
that I have called you by your name,
conferring a title though you do not know me.
I am the Lord, unrivalled;
there is no other God besides me.
Though you do not know me, I arm you
that men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun
that, apart from me, all is nothing.’

First reading for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Isaiah 45:1,4-6

The Lord finds his chosen in unexpected places – shepherds, a dresser of sycamores, and a pagan king, just for example.

Cyrus, the pagan king, serves the Lord by restoring his people to their homeland from which they had been ripped and taken into exile.

All human power and dignity derives from God’s power and glory. All human power and dignity finds its final purpose in being used for good and for love. And when it is, and when we recognise it and honour it, something more of God’s purpose is recognised: there is a new unity found in a broken world, and in the fragmentation of the human family.

Whoever does good, and wherever, does the will of God and advances the dawning of the Kingdom of God.

Window commemorating Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II. Southwark Cathedral, London. (c) 2016.

 

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Speak Lord: source and hope for love

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From Paul, Silvanus and Timothy, to the Church in Thessalonika which is in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ; wishing you grace and peace.

We always mention you in our prayers and thank God for you all, and constantly remember before God our Father how you have shown your faith in action, worked for love and persevered through hope, in our Lord Jesus Christ.

We know, brothers, that God loves you and that you have been chosen, because when we brought the Good News to you, it came to you not only as words, but as power and as the Holy Spirit and as utter conviction.

Second reading for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
1 Thessalonians 1:1-5

The love and commitment of Paul to the Churches echoes God’s love for the world. As with God it is not a love blind to fault and problems, but it is a love anxious for unity and for communion.

  • Where might you, today, prompt reconciliation and development?
  • How might you do it?

Rotunda of Galerius, Thessaloniki (one of the city’s first churches). (c) 2006, Allen Morris.

 

Speak Lord: King and Master

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The Pharisees went away to work out between them how to trap Jesus in what he said. And they sent their disciples to him, together with the Herodians, to say, ‘Master, we know that you are an honest man and teach the way of God in an honest way, and that you are not afraid of anyone, because a man’s rank means nothing to you. Tell us your opinion, then. Is it permissible to pay taxes to Caesar or not?’

But Jesus was aware of their malice and replied, ‘You hypocrites! Why do you set this trap for me? Let me see the money you pay the tax with.’

They handed him a denarius, and he said, ‘Whose head is this? Whose name?’ ‘Caesar’s’ they replied. He then said to them, ‘Very well, give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar – and to God what belongs to God.’

Gospel for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Matthew 22:15-21

The wit and radical vision of Jesus are evident in this episode. He employs them to reveal his position and to cut the ground from beneath the feet of his opponents.

Delight in the ‘play’ of the encounter, and the triumph of ‘our guy’, might distract us from the import of the teaching: to give to God what belongs to God and to Caesar what belongs to Caesar.

This teaching leaves the Christian as a sort of stranger in this world: here we have no abiding home, but are respectful of two (often opposed) jurisdictions – the Empire of this world and the Kingdom of God.

But how often instead we can seek to escape from both of these – by creating our own cocoon to isolate us from the rest of this world and insulate us from any too pressing concerns about the world to come, and the Kingdom of God.

  • What in your daily life do you see as belonging to God?
  • What to ‘Caesar’?
  • And what to you?

Imperial Coin. Manchester Museum. (c) 2016.

 

Taste and See: Commitment

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I know how to be poor and I know how to be rich too. I have been through my initiation and now I am ready for anything anywhere: full stomach or empty stomach, poverty or plenty. There is nothing I cannot master with the help of the One who gives me strength. All the same, it was good of you to share with me in my hardships. In return my God will fulfil all your needs, in Christ Jesus, as lavishly as only God can. Glory to God, our Father, for ever and ever. Amen.

Second reading for the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Philippians 4:12-14,19-20

It is not just that Paul himself proves adaptable to circumstances as they present them to himself. He adapts himself to circumstance in order to fulfil his mission.

There would be other, perhaps easier options: fleeing comes to mind!

But his mission is to bear witness to the Risen Lord, and to sustain the infant Church. He is ready to bear everything for sake of these.

  • To what do you give priority?

Stained glass. St Editha church, Tamworth. (c) 2017, Allen Morris

 

Speak Lord: Mature, and choose service…

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I know how to be poor and I know how to be rich too. I have been through my initiation and now I am ready for anything anywhere: full stomach or empty stomach, poverty or plenty. There is nothing I cannot master with the help of the One who gives me strength. All the same, it was good of you to share with me in my hardships. In return my God will fulfil all your needs, in Christ Jesus, as lavishly as only God can. Glory to God, our Father, for ever and ever. Amen.

Second reading for the 28th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Philippians 4:12-14,19-20

One of the challenges faced by many adult Catholic Britons is that we have received the Sacraments of Initiation but have not (yet!) been well initiated into the Christian life. The lack of formation for maturity in our individual and collective lives in the Church leads to a certain immaturity in us, and likewise in the way the Church itself is in its hierarchical life and its institutions.

Our grasp on the Tradition and our ability to live to it manifests itself in many ways. But one is in a certain tendency to imitate the way that power is held and exercised in the world – by what I/we have and what you/they lack. It leads to ‘authority over’, rather than ‘authority for’.

Paul, mature in faith, chooses service as his way of exercising power, a service which is costly and challenging – it leads him to indifference about the things of the world, But it allows him to bring life and freedom to others.

Church of the Beatitudes, Galilee. (c) 2017, Allen Morris.

 

Taste and See: Fault and failing

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Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people, ‘Listen to another parable. There was a man, a landowner, who planted a vineyard; he fenced it round, dug a winepress in it and built a tower; then he leased it to tenants and went abroad. When vintage time drew near he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his servants, thrashed one, killed another and stoned a third. Next he sent some more servants, this time a larger number, and they dealt with them in the same way. Finally he sent his son to them. “They will respect my son” he said. But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, “This is the heir. Come on, let us kill him and take over his inheritance.” So they seized him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?’ They answered, ‘He will bring those wretches to a wretched end and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will deliver the produce to him when the season arrives.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Have you never read in the scriptures:

It was the stone rejected by the builders
that became the keystone.
This was the Lord’s doing
and it is wonderful to see?

‘I tell you, then, that the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.’

Gospel for the 27th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Matthew 21:33-43

It is extraordinary that the chief priests and leaders of the people do not seem to see themselves in the parable. The episode reminds of just how hard it is for us to see our own faults, even when they are laid in front of our very noses!

The parable is surely retold in Matthew’s version to, as it were, foreshadow the role of the Church in the wake of the death and Resurrection of Jesus in sharing the Good News of God’s mercy and love. A task entrusted to Israel is, as it were, passed on to others.

Yet how often Christians too fail to live up to their vocation, fail to bring the promise to harvest. We surely miss the point of the continued sharing of the parable and of the tragedy of so many failing to honour Jesus as Son of God, if we use it to bad mouth others. As we see their failings, the parable surely is intended to help us also know and repent of our own.

  • Where in your life does selfishness and greed cause you to turn from God and His will.

Discord. Church of St Vincent de Paul. Marseille. (c) 2017, Allen Morris.

 

Taste and See: to know and imitate Him

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If our life in Christ means anything to you, if love can persuade at all, or the Spirit that we have in common, or any tenderness and sympathy, then be united in your convictions and united in your love, with a common purpose and a common mind. That is the one thing which would make me completely happy. There must be no competition among you, no conceit; but everybody is to be self-effacing. Always consider the other person to be better than yourself, So that nobody thinks of his own interests first but everybody thinks of other people’s interests instead. In your minds you must be the same as Christ Jesus:

His state was divine,
yet he did not cling
to his equality with God
but emptied himself
to assume the condition of a slave,
and became as men are;
and being as all men are,
he was humbler yet,
even to accepting death,
death on a cross.
But God raised him high
and gave him the name
which is above all other names
so that all beings in the heavens,
on earth and in the underworld,
should bend the knee at the name of Jesus
and that every tongue should acclaim
Jesus Christ as Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Second reading for the 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Philippians 2:1-11

The example of Jesus is the example to which we need to return again and again to receive what faith offers.

The one who is Son of God, fully God, fully Divine, reveals to us not only his Divinity and something of how God is, but also how humanity is called to be…

  • Where/how are you most human?
  • Where/how less so?

Architectural detail: Mailbox, Birmingham. (c) 2015, Allen Morris.