Taste and See: Steadfastness

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There is one thing, my friends, that you must never forget: that with the Lord, ‘a day’ can mean a thousand years, and a thousand years is like a day. The Lord is not being slow to carry out his promises, as anybody else might be called slow; but he is being patient with you all, wanting nobody to be lost and everybody to be brought to change his ways. The Day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then with a roar the sky will vanish, the elements will catch fire and fall apart, the earth and all that it contains will be burnt up.

Since everything is coming to an end like this, you should be living holy and saintly lives while you wait and long for the Day of God to come, when the sky will dissolve in flames and the elements melt in the heat. What we are waiting for is what he promised: the new heavens and new earth, the place where righteousness will be at home. So then, my friends, while you are waiting, do your best to live lives without spot or stain so that he will find you at peace.

Second reading for Second Sunday of Advent
2 Peter 3:8-14

A​ day can mean a thousand years, and a thousand years is like a day…

​In other words says Peter, let us not look today or tomorrow or the day after for fresh proof that the Lord is good and is fulfilling his promises. We are to walk ​​by faith and walk in hope.

There are and will be moments where we find reassurance of the Lord’s present care for us and the gift of consolation and salvation even now.

But there will surely be other days where there are no signs, when the heavens look firmly closed, and the Lord far away and unhearing, unresponsive. On those days faith may seem less like a gift we receive from God, but a gift we offer to God.

And on those days especially, as we strive to do our best, living holy and saintly lives’ finding in the consolation of that a foretaste of that infinitely more that God will offer to us…

Photograph of Unemployed Man by Gordon Herickx and Bag #9 by Gavin Turk. New Art Gallery, Walsall. (c) 2017, Allen Morris.

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Taste and See: Hope

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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,
peace for his people.
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.

Responsorial Psalm for Second Sunday of Advent
Psalm 84(85):9-14

In the congregation’s response to the verses of the psalm we sing our prayer to the Lord asking for his help..

In the verses the cantor develops our response, expressing assurance that the Lord will respond favourably and that we will make the most of what he offers to us; that we will listen; and that we will benefit from what we hear.

Even now, as we wait for the final fulfilment of our hopes, hope is granted to us, and hope enlivens us – if we look, if we listen.

Photograph of Fabric Hanging in Chapel at National Memorial Arboretum, Alrewas, Staffs. (c) 2017, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: Work to do

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Console my people, console them’
says your God.

‘Speak to the heart of Jerusalem
and call to her
that her time of service is ended,
that her sin is atoned for,
that she has received from the hand of the Lord
double punishment for all her crimes.’

A voice cries, ‘Prepare in the wilderness
a way for the Lord.
Make a straight highway for our God
across the desert.
Let every valley be filled in,
every mountain and hill be laid low.
Let every cliff become a plain,
and the ridges a valley;
then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed
and all mankind shall see it;
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’

Go up on a high mountain,
joyful messenger to Zion.
Shout with a loud voice,
joyful messenger to Jerusalem.
Shout without fear,
say to the towns of Judah,
‘Here is your God.’

Here is the Lord coming with power,
his arm subduing all things to him.
The prize of his victory is with him,
his trophies all go before him.
He is like a shepherd feeding his flock,
gathering lambs in his arms,
holding them against his breast
and leading to their rest the mother ewes.

First Reading for the Second Sunday Of Advent.
Isaiah 40:1-5,9-11

The Lord offers to move heaven and earth to bring his people back to him. Valleys are filled in and mountains laid low so that the people God calls can travel more easily, more speedily, to return home to the Lord.

  • What are the barriers between God and his people?
  • How might you help shift or reduce these?
  • What are the barriers between God and you?
  • Who might you help shift or reduce these?

Image of Centenary Square, Birmingham, 2016. (c) 2017, Allen Morris

Taste and See: Awake, alert…

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Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Be on your guard, stay awake, because you never know when the time will come. It is like a man travelling abroad: he has gone from home, and left his servants in charge, each with his own task; and he has told the doorkeeper to stay awake. So stay awake, because you do not know when the master of the house is coming, evening, midnight, cockcrow, dawn; if he comes unexpectedly, he must not find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake!’

Gospel for the First Sunday of Advent
Mark 13:33-37

How it would be sad to miss the moment that matters: to be elsewhere busy or not, occupied by other things, when the moment comes for our meeting with the Lord…

And yet how easy it can be to find ourselves distracted, asleep…

Advent gives us an opportunity to acknowledge our faults and failings and to seek the Lord’s assistance to stay awake for his presence as himself, in the stirrings that come when he speaks to our hearts, for example, through word, sacrament, neighbour…

Basilica Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari. (c) 2004, Allen Morris.

 

Taste and See: our hope is sure

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You, Lord, yourself are our Father,
‘Our Redeemer’ is your ancient name.
Why, Lord, leave us to stray from your ways
and harden our hearts against fearing you?
Return, for the sake of your servants,
the tribes of your inheritance.

Oh, that you would tear the heavens open and come down!
– at your Presence the mountains would melt.

No ear has heard,
no eye has seen
any god but you act like this
for those who trust him.
You guide those who act with integrity
and keep your ways in mind.
You were angry when we were sinners;
we had long been rebels against you.
We were all like men unclean,
all that integrity of ours like filthy clothing.
We have all withered like leaves
and our sins blew us away like the wind.
No one invoked your name
or roused himself to catch hold of you.
For you hid your face from us
and gave us up to the power of our sins.
And yet, Lord, you are our Father;
we the clay, you the potter,
we are all the work of your hand.

First reading for the first Sunday of Advent.
Isaiah 63:16-17,64:1,3-8

The faithless one who now seeks to be faithful places themselves in the hands of the Father-Potter, longing to be made new, whole, right.

We may not judge ourselves to be faithless, entirely unclean and the like, but we too are surely in need of recovery and of being restored to health and wholeness. Advent gives us the chance to acknowledge this, again, and to renew our hope and trust in the Lord, in his compassion and kindness and care.

Sometimes our hope and trust might seem fanciful and without point. But  then we remember our history and salvation history and know afresh that God is faithful, always… We place our trust in him and follow our dreams.

  • What is the surest foundation for your faith in God?

Paradise under the ceiling. Ilya and Emilia Kabakov. Art Installation in Prison cell. Prison de Sainte Anne, Avignon. (c) 2014, Allen Morris

 

Taste and See: How great a gift

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May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ send you grace and peace.

I never stop thanking God for all the graces you have received through Jesus Christ. I thank him that you have been enriched in so many ways, especially in your teachers and preachers; the witness to Christ has indeed been strong among you so that you will not be without any of the gifts of the Spirit while you are waiting for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed; and he will keep you steady and without blame until the last day, the day of our Lord Jesus Christ, because God by calling you has joined you to his Son, Jesus Christ; and God is faithful.

Second reading for First Sunday of Advent
1 Corinthians 1:3-9

Jesus Christ: for whom we long, and who gives himself to us constantly. The Christmas present that is ours new everyday – and yet the gift which, too often, we risk leaving unwrapped.

  • Note, today, how Jesus comes to you through the day, speaking love and challenge to you in the various circumstances of the day.
  • At the end of the day, consider you received and responded to the gift that is the Giver who keeps giving.

Ethiopian Art: Musee Quai de Branly, Paris (c) 2017, Allen Morris.

 

Taste and See: Stumbling to love

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Jesus said to his disciples: ‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, escorted by all the angels, then he will take his seat on his throne of glory. All the nations will be assembled before him and he will separate men one from another as the shepherd separates sheep from goats. He will place the sheep on his right hand and the goats on his left.

‘Then the King will say to those on his right hand, “Come, you whom my Father has blessed, take for your heritage the kingdom prepared for you since the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you made me welcome; naked and you clothed me, sick and you visited me, in prison and you came to see me.” Then the virtuous will say to him in reply, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you; or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and make you welcome; naked and clothe you; sick or in prison and go to see you?” And the King will answer, “I tell you solemnly, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me.”

‘Next he will say to those on his left hand, “Go away from me, with your curse upon you, to the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you never gave me food; I was thirsty and you never gave me anything to drink; I was a stranger and you never made me welcome, naked and you never clothed me, sick and in prison and you never visited me.” Then it will be their turn to ask, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty, a stranger or naked, sick or in prison, and did not come to your help?”

Then he will answer, “I tell you solemnly, in so far as you neglected to do this to one of the least of these, you neglected to do it to me.”

‘And they will go away to eternal punishment, and the virtuous to eternal life.’

Gospel for Solemnity of Christ the King
Matthew 25:31-46

Jesus says to those he condemns. You NEVER came, you NEVER fed me. The Lord is not waiting to catch us out. We may fail, will fail from time to time, to respond to the invitations and opportunities to care for those in need. When we recognise the failing, the missed opportunity, we will often be ashamed.

But the Lord rejoices in the good we do and try to do. He comes to win us for life, not to condemn us to eternal punishment. One good deed, lovingly performed, counts for a good deal! And from it we might learn not to miss other opportuniteis. Win, win! For us and our neighbour…

Copy of mosaic of The Judgement from Ravenna. In collection of Hermitage, St Petersburg, Russia. (c) 2015, Allen Morris.