Origins and influences IV: the Last Supper and communion in Christ

Christians are very familiar with the idea of Jesus’ last supper – principal source of our Mass – being a Passover.

Each Palm Sunday we hear readings from a synoptic Gospel of the year – Matthew, Mark or Luke – which tells us this meal was a Passover. Indeed the Gospels go into some detail about the careful preparation for the meal, as in the following verses from Luke’s Gospel.

The Passover with the Disciples

Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat it.” They said to him, “Where will you have us prepare it?” He said to them, “Behold, when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him into the house that he enters and tell the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says to you, Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ And he will show you a large upper room furnished; prepare it there.” And they went and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover.

And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him…

Luke 22.7-14

Each Gospel then continues with words from the Lord in which Jesus interprets ritual actions in terms of his forthcoming death – and, in Luke’s account, asks the disciples to take, break and share bread (his body) in remembrance of him.

Institution of the Lord’s Supper ?

And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. But behold, the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table. For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!” And they began to question one another, which of them it could be who was going to do this.

Luke 22.15-23

So far, so straight forward? Well not exactly. Luke tells us of a meal with a cup before and after the sharing in bread. That might come as a bit of a surprise. And surprising too, perhaps, that we are not told anything particular to the celebration of Passover, most notably the feasting on the lamb sacrificed and roasted for the household’s meal.

When we compare Luke’s account to those of Matthew and Luke there are more things to note. Most notably there is no mention there of a cup shared before the words over the bread, and there is no command ‘Do this in remembrance of me’.

No-one seems to doubt that by the time these Evangelists were writing their Gospels the Church was celebrating the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist.

Our earliest account comes from a letter of St Paul, dated maybe 30 years before the Gospel of Luke.

I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

I Corinthians 11.23-25

Paul’s account includes the words at the breaking of bread about ‘do this in remembrance of me’, indeed he adds something similar after the cup.

We do not know what the domestic Passover ritual was at the time of Jesus, so it is speculation as to whether or not there was a sharing in two cups. But it is interesting that there is such variation in the accounts of the last supper.

Many scholars suggest that writers’ accounts of the last supper meal will have been influenced not only by their authors’ knowledge of an oral tradition about what Jesus did and said; and knowledge of other written accounts (for example, possibly an influence of Paul on Mark and Matthew); but also possibly – even probably – by the way Eucharist was celebrated in their local community. This perhaps explains why Luke’s account varies from the others – Eucharist was celebrated in a ritual including two cups, perhaps because Luke knew a celebration of Eucharist which included not only ritual involving bread and wine, but even perhaps a full meal which began with the blessing of wine. On this joining of Eucharist and meal there is more below.

We often seem to assume all early Christians would do the same thing at celebrations of Eucharist, and any variation would be deviation from the norm. However it is at least plausible that different communities celebrated ‘the breaking of bread’, their sharing in the Body and Blood of Christ, in somewhat different ways, according to their circumstances – indeed given the variations of all sorts noted in other early sources this may the more likely case.

In particular sometime early in the history of the Church one major change took place in how Eucharist was celebrated. We may not know the full ritual content of the last supper, but we do know there was a meal.

We also know that at the time of Paul the particular rites which were the sharing in the Body and Blood of Christ were still being celebrated in the context of a meal. We know that because Paul was scandalised by the unchristian way in which the Corinthians conducted themselves at this meal.

When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat. For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not…

Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.

So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another— if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home—so that when you come together it will not be for judgment.

I Corinthians 11.20-22, 27-34

It is suggested that Matthew and Mark were familiar with their local Church celebrating the Lord’s Supper separate from any other community meal; and that maybe Luke’s community had not yet, or at least had only more recently separated the two ‘meals’.

By the 2nd Century AD that separation was commonplace – if not, perhaps, yet universal. But this Blog will come back to how Eucharist was celebrated in the 2nd Century in a month or so. Over the next few Sundays this Blog will spend a little time looking at how, in the Roman Rite, we presently begin our celebration of Mass, in the Roman Rite, and then looking at the pretty much standard pattern of the Eucharistic Prayers of the Roman Rite.

But first to just notice the very different way in which John’s Gospel deals with the last supper.

Now you do as I have done to you

Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’ I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.”

John 13.1-20

Clearly what John presents is not a Passover meal – for this is a meal before the Feast. John tells us that Jesus was killed at the time that of the sacrifice of the Passover lambs. Scholars have all sorts of suggestions to account for this difference between John’s Gospel and the others. Perhaps John was linked with a different Jewish grouping, the Essenes, that followed a slightly different calendar (a little like the Orthodox Church today follows a different calendar, celebrating Easter and Christmas on different days to the rest of the Church, in the secular calendar).

Or maybe John is varying the narrative to make a symbolic point – that truly Jesus is the Passover sacrifice or, maybe more properly, that Jesus fulfils all that is promised in Passover, and that for those who acknowledge Jesus as Lord and Saviour there is now no need to celebrate Passover. John knows that Christians are to live in communion with Jesus, to eat his flesh and drink his blood (cf John 6). It is conceivable that John knows of a ritual meal that is Eucharist, but maybe, just maybe, for John what matters more than any such meal is mutual service. Without such mutual service, then perhaps John like Paul would say whatever you do by way of ritual or worship is not the Lord’s Supper, but brings judgement on ourselves.

The point was forcefully made by Saint Pope John Paul II when proposing a Year of the Eucharist to the Church.

There is one other point which I would like to emphasize, since it significantly affects the authenticity of our communal sharing in the Eucharist. It is the impulse which the Eucharist gives to the community for a practical commitment to building a more just and fraternal society. In the Eucharist our God has shown love in the extreme, overturning all those criteria of power which too often govern human relations and radically affirming the criterion of service: “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all” (Mc 9:35). It is not by chance that the Gospel of John contains no account of the institution of the Eucharist, but instead relates the “washing of feet” (cf. Jn 13:1-20): by bending down to wash the feet of his disciples, Jesus explains the meaning of the Eucharist unequivocally. Saint Paul vigorously reaffirms the impropriety of a Eucharistic celebration lacking charity expressed by practical sharing with the poor (cf.1Cor 11:17-22, 27-34).

Mane Nobiscum Domine, 28. John Paul II.

Questions for reflection

  • What does it seem to you makes for communion with the Lord?
  • The phrase ‘practicing Catholic’ is a familiar one. Often this is used to distinguish those who go to Mass from those who don’t. What four or five characteristics do you think that, together, might make for a better definition for a practicing Catholic?
  • What variations in celebrations of the Lord’s Supper are you familiar with in contemporary Christian communities?
  • What would might be the advantages/disadvantages of once more combining Mass with a community meal?

Acknowledgements

  • Scripture: English Standard Version (c) 2001-9, Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers
  • Photographs. All (c) Allen Morris. (c) 2015, Last Supper, Sacred Heart, Coleshill, Birmingham; (c) 2015, Vasily Perov, ‘Monastery Refectory’ and Icon detail, Russian Museum, St Petersburg;
  • Commentary: © 2021, Allen Morris
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Responsorial Psalm for the 3rd Sunday of Advent

The Church’s song in this Sunday’s Liturgy of the Word is Mary’s song, the Magnificat, sung in response to Elizabeth’s greeting, and recognition of the presence of the Lord Jesus in his mother’s womb.

In Advent we wait for what is to come: Mary, in her song, gives thanks for what has been and what presently is.

May her prayer and her example nudge us in that same direction too.

Luke 1:46-50, 53-54
Responsorial Psalm for the 3rd Sunday of Advent

(NB the text set for Sunday is given below in bold and in ‘quote sections’ below; the rest is the immediate biblical text from which the Lectionary text is extracted)

Canticle of Mary (Magnificat)

46 My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
48 For he has looked upon his handmaid in her lowliness;
for behold, from this day forward,
all generations will call me blessed.

49 For the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50 His mercy is from age to age
for those who fear him.

51 He has made known the strength of his arm,
and has scattered the proud in their conceit of heart.  
52 He has cast down the mighty from their thrones
and has exalted those who are lowly.

53 He has filled the hungry with good things,
and has sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
mindful of his mercy,

55 Even as he promised to our fathers,
to Abraham and his descendants for ever.


Acknowledgements
~ Translation of Psalm: From Abbey Psalms and Canticles, prepared by the monks of Conception Abbey © 2008, 2010 United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington, DC
~ Commentary: © 2020, Allen Morris
~ Photograph:© 2014, Allen Morris. Carving, Cloister, St Trophime, Arles, France.


 

Collect for the 3rd Sunday of Advent

The Collect seems to assure God that his people “faithfully await the feast of the Lord’s Nativity”.

The phrase got me wondering, what does it mean, ‘faithfully to await’ the feast of the Lord’s Nativity?

Simply to have faith, and to wait?

Or something more? Is it in faith to know a waiting that is existential; that is grounded in a sense of our unpreparedness (despite faith, and with longing for things to be different) and confronts us with our unreadiness, and so our need for what God can do to help us up and on?

An active, engaged waiting? To help us up and on, not just to the feast of Christmas, not even to a celebration of God born in human flesh – but to a fresh awareness, appreciation, appropriation, of why that birth matters.

And that birth matters, because it is a part of the great saving work of God begun with the incarnation and birth, brought to fresh focus in the Paschal Mystery in the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus, and manifest now – please God – in our keeping of Advent, waiting and working inspired by the closeness of the Kingdom of God, even to us.

Collect for the 3rd Sunday of Advent

O God, who see how your people
faithfully await the feast of the Lord’s Nativity,
enable us, we pray,
to attain the joys of so great a salvation
and to celebrate them always
with solemn worship and glad rejoicing.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

 
Acknowledgements

~ Translation of the Collect: English translation of The Roman Missal ©  2010, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation. All rights reserved
~ Commentary: © 2020, Allen Morris
~ Photograph:© 2014, Allen Morris. Palais des Papes, Avignon.

Second reading for the 2nd Sunday of Advent

St Peter calls the Church to be ready to receive, welcome, and benefit from the coming of the Lord at the end of time – at the beginning of God’s new time and new Creation.

As well as this second coming at the end of time, Christians from the beginning have also been conscious of the opportunities to welcome the Lord afresh into their lives in the present moment to – to welcome him by being alert to the potential to live lovingly now, and also to the sad lapse that leads us to lack of charity and to blindness to the Lord’s real presence to us in the here and now.

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

(NB the text set for Sunday is given below in bold and in ‘quote sections’ below; the rest is the immediate biblical text from which the Lectionary text is extracted)

The Day of the Lord Will Come
3.1 This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, 2 that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Saviour through your apostles, 3 knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. 4 They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” 5 For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, 6 and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. 7 But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.

8 But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slow to fulfil his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.

11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! 13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

Final Words
14 Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.

15 And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. 17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.


 
Acknowledgements
~ Translation of Scriptures: English Standard Version (c) 2001-9, Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers
~ Commentary: © 2020, Allen Morris
~ Photograph:© 2017, Allen Morris. Stained glass, St Nicholas church, Henley-in -Arden, Warwickshire.

First reading for the 2nd Sunday of Advent

The words in which a broken Israel found inspiration, and which continue to offer spiritual succour to our Jewish contemporaries, offer consolation and encouragement to Christians too.

The one God, the same God, speaks to each of our communities, acknowledging our past struggles, hurts and humiliations, and assuring us that God – the one God, the same God – calls us to closer union with him.

And a renewed Jerusalem is for Jews and Christians, symbol of this longed for closer union between God and an aching people. The image lies behind this Sunday’s second reading as well as being to the fore in the first reading below.

For Christians the further symbol of this closer union is, of course, Jesus himself, very God present in one who is also fully human.

The chapter of Isaiah that speaks of the tenderness of God for his people, as we hear in this Sunday’s reading, goes on to say how foolish humans are when they try to represent God in idols. How foolish indeed when God shows us his fullest image in one like us, in all things but sin.

And in Jesus, this fullest image of God, faithful son of Israel, the promises of God are extended to all humankind. This Advent may we eagerly accept and use his gracious gifts.

Isaiah 40:1-5,9-11
First reading for the 2nd Sunday of Advent 

 (NB the text set for Sunday is given below in bold and in ‘quote sections’ below; the rest is the immediate biblical text from which the Lectionary text is extracted)

Comfort for God’s People
40.1 Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
2  Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and cry to her
that her warfare is ended,
that her iniquity is pardoned,
that she has received from the LORD’s hand
double for all her sins.
3  A voice cries:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
4  Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
5  And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
and all flesh shall see it together,
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

The Word of God Stands Forever
6  A voice says, “Cry!”
And I said, “What shall I cry?”
All flesh is grass,
and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.
7  The grass withers, the flower fades
when the breath of the LORD blows on it;
surely the people are grass.
8  The grass withers, the flower fades,
but the word of our God will stand forever.

The Greatness of God
9  Go on up to a high mountain,
O Zion, herald of good news;
lift up your voice with strength,
O Jerusalem, herald of good news;
lift it up, fear not;
say to the cities of Judah,
“Behold your God!”
10  Behold, the Lord GOD comes with might,
and his arm rules for him;
behold, his reward is with him,
and his recompense before him.
11  He will tend his flock like a shepherd;
he will gather the lambs in his arms;
he will carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead those that are with young.

12  Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand
and marked off the heavens with a span,
enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure
and weighed the mountains in scales
and the hills in a balance?
13  Who has measured the Spirit of the LORD,
or what man shows him his counsel?
14  Whom did he consult,
and who made him understand?
Who taught him the path of justice,
and taught him knowledge,
and showed him the way of understanding?
15  Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket,
and are accounted as the dust on the scales;
behold, he takes up the coastlands like fine dust.
16  Lebanon would not suffice for fuel,
nor are its beasts enough for a burnt offering.
17  All the nations are as nothing before him,
they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness.

18  To whom then will you liken God,
or what likeness compare with him?
19  An idol! A craftsman casts it,
and a goldsmith overlays it with gold
and casts for it silver chains.
20  He who is too impoverished for an offering
chooses wood that will not rot;
he seeks out a skillful craftsman
to set up an idol that will not move.
21  Do you not know? Do you not hear?
Has it not been told you from the beginning?
Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?

22  It is he who sits above the circle of the earth,
and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers;
who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,
and spreads them like a tent to dwell in;
23  who brings princes to nothing,
and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness.
24  Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown,
scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth,
when he blows on them, and they wither,
and the tempest carries them off like stubble.
25  To whom then will you compare me,
that I should be like him? says the Holy One.
26  Lift up your eyes on high and see:
who created these?
He who brings out their host by number,
calling them all by name;
by the greatness of his might
and because he is strong in power,
not one is missing.

27  Why do you say, O Jacob,
and speak, O Israel,
“My way is hidden from the LORD,
and my right is disregarded by my God”?
28  Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
29  He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
30  Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
31  but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.

Acknowledgements
~ Translation of Scriptures: English Standard Version (c) 2001-9, Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers
~ Commentary: © 2020, Allen Morris
~ Photograph:© 2007, Allen Morris. Desert hills between Jehrico and Jerusalem

Collect for the 2nd Sunday of Advent

Wisdom comes for us all in many forms, but most fully, most perfectly as God’s living Word, Jesus Christ himself.

There are many opportunities for us to engage with God’s Wisdom, but none has the power or effect of spending time with Jesus himself, in Word, in Holy Communion – in the Eucharist and in the communion of the Church.

The Gospels have a privileged role in strengthening this communion.

  • During the Church that begins this Advent it will be the Gospel of Mark that we hear most regularly on Sundays.
  • Why not reacquaint yourself with the Gospel as a whole? To read the work as a whole gives us a richer understanding of Jesus and his work, and his meaning for us and our lives, than we get from isolated passages.
  • This Sunday’s Gospel reading at Mass is the first verses of Mark’s Gospel. Start there, and just keep reading!

Collect for the 2nd Sunday of Advent

Almighty and merciful God,
may no earthly undertaking hinder those
who set out in haste to meet your Son,
but may our learning of heavenly wisdom
gain us admittance to his company.
Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.


 
Acknowledgements

~ Translation of the Collect: English translation of The Roman Missal ©  2010, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation. All rights reserved
~ Commentary: © 2020, Allen Morris
~ Photograph:© 2015, Allen Morris. Cover for Book of Scriptures, Treasury, The Kremlin, Moscow.

First reading for the first Sunday of Advent

The prophet helps Israel and the Church know its place before the Lord.  
 
We are clay and he is the potter. He is one fine potter, but in us he does not seem to have the most promising material to work with.
 
We have all become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.
We all fade like a leaf,
and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
 
And yet God is the potter and in his hands there is hope for the raw clay. We can become, – and when we look around, we see how of us some do become – something beautiful through God’s handiwork.

Advent is a season of hope, a season when once more the promises of the Lord warm our hearts and lives back to life….

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

(NB the text set for Sunday is given below in bold and in ‘quote sections’ below; the rest is the immediate biblical text from which the Lectionary text is extracted) 

Prayer for Mercy
63.15  Look down from heaven and see,
from your holy and beautiful habitation.
Where are your zeal and your might?
The stirring of your inner parts and your compassion
are held back from me.

16  For you are our Father,
though Abraham does not know us,
and Israel does not acknowledge us;
you, O LORD, are our Father,
our Redeemer from of old is your name.
17  O LORD, why do you make us wander from your ways
and harden our heart, so that we fear you not?
Return for the sake of your servants,
the tribes of your heritage.

18  Your holy people held possession for a little while;
our adversaries have trampled down your sanctuary.
19  We have become like those over whom you have never ruled,
like those who are not called by your name.

64.1 Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down,
that the mountains might quake at your presence—

2  as when fire kindles brushwood
and the fire causes water to boil—
to make your name known to your adversaries,
and that the nations might tremble at your presence!

3  When you did awesome things that we did not look for,
you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence.
 
4  From of old no one has heard
or perceived by the ear,
no eye has seen a God besides you,
who acts for those who wait for him.
5  You meet him who joyfully works righteousness,
those who remember you in your ways.
Behold, you were angry, and we sinned;
in our sins we have been a long time, and shall we be saved?
6  We have all become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.
We all fade like a leaf,
and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
7  There is no one who calls upon your name,
who rouses himself to take hold of you;
for you have hidden your face from us,
and have made us melt in the hand of our iniquities.
 
8
 But now, O LORD, you are our Father;
we are the clay, and you are our potter;
we are all the work of your hand.

9  Be not so terribly angry, O LORD,
and remember not iniquity forever.
Behold, please look, we are all your people.
10  Your holy cities have become a wilderness;
Zion has become a wilderness,
Jerusalem a desolation.
11  Our holy and beautiful house,
where our fathers praised you,
has been burned by fire,
and all our pleasant places have become ruins.
12  Will you restrain yourself at these things, O LORD?
Will you keep silent, and afflict us so terribly?

Acknowledgements
~ Translation of Scriptures: English Standard Version (c) 2001-9, Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers
~ Commentary: © 2020, Allen Morris
~ Photograph:© 2017, Allen Morris. Gladstone Pottery Museum

Second reading for tomorrow’s Mass

Tomorrow we celebrate the feast of Christ the King. Our second reading at that Mass reminds us of the Kingship that is not of this world only, but finds its fulness in Christ’s Resurrection where death is overcome and, as St Paul puts it in 1 Corinthians, Christ “delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.

This week, we come to the end of this Church year, where do you see yourself as sharing in the kingdom of God; where, maybe, do you feel separated from it.

  • Invite the Lord to exercise his kingship more fully in your life – healing and guiding.

1 Corinthians 15:20-26,28
Second reading for the solemnity of Christ the King

(NB the text set for Sunday is given below in bold and in ‘quote sections’ below; the rest is the immediate biblical text from which the Lectionary text is extracted)

The Resurrection of Christ
15.1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

The Resurrection of the Dead
12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

27 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him.

28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.

29 Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf? 30 Why are we in danger every hour? 31 I protest, brothers, by my pride in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die every day! 32 What do I gain if, humanly speaking, I fought with beasts at Ephesus? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” 33 Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” 34 Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.

The Resurrection Body
35 But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” 36 You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. 38 But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. 39 For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. 40 There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another. 41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory.

42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. 47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.

Mystery and Victory
50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”

55  “O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

Acknowledgements
~ Translation of Scriptures: English Standard Version (c) 2001-9, Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers
~ Commentary: © 2020, Allen Morris
~ Photograph:© 2004, Allen Morris. San Vitale, Ravenna, Italy.

The Gospel for today’s Mass

As last week and as next, this Sunday’s Gospel comes from chapter 25 of Matthew’s Gospel. Jesus is on the verge of his Passion and he offers in this chapter three parables about testing, about care and dear, and judgement.

In this Sunday’s parable Jesus challenges us – how do we feel about the servant who fails? How do we feel about the Master who gets angry? Where and how would we like to find ourselves in this story – where do we find ourselves in the story? And how do we respond to that? What do we do with what we learn?

Jesus’ parables, ancient and ever-new, do a remarkable job of teasing our minds into fresh action, and helping our hearts to respond to his encouragement and healing.

Gospel reading for the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Matthew 25:14-30

(NB the text set for Sunday is given below in bold and in ‘quote sections’ below; the rest is the immediate biblical text from which the Lectionary text is extracted)

The Parable of the Ten Virgins
25.1 “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3 For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, 4 but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5 As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. 6 But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ 7 Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. 8 And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ 10 And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. 11 Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12 But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ 13 Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.

The Parable of the Talents
14 “For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. 15 To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away.

16 He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. 17 So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. 18 But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19

Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them.

20 And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here, I have made five talents more.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’

22 And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here, I have made two talents more.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’

24 He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’ 26 But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

The Final Judgment
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

The Plot to Kill Jesus
26.1 When Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said to his disciples, 2 “You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified.”


 
 
Acknowledgements
~ Translation of Scriptures: English Standard Version (c) 2001-9, Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers
~ Commentary: © 2020, Allen Morris
~ Photograph: © 2008, Allen Morris. Prison of the Doges Palace, Venice.

The Second reading for tomorrow’s Mass

Paul ends his letter to the Thessalonians with words of assurance and encouragement. But not with platitudes – they are words that exhort to goodness and faithfulness, to an authentic living out of faith. Faith as a walking staff, and not faith as an easy chair.

  • What image would you use to symbolise your faith, as it is today?
  • Bring your thoughts to God in prayer…

1 Thessalonians 5:1-6
Second reading for the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

(NB the text set for Sunday is given below in bold and in ‘quote sections’ below; the rest is the immediate biblical text from which the Lectionary text is extracted)

The Day of the Lord
5 Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. 2 For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labour pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. 4 But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. 5 For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. 6 So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.

7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. 8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. 9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

Final Instructions and Benediction
12 We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13 and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. 14 And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. 15 See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies, 21 but test everything; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil.

23 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.

25 Brothers, pray for us.

26 Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss.

27 I put you under oath before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers.

28 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

Acknowledgements
~ Translation of Scriptures: English Standard Version (c) 2001-9, Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers
~ Commentary: © 2020, Allen Morris
~ Photograph: © 2007, Allen Morris. Chair of Moses, Synagogue of Chorazin, Galillee.