Speak Lord: Lead us to your cross and ours…

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Jesus instructed the Twelve as follows:

‘Anyone who prefers father or mother to me is not worthy of me. Anyone who prefers son or daughter to me is not worthy of me. Anyone who does not take his cross and follow in my footsteps is not worthy of me. Anyone who finds his life will lose it; anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it.

‘Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me; and those who welcome me welcome the one who sent me.

‘Anyone who welcomes a prophet will have a prophet’s reward; and anyone who welcomes a holy man will have a holy man’s reward.

‘If anyone gives so much as a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is a disciple, then I tell you solemnly, he will most certainly not lose his reward.’

Matthew 10:37-42

The Gospel on Sunday, the 13th Sunday of the Year, reminds of the call to follow Christ and the challenges it contains.

At one level all is easy: welcome a prophet, give a cup of cold water to ‘one of these little ones’. At another level all is difficult even counter-intuitive: called to communion with Jesus and the family of the Church? Well, have no preference for your own family. Choosing life? Well, take up your cross and follow…

This is a choice that has to have real consequences in our lives and our other choices. Otherwise we have not chosen.

It is also a choice that cannot be made once and for all, never to be revisited. Rather it is a choice we have to make and affirm each day, indeed each moment that we face any choice: do we respond as disciple of Jesus, or not. Holy habits can make some of these choices, well, habitual, and help us form certain dispositions… but there will still be those moments, those choices we have not prepared for. Closeness to Jesus will help us make the better choice: closeness to Jesus, and recourse to him will be our consolation and our aid as we struggle and even as we fail.

Abbey Interior. Lerins, France. (c) 2005, Allen Morris.

 

 

Taste and See: The gift of God’s love

IMG_1088 Epstein Madonna and child.jpgGospel Acclamation

Alleluia, alleluia!
The Word was made flesh and lived among us: to all who did accept him
he gave power to become children of God. Alleluia!

Jn1:14,12

The Gospel Acclamation above is one of the two offered for use at Mass last Sunday, the 12th Sunday of Ordinary Time.

The Gospel of the Day speaks of our call to faithfulness to Jesus. The acclamation reminds of his radical commitment to us – evidenced in the Mystery of the Incarnation – God taking flesh and not just for the 33 years or so of Jesus life on earth, but remaining joined with us in the flesh after the Resurrection and the Ascension. God in flesh is one with us for ever.

May we choose likewise: to be one with him, and for ever…

Sculpture by Jacob Epstein. Cavendish Square, London. (c) 2009, Allen Morris

 

Taste and See: Faith

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Jeremiah said:

I hear so many disparaging me,
‘“Terror from every side!”
Denounce him! Let us denounce him!’
All those who used to be my friends
watched for my downfall,
‘Perhaps he will be seduced into error.
Then we will master him
and take our revenge!’
But the Lord is at my side, a mighty hero;
my opponents will stumble, mastered,
confounded by their failure;
everlasting, unforgettable disgrace will be theirs.
But you, O Lord of Hosts, you who probe with justice,
who scrutinise the loins and heart,
let me see the vengeance you will take on them,
for I have committed my cause to you.
Sing to the Lord,
praise the Lord,
for he has delivered the soul of the needy
from the hands of evil men.

Jeremiah 20:10-13

Many of us hearing the above reading, the first for Mass, yesterday, the 12th Sunday of the Year, will have wanted to transpose it to a spiritual/abstract pitch. For though we may know disparagement and insult, many (most?) of us will not experience to the intense level that Jeremiah did.

Yet to drain the reading of its particularity, and the violence and threat of violence of its direct and bruising quality, can neuter the text and remove its force and potency.

There are many in our world who do face such threats, such persecution, whose lives are indeed at risk – and who remain steadfast in faith, powerful witnesses to the reality of God and his gift and promise of life.

As we learn from them, and give thanks to God for them, let us also pray with them, and seek to come to their aid in what ways we can…

Refugee City, Lebanon (?), 2015

Speak Lord: Comfort in our need

 

In your great love, answer me, O Lord.

DSC01801 Macquete for memorial Tikhvin Cemetery St petersburg

It is for you that I suffer taunts,
that shame covers my face,
that I have become a stranger to my brothers,
an alien to my own mother’s sons.
I burn with zeal for your house
and taunts against you fall on me.

In your great love, answer me, O Lord.

This is my prayer to you,
my prayer for your favour.
In your great love, answer me, O God,
with your help that never fails:
Lord, answer, for your love is kind;
in your compassion, turn towards me.

In your great love, answer me, O Lord.

The poor when they see it will be glad
and God-seeking hearts will revive;
for the Lord listens to the needy
and does not spurn his servants in their chains.
Let the heavens and the earth give him praise,
the sea and all its living creatures.

In your great love, answer me, O Lord.

Psalm 68:8-10,14,17,33-35

The Responsorial Psalm at Mass tomorrow, the 12th Sunday of Ordinary Time, comes from the lips of the Church called to imitate Christ, and experiencing something of the persecution that the Lord himself experienced.

But the Church travels in the steps of Love and in her trials receives love to endure and be raised again to joy in God’s presence.

Maquette for memorial, Tikhvin Cemetery, St Petersburg, Russia. (c) 2015, Allen Morris.

 

Speak Lord: Our safety and hope

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Jesus instructed the Twelve as follows: ‘Do not be afraid. For everything that is now covered will be uncovered, and everything now hidden will be made clear. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the daylight; what you hear in whispers, proclaim from the housetops.

‘Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; fear him rather who can destroy both body and soul in hell. Can you not buy two sparrows for a penny? And yet not one falls to the ground without your Father knowing. Why, every hair on your head has been counted. So there is no need to be afraid; you are worth more than hundreds of sparrows.

‘So if anyone declares himself for me in the presence of men, I will declare myself for him in the presence of my Father in heaven. But the one who disowns me in the presence of men, I will disown in the presence of my Father in heaven.’

Matthew 10:26-33

The Gospel on Sunday, the 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time – we are now beyond the sway of the liturgical seasons of Lent and Easter – calls on us ‘not to be afraid’.

Fear is corrosive of our freedom and integrity. It inhibits love and drives us towards addictions and compulsions. Jesus urges us to be free of fear, won from it by the deepest knowledge of the love and mercy of God who is our sure safety.

  • Take a deep breath and know you are loved.

Light in darkness. Quayside, L’Estaque. (c) 2013, Allen Morris.

 

Taste and see: Praise the Lord

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On Corpus Christi a Sequence is set to be sung as part of the Liturgy of the Word. A setting of the Latin text can be heard here.

Sing forth, O Zion, sweetly sing
The praises of thy Shepherd-King,
In hymns and canticles divine;
Dare all thou canst, thou hast no song
Worthy his praises to prolong,
So far surpassing powers like thine.

Today no theme of common praise
Forms the sweet burden of thy lays –
The living, life-dispensing food –
That food which at the sacred board
Unto the brethren twelve our Lord
His parting legacy bestowed.

Then be the anthem clear and strong,
Thy fullest note, thy sweetest song,
The very music of the breast:
For now shines forth the day sublime
That brings remembrance of the time
When Jesus first his table blessed.

Within our new King’s banquet-hall
They meet to keep the festival
That closed the ancient paschal rite:
The old is by the new replaced;
The substance hath the shadow chased;
And rising day dispels the night.

Christ willed what he himself had done
Should be renewed while time should run,
In memory of his parting hour:
Thus, tutored in his school divine,
We consecrate the bread and wine;
And lo – a Host of saving power.

This faith to Christian men is given –
Bread is made flesh by words from heaven:
Into his blood the wine is turned:
What though it baffles nature’s powers
Of sense and sight? This faith of ours
Proves more than nature e’er discerned.

Concealed beneath the two-fold sign,
Meet symbols of the gifts divine,
There lie the mysteries adored:
The living body is our food;
Our drink the ever-precious blood;
In each, one undivided Lord.

Not he that eateth it divides
The sacred food, which whole abides
Unbroken still, nor knows decay;
Be one, or be a thousand fed,
They eat alike that living bread
Which, still received, ne’er wastes away.

The good, the guilty share therein,
With sure increase of grace or sin,
The ghostly life, or ghostly death:
Death to the guilty; to the good
Immortal life. See how one food
Man’s joy or woe accomplisheth.

We break the Sacrament, but bold
And firm thy faith shall keep its hold,
Deem not the whole doth more enfold
Than in the fractured part resides
Deem not that Christ doth broken lie,
’Tis but the sign that meets the eye,
The hidden deep reality
In all its fullness still abides.

– – – – – –

*Behold the bread of angels, sent
For pilgrims in their banishment,
The bread for God’s true children meant,
That may not unto dogs be given:
Oft in the olden types foreshowed;
In Isaac on the altar bowed,
And in the ancient paschal food,
And in the manna sent from heaven.

*Come then, good shepherd, bread divine,
Still show to us thy mercy sign;
Oh, feed us still, still keep us thine;
So may we see thy glories shine
In fields of immortality;

*O thou, the wisest, mightiest, best,
Our present food, our future rest,
Come, make us each thy chosen guest,
Co-heirs of thine, and comrades blest
With saints whose dwelling is with thee.
Amen. Alleluia.

The generous length of the song means that there is an alternative briefer form. However regularly the song seems to be omitted completely. This is perhaps understandable, but also a matter of regret.

Often there is a desire to make the Liturgy, and God, fit our needs rather than put ourselves out to rise to the challenges set before us…

Enjoy the song and give thanks to God, and if you did omit the song yesterday wonder why….

Tabernacle. Rosary Basilica, Lourdes. (c) 2004, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Bread of Life

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Moses said to the people: ‘Remember how the Lord your God led you for forty years in the wilderness, to humble you, to test you and know your inmost heart – whether you would keep his commandments or not. He humbled you, he made you feel hunger, he fed you with manna which neither you nor your fathers had known, to make you understand that man does not live on bread alone but that man lives on everything that comes from the mouth of the Lord.

‘Do not become proud of heart. Do not forget the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery: who guided you through this vast and dreadful wilderness, a land of fiery serpents, scorpions, thirst; who in this waterless place brought you water from the hardest rock; who in this wilderness fed you with manna that your fathers had not known.’

Deuteronomy 8:2-3,14-16

The First reading at Mass today, the feast of Corpus Christi, refers us to God’s feeding of Israel with manna, during their long journey from enslavement to the Promised Land. The food and the journey are viewed by Christians as types for, anticipations that will be fulfilled by,  the Eucharist and our salvation in Christ.

The gift we receive is greater than that offered to Israel. And yet the fruitfulness of our reception of it lies equally in doubt.

The feast of Corpus Christi provides us with further reason to pause and take stock on how carefully we receive the gifts of God and how we try to live them for our good and the good of all.

Detail from altar and sanctuary in chapel of St Bernadette, Lourdes. (c) 2016, Allen Morris