Speak Lord: Source of new growth

 

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‘Doom for the shepherds who allow the flock of my pasture to be destroyed and scattered – it is the Lord who speaks! This, therefore, is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says about the shepherds in charge of my people: You have let my flock be scattered and go wandering and have not taken care of them.

Right, I will take care of you for your misdeeds – it is the Lord who speaks! But the remnant of my flock I myself will gather from all the countries where I have dispersed them, and will bring them back to their pastures: they shall be fruitful and increase in numbers. I will raise up shepherds to look after them and pasture them; no fear, no terror for them any more; not one shall be lost – it is the Lord who speaks!

‘See, the days are coming – it is the Lord who speaks –
when I will raise a virtuous Branch for David,
who will reign as true king and be wise,
practising honesty and integrity in the land.
In his days Judah will be saved
and Israel dwell in confidence.
And this is the name he will be called:
The-Lord-our-integrity.’

First reading for the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jeremiah 23:1-6

Woe to the faux-shepherds. But the Lord will not allow his love and care to be curtailed and constrained by them, by us. He finds new ways to share what he longs to share. And he will continue to do this with the help of humankind, witting or unwitting.

Base of Jesus Tree. Pre-reformation carving in St Mary’s Priory, Abergavenney.  © 2017, Allen Morris

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Speak Lord: our shepherd…

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The Lord is my shepherd: there is nothing I shall want.

The Lord is my shepherd;
there is nothing I shall want.
Fresh and green are the pastures
where he gives me repose.
Near restful waters he leads me,
to revive my drooping spirit.

The Lord is my shepherd: there is nothing I shall want.

He guides me along the right path;
he is true to his name.
If I should walk in the valley of darkness
no evil would I fear.
You are there with your crook and your staff;
with these you give me comfort.

The Lord is my shepherd: there is nothing I shall want.

You have prepared a banquet for me
in the sight of my foes.
My head you have anointed with oil;
my cup is overflowing.

The Lord is my shepherd: there is nothing I shall want.

Surely goodness and kindness shall follow me
all the days of my life.
In the Lord’s own house shall I dwell
for ever and ever.

The Lord is my shepherd: there is nothing I shall want.

Responsorial Psalm for the 16th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Psalm 22(23)

The psalmist, mindful and grateful of the care that he receives from the shepherd is free to admit his weariness and need. In the Lord he finds restoration and new direction and purpose and future for his life.

And in his song he thanks God, and bears witness to us of the who and how of God, inviting us to share in his love and peace.

  • With whom might you share this good news, and how?

Detail from 4C sarcophagus cover. Musée départemental Arles antique. © 2017, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Reconciliation

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In Christ Jesus, you that used to be so far apart from us have been brought very close, by the blood of Christ. For he is the peace between us, and has made the two into one and broken down the barrier which used to keep them apart, actually destroying in his own person the hostility caused by the rules and decrees of the Law.

This was to create one single New Man in himself out of the two of them and by restoring peace through the cross, to unite them both in a single Body and reconcile them with God: in his own person he killed the hostility. Later he came to bring the good news of peace, peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near at hand. Through him, both of us have in the one Spirit our way to come to the Father.

Second reading for the 16th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Ephesians 2:13-18

God has no favourites, and unity is offered to us all in Jesus Christ.

In his birth, his adult ministry, in his Passion, Death and Resurrection, in his Ascension and now in word and Sacrament, grace and peace is shared with us to make us one.

  • How might you respond to the gift today for the benefit of others?

Stained glass. Chester Cathedral. © 2017, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: with your usual care…

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The apostles rejoined Jesus and told him all they had done and taught. Then he said to them, ‘You must come away to some lonely place all by yourselves and rest for a while’; for there were so many coming and going that the apostles had no time even to eat. So they went off in a boat to a lonely place where they could be by themselves.

But people saw them going, and many could guess where; and from every town they all hurried to the place on foot and reached it before them. So as he stepped ashore he saw a large crowd; and he took pity on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and he set himself to teach them at some length.

Gospel for the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mark 6:30-34

Love knows no boundaries. It is likely that Jesus was tired and in need of rest himself, not only the apostles. And yet he gave of himself for the care of others.

  • What helps you to do the same?
  • What holds you back?
  • Why did people seek Jesus with such eagerness? What do you learn from that?

Detail from fresco by Duncan Grant. Lincoln Cathedral. © 2011, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Stir us up and challenge us

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Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, said to Amos, ‘Go away, seer;’ get back to the land of Judah; earn your bread there, do your prophesying there. We want no more prophesying in Bethel; this is the royal sanctuary, the national temple.’

‘I was no prophet, neither did I belong to any of the brotherhoods of prophets,’ Amos replied to Amaziah ‘I was a shepherd, and looked after sycamores: but it was the Lord who took me from herding the flock, and the Lord who said, “Go, prophesy to my people Israel.”’

First reading for the 15th Sunday of the Year
Amos 7:12-15

It is not only the self-evidently godless who will not listen to God. As this episode tells us the self-evidently godly find it difficult too. And maybe what seems self-evidently so, actually again and again turns out not to be what seemed so evident to us!

Here, for sure, Amos has been given much to say, but Bethel will not listen. The irony is that Beth-El means ‘House of God’. The House of God will not listen to the Lord!

This was not a flaw only on the part of the court of the Northern Kingdom. The Southern Kingdom will have the same failing. And down the centuries, again and again, Christians have proclaimed themselves to be such, but will not listen to what the Lord has to say…

  • What about you today?
  • What about your Christian community?
  • How open to the prophetic, calling you to deeper faithfulness, are you?

Stained Glass. Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois, Paris. © 2018, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: As you share the Father’s love

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Blessed be God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all the spiritual blessings of heaven in Christ.

Before the world was made, he chose us, chose us in Christ, to be holy and spotless, and to live through love in his presence, determining that we should become his adopted sons, through Jesus Christ for his own kind purposes, to make us praise the glory of his grace, his free gift to us in the Beloved, in whom, through his blood, we gain our freedom, the forgiveness of our sins.

Such is the richness of the grace which he has showered on us in all wisdom and insight. He has let us know the mystery of his purpose, the hidden plan he so kindly made in Christ from the beginning to act upon when the times had run their course to the end: that he would bring everything together under Christ, as head, everything in the heavens and everything on earth. And it is in him that we were claimed as God’s own, chosen from the beginning, under the predetermined plan of the one who guides all things as he decides by his own will; chosen to be, for his greater glory, the people who would put their hopes in Christ before he came.

Now you too, in him, have heard the message of the truth and the good news of your salvation, and have believed it; and you too have been stamped with the seal of the Holy Spirit of the Promise, the pledge of our inheritance which brings freedom for those whom God has taken for his own, to make his glory praised.

Second reading for the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Ephesians 1:3-14

Members of the Church are called ‘Christians’, originally a nickname (an intended insult too?) applied to us in Antioch at the time of the Apostles.

The term has stuck, and it serve a purpose distinguishing us from those who believe in the One God, but not in Jesus as Son of God, and not in Jesus and the Holy Spirit together with the Father as a Trinity of persons and One God.

However it should not distract us Christians from the primary focus of our spirituality and our lives, namely that in, through and with Jesus, we seek to live as faithful children of the Father.

As Jesus sought to know and do the will of his Father, so it should be with us.

As he made offering of himself to the Father in the Sacrifice of Calvary, so we too make offering to the Father as we unite ourselves with Jesus in the re-presentation of that Sacrifice in the Mass.

And in our daily individual and private prayer too. In this prayer we speak with Jesus and adore him as very God, but it does not stop there. It takes on the trajectory of Jesus’ own prayer and life, the dynamic of life and love within the most Holy Trinity.

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona. © 2003, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Sustain your mission in us

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Jesus made a tour round the villages, teaching. Then he summoned the Twelve and began to send them out in pairs giving them authority over the unclean spirits. And he instructed them to take nothing for the journey except a staff – no bread, no haversack, no coppers for their purses. They were to wear sandals but, he added, ‘Do not take a spare tunic.’ And he said to them, ‘If you enter a house anywhere, stay there until you leave the district. And if any place does not welcome you and people refuse to listen to you, as you walk away shake off the dust from under your feet as a sign to them.’ So they set off to preach repentance; and they cast out many devils, and anointed many sick people with oil and cured them.

Gospel for 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mark 6:7-13

Reading this passage some 2000 years after the event, the contemporary disciple might most easily notice and appreciate the instructions that Jesus gives – how to live humbly, and to embrace a certain poverty, and also how to deal with discouragement.

But what is most wonderful is the reminder of the purpose and the success of their mission – to preach repentance, and to cast out devils and anoint and heal the sick. That saving event continues!

Holy Oils. St Philip’s Church of England Cathedral, Birmingham. © 2018, Allen Morris.