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.

 

 

Speak Lord: My protector

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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

The First reading at Mass today comes from the prophet of Jeremiah and tells both of his trials and persecution, and, especially, of his trust in the Lord who is his protector, even as he endures hurt and harm.

The hurt and harm is passing. The Lord will sustain him in this, and deliver him into newness of life; where love and care and security will be his; where his faithfulness, achieved at his cost and with God’s help, will meet with reward.

Jeremiah prays for his opponents to stumble, be thwarted and disgraced. It is understandable…. But the teaching of the Gospel moves us beyond that desire for revenge and ‘satisfaction’.

In the love of God made known in Christ, we are to learn to love our enemies too. We are called to victory with God, and for all peoples.

Prophet. Louvre, Paris. (c) 2017, Allen Morris

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: Healing Saviour

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Sin entered the world through one man, and through sin death, and thus death has spread through the whole human race because everyone has sinned. Sin existed in the world long before the Law was given. There was no law and so no one could be accused of the sin of ‘law-breaking’, yet death reigned over all from Adam to Moses, even though their sin, unlike that of Adam, was not a matter of breaking a law.

Adam prefigured the One to come, but the gift itself considerably outweighed the fall. If it is certain that through one man’s fall so many died, it is even more certain that divine grace, coming through the one man, Jesus Christ, came to so many as an abundant free gift.

Romans 5:12-15

The Second reading at Mass on Sunday, the 12th Sunday of the Year, points to a deeper wound to human living than law-breaking, even when that law is Torah, God’s law given through Moses.

The failure of Adam is a failure to live right with God, lovingly. Love goes beyond law, because of its commitment to the person of the other. For Adam the other was God, the Creator, and he failed in his relationship through disobedience and through a self-isolating fear and shame. The result proved to be a lasting alienation.

God never gave up – even dressed Adam for the exile. Underlying the whole of the Old Testament is the tension: might this next person, this next episode be the one where we return to that relationship, even as formalised (cramped?) by the Law. But the answer is always, ‘No’, and Israel waits.

Then begins the New Testament, and Jesus, God’s sustained ‘Yes’ to us and, in his humanity, our sustained response to God.

In him we find life.
Adam. Cracow, Poland. (C) 2014, 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.

 

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

 

 

 

Speak Lord: Heal the city

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O praise the Lord, Jerusalem! or Alleluia!

O praise the Lord, Jerusalem!
Zion, praise your God!
He has strengthened the bars of your gates
he has blessed the children within you.

O praise the Lord, Jerusalem! or Alleluia!

He established peace on your borders,
he feeds you with finest wheat.
He sends out his word to the earth
and swiftly runs his command.

O praise the Lord, Jerusalem! or Alleluia!

He makes his word known to Jacob,
to Israel his laws and decrees.
He has not dealt thus with other nations;
he has not taught them his decrees.

O praise the Lord, Jerusalem! or Alleluia!

Psalm 147:12-15,19-20

The Responsorial Psalm sung at Mass tomorrow celebrates Jerusalem and God’s care for the city and its people.

Etymologically Jerusalem means ‘city of peace’. It is a name sadly belied by its present division and the violence born of occupation and resistance,. The present situation echoes a long history of earlier wars and political settlements with their victors and victims.

And yet Jerusalem remains a place for encounter between God and the faithful (Jew, Christian, Muslim and others), and a place of hope. If in Jerusalem we see the scars of human failings, it is in the mysteries revealed in Jerusalem that we seek the ways of healing for our future here that we hope will prove stepping stones to heaven also.

God helps us to safety, but we may not leave it all to God, taking the psalm at a naively literal level. God helps us also to know that he is God not only of the ‘literal’ Jerusalem but also God of the nations, called to a new unity in Christ.

Jerusalem – Mount Moriah across site of former city of David. (c) 2013, Allen Morris