Speak Lord: Direct us, rule us…

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Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus,
whom he has taken by his right hand
to subdue nations before him
and strip the loins of kings,
to force gateways before him
that their gates be closed no more:

‘It is for the sake of my servant Jacob,
of Israel my chosen one,
that I have called you by your name,
conferring a title though you do not know me.
I am the Lord, unrivalled;
there is no other God besides me.
Though you do not know me, I arm you
that men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun
that, apart from me, all is nothing.’

First reading for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Isaiah 45:1,4-6

The Lord finds his chosen in unexpected places – shepherds, a dresser of sycamores, and a pagan king, just for example.

Cyrus, the pagan king, serves the Lord by restoring his people to their homeland from which they had been ripped and taken into exile.

All human power and dignity derives from God’s power and glory. All human power and dignity finds its final purpose in being used for good and for love. And when it is, and when we recognise it and honour it, something more of God’s purpose is recognised: there is a new unity found in a broken world, and in the fragmentation of the human family.

Whoever does good, and wherever, does the will of God and advances the dawning of the Kingdom of God.

Window commemorating Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II. Southwark Cathedral, London. (c) 2016.

 

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Speak Lord: Reveal your glory….

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Give the Lord glory and power.

O sing a new song to the Lord,
sing to the Lord all the earth.
tell among the nations his glory
and his wonders among all the peoples.

Give the Lord glory and power.

The Lord is great and worthy of praise,
to be feared above all gods;
the gods of the heathens are naught.
It was the Lord who made the heavens,

Give the Lord glory and power.

Give the Lord, you families of peoples,
give the Lord glory and power;
give the Lord the glory of his name.
Bring an offering and enter his courts.

Give the Lord glory and power.

Worship the Lord in his temple.
O earth, tremble before him.
Proclaim to the nations: ‘God is king.’
He will judge the peoples in fairness.

Give the Lord glory and power.

Responsorial Psalm for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Psalm 95:1,3-5,7-10

Give the Lord glory and power? Does God not have enough glory? enough power? What can we give that will add to what God already has in abundance?

Surely all that can be missing is our readiness to acknowledge and observe, respect, the glory and power of God? To allow it to give direction and order and point to our lives – to live by and for the glory of God. To be fully ourselves, revealing in that fulfilment the glory of God.

To be fully ourselves and to allow others the same dignity…

Church of Saviour of the Spilled Blood, St Petersburg, Russia. (c) 2015, Allen Morris.

 

 

 

Speak Lord: source and hope for love

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From Paul, Silvanus and Timothy, to the Church in Thessalonika which is in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ; wishing you grace and peace.

We always mention you in our prayers and thank God for you all, and constantly remember before God our Father how you have shown your faith in action, worked for love and persevered through hope, in our Lord Jesus Christ.

We know, brothers, that God loves you and that you have been chosen, because when we brought the Good News to you, it came to you not only as words, but as power and as the Holy Spirit and as utter conviction.

Second reading for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
1 Thessalonians 1:1-5

The love and commitment of Paul to the Churches echoes God’s love for the world. As with God it is not a love blind to fault and problems, but it is a love anxious for unity and for communion.

  • Where might you, today, prompt reconciliation and development?
  • How might you do it?

Rotunda of Galerius, Thessaloniki (one of the city’s first churches). (c) 2006, Allen Morris.

 

Speak Lord: King and Master

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The Pharisees went away to work out between them how to trap Jesus in what he said. And they sent their disciples to him, together with the Herodians, to say, ‘Master, we know that you are an honest man and teach the way of God in an honest way, and that you are not afraid of anyone, because a man’s rank means nothing to you. Tell us your opinion, then. Is it permissible to pay taxes to Caesar or not?’

But Jesus was aware of their malice and replied, ‘You hypocrites! Why do you set this trap for me? Let me see the money you pay the tax with.’

They handed him a denarius, and he said, ‘Whose head is this? Whose name?’ ‘Caesar’s’ they replied. He then said to them, ‘Very well, give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar – and to God what belongs to God.’

Gospel for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Matthew 22:15-21

The wit and radical vision of Jesus are evident in this episode. He employs them to reveal his position and to cut the ground from beneath the feet of his opponents.

Delight in the ‘play’ of the encounter, and the triumph of ‘our guy’, might distract us from the import of the teaching: to give to God what belongs to God and to Caesar what belongs to Caesar.

This teaching leaves the Christian as a sort of stranger in this world: here we have no abiding home, but are respectful of two (often opposed) jurisdictions – the Empire of this world and the Kingdom of God.

But how often instead we can seek to escape from both of these – by creating our own cocoon to isolate us from the rest of this world and insulate us from any too pressing concerns about the world to come, and the Kingdom of God.

  • What in your daily life do you see as belonging to God?
  • What to ‘Caesar’?
  • And what to you?

Imperial Coin. Manchester Museum. (c) 2016.

 

Speak Lord: Master of the feast

 

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On this mountain,
the Lord of hosts will prepare for all peoples
a banquet of rich food.
On this mountain he will remove
the mourning veil covering all peoples,
and the shroud enwrapping all nations,
he will destroy Death for ever.
The Lord will wipe away
the tears from every cheek;
he will take away his people’s shame
everywhere on earth,
for the Lord has said so.
That day, it will be said: See, this is our God
in whom we hoped for salvation;
the Lord is the one in whom we hoped.
We exult and we rejoice
that he has saved us.

First reading for the 28th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Isaiah 25:6-10

Those who like a good meal will find hope and encouragement in this prophesy!

But let us note that this is not just a meal for you or me and ours – but for us, for all: all peoples, all nations, every person. Our friends, our enemies too, please God.

The Lord’s love has no limits such as ours might.But it seeks to win for itself everyone, everywhere, however unlikely that might seem on the track record to date of we ourselves and our enemies.

Whoever and however we are, the prophesy of Isaiah, and the Gospel of today, suggests that we will find ourselves invited to this feast on God’s holy mountain. But unless we are tuned into and ready to be responsive to the graciousness of God we might not find ourselves there for very long!

Direction sign. Cinematheque, Paris. (c) 2006, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Shepherd

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In the Lord’s own house shall I dwell for ever and ever.

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.

In the Lord’s own house shall I dwell for ever and ever.

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.

In the Lord’s own house shall I dwell for ever and ever.

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

In the Lord’s own house shall I dwell for ever and ever.

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.

In the Lord’s own house shall I dwell for ever and ever.

Responsorial Psalm for the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Psalm 22:1-6

As sheep to the shepherd, so we are to the Lord.

Except that the shepherd cares for his flock to take from it his living – wool, milk, meat, each in their proper time.

What does the Lord receive from his care of us? Only the pleasure of caring for us.

How precious we are to the Lord!

Detail from Altar. Sacred Heart, Aston. (c) 2016, Allen Morris.

 

Speak Lord: Mature, and choose service…

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I know how to be poor and I know how to be rich too. I have been through my initiation and now I am ready for anything anywhere: full stomach or empty stomach, poverty or plenty. There is nothing I cannot master with the help of the One who gives me strength. All the same, it was good of you to share with me in my hardships. In return my God will fulfil all your needs, in Christ Jesus, as lavishly as only God can. Glory to God, our Father, for ever and ever. Amen.

Second reading for the 28th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Philippians 4:12-14,19-20

One of the challenges faced by many adult Catholic Britons is that we have received the Sacraments of Initiation but have not (yet!) been well initiated into the Christian life. The lack of formation for maturity in our individual and collective lives in the Church leads to a certain immaturity in us, and likewise in the way the Church itself is in its hierarchical life and its institutions.

Our grasp on the Tradition and our ability to live to it manifests itself in many ways. But one is in a certain tendency to imitate the way that power is held and exercised in the world – by what I/we have and what you/they lack. It leads to ‘authority over’, rather than ‘authority for’.

Paul, mature in faith, chooses service as his way of exercising power, a service which is costly and challenging – it leads him to indifference about the things of the world, But it allows him to bring life and freedom to others.

Church of the Beatitudes, Galilee. (c) 2017, Allen Morris.