Speak Lord: hold us close…

Jazz, Negresco Nice 2013

Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you.

O God, be gracious and bless us
and let your face shed its light upon us.
So will your ways be known upon earth
and all nations learn your saving help.

Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you.

Let the nations be glad and exult
for you rule the world with justice.
With fairness you rule the peoples,
you guide the nations on earth.

Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you.

Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you.
May God still give us his blessing
till the ends of the earth revere him.

Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you.

Psalm 66:2-3,5-6,8

The Responsorial Psalm for the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time

The readings of this coming Sunday all in their different ways deal with the diversity of God’s people and the call for them to know the new unity they are to discover in him.

The psalmist says that the way to this unity is to be found in the experience of the Lord’s face shining on us – a revelation of intimacy with the divine, and a revelation of love and compassion.

From that profound new beginning begins a process of renewal of broken human kind. The Book of Genesis tells the story of the alienation of the peoples of the world from God and from each other. All that follows in the Bible seeks to remind us that this is not how it was meant to be or needs to be.

And so the psalmist sings his prayer, and so we join our voices to that prayer…

Jazz, Negresco, Nice, France. (c) 2013, Allen Morris


Speak Lord: source of love for all

Ancient Agora of Athens from Areopagus Hill

Let me tell you pagans this: I have been sent to the pagans as their apostle, and I am proud of being sent, but the purpose of it is to make my own people envious of you, and in this way save some of them. Since their rejection meant the reconciliation of the world, do you know what their admission will mean? Nothing less than a resurrection from the dead! God never takes back his gifts or revokes his choice.

Just as you changed from being disobedient to God, and now enjoy mercy because of their disobedience, so those who are disobedient now – and only because of the mercy shown to you – will also enjoy mercy eventually. God has imprisoned all men in their own disobedience only to show mercy to all mankind.

Romans 11:13-15,29-32
The Second reading for 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Paul continues the reflection on the place of ‘pagans’ and ‘Jews’ in the Church. Last week we heard him heartbroken at the lack of response of his co-religionists to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Now he speaks to the non-Jews to whom he, in particular, has been sent. He urges them to rejoice at God’s generosity, but not to think that this comes at the cost of the Jews.

Schadenfreude has no place in the Kingdom. Let us take our pleasure only in what is good and best!

The ancient Agora of Athens, from the hill of the Areopagus. (c) 2006, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: but listen first…

DSC00117 WOman of Sidon, St Nicholas Chapel, Kings Lynn, 2016

Jesus left Gennesaret and withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. Then out came a Canaanite woman from that district and started shouting, ‘Sir, Son of David, take pity on me. My daughter is tormented by a devil.’ But he answered her not a word. And his disciples went and pleaded with him. ‘Give her what she wants,’ they said ‘because she is shouting after us.’

He said in reply, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.’ But the woman had come up and was kneeling at his feet. ‘Lord,’ she said ‘help me.’ He replied, ‘It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the house-dogs.’ She retorted, ‘Ah yes, sir; but even house-dogs can eat the scraps that fall from their master’s table.’

Then Jesus answered her, ‘Woman, you have great faith. Let your wish be granted.’ And from that moment her daughter was well again.

Matthew 15:21-28

Gospel for the 2oth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Does Jesus speak so curtly because he wants to draw this astonishing retort from the woman, that so ably demonstrates her human dignity, and wit? Or does he not yet have a more ample understanding of his mission than here he admits to?

The uncertainty remains unresolved in Matthew’s narrative. Perhaps it is enough that by the end of this incident, we breathe in relief that, yes, the Lord does know and does respond to her need and her faith.

If he responds so to her, maybe there is hope for us too?

Stained glass. St Nicholas Chapel, Kings Lynn. (c) 2016, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Balm for our souls

DSC05326 Liverpool Cathedral 2016

Let us see, O Lord, your mercy, and give us your saving help.

I will hear what the Lord God has to say,
a voice that speaks of peace.
His help is near for those who fear him
and his glory will dwell in our land.

Let us see, O Lord, your mercy, and give us your saving help.

Mercy and faithfulness have met;
justice and peace have embraced.
Faithfulness shall spring from the earth
and justice look down from heaven.

Let us see, O Lord, your mercy, and give us your saving help.

The Lord will make us prosper
and our earth shall yield its fruit.
Justice shall march before him
and peace shall follow his steps.

Let us see, O Lord, your mercy, and give us your saving help.

Psalm 84:9-14

Responsorial Psalm for the 19th Sunday of Ordinary Time.

As we strive to make the most of life in this world, again and again we find ourselves confused and disoriented; our best motives can be so mixed.

But when we look to the Lord, and allow ourselves space to listen and learn, what a difference we find. How much help and clarity we find. Not immediately, not always: but in time a new way opens for us that is a way of mercy and love: his way for us to follow…

Stained glass. Liverpool Cathedral. (c) 2016, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Saviour

DSC01319 Spilled Blood 2015

Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side while he would send the crowds away. After sending the crowds away he went up into the hills by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, while the boat, by now far out on the lake, was battling with a heavy sea, for there was a head-wind. In the fourth watch of the night he went towards them, walking on the lake, and when the disciples saw him walking on the lake they were terrified. ‘It is a ghost’ they said, and cried out in fear.

But at once Jesus called out to them, saying, ‘Courage! It is I! Do not be afraid.’ It was Peter who answered. ‘Lord,’ he said ‘if it is you, tell me to come to you across the water.’ ‘Come’ said Jesus. Then Peter got out of the boat and started walking towards Jesus across the water, but as soon as he felt the force of the wind, he took fright and began to sink. ‘Lord! Save me!’ he cried. Jesus put out his hand at once and held him. ‘Man of little faith,’ he said ‘why did you doubt?’

And as they got into the boat the wind dropped. The men in the boat bowed down before him and said, ‘Truly, you are the Son of God.’

Matthew 14:22-33

Gospel for the 19th Sunday of Ordinary Time 

One more it is Peter who is the fall guy in the story – and this time, one with a sinking feeling. It is Peter who comes forward strong in faith and then finds himself overcome by fear and doubt.

It is comforting to think that it might well have been Peter that told the story against himself, and in honour of the Lord who came here, as always, to his aid.

Inevitably for one reason or another we stumble and fail, and do it again and again. How helpful that the scriptures are full of stories and teachings that our shortcomings are never allowed to be the end of the story for us or for others.

  • What fear or failing might you bring to the Lord, even for this first time, for his counsel and consolation?

Cathedral of Spilled Blood, St Petersburg. (c) Allen Morris, 2015.

Speak Lord: King of all

DSC03731 Worcester Cathedral

The Lord is king, most high above all the earth.

The Lord is king, let earth rejoice,
let all the coastlands be glad.
Cloud and darkness are his raiment;
his throne, justice and right.

The Lord is king, most high above all the earth.

The mountains melt like wax
before the Lord of all the earth.
The skies proclaim his justice;
all peoples see his glory.

The Lord is king, most high above all the earth.

For you indeed are the Lord
most high above all the earth,
exalted far above all spirits.

The Lord is king, most high above all the earth.

Psalm 96:1-2,5-6,9

Responsorial Psalm for the Feast of the Transfiguration

The two poles for Christian experience of God are the utterly transcendent and the profoundly imminent: God is entirely other and also wholly present.

The heavens symbolise this. They cover and embrace us and everywhere we look – and yet rooted on earth however high we reach we cannot touch.

These two poles of experience are made one in Christ – fully human and born of a woman; and fully divine, Son of the Father, begotten and not made.

In his love he reaches out to draw to draw us into a new communion of love.

Transfiguration. Worcester Cathedral. (c) 2017, Allen Morris



Speak Lord: To us, again…

DSC05717 St Peter's 2016

It was not any cleverly invented myths that we were repeating when we brought you the knowledge of the power and the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ; we had seen his majesty for ourselves. He was honoured and glorified by God the Father, when the Sublime Glory itself spoke to him and said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; he enjoys my favour.’ We heard this ourselves, spoken from heaven, when we were with him on the holy mountain.

So we have confirmation of what was said in prophecies; and you will be right to depend on prophecy and take it as a lamp for lighting a way through the dark until the dawn comes and the morning star rises in your minds.

2 Peter 1:16-19

Second reading for the Feast of the Transfiguration.

The ultimate reality on which the Christian faith rests is the reality of God – without whom there would be no us, no nothing. Most everything else that we want to say about God has a symbolic and metaphoric quality about it. Our language and our discourse about God and us strives to be true but under the strain of trying to encompass and express the divine and transcendent it cracks.

‘It’s myth’; ‘Just fairy stories’; ‘Prove it really happened!’ The disbelieving reactions are many and not always that polite. And though there is much we can point to – historical records, the testimony of others, finally all these things can be challenged or ignored. At the end we take our stand with Peter. We know the truth of God through our experience of him.

We may not have had such powerful experience as Peter and his companions did at the Trasfiguration, but those moments of encounter and experience that we have had, and the community which has had such experience and lives by it, sustain us, and we move on all the better for what sustains us.

Mosaic. St Peter's Rome. (c) 2016, Allen Morris.