Speak Lord: Help us to hope

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‘Console my people, console them’
says your God.

‘Speak to the heart of Jerusalem
and call to her
that her time of service is ended,
that her sin is atoned for,
that she has received from the hand of the Lord
double punishment for all her crimes.’

A voice cries, ‘Prepare in the wilderness
a way for the Lord.
Make a straight highway for our God
across the desert.
Let every valley be filled in,
every mountain and hill be laid low.
Let every cliff become a plain,
and the ridges a valley;
then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed
and all mankind shall see it;
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’

Go up on a high mountain,
joyful messenger to Zion.
Shout with a loud voice,
joyful messenger to Jerusalem.
Shout without fear,
say to the towns of Judah,
‘Here is your God.’

Here is the Lord coming with power,
his arm subduing all things to him.
The prize of his victory is with him,
his trophies all go before him.
He is like a shepherd feeding his flock,
gathering lambs in his arms,
holding them against his breast
and leading to their rest the mother ewes.

First Reading for the Second Sunday Of Advent.
Isaiah 40:1-5,9-11

​The message is indeed joyful. Freedom and wholeness, liberation and mercy is offered to those who have known punishment and confi​nement, frustration and misery.

The Lord orders the prophet to offer this goodness, because it is for the betterment of his people.

Though our baptism we share in the prophetic ministry of Christ and his Church. We too are called to be ministers of consolation in the world, missionary disciples who do not only talk to each other, but go further to those others who are also part of God’s people.

The message is joyful, but sometimes the intended messengers are hesitant or even refuse.

  • On a scale of 1-10 with 10 highest, where would you place yourself on the scale. And why would you find yourself at that point?
  • Where would you put your parish in its response to the call of the Lord?

Photograph: At a caravanserai, east of Konya, Turkey. (c) 2014, Allen Morris.

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Speak Lord: Of new life

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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,
peace for his people.
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.

Responsorial Psalm for Second Sunday of Advent
Psalm 84(85):9-14

​it seems likely that many of us will gather for Mass tomorrow having made our ways through frost and snow.

The psalm we will sing  is redolent with the images and scents of spring, newness and freshness is promised and is promised for our flourishing.

We have known privation and suffering, but the time for that to end will come. And even now in the cold and the wet that hope lifts our spirits and gives us hope. ​

Photograph. Blossom at Abbey of Montserrat, Catalonia, Spain. (c) 2013, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Of your promise of newness

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There is one thing, my friends, that you must never forget: that with the Lord, ‘a day’ can mean a thousand years, and a thousand years is like a day. The Lord is not being slow to carry out his promises, as anybody else might be called slow; but he is being patient with you all, wanting nobody to be lost and everybody to be brought to change his ways. The Day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then with a roar the sky will vanish, the elements will catch fire and fall apart, the earth and all that it contains will be burnt up.

Since everything is coming to an end like this, you should be living holy and saintly lives while you wait and long for the Day of God to come, when the sky will dissolve in flames and the elements melt in the heat. What we are waiting for is what he promised: the new heavens and new earth, the place where righteousness will be at home. So then, my friends, while you are waiting, do your best to live lives without spot or stain so that he will find you at peace.

Second reading for Second Sunday of Advent
2 Peter 3:8-14

What wonders we wait for. Life is grace here and now and graced again and again. But but there is something more we wait and long for.

For here, now, life is marred too, again and again. And we wait for God who will bring that marring and miring to an end, and who offers to bring us and all to new and glorious life – ‘the place where righteousness will be at home’, and we too.

We advance the progress of that which is beyond this time and this place by seeking to live lovingly and well, to enjoy peace and share peace.

  • How might you do that today? And tomorrow?

Image is a detail from work by Žilvinas Kempinas displayed at the Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, 2016. (c) Allen Morris, 2016.

Speak Lord: News and Good!

 

DSC06301The beginning of the Good News about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is written in the book of the prophet Isaiah:

Look, I am going to send my messenger before you;
he will prepare your way.
A voice cries in the wilderness:
Prepare a way for the Lord, make his paths straight.

and so it was that John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. All Judaea and all the people of Jerusalem made their way to him, and as they were baptised by him in the river Jordan they confessed their sins. John wore a garment of camel-skin, and he lived on locusts and wild honey. In the course of his preaching he said, ‘Someone is following me, someone who is more powerful than I am, and I am not fit to kneel down and undo the strap of his sandals. I have baptised you with water, but he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.’

Gospel for the Second Sunday of Advent
Mark 1:1-8

It begins…

Ansd with what confidence and assurance Mark’s Gospel begins.

So much of the Gospel is concerned with challenge, failure, confusion and ambiguity, but there is no doubt that Mark is very clear about the importance of what he speaks and of whom he speaks. This is Gospel, and this is about the Son of God, and it is fulfilment of prophecy.

And the Gospel begins with ALL responding to John, welcoming the one who prepares the way, ALL of Judaea and ALL of Jerusalem make their way to him.

What follows in the 16 chapters of this the shortest Gospel demonstrates how hard it is for many of these to accept the newness of the Gospel and to let go of old ways that hide the glory of God and thwart his will.

As then, so now… We may find ourselves to be faithful to our religion and its expectations, but are we faithful to the love of God and neighbour? That’s the question.

  • So, are you, and how do you know?
  • If you are not, and are ashamed of that, then this is the Gospel for you, to encourage repentance and to instil fresh hope and even courage…

John the Baptist. St John Lateran, Rome. (c) 2016, Allen Morris

 

Speak Lord: Come Lord and save us…

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You, Lord, yourself are our Father,
‘Our Redeemer’ is your ancient name.
Why, Lord, leave us to stray from your ways
and harden our hearts against fearing you?
Return, for the sake of your servants,
the tribes of your inheritance.

Oh, that you would tear the heavens open and come down!
– at your Presence the mountains would melt.

No ear has heard,
no eye has seen
any god but you act like this
for those who trust him.
You guide those who act with integrity
and keep your ways in mind.
You were angry when we were sinners;
we had long been rebels against you.
We were all like men unclean,
all that integrity of ours like filthy clothing.
We have all withered like leaves
and our sins blew us away like the wind.
No one invoked your name
or roused himself to catch hold of you.
For you hid your face from us
and gave us up to the power of our sins.
And yet, Lord, you are our Father;
we the clay, you the potter,
we are all the work of your hand.

First reading for First Sunday of Advent
Isaiah 63:16-17,64:1,3-8

Israel has failed, and Israel complains: it is all God’s fault.

But at the same time Israel calls out to the Lord for help, and Israel admits her failings and acknowledges the squalor of her life.

We might wish to avoid laying the blame on God, but we do well as Advent begins to follow the example of Israel in humbly admitting our mess and our need for help.

  • For what do you ask help?
  • And why ask God?

Gutter, rain, leaves. St John’s Wood, 2014.

 

Speak Lord: hear us and lead us

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Lord of hosts, bring us back; let your face shine on us and we shall be saved.

O shepherd of Israel, hear us,
shine forth from your cherubim throne.
O Lord, rouse up your might,
O Lord, come to our help.

Lord of hosts, bring us back; let your face shine on us and we shall be saved.

God of hosts, turn again, we implore,
look down from heaven and see.
Visit this vine and protect it,
the vine your right hand has planted.

Lord of hosts, bring us back; let your face shine on us and we shall be saved.

May your hand be on the man you have chosen,
the man you have given your strength.
And we shall never forsake you again;
give us life that we may call upon your name.

Lord of hosts, bring us back; let your face shine on us and we shall be saved.

Responsorial Psalm for the first Sunday of Advent
Psalm 79:2-3,15-16,18-19

As Advent begins we do well to ask what do we need saving from, healing of. What do we turn from and what do we look for help to turn to?

The goodness and love of God calls us to wholeness and love. And we will see that in the paradox of the new-born in the poverty of a stable in Bethlehem.

In our often more comfortable and well-worn-in environment, what keeps us from wholeness? What keeps us from love?

The psalmist urges us to join in a prayer to God to help us, guide us, lead us, save us.

Set by Isla Shaw for Act One of Importance of Being Earnest. Birmingham Rep. September 2016. (c) 2016, Allen Morris.

 

 

Speak Lord: Grace and Peace

DSC04658 Cathedral Marseille

May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ send you grace and peace.

I never stop thanking God for all the graces you have received through Jesus Christ. I thank him that you have been enriched in so many ways, especially in your teachers and preachers; the witness to Christ has indeed been strong among you so that you will not be without any of the gifts of the Spirit while you are waiting for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed; and he will keep you steady and without blame until the last day, the day of our Lord Jesus Christ, because God by calling you has joined you to his Son, Jesus Christ; and God is faithful.

Second reading for the first Sunday of Advent
1 Corinthians 1:3-9

We have received grace upon grace and yet Paul prays, as we pray for more.

These spiritual gifts, grace, peace, are gifts that we can never do without, and are never called to do without. There are many, many things which seek to draw us from grace, and many, many that threaten to rob us of peace. Yet, these gifts come from God and if we are rooted in him they can never be taken from us.

Sometimes we may let them slip: we may place them in jeopardy, or letting them go find ourselves in trouble. And double the trouble by looking elsewhere than to God for the recovery of the gifts lost…

Advent offers us a time of quiet recollection as we face the darkest days of the year to recollect the coming of the light that is never-ending, and his gifts that are ours for evermore, if we will accept them, again, and again…

  • Where is grace and peace absent in your life? Why?
  • Pray for their restoration.
  • Thank God for his steadfastness.

Cathedral, Marseille. (c) 2013, Allen Morris.