Taste and See: Light of the world

Canticle, SDThe concluding prayers of yesterday’s Mass, the 4th Sunday in Lent, repay our dwelling on them a little more.

They pick up themes from the readings of the Mass, perhaps especially from the Gospel of the day.

The Prayer over the People, has been given a new prominence in the 3rd edition of the Roman Missal. It is a welcome addition, an extra reminder that we leave Mass not now relying on our own strength only, or even especially. We leave nourished by Christ in the sacrament of the Sacrifice, and assisted by the unfailing love and light of God.

 

 

Prayer after Communion

O God, who enlighten everyone who comes into this world,
illuminate our hearts, we pray,
with the splendour of your grace,
that we may always ponder
what is worthy and pleasing to your majesty
and love you in all sincerity.
Through Christ our Lord.

________

Prayer over the People

Look upon those who call to you, O Lord,
and sustain the weak;
give life by your unfailing light
to those who walk in the shadow of death,
and bring those rescued by your mercy from every evil
to reach the highest good.
Through Christ our Lord.

Amen.

At the Easter Vigil we light the Easter Fire and Paschal Candle, and our own individual candles, celebrating the Resurrection and our share in the Rising of Christ through baptism.

Today consider where in your life you need that light to shine:

  • where to give guidance
  • where to comfort and warm
  • where to be a sign of hope and love.

Bring your needs and thanks to God in prayer.

Photograph of stained glass window in convent of San Damiano, Assisi, commemorating St Francis and the Canticle of Creation. (c) 2014, Allen Morris.

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Speak Lord: Of your love for us

Creación_de_Adán_(Miguel_Ángel) 1

The second reading for the 4th Sunday of Lent in Year B comes from St Paul’s letter to the Church at Ephesus.

It is supremely encouraging, assuring of God’s treasuring of us.

God loved us with so much love that he was generous with his mercy: when we were dead through our sins, he brought us to life with Christ – it is through grace that you have been saved – and raised us up with him and gave us a place with him in heaven, in Christ Jesus.

This was to show for all ages to come, through his goodness towards us in Christ Jesus, how infinitely rich he is in grace. Because it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith; not by anything of your own, but by a gift from God; not by anything that you have done, so that nobody can claim the credit. We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus to live the good life as from the beginning he had meant us to live it.

Ephesians 2:4-10

The image from the Sistine Chapel, of the creation of Adam, reminds of the beauty of creation. It also reminds of the marring of creation by sin, and its recovery and restoration by grace,  God’s gift.

As we make our way through Lent, perhaps struggling, let us know afresh that we do not journey alone.

The Lord is with us, or maybe more accurately yet, we are with him as he works for us. Our striving after good is an attempt to keep company with the God who – strange to say – loves us and works for us!

Rejoice and give thanks!

Sistine chapel

 

– – –

The second reading for the sequence of readings in Year A – an option for this year, and a required set of readings for when the second scrutiny is celebrated – is also from the letter to the Ephesians.

You were darkness once, but now you are light in the Lord; be like children of light, for the effects of the light are seen in complete goodness and right living and truth. Try to discover what the Lord wants of you, having nothing to do with the futile works of darkness but exposing them by contrast. The things which are done in secret are things that people are ashamed even to speak of; but anything exposed by the light will be illuminated and anything illuminated turns into light. That is why it is said:

Wake up from your sleep,
rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.

Ephesians 5:8-14

Frescoes by Michelangelo from the Sistine Chapel, Vatican City. Found here and here

Speak Lord: Of eternal life

Studying the Law, Cracow

There are two psalms that may be sung as the Responsorial Psalm on Sunday.

The first is for when the Lectionary for Year B is used, and that appears directly below. The second, which appears later in this blog, is used when the first Scrutiny is celebrated, by those communities who have the privilege of accompanying and supporting catechumens, now the Elect, who are preparing for Baptism at Easter.

You have the message of eternal life, O Lord.

The law of the Lord is perfect,
it revives the soul.
The rule of the Lord is to be trusted,
it gives wisdom to the simple.

The precepts of the Lord are right,
they gladden the heart.
The command of the Lord is clear,
it gives light to the eyes.

The fear of the Lord is holy,
abiding for ever.
The decrees of the Lord are truth
and all of them just.

They are more to be desired than gold,
than the purest of gold
and sweeter are they than honey,
than honey from the comb.

You have the message of eternal life, O Lord.

Psalm 18:8-11

In the rush of modern life – how many things, in how many places, and with what groups of people do you have to deal today? – being still and pondering the love and acts of God is ever more important.

This pondering of Law and Gospel, Prophets and Writings can take place in liturgy, in prayer, in meditation: in each, according to their different modes, set ourselves to listen, admire, wonder, taste. hope, and re-commit ourselves to faithfulness…

Without this pondering and listening we are adrift, subject to our own fancies. With it we are held safe – still with much to do ourselves, but with divine assistance in everything.

O that today you would listen to his voice! ‘Harden not your hearts.’

Come, ring out our joy to the Lord;
hail the rock who saves us.
Let us come before him, giving thanks,
with songs let us hail the Lord.

Come in; let us bow and bend low;
let us kneel before the God who made us:
for he is our God and we
the people who belong to his pasture,
the flock that is led by his hand.

‘Harden not your hearts as at Meribah,
as on that day at Massah in the desert
when your fathers put me to the test;
when they tried me, though they saw my work.’

O that today you would listen to his voice! ‘Harden not your hearts.’

Psalm 94:1-2,6-9

Photograph of art work in Jewish Museum in Cracow, Poland. (c) 2013, Allen Morris.

CAFOD Lent Fast Day

stjohnswoodblog

CAFOD Lent fast day

On Sunday, we were reminded of tomorrow’s Lent Fast Day. We heard the story of Kyin Nu who lives in a small jungle village in Myanmar and how through CAFOD we have been able to help her. If you want to read the story again, click the following link: CAFOD Lent talk 2015

Do remember that this year the Government is matching our donations to CAFOD pound for pound – donations made online or in your parish collection.

If you are able to make out a standing order the first three months of that are matched, pound for pound also.

  • So, how will you fast tomorrow?
  • How will you make your fast a time for prayer and reflection. (One suggestion might be to quietly re=read the story of Kyin Nu and her community, and pray for them and all in need.)
  • Will you make a donation to CAFOD? A one-off donation, or…

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Speak Lord: Of the unspeakable…

Abraham and Isaac York

The first reading on Sunday comes from the book of Genesis, and is one of the most morally troubling of text. How does one judge God to be in this story? And how does Abraham come out of it all?

God put Abraham to the test. ‘Abraham, Abraham’ he called. ‘Here I am’ he replied. ‘Take your son,’ God said ‘your only child Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. There you shall offer him as a burnt offering, on a mountain I will point out to you.’

When they arrived at the place God had pointed out to him, Abraham built an altar there, and arranged the wood. Then he bound his son Isaac and put him on the altar on top of the wood. Abraham stretched out his hand and seized the knife to kill his son.

But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven. ‘Abraham, Abraham’ he said. ‘I am here’ he replied. ‘Do not raise your hand against the boy’ the angel said. ‘Do not harm him, for now I know you fear God. You have not refused me your son, your only son.’ Then looking up, Abraham saw a ram caught by its horns in a bush. Abraham took the ram and offered it as a burnt-offering in place of his son.
The angel of the Lord called Abraham a second time from heaven. ‘I swear by my own self – it is the Lord who speaks – because you have done this, because you have not refused me your son, your only son, I will shower blessings on you, I will make your descendants as many as the stars of heaven and the grains of sand on the seashore. Your descendants shall gain possession of the gates of their enemies. All the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by your descendants, as a reward for your obedience.’

Genesis 22:1-2,9-13,15-18

  • Does God intend ‘only’ to test Abraham? If so is it a legitimate thing for God to do?
  • Can there be any justification for Abraham’s being willing to sacrifice his son? Can ‘just following orders’ be an acceptable response for such an action?

Abraham is no stranger to morally ambiguous behaviour. If you have forgotten this about our ‘father in faith’ do re-read the relevant chapters of Genesis. But note how in those cases his behaviour regularly becomes subject of the narrative. Here, in the (purposed) sacrifice of his son, he is simply, bravely (?), righteously (?), doing what God asks.

The book of Job warns us against judging God. Yet how can we not, if we are to do justice to our humanity?

This  passage pushes us to the limits. It stands as testimony to the unspeakable which is so regular an experience in human society: think Sophie’s Choice; think of the countless other situations where people find themselves faced by appalling choices.

Pray for them.

Otherwise we who merely listen and watch can but listen, notice, and be grateful that for us the moment passes…

 Carving of Abraham and Isaac, York Minster. Photograph (c) 2007, Allen Morris

 

Taste and See: Sharing the meal

Evry 2

The second reading  at Mass, on the Sunday of week 5 in Ordinary time, came from St Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians.

I do not boast of preaching the gospel, since it is a duty which has been laid on me; I should be punished if I did not preach it! If I had chosen this work myself, I might have been paid for it, but as I have not, it is a responsibility which has been put into my hands. Do you know what my reward is? It is this: in my preaching, to be able to offer the Good News free, and not insist on the rights which the gospel gives me.

So though I am not a slave of any man I have made myself the slave of everyone so as to win as many as I could. For the weak I made myself weak. I made myself all things to all men in order to save some at any cost; and I still do this, for the sake of the gospel, to have a share in its blessings.

1 Corinthians 9:16-19,22-23

Paul’s life has been changed by the Gospel. Now he makes of himself servant to invite others to come to find nourishment and newness in the gift of the Risen Lord.

Once an obstacle for believers, now he strives to be the opposite.

In our words, in our actions, the same calling is ours: the same privilege. Putting self second, or third, or fourth, to assist others to the glorious love and compassion of God

Photograph is of the Blessed Sacrament chapel, Cathedral of Evry, France. (c) 2015, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: through your humblest servant, speak…

St Paul 14C

The second reading reading at tomorrow’s Mass, that of the Sunday of week 5 in Ordinary time, comes from St Paul’s letter to the Corinthians.

I do not boast of preaching the gospel, since it is a duty which has been laid on me; I should be punished if I did not preach it! If I had chosen this work myself, I might have been paid for it, but as I have not, it is a responsibility which has been put into my hands. Do you know what my reward is? It is this: in my preaching, to be able to offer the Good News free, and not insist on the rights which the gospel gives me.

So though I am not a slave of any man I have made myself the slave of everyone so as to win as many as I could. For the weak I made myself weak. I made myself all things to all men in order to save some at any cost; and I still do this, for the sake of the gospel, to have a share in its blessings.

1 Corinthians 9:16-19,22-23

Paul exercises his humility and servitude, in his service of the Gospel or-  put another way – in his service of those who have not yet heard the Gospel.

As Jesus came to share the Good News for love of the world and in obedience to his Father, so Paul in obedience to the Lord and for the love and care of everyone

  • What do you do through love of God and neighbour that you might not do otherwise?
  • What other responsibilities might God entrust to you?
  • Are there things you do ‘for God and neighbour’ that come more from pride than from obedience?

Photograph is of 14th C wood carving of St Paul, from the Basilica of St Paul outside the Walls, Rome. (c) 2014, Allen Morris.