Taste and See: How great a gift

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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 First Sunday of Advent
1 Corinthians 1:3-9

Jesus Christ: for whom we long, and who gives himself to us constantly. The Christmas present that is ours new everyday – and yet the gift which, too often, we risk leaving unwrapped.

  • Note, today, how Jesus comes to you through the day, speaking love and challenge to you in the various circumstances of the day.
  • At the end of the day, consider you received and responded to the gift that is the Giver who keeps giving.

Ethiopian Art: Musee Quai de Branly, Paris (c) 2017, Allen Morris.

 

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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

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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.

 

 

Speak Lord: Wake us up!

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Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Be on your guard, stay awake, because you never know when the time will come. It is like a man travelling abroad: he has gone from home, and left his servants in charge, each with his own task; and he has told the doorkeeper to stay awake. So stay awake, because you do not know when the master of the house is coming, evening, midnight, cockcrow, dawn; if he comes unexpectedly, he must not find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake!’

Gospel for the 1st Sunday of Advent
Mark 13:33-37

With all the noise of the secular Xmas going on around us, even the the idea of the opportunity to sleep our way through the coming weeks might seem like a distant dream.

But Jesus calls us to a spiritual awaking, an awareness of the presence and the call of God who is always and everywhere with us.

In this first weeks of Advent the focus of the Church’s Liturgy tends towards the anticipated Second Coming of Jesus Christ at the end of time. But in between the First Coming of  the Incarnation and Nativity, and the Second Coming there is the abiding presence of Jesus Christ to us, not least (as we were reminded in last Sunday’s Gospel in our neighbour and especially those in need).

HMS Belfast, London. (c) 2009, Allen Morris

 

Taste and See: Stumbling to love

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Jesus said to his disciples: ‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, escorted by all the angels, then he will take his seat on his throne of glory. All the nations will be assembled before him and he will separate men one from another as the shepherd separates sheep from goats. He will place the sheep on his right hand and the goats on his left.

‘Then the King will say to those on his right hand, “Come, you whom my Father has blessed, take for your heritage the kingdom prepared for you since the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you made me welcome; naked and you clothed me, sick and you visited me, in prison and you came to see me.” Then the virtuous will say to him in reply, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you; or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and make you welcome; naked and clothe you; sick or in prison and go to see you?” And the King will answer, “I tell you solemnly, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me.”

‘Next he will say to those on his left hand, “Go away from me, with your curse upon you, to the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you never gave me food; I was thirsty and you never gave me anything to drink; I was a stranger and you never made me welcome, naked and you never clothed me, sick and in prison and you never visited me.” Then it will be their turn to ask, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty, a stranger or naked, sick or in prison, and did not come to your help?”

Then he will answer, “I tell you solemnly, in so far as you neglected to do this to one of the least of these, you neglected to do it to me.”

‘And they will go away to eternal punishment, and the virtuous to eternal life.’

Gospel for Solemnity of Christ the King
Matthew 25:31-46

Jesus says to those he condemns. You NEVER came, you NEVER fed me. The Lord is not waiting to catch us out. We may fail, will fail from time to time, to respond to the invitations and opportunities to care for those in need. When we recognise the failing, the missed opportunity, we will often be ashamed.

But the Lord rejoices in the good we do and try to do. He comes to win us for life, not to condemn us to eternal punishment. One good deed, lovingly performed, counts for a good deal! And from it we might learn not to miss other opportuniteis. Win, win! For us and our neighbour…

Copy of mosaic of The Judgement from Ravenna. In collection of Hermitage, St Petersburg, Russia. (c) 2015, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: Love and care…

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The Lord says this: I am going to look after my flock myself and keep all of it in view. As a shepherd keeps all his flock in view when he stands up in the middle of his scattered sheep, so shall I keep my sheep in view. I shall rescue them from wherever they have been scattered during the mist and darkness. I myself will pasture my sheep, I myself will show them where to rest–it is the Lord who speaks. I shall look for the lost one, bring back the stray, bandage the wounded and make the weak strong. I shall watch over the fat and healthy. I shall be a true shepherd to them.

As for you, my sheep, the Lord says this: I will judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and he-goats.

First reading for the Solemnity of Christ the King
Ezekiel 34:11-12,15-17

That we might matter to God somewhat, perhaps we can accept fairly easily.

But that we might matter so much that he has given such thought to how he might care for us and make us safe:

I shall keep my sheep in view.

I shall rescue them from wherever they have been scattered during the mist and darkness.

I myself will pasture my sheep, I myself will show them where to rest–it is the Lord who speaks.

I shall look for the lost one, bring back the stray, bandage the wounded and make the weak strong. I shall watch over the fat and healthy.

I shall be a true shepherd to them.

All this for us. Imagine…

The Good Shepherd. Collection of the Hermitage, St Petersburg, Russia. (c) 2015, Allen Morris.