Taste and Faith: Faith, hope and ?

faith-hope-charity

Almighty ever-living God,
increase our faith, hope and charity,
and make us love what you command,
so that we may merit what you promise.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Amen.

The Collect at Mass on Sunday, the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, reminds us of the virtues of faith, hope and love.

Those virtues are still most commonly known in Catholic discourse as faith., hope and love. The trio comes from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians – the famous hymn to love of 1 Corinthians 13. But the trio has been rendered differently in the most recent translation of the Missal the Greek work ‘agape’ is translated into Latin as ‘caritas‘, and that word is now rendered in the Missal bythe cognate word ‘charity’.

Interestingly in the new Scripture translation proposed by the Bishops of England and Wales for our use at Mass – Revised Standard Version, 2nd Catholic edition, 2010 – it seems that in 1 Corinthians 13 ‘agape’ will continue to be translated as ‘love’.

Be that as it may, the alternative translation used in the Missal for the present makes us pause and ponder what is meant by ‘charity’, and indeed by ‘love’. No bad thing, for both words come under stress and strain in our everyday talk – as perhaps they ever have and will, until we possess and live them fully in Christ.

That increase in all three virtues is what we prayed for on Sunday, and it remains a fitting prayer for today also.

  • In what way do you hope for your faith to be increased? And your hope? And your charity?

Faith, Hope and Charity. Tewkesbury Abbey. (c) 2016, Allen Morris

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Speak Lord: That we may be love

PrayerThe Second reading at Mass on the 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time, i.e. this coming Sunday, speaks to us of  love and the works of love.

Be ambitious for the higher gifts. And I am going to show you a way that is better than any of them.

If I have all the eloquence of men or of angels, but speak without love, I am simply a gong booming or a cymbal clashing. If I have the gift of prophecy, understanding all the mysteries there are, and knowing everything, and if I have faith in all its fullness, to move mountains, but without love, then I am nothing at all. If I give away all that I possess, piece by piece, and if I even let them take my body to burn it, but am without love, it will do me no good whatever.

Love is always patient and kind; it is never jealous; love is never boastful or conceited; it is never rude or selfish; it does not take offence, and is not resentful. Love takes no pleasure in other people’s sins but delights in the truth; it is always ready to excuse, to trust, to hope, and to endure whatever comes.

Love does not come to an end. But if there are gifts of prophecy, the time will come when they must fail; or the gift of languages, it will not continue for ever; and knowledge – for this, too, the time will come when it must fail. For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophesying is imperfect; but once perfection comes, all imperfect things will disappear.

When I was a child, I used to talk like a child, and think like a child, and argue like a child, but now I am a man, all childish ways are put behind me. Now we are seeing a dim reflection in a mirror; but then we shall be seeing face to face. The knowledge that I have now is imperfect; but then I shall know as fully as I am known.
In short, there are three things that last: faith, hope and love; and the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13

St Paul praises the virtues and he calls us to be ambitious for them.

Ambition is not always seen as a virtue. Too often our assessment of ambition is coloured by experience of those who are greedy for the vices. But ambition to achieve virtue, to achieve virtue in virtuous ways, is always a good thing, and good for us to aim at. Not least because in aiming for faith hope and love, and seeking to achieve them/ receive them by faithful, hopeful, loving living makes us more like Christ. And our efforts will surely be rewarded by his gifts.

  • What of love do you lack?
  • Where do you see that quality expressed best in others?
  • How might you seek to make that quality more your own in your daily living and relationship with God and neighbour?

At Prayer. Church of the Holy Name, Manchester. (c) 2016, Allen Morris.

Taste and see: Preparing for fasting

CorinthThe second reading proclaimed at Mass yesterday, on the Sunday of the 6th week in Ordinary time, came from Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians.

Whatever you eat, whatever you drink, whatever you do at all, do it for the glory of God. Never do anything offensive to anyone – to Jews or Greeks or to the Church of God; just as I try to be helpful to everyone at all times, not anxious for my own advantage but for the advantage of everybody else, so that they may be saved. Take me for your model, as I take Christ.

1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1

Fasting is arguably the aspect of Lent that has proved to linger longest in the secular and non-practicing mind. ‘What are you giving up for Lent?’

The answer commonly used to be smoking, more recently ‘drinking’, now the usual answer seems to be chocolate!

The reading from Corinthians reminds that Paul is mindful in his eating and drinking of how it impacts one others.

Giving up smoking, drinking or chocolate seems most likely to be done with a view to the health of our own lungs, liver, waistline or sugar-levels. Doubtless worth thinking about, and love of self is part of the triad of loves – God, neighbour and self – encouraged by Jesus.

But love and care of self alone is not what Lent is about. So, how will your fasting help draw you closer to God? And deepen your love of neighbour?

Photograph of archaeological site: site of ancient Corinth.  (c) 2006, Allen Morris.

 

Taste and See: Free from care? Fit for the Lord?

Wedding, Aix

In the Second reading at Mass yesterday, the 4th Sunday in Ordinary time, St Paul spoke of being free from worry, so as to focus everything on the Lord.

I would like to see you free from all worry.

An unmarried man can devote himself to the Lord’s affairs, all he need worry about is pleasing the Lord; but a married man has to bother about the world’s affairs and devote himself to pleasing his wife: he is torn two ways.

In the same way an unmarried woman, like a young girl, can devote herself to the Lord’s affairs; all she need worry about is being holy in body and spirit. The married woman, on the other hand, has to worry about the world’s affairs and devote herself to pleasing her husband.

I say this only to help you, not to put a halter round your necks, but simply to make sure that everything is as it should be, and that you give your undivided attention to the Lord.

1 Corinthians 7:32-35

The opposition between pleasing the Lord and pleasing a spouse is rather a simplistic one, and at least potentially wrong-headed.

It is certain that one way of pleasing the Lord is in the fruitful creativeness of family life, with mutual support and encouragement helping parents and children learn and achieve holiness of life. Pleasing others and pleasing the Lord are not at odds with other.

However carelessness and selfishness, and obsessiveness – with regard to the Lord, or  spouse, family or worldly matters – can  lead people to lose their way in life. The family, the spouse, the world and we ourselves are not ends in ourselves. We are gifts of God, and gifts to be ‘used’ lovingly and gratefully as we also grow in relationship with God.

In most Christian traditions space is also found for acknowledging and supporting a healthy renunciation of the gift of marriage to follow a ‘religious’ vocation, usually in the context of a religious ‘family’ (be that the presbyterate of a local Church or a religious community or congregation). Such a life can be more singly focussed on pleasing the Lord, but rarely is the living of that religious ‘family’ life without its cares and worries too. Though, as in ‘natural’ families, those cares and worries, properly attended to, can be stepping stones to wholeness and holiness, making us still more pleasing to God, signs of his Glory.

 

Photograph of wedding in the church of St John of Malta, Aix en Provence. (c) 2014, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Free from fear, free from worry?

In the Second reading at Mass tomorrow, the 4th Sunday in Ordinary time, St Paul offers counsel to the Church at Corinth.

I would like to see you free from all worry. An unmarried man can devote himself to the Lord’s affairs, all he need worry about is pleasing the Lord; but a married man has to bother about the world’s affairs and devote himself to pleasing his wife: he is torn two ways. In the same way an unmarried woman, like a young girl, can devote herself to the Lord’s affairs; all she need worry about is being holy in body and spirit. The married woman, on the other hand, has to worry about the world’s affairs and devote herself to pleasing her husband. I say this only to help you, not to put a halter round your necks, but simply to make sure that everything is as it should be, and that you give your undivided attention to the Lord.

1 Corinthians 7:32-35

Maybe the most unhelpful thing you can say to someone worried, and fretted by worry, is to say ‘Don’t worry’!

What they need is, instead, a reason that worry is not helpful, and a strategy to give them another activity which can displace the worrying.

In 1 Corinthians Paul says don’t worry because the Lord is good and you are safe with him, and so you can safely give yourself over to love and service of him (which of course includes love and service of neighbour).

QED? Yes and no. Yes, for it is self-evidently true from the sound perspective of faith. No, because we struggle to live faithfully, and often enough need to try to learn daily some of its most fundamental truths – such as the love and faithfulness of God, and that we find ourselves most fully when we live lives inspired by and directed to the love and glory of God.

Paul, a great struggler, is our generous companion as we continue to try.

  • What worries you?
  • What do you think God has to say about the matter concerned, and your worry about it
  • Let your thoughts be the start of a time of reflection and bring the fruits of that to God in prayer.

Image (c) 2014, Allen Morris.