Speak Lord: Through us that others might hear…

St Isaac Spirit

Tomorrow is the feast of Pentecost, the last day of the Easter Season. The first reading at Mass tells of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the disciples gathered in the Upper Room. At Jesus’ baptism the Spirit appeared in the form of a dove. Now the Spirit appears as flames of fire, enabling speech in all the languages of the world.

When Pentecost day came round, they had all met in one room, when suddenly they heard what sounded like a powerful wind from heaven, the noise of which filled the entire house in which they were sitting; and something appeared to them that seemed like tongues of fire; these separated and came to rest on the head of each of them. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak foreign languages as the Spirit gave them the gift of speech.

Now there were devout men living in Jerusalem from every nation under heaven, and at this sound they all assembled, each one bewildered to hear these men speaking his own language. They were amazed and astonished. ‘Surely’ they said ‘all these men speaking are Galileans? How does it happen that each of us hears them in his own native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; people from Mesopotamia, Judaea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya round Cyrene; as well as visitors from Rome – Jews and proselytes alike – Cretans and Arabs; we hear them preaching in our own language about the marvels of God.’

Acts 2:1-11

 

The whole world learns of the Good News from the few, inspired by the love and power of God. Something new is brought about through God’s gift and the cooperation of men of good will.

  • How does your work, your life, continue the work of witness to the Lord.
  • How do you help intensify the value of that witness?
  • How might you hamper it?

St Isaac’s Cathedral, St Petersburg. (c) 2015, Allen Morris.

 

Taste and See: Care for each other, in the Spirit

St Paul Ambrosi

The first reading on Sunday, the 6th of Easter, came from The Acts of the Apostles. It exemplifies the seeking after peace, the living in mutual love, that Jesus invites his friends to in the Gospel of Sunday.

The life of the Gospel is not without its tensions. Acts testifies to that. Disciples face all sorts of challenge as they seek to be faithful to Jesus as the Way, Truth and Life, and respond to the circumstances in which they live, and the differences and awkwardnesses they face within and without the Christian community. But Acts demonstrates that authentic Christianity is a work in progress that prevails, because it is a work that is sustained by God, secure in the Spirit of God.

Some men came down from Judaea and taught the brothers, ‘Unless you have yourselves circumcised in the tradition of Moses you cannot be saved.’ This led to disagreement, and after Paul and Barnabas had had a long argument with these men it was arranged that Paul and Barnabas and others of the church should go up to Jerusalem and discuss the problem with the apostles and elders.
Then the apostles and elders decided to choose delegates to send to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; the whole church concurred with this. They chose Judas known as Barsabbas and Silas, both leading men in the brotherhood, and gave them this letter to take with them:

‘The apostles and elders, your brothers, send greetings to the brothers of pagan birth in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia. We hear that some of our members have disturbed you with their demands and have unsettled your minds. They acted without any authority from us; and so we have decided unanimously to elect delegates and to send them to you with Barnabas and Paul, men we highly respect who have dedicated their lives to the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accordingly we are sending you Judas and Silas, who will confirm by word of mouth what we have written in this letter. It has been decided by the Holy Spirit and by ourselves not to saddle you with any burden beyond these essentials: you are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols; from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from fornication. Avoid these, and you will do what is right. Farewell.’

Acts 15:1-2,22-29

  • What non-essential burdens hobble progress to Christian unity in your community?
  • What positive actions to show love to others has your community taken recently?
  • What more might be done?

St Paul, da Forli, Vatican Museum. (c) 2016, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Of striving in faith

Holy Door John Lateran II

The First reading at Mass today, the 5th Sunday of Easter, reminds of the struggle to live faithfully, to grapple with the experience of hardships.

Paul and Barnabas went back through Lystra and Iconium to Antioch. They put fresh heart into the disciples, encouraging them to persevere in the faith. ‘We all have to experience many hardships’ they said ‘before we enter the kingdom of God.’ In each of these churches they appointed elders, and with prayer and fasting they commended them to the Lord in whom they had come to believe.

They passed through Pisidia and reached Pamphylia. Then after proclaiming the word at Perga they went down to Attalia and from there sailed for Antioch, where they had originally been commended to the grace of God for the work they had now completed.
On their arrival they assembled the church and gave an account of all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith to the pagans.

Acts 14:21-27

This unity between Paul and Barnabas will not last much longer: they will argue over how to pursue the mission, and what resources from the Church they can draw on. Hardships and struggles come from without and from within, but in faith, and in Christ, the mission continues…

  • What are your present hardships?
  • What have you struggled with in the past?
  • Where is God opening doors in the life of those around you.

Detail of the Holy Door, St John Lateran. (c) 2016, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Our strength and hope

I have dreamed...

The first reading at Mass today sees the Apostles strong in the Spirit, preaching the Good News, the kerygma, of God’s love and mercy offered in Christ.

Their teaching sets them at odds with the society around them. Sounds familiar? Read on…

The high priest demanded an explanation of the Apostles. ‘We gave you a formal warning’ he said ‘not to preach in this name, and what have you done? You have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and seem determined to fix the guilt of this man’s death on us.’ In reply Peter and the apostles said, ‘Obedience to God comes before obedience to men; it was the God of our ancestors who raised up Jesus, but it was you who had him executed by hanging on a tree. By his own right hand God has now raised him up to be leader and saviour, to give repentance and forgiveness of sins through him to Israel. We are witnesses to all this, we and the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.’ They warned the apostles not to speak in the name of Jesus and released them. And so they left the presence of the Sanhedrin glad to have had the honour of suffering humiliation for the sake of the name.

Acts 5:27-32,40-41

And now, live as they lived….

 

Claude Lévêque. J’ai rêvé d’un autre monde. In the Collection Lambert, Avignon. (c) 2015, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: that we may witness to you

St Peter baptised gentiles

The first reading at Mass today comes from the ‘Easter book’ – the account of the first days and years following the Resurrection, of the early church and its development – the Acts of the Apostles.

Peter addressed Cornelius and his household: ‘You must have heard about the recent happenings in Judaea; about Jesus of Nazareth and how he began in Galilee, after John had been preaching baptism. God had anointed him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and because God was with him, Jesus went about doing good and curing all who had fallen into the power of the devil.

Now I, and those with me, can witness to everything he did throughout the countryside of Judaea and in Jerusalem itself: and also to the fact that they killed him by hanging him on a tree, yet three days afterwards God raised him to life and allowed him to be seen, not by the whole people but only by certain witnesses God had chosen beforehand.

Now we are those witnesses – we have eaten and drunk with him after his resurrection from the dead – and he has ordered us to proclaim this to his people and to tell them that God has appointed him to judge everyone, alive or dead. It is to him that all the prophets bear this witness: that all who believe in Jesus will have their sins forgiven through his name.’

Acts 10:34,37-43

The Acts of the Apostles tells of the Church, but of course as the passage today shows, it tells of the continuing work of Jesus in his Church.

It tells of men and women who respond to Jesus, risen from the dead, and the impact that has on their lives, of the impact that he has on the lives of those who respond to him.

  • What draws you to faith?
  • How/when do you see Jesus active in your life?

 

 

Taste and See: admitting our faults…

Ascension stare

The first reading on Ascension Sunday was the first verses of one of the Church’s ‘Easter’ books, the Acts of the Apostles.

In my earlier work, Theophilus, I dealt with everything Jesus had done and taught from the beginning until the day he gave his instructions to the apostles he had chosen through the Holy Spirit, and was taken up to heaven. He had shown himself alive to them after his Passion by many demonstrations: for forty days he had continued to appear to them and tell them about the kingdom of God. When he had been at table with them, he had told them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for what the Father had promised. ‘It is’ he had said ‘what you have heard me speak about: John baptised with water but you, not many days from now, will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.’

Now having met together, they asked him, ‘Lord, has the time come? Are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He replied, ‘It is not for you to know times or dates that the Father has decided by his own authority, but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and then you will be my witnesses not only in Jerusalem but throughout Judaea and Samaria, and indeed to the ends of the earth.’

As he said this he was lifted up while they looked on, and a cloud took him from their sight. They were still staring into the sky when suddenly two men in white were standing near them and they said, ‘Why are you men from Galilee standing here looking into the sky? Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven, this same Jesus will come back in the same way as you have seen him go there.’

Acts 1:1-11

The disciples are privileged in being so close to the Lord, but in their being transfixed, gawping, they do not present so admirable a set of figures.

But probably neither do we, on many occasions.

Christians are greatly privileged in many ways, but we also have our faults and flaws, as individuals and as communities. They are probably unavoidable, at least this side of heaven, and if they keep us humble, they probably serve us well, as we seek to serve others.

The Ascension, Medjugorge, Apparations Hill

  • What are your abiding faults?
  • How do they assist you in your sharing in the Lord’s mission?
  • How do they hamper you?

Photographs are details of the Rosary Station: The Ascension (Hill of the Apparitions, Medjugorje). (c) 2014, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Make us one

Beatitudes2The First reading at Mass on Sunday, the 6th Sunday of Easter, reminds of the fundamental equality of all people in the eyes of God.

As Peter reached the house Cornelius went out to meet him, knelt at his feet and prostrated himself. But Peter helped him up. ‘Stand up,’ he said ‘I am only a man after all!’

Then Peter addressed them: ‘The truth I have now come to realise’ he said ‘is that God does not have favourites, but that anybody of any nationality who fears God and does what is right is acceptable to him.’

While Peter was still speaking the Holy Spirit came down on all the listeners. Jewish believers who had accompanied Peter were all astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit should be poured out on the pagans too, since they could hear them speaking strange languages and proclaiming the greatness of God. Peter himself then said, ‘Could anyone refuse the water of baptism to these people, now they have received the Holy Spirit just as much as we have?’ He then gave orders for them to be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ. Afterwards they begged him to stay on for some days.

Acts 10:25-26,34-35,44-48

Christians are children of God, members of the new People, not to confer on us a new and particular dignity, but to entrust to us a new and particular mission. We are called to build up the family of God, a family comprising all peoples, of all types and sorts.

In Christ there is no Jew or Greek, male or female, slave or free. We are simply called to be one as He is One.

 

Taste and See: the challenge of the new

St Paul 14C

The first reading on Sunday, the 5th Sunday of Easter, Came from the book the Church especially listens to during the Easter season, the Acts of the Apostles. The book witnesses to the newness of life in the Spirit, but also, as here, suggests that there was also something in those early days that could be both brutal and brutalising.

When Saul got to Jerusalem he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him: they could not believe he was really a disciple. Barnabas, however, took charge of him, introduced him to the apostles, and explained how the Lord had appeared to Saul and spoken to him on his journey, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. Saul now started to go round with them in Jerusalem, preaching fearlessly in the name of the Lord. But after he had spoken to the Hellenists, and argued with them, they became determined to kill him. When the brothers knew, they took him to Caesarea, and sent him off from there to Tarsus.

Acts 9:26-31

Were it not for his ‘exile’, perhaps Paul’s mission to the Gentiles would not have got underway. Maybe, too, the Church in the Holy Land needed a certain ‘recovery’ time.

  • Where are we in this? What do we proclaim, teach, espouse?
  • What is the effect on us and others?
  • How do we take responsibility for our way forward? Our own way forward, and theirs?

Carving of St Paul, St Paul outside the Walls. (c) 2014, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Let us know our strengths and weaknesses.

Peter and Paul II

The first reading on Sunday, the 5th Sunday of Easter, gives a certain insight to the tensions that challenged the early Church. Saul had once persecuted the Church: now a Christian he faces death – yes, death – at the hand of other Christians. ‘Peace’ is only achieved by packing Saul off to modern day Turkey!

When Saul got to Jerusalem he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him: they could not believe he was really a disciple. Barnabas, however, took charge of him, introduced him to the apostles, and explained how the Lord had appeared to Saul and spoken to him on his journey, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. Saul now started to go round with them in Jerusalem, preaching fearlessly in the name of the Lord. But after he had spoken to the Hellenists, and argued with them, they became determined to kill him. When the brothers knew, they took him to Caesarea, and sent him off from there to Tarsus.

The churches throughout Judaea, Galilee and Samaria were now left in peace, building themselves up, living in the fear of the Lord, and filled with the consolation of the Holy Spirit.

Acts 9:26-31

In the absence of Paul, it is Peter who is the key figure in the ‘liberalisation’ of the Christian community, helping shed some of the customs and laws of Judaism, opening the Church directly to Gentiles.

The ‘exile’ does not prevent the mission of Paul, maybe it even helps focus it and empower it.

Maybe the absence of Paul opens up a space in the leadership that Peter rises to in a new way, and forces him to exercise the discernment proper to the leadership of the Church.

  • Where has reversal helped you?
  • Where has it hindered you?
  • When has it been best to flee?
  • When to fight?

Bring the fruits of your reflection to the Lord in prayer.

Photograph of early Christian memorial plaque, Vatican Museum. (c) 2005, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Of your life and love

Sarcophagus, Cathedral, Aix 2014

The First reading at Mass on 4th Sunday of Easter continues our reading of Acts of the Apostles.

The story is about them: their focus is him.

Filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter said: ‘Rulers of the people, and elders! If you are questioning us today about an act of kindness to a cripple, and asking us how he was healed, then I am glad to tell you all, and would indeed be glad to tell the whole people of Israel, that it was by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, the one you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by this name and by no other that this man is able to stand up perfectly healthy, here in your presence, today. This is the stone rejected by you the builders, but which has proved to be the keystone. For of all the names in the world given to men, this is the only one by which we can be saved.’

Acts 4:8-12

At the end of this day, your day – the day given you by the Lord – spend some time reviewing how it has gone. How have you received and lived the day? Where have you found yourself enjoying the salvation of the Lord? Where – in kindness, love, healing and reconciliation – have you been able to share it with others?

Detail of carved Sarcophagus, Arles. Photograph (c) 2014, Allen Morris.