Taste and See: Alive

St Francis

In the Gospel reading in Sunday, the 14th in Ordinary Time, Jesus sent the disciples out, en masse, and in pairs, for their first work ‘without’ him. He called them to clear focus and firm discipline.

They learnt to minister from a position of vulnerability, relying on nothing but their confidence in the goodness of God, the closeness of the reign or kingdom of God, and their power to share that goodness with others.

And they succeed spectacularly.

Freed from the compulsions that so often condition our choices to act or not act; freed from self, they themselves do spectacular work.

 

The Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them out ahead of him, in pairs, to all the towns and places he himself was to visit. He said to them, ‘The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest. Start off now, but remember, I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Carry no purse, no haversack, no sandals. Salute no one on the road.

‘Whatever house you go into, let your first words be, “Peace to this house!” And if a man of peace lives there, your peace will go and rest on him; if not, it will come back to you. Stay in the same house, taking what food and drink they have to offer, for the labourer deserves his wages; do not move from house to house.

‘Whenever you go into a town where they make you welcome, eat what is set before you. Cure those in it who are sick, and say, “The kingdom of God is very near to you.” But whenever you enter a town and they do not make you welcome, go out into its streets and say, “We wipe off the very dust of your town that clings to our feet, and leave it with you. Yet be sure of this: the kingdom of God is very near.” I tell you, on that day it will not go as hard with Sodom as with that town.’

The seventy-two came back rejoicing. ‘Lord,’ they said ‘even the devils submit to us when we use your name.’ He said to them, ‘I watched Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Yes, I have given you power to tread underfoot serpents and scorpions and the whole strength of the enemy; nothing shall ever hurt you. Yet do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you; rejoice rather that your names are written in heaven.’

Luke 10:1-12,17-20

At the heart of the passage from the Gospel is the gift of peace – a peace the disciples, for all their poverty, are able to give.

It is a gift that those who receive it already have, at least in some sense. ‘If a man of peace lives there, your peace will go and rest on him…’

The communion in peace establishes or perhaps more accurately recognises the bonds that already unite disciple and those to whom they are sent, demonstrates that indeed the kingdom is very near.

Too often that unity is compromised by suspicion and  labels of ‘otherness’. But resistance is relaxed by the gentle presence of the disciples and the sharing of the foundational teaching of Jesus.

And suddenly the kingdom is somewhat closer, and the family of God somewhat healthier, enlivened and happier! United with each other, and united with God.

St Francis, Assisi. (c) 2015, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Our Way

 

Francis Cross

The Gospel on Sunday, the 12th in Ordinary Time, explores Jesus’ identity and ministry; his relationship to God; and our relationship with Jesus.

One day when Jesus was praying alone in the presence of his disciples he put this question to them, ‘Who do the crowds say I am?’ And they answered, ‘John the Baptist; others Elijah; and others say one of the ancient prophets come back to life.’ ‘But you,’ he said ‘who do you say I am?’ It was Peter who spoke up. ‘The Christ of God’ he said. But he gave them strict orders not to tell anyone anything about this.

‘The Son of Man’ he said ‘is destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes and to be put to death, and to be raised up on the third day.’

Then to all he said, ‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross every day and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, that man will save it.’

Luke 9:18-24

Jesus symbolises our communion with him with our being invited to renounce ourselves and take up our cross, every day, and following. His language has been adopted by others and used to dominate and diminish those in their charge and ‘care’.

Yet it is in that saying no to self, and being faithful to the cross, daily, that makes Jesus who and what he is for us – making him not death and diminishment but life and love and truth.

The image of the cross – as well as its historical aptness, given the manner of Jesus death – does highlight the public nature of the choices we make, and their personal cost to us.

But in that choice we find ourselves, and accomplish our potential, and find fulfilment in that and our communion with God and neighbour.

  • What about following Jesus challenges you?
  • What draws you to try?

 

Fresco at Basilica of St Francis, Assisi. (c) 2014, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Father of all

Assisi sunsetThe first reading for today’s feast, the Solemnity of All Saints, comes from one of the Church’s Easter books, the Book of Revelation or the Apocalypse.

It is a reading from a book of powerful images, evoking truths beyond the mundane. The particular images we hear today are of those saved from eternal death…

I, John, saw another angel rising where the sun rises, carrying the seal of the living God; he called in a powerful voice to the four angels whose duty was to devastate land and sea, ‘Wait before you do any damage on land or at sea or to the trees, until we have put the seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.’ Then I heard how many were sealed: a hundred and forty-four thousand, out of all the tribes of Israel.

After that I saw a huge number, impossible to count, of people from every nation, race, tribe and language; they were standing in front of the throne and in front of the Lamb, dressed in white robes and holding palms in their hands. They shouted aloud, ‘Victory to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’ And all the angels who were standing in a circle round the throne, surrounding the elders and the four animals, prostrated themselves before the throne, and touched the ground with their foreheads, worshipping God with these words, ‘Amen. Praise and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honour and power and strength to our God for ever and ever. Amen.’

One of the elders then spoke, and asked me, ‘Do you know who these people are, dressed in white robes, and where they have come from?’ I answered him, ‘You can tell me, my lord.’ Then he said, ‘These are the people who have been through the great persecution, and they have washed their robes white again in the blood of the Lamb.’

Apocalypse 7:2-4,9-14

Making particular interpretation of the visions is an activity fraught with difficulties, and cultural history is peppered with with cults and sects who have made this work central to their beliefs and practice.

At this anniversary time of the promulgation of Nostra Aetate, let it suffice to suggest that although John sees a number beyond counting of Christians from every nation, race, tribe and language he also sees 144000 (12x12x1000) – a symbolic ‘great’ number of the people of Israel, Jewss who have been faithful, descendants of Abraham, our Father in faith too, but theirs first.

Counting has its place, but more important yet is thanksgiving. How pitiful are we if we seek to belittle the holiness of brothers and sisters in the family of God because of their nation, race, tribe, language, or faith.

  • What do you most admire in the faith and practice of, for example, Jews and Muslims?
  • What most challenges you about your own faith and practice, inviting you to that which draws you to holiness?

Give thanks for the love of God whose power, glory and love offers renewal to us all.

Photograph of Assisi: one of this world’s city of saints. (c) 2014, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Light come into the world

San DamianoThe regular Gospel reading for the 4th Sunday of Lent, in Year B, comes from the Gospel of John. Again, as befits, Laetare Sunday, Rejoice Sunday (named for the first word of the day’s opening antiphon), the Gospel is full of hope and promise.

So too is the Gospel for this Sunday in Year A, optional in Year B and mandated when the Second Scrutiny is celebrated. That Gospel is given at the end of this blog.

Jesus said to Nicodemus:

‘The Son of Man must be lifted up
as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert,
so that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.
Yes, God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost
but may have eternal life.
For God sent his Son into the world
not to condemn the world,
but so that through him the world might be saved.
No one who believes in him will be condemned;
but whoever refuses to believe is condemned already,
because he has refused to believe in the name of God’s only Son.
On these grounds is sentence pronounced:
that though the light has come into the world
men have shown they prefer darkness to the light
because their deeds were evil.
And indeed, everybody who does wrong
hates the light and avoids it,
for fear his actions should be exposed;
but the man who lives by the truth comes out into the light,
so that it may be plainly seen that what he does is done in God.’

John 3:14-21

The gospel passage refers back to the episode recorded in the Book of Numbers when Israel during its desert wanderings was beset by dragon-like snakes, whose death killed. God told Moses to raise a bronze serpent on a standard and said that all who were bitten and looked on it would be saved. (Numbers 21: 4-9)  The passage has echoes of the Devil as serpent in the story of Adam and Eve and the first sin: it also looks forward to the raising on the cross of the Son of God, in whom we find freedom from sin and death.

We hear the Gospel as we journey through the 40 days of Lent, remembering Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness. Maybe we moan and groan. The Gospel reminds us we are called to light and freedom, and that we are called there for life and love.

San D chapel

  • Take heart… Easter will be with us very soon now.
  • Take stock… know how you are loved and give thanks.

Photographs are of the Cross of San Damiano, the cross from which Jesus spoke to St Francis. The first photo shows the original cross, now in the church of S. Chiara in Assisi, and the second shows a replica but in the original chapel of San Damiano. (c) 2014, Allen Morris.

– – –

As Jesus went along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, for him to have been born blind?’ ‘Neither he nor his parents sinned,’ Jesus answered ‘he was born blind so that the works of God might be displayed in him.

‘As long as the day lasts
I must carry out the work of the one who sent me;
the night will soon be here when no one can work.
As long as I am in the world
I am the light of the world.’

Having said this, he spat on the ground, made a paste with the spittle, put this over the eyes of the blind man, and said to him, ‘Go and wash in the Pool of Siloam’ (a name that means ‘sent’). So the blind man went off and washed himself, and came away with his sight restored.
His neighbours and people who earlier had seen him begging said, ‘Isn’t this the man who used to sit and beg?’ Some said, ‘Yes, it is the same one.’ Others said, ‘No, he only looks like him.’ The man himself said, ‘I am the man.’ So they said to him, ‘Then how do your eyes come to be open?’ ‘The man called Jesus’ he answered ‘made a paste, daubed my eyes with it and said to me, “Go and wash at Siloam”; so I went, and when I washed I could see.’ They asked, ‘Where is he?’ ‘I don’t know’ he answered.

They brought the man who had been blind to the Pharisees. It had been a sabbath day when Jesus made the paste and opened the man’s eyes, so when the Pharisees asked him how he had come to see, he said, ‘He put a paste on my eyes, and I washed, and I can see.’ Then some of the Pharisees said, ‘This man cannot be from God: he does not keep the sabbath.’ Others said, ‘How could a sinner produce signs like this?’ And there was disagreement among them. So they spoke to the blind man again, ‘What have you to say about him yourself, now that he has opened your eyes?’ ‘He is a prophet’ replied the man. However, the Jews would not believe that the man had been blind and had gained his sight, without first sending for his parents and asking them, ‘Is this man really your son who you say was born blind? If so, how is it that he is now able to see?’ His parents answered, ‘We know he is our son and we know he was born blind, but we do not know how it is that he can see now, or who opened his eyes. He is old enough: let him speak for himself.’ His parents spoke like this out of fear of the Jews, who had already agreed to expel from the synagogue anyone who should acknowledge Jesus as the Christ. This was why his parents said, ‘He is old enough; ask him.’

So the Jews again sent for the man and said to him, ‘Give glory to God! For our part, we know that this man is a sinner.’ The man answered, ‘I don’t know if he is a sinner; I only know that I was blind and now I can see.’ They said to him, ‘What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?’ He replied, ‘I have told you once and you wouldn’t listen. Why do you want to hear it all again? Do you want to become his disciples too?’ At this they hurled abuse at him: ‘You can be his disciple,’ they said ‘we are disciples of Moses: we know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.’ The man replied, ‘Now here is an astonishing thing! He has opened my eyes, and you don’t know where he comes from! We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners, but God does listen to men who are devout and do his will. Ever since the world began it is unheard of for anyone to open the eyes of a man who was born blind; if this man were not from God, he couldn’t do a thing.’ ‘Are you trying to teach us,’ they replied ‘and you a sinner through and through, since you were born!’ And they drove him away.

Jesus heard they had driven him away, and when he found him he said to him, ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’ ‘Sir,’ the man replied ‘tell me who he is so that I may believe in him.’ Jesus said, ‘You are looking at him; he is speaking to you.’ The man said, ‘Lord, I believe’, and worshipped him.

Jesus said:

‘It is for judgement
that I have come into this world,
so that those without sight may see
and those with sight turn blind.’

Hearing this, some Pharisees who were present said to him, ‘We are not blind, surely?’ Jesus replied:

‘Blind? If you were,
you would not be guilty,
but since you say, “We see,”
your guilt remains.’

John 9:1-41

Taste and See: Love making

Lorenzetti, Washing of feet

The Prayer after Communion on Sunday, the 33rd of the Year, merits closer reflection than it likely received during its first praying.

We have partaken of the gifts of this sacred mystery,
humbly imploring, O Lord,
that what your Son commanded us to do
in memory of him
may bring us growth in charity.
Through Christ our Lord.

There is a strong sense here of the relationship between worship and mission, between the Eucharist, the Body of Christ, and the Church, also the Body of Christ.

The prayer reminds that Mass is not first and foremost about the change of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, but the change of the assembly, that they may be more fully and more actively Christ in the world. Love calls us to more lovely be.

  • Where is Christ needed today – in your world?
  • How might you be Christ there.

In John’s Gospel the narrative of the Last Supper describes not the breaking of bread and sharing of the cup, but the washing of feet. Do this in memory of me, ‘I have give you an example that you also should do just as I have done to you.’ The photograph is of a fresco by Pietro Lorenzetti in the (lower) Basilica of St Francis in Assisi (c) Allen Morris, 2014.