Taste and See: the comfort of care

Motherly care

The psalm given for the first Sunday of Lent encourages us to trust, puts words of confidence and hope on our lips.

Be with me, O Lord, in my distress.

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
and abides in the shade of the Almighty
says to the Lord: ‘My refuge,
my stronghold, my God in whom I trust!’

Be with me, O Lord, in my distress.

Upon you no evil shall fall,
no plague approach where you dwell.
For you has he commanded his angels,
to keep you in all your ways.

Be with me, O Lord, in my distress.

They shall bear you upon their hands
lest you strike your foot against a stone.
On the lion and the viper you will tread
and trample the young lion and the dragon.

Be with me, O Lord, in my distress.

His love he set on me, so I will rescue him;
protect him for he knows my name.
When he calls I shall answer: ‘I am with you,’
I will save him in distress and give him glory.

Be with me, O Lord, in my distress.

Psalm 90:1-2,10-15

The Lord does not always take away our distress, our loss, our suffering. And even if they do go we are left with something of their effects.

Sometimes people turn from God because they pray for an end of suffering for themselves or others and it does not come. Sometimes the worst happens. As it has always done.

But even in this we can know salvation; and in this we can know care. Like a wounded child, held, tended in a parents’ arms. Sometimes our carer cannot make the bad thing go away, sometimes our carer knows the more important thing is for us to learn to cope with this or that.

There are no easy answers to the ‘problem’ of suffering, but the answer to our experience of it, is the tenderness and care of God.

Painting of Pieta, San Jeronimo monastery, Granada. (c) 2014, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: Care and Protection

Holy Family Liverpool

The Collect on Sunday, the 5th Sunday of Ordinary Time,  had us lay claim to our identity as members of the family of God, and ask the God Jesus taught us to know as Father to show us care and keep us safe:

Keep your family safe, O Lord, with unfailing care,
that, relying solely on the hope of heavenly grace,
they may be defended always by your protection.
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.

At every time there are things which threaten us and from which we need protecting.

As we approach the season of Lent it is perhaps especially valuable to take a little time to identify for ourselves, and then place before God, the things which threaten our well-being and for which we do need God’s protection.

Carving of the Holy Family. Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral. (c) 2016, Allen Morris

Taste and See: The Lord’s love and care

Altar, San Jeronimo, GranadaOn Sunday, the 29th Sunday of Ordinary Time, the Communion Antiphon encourages to make of our Communion an opportunity to give thanks for God’s care of us.

Behold, the eyes of the Lord
are on those who fear him,
who hope in his merciful love,
to rescue their souls from death,
to keep them alive in famine.

Cf. Ps 32: 18-19

There are times – for some many times and long times – when we look anywhere but to the Lord. There are sadly times, and many times when the actions and attitudes of others can keep us from the Lord. And yet in it all the Lord looks to those who know and love him (the original sense of ‘fear’ in the psalm). And, surely, in his compassion he looks especially on those who (in our common sense) fear the Lord, who are so ‘lost’ or hurt, that they dare not approach, or know not even that they are invited to.

  • Who do you know who is frightened?
  • How might you extend to them the compassion of God?
  • How does your parish reach out to those who experience themselves as marginalised in society, and by the Church?
  • What are your fears? And who reaches out to you?

Altar at San Jeronimo, Granada, Spain. (c) 2014, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Of healing and cleansing…

Hazard

The first reading on Sunday, the 6th Sunday of Ordinary Time, places the experience of sickness in the context of religion and the community.

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, ‘If a swelling or scab or shiny spot appears on a man’s skin, a case of leprosy of the skin is to be suspected. The man must be taken to Aaron, the priest, or to one of the priests who are his sons.

‘The man is leprous: he is unclean. The priest must declare him unclean; he is suffering from leprosy of the head. A man infected with leprosy must wear his clothing torn and his hair disordered; he must shield his upper lip and cry, “Unclean, unclean.” As long as the disease lasts he must be unclean; and therefore he must live apart: he must live outside the camp.’

Leviticus 13:1-2,44-46

Sadly, the response of religion, here, is to exclude the sick person from the community.

Self-exclusion for the sake of others may well be a generous and self-sacrificing act, but if we impose exclusion on others for our (presumed) well-being it can be a deadly and selfish thing – not working for the good of society, but leading to its disintegration.

In the UK today the sick, the elderly and the disabled are excluded, so often. We may not make them cry out ‘Unclean, unclean’, but their place in society is often unsecure and so the security and health of our society made less secure.

The present debates about the NHS and social care, about euthanasia and the like reveal so much about our priorities and values. And society presently seems rather shabby and careless.

The saying that it takes a village to raise a child, has something to teach us about people’s experience at other stages in life too, when they cannot cope alone.  When they cannot cope? Or when we cannot cope… ?

  • For who do you show care?
  • Who shows care for you?

Bring your thoughts and feelings to God in prayer.

Taste and See: Sustained by love

 

Healing

The Gospel for Sunday’s Mass of Christ the King gave great emphasis to the importance of the works of mercy.

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.’

Matthew 25:31-46

The works of mercy are of course beautiful works, pleasing to God and of great benefit to neighbour – and to those who carry them out.

But they are also, often, exhausting.

When we find that observation to be compelling in its truth, it is good to remember that this is how the Lord ministers to us. And not only to the point of exhaustion but to his very death.

In our hungers and thirsts, in our alienation and aloneness, when we are exposed, imprisoned by sin, the Lord comes to us and ministers to us. Whether things are true about and for us in their usual literal sense or true in a metaphorical sense – the Lord ministers to us (astounding but true.) He calls us to life and to wholeness in him.

Photograph is of the healing of the paralytic by Jesus. The carving features on one of the pillars built over the house of Peter in Capernaum. (c) 2013, Allen Morris.

Taste and see: Loving shepherd

St Martin Brum

The first reading at yesterday’s Mass of Christ the King speaks of the Lord’s personal and abiding care for his flock..

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.

Ezekiel 34:11-12,15-17

The particular and personal care that the Lord promises to take echoes the particular and personal care of neighbour that Jesus applauded and rewarded in the parable of the Last Judgement which was heard in yesterday’s Gospel.

One way in which the Lord fulfils his promise to love and care is through the work of his Body, those disciples made one with him through the sacrament of Baptism and sustained in that unity with him through Confirmation and Eucharist, restored to it through Penance (Confession).

    • How might you do Christ’s work today?

Photograph of carving of St Martin coming to the aid of a beggar. Detail of doorway of St Martin’s in the Bullring, Birmingham. (c) 2014, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Of Judgement and Life

Last Judgement, NOtre Dame

The Gospel for today’s Mass of Christ the King is the great parable of the great judgement.

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.’

Matthew 25:31-46

There are many ways in which judgement could be exercised. But here the concern of the Lord is about the quality of love, the stepping out from our own needs to care for neighbour, in which – it is revealed – we show care for the Lord.

  • As the Church year comes to an end, look back, take stock, where have you shown care for others?
  • Where have others shown care for you?

Given thanks and make a new (Church) year resolution to be even more generous in your response to those in need.

Photograph is of Judgement as portrayed in the West Door of Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris. (c) 2013, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Good Shepherd

Duncan Grant

This Sunday is the last of the Church’s year, and is the feast of Christ the King. The first reading speaks of the Lord’s personal and abiding care not only for the flock, but each member of it.

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.

Ezekiel 34:11-12,15-17

He cares, and yet there is judgement too.
His ministry does not do all things for the flock. We are invited to play our part.
As human beings we are better equipped to do this – for the most part. We can (often) respond to the caring, growing, developing, fulfilling our potential. We can share in the caring. And we can express our thanks for it in many, many, ways.

  • What help do I need? And does he offer?
  • What care can I show?

Photograph of painting by Duncan Grant from chancery chapel at Lincoln Cathedral. (c) 2012, Allen Morris.