Speak Lord: Master of all we survey….

Ampleforth blossomThe responsorial Psalm for Sunday, the Baptism of the Lord, reminds of the glory and wonder of God. it also reminds of our dependence and contingency.

Bless the Lord, my soul! Lord God, how great you are. 

Lord God, how great you are,
clothed in majesty and glory,
wrapped in light as in a robe!
You stretch out the heavens like a tent.

Bless the Lord, my soul! Lord God, how great you are.

Above the rains you build your dwelling.
You make the clouds your chariot,
you walk on the wings of the wind,
you make the winds your messengers
and flashing fire your servant.

Bless the Lord, my soul! Lord God, how great you are.

How many are your works, O Lord!
In wisdom you have made them all.
The earth is full of your riches.
There is the sea, vast and wide,
with its moving swarms past counting,
living things great and small.

Bless the Lord, my soul! Lord God, how great you are.

All of these look to you
to give them their food in due season.
You give it, they gather it up:
you open your hand, they have their fill.

Bless the Lord, my soul! Lord God, how great you are.

You hide your face, they are dismayed;
you take back your spirit, they die.
You send forth your spirit, they are created;
and you renew the face of the earth.

Bless the Lord, my soul! Lord God, how great you are.

Psalm 103:1-4,24-25,27-30

In the turning of seasons we are often more aware than usual of the vastness of creation, and the enormity of the changes in the natural world.

The changes in our emotional, more, intellectual lives are often great too. SOmetimes they can lead us closer to God, sometimes they seem to lead us away from him.

  • Where do you find yourself now?
  • What is moving/changing?
  • What is remaining the same?

Spring Blossom. Ampleforth Abbey. (c) 2006, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: Renovation

At Work.jpgThe Gospel reading yesterday, the second Sunday of Advent, spoke of healing and being made new. It spoke to the exile and alienation of the People of God, and of all people. It offered hope and wholeness.

In the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar’s reign, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judaea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of the lands of Ituraea and Trachonitis, Lysanias tetrach of Abilene, during the pontificate of Annas and Caiaphas the word of God came to John son of Zechariah, in the wilderness. He went through the whole Jordan district proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the sayings of the prophet Isaiah:

‘A voice cries in the wilderness:
Prepare a way for the Lord,
make his paths straight.
Every valley will be filled in,
every mountain and hill be laid low,
winding ways will be straightened
and rough roads made smooth.
And all mankind shall see the salvation of God.’

Luke 3:1-6

The Bible is, necessarily, a book that makes great use of metaphor.

In our day, talk of ‘Every valley being filled in, every mountain and hill  laid low, winding ways straightened, and rough roads made smooth.’ might have us wondering about the planning applications that would need to be made and the protests about safeguarding the environment. And quite right too.

However think of the objections we raise when we ourselves are called to reform and renewal. Often they are a misguided form of self-protection, not helping us but keeping us at a (sadly) safe distance from God’s healing and newness and mercy.

The metaphor of highway building is just that, a metaphor. The real change needed, offered, is in us that we might be helped to come closer to God’s presence, helped to be re-fashioned in the image of his Son. That this might happen to us as individuals and as Church.

How we hesitate, how we seeks to frustrate the plan. How we need a Year of Mercy.

  • What do you fear?
  • What do you hope for?
  • Where are God’s plans in all this?

Photo. Work site in Vancouver. (c) 2008, Allen Morris.

 

Speak Lord: Change and resistance

Good Shepherd NazThe start of an alternative approach:

Normally Living Eucharist posts the scripture passages used at Sunday Mass in the order they are heard on a Sunday. It makes immediate sense to observe that same pattern – the order of the scriptures (for it will be usually Old Testament followed by New Testament), and the order of the Liturgy.

However the selection of readings is determined by the Gospel, and most clearly so in Ordinary time when (except for any influence exerted by the particular passage and coincidence) there is no overall theme for the Sunday readings. It is fairly said that unless you know , in advance, what the Gospel reading is you may find yourself struggling a little with the import of the first reading, which will have no direct connection with the first reading or Gospel of the week before. The disadvantage of knowing the Gospel and hearing the first reading only as a precusor to the Gospel reading is that it reduces it to ‘an illustration’ or ‘context’ and robs it of its own integrity as scripture.

Swings and roundabouts come to mind. But by way of an experiment for the next while the order of postings leading up to Sunday will be reversed. The Thursday posting will be of the Gospel, and the Sunday posting of the First reading, usually an Old Testament reading.

Comments are welcome!

The Gospel reading for Mass on Sunday, the 14th Sunday of the Year, comes from the Gospel of Mark.

Jesus returns to his home town. He has caused something of a stir over recent days, as he has travelled the land. Now he’s back home…

Jesus went to his home town and his disciples accompanied him. With the coming of the sabbath he began teaching in the synagogue and most of them were astonished when they heard him.

They said, ‘Where did the man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been granted him, and these miracles that are worked through him? This is the carpenter, surely, the son of Mary, the brother of James and Joset and Jude and Simon? His sisters, too, are they not here with us?’ And they would not accept him.

And Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is only despised in his own country, among his own relations and in his own house’; and he could work no miracle there, though he cured a few sick people by laying his hands on them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.

Mark 6:1-6

Change is often hard to take. Especially change which challenges the status quo.

Nazareth cannot accept what Jesus offers, because it cannot accept it from Jesus.

And yet under the surface rejection, some turn to him. The goodness of God and the ministry of Jesus has its effect, even if it begins in a hidden way, beneath the surface.

  • What of the gospel do you resist and why?
  • What signs might there be of the gospel winning out, even our your reticence?

Mosaic from the Basilica of the Annunciation, Nazareth. (c) 2012, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: And renew the face of the earth… and us!

Orantes and Spirit, Rome 2002

The Responsorial Psalm on Sunday has us sing out for change and renewal.

Most of us, apparently, find, change difficult, except under certain very controlled circumstances. So will we mean what we sing?

Send forth your spirit, O Lord, and renew the face of the earth or Alleluia!

Bless the Lord, my soul!
Lord God, how great you are,
How many are your works, O Lord!
The earth is full of your riches.

Send forth your spirit, O Lord, and renew the face of the earth or Alleluia!

You take back your spirit, they die,
returning to the dust from which they came.
You send forth your spirit, they are created;
and you renew the face of the earth.

Send forth your spirit, O Lord, and renew the face of the earth or Alleluia!

May the glory of the Lord last for ever!
May the Lord rejoice in his works!
May my thoughts be pleasing to him.
I find my joy in the Lord.

Send forth your spirit, O Lord, and renew the face of the earth or Alleluia!

Psalm 103:1,24,29-31,34

If we are up for change is it that ‘they’ might be changed, or ‘me’ or ‘us’.

In a time of reflection,call to mind what you might like to see change in

  • Them
  • You
  • Us

And then spend a little time considering what the Lord might like to see change in

  • Them
  • You
  • Us

Are the lists the same? What might account for any difference? How might you deal with that?

Taste and See: Taste and become…

Season change

The Prayer after Communion for Sunday, the 30th in Ordinary time, calls for conversion.

May your Sacraments, O Lord, we pray,
perfect in us what lies within them,
that what we now celebrate in signs
we may one day possess in truth.
Through Christ our Lord.

Often the central Mystery of the Mass is thought to be the change of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus and given to us in Holy Communion.

Yet the still deeper Mystery is that which this prayer calls for – our change, through the Sacrament(s), that we may be ever more truly the Body of Christ, his life shared with the world.

Photograph is of autumn woods at the sanctuary of La Verna, Assisi. Woods, leaves, change with the seasons. Change in us often proves more dependent on our willingness to cooperate – but can be equally beautiful to witness.

(c) 2014, Allen Morris. 

Taste and See: unbelievable?

26

The Prayer after Communion on Sunday last, the 27th of Ordinary Time, was of course completely orthodox in its theology and anthropology, but breathtaking in what it asks for.

Grant us, almighty God,
that we may be refreshed and nourished
by the Sacrament which we have received,
so as to be transformed into what we consume.
Through Christ our Lord.

Normally we transform food into us. Here, uniquely, the prayer is for us to become what the Eucharistic food and drink most proudly are: Christ, Son of God and Son of Mary.

Already members of his Body through Baptism, we pray to become more fully what we already are through the gift of Holy Communion.

These themes of incorporation and transformation – strongly there in our Catholic tradition from the teaching of Jesus himself (I am the vine, you are the branches), through Paul, Augustine, Aquinas and on – challenge us against settling for other rather more anaemic modes of affiliation that ‘count’ as ‘practicing’.

  • Where is transformation being experienced in your life?
  • Where is it being resisted?
  • Where do you most desire it and why?

Bring your thoughts and feelings to the Lord, Head of the Body we are, in a time of prayer.

Image of the Church united in the Eucharist is by Hildegard of Bingen.

Speak Lord: That we may remember

Jesus in the Temple, Apparitions Hill

The psalm at Sunday’s Mass urges us to pay attention to the Lord’s teaching and, once more be helped by him, to understand the meaning of what has gone before us.

Never forget the deeds of the Lord.

Give heed, my people, to my teaching;
turn your ear to the words of my mouth.
I will open my mouth in a parable
and reveal hidden lessons of the past.

Never forget the deeds of the Lord.

When he slew them then they would seek him,
return and seek him in earnest.
They would remember that God was their rock,
God the Most High their redeemer.

Never forget the deeds of the Lord.

But the words they spoke were mere flattery;
they lied to him with their lips.
For their hearts were not truly with him;
they were not faithful to his covenant.

Never forget the deeds of the Lord.

Yet he who is full of compassion
forgave them their sin and spared them.
So often he held back his anger
when he might have stirred up his rage.

Never forget the deeds of the Lord.

Psalm 77:1-2,34-38

One of the most difficult things for people to deal with seems to be the ravaging effects of Alzheimers on a loved one’s ability to communicate and be communicated with. The loss of memory seems to bring about loss of the person and, in many ways, loss of  our relationship with them.

We are urged to live for today – to live well and lovingly for today. But if, today, we have lost touch with our yesterdays, and the people we have shared them with, there seems a huge amount missing. Our ability to live today well is compromised.

This is not only so for individuals, but for institutions too. In our much more mobile and transient society ‘institutional memory’ is regularly put in jeopardy. When such memory is lost, subsequent change is often made without benefit of wisdom. Then in the changes made we risk losing the institutional ‘form’ and ‘substance’ which bear great symbolic value, and are a repositories of the wisdom of years.

The Tradition is an important dimension of Church life. It is part of what helps us keep faithful, safe (or relatively safe) from the whims of a moment.

The psalmist urges – never forget the deeds of the Lord.

  • Which of his deeds do you most easily remember?
  • What do they teach you about how you are to live and love today?

Photograph of Jesus in the Temple – an interrogation of Tradition! A meditation plaque on the Hill of Apparitions in Medjugorje. (c) Allen Morris, 2014.

Speak Lord: face-changing

Image

Send forth your spirit, O Lord, and renew the face of the earth.

Bless the Lord, my soul!
Lord God, how great you are,
How many are your works, O Lord!
The earth is full of your riches.

Send forth your spirit, O Lord, and renew the face of the earth.

You take back your spirit, they die,
returning to the dust from which they came.
You send forth your spirit, they are created;
and you renew the face of the earth.

Send forth your spirit, O Lord, and renew the face of the earth.

May the glory of the Lord last for ever!
May the Lord rejoice in his works!
May my thoughts be pleasing to him.
I find my joy in the Lord.

Send forth your spirit, O Lord, and renew the face of the earth.

Refashioning your face seems all the rage. And no longer is it something people are content to achieve through (more or less!) judicious use of cosmetics. Now slicing, stretching and filling are methods of preference. And the consequence so often seems to be to lose the authentic quality of the person, the ‘personality’ of the face.

When we call on the Lord to send forth the spirit and renew the face of the earth, what do we have in mind?

  • What work needs doing? Is it to build on nature or to trump nature?
  • Is it to reveal truth as yet hidden or to introduce something entirely new to the world?
  • What work do you need the Holy Spirit to help you with?
  • With which ‘work’ of the Spirit do you most wish to cooperate?

Image found at http://trendland.com/invisible-man-series-for-m-le-monde/