Speak Lord: speak caution and care

Villenueve les AvignonSunday sees the beginning of the Church’s new Year, and is the first Sunday of Advent.

The shops, for weeks and months, may have been exploiting Christmas for commercial benefit, but only now does the Church begain her preparation, and that preparation takes the form of a certain retreat from festivity!

Advent is not Lent and in particular lacks Lent’s strongly penitential character. However it is a time for recovering a sense of our need for Christ, of remembering humankind’s struggle against sin and exile from God. And how our liberation comes only because of Christ’s self gift.

The Gospel this Sunday, unsurprisingly, seeks to focus on on what is most important.

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘There will be signs in the sun and moon and stars; on earth nations in agony, bewildered by the clamour of the ocean and its waves; men dying of fear as they await what menaces the world, for the powers of heaven will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand erect, hold your heads high, because your liberation is near at hand.

‘Watch yourselves, or your hearts will be coarsened with debauchery and drunkenness and the cares of life, and that day will be sprung on you suddenly, like a trap. For it will come down on every living man on the face of the earth. Stay awake, praying at all times for the strength to survive all that is going to happen, and to stand with confidence before the Son of Man.’

Luke 21:25-28,34-36

As Advent begins there are indeed nations in agony, human beings are afraid, and we remain in need of the Saviour who has come.

In the first part of Advent we focus especially on the anticipated second coming, and our need to be ready, confident, prayerful, safe and saved. This readiness is not a private, personal, inner state: it is a being turned out in love and care for others.

  • When/how do I show care for my neighbour?
  • Where do I find myself caught up in self-indulgence and self-preoccupation? Why?
  • How will I use Advent to prepare myself (and others) for Christmas, the feast of the Incarnation? You might find some helpful suggestions here.

Window in parish church of Villeneuve-lès-Avignon. (c) 2014, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: The sweetness of the day

Shamrock

The first reading , yesterday, Trinity Sunday, came from Deuteronomy, the last of the ‘books’ of the Jewish Torah, the fifth book of our Bible, of its Old Testament. The book is a preaching of the law revealed by God to Moses at Sinai.

Israel had responded to God’s call and after ‘events’ (!) the people have left Egypt and are in the wilderness, a place (potentially!) of purification and preparation for entry into the life of blessing that God has promised them. However they had stumbled, hesitated, and turned from that promise.

A generation has passed. The time has come again for the people to choose. How will they respond to the Lord?

Moses said to the people: ‘Put this question to the ages that are past, that went before you, from the time God created man on earth: Was there ever a word so majestic, from one end of heaven to the other? Was anything ever heard? Did ever a people hear the voice of the living God speaking from the heart of the fire, as you heard it, and remain alive? Has any god ventured to take to himself one nation from the midst of another by ordeals, signs, wonders, war with mighty hand and outstretched arm, by fearsome terrors – all this that the Lord your God did for you before your eyes in Egypt?

‘Understand this today, therefore, and take it to heart: the Lord is God indeed, in heaven above as on earth beneath, he and no other. Keep his laws and commandments as I give them to you today, so that you and your children may prosper and live long in the land that the Lord your God gives you for ever.’

Deuteronomy 4:32-34,39-40

The kairos moment, the moment of choice between God’s way and another way, is always now. Sometimes the significance of a time may be more or less clear but…

So, today, where, how, will you show your choice to embrace the way of love gifted us by God, Father, Son and Spirit.

Photograph of brass inlay in St Patrick’s Chapel, Westminster Cathedral. (c) Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Of new opportunities, new challenges.

Lindisfarne dawn

The Responsorial Psalm on Sunday, the 6th Sunday of Easter, is a psalm in praise of the Lord’s salvation of his people.

The Lord has shown his salvation to the nations. or Alleluia!

Sing a new song to the Lord
for he has worked wonders.
His right hand and his holy arm
have brought salvation.

The Lord has shown his salvation to the nations. or Alleluia!

The Lord has made known his salvation;
has shown his justice to the nations.
He has remembered his truth and love
for the house of Israel.

The Lord has shown his salvation to the nations. or Alleluia!

All the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation of our God.
Shout to the Lord, all the earth,
ring out your joy.

The Lord has shown his salvation to the nations. or Alleluia!

Psalm 97:1-4

Salvation is of course not merely shown to the nations, but made available to them, is something given freely and lovingly by God. A new opportunity for a new way of life is set before them.

The fact of the gift is a wake-up moment for them, and requires of them a choice – to make the most of the opportunity, or lose it.

The same sort of choice faces us as each new day begins: even if we rarely see it in such a stark form as it is put in the psalm. Do we respond to the reality, the deep reality of things, underpinned by the truth, goodness and love of God? Or do we hesitate in shadows, responding to this chimera or that; this figment, fantasy, of fear?

  • Where does God open a door to newness today?
  • What are you invited to welcome and cooperate with ?
  • What are you invited to relinquish?

Dawn at Lindisfarne. (c) 2008, Allen Morris.