Speak Lord: from your patience and love

Date

The second reading at Mass tomorrow highlights the most prominent – if often neglected – theme of the first part of Advent – the second coming of the Lord, the Day of days.

There is one thing, my friends, that you must never forget: that with the Lord, ‘a day’ can mean a thousand years, and a thousand years is like a day. The Lord is not being slow to carry out his promises, as anybody else might be called slow; but he is being patient with you all, wanting nobody to be lost and everybody to be brought to change his ways. The Day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then with a roar the sky will vanish, the elements will catch fire and fall apart, the earth and all that it contains will be burnt up.

Since everything is coming to an end like this, you should be living holy and saintly lives while you wait and long for the Day of God to come, when the sky will dissolve in flames and the elements melt in the heat. What we are waiting for is what he promised: the new heavens and new earth, the place where righteousness will be at home. So then, my friends, while you are waiting, do your best to live lives without spot or stain so that he will find you at peace.

2 Peter 3:8-14

The advent of such a day might promote a certain anxiety. And if such concerns help us take stock, and purpose conversion, turning again to the Lord, then all to the good. For when we turn to him we find his desire is not for narrow and constricting obedience but wholesome and loving freedom, enabled by love of God and neighbour.

When you come to the end of this present day spend a moment reviewing it.

  • Where/when/how did you live love for God?
  • Where/when/how did you live love for neighbour?

Give glory to God for any triumphs of grace, and quietly entrust yourself to the compassion and mercy of the patient God for any shortcomings.

Image created by Allen Morris (c) 2014.

Taste and See: A new way?

St Augustine, St Austell

The first reading at Mass on Sunday, the first Sunday of Advent, has the prophet acknowledge fault and failing, and look for a radical renewal of the chosen people.

In the Book of Isaiah this confession and lament and expression of hope comes after the section that looks forward to the restoration of Jerusalem – ‘Console my people, console them.’

There is a danger in reading a book such as Isaiah simply as a sequential response to historical events, but one could read the text below as acknowledging that in exile or in restoration Israel struggles to be faithful. And the Church reads this Hebrew text and knows her own failings too.

You, Lord, yourself are our Father,
‘Our Redeemer’ is your ancient name.
Why, Lord, leave us to stray from your ways
and harden our hearts against fearing you?
Return, for the sake of your servants,
the tribes of your inheritance.

Oh, that you would tear the heavens open and come down!
– at your Presence the mountains would melt.

No ear has heard,
no eye has seen
any god but you act like this
for those who trust him.
You guide those who act with integrity
and keep your ways in mind.
You were angry when we were sinners;
we had long been rebels against you.
We were all like men unclean,
all that integrity of ours like filthy clothing.
We have all withered like leaves
and our sins blew us away like the wind.
No one invoked your name
or roused himself to catch hold of you.
For you hid your face from us
and gave us up to the power of our sins.
And yet, Lord, you are our Father;
we the clay, you the potter,
we are all the work of your hand.

Isaiah 63:16-17,64:1,3-8

      The lighting of Advent candles is a rebuke to the darkness that surrounds us, and that even dims our own hearts.

May the lighting of candles be accompanied by the earnest desire to learn afresh from the Lord and, in our frailties, to surrender ourselves to him in humble trust.

Photograph of stained glass from the church of St Augustine, St Austell, Cornwall.  (c) 2006, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Do not leave us alone and unchanged

Isaiah, Raphael, Basilica of Sant'Agostino

The first reading at Mass on Sunday, the first Sunday of Advent, comes from the prophet Isaiah.

The prophet confesses the people’s sin, and calls on the Lord to come down, to save his people, the work of his hands.

You, Lord, yourself are our Father,
‘Our Redeemer’ is your ancient name.
Why, Lord, leave us to stray from your ways
and harden our hearts against fearing you?
Return, for the sake of your servants,
the tribes of your inheritance.

Oh, that you would tear the heavens open and come down!
– at your Presence the mountains would melt.

No ear has heard,
no eye has seen
any god but you act like this
for those who trust him.
You guide those who act with integrity
and keep your ways in mind.
You were angry when we were sinners;
we had long been rebels against you.
We were all like men unclean,
all that integrity of ours like filthy clothing.
We have all withered like leaves
and our sins blew us away like the wind.
No one invoked your name
or roused himself to catch hold of you.
For you hid your face from us
and gave us up to the power of our sins.
And yet, Lord, you are our Father;
we the clay, you the potter,
we are all the work of your hand.

Isaiah 63:16-17,64:1,3-8

    The good news, of course, is that the Lord did come down, in the mystery of his Incarnation, his birth at Bethlehem. He will come again too, at the end of Days, when he comes as Judge. And he comes to us still, daily, truly in word and sacrament, to help us overcome sin and the effects of sin, and return to the ways of love and grace.
  • What hardness of heart do you suffer from?
  • Where do you need the potter to refashion the clay of your life?
  • What change might the Lord’s coming down, coming close, make possible for you?

Photograph of fresco of Isaiah, by Raphael, in Basilica of Sant’Agostino, Rome. (c) 2014, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: that even our ‘no’ may become ‘yes’

Francois-Pierre Peyron Mary Magdalene Aix 2014

The gospel of the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time searches out and challenges hypocrisy.

Jesus said to the chief priests and elders of the people, ‘What is your opinion? A man had two sons. He went and said to the first, “My boy, you go and work in the vineyard today.” He answered, “I will not go,” but afterwards thought better of it and went. The man then went and said the same thing to the second who answered, “Certainly, sir,” but did not go. Which of the two did the father’s will?’ ‘The first’ they said. Jesus said to them, ‘I tell you solemnly, tax collectors and prostitutes are making their way into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you, a pattern of true righteousness, but you did not believe him, and yet the tax collectors and prostitutes did. Even after seeing that, you refused to think better of it and believe in him.’

Matthew 21:28-32

How often does my ‘yes’ decline and weaken and become a ‘no’?

Surely, and sadly, more often that my ‘no’ becomes a ‘yes’.

But the Lord speaks to challenge the weakness and transform the turning away into a turning back. And how great is that: that we are not left to be subject to our hypocrisies and self-deceptions, but are again and again urged back to walking in the foot-steps of him who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

  • What is it that helps people hear the Lord and respond generously to him?
  • What is it that makes it harder for us to hear and respond?

In some parts of the tradition Mary Magdalene (pictured above in a painting by  Jean-François Pierre Peyron in the collection of the Musée Granet, Aix en Provence) is seen as a reformed sinner, even a prostitute. More recently these attributions are seen as mis-readings of the scriptural account. For sure, though, she is brought to a new wholeness by Jesus, and in her ministry she communicates that wholeness to those around her, including the apostles. Photograph (c) 2014, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: That we may come closer

Detail, Picasso Self portrait Paris 2004

The first reading this Sunday, the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, comes from Isaiah.

Seek the Lord while he is still to be found,
call to him while he is still near.
Let the wicked man abandon his way,
the evil man his thoughts.
Let him turn back to the Lord who will take pity on him,
to our God who is rich in forgiving;
for my thoughts are not your thoughts,
my ways not your ways – it is the Lord who speaks.
Yes, the heavens are as high above earth
as my ways are above your ways,
my thoughts above your thoughts.

Isaiah 55:6-9

It’s far too early to be counting shopping days to Xmas – or Sundays to Christmas.

However the appearance of Isaiah, as the leaves of trees start to turn and fall, reminds of Advent and its promise. This particular passage provides an opportunity, even now to take stock, and prepare for the Lord.

  • What do you need to turn from?
  • What do you need to turn to?

The image is a detail of a self portrait of Pablo Picasso, from the Picasso Museum in Paris. A great self portrait. I can never decide whether it shows humility or someone who is self-satisfied. I think Isaiah would have us wonder the same about ourselves. Photo (c) Allen Morris, 2006