Speak Lord: Our abiding hope

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Through our Lord Jesus Christ, by faith we are judged righteous and at peace with God, since it is by faith and through Jesus that we have entered this state of grace in which we can boast about looking forward to God’s glory.

And this hope is not deceptive, because the love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which has been given us. We were still helpless when at his appointed moment Christ died for sinful men.

It is not easy to die even for a good man – though of course for someone really worthy, a man might be prepared to die – but what proves that God loves us is that Christ died for us while we were still sinners.

Romans 5:1-2,5-8

On the third Sunday of Lent we remember again the gift we receive from Christ: from his Incarnation, his ministry, his Passion, his Death and his Resurrection, his rising again to life and continuing in his living with and for us.

This gift gives us hope, purpose, and dreiction for our Lenten journey, and for our greater life. We live not alone, but in communion, and we live by Christ.

A pilgrim pauses at the Holy Door at St John Lateran, Rome, during the Year of Mercy 20115-16. (c) 2016, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: our wisdom, our hope

Cross, Avignon

The second reading at Mass on Sunday, the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time, continues our hearing of the letter to the Colossians.

Last week’s passage focuses largely on the divine and transcendent. This week’s focuses on the human struggle here and now of Paul, so that what Christ won (and wins) might be for the benefit of us now and here.

Christ suffered to win salvation for us; now Paul does all he can that we might receive and rejoice in that victory.

It makes me happy to suffer for you, as I am suffering now, and in my own body to do what I can to make up all that has still to be undergone by Christ for the sake of his body, the Church. I became the servant of the Church when God made me responsible for delivering God’s message to you, the message which was a mystery hidden for generations and centuries and has now been revealed to his saints. It was God’s purpose to reveal it to them and to show all the rich glory of this mystery to pagans. The mystery is Christ among you, your hope of glory: this is the Christ we proclaim, this is the wisdom in which we thoroughly train everyone and instruct everyone, to make them all perfect in Christ.

Colossians 1:24-28

  • In what way is Christ your hope?
  • In which way has he become your wisdom?

The Holy Cross and Saints, Eglise Saint Agricole, Avignon. (c) 2014, Allen Morris

Taste and See: The Cross

Arles Cross

On Sunday, the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time, we heard a passage from Galatians.

There Paul identified the cross, the Passion, of Jesus as the sole thing of which he can boast. It is the cross that has won everything that matters; and on the cross that everything else is done to death.

The only thing I can boast about is the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom the world is crucified to me, and I to the world. It does not matter if a person is circumcised or not; what matters is for him to become an altogether new creature. Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule, who form the Israel of God.

I want no more trouble from anybody after this; the marks on my body are those of Jesus. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, my brothers. Amen.

Galatians 6:14-18

It is, in worldly terms, a stark messsage. And it is a statement that is deliberately provocative and needs much unpacking.

But Paul uses it to boast of his identification with Christ, his being remarkably at one with him, even bearing the marks of Jesus on his very body.

  • Where/how do you resemble Jesus?
  • Where do you not?
  • How might you more closely identify your ambitions and achievements with the Cross of Jesus?

Street art, Arles, France. (c) 2014, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Source of living waters

Crossof life

The Psalm at Mass tomorrow, the 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time, speaks of a yearning for God: a longing for the one who alone can satisfy the deepest needs of the human person.

For you my soul is thirsting, O Lord my God.

O God, you are my God, for you I long;
for you my soul is thirsting.
My body pines for you
like a dry, weary land without water.

For you my soul is thirsting, O Lord my God.

So I gaze on you in the sanctuary
to see your strength and your glory.
For your love is better than life,
my lips will speak your praise.

For you my soul is thirsting, O Lord my God.

So I will bless you all my life,
in your name I will lift up my hands.
My soul shall be filled as with a banquet,
my mouth shall praise you with joy.

For you my soul is thirsting, O Lord my God.

For you have been my help;
in the shadow of your wings I rejoice.
My soul clings to you;
your right hand holds me fast.

For you my soul is thirsting, O Lord my God.

Psalm 62:2-6,8-9

Many and delightful are the other created goods which God provides for our well-being; still more are the relationships and the products of human culture than can enrich our lives.

And yet each of these are founded on God and his being. Ultimately it is in and from God that they find their truest meaning. And without our recognising this and making that part of our appreciation of them (and God!) they can become a source of distress and grief, draining from us authentic life and love. It is because of this that God and God’s love is better than life: No God no life, but in God life and goodness without end.

  • For what, today, do you give thanks?

The Cross and flowing waters. Medjugorje. (c) 2015, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Our Saviour

Cross Compton Verney

The responsorial psalm for Mass tomorrow, Sunday, the feast of the Ascension, is chosen for the appropriateness of the imagery drawn from the Temple Liturgy to celebrate the Mystery of the Ascension.

God goes up with shouts of joy; the Lord goes up with trumpet blast.
or
Alleluia!

All peoples, clap your hands,
cry to God with shouts of joy!
For the Lord, the Most High, we must fear,
great king over all the earth.

God goes up with shouts of joy;
the Lord goes up with trumpet blast.
Sing praise for God, sing praise,
sing praise to our king, sing praise.

God is king of all the earth,
sing praise with all your skill.
God is king over the nations;
God reigns on his holy throne.

Psalm 46:2-3,6-9

The image above shows the Ascended Christ, welcoming St Nicholas into Paradise. It reminds that the Lord’s Mystery is also a mystery of our lives in Christ. Jesus holds the Cross, a reminder of the cost of his Victory, and testimony to his love for us and all.

  • To which part of your life do you wish the Lord’s triumph next to be applied?
  • How can you best cooperate with his grace?

 

Detail of Saint Nicholas of Bari Received into Paradise Francesco de Mura (1696–1782) Compton Verney  (c) 2016, Allen Morris

Taste and See: Life conquers death

Crucifix, LisieuxThe Gospel provided for the 4th Sunday of Lent, in Year B, came from the Gospel of John.

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

Usually, as above, the text is presented as a long saying by Jesus to Nicodemus.

It can also be read as a short saying by Jesus to Nicodemus, and a long aside from the evangelist to his audience -like that which concludes the Gospel at 20.30-31; and 20:24-25.

The possible editorial comment here?

‘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.’

But whether this is an observation about himself from Jesus, or a declaration of faith by the evangelist, what a stirring text it is.

  • How would you express to others the saving love of God for them?
  • Read again the passage from John.
  • See again how generous is the love of Father and Son; how transformational. How cosmic in scale, and how directly personal and intimate in effect.
  • Let the wonder of it touch your heart, and give thanks.

Photograph of crucifix in the Cathedral of St Pierre, Lisieux, France. (c) 2014, Allen Morris.

Taste and see: Paradox and newness

Hanwell

The ‘default’ second reading provided for last Sunday, the 3rd Sunday of Lent – except when the First Scrutiny was celebrated – came from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians.

While the Jews demand miracles and the Greeks look for wisdom, here are we preaching a crucified Christ; to the Jews an obstacle that they cannot get over, to the pagans madness, but to those who have been called, whether they are Jews or Greeks, a Christ who is the power and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

1 Corinthians 1:22-25

Perhaps we are so familiar with ‘THE crucifixion’, with seeing it in light of the resurrection, the triumph of love and life, that we may miss the enormity of the scandal of the death of Jesus overturning earthly power and authority.

But, consider, in the brutality of that site of execution of three criminals the meaning and direction of human history is changed, or at least radically clarified. In the knowledge of what brought Jesus to the cross, what he endure, and what happens in consequence, nothing in our lives should be untouched.

  • What is different for you and how?

 Photograph of crucifix in church of Our Lady and St Joseph, Hanwell. (C) 2010, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Of Christ’s costly love

Mosaic over main entrance, Jesuit Church, Cracow

Again, there are two texts that we may hear at Mass as the Second reading, this Sunday, the 3rd Sunday of Lent. The one the ‘regular’ reading, the other always available as an option (as Year A’s readings may always be used on the 3rd Sunday), though they are required when The First Scrutiny is celebrated.

While the Jews demand miracles and the Greeks look for wisdom, here are we preaching a crucified Christ; to the Jews an obstacle that they cannot get over, to the pagans madness, but to those who have been called, whether they are Jews or Greeks, a Christ who is the power and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

1 Corinthians 1:22-25

The reading opposes weakness and strength, wisdom and foolishness. Both are evidenced in Christ. Weakness and foolishness is what appears to be true, strength and wisdom is what is in fact true. The reason Christ goes to the Cross is not irrelevant – it reveals both the love of God for us which leads God in flesh to endure such suffering, and the vileness of humankind which imposes such pain and humiliation on others.

The alternative Reading focuses most on the love of God and the righteousness imputed us because of his love. Grace is freely given, at great cost, for our thriving.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, by faith we are judged righteous and at peace with God, since it is by faith and through Jesus that we have entered this state of grace in which we can boast about looking forward to God’s glory. And this hope is not deceptive, because the love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which has been given us. We were still helpless when at his appointed moment Christ died for sinful men. It is not easy to die even for a good man – though of course for someone really worthy, a man might be prepared to die – but what proves that God loves us is that Christ died for us while we were still sinners.

Romans 5:1-2,5-8

 Photograph of Mosaic over entrance to Jesuit church, Cracow, Poland. (C) 2013, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: The love of the Lord made manifest love.

st-dominic-adoring-the-crucifixion-fra-angelico

The verse of the Gospel Acclamation at yesterday’s Mass of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, will be familiar to many people as a responsory used at the Stations of the Cross.

Alleluia, alleluia!

We adore you, O Christ,
and we bless you;
because by your cross
you have redeemed the world.

Alleluia!

Sometimes to the Cross we bring our adoration, at other times our agonies. But there, at the foot of the Cross, -perhaps strangely – we find ourselves in a safe and hospitable place.

At the foot of the Cross, because of the enormity of what Christ achieves there, our words don’t seem necessary. Just silence, but comfortable silence, a silence born of unity not of distance, of gratitude and acceptance and mutual presence. His love has brought us home.

In your prayer, go to the Cross, and pray there – maybe use the painting by Fra Angelico that heads this post as a focus, to help you to the silence.

For myself I find the following detail of the painting especially helpful as a focus for prayer. It is what comes to my mind every Good Friday in the veneration of the Cross.

st-dominic-adoring-the-crucifixion-fra-angelico-detail

Speak Lord: Speak, God of love.

Revelation John Reinhardt

The Gospel at today’s Mass – the Exaltation of the Holy Cross – recapitulates themes from the first and second readings and puts them in the context of God’s love. Salvation on a cosmic scale happens because of God’s love.

 Jesus said to Nicodemus:
‘No one has gone up to heaven
except the one who came down from heaven,
the Son of Man who is in heaven;
and 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.’

John 3:13-17

If God did all this to save the world, then how much indeed did and how much God still does love the world.

If God loves the world, that too is surely our call, as God’s people called to share in his holiness.

  • How much do you love the world?
  • How do you show it?
  • What challenges do you face? And helps you in facing down those challenges?

Photograph is of a work, Revelation by John Reinhardt, displayed in St Trôphime, Arles. The symbols of the Light, Cross, World, Word – pages from scripture and paint signifying blood – play out against one another. Photograph (c) Allen Morris, 2014