Speak Lord: who call us to glory

Ascension Hampton LucyThe Second reading on Sunday, the feast of the Ascension, comes from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. The reading adverts to the Mystery, of Jesus’ being now seated at the right hand of the Father in glory, but also to our continued relationship with him: a privileged relationship, grounded on faith and sustained in love.

May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give you a spirit of wisdom and perception of what is revealed, to bring you to full knowledge of him.

May he enlighten the eyes of your mind so that you can see what hope his call holds for you, what rich glories he has promised the saints will inherit and how infinitely great is the power that he has exercised for us believers.

This you can tell from the strength of his power at work in Christ, when he used it to raise him from the dead and to make him sit at his right hand, in heaven, far above every Sovereignty, Authority, Power, or Domination, or any other name that can be named not only in this age but also in the age to come. He has put all things under his feet and made him, as the ruler of everything, the head of the Church; which is his body, the fullness of him who fills the whole creation.

Ephesians 1:17-23

  • What does God call you to?
  • To what do you aspire?
  • Are these things the same?

Bring your responses to God in prayer.

The Ascension. St Peter ad Vincula, Hampton Lucy, Warwickshire. (c) 2016, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Call us to holiness

Saints, Czartoryski museum, CracowThe second reading on Sunday continues our reading of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.

And it contains both challenge and encouragement.

I want to urge you in the name of the Lord, not to go on living the aimless kind of life that pagans live. Now that is hardly the way you have learnt from Christ, unless you failed to hear him properly when you were taught what the truth is in Jesus. You must give up your old way of life; you must put aside your old self, which gets corrupted by following illusory desires. Your mind must be renewed by a spiritual revolution so that you can put on the new self that has been created in God’s way, in the goodness and holiness of the truth.

Ephesians 4:17,20-24

The Lord comes to us to change us. He comes to heal, restore, guide us to ourselves, to the fulness of our humanity to likeness to him.

This change was gifted to us in baptism, but our receiving, ‘owning’, and living of this gift is the work for a lifetime. We need to grow into it, to become skilled in being ourselves.

Today is the day for freshly welcoming and enjoying the gift and the opportunities it brings us.

  • What illusory desires befuddle you? What helps you see through them?
  • What most attracts you about the newness to which God invites you?

Fragment of frieze of saints. Czartoryski museum Cracow, Poland. (c) 2013, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: Unity, peace, service.

Pershore

The second reading at Mass on Sunday last, the 17th in Ordinary time, came from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Like so much of that letter it exhorts to harmony, unity in Christ.

I, the prisoner in the Lord, implore you to lead a life worthy of your vocation. Bear with one another charitably, in complete selflessness, gentleness and patience. Do all you can to preserve the unity of the Spirit by the peace that binds you together. There is one Body, one Spirit, just as you were all called into one and the same hope when you were called. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God who is Father of all, over all, through all and within all.

Ephesians 4:1-6

Our Christian vocation is to live and share the peace of Christ. In him we find our security, and the security that is his love and care, is his guidance and righteousness, is the gift we have to share with others.

As you journey through today, what do you encounter that promotes well-being and holiness?

  • What works again it?
  • How might you build on the first and work, gently, lovingly, to counter the other?

Stained glass from Holy Redeemer church, Pershore. (c) 2004, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Make us one.

Window, Rosary

The Second reading on Sunday, the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time, is the next passage in the Church’s semi-continuous reading of the letter to the Ephesians, which started last Sunday and continues until the 21st Sunday (30th August).

Ephesians is maybe one of the most accessible letters of Paul, and encouraging.

There’s a fair deal of Ephesians we don’t hear on Sundays. Why not re-read the letter as a whole some time over these weeks of summer?

The passage for this Sunday gives us particular food for thought.

In Christ Jesus, you that used to be so far apart from us have been brought very close, by the blood of Christ. For he is the peace between us, and has made the two into one and broken down the barrier which used to keep them apart, actually destroying in his own person the hostility caused by the rules and decrees of the Law. This was to create one single New Man in himself out of the two of them and by restoring peace through the cross, to unite them both in a single Body and reconcile them with God: in his own person he killed the hostility. Later he came to bring the good news of peace, peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near at hand. Through him, both of us have in the one Spirit our way to come to the Father.

Ephesians 2:13-18

The peoples Paul had in mind were Jews and non-Jews. Paul found a new unity being gifted to the people of his time by the crucified and risen One.

Divisions, tensions have lasted to our day, but so has the gift of unity in Christ. That unity seeks to embrace and reconcile with God and each other Christians of all sorts, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists, humanists, all sorts and everyone. Those are maybe (some of) the big tectonic plates that need reconciliation and a new vision of how life can be. Then each of us will have those particular persons and groups from which we ourselves are estranged.

There is a whole lot of healing and newness needed. But the good news is it is available, freely available.

  • From whom are you separated?
  • Who has separated from you?
  • What might help bring peace and wholeness to these relationships?

Photograph of window at Church of Our Lady of the Rosary, Marylebone.  (c) 2007, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Of rest and work

Marylebone, Rosary

Sunday is the 16th Sunday in Ordinary time and the Church continues her reading on into Mark’s Gospel and into, over these weeks, the letter to the Ephesians.

On this Blog a pattern of reading in preparation and in continuation of the Sunday celebration is proposed. For more information go to our About page

The Gospel of Sunday has the apostles returning from the mission they were sent on in last Sunday’s reading, and now they need time to reflect and rest.

The apostles rejoined Jesus and told him all they had done and taught. Then he said to them, ‘You must come away to some lonely place all by yourselves and rest for a while’; for there were so many coming and going that the apostles had no time even to eat. So they went off in a boat to a lonely place where they could be by themselves. But people saw them going, and many could guess where; and from every town they all hurried to the place on foot and reached it before them. So as he stepped ashore he saw a large crowd; and he took pity on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and he set himself to teach them at some length.

Mark 6:30-34

Many of us are probably also now looking forward to a break and time for R&R. rest and recreation. Re-creation, re-collection . Some of the  words used for this activity suggest how dissipated, drained we may have become.

‘Re-creation’ might remind that we had no active part in the first Creation, and so re-creation might largely be something God has to do – will our rest time allow him space and opportunity?

‘Re-collection’ might remind us of Jesus’ saying that we did not choose him, gather to him, not he called us, and gathers us. In our rest apart from the usual routine (if we’re lucky enough to have it), will we allow ourselves space to hear again his call.

In the Gospel the disciples rest and the Lord continues to work. That might remind us of those many many who continue to serve, and serve us, when we rest, and also remind of the Lord who continues to work for us, and especially when we let him!

Photograph of window at Church of Our Lady of the Rosary, Marylebone.  (c) 2007, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: Trinity

Baptism Piero della Francesco

The second reading on Sunday came from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. It is a remarkable account of the blessing we receive in Christ, from the Father, retained by us by the gift of the Spirit.

Blessed be God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all the spiritual blessings of heaven in Christ.

Before the world was made, he chose us, chose us in Christ, to be holy and spotless, and to live through love in his presence, determining that we should become his adopted sons, through Jesus Christ for his own kind purposes,
to make us praise the glory of his grace, his free gift to us in the Beloved, in whom, through his blood, we gain our freedom, the forgiveness of our sins.

Such is the richness of the grace which he has showered on us in all wisdom and insight.

He has let us know the mystery of his purpose, the hidden plan he so kindly made in Christ from the beginning to act upon when the times had run their course to the end: that he would bring everything together under Christ, as head, everything in the heavens and everything on earth.

And it is in him that we were claimed as God’s own, chosen from the beginning, under the predetermined plan of the one who guides all things as he decides by his own will; chosen to be, for his greater glory, the people who would put their hopes in Christ before he came.

Now you too, in him, have heard the message of the truth and the good news of your salvation, and have believed it; and you too have been stamped with the seal of the Holy Spirit of the Promise, the pledge of our inheritance which brings freedom for those whom God has taken for his own, to make his glory praised.

Ephesians 1:3-14

Paul – long before the Council of Nicaea – offers a remarkable description of the Trinity not in itself but as working for our salvation. We are who we are, and are becoming who God longs for us to be, because of the One God, Father, Son and Spirit.

Often in our personal piety, and our understanding of the faith, Christians neglect the Trinity for an expression or experience of faith that is heavily weighted in favour of one or other person of the Trinity. We focus on Jesus at the expense of Spirit or Father, or the Spirit at the neglect of…. You get the point!

The Mystery of the Trinity is a great one, and it is not surprising we have difficulty ‘managing’ it, sometimes veering towards Tritheism (treating theTriune God as though God were three Gods), sometimes towards a sort of Deism (God almost as an abstract ‘given’, rather than God as revealed and revealing, saving us and calling us to live in covenant with Him), and doubtless veering in all sorts of other ways too!

Perhaps Paul’s hymn of praise can encourage us to know again the wonder of God’s personal love for us, and to contemplate the glory of the Trinity.

  • What difference does it make to you that God is Three and not only One?
  • The classic description of Christian prayer is that we pray to the Father, in the Son and by the Spirit. Is this how you would describe your understanding of what you do when you pray?
  • How in prayer (and the rest of life) do you relate to Father, Son and Spirit? What is the same? What different?

Piero della Francesco, in the painting above (in London’s National Gallery) depicts the Baptism in a very naturalistic, worldly way, and at the same time guides us into an appreciation of the transcendent and saving Mystery – in which the gospels describe the active participation of Father, Son and Spirit. Photograph (c) 2015, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Of your love for us

Creación_de_Adán_(Miguel_Ángel) 1

The second reading for the 4th Sunday of Lent in Year B comes from St Paul’s letter to the Church at Ephesus.

It is supremely encouraging, assuring of God’s treasuring of us.

God loved us with so much love that he was generous with his mercy: when we were dead through our sins, he brought us to life with Christ – it is through grace that you have been saved – and raised us up with him and gave us a place with him in heaven, in Christ Jesus.

This was to show for all ages to come, through his goodness towards us in Christ Jesus, how infinitely rich he is in grace. Because it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith; not by anything of your own, but by a gift from God; not by anything that you have done, so that nobody can claim the credit. We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus to live the good life as from the beginning he had meant us to live it.

Ephesians 2:4-10

The image from the Sistine Chapel, of the creation of Adam, reminds of the beauty of creation. It also reminds of the marring of creation by sin, and its recovery and restoration by grace,  God’s gift.

As we make our way through Lent, perhaps struggling, let us know afresh that we do not journey alone.

The Lord is with us, or maybe more accurately yet, we are with him as he works for us. Our striving after good is an attempt to keep company with the God who – strange to say – loves us and works for us!

Rejoice and give thanks!

Sistine chapel

 

– – –

The second reading for the sequence of readings in Year A – an option for this year, and a required set of readings for when the second scrutiny is celebrated – is also from the letter to the Ephesians.

You were darkness once, but now you are light in the Lord; be like children of light, for the effects of the light are seen in complete goodness and right living and truth. Try to discover what the Lord wants of you, having nothing to do with the futile works of darkness but exposing them by contrast. The things which are done in secret are things that people are ashamed even to speak of; but anything exposed by the light will be illuminated and anything illuminated turns into light. That is why it is said:

Wake up from your sleep,
rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.

Ephesians 5:8-14

Frescoes by Michelangelo from the Sistine Chapel, Vatican City. Found here and here