Taste and See: The dawn of the kingdom

Bound feet of SatanThe Psalm for Mass on Sunday, the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, had us join Israel and the Church in praising God for God’s faithfulness and God’s power.

My soul, give praise to the Lord. or Alleluia!

It is the Lord who keeps faith for ever,
who is just to those who are oppressed.
It is he who gives bread to the hungry,
the Lord, who sets prisoners free,

My soul, give praise to the Lord. or Alleluia!

It is the Lord who gives sight to the blind,
who raises up those who are bowed down,
the Lord, who protects the stranger
and upholds the widow and orphan.

My soul, give praise to the Lord. or Alleluia!

It is the Lord who loves the just
but thwarts the path of the wicked.
The Lord will reign for ever,
Zion’s God, from age to age.

My soul, give praise to the Lord. or Alleluia!

Psalm 145:6-10

Maybe we also squirmed a little as we sang.

As maybe we would do again – perhaps especially clergy – when it came to the Gospel and its words about those in long robes, given places of honour and greeted obsequiously. Even if (and how big is the if?)… even if we do not like or want those things, there is sin and fault in us.

As we praise the Lord for his goodness and power, we need to acknowledge that either because of our personal sin and failure, as well as our inevitable and unavoidable implication in the structures of sin, we have a responsibility for those things which drag down those the Lord raises up; which denies food to the hungry and so on. And on. And on.

Our prayer, our song, needs also be a song of gratitude that God does what God does despite us, even as we pray that we may be freed to do more of what is God’s will for us and for our neighbour.

The bound feet of Satan: detail of Epstein’s St Michael, Coventry Cathedral (c) 2014, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: generous and good

Epstein Madonna and Child JesusThe responsorial psalm on Sunday, the 17th Sunday of the Year, responds to the care and support offered by angels to the care-worn prophet, and by Jesus to the weary and hungry crowd.

But to what else, in our own direct experience, does it connect?

You open wide your hand, O Lord, and grant our desires.

All your creatures shall thank you, O Lord,
and your friends shall repeat their blessing.
They shall speak of the glory of your reign
and declare your might, O God.

You open wide your hand, O Lord, and grant our desires.

The eyes of all creatures look to you
and you give them their food in due time.
You open wide your hand,
grant the desires of all who live.

You open wide your hand, O Lord, and grant our desires.

The Lord is just in all his ways
and loving in all his deeds.
He is close to all who call him,
who call on him from their hearts.

You open wide your hand, O Lord, and grant our desires.

Psalm 144:10-11,15-18

Thanksgiving is the characteristic feature of Christian prayer. God’s open hands are met by ours.

For what, today, do you need to give thanks?

Photograph – detail of Madonna and Child Jesus by Epstein. Cavendish Square, London. (c) 2009, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: The Lord who sets us free

Epstein, CoventryYesterday, the third Sunday of Lent,  the first Scrutiny was celebrated with those adults, the Elect, who are preparing for baptism at the Easter Vigil.

The concluding part of the Scrutiny rite is the prayer to free the Elect from the power of sin and evil.

It comes in two parts: the first addressed to the Father, the second to the Son, following the laying on of hands.

The prayer is a prayer of the Church, and an invitation to Jesus for his personal intervention and his care for those entrusted to him.

 

Presider:
God of power, you sent your Son to be our Saviour.
Grant that these catechumens,
who, like the woman of Samaria, thirst for living water,
may turn to the Lord as they hear his word
and acknowledge the sins and weaknesses that weigh them down.

Protect them from vain reliance on self
and defend them from the power of Satan.

Free them from the spirit of deceit,
so that, admitting the wrong they have done,
they may attain purity of heart
and advance on the way to salvation.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.

All: Amen.

If it is convenient, the celebrant lays his hands on each of the elect.

Then, with hands outstretched over all the elect, he continues:

Lord Jesus,
you are the fountain for which they thirst,
you are the Master whom they seek.
In your presence
they dare not claim to be without sin,
for you alone are the Holy One of God.

They open their hearts to you in faith,
they confess their faults
and lay bare their hidden wounds.
In your love free them from their infirmities,
heal their sickness,
quench their thirst, and give them peace.

In the power of your name,
which we call upon in faith,
stand by them now and heal them.
Rule over that spirit of evil,
conquered by your rising from the dead.

Show your elect the way of salvation in the Holy Spirit,
that they may come to worship the Father in truth,
for you live and reign for ever and ever.

All: Amen.

Sometimes the Church’s ministers can be hesitant about the use of these prayers, so strong in their admission of the power of evil and sin in our lives. However the prayers are even more trenchant in their confession of the power of the Lord.

Who would be without the intercession and care of the Church? Without the power and protection of Christ?

  • Pray the prayer, making it your own, asking God’s protection of those preparing to live as Christians through baptism at Easter.
  • Pray the prayer knowing your own need for God’s protection and care.

 Photograph is of St Michael the Archangel triumphant over Satan, by Epstein. Coventry Cathedral. (C) 2014, Allen Morris.