Speak Lord: Our light

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Arise, shine out, Jerusalem, for your light has come,
the glory of the Lord is rising on you,
though night still covers the earth
and darkness the peoples.

Above you the Lord now rises
and above you his glory appears.
The nations come to your light
and kings to your dawning brightness.

Lift up your eyes and look round:
all are assembling and coming towards you,
your sons from far away
and your daughters being tenderly carried.

At this sight you will grow radiant,
your heart throbbing and full;
since the riches of the sea will flow to you,
the wealth of the nations come to you;
camels in throngs will cover you,
and dromedaries of Midian and Ephah;
everyone in Sheba will come,
bringing gold and incense
and singing the praise of the Lord.

Isaiah 60:1-6

Sunday is the feast of the Epiphany. This year, the feast falls on the last but one day of the Christmas Season. (The season itself ends with the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, celebrated this year on Monday 9th January).

Isaiah invites us to look around and see the results of God’s invitation to the nations to come close and know his goodness.

  • Too often we look for, or at least see and notice, the bad things in our world. What, now, do you see that contains seeds of promise?
  • To what do you look to teach you how the world is?
  • How do you share your knowledge of good news?

Magi come to Bethlehem. Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral. (c) 2016, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Keep us safe

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After Jesus had been born at Bethlehem in Judaea during the reign of King Herod, some wise men came to Jerusalem from the east. ‘Where is the infant king of the Jews?’ they asked. ‘We saw his star as it rose and have come to do him homage.’ When King Herod heard this he was perturbed, and so was the whole of Jerusalem. He called together all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, and enquired of them where the Christ was to be born. ‘At Bethlehem in Judaea,’ they told him ‘for this is what the prophet wrote: And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, you are by no means least among the leaders of Judah, for out of you will come a leader who will shepherd my people Israel.’

Then Herod summoned the wise men to see him privately. He asked them the exact date on which the star had appeared, and sent them on to Bethlehem. ‘Go and find out all about the child,’ he said ‘and when you have found him, let me know, so that I too may go and do him homage.’ Having listened to what the king had to say, they set out. And there in front of them was the star they had seen rising; it went forward, and halted over the place where the child was. The sight of the star filled them with delight, and going into the house they saw the child with his mother Mary, and falling to their knees they did him homage. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh. But they were warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, and returned to their own country by a different way.

Matthew 2:1-12

Sunday is the feast of the Epiphany. This year, the feast falls on the last but one day of the Christmas Season. (The season itself ends with the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, celebrated this year on Monday 9th January).

The feast celebrates the coming of the Magi, an episode told by Matthew and which symbolises the revelation of the Incarnation to the Gentiles. The particular story of evangelisation beyond Israel and its people begins here.

It is a story of events already stained and soiled by the murderous intent of king Herod – who was of Jewish stock from his mother’s side and raised as a Jew. but whose life style betrays the promise of that heritage.

The problem of evil and resistance to God’s gift of his Son, his life and his love, is set to the fore of the Christmas story. The gifts of the Magi acknowledge God’s power and glory manifest in the child, and anticipate his Passion.

The Magi, as Joseph and his family, are kept safe by the promptings of God disclosed in the whispers of dreams.

  • Where do you find you best hear the voice of God addressed to you
  • Where do you best hear his calls to keep you safe?

Visit of the Magi, St Peter the Apostle, Leamington Spa. (C) 2016, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: As we praise you

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The shepherds hurried away to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. When they saw the child they repeated what they had been told about him, and everyone who heard it was astonished at what the shepherds had to say. As for Mary, she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds went back glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen; it was exactly as they had been told.

When the eighth day came and the child was to be circumcised, they gave him the name Jesus, the name the angel had given him before his conception.

Luke 2:16-21

Sunday is the Octave Day of Christmas, and the feast of Mary, Mother of God.

The Gospel on Sunday gives the first account of a sharing of the Gospel, witnessing to the Good News. And the work is done by the shepherds, rejoicing because of what they have seen and heard.

  • When we return to our ordinary lives after the feasts and holiday of Christmas, how will we appear, of what will we speak?

The return of the shepherds. (Mural at Beth Sahour, Shepherd’s Fields, Bethlehem). (c) 2007, Allen Morris. 

Taste and See: faithful love

David, St Pater and St Paul, COrk

On Sunday, the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time, there were two alternatives for the responsorial psalm.

The first of them, which follows, has the psalmist praising God for his unfailing help, and bearing witness to others of God’s love and help.

Seek the Lord, you who are poor, and your hearts will revive

This is my prayer to you,
my prayer for your favour.
In your great love, answer me, O God,
with your help that never fails:
Lord, answer, for your love is kind;
in your compassion, turn towards me.

Seek the Lord, you who are poor, and your hearts will revive

As for me in my poverty and pain
let your help, O God, lift me up.
I will praise God’s name with a song;
I will glorify him with thanksgiving.

Seek the Lord, you who are poor, and your hearts will revive

The poor when they see it will be glad
and God-seeking hearts will revive;
for the Lord listens to the needy
and does not spurn his servants in their chains.

Seek the Lord, you who are poor, and your hearts will revive

For God will bring help to Zion
and rebuild the cities of Judah
and men shall dwell there in possession.
The sons of his servants shall inherit it;
those who love his name shall dwell there.

Seek the Lord, you who are poor, and your hearts will revive

Psalm 68:14,17,30-31,33-34,36-37

 

What the psalmist does in his way, is what the Church is to do in her own way, and all her members.

And we do it first, are rehearsed in our responsibilities, in the Liturgy. The response to the psalm, the song of the whole assembly, has us call our ‘Seek the Lord, you who are poor, and your hearts will revive.’

What a beautiful message to be entrusted with. What a joyful promise to offer to those who struggle.

  • Bring to the Lord in prayer your feelings about your call to evangelise

King David, Church of St Peter and St Paul, Cork. (c) 2010, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Help us sing a new song

Music angels

Tomorrow, the 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, we sing a song repeating the ancient encouragement to God’s gathered people to know the wonders of the Lord and to proclaim them to those who without our witness of  (might) lack eyes to see and ears to hear

Proclaim the wonders of the Lord among all the peoples.

O sing a new song to the Lord,
sing to the Lord all the earth.
O sing to the Lord, bless his name.

Proclaim the wonders of the Lord among all the peoples.

Proclaim his help day by day,
tell among the nations his glory
and his wonders among all the peoples.

Proclaim the wonders of the Lord among all the peoples.

Give the Lord, you families of peoples,
give the Lord glory and power;
give the Lord the glory of his name.

Proclaim the wonders of the Lord among all the peoples.

Worship the Lord in his temple.
O earth, tremble before him.
Proclaim to the nations: ‘God is king.’
He will judge the peoples in fairness.

Proclaim the wonders of the Lord among all the peoples.

Psalm 95:1-3,7-10

Our faith, our insight into the workings of God is (at least in part, and arguably in largest measure) given us not for our own benefit but for the benefit of all. A silent Israel, a silent Church, is barely tolerable: we have a work to do.

  • What are the wonders of the Lord?
  • Where is his help evident to you?
  • To whom did you last share the good news?
  • To whom will you next share the good news?

Music making Angels. Church of the Holy Name, Manchester. (c) 2016, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Faithful One.

Mary and Jesus, WolverhamptonThe second reading on Sunday, the second Sunday of Advent, is a rejoicing in the faithfulness of the Church and her members.

The Church and her members are tarnished by sin, and sometimes we members fail, and yet the Good News continues to spread and we play our part. The Good News spreads down the generations and among the nations, and this is something to give thanks for, even as we find we ourselves need more encouragement to be more faithful and to better serve our neighbours by the witness we give.

Every time I pray for all of you, I pray with joy, remembering how you have helped to spread the Good News from the day you first heard it right up to the present.

I am quite certain that the One who began this good work in you will see that it is finished when the Day of Christ Jesus comes; and God knows how much I miss you all, loving you as Christ Jesus loves you.

My prayer is that your love for each other may increase more and more and never stop improving your knowledge and deepening your perception so that you can always recognise what is best. This will help you to become pure and blameless, and prepare you for the Day of Christ, when you will reach the perfect goodness which Jesus Christ produces in us for the glory and praise of God.

Philippians 1:4-6,8-11

Where are you most aware of the lack of the Good News in situations around you?

In what way, even what very small way, can you introduce the the Good News there?

The lyrics of Stephen Sondheim’s song Everyone Says Don’t puts it this way.

Make just a ripple, come on be brave.
This time a ripple, next time a wave.
Sometimes you have to start small…

Speak Lord: Challenge and stretch us

Eucharist Grasse

Every third Cycle of the Lectionary for Mass (Year B) is dedicated to the Gospel of Mark.

However the Gospel of Mark is shorter than the others, and much of its text reproduced in the other synoptics (Matthew and Luke); and there is an important section of John’s Gospel – the Bread of Life discourse – that otherwise would not be otherwise be heard.

So each Year B, beginning on the 17th Sunday, this coming Sunday, (and up to and including the 21st Sunday) we pause Mark, and listen to John.

This year the readings from John are themselves interrupted by the feast of the Assumption, kept on a Sunday in England and Wales this year. So those responsible for the preparation of the Liturgy might like to think of combining the gospel readings of the 19th and 20th Sundays for the sake of the congregation’s hearing the Gospel pericope in its fullness. (However, please note that although such an adaptation is commended for weekdays in the General Introduction to the Lectionary it is not directly proposed for Sundays. Introduction, 84)

This Sunday’s Gospel sets the scene for all that follows.

Jesus went off to the other side of the Sea of Galilee – or of Tiberias – and a large crowd followed him, impressed by the signs he gave by curing the sick. Jesus climbed the hillside, and sat down there with his disciples. It was shortly before the Jewish feast of Passover.

Looking up, Jesus saw the crowds approaching and said to Philip, ‘Where can we buy some bread for these people to eat?’ He only said this to test Philip; he himself knew exactly what he was going to do. Philip answered, ‘Two hundred denarii would only buy enough to give them a small piece each.’ One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said, ‘There is a small boy here with five barley loaves and two fish; but what is that between so many?’

Jesus said to them, ‘Make the people sit down.’ There was plenty of grass there, and as many as five thousand men sat down. Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and gave them out to all who were sitting ready; he then did the same with the fish, giving out as much as was wanted.

When they had eaten enough he said to the disciples, ‘Pick up the pieces left over, so that nothing gets wasted.’ So they picked them up, and filled twelve hampers with scraps left over from the meal of five barley loaves. The people, seeing this sign that he had given, said, ‘This really is the prophet who is to come into the world.’ Jesus, who could see they were about to come and take him by force and make him king, escaped back to the hills by himself.

John 6:1-15

The scene is set.

  • The story of the miraculous feeding, known in Mark’s Gospel, is here placed in the context of Passover (the time of the Last Supper, and the Paschal Mystery which that Supper anticipated).
  • The inability of the disciples alone to respond to the needs of the people
  • The way in which the many are fed by God’s grace
  • The attentiveness to the precious food remaining
  • The way that the ministry of Jesus cannot be understood in normal political, worldly terms.

There is something new here, not only miraculous. The Gospel readings from John over the coming weeks make that point, again and again. There is no escaping the point. So will people stay and learn? Will people reject and leave? And if we have left, will we return?

  • How does the Lord help and encourage you?
  • How are you able to help and encourage others?
  • How can you share Jesus with others?

Photograph is of detail of door of the Cathedral of Grasse. (c) 2008, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Of the mission of the Church

Ascension

We return to Mark for the Gospel of the Sunday of the Ascension.

Jesus showed himself to the Eleven, and said to them: ‘Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News to all creation. He who believes and is baptised will be saved; he who does not believe will be condemned. These are the signs that will be associated with believers: in my name they will cast out devils; they will have the gift of tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and be unharmed should they drink deadly poison; they will lay their hands on the sick, who will recover.’

And so the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven: there at the right hand of God he took his place, while they, going out, preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word by the signs that accompanied it.

Mark 16:15-20

On the face of it, the signs that Jesus says will be associated with believers are not, particularly associated with believers now. At least not all of them. Handling snakes and safe ingestion of poisons are not especially notable features of life in many Catholic congregations!

And yet… The first disciples must have wondered how these things could be true for them either, but it proved to be that the power of God would enable these things to happen. Not as ends in themselves, but notable events on the way…

  • Where has the love of God produced remarkable events and incidents as a result of your discipleship?
  • Where is your Christian witness called for now?

Sculpture of the Ascension, Medjugorje. (c) 2014, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: Witness to the Lord.

 

Liverpool, 2007The first reading this Sunday came from the Acts of the Apostles – the source of our First Readings on Sundays and weekdays throughout the coming season of Easter.

Acts is as it were the completion of Luke’s Gospel. The Gospel spoke of the work of Christ; Acts tells the story of the Body of Christ, the Church, in its leaders, inspired and animated by the Holy Spirit.

The Gospel remains Good News, and the story of Acts is to continue in us too.

Peter addressed Cornelius and his household: ‘You must have heard about the recent happenings in Judaea; about Jesus of Nazareth and how he began in Galilee, after John had been preaching baptism. God had anointed him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and because God was with him, Jesus went about doing good and curing all who had fallen into the power of the devil.

Now I, and those with me, can witness to everything he did throughout the countryside of Judaea and in Jerusalem itself: and also to the fact that they killed him by hanging him on a tree, yet three days afterwards God raised him to life and allowed him to be seen, not by the whole people but only by certain witnesses God had chosen beforehand.

Now we are those witnesses – we have eaten and drunk with him after his resurrection from the dead – and he has ordered us to proclaim this to his people and to tell them that God has appointed him to judge everyone, alive or dead. It is to him that all the prophets bear this witness: that all who believe in Jesus will have their sins forgiven through his name.’

Acts 10:34,37-43

If we have kept the Triduum we too are witnesses to the Lord; we have accompanied him at his Last Supper, in his  Passion, his Death and Burial, and now in his Resurrection.

  • What have we learnt about him?
  • What have we learnt about ourselves?

Image of the Crucified, Risen Christ. Stephen Foster. The carving is found in Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral. Photograph (c) 2007, Allen Morris. 

Speak Lord: ‘Believe everything you heard!’

Caesarea 2007

The first reading this Sunday comes from the Acts of the Apostles – the source of our First Readings on Sundays and weekdays throughout the coming season of Easter.

This narrative tells the story of the early Church forming and developing in the first days, weeks and years after the Resurrection. It tells of our story and our mission  – and of the Good News we bear.

Peter addressed Cornelius and his household: ‘You must have heard about the recent happenings in Judaea; about Jesus of Nazareth and how he began in Galilee, after John had been preaching baptism. God had anointed him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and because God was with him, Jesus went about doing good and curing all who had fallen into the power of the devil. Now I, and those with me, can witness to everything he did throughout the countryside of Judaea and in Jerusalem itself: and also to the fact that they killed him by hanging him on a tree, yet three days afterwards God raised him to life and allowed him to be seen, not by the whole people but only by certain witnesses God had chosen beforehand. Now we are those witnesses – we have eaten and drunk with him after his resurrection from the dead – and he has ordered us to proclaim this to his people and to tell them that God has appointed him to judge everyone, alive or dead. It is to him that all the prophets bear this witness: that all who believe in Jesus will have their sins forgiven through his name.’

Acts 10:34,37-43

What a witness!

  • What of the Lord’s work are we witness to?
  • Where and to whom might we be his witnesses?
  • And why? What is it that we might do by witnessing to the Lord and his merciful love?

Mosaic pavement in Caesarea Martima, Israel – the place of meeting between Peter and Cornelius (though not necessarily on this floor!) (c) Allen Morris, 2007