Taste and See: Good News for sharing

John the Baptist, Ein Kerem

The Gospel for yesterday’s Mass, the Mass of the third Sunday of Advent  set John the Baptist before us – a witness to the Christ.

A man came, sent by God.
His name was John.
He came as a witness,
as a witness to speak for the light,
so that everyone might believe through him.
He was not the light,
only a witness to speak for the light.

This is how John appeared as a witness. When the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ he not only declared, but he declared quite openly, ‘I am not the Christ.’ ‘Well then,’ they asked ‘are you Elijah?’ ‘I am not’ he said. ‘Are you the Prophet?’ He answered, ‘No.’ So they said to him, ‘Who are you? We must take bapck an answer to those who sent us. What have you to say about yourself?’ So John said, ‘I am, as Isaiah prophesied:

a voice that cries in the wilderness:
Make a straight way for the Lord.’

Now these men had been sent by the Pharisees, and they put this further question to him, ‘Why are you baptising if you are not the Christ, and not Elijah, and not the prophet?’ John replied, ‘I baptise with water; but there stands among you – unknown to you – the one who is coming after me; and I am not fit to undo his sandal-strap.’ This happened at Bethany, on the far side of the Jordan, where John was baptising.

John 1:6-8,19-28

The work of witness, of calling people to be attentive to Christ, the Light of the World, takes many forms.

A recurring theme of recent years is that the Western World is in need of a new call to such attentiveness. The recent letter of Pope Francis, the Joy of the Gospel (Evangelii Gaudium), is one example of that concern being expressed. It was a regular theme of Saint John Paul II, and especially in the preparation for and celebration of the Millennium.

It is a matter being taken up afresh in Westminster diocese. Taken up not as a new programme, but as an invitation to explore further the depth of all that is presently done, to become newly attentive to how what we do and how we are relates to the person of Jesus, God with us.

A steering paper has been prepared to assist communities consider the why and wherefore of this invitation and how to respond to it. It will repay reading and praying with.

In the meantime the simple prayer of St Richard of Chichester helps move us in the right direction:

Thanks be to you, O Lord Jesus Christ,
for all the many gifts you have given us;
for all that you endured for love of us.

O most merciful redeemer,
friend and brother,
may we know you more clearly,
love thee more dearly,
and follow thee more nearly, day by day.
Amen.

Icon of John the Baptist from the church memorialising his birth in Ein Kerem, in the Holy Land.
Photograph (c) 2013, Allen Morris.

 

Taste and See: Come and See

Mystery of the Light, Preaching the Kingdom

At Sunday’s Mass – the Exaltation of the Holy Cross – the communion antiphon was the following

When I am lifted up from the earth,
I will draw everyone to myself, says the Lord.
Jn 12: 32

It is a prophesy that anticipates change and conversion.

But there is a gentleness to the  promised gathering that the Church (and the churches) have often betrayed in the various processes and strategies of evangelisation.

  •  What about your local Church community draws people?
  • What might turn them away?
  • How might the best practice be strengthened and the worst redressed?

Photo of mosaic in Medjugorje of Jesus preaching the Kingdom – one of the Mysteries of Light from the Holy Rosary. (c) Allen Morris, 2014

 

Speak Lord: that we may echo your Word.

Sacred Heart church, Marseille

The second reading at tomorrow’s Mass – the Exaltation of the Holy Cross – turns our attention to the one raised on the Cross, for our sake.

His state was divine,
yet Christ Jesus did not cling
to his equality with God
but emptied himself
to assume the condition of a slave
and became as men are;
and being as all men are,
he was humbler yet,
even to accepting death,
death on a cross.
But God raised him high
and gave him the name
which is above all other names
so that all beings
in the heavens, on earth and in the underworld,
should bend the knee at the name of Jesus
and that every tongue should acclaim
Jesus Christ as Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:6-11

The simplicity of the language used by Paul is striking. Actually this passage is possibly the text of an early hymn, and so maybe the credit for the words in fact belongs to someone else.

This passage describe in basic language and simple sentences, with the slightest of rhetorical flourishes, an event that touches the heart and impacts on the whole of creation.

  • How would you describe Jesus, and the consequences of his life and death?
  • When did you last share the the Good News of Jesus, entrusted to us for the life of the world?
  • What did you learn from the experience? And how have you tried to apply the learning?

The love of Jesus crucified extends to the whole world. Apse mosaic at the  Basilique du Sacré-Cœur, Marseille. Photograph (c) Allen Morris, 2014

Taste and See: Working the work

Julian of Norwich

The Gospel acclamation last Sunday was notable:

Alleluia, alleluia!
God in Christ was reconciling the world to himself,
and he has entrusted to us the news that they are reconciled.
Alleluia!

The verse comes from St Paul’s Second letter to the Corinthians (2 Cor 5:19).

It makes an important assertion about the work of Jesus, and about work entrusted to us. At firs sight two different works seem to be described. The first the work of Jesus, the second the work of us. God in Christ reconciles, and then we are to tell people about what God in Christ has done.

Not so. First God is Christ was reconciling, and indeed God in Christ still is reconciling the world to himself – including all parts of the world (including us) still at some distance because of sin.Yes, in one sense, the work is complete. Christ is risen and creation is reconciled in him. And yet, we know, how much of that we still need to be completed in us. The lack is not in him and what he has done, but in us and what we have allowed ourselves, been able to receive.

Second, the work of sharing the good news is itself an encouraging work of reconciliation. And when we try to do it, we know that we are doing it not in and of ourselves, but as an extension of Christ’s reconciling work. It is his work in us.

The Christian life, and the salvation of the world, is a more dynamic and participative thing than sometimes we allow for.

For today rejoice. Know that you are reconciled in Christ. Do what you can to share the good news with others, and bring them closer to Christ who is already so much closer to them than they, or we, can know.

The image is a detail of a work by Alan Oldfield, of Julian of Norwich from the chapel at the Belsey Bridge Conference Centre in Ditchingham, Suffolk. In the work she gazes back beyond her present situation to the crucified and risen Lord. What is past becomes present, what has been achieved is received.
Julian is one of the notable witnesses to what God in Christ has done, and is doing. Her writings, her work continues to bear potent witness to the living saving love of God in Christ, even 700 years after her death.
Photo (c) 2013, Allen Morris
Click here for an image of the whole painting and a reflection on Julian.