Speak Lord: Healing Lord

dsc06581-healing

Let the wilderness and the dry-lands exult,
let the wasteland rejoice and bloom,
let it bring forth flowers like the jonquil,
let it rejoice and sing for joy.

The glory of Lebanon is bestowed on it,
the splendour of Carmel and Sharon;
they shall see the glory of the Lord,
the splendour of our God.

Strengthen all weary hands,
steady all trembling knees
and say to all faint hearts,
‘Courage! Do not be afraid.

‘Look, your God is coming,
vengeance is coming,
the retribution of God;
he is coming to save you.’

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
the ears of the deaf unsealed,
then the lame shall leap like a deer
and the tongues of the dumb sing for joy
for those the Lord has ransomed shall return.

They will come to Zion shouting for joy,
everlasting joy on their faces;
joy and gladness will go with them
and sorrow and lament be ended.

Isaiah 35:1-6,10

Approaching Christmas we may think we know exactly what we are preparing to celebrate. And the horizon of faith may be limited only to the celebration of the Incarnation and the birth of Jesus. (Only?!)

Advent – especially through its readings, reminds us of the newness that is still to come that we are not yet aware of, and that we learn afresh to long for as we listen to the readings.

Today, the 2nd Sunday of Advent the prophet Isaiah speaks of the most wondrous changes, reversals, healings and fulfilments. These are for us, and by God’s grace are to come about even by our cooperation with his grace.

  • Which image grabs you?
  • Which change do you most long for?
  • How will you pray or work for it in the coming hours and days?

Healing. Vatican Museum. (c) 2016, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: Faith

faithJesus told his disciples a parable about the need to pray continually and never lose heart. ‘There was a judge in a certain town’ he said ‘who had neither fear of God nor respect for man. In the same town there was a widow who kept on coming to him and saying, “I want justice from you against my enemy!” For a long time he refused, but at last he said to himself, “Maybe I have neither fear of God nor respect for man, but since she keeps pestering me I must give this widow her just rights, or she will persist in coming and worry me to death.”’

And the Lord said ‘You notice what the unjust judge has to say? Now will not God see justice done to his chosen who cry to him day and night even when he delays to help them? I promise you, he will see justice done to them, and done speedily. But when the Son of Man comes, will he find any faith on earth?’

Luke 18:1-8

Jesus rather loads the dice in the parable we heard on Sunday, the 29th Sunday of Ordinary Time.

The parable is about the irresistible force meeting the immoveable object. I’ve met a few of both of those in my time. Probably have been both of those in my time.

Sometimes in those situations it is not so easy to know whether who is the good guy and who the bad. But Jesus tells the story not so much to help us to reflect on our own behaviour and attitude, but to assure us that the good God will never abandon us to our own devices.

So, though there might be benefit in using the parable to consider how we are to others, the parable is intended most to help us consider how we relate to God who is entirely good, though not at our beck and call!

  • When did you last find the need to trust in God?
  • When did you last find disappointment that God did not answer your prayers?
  • What helps you to trust and have faith?

Faith. Tewkesbury Abbey. (c) 2016, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: Only One?

peacockOn the way to Jerusalem Jesus travelled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered one of the villages, ten lepers came to meet him. They stood some way off and called to him, ‘Jesus! Master! Take pity on us.’ When he saw them he said, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ Now as they were going away they were cleansed.

Finding himself cured, one of them turned back praising God at the top of his voice and threw himself at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. The man was a Samaritan.

This made Jesus say, ‘Were not all ten made clean? The other nine, where are they? It seems that no one has come back to give praise to God, except this foreigner.’ And he said to the man, ‘Stand up and go on your way. Your faith has saved you.’

Luke 17:11-19

Hearing the Gospel yesterday – the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time – one of the things that really struck home was the sheer numbers of the lepers! Excluded, sick, and perhaps not even with the benefit of unity in affliction, these ten, encountered on the border-lands, were beyond the pale.

In their misery they cry out. And Jesus hears, and Jesus heals.

And then of the ten, only one returns to thank Jesus – and that one a Samaritan, be-nighted by a deffective faith according to Israel. But Jesus attributes the healing not to his own power as a healer but to this man’s faith.

Ten were healed of leprosy, but only one – by his faith – cooperated with the power and healing love of Jesus, achieving by this cooperation, the deeper healing of his very person.

Faith is not about passive reception. That is not how God made us to be. God made us for response and communion, and that communion involves our participation too.

  • What grace of God do you want to/have you consciously responded to today?
  • How?
  • Why?

 Peacock – symbol of eternal life. Church of Jacob’s Well, Nablus. (former Samaria). (c) 2012, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: A whisper

detail-from-battle-of-britain-memorial-2How long, O Lord, am I to cry for help
while you will not listen;
to cry ‘Oppression!’ in your ear
and you will not save?
Why do you set injustice before me,
why do you look on where there is tyranny?
Outrage and violence, this is all I see,
all is contention, and discord flourishes.

Then the Lord answered and said,
‘Write the vision down,
inscribe it on tablets
to be easily read,
since this vision is for its own time only:
eager for its own fulfilment, it does not deceive;
if it comes slowly, wait,
for come it will, without fail.
See how he flags, he whose soul is not at rights,
but the upright man will live by his faithfulness.’

Habakkuk 1:2-3,2:2-4

How promptly, here, the Lord responds to the anguished cry of the prophet.

Often, though, it doesn’t seem to work like that. Our cries seem to go unanswered, and maybe that is so: maybe sometimes there is no response, only silence.

But at other times, there may be a response, but one that – for some reason of other  we don’t hear or notice. After all, in Habakkuk’s case, the response is not that startling. Maybe what is expressed to us in Scripture as a response expressed in measured words, was in fact a quiet stirring in the heart. Maybe it was a certain disatisfaction with the adequacy of his lament as description of the situation and how it must be addressed/resolved. Maybe.

How often the Lord speaks to us this way: a feeling, a memory, a sense of unease that makes us think again, that stops us settling for a first response, helps us avoid a hardening of our heart.

As with Habakkuk, when the Lord acts this way, he can seem to do very little indeed, certainly very little compared to what we ask of him. But by that little our life can be changed; a certain freedom is restored, horizons expand, and we move on differently, even hopefully…

  • When/how did the Lord last speak with you?
  • What helped or what hindered your listening?
  • Speak with the Lord of your experience.

Detail from Battle of Britain memorial. London. (c) 2014, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Teach us patience

7thc-liturgical-diptych-egypt

How long, O Lord, am I to cry for help
while you will not listen;
to cry ‘Oppression!’ in your ear
and you will not save?
Why do you set injustice before me,
why do you look on where there is tyranny?
Outrage and violence, this is all I see,
all is contention, and discord flourishes.
Then the Lord answered and said,

‘Write the vision down,
inscribe it on tablets
to be easily read,
since this vision is for its own time only:
eager for its own fulfilment, it does not deceive;
if it comes slowly, wait,
for come it will, without fail.
See how he flags, he whose soul is not at rights,
but the upright man will live by his faithfulness.’

Habakkuk 1:2-3,2:2-4

The cry of the faithful one comes from his agony. The Lord seems absent.

And yet the prophet is able to testify also that the Lord is present. And is aware of our predicament..

Righteousness will come. Victory is won.

In our pain and hurt we are asked to trust, to wait on the Lord. We can do no more than trust, maybe, and that can seem foolish, even ridiculous. And yet the loving, patient Lord invites us to be still, patient, and to trust. To him be the glory.

7th C Writing Tablet (Liturgical text) from Egypt, in the collection of the British Museum. (c) 2007, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: of your promises…

Street, ArlesThe First reading at Mass today, the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, speaks of the night that presaged freedom and the fulfilment of God’s promises to his people: the night that opened the way to the Promised Land.

That night had been foretold to our ancestors, so that, once they saw what kind of oaths they had put their trust in, they would joyfully take courage.

This was the expectation of your people, the saving of the virtuous and the ruin of their enemies;
for by the same act with which you took vengeance on our foes
you made us glorious by calling us to you.

The devout children of worthy men offered sacrifice in secret
and this divine pact they struck with one accord:
that the saints would share the same blessings and dangers alike;
and forthwith they had begun to chant the hymns of the fathers.

Wisdom 18:6-9

What ‘night’ does Wisdom allude to? Certainly the reference is to the night of the first Passover in Egypt (Ex 11.4-7), but also there is probably a reference back to the night time promises  with Abraham and Jacob (Gen 15.13-14; Gen 46.3-4). In the deepest darkness comes the sure promise of eternal light and life: God covenants with his people

The promises of the Old Testament lead the people forward – if they will hear them, and put their trust in them. But as the Second reading at Mass today from Hebrews makes clear, the people of the Old Testament, what ever their faithfulness, did not receive the ultimate gift that was to come only in Christ. They lived and died in faith, but awaiting the fulfilment in Christ. The Promised Land itself is but a stage on the way to the Kingdom.

Today, we too are called to live in faith – as the Gospel too, today, makes perfectly clear. We too are called on into the Kingdom that is so very near: already but for us not yet, not quite yet.

Yet already through faith in Christ we are incorporated into him. As Paul says we already share his death, and so share in his resurrection. Of ourselves we are called forward and called to seek after the kingdom, but in him, already and securely, we are part of that reality. In him we seek our true selves.

  • What in God’s promises draws you forward?
  • What in this present ‘land’ might hold you back from faithfully answering his call to move on and move forward?

A street in Arles. (c) 2013, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: Very different but at one in Christ

Lourdes windowThe Second reading at Mass on Sunday, the 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time, spoke of the profound unity between Christians, by virtue of their faith and baptism.

That unity is deeper, more real, than any differences. Once these differences were used to distinguish one group against the other – and some still see them as that significance – but they are wrong, says Paul.

You are, all of you, sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. All baptised in Christ, you have all clothed yourselves in Christ, and there are no more distinctions between Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female, but all of you are one in Christ Jesus. Merely by belonging to Christ you are the posterity of Abraham, the heirs he was promised.                                                                                            Galatians 3:26-29

A unity more real than any differences and distinctions?

The ancient words of Paul – potent in their contemporary significance – this week will for many people have resonated have resonated with newly familiar words spoken just a year ago by Jo Cox MP, the recently murdered MP, in her maiden speech in the House of Commons.

Batley and Spen is a gathering of typically independent, no-nonsense and proud Yorkshire towns and villages. Our communities have been deeply enhanced by immigration, be it of Irish Catholics across the constituency or of Muslims from Gujarat in India or from Pakistan, principally from Kashmir. While we celebrate our diversity, what surprises me time and time again as I travel around the constituency is that we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.

From the maiden speech of  Jo Cox, MP  for the constituency of Batley and Spen, 3rd June 2015.

The human family is enriched by all sorts of difference and variety. These features are sometimes exploited to divide and separate people, even to set one community against others.

Saint Paul and Jo Cox may attribute the reasons for unity deeper than difference, but they too are maybe more different than opposed; more complementary than different.

  • What binds you to others who are different to you? How can you fruitfully cooperate with these?
  • What forces seek to separate you from them? How can you work to frustrate them? And rise above that which contradicts God’s will?

Window from parish church of Lourdes. (c) 2016, Allen Morris