Taste and See: A gift to share

Madrid December 2003 269

The second reading at Sunday’s Mass of the Epiphany came from St Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. It spoke of God’s entrusting to him a grace for us.

You have probably heard how I have been entrusted by God with the grace he meant for you, and that it was by a revelation that I was given the knowledge of the mystery. This mystery that has now been revealed through the Spirit to his holy apostles and prophets was unknown to any men in past generations; it means that pagans now share the same inheritance, that they are parts of the same body, and that the same promise has been made to them, in Jesus Christ, through the gospel.

Ephesians 3:2-3,5-6

The same grace is entrusted to us for the sake of others.

It will have been entrusted to us by God through many mysteries – probably. Through the love and faith of family or friends; the communities we belong to and have belonged to; through the sacraments; through the scriptures; through our communion with God in prayer. But entrusted to us it has been – and for the sake of others.

  • Where in particular have you received the grace of the knowledge of the love of God for all people?
  • With whom have you last shared it?
  • With whom might you next share it?

Photograph of crib in Madrid. c) 2003, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: That we may be one

 

Crib 2

The second reading at Sunday’s Mass of the Epiphany comes from St Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.

You have probably heard how I have been entrusted by God with the grace he meant for you, and that it was by a revelation that I was given the knowledge of the mystery. This mystery that has now been revealed through the Spirit to his holy apostles and prophets was unknown to any men in past generations; it means that pagans now share the same inheritance, that they are parts of the same body, and that the same promise has been made to them, in Jesus Christ, through the gospel.

Ephesians 3:2-3,5-6

Paul reflects on how through his mission to the nations the separation between Israel and the nations has been broken down. All are called to share in the same faith. Where there was disunity and differentiation now there is the possibility of new unity, gifted in Christ, through the gospel.

The possibility still exists – despite current national, ethnic, gender, religious, politicial, wealth and class divides.

How will you work for it today?

  • Photograph of crib at Eglise Saint Louis en L’Ile, Paris (c) 2006, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: prepare us…

St Marks 13th C

With the first Sunday of Advent began a new liturgical year, characterised on Sunday’s by the reading of the Gospel of Mark. This Sunday, the 2nd of Advent, we are taken to the beginning of Mark’s Gospel, and the beginning of the public ministry of Jesus.

The beginning of the Good News about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is written in the book of the prophet Isaiah:

Look, I am going to send my messenger before you;
he will prepare your way.
A voice cries in the wilderness:
Prepare a way for the Lord, make his paths straight.

and so it was that John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. All Judaea and all the people of Jerusalem made their way to him, and as they were baptised by him in the river Jordan they confessed their sins. John wore a garment of camel-skin, and he lived on locusts and wild honey. In the course of his preaching he said, ‘Someone is following me, someone who is more powerful than I am, and I am not fit to kneel down and undo the strap of his sandals. I have baptised you with water, but he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.’

Mark 1.1

Tradition suggests that Mark’s Gospel was written in Rome, for a community whose security was shaken by persecution and apostasy. Mark relates Gospel, apparently basing his account on the personal memories of St. Peter, to restore the community to faith and faithful living.

The beginning of the beginning is a tale of the forgiveness of sins, of restoration and healing. There is comfort here for Israel, for that broken community in Rome, and for us.

Photograph is of mosaic at West Front of St Mark’s, Venice – traditional burial place of St Mark – showing the basilica as it was in the 13th Century. (c) 2008, Allen Morris

 

Taste and See: Alive by God’s word

hagia sophia

Yesterday’s blog concerned the first of the two alternative Gospel Acclamation in the Lectionary for Mass on the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time. The other alternative Acclamation is the subject of today’s blog.

Alleluia, alleluia!
Open our heart, O Lord,
to accept the words of your Son.
Alleluia!
cf.Acts 16:14

The reflection is simply this. How hard is it to have our hearts open and so to hear, and then accept, the words of God’s Son. How hard to hear the words that are already rather familiar?

How many times, for example, had you already heard yesterday’s parable of the kindly landowner? And so did you feel the need to listen carefully, or was there a feeling of ‘I know this one…’ And a drifting off to think of other things? Distractions come so easily.
And even if they don’t, it requires a certain readiness to let the words we hear raise questions about us: to let the reading be about ‘me’ and not just about ‘them’. About me and my relationship with God and neighbour, and not some more or less abstract moral teaching that is proffered for the good of the community, but may well not have anything much to do with me.
The wonder of the scriptures proclaimed is that this is a sacramental encounter offered to us. Jesus really speaks through the form of story and teaching; speaks personally and individually to each one present.
Hearing him, and not just the words, is not easy, and so yesterday we had the opportunity, even as we stood and sang to greet the gospel, to pray for help for openness and attentiveness of heart and mind and person to hear and accept Jesus’ speaking to us collectively, and to each one individually.
What did you hear yesterday?
What are you doing with what you heard, to take it deeper?
And if you did not hear, why might that be? Maybe go back to the gospel today, in a time of personal prayer. Seeking again, to be open to the Lord who welcomes you with love.

Speak Lord: as we sing your praises.

Heavenly host

The Gospel Acclamation we may sing at Mass today, the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, reminds what that acclamation is all about.

Alleluia, alleluia!
Blessings on the King who comes,
in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven
and glory in the highest heavens!
Alleluia!

cf.Lk19:38,2:14

The verse explains the meaning of our acclamation of the Gospel.

In this acclamation we greet the Lord who has already spoken to us in a more hidden or obscure way through readings from the inspired writings of the people of Israel and from the earliest Christians, and who now speaks to us more directly in the words of the Gospel. It is the same Lord Jesus, God’s Word, who speaks through readings from the Old and New Testament. But now, in the Gospel reading,  the words are accounts of his teaching, of his life and the impact he has on others. We more easily and, again, directly, recognise his personal presence.

And because of the primacy of the Gospel reading in the Liturgy of the Word, we stand to greet and hear it; we sing words of praise to greet the Gospel; we have a dialogue which again gathers and focuses us so we might hear the words well, and take the Word to heart, and respond in prayer.

In the Catholic tradition we sing Alleluia to greet the Gospel – except during Lent. The Orthodox retain it even in Lent.

Often people have sung it for years and never wondered what the word means. Our English word is a transliteration of the Hebrew הללו יה and simply means ‘Praise God’. The mellifluousness of the word lends itself to enthusiastic singing. That said, the singing of Alleluia can sometimes seem tired and unenthusiastic: going through the motions but seeming not to mean a word of it!

Maybe today at Mass we can recover the deep praise and gratitude evoked by the verse and the ancient Hebrew word. And maybe include a (quieter?) singing of the word in our daily prayer, singing the praise of God to gather ourselves for the time of prayer, or at its conclusion.

Maybe we more often think of angels singing ‘Glory to God’ or ‘Holy, Holy, Holy’. Listen carefully. The stone angels in the picture above are singing ‘Alleluia’, apart, that is, from the ones blowing their trumpets! Photograph shows detail of carving at the West door of St Trophime, Arles. (c) Allen Morris, 2014.

Taste and See: Speak true and help us speak truth

Free Press

The gospel acclamation on Sunday was pure and simple:

Alleluia, alleluia!
Your word is truth, O Lord: consecrate us in the truth.
Alleluia!
Jn17:17

In our world people’s speech seems so rarely to be pure and simple.

We are so familiar with spin, and half-truths – and it sullies and weighs down public discourse in society across the board. The media, politicians, clergy and so many other groups all  share in the guilt.

Some may be more sinned against than sinning, and some may have better motives than others for the way they communicate partial truth – but the overall consequences  are a profound lack of trust in pubic discourse, and a sapping of people’s readiness to attend to and participate in democratic process.

If ‘they’ are ‘all’ guilty, it would be surprising if we were not tainted too.

  • Where am I less than frank in speaking the truth?
  • Why?

Speak Lord: Learn from me…

 

Therese 5

The words of Jesus that we hear in the Gospel today are spoken after the death of John the Baptist, after the rejection of the gospel in Chorazin, in Bethsaida, and even his ‘own town’ of Capernaum. These reject but others, perhaps surprising others, accept the Gospel. And for this Jesus blesses his Father.

As you read the passage, what word, phrase, or sentence stands out for you?

You might hold on to that word, phrase, or sentence, and let it remain present to you over the coming hours, pondering it in your heart. Then bring the fruits of your pondering to God in prayer.

Jesus exclaimed, ‘I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children. Yes, Father, for that is what it pleased you to do. Everything has been entrusted to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, just as no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

‘Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.’

Matthew 11:25-30

This gospel passage is so often heard at Funerals, offering comfort and hope to those who mourn, and who have often enough seem family of friends struggle for months or years under the burden of chronic sickness or terminal illness.

It is a passage, of course, originally spoken to those in the prime of life.

It challenges we who struggle on, trying to save the world by our own efforts, to wise-up, and learn other ways.

It invites us to learn the ways of faith, and by them to come close to Christ who helps shoulder our load and shares with us his burden of love and service – a burden borne in his ministry of gentleness and respect.

Image of St Therese of Lisieux taken from https://www.facebook.com/SaintThereseofLisieux/photos_stream