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.

Speak Lord: Gracious God

healing-leper

On 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

Over past weeks we have heard parables in the Sunday Gospel reading. This coming Sunday we hear a miracle story.

And it is a story where Jesus stands firmly in his religious tradition. He heals ten lepers and instructs those he heals to keep to the prescripts of the law, and to demonstrate their healing to the priests, and so be formally reintegrated into the community of Israel.

We’re not told whether they go to do that. Of itself that is interesting.

We are told that one, finding himself healed, praises God at the top of his voice and turns back to Jesus. The implication seems to be that the nine do not do any of these things.

And then we learn that that one is not of Israel but is a Samaritan: is one who actually might not be that welcome at the Temple! But maybe he was heading there, for he ‘turns back’, and turns back to go to Jesus to thank him – an action (ie the turning back and the thanking Jesus) that Jesus describes as praising God.

Again it is one who is outside the community (in this case doubly outside, because of his disease and his religion) who demonstrates to the presumed community what it is to be in right relationship with God.

  • For what do you thank God?
  • With whom and how does that form community?

Jesus heals a leper. Detail from 9th Century Ivory carving in the Victoria & Albert Museum. (c) 2007 

Taste and See: Gathered and missioned

Peter Capernaum

The Gospel for the third Sunday of Easter engages us in a story of reconciliation and healing, drawn from Jesus and shared with Peter, and through Peter shared with the Church.

Jesus showed himself again to the disciples. It was by the Sea of Tiberias, and it happened like this: Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee and two more of his disciples were together. Simon Peter said, ‘I’m going fishing.’ They replied, ‘We’ll come with you.’ They went out and got into the boat but caught nothing that night.

It was light by now and there stood Jesus on the shore, though the disciples did not realise that it was Jesus. Jesus called out, ‘Have you caught anything, friends?’ And when they answered, ‘No’, he said, ‘Throw the net out to starboard and you’ll find something.’ So they dropped the net, and there were so many fish that they could not haul it in. The disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord.’ At these words ‘It is the Lord’, Simon Peter, who had practically nothing on, wrapped his cloak round him and jumped into the water. The other disciples came on in the boat, towing the net and the fish; they were only about a hundred yards from land.

As soon as they came ashore they saw that there was some bread there, and a charcoal fire with fish cooking on it. Jesus said, ‘Bring some of the fish you have just caught.’ Simon Peter went aboard and dragged the net to the shore, full of big fish, one hundred and fifty-three of them; and in spite of there being so many the net was not broken. Jesus said to them, ‘Come and have breakfast.’ None of the disciples was bold enough to ask, ‘Who are you?’; they knew quite well it was the Lord. Jesus then stepped forward, took the bread and gave it to them, and the same with the fish. This was the third time that Jesus showed himself to the disciples after rising from the dead.

After the meal Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these others do?’ He answered, ‘Yes Lord, you know I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ A second time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ He replied, ‘Yes, Lord, you know I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Look after my sheep.’ Then he said to him a third time, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter was upset that he asked him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ and said, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep.

‘I tell you most solemnly,
when you were young
you put on your own belt
and walked where you liked;
but when you grow old
you will stretch out your hands,
and somebody else will put a belt round you
and take you where you would rather not go.’

In these words he indicated the kind of death by which Peter would give glory to God. After this he said, ‘Follow me.’

John 21:1-19

 

  • What do you receive from Peter? From the Church?
  • What of God’s gifts and his grace do you share with the world?

Image derived from carving in the Church of Peter’s Primacy, Capernaum, Israel. (c) 2013

 

Taste and See: And be other Christs

 

Sutton Christmas

The Gospel Acclamation on the 3rd Sunday of Advent, this week’s Sunday, put it very clearly:

Alleluia, alleluia!
The spirit of the Lord has been given to me.
He has sent me to bring the good news to the poor.
Alleluia!

Is61:1(Lk4:18)

The Lord speaks through the prophet Isaiah. And the Lord speaks through (as) Jesus of Nazareth. And the Lord speaks to (and hopes to speak through) the Church. And the message is the same: there is good news for the poor.

This is not the good news that is peddled by the stores and on-line outlets –  bargains, best ‘this’, most neat ‘that’.

It is not the romanticism that is ladled at civic (and some other!) Christmas Carol Services.

It is truth about real lives being refashioned and healed. It is good news for the blind, the lame, the morally corrupt and others, who receive the opportunity to begin a new style of life. Knowing themselves as in some sense excluded and marginalised, they hear the welcome home and are offered the embrace that is theirs as children of the Father. They are given, again, the opportunity of living as such.

‘We’ are given again… For there is none of us who see as clearly as we might; who make our way through life with purpose and direction as we might; none of us whose actions and decisions and thoughts and feelings aren’t messed up by pride or greed or fear, by a self-ism that puts us and ours first and discriminates against ‘them’.

Some sin more gravely than others, but God’s family as a whole is mighty dysfunctional!

And God’s family is loved with a mighty love. There is good news for even the rich…

  • How, today, will you share the good news shared with you?

Logo for Holy Year of Mercy 

Many parishes will be having services of reconciliation at this time. They give opportunity to receive the personal ministry of the Church through word, prayer, song and Sacrament, and to confess our sins and failings.

Why not make a special effort in this year of Mercy to seek one out and to take part.

 

Photograph of Sutton Coldfield shopping centre. (c) 2015, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: Renovation

At Work.jpgThe Gospel reading yesterday, the second Sunday of Advent, spoke of healing and being made new. It spoke to the exile and alienation of the People of God, and of all people. It offered hope and wholeness.

In the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar’s reign, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judaea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of the lands of Ituraea and Trachonitis, Lysanias tetrach of Abilene, during the pontificate of Annas and Caiaphas the word of God came to John son of Zechariah, in the wilderness. He went through the whole Jordan district proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the sayings of the prophet Isaiah:

‘A voice cries in the wilderness:
Prepare a way for the Lord,
make his paths straight.
Every valley will be filled in,
every mountain and hill be laid low,
winding ways will be straightened
and rough roads made smooth.
And all mankind shall see the salvation of God.’

Luke 3:1-6

The Bible is, necessarily, a book that makes great use of metaphor.

In our day, talk of ‘Every valley being filled in, every mountain and hill  laid low, winding ways straightened, and rough roads made smooth.’ might have us wondering about the planning applications that would need to be made and the protests about safeguarding the environment. And quite right too.

However think of the objections we raise when we ourselves are called to reform and renewal. Often they are a misguided form of self-protection, not helping us but keeping us at a (sadly) safe distance from God’s healing and newness and mercy.

The metaphor of highway building is just that, a metaphor. The real change needed, offered, is in us that we might be helped to come closer to God’s presence, helped to be re-fashioned in the image of his Son. That this might happen to us as individuals and as Church.

How we hesitate, how we seeks to frustrate the plan. How we need a Year of Mercy.

  • What do you fear?
  • What do you hope for?
  • Where are God’s plans in all this?

Photo. Work site in Vancouver. (c) 2008, Allen Morris.

 

Speak Lord: restore hope in us

Nowa HutaThe first reading at Mass today, the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time comes from the prophet Isaiah.

Its prophecy of healing and hope prepares us for the healing of the man described in Mark’s Gospel. It of course also alerts us to the offer of healing and hope for us and all humankind.

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 water gushes in the desert,
streams in the wasteland,
the scorched earth becomes a lake,
the parched land springs of water.

Isaiah 35:4-7

The image above comes from the church of Nowa Huta. Nowa Huta was designed as a town for atheistic communists, and built on the outskirts of Cracow, Poland. Trouble was the good workers who settled there were not so atheisitic as they might have been and the need for a church quickly presented itself. Something of the story of what followed can be read here.

The image above shows in the lower level a frieze of Poland’s history, and above a window depicting God’s promise of protection.

Poland, like much of central and Eastern Europe, has suffered greatly from oppression and occupation. Like the Israel of Jesus time. Like us, perhaps, under influence of the forces and powers of our time, no longer so true to ourselves and our purpose: freedom,health and holiness somewhat beyond our reach.

Today’s Gospel and this first reading offer encouragement. God is with us. Healing and hope are at hand.

  • In prayer let us know our need and ask for help.

West wall, Nowa Huta. (c), 2013, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Open us to life

Mark Marseille 2The Gospel on Sunday, the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, reacquaints us with the ministry of healing that was such a feature of Jesus’ public ministry.

Returning from the district of Tyre, Jesus went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, right through the Decapolis region. And they brought him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they asked him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, put his fingers into the man’s ears and touched his tongue with spittle. Then looking up to heaven he sighed; and he said to him, ‘Ephphatha’, that is, ‘Be opened.’ And his ears were opened, and the ligament of his tongue was loosened and he spoke clearly. And Jesus ordered them to tell no one about it, but the more he insisted, the more widely they published it. Their admiration was unbounded. ‘He has done all things well,’ they said ‘he makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak.’

Mark 7:31-37

Mark gives us a deal of detail of Jesus’ journey. Probably the most important thing is to note that he is on the borders of Palestine, outside of the safe/pure Jewish areas. And in his laying hands on the sick man he reaches out to someone excluded from the community of the pure and whole.

Jesus heals – but heals through an intimacy that is maybe a little startling – fingers into his ears and exchanging body fluids. It’s scarcely the neat and tidy hygienic procedure that we might expect in a contemporary medical ministry.

But then this is not, most importantly, a medical ministry only. It is about restoring the whole person, body, spirit and soul.

The sigh of Jesus shows something of the personal engagement and care that he has for this man, his brother in need. A personal engagement which leads Jesus, to the extent possible, ensuring that the healing is conducted privately.

The crowd may be there for spectacle and signs of power and glory. They get it, but Jesus is about something more important and notable yet.

  • Where do I need healing, opening , restoring to life?
  • Where/how might I share this with others?

Figure of St Mark. Cathedral, Marseille. (c) 2013, Allen Morris.