Taste and See: Growing up

Finding in the temple 2

On Sunday last, Holy Family Sunday, and the first Sunday of Christmas, the Gospel came from Luke’s Gospel, and is the only account we have of the time between Jesus’ birth and his adult ministry.

The life of the Holy Family was not without its challenges.

Every year the parents of Jesus used to go to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up for the feast as usual. When they were on their way home after the feast, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem without his parents knowing it. They assumed he was with the caravan, and it was only after a day’s journey that they went to look for him among their relations and acquaintances. When they failed to find him they went back to Jerusalem looking for him everywhere.

Three days later, they found him in the Temple, sitting among the doctors, listening to them, and asking them questions; and all those who heard him were astounded at his intelligence and his replies. They were overcome when they saw him, and his mother said to him, ‘My child, why have, you done this to us? See how worried your father and I have been, looking for you.’ ‘Why were you looking for me?’ he replied ‘Did you not know that I must be busy with my Father’s affairs?’ But they did not understand what he meant.

He then went down with them and came to Nazareth and lived under their authority. His mother stored up all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom, in stature, and in favour with God and men.

Luke 2:41-52

How could their life be without challenges? Jesus own life would lead to the agony of decision whether to betray himself and his mission, or flee to the hills to escape execution. Our own lives, while rarely pushed to that pitch of crisis or incident, every day contain choices. Those choices can make or mar our life and the lives of those nearest us, and – in this global economy – impact on those far away who would never dream of our existence.

At any time most of us have only a modest grasp on the circumstances of our lives and the import of decisions we make. All the more important then to seek that sort of healthy collaboration – often a very tough working together – that we see in the Gospel story.

Jesus does the will of his Father, but returns home under the authority of his parents. Mary expresses her distress and anger at Jesus, but also is ready to store these things in her heart, and – we are told elsewhere – ponder them.

Theirs is a life lived careful for truth and purpose.

New Year’s resolutions loom.

What might be a realistic one that will help you to live and work more collaboratively with God and neighbour?

 

A second image of the child Jesus in the Temple. Hill of Apparitions, Medjugorje. (c) 2015, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: Your kingdom come

Nativity VeniceTwo alternative Psalms were offered in the Lectionary for yesterday, Holy Family Sunday – the first Sunday of Christmas.

The psalm offered especially for use in Year C – this year, the Year of Luke, and the Year of Mercy – speaks of communion with God. It speaks of the courts of the Lord: back to backs often had courts, but maybe here the idea is that of a grander set of courtyards, fitting to a king. It speaks, rather  more domestically perhaps, of God’s ‘house’… but in these days we hear a lot of the House of David…. It speaks of Zion, Jerusalem, seat of king and God, and a place of pilgrimage for the people…

The psalm speaks of communion, and of the psalmist’s longing and yearning for this communion.

They are happy who dwell in your house, O Lord.

How lovely is your dwelling place,
Lord, God of hosts.
My soul is longing and yearning,
is yearning for the courts of the Lord.
My heart and my soul ring out their joy
to God, the living God.

They are happy, who dwell in your house,
for ever singing your praise.
They are happy, whose strength is in you,
in whose hearts are the roads to Zion.

O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer,
give ear, O God of Jacob.
Turn your eyes, O God, our shield,
look on the face of your anointed.

Psalm 83:2-3,5-6,9-10

 

We heard in yesterday’s Gospel how Jesus, Son of David, makes himself at home in the courts of the Temple.

Yet in his discourse he offers a more familial image to consider God – simply as Father. The head of the domestic family – as well as head of people and nation and King of kings.

When we pray, as Jesus teaches, ‘ your kingdom come’, we may have in mind the kingdom of heaven, and God’s dominion here and now over the nations of the world. But it starts – at least for us, existentially, it starts – with our self, our home, our family…

  • How evident is the Father’s leadership, his rule, there?
  • In me?
  • My home?
  • My family?
  • How would anyone know?

As the civic year draws to a close, take stock and speak to God with gratitude for his care and ask for his help where you seem further from him.

Bethlehem in Venice. (c) 2013, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: make us yours…

Altar and Ambo Dresden

The first reading today, the feast of the Holy Family, the first Sunday of Christmas, comes from the first book of Samuel.

In this season when we remember and give thanks for the birth of Jesus, the story of Samuel reminds us that the birth of Jesus reveals its deeper meaning when we remember those events of revealed salvation history that have preceded it. Jesus brings to fulfilment all that has been promised, and all the good that has been attempted.

Hannah conceived and gave birth to a son, and called him Samuel ‘since’ she said ‘I asked the Lord for him.’

When a year had gone by, the husband Elkanah went up again with all his family to offer the annual sacrifice to the Lord and to fulfil his vow. Hannah, however, did not go up, having said to her husband, ‘Not before the child is weaned. Then I will bring him and present him before the Lord and he shall stay there for ever.’

When she had weaned him, she took him up with her together with a three-year old bull, an ephah of flour and a skin of wine, and she brought him to the temple of the Lord at Shiloh; and the child was with them. They slaughtered the bull and the child’s mother came to Eli. She said, ‘If you please, my lord. As you live, my lord, I am the woman who stood here beside you, praying to the Lord. This is the child I prayed for, and the Lord granted me what I asked him. Now I make him over to the Lord for the whole of his life. He is made over to the Lord.’

1 Samuel 1:20-22,24-28

Jesus is also the anticipation and enabler of our fulfilment. It is by him and with his graceful assistance that we are able to keep trying to make ourselves ‘over to the Lord’.

That phrase can seem constraining, limiting, diminishing. Yet our potential is itself God’s gift. He longs not for our diminishment, and does not wish to rob us of his very gift. Quite the contrary: it is in our communion with him, ever-deepening, ever-developing, that we find ourselves, and receive that precious gift so to as most fully live it.

  • What does constrain you?
  • What does diminish you?
  • In what way does God call you to greater fullness?

Altar and Ambo, Dresden. (c) 2005, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: to your family

Bethlehem in Boldmere

Two alternative Psalms are offered in the Lectionary for Holy Family Sunday – the first Sunday of Christmas.

The psalm below is that offered especially for use in Year C, this year, the Year of Luke, and the Year of Mercy.

They are happy who dwell in your house, O Lord.

How lovely is your dwelling place,
Lord, God of hosts.
My soul is longing and yearning,
is yearning for the courts of the Lord.
My heart and my soul ring out their joy
to God, the living God.

They are happy, who dwell in your house,
for ever singing your praise.
They are happy, whose strength is in you,
in whose hearts are the roads to Zion.

O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer,
give ear, O God of Jacob.
Turn your eyes, O God, our shield,
look on the face of your anointed.

Psalm 83:2-3,5-6,9-10

As with the life we live, so too the Church’s Liturgical Year can sometimes seem overloaded – Christmas, Holy Family, Luke, Mercy…

It can seem like an overloaded pudding, too many good things, and too soon leading to indigestion!

So, especially if Christmas feasting was extended, maybe a little quiet family time is called for… a time for digesting of bringing together self, others, life, faith, past, future… a time in the present for quiet refelcting and pondering…

It all begins with family in some sense… Harm done in the family often can never be fully repaired, and a good start in the family can never be taken away from us. Family matters, very much.

We often identify ourselves almost exclusively with our human family. Yet Jesus comes to remind us of something prior. Before we were born, perhaps before we were conceived, the idea we were known and loved in the heart of God. Our most fundamental identity comes from being the children of God: he is Father of us before there was an us and in his love and faithfulness is the bed-rock of our lives as individuals, families, communities, civilisation.

Often we do not acknowledge this, sometimes our actions put it in jeopardy (or seem to). But in these days it is good to ponder on the Fatherhood of God –  and our responsibility, under God, and with Jesus, in the Spirit – to sustain and develop the family connections, starting at home and extending to all our brothers and sisters in God.

  • Pray to be a faithful child of God.
  • Pray to be a good sister or brother.

Bethlehem in Boldmere. (c) 2015, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: To your family

Nativity SJW

Christmas is here and today’s posting prepares us for Christmas’s first Sunday, the Feast of the Holy Family.

The are a number of options for the Second reading on Sunday – the following reading, from the first letter of St John is the option provided for the Feast of the Holy Family in year C, the Year of Luke.

Think of the love that the Father has lavished on us,
by letting us be called God’s children;
and that is what we are.
Because the world refused to acknowledge him,
therefore it does not acknowledge us.
My dear people, we are already the children of God
but what we are to be in the future has not yet been revealed;
all we know is, that when it is revealed
we shall be like him
because we shall see him as he really is.
My dear people,
if we cannot be condemned by our own conscience,
we need not be afraid in God’s presence,
and whatever we ask him,
we shall receive,
because we keep his commandments
and live the kind of life that he wants.

His commandments are these:
that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ
and that we love one another
as he told us to.
Whoever keeps his commandments
lives in God and God lives in him.
We know that he lives in us
by the Spirit that he has given us.

1 John 3:1-2,21-24

The season celebrates God’s Son taking flesh and living as one of us in all things but sin.

The purpose of the Incarnation and the season is to help us remember that we too are called to be children of God. It is this that allows us to ‘dare’ to call God Father.

In our culture the Lord’s Prayer is so familiar, so safe…. yet it invites us to something truly remarkable – to be God’s children.

  • What difference does God make to your life?
  • In what way is God your Father?
  • In what way do you show that you are his child?

Photograph of Performers in Nativity Play, St Johns Wood. (c) 2007, Andre Camara.

Speak Lord: of wisdom and life

Family

The First reading at Mass today, the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, comes from the book of Wisdom. It offers a relatively unusual, and refreshing, opportunity to hear the feminine pronoun used in proliferation in our Liturgy of the Word.

The usage may be prompted by a feminised personification of an attribute of God, rather than a woman, per se, but it is welcome all the same.

I prayed, and understanding was given me;
I entreated, and the spirit of Wisdom came to me.
I esteemed her more than sceptres and thrones;
compared with her, I held riches as nothing.
I reckoned no priceless stone to be her peer,
for compared with her, all gold is a pinch of sand,
and beside her silver ranks as mud.
I loved her more than health or beauty,
preferred her to the light,
since her radiance never sleeps.
In her company all good things came to me,
at her hands riches not to be numbered.
Wisdom 7:7-11

In our days when women of this generation, in the UK, have the opportunity of ‘competing’ (more or less equally) with men for places of power, the metaphor of Lady Wisdom may not work as well as it did. It may not be as culturally challenging, ‘woman’ is no longer in quite the striking opposition/tension to ‘man’ as once it was. (Though the qualifications in the first sentence of this paragraph remind of how much still waits to be realised before there is real equality of opportunity for women even in our time.)

Lady Wisdom was first set before (mostly) men as a challenge to the choices they made from all the opportunities available to them – exhorting them, if they wished to be faithful, to make healthy and loving, life-giving and life-sharing, choices.

If now those same choices must be made equally by men and women maybe that’s the price of progress. And maybe word ‘progress’ can be read without irony when, with God’s help (and under the inspiration offered by Lady Wisdom), we make wise choices.

  • Pray for wisdom – for you and yours
  • Pray for justice and equal opportunities for all
  • Pray for the Synod on Family life and mission

Photograph of carving of a family from the Cairo Museum. The man is ‘disabled’, but (not least because of the woman) the family seems mighty fine! (c) 2007, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Of your blessing

Murillo TrinityThe Psalm for Mass tomorrow extols family life, happy family life. In the unity and fruitfulness of the relationships within the ‘good’ family are echoed the unity and fruitfulness that is the Creator’s intention for the relationship of Creation and Creator.

A key element in Jesus’ urging a renewal of faith on his generation, and his manifesting the graciousness of God through his actions, was the teaching of God as Father, Abba. When children or spouse mess up and fail it is to Abba we turn for healing and hope.

May the Lord bless us all the days of our life.

O blessed are those who fear the Lord
and walk in his ways!
By the labour of your hands you shall eat.
You will be happy and prosper.

May the Lord bless us all the days of our life.

Your wife like a fruitful vine
in the heart of your house;
your children like shoots of the olive,
around your table.

May the Lord bless us all the days of our life.

Indeed thus shall be blessed
the man who fears the Lord.
May the Lord bless you from Zion
in a happy Jerusalem
all the days of your life!
May you see your children’s children.
On Israel, peace!

May the Lord bless us all the days of our life.

Psalm 127:1-5

The Synod on the Family, being held in Rome, begins tomorrow in Rome. Its topic “The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and in the Contemporary World.” For more information click here.

The family is a vital part of society. Healthy happy families fulfilling their potential helps to the flourishing of society – the love engendered in the family providing a seedbed for the necessary works for the common good that need a broader social base.

Unhealthy families make for an unhealthy society. And sometimes families are made unhealthy by an unhealthy society. Chicken-and-egg questions go on and on by there is clearly a certain reciprocity family/society and society/family.

The Church is a family established to serve the common good, to help people by the Son to know the Father and in that knowledge expressed as love to find healing and hope, the means to whatever conversion is needed.

The invitation to all of us is to ever deeper communion with the Church, to more deliberate choosing of what is right and good, for us and those others God loves. God’s Spirit seeks to draw us to that. The rest of us need to strive to do what best we can, and not to hinder.

  • Pray for the Synod of Bishops.
  • Pray for the Church.
  • Pray for families and all their members.

The Holy Families. Murillo. Collection of the National Gallery, London.

Taste and See: Being Family

FInding

On the feast of the Holy Family the first reading came from the book of Ecclesiasticus. We revisit it today.

It speaks of the duty of children towards their parents, and the responsibilities of parents toward their children.

The quality of relationship between those related by blood is of particular importance in our communities, and not always helped by the circumstances of modern life.

These days after Christmas are often somewhat tense for families – as well as enjoyable!. We do not often spend so much time together as we do in this holiday period.

Returning to this reading offers us the opportunity for a certain examination of conscience about how we live in our families, both at this time and during the rest of the year.

The Lord honours the father in his children,
and upholds the rights of a mother over her sons.
Whoever respects his father is atoning for his sins,
he who honours his mother is like someone amassing a fortune.
Whoever respects his father will be happy with children of his own,
he shall be heard on the day when he prays.
Long life comes to him who honours his father,
he who sets his mother at ease is showing obedience to the Lord.
My son, support your father in his old age,
do not grieve him during his life.
Even if his mind should fail, show him sympathy,
do not despise him in your health and strength;
for kindness to a father shall not be forgotten
but will serve as reparation for your sins.

Ecclesiasticus 3:3-7,14-17

The image featured in today’s blog is not of the Holy Family alone, but of the mystery of the Child Jesus discovered teaching in the Temple.

It reminds that there is more to family than ‘blood family’ only. It also reminds of some of the challenges of family life as people grow up and circumstances change.

  • What space do you allow in your family for each other to grow and mature?
  • How do you honour and celebrate new achievements?
  • How do you support one another during times of challenge and struggle

O God,
you cradle us at the beginning of life
and embrace us at our journey’s end,
for you love us as your own.

Bind our families together
and in all circumstances deepen our faith,
that, like the Holy Family of Nazareth,
we grow in wisdom,
obedient to your word.

We ask this through Jesus Christ,
your eternal Word made flesh,
who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
in the splendour of eternal light,
God for ever and ever. Amen

Image is of the mystery of the Discovery of Jesus in the Temple from the Rosary Way, Aylesford Priory. (c) 2012, Allen Morris.

 

Taste and See: A new creation

NativityThe mystery of Christmas is a mystery of God in the flesh, but also a  mystery of our salvation, of theosis, of our call to be re-made as divine humans. God’s free gift, this is what we are called to, invited to learn to live.

You are God’s chosen race, his saints; he loves you, and you should be clothed in sincere compassion, in kindness and humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with one another; forgive each other as soon as a quarrel begins. The Lord has forgiven you; now you must do the same. Over all these clothes, to keep them together and complete them, put on love. And may the peace of Christ reign in your hearts, because it is for this that you were called together as parts of one body. Always be thankful.

Let the message of Christ, in all its richness, find a home with you. Teach each other, and advise each other, in all wisdom. With gratitude in your hearts sing psalms and hymns and inspired songs to God; and never say or do anything except in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Wives, give way to your husbands, as you should in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and treat them with gentleness. Children, be obedient to your parents always, because that is what will please the Lord. Parents, never drive your children to resentment or you will make them feel frustrated.

Colossians 3:12-21

The ways of the kingdom, the ways of the community of the family of God, are different to those we are commonly encouraged to. They are ways of mutuality and encouragement, rather than selfishness and aggressive competition. They are ways that nurture and are for the good of all. They are ways that imitate the manner of Jesus.

As we rapidly approach the New Year and maybe consider New Year resolutions, what is the ONE thing you can do that would be for your good and the good of the community around you? Ask the Lord for his help and support that this one thing may be achieved by you and God together in the New Year.

Photograph of the ceramic plaque depicting the Nativity in the Rosary Way, Aylesford Priory. (c) 2012, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Of thankfulness, love and care

murillo-heavenly-earthly-trinities-NG13-fm

The Sunday after Christmas Day is kept as the feast of the Holy Family. The celebration of the birth of Jesus, of God taking flesh is not sufficient to itself but includes humankind indeed is intended to extend to all humankind.

You are God’s chosen race, his saints; he loves you, and you should be clothed in sincere compassion, in kindness and humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with one another; forgive each other as soon as a quarrel begins. The Lord has forgiven you; now you must do the same. Over all these clothes, to keep them together and complete them, put on love. And may the peace of Christ reign in your hearts, because it is for this that you were called together as parts of one body. Always be thankful.
Let the message of Christ, in all its richness, find a home with you. Teach each other, and advise each other, in all wisdom. With gratitude in your hearts sing psalms and hymns and inspired songs to God; and never say or do anything except in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Wives, give way to your husbands, as you should in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and treat them with gentleness. Children, be obedient to your parents always, because that is what will please the Lord. Parents, never drive your children to resentment or you will make them feel frustrated.

Colossians 3:12-21

The Holy Family formed on earth, the first community of love to form around Jesus here, is an echo of that profound communion of love in heaven that is the Holy Trinity.

  • What are the communities of love of which you know yourself to be a privileged part of?
  • To whom can you extend the call of love today?

The painting of the earthly and heavenly trinities is by Murillo and in London’s National Gallery. For more information click here.