Speak Lord: a humble way…

entrance-to-a-cave-church-goreme

Take yourselves for instance, brothers, at the time when you were called: how many of you were wise in the ordinary sense of the word, how many were influential people, or came from noble families? No, it was to shame the wise that God chose what is foolish by human reckoning, and to shame what is strong that he chose what is weak by human reckoning; those whom the world thinks common and contemptible are the ones that God has chosen – those who are nothing at all to show up those who are everything.

The human race has nothing to boast about to God, but you, God has made members of Christ Jesus and by God’s doing he has become our wisdom, and our virtue, and our holiness, and our freedom. As scripture says: if anyone wants to boast, let him boast about the Lord.

1 Corinthians 1:26-31

St Paul calls us a realistic sense of ourselves. Humility about who were are/were in ourselves; proper pride about who in Christ we have become.

On the Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time, the sequence of readings invite us to a fresh humility about ourselves, and a fresh dedication to the Lord and his way of living.

In God’s purview so many of the things we have considered strengths are revealed as weaknesses, sapping us of our purpose and drawing us from what makes life most worth living.

To take to ourselves God’s vision and God’s life is not necessarily easy! But we seek to do it, not alone, but as very members of Christ. From him will come the strength we need, and from him the love and patience we need as we struggle as we learn to live by his strength.

  • In what do you take false pride?
  • In what can you take real pride?

Rock church, Goreme, Turkey. (c) 2014, Allen Morris

Taste and See: Our Protector

dsc00603-corporal-mercy

Be pleased, O Lord, with our humble prayers and offerings,
and, since we have no merits to plead our cause,
come, we pray, to our rescue
with the protection of your mercy.
Through Christ our Lord.

The Prayer over the Offerings for Mass yesterday, the Second Sunday of Advent, has us admit our poverty.

We have not a few merits to our name, but none. Our acheivements and such are truly dwarfed by our faults and failings. In truth, our only hope is that God should come our rescue.

Because we know that God does come to our aid we do not despair, but we hope and we trust.

  • Who else has come to your aid?
  • To whose aid have you come?
  • Who might you next assist?

Corporal Acts of Mercy. Parish Church, Stratford upon Avon. (c) 2016, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Of the way of humility

Canon T. Major LesterThe Gospel reading on Sunday, the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, invites us to humility, and an openness to those who are regularly marginalised.

The Kingdom has rules and perspectives very different to those of the world.

On a sabbath day Jesus had gone for a meal to the house of one of the leading Pharisees; and they watched him closely. He then told the guests a parable, because he had noticed how they picked the places of honour.

He said this, ‘When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take your seat in the place of honour. A more distinguished person than you may have been invited, and the person who invited you both may come and say, “Give up your place to this man.” And then, to your embarrassment, you would have to go and take the lowest place. No; when you are a guest, make your way to the lowest place and sit there, so that, when your host comes, he may say, “My friend, move up higher.” In that way, everyone with you at the table will see you honoured. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the man who humbles himself will be exalted.’

Then he said to his host, ‘When you give a lunch or a dinner, do not ask your friends, brothers, relations or rich neighbours, for fear they repay your courtesy by inviting you in return. No; when you have a party, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; that they cannot pay you back means that you are fortunate, because repayment will be made to you when the virtuous rise again.’

Luke 14:1,7-14

  • To whom do you feel ‘superior’? What might you have to learn from them? What might you do for their benefit?
  • To whom do you feel inferior? What might you have to teach them? How might you do that?

Detail of Memorial to Canon T. Major Lester, St John’s Garden, Liverpool. (c) 2007, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Son of God.

Peter and Paul, extra muraThe Gospel reading of the Mass during the Day for the feast of Ss Peter and Paul (kept on Sunday this year, in England and Wales) comes from Gospel of Matthew.

It draws us into the profession of faith of the Apostles that forms the bedrock of Tradition.

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi he put this question to his disciples, ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say he is John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’

‘But you,’ he said ‘who do you say I am?’

Then Simon Peter spoke up, ‘You are the Christ,’ he said ‘the Son of the living God.’ Jesus replied, ‘Simon son of Jonah, you are a happy man! Because it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven. So I now say to you: You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.’

Matthew 16:13-19

Peter and Paul lived and died for the Christ confessed as Son of God and known as Saviour.

They received the gift of life and love from him, and faithfully passed on to us the invitation to that same intimacy.

  • Why does the relationship of faith matter to you?
  • What would be the main aspects of faith that you would like to be known by others who do not have faith?

View of apse mosaic at St Paul outside the Walls. (c) 2014, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: admitting our faults…

Ascension stare

The first reading on Ascension Sunday was the first verses of one of the Church’s ‘Easter’ books, the Acts of the Apostles.

In my earlier work, Theophilus, I dealt with everything Jesus had done and taught from the beginning until the day he gave his instructions to the apostles he had chosen through the Holy Spirit, and was taken up to heaven. He had shown himself alive to them after his Passion by many demonstrations: for forty days he had continued to appear to them and tell them about the kingdom of God. When he had been at table with them, he had told them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for what the Father had promised. ‘It is’ he had said ‘what you have heard me speak about: John baptised with water but you, not many days from now, will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.’

Now having met together, they asked him, ‘Lord, has the time come? Are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He replied, ‘It is not for you to know times or dates that the Father has decided by his own authority, but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and then you will be my witnesses not only in Jerusalem but throughout Judaea and Samaria, and indeed to the ends of the earth.’

As he said this he was lifted up while they looked on, and a cloud took him from their sight. They were still staring into the sky when suddenly two men in white were standing near them and they said, ‘Why are you men from Galilee standing here looking into the sky? Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven, this same Jesus will come back in the same way as you have seen him go there.’

Acts 1:1-11

The disciples are privileged in being so close to the Lord, but in their being transfixed, gawping, they do not present so admirable a set of figures.

But probably neither do we, on many occasions.

Christians are greatly privileged in many ways, but we also have our faults and flaws, as individuals and as communities. They are probably unavoidable, at least this side of heaven, and if they keep us humble, they probably serve us well, as we seek to serve others.

The Ascension, Medjugorge, Apparations Hill

  • What are your abiding faults?
  • How do they assist you in your sharing in the Lord’s mission?
  • How do they hamper you?

Photographs are details of the Rosary Station: The Ascension (Hill of the Apparitions, Medjugorje). (c) 2014, Allen Morris

Taste and see: the merciful healing the Lord offers us

a-gentleman-in-adoration-before-the-baptism-of-christ-by-giovanni-battista-moroni-c

The Gospel at Mass on Sunday, the 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time, continues to offer us spiritual nourishment as we come to Shrove Tuesday, the last day before the beginning of Lent.

In Lent we are provided with safe space for acknowledging our sins and uncleanliness. The whole Church, beloved by God and precious to him as instrument of salvation, is called to that same examination of life and to conversion.

There is safety in crowd, even as there is supreme comfort in the individual’s intimate and personal encounter with the Lord.

A leper came to Jesus and pleaded on his knees: ‘If you want to’ he said ‘you can cure me.’

Feeling sorry for him, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him. ‘Of course I want to!’ he said. ‘Be cured!’And the leprosy left him at once and he was cured.

Jesus immediately sent him away and sternly ordered him, ‘Mind you say nothing to anyone, but go and show yourself to the priest, and make the offering for your healing prescribed by Moses as evidence of your recovery.’

The man went away, but then started talking about it freely and telling the story everywhere, so that Jesus could no longer go openly into any town, but had to stay outside in places where nobody lived. Even so, people from all around would come to him.

Mark 1:40-45

  • What is out of order in your life? Why? What are its consequences for you and others? What are your feelings about this?
  • Find time to meditate on the passage above. Place yourself in the scene – perhaps as the leper, perhaps as a bystander… Let the scene unfold. What do you see? What do you hear? What do you feel?
  • Bring to the Lord your own ailment. Bring to him your response to his love. What do you want to say to him? What do you hear him say to you? Hear his offering of healing and know his love for you.
  • Consider how this meditation might prepare you for the season of Lent.
  • Bring your response to this time of meditation to God in prayer.

Picture is of A Gentleman in Adoration before the Baptism of Christ by Giovanni Battista Moroni (c.1555) found here. Our gospel is of the healing of the leper, not the Baptism of Christ, and maybe you are not a gentleman. However the painting depicts a prayer exercise such as that proposed above. We are part of a long tradition drawn to faithfulness to the Lord, and finding inspiration in his living word.

Taste and See: The goodness of the Lord

 

Santa Maria degli Angeli

The response to the responsorial psalm provided for Mass on Sunday last, the 2nd Sunday of the Year, is very much about our response to the Lord. And the one put on our lips is a generous, fulsome response: ‘Here I am, Lord, I come to do your will’.

 

 

Here I am, Lord! I come to do your will.

I waited, I waited for the Lord
and he stooped down to me;
he heard my cry.
He put a new song into my mouth,
praise of our God.

Here I am, Lord! I come to do your will.

You do not ask for sacrifice and offerings,
but an open ear.
You do not ask for holocaust and victim.
Instead, here am I.

Here I am, Lord! I come to do your will.

In the scroll of the book it stands written
that I should do your will.
My God, I delight in your law
in the depth of my heart.

Here I am, Lord! I come to do your will.

Your justice I have proclaimed
in the great assembly.
My lips I have not sealed;
you know it, O Lord.

Here I am, Lord! I come to do your will.

Psalm 39:2,4,7-10

So we sang, and so, hopefully, we will – do his will.

But for the moment note again what the psalmist says in the first verse:

I waited, I waited for the Lord
and he stooped down to me;
he heard my cry.
He put a new song into my mouth,
praise of our God.

His response is response to a direct action of the Lord for him, and a humbling act of the Lord at that. ‘… He stooped down for me.’

Still in the wake of Christmas we might most easily think of that stooping down being the kenosis of Christ, the descent of God to share in our human flesh and circumstance.

However God’s humility expressed in his love and care for us creatures takes many forms. Just for the Creator to love and care at all is self-emptying, stooping enough.

Perhaps in prayer you could pause and wonder at the love God has for you. And once more given thanks for it, and – perhaps – recommit yourself in love for God.

The photograph continues the green and architectural theme of the week. This time the view is from Assisi down towards the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli. (c) 2014, Allen Morris.