Speak Lord: Heal the city

IMG_3701 Jerusalem.jpg

O praise the Lord, Jerusalem! or Alleluia!

O praise the Lord, Jerusalem!
Zion, praise your God!
He has strengthened the bars of your gates
he has blessed the children within you.

O praise the Lord, Jerusalem! or Alleluia!

He established peace on your borders,
he feeds you with finest wheat.
He sends out his word to the earth
and swiftly runs his command.

O praise the Lord, Jerusalem! or Alleluia!

He makes his word known to Jacob,
to Israel his laws and decrees.
He has not dealt thus with other nations;
he has not taught them his decrees.

O praise the Lord, Jerusalem! or Alleluia!

Psalm 147:12-15,19-20

The Responsorial Psalm sung at Mass tomorrow celebrates Jerusalem and God’s care for the city and its people.

Etymologically Jerusalem means ‘city of peace’. It is a name sadly belied by its present division and the violence born of occupation and resistance,. The present situation echoes a long history of earlier wars and political settlements with their victors and victims.

And yet Jerusalem remains a place for encounter between God and the faithful (Jew, Christian, Muslim and others), and a place of hope. If in Jerusalem we see the scars of human failings, it is in the mysteries revealed in Jerusalem that we seek the ways of healing for our future here that we hope will prove stepping stones to heaven also.

God helps us to safety, but we may not leave it all to God, taking the psalm at a naively literal level. God helps us also to know that he is God not only of the ‘literal’ Jerusalem but also God of the nations, called to a new unity in Christ.

Jerusalem – Mount Moriah across site of former city of David. (c) 2013, Allen Morris



Jerusalem Wall

Yesterday, the 14th Sunday of the Year, the first reading came from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah.

At a time when Jerusalem was sacked and its people deported, the prophet evoked Jerusalem as a place of health and restoration, of hopes and dreams not dashed or still-born, but fulfilled.

Rejoice, Jerusalem,
be glad for her, all you who love her!
Rejoice, rejoice for her,
all you who mourned her!

That you may be suckled, filled,
from her consoling breast,
that you may savour with delight
her glorious breasts.

For thus says the Lord:
Now towards her I send flowing
peace, like a river,
and like a stream in spate
the glory of the nations.

At her breast will her nurslings be carried
and fondled in her lap.
Like a son comforted by his mother
will I comfort you.
And by Jerusalem you will be comforted.

At the sight your heart will rejoice,
and your bones flourish like the grass.
To his servants the Lord will reveal his hand.

Isaiah 66:10-14

The current division of Jerusalem – Israeli/Palestinian – remains a contradiction of those hopes. The people of Jerusalem are separated from one another by the visible sign of the wall and checkpoints, but also by fear and suspicion and hate.

The current division of Jerusalem also reminds of the importance that those hopes still retain for us – that hate and fear be overcome, that we find together common purpose in love of God and love of neighbour and fulfilment of our own human potential in and through this love. As yesterday’s Gospel assured: ”The kingdom of God is very near to you.’

So near and yet still seeming so far.

The hateful divisions and continued atrocities that take place in and around Jerusalem need to serve as a check to our rejoicing, a damper on any celebration of God’s power and glory and  the promise it holds for us. But they also need to serve as encouragement for us to work for something better, for all God’s children.

In addition the political/religious/moral and economic divisions which we see out there may also represent the sort of divisions that may be in all of us. The reality of the exterior world may help us to acknowledge our inner predicaments too. Maybe there are parts of our lives we are happy to  be seen and known, and that there are parts we seek to keep in shadow, suppress and hide from God, others, ourselves; deny to God, others, ourselves.

Hope, and healing and reconciliation are called for here too.

Isaiah calls us to hope now, though he places the fulfilment of God’s promises in the future. But, now, he calls Jerusalem, and us, to rejoice on the strength of what will be.

What needs to change? What do we look forward to? What part might we play in the coming closer yet of God’s kingdom?.

  • What do you hide?
  • What do you fear
  • What do you hate in others and why?
  • What might they hate in you and why?

View over Palestinian community in the Kedron valley, Jerusalem towards the wall of separation and Israeli settlements.  (c) 2013, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Our Hope

Jerusalem Sunrise IIThe First reading today comes from Isaiah a book that knows the tragedy of Jerusalem conquered and her peoples dispersed, many in exile in Babylon. And yet the prophet calls on this same Jerusalem to rejoice at the healing and restoration that God has for her.

In our day too Jerusalem is a tragic place and a place where constantly people turn to God in hope for restoration and healing. Muslims, Christians, Jews all turn to God and look for his intervention, for his will to triumph over political vicissitudes and human sinfulness. In their prayer (our prayer) we may have very different futures in mind – and so even our prayer can be part of the problem blocking God’s will – and yet at our best we turn to God and ask that God’s will be fulfilled, on earth as in heaven.

Rejoice, Jerusalem,
be glad for her, all you who love her!
Rejoice, rejoice for her,
all you who mourned her!

That you may be suckled, filled,
from her consoling breast,
that you may savour with delight
her glorious breasts.

For thus says the Lord:
Now towards her I send flowing
peace, like a river,
and like a stream in spate
the glory of the nations.

At her breast will her nurslings be carried
and fondled in her lap.
Like a son comforted by his mother
will I comfort you.
And by Jerusalem you will be comforted.

At the sight your heart will rejoice,
and your bones flourish like the grass.
To his servants the Lord will reveal his hand.

Isaiah 66:10-14

Our prayer too, our prayer for the future of all sorts of things may be a way of God’s will being fulfilled and sometimes might be an attempt to frustrate God’s will!

  • Where do you feel your will and God’s are at one?
  • Where do you feel/fear that might not be the case?

Sunrise over Temple Mount, looking to the Mount of Olives. (c) 2013, Allen Morris



Speak Lord: Of newness, of hope

Jerusalem sunrise

The second reading on Sunday, the 5th Sunday of Easter, sets before us a vision of newness, a restoration that exceeds the quality of the first-made

I, John, saw a new heaven and a new earth; the first heaven and the first earth had disappeared now, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the holy city, and the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, as beautiful as a bride all dressed for her husband. Then I heard a loud voice call from the throne, ‘You see this city? Here God lives among men. He will make his home among them; they shall be his people, and he will be their God; his name is God-with-them. He will wipe away all tears from their eyes; there will be no more death, and no more mourning or sadness. The world of the past has gone.’
Then the One sitting on the throne spoke: ‘Now I am making the whole of creation new.’

Apocalypse 21:1-5

  • What do you mourn for?
  • What saddens you?
  • What newness do you yearn for? For yourself? For others?
  • How will you participate with God’s work of new creation? How do you participate in this work?

Jerusalem sunrise. (c) 2013, Allen Morris

Taste and See: Still Eastering?

Dormition Easter 2013

Sunday was the 4th Sunday of Easter – and we are only about half way through the Easter season’s 50 days.

Prayer over the Offerings

Grant, we pray, O Lord,
that we may always find delight in these paschal mysteries,
so that the renewal constantly at work within us
may be the cause of our unending joy.
Through Christ our Lord.

Are we Easter-ing still?

  • Why?
  • How do we know?
  • How would someone else know?
  • What difference does Easter faith make to us and others?

Abbey of the Dormition, Jerusalem. Easter 2013. (c) 2013, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Hope for us?

Jerusalem panorama

The first reading at Mass today, the 2nd Sunday of Advent, comes from the prophet Baruch.

The prophet announces a day of liberation for God’s people and a restoration and renewal for Jerusalem. Jerusalem: despoiled by foreign invaders, and its people taken into exile and slavery, is to be restored to glory.

Jerusalem, take off your dress of sorrow and distress,
put on the beauty of the glory of God for ever,
wrap the cloak of the integrity of God around you,
put the diadem of the glory of the Eternal on your head:
since God means to show your splendour to every nation under heaven,
since the name God gives you for ever will be,
‘Peace through integrity, and honour through devotedness.’
Arise, Jerusalem, stand on the heights
and turn your eyes to the east:
see your sons reassembled from west and east
at the command of the Holy One, jubilant that God has remembered them.
Though they left you on foot,
with enemies for an escort,
now God brings them back to you
like royal princes carried back in glory.
For God has decreed the flattening
of each high mountain, of the everlasting hills,
the filling of the valleys to make the ground level
so that Israel can walk in safety under the glory of God.
And the forests and every fragrant tree will provide shade
for Israel at the command of God;
for God will guide Israel in joy by the light of his glory
with his mercy and integrity for escort.

Baruch 5:1-9

In our days we still wait for that restoration of Jerusalem, for the city to be a place of peace and reconciliation where God’s people from east and west may all find a home and safety, where all might know themselves as children of God, brothers and sisters together, Jews, Christians, Muslims, people of all faiths and none.

In our days we still wait…

In Advent we are asked to make our waiting eager for the coming goodness that is work of God but which we need to accept, embrace and share with each other and all.

  • Pray for your family and friends.
  • Pray for Jerusalem

Jerusalem. (c) 2013, Allen Morris.


Speak Lord: Of where we may find you…

Christ's TombA number of passages from the Gospel may be read today, Easter Sunday.

The first option is given immediately below.The others appear at the end of this blog.

It was very early on the first day of the week and still dark, when Mary of Magdala came to the tomb. She saw that the stone had been moved away from the tomb and came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved. ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb’ she said ‘and we don’t know where they have put him.’

So Peter set out with the other disciple to go to the tomb. They ran together, but the other disciple, running faster than Peter, reached the tomb first; he bent down and saw the linen cloths lying on the ground, but did not go in. Simon Peter who was following now came up, went right into the tomb, saw the linen cloths on the ground, and also the cloth that had been over his head; this was not with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in; he saw and he believed. Till this moment they had failed to understand the teaching of scripture, that he must rise from the dead.

John 20:1-9

The emptiness of the tomb re-presents to us the sometime emptiness of our hearts and lives. We do not seek life in the tomb. The Lord is risen, he is not there – we must seek him elsewhere. It is elsewhere that he will find us

  • Do pray for a new encounter with Christ
  • Pray for his peace for the world.

Photograph of the empty tomb, Church of the Resurrection, Jerusalem. (c) Allen Morris, 2013.

– – –

When the sabbath was over, Mary of Magdala, Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices with which to go and anoint him. And very early in the morning on the first day of the week they went to the tomb, just as the sun was rising.
They had been saying to one another, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?’ But when they looked they could see that the stone – which was very big – had already been rolled back. On entering the tomb they saw a young man in a white robe seated on the right-hand side, and they were struck with amazement. But he said to them, ‘There is no need for alarm. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified: he has risen, he is not here. See, here is the place where they laid him. But you must go and tell his disciples and Peter, “He is going before you to Galilee; it is there you will see him, just as he told you.”’

Mark 16:1-8


Two of the disciples of Jesus were on their way to a village called Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking together about all that had happened. Now as they talked this over, Jesus himself came up and walked by their side; but something prevented them from recognising him. He said to them, ‘What matters are you discussing as you walk along?’ They stopped short, their faces downcast.
Then one of them, called Cleopas, answered him, ‘You must be the only person staying in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have been happening there these last few days.’ ‘What things?’ he asked. ‘All about Jesus of Nazareth’ they answered ‘who proved he was a great prophet by the things he said and did in the sight of God and of the whole people; and how our chief priests and our leaders handed him over to be sentenced to death, and had him crucified. Our own hope had been that he would be the one to set Israel free. And this is not all: two whole days have gone by since it all happened; and some women from our group have astounded us: they went to the tomb in the early morning, and when they did not find the body, they came back to tell us they had seen a vision of angels who declared he was alive. Some of our friends went to the tomb and found everything exactly as the women had reported, but of him they saw nothing.’
Then he said to them, ‘You foolish men! So slow to believe the full message of the prophets! Was it not ordained that the Christ should suffer and so enter into his glory?’ Then, starting with Moses and going through all the prophets, he explained to them the passages throughout the scriptures that were about himself.
When they drew near to the village to which they were going, he made as if to go on; but they pressed him to stay with them. ‘It is nearly evening’ they said ‘and the day is almost over.’ So he went in to stay with them. Now while he was with them at table, he took the bread and said the blessing; then he broke it and handed it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognised him; but he had vanished from their sight. Then they said to each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us as he talked to us on the road and explained the scriptures to us?’
They set out that instant and returned to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven assembled together with their companions, who said to them, ‘Yes, it is true. The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.’ Then they told their story of what had happened on the road and how they had recognised him at the breaking of bread.

Luke 24:13-35

Speak Lord: Of Falling and Rising

Dominus Flevit detailOnce more, there are two Gospel readings we may hear today.

On this page, the ‘default’ reading for the 3rd Sunday of Lent in Year B.

On an accompanying blog, for the gospel passage is very long, the reading of the meeting between Jesus and the Samaritan woman which may always be used in Year A and must be used when the First Scrutiny is celebrated with those preparing for baptism at Easter.

Just before the Jewish Passover Jesus went up to Jerusalem, and in the Temple he found people selling cattle and sheep and pigeons, and the money changers sitting at their counters there. Making a whip out of some cord, he drove them all out of the Temple, cattle and sheep as well, scattered the money changers’ coins, knocked their tables over and said to the pigeon-sellers, ‘Take all this out of here and stop turning my Father’s house into a market.’

Then his disciples remembered the words of scripture: Zeal for your house will devour me. The Jews intervened and said, ‘What sign can you show us to justify what you have done?’ Jesus answered, ‘Destroy this sanctuary, and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews replied, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this sanctuary: are you going to raise it up in three days?’ But he was speaking of the sanctuary that was his body, and when Jesus rose from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the scripture and the words he had said.

During his stay in Jerusalem for the Passover many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he gave, but Jesus knew them all and did not trust himself to them; he never needed evidence about any man; he could tell what a man had in him.

John 2:13-25

Jesus sees what is wrong with the Jews and their engagement with the Temple and sets himself to make the point clearly and strongly.

He sees also what is in us – and at least much of the time, I guess, he will note what is wrong and disordered in us. He seems gentler with us! Or it is that we are better at ignoring the prompts to reform and renewal he sets before us and invites us to?

Lent is about coming closer to him, in baptism, in renewal of baptism promises, so as to live the life of Easter.

  • What steps closer to the Lord might you take today and tomorrow?
  • What barriers might you shift, that he might come closer to you?

Photograph shows a view over Temple Mount from the church of Dominus Flevit. Pray for the brokenness of Jerusalem and its healing under God. Photograph (c) 2012, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: A new harvest for the Lord


The Responsorial Psalm for the 2nd Sunday of Advent reminds of the  renewal promised by the word of God: Good news for a world and a people, so often starved of it.

Let us see, O Lord, your mercy, and give us your saving help.

I will hear what the Lord God has to say,
a voice that speaks of peace,
peace for his people.
His help is near for those who fear him
and his glory will dwell in our land.

Mercy and faithfulness have met;
justice and peace have embraced.
Faithfulness shall spring from the earth
and justice look down from heaven.

The Lord will make us prosper
and our earth shall yield its fruit.
Justice shall march before him
and peace shall follow his steps.

Let us see, O Lord, your mercy, and give us your saving help.

Psalm 84:9-14

When we hear the psalm – who do we understand God’s people to be? How extensive is the us.

Do the prophetic words serve to confirm us in our narrow boundaries, or do they open us to a new and greater reality?

  • Who do you include in your ‘us’?

Bring the fruit of your reflection to God in prayer.

The photograph is of rather haunting street art work from Jerusalem. It is poignant in its portrayal of Jews in the city, but is drawn on a wall in the Muslim/Christian quarter. A sign of hope or aggressive incursion? (c) 2013, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: of resurrection and the new creation

Holy Sepulchre4

The second reading at Mass tomorrow, the feast of Christ the King, comes from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. One of the most wide-ranging and interesting of the letters of the New Testament, that first letter to the Corinthians contains this following extraordinarily confident statement of the meaning and implication of Christ’s resurrection.

This is no one ‘thing’, a one-off event, happening to one man. This is life changing for all, the dawn of a new creation, in which the old creation finds the most extraordinary renewal.

Christ has been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of all who have fallen asleep. Death came through one man and in the same way the resurrection of the dead has come through one man. Just as all men die in Adam, so all men will be brought to life in Christ; but all of them in their proper order: Christ as the first-fruits and then, after the coming of Christ, those who belong to him.

After that will come the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, having done away with every sovereignty, authority and power. For he must be king until he has put all his enemies under his feet and the last of the enemies to be destroyed is death, for everything is to be put under his feet. And when everything is subjected to him, then the Son himself will be subject in his turn to the One who subjected all things to him, so that God may be all in all.

1 Corinthians 15:20-26,28

And we are part of this event. First by the offer of this newness to all creation. Second by the decision to respond to the offer which is sealed in Baptism, and deepened in Confirmation, and constantly nourished in Eucharist. Third, by God’s grace and our striving, to do what we can to live this new life even in this old world: waiting, working – even in fits and starts – for its completion and fulfilment when the kingdom is achieved on earth as in heaven, and all is one and all is God’s.

  • What step to newness could you take today?
  • What step are you tempted you say is too far, too hard, too much?

Photograph of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem. (c) 2012, Allen Morris.  Please pray for the peace of Jerusalem, and for the Westminster pilgrims presently on pilgrimage there.