Speak Lord: Our Life

Holy Name El GrecoThe second reading on Sunday, the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, is a further reading from the Letter to the Hebrews.

It alerts us to the utterly transcendent gift we receive in Christ – the life of heaven, in communion with God. Mere creatures are raised to the life of the Kingdom.

What you have come to is nothing known to the senses: not a blazing fire, or a gloom turning to total darkness, or a storm; or trumpeting thunder or the great voice speaking which made everyone that heard it beg that no more should be said to them.

But what you have come to is Mount Zion and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem where the millions of angels have gathered for the festival, with the whole Church in which everyone is a ‘first-born son’ and a citizen of heaven. You have come to God himself, the supreme Judge, and been placed with spirits of the saints who have been made perfect; and to Jesus, the mediator who brings a new covenant and a blood for purification which pleads more insistently than Abel’s.

Hebrews 12:18-19,22-24

We are constrained in our experience and our understanding to the worldly and the passing. Except that again and again, in love, God draws us to experience which is right on the horizon of what we can experience, and which intimates to us, (makes us – almost -intimate with)  that which is beyond our experience and understanding. These flashes of eternity and the transcendent draw us on. The writer of Hebrews attempts to put into human language that more. He draws on the symbols and metaphors that gave Israel a sense of its identity on earth and expands them beyond what honestly can be can conceived.

Such is the privilege that is ours in Christ, through his saving love.

  • Count your blessings and give thanks!

Detail of ‘Adoration of the Holy Name’, by El Greco in the collection of the National Gallery, London. (c) 2015, Allen Morris

Taste and See: Fame

Pope and Dylan

Sunday’s Gospel spoke of Jesus’ identity.

He is identified under the role and names of prophets past and present; he is named as the Messiah, the Christ.

Jesus hears these identifications, and takes them on board. He then speaks of himself, and identifies himself, simply, simply as the Son of Man, destined to suffer, to be rejected and killed, and then to be taised -declares to the disciples that this ‘great man’ is to be robbed of his life and that he will then receive it back as gift.

He continues that those who wish to be associated with him, to follow him, must accept the same ‘fate’

One day when Jesus was praying alone in the presence of his disciples he put this question to them, ‘Who do the crowds say I am?’ And they answered, ‘John the Baptist; others Elijah; and others say one of the ancient prophets come back to life.’ ‘But you,’ he said ‘who do you say I am?’ It was Peter who spoke up. ‘The Christ of God’ he said. But he gave them strict orders not to tell anyone anything about this.

‘The Son of Man’ he said ‘is destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes and to be put to death, and to be raised up on the third day.’

Then to all he said, ‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross every day and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, that man will save it.’

Luke 9:18-24

Greatness cannot feature in the Christian world. Not greatness in terms of rank and position or fame; the only claim to greatness that can mean anything lasting is the claim that is based solely on faithfulness, solely on service. Talent, gifts can be used to sustain faithfulness and love, or they can draw us from that.

  • What do you use your gifts for?
  • For what do you seek life?
  • What matters most to you? Why?

Posters in Rome. (c) 2003, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Draw us to service

Peter's Primacy

The Gospel for the third Sunday of Easter, in Year C tells of Jesus’ manifesting himself in Galilee, at the lakeside.

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

The episode is full of incident: the initial accedie, the miraculous catch; the moment of recognition; the sharing of food; the conversation with Peter about love and service; the prophecy about martyrdom and discipleship. 

In such a passage it is easy to see how through the living word, Christ speaks differently to each one of us, stirring us in one but perhaps not in another incident, and engaging us in different ways in what does strike us. The same Lord speaks to all, but in a different way to each.

What, in particular, attracts your attention? Does it attract or disturb? Why?

Attend to your feelings and reaction. After quietly considering them, bring your thoughts to God in prayer.

Peter’s Primacy (the traditional site of the meal on the lakeshore, Tabgha, Israel). (c) 2007, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: with, for, as, us.

Resurrection St Petersburg

The Responsorial Psalm tomorrow, Easter Day, is sung as the song of Christ: his song celebrating the Resurrection.

This day was made by the Lord: we rejoice and are glad.

or
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia! 

Give thanks to the Lord for he is good,
for his love has no end.
Let the sons of Israel say:
‘His love has no end.’

The Lord’s right hand has triumphed;
his right hand raised me up.
I shall not die, I shall live
and recount his deeds.

The stone which the builders rejected
has become the corner stone.
This is the work of the Lord,
a marvel in our eyes.

Psalm 117:1-2,16-17,22-23

It is also the song of the Church. It is the song Jesus urges us to sing as we share in his new life – through our Baptism, which achieves for us what faith promises to us; through our communion in word and Eucharist; through our continuing in the ministry of love of neighbour.

He sings, and it is our privilege to share in the song.

  • What might need healing in you that you might share more fully in his song?
  • What might you do more lovingly this Easter?

Image of the Resurrection. Cathedral of the Spilled Blood, St Petersburg. (c) 2015, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Good Lord, speak…

Taberancle EvryThe Psalm on the 4th Sunday of Lent enjoins us to ‘Taste and see that the Lord is good’.

Taste  and see that the Lord is good.

I will bless the Lord at all times,
his praise always on my lips;
in the Lord my soul shall make its boast.
The humble shall hear and be glad.

Taste and see that the Lord is good.

Glorify the Lord with me.
Together let us praise his name.
I sought the Lord and he answered me;
from all my terrors he set me free.

Taste and see that the Lord is good.

Look towards him and be radiant;
let your faces not be abashed.
This poor man called, the Lord heard him
and rescued him from all his distress.

Taste and see that the Lord is good.

Psalm 33:2-7

In the Gospel we hear at Mass on Sunday – the parable of the Prodigal Son – the Prodigal has a range of hungers: for his inheritance; for wine, women and song; for pig swill even. His cravings beggar him.

It seems only in his return to his father does he find the feast that is worthy of him, albeit a feast of which he himself may not be worthy. And yet it is a feast  which his father freely and joyfully provides to welcome home his son.

In our Mass the Lord himself provides the feast to welcome us home, makes himself the feast at which we are reconciled, kept safe from sin, and welcomed home.

Taste and see that the Lord is good…

  • What of the goodness of the Lord most impresses you?
  • How do you seek to imitate or otherwise respond to that goodness in your life?

Tabernacle, Evry, France. (c) 2015, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: love, live.

Sacred Heart, Piarist Church, CracowThe Second reading at Mass on Sunday, the 3rd Sunday of Lent, drew on images of Exodus to help make sense of the newness of life won for us in Christ, but still ours to receive and live.

I want to remind you, brothers, how our fathers were all guided by a cloud above them and how they all passed through the sea. They were all baptised into Moses in this cloud and in this sea; all ate the same spiritual food and all drank the same spiritual drink, since they all drank from the spiritual rock that followed them as they went, and that rock was Christ. In spite of this, most of them failed to please God and their corpses littered the desert.
These things all happened as warnings for us, not to have the wicked lusts for forbidden things that they had. You must never complain: some of them did, and they were killed by the Destroyer.
All this happened to them as a warning, and it was written down to be a lesson for us who are living at the end of the age. The man who thinks he is safe must be careful that he does not fall.

1 Corinthians 10:1-6,10-12

There is nothing automatic about salvation. There are no restrictions on it. God does not run out of love, but sometimes, it seems, we run out of opportunity to respond to that love.

It is of that St Paul warns us, as did Jesus in the parable we heard Sunday, and the warning about our possible perishing if we do not repent and embrace the goodness of God.

God is not capricious: how we might please and delight God is very straightforward. The two commandments are love of God, and love of neighbour (love of God in neighbour?). And in fulfilling these we live to the potential of our human self, living in healthy love for ourselves.

Sacred Heart, Piarist Church, Cracow. (c) 2013, Allen Morris

Taste and See: Look and judge…

Prison, Tre FontaneThe second reading at Mass on Sunday came from the apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippians.

My brothers, be united in following my rule of life. Take as your models everybody who is already doing this and study them as you used to study us.

I have told you often, and I repeat it today with tears, there are many who are behaving as the enemies of the cross of Christ. They are destined to be lost. They make foods into their god and they are proudest of something they ought to think shameful; the things they think important are earthly things. For us, our homeland is in heaven, and from heaven comes the saviour we are waiting for, the Lord Jesus Christ, and he will transfigure these wretched bodies of ours into copies of his glorious body. He will do that by the same power with which he can subdue the whole universe.

So then, my brothers and dear friends, do not give way but remain faithful in the Lord. I miss you very much, dear friends; you are my joy and my crown.

Philippians 3:17-4:1

Jesus tells us not to judge others, lest we be judged and found wanting.

Paul tells us to judge: to study the field and pick those who are winners and model ourselves on them, and avoid imitating those destined to be lost.

A couple of points.

First: Jesus was surely warning against a spiritual arrogance that leads us to condemn others, careless of our own faults and failings. Paul has found another way to encourage us to seek improvement in ourselves – and not giving the top priority to crticisng others seems a pretty good place to start!

Second: though Paul was not slow in offering his critique of those who failed to see how israel’s faith found its fulfilment in Christ, how in the Paschal Mytery we had the ultimate demonstration of God’s faithfulness to us – he also, again and again, put himself on the line in service of his own people, Israel, and of the Gentiles.

The test of faithful living is service, love of God in love of neighbour, our ‘vertical’ and our ‘horizontal’ relationship offering in their intersection the perfect place for our own growth and nurturing in love.

  • What helps you judge right?
  • What blurs or distorts your vision?

Prison in which St Paul was held prior to his execution at Tre Fontane, Rome. (c) 2014, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Rescue us…

Gozo crucifix detailThe first reading for today, the first Sunday of Lent, prepares us for the Gospel of the day.

Moses instructs the people on how to live right before the Lord. Jesus fulfils that righteousness in his resisting temptation and making offering himself to God, becoming himself the first fruits of faithfulness, the living bread.

Moses said to the people: ‘The priest shall take the pannier from your hand and lay it before the altar of the Lord your God. Then, in the sight of the Lord your God, you must make this pronouncement:

‘“My father was a wandering Aramaean. He went down into Egypt to find refuge there, few in numbers; but there he became a nation, great, mighty, and strong. The Egyptians ill-treated us, they gave us no peace and inflicted harsh slavery on us. But we called on the Lord, the God of our fathers. The Lord heard our voice and saw our misery, our toil and our oppression; and the Lord brought us out of Egypt with mighty hand and outstretched arm, with great terror, and with signs and wonders. He brought us here and gave us this land, a land where milk and honey flow. Here then I bring the first-fruits of the produce of the soil that you, the Lord, have given me.”

‘You must then lay them before the Lord your God, and bow down in the sight of the Lord your God.’

Deuteronomy 26:4-10

As we confront our weaknesses this Lent it is good to notice also our blessings.

Sometimes these may be positive achievements, fruit of our cooperation with God’s grace.

Sometimes they may be (only) holy desires – but still prompted by God’s grace. We may not have accomplished this or that yet. We may have stumbled, fallen, countless times. And yet we still desire the good, strive for it, despite the failure  and disappointment.

When we fail, but keep on hoping, may our yearning and working serve to deepen trust in God who will allow nothing to separate us from himself.

Detail from crucifix in Jesuit retreat chapel, near Rabat (Victoria), Gozo. (c) 2009, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Help us know you better

Nazareth WindowOn the 3rd Sunday of the Year, in Year C, the Gospel reading re-establishes us in the series of sequential readings from The Gospel of Luke which will accompany us through the Sundays in Ordinary Time during the rest of this year.

Last week we heard a passage from John’s Gospel too important to lose sight of, and which found no easy home elsewhere in the 3-year cycle of Sunday Readings. Over theprevious weeks the readings were chosen tolead us into a contemplation of the Mysteries of the Christmas Season, and making the most of the season of Advent. but now we begin our reading of Luke.

The editors gives us the introductory verses and then leaping over the accounts of conception and birth of John the Baptist and Jesus, and Jesus’ baptism, sets before us the beginning of the public ministry of Jesus as Luke describes it:

Seeing that many others have undertaken to draw up accounts of the events that have taken place among us, exactly as these were handed down to us by those who from the outset were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word, I in my turn, after carefully going over the whole story from the beginning, have decided to write an ordered account for you, Theophilus, so that your Excellency may learn how well founded the teaching is that you have received.

Jesus, with the power of the Spirit in him, returned to Galilee; and his reputation spread throughout the countryside. He taught in their synagogues and everyone praised him.

He came to Nazara, where he had been brought up, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day as he usually did. He stood up to read and they handed him the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Unrolling the scroll he found the place where it is written: The spirit of the Lord has been given to me, for he has anointed me. He has sent me to bring the good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives and to the blind new sight, to set the downtrodden free, to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour.

He then rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the assistant and sat down. And all eyes in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to speak to them, ‘This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen.’

Luke 1:1-4,4:14-21

The account firmly situates Jesus and the meaning of his ministry in the  bigger story of God and his people. In that story always God has been faithful and time and time again his people are not so. Now a son of Israel comes before his people, perfectly to embody the fulfilment what God promises, and perfectly to achieve what God invites us to.

  • Which aspect of Jesus’ ministry as named above most touches you?
  • Of which are you most in need?
  • And those around you?

Window from the Basilica of the Annunciation, Nazareth. (c) 2013, Allen Morris.

 

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.