Taste and See: Communion – lives connected


The Second reading at Mass yesterday, Corpus Christi, describes – and itself contributes to communion.

Paul has received and shares; Jesus has received and shares – an action of his own which embraces God and us. And now? Have we learnt the dance? Can we continue what has been thus begun?

This is what I received from the Lord, and in turn passed on to you: that on the same night that he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread, and thanked God for it and broke it, and he said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this as a memorial of me.’ In the same way he took the cup after supper, and said, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Whenever you drink it, do this as a memorial of me.’ Until the Lord comes, therefore, every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are proclaiming his death.

1 Corinthians 11:23-26

In the Eucharist life leads to death which leads to life and eternal glory – not as inevitable cycle, but as expression of the truth that God is love, and the intent of Creation that we and all should live that communion of love. Now. Always. Everywhere.

  • How are you drawn into the communion of love present in Eucharist?
  • What is eucharistic in your life today? What of Sunday expresses itself in your Monday?

Screen depicting the Last Supper – behind which can be seen a relic of the table of the Last Super. St John Lateran. Rome. (c) 2016, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Lord then, now and forever.

St John, Lateran

The first reading on Sunday, the 2nd Sunday of Easter, comes from the Book of the Apocalypse, the Book of Revelation.

It begins with a direct address to those who listen, immediately connecting person to person, across the denturies and cultures. It is a powerful witness to the very real unity of the Church in Christ.

My name is John, and through our union in Jesus I am your brother and share your sufferings, your kingdom, and all you endure. I was on the island of Patmos for having preached God’s word and witnessed for Jesus; it was the Lord’s day and the Spirit possessed me, and I heard a voice behind me, shouting like a trumpet, ‘Write down all that you see in a book.’ I turned round to see who had spoken to me, and when I turned I saw seven golden lamp-stands and, surrounded by them, a figure like a Son of man, dressed in a long robe tied at the waist with a golden girdle.

When I saw him, I fell in a dead faint at his feet, but he touched me with his right hand and said, ‘Do not be afraid; it is I, the First and the Last; I am the Living One, I was dead and now I am to live for ever and ever, and I hold the keys of death and of the underworld. Now write down all that you see of present happenings and things that are still to come.’

Apocalypse 1:9-13,17-19

If we read the book the first chapters also offers a real challenge to those who presume and assume unity with Christ, when their life and discipleship contradicts it.

However in the Easter season the compilers of the Lectionary offer us an easier ride.

Here, John assures us he shares our sufferings, kingdom, and all we endure.

  • What are they?
  • How do they reveal to us of our present need for the Good News of Jesus Christ?
  • How might we more faithfully respond to his Lordship?

St John, statue in St John Lateran. (c) 2016, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: help us do justice

John the Baptist, LateranThe Gospel for the 3rd Sunday of Advent, and the first Sunday of the Year of Mercy, has some very practical guidance to how to live the religious, righteous, faithful life.

When all the people asked John, ‘What must we do?’ he answered, ‘If anyone has two tunics he must share with the man who has none, and the one with something to eat must do the same.’ There were tax collectors too who came for baptism, and these said to him, ‘Master, what must we do?’ He said to them, ‘Exact no more than your rate.’ Some soldiers asked him in their turn, ‘What about us? What must we do?’ He said to them, ‘No intimidation! No extortion! Be content with your pay!’

A feeling of expectancy had grown among the people, who were beginning to think that John might be the Christ, so John declared before them all, ‘I baptise you with water, but someone is coming, someone who is more powerful than I am, and I am not fit to undo the strap of his sandals; he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing-fan is in his hand to clear his threshing-floor and to gather the wheat into his barn; but the chaff he will burn in a fire that will never go out.’ As well as this, there were many other things he said to exhort the people and to announce the Good News to them.

Luke 3:10-18

We are not told what the soldiers and others did as a result of John’s teaching. And now of course what they did is not so very important. Much more important is what we do with it.

King Lear declared: ‘I am a man/more sinned against than sinning.’ Many of us might not see ourselves as intimidators or extortioners, or unjust in any way – but see ourselves as diminished, hemmed in, oppressed by others.

Though it is to be hoped that we do not do direct and deliberate harm to others, most of us are complicit in the structural sins of the sometime exploitative economic and political systems of the West.

It is not enough, argued Saint John Paul II, for us to seek to be free of personal sin: we also need to repent of and seek to correct the effects of structural sin. How we vote; how we spend; how we respond to the victims of organised exploitation, all matter, all are relevant when we seek to give account of our religious and moral lives.

Shrine of John the Baptist, St John Lateran, Rome. (c) 2005, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Baptised into Christ, a holy temple

John Lateran baptistery 2

The second reading read at Sunday’s Mass, for the feast of the dedication of the Lateran Basilica came from St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians.

You are God’s building. By the grace God gave me, I succeeded as an architect and laid the foundations, on which someone else is doing the building. Everyone doing the building must work carefully. For the foundation, nobody can lay any other than the one which has already been laid, that is Jesus Christ.

Didn’t you realise that you were God’s temple and that the Spirit of God was living among you? If anybody should destroy the temple of God, God will destroy him, because the temple of God is sacred; and you are that temple.

1 Corinthians 3:9-11,16-17

The building of faith that is the Church has a permanence that extends beyond time. As Buzz Lightyear might say ‘To infinity and beyond!’ And through our baptism and God’s grace that permanence includes us.

The blog yesterday contained a translation of verses from the baptistery of St John Lateran by Aidan Kavanagh, OSB  – a great, and late, American liturgist, who, please God, is now himself enjoying the permanence which is beyond this world.  One work in particular merits reading in this month of November and in the wake of Sunday’s great feast. Click here to access it.

It is an imaginative reconstruction of a 4th Century baptism. The historical reconstruction is very valuable, and entertaining. But for me of still greater note is the emotional truth of the story of faith that he tells.

It is not short, but it is well worth reading.

Finally, a sad fact but true – baptisms in the ancient and evocative baptistery of St John Lateran seem no longer to be carried our in the flood of the pool, or even in the plentiful water that might fill the sarcophagus now standing in the empty pool, but in a little glass bowl brought out for the occasion. Of such conveniences is born not only paucity of symbol and shallow communication of sacramental grace but decay of the symbolic imagination.

  • What short cuts are you likely to take in your living of today? What might be their cumulative effect on your life and the lives of those around you? For good? For bad?

 Photograph of Baptistery, St John Lateran. Photograph (c) 2014, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Call us to order.

John Lateran apse

The Gospel reading for today, the feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica does not show Jesus meek and mild, but Jesus angry, passionate and somewhat violent in his actions.

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.

John 2:13-22

In John’s telling of the story there is a conflation of themes – the importance of proper prayer, and for purification and conversion, and of the replacement of the Temple by the worship of (by) the body of Risen Christ. The worship, the worship proper to the Church is not constrained by place and time, but is enabled by the very life of the Trinity, our prayer inspired and sustained by the worship of the Father by the Son (and therefore also by the members of his spiritual body, the Church) and in the Spirit. The passage from John is not just a bit of reminiscence about what Jesus did, it is about the dawning revelation of the much more than man that Jesus was and is, and that we can be and are, through baptism.

It is less about management of sacred space, and much more about faithful living even in the least overtly religious of places.

Imposing order on others is a relatively straightforward matter – It might still be achieved by overturning a few tables!

Learning to live right ourselves is a more challenging matter, even with God’s grace and the good example of others to assist us.

Perhaps in prayer today we might place our disorder in the Lord’s hands and ask him, again, for help in better responding to God’s will for us.

WhitePoppy1024-768

And pray  too in remembrance of all those who have died in war: combatants and others who served the armed forces, and civilians. And pray for peace, healing, and mercy for all.

Photograph of the apse of St John Lateran, with the cathedra of Pope Francis, Bishop of Rome. (C) 2014, Allen Morris

Poppies image (c) Peace Pledge Union. Check out Pax Christi too.

Speak Lord: Living stones

Lateran 2

The second reading read at Mass at tomorrow’s feast of the dedication of the Lateran Basilica comes from St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians.

You are God’s building. By the grace God gave me, I succeeded as an architect and laid the foundations, on which someone else is doing the building. Everyone doing the building must work carefully. For the foundation, nobody can lay any other than the one which has already been laid, that is Jesus Christ.

Didn’t you realise that you were God’s temple and that the Spirit of God was living among you? If anybody should destroy the temple of God, God will destroy him, because the temple of God is sacred; and you are that temple.

1 Corinthians 3:9-11,16-17

The ‘you’ is plural. We are God’s building. Becoming this is first of all is God’s gift. But it also needs to be our work, our work together. We can build, and we can destroy.
Success in this enterprise is achieved by attentiveness to the ‘plan’ of the building, established by Christ.

We have work to do but the shape of the work is established by the Lord. Our work begins with discerning his will.

The nave of St John Lateran is populated by great statues of the apostles, the foundation on which the Church, and not only this particular church, is built.

Lateran

And note that, despite the prominent collection box above, the Lateran is maybe the most welcoming of Rome’s basilicas!

Photographs (c) 2014, Allen Morris.