Taste and See: in the Spirit

Disputation detail

The Communion Antiphon on Sunday, the 6th of Easter, re-engaged us with the Gospel of the day, and reminded of the approach of Pentecost, and the fulfilment of the Lord’s promise to his faithful disciples.

If you love me, keep my commandments, says the Lord,
and I will ask the Father and he will send you another Paraclete,
to abide with you for ever, alleluia.

Jn 14: 15-16

However more than simply reminding of an historical promised fulfilled in a particular event, ie the first Pentecost, the antiphon also reminds of what seems a characteristic feature of God’s dealing with us. Namely, that God will not be outdone in goodness and love.

The Holy Spirit is gifted because  the disciples – confused etc (as they seemingly and unsurprisingly were) – strove to keep the Lord’s commandments. Their obedient striving did not earn God’s greater favour. Obedience to the loving Creator is right and its own reward. But it can be costly, difficult: such is the burden of our fallibility, frailty and sometime sinfulness.

And, again and again, God’s response to our trying – a trying which is not always a succeeding – is the gift of grace added to grace. In our time and across all time, responding in the lives of individuals and communities, God draws us into a new and deeper dwelling with him.

He abides with us, personally, that we might abide with him.

Detail of The Disputation of the Holy Sacrament by Raphael. Vatican Palace. (c) 2016, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Challenge and stretch us

Eucharist Grasse

Every third Cycle of the Lectionary for Mass (Year B) is dedicated to the Gospel of Mark.

However the Gospel of Mark is shorter than the others, and much of its text reproduced in the other synoptics (Matthew and Luke); and there is an important section of John’s Gospel – the Bread of Life discourse – that otherwise would not be otherwise be heard.

So each Year B, beginning on the 17th Sunday, this coming Sunday, (and up to and including the 21st Sunday) we pause Mark, and listen to John.

This year the readings from John are themselves interrupted by the feast of the Assumption, kept on a Sunday in England and Wales this year. So those responsible for the preparation of the Liturgy might like to think of combining the gospel readings of the 19th and 20th Sundays for the sake of the congregation’s hearing the Gospel pericope in its fullness. (However, please note that although such an adaptation is commended for weekdays in the General Introduction to the Lectionary it is not directly proposed for Sundays. Introduction, 84)

This Sunday’s Gospel sets the scene for all that follows.

Jesus went off to the other side of the Sea of Galilee – or of Tiberias – and a large crowd followed him, impressed by the signs he gave by curing the sick. Jesus climbed the hillside, and sat down there with his disciples. It was shortly before the Jewish feast of Passover.

Looking up, Jesus saw the crowds approaching and said to Philip, ‘Where can we buy some bread for these people to eat?’ He only said this to test Philip; he himself knew exactly what he was going to do. Philip answered, ‘Two hundred denarii would only buy enough to give them a small piece each.’ One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said, ‘There is a small boy here with five barley loaves and two fish; but what is that between so many?’

Jesus said to them, ‘Make the people sit down.’ There was plenty of grass there, and as many as five thousand men sat down. Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and gave them out to all who were sitting ready; he then did the same with the fish, giving out as much as was wanted.

When they had eaten enough he said to the disciples, ‘Pick up the pieces left over, so that nothing gets wasted.’ So they picked them up, and filled twelve hampers with scraps left over from the meal of five barley loaves. The people, seeing this sign that he had given, said, ‘This really is the prophet who is to come into the world.’ Jesus, who could see they were about to come and take him by force and make him king, escaped back to the hills by himself.

John 6:1-15

The scene is set.

  • The story of the miraculous feeding, known in Mark’s Gospel, is here placed in the context of Passover (the time of the Last Supper, and the Paschal Mystery which that Supper anticipated).
  • The inability of the disciples alone to respond to the needs of the people
  • The way in which the many are fed by God’s grace
  • The attentiveness to the precious food remaining
  • The way that the ministry of Jesus cannot be understood in normal political, worldly terms.

There is something new here, not only miraculous. The Gospel readings from John over the coming weeks make that point, again and again. There is no escaping the point. So will people stay and learn? Will people reject and leave? And if we have left, will we return?

  • How does the Lord help and encourage you?
  • How are you able to help and encourage others?
  • How can you share Jesus with others?

Photograph is of detail of door of the Cathedral of Grasse. (c) 2008, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: That we may remain in love.

Portsmouth, West Door interiorThe Gospel today, the 6th Sunday of Easter, again invites us to remember and respond to the Lord’s gift of love

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘As the Father has loved me,
so I have loved you.
Remain in my love.
If you keep my commandments
you will remain in my love,
just as I have kept my Father’s commandments
and remain in his love.
I have told you this
so that my own joy may be in you
and your joy be complete.
This is my commandment:
love one another, as I have loved you.
A man can have no greater love
than to lay down his life for his friends.
You are my friends,
if you do what I command you.
I shall not call you servants any more,
because a servant does not know
his master’s business;
I call you friends,
because I have made known to you
everything I have learnt from my Father.
You did not choose me:
no, I chose you;
and I commissioned you
to go out and to bear fruit,
fruit that will last;
and then the Father will give you
anything you ask him in my name.
What I command you
is to love one another.’

John 15:9-17

To love is to care enough about the other(s) to pass beyond one’s own self to theirs, and to do this for their well being, without self-interest. It is to bridge distance and otherness, and find, establish, a certain common ground. It is to seek to live for another as (at least mostly) we want to live for ourselves, careful for our integrity, health, balance, and thriving.

Love is more than ‘just’ care, because it will sometimes demand more of us than may – on the face of it – be good for ourselves. We may suffer adversity but our sufferance on behalf of others may make that adversity something we accept without counting the cost. And if we do, sometimes, count the cost, as we know Jesus did, then if we remain inspired by love then we simply know the cost is one we are willing, even happy to pay.

And it begins with the sense that despite our otherness, our being distinct from one another, we each of us matter, and matter to each other. In that, love begins to form. (Not necessarily liking, but love!)

The witness of Jesus is that without that love we are, and will remain, less than fully human.

In his love for us he offers a taste of what life is about. A taste restored to us in our every communion with him, and made tangible in a particular way in our Holy Communion.

  • What gives taste, life, to your life?
  • Where does it lack taste, life?

Bring your reflections to Jesus in prayer. Wait to hear his counsel.

Portsmouth, West Door exterior

 

Photographs of the West Door to Portsmouth’s Anglican Cathedral. The door both marks the difference between church and world, here and there, and also allows an experience of the presence/access of each to the other. (c) 2006, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: That we may be fruitful

Vines, pruned

Vines, pruned

Today’s Gospel allows us to hear words of encouragement from Jesus. He says we have been pruned by the word he speaks to us. And don’t we know it! How often we have been checked and challenged in our thoughts and actions by the words of the Lord.

He also today speaks of how, if we accept his invitation to live in him, we will bear much fruit, thrive and prosper in him.

Vines in bud

Vines in bud

Jesus said:

‘I am the true vine,
and my Father is the vinedresser.
Every branch in me that bears no fruit
he cuts away,
and every branch that does bear fruit
he prunes to make it bear even more.
You are pruned already,
by means of the word that I have spoken to you.
Make your home in me, as I make mine in you.
As a branch cannot bear fruit all by itself,
but must remain part of the vine,
neither can you unless you remain in me.
I am the vine,
you are the branches.
Whoever remains in me, with me in him,
bears fruit in plenty;
for cut off from me you can do nothing.

Vines in leaf

Vines in leaf

Anyone who does not remain in me
is like a branch that has been thrown away – he withers;
these branches are collected and thrown on the fire,
and they are burnt.
If you remain in me
and my words remain in you,
you may ask what you will
and you shall get it.
It is to the glory of my Father that you should bear much fruit,
and then you will be my disciples.’

John 15:1-8

  • What life experiences have you had of pruning leading to greater fruitfulness?
  • What have you learnt from that?
  • Where is pruning and fruitfulness present in your life today?
Vines ready for harvest

Vines ready for harvest

Photographs of vines, Medjugorje, Bosnia Herzogovina. (c) Allen Morris, 2014, 2015.

Speak Lord: Quench our thirst.

Jacob's Well, NablusOnce more, there are two Gospel readings we may hear today.

On this page, 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.

On an accompanying blog, can be found the ‘default’ reading for the 3rd Sunday of Lent in Year B.

Jesus came to the Samaritan town called Sychar, near the land that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well is there and Jesus, tired by the journey, sat straight down by the well. It was about the sixth hour. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink.’ His disciples had gone into the town to buy food. The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘What? You are a Jew and you ask me, a Samaritan, for a drink?’ – Jews, in fact, do not associate with Samaritans. Jesus replied:

‘If you only knew what God is offering
and who it is that is saying to you:
Give me a drink, you would have been the one to ask,
and he would have given you living water.’

‘You have no bucket, sir,’ she answered ‘and the well is deep: how could you get this living water? Are you a greater man than our father Jacob who gave us this well and drank from it himself with his sons and his cattle?’ Jesus replied:

‘Whoever drinks this water
will get thirsty again;
but anyone who drinks the water that I shall give
will never be thirsty again:
the water that I shall give
will turn into a spring inside him,
welling up to eternal life.’

‘Sir,’ said the woman ‘give me some of that water, so that I may never get thirsty and never have to come here again to draw water.’ ‘Go and call your husband’ said Jesus to her ‘and come back here.’ The woman answered, ‘I have no husband.’ He said to her, ‘You are right to say, “I have no husband”; for although you have had five, the one you have now is not your husband. You spoke the truth there.’ ‘I see you are a prophet, sir’ said the woman. ‘Our fathers worshipped on this mountain, while you say that Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.’ Jesus said:

‘Believe me, woman,
the hour is coming
when you will worship the Father
neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.
You worship what you do not know;
we worship what we do know:
for salvation comes from the Jews.
But the hour will come
– in fact it is here already –
when true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth:
that is the kind of worshipper the Father wants.
God is spirit,
and those who worship
must worship in spirit and truth.’

The woman said to him, ‘I know that Messiah – that is, Christ – is coming; and when he comes he will tell us everything.’ ‘I who am speaking to you,’ said Jesus ‘I am he.’

At this point his disciples returned, and were surprised to find him speaking to a woman, though none of them asked, ‘What do you want from her?’ or, ‘Why are you talking to her?’ The woman put down her water jar and hurried back to the town to tell the people. ‘Come and see a man who has told me everything I ever did; I wonder if he is the Christ?’ This brought people out of the town and they started walking towards him.

Meanwhile, the disciples were urging him, ‘Rabbi, do have something to eat; but he said, ‘I have food to eat that you do not know about.’ So the disciples asked one another, ‘Has someone been bringing him food?’ But Jesus said:

‘My food is to do the will of the one who sent me,
and to complete his work.
Have you not got a saying:
Four months and then the harvest?
Well, I tell you:
Look around you, look at the fields;
already they are white, ready for harvest!
Already the reaper is being paid his wages,
already he is bringing in the grain for eternal life,
and thus sower and reaper rejoice together.
For here the proverb holds good:
one sows, another reaps;
I sent you to reap a harvest you had not worked for.
Others worked for it;
and you have come into the rewards of their trouble.’

Many Samaritans of that town had believed in him on the strength of the woman’s testimony when she said, ‘He told me all I have ever done’, so, when the Samaritans came up to him, they begged him to stay with them. He stayed for two days, and when he spoke to them many more came to believe; and they said to the woman, ‘Now we no longer believe because of what you told us; we have heard him ourselves and we know that he really is the saviour of the world.’

John 4:5-42

The Gospel is read on this Sunday to highlight the journey to Baptism that the Elect are making this Lent, and the call to a renewal of baptismal identity made to all those who are already baptised.

John’s Gospel shows Jesus challenging presumptions and assumptions, reaching out across barriers to restore the unity proper to the children of God. It also shows the challenges to that unity before, during and after his ‘intervention’ in the encounter with the woman at the well.

  • What keeps you from God?
  • What keeps you from neighbour?
  • Pray for those preparing for baptism.
  • Pray for the Christians of Palestine and for peace for all the people of the Holy Lands.

Photograph of the well of Jacob, Nablus, Palestine. (c) 2012,  Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Of Law and love

Commandments, DissThere are choices to be made with the first reading at Mass on the third Sunday of Lent.

Those using the readings for Year B have the option of using a briefer version of the reading that follows, or the full text, as given here.

In parishes where the first Scrutiny is being prayed, with those preparing for Baptism, a different reading altogether is used,  to complement the reading from John’s Gospel of Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well: the celebration of the scrutiny requires the use of the readings of Year A – which are also optional for use in any year, even when the scrutiny is not celebrated. You will find that alternative first reading at the end of this post.

God spoke all these words.

He said, ‘I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

‘You shall have no gods except me.

‘You shall not make yourself a carved image or any likeness of anything in heaven or on earth beneath or in the waters under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God and I punish the father’s fault in the sons, the grandsons, and the great-grandsons of those who hate me; but I show kindness to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

‘You shall not utter the name of the Lord your God to misuse it, for the Lord will not leave unpunished the man who utters his name to misuse it.

‘Remember the sabbath day and keep it holy. For six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath for the Lord your God. You shall do no work that day, neither you nor your son nor your daughter nor your servants, men or women, nor your animals nor the stranger who lives with you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth and the sea and all that these hold, but on the seventh day he rested; that is why the Lord has blessed the sabbath day and made it sacred.

‘Honour your father and your mother so that you may have a long life in the land that the Lord your God has given to you.

‘You shall not kill.

‘You shall not commit adultery.

‘You shall not steal.

‘You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.

‘You shall not covet your neighbour’s house. You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or his servant, man or woman, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is his.’

Exodus 20:1-17

The reading sets before us a properly ordered way of life – based on love of God and respect for the moral order. Law here sustains the good and noble life: it is a way to defend love.

Law gone wrong, or law ignored leads to disorder and disconnection.

But Exodus 20 reminds of how it should be.

  • What law do you find less convenient to keep? Why? And with what consequence?
  • What law helps you to come closer to God, yourself and your neighbour?

– – –

The first reading for when the first Scrutiny is celebrated is as follows:

Tormented by thirst, the people complained against Moses. ‘Why did you bring us out of Egypt?’ they said. ‘Was it so that I should die of thirst, my children too, and my cattle?’

Moses appealed to the Lord. ‘How am I to deal with this people?” he said. ‘A little more and they will stone me!’ the Lord said to Moses, ‘Take with you some of the elders of Israel and move on to the forefront of the people; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the river, and go. I shall be standing before you there on the rock, at Horeb. You must strike the rock, and water will flow from it for the people to drink.’ This is what Moses did, in the sight of the elders of Israel. The place was named Massah and Meribah because of the grumbling of the sons of Israel and because they put the Lord to the test by saying, ‘Is the Lord with us, or not?’

Exodus 17:3-7

The reading anticipates the Gospel’s talk of thirst, not for water only but for living water that quenches every thirst. Grumbling Israel is offered the very best but hardness of heart prevents it being received.

  • What provokes grumbling in you?
  • What does the grumbling prevent you from seeing/receiving?

Photograph is of 17th Century Commandments Board in the Parish Church, Diss.
Photograph (c) 2011, Allen Morris.