Speak Lord: love inspiring love

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My soul, give praise to the Lord.

It is the Lord who keeps faith for ever,
who is just to those who are oppressed.
It is he who gives bread to the hungry,
the Lord, who sets prisoners free.

It is the Lord who gives sight to the blind,
who raises up those who are bowed down.
It is the Lord who loves the just,
the Lord, who protects the stranger.

The Lord upholds the widow and orphan
but thwarts the path of the wicked.
The Lord will reign for ever,
Zion’s God, from age to age.

Psalm 145(146):7-10
Psalm for the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Lord is love and does good. The above painting reminds of how his love inspires love in the saints.

  • How do we see others treat the oppressed, the hungry, the blind, the stranger, and all?
  • Who do we find we treat well? And who not? Why?

 

Painting attributed to Mariotto Di Nardo, 1420s. St Lawrence distributing food to the needy. Gallery of the Petit Palais, Avignon. (c) 2014, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: Pray and….

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The Lord said to Moses, ‘Tell the sons of Israel this:

‘“You must not molest the stranger or oppress him, for you lived as strangers in the land of Egypt. You must not be harsh with the widow, or with the orphan; if you are harsh with them, they will surely cry out to me, and be sure I shall hear their cry; my anger will flare and I shall kill you with the sword, your own wives will be widows, your own children orphans.

‘“If you lend money to any of my people, to any poor man among you, you must not play the usurer with him: you must not demand interest from him.

‘“If you take another’s cloak as a pledge, you must give it back to him before sunset. It is all the covering he has; it is the cloak he wraps his body in; what else would he sleep in? If he cries to me, I will listen, for I am full of pity.”’

First reading for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Exodus 22:20-26

Perhaps hearing this passage at Mass yesterday we were moved to pray for forgiveness for our failings in the area of justice and love.

It might be more appropriate yet for us to pray for those who are victim of our failings and the failings of others.

And more appropriate still for us to consider what we might do to rebalance things between us and and others.

Intercession, Wawel Castle, Cracow, Poland. (c) 2013, Allen Morris.

 

 

Speak Lord: cleansing fire

fireThe day is coming now, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and the evil-doers will be like stubble. The day that is coming is going to burn them up, says the Lord of Hosts, leaving them neither root nor stalk. But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness will shine out with healing in its rays.

Malachi 3:19-20

The First reading at Mass today threatens radical cleansing. Those who are arrogant and do evil will be burnt up and consumed. Those who fear the name of the Lord – those who honour and cherish it – will be cleansed by the love of the Lord, cleansed and healed.

The scripture surely makes us hope that we are amongst the latter group!

  • If we think we are, what makes us think so?
  • And what might the Lord think?
  • And if we fear we might not be, what help might we ask of the Lord before his judgement comes our way?

Window. Our Lady of the Rosary, Marylebone. (c) 2007, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Rule us

musical-angels

The Lord comes to rule the peoples with fairness.

Sing psalms to the Lord with the harp
with the sound of music.
With trumpets and the sound of the horn
acclaim the King, the Lord.

The Lord comes to rule the peoples with fairness.

Let the sea and all within it, thunder;
the world, and all its peoples.
Let the rivers clap their hands
and the hills ring out their joy
at the presence of the Lord.

The Lord comes to rule the peoples with fairness.

For the Lord comes,
he comes to rule the earth.
He will rule the world with justice
and the peoples with fairness.

The Lord comes to rule the peoples with fairness.

Psalm 97:5-9

The Responsorial Psalm at Mass tomorrow, the 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time, invites us to rejoice, and gives us our motivation – the fairness of the rule of the Lord.

In recent days we may have been concerned about the justice and fairness of our earthly rulers – governments, presidents-elect and the like. But the psalm has us remember that ultimately we belong not to earthly kingdoms or republics but to the Kingdom of God.Now that is surely good for us for the Lord is good.

But what sort of citizens of his Kingdom are you and I? How will we fit in?

  • Where do you practice justice and fairness?

Not a harp in sight – but plenty of praise! Stained glass. St Tysilio’s Church, Menai Bridge. (c) 2016, Allen Morris

Taste and See: Justice, Love.

justice-shrews

Jesus told his disciples a parable about the need to pray continually and never lose heart. ‘There was a judge in a certain town’ he said ‘who had neither fear of God nor respect for man. In the same town there was a widow who kept on coming to him and saying, “I want justice from you against my enemy!” For a long time he refused, but at last he said to himself, “Maybe I have neither fear of God nor respect for man, but since she keeps pestering me I must give this widow her just rights, or she will persist in coming and worry me to death.”’

And the Lord said ‘You notice what the unjust judge has to say? Now will not God see justice done to his chosen who cry to him day and night even when he delays to help them? I promise you, he will see justice done to them, and done speedily. But when the Son of Man comes, will he find any faith on earth?’

Luke 18:1-8

The Gospel for Sunday coming, the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, reminds how persistence in this life can achieve much, can even persuade to act people against their (in this case, worst!) nature and do good.

We have no such difficulty in urging God to do good. God, alone, is good, Jesus teaches us. And he is love for us.

But often we need to be patient, for the goodness of God is not always what we -at any particular time – might hope for. Our nature, our discernment, is not always at its best. We are invited to trust, to have faith in God. We need not stop crying our, but our sense of urgency ought not to blind us or deafen us to the persistent goodness of God .

  • What helps you to have faith?
  • What hinders faith or hobbles it?

Carving of Justice. Riverside gardens. Shrewsbury. (c) 2016, Allen Morris

Taste and See: Justice

cup-of-justice

The first reading at Mass on Sunday, the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, offered challenging words from the prophet Amos.

Listen to this, you who trample on the needy
and try to suppress the poor people of the country,
you who say, ‘When will New Moon be over
so that we can sell our corn,
and sabbath, so that we can market our wheat?
Then by lowering the bushel, raising the shekel,
by swindling and tampering with the scales,
we can buy up the poor for money,
and the needy for a pair of sandals,
and get a price even for the sweepings of the wheat.’
The Lord swears it by the pride of Jacob,
‘Never will I forget a single thing you have done.’

Amos 8:4-7

Having heard the words again, and perhaps, again, been chastened by them, what might we do?

It is possible that we may be guilty of these injustices ourselves, personally and directly. If so, the way ahead may seem clear.

More complex is it, if we feel free from such deliberate, personal injustice, but complicit in systems that unjustly, cruelly, exploit the vulnerable for the profit of multinationals whose products we consume (at best price!) or the more ‘advanced’ economies which abuse their economic and political stability disadvantaging emerging economies and ‘newer’, less well resourced communities and nations. What then?

The motto ‘Live Simple’ points one way forward. Deliberately supporting charities and other organisations that seek to resource and reinforce more fragile communities is another.

  • How do you respond to injustice?

The cup of justice. Iona Abbey. (c) 2011, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: of decency and care

ivory-lyre

The first reading at Mass today, the 25th in Ordinary Time, comes from the prophet Amos.

He pulls no punches.

Listen to this, you who trample on the needy
and try to suppress the poor people of the country,
you who say, ‘When will New Moon be over
so that we can sell our corn,
and sabbath, so that we can market our wheat?
Then by lowering the bushel, raising the shekel,
by swindling and tampering with the scales,
we can buy up the poor for money,
and the needy for a pair of sandals,
and get a price even for the sweepings of the wheat.’
The Lord swears it by the pride of Jacob,
‘Never will I forget a single thing you have done.’

Amos 8:4-7

The passage can be shrugged off – perhaps a well deserved critique of people back then, but what is it too us, really?

Pope Francis regularly makes similar points:

Time, my brothers and sisters, seems to be running out; we are not yet tearing one another apart, but we are tearing apart our common home. Today, the scientific community realizes what the poor have long told us: harm, perhaps irreversible harm, is being done to the ecosystem. The earth, entire peoples and individual persons are being brutally punished. And behind all this pain, death and destruction there is the stench of what Basil of Caesarea – one of the first theologians of the Church – called “the dung of the devil”. An unfettered pursuit of money rules. This is the “dung of the devil”. The service of the common good is left behind. Once capital becomes an idol and guides people’s decisions, once greed for money presides over the entire socioeconomic system, it ruins society, it condemns and enslaves men and women, it destroys human fraternity, it sets people against one another and, as we clearly see, it even puts at risk our common home, sister and mother earth…

…The economy should not be a mechanism for accumulating goods, but rather the proper administration of our common home. This entails a commitment to care for that home and to the fitting distribution of its goods among all. It is not only about ensuring a supply of food or “decent sustenance”. Nor, although this is already a great step forward, is it to guarantee the three “L’s” of land, lodging and labor for which you are working. A truly communitarian economy, one might say an economy of Christian inspiration, must ensure peoples’ dignity and their “general, temporal welfare and prosperity”. (Pope John XXIII spoke this last phrase fifty years ago, and Jesus says in the Gospel that whoever freely offers a glass of water to one who is thirsty will be remembered in the Kingdom of Heaven.) All of this includes the three “L’s”, but also access to education, health care, new technologies, artistic and cultural manifestations, communications, sports and recreation. A just economy must create the conditions for everyone to be able to enjoy a childhood without want, to develop their talents when young, to work with full rights during their active years and to enjoy a dignified retirement as they grow older. It is an economy where human beings, in harmony with nature, structure the entire system of production and distribution in such a way that the abilities and needs of each individual find suitable expression in social life. You, and other peoples as well, sum up this desire in a simple and beautiful expression: “to live well”, which is not the same as “to have a good time”.

Pope Francis, 9th July 2015.

  • What is your response to Amos’ words, to Pope Francis?
  • How might you live differently in consequence?

Ivory Lyre. Greek National Museum, Athens. (c) 2006, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Just One

justice

The Responsorial Psalm at Mass tomorrow, the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time,  is a song in celebration of the Lord who cares for his creation, and especially the poor…

Praise the Lord, who raises the pooror Alleluia!

Praise, O servants of the Lord,
praise the name of the Lord!
May the name of the Lord be blessed
both now and for evermore!

Praise the Lord, who raises the poor or Alleluia!

High above all nations is the Lord,
above the heavens his glory.
Who is like the Lord, our God,
who has risen on high to his throne
yet stoops from the heights to look down,
to look down upon heaven and earth?

Praise the Lord, who raises the poor or Alleluia!

From the dust he lifts up the lowly,
from the dungheap he raises the poor
to set him in the company of princes,
yes, with the princes of his people.

Praise the Lord, who raises the poor or Alleluia!

Psalm 112:1-2,4-8

It is very easy for us to spiritualise poverty – and certainly poverty exists in very many forms. But especially offensive are those forms which are institutionalised and imposed upon others, impoverishing them, and depriving them of that which God intends.

In the beginning God entrusted the earth and its resources to the common stewardship of mankind to take care of them, master them by labour, and enjoy their fruits. The goods of creation are destined for the whole human race. However, the earth is divided up among men to assure the security of their lives, endangered by poverty and threatened by violence. The appropriation of property is legitimate for guaranteeing the freedom and dignity of persons and for helping each of them to meet his basic needs and the needs of those in his charge. It should allow for a natural solidarity to develop between men.

The right to private property, acquired or received in a just way, does not do away with the original gift of the earth to the whole of mankind. The universal destination of goods remains primordial, even if the promotion of the common good requires respect for the right to private property and its exercise.

In his use of things man should regard the external goods he legitimately owns not merely as exclusive to himself but common to others also, in the sense that they can benefit others as well as himself.”Gaudium et Spes 69.1 The ownership of any property makes its holder a steward of Providence, with the task of making it fruitful and communicating its benefits to others, first of all his family.

Goods of production – material or immaterial – such as land, factories, practical or artistic skills, oblige their possessors to employ them in ways that will benefit the greatest number. Those who hold goods for use and consumption should use them with moderation, reserving the better part for guests, for the sick and the poor.

Political authority has the right and duty to regulate the legitimate exercise of the right to ownership for the sake of the common good

In economic matters, respect for human dignity requires the practice of the virtue of temperance, so as to moderate attachment to this world’s goods; the practice of the virtue of justice, to preserve our neighbour’s rights and render him what is his due; and the practice of solidarity, in accordance with the golden rule and in keeping with the generosity of the Lord, who “though he was rich, yet for your sake . . . became poor so that by his poverty, you might become rich.” (2 Cor, 8.9)

Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2402-2405

  • What act of solidarity with the poor might you take today? To be a steward of providence?

Honte à celui qui ne se révolte pas contre l’injustice sociale (Shame on those who do not rise against social injustice), painting by Jules Grandjouan. Musée d’histoire de Nante. (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: Of mercy and reconciliation

Isaiah WolverhamptonThe Gospel reading on Sunday, the second Sunday of Advent, speaks of reconciliation and wholeness. It speaks to a people, and to all people,  alienated from God, the land, themselves. It is a Laudato Si’ in miniature. It is a timely reminder of the Year of Mercy, which begins on Tuesday next, 8th December.

In the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar’s reign, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judaea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of the lands of Ituraea and Trachonitis, Lysanias tetrach of Abilene, during the pontificate of Annas and Caiaphas the word of God came to John son of Zechariah, in the wilderness. He went through the whole Jordan district proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the sayings of the prophet Isaiah:

‘A voice cries in the wilderness:
Prepare a way for the Lord,
make his paths straight.
Every valley will be filled in,
every mountain and hill be laid low,
winding ways will be straightened
and rough roads made smooth.
And all mankind shall see the salvation of God.’

Luke 3:1-6

It is tempting to rewrite the opening of that reading  so as to highlight for our age the political and moral turmoil of the space in which God’s Gospel is now to be preached and made incarnate. But maybe that would be to over-localise our contemporary reading of the passage. And for those of us who live in the UK risk suggesting that THE place for the preaching of peace and reconciliation is the Holy Land and the Middle East.

Today, of course, there is challenge for us to know about how empires and regimes impact on the Holy Land and its neighbours: but there is challenge for us also to know how evil and its consorts impact on our own local situation too. And that is work not so easy to do, and it is work for us to do for ourselves.

Where is there alienation now, close to home? In personal and familial and eccelesial relationships, in the structures of society, in the to and fro of politics? How can we represent the Gospel to those situations?

  • Where do I first see need for healing and hope?
  • How might I play my part there?

Isaiah. F.J. Shields. Wolverhampton Art Gallery. (c) 2015, Allen Morris