Taste and See: your will be done…

DSC02711 gethsemane.jpg

The Collect at Mass on Sunday, the 8th in Ordinary Time, and the last before Lent, has us pray for the rule of God, here, now.

Grant us, O Lord, we pray,
that the course of our world
may be directed by your peaceful rule
and that your Church may rejoice,
untroubled in her devotion.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

At the end of Lent we remember Jesus in agony at the suffering that awaits him continuing to pray that, in all, God’s will be
done – whatever the cost.

There is a peace that goes deeper than superficial peace and apparent good order. Even in our agonies to respond properly, in any way adequately, to God’s faithfulness to us, we can be ‘untroubled’.

Let us pray for those who face troubles today, and hope they will pray for us.

Taste and See: Waiting

dsc07091-john-barber

John in his prison had heard what Christ was doing and he sent his disciples to ask him, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or have we got to wait for someone else?’ Jesus answered, ‘Go back and tell John what you hear and see; the blind see again, and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised to life and the Good News is proclaimed to the poor; and happy is the man who does not lose faith in me.’

As the messengers were leaving, Jesus began to talk to the people about John: ‘What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swaying in the breeze? No? Then what did you go out to see? A man wearing fine clothes? Oh no, those who wear fine clothes are to be found in palaces. Then what did you go out for? To see a prophet? Yes, I tell you, and much more than a prophet: he is the one of whom scripture says:

‘Look, I am going to send my messenger before you;
he will prepare your way before you.

‘I tell you solemnly, of all the children born of women, a greater than John the Baptist has never been seen; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he is.’

Matthew 11:2-11

We heard that Gospel passage of Gaudete Sunday, the third Sunday of Advent, the Sunday of Joy.

And clearly the Gospel helps us to identify reason for joy. But the joy is not unalloyed. John is in prison, conerned, and doubtful. His doubts dispelled he still faces his martyrdom. That death is to his glory, but , still, it is a cruel death and one visitied upon him as a result of scheming and of brutal dictatorship.

We have no one more that we are to wait for, the kingdom is at hand, but sometimes it appears, also, very far off.

  • For what needs  – of yourself and others – do you pray today?

Beheading of John the Baptist. Pierre Puvis De Chavannes. Barber Institute. Photo © 2016, Allen Morris

Taste and See: The Kingdom

mystery-of-the-light-kingdomIt is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation,
always and everywhere to give you thanks,
Lord, holy Father, almighty and eternal God.

For you anointed your Only Begotten Son,
our Lord Jesus Christ, with the oil of gladness
as eternal Priest and King of all creation,
so that, by offering himself on the altar of the Cross
as a spotless sacrifice to bring us peace,
he might accomplish the mysteries of  human redemption
and, making all created things subject to his rule,
he might present to the immensity of your majesty
an eternal and universal kingdom,
a kingdom of truth and life,
a kingdom of holiness and grace,
a kingdom of justice, love and peace.

And so, with Angels and Archangels,
with Thrones and Dominions,
and with all the hosts and Powers of heaven,
we sing the hymn of your glory,
as without end we acclaim:

Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts . . .

Sunday was the feast of Christ the King, and the beginning of the 34th week in Ordinary Time. It was also the beginning of the last week of the Church’s year.

The Preface of the Day, above, is a song of thanksgiving to the Father for Jesus and the Kingdom

Jesus’ ministry began with a proclamation of the nearness of the Kingdom of God and at the Year’s end, and the Year of Mercy we recall the nature of that kingdom. It is so different to at least some current tendencies with regard to the kingdoms of this world.

And yet, as Jesus said, this kingdom,

a kingdom of truth and life,
a kingdom of holiness and grace,
a kingdom of justice, love and peace.

is close at hand, and we have but to want it and keep trying to live it, and then – by God’s grace – we are there, blessed citizens of his kingdom.

  • What kingdom value seems most under threat?
  • How might you support and witness to its worth?

Jesus preaches the kingdom. Medjugorje. (c) 2015, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: of your promises…

Street, ArlesThe First reading at Mass today, the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, speaks of the night that presaged freedom and the fulfilment of God’s promises to his people: the night that opened the way to the Promised Land.

That night had been foretold to our ancestors, so that, once they saw what kind of oaths they had put their trust in, they would joyfully take courage.

This was the expectation of your people, the saving of the virtuous and the ruin of their enemies;
for by the same act with which you took vengeance on our foes
you made us glorious by calling us to you.

The devout children of worthy men offered sacrifice in secret
and this divine pact they struck with one accord:
that the saints would share the same blessings and dangers alike;
and forthwith they had begun to chant the hymns of the fathers.

Wisdom 18:6-9

What ‘night’ does Wisdom allude to? Certainly the reference is to the night of the first Passover in Egypt (Ex 11.4-7), but also there is probably a reference back to the night time promises  with Abraham and Jacob (Gen 15.13-14; Gen 46.3-4). In the deepest darkness comes the sure promise of eternal light and life: God covenants with his people

The promises of the Old Testament lead the people forward – if they will hear them, and put their trust in them. But as the Second reading at Mass today from Hebrews makes clear, the people of the Old Testament, what ever their faithfulness, did not receive the ultimate gift that was to come only in Christ. They lived and died in faith, but awaiting the fulfilment in Christ. The Promised Land itself is but a stage on the way to the Kingdom.

Today, we too are called to live in faith – as the Gospel too, today, makes perfectly clear. We too are called on into the Kingdom that is so very near: already but for us not yet, not quite yet.

Yet already through faith in Christ we are incorporated into him. As Paul says we already share his death, and so share in his resurrection. Of ourselves we are called forward and called to seek after the kingdom, but in him, already and securely, we are part of that reality. In him we seek our true selves.

  • What in God’s promises draws you forward?
  • What in this present ‘land’ might hold you back from faithfully answering his call to move on and move forward?

A street in Arles. (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: God our King

Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy FaceThe responsorial psalm at Mass tomorrow, the 5th Sunday of Easter has the Church bless God’s name for his goodness, compassion and mercy. It has us look forward to when all creation will acknowledge God’s goodness and return to his loving rule.

 

I will bless your name for ever, O God my King.
or
Alleluia!

The Lord is kind and full of compassion,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
How good is the Lord to all,
compassionate to all his creatures.

All your creatures shall thank you, O Lord,
and your friends shall repeat their blessing.
They shall speak of the glory of your reign
and declare your might, O God,
to make known to men your mighty deeds
and the glorious splendour of your reign.

Yours is an everlasting kingdom;
your rule lasts from age to age.

Psalm 144:8-13

In a week where we have, many of us prayed, that our earthly monarch will long reign after us, we now also pray for that reign and rule of God: a reign of infinite extent and infinite goodness.

Sometimes accepting the rule of another seems to be about the limiting of our freedom. In the case of God’s rule it is there that we find our freedom.

  • Freedom for what?
  • And from what?

Statue of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, Cathedral of St Pierre, Lisieux. (c) 2014, Allen Morris

Taste and See: Your kingdom come

Nativity VeniceTwo alternative Psalms were offered in the Lectionary for yesterday, Holy Family Sunday – the first Sunday of Christmas.

The psalm offered especially for use in Year C – this year, the Year of Luke, and the Year of Mercy – speaks of communion with God. It speaks of the courts of the Lord: back to backs often had courts, but maybe here the idea is that of a grander set of courtyards, fitting to a king. It speaks, rather  more domestically perhaps, of God’s ‘house’… but in these days we hear a lot of the House of David…. It speaks of Zion, Jerusalem, seat of king and God, and a place of pilgrimage for the people…

The psalm speaks of communion, and of the psalmist’s longing and yearning for this communion.

They are happy who dwell in your house, O Lord.

How lovely is your dwelling place,
Lord, God of hosts.
My soul is longing and yearning,
is yearning for the courts of the Lord.
My heart and my soul ring out their joy
to God, the living God.

They are happy, who dwell in your house,
for ever singing your praise.
They are happy, whose strength is in you,
in whose hearts are the roads to Zion.

O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer,
give ear, O God of Jacob.
Turn your eyes, O God, our shield,
look on the face of your anointed.

Psalm 83:2-3,5-6,9-10

 

We heard in yesterday’s Gospel how Jesus, Son of David, makes himself at home in the courts of the Temple.

Yet in his discourse he offers a more familial image to consider God – simply as Father. The head of the domestic family – as well as head of people and nation and King of kings.

When we pray, as Jesus teaches, ‘ your kingdom come’, we may have in mind the kingdom of heaven, and God’s dominion here and now over the nations of the world. But it starts – at least for us, existentially, it starts – with our self, our home, our family…

  • How evident is the Father’s leadership, his rule, there?
  • In me?
  • My home?
  • My family?
  • How would anyone know?

As the civic year draws to a close, take stock and speak to God with gratitude for his care and ask for his help where you seem further from him.

Bethlehem in Venice. (c) 2013, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Of Kingdom and Love

Adam and Eve York

The Gospel reading for Sunday, the 27th Sunday of Ordinary Time, is one much quoted in these days of controversy regarding marriage: regarding same sex-marriage, how to respond to ‘failed’ marriages, how to understand what the purpose of marriage is, how it relates to God’s will, our will, our convenience and so on.

We come to it again, in a spirit of meditation and a desire to know and do God’s will.

Some Pharisees approached Jesus and asked, ‘Is it against the law for a man to divorce his wife?’ They were testing him. He answered them, ‘What did Moses command you?’ ‘Moses allowed us’ they said ‘to draw up a writ of dismissal and so to divorce.’ Then Jesus said to them, ‘It was because you were so unteachable that he wrote this commandment for you. But from the beginning of creation God made them male and female. This is why a man must leave father and mother, and the two become one body. They are no longer two, therefore, but one body. So then, what God has united, man must not divide.’

Back in the house the disciples questioned him again about this, and he said to them, ‘The man who divorces his wife and marries another is guilty of adultery against her. And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another she is guilty of adultery too.’

People were bringing little children to him, for him to touch them. The disciples turned them away, but when Jesus saw this he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. I tell you solemnly, anyone who does not welcome the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’ Then he put his arms round them, laid his hands on them and gave them his blessing.

Mark 10:2-16

We will all notice something in the Gospel, all find a different place of insight, of comfort and quite possible of discomfort. Let me note just three things:

  1. The contrast Jesus makes between God’s law and the commandment of Moses.
  2. His recognition that the people are unteachable and that Moses responded with something which may or may not have been helpful (but does not effect God’s law)
  3. The call to be simple, child-like welcoming of the kingdom of God: letting go of the other expectations, preoccupations so as to be open to, and to welcome, the kingdom of God.

What we note we bring to God in prayer – and its there we find help to resolve our confusions, confront our challenges, find healing for our hurts. In that divine dialogue between Father and his child we are granted a space to grow and learn.

  • What do you find in your heart today that welcomes the kingdom?
  • What do you find in your heart the seems to close the way?

Image of the creation of Adam and Eve. York Minster. (c) 2007, Allen Morris

Taste and See: Unity and lack of it

Office for the Dead
The Gospel at Mass yesterday ends with a passage that is maybe especially offensive, shocking, in a society fixated by the body beautiful.

Physical self-mutilation is proposed by Jesus as preferable to ‘bringing down one of these little ones who have faith.’

John said to Jesus, ‘Master, we saw a man who is not one of us casting out devils in your name; and because he was not one of us we tried to stop him.’ But Jesus said, ‘You must not stop him: no one who works a miracle in my name is likely to speak evil of me. Anyone who is not against us is for us.

‘If anyone gives you a cup of water to drink just because you belong to Christ, then I tell you solemnly, he will most certainly not lose his reward.

‘But anyone who is an obstacle to bring down one of these little ones who have faith, would be better thrown into the sea with a great millstone round his neck. And if your hand should cause you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter into life crippled, than to have two hands and go to hell, into the fire that cannot be put out. And if your foot should cause you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter into life lame, than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye should cause you to sin, tear it out; it is better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell where their worm does not die nor their fire go out.’

Mark 9:38-43,45,47-48

The narrative context of the ‘difficult’ passage is notable.

Jesus is setting up an opposition between the disciples’ seeking to control those deemed ‘not of us’, and those self same who Jesus himself describes as ‘little ones who have faith’.

The disciples should nurture the little ones – elsewhwere Jesus says thay should imitate the little ones! If they cannot, they’d be better off drowned than do violence to them, than get in the way of the (potential?) burgeoning of faith in them. Then Jesus speaks of the self-mutilation.

Maybe what he says is (or is best read as) semitic hyperbole, rather than being taken literally, but there should be no avoiding of the important point Jesus makes. By their intolerance and pride the 12 do violence to the unity of the developing community of faith, but the violence done to the community is largely invisible – if only because the excluded are made non-persons. Jesus says, better you do violence to yourself than them; better bear on your body the import and consequence of what you would do to the community of the faithful; and experience the hurt, the consequent incapacity. It is better that than that you do that hurt to others and to the kingdom, and – at the same time – alienate yourself from that kingdom and the Lord.

We do well to remember the Jesus who speak is the Jesus who awaits his Passion. He knows and embraces the cost of discipleship, and the pain of seeing its gains squandered by those closest to him.

  • Whose faith might you oppress?
  • How might you offend against unity?
  • How might you instead act for the good?

VV Verashagin, The Vanquished, Office for the Dead. Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow. Photograph (c) 2015, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: Salvation

Mary and Jesus, PortsmouthSunday was the 6th Sunday of Easter, and at Mass that day, the Church sang as a responsorial psalm in praise of the Lord’s salvation of his people.

The Lord has shown his salvation to the nations. or Alleluia!

Sing a new song to the Lord
for he has worked wonders.
His right hand and his holy arm
have brought salvation.

The Lord has shown his salvation to the nations. or Alleluia!

The Lord has made known his salvation;
has shown his justice to the nations.
He has remembered his truth and love
for the house of Israel.

The Lord has shown his salvation to the nations. or Alleluia!

All the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation of our God.
Shout to the Lord, all the earth,
ring out your joy.

The Lord has shown his salvation to the nations. or Alleluia!

Psalm 97:1-4

Many years ago I was host for a Taize group meeting in London for a December International Meetings. One day we were invited on a Kingdom walk – to walk th local streets looking for signs of the Kingdom. They were found in all sorts of places, schools dedicated to the care of the young; doctor’s surgeries; acts of kindness witnessed.

  • Where are those signs are around you today?
  • Where are they in what you do today?
  • Where might the Lord Jesus be asking you to give signs of his love today?

Carving from Portsmouth’s Anglican Cathedral. (c) 2011, Allen Morris.