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

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Speak Lord: Good Shepherd

rosary 3The first reading for today, the 16th Sunday of the year, introduces the theme of the Shepherd and his sheep, which will be heard again in the Psalm sung and the Gospel proclaimed today.

It speaks of bad shepherds and of God as the remedy to their failings.

‘Doom for the shepherds who allow the flock of my pasture to be destroyed and scattered – it is the Lord who speaks! This, therefore, is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says about the shepherds in charge of my people: You have let my flock be scattered and go wandering and have not taken care of them.

Right, I will take care of you for your misdeeds – it is the Lord who speaks! But the remnant of my flock I myself will gather from all the countries where I have dispersed them, and will bring them back to their pastures: they shall be fruitful and increase in numbers. I will raise up shepherds to look after them and pasture them; no fear, no terror for them any more; not one shall be lost – it is the Lord who speaks!

‘See, the days are coming – it is the Lord who speaks –
when I will raise a virtuous Branch for David,
who will reign as true king and be wise,
practising honesty and integrity in the land.
In his days Judah will be saved
and Israel dwell in confidence.
And this is the name he will be called:
The-Lord-our-integrity.’

Jeremiah 23:1-6

Pope Francis’ recent encyclical, Laudato Si’, picks up something of the Lord’s outrage at the lack of care of the flock, the human family. The pastoral care of God’s family is not something we should leave to God, Popes, Bishops or anyone. It is something for which we all have a certain responsibility, but especially the powerful, the rich, the ‘haves’ of this world.

The greater sense of moral outrage expressed in Laudato Si’ is for the poor, those who suffer because of the rich and their (our!) exploitation of natural resources, and damage to the environment.

The Lord’s way is to be our way. It is our challenge and our salvation.

  • For whom can you be a good shepherd?
  • Who is good shepherd for you?

Photograph of window at Church of Our Lady of the Rosary, Marylebone.  (c) 2007, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Of life and death

discesa-al-limbo

The words of tomorrow’s second reading are plain and unadorned.

Yet what Paul says is stark, extraordinary, and challenging.

The love of Christ overwhelms us when we reflect that if one man has died for all, then all men should be dead; and the reason he died for all was so that living men should live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised to life for them.

From now onwards, therefore, we do not judge anyone by the standards of the flesh. Even if we did once know Christ in the flesh, that is not how we know him now. And for anyone who is in Christ, there is a new creation; the old creation has gone, and now the new one is here.

2 Corinthians 5:14-17

Were it not for Jesus we would all be dead. If we are alive, we live only because of him. Wow!

One of the challenges of Pope Francis encyclical, Laudato Si’, is to remind us of our responsibilities, so that we do all live. He invites us to a dialogue about our mutual responsibilities, mutual responsibilities deeply embedded in our Judeao-Christian tradition.

According to today’s Times, Lord Lawson has made his contribution to the dialogue!  ‘He condemned the  encyclical as “a mixture of junk science, junk economics and junk ethics”.’

So read it and make your own mind up.

Pope Francis notes

It needs to be said that, generally speaking, there is little in the way of clear awareness of problems which especially affect the excluded. Yet they are the majority of the planet’s population, billions of people.

These days, they are mentioned in international political and economic discussions, but one often has the impression that their problems are brought up as an afterthought, a question which gets added almost out of duty or in a tangential way, if not treated merely as collateral damage. Indeed, when all is said and done, they frequently remain at the bottom of the pile. This is due partly to the fact that many professionals, opinion makers, communications media and centres of power, being located in affluent urban areas, are far removed from the poor, with little direct contact with their problems.

They live and reason from the comfortable position of a high level of development and a quality of life well beyond the reach of the majority of the world’s population. This lack of physical contact and encounter, encouraged at times by the disintegration of our cities, can lead to a numbing of conscience and to tendentious analyses which neglect parts of reality. At times this attitude exists side by side with a “green” rhetoric. Today, however, we have to realize that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.

Laudato Si’, 49

Let’s face it, if you are reading this blog, you, like me are probably of that group that is complicit in the exploitation of the ‘excluded’.

I set before you life and death, said Moses. Choose life, good life. For yourself, your nearest and dearest – and those far away to whom, most days,  we may bearly give a thought.

Read Pope Francis. And choose.

Image of the harrowing of Hell, Christ restoring Adam to life (and in him all men and women), from the Basilica of San Clemente, Rome. Copyright © 2015. Basilica San Clemente

Laudato Si’, mi’ Signore – Praise be to you, my Lord

Canticle, SD

The Holy Father’s latest encyclical, Laudato Si, takes as its theme care for the earth and its communities of our brothers and sisters, our common home.

“LAUDATO SI’, mi’ Signore” – “Praise be to you, my Lord”. In the words of this beautiful canticle, Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. “Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs”.

This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she “groans in travail” (Rom 8:22). We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth (cf. Gen2:7); our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters.

Read the rest of the Encyclical here.

Image of St Francis writer of the Canticle of Creation. (c) 2014, Allen Morris.