Speak Lord: Giver of the true law…

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The precepts of the Lord gladden the heart.

The law of the Lord is perfect,
it revives the soul.
The rule of the Lord is to be trusted,
it gives wisdom to the simple.

The fear of the Lord is holy,
abiding for ever.
The decrees of the Lord are truth
and all of them just.

So in them your servant finds instruction;
great reward is in their keeping.
But who can detect all his errors?
From hidden faults acquit me.

From presumption restrain your servant
and let it not rule me.
Then shall I be blameless,
clean from grave sin.

Psalm for 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Psalm 18(19):8,10,12-14

The law of the Lord is love. It is how God is, it is how we learn to be ourselves and honour the others among whom and with whom we live.

  • Lord, teach us to live love.

Moses and David, All Saints parish church , Elton. (c) 2018, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: Us at one with God

rules

They are happy who follow God’s law!

They are happy whose life is blameless,
who follow God’s law!
They are happy who do his will,
seeking him with all their hearts.

They are happy who follow God’s law!

You have laid down your precepts
to be obeyed with care.
May my footsteps be firm
to obey your statutes.

They are happy who follow God’s law!

Bless your servant and I shall live
and obey your word.
Open my eyes that I may see
the wonders of your law.

They are happy who follow God’s law!

Teach me the demands of your statutes
and I will keep them to the end.
Train me to observe your law,
to keep it with my heart.

They are happy who follow God’s law!

Psalm 118:1-2,4-5,17-18,33-34

The Responsorial Psalm at Sunday Mass this week, the 6th week in Ordinary Time, reminds of the importance of the Law, God’s law.

There are many attempts to express what is good in human living – in our relationship to ourselves, our neighbour, and to God. None of them are perfect (cf the dialogue between different traditions regarding the Law in Judaism; the particular ‘take’ of Jesus, and that of Paul, and the tension between ‘Gospel’ and ‘Law’ in the Church subsequently.

 

The Judeo-Christian tradition is very familiar with laws and customs that arise within the community of faith, and which have their origins in the desire to hold the community together, and keep it healthy and faithful.

However none of these laws and customs are God. And what matters is God and us and our relationship with each other. It is our privilege not only to be gifted with life, but to be called into relationship, covenant, with God. Sometimes we find this in well-established ways: sometimes we are called to new ways…

  • What custom/habit presently weakens your relationship with God or others?
  • What custom/habit might help strengthen that relationship?

Poster, Beziers, France.  (c) 2015, Allen Morris

Taste and See: Embraced by love

Francis embracing Jesus

The gospel heard at Mass yesterday, the 30th in Ordinary Time, speaks of law and love.

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees they got together and, to disconcert him, one of them put a question, ‘Master, which is the greatest commandment of the Law?’ Jesus said, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second resembles it: You must love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments hang the whole Law, and the Prophets also.’

Matthew 22:34-40

However often we have heard the scriptures, this word proves to be a living word, and presents itself fresh, attuned to our present circumstances.

Challenged by those whose preoccupation is the Law, Jesus reminds that the heart and fulfilment of the Law is love.

There can seem tension between the keeping of the law and the challenge to faithfulness that comes from the prophets and often seems to take us beyond the law. But the Law is Love.

The grit that produces the pearl which is holiness and godliness is often our recurrent failure to live love. For when by the word we know our failure we also know afresh that the one who humbles us is Love, and He who is love helps us to re-turn to himself and ourselves.

In our repentance we are met by love and a new and deeper relationship is established between us and the Lord, full of potential for a deeper relationship between us and our neighbour, us and our world.

  •  For what do you want to say sorry?
  • For what does The Lord want to forgive you?

The image is of St Francis embracing, and being embraced by, the risen Lord. It comes from the sanctuary of La Verna, Tuscany, Italy. (c) 2014, Allen Morris

Taste and See: In Communion

SynodMass

Unusually the text presented in this blog today does not come from the Lectionary but is the text of a Pastoral Letter that,  in Westminster Diocese,  replaces the homily this weekend.

People have all sorts of opinions about the virtue and value of pastoral letters, let alone of any particular pastoral letter. However these letters do serve to remind that any particular gathering for Mass is only a gathering of a part of the local church, and that it is a gathering that is not complete unto itself.

Even though such gatherings take place without benefit of the physical presence of the Bishop, it is by his authority that they gather, under the presidency of the priest that the Bishop has appointed as his delegate, to celebrate for the pastoral benefit of the local community.

The Pastoral Letter which Cardinal Vincent issues for this Sunday reminds of that further communion that binds each local diocese with the communion with Peter, the Bishop of Rome enjoyed by Catholic dioceses throughout the world.

Learning to live Church is a pressing need in a society that more often seems to divide than unite. A key theme of the letter is about how to live in communion, seeking an ever-deeper and more authentic and fulfilling communion in the Church and with the living God.

Happy reading….

ARCHBISHOP’S   HOUSE, WESTMINSTER, LONDON,  SW1P 1QJ

25/26 October 2014, 30th Sunday of the Year

My brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ

Today I would like to tell you a little about the recent Extraordinary Synod of Bishops held in Rome on the theme of the pastoral challenges facing the family in the context of evangelisation. I was privileged to take part in this two week meeting. I found it a rich and moving experience.

You may have heard or read that this Synod has been about changing the teaching of the Church on marriage, family life or sexual morality. This is not true. It was about the pastoral care that we try to offer each other, the ‘motherly love of the Church’, especially when facing difficult moments and experiences in family life.

You may have heard that the Synod represented a ‘defeat for Pope Francis’ or that he was disappointed at its outcome. This is not true. At the end of our meeting Pope Francis spoke at length about his joy and satisfaction at its work. He told us to look deeply into our hearts to see how God had touched us during the Synod, and to see how we may have been tempted away from the promptings of the Holy Spirit. The Synod, he insisted, has been a spiritual journey, not a debating chamber.

In fact, the very word ‘synod’ means making a walk or a journey together. That’s what we did. Our journey was an exploration of all the problems facing the family today, from the effects of war, immigration, domestic violence, polygamy, inter-religious marriages, to cohabitation, the breakdown of marriage, divorce and the situation of those who have ended a valid marriage and entered another union, another marriage. The vastness of the picture and the suffering it represented was, at times, overwhelming.

We also looked at the great joy of family life and the importance of marriage at its heart. We listened to husbands and wives speaking of the difficulties they had overcome, the struggles they face and the deep joy they experience in their mature marriages and family lives. They were moving moments. A lovely description of the family was offered: the family as ‘a sanctuary of holiness’ with emphasis always on the sharing of prayer at the heart of family life.

Pope Francis set the tone. He asked us to look reality in the eye; to speak openly from the heart; to listen humbly and respectfully to each other. This is what we did. There was no rancour, no contestation. There were disagreements, of course. But he told us to live through the experience with tranquility and trust. And we did. It was a marvellous experience of the Church as a family and of the Church, at this level, hard at work, trying to follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit and express them in carefully chosen words.

During the Synod we worked on various documents which were trying to catch the views and desires of all the participants. By the end I believe we got there. So the Synod ended with a ‘Synod Report’ on which we voted, paragraph by paragraph. The votes indicated, quite simply, where agreement was more or less total and where it was not. This Report now forms the starting point for the next Synod on the family, to take place in a year’s time. The theme of this next Synod, in October 2015, takes us on from where we left off: ‘The Vocation and Mission of the Family Today’.

Central to the work of the Synod that has just ended was the desire to strengthen and reinvigorate the pastoral practice of the Church. A central principle for this pastoral care emerged clearly: that in trying to walk alongside people in difficult or exceptional situations, it is important to see clearly and with humility all the good aspects of their lives. That is what comes first. From this point, we learn to move together towards conversion and towards the goodness of life that God has for us  and that Jesus opens for us all. This positive approach flows right through the ‘Synod Report’  and I hope will increasingly shape our attitude towards each other.

This is especially true with regard to individuals who, for example, have decided to live together without marriage, or for Catholics in second marriages. These realities are part of their journey in life and while not in keeping with the pattern the Lord asks of us, their lives are often marked by real goodness. This is the basis for our care of them, for our approach to them, our invitation to them, to come closer to the Church and deepen their faith and attend carefully to its call. We say this confidently because it is within the call of our faith, the call of Jesus to each one of us, expressed in the truth of the Gospel and treasured in the Church, that our deepest happiness is to be found.

There has been much talk about how the Synod reflected on the situation of people of a same sex attraction. There was no suggestion that the teaching of the Church might somehow give approval to the notion of ‘same-sex marriage’ or that its teaching on sexual morality is to change. However two things were very clear. The first is that we should never identify people by their sexual orientation. Every person is endowed with unique dignity, both as an individual and as a Christian. This dignity is always, always to be respected. Secondly, it is the teaching of the Church that they are not only to be respected but also always accepted, with compassion and with sensitivity (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2358). This teaching has to be translated into loving care, in our daily life in the Church, in our parishes, and indeed in society.

But Pope Francis went a little further. He spoke of ‘the Church composed of sinners…..that has doors wide open to receive the needy, the penitent and not only the just.’ He spoke about the duty of pastors always to welcome into the Church those in difficult situations or in trouble. Then he corrected himself saying that we, as pastors, were not simply to welcome them but to go out and find them, just as the Good Shepherd did for those who had drifted away.

At the end of the Synod, in his closing address, Pope Francis said this: ‘Dear brothers and sisters, now we still have one year to mature, with true spiritual discernment, the proposed ideas and find concrete solutions to so many difficulties and innumerable challenges that families must confront; to give answers to the many discouragements that surround and suffocate families……May the Lord accompany us and guide us in this journey for the glory of His Name.’

So that is what we must do. I hope, in a while, I will be able to put before you ways in which your prayer and reflection on these themes can be a contribution to this ongoing work of renewal in the life of the Church, in response to the unfailing love of Jesus, under the leadership of Pope Francis and always in union with him.

Yours devotedly

Cardinal Vincent Nichols

Archbishop of Westminster

Photograph is of Pope Francis at the Mass to open the extraordinary Synod of Bishops at St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Speak Lord: Love of God and neighbour

Cathedral, Granada

The Gospel  reading tomorrow, the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time,  offers a potent summary of the Gospel by which God gives life to us and the world.

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees they got together and, to disconcert him, one of them put a question, ‘Master, which is the greatest commandment of the Law?’ Jesus said, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second resembles it: You must love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments hang the whole Law, and the Prophets also.’

Matthew 22:34-40

  • Which comes more naturally to you? Love of God or love of neighbour? Which ever it is, why might that be? And what effect does it have on your life?
  • How does love of God manifest itself in your life? What encourages it? What makes it weaker? What form does it take?
  • How does love of neighbour manifest itself in your life? What encourages it? What makes it weaker? What form does it take?

The photograph of the interior of the Cathedral of Granada, Spain shows the beauty achieved  with the interplay of stone and light, geometry and artistry, light and shade, law and love. (c) Allen Morris, 2014.

Speak Lord: Live love

Moses2

The first reading on Sunday, the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, establishes rules for the life of the community of faith.

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.”’

Exodus 22:20-26

The lives of the members of the community of faith are not determined particularly by how they relate with each other, but how they relate with all their neighbours.

God is God for all and we are to be the good neighbour of all – acting lovingly towards all.

(Regular readers of the blog may recognise that the above is a reposting of last week’s ‘a week too early’ posting. The paragraph that follows is new, as is the picture of Michalangelo’s Moses!)

Last week’s Synod in Rome reminded that often we can see fault and failing in others – and that surely we can see this in ourselves too – but that the call of the Gospel, the call of love, is to work for the health and the well-being of all. And surely the ground for that is to act lovingly towards all,

The statue of Moses is by Michelangelo. Photograph (c) 2014, Allen Morris.

 

Thurs: Speak Lord: Live love

Moses

The first reading on Sunday, the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, establishes rules for the life of the community of faith.

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.”’

Exodus 22:20-26

 

The lives of the members of the community of faith are not determined particularly by how they relate with each other, but how they relate with all their neighbours. God is God for all and we are to be the good neighbour of all – acting lovingly towards all.

The statue of Moses is by Michelangelo. Photograph (c) 2010, Allen Morris.