Speak Lord: Win us anew

Scripture says: The word (that is the faith we proclaim) is very near to you, it is on your lips and in your heart. If your lips confess that Jesus is Lord and if you believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, then you will be saved.

By believing from the heart you are made righteous; by confessing with your lips you are saved.

When scripture says: those who believe in him will have no cause for shame, it makes no distinction between Jew and Greek: all belong to the same Lord who is rich enough, however many ask his help, for everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

Second reading for the First Sunday of Lent
Romans 10:8-13

The Kingdom is very close to you, near at hand. The Living and saving Word is very close…

What – if anything – hold you back from the Kingdom, from the Living Word? And why?

Speak with the Lord in prayer. Make your prayer the prayer of the father at the foot of the mount of Transfiguration. ‘Lord I do have faith. Help the little faith I have.’. (Mark 9.14)

Image: Demon. Painting by MA Vrubel in Moscow’s Tretyakov Gallery. (c) 2015, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Keep us safe


Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit through the wilderness, being tempted there by the devil for forty days. During that time he ate nothing and at the end he was hungry. Then the devil said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to turn into a loaf.’ But Jesus replied, ‘Scripture says: Man does not live on bread alone.’

Then leading him to a height, the devil showed him in a moment of time all the kingdoms of the world and said to him, ‘I will give you all this power and the glory of these kingdoms, for it has been committed to me and I give it to anyone I choose. Worship me, then, and it shall all be yours.’ But Jesus answered him, ‘Scripture says: You must worship the Lord your God, and serve him alone.’

Then he led him to Jerusalem and made him stand on the parapet of the Temple. ‘If you are the Son of God,’ he said to him ‘throw yourself down from here, for scripture says: He will put his angels in charge of you to guard you’, and again: ‘They will hold you up on their hands in case you hurt your foot against a stone.’But Jesus answered him, ‘It has been said: ‘You must not put the Lord your God to the test.’

Having exhausted all these ways of tempting him, the devil left him, to return at the appointed time.

Gospel for the 1st Sunday of Lent
Luke 4:1-13

Lent has begun. And we have the two ways set before us once more with Lenten clarity. The way of Light and the way of dark. The way of grace, the way of sin.

  • In what concrete ways do these present themselves to you? What are the temptations you face?
  • How does the devil try to trick you into thinking them not too serious or more attractive than what is truly good?
  • In prayer, bring your hopes and fears for this day and this season to the Lord.

Image: Ethiopian Gospel Book. British Library, London. (c) 2017, Allen Morris

Taste and See: Sabbath

Lent 2011.jpgAll the heads of the priesthood, and the people too, added infidelity to infidelity, copying all the shameful practices of the nations and defiling the Temple that the Lord had consecrated for himself in Jerusalem. The Lord, the God of their ancestors, tirelessly sent them messenger after messenger, since he wished to spare his people and his house. But they ridiculed the messengers of God, they despised his words, they laughed at his prophets, until at last the wrath of the Lord rose so high against his people that there was no further remedy.

They burned down the Temple of God, demolished the walls of Jerusalem, set fire to all its palaces, and destroyed everything of value in it. The survivors were deported by Nebuchadnezzar to Babylon; they were to serve him and his sons until the kingdom of Persia came to power. This is how the word of the Lord was fulfilled that he spoke through Jeremiah, ‘Until this land has enjoyed its sabbath rest, until seventy years have gone by, it will keep sabbath throughout the days of its desolation.’

And in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, to fulfil the word of the Lord that was spoken through Jeremiah, the Lord roused the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia to issue a proclamation and to have it publicly displayed throughout his kingdom: ‘Thus speaks Cyrus king of Persia, “the Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth; he has ordered me to build him a Temple in Jerusalem, in Judah. Whoever there is among you of all his people, may his God be with him! Let him go up.”’

First reading for the 4th Sunday of Lent
2 Chronicles 36:14-16,19-23

The reading speaks of a Sabbath rest: not a day’s rest for the people, but a Sabbath of 70 years for land and people – a time of repentance and recovery for the sins  for which Israel finds herself in exile.

It echoes our time of Lent: a time when we are called to know our sins and repent of them and find the Sabbath comfort that reconciliation brings, confessing our sins and being offered peace and wholeness and hope.

Any time can serve as a time for repentance of sins, but for us, especially, it is Lent: each year time to know our faults, our failings and to know the love of God for us despite this.

Lent Frontal by Johnny Dewe Matthews. Photo (c) 2011, Allen Morris

 

Speak Lord: restore us too

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All the heads of the priesthood, and the people too, added infidelity to infidelity, copying all the shameful practices of the nations and defiling the Temple that the Lord had consecrated for himself in Jerusalem. The Lord, the God of their ancestors, tirelessly sent them messenger after messenger, since he wished to spare his people and his house. But they ridiculed the messengers of God, they despised his words, they laughed at his prophets, until at last the wrath of the Lord rose so high against his people that there was no further remedy.

They burned down the Temple of God, demolished the walls of Jerusalem, set fire to all its palaces, and destroyed everything of value in it. The survivors were deported by Nebuchadnezzar to Babylon; they were to serve him and his sons until the kingdom of Persia came to power. This is how the word of the Lord was fulfilled that he spoke through Jeremiah, ‘Until this land has enjoyed its sabbath rest, until seventy years have gone by, it will keep sabbath throughout the days of its desolation.’

And in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, to fulfil the word of the Lord that was spoken through Jeremiah, the Lord roused the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia to issue a proclamation and to have it publicly displayed throughout his kingdom: ‘Thus speaks Cyrus king of Persia, “the Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth; he has ordered me to build him a Temple in Jerusalem, in Judah. Whoever there is among you of all his people, may his God be with him! Let him go up.”’

First reading for the 4th Sunday of Lent
2 Chronicles 36:14-16,19-23

Israel’s unfaithfulness and corruption preface the experience of Exile. The experience of the Exile and shame for her past fuel Israel’s return to the Land and her determination to live faithfully.

The Land too has had to be purified so as to become again fit for purpose…

Our Lenten disciplines impose a certain sabbath quality on our living, helping us to know our unfaithfulness and corruption and long for health. They help break old habits and give an opportunity to begin to learn to live better, for the glory of God and for our sakes.

Carving from Babylon. Pergamon Museum, Berlin. (c) 2004, Allen Morris

 

Taste and See: Renewal, restoration, refreshment

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Just before the Jewish Passover Jesus went up to Jerusalem, and in the Temple he found people selling cattle and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting at their counters there. Making a whip out of some cord, he drove them all out of the Temple, cattle and sheep as well, scattered the money-changers’ coins, knocked their tables over and said to the pigeon-sellers, ‘Take all this out of here and stop turning my Father’s house into a market.’ Then his disciples remembered the words of scripture: ‘Zeal for your house will devour me’.

The Jews intervened and said, ‘What sign can you show us to justify what you have done?’ Jesus answered, ‘Destroy this sanctuary, and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews replied, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this sanctuary: are you going to raise it up in three days?’ But he was speaking of the sanctuary that was his body, and when Jesus rose from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the scripture and the words he had said.

During his stay in Jerusalem for the Passover many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he gave, but Jesus knew them all and did not trust himself to them; he never needed evidence about any man; he could tell what a man had in him.

Gospel for the 3rd Sunday of Lent
John 2:13-25

The Temple of Jerusalem did not survive long after the death and resurrection of Jesus. It was destroyed in the year 70 by Rome in retaliation for a Jewish Revolt. The site of the Temple remained as a ruin, for some centuries, and its despoliation took on symbolic significance for Christians, an indicator of the new age and even a supplanting of Judaism by Christianity in the Constantinian settlement (a view that at best needs nuancing, as is made clear in the Church’s teaching about the continuing privileged place of Judaism in God’s self-revelation and commitment to humankind). Later the site of the Temple became a place for Muslim devotion and worship and so it has remained.

For Christians, the former Jewish Temple(s) retain a spiritual significance, not least because of its place in the narratives and psalms of our Old Testament, but perhaps it registers with us most strongly because of its being the location of episodes in the infancy, childhood and passion of Jesus, and this present episode of the cleansing of the Temple.

But we miss the abiding significance of the event if we see it just as an historical event to do with a building no longer of significance for us because we have Christ, THE ‘place’ for us to encounter and be in communion with God. The episode of the cleansing of the Temple can symbolise that continual need of being cleansed which we ourselves have, if we are to be fit for purpose, fit to fulfil our potential as children of God; a holy nation; a people dedicated to him and to service of the Kingdom. And not just us as individuals, with our individual sins and strayings. St Paul said that together we Christians are a holy Temple. At least as significant as Lent as a time for individuals to repent and seek the grace of conversion and renewal, Christians need to seek grace to know where the Church on earth, in its institutions and its present priorities and practices, may have lost its way and become stale, even corrupt, and an obstacle to the Gospel.

That way we will can be sure not only to share in the dying of Christ, but also in his resurrection, to be raised even in our so fallible humanity to share in his divinity.

  • Where do you see folly or error?
  • How might you draw on the grace of God to help remedy that?

Stained glass, St Mary’s, Warwick. (c) 2016, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: Journey to Christ

DSC09145Your ways, Lord, are faithfulness and love for those who keep your covenant.

Lord, make me know your ways.
Lord, teach me your paths.
Make me walk in your truth, and teach me:
for you are God my saviour.

Your ways, Lord, are faithfulness and love for those who keep your covenant.

Remember your mercy, Lord,
and the love you have shown from of old.
In your love remember me.
because of your goodness, O Lord.

Your ways, Lord, are faithfulness and love for those who keep your covenant.

The Lord is good and upright.
He shows the path to those who stray,
He guides the humble in the right path,
He teaches his way to the poor.

Your ways, Lord, are faithfulness and love for those who keep your covenant.

Responsorial Psalm for the 1st Sunday of Lent
Psalm 24:4-6,7-9

Yesterday at Cathedrals around the world men and women who know themselves called to Christ came forward before their bishop seeking ‘election’, approval for their proceeding to their Baptism, their incorporation into the full communion of the Church and into full communion with Christ.

As they prepare for the Sacrament the faithful, the already baptised, prepare to renew our Baptism Promises at the Easter Vigil, to turn more firmly from sin, and turn to Christ; to affirm our belief in Father, Son and Spirit, and in the Church and in forgiveness for sin. We look for freedom in Christ, to live fully as ourselves, fully in love of God, and love of neighbour.

Ceramic plate in series of articles of the Creed. Musée Dobrée, Nantes. (c) 2016, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Promise us communion with you for ever

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God spoke to Noah and his sons, ‘See, I establish my Covenant with you, and with your descendants after you; also with every living creature to be found with you, birds, cattle and every wild beast with you: everything that came out of the ark, everything that lives on the earth. I establish my Covenant with you: no thing of flesh shall be swept away again by the waters of the flood. There shall be no flood to destroy the earth again.’

God said, ‘Here is the sign of the Covenant I make between myself and you and every living creature with you for all generations: I set my bow in the clouds and it shall be a sign of the Covenant between me and the earth. When I gather the clouds over the earth and the bow appears in the clouds, I will recall the Covenant between myself and you and every living creature of every kind. And so the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all things of flesh.’

First reading for the 1st Sunday of Lent
Genesis 9:8-15

In Lent we can struggle, even with God’s grace, struggle, to live faithfully and well.

If/when we stumble and fall it is a great reassurance to remember the mercy of the Lord, that he does not renege on his covenant with us, but rather constantly offers the opportunity for us to own our sorrow, repent and find reassurance in his compassion and mercy.

ConfessionOften people have not received good catechesis and formation with regard to the Sacrament of Confession. A new book in the YOUCAT series, (fruit of World Youth Days and related initiatives) has just been published which many may find helpful. Titled Confession, it is available in the UK from the Catholic Truth ServiceAmazon, good bookshops and, ahem, the best parishes.

Confession is written for teenagers , but it is difficult to think who would not find it helpful.

Floor tile. Gloucester Cathedral. (c) 2016, Allen Morris.

 

Speak Lord: Who suffered to love us into life

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The Spirit drove Jesus out into the wilderness and he remained there for forty days, and was tempted by Satan. He was with the wild beasts, and the angels looked after him.

After John had been arrested, Jesus went into Galilee. There he proclaimed the Good News from God. ‘The time has come’ he said ‘and the kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent, and believe the Good News.’

Gospel for the 1st Sunday of Lent
Mark 1:12-15

St Mark tells us much less than do Ss Matthew and Luke about the wilderness/temptations experience of Jesus.

However, for all of his reticence about the detail, St Mark makes it clear that the experience was harrowing. 40 days in the wilderness is no easy matter to grapple with – and then there was Satan, and the wild beasts to contend with. Jesus must have thanked God for the angels who looked after him.

Having overcome temptation and fears Jesus sets to his work and what a positive and hopeful message he sets before the people of Galilee – and us!

‘The time has come and the kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent, and believe the Good News.’

Stained glass, Eglise Saint-Germain-L’Auxerrois, Paris. (c) 2017, Allen Morris

Taste and See: Grace needed, grace offered

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O God, who teach us that you abide
in hearts that are just and true,
grant that we may be so fashioned by your grace
as to become a dwelling pleasing to you.
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.

Collect for the Sunday of the 6th week in Ordinary Time 

The Collect of Sunday of this week serves well as a focus for the meaning and work of the season of Lent which begins today, Ash Wednesday.

We look for purification and freedom, and we look for a new closeness with God, abiding in him and he abiding in us.

Slave by Michelangelo. Louvre, Paris. (c) 2017, Allen Morris

 

Speak Lord: Life giver

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The Lord says this: I am now going to open your graves; I mean to raise you from your graves, my people, and lead you back to the soil of Israel. And you will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and raise you from your graves, my people. And I shall put my spirit in you, and you will live, and I shall resettle you on your own soil; and you will know that I, the Lord, have said and done this – it is the Lord who speaks.

Ezekiel 37:12-14

The first reading at Mass today prepares the way for our hearing of the Gospel of the raiswing of Lazarus.

In that act Jesus demonstrates his power. And he gestures towards the resurrection from the dead, not back to this life but forward into the life of glory, which is first his and then shared with us, drawing us beyond our merely human otential into the life of God himself.

In the meantime, encouraged, we journey on through Lent…

Stained Glass. Tewsksbury Abbey. (c) 2016, Allen Morris