Speak Lord: Love eternal

IMG_4657 Montparnasse.jpg

We want you to be quite certain, brothers, about those who have died, to make sure that you do not grieve about them, like the other people who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again, and that it will be the same for those who have died in Jesus: God will bring them with him. We can tell you this from the Lord’s own teaching, that any of us who are left alive until the Lord’s coming will not have any advantage over those who have died.

At the trumpet of God, the voice of the archangel will call out the command and the Lord himself will come down from heaven; those who have died in Christ will be the first to rise, and then those of us who are still alive will be taken up in the clouds, together with them; to meet the Lord in the air. So we shall stay with the Lord for ever. With such thoughts as these you should comfort one another.

Second reading for the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

In life, in death, our trust is in the Lord. He has conquered death, and calls us to life: our trust is in him. Paul assures that it is this simple, and this sure.

He elaborates this faith with an anticipation of how ‘the End’ (which is but a new Beginning) will be experienced. And maybe there will be trumpet sound and clouds ascending and descending and a stratospheric convocation between the Lord and believers. Or maybe not. Paul uses contemporary mythic imagery to describe the ‘how’. We might well use imagery drawn from our contemporary mythologies. How we image the ultimate triumph of God’s love and life over death and human folly does not really matter. What does matter is our faith in God and the confidence in love and life, and in how we face death, that flows from that. We believe and, by his grace, we live in Christ, now and forever.

Grave marker. Cimetierie Montparnasse, Paris, (c) 2013, Allen Morris.

 

Speak Lord: source of joy

Penance Rome

Praying the Responsorial Psalm tomorrow, Sunday, the 11th Sunday in Ordinary time, draws us toward a fresh knowledge of our sins and their consequences, and the glory of life redeemed.

Forgive, Lord, the guilt of my sin. 

Happy the man whose offence is forgiven,
whose sin is remitted.
O happy the man to whom the Lord
imputes no guilt,
in whose spirit is no guile.

But now I have acknowledged my sins;
my guilt I did not hide.
I said: ‘I will confess
my offence to the Lord.’
And you, Lord, have forgiven
the guilt of my sin.

You are my hiding place, O Lord;
you save me from distress.
You surround me with cries of deliverance.

Rejoice, rejoice in the Lord,
exult, you just!
O come, ring out your joy,
all you upright of heart.

Psalm 31:1-2,5,7,11

The movement from the heaviness and incumbrance of sin and guilt to joy and life is ours because of God’s mercy and love. When we remain mindful of that we live in joy – even if we live still with trial and tribulation. But if we forget and ‘just’ live, turned in on ourselves, life and liveliness drains from us.

Life comes as gift; joy when we embrace its giver.

  • When did you last celebrate the Sacrament of Penance and why?
  • When will you next celebrate the Sacrament?
  • How does it help you in your Christian vocation?

In the Year of Mercy there is especial encouragement for us to recover a sense of appreciation for the Sacrament as assurance, a  ministry which helps us receive and benefit from the healing mercy. Why not combine your next celebration of the Sacrament with a visit to a Holy year pilgrimage site and with a Year of Mercy Door.

Detail of the Sacraments Door, St Peter’s Basilica, Rome. (c) Allen Morris, 2016.

Speak Lord: Light, Life, Joy

Light catchers, Avignon

Sunday is the sixth Sunday of Easter and the Responsorial psalm is again a psalm that is full of praise and longing to praise.

That sometime gap between the longing to praise and the reality of praise is maybe especially pertinent for us to note at this stage in Easter. If indeed we still remember that it is Easter: after all, look around, most people won’t, or just don’t, care that it is Easter. The day came and went, we had our Easter Eggs, let’s get on with life…

Yet is is Easter, and without it we would not have life. It is Easter, the season of thanksgiving for the Lord’s rising from the dead and, maybe still more wonderful, our sharing in that rising from the death of sin and fault and weariness and all. His rising is once and for all: our rising will find its fulfilment in eternal life, but for now it makes its presence known in the daily risings following the daily falls. For these too we praise.

Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you.
or
Alleluia!

O God, be gracious and bless us
and let your face shed its light upon us.
So will your ways be known upon earth
and all nations learn your saving help.

Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you.
or
Alleluia!

Let the nations be glad and exult
for you rule the world with justice.
With fairness you rule the peoples,
you guide the nations on earth.

Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you.
or
Alleluia!

Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you.
May God still give us his blessing
till the ends of the earth revere him.

Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you.
or
Alleluia!

Psalm 66:2-3,5-6,8

  • Where do you find the light of God’s face?
  • Where do you find his saving help comes to your assistance?

Light catchers, Prison Sainte Anne, Avignon. (c) 2014, Allen Morris

Taste and see: Life

Grave Benjamin Barker

The second reading at Mass on Sunday, the 12th Sunday of Ordinary Time, reminded us that in Christ  we who were dead (by consequence of Adam’s sin) now live. If we are in Christ.

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

Notice how Paul says that when he realises what he is saying, he is overwhelmed not by fear or dread but love. The fundamental truth is we are saved. Even when we were sinners. Even though we still are.

However, (sorry, Mr Gove! Or am I?), salvation takes root as we recognise that Jesus is not an optional extra to an ‘entry-level’ life, a sort of upgrade; still less a style choice, but he is the difference between life and death for us.

  • One ancient spiritual exercise is to contemplate our death, and consider the sort of epitaph we might receive, the words people might say about us as they gather for our funeral (should they gather…) You might give it a try.
  • Or you might attempt a brief apologia – an account of how you live and try to live. Take today, for example. Where did you choose life and reject death?

Image of graves in Kensal Green cemetery, London. (c) 2015, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: The Lord’s gift of life

Palm Sunday Arles 2014

The Gospel read at the Commemoration of the Lord’s entrance into Jerusalem, at the beginning of our celebration of Palm Sunday, is worth hearing again…

When they were approaching Jerusalem, in sight of Bethphage and Bethany, close by the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples and said to them, ‘Go off to the village facing you, and as soon as you enter it you will find a tethered colt that no one has yet ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone says to you, “What are you doing?” say, “The Master needs it and will send it back here directly”.’

They went off and found a colt tethered near a door in the open street. As they untied it, some men standing there said, ‘What are you doing, untying that colt?’ They gave the answer Jesus had told them, and the men let them go.

Then they took the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on its back, and he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, others greenery which they had cut in the fields. And those who went in front and those who followed were all shouting, ‘Hosanna! Blessings on him who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessings on the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest heavens!’

Mark 11:1-10

Jesus’ enters Jerusalem  surrounded by praise and joy. He will leave the city some few days later beaten, bleeding, spat upon, exhausted.

Our  comings and goings in this life can be marked by similar reversals, and even if (thank God!) they are not often of such extreme passions.

By God’s grace, though, our coming into being, into life, is gift to the world. (Though it is tragic to know how often the  gift is spurned, and how often – in all sorts of circumstances and all through life – the world turns its back on the potential and wonder of every human life.)

By God’s grace, too, our passing from this life is intended to be always a passing into the glory of eternal communion with God and neighbour. (Though we need always to seek to do what we can to receive and live that gift.)

The entry to Jerusalem and all that Christ endures in the days that follow is gift to win us for life. Our praise this week may be muted by recognition of all that was, and is, necessary to save us, but praise it must be.

  • For what, in particular, will you give thanks this Holy Week?

Carved capital in the Cloister of St Trophime, Arles. (c) 2014, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: about dying to live

Gethsemane

The second reading at tomorrow’s Mass, that of the 3rd Sunday of the Year, somewhat starkly encourages us to recognise that we are creatures, passing things.

Brothers: our time is growing short. Those who have wives should live as though they had none, and those who mourn should live as though they had nothing to mourn for; those who are enjoying life should live as though there were nothing to laugh about; those whose life is buying things should live as though they had nothing of their own; and those who have to deal with the world should not become engrossed in it. I say this because the world as we know it is passing away.

1 Corinthians 7:29-31

What prevents this from being simply a sobering and probably upsetting or nihilistic reminder of our mortality is, of course, its context. The reading is part of a ritual action which is a memorial, an active remembering, of the Paschal Mystery, the Easter Passion and Resurrection of Jesus.

And Paul, above all the other writers of the New Testament, knew how those who are ready to die in Christ will rise with him. Our lives are characterised by a dying so that in our dying we might live for ever.

Detail from the Church of all Nations, Gethsemane, Jerusalem. (C) 2013, Allen Morris.

 

Speak Lord: becoming spiritual

wormy apple

The second reading for Sunday’s Mass, the 14th Sunday of the Year, comes from the letter of St Paul to the Romans.

In the letter Paul offers support and encouragement to the Christian community in Rome, a community he had yet to visit. That same support and encouragement is now extended to us through the living word of God that is this letter.

As you read the passage, notice how your spirit responds, and bring that response to God in prayer.

Your interests are not in the unspiritual, but in the spiritual, since the Spirit of God has made his home in you. In fact, unless you possessed the Spirit of Christ you would not belong to him, and if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, then he who raised Jesus from the dead will give life to your own mortal bodies through his Spirit living in you.

So then, my brothers, there is no necessity for us to obey our unspiritual selves or to live unspiritual lives. If you do live in that way, you are doomed to die; but if by the Spirit you put an end to the misdeeds of the body you will live.

Romans 8:9,11-13

“Sorry, St Paul. My interests are all too often in the unspiritual! The time I waste, the distractions that come, the things that draw me from what is good and best.”

“Maybe you misunderstand me,” answers Paul. “You may indeed be pre-occupied by so many things, and your time be so given over to your unspiritual self and unspiritual life. But, I repeat, your interests, your best interests, lie in the spiritual. Neglect them and you go into decline.

But attend to what is Christ, especially try to do what is of Christ, and that decline will be reversed – or at least held in check! Do this even at some seeming personal cost, perhaps especially if it seems to be at your personal cost – and see how you learn to live not just ‘doing better things’, but living more fully. See how life will flourish in you and you flourish in your life.

And this because he who raised Jesus from the dead, even he, will give life to you through his Spirit living in you.”

  • What draw you to life?
  • What drains true life from you?

Image found at http://blog.timesunion.com/opinion/files/2010/10/1021_WVschools.jpg