Taste and See: Family

family-liverpoolThe Gospel proclaimed at Mass on Sunday, the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, offered quite a challenge!

Christians are supposed to love. Indeed it is our understanding that all people are created in love and for love.

It is from love that we have the opportunty to learn wholeness and holiness. And yet Jesus challenges those who follow him: unless you hate family, and self, you cannot be disciple.

Great crowds accompanied Jesus on his way and he turned and spoke to them. ‘If any man comes to me without hating his father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters, yes and his own life too, he cannot be my disciple. Anyone who does not carry his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.

‘And indeed, which of you here, intending to build a tower, would not first sit down and work out the cost to see if he had enough to complete it? Otherwise, if he laid the foundation and then found himself unable to finish the work, the onlookers would all start making fun of him and saying, “Here is a man who started to build and was unable to finish.” Or again, what king marching to war against another king would not first sit down and consider whether with ten thousand men he could stand up to the other who advanced against him with twenty thousand? If not, then while the other king was still a long way off, he would send envoys to sue for peace. So in the same way, none of you can be my disciple unless he gives up all his possessions.’

Luke 14:25-33

Jesus regularly uses the semitic rhetorical device of exaggeration. We ought to feel free to consider his use of ‘hate’ in this sense. We cannot remain in the same, presumed, relationship with family as previously, not if we are to be his disciple. Family in his culture was even more important than now.

Now we have all sorts of freedom for ‘making our own way in the world. But, in Jesus’ day, family essentially determined who one was and what one did. And it is surely this that Jesus urges us to detach ourselves from. Detach ourselves so that we can live as a child of the Father, and a brother or a sister to all humankind, not only ‘one’s own family’.

Statue on Liverpool’s waterfront memorialising migrants. (c) 2006, Allen Morris.

 

Speak Lord: Make us one

Nativity, LiverpoolThe first reading at Mass today offers an inclusive vision of God;’s blessing of Israel – this is a blessing to share with the whole world. Jerusalem may have been asked by its conquerors and its people dispersed. But there will be not restitution but restoration; and the blessing of one people will prove to be blessing for the whole world.

The prophesy made through Isaiah is understood in the Christian tradition as a foretelling of the gift of Christ and the good news of the Kingdom.

The Lord says this: I am coming to gather the nations of every language. They shall come to witness my glory. I will give them a sign and send some of their survivors to the nations: to Tarshish, Put, Lud, Moshech, Rosh, Tubal, and Javan, to the distant islands that have never heard of me or seen my glory. They will proclaim my glory to the nations. As an offering to the Lord they will bring all your brothers, on horses, in chariots, in litters, on mules, on dromedaries, from all the nations to my holy mountain in Jerusalem, says the Lord, like Israelites bringing oblations in clean vessels to the Temple of the Lord. And of some of them I will make priests and Levites, says the Lord.

Isaiah 66:18-21

In part the prophesy is fulfilled in the coming of the Magi to Bethlehem – Jerusalem having been corrupted. In part the prophesy is still to be fulfilled by the faithful Christans and Jews – in each present day witnessing to God and his glory and so allowing them to share in the pure sacrifice of Christ, and be drawn to the heavenly Jerusalem.

Nativity, Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral. (c) 2016, Allen Morris. NB Liverpool rather spoils the link by using a Bactrian camel and not a Dromedary!

Taste and See: Care and Protection

Holy Family Liverpool

The Collect on Sunday, the 5th Sunday of Ordinary Time,  had us lay claim to our identity as members of the family of God, and ask the God Jesus taught us to know as Father to show us care and keep us safe:

Keep your family safe, O Lord, with unfailing care,
that, relying solely on the hope of heavenly grace,
they may be defended always by your protection.
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 every time there are things which threaten us and from which we need protecting.

As we approach the season of Lent it is perhaps especially valuable to take a little time to identify for ourselves, and then place before God, the things which threaten our well-being and for which we do need God’s protection.

Carving of the Holy Family. Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral. (c) 2016, Allen Morris

Taste and See: Christ in us

Baptism Liverpool

The Gospel yesterday, the last Sunday of Christmas and the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, set before us John’s call to recognise the more of the Lord’s Baptism: the more that Jesus experiences at his own baptism and the more we receive when baptised by the Lord.

A feeling of expectancy had grown among the people, who were beginning to think that John might be the Christ, so John declared before them all, ‘I baptise you with water, but someone is coming, someone who is more powerful than I am, and I am not fit to undo the strap of his sandals; he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

Now when all the people had been baptised and while Jesus after his own baptism was at prayer, heaven opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily shape, like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on you.’

Luke 3:15-16,21-22

John’s Baptism was a Baptism of Repentance. The Lord baptises, as he does when any priest or other minister baptises, with the Holy Spirit and fire. The Lord’s is a baptism that draws us into a new life, a new creation.

In the sacramental baptism we become a member of Jesus Christ, indeed other Christ’s. We become this, and we are still becoming this. – or at least that is the hope.

In Christ we are in a particular God God’s beloved children, and his favour rests on us.

But where do we conform to Christ? And where do we fall short?

  • What healing and help have we already received and benefited from and for which we can give thanks?
  • And what more healing and help do we know we need? What more might others say too?

Christ baptised. Detail of reredos of Lady Chapel in Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral. (c) 2016, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: You are loved

Reconciliaton, Liverpool

The second reading at Mass on Sunday, came from the First Letter of St John. It continued the extended reflection on love and faithfulness that has been so prominent in the Liturgy of Word over the Sundays of Easter.

My dear people,
let us love one another
since love comes from God
and everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God.
Anyone who fails to love can never have known God,
because God is love.
God’s love for us was revealed
when God sent into the world his only Son
so that we could have life through him;
this is the love I mean:
not our love for God,
but God’s love for us when he sent his Son
to be the sacrifice that takes our sins away.

1 John 4:7-10

The life of every Christian is a life that is lived in response to radical gift and grace. Nothing is more important, nothing could be more important, than God’s intervening, participating directly in the life of his creatures.

The story of that intervention shows God’s love and care.

The story of that intervention provides the foundation for everything else. That calms our fears, counters our insecurities, helps us in our turn to live and love.

  • Enjoy a quiet time knowing more deeply the love that God has for you and for all.  

Photograph of Liverpool’s Catholic Cathedral. (c) 2006, Allen Morris.

– –

Taste and See: Witness to the Lord.

 

Liverpool, 2007The first reading this Sunday came from the Acts of the Apostles – the source of our First Readings on Sundays and weekdays throughout the coming season of Easter.

Acts is as it were the completion of Luke’s Gospel. The Gospel spoke of the work of Christ; Acts tells the story of the Body of Christ, the Church, in its leaders, inspired and animated by the Holy Spirit.

The Gospel remains Good News, and the story of Acts is to continue in us too.

Peter addressed Cornelius and his household: ‘You must have heard about the recent happenings in Judaea; about Jesus of Nazareth and how he began in Galilee, after John had been preaching baptism. God had anointed him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and because God was with him, Jesus went about doing good and curing all who had fallen into the power of the devil.

Now I, and those with me, can witness to everything he did throughout the countryside of Judaea and in Jerusalem itself: and also to the fact that they killed him by hanging him on a tree, yet three days afterwards God raised him to life and allowed him to be seen, not by the whole people but only by certain witnesses God had chosen beforehand.

Now we are those witnesses – we have eaten and drunk with him after his resurrection from the dead – and he has ordered us to proclaim this to his people and to tell them that God has appointed him to judge everyone, alive or dead. It is to him that all the prophets bear this witness: that all who believe in Jesus will have their sins forgiven through his name.’

Acts 10:34,37-43

If we have kept the Triduum we too are witnesses to the Lord; we have accompanied him at his Last Supper, in his  Passion, his Death and Burial, and now in his Resurrection.

  • What have we learnt about him?
  • What have we learnt about ourselves?

Image of the Crucified, Risen Christ. Stephen Foster. The carving is found in Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral. Photograph (c) 2007, Allen Morris. 

Speak Lord: Of darkness and light, life and death.

Transfiguration

The Gospel of the 2nd Sunday of Lent each year is an account of the mystery of the Transfiguration.

This year, the year of Mark, the Gospel passage comes from Mark’s Gospel.

Jesus took with him Peter and James and John and led them up a high mountain where they could be alone by themselves. There in their presence he was transfigured: his clothes became dazzlingly white, whiter than any earthly bleacher could make them. Elijah appeared to them with Moses; and they were talking with Jesus. Then Peter spoke to Jesus: ‘Rabbi,’ he said ‘it is wonderful for us to be here; so let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ He did not know what to say; they were so frightened. And a cloud came, covering them in shadow; and there came a voice from the cloud, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved. Listen to him.’ Then suddenly, when they looked round, they saw no one with them any more but only Jesus.

As they came down from the mountain he warned them to tell no one what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. They observed the warning faithfully, though among themselves they discussed what ‘rising from the dead’ could mean.

Mark 9:2-10

The readings of this Sunday have raised the themes of death and sacrifice, and of victory over death.

The disciples discuss what ‘rising from the dead’ might mean. Are they avoiding discussion of what might bring about the death of the Son of Man?

In 1980 there was a national Pastoral Congress in Liverpool which produced a positive and encouraging report: We are the Easter People. It is true. Through baptism and in Christ, we are – an Easter people. But we are also a people in live in dark and corrupting times, and are a people not immune to that darkness and corruption.

We see the light of Christ. We know his promise. Do we know where we are and how to be when we come down from the mountain?

Photograph of the sanctuary of the basilica of the Transfiguration, Mount Tabor, Israel. (c) 2013, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: My refuge, my joy

Healing and Incorporation, Liverpool The Responsorial Psalm on Sunday, the 6th in Ordinary Time, has the congregation thank for the Lord for care and safety, for healing and welcome back into God’s ‘family’.

On Sunday, the psalm is prayed, of course, immediately after we have heard the precepts of Leviticus about segregation and exclusion, which  – at least to modern ears – are rather harrowing.

 

You are my refuge, O Lord; you fill me with the joy of salvation.

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 forgivenThe
the guilt of my sin.

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

You are my refuge, O Lord; you fill me with the joy of salvation.

Psalm 31:1-2,5,11

Few of us will have experienced, or imposed, the exclusion envisaged in Leviticus. But guilt and shame is something we are all very familiar with. And that tends to form its own  barriers, and have us hide from ourselves and others.

The psalmist knows the re-integration which is brought about by the love and mercy of God. And does not keep it to himself!

  • What keeps you from feeling whole and wholesome? Try to bring your needs to the Lord in prayer.
  • Who do you know who seems to live ‘in exile’? How might you reach out to them? Simple prayer to God for them can have its good effects!

Photograph of the Holy Oils used in celebrations of Baptism, Confirmation and Ordination, and the Anointing of the Sick and their place of reservation at Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral. (c) 2006, Allen Morris.