Speak Lord: Call us by love

St Paul arrives in ThessalonikaThe second reading at Mass tomorrow – the first Sunday of Advent – comes from the earliest of the writings of New Testament, Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians.

May the Lord be generous in increasing your love and make you love one another and the whole human race as much as we love you. And may he so confirm your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless in the sight of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus Christ comes with all his saints.

Finally, brothers, we urge you and appeal to you in the Lord Jesus to make more and more progress in the kind of life that you are meant to live: the life that God wants, as you learnt from us, and as you are already living it. You have not forgotten the instructions we gave you on the authority of the Lord Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:2

The two key principles of Christian life are the love of God and the love of neighbour. The reading above touches on both, but especially the second. Love of neighbour, the ‘whole human race’, is to be our way to holiness

Sometimes we focus on love of God and love of neighbour as our obligation, and true enough they are. But here we are reminded that the love of God is first and foremost something we receive, long before we are able to respond to it. Same too, really, with love of neighbour – we benefit from the love and care of so many long before we have the chance to show love and care in our turn.

Paul speaks of his love for the Church and its members (and surely not only the Thessalonians!), and of the Lord’s love.

Soon we will be celebrating the greatest of gifts, the birth of Jesus, the Christ, God with us. First the Church looks to her way of life and takes stock. We count our blessings and we consider afresh how we respond to the Lord’s call to live love.

Mosaic of St Paul arriving in Europe, in Thessalonika. (c) 2006, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: Love

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The Second reading on Sunday, the 24th Sunday of Ordinary Time,was taken from the Letter of St James. It vividly presents the challenge to join ourselves to the works of love.

Take the case, my brothers, of someone who has never done a single good act but claims that he has faith. Will that faith save him? If one of the brothers or one of the sisters is in need of clothes and has not enough food to live on, and one of you says to them, ‘I wish you well; keep yourself warm and eat plenty’, without giving them these bare necessities of life, then what good is that? Faith is like that: if good works do not go with it, it is quite dead.

This is the way to talk to people of that kind: ‘You say you have faith and I have good deeds; I will prove to you that I have faith by showing you my good deeds – now you prove to me that you have faith without any good deeds to show.’

James 2:14-18

If we live in Western society where the argument splutters on whether God exists or not, Christians may easily consider faith is about whether we believe that God exists. Sure, that is important! But it is not sufficient – as St James points out, the devil believes that too!  But we are called to believe in God, and a shorthand for that belief in is ‘love’.

We are called to love God, neighbour and self. To fail to do either compromises the others. To be a person of faith is to be a person of love. A person who does not love here or does not love there is not a person of love.

They may have been a person of love, in which case they need remedial care. They may be in the process of becoming a person of love, in which case this or that failure may prove a stepping stone to growth, if it is occasion for re-assessing progress and looking, asking, for help.

But love is what love does.

  • Where are you love-less?
  • Bring your weaknesses and your strengths to God in prayer, and pray for deeper faith, and deeper love.

Taste and see: Preparing for fasting

CorinthThe second reading proclaimed at Mass yesterday, on the Sunday of the 6th week in Ordinary time, came from Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians.

Whatever you eat, whatever you drink, whatever you do at all, do it for the glory of God. Never do anything offensive to anyone – to Jews or Greeks or to the Church of God; just as I try to be helpful to everyone at all times, not anxious for my own advantage but for the advantage of everybody else, so that they may be saved. Take me for your model, as I take Christ.

1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1

Fasting is arguably the aspect of Lent that has proved to linger longest in the secular and non-practicing mind. ‘What are you giving up for Lent?’

The answer commonly used to be smoking, more recently ‘drinking’, now the usual answer seems to be chocolate!

The reading from Corinthians reminds that Paul is mindful in his eating and drinking of how it impacts one others.

Giving up smoking, drinking or chocolate seems most likely to be done with a view to the health of our own lungs, liver, waistline or sugar-levels. Doubtless worth thinking about, and love of self is part of the triad of loves – God, neighbour and self – encouraged by Jesus.

But love and care of self alone is not what Lent is about. So, how will your fasting help draw you closer to God? And deepen your love of neighbour?

Photograph of archaeological site: site of ancient Corinth.  (c) 2006, Allen Morris.