Speak Lord: love inspiring love

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My soul, give praise to the Lord.

It is the Lord who keeps faith for ever,
who is just to those who are oppressed.
It is he who gives bread to the hungry,
the Lord, who sets prisoners free.

It is the Lord who gives sight to the blind,
who raises up those who are bowed down.
It is the Lord who loves the just,
the Lord, who protects the stranger.

The Lord upholds the widow and orphan
but thwarts the path of the wicked.
The Lord will reign for ever,
Zion’s God, from age to age.

Psalm 145(146):7-10
Psalm for the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Lord is love and does good. The above painting reminds of how his love inspires love in the saints.

  • How do we see others treat the oppressed, the hungry, the blind, the stranger, and all?
  • Who do we find we treat well? And who not? Why?

 

Painting attributed to Mariotto Di Nardo, 1420s. St Lawrence distributing food to the needy. Gallery of the Petit Palais, Avignon. (c) 2014, Allen Morris.

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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

Caritaslogo

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: First fruits of the Kingdom

Bethlehem mosiacThe responsorial psalm on Sunday last, the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, speaks of fruits of God’s love.

In the psalm we rejoice in the goodness that is offered to us for our flourishing.

My soul, give praise to the Lord or Alleluia! 

It is the Lord who keeps faith for ever,
who is just to those who are oppressed.
It is he who gives bread to the hungry,
the Lord, who sets prisoners free,

My soul, give praise to the Lord or Alleluia! 

It is the Lord who gives sight to the blind,
who raises up those who are bowed down,
the Lord, who protects the stranger
and upholds the widow and orphan.

My soul, give praise to the Lord or Alleluia! 

It is the Lord who loves the just
but thwarts the path of the wicked.
The Lord will reign for ever,
Zion’s God, from age to age.

My soul, give praise to the Lord or Alleluia! 

Psalm 145:6-10

The goodness of God is not measured in things – though surely the hungry will be grateful for bread! It is demonstrated in actions – feeding, setting free, restoring sight, raising up, protection and so on. It is love, love in action.

The same action is called for from us – living lives of love: love being our first nature, should we only be able to access it. The Lord’s love for us helps set us free, helps heal us of our blocks, scars and fears.

  • How has love changed you?
  • How might you love to enrich the lives of those around you today?
  • And tomorrow?

Mosiac from the ancient Basilica of the Nativity, Bethlehem. (c) 2013, Allen Morris.

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.

 

Taste and See: Beyond passing…

 

Holy Cross church vaulting

The second reading at Sunday’s Mass, that of the 3rd Sunday of the Year, talks of getting a healthy perspective on this passing life.

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

Paul, hard-working and conscientious, is all too well aware of how you can focus on the wrong things. And maybe had got the brush off when preaching the good news from people saying ‘sorry, mate, love to hear more but got to get back to the wife’ or ‘got to go open up the shop’

But in our day our response to the lord may well be authenticated precisely by how a husband relates to his wife, or wife to husband; by how someone does business.

The world is passing away, so we do not build kingdoms for ourselves here. But we can live in this world seeking its best for others – wives, business partners, neighbours, strangers; working for the common good, serving God in others. Not engrossed by the world but seeking to be free in it to live love.

Detail from the Holy Cross church, Krakow, Poland. (C) 2013, Allen Morris.

 

Speak Lord: speak love

Cardinal Manning

The Gospel at Mass tomorrow, the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, comes from Matthew’s Gospel. It is one of the longer parables, a parable that draws is into a consideration of the world as it ‘is’ so that we might consider afresh how the world might be, if God’s will is done.

Jesus told this parable to his disciples: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner going out at daybreak to hire workers for his vineyard. He made an agreement with the workers for one denarius a day, and sent them to his vineyard. Going out at about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the market place and said to them, “You go to my vineyard too and I will give you a fair wage.” So they went. At about the sixth hour and again at about the ninth hour, he went out and did the same. Then at about the eleventh hour he went out and found more men standing round, and he said to them, “Why have you been standing here idle all day?” “Because no one has hired us” they answered. He said to them, “You go into my vineyard too.” In the evening, the owner of the vineyard said to his bailiff, “Call the workers and pay them their wages, starting with the last arrivals and ending with the first.” So those who were hired at about the eleventh hour came forward and received one denarius each. When the first came, they expected to get more, but they too received one denarius each. They took it, but grumbled at the landowner. “The men who came last” they said “have done only one hour, and you have treated them the same as us, though we have done a heavy day’s work in all the heat.” He answered one of them and said, “My friend, I am not being unjust to you; did we not agree on one denarius? Take your earnings and go. I choose to pay the last comer as much as I pay you. Have I no right to do what I like with my own? Why be envious because I am generous?” Thus the last will be first, and the first, last.’

Matthew 20:1-16

Recently the Church in England celebrated the work of Cardinal Manning in helping to resolve the agony of the London Dock Strike of 1889, and helping dockers achieve their argued-for and just pay of a tanner (6d, 2.5p) an hour.

Here, in Jesus’ parable, the issue is not the withholding of a living wage, but an exceptionally generous employer, subject of (some of) his workers’ complaints.

The point Jesus makes, is that the kingdom of heaven is not only about fairness and justice. It is also, and surely is most of all, about love. Employers and workers alike are called to live by the primacy of love.

The image bears the insciption of the Cardinal Manning Lodge of the  Amalgamated Society of Watermen and Lightermen of Greenwich. It bears eloquent testimony to Cardinal Manning, one of the great leaders of the Catholic Church in the 19th Century.