Speak Lord: Love

DSC01767 poor.jpg

Thus says the Lord:

Share your bread with the hungry,
and shelter the homeless poor,
clothe the man you see to be naked
and do not turn from your own kin.
Then will your light shine like the dawn
and your wound be quickly healed over.

Your integrity will go before you
and the glory of the Lord behind you.
Cry, and the Lord will answer;
call, and he will say, ‘I am here.’

If you do away with the yoke,
the clenched fist, the wicked word,
if you give your bread to the hungry,
and relief to the oppressed,
your light will rise in the darkness,
and your shadows become like noon.

Isaiah 58:7-10

The First reading at Mass today, the 5th Sunday of Ordinary Time, prepares us for the Gospel – we are not to be passive in the face of need. On the contrary we are to be the salt that brings about the fire of change, the light that helps people see what is right.

And the way we best do this is the way of love. We may be moved to passion, but we are not to respond with anger and wage war against evil and want. We need to let go of the violence – in action and in word – but simply to respond generously with ourselves and what we have. Make love not war…

  • What might you do today?

Studio of Luca della Robbia: Jesus comforts a poor man. In the collection of the Louvre, Paris. Photograph (c) 2017, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: Love

charity-shrewsbury

Prayer after Communion

We have partaken of the gifts of this sacred mystery,
humbly imploring, O Lord,
that what your Son commanded us to do
in memory of him
may bring us growth in charity.
Through Christ our Lord.

The Prayer after Communion at Mass on Sunday reminded of the final end, the purpose, of the Sacrament of the Eucharist. It makes present Christ’s love and life, his very person, in order that we might be changed, drawn into lived communion with him.

We are invited to learn to love as he loves. And for benefit of our learning he gives himself to us.

  • What does it feel like to be so loved?
  • Where might you next share the Lord’s love?

Charity. Shrewsbury Cathedral. (c) 2016, Allen Morris.

Taste and Faith: Faith, hope and ?

faith-hope-charity

Almighty ever-living God,
increase our faith, hope and charity,
and make us love what you command,
so that we may merit what you promise.
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.

Amen.

The Collect at Mass on Sunday, the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, reminds us of the virtues of faith, hope and love.

Those virtues are still most commonly known in Catholic discourse as faith., hope and love. The trio comes from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians – the famous hymn to love of 1 Corinthians 13. But the trio has been rendered differently in the most recent translation of the Missal the Greek work ‘agape’ is translated into Latin as ‘caritas‘, and that word is now rendered in the Missal bythe cognate word ‘charity’.

Interestingly in the new Scripture translation proposed by the Bishops of England and Wales for our use at Mass – Revised Standard Version, 2nd Catholic edition, 2010 – it seems that in 1 Corinthians 13 ‘agape’ will continue to be translated as ‘love’.

Be that as it may, the alternative translation used in the Missal for the present makes us pause and ponder what is meant by ‘charity’, and indeed by ‘love’. No bad thing, for both words come under stress and strain in our everyday talk – as perhaps they ever have and will, until we possess and live them fully in Christ.

That increase in all three virtues is what we prayed for on Sunday, and it remains a fitting prayer for today also.

  • In what way do you hope for your faith to be increased? And your hope? And your charity?

Faith, Hope and Charity. Tewkesbury Abbey. (c) 2016, Allen Morris

Taste and See: Hearing with the heart

heart-sign

The first of the alternative verses provided for the Gospel Acclamation at Mass yesterday, the 25th Sunday of Ordinary Time, is simple, but reminds of a most important truth.

Alleluia, alleluia!
Open our heart, O Lord,
to accept the words of your Son.
Alleluia!

cf.Ac16:14

Normally we think of ourselves as listening with our ears.  And, of course, they have a part to play in our hearing the word of God.

But in hearing the word of God we need not only ears and mind, but especially a heart. God speaks heart to heart, speaks much less of facts and the like, much more about affective,  relational, truths, about the love of God, and the invitation always open to us of entering into deeper communion with him.

  • What helps your heart to open?
  • What tends to make it close?

Street signs and graffiti: Nantes. (c) 2016, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Source of living waters

Crossof life

The Psalm at Mass tomorrow, the 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time, speaks of a yearning for God: a longing for the one who alone can satisfy the deepest needs of the human person.

For you my soul is thirsting, O Lord my God.

O God, you are my God, for you I long;
for you my soul is thirsting.
My body pines for you
like a dry, weary land without water.

For you my soul is thirsting, O Lord my God.

So I gaze on you in the sanctuary
to see your strength and your glory.
For your love is better than life,
my lips will speak your praise.

For you my soul is thirsting, O Lord my God.

So I will bless you all my life,
in your name I will lift up my hands.
My soul shall be filled as with a banquet,
my mouth shall praise you with joy.

For you my soul is thirsting, O Lord my God.

For you have been my help;
in the shadow of your wings I rejoice.
My soul clings to you;
your right hand holds me fast.

For you my soul is thirsting, O Lord my God.

Psalm 62:2-6,8-9

Many and delightful are the other created goods which God provides for our well-being; still more are the relationships and the products of human culture than can enrich our lives.

And yet each of these are founded on God and his being. Ultimately it is in and from God that they find their truest meaning. And without our recognising this and making that part of our appreciation of them (and God!) they can become a source of distress and grief, draining from us authentic life and love. It is because of this that God and God’s love is better than life: No God no life, but in God life and goodness without end.

  • For what, today, do you give thanks?

The Cross and flowing waters. Medjugorje. (c) 2015, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Love

Woman anointing feet of JesusThe Gospel Reading on Sunday presents us with a reflection on what is to be admired and een as virtue. And it is love: love born of being loved and, often enough, love learnt by a sinner forgiven of sin.

One of the Pharisees invited Jesus to a meal. When he arrived at the Pharisee’s house and took his place at table, a woman came in, who had a bad name in the town. She had heard he was dining with the Pharisee and had brought with her an alabaster jar of ointment. She waited behind him at his feet, weeping, and her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them away with her hair; then she covered his feet with kisses and anointed them with the ointment.

When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet, he would know who this woman is that is touching him and what a bad name she has.’ Then Jesus took him up and said, ‘Simon, I have something to say to you.’ ‘Speak, Master’ was the reply. ‘There was once a creditor who had two men in his debt; one owed him five hundred denarii, the other fifty. They were unable to pay, so he pardoned them both. Which of them will love him more?’ ‘The one who was pardoned more, I suppose’ answered Simon. Jesus said, ‘You are right.’

Then he turned to the woman. ‘Simon,’ he said ‘you see this woman? I came into your house, and you poured no water over my feet, but she has poured out her tears over my feet and wiped them away with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but she has been covering my feet with kisses ever since I came in. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. For this reason I tell you that her sins, her many sins, must have been forgiven her, or she would not have shown such great love. It is the man who is forgiven little who shows little love.’ Then he said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’ Those who were with him at table began to say to themselves, ‘Who is this man, that he even forgives sins?’ But he said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace.’

Now after this he made his way through towns and villages preaching, and proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom of God. With him went the Twelve, as well as certain women who had been cured of evil spirits and ailments: Mary surnamed the Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, Joanna the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, Susanna, and several others who provided for them out of their own resources.

Luke 7:36-8:3

One of the notable features in the parable Jesus tells is that there is no hint from Jesus that the debtors were sorry for having taken out loans they could not repay. The point is not that their sorrow ‘earns’ mercy. The point is, simply, that the creditor pardons them, and because they have been pardoned they can/will show love. Their love is an effect of forgiveness, not its cause. The logic of the passage of scripture suggests this may be the case for the woman who has sinned much too.

Jesus presses for the game-changer to be love for the sinner, for the debtor. ‘Game-changer’, for his evident concern here is that sins, debts be forgiven so that we find the motivation and freedom for love, The desire is not to establish a new culture of financial rectitude and so on.

Self-Righteousness is not the point. Love, born of God’s love, is.

  • Pray for a deeper knowledge of God’s love for you – and how that love is echoed in the love of others around you – and pray for the freedom to respond fully and generously.

Detail from window at church of Sacred Heart and St Teresa, Coleshill. (c) 2016, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: Care for each other, in the Spirit

St Paul Ambrosi

The first reading on Sunday, the 6th of Easter, came from The Acts of the Apostles. It exemplifies the seeking after peace, the living in mutual love, that Jesus invites his friends to in the Gospel of Sunday.

The life of the Gospel is not without its tensions. Acts testifies to that. Disciples face all sorts of challenge as they seek to be faithful to Jesus as the Way, Truth and Life, and respond to the circumstances in which they live, and the differences and awkwardnesses they face within and without the Christian community. But Acts demonstrates that authentic Christianity is a work in progress that prevails, because it is a work that is sustained by God, secure in the Spirit of God.

Some men came down from Judaea and taught the brothers, ‘Unless you have yourselves circumcised in the tradition of Moses you cannot be saved.’ This led to disagreement, and after Paul and Barnabas had had a long argument with these men it was arranged that Paul and Barnabas and others of the church should go up to Jerusalem and discuss the problem with the apostles and elders.
Then the apostles and elders decided to choose delegates to send to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; the whole church concurred with this. They chose Judas known as Barsabbas and Silas, both leading men in the brotherhood, and gave them this letter to take with them:

‘The apostles and elders, your brothers, send greetings to the brothers of pagan birth in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia. We hear that some of our members have disturbed you with their demands and have unsettled your minds. They acted without any authority from us; and so we have decided unanimously to elect delegates and to send them to you with Barnabas and Paul, men we highly respect who have dedicated their lives to the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accordingly we are sending you Judas and Silas, who will confirm by word of mouth what we have written in this letter. It has been decided by the Holy Spirit and by ourselves not to saddle you with any burden beyond these essentials: you are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols; from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from fornication. Avoid these, and you will do what is right. Farewell.’

Acts 15:1-2,22-29

  • What non-essential burdens hobble progress to Christian unity in your community?
  • What positive actions to show love to others has your community taken recently?
  • What more might be done?

St Paul, da Forli, Vatican Museum. (c) 2016, Allen Morris

Taste and See: Fruitful love

Vineyard, Beziers

The Communion Antiphon on Sunday, the 5th Sunday of Easter, had us sing of our unity with the Lord – his gift,our blessing.

Communion Antiphon

I am the true vine and you are the branches, says the Lord.
Whoever remains in me, and I in him, bears fruit in plenty, alleluia.

Cf. Jn 15: 1, 5

In the Gospel we were reminded of the Lord’s command that we should love as we have been loved. In the living of love we are as one. The communion antiphon presents that unity using the metaphor of vine and branches and fruitfulness.

It reminds that the love we receive and the love we are to live is not just for us, but is ours to share with others. Love is to be fruitful in us, for the benefit of others.

VIneyard, Beziers, France. (c) 2015, Allen Morris

Taste and See: Alive for God’s sake…

Chartres LentThe first reading at Mass on Sunday, the 5th in Ordinary Time, is worth our returning to today, Ash Wednesday.

In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord of Hosts seated on a high throne; his train filled the sanctuary; above him stood seraphs, each one with six wings.
And they cried out to one another in this way,

‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts.
His glory fills the whole earth.’

The foundations of the threshold shook with the voice of the one who cried out, and the Temple was filled with smoke. I said:

‘What a wretched state I am in! I am lost,
for I am a man of unclean lips
and I live among a people of unclean lips,
and my eyes have looked at the King, the Lord of Hosts.’

Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding in his hand a live coal which he had taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. With this he touched my mouth and said:

‘See now, this has touched your lips,
your sin is taken away,
your iniquity is purged.’

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying:

‘Whom shall I send? Who will be our messenger?’

I answered, ‘Here I am, send me.’

Isaiah 6:1-2,3-8

 

As we begin Lent we are called to admit our fault, our sin, our mess. We are also called once more to know, live and share the love that God has for us.

We are reconciled because of our need and because of God’s grace. Or is it because of God’s grace and our need. Start at either point and the conclusion is the same – we are love and God is the lover.

Amazing! And Isaiah experiences this in his vision of the heavenly court. The God who loves us is no creature, no thing like us, but entirely beyond, other. The points of connection are that God is creature and we his creatures; and God is love and we are object of his love.

The two key truths of our faith – that God is creator and God is love. As we fractured beings get ready to make the most of Lent let us hold those two truths close in our minds and hearts and learn to live by them more faithfully, more generously.

Photograph, Chartres. (c) 2012, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: That we may be love

PrayerThe Second reading at Mass on the 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time, i.e. this coming Sunday, speaks to us of  love and the works of love.

Be ambitious for the higher gifts. And I am going to show you a way that is better than any of them.

If I have all the eloquence of men or of angels, but speak without love, I am simply a gong booming or a cymbal clashing. If I have the gift of prophecy, understanding all the mysteries there are, and knowing everything, and if I have faith in all its fullness, to move mountains, but without love, then I am nothing at all. If I give away all that I possess, piece by piece, and if I even let them take my body to burn it, but am without love, it will do me no good whatever.

Love is always patient and kind; it is never jealous; love is never boastful or conceited; it is never rude or selfish; it does not take offence, and is not resentful. Love takes no pleasure in other people’s sins but delights in the truth; it is always ready to excuse, to trust, to hope, and to endure whatever comes.

Love does not come to an end. But if there are gifts of prophecy, the time will come when they must fail; or the gift of languages, it will not continue for ever; and knowledge – for this, too, the time will come when it must fail. For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophesying is imperfect; but once perfection comes, all imperfect things will disappear.

When I was a child, I used to talk like a child, and think like a child, and argue like a child, but now I am a man, all childish ways are put behind me. Now we are seeing a dim reflection in a mirror; but then we shall be seeing face to face. The knowledge that I have now is imperfect; but then I shall know as fully as I am known.
In short, there are three things that last: faith, hope and love; and the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13

St Paul praises the virtues and he calls us to be ambitious for them.

Ambition is not always seen as a virtue. Too often our assessment of ambition is coloured by experience of those who are greedy for the vices. But ambition to achieve virtue, to achieve virtue in virtuous ways, is always a good thing, and good for us to aim at. Not least because in aiming for faith hope and love, and seeking to achieve them/ receive them by faithful, hopeful, loving living makes us more like Christ. And our efforts will surely be rewarded by his gifts.

  • What of love do you lack?
  • Where do you see that quality expressed best in others?
  • How might you seek to make that quality more your own in your daily living and relationship with God and neighbour?

At Prayer. Church of the Holy Name, Manchester. (c) 2016, Allen Morris.