Taste and See: Remember and know…

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Moses said to the people: ‘Put this question to the ages that are past, that went before you, from the time God created man on earth: Was there ever a word so majestic, from one end of heaven to the other? Was anything ever heard? Did ever a people hear the voice of the living God speaking from the heart of the fire, as you heard it, and remain alive? Has any god ventured to take to himself one nation from the midst of another by ordeals, signs, wonders, war with mighty hand and outstretched arm, by fearsome terrors – all this that the Lord your God did for you before your eyes in Egypt?

‘Understand this today, therefore, and take it to heart: the Lord is God indeed, in heaven above as on earth beneath, he and no other. Keep his laws and commandments as I give them to you today, so that you and your children may prosper and live long in the land that the Lord your God gives you for ever.’

First reading for Trinity Sunday
Deuteronomy 4:32-34,39-40

Moses witnesses to the glory of God, drawing on his own personal experience and the experiences shared with the rest of the people.

Those various experiences are likely to be more dramatic than our own experiences! However our own experiences are likely to be what sustains us in faith, and encourages us to seek to live faithfully. They are also likely to be amongst the most persuasive testimony that we can give to others, who teeter on the threshold of faith.

We should be ready to bear witness…

Moses. Chagall Museum, Nice. (c) 2005, Allen Morris

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Speak Lord: Speak and soften our hard hearts

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O that today you would listen to his voice! ‘Harden not your hearts.’

Come, ring out our joy to the Lord;
hail the rock who saves us.
Let us come before him, giving thanks,
with songs let us hail the Lord.

O that today you would listen to his voice! ‘Harden not your hearts.’

Come in; let us bow and bend low;
let us kneel before the God who made us:
for he is our God and we
the people who belong to his pasture,
the flock that is led by his hand.

O that today you would listen to his voice! ‘Harden not your hearts.’

O that today you would listen to his voice!
‘Harden not your hearts as at Meribah,
as on that day at Massah in the desert
when your fathers put me to the test;
when they tried me, though they saw my work.’

O that today you would listen to his voice! ‘Harden not your hearts.’

Psalm 94:1-2,6-9

The Responsorial Psalm tomorrow – the 3rd Sunday of Lent – reminds us of Israel and its grumbling in the wilderness, of it unfaithfulness, and of God’s enduring faithfulness to his people.

In the response we urge each other to listen to the Lord and to keep our hearts supple to his prompting. We who are sometimes hard of heart, pray for others, that they might keep from our handicap – and they for us!

Happy Lent.

The Life of Moses. Sainte Chapelle, Paris. (c) 2017, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Our Blessing

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The Lord spoke to Moses and said,

‘Say this to Aaron and his sons: “This is how you are to bless the sons of Israel. You shall say to them:

May the Lord bless you and keep you.

May the Lord let his face shine on you and be gracious to you.

May the Lord uncover his face to you and bring you peace.”

This is how they are to call down my name on the sons of Israel, and I will bless them.’

Numbers 6:22-27

The blessing offered through Aaron to the sons of Israel is one expression of the Original Blessing that God extends to the whole world, and that is extended to each and every person in each and every situation at each and every time.

We are honoured by God’s love and care: for always he is gracious to us, always he offers us peace.

We live in a world where again and again we dishonour ourselves and others; and where we abort peace. And yet the offer, the promise, remains. Our brokeness is not the end something very different is set before us, that we might take it up and live from it.

Today is the feast of Mary, Mother of God, and the Octave Day of Christmas. It is also the the World Day for Peace.

  • Pray for peace in all cruelly violent places in the world, and for the people who endure there.
  • Pray for peace for yourself and your family and friends.to us.
  • Prayer for peace for your enemies.
  • Pray for peace and reconciliation for all people.

That God’s will may be done and his gifts rejoiced in.

Detail for Te Deum window at St Leonard’s Bridgnorth. (c) 2016, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Help us here to hear

meribahO that today you would listen to his voice! ‘Harden not your hearts.’

Come, ring out our joy to the Lord;
hail the rock who saves us.
Let us come before him, giving thanks,
with songs let us hail the Lord.

O that today you would listen to his voice! ‘Harden not your hearts.’

Come in; let us bow and bend low;
let us kneel before the God who made us:
for he is our God and we
the people who belong to his pasture,
the flock that is led by his hand.

O that today you would listen to his voice! ‘Harden not your hearts.’

O that today you would listen to his voice!
‘Harden not your hearts as at Meribah,
as on that day at Massah in the desert
when your fathers put me to the test;
when they tried me, though they saw my work.’

O that today you would listen to his voice! ‘Harden not your hearts.’

Psalm 94:1-2,6-9

Christians are blessed, enriched, with the Word, God’s Son. And yet, like others, Christians are quite capable of deafness to the word – selective deafness sometimes, to some things we hear and do not like; complete deafness at other times, it seems!

The Psalm at Mass tomorrow, the 27th Sunday of Ordinary Time, reminds us of the deafness of others who have gone before us; their readiness to listen to each others grumbles rather than trust in the Lord.

Its’ hope is that we will learn from their/our past mistakes. We are urged to return to that which keeps us safe, and it serves us by helping us once more to continue on our way: listening to and obeying the word of the Lord.

Stained glass of Moses and the waters of Meribah, Lincoln Cathedral. (c) 2011, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Mercy

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The First reading at Mass today, the 24th Sunday of Ordinary Time, presents a people in revolt, and a step towards reconciliation.

In this passage – part, of course, of a much longer and complex narrative – God seems reluctant to forgive, seems persuaded to relent until persuaded by Moses.

The Lord spoke to Moses, ‘Go down now, because your people whom you brought out of Egypt have apostatised. They have been quick to leave the way I marked out for them; they have made themselves a calf of molten metal and have worshipped it and offered it sacrifice. “Here is your God, Israel,” they have cried “who brought you up from the land of Egypt!”’ the Lord said to Moses, ‘I can see how headstrong these people are! Leave me, now, my wrath shall blaze out against them and devour them; of you, however, I will make a great nation.’

But Moses pleaded with the Lord his God. ‘Lord,’ he said ‘why should your wrath blaze out against this people of yours whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with arm outstretched and mighty hand? Remember Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, your servants to whom by your own self you swore and made this promise: “I will make your offspring as many as the stars of heaven, and all this land which I promised I will give to your descendants, and it shall be their heritage for ever.”’

So the Lord relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.

Exodus 32:7-11,13-14

It is interesting to note the grounds for Moses’ argument. God must be faithful to his promises, is about God not losing faith. The argument is not about love – which is the quality which comes to the fore in the Gospel of the day.

Wherein lies the development? A change in God? Or a change in understanding of God?

As for ourselves, our motives are often mixed. Sometimes we act for self interest. Sometimes for love of the other. Which predominates at present?

Poussin, Adoration of the Golden Calf. National Gallery London. (c) 2015, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Law, love, healing

Bema and Ark of the Law, Synagogue, St Petersburg

The First reading at Mass today, the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time, speaks of the closeness of God, the intimacy of God’s sharing his life and wisdom with us, so that we might be helped to live that life, that wisdom ourselves.

Moses said to the people: ‘Obey the voice of the Lord your God, keeping those commandments and laws of his that are written in the Book of this Law, and you shall return to the Lord your God with all your heart and soul.

‘For this Law that I enjoin on you today is not beyond your strength or beyond your reach. It is not in heaven, so that you need to wonder, “Who will go up to heaven for us and bring it down to us, so that we may hear it and keep it?” Nor is it beyond the seas, so that you need to wonder, “Who will cross the seas for us and bring it back to us, so that we may hear it and keep it?” No, the Word is very near to you, it is in your mouth and in your heart for your observance.’

Deuteronomy 30:10-14

There is always a gap between us and the holiness of God. But always God seeks to overwhelm that barrier and win us for himself, and for our good.

  • Where have you discerned the presence of God for you most recently?
  • How might you best respond to the Lord today?

Bema and Ark of the Law, Synagogue, St Petersburg. (c) 2015, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Rescue us…

Gozo crucifix detailThe first reading for today, the first Sunday of Lent, prepares us for the Gospel of the day.

Moses instructs the people on how to live right before the Lord. Jesus fulfils that righteousness in his resisting temptation and making offering himself to God, becoming himself the first fruits of faithfulness, the living bread.

Moses said to the people: ‘The priest shall take the pannier from your hand and lay it before the altar of the Lord your God. Then, in the sight of the Lord your God, you must make this pronouncement:

‘“My father was a wandering Aramaean. He went down into Egypt to find refuge there, few in numbers; but there he became a nation, great, mighty, and strong. The Egyptians ill-treated us, they gave us no peace and inflicted harsh slavery on us. But we called on the Lord, the God of our fathers. The Lord heard our voice and saw our misery, our toil and our oppression; and the Lord brought us out of Egypt with mighty hand and outstretched arm, with great terror, and with signs and wonders. He brought us here and gave us this land, a land where milk and honey flow. Here then I bring the first-fruits of the produce of the soil that you, the Lord, have given me.”

‘You must then lay them before the Lord your God, and bow down in the sight of the Lord your God.’

Deuteronomy 26:4-10

As we confront our weaknesses this Lent it is good to notice also our blessings.

Sometimes these may be positive achievements, fruit of our cooperation with God’s grace.

Sometimes they may be (only) holy desires – but still prompted by God’s grace. We may not have accomplished this or that yet. We may have stumbled, fallen, countless times. And yet we still desire the good, strive for it, despite the failure  and disappointment.

When we fail, but keep on hoping, may our yearning and working serve to deepen trust in God who will allow nothing to separate us from himself.

Detail from crucifix in Jesuit retreat chapel, near Rabat (Victoria), Gozo. (c) 2009, Allen Morris