Taste and See: Compassion

St Paul. Rembrandt. National Gallery, London. (c) 2017, Allen Morris.

Every time I pray for all of you, I pray with joy, remembering how you have helped to spread the Good News from the day you first heard it right up to the present. I am quite certain that the One who began this good work in you will see that it is finished when the Day of Christ Jesus comes; and God knows how much I miss you all, loving you as Christ Jesus loves you.

My prayer is that your love for each other may increase more and more and never stop improving your knowledge and deepening your perception so that you can always recognise what is best.

This will help you to become pure and blameless, and prepare you for the Day of Christ, when you will reach the perfect goodness which Jesus Christ produces in us for the glory and praise of God 

2nd Reading for the 2nd Sunday of Advent
Philippians 1:4-6,8-11

One of the precious teachings of the Church is that of the ‘Communion of Saints’.

We are all of us called to be saints. The vocation for all Christians, especially, it is an expression of the universal call to holiness. And sometimes we find it a struggle! 

It is comfort to know that it is not all about us and what we do. The Communion of Saints is a communion of love and care and encouragement for us. How many are praying for us, even if they do not know us by name!

Speak Lord: Of your blessing

Murillo TrinityThe Psalm for Mass tomorrow extols family life, happy family life. In the unity and fruitfulness of the relationships within the ‘good’ family are echoed the unity and fruitfulness that is the Creator’s intention for the relationship of Creation and Creator.

A key element in Jesus’ urging a renewal of faith on his generation, and his manifesting the graciousness of God through his actions, was the teaching of God as Father, Abba. When children or spouse mess up and fail it is to Abba we turn for healing and hope.

May the Lord bless us all the days of our life.

O blessed are those who fear the Lord
and walk in his ways!
By the labour of your hands you shall eat.
You will be happy and prosper.

May the Lord bless us all the days of our life.

Your wife like a fruitful vine
in the heart of your house;
your children like shoots of the olive,
around your table.

May the Lord bless us all the days of our life.

Indeed thus shall be blessed
the man who fears the Lord.
May the Lord bless you from Zion
in a happy Jerusalem
all the days of your life!
May you see your children’s children.
On Israel, peace!

May the Lord bless us all the days of our life.

Psalm 127:1-5

The Synod on the Family, being held in Rome, begins tomorrow in Rome. Its topic “The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and in the Contemporary World.” For more information click here.

The family is a vital part of society. Healthy happy families fulfilling their potential helps to the flourishing of society – the love engendered in the family providing a seedbed for the necessary works for the common good that need a broader social base.

Unhealthy families make for an unhealthy society. And sometimes families are made unhealthy by an unhealthy society. Chicken-and-egg questions go on and on by there is clearly a certain reciprocity family/society and society/family.

The Church is a family established to serve the common good, to help people by the Son to know the Father and in that knowledge expressed as love to find healing and hope, the means to whatever conversion is needed.

The invitation to all of us is to ever deeper communion with the Church, to more deliberate choosing of what is right and good, for us and those others God loves. God’s Spirit seeks to draw us to that. The rest of us need to strive to do what best we can, and not to hinder.

  • Pray for the Synod of Bishops.
  • Pray for the Church.
  • Pray for families and all their members.

The Holy Families. Murillo. Collection of the National Gallery, London.

Speak Lord: Of work and faith

Cezanne old woman at prayer

The Second reading on Sunday, the 24th Sunday of Ordinary Time, comes once more from the Letter of St James. Again James reflects on the necessary relationship between faith and action, faith and good works.

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

Sometimes we might feel we have neither faith to show or good works. But even that can itself be a work of faith, an act of humility, of contrition – of an honest acknowledgement of shortcomings and failings before God and our neighbour. Such a confession can often help others to a new frankness about their situation and needs, and so have them turn afresh to God and neighbour asking for mercy and help.

  • What are your principal good deeds? What helps you to them?
  • Where do you fall short? How might even that become a building block of the Kingdom?

Cezanne Old WomanII

The images are of a painting of an old woman by Cezanne. It is said that the woman was a former religious who lost her faith, and yet she prays the rosary. The painting is in the collection of the National Gallery, London. (c) 2013, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Even to us

Baptism Piero della Francesca

The Gospel for this the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord gives explicit testimony about the humility of the Baptist, and about the love of the Father for the Son.

In the course of his preaching John the Baptist said, ‘Someone is following me, someone who is more powerful than I am, and I am not fit to kneel down and undo the strap of his sandals. I have baptised you with water, but he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.’

It was at this time that Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptised in the Jordan by John. No sooner had he come up out of the water than he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit, like a dove, descending on him. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on you.’

Mark 1:7-11

Implicit in this passage of the Gospel is testimony about the humility of Jesus. The greater comes to be baptised by the lesser; the more powerful by the weaker, the sinless one by the sinner.

The self-abasement of the Son was first noted, this Christmas season, in the mystery of the Word who created all things being born as a creature, as the babe of Bethlehem. That humility remained a characteristic of Jesus throughout his ministry on earth. It continues in his ministry to us today.

Give thanks for the love of the Lord and pray that you may imitate it in your daily life.

Detail from the Piero della Francesca painting of the Baptism of Jesus in the collection of the National Gallery, London. Photograph (c) 2015, Allen Morris.