Speak Lord: save us from our anger and fear

Ascension Isaack, St Petersburg

The Gospel heard yesterday,  Sunday, the 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time, followed immediately from last week’s Gospel, of Jesus’ reading from Isaiah and winning approval from all.

That latter point is repeated this week in the reading’s opening words.

And it needs to be for what follows next is so surprising and so shocking.

Jesus began to speak in the synagogue: ‘This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen.’ And he won the approval of all, and they were astonished by the gracious words that came from his lips They said, ‘This is Joseph’s son, surely?’

But he replied, ‘No doubt you will quote me the saying, “Physician, heal yourself” and tell me, “We have heard all that happened in Capernaum, do the same here in your own countryside.”’ And he went on, ‘I tell you solemnly, no prophet is ever accepted in his own country.

‘There were many widows in Israel, I can assure you, in Elijah’s day, when heaven remained shut for three years and six months and a great famine raged throughout the land, but Elijah was not sent to any one of these: he was sent to a widow at Zarephath, a Sidonian town. And in the prophet Elisha’s time there were many lepers in Israel, but none of these was cured, except the Syrian, Naaman.’

When they heard this everyone in the synagogue was enraged. They sprang to their feet and hustled him out of the town; and they took him up to the brow of the hill their town was built on, intending to throw him down the cliff, but he slipped through the crowd and walked away.

Luke 4:21-30

The reversal is astonishing. One minute Nazareth is united in admiration, and the next all join in conspiracy to murder.  It is a reversal that prefigures the turning of the crowd in Jerusalem in the last week of the public ministry.

It is a reversal that at least at first sight seems irrational, and beyond our accounting for it. There are catalysts – Jesus challenging a presumed complacency and self-satisfaction in his fellow townsfolk; their perhaps implied slur on his parentage and his (foster-)father; the implication Jesus is thought to be getting above himself… But we have to read that back into the narrative. Luke does not give us enough information to understand what is happening, as it happens. As we read the story,  visciousness seems to burst out of almost nowhere in this little community of Nazareth.

What Luke does seem to do is set before us a tale that anticipates the ‘shape’ of the events of Holy Week, accclaim, rejection, a plan to kill (‘successful’ in Holy Week), and ending with Jesus free to simply pass between them, free. Right from the beginning of his account of the public ministry of Jesus, Luke wants us to be aware of the storm clouds, of human resistance to the kingdom.

Why? Because one reason for his Gospel is that it is a work for our present conversion.

Like Nazareth we might be comfortable with our election by God, but not with the idea there is more for God, and us to do if we are to live the Kingdom life.

And surely one reason for our finding this gospel unsettling is that the seeming irrationality of the violence reminds of our own oft-times lack of control over sin and vice in our own lives.

  • What are your hidden faults and vices, maybe barely  contained beneath the surface?
  • What draws you to Jesus?
  • What might (what does) trigger anger and rejection of Jesus in you ?

The Ascension, Cathedral of St Isaac, St Petersburg. (c) 2015, Allen Morris

‘Speak Lord.’ ‘Ouch!’

Jesus takes up his cross

The Gospel for Sunday, the 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time, follows immediately from last week’s Gospel, of Jesus’ reading from Isaiah and winning approval from all.

That latter point is repeated this week in the reading’s opening words. It needs to be for what follows next is surprising and shocking.

Jesus began to speak in the synagogue: ‘This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen.’ And he won the approval of all, and they were astonished by the gracious words that came from his lips They said, ‘This is Joseph’s son, surely?’

But he replied, ‘No doubt you will quote me the saying, “Physician, heal yourself” and tell me, “We have heard all that happened in Capernaum, do the same here in your own countryside.”’ And he went on, ‘I tell you solemnly, no prophet is ever accepted in his own country.

‘There were many widows in Israel, I can assure you, in Elijah’s day, when heaven remained shut for three years and six months and a great famine raged throughout the land, but Elijah was not sent to any one of these: he was sent to a widow at Zarephath, a Sidonian town. And in the prophet Elisha’s time there were many lepers in Israel, but none of these was cured, except the Syrian, Naaman.’

When they heard this everyone in the synagogue was enraged. They sprang to their feet and hustled him out of the town; and they took him up to the brow of the hill their town was built on, intending to throw him down the cliff, but he slipped through the crowd and walked away.

Luke 4:21-30

 

Jesus has spoken of God’s promises, and of his part in fulfilling them. And that pleases.

He next speaks of Israel’s resistance to the prophecies and healings that the Lord offers. And that produces a very different response.

The reaction of the crowd is extraordinary, and shocking. What price ‘thou shalt not kill?’?

  • How do you respond to criticism? Implied or direct?
  • What priority do you give to your response to the continued call of God to conversion and renewal?
  • What helps you respond positively?
  • What provokes other reactions?

Detail from one of the Stations of the Cross, Lourdes. (c) 2012, Allen Morris

 

Speak Lord: Help us know you better

Nazareth WindowOn the 3rd Sunday of the Year, in Year C, the Gospel reading re-establishes us in the series of sequential readings from The Gospel of Luke which will accompany us through the Sundays in Ordinary Time during the rest of this year.

Last week we heard a passage from John’s Gospel too important to lose sight of, and which found no easy home elsewhere in the 3-year cycle of Sunday Readings. Over theprevious weeks the readings were chosen tolead us into a contemplation of the Mysteries of the Christmas Season, and making the most of the season of Advent. but now we begin our reading of Luke.

The editors gives us the introductory verses and then leaping over the accounts of conception and birth of John the Baptist and Jesus, and Jesus’ baptism, sets before us the beginning of the public ministry of Jesus as Luke describes it:

Seeing that many others have undertaken to draw up accounts of the events that have taken place among us, exactly as these were handed down to us by those who from the outset were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word, I in my turn, after carefully going over the whole story from the beginning, have decided to write an ordered account for you, Theophilus, so that your Excellency may learn how well founded the teaching is that you have received.

Jesus, with the power of the Spirit in him, returned to Galilee; and his reputation spread throughout the countryside. He taught in their synagogues and everyone praised him.

He came to Nazara, where he had been brought up, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day as he usually did. He stood up to read and they handed him the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Unrolling the scroll he found the place where it is written: The spirit of the Lord has been given to me, for he has anointed me. He has sent me to bring the good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives and to the blind new sight, to set the downtrodden free, to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour.

He then rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the assistant and sat down. And all eyes in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to speak to them, ‘This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen.’

Luke 1:1-4,4:14-21

The account firmly situates Jesus and the meaning of his ministry in the  bigger story of God and his people. In that story always God has been faithful and time and time again his people are not so. Now a son of Israel comes before his people, perfectly to embody the fulfilment what God promises, and perfectly to achieve what God invites us to.

  • Which aspect of Jesus’ ministry as named above most touches you?
  • Of which are you most in need?
  • And those around you?

Window from the Basilica of the Annunciation, Nazareth. (c) 2013, Allen Morris.

 

Speak Lord: Change and resistance

Good Shepherd NazThe start of an alternative approach:

Normally Living Eucharist posts the scripture passages used at Sunday Mass in the order they are heard on a Sunday. It makes immediate sense to observe that same pattern – the order of the scriptures (for it will be usually Old Testament followed by New Testament), and the order of the Liturgy.

However the selection of readings is determined by the Gospel, and most clearly so in Ordinary time when (except for any influence exerted by the particular passage and coincidence) there is no overall theme for the Sunday readings. It is fairly said that unless you know , in advance, what the Gospel reading is you may find yourself struggling a little with the import of the first reading, which will have no direct connection with the first reading or Gospel of the week before. The disadvantage of knowing the Gospel and hearing the first reading only as a precusor to the Gospel reading is that it reduces it to ‘an illustration’ or ‘context’ and robs it of its own integrity as scripture.

Swings and roundabouts come to mind. But by way of an experiment for the next while the order of postings leading up to Sunday will be reversed. The Thursday posting will be of the Gospel, and the Sunday posting of the First reading, usually an Old Testament reading.

Comments are welcome!

The Gospel reading for Mass on Sunday, the 14th Sunday of the Year, comes from the Gospel of Mark.

Jesus returns to his home town. He has caused something of a stir over recent days, as he has travelled the land. Now he’s back home…

Jesus went to his home town and his disciples accompanied him. With the coming of the sabbath he began teaching in the synagogue and most of them were astonished when they heard him.

They said, ‘Where did the man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been granted him, and these miracles that are worked through him? This is the carpenter, surely, the son of Mary, the brother of James and Joset and Jude and Simon? His sisters, too, are they not here with us?’ And they would not accept him.

And Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is only despised in his own country, among his own relations and in his own house’; and he could work no miracle there, though he cured a few sick people by laying his hands on them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.

Mark 6:1-6

Change is often hard to take. Especially change which challenges the status quo.

Nazareth cannot accept what Jesus offers, because it cannot accept it from Jesus.

And yet under the surface rejection, some turn to him. The goodness of God and the ministry of Jesus has its effect, even if it begins in a hidden way, beneath the surface.

  • What of the gospel do you resist and why?
  • What signs might there be of the gospel winning out, even our your reticence?

Mosaic from the Basilica of the Annunciation, Nazareth. (c) 2012, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Of your love and ours

Holy Family, Reneh, Nazareth

Sunday is the feast of the Holy Family. For those who have got into the habit of using this blog to prepare for the coming Sunday you will not be surprised that the reading here is not from today, Christmas Day. For those who are surprised let this reading lead you into a fresh contemplation of the mystery we celebrate today…

The Lord honours the father in his children,
and upholds the rights of a mother over her sons.
Whoever respects his father is atoning for his sins,
he who honours his mother is like someone amassing a fortune.
Whoever respects his father will be happy with children of his own,
he shall be heard on the day when he prays.
Long life comes to him who honours his father,
he who sets his mother at ease is showing obedience to the Lord.
My son, support your father in his old age,
do not grieve him during his life.
Even if his mind should fail, show him sympathy,
do not despise him in your health and strength;
for kindness to a father shall not be forgotten
but will serve as reparation for your sins.

Ecclesiasticus 3:3-7,14-17

God the Father may not have to endure ‘old age’ in the sense that Ecclesiasticus means it. But otherwise the passage speaks beautifully of the relationship of a son with his father, as that love is manifested perfectly in the love Jesus has for God our Father.

‘On earth as it is in heaven…’ Jesus would have us pray. Praying that, surely we  wish to live it.

In our daily family life we have the opportunity of living out this gospel truth, of entering into the mystery of the relationship of the Father and the Father’s Only Son.

Image is of mosaic of the Holy Family from the church of St Joseph the Worker, Reneh, Nazareth. (c) 2012, Allen Morris.

Please pray for the Christians, and all of the people, of the Middle East. Pray for peace and reconciliation. Pray for the family of the children of God.

Taste and see: NOTHING is impossible to God

image

The Gospel for last Sunday’s Mass, that of the fourth Sunday of Advent, treats of the truly remarkable. The story may be so familiar that we sometimes forget how extraordinary what is proposed (and achieved through God’s love and Mary’s love.)

The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the House of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.

He went in and said to her, ‘Rejoice, so highly favoured! The Lord is with you.’ She was deeply disturbed by these words and asked herself what this greeting could mean, but the angel said to her, ‘Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God’s favour. Listen! You are to conceive and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David; he will rule over the House of Jacob for ever and his reign will have no end.’

Mary said to the angel, ‘But how can this come about, since I am a virgin?’

‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you’ the angel answered ‘and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow. And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God. Know this too: your kinswoman Elizabeth has, in her old age, herself conceived a son, and she whom people called barren is now in her sixth month, for nothing is impossible to God’

‘I am the handmaid of the Lord,’ said Mary ‘let what you have said be done to me.’ And the angel left her.

,Luke  1.26-38

It is so easy for things to simply to go on as before – with the only change being ‘more of the same’.

Yet God and the gospel calls us to newness, radical newness. And assures us that nothing is impossible for God.

Pope Francis would include in what is possible for God is the renewal of the Church and its ministers. His ‘rebuke‘ may jar with the sentimentality that the High Streets peddle at Christmas. But it reminds that the Gospel is about salvation, and the Church is there in Christ to minister nothing less.

Image is a print by Eric Gill

Speak Lord: Even by angels!

Annunciation Nazareth

The Gospel for today’s Mass, of the fourth Sunday of Advent, has our final preparation for Christmas firmly in mind.

The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the House of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.

He went in and said to her, ‘Rejoice, so highly favoured! The Lord is with you.’ She was deeply disturbed by these words and asked herself what this greeting could mean, but the angel said to her, ‘Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God’s favour. Listen! You are to conceive and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David; he will rule over the House of Jacob for ever and his reign will have no end.’

Mary said to the angel, ‘But how can this come about, since I am a virgin?’

‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you’ the angel answered ‘and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow. And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God. Know this too: your kinswoman Elizabeth has, in her old age, herself conceived a son, and she whom people called barren is now in her sixth month, for nothing is impossible to God’

‘I am the handmaid of the Lord,’ said Mary ‘let what you have said be done to me.’ And the angel left her.

Luke  1.26-38

In a sense the preparation for Christmas begins as we await Mary’s yes to God.

In another sense, as the Liturgy of the Word bears eloquent testimony, it begins long before in the history of Israel, chosen but failing short. God responds to human frailty – described so poignantly in the tale of Adam and Eve: our sin awakes a loving response in the Creator of all.

And still does. THE good news is not so much the birth of Jesus then, but the love of God in Jesus now – for each and every person, always, everywhere. We spoil so much and sometimes, as this week’s headlines demonstrate, do so in ways that shock and appall, even now after so long a history of shocking acts.

The Christian response is to counter terror and horror by love. Often we fail, and give into motives of fear and revenge. But love is what is needed and love is what is called for.

To Mary the angel says ‘Do not be afraid’, ‘Serve: love.’ To us the same is said.

Pray today that we – and not just you – will listen, and will serve God lovingly for Himself and in our neighbour, all of them!

Photograph of statue of the Annunication in the grounds of the Basilica of the Annunciation, Nazareth. (c) 2013, Allen Morris.