Speak Lord: Obedience

Cross, BeziersThe Second reading at Mass on Sunday, the 4th Sunday of Advent, draws our attention to the intentionality of the Incarnation – the why and wherefore of God taking flesh and becoming in this extraordinary way one-with-us as well as – as Salvation History bears ample evidence – always One who is for us.

This is what Christ said, on coming into the world:

You who wanted no sacrifice or oblation,
prepared a body for me.
You took no pleasure in holocausts or sacrifices for sin;
then I said,
just as I was commanded in the scroll of the book,
‘God, here I am! I am coming to obey your will.’

Notice that he says first: You did not want what the Law lays down as the things to be offered, that is: the sacrifices, the oblations, the holocausts and the sacrifices for sin, and you took no pleasure in them; and then he says: Here I am! I am coming to obey your will. He is abolishing the first sort to replace it with the second. And this will was for us to be made holy by the offering of his body made once and for all by Jesus Christ.

Hebrews 10:5-10

The principal mystery of the Incarnation is God taking flesh, but what we may perhaps miss or underestimate the importance of us, is seeing flesh ‘taking’ God. In his life, Jesus reveals the potential for human beings to live godly lives.

Our potential in this world is not inexhaustible : even Jesus faces his destiny amidst fear and sorrow, and meets with death on the Cross. Yet our potential – as we see with Jesus – is even then met with the power and the glory of God which is able to take the worst of this world and redeem us from it. Jesus, even the humanity of Jesus, is safeguarded and raised to eternal life.

Love wins love and lives love, for ever.

Image from Cathedral of Beziers. (c) 2015, Allen Morris

 

Speak Lord: King to your subjects…

CHrist the KingAt Mass tomorrow we sing part of Psalm 92. This Sunday is the feast of Christ the King and the psalm lauds the Lord as King.

The Lord is king, with majesty enrobed.

The Lord is king, with majesty enrobed;
the Lord has robed himself with might,
he has girded himself with power.

The world you made firm, not to be moved;
your throne has stood firm from of old.
From all eternity, O Lord, you are.

Truly your decrees are to be trusted.
Holiness is fitting to your house,
O Lord, until the end of time.

Psalm 92:1-2,5

Praising the kingship of Christ is one thing: words can come easy. Living as ‘subjects’ is not so straightforward.

Where do we show trust of the Lord’s decrees? Where does God’s law take precedence over…. Well, take precedence over what? Our preferences? Our judgements? Our conscience?

Words can come easy, but to help sustain our seeking after Christ’s kingdom, and our praying for God’s will to be done (which made Jesus sweat blood!), we need to take note of the grist we bring to the mill.

Figure of Christ the King. Limoges, c1200. VIctoria and Albert Museum. Photograph (c) 2007, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: Listening and obeying…

Chateau Noir, Aix

The first reading on at yesterday’s Mass of the second Sunday of Ordinary Time  speaks of the sort of confusion with which we may be familiar.

Sometimes of course we may not hear the Lord speak. Sometimes we may mistake another’s voice for his. And sometimes, like Samuel, we hear the Lord speak, but mistake the speaker.

Samuel was lying in the sanctuary of the Lord, where the ark of God was, when the Lord called, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ He answered, ‘Here I am.’ Then he ran to Eli and said, ‘Here I am, since you called me.’ Eli said, ‘I did not call. Go back and lie down.’ So he went and lay down.

Once again the Lord called, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, ‘Here I am, since you called me.’ He replied, ‘I did not call you, my son; go back and lie down.’ Samuel had as yet no knowledge of the Lord and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.

Once again the Lord called, the third time. He got up and went to Eli and said, ‘Here I am, since you called me.’ Eli then understood that it was the Lord who was calling the boy, and he said to Samuel, ‘Go and lie down, and if someone calls say, “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.”’ So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

The Lord then came and stood by, calling as he had done before, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ Samuel answered, ‘Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.’
Samuel grew up and the Lord was with him and let no word of his fall to the ground.

1 Samuel 3:3-10,19

One remarkable feature of the story is that Samuel listens. Another is that he cares that someone is calling. He is ready to serve, ready to respond.

His regular duty is to Eli. But his deeper duty is to the Lord. He serves both faithfully.

  • To whom do you listen?
  • Who are you ready to obey? Who do you wish you were more ready to obey – and what gets in the way of hearing and responding faithfully?

Photograph of Chateau Noir, near to Aix en Provence, and often featured in paintings by Paul Cezanne. (c) 2006, Allen Morris.

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.