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!

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Speak Lord: strength beyond our strength…

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In view of the extraordinary nature of these revelations, to stop me from getting too proud I was given a thorn in the flesh, an angel of Satan to beat me and stop me from getting too proud! About this thing, I have pleaded with the Lord three times for it to leave me, but he has said, ‘My grace is enough for you: my power is at its best in weakness.’ So I shall be very happy to make my weaknesses my special boast so that the power of Christ may stay over me, and that is why I am quite content with my weaknesses, and with insults, hardships, persecutions, and the agonies I go through for Christ’s sake. For it is when I am weak that I am strong.

Second reading for the 14th Sunday of Ordinary Time
2 Corinthians 12:7-10

St Paul was no pushover. His exertions for the sake of the Gospel, and for the people for whom the Lord intended the Gospel, were extraodinary. Paul was not beyond listing the more prominent of them either.

And yet he knew that in his acknowledgement of his limitations, of his weakness; in his recognition that here now he had nothing more to give; in owning the truth that, here, now, he could ‘only’ trust in the Lord – in this lay his greatest strength. He could not give enough: but in his making way for the Lord, like John the Baptist before him, he brought the richest testimony to the glory of God and the power of the Gospel.

Wood carving. St Peter and Paul church, Aston. © 2018, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Make us One.

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I appeal to you, brothers, for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, to make up the differences between you, and instead of disagreeing among yourselves, to be united again in your belief and practice. From what Chloe’s people have been telling me, my dear brothers, it is clear that there are serious differences among you. What I mean are all these slogans that you have, like: ‘I am for Paul’, ‘I am for Apollos’, ‘I am for Cephas’, ‘I am for Christ.’ Has Christ been parcelled out? Was it Paul that was crucified for you? Were you baptised in the name of Paul?

For Christ did not send me to baptise, but to preach the Good News, and not to preach that in the terms of philosophy in which the crucifixion of Christ cannot be expressed.

1 Corinthians 1:10-13,17

The Second reading at Mass on Sunday, the 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, continues the Church’s reading of Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians.

And – perhaps with a particular importance appropriately for our own times – Paul speaks of the call to unity and common purpose.

That unity is gifted to us in the Good News, and especially in Christ. And it helps us move beyond our tensions.

The image above expresses the unity of the Church – but the Scriptures bear witness to tensions, even violent tensions between Paul, Peter and Jesus, tensions that by the love of God were overcome and out of which grew great cooperation in working for the upbuilding of the Church and the sharing of the Gospel.

Carving. The Hermitage, St Petersburg. (c) 2015, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Saviour

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God’s grace has been revealed, and it has made salvation possible for the whole human race and taught us that what we have to do is to give up everything that does not lead to God, and all our worldly ambitions; we must be self-restrained and live good and religious lives here in this present world, while we are waiting in hope for the blessing which will come with the Appearing of the glory of our great God and saviour Christ Jesus. He sacrificed himself for us in order to set us free from all wickedness and to purify a people so that it could be his very own and would have no ambition except to do good.

Titus 2:11-14

The Second reading at Mass during the night, tomorrow, announces salvation and calls us to live ‘saved’ lives, even as we await ‘in hope the blessing which will come with the Appearing in glory of our great God and saviour Christ Jesus’ – a phrase which lies behind our Communion rite’s ‘(may) we… be always free from sin and safe from all distress, as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.’

The work is the Lord’s, but we have ours to do, in response to his. – lest all be in vain for us.

Paul’s focus in the Letter is surely on the saving Death of Jesus. But we hear the reading in the context of the saving Birth. Both mysteries are cojoined in the work of Cocteau and Anrep in the French Church in London depicted above.

The whole work of Christ is to love and save us. Let our prayer be that in the whole of our lives we may be more closely untied with him and with each other.

Cocteau Mural of the Crucifixion. Anrep Mosaic of the Nativity. French Church, Leicester Square. (c) 2007, Allen Morris

Taste and See: With Christ, a new beginning

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We give thanks to the Father who has made it possible for you to join the saints and with them to inherit the light.
Because that is what he has done: he has taken us out of the power of darkness and created a place for us in the kingdom of the Son that he loves, and in him, we gain our freedom, the forgiveness of our sins.

He is the image of the unseen God
and the first-born of all creation,
for in him were created
all things in heaven and on earth:
everything visible and everything invisible,
Thrones, Dominations, Sovereignties, Powers –
all things were created through him and for him.
Before anything was created, he existed,
and he holds all things in unity.
Now the Church is his body,
he is its head.

As he is the Beginning,
he was first to be born from the dead,
so that he should be first in every way;
because God wanted all perfection
to be found in him
and all things to be reconciled through him and for him,
everything in heaven and everything on earth,
when he made peace
by his death on the cross.

Colossians 1:12-20

Sunday was the feast of Christ the King. It was the last day of the Jubilee Year of Mercy. It was also the beginning of the last week of the Church’s year.

A last day that was  a day of new beginnings. Pope Francis has urged the Church now to be still more confident in her proclamation of mercy, day by day, and in her extending the mercy of God, from which we have already benefited, to others who may not, or dare to know, know the good news.

The reading above helps us to that confidence and to a ministry of mercy. It helps us see our lives in the broader context of God’s work of Creation and Redemption.

Our own of work of witness may require a certain courage on our part, but we are not alone in our attempting of it. God is with us, and before us preparing the way, and following after us – and not only if things go wrong.

We are a team, together. Or as Colossians puts it, in good Pauline fashion: we are of one body with Christ as our head. And all will be well.

  • Give thanks

Stained Glass. Lichfield Cathedral (c) 2016, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: That we might choose the good..

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We pray continually that our God will make you worthy of his call, and by his power fulfil all your desires for goodness and complete all that you have been doing through faith; because in this way the name of our Lord Jesus Christ will be glorified in you and you in him, by the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

To turn now, brothers, to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and how we shall all be gathered round him: please do not get excited too soon or alarmed by any prediction or rumour or any letter claiming to come from us, implying that the Day of the Lord has already arrived.

2 Thessalonians 1:11-2:2

The choice to respond to God’s call often is experienced  as both a choice to turn to God, but also to let go of or turn from something else.

Paul says that answering the call is to choose to do good, indeed to the fulfilment of all the desires of the heart to do good.

In this is the fulfilment of ourselves, and of God’s desire for us.

The Arch of Galerius. Early 4th-century monument Thessaloniki, Greece. (c) 2006, Allen Morris

Taste and See: the indigestible?

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My life is already being poured away as a libation, and the time has come for me to be gone. I have fought the good fight to the end; I have run the race to the finish; I have kept the faith; all there is to come now is the crown of righteousness reserved for me, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give to me on that Day; and not only to me but to all those who have longed for his Appearing.

The first time I had to present my defence, there was not a single witness to support me. Every one of them deserted me – may they not be held accountable for it. But the Lord stood by me and gave me power, so that through me the whole message might be proclaimed for all the pagans to hear; and so I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from all evil attempts on me, and bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

2 Timothy 4:6-8,16-18

The Second reading at Mass on Sunday, the 30th of Ordinary Time, exposes Paul’s sadness at the lack of support he had received from his fellows at time of trial, and his recognition that his survival in this world and for the next has been the result of the Lord’s faithfulness and steadfastness.

Paul himself has been resolute and determined: stubborn and obstinate, some might say! And yet he is also judged right  and his example treasured in the Church’s Tradition.

It is surely foolish to consider that faithful witness to the Gospel will be universally palatable. There are many reasons that people did not find Paul to their taste.

 

And that is as it is. The sadness though is if, turning from Paul, they also turned from the fullness of the Gospel. We are called to have eyes to see and ears to hear that which is beyond what we find immediately palatable.

Trusting to ‘our’ taste alone, looking for that self-satisfaction only, may leave us far from where God would have us be.

Altar detail. Alescamps, Arles. (c) 2013, Allen Morris