Taste and See: Peace

Peace.jpgI will bless your name for ever, O God my King or Alleluia!

I will give you glory, O God my king,
I will bless your name for ever.
I will bless you day after day
and praise your name for ever.

I will bless your name for ever, O God my King or Alleluia!

The Lord is kind and full of compassion,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
How good is the Lord to all,
compassionate to all his creatures.

I will bless your name for ever, O God my King or Alleluia!

All your creatures shall thank you, O Lord,
and your friends shall repeat their blessing.
They shall speak of the glory of your reign
and declare your might, O God.

I will bless your name for ever, O God my King or Alleluia!

The Lord is faithful in all his words
and loving in all his deeds.
The Lord supports all who fall
and raises all who are bowed down.

I will bless your name for ever, O God my King or Alleluia!

Psalm 144:1-2,8-11,13-14

The psalm sung at Mass yesterday, the 14th Sunday of Ordinary Time, speaks of God’s blessing.

In the tradition God’s blessing does not lie particularly in the gift of this or that thing, but in the everything that comes from God and is God. The shorthand for this ‘all’ can be blessing or peace – the peace that the world cannot give but that in God encompasses and gives purpose and point for everything that is.

  • In what do you see a particular focus of God’s blessing and peace?
  • In what do you feel alienated from God’s blessing and peace?
  • Bring your thoughts and feelings to God in prayer…

Carving, St Werburgh’s church, Chester. (c) 2017, Allen Morris

Taste and See: peace

DSC09828 OLPeace.jpg

Almighty ever-living God,
who govern all things,
both in heaven and on earth,
mercifully hear the pleading of your people
and bestow your peace on our times.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Collect for Second Sunday of Ordinary Time

We live in times of change and turbulence.

The Collect at Mass yesterday had the Church pray for peace, for us and for all.

How do we see that prayer being answered – peace descending like a cloud, infringing our freedom to act, even to act badly and destructively, or peace being something the Lord grants by enabling us to be more free, free to choose peace and work for peace, even sacrificially.

Jesus speaks in John’s Gospel of the peace he offers being peaces such as the world cannot give. What sublime irony though, if Jesus helps draw that peace from the hidden depths of the world, of itself,  cannot find or keep hold of.

Our Lady of Peace. Tewkesbury Abbey. (c) 2016, Allen Morris

Taste and See: War over? Warring over?

end-to-warThe vision of Isaiah son of Amoz, concerning Judah and Jerusalem.

In the days to come
the mountain of the Temple of the Lord
shall tower above the mountains
and be lifted higher than the hills.
All the nations will stream to it,
peoples without number will come to it; and they will say:

‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the Temple of the God of Jacob
that he may teach us his ways
so that we may walk in his paths;
since the Law will go out from Zion,
and the oracle of the Lord from Jerusalem.’

He will wield authority over the nations
and adjudicate between many peoples;
these will hammer their swords into ploughshares,
their spears into sickles.
Nation will not lift sword against nation,
there will be no more training for war.

O House of Jacob, come,
let us walk in the light of the Lord.

Isaiah 2:1-5

The prophesy of Isiaiah invites us to a new way of being, united, with common purpose and leaving behind the passions and fears that lead to war, and that lead to what is – from the Kingdom’s perspective – the obscenity of training for war.

The steps to war and the attitudes that lead to the possibility of war-making start small in the decisions and actions of our daily lives. There builds up a swamp of resentment and anger, frustration and prejudice, ignorance and greed; and from that emerges the beasts of aggression and unreason.

  • How today might you do a little housekeeping on your inner sturm und drang? Making the most of your positive desires for the Kingdom to disarm your more negative feelings
  • Celebrate Advent by opening a door that leads to peace.

Sculpture. Park Arts Muzeon, Moscow. (c) 2015, Allen Morris

Taste and See: Alive

St Francis

In the Gospel reading in Sunday, the 14th in Ordinary Time, Jesus sent the disciples out, en masse, and in pairs, for their first work ‘without’ him. He called them to clear focus and firm discipline.

They learnt to minister from a position of vulnerability, relying on nothing but their confidence in the goodness of God, the closeness of the reign or kingdom of God, and their power to share that goodness with others.

And they succeed spectacularly.

Freed from the compulsions that so often condition our choices to act or not act; freed from self, they themselves do spectacular work.

 

The Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them out ahead of him, in pairs, to all the towns and places he himself was to visit. He said to them, ‘The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest. Start off now, but remember, I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Carry no purse, no haversack, no sandals. Salute no one on the road.

‘Whatever house you go into, let your first words be, “Peace to this house!” And if a man of peace lives there, your peace will go and rest on him; if not, it will come back to you. Stay in the same house, taking what food and drink they have to offer, for the labourer deserves his wages; do not move from house to house.

‘Whenever you go into a town where they make you welcome, eat what is set before you. Cure those in it who are sick, and say, “The kingdom of God is very near to you.” But whenever you enter a town and they do not make you welcome, go out into its streets and say, “We wipe off the very dust of your town that clings to our feet, and leave it with you. Yet be sure of this: the kingdom of God is very near.” I tell you, on that day it will not go as hard with Sodom as with that town.’

The seventy-two came back rejoicing. ‘Lord,’ they said ‘even the devils submit to us when we use your name.’ He said to them, ‘I watched Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Yes, I have given you power to tread underfoot serpents and scorpions and the whole strength of the enemy; nothing shall ever hurt you. Yet do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you; rejoice rather that your names are written in heaven.’

Luke 10:1-12,17-20

At the heart of the passage from the Gospel is the gift of peace – a peace the disciples, for all their poverty, are able to give.

It is a gift that those who receive it already have, at least in some sense. ‘If a man of peace lives there, your peace will go and rest on him…’

The communion in peace establishes or perhaps more accurately recognises the bonds that already unite disciple and those to whom they are sent, demonstrates that indeed the kingdom is very near.

Too often that unity is compromised by suspicion and  labels of ‘otherness’. But resistance is relaxed by the gentle presence of the disciples and the sharing of the foundational teaching of Jesus.

And suddenly the kingdom is somewhat closer, and the family of God somewhat healthier, enlivened and happier! United with each other, and united with God.

St Francis, Assisi. (c) 2015, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: No need for fear…

Olives KazmierzYesterday, the 3rd Sunday of Advent, the Responsorial Psalm was in fact a Canticle, taken from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah.

When we pray with scripture we are invited to enter into the emotional, spiritual depth of the text, the weft and warp of it.

We can say words such as ‘Truly, God is my salvation,/ I trust, I shall not fear.’ and they can mean very little. They mean much more, and the saying of the words contributes to our salvation when we also remember what it means to be lost, to have nothing/no-one in whom to trust, to be adrift in fears.

Take a moment to remember your past fears, or to acknowledge your present fears, before sharing in the Prophet’s witness to how God has empowered him and gifted freedom to him and to his people

Sing and shout for joy for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.

Truly, God is my salvation,
I trust, I shall not fear.
For the Lord is my strength, my song,
he became my saviour.
With joy you will draw water
from the wells of salvation.

Sing and shout for joy for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.

Give thanks to the Lord, give praise to his name!
Make his mighty deeds known to the peoples!
Declare the greatness of his name.

Sing and shout for joy for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.

Sing a psalm to the Lord
for he has done glorious deeds;
make them known to all the earth!
People of Zion, sing and shout for joy,
for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.

Sing and shout for joy for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.

Isaiah 12

 

For Isaiah God is the reason he has no fear, that he trusts, that he is saved. There are many reasons that he could fear, flail and flounder. But from them, the very real and ever-present them, the Lord has saved him.

The Lord is our salvation too, if we will trust and let him free us from fear.

Fear is maybe the greatest. most corrosive spiritual disease. The goodness of God from before all time, through all time and beyond all time is our cure. In his goodness we find mercy.

Kyrie, eleison…  Lord, have mercy.

  • In quiet prayer renew and rehearse your trust, and reasons for trust, in God’s care and protection of you.
  • Pray for someone you know to be afraid: pray for their freedom and healing.

Olive leaves and fruit. From Synagogue, Kazermierz, Cracow . (c) 2013, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Hope for us?

Jerusalem panorama

The first reading at Mass today, the 2nd Sunday of Advent, comes from the prophet Baruch.

The prophet announces a day of liberation for God’s people and a restoration and renewal for Jerusalem. Jerusalem: despoiled by foreign invaders, and its people taken into exile and slavery, is to be restored to glory.

Jerusalem, take off your dress of sorrow and distress,
put on the beauty of the glory of God for ever,
wrap the cloak of the integrity of God around you,
put the diadem of the glory of the Eternal on your head:
since God means to show your splendour to every nation under heaven,
since the name God gives you for ever will be,
‘Peace through integrity, and honour through devotedness.’
Arise, Jerusalem, stand on the heights
and turn your eyes to the east:
see your sons reassembled from west and east
at the command of the Holy One, jubilant that God has remembered them.
Though they left you on foot,
with enemies for an escort,
now God brings them back to you
like royal princes carried back in glory.
For God has decreed the flattening
of each high mountain, of the everlasting hills,
the filling of the valleys to make the ground level
so that Israel can walk in safety under the glory of God.
And the forests and every fragrant tree will provide shade
for Israel at the command of God;
for God will guide Israel in joy by the light of his glory
with his mercy and integrity for escort.

Baruch 5:1-9

In our days we still wait for that restoration of Jerusalem, for the city to be a place of peace and reconciliation where God’s people from east and west may all find a home and safety, where all might know themselves as children of God, brothers and sisters together, Jews, Christians, Muslims, people of all faiths and none.

In our days we still wait…

In Advent we are asked to make our waiting eager for the coming goodness that is work of God but which we need to accept, embrace and share with each other and all.

  • Pray for your family and friends.
  • Pray for Jerusalem

Jerusalem. (c) 2013, Allen Morris.

 

Speak Lord: Of mercy and reconciliation

Isaiah WolverhamptonThe Gospel reading on Sunday, the second Sunday of Advent, speaks of reconciliation and wholeness. It speaks to a people, and to all people,  alienated from God, the land, themselves. It is a Laudato Si’ in miniature. It is a timely reminder of the Year of Mercy, which begins on Tuesday next, 8th December.

In the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar’s reign, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judaea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of the lands of Ituraea and Trachonitis, Lysanias tetrach of Abilene, during the pontificate of Annas and Caiaphas the word of God came to John son of Zechariah, in the wilderness. He went through the whole Jordan district proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the sayings of the prophet Isaiah:

‘A voice cries in the wilderness:
Prepare a way for the Lord,
make his paths straight.
Every valley will be filled in,
every mountain and hill be laid low,
winding ways will be straightened
and rough roads made smooth.
And all mankind shall see the salvation of God.’

Luke 3:1-6

It is tempting to rewrite the opening of that reading  so as to highlight for our age the political and moral turmoil of the space in which God’s Gospel is now to be preached and made incarnate. But maybe that would be to over-localise our contemporary reading of the passage. And for those of us who live in the UK risk suggesting that THE place for the preaching of peace and reconciliation is the Holy Land and the Middle East.

Today, of course, there is challenge for us to know about how empires and regimes impact on the Holy Land and its neighbours: but there is challenge for us also to know how evil and its consorts impact on our own local situation too. And that is work not so easy to do, and it is work for us to do for ourselves.

Where is there alienation now, close to home? In personal and familial and eccelesial relationships, in the structures of society, in the to and fro of politics? How can we represent the Gospel to those situations?

  • Where do I first see need for healing and hope?
  • How might I play my part there?

Isaiah. F.J. Shields. Wolverhampton Art Gallery. (c) 2015, Allen Morris

Taste and See: Peace and wholeness

Eternal Peace IvanovThe Psalm on Sunday last, the First Sunday of Advent, gives expression to the personal relationship between the Lord and psalmist, a relationship that is extended to those who stray, who are humble, who are poor.

To our need the Lord responds. He offers friendship and wholeness, and when we accept these gifts we are at one with him, united in the covenant of love, the family of God.

To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.

Lord, make me know your ways.
Lord, teach me your paths.
Make me walk in your truth, and teach me:
for you are God my saviour.

To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.

The Lord is good and upright.
He shows the path to those who stray,
He guides the humble in the right path,
He teaches his way to the poor.

To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.

His ways are faithfulness and love
for those who keep his covenant and law.
The Lord’s friendship is for those who revere him;
to them he reveals his covenant.

To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.

Psalm 24:4-5,8-9,10,14

In Advent we are called deeper into that relationship. It is not that we start from nowhere, but every new beginning does have us on the brink of what we do not know yet.

In Advent, but also in any time, on any day, and in every situation, we are provided with the opportunity of knowing more of the Lord’s compassion and love, his steadfastness. That which gives life and is love surrounds us is for us. These precious days of Advent give a fresh chance of entering the newness of God.

  • Pray for the journey
  • Pray for peace

 

I.I. Levitan, Eternal Peace. Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow. (c) 2015, Allen Morris.

 

Speak Lord: Help us grow up

Gestapo

The autumn equinox has just passed. We are about as far as we can be, in liturgical time, from Easter.

This Sunday, the 26th In Ordinary Time, we continue our reading of Mark’s Gospel.

The disciples in the Gospel are journeying to Easter but they do not know it, and they seem in no fit state to enter the Mystery of the Lord’s Passion and Resurrection. And no wonder, for Mark says they flee, and in some of the manuscripts of his Gospel we do not get words about their return!

John said to Jesus, ‘Master, we saw a man who is not one of us casting out devils in your name; and because he was not one of us we tried to stop him.’

But Jesus said, ‘You must not stop him: no one who works a miracle in my name is likely to speak evil of me. Anyone who is not against us is for us.

‘If anyone gives you a cup of water to drink just because you belong to Christ, then I tell you solemnly, he will most certainly not lose his reward.

‘But anyone who is an obstacle to bring down one of these little ones who have faith, would be better thrown into the sea with a great millstone round his neck. And if your hand should cause you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter into life crippled, than to have two hands and go to hell, into the fire that cannot be put out. And if your foot should cause you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter into life lame, than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye should cause you to sin, tear it out; it is better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell where their worm does not die nor their fire go out.’

Mark 9:38-43,45,47-48

Here are challenging words from Jesus, but words spoken to unite the disciples with himself. They are powerful words, challenging words to those who know their propensity to sin, and to sin in habitual ways. But if we hear the words and use them to do violence against ourselves, let’s be careful. If our foot causes us to sin are we less likely to sin because we have only one foot. We might hobble to our sin, but hobble we are likely to do! Amputation is not the solution to our problems. But the threat of it might be a wake-up call to the gravity of sin and the need for cure

Jesus calls us to unity and trust. We will sin, sadly, but he is the remedy for sin And in his healing, rather our harming, is our hope for wholeness and holiness.

The disciples squabble with others over who has the power – last week we heard of them squabbling between themselves over which of them had most authority. Jesus calls us to simplicity and service, all of us, always.

  • Who do I find myself in competition with? Is the competition healthy or unhealthy?
  • What work for unity might I do today?

Gestapo 2

Inscription and memorial from Gestapo prison in Cracow, Poland. (c) 2013, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: Peace and harmony

Dove of Peace, St Petersburg

There was a happy arrangement of texts in the Liturgy of the Word on Sunday, the 25th Sunday in Ordinary time.

The Gospel acclamation reminded of the importance of following Jesus, Light of the world, that through him we might have that light. Without faithful following we live in (at least relative) darkness:

Alleluia, alleluia!
I am the light of the world, says the Lord;
anyone who follows me will have the light of life. Alleluia!

Jn 8:12

In latter part of Sunday’s Gospel we heard of those who are following Jesus physically, but who are still preoccupied with worldly, darkening, things.

After leaving the mountain Jesus and his disciples made their way through Galilee; and he did not want anyone to know, because he was instructing his disciples; he was telling them, ‘The Son of Man will be delivered into the hands of men; they will put him to death; and three days after he has been put to death he will rise again.’ But they did not understand what he said and were afraid to ask him.
They came to Capernaum, and when he was in the house he asked them, ‘What were you arguing about on the road?’ They said nothing because they had been arguing which of them was the greatest. So he sat down, called the Twelve to him and said, ‘If anyone wants to be first, he must make himself last of all and servant of all.’ He then took a little child, set him in front of them, put his arms round him, and said to them, ‘Anyone who welcomes one of these little children in my name, welcomes me; and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.’

Mark 9:30-37

And immediately before we have heard from one of those who were self-important, and arguing on the road. And James has made some progress, and he knows the progress has been made by the wisdom that came from heaven. The progress has been made not by him, but by gift, but the progress in James is testimony to the power and efficacy of the gift.

Wherever you find jealousy and ambition, you find disharmony, and wicked things of every kind being done; whereas the wisdom that comes down from above is essentially something pure; it also makes for peace, and is kindly and considerate; it is full of compassion and shows itself by doing good; nor is there any trace of partiality or hypocrisy in it. Peacemakers, when they work for peace, sow the seeds which will bear fruit in holiness.
Where do these wars and battles between yourselves first start? Isn’t it precisely in the desires fighting inside your own selves? You want something and you haven’t got it; so you are prepared to kill. You have an ambition that you cannot satisfy; so you fight to get your way by force. Why you don’t have what you want is because you don’t pray for it; when you do pray and don’t get it, it is because you have not prayed properly, you have prayed for something to indulge your own desires.

James 3:16-4:3

Wisdom, love, growth, peace are not given to us only for ourselves. Hard-won, by God’s grace and our sometimes readiness to recognise and cooperate with that grace, the gift is for sharing.

  • What and where have you to share today?
  • What and why do you also need to receive?

Dove of Peace from the Cathedral of Spilled Blood, St Petersburg. (c) 2015, Allen Morris.