Taste and See: Eternal life

Stephen Cloister Arles 2014

The Responsorial Psalm at Mass sung at Mass on Sunday, the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, celebrates the faithfulness of the Lord. and his protection of his people.

In the wake of the murder of Fr Jacques Hamel, yesterday in St Etienne-du-Rouvray, one may look somewhat askance at the sentiment of the psalm. But if we do it is a reminder of how often we collapse the promises of God into a promise of well-being in this life, here and now – and often regardless of how others fare. The promise of God is for our relationship with him, which sustains us now, but is also about life beyond the here and now.

To that life, and the love that pervades it, we commend Fr Jacques. To the loving God also let us pray for his killers, and for the parish of St Etienne, and the families of the killers and all who are caught up in this evil. For his love is eternal ,and he will not discard the work of is hands.

On the day I called, you answered me, O Lord.

I thank you, Lord, with all my heart:
you have heard the words of my mouth.
In the presence of the angels I will bless you.
I will adore before your holy temple.

On the day I called, you answered me, O Lord.

I thank you for your faithfulness and love,
which excel all we ever knew of you.
On the day I called, you answered;
you increased the strength of my soul.

On the day I called, you answered me, O Lord.

The Lord is high yet he looks on the lowly
and the haughty he knows from afar.
Though I walk in the midst of affliction
you give me life and frustrate my foes.

On the day I called, you answered me, O Lord.

You stretch out your hand and save me,
your hand will do all things for me.
Your love, O Lord, is eternal,
discard not the work of your hands.

On the day I called, you answered me, O Lord.

Psalm 137:1-3,6-8

For Catholics yesterday’s atrocity will have been especially poignant and shocking.

Yet these acts of violence are commonplace in our world. Sometimes only when they touch our religion, our culture, something close to home, do we pause and know more keenly the reality and horror. May this latest tragedy help us to a deeper spiritual communion with those communities of human beings, made in the image and likeness of God, who much more frequently face such violence and distress.

O God, who in your inscrutable providence
will that the Church be united to the sufferings of your Son,
grant, we pray, to your faithful who suffer for your name’s sake
a spirit of patience and charity,
that they may be found true and faithful witnesses
to the promises you have made.

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 Mass for Persecuted Christians.
The Roman Missal.


Martyrdom of St Stephen (St Etienne), Arles. (c) 2014, Allen Morris


Taste and See: Freedom

Liberation of Peter

The first reading at the Mass during the day on Sunday, the feast of Ss Peter and Paul, came from the Acts of the Apostles.

It recounted the story of an early persecution and a miraculous liberation.

King Herod started persecuting certain members of the Church. He beheaded James the brother of John, and when he saw that this pleased the Jews he decided to arrest Peter as well. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread, and he put Peter in prison, assigning four squads of four soldiers each to guard him in turns. Herod meant to try Peter in public after the end of Passover week. All the time Peter was under guard the Church prayed to God for him unremittingly.

On the night before Herod was to try him, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, fastened with double chains, while guards kept watch at the main entrance to the prison. Then suddenly the angel of the Lord stood there, and the cell was filled with light. He tapped Peter on the side and woke him. ‘Get up!’ he said ‘Hurry!’ – and the chains fell from his hands. The angel then said, ‘Put on your belt and sandals.’ After he had done this, the angel next said, ‘Wrap your cloak round you and follow me.’ Peter followed him, but had no idea that what the angel did was all happening in reality; he thought he was seeing a vision. They passed through two guard posts one after the other, and reached the iron gate leading to the city. This opened of its own accord; they went through it and had walked the whole length of one street when suddenly the angel left him.

It was only then that Peter came to himself. ‘Now I know it is all true’ he said. ‘The Lord really did send his angel and has saved me from Herod and from all that the Jewish people were so certain would happen to me.’

Acts 12:1-11

The story has a fresh poignancy as we recognise in the persecution of 2000 years ago, elements of the horrors faced by Christians and others in these days too.

Freedom comes in a variety of forms, but fundamentally it is the ability to be oneself, to fill that space that you are created to fill, however cramped, however cruelly circumscribed.

The challenge to Peter, freed from prison, was could he be free in his liberation from prison to live free from sin, free for Christ.

The same challenge is ours!

Liberation of St Peter. Painting in San Pietro in Vinculo, Rome. (c) 2014, Allen Morris