Speak Lord: Faithful One.

Mary and Jesus, WolverhamptonThe second reading on Sunday, the second Sunday of Advent, is a rejoicing in the faithfulness of the Church and her members.

The Church and her members are tarnished by sin, and sometimes we members fail, and yet the Good News continues to spread and we play our part. The Good News spreads down the generations and among the nations, and this is something to give thanks for, even as we find we ourselves need more encouragement to be more faithful and to better serve our neighbours by the witness we give.

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.

Philippians 1:4-6,8-11

Where are you most aware of the lack of the Good News in situations around you?

In what way, even what very small way, can you introduce the the Good News there?

The lyrics of Stephen Sondheim’s song Everyone Says Don’t puts it this way.

Make just a ripple, come on be brave.
This time a ripple, next time a wave.
Sometimes you have to start small…

Speak Lord: Of the sharing of good news and grace

Detail font, French Church

The Liturgy of the Word in Ordinary Time is constructed around the Gospel reading. That establishes the themes explored and commented on in the first reading and psalm. The second reading stands rather apart, being chosen as the next significant passage in a semi-continuous reading of one of the New Testament letters.

At present, our Sunday second readings lead us through the letter of Paul to the Ephesians. And what a notable passage we hear this coming Sunday.

Blessed be God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all the spiritual blessings of heaven in Christ.

Before the world was made, he chose us, chose us in Christ, to be holy and spotless, and to live through love in his presence, determining that we should become his adopted sons, through Jesus Christ for his own kind purposes,
to make us praise the glory of his grace, his free gift to us in the Beloved, in whom, through his blood, we gain our freedom, the forgiveness of our sins.

Such is the richness of the grace which he has showered on us in all wisdom and insight.

He has let us know the mystery of his purpose, the hidden plan he so kindly made in Christ from the beginning to act upon when the times had run their course to the end: that he would bring everything together under Christ, as head, everything in the heavens and everything on earth.

And it is in him that we were claimed as God’s own, chosen from the beginning, under the predetermined plan of the one who guides all things as he decides by his own will; chosen to be, for his greater glory, the people who would put their hopes in Christ before he came.

Now you too, in him, have heard the message of the truth and the good news of your salvation, and have believed it; and you too have been stamped with the seal of the Holy Spirit of the Promise, the pledge of our inheritance which brings freedom for those whom God has taken for his own, to make his glory praised.

Ephesians 1:3-14

There are some long sentences there – challenging for those who will proclaim the word at Mass on Sunday. Challenging too for those who have to listen and heard and take to heart. But what wonderful truths are expressed in those sentences. Well worth the effort of still more careful proclaiming and still more careful listening.

The passage is a beautiful expression of God’s purpose in creation and salvation. It may at first sight seem only to consider as recipients of God’s grace, and not also co-workers, cooperating with God’s grace for the benefit of our brothers and sisters. But even that as Paul knows very well and St Augustine would later underline, can happen only because we are, first and most fundamentally, recipients of grace. Our goodness and love – such as it is – has its ultimate origin in the goodness and love, and truth, of God.

There is so much of beauty in the passage we will hear on Sunday.

  • Perhaps for prayer you could choose just one phrase that particularly speaks to you, and let it accompany you throughout this day, not only in any particular time of prayer, but as mood music for the day, there in your mind any time you can can pause and raise your mind and heart to God, returning to the phrase and its significance to you.
  • Give thanks: for God is good, and he longs for you to be the same.

Images are of the font at the French Church, Leicester Square, London. (c) 2007, Allen Morris.Font, French Church

Taste and See: The Lord we adore…

Altar St Trophime, Arles 2014The second reading at Sunday’s Mass  was taken from St Paul’s letter to the Philippians.

His state was divine,
yet Christ Jesus did not cling
to his equality with God
but emptied himself
to assume the condition of a slave
and became as men are;
and being as all men are,
he was humbler yet,
even to accepting death,
death on a cross.
But God raised him high
and gave him the name
which is above all other names
so that all beings
in the heavens, on earth and in the underworld,
should bend the knee at the name of Jesus
and that every tongue should acclaim
Jesus Christ as Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:6-11

We spend much time in the company of Jesus over this Holy Week

We experience his love and power in the sacraments, in the readings from scripture and in private prayer and reflection.

How do you best know Jesus?

  • In his frailty as a human being?
  • In the glory of the resurrection?
  • Alone?
  • Or together with his disciples, and those others who come to him to find themselves?
  • What images of Jesus most appeal to you?
    And which are the more challenging or ‘alien’?
  • What might you learn from how you know him?

Bring what you have learnt to God in prayer?

Altar in the church of St Trophime, Arles. (c) 2014, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Draw us close…

Resurrection LerinsThe second reading at Sunday’s Mass  Comes from St Paul’s letter to the Philippians. This particular passage is believed to be Paul quoting the text of an early Christian hymn.

His state was divine,
yet Christ Jesus did not cling
to his equality with God
but emptied himself
to assume the condition of a slave
and became as men are;
and being as all men are,
he was humbler yet,
even to accepting death,
death on a cross.
But God raised him high
and gave him the name
which is above all other names
so that all beings
in the heavens, on earth and in the underworld,
should bend the knee at the name of Jesus
and that every tongue should acclaim
Jesus Christ as Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:6-11

The readings of his Sunday anticipate the celebration of the Paschal Mystery which finds its richest expression in the liturgy of the Triduum.

However we hear these readings and celebrate the Paschal Mystery knowing what Jesus’ first companions had still to learn – what rising from the dead means.

This hymn from the Letter to the Philippians presents us with a fine summary of it all. It preserves the narrative of the incarnation of the Son of God, the Passion, and the Resurrection, but in a spam brief enough that to read of one is to anticipate or still recall the other ‘moments’ or ‘dimensions’ of God with us in Jesus.

And it calls us to praise and thanksgiving. As is often said the liturgy even of Good Friday is not a funeral service. The Church in the West may not sing alleluia, and the Church East and West may not celebrate Mass, but we remember the Passion knowing he is risen, and that he is Lord and in him we are safe and secure. We sing praise Palm Sunday and Good Friday albeit in somewhat quieter tones, sorrowing at the pain endured by the Son of God for us. A pain imposed, we know, by the likes of us.

Image of the resurrected Christ, Abbey of Lerins, France. (c) 2005, Allen Morris.