Speak Lord: Free us

Tempatations Coleshill 1.jpg

Jesus was led by the Spirit out into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights, after which he was very hungry, and the tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to turn into loaves.’ But he replied, ‘Scripture says: Man does not live on bread alone
but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’

The devil then took him to the holy city and made him stand on the parapet of the Temple. ‘If you are the Son of God’ he said ‘throw yourself down; for scripture says: He will put you in his angels’ charge, and they will support you on their hands
in case you hurt your foot against a stone.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Scripture also says: You must not put the Lord your God to the test.’

Next, taking him to a very high mountain, the devil showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour. ‘I will give you all these’ he said, ‘if you fall at my feet and worship me.’ Then Jesus replied, ‘Be off, Satan! For scripture says: You must worship the Lord your God, and serve him alone.’

Then the devil left him, and angels appeared and looked after him.

Matthew 4:1-11

Lent has begun and we begin to prepare to take our part in next Sunday’s Mass, the Mass of the First Sunday of Lent.

The Gospel is the account of the Temptation of Jesus following his baptism. Each year we hear an account of this episode on this Sunday, the particular account coming from the Gospel of the Year, this year being year A it is from Matthew’s Gospel.

We hear of what the devil thinks might sucesfully ‘spoil’ Jesus, thwarting the love and goodness in him. The devil offers his tempations and even offers scripture as jutification for one of them!

It is helpful for us to see how again and again Jesus shrugs off the tmeptation saying what is important for his life is what he receives from God, not what he demands for himself.

As we take up our Lenten disciplines there is something for us to learn here. Those disciplines aim to free us from a preoccupation with ourselves, our wants and all, and to help us turn more freely to God ready to receive what God offers, and to live more godly lives.

However in the first days of Lent they may even increase our preoccupation with ourselves, our struggle with them even distracting us from God. Well, there is the tempation revealing itself. There is the evidence of how much we need to learn afresh to detach ourselves from this or that, give time to prayer, share care for others. Of course it’s a challenge at first. But if we stick at it, if  we ask God for help, and wait, as patient as we can …. the exercises will get us into better shape and we will live more free and more for and from God.

Detail from window at Sacred Heart and St Teresa, Coleshill. (c) 2016, Allen Morris.

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Speak Lord: Just One

adrians-prayer

The Lord is a judge
who is no respecter of personages.
He shows no respect of personages to the detriment of a poor man,
he listens to the plea of the injured party.
He does not ignore the orphan’s supplication,
nor the widow’s as she pours out her story.
The man who with his whole heart serves God will be accepted,
his petitions will carry to the clouds.
The humble man’s prayer pierces the clouds,
until it arrives he is inconsolable,
And the Lord will not be slow,
nor will he be dilatory on their behalf.

Ecclesiasticus 35:12-14, 16-19

The fairness and justice of God is our hope.

We do not merit this because of our fairness and our justice.

But if we know our need and place this before him, then he will not abandon us.

In quiet prayer, thank God for the love he has for you.

Calix Prayer card – text compiled by Adrian Duggan. Images (c) Allen Morris.
For information about Calix – an association for Catholic alcoholics , click here.

Taste and See: God with us and for us

Crucifix, Lisieux 2

The second reading on Sunday, the hymn from the Letter to the Philippians reminds us of the holiness of the one we have at the centre of our gaze this week: Jesus, fully human, fully divine.

In his humanity achieving all we have not: in his divinity manifesting to us divine love and our ultimate goal.

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 have busy lives and the business will impinge on our keeping of these coming Holy Days unless we are determined to keep it at bay.

What liturgies will you be able to attend in these days? And what time can you keep free and quiet before and after for preparation and reflection.

Good luck! Let’s pray for one another…

Detail of crucifix. Lisieux Cathedral. (c) 2014, Allen Morris

Taste and See: The sound of prayer – a sound in silence?

Mary Maryvale

The First reading at Mass on Sunday, the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, set before us the image of Lady Wisdom, a challenge to the motivation and end of much human endeavour.
In the upturning of values is found the way to godly life.

I prayed, and understanding was given me;
I entreated, and the spirit of Wisdom came to me.
I esteemed her more than sceptres and thrones;
compared with her, I held riches as nothing.
I reckoned no priceless stone to be her peer,
for compared with her, all gold is a pinch of sand,
and beside her silver ranks as mud.
I loved her more than health or beauty,
preferred her to the light,
since her radiance never sleeps.
In her company all good things came to me,
at her hands riches not to be numbered.
Wisdom 7:7-11

The evocation of wisdom is so striking, one might miss that the writer’s encounter with her is both gift of God and fruit of prayer.

In popular discourse prayer is is often about petition and intercession. There are other characteristic activities in prayer – one of which is the practice of stillness out of which – as here – may come meditation, insight and praise.

Stillness and silence are too often absent from contemporary celebrations of Mass. Perhaps this is because of a desire to conclude the celebration within a set period of time, while at the same time (still) wishing to squeeze in hymn singing as well as the singing of the songs of the Ordinary of the Mass (the first priority for singing at Mass.) St Augustine famously said to sing is to pray twice. Hmmm. Sometimes hymn singing is not prayer – not for all the assembly anyway. Regular review of practice at Mass is a responsibility entrusted to liturgical ministers. Ensuring our celebrations are prayerful and (appropriately) meditative (as well as tuneful and sung) is high among the purposes of such review.

  • Pray for those responsible for preparing the liturgy for celebration
  • Pray for those who celebrate it
  • Pray for the leadership of the Spirit of Wisdom in your prayer and your life.

And, if you’ve not done so for a while, why not have a read of Celebrating the Mass or the more technical General Instruction on the Roman Missal, for a reminder of the Church’s expectations of all things regarding the Mass

Photograph of carving of Our Lady, from Maryvale, Old Oscott. (c) 2015, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: Becoming new

Christian, Cairo The Second Reading at Mass yesterday came from the letter of St Paul to the Ephesians.

I want to urge you in the name of the Lord, not to go on living the aimless kind of life that pagans live. Now that is hardly the way you have learnt from Christ, unless you failed to hear him properly when you were taught what the truth is in Jesus.

You must give up your old way of life; you must put aside your old self, which gets corrupted by following illusory desires. Your mind must be renewed by a spiritual revolution so that you can put on the new self that has been created in God’s way, in the goodness and holiness of the truth.

Ephesians 4:17,20-24

Over these coming days many of us will have the privilege of more leisure than usual. It gives an opportunity to rest. It also gives a chance to take stock.

  • How would you describe your ‘old’ life? What are its strengths? What its weaknesses?
  • What about the life that is lived that is closer to God’s ways? What attracts and challenges? How might you be able to grow towards this newness? And what might hold you back?
  • Spend a little longer in prayer, if you can. Considering, and giving thanks.

Image of Christian(s) from the Christian Museum, Cairo. (c) 2004, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Breath calm into our lives.

Wiseman's Bridge

The Psalm for the Liturgy of the Word at Mass on Sunday picks up the watery themes from the reading from Job presented yesterday as it prepares us for listening to the Gospel of the storm and the power of Jesus to quell the storm.

O give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures for ever. or Alleluia!

Some sailed to the sea in ships
to trade on the mighty waters.
These men have seen the Lord’s deeds,
the wonders he does in the deep.

O give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures for ever. or Alleluia!

For he spoke; he summoned the gale,
tossing the waves of the sea
up to heaven and back into the deep;
their souls melted away in their distress.

O give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures for ever. or Alleluia!

Then they cried to the Lord in their need
and he rescued them from their distress.
He stilled the storm to a whisper:
all the waves of the sea were hushed.

O give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures for ever. or Alleluia!!

They rejoiced because of the calm
and he led them to the haven they desired.
Let them thank the Lord for his love,
for the wonders he does for men.

O give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures for ever. or Alleluia!

Psalm 106:23-26,28-32

In the psalm the passage from storm to calm seems an easy one, albeit one that only the Lord can effect for us.

It is not always experienced that way in life.

  • What helps you to sustain hope and trust when the winds blow and the storm rises?
  • What helps or hinders your giving thanks for safe deliverance?

Photograph of beach at Wiseman’s Bridge, Pembrokeshire. (c) 2009, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: And renew the face of the earth… and us!

Orantes and Spirit, Rome 2002

The Responsorial Psalm on Sunday has us sing out for change and renewal.

Most of us, apparently, find, change difficult, except under certain very controlled circumstances. So will we mean what we sing?

Send forth your spirit, O Lord, and renew the face of the earth or Alleluia!

Bless the Lord, my soul!
Lord God, how great you are,
How many are your works, O Lord!
The earth is full of your riches.

Send forth your spirit, O Lord, and renew the face of the earth or Alleluia!

You take back your spirit, they die,
returning to the dust from which they came.
You send forth your spirit, they are created;
and you renew the face of the earth.

Send forth your spirit, O Lord, and renew the face of the earth or Alleluia!

May the glory of the Lord last for ever!
May the Lord rejoice in his works!
May my thoughts be pleasing to him.
I find my joy in the Lord.

Send forth your spirit, O Lord, and renew the face of the earth or Alleluia!

Psalm 103:1,24,29-31,34

If we are up for change is it that ‘they’ might be changed, or ‘me’ or ‘us’.

In a time of reflection,call to mind what you might like to see change in

  • Them
  • You
  • Us

And then spend a little time considering what the Lord might like to see change in

  • Them
  • You
  • Us

Are the lists the same? What might account for any difference? How might you deal with that?