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.

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?

Speak Lord: Come to our aid

Musée de l'Arles antique Orantes

The responsorial psalm for the Mass of the 27th Sunday of Ordinary Time echoes the theme of the first reading – yes, the Lord’s vineyard.

The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel.

You brought a vine out of Egypt;
to plant it you drove out the nations.
It stretched out its branches to the sea,
to the Great River it stretched out its shoots.

The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel.

Then why have you broken down its walls?
It is plucked by all who pass by.
It is ravaged by the boar of the forest,
devoured by the beasts of the field.

The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel.

God of hosts, turn again, we implore,
look down from heaven and see.
Visit this vine and protect it,
the vine your right hand has planted.

The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel.

And we shall never forsake you again;
give us life that we may call upon your name.
God of hosts, bring us back;
let your face shine on us and we shall be saved.

The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel.

Psalm 79:9,12-16,19-20

What is different to other recent times that the vineyard has been presented in the Liturgy of the Word is that this time it is we – admittedly in the words of sacred Scripture – who lament the state of the vineyard, and implore The Lord to help us.

  • What are the things in our world that cause you to lament?
  • How can you be part of the Church’s witness of Good News in face of such sorrow?

Today, Friday 3rd October, is CAFOD Harvest Fast Day.

A day when we fast in solidarity with those who daily go without. A day when we think how to share what we have – often more than enough – with those who have less than is needed to survive.

You might like to find time to pray the following prayer:

2014b

Donations to the work of CAFOD can be made here.

Image of the Orantes figure, the Church at Prayer is from the Museum of Antiquities, Arles. Photograph (c) 2014, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: The Lord is good and source of all goodness.

Aix 2006

The Collect of Sunday’s Mass repays a second hearing.

God of might, giver of every good gift,
put into our hearts the love of your name,
so that, by deepening our sense of reverence,
you may nurture in us what is good
and, by your watchful care,
keep safe what you have nurtured.
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.

Most of us probably feel we have to work quite hard for what we have. And yet the prayer puts on the lips of the Church a prayer that says: It all comes from God, the giver of every good gift.

This could just be words we say: a display of liturgical, ecclesial, etiquette.

But in our prayer we surely wish to speak true.

So, how true is it for you? How does God give each good gift? Have you, in truth, given thanks for his gifts?

In the quiet of prayer speak to the Lord and ask for his love and care, to bring you ever closer to him, to sustain you in what is true, and deepen your sense of gratitude and love.

Photograph is of east window of church of Saint-Jean-de-Malte, Aix en Provence.
(c) Allen Morris, 2006

Taste and See: Quieten my mind so I may hear

 

Risen Lord, Cookham parish church

The responsorial psalm sung at yesterday’s Mass  asked us to listen to God. And did so with some urgency, and rather with the presumption that yesterday, (and maybe on many yesterdays) we had not been listening! Imagine!!

O that today you would listen to his voice! ‘Harden not your hearts.’

Come, ring out our joy to the Lord;
hail the rock who saves us.
Let us come before him, giving thanks,
with songs let us hail the Lord.

O that today you would listen to his voice! ‘Harden not your hearts.’

Come in; let us bow and bend low;
let us kneel before the God who made us:
for he is our God and we
the people who belong to his pasture,
the flock that is led by his hand.

O that today you would listen to his voice! ‘Harden not your hearts.’

O that today you would listen to his voice!
‘Harden not your hearts as at Meribah,
as on that day at Massah in the desert
when your fathers put me to the test;
when they tried me, though they saw my work.’

O that today you would listen to his voice! ‘Harden not your hearts.’

Psalm 94:1-2,6-9

How insistent and how debilitating can be the inner voices we hear. Those conversations we have with ourselves – what we would say, what we should have said…

The psalmist calls us to a certain stillness that we might listen to the Lord. And listening, be ready to speak to him.

A common way of preparing ourselves for a time of prayer – and a fine way of stilling those inner, maddening, conversations with ourselves – is a simple stillness exercise.

Sitting upright, and quietly focussing on our breathing in, our breathing out. Noticing it, feeling it, hearing it, but not deepening it, just letting the rhythm draw us to a quiet place. If other words or thoughts come just breathe them away, or still them by breathing in and out the holy name of Jesus. Quietly, centring yourself, being centred by your breath, drawn into a place from where you can more easily speak with the Lord.

Listen for his voice. Harden not your heart.

Image: Risen Christ – the living Word of God. Cookham parish church.
Photograph, Allen Morris (c) 2004)