Speak Lord: help me hear…

Picasso, reclining nude, Paris 2004

Sunday’s Psalm urges us to attend to the voice of God, speaking to us in our world.

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

So…

  • What do you hear God say today?
  • How will you respond?

Take time to consider, and bring your thoughts (and feelings) to God in prayer…

Image: reclining nude by Picasso (Picasso Museum, Paris. Photograph, Allen Morris (c) 2004)

Taste and See: They bowed down before him…

Exposition, Cracow, Poland

Again, we return to Sunday’s Gospel.

Both liturgical prayer and private prayer are strengthened by repetition.

Repetition helps us to relax into a meditative and reflective state, still aware of the general flow, but freed now to be attentive to particular detail and to bring our response to that to God in a more focused time of prayer and dialogue.

Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side while he would send the crowds away. After sending the crowds away he went up into the hills by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, while the boat, by now far out on the lake, was battling with a heavy sea, for there was a head-wind. In the fourth watch of the night he went towards them, walking on the lake, and when the disciples saw him walking on the lake they were terrified. ‘It is a ghost’ they said, and cried out in fear. But at once Jesus called out to them, saying, ‘Courage! It is I! Do not be afraid.’ It was Peter who answered. ‘Lord,’ he said ‘if it is you, tell me to come to you across the water.’ ‘Come’ said Jesus. Then Peter got out of the boat and started walking towards Jesus across the water, but as soon as he felt the force of the wind, he took fright and began to sink. ‘Lord! Save me!’ he cried. Jesus put out his hand at once and held him. ‘Man of little faith,’ he said ‘why did you doubt?’ And as they got into the boat the wind dropped. The men in the boat bowed down before him and said, ‘Truly, you are the Son of God.’

Matthew 14:22-33

This episode ends with the disciples’ worship and adoration of Jesus as the Son of God.

Their experience and their reflection on that experience has brought them to need to give him worship.

Sometimes our worship is prompted by habit – the established rhythm of the week giving us the Day of the Lord, and of the year, giving us the seasons and feasts; the established rhythm of our own private pattern of prayer – half an hour in the morning, or fifteen minutes last thing at night, for example.

Building into that rhythm and habit a time of conscious and deliberate reflection on the detail of our daily lives is also a good thing, and often will prove to be occasion for an engaging and urgent prompt to prayer of petition and contrition, and adoration of the living God

Photograph: worship of the Eucharist outside of Mass, the Dominican Church, Krakow, Poland. (c) Allen Morris, 2013.

Speak Lord: We hear him in loud silence

 

Enjoy-the-silence

The first reading at Mass this coming Sunday, the 19th Sunday of Ordinary time, describes a process of deepening encounter with the living God.

When Elijah reached Horeb, the mountain of the Lord, he went into the cave and spent the night in it. Then he was told, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord.’ Then the Lord himself went by. There came a mighty wind, so strong it tore the mountains and shattered the rocks before the Lord. But the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind came an earthquake. But the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire. But the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there came the sound of a gentle breeze. And when Elijah heard this, he covered his face with his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.

1 Kings 19:9,11-13

One of the most successful spiritual books of recent decades has been The God of Surprises by Gerry Hughes SJ.

Much of the book, unsurprisingly given its title, is given over to exploring how God, the real and living God is beyond the images we have of him. Time and time again our preconceptions are challenged by surprising encounter with the living God who longs to reveal more of his truth and beauty and power and mercy to us.

There is surely something of that taking place in this episode on Mount Horeb.

Elijah is used to the Lord’s manifestation of himself in power and strife, but here he finds him only in the sound of a gentle breeze.

  •  Where/ how has God surprised you recently?
  • what change has that brought about in your live? How have you responded to him?

Image from here.

Taste and See: Peter and Paul for today

Image

Pope Francis is clearly the successor of St Peter, being the 266th Bishop of Rome.

He is also arguably, as a pre-eminent witness to the Gospel, successor to St Paul, apostle to the Gentiles.

One of Pope Francis’ earliest requests was that the Church should pray for him, even as he prays for the Church.

Those minded to pray for the Pope might like to use this prayer.

Lord,
source of eternal life and truth,
give to Your shepherd, Pope Francis,
a spirit of courage and right judgement,
a spirit of knowledge and love.

By his dedication and service of those entrusted to his care
may he, as successor to the apostle Peter and vicar of Christ,
build Your church into a sacrament of unity, love, and peace for all the world.

We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever. Amen.

Those minded to pray with the Pope might like to know that his particular prayer intentions for July include the following:

  • His universal intention focuses on sports: and is that sports may always be occasions of human fraternity and growth.
  • His intention in the area of Evangelisation, focuses on lay missionaries That the Holy Spirit may support the work of the laity who proclaim the Gospel in the poorest countries.

You can find more information about the Pope’s published monthly intentions here.

Photo montage (c) Allen Morris, 2014

Speak Lord: running the race

Runners

In the second reading for the Mass of the Day, this coming Sunday, the feast of Sts Peter and Paul, Paul uses the image of the race and a runner.

What strikes you as you read the reading?
What stirs your emotions – either by way of encouragement or seeming discouragement?
Bring your feelings to God in prayer, making your response to God’s living word, continuing the dialogue to which God invites you.

My life is already being poured away as a libation, and the time has come for me to be gone. I have fought the good fight to the end; I have run the race to the finish; I have kept the faith; all there is to come now is the crown of righteousness reserved for me, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give to me on that Day; and not only to me but to all those who have longed for his Appearing.

The Lord stood by me and gave me power, so that through me the whole message might be proclaimed for all the pagans to hear; and so I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from all evil attempts on me, and bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

2 Timothy 4:6-8,17-18

  • How does the passage speak to your life, now, today?

A common spiritual exercise to help deepen desire to grow in the spiritual virtues is to contemplate one’s own death – and to imagine the obituary that might be printed, or the words that might be said in a eulogy. What might we want to be said? And what would be said, if people were being honest? And how do we feel about that?

Olympic Stadium

In today’s reading we have St Paul’s summing up of his own life. He speaks of his striving, and of the Lord’s saving him. Both features seem to be given equal weight, and Paul gives thanks.

  • What can you say of how you live?
  • What can you say of the Lord’s saving love for you?

Photographs from London’s Olympic Stadium, during the 2012 Paralympic Games. (c) Allen Morris

Speak Lord: The who and how of God and us

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The first reading at Mass, this coming Trinity Sunday, has Moses honouring God and interceding for his people.

With the two tablets of stone in his hands, Moses went up the mountain of Sinai in the early morning as the Lord had commanded him. And the Lord descended in the form of a cloud, and Moses stood with him there.

He called on the name of the Lord. The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, a God of tenderness and compassion, slow to anger rich in kindness and faithfulness.’ And Moses bowed down to the ground at once and worshipped. ‘If I have indeed won your favour, Lord,’ he said ‘let my Lord come with us, I beg. True, they are a headstrong people, but forgive us our faults and our sins, and adopt us as your heritage.’

Exodus 34:4-6,8-9

  • How would you describe God?
  • How would you describe us?
  • Why would God wish to have us as ‘his heritage’?

The image comes from here.

Taste and See: Help us to pray, help us to live

Image

Notice the meaning (or at least some of the meanings) present in the Collect prayer from yesterday’s Mass.

Grant, almighty God,

We come before God needful…

that we may celebrate with heartfelt devotion these days of joy,

…even our (own) prayer is in some sense the work of God in us. The Catholic instinct, of course, is that we pray the Liturgy by joining with Christ and the Church in heaven, as well as here on earth and our own particular gathering

which we keep in honour of the risen Lord,

We are still in Easter, and the wonder of the Resurrection our inspiration…

and that what we relive in remembrance

Jesus asked us to ‘do this in memory of me’, so we specifically remember the gift of Eucharist, but all we do in the Mass is about remembering the saving love, and the saving actions, of God. But our remembering is not just a mental activity – we re-live in our remembering…

we may always hold to in what we do.

…so that through the sacred remembering, enabled by God, we may learn to live.

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.

Our Christian prayer is offered in and through Christ, to the Father, with (in) the Holy Spirit. Our present prayer somehow anticipates our hoped-for and sometimes longed-for final sharing in the life of God, the Three-in-One.

So much in one short prayer. Often on a Sunday there is little opportunity to give full attention to the Collect. Returning to the Sunday Collect in our private daily prayer can be a fruitful spiritual practice.

Image: restored fresco showing a Christian at prayer from early Christian Chapel in Lullingstone Villa, Kent. Fresco in British Museum. Photograph (c) Allen Morris