Speak Lord: speak mercy and hope…

Stained Glass, Corbusier, Marseille

The second reading at Mass on Sunday, the 22nd of Ordinary time, invites imperfect us to keep on striving for perfection. Oh, by the way, Paul is, of course, speaking to his sisters and not only to his brothers!

Think of God’s mercy, my brothers, and worship him, I beg you, in a way that is worthy of thinking beings, by offering your living bodies as a holy sacrifice, truly pleasing to God. Do not model yourselves on the behaviour of the world around you, but let your behaviour change, modelled by your new mind. This is the only way to discover the will of God and know what is good, what it is that God wants, what is the perfect thing to do.

Romans 12:1-2

So often we don’t think. So often we simply go with the flow. Or is it just me?

St Paul names what is supposedly one of our distinguishing features as human beings – that we are thinking creatures; that we can consider alternatives and, presumably, try to go for the better ones. But often we don’t – or, again is it just me?

When we don’t the failure is ours. There may be, and usually are all sorts of contributing factors. But to a greater or lesser extent the responsibility for failure lies with us. Acknowledging that, openly, can be a great relief. Especially when we experience the love and mercy of God there for us in response, because we need it and God loves us.

  • In what have you failed this week?
  • Have you found a way of admitting your failure? To yourself? To others? To God?
  • What encouragement has come your way this week?
  • And for what at Mass tomorrow, do you want to give God thanks for?

The photograph is of a glass window by Le Corbusier in the Cité radieuse de Marseille. The design uses the Modulor system which provides ‘a harmonic measure to the human scale, universally applicable to architecture and mechanics.’ Related to the Golden Ratio, the system seeks to discover a proportion system equivalent to that of natural creation, and in this case based on human proportions. The window gestures towards the system!

Photograph (c) Allen Morris, 2014.

Speak Lord: Help us know our needs…

Detail of vestment, musee de Notre Dame de la Garde, Marseille

The responsorial psalm at Mass on Sunday puts a song of yearning on our lips

For you my soul is thirsting, O Lord my God.
O God, you are my God, for you I long;
for you my soul is thirsting.
My body pines for you
like a dry, weary land without water.
For you my soul is thirsting, O Lord my God.
So I gaze on you in the sanctuary
to see your strength and your glory.
For your love is better than life,
my lips will speak your praise.
For you my soul is thirsting, O Lord my God.
So I will bless you all my life,
in your name I will lift up my hands.
My soul shall be filled as with a banquet,
my mouth shall praise you with joy.
For you my soul is thirsting, O Lord my God.
For you have been my help;
in the shadow of your wings I rejoice.
My soul clings to you;
your right hand holds me fast.
For you my soul is thirsting, O Lord my God.

Psalm 62:2-6,8-9

On the whole we tend to think of thirst as an undesirable thing, something to be dealt with as quickly as possible. To be thirsty is to lack something.

However, for the psalmist, the fact of his thirst for God is something that he wishes to bless God for. The inability of his thirst to be quenched elsewhere, keeps him attentive to God, and is a source of blessing.

  • What lack do you find to be a grace in your life?
  • What need helps to keep you faithful?

Photograph is of detail of chasuble in the Musée of Notre-Dame de Garde, Marseille.
Photograph (c) Allen Morris, 2014

Speak Lord: and help us understand!

Joseph

The Second Reading at tomorrow’s Mass, the Mass of the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time, challenges us about what we ‘know’ of God, and invites us to a certain humility, and to awe, respect and praise.

How rich are the depths of God – how deep his wisdom and knowledge – and how impossible to penetrate his motives or understand his methods! Who could ever know the mind of the Lord? Who could ever be his counsellor? Who could ever give him anything or lend him anything? All that exists comes from him; all is by him and for him. To him be glory for ever! Amen.

Romans 11:33-36

  • What do you know of God?
  • What evades your knowledge?
  • What of yourself are willing to acknowledge before the Lord?
  • What do you (to no avail) try to ‘hide’ from him?

Bring your answers to God in prayer…

Emily Dickinson, a great American poet, wrote:

Tell all the Truth but tell it slant—
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth’s superb surprise
As Lightening to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind—

The image above, of St Joseph, after the first appearance of the angel announcing the Incarnation, does not do justice to his fuller eventual service of the Church, and of Jesus and Mary. However the sculptor does seem to have captured something of his bewilderment and being overwhelmed by the astonishing, seemingly incomprehensible things asked by God. Something we can probably all empathise with.

Image of carving in the cloister of St Trophime, Arles. Photograph (c) Allen Morris, 2014

Speak Lord: our help and our hope…

By Louis Botinelly Cathédrale Sainte-Marie-Majeure de Marseille

The responsorial psalm on Sunday may seem a strange mix of thanksgiving and a stretching out for hope beyond hope.

Well, welcome to what is life for many of us!

Your love, O Lord, is eternal: discard not the work of your hands.

 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.

Your love, O Lord, is eternal: discard not the work of your hands.

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.

Your love, O Lord, is eternal: discard not the work of your hands.

The Lord is high yet he looks on the lowly
   and the haughty he knows from afar.
Your love, O Lord, is eternal,
   discard not the work of your hands.

Your love, O Lord, is eternal: discard not the work of your hands.

Psalm 137:1-3,6,8

In these present days when loss and the horror of human cruelty are daily before us, there is good reason to lament and to need to renew our trust.

  • Where does the work of the Lord’s hands seem in jeopardy?
  • What is permanent in our world? How do we know?
  • When did you last give thanks to God? Why?

Image of the Pieta is of carving by Louis Botinelly in the Cathédrale Sainte-Marie-Majeure de Marseille. Photograph (c) Allen Morris, 2014.

Speak Lord: Woman, you have great faith…

canaanite-woman

In today’s Gospel, Jesus seems unexpectedly brusque.

The disciples however seem rather typically self-serving!

Jesus left Gennesaret and withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. Then out came a Canaanite woman from that district and started shouting, ‘Sir, Son of David, take pity on me. My daughter is tormented by a devil.’ But he answered her not a word. And his disciples went and pleaded with him. ‘Give her what she wants,’ they said ‘because she is shouting after us.’

He said in reply, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.’ But the woman had come up and was kneeling at his feet. ‘Lord,’ she said ‘help me.’ He replied, ‘It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the house-dogs.’ She retorted, ‘Ah yes, sir; but even house-dogs can eat the scraps that fall from their master’s table.’ Then Jesus answered her, ‘Woman, you have great faith. Let your wish be granted.’ And from that moment her daughter was well again.

Matthew 15:21-28

Born in Bethlehem he may have been, but here Jesus speaks with the bluntness of a Yorkshireman!

Scholars and others argue, about whether Jesus speak the way he did to check the woman, and put her in her place? Or to provoke her to the display of great faith that he always intended to praise? Who knows?

Either way, she rode the punches and serves us as an example of faith beyond what is common.

  • Where has a tough challenge served you well?

Image is of a Rembrandt ink drawing of Jesus and the Canaanite woman.

Speak Lord: Christ is for everyone, the meaning of everything.

20101221-religion

In the second reading at Mass on Sunday St Paul speaks of the reconciliation of the world, and all its peoples, by Christ.

Let me tell you pagans this: I have been sent to the pagans as their apostle, and I am proud of being sent, but the purpose of it is to make my own people envious of you, and in this way save some of them. Since their rejection meant the reconciliation of the world, do you know what their admission will mean? Nothing less than a resurrection from the dead! God never takes back his gifts or revokes his choice.

Just as you changed from being disobedient to God, and now enjoy mercy because of their disobedience, so those who are disobedient now – and only because of the mercy shown to you – will also enjoy mercy eventually. God has imprisoned all men in their own disobedience only to show mercy to all mankind.

Romans 11:13-15,29-32

  •  What might Christians have that non-Christians might be envious of?
  • What has led you from disobedience to obedience? Or at least to obedience? Or at least to trying to be obedient, or…?
  • What work of reconciliation can you advance today?

Image found here.

Speak Lord: Walking on water

Christ, walking on water

Today’s Gospel defies belief, but also calls us to faith.

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

The bravado of Peter means we have a fine and popular story to tell, highlighting Jesus’ power over creation and human frailty.

That’s something to be pleased with, I guess.

But how much time and energy, how many setbacks are endured because of human pride and over-reaching. How hard can it be for humankind  to learn the lesson?

  • Why does Peter ask Jesus to call him across the water?
  • What causes you to ‘show off’?
  • What causes you to doubt? And how do you respond to that doubt?

Image found here.

Speak Lord: a broken family

Auschwitz

The second reading at Mass this coming Sunday is a cry from the heart of St Paul, distressed at the separation between him and his people, because they would not accept Jesus as the Christ, Lord, the Son of God.

What I want to say now is no pretence; I say it in union with Christ – it is the truth – my conscience in union with the Holy Spirit assures me of it too. What I want to say is this: my sorrow is so great, my mental anguish so endless, I would willingly be condemned and be cut off from Christ if it could help my brothers of Israel, my own flesh and blood. They were adopted as sons, they were given the glory and the covenants; the Law and the ritual were drawn up for them, and the promises were made to them. They are descended from the patriarchs and from their flesh and blood came Christ who is above all, God for ever blessed! Amen.

Romans 9:1-5

Antisemitism is one of the principal blights that has afflicted the Church, and been a curse for the Jews, for two millennia.

Its most horrifying manifestation was the Shoah – the degradation and slaughter of 6 million Jews by the Nazi state. Although the abomination of terror and death was turned on many others too, including Russians and Poles, Gypsies, homosexuals, socialists, the physically and mentally ‘handicapped’ and Christians. the evil waged against the Jews stands out.

And the Nazi persecution owed at least some of its purchase over Party minds and the German nation, because prejudice and discrimination against Jews had long been at least semi-respectable in society, because it was tolerated, and sometimes actively promoted in the Church, East and West, Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant.

St Paul’s lament reminds not only of his blood relationship to fellow Jews, but of each Christian’s relationship with Judaism and therefore ‘the Jews’ through the waters of baptism. And if baptism is to mean anything surely its water has to be ‘thicker’ than blood.

  • What prejudices do you see in yourself?
  • What prejudice do you see in others?

Pope John Paul in the year 2000 , in Rome at a service of Repentance, prayed for forgiveness for Christians’ sins against the people of Israel.

Let us pray that, in recalling the sufferings endured by the people of Israel throughout history, Christians will acknowledge the sins committed by not a few of their number against the people of the Covenant and the blessings, and in this way will purify their hearts.

[Silent prayer.]

God of our fathers, you chose Abraham and his descendants to bring your Name to the Nations: we are deeply saddened by the behaviour of those who in the course of history have caused these children of yours to suffer, and asking your forgiveness we wish to commit ourselves to genuine brotherhood with the people of the Covenant. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Kyrie, eleison; Kyrie, eleison; Kyrie eleison.

He placed the prayer at the Western Wall of the former Temple in Jerusalem, during his pilgrimage to the Holy Land, later that year.

Wojtyla 1 (1)

Speak Lord: working for the harvest

goodness-is-stronger-than-evil

Sunday’s psalm yearns for a new experience of life in this troubled and troubling world.

Let us see, O Lord, your mercy, and give us your saving help.

I will hear what the Lord God has to say,
a voice that speaks of peace.
His help is near for those who fear him
and his glory will dwell in our land.

Let us see, O Lord, your mercy, and give us your saving help.

Mercy and faithfulness have met;
justice and peace have embraced.
Faithfulness shall spring from the earth
and justice look down from heaven.

Let us see, O Lord, your mercy, and give us your saving help.

The Lord will make us prosper
and our earth shall yield its fruit.
Justice shall march before him
and peace shall follow his steps.

Let us see, O Lord, your mercy, and give us your saving help.

Psalm 84:9-14

  • Where do you lack peace?
  • Where does your neighbour?
  • How do you work to help our earth (to) yield its God-intended fruit?

Image was found here.

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.