Speak Lord: Take pity on us.

Loaves and fishes

Today’s Gospel speaks of God’s desire to respond to our needs…

When Jesus received the news of John the Baptist’s death he withdrew by boat to a lonely place where they could be by themselves. But the people heard of this and, leaving the towns, went after him on foot. So as he stepped ashore he saw a large crowd; and he took pity on them and healed their sick.

When evening came, the disciples went to him and said, ‘This is a lonely place, and the time has slipped by; so send the people away, and they can go to the villages to buy themselves some food.’ Jesus replied, ‘There is no need for them to go: give them something to eat yourselves.’ But they answered ‘All we have with us is five loaves and two fish.’ ‘Bring them here to me’ he said. He gave orders that the people were to sit down on the grass; then he took the five loaves and the two fish, raised his eyes to heaven and said the blessing. And breaking the loaves handed them to his disciples who gave them to the crowds. They all ate as much as they wanted, and they collected the scraps remaining; twelve baskets full. Those who ate numbered about five thousand men, to say nothing of women and children.

Matthew 14:13-21

So often people’s demands of us seem to come at just the wrong time for us to be able to deal with them.

Here Jesus wants/needs space for himself and the disciples to come to terms with the killing of John the Baptism. But at the sight of the crowd he sees their need too, and makes himself available to respond to it.

In our poverty we often are so constrained by knowledge of what we lack that we do not see the potential in even the little we have or uthe little we are.

Jesus does not have that problem, but clearly his disciples do!

  • When did you last go through the ‘pain barrier’ for love of others?
  • When did others last do the same for you?

Image is of carving on altar at Our Lady’s, St John’s Wood. Carved by Michael Clarke. Photograph (c) Allen Morris, 2007

Speak Lord: Waiting for the harvest

parable-wheat-tares

The farming metaphors which began with last week’s parable of the sower continue in the gospel of this Sunday, the 16th in the year

 Jesus put another parable before the crowds, ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. While everybody was asleep his enemy came, sowed darnel all among the wheat, and made off. When the new wheat sprouted and ripened, the darnel appeared as well. The owner’s servants went to him and said, “Sir, was it not good seed that you sowed in your field? If so, where does the darnel come from?” “Some enemy has done this” he answered. And the servants said, “Do you want us to go and weed it out?” But he said, “No, because when you weed out the darnel you might pull up the wheat with it. Let them both grow till the harvest; and at harvest time I shall say to the reapers: First collect the darnel and tie it in bundles to be burnt, then gather the wheat into my barn.”’

He put another parable before them, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the biggest shrub of all and becomes a tree so that the birds of the air come and shelter in its branches.’

He told them another parable, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like the yeast a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour till it was leavened all through.’

In all this Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables; indeed, he would never speak to them except in parables. This was to fulfil the prophecy:

I will speak to you in parables
and expound things hidden since the foundation of the world.

Then, leaving the crowds, he went to the house; and his disciples came to him and said, ‘Explain the parable about the darnel in the field to us.’ He said in reply, ‘The sower of the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world; the good seed is the subjects of the kingdom; the darnel, the subjects of the evil one; the enemy who sowed them, the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; the reapers are the angels. Well then, just as the darnel is gathered up and burnt in the fire, so it will be at the end of time. The Son of Man will send his angels and they will gather out of his kingdom all things that provoke offences and all who do evil, and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth. Then the virtuous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Listen, anyone who has ears!’

Matthew 13:24-43

  •  What values and virtues do you find in these parables and the other teaching from Jesus that follows?
  • What are their opposites?
  • Which feature most in your life? How can you encourage the best and avoid the worst?

 

Speak Lord: else we are silent

Courbet - The Wave

The second reading at Sunday’s Mass, the Mass of the 16th Sunday of Ordinary Time, acknowledges our limitations, our weakness, and how God responds to that.

The Spirit comes to help us in our weakness. For when we cannot choose words in order to pray properly, the Spirit himself expresses our plea in a way that could never be put into words, and God who knows everything in our hearts knows perfectly well what he means, and that the pleas of the saints expressed by the Spirit are according to the mind of God.

Romans 8:26-27

How remarkable that what God does is create communion between us and him, even in our faltering to find the words. The love that is the Spirit is like a wave that lifts us up and carries us towards God the Father.

Courbet the Wave - detail

Image: The Wave, Gustav Courbet

Speak Lord: Praise the good God

Mary

The psalm at Sunday’s Mass has the congregation echo in song (ideally) the praise of God’s goodness and care which was the subject of the first reading

 O Lord, you are good and forgiving.

O Lord, you are good and forgiving,
full of love to all who call.
Give heed, O Lord, to my prayer
and attend to the sound of my voice.

O Lord, you are good and forgiving.

All the nations shall come to adore you
and glorify your name, O Lord:
for you are great and do marvellous deeds,
you who alone are God.

O Lord, you are good and forgiving.

But you, God of mercy and compassion,
slow to anger, O Lord,
abounding in love and truth,
turn and take pity on me.

O Lord, you are good and forgiving.

Psalm 85:5-6,9-10,15-16

The psalmist moves from expressions of praise and gratitude for God’s goodness to others, to a request that this goodness should be shown also to him.

How often is it easier to trust that God is good to others, but hesitate before entrusting ourselves and our weaknesses to him

  • What do you hide from the Lord?
  • Why?
  • Why will he be merciful to you?

 In praying with the psalms, it is often helpful to use play to bring us to prayer.

One, sometimes provocative, way of doing this is to change the pronouns of the text

As in the following

O Lord, you are good and forgiving,
full of love to all who me when I call.
You give heed, O Lord, to my prayer
and attend to the sound of my voice.

But when do I call and for what?

All the nations  I shall come to adore you
and glorify your name, O Lord:
for you are great and do marvellous deeds,
you who alone are God.

What holds me back from the fullness of adoration of the Lord?

But you, God of mercy and compassion,
slow to anger, O Lord,
abounding in love and truth,
turn and take pity on me.

That last verse was not changed, but how true would this reworked version of it be?

Like my God, I am merciful and compassionate
slow to anger,
abounding in love and truth,
my brothers and sisters can turn to me, sure to find pity and help.

What could make it true?

Image of Mary and Jesus from Church of the Visitation, Ein Kerem, in the Holy Land. Photograph (c) Allen Morris, 2014.

Speak Lord: lenient, mild in judgement

Mother Teresa

The first reading at Mass on Sunday, the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time, speaks of a gentleness in the God who cares for everything, every one.

There is no god, other than you, who cares for every thing,
to whom you might have to prove that you never judged unjustly;
Your justice has its source in strength,
your sovereignty over all makes you lenient to all.
You show your strength when your sovereign power is questioned
and you expose the insolence of those who know it;
but, disposing of such strength, you are mild in judgement,
you govern us with great lenience,
for you have only to will, and your power is there.

By acting thus you have taught a lesson to your people
how the virtuous man must be kindly to his fellow men,
and you have given your sons the good hope
that after sin you will grant repentance.
Wisdom 12:13,16-19

  •  Why is God lenient and mild in judgement?
  • What can you take from that as a guide for your own life?

A powerful story is told of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, Mother Teresa:

One day Mother Teresa went to a local bakery to ask for bread for the starving children in the orphanage. The baker, outraged at people begging for bread from him, spat in her face and refused. Mother Teresa calmly took out her handkerchief, wiped the spit from her face and said to the baker, “Okay, that was for me. Now what about the bread for the orphans?”
The baker, shamed by her response, gave her the bread she wanted.

  •  What helped her to behave in such a moderate way?
  • What can you take from that as a guide for your own life?

Speak Lord: acts of love leading to a harvest of life

the-sower-sower-with-setting-sun-1888 van gogh

There is a longer and shorter form of the Gospel passage in the Lectionary today. The longer one features here.You may have heard the shorter one, which comprises only of the parable and its introductory paragraph.

Jesus left the house and sat by the lakeside, but such large crowds gathered round him that he got into a boat and sat there. The people all stood on the beach, and he told them many things in parables.

He said, ‘Imagine a sower going out to sow. As he sowed, some seeds fell on the edge of the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Others fell on patches of rock where they found little soil and sprang up straight away, because there was no depth of earth; but as soon as the sun came up they were scorched and, not having any roots, they withered away. Others fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Others fell on rich soil and produced their crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Listen, anyone who has ears!’

Then the disciples went up to him and asked, ‘Why do you talk to them in parables?’ ‘Because’ he replied, ‘the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven are revealed to you, but they are not revealed to them. For anyone who has will be given more, and he will have more than enough; but from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away. The reason I talk to them in parables is that they look without seeing and listen without hearing or understanding. So in their case this prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled:

You will listen and listen again, but not understand,
see and see again, but not perceive.
For the heart of this nation has grown coarse,
their ears are dull of hearing, and they have shut their eyes,
for fear they should see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their heart,
and be converted
and be healed by me.

‘But happy are your eyes because they see, your ears because they hear! I tell you solemnly, many prophets and holy men longed to see what you see, and never saw it; to hear what you hear, and never heard it.

‘You, therefore, are to hear the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom without understanding, the evil one comes and carries off what was sown in his heart: this is the man who received the seed on the edge of the path. The one who received it on patches of rock is the man who hears the word and welcomes it at once with joy. But he has no root in him, he does not last; let some trial come, or some persecution on account of the word, and he falls away at once. The one who received the seed in thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this world and the lure of riches choke the word and so he produces nothing. And the one who received the seed in rich soil is the man who hears the word and understands it; he is the one who yields a harvest and produces now a hundredfold, now sixty, now thirty.’

Matthew 13:1-23

The withering of new shoots of hope is common.

Jesus speaks to the ‘people about such withering, and his parable offers a cautionary tale to us.

BUt to his disciples he says ‘Happy are your eyes because they see, your ears because they hear! I tell you solemnly, many prophets and holy men longed to see what you see, and never saw it; to hear what you hear, and never heard it.’

  • What have you see and heard that is blessing for you?
  • How has it been blessing for you? How does it hold at bay that withering of the new shoots of hope and love?

The painting by Vincent Van Gogh, dates from 1888, was painted in Arles, and presently resides in the Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller, Otterlo, Netherlands

Speak Lord: First Birth or Rebirth

resurrection1

The second reading at tomorrow’s Mass speaks of the renewal or completion of Creation.

I think that what we suffer in this life can never be compared to the glory, as yet unrevealed, which is waiting for us. The whole creation is eagerly waiting for God to reveal his sons. It was not for any fault on the part of creation that it was made unable to attain its purpose, it was made so by God; but creation still retains the hope of being freed, like us, from its slavery to decadence, to enjoy the same freedom and glory as the children of God. From the beginning till now the entire creation, as we know, has been groaning in one great act of giving birth; and not only creation, but all of us who possess the first-fruits of the Spirit, we too groan inwardly as we wait for our bodies to be set free.
Romans 8:18-23

  • What does Paul mean by ‘slavery to decadence’?
  • Where might that slavery feature in your life?
  • How might you find freedom from it so as ‘to enjoy the same freedom and glory as the children of God’?
  • For whose being brought to birth, being brought to the fullness of life, do you presently commit yourself to, and work?

Painting: The Resurrection, Cookham by Sir Stanley Spencer (1891-1959).
A more detailed, and copyrighted, version of the painting can be seen here.

For an introduction to this great painting, click here.

Speak Lord: The Lord’s most treasured harvest is us…

Harvest

The psalm for Sunday’s Mass speaks of the Lord’s care -bringing fruitfulness to the earth. The anthropomorphising of Creation offers a lively metaphor, and a challenge – the Lord cares for us, and brings us to fruitfulness, if we let him. Does his work bear fruit in us, and how do we respond if it does?

Some seed fell into rich soil and produced its crop.

You care for the earth, give it water,
you fill it with riches.
Your river in heaven brims over
to provide its grain.

And thus you provide for the earth;
you drench its furrows;
you level it, soften it with showers;
you bless its growth.

You crown the year with your goodness.
Abundance flows in your steps,
in the pastures of the wilderness it flows.

The hills are girded with joy,
the meadows covered with flocks,
the valleys are decked with wheat.
They shout for joy, yes, they sing.

Psalm 64:10-14

  •  What makes you sing for joy? Why?
  • How do you/How have you provided for others? Why?

Bring your responses to these questions to God in prayer.

Photograph (c) Allen Morris, 2014

Speak Lord: Learn from me…

 

Therese 5

The words of Jesus that we hear in the Gospel today are spoken after the death of John the Baptist, after the rejection of the gospel in Chorazin, in Bethsaida, and even his ‘own town’ of Capernaum. These reject but others, perhaps surprising others, accept the Gospel. And for this Jesus blesses his Father.

As you read the passage, what word, phrase, or sentence stands out for you?

You might hold on to that word, phrase, or sentence, and let it remain present to you over the coming hours, pondering it in your heart. Then bring the fruits of your pondering to God in prayer.

Jesus exclaimed, ‘I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children. Yes, Father, for that is what it pleased you to do. Everything has been entrusted to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, just as no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

‘Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.’

Matthew 11:25-30

This gospel passage is so often heard at Funerals, offering comfort and hope to those who mourn, and who have often enough seem family of friends struggle for months or years under the burden of chronic sickness or terminal illness.

It is a passage, of course, originally spoken to those in the prime of life.

It challenges we who struggle on, trying to save the world by our own efforts, to wise-up, and learn other ways.

It invites us to learn the ways of faith, and by them to come close to Christ who helps shoulder our load and shares with us his burden of love and service – a burden borne in his ministry of gentleness and respect.

Image of St Therese of Lisieux taken from https://www.facebook.com/SaintThereseofLisieux/photos_stream

Speak Lord: becoming spiritual

wormy apple

The second reading for Sunday’s Mass, the 14th Sunday of the Year, comes from the letter of St Paul to the Romans.

In the letter Paul offers support and encouragement to the Christian community in Rome, a community he had yet to visit. That same support and encouragement is now extended to us through the living word of God that is this letter.

As you read the passage, notice how your spirit responds, and bring that response to God in prayer.

Your interests are not in the unspiritual, but in the spiritual, since the Spirit of God has made his home in you. In fact, unless you possessed the Spirit of Christ you would not belong to him, and if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, then he who raised Jesus from the dead will give life to your own mortal bodies through his Spirit living in you.

So then, my brothers, there is no necessity for us to obey our unspiritual selves or to live unspiritual lives. If you do live in that way, you are doomed to die; but if by the Spirit you put an end to the misdeeds of the body you will live.

Romans 8:9,11-13

“Sorry, St Paul. My interests are all too often in the unspiritual! The time I waste, the distractions that come, the things that draw me from what is good and best.”

“Maybe you misunderstand me,” answers Paul. “You may indeed be pre-occupied by so many things, and your time be so given over to your unspiritual self and unspiritual life. But, I repeat, your interests, your best interests, lie in the spiritual. Neglect them and you go into decline.

But attend to what is Christ, especially try to do what is of Christ, and that decline will be reversed – or at least held in check! Do this even at some seeming personal cost, perhaps especially if it seems to be at your personal cost – and see how you learn to live not just ‘doing better things’, but living more fully. See how life will flourish in you and you flourish in your life.

And this because he who raised Jesus from the dead, even he, will give life to you through his Spirit living in you.”

  • What draw you to life?
  • What drains true life from you?

Image found at http://blog.timesunion.com/opinion/files/2010/10/1021_WVschools.jpg