Speak Lord: Gracious one…

DSC08517 Have mercy on us.jpg

Our eyes are on the Lord till he shows us his mercy.

To you have I lifted up my eyes,
you who dwell in the heavens;
my eyes, like the eyes of slaves
on the hand of their lords.

Like the eyes of a servant
on the hand of her mistress,
so our eyes are on the Lord our God
till he show us his mercy.

Have mercy on us, Lord, have mercy.
We are filled with contempt.
Indeed all too full is our soul
with the scorn of the rich,
with the proud man’s disdain.

Psalm for the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Psalm 122(123)

The great and the lowly, all of us, rely on the mercy of God. Each one of us has reason to repent and regret aspects of how we have lived and relate to others. We rely on the graciousness of God to make good our lack, and to offer healing and hope.

Saviour of the world, have mercy on us… Stained glass, St Peter and Paul, Aston. © 2018, Allen Morris

Taste and See: Gathered and missioned

Peter Capernaum

The Gospel for the third Sunday of Easter engages us in a story of reconciliation and healing, drawn from Jesus and shared with Peter, and through Peter shared with the Church.

Jesus showed himself again to the disciples. It was by the Sea of Tiberias, and it happened like this: Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee and two more of his disciples were together. Simon Peter said, ‘I’m going fishing.’ They replied, ‘We’ll come with you.’ They went out and got into the boat but caught nothing that night.

It was light by now and there stood Jesus on the shore, though the disciples did not realise that it was Jesus. Jesus called out, ‘Have you caught anything, friends?’ And when they answered, ‘No’, he said, ‘Throw the net out to starboard and you’ll find something.’ So they dropped the net, and there were so many fish that they could not haul it in. The disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord.’ At these words ‘It is the Lord’, Simon Peter, who had practically nothing on, wrapped his cloak round him and jumped into the water. The other disciples came on in the boat, towing the net and the fish; they were only about a hundred yards from land.

As soon as they came ashore they saw that there was some bread there, and a charcoal fire with fish cooking on it. Jesus said, ‘Bring some of the fish you have just caught.’ Simon Peter went aboard and dragged the net to the shore, full of big fish, one hundred and fifty-three of them; and in spite of there being so many the net was not broken. Jesus said to them, ‘Come and have breakfast.’ None of the disciples was bold enough to ask, ‘Who are you?’; they knew quite well it was the Lord. Jesus then stepped forward, took the bread and gave it to them, and the same with the fish. This was the third time that Jesus showed himself to the disciples after rising from the dead.

After the meal Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these others do?’ He answered, ‘Yes Lord, you know I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ A second time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ He replied, ‘Yes, Lord, you know I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Look after my sheep.’ Then he said to him a third time, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter was upset that he asked him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ and said, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep.

‘I tell you most solemnly,
when you were young
you put on your own belt
and walked where you liked;
but when you grow old
you will stretch out your hands,
and somebody else will put a belt round you
and take you where you would rather not go.’

In these words he indicated the kind of death by which Peter would give glory to God. After this he said, ‘Follow me.’

John 21:1-19

 

  • What do you receive from Peter? From the Church?
  • What of God’s gifts and his grace do you share with the world?

Image derived from carving in the Church of Peter’s Primacy, Capernaum, Israel. (c) 2013

 

Speak Lord: Our Faith

Sacred Heart, ColombiersThe second reading at Mass on Sunday, the first Sunday of Lent, speaks of the word, the living word, that is living faith.

Scripture says: The word (that is the faith we proclaim) is very near to you, it is on your lips and in your heart.

If your lips confess that Jesus is Lord and if you believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, then you will be saved.

By believing from the heart you are made righteous; by confessing with your lips you are saved.

When scripture says: those who believe in him will have no cause for shame, it makes no distinction between Jew and Greek: all belong to the same Lord who is rich enough, however many ask his help, for everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
Romans 10:8-13

To hear the word, to receive it, is to receive life.

To hear and receive the word is to have life for oneself and life to share with others.

To hear the word this way  is to be restored to the world made whole, reconciled with the living Lord of All.

The scripture of Sunday reminds that our faith is not restricted to the detail of this or that act – sinful or gracious; or an individual life, or community or culture. It is cosmic in its scope, about the healing of all creation.

  • How do you understand your place in the bigger picture?

Sacred Heart, parish church of Colombiers, France. (c) 2015, Allen Morris.

 

Speak Lord: That we may be at peace…

Galilee Polenov

The Gospel reading for the 5th Sunday of the Year, and this year, the last Sunday before Lent begins, takes us from Nazareth and Jesus’ troubles, to Galilee and the disciples and their troubles there…

Jesus was standing one day by the Lake of Gennesaret, with the crowd pressing round him listening to the word of God, when he caught sight of two boats close to the bank. The fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats – it was Simon’s – and asked him to put out a little from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat.

When he had finished speaking he said to Simon, ‘Put out into deep water and pay out your nets for a catch.’ ‘Master,’ Simon replied, ‘we worked hard all night long and caught nothing, but if you say so, I will pay out the nets.’ And when they had done this they netted such a huge number of fish that their nets began to tear, so they signalled to their companions in the other boat to come and help them; when these came, they filled the two boats to sinking point.

When Simon Peter saw this he fell at the knees of Jesus saying, ‘Leave me, Lord; I am a sinful man.’ For he and all his companions were completely overcome by the catch they had made; so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were Simon’s partners. But Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid; from now on it is men you will catch.’ Then, bringing their boats back to land, they left everything and followed him.

Luke 5:1-11

Jesus, Light of the World, has helped Peter to see his own fallibility and weakness. Peter declares himself a sinful man. But then Peter is rather prone to excitement and perhaps to exaggeration. Maybe he is a sinful man, even more sinful than others; and maybe not. What is clear is that Jesus has presented a challenge and brought a different clarity to Peter, revealed a different horizon for his life than he has known heretofore.

Peter is overwhelmed by the newness, the goodness, the beauty and the truth. And collapses before it all.

Jesus reaches out to him – certainly in his words, but surely in gesture too, raising Peter to his feet: ‘Do not be afraid…’

  • What afears you?What makes you daunted?
  • Spend time with the Lord in quiet prayer asking for the confidence you need to find all things new…

Painting ‘On the Sea of Tiberias’ by Polenov. Tretvakov State Gallery, Moscow. (c) 2015, Allen Morris.

Tretyakov State Gallery

Taste and See: Promised newness.

The Wall

The first reading on Sunday, the 4th Sunday of Advent, spoke of Bethlehem as source for the leadership that would reunite the children of God. Micah speaks of Israel re-united, Isaiah of the human family.

In our days for all that we are preparing to celebrate the birth of that leader some 2000 years ago, the human family is proving might resistant to being reunited, re-formed, reconciled. Again and again its various members show themselves to be at odds with each other, and traduce the better values of revealed religion (and philosophical/cultural humanism at its best).

We need to grow and change. The prophesy still stands: God waits for our response.

The Lord says this:

But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
the least of the clans of Judah,
out of you will be born for me
the one who is to rule over Israel;
his origin goes back to the distant past,
to the days of old.
The Lord is therefore going to abandon them
till the time when she who is to give birth gives birth.
Then the remnant of his brothers will come back
to the sons of Israel.
He will stand and feed his flock
with the power of the Lord,
with the majesty of the name of his God.
They will live secure, for from then on he will extend his power
to the ends of the land.
He himself will be peace.

Micah 5:1-4

  • What reconciliation is needed in your self and your family and friends? How might you work for it, as a Christmas gift to your circle?
  • What reconciliation is needed in your broader community? How might you work for it, as a Christmas gift to society?
  • What reconciliation is needed in the Church? How might you play your part in order that all might better respond to Jesus’ call that we might be one?

The Wall. Israel. (c) 2007, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Bring us home…

Prodigal

The responsorial psalm for Mass tomorrow, the 4th Sunday of Advent, echoes themes of the Year of Mercy.

Lord of hosts, bring us back; let your face shine on us and we shall be saved.

O shepherd of Israel, hear us,
shine forth from your cherubim throne.
O Lord, rouse up your might,
O Lord, come to our help.

Lord of hosts, bring us back; let your face shine on us and we shall be saved.

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.

Lord of hosts, bring us back; let your face shine on us and we shall be saved.

May your hand be on the man you have chosen,
the man you have given your strength.
And we shall never forsake you again;
give us life that we may call upon your name.

Lord of hosts, bring us back; let your face shine on us and we shall be saved.

Psalm 79:2-3,15-16,18-19

Often we think of Christmas as a time when God comes to join us. However another way of us thinking about Incarnation and Salvation is about humanity returning to God: turning again and finding home with him, rather than seeking our lives for ourselves and by ourselves.

Israel is clearer about this that Christians, much of the time. Christians, especially now and in the West, often reduce the life of faith as to what God does for us, God as servant, God’s gift. All these are part of the truth, but of themselves inadequate. Of themselves they can leave us in the driving seat, and reduce God, salvation to commodities, even optional extras (though attractive and desirable ones.)

Christian faith is about our being, and our purpose, our ontology and teleology. We were made in the image and likeness of God, to live in a certain intimacy with him. These realities have been put in jeopardy by our sin and the sin of the world: some Christians even say they have been lost to us through sin. Catholic doctrine does not go that far, but our tradition does know the disfiguring and life-threatening nature of sin and warns us to consider it with full seriousness.

Yet we are called back, helped up and helped back…

We give thanks, and seek to accept the help, and seek to find benefit in it.

 

The return of the Prodigal. Rembrandt. Hermitage, St Petersburg. (c) 2015, Allen Morris.

 

 

Taste and See: And be other Christs

 

Sutton Christmas

The Gospel Acclamation on the 3rd Sunday of Advent, this week’s Sunday, put it very clearly:

Alleluia, alleluia!
The spirit of the Lord has been given to me.
He has sent me to bring the good news to the poor.
Alleluia!

Is61:1(Lk4:18)

The Lord speaks through the prophet Isaiah. And the Lord speaks through (as) Jesus of Nazareth. And the Lord speaks to (and hopes to speak through) the Church. And the message is the same: there is good news for the poor.

This is not the good news that is peddled by the stores and on-line outlets –  bargains, best ‘this’, most neat ‘that’.

It is not the romanticism that is ladled at civic (and some other!) Christmas Carol Services.

It is truth about real lives being refashioned and healed. It is good news for the blind, the lame, the morally corrupt and others, who receive the opportunity to begin a new style of life. Knowing themselves as in some sense excluded and marginalised, they hear the welcome home and are offered the embrace that is theirs as children of the Father. They are given, again, the opportunity of living as such.

‘We’ are given again… For there is none of us who see as clearly as we might; who make our way through life with purpose and direction as we might; none of us whose actions and decisions and thoughts and feelings aren’t messed up by pride or greed or fear, by a self-ism that puts us and ours first and discriminates against ‘them’.

Some sin more gravely than others, but God’s family as a whole is mighty dysfunctional!

And God’s family is loved with a mighty love. There is good news for even the rich…

  • How, today, will you share the good news shared with you?

Logo for Holy Year of Mercy 

Many parishes will be having services of reconciliation at this time. They give opportunity to receive the personal ministry of the Church through word, prayer, song and Sacrament, and to confess our sins and failings.

Why not make a special effort in this year of Mercy to seek one out and to take part.

 

Photograph of Sutton Coldfield shopping centre. (c) 2015, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: we are set free

Winter Fruits in Market, Kazemierz, CracowThe first reading at Mass today, the 3rd Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday, comes from the prophet Zephaniah.

Shout for joy, daughter of Zion,
Israel, shout aloud!
Rejoice, exult with all your heart,
daughter of Jerusalem!
The Lord has repealed your sentence;
he has driven your enemies away.
The Lord, the king of Israel, is in your midst;
you have no more evil to fear.

When that day comes, word will come to Jerusalem:
Zion, have no fear,
do not let your hands fall limp.
The Lord your God is in your midst,
a victorious warrior.
He will exult with joy over you,
he will renew you by his love;
he will dance with shouts of joy for you
as on a day of festival.

Zephaniah 3:14-18

Much of the Book of Zephaniah is taken up with telling of Israel’s sins and failings and calling Jerusalem to repentance. The reading gives a section of the last chapter of the Book which speaks of God’s promises, of God’s mercy and reconciliation of his people, despite their sins and failings.

The chapter as a whole speaks of restoration, but not a restoration of all. God is merciful. He will restore his people from their exile but not all of them. Proud boasters are to be taken from the people, and left is to be a humble and lowly people. These too may have sinned but they will know healing. The certain conditionality of redemption is not present in today’s extract from the prophet.

Maybe the editors of the Lectionary missed an opportunity here as many prepare for their Advent Confession or Advent reconciliation service.

There is never doubt of God’s mercy, but often there is uncertainty about our readiness to receive and respond to the loveliness of God. He will exult with joy, will renew with his love, dance with joy for us, but will we respond?

  • What draws you closer to God?
  • What would have you hold back?
  • Pray for the grace of repentance and renewal

Winter Fruits in Market, Kazemierz, Cracow, Poland. (c) 2013, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Hope for us?

Jerusalem panorama

The first reading at Mass today, the 2nd Sunday of Advent, comes from the prophet Baruch.

The prophet announces a day of liberation for God’s people and a restoration and renewal for Jerusalem. Jerusalem: despoiled by foreign invaders, and its people taken into exile and slavery, is to be restored to glory.

Jerusalem, take off your dress of sorrow and distress,
put on the beauty of the glory of God for ever,
wrap the cloak of the integrity of God around you,
put the diadem of the glory of the Eternal on your head:
since God means to show your splendour to every nation under heaven,
since the name God gives you for ever will be,
‘Peace through integrity, and honour through devotedness.’
Arise, Jerusalem, stand on the heights
and turn your eyes to the east:
see your sons reassembled from west and east
at the command of the Holy One, jubilant that God has remembered them.
Though they left you on foot,
with enemies for an escort,
now God brings them back to you
like royal princes carried back in glory.
For God has decreed the flattening
of each high mountain, of the everlasting hills,
the filling of the valleys to make the ground level
so that Israel can walk in safety under the glory of God.
And the forests and every fragrant tree will provide shade
for Israel at the command of God;
for God will guide Israel in joy by the light of his glory
with his mercy and integrity for escort.

Baruch 5:1-9

In our days we still wait for that restoration of Jerusalem, for the city to be a place of peace and reconciliation where God’s people from east and west may all find a home and safety, where all might know themselves as children of God, brothers and sisters together, Jews, Christians, Muslims, people of all faiths and none.

In our days we still wait…

In Advent we are asked to make our waiting eager for the coming goodness that is work of God but which we need to accept, embrace and share with each other and all.

  • Pray for your family and friends.
  • Pray for Jerusalem

Jerusalem. (c) 2013, Allen Morris.

 

Speak Lord: Of mercy and reconciliation

Isaiah WolverhamptonThe Gospel reading on Sunday, the second Sunday of Advent, speaks of reconciliation and wholeness. It speaks to a people, and to all people,  alienated from God, the land, themselves. It is a Laudato Si’ in miniature. It is a timely reminder of the Year of Mercy, which begins on Tuesday next, 8th December.

In the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar’s reign, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judaea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of the lands of Ituraea and Trachonitis, Lysanias tetrach of Abilene, during the pontificate of Annas and Caiaphas the word of God came to John son of Zechariah, in the wilderness. He went through the whole Jordan district proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the sayings of the prophet Isaiah:

‘A voice cries in the wilderness:
Prepare a way for the Lord,
make his paths straight.
Every valley will be filled in,
every mountain and hill be laid low,
winding ways will be straightened
and rough roads made smooth.
And all mankind shall see the salvation of God.’

Luke 3:1-6

It is tempting to rewrite the opening of that reading  so as to highlight for our age the political and moral turmoil of the space in which God’s Gospel is now to be preached and made incarnate. But maybe that would be to over-localise our contemporary reading of the passage. And for those of us who live in the UK risk suggesting that THE place for the preaching of peace and reconciliation is the Holy Land and the Middle East.

Today, of course, there is challenge for us to know about how empires and regimes impact on the Holy Land and its neighbours: but there is challenge for us also to know how evil and its consorts impact on our own local situation too. And that is work not so easy to do, and it is work for us to do for ourselves.

Where is there alienation now, close to home? In personal and familial and eccelesial relationships, in the structures of society, in the to and fro of politics? How can we represent the Gospel to those situations?

  • Where do I first see need for healing and hope?
  • How might I play my part there?

Isaiah. F.J. Shields. Wolverhampton Art Gallery. (c) 2015, Allen Morris