Praying the Year of Mercy

Jubilee Year of Mercy- Final CoverA number of resources have been prepared for the Year of Mercy.

I’m sort of pleased to say that one of them remains somewhat distinctive.

It offers an oversight of the principal features of the year as can be seen from the contents page below. It will therefore serve as a useful companion to the Year, reminding of its key elements.

Contents

Most importantly though, the book especially focuses on the opportunity the Year offers for leading people into prayerful reflection on the Lord’s active and merciful presence in Scripture and in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

The Year of Mercy  is an invitation for the Church and the world to know afresh the mercy of God. Prayer – especially in response to the word of God, and in the celebration of the Sacraments – leads us into a deeper knowledge of the God of Mercy and Truth. They also help us to a more faithful and fruitful living, strong in love for God, strong in love for neighbour.

‘A Prayer Book’ seeks to sustain and encourage that process of renewal.

The book comes with a Foreword from Archbishop Bernard Longley, the Archbishop of Birmingham

The Jubilee Year of Mercy is rich with promise for the Church and for the world.

Pope Francis has reminded the Church that ‘We need constantly to contemplate the mystery of mercy. It is a wellspring of joy, serenity, and peace. Our salvation depends on it.’

This mercy, made known in Jesus Christ, is the source of our Christian identity. It is also the gift we are asked to share with the whole world. Pope Francis urges us to this also, to be effective signs of the Father’s action in our lives, living witnesses to others of the love God has for everyone.

This booklet helps us make the most of the Jubilee Year. It provides food for our private prayer, and support for times when we come together to pray with others. Used well, it will deepen our experience of God’s mercy, so that the Lord can make us more fit for mission, and strengthen our desire to share the good news of the mercy of God with our families and our neighbours.

+ Bernard Longley
Archbishop of Birmingham

Hopefully the book will be available from all good Catholic bookshops. Big discounts, however, are available if you go direct to the publisher…

Flier-A5

 

Speak Lord: Reconciliation and love.

United in prayerThe Second reading on Sunday, the 19th Sunday of Ordinary Time, comes from the Letter to the Ephesians. We’ve been hearing passages for a number of weeks now. Next week is our last passage from the letter, before we move on to the Letter of James.

Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God who has marked you with his seal for you to be set free when the day comes. Never have grudges against others, or lose your temper, or raise your voice to anybody, or call each other names, or allow any sort of spitefulness. Be friends with one another, and kind, forgiving each other as readily as God forgave you in Christ. Try, then, to imitate God as children of his that he loves and follow Christ loving as he loved you, giving himself up in our place as a fragrant offering and a sacrifice to God. Ephesians 4:30-5:2

In the letter St Paul has reflected the gifts of love and unity the Church receives.  Now, in this passage he reminds that the Church and its members are called to serve as other Christs.

  • Who might you serve today?
  • Who might serve you?

Gathered in prayer in the ruins of the former Coventry Cathedral. Anniversary of the Coventry Blitz, 2014. (c) 2014, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Make us one.

Window, Rosary

The Second reading on Sunday, the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time, is the next passage in the Church’s semi-continuous reading of the letter to the Ephesians, which started last Sunday and continues until the 21st Sunday (30th August).

Ephesians is maybe one of the most accessible letters of Paul, and encouraging.

There’s a fair deal of Ephesians we don’t hear on Sundays. Why not re-read the letter as a whole some time over these weeks of summer?

The passage for this Sunday gives us particular food for thought.

In Christ Jesus, you that used to be so far apart from us have been brought very close, by the blood of Christ. For he is the peace between us, and has made the two into one and broken down the barrier which used to keep them apart, actually destroying in his own person the hostility caused by the rules and decrees of the Law. This was to create one single New Man in himself out of the two of them and by restoring peace through the cross, to unite them both in a single Body and reconcile them with God: in his own person he killed the hostility. Later he came to bring the good news of peace, peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near at hand. Through him, both of us have in the one Spirit our way to come to the Father.

Ephesians 2:13-18

The peoples Paul had in mind were Jews and non-Jews. Paul found a new unity being gifted to the people of his time by the crucified and risen One.

Divisions, tensions have lasted to our day, but so has the gift of unity in Christ. That unity seeks to embrace and reconcile with God and each other Christians of all sorts, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists, humanists, all sorts and everyone. Those are maybe (some of) the big tectonic plates that need reconciliation and a new vision of how life can be. Then each of us will have those particular persons and groups from which we ourselves are estranged.

There is a whole lot of healing and newness needed. But the good news is it is available, freely available.

  • From whom are you separated?
  • Who has separated from you?
  • What might help bring peace and wholeness to these relationships?

Photograph of window at Church of Our Lady of the Rosary, Marylebone.  (c) 2007, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: of healing and mission

Door Detail Mary Major

Today’s post begins our reading through the Liturgy of the Word, and praying with it, by way of preparation for next Sunday’s Mass.

For a reminder of the methodology followed here please go to the About page.

We start with the key element – the gospel reading.

Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out in pairs giving them authority over the unclean spirits. And he instructed them to take nothing for the journey except a staff – no bread, no ha.versack, no coppers for their purses. They were to wear sandals but, he added, ‘Do not take a spare tunic.’ And he said to them, ‘If you enter a house anywhere, stay there until you leave the district. And if any place does not welcome you and people refuse to listen to you, as you walk away shake off the dust from under your feet as a sign to them.’

So they set off to preach repentance; and they cast out many devils, and anointed many sick people with oil and cured them.

Mark 6:7-13

The ministry of Jesus may be rejected by many (cf last week’s gospel), but it remains powerful to many others. And the ministry is being shared by others now. For all their fallibility and blundering – much in evidence throughout Mark’s Gospel – the 12 rise to the call to share the Good News and minister the reconciliation and healing of God’s mercy.

  • What ministry does God call you to?
  • With whom do you share it?
  • Where and how does it show that it is of God?

Image is a detail of one of the principal doors to the Basilica of St Mary Major, Rome. (c) 2014, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Of Peace and Forgiveness

Confessional, Jesuit church, Cracow

The Gospel for today, the feast of Pentecost, takes us back 50 days to the first Easter day and a first conferral of the Holy Spirit.

In the evening of the first day of the week, the doors were closed in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood among them. He said to them, ‘Peace be with you’, and showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord, and he said to them again, ‘Peace be with you.

‘As the Father sent me,
so am I sending you.’

After saying this he breathed on them and said:

‘Receive the Holy Spirit.
For those whose sins you forgive,
they are forgiven;
for those whose sins you retain,
they are retained.’

John 20:19-23

The power bestowed on the disciples is remarkable. It is they who have power to forgive sins or retain them. Jesus was criticised for his forgiveness of sins, now he extends that power to his disciples.

It is an awesome responsibility. For, of course, no pettiness or narrowness of view ought to intrude, The Son forgives because the Father is merciful and calling all to conversion and renewal. So too with those who minister in his name: as Jesus forgives, so the Church…

Photograph of Confessional in the Jesuit church, Cracow. (C) 2013, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: You are loved

Reconciliaton, Liverpool

The second reading at Mass on Sunday, came from the First Letter of St John. It continued the extended reflection on love and faithfulness that has been so prominent in the Liturgy of Word over the Sundays of Easter.

My dear people,
let us love one another
since love comes from God
and everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God.
Anyone who fails to love can never have known God,
because God is love.
God’s love for us was revealed
when God sent into the world his only Son
so that we could have life through him;
this is the love I mean:
not our love for God,
but God’s love for us when he sent his Son
to be the sacrifice that takes our sins away.

1 John 4:7-10

The life of every Christian is a life that is lived in response to radical gift and grace. Nothing is more important, nothing could be more important, than God’s intervening, participating directly in the life of his creatures.

The story of that intervention shows God’s love and care.

The story of that intervention provides the foundation for everything else. That calms our fears, counters our insecurities, helps us in our turn to live and love.

  • Enjoy a quiet time knowing more deeply the love that God has for you and for all.  

Photograph of Liverpool’s Catholic Cathedral. (c) 2006, Allen Morris.

– –

Taste and see: Mercy, seed of mercy

Angel of Judgment and Mercy

The Gospel of the 2nd Sunday of Easter, ‘Divine Mercy’ Sunday, came from the Gospel of John.

In the evening of that same day, the first day of the week, the doors were closed in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood among them. He said to them, ‘Peace be with you’, and showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord, and he said to them again, ‘Peace be with you.
‘As the Father sent me,
so am I sending you.’

After saying this he breathed on them and said:
‘Receive the Holy Spirit.
For those whose sins you forgive,
they are forgiven;
for those whose sins you retain,
they are retained.’

Thomas, called the Twin, who was one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. When the disciples said, ‘We have seen the Lord’, he answered, ‘Unless I see the holes that the nails made in his hands and can put my finger into the holes they made, and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe.’ Eight days later the disciples were in the house again and Thomas was with them. The doors were closed, but Jesus came in and stood among them. ‘Peace be with you’ he said. Then he spoke to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; look, here are my hands. Give me your hand; put it into my side. Doubt no longer but believe.’ Thomas replied, ‘My Lord and my God!’

Jesus said to him:
‘You believe because you can see me.
Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.’

There were many other signs that Jesus worked and the disciples saw, but they are not recorded in this book. These are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing this you may have life through his name.
John 20:19-31

How do we understand the words of Jesus regarding the gift of the Holy Spirit, and his observations about the forgiveness of others?

Sometimes they have been understood in a narrow sense as referring to what would later be called the  Sacrament of Penance, and being addressed uniquely to the apostles (understood as being already ordained ministers).

Be that as it may, there is also a broader, existential teaching here.

Jesus gives us all, all who follow him and share in his life, the power to be merciful. We, his disciples, lay and ordained, have received mercy and forgiveness. And we are called to witness to this by our lives.

We can do this in words, or we can do this in the way we live.

For those whose sins you forgive,
they are forgiven;
for those whose sins you retain,
they are retained.’

This is quite a challenge. The implication of Jesus’ words is  that if we do not share forgiveness, the forgiveness we have received, then it stops there, we lose our peace and we ourselves are not longer at one with the Lord.

The mercy, love, of God calls us on to find the freedom and trust in God’s justice, that we might (all) forgive sinners.

If we cannot forgive sinners, we might still find ourselves at one with all sorts of others – world, family, nation and all – even sometimes with the Church or at least with parts of the Church, but not at one with the Lord. Who comes with love and mercy for all.

Our exercise of mercy is only ever a witness to the Lord’s mercy: an echo of his mercy. And it contains with its gratuity the potential of inviting to a deeper conversion the one who is forgiven and shown mercy, In the light of love they receive a(nother) opportunity to be freed from all that confines and constrains and hobbles the human spirit.

But if we will not be merciful we rob them of that providential good.

  • When do you find it possible to forgive? What makes it easier? What makes it more difficult?
  • When do you find it possible to be forgiven? What makes it easier? What makes it more difficult?

Photograph of Angel of Judgment (or Mercy?) church in Cork, Eire. (c) 2010, Allen Morris

 

Taste and See: The Lord’s welcome.

Cross, Liverpool

The first reading at Mass, last Sunday, the 6th Sunday of Ordinary Time, spoke of sickness.

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, ‘If a swelling or scab or shiny spot appears on a man’s skin, a case of leprosy of the skin is to be suspected. The man must be taken to Aaron, the priest, or to one of the priests who are his sons.

‘The man is leprous: he is unclean. The priest must declare him unclean; he is suffering from leprosy of the head. A man infected with leprosy must wear his clothing torn and his hair disordered; he must shield his upper lip and cry, “Unclean, unclean.” As long as the disease lasts he must be unclean; and therefore he must live apart: he must live outside the camp.’

Leviticus 13:1-2,44-46

In most cultures there is a close association made between sickness, and being unclean, and being ‘a sinner’. And the person infected or who is subject of sin is seen as an outcast, or an undesirable.

It is notable that sinners and the sick both found warm welcome with Jesus. And his compassion and care was accompanied with healing and reconciliation.

Today – Ash Wednesday – we soil ourselves with ashes reminding ourselves of our sin and mortality. But we do it also to remind ourselves of the Gospel and the hope and promise it contains.

No-one, ever, is beyond the love and healing of God. And that healing and that love are freely offered. Rejoice and make the most of Lent, that you may live again the new life of Easter.

Image of Wall hanging at Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral. Photograph (c) 2006, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Bearing witness, bearing fruit.

The first reading at Mass on Sunday comes again from the Acts of the Apostles, the New Testament book that, during Easter, supplants the Old Testament reading at Sunday Mass.

Philip went to a Samaritan town and proclaimed the Christ to them. The people united in welcoming the message Philip preached, either because they had heard of the miracles he worked or because they saw them for themselves. There were, for example, unclean spirits that came shrieking out of many who were possessed, and several paralytics and cripples were cured. As a result there was great rejoicing in that town.

When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, and they went down there, and prayed for the Samaritans to receive the Holy Spirit, for as yet he had not come down on any of them: they had only been baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

Acts 8:5-8,14-17

The tension between Jews and Samaritans seems to have been a significant one. Thus the oppositions set up in the parable of the Good Samaritan between key figures from the Jewish religious establishment, and the Samaritan traveller (merchant?); and also the exceptional nature and therefore the frisson of the encounter between Jesus and the woman of Samaria, that was heard on the 3rd Sunday of Lent.

Jesus, in his person and in his teaching, becomes a place for reconciliation between Jew and Samaritan.

But as we surely know prejudice and suspicion have a way of lingering long after we have ‘learnt better’ When Philip goes to Samaria, he is surely going to a place that is looked upon suspiciously by many of his acquaintance, and that must have seemed – at least to them – unpromising territory for the flourishing of gospel life.

Image

Yet how inhospitable the ‘obvious’ place of Jerusalem, Judea and Galilee had proved. And how open to the gospel the people of Samaria show themselves to be.

  • Where is the gospel preached today and where is it not?
  • Where is it heard today and where is it not?
  • When do you find it easier to hear and respond to God’s word?

Pray for Pope Francis as he prepares for his visit to the Holy Land.

Where it exists may suspicion and fear between Christians, Jews and Muslims be replaced by a new and mutual trusting in the love and mercy of God.

Through his words and actions may Pope Francis inspire still more to commit themselves to love of neighbour, as well as love of God.

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Images:

  • A view from the summit of Mount Gerizim, down to modern day Nablus – the centre of biblical Samaria. (c) Allen Morris
  • A tapestry of the Holy Spirit, inspiring the Church. Photograph (c) Allen Morris