Taste and See: Renewal, restoration, refreshment

DSC00982 St Mary's Warwick 2016.jpg

Just before the Jewish Passover Jesus went up to Jerusalem, and in the Temple he found people selling cattle and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting at their counters there. Making a whip out of some cord, he drove them all out of the Temple, cattle and sheep as well, scattered the money-changers’ coins, knocked their tables over and said to the pigeon-sellers, ‘Take all this out of here and stop turning my Father’s house into a market.’ Then his disciples remembered the words of scripture: ‘Zeal for your house will devour me’.

The Jews intervened and said, ‘What sign can you show us to justify what you have done?’ Jesus answered, ‘Destroy this sanctuary, and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews replied, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this sanctuary: are you going to raise it up in three days?’ But he was speaking of the sanctuary that was his body, and when Jesus rose from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the scripture and the words he had said.

During his stay in Jerusalem for the Passover many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he gave, but Jesus knew them all and did not trust himself to them; he never needed evidence about any man; he could tell what a man had in him.

Gospel for the 3rd Sunday of Lent
John 2:13-25

The Temple of Jerusalem did not survive long after the death and resurrection of Jesus. It was destroyed in the year 70 by Rome in retaliation for a Jewish Revolt. The site of the Temple remained as a ruin, for some centuries, and its despoliation took on symbolic significance for Christians, an indicator of the new age and even a supplanting of Judaism by Christianity in the Constantinian settlement (a view that at best needs nuancing, as is made clear in the Church’s teaching about the continuing privileged place of Judaism in God’s self-revelation and commitment to humankind). Later the site of the Temple became a place for Muslim devotion and worship and so it has remained.

For Christians, the former Jewish Temple(s) retain a spiritual significance, not least because of its place in the narratives and psalms of our Old Testament, but perhaps it registers with us most strongly because of its being the location of episodes in the infancy, childhood and passion of Jesus, and this present episode of the cleansing of the Temple.

But we miss the abiding significance of the event if we see it just as an historical event to do with a building no longer of significance for us because we have Christ, THE ‘place’ for us to encounter and be in communion with God. The episode of the cleansing of the Temple can symbolise that continual need of being cleansed which we ourselves have, if we are to be fit for purpose, fit to fulfil our potential as children of God; a holy nation; a people dedicated to him and to service of the Kingdom. And not just us as individuals, with our individual sins and strayings. St Paul said that together we Christians are a holy Temple. At least as significant as Lent as a time for individuals to repent and seek the grace of conversion and renewal, Christians need to seek grace to know where the Church on earth, in its institutions and its present priorities and practices, may have lost its way and become stale, even corrupt, and an obstacle to the Gospel.

That way we will can be sure not only to share in the dying of Christ, but also in his resurrection, to be raised even in our so fallible humanity to share in his divinity.

  • Where do you see folly or error?
  • How might you draw on the grace of God to help remedy that?

Stained glass, St Mary’s, Warwick. (c) 2016, Allen Morris.

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Taste and See: newness and hope.

onwards-and-upwards

The psalm sung yesterday, the 24th Sunday of the Year, invites us to prepare to come to God.

I will leave this place and go to my father.

Have mercy on me, God, in your kindness.
In your compassion blot out my offence.
O wash me more and more from my guilt
and cleanse me from my sin.

I will leave this place and go to my father.

A pure heart create for me, O God,
put a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
nor deprive me of your holy spirit.

I will leave this place and go to my father.

O Lord, open my lips
and my mouth shall declare your praise.
My sacrifice is a contrite spirit.
A humbled, contrite heart you will not spurn.

I will leave this place and go to my father.

Psalm 50:3-4,12-13,17,19

The response anticipates the words of the prodigal son (heard in the Gospel of the Day, when he realises the consequences of his actions.

It also has a direct relationship to our own lives. We will leave this place, this world, when death comes, and we hope and pray that, when we do, we will indeed go to our Father.

The psalm prepares us for that day. First, it has us turn to the Father and address him in humility, and in hope of mercy. Second, it has us look to God for help in repentance and renewal. Third, it has us ask God to help us to find a voice with which to praise him…

  • For what do you need the Lord’s mercy?
  • In what do you wish to be made new?
  • For what, today, would you praise God?

Onwards and upwards. London. (c) 2012, Allen Morris.

‘Speak Lord.’ ‘Ouch!’

Jesus takes up his cross

The Gospel for Sunday, the 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time, follows immediately from last week’s Gospel, of Jesus’ reading from Isaiah and winning approval from all.

That latter point is repeated this week in the reading’s opening words. It needs to be for what follows next is surprising and shocking.

Jesus began to speak in the synagogue: ‘This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen.’ And he won the approval of all, and they were astonished by the gracious words that came from his lips They said, ‘This is Joseph’s son, surely?’

But he replied, ‘No doubt you will quote me the saying, “Physician, heal yourself” and tell me, “We have heard all that happened in Capernaum, do the same here in your own countryside.”’ And he went on, ‘I tell you solemnly, no prophet is ever accepted in his own country.

‘There were many widows in Israel, I can assure you, in Elijah’s day, when heaven remained shut for three years and six months and a great famine raged throughout the land, but Elijah was not sent to any one of these: he was sent to a widow at Zarephath, a Sidonian town. And in the prophet Elisha’s time there were many lepers in Israel, but none of these was cured, except the Syrian, Naaman.’

When they heard this everyone in the synagogue was enraged. They sprang to their feet and hustled him out of the town; and they took him up to the brow of the hill their town was built on, intending to throw him down the cliff, but he slipped through the crowd and walked away.

Luke 4:21-30

 

Jesus has spoken of God’s promises, and of his part in fulfilling them. And that pleases.

He next speaks of Israel’s resistance to the prophecies and healings that the Lord offers. And that produces a very different response.

The reaction of the crowd is extraordinary, and shocking. What price ‘thou shalt not kill?’?

  • How do you respond to criticism? Implied or direct?
  • What priority do you give to your response to the continued call of God to conversion and renewal?
  • What helps you respond positively?
  • What provokes other reactions?

Detail from one of the Stations of the Cross, Lourdes. (c) 2012, Allen Morris

 

Taste and See: Be made new – and make new

Crown of thorns

The Second reading on Sunday, the Feast of the Epiphany,  spoke and speaks of revelation – of God giving of himself that his creatures, human beings, might be made one, and restored to a loving family united in him.

You have probably heard how I have been entrusted by God with the grace he meant for you, and that it was by a revelation that I was given the knowledge of the mystery. This mystery that has now been revealed through the Spirit to his holy apostles and prophets was unknown to any men in past generations; it means that pagans now share the same inheritance, that they are parts of the same body, and that the same promise has been made to them, in Jesus Christ, through the gospel.

Ephesians 3:2-3,5-6

And all this in and through Jesus Christ.

The particularity of Jesus Christ, his importance and necessity for our salvation is a stumbling block for many. Too often that particularity is presented in the context of a religious colonialism and arrogance.

Yet Christ came to serve and to set free.

  • What is there about Catholic life in your life that is limiting and diminishing?
  • What is there that is liberating?
  • How does this manifest itself in your Catholic life and mission?
  • And in the life of your Catholic – or ecumenical – community?

Detail from Coventry Cathedral. (c) 2014, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: Flash of recognition – new in the old

Church of BeatitudesOn Sunday’s feast – the Solemnity of All Saints – the Gospel proclaimed was the familiar text of the Beatitudes.

Seeing the crowds, Jesus went up the hill. There he sat down and was joined by his disciples. Then he began to speak. This is what he taught them:
‘How happy are the poor in spirit; theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Happy the gentle:  they shall have the earth for their heritage.
Happy those who mourn: they shall be comforted.
Happy those who hunger and thirst for what is right: they shall be satisfied.
Happy the merciful: they shall have mercy shown them.
Happy the pure in heart: they shall see God.
Happy the peacemakers: they shall be called sons of God.
Happy those who are persecuted in the cause of right:
theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
‘Happy are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.’

Matthew 5:1-12

In a world where new is often seen as better, or at least is ‘sold’ as such, there is something profoundly counter cultural about the preponderance of repetition in Christian worship and prayer.

And yet, for those with ears that listen, the experience of repetition, new encounters with the familiar, proves again and again that this old words have so much more to disclose to us. In our new hearing, that often enough seems like a first hearing, we encounter the profound truths of the living word.

  • What newly strikes you in the text today? Or struck you on Sunday?
  • Which beatitude most characterises your life as a disciple?
  • Which present you with most challenge?

Bring your reflections to God in prayer.

Interior of the Church of the Beatitudes, Galilee. Photograph (c) 2012, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Of new beginnings.

Samaria II

The gospel today, the 15th Sunday of the Year, focusses on the mission of the 12. Mission did not begin with them and the first reading at Mass today reminds us of the prophet Amos.

Bearer of a profound critique of Israel, Amos was no willing prophet, nor welcome in Israel. But he served the Lord, faithfully and well.

Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, said to Amos, ‘Go away, seer;’ get back to the land of Judah; earn your bread there, do your prophesying there. We want no more prophesying in Bethel; this is the royal sanctuary, the national temple.’

‘I was no prophet, neither did I belong to any of the brotherhoods of prophets,’ Amos replied to Amaziah ‘I was a shepherd, and looked after sycamores: but it was the Lord who took me from herding the flock, and the Lord who said, “Go, prophesy to my people Israel.”’

Amos 7:12-15

Amos had two jobs, sheep and trees. Now he had a third – reminding Israel of its true nature, of being a communion of people with God. It had no independent existence. Did not need its national king, it’s national Temple. God alone sufficed and more than sufficed. And without God all else was petty and transient. And so it proved. Israel fell and was lost.

Today’s Gospel has the 12 – noble in their vocation and trust, but scarcely in their economic state or social position, sent out to recover a people for God: by God to help his people heal and be reconciled. They are more succesful in their mission than Amos was!

  • In whom do we trust?
  • How do we know?
  • Would others agree?

The image above is not of remnants of Bethel but of Samaria, another Israelite Royal cultic centre against which Amos prophesied. Here is a 19th Century image of the believed site of the city of Bethel.

Bethel 1894 DanielBShepp

 

Speak Lord: And renew the face of the earth… and us!

Orantes and Spirit, Rome 2002

The Responsorial Psalm on Sunday has us sing out for change and renewal.

Most of us, apparently, find, change difficult, except under certain very controlled circumstances. So will we mean what we sing?

Send forth your spirit, O Lord, and renew the face of the earth or Alleluia!

Bless the Lord, my soul!
Lord God, how great you are,
How many are your works, O Lord!
The earth is full of your riches.

Send forth your spirit, O Lord, and renew the face of the earth or Alleluia!

You take back your spirit, they die,
returning to the dust from which they came.
You send forth your spirit, they are created;
and you renew the face of the earth.

Send forth your spirit, O Lord, and renew the face of the earth or Alleluia!

May the glory of the Lord last for ever!
May the Lord rejoice in his works!
May my thoughts be pleasing to him.
I find my joy in the Lord.

Send forth your spirit, O Lord, and renew the face of the earth or Alleluia!

Psalm 103:1,24,29-31,34

If we are up for change is it that ‘they’ might be changed, or ‘me’ or ‘us’.

In a time of reflection,call to mind what you might like to see change in

  • Them
  • You
  • Us

And then spend a little time considering what the Lord might like to see change in

  • Them
  • You
  • Us

Are the lists the same? What might account for any difference? How might you deal with that?