Taste and See: United

Burnes Jones, BirminghamThe second reading at Mass on Sunday last, the first Sunday of Lent, was an encouraging word, and a profoundly sober and levelling word.

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

We are lost, unless we are saved. And if we are saved we are saved not by our own efforts, but because of what God has done and what Jesus is.

We could argue from Paul’s words that our salvation is achieved by our believing, our confessing, but that would surely be false to the tenor of Paul’s argument. It is the Lord who saves and we have access to that salvation by his love: our faith, our confession are an acceptance of his gift not a forcing of his hand.

When such goodness is offered and we do not believe, confess, have faith, then failure is ours and we are lost. Unless, until, we can call on him and then the gift is freely given.

All is his gift.

And his gift is offered freely to all – Jew, Greek, and all the many differentiations that we make between the ‘all’ to whom God gives life, the ‘all’ that ‘we’ are.

  • Who do you exclude from the ‘we’ you count yourself part of?
  • Why?
  • Does anyone else? Does God?

Window by Burne-Jones,  Cathedral Church of Saint Philip, Birmingham. (c) 2013, Allen Morris.

Taste and see: Paradox and newness

Hanwell

The ‘default’ second reading provided for last Sunday, the 3rd Sunday of Lent – except when the First Scrutiny was celebrated – came from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians.

While the Jews demand miracles and the Greeks look for wisdom, here are we preaching a crucified Christ; to the Jews an obstacle that they cannot get over, to the pagans madness, but to those who have been called, whether they are Jews or Greeks, a Christ who is the power and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

1 Corinthians 1:22-25

Perhaps we are so familiar with ‘THE crucifixion’, with seeing it in light of the resurrection, the triumph of love and life, that we may miss the enormity of the scandal of the death of Jesus overturning earthly power and authority.

But, consider, in the brutality of that site of execution of three criminals the meaning and direction of human history is changed, or at least radically clarified. In the knowledge of what brought Jesus to the cross, what he endure, and what happens in consequence, nothing in our lives should be untouched.

  • What is different for you and how?

 Photograph of crucifix in church of Our Lady and St Joseph, Hanwell. (C) 2010, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Of Christ’s costly love

Mosaic over main entrance, Jesuit Church, Cracow

Again, there are two texts that we may hear at Mass as the Second reading, this Sunday, the 3rd Sunday of Lent. The one the ‘regular’ reading, the other always available as an option (as Year A’s readings may always be used on the 3rd Sunday), though they are required when The First Scrutiny is celebrated.

While the Jews demand miracles and the Greeks look for wisdom, here are we preaching a crucified Christ; to the Jews an obstacle that they cannot get over, to the pagans madness, but to those who have been called, whether they are Jews or Greeks, a Christ who is the power and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

1 Corinthians 1:22-25

The reading opposes weakness and strength, wisdom and foolishness. Both are evidenced in Christ. Weakness and foolishness is what appears to be true, strength and wisdom is what is in fact true. The reason Christ goes to the Cross is not irrelevant – it reveals both the love of God for us which leads God in flesh to endure such suffering, and the vileness of humankind which imposes such pain and humiliation on others.

The alternative Reading focuses most on the love of God and the righteousness imputed us because of his love. Grace is freely given, at great cost, for our thriving.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, by faith we are judged righteous and at peace with God, since it is by faith and through Jesus that we have entered this state of grace in which we can boast about looking forward to God’s glory. And this hope is not deceptive, because the love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which has been given us. We were still helpless when at his appointed moment Christ died for sinful men. It is not easy to die even for a good man – though of course for someone really worthy, a man might be prepared to die – but what proves that God loves us is that Christ died for us while we were still sinners.

Romans 5:1-2,5-8

 Photograph of Mosaic over entrance to Jesuit church, Cracow, Poland. (C) 2013, Allen Morris.