Taste and See: Jesus, source of life for us

Eucharistic Symbol SJW2007

Jesus said to the Jews:

‘I am the living bread which has come down from heaven.
Anyone who eats this bread will live for ever;
and the bread that I shall give is my flesh,
for the life of the world.’

Then the Jews started arguing with one another: ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ they said. Jesus replied:

‘I tell you most solemnly,
if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood,
you will not have life in you.
Anyone who does eat my flesh and drink my blood
has eternal life,
and I shall raise him up on the last day.
For my flesh is real food
and my blood is real drink.
He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood
lives in me
and I live in him.
As I, who am sent by the living Father,
myself draw life from the Father,
so whoever eats me will draw life from me.
This is the bread come down from heaven;
not like the bread our ancestors ate:
they are dead,
but anyone who eats this bread will live for ever.’

John 6:51-58

For Christians, and perhaps for Catholics in particular, the Gospel passage heard at Mass on Sunday, the feast of Corpus Christi, speaks especially of the Eucharist. The controversy there presented – ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ – evokes other, later controversies about whether or how this flesh is given in the Eucharist. A variety of Christian attempts at answers maybe recalled – transubstantiation, transignification, a memorial, a ‘mere’ remembrance….

The debates about what/who the Eucharist is continue to be important. From the Catholic perspective the reality of real presence in the Sacraments, and the principle of sacramentality underpins so much of our understanding of God and the world, and our reading of the salvation God continues to offer to us.

However what is prior to our talking about the sacraments is the belief that in Jesus, and expressed in his humanity, the incarnate Son, God is really present. And really present, through the incarnation, God makes free gift of himself for all who would receive him and ‘eat’ of him. Through our communion with him, expressed in many ways, and including now the sacraments, we can in truth enter into life in him and for ever.

The Pelican – sign of the Eucharistic sacrifice. Detail of Eucharistic Screen, Our Lady’s church, St John’s Wood. (c) 2007, Allen Morris

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Taste and See: Compassion and care

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Jesus said to Nicodemus:

‘God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost
but may have eternal life.
For God sent his Son into the world
not to condemn the world,
but so that through him the world might be saved.
No one who believes in him will be condemned;
but whoever refuses to believe is condemned already,
because he has refused to believe in the name of God’s only Son.’

John 3:16-18

The Gospel heard at Mass yesterday, Trinity Sunday, contains famous words of reassurance and consolation.

God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost
but may have eternal life.

In this is our hope and our salvation.

However the Gospel passage continues with words that speak, and warn of condemnation for those who refuse to believe, who do not, will not, cannot accept what is offered. So is it salvation for those who believe and condemnation, damnation, for those who doubt?

The Gospel suggests that at the end of the day it could be so. But the end of the day is not yet, and in every moment the Lord comes, is with us, to draw us from our fears, doubts and darkness. By love he seeks to win us. And there is no sign yet, that he will ever give up on trying to win us for life and love.

  • Give thanks for the persistence and humility of God

The saving of humankind. St Mary’s Church, Shrewsbury. (c) 2016, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: For by your help we are almost there!

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This day was made by the Lord: we rejoice and are glad.
or
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

Give thanks to the Lord for he is good,
for his love has no end.
Let the sons of Israel say:
‘His love has no end.’

This day was made by the Lord: we rejoice and are glad.
or
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

The Lord’s right hand has triumphed;
his right hand raised me up.
I shall not die, I shall live
and recount his deeds.

This day was made by the Lord: we rejoice and are glad.
or
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

The stone which the builders rejected
has become the corner stone.
This is the work of the Lord,
a marvel in our eyes.

This day was made by the Lord: we rejoice and are glad.
or
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

Psalm 117:1-2,16-17,22-23

The Responsorial Psalm at Mass tomorrow celebrates the reversal achieved by God who is love, and enjoyed by those he saves.

We celebrate God’s achievement in the particular that is the Resurrection of Jesus.

However that achievement of God is available to us, by grace, in our every moment – our every stumble, our every success. The love that is God is there for us in every moment, and the invitation to us is to enter into his will, his life.

This day was made by the Lord – who is for us and with us, world without end: we rejoice and are glad.

Flowers. Lichfield Cathedral. 2016. (c) 2016, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Saviour

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God’s grace has been revealed, and it has made salvation possible for the whole human race and taught us that what we have to do is to give up everything that does not lead to God, and all our worldly ambitions; we must be self-restrained and live good and religious lives here in this present world, while we are waiting in hope for the blessing which will come with the Appearing of the glory of our great God and saviour Christ Jesus. He sacrificed himself for us in order to set us free from all wickedness and to purify a people so that it could be his very own and would have no ambition except to do good.

Titus 2:11-14

The Second reading at Mass during the night, tomorrow, announces salvation and calls us to live ‘saved’ lives, even as we await ‘in hope the blessing which will come with the Appearing in glory of our great God and saviour Christ Jesus’ – a phrase which lies behind our Communion rite’s ‘(may) we… be always free from sin and safe from all distress, as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.’

The work is the Lord’s, but we have ours to do, in response to his. – lest all be in vain for us.

Paul’s focus in the Letter is surely on the saving Death of Jesus. But we hear the reading in the context of the saving Birth. Both mysteries are cojoined in the work of Cocteau and Anrep in the French Church in London depicted above.

The whole work of Christ is to love and save us. Let our prayer be that in the whole of our lives we may be more closely untied with him and with each other.

Cocteau Mural of the Crucifixion. Anrep Mosaic of the Nativity. French Church, Leicester Square. (c) 2007, Allen Morris

Taste and See: The faithfulness of Joseph

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This is how Jesus Christ came to be born. His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph; but before they came to live together she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph; being a man of honour and wanting to spare her publicity, decided to divorce her informally. He had made up his mind to do this when the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because she has conceived what is in her by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son and you must name him Jesus, because he is the one who is to save his people from their sins.’ Now all this took place to fulfil the words spoken by the Lord through the prophet:

The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son
and they will call him Emmanuel,

a name which means ‘God-is-with-us.’ When Joseph woke up he did what the angel of the Lord had told him to do: he took his wife to his home.

Matthew 1:18-24

The Gospel heard on Sunday, the 4th and last Sunday of Advent, focuses us on Joseph, and his call to obedience to the will of God, to being ready to face dishonour in the eyes of his peers, and to trust in Mary who he fears has betrayed his trust.

As Mary said yes to what she could not understand, so Joseph too says ‘yes’ to what seemed irrational and disruptive of what is right and good.

Again and again, God calls us beyond what we can make sense of, and certainly beyond what we can control. And in this venture to the unkonwn we find a new security and safety, indeed the only security and safety that lasts. Our salvation is achieved by God’s gift and is ours when we ‘wake up. and do as the Lord invites. us to.

  • What beyond reason has God called you to?
  • What has helped you to answer God’s call into the unknown and the fearsome?

Shrine of St Joseph. Aylesford Priory. (c) 2008, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: Rich glory

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The Second reading at Mass yesterday, Sunday, the feast of the Ascension, came from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.

Paul speaks of the Easter event, Christ’s rising from the dead, his being seated at the right hand of the Father in Glory: an event in history and beyond history. He speaks of it as an event which shouts the rule of Christ, and an event which is our secured hope.

May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give you a spirit of wisdom and perception of what is revealed, to bring you to full knowledge of him.

May he enlighten the eyes of your mind so that you can see what hope his call holds for you, what rich glories he has promised the saints will inherit and how infinitely great is the power that he has exercised for us believers.

This you can tell from the strength of his power at work in Christ, when he used it to raise him from the dead and to make him sit at his right hand, in heaven, far above every Sovereignty, Authority, Power, or Domination, or any other name that can be named not only in this age but also in the age to come. He has put all things under his feet and made him, as the ruler of everything, the head of the Church; which is his body, the fullness of him who fills the whole creation.

Ephesians 1:17-23

Sometimes, as in the image above the Ascension is symbolised by two plaster feet dangling from a ceiling. That symbolism makes its point, but Paul has a broader, deeper, more profound perspective. It is about the reign of God. It is about salvation. And it is about the fulfilment of the potential of us, the restoration of us to right relationship with God.

  • What, in Christ, can we rise above?
  • To what, in Christ, can we confidently aspire?

 

The Ascension. Anglican Shrine at Walsingham. (c) 2003, Allen Morris

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.