Taste and See: The Lord’s care for you

 

Alexandria Good ShepherdThe second reading at Mass on Sunday – the 5th Sunday of Lent – came from the letter to the Hebrews. Unless you were using the alternative series of readings (proper to Year A, and which must be used when the 3rd Scrutiny is celebrated,or when they are preferred) – in which case the 2nd reading was from Paul’s letter to the Romans, a reading you will find at the end of this post.

The passage from the Letter to the Hebrews speaks of the suffering of Christ.

It is a suffering endured for us. In a fallen world it is the price of love. It is a price the Lord is willing to pay.

And how humbling for us is that.

During his life on earth, Christ offered up prayer and entreaty, aloud and in silent tears, to the one who had the power to save him out of death, and he submitted so humbly that his prayer was heard. Although he was Son, he learnt to obey through suffering; but having been made perfect, he became for all who obey him the source of eternal salvation.

Hebrews 5:7-9

  •  Who do you serve?
  • What have you learnt from your service?
  • What resources do you draw on to help you serve well?

Photograph of the Good Shepherd is of figure in the Greco-Roman museum in Alexandria. (c) 2004, Allen Morris.

– – –

People who are interested only in unspiritual things can never be pleasing to God. Your interests, however, are not in the unspiritual, but in the spiritual, since the Spirit of God has made his home in you. In fact, unless you possessed the Spirit of Christ you would not belong to him. Though your body may be dead it is because of sin, but if Christ is in you then your spirit is life itself because you have been justified; and if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, then he who raised Jesus from the dead will give life to your own mortal bodies through his Spirit living in you.

Romans 8:8-11

Speak Lord: Who prays and weeps for us.

Agony

The second reading at Mass on Sunday – the 5th Sunday of Lent – is from the letter to the Hebrews. Or at least it is unless you are using the alternative series of readings for Year A which may be used this year, and which must be used when the 3rd Scrutiny is celebrated – in which case the reading is from Paul’s letter to the Romans, a reading you will find at the end of this post.

During his life on earth, Christ offered up prayer and entreaty, aloud and in silent tears, to the one who had the power to save him out of death, and he submitted so humbly that his prayer was heard. Although he was Son, he learnt to obey through suffering; but having been made perfect, he became for all who obey him the source of eternal salvation.

Hebrews 5:7-9

We have been encouraged to spend additional time in prayer over these past weeks, and to seek to be more faithful to the call to love God and our neighbour.

Doubtless our response to this call has not been easy, and has been worked out at some cost. Even so it probably palls before the achievement and suffering of Jesus.

His suffering was endured for sake of us, so that in our encounter with him we may encounter the one who is source of eternal salvation.

  • For what would you like Jesus to pray for you?
  • What in his example would you like to better imitate?

Photograph is of carving of Jesus in agony, at the foot of the Scala Sancta, John Lateran, Rome. (c) 2009, Allen Morris.

– – –

People who are interested only in unspiritual things can never be pleasing to God. Your interests, however, are not in the unspiritual, but in the spiritual, since the Spirit of God has made his home in you. In fact, unless you possessed the Spirit of Christ you would not belong to him. Though your body may be dead it is because of sin, but if Christ is in you then your spirit is life itself because you have been justified; and if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, then he who raised Jesus from the dead will give life to your own mortal bodies through his Spirit living in you.

Romans 8:8-11

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.

Taste and See: The Lord who sets us free

Epstein, CoventryYesterday, the third Sunday of Lent,  the first Scrutiny was celebrated with those adults, the Elect, who are preparing for baptism at the Easter Vigil.

The concluding part of the Scrutiny rite is the prayer to free the Elect from the power of sin and evil.

It comes in two parts: the first addressed to the Father, the second to the Son, following the laying on of hands.

The prayer is a prayer of the Church, and an invitation to Jesus for his personal intervention and his care for those entrusted to him.

 

Presider:
God of power, you sent your Son to be our Saviour.
Grant that these catechumens,
who, like the woman of Samaria, thirst for living water,
may turn to the Lord as they hear his word
and acknowledge the sins and weaknesses that weigh them down.

Protect them from vain reliance on self
and defend them from the power of Satan.

Free them from the spirit of deceit,
so that, admitting the wrong they have done,
they may attain purity of heart
and advance on the way to salvation.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.

All: Amen.

If it is convenient, the celebrant lays his hands on each of the elect.

Then, with hands outstretched over all the elect, he continues:

Lord Jesus,
you are the fountain for which they thirst,
you are the Master whom they seek.
In your presence
they dare not claim to be without sin,
for you alone are the Holy One of God.

They open their hearts to you in faith,
they confess their faults
and lay bare their hidden wounds.
In your love free them from their infirmities,
heal their sickness,
quench their thirst, and give them peace.

In the power of your name,
which we call upon in faith,
stand by them now and heal them.
Rule over that spirit of evil,
conquered by your rising from the dead.

Show your elect the way of salvation in the Holy Spirit,
that they may come to worship the Father in truth,
for you live and reign for ever and ever.

All: Amen.

Sometimes the Church’s ministers can be hesitant about the use of these prayers, so strong in their admission of the power of evil and sin in our lives. However the prayers are even more trenchant in their confession of the power of the Lord.

Who would be without the intercession and care of the Church? Without the power and protection of Christ?

  • Pray the prayer, making it your own, asking God’s protection of those preparing to live as Christians through baptism at Easter.
  • Pray the prayer knowing your own need for God’s protection and care.

 Photograph is of St Michael the Archangel triumphant over Satan, by Epstein. Coventry Cathedral. (C) 2014, 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.

Speak Lord: Of Law and love

Commandments, DissThere are choices to be made with the first reading at Mass on the third Sunday of Lent.

Those using the readings for Year B have the option of using a briefer version of the reading that follows, or the full text, as given here.

In parishes where the first Scrutiny is being prayed, with those preparing for Baptism, a different reading altogether is used,  to complement the reading from John’s Gospel of Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well: the celebration of the scrutiny requires the use of the readings of Year A – which are also optional for use in any year, even when the scrutiny is not celebrated. You will find that alternative first reading at the end of this post.

God spoke all these words.

He said, ‘I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

‘You shall have no gods except me.

‘You shall not make yourself a carved image or any likeness of anything in heaven or on earth beneath or in the waters under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God and I punish the father’s fault in the sons, the grandsons, and the great-grandsons of those who hate me; but I show kindness to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

‘You shall not utter the name of the Lord your God to misuse it, for the Lord will not leave unpunished the man who utters his name to misuse it.

‘Remember the sabbath day and keep it holy. For six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath for the Lord your God. You shall do no work that day, neither you nor your son nor your daughter nor your servants, men or women, nor your animals nor the stranger who lives with you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth and the sea and all that these hold, but on the seventh day he rested; that is why the Lord has blessed the sabbath day and made it sacred.

‘Honour your father and your mother so that you may have a long life in the land that the Lord your God has given to you.

‘You shall not kill.

‘You shall not commit adultery.

‘You shall not steal.

‘You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.

‘You shall not covet your neighbour’s house. You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or his servant, man or woman, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is his.’

Exodus 20:1-17

The reading sets before us a properly ordered way of life – based on love of God and respect for the moral order. Law here sustains the good and noble life: it is a way to defend love.

Law gone wrong, or law ignored leads to disorder and disconnection.

But Exodus 20 reminds of how it should be.

  • What law do you find less convenient to keep? Why? And with what consequence?
  • What law helps you to come closer to God, yourself and your neighbour?

– – –

The first reading for when the first Scrutiny is celebrated is as follows:

Tormented by thirst, the people complained against Moses. ‘Why did you bring us out of Egypt?’ they said. ‘Was it so that I should die of thirst, my children too, and my cattle?’

Moses appealed to the Lord. ‘How am I to deal with this people?” he said. ‘A little more and they will stone me!’ the Lord said to Moses, ‘Take with you some of the elders of Israel and move on to the forefront of the people; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the river, and go. I shall be standing before you there on the rock, at Horeb. You must strike the rock, and water will flow from it for the people to drink.’ This is what Moses did, in the sight of the elders of Israel. The place was named Massah and Meribah because of the grumbling of the sons of Israel and because they put the Lord to the test by saying, ‘Is the Lord with us, or not?’

Exodus 17:3-7

The reading anticipates the Gospel’s talk of thirst, not for water only but for living water that quenches every thirst. Grumbling Israel is offered the very best but hardness of heart prevents it being received.

  • What provokes grumbling in you?
  • What does the grumbling prevent you from seeing/receiving?

Photograph is of 17th Century Commandments Board in the Parish Church, Diss.
Photograph (c) 2011, Allen Morris.