Taste and See: Love and care for us

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The Lord is my shepherd: there is nothing I shall want.

The Lord is my shepherd;
there is nothing I shall want.
Fresh and green are the pastures
where he gives me repose.
Near restful waters he leads me,
to revive my drooping spirit.

The Lord is my shepherd: there is nothing I shall want.

He guides me along the right path;
he is true to his name.
If I should walk in the valley of darkness
no evil would I fear.
You are there with your crook and your staff;
with these you give me comfort.

The Lord is my shepherd: there is nothing I shall want.

You have prepared a banquet for me
in the sight of my foes.
My head you have anointed with oil;
my cup is overflowing.

The Lord is my shepherd: there is nothing I shall want.

Surely goodness and kindness shall follow me
all the days of my life.
In the Lord’s own house shall I dwell
for ever and ever.

The Lord is my shepherd: there is nothing I shall want.

Responsorial Psalm for the 16th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Psalm 22(23)

What a shepherd!

Shepherds generally take care of their sheep for the sake of the return they hope to make – from the milk or cheese or wool, or flesh they will harvest.

Our God shepherds us simply for love’s sake, for care of us.

  • For whom do you show that same selfless love?
  • For whom might you show such love?

Shepherd from Nativity. St Philip’s Anglican Cathedral, Birmingham. © 2018, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Shepherd Lord

 

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The Lord is my shepherd: there is nothing I shall want.

The Lord is my shepherd;
there is nothing I shall want.
Fresh and green are the pastures
where he gives me repose.
Near restful waters he leads me,
to revive my drooping spirit.

The Lord is my shepherd: there is nothing I shall want.

He guides me along the right path;
he is true to his name.
If I should walk in the valley of darkness
no evil would I fear.
You are there with your crook and your staff;
with these you give me comfort.

The Lord is my shepherd: there is nothing I shall want.

You have prepared a banquet for me
in the sight of my foes.
My head you have anointed with oil;
my cup is overflowing.

The Lord is my shepherd: there is nothing I shall want.

Surely goodness and kindness shall follow me
all the days of my life.
In the Lord’s own house shall I dwell
for ever and ever.

The Lord is my shepherd: there is nothing I shall want.

Psalm 22:1-6

The Responsorial Psalm sung at Mass tomorrow, the 4th Sunday of Lent, is perhaps the best known psalm in the English-speaking world, at any rate, and the one most commonly requested at funerals and weddings. It is a psalm that speaks of confidence and trust in the Lord in good times and bad, hard, sad times.

We sing it tomorrow after hearing of the shepherd by chosen to be Israel’s king. Kingship is a troubled concept in the Old Testament. For Israel has its king – the Lord – but it hankers after kings such as the other nations have… and though God allows them their kings they often enough turn out to bring disaster on the people.

The Bible denotes Psalm 22 as a Psalm of David. Whether this means he worte it, no-one knows. But the account of David – despite its ups and downs and tragedies – does reveal him to be a person who knew God to be his Lord, his king, and who placed his trust in him. The psalm expressed just such a faith.

And  today, still, not least by this psalm, David’s faith continues to inform ours.

Mosiac of the Good Shepherd, The Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, 425 C.E., Ravenna, Italy. (c) 2004, Allen Morris

 

Speak Lord: Be our ruler and our rule

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How happy are the poor in spirit: theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
or
Alleluia!

It is the Lord who keeps faith for ever,
who is just to those who are oppressed.
It is he who gives bread to the hungry,
the Lord, who sets prisoners free.

How happy are the poor in spirit: theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
or
Alleluia!

It is the Lord who gives sight to the blind,
who raises up those who are bowed down,
the Lord, who protects the stranger
and upholds the widow and orphan.

How happy are the poor in spirit: theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
or
Alleluia!

It is the Lord who loves the just
but thwarts the path of the wicked.
The Lord will reign for ever,
Zion’s God, from age to age.

How happy are the poor in spirit: theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
or
Alleluia!

Psalm 145:6-10

Tomorrow – the 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time –  in the Responsorial Psalm sung at Mass, the Church sings of the Lord’s ministry of mercy.

The Kingship of God is beautifully, tenderly, expressed there in the description of his service and protection to those in need. Even the thwarting of the paths of the wicked is an act of love – not just for their would be victims, but for the wicked themselves – part of his work of giving sight to the blind, setting prisoners free.

The Kingship of God is over all people and for all people. Into his care we can relax. And his love, at our best, we strive to imitate.

  • From what does the Lord call you?
  • To what does the Lord call you?

Karl Hoffman: Christ. In the collection of the Hermitage, St Petersburg. Photograph (c) 2015, Allen Morris

Taste and See: a shepherd shepherding

 

dsc00122-nicolas-kings-lynnCaesar Augustus issued a decree for a census of the whole world to be taken. This census – the first – took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria, and everyone went to his own town to be registered. So Joseph set out from the town of Nazareth in Galilee and travelled up to Judaea, to the town of David called Bethlehem, since he was of David’s House and line, in order to be registered together with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. While they were there the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to a son, her first born. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them at the inn.

In the countryside close by there were shepherds who lived in the fields and took it in turns to watch their flocks during the night. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone round them. They were terrified, but the angel said, ‘Do not be afraid. Listen, I bring you news of great joy, a joy to be shared by the whole people. Today in the town of David a saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. And here is a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly with the angel there was a great throng of the heavenly host, praising God and singing:

‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and peace to men who enjoy his favour.’

Luke 2:1-14

The Gospel at Christmas Day’s Mass during the Night depicts a world being turned upside down. Human’s seek to measure and regulate the world through census and registration, but in th etopsy turvy world a child who is born dedicated to turning it all the right way up.

And the announcement of the birth is made first to shepherds of sheep. Israel’s shepherds, kings and priests have been found lacking. God himself has promised to shpeherd his people and he will.

And he begins his guidance with delicious irony by turning to real shepherds, almost the lowest of the low, so that they might be the first to hear the good news, and the first to give praise to God for it.

  • Where is Good News heard today? And by whom?
  • Who fails to hear it and why?

Annunciation to the shepherds. St Nicolas chapel, Kings Lynn. (c) 2016, Allen Morris

Taste and See: Love and care

Bernadette Shepherdess

The first reading for the 16th Sunday of the year introduced the theme of the Shepherd and his sheep, which was there again in the Psalm and the Gospel of the day.

It surely puts the fear of God into shepherds.

Doom for the shepherds who allow the flock of my pasture to be destroyed and scattered – it is the Lord who speaks! This, therefore, is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says about the shepherds in charge of my people: You have let my flock be scattered and go wandering and have not taken care of them.

Right, I will take care of you for your misdeeds – it is the Lord who speaks! But the remnant of my flock I myself will gather from all the countries where I have dispersed them, and will bring them back to their pastures: they shall be fruitful and increase in numbers. I will raise up shepherds to look after them and pasture them; no fear, no terror for them any more; not one shall be lost – it is the Lord who speaks!

‘See, the days are coming – it is the Lord who speaks –
when I will raise a virtuous Branch for David,
who will reign as true king and be wise,
practising honesty and integrity in the land.
In his days Judah will be saved
and Israel dwell in confidence.
And this is the name he will be called:
The-Lord-our-integrity.’

Jeremiah 23:1-6

Each of us in our different ways has a leadership role, has a responsibility for the health of our community. We make a difference, for good or ill, to its health and cohesion, its sense of direction and righteousness.

Western society tends to emphasise the virtues of the individual, lonely (before God, or himself, depending on their faith or lack of it). The scriptures always urge us to see ourselves as part of a whole.

Failing or triumphant, we have the Lord as our shepherd. Today is a new day in which to renew our trust in him, and recommit ourselves to his work.

  • For whom can you be a good shepherd?
  • Where do you need the shepherding love of God today?

St Bernadette as shepherd, Lourdes. (c) 2008, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: Jesus and the crowd.

Abbey of St Victor, Marseille

Sunday, yesterday, was the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

The gospel reading, the controlling element of the Liturgy of the Word, came from Mark’s Gospel, and concludes the story of the disciples being sent on mission. Now they return and all seems to have gone well.

The apostles rejoined Jesus and told him all they had done and taught. Then he said to them, ‘You must come away to some lonely place all by yourselves and rest for a while’; for there were so many coming and going that the apostles had no time even to eat.

So they went off in a boat to a lonely place where they could be by themselves. But people saw them going, and many could guess where; and from every town they all hurried to the place on foot and reached it before them.

So as he stepped ashore he saw a large crowd; and he took pity on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and he set himself to teach them at some length.
Mark 6:30-34

Sheep without a shepherd, stirred to move, move, it can seem at least to us, in a panic, confused, rushing swirling swiftly, careless of dangers ahead, careless of any sense of direction or purpose other than wanting to move away from this or that.

The shepherd can calm, collect and safeguard the sheep, restoring to them at least a semblance of purpose and security.

So here with Jesus the crowd rushes, and Mark encourages to imagine a large crowd (many, all, from every town) gathered and gathering. A crowd? A mob more like. But to Jesus sheep without a shepherd. He doesn’t dismiss them as celebrity chasers, miracle hunters, but embraces them as needing his teaching. So his teaching they will receive.

  • What draws you to Jesus?
  • What has Jesus taught you recently?

Image from Abbey of St Victor, Marseille. (c) 2013, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Good Shepherd

rosary 3The first reading for today, the 16th Sunday of the year, introduces the theme of the Shepherd and his sheep, which will be heard again in the Psalm sung and the Gospel proclaimed today.

It speaks of bad shepherds and of God as the remedy to their failings.

‘Doom for the shepherds who allow the flock of my pasture to be destroyed and scattered – it is the Lord who speaks! This, therefore, is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says about the shepherds in charge of my people: You have let my flock be scattered and go wandering and have not taken care of them.

Right, I will take care of you for your misdeeds – it is the Lord who speaks! But the remnant of my flock I myself will gather from all the countries where I have dispersed them, and will bring them back to their pastures: they shall be fruitful and increase in numbers. I will raise up shepherds to look after them and pasture them; no fear, no terror for them any more; not one shall be lost – it is the Lord who speaks!

‘See, the days are coming – it is the Lord who speaks –
when I will raise a virtuous Branch for David,
who will reign as true king and be wise,
practising honesty and integrity in the land.
In his days Judah will be saved
and Israel dwell in confidence.
And this is the name he will be called:
The-Lord-our-integrity.’

Jeremiah 23:1-6

Pope Francis’ recent encyclical, Laudato Si’, picks up something of the Lord’s outrage at the lack of care of the flock, the human family. The pastoral care of God’s family is not something we should leave to God, Popes, Bishops or anyone. It is something for which we all have a certain responsibility, but especially the powerful, the rich, the ‘haves’ of this world.

The greater sense of moral outrage expressed in Laudato Si’ is for the poor, those who suffer because of the rich and their (our!) exploitation of natural resources, and damage to the environment.

The Lord’s way is to be our way. It is our challenge and our salvation.

  • For whom can you be a good shepherd?
  • Who is good shepherd for you?

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

Speak Lord: So we might better know your care.

Rosary 4

The psalm for Mass tomorrow, the 16th Sunday of the Year, anticipates the Gospel.

There, in Mark’s account of the disciples returning from mission and Jesus’ care for them, we hear also of how Jesus is unexpectedly met with a great crowd of other people needing his pastoral ministry. They are like sheep without a shepherd.

The psalm celebrates God’s shepherding of his people: his loving care and our safety.

The Lord is my shepherd: there is nothing I shall want.

The Lord is my shepherd;
there is nothing I shall want.
Fresh and green are the pastures
where he gives me repose.
Near restful waters he leads me,
to revive my drooping spirit.

The Lord is my shepherd: there is nothing I shall want.

He guides me along the right path;
he is true to his name.
If I should walk in the valley of darkness
no evil would I fear.
You are there with your crook and your staff;
with these you give me comfort.

The Lord is my shepherd: there is nothing I shall want.

You have prepared a banquet for me
in the sight of my foes.
My head you have anointed with oil;
my cup is overflowing.

The Lord is my shepherd: there is nothing I shall want.

Surely goodness and kindness shall follow me
all the days of my life.
In the Lord’s own house shall I dwell
for ever and ever.

The Lord is my shepherd: there is nothing I shall want.

Psalm 22:1-6

At a time of the year when many are approaching holidays and are finding themselves frazzled by the business of life and work, the psalm invites us to know we are not in this alone.

What ever our trials and tribulations, the Lord is with us and sustaining us. We are being led and guided, and if the path is through hard places, the path leads on beyond those. So even in the ‘valley of darkness’  we need not fear, but can find the inner space and inner care to respond to the needs of others.

The shepherded are not lost. Found, cherished and accompanied, they can be shepherds in their turn.

  • Where have you found yourself cared for recently?
  • Where have you shown care for others?

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

Speak Lord: Good Shepherd, speak.

Chancel Screen, RavennaThe Gospel for today, the 4th Sunday of Easter and Vocations Sunday, presents us with Jesus as the Good Shepherd.

Jesus said:

‘I am the good shepherd:
the good shepherd is one who lays down his life for his sheep.
The hired man, since he is not the shepherd
and the sheep do not belong to him,
abandons the sheep and runs away
as soon as he sees a wolf coming,
and then the wolf attacks and scatters the sheep;
this is because he is only a hired man
and has no concern for the sheep.

‘I am the good shepherd;
I know my own
and my own know me,
just as the Father knows me
and I know the Father;
and I lay down my life for my sheep.
And there are other sheep I have
that are not of this fold,
and these I have to lead as well.
They too will listen to my voice,
and there will be only one flock,
and one shepherd.

‘The Father loves me,
because I lay down my life
in order to take it up again.
No one takes it from me;
I lay it down of my own free will,
and as it is in my power to lay it down,
so it is in my power to take it up again;
and this is the command I have been given by my Father.’

John 10:11-18

The photograph above shows a sheep, the Cross, and some part of a serpent. In that simple schematic carving is proposed the relationship between us, and the Lord, and the evil that besets us, leading us to sin and the Lord to die on the Cross.

Yet his love frees us from sin for he vanquishes death and evil. It is his pleasure and joy to set us free, to save us.

His pattern of service is one for us not only to be grateful for and admire, but also to imitate. We are able to make his way ours, not by our own strength, though we have to desire it, but by his strength shared with us in grace and especially in the Shepherd’s self-gift becoming for us the Lamb of God, giving his life for us in form of Bread and Wine.

Photograph of Chancel Screen, Ravenna. (c) 2004, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Come to our aid

Abbey of St Victor, Marseille

As we pray the Psalm provided in the Lectionary for the first Sunday of Advent in Year B we take the part of the sheep, calling on our shepherd, calling for help.

Lord of hosts, bring us back; let your face shine on us and we shall be saved.

O shepherd of Israel, hear us,
shine forth from your cherubim throne.
O Lord, rouse up your might,
O Lord, come to our help.

God of hosts, turn again, we implore,
look down from heaven and see.
Visit this vine and protect it,
the vine your right hand has planted.

May your hand be on the man you have chosen,
the man you have given your strength.
And we shall never forsake you again;
give us life that we may call upon your name.

Lord of hosts, bring us back; let your face shine on us and we shall be saved.

Psalm 79:2-3,15-16,18-19

Why do we/you need a shepherd?

Who else does? And how might that shepherding, that care be offered?

A new initiative in Westminster is for the Church to better coordinate her care for the victims of human trafficking. Under the title of the Bakhita Project, the work is progressing, with new meetings in London and Rome this week. Please pray for those involved, helpers and victims. Some resources are available here.

The photograph is of a frieze, a detail from a paleo-Christian sarcophagus in the crypt of St Victor, Marseille. (c) 2013, Allen Morris.