Speak Lord: Creator, Saviour

IMG_5167 Iona Temptation.jpg

The Lord God fashioned man of dust from the soil. Then he breathed into his nostrils a breath of life, and thus man became a living being.

The Lord God planted a garden in Eden which is in the east, and there he put the man he had fashioned. The Lord God caused to spring up from the soil every kind of tree, enticing to look at and good to eat, with the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the middle of the garden.

Now the serpent was the most subtle of all the wild beasts that the Lord God had made. It asked the woman, ‘Did God really say you were not to eat from any of the trees in the garden?’ The woman answered the serpent, ‘We may eat the fruit of the trees in the garden. But of the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden God said, “You must not eat it, nor touch it, under pain of death.” ‘ Then the serpent said to the woman, ‘No! You will not die! God knows in fact that on the day you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, knowing good and evil.’ The woman saw that the tree was good to eat and pleasing to the eye, and that it was desirable for the knowledge that it could give. So she took some of its fruit and ate it. She gave some also to her husband who was with her, and he ate it.

Then the eyes of both of them were opened and they realised that they were naked. So they sewed fig-leaves together to make themselves loin-cloths.

Genesis 2:7-9,3:1-7

The First reading at Mass today, the first Sunday of Lent, reminds us of our beginnings as a beloved and privileged part of God’s creation. It also reminds us of the tragedy of sin, and the loss that comes from it.

Genesis’ account of the garden and the Fall  heard at the beginning of Lent establishes the context for the account of the triumph of love and faithfulness achieved by Christ, betrayed in one garden and buried in another, that we will hear read from John’s Gospel on Good Friday.

  • What consequence of the sin of others most evidently blights your life?
  • What action of yours might most blights the lives of others?

Bring your pain and sorrow to God in prayer.

 

Capital, depicting the Temptation. Iona Abbey. (c) 2011, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Saviour

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Sin entered the world through one man, and through sin death, and thus death has spread through the whole human race because everyone has sinned. Sin existed in the world long before the Law was given. There was no law and so no one could be accused of the sin of ‘law-breaking’, yet death reigned over all from Adam to Moses, even though their sin, unlike that of Adam, was not a matter of breaking a law.

Adam prefigured the One to come, but the gift itself considerably outweighed the fall. If it is certain that through one man’s fall so many died, it is even more certain that divine grace, coming through the one man, Jesus Christ, came to so many as an abundant free gift. The results of the gift also outweigh the results of one man’s sin: for after one single fall came judgement with a verdict of condemnation, now after many falls comes grace with its verdict of acquittal. If it is certain that death reigned over everyone as the consequence of one man’s fall, it is even more certain that one man, Jesus Christ, will cause everyone to reign in life who receives the free gift that he does not deserve, of being made righteous. Again, as one man’s fall brought condemnation on everyone, so the good act of one man brings everyone life and makes them justified. As by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience many will be made righteous.

Romans 5:12-19

The Second reading on Sunday, the 1st Sunday of Lent, reminds of sin, the grit in the oyster, and of the pearl that by God’s grace forms around it and overwhelms it.

Lent addresses the continuing reality of sin in our lives – not only the consequences of the sin of Adam, but our own sin too. It does so with great confidence because of the saving love of God.

  • For what does God’s love allow you to repent and be set free of?
  • How might the mercy of God find fresh expression in how you live ?

Image of crucifix in the Basilica of the Nativity, Bethlehem. showing Jesus’ saving blood dripping from the Cross onto the skull of Adam buried beneath it. (c) 2017, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: Beyond healing?

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Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Do not imagine that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to complete them. I tell you solemnly, till heaven and earth disappear, not one dot, not one little stroke, shall disappear from the Law until its purpose is achieved. Therefore, the man who infringes even one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be considered the least in the kingdom of heaven; but the man who keeps them and teaches them will be considered great in the kingdom of heaven.

‘For I tell you, if your virtue goes no deeper than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.

‘You have learnt how it was said to our ancestors: You must not kill; and if anyone does kill he must answer for it before the court. But I say this to you: anyone who is angry with his brother will answer for it before the court; if a man calls his brother “Fool” he will answer for it before the Sanhedrin; and if a man calls him “Renegade” he will answer for it in hell fire. So then, if you are bringing your offering to the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, go and be reconciled with your brother first, and then come back and present your offering. Come to terms with your opponent in good time while you are still on the way to the court with him, or he may hand you over to the judge and the judge to the officer, and you will be thrown into prison. I tell you solemnly, you will not get out till you have paid the last penny.

‘You have learnt how it was said: You must not commit adultery. But I say this to you: if a man looks at a woman lustfully, he has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye should cause you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; for it will do you less harm to lose one part of you than to have your whole body thrown into hell. And if your right hand should cause you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; for it will do you less harm to lose one part of you than to have your whole body go to hell.

‘It has also been said: Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a writ of dismissal. But I say this to you: everyone who divorces his wife, except for the case of fornication, makes her an adulteress; and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

‘Again, you have learnt how it was said to our ancestors: You must not break your oath, but must fulfil your oaths to the Lord. But I say this to you: do not swear at all, either by heaven, since that is God’s throne; or by the earth, since that is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, since that is the city of the great king. Do not swear by your own head either, since you cannot turn a single hair white or black. All you need say is “Yes” if you mean yes, “No” if you mean no; anything more than this comes from the evil one.’

Matthew 5:17-37

The Gospel at Mass yesterday, the sixth  Sunday of Ordinary Time, was a huge list of commands and warnings. And not expressed in the most easily digestible language either…

Jesus though speasks to win us for love, and guard us from lies and from harm. He seeks to protect us, and to have us act to protect others.

Sin matters; hurt and harm are real. Sometmes wrong-doing blights a life in unconscionable ways, and in a manner that seems untreatable. Or at least again and again we will see people who for one reason or another have been so sinned against, so damaged, that they seem  inaccessible to the healing that love and God offers. Sin matters; hurt and harm are real.

  • Who do you know who is hurt and for whom you might pray today?
  • What actions of your might cause hurt, and how – with God’s help – mightyou turn from them?

Memorial to dead of the Vietnam War, Washington DC. (c) 2007, Allen Morris

Taste and See: Over-reaching sin

Skyscraper Philadelphia

The Psalm on Sunday, the 11th Sunday of Ordinary Time, is a humble confession of sin, and and of thanks to the Lord:

Forgive, Lord, the guilt of my sin.

Happy the man whose offence is forgiven,
whose sin is remitted.
O happy the man to whom the Lord
imputes no guilt,
in whose spirit is no guile.

Forgive, Lord, the guilt of my sin.

But now I have acknowledged my sins;
my guilt I did not hide.
I said: ‘I will confess
my offence to the Lord.’
And you, Lord, have forgiven
the guilt of my sin.

Forgive, Lord, the guilt of my sin.

You are my hiding place, O Lord;
you save me from distress.
You surround me with cries of deliverance.

Forgive, Lord, the guilt of my sin.

Rejoice, rejoice in the Lord,
exult, you just!
O come, ring out your joy,
all you upright of heart.

Forgive, Lord, the guilt of my sin.

Psalm 31:1-2,5,7,11

We are sinners, and the failures of the past and present are indeed ours. But we are also loved, the beloved, of God. In this we find our identity, sinners saved.

  • For what do you give thanks?
  • How do you live your thanks?

Skyscrapers, Philadelphia. (c) 2007, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: source of joy

Penance Rome

Praying the Responsorial Psalm tomorrow, Sunday, the 11th Sunday in Ordinary time, draws us toward a fresh knowledge of our sins and their consequences, and the glory of life redeemed.

Forgive, Lord, the guilt of my sin. 

Happy the man whose offence is forgiven,
whose sin is remitted.
O happy the man to whom the Lord
imputes no guilt,
in whose spirit is no guile.

But now I have acknowledged my sins;
my guilt I did not hide.
I said: ‘I will confess
my offence to the Lord.’
And you, Lord, have forgiven
the guilt of my sin.

You are my hiding place, O Lord;
you save me from distress.
You surround me with cries of deliverance.

Rejoice, rejoice in the Lord,
exult, you just!
O come, ring out your joy,
all you upright of heart.

Psalm 31:1-2,5,7,11

The movement from the heaviness and incumbrance of sin and guilt to joy and life is ours because of God’s mercy and love. When we remain mindful of that we live in joy – even if we live still with trial and tribulation. But if we forget and ‘just’ live, turned in on ourselves, life and liveliness drains from us.

Life comes as gift; joy when we embrace its giver.

  • When did you last celebrate the Sacrament of Penance and why?
  • When will you next celebrate the Sacrament?
  • How does it help you in your Christian vocation?

In the Year of Mercy there is especial encouragement for us to recover a sense of appreciation for the Sacrament as assurance, a  ministry which helps us receive and benefit from the healing mercy. Why not combine your next celebration of the Sacrament with a visit to a Holy year pilgrimage site and with a Year of Mercy Door.

Detail of the Sacraments Door, St Peter’s Basilica, Rome. (c) Allen Morris, 2016.

Taste and See: Jesus with us and for us

Jessu St PeterDuring these last weeks of the Church’s Year the second readings at Sunday Mass come from the Letter to the Hebrews.

This Sunday, the 30th of the Year, the reading was the following:

Every high priest has been taken out of mankind and is appointed to act for men in their relations with God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins; and so he can sympathise with those who are ignorant or uncertain because he too lives in the limitations of weakness. That is why he has to make sin offerings for himself as well as for the people. No one takes this honour on himself, but each one is called by God, as Aaron was. Nor did Christ give himself the glory of becoming high priest, but he had it from the one who said to him: You are my son, today I have become your father, and in another text: You are a priest of the order of Melchizedek, and for ever.

Hebrews 5:1-6

Jesus was without sin – like us in all things but sin, Hebrews 4:15ff assured us – but with his people he offered sacrifice for sin. The text tells us this was for himself as well as for us, so close was/is his association with us.

Mary was preserved from all sin from her conception, from the first moment of her life. Jesus by virtue of his nature as God and Man could not sin – but he took our sinfulness to himself, not even letting the guilt and shame and hurt of sin separate us from him. So the self-righteous among his contemporaries would reject him, the Holy One of God, as a sinner among sinners, blasphemous, and kill him.

The way of the Lord is to embrace weakness, endure misrepresentation, and help the floundering to the firm ground of God’s love and truth.

  • What weakness in you does the Lord long to minister to?
  • How can you show solidarity today with those who struggle?

 Image of Jesus from the Collegiate Church of St Peter, Wolverhampton. (C) 2015, 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.