Speak Lord: Of the body and truth

Andrea Joli, Assisi.jpg

The body is not meant for fornication: it is for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. God, who raised the Lord from the dead, will by his power raise us up too.
You know, surely, that your bodies are members making up the body of Christ; do you think I can take parts of Christ’s body and join them to the body of a prostitute? Never! But anyone who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with him.

Keep away from fornication. All the other sins are committed outside the body; but to fornicate is to sin against your own body.

Your body, you know, is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you since you received him from God. You are not your own property; you have been bought and paid for. That is why you should use your body for the glory of God.

Second reading for the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
1 Corinthians 6:13-15,17-20

Daily, hourly, the human body is exploited not only for sexual gratification as an end in itself, but also as a key resource for marketing products from cars to cosmetics and most everything else.

Human persons are objectified and prettified to fuel our fantasies, and to alienate us from the truth about them and ourselves and our world.

The way of the Gospel seeks to lead us more firmly back to the purpose of Creation, our lasting fulfilment and the glory of God.

Carving in clay of St Francis and St Clare, by Andrea Jolii, Assisi. (c) 2014, Allen Morris

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Taste and See: Alive

St Francis

In the Gospel reading in Sunday, the 14th in Ordinary Time, Jesus sent the disciples out, en masse, and in pairs, for their first work ‘without’ him. He called them to clear focus and firm discipline.

They learnt to minister from a position of vulnerability, relying on nothing but their confidence in the goodness of God, the closeness of the reign or kingdom of God, and their power to share that goodness with others.

And they succeed spectacularly.

Freed from the compulsions that so often condition our choices to act or not act; freed from self, they themselves do spectacular work.

 

The Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them out ahead of him, in pairs, to all the towns and places he himself was to visit. He said to them, ‘The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest. Start off now, but remember, I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Carry no purse, no haversack, no sandals. Salute no one on the road.

‘Whatever house you go into, let your first words be, “Peace to this house!” And if a man of peace lives there, your peace will go and rest on him; if not, it will come back to you. Stay in the same house, taking what food and drink they have to offer, for the labourer deserves his wages; do not move from house to house.

‘Whenever you go into a town where they make you welcome, eat what is set before you. Cure those in it who are sick, and say, “The kingdom of God is very near to you.” But whenever you enter a town and they do not make you welcome, go out into its streets and say, “We wipe off the very dust of your town that clings to our feet, and leave it with you. Yet be sure of this: the kingdom of God is very near.” I tell you, on that day it will not go as hard with Sodom as with that town.’

The seventy-two came back rejoicing. ‘Lord,’ they said ‘even the devils submit to us when we use your name.’ He said to them, ‘I watched Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Yes, I have given you power to tread underfoot serpents and scorpions and the whole strength of the enemy; nothing shall ever hurt you. Yet do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you; rejoice rather that your names are written in heaven.’

Luke 10:1-12,17-20

At the heart of the passage from the Gospel is the gift of peace – a peace the disciples, for all their poverty, are able to give.

It is a gift that those who receive it already have, at least in some sense. ‘If a man of peace lives there, your peace will go and rest on him…’

The communion in peace establishes or perhaps more accurately recognises the bonds that already unite disciple and those to whom they are sent, demonstrates that indeed the kingdom is very near.

Too often that unity is compromised by suspicion and  labels of ‘otherness’. But resistance is relaxed by the gentle presence of the disciples and the sharing of the foundational teaching of Jesus.

And suddenly the kingdom is somewhat closer, and the family of God somewhat healthier, enlivened and happier! United with each other, and united with God.

St Francis, Assisi. (c) 2015, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Our Way

 

Francis Cross

The Gospel on Sunday, the 12th in Ordinary Time, explores Jesus’ identity and ministry; his relationship to God; and our relationship with Jesus.

One day when Jesus was praying alone in the presence of his disciples he put this question to them, ‘Who do the crowds say I am?’ And they answered, ‘John the Baptist; others Elijah; and others say one of the ancient prophets come back to life.’ ‘But you,’ he said ‘who do you say I am?’ It was Peter who spoke up. ‘The Christ of God’ he said. But he gave them strict orders not to tell anyone anything about this.

‘The Son of Man’ he said ‘is destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes and to be put to death, and to be raised up on the third day.’

Then to all he said, ‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross every day and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, that man will save it.’

Luke 9:18-24

Jesus symbolises our communion with him with our being invited to renounce ourselves and take up our cross, every day, and following. His language has been adopted by others and used to dominate and diminish those in their charge and ‘care’.

Yet it is in that saying no to self, and being faithful to the cross, daily, that makes Jesus who and what he is for us – making him not death and diminishment but life and love and truth.

The image of the cross – as well as its historical aptness, given the manner of Jesus death – does highlight the public nature of the choices we make, and their personal cost to us.

But in that choice we find ourselves, and accomplish our potential, and find fulfilment in that and our communion with God and neighbour.

  • What about following Jesus challenges you?
  • What draws you to try?

 

Fresco at Basilica of St Francis, Assisi. (c) 2014, Allen Morris

Taste and See: At one with Christ

Fresco AssisiThe Responsorial Psalm for the Mass of Palm Sunday invited us into an intimate sharing in the Lord’s faith – his experience of challenge and fear, his experience of trust and faith.

It is, of course, a psalm prayed by Jesus on the Cross.

It is a prayer that draws us into the central mystery of Holy Week.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

All who see me deride me.
They curl their lips, they toss their heads.
‘He trusted in the Lord, let him save him;
let him release him if this is his friend.’

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Many dogs have surrounded me,
a band of the wicked beset me.
They tear holes in my hands and my feet
I can count every one of my bones.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

They divide my clothing among them.
They cast lots for my robe.
O Lord, do not leave me alone,
my strength, make haste to help me!

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

I will tell of your name to my brethren
and praise you where they are assembled.
‘You who fear the Lord give him praise;
all sons of Jacob, give him glory.
Revere him, Israel’s sons.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Psalm 21:8-9,17-20,23-24

Each disciple is called to follow Jesus. The call finds a vivid depiction in the fresco reproduced above. The example of St Francis is a great inspiration to such a careful imitation of the Lord.

What is equally true is that the Lord accompanies us in our struggles.

In our praying of Holy Week we are invited to find a deeper communion with the Lord and a sharing of life, love, even suffering with him.

  • What in your life do you find easy to share with the Lord?
  • What do you seek to keep to yourself, even hide from him?
  • What does the Lord seek to share with you?
  • What do you welcome? And what do you resist?

 Photograph is of fresco in the basilica of St Francis, Assisi. (c) 2014, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Light come into the world

San DamianoThe regular Gospel reading for the 4th Sunday of Lent, in Year B, comes from the Gospel of John. Again, as befits, Laetare Sunday, Rejoice Sunday (named for the first word of the day’s opening antiphon), the Gospel is full of hope and promise.

So too is the Gospel for this Sunday in Year A, optional in Year B and mandated when the Second Scrutiny is celebrated. That Gospel is given at the end of this blog.

Jesus said to Nicodemus:

‘The Son of Man must be lifted up
as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert,
so that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.
Yes, 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.
On these grounds is sentence pronounced:
that though the light has come into the world
men have shown they prefer darkness to the light
because their deeds were evil.
And indeed, everybody who does wrong
hates the light and avoids it,
for fear his actions should be exposed;
but the man who lives by the truth comes out into the light,
so that it may be plainly seen that what he does is done in God.’

John 3:14-21

The gospel passage refers back to the episode recorded in the Book of Numbers when Israel during its desert wanderings was beset by dragon-like snakes, whose death killed. God told Moses to raise a bronze serpent on a standard and said that all who were bitten and looked on it would be saved. (Numbers 21: 4-9)  The passage has echoes of the Devil as serpent in the story of Adam and Eve and the first sin: it also looks forward to the raising on the cross of the Son of God, in whom we find freedom from sin and death.

We hear the Gospel as we journey through the 40 days of Lent, remembering Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness. Maybe we moan and groan. The Gospel reminds us we are called to light and freedom, and that we are called there for life and love.

San D chapel

  • Take heart… Easter will be with us very soon now.
  • Take stock… know how you are loved and give thanks.

Photographs are of the Cross of San Damiano, the cross from which Jesus spoke to St Francis. The first photo shows the original cross, now in the church of S. Chiara in Assisi, and the second shows a replica but in the original chapel of San Damiano. (c) 2014, Allen Morris.

– – –

As Jesus went along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, for him to have been born blind?’ ‘Neither he nor his parents sinned,’ Jesus answered ‘he was born blind so that the works of God might be displayed in him.

‘As long as the day lasts
I must carry out the work of the one who sent me;
the night will soon be here when no one can work.
As long as I am in the world
I am the light of the world.’

Having said this, he spat on the ground, made a paste with the spittle, put this over the eyes of the blind man, and said to him, ‘Go and wash in the Pool of Siloam’ (a name that means ‘sent’). So the blind man went off and washed himself, and came away with his sight restored.
His neighbours and people who earlier had seen him begging said, ‘Isn’t this the man who used to sit and beg?’ Some said, ‘Yes, it is the same one.’ Others said, ‘No, he only looks like him.’ The man himself said, ‘I am the man.’ So they said to him, ‘Then how do your eyes come to be open?’ ‘The man called Jesus’ he answered ‘made a paste, daubed my eyes with it and said to me, “Go and wash at Siloam”; so I went, and when I washed I could see.’ They asked, ‘Where is he?’ ‘I don’t know’ he answered.

They brought the man who had been blind to the Pharisees. It had been a sabbath day when Jesus made the paste and opened the man’s eyes, so when the Pharisees asked him how he had come to see, he said, ‘He put a paste on my eyes, and I washed, and I can see.’ Then some of the Pharisees said, ‘This man cannot be from God: he does not keep the sabbath.’ Others said, ‘How could a sinner produce signs like this?’ And there was disagreement among them. So they spoke to the blind man again, ‘What have you to say about him yourself, now that he has opened your eyes?’ ‘He is a prophet’ replied the man. However, the Jews would not believe that the man had been blind and had gained his sight, without first sending for his parents and asking them, ‘Is this man really your son who you say was born blind? If so, how is it that he is now able to see?’ His parents answered, ‘We know he is our son and we know he was born blind, but we do not know how it is that he can see now, or who opened his eyes. He is old enough: let him speak for himself.’ His parents spoke like this out of fear of the Jews, who had already agreed to expel from the synagogue anyone who should acknowledge Jesus as the Christ. This was why his parents said, ‘He is old enough; ask him.’

So the Jews again sent for the man and said to him, ‘Give glory to God! For our part, we know that this man is a sinner.’ The man answered, ‘I don’t know if he is a sinner; I only know that I was blind and now I can see.’ They said to him, ‘What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?’ He replied, ‘I have told you once and you wouldn’t listen. Why do you want to hear it all again? Do you want to become his disciples too?’ At this they hurled abuse at him: ‘You can be his disciple,’ they said ‘we are disciples of Moses: we know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.’ The man replied, ‘Now here is an astonishing thing! He has opened my eyes, and you don’t know where he comes from! We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners, but God does listen to men who are devout and do his will. Ever since the world began it is unheard of for anyone to open the eyes of a man who was born blind; if this man were not from God, he couldn’t do a thing.’ ‘Are you trying to teach us,’ they replied ‘and you a sinner through and through, since you were born!’ And they drove him away.

Jesus heard they had driven him away, and when he found him he said to him, ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’ ‘Sir,’ the man replied ‘tell me who he is so that I may believe in him.’ Jesus said, ‘You are looking at him; he is speaking to you.’ The man said, ‘Lord, I believe’, and worshipped him.

Jesus said:

‘It is for judgement
that I have come into this world,
so that those without sight may see
and those with sight turn blind.’

Hearing this, some Pharisees who were present said to him, ‘We are not blind, surely?’ Jesus replied:

‘Blind? If you were,
you would not be guilty,
but since you say, “We see,”
your guilt remains.’

John 9:1-41

Taste and See: Embraced by love

Francis embracing Jesus

The gospel heard at Mass yesterday, the 30th in Ordinary Time, speaks of law and love.

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees they got together and, to disconcert him, one of them put a question, ‘Master, which is the greatest commandment of the Law?’ Jesus said, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second resembles it: You must love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments hang the whole Law, and the Prophets also.’

Matthew 22:34-40

However often we have heard the scriptures, this word proves to be a living word, and presents itself fresh, attuned to our present circumstances.

Challenged by those whose preoccupation is the Law, Jesus reminds that the heart and fulfilment of the Law is love.

There can seem tension between the keeping of the law and the challenge to faithfulness that comes from the prophets and often seems to take us beyond the law. But the Law is Love.

The grit that produces the pearl which is holiness and godliness is often our recurrent failure to live love. For when by the word we know our failure we also know afresh that the one who humbles us is Love, and He who is love helps us to re-turn to himself and ourselves.

In our repentance we are met by love and a new and deeper relationship is established between us and the Lord, full of potential for a deeper relationship between us and our neighbour, us and our world.

  •  For what do you want to say sorry?
  • For what does The Lord want to forgive you?

The image is of St Francis embracing, and being embraced by, the risen Lord. It comes from the sanctuary of La Verna, Tuscany, Italy. (c) 2014, Allen Morris