Speak Lord: Our sure hope

Figure at prayer. Cathedral, Nantes. (c) 2016, Allen Morris.

I want you to be happy, always happy in the Lord; I repeat, what I want is your happiness. Let your tolerance be evident to everyone: the Lord is very near.

There is no need to worry; but if there is anything you need, pray for it, asking God for it with prayer and thanksgiving, and that peace of God, which is so much greater than we can understand, will guard your hearts and your thoughts, in Christ Jesus.


Second Reading for the 3rd Sunday of Advent
Philippians 4:4-7

On Gaudete Sunday we hear this reading from Paul that urges us to rejoice, to be happy in the Lord.

The Lord and his love are the ultimate reason for our confidence.

His prayer, our prayer, and the prayer of the whole Church, offers us reason for comfort and trust.

Speak Lord: Help us speak and listen…

IMG_3560a Pier Francesco Sacchi, Saint Paul Writing..jpg

As we have the same spirit of faith that is mentioned in scripture – I believed, and therefore I spoke – we too believe and therefore we too speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus to life will raise us with Jesus in our turn, and put us by his side and you with us. You see, all this is for your benefit, so that the more grace is multiplied among people, the more thanksgiving there will be, to the glory of God.

That is why there is no weakening on our part, and instead, though this outer man of ours may be falling into decay, the inner man is renewed day by day. Yes, the troubles which are soon over, though they weigh little, train us for the carrying of a weight of eternal glory which is out of all proportion to them. And so we have no eyes for things that are visible, but only for things that are invisible; for visible things last only for a time, and the invisible things are eternal.

For we know that when the tent that we live in on earth is folded up, there is a house built by God for us, an everlasting home not made by human hands, in the heavens.

Second reading for 10th Sunday in Ordinary Time
2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1

 

Paul spoke and regularly found himself in a good deal of trouble because of what he said and how he said it. Today too, he provokes hurt and upset, and for many of the same reasons.

Any yet his desire is to speak the Gospel of Love, to save people from falsehood and whatever will not lead them to God.

In the Scriptures, because we hear so much from him directly, we know that Paul spoke. What is not so evident, but surely equally true, is that Paul was ready to listen – to the Lord, to toeher apostles, to the people who lived and worked among. He could be acerbic and abrupt, but he was also committed and caring and sought to be at their service.

  • Who do we talk to?
  • Who do we talk at?
  • Who do we listen to?

Pier Francesco Sacchi, Saint Paul Writing. National Gallery, London. (c) 2018, Allen Morris

Taste and See: Making the effort

DSC00776 Paul.jpg

Whatever you eat, whatever you drink, whatever you do at all, do it for the glory of God. Never do anything offensive to anyone – to Jews or Greeks or to the Church of God; just as I try to be helpful to everyone at all times, not anxious for my own advantage but for the advantage of everybody else, so that they may be saved. Take me for your model, as I take Christ.

Second reading for Sunday of the 6th week in Ordinary Time
1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1

Our every action is laden with the implications and consequences of the choices we made in taking it.

Often we will not even be conscious of these. But Paul invites us to try to make sure that the implication of our every action is that we love and honour God and every intended consequence is about love of neighbour.

Today is the last day before the season of Lent begins – a season given us to help us recover the fullness of our Christian identity by attending to our behaviour.

St Paul, pray for us.

Sign for Christian Coffee Shop, Antalya, Turkey. (c) 2014, Allen Morris

 

Speak Lord: Our Good News

DSC05665 St Peters W Door, 2016.jpg

I do not boast of preaching the gospel, since it is a duty which has been laid on me; I should be punished if I did not preach it! If I had chosen this work myself, I might have been paid for it, but as I have not, it is a responsibility which has been put into my hands. Do you know what my reward is? It is this: in my preaching, to be able to offer the Good News free, and not insist on the rights which the gospel gives me.

So though I am not a slave of any man I have made myself the slave of everyone so as to win as many as I could. For the weak I made myself weak. I made myself all things to all men in order to save some at any cost; and I still do this, for the sake of the gospel, to have a share in its blessings.

Second reading for Sunday of 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time
1 Corinthians 9:16-19,22-23

St Paul’s gifts himself, freely, for the sake and love of others. He accepts the invitation from God to make himself servant of all, that they might have life and have it to the full.

It is in this self-giving that St Paul becomes himself.

  • What makes you you?

Image of St Paul from West Door of St Peter’s Basilica, Rome. (c) 2016, Allen Morris.

 

Speak Lord: Broken for us

144cross-and-flowersWhen I came to you, brothers, it was not with any show of oratory or philosophy, but simply to tell you what God had guaranteed. During my stay with you, the only knowledge I claimed to have was about Jesus, and only about him as the crucified Christ.

Far from relying on any power of my own, I came among you in great ‘fear and trembling’ and in my speeches and the sermons that I gave, there were none of the arguments that belong to philosophy; only a demonstration of the power of the Spirit. And I did this so that your faith should not depend on human philosophy but on the power of God.

1 Corinthians 2:1-5

The Second reading on Sunday next, the 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time, focuses us on the central teaching of Paul, the Cross and the Crucified Christ.

The glory of God is revealed in this ‘tragedy’, this ‘failure’. It is in turning from all other glories that we enter into the wondrous love and life of the Resurrected One, and the fulfilment of all God’s promises.

Photograph. York 2007. (c) 2007, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: a humble way…

entrance-to-a-cave-church-goreme

Take yourselves for instance, brothers, at the time when you were called: how many of you were wise in the ordinary sense of the word, how many were influential people, or came from noble families? No, it was to shame the wise that God chose what is foolish by human reckoning, and to shame what is strong that he chose what is weak by human reckoning; those whom the world thinks common and contemptible are the ones that God has chosen – those who are nothing at all to show up those who are everything.

The human race has nothing to boast about to God, but you, God has made members of Christ Jesus and by God’s doing he has become our wisdom, and our virtue, and our holiness, and our freedom. As scripture says: if anyone wants to boast, let him boast about the Lord.

1 Corinthians 1:26-31

St Paul calls us a realistic sense of ourselves. Humility about who were are/were in ourselves; proper pride about who in Christ we have become.

On the Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time, the sequence of readings invite us to a fresh humility about ourselves, and a fresh dedication to the Lord and his way of living.

In God’s purview so many of the things we have considered strengths are revealed as weaknesses, sapping us of our purpose and drawing us from what makes life most worth living.

To take to ourselves God’s vision and God’s life is not necessarily easy! But we seek to do it, not alone, but as very members of Christ. From him will come the strength we need, and from him the love and patience we need as we struggle as we learn to live by his strength.

  • In what do you take false pride?
  • In what can you take real pride?

Rock church, Goreme, Turkey. (c) 2014, Allen Morris

Taste and See: Listen up

 

Opinions in Brum Lib.jpg

I appeal to you, brothers, for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, to make up the differences between you, and instead of disagreeing among yourselves, to be united again in your belief and practice. From what Chloe’s people have been telling me, my dear brothers, it is clear that there are serious differences among you. What I mean are all these slogans that you have, like: ‘I am for Paul’, ‘I am for Apollos’, ‘I am for Cephas’, ‘I am for Christ.’ Has Christ been parcelled out? Was it Paul that was crucified for you? Were you baptised in the name of Paul?

For Christ did not send me to baptise, but to preach the Good News, and not to preach that in the terms of philosophy in which the crucifixion of Christ cannot be expressed.

1 Corinthians 1:10-13,17

The Second reading at Mass yesterday, the 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, calls for a restoration of unity.

Our original unity comes from our shared humanity, gift of the Creator of all. That unity has been fractured so many times in so many ways. Wealth/religion/culture/political opinion are but some of the forces that drive us away from others and into self-interest groups. Can anything be more inimical to God’s will for us – the God who in Jesus Christ went to the Cross not for the (self-) righteous but for sinnes, for those outside our caste.

St Paul calls on all who call on Christ to find common ground again through Christ, to work for ways that help them to love and serve each other and together.

  • Who offends you?
  • How might you offend them?

Photograph (c) 2014, Allen Morris. Installation at Birmingham Library. (c) 2014, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Grace and Peace…

dsc00885-paul

From Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus who has been called to be an apostle, and specially chosen to preach the Good News that God promised long ago through his prophets in the scriptures.

This news is about the Son of God who, according to the human nature he took was a descendant of David: it is about Jesus Christ our Lord who, in the order of the spirit, the spirit of holiness that was in him, was proclaimed Son of God in all his power through his resurrection from the dead.

Through him we received grace and our apostolic mission to preach the obedience of faith to all pagan nations in honour of his name. You are one of these nations, and by his call belong to Jesus Christ. To you all, then, who are God’s beloved in Rome, called to be saints, may God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ send grace and peace.

Romans 1:1-7

On the Sunday before Christmas, the 4th Sunday of Advent, we are reminded of the Good News and of the foundaiton of our faith.

The Gospel is Good News because it is the revelation of some particular thing which happened at particular time, and involves a particular series of historical events, that had a particular beginning and a particular ‘end’.

The Gospel is not a philosophy, expounding eternal verities, still less some religious lowest common denominator of ethics and moral saws and sentences.

Paul makes that very clear. Our faith is rooted in the scandals of the Incarnation and the Cross, if our faith is the faith of the Church.

And our faith calls out to be lived in radical ways here and now, overturning the expectations of a world limited to its own established ways and expectations: doing the impossible in love.

  • Where might you start? Next?

Byzantine Enamel. (11th C) in the Collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum. (c) 2016, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Of offering

st-paul-shrewsbury-avenue

My life is already being poured away as a libation, and the time has come for me to be gone. I have fought the good fight to the end; I have run the race to the finish; I have kept the faith; all there is to come now is the crown of righteousness reserved for me, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give to me on that Day; and not only to me but to all those who have longed for his Appearing.

The first time I had to present my defence, there was not a single witness to support me. Every one of them deserted me – may they not be held accountable for it. But the Lord stood by me and gave me power, so that through me the whole message might be proclaimed for all the pagans to hear; and so I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from all evil attempts on me, and bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

2 Timothy 4:6-8,16-18

St Paul speaks of the isolation that is his, and the focus on service that is his.

He speaks of the love of the Lord who calls him to himself, into an eternal and blessed communion. And he testifies to the anguish that has been his because of his determination to respond to that call.

Life has many challenges. And as we face them we stand in good company!

  • Pause to remember the Lord’s love for you. How have you learnt of this? What form has your experience of this taken?
  • What challenges do you face? Place these in the hands of the Lord as preparation for living your life as best you may today.

St Paul. Shrewsbury Abbey. (c) 2016, Allen Morris

Taste and See: mercy

stoning-ost-stephen

The second reading on Sunday, the 24th of Ordinary Time, came from the first of St Paul’s letters to Timothy.

The passage we heard contains intensely personal words. Paul reflects on his active role in opposing the teaching of the early Church – present and assisting at the brutal killing of St Stephen – and on the mercy of God who has now drawn him to the service of the Church and to the faith.

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, and who judged me faithful enough to call me into his service even though I used to be a blasphemer and did all I could to injure and discredit the faith.

Mercy, however, was shown me, because until I became a believer I had been acting in ignorance; and the grace of our Lord filled me with faith and with the love that is in Christ Jesus.

Here is a saying that you can rely on and nobody should doubt: that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.

I myself am the greatest of them; and if mercy has been shown to me, it is because Jesus Christ meant to make me the greatest evidence of his inexhaustible patience for all the other people who would later have to trust in him to come to eternal life.

To the eternal King, the undying, invisible and only God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

1 Timothy 1:12-17

God is merciful, indeed. But so, of course, was the Church which received and subsequently comissioned, Paul, its former persecutor, to minister in its name.

The Church is constantly called to live to the truth of the present, rather than to dwell on past deeds. In and by the mercy of God, and with the cooperation of sinners, all things can be made new.

Salvation is God’s gift, and it is our duty and our privilege to bear witness to it, daily. The grace of God urges that we live what by his mercy we are, and not what we’ve been. We do not though forget our error or fault, but when remembered and related, it is less to our shame and far more to God’s glory in freeing us from sin.

  • How do, how should, we respond to those who do violence? Or support it?

Stoning of St Stephen, with St Paul in attendance. Vatican Museum. (c) 2016, Allen Morris