Speak Lord: Raise us up

IMG_3165 Peter Capernaum.jpg

On leaving the synagogue, Jesus went with James and John straight to the house of Simon and Andrew. Now Simon’s mother-in-law had gone to bed with fever, and they told him about her straightaway. He went to her, took her by the hand and helped her up. And the fever left her and she began to wait on them.

That evening, after sunset, they brought to him all who were sick and those who were possessed by devils. The whole town came crowding round the door, and he cured many who were suffering from diseases of one kind or another; he also cast out many devils, but he would not allow them to speak, because they knew who he was.

In the morning, long before dawn, he got up and left the house, and went off to a lonely place and prayed there. Simon and his companions set out in search of him, and when they found him they said, ‘Everybody is looking for you.’ He answered, ‘Let us go elsewhere, to the neighbouring country towns, so that I can preach there too, because that is why I came.’ And he went all through Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out devils.

Gospel for the Sunday of the 5th Week in Ordinary Time
Mark 1:29-39

The named disciples in Mark often have a hard time learning the ways of faith and discipleship. Their stories are told often as cautionary tales – and especially the stories about Peter!

Tradition says that Mark’s Gospel is firmly based on Peter’s memory of the events re-told by Mark.

How lovely then that right near the beginning of the Gospel we get the memory of his mother-in-law modelling perfect discipleship. She is in need, sick; she receives the Lord and his loving care; and she rises and begins to serve him and others…

‘Nuff said, now we need to go do likewise!

Carving in the church of St Peter, Capernaum. (c) 2013, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: gently

St Peter getting our of the boat, Peterborough CathedralThe second reading at Mass on Sunday, the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time, comes from the Letter to the Hebrews.

Have you forgotten that encouraging text in which you are addressed as sons? My son, when the Lord corrects you, do not treat it lightly; but do not get discouraged when he reprimands you. For the Lord trains the ones that he loves and he punishes all those that he acknowledges as his sons. Suffering is part of your training; God is treating you as his sons. Has there ever been any son whose father did not train him? Of course, any punishment is most painful at the time, and far from pleasant; but later, in those on whom it has been used, it bears fruit in peace and goodness. So hold up your limp arms and steady your trembling knees and smooth out the path you tread; then the injured limb will not be wrenched, it will grow strong again.

Hebrews 12:5-7,11-13

Discipline rarely comes easy – whether it is self-discipline, or the discipline imposed by others. We can resent it and seek to resist it in countless ways.

The discipline of God is always for our good., our lasting good. Often though our timescale is rather more short term and we can miss the point of the training the Lord provides.

Experience suggests that, on the whole, our learning to accept his discipline does not come much easier, if any easier, with age.

We are always as children before him, needing his help, often being childish in our resentment and tantrums. But when we know our weakness and repent of our failings we are ever invited to return child-like to the loving Father; to the embrace of the beloved and beloving brother, secure in the Spirit of God.

  • What invitation from the Lord do you resist?
  • What impetuosity are you tempted to?

St Peter getting our of the boat. Peterborough Cathedral. (c) 2011, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: the Truth

St Peter ColeshillThe verse for the Gospel Acclamation at Mass yesterday was simple and direct.

 Alleluia, alleluia! Your word is truth, O Lord: consecrate us in the truth. Alleluia!

The truth, of course, sometimes is too direct for us. It can make us feel uncomfortable, even we know it comes to us from – as – the Living God.

  •  (If you do!) why do you choose truth?
  • In what way does the Lord consecrate you in the truth?

Truth betrayed. St Peter denies Jesus. (Sacred Heart and St Theresa, Coleshill).
(c) 2016, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: that we may witness to you

St Peter baptised gentiles

The first reading at Mass today comes from the ‘Easter book’ – the account of the first days and years following the Resurrection, of the early church and its development – the Acts of the Apostles.

Peter addressed Cornelius and his household: ‘You must have heard about the recent happenings in Judaea; about Jesus of Nazareth and how he began in Galilee, after John had been preaching baptism. God had anointed him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and because God was with him, Jesus went about doing good and curing all who had fallen into the power of the devil.

Now I, and those with me, can witness to everything he did throughout the countryside of Judaea and in Jerusalem itself: and also to the fact that they killed him by hanging him on a tree, yet three days afterwards God raised him to life and allowed him to be seen, not by the whole people but only by certain witnesses God had chosen beforehand.

Now we are those witnesses – we have eaten and drunk with him after his resurrection from the dead – and he has ordered us to proclaim this to his people and to tell them that God has appointed him to judge everyone, alive or dead. It is to him that all the prophets bear this witness: that all who believe in Jesus will have their sins forgiven through his name.’

Acts 10:34,37-43

The Acts of the Apostles tells of the Church, but of course as the passage today shows, it tells of the continuing work of Jesus in his Church.

It tells of men and women who respond to Jesus, risen from the dead, and the impact that has on their lives, of the impact that he has on the lives of those who respond to him.

  • What draws you to faith?
  • How/when do you see Jesus active in your life?

 

 

Taste and See: Freedom

Liberation of Peter

The first reading at the Mass during the day on Sunday, the feast of Ss Peter and Paul, came from the Acts of the Apostles.

It recounted the story of an early persecution and a miraculous liberation.

King Herod started persecuting certain members of the Church. He beheaded James the brother of John, and when he saw that this pleased the Jews he decided to arrest Peter as well. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread, and he put Peter in prison, assigning four squads of four soldiers each to guard him in turns. Herod meant to try Peter in public after the end of Passover week. All the time Peter was under guard the Church prayed to God for him unremittingly.

On the night before Herod was to try him, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, fastened with double chains, while guards kept watch at the main entrance to the prison. Then suddenly the angel of the Lord stood there, and the cell was filled with light. He tapped Peter on the side and woke him. ‘Get up!’ he said ‘Hurry!’ – and the chains fell from his hands. The angel then said, ‘Put on your belt and sandals.’ After he had done this, the angel next said, ‘Wrap your cloak round you and follow me.’ Peter followed him, but had no idea that what the angel did was all happening in reality; he thought he was seeing a vision. They passed through two guard posts one after the other, and reached the iron gate leading to the city. This opened of its own accord; they went through it and had walked the whole length of one street when suddenly the angel left him.

It was only then that Peter came to himself. ‘Now I know it is all true’ he said. ‘The Lord really did send his angel and has saved me from Herod and from all that the Jewish people were so certain would happen to me.’

Acts 12:1-11

The story has a fresh poignancy as we recognise in the persecution of 2000 years ago, elements of the horrors faced by Christians and others in these days too.

Freedom comes in a variety of forms, but fundamentally it is the ability to be oneself, to fill that space that you are created to fill, however cramped, however cruelly circumscribed.

The challenge to Peter, freed from prison, was could he be free in his liberation from prison to live free from sin, free for Christ.

The same challenge is ours!

Liberation of St Peter. Painting in San Pietro in Vinculo, Rome. (c) 2014, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: set us free

Peter, Haverstock Hill

The first reading at the Mass during the day on Sunday, the feast of Ss Peter and Paul, comes from the Church’s Easter book, Acts of the Apostles. Like the season, this reading proclaims the gift of freedom.

King Herod started persecuting certain members of the Church. He beheaded James the brother of John, and when he saw that this pleased the Jews he decided to arrest Peter as well. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread, and he put Peter in prison, assigning four squads of four soldiers each to guard him in turns. Herod meant to try Peter in public after the end of Passover week. All the time Peter was under guard the Church prayed to God for him unremittingly.

On the night before Herod was to try him, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, fastened with double chains, while guards kept watch at the main entrance to the prison. Then suddenly the angel of the Lord stood there, and the cell was filled with light. He tapped Peter on the side and woke him. ‘Get up!’ he said ‘Hurry!’ – and the chains fell from his hands. The angel then said, ‘Put on your belt and sandals.’ After he had done this, the angel next said, ‘Wrap your cloak round you and follow me.’ Peter followed him, but had no idea that what the angel did was all happening in reality; he thought he was seeing a vision. They passed through two guard posts one after the other, and reached the iron gate leading to the city. This opened of its own accord; they went through it and had walked the whole length of one street when suddenly the angel left him. It was only then that Peter came to himself. ‘Now I know it is all true’ he said. ‘The Lord really did send his angel and has saved me from Herod and from all that the Jewish people were so certain would happen to me.’

Acts 12:1-11

In our devotion we often venerate images of St Peter which are hieratic or imperious. Such as the obviously much love figure photographed at the head of this blog.

Yet the Peter of the Gospels and the Peter of Acts is so different to that. Weak, fallible – in himself, vulnerable.

In the scriptures, mostly we see Peter struggling towards a complete reliance on God, from whom his strength and safety come. There are many times in his story when he realises ‘it is true’ but then fails to live to that recognition.

Us too, probably.

St Peter, pray for us.

And us, let us pray with St Peter and learn from his example, so generously shared with us.

Statue of St Peter, Dominican Priory, Haverstock Hill. (c) 2009, Allen Morris