Speak Lord: Lead us on

DSC04053 deposition and resurrection.jpgGive thanks to the Lord for he is good, for his love has no end.

Let the sons of Israel say:
‘His love has no end.’
Let the sons of Aaron say:
‘His love has no end.’
Let those who fear the Lord say:
‘His love has no end.’

Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, for his love has no end.

I was thrust down, thrust down and falling,
but the Lord was my helper.
The Lord is my strength and my song;
he was my saviour.
There are shouts of joy and victory
in the tents of the just.

Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, for his love has no end.

The stone which the builders rejected
has become the corner stone.
This is the work of the Lord,
a marvel in our eyes.
This day was made by the Lord;
we rejoice and are glad.

Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, for his love has no end.

Psalm 117:2-4,13-15,22-24

The Responsorial Psalm at Mass tomorrow reminds us of the Passion of the Lord and how the joys of Easter are ours only because Jesus was ready first to endure those pains of love.

His faithfulness, in face of persecution and torture – and cruel death , meets with the reward of life and love without end. And they are now offered to us.

They will only be ours to the extent we can accept them; but the Lord will hold back on nothing we can accept. We do not need to earn them, and we cannot deserve them, but they are freely given so as to lead us from shadow to light; from isolation to communion.

He is risen and we are called to that glory too.

  • What goodness can you not, yet, hold on to?
  • Bring that lack, or that fear of lack, to the Lord in prayer and ask for the help you need.

Deposition and Resurrection. Chester Cathedral. (c) 2017, Allen Morris

Taste and See: the comfort of care

Motherly care

The psalm given for the first Sunday of Lent encourages us to trust, puts words of confidence and hope on our lips.

Be with me, O Lord, in my distress.

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
and abides in the shade of the Almighty
says to the Lord: ‘My refuge,
my stronghold, my God in whom I trust!’

Be with me, O Lord, in my distress.

Upon you no evil shall fall,
no plague approach where you dwell.
For you has he commanded his angels,
to keep you in all your ways.

Be with me, O Lord, in my distress.

They shall bear you upon their hands
lest you strike your foot against a stone.
On the lion and the viper you will tread
and trample the young lion and the dragon.

Be with me, O Lord, in my distress.

His love he set on me, so I will rescue him;
protect him for he knows my name.
When he calls I shall answer: ‘I am with you,’
I will save him in distress and give him glory.

Be with me, O Lord, in my distress.

Psalm 90:1-2,10-15

The Lord does not always take away our distress, our loss, our suffering. And even if they do go we are left with something of their effects.

Sometimes people turn from God because they pray for an end of suffering for themselves or others and it does not come. Sometimes the worst happens. As it has always done.

But even in this we can know salvation; and in this we can know care. Like a wounded child, held, tended in a parents’ arms. Sometimes our carer cannot make the bad thing go away, sometimes our carer knows the more important thing is for us to learn to cope with this or that.

There are no easy answers to the ‘problem’ of suffering, but the answer to our experience of it, is the tenderness and care of God.

Painting of Pieta, San Jeronimo monastery, Granada. (c) 2014, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: through suffering, speak of your love.

St Francis and Christ, Petit Palais, AvignonThe first reading at Mass yesterday, the 29th Sunday of the Year,  was taken from the prophet Isaiah. It is a part of one of the ‘servant songs’ of Isaiah, widely read as prophetic anticipations of the sufferings of Christ, particularly in his Passion.

In yestday’s blog there was a caution regarding any reading of the first line as a literal ‘explanation’ as to why Jesus was crucified. After all, it was not God but men who tortured and killed Jesus.

For today, though, let us pause and reflect on Jesus’ willingness to suffer for us: pause, reflect, wonder and give thanks.

The Lord has been pleased to crush his servant with suffering.

If he offers his life in atonement, he shall see his heirs, he shall have a long life and through him what the Lord wishes will be done.

His soul’s anguish over, he shall see the light and be content.

By his sufferings shall my servant justify many,

taking their faults on himself.
Isaiah 53:10-11

Jesus is of course not the only person who accepts, even chooses, suffering if it is the price demanded by faithful love. Many, many do this every day. Most commonly it is parents for their children.

In this case it it is not simply one of us who suffers for another of us. It is one who suffers for all (or for ‘the many’ as the semitic idiom puts it, retained in the current English translation of the Eucharistic Prayer). And it is not merely one of us who suffers, but that one is also God with us. God who so loves the world that he comes in the Person of the Son to suffer with us and for us to save us from the suffering of sin.

God suffers for us to save us from the suffering of sin and death, to free us by love for love.

Pope Francis has written of the joy of the Gospel. Our meditation on the suffering of Jesus should surely move us to joy, praise, and thanksgiving.

  • What else gives you joy?
  • Why?
  • What opportunities are there to share with others that joy, and the life it engenders?

Painting of St Francis adoring the Crucified Christ. Petit Palais, Avignon. Photograph (c) 2014, Allen Morris.