Speak Lord: Of gifts to share

Bread, Jerusalem

The gospel at Mass today, the 17th Sunday of Ordinary time, tells of the multiplication of loaves and fishes to feed the hungry crowd.

In the first reading there is a foreshadowing of the miraculous feeding in the hills of Galilee.

A man came from Baal-shalishah, bringing Elisha, the man of God, bread from the first-fruits, twenty barley loaves and fresh grain in the ear.’ ‘Give it to the people to eat’, Elisha said. But his servant replied, ‘How can I serve this to a hundred men?’ ‘Give it to the people to eat’ he insisted ‘for the Lord says this, “They will eat and have some left over.”’ He served them; they ate and had some left over, as the Lord had said.

2 Kings 4:42-44

The Old Testament establishes patterns that find their fulfilment in the New. And those great miracles of love that we find in the New Testament have their echoes, their wake, in our own lives.

The acts of love and kindness and generosity that we sometimes do for others, or others sometimes do for us, again and again have their true origin not just in human kindness, but in the love of God communicated in Christ, the living Bread.

We do well to thank one another for the part we play but, above all and with all, let us give thanks also to God.

Photograph of bread stall, Jerusalem. (c) 2013, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: generous and good

Epstein Madonna and Child JesusThe responsorial psalm on Sunday, the 17th Sunday of the Year, responds to the care and support offered by angels to the care-worn prophet, and by Jesus to the weary and hungry crowd.

But to what else, in our own direct experience, does it connect?

You open wide your hand, O Lord, and grant our desires.

All your creatures shall thank you, O Lord,
and your friends shall repeat their blessing.
They shall speak of the glory of your reign
and declare your might, O God.

You open wide your hand, O Lord, and grant our desires.

The eyes of all creatures look to you
and you give them their food in due time.
You open wide your hand,
grant the desires of all who live.

You open wide your hand, O Lord, and grant our desires.

The Lord is just in all his ways
and loving in all his deeds.
He is close to all who call him,
who call on him from their hearts.

You open wide your hand, O Lord, and grant our desires.

Psalm 144:10-11,15-18

Thanksgiving is the characteristic feature of Christian prayer. God’s open hands are met by ours.

For what, today, do you need to give thanks?

Photograph – detail of Madonna and Child Jesus by Epstein. Cavendish Square, London. (c) 2009, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Draw us close…

Resurrection LerinsThe second reading at Sunday’s Mass  Comes from St Paul’s letter to the Philippians. This particular passage is believed to be Paul quoting the text of an early Christian hymn.

His state was divine,
yet Christ Jesus did not cling
to his equality with God
but emptied himself
to assume the condition of a slave
and became as men are;
and being as all men are,
he was humbler yet,
even to accepting death,
death on a cross.
But God raised him high
and gave him the name
which is above all other names
so that all beings
in the heavens, on earth and in the underworld,
should bend the knee at the name of Jesus
and that every tongue should acclaim
Jesus Christ as Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:6-11

The readings of his Sunday anticipate the celebration of the Paschal Mystery which finds its richest expression in the liturgy of the Triduum.

However we hear these readings and celebrate the Paschal Mystery knowing what Jesus’ first companions had still to learn – what rising from the dead means.

This hymn from the Letter to the Philippians presents us with a fine summary of it all. It preserves the narrative of the incarnation of the Son of God, the Passion, and the Resurrection, but in a spam brief enough that to read of one is to anticipate or still recall the other ‘moments’ or ‘dimensions’ of God with us in Jesus.

And it calls us to praise and thanksgiving. As is often said the liturgy even of Good Friday is not a funeral service. The Church in the West may not sing alleluia, and the Church East and West may not celebrate Mass, but we remember the Passion knowing he is risen, and that he is Lord and in him we are safe and secure. We sing praise Palm Sunday and Good Friday albeit in somewhat quieter tones, sorrowing at the pain endured by the Son of God for us. A pain imposed, we know, by the likes of us.

Image of the resurrected Christ, Abbey of Lerins, France. (c) 2005, Allen Morris.