Taste and See: Peace and wholeness

Eternal Peace IvanovThe Psalm on Sunday last, the First Sunday of Advent, gives expression to the personal relationship between the Lord and psalmist, a relationship that is extended to those who stray, who are humble, who are poor.

To our need the Lord responds. He offers friendship and wholeness, and when we accept these gifts we are at one with him, united in the covenant of love, the family of God.

To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.

Lord, make me know your ways.
Lord, teach me your paths.
Make me walk in your truth, and teach me:
for you are God my saviour.

To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.

The Lord is good and upright.
He shows the path to those who stray,
He guides the humble in the right path,
He teaches his way to the poor.

To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.

His ways are faithfulness and love
for those who keep his covenant and law.
The Lord’s friendship is for those who revere him;
to them he reveals his covenant.

To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.

Psalm 24:4-5,8-9,10,14

In Advent we are called deeper into that relationship. It is not that we start from nowhere, but every new beginning does have us on the brink of what we do not know yet.

In Advent, but also in any time, on any day, and in every situation, we are provided with the opportunity of knowing more of the Lord’s compassion and love, his steadfastness. That which gives life and is love surrounds us is for us. These precious days of Advent give a fresh chance of entering the newness of God.

  • Pray for the journey
  • Pray for peace


I.I. Levitan, Eternal Peace. Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow. (c) 2015, Allen Morris.


Taste and See: Unity and lack of it

Office for the Dead
The Gospel at Mass yesterday ends with a passage that is maybe especially offensive, shocking, in a society fixated by the body beautiful.

Physical self-mutilation is proposed by Jesus as preferable to ‘bringing down one of these little ones who have faith.’

John said to Jesus, ‘Master, we saw a man who is not one of us casting out devils in your name; and because he was not one of us we tried to stop him.’ But Jesus said, ‘You must not stop him: no one who works a miracle in my name is likely to speak evil of me. Anyone who is not against us is for us.

‘If anyone gives you a cup of water to drink just because you belong to Christ, then I tell you solemnly, he will most certainly not lose his reward.

‘But anyone who is an obstacle to bring down one of these little ones who have faith, would be better thrown into the sea with a great millstone round his neck. And if your hand should cause you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter into life crippled, than to have two hands and go to hell, into the fire that cannot be put out. And if your foot should cause you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter into life lame, than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye should cause you to sin, tear it out; it is better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell where their worm does not die nor their fire go out.’

Mark 9:38-43,45,47-48

The narrative context of the ‘difficult’ passage is notable.

Jesus is setting up an opposition between the disciples’ seeking to control those deemed ‘not of us’, and those self same who Jesus himself describes as ‘little ones who have faith’.

The disciples should nurture the little ones – elsewhwere Jesus says thay should imitate the little ones! If they cannot, they’d be better off drowned than do violence to them, than get in the way of the (potential?) burgeoning of faith in them. Then Jesus speaks of the self-mutilation.

Maybe what he says is (or is best read as) semitic hyperbole, rather than being taken literally, but there should be no avoiding of the important point Jesus makes. By their intolerance and pride the 12 do violence to the unity of the developing community of faith, but the violence done to the community is largely invisible – if only because the excluded are made non-persons. Jesus says, better you do violence to yourself than them; better bear on your body the import and consequence of what you would do to the community of the faithful; and experience the hurt, the consequent incapacity. It is better that than that you do that hurt to others and to the kingdom, and – at the same time – alienate yourself from that kingdom and the Lord.

We do well to remember the Jesus who speak is the Jesus who awaits his Passion. He knows and embraces the cost of discipleship, and the pain of seeing its gains squandered by those closest to him.

  • Whose faith might you oppress?
  • How might you offend against unity?
  • How might you instead act for the good?

VV Verashagin, The Vanquished, Office for the Dead. Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow. Photograph (c) 2015, Allen Morris.