Taste and See: The faithfulness of Joseph

img_4975-joseph

This is how Jesus Christ came to be born. His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph; but before they came to live together she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph; being a man of honour and wanting to spare her publicity, decided to divorce her informally. He had made up his mind to do this when the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because she has conceived what is in her by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son and you must name him Jesus, because he is the one who is to save his people from their sins.’ Now all this took place to fulfil the words spoken by the Lord through the prophet:

The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son
and they will call him Emmanuel,

a name which means ‘God-is-with-us.’ When Joseph woke up he did what the angel of the Lord had told him to do: he took his wife to his home.

Matthew 1:18-24

The Gospel heard on Sunday, the 4th and last Sunday of Advent, focuses us on Joseph, and his call to obedience to the will of God, to being ready to face dishonour in the eyes of his peers, and to trust in Mary who he fears has betrayed his trust.

As Mary said yes to what she could not understand, so Joseph too says ‘yes’ to what seemed irrational and disruptive of what is right and good.

Again and again, God calls us beyond what we can make sense of, and certainly beyond what we can control. And in this venture to the unkonwn we find a new security and safety, indeed the only security and safety that lasts. Our salvation is achieved by God’s gift and is ours when we ‘wake up. and do as the Lord invites. us to.

  • What beyond reason has God called you to?
  • What has helped you to answer God’s call into the unknown and the fearsome?

Shrine of St Joseph. Aylesford Priory. (c) 2008, Allen Morris.

Taste and see: the long road home

Lynton path

Sunday was the 4th Sunday of Lent, and Laetare Sunday. It invited us to a joyful celebration of the faithfulness of God and encouraged us to renew our trust in God.

Two of the prayers proper to the day give particular expression to this and asks God for continued help and care in these final days of Lent.

First is the Collect prayer which concluded the Introductory Rites.

O God, who through your Word
reconcile the human race to yourself in a wonderful way,
grant, we pray,
that with prompt devotion and eager faith
the Christian people may hasten
toward the solemn celebrations to come.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

The second was the (optional) concluding Prayer over the People, asking for God’s continued support.

Look upon those who call to you, O Lord,
and sustain the weak;
give life by your unfailing light
to those who walk in the shadow of death,
and bring those rescued by your mercy from every evil
to reach the highest good.

Through Christ our Lord.
Amen.

These prayers rehearse us in the sometimes resisted attitudes of asking for help, of expressing our neediness, and placing our trust in God.

  • For what in particular do you want to ask for help?
  • What are your particular needs (that maybe as yet you have not asked for help with)
  • If you can, why can you put your trust in God? And, if you can”t, what makes you hesitate?

Path and bench. Lynton. (c) 2013, Allen Morris

Taste and See: No need for fear…

Olives KazmierzYesterday, the 3rd Sunday of Advent, the Responsorial Psalm was in fact a Canticle, taken from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah.

When we pray with scripture we are invited to enter into the emotional, spiritual depth of the text, the weft and warp of it.

We can say words such as ‘Truly, God is my salvation,/ I trust, I shall not fear.’ and they can mean very little. They mean much more, and the saying of the words contributes to our salvation when we also remember what it means to be lost, to have nothing/no-one in whom to trust, to be adrift in fears.

Take a moment to remember your past fears, or to acknowledge your present fears, before sharing in the Prophet’s witness to how God has empowered him and gifted freedom to him and to his people

Sing and shout for joy for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.

Truly, God is my salvation,
I trust, I shall not fear.
For the Lord is my strength, my song,
he became my saviour.
With joy you will draw water
from the wells of salvation.

Sing and shout for joy for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.

Give thanks to the Lord, give praise to his name!
Make his mighty deeds known to the peoples!
Declare the greatness of his name.

Sing and shout for joy for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.

Sing a psalm to the Lord
for he has done glorious deeds;
make them known to all the earth!
People of Zion, sing and shout for joy,
for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.

Sing and shout for joy for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.

Isaiah 12

 

For Isaiah God is the reason he has no fear, that he trusts, that he is saved. There are many reasons that he could fear, flail and flounder. But from them, the very real and ever-present them, the Lord has saved him.

The Lord is our salvation too, if we will trust and let him free us from fear.

Fear is maybe the greatest. most corrosive spiritual disease. The goodness of God from before all time, through all time and beyond all time is our cure. In his goodness we find mercy.

Kyrie, eleison…  Lord, have mercy.

  • In quiet prayer renew and rehearse your trust, and reasons for trust, in God’s care and protection of you.
  • Pray for someone you know to be afraid: pray for their freedom and healing.

Olive leaves and fruit. From Synagogue, Kazermierz, Cracow . (c) 2013, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Warm us by your words.

St Johns Wood wet

At Mass  tomorrow, the last but one Sunday of the Church’s Year, the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, the psalm reminds of the Lord’s love and protection.

At a time when the world grows darker and colder, when the readings speak of the end-times, the psalm reminds of where rests our hope.

Preserve me, God, I take refuge in you.

O Lord, it is you who are my portion and cup;
it is you yourself who are my prize.
I keep the Lord ever in my sight:
since he is at my right hand, I shall stand firm.

And so my heart rejoices, my soul is glad;
even my body shall rest in safety.
For you will not leave my soul among the dead,
nor let your beloved know decay.

You will show me the path of life,
the fullness of joy in your presence,
at your right hand happiness for ever.

Psalm 15:5,8-11

  • What is it about the Lord’s love that at th is present time gives comfort and encouragement? Why, now, do you need his love and care?
  • Who else needs that love, that care? How might you help them know of it, and learn to trust in it still better?

Photograph of wet St Johns’s Wood. (c) 2014, Allen Morris

Taste and See: Generosity and trust

Window, Dumbarton Mathodist Church, Washington, DCThe prophet Elijah – in the first reading at Mass on Sunday, the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time – seemed to have no hesitation in asking the widow for food, even when he knew how little she had. He asked inviting her to trust in God, and able to do this with authenticity and in communion with her, because he was himself doing the same thing. As she hungered and went without so had he, so did he, trusting in God’s faithfulness, in God’s providence.

Elijah the Prophet went off to Sidon. And when he reached the city gate, there was a widow gathering sticks; addressing her he said, ‘Please bring me a little water in a vessel for me to drink.’

She was setting off to bring it when he called after her. ‘Please’ he said ‘bring me a scrap of bread in your hand.’

‘As the Lord your God lives,’ she replied ‘I have no baked bread, but only a handful of meal in a jar and a little oil in a jug; I am just gathering a stick or two to go and prepare this for myself and my son to eat, and then we shall die.’

But Elijah said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, go and do as you have said; but first make a little scone of it for me and bring it to me, and then make some for yourself and for your son. For thus the Lord speaks, the God of Israel:

“Jar of meal shall not be spent,
jug of oil shall not be emptied,
before the day when the Lord sends
rain on the face of the earth.”’

The woman went and did as Elijah told her and they ate the food, she, himself and her son. The jar of meal was not spent nor the jug of oil emptied, just as the Lord had foretold through Elijah.

1 Kings 17:10-16

The woman of Sidon receives the gift of faith and trust in God, even as she shares  her little with the prophet. Or rather, for her trust and her generosity are great, as she gives to the prophet her all – not only what she had to eat but all her son had to eat.

In the Gospel Jesus noted how most who give give from what they have left over. It is exceptional to give in a way that impoverishes.

The phrase ‘In God we trust’ has a certain civic and political currency in the West.

  • When do we trust in God?
  • How and why?

Window of Dumbarton Methodist Church, Washington, DC. (c) 2009, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Of courage and trust

Delacroix Crucifixion

The Psalm on Sunday puts in context the way that Jesus faces his enemies, the way we face our challenges. ‘The Lord upholds my life.’

To a society that so often sees life as worthwhile in terms of quality of health and physical well-being, the psalm shows us, reminds us, that the moral quality of life also matters. It is not only how we enjoy and draw goodness from the easier things in life, it is how we enter into challenges and dangers too.

We who know ourselves to be creatures, created, need to put our greater trust in the Creator than in ourselves. We who know the Creator to have revealed his love especially by entering into the experience of challenge and danger, suffering, pain and even death, so as to lead us into the glory of his Resurrection. To pick and choose which parts we will live, and allow others to live, is to refuse to be ourselves, to learn to live. To use Gerald Manley Hopkins word – is to miss the great ‘achieve’ of it.

The Lord upholds my life.

O God, save me by your name;
by your power, uphold my cause.
O God, hear my prayer;
listen to the words of my mouth.

The Lord upholds my life.

For proud men have risen against me,
ruthless men seek my life.
They have no regard for God.

The Lord upholds my life.

But I have God for my help.
The Lord upholds my life.
I will sacrifice to you with willing heart
and praise your name for it is good.

The Lord upholds my life.

Psalm 53:3-6,8

  • Where do I need the Lord’s help?
  • What do I fear? And why?
  • How does the Gospel and the example of Jesus speak to my fear?

The Crucifixion by Delacroix. In the collection of the National Gallery, London. 

Taste and See: The Lord restores us and builds us up.

Barcelona 3 (March 2003) 071The Collect on Sunday, the 18th Sunday of the Year, had us call on God for protection and care. It is a prayer of great simplicity and trust. A prayer for a people humble before their God.

Collect Draw near to your servants, O Lord, and answer their prayers with unceasing kindness, that, for those who glory in you as their Creator and guide, you may restore what you have created and keep safe what you have restored. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

We declare our need for restoration, for building up.

  • Where are you getting flakey?
  • Where sagging and creaking?
  • What help do you need?
  • Why will God answer your prayer?

Photograph of Hosanna and  Excelsis spires of church of Sagrada Famiglia, Barcelona. (c) 2003, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Our life, our joy

Roman Road, Tre Fontane

The Psalm for the Mass of the Day for the feast of Ss Peter and Paul (kept on Sunday, this year, in England and Wales) is a psalm of thanksgiving for deliverance,

From all my terrors the Lord set me free.
or The angel of the Lord rescues those who revere him.

I will bless the Lord at all times,
his praise always on my lips;
in the Lord my soul shall make its boast.
The humble shall hear and be glad.

Glorify the Lord with me.
Together let us praise his name.
I sought the Lord and he answered me;
from all my terrors he set me free.

Look towards him and be radiant;
let your faces not be abashed.
This poor man called, the Lord heard him
and rescued him from all his distress.

The angel of the Lord is encamped
around those who revere him, to rescue them.
Taste and see that the Lord is good.
He is happy who seeks refuge in him.

Psalm 33: 2-9

Again and again Christian tradition testifies to how martyrs display joy at the opportunity of joining with Christ in his suffering. Their confidence that death is not the end is powerful witness to the Church’s faith in the resurrection and the gift of eternal life to believers.

  • What challenges you in times of trial?
  • What sustains you in times of trial?

Roman Road at Tre Fontane, traditional place of the execution of St Paul, 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

Speak Lord: call us on, closer to you

Window at St Columbcille's church, Tory Island

The Gospel for today, the 12th Sunday of Ordinary Time, once more shows the disciples on the journey to a deeper understanding of Jesus and his meaning for them – and us.

With the coming of evening, Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Let us cross over to the other side.’ And leaving the crowd behind they took him, just as he was, in the boat; and there were other boats with him. Then it began to blow a gale and the waves were breaking into the boat so that it was almost swamped. But he was in the stern, his head on the cushion, asleep.

They woke him and said to him, ‘Master, do you not care? We are going down!’ And he woke up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Quiet now! Be calm!’ And the wind dropped, and all was calm again. Then he said to them, ‘Why are you so frightened? How is it that you have no faith?’ They were filled with awe and said to one another, ‘Who can this be? Even the wind and the sea obey him.’

Mark 4:35-41

The disciples are revealed in all their frailty, a story told to allow us to benefit from their experience and to assist us in our living in communion with the master.

  • What are the storms of your life?
  • How did you , how are you, coping with them?
  • Afraid or not, strong in faith or not, have you invited the Lord to quieten the storm and bring you to deeper trust, deeper security in his love?

Window in church of St Columbcille, Tory Island, Ireland. (c) 2002, Allen Morris.