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.

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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.