Speak Lord: Breath calm into our lives.

Wiseman's Bridge

The Psalm for the Liturgy of the Word at Mass on Sunday picks up the watery themes from the reading from Job presented yesterday as it prepares us for listening to the Gospel of the storm and the power of Jesus to quell the storm.

O give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures for ever. or Alleluia!

Some sailed to the sea in ships
to trade on the mighty waters.
These men have seen the Lord’s deeds,
the wonders he does in the deep.

O give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures for ever. or Alleluia!

For he spoke; he summoned the gale,
tossing the waves of the sea
up to heaven and back into the deep;
their souls melted away in their distress.

O give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures for ever. or Alleluia!

Then they cried to the Lord in their need
and he rescued them from their distress.
He stilled the storm to a whisper:
all the waves of the sea were hushed.

O give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures for ever. or Alleluia!!

They rejoiced because of the calm
and he led them to the haven they desired.
Let them thank the Lord for his love,
for the wonders he does for men.

O give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures for ever. or Alleluia!

Psalm 106:23-26,28-32

In the psalm the passage from storm to calm seems an easy one, albeit one that only the Lord can effect for us.

It is not always experienced that way in life.

  • What helps you to sustain hope and trust when the winds blow and the storm rises?
  • What helps or hinders your giving thanks for safe deliverance?

Photograph of beach at Wiseman’s Bridge, Pembrokeshire. (c) 2009, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: let us hear your voice and know you are God.

Figure in prayer, Montmajour, nr Alres.

The first reading on Sunday, Trinity Sunday, comes from Deuteronomy, and presents Moses calling the people to more deeply know the God who has called them out of Egypt and gifted them the promise of a land…

Moses said to the people: ‘Put this question to the ages that are past, that went before you, from the time God created man on earth: Was there ever a word so majestic, from one end of heaven to the other? Was anything ever heard? Did ever a people hear the voice of the living God speaking from the heart of the fire, as you heard it, and remain alive? Has any god ventured to take to himself one nation from the midst of another by ordeals, signs, wonders, war with mighty hand and outstretched arm, by fearsome terrors – all this that the Lord your God did for you before your eyes in Egypt?

‘Understand this today, therefore, and take it to heart: the Lord is God indeed, in heaven above as on earth beneath, he and no other. Keep his laws and commandments as I give them to you today, so that you and your children may prosper and live long in the land that the Lord your God gives you for ever.’

Deuteronomy 4:32-34,39-40

The same invitation is there for us, who are offered salvation by the Lord. A gift that calls us on a journey of conversion, but a journey eased with God’s love and mercy every step, however hard the step, however challenging.

We, who like the people of Israel addressed by Moses, are not yet good, find our every hlep in the Lord. They found it difficult to believe, or at least to hold on to that belief.

  • Pray for strengthening of faith and trust.

Photograph of supplicant figure from the Abbaye of Montamjour, Arles, France. (c) 2014, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Our reason for hope..

Aix 2014a

The Psalm on Sunday, the 3rd Sunday of Easter, puts on our lips a profession of faith and trust.

 Lift up the light of your face on us, O Lord. or Alleluia!

When I call, answer me, O God of justice;
from anguish you released me, have mercy and hear me!

Lift up the light of your face on us, O Lord. or Alleluia!

It is the Lord who grants favours to those whom he loves;
the Lord hears me whenever I call him.

Lift up the light of your face on us, O Lord. or Alleluia!

‘What can bring us happiness?’ many say.
Lift up the light of your face on us, O Lord.

Lift up the light of your face on us, O Lord. or Alleluia!

I will lie down in peace and sleep comes at once
for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.

Lift up the light of your face on us, O Lord. or Alleluia!

Psalm 4:2,4,7,9

The psalm this Sunday has two optional responses – one, Alleluia, the ancient cry of praise to God; the second a request for help. The difference between the two can be immense, of course. It can also be tiny. The Christian’s cry for help is firmly founded on knowledge of God’s eternal love. We may sometimes experience desperation but in God we trust.

The psalmist puts it with beautiful simplicity.

‘What can bring us happiness?’ many say.
Lift up the light of your face on us, O Lord.

  • What gives you confidence in the Lord?
  • What are your recent experiences of his goodness? How do they impact on your life.

Sunflowers, Aix en Provence. (c) 2014, Allen Morris.

 

Taste and See: At one with Christ

Fresco AssisiThe Responsorial Psalm for the Mass of Palm Sunday invited us into an intimate sharing in the Lord’s faith – his experience of challenge and fear, his experience of trust and faith.

It is, of course, a psalm prayed by Jesus on the Cross.

It is a prayer that draws us into the central mystery of Holy Week.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

All who see me deride me.
They curl their lips, they toss their heads.
‘He trusted in the Lord, let him save him;
let him release him if this is his friend.’

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Many dogs have surrounded me,
a band of the wicked beset me.
They tear holes in my hands and my feet
I can count every one of my bones.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

They divide my clothing among them.
They cast lots for my robe.
O Lord, do not leave me alone,
my strength, make haste to help me!

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

I will tell of your name to my brethren
and praise you where they are assembled.
‘You who fear the Lord give him praise;
all sons of Jacob, give him glory.
Revere him, Israel’s sons.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Psalm 21:8-9,17-20,23-24

Each disciple is called to follow Jesus. The call finds a vivid depiction in the fresco reproduced above. The example of St Francis is a great inspiration to such a careful imitation of the Lord.

What is equally true is that the Lord accompanies us in our struggles.

In our praying of Holy Week we are invited to find a deeper communion with the Lord and a sharing of life, love, even suffering with him.

  • What in your life do you find easy to share with the Lord?
  • What do you seek to keep to yourself, even hide from him?
  • What does the Lord seek to share with you?
  • What do you welcome? And what do you resist?

 Photograph is of fresco in the basilica of St Francis, Assisi. (c) 2014, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: In agony of faith

Iglesia del Salvador (Albaicin, Granada)The Responsorial Psalm for the Mass of Palm Sunday draws us into a detailed consideration of the agony of Jesus persecuted and crucified.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

All who see me deride me.
They curl their lips, they toss their heads.
‘He trusted in the Lord, let him save him;
let him release him if this is his friend.’

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Many dogs have surrounded me,
a band of the wicked beset me.
They tear holes in my hands and my feet
I can count every one of my bones.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

They divide my clothing among them.
They cast lots for my robe.
O Lord, do not leave me alone,
my strength, make haste to help me!

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

I will tell of your name to my brethren
and praise you where they are assembled.
‘You who fear the Lord give him praise;
all sons of Jacob, give him glory.
Revere him, Israel’s sons.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Psalm 21:8-9,17-20,23-24

The response to the psalm, verse one of the canonical psalm, appears on the lips of Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel. The verse, spoken by Jesus, is often taken out of its original context and so understood as an expression of agonised abandonment only.

Yet as the extract from the psalm featured in the Mass shows, the ‘narrative’ of the psalm confronts the agony of the man and shows a move from awareness of being alone, isolated in the attack of his enemies, to a full and equal awareness of being not abandoned by God. Rather than being lost to God, he is sustained by God who will rescue him, save him from death, and restore him to the assembly of the faithful, where he will sing the praises of God.

In the 1000 year old psalm Jesus finds the narrative to sustain and express faith, even, especially, in the agony of his Passion.

  • What in our pain helps us remember we are remembered by God?
  • How do we use that knowledge for the benefit of others?
  • In our liturgy and devotional practices how do we give space to express pain, hurt and loss, and assist people’s deeper integration into the community of faith?

 Photograph is of crucifix in Iglesia del Salvador (Albaicin, Granada). (c) 2014, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Tears and smiles

Tears, EindhovenThe Psalm set for the 4th Sunday in Year B remembers the experience of exile and loss, as recounted in the first reading.

O let my tongue cleave to my mouth if I remember you not!

By the rivers of Babylon
there we sat and wept,
remembering Zion;
on the poplars that grew there
we hung up our harps.

O let my tongue cleave to my mouth if I remember you not!

For it was there that they asked us,
our captors, for songs,
our oppressors, for joy.
‘Sing to us,’ they said,
‘one of Zion’s songs.’

O let my tongue cleave to my mouth if I remember you not!

O how could we sing
the song of the Lord
on alien soil?
If I forget you, Jerusalem,
let my right hand wither!

O let my tongue cleave to my mouth if I remember you not!

O let my tongue
cleave to my mouth
if I remember you not,
if I prize not Jerusalem
above all my joys!

O let my tongue cleave to my mouth if I remember you not!

Psalm 136:1-6

Tears, Eindhoven II

  • What do you place great trust in? Does it merit your trust?
  • What gives you hope?
  • What challenges you?

Bring your thoughts and feelings to God in prayer.

– – –

The psalm for Year A is to be used when the second Scrutiny is celebrated.

The readings of Year A may also be used in any year.

The Lord is my shepherd: there is nothing I shall want.

The Lord is my shepherd;
there is nothing I shall want.
Fresh and green are the pastures
where he gives me repose.
Near restful waters he leads me,
to revive my drooping spirit.

The Lord is my shepherd: there is nothing I shall want.

He guides me along the right path;
he is true to his name.
If I should walk in the valley of darkness
no evil would I fear.
You are there with your crook and your staff;
with these you give me comfort.

The Lord is my shepherd: there is nothing I shall want.

You have prepared a banquet for me
in the sight of my foes.
My head you have anointed with oil;
my cup is overflowing.

The Lord is my shepherd: there is nothing I shall want.

Surely goodness and kindness shall follow me
all the days of my life.
In the Lord’s own house shall I dwell
for ever and ever.

The Lord is my shepherd: there is nothing I shall want.

Psalm 22:1-6

Photograph of tears in stained glass window, Eindhoven. (c) 2003, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Free from fear, free from worry?

In the Second reading at Mass tomorrow, the 4th Sunday in Ordinary time, St Paul offers counsel to the Church at Corinth.

I would like to see you free from all worry. An unmarried man can devote himself to the Lord’s affairs, all he need worry about is pleasing the Lord; but a married man has to bother about the world’s affairs and devote himself to pleasing his wife: he is torn two ways. In the same way an unmarried woman, like a young girl, can devote herself to the Lord’s affairs; all she need worry about is being holy in body and spirit. The married woman, on the other hand, has to worry about the world’s affairs and devote herself to pleasing her husband. I say this only to help you, not to put a halter round your necks, but simply to make sure that everything is as it should be, and that you give your undivided attention to the Lord.

1 Corinthians 7:32-35

Maybe the most unhelpful thing you can say to someone worried, and fretted by worry, is to say ‘Don’t worry’!

What they need is, instead, a reason that worry is not helpful, and a strategy to give them another activity which can displace the worrying.

In 1 Corinthians Paul says don’t worry because the Lord is good and you are safe with him, and so you can safely give yourself over to love and service of him (which of course includes love and service of neighbour).

QED? Yes and no. Yes, for it is self-evidently true from the sound perspective of faith. No, because we struggle to live faithfully, and often enough need to try to learn daily some of its most fundamental truths – such as the love and faithfulness of God, and that we find ourselves most fully when we live lives inspired by and directed to the love and glory of God.

Paul, a great struggler, is our generous companion as we continue to try.

  • What worries you?
  • What do you think God has to say about the matter concerned, and your worry about it
  • Let your thoughts be the start of a time of reflection and bring the fruits of that to God in prayer.

Image (c) 2014, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Call us to life

Cluny, Paris

The gospel at Mass today, the 33rd in Ordinary time, comes in two versions. The long version, which follows, is the first option.

Jesus spoke this parable to his disciples: ‘The kingdom of Heaven is like a man on his way abroad who summoned his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to a third one; each in proportion to his ability. Then he set out.

‘The man who had received the five talents promptly went and traded with them and made five more. The man who had received two made two more in the same way. But the man who had received one went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

‘Now a long time after, the master of those servants came back and went through his accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents came forward bringing five more. “Sir,” he said “you entrusted me with five talents; here are five more that I have made.”

‘His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have shown you can be faithful in small things, I will trust you with greater; come and join in your master’s happiness.”

‘Next the man with the two talents came forward. “Sir,” he said “you entrusted me with two talents; here are two more that I have made.” His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have shown you can be faithful in small things, I will trust you with greater; come and join in your master’s happiness.”

‘Last came forward the man who had the one talent. “Sir,” said he “I had heard you were a hard man, reaping where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered; so I was afraid, and I went off and hid your talent in the ground. Here it is; it was yours, you have it back.”

But his master answered him, “You wicked and lazy servant! So you knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered? Well then, you should have deposited my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have recovered my capital with interest. So now, take the talent from him and give it to the man who has the five talents. For to everyone who has will be given more, and he will have more than enough; but from the man who has not, even what he has will be taken away. As for this good-for-nothing servant, throw him out into the dark, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.”’

Matthew 25:14-30

The shorter version of the parable focuses only on the engagement with the man given five talents who makes five more.

Jesus spoke this parable to his disciples: ‘The kingdom of Heaven is like a man on his way abroad who summoned his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to a third one; each in proportion to his ability. Then he set out.

‘Now a long time after, the master of those servants came back and went through his accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents came forward bringing five more. “Sir,” he said “you entrusted me with five talents; here are five more that I have made.”’

Matthew 25:14-15,19-21

The shorter version seems all sweetness and light – hard work earning its own reward. The full version of the text as presented by Matthew is rather darker.

  • What is the first version saying that the second is not?
  • What do you think of the master in the first version, as compared to the second?
  • What is the relationship between the master of the parable and God our Father?

Photograph: detail of figure of Christ from 14th C crucifix, Musee du Moyen Age, Paris. (c) 2014, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Of your blessings and our hope

Beatitudes

Today is the Solemnity of All Saints, transferred from Saturday 1st November because of a decision of the Bishops of England and Wales that Holy Days of Obligation (other than Christmas!) that fall on a Saturday or Monday are transferred to the Sunday. (The  Solemnity of All Souls, which normally falls on 2nd November is, this year, transferred to Monday 3rd November.)

Seeing the crowds, Jesus went up the hill. There he sat down and was joined by his disciples. Then he began to speak. This is what he taught them: ‘How happy are the poor in spirit; theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Happy the gentle: they shall have the earth for their heritage. Happy those who mourn: they shall be comforted. Happy those who hunger and thirst for what is right: they shall be satisfied. Happy the merciful: they shall have mercy shown them. Happy the pure in heart: they shall see God. Happy the peacemakers: they shall be called sons of God. Happy those who are persecuted in the cause of right: theirs is the kingdom of heaven. ‘Happy are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.’ Matthew 5:1-12

The words of the Beatitudes offer great reassurance and peace. But it is a reassurance that comes from acknowledging, confronting, the things that in this life often disturb our peace: striving for justice; mourning; working for peace; experiencing persecution; being gentle even if the cost of one’s gentleness is being taken advantage of.

Jesus says that blessed, happy, are those  who seek to live the values of the Kingdom, of heaven, even on earth. They are this not because of their own efforts only – though living this way is often quite some effort. Living this way, one needs the help of the grace and the love of God. This is the way of faithfulness, and faith – among other things – is always something to do with our response to what God has already done.

On this day that we remember our call to sanctity and rejoice that that call has been answered so fully and so generously by so many, it is also worth while taking time to think how does Jesus himself exemplify these virtues.

  • What parables show us the way into the different beatitudes?
  • What stories from Jesus’ life exemplify the beatitudes?
  • Where/when have we experienced these virtues in the Lord’s speaking to and caring for us?

Photograph is a view across the hill of Beatitudes, Galilee, down to the sea of Galilee. (c) 2012, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Words of comfort and hope.

The Good Shepherd by Duncan Grant

The responsorial psalm for next Sunday, the 28th Sunday of Ordinary Time, is one of the most familiar passages of scripture – psalm 22 (23).

In the Lord’s own house shall I dwell for ever and ever

The Lord is my shepherd;
there is nothing I shall want.
Fresh and green are the pastures
where he gives me repose.
Near restful waters he leads me,
to revive my drooping spirit.

In the Lord’s own house shall I dwell for ever and ever.

He guides me along the right path;
he is true to his name.
If I should walk in the valley of darkness
no evil would I fear.
You are there with your crook and your staff;
with these you give me comfort.

In the Lord’s own house shall I dwell for ever and ever.

You have prepared a banquet for me
in the sight of my foes.
My head you have anointed with oil;
my cup is overflowing.

In the Lord’s own house shall I dwell for ever and ever.

Surely goodness and kindness shall follow me
all the days of my life.
In the Lord’s own house shall I dwell
for ever and ever.

In the Lord’s own house shall I dwell for ever and ever.

Psalm 22:1-6

What is it in this psalm that draws your attention?

  • The confidence of the psalmist?
  • The ready admission of reasons for fear, albeit protected from them by the Lord?

The psalm affirms the closeness of the Lord and the speaker. Indeed the psalm does little other than affirm and describe that closeness.

  • Why does the Lord love so? The psalm doesn’t tell us, but why do you think he does?

Bring your thoughts to the Lord in prayer.

  • Why – if you do – do you love the Lord?

Bring your thoughts to the Lord in prayer.

Photograph is detail of fresco by Duncan Grant of Christ the Good Shepherd. Chantry chapel in Lincoln Cathedral. Photograph (c) Allen Morris.