Speak Lord: Make us One.

DSC00833 Paul Peter.jpg

I appeal to you, brothers, for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, to make up the differences between you, and instead of disagreeing among yourselves, to be united again in your belief and practice. From what Chloe’s people have been telling me, my dear brothers, it is clear that there are serious differences among you. What I mean are all these slogans that you have, like: ‘I am for Paul’, ‘I am for Apollos’, ‘I am for Cephas’, ‘I am for Christ.’ Has Christ been parcelled out? Was it Paul that was crucified for you? Were you baptised in the name of Paul?

For Christ did not send me to baptise, but to preach the Good News, and not to preach that in the terms of philosophy in which the crucifixion of Christ cannot be expressed.

1 Corinthians 1:10-13,17

The Second reading at Mass on Sunday, the 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, continues the Church’s reading of Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians.

And – perhaps with a particular importance appropriately for our own times – Paul speaks of the call to unity and common purpose.

That unity is gifted to us in the Good News, and especially in Christ. And it helps us move beyond our tensions.

The image above expresses the unity of the Church – but the Scriptures bear witness to tensions, even violent tensions between Paul, Peter and Jesus, tensions that by the love of God were overcome and out of which grew great cooperation in working for the upbuilding of the Church and the sharing of the Gospel.

Carving. The Hermitage, St Petersburg. (c) 2015, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: as one people

Jerusalem 2The Psalm at Mass on Sunday, the 21st Sunday in Ordinary time, briefly and firmly calls us to praise of God and to confidence in God’s love for us, his people.

Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News.

O praise the Lord, all you nations,
acclaim him all you peoples!

Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News.

Strong is his love for us;
he is faithful for ever.

Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News.

Psalm 116:1-2

 

A psalm from the Jewish Scriptures, and also the word of God for Christians, it is a prayer and song that all believers in the one God might sing with joy and assurance.

In this song the family of God, who know God as God, can join in a common song, despite difference of religion, faith, culture, language, whatever.

  •  In prayer today pray the psalm with and for all God’s people.

Church, Temple Mount and Mosque, Jerusalem. (c) 2013, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Move us on…

Tabernacle St Paeter and Paul, Cracow

The second reading on Sunday, the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time continues our reading of the letter of St Paul to the Galatians.

When Christ freed us, he meant us to remain free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery. My brothers, you were called, as you know, to liberty; but be careful, or this liberty will provide an opening for self-indulgence.

Serve one another, rather, in works of love, since the whole of the Law is summarised in a single command: Love your neighbour as yourself. If you go snapping at each other and tearing each other to pieces, you had better watch or you will destroy the whole community.

Let me put it like this: if you are guided by the Spirit you will be in no danger of yielding to self-indulgence, since self-indulgence is the opposite of the Spirit, the Spirit is totally against such a thing, and it is precisely because the two are so opposed that you do not always carry out your good intentions. If you are led by the Spirit, no law can touch you.

Galatians 5:1,13-18

St Paul calls on us to look beyond ourselves and our needs, beyond ‘fighting our corner’but working for the common good.

In the past weeks and month, in the context of the EU referendum, there has been much setting up of ‘opposition’ to those of different opinion. But now the vote has been taken. The decision has been made, and it seems it is to leave.

As we await the final results the challenge for us all is how do we – all together – accept and implement the expressed will of the community (at least of those parts of the community permitted to vote!).

Almost half of those who did vote do not agree with the decision, but somewhat more than half have won the vote. Now, together, we need (learn again) to work for the common good. Some will see it (at least for a while) as trying to make the best of a bad job, but it is now for the best that, together, we must work, together.

To make bread grains of wheat have to be crushed and ground to form flour. To make wine, grapes are pressed and the juice collected. And then dough has to be made from the flour, and baked to form the one bread for Mass. And the grape juice fermented so that it might becomes the wine, the  drink for the one Chalice. In making bread, in making wine what is broken has – through our industry – become something new and whole.

This fruit of our industry is then taken and transformed by Christ into himself – offered as Sacrifice to God, and Sacrifice for us – and then shared with us as food and drink for the next stage of our journey that leads through this world and to eternal life.

  • What helps you to seek common-ground with others?
  • What frustrates any such attempt to seek common-ground?
  • To what and how does the Spirit guide you?

Tabernacle from Church of Ss Peter and Paul, Cracow. (c) 2013, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: Care for each other, in the Spirit

St Paul Ambrosi

The first reading on Sunday, the 6th of Easter, came from The Acts of the Apostles. It exemplifies the seeking after peace, the living in mutual love, that Jesus invites his friends to in the Gospel of Sunday.

The life of the Gospel is not without its tensions. Acts testifies to that. Disciples face all sorts of challenge as they seek to be faithful to Jesus as the Way, Truth and Life, and respond to the circumstances in which they live, and the differences and awkwardnesses they face within and without the Christian community. But Acts demonstrates that authentic Christianity is a work in progress that prevails, because it is a work that is sustained by God, secure in the Spirit of God.

Some men came down from Judaea and taught the brothers, ‘Unless you have yourselves circumcised in the tradition of Moses you cannot be saved.’ This led to disagreement, and after Paul and Barnabas had had a long argument with these men it was arranged that Paul and Barnabas and others of the church should go up to Jerusalem and discuss the problem with the apostles and elders.
Then the apostles and elders decided to choose delegates to send to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; the whole church concurred with this. They chose Judas known as Barsabbas and Silas, both leading men in the brotherhood, and gave them this letter to take with them:

‘The apostles and elders, your brothers, send greetings to the brothers of pagan birth in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia. We hear that some of our members have disturbed you with their demands and have unsettled your minds. They acted without any authority from us; and so we have decided unanimously to elect delegates and to send them to you with Barnabas and Paul, men we highly respect who have dedicated their lives to the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accordingly we are sending you Judas and Silas, who will confirm by word of mouth what we have written in this letter. It has been decided by the Holy Spirit and by ourselves not to saddle you with any burden beyond these essentials: you are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols; from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from fornication. Avoid these, and you will do what is right. Farewell.’

Acts 15:1-2,22-29

  • What non-essential burdens hobble progress to Christian unity in your community?
  • What positive actions to show love to others has your community taken recently?
  • What more might be done?

St Paul, da Forli, Vatican Museum. (c) 2016, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: to us…

Mary Magdalene, SalisburyThere are three optional Gospel passages provided for Mass on Easter Day, one – the story of Jesus and the disciples on the road to Emmaus – reserved for the evening of Easter Day.

The first of them focuses on the disciples agitated and struggling to comprehend what has happened and why…

It was very early on the first day of the week and still dark, when Mary of Magdala came to the tomb. She saw that the stone had been moved away from the tomb and came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved. ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb’ she said ‘and we don’t know where they have put him.’

So Peter set out with the other disciple to go to the tomb. They ran together, but the other disciple, running faster than Peter, reached the tomb first; he bent down and saw the linen cloths lying on the ground, but did not go in. Simon Peter who was following now came up, went right into the tomb, saw the linen cloths on the ground, and also the cloth that had been over his head; this was not with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in; he saw and he believed. Till this moment they had failed to understand the teaching of scripture, that he must rise from the dead.

John 20:1-9

The details of this spare, taut, narrative are engaging. Mary’s early rising and running to Peter and John. The contrasting of Peter and John in their speed in running and their beginning to believe and understand. But note the use of the first person plural. There are differences and particularities amongst the first disciples but they are united,

They are united first in confusion; but then in understanding and then belief. They journey together, however much they also journey apart.

Mary Magdalene, Elisabeth Frink. (c) 2010, Allen Morris

Taste and See: United

Burnes Jones, BirminghamThe second reading at Mass on Sunday last, the first Sunday of Lent, was an encouraging word, and a profoundly sober and levelling word.

Scripture says: The word (that is the faith we proclaim) is very near to you, it is on your lips and in your heart.

If your lips confess that Jesus is Lord and if you believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, then you will be saved.

By believing from the heart you are made righteous; by confessing with your lips you are saved.

When scripture says: those who believe in him will have no cause for shame, it makes no distinction between Jew and Greek: all belong to the same Lord who is rich enough, however many ask his help, for everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
Romans 10:8-13

We are lost, unless we are saved. And if we are saved we are saved not by our own efforts, but because of what God has done and what Jesus is.

We could argue from Paul’s words that our salvation is achieved by our believing, our confessing, but that would surely be false to the tenor of Paul’s argument. It is the Lord who saves and we have access to that salvation by his love: our faith, our confession are an acceptance of his gift not a forcing of his hand.

When such goodness is offered and we do not believe, confess, have faith, then failure is ours and we are lost. Unless, until, we can call on him and then the gift is freely given.

All is his gift.

And his gift is offered freely to all – Jew, Greek, and all the many differentiations that we make between the ‘all’ to whom God gives life, the ‘all’ that ‘we’ are.

  • Who do you exclude from the ‘we’ you count yourself part of?
  • Why?
  • Does anyone else? Does God?

Window by Burne-Jones,  Cathedral Church of Saint Philip, Birmingham. (c) 2013, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: to us whom you love.

Figure Trafalgar SquareThe second reading on Sunday, the 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, continues our reading of the latter part of Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians.

Just as a human body, though it is made up of many parts, is a single unit because all these parts, though many, make one body, so it is with Christ. In the one Spirit we were all baptised, Jews as well as Greeks, slaves as well as citizens, and one Spirit was given to us all to drink.

Nor is the body to be identified with any one of its many parts. If the foot were to say, ‘I am not a hand and so I do not belong to the body’, would that mean that it stopped being part of the body? If the ear were to say, ‘I am not an eye, and so I do not belong to the body’, would that mean that it was not a part of the body? If your whole body was just one eye, how would you hear anything? If it was just one ear, how would you smell anything?
Instead of that, God put all the separate parts into the body on purpose. If all the parts were the same, how could it be a body? As it is, the parts are many but the body is one. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I do not need you’, nor can the head say to the feet, ‘I do not need you.’

What is more, it is precisely the parts of the body that seem to be the weakest which are the indispensable ones; and it is the least honourable parts of the body that we clothe with the greatest care. So our more improper parts get decorated in a way that our more proper parts do not need. God has arranged the body so that more dignity is given to the parts which are without it, and that there may not be disagreements inside the body, but that each part may be equally concerned for all the others. If one part is hurt, all parts are hurt with it. If one part is given special honour, all parts enjoy it.

Now you together are Christ’s body; but each of you is a different part of it. In the Church, God has given the first place to apostles, the second to prophets, the third to teachers; after them, miracles, and after them the gift of healing; helpers, good leaders, those with many languages. Are all of them apostles, or all of them prophets, or all of them teachers? Do they all have the gift of miracles, or all have the gift of healing? Do all speak strange languages, and all interpret them?

1 Corinthians 12:12-30

This Sunday falls within the week of Prayer for Christian Unity. It is a week that reminds again of how even within the community of the Baptised there is a tendency to undermine the unity that is ours as children of God. We are to deeper unity with him and with one another, but so often that gift is squandered in squabbling and mistrust and suspicion and prejudice.

  • With what part of your body do you least associate?
  • With which do you most associate your ‘self’?
  • With whom in our world do you least think of yourself having something in common?
  • With whom most in common?

What can you bring from those reflections to prayer?

Alison Lapper Pregnant, a carving by  Marc Quinn. Photograph (c) 2007, Allen Morris