Speak Lord: Shepherd of all

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Jesus said:

‘I am the good shepherd:
the good shepherd is one who lays down his life for his sheep.
The hired man, since he is not the shepherd
and the sheep do not belong to him,
abandons the sheep and runs away
as soon as he sees a wolf coming,
and then the wolf attacks and scatters the sheep;
this is because he is only a hired man
and has no concern for the sheep.

‘I am the good shepherd;
I know my own
and my own know me,
just as the Father knows me
and I know the Father;
and I lay down my life for my sheep.
And there are other sheep I have
that are not of this fold,
and these I have to lead as well.
They too will listen to my voice,
and there will be only one flock,
and one shepherd.

‘The Father loves me,
because I lay down my life
in order to take it up again.
No one takes it from me;
I lay it down of my own free will,
and as it is in my power to lay it down,
so it is in my power to take it up again;
and this is the command I have been given by my Father.’

Gospel for the 4th Sunday of Easter
John 10:11-18

At the heart of Jesus’ ministry as shepherd is courage, love and compassion. This shepherd does not value his own life above those of the sheep, but gives of his life for their well-being.

This ministry is now extended to the Church, the community that knows of the love of the Shepherd, and of how precious all people are in his sight. The ministry is exercised in  a variety of manners and in all sorts of circumstances. Perhaps its most usual form is in the ministry of parents caring for their children: but it extends so much more broadly including, for example, social workers, public servants of all kinds as well as clergy and catechists. Sometimes this ministry is exercised well. Always it deserves to be supported by our prayer.

Lord Jesus Christ,
you are the visible face of the invisible Father,
of the God who manifests his power
above all by forgiveness and mercy:
let the Church be your visible face in the world,
its Lord, risen and glorified.

Let everyone who approaches the Church
feel sought after, loved, and forgiven by God.

Send your Spirit and consecrate
all the faithful with its anointing,
so that your Church, with renewed enthusiasm,
may bring good news to the poor,
proclaim liberty to captives and the oppressed,
and restore sight to the blind.

We ask this of you, Lord Jesus,
through the intercession of Mary, Mother of Mercy;
you who live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Stained Glass. Church of St Giles, Houghton St Giles. (c) 2018, Allen Morris

Taste and See: Vocation – privilege and challenge

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The merit, in the sight of God, is in bearing punishment patiently when you are punished after doing your duty.

This, in fact, is what you were called to do, because Christ suffered for you and left an example for you to follow the way he took. He had not done anything wrong, and there had been no perjury in his mouth. He was insulted and did not retaliate with insults; when he was tortured he made no threats but he put his trust in the righteous judge. He was bearing our faults in his own body on the cross, so that we might die to our faults and live for holiness; through his wounds you have been healed. You had gone astray like sheep but now you have come back to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.

1 Peter 2:20-25

The second reading at Mass yesterday powerfully recounted the way in which Jesus experienced the events of the Passion, witnessing to his faith and trust in the Father.

Peter reminds that Jesus is the model for us to follow in our lives. Probably again and again we are misunderstood or mistreated – (as well as misunderstanding and mistreating others). If we are sometimes unconscious of how poorly we may treat others, we are often all too conscious of the hurts inflicted upon us.

The challenge when we do know this hurt is not to lash out or seek revenge, but to trust and continue to try to do our best. The fuller justice comes from God, and we can offer our pains in the service of Lord, and for the salvation of our brothers and sisters, fallible like us, and (often  !) also striving for the best…

Thanks be to you, O Lord Jesus Christ,
for all the many gifts you have given us;
for all that you endured for love of us.
O most merciful redeemer, friend and brother,
may we know you more clearly,
love you more dearly,
and follow you more nearly,
day by day.
Amen. 

The prayer of St Richard of Chichester (1197-1253)

Detail from War Memorial. Port Sunlight, Liverpool. (c) 2007, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Help us answer your call

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Hearing that John had been arrested, Jesus went back to Galilee, and leaving Nazareth he went and settled in Capernaum, a lakeside town on the borders of Zebulun and Naphtali. In this way the prophecy of Isaiah was to be fulfilled:

‘Land of Zebulun! Land of Naphtali!
Way of the sea on the far side of Jordan,
Galilee of the nations!
The people that lived in darkness has seen a great light;
on those who dwell in the land and shadow of death
a light has dawned.’

From that moment Jesus began his preaching with the message, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand.’

As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee he saw two brothers, Simon, who was called Peter, and his brother Andrew; they were making a cast in the lake with their net, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.’ And they left their nets at once and followed him. Going on from there he saw another pair of brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John; they were in their boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. At once, leaving the boat and their father, they followed him.

He went round the whole of Galilee teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom and curing all kinds of diseases and sickness among the people.

Matthew 4:12-23

The Gospel this coming Sunday, the 3rd in Ordinary Time, reminds us of the Lord’s call to men of Galilee, and people of all places and times to follow him.

Simon and Andrew, and James and John, leave their work and their homes to follow him.

Most us do not. We follow where we are. Our following takes a different form, more an imitation of Jesus’ way of life: especially of his love for the Father, and his love for his neighbour.

Either way of following, often enough, confronts us with real challenge and significant choices, moments, events, decisions which authenticate or which threaten to compromise our following.

Whether we seem to succeed or fail, his constant love expresses itself in his constant call to us: to come close, to follow, to live in communion, to share life with him.

The Call of Peter. St Peter’s Rome. (c) 2016, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: who choose us…

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The Lord said to me, ‘You are my servant, Israel,
in whom I shall be glorified’;
I was honoured in the eyes of the Lord,
my God was my strength.

And now the Lord has spoken,
he who formed me in the womb to be his servant,
to bring Jacob back to him,
to gather Israel to him:

‘It is not enough for you to be my servant,
to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back the survivors of Israel;
I will make you the light of the nations
so that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.’

Isaiah 49:3,5-6

The first reading at Mass today, the Sunday of the Second week in Ordinary TIme has the prophet wondering at God’s call of him, to serve to the glory of God.

To be singled out, to be called to anything by God, Creator of all that is, the One God, is itself extraordinary, mindboggling.

Yet, as the prophet hears, God has not just called him, but calls him to more and more.

We are drawn from the limits that hem us in, and constrain us, and called ot learn free to serve everywhere, any time, to anyone – to God’s glory and for the salvation of the world.

The work is God’s, and it is entrusted to the prophet and to us all. None of us has responsibility for the whole work – for that belongs to Christ. But each one of us is called to play our part, contributing to the symphony of saving love that is entrusted to the Church and to humankind…

  • What is your present part?
  • What might be next?
  • Pray for the help you need to keep in tune with God’s will for you

Detail of ambo, French Church, Leicester Square, London. (c) 2007, Allen Morris

Taste and See: In it together…

Oils, SPirit, Liverpool

The Second reading at Mass on Sunday this week, the feast of Pentecost, was taken from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. He rejoices in the unity and dignity of all Christians, a dignity which comes from their unity in Christ, enlivened by his Spirit.

No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord’ unless he is under the influence of the Holy Spirit.

There is a variety of gifts but always the same Spirit; there are all sorts of service to be done, but always to the same Lord; working in all sorts of different ways in different people, it is the same God who is working in all of them. The particular way in which the Spirit is given to each person is for a good purpose.

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.

1 Corinthians 12:3-7,12-13

To be part of a team, supported and supporting, is our vocation as Christians.

Often when speaking of vocation people seem to focus on an individual’s personal path in life – and on a relatively few particular paths/works in life, too, come to that.

But all Christian vocation is rooted in our communion with Jesus, and is for service of others. This is true of Baptism (culminating in Confirmation and Eucharist). It is true of those admitted to the Orders of Deacons, Presbyters and Bishops – they minister Christ and together with others, for others. It is true of those admitted to the Order of Penitents and the Order of the Sick and Infirm – in need of mercy and assistance, but also called to bear witness to the Church of their trust in the mercy of God. And it is true, in a paradigmatic way, of those called to marriage and family life – they serve as Christ to each other and to their family and community, and do it together.

  • With whom do you work in Christ?
  • Whose assistance and cooperation do you neglect or resist?

Art work in Chapel of Holy Oils, Christ the King Cathedral, Liverpool. (c) 2016, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: who call us to glory

Ascension Hampton LucyThe Second reading on Sunday, the feast of the Ascension, comes from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. The reading adverts to the Mystery, of Jesus’ being now seated at the right hand of the Father in glory, but also to our continued relationship with him: a privileged relationship, grounded on faith and sustained in love.

May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give you a spirit of wisdom and perception of what is revealed, to bring you to full knowledge of him.

May he enlighten the eyes of your mind so that you can see what hope his call holds for you, what rich glories he has promised the saints will inherit and how infinitely great is the power that he has exercised for us believers.

This you can tell from the strength of his power at work in Christ, when he used it to raise him from the dead and to make him sit at his right hand, in heaven, far above every Sovereignty, Authority, Power, or Domination, or any other name that can be named not only in this age but also in the age to come. He has put all things under his feet and made him, as the ruler of everything, the head of the Church; which is his body, the fullness of him who fills the whole creation.

Ephesians 1:17-23

  • What does God call you to?
  • To what do you aspire?
  • Are these things the same?

Bring your responses to God in prayer.

The Ascension. St Peter ad Vincula, Hampton Lucy, Warwickshire. (c) 2016, Allen Morris

Taste and See: Gathered and missioned

Peter Capernaum

The Gospel for the third Sunday of Easter engages us in a story of reconciliation and healing, drawn from Jesus and shared with Peter, and through Peter shared with the Church.

Jesus showed himself again to the disciples. It was by the Sea of Tiberias, and it happened like this: Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee and two more of his disciples were together. Simon Peter said, ‘I’m going fishing.’ They replied, ‘We’ll come with you.’ They went out and got into the boat but caught nothing that night.

It was light by now and there stood Jesus on the shore, though the disciples did not realise that it was Jesus. Jesus called out, ‘Have you caught anything, friends?’ And when they answered, ‘No’, he said, ‘Throw the net out to starboard and you’ll find something.’ So they dropped the net, and there were so many fish that they could not haul it in. The disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord.’ At these words ‘It is the Lord’, Simon Peter, who had practically nothing on, wrapped his cloak round him and jumped into the water. The other disciples came on in the boat, towing the net and the fish; they were only about a hundred yards from land.

As soon as they came ashore they saw that there was some bread there, and a charcoal fire with fish cooking on it. Jesus said, ‘Bring some of the fish you have just caught.’ Simon Peter went aboard and dragged the net to the shore, full of big fish, one hundred and fifty-three of them; and in spite of there being so many the net was not broken. Jesus said to them, ‘Come and have breakfast.’ None of the disciples was bold enough to ask, ‘Who are you?’; they knew quite well it was the Lord. Jesus then stepped forward, took the bread and gave it to them, and the same with the fish. This was the third time that Jesus showed himself to the disciples after rising from the dead.

After the meal Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these others do?’ He answered, ‘Yes Lord, you know I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ A second time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ He replied, ‘Yes, Lord, you know I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Look after my sheep.’ Then he said to him a third time, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter was upset that he asked him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ and said, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep.

‘I tell you most solemnly,
when you were young
you put on your own belt
and walked where you liked;
but when you grow old
you will stretch out your hands,
and somebody else will put a belt round you
and take you where you would rather not go.’

In these words he indicated the kind of death by which Peter would give glory to God. After this he said, ‘Follow me.’

John 21:1-19

 

  • What do you receive from Peter? From the Church?
  • What of God’s gifts and his grace do you share with the world?

Image derived from carving in the Church of Peter’s Primacy, Capernaum, Israel. (c) 2013