Taste and See: The word of life

Sayers Common 033a.jpg

The apostles rejoined Jesus and told him all they had done and taught. Then he said to them, ‘You must come away to some lonely place all by yourselves and rest for a while’; for there were so many coming and going that the apostles had no time even to eat. So they went off in a boat to a lonely place where they could be by themselves.

But people saw them going, and many could guess where; and from every town they all hurried to the place on foot and reached it before them. So as he stepped ashore he saw a large crowd; and he took pity on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and he set himself to teach them at some length.

Gospel for the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mark 6:30-34

Over the next few weeks the readings take on a particular Eucharistic theme – we segue from Mark’s narrative to that of John in chapter 6 of his Gospel, beginning with the feeding of the 5000 and then continuing over the following four weeks, readings from the Bread of Life discourse.

These readings will have a particular resonance in parishes in England and Wales as we continue to prepare for Adoremus, the Eucharistic Congress being held in Liverpool in early September.

Before we move to reflections on how Jesus feeds us with Bread and with his Body, we note how Jesus feeds us with his word. It is the word that gathers the people to him, and holds them through the long day.

And for us too, the word brings us to the Lord. In the Liturgy we are shaped and focused by the word, indeed it is only after the word has been ministered to us that we dare to approach the Sacraments. The living word is the gateway to the Sacraments, and the food that allows us better to receive the Lord there and more fruitfully respond to him in our lives.

Lectern and lectionary. Sayers Common. © 2005, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Living Word

the-word-and-the-words

Everything that was written long ago in the scriptures was meant to teach us something about hope from the examples scripture gives of how people who did not give up were helped by God. And may he who helps us when we refuse to give up, help you all to be tolerant with each other, following the example of Christ Jesus, so that united in mind and voice you may give glory to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

It can only be to God’s glory, then, for you to treat each other in the same friendly way as Christ treated you. The reason Christ became the servant of circumcised Jews was not only so that God could faithfully carry out the promises made to the patriarchs, it was also to get the pagans to give glory to God for his mercy, as scripture says in one place: For this I shall praise you among the pagans and sing to your name.

Romans 15:4-9

The reading from Romans that we will hear on Sunday, the 2nd Sunday of Advent, reminds us that the Scriptures were written and are still proclaimed to teach us something!. We need the word of God to help us respond more and more fully to the invitation of God to grow, to the teaching and example and very person of Jesus, the Word made flesh.

We need instruction, and God ensures we have it, through the inspiration of the authors of Scripture; through the discernment of the Church in recognising certain works as indeed inspired; and through God’s continued indwelling in the word so that when we hear these words proclaimed it is Christ himself who speaks to us.

In this season of Advent it is good to examine of our lives for signs of our having heard the word and our having begun to put it into practice. And if we see there is an absence of practice, then it can be helpful to bring that awareness, and that lack, to God in prayer, acknowledging our continued need for the living Word, for mercy, and for encouragement.

‘The Word and the words’. Signage. La Chiesa di S. Maria in Portico in Campitelli, Rome. (c) 2016, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: That we might hear, and hear again, and learn

bibleYou must keep to what you have been taught and know to be true; remember who your teachers were, and how, ever since you were a child, you have known the holy scriptures – from these you can learn the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

All scripture is inspired by God and can profitably be used for teaching, for refuting error, for guiding people’s lives and teaching them to be holy. This is how the man who is dedicated to God becomes fully equipped and ready for any good work.

Before God and before Christ Jesus who is to be judge of the living and the dead, I put this duty to you, in the name of his Appearing and of his kingdom: proclaim the message and, welcome or unwelcome, insist on it. Refute falsehood, correct error, call to obedience – but do all with patience and with the intention of teaching.

2 Timothy 3:14-4:2

Our learning may begin with scripture, or learning begun elsewhere may be honed by scripture – by the sacramental encounter with the living Lord who is present to us in the words, and stories, and guidance and books of scripture.

What we learn we are to share – not as our knowledge, our understanding, but as work in progress enabled by the living Lord. And as we share we are to receive, fresh perspectives on what we know learnt from the experiences of others; on what we misunderstand from the experiences of others.

What we live by and what we are constantly to learn is to be with Christ and to be as Christ.

Thanks be to you, our Lord Jesus Christ,
for all the benefits which you have given us,
for all the pains and insults which you have borne for us.
Most merciful Redeemer, Friend and Brother,
may we know you more clearly,
love you more dearly,
and follow you more nearly,
day by day.

A Prayer of St Richard of Chichester (1197-1253)

St Andrew’s Church, Wroxeter, Shropshire. (c) 2016, Allen Morris.

 

Taste and See: Hearing with the heart

heart-sign

The first of the alternative verses provided for the Gospel Acclamation at Mass yesterday, the 25th Sunday of Ordinary Time, is simple, but reminds of a most important truth.

Alleluia, alleluia!
Open our heart, O Lord,
to accept the words of your Son.
Alleluia!

cf.Ac16:14

Normally we think of ourselves as listening with our ears.  And, of course, they have a part to play in our hearing the word of God.

But in hearing the word of God we need not only ears and mind, but especially a heart. God speaks heart to heart, speaks much less of facts and the like, much more about affective,  relational, truths, about the love of God, and the invitation always open to us of entering into deeper communion with him.

  • What helps your heart to open?
  • What tends to make it close?

Street signs and graffiti: Nantes. (c) 2016, Allen Morris

Taste and See: Newness promised

Kensal Green memorialThe second reading at Mass yesterday, Sunday, the 5th Sunday of Easter, reminds us of the glory and goodness that lies ahead for us.

I, John, saw a new heaven and a new earth; the first heaven and the first earth had disappeared now, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the holy city, and the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, as beautiful as a bride all dressed for her husband.

Then I heard a loud voice call from the throne, ‘You see this city? Here God lives among men. He will make his home among them; they shall be his people, and he will be their God; his name is God-with-them. He will wipe away all tears from their eyes; there will be no more death, and no more mourning or sadness. The world of the past has gone.’

Then the One sitting on the throne spoke: ‘Now I am making the whole of creation new.’

Apocalypse 21:1-5

In this present age we will have death to grapple with, and mourning, sadness and tears..

But the word of God, and the sacraments, accompany us and sustain us on the journey to the new Jerusalem.

In heaven these gifts of God cease, there we will see and hear the Word direct, face to face, without need for the mediation of scripture and sacrament. And we will be new. God promises.

 

Grave memorial, Kensal Green Cemetery. (c) 2009, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Our Faith

Sacred Heart, ColombiersThe second reading at Mass on Sunday, the first Sunday of Lent, speaks of the word, the living word, that is living faith.

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

To hear the word, to receive it, is to receive life.

To hear and receive the word is to have life for oneself and life to share with others.

To hear the word this way  is to be restored to the world made whole, reconciled with the living Lord of All.

The scripture of Sunday reminds that our faith is not restricted to the detail of this or that act – sinful or gracious; or an individual life, or community or culture. It is cosmic in its scope, about the healing of all creation.

  • How do you understand your place in the bigger picture?

Sacred Heart, parish church of Colombiers, France. (c) 2015, Allen Morris.

 

Speak Lord: Living Word

MezuzahThe Psalm for the 3rd Sunday of the Year assures us of where we find truth, certainty, goodness. It is in the law of the Lord, his rule and command.

 

Your words are spirit, Lord, and they are life.

The law of the Lord is perfect,
it revives the soul.
The rule of the Lord is to be trusted,
it gives wisdom to the simple.

Your words are spirit, Lord, and they are life.

The precepts of the Lord are right,
they gladden the heart.
The command of the Lord is clear,
it gives light to the eyes.

Your words are spirit, Lord, and they are life.

The fear of the Lord is holy,
abiding for ever.
The decrees of the Lord are truth
and all of them just.

Your words are spirit, Lord, and they are life.

May the spoken words of my mouth,
the thoughts of my heart,
win favour in your sight, O Lord,
my rescuer, my rock!

Your words are spirit, Lord, and they are life.

Psalm 18:8-10,15

Christians, Jews, Muslims each in their way find the spirit and life in the words of Scripture. Christians  are distinctive though in not being a ‘people of the Book’ but a people who find the fulfilment of the words in the Word, God incarnate, Jesus Christ.

The words of Scripture, Old and New Testament, are alive and active but most so when heard in him and from him.

  • What ways of engaging with Scripture do you find most helpful?
  • What least?
  • What opportunities might you take up to deepen your knowledge of the Lord in and through scripture: and scripture in and through the Lord?

 

Mezuzah, Kazmierz, Carcow, Poland. (c) 2013, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Make us yours

Eagle lectern

In all Scripture Christ speaks to us. We maybe still have catechetical work to do to ensure that all the faithful are helped to listen for the voice of the Lord in all the readings of the Liturgy of the word. There is still maybe a greater sense for the distinction between the Old Testament and New Testament than for the unity of Salvation history related through the Bible as a whole.

The Liturgy of the word gives a ritual prominence to the Gospel reading, but also through its structure indicates something of the unity of Scripture to be discovered in its various parts.

Some of that may be apparent in our celebrations on a Sunday, (perhaps sometimes highlighted in the homily). Hopefully we become still more aware of this as we dwell with the word during the days before Sunday, and returning to it in days following. And hopefully Living Eucharist is able to play its part in assisting with this.

Next Sunday is the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time and it offers us a fresh opportunity to know the Lord of all as also the Servant of all.

James and John, the sons of Zebedee, approached Jesus. ‘Master,’ they said to him ‘we want you to do us a favour.’ He said to them, ‘What is it you want me to do for you?’ They said to him, ‘Allow us to sit one at your right hand and the other at your left in your glory.’ ‘You do not know what you are asking’ Jesus said to them. ‘Can you drink the cup that I must drink, or be baptised with the baptism with which I must be baptised?’ They replied, ‘We can.’ Jesus said to them, ‘The cup that I must drink you shall drink, and with the baptism with which I must be baptised you shall be baptised, but as for seats at my right hand or my left, these are not mine to grant; they belong to those to whom they have been allotted.’

When the other ten heard this they began to feel indignant with James and John, so Jesus called them to him and said to them, ‘You know that among the pagans their so-called rulers lord it over them, and their great men make their authority felt. This is not to happen among you. No; anyone who wants to become great among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants to be first among you must be slave to all. For the Son of Man himself did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’

Mark 10:35-45

James and John present a challenge to the project that Jesus leads. He offers service: they seek for lordship.

And yet, their ambition is also accompanied by a passion for Jesus and his project. There surely is in them a motive that is alien to authentic discipleship, even in its contradiction, but they themselves desire to be authentic disciples. What is called for is a purification of motives, nothing more, nothing less. Jesus challenges them, and encourages them on their way to wholeness in and with him.

How important, and how touching is their assertion, in face of Jesus’ questioning of whether they can follow him in all things: ‘We can’. It may be they witness to something they cannot yet know, but they witness to it all the same.

They have some way to go, and the way will be challenging – not only in the external challenges they face, but the internal conversion needed too. Growing pains are not confined to our actual childhood and adolescence. Coming to human maturity is a life long work, even for apostles.

  • Which of your motives grate against your vocation as a disciple?
  • What resources can you call on to help with the purification of your motives?

Photograph of detail of lectern in parish church of Ditchling. (c) 2003, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Living Word, make us alive and active

Word and Eucharist

The second reading at Mass this coming Sunday, the 28th of Ordinary time, comes from the Letter to the Hebrews.

It is a powerful affirmation of the virtue of the Scriptures, enabling us to learn to live faithfully, to acquire the authentic Christian spirit.

The word of God is something alive and active: it cuts like any double-edged sword but more finely: it can slip through the place where the soul is divided from the spirit, or joints from the marrow; it can judge the secret emotions and thoughts. No created thing can hide from him; everything is uncovered and open to the eyes of the one to whom we must give account of ourselves.

Hebrews 4:12-13

It can sometimes be shaming to think there is nothing we can hide, but it is also always, ultimately, a huge relief. Especially when the one who knows all, love us in our entirety and wants to help us to the best.

  • Pray for faith and trust
  • Give thanks for the hope God gives.

Photograph from Day Chapel in the  Cathédrale de la Résurrection, Evry, France. (c) 2014, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: The wisdom of God, the truth of the Kingdom

Mosaid St Saviour and St Peter's Eastbourne

The gospel reading on Sunday, the 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time, spoke of the Kingdom of God. And did so by means of parables – familiars that have been much heard and much loved in the 2000 years since their first telling.

Jesus said to the crowds, ‘This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man throws seed on the land. Night and day, while he sleeps, when he is awake, the seed is sprouting and growing; how, he does not know. Of its own accord the land produces first the shoot, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the crop is ready, he loses no time: he starts to reap because the harvest has come.’

He also said, ‘What can we say the kingdom of God is like? What parable can we find for it? It is like a mustard seed which at the time of its sowing in the soil is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet once it is sown it grows into the biggest shrub of them all and puts out big branches so that the birds of the air can shelter in its shade.’

Using many parables like these, he spoke the word to them, so far as they were capable of understanding it. He would not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything to his disciples when they were alone.

Mark 4:26-34

The parables of Jesus are very familiar to us. We might want to cut to the chase and is so far as we have not yet learnt what the Kingdom of God is, we’d like the advanced course offered to the disciples when they and Jesus were alone.

Unfortunately the very idea of the advanced course, with answers, might very easily be a Markan irony. Is there much evidence in his Gospel of the disciples learning anything directly from what Jesus taught them?

However the parables are familiar to us. They came seem safe and reassuring. Some of Jesus parables were like that, but often they were rather disturbing, albeit the disturbance and shock effect decorated by the glad rags of story.

As already noted when this passage was presented on this blog on Sunday, maybe the farmer was a lazy farmer – doing nothing to look after the crop from planting to harvest; maybe the mustard plant is simply a weed, colonising otherwise ‘productive’ land.

Perhaps what Jesus offered them when they were alone was something more like lectio divina. What did you hear? What does it say to you? What do you want to say to God in return? Responding to the tentativeness of the search for what the Kingdom of God is like, not the definitive conclusions as to what the kingdom is .

  • What in our world is like the Kingdom of God?
  • What in our world is unlike the Kingdom of God?
  • How do you live your response to the difference?

Photograph of mosaic in Anglican church of Christ the Saviour and St Peter, Eastbourne. (c) 2015, Allen Morris.