Wednesday, 27 May 2015

THE BLESSED TRINITY

‘I don’t need to bother about the Trinity! It’s enough for me to be a Christian!’ That’s what a friend once said to me. For him the Blessed Trinity was far too great a mystery for him to begin to understand. And he feared that if he tried to explain the Trinity he would get bogged down in abstract metaphysics, which had little to do with his daily life.

The preacher fears –I fear - the congregation would switch off at the prospect of a sermon on the Trinity. He’s tempted to take the escape rout of The Pastoral Letter, which bishops often kindly provide. He might well prefer to talk about something else.

But I’m not going to take the easy way out. The Trinity is far too important for me to do that. I want to try to show that faith in the Blessed Trinity is essential to our understanding of what it means to be Christian. I hope you won’t switch off. Abstract philosophy is not my scene!

Why is the Blessed Trinity so important to us? Well, when we were baptised ‘in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit,’ we began to share in God’s own life.

The Blessed Trinity gives us our identity as God’s children. Our perfection consists in becoming ever more like the Blessed Trinity. Our happiness lies in knowing and loving God as He really is… one God, who is three equal persons, each being fully God, not a part of God.

We’d be right to think that’s taking us way out of our depth, as we realise we’re confronted with a mystery –the greatest of all mysteries. But let’s not panic! We’re used to living with mysteries in our daily lives. We don’t fully understand ourselves, let alone anyone else. We’re constantly being taken by surprise.

But that doesn’t prevent us loving each other. In fact the mystery makes us much more interesting to know and love. We can destroy love by too much analysis –by trying to define and categorise people so as to be able to put them in pigeon holes and stick labels on them.

So we shouldn’t be put off by God being the greatest of all mysteries. Instead, we should welcome, love and praise the mystery of the Trinity, which is God. If we try to force God to fit into our limited understanding of Him we will end up with fashioning our own god. That would be idolatry.

But God has revealed a great deal about Himself by telling us the different ways in which each member of the Trinity is involved in our salvation. In John’s Gospel we’re told that God loved the world so much that he sent His only Son into the world to save us. The Son expressed God’s love for us by becoming one of us and sacrificing His human life so that we could share His divine life. No one could show us greater love than that.

And after ascending to heaven Jesus sent God’s Spirit into the world so that we could gain the divine happiness, which He had won for us on the cross. As we saw in last Sunday’s feast of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit is the great communicator. Through the Spirit we share God’s life and become His children. Through the Holy Spirit we share His saving truth. Without the activity of each member of the Blessed Trinity our lives as Christians would be meaningless.

Obviously there’s much more that could be said about the Blessed Trinity.

But in the end, we have to admit that God can’t be pinned down by intellectual analysis and definitions -nor can we! We will draw far closer to God by welcoming Him with love as He is in Himself –as the mysterious Blessed Trinity.

We will know, love and praise God much, much better in heaven. That will be our eternal happiness.

Isidore Clarke,O.P.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

PENTECOST....WORTH WAITING FOR

Waiting, longing, inviting, welcoming. These are all sentiments appropriate to our celebrating the feast of Pentecost. Have you noticed how many hymns associated with the Holy Spirit begin with the invitation, “Come?” In recent years we in the Caribbean have learned to love the chorus, ‘Welcome, Holy Spirit, fill us with Your presence.” (Acts I.4).


The Acts of the Apostles tells us that after Jesus had ascended into heaven the apostles gathered together in the upper room where they were staying and that “ With one heart all these joined constantly in prayer, together with some women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers,” (Acts.1.14).

Prayer had to be the prelude to Pentecost. By prayer the apostles had to dispose themselves for the outpouring upon them of the Holy Spirit. This gift of the Holy Spirit, promised them by Jesus, would be eagerly, prayerfully, awaited by them.

Prayer had to express their felt need to be empowered by the Holy Spirit to rise to the huge expectations Jesus has of them. He had let them know that they were to carry the Good News of the Gospel to the ends of the earth.

PENTECOST – NEEDED PRAYING FOR; .. .... PENTECOST WAS WORTH PRAYERFULLY WAITING FOR!

And now, in our generation, Pentecost is about individuals such as you and me who together make up the Church. We, as Church, need to be possessed by a belief of such deep conviction, such strong enthusiasm, as to stimulate our willingly, even heroically, bearing witness to Jesus …all that He has done for us… all He wants us to do for Him.

In the Acts of the Apostles (Ch.2.14...) we read of the apostles being filled with the Holy Spirit, and then of their being sent out by the Holy Spirit to preach the full message about Jesus in all its richness.

“Hearing this, crowds of people were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, 'What are we to do, brothers?' 'You must repent,' Peter answered, 'and every one of you must be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Through this call to repentance God is saying ‘allow me to be merciful to you; just tell me you are truly sorry that you have offended me; seek my forgiveness.’ Jesus, has given us the Sacrament of Reconciliation because God wants to make it easy for us to receive His forgiveness. With a sense of relief we are to savour the wonderful gift of His mercy.

Surely the obvious token of our sincerity and of our gratitude to God must be that we make our peace with others. We are to be merciful to others and are to seek their mercy. Such repentance is a serious, life-changing discipline. ..not - as some would say – a way to make sinning easy for Catholics, (easy to sin… easy to gain absolution…over and over again).

So many of these thoughts have been inspired by “THE FACE OF MERCY” a recent document of Pope Francis He opens with this startling, magnificent, statement, "Jesus Christ is the face of the Father's mercy."

The second paragraph of the text spells this out:

‘We need constantly to contemplate the mystery of mercy. It is a wellspring of joy, serenity, and peace. Our salvation depends on it. Mercy: the word reveals the very mystery of the Most Holy Trinity. Mercy: the ultimate and supreme act by which God comes to meet us. Mercy: the fundamental law that dwells in the heart of every person who looks sincerely into the eyes of his brothers and sisters on the path of life. Mercy: the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to a hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness.’

And a few paragraphs later he writes ““Mercy is the very foundation of the Church’s life” (No.10).

This is exciting. This is the spirit of the original preaching at Pentecost. The whole mission of Jesus is described as the out-pouring of, “God’s merciful love.” Repentance removes the obstacles to our receiving His merciful forgiveness.

Our making our peace with God, His conferring His peace on us must impel us to be contrite before those we have offended and forgiving to those who have offended us.

The world of today so desperately needs this ‘Pentecost Breath of Fresh Air’ which Almighty God is channeling to us through Pope Francis.

PENTECOST....SO MUCH MOST CERTAINLY WORTH PRAYING FOR; PENTECOST....SO MUCH MOST CERTAINLY WORTH WAITING FOR!

Peter Clarke, O.P.

Friday, 8 May 2015

ASCENSION OF JESUS INTO HEAVEN








Jesus had been crucified; He had died; He had been buried. No wonder the apostles were shocked, scared, when just a few days later, this same Jesus suddenly appeared among them. Not even locked doors had prevented this. To their minds – and who can blame them? - what they saw had to be the ghost of Jesus! 


Jesus set about to convincing them that this was not so.

St. Luke tells us,

“Jesus said, 'Why are you so agitated, and why are these doubts stirring in your hearts? See by my hands and my feet that it is I myself. Touch me and see for yourselves; a ghost has no flesh and bones as you can see I have.' And as he said this he showed them his hands and his feet.

Their joy was so great that they still could not believe it, as they were dumbfounded; so he said to them, 'Have you anything here to eat?' And they offered him a piece of grilled fish, which he took and ate before their eyes,” (Lk. 24.39…)

Afterwards, for the forty days following His resurrection, Jesus had unexpectedly been appearing to His disciples, instructing them, sharing meals with them and then, in an instant, disappearing from them. Gradually He brought them to realize that now He existed bodily in a totally different way from anything they had been accustomed to.

Time came for Jesus to ascend into heaven. Here is how St. Luke described what happened,

“Jesus took them out as far as the outskirts of Bethany, and raising His hands He blessed them. Now as Jesus blessed them, He withdrew from them and was carried up to heaven.

They worshipped him and then went back to Jerusalem full of joy; 53 and they were continually in the Temple praising God,” (Lk.24. 50-52).

For them this Ascension leave-taking was the cause for ecstatic joy and thanksgiving.

In St. Mark’s account of the same event he precisely named the place of arrival of the Ascension and how the disciples had reacted…just as Jesus had expected of them.

“And so the Lord Jesus, after He had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven; there at the right hand of God he took His place, while they, going out, preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word by the signs that accompanied it,” (Ch.16.19-20).

Jesus had not only conquered death. He had conquered the corruption that is expected to follow upon death. Rather, in the completeness of His humanity He was fully alive. His body was re-united to His soul.

The Son of Man, Jesus, had assumed His rightful the place of glory, at the right hand of His Heavenly Father.

The Son of God had taken to Himself a human nature, had become a member of the human family, our Brother Jesus. Throughout His life on earth, in and through His being a bodily person, Jesus had given supreme glory to His Heavenly Father.

In so doing the Son of God made man ennobled the whole of humanity. His Ascension into Heaven speaks to us of the dignity He has brought to the bodiliness of absolutely everybody.

In union with Jesus, as St. Paul tell us, we are to “use our bodies for the glory of God,” (I Cor..20). In so doing all us are meant to become glorious persons.

The lives of each of us are meant to head in the same direction as did the life of Jesus. The Ascension of Jesus into heaven concerns, involves, each one of us. Jesus reassures us of our prospects once our human lives have run their course,

“In my Father's house there are many places to live in; otherwise I would have told you. I am going now to prepare a place for you, and after I have gone and prepared you a place, I shall return to take you to myself, so that you may be with me where I am,” (Jn.14.3).

He is telling us we should live as people who really want this and are prepared to strive for this. Jesus wants this for everyone, not just for a select few.

It would be supreme folly for any of us to forfeit this by demeaning, shaming, our human bodies by conduct that is unworthy of us and offensive to Almighty God, our Creator.

Bear in mind what St. Paul writes in his Letter to the Ephesians,

“ We are God's work of art, created in Christ Jesus for the good works which God has already designated to make up our way of life,” (Eph.2.10)

Peter Clarke, O.P


Saturday, 2 May 2015

"...YOU WILL MEET A STRANGER..."

A clerical collar or religious habit can act like a lightning conductor that attracts to itself questions about our Catholic Faith. That’s one of the reasons why we wear them. True, such clericalgarb can also be a deterrent. In the days when trains had isolated compartments the very sight of us could cause other passengers to take fright and leave us alone; they didn’t want to spend a journey alone with a ‘Holy Joe!’ What’s the feminine equivalent?

But it’s surprising and encouraging how frequently we Christians are questioned about our Faith. People do want to know what makes us tick. Our way of life, our beliefs can seem weird, if not wicked, to the non-believer. Friends, colleagues, class-mates, strangers ask us questions about our Faith. They can come completely out of the blue, can happen at any time, anywhere. Sometimes they’re hostile, at other times curious. I’ve been asked to explain the Blessed Trinity in a couple of sentences. I’ve been angrily accused of hating women and sex –because as a Dominican I’m vowed to celibacy. Frequently we’re asked how a good God could allow innocent people to suffer. We’ve all had this kind of experience.

That’s why St. Peter’s letter urges us, “always to be ready to make a defence to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence,” (I Peter 3. 16). A daunting task! We feel we’d not up to it; we’d be out of our depth. We know it’s far easier to ask a question than to give an answer. After all, we’re dealing with the ‘Mysteries of Faith, "What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived" -- the things God has prepared for those who love Him,” (I Cor. 2. 9). And yet each one of us has beenBAPTISED FOR MISSION –to hand on the Faith we have received. Christ has entrusted the proclamation of the Gospel to us ordinary people –you and me….nothing special about us!

How on earth can we cope? Clearly, we must try to know and understand our Faith as best we can. God has given us minds and expects us to use them –not simply so that we can handle other people’s questions and deal with their attacks on our Faith and practice. Certainly we must be able to do that. But more importantly, our Christian lives need to be nourished and enriched by prayerful, reflective study, especially of the Sacred Scriptures. Through them the Word of God Himself speaks not only to our minds, but also to our hearts. To deepen our belief we need to seek, to ask questions. But thank God, we don’t need to be a genius to know and love our Faith. That’s His special gift!

Never must we fall into the trap of thinking that understanding and sharing the Good News is a purely human activity –that success depends entirely on our efforts. It doesn’t. God must be involved at every stage. That’s why Jesus gives us this encouragement, “But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say. For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.…”( Matt. 10. 19-20). Jesus has promised that the Spirit of Truth would remind us of what He had taught.

That’s not meant to be a lazy substitute for study and prayerful reflection. The Holy Spirit doesn’t take over and do all the work. Instead, He prompts our memories to recall what we already know and helps us to share what we already believe. Jesus never promised that the Spirit would infuse knowledge of matters of which we’re totally ignorant. But it’s wonderful the way the Holy Spirit does help us to find just the right answer, when someone has ‘bowled us a googly’ of a question (or for baseball followers, ‘a curve ball’). The wisdom of our response can take us by surprise –thanks to the promptings of the Spirit, rather than to our brilliance.

So let’s expect, even look forward to, our Faith to being questioned. Let’s face that challenge with confidence. The Spirit of Truth is with us, prompting our memories, helping us to explain what we believe. Above all, the Holy Spirit gives us a divine sensitivity for what is right or wrong, true or false –what St. Paul calls the ‘mind of Christ.’

So let’s not be surprised or alarmed at the prospect of meeting the questioning stranger. God has sent him or her especially to us. The Holy Spirit is with us, in what may just be a brief, seemingly casual, encounter.



LIKE IT OR NOT, A TRUE BELIEVER IS NEVER OFF DUTY!



Isidore Clarke, O.P.



Thursday, 23 April 2015

THE WHOLE WORLD IN HIS HANDS



Jesus thought   big. He commissioned the eleven disciples in these words,
“'All  authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations; baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and  teach them to observe all the commands I gave you. And look, I am with you always;  yes,  to the end of time.'” (Mtt.28.46).

It is clear that the scope of the ministry Jesus entrusted to His disciples was much, much greater – the whole world – than the ministry Jesus assigned to Himself…what is now known as Palestine.
 However, Jesus did promise to be with them ‘always, yes to the end of time’ whereas these men would be around for a hundred years or so at best. And what is more, Jesus claimed that He had been given all power in heaven and on earth….surely, the unique power that belongs to God alone. 
Yes, Jesus thought  big. Jesus was ambitious. Jesus was determined. What is more, Jesus was effective. In truth, I should be saying Jesus IS effective. Jesus is not a ‘Has Been.’ Jesus is not ‘Yesterday’s Man.’ The Letter to the Hebrews tells us,
“”Jesus Christ is the same today as He was yesterday and as He will be forever,”(Heb. 13. 8).
Jesus, our risen Lord, is far more than a beautiful memory that has been handed on to us of this generation. This means we must understand more than that Jesus is an ever-present  heroic  inspiration to us; more than a reassuring, loving companion, reliable friend to us.
Jesus enables us, empowers us,  to  work on His behalf.  He acts through us. There is a unity, a bonding between Jesus and ourselves that is truly mystical.
For me it’s so important to remember  this and to draw strength from this. At this moment  there is so much in our  world that is discouraging, depressing and even frightening. ..far more than we can cope with! 
Immediately come to my mind intractable diseases such as Ebola;  thousands of refugees  scrambling for safety, security even survival…  hundreds – whole families – are  perishing at  sea; In recent times random terrorism has taken on a face that is horrific and obscene.  I feel   so angry   at the financial plundering  by business and banking moguls. Modern life has become so demeaning  with the cherished value of personal privacy being obliterated by the intrusion  of hacking and security scanning.
In a melancholy mood I think of the musical,                                                    ‘STOP THE WORLD – I WANT TO GET OFF!’                                                  Later rather than sooner  I  ponder, ‘Surely someone must have the answer?  Throw wealth and  technology  at our problems?   Surely somewhere   there  must be the good-will to make this into a better world? ‘
I’m convinced that Jesus is now calling us, His followers, to dig deep into our primary beliefs and certainties. He does not want us to allow ourselves to be daunted by our personal, undeniable, inadequacies and blemishes.
Nor are we to be disillusioned by the way our Church, the Church of which Jesus is the Head, has sullied its reputation.
It is with humility that we, as Church,  must  continue to preach a message of  hope and deliverance rooted in the loving mercy of  God and His Almighty power. We as Church must set the lead in our being repentant.  We must allow ourselves to be transformed as we grasp out towards the Holiness of God.   
At this point I want to draw  your  attention to a few verses of Sacred Scripture which should do more than cheer you up:
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You trust in God, trust also in me,” (Jn.14.1).
“In the world you will have troubles, but be courageous; I have conquered the world,” (Jn.16.33).
“Who can overcome the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1Jn. 5.5).
Our greatest mistake would be to act as though we had to find the answers to all the evils in the world.   If we tried, would be doomed to fail.
St. Paul wants us to be reassured. We are not destitute. We are not incompetent. Rather, he tells us, 
 “ All our competence comes from God.  He has given us the competence to be ministers of a new covenant, a covenant which is not of written letters, but of the Spirit; for the written letters kill, but the Spirit gives life.(2 Cor.3.6).
With these thoughts I leave you and turn to the illustration accompanying this meditation and sing to myself;

‘He's got the whole world in his hands;                                                                He's  got the whole wild world in his hands;
He's got the whole wild world in his hands;                                                     He's got the whole world in his hands’
Peace be with you

Peter Clarke, OP

Saturday, 11 April 2015

MEETING THE RISEN LORD


 

 
I like to think of Philip the deacon as being the patron of hitchhikers! I used to do quite a bit of that as a Dominican student. Very often I would get into discussions about the faith, with the lorry and car drivers who gave me a lift. That’s what happened when Philip hitched a lift from the Ethiopian officer. He was reading what seems to have been the Suffering Servant poems of the prophet Isaiah. Since the Ethiopian couldn’t understand them he asked Philip to explain them. He showed that the
Scriptures foretold the saving death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

In doing so Philip repeated what the risen Lord had done as He explained to the disciples on the road to Emmaus that the Scriptures prophesied His death and resurrection. In writing the 2nd volume of his Gospel, the Acts of the Apostles,
St. Luke wanted us to realise that the risen Lord did not abandon us when He ascended into heaven. Now He accompanies us on our journey through life, and this is suggested by His accompanying the disciples on the road to Emmaus. On that journey we meet Jesus in the Scriptures, which are not just a written text, but the Word of God Himself speaking to our minds and hearts. 
As they reflected on their conversation on the road to Emmaus the disciples exclaimed, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?" The Ethiopian had a parallel experience as Philip explained the Scriptures to him. Jesus continues to speak to us through the Scriptures, the teaching of the Church and in our prayers.
 
There’s another important parallel between the risen Lord walking with the disciples and Philip -representing the Church -when he hitched a lift. Both episodes conclude with a reference to a sacrament. The road to Emmaus concluded with Jesus sharing a meal with the two disciples. They immediately recognised Him in the Breaking of the Bread. That was the way the early Church referred to the Eucharist. So, here Luke is reassuring us that our crucified and risen Lord is now present among us in the Mass. This incident is paralleled by the Ethiopian asking to be baptised.  
So, in different ways the risen Lord is still with us, even though we can’t see or touch Him. But we do need the sensitivity of faith to realise that He’s with us as we journey through life. Otherwise we could miss Him!
 
Isidore Clarke O.P.



              
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 













 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

DIVINE MERCY SUNDAY

 
A few days ago we celebrated the death and resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Sin had made us strangers to God, hostile to Him. But through His death on the cross Jesus has made our peace with God.
With Jesus we have died to the power of sin and death; with Jesus we have risen to new life. We are no longer strangers, outsiders, but Members of the Household of God, His children. In Him we have become a New Creation!
SUCH IS THE POWER OF GOD’S LOVING MERCY! `
We celebrate this loving mercy on the first Sunday after Easter - known as ‘Divine Mercy Sunday.’
The Gospel of today’s Mass is especially appropriate to this theme. It tells us that the risen Lord appeared to His apostles and that He entrusted to them the power to forgive sins in His name. Jesus wanted to make His saving mercy, achieved through His death on the cross, available to peoples throughout the world, and throughout time.
He has commissioned and empowered the priests of His Church to be ‘ministers of His reconciliation,’ - instruments of His gracious mercy.
God’s mercy lies at the very heart of the Good News of Salvation, achieved through the death and resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
The risen Lord appeared to a Polish Religious Sister, Faustina , in the first half of the last century. Jesus instructed her that He wished this core belief of our Christian faith to be given greater emphasis. He urged her to promote devotion to the Divine Mercy. She lived between 1905-35.
Jesus commissioned her to encourage us to place our trust in God’s loving mercy, as our only hope of salvation. People are to be made aware that God is only too eager to forgive all those who place a child-like trust in His mercy.
This is most surely the essence of the Devotion to the Divine Mercy. Of course it tells us nothing new. But what it does do is popularise what should be at the very heart of our Christian lives. We need to be constantly reminded that God is full of mercy and compassion. He is eager to forgive the repentant sinner and doesn't want to punish anyone.
The Scriptures repeatedly urge us to place our trust in the loving power of His mercy, and not rely on what we think we deserve and can achieve by our own efforts.
But we must always remember that in the Gospels Jesus repeatedly insisted that if we want to receive His mercy we must be merciful to others; we must be willing to forgive those who harm us; we must forgive even our enemies.
We accept this condition whenever we pray, “forgive us our trespasses as –in so far as –we forgive those who trespass against us.”
So, the Devotion to the Divine Mercy goes to the very heart of our relationship with God and with each other. It gives us the only explanation of Christ’s life, death and resurrection, summed up by St. John’s Gospel,
"For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.”
Our response is for us to trust in the power of His loving mercy, and to seek His forgiveness.
It must be insisted that our piety in celebrating the Devotion to the Divine Mercy demands of us that it be converted into action in our workaday lives.
This beautiful Devotion only achieves its purpose if it provokes us to forgive those who harm us and seek God's forgiveness and theirs' when we have offended them.
Isidore Clarke, OP
 
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