Wednesday, 16 July 2014

ONE IN A BILLION


One in a billion! That’s me watching the World Football Cup on my TV, as did that estimated number of viewers all round the world.  The contest itself, fought out in Brazil, grasped my attention and stretched my emotions… joy and dismay, laughter and tears, cheers and boos. Then towering over everything to do with Brazil, everything that had to do with this ‘football fiesta,’ was the massive mountain-top statue of Christ the Redeemer. 
For an all too brief a moment this majestic statue of Christ the Redeemer was sharply silhouetted against a glowing,  burnished copper sunset. Its beauty was breath-taking…absolutely mind-blowing! In that moment of grace I thought to myself that a nation that could erect such a huge and conspicuous statue must be fiercely and confidently proud of its Christianity!
 With sadness and shame I next thought of those nations that have bowed to minority voices clamouring against the presence of religious symbols in public places!  Their reason? The few find offensive what is deeply significant for the majority, or at least causes them no problem. And yet, during the World Cup Season Brazil was flooded with   fans of every religious persuasion and of none.                                                                                                                       They could not help but see the statue itself and the myriad representations of it on wall-posters, T-shirts and tourist brochures. I am not aware of anyone making a big fuss about the ever-present pictures of the statue of Christ the Redeemer being offensive to their religious or non-religious sensibilities.
 It now occurs to me that of the multi-million following the World Football Cup through radio, TV, newspapers and magazines how many individuals heard about Christ the Redeemer for the very first time in their lives; how many media people spoke of Christ the Redeemer for the very first time….all because of this statute located in Brazil  where the World Cup Football Championship happened to be celebrated.                                                            There must have been some who were curious to know what so prominent a statue  was all about; some who enquired who Christ is, and what is a Redeemer. Surely there would have been some who set out on the journey towards believing in Christ because of this statue.                                                In the Acts of the Apostles we read of how Paul and Barnabas spoke of God opening the door of faith to the Gentiles, (14.27). I can’t imagine God, during these frenzied weeks of ‘Football Fever,’ wasting the opportunity of opening the door of faith to the whole world through the statue of Christ the Redeemer. I will venture further. This enormous statue, aloft, almost in the clouds, must have been visible for miles and miles. It would be fatuous to suggest that this statue presided over what was going on way below at ground level, but I dare to say that God, who made heaven and earth, continuously casts a benign eyes on all that goes on in our daily lives.                                                                I find I have to thank God that we were spared what we most feared for this World Cup– violent protests, organizational breakdowns etc. etc.    That statue, lifeless stone that it is, has prompted me to think of Christ the Redeemer caringly watching over all that was going on, including the football matches.
Did He not come to us and make our human family His own family? Did He not promise to be with us until the end of time…even when we’re biting our finger-nails as we joyfully suffer the agonies of following the fortunes and misfortunes of the side we prayerfully support?!?!
Peter Clarke, OP

Thursday, 10 July 2014

LIKE A SCARECROW....AS IT WERE



 
 "Empty your pockets, take off your shoes, remove your belt, now walk through the scanner. Sorry, there's still something there...making a pinging sound. Stretch out your arms. We'll try the manual scanner."
And this... is where it gets difficult. With no belt to keep up my trousers with my arms outstretched like a scarecrow, something’s got to give..my self confidence...my self esteem.. my trousers!
You've got it...I'm the tourist passing through 'Security' at the beginning of my vacation. At last the long awaited moment has arrived..after all the hassle of booking my flight, striving to strike the right balance between what I need to take away with me and the weight I'm allowed to carry without further expense. Most importantly, there's the visit to the bank to purchase foreign currency.
Indeed, I've felt like the tattered rags draping Scarecrow Peter. With a certain amount of trepidation I've survived the scrutiny at the ticket desk. All my documents were in order. Thank God for that! Big sigh of relief! Then, much humbled, I've cleared the last hurdle and am allowed to emerge from 'Security,' -more or less unscathed. Once again, 'Thank God!' Eventually I was able to enjoy the blissful serenity of simply relaxing, waiting in the Departure Lounge until summoned to go to the appropriate embarkation gate.
This is what we have come to in this day and age of much vaunted enlightenment and progress! 'And I said in my alarm, 'No man can be trusted..' These days no one trusts anyone any more. It's a sad state of affairs in which each and all are suspected of being possible terrorists, carrying some kind of explosive in the heel of his shoe or in the lining of his jacket...So help us, the most innocent looking guy or doll may have a heart encrusted with violent intentions.
What to do, but subject every single person to the most meticulous scrutiny? There's no point in getting worked up that modern-day scanners can reveal invisible unmentionables. Better for us all to have been exposed and to have been granted a fair chance of staying alive than for everyone to have been left alone and for none of us to have come through to be welcomed at 'Arrivals.'
After writing all this I feel disposed to compose a Novena for the Conversion of all Would-be Terrorists...God has no problem in replacing hearts of stone into hearts of flesh. In the meantime I meet God, mywaygodsway, through Psalms such as,
"He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High and abides in the shade of the Almighty says to the Lord: "My refuge, my stronghold, my God in Whom I trust!" (Ps. 91).
Better than this I cannot do!
Peter Clarke O.P.
 


Sunday, 15 June 2014

MY FANCY FAN

 
A tall slender body, far too fragile to carry the weight of such a large head! You may well be wondering whom I am talking about!  I would have you know I have in mind, and close to my heart, NOT A ‘WHO’ but ‘A WHAT!’  In fact, my beloved standard fan…which has keep me just short of melting-point during the hot weather  Barbados  has been experiencing recently. At the touch of a button it has played refreshing, cool air upon my heat-weary body.                                                                                                                                                                           Imagine my grief, then, when I learnt that in the process of having a thorough cleaning the long stem had snapped away from the hefty base. There were those around me who offered the consoling words that I should not mourn too much. It would not cost a great deal to purchase another, possibly stronger, fan.                     They simply could not understand my deep attachment to this particular fan that had served me so well.  Nor did they understand my deep instinct to throw away broken things only when they are totally beyond  repair.    My fan was a casualty...not a corpse.....it still worked perfectly!                                                                           First step in setting it on its feet again was to insert a length of broom-stick into the hollow of the base and into the shaft that supported the fan.  Then I applied fast-drying, extra-strong, glue to the surfaces of the breakage.   Around these I wrapped a collar of duct-tape.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Last of all I invoked my experience of many years of scouting. Guy-lines pegged into the ground will keep a flag-pole firmly upright.  Strong nylon twine passing under the base then way up to, and round the stem, served the same purpose. My only concern was how to stop the fan swaying.                                                                   It was an all-purpose store that held the answer to my problem.  There before my eyes were stretchable luggage- straps with hooks at each end! These would provide the tension that would keep my fan rigid. All I had to do was hook the straps under the base and then attach them firmly around the stem. (Easier said than done!)                                                                                                                                                                                Though my restored fan does carry the scars of wounds endured in the reality of a harsh, rough world, never would I apologize for it appearing somewhat scruffy…just like me!  Lovingly had I spent many hours   contriving to spare it from the rubbish skip.                                                                                                                         This brings me to sharing with you that I will have no part in the throw-away mentality that regards anything that is damaged as being disposable. Nor do I identify with those of the view that if the cash is available then what is damaged can be replaced by what is brand-new.  For me there has never been money for me to splash around carelessly and irresponsibly.                                                                                                                                      Dare I say that I gain my inspiration from this passage of  Sacred Scripture, Jer. 18.The word that came to Jeremiah from  the Lord as follows, 2 'Get up and make your way down to the potter's house, and there I shall tell you what I have to say.' 3 So I went down to the potter's house; and there he was, working at the wheel. 4 But the vessel he was making came out wrong, as may happen with clay when a potter is at work. So he began again and shaped it into another vessel, as he thought fit.                                                                                                                                                                                  5 Then the word of the Lord came to me as follows, 6 'House of Israel, can I not do to you what this potter does? The Lord demands. Yes, like clay in the potter's hand, so you are in mine, House of  Israel.                                                                                                                                                                                      I like to think that God must feel very pleased with Himself when He’s managed to restore wholesomeness to someone who’s made a wreck of his life. What a joy it can be for any one of us if we have helped someone to put his life together again!                                                                                                                                             If my broken fan had a voice I’m certain it would have given me ­­­­a heart-felt cheer! 

Peter Clarke, OP

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Thursday, 5 June 2014

GOD'S MIGHTY WIND





The schooner –for me that sturdy sailing ship summed up the island life of the W. Indies, where I had worked as a Dominican priest. For generations their people had used the schooner to travel and transport goods between the islands. Whenever I returned to visit my brother, Peter, in Grenada I told him about my longing to sail on a schooner. That, I was convinced, would help me to enter the spirit of the W. Indies.

Imagine my joy, my excitement when Peter told me he had arranged for us to sail by schooner from the West Indian island of Grenada to Carriacou. With the wind in our hair, and the sail noisily flapping we glided, sometimes bounced, raced across and through the rising, falling waves. A force we could feel on our cheeks, but not see, was carrying us across the waves!

The driving force of the wind in our sails …what a powerful, exciting image of the wonder of Pentecost! There the rushing wind suggests the Spirit’s hidden energy, giving the disciples the courage and strength to start preaching the Good News in a hostile world. Empowered by the Spirit, the ship of the Church could weather any storm and carry us to the heavenly harbour of the Kingdom of God. And far from being mere passengers, we are all members of the crew. The Spirit has given each of us a special job to do. "All hands on deck!" That’s the call to us Christians.

The title ‘Holy Spirit’ not only suggests wind power, but also the breath of God’s life. Through baptism we are born from above, of water and the Holy Spirit. We become alive in Christ, and share in the saving power of His death and resurrection. As God’s children we receive a God-given vitality, a dynamism drawing us freely ever more intimately into the life and happiness of the Blessed Trinity.

At Pentecost the Holy Spirit gave the apostles the eloquece and courage to proclaim the Good News in a way that was understood by people speaking a variey of foreign languages. The way the Holy Spirit continues to assist us both in receiving and handing on the Good News can be dramatically expressed in the simple act of breathing in and out. Through the Spirit we breath in the Good News. Then the Spirit assists us in breathing out the Good News as we share it with others. In other words, the Holy Spirit is at work at every stage of breathing in and then breathing out the Good News. Obviously, if we don’t breath in the Good News we will have nothing to breath out!

On the feast of Pentecost we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit as the great communicator. Through the gift of the Spirit God shares His life with us. Through the Spirit of Truth the Good News preached by Christ is handed on to the Church, and through her to the world. The Vatican Council has allowed the refreshing breath of the Holy Spirit to blow through the Church and renew her. Now we have no excuse for allowing the Holy Spirit to become the ‘forgotten person’ of the Blessed Trinity!

With the wind in our sails, and the breath of the Spirit in our lungs let us head for the heavenly harbour, and as we do so proclaim the Good News with the invitation, "All Aboard!"
Isidore O.P.





















































































































 

 





 

 

 













Thursday, 29 May 2014

"NOTHING CAN SEPARATE US..."

 

It’s been wonderful when Peter’s flown in from the W. Indies for a few weeks’ leave, after an absence of about three years. Similarly, when I’ve visit him, it’s been exciting to fly out of Gatwick, make the long journey to Grenada, and to find him waiting for me at Point Seline airport. We have so much to talk about, and we seem to spark off a mischievous sense of humour in each other. Though we are very close, no quarter is given or expected when we play chess. I’m sure many of you will have had the same joy when family or friends have visited you, or you them.
But the time comes when we must return to our respective homes and places of work. Then airports can become painful places. Our emotions are so mixed. Part of us wants to prolong the time before we are separated, while part of us wants to get it over. After all, we’ve said all that can be said. So why prolong the agony? And we both want to return to our respective homes and work. That’s where we find fulfilment. That’s where we belong. That’s what we want for each other and for ourselves.
These reflections occurred to me during Paschaltide. First of all, there’s the disciples’ unbelievable joy when the risen Lord appeared to them after His death. Not surprisingly, Magdalene wanted to cling onto Him. This seemed a little bit like a loved one returning after a long absence. We instinctively want to give him or her a big hug.
But then the time came for Jesus to ascend in glory to His heavenly Father. Although He would disappear from the disciples’ sight, there’s no sign of their being sad or depressed. That struck me as surprising. But they knew that in the ascension Jesus, the man, would be glorified. He would sit triumphantly at the right hand of His heavenly Father. That was His reward for the fulfilment of His mission on earth.
And this was not only a personal triumph for Jesus; where He has gone, we have been called to follow. He has told us He has gone ahead to prepare a place for us. That is what the disciples wanted for Jesus and for us. And that is why they rejoiced at His ascension.
This is something like Peter and I being glad that each of us finds fulfilment in the place where he’s lived and worked for decades - even though that means our being physically separated by thousands of miles.
We’ve found that distance hasn’t made us grow apart. Love and friendship can span the miles. True, the way we relate to each other has to be different. That’s what Jesus wanted to impress upon Magdalene, when He released Himself from her embrace. This was not morally wrong, but after His resurrection she had to learn to express her love for Him in a new way. He was preparing her and us for the time when we would not be physically present to each other, and would be unable to see and hear each other.
But I’m sure that, like Peter and me, you have found that we can be much closer to each other, than some, who are physically near to each other, but, with bitterness and resentment, have become very distant. For them being together can be a source of tension.

Obviously, if we are to remain close, it’s important that we should keep in touch through phone calls, letters and if possible e-mails and Skype. Otherwise we could drift apart. These ways in which we keep close to those who are far away reminded me of what Jesus had said before His departure. He assured His disciples that he would still be with them, but in a new way. He would be in their love, and they in His. That is much more intimate than simply being physically together. In fact Jesus disowned those who simply claimed a nodding acquaintance with him, without any commitment to Him.
Like any friendship, we must work at it to keep it alive. We must make a point of keeping in touch –with Jesus through prayer and the sacraments.
The comings and goings at an airport and how they effect our love for each other have helped me to have a better understanding of how we can be close to the risen Lord, now that he’s no longer physically present here on earth. That’s why the Ascension is a joyful, glorious feast, not a sad one!
Isidore O.P.


 
 
 

Saturday, 19 April 2014

FROM SUNSET TO SUNRISE





                              


Occasionally I’ve visited Peter in the beautiful W. Indian island of Grenada. The most peaceful time was when I sat on Grand Anse beach and watched the sun set. Gradually the colours changed from glorious flaming reds and oranges into soft, gentle, peaceful mauves and purples. I realised what the psalmist meant when he said that the heavens proclaim the glory of God. They give us a glimpse of his majesty and creative genius. I certainly have met God in the wonder of his creation! And there’s a great peace in simply being still in watching the sun slowly sinking beneath the horizon, after the heat of the day, with all its bustle, its joys and sorrows, hopes and fears.

Perhaps surprisingly, the setting sun makes me think of death and my life drawing to a close. My thoughts are not morbid, nor are they filled with fear, at the thought of my earthly life coming to an end and my meeting Christ. Twilight is much longer in England than in tropical lands. None of us know how long the sunset and twilight of our earthly lives will last. But sooner or later it will come.

We should not be afraid of the darkness when the sun sets on our lives. When we meet Christ at the moment of death He will not be a stranger, nor will he be a hostile judge, determined to condemn and punish us. Throughout our lives He has been with us, guiding and supporting us, even, though at times we may have felt He has abandoned us. And, imperfectly, we have tried to respond to His love. When we have failed we have experienced the wonder of his love and mercy. We are confident, not in ourselves, but in Christ’s unshakeable love and mercy. That should be the foundation of our hope and peace as we face death.

In England we have a saying, ‘Red sky at night, shepherd’s delight.’ The bright sunset holds out the promise of a brilliant new day. As we approach the sunset of our lives we should be filled with hope that after the dark sleep of death Christ will come in glory to awaken us to the glorious sunrise of a bright new day. On that day He will raise us to the fullness of life to share in the bright glory of His resurrection.

With this in mind, we should not panic as the sun sets on our lives here on earth. We can look forward to the dawning of a new day, when Christ will come to rouse us to greet the sun rising on the most glorious of days. Then we will be more awake, more alive, than ever before. That day will be filled with nothing but happiness, as we bask in the love of the Lord, together with all our loved ones.

Sunset and sunrise do, indeed, remind me that we will meet Christ in a very special way as the sun goes down in death and then rises to the glorious brightness of the resurrection. If we welcome Him during the day time of our present lives, we can be confident that we will greet each other with joy when we meet again in the sunset of death and the sunrise of the resurrection.

Isidore O.P.






Friday, 4 April 2014

MOMENTOUS IFS

I count the number of ‘ifs’ in the following words of St Paul and weigh their significance.
“If the dead are not raised, neither is Christ, and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is pointless and you have not, after all, been released from your sins. If our hope in Christ has been for this life only, we are of all people the most pitiable.” (1 Cor. 15:16)
God alone knows how many funerals I have attended, how many times I have stood beside a grave surrounded by mourners. So many words of consolation, words of Christian hope, prayers and hymns based on the faith that the resurrection is a fact. This faith is grounded in the belief that Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead.
My priesthood, indeed, my Christianity, is justified by the conviction that my hope in Christ is not for this life only. I believe in Christ, attempt to follow Him, and bear witness to Him, not only because of His inspiring life and teaching. My Christ is the one who was crucified and rose from the dead on the third day. His empty tomb is not the symbol of the emptiness of my Christianity. It is the symbol of its vitality.
The corpse of Jesus was not removed by thieves, nor by well-meaning admirers intent on giving Him a decent burial. The women disciples, early on Easter morning, expected to find a closed tomb and within it, the body of Jesus. Whatever hope they had placed in Jesus had died on Calvary. Surely, as they came to the tomb, they were of all people, the most pitiable.
And here am I, so many centuries after these lamentable events, preaching the resurrection of Jesus, the resurrection of us all to people who say their ‘Amen’ to my words.
This is something extraordinary. We believe with unshakable faith that the dead do rise, precisely in the power of the resurrection of Jesus. Where is the evidence for such faith? What gives to it such absolute certainty?
Why do I and so many others believe in the resurrection of Jesus and stake our lives on this, some even being prepared to die for this?
My celebration of Easter demands answers. This amazing faith is an amazing gift of grace from God. It is parallel to that act of faith by St Peter – “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God,” to which Jesus replied, “You are a blessed man! Because it was no human agency  that revealed this to you, but My Father in heaven.” (Matt 16:16)
No human agency has brought about my faith in the resurrection of Jesus, nor has the report of the empty tomb, nor the accounts of the appearances of Jesus after the crucifixion, nor the preaching and teaching from the time of the apostles to the present day. It is God Himself who has produced in my mind and heart, and yours, the conviction of faith.
I reach God at Easter and throughout my life as I dismiss the tantalizing speculations of St Paul’s momentous ‘ifs’.
Because I believe with unwavering faith and enthusiasm I count myself the most blessed of people. My faith in the risen Jesus is not fanciful. It is not pathetic. It is terrific!

Peter Clarke O.P
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