Saturday, 11 April 2015



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


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!
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

Saturday, 4 April 2015


I can’t understand what's going on! I know I put it safely there, in a place where I could find it. And it’s simply not there …It ought to be there. This is awful - absolutely awful. I don’t understand, I’m bewildered, it ought to be there. Someone must have moved it, no-one, no-one had a right to do this. I feel lost,  I don’t know where to turn. I feel awful. I don’t know what to do; I don’t know where to look. Help me someone! I can’t think where else to look. …I don’t know what to do next.’

And so it was early in the morning on the first day of the week. If one thing was certain it was the place where Jesus had been buried and securely entombed by a large heavy stone.

 We read in St. Luke’s Gospel, (Ch. 24),

On the first day of the week, at the first sign of dawn, they went to the tomb with the spices they had prepared. They found that the stone had been rolled away, but on entering they could not find the body of the Lord Jesus. As they stood there puzzled at this, two men in brilliant clothes suddenly appeared at their side. Terrified, the women bowed their heads to the ground. But the two men said to them, ‘Why look among the dead for someone who is alive? He is not here; He has risen.’

The last thing anyone should have said would have been, ‘No problem!’

True, these men in brilliant clothes, these angels, reminded them of how Jesus had told them that He would be crucified and that on the third day He would rise again. At that moment they could not have grasped what was being said to them.

Absolutely no-one had ever   experienced WHAT BEING RISEN FROM THE DEAD was all about. These women were none the wiser when they described all this to the menfolk – the disciples and other followers of Jesus. 

St. Luke tells reaction of these men was, ‘This story of theirs seemed pure nonsense, and they did not believe them.

This Easter I find that I must enter   into and recapture for myself something of the sense of loss and the   bewilderment of those early hours of the first day of the  week. I must accept as completely reasonable the disciples’ contemptuous dismissal of the report given to them by the women. 

Gradually, cautiously, they were led, surely by the Holy Spirit, to believe that Jesus had, in fact, risen from the dead.  They did not come to believe this through their own efforts.  Their believing came about through Jesus appearing to them, revealing Himself to them, speaking with them, eating meals with them. He’d done all this  AFTER  He had been well and truly dead and buried.

What I need to capture for myself or rather, what I need God to give to me, is   a sense of wonder  that I am able to say with the certainty of Supernatural Faith, ‘I believe that on the third day He rose from the dead.’  If the very idea of this ever causes me to choke with doubt and scepticism, and to remain cemented in this mentality, then the whole structure of my Catholic Faith crumbles to the ground and my preaching about what we’re supposed to believe about Jesus becomes a farce and a  waste  of time and effort.
My Faith must also convince me that it couldn’t have been, shouldn’t have been, that eventually the body of Jesus was found, would be found, somewhere in the garden.   His rising from the dead excludes that possibility!

This is no alarmist exaggeration on my part!  I take very, very seriously what   St. Paul wrote in his  First Letter to the Corinthians, (Chapter !5). 

Why not read this for yourselves?

I take this opportunity to wish you and those dear to you abundant blessings during this Easter Season.

Peter Clarke, OP    

Friday, 3 April 2015



As I grow older –I’ll be 83 on Easter Sunday –Holy Saturday means more and more to me. True, liturgically, nothing happens. And that’s what I value.
On the previous day –Good Friday –we reached the climax of Salvation History, with the traumatic drama of the brutal crucifixion of the Son of God. But then, with His death His sufferings ended. He had achieved His purpose. He was laid to rest in the grave. There was the silence, the stillness of the grave, before Jesus rose to new life. Those who loved Him and had followed Him were left with their grief.
The silence, the stillness of the grave -that is what I value. For me this seemingly empty period is very important. It responds to my need to have a special time to reflect on my deceased loved ones –time to relate their deaths to that of Christ crucified.

With the passage of time, during my long life, more and more of my family and friends have died. Today allows me to stop and reflect on what they meant to me, what they still mean to me. Holy Saturday is a special time for grieving –a necessary expression of love.

I’m reminded that just as death didn’t put an end to Jesus, so, too, it doesn’t write the concluding chapter in the life-story of my loved ones. For Jesus and for them the best was yet to come.
So, Holy Saturday is not just a time for nostalgically looking back at those whom we have lost. Amidst the silent stillness of this day there’s the bustle of preparation for the celebration of the crucified Christ’s victory over death as He rose from the grave.
That preparation transforms the sadness of my grief and fills it with hope beyond the grave. As death is drained of its emptiness it is filled with hope in our sharing in the glory of Christ’s resurrection. As I grieve for my loved ones my relationship with them is transformed and enriched. I no longer focus on their earthly well-being, but now pray for their eternal salvation. My hope in life after death gives me the opportunity to tie up the loose ends of regret for all the times I’ve failed my loved ones. It’s no longer too late to put things right. Now I can give them practical assistance with my prayers. That’s good for them and for me.
I need the stillness of Holy Saturday to give me time to reflect on the greatest of all mysteries –life and death. Far from being morbid, my thoughts are filled with the confident hope which the crucified and risen Lord has given me. If I’m to meet Him in the celebration of the drama of his death and resurrection I need the quietness of Holy Saturday to give me space to think and pray about life and death –His, my loved ones, my own.

For me Holy Saturday is far from empty; still less is it a waste, a marking, of time. On this still, quiet holy day, in the midst of death I find hope of eternal life in the risen Lord.

Isidore Clarke, O.P.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015


The Letter to the Hebrews (Ch.12.2)  urges us Christians,  “Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, who leads us in our faith and brings it to perfection: for the sake of the joy which lay ahead of Him, He endured the cross, disregarding the shame of it, and has taken His seat at the right of God's throne.”
“Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.” During this season of Lent, as we have journeyed along the Stations of the Cross, Jesus has led us, we  have followed Jesus, to the summit of  Calvary Hill. In real time, all those years ago, outside Jerusalem,   eyes were fixed on Jesus…nailed to a cross, dying on a cross.
Most of the crowd were looking UP TOWARDS JESUS, hanging above them on the cross –first of all, most of all, Mary, His mother, consoling Him by her loving ‘being there’ with Him, for Him. Mary was accompanied by John, the ‘Beloved Disciple,’ and other loyal disciples.
Others were staring UP at Jesus; people with hatred and cruelty in their eyes;  on their tongues  ugly, jeering insults. They were glad to see Jesus in agony. These  thugs had driven Jesus along the way towards the place where they would nail Him to a cross.
 However, there were two others, and only two, who were looking ACROSS at Jesus – two thieves from their crosses fixing their eyes on Jesus on His cross.
One of them with abusive contempt, challenged Jesus to release Himself and themselves from their crosses, ‘Are you not the Christ? Save   yourself and us as well,’ (Lk. 23.39).    
The other thief  “spoke up and rebuked him. 'Have you no fear of God at all?' he said. 'You got the same sentence as He did, 41 but in our case we deserved it: we are paying for what we did. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
This thief must have been an amazing person: even in his death agony he could see the justice of his own punishment for what he had done; even in his agony he acknowledged the innocence of Jesus. This perception in the midst of excruciating pain is truly extraordinary. 
Even more extraordinary was his request, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” What madness is this? Anyone, everyone – including the man himself - should have known that the three on Calvary were going nowhere –except to be buried in a hole in the ground under a mound of earth and stones.
Further madness, the very idea of Jesus being crucified as a criminal having a kingdom of His own and then being interested in someone the rest of the world would have considered less than garbage! .….no way to be taken seriously!  And yet the petition, Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom’ produced a most remarkable response, ‘In truth I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.’
Paradise, heaven, for Jesus to be with this vagabond, this rogue, this man! Jesus looked forward to that!  What was there about this man that earned such acceptance from Jesus?  With an insight that could only have been gifted by God, this despised man KEPT HIS EYES FIXED ON JESUS.
With all our longings and ambitions, our successes and acquisitions, the spiritual bedrock of our lives must be a delight in Jesus, an attachment to Jesus. None of us should allow this bedrock regard for Jesus to crumble. Throughout our lives our eyes must be so fixed on Jesus that we never cease to long that, ‘Jesus remember us NOW THAT HE HAS COME INTO HIS KINGDOM.’   We should never   allow  anyone, anything to deflect our eyes from Jesus.
Once Lent, Holy Week, and Easter celebrations are over our determination should be
 At the moment I can do no more than gaze upon my crucifix, identify myself with this wretched, blessed, man and, from the core of my very being, express my longing,


The might of the Roman Empire ridicules the Lord of heaven and earth! What a cheek! The Crowning of Thorns sums up the complete misunderstanding of the Kingdom of God, and what it meant for Jesus to be king. In all four Passion Narratives His enemies rightly call Him, ‘King.’ But what tragic irony –none of them understood what His sovereighty meant.

Certainly God’s People had longed for Him to send His Messiah-King to defeat the forces of evil and establish His sovereignty. When Jesus preached the Kingdom of God everyone at first thought He would fulfil their hopes and longings. But when Jesus refused to be their king, leading an uprising against the Romans, they became disappointed and disillusioned with Him. Enthusiastic support turned into hostility. Now they used His preaching of the Kingdom to persuade the Roman Governor, Pilate, that Jesus was a threat to Rome –even though Jesus never claimed to be King.
That is, until His arrest and trial. Only when He was utterly powerless, did Jesus admit that He was, indeed, king. But He added that His kingdom was like nothing on earth. If it were, He could summon His legion of angels to rescue Him. But to appease the mounting hostility of Christ’s enemies the Roman governor, Pilate, sentenced Jesus to be crucified, under the title, "King of the Jews."
That gave the bully-boy Roman soldiers sufficent excuse to mock Jesus as an upstart king. He provided an easy target; He must have looked a very sorry sight, an unlikely monarch, who was absolutely powerless. So far, this form of ridicule was humiliating enough. But then it escalated from verbal mockery into crude physical violence. Jesus was repeatedly struck and spat upon. We all know that to spit on someone is a deep and disgusting expression of contempt. That humiliation is what the God of glory and majesty suffered!

The Crowning with Thorns is presented as a parody of the homage paid to Caesar. Jesus is seated on a chair –a caricature of a throne. He is clothed in a soldier’s red cloak, taking the place of royal purple. A reed, representing a sceptre, is placed in His hand. He is crowned with the thorns. The evangelists see this more as completing the mockery of the Kingship of Christ, rather than labouring the size of the thorns and the pain they would have caused. Finally, the Roman soldiers knelt before Jesus in mock obeisance to the King of the Jews – a caricature of the homage shown to the emperor. The words, "Hail, King of the Jews" parodied the greeting, "Hail, Caesar." It’s been suggested that the thorns with which Christ was crowned are a caricature of the rays on the emperor’s crown, signifying his divinity. This emblem was to be found on Roman coins. Unwittingly this mockery acknowledges Jesus as both king and God.
In sharp contrast, we see the silent dignity of Christ, even though He was such a sorry sight –utterly powerless, and with no supporters. Like Isaiah’s Suffering Servant of the Lord, He was despised and rejected, a man of sorrows. And yet He did not raise his voice in protest. He did not strike back, when he could so easily have done so. We see the sharp contrast between the pagan Roman Empire, which used force to establish its rule, and Jesus who conquered and ruled through the power of self-sacrificing love. The God of glory, power and majesty had become like a hunted wounded animal. Those hearing the Passion Narratives would have seen Jesus fulfilling the role of the Suffering Servant of the Lord, "I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to those who pulled my beard. I hid not my face from shame and spitting." (Is. 50.6).
The Crowning with Thorns sums up the tragic irony of Christ’s Passion. In condemning Jesus Pilate was so right in giving Him the title, "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews." The crowd was so right in hailing Jesus as King, so, too, the Roman soldiers as they crowned Him with thorns. But that was all in mockery. Everybody gave Jesus the correct title, but not one of them understood the nature of His soveriegnty. It was indeed like no earthly Kingdom. Jesus would be enthroned on the cross; He would defeat evil by the power of His love, not by force of arms. His would be a Kingdom of love, truth, justice and peace.
For me the Crowning with Thorns must mean much more than being right in my understanding of the Kingship of Christ. Since I believe in His sovereignty and call Him "Lord," He must reign in my heart and mind. I must seek first His kingdom and obey Him. Otherwise He will disown me, and the honour I show Him will be a mockery.
Isidore .O.P.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015


   Actions certainly speak louder than words! That was especially true when Jesus washed the apostles’ feet. That simple gesture has so many layers of inter-related meanings. And yet St. John’s Gospel is the only one to record it.
The setting was of vital importance –a meal anticipating the celebration of the Passover, and resonant with its meaning. This, the greatest of Jewish festivals, celebrating God delivering the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt and leading them to freedom in the Promised Land.
With each annual celebration God renewed His commitment to rescuing His People from further oppression; they, in their turn renewed their commitment to be faithful to Him.
Jesus made the celebration of the Passover His own as He brought its promise to fulfilment. His hour had now come for Him to deliver the whole human race from its enslavement to sin and death; He would set us free to enjoy the glorious liberty of the children of God.
How would He defeat the power of evil, which entrapped us? How would He set us free? Not by a magnificent display of power and force, but, as St. Paul tells, by ‘emptying Himself and taking the form of a slave, obedient even unto death on the cross,’ (Philip. 2.8).
That’s what Jesus wanted Peter, and us, to understand when He insisted on performing the menial task of washing His disciples’ dirty travel-worn feet. The creator of heaven and earth performed a service, which was considered too degrading for a self-respecting Jew!
As Jesus washed His disciples’ feet He showed that to become a liberator He must Himself become enslaved.
Jesus was to be the Second Moses, a slave himself, leading God’s People out of bondage; He was to fulfil the role of the prophet Isaiah’s Suffering Servant of the Lord. He would bear our iniquities; by His wounds we would be healed.   It was precisely as servant that Jesus was saviour. His loving obedience to His Father’s will would reverse the rebellion of sin, and would repair the damage that caused.
By washing Peter’s feet Jesus showed that He had come to serve. Not to be served. Obedient, loving service –that was how Jesus wanted us to understand His Passion. Through obedient death on the cross He would save the world. Through His Agony in the Garden, through His suffering on the cross He would learn the cost of loving obedience to His Father’s will. That is what the washing of the feet proclaimed!
To underline that point St. John’s Gospel places a reference to Judas’ betrayal immediately before and after the washing of the feet. Surrounded by this treachery -the most radical of all acts of disobedience against God -the crucified Christ would be triumphant in His obedience. What a contrast between Judas’ betrayal and Christ’s total commitment to His Father’s will!
That should helps us to understand why Jesus insisted on washing Peter’s feet -why He made it a necessary condition for true discipleship. Quite simply, Peter, and the rest of us, must accept Jesus on His own terms. That means we must welcome Him as the Servant-Saviour, if we are to enjoy the salvation He has won for us. Like someone who is sick we must allow the doctor to heal us. If we’re too proud to allow him to help us, we won’t be cured.  In other words, we must admit that we can’t save ourselves from the power of sin and death. Humbly we must place our hope of salvation in the One who came to serve us, not to be served. He is our only hope of salvation!
In washing Peter’s feet Jesus has shown us what He expects of us, His followers. Like Him, we must be servants of the Lord, and of each other. We must show Christ’s total commitment, not the treachery of Judas. Far from this being demeaning, such service shows the depth of Christ’s loving obedience to His heavenly Father, His love for each one of us. Jesus has shown us that true greatness lies in serving, not being served.
Like Jesus, we will find true greatness in our being generous-hearted servants of the Lord. But first we must accept our total dependence on the Lord, before we can be of any help to anyone else. We must learn to receive, before we can give; to serve, to obey, to follow, before we can presume to lead.
The Washing of the Feet shows us that Jesus understood His saving Passion in terms of loving, obedient service. His obedient sacrifice on the cross is made present in every Mass. With Jesus we are called to be generous givers, loving servants of the Lord, and of each other. That should express our whole attitude to life. And that simple, humble gesture of feet washing tells us what a true follower of Christ should be like.

Isidore O.P.