Wednesday, 10 February 2016


'Behold, I stand at the door and knock;’
(Rev. 3. 30)

These words, taken from the Book of Revelation, are rightly understood to refer to Jesus knocking at the door of our lives, waiting patiently for us to open and make Him welcome. We're warned against ignoring His knock or deliberately shutting Him out.
But our lives may be too rowdy and busy for us to hear Him, or we may deliberately ignore His knock. We fear He would be too demanding and would be an inconvenient embarrassment. We’ve all heard sermons on these lines. Some of us have preached them. Afterwards we’ve probably resolved to make Jesus more welcome in our daily lives.
But let us remember that Jesus has made it very clear that He identifies with those in any kind of need. In other words, Jesus Himself identifies with the thousands of refugees and asylum seekers desperately fleeing their homeland, the run-away child, the tramp sleeping on the park bench. In them Jesus knocks on the doors of our lives, the doors of our affluent countries. In them Jesus begs for a home. In them Jesus begs to be made welcome. They need not just a roof over their heads, to protect them against the elements; they want the security of a place of their own, a place where they feel they belong, somewhere for them to have a decent quality of life.  Most of us take all of this for granted for ourselves.
But now put yourself in the shoes of the person knocking at our doors. To be deaf to their plea for shelter, is to be deaf to these ‘other Christs,’ longing, needing to make their homes with us. In them we react to the same Jesus, who prayed that we would abide in Him and He in us. If we shut Him out from our lives He will shut us out from His. That’s the clear, dire warning He gives at the end of chapter 25 of St. Matthew’s Gospel.
In His own life on earth Jesus knew what it meant not to have a roof over His head. When there was no room at the inn He was born in a stable. Shortly afterwards, the Holy Family became refugees; they had to flee Herod’s persecution and seek sanctuary in Egypt. In this they identified with all refugees. Speaking of His ministry as a wandering preacher Jesus said,
"The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head’ (Lk. 9.58).
That is the lot of so many thousands of homeless people today. Jesus identifies with each one of them. In each one of them He knocks and waits. Will we open up and give them a home? Will we make Jesus-in-them welcome?
As Individuals, we can’t solve the heart-breaking problem of so many rootless, homeless people. But we can urge our national and local government to acts to provide them with homes. We can support and perhaps work with the various housing agencies and charities. But ideally, their homelands need to become sufficiently safe and prosperous, so that they can return, or better still, never need to leave.
But underlying our approach to the homeless must be the conviction that Jesus identifies with them in their need. Our attitude to them reflects our attitude to Him. If we shut them out, we shut Him out. In them Jesus appeals for our compassion. That should make us very uncomfortable!
Let us pray,
Heavenly Father, the world is horrified by the number of homeless refugees and asylum seekers. Armed conflict, economic hardship and starvation have forced them to leave their homeland, their loved ones and all their possessions. They’ve been forced to risk their very lives in an attempt to survive.
In their destitution they cry to you for help; they appeal to us of the prosperous developed world. If they are overwhelmed by their plight, so are we. And yet deep down we know we can’t simply brush them aside and say, "not my problem." We know that as fellow human beings, and as our brothers and sisters in Christ, their problem is our problem.
We pray for your guidance in finding the best way to help the homeless. May we find ways to overcome the causes of their flight, so that they don’t feel the need to leave their homelands. Or if they have done. so may they be helped to return and rebuild what has been destroyed. In the meantime may we respond to their immediate needs, and provide them with the shelter and security they desperately require. Inspire us, as individuals and as nations, to be prepared to make the demanding sacrifice necessary for us to be of real assistance.
We ask this through your Son, Jesus Christ, Our Lord, who identified with the homeless in their need.
Isidore Clarke O.P.

Thursday, 4 February 2016


                                  VISITING THE SICK 

Mtt. 25 “I was sick and you visited me.”
Never, never, never shall I forget the day I visited a young woman who was confined to her bed, paralyzed. Young boys were enjoying themselves playing football on the pasture beside her board-and-shingle home. As I entered her bedroom I was bowled over by what I saw.

Her small son was sitting by her bed – holding her hand. Not a word passed between them.  There I saw an intensity of love that defied description. This was sacrificial love on a grand scale – the little boy could have been outside with his friends and no-one would have blamed him!

Many a time Jesus put Himself out to be available to the sick – individuals and clamouring crowds. They sensed the compassion with which He gave so much of Himself to caring for them.

As disciples of Jesus we must make caring for the sick  a priority in all our pastoral ministry. We, and the Church to which we belong, will become lovable to the world if take to heart these words in the Book of Sirach (7.35)

‘Do not shrink from visiting the sick; in this way you will make yourself loved.’

Did not Jesus need loving companions simply to be there with Him in Gethsemane and on Calvary? What meant so much to Him then He now wants us to do for the sick. We are to follow the example of that little boy who had to be at the bedside of his mother. His loving concern must have been such a healing consolation to her!

Jesus wants us to know He could see Himself in the in the person of that mother in love-scene in the small house in the tropical island of Grenada.

‘I was sick and you visited me, you came to see me…"Lord, When did we find you sick and go to see you?...In truth I tell you, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me” (Matt. 25). 
Jesus must have loved that little boy, so very, very much!

With the help of St. James we Catholics now find greater richness and a profound spirituality, in the sick being visited. He writes,

‘ Anyone of you who is ill should send for the elders of the church, and they must anoint the sick person with oil in the name of the Lord and pray over him. The prayer of faith will save the sick person and the Lord will raise him up again; and if he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven. (James 5).

This, the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, is for those who are seriously sick, but not necessarily close to death.  Through this Sacrament Jesus accompanies them as they travel on the sometimes agonizing journey of life. Perhaps for many years theirs will be the peace that Jesus promised - peace that the world cannot give. 

Jesus wants them to enjoy the serenity of looking forward to eventually meeting Him face to face in Heaven. It does happen that receiving this Sacrament sick people experience less pain; sometimes they are completely cured.

Many a time have the  family and friends gathered around the bed told me how much they have been comforted and consoled as they have shared in the loving prayers the Church has offered for their ailing, perhaps dying, loved ones.

The priest must be called once it is known that someone is gravely ill. Those we know to be grievously sick have the right to receive the Sacraments of the Anointing of the Sick, Reconciliation, and, above all, Holy Communion. 

Also, those Catholics who are confined to their homes have the right to be regularly visited and have Holy Communion brought to them.

Permanent Deacons and Eucharistic Ministers love the Corporal Work of Mercy of  Visiting the Sick. They count it as a wonderful privilege to bring to the sick Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.  

To my mind, during this Jubilee Year of Mercy the Local Church  alert priests, parishes, families and neighbours to their duty of ensuring that the spiritual needs of the ailing and the frail are not neglected. 

Let us pray
Almighty Father,
Long ago you promised that you would never forget your People. You had carved them on the palm of your hand! Your beloved Son, Jesus, promised his Apostles he would be with them until the end of time. He even told them they must love one another as he had loved them. He was prepared to lay down his life for them and for the whole of mankind.
We shall always need this merciful caring love; but especially at those times when we are most insecure, most vulnerable, most in distress, when we are sick.
Through this Corporal Work of Mercy you are calling all of us to be sensitive to the anguish of others; to be a loving presence to them; to be responsive to their needs.
Almighty Father, we beg you to help us to our step outside our personal agendas, our personal problems, fears and anxieties. Mould our hearts so that no-one, especially members of our families and circle of friends, may feel meaningless to us, worthless to us, nothing to us. Prompt us to keep in touch with them, visit them, when they were sick, distressed.
May we welcome your calling us to be your ambassadors attentive to the physical and spiritual needs your beloved children when they sick. Amen
For the sake of His Sacred Passion have mercy on us and on the whole world.
Peter Clarke O.P


Tuesday, 2 February 2016



"I was naked and you clothed me,"  (Mtt. 25 36).
I was wretched in my nakedness and you relieved me from my misery.
Immediately I think of the homeless people who are exposed to the weather – with its biting cold for some and for others its fierce heat. Some have nothing to wrap around their bodies to protect them from snow, ice, and rain. Others who live in equatorial deserts need to be completely covered against the scorching sun and the harsh battering of sandstorms.

This Corporal Work of Mercy is about being sensitive to the needs, the feeling of the abjectly poor. And this was stated forcibly in the Book of Leviticus written several thousand years ago. Here the Lord God requires that,
"If you take someone's cloak in pledge, you will return it to him at sunset.   It is all the covering he has; it is all the covering he all the covering he has; it is the cloak he wraps his body in; what else will he sleep in?   If he appeals to me, I shall listen.   
Exodus 22.26.

The one with the cloak must first find this compassion in himself; be able to recognize how awful it must be to suffer what he’s going through; and then conclude, ‘If there’s any decency in me, any humanity in me, I must give him back his cloak…even though I would lose on the transaction.’

As far we are concerned, here and now, at any time anyone of us is liable to be approached by someone telling us he or she has no clothes, other than those being worn at the present moment– begging, pleading, for clothes.

God only knows when he last experienced wearing refreshing, clean clothes. Who could ever be comfortable living in stale, shabby, stinking garments? Think of the pain, the humiliation, of knowing people are uncomfortable about having you around …on the public transport, in shopping malls - even in church. The sheer misery of being despised, rejected, never respected!

With Christ-like compassion we must enter into the very soul of the one who needs clothing….needs far more than that ---a sense of personal wholesomeness that gives him the confidence to join the company of other human beings. Some deep soul-searching is needed on our part. Do I really want to help this or any other person? Why should I?

The easiest way to avoid ever becoming involved is to be so disagreeable as to give myself the reputation that it’s a waste of time approaching me! The very opposite to this is for me to offer friendship, show respect, be generous with my precious time. I must be prepared to dip into my pocket if I can’t put my hands on available clothes. I must be prepared to make a personal sacrifice and do this willingly, not resentfully, not grudgingly.

Jesus speaks to me now through His parable about the Last Judgement.  There as King, He claims. 
     "I was naked and you clothed me...Then the upright will say to Him in reply,  'Lord, when did we        see you naked and clothe you?  And the King will answer,  "In truth I tell you, in so far as you did     this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me."

This being so, Jesus will say to me,
"Come,, you whom my Father has blessed, take as your heritage the kingdom prepared from you since the foundation of the world," (Mtt. 25).

Pope Francis, through this Jubilee Year of Mercy,  is demanding of us, as Church and as individuals such a conversion experience that we treat the needy  as Jesus would have treated them; as we would treat Jesus – not as nuisances, not with revulsion,  but as brothers, sisters - with godly compassion, mercy, love.                              

Let us pray, 

Almighty Father,
You do not judge a man by appearances, but read what is in heart! With shame we confess to you that when we see a man faded, ragged clothes we label him as a tramp or vagrant.  To us he is worthless. If he approaches us we count him as a nuisance who going to beg us for something, food, clothing, money. We justify ourselves to ourselves and to others in having nothing to do with him.
Lord, we need your help. It is part of our culture to be contemptuous of  such people. This judgmental, dismissive attitude is even well-lodged in our church-going mentality.   
We pray that you will cleanse us of these ugly dispositions. Give us the grace to see other people as you them; to treat them with compassion and respect. Free us from that meanness that makes us reluctant to part  with any of our possessions.  
Almighty Father, their needs are for their survival; ours  for our convenience!
Almighty Father, we pray that you will build up the self-confidence of these street people. Provide for them the opportunities to become self-reliant and the pride, the self-respect, to break free of their total dependence   on others. 

For the sake of His Sacred Passion have mercy on us                       and on the whole world.

Peter Clarke O.P.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016



Our brother, Geoff. was an engineer, based in Aden. One of his jobs was to discover water beneath the parched, sun-baked land. Imagine the excitement when he struck water! A jet leapt high into the air, soaking the locals anxiously watching and waiting.

 Far from being annoyed at getting wet, old and young, men, women and children pranced and danced, laughed and wept for joy. Now a well could be sunk. That would guarantee a regular supply of water. They could plant and irrigate their crops; they could water their livestock. Their community could survive and prosper. They had a future! Geoff  rejoiced that he had helped them to survive.

Turn on a tap and the water flows! That's how it is for those of us who live in a temperate climate. We take take a drink of water for granted. Our thirst is easily quenched. Rainfall is a sign of God’s life-giving blessing upon those with ground that is  parched.  A shower of  rain is bad weather for those who want to enjoy outdoor games!.

Pope Francis’ encyclical ‘Laudato Si’ gives a new dimension and urgency to that Corporal Work of Mercy which is giving a drink to the thirsty. 
He reminds us that we are Custodians of God’s Creation. We owe to others and to ourselves that we protect it’s life-sustaining environment. All of us, even young children, simply must work to preserve the drinking water. People can't survive without water. No tap should be left running to no purpose.
"Yet access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right, since it is essential to human survival and, as such, is a condition for the exercise of other human rights. Our world has a grave social debt towards the poor who lack access to drinking water, because they are denied the right to a life consistent with their inalienable dignity.....  But water continues to be wasted, not only in the developed world but also in developing countries which possess it in abundance. This shows that the problem of water is partly an educational and cultural issue, since there is little awareness of the seriousness of such behaviour within a context of great inequality," 
(Laudato Si. 30).

Global Warming  is at the heart of  those droughts that threaten some parts of the world  and other parts with floods...on a devastating, destructive scale.

In stressing the importance of protecting the environment Pope Francis gives an obvious,  global, importance to quenching someone’s thirst. Such compassion is to be expected of any decent human being.

But what if we  give this very same drink in God’s name to a fellow human being who is made in God’s image and likeness?   According to Jesus, this simple act of kindness acquires an eternal value and richness. This is because Jesus identifies the giver with His own compassionate self; and the one who receives the drink with His own needy self.

Jesus identified with every thirsty person when He asked the Samaritan woman to draw for Him water from the well (cf. Jn. ch. 4).  He needed her help. The thirsty of the world need ours. In them, for them, the crucified Christ appeals, "I thirst!" ( Jn. 19.38).

Let us pray

Heavenly Father, your Son knew what it meant to be thirsty.  He knew what it was like to have to depend upon someone else to draw water from a well, to quench His thirst. When people ask us for a drink of water to be like the woman at the well.  She readily responded to Jesus’ need.
There are millions of people living in parched lands, dying of thirst, together with their crops and livestock.  Without water nothing can live, grow and flourish.
The gift of water is a powerful sign of your love and care for your people; our thirst for water expresses our love for you, our need  for you, our need for your help.
In your love and compassion hear the cry of your people’s thirst for your life-giving water.  Inspire us, your people, to preserve the drinking water already available.  Move us to protect its purity.  Help us discover knew sources of drinking water, new ways to make the desert green and fruitful, your people flourish.  Help us to be true custodians of the world you have given us, the world in which you have placed us. We ask this through your Son, who from the cross cried, “I THIRST.

             For the sake of His Sacred Passion have mercy                 on us and on the whole world.

  Isidore Clarke, O.P.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016


With great sensitivity the TV News Reader warns that we are about to see what we might find very disturbing. This ‘News Event’ might well be about many a place where people are starving – even in the back-alleys of the wealthy metropolitan countries.

The News Reader is being responsible – some people may not be able to cope with the ghastly sight of starving people, their emaciated bodies, their dull unaware gaze; and, worst of all, the virtually fleshless bodies of children.

I now want to move away from what I’ve seen on my T V screen and face up to what I meet as I walk the streets; what I hear about in casual conversations.

We live in the midst of people who are grossly undernourished, weak, shriveled with hunger. They would want to hide from me in shame; they have to try to catch my attention in desperation! They’re begging for something to eat – usually they want money so they can, with some self-respect, buy something for themselves.

Every day they live out the role of the wretched Lazarus in the parable of Jesus. Starving, he sat at the entrance of the house of Dives. This rich man cared not a thing for the one who would been overjoyed to receive even the left-overs from the meal. Jesus had to condemn such heartlessness.
Who, in our day, are you in this parable? Who am I? Probably, not Lazarus! Please God, not Dives!
For us Christians such self-questioning becomes embarrassing, discomforting. Jesus makes it so. He denies us the ‘cop-out’ of, ‘If I’d known it was you, Lord, begging in the streets, I’d have treated you like royalty!’

In His Famous Last Judgement Sermon Jesus demolishes our self-defense. He identifies Himself with the neglected sufferer.

For I was hungry and you never gave me food... In truth I tell you, in so far as you neglected to do this to one of the least of these, you neglected to do it to me,’ (Mtt.25).
At a very basic level we can reduce this to, ‘I was a human being – just like yourself! And you let me starve when you could have done something about it. You showed me no mercy; you weren’t interested in me…only in your own concerns.’
His Last Judgement Pronouncement will be, ‘You will go away to eternal punishment’ - which amounts to, ‘I shall want nothing to do with you ever, never, again.’

Pope Francis sees the starvation issue to be so critical that he writes,
‘Lent is a fitting time for self-denial; we would do well to ask ourselves what we can give up in order to help and enrich others by our own poverty. Let us not forget that real poverty hurts: no self-denial is real without this dimension of penance. I distrust a charity that costs nothing and does not hurt.’ (Message for Lent 2014).

I would like to think that you and I, without seeking to draw attention to ourselves, reach out to the hungry with friendly courtesy. Do we realize how much Jesus admires and loves us for this? He will say,
‘Come, you whom my Father has blessed, take as your heritage the kingdom prepared for you since the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food. In truth I tell you, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me.’

Let us pray,

Almighty Father, every single human being, old or young, rich or poor, is made in your image and likeness. Each of us is precious to you as your beloved child. Each of us is brother or sister to every single member of your human family, our human family.
And yet, we are divided by our prejudices. When we are self-centred we are likely become indifferent to those who lack the basic necessities for life – such food.
We now pray that, during this Jubilee Year of Mercy, starting with ourselves, the whole human family will receive the grace from you to become more sensitive, more caring, more loving, and more merciful towards our hungry, starving, brothers and sisters.

For the sake of His Sacred Passion have mercy on us and on the whole world.

Peter Clarke, O.P.
P.S. Next posting, "Giving drink to the thirsty..."










Saturday, 16 January 2016


The Face of Mercy is the Face of God; the Human Face of Mercy is that of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Son of Mary; Today’s Face of Mercy is meant to be your face, my face, the face of all of us who have accepted the call to be disciples of Jesus and strive to live according to His example and teaching.
According to the Acts of the Apostles, ‘Jesus of Nazareth began in Galilee, after John had been preaching baptism.  God had anointed him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and because God was with him, Jesus went about doing good and curing all who had fallen into the power of the devil,’ (10.37).
          The Gospels describe what a sensitive, caring person Jesus was. 

                 Out of loving mercy He attended to their various needs:

‘But Jesus called his disciples to him and said, 'I feel sorry for all these people; they have been with me for three days now and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them off hungry, or they might collapse on the way.' (Mt. 15.32)            
So as he stepped ashore he saw a large crowd; and he took pity on them and healed their sick.’ (Mtt.14.14).

 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,’ (Mk. 6.34).

We see here that Jesus reached out to people at every level of their being and brought to them wholesomeness…to their bodies, their minds, and to their inner spiritual selves. 
Jesus wants you and me, His disciples to be the channels, the instruments of His merciful love for all mankind. He inspires us to do this. He empowers us to do so.
For our convenience the Church has drawn up lists of areas of merciful concern that we should attend to:

Feed the hungry,
Give drink to the thirsty , 
Clothe the naked,    
 Shelter the homeless,
Visit the sick ,
Visit the imprisoned ,  
Bury the dead.


Admonish the sinner,   
Instruct the ignorant ,
Counsel the doubtful ,    
Comfort the sorrowful,
Bear wrongs patiently,   
Forgive all injuries,  
    Pray for the living and the dead          

Together we, Isidore and Peter Clarke, O.P., are going to compose our own reflections on the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. This will be our contribution to the Jubilee Year of Mercy. 

We want this to stimulate us into living, acting, with merciful love towards other people. We hope this will be treated as more than interesting reading matter.
We need the grace to compose these reflections. All of us need the grace to respond to them creatively.

          Soon to follow – our personal reflections on each of the Works of Mercy..


Isidore and Peter  Clarke, O.P.

Sunday, 27 December 2015


On Christmas Day we celebrated the birthday of Jesus. We welcomed the Son of God joining the family of man. On the following Sunday we reflect on His Family Life – that of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. 
They blended in so well with their neighbours that when Jesus started preaching they complained that He was only the son of a carpenter.  They thought Jesus was getting above himself. They wanted to cut Him down to size.
Isn’t it striking that 30 of the roughly 33 years the Son of God lived on earth were so very ordinary –a humdrum family life, very similar to ours?  And, yet, that was far from wasted time and opportunity. 
It was in the family that Jesus grew up and learnt, in a human way, to love and obey his heavenly Father and His human parents, and saw for how husband and wife lovingly related to one another. Theirs was the God-given vocation of being home-makers. And so it is for most of us for at least part of our lives. This is one of the most significant ways of our giving glory to God and in so doing becoming glorious ourselves.
And now, in our time, if Jesus is at the heart of our own family lives, what seems to be so mundane takes on an eternal value, in which we find God in the love we show him and each other. And that is where God find us.
In the family children are to begin to learn to behave like decent civilized human beings. They are learning to grow ever more like God, in whose image we have been made. And if adults do not continue to practice this until their dying day, the quality of their living together, the quality of their relationship with God, will crumble.
Pope Francis gives us a very good idea of what God is like and what we should become like. The ‘Face of God is Mercy.’ If we are to be at all godly we must become merciful. As simple as that! Sensitivity – being there with others, there for others, in their joys and sorrows. Never allowing a person to feel lonely, unloved.
This kind of love must begin in the a helping hand when there’s much to be done around the house; showing an interest in how husband or wife, dad or mother, son or daughter, has spent the day…congratulating and commiserating.  This calls for loving sensitivity and compassion. Maybe, taking care of each other.   
Responding to the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of the different members of the Holy Family formed the very rhythm of Holy Family’s life. The same must be true for ours.  In other words, the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy should be at the heart of our family lives, as they were for Jesus, Mary and Joseph.
The stories of many families today resemble that of the Holy Family…finding a home, shelter, even safety; putting food on the table, providing clothing, looking after the sick, comforting each other when there’s a death in the family; most certainly, working to provide for the needs of the family, with everyone being responsible in the use of whatever is available.
 Probably we adults don’t realize how much we can give spiritual support to another even in our families. Offering to pray for daddy or mummy when they’ve had a rough day, can in itself be a great comfort.  So, too making them a cup of tea. 
We must insist that children have a right to get their earliest religious instruction in the home. Here good example is far more effective than thousands of words. The young child, enthusiastic about going to church, may influence adults to give it a try! What about Jesus showing Joseph and Mary how important it was for  Him to be in the Temple – even though this earned Him a scolding for causing them so much distress?
However, it’s great to be idealistic, romantic, about family life. The reality is that it’s much about imperfect individuals imperfectly relating to one another and (please God) striving to make life together more loving, more pleasant. 
The willingness to apologize and forgive is the bedrock of a livable family life! Striving for peace in the home is a supreme Spiritual Work of Mercy!  If we’ve learned to appreciate this in the family there’s a fair chance we may carry it into school, the work-place-even and onto the playing field.
The Face of God is Mercy! The ‘Human Face of God’ is the ‘Sacrificial-Merciful Love’ of Jesus! In His public ministry Jesus gave of His All, and then, on the cross, He gave His very life.  Something of this total unselfishness should be in all our relating to others – especially within the family.
God intends that our families become Today’s Human Face Of Divine Mercy! First of all, to each other in the home, and then everyone else!
Never, never, nice to all and sundry ‘out there’ and nasty to those living under the same roof!
Peter and Isidore O.P.