Tuesday, 19 July 2016

GIFTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT


THE SPIRIT IS BLOWING!
2-GIFT of UNDERSTANDING  

 
“Do not be afraid, for I am with you. Don't be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand,”  (Is. 41. 10). 
 
The prophet Isaiah’s comforting words floated into my mind as I lay semi-conscious in a hospital bed.  Although as a Dominican I’d spent years reflecting on the sacred Scriptures it was only in this moment of personal crisis that God’s words spoke directly to me, reassured me and comforted me in my need. What was so familiar suddenly came alive for me, took on a new depth of meaning.
 
What I experienced was wonderful, but not extraordinary for a Christian.   At baptism we become God’s children and share His own divine life.   We receive the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. These give us a divine instinct to think and behave like God.  The closer we are to God, the more we become like Him.
 
 The gift of understanding enables us to penetrate ever more deeply into the mystery of God and of His work of salvation. Certainly we believe in these mysteries.  But through the gift of understanding they touch not just our minds but our hearts.  That can transforms our lives.
 
That happened on the road to Emmaus, as the risen Lord walked and talked with two disciples.  As they told Him of their distress at Jesus’ crucifixion He explained to them how the Scriptures had foretold His death and resurrection. Although they knew the Scriptures they hadn’t made the connection with His Passion.   But on reflection everything fell into place.   Thanks to the gift of understanding they exclaimed,
“Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”     (Lk. 24.32).
 
As a priest I’ve often marveled at the way the gift of understanding enables devout young children and unlettered adults to go to the heart of the deepest of mysteries. Without being learned theologians they can recognise and love Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament; they can talk freely with Him in their prayers. With a God-given instinct they can tell if something is against the faith, without their being able to explain how.  And the great reassurance for the preacher is that the gift of understanding can enable his listener to get something helpful out of even the worst of sermons!
Isidore Clarke O.P.
 

Monday, 11 July 2016

THE CROWN THAT LASTS


This year, more than most years, is loaded with competitions and challenges!

I’m thinking of the Rio Olympics with records to be broken and medals to be won; as well as the Caribbean with its Carnivals, its Regattas and Barbados with its Crop-Over. Here there is intense rivalry in composing and singing songs, designing and wearing costumes. Rival Steel Bands vie for the Crown.

The challenge of exams weighs heavily not only on those who have to sit them but also upon their families watching and praying that their loved ones be successful. Youngsters strive to perform well enough for them to be accepted into Secondary Schools. Adults in Tertiary Education have to prove their superior excellence in a world choked with a super-abundance of talent. At every level exam results define future prospects.
 
If this challenge does not incline people to have goals, ambitions, what will? Surely the self-esteem engendered by committed effort is much to be preferred to the wishful thinking of those waiting to see how things will turn out as they lazily watch the world go by!
 
The Bible doesn’t spare our feelings when it has the Psalmist declaring "I have no love for half-hearted men!" (Ps. 119.113); and the Angel of the Lord in the Book of Revelation makes it known, "Since you are neither hot nor cold, but only lukewarm, I will spit you out of my mouth," (3.16).

St. Paul uses the world of sport as a parable for the basics of the Christian life and, indeed, for every worthwhile human endeavour. "Someone who enters an athletic contest wins only by competing in the sports…a prize can be won only by competing according to the rules," (2 Tim.2.5).
I fear today we would need many a reprint of ‘Red Cards’ designed to meet the cheating, the foul-play, in every walk of life – from within the family to international politics (and everything in between)!
I fear today we would need many a reprint of ‘Red Cards’ designed to meet the cheating, the foul-play, in every walk of life – from within the family to international politics (and everything in between)!
 
St. Paul would have us know that success is not meant to come easily: "Do you not realize that, though all the runners in the stadium take part in the race, only one of them gets the prize? Run like that -- to win. Every athlete concentrates completely on training, and this is to win a wreath that will wither, whereas ours will never wither. So that is how I run, not without a clear goal; and how I box, not wasting blows on air. I punish my body and bring it under control, to avoid any risk that, having acted as herald for others, I myself may be disqualified," (I Cor. 9.24-27).
In many competitions it is each against the rest with only one being the winner. In the spiritual life our godly selves are striving against our sinful inclinations and the temptations of the Evil One. By the grace of God all of us are meant to be winners and to receive from God a ‘Crown that Lasts’ for eternity.
 
The author of the Letter to the Hebrews,(12.1-3) uses the necessity of having athletic training and role models to stimulate us to take seriously our own Spiritual Life, our very Salvation, "We too, then, should throw off everything that weighs us down and the sin that clings so closely, and with perseverance keep running in the race which lies ahead of us. 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. Think of the way he persevered against such opposition from sinners and then you will not lose heart and come to grief. In the fight against sin, you have not yet had to keep fighting to the point of bloodshed."

In every sphere of human endeavour those who honestly try are already heroes; those who cheat their way towards acclaim deserve to be toppled from their thrones and podiums since their crowns and medals are worth less than garbage.
 
PETER CLARKE, O.P..

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

GIFTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

THE SPIRIT IS BLOWING!
1 WISDOM

Losing Jesus and finding Him in the Temple is counted as one of the Sorrows of Mary, as it would
have been for any parent. Who would blame Mary for affectionately chiding Him, "Son, why have you treated us so? Your father and I have been looking for you anxiously."
Astonishing that He replied, "Did you not know I must be in my Father's house?" Jesus, being not only the Son of Mary but also Son of God, thought the time had come to introduce them to the bewildering idea that He had this lofty relationship with His Heavenly Father. With His feet firmly grounded Jesus, through the Gift of the Holy Spirit, Wisdom, was here setting His life priorities from God's perspective rather than from a very down-to- earth 'Nazareth- Carpenter-shop' perspective
(Lk. 2).
God wants His Gift of Wisdom to give all of us, both young and old, an instinctive, powerful intuition of what He intends for us and expects of us.
Through Wisdom we come to value properly those things we believe through Faith. The truths of the Christian Faith are more important than the things of this world. Wisdom helps us to order our relationship to the created world properly by loving creation for the sake of God, rather than for its own sake.
St Paul in his First Letter to the Corinthians raises our understanding of the Gift of Wisdom to a much higher level – one that enables believing Christians to accept and make sense of the Crucifixion of Jesus.To Jews it was the weakness of being a failure; to the gentiles it was meaningless nonsense.
"We are preaching a crucified Christ, to the Jew an obstacle they cannot get over, to the gentiles foolishness, but those who have been called, a Christ who is both the power of God and the wisdom of God."(1 Cor 24 ).
Surely, only this Gift of Wisdom could have inspired Paul to write to the Philippians,
"Because of the supreme advantage of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, I count everything else as loss. For Him I have accepted the loss of all other things, and look on them all as filth if only I can gain Christ,"(Phil. 3.8).
The Gift of Wisdom enables us to recognize, appreciate and live according to God's priorities. This will happen if we keep our sails hoisted, so that we are propelled by the breath of the Holy Spirit

AND KEEP MOVING IN GOD'S DIRECTION!

Peter Clarke, O.P.

 

Thursday, 30 June 2016

THE GIFTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT


                                                      PROLOGUE 11















In Part 1 of  the  Prologue to this series of meditations you were given the names of the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit. Now we are going to attempt to deepen our understanding and appreciation of their role in our lives. At Baptism we received these gifts. When we were Confirmed  these gifts perfected and activated so as to enable us to lead fully Christian lives.
The idea of being endowed with spiritual gifts is to be found in the writings of the Prophecy of Isaiah. The recipient of these gifts would be the One Almighty God promised sent to His Chosen People.
 “A shoot will spring from the stock of Jesse, a new shoot will grow from his roots.  On him will rest the Spirit of the Lord, the spirit of wisdom and insight, the spirit of counsel and power, the spirit of knowledge and fear of  the Lord:    his inspiration will lie in fearing the Lord. His judgement  will  not be by appearances. his verdict not given on hearsay, (Isaiah 11).
Elsewhere Isaiah tells us this person would claim to be anointed by the Spirit of God:The spirit of the Lord  is on me for the Lord has anointed me. He has sent me to bring the news to the afflicted, to soothe the broken-hearted,  to proclaim liberty to captives, release to those in prison… to comfort all who mourn,” (Is.61).
These  prophesies become exciting as we realize that according to the Hebrew text of the Old Testament  “Messiah” was the word used of one anointed as king, priest or  prophet. The equivalent word in Greek of the New Testament is “Christ.”
Of  all the passages  from Sacred Scripture Jesus could have chosen to read in the Synagogue in Capernaum  He selected, “The spirit of the Lord is on me, for he has anointed me to bring the good news to the afflicted...” Dramatically He exclaimed,  ‘This text is being fulfilled today  even while you are listening.(Lk.4).  Through and through His humanity was briskly alert to the impulses  of the Holy Spirit in the service of His Heavenly Father.
The Church would have us know that we ourselves are caught up in this Messianic thrust of energy – like the schooner opening its sails to the wind. After the water of Baptism had flowed over our brows we were anointed with Chrism, ‘As Christ was anointed Priest, Prophet, King, so may you live always as a member of his body, sharing everlasting life.’
Loaded with such spiritual Gifts it is up to us to let God do great things in us and through us!

Peter Clarke, O.P.

Thursday, 23 June 2016


My brother, Fr. Isidore Clarke, O.P., and I have decided to do a series of mini meditations on the 7 Gifts of the  Holy Spirit. Later we shall Touch on the Fruits  of the Holy Spirit.       This project is entitled:

                       THE SPIRIT IS BLOWING!

                                                                                                     
                                                                                 


                                        
                                                                      
                                                                                 


PROLOGUE 1

I shall never forget that glorious day when  we  were  standing  on the deck of a schooner   sailing  between the islands  of Grenada and  Carriacou.  There, at the foot of the mast, we gazed up at the sails embracing the strong breeze that enabled   our boat to carve  its way through the waves towards our destination.

St John tells us that “the wind blows where it pleases,” and that “so it is with everyone that is born of the Spirit,” (Jn. 3.8).  It has been suggested that the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit may be compared to the sails of a boat  awaiting the breeze that would be its driving force.

In this scenario we can see ourselves as being like the crew of the schooner with the choice of hoisting the sails  so that  their boat might  be enthusiastically on the move  or of  leaving them furled on deck with their tethered  boat  rocking  gently in  port. The obvious parallel is you and I being content to be laid-back, lack-lustre Christians or  ones  eager to be empowered by the Holy Spirit.

Our  Heavenly  Father wants us to be activated by the Gifts of  the Holy Spirit which we received at our Baptism. It was then that  we became  Temples of the Holy Spirit – dynamic people who would lead lives that gave great  glory to God.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches: “By the Sacrament of Confirmation the baptized are more perfectly bound to the Church and are enriched with a special strength  of the Holy Spirit. Hence they are, as true witnesses of Christ, more strictly obliged to spread and defend the faith by word and deed,” (1285).

The Catechism also tells us:

“The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. They belong in their fullness to Christ, Son of David. They complete and perfect the virtues of those who receive them. They make the faithful docile in readily obeying divine inspirations,” (1831).

More about these Gifts next week in Prologue 11

Peter Clarke O.P.

Sunday, 5 June 2016

RESTORING SETTINGS


 
 

My brother Peter and I have taken to computing late in our lives. In fact so late that a student was amazed that someone of my antiquity could teach himself this modern technology. He must have thought I belonged to the pre-industrial age and hadn't got beyond writing with a goose quill! But you would be amazed what we 'silver surfers' can do!
 
Peter and I are always delighted when one of us has learnt a new computer technique and can share it with each other. One of the most useful ones he taught me is entitled, 'Restoring System and Settings.' As you probably know, this is a form of crisis management, when, for some mysterious reason, the computer refuses to function properly. We've all experienced that, and it's both frustrating and infuriating. But Peter showed me a way of putting the clock back to a time when all the settings functioned properly.
 
Reflecting on the relief and joy that gave led me to musing on how wonderful it would be if we could put the clock back, and so undo the mistakes we've made in our lives. We've all said and done things we regret -hurtful words to someone we love, and wish we'd never spoken. We've made rash decisions, which we wish we could undo. Sadly, desperately, we fear that what's done is done. Wistfully, we may sing, "Yesterday all my troubles seemed so far away..." Or we may echo the song in "Jesus Christ, Superstar," with the plea, "Can't we start again?"
 
Then I recalled the hope given me by the technique of restoring the settings when my computer refused to function properly. I wondered whether the settings could be restored when serious sin had caused our lives to descend into chaos. Or does that damage our relationship with God irrevocably?
 
Certainly it would be dishonest for us to pretend that we hadn't behaved badly, when we had. Not even God can make the past not to have happened. But he can "restore the settings" in our lives, by forgiving us when we have sinned. His mercy restores our innocence. When we've fallen he lifts us up, so that we can make a fresh start. He bridges the gulf between Him and us, caused by serious sin. That He does through the sacrament of reconciliation. Then we can function properly as true followers of Christ.
 
There's no pretence here. God doesn't deny that we've sinned, nor should we. Nor does He say sin doesn't matter. It does. It damages our relationship with God, often harms other people and brings out the worst in us. But God takes the initiative in extending the healing hand of peace. Without denying our sins he puts them behind Him and us. It's as though he said, "That's over and done with, let's make a fresh start together."
 
And the technique of restoring settings taught me what I must do if my relationship with God has gone wrong. Just as I must turn to the "Help" facility and follow the instructions, which will enable my computer to function correctly again, so, too, I must seek the help of God's loving mercy when my life has gone wrong. I have the wonderful reassurance that in his infinite power He can "restore the settings," however badly my life may have crashed.
 
Sadly, this doesn’t always happen when things go wrong in human relationships. To "restore the settings" all who are involved must want to bury the past and make a fresh start together. But however willing one of us may be to do that, he or she will be stymied in these efforts at reconciliation unless they're met half way.
 
But thank heavens God always wants us to be at peace with Him and is prepared to reach out to us, even though He's the innocent one who has been offended. He waits for us to grasp the hand of love and mercy. As we embrace, He "restores the settings" so that we can respond to each other with love.
 
So, to the question, "Can't we start again?" The answer is a definite "YES!" -through God's loving mercy restoring our settings when our lives have crashed through sin. This Year of Mercy has been specially dedicated to ‘restoring our settings."
 
I thank Peter for showing me how to deal with my recalcitrant computer. The technique for " restoring system and settings" has given me a fresh insight into the healing power of God's mercy.
 
Isidore Clarke O.P.
 

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

"A VARIETY OF GIFTS"

"Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit.
And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord.…"
1Corinthians 12-4-5
 

As we celebrate the feast of Pentecost we think about the gift of the Holy Spirit, who empowered the apostles to preach the Gospel with wonderful eloquence and courage. At the same time He touched the minds and hearts of their listeners. Each could understand the Good News in his own language. Each received the gift of faith; they believed! This generous out-pouring of the gifts of the Holy Spirits got the infant Church off to a flying start. 

Moreover, the Holy Spirit blesses the Church with many other gifts, as St. Paul tells us,
"Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good," (1 Cor. 12. 4-7).

Some gifts, such as speaking in tongues, were more spectacular than others. No surprise this led to rivalries and jealousies! Paul had to reprove the Corinthians and remind them that the one Spirit was the source of their unity amidst their diversity. Whatever the gift, it was for the common good. No matter how spectacular the gift, the greatest of all had to be charity. Without love, the other gifts were worthless.
 
That insight was a great comfort to St. Terese of Liseaux. She felt so depressed at having no special talents with which she could serve God – until she read St. Paul emphasizing that love was the greatest of all gifts. Loving would be her vocation, as it is ours. It’s vital all of us should realize this!
But sadly, in our materialist world, success tends to be measured by our earning capacity and the status symbols it can buy. But that’s not the only measure.
 
What a wonderful gift to be warm-hearted, loving and caring! So, too, is being a peacemaker. In fact, one of the Beatitudes tells us that such people are called the children of God –precisely because they are sharing in the work of the Son of God Himself.
A few years ago a university degree was thought to be an essential mark of success and the passport to prosperity. Without a degree you were considered second-rate. That has proved an illusion. Some degrees are worthless. But now we’re shifting our focus to appreciating the value of technical skills and other accomplishments –such as making people laugh or cooking a tasty meal.
 
Rightly, we say that those with practical skills are gifted. The Bible says God had specially gifted those who constructed the Tabernacle and Ark of the Covenant,
"He has filled them with skill to perform every work of an engraver and of a designer and of an embroiderer, in blue and in purple and in scarlet material, and in fine linen, and of a weaver, as performers of every work and makers of designs,"
(Exod. 35. 35).
 
Being able to serve the community in any way should be welcomed as a gift from God. All travellers should be grateful to whoever was inspired to put wheels on a suitcase! It’s so important for us to appreciate whatever others have to offer and to give them encouragement.
 
It can be so destructive and demoralising to despise some and envy others. As a counter-blast to this negative approach Pope Francis wrote, "We rejoice at the good of others when we see their dignity and value their abilities and good works. This is impossible for those who must always be comparing and competing, even with their spouse, so that they secretly rejoice in their failures. (Amoris Laetitia, 109).
 
So let us rejoice in Gods gift of the Holy Spirit Himself, and the rich variety of gifts, which He has bestowed on different individuals for the good of the whole community.
P.S. The best way to show our gratitude for a gift or talent is for us to use and develop it -not hide and forget it.
 

Isidore Clarke, O.P.

 
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