Tuesday, 17 July 2018

16th SUNDAY of ORDINARY TIME

RECREATE - RE-CREATE

 Today’s is Gospel especially appropriate for the holiday season.   As Jesus urges His disciples to come to a lonely place and relax when they returned from a preaching mission,   This incident reminds us that rest is a part of the rhythm of life.   We can’t be working all the time.   We need to recharge our batteries so that we have the mental and physical energy for our more serious activities. Recreation should be re-creation, which renews us.   So, taking a break is not a waste time.    We’re frequently told of Jesus seeking the peace, quiet and solitude of night to pray.  He, too, needed to recharge His batteries.
And there’s another side to our need to relax.   We need the opportunity to be with our loved ones, to listen and talk and simply to enjoy each other’s company.   What we call making ‘quality time’ for each other.   If we’re so busy doing things for each other that we have no time to be with each other there’s the danger love will grow cold and we will drift apart.  The same is true for our love for God.  We need to strike the balance between doing His work and relaxing in His company.  
Here’s a challenge for you -can you, as a family, relax or have a meal together without one of you having an unnecessary chat on your mobile with someone outside the room, or your simply idly surfing your mobile?  How about a prize for anyone who succeeds, a forfeit for failure?   I’m shocked by the appalling bad manners of those who show no interest in the people with whom they were physically present, but give their undivided attention to their mobiles.  Obviously, sometimes that is necessary; intrusions into the peace we would seek can’t always be avoided.
Like Jesus in today’s Gospel, we find that life doesn’t always work as we’d planned.  When He sought the restful solitude His disciples required the crowd tracked Him down and demanded His attention.   The same kind of thing happened when my brother, Dave, came to watch a cricket match with Pete and me.   Being a doctor, Dave had to leave the cricket and respond to a medical emergency.
The crowd recognised its need for Jesus, and so did He.  He realised they were like sheep without a shepherd.  They were vulnerable to attack and didn’t know where to find the nourishment of green pastures.  They needed the guidance and protection of the Good Shepherd.
And so do we.  Without Jesus we are lost, our lives lack direction and purpose.  We need His protection as we face the onslaught of temptation. We need Him to nourish us with His own Body and Blood and with His teaching.  The greatest mistake any of us can make is to think we can cope with life without Jesus.  In John’s Gospel we are told that the crowd deserted Jesus when they found His teaching too hard to take.  When Jesus asked Peter whether he, too, would go, he replied,  ‘To whom shall we go. You, Lord, have the word of eternal life.’   Peter realised he would be lost without Jesus.  And so would we. 
That includes both the times of work and of rest.  Never are we without the need of His  love and protection.  May the season of relaxation renew us in body mind and soul.  That includes strengthening our love for our family and friends, and for God.  Have a good holiday! 

Isidore O.P.

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

13th SUNDAY of ORDINARY TIME


Christ’s Response to Two Desperate People

In today’s Gospel 2 incidents are inter-twined. These involve an official and a woman, both in need of Christ’s help.   While on the way to assist one, He’s interrupted by the other.   That’s very typical of life!    We start to carry out our plans and get diverted by someone making unexpected demands on us –the phone rings, your child has a fall and hurts himself.   We can either resent and ignore the interruption, or we can follow Christ’s example and use it as an opportunity for doing further good.   He made time to speak to the sick woman, rather than dismiss her, because he was too busy to attend to her needs.
Today’s Gospel is about 2 people in desperate need.   Both appeal to Jesus for help.  Their faith in him is remarkable, especially the official’s.   Even though his young daughter was on the point of death he believed Jesus could save her.  He showed amazing trust in Christ’s power over life and death!

Next there’s the woman who had been suffered from bleeding for 12 years.   Her ailment would have rendered her ritually unclean and excluded her from the community.  But so great was her faith in Jesus she believed that she would be cured simply by touching His garments, without her even having to ask Him to cure her.   Even though she was cured by touching His garments Jesus had time to stop and speak to her, and address her as ‘daughter.’    He always has time for each one of us.  He recognised the greatness of her faith in Him, which had led to His healing her.
We now come to the climax of this drama.   When Jesus reached the home of Jairus’ dying girl he was told that He was too late.  She had already died; the official mourners were already playing their instruments.  Dismissing them, He said that the girl slept and was not dead.  Naturally, that caused great derision because the girl was certainly dead, and Jesus seemed to be very insensitive to their grief.   But since Jesus intended to restore her life, after she’d been dead for only a short while, her condition was more like sleep than death.  In John’s Gospel Jesus uses the same language of Lazarus, who was already dead and buried.  But, knowing that He would soon restore both the girl and Lazarus to life, their deaths seemed more like sleep.  Taking the girl’s hand, He commanded her to get up, saying, “Little girl arise.”  In that simple gesture Jesus, the source of life, grasped death and was triumphant. That foreshadowed His own victory over death, through His crucifixion and resurrection.  As she walked about Jesus told her parents to give her something to eat.  That was the gesture Jesus would use to show He had truly risen from the dead.

Today’s Gospel shows us, firstly, that by curing the sick woman Jesus had come to heal us damaged people and give us the fullness of life, which would finally be achieved when we are raised to glory in the resurrection of the body.  This particular miraculous cure shows that He has come to break down the barriers which isolate people and enable them to join the community.
But in today’s Gospel Jesus proved that not only did He have power to cure the sick, but could even raise the girl to life.  He is master of life and death and will raise us bodily from the grave to share in the glory of His resurrection.
But we must share in the wonderful faith of the two people in today’s Gospel.  Against human logic they believed in Jesus and turned to Him.  One of them, Jairus, gives us a great example of the power of prayer for ourselves and for others, while the sick woman shows the importance of reaching out to Jesus, even when we can’t put our thoughts and longing into words.  Jesus will reward such faith with the fullness of life. 

Isidore O.P.
        

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

3rd LUMINOUS MYSTERY

PROCLAMATION OF THE KINGDOM 
AND REPENTANCE


The third Luminous Mystery of the Holy Rosary is the only one which doesn’t invite us to reflect on a particular event.  Instead, this Mystery embraces the whole of Jesus’ mission to Proclaim the Kingdom of God and Repentance.   That is the mission the risen Lord gave to the Church, just before He ascended to heaven.  That is the mission each of us Christians received at our baptisms.
  I must confess that this Mystery has a special appeal to me as a member of the Order of Preachers.  We Dominicans have been called to follow Jesus, the wandering preacher.   Mobility is an essential aspect of our life style. That means we can be moved from one house or country or another, according to where we are needed to preach the Gospel.
It strikes me that there’s a danger of the second part of this mystery, ‘Repent,’ being either over looked or under-played.   If so, the whole point of Christ’s preaching mission would be lost.  He proclaimed the Kingdom precisely so that it would touch our hearts and transform our lives.  This change in direction is what we mean by ‘Repentance’ or ‘Conversion.’  It’s not a-once-in-a-lifetime response to the Good News, but involves our constant renewal and rebirth.  That’s as necessary for the preacher as for those who hear him.  Without our response of repentance Christ’s preaching would not have changed anyone’s life 
I’m now 86 and confined to my room, when not to my bed.  For me the question is, ‘How can I continue to live this third Luminous Mystery of Proclaiming the Kingdom and Repentance?’   Certainly, I can and must meditate on Christ’s Gospel teaching and allow it to transform my life.  So, must every  Christian.   But my Dominican motto challenges me to go further –‘To hand on to others the fruits of contemplation.’   Thanks to modern technology I can still post sermons and meditations on Facebook.  I used to be able to record sermons in my room and email them to the W. Indies, where they were broadcast.   But thanks to the ravages of time I sound more and more like a corncrake or croaking bull frog and would not meet the required standards.   ‘Better to jump before I was pushed,’ thought I.  
Now that I can no longer be actively involved in public preaching I need to concentrate on a different way in which I could play an essential part in that apostolate, which fulfilled my vocation,   as a member of the Order of Preachers.  I must concentrate on getting  the ‘Divine Communicator,’ the Holy Spirit, involved both in the giving and receiving of the Good News.      After all, that is the example the New Testament gives us.  According to Luke’s Gospel that’s what Jesus did when He quoted the prophet Isaiah in His Mission Manifesto, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor.   He has sent me to proclaim deliverance to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour,”  (Lk4. 18-19).   
Again, before Pentecost, the infant Church prayed for the gift of the Holy Spirit, who would enable it to proclaim the Good News with courage, zeal and eloquence.   That is still the Church’s mission, and always will be -until Jesus finally returns in glory to  claim His Kingdom.  The  Church will always need our prayerful support, asking the Spirit of Truth to assist both those who proclaim the Kingdom, and  those hear its call to repentance. 

That is still the Church’s mission, and always will be -until Jesus finally returns in glory to claim His Kingdom.  The  Church will always need our prayerful support, asking the Spirit of Truth to assist both those who proclaim the Kingdom, and  those hear its call to repentance.
When I was working in the W. Indies I was very aware of my need of our Dominican enclosed nuns back in England to pray for me as I tried to share the Good News; my parishioners needed their prayers to help them to be open to the Holy Spirit and allow him to transform their lives. But before we presume to tell anyone else how to live the Gospel each of us must begin with ourselves, by first hearing the word of God and doing it.
No matter what our age, strength or weakness or walk of life, each of us has a vital role in living the Third Luminous Mystery –‘THE PROCLAMATION OF THE KINGDOM AND REPENTANCE.’


Isidore O.P.

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

11th SUNDAY of ORDINARY TIME


2 Growth  Parables

In the parables Jesus takes situations from daily life to tell us what the Kingdom of God is like.    Today's two parables should appeal to all farmers and gardeners.  Usually the parables don’t give us clear answers, but set us puzzles.   They’re meant to get us thinking; we have to tease out their meaning.   Some of the parables are meant to be warnings, others to give us encouragement.        Today’s Gospel gives us two of a number of parables about the growth of seed.   These are meant to encourage us when we get depressed about the state of the Church and the seemingly overwhelming opposition it has to face.

Firstly, there’s the parable about the very nature of growth.   Mark is the only evangelist to record this parable.  Jesus reminds us that the seed has an inner vitality and grows even while the farmer sleeps, and independently of his efforts. He is powerlessness to create life, and cause seeds to grow. At best he can assist or hinder growth.   Life is a mystery which none of us understands. But God is the author of life and causes the seed to grow, even when we are asleep.   So, while this parable stresses that ultimately God is responsible for the life and growth of the kingdom, we, like the farmer, have our part to play in sowing and cultivating the seed.  

But we must always remember that it is God, not us, who gives it life and enables it to grow to maturity.   This growth parable is very reassuring in reminding us that ultimately the life and growth of the kingdom depends on God, not us.    Because he works in hidden ways, which we don’t notice, we could easily become discouraged, by thinking that the success or failure of the kingdom depended on us alone.   We can easily forget that God is secretly working for the growth of his Kingdom.

The parable of the mustard seed is yet another variation on the theme of growth, and again is intended to give us further encouragement.   If a tiny mustard seed can grow into the largest of shrubs, the kingdom can develop from the tiny beginning of Christ and his handful of followers.  Now the Gospel is preached throughout the world and people from every race and class find a home in the kingdom.  That’s the point of the variety of birds nesting in its branches.  Today we would say that a large oak tree grows from a small acorn, and the mature tree provides a home for countless birds and insects.

We need to reflect on these encouraging parables when we get despondent about the church.  Too often we forget that in the end God is responsible for the growth of the Kingdom and that he guarantees its success.  This applies not only to the life of the Church as a whole, but also to our own personal spiritual growth.  Certainly we, like the farmer or gardener, have our part to play.  But the greatest mistake we could make would be for us to think we could do God’s work without his help.   We must place our trust in him, rather than ourselves alone.
Isidore Clarke O.P.

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

10th SUNDAY of ORDINARY TIME


For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's than man's wisdom' and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength,"   
(1 Cor. 2. 25)
CHRIST'S NEW FAMILY
Today’s Gospel is all about variations on the theme of identity. Firstly, that of Jesus and His family; secondly, His being the Son of God, doing His Father’s will, not Beelzebub’s assistant working for him.  Finally, the nature of the sin against the Holy Spirit.  I will try to show how all this affects our daily lives.
‘He’s out of His mind!’   That was how Jesus’ relatives reacted to Him when His home was so crowded they could not even have a meal.  But much worse, He had abandoned Joseph’s carpenter’s business, which provided security for Himself and His widowed mother.  He had become a wandering preacher, who had persuaded an assorted group of people to be as irresponsible as Him, to follow Him -God knows where!
As for His teaching, Jesus seemed to go out of His way to antagonise the Jewish religious leaders.  He presumed to argue that only He, not those religious scholars, knew the real meaning of God’s Law. Only He had the right to interpret it with authority.   Not surprisingly, that angered the Jewish religious authorities; not surprisingly they accused Jesus of working with Beelzebub, the prince of evil, rather than being the Son of the All-Holy God, doing His will.  So, to catch Jesus out and destroy His credibility as a man of God, they accused Him of being Beelzebub’s accomplice.  That was a stupid accusation!  If Jesus were working for Beelzebub He certainly wouldn’t strive to undermine him by casting out demons.
Today’s Gospel is about conflicts over Jesus’ identity. Firstly, His relatives didn’t appreciate who He was and what He was doing.   No wonder they wanted to talk some down-to-earth common sense into Him.  Rightly, they knew, that unless Jesus changed, the Jews would take violent steps to silence Him. Of course, Jesus knew that and would use His crucifixion to defeat evil, not be conquered by it.  When the Jewish leaders accused Jesus of working in the name of Beelzebub, rather than the name of God they committed the ‘sin against the Holy Spirit.’ If they didn’t repent, that would cut them off from the salvation which Jesus has won for us in His Father’s name.  But of course, no sin can be so great that the Holy Spirit can’t open the sinner’s mind and touch his heart, so that he repents and seeks Christ’s salvation, as happened with St. Paul on the Road to Damascus.
As for Jesus’ relatives, He says He’s got a new family, which was not based on physical blood ties.  Instead, membership depends on our hearing God’s word and doing it – on our being true followers, disciples, of Christ.  Far from belittling Mary’s physical motherhood, even more important than that, she was His greatest disciple.  She was the handmaid of the Lord.  Throughout her life that was her guiding principle, which would take her to the foot of the cross.  There she followed her Son. Though we can’t imitate Mary in her motherhood she does show us how to follow her Son.  He has established a New People of God -of those who are His loyal followers -rather than being the physical descendants of the Patriarch, Abraham, as were the Jews.
In these incidents Jesus has established not only His identity as man of God, not an agent of the devil, but also our identities, as members of His family of followers.   In  His new family He has broken the barriers which separate people, as St. Paul tells us, 
"Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcision uncircumcision, barbarian. Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all and is in all,"  (Col. 3. 11).               
Now what about our life as members of this family?   Jesus disowns those who claim only a nodding acquaintance with Him. Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord”, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 7.21).      Jesus, who came to do the will of His heavenly Father, and Mary, the handmaid of the Lord, show us what it means to hear God’s word and do it!
P.S.  Don’t be surprised if people think we Christians are mad. Even His relatives thought that of Jesus.  But He, and we, are following God’s wisdom, which challenges and transcends secular reason.
Isidore O.P.

Monday, 28 May 2018

BODY and BLOOD of CHRIST (CORPUS CHRISTI)




Corpus Christi processions! Great occasions for us to proclaim our faith to the world at large. As people see us processing through the streets they may well wonder what’s going on. Why are we demonstrating? And what is the priest carrying? Whatever it is, it’s the focus of our attention. Why is it so important to us Catholics? What answers would you give, if you were asked these questions?
Ask them of yourselves; searching for answers will help to deepen your faith. But don't be surprised if you are lost for words and explanations. We are using our feeble human minds to try to penetrate what the great Dominican theologian, St. Thomas Aquinas, called the ‘great mystery’ –the ‘magnum mysterium.’ He is said to have composed the liturgy for the feast of Corpus Christi, including the Benediction hymns, ‘O Salutaris Hostia’ and ‘Tantum Ergo.’ Our picture shows him holding the monstrance, containing the Blessed Sacrament.
So, what is the celebration of the Feast of Corpus Christi all about, and why do we make such a fuss about it? Well, the title ‘Corpus Christ’ means, ‘Body of Christi.’ The feast is now call the ‘Body and Blood of Christ.’ Amazingly, crazily, we believe a piece of bread has been changed into the crucified and risen body of the creator of heaven and earth, the saviour of the world. If we stop and think, this is mind blowing! If, as we believe, this is true, its no wonder we show what we call the ‘Blessed Sacrament’ so much honour. Under the appearance of bread the creator of heaven and earth, the redeemer of the world is present in our midst, in the remotest corners of the world. This is staggering! It demands enormous faith. And that is what we proclaim to the world in every Corpus Christ –or Blessed Sacrament –procession.

Why do we believe this? How do we know this is true? Well, St Paul writing years before the Gospels were composed tells us,
In a few words St. Paul tells us that at the Last Supper Jesus celebrated what we now
know as the first Mass. In this He changed the bread and wine into His own Body and Blood. In obedience to Christ’s command the Church continues to celebrate that sacred meal. As we do so we proclaim the death of the Lord until He comes. Each Mass makes present for us Christ’s sacrifice of the cross. Under the form of bread and wine He nourishes us with His own crucified and risen Body and Blood -the bread of life and the cup of eternal salvation. With this sustenance we can grow into the saving power of Christ’s death and resurrection. 

That is the wonder we celebrate at every Mass.
On the feast of Corpus Christi we stress the mystery of Jesus remaining with us under the form of bread. He is reserved in what we call the 'tabernacle' -named after the 'Tent of Meeting,' the focus of God's presence as He led His people across the desert to the Promised Land.
Why does our saviour remain with us in this special way?   Firstly, so that He can be taken to the sick and house-bound, who can’t get to Mass. Jesus comes to nourish them in a special way when they receive Him in Holy Communion. He supports them in their frailty and suffering as, in a unique way, they identify with Him in His Passion. When Jesus is taken to them from the sacrifice of the Mass He makes Himself the sacred bond between those able to go to Mass and those who can’t. This should give the lonely a sense of belonging to the worshipping community, and that community a sense of loving responsibility for those who are no longer able to come to church.
The Blessed Sacrament is also reserved in the tabernacle so that we can drop into the church, to worship Jesus, who is present amongst us in a very special way. As we pray before the Blessed Sacrament we have time to prolong and deepen our understanding and devotion for Masses we have already attended. This, in turn, should prepare us to take part in future Masses with greater reverence. In other words, Eucharistic devotion outside Mass should always be linked to the Mass itself. It’s not meant to be a devotion independent of the Mass. That’s very true of Benediction and Blessed Sacrament processions.
Corpus Christi is a wonderful, joyful feast. We celebrate Christ’s gift of Himself in the Mass, His becoming present in a very special way, when bread and wine are changed into His own Body and Blood. As He offers Himself to His heavenly Father and gives Himself to us in the form of a meal He strengthens our unity with God and with each other, as His people.
It’s not surprising the Mass should be called the ‘Eucharist,’ which means, ‘Thanksgiving.’ Today, above all others, we should be filled with gratitude for the gift of the Mass!
Isidore Clarke O.P.

BODY of BLOODY of CHRIST (CORPUS CHRISTI)








   Corpus Christi processions! Great occasions for us to proclaim our faith to the world at large. As people see us processing through the streets they may well wonder what’s going on. Why are we demonstrating? And what is the priest carrying? Whatever it is, it’s the focus of our attention. Why is it so important to us Catholics? What answers would you give, if you were asked these questions?
Ask them of yourselves; searching for answers will help to deepen your faith. But don't be surprised if you are lost for words and explanations. We are using our feeble human minds to try to penetrate what the great Dominican theologian, St. Thomas Aquinas, called the ‘great mystery’ –the ‘magnum mysterium.’ He is said to have composed the liturgy for the feast of Corpus Christi, including the Benediction hymns, ‘O Salutaris Hostia’ and ‘Tantum Ergo.’ Our picture shows him holding the monstrance, containing the Blessed Sacrament.

So, what is the celebration of the Feast of Corpus Christi all about, and why do we make such a fuss about it? Well, the title ‘Corpus Christ’ means, ‘Body of Christi.’ The feast is now call the ‘Body and Blood of Christ.’ Amazingly, crazily, we believe a piece of bread has been changed into the crucified and risen body of the creator of heaven and earth, the saviour of the world. If we stop and think, this is mind blowing! If, as we believe, this is true, its no wonder we show what we call the ‘Blessed Sacrament’ so much honour. Under the appearance of bread the creator of heaven and earth, the redeemer of the world is present in our midst, in the remotest corners of the world. This is staggering! It demands enormous faith. And that is what we proclaim to the world in every Corpus Christ –or Blessed Sacrament –procession.
Why do we believe this? How do we know this is true? Well, St Paul writing years before the Gospels were composed tells us,
In a few words St. Paul tells us that at the Last Supper Jesus celebrated what we now
know as the first Mass. In this He changed the bread and wine into His own Body and Blood. In obedience to Christ’s command the Church continues to celebrate that sacred meal. As we do so we proclaim the death of the Lord until He comes. Each Mass makes present for us Christ’s sacrifice of the cross. Under the form of bread and wine He nourishes us with His own crucified and risen Body and Blood -the bread of life and the cup of eternal salvation. With this sustenance we can grow into the saving power of Christ’s death and resurrection.
That is the wonder we celebrate at every Mass.
On the feast of Corpus Christi we stress the mystery of Jesus remaining with us under the form of bread. He is reserved in what we call the 'tabernacle' -named after the 'Tent of Meeting,' the focus of God's presence as He led His people across the desert to the Promised Land.
Why does our saviour remain with us in this special way?   Firstly, so that He can be taken to the sick and house-bound, who can’t get to Mass. Jesus comes to nourish them in a special way when they receive Him in Holy Communion. He supports them in their frailty and suffering as, in a unique way, they identify with Him in His Passion. When Jesus is taken to them from the sacrifice of the Mass He makes Himself the sacred bond between those able to go to Mass and those who can’t. This should give the lonely a sense of belonging to the worshipping community, and that community a sense of loving responsibility for those who are no longer able to come to church.
The Blessed Sacrament is also reserved in the tabernacle so that we can drop into the church, to worship Jesus, who is present amongst us in a very special way. As we pray before the Blessed Sacrament we have time to prolong and deepen our understanding and devotion for Masses we have already attended. This, in turn, should prepare us to take part in future Masses with greater reverence. In other words, Eucharistic devotion outside Mass should always be linked to the Mass itself. It’s not meant to be a devotion independent of the Mass. That’s very true of Benediction and Blessed Sacrament processions.
Corpus Christi is a wonderful, joyful feast. We celebrate Christ’s gift of Himself in the Mass, His becoming present in a very special way, when bread and wine are changed into His own Body and Blood. As He offers Himself to His heavenly Father and gives Himself to us in the form of a meal He strengthens our unity with God and with each other, as His people.
It’s not surprising the Mass should be called the ‘Eucharist,’ which means, ‘Thanksgiving.’ Today, above all others, we should be filled with gratitude for the gift of the Mass!
Isidore Clarke O.P.


 
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