Friday, 27 March 2009

Meeting God through a Good Cursing?

A good cursing! Sounds a bit of a contraction! Doesn’t it? Anyway, over the years for one reason or another a fair amount of cursing has been directed at me. I ask myself if I should be ashamed that on occasion I’ve given people a good lash of my tongue. What good has it ever achieved? To me, or to anyone else? Was it ever intended to do so?

In my confusion I turn my thoughts to King David, poor fellow. His son, Absalom, was leading a revolt against him with a view to seizing his throne. As David took to flight from Jerusalem, a man, Shimei by name, hurled curse upon curse against him and threw stones at him… seemingly with good reason.

‘Off with you, off with you, man of blood, scoundrel! Yahweh has paid you back for all the spilt blood of the House of Saul whose sovereignty you have usurped; and Yahweh has transferred the sovereign power to Absalom your son. Now your wickedness has overtaken you, man of blood that you are.’

The few remaining supporters of David wanted to strike down the insolent man. David forbade this. His reason was fantastic. ‘Let him curse! If Yahweh has said to him, ‘Curse David,’ what right has anyone to say, ‘Why have you done so?” (2 Sam 16:10)

This leaves me absolutely perplexed. How could God direct one man to curse another? And yet he did, or at least this is what David thought. We believe that God has his reasons and these must be good. We wouldn’t allow anything else of God. I have no choice but to conclude that since God prompted Shemei to curse David, then it must be a good cursing. A strange thought, indeed!

It says something extraordinary about David that he could winkle the designs of God out his own public humiliation – the miserable experience of being roundly cursed – and he the King himself. Nothing less! I’m trying to come to terms with the idea that sometimes God may want me to be opposed, not by civilised argument but by hurtful words. God may deem that such an onslaught will be for my benefit.

I can see that in such situations, which are real temptations for me to sin, God wants me to keep my cool and reflect on why this is happening to me. Like David, I am to try to accept what I should have known anyway – that there are those who believe they have good reason to disapprove of me as a person and of my actions. Through such humiliation hurled against David God is telling me that my self-esteem needs to be deflated. I’m not the good guy I had imagined.

Self-pity is not the answer - not the self-righteous musing that I may just possibly have done something that really upset a person. What is needed from me is an honest self-examination that convinces me that I really have done something to merit such a virulent outburst against me.

And here I have a huge respect for the so-called ‘good thief’ who rebuked his companion, ‘Have you no fear of God at all? You got the same sentence as he did, but in our case we deserved it: we are paying for what we did. But this man has done nothing wrong,’ Lk.23.40.

To me it is a cop-out for me to rush into identifying my troubles with those of Jesus, the suffering servant. I should be beating my breast and saying, ‘Through my fault.’ Something Jesus never had to say. All the same, I’m not so sure that I should be giving anyone a good cursing, much as I may enjoy doing so. It may do them some good, but I fancy it would do me a lot of harm.

Peter Clarke, OP.

On Wednesday Fr. Peter will reflect on ‘Pancakes on Wednesday.’

Friday, 20 March 2009


Me give up my faithful friend of fifty years and more! Unthinkable! But this is what I’ve done. I’ve given up smoking my beloved pipe! The friend that brought me so much joy, was there to comfort me when times were bleak, and then came to my rescue when I was in need of inspiration. Let me now tell you how we met.

When I started that was socially acceptable, and women even said they liked a man who smoked a pipe. That was good for my morale! And there was no health-scare about the effect on the smoker himself, and certainly not on any one who happened to inhale the clouds of smoke he was puffing out. But then, with the advance of medical research it was realised that smoking did enormous harm to the health, not only of the smoker, but also of those around him.

I cannot claim that I made a heroic struggle, a powerful act of will, in giving up my pipe. In fact I’d made previous attempts and had dismally failed. There was the occasion when I’d thrown my pipes and tobacco into the incinerator, only to rush out and re-equip myself at the tea interval of a Test Match in which England was being thrashed. Weak old me needed the comfort of my pipe!

But what has now forced me to give up smoking was my ending up in hospital with viral pneumonia. Afterwards I learnt that over the years I’d developed chronic emphysema. What had been a comfort and joy had seriously damaged my health and had caused me great distress in hospital. So really the decision to stop smoking was easy.

And there’s a positive side to what had been the sacrifice of a good and comforting friend –my pipe. My sense of taste improved. And that, I realised is why expert wine tasters don’t smoke. Nor, for that matter, do they eat pickled onions or a strong curry while drinking a good wine. Instead they prefer to cultivate a sensitive palate by foregoing the joys of strongly flavoured food –or a pipe.

These musing about the way we can effect the sensitivity of our palates got me to thinking about how we can influence our taste for the things of God –for better or for worse. This can seriously alter our spiritual well-being or health.

For example, we can easily be led astray by keeping bad company. Reading unsavoury books or looking at similar material on the TV or Internet may be fascinating and exciting. But this can lead us to developing a taste for this kind of thing. If so, it’s likely that our palate will become jaded for the things of God. The same will be true if we become preoccupied with materialism or obsessed with sensual pleasures. Our heart will be where we think our treasure is to be found. And gradually our palates –our minds –will become coarsened.

But if we avoid such influences and seek only what is wholesome the Holy Spirit will help us gradually to develop a taste for divine things. We will learn to savour them and enjoy them. As I’ve found with giving up my pipe the sacrifice was worthwhile. My palate has become more sensitive and my health has improved. So too, it’s worthwhile giving up harmful delights if that helps me to savour the infinitely greater joy of what God has to offer. That’s nothing less than himself.

If you doubt it, listen to the psalmist who urges us, “O taste and see that the Lord is good; happy are those who take refuge in him,” [Ps. 34:8].

Just as giving up my pipe has helped me to have a better appreciation of food and drink, so, too, I must try to develop my taste for the things of God by being more discriminating in what I look at. That must be essential to my way of meeting God. A good Lenten resolution for all of us!

Isidore Clarke O.P.

(Next week Peter will meet God through a good cursing)

Friday, 13 March 2009


High drama in the corridor of St Martin’s Priory, Grenada!

The ever-inquisitive kitten had poked its paw into a crack in the concrete floor. All efforts to withdraw its paw were in vain. Sheer bedlam with kitten screaming and mother cat bawling.

Enter to the rescue the thrusting, practical Brother. A few hefty blows with a hammer soon broke the hard surface. Behold the villain – a crab grasping the kitten in its claw. Paw in claw, indeed! A well directed blow gave the crab such a headache that it lost interest in its captive. Freedom at last.

Surely cause for celebration all round. But not so! Mother cat would have nothing to do with her troublesome child, which pined for acceptance and consolation.

What a parable of life here! A chapter in Salvation History. There we are in our sinful folly getting ourselves in all kinds of mess and then finding ourselves helpless to get out of it. Those of our own kind, friends and family, are like mother cat with her kitten, powerless to rescue us from the pain and shame we have brought upon ourselves and the distress we have brought upon those who love us.

All is not lost. Jesus, like the robust Brother, is the one with the answers, the only one. He is caring and resourceful. With His superior power he can deal with demon crab. The weapon that He uses is not a hammer, but the wood of the Cross on which He died for the forgiveness of sins.

Sadly, the story, our parable, does not end here. Resentful mother cat images the way we are slow to rejoice and welcome when God has brought freedom to people through the forgiveness of their sins. All too easily we can be like the elder brother of the Parable of the Prodigal Son – a mean-spirited, self-righteous fellow.

So mischievous kitten, spiteful crab, hammer-toting brother and even moody mother cat, have all together provided me with a way of reaching God.

Remarkable that this is at a season when we are contemplating the awesome events of Good Friday and Easter Sunday! The Paschal Mystery of the dying and Rising of Jesus reveals the drama of salvation from sin – a rescue operation, if ever there was one.

Odd, isn’t it? How God speaks to me through a hole in the floor. Or is it me who is odd in finding the mystery of salvation in the conflict between a crab and a kitten?

Fr Peter Clarke, O.P.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Meeting God in a Beautiful Woman

Louise was beautiful! Not in the traditional sense of being young and attractive. Such beauty does, in deed, reflect something of the beauty of God, and is a delight to behold. But Louise was not like that. She did not have the beauty of a young woman. In fact she was frail and over ninety years old. Her face was as wrinkled as a ploughed field.

But when she laughed and smiled her appearance was transformed. With a twinkle in her eye, she radiated a joy, which was infectious. Her happiness made her beautiful. It was, indeed, good to be with this lovely woman, this dear friend. My life was enriched by being with her, and seeing her smile.

This transformation in Louise has helped me to understanding something of another change in appearance –that of Jesus in the Transfiguration of Christ. Until that moment he looked much like any other man. But on the mountain his appearance changed, while he remained the same person. There, he revealed something of his glory as the Son of God. His body, and even his clothes, radiated something of his divine glory. Until then, that had remained hidden.

It’s not surprising that Peter should have said, ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here’ –just as I wanted to remain with the beautiful, elderly Louise, transformed by her lovely smile.

In the transfiguration Jesus revealed something of his glory, for several reasons. He wanted to strengthen the disciples’ faith, in preparation for the time when his appearance would be changed in a very different way –in the horror of his Passion. While the Transfiguration gave a glimpse of his divine majesty, in his Passion he would appear a broken failure, despised and rejected. Then he would almost seem to be less than human.

Christ’s transfiguration served another purpose, giving the disciples and us a hint of the full glory, which would be his when he rose from the dead.

But my reflections took me further. The transfiguration of Christ gives us a hint of the glory, which will be ours, when we rise from the dead to share in the glory of the risen Christ. Then we, too, will be transformed, as we radiate his glory, while remaining the same people as we are today. We need to cling onto that hope when life is rough and we, too, have to carry our particular crosses.

As I think of my friend, Louise, who is now dead, I thank her for her smile, revealing to me something of the meaning of Christ’s Transfiguration, the glory of his resurrections, which we hope to share. Her smile gave me a glimpse of the joy and happiness of heaven. It will be good, very good to be there for all eternity. In the smiling Louise, I had, indeed, been given a hint of what it means to enjoy God’s company, and how he can transform our lives. And I look forward to again meeting the beautiful, smiling Louse in the Communion of Saints.

Your smile and mine can help others to discover something of the glory of God. Louise certainly helped me.

Isidore Clarke O.P.


Peter and Isidore

Peter Clarke O.P. has worked in the W. Indies for over fifty years. During that time he’s been deeply involved in broadcasting on radio and T.V, and has written for the Grenada Catholic newspaper, Catholic Focus. He was urged to present ‘a spirituality for ordinary people so as to help them relate their everyday experiences to their encountering God.’ Gradually Peter developed a column entitled ‘Meeting God My Way.’ He allowed his imagination to run freely in discovering the many different ways we meet God in our daily lives. Some of these are prosaic, others amusing and others tragic. When Peter became editor of Catholic Focus he invited his twin Dominican brother, Isidore, to contribute to the ‘Meeting God’ column.

People have welcomed our approach and now have urged us to place our musings on the present blog. Of course we are not doing anything new. The parables of the Kingdom are based on situations familiar to Christ’s audience.

We have tried to use our imaginations to see how God reveals himself in the daily situations of life. In publishing our reflections we hope for three things. Firstly, that you will find them helpful; secondly, they will inspire you to use your own imaginations to find God in the daily circumstances of your own lives. And most importantly, we hope that from our quirky meditations it will be clear that we must be open to seek and find God in every situation. We must not restrict him to revealing himself only in so-called ‘religious’ settings. The craziest situations can tell us much about God and ourselves.

We plan to produce a new reflection each week.
Peter Clarke O.P.
Grenada, W. Indies.

Isidore Clarke O.P.

With the permission and blessing of the V. Rev. John Farrell O.P.,
Provincial of the English Province of the Order of Preachers.