Thursday, 28 November 2013


I’m a grumpy old man, especially early in the morning. I can think of a number of people who would agree with that – most surely my twin brother, Isidore.  By the time you’ve finished reading this blog you’ll probably think the same. And you wouldn’t be far wrong. I suffer from ‘crack-of-dawn’ peevishness. And no wonder!  In The Prayer of the Church we’re required to chant a hymn that goes like this,
‘We sing for you a morning hymn to end the silence of the night.
When early cock begins to crow and everything from sleeps awakes,’….!
  When early cock begins to crow and everything from sleeps awakes,’….!  For weeks now  there’s been an insolent cockerel that took up residence in the presbytery and the parish church  grounds.  I wonder  which was the worst of its many sins – leaving a tacky, slippery mess in the very areas people most frequently had to walk? Or at about 2.30 each morning  ‘blowings its top’ with a strident shrillness that jarred my nerves and inspired uncharitable thoughts?
 The words choked in my throat when I’ve been required to sing about crowing cocks  awakening deeply sleeping me?   If this was the best it could do for a mating call it must have been a hard-up hen that would have fancied him! You notice I refer to this bird THAT WAS, not the one THAT IS? For the past few blissful days this groan-leading, not cheer-leading, bird has not been around…And now we have a blessed hush and a clean yard to greet each new day.

From early childhood all of us must have learnt,

‘All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,

All things wise and wonderful,

The Lord God made them all.’

But, ever  complaining me asks, ‘What about those insects that sting and bite -that cause inflammation or infection?  What about the sly mongoose or foxes that steal our chickens? And what about the bad rainy weather that washes out a cricket match; and the bad dry weather that shrivels the plants in my garden?  God made all these as well as the storms, the floods, the droughts, the earthquakes, the famines and diseases that make life insecure for so many people. In God’s good creation I find so much more to grumble about …things that bring so much misery to so many people….things that are inconvenient to me personally.
      And yet, who am I to complain to God about anything that He has made? How dare I presume  I could have made a better job of creation than had Almighty God Himself?  So I have problems – not with God, but with my understanding God; in my coming to terms with some of the things going on in the world that He has made, the world He sees to be so good.  While I’m still in this sour mood I ponder upon the awful woes that human beings inflict on one another. No need to name them. They advertize themselves on every newscast.
Siblings to one another within the one human family, each made in the image and likeness of God, inflict misery on one another in the home, in the neighbourhood, in the war-zone. And yet every single one of us is ignited with a  spark of the divine, with the brightness of God Himself who is love, who is just, who is kind who is holy.  As for myself I must confess  I do have immense difficulty in coming to terms with some of those ‘made in God’s image and likeness!’ I would be a conceited fool if I ever thought for a moment that everyone found  it easy to get on with me. I’m still disturbed that all of us beloved children of God find it  difficult  to be beloved to one another. Worse still, sometimes this is the last thing we want!

I ask my God, my loving, wise Heavenly Father, ‘How can all this be?’   As for my own personal grouses and grievances, I’m coming round to admitting that my big mistake is to believe that everything in God’s creation is designed for my convenience and contentment, a world that in its entirety is at my service. And so I complain whenever anything or and anyone fails to come up to my expectations, causes me inconvenience or annoys me. And this is the height of individualism, of selfishness. This is a form of idolatry – making myself a god unto myself, as well as creating for myself a mean and cramped existence.  How many of us do this to ourselves?
It is so easy for us not to recognize that each and every thing in God’s creation has its individual destiny. That includes each one of us.  These particular destinies are woven into a spectacular fabric – a grand design –so vast that only the Creator can understand and appreciate it.  Each item, each person, that God has made has its own identity and integrity – from mini mouse to mighty mountain. Each in its own way and all in their togetherness and interaction proclaim God’s glory.

But wait a moment, we human beings – you and I and billions like us – are free to  proclaim the glory of God with the totality of our lives…or not to do so. Sadly the sinful shabbiness in our lives does nothing to honour God.
 I suspect that  I need to come to terms with the fact  that God has His own reasons for creating rowdy roosters.  I must humbly accept that they may have nothing to do with me. Perhaps I need to look at God's bigger picture. He has made the cock with the need to make an early start to the day, a need to proclaim he's up and about, a  force to be reckoned with! I insist I don't have that particular need to be on the rampage even before the sun has thought of showing its face. For reasons of His own God obviously thinks otherwise.   
Once I’ve come to terms with this I’ll have a glimmering of understanding of what is  going on in God’s creation.  
In a rooster! Through a rooster! For heaven’s sake!  
Godswaymyway!!!!  Weird!!!!!   
Peter Clarke O.P.




Thursday, 14 November 2013


A friend of mine gave his son an expensive metal detector for Christmas.  This, he thought, would give the child hours of excitement, hunting for hidden treasure.  It would be the envy of his friends; it would get him out of the house, into the fresh air, and from under his parents’ feet.  A truly inspired, loving choice of a present.  And how did the child react?  Well, he took his metal detector into the garden.  After an hour’s search the child had found only a useless bent nail –certainly nothing valuable.  Disillusioned, the child impatiently put his expensive toy back in its box and never used it again.
  Naturally his dad was disappointed; his son didn’t appreciate the present he’d been given.  He wasn’t even grateful for it.  Sadly his dad wondered, “Why did I bother?” I bet we’ve all felt like that.  We’ve gone to considerable trouble to help someone.  Or we’ve been generous and thoughtful in choosing a present.  And what do they do?  Criticise or ignore us for what we’ve done for them!  Exasperated, we wonder why we ever bothered with such ungrateful ‘so and sos.’ We think they don’t deserve to be shown kindness and care.  But we know that Jesus taught us to give without expecting any return –even a ‘thank you.’  We hope their ingratitude won’t stop us loving and caring for them.  I’m sure I’m just as ungrateful as anyone else. 
 My reactions to how ungrateful all of us can be towards each other led me to ask myself, “What about the ungrateful way we treat God?”  He’s given us all that we have, all that we are.  He’s gone to such lengths to make it possible for us to share His life and happiness. And how do we behave?  We can be so rebellious. We rarely say, “Thank you.”  We can take Him for granted; we can totally ignore Him.   Meditating on the last sorrowful mystery of the Rosary –the crucifixion -a blinding, earth-shattering question leapt to my mind.  Quite simply, “Why does God bother with us?   Why does God bother with me?”  
As I wrestled with this question I realized that as God set creation in motion He fully realized all the implications of what He was doing.  He knew we would rebel against Him; but He knew that His love for His creation would not allow us to destroy ourselves.  In creating us God knew He would have to take drastic measures to rescue us from our ‘self-destruct’ mode.  That would mean the Son of God becoming man, living amongst us and allowing His own creatures brutally to execute Him on the cross.   Amazingly, in creating us, God, in His wisdom, took all this into account.  Why did He say a resounding, “Yes,” not “No” to the very idea of creation?
Such thoughts provoked the question, screaming for an immediate answer, “Why did God bother, when He knew we’d cause Him so much trouble?” Why did God chose to bring so much unnecessary aggravation upon Himself?  Or as the Psalmist exclaimed, “What is man that you are mindful of him, mortal man that you care for him?” (Ps. 8. 4).  And the only answer I found to the question, “Why did, does, God bother?” was to be found in the simple word ‘love.’  , Theologians have a saying –goodness, of its very nature, reaches out and spreads itself.   In other words, God’s so generous-hearted He wants others –us people –to share His life and happiness.   Wonder of wonders, in creating us He realized what that would cost Him.   He was prepared for that.  That’s how much He loves us!
Even though we people frequently rebel against Him God refuses to abandon us.  Humanly speaking, we almost seem to push God to breaking point, to destroying His own creation.   But then the prophet Hosea has God conclude, My heart recoils within me;    my compassion grows warm and tender. I will not execute my fierce anger;    I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God and no mortal, the Holy One in your midst,   and I will not come in wrath,” (Hosea 11. 8-9).* In spite of all our faults, God loves us too much to destroy us.  More than that, God has a reputation to maintain. He couldn’t allow the ungodly to despise and accuse Him for being incapable of saving those He claimed to love!
Instead, God is like the most loving of parents; He’s prepared to go to any lengths to save us, His children, from self-destruction. His love is utterly unshakeable; it’s not brittle or fickle.  St. John’s Gospel puts this beautifully, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.  Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”  (Jn. 3 16-17).
During Christmastide the Church rejoices in the wonder of God’s saving love -so great that the Son was prepared to live among us, die for us and rise from the tomb –simply so that we could share His divine life and happiness.  We sing, "O admirable exchange..” God became like us, so that we could become like Him; He shared our human life, so that we could share His divine life.  Then, at the Easter Vigil, we exult in God’s mysterious wisdom.  He knew that He could achieve a greater good by allowing evil than by preventing it. Ecstatically, paradoxically, the Church sings, O happy fault (original sin) that merited such and so great a Redeemer."
So what’s the best –the only answer -to the question, “Why did, does, God bother with us?”     In his Letter to the Romans St. Paul was filled with a sense of wonder at the mystery of God and His dealings with man, “O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgements and how inscrutable his ways!   ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord?     Or who has been his counsellor? … To him be the glory for ever. Amen,” (Rom. 11. 33,35).
Paul, the greatest of all theologians, was forced to admit that He couldn’t understand the mystery of God.  After all our agitated searching for explanations we are reduced to humble silence.  We can best meet God in quiet stillness of mind and heart, as the Psalmist assures us, "Be still, and know that I am God," (Ps. 46. 10).  Paradoxically, the better we get to know God, the more we realize how little we understand Him.  The mystery of divine love, the mystery of any love, defies and transcends analysis and explanations. I’m more than content with that. I just thank God for the wonder of His love.  God’s love for us is the best, and only answer to the question, “Why did He, why does He, bother with us?” 
Isidore O.P.