Saturday, 13 September 2014


"We proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ -the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength."
(I Cor. 1. 23-25)

Great excitement! Three years ago an Anglo-Saxon burial ground was discovered at Trumpington, near Cambridge. Why the fuss? Archaeologists had found a grave, containing probably the earliest Christian remains to be found in England. The deceased was probably a sixteen year old girl of noble birth, possibly a princess. She died some 13,00 years ago. And why was she thought to be a Christian? Because she was buried with a cross, sown to her dress! That cross was a clear, unmistakable sign that she had been a follower of the crucified and risen Christ; she had placed her hope of eternal happiness in Him. An object close to her heart in life was placed close to her heart in death!

That cross identified her as a Christian. So, too, with us. We were baptised with the sign of the cross and in the name of the Blessed Trinity. The cross gave us our identity, as it did the teenage girl long ago. Like her, we proudly wear a crucifix to proclaim our allegiance to our crucified and risen saviour.

But to unbelievers we Christians must seem to be mad; we wear a crucifix and have one in our homes! After all, crucifixion was the brutal way the Romans executed criminals. The cross was the instrument of torture and death. Crucifixion was meant to be slow and very painful. The criminal was lifted on high so that all could see his suffering and mock him –a sure deterrent for anyone thinking of following the trouble-maker’s example. Jesus Himself was lifted on high on the cross. He was mocked, ridiculed. He was dismissed as a miserable, tragic failure. The Romans and the Jewish authorities seemed to have achieved their purpose. They had silenced the rebel! Or so they thought.
So, why do we Christians glory in the cross? Why do wear with pride the instrument of execution? What was so special about Jesus’ crucifixion; what made it so different from the thousands of others, crucified by the Romans? Not the physical pain and mental anguish, which they all suffered. The Turin Shroud, which many venerate, can only tell us how Jesus died. It can never tell us what His crucifixion achieved –why, today, especially, we honour the crucified Christ as a triumphant success, not a tragic failure.
To enter the mystery, the meaning, of Christ’s death, look prayerfully upon a crucifix. There you will see an image of the Son of God –the Almighty creator of heaven and earth –nailed helplessly to the cross. There you will see the All-Holy One condemned as a criminal. There you will see an apparent defeated failure -triumphant, victorious. The man mockingly crowned with thorns is enthroned on the cross, as Lord of heaven and earth. Far from being brought low He has been raised on high, exalted, triumphant –not to be mocked, but to be honoured for what He achieved on the cross. That’s why St. Paul says,
"Far be it from me to glory except in the cross of Christ crucified," (Gal. 6. 14).
As we gaze upon the crucified Christ we see the triumph of goodness over evil, life over death, love over malice. His love for us has overcome all the forces of evil arraigned against Him and against us. He has released us from the quagmire of sin and death. The crucified Christ has set us free! As we gaze upon the crucified Christ it’s as though, as man, Jesus stretched one hand to His heavenly Father. As God He reached with the other hand to us sinners. In His crucified body He has drawn man and God together; combining His divine and human love for us He has broken down the barrier of sin which kept us apart. As St. Paul tell us,
"…through him -the crucified Christ -God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of His cross," (Col. 1. 20).
Look again at the cross. You will see that the crucified Christ has turned our secular values upside down. As He emptied himself of the honour and glory, which was rightly His as God, Jesus has undone the pride, which is at the root of all sin. Surprisingly, through weakness He achieved more than the mighty and powerful could ever do. Surprisingly, Jesus achieved more when He was nailed, helpless, to the cross than during His active ministry, when He was healing and teaching. Stripped of everything, the crucified Christ teaches us not to place our eternal hope in material wealth and success. In sacrificing His life, in obedience to His Heaven Father’s will, Jesus has shown that the way to fulfilment and greatness is for us to commit our whole lives to serving God and each other. If we are suffering, we can draw comfort by identifying with the agony of the crucified Christ. We can draw encouragement and hope from His victory over evil. Far from destroying us, our sufferings and death, like Christ’s, can be the gateway to eternal glory.
In Christ’s crucifixion we see the triumph of love over malice, goodness over evil, life over death. God has used the horrific instrument of execution –the cross –to achieve His purpose –the salvation of the world. This will seem madness to non-believers, but for us it is the wisdom of God, which defies human logic. In the crucified Christ we see the sublime folly, the extravagance, of God's love for us.

That’s why we glory in the cross and honour the crucified Christ, especially today! That’s why we, like the teenage girl, long ago, wear a crucifix.
Isidore O.P.


Wednesday, 10 September 2014


Ten years ago – 2004-2014 – Hurricane ‘Ivan’ hit Grenada with a mighty blow. I was there at that time. I’d been in that part of the Southern Caribbean for forty eight years. Over the years I’d become aware of many Caribbean experiences, one of which, thank God, was an extreme rarity – the Rise and Fall of a Revolution. But never had I actually had to face a hurricane. Over the years in a more or less casual way I’d responded to hurricane warnings. Mercifully, what was in-a-kind-of-a-way feared, came to nothing.
Many a time had I met people who wished to live through the excitement, the drama, of a hurricane. My fervent prayer was that I would live out the rest of my days in what had become my cherished Caribbean home – without my ever having the very dubious privilege of meeting a hurricane.
For God’s own reasons my prayer was not answered in the way I would have hoped. I will not join hands with those ‘self-righteous’ people who spout that those countries that are battered to destruction by storms are being punished for their sins. How dare they overlook that passage in Sacred Scripture in which Jesus warned those who heard the gossipy news about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with that of their sacrifices? , And what about those who were chattering about those who had been crushed to death by a crumbling, tumbling tower? (cf. Lk.13.1-5). The warning of Jesus was blunt and applicable to all people at all times. “UNLESS YOU REPENT YOU WILL ALL PERISH AS THEY DID.”

What of my own thoughts during the violent, noisy, hammering of ‘Ivan;’ immediately after we had crept out of make-shift shelters; and now ten years later? Quite simply, “Thank you, Lord, for sparing us, sparing me!” And then, over the years, even to this day, “What have we done, what have I done, to be spared the succession of disasters, year after year that seem to be the inevitable lot of people elsewhere?” The Philippines, Haiti immediately come to mind.
To these disturbing questions I have an answer as to what these occurrences have done to me personally. I’ve been made aware of a bed-rock of decency within the global human family. People keep on responding generously to the calamities of others. These are people who are completely unknown to them, and always will be. They are treated as brothers or sisters. I myself and the church I used to serve have every reason to acknowledge indebtedness to those who in practical ways have promptly come to our rescue. Of course there will always be grounds for whining that much more should be done, more sacrifices should be made by more people.
For God’s sake, let’s not draw a cloud over whatever bright rays of sensitivity and compassion appear on the horizon! My present-day thinking as I mark the Tenth Anniversary of ‘Ivan’ is that I’ve skimmed over the words spoken by Jesus but surely applicable to us all today, “Unless you repent you will all perish as they did.”
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t see repenting as being noticeable, typical, of modern-day society. When was the last time I said sorry to anyone? I can’t remember when anyone apologized to me. When did I last forgive anyone? John the Baptist, Jesus himself, made repentance central to their message. Jesus clearly made forgiving sins a priority of his ministry. Is this dimension of Christianity being neglected today? Is it being swept under the carpet?

What is more, I really believe that the prayerful repentance of any single one of us can be of saving value not only to ourselves but to all others. Such is the solidarity of God, the Creator, God the merciful Saviour, with the whole of the human family.
It’s a sobering thought that with all my pious reflections I’m entitled to no divine guarantee that I’ll be spared another hurricane in the few years that remain to me.
Peter Clarke, OP

Saturday, 6 September 2014


 How many of you remember the days when people felt secure in their own homes, safe in their own space? There was a time when people could leave home with their doors unlocked and their windows wide open. Nowadays, everywhere I turn I see houses that have been turned into fortresses with wrought-iron bars over the windows. What is more, garage doors and property gates are now opened ...and shut by remote control. Intruders have to be kept out. We feel the need to ensure our homes are the safe-harbours of our existence…that we are secure in our very own ‘space.’ No doubt about it - a radical change has taken place within our society. Not without cause do I mourn with a sense of GREAT LOSS! Having taken all these precautions, fools that we are, we still persuade ourselves that at least within our own homes, we should be able to enjoy our own privacy and shut out the world of curious, intrusive eyes and ears. There, at least, we should be able to hold private, intimate conversations. There, if anywhere, it should be possible for affectionate gestures to be exchanged with no fear of this being covered by hidden scanners and microphones. .
These are impossible dreams! Nowadays, almost everyone carries in their pockets the means for taking furtive photos and recordings. If this were not bad enough, we are being made to know, perhaps with a sense of horror, that every conceivable means of communication can be hacked into; what is unearthed can be scattered in every direction. And we can’t do anything to prevent it. Those who are intrusive invaders have people at their mercy…for character assassination… for blackmail…for the destruction of reputations and of relationships. State Secrets are being traded with the highest bidder. Those with this superior grasp of Information Technology are powerful, smart and clever. Some, lacking respect for the privacy of other people don’t care about the pain and embarrassment they can cause others. With all our sophisticated, technological progress, we, the human family, have engineered the break-down of trust in society. We have reached the point of the cynical disillusionment of the Psalmist, ‘I said in my alarm: "No-one can be trusted, “’ (116.11). What to do? For starters, it makes good sense for us to be very wary about over- exposing ourselves on any item that records or takes pictures. Without our knowing that we’re doing this, it is possible for us to release to all and sundry what we would have preferred to keep very much to our own selves…. No way, would we want this to happen! (Surely, I don’t have to be more explicit!) I’m coming to the conclusion that in our day it would be the rarest of luxuries to have any private space that is uniquely, securely, intimately, our own. These are weighty issues. I find some kind of solution in my telling you about the time I was taking a Sunday School Class of young children. I wanted them hear about God - His being everywhere; being so powerful that He can do everything; so wise that He knows everybody and everything about each one of us. More than anything else, I wanted them to appreciate that God loves each one of us personally and wants to help us to lead beautiful, good lives that are very pleasing to Him. Most of all He wants each of us to enjoy the companionship of being His precious friends. One little girl was so moved by the very thought that God loved her that she asked how she could to make Him happy. Eager to please Him in everything she did, she meekly asked if she ought to wear her bathing costume when taking a shower – after all, God sees everything! I was happy to tell them all that God’s eyes are loving, friendly eyes. He loves seeing what He has made so beautiful. We find the same sort of thing with our very close friends. We are comfortable in sharing with them our confidences. It is a profound expression of true love for us to entrust to them our private lives and personal secrets. As at such times we knowingly make ourselves vulnerable to them, we feel secure in our confidence that they won’t despise us or take advantage of us. Out of respect for us they will not be the ones to force entry into that cherished area where we want to be alone with ourselves and with our God. We don’t have to erect barriers against such friends.

 Peter Clarke, OP