Friday, 30 December 2016


“They will hammer their swords into ploughshares, their spears into pruning hooks.” Surely Micah’s Messianic prophesy is very far from being fulfilled, (4.30)!
Indeed, lethal weapons are more accessible than ever before in the whole history of mankind. Who can blame those who see ours as THE AGE OF HEROD, with his blood-lust for killing even innocent babies? Does anyone have right to describe ours as being, ‘THE AGE OF JESUS CHRIST,’ the Prince of Peace, with his mother Mary being given the title, ‘Queen of Peace?’
Christians only have Faith Answers to such searching questions.
We believe that the Son of God entered this history by becoming a member of the human family. This He did to save mankind from its sinful self. In its yearly Christmas-tide liturgy the Church celebrates a Salvation History that covered several thousand years.
In so doing the Son of God was born into the exclusive, covenanted, Chosen People of God. Acceptance into this privileged community was effected by the circumcision of this boy eight days after His birth. It was then that He received his name, ‘Jesus.’
The Octave Day of Christmas used to be celebrated as the Feast of the Circumcision of Christ. For Jesus this was the first time His blood was shed - a sure sign that the Son of God was fully human and a member of God’s Chosen People. He shed the last drop of blood when He was nailed to the cross for the redemption of the whole of mankind.
Matthew tells us that Mary’s child was to be called ‘Jesus’ - ‘because He is the one to save His people from their sins,’ (Mtt.1.21). However, His remit was much wider than that. It would be all-inclusive.
To underline this point Pope Paul V1 declared that on the 1st January the whole Church throughout the world should celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God, the Mother of Jesus, the Mother of the Saviour of Mankind.
From the moment of His being conceived this infant was the Saviour of the World. Through His death and resurrection Jesus saved the world.
. A little over fifty years ago Pope Paul V1, being aware of the global ever-increasing violence assigned the commencement of a New Year to be also kept as a World Day of Peace, thereby placing Jesus and His Mother Mary at the very heart of this longing for genuine, lasting peace and of the achievement of this peace.
Pope Francis has chosen ‘NON-VIOLENCE: A STYLE OF POLITICS FOR PEACE’ as the theme of his message for this year’s World Day of Peace.
He states that in “A BROKEN WORLD TODAY, sadly, we find ourselves engaged in a horrifying world war fought piece-meal -terrorism, organized crime and unforeseen acts of violence; the abuses suffered by migrants and victims of human trafficking; and the devastation of the environment.”
The root-cause of this is that people lack self-respect and respect for the dignity of every other human being. Such contempt legitimizes and releases violence of every imaginable kind. Pope Francis assures us that respecting “the image and likeness of God in each person will enable us to acknowledge one another as sacred gifts endowed with immense dignity.
He continues, ‘Jesus taught that the true battlefield, where violence and peace meet, is the human heart: for “it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come” (Mk 7:21).
The Pope follows up this sentiment and makes it the core of his message for this year’s World Day of Peace.
Before they are hardened by the ‘outside world’ children from a very early age must learn from the example and instruction of their elders how to live in harmony with other people.
At the beginning of the year we should resolve to turn our pain-inflicting swords into life-giving agricultural tools that preserve and enrich the lives of us all.
‘Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.’
Peter Clarke, O.P.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Monday, 19 December 2016


The Crib sums up the wonder of Christmas.    The scene is set in a stable.  There we see figures representing what happened some 2000 years ago.    There’s a recently born babe in a manger, His young mother, her husband, who is an older man, and some shepherds. Sad to say, many a baby is born in much poorer circumstances.  And yet each one is welcomed as a source of wonder and, hopefully, of joy.

Jesus is just as human as the rest of us. But the posture of the adults around the baby tells us they realize He’s no ordinary child.   He, born at Bethlehem, was also the Son of God.  This child shared our human vulnerability. He was Almighty God, the Creator of Heaven and Earth.  As one of us He was held lovingly in His mother’s arms. As one of us He was brutally nailed to a cross. He, who has existed from all eternity, was born in time.

Simply because He loves us Almighty God has joined the human race and shared our human life, so that we people could share His divine life and happiness.  The Son of God has lived among us so that He could save us from the destructive power of sin and death. God could not have paid us, His People, a greater compliment! To God not one of us is worthless or utterly hopeless. God is convinced that He can save all of us from the power of evil.   It was vitally important to God that the salvation of mankind should come from within the human family.  The figures in the crib are designed  to help us appreciate the wonder of Christmas -the babe born at Bethlehem is the Son of God.  Mary sits looking lovingly at her baby, with her head reverently bowed.   The shepherds kneel in adoration of the baby Jesus.  They have faith to believe that He is indeed the Son of God and Saviour of the World.

 In the present picture of the Nativity Joseph has removed his sandals  -not because his feet were sore and tired.  Most surely the artist was pointing to a much more profound truth. Joseph removed his sandals out of reverence. He realised he was in the presence of the All Holy One.   The artist had in mind what Moses did when, from the burning bush, God revealed Himself as Saviour of His people.  Joseph, gazing at Jesus, realised that he was in the presence of God who had become man to save us through the forgiveness of our sins!  That's foreshadowed in the present picture of the burning bush.

The celebration of the birth of Jesus has to be the centre of our joy.  Imagine how you would feel on your birthday if your  family and friends were to ignore you as they went about having a great time! Isn’t it true  that Christmas has become so commercialised that we’re told that it wouldn’t be Christmas without certain luxury goods.  You know, dazzling Christmas lights can blind people to the true Light of the World, born in a stable at Bethlehem.

What does this say about the many thousands of people who won’t have the basic necessities for a decent life –the homeless, starving exiles, beggars sleeping on the streets in own land, those in prison and those separated from their families? Ask them if  the absence of   tinselled merriment makes Christmas empty and meaningless for them?   It even happens that having nothing else they are the ones who have the better chance of appreciating the greatest of all Christmas presents -the gift of God Himself.

In the spirit of the Year of Mercy,wouldn’t it be wonderful if we were to open our hearts and wallets to those who are in desperate need?

Peter and Isidore  wish you a very happy and holy celebration of the Birthday of our Saviour.

Saturday, 10 December 2016


Today I’m going to reflect on the Gospel for the 3rd Sunday of Advent, Year, A.      (Matthew 11. 2-11).  This should come as quite a shock      

 Had John the Baptist been wrong about Jesus?   That was the question which tormented the prophet as he languished in prison, awaiting almost certain execution. (Matthew 11. 2-11)

Last Sunday’ Gospel told us that John had aroused great excitement by urging the crowd to prepare for the coming of the Messiah, promised by the prophets.  They were to receive a baptism showing their repentance.   John foretold that when the Messiah did come He would judge and punish sinners.  Soon afterwards John pointed to Jesus as the one for whom they’d all been longing. Dramatically, he pointed to Jesus as the Lamb of the God, who would take away the sins of the world.

 But then, things didn’t work out as John had expected and predicted.   John himself had been imprisoned by King Herod, and knew that he would probably be executed. How could Jesus, the messiah-king, have allowed that, when He should have destroyed every form of evil and established God’s reign of peace and justice? Why hadn’t He replaced Herod as king of the Jews and set God’s prophet free? And Jesus wasn’t showing the wrath of God’s judgement, which John had predicted.  He wasn’t putting the axe to the fruitless tree, or burning the useless chaff, separated from the good grain.

It’s not surprising that John was filled with doubts about Jesus, and also about himself and the role he thought God had given him.  Had John got Jesus wrong?  If so, John’s whole life and mission would have been a dreadful mistake.  He would have given false hope to so many followers.  John desperately needed Jesus to answer his doubts.  So, he sent some of his disciples to ask Jesus whether he was, in fact, the one they had expected, or should they wait for somebody else. 

When John himself had been asked the same question he gave a straight, clear answer -that. he was not the one God’s people had been waiting for. But surprisingly, Jesus didn’t reassure John’s disciples by saying that he was -or was not -the one sent by God, whom they had been expecting.   Such an explicit admission would have aroused too many misunderstandings about His mission, and would have provoked hostility before He was ready to face it. 

Instead, Jesus pointed to His actions, which revealed the nature of His God-given mission.  Far from being a vengeful messiah, who had come to punish sinners, His mission was to show God’ mercy and compassion.    As He cured the sick and proclaimed the Good News to the poor He fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy in the first reading.  That should reassure John that He was, indeed, the one who was to come.  With Jesus God’s reign had, indeed, already dawned.  A new age had begun. 

And what about John the Baptist himself?  Jesus praises him as the greatest of the prophets, who actually pointed to Jesus as the one who would fulfil His people’s longings.   And yet the Baptist’s understanding of how the Messiah would fulfil His mission didn’t fit in with the prophet’s expectations of Him.   It’s not surprising that that led John to have doubts about Jesus. 

The disciples would have the same problem in understanding what it meant for Jesus to be the Christ-messiah king.  That would only become clear in the light of the crucifixion and resurrection.  That’s why Jesus says the children of the kingdom, who have the insight of the Christian faith, are greater than the greatest prophet who pointed to Jesus, but didn’t really understand His mission, which had only just begun. 

Like John, we can make the mistake of deciding what Jesus should be like and how He should behave.   When He doesn’t fit in with our expectations we can become disappointed in Him.  But like John, we must learn to welcome Jesus on His own terms and allow Him to be Himself.  Like John, we may not yet see the whole picture. That can lead us have only a partial, distorted understanding of God’s plans. 

But John was willing to learn from Jesus Himself and correct his mistaken ideas about Him.  If we do that, we will find that His love and mercy exceed our wildest dreams.  Christmas reminds us we must be prepared for God to act in surprising and unexpected ways; we must learn to trust His wisdom, which we may not understand. 

A final thought, to prove that He was, indeed, the expected Messiah Jesus pointed to His actions, not  to His teaching.  In the same way, our behaviour will be a far more convincing proof, than anything we may say about Jesus, as to whether or not we are really His followers.

Isidore Clarke O.P.

Thursday, 8 December 2016


                                                                                                                                                                    THE LORD IS WITH YOU                                                                                                                                                                                                                GOOD COMPANIONS.

Joseph was aware that Mary, the woman to whom he was betrothed, was ‘with child.’ He knew with certainty that this was not of his doing. It took an angel to reassure him no drastic action was needed since the Holy Spirit was responsible for her being in this situation.

 St. Matthew reassures  us  that   Almighty God had everything under control. ‘Now all this took place to fulfil what the Lord had spoken through the prophet   Isaiah, “Look, the virgin is with child and will give birth to a son whom they will call Emmanuel, a name which means ‘God is with us,’” (Matt.1.23).

Mary’s child would come to be described – wonders of wonders – as ‘Emmanuel’ which means, ‘God is with us,’ as a good companion, good friend, someone who brings out the best in us and discourages the worst in us. Towards the end of His life Jesus said to His  Apostles, “No-one-one can have greater love
 than to lay down his life for his friends: you are my friends…I call you friends,” (Jn.15.13-15).

How I enjoy it when young children show off to me their ‘best friends!’ The two  hold hands as an expression of ownership of a treasured possession. Their simply being  together  seems to be more important than what they do together.

We now turn to a stable outside Bethlehem. Shepherds and  Magi had  made time simply to see Jesus, to be with Jesus. Baby Emmanuel, Baby ‘God with us,’  made such an impression on the Magi that they paid Him homage. The shepherds, filled with wonder, excitedly told everyone how the angels had persuaded them to go and find Jesus.

The full force of ‘God is with me’  overwhelms me as I reflect on what most surely must be the  most moving words in Sacred Scripture, “The Word became flesh, He lived among us…He came to His own…to those who did accept Him He gave power to become children of God, (Jn1.11).

Jesus sees us as ‘His own,’ in the hope that you and I will see Him as ‘our own.’ He  chooses  us to be His friends, His companions. His hope is that we shall choose Him to be our friend, our companion.

 The liturgical greeting  ‘The  Lord  be with you,’ means that we wish each other to find our Christian identity in having Emmanuel – God with us…always. I am thrilled that God wants to be   with   me – as Jesus – Emmanuel -  to be for me the best of friends, the best of companions. 

If only I were to respond with love to such friendship, such companionship, surely this would divert me  from ungodly living. In so doing  He will then be my Jesus, my Saviour. Such is the loyalty of His love, in  His friendship for me that He will forgive me whenever I have offended Him by my sins. In this sense He will be Jesus, my Saviour, ready to pull me out of whatever shameful mess I may have plunged myself into.

As I put together these thoughts at the very beginning of Advent  I tell myself that to experience ‘Emmanuel’ – God with me - I don’t have to wait until I can gaze into a crib on Christmas Day.  In the Eucharist – in the Tabernacle – He is with me – Emmanuel. I am with Him, God Incarnate.

 We are two good friends – two good companions – together.  In this I can find my better self, my godly self.  What is more, I meet Emmanuel -my God, my saviour, my companion - in each of the Sacraments, in prayer, in the people I meet and in the routine of my daily life.

 As I share in His love for you my Christmas longing is that you should vividly experience Emmanuel, Jesus, the  Son of God be with you as your best friend, your best companion, your loving, lovable Saviour.
Peter Clarke, O.P.

Thursday, 1 December 2016


With a sense of bewildered wonder the Psalmist exclaimed, What is man that you take thought of him, and the son of man that you care for him?  (Psalm 8. 4). That is the most basic of questions.  It's answer should give meaning and direction to the whole of our lives.

So, why did God bother to create us? Why did God bother to save us?  After all, He always knew that we would rebel against Him. From all eternity He knew the lengths He would have to go to save His creation from the mess we would make of His plans. He had wanted us His people to have a loving relationship with Him. But after sin had ruined that plan He would have to take drastic steps to repair the damage.

Were we worth so much aggravation? Thank God, His answer was a resounding “Yes!”   “Yes” to our creation; “Yes” to repairing the damage we’d do to His original plan for us, that we should share His divine life and happiness.

Yet again I ask, “Knowing all this, why did God bother.”  For me St. John’s Gospel provides the perfect answer -and that is mind-blowing!  In his third chapter John proclaims, For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life,” (Jn. 3. 16).  God’s love is the only answer to my question, “Why did He bother with us?”   First, He loved us into existence.   His love was creative.  Next, His love was re-creative, restoring our loving relationship with Him which had been destroyed by man’s rebellion against Him.

Pope Francis expresses this beautifully in the Apostolic Letter, rounding off the Year of Mercy.  He says, “I am loved, therefore I exist; I am forgiven, therefore I am re-born; I have been shown mercy, therefore I have become a vessel of mercy,” (‘Misericordia et Misera’ 16)

God’s love for us has the resilience to forgive; it is forever merciful.   St. John goes on to tell us that God much preferred to save us from the    destructive power of sin, rather than to condemn and punish us for sinning.   Like the Father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, He was eager and anxious to welcome back His wayward children.  He was prepared to forgive us and help us to make a fresh start.

But then, wonder of wonders, St. John’s Gospel continues, “God sent His only Son into the world –not to condemn it, but to save it,” (Jn. 3.17).  These words proclaim the wonder of the birth of the babe at Bethlehem, the wonder of Christmas.  God loves us people so much that He chose to save us by first becoming one of us.   That’s why He chose Mary to be His mother.  He wanted to use our human vulnerability as the means to showing the power of His saving love and mercy.

Pope Francis saw Mercy as being the very face of God.  The birth of Jesus is the birth of our salvation, the human manifestation of God’s loving mercy.   As we adore the babe in the manger we see the face of God’s Mercy in the face of the baby Jesus -later we will see it in the face of the crucified Christ, and then glorified in His resurrection.

As we celebrate Christmas we rejoice in the God of Mercy becoming one of us, living among us and dying for us –simply because He loves us.   That has been the theme running throughout the Year of Mercy.

As we adore the child born in a manger let us seek the mercy He won for us on the cross.  As we seek God’s forgiveness, let us show those who have harmed us the same mercy that   we hope to receive from our heavenly Father and from those we have offended.  Only if we are as compassionate as our heavenly Father will we be His true sons and daughters.  Only through mercy given and received will we be true brothers and sisters of the babe born at Bethlehem.

Peter and I wish you the peace, joy and happiness which only the babe born at Bethlehem could give the world.
Isidore Clarke O.P.

Friday, 25 November 2016


Mention a wreath and our first thoughts are liable to be about funerals and Remembrance Days. In fact, the use of wreaths has an ancient and   distinguished history.     Centuries  before the birth  of  Christ  winners at the Greek Olympic Games  had a wreath place upon their heads, likewise Roman emperors and victorious generals.   In  various  ways  they  were  people of  eminence and achievement.

For several centuries Christians have had an Advent wreath hung   over the front doors of their homes.  In our churches a wreath is given a prominent place in the Sanctuary. 

The Advent Wreath is loaded with sacred symbolism.  Being circular – without beginning or end - it represents the eternity of God.  The  wreath   was  often  made  from a laurel branch. It being in leaf throughout the year   pointed  to the immortality of Jesus – truly human while remaining truly God.  

The human family has had Jesus as its most outstanding   member ever since that definitive moment in the history of mankind when Mary pronounced her FIAT at the Annunciation. The Son of God had become Jesus, the Son of Mary.

Year after year the Church has relived the centuries’ old yearning of God’s Chosen People. They   were impatient   that His promise to  give them  the Messiah would be fulfilled. His People struggled with  a  sense of emptiness, a hunger,  a thirst,  that only the coming of Jesus would satisfy. 

In the prophesy of Isaiah we find this desolation being described in terms of ‘walking in darkness’ and welcoming the Messiah as ‘seeing a great light.’  “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light,“  (Is. 9.1).

Very recently the force of this prophesy has come home to me!   
Against a dark tropical sky shone the enormous dazzlingly brilliant moon. The media had predicted that on a certain night people all over the world would be able to have this experience.  Here would be something not to be missed!  As the night approached eager anticipation intensified. This was a moment of unique beauty, never, ever to be forgotten.   

I could not help but think of the words of Jesus, “I am the light of the world; anyone who follows me will not be walking in the dark, but will have the light of life,“ (Jn. 8.12).  Having Jesus as the light of my life is something to be treasured more than anything else imaginable.

Now to return to the Advent Wreaths in our churches.  On the rim of each s circle of leaves are place four candles – representing the four Sundays of Advent. Three of the candles are purple – symbolic of a sinful people longing for, awaiting, the arrival (advent) of the Promised One who would come to save them from their sins. On the third Sunday of Advent a pink candle denotes  a cheerful people confident that their Saviour is well  on His way.

Advent begins with one candle being lighted; week after week another candle is lighted. As we draw ever closer to the birthday of the Light of the World the light radiating from the wreath becomes brighter and brighter. Through this we are meant to experience our increasing longing, our need, for Jesus. The crescendo of fulfilment is stated by a white candle being   placed in the centre of the wreath… Christmas Day.  For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given,” (Isaiah 9.6)

 The Advent Wreath provides us with a spirituality of  our journeying towards Jesus with ever-increasing urgency and joy.  As one candle after another is lighted we are to become ever more aware of Jesus eagerly coming towards us.

This year, more than any previous year, I have a sense that we who still believe in the beautiful necessity of Jesus in our lives have a responsibility towards this world that is our home.

 We are in duty bound  to  bear witness to  the Good News that is Jesus Christ. We are to pray that the sublime graces of Christmastide may   overflow   into   the whole  world…fearful about the mess of itself it is creating…bewildered about where it is going.

I wish all of you a very blessed Advent Season!

Peter Clarke, O.P.

Thursday, 24 November 2016



Have you ever felt like giving God a good shake to wake Him up?   If so, you’re in good company.   Impatiently, the Psalmist, speaking for his people, exclaimed, “Arouse Yourself, why do you sleep, O Lord? Awake, do not reject us forever. Why do you hide your face and forget our affliction and our oppression?"  (Ps.44. 23-24).

He was desperate.   Where was God when he most needed Him?  Where is He now, when we most need Him?  Has He forgotten us?   Does He no longer care for us?   Or is He just asleep and needs waking up?   With the prophet Isaiah, expressing the longings and frustrations of God’s people, we may well cry,  O, that you would tear open the heavens and come down!  (Isaiah 64. 1).

God’s very own People had joyfully  returned  from the misery of exile in Babylon.  But they had found their land devastated, Jerusalem in ruins, its temple destroyed.  They became depressed by the arduous task of re-building their lives.   Now the God who had rescued them seemed so distant; their commitment to Him had grown cold.   A spiritual lethargy had set in.

Against this background the prophet reminded God of His commitment to His People.   He begged God to tear open the heavens and come down to help His People - -to re-enkindle their enthusiasm to do His will. The prophet wasn’t just speaking about his own people. His message speaks to us at this very moment!

We can become so depressed at the conflict in the world, especially in Syria and Iraq, the increasing number of homeless refugees, the mounting racial intolerance.  It can all seem too much for us.  We can so easily sink into despair or a spiritual lethargy as we face the dreary routine of our daily lives. We need God to re-enkindle the fervour of our commitment to Him.  We long for Him to tear open the heavens and come to us.

God responded to our needs when His Son was born at Bethlehem.  The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.  He has shared our human life so that we could share His divine life and happiness.  He has come among us to save us from all that oppresses us.

Advent is a special time for us to reflect on our constant need for God to enter our lives, for us to make Him welcome and transform our lives.

But Jesus has ascended to heaven and is no longer physically present among us.   We could so easily fear that He has deserted us, especially when life is difficult.   Our faith and commitment to Him could easily grow cold.  With the prophet we may long for God to tear open the heavens and come to our rescue.

To this Jesus gives two answers.   He has promised to remain with us always, in new and wonderful ways.  He comes to us in the Sacraments, speaks to us through the Scriptures and the teaching of the Church.  Through Baptism the Blessed Trinity abides in us and we in it, and we draw ever closer through the dialogue of love, which is prayer.   And Jesus identifies especially with the needy, whom we meet in our daily lives.  He certainly hasn’t abandoned us.  The Holy Spirit gives us the sensitivity to recognise our Saviour and make Him welcome.

And Jesus has promised to return in glory at the end of time.  That should fill us with hope of eternal happiness with Him, rather than fill us with fear.  Since we don’t know when He will come in glory, today’s Gospel urges us to get on with whatever work Christ has given us to do.  We must watch, so that we are always prepared to welcome Christ whenever He returns in glory.  If we are prepared, then it won’t really matter when that moment comes.

Especially during Advent, we should want God to come alive in each one of us and transform us, so that we can embrace the salvation Jesus has already won for us. That has been the central theme of the Year of Mercy, which we have just celebrated.

During Advent we will sing, “Oh, come, oh come, Emmanuel.”    That expresses our need for Jesus, our longings for Him to enter ever more deeply into our lives, and we into His.
Isidore Clarke O.P.

Sunday, 13 November 2016


Christ Reigns in Majesty
'The Prior's Door' Ely Cathedral, England
A year ago Pope Francis proclaimed a YEAR OF MERCY. Indeed, a Door of Mercy was designated in Rome and in dioceses throughout the world. In a highly symbolic gesture the Pope opened the locked Door of Mercy. In so doing he proclaimed the openness of God’s mercy… His eagerness to forgive sinners.

Through that door we entered the House of God -the focus of His
mercy. This we first experienced at our baptisms when we infants were carried through the church doors as strangers and were welcomed with joy into the community of the Church. We became members of God’s family.

Later we would frequently pass through the Door of Mercy to ask God to forgive our sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. There, in God’s House, we celebrate the sacrifice of the Cross, the sacrifice of the Mass, through which Jesus our Saviour has made our peace with God. 
The Door of Mercy has represented the gateway to salvation!

Pope Francis has urged us to see mercy as being the face of God, Jesus as the human expression of divine mercy.  Jesus tells us, that we, who have been made in the image of God must be as compassionate as our heavenly Father is compassionate, (cf. Lk. 6. 36).  Our very personalities must radiate this compassion as we personally experience the wonder of God’s mercy, the wonder of other people showing us compassion.  Now, to mark the end of the Year of Mercy the Door of Mercy will

be solemnly closed.  The question for the Church and for each of us must be, ‘What next?’  Has the past year been like a bright, exciting shooting star, which rapidly disappears into the distance and is soon forgotten?  With the closing of the Door of Mercy are we going to let our hearts become closed with what Pope Francis describes as ‘global indifference’ to the sufferings of others.

If so, all we could say of the Year of Mercy would be, ‘It was good while it lasted.’ We would then slip back into our normal humdrum routine, as though the Year of Mercy had never happened.  If so, it would have had no lasting value.

 We must not let that happen; we must not fritter away this special Year of Grace. The past Year of Mercy must not become a conclusion, but a launching pad for us to continue spreading the wonder of God’s mercy throughout the world.  The past year should have produced a radical conversion in us, leading us to be more eager to seek forgiveness from God and each other, to forgive those who have harmed us. Hopefully, the Year of Mercy will inspire us to be more caring and compassionate.

 It is very fitting that the feast of Christ the King should conclude the Year of Mercy.  His life-long mission was to defeat every form of evil and establish God’s reign of Peace, Love, Justice, Holiness and Truth.

That was finally won when the crucified Christ was enthroned on the cross.  Not by force of arms but by the power of His merciful love He defeated the destructive might of sin and death. His is a liberating victory, setting us free to be fully human, fully children of God. In Him everything in heaven and earth has been has been reconciled to God.  In Him there is a new creation, restoring and renewing God’s original creation, damaged by sin.

But if we are to share in the victory of the cross, we must join Jesus in His battle against evil.  For us, as for Him, our only weapon must be merciful love. That is how He has established His Kingdom.  Only through merciful love will we be His true and loyal subjects.

Though the Year of Mercy may have concluded, its mission continues till the end of time, when Christ the King will return in glory, finally to establish His sovereignty over the whole of creation.  With the whole heavenly choir we will triumphantly sing, “Our God reigns!” His loving mercy reigns! 

Isidore Clarke O.P.

Monday, 31 October 2016


On 1st November –the Church celebrates the Feast of All Saints when we honour those who have lived with outstanding holiness, have died and have been acclaimed by the Church to be now in Heaven. We are also meant to honour that multitude of saintly, unsung, heroes who have never received public recognition.
We have missed the whole point of the Feast if fail to face up to the fact God is calling each of us to be among the ‘saints-in-the-making.’ God is calling us to lead lives that are pleasing to Him. This Feast Day should inspire us to reach for the Heavens!
On 2nd November, the Feast of All Souls, and then through the whole month of November, we pray for the dead.
In so doing we ought to muse, ‘I could die any time. Am I, at this moment, totally ready to enter Heaven? Have I ever been?” Most of us would be satisfied with saying of ourselves, ‘Not yet ready for Heaven; certainly not fit for Hell. Please God, I never will be!’
We Catholics believe that between Earth and Heaven there’s ‘middle ground’ called Purgatory. Here God in His merciful love gives that ‘finishing touch’ that would render those there completely suitable to live in His presence.
While this is most consoling it may leave us desolate with grief at the passing of a loved one. At this point St. Paul gently advises us, “Make sure that you do not grieve for them, as others do who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again, and that in the same way God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.” (1 Thess. 4.13).
Contrast “When you’re dead you’re done, full stop!” with the promise Jesus made to His disciples, “In my Father’s house there are many places to live in; otherwise I would have told you. I am going now to prepare a place for you, and after I have gone and prepared you a place, I shall return to take you to myself, so that you may be with me where I am. (Jn.14.1).
Our tears might dampen our Faith In God but they won’t drown it. Our Faith tells us, ‘There’s no need to dry your tears! When the Son of God became man He took upon Himself the fullness of our humanity - with its raw, heart-rending sensitivity. While Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus the Jews remarked, “See how much He loved him,” (Jn.11.36).
The Feast of All Saints is telling us, ‘Now is the time for us to be working on leading lives that are pleasing to God. We should do nothing that would disqualify us from entering His presence. Moreover, Jesus has always had an immense love for His Church. ‘He sacrificed Himself for her to make her holy…so that when He took the Church to Himself she would be glorious, with no speck or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and faultless,” (Eph. 5). We too are embraced in this cleansing love.
What Jesus didn’t complete in our lifetime He will accomplish by delaying us in Purgatory. There He will straighten out our misshapen selves with our unwholesome habits and deal with our tepid repentance which never amounted to a total rejection of sin and a radical turning towards God.
The real punishment for our sins that is Purgatory is the pain in for a while being deprived of the Glorious Vision of Almighty God in Heaven. We will have brought this delay upon ourselves.

The spirituality of All Souls is that we who remain to mourn are consoled that our love-filled prayers will serve to shorten the stay of those still confined to Purgatory. For their part, they, with love and gratitude, will bless us for remembering them.
What a thought! God wants us to share in this final stage of their Salvation History!. What a privilege for us to do so!
Peter Clarke, O.P

Sunday, 23 October 2016


My brother Peter got me thinking. When commenting on the Rosary he suggested we should view Salvation History through the eyes of Mary.  So I wondered whether her life followed the pattern of St. Paul’s introduction to the famous hymn in his Letter to the Philippians. 

This begins, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus…” (Philip. 2.5).  That must have been especially true of His mother, Mary.   She must have been especially in tune with Him.

This hymn begins with the Son of God becoming a human servant, obedient to His heavenly Father’s will; this is paralleled by Mary’s ‘Fiat’ to God.  She played a vital part in God’s plan for our salvation. With that ‘YES’ she agreed to become the Handmaid of the Lord. 

His obedience was “even unto death on the cross.”   Mary made the same journey to Calvary and then stood by her crucified Son. She even offered His life for our salvationAs He became the Suffering Servant of the Lord she became the Suffering Handmaid of the Lord.

 St. Paul’s hymn continues, “For which cause He has been given a name, which is above every other name –Lord of heaven and earth,” (cf. Philip. 2. 11).    Mary has been assumed into Heaven and given a name, which is above every other name – Queen of Heaven and Earth.  

Through this pattern of ascent the 2nd Adam and the 2nd Eve reverse the pattern of descent through the disobedience of the 1st Adam and Eve.

But  it’s not enough for us simply to have the ‘mind of Christ.’  In his 1st letter St. John tells us our lives must follow the same pattern as Christ’s, “whoever claims to remain in Him must act as He acted,” ( I Jn. 2.6).    We must not only hear His word, but do it.   In John that word ‘remain’ is loaded.   It implies a permanence and stability, and, therefore, commitment.   Also to ‘remain in’ implies a relationship as intimate as that between the Father and   His Son. 

We have been called to enter into that relationship.   Sharing their life means a harmony of will, having the mind of Christ and, therefore, acting as He acted.  That was true for Jesus in His obedience to His Father’s will; that was true for His mother; that must be true for us, His followers.

Like the young Samuel’s, our response must be, ‘Speak, Lord, your servant is listening,’ ( 1 Sam 3. 9).  That was echoed by Mary’s, ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord.  Be it done unto me according to your word, (Lk. 1. 38).       As for Jesus, we only have to think of His, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me. Nevertheless, let your will be done, not mine,” (Lk. 22.42).

The  docility to God’s will, which underlies all the gifts of the Holy Spirit, demands a strength of character,  an open generosity in self-giving –the opposite to self-centred grabbing.    It’s a call to service, not dominance. 

Having the mind of Christ means, in the words of St. Paul, ‘….since you have been raised with Christ, strive for theHYPERLINK "/greek/3588.htm" HYPERLINK "/greek/3588.htm"things above, where Christ is seated at the right haHYPERLINK "/greek/1188.htm"nHYPERLINK "/greek/1188.htm"d of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.… (Col. 3. 1-2).  This text implies an ascent in our perspective, in our values, in our decisions, in our actions.  Since these run contrary to our fallen nature, they will involve the cross of self-sacrifice, self-denial, unselfishness. Or put positively, we have been called to share Christ’s generous self-giving, His serving.

St. Paul sums all this up beautifully.   God has uttered an eternal ‘Yes’ to our creation, an eternal ‘Yes’ to our salvation. Through Jesus we welcome God’s plan for us with a heart-felt ‘Yes.’ And so St. Paul writes, For all the promises of God are “Yes” in Christ. And so through Him, our “Amen” is spoken to the glory of God,” (2 Cor. 1. 20).  

A final thought: while as a child Jesus walked in the footsteps of Mary, His mother. Then, later on, Mary, as did His disciples, walked in His footsteps as she followed Him in His joys, His sorrows and His glory.

Isidore Clarke, O.P.