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.