Thursday, 11 May 2017

PRIESTLY ORDINATION DIAMOND JUBILEE MASS










My twin brother, Isidore, and I were ordained priests the 11th May. 1957. He has already celebrated the jubilee at Holy Cross Priory, Leicester, England on the anniversary  day. I, Peter, celebrate it on 15th May in St. Patrick's Cathedral, Barbados. The whole of my priestly ministry has been in Barbados and Grenada. I shall speak to the congregation about
Priestly Feelings
Peter said, ‘Look we have left everything and followed you. What are we to have then? (Matt.19.27). This Peter, now speaking to you can tell you that he and his twin brother, Isidore, left everything in 1950 to follow Jesus as members of the Order of Preachers -Dominicans. In 1958 we left everything again when we set sail to join our Dominican brothers in their Caribbean ministry. Only in later years have I been brought to realize what a brave face our mother kept whenever I took leave of her for the Caribbean.  She most certainly shared in our vocations through the loving support and encouragement she gave us. She never let us see hear tears.
I have spoken about being separated from near ones and dear ones. I now take up Peter’s question, “What we are to have then?” My answer is simple. The same God who  GAVE ME TO YOU as a priest, gave YOU TO ME as my Caribbean family. After being with you for all these years you can judge for yourselves whether I am a happy, contented priest. You accepted me as your own, you have shown me love in so many ways, assisted and supported, me. You have ENDURED ME – note I was careful not to say ‘You have INJURED ME.’ That was never the case!
This Mass is important to me as giving me the opportunity to speak on God’s behalf and on my own behalf to say a big THANK YOU.  He needs no reminder from me that you deserve  very many heavy blessings.
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 Sixty years ago my twin brother, Isidore, and I were ordained priests.  I shall never forget the moment when I said the words of Consecration at my first Mass, the first of over 20,000 Masses. Through His Bishop Almighty God had empowered me to make the Paschal Mystery of Jesus Christ actively present on the altar of our home parish Church. That was followed by the joy of giving Jesus in Holy Communion to members of my own family.
It’s almost unbelievable that Jesus should have called me to share in His own priesthood and should use me to make it effective for  whatever  local community  in the world to which I might be sent. I was God’s priest, God’s man – never to be my own man.
 Very early in my stay in Grenada I was asked to stand in for the pastor of a country parish. Many a time, accompanied by a parishioner, in the tropical heat I, in my Dominican habit, would  spend  whole mornings   struggling up  steep slopes to carry  small wafers  to the  house-bound aged and infirm. I was forced to reflect, ‘Couldn’t I spent my time more usefully without all this exertion?’ Wouldn’t food packages carried by any  willing person be far more appreciated than my solitary  tiny wafers?
  I had to compel myself to make that Act of Faith that I was, indeed,  carrying to the spiritually hungry the Lord Jesus in Holy Communion and that it was my morning Holy Mass that made  this  possible! The Faith of those who welcomed all the effort I had  made  to bring them Jesus  confirmed my own Faith in the value of my priesthood.  
It  is awesome to me that people have found the  priesthood an absolute  necessity to them.  They come with an unfaltering  Faith-conviction that after they have confessed their sins and with  a priest pronouncing the words of absolution their sins will actually be forgiven by Almighty God Himself  through the ministry of someone such as me ...a priest!   Some have even wept with joy when I have told them to go in peace.  I have been so moved that my own eyes have been moist with tears of joy and thanksgiving. 
For a moment  I reflect on  those times when families and friends have been  gathered around the bed as I have administered the Sacrament of Anointing the Sick and given Holy Communion.  This has been a grace-filled moment when we prayed together, even singing a hymn or two. I have been overwhelmed when they have made me aware that this, my simple priestly ministry, is much needed and is deeply appreciated.
 And yet any priest would be a fool if he expected all his preaching to be effective, accepted and even appreciated. This was not the case even with the sermons of Jesus. Imagine how I felt when a man told me I had brought him to tears by my beautiful sermon on family life. The next day I was informed that on returning home he beat up his wife.  Good sermon or not? Who knows?  Certainly it did him no good -nor his wife!
Now, if ever anyone had the right to be treated as MR. NICE-GUY it was surely Jesus. He did not always find it so. Neither does any priest!  Don't look to me when it comes to begging for money or organizing fund-raising  events. At at a parish counsel   A pretty young 'dragoness' ‘sweet-eyed’ me as she  coyly remarked, ‘We shall put more in the collection when we get rid of the obstacle.’ God forgive me! I was tempted either to strangle her or drive over a cliff at full speed. She’s still alive and so am I! 
 I mention in passing the fact that people have very pointedly  walked out of church because they objected to my preaching on justice and human rights.  Much to my sadness, somewhat to my shame, my preaching had divided my parish. I tell you ‘Being a priest  aint  easy!’ I can't blame you if you retort,  ‘And priests aint easy either!
Yes, feelings are very much part of a priest’s life – as they were in the life of Jesus as when, “Filled with joy by the Holy Spirit, He said, 'I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth,  for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to little children,” (Lk.10.21). On another occasion, “As he drew near and came in sight of the city of Jerusalem he shed tears over it  and said, 'If you too had only recognized on this day the way to peace!” (Lk.19.41).
As Isidore and I celebrate our Diamond  Jubilee of the Priesthood, we take this opportunity to thank those have who encouraged us, supported us, and befriended us.…our own family, our Dominican Family, our  friends, parishioners. They have been there for us when we have been feeling discouraged or  worn out in body and soul.                                                          My purpose this evening has been to convey my experience that in the Caribbean there is a deep appreciation of the blessings that flow uniquely from the priestly ministry. There is also the presumption that this will always be accessible. As my brother and I keep our Diamond Jubilee you must surely reflect that time and energy are running out on ancients such as ourselves. Throughout the world there are parishes without priests.
I urge you to persuade the young that it is a special grace to Love God so much, to love His human family so much, as to eagerly devote  your lives as priests, proclaiming and building God’s Kingdom here one earth! 
I want no-one to pity me for what I have given up through being a priest. I want you to envy me the joy, the sense of fulfillment, the love my priesthood has brought to me.   It is no credit to me that God has brought so many blessings to so many people.  Encourage your own flesh and blood to give  themselves to God and to His people, with the expectation of receiving  so much more from God and His people. Long for this, pray for this!
.And now,  with one voice, my voice,   Isidore and I  say to you, ‘Thank you!  God bless you!’          AMEN!
Peter Clarke, O.P.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

ORDINATION DIAMOND JUBILEE

PETER AND ISIDORE CLARKE O.P.
11th May 1957-11th May 1967
Sixty years ago I designed my ordination card, with this quotation from St. Paul’s 1st Letter to the Corinthians, “This, then, is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed.”      (1  Cor. 4.1)
That’s what ordination to the priesthood meant to me then.   That’s what it still means to me, sixty years later.

On 11th May 1957 my twin brother, Peter, and I were ordained priests.  We became servants of Christ, entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed -entrusted with the Ministries of Word and Sacrament. As ministers of the Word we had been called to proclaim the Good News of Salvation.   As ministers of the sacraments Christ has empowered us to make His sacrifice on the cross present in every celebration of the Holy Mass.  We have been called to be ministers of His Mercy through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  I have seen and personally experienced the peace which the Sacrament of the Sick has brought to me and to other sick people.  Our calling is to love God and people and, with His help, bring them together.  For me as a priest it has been my joy and privilege to help people to meet Jesus.   

But that is a daunting task.   Instinctively we say, “Why me?  Lord I’m not worthy.”  But if God had to wait until we became perfect, before He entrusted the priestly ministry to anyone, He would never have any priests!  But  He has entrusted His work to us vessels of clay.  We have His reassurance that when He calls us to do something He always gives us the strength to carry out His will -provided we pray for  His help.  St. Paul even reassures us that God choses the foolish of this world to confound the wise. We crazy twin brothers adequately meet this particular requirement.   Whether or not we’ve confound any of the wise, God only knows!

Is being a priest a worthwhile, fulfilling life?  Without hesitation both of us, after sixty years, would definitely reply, “Yes, Yes, Yes!”   Certainly, there are difficulties and setbacks. But that is true of any worthwhile walk of life.  We’ve been ordained to share in Christ’s priesthood and to identify with Him in His sacrifice on the cross, made present at every Mass we offer. For Christ and for us, that means self-giving and sometimes painful self-sacrifice.

But what could be more worthwhile than being God’s ministers in helping people on the road to salvation. And this causes me great concern.   Peter and I, together with many other elderly priests, are getting near the end of our lives. If you are to continue to have Mass, Confession, and all the other mysteries of God, you are going to need more priests.  Today I take this opportunity to urge you to pray for vocations.   I urge young men to ask themselves whether God is calling them to serve Him and you in the priesthood.   Do not be afraid to say “Yes.”  God needs you; His people need you.
Finally, I want our Anniversary to be a day of thanksgiving.  First of all, to God in calling us to the priesthood, and then in supporting us throughout the ups and downs of our ministry.   Next, I want to thank all the people who have helped us over the years -our family and friends, our Dominican communities, and you, the extended members of our Dominican family.  Without your support we could not have coped.
I have posted one of my paintings on Facebook. This is based on the risen

Lord accompanying the disciples on the road to Emmaus and opening their minds and hearts to the Scriptures.   That is what He is doing for Peter and me, on our journey through life. Through the Scripture He has touched our minds and hearts and changed our lives. Though we’ve now been separated by the Atlantic for 58 years the Lord has always been with Twin Clarke Unlimited, drawing us close to Him, close to each other. Skype helps us to be especially aware of being united in the Lord. Now we can sing the breviary together, co-operate on sermons, broadcasts and Newspaper articles.    I thank God and our parents for blessing me with a Dominican twin. 
To Peter on our jubilee day, I say, “Thanks, ower Kid!” 

Before this becomes like an Oscar acceptance speech I better stop, with the words from Psalm 115. 1, which have guided our priesthood and inspired today’s celebration. 
“Not to us, Lord, not to us, but to your name give the glory!”
Isidore O.P.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

ST. JOSEPH THE WORKER




Sometimes it’s better late than never.    The celebration of Joseph the Worker, 1st May, has come and gone, and yet I feel compelled to share with you one of the most beautiful events of the early days of my priesthood.

 I was a young   priest   ordained   just two years previously.  Once I had completed   my studies at Blackfriars Priory, Oxford, I, together with my twin brother, Isidore, was provided with tickets to sail to join our Dominican brethren in the small Caribbean island of Grenada. While our heads had been stuffed with  theology  we had been given no pastoral training.

Before long, out of necessity I was required to act as a supply-priest in the  country parish of Tivoli. The incumbent, having decided to have all his teeth extracted, was no use for preaching or anything else!  

1st  May was a public holiday in honour of  Labour  Day –  with the various Trade Unions proudly marching with their  banners and bright T-shirts.  Together they rallied at the Recreational Ground, there to be treated to fiery speeches, boisterous singing, light entertainment and good food.  

1st May was also the celebration of the recently created Feast of Joseph the Worker. In Oxford we made nothing of that feast. In Tivoli it was something else.  Parishioners,  young and old, were  encouraged to turn out for morning Mass  bringing with them  the tools with which they did their daily work. I carried the Holy Water Bucket for the blessing  of  a fine array of  items  together with their owners, the work itself for which they would be used  and, indeed, those who would benefit from their work.

Would that I had had a video camera to catch the grand march   around  the parish church pasture to the sound of drums, the striking of tin cans and  of bottles! One and all danced, pranced and sang hymns.

 Picture to yourselves these holy revelers in their bright clothes – carrying their rolling-pins and frying- pans,  felling-axes and cutlasses, saws, spades and forks, large paint- brushes and masons’ trowels; children with their crayons, their pens and exercise books.      
There was a woman with a small sewing- machine, another with crochet needle   and  a fine piece of  unfinished  work. Never will I forget the  woman with a tray of nuts, sweets, and biscuits finely balanced on her head as her body swayed to the beat of the drums! How can I omit the man with his donkey-cart loaded with fruit and  vegetables?  Add to this refreshments to meet every taste. Need I say more?

 This was a wonderful Induction Course for me about what it should mean for me  to be their priest. I had a glimpse into how they lived, their occupations, their skills,  how they supported themselves and their families.  I saw  this  community, any community, holding together by depending on each other’s skills, their willing availability to each other and and their trust-worthiness.

Surely St. Joseph would easily have fitted into such a village community - not only as a good  artisan but also a good man, a good neighbour, responsible provider for his own home and family. I picture Joseph respecting other people, their trades and occupations.  Surely he would have earned their respect. I also fancy seeing there  Mary and Jesus having a jolly good time!

This Feast of Joseph the Worker causes me to reflect how a most significant role of the Church is to affirm people in their ordinary workaday lives. In these they are to find their sanctity and salvation.

God is glorified by us and we ourselves are glorious in His sight when we  use the  skills and  opportunities He has given us in the interests of other people, and of course of ourselves. We are then a blessing and a boon rather than a burden to our families, our community, even to our nation.

Peter Clarke, O.P.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

THE RISEN LORD IS WITH YOU


Some years ago a friend greeted me when I was on a train journey.   That came as a surprise, because I hadn’t expected to see him there.   In fact, although I was sitting  next to him I didn’t recognised him.  And even when he greeted me, I found it difficult to put a name to his familiar face.   My problem was that I didn’t expect him to be on my train, making the same journey as me.  My imagination couldn’t make the leap to recognise him in an unexpected situation.   I expect most of you have had a similar experience.

That’s something like what happened to the disciples on the road to Emmaus.    Jesus was the last person they expected to meet.  After all, everyone knew that he’d just been crucified and then buried.   With His death all the hope they’d placed in Him had been shattered.   They were desolate!   

When the risen Lord joined them as they sadly talked about Him they didn’t recognise Him, partly because they didn’t expect to see Him.    They didn’t realise who it was who explained that the Scriptures foretold that He must suffer and die, and that He would rise from the grave.   They only recognise Him at the end of the journey, when the risen Lord, shared a meal with them and broke bread in a familiar way.
Luke recorded this graphic account of the risen Lord’s appearance to help convince us that He did not abandon us when He ascended to heaven.   We have two sceptical witnesses who became convinced that the Lord had truly risen.   They hastened to share this wonderful news the disciples.  That sums up the mission of the Church and of each of us.   

This episode is meant to reassure us that Jesus is now with us in new ways.   He speaks to our minds and hearts through the Scriptures.   As the two disciples recognised Jesus in the breaking of bread, we are reminded that we meet him in the sacramental life of the Church –especially in the Eucharist.   Finally, this episode tells us that our crucified and risen Lord accompanies us as we journey through life, just as He did the disciples on the road to Emmaus.
But throughout this account of Christ’s resurrection appearance there’s the problem of recognising Him.   That requires both God’s gift of faith and also our openness to the unexpected.    We need to realise that the Word of God Himself speaks to us personally through the written text of the Scriptures.   And when we receive the sacraments we must look beyond the physical appearance of, say, bread, wine, water and words, and make the leap of faith to believe that we meet Jesus Himself, approaching us to help us in our different needs. 

Finally, we meet Jesus in the people we encounter in our journey through life.   Some may be easy to recognise as being really Christ-like.  But it may be much hard to recognise Jesus, as He identifies with the needy, the despised and rejected in society.  Today’s Gospel reminds us that we need great sensitivity to appreciate Christ who is already in our midst in so many ways.  We can so easily miss Him!
 Isidore O.P.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

EASTER HOPE


The death of Jesus on the cross brought desolation,   despair, a  sense of loss to those who had loved and admired Him. The disciples on the road to Emmaus spoke for all of them, “Our hope had been that He would be the one to set Israel free,” (Lk.24.21).   


Joyfully the Easter  Liturgy  has celebrated  His Resurrection. However, before any such joy there were some dreadful moments, such  as when the closest of His friends found His  tomb to be empty.  Losing a loved one, then losing His body – undoubtedly here a sense  of   emptiness and hopelessness.

It is into this emptiness that the risen Jesus begins  to  pour FAITH – belief  that He, thought to be a disappointing failure, was, in fact,  a triumphant hero. 

Upon this Faith Foundation Jesus builds   HOPE – confidence of  their lives being once more built around Jesus; once more it would be possible to have expectations of Jesus.

 From the  first day of the week following His  crucifixion Jesus appeared to His friends  with greetings such as, “Be not afraid, peace be with you, give me some food, look at my wounds,   even touch them, I’m not a ghost!”

 On these occasions they overcame their doubts as they received the GIFT OF FAITH  so as  to  believe that  Jesus  had, indeed, achieved what He came to do – conquer sin and death  and then  pass into Glory.

 What is more, by His resurrection from the dead Jesus had  extracted hope out of the ashes of despair.      This GIFT OF HOPE  answered the question,     “How does this  personal triumph of Jesus  affect us?”  

Interesting that the first person to be assured of a future with Jesus was the thief hanging on cross next to Him!   "In truth I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise,” (Lk23.43).

 As for ourselves, we can take to ourselves what  Jesus said to Martha, “I am the Resurrection. Anyone who believes in me, even though that person dies, will live, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die,” (Jn.11.25).

What better could we hope for?

Peter Clarke, O.P. 


Friday, 14 April 2017

"THE LIGHT OF CHRIST!"



What drama the Paschal -Easter -Vigil!  On Good Friday, we, with the Crucified Christ, were plunged into the darkness of death. On Holy Saturday we remained grieving for Jesus and for our deceased loved ones.

Then, at dusk, the liturgy of the Paschal Vigil begins. Outside the church a fire is lit, signifying the spark of new life.  The Paschal Candle –representing the risen Lord - is lit from the fire.

Triumphantly the deacon holds aloft the Paschal Candle and leads us into the darkened church.   Three times he halts and sings, “The Light of Christ!” All reply, “Thanks be to God!”  At the first pause those within this procession light their candles from the Paschal Candle; at the second pause the candles of the congregation are lit from those in the procession; at the last pause the candles in the sanctuary are lit and all the church lights are switched on. 

Every detail of this drama proclaims the risen Lord’s victory over the darkness of sin and death.  He is, indeed, the Light of the World, whom the Darkness of Evil could not overcome.

Spreading light  from the solitary flame of the Paschal Candle to the remotest corners of the church expresses the missionary work of the Church -to hand on the light of Faith, the light of Life, which we have received from the risen Lord,  drawing people into the Paschal mystery of His death and resurrection. 

We hand on what we have received -that’s what ‘tradition’ is all about! As we process through the darkness and holding our candles the Pilgrim Church brings the light of the risen Lord to the world.  With Christ, we have become lights to the world.  The light we shed is derived from Him, not from ourselves.

Addressing the Paschal Candle of the Risen Lord, the deacon then sings the ‘Exultet.’  This proclaims the triumph of light over darkness, firstly, as God created the universe, and then the renewal of creation through the Paschal mystery. In the prologue to his Gospel John unites these two themes, as he declares the creative Word as being the light shining in the darkness, which could neither understand nor overcome the light. 

The ‘Exultet’ then outlines salvation history, with the emphasis on God delivering His people by night from slavery in Egypt, and leading them by the pillar of fire into the Promised Land.  Through Jesus the light of the risen Lord has led us in a new Exodus from the darkness of sin to the light of life as the children of God.

The Paschal Mystery is then linked to our baptism.  As the Paschal Candle is plunged into the font, and the water is blessed, the font becomes both the tomb and womb for the children of God.  Through baptism we die with Christ to sin and rise with Him to new life. 
At our baptisms we are entrusted with a candle lit from the Paschal Candle and urged to keep it shining throughout our lives.  We become children of the light and at the Vigil renew our baptismal commitment to walk in the light of Christ and reject the ways of darkness. This is the most appropriate time to be baptised.

The celebration of the light of the Paschal Vigil is concluded when all the bells are rung and we sing the ‘Gloria.’ -a joyful celebration of the dawn of the bright new Day of the Risen Lord!

The Paschal Vigil uses the deeply symbolic imagery of light, darkness, fire and water, accompanied by inspiring words, to express the mystery of salvation through Christ’s death and resurrection.    It is a very dramatic celebration.  Sadly,  some consider this to be less important than Christmas midnight Mass.

Isidore Clarke O.P.

Monday, 27 March 2017

"I AM THE RESURRECTION " (John 11..20-27)



Martha was heart-broken that her brother, Lazarus, had died; relieved that Jesus had turned up to share her tears; disappointed in Jesus, she complained,Lord, if you had been here  my  brother  would not have died.”  But she had a well-founded faith in Him, “Even now I know that God will grant whatsoever you ask Him.”  It was common knowledge that Jesus had the power to heal the sick and even to raise the dead to life.
Martha was scarcely comforted when Jesus reassured her that  her brother would rise again.  “I know he will rise again - at the resurrection on the Last Day." This dissatisfaction of Martha gave Jesus the opening to raise the level of the conversation. I am the resurrection. Anyone who believes in me, even though that person dies, will live, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” Hearing this Martha must have been baffled. But this in no way lessened her trust in Jesus, who asked her, “Do you believe this?  'Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who was to come into this world.

Martha and her sister had the great privilege of seeing their deceased brother Lazarus being raised to life. They would have known that this was bound to be no more than a bonus of yet a few more years of life inevitably to be followed by death, mourning yet again. 

They could not know that Jesus, through His own death on a cross, would conquer the destructive, disintegrating and corrupting impact death has on our fragile, mortal humanity. Only in the light of meeting the risen Lord were His followers able to believe that through His death and resurrection Jesus had won for Himself a divinely glorious existence in the fullness of His humanity, body and soul.

 Our crucified and risen Lord would achieve this for the whole of humanity to which He was bonded through His being truly God and truly man. Together with Jesus we are one Body – with His being the Head. Our God-given destiny is fused into His.

St. Paul wrote, “When we were baptized into Christ Jesus, we were baptized into his death… If we have been joined to Him by dying a death like His, so we shall be by a resurrection like His,” (Rom. 6.3).                      We are able to make our own the excitement St. Paul imparted to the Corinthians, “Death is swallowed up in victory. Death, where is your victory? Death, where is your sting? … Thank God, then, for giving us the victory?” (1Cor.15.55).

And St. Paul wrote this to the Thessalonians, “We want you to be quite certain, brothers, about those who have fallen asleep, to 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,”                (I Thess.4.13).


Even before He died Jesus made it known to Martha that He   was the Resurrection!      As we Christians are intent on celebrating  liturgically  the dying and rising that occurred nearly two thousand years ago  Jesus now asks us what He asked Martha,                             
"Do you believe this?"
                              
Now some soul-searching for ourselves, ‘To what extent is this belief influencing the way we live and our expectations for our eternal future?
Have a blessed, hope-filled Easter!
Peter Clarke, O.P.





Friday, 17 March 2017

GIVING AND RECEIVING

The 5th Station of the Cross means something very special to me, at the moment.  As I’m recovering from a serious illness I’m still very weak and depend on the help of carers.   This could be humiliating, when we all want to be able stand on our own feet; we wrongly think we are self-sufficient.

But then I gaze at the 5th Station of the Cross and see the Son of God crushed by the burden of the cross.  He who had come to serve, not be served, needed the help of Simon of Cyrene, literally, to help Him back onto His feet.  He needed Simon to help Him carry His cross -to complete the journey to Calvary and there save the world from the power of evil.

The Suffering Servant of the Lord was not too proud to accept the service of a stranger, forced to help Him in making His way to Calvary, where He would fulfil the mission given Him by His Heavenly Father.   Jesus didn’t show resentment and insist that He could manage by Himself.  He knew He needed Simon’s assistance.

In the 5th Station of the Cross there’s a meeting between Simon of Cyrene giving Jesus a helping hand and Jesus welcoming that support – a meeting between giving and receiving, serving and being served.   In the picture, I’ve chosen there’s a meeting of eyes; Simon looks at Jesus with compassion, Jesus looks at Simon with gratitude.

That has made me realise that Jesus needed and welcomed help throughout His life  -most obviously as a baby and child, but also as an adult.  That's part of being human.  Responding to each other's needs draws us together as families and communities. It's not a sign of weakness, but of collective strength. So, being as human as the rest of us, Jesus sought water from the Samaritan woman when He was tired and thirsty.   His mission depended on a back-up supply chain of supporters. He welcomed and needed friends -Martha, Mary, Lazarus.  In Gethsemane He wanted the moral support and prayers of Peter, James and John.   As He died on the cross the support of His Mother, a few women and the Good Thief must have meant so much to Him. 

Never did Jesus refuse the offer of help.  He did not reject the enthusiastic expression of penitent love, expressed by the woman who washed His feet with her tears and dried them with her hair.  

If Jesus has taught me that true greatness lies in lovingly, generously serving others, He’s also shown me, through the 5th Station of the Cross, that graciously accepting their care is not degrading.   As we follow Jesus on the Way of the Cross we need Him, acting through people like Simon of Cyrene, to help us carry our heavy burdens.  

I have found that if I’m treated with respect I don’t lose my dignity in being helped, even in my most basic needs. But when Jesus insisted on washing Peter’s feet He taught him and us two things.  Firstly, we must humbly serve each other, and secondly, we must allow other people to serve us, without our losing our dignity.  Before being ready to give, we need to feel what it’s like to be on the receiving end.

In this 5th Station Jesus and Simon of Cyrene have taught me, and I hope you, the dignity of giving and receiving, serving and being served -both with love and respect.

 Isidore O.P.

Saturday, 11 March 2017

REDEMPTIVE SUFFERING


  "Redemptive Suffering!" Surely a title likely to make us furious!   It seems to suggest that suffering is good for us. For most of us suffering is seen to be something evil, something to avoid. If not, why doctors! We do our utmost to bring it to an end.  And so did Jesus.  He lived, died and rose from the grave to banish suffering! 

In a remarkable Encyclical, entitled, ‘Salvifici Doloris’ – ‘Redemptive Suffering’  -Pope John Paul II tackled the never-ending problem of evil. He stressed the central part the Cross of Jesus played in its defeat. This is not a question of abstract theorising, but of our personal survival, as we try to cope with suffering.

The Pope certainly knew what he was talking about!  His homeland had been occupied by communist rule. An assassin’s bullet had seriously wounded him. In trying to make sense, not only of his personal suffering, but that of the world, the Pope wrote, not only from the head, but from the heart.

In the face of suffering we instinctively ask, ‘Why?’ Jesus, our redeemer, doesn’t answer the question with words, but through His own suffering.    Through His Passion the very instrument of death becomes the way to eternal life.  The crucified Christ was not victorious in spite of His pain, but through His suffering and death.  

This anguish only had value because it was freely chosen as God’s deepest expression of His love for us.   Paul tells, ‘But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us...For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved  by his life,’ [Rom 5:8, 10].   By freely accepting the suffering of the cross Jesus expressed His love, not only for His Heavenly Father, but also for the human race.  Through the love shown in accepting the pain of the cross, Jesus has  made our peace with God.  The suffering of Christ has become redemptive, the means to our salvation!

In a telling sentence the Pope then says, ‘In the cross of Christ not only is the redemption accomplished through suffering, but also human suffering is itself redeemed,’ ( para. 19 ). In our pain we can identify with the crucified Christ, and He with us.  With Christ we can become living, loving sacrifices freely offered to the Father for the salvation of the world.  For Christ and for us the cross becomes the way to the glory of the resurrection. Our suffering is now given a positive value.  It becomes redemptive.   With Jesus we can generously offer ourselves to God for the salvation of the world.

Paul writes, ‘I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church,’ [Col. 1:24].  Not that Christ failed to do sufficient to save us, but the whole Church must become Christ-like in His Passion if she is to share in His glorious resurrection. St. Paul wrote, by our baptism into His death we were buried with Him, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the Father's glorious power, we too should begin living a new life,” (Rom.6.4)

Pope John Paul’s concludes this encyclical magnificently, ‘Christ does not explain in the abstract the reasons for suffering, but before all else he says, ‘Follow me!’  Come take part through your suffering in the work of saving the world, a salvation achieved through my suffering!  Through my cross…The Gospel of suffering is being written unceasingly, and it speaks unceasingly with the words of this strange paradox: the springs of divine power gush forth precisely in the midst of human weakness.  Those who share in the suffering of Christ preserve in their own sufferings a very special particle of the infinite treasure of the world’s Redemption, and can share this treasure with others,’ ( 26-27 ).

Isidore Clarke O.P. 

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

PREPARING FOR GOOD FRIDAY

“FOR THE SAKE OF THE JOY WHICH LAY AHEAD
 HE ENDURED THE CROSS,” (Hebr. 12.5)



What a ghastly day, what a terrible day - the day on which Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Son of Mary, died on Calvary!  And yet we name this, ‘Good Friday!’ – but not  because we see it as being pleasant, enjoyable.

For us this day is the most sacred of all days! From the Cross of Jesus flowed a quality of  love that only could proceed from Almighty God.

Perhaps, even more amazing, this same incomparable love flowed  from a human heart – that of the Son of Mary, Jesus, a member of the family of mankind - our brother.   “While St. Paul wrote, “If I am without love I am nothing,” (Cor.13.2.) Jesus, speaking of His impending Passion, exclaimed, “No-one can have a greater love than to lay down His life for his friends,” (Jn.15.13).

In the divine person of Jesus sacrificial love surpassed all human limitations. “In Him, in bodily form, lives divinity in all its fullness. And in Him you too find your own fulfi lment a And in Him you too find your own fulfillment,” (Col.2.9). Jesus Himself made clear that we would only find our fulfillment by our sharing in His own sacrificial love. “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me,” (Mk.8.34).

The implications of this are daunting.  Jesus   was terrified at the very thought of what He was to undergo.  In Luke’s account of the Agony in the Garden we read, “Jesus knelt down and prayed, ‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me. Nevertheless, let your will be done, not mine….In His anguish He prayed even more earnestly, and His sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood,” (Lk.22.42).

Especially on Good Friday  it’s uplifting for us to be able to see that what God asks of us is often a way of life that amounts to sacrificial love for others. It is then Jesus calls us to allow our lives to be reshaped for their  sakes. We shall then have  answered this call of Jesus to die to a life of  self-centred individualism. In so doing we shall have acquired something of the mind of Christ. We shall have become Christ-like.

Unobtrusively, countless people like you and me day after day respond to the needs of others -generously, willingly, lovingly - in the home, the work-place, within the community. What a wonderful Good Friday grace it is for us to be deeply conscious that we are actually carrying our crosses, side by side with Jesus carrying His cross.

Like Jesus we are then doing what our Heavenly Father is asking of us –not, however, without a measure of self-pity and grumbling.

Nothing unusual is being asked of us. This came home to me on the day I was taking Holy Communion to a young mother in Grenada. She was lying paralyzed on her bed. Her little son was sitting silently holding her hand. His wonderful love for her moved him to forego the joy of playing   football  with his noisy friends outside.
It was my privilege to see his sublime sacrificial love.

As for Jesus, the love-filled joy He felt in laying down His life for us far out-weighed the agony He was to experience in His Passion. He rejoiced that through His sacrificial love He would bring us ‘the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and life ever-lasting.’
In this was brotherly love beyond compare!

The Letter to the Hebrews would have us identify with Jesus in His sacrificial love of that first Good Friday, “Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, who leads us in our faith and brings it to perfection: FOR THE SAKE OF THE JOY WHICH LAY AHEAD OF HIM, He endured the cross, disregarding the shame of it, and has taken His seat at the right of God's throne,” (Heb. 12.5).

Good Friday teaches us there is joy to be found precisely in the stress and strain of our making sacrifices for others. It is then that we share in Jesus’ greatest of all loving – His self-giving for the well-being of mankind.

I wish you and yours an abundance of  Lenten Easter Blessings.

Peter Clarke, O.P.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

AN APPROACH TO LENT



Pope Francis has given me a fresh approach to celebrating the Holy season of Lent, which I hope you will find helpful.
“Mercy,” he said, “is the face of God”; Jesus gave a human face to divine mercy. We, who have been made in the image and likeness of God and, through baptism, share His very life as his sons and daughters, must radiate God’s mercy in our daily lives. 
First, we must begin with ourselves and our need for God’s mercy, before we think of other people’s guilt and their need for forgiveness.  On Ash Wednesday we expressed sorrow for our sins by receiving ashes -a very ancient way of expressing guilt and repentance. As our foreheads were marked with an ash cross we were given hope of forgiveness, with the words, ‘repent and believe in the Gospel’ -the good news of the power of God’s loving Mercy.   We should follow this up by seeking God’s mercy -by going to confession.
Surprisingly, this should be a joyful experience.  Of course, none of us likes admitting we’ve done wrong.  It’s hard to be honest with ourselves, much more difficult with someone else.  We feel ashamed and embarrassed, perhaps afraid the priest will be very fierce with us.
Let me try to reassure you.  Always remember in this sacrament we priests are ministers of Christ’s peace-making.  Our job is to help you find  peace with God, peace within yourself.   We are there to forgive, not condemn, to heal, not to inflict wounds.  If you’re nervous in coming to confession, you should leave with joy in your heart joy that God, in His loving mercy, has removed the burden of your guilt.  Never should we priest scare people from coming to confession!
It’s worth remembering that we priests need to confess our sins.   We have the same sense of embarrassment and shame as anyone else, the same sense of relief when we’ve been forgiven. My approach to hearing confession is to try to show the penitent the same understanding and compassion as I hope and need to receive from God and those I have harmed.
Jesus repeatedly insisted that if we want to receive God’s mercy we must forgive those who have harmed us.   We must be as merciful as our heavenly Father is merciful.   We must radiate God’s ‘face of mercy.’  There’s great scope for us to be peacemakers in our daily lives.  We hurt each other and we get hurt, sometimes accidentally, sometimes deliberately.  Instinctively we argue, “It was his or her fault; they must make the first move.”  
But that’s not God’s way, nor can it be ours.   Though completely innocent, He took the initiative at repairing our relationship with Him, damaged by sin.  As images of God, reflecting His mercy, we must make the first move, whoever was at fault.   That’s the quickest, the only way to restoring the peace for which we all long.
That certainly was the approach of the crucified Christ.  As St. Paul tells us, For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, and through Him   to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through the blood of His Cross,"  (Col. 2. 20-21).   In the crucified Jesus God has fashioned an indestructible bond  between Himself and the human race.  There, on the cross He has shown how much He loves each one of us –“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends,” (Jn. 15. 13).   But Jesus’ love went much, much, much further -He prayed for the very people responsible for His brutal, unjust execution, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing,"    (Lk. 23. 34 ).
In the crucified Jesus we see the human face of God’s loving, healing mercy. That’s what we are preparing to celebrate during Lent. This will reach its triumphant climax in Holy Week.  
During this sacred season let us focus on Mercy being the Face of God. First, we must seek the healing balm of His forgiveness.   As God’s children let us focus on reflecting the face of His mercy.  In other words, let’s take the initiative in healing the wounds we have inflicted, the wounds we have suffered.  That means having the courage to say, “sorry,” the generosity to forgive.  
Especially during this Lent let’s determine to be peace seekers and peace makers. Let’s make Lent a special time for bridge building, for repairing the damage caused by demolition experts, including ourselves!
Isidore O.P.
 
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