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.

Monday, 6 February 2017

AUTUMN OF MY CONTENT

(with apologies to 'Richard III')

Let’s face it.  Much of our lives are uneventful.  Hopefully we do have high points when we can celebrate and enjoy ourselves.  But for much of the time we live a monotonous routine. We may well ask, ‘What’s the point?’
The Church comes up with a brilliant answer. It sanctifies the tedium of life with what we call ‘Ordinary Time.’ That’s when we’re not preparing for great liturgical festivals or actually celebrating them, but just getting on with the routine of following Jesus in our daily lives.  About 30 years of His short life were as mundane and humdrum as ours.  From infancy, through childhood, youth and manhood He was being prepared to carry out His saving mission.  Each stage of that preparation was vital to His success.
For Jesus and for us Ordinary Time is Sacred Time. It’s in the routine of our daily lives that we love and serve God and each other. In this He draws close to us, and we to Him. Each stage of our Ordinary Time is meant to help us on our journey to the Kingdom of Heaven. The routine will vary as we develop and grow from being an infant, then a child, then an adult. 
As I approach 85 I have a special interest in making sense of what the Ordinary Time of ageing can mean for me and others like me.  With God’s help I need to see if the autumn of my life can become the fruitful and positive climax to my vocation to follow Christ. 
Increasingly that’s meaning not being active, but sharing in our saviour’s weakness and vulnerability. Through us sick and frail people the Church identifies with the crucified Christ and shares in His redemptive suffering, (cf. Col. 1. 24).  We are called to witness that lives like ours are not a meaningless waste, but an essential part of the life of the Church.  Ours is a difficult vocation; we need and value the respect and support of those who are active.
People like me are often accused of living in the past. Certainly we can be crashing bores as we reminisce about the ‘good old days.’  But for most of us oldies our faith shifts our perspective.  Instead of looking back, we look forward.  We’re not so much preparing for death, but for eternal life.  As I contemplate the sunset of death I     look forward to the sunrise of the resurrection.  My longing to dwell in the house of the Lord increases as that approaches.  I’m like an old horse which gets excited as it nears home! 
One of the things about extreme old age is that you survive your contemporaries. Gradually they’re stripped away and you’re left alone.  Since they were part of your life, with their death, part of you dies.   And in many other ways ageing strips us of our various props and supports.   That must mean coming to terms with my mind and various parts of my body wearing out and breaking down. Though this is frustrating, so far I’ve been spared any great pain or disability.
For me the Ordinary Time of ageing forces me to let go, to give back to God -my physical and mental strengths, my loved ones, my mobility, the opportunities to be an active Dominican.
The more I have to surrender, the more I’m challenged to trust, to believe that God’s hands will sustain me and bring me to my heavenly home with Him.  As death knocks away the final prop, I’m called to pray with the dying Jesus, “Father into your hands I commend my life, and death.”
Letting go of everything and trusting in the Lord -that’s what I must do during the Ordinary Time, the Autumn, of my Old Age.

Isidore Clarke O.P.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

JESUS WASTED TIME?

                 








How did Jesus spend His life? After all, besides being the Son of Mary He was the Son God. He was making this world, our world, His very own! To tell the truth, during most of His life of about 34 years He did nothing out of the ordinary. For about 30 of those years He fitted into the life of the people of Nazareth.

As a child He would have played games and have received the same kind of instruction as those of His age-group.  A time would surely have come  when He would have done something to earn a living - perhaps helping in Joseph's carpentry shop, perhaps He grew and sold vegetables.  On  becoming a young man, He would have mixed with the men about town.

In other words, His life would have been very ordinary. Since He was truly God we can be certain there was nothing sinful about Him. But we can be sure that He didn't wear a halo as He walked the streets of Nazareth. 

There's no need to assume that because He was the Son of God He dominated every conversation and expected to get His way whenever a decision had to be made. His friends and relatives probably would not have been inclined to show Him any special respect. They would not have thought He was any better than they were. 

When we reflect on the three years of the ministry of  Jesus they were  in many ways spectacular, even sensational, with His various miracles - healing the sick, raising the dead to life, feeding multitudes, calming storm. Even now we marvel at how instructive are  His teaching and preaching. 

During those three years there was something about Jesus that caused people to swarm around Him. They couldn't get enough of Him. They came to expect so much of Him - all the time. He influenced the lives of so many. 

In terms of time only a small fraction of the life of  Jesus was exceptional -out of the ordinary – that of the Infancy Narratives – 3 years of public ministry  - and  that  from His Passion to Ascension into Glory. The balance – 30 years – was scarcely more than typical growth into manhood. It would seem the Son of  God, Jesus, went underground - He merged with the 'grass roots' of society, of family and local community. He confined Himself to the people of Nazareth and its surroundings.

The Son of God, the Son of Man, spend most of His life on earth in this restricted environment of family and neighbourhood. He wanted to endorse  the supreme value of the family as the basic unit of human society. He displayed the beauty, possibility, even the necessity, of being godly in our being together, living,working, enjoying ourselves together.   

Dare we say society stands or crumbles to the extent that we we catch the significance of these thirty years of the life of Jesus?

These were not wasted years, opportunities lost for making a spectacular impression of the history of mankind.  When God becomes involved Ordinary Time becomes Sacred Time; the trivial and transient assumes an eternal value.   That was true for Jesus; that can be true for you and me!

What a difference it would make if in our own personal  Ordinary Time we made the words of Jesus our Watch-Word, "I have loved you just as the Father has love me....love one another as I have loved you," (Jn. 15)!

Peter Clarke, OP  



















Sunday, 8 January 2017

"I COME TO DO YOUR WILL"


Greeting from Fr. Isidore Clarke on 2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A.
 
‘Here I am Lord.  I come to do your will.   These words are taken from today’s responsorial psalm, (Ps. 39).    They sum up Christ’s vocation and ours -His followers.    In the 1st Reading (Is. 49. 3-6) we are told about God choosing and preparing a servant.  He would be a light to the nations and would bring the Lord’s salvation to the ends of the earth. 

That prophecy was fulfilled in Christ.  At his baptism the Father recognised Jesus as his beloved Son or Servant, and in the power of the Spirit he began to preach the Kingdom of God.   The words, ‘Here I am Lord.  I come to do your will’ sum up Christ’s life-long openness and obedience to his Father’s will.  This would take him to Gethsemane and the cross.

‘Here I am Lord.  I come to do your will’ sums up our Christian vocation.   At our baptism each one of us becomes God’s beloved son or daughter, called to serve Him and our neighbour with love.    There are many ways in which we can do that.  For most of us it will be as married or single lay people.  In those capacities, there are many possibilities. God will call others to serve Him in the priesthood or religious life.  

In practice, it’s never a question of one vocation being better than another, but of which one is right and best for us.  God calls each one of us to something special, which probably won’t be anything spectacular and may shift from serving Him in one way during a certain period in our lives, to something different later on.  I have had to learn that in the frailty of sickness or old age I can’t do what was possible  when I was an active youngster, some 60 ago.   Being frail is a very special and difficult vocation.  So is being young and active.

Sometimes it may be difficult for us to know what God is asking of us.   With the young Samuel we should say, ‘Speak, Lord, your servant is listening,’ (1 Sam. 3.9).   Usually we don’t hear a voice from heaven clearly telling us what we should do.   Instead, God helps us to make up our minds through prayerful thought and inquiry.   Wise advice or someone simply acting as a sounding-board can be of great assistance.   God may well want us to use our particular interests and skills in His service.

It can be a problem when we simply can’t tell what God wants of us!   This uncertainty may last for some time.   Though that may be distressing for us, it may be God’s plan for us at that particular moment.  He may want us to learn to wait on the Lord and to learn to be patient with Him and ourselves.   For a time God may want us to serve him by our living with uncertainty.  If so, we will need a great deal of trust to believe God knows what He’s doing, even if we don’t.   As we place ourselves in God’s hands we should pray, ‘Thy will be done,’
or with Mary,
‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done unto me according to your word.’  

We can be called to these periods of uncertainty at any time of our lives -as a school or university-leaver, uncertain about what he’s going to do with his life, or someone who becomes unemployed and doesn’t yet know how he’s occupy himself.  Or perhaps we’ve just come out of prison and are facing a very uncertain future.  Perhaps a serious accident or illness may make our previous activity impossible.  The future can look very bleak and frightening.  I’ve been there; I know.

To pray, ‘Here I am Lord.  I come to do your will’ means that we are open to God.  We are willing to listen to Him, and are eager to do His will.  That takes great courage and trust that God and will give us the strength to do whatever He asks of us.  For our part, when we say ‘Yes’ to God’s will we must mean it and do it, wherever that may take us. It’s no use being full of good intentions if we don’t carry them out. 

To say ‘Yes’ to God is the most difficult of prayers to say and really mean -as Jesus learnt in Gethsemane.  But perhaps surprisingly, it is  precisely in doing God’s will that we will find our greatest fulfilment, with the greatest reward.  In the final reckoning the Lord will say to us, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! ….. Come and share your master's happiness!'
(Matt. 25. 23).

 
c