Thursday, 21 December 2017



 In the Gospel for the 4th Sunday  of Advent (Lk. 1.26-38)we  hear how Mary willingly accepted the huge responsibility God wished to entrust to her – to be the mother of one  who would  “ be great and be called Son of the Most High!”  In St. Matthew’s Gospel (1.18-25) we read how Joseph was told people would call this child “Emmanuel, a name which means ‘God-is-with-us.’ ’’ Also, He must be named ‘Jesus,’ because He is the one who is to save His people from their sins.” What a destiny! “To save his people from their sins.”

 Certainly Jesus would have received normal training within the home and, like other boys, He would have been given religious instruction in the local synagogue. It is said that it takes a village to train a child. As for forgiving people their sins! God alone would know how Jesus was to be prepared for such an undertaking.     

  We can be grateful to St. John Paul 11 for bringing to our attention how the vocations of these three members of the Holy Family would be inter-woven: Jesus - Redeemer of Mankind, Mary - Mother of the Redeemer, Joseph - the Guardian of the Redeemer.  God had given to each of them a role way beyond their being home-makers in Nazareth.  
 The mission assigned to Jesus was to be global – affecting the whole of mankind. It was to be radical. To save, redeem, reconcile   God and mankind. Jesus, being truly God, was uniquely able to redeem mankind. Mary as the Mother of the Redeemer and Joseph as the Guardian of the Redeemer  would protect and provide for the family. They helped each other to rise to the challenge of their  family’s interwoven  vocations. In different ways and to different degrees  they collaborated in   the redemption of mankind,  with Jesus being the spearhead, the achiever of such a mission.  

 At Christmas we celebrate a husband and a wife listening attentively as the Angel Gabriel explained to Mary and Joseph how God was seeking, was needing, their co-operation. Mary gave an unconditional “Yes!” to what God was asking of her, her readily putting herself at God’s disposal as His handmaid.  Joseph trustingly accepted what the angel explained to him about his wife Mary with a child that was not his own. He agreed to take to his home Mary as his wife. 

They gazed lovingly at their Jesus lying in the manger. With the  eyes  of Faith they adored Him as being truly God. What a blessing, what a privilege, had been bestowed upon them. God had given them a heavy responsibility.  They  were to be  collaborators with God in all that would  be accomplished through His sending His Son into the world. They were to be collaborators with their Son, Jesus, in whatever His Father had sent Him to achieve.

And now I come closer to home. When an infant is being baptized and thereby becoming  a child of God the parents are asked a question by God through the priest. This amounts to, “You two! Will you look after my child, your child for me, our child, for me !”

As an adult Jesus invited various people to follow Him. Later He asked  some  to work along-side Him. Before His ascension into Heaven He founded a Church of people such as ourselves through whom He would continue what He had started during His short stay  on  earth. St. Paul tells us, “We are God's fellow workers,” (1Cor.3.9).

When I visit the Crib on Christmas Day I shall ask, “What do you want of me, Little Fella, how can I work for you, live for you? The embrace of  your  programme is as wide as the world.”

And dear readers, to what extent would you offer to commit  yourselves to  collaborate with the Babe in the manger who saved, redeemed the world and continues to do so ? 
 Through you?

A blessed Christmas to you and yours. Amen

Peter Clarke, O.P.

Friday, 8 December 2017



Today, 2nd Sunday of Advent  we reflect on  Mark 1.1-8. Here we are introduced to John the Baptist – a rugged man, leading a rugged life in a desolate wilderness.. He is the man sent by God  to proclaim the need to prepare a highway   along which God would travel to meet His people.  We also hear of a multitude of people making their way towards the Baptist.
We must see this as an exciting convergence of God coming to meet His people and their making their way towards Him.     Far from being a righteous crowd they were responding to the Baptist’s call to repent of their sins. They were even prepared to undergo the humiliation of requesting the Baptist to duck them in the water of the River Jordan...thereby publicly admitting their need for a spiritual cleansing. 

 And then the Baptist drew attention to someone much, much greater than himself.  He, Jesus,  would  baptize them with the Holy Spirit. Jesus would lead them out of their sinfulness, reconcile them with God.
Our hearing of these people being introduced to the adult Jesus when He was about to launch His public ministry is vital to our celebrating Advent. During this season of Advent the Church realizes the absolute necessity of our grasping the origin, the identity of Jesus. 

At Christmas we profess our faith that the babe in the crib – Mary’s child - was, in truth, the Son of God. This infant, Jesus, would  be the person John the Baptist presented to the crowd at the River Jordan. This same infant, Jesus, who would later known as the Man from Galilee, the carpenter’s son would finally be known as the Man on Calvary – Jesus, our crucified Lord and Saviour.   

The beauty of the incarnation must never be isolated from the harsh necessity of the Paschal Mystery – the saving, sacrificial crucifixion of Jesus leading to His glorious conquest over sin and death through His Resurrection. It is for this very reason that in religious art a cross often is inserted into the halo of the infant Jesus; or  a  cross is painted on the wall of the birth-place of Jesus.  The Christmas  Crib and the Calvary Cross are inseparable.

Consequently, during Advent as we prepare to joyfully celebrate the serenity of the birth of Baby Jesus  we must remain  aware  of the are  multitudes suffering man-made, man-allowed, miseries. Our Christmas merriment over the birth of Jesus must not be allowed to obscure the shear nastiness, the desolation, that some of God’s children are inflicting on others throughout the year, every year. 

Now as our thoughts turn to this Advent, this Christmas, I refer to a message Pope  Benedict XV1 gave on World Youth Day 2008. In so many of our societies, side by side with material prosperity, a spiritual desert is spreading: an interior emptiness, an unnamed fear, a quiet sense of despair. How many of our contemporaries have built broken and empty cisterns (cf. Jer 2:13) in a desperate search for meaning – the ultimate meaning that only love can give? This is the great and liberating gift which the Gospel brings: it reveals our dignity as men and women created in the image and likeness of God. It reveals humanity’s sublime calling, which is to find fulfilment in love. It discloses the truth about man and the truth about life.”

These words of Pope Benedict XV1 convince me that Jesus, and all He stands for, is immensely relevant to today’s world. Jesus, the adult, is urgently needed to be its Saviour.  Jesus the Saviour is the reason for the Advent Season! 

The Saviour, impossible though  it may seem to us, can change, can frustrate,                                       the values, the behavior,of those whose  contentment and fulfillment depend on what is contrary to the Good News of the Gospel. Jesus, the Babe of Bethlehem, Jesus, of Calvary,  Jesus of the Empty Tomb gives us the confidence to hope for, work for,  a better  world!                                                   .                                                                                                                                                                      

May you have a blessed   Advent!