Thursday, 19 January 2017



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 one another as I have loved you," (Jn. 15)!

Peter Clarke, OP  

Sunday, 8 January 2017


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).

Tuesday, 3 January 2017


Today we celebrate the feast of the Epiphany -God manifesting Himself in the person of the baby Jesus.

At Christmas we rejoiced that angels had called shepherds to come from the nearby hills to worship the new-born Jesus.   Although they were uneducated, poor, despised Jews God chose to reveal Himself first to them; they were the first people to recognise and welcome Jesus as their Lord and God, their Saviour.

On today’s feast of the Epiphany we celebrate God revealing Himself to another very different group of people  - pagan wise men - who had travelled from a distant land.  They  were  Magi -highly respected scholars renowned for their knowledge of the planets and stars.    Building on that interest, God used a star to guide them from modern Iraq or Iran, to the babe at Bethlehem.

 God moved them to follow that star, make a long journey into the unknown.   When they reached the infant Jesus, God inspired them to make an enormous leap of faith.   Seeing a normal baby, they believed that He was truly God.   The wise students of the stars worshipped the Creator of Heaven and Earth!

When they returned home the Magi would have told their people what they had seen and heard.  That would make them the first missionaries to the pagan world!   This comes at the very beginning of Matthew’s Gospel;  at the very end the risen Lord commissioned the disciples to preach the Good News to the whole world.   God became man out of an urgent desire that  people of every race and class should share His life and happiness.  No-one was to be excluded.  Such is the wonderful Good News we celebrate on the feast of the Epiphany.

Like the Magi, we are called to make a journey of discovering Christ.   God will lead each of us by different routes, depending on our backgrounds and interests…Magi one way,  shepherds another way!  

 Certainly, most of us have already set out on that journey towards learning to know and love Christ.   Not one of us has yet completed that journey, nor will we, till we see God face to face in heaven.   In the meantime, we, like the Magi, must follow whatever star God uses to guide us.  

It’s important to note that for the Magi to find the baby Jesus they required not only the guidance of a star, but also that of the Scriptures. These were provided by, of all people, Herod’s religious advisers.   Though human reason can teach us much about God, we need Divine Revelation to help us discover Christ and the wonder of the salvation He has planned for us.  

At the manger, we see both Jews and pagans, rich and poor.  They represent all of us.  The Son of God shared our human life, lived among us and died for every one of us.  Though each of us has a different starting point we share a common finishing point – Jesus.   As He draws us to Himself He builds on what we already have; He comes to us where we are; He leads us to where we should be -with Him.

 We’re told that the Magi came with gifts.   The gold represents Christ’s kingship, the frankincense His priesthood and the myrrh His burial. These would find their fulfilment in Christ’s Passion through which He would save both Jews and pagans, as represented at the manger.  In return for these gifts Jesus gave the Magi and the whole world an infinitely greater gift -His very self. Let us, with the shepherds and magi, welcome Christ’s gift of Himself to each one of us. 

In return, with the Magi and shepherds, come, let us give ourselves in silent adoration and loving service of the babe in the manger, the Son of God Himself.  Especially on the feast of the Epiphany let us rejoice that God has revealed Himself to the pagan world and wants all of us to be saved, no matter what our background. 

A final thought. Each of us is called to be an epiphany –someone revealing what it means to love and follow Christ. Our lives -how we behave - may be the only way most people will get to know what it means to be a Christian.

I wish you a happy feast and a blessed New Year!

Isidore O.P.