Thursday, 18 January 2018

3rd SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME




JESUS IN A NUTSHELL!




Greetings Brothers and Sisters.  My theme today is 'Jesus in a nutshell' because I  find in just a few sentences St. Mark describes how  He laid down  the foundations for His establishing the Kingdom of Heaven on earth.

 We are told Jesus, commonly known as the ‘Carpenter’s Son’ went from Nazareth to Galilee. “There He proclaimed the Good News from God.” Indeed, Jesus Himself was God’s gift to mankind. The Son of God, the Son of Mary, was a man among men. That is staggering Good News.
To make Himself known He moved among the large Galilee fishing community, making friends. To some He said, “‘Follow me and I will make you into fishers of men.'  And at once they left their nets and followed him.” Instead of catching fish to feed themselves and others with a tasty meal they would be catching men to feed them with the Good News of Jesus Himself. This blessed catch was to experience the joy of being with Jesus. St. John in his Gospel records that Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life and have it to the full,” (Jn.I0.I0).
In assembling a team of fellow-workers Jesus was laying the foundations for establishing the Kingdom of God here on earth. He Himself would be the corner-stone of such an enterprise. This is what St. Peter writes in his first letter, “Christ  is the living stone, rejected by human beings but chosen by God and precious to Him; set yourselves close to Him  so that you, too, may be living stones making a spiritual house as a holy priesthood to offer the spiritual sacrifices made acceptable to God through Jesus Christ,” (1Peter.2.4).
It is worth knowing this was written some years after Jesus had ascended into Heaven  - this meaning that the work of Jesus was then being furthered in essentially the same way as when Jesus walked the shores of Galilee. What continued to be on offer was the Good News – the very person Jesus Himself, the  way He lived, what He taught and ultimately His conquest over sin and death through the Paschal Mystery of His Death and Resurrection.
In the liturgy today Jesus is saying to us through His Church, “Now it’s your turn to continue, hand on, what was begun on the shore of Galilee.”  For starters we need to increase our appreciation of Jesus through our prayerful reading of the Sacred Scriptures; through our striving with the grace of God to live the kind of life Jesus lived. Most certainly we are to be as alert as was Samuel when he said, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.  We in our day are being called to make ourselves available to Jesus. ‘Lord, tell me what you want to me do; Jesus let know how I can help you.’   
It’s good to remember that Jesus does not choose us for what we now are but for what He knows He can make of us – much to our surprise. It was He who made His first followers into ‘Fishers of men.’ For Jesus there was no elite group from which He could choose men immediately fit to be recruited as His fellow-workers.   
Indeed, every kind of group has people who deeply love Jesus, who love being His enthusiastic followers, who would love to be living in a vibrant Christian environment. What better place to start than in the home? There we might find co-operation; there the possibility opposition where the situation can only be saved through the wonderful grace of reconciliation with contrition inviting forgiveness, justified anger requiring genuine apology.  
If you are a loner with such ambitions don’t be discouraged! One is infinitely more than zero. After all, none of us will ever be alone if we have in our lives Jesus, His Mother Mary and our favourite saints, as well as the company of those who share our beliefs and  values.

Peter Clarke, O.P.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

POINTING TOWARDS JESUS







New Year’s Greetings, Brothers and Sisters!  I wish to share with you a few thoughts taken from the Gospel of today, THE 2nd SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME.

What a friend we have in Jesus!  What a friend Jesus had in John the Baptist! Why am I so enthusiastic about John?  Because he was the man chosen by God to prepare the way of the Lord – when the Lord happened to be his very own cousin, Jesus. John was drawing large enthusiastic crowds to himself because of his compelling, challenging preaching and his stark life-style and appearance. Everything about him declared that he was a MAN OF GOD. And yet John  insisted he was not worthy to fix the sandals of the one he was heralding, Jesus.

 John knew that God meant him to be eclipsed by Jesus. He stated as much himself “He must increase, while I must decrease.” John even assisted in shifting interest from himself to Jesus. John sighting Jesus in the crowd loudly announced “ Behold the lamb of God!”  Immediately two of John’s followers left him and became followers of Jesus. To my mind there’s only one word to describe the Baptist’s gesture – MAGNAMINITY - BIG-HEARTEDNESS.
  
Andrew was one of the two who had moved from commitment to the Baptist to commitment to Jesus. He believed that in finding Jesus he had found the much longed-for Messiah. To Andrew this was such great, exciting news that he had to share his big find with his brother. He had to introduce Simon to Jesus. And to what effect? Jesus looked hard at Simon and selected him, not Andrew, for promotion. Simon was to be known as ’Peter’ which means ‘rock.’ On him, not Andrew, Jesus would build His Church.

Andrew had done both Jesus and his brother a big favour in bringing them together. His love for both prevented him from resenting that he had been bye-passed. He would not be one of Jesus’ own inner circle of Peter, James and John.
Today’s Gospel reading is telling us something of vital importance to ourselves and to the Church. We must pray for the vibrant enthusiasm that compelled John the Baptist and Andrew to point others in the direction of Jesus. The Baptist was given the grace to see Jesus as the Lamb of God. Andrew was given the grace to see Jesus as the Messiah.  They exploded with so much joy that they became instant evangelizers – spreading the Good News – creating the introduction to Jesus and then letting Jesus take them to Himself.

At this point I find it important to recall those people to whom I am indebted for sparking off or keeping alive my own enthusiasm for Jesus.  In different ways they have led me  to  feel impelled to share with others my excitement about Jesus As I now consider the world around me, the world that is brought to my attention through the media, I am convinced that this world urgently, even desperately, needs my enthusiasm for Jesus. Also yours.

You and I must pass on the Good News of our discovery of Jesus as did John the Baptist, as did Andrew, as have so many other enthusiasts for Jesus.  We owe this to Jesus, to the world. Never should we allow this our enthusiasm for Jesus to become like a dimly glowing ember because of our lethargy, our  laziness, still less because of  our despair….as though the world of today were far beyond repair!

We have just experienced the intense spirituality of Advent and Christmastide. Now we should approach this New Year with confidence in the love God has for our world. He sent His Son to become a member of the human family, to be its Saviour. Jesus continues His mission to save and heal the world in our generation. He does so through the Church, through people like you and me. He does this  through good and godly people who have never heard of Him and never will.

Let’s start the New Year with some of St. Paul’s optimism                             “If  God  is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8.31).   
                     
Let’s think positively! Act decisively, in Jesus’ Name, Amen!

Peter Clarke, O.P.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

EPIPHANY! REVELATION! CELEBRATION!









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              Coming! Coming! Coming!......Come!.....Gone!                              This describes the huge, even extravagant, build-up to Christmas, it’s brief but  joyful celebration, and then it’s all over. This closure is eloquently stated by  the return to school at the end of the vacation. 

To some it may seem that  the Church wraps up Christmas neatly by celebrating  the Solemnity of the Epiphany – the journeying l of the Magi from the East to see for themselves one particular, very special, newly born baby boy.    

It’s truly surprising that the one person  to ask what’s going on is the vicious King Herod. He puts it to the Magi, “Go and find out all about the child, and when you have found him, let me know, so that I too may go and do him homage,” (Mtt.2.8). As we all know his resolve was to wipe out the opposition, ’this infant king of the Jews.’ 

Very different was the attitude of the shepherds   who left their sheep on the hillside while they went to see this infant for themselves. “They went back glorifying and praising God for all they heard and seen,” (Lk.2.20).

Our Christmas celebration has surely been centred on this child beautiful in His infancy who is, in truth, actually the Son of God, now one of us - a member of the human family.  From earliest times  the celebration of the Solemnity of the Epiphany has been hugely important. It enables us to see that child was, as a man, to be active as only God can be.

The word ‘Epiphany’ means a revelation in which God exposes, unmasks His hidden self. Jesus is God seen in action as a man among men. Epiphany occurs when the human mind, the human heart   identifies the presence of God – as did Peter when he exclaimed, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!” Jesus concurs with this and explains to Peter what has happened. “You are a blessed man! Because it was no human agency that revealed this to you but my Father in Heaven, (Mtt.16.17). 

The shepherds and the Magi would have left the stable at Bethlehem deeply impressed, probably bewildered and uncertain of what would be the future of this child to whom they had be led in such an extraordinary way.  Once  Christmastide  is over we are not left in such bewilderment and uncertainty.

Our ongoing faith that Mary’s child was truly God has been refreshed and renewed as we have devoutly celebrated Christmas. Our faith takes us beyond the stable in Bethlehem to a time when the divinity of Jesus was openly exposed. In an ongoing  epiphany  we are made to know the consequences of the Son of God becoming man.

The visit of the gentile Magi immediately expanded the God’s embrace of mankind – no longer exclusively to the Chosen People of Israel.  Through Jesus  the global family of mankind would be the Chosen People of God. 

 Further,   in  the celebration of the Epiphany  the Church  draws our attention to that time when Jesus was baptized in the River Jordan and a voice from Heaven proclaimed, “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.” 

 And finally, on this day   the Church draws our attention   to the happiness of the wedding Jesus attended in Cana. There He not only changed water into wine. In a brilliant Epiphany it is revealed to us that in Jesus, truly God, truly man, the Almighty is lovingly, inseparably wedded to mankind.

I conclude with the Antiphon in Evening Prayer of the Church for the Solemnity of the Epiphany


Three wonders mark this day we celebrate: today the star led the Magi to the manger; today water was changed into wine at the marriage feast; today Christ desired to be baptized by John in the river Jordan to bring us salvation, alleluia.


   Peter Clarke, O.P.
 
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