Thursday, 22 February 2018



The disciples were in a turmoil! Their leader, Simon Peter, had just professed his belief that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the Living God. To their horror Jesus began to tell them that He would be put to death.  At the time, it meant nothing to them that He also added that after three days He would rise from the dead.

Simon Peter, out of sheer love and loyalty protested that this must never happen to Him. The sharp retort of Jesus must have been devastating to Peter.  “Get behind me Satan!”  Jesus made matters even worse by telling them, “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine let him renounce himself, and take up his cross and follow me.” 

It is against this background that we are told that after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John up a high mountain, where they had an experience that would convince them they were not making a huge blunder in pinning their future on Jesus. 


Before their very eyes Jesus was transfigured. He was shimmering with ‘out-of-this-world’ glory.  In spite of everything they had recently heard from Jesus He was evidently brilliantly associated with God!                                             This was BLESSED ASSURANCE No.1 

And then they saw Him standing between two men. God must have revealed to the disciples that these two were Moses and Elijah -the two greatest witnesses to the One and Only God.  Jesus being in such eminent company must have convinced them He was not out of step with God’s Chosen People, with their history of the Divine Covenant and Promises.                                         This was BLESSED ASSURANCE No 2! 

And then, to crown it all, “A cloud came, covering them in shadow; and from the cloud there came a voice, 'This is my Son, the Beloved.” (Mk.9.7)  This was a repeat of the supreme endorsement given to Jesus by His Heavenly Father at His baptism in the Jordan. To this at the Transfiguration the Father added LISTEN TO HIM.”  This was surely to bolster the disciples. They had suffered so much anguish after hearing all that Jesus had said to them ! This was BLESSED ASSURANCE No. 3! 

With this triple Blessed Assurance the identity of Jesus and the mission of Jesus had been guaranteed by Almighty God Himself!

This phrase, ‘LISTEN TO HIM’ once spoken to the first disciples is now being spoken to us in our day. To listen to Jesus, in any and every generation, is to carry a heavy weight! Jesus seeks from us the kind of loving obedience as that He gave to His Heavenly Father in Gethsemane, “'Abba, Father!' he said, 'For you everything is possible. Take this cup away from me. But let it be as you, not I, would have it,'” (Mk.14.36)

Meditating on the Transfiguration of Jesus enables us to appreciate something of the divine majesty of the One who was crucified. Christians need an exceptional faith to believe this was actually willed by the One Jesus had described to the disciples as your Father and my Father. 

During Lent the Church would want us to reflect that what St. Paul had written to the Corinthians long ago applies to our world today. “We are preaching a crucified Christ …..God’s folly is wiser than human wisdom….God’s weakness is stronger than human strength,” (I Cor.1ch.1).

We may be among those who are troubled that the Almighty, infinitely loving God, doesn't prevent hurricanes, earthquakes and floods; among those who ask how God can  allow human beings made in His own image and likeness to behave in such ungodly ways ! 

It seems that what silenced Simon Peter must now silence us,                     “You are thinking not as God thinks, but as human beings do,” (Mk. 8.33).    

As with the disciples so with us: our faith in God will be strengthened as during Lent we reflect on how the Transfiguration of Jesus gives us such Blessed Assurances

May you have a blessed, inspiring, Lent!

Peter Clarke,OP

Saturday, 17 February 2018


                                                                 TEST OR TEMPT?

Today’s Gospel tells  us, ”The Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness and he remained there for 40 days, and was tempted by Satan (Mark 1.12). Matthew surely startles us when he states that the Spirit led Him into the wilderness “to be tempted by the devil.” (Mtt.4.1).   

 We are startled. This certainly can’t mean that the Holy Spirit – the third person in the Trinity should intend that Jesus, the second person of the Trinity become Man, would sin – deliberately offend God. It would amount to God persuading God to do something ungodly – sin. 

When we pray that God should not lead us into temptation we don’t suspect He might be tempting us to sin. We’re asking Him to prevent us from getting into situations we can’t handle and not allow us to get ourselves tangled up with people who are up to no good.  We are also asking God to protect us from over-confident selves.

The Letter to the Hebrews helps us here, For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace,  that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.(Heb.4.15).

In the divine scheme of things it is was of vital importance that the Son of God, the Son Man, one of us should be exposed to the experience of our first parents, Adam and Eve – to come face to face with sheer evil - Satan himself, who in his nastiness contrived to dislodge the beauty of their holiness, their godliness. Sad to say, they were enchanted by such seductive charm.

The Spirit led Jesus to be exposed to the same tempter, for Jesus to confront, defy, and triumph over him. This nasty testing was a glorious triumph for Jesus. What is so consoling is that we have Jesus on our side.  The nasty temptations that spring on us by surprise do not make us sinners.  The grace Jesus won for us through His own vanquishing of the devil enables us to react and resist if we choose to do so. It’s a very different matter if we thrive on our temptations, lap them up and look for more. 

Sometimes God wants to test and challenge us so as to bring out the very best in us. He wants us to come through as champions. He provides us with  the graces to do so. His grace is sufficient for us. We may not welcome this but we deal with this as He would want us to.

On the other hand, the tempter , who has no love for us, will strive to bring the very worst out of us. He tried this on Jesus and got nowhere. He will play on our weaknesses, which vary from person to person. With cunning he will suggest to us that what know to be wrong is not so bad after all. . There’s something in us that is all too ready to yield to what we fancy . We even feel comfortable in doing so.

For my Lenten reflection I’ve chosen this passage from the Letter of St. James, “Blessed is the man who endures trial, for when he has stood the TEST he will receive the crown of life which God has promised to those who love him.
 Let no one say when he is TEMPTED, "I am tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted with evil and He Himself tempts no one;  but each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.  Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin; and sin when it is full-grown brings forth death, (James 1.12-5). 

During this Lent let us be  good to ourselves. Guided by God let us discern what are the temptations most damaging to ourselves. For us they are occasions of sin. For us it is best to avoid them. And don’t we need to pray for ourselves and for each other?
God bless you


Monday, 12 February 2018


It’s not so long since we celebrated Christmas. Soon we shall be celebrating the Paschal Mystery of the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus. Each celebration has a period of a few weeks of preparation. The first (Advent) was about Jesus coming into the world, the second (Lent) will be about His leaving the world.  People might soon be asking ‘What are you giving up for Lent? What extra good works are you going to do? We may be asking ourselves the same!’

This is all well and good, but it doesn’t explain why these big events get this particular kind of attention.  We should also note that both Advent and Lent attach great importance on our need to repent of our sins -  followed  by our need to have God forgive them in the  Sacrament  of  Reconciliation (Confession).

It’s all about God doing  a sublime repair job; a rescue operation… the Salvation History of Mankind. God created man in His own image and likeness – utterly godly, holy, and unsoiled by sin.  It is with sadness that St. Paul tells us,  “It was through one man that sin came into the world, and through sin death, and thus death has spread through the whole human race because everyone has sinned.” (Rom. Ch. 5)

The sin-contaminated human family has been rescued by One whose birth is celebrated at Christmas, the One to be named ‘Jesus’ because He was the One to save His people from their sins – Mary’s child, the Son of God. In this same letter to the Romans St. Paul contrasts the damage done to mankind by Adam’s Original Sin to the godliness restored to mankind through one man, Jesus. “One man's offence brought condemnation on all humanity; and one man's good act has brought justification and life to all humanity.  Just as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man's obedience are many to be made upright.” (Rom. Ch. 5).

The Letter to the Ephesians tells us the ambitions Our Heavenly Father, Our Creator, has for mankind “God chose us in Christ before the world began to be holy and blameless in His sight. In Him and through His blood, we have been redeemed, and our sins forgiven, so immeasurably generous is God’s favor to us,” (Eph. 1).

Ever since the Fall God’s emphasis has been on the restoration of the beauty of holiness, “Be Holy because I the Lord your God am Holy,” (Leviticus 19.2).  In the Letter to the Ephesians we are told, “Christ loved the Church and sacrificed Himself for her  to make her holy by washing her in cleansing water with a  form of words,  so that when He took the Church to Himself she would be glorious, with no speck or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and faultless,” (Eph. 5).

Our spirituality during Lent should be focused on the godliness, the holiness with which God wishes to clothe you, me, indeed, the whole of mankind. It is through Jesus Christ, our Crucified and Risen Lord, through His obedient, self-sacrificing love that the sin of man’s ugly, self- centred disobedience to God is overcome, overwhelmed.

  During Lent we  should contemplate how much  love God has shown for us through His Son, our Brother.  Jesus died for us, He rose from the dead for us. We should be elated. We should be lost for words with which to express our gratitude to Jesus. From this should arise in us a longing, a desire to claim for ourselves what Jesus has achieved for us.

We should  yearn to be freed of whatever hinders us from savouring the Amazing Grace of our being found by God. As we repent of our sins, confess them and have them forgiven in the Sacrament of Reconciliation we actually engage ourselves in our very own Salvation History.

Far from God or the Church being obsessed with  sin they are obsessed with the holiness, the godliness that is stifled by sin.

God grant all of us a Lent that is inspiring and liberating  a Lent in which the redeeming love of Christ’s Crucifixion and Resurrection is for us the reason for the season.

Peter Clarke, O.P.

Friday, 9 February 2018



Last Sunday we heard of Jesus freeing a man from a disturbing unclean spirit.  When other people could not help him Jesus, with a sharp command, was able to cure him.     This frenzied individual was henceforth enabled to live an ordinary life with other people. News of this spread rapidly. People were amazed that Jesus had the power to do such a thing so effortlessly. 

After this crowds  sought out Jesus for Him to heal them. Many even took the trouble to bring the sick to Jesus, as well as those possessed by unclean spirits. Some were healed merely by touching Him. This was exciting, sensational.

This Sunday we are told of a leper approaching Jesus. Such people with their ugly, much feared, skin ailments, were obliged to keep their distance from everyone else .  To keep others clear  these outcasts had to shake a warning bell vigorously or shout loudly ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ Or carry placards inscribed with warning words.  Can you imagine anything more  humiliating?

Those who touched a leper were judged  to be contaminated…unclean; from that moment  they were required to keep away from all healthy people. This was fair enough in  the days of  Jesus and for centuries afterwards.  They did not have the medicines of modern times. Such skin ailments were not understood. No-one had any answers.

In the light of all this it was outrageous for this bold-faced leper to get down on his knees before Jesus and to plead with Him, “If you want you, you can cure me.” Feeling sorry for him, Jesus had stretched out His hand and touched him, with the words, ‘Of course I want to heal you! Be cured!’”

If nothing had then happened Jesus, having touched the leper would have been judged to be contaminated. He would have been excluded from society. The whole of His ministry of preaching and healing would have come to an abrupt end.

   But in this  dramatic moment Jesus had cured the leper. His skin was clean. Jesus instructed him to have himself thoroughly examined by the priest. Once he was given a Bill of Health he would be entitled to go back to where he belonged… his friends and to his work.   Through this  healing Jesus had reconciled to the community one whose diseased skin   had  alienated him from it.

A parallel to this occurred when a paralyzed man was brought to Jesus in a most unusual way. Jesus was in a room packed with people. The only way He could be reached was by making a hole in the roof and lowering him down on his stretcher. This was certainly newsworthy but not nearly as much as what Jesus said when the man reached him. “My child, your sins are forgiven.”

 On hearing these words the reaction of the religious leaders, Scribes, was one of righteous indignation. Among themselves they accused Jesus of the most serious of all sins, blasphemy. “Who but God can forgive sins?”  But  Jesus  meant what He had said. The man’s sin had been forgiven. 

With just a few words Jesus had reconciled to God one who had been alienated from Him by his sins. Jesus had done for this man what only God could do…forgiven his sins. This was a favour, a blessing far, far, greater than anything else God could have done for him, for you, for me for anyone else.

I give you this just a few days before Lent – a few weeks of preparing ourselves to celebrate the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus. 

I ask you, I ask myself, who received the greater blessing from Jesus - the healed leper or the forgiven sinner. Which of these two persons would I, you, have preferred to be?  

We have a lot of time to sort this one out. Have a blessed Lent!

Peter Clarke, O.P.

Thursday, 1 February 2018


                                                           JESUS TO THE RESCUE

It all started in the Synagogue, as we heard in last’s Sunday’s Gospel. A man in the gathering began to shout at Jesus like one possessed by an unclean spirit.  One sharp word from Jesus  and the wretched man was freed from his tormentor. Those in the Synagogue were deeply impressed at the authority and power Jesus had brought into play. Word about this grew from a small trickle into a tidal wave.

Meanwhile, on leaving the Synagogue Jesus accompanied His recently acquired disciples, James and John, to the home of two other of His recruits, Simon and Andrew.  At once  they  told Jesus  that Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever. Without a single word Jesus took her by the hand and helped her up.  The fever had left her. She began to wait on them.

Her prompt reaction is telling us to imitate her example. Those who are blessed by God, those who are  helped by other people in a very practical way, as she was,  should be eager to be at the service of others insofar as they are able.  A brisk ‘Thank you!’ is surely not good enough. Kindnesses received by us should transform us into being distributors of kindnesses.

Later in the day, after the closure of the Sabbath at sunset crowds of people felt free to labour in carrying to Jesus the sick and those possessed by devils. Jesus made time to heal each and all with their variety of ailments.  These person to person encounters with Jesus must have meant so much to them, and, to Jesus also. Can we learn from Jesus how to respond to people who approach us with their needs; how we relate to those sick persons  we visit in their homes or in hospitals? .   Do we give them the impression that we’re so busy, so over-worked, that we have to move in on them and leave them at speed?   Our personal spirituality will shrivel once consider it a task whenever we are called to do something for others.  Jesus is reaching out to them through us. We are representing Him.

After this very busy, worthwhile, day Jesus  took some well-deserved rest. He rose early next morning so that He could go to a lonely place and pray there. As a member of the human family Jesus needed peace and quiet to be alone in prayer with His Heavenly Father. He would want us to join Him in praying for the sensitivity, the compassion, the patience , even the physical strength to be there for others, to be responsive whenever they need us …no matter how inconvenient this may be to ourselves.    When we fail create time for prayerful conversation with God we cheat those to whom we minister because we have devalued our very selves.

 Sometimes there’s no escaping the demands people make on you. This   happened  when Simon and his companions broke into the prayer-time of Jesus to tell Him a crowd was looking for Him.  Jesus surprised these disciples and surely disappointed these people when He told them He had to move on. Neighbouring towns needed to hear Him preach.   They also had their sick who needed His attention. He’d come to this region of Galilee   on their behalf as well. We in our turn, may have to extend the scope of our ministry so as to be available to others who need us. This may call for Christ-like sacrificial love on our part.

Having said all this, I must say I hesitate to be as open-hearted was Jesus when he said, “Come to me all you who labour and are overburdened and I will give you rest,” (Mtt.11.28). I’m too fearful about what I might be getting myself into. What about you?

Peter  Clarke, O.P.