Wednesday, 20 June 2018

3rd LUMINOUS MYSTERY

PROCLAMATION OF THE KINGDOM 
AND REPENTANCE


The third Luminous Mystery of the Holy Rosary is the only one which doesn’t invite us to reflect on a particular event.  Instead, this Mystery embraces the whole of Jesus’ mission to Proclaim the Kingdom of God and Repentance.   That is the mission the risen Lord gave to the Church, just before He ascended to heaven.  That is the mission each of us Christians received at our baptisms.
  I must confess that this Mystery has a special appeal to me as a member of the Order of Preachers.  We Dominicans have been called to follow Jesus, the wandering preacher.   Mobility is an essential aspect of our life style. That means we can be moved from one house or country or another, according to where we are needed to preach the Gospel.
It strikes me that there’s a danger of the second part of this mystery, ‘Repent,’ being either over looked or under-played.   If so, the whole point of Christ’s preaching mission would be lost.  He proclaimed the Kingdom precisely so that it would touch our hearts and transform our lives.  This change in direction is what we mean by ‘Repentance’ or ‘Conversion.’  It’s not a-once-in-a-lifetime response to the Good News, but involves our constant renewal and rebirth.  That’s as necessary for the preacher as for those who hear him.  Without our response of repentance Christ’s preaching would not have changed anyone’s life 
I’m now 86 and confined to my room, when not to my bed.  For me the question is, ‘How can I continue to live this third Luminous Mystery of Proclaiming the Kingdom and Repentance?’   Certainly, I can and must meditate on Christ’s Gospel teaching and allow it to transform my life.  So, must every  Christian.   But my Dominican motto challenges me to go further –‘To hand on to others the fruits of contemplation.’   Thanks to modern technology I can still post sermons and meditations on Facebook.  I used to be able to record sermons in my room and email them to the W. Indies, where they were broadcast.   But thanks to the ravages of time I sound more and more like a corncrake or croaking bull frog and would not meet the required standards.   ‘Better to jump before I was pushed,’ thought I.  
Now that I can no longer be actively involved in public preaching I need to concentrate on a different way in which I could play an essential part in that apostolate, which fulfilled my vocation,   as a member of the Order of Preachers.  I must concentrate on getting  the ‘Divine Communicator,’ the Holy Spirit, involved both in the giving and receiving of the Good News.      After all, that is the example the New Testament gives us.  According to Luke’s Gospel that’s what Jesus did when He quoted the prophet Isaiah in His Mission Manifesto, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor.   He has sent me to proclaim deliverance to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour,”  (Lk4. 18-19).   
Again, before Pentecost, the infant Church prayed for the gift of the Holy Spirit, who would enable it to proclaim the Good News with courage, zeal and eloquence.   That is still the Church’s mission, and always will be -until Jesus finally returns in glory to  claim His Kingdom.  The  Church will always need our prayerful support, asking the Spirit of Truth to assist both those who proclaim the Kingdom, and  those hear its call to repentance. 

That is still the Church’s mission, and always will be -until Jesus finally returns in glory to claim His Kingdom.  The  Church will always need our prayerful support, asking the Spirit of Truth to assist both those who proclaim the Kingdom, and  those hear its call to repentance.
When I was working in the W. Indies I was very aware of my need of our Dominican enclosed nuns back in England to pray for me as I tried to share the Good News; my parishioners needed their prayers to help them to be open to the Holy Spirit and allow him to transform their lives. But before we presume to tell anyone else how to live the Gospel each of us must begin with ourselves, by first hearing the word of God and doing it.
No matter what our age, strength or weakness or walk of life, each of us has a vital role in living the Third Luminous Mystery –‘THE PROCLAMATION OF THE KINGDOM AND REPENTANCE.’


Isidore O.P.

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

11th SUNDAY of ORDINARY TIME


2 Growth  Parables

In the parables Jesus takes situations from daily life to tell us what the Kingdom of God is like.    Today's two parables should appeal to all farmers and gardeners.  Usually the parables don’t give us clear answers, but set us puzzles.   They’re meant to get us thinking; we have to tease out their meaning.   Some of the parables are meant to be warnings, others to give us encouragement.        Today’s Gospel gives us two of a number of parables about the growth of seed.   These are meant to encourage us when we get depressed about the state of the Church and the seemingly overwhelming opposition it has to face.

Firstly, there’s the parable about the very nature of growth.   Mark is the only evangelist to record this parable.  Jesus reminds us that the seed has an inner vitality and grows even while the farmer sleeps, and independently of his efforts. He is powerlessness to create life, and cause seeds to grow. At best he can assist or hinder growth.   Life is a mystery which none of us understands. But God is the author of life and causes the seed to grow, even when we are asleep.   So, while this parable stresses that ultimately God is responsible for the life and growth of the kingdom, we, like the farmer, have our part to play in sowing and cultivating the seed.  

But we must always remember that it is God, not us, who gives it life and enables it to grow to maturity.   This growth parable is very reassuring in reminding us that ultimately the life and growth of the kingdom depends on God, not us.    Because he works in hidden ways, which we don’t notice, we could easily become discouraged, by thinking that the success or failure of the kingdom depended on us alone.   We can easily forget that God is secretly working for the growth of his Kingdom.

The parable of the mustard seed is yet another variation on the theme of growth, and again is intended to give us further encouragement.   If a tiny mustard seed can grow into the largest of shrubs, the kingdom can develop from the tiny beginning of Christ and his handful of followers.  Now the Gospel is preached throughout the world and people from every race and class find a home in the kingdom.  That’s the point of the variety of birds nesting in its branches.  Today we would say that a large oak tree grows from a small acorn, and the mature tree provides a home for countless birds and insects.

We need to reflect on these encouraging parables when we get despondent about the church.  Too often we forget that in the end God is responsible for the growth of the Kingdom and that he guarantees its success.  This applies not only to the life of the Church as a whole, but also to our own personal spiritual growth.  Certainly we, like the farmer or gardener, have our part to play.  But the greatest mistake we could make would be for us to think we could do God’s work without his help.   We must place our trust in him, rather than ourselves alone.
Isidore Clarke O.P.

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

10th SUNDAY of ORDINARY TIME


For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's than man's wisdom' and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength,"   
(1 Cor. 2. 25)
CHRIST'S NEW FAMILY
Today’s Gospel is all about variations on the theme of identity. Firstly, that of Jesus and His family; secondly, His being the Son of God, doing His Father’s will, not Beelzebub’s assistant working for him.  Finally, the nature of the sin against the Holy Spirit.  I will try to show how all this affects our daily lives.
‘He’s out of His mind!’   That was how Jesus’ relatives reacted to Him when His home was so crowded they could not even have a meal.  But much worse, He had abandoned Joseph’s carpenter’s business, which provided security for Himself and His widowed mother.  He had become a wandering preacher, who had persuaded an assorted group of people to be as irresponsible as Him, to follow Him -God knows where!
As for His teaching, Jesus seemed to go out of His way to antagonise the Jewish religious leaders.  He presumed to argue that only He, not those religious scholars, knew the real meaning of God’s Law. Only He had the right to interpret it with authority.   Not surprisingly, that angered the Jewish religious authorities; not surprisingly they accused Jesus of working with Beelzebub, the prince of evil, rather than being the Son of the All-Holy God, doing His will.  So, to catch Jesus out and destroy His credibility as a man of God, they accused Him of being Beelzebub’s accomplice.  That was a stupid accusation!  If Jesus were working for Beelzebub He certainly wouldn’t strive to undermine him by casting out demons.
Today’s Gospel is about conflicts over Jesus’ identity. Firstly, His relatives didn’t appreciate who He was and what He was doing.   No wonder they wanted to talk some down-to-earth common sense into Him.  Rightly, they knew, that unless Jesus changed, the Jews would take violent steps to silence Him. Of course, Jesus knew that and would use His crucifixion to defeat evil, not be conquered by it.  When the Jewish leaders accused Jesus of working in the name of Beelzebub, rather than the name of God they committed the ‘sin against the Holy Spirit.’ If they didn’t repent, that would cut them off from the salvation which Jesus has won for us in His Father’s name.  But of course, no sin can be so great that the Holy Spirit can’t open the sinner’s mind and touch his heart, so that he repents and seeks Christ’s salvation, as happened with St. Paul on the Road to Damascus.
As for Jesus’ relatives, He says He’s got a new family, which was not based on physical blood ties.  Instead, membership depends on our hearing God’s word and doing it – on our being true followers, disciples, of Christ.  Far from belittling Mary’s physical motherhood, even more important than that, she was His greatest disciple.  She was the handmaid of the Lord.  Throughout her life that was her guiding principle, which would take her to the foot of the cross.  There she followed her Son. Though we can’t imitate Mary in her motherhood she does show us how to follow her Son.  He has established a New People of God -of those who are His loyal followers -rather than being the physical descendants of the Patriarch, Abraham, as were the Jews.
In these incidents Jesus has established not only His identity as man of God, not an agent of the devil, but also our identities, as members of His family of followers.   In  His new family He has broken the barriers which separate people, as St. Paul tells us, 
"Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcision uncircumcision, barbarian. Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all and is in all,"  (Col. 3. 11).               
Now what about our life as members of this family?   Jesus disowns those who claim only a nodding acquaintance with Him. Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord”, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 7.21).      Jesus, who came to do the will of His heavenly Father, and Mary, the handmaid of the Lord, show us what it means to hear God’s word and do it!
P.S.  Don’t be surprised if people think we Christians are mad. Even His relatives thought that of Jesus.  But He, and we, are following God’s wisdom, which challenges and transcends secular reason.
Isidore O.P.
 
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