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.

Thursday, 21 December 2017

4th SUNDAY OF ADVENT





WORKING  WITH JESUS




 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

2nd SUN. OF ADVENT



A BETTER WORLD




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! 

Thursday, 30 November 2017

1ST SUNDAY OF ADVENT 2017








Today  we turn to the 1st Sunday of Advent and  the  Gospel of St. Mark 13. 30-37. In  this Gospel we have Jesus using a parable to sound the alert. It’s about a house-holder going away for a time and leaving his affairs in the care of his servants.      The doorkeeper is told to stay awake.


 Through the parable Jesus is warning His disciples that He’ll be away from them for a time. If, when He returns unexpectedly, He finds them to have neglected His affairs; if  they’re asleep when He  comes back to them, they’ll be in real trouble! What is more, they’ll be losing for themselves the joy of having their master back home with them!

Today the Church begins a short season of preparation for   the celebration of the greatest event into the whole of human history – the coming (Advent) of the Son of God into our world as the Son of Mary – the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. Christians confidently assert ‘Jesus in the reason for the season!’   He came that we might have life and have it to the full – a share in God’s own life. He came for our sake and for our salvation. He came to show us how to learn from His teaching and from His example the way to lead godly lives. 


By our  celebrating each year at Christmas the birth of Jesus we      celebrate the reality that Jesus continues in every generation what He achieved in a life-time of   just over thirty years. Jesus now glorious in Heaven continues to straighten and heal whatever twisted moral, spiritual sickness we have brought upon ourselves, and what has been inflicted upon the world in which we live.

Today’s parable is  telling us we must be awake to this tremendous reality of Jesus here and now in our lives. We simply can’t afford to overlook it nor can we afford to be unfit to receive Jesus when He comes. During Advent the Church is calling us to explore how significant to us is Jesus. Out of honesty with Jesus and with our  own selves we would do well to see the value and beauty of  receiving from Him His Sacrament of Reconciliation – the forgiveness of  our sins.

This celebration of Christmas is not only about making a huge thing of commemorating a uniquely significant event that occurred long, long ago - the birth of the greatest of our heroes – the birth in Bethlehem of Jesus, the Son of Mary, the Son of God.  Christmas for us must be the celebration of the birth  of Jesus,  who, being both human and divine, is and will always be gloriously alive.  What is more it is our celebrating this same  person, Jesus, fulfilling His promise to His followers, “I am will you always; yes, to the end of time,” (Mtt. 28. 20).
To crown it, all Christmas is meant to be our capturing the excited enthusiasm of St. Paul, “I am alive; yet it is no longer I, but Christ living in me. The life that I am now living, subject to the limitation of human nature, I am living in faith, faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me,”  (Gal. 2.20).
The Gospel for this 1st Sunday in Advent is urging us to wake up and to keep awake to the sheer wonder of the Son of God being born into our world; His even now longing to come into our lives and intimately bring His divine life into our personal lives. This Gospel is warning us not to be such fools as to take this lightly or even ignore this.                          
I wish you a blessed, well- focused Advent leading to a Christ-filled Christmas.

PETER CLARKE OP



ADVENT 2017 COMING TO BETHLEHEM




“He came to his own and his own people did not accept him. 12 But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believed in his name 13 who were born not from human stock or human desire or human will but from God himself. 14 The Word became flesh, he lived among us, and we saw his glory, the glory that he has from the Father as only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth,”

(Prologue to the Gospel of St. John).

These words taken from the Prologue of the Gospel of St. John are all about Jesus, truly the Son of God, truly become man, the Son of Mary and dwelling among us, the human family. These words are about the birth of Jesus in a sheltered place outside Bethlehem. These words are about some rejecting Him and others accepting Him – Shepherds, Magi, people such as you and me.

These words are all about Christmas – either the celebration of this wonderful, sacred birth or, sadly a harsh rejection or total indifference to anything that smacks of religious piety associated with this end of the year Party Time, Exchange of Presents, and Greetings Cards.

And now I quote a learned Scripture scholar, ““If ever we lose the sense of wonder of God becoming man we shall never appreciate the meaning of Christmas.”

Ever since I’ve known myself, and that’s many, many, years, I’ve accepted Jesus and celebrated the birth of the Son of God, the Son of Mary. This faith has reached its climax at Christmas. At my baptism I received from God the power to become a child of God and to live as such. And now as I write ask myself about my sense of wonder about all that is so familiar – a sense of wonder that brings me to my knees in adoration and thanksgiving.

I see the need to refresh my sense of wonder at the Incarnation of the Son of God, my enthusiasm, my excitement. And what is more, I am aware that the Church realizes this need for you, me, all of us. And that is why the Church has given us the season of Advent for a spiritual build-up to the Solemnity of Christmas. The Church has given us a beautiful liturgy and beautiful hymns to help us to be spiritually, emotionally eager to have Jesus continuously coming to us. It is vitally important to us that we consciously want His coming to us personally. Call it a hunger, a thirst to have Jesus in our lives, influencing the shape of our lives.

The word Advent means ‘Come’ as a request, a pleading, as in the hymn, ‘O come, O come, Emmanuel!’ The Advent Liturgy feeds us with the promises God made long ago to His Chosen People that He would send them a Messiah- one anointed with His Spirit, a leader, saviour. We are to make the yearning of God’s People our own

. During Advent it is important that we anticipate as we await the birth. This sense of needing Jesus to come is lost if we start singing carols such as ‘Away in a manger,’ as if the liturgical celebration of the birth had already taken place, the One who was to come had already arrived.

While Jesus, in the womb of Mary, and Joseph were coming towards Bethlehem for the census three Magi were travelling from afar towards the birthplace. Somewhat later shepherds on the hillside were summoned by an angel to make their way towards the newly born babe. For Magi and shepherds, and now for you and me, Advent means making a journey, coming towards a personal encounter with Jesus and on arrival adoring Him.
Advent,

I now see clearly, means you and I making a journey towards Jesus, an encounter with Him in His infancy, and there adoring Him. It is to be a journey of faith. We have nothing to offer Him but ourselves. All He wants of us that we be acceptable to Him. As far we are concerned it means we would be well advised that we embrace the gift Jesus wants to make to us – His forgiveness of our sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

It’s never too late to start on our journey towards Jesus. I wish you and yours very special Advent.

Peter Clarke, O.P


 
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