Sunday, 22 April 2018

PREPARING for PENTECOST















In preparation for the feast of Pentecost I will post a series of meditions on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, composed by my recently deceased brother , Peter, and me.  I dedicate these postings to Peter's memory and the joy of working with him.
I shall never forget that glorious day when  my twin brother, Peter, a fellow Dominican, were  standing  on the deck of a schooner   sailing  between the W. Indian islands  of Grenada and  Carriacou.  There, at the foot of the mast we gazed up at the sails embracing the strong breeze  that enabled   our boat to  carve  its way through the waves towards our destination.
St John tells us that “the wind blows where it pleases,” and that “so it is with everyone that is born of the Spirit,” (Jn. 3.8).  Now it has been said the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit may be compared to the sails of a boat eagerly awaiting the breeze that would be its driving force.
In this scenario we can see ourselves as being  like the crew of the schooner with the choice of hoisting the sails  so that  their boat might  carve its way through the waves or leaving the furled on deck while their anchored boat anchored, rocking gently in  port. The obvious parallel is laid-back, lack-lustre Christians or   ones eager to be empowered by the Holy Spirit.
Our  Heavenly  Father want us to be activated by the Gifts of  the Holy Spirit which we received at our Baptism. It was then we became   Temples of the Holy Spirit – dynamic people who would lead lives that gave great  glory to God.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches): “ By the Sacrament of Confirmation the baptized are more perfectly bound to the Church and are enriched with a special strength  of the Holy Spirit. Hence they are, as true witnesses of Christ, more strictly obliged to spread and defend the faith by word and deed,” (1285).
The Catechism also tells us:
“The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. They belong in their fullness to Christ, Son of David.109 They complete and perfect the virtues of those who receive them. They make the faithful docile in readily obeying divine inspirations,” (1831).
Now we are going to attempt to deepen our understanding and appreciation of their role in our lives. At Baptism we received these gifts. When we were Confirmed  these gifts perfected and activated so as to enable us to lead fully Christian lives.
The idea of being endowed with spiritual gifts is to be found in the writings of the Prophecy of Isaiah. The recipient of these gifts would be the One Almighty God promised sent to His Chosen People.
 “A shoot will spring from the stock of Jesse, a new shoot will grow from his roots.  On him will rest the Spirit of the Lord, the spirit of wisdom and insight, the spirit of counsel and power, the spirit of knowledge and fear of  the Lord:    his lie in fearing the Lord. His judgement  will  not be by appearances. his verdict not given on hearsay, (Isaiah 11).
Elsewhere Isaiah tells us this person would claim to be anointed by the Spirit of God: “The spirit of the Lord is on me for the Lord has anointed me. He has sent me to bring the news to the afflicted, to soothe the broken-hearted,  to proclaim liberty to captives, release to those in prison… to comfort all who mourn,” (Is.61).
These  prophesies become exciting as we realize that according to the Hebrew text of the Old Testament  “Messiah” was the word used of one anointed as king, priest or  prophet. The equivalent word in Greek of the New Testament is “Christ.”
Of  all the passages  from Sacred Scripture Jesus could have chosen to read in the Synagogue in Capernaum  He selected, “The spirit of the Lord is on me, for he has anointed me to bring the good news to the afflicted...” Dramatically He exclaimed,  ‘This text is being fulfilled today  even while you are listening.(Lk.4).  Through and through His humanity was briskly alert to the impulses  of the Holy Spirit in the service of His Heavenly Father.
The Church would have us know that we ourselves are caught up in this Messianic thrust of energy – like the schooner opening its sails to the wind. After the water of Baptism had flowed over our brows we were anointed with Chrism, ‘As Christ was anointed Priest, Prophet, King, so may you live always as a member of his body, sharing everlasting life.’
Loaded with such spiritual Gifts it is up to us to let God do great things in us and through us!
Isidore and Peter O.P.

Thursday, 8 March 2018

4th SUNDAY IN LENT B

                                                       
                                                  GOD  SO  LOVED THE  WORLD

'He's got the whole world in His hands’.  




So I sing as I prepare my sermon!. On my desk is a small rubber ball. I take it in my hands and gaze at it intensely. In my imagination I see God’s world  with  oceans and land masses painted upon it.

 I see  God affectionately admiring this work of art, the world He has created. It is beautiful, is lovely…and so is everyone, everything within it.  He made every human being in His own image and likeness. Like Him we are capable of person-to-person relationships – with Him first of all, most of all, with us joining Him in loving  other persons. 

ALL OTHER PERSONS, precisely because God is love and all of us  are His god-like beloved children.  God’s human family  all of us are siblings to one another...inescapably. God, not we, did made it so. God made as lovable to Himself and to one another. He made us to enjoy loving Him and to enjoy loving one another. God does not hate. He loves. When talking about God’s creation, hatred should be unmentionable, so should, spite, and jealousy. These ugly sentiments lead to retaliation and revenge.

God will never cease to love His world together with each of the seven and a half billion people on the face of the earth being uniquely precious to God, each loved by God...so much that  He sent His Son to join us. By becoming Man, Jesus, became Brother Jesus to each of today’s tremendous crowd and to the billions upon billions now deceased and to those yet to be born. All made to be loved by Jesus, to love Jesus, and in so doing all to  love one another.

The bond of love between God and mankind was first broken by the original sin of the original couple, Adam and Eve. The love bond within the human family was first broken when Cain murdered his brother, Abel. Since then, even to this very moment the bonds within the human family have been, and are still being, fractured and fragmented, within the home, the neighbourhood, the nation, between nations.

The differences within the human family which are and always will be the glory of God’s creation, have been become grounds for division - , gender, race, complexion, culture, nationality, social class, political allegiance and, not least, religion. The friction expresses itself through aggression, exploitation, anger, jealousy, greed, violence and lust. Every violation of humanity is an offence against God, the Lord of all creation. 

The ties of love that bind us to God are stretched, ruptured, by the sinful decisions by mankind. And yet God never has decided to cease loving each one of His beloved children, the massive crowd of human beings, and never will. "I shall not forget you. Look, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands,” (Isaiah 49.15).

 As proof positive of God’s total sincerity today’s Gospel tells us, “This is how God loved the world: he gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but may have eternal life,” (Jn.3.6). In Jesus there is the  sublime bonding between the divine nature and the human. Jesus claims for Himself  unsurpassable  love, “No one can have greater love than to lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends, if you do what I command you,” (Jn.15.i3).

 "God our Saviour "wants everyone to be saved and reach full  knowledge of the truth.5 For there is only one God, and there is only one mediator between  God and humanity, himself a human being, Christ Jesus,  who offered himself as a ransom for all". (1 Tim.2.4).

Calvary spells love; Calvary love spells love everyone – the only possible healing of a vicious, fragmented, broken world such as we have today

Peter Clarke, O.P.

Friday, 2 March 2018

THE 3RD SUNDAY OF LENT B



                                                THE CLEANSING OF THE TEMPLE


Like so many pious Jews Jesus had gone up to Jerusalem to celebrate the most sacred festival – the Passover – the annual celebration of the liberation of their ancestors from slavery in Egypt. Jewish pilgrims would make their way in large numbers  towards Jerusalem, towards its Temple – the House of  the One True God – to their minds the most sacred, the most significant building on earth. 

Pilgrims saw themselves as reliving that awesome night when God carried out His threat to kill the first born male- human and livestock if Pharaoh refused to let the Hebrews go. Each family  had  either to bring its own lambs, pigeons  or cattle or purchase these at the Temple.   

 Expenses also included a Temple Tax and a fee for killing the offering.  The ‘unclean’ pagan coins used in day-to-day transactions were not acceptable in the Temple.  These had to be exchanged for ‘clean’ Jewish coins. In all these transactions the money dealer would deservedly take his ‘cut’ and then more.  There was so much swindling going on.

And this is what Jesus found when He burst upon the scene. He was unknown to the Jerusalem Temple crowd. According St. John’s Gospel the first time Jesus really caught anyone’s attention was at the Wedding Feast of Cana. 

And then He makes His presence known in the Temple. And there He was enraged at what going on in the House of  God. He did His utmost to put an end to it. “Making a whip out of cord He drove them all out of the Temple, sheep and cattle as well, scattered the money changers’ coins and knocked their tables over,“ (Jn.2.15).

Jesus was obviously extremely angry – but He didn’t ‘go overboard! He was filled with righteous indignation. To His mind the most haloed place on earth for Jews, the Temple in Jerusalem, the House of God, was being desecrated. 

And what is more, this abrupt interruption had come when pious Jews were expressing their boundless gratitude to God, their great reverence for God. He had delivered their ancestors from bondage. He had fulfilled His promise to give them a land they could call their own.

Jesus justified Himself with sharp words, “Stop turning my Father’s house into a market place!” “MY FATHER’S HOUSE!”  To pious onlookers it would have seemed that Jesus was putting Himself on a par with Almighty God; and that He was behaving as one with the authority of the Son of God, as one with a stake in His Father’s property. 

To imply that the one true God had an offspring was blasphemy. To do so within the Temple, the very House of God, would have  made matters worse.

 It is remarkable that no-one there and then challenged Jesus for speaking in this way. Later in John’s Gospel we  read that the Jews were intent on killing Him, “because not only was He breaking the Sabbath, but He spoke of God as His own Father and so made Himself God’s equal,” (John 5.18).

In this reflection I’ve limited myself to considering the incident of the cleansing of the Temple. I have not touched on the second portion of the Sunday Gospel – Jesus prophesying His Resurrection.

From the anger of Jesus I come to the conclusion that there’s FAR TOO LITTLE RIGHTEOUS ANGER in the world today and FAR TOO MUCH UNRIGHTEOUS ANGER. What think you?  

After hearing of Jesus vigorously protesting at the lack of reverence being shown to the House of God I see the need for us to consider whether there be indifference, amounting to irreverence, in the way we present and conduct ourselves in the House of God, where 
Jesus, the Son of God is actually present in the Eucharist.

And finally, while the Jews challenged Jesus to show His credentials that authorized Him to throw His weight around in the Temple, I would suggest that we ponder on this person Jesus – who defended the sacredness of the Temple, who was crucified, who rose from the dead, the Son Man, the Son of God –the Paschal Lamb who has taken away the sins of the world.
God bless you.
Peter Clarke, O.P.

Thursday, 22 February 2018

2nd SUNDAY IN LENT B 2018


TRANSFIGURED!    




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. 


              It was a BLESSED ASSURANCE -IN THREE STAGES.


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

1st SUNDAY OF LENT 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

PETER CLARKE, OP

Monday, 12 February 2018

A MEANINGFUL LENT







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

The 6th SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME. 2018



‘CHOOSING YOUR BLESSING’





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…home...to 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.

 
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