Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Vine and the branches

What does it mean for us to be God’s holy people, to sing the praises of Him who called us into His wonderful light?

We are led towards an answer in this Sunday’s Gospel of the Vine and the branches. Here we have the cry of Jesus, repeated over and over again in one short passage: “Abide in Me”. It is a cry from the depths of the Lord’s heart because He knows that this ‘abiding’ is the source of everything for us. It is a call to enter into the innermost life of the Blessed Trinity. Jesus is not simply the only One who can call us to this. He is the only Place where this invitation can find its fulfilment.

The Vine and the branches - we do not say:“This is not the vine, this is the branch.” As long as the branch lives in the vine, the branch is the vine. We are living in Him with His own life. He has made us one with Him by His own gift. And in Him, through the Spirit, we are one with the Father. Here, there is a mystery of union which is beyond our understanding and our conscious experience.

All things are on their way back to the Father, through Christ, in the Spirit. It is as if all things are being drawn towards a central point in the depths of Christ’s heart in the bosom of the Father. This ‘abide’ of Jesus is His longing to gather us up and return us to God. We hear His voice as a resonance in the depths of our being, as we become aware that in Him we are begotten by the Eternal Father.

“I am in my Father and you in Me and I in you.”
Here we are drawn into the never-ending exchange of love in the Persons of the Trinity, a love that is always new and present to every moment of our lives. It is the dance of God in which we were created and which calls to us without end: ‘As the Father has loved me so I have loved you. Abide in my love!’

Friday, May 8, 2009

Mary's month

Traditionally the month of May is know as 'Mary's month'. Today the 8th May the Dominican family honours her under the title of Patroness of our Order.

There is a lovely story told by Sr Cecilia (one of the first Dominican nuns of the monastery of San Sisto, Rome) who knew Dominic personally:

Once while Dominic was praying he was caught up in spirit before God and saw the Lord and the Blessed Virgin sitting at His right. It seemed to Blessed Dominic that Our Lady was wearing a cloak the colour of saphire.

As Blessed Dominic looked around, he could see religious of all the orders but his own before the throne of God. He began to weep bitterly and stood apart, not daring to approach the Lord and His Mother. Then Our Lady motioned for him to come near. But he would not dare, until the Lord Himself also called him.

Blessed Dominic cast himself down before them weeping bitterly. The Lord told him to rise and when he did, asked him "Why are your weeping so?" "I am weeping because I see all the other orders here but no sign of my own." The Lord said to him "Do you want to see your Order?" and he answered "Yes, Lord" Then the Blessed Virgin opended the cloak she was wearing and spread it out before Blessed Dominic to whom it seemed vast enough to cover the entire heaven, and under it he saw a large multitude of the brethren.

Then prostrating himself, Blessed Dominic gave thanks to God and to Blessed Mary His Mother, After that the vision disappeared and he came to himself just as the bell rang for Matins. When Matins were over, he called the brethren and gave them a long and beautiful talk, exhorting them to love and pay reverence to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The fact that this same story is related by many other religious Orders in relation to the their own founders, should not lead us to ignore the story or cast it aside as a 'fairy tale'. Rather these stories and legends convey a truth about Mary's loving care and protection for each of ther children - and it is this which we celebrate and for which we give thanks today.

We invite you to visit the reflections page of our website - reflection on the "Pondering Mother of God".

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Vocation Sunday

Here in Ireland, today - Vocation Sunday - marks the close of the special ‘Year of Vocation’ which commenced on Vocation Sunday 2008. Throughout the country there were various prayer services at monastic sites last evening while this evening the closing Mass for the Year of Vocation and Launch of Religious/Diocesan DVD was scheduled for 5.30 pm in Armagh Cathedral with Cardinal Sean Brady as celebrant. The Dominicans marked the close of the year at the 11.30 a.m. Mass in St Saviour’s church, Dublin.

As we come to the close of this special year which focused attention on the theme of vocation in the Church, Pope Benedict’s message for Vocation Sunday is an apt reminder to us to continually pray and entrust this urgent intention to the provident care of our loving God. Here I give a few highlights but the full message can be downloaded from the Vatican website.

Pope Benedict invites all of us to reflect on ‘Faith in the divine initiative - the human response’ and continues:

The exhortation of Jesus to his disciples: “Pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest” (Mt 9:38) has a constant resonance in the Church. Pray! The urgent call of the Lord stresses that prayer for vocations should be continuous and trusting. The Christian community can only really “have ever greater faith and hope in God's providence” (Sacramentum Caritatis, 26) if it is enlivened by prayer......

Our first duty, therefore, is to keep alive in families and in parishes, in movements and in apostolic associations, in religious communities and in all the sectors of diocesan life this appeal to the divine initiative with unceasing prayer. We must pray that the whole Christian people grows in its trust in God, convinced that the “Lord of the harvest” does not cease to ask some to place their entire existence freely at his service so as to work with him more closely in the mission of salvation. What is asked of those who are called, for their part, is careful listening and prudent discernment, a generous and willing adherence to the divine plan, and a serious study of the reality that is proper to the priestly and religious vocations, so as to be able to respond responsibly and with conviction……..

To believe in the Lord and to accept his gift, therefore, leads us to entrust ourselves to Him with thankful hearts, adhering to his plan of salvation. When this does happen, the one who is “called” voluntarily leaves everything and submits himself to the teaching of the divine Master; hence a fruitful dialogue between God and man begins, a mysterious encounter between the love of the Lord who calls and the freedom of man who responds in love, hearing the words of Jesus echoing in his soul, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide” (Jn 15:16).......

Once more, Jesus is the model of complete and trusting adherence to the will of the Father, to whom every consecrated person must look. Attracted by him, from the very first centuries of Christianity, many men and women have left families, possessions, material riches and all that is humanly desirable in order to follow Christ generously and live the Gospel without compromise, which had become for them a school of deeply rooted holiness. Today too, many undertake this same demanding journey of evangelical perfection and realise their vocation in the profession of the evangelical counsels. The witness of these our brothers and sisters, in contemplative monasteries, religious institutes and congregations of apostolic life, reminds the people of God of “that mystery of the Kingdom of God is already at work in history, even as it awaits its full realization in heaven” (Vita Consecrata, 1)...

Dear friends, do not become discouraged in the face of difficulties and doubts; trust in God and follow Jesus faithfully and you will be witnesses of the joy that flows from intimate union with him. Imitating the Virgin Mary whom all generations proclaim as blessed because she believed (cf. Lk 1:48), commit yourselves with every spiritual energy, to realise the heavenly Father’s plan of salvation, cultivating in your heart, like her, the ability to be astonished and to adore him who is mighty and does “great things”, for Holy is his name (cf. Lk 1:49).