Sunday, March 29, 2009

A CLAP OF THUNDER

Here comes a reflection on today’s Gospel Reading, taken from StJohn, chapter 12. It came rather late in the week – in fact this morning just before our celebration of the Eucharist - just to prove that with the Lord even the last minute can be loaded!

I was sitting quietly in my choir stall, in the Chapel, gathering myself and trying to get my head around the reality of this being now he fifth week of Lent – and whatever happened to the previous four??!!! It’s supposed to be – and is – a season of returning to the Lord, fasting praying and almsgiving, and I feel that I haven’t even made a beginning!

The Gospel reading for the day is so full of treasure that it’s impossible to know where to begin – every word contains more than you could absorb in the space of time it would take the priest to proclaim it! But we believe God doesn’t give himself to us that we may keep him for ourselves, we must share what he gives, and in our giving we are given more – the height and the depth, the length and the breadth of love!

My ‘clap of thunder’ this morning was only heard by myself – I think the Lord wanted to remind me of my calling – the mystery and the wonder of it. We as Dominican nuns, call ourselves ‘nuns of the Order of Preachers’ – and we are contemplative – we don’t go out and preach! Seems a bit of an irony – and yet that is what we are, and today’s Gospel is a big help in understanding the fact, and they are the words of Jesus Himself.

I’d better get to the point! In our different ways, we have been touched so intimately by God, and have experienced beyond anything you could put into words – His love. How very vital it is, how life-giving and how saving. And we have so passionately wanted it to be made known – to the whole world – that we have come to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to Him speak; we have chosen to celebrate His word and to keep it, to ponder it and pray over it – knowing that by doing this we can reach out more effectively to every one this way. It is a sheer gift. If I chose to become a missionary, I would be limited in my preaching, because I am only one and can be in only one place at a given time. But by hearing the Lord call me, and by being here where He wants me, I can be everywhere! Because look at what He said:

‘If a man serves me, he must follow me,
wherever I am, my servant will be there too….’
!!!!!!!!!

Do you see? If I respond to the Lord as He invites me to, it makes me to be with Him, and He keeps me with Him – so that wherever He is, there I am! That is our vocation as nuns – and the word of God is powerful, because the Word Is GOD. So when I meet these words on the pages of the Bible, I am meeting Jesus – God Himself –and that is the truth!!

I think this has gone on long enough – but it was for me a ‘clap of thunder’ – and a wonderful reminder of the nearness of the Lord, and of His intimacy – which He wants everyone to know and have. So keep close to Him, as Jeremiah reminded us – He is planted ‘deep within’ you.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Fourth Sunday of Lent



God’s gift of Salvation – our Response to the Gift

In today’s second reading St Paul tells us “God loved us with so much love that he was generous with his mercy: when we were dead through our sins he brought us to life with Christ …… it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith; not by anything of your own, but by a gift from God; not by anything that you have done, so that nobody can claim the credit” (Eph 2:4f).

What is this gift of God of which Paul speaks? Is it not His love? And all it led Him to do for us in Christ? In a word it is salvation - which is ours through Baptism but we need to claim it. There is a great need in today’s world for effort and perhaps we even feel that we can achieve salvation by our own effort. We may ask ourselves what doing of mine produces holiness? In fact the truth is that nothing which I can do will make me holy. Holiness is God’s gift – a gift freely given. But God will not force our will – instead He waits patiently for our response. With my freedom I must believe – I can believe that God is in fact working His plan of salvation in my life and in my heart – He waits patiently for my response – in faith I open to receive His gift – God’s gift is nothing less than Himself. In today’s Gospel St John reminds us:
“God loved the world so much
that He gave His only Son
so that everyone who believes in Him may not be lost
but may have eternal life”.
(Jn 3:16)

This theme of Salvation is very dear to us Dominicans for Dominic founded his Order of Preachers for ‘preaching and the salvation of souls’. He had a passionate love for the Person of Jesus. Fra Angelico – a famous Dominican artist of the 14th century - loved to portray Dominic at the foot of the Cross contemplating the Saviour’s suffering.

As he contemplated our merciful Saviour Dominic was filled with compassion and from this compassion for the Saviour grew a great desire to spend himself completely so that all people would come to know and appreciate the suffering love of Jesus and respond by opening themselves to receive the free gift of salvation – i.e. be freed from the bondage of sin and live in intimacy with the Holy Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Dominic had experienced the merciful love of Jesus as sheer gift in his own life and desired to share the good news with all who were willing to listen. Rightly do we acclaim his as ‘Preacher of Grace’

Dominic’s constant prayer was for true charity which would enable him to spend himself like the Lord Jesus for the salvation of others. We can be sure that he did not pray this prayer as one of the pure ones who looked down on others – rather I like to think of him as having a keen awareness of his own sinfulness – so keen that he could identify with his brothers and sisters no matter what their need may be. The key experience in Christian life consists in going down into oneself beneath the merciful gaze of God, into those depths that each one of us avoids more or less consciously. The Christian experience of God is characterised by the fact that the encounter with God takes place in the depths of one’s wretchedness. We do not need to become perfect before we cry out to our God for mercy – for our God delights in showing mercy.

God sent His Son into the world
Not to condemn the world
But so that through Him the world might be saved.
(Jn3:17)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Forget St Patrick!! ...

for a moment!

It is with the Dominicans you should have ‘thrown in your lot’ last Saturday: Let football happen without you; let your computers, i-pods, phones, gadgets, whatever it is – let them all gather dust; green pints, shamrocks, even St Patrick – for just a while. There is nothing I can imagine doing that could have been as encouraging, or as impressive, as the day spent on Saturday last, in St Saviour’s Priory, Dominick Street, Dublin 1.

So- what happened?
Being the Year of Vocations, the Dominican Family, took the opportunity to come together and introduce themselves to young men and women who might be considering their own direction in life, their vocations. It was a chance for them to meet what we call the four branches of the Order, and for them to see the breadth and depth of the Order - that it is composed of more than you might expect.

Four branches?
We are Lay Dominicans, Sisters, Contemplative nuns and Friars – and people who might be curious about one branch, on Saturday, were presented with the rest of us!

We had a guest speaker, Andrew O’Connell (on the executive of Vocations Ireland) talking about discernment and vocation – describing it as ‘prayerful decision-making’ – with the emphasis on the decision-making. As I could easily attest to – you could go through your whole life thinking you might have a vocation, actually deciding you do, and still not make the decision to take the next step!

This was followed by four speakers, representing each branch of the family, talking about their own path to the Order of Preachers, what appeals to them about where they now find themselves. And there were 14 young men and women with us, brave and courageous people – who came along to find out about us.

Altogether a very uplifting day – to be among young people who are interested in their faith – who are thinking seriously about living more in God, however that might be; people whose faith matters to them, for whom faith gives meaning and value to their lives. Those of us who have already committed ourselves to the Dominican Way found it refreshing, encouraging and even ‘life-giving’. And everybody found the day a very positive experience – I think we were all impressed with one another, and encouraged that we are not alone.

Keep your eyes pealed – something has begun, that is sure to be repeated. And thanks to our brethren in St Saviour’s for their very warm welcome – for giving us of their time and knowledge.

You want to know more about the Dominicans, so you do! You will find much information about Dominican friars, sisters, contemplative nuns and Lay Dominicans on the website www.dominicans.ie

Oh, and by the way … Happy St Patrick’s Day Beannachta√≠ na F√©ile!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Third Sunday of Lent

Last Sunday we saw Jesus revealing His true identity on the mountain when He is transfigured in the presence of three of His disciples. In revealing Himself He also gives us a glimpse of ourselves for though Baptism we are incorporated into His Mystical Body – the Church. At the last Supper He describes this relationship when He says: ‘I am the vine and you are the branches.’ Jesus likes to speak to us in symbols – using images which we can easily understand but his purpose is to raise our minds to heavenly realities – which the human mind cannot grasp in their entirety.

In today’s Gospel we find Jesus in the Temple chasing out the cattle dealers and money changers. Zeal for His Father’s house consumes Him. The Temple in Jerusalem is meant to be a place of worship and prayer – not a market place. He goes on to speak about the sanctuary which is His Body.

Each baptised person is a sanctuary for the Holy Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit who dwell within according to Jesus’ promise:
“Anyone who loves me will keep my word
and my Father will love him and
we shall come to him
and make our home in him”
(Jn 14:23)

St Paul reminds us:
“Do you not realise that you are a temple of God with the Spirit of God living in you? …..God’s temple is holy and you are that temple” (1Cor 3:16)

During this coming week let us listen once again to Jesus’ invitation to go to our secret sanctuary within our hearts and there shut the door on all the surrounding noise which clamours for our attention. May He purify the eye of our minds and remove from our heart the obstacles which prevent us from receiving His love. In that secret sanctuary where we stand before our Father in the nakedness of our being we are confident that our Father who sees all that is done in secret hears and answers us. (Cf Mt 6:5-6)

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Second Sunday of Lent


On this second Sunday of Lent the liturgy focuses on the Gospel of the transfiguration of Jesus (Mk 9:2-10) in the presence of three of His apostles – the same three who would some time later witness His agony in the garden. Jesus invites Peter, John and James to accompany Him up “a high mountain where they could be alone by themselves”. Last week we found Jesus in the wilderness with the wild beasts being tempted by Satan. In the Bible the wilderness and the mountain are portrayed as places both of struggle and temptation on one hand and of intimacy with God on the other hand.

So in our Gospel today Jesus invites us to join the apostles on the mountain where He reveals Himself to them. In prayer Jesus not only reveals Himself to us but He also reveals our own and each person’s true identity and dignity for we are all one in Him. We hear the Father’s voice addressed to us: “This is my Son, the Beloved. Listen to Him.” After this, the Gospel tells us that “they saw no one with them any more but only Jesus”. Would it not be wonderful if we too could only see Jesus in every person we meet, in every circumstance whether it be one of joy or pain? For He has promised to be with us always, yes to the end of time.

It is your Face, Lord, that I seek
The face of every person who suffers
is your Face
And calls on me to wipe it
You have taken on Yourself
The anguish and the pain
of all who are despised
oppressed and rejected
Your Face is so disfigured
as to seem no longer human
It is the Face of God
The face of man
The face of love
Show me Your Face O Lord
And I shall be safe.


In his apostolic exhortation on consecrated life Pope John Paul II, reflecting on the mystery of the transfiguration of Jesus, says: “In the countenance of Jesus, the ‘image of the invisible God’ (Col 1:5) and the reflection of the Father’s glory we glimpse the depths of an eternal and infinite love which is at the very root of our being. Those who let themselves be seized by this love cannot help abandoning everything to follow him. Like St Paul they consider all else as loss ‘because of the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus Christ’ by comparison with which they do not hesitate to count all things as ‘refuse’ in order that they may gain Christ (Phil 3:8). They strive to become one with Him taking on His mind and His way of life. This leaving of everything and following the Lord is a worthy programme of life for all whom He calls in every age.”

Monday, March 2, 2009

Praying with Icons



Devotion to the Passion of our Saviour has always been central in Dominican spirituality. This beautiful icon of the Holy Face of Jesus was written by a sister of our community. A meditation on this icon is to be found on the ‘Reflections’ page’ of our website. As we contemplate Jesus’ Holy Face during this Lenten season may we come to know and understand something of His infinite and personal love for each of us and may He conform our hearts to an ever deeper image of His own.

During the coming weeks and months we hope to publish other reflections on icons which have been written by our sisters – so keep an eye out for them.

On the ‘Reflections page’ of our website you will also find pictures of Way of the Cross with relevant Scriptures quotes for each Station.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

First Sunday of Lent

Lent is a pilgrim journey which we undertake with our eyes fixed on Easter – in the early Church it was a time of intense preparation for those preparing for Baptism. So too for us the Liturgy prepares us for the renewal of our Baptismal vows at the Easter Vigil – when we renounce Satan and sin and profess our faith anew in the One God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We do not embark on this journey as isolated individuals but as Church, as the People of God.

On this first Sunday of Lent (Cycle B) we read in the Gospel of Mark that the ‘Spirit drove Jesus out into the wilderness’. If our Lenten discipline is to be fruitful we too must be led by the Spirit who attunes our inmost ear to the still small whisper of God’s voice. We too are being led by the Spirit into the wilderness – not a physical wilderness but the wilderness of our own hearts and lives where we meet the ‘wild beasts’ of our sin and selfishness. We hear Jesus inviting us to “Repent and believe the Good News”. The ‘Good News’ is all that God has accomplished for us in Christ Jesus.

To quote Pope Benedict “denying ourselves material food, which nourishes our body, nurtures an interior disposition to listen to Christ and be fed by His saving word. Through fasting and praying, we allow Him to come and satisfy the deepest hunger that we experience in the depths of our being: the hunger and thirst for God.”

We are all in need of a radical conversion but this conversion in itself is not something we achieve by our own effort – rather it is a response to God’s love. When we come to know and experience God’s personal love for each of us we are enabled to put ourselves into His loving hands with absolute trust. This opens the way to real freedom, joy and peace. It means that I embrace in every situation the loving purpose of God in my regard. I learn to say with greater sincerity: ‘I abandon myself into your hands with boundless confidence because you are my Father’.

Immediately before being driven by the Spirit into the wilderness Jesus hears the Father’s voice at His Baptism affirming “This is my beloved Son, my favour rests on Him.” No doubt He was aware that he was carried in His Father’s arms during his time in the wilderness and therefore He was able ‘to stay there’ and emerge victorious in the face of Satan’s temptations. The ultimate goal of fasting is to help each one of us, to make the complete gift of self to God.