Today’s Mass readings invite us to ‘wake up’ from our slumber, to ‘stay awake’ and ‘to walk in the light of the Lord’. During Advent we are preparing for the threefold coming of the Lord As we remember His first coming at Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago, we are invited to prepare for His final coming in glory at the end of time and we celebrate His coming in grace at every moment but especially at Christmas.
The main focus of attention on this first Sunday of Advent is His final coming in glory. Regarding when this final coming will take place nobody knows the day or hour but Jesus invites us to be ready – to be prepared! More important for each of us is the moment of our death when the Lord will come to take us to himself – many who celebrated last Advent are no longer with us and there are others for whom this will be their last Advent.
The Church begins each liturgical year with this time of preparation reminding us that the Lord has already come but that He is also coming. At a time like this we tend to make good resolutions regarding what we will do or not do – however we have learned from our experience over the years that often our efforts come to naught and we get discouraged. Is this because the focus of our attention is on our efforts and on what we are doing instead of focusing on who we are and what the Lord is doing and wants to do in our lives? On Christmas night we will hear Pope St Leo telling us “O Christian recognise your dignity!”
In a conference shortly before his death earlier this year Andre Louf reminded us that the Holy Spirit dwells in the heart of every baptised person – always interceding for us – therefore we can say that if we are in a state of grace we are in a state of prayer! Whether we are conscious of it or not the Spirit is always praying within us ‘Abba, Father’ and we know that His prayer is always heard. Prayer in this sense does not depend so much on our efforts - or perhaps our effort lies in letting go of our anxieties, and feverish activity in order to tune in to the Spirit’s prayer.
It is the same Spirit who calls out ‘Come Lord Jesus, come soon’. So instead of focusing too much on our own efforts, this time of Advent invites us to be still and empty while with Mary we make our hearts ready for His coming as we say with her at every moment and in every circumstance: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to your Word.”
Reflection 1 Curious that the celebration of Jesus Christ as Universal King should call us to remember Him hanging crucified on the cross.
Kings are powerful, mighty, commanding respect and admiration. They are men who hold their peoples together, in unity – men by whom nations are identified and in whom their subjects take pride. Kings fight for the safety of their people, to protect and defend them against all manner of enemies.
We can watch Jesus in one of two ways, there as He hangs on the cross. We can see a weak, bloody man, running out of breath; not able any longer to hold His head up; not able to see clearly through the blood flowing from the wounds the thorns have made; a coward, who won’t answer the words of abuse and mockery being shouted at Him; He doesn’t even seem to pay any heed to the bare handful of His friends who have remained to see Him so humiliated.
King indeed! What kind of king is this, who would let such lies be tossed about, without even trying to defend Himself?
But His Father – what does He see?
Could it be … LOVE? How can we learn love, from One who is barely alive – how can He be teaching us and showing us the way … from the cross?!
Let us stand there, watching Jesus.
Jesus – in the midst of all the evil to which He is subjected …
… absorbs every ounce of it, silently He takes it to Himself and watch …
Watch how He doesn’t pass it on.
Listen to the lies and the abusive words ringing in His ears – and watch how when they are absorbs into Him, they die … not leaving even an echo behind. … And the criminal, who says to Him, ‘save yourself and us as well’.
But watch Jesus – and see a King indeed –
Who indeed is fighting. He is standing firm and unafraid, not nourishing and giving life to the evil, but soaking up every last drop of it, even as His blood is being poured out. He is fighting against the evil which every one of us can be tempted to give in to, and watching Jesus – we learn what we must do when we think we are overcome. We can be people who refuse to give in to the malice and hatred we encounter; we can be people who will not give up hope, who will not let go of the joy of our faith in Jesus,Who has so mightily, so majestically, so powerfully saved us.
We can fight back, by loving – loving those who do not love us in return or as they should; loving those whose pain or anger or suffering has led them to turn away from Christ’s Body – by absorbing their pain, their hurt, their anger, their suffering, bearing it within ourselves and giving it to the Lord, confident that His words to the thief are true for us too … “I promise you … you will be with me in Paradise”.
Let us prove ourselves to be truly His, by watching Jesus, seeing Him silently fighting and winning, as He gives up His life for us – shamelessly and confidently holding fast to the joy that is ours in our faith in Him.
Let not His head be hanging sorrowfully because we are losing hope in His power to heal and renew us, because we who believe in Him are ashamed of our King.
Jesus said, “I came not to do my own will but the will of Him who sent me.”
Mary said, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord be it done to me according to your Word”
Our parents, grandparents and all our Irish loved ones in the faith, in one way or another made the sentiments of the great Irish hymn their own:
Christ the King and Lord of all, Find me ready at thy call, Christ receive my service whole, Mind and body, heart and soul.
All of them surrendered themselves to the will of God. Today The Church in her Sacred Liturgy invites us to enter into the Mystery of Christ the King and to renew our desire and willingness to allow Him to have full reign over our lives- mind and body, heart and soul.
The Gospel given to us for today’s Feast could have been subtitled ‘A Treatise on Conversion’ or perhaps in more modern parlance ‘A how to Gospel’. How to be converted in three easy steps.
Step one: Look at Jesus. In Him we see what conversion looks like. I ask myself, do I remotely resemble Him? As he hangs on the Cross stripped of all human glory, a man despised and rejected, he retains a quiet dignity. Totally free, He meets brutal jeers and belittlements with serenity. He feels no need to defend himself or point out the error of their ways to others, no need to prove Himself or show His power. There is in Him no anxiety because he is being misjudged, no sense of threat. What is his secret? How is it possible for Him to respond with love to some much hatred and meanness? Jesus knows Himself to be the Beloved of the Father. He knows Himself to be doing the Father’s will. Nothing else has any power over Him. The Father’s will alone consumes Him.
Step two: Look at the crowd, the leaders, the soldiers, and the criminal. In them we see the obstacles we place in the way of conversion. Right now Jesus is as present with us as He was to them on Calvary. He is loving us just as He was loving them. What prevented them and what prevent us from experiencing that love? It would seem to be hardness of heart, anger, bitterness, resentment, calumny, false judgement, a need to blame others for the way we are instead of taking responsibility for our own sins and weakness. Jesus love sometimes doesn’t reach us simply because we haven’t come home to ourselves. Jesus is loving us just as we are but if we are ‘lost in sins own blindness’, hitting out at others and failing to see ourselves, unable to acknowledge or accept the truth of ourselves we are not present to receive that love. But the wonder is that this very place can also be a place of redemption. This place of death can become the place of Resurrection . Because of Jesus there lies the opportunity of grace within every sin. Any sin once acknowledged is a spring board to union with Jesus. It becomes the place of a loving encounter with Jesus. And that brings us to step three.
Step three: In the good thief we see what needs to happen if we are to be converted. Both thieves are guilty, both have committed crimes but the good thief acknowledges his sin, owns it, takes personal responsibility for it and in that moment, which too is a moment of grace, the scales drop from his eyes and he is able to see Jesus and an encounter can take place. The encounter Jesus has lived and died for. Jesus the friend of sinners befriends him and assures him of a place with him always not because he is good but simply because he repented and turned to Jesus.
The late Abbot Kevin O’Farrell of Tarrawarra insists that to accept the gifts God continually offers there must be a corresponding letting go, and that without that letting go there can be no growth, no conversion. This will apply all our lives and the last thing we will be asked to let go of will be life itself. Without death there will be no Resurrection. It would seem that in this Gospel the required disposition is a letting go of all pretences, all self justification, a movement out of denial and projection into acceptance of our reality as sinners. This will be an on going process all our lives. As we are more and more transformed into Jesus He will continue to reveal to us that we are sinners in need of his mercy. So perhaps he is encouraging us not to be downhearted when we see new unredeemed areas in ourselves. Every moment of repentance is an opportunity to receive Jesus’ love anew until he has complete possession of us and truly reigns as sovereign Lord in our hearts To Mary and with Mary we pray. Loose the bonds that bind us lost in sins own blindness that with eyes now opened God’s own love may guide us.
As part of the ongoing effort of the vocations promoters of the Dominican Family in Ireland (friars, sisters, contemplative nuns and lay) to promote a greater awareness of the Dominican charism, we have published a Dominican Family Calendar for 2011 - which will be available in our Dominican priories throughout Ireland.
There are many Dominican Symbols: the habit, the shield, the dog at Dominic’s feet with the torch in its mouth. However, there is only one distinctive mark, a sort of genetic code, for the members of the Order, for the Dominican Family. It is preaching for the salvation of humanity, the ministry of the Word, the mission of evangelisation. The General Chapter, celebrated in Rome wished to remind the whole Dominican Family, Nuns, Friars, Apostolic Sisters and the Lay Dominicans, of this sign of our identity as we approach the Jubilee of 2016. The nuns who dedicate themselves preferentially to prayer participate in the preaching ministry by listening to the Word, celebrating it and proclaiming the Gospel through the example of their lives. Similarly, co-operator brothers join in the preaching ministry through the faithful living out of their profession in the Order. (Prologue: Acts of the General Chapter, Rome, 2010)
"For you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness will shine out with healing in its rays."Malachi 3.20
Blessed John H. Newman has a word to say to us on this last line of to-days first reading.
If Christ is our sole hope, and Christ is given us by the Spirit, and the Spirit be an inward presence, our sole hope is in an inward change. As a light placed in a room pours out its rays on all sides, so the presence of the Holy Spirit imbues is with life,strength, holiness, love, acceptableness, righteousness.....That divine influence, which has the fullness of Christs grace to purify us, has also the power of Christs blood to justify. Let us never lose sight of this great and simple view.....Christ himself vouchsafes to repeat in each of us in figure and mystery all that he did and suffered in the flesh.He is formed in us, born in us, suffers in us, rises again in us.....and this divine presence constitutes the title of each one of us to heaven........ Are you living in the conviction of Gods presence ? Do you believe, and act on the belief, that his light penetrates and shines through your heart, as the sun beams through a room ? You know how things look when the suns beams are on it...Let us then beg him to teach us the mystery of his presence in us, that, by acknowledging it,we may possess it fruitfully.....In all circumstances of joy or sorrow, hope or fear, let us aim at having him in our inmost heart; let us have no secret apart from him. Let us acknowledge him as enthroned within us at the very springs of thought and affection. Let us submit ourselves to his guidance and sovereign direction; let us come to him that he may forgive us cleanse us guide us and save us.
We seek God, Who alone gives meaning to our lives. Communion with Christ and with one another in love, through a life of prayer centred on Jesus, the Word of God and on the Eucharist, is the focus of our community life.
Single young women attracted to this way of life are welcome to contact us and we will arrange for a visit or some days in our retreat house - either at weekend or during the week. If a few are interested at same time, and if agreeable to all, we can also arrange for a group to spend a few days together.