Monday, February 14, 2011

A great Challenge; A great Consolation - 6th Sunday Year A

Sunday's gospel contained a great challenge and a great consolation. To look at the challenge first - "For I tell you, if your virtue goes no deeper than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven". We might be inclined to pass over that quickly 'they were just hypocrites', but if we look at how they lived (according to the bible) how many of us are even half as concerned with what is due to God and our neighbour? Prayer, fasting, almsgiving, moral conduct - and look at St Paul the "Pharisee of Pharisees". Jesus doesn't say to stop doing any of this but to do MORE, to go DEEPER. I spent some time praying with this text: What is Jesus asking of us? How is Christian virtue different?

I think the central difference is Christ. In other words I need to see Christ/God in others, "whatever you did for the least of these who are mine you did for me". Christian charity must flow from this awareness of God's presence in the other person. This is what made Mother Teresa's charity so special. It might be worthwhile to ask ourselves now and then during the day, 'is this how I would react to Jesus?'.

Having looked at the great Challenge, let us turn to the great Consolation: "Therefore, the man who infringes even one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be considered the least in the kingdom of heaven". Notice those words, "the least in the kingdom of heaven". So the sinner, the one who breaks the commandments is the least in the kingdom of heaven, BUT is not kicked out of the Kingdom. This is a very hopeful text, I may be the least but I am still a child of the Kingdom, and this sheds some light on why the Church is so slow to expel members.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Dominican Social Life

On Thursday the 3rd of February 2011 we had the great pleasure of entertaining our Dominican brothers for the afternoon, or rather I should say we had the pleasure of being entertained by them. Nine of the student brothers from St Saviours, Dublin, came to visit, together with their Student Master Fr Dineen, and provided us with an afternoon of music, drama and song. A highlight of the afternoon was their singing “Consider yourself one of the family” (from the musical ‘Oliver’) to welcome/congratulate Sr Mary Cathy who had received the habit the previous day. (We suspect they deferred their customary Christmas visit until the 3rd so as to be able to congratulate Sr Mary Cathy). It was a wonderful afternoon and ended with their joining us for Vespers.
Some photos from the day:

Monday, February 7, 2011

Gospel Reflection: 5th Sunday of the Year

In today's Gospel, Jesus makes two rather startling and thought provoking statements - the passage from St. Matthew's Gospel Chapter 5: vv 13-16 reads: 'Jesus said to his disciples - 'you are the salt of the earth - your are the light of the world'. How easy it can be for us to pass over that initial phrase- 'Jesus said to his disciples' without much notice - yet when we hear those words, and we hear them often in the Gospels, we must cock our ears and listen attentively with our hearts, for Jesus is addressing each of us who are his disciples, individually, this very day in this year of 2011.

Sometimes we hear it said of a person, he or she is truly the salt of the earth, volumes could be filled with the names of such people from the past and in the present, our holy father, Pope Benedict XVI, Bl. Teresa of Calcutta, Martin Luther King, to give just a few examples, but also people who have touched our own lives. It is a beautiful characteristic of a person and a wonderful compliment indicating that such a person has a great sensitivity, accomplishing kind and thoughtful deeds and acts of concern in a quiet, unobtrusive way, giving encouragement and affirmation in their own unique way, just as salt used in food disappears from sight as it brings out the goodness in that food. Salt is used in numerous processes in this day and age but in itself, always disappears in the process - for Jesus to speak of his disciples as 'salt of the earth' is astonishing and a magnificent sign of the trust he places in us to spread his message of love.

Jesus also says of himself in St. John's Gospel C8 v12 - 'I am the light of the world' and we believe that of course, with all our heart, but when we hear Jesus saying to those of us who are his disciples, 'you are the light of the world' most of us may wonder if we are hearing aright!
Again, we could write an endless list of such people, we do not usually go around thinking of ourselves individually as 'a light of the world'! Perhaps in being so affirming, Jesus is giving us a little prod, a renewed reminder, that he relies on us as we journey through life to be his light among those whom we meet on life's pathway. We, no less than the famous people, like our father, St. Dominic, who has inherited the very title of 'light of the Church' are called to be a light in the little bit of the world in which we have been placed, here in Drogheda or elsewhere, as the case may be. Most of us are not called to be a blinding light but a gentle soft light.

We will never know in this life the light others, even one other, may have received from us simply because we do our humble best to respond to God's call of love daily.
It may be a little act of kindness, a thoughtful word, a smile a gentle understanding hug and silent prayer when words would be of no avail.
And what is the purpose of all this? Jesus tells us in today's Gospel - ' that our Father in heaven may be praised - that is the amazing and truly wonderful reality of it all.

Blessed John Henry Newman has captured this theme so well in his well known prayer- I quote just a few phrases: 'Beloved Jesus...penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly that all my life may be only a radiance of yours...stay with me and then I shall begin to shine as you to shine as to be a light for others...the light will be you shining on others through me...let me preach you by the evident fullness of the love my heart bears you - give light to the others as well as to me. Let me find you shining in them'.

So Jesus, in calling his disciples salt and light for the world, is surely pleading with us to lose ourselves in him so that he may be free to work through us the wonders of his love in the hearts of those whose lives we touch.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Feast of the Presentation of the Lord - World Day for Consecrated Life

Today was a wonderful day of celebration for our community as Sr Mary Cathy became a novice and received the habit of a Domincan nun. During the next two years she will participate more fully in our community life as she discerns if the Lord is calling her to profession.

Prioress' homily at the ceremony of Reception of the habit of Sr Mary Cathy

Cathy, as you are clothed in the habit of the Order we welcome you into the great family of St Dominic.

Today’s feast is a very fitting occasion for this step on your journey in following the Lord's call. It is a great feast of light and fire – a feast of light and joy, bringing to a climax our celebration of the Incarnation of the Word of God – of His sharing in our flesh and blood. It is also a feast of fire for Simeon’s prophecy points to the Passion of which Jesus would later say: “I have come to cast fire on the earth and how I wish it were blazing already”.

Great joy and great pain can exist side by side for they are but two sides of the same coin – namely love. We see examples of this in the lives of Jesus and Mary, of Dominic and Catherine. The greater the love the deeper the joy but also the more one is called to let go of self, to sacrifice all for the sake of the Beloved. With Mary who comes to the Temple to offer herself with her baby Son to the Father you come to offer yourself today. We can trust the One into Whose Hands we entrust ourselves, with all that we are and have – He will not test us beyond our strength but will give us grace and strength in time of need – “because He has himself been through temptation he is able to help those who are tempted.” Like the refiner who sits and watches the precious metal, not allowing the temperature to get too hot or too cold, until he can see his very image in it – so too the Lord purifies us until we are transformed into His own image and likeness – we become another Himself, associated with him in His work of redemption. As we were reminded last week through our baptism and religious consecration Jesus associates us with His priestly work of intercession, interceding on behalf of the Church and the world.

In the Dialogue the heavenly Father says to Catherine “Dominic wanted his children to stand at the table of the Cross seeking only the glory and praise of God and the salvation of souls” (cf ch 158). Through her contemplation of the Cross of Jesus Catherine understood the immense love of God for the human family – she was bold in crying out for mercy: “O Eternal Father I know well that mercy is proper to you. Do not delay any longer in granting your mercy to the world. It is you who make them cry out”. Does this not echo Dominic’s own cry “O Lord what will become of sinners?” This is the cry which we as nuns of the Order of Preachers are asked to perpetuate as our constitutions expresses so well: “In the cloister the nuns devote themselves totally to God and perpetuate that singular gift which the blessed Father had to bearing sinners, the down-trodden and the afflicted in the inmost sanctuary of his compassion”. (LCM 35: I)

My prayer for you today, Cathy, and indeed for all of us is that we continue to say our ‘yes’ day by day, moment by moment, and allow ourselves to be transformed into His likeness for the greater glory of the Holy Trinity and the salvation of the our brothers and sisters.