The Communion Antiphon for this 3rd Sunday of the year urges us to "Look up to the Lord with gladness and smile ...".
Julian of Norwich, in the 15th Century, also reminds us that it is "in this, Our Lord wills that we be occupied - having joy in him for he has joy in us".If joy, as has been said, "is gladness of heart in the presence of the Beloved" then "greatly ought we to rejoice that our soul dwells in him". "For our courteous Lord wills that we be be as homely with him as heart can think or soul desire. But we must beware lest we take this homeliness so recklessly as to forsake courtesy.
And he wants to have us, who will be with him in heaven without end, like himself in all things. If we do not know how we shall do all this, let us desire it from our Lord, and he will teach us, for that is his own delight and his glory."
We know that "he is the ground of all our life in love; he is our everlasting keeper and mightily defends us against our enemies. When we come to him in our weaknesses the says to each of us - 'my dear darling I am glad that you have come to me; in all thy woe I have been with you. And now you see me in my love and we are one in bliss."
Blessed Henry Suso expresses a similar thought,when he wrote, "Be glad dear daughter, because you have found God whom you sought so long and so earnestly. Turn to him with shining eyes, smiling face and happy heart. Embrace him with the outstretched arems of your soul."
cf. The Revelation of Divine Love by Julian of Norwich
"May this message in all its richness find a home in you" Col.3:16
The following is a homily which fr Terence Crotty OP preached during the celebration of our Sunday Eucharist in our monastery chapel - 9th January, 2011.
We hear a lot about power in the Church nowadays. Laypeople say that priests have all the power in the Church while priests say the bishops have all the power and so some priests recently formed an association, the “Association of Catholic Priest,” so as to get their hands on a bit of it. So the bishops seem to have all the power but, you know, when you look at them they seem completely powerless. The long and the short of it is that we’d better warn the ESB to start rationing the national grid before it collapses under the strain of so many people looking for power.
The Bible too speaks of power: when Jesus is about to ascend into heaven he tells the disciples to remain in Jerusalem until they are “clothed with power from on high” (Lk 24:49). What is the content of this power? Well, St. John tells us that “to all who did accept [Jesus], he gave power to become children of God” (Jn 1:12). This is the power a Christian looks for: not the power to dominate and rule, but the power to become children of God. For St. Luke, that promise of Jesus to clothe his disciples with power from on high is fulfilled in the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. For St. Paul, the primary effect of receiving the Holy Spirit is that we can call God Father (Rom 8:15, Gal 4:6), so that St. John, St. Luke and St. Paul are all in agreement that the Holy Spirit gives us power, and the primary effect of this power is the ability to call God Father, to be children of God.
After his resurrection from the dead, Jesus suddenly begins to call his disciples by a new name, and that is “brother” (cf. Mt 28:10). So, in Jn 15 he tells them that he no longer calls them servants but friends, but a few chapters later, after the resurrection, he says to St. Mary Magdalene, “Go to my brothers and tell them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God” (Jn 20:17). And just as he is about to die, he gives Our Blessed Lady to the Beloved Disciple as his mother (Jn 19:27). So we see that, whatever the mechanics, in his death and resurrection, Jesus forges a family out of his disciples, a family in which God himself is Father and Our Blessed Lady is Mother.
Today the Church speaks to us about the institution of the sacrament of baptism by Jesus in the Jordan. We are often told that baptism primarily has the effect of making us children of God. And so we see that baptism and the death of Christ are like a nut and bolt that fit together to create an effect, baptism from our side and the death of Christ from God’s side, to make us part of this family forged by Jesus in his death and resurrection. In the Mass too we see the same thing. First the body and blood of Jesus are made present in the consecration and then, in the prayer Through him, with him, in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honour is yours, Almighty Father, we offer Jesus to the Father, just like in his self-offering on the cross. And then immediately, what do we call God? “Our Father, who art in heaven...” So the Mass not only makes present and renews the self-offering of Christ to the Father made on Calvary, but also renews one of the main effects of that self-offering, the forging of his disciples into a family who can call God “Father.”
When I was in school, many moons ago, we had a teacher who was only learning and, God help him, he couldn’t control the class to save his life, and one day he called out “Gentlemen, gentlemen! I call you gentlemen, even though you are not.” Cue a half-muffled laugh in the corner as someone said, “Teacher, teacher, we call you teacher, though you are not.” What’s in a name?! In Mass we are frequently addressed as “Brothers and sisters”, and so we are, because the Creator has, through the death of Christ and our own baptism, recreated us as brothers and sisters, children of God in his Church. Last Friday in this monastery chapel we had an hour of prayer for Ireland, as takes place in most churches in Ireland this year in response to the pope’s request. And I noticed that it was attended not only by the Irish sisters, but by those who come from many countries, Malta, France, England, Scotland, Belarus, Ukraine. As an Irishman I was very grateful for their charity, but we are all united in this irrespective of our countries, precisely because God has given us power to be his children. Every act of charity between us, and most especially the missionaries who give their lives to the poorest of the poor throughout the world, in some way acknowledge this reality which comes to us through our baptism.
Today, therefore, the Church invites us to look again at our baptism, to thank god for this gift and to think how we might improve our response to this sacrament which gives us power to really become brothers and sisters even of those we have never met, children of God, filled with the Spirit who calls God “Father.”
Congratulations to our three Dominican brothers: Maurice Colgan OP, Brian Doyle OP and Denis Murphy OP, who were ordained deacons on the 2nd of January. The Irish Dominican Vocations blog has some very good pictures of the ceremony, here.
Arms outstreched to save. This image of the babe in the crib with arms outstretched to save has been with me all week. “You shall call his name Jesus because He is the one to save his people from their sins”. All have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God. What an extraordinary definition of sin and its consequences- a falling short of the glory of God.
All of us have sinned. And what is God’s response to our rejection of Him? Is it as we would expect one of criticism, of judgment, of condemnation, of banishment, of exclusion? No, rather wonder of wonders, God’s response to our disobedience is one of concern, concern for us. He doesn’t want us to be deprived of the happiness union of life with Him would bring us.
Because of our sin we have forfeited the glory God had destined for us. Our sin excludes us from participating in the fullness of the Divine Love. And so that we who have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God could regain access to that glory, God sent his Son in a mortal nature like ours to do away with sin by nailing it to the Cross in His very person, thereby enabling us to be adopted as children of God.
How much love is contained in God’s decision to become Man. What depth of yearning for us to participate in his divine life provoked such a drastic solution. The All Holy, All powerful unseen God, Creator of the heavens and the Earth and all they contain sends his Son, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity to take flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary and to become one like us, for us. In Jesus, the babe in the manger we see our God made visible. In Him we see God’s total gift of Himself to us. We see the distance love was prepared to travel. In this is love not that we loved God but that He first loved us and sent His Son so that in Him we might be enabled to make the return journey into the heart of the Trinity. “No one has ever seen God but it is the only Son who is nearest the father’s heart who has made him known”. In Jesus we see the heart of God laid bare. “This is how much I love you” God says to us through the Infant in the Manger.
Is it by chance or by some hidden design of God that the Infant in the Crib is so often depicted with arms wide open as if He is asking to be taken up and embraced? I am deeply struck by this. It looks as if he is willing to go to anyone, to everyone. How symbolic. Here we see the unconditional love of God. He makes no demands, no conditions. He leaves himself vulnerable, willing to be taken to anyone’s heart, more than that even, yearning, almost in supplication, to be taken to every one’s heart. As at birth so also in life and death Jesus surrenders himself into the hands of others. It seems that all we have to do is to be willing to receive Him. He asks nothing more of us than that we be willing to take him into our arms. And yet to reach out and clasp Him to ourselves, we have to let go of anything else in our grasp. We have to drop whatever we are holding on to no matter how small or how light our hold. New born infants are fragile they have to be enfolded completely with an all absorbing attention.
Christ is not whole without the Church so Blessed Isaac of Stella reminded us during Advent. We are His body. And so the challenge is posed – Are my arms opened to embrace Jesus as He comes to me in the guise of another ? Am I prepared to be Jesus open and vulnerable ready to give myself to everyone without reservation? It is in that embrace that we will encounter the living God and be caught up into the God we do not see.
You who not only Gave God’s infinity, Dwindled to Infancy Welcome in womb and breast, Birth milk and all the rest But mother each new grace That does now reach our race. Come and make new Nazareths in us, Where you shall yet conceive Him, morning noon and eve, New Bethlems, and he be born There, evening, noon and morn G M Hopkins (adapted)
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.