Sunday, November 17, 2013

33rd Sunday - Year C

The beauty of nature – especially the trees – has been quite stunning this autumn – perhaps it is the result of the beautiful summer and autumn weather we have had.  Walking around the garden these past weeks I have watched the leaves change to various hues of green, gold, brown, yellow and red.  As I watched their beauty increase day by day I was drawn to reflect on the example of the tree.  At the very moment when its beauty seemed to be at its zenith, and one would wish it to remain so for ever, I noticed that the leaves gradually began to fall to the ground.

The trees did not resist but allowed their beautiful garments of leaves to fall one by one to the ground – to wither and die in the soil which in turn will nourish the new growth which will blossom in Spring.  If we look closer we will notice that this new life is already in a tiny bud – hidden and well wrapped which pushes the leaves off the branch.  The tree seems totally detached and is prepared to stand in its nakedness to face the cold frost and snow, the wind and rain of winter confident that this new life will spring forth in all its beauty with the warm rays of Spring sunshine.  And so the cycle repeats itself.

Can I learn something from the example of the tree by being prepared to let go of all that I cherish and that I cling to whether it be real or illusory and be willing to expose my naked being to the “Sun of Righteousness” who shines lovingly on me with “healing in its rays?”  Just as the sap hidden and at work in the tree brings about this rhythm of growth and transformation – of dying and rising again – so the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus, living in us since our Baptism is always at work within us – even in the midst of all kinds of difficulties, of war and natural disaster, hatred and deception as described in this morning’s Gospel. 

This pattern of new birth, growth to full flowering and decay is renewed year after year in nature, and in the process the tree grows in strength and beauty.  Does something analogous to this happen in our spiritual lives if we allow ourselves to be disturbed and guided by God’s Holy Spirit in our day to day lives, confident that we are in His hands and that “not a hair of our head will be lost” as He promised us in this morning’s Gospel.

Friday, November 1, 2013

The Rosary - our Dominican heritage

As October draws to a close it seems fitting to call to mind once again the powerful gift entrusted to us in the Holy Rosary, this extraordinary Gospel prayer in which is so beautifully intertwined our Contemplative gaze on God and our Apostolic outreach to the world and its needs.

One of the most appealing aspects of the Rosary is its versatility. It is truly a prayer for all seasons of life, all stages of growth, all moods and humours.

Through it we can be brought into wrapt attention, lost in God, as the rhythmic cadence of the repetitive Hail Mary stills our bodies, quietens our minds and brings us into the depths of our own being where God simply is and we are simply present with Him.

There are other times when the mysteries themselves hold our attention, coming alive for us. These are times of great reflective fruitfulness when new insights into God and his ways light up our path and renew our enthusiasm for God and the things of God, making it possible for the Word to become flesh in us.

Then there are the days when we feel lost and lonely, anguished and confused and the Rosary becomes our lifeline. We don’t know how to pray .We are too agitated and distressed to quieten down but by picking up the beads and just vocally repeating the prayers we are expressing with our bodies our desire to be one with Jesus in His Sufferings. At these times we are perhaps most truly Mary’s children, sick wounded hurting, fearful for ourselves or for others, but holding on to mammy’s hand and leaving it to her to explain to Jesus the Divine Physician  of our bodies minds and spirits what ails us and what grace we need from each mystery. In each hail Mary we pray ‘pray for us sinners’ but at times like this Mary not only intercedes for us but we leave her to pray for us, do our praying for us. I learnt to pray like this when I was very ill and was too weak to concentrate. Like all loving mothers except much more so, Mary knows us better than we know ourselves and if we just somehow remain there, she will untangle all the knots and the very chains that bind us will be the same ones that draw us with her into Heaven.

At all times the Rosary can be a powerful prayer of intercession but especially in times of suffering and neediness it can move us out of our preoccupation with our selves. We may begin off focusing on the mysteries longing for them to bring us relief but gradually something inside us changes. As we unite our suffering with those of Jesus He gives us his awareness of the needs of all for whom He suffered. He expands our hearts to care for others, to desire their salvation, to want relief for them in their pain, to want them to know as we ourselves know the compassion and comfort of our loving Saviour. In our anguish we can look around us and ask that by his wounds someone else in anguish may have the peace our hearts long for. Our pain becomes a gift when it opens us to the pain of others. It becomes something to be grateful for, something we can even choose to accept if our suffering united to those of Jesus can be of help to someone else. This is the transforming power of the Rosary, this is the mysteries being active in us.

When we have been hurt or when we have hurt others lingering with the sorrowful mysteries can bring healing and penitence. They can teach us how to love, how to forgive, how to understand.

There are times when we are aware of receiving great grace and insight as we pray our Rosary but there are too the long days of simply being faithful to our recitation, allowing the mysteries to unconsciously create the atmosphere in which we live, the very familiarity of the prayer almost imperceptibly making God present, as it were. I always think of my grand parents in this context. At night they would sit together watching TV and as bedtime approached they would turn off the TV and take out their beads. Still sitting together on the sofa they would begin their prayer. By that simply act of taking up the beads, an act as routine as brushing their teeth, a ritual done daily without fail, they changed a place of recreation into a place of deep prayer. To be with them at that time was to be in the presence of God.

As the years begin to creep up on us and old age manifests itself in numerous little ways, making us a little fearful if not of death then perhaps at least of the process of dying, the Glorious mysteries may become specially precious. It is good to reflect on the home coming that awaits us. It helps to look forward in certain hope to the joys of the Resurrection. The Glorious Mysteries remind us that our life is the story of our return to the Father’s house. Jesus has gone before us to prepare a place for us and at the right time He will come to take us to Himself. The assurance that Jesus is coming closer, reaching out to draw us into his embrace where we will be with Him forever provides comfort and brings peace.

Queen of the most Holy Rosary, in life and in death, show unto us the blessed fruit of your womb, Jesus