Saturday, 31 March 2012

Palm Sunday

The Gospel passage which is read at the beginning of Mass before the blessing of the Palms (Mk 11:1-10) is about the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem, five days before His death on the Cross. The disciples get a young donkey on which Jesus rides into Jerusalem and many spread their garments and palm branches on the ground before him. Those who followed cried out, "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" (Mark 11:9).

It is interesting to look at the contrast with the gospel of the Saturday before Palm Sunday, when we are told that the council of the chief priests and the Pharisees decided to put Jesus to death. Just as in the moments before a thunderstorm begins there is a tension in the air, an electricity; something extraordinary is going to happen here, whatever it is! The people are even wondering if Jesus would come to the feast (Jn 11:5).

But then suddenly there is the big spectacle of His entry and there seems to be a spark of hope. Not all is perfect, but something seems to be moving and the people sing "Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is coming! Hosanna in the highest!" (Mark 11:10) their hopes being revived by the apparent imminent coming of the Kingdom of David. But as we now know and come to see more clearly as the week progresses,  things will take a sudden turn.

It is like being on a roller coaster, going up one moment, going down the next, swerving left and then suddenly right. Life can be a bit like that, things might be difficult, but suddenly everything seems to come together, prayers are answered, the excitement is tangible. But then again, even though everything seems to be going the right way, it does not materialize, and after some time of hope and anticipation the excitement wears of and we seem to be back at start, our hopes evaporated and our prayers seemingly unanswered.

However, the above is just our human understanding! Maybe this Holy Week it would be worth while to meditate on what actually happened nearly two thousand years ago. Never mind the human perception, but try to look from the perspective of  the infinite, the divine perception. As we travel through the week the human perception shows defeat, failure, betrayal and denial. But in the midst the greatest accomplishment on earth occurs, unnoticed by everyone bar a few, Jesus purchased for us eternal life!

The world would never be the same again, and even though it seemed like everything was a failure, in the wider scope of the bigger picture, unalterable changes had occurred! So we too should  reflect on our lives, and see the bigger picture and learn to trust on God, as Jesus did.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Looking at the world

Once more I failed to write a proper reflection this weekend. We had a 'Dominican Open Day' here in the priory on Saturday in which a group of people came in to learn about the various branches of Dominican life; the lay Dominicans, the nuns, the apostolic sisters and us the friars. There was also a Youth 2000 retreat on with well over a 100 young people attending, and I spend pretty much the rest of the weekend there.

In the Gospel we heard the Greeks coming to the apostles saying 'can we see Jesus'. This is a fundamental question, a question in everybody's heart. I think it is very clear when at a retreat as I was yesterday and today.

As Philip and Andrew, we need to be available to guide people to Jesus, to show them the way. It struck me that sometimes the teaching of the Church might seem start initially, but the teaching are the teachings of Jesus who is inviting us into communion. It is therefore import that in bringing people to Jesus we also explain the 'why' as it does make sense! Fr. John reminded us that we should look at theology as St. Thomas did, and start with God, not with ourselves. If we start with God everything becomes clear as everything flows from the love of God. But if we start with ourselves and try to make sense out of the world by making it, and God, conform to us then it will be an impossible task to make any sense out of it!

In the church all status are covered now, a sure sign lent is coming to an end and Holy week approaching with the light of Easter at the horizon!

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Continuation...

I guess my previous post was a bit short, but put it out as a nice teaser. I thought I would get a chance to add something yesterday but didn't get to it. The reason that 'true knowledge of self depends on knowledge of God' struck me is because I was re-thinking the subject of suffering in the world.

While the link might not be particular obvious between the two I will begin to explain my thoughts. Last week I met an old friend who had lost a little baby who was only a few hours old. As anybody can appreciate, hearing it is a very very touching, and devastating, moment. It takes time to digest it.
As such, those moments are not the time and place to come up with philosophical, nor practical arguments for innocent suffering in the world. Even if anyone would have the strength to argue in that situation, I can say that I don't, and I found it very difficult even to say a single word of consolation.

However, it is a real question in our lives, and at sometimes a challenge especially for us who believe in a loving God. This last Sundays Gospel came form John 3:16, a well known passage, which reads that God so loved the world that he gave His only Son...

And I think this points towards something fundamental, that if somebody has faith, in some way there is another perspective. It would be relatively easy to see why 'bad' people would suffer as we could put it down to a 'punishment' for what they did. But it is always difficult to comprehend why a loving God would allow so much suffering of apparent innocent people. However for the believer it is clear that this is part of the world as it is, even if it is just from the fact that Jesus himself went thought it.

There is no need, in my opinion, to say that innocent suffering happens for a reason. It happens because of the corruption in the world, and that as the world as a whole. Through sin evil entered in the world, and it corrupts the world, suffering is a result of that...

But without knowledge of God, or knowledge of those fundamentals of the world, the above just does not make sense. And in a lot of the western world people don't know much about Christianity, and what it teaches. Looking at my own past the extend of my knowledge of God was that there was an all powerful God, and while not knowing much about this God, it seems that if such a God existed the suffering I would see was defiantly not speaking in favor of this God. It is only when we get a deeper appreciation of the complexity of the whole, as for example the role of free will, that this god can once more become a loving God.

I have to run now, but will probably pick up the topic again in the next few days... any thoughts are off course very welcome!

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Knowledge of God and knowledge of self...

I was traveling today and was reading a book while waiting in the Airport called The Fulfillment of All Desires by Ralph Martin (which I recommend as spiritual reading). Then when at Mass this evening, Fr. Alan mentioned the same idea, so I just decided to put it out there as a thought before going to bed...

What struck me is the idea that knowledge of self is tied up with knowledge of God. Without knowledge of God, we cannot have proper knowledge of self. 

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Solemn Professions of last September

This is the recording of the Solemn Profession of Br. Colm and myself, last September. With the Solemn Profession we make our vows for the rest of our lives, given ourselves fully to God through our vows to the Dominican Order.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

New Dominican App!


As hinted at a few times, we have been working very hard behind the scenes in creating a new App. The new App is called iDoms Portal and is now available in the App Store. While the iDoms Reader will continue to operate as normal for some time, support for small things like notifications of new items (the unread counter) will stop at the end of February.

We have started from scratch with the new App, building it from the ground up. A lot of time has gone in creating a whole new system which has the capability to be very easily extended. One of the great advantages is that it also allows other organizations to use it to create and maintain their own App in a relatively easy way (please contact us at info@idoms.org if you are interested in discussing the possibilities).

In the last year we have created the iDoms Reader and established that there is indeed an interest in iPhone/iPad Apps which provide good quality Catholic content. While we haven't made the progress we intended due to the lack of resources, this new release is a huge step forward, and within a week or two an update will be issued with a great new iPad interface which didn't make it into the first release.
We hope you enjoy this update, and please don't forget to go to the App Store now and dowload the iDoms Portal!

(We have also created an App which can be used as a Vocabulary/Flashcard training tool for Greek, Latin and Hebrew, the iDoms Vocab. You can read more about it here: the iTunes store. )

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Cleaning out the temple?

I am a bit stuck in the past these days, and my mind is still with the Gospel of yesterday... It was the Gospel of the prodigal son, the story in which the youngest of two sons asks his inheritance from the Father and goes off to a foreign land, spends it all and eventually ends up with nothing and is at the risk of starving to death. Then he decided to go back to his father and to ask to be denounced as being his son, and life as one of the paid servants.

However on return, the father sees him coming in the distance, and goes out to him to welcome him back. He orders for the best robe to be brought to him to cloth his nakedness and a ring to be out of on his finger to give him back his dignity...

Friday, 9 March 2012

Only Jesus

I am on the road again this weekend, or actually, more off the road, as I spend my weekend in the retreat house attached to the Siena Monastery in Drogheda, of our enclosed Dominican nuns... It is nice and quite here, and it will give me two days away from my desk in which I can focus on saying a few prayers...

I just want to share something that struck me after I wrote my last reflection, last Tuesday. It was the line:
Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more except Jesus. -Mark 9:8

I was thinking, that this great event happened, Jesus appears in all His glory, clouds and thunder appear, suddenly there stand Moses and Elijah! Excitement, fear, everything at the same time... and then suddenly... They looked around and they no one except Jesus...

My question is, would I be disappointed?
And it seems to me that a first reaction is that maybe I would... But this ties in exactly with my previous post! On our journey through life, on our journey with God, weds get the moments of experiential closeness, excitement of knowing God! But those times come and go, they help us to strengthen our faith, but they are not fundamental... If it was only about experiencing sensations then our relationship with our Lord would not have a lot of depth. As with human relationships, there is much more to it then some occasional experience.

So our reaction should be, when we discover that it is 'only' Jesus who is with us, a reaction of joy, because Jesus is indeed with us! And as I wrote in my last post, he comes down with us, down from the mountain, down into our ordinary life, down with us towards His cross, where He offers himself out of pure love of us!

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

The Transfiguration...

I was planning to write something short on the Transfiguration this weekend, but I didn't really get to it. I think the Transfiguration is one of those great Gospels which can be interpreted so well to reflect the life of the ordinary Christian.

It is in a way the experiential climax of the journey of the three Apostles who climb with Jesus up the mountain and there experience the transfiguration of our Lord, in which His majesty, of being God, radiates forth through His human body. But while this might be the climax of the journey, or at least the journey up to pentecost, it is not the greatest moment...

The greatest moment is not when Jesus shows His glory as God, but the greatest moment is when Jesus is nailed to the cross out of love of us! And this stark contrast shows exactly the stark contrast we experience in our lives as Christians. Maybe, because I am a convert, it seems more clear or more vivid to me, but it seems to me that the Christian life is a journey which can be seen in the journey of the Apostles, with the main difference, perhaps, that for us it happens over and over again, almost like our yearly liturgical cycle.

Initially the Apostles are touched by the encounter, and invitation, of Jesus. In the Gospel of St. John we read that Jesus says, 'come and see' on the request where he lives. Andrew and John, I think, go with Jesus, and spend some time with Him. From that moment their lives are never the same again! Another example is Nathaniel, who is suddenly converted just because Jesus says 'I saw you sitting under the fig tree'. Whatever happened there, it made a profound impact on Nathaniel, showing the profound touch Jesus can have in our lives.

An so it is with us, we are touched by JEsus, in some way. In some way this encounter makes a difference, and it opens up our being to a communion with God. But this is only the beginning of the journey. It is an initial invitation in which God asks us to trust in Him and to 'leave our nets behind' and follow Him. Then gradually he instructs us along the way while we slowly open up ourselves to His presence. For example, we start to read a small bit of the bible, the Word of God every night before going to bed, or say a small prayer on our way home when passing the local church. Slowly the reality of what life is really about, the depth and breath of what it is to be fully human. Sometimes this process takes a while, sometimes it can be difficult, but at the same time, slowly it reveals more and more of the beauty and goodness of God as everything is revealed to us to a point when suddenly we are on top of the mountain...

However, this is, as with the Apostles, a part of the journey, and not its end point. We might be on the mountain for a while, but eventually we are called down, we go back to our 'ordinary life' and it seems that the closeness of God is no more than a distant memory, maybe almost feeling like a fairy tale...

...this however is only illusion! God is always close to us. While on the way to Jerusalem, these forty days of Lent, we walk with Jesus who is with us. And while we might be discouraged along the way, might deny Jesus one, two or three times, He is always there for us to support us, He is there to be with us, and he goes down himself to give His life out of love for us...

Friday, 2 March 2012

40 hours of prayer...

I ended up going quite unexpected to our priory in Cork this weekend, and when arriving here I learned that they have '40 hours' of adoration... This promises to become a pleasant weekend!

While the forty hour, so I presume, is linked to the 40 year in the desert of the Israelites and the 40 days in the desert of Jesus, and as such very appropriate during lent, I think it is also nice as it is the weekend in which we read the Gospel account of the Transfiguration, the revelation of Jesus in Gory on the mountain. As the picture shows, it is almost an experience the same down here...

(and off course, any readers of this post who are in Cork, come along and drop in... there is no real excuse, it goes on until Sunday 11am so there must be a chance to make a few minutes time!)

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The Irish Dominicans have a website called Dominicans Interactive with online resources. We also have an iPhone/iPad App, which can be found in the iTunes App Store.


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