Saint Matthias

Saint Matthias appears and disappears within the space of a few verses in the first reading.  He is chosen by lot to fill the place left vacant by the traitor Judas Iscariot, and then he promptly vanishes and the Scriptures never mention him again.  Matthias was selected because he was a witness to the public life, death and resurrection of Our Lord.  This is his true claim to fame.  The fact that the Church honours him today as a martyr indicates that he gave his life for Christ, as did so many Christians in those early years.

Our Lord’s farewell discourse in St. John’s Gospel describes this kind of witness.  The true disciple stays close to Christ, keeps his commandments, and testifies to the good news of salvation.  The true disciple is prepared to lay down his life for another, and show the way Jesus walked to glory.  The true disciple is filled with joy and lets the world know what it means to be, not a slave, but a friend of God.

Some disciples, like Judas Iscariot, missed the real meaning of Jesus.  Even though Judas was in the company of the Apostles right from the start, he didn’t stay around long enough to witness the Resurrection.  The pain of following the Crucified Christ can discourage anyone, and Judas serves as an example to us not to take our close association with Our Lord for granted.  On the other hand Saint Matthias gives us hope.  As anonymous and forgotten as he and we may be in the annals of history, we can be witnesses too.  And the fruit we bear through that witness of faith and love will be around long after we are dead and buried.

Saint Matthias, pray for us.

matthi1

Advertisements

The 7th Sunday of Easter

Saint John has just taken us back to the evening of Holy Thursday when Our Lord, knowing that his life is almost over, celebrates his farewell meal – the Last Supper – with his disciples.  The following day, Good Friday, would see him suffer the most terrible death on the Cross for the salvation of the world.  As we listen to his priestly prayer on the night before he died, we see that his thoughts were on how helpless his friends would be without him.  He voices his concern for their welfare knowing that because of their mission they will encounter opposition and hatred in the world.  Our Lord gives them assurance and prepares them to cope with life after he returns to the Father.  Our Lord didn’t pray that they would be spared these trials and sufferings, but that they would remain faithful in spite of the opposition.These parting words are meant for us just as much as they were for the apostles.  We have been taken into this prayer as Our Lord has chosen us to share in his work and make even the smallest of our acts of compassion important.  Our common calling, our vocation is to be missionaries dedicated to the truth of God’s word, by the way we live and by our behaviour and our lifestyle.  As we all know, this is not an easy road to travel, but God has not left us to carry out this great endeavour under our own steam and with our own strength.  If we place our lives in his hands, he will equip us with the qualities of mind, heart and character that are necessary for the task.  Often on occasions when we run into difficulties in life, we may be tempted to think that God isn’t really interested in us, or that he has abandoned us.  It would be helpful for us to remember in times of trouble that God does not offer a release from problems, rather he gives us the ability to cope with them, provided that is we turn to him for comfort and help.  What we have to do is to humbly admit to him that we cannot manage on our own.  Only by turning to the wounded Christ on the Cross can we properly face our own problems.  Only with his grace we can turn despair into hope, sorrow into joy, and hatred into love.  All that matters is to be one with the living God, feeling his presence like a great reassurance and a deep calm in the heart.Today’s Gospel ends with a prayerful appeal to remain true to our Christian roots: to be consecrated to the truth.  This means that we live our lives according to a particular value system, our lives are not dictated by the prevailing spirit of the age or the trends of society, or on what I think is the best course of action; our lives are based on the Gospel message.  In this way we will know what is important and when the suffering, struggles and tragedies of life occur, as they inevitably do, we will remain on course able to work through the situation by clinging closely to our belief, and knowing what is right and wrong in any given matter.  The fruit of faithfulness, the fruit of fidelity is a unity and a freedom that the world cannot give.  We would be selling ourselves short if we were ever prepared to ignore this call to believe more firmly and to take our vocation and our mission seriously.

last-supper large

Saturday of the 6th Week of Eastertide

Now it’s pretty obvious that when Our Lord says something, we his people should pay attention.  So how do you think we should respond when Our Lord says the same thing three times in the course of only five sentences?  And what if he made this threefold appeal as part of his final words—the last things he wanted to impress upon his disciples before he went to his death?  Surely we should sit up and take notice.

We’ve just heard Our Lord go out of his way to tell us that we should feel free to ask our heavenly Father for whatever we need.  Just think about how eager children ask their parents for something over and over again until they get what they want.  I’m sure most, if not all of us, badgered our parents in the very same way, wheedling and whining and putting on the waterworks.  Little children are confident that if they persist, their parents will eventually grant their request.  Imagine if we could have that very same confidence in approaching God with our needs, but without the petulant attitude.

As Catholics, we tend to do pretty well when we are asked to carry our cross.  When we are sick, we may ask if Our Lord is asking us to bear up under this infirmity as penance for our sins, or as a form of penance or intercession for others.  When we are in financial need, we assume that Our Lord is asking us to suffer for the sake of his kingdom.  Now while God may ask us to carry the Cross, we need to balance this approach with the understanding that our heavenly Father also wants to give good gifts to his children. We should never be afraid to ask God for a miracle.  And most of all, we must never lose hope that God loves us and wants what is best for us.

222

Friday of the 6th Week of Eastertide

When we read a book, or watch a film, it’s usually pretty easy to follow the plot.  We understand the story because we see one event following on from another, and we begin to get a feel for where the story is heading.  Wouldn’t it be nice if life worked the same way?  The problem is that when you’re ‘inside’ a story, it can be easy to lose the thread of the plot and to wonder where it is all heading.

As Our Lord approached his Passion, he helped his disciples with this sort of confusion.  He knew that they would be faced with a huge challenge when they saw him die on the Cross.  To prepare them, he explained that this was part of the great story that he had called them into.  They would experience wrenching grief, and they would feel out of step with the rest of the world.  But that wouldn’t be the final chapter.  Their grief would be turned to joy, and the story would take on a whole new meaning.

We are all part of this same story.  While the disciples had to wrestle with the confusing events of Holy Week, we already know what it led to.  If we can only keep our eyes focussed on Our Lord’s victory over sin and death, then we will know a joy, a stability, and a peace that nothing in this world can take away.

And yet, there are times when we lose sight of God’s story.  The world gets in the way, selfishness and pride rear their ugly heads, and we can even begin to lose our trust that God is with us.

This is why we need to immerse ourselves every day in the story of the Scriptures.  We need God’s word to sharpen our focus.  We are part of that epic story.  We belong to that great ‘cloud of witnesses’ whose lives have been changed by God.  We are not just passive observers; we are active participants.  We all have a role to play in moving this story forward—and Jesus is right beside us, helping us every step of the way.

cvf

The Ascension of the Lord

As Christians we are supposed to be optimistic people; that is, we are to be full of hope and confidence about our future.  This feast of the Ascension, which marks the final departure of Christ from his friends here on earth, celebrates that very hope.  It proclaims that the Lord, who spent his earthly life in and around Jerusalem, achieved the work his Father had sent him to do and has now returned to the glory of heaven.  Today’s feast gives us a glimpse of the destiny that awaits each one of us and it spells out in no uncertain terms that our home too, is with God in heaven.

The last words Our Lord spoke on this earth were “I am with you always… go and teach all the nations”.  Our Lord remains with us in the Holy Spirit, the Giver of Life, which he gave to the Church at Pentecost, a feast which we will celebrate a week on Sunday.  Our Lord entrusts his followers with the same mission he himself was given: to spread the Good News everywhere and to proclaim to the world the salvation that Our Lord has won, not only for us but for all humanity.

In the same way as the first disciples, we are called to follow Christ and to proclaim his message, by living in this world, but by setting our hearts on the world that will never end.  And the best place to make a start is to get our own lives in good spiritual shape.

Actions nearly always speak louder than words and we witness to Christ more by who we are and by what we do than by what we say.  Mere words are cheap, and they slip off our tongue in a flash.  But if the love of God burns in our hearts, then people will see from the way we live that life has a purpose and is worth living.  And so we preach the values of Christ principally by our good example.

This Feast of the Ascension reveals the work we must do in order to be with Christ forever.  And that work is to witness to the Lord by taking up our Cross and following in his footsteps.

ascension-woodcut

Wednesday of the 6th Week of Eastertide

Many of us have a favourite hymn or song that we like to hum to ourselves when we feel good; but do you ever think of what goes into writing a really memorable song?  Often it takes more than one person.  An idea starts in someone’s head, maybe words or just a melody.  But often someone else is needed to complete that idea.  And then there are the musicians who provide the accompaniment, not to mention the producer who puts together the final version.  Gilbert and Sullivan, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber—these were song writing teams, not lone superstars.

By analogy, we can think of Our Lord in the same way.  He has a message that he wants to bring us.  But that message doesn’t come from him alone.  Our Lord works hand in hand with the Father, who is the author of salvation, and the Holy Spirit, who is the breath of God’s love and grace.  Jesus is the Word, but the one who plays the tune is the Holy Spirit.  He works in our hearts to guide us to the astounding truth that God loves us and has an eternal plan for our lives.

But the Holy Spirit doesn’t play the same melody over and over again.  He plays endless variations on a theme.  His song is fresh and new every day, so we never get tired of hearing it.

Great music has the power to move hearts, and no music can do that as much as the Holy Spirit’s music.  The more we listen to his song, the more we are shaped by it, and the more we come to resemble Jesus.  And it’s not because we are being compelled to act differently; it’s because the Father’s love moves our hearts so that we too can sing that song.  So, let’s spend a few moments today tuning out the world’s noise and listen to what the Holy Spirit is saying, or indeed singing, to us.

der

Our Lady + Patroness of the Order

Saint Dominic chose Our Lady as Patroness of the Order because the Blessed Virgin Mary was Our Lord’s first disciple.  From the outset Our Lady embraced God’s will totally and without reserve, she held nothing back.  She listened to the message of her Son and reflected it in her life.  What better model or example for the spiritual sons and daughters of Saint Dominic to follow?  Like Our Lady, we are all disciples, and over time we come to realise that being a disciple doesn’t just involve sitting at the Master’s feet and listening, it involves action: it involves doing something.  “Blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it.”  Mary incorporated in her life all of God’s Word and repeated them like a child repeats a lesson learned in the classroom.  For example, Our Lady echoes, with firm conviction, God the Father’s words precisely at Our Lord’s Baptism when later she tells the servants at the wedding in Cana: “Listen to him.  Do whatever he tells you.”  This is the call of all disciples.

We all know that being a disciple of the Lord isn’t easy.  Just try to live out your Catholic Faith and see how much opposition comes your way.  Mary experienced rejection from her own neighbours.  Early on in Our Lord’s ministry, she struggled with some, even among her own family members, who thought Our Lord was insane.  Her role as disciple went beyond her role as Mother, for she had a single-hearted devotion to Jesus, the Son of God, the Almighty Creator of the Universe.

Our Lady’s role was to selflessly share her Son with others.  She didn’t cling to him possessively or resent the demands of others upon him.  As a disciple she was inclusive of all the members of God’s Family.  Remember when Our Lord asked: “Who are my mother, brothers and sisters?”  The answer: “whoever does the will of God.”

As a wise disciple, Our Lady gained God’s perspective and insight.  She knew herself to be one disciple among many.  She belonged to the one Body, the Church, and she had a sense of this community and was included in the gathering in Jerusalem at Pentecost.  This community of the Church shows us the dependence we should have on one another because we depend on the gifts of all to make a whole.  This is the only way that the Order and individual communities can work, by pulling together and working from the same page towards a common goal.  There is no role for the prima donna.

Our Lady is a supreme role model of one chosen by God for a particular mission; and Our Lady’s mission was to proclaim the Messiah beyond her own boundaries, limitations and experiences.  She was a willing instrument, edifying the Church and the world with her gift.  The gift which was Christ incarnate in her faith.

Our Lady was a trusting, willing servant of God who didn’t know where her faith of discipleship would lead her.  At the foot of the Cross she trusted that God knew what he was doing.  She stood beneath the Cross despite her many doubts and anxieties.  St. Paul teaches us that “God has made known to us the mystery of his will.”  Our Lady lived to see the fulfilment of all God’s promises to his people.

Saint Dominic recognised Our Lady as the supreme model of what it means to follow Jesus; Our Lady gives us the clearest example of what it means to be a disciple, making Christ present through our lives, and through our preaching and teaching as sons and daughters of Saint Dominic.

May Our Lady’s prayers always assist us as we draw ever closer to God’s Kingdom.

cvf