Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (C) | Fr Aelred Connelly moves to a new Dominican community and reflects on how this experience is a participation in the life and mission of Christ.
I entered the Dominican noviciate, which was opened in Edinburgh in 1980 with a view to attracting vocations north of the border and providing an initial formation and experience for those thinking about working for at least part of their Dominican life in Scotland. Scotland has its own separate Catholic Hierarchy.
I have had the privilege and pleasure of working in a university chaplaincy and parish both south and north of the border and have found them mutually enriching experiences. It was often said of the papacy of St John Paul II that brought into focus the two lungs of Europe, both East and West and both in Church and state.
My experience of working as a Dominican friar, on both sides of the border in a variety of priories, and houses, has provided a similar balance between North and South. I write this on my last night in the Glasgow house before returning to our house in Edinburgh. What is important for now and for the future is to seek the possibilities of new life after the ‘little death’, which inevitably accompanies moving on. This applies to work and location.
Such a hope for new life sustains the faith of the seven brothers and their mother in today’s first reading from the second book of Maccabees despite persecution and torture. The king of the world will raise them up since it is for his laws that they die, that they might live again forever.
It is this hope of new life which sustains their faith to the end. Ours is the better choice, to meet death at men’s hands, yet relying on God’s promise that we shall be raised up by him.
The number seven appears again in the Gospel reading from St Luke. It presents a parody of belief in the resurrection in terms of human life and survival as we know it. You live on by means of marriage and having a family. Ironically, it is the belief in the Resurrection which gives the life of commitment to marriage its eternal dimension.
For Dominicans, the lifelong commitment is to living together in community, sharing a common life of prayer and study and preaching. This is to prepare for and reflect a form of the Resurrection life depicted in today’s Gospel. Those who are judged worthy of a place in the other world and in the Resurrection from the dead, do not marry because they can no longer die, being children of the Resurrection; they are sons of God. The practicality of preparing for living such a life takes place in our religious life but in a bigger and more structured community, that will be capable of sustaining the sung Office of prayer and daily Mass, making a fuller life together.
The delicate balance is to remember that all this is not an end in itself but a way of preparing for and living out a mission of preaching for the salvation of souls. As St Paul says in the second reading from the second letter of to the Thessalonians, the Resurrection life is the “grace of God to give us comfort and a sure hope to strengthen us in everything good that we do or say”.
Paul asks for prayer for him and fellow preachers of the Faith, that the Lord’s message may spread quickly. One is reminded here of the Lord sending our his disciples two by two and how he was imitated by St Dominic who also sent out his small band of preachers, two by two. These preachers and their successors eventually went to all the main university centres and places of learning throughout Europe.
The Resurrection life in one sense begins here and now. A friend once said if re-incarnation was true, she would like to come back as the ‘Janny’s dug’, (Scottish parlance for the School Janitors hound). The children would share their jeely pieces (jam sandwiches) with you, and you could live in the warmth and security of the school boiler room. She has now gone to a place of peace and light.
No for the Christian, life is a once and for all experience. In the face of suffering and death, our hope brings us back to the love of God made visible in Christ. He is our life.
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Photograph by Fr Lawrence Lew OP of the Dominican chapel of Saint Albert the Great in Edinburgh.
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