Eucharist offering hope to a broken people
Timothy Radcliffe cuts an impressive figure. He is a tall man who has an air of gravitas about him, which he easily mixes with a sense of fun. A kind man too. He is a 70-year-old English Dominican priest who was Master of the Dominican Order from 1992 until 2001. Indeed, in the 800-year history of the Order, Timothy is the only English man to have held the job.
Twelve months ago, Timothy was due to give a lecture at the Priory Institute in Tallaght but unfortunately, he had to cancel due to illness. Timothy was diagnosed with cancer of the mouth. At one stage during his treatment he was told there was the possibility that he might never talk again. Last Tuesday evening Timothy stood in front of a crowded lecture hall to deliver his postponed talk. The title was 'How can we hope today? The lessons of our brothers and sisters in the Middle East'.
While his talk had a specific interest in the work and life of the Dominican Order in the Middle East he gave a bird's eye view of what it has been like in recent years for Christians in that part of the world. Since completing his term as Master of the Order in 2001 Timothy has travelled extensively throughout the Middle East, visiting Iraq and Syria on a number of occasions. He wonders how we can hope in these days when there are 65 million people displaced in the world, there is the prospect of ecological disaster plus a worrying development of fundamentalism and nationalism. But Timothy believes that love will have the victory on Easter Day. And listening to the man it was evidently clear that he genuinely believes in the power of God's love, the power of love over darkness.
It's uplifting to hear someone give such vitality to the Christian message. And that's exactly what Timothy did in his lecture. He has been amazed how people have refused to leave their homes but he completely understands why others have fled. And he has also been greatly impressed how Christians have remained. He quoted the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, who once said that one of the most powerful things we can hear is when someone tells us that they are not going to go away.
Timothy said that we see the face of the Lord in the wilderness. 'We have to learn the art of reading one another's faces,' he explained, because behind every human face is a frightened child. All during his talk he kept returning to the Eucharist and how he had seen Christians celebrate Mass within hearing distance of gunfire. He told the story of an imam offering a mosque on Christmas Day to Christians, whose church some days earlier had been desecrated.
He believes that the Eucharist offers hope to a broken people. He readily admits that Mass can bore him, sermons annoy him and with his roguish sense of humor he told the story of the mother, who calls her son to go to Mass on Sunday. She goes back to his bedroom 10 minutes later and he is still asleep. She tells him he has to go to Mass. He replies that it is so boring. In exasperation she tells him: 'You should go to Mass, besides, you are the bishop of the diocese.'
Timothy Radcliffe has published a number of books. I strongly recommend you dip into some of his writings.