Gospel reflections 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

28 June 2020

“ALL or Nothing” a reflection inspired by today’s Gospel (Matthew 10:37-42) as shown in the life of Sister Clare Crocket.

One of the things that made me occupied as well as entertained… and also at times inspired … during these weeks and months of lockdown was this — watching movies.  Big thanks to Netflix.  “The Two Popes” is my top on the list.  I felt in love the Malaysian way while watching “29 Februari”.  I remain very Filipino though.  In fact, I did shed some tears while watching “Seven Sundays”.  My next on the list is an Indian film entitled “Guilty” which looks like a must-see when you’re looking for one with social relevance.  And lastly, I confess, I’ve become one of the numerous fans of the hit series “Money Heist”.  Oh yes, I did a marathon of the four seasons, and I’m so looking forward to season 5… although I’m a bit disappointed and down coz Nairobi is gone, huhu.

But you know what?  Seriously… there is this movie that really so inspired and moved me during these stay-at-home days….  And the timing was perfect ‘coz that was Holy Week when I’ve watched it.…. And watching it gave me both smiles and tears….  Boy, that movie really touched me!  Up to now, it still does.…  And in fact, reading today’s Gospel reminds me so much about that movie….  In fact, I’ve watched it again last night and it has continued to deeply move me….  And it is thanks to Youtube, not Netflix, that I was able to watch it…. 

Fr Ramooon, enough with the introoo… hehe….  Is the suspense killing you?  If you watch this movie though… and I seriously and highly recommend that you do… it’s gonna kill you somehow….  This movie will make you, like the main actress in it, die to yourself if only to live in Christ, life in its fullness.  The title of that movie is… “ALL OR NOTHING”.

After watching this movie, I was moved to pray…

“Lord, like Sister Clare, may I also love you so completely. All or nothing!
Sister Clare, you must be in heaven now.
While I’m still here on earth, may I learn from you to give my all to God and His people. All or nothing!”

Wanna say and mean the same too?  Isn’t that what today’s Gospel is inviting us, challenging us to?  Go and watch that movie.  It’s free in Youtube.  But please watch it with a fee.  Pay with your mind and heart, with your whole body and soul.  ALL OR NOTHING!

Want a long but surely moving sermon on today’s Gospel?  Get to know Sister Clare, her life, her offering, her sacrifice, her impact to many… and may it include you and me.  Go and watch that movie.  ALL OR NOTHING!

ALL OR NOTHING… the movie is about that saintly and fascinating Irish nun, Sr Clare Crocket, who belongs to The Servant Sisters of the Home of the Mother congregation.  Hers was a life so short yet so very colorful and impactful.  She was born in Derry in 1982 and was very very pretty and talented.  She is the life of the party wherever she goes.  She so wanted to be no less than famous, a movie star, and, in fact, with her brilliant talent, looks and personality, she was actually on the way to becoming one.  But she gave all these fame and success up, all for the love of Jesus who called her to be His, to be His spouse, to be a nun.  She has lived her life full of passion for God, devotion to Mary, care for people, all people whom she meets, the young who are her students, the adults who are her partners in apostolate, her co-sisters, and everyone as in everyone.  Her actions and words, her singing and joy-giving, her laughter and her prayer, her service and sacrifice, all… her all… are so very fascinating.  She has always given her everything to God and everyone.  True to the title of the movie, she has given to Jesus her all.  No room for half-heartedness.  It’s really “all or nothing”.  And at a very young age of thirty-three… just like Jesus… she died in an earthquake in Equador in 2016.  With her were five girl-aspirants as she was having guitar lessons with them then.  She died in total surrender… again, just like Jesus… and all for Jesus.

Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel, “Whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me….  Whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”  Sr Clare, even in her short life, has translated this in flesh and blood.

It was Holy Week of the year 2000.  Only as a substitute and without really knowing that it was a pilgrimage, she went with a group to Spain.  She thought that there she would meet a lot of boys, enjoy cigar and bask under the sun.  But what she had instead was an experience of God, of religion, of the faith.  Especially during the kissing of the cross in that Good Friday liturgy, when she walked towards the altar and finally kissed our crucified Lord, she said in her heart, “It was my sins that nailed Jesus on the cross.  He died for me. He loves me.”  She realized for the first time that God’s love for her is so true and deep and that love is repaid by love alone, that God’s love for her meant her complete donation.  From then on, she felt God calling her to be a sister.  She shared what she felt to others saying, “I want to be a nun.  But I want to be famous too.  No problem.  I’m gonna be a famous nun.”  And indeed she has now become one.  Her holy and inspiring life has touched a lot of lives.  And it started with that Holy Week experience.  Some say it was a coincidence that she happened to be in that pilgrimage.  Others say it was a God-incidence.

Find time later to go and watch that movie.  And you’ll have your God-incidence too.  Jesus is also urging us to carry our cross, give up everything and everyone, even our very dear dears.  Then and only then will we have a life of impact, of meaning, of joy.

For Sr. Clare, it was not a one-time-big-time total conversion.  After that Holy Week, she struggled still in a life of materialism and worldly lures.  One time, while in a party, drinking and smoking, with friends and peers, she found herself in one of the cubicles of the toilet in the club where she was partying.  And there she could not stop herself from crying and crying and crying.  She felt Jesus, beseeching her with a question, “Clare, why do you keep hurting me?”  She felt guilty, but at the same time, weak.  But she felt Jesus continually pursuing her, telling her, “If I ask you to do something, I will give you the grace to be able to do it.”  And so it was.  God’s call prevailed. 

While she was actually in the middle of a big movie project, she left everything totally, told her family of her desire to be a nun, and left Ireland to go back to Spain and enter the convent.  Her family did not believe her at first.  “She? A sister?  No way,” they said.  “She’ll leave but after a week, a month, she’ll be back for sure.”  But then they felt her sincerity and intensity of purpose.  Her mother begged her not to go.  But she’s determined to give Jesus her all….  ALL OR NOTHING!

Jesus said, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me.”  Sr Clare has been proven worthy.  One student asked her, “Sister, are you not sad that you do not even see your family?  Are you not worried about them?”  To this she honestly replied, “I feel Jesus tells me, ‘You will leave everyone and everything for me.  But I will be your everything.’  Besides, as a sister, I now take care of God’s dear ones, right?  So I’m not worried about my dear ones ‘coz I know, God, in return, will be the one who’ll take care of them.”

Her offering of herself to God is total, no less than that.  She could not do things half-way.  She kept nothing back.  Everything or nothing!  In prayer, in service, in the classroom, in the playground, while on a bus ride, while in the kitchen, even during those moments when she was feeling sick, she was always giving her best, her all.  Truly, for her, it’s ALL OR NOTHING!

I see in her what I used to hear from my rector then in Don Bosco Mandaluyong, Fr Eli, and what I used to say often to the Bosconians when I became their rector in Don Bosco Tarlac and then in Mabalacat… “Di pwede and ‘pwede na’!”  How do we properly translate this in English?  “It’s not enough to settle with ‘just enough’!”  In other words… “No to mediocrity.  Yes to radicality!”  Maybe in Malaysia this may mean, “No to ‘alang-alang’.  No to ‘cincai’.  Yes to complete recipe ‘laksa’, nothing less!” 

In that movie, we can see Sr Clare narrating her every morning ritual.  I find this something worth emulating.  She says, “In the morning, I sign a blank check for the Lord.  And on that, He can put whatever He wants.  God can ask me anything at any time.  He can even erase my personal plans.”  And Sr Clare has walked her talk.  She was very available to all.  Even after a tiring classroom teaching, she still animates the students in the playground with her contagious cheers.  Even after a hectic apostolate, even if one may feel entitled to a needed rest and relaxation, she spends her time with and for her co-sisters.  She often gives up her own wishes to give way to her companions’ needs.  ALL OR NOTHING… in all that she is doing.

May I end with this last inspiration I got from the movie… otherwise you might say, “Father, you talked about Sr Clare and the movie so much already.  No need for us to see it.”

Before dying from the earthquake, Sr Clare’s last recorded video was one where we see her playing the guitar and singing. She’s so beautiful, her voice too… that beauty that is heavenly. And though she was feeling sick when that video was taken, she was still, as she always did, singing with her all… and the lyrics of her song which was in Spanish say…
“The fear was lost, the fear to give,
To surrender, to die so as to live.”

Do we sometimes feel afraid? Afraid to give? To surrender everything? To let go of everything and everyone? Feeling the need to cling to one, to some, to survive, to thrive?

Today’s Gospel and Sr Clare’s life testimony call us to let go….
Do not be afraid to give… to give all… even if it means to give up everything and everyone.
Because “whoever loses his life… for God’s sake… will find it.”

Sr Clare passed away four years ago… but her life and inspiration, her holiness and probably also her intercession, continue to thrive.
May, like her, our offering of our all to God make us also truly and fully alive.

Questions for Reflection… and Action:

Fr Ramon Borja, SDB
Commission for Youth


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