Deacon Tony reflects: look for what truly satisfies

Our readings today demonstrate God’s great generosity. To those who found the manna and quails in the desert, they were being given sustenance until they reached the Promised Land; this is something which the people in the crowd referred to in their encounter with Jesus in today’s Gospel. But Jesus pointed out to them that it was not Moses who provided their food, but God.

If we remember last week’s Gospel, we heard about Jesus feeding the multitudes with a small boy’s picnic. Jesus gave thanks for the offering, blessed it and broke it to share with more than five thousand men, women and children. The people of Jesus’ time were great ones for looking for signs, in today’s Gospel they ask again for a sign so that they can believe in Jesus. Jesus explains that God provides the signs; God sends the true bread, which gives life to the world. Jesus is the bread of life, He asks us to come to Him and we will never hunger again to believe in Him and we will never thirst.

Bishop Philip has this week sent a message out to the Diocese, he is asking all of us to come back to Church. In this Year of the Eucharist, he is saying that our hunger for God cannot be fully satisfied by watching online, he is asking us to respond to the message of today’s Gospel which is to ‘come to Jesus’. Our fantastic volunteers have worked tirelessly throughout to make our churches safe for everyone to come back.

Come back and take your rightful place in the Body of Christ, we are not complete without you.

During the first Lockdown I was extremely disappointed to be kept away from Church, I was comforted by the fact that I could still watch Mass online and join in with the prayers; getting to know the prayer for Spiritual Communion was helpful, but even that did not satisfy. I have heard many people say since we were all allowed back how much the time away had made them realise how much they missed receiving Jesus in the Eucharist.

I know that some people are too frail to return to Mass; and we must all keep them in our prayers; but for many that are able to come back, ask yourself are you making the same effort to return to Mass as you are, for example, to make a booking for a meal out? NOW is the time to make the effort to return, we miss all of you and look forward to welcoming you back.

In St Paul’s letter to the Ephesians we are reminded that as Christians, we are expected to live our lives in a certain way. We are not to live as the ‘pagans live’. As Christians we are temples of the Holy Spirit (1Cor 6:19), so we are to guard against our mind being ‘corrupted by illusory desires’ (deceptive or unreal). Instead, we are to trust in Jesus; immerse ourselves in the Word of God; allow our ‘minds to be renewed by a spiritual revolution’, and live fully as the new beings our Baptism created us to be living a life of ‘goodness and holiness of the truth’.

This can only be achieved through Jesus, He is the Way, the Truth and the Life, no-one can reach God except through Him. We do this by listening to the Word of God and receiving the Bread of Life at Mass, by studying and reflecting on the Word of God, between Masses and by putting what we have learned and what we have received into action in our everyday lives.

The message from Jesus today is that we are to look for what truly satisfies, today’s world seems to be more about instant gratification rather than taking a long-term view. Jesus says why look for bread that leaves you hungry or water which will leave you thirsting for more. He is the true bread that satisfies. I often read the words of another deacon from Scotland, Deacon Bill McMillan, this week he tweeted “Constantly seeking the stimulation of new things in our lives can be symptoms of hunger not physical but spiritual in nature. That hunger in the heart of all of us is God in Christ, who is present in the Eucharist as bread of life, willing to satisfy our deepest hunger.”1

Does how you satisfy your cravings leave you looking for more? Are you constantly looking for something different? Turn to Jesus, Jesus has enough to satisfy the deepest hunger – remember his words “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never be hungry; he who believes in me will never thirst.”

Raniero Cantalamessa, who has been preacher to the Papal Household for the past 3 popes, sums up the importance of the Eucharist, when he said “the Eucharist is present in the entire history of salvation”. He supports this by saying “it is present in the Old Testament as a figure, in the New Testament as an event, and in our own time of the Church, as a sacrament. The figure anticipates and prepares the event, the sacrament ‘prolongs’ the event and actualises it.”2

‘One bread, one body, one Lord of all, one cup of blessing which we bless. And we though many, throughout the earth, we are one Body, in this One Lord’.3

Further Reading

Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC)

CCC 1333-1336: Eucharistic signs of bread and wine
CCC 1691-1696: life in Christ

The Eucharist Our Sanctification – Raniero Cantalamessa

Please keep in your prayers

  • Anthony Fyk and Paul Nwune who are being Ordained as priests for our Diocese this weekend; James Lewis who is being ordained as a deacon at the same Mass; and Stephen Opoku-Anokye and Stephen Joseph who are being ordained as Permanent Deacons.
  • The repose of the souls of those who have lost their lives during the recent storms, the comfort of their families and the people who have lost their homes and livelihoods.
  • Those who are sick, those who are dying, the recently deceased and those who mourn.
  • Those preparing to return to Mass.
  • The Year of the Eucharist, which has now started, that this will lead to a fresh outpouring of love by the people of God for the Body and Blood of Christ.
  • Those who have been unable to receive the Eucharist during the pandemic.
  • Those involved in preparing our pastoral area ‘Big event’ on the 4th Sept’ – may it be a wonderful opportunity for our local parishes to come together, enjoy each other’s company and show our love of God and neighbour.

1 Deacon Bill McMillan Twitter @DeaconMcMillan published 31 July 2021 on Twitter.

2 Raniero Cantalamessa, The Eucharist Our Sanctification, (The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota, 1993)6.

3 John Foley SJ, Hymns Old and New,(Kevin Mayhew Limited, Stowmarket, Suffolk, 1989)744.

Deacon Tony reflects: What we receive, we share

Pope Francis has declared that this Sunday is the first World Day of Prayer for Grandparents and the elderly. It will be held every year on the fourth Sunday in July; this date was chosen as it is close to the feast day of St Joachim and St Anne, who are the parents of the Virgin Mary and the Grandparents of Jesus.

I am very fortunate, I had great relationships with my four grandparents. I experienced the love and support of them all. I lived with my maternal grandparents for five years before I was married and frequently visited my paternal grandparents; usually involving a meal. One of my favourite memories is of my Dad’s mum at my wedding, she was not one for showing affection, but on that day seeing all the hugs from the other grandparents, including Pam’s grandmother, she insisted on getting her hugs too.

The Holy Father said he instituted the World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly because “grandparents are often forgotten, and we forget this wealth of preserving roots and passing on” what the elderly have received. The elderly, he continued, “remind us that old age is a gift and that grandparents are the link between the different generations, to pass on to the young the experience of life.” He emphasized the importance of grandparents and grandchildren getting to know one another, because “as the prophet Joel says, grandparents seeing their grandchildren dream,” while “young people, drawing strength from their grandparents, will go forward and prophesy.”1

The Scriptures used today, while not specifically chosen for Grandparents Day, give an indication of the love which most grandparents express. Their love is a love which ‘keeps’ on giving.

In our readings today we hear of how Elisha asked his visitor to share the food offering he had brought with the people; he was aware that the Lord had said the food would feed the hundred men with some left over. The twenty barley loaves would not normally stretch to feed so many, but when God’s providence is involved, there will always be more than enough.

St Paul reminds us that there is one Body, one Lord, one faith and one baptism and that we have all been baptised into that faith and have become the Body of Christ. We are bound together in the Spirit by God’s peace, and we are to be charitable to one another in thoughts and in deeds.

How does that peace feel today? Are we at peace with all of our family and friends?

If you do not feel at peace today, please offer up your anxieties, your frailness, your worries to God. If there is someone you need to forgive, do it now. If there is someone you need to ask forgiveness from; pray for the opportunity and when it comes, grasp it. God will restore your peace.

Those who have been carefully following the Scriptures will recognise that we have moved from Mark’s Gospel to John’s Gospel account of the feeding of the five thousand. We will remain with John’s Gospel for the next few weeks as we explore the Eucharist and emphasise that Jesus is the Word that feeds as well as the Body and Blood which nourishes.2 The Catechism of the Church tells us that today’s Gospel Reading gives us a foretaste of what would become the Eucharist as well as linking the reader back to the earlier passage in John’s Gospel from Chapter 2 where the water was changed into wine. It says

The miracles of the multiplication of the loaves, when the Lord says the blessing, breaks and distributes the loaves through his disciples to feed the multitude, prefigure the superabundance of this unique bread of his Eucharist. The sign of water turned into wine at Cana already announces the Hour of Jesus’ glorification. It makes manifest the fulfilment of the wedding feast in the Father’s kingdom, where the faithful will drink the new wine that has become the Blood of Christ (CCC1335).

John’s Gospel is a carefully crafted account of the life of Jesus, for example while the feeding of the multitudes is in all of the Gospel accounts, it is only John who mentions that the loaves were barley loaves; which is probably why the compilers of the Lectionary placed the reading from the 2nd Book of Kings in today’s readings as it has similarities to the Gospel. The crowds following Jesus, were not originally hungry for food; they were hungry for the Word of God. Their desire and fascination for the Word meant that they had not prepared any food for themselves for the end of the day. Jesus demonstrated that not only was he able to satisfy their hunger for the Word, but he was able to nourish them with food too. Jesus takes little and turns it into a lot. He can take your small faith and multiply it; we just need to believe and bring what we have to Him.

There is also an emphasis here that what we receive from God is to be shared and it is never to be allowed to go to waste. Notice that St John says they filled twelve baskets with the scraps which were left over. Some translations use the word ‘fragments’ instead of ‘scraps.’ Fragments was the word used for the bread of the Eucharist in the earliest description we have of the Eucharist (the Didache). We are called through our Baptism to share both the Word and the Eucharist; our interaction with others is the fruits of our Christian Community. We are fed by the Word and nourished by the Eucharist; through these two distinct parts we receive one Jesus, who gave Himself to us out of love.

Having heard the Word of God today, what fragments of the Word will you be taking with you? There are more than twelve disciples hearing/reading this, what have you collected in your basket to be shared with those you encounter following our Mass?

Jesus does not want a single fragment to be wasted. He is counting on us as His Body here on earth to share His love amongst all of his creation.

Please keep in your prayers

  • Pray for all Grandparents, especially those who because of family circumstances or due to the Pandemic are not able to spend time with their grandchildren.
  • The repose of the souls of those who have lost their lives during the recent storms, the comfort of their families and the people who have lost their homes and livelihoods.
  • Those who are sick, those who are dying, the recently deceased and those who mourn.
  • Those preparing to return to Mass.
  • Richard Mortimer, and Martha and Marcus Gernace who are being baptised this weekend and their parents and Godparents.
  • Those preparing for ordination to the Priesthood, Diaconate and Permanent Diaconate next weekend.
  • The Year of the Eucharist, which has now started, that this will lead to a fresh outpouring of love by the people of God for the Body and Blood of Christ.
  • Those who have been unable to receive the Eucharist during the pandemic.
  • Those involved in preparing our pastoral area ‘Big event’ on the 4th Sept’ – may it be a wonderful opportunity for our local parishes to come together, enjoy each other’s company and show our love of God and neighbour.

1 Pope establishes World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly – Vatican News

2 Robert Draper, Breaking the Word Sundays, Pastoral Review Vol 17 Issue 3 (The Tablet Publishing Company, London, 2021)78.

Deacon Tony reflects: sheep of the flock

There is an obvious theme in our readings today. There is mention of shepherds in our first reading, in our psalm and in our Gospel. For many of us, all we may know about shepherds may come from what we have read in the Bible, or from TV documentaries or programmes like Countryfile. Shepherds need to be dedicated, it is a life of unsocial hours, it can be quite remote from other people and can have very busy times and I would imagine there are times when the sheep almost look after themselves as well.

Our first reading has the prophet Jeremiah lambasting the kings and priests of his day; those anointed by God to look after God’s flock have strayed in their duties, they have allowed the people to turn away from God, worshipping false god’s and even allowing pagan rituals in the Holy Temple of Jerusalem. One of the key messages here is that the flock does not belong to the shepherd, it belongs to God. Notice in the words Jeremiah uses ’the flock of my pasture’, ‘the shepherds in charge of my people’, ‘my flock’. The message Jeramiah delivers promises disaster for those who have betrayed the trust God has put in them, but also the promise of raising up new shepherds to tend his flock. The promise of a ‘virtuous Branch for David’, as we know this virtuous Branch was God Incarnate; Jesus, our Saviour sent to bring all of the lost sheep back to the Father.

There is a danger that the psalm from today’s Liturgy is so familiar to us that we don’t appreciate the beauty and simplicity of the words. It is a psalm which gives us comfort, fills us with the knowledge that we are not alone, we have the Word of God to guide us along the right path and the Good Shepherd to redirect us should we stray. There is the promise of an eternal banquet for us out of reach of those who could do us harm, because we will live in the house of the Lord. As I said it is a familiar psalm for us, probably the most familiar, however, it is something which we should all make time to contemplate.

In our Gospel we can imagine the excitement of the disciples return to Jesus following their mission to announce the Good News, they have come back from anointing the sick and casting out devils; preaching repentance and a return to God. Jesus senses their excitement and like a Good Shepherd realises they need some quiet time, some “time out” to be alone with their thoughts and pray to God; putting God right back at the centre of this instead of the signs they have given through their good works. The people who had witnessed these wonders, however, would not allow the disciples or Jesus to find that quiet time, their clamour for more drove them to try to get closer to Jesus and the disciples. Jesus saw them, and he took pity on them; showing them compassion; as they were like sheep without a shepherd.

We all need to find quiet time with God, how can we do this in 2021? With technology and communication reaching almost every part of our life, how can we retain the deepest desire of our life; to stay connected to our Creator? How can we avoid becoming lost sheep? How do we ensure we stay within God’s flock and don’t venture away from the fold?

In my busyness, I can often get caught up with doing. I need to remember I am not a human doing, I am a human being. I have a busy job, in addition to being a deacon, and I love doing both. I am also a husband, a father and a grandfather and I love all of these too. All of these involve relationships, investment of time and there are only 24 hours in the day. My goal is to try and make all of these relationships work and not have my relationship with God as an add on, but to use the strength and the energy I get from the love God bestows upon me to make all of these other relationships work.

We can also see in our Gospel today the early stages of the pupils learning to be teachers. The disciples had been away on their mission and had come back together and were ‘comparing notes’. They would have been recalling what had happened on their travels, helping to build up the Kingdom. By sharing their experience of living out their faith, they helped to strengthen each other’s resolve. How often do we share our testimony with fellow Christians?

If we do not share our faith journey with others, do we look at why we choose not to? Is it because we do not want to appear to be boastful or proud? Is it because we do not see that what we do is good enough to share? Remember from the tiniest mustard seed a great tree is born. The little bit you have to share could plant a seed in someone else which can develop into something which they could never have imagined. Some of the greatest saints have found God through the words of others and the prayers of fellow Christians. Who are we to deny someone else their place in Heaven?

Please keep in your prayers

  • The repose of the souls of those who have lost their lives during the recent storms, the comfort of their families and the people who have lost their homes and livelihoods.
  • Those who are sick, those who are dying, the recently deceased and those who mourn.
  • Those preparing to return to Mass.
  • Christopher Hughes and Georgia Sillitoe who are being baptised this weekend and their parents and Godparents.
  • Those preparing for ordination to the Priesthood, Diaconate and Permanent Diaconate.
  • The Year of the Eucharist, which has now started, that this will lead to a fresh outpouring of love by the people of God for the Body and Blood of Christ.
  • Those who have been unable to receive the Eucharist during the pandemic.

Deacon Tony reflects: God equips the called

A phrase which has given me great strength over the years is that “God does not call the equipped, He equips the called.” Time after time God has proven this and yet we as humans still have doubts. Amos was a shepherd, who also looked after trees, called to be a prophet, Amaziah, a priest questioned his calling. Andrew, Simon, James and John were fishermen, Matthew a tax-collector; despised by the people; and yet Jesus called them and sent these men out with others to preach repentance, cast out devils and anoint the sick.

In the part of his letter to the Ephesians, which we hear today; St Paul reminds us that we did not chose to follow Jesus, we are chosen to follow Jesus, from the beginning of time we are chosen, for the glory of God. All of us have been chosen, living as a Christian means that we have responded to the call. God does not care whether we feel worthy of the call, God does not care if we feel able to do what He is calling us to. This is not about how we feel in this matter. God will provide. God equips the called.

The apostles sent out in twos were told to take nothing of surplus with them, they were to rely on God’s providence. God sees the whole picture, as people, our view is restricted, bound by where we live and what we know. God knows everything, past, present and future. God sees the whole potential in every single one of us and He calls us to fulfil that potential. God is calling us to live pure and spotless lives in His presence; the potential of which we can scarcely imagine.

There is great excitement in our country at the moment because of sport; sport can provide people with tremendous highs and often horrendous lows. The exhilaration of winning a large sporting event is miniscule compared to the exhilaration of reaching heaven. Our sporting heroes have achieved nothing compared with those who have answered the call to serve God and now “live through love in his presence”.

This is something I need to remind myself of as I get caught up in the sports which I follow. As it says elsewhere in scripture, the athletes train for a prize which withers, we are training for a prize which never fades (1 Cor 9:25). So, while we admire the dedication put in by the tennis players at Wimbledon, the cyclists in Paris and the footballers in Wembley this weekend and perhaps hear comments about legends, immortals and unforgettable; the true immortals are the shepherds, fishermen and tax collectors; people like you and me, who heard a call and responded to that call. They completed their mission from God and are now living with God being warmed by the reflection of God’s love and Glory.

Please keep in your prayers

  • Those who are sick, those who are dying, the recently deceased and those who mourn.
  • Those preparing to return to Mass.
  • Margaux, Niamh and Mila who are being baptised this weekend and their parents and Godparents.
  • Those preparing for ordination to the Priesthood, Diaconate and Permanent Diaconate.
  • The Year of the Eucharist, which has now started, that this will lead to a fresh outpouring of love by the people of God for the Body and Blood of Christ.
  • Those who have been unable to receive the Eucharist during the pandemic.

Deacon Tony reflects: the call of faith

I have to admit that I am not one for haggling or disputing a price or questioning whether I have the right change or not when I am in a shop. Part of this is not wanting to draw attention to myself, but mostly this is a fear of rejection. I mostly want to fit in, not stand out from the crowd; finding it much easier and simpler to blend in rather than be noticed. I am also very uncomfortable speaking in public, but as many of you know God has a sense of humour, he has different plans for me, he has called me to serve Him and you as a Deacon. One of my many fears while discerning the call to the Diaconate was “what would the other people, I know in the Church think?” Thoughts like ‘Who does he think he is?”

However, my experience has been the opposite, some may have those thoughts, but the people of the Parish have been extremely supportive, and I know I could not do what I do without their prayerful support and encouragement.

In today’s readings we hear about the importance of faith and in following the call. Ezekiel is told to go and proclaim God to the Israelites, and his mission is to make sure that; whether they listen or not; they know there is a prophet among them. Those defiant and obstinate people were sent a defiant and obstinate prophet who continued to preach to them despite rejection, he is basically told not to worry about the results, but to share God’s Word, leave the rest to God. Are we put off our call, our mission to spread the good news? Is it more important for us to ‘fit in’ with our peers? Or are we focused on the mission we alone have been given?

St Paul often documents the opposition and rejection he encounters and gives us encouragement that he also has to contend with his ‘inner demons’, struggles, which he has unsuccessfully asked the Lord to remove from him. Accepting of the Lord’s choice he learns to live with this ‘thorn in the flesh’, demonstrating complete obedience to God. Also recognising that God helps him to draw strength from his weaknesses. How happy are we to accept insults, hardships, and persecution? In today’s world, most of us live what could be called a cosy lifestyle. Our hardship may be deciding whether to go out for a meal now that the restaurants have reopened or whether to go abroad risking having to isolate on return or to holiday in the UK this year. Sadly, for others, these choices are alien to them. I am very blessed and have much to thank God for!

In today’s Gospel, Jesus returns to his hometown and fills the locals with bewilderment; they struggle to understand how Jesus, who was one of them, can suddenly become a learned preacher. I would suggest that it is unlikely that Jesus would suddenly become so learned. Often when we see someone everyday we fail to notice changes in them, it is only when we have not seen them for some time we notice subtle things like weight gain or change of hair colour or whatever physical changes we choose to observe. Jesus would have been maturing into His ministry for several years in plain sight of these people. The extra-ordinary results of this ministry were the new developments, which had taken them by surprise. Their knowledge of Jesus as a boy and adolescent; something which we know very little of; blinded their eyes to who had been made flesh and dwelt among them.

Their lack of faith affected Jesus so much that he could work no miracles there. For me this shows that Jesus was not a performer; the miracles of Jesus are no illusion performed by a magician. For the miracles to work, the recipients had to have faith. Jesus told us this several times after a miracle had been worked. Go, your faith has saved you.

How does our faith in 2021 match up to the people in the Bible? Are we like Thomas, whose feast day is this weekend, needing to see something in the flesh to believe? Are we like Jairus from last week’s Gospel who believed that if Jesus could just touch his daughter that she would live? Do we believe that in our Mass; God using the hands of our priest; changes the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ?

Our call to follow God is simple, there is no promise of success, no indication that when we preach the Gospel by our actions that we will be welcome, there is no guarantee of protection from our own demons or insecurities. Our call is to be faithful, to trust in God and to know that defeat and weakness are signs, not of God’s abandonment, but for those with faith the opportunity to experience the presence of God’s power.1

Please keep in your prayers

  • Those who are sick, those who are dying, the recently deceased and those who mourn.
  • Those preparing to return to Mass.
  • Edward McNulty who was baptised this weekend and his parents and Godparents.
  • Those preparing for ordination to the Priesthood, Diaconate and Permanent Diaconate.
  • The Year of the Eucharist, which has now started, that this will lead to a fresh outpouring of love by the people of God for the Body and Blood of Christ.
  • Those who have been unable to receive the Eucharist during the pandemic.

1 Robert Draper, Breaking the Word Sundays- Pastoral Review Vol 17 Issue 3(The Tablet Publishing Company, Twickenham, 2021)77-8.

Deacon Tony reflects: Do not be afraid; only have faith

Two years ago as I was preparing for my Ordination to the Diaconate, I happened to attend a Diversity and Inclusion Workshop at work. During this they had an exercise, which was meant to show us how we can unwittingly find ourselves travelling along with like minded people and at the same time maybe inadvertently excluding others who have different interests or beliefs. There was around 100 people in the room, and they asked us to group together with people by using the following criteria. Group one were people who had never watched an episode of Game of Thrones, Group two were people under the age of 35, group three were people who had a faith and groups four and five were based on other cultural topics, which I cannot remember.

Regardless of what they were, the only group I really fitted into was people who had a faith. However, when I say group, I am exaggerating, because I actually found myself standing there alone, which was quite disconcerting. This is not to say that the other people in the room did not have a faith, they may well have thought that they fitted more neatly into one of the other groups. It was obviously quite noticeable, so much so that one of the facilitators came over to check I was okay and stood with me so that I did not feel alone. My biggest fear, I must admit, was that when we returned to the whole group again that they would want to ask me how it felt to be alone in my solitude; highlighting the difference even further. Thankfully for me that did not happen, but I have to admit I experienced that fear for the fifteen minutes or so that the others spent getting to know one another and discussing the things they had in common.

Today, we hear Jesus say “Do not be afraid; only have faith”. Now I am not telling this to show how good I am; that I was prepared to stand all by myself admitting that I had a faith, when others didn’t. I honestly don’t know how I would have responded if I had fitted in to one of the other groups. But as I didn’t fit into any of the others and with my imminent Ordination in my mind, my choice was made for me. Today we hear about fear and faith.

The lady who was ill, had been ill for twelve long years; her faith convinced her that just by touching something which belonged to Jesus; that she would be healed. However, she was frightened when she realised that Jesus knew that power had been drawn from Him, with courage she came forward and was rewarded for her faith and honesty. Jairus’ daughter had lived for only twelve short years; Jairus and his family were fearful of losing their precious daughter and in faith Jairus came forward to ask Jesus to help. Jairus asked Jesus to lay His hands on his daughter and make her well again. When news came that the young girl had died, Jesus said “Do not be afraid; only have faith”, that faith was rewarded. I came across a beautiful reflection on this by Dom Placid Murray, which I think is worth sharing.

The Hand of Christ

The instinctive prayer of this little girl’s father had been to fall at Jesus’ feet and say, “My daughter is at the point of death. Come lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.’ Jesus did exactly as the father had asked; he took the child by the hand. It was the same saving hand that Jesus reached out to Peter as he sank beneath the waves. It was with this saving hand that he took the loaves in the desert and the bread in the Upper room. The priests of Christ repeat his gestures and his words; the power comes from him. The words are plain and simple, whether at Mass, in Baptism, in confession, in the anointing of the sick. If we had eyes that really saw, and ears that really listened, we like the people spoken of in today’s Gospel we also ‘would be overcome with astonishment,’ we would see and hear Christ in our midst.”1

This view of priests’ hands is shared by Pope Francis, in a reflection he said “I think the hands of the priest, rather than expressing routine gestures, must tremble with excitement when administering baptism or giving absolution of sins or blessing the sick because they become instruments of the creative power of God.”2

According to Jewish laws, the lady who had been ill for twelve years would have had to live outside of society, she would have been considered unclean, in fact anyone touching her would also be considered unclean until the cleaning rituals had been observed. Jesus was demonstrating here that the old laws were no longer valid; the new way to reach heaven would be by following His example. Jesus shows compassion and love, he rewards those who believe in Him. He takes away our fears when we show faith in him. Jesus restored the older lady to the Community and raised the young girl from the dead. Through the Sacraments Jesus offers us life and life to the full. Today and every day Jesus says to us, “Do not be afraid, only have faith.” The question for us is – does our faith allow us to leave our fears behind and be touched by the hand of Jesus?

Please keep in your prayers

  • The new Confirmation programme, which started on Friday 25th June, for all the young people, the Catechists, their families and sponsors.
  • The continued success of the Belong and Believe course, as it reaches the final week.
  • Those preparing to return to Mass.
  • Tinashe Nyamagodo who will be baptised this weekend and her parents and Godparents.
  • Those preparing for ordination to the Priesthood, Diaconate and Permanent Diaconate.
  • The Year of the Eucharist, which has now started, that this will lead to a fresh outpouring of love by the people of God for the Body and Blood of Christ.
  • Those who have been unable to receive the Eucharist during the pandemic.

1 Placid Murray OSB, 100 Liturgical Homilies, (The Columba Press, Dublin, 1988) 89.

2 Pope Francis, A Year With Pope Francis – Daily reflections from his writings, (Claretian Publications, Macao, China, 2014) 211.

Deacon Tony reflects – Making a difference, together

The past eighteen months have been very different for all of us. We have been blown off course from what was our normal life and endured the storm brought about by Covid. At times for many this has been overwhelming. With a fair wind we will soon be able to start meeting more people and perhaps some things will return to how they used to be or better. This storm has given us all a chance to reflect on what is important in life, with many people recognising just how special their family and friends are to them, having been denied that most crucial aspect of human life; companionship; which community makes available to us.

In our readings today we are reminded of the sheer awesomeness of God as the creator of everything and of how available He is to us. Job, in our first reading, hears God explain how the sea is bounded and the limits set by God, so that the waves break as they hit the shore. Pope Francis in his Encyclical Laudato Si, explains that God created everything and then charged mankind with managing the earth and all it contains. Right now, the boundaries of the sea set by God are under threat because of the mismanagement of the earth by mankind. 6 years on from its launch the Pope has issued a seven-year plan known as the Laudato si’ Action Platform.1

The Laudato si’ Action Platform will focus on seven sectors: families, parishes, schools, hospitals, businesses, organizations, and religious orders.

The pope explained that the action plan also has seven goals: the response to the cry of the earth, the response to the cry of the poor, ecological economics, adoption of simple lifestyles, ecological education, ecological spirituality, and community involvement.

Pope Francis, as part of this launch said “Our selfishness, our indifference and our irresponsible ways are threatening the future of our children”.2 This call hits home for me as a parent and new grandparent, I want the best for my children and grandchild. I need to ask myself, what can I do to help? When we face an issue as large as the Climate Crisis or the Covid Crisis; which are dominating our world today; they often seem too much for one man or woman to make a difference. But when we all take a stand and do things together, as a Community, we can make a difference; as we heard last week one of the largest trees started off as the tiniest of seeds. I would like to see us as a Parish and as a Pastoral Area take up the challenge given by Pope Francis and look at what we can do as part of the Action Platform. One of Pope Francis’ quotes, which really struck me was “We have the opportunity to prepare a better tomorrow for all. From God’s hands we have received a garden, we cannot leave a desert to our children.3

CaFOD have initiated the Live Simply Awards, and have published 100 ideas of how we as a Parish Community can respond to Pope Francis’ call to live more simply, I am aware that some Parishioners have already taken part in some of these activities, but I believe it is something which more of us should be involved in; if you are interested in this please approach me after Mass or email me at adarroch@portsmouthdiocese.org.uk.4 When I look through the 100 ideas, I am aware we have already done some of these in our home, by investing in insulation and other home improvements which reduce energy costs. But there are also some which we started to do, but have allowed good habits to lapse, like double sided printing. There are ideas which can be taken up by most people as individuals or families, all of them provide a way of changing little bits of our lives for the benefit of everyone.

Making changes that have the ability to impact our lives and our planet can seem to be overwhelming, but today’s Gospel reminds us that when things appear to be too much for us to cope with, we can turn to Jesus and ask him to calm whatever ‘our storm’ is and quieten the anxieties we have. Jesus asks us to have faith in Him and to trust our worries to Him. As the creator of all, He has the power over everything. The experienced fishermen on the boat with Jesus that day were concerned enough to know that their boat was in trouble, they would have done everything humanly possible to try and manage the situation, then they turned to God in their anguish; in fear for their lives; and asked their Master to save them.

Jesus calls us to be in a relationship with Him, just as the disciples were in a relationship with Him. He does not want us to wait until a time of crisis, He wants us to communicate with Him every day, in everyday tasks, at various times of the day. This is one of the key messages we are hearing on the ‘Belong and Believe’ sessions, which is being run in our Pastoral Area. It has prompted me to think more often about my faith as I go about my day, to pray more when faced with challenges, to pray before difficult meetings and to read more about the Celtic traditions which helped to form the Church in this country. It is a very good course and I highly recommend it to everyone if it is being run again.

Our second reading today talks about a different kind of overwhelming, St Paul is describing being overwhelmed by the love of Jesus; a love which encourages us to put Jesus at the centre of our lives. In this love we are new creations, wedded to Christ, dedicating everything we do to Jesus. This is a love which calls us to repeat the words of the psalm, “Give thanks to the lord for his love endures for ever”. This is a love which calls us to come together on at least a weekly basis to praise God, to celebrate our Communion with Him and each other, which was instituted by Jesus Christ His Son, who was born, lived, died and rose again for us, so that we can live for ever with Him.

St Mark’s Gospel often challenges the faith of the disciples, today is no exception, remember they had already seen many healings; including the driving out of unclean spirits, and the curing of people who had obvious disfigurements; now they witnessed Jesus controlling the weather and the waves of the lake. They asked ‘Who can this be? Even the wind and the sea obey him’, If they had looked to earlier scriptures they would have found the answer in the first reading we have today from Job ‘Come thus far, I said, and no farther; here your proud waves shall break’.

Today is Father’s Day in the UK, I wish all father’s a Happy Father’s Day, I remember those in prayer whose Dad is no longer with them, I remember those in prayer whose relationship with their Dad was not a happy one. I pray for all dads that they can be good role models and that they take their example from St Joseph, who cared for Jesus and guided him as He grew up. I pray for our priests, who are called to be Fathers to many, may they be good Fathers, may they be holy Fathers, may they be given the gift of wisdom to guide their Parish Families in all aspects of life and may they be loved by their Parish Families as Jesus loved Joseph.

Please keep in your prayers

  • The continued success of the Belong and Believe course.
  • Those who have now completed the RCIA Course and those who continue on it.
  • Those preparing for ordination to the Priesthood, Diaconate and Permanent Diaconate.
  • The Year of the Eucharist, which has now started, that this will lead to a fresh outpouring of love by the people of God for the Body and Blood of Christ.
  • Those who have been unable to receive the Eucharist during the pandemic.
  • The nine families who will complete the Baptism Preparation Course this Sunday.

1 Laudato Si Action Platform available from LaudatoSi.org – Action Platform accessed 19th June 2021.

2 Catholic News Agency launch of Laudato Si Action Platform, available from Pope Francis launches 7-year Laudato si’ action plan (catholicnewsagency.com) accessed 19th June 2021.

3 Catholic News Agency launch of Laudato Si Action Platform, available from Pope Francis launches 7-year Laudato si’ action plan (catholicnewsagency.com) accessed 19th June 2021.

4 100 live simply ideas available from LiveSimply – A4 100 Ideas list.pdf (cafod.org.uk) accessed 19th June 2021

Deacon Tony reflects: sowing seeds of love

As humans we think we are in control of most things. We have specialists to look after various aspects of our lives. We have midwives to help bring us into the world, we have doctors and nurses to look after us if we are sick, we have teachers to educate us and we have priests, deacons and religious to help us with spiritual matters; all nicely compartmentalised in a way that we can understand; each in carefully nurtured positions to help us with various tasks or at different stages of our life.

There are of course some things which we have not quite mastered yet, one of them being the weather, however, we have managed to develop ways of predicting it. Although we try to harness nature, with for example modern agricultural techniques; we are still unable to totally stop what we would see as the wrong plant growing in what we would see as the wrong place.

In our first reading today we hear that God decides where certain plants will grow, and sometimes God makes sure that we take notice by allowing things to grow in places we would never expect them to be. In this reading a shoot of a plant is taken to a high mountain and grows to become a huge tree. The prophet is talking about the Church, with Israel being the location of the original chosen people; with God allowing the people to sprout branches and bear fruit; a people and nation teaming with life of all sorts. A people, who will be admired and respected by their neighbours; not just because they are on a mountain; but because they are favoured by God. With God all things are possible, He chose the Israelites not because they were perfect; but because they were representative of the nature and form of all human beings.

In our Gospel we have Jesus speaking in parables, using agricultural terms to share the Word of God with His listeners. While the man in the parable may have thrown the seeds where he wanted them to grow, the birds of the earth may spread them further and the seed will grow and spread where it initially was not intended to go. In the same way, the Word of God was initially spoken in a few chosen places within what we now call the Holy Land. The seeds which were scattered at that time have been picked up and blown across the world. This was no accident; the Holy Spirit is the breeze which has lifted the original word and spread it throughout the world so that the harvest will be gathered from every corner of the earth.

The Apostles could only have dreamed of how far the Church has come in the 2000 years since they walked the earth; now those same Apostles have successors in every land, so that small mustard seed which was planted all those years ago, now forms the basis for natural justice and the legal systems throughout the world, these could be seen as the ‘birds’ which shelter in the branches of the tree. While many would not profess Christ, they still live in countries, which were once Christian countries and where the laws of the land are based on Christian principals.

That small mustard seed represents other aspects of our lives too. It can be embryonic of incredible things in our lives; do we nurture and water that seed? Do we move beyond our fears and self-imposed restrictions to allow the seed to come to fruition? For me, I often allow my fears to restrict my ambitions, listening to my doubts and allowing them to supress ideas or new opportunities. This affects how I live out my faith at times too. If I am to truly live out my faith, I need to weed out the fears and nurture the seeds which will allow me to recognise and use the gifts God has given me.

As we have heard, Jesus spoke to the people in parables and explained fully, afterwards to the disciples. By preaching in parables, Jesus would give the people stories which they could relate to and which made them think. These stories were not just to entertain, they were a way of Jesus explaining the word of God in a way that they were capable of understanding to the masses; by telling them stories they would be able to remember then they would also be able to retell the story allowing the word of God to spread further. By telling the parables in a way that made them think, they were not just being retold what was in the Torah (the Jewish scriptures) but were given an explanation of the meaning behind what was in the Torah and being taught to think for themselves how these lessons applied to them. Remember Jesus wants an intimate relationship with each of us. We are not expected to listen to the word of God without thinking about what we have heard and then considering what it is that God is saying to me/us today?

Mark’s Gospel recalled what Jesus said to the people and the disciples 2000 years ago, these same words, proclaimed in our Gospel at Mass are for us to think about and consider today. Jesus wanted an intimate relationship with the people back then and He wants the same with us today.

I read earlier this week a proverb, which I had never heard before, it read – “blessed are old people who plant trees knowing that they will never sit in the shade of their foliage.” (I tried to get a reference for this, but there appear to be too many roots for it – pardon the pun!). It prompted me to think that this is similar to the way our grandparents (natural and spiritual) shared their values, beliefs, knowledge and faith with us. We in our turn are called to sow the seed of faith for those who will come after us. What have we planted within our parish or within our family to benefit those whose faith will mature when we are no longer here? Remember the parable Jesus used spoke about the smallest of seeds growing into the largest of trees. What small thing have you to offer which can help our parish grow or which will help your own family and our community to grow in faith?

In our second reading we are reminded that our physical actions must be accounted for and are urged to make our home in the Lord. Remembering that Jesus wants an intimate relationship with each of us and that through our Baptism we are called to share our faith; in what we say, in what we do and in what we fail to do. As Christians we are expected to set a good example in everyday life, we are role models to other Christians and whether we like it or not to wider society.

Everyone of us has a seed of love sown within us when we were born, that seed has been watered and fed by the love bestowed upon us throughout our lives by God and those around us. As we become mature that seed of love matures and we are able to shelter those in need within the branches of our love, this in turn feeds the seed of love within them and they grow in their love of themselves and of those around them. Their love for God will also grow as a result of this. All of this stems from the Word of God, who was made flesh and lived among us, He came to shine the light of God’s love on everyone of us and He invites you and me and every other person who has ever been born to an intimate loving relationship. It is up to us to respond to that relationship, it is also up to us to make sure that the invitation we have received is still able to be heard when we no longer walk the earth. Sow seeds of love now, we may never shelter in the branches of the seeds we sow, but those branches will shelter others in need and God’s love will continue to grow as the Kingdom of God grows.

Please keep in your prayers

  • The continued success of the Belong and Believe course.
  • Those attending the last session of the RCIA Course on Wednesday.
  • Those preparing for ordination to the Priesthood and Permanent Diaconate.
  • The Year of the Eucharist, which has now started, that this will lead to a fresh outpouring of love by the people of God for the Body and Blood of Christ.
  • Those who have been unable to receive the Eucharist during the pandemic.
  • The seven families who will start the Baptism Preparation Course this Sunday.

Deacon Tony reflects: In the name of the Father, Son and Spirit

As Catholics the Sign of the Cross is engrained in our lives, we start and finish our prayers using it, we may use it as we pass a Church building or see an ambulance pass by, it starts and finishes our highest of prayers, the Mass. Using the Sign of the Cross is not superstition, it is confirmation that the Apostles and those who have followed in Apostolic Succession have obeyed Jesus by baptising throughout all the nations in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. It is confirmation that the Cross; which the Romans used as a sign of shame, cruel punishment and death; has been elevated to a sign of salvation by the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus.

Through our Baptism we have become adopted sons and daughters of God, we are permitted, like Jesus, to call God our Father and through our Baptism the Holy Spirit lives in us and acts through us. How do we know this? We know this because Jesus told us in today’s Gospel that He will be with us until the end of time.

Today’s readings give an insight into the Trinity. In Deuteronomy we hear how God, the Creator, singled out one group of people and bestowed His favour upon them; rescuing them from slavery and actively interjecting in their lives. This tells us that there was to be a relationship between God and this people. In his letter to the Romans St Paul emphasises how Jesus changed that relationship to a far more intimate relationship; being allowed to call God ‘Abba’ which is a similar word to ‘Daddy’ and as I mentioned earlier, the Apostles were instructed to expand that intimate relationship from a chosen people to all nations. Thanks to Jesus and the Apostles who obeyed Him, people in every nation have the right to call God our Father.

The Gospel used yesterday (Saturday week 8; Gospel – Mark 11:27-33) has the chief priest, scribes and elders asking Jesus whose authority was He under? Jesus asked them a simple question relating to John the Baptist, which they deliberated on and refused to answer because it would show them up as being unworthy for their office. Therefore, Jesus refused to tell them under whose authority He was. In today’s Gospel, Jesus gives the answer, when He said “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, then and make disciples of all the nations”. As Bishop Robert Barron has said, “this is not an ordinary prophet speaking. This is the very Word of the Father, the exact replica of the Father’s being.1

As I said earlier, we use the Sign of the Cross so often in our everyday life. Do we ever stop to think about what it means? When we use the words; “In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen”; we are uniting ourselves with the Holy Trinity; we are identifying ourselves as followers of God; three persons in One God. We are calling God Our Father, we are calling Jesus our Brother and acknowledging that the Spirit which guided Jesus through His life on earth also guides us during our life on earth. This same Spirit, which Jesus gave to us, inspires us, drives us, prompts us, this Spirit is an outpouring of grace from God Our Father, to guide us home to our place in His Eternal Kingdom. Do we allow the Spirit to guide us? Do we listen to and act on his inspiration?

The feast today helps us to acknowledge both the immensity of God; who made everything; and that He allows us to have an intimate permanent relationship with Him when we follow His commandments; to love God and love our neighbour.

Please keep in your prayers

  • The 4 children being Baptised in Holy Ghost Church this weekend.
  • Those starting the Belong and Believe course this Monday. (not too late to sign up see Upcoming Events (stmandsto.org.uk) or contact geoffpoulter@hotmail.com to register your interest.
  • Those attending the RCIA Course on Wednesday.
  • Those preparing for ordination to the Priesthood and Permanent Diaconate.
  • The Year of the Eucharist, which starts next Sunday.
  • Those who have been unable to receive the Eucharist during the pandemic.

Deacon Tony

29th May 2021

1 Bishop Robert Barron, Word on Fire Daily reflections, Feast of the Holy Trinity 2018.

Deacon Tony reflects: The Call of the Spirit

When Pentecost day came round, they had all met in one room, when suddenly they heard what sounded like a powerful wind from heaven, the noise of which filled the entire house in which they were sitting; and something appeared to them that seemed like tongues of fire; these separated and came to rest on the head of each of them. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak foreign languages as the Spirit gave them the gift of speech.

Acts 2

Can you imagine what it was like to be in that upper room? Can you imagine the difference between how you entered that room and how you left that room?

The apostles had been with Jesus for three years, listening, asking questions, observing cures, taking part in miraculous events; they had even been given the power to be like Jesus in some ways when they cast out devils in His name. But then they were also present when Jesus was arrested, some of them witnessed His trial and execution. A few days later and for the past few weeks they saw Jesus alive again having conquered death; and then they were present when He ascended to His Heavenly home. They had been on what we would call a roller-coaster journey, with massive highs, very dramatic lows and then massive highs again.

But now they were alone again, there must have been quite a bit of fear as they entered that room, none of them knew what was going to happen, they had witnessed how the people had turned against Jesus in the blink of an eye; from his triumphant entrance into Jerusalem, when the crowds were with Jesus as he was carried into the city; to his trial and crucifixion when Jesus carried his cross out of the city.

The apostles must have fearful wary, if not terrified that the people would do the same to them. As we read in our first reading the Holy Spirit came powerfully to them just as Jesus had promised. The Holy Spirit removed their fears and they left that upper room permanently changed. Instead of fear they had courage, courage to go out and share the truth of the Risen Christ to the Jews who had assembled from all around the known world to celebrate the Feast of Weeks. These people from many different countries were able to hear the word of God in their own languages; being spoken through the apostles, all Galileans; and all hearing about the marvels of God. How must this have impacted on all who were present?

This weekend across the Portsmouth Diocese, and no doubt in other places around the world, many young people will celebrate the Sacrament of Confirmation. This Sacrament is one of the marvels of God. This is when we ask for the Holy Spirit to come down on those being confirmed and transform them spiritually into active members of God’s Church here on earth. This is the final seal of their Baptism, the final rite of entry into the Church.

At times like this it is good to recall our own Confirmation, how did the gifts of the Holy Spirit affect us? For me, my Confirmation happened when I was still seven years old, it was a long time ago and is a bit of a blur. I probably remember the preparations more than I remember the service, some of the hymns I learned at that time in preparation for my Confirmation are still quite vivid. The main affect for me was on how I took part in the Church for several years afterwards, I had just become an Altar Server prior to my Confirmation and remained one for the next eight years; even when my family moved to a new Diocese, I switched to being a server in the new Parish, and that was where I first learned about deacons. The Parish had a transitional deacon ‘on his way’ to priesthood and the Parish Priest asked me to show him around the Parish to help him get his bearings. Taking him around the Parish gave me a small insight into the life of clergy working in a Parish.

What difference did the Holy Spirit make to you following your Confirmation? Did you have a deeper love of the Sacraments? Have you developed a care for our planet? Were you prompted to fight against injustice? Do you work to help the vulnerable, sick, or elderly? Were you affected in other ways? The Holy Spirit calls us to action, we are called to follow the directions of the Spirit, how faithfully have we answered that call? If we are struggling to think of how the Holy Spirit affected us then praying to the Holy Spirit for insight at this time of Pentecost and asking for a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit would be beneficial. The Holy Spirit fills us with the grace of God and enriches our lives. Our God is a generous God and wants what is best for us.

This weekend in St Bede’s Church there will be 43 young people being Confirmed, we pray for them, we pray for their parents and guardians, their sponsors and for al of the Catechists who have put so much time and work into helping them to reach this point. We thank God for them, and we look forward with anticipation to see how these young people will positively impact on our church and our communities.

Please keep in your prayers

  • All of those being Confirmed this weekend, their parents, guardians and sponsors.
  • All the Catechists who work on behalf of us to help sustain and build up our Church.
  • Those completing the Let it Be course this Monday.
  • Those attending the RCIA Course on Wednesday.
  • That there will be a great take up on the Belong and Believe Course which starts on May 31st online Details available from Upcoming Events (stmandsto.org.uk) or contact geoffpoulter@hotmail.com to register your interest.
  • That the Confirmation of so many young people within our Diocese on the same weekend will give a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit on us all.