Deacon Tony reflects: A heart of service

During the week, we sat down to watch a TV programme called ‘Who do you think you are?’ For those who may not have heard of it, it invites celebrities to trace their family history and provides expert support to help them. This week it was the turn of a comedian, who I had never heard of, who was able to trace his family history back to King Edward I. Among his ancestors were courtiers who served royalty in various centuries. One of the historians explained that one of the roles as being highly desirable; which we found difficult to appreciate initially. The role involved accompanying the king to the toilet and waiting with them while they were there. The historian explained the reason this role was so desirable was that during these times the courtiers had exclusive access to the king and could advocate for various causes; often earning large sums of money from others who would eagerly pay them to advocate on their behalf.

Today we hear that James and John were looking to be the closest to Jesus once He had entered into His glory. Jesus reminds them of the path they must take and that there would be hardships to endure. They were both prepared to take them. But Jesus also emphasised that even He could not reallocate the places in Heaven, as these places had already been allotted.

The letter to the Hebrews reminds us that Jesus became man and was tempted in every way that we were, but He did not sin. Contrast this with James and John in today’s Gospel reading; they show that human weakness of competitiveness; looking to use their influential friend to get a better seat at the banquet.

As we know and have heard; Jesus as the Son of God; came to serve and He expects us to serve too. He expected His Apostles to serve and to set that example and to serve one another. We in turn are called to serve one another. Jesus is again stating that what man sees as being great, in terms of material wealth, status and power is meaningless, unless those aspects are used for the benefit of others. The leader of a nation is in place to serve their people, not to serve themselves. A manager at work is there to serve the needs of those they manage; by doing that and allowing the people who work for them to thrive the business will flourish.

Being a leader is not about lording over the others it is about service. Sadly, we have all heard in the past few days about a public servant; who may have gone un-noticed by many; who was killed whilst serving his constituents. From the tributes paid to him, Sir David Amess, was a man who understood what it meant to serve. His service was based on his faith, and he was not afraid to speak up for the vulnerable, including the unborn.

Whatever one’s political views are, the world is a poorer place without people like Sir David. A fitting tribute to Sir David would be the defeat of the Assisted Dying Bill which goes before the House of Lords next week; we are all strongly encouraged to pray that this bill is defeated as it goes against one of the fundamentals of our beliefs that all life is precious from conception to a natural death.

As a younger man I used to describe myself as ‘an each’ way Catholic. For those not familiar with the expression, if you were to place a bet on a race and you were not certain that your choice would win, you could place a bet ‘each way’ which means that if it finishes second or third then you could also win your bet. So as an ‘each way’ Catholic, I was in effect hedging my bets, not certain about all of the teaching, but stayed close to it just in case it was true. The psalm today is telling us that we need to go ‘all in’. We are asking God to place His love on us as we place all of our trust in Him.

How can we demonstrate our trust in the Lord? Do we have a heart of service, or do we wait on others to do things for us?

Every one of us can serve God, if we do not have the physical energy to do things then we can pray for those who can. Accepting help when it is required is also accepting God’s plan as it allows someone else to serve.

Today is Mission Sunday, a day when every Parish throughout the world, including those in Missionary territories are asked to contribute to the work of Missionaries. The people who go out to work in Missionary territories have answered the call of the Gospel as they go out to serve. They do not look for plaudits, they do not make unrealistic demands; they work with what they have; they ask for our financial and prayerful support. Please be generous with both.

Further Reading

Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC)1

CCC 599-609: Christ’s redemptive death in the plan of salvation
CCC 520: Christ’s self-emptying as an example for us to imitate
CCC 467, 540, 1137: Christ the High Priest

Please keep in your prayers

  • All public servants: that they may be kept safe whilst serving their communities.
  • God’s creation, that mankind will become better stewards of this world which has been entrusted to us by God and that the Conference in Glasgow next month will be a first step to every country recognising and accepting their responsibilities towards protecting the world.
  • The people voting on the Assisted Dying Bill next Friday, may they be reminded of how precious every life is, as all life is created by God.
  • Those who are sick, those who are dying, the recently deceased and those who mourn.
  • All Missionaries and the people they serve, may they get the financial, practical and prayer support they need.
  • 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.
  • The Metanoia programme, which continues on Monday (18th), for a Spirit led programme and all those attending.
  • A renewed love of praying the Rosary as we are now in the month dedicated to the Rosary.
  • The families continuing the Baptism Preparation Course this Sunday (17th).
  • The listening stage of the 16th Synod of Bishops which is entitled “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission” that all Catholics will take part.

1 Catechism of the Catholic Church (vatican.va)

Deacon Tony reflects: There is plenty to share

Whenever I have a problem, or if I am pondering something, my wife always asks me, “have you prayed about it?” This is quite annoying, as often I find I have not prayed about it, and I am the one who is ordained. The opening of the first reading today starts ‘I prayed, and understanding was given to me; I entreated, and the spirit of Wisdom came to me.’

And yet, how often do we try to do things by ourselves? How often do we actually recognise that we may have been given free will and the ability to think things through, but we just go ahead and try to work things out by ourselves? Taking that time to pray, touching base with our Creator, can help us to gain a better understanding of whatever it is that is troubling us, whatever the issue is and allows us to think more clearly.

This has to be allied to reading Holy Scriptures; the word of God. The letter to the Hebrews reminds us today, that ‘the word of God is something which is alive and active’. It goes on to tell us that the word of God can reach every part of us; physically, mentally and spiritually. By reading the word of God or by listening to the word of God, we can achieve a more intimate relationship with him, we can then allow ourselves to meditate on what we have heard or read. Let it reach every part of us; let it touch us, let it heal us, let it change us.

In St Mark’s Gospel today, Jesus is asking the wealthy young man to change. The young man obeyed all the laws from birth, he had obviously had a good upbringing, been taught well and led a privileged life. But the thought of selling all he owned to give the proceeds to the poor upset him so much that he walked away from Jesus. The Catechism of the Catholic Church quotes St John Chrysostom ‘Not to enable the poor to share in our goods is to steal from them and deprive them of life. The goods we possess are not ours, but theirs’ (CCC 2446). The call of the Gospel is to give up what we own in plenty to share with those who are in need.

There is a great concern for the poor in our country at the moment. The loss of the temporary uplift in Universal credit, the removal of support for jobs, increased prices of food and energy are causing great distress to many people, some of whom may be sitting beside you. Do we see our neighbour in distress? Do we look out for each other?

Jesus is calling on us to change our attitude to material wealth. Wealth may give people status, a large home, nice car, a comfortable bed to sleep in at night. But what good does that do if there are people sleeping on the streets, cold wet and hungry? Wealth tends either to be inherited or earned through hard work and endeavour.

Whichever of these are the case; they result from gifts from God, either in which family one is born into, or the knowledge, skills and work ethic we may have; these are all gifts from God. Maybe this Gospel can prompt us to review what we spend our money on? How much of what we spend is focused on our own pleasures and how much we use to help others?

This week, when we pray, read the word of God and think about what we have read; may the word of God touch us in a way which fills us with His grace; may we be given the wisdom to look out for those we can help; may we be given the will to help them and may we help them in a way that leads them and us to our heavenly home. Amen.

Further Reading

Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC)1

CCC 101-104: Christ, unique Word of Scripture
CCC 131-133: Scripture in life of the Church
CCC 2653-2654: Scripture as a fountain of prayer
CCC 1723, 2536, 2444-2447: poverty of heart

Please keep in your prayers

  • Those who are worried about whether to feed their families or heat their homes, may God help them in their hour of need.
  • God’s creation, that mankind will become better stewards of this world which has been entrusted to us by God.
  • Those who are sick, those who are dying, the recently deceased and those who mourn.
  • All those seeking a place of safety, that they will be welcomed in Jesus’ name.
  • 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.
  • The Metanoia programme, which continues on Monday (11th), for a Spirit led programme and all those attending.
  • A renewed love of praying the Rosary as we are now in the month dedicated to the Rosary.
  • Those being baptised this weekend and the families starting the Baptism Preparation Course this Sunday (10th).
  • The success of the RCIA programme which continues next Wednesday (13th).

1 Catechism of the Catholic Church (vatican.va)

Deacon Tony reflects: childlike, not childish

The Bible, being the Word of God, outlines God’s intentions for us, His people. God looks to mankind to be fruitful, to leave this world in a better place than it was when we entered it. The reading from Genesis today, is introducing God’s intention for marriage. That a man and a woman would join together; be united and become one flesh. The Gospel has the Pharisees testing Jesus on the law given by Moses on divorce. Jesus tells them that it was because mankind was so unteachable, that Moses allowed divorce and outlined the methods by which this could be done. However, Jesus states that those who divorce and remarry are guilty of adultery.

Perhaps we as humans have remained unteachable, as the number of marriages which fail still climbs. All of us need to be aware of the hurt that couples who have experienced marriage breakdowns go through. Often our focus may be on the children affected, but the couples who enter into marriage with such hope for the future are left devastated that their relationship didn’t work for whatever reason. As such we as Christians are called to support people in this position.

There is a wonderful organisation called Retrouvaille1, which helps couples whose marriages are struggling. It requires commitment from both parties, but this organisation have helped hundreds of couples to work at saving their marriage, offering an opportunity of healing in the process. There is a weekend later this month for anyone who may need this type of support. If this could be of help to you, please feel free to approach me or to contact me privately on my diocesan email address.

Mark’s Gospel then goes on to what is one of my favourite parts of this Gospel, where we hear about the disciples trying to stop the children from getting closer to Jesus.

Now, I don’t know if the disciples were trying to shew the children away because of what Jesus was teaching at the time (adultery) or if this was just a general attitude to children. We heard a few weeks ago that children were on a par with servants in Jewish society at that time. Jesus rebukes the apostles and tells them that unless we can learn to approach Jesus with the same trust, sense of wonder and inquisitiveness of a child then we will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus is not asking us to remain as children. In other places we hear about childish attitudes, the other week for example when the apostles were quarrelling over who was the greatest among them. Or when Jesus spoke about children in the marketplace calling out to each other. Jesus does not want us to be childish, He wants us to be childlike. Jesus is again saying that a person’s significance is not gauged by power, strength, influence or status; but by nearness to ‘the kingdom’.

So for me as a married man, I am not to enter into things in the same way I did when I was a child. Growing up with my two brothers we would often quarrel over who did what chores around the house and tally up what we as individuals did, this is the type of childish behaviour which we are to grow out of. Living in a loving relationship means we don’t keep score. We remain open to listen, forgive and offer the other our continued support for the benefit of our relationship; which should be life-giving to both parties

Jesus wants us; even as adults; to approach God and all the teachings about God with awe. Our fear of the Lord is not a terror, it is a state where we have the deepest respect for God and a willingness to do what it takes to serve God. When we can learn to approach God in this way we can be like the children in the Gospel; we can sit there in His presence and allow Jesus to put His arms around us and give us His blessing.

Further Reading

Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC)2

CCC 1602-1617, 1643-1651, 2331-2336: conjugal fidelity
CCC 2331-2336: divorce
CCC 1832: fidelity, a fruit of Spirit
CCC 2044, 2147, 2156, 2223, 2787: the fidelity of the baptized

Please keep in your prayers

  • The people of Afghanistan, Haiti, Palma and other crisis areas of the world, that they receive the help they need.
  • God’s creation, that mankind will become better stewards of this world which has been entrusted to us by God
  • Those who are sick, those who are dying, the recently deceased and those who mourn.
  • All those seeking a place of safety, that they will be welcomed in Jesus’ name.
  • 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.
  • The Metanoia programme, which continues on Monday (4th), for a Spirit led programme and all those attending.
  • A renewed love of the Rosary as we are now in the month dedicated to the Rosary and approaching the feast day of Our lady of the Rosary (7th)

1 Retrouvaille in England and Wales

2 Catechism of the Catholic Church (vatican.va)

Deacon Tony reflects: them and us

In today’s Scriptures we hear about jealousy, greed and sin.

Moses and Jesus both had followers complaining about people who had not been granted authority; doing God’s work. Moses responded by saying he wished everyone was a prophet and that everyone had been granted the Holy Spirit. Jesus replied by saying ‘if they are not against us then they are for us.

How often do we reject Christian teaching or question the motivation of people doing Christian acts if we do not recognise the authority of the teacher or the one doing the kind act? The motivation of Joshua in the first reading and John in the Gospel may have been well placed, but both Moses and Jesus quashed their observations; allowing the continued spread of the Word of God.

Jesus continued by stating that anyone who helps those who belong to Christ will be rewarded, but those who hinder or harm those with faith will be punished severely.

I sometimes quote Placid Murray; an Irish monk who chaired the committee which translated the Divine Office into English; he says in relation to this week’s Gospel –

Our Lord invites us to enter into life crippled, lame, and with the sight of only one eye, if we wish to be saved. He is really telling us of the restraints we have to put on our hands, our feet and our eyes if we wish to ‘keep ourselves unstained from the world.’ 1

James 1:27

The second reading today is focusing on greed. St James is talking about people who have wealth who try to store it up for themselves. He highlights, the clothes that will rot and be eaten up by moths, they store their precious metals so long that it starts to corrode. He highlights how they will drive down the price of the worker to get themselves a bargain.

In today’s society are we not guilty of some of these things? Consumerism drives down the price of the items we want to buy. Items like clothes are massed produced in far away countries, because (1) those who buy them want them cheap and (2) if they were to be made here in the UK they would not be cheap enough because the factory owners would have to implement health and safety laws, to protect their workers. Why should a worker in a country far away be paid less or have poorer working conditions than we would want our sons and daughters to have?

The buyers for the multi-national companies who supply these goods will move away from one country once they find the next country prepared to subsidise the work or pay their workers lower than the current supplier. In what way is this different from the rich person not paying the labourer their fair wage? For me this is very challenging, but that should be no surprise, Jesus challenges all of us to think about our acts and omissions.

Today we have heard about ‘them’ and ‘us’. Joshua pointing out them who were not with us when we were given authority. The rich ‘us’ who became rich on the back of the hard working ‘them’. The ‘them’ who were not part of ‘us’ who John pointed out to Jesus. Jesus does not want a ‘them’ and ‘us’; Jesus wants everyone to belong, Jesus wants everyone to love because everyone belongs to Jesus and Jesus loves everyone. Again, I am challenged to ask myself who are my ‘us’ and who do I see as ‘them’?

Further Reading

Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC)2

CCC 821, 1126, 1636: ecumenical dialogue
CCC 2445-2446, 2536, 2544-2547: the danger of immoderate riches
CCC 1852: jealousy

Please keep in your prayers

  • The people of Afghanistan, Haiti, Palma and other crisis areas of the world, that they receive the help they need.
  • God’s creation, that mankind will become better stewards of this world which has been entrusted to us by God
  • Those who are sick, those who are dying, the recently deceased and those who mourn.
  • All those seeking a place of safety, that they will be welcomed in Jesus’ name.
  • 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.
  • The families attending the second part of the Baptismal Preparation Programme on Sunday (26th)
  • The Metanoia programme, which continues on Monday (27th), for a Spirit led programme and all those attending.

1 Placid Murray OSB, 100 Liturgical Homilies, (The Columba Press, Dublin, 1988)97.

2 Catechism of the Catholic Church (vatican.va)

Deacon Tony reflects: All are welcome

There are times in life when personal ambition can get the better of us and we look at ways of elevating ourselves instead of putting others first. We hear in the Gospel today that even saints were not immune from this. St Mark tells us that they failed to understand the message which Jesus was giving them; was this because they were distracted by thoughts of who would become leader once Jesus was no longer with them?

The message today is, if we want to be the greatest then we need to be the servant of all. Jesus gave the perfect example of that on the cross and calls on us to serve. Jesus gives us the example of a little child, not that children are immune to jealousy of course. Jesus used the example of the child; in the society Jesus was living in, children had no standing or status. Jesus wants us to embrace service and humility. This is what He was asking the apostles to do.

In the Gospel we also hear that when the apostles did not understand they were afraid to ask. There are many things in this world which have happened because people were afraid to ask. There is an expression that ‘for evil to triumph it needs good men (and women) to do nothing’. Are there things going on today, that we are afraid to ask about? We need to look at what we are afraid of and challenge ourselves. There are many examples of tyranny and war that could have been averted if people had been prepared to speak up.

Jesus challenges us to welcome children in His name. Do we see that welcome in the world today?

Do we see that welcome in our country for the children fleeing war and seeking a place of safety?

Do we see that welcome in our schools, with dedicated teachers and support staff, trying to shape the future for our young people?

Do we see that welcome in our hospitals, with doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals striving to help sick children?

Do we see that welcome in our Parish, with the catechists and parents looking to pass on the Faith to children and young people as they prepare for the sacraments?

Do we see that welcome in the volunteers who support sports clubs, associations and after school clubs, helping children to learn and develop healthy lifestyles?

Where do you see that welcome? Where do you provide that welcome?1

If you’re looking for a real opportunity to put YOUR welcome into action, why not join us at the Tea & Cake session due on Sunday 26th September @ 3pm; at which we have invited all of the families planning to have their children Baptised in the coming weeks!

The book of Wisdom gives an example of how evil will actively look to test the resolve of virtuous people. The example given appears to be a personal attack on the virtuous; I would suggest that a virtuous person is tested more when they see someone else under attack. Are they prepared to put themselves at risk to speak up on someone else’s behalf?

The evil one looks to sow discontent, mischief, disharmony and jealousy among God’s people. The Apostles were not immune to it and neither were the people St James was writing to in the letter we read in the second reading today. And yet, all of these people were aware; some first-hand; of the teachings of Jesus.

St James’s letter also talks about prayer and tells us that if we pray for something and don’t get it then we have not prayed properly, possibly because we have prayed for something to indulge our own desires. How often do we think about the reason behind our prayer? What motivates our requests in prayer? God is not a magician who we turn to purely in times of need. God wants us to have a deep and personal relationship with Him.

Can I suggest that in our prayer-time this week, we spend some quiet time looking at the things which cause disharmony in our lives and look at what is behind the disharmony. Offer this up in prayer, ask for help with whatever is causing your personal disharmony and start to restore the peace within us which allow the seeds sown to start to bear fruit.

The Pastoral Area course on Metanoia started last week, Metanoia is a change of heart, which allows us to focus on what is real and important. If we can put God at the centre of our lives, then everything else starts to fall into place. This is true freedom, this is true peace, and this is truly life giving.

Further Reading

Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC)2

CCC 539, 565, 600-605, 713: Christ, obedient Servant of God
CCC 786: to serve is to reign
CCC 1547, 1551: priestly ministry as service
CCC 2538-2540: the sin of envy
CCC 2302-2306: safeguarding peace

Please keep in your prayers

  • The people of Afghanistan, Haiti and other crisis areas of the world, that they receive the help they need.
  • God’s creation, that mankind will become better stewards of this world which has been entrusted to us by God
  • Those who are sick, those who are dying, the recently deceased and those who mourn.
  • All those seeking a place of safety, that they will be welcomed in Jesus’ name.
  • 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.
  • All the clergy and parishes affected by the clergy moves.
  • The Metanoia programme, which continues on Monday (20th), for a Spirit led programme and all those attending.

Deacon Tony 18th September 2021

1 Leslie J Francis, Personality Type and Scripture – Exploring Mark’s Gospel, as referenced in Windows on Mark, by Ronald W Dale (Kevin Mayhew Ltd, Stowmarket, 1999)185.

2 Catechism of the Catholic Church (vatican.va)

Deacon Tony reflects: Actions speak louder than words

There are times in our lives when we get things wrong, perhaps we have hurt someone very close to us and no matter what we say, the other person finds it difficult to accept our apology or to accept that we will change our ways. They are looking for a sign that we really mean it and the phrase “actions speak louder than words” comes to mind. This is exactly the same with our faith.

In the part of the letter from St James that we hear this Sunday, the emphasis is on putting our faith into action; like my reflection from last week, when I shared that I walked past several people begging. How can I say I am a man of faith if I do not offer to help or even stop to chat with these people, acknowledging them as being human: in fact, my brothers and sisters? On that occasion I failed to put my faith into action.

This week’s first reading has Isaiah, demonstrating his complete trust in God and his reliance on God despite what must have been crushing criticism from those around him; as well as physical harm and violence. Isaiah’s faith was rewarded with great courage and resilience.

In the Gospel this week, Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem, and He knows what he must do. In a way, Jesus is checking how His teaching has affected the apostles, so he asks them “who do (other) people say I am?” Jesus hears the predictable replies, ‘some say John the Baptist, or Elijah or one of the other prophets’; Jesus then asks the apostles – “But you, who do you say that I am?” Peter said that Jesus is the Christ. In Mark’s Gospel there is no statement here about Peter being given Divine inspiration or being told he is the rock. In Mark’s Gospel they are told to keep this to themselves.

If we listen carefully to the language used here, we can hear that the initial question is asking what they have heard others say, the second question is asking ‘who do you say that I am?’ We could study every piece ever written about Jesus and find out what other people have to say about Jesus, but at the end of the day Jesus still comes back and asks us “Who do you say that I am?

This is a very personal question and requires a very personal and honest response. A response that if we are really looking to follow Jesus, will require us to enter into a truly personal relationship with Him. Peter was only able to recognise Jesus as the Christ because he got to know Jesus up close and personal, that relationship allowed the Holy Spirit to inspire Peter, to give him wisdom, courage and the leadership skills which would be essential after Jesus ascended to His Father.

Jesus is calling on us to follow him. He goes on to tell the apostles that he is destined to suffer, die and rise again, something, which at the time was too much for Peter to accept. Peter, who had just recognised Jesus as the Christ was immediately rebuked. The apostles’ understanding at that time would have been that the Christ would be a mighty king who would elevate Israel above all other nations. Jesus was teaching them that God had a different idea of the Christ and that God’s way was for the Christ to conquer something that no man could ever do. Jesus’ victory is over death. Death has no power over Jesus. Jesus fulfilled His destiny and calls on us to fulfil ours. Jesus obeyed the will of His Father and calls upon us to follow Him.

When Jesus asks us, “who do you say that I am?” How do we respond?

Silhouette Jesus and the sunset

My response is that I believe Jesus is Our Saviour, the Son of God and to commit to trying harder to see those in need in front of me. To try not to repeat the mistakes I have made; to learn from them and to try to serve God and God’s people with love, in charity and in prayer.

Jesus said, “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

We all have different crosses to bear in this world; we are all called to bear those crosses and to help those around us who are struggling. We can all be Simon of Cyrene to someone else, just like we all may need someone else to help us at some stage too. Being a Christian doesn’t mean trying to carry our cross alone, sometimes we need to be gracious enough to accept help, just like Jesus accepted the help of Simon (on the road to the crucifixion) to fulfil his destiny.

Further Reading

Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC)1

CCC 713-716: the path of the Messiah traced out in the “Servant Songs”
CCC 440, 571-572, 601: Jesus suffered and died for our salvation
CCC 618: our participation in Christ’s sacrifice
CCC 2044-2046: good works manifest faith

Please keep in your prayers

  • The people of Afghanistan, Haiti and other crisis areas of the world, that they receive the help they need.
  • God’s creation, that mankind will become better stewards of this world which has been entrusted to us by God
  • 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.
  • All the clergy and parishes affected by the clergy moves.
  • The Altar Servers training day, which takes place on Saturday (11th)
  • The Baptism Preparation Programme starting this Sunday (12th) and all of the families attending.
  • The Metanoia programme, which starts on Monday (13th), for a Spirit led programme and all those attending.
  • The RCIA programme, which meets on Wednesday (15th), for those thinking about attending that they will take the first steps to learning more about Jesus through this programme.

1 Catechism of the Catholic Church (vatican.va)

Deacon Tony reflects: Using all our senses

Listening to our first reading today, we may find ourselves thinking we are in Advent. Isaiah proclaiming the triumphant entry of God, when all ills will be repaired, and the earth will be restored to its original state before mankind had been appointed as stewards.

St James’ letter urges us not to judge and points out what appears to be common prejudices which have continued to this day. St James is urging us to open our eyes and see how we treat people differently according to how they look, act or present themselves.

The Gospel passage today tells us how Jesus touched a deaf man; opened his ears to hear and loosened his tongue to speak. He asked the man to keep this to himself. But the man and his relatives and friends were so overwhelmed by the generosity of Jesus that they wanted to tell everyone.

How grateful are we for how Jesus has touched us? Are our ears open to God’s message and do we listen? Do we share the good news of what Jesus has done for us with those around us?

Like many of you I give to charity, it is comparatively easy to do so online nowadays. Recently, I had a day out in London. I was struck by how many people seemed to be living on the streets; with many people begging as I passed on by. I convinced myself that there were so many that I wouldn’t know which ones to help. I realise now that I was judging them in a similar manner to those described in St James’ letter today. I wonder how poor I look in Jesus’ eyes; me, a sinner? I realise that I need to try and help those in front of me, show them the same mercy that I hope and expect from Jesus; and perhaps accept that it is not enough just to give from the comfort of my armchair.

Our readings today, speak of hope; our hope in the Christ who is to come and heal the world. We only have to believe, that belief allows Jesus to touch us through His Sacraments; that touch heals us.

In turn we are expected to share our belief and knowledge of Jesus with those we meet. The people Jesus healed were asked not to share at that time. This was because the time was not right; however, the right time is now. Through our Baptism we are compelled to share our faith. Our faith is not a private thing, our faith is to be spread to those we meet.

An example of sharing our faith and developing a deeper understanding and love of Jesus is to take part in some of the courses offered. This Monday is the start of a 10 part series called Metanoia1 which explores topics such as who Jesus is, what we must do to inherit eternal life, and many other significant matters of faith. It is an online course and having attended a course previously by those who have made it; I highly recommend it. (Please use the link in the foot note to view a preview and express your interest.)

We have read throughout Scriptures of how Jesus always looked to help the sick and the outsiders. They just had to demonstrate they had faith. They would try to touch Him or allow themselves to be touched by Him. As Christians we are called to love God and our neighbour. Our world is currently in crisis. In addition to the Pandemic, there are parts of the world on the brink of famine due to drought, war, revolution, earthquakes or tropical storms. The people in these areas need our help and support, Cafod are already running emergency appeals;2 please give what you can.

Cafod are also running campaigns in the lead up to the United Nations Climate Conference [COP26] in Glasgow3. They are urging everyone to write to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to help persuade the British Government to show real leadership in protecting the nations who have done the least to harm the environment; from paying a larger share of the cost during the climate crisis.4 Please go online and join this campaign.

Our Liturgy is asking us to use all of our senses today; we have to open our ears to hear the Word of God. We are to allow ourselves to be touched by God, we are not to turn our noses up to those in need, we are to see where we can help and, in the Eucharist, we are to taste and see that the Lord is good. Let Jesus touch us by His word and His precious Body; through His mysterious actions He frees our tongue to share the Good News, Jesus is alive, Jesus is present, and Jesus wants to touch every person in the world to free them from the bondage of sin. We, in turn, are asked to be His hands, eyes, ears and feet.

Further Reading

Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC)5

CCC 1503-1505: Christ the Physician
CCC 1151-1152: signs used by Christ; sacramental signs
CCC 270-271: the mercy of God

Please keep in your prayers

  • All those returning to school environments; especially those who may be afraid because they are starting at a new school, college or university.
  • The people of Afghanistan, Haiti and other crisis areas of the world, that they receive the help they need.
  • God’s creation, that mankind will become better stewards of this world which has been entrusted to us by God
  • 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.
  • All the clergy and parishes affected by the movement of clergy.
  • All spiritual formation classes as they restart; for the catechists and attendees, that they may hear God speaking and feel His touch.

1 https://bit.ly/MetanoiaCourse

2 Catholic international development charity | CAFOD

3 HOME – UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) at the SEC – Glasgow 2021 (ukcop26.org)

4 Latest campaigns | CAFOD

5 Catechism of the Catholic Church (vatican.va)

Deacon Tony reflects: God’s word is alive in us

The past eighteen months has seen new practices come into what we do at Mass in terms of hygiene. We are now all expected to sanitise as we enter and leave church, the priest and deacon must sanitise before and after touching the sacred vessels associated with communion and the distribution of communion and the readers have been sanitising before and after going to the ambo to proclaim the Word of God. It remains to be seen how many of these practices will remain as we learn to live with the Coronavirus in our midst.

In the reading from Deuteronomy today, we hear Moses say that the people were not to add anything or take anything away from the laws and customs handed down, they were to observe them so that they can have life. Moses also expected that if other people saw them living the laws and customs then they would notice just how close this people were to God. Through their observations of these laws and customs, the Holy Spirit would grant them wisdom and understanding; and they would become a great nation, established by God. We know however, that many of them failed to follow the laws and established other customs and it would be another generation of the Chosen People who would eventually enter the land of milk and honey.

St James’ letter also talks about stability, this time he emphasises that God does not alter and there is not even the hint of a shadow of a change. God, who is perfect, has no need to change. The change has to be in us; we must change to become more like God. The changes we make are not to be just superficial, we are to follow the Word of God, we are to listen to it and not deceive ourselves. We usually know when we have done something wrong or strayed from God’s teaching. We are not to allow the evil one to encourage us to paper over the cracks. When we recognise our sins, we must make amends at the earliest opportunity.

For us, as Catholics, we have the Sacrament of Reconciliation. As the name suggests it reconciles us with God and our Community, but also brings inner peace; there is no longer any need to try and deceive ourselves when we have made peace with God and received God’s forgiveness. I know how much at peace I felt recently after taking part in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

In St Mark’s Gospel we hear the Pharisees try to pick fault with the behaviour of the disciples. Jesus turns their criticism on its head and holds it as a mirror for them to look at themselves and reflect. They criticise the disciples for not following the cleansing customs before a meal. Jesus points out – using scripture – that they are exhibiting the traits of those who pay lip-service to the laws and customs and that those who do so then their worship is worthless.

Jesus states that the uncleanness, which the Pharisees are so concerned about, is something which comes out of man and does not depend on how clean the utensils we use are or how far up our arms we wash our hands. These factors may cause us physical harm, However, Jesus is more concerned in this case with spiritual cleanliness. Jesus declares a list of sins which come from only paying lip service to the Word of God, these come from within.

One message here is that we are to practice what we preach. We are not to just declare our faith when we say the Creed on a Sunday, we are to live out that faith every day. How can we say we believe in God if we allow the destruction of His world? How can we profess we believe Jesus is the Son of God, if we do not love God and look after our neighbour? How can we say we believe in the Holy Spirit, if we do not accept that we have been sealed by the Holy Spirit and are worthy of the gifts and charisms which he so abundantly provides? How can we say we believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, if we pick and choose the parts of the Church’s teachings we want to follow?

Jesus is talking to us loud and clear in the Gospel today and His message should hit home for us as much as it should have hit home to the Pharisees on that day long ago. God’s Word is not just to be spoken, it is alive, it needs to be alive in our heart, in our soul, in our minds, in our whole being. We are the Chosen People of the New Covenant, we have been called and need to respond wholeheartedly with ever fibre of our being.

We have a great opportunity to respond in many places in the world at the moment. We look at the news and see the desperation of the people trying to flee Afghanistan, we see the devastation in Haiti following yet another earthquake with tens of thousands of people left homeless. There are also millions of people on the brink of famine because the world has been focussing on the Covid crisis the need to provide food to areas affected by drought, war and natural disasters has been under funded. Cafod has launched emergency appeals1 to help in Haiti and Afghanistan, if you are able, please give generously. If you are not in a position to give then please pray that world leaders will lead in the fight to protect the lives of the innocent, that they will recognise the hungry, the displaced, the refugee and the homeless as our brothers and sisters.

Further Reading

Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC)

CCC 577-582: Christ and the Law
CCC 1961-1974: the Old Law and the Gospel

Please keep in your prayers

  • Fr Leo as he prepares to leave Holy Ghost parish and Fr John as he prepares to come to Holy Ghost parish.
  • The people of Afghanistan, Haiti and other crisis areas of the world, that they receive the help they need.
  • 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.

1 Catholic international development charity | CAFOD

Deacon Tony reflects: Live as Jesus wants us to live

If last Sunday had not ben the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, then we would have continued with the Gospel of John Chapter 6, where Jesus stated that anyone who eats the bread that He will give will live forever and the bread that He shall give is his flesh for the life of the world. Today’s Gospel picks up at this point and whereas we normally have the Jews as those who remonstrate against the teaching of Jesus, notice that this time we have ‘the followers of Jesus’ who say “this is intolerable language”.

Jesus, aware of their complaining emphasises that what He is teaching is the truth and declares that some of those among him do not believe. Prompting some of his disciples to leave him. Jesus then turns to the twelve; signifying the New Israel, replacing the twelve tribes; and asks if they would like to leave him too. It is Simon Peter who responds on behalf of the twelve and asks “who shall we go to? You have the message of eternal life, and we believe; we know that you are the Holy One of God.”

The prophet Joshua, in our first reading offers a similar challenge to the people, offering them the opportunity to choose which god they wish to worship. The response is similar, they choose to worship the God that saved their ancestors, they choose to “serve the Lord, for he is our God.”

Reading the excerpt from the letter from St Paul to the Ephesians in today’s second reading we could get caught up in the patriarchal terms and tone used, however this would distract us from the key message – the relationship between Christ and His Church is one of love and devotion – Jesus loves us, He always has and He always will. In return Jesus asks us to love him and those we encounter. St Paul is telling us that just like in a marriage the husband and wife become one, then when we, as the Church who form the Body of Christ and are betrothed to Jesus as the Head of the Church, when we partake of the Eucharist we become One Body, we share in the divinity of Christ. Therefore as Jesus loves us and is devoted to us, we too must love Jesus and be devoted to Him.

In our diocese, this year is devoted to the Eucharist, we are encouraged to spend time contemplating what the Eucharist means to us. I would like to encourage people to come and spend time in front of the Blessed Sacrament; most days in St Bede’s Church the Blessed Sacrament is exposed before the daily Mass.

In that time Jesus cries to us to come and spend time with Him, come and bask in the presence of the Lord. If you are unable to come along physically, then try and get access to view the exposition online, spend that time quietly contemplating the love Jesus has for us all and the devotion He showed for us by lowering himself to become flesh, so that when He rose again to his rightful place we could eat His flesh and drink His blood and become like him. If you don’t have access to the internet still try and find a quiet space in your home, read scriptures and then sit and quietly contemplate, imagine yourself before the tabernacle; sit there and enjoy the peace which come from being close to Jesus either through His Word or His Body.

We are like the people in the first reading and the followers of Jesus in today’s Gospel. The people of Joshua 1300 years before Christ and us 2000 years after the birth of Jesus are united in that we can choose to follow the true God who rescued us. The Israelites forefathers were rescued from slavery in Egypt, and they made the choice to follow God based on the signs God worked and how He rescued them despite their many failings. We have been rescued from the slavery of sin by Jesus conquering death. We can choose to follow the other gods – the world’s way – or to follow Jesus. Will we be like the followers of Jesus who heard Jesus speak, found it difficult to understand, difficult to accept and walk away. Or will we be like Peter and the other apostles, who no doubt found it difficult to hear, difficult to understand as well, but stayed because they had faith in Jesus?

We face this challenge every day when we are tempted to sin, how we respond will affect our eternal future. Do we pick and choose the parts of the Church’s teaching which appeal to us or suit or current desires? If we are in doubt about Church teaching do we try to find out what is correct or do we decide based on what we want to do? I know that in the past I have made decisions, which I am not proud of, which if I had read a little bit more or heard a priest or a deacon speak about at Mass then my decisions would have been different.

As Christians we have an obligation to live as Jesus wants us to live, this means finding out what Jesus taught and not making it up as we go along. When we find ourselves hearing something in the teachings of the Church which we find uncomfortable we need to ask ourselves what is it that disconcerts me? What is it about this that troubles me? Give it some thought, seek out a priest or a religious or even a deacon, ask them to help you understand. Then when you have thought about it, put yourself in the middle of today’s Gospel and imagine Jesus, standing in front of you and saying to you “What about you, do you want to go away too?”

Further Reading

Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC)

CCC 796: the Church as the Bride of Christ
CCC 1061-1065: God’s utter fidelity and love
CCC 1612-1617, 2360-2365: marriage in the Lord

Please keep in your prayers

  • Lilliana and Aidan who are being baptised this Sunday, that their parents and godparents will be good role models throughout their lives.
  • 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.

Deacon Tony reflects: we can change the world

Today, we celebrate the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a belief by many Christians down through the centuries, but only made formal by the Church in 1950. This belief, that because Our Lady was born without sin, that when she died, she was Assumed, body and soul into heaven. Mary is incorruptible (Immaculate Conception and Assumed into heaven) [CCC2853]. Given that Mary, brought Jesus into the world, some of the Fathers of the Church referred to Mary as the Ark of the Covenant; this emphasises that just as the Lord was especially present to Israel in the Ark of the Covenant, fashioned by Moses, so the Lord was uniquely present in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary.1

Mary, a young girl, whose ‘yes’ changed the world and brought about our salvation. Our Lady is a great example for us. Mary, chosen to bring Jesus into the world, stayed close to Him throughout His life and was present when Jesus came into the upper room after He rose from the dead.

How fitting that Mary, who brought Jesus into the world; and who was given to us as our mother by Christ on the Cross; is also the one who shows us the way to heaven through her son. The Gospel used at the Vigil Mass for this Solemnity is a very short Gospel, it speaks of happiness. Jesus replies to a comment from the crowd, which if we listen is saying how proud Jesus’ Mother must be. Jesus quite simply says Happy those who hear the word of God and keep it. For me this mirrors the words of Our Lady from the Wedding Feast at Cana, when she says to the servants and to us “Do whatever He tells you” (John 2:5).

When Mary was called to be the Mother of Jesus, her ‘yes’ was immediate. “Be it done to me as you have said” (Luke 1:38). I look at this immediate commitment and wonder why it took me so long to give my yes to becoming a deacon. I believe we all need to look at ourselves and ask what is God calling us to do? We might not think that whatever it is, is possible. But think of what God called Mary to do. Mary asked the question how is this possible? The answer was that God would send down his Holy Spirit. Things which appear impossible to mankind are possible to God. God does not call the able, he enables the called.

If we look at the news this week there have been many tragedies. Some of which we call ‘Natural disasters’ others horrific acts of violence and war. We look at the natural disasters and ask why? The world’s climate is changing; a report this week has put the blame firmly at mankind’s door. Our desire to exploit natural resources has affected the balance of the world’s eco-system. We might ask what can I do as an individual the problem is so vast? Mary’s ‘yes’ tells us that we as individuals can change the world!

The violent acts in Plymouth, Nantes and Afghanistan this week and the continued persecution of Christians in Nigeria and other parts of the world are evidence of evil in our midst. The reading used as the first reading in the Mass of the day reminds us that ultimate victory will be God’s, Mary played her part in that. “Victory and power and empire for ever have been won by our God, and all authority for his Christ”.

We pray the prayer of Our Lady, which she shared with her cousin Elizabeth – the Magnificat, in there we hear that princes have been pulled down from their thrones and the lowly have been exulted. We turn to Mary as our Mother and Queen of Heaven and we ask her every day to intercede for us, bring an end to violence and hatred, to turn all men’s heart to the common good of our world so that we can all work together to look after this beautiful world that God has entrusted to us.

Further Reading

Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC)2

CCC 411, 966-971, 974-975, 2853: Mary, the New Eve, assumed into heaven
CCC 773, 829, 967, 972: Mary, eschatological icon of the Church
CCC 2673-2679: at prayer with Mary

Please keep in your prayers

  • Those affected by Climate Change and those who have the means to do something to help the world change course
  • 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 Placid Murray OSB, 100 Liturgical Homilies, (The Columba Press, Dublin, 1988)124-5.

2 Catechism of the Catholic Church – IntraText (vatican.va)