Deacon Tony reflects: Sharing the Gospel

With so many place names mentioned in the first reading today it may well be worth using a map when reviewing these readings. If you do look at a map1, you can see that Paul and Barnabas covered great distances and crossed the Mediterranean Sea in their zeal to preach the Gospel. This zeal to evangelise is a duty we all took on at our Baptism. For us, it might not involve the widespread travel of Paul and Barnabas, but we are called to share the Gospel with the people we meet. Even if it is other Catholics, I say this because we can all become a bit complacent at times and need the support, and challenge of our fellow travellers to give us this ‘fresh heart’ which we hear about today.

The places mentioned; in the first reading; are mostly in modern day Turkey. By telling us the names of the towns; St Luke, the author of the Acts of the Apostles; is telling us that Paul and Barnabas went to real towns, to speak with real people to bring them the real truth, which is the Good News.

Contrast this with the words in the second reading where the first earth and heaven have disappeared and there is no longer any sea. This new Jerusalem, which cannot be found on any map, is the city of God, our eternal home with God. Throughout Hebrew Scriptures the betrothal imagery of the bride and groom is used to demonstrate how close God wants to be to His people and how close we should be to God. While the imagery may be abstract, the message is not. God loves His people and has demonstrated that love since the beginning of time; in turn we should be demonstrating that love in the time we have been given.

The message or as we hear it, this new commandment given to us by Jesus in the Gospel today is that we can demonstrate our love of God by loving one another. Jesus actually goes further and says that people will be able to tell that we are His followers by the love we show to one another. This is not some passive love that we keep to ourselves. This is a love that everyone is meant to be able to see. It is how we can be identified as disciples of Jesus.

How can that love be recognised in me and in you today? If we walk down the main street of our village or town, how would people be able to tell the difference between us as followers of Jesus and an atheist?

If we say we believe in Jesus and do not do all we can to support the lonely, the sick, the homeless, those in prison, the marginalised in our society are we actually denying our faith? Are we denying Jesus?

Jesus did not say I would like you to love one another. He said I command you to love one another as I have loved you. We do not have the option of choosing who we love and who we do not love; because Jesus loves everyone; so, we have to love everyone.

I know that I struggle with this. Walking down many of the streets in our town we see people who need help. I regularly tell myself that I cannot help them all, trying to justify my inaction. Or I tell myself that I can help them on the way back; sometimes they are there on the way back and I offer help, other times they have moved on and I have missed my opportunity. Worse still there are times when I judge them.

But as I challenge myself, I realise that just because I don’t have enough money left to give to someone else, it doesn’t mean that I can’t stop and have a chat with the person; acknowledging them as a human being; reminding me that there but for the grace of God; it may be me sitting there.

If I want to be part of that new Jerusalem, then I need to change. If I want to live in God’s kingdom, where all tears have been wiped away and there is no more mourning or sadness, then I need to do my bit to reduce the mourning and sadness in this world, I need to help wipe away the tears of those who are struggling today. God has a task for everyone of us. I pray my task was not to help one of the strangers I have walked past. I pray my task has still to come and that when I see the next person in need, that I do not walk past them, judging them; or leaving them for someone else to help or worse still missing another opportunity.

In the past week it has been Mental Health Awareness Week. In the past two years we have been given heightened awareness of the importance to everyone of good mental health, one of the themes for this year is tackling loneliness. One way for us to love one another is to look out for the lonely, is there anyone you know who may need a phone call or a visit today? Is there anyone in your street who may appreciate a smile or you saying good morning to them as you walk past?

It was also International Nurses Day last Thursday; these are people who have a wonderful vocation and whether they are Christian or not, they exemplify the commandment given by Jesus to love one another as I have loved you. Again, the past two years have shown us how much we all need nurses as well as other health and social care professionals who look after us at the most critical times of our lives. I thank every one of you for the dedication you have shown, and I pray you will be given your just reward as new creations in the New Jerusalem; a place of beauty, where there are no more tears, no mourning and no sadness. I also pray that I can be there with you.

Further Reading

The Catechism of the Catholic Church

CCC 2746-2751: Christ’s prayer at the Last Supper
CCC 459, 1823, 2074, 2196, 2822, 2842: “as I have loved you”
CCC 756, 865, 1042-1050, 2016, 2817: a new heaven and a new earth

Please keep in your prayers this week

  • The Ukrainian and Russian people, may they be able to live in peace.
  • Those who are sick, those recovering from surgery, those who are dying, the recently deceased and those who mourn.
  • All nurses and those who support them, as we have just celebrated International Nurses Day.
  • The Year of the Eucharist, that this will lead to a fresh outpouring of love by the people of God for the Body and Blood of Christ.
  • Those attending the RCIA course at St Bede’s on Wednesdays.
  • Our Confirmation candidates as they continue their preparations.
  • Our young people who are celebrating their First Holy Communion this week and next week at St Bede’s.
  • Families completing the Baptism preparation programme at St Bede’s this weekend and for Kyra who was Baptised last weekend and for Remi who will be Baptised this weekend.
  • Fr Chris at St Joseph’s who is sick and Fr John & Fr Dominic who are supporting St Joseph’s at this time.

1 Paul’s First Missionary Journey Map – First Mission Itinerary (conformingtojesus.com)

Deacon Tony reflects: Follow me

Today’s Gospel is a wonderful Gospel, one which is key to the Catholic faith even to this day. Today we see Peter given the chance to redeem himself from the three times he denied Christ during The Passion of Our Lord. Not only that, we see Peter move from being a fisher of men to being commissioned as a shepherd of the Church, which gives scriptural support for the Petrine ministry [Acceptance of Peter as leader of the Church] in the early days of the Church. Notice too, the final words in this Gospel passage; echoing the initial call, in the same vicinity given to Peter, Andrew, James and John; “Follow me”. This call indicates the permanency of the call of Jesus, the call to follow is not just in the moment; it is a call to live our lives as followers of Jesus.

In the first reading used today, we hear the dilemma of the High Priests, we get a sense that they recognise they have made an error; however, their pride and sense of position and [I would suggest fear of what the Jews will do to them if they admit their error] means they are obliged to hold their line. They, working under their own knowledge and in their own power have no meaningful answer to the apostles who are now empowered and led by the Holy Spirit. The words of Jesus about not being worried about what to say in a time of trial are being fulfilled. The Holy Spirit is emboldening the apostles, increasing the numbers following Christ and at the same time keeping the apostles’ feet firmly on the ground as they acknowledge how they have been honoured to suffer for Christ.

The reading used from the Book of the Apocalypse is emphasising the success of the job the apostles did. But the glory is not reserved for the apostles; the focus of the glory is the Lamb. A reminder for us that everything we do for the Church has to be ‘Jesus centred.’ Sometimes we will hear that some parts of the Church are too liberal or too conservative, or people using emotion to sway others in discussion. The key here is that unless we are focussed on Christ and using that focus for the good of the world then we are in danger of moving away from Christ; possibly EVEN without realising it.

In the Gospel, which is like a mini recap of their time with Jesus. Jesus went back to where some of the apostles first encountered Him, beside the water. Some of them had decided to go fishing, perhaps going back to something they were comfortable with, or maybe they thought that their adventure with Jesus was over. Jesus had other plans in mind. He told them to cast their nets out and they found a large shoal of fish. As soon as they recognised Jesus, Peter got out of the boat, and he moved towards the Lord. Jesus then moved Peter from fisher of men to Shepherd and indicated to Peter that he would die a martyr’s death as well as encouraging them and us to follow Him.

What is Jesus calling you to do today? Does it take you out of your comfort zone? Remember with the gifts of the Holy Spirit then we are able to fulfil His mission. At times like this we need to pray and discern, trying to listen to the prompting of the Lord. Some of us are called to mundane things, which we might think are unimportant, they may feel unimportant to us, but to others they may be life changing. Others may be called to great things, which may have obvious effects; an example I’m thinking of here is when Pope Francis was elected, one of the first things he did was to ask for people to pray. Think of the millions of people watching at that moment who said those prayers with Pope Francis, think how much good those prayers did and continue to do.

Those fishermen who followed a preacher they had never met before have changed the world because they got close to Jesus. After His resurrection Jesus insisted that they stay close to Him, He gave them specific instructions to be followed. Starting with Peter, He gave us shepherds to look after us and feed us. Our response is simply to follow.

Follow Jesus, Our Risen Lord.

Further Reading

The Catechism of the Catholic Church

CCC 642-644, 857, 995-996: the apostles and disciples as witnesses of the Resurrection
CCC 553, 641, 881, 1429: the risen Christ and Peter
CCC 1090, 1137-1139, 1326: the heavenly liturgy

Please keep in your prayers this week

  • The Ukrainian and Russian people, may they be able to live in peace.
  • Those who are sick, those recovering from surgery, those who are dying, the recently deceased and those who mourn.
  • The Year of the Eucharist, that this will lead to a fresh outpouring of love by the people of God for the Body and Blood of Christ.
  • Those attending the RCIA course at St Bede’s on Wednesdays.
  • Our Confirmation candidates as they continue their preparations.
  • For those who have been putting off going to the Sacrament of Reconciliation; that they will have the courage to go and receive God’s forgiveness.
  • For those who do not believe in God, that this Easter will open their eyes to the magnificent wonder of our Creator.
  • Fr Chris at St Joseph’s who is sick and Fr John & Fr Dominic who are supporting St Joseph’s at this time.

Deacon Tony reflects: Faith into action

As Christians, we are given lots of examples of those who have come before us. Within Scriptures there are two of the disciples, who stand out for me. Peter and Thomas. For me, they portray very human behaviours and traits which we may all be able to relate to. In the lead up to Easter we heard how Peter denied Jesus three times; basically, he was saving his own skin. He saw that Jesus had been taken prisoner and did not want to share His fate. Jesus had foretold this and in essence this needed to happen. (I will come back to this later).

In the Gospel we hear this Sunday; we have Thomas, in the Scripture they say he was known as the twin, but throughout history, because of the incident we hear today, he is known as doubting Thomas. Notice in the text though that Thomas is a man of extremes; initially when he missed the Risen Lord’s first visit, he said he would not believe unless he could see it for himself. He wanted to see the Lord, he wanted to touch the Lord, in here there was a great desire for it to be true; that desire was evident, but there was also doubt. Then when the Risen Lord appeared again, this time with Thomas present, he declared Jesus to be “My Lord and my God”. From doubt to absolute belief.

Again, this needed to happen to help Jesus to help us, when He said to Thomas “You believe because you can see, happy those who have not seen, and yet believe.” Jesus, because He was human and divine, knows people. He knows us, He loves us, and He knew that unless we have good examples to follow then there is the potential that we could be lost. So instead of telling Thomas off for not believing the word of his fellow disciples, Jesus welcomes Thomas; he offers him the proof; the evidence; which he initially demanded.

Touching back on Peter, I believe there are two reasons why he had to endure the three denials. The first is that Jesus did not want Peter to die with Him at that time. He had a mission to complete. The second is that from what we have read, Peter could be quite a strong minded individual, maybe a little bit impetuous. Jesus knew that Peter would have to adapt his normal behaviour, so he gifted Peter this trial to ensure that he would always remember this lesson. Peter was the rock, but Jesus still had to knock off some of the rough edges. Jesus used the three denials to knock off one of those rough edges; that rough edge metaphorically became like a stone in Peter’s shoe, which he could never remove. It probably rubbed away at Peter’s conscience for the rest of his days. Thankfully Jesus forgave him, just as He forgives us.

Also in today’s Gospel we see the institution of the Sacrament of Reconciliation; a much-underused Sacrament. Again, as Christians we see many examples throughout the years of saints who either received the Sacrament frequently and advocated this to others, or we are aware of Saints, who while they were priests here on earth would sit and hear the confessions of hundreds of people a day over several hours, with people travelling for miles to have their confession heard. For those of us who are parents, what type of an example do we set to our children for this Sacrament? I know that as a parent I regret that I did not set the best example.

In the first reading we hear about how the early Church flourished under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and we hear about the tremendous faith of people who thought that if the shadow of a man who knew Jesus could pass over them then they could be cured of their ailments. How does our faith measure up alongside those people?

I started off, by mentioning that as Christians we are blessed with the examples of those who have gone before us, and we are. But now is our time; this is the time when we are called to be the example for others to follow; both now and in the future. People do not become followers of Christ purely because they read about Him in a book or saw a film. They do not become Christians purely because they have heard someone preach. People follow Christ when they are affected by the works of Christ. Today, we are the hands of Christ in this world. We need to ask ourselves; this first week when we have celebrated the Resurrection in 2022; how have I used Christ’s hands? Have I used Christ’s hands to feed the sick? Have I used Christ’s hands to comfort the sick or those close to death? Have I used Christ’s hands to work for peace? Have I used Christ’s hands to pray for the needs of others?

If each and every one of us looks into our hearts then we will know that we can do more; because there is always more to do. By following the examples of those who came before us and setting an example for those who will follow after us, we will be doing our bit to build up God’s Holy Church and at the same time help ourselves to be better prepared for that day when we meet Jesus face to face and He calls us by our name.

Peter and Thomas and the other saints we admire are so relatable to us, because we can see that they were just like us, which means that we can be like them. All we have to do is acknowledge Jesus as Our Lord and God and put our faith into action.

Further Reading

The Catechism of the Catholic Church

CCC 448, 641-646: appearances of the risen Christ
CCC 1084-1089: sanctifying presence of the risen Christ in the liturgy
CCC 2177-2178, 1342: the Sunday Eucharist
CCC 654-655, 1988: our new birth in the Resurrection of Christ
CCC 976-983, 1441-1442: “I believe in the forgiveness of sins”
CCC 949-953, 1329, 1342, 2624, 2790: communion in spiritual goods
CCC 612, 625, 635, 2854: Christ the “Living One” holds the keys of death

Please keep in your prayers this week

  • The Ukrainian and Russian people, may they be able to live in peace.
  • Those who are sick, those recovering from surgery, those who are dying, the recently deceased and those who mourn.
  • The Year of the Eucharist, that this will lead to a fresh outpouring of love by the people of God for the Body and Blood of Christ.
  • Those attending the RCIA course at St Bede’s on Wednesdays.
  • Our Confirmation candidates as they continue their preparations.
  • For those who have been putting off going to the Sacrament of Reconciliation; that they will have the courage to go and receive God’s forgiveness.
  • For those who do not believe in God, that this Easter will open their eyes to the magnificent wonder of our Creator.
  • Fr Chris at St Joseph’s who is sick and Fr John & Fr Dominic who are supporting St Joseph’s at this time.

Deacon Tony reflects: The joy of the Risen Christ

One of my old bosses had a catch phrase, which he often used at the end of a day; it was, What a day I’ve had, I’m doing no more”. Imagine for a moment being one of the disciples, Peter or John, imagine the week they had, that last week with Jesus. One day they are entering the city singing Hosannas, as the week progresses, they celebrate the Passover with their Master and during this Passover meal, their Master gets up from table and insists that He washes their feet. He then institutes the Eucharist and makes them priests so that they could share that Eucharistic sacrifice with others. One of their own betrays the Master, who is then taken by force; while they stand back and watch, Peter even denies knowing the Master three times. They then watch helplessly as the Man they love, is hung from a tree and breathes His last. What a week they had, surely there was no more!

Now three days later some of the women come rushing to them telling them that the Master’s body is missing. They run towards the tomb, and as they run, the Master’s words start to come back to them. “The temple will be destroyed, and He will raise it again after three days”; He said he “will rise from the dead”, what does this mean? He raised Lazarus from the dead, has He managed to conquer death for himself too? If he has what does that mean for me? All of these thoughts, and more, must have been racing through their minds as they ran; this time running towards where they thought Christ would be, instead of running away from Him. That week they went from Hosannas to despair to Alleluias.

Today’s Gospel tells us that until “that moment they had failed to understand the teaching of scripture, that he must rise from the dead.” Nowadays we call these light bulb moments. Can we remember our lightbulb moment when we realised the significance of this day? Has our light bulb moment even happened yet? Christ has risen from the dead! The tomb is empty! He has conquered death so that we, sinners as we are, can become like Him. Jesus, the Word made flesh, the God who became man, the Eternal One who chose to die so that we his creations, made out of the earth, with a limited life span, can become like God and live forever in His Kingdom. Is it any wonder we say Alleluia?

Today is a day of great joy. The world outside of the Church will tell you it’s about chocolate and Easter bunnies, a spring holiday. While we can enjoy the chocolate and the times gathered with our family, we know that it is far more important than that. In our Baptism we entered the grave with Jesus and when Jesus was resurrected, we were given our purpose; to be like Him, to live like Him, to love like Him, to die like Him and to rise like Him. Alleluia!

This is the day when we discovered that death is not the end. St Paul tells us that we have been brought back to true life in Christ and because of this we must focus on what is important, our thoughts are to be on heavenly things, we mustn’t be distracted by earthly things, so that when Christ is revealed, we too will be revealed in all of our glory with him.

I asked us at the beginning of this Homily to imagine being Peter or John during Holy Week. The first reading we have today takes us to another time with St Peter; a time when he was able to share details of what it was like to be with the Risen Christ, to share a meal with Him, to drink with Him and no doubt to rejoice with Him. Today we are asked to take that joy, the Joy of the Risen Christ out into the world where they talk about spring holidays, Easter bunnies and buy lots of chocolate to celebrate Christianity’s Greatest Day. Today is our day, today is the day that the Lord has made, today is the day when He rose again, we will rejoice and be glad in it.

Further Reading

The Catechism of the Catholic Church

CCC 638-655, 989, 1001-1002: the Resurrection of Christ and our resurrection
CCC 647, 1167-1170, 1243, 1287: Easter, the Lord’s Day
CCC 1212: the Sacraments of Initiation
CCC 1214-1222, 1226-1228, 1234-1245, 1254: Baptism
CCC 1286-1289: Confirmation
CCC 1322-1323: Eucharist

Please keep in your prayers this week

  • The Ukrainian and Russian people, may they be able to live in peace.
  • Those who are sick, those recovering from surgery, those who are dying, the recently deceased and those who mourn.
  • The Year of the Eucharist, that this will lead to a fresh outpouring of love by the people of God for the Body and Blood of Christ.
  • Those attending the RCIA course at St Bede’s on Wednesdays.
  • Our Confirmation candidates as they continue their preparations.
  • For those who have been putting off going to the Sacrament of Reconciliation; that they will have the courage to go and receive God’s forgiveness.
  • For those who do not believe in God, that this Easter will open their eyes to the magnificent wonder of our Creator.
  • For all those receiving Sacraments at our Easter Vigil Services, we wish them all a blessed week and a full outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
  • Fr Chris at St Joseph’s who is sick and Fr John & Fr Dominic who are supporting St Joseph’s at this time.

Deacon Tony reflects: Palm Sunday

As Jesus enters Jerusalem in triumph, we enter Holy Week and if you are like me, you may be wondering how we are at Palm Sunday already; it seems only a few days ago that it was Ash Wednesday. The contrast in the two Gospels we hear today is always striking, the entry into the city, full of joy, the crowd very much with Jesus, the excitement evident for all to see and hear. Then the Passion, the Chief Priests and their officials have poisoned the crowd against Jesus they turn on Him baying for blood, even freeing a brigand in His place.

The Gospel version we hear today from St Luke, demonstrates healing and reconciliation; there is a mildness towards the disciples too. In this Gospel Jesus heals the man wounded by the sword at His arrest and the disciples do not scatter and run when, instead they watch from a distance. In this Gospel sworn enemies Herod and Pilate are reconciled. In this Gospel Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem and asks them not to weep for Him.

It is in this Gospel too, that a man I consider to be the most fortunate man ever born appears briefly. One of the two criminals who spoke up for Jesus and asked Him to remember Him when He comes into His kingdom. He was promised that he would join Jesus in paradise. That one act of mercy by the criminal; when he rebuked the other criminal; gained him an eternity with Christ. This tells us that it is never too late. But we do not have to wait until we are desperate to turn to Jesus.

If you have struggled to keep to your Lenten observances, please take heart from the criminal who turned to Jesus at the last moment; and redouble your efforts. Read the Scriptures, fast, give to the poor. Our token effort is minimal compared to what Jesus has done for us. If you have been successful with your Lenten sacrifices, don’t rest on your laurels; the message is the same – redouble your efforts, read the Scriptures, fast and give to the poor.

This is not a time for us to keep our distance, we already know that following the sadness of Good Friday there will be joy on Easter Sunday. The disciples who kept their distance on that first Holy Thursday did not have that knowledge, they had not yet received the Holy Spirit; they had not yet encountered the Risen Christ.

Further Reading

The Catechism of the Catholic Church

CCC 557-560: Christ’s entry into Jerusalem
CCC 602-618: the Passion of Christ
CCC 2816: Christ’s kingship gained through his death and Resurrection
CCC 654, 1067-1068, 1085, 1362: the Paschal Mystery and the liturgy

Please keep in your prayers this week

  • The Ukrainian and Russian people, may they be able to live in peace.
  • Those who are sick, those recovering from surgery, those who are dying, the recently deceased and those who mourn.
  • The Year of the Eucharist, that this will lead to a fresh outpouring of love by the people of God for the Body and Blood of Christ.
  • Those attending the RCIA course at St Bede’s on Wednesdays.
  • Our Confirmation candidates as they continue their preparations.
  • For those who have been putting off going to the Sacrament of Reconciliation; that they will have the courage to go and receive God’s forgiveness.
  • For those who do not believe in God, that this Lent and Easter will open their eyes to the magnificent wonder of our Creator.
  • For all those receiving Sacraments at our Easter Vigil Services, we wish them all a blessed week and a full outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
  • Fr Chris at St Joseph’s who is sick and Fr John & Fr Dominic who are supporting St Joseph’s at this time.

Deacon Tony reflects: I do not judge you

Pope Francis, the successor of St Peter, is this weekend walking in the footsteps of St Paul as he visits Malta. He will call on this small Mediterranean island to do more to help the refugees fleeing Africa at the same time as he calls upon the world to do more to work for peace in the Ukraine and the other places around the world where there are conflicts.

Today we are reminded that Jesus does not condemn us because we are sinners, quite the opposite. Jesus gently drives away those who would condemn, because He knows we are all sinners and none of us has the right to condemn anyone else.

If we look a little bit closer at this, we find that those who brought the adulterous woman to Jesus did so as a ‘test’. They were not putting the woman on trial; in their eyes she was already guilty as she had been ‘caught in the very act of adultery’. If that was so, where was the man who she was with? Jesus bent down and started writing in the sand, what is the significance of this and what was He writing?

If we look at the Old Testament to the Book of Jeremiah verse 13 it says, “O Lord, the hope of Israel, all who forsake thee shall be put to shame; those who turn away from thee shall be written in the earth, for they have forsaken the Lord, the fountain of living water.” Was Jesus writing the names of the accusers? We don’t really know. But look again at that text and compare it with verse 7 from John’s Gospel where Jesus said ‘Let anyone who believes in me come and drink! As scripture says, “From his heart will flow streams of living water.”’ Jesus is the fountain of living water foretold by the prophet Jeremiah.1

Also, from the Old Testament there needs to be two witnesses to secure a conviction. With all of the accusers drifting away, there was no longer anyone to provide evidence to condemn this woman. Jesus, said to the woman “Neither do I condemn you, go away and sin no more.” Jesus did not come into the world to abolish the law; He came to fulfil the law. He is not condoning the woman’s sin, but equally He does not condemn her because of it. Jesus is full of compassion and mercy, and He expects us to be compassionate and merciful too.

Is there anyone in our lives that we need to show compassion to at this moment? As we look back on last week, have we judged anyone? If we brought them in front of Jesus already condemned, what would Jesus write about us in the sand?

Last week, my plans for Sunday were thrown into disarray when two family emergencies meant late changes of plans for me. One consequence of this meant me attending the Sunday evening Mass instead of the two morning Masses. I was already pencilled in to preach at both morning Masses, where the second Scrutiny was being celebrated for the Catechumens at St Bede’s. The readings for this are different to the normal Sunday readings and therefore the Homily would need to be different, this was all duly prepared and ready.

However, when I switched to the evening Mass the normal Sunday readings were back in place and I was offered the opportunity to preach. I thought that I knew the story of the Prodigal Son well enough to be able to be able to preach on it without preparing properly. When I tried to do so I found out that I did know the story reasonably well, but if I want to get a message across to people well enough; then I need to prepare well. I learned an important lesson for my ministry that I need to prepare properly and not to allow my pride to take over. The people attending Mass deserve better and I will endeavour to make sure that I don’t repeat this error.

Being a follower of Jesus allows us to identify our mistakes and bring them to Him. We don’t need a mob baying for blood to bring us before our judge. Jesus confronts the sin not the sinner. He allows us to drink from the fountain of living water, which is the Holy Spirit. He forgives us and tells us to sin no more. We have every reason to fulfil the prophesy of Isaiah, used in the first reading today “The people I have formed for myself, will my sing my praise.”

Further Reading

Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC)2

CCC 430, 545, 589, 1846-1847: Jesus manifests the Father’s mercy
CCC 133, 428, 648, 989, 1006: the surpassing wealth of knowing Christ
CCC 2475-2479: rash judgment

Please keep in your prayers

  • The Ukrainian and Russian people, may they be able to live in peace.
  • Those who are sick, those recovering from surgery, those who are dying, the recently deceased and those who mourn.
  • The Year of the Eucharist, that this will lead to a fresh outpouring of love by the people of God for the Body and Blood of Christ.
  • Those preparing for and attending the Big Picture sessions on Mondays.
  • Those attending the RCIA course at St Bede’s on Wednesdays.
  • Our Confirmation candidates as they continue their preparations.

Deacon Tony 2nd April 2022

1 https://catholicproductions.com/blogs/blog/what-did-jesus-write-in-the-sand

2 Catechism of the Catholic Church (vatican.va)

Deacon Tony reflects: God looks at the heart

On Friday, Pope Francis used the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord to Consecrate humanity and especially Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in the hope that through the intercession of the Mother of Our Lord, peace may be restored to the world. Today, in the United Kingdom we celebrate Mothering Sunday, a day when people traditionally returned to their Mother Church; which was where they were baptised or the Church they worshipped in as a child. It is a day when we honour mothers and thank them for all they have done for us. Today, we remember all mothers, but especially those who are no longer with us and those who are grieving for a child who is no longer with them. I pray for all who look upon this day with sadness, that they will be consoled by Our Blessed Mother, who wept for her Son on the Cross.

Today we hear in the Word of God, that ‘God does not see as man sees, they look at appearances, but the Lord looks at the heart’ (1Sam 16:7). The prophet Samuel was looking for the one who would be anointed King of Israel and first of all saw a fine-looking chap called Eliab; Samuel thought it must be him; he is the eldest brother, he worked his way through all of Jesse’s sons until he came to the smallest, the youngest, so insignificant to the family that they had him out looking after the sheep. This is who the Lord chose to shepherd His people.

We may see ourselves as insignificant at times, but the message from God is that everyone is significant and He has a role for each and everyone of us, we might just never find out what it is. This also reminds us not to judge people and certainly not to make assumptions on appearances.

In St Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, we hear a message which is as pertinent today as it was when it was first written 2000 years ago. ‘Try to discover what the Lord wants of you’. This message is really important, God has a job which only we can do. It may be something quite simple, like show an individual some kindness. We do not know what the result of that kindness will be; for us something as simple as making a phone call or a visit may change the other person’s life, and we may never realise how significant our little gesture was to that person.

In order for us to try and discover what the Lord wants of us, we need to get to know the Lord better. We need to spend time in prayer and find quiet time to learn more about Jesus and to listen to what God is telling us through Holy Scripture. Lent is the ideal time to form good habits, we may have decided to stop eating that or stop drinking this, but that is not what Lent is all about.

We should also be looking to find ways of doing more for God; praying more, perhaps picking up that religious book we have been meaning to read for ages; blow the dust off of it, open it up and read. It may be that we commit to carrying out more acts of mercy; make those phone calls, do those visits, talk to the homeless person on the street. Whatever we have committed to do, we are half way through Lent today and if we are a little bit disappointed by our Lenten efforts up until now, then we can recommit and make the rest of this Lent a time when we can form good habits to build us up for the journey through Holy Week; which leads to the joy of Easter.

Today the Church says rejoice, because the Lord is revealing himself more to us every week. Last week Jesus revealed himself as the Messiah to the Samaritan woman at the well. This week He reveals himself as the light of the world to the man cured of blindness. Jesus also calls out the Pharisees who drove the man from the temple, because they were so caught up in the rules they imposed; to see what was in front of them. Jesus, the Son of Man, demonstrates that God is a compassionate God; He wants us to open our eyes and see that. God does not ask us to do the impossible; He calls us to serve Him, to love Him and our neighbour. When we look back on the last week, how have we served God? How have we served our neighbour? When we look forward to next week, what do we need to do to improve? How can we serve God and our neighbour better?

Today our Elect, the Catechumens who, God willing be baptised at the Easter Vigil, celebrate their second Scrutiny. We get a chance to pray for them, they get a chance to reflect on what God is calling them to do. We are blessed by their presence; for their presence is a sure sign the Holy Spirit is alive and working in our Community. He is opening our eyes to see the needs of others, and helping us comfort those who grieve, visit the sick, give to those in need, welcome the stranger, contact the lonely and call others to Christ through the actions we do on behalf of Jesus.

For Jesus is the light of the world and we are children of the light.

Further Reading

The Scrutinies (creighton.edu)

Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC)1

CCC 280, 529, 748, 1165, 2466, 2715: Christ the light of the nations
CCC 439, 496, 559, 2616: Jesus is the Son of David
CCC 1216: baptism is illumination
CCC 782, 1243, 2105: Christians are to be light of the world

Please keep in your prayers

  • The Ukrainian and Russian people, may they be able to live in peace.
  • Those who are sick, those recovering from surgery, those who are dying, the recently deceased and those who mourn.
  • The Year of the Eucharist, that this will lead to a fresh outpouring of love by the people of God for the Body and Blood of Christ.
  • Eva Maria and Chiadika who are being baptised in St Bede’s Church this weekend.
  • Those preparing for and attending the Big Picture sessions on Mondays.
  • Those attending the RCIA course at St Bede’s on Wednesdays.
  • Our Confirmation candidates as they continue their preparations.

1 Catechism of the Catholic Church (vatican.va)

Deacon Tony reflects: Come to me

The year before my Ordination, I spent Holy Week and Easter in Goa, India. I was very struck by the faith of the people and how they turned out in great numbers for the Triduum and Easter Sunday itself. I was also struck by the respect shown by the other faiths for our Christian brothers and sisters.

One of my most vivid memories is when I visited a Church in Old Goa which had, outside of it, a monument immortalising today’s Gospel (as shown in the images below). There at a well; Jesus was with the Samaritan lady. The sculptor had put the image of several men on the back of the Samaritan woman’s dress, indicating the number of husbands and partners she had and perhaps the burden of sin which she carried. I wondered at the time how the sculptor would symbolise my sins and the burdens I carry.

The message from this Gospel is quite simply come to me, admit your failings and do not sin again. Jesus knows us, He knows us better than we know ourselves; it is only in the presence of Jesus that we can be our true selves. We do not have to hide behind what we think is acceptable. Jesus accepts us as we are, and He still loves us.

The Samaritan woman had a chequered past, but that did not matter to Jesus, He offered her living water; the water of life. Jesus is the fountain who quenches our thirst and gives us peace. Also in this Gospel reading, the Apostles were concerned that Jesus was not eating, and Jesus said He had food to eat that they did not know about. His food was to do the will of His Father; obeying God energised Him. Bringing the Samaritan woman to the Father through an everyday conversation was a simple and effective means of Evangelisation.

This conversation bore fruit; as soon as the woman realised who Jesus is, she told her friends and neighbours; bringing more people to the Lord. What conversations are we having with others about our faith? As a friend once said; would there be enough evidence to find us ‘guilty’ of being a follower of Christ?

Today when we celebrate the first Scrutiny1 for our Catechumens, we should be having a similar conversation in our own hearts. We are reminded that we are sinners and that we need to admit that before Jesus; with that reminder of our faults we are also reminded of the protection available to all of us from the Holy Spirit in the fight against the enemy. Through our prayers, fasting and almsgiving we approach the fountain where Jesus supplies the water which quenches our thirst, and by celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation we are healed and have peace restored to our lives as we are able to drink from that fountain.

What is stopping us from going to the well today? What lies has the enemy sewn in our hearts? As Jesus demonstrates time and time again, He knows us, He loves us and there is nothing that we can do to change that.

Further Reading

The Scrutinies (creighton.edu)

Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC)2

CCC 1214-1216, 1226-1228: baptism, rebirth of water and Spirit
CCC 727-729: Jesus reveals the Holy Spirit
CCC 694, 733-736, 1215, 1999, 2652: the Holy Spirit, the living water, a gift of God
CCC 604, 733, 1820, 1825, 1992, 2658: God takes the initiative; hope from the Spirit

Please keep in your prayers

  • The Ukrainian and Russian people, may they be able to live in peace.
  • Those who are sick, those recovering from surgery, those who are dying, the recently deceased and those who mourn.
  • The Year of the Eucharist, that this will lead to a fresh outpouring of love by the people of God for the Body and Blood of Christ.
  • The six families due to complete Baptism Preparation this Sunday at St Bede’s.
  • Those preparing for and attending the Big Picture sessions on Mondays.
  • Those attending the RCIA course at St Bede’s on Wednesdays.
  • Our Confirmation candidates as they continue their preparations.

1 The Scrutinies (creighton.edu)

2 Catechism of the Catholic Church (vatican.va)

Deacon Tony reflects: All our brothers and sisters

A few years ago, we visited Croatia and stayed with a family for a couple of nights. In that time, I met our hosts’ son-in-law. We got talking about what we did for a job, and he told me that he worked in Angola, clearing mines. Very dangerous work: putting himself at risk to protect other people; I asked him how he had got into that line of work, and he said it stemmed from the war in the Balkans following the fall of Communism. He also told me about how lucky he and his family were to be alive.

He said that there had been many tales of families being attacked by their neighbours, because there was a lot of mistrust of people who were not of the same ethnic background. One night, the local police commander; who knew his father; knocked on the door; he told his father that in 30 minutes he would be coming back and there would be a mob with him. His family had 30 minutes to gather their possessions and flee before the mob came. If it hadn’t been for that police commander’s warning the likelihood, is they would all have been killed by their neighbours. The police commander applied humanity to his orders and managed to warn this family to allow them to flee.

Today we see hundreds of thousands of families fleeing under similar circumstances; the exodus of Ukraine is larger than the Exodus from the bible, which we recall at Easter. We are very aware of these refugees because our news broadcasters have sent special correspondents to the region to report. We seem to be less aware of the population being starved in Yemen, the persecution of the Palestinians in the Holy Land, the various wars in Africa including in our sister Diocese of Bamenda and now that the news cycle has moved on from the millions starving in Afghanistan.

All of these locations have desperate people struggling for life because of man’s inhumanity to man. We heard last week how Cafod is helping around the world to try to end hunger. I pray that our politicians will work tirelessly to tackle the root causes of hunger – blind ambition, greed, lust for power and inhumanity. Yes, there are natural disaster too, but we are beginning to realise that some of these ‘natural disasters’ are caused by how mankind is using the resources of the world, a world which has been entrusted to mankind by God.

Modern technology makes the world seem a smaller place and we are able to link with people around the world; live through a telephone. We can see people and talk to them wherever they are. Our first reading today tells us why this is important. Through the trust and faith Abram had in God, all of these people are our brothers and sisters. Abram, who just two chapters later in the Genesis story would be called Abraham and who God made a Covenant with.

All the people who follow an Abrahamic faith are the descendants God spoke about; when He told Abram to look up to the sky and count the stars. Through the New Covenant won for us by Christ’s death and resurrection we have become descendants of Abraham. So I say again, all of these people are our brothers and sisters.

God has given mankind the knowledge to develop technologies to help with communication, with medicine, to improve sanitation, to make clean water available, to harness the produce of the earth so that we can feed the world; not just the parts of the world we like or who our media choose to tell us about.

This Sunday Cafod1 are collecting from those who took part in the Family Fast day last Friday (11th). Please give generously, even if you forgot to take part in the fast, I am certain they will still gratefully receive any money you wish to donate. There are certainly plenty of places in the world that need our help today.

The Gospel we hear today tells us of the time when Jesus took his most trusted disciples with him, He was transfigured and the Father announced who Jesus is – God’s Son, the Chosen One and telling us to “Listen to him.”

What is Jesus telling us; as Christians; in these troubled times? In our hearts what are we being urged to do? My advice is the same as last week where I said in my reflection “At times like this; more than any other time; we are called to put our faith into action. If we can donate money we should donate money, if we can donate goods which are needed then we should donate those goods, if we can donate our time to help, then we should donate our time. But ALL of us as a minimum should be storming heaven with prayer for peace.”

St Paul tells the Philippians that Jesus will “transfigure these wretched bodies of ours into copies of his glorified body.” He will do this for us as we became his adopted brothers and sisters through Baptism. We also need to obey the words spoken by Jesus’ Father as we hear in today’s Gospel ‘Listen to him’ and marry that together with the words spoken by Jesus’ Mother at the Wedding in Cana ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ [Jn 2:5]. By listening and then obeying the words of Jesus we too can share in that transfiguration; we too can have our wretched bodies turned into copies of the glorious body of the resurrected Christ.

What is Jesus saying to us today? How can we obey Him?

I know there are many people struggling with life today. This may be due to things which have happened, a fear of what may happen or just a thought that no one else cares. I want to reach out to anyone who finds themselves in that position today. Please know that God cares, we as Christians also care for you, we are praying for you’ and we are here for you. If you need help reach out, but please be assured, as Christians we are already praying for you and looking out to see if you are in need. We are sorry if you do not think we have seen you yet, but we are still looking, and we will keep looking until we find you. For we are followers of the Good Shepherd and just as He did not give up, neither will we.

I will finish with the words of another deacon, Deacon Bill McMillan “If we commit ourselves to prayer as often as we can, we too, like Christ can have our moments of transfiguration, when the touch of God could lift our darkness and melt away our fears.”2 God is the light who takes away all darkness, we are people of the light, in these darkest of times we are called to shine God’s light in the darkest of places, so that those who are struggling can have hope again; through that hope they can build trust, which God willing, will blossom into faith in the resurrected Lord.

Further Reading

Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC)3

CCC 554-556, 568: the Transfiguration
CCC 59, 145-146, 2570-2572: the obedience of Abraham
CCC 1000: faith opens the way to comprehending the mystery of the Resurrection
CCC 645, 999-1001: the resurrection of the body

Please keep in your prayers

  • The Ukrainian and Russian people, may they be able to live in peace.
  • Those who are sick, those recovering from surgery, those who are dying, the recently deceased and those who mourn.
  • The Year of the Eucharist, that this will lead to a fresh outpouring of love by the people of God for the Body and Blood of Christ.
  • The five families due to start Baptism Preparation this Sunday and Allegro who is being Baptised at St Bede’s on Sunday.
  • Those preparing for and attending the Big Picture sessions on Mondays.
  • Those attending the RCIA course at St Bede’s on Wednesdays.
  • Our Confirmation candidates as they continue their preparations.

1 Family Fast Day – Lent 2022 | CAFOD

2 https://twitter.com/DeaconMcMillan/status/1502547532076957698/photo/1

3 Catechism of the Catholic Church (vatican.va)

Deacon Tony reflects: Strength in difficult times

St Luke tells us that Jesus was led by the Spirit out into the wilderness and was tempted by the devil for forty days. St Luke tells us about three of the more significant temptations, but we should note Jesus was tempted for forty days.

The three instances St Luke quotes drive straight at man’s needs and wants. The first deals with hunger; as the devil suggests that Jesus who ate nothing during his time in the wilderness; could turn stones into loaves of bread. In a similar position to the Jews in the story of the Exodus Jesus does not get frustrated by his hunger or turn away from his Father like those in the Exodus story. Jesus did not need the manna in the desert; he rebuked the enemy saying that ‘man does not live on bread alone’.

The second temptation addresses man’s lust for power and glory as the devil offers Jesus adulation, if Jesus would just worship him. Jesus reminds the devil of the first commandment to worship the Lord your God and serve only him.

In the third temptation the devil tries to test Jesus’ faith in God, quoting Psalm 91 which says that God will send angels to guard him and hold him and prevent him from treading on a stone. Jesus, in a lesson for all of us, reminds us that we should never put God to the test. We know that God loves us; that should be enough. We should never put ourselves in deliberate danger to test that love.

As we start our 40 days of Lent this year, our faith is being tested yet again. We are still trying to manage Covid, although now we are trying to manage it with fewer Government restrictions; but added to this the spectre of war hangs over our continent. We see what happens when man gives in to that lust for power.

Our parents and grandparents saw what happened in the last century and we are now seeing history repeat itself, as over one million Ukrainians seek a place of safety away from their homeland. Just like the Covid crisis we are seeing amazing acts of kindness exhibited towards our fellow man. Local collection points have had to ask people to stop bringing items for the refugees because of the generosity that has been displayed. The sight of hundreds of people gathering at railway stations in Germany, with welcome signs offering to put refugees up in their own homes is amazing. The countries around Ukraine, which have sprung into action to welcome the refugees is an outpouring of God’s love for the stranger. Many of these countries were the front line the last time Europe imploded into war; and many will be wary that the Russians may not stop at Ukraine.

The appeal by the Disasters Emergency Committee; which Cafod1 is part of; raised £55M in the first day. Pope Francis asked us to dedicate Ash Wednesday to fasting and praying for peace in the Ukraine. We need to keep those prayers going and pray for all of the people affected by this war.

In the first reading today, we hear how when we make an offering to God it is not to be an afterthought. Moses instructed the people to give the first fruits of the land God gave to them back to the Lord. This is a message to us to be generous when we give. God has given us everything we have, and we should give back to God with a cheerful heart.

The psalm used this Sunday gives us hope in difficult times. As Jesus was in the wilderness he was not alone while the devil tempted him; the Father was there to comfort Him. The psalm cries out in prayer, ‘be near me O Lord in my distress.’ We do well to remember this in times of distress. At this time when Europe and the world are in distress because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. We say this prayer again, ‘Be near us O Lord in our time of distress. The wilderness is not a time when we are alone. Jesus knows what it is like to be in the wilderness; therefore, He accompanies us; never more so than when we are in distress.

St Paul in the second reading today, reminds us that God is for everyone who believes and confesses that Jesus is the Christ. At times like this; more than any other time; we are called to put our faith into action. If we can donate money we should donate money, if we can donate goods which are needed then we should donate those goods, if we can donate our time to help, then we should donate our time. But ALL of us as a minimum should be storming heaven with prayer for peace. That is something we can all do.

At the end of the Gospel today we hear that when the devil had failed in his temptation of Jesus he left to return at the appointed time. When we reach Holy Week, we will hear how the devil gets involved. He tempted Judas and Judas did not have the personal strength to resist temptation; despite being an apostle of the Lord. He tempted the High Priests by preying on their fears and they gave in to the temptation inciting the crowds to do likewise. He also tempted the two others being crucified alongside Jesus, one gave in to the temptation, the other rose again in glory with Jesus.

Jesus does not ask of us anything that we cannot do, Jesus asks us to do the things we can do. He asks us to love. He asks us to care. He asks us to put our faith into action.

Further Reading

Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC)2

CCC 394, 538-540, 2119: the temptation of Jesus
CCC 2846-2849: “Lead us not into temptation”
CCC 1505: Christ frees from evil
CCC 142-143, 309: faith as submission to God, response to God, answer to evil
CCC 59-63: God forms his priestly people through Abraham and the Exodus

Please keep in your prayers

  • The Ukrainian and Russian people, may they be able to live in peace.
  • Those who are sick, those recovering from surgery, those who are dying, the recently deceased and those who mourn.
  • The Year of the Eucharist, that this will lead to a fresh outpouring of love by the people of God for the Body and Blood of Christ.
  • 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.
  • Those attending the Rite of Election this weekend.
  • Those preparing for and attending the Big Picture sessions on Mondays.
  • Those attending the RCIA course at St Bede’s on Wednesdays.

1 DEC Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal | CAFOD

2 Catechism of the Catholic Church (vatican.va)