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)

Deacon Tony reflects: fill the world with Christ

I had a first experience for me earlier this week, when like thousands of people across the country I was pinged by the NHS app, informing me that I had been in contact with someone who had tested positive for Covid. Going by the dates, and the few days remaining of the self-isolation by the time I received the message, it had been over a week earlier. Thankfully for me, I am double vaccinated, and I had already recorded 2 negative tests at home, I still went for a PCR test at a drive through test centre, which thankfully also came back negative.

While for some this App may be seen as an inconvenience, I am grateful that I was made aware and was given the alert which meant I could stay at home without potentially putting work colleagues or family members at risk. As Christians we are called to love our neighbour, by following the guidelines we are given an opportunity to protect the most vulnerable people in our society, this is one way of putting our Christian love into action. I pray for all who have had positive results that they make swift and full recoveries.

In today’s readings we again visit Chapter 6 of St John’s Gospel; we hear how some of the Jewish people could not accept what Jesus was saying because they thought they knew his heritage. They could not accept that Jesus had come down from heaven, as the true bread which will lead the chosen people to the Eternal Promised Land. Those who were complaining about what Jesus said were given a message which was crucial for them and applies equally to us – “No one can come to me unless he is drawn by the Father who sent me.”

We do not choose God, he has chosen us, our choice is to listen and to respond. The ‘complaining’ by the Jews is similar to the ‘complaining’ by the whole community in Chapter 16 of Exodus, when they complained about being taken out of Egypt and thought they would starve in the desert. God responded by providing manna in the desert. In today’s Gospel we hear God’s response, the true bread of heaven. The Jews took Jesus to be Joseph’s son; right at the start of St John’s Gospel we are told that Jesus is the Word made flesh; sent by the Father to help those who believe in him to become children of God.

In our first reading we are told about Elijah who has fled from his oppressors, he asks God to let him die; he falls asleep, hoping not to wake up again. But when he opens his eyes when he hears an angel speak and God provides a scone for him baked on the hot stones of the desert and a jar of water. He tried to sleep again, but the angel wakes him, insisting that he eats and drinks to build strength for the journey God needs him to make. Strengthened by God’s sustenance, he makes a forty day and night journey to God’s Holy Mountain. There he will meet the Lord, be commissioned and sent out with divine authority to bring some of the Jewish people back to God and anoint kings who would punish those who had deserted God.

Elijah was chosen and miraculously fed so that he could go back to the land where he had been hunted and pronounce God’s word to God’s people. This should make us ask, why has God chosen us? When God feeds us every week with His Word and His Flesh; what does God need us to do? What mission does He have for us? We may never find out the answers to any of these questions, but we need to find some quiet time to think and discern God’s purpose for our lives.

St Paul provides a good insight into every Christian’s calling in the section we hear today from his letter to the Ephesians. As we have been sealed by the Holy Spirit we are to please God, not to cause God any reason to be upset. Forgive those who annoy us, be kind to everyone, keep calm, do not apply labels to our spiritual brothers and sisters. Love one another as Jesus loves us, forgiving one another as readily as God forgives us. St Paul mentions that Jesus gave himself up in our place as a fragrant offering. Holy Church reminds us of the fragrance of Christ’s offering in the sacred oil used as Chrism at our Baptism and Confirmation, if we remember shortly before Christ’s Passion, Mary anointed Jesus’ feet before he would walk the journey of our shame on our behalf; so much so the ‘house was filled with the fragrance of oil’ (John 12:3).

Our mission in life is to fill our world with the fragrance of Christ. Be kind, forgive others, put the love Jesus has for us into action. Feed the hungry, visit the sick, look out for those who have to isolate, clothe the naked, provide drinks to those who are thirsty, comfort those who grieve.

The Coronavirus has brought great distress to people all over the world, but it has also brought out many signs of Christ’s love. There are unsung heroes everywhere, people who have protected the most vulnerable in our society, maybe by doing what others see as simple things like going shopping; but to those who are afraid to go out because of genuine fear for their health; they provide a lifeline. As I said at the beginning, I am one of the lucky ones, I had to self-isolate and I had negative test results. I also had offers of help from a few people, which thankfully I didn’t need to take up. My short spell of self-isolation was a reminder for me that this crisis in our world is not over. There are many people who need help in the world, as Christians we are obliged to help wherever help is needed, we cannot turn a blind eye to this, we will be judged on how we respond, we will be judged on how we love.

The sustenance we receive in the Eucharist provides us with the spiritual energy to take God’s love out into the world, if you like, taking the fragrance of Jesus into a world that is suffering. “Taste and see that the Lord is good. He is happy who takes refuge in him.” (Psalm 34: 8-9).

Further Reading

Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC)1

CCC 1341-1344: “Do this in memory of me”
CCC 1384-1390: take and eat: Communion

Please keep in your prayers

  • Juan and Keeva who are being baptised this weekend, that their parents and godparents will be good teachers of the faith and excellent role models for their lives.
  • 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 Catechism of the Catholic Church – IntraText (vatican.va)

Deacon Tony reflects: look for what truly satisfies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Further Reading

Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC)

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

The Eucharist Our Sanctification – Raniero Cantalamessa

Please keep in your prayers

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

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

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

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

Deacon Tony reflects: What we receive, we share

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please keep in your prayers

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

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

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

Deacon Tony reflects: sheep of the flock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please keep in your prayers

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

Deacon Tony reflects: God equips the called

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

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

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

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

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

Please keep in your prayers

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