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: 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)

Deacon Tony reflects: Judge not

In recent years we have become familiar with the expression ‘Fake News’, it was a theme picked up by the former President of the United States; which he used for News articles which he disagreed with. For me though, it highlights that we need to be careful which source of news we trust. The internet is full of items which can gather momentum and have people believe they are true; but which have no link with actual facts. As I said a few weeks ago, no matter how many times a lie is told, it is still a lie and no matter how uncomfortable the truth is it is still the truth.

The reading we hear this Sunday from the Book of Ecclesiasticus tells us that what a man speaks betrays his true nature and that trees are judged by the quality of the fruit. This indicates the importance of speaking truthfully. Likewise in the Gospel Jesus speaks about good fruit coming from good trees; this is an image used frequently in the Bible to illustrate what lies in a good person’s heart.

In a continuation from the Gospel we heard last week, Jesus uses the parable of the splinter and the plank as he tells us not to judge. This parable is basically telling us to look to our own faults first before we start to tell others what their faults are. Jesus is saying that we can all be so busy looking at other people’s faults that we fail to see the tensions we cause by the issues we have ourselves. Our failure to see our own faults hampers our ability to be empathetic towards others and removes our ability to be compassionate as we are unable to share in their pain.

This week most of the world are feeling compassion for Ukraine; many fine words have been spoken by political leaders around the world. Many world landmarks have been lit up with the colours of the Ukrainian flag. The Holy Father has said

I invite everyone to make next March 2, Ash Wednesday, a day of fasting for peace. I encourage believers in a special way to devote themselves intensely to prayer and fasting on that day. May the Queen of Peace preserve the world from the madness of war.”1

By joining in this special day, we are showing solidarity for the people of Ukraine; and also the people of Russia; who do not want to be at war with people they have close links with.

I pray Pope Francis’ initiative is successful and that people all around the world join in to send a clear message to every world leader that people do not want or need another war. The people advocating war are like the blind men mentioned in the Gospel leading each other into a pit; a pit of destruction.

When I hear the words of today’s Gospel I am reminded not to judge, which is not easy. We seem to spend our days judging people or at least forming an opinion on them. We compare ourselves with others. I recall a time when I complained about someone’s accent, saying I could hardly understand them. Me! A Scot living in England who has to remember to speak slowly and try to remember to pronounce my words clearly; because I know some people struggle to understand me.

The second reading today is a continuation of St Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians; in the part used today we are reminded that Jesus conquered the grave and shares his victory with us. He encourages us to keep working for Jesus, never to give in. This reminds us that we have an end goal greater than anything any coach can deliver on the sports field, greater than any profit any Corporation can deliver to their shareholders and greater than any victory that can be achieved on a battlefield. Our end goal is to be with Jesus forever and as St Paul says we know “that in the Lord, you can never be labouring in vain.

Further Reading

Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC)2

CCC 2563: the heart is the home of truth
CCC 1755-1756: good acts and evil acts
CCC 1783-1794: forming conscience and decision-making
CCC 2690: spiritual direction
CCC 1009-1013: Christian view of death

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.
  • Oscar and Logan who are being baptised in St Bede’s 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 Ukraine crisis: Pope Francis calls for global day of fasting for peace on Ash Wednesday | Catholic News Agency

2 Catechism of the Catholic Church (vatican.va)

Deacon Tony reflects: Love your enemies

The readings this Sunday challenge us to be compassionate towards others in the same way that we expect compassion to be shown to us when we get things wrong. There is a wonderful example in the first reading from the first book of Samuel, where David and Abishai come across a sleeping Saul; Abishai, who was David’s nephew and one of his trusted lieutenants, claimed God had put Saul under their power and offered to go and slay him. David refused because he feared God and did not want to suffer God’s wrath; this was not the first time David had chosen to spare Saul when others may have made different decisions.

In the second reading St Paul reminds us of Adam; the first man in need of compassion and the first to receive God’s mercy andcompassion. St Paul compares Adam with Jesus; through Adam we are all in need of God’s compassion and mercy. Jesus who is God, has an endless supply of compassion which He uses every day. Jesus emptied himself that day on Calvary and He empties himself everyday forgiving us, as sinners, through the love He has for us He grants us mercy and compassion. St Paul reminds us that Jesus is the perfect example to follow; saying that we who are models of Adam, will be models of Jesus when we forgive.

Mercy and compassion are words which are often used together and at times appear to be interchangeable, but there is a difference. Mercy means being kind or giving a forgiving treatment to someone who could be treated harshly.  The word originated from the Latin merces, meaning “price” or “wages”. Originally, it does not connote equality but disparity. The act is in response to another’s need, such as offering help, forgiveness, or cancelling debts. Whereas compassion is a sympathetic consciousness of other people’s suffering, coupled with the longing to alleviate it. It came from two Latin words, com (with) and pati (to suffer). Literally, it translates to “to suffer with”.1 When we look on others with a heart full of compassion, it can make a real difference to how we respond to that person or situation.

In St Luke’s Gospel we hear Jesus continue to turn man’s thoughts upside down. Last week we heard how blessed the poor, the hungry and the persecuted are. This week Jesus tells us not to hate, but to love our enemies. To treat others as we would want to be treated; not to judge others or we will be judged. He gives examples of lending money to people who you know can pay it back, stating that even sinners do that. Jesus is telling us to be generous, as our Father in heaven is generous; all that we have we have received through Him. With Jesus going on to say that we must lend without any expectation of receiving anything back. This is not our obvious default.

But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you Bible text from Luke 6:27, the Bible. Visual effects to emphasize the message. Macro

When I think of this reading, I have to ask myself who do I see as enemies? I have never been a soldier, so have never been to war; therefore, I have never been in the position of David sparing someone’s life. But I have been in the position to potentially save other’s lives and not always taken them. I do not stop at every homeless person on the street to ask how they are; I justify to myself that I can’t help everyone; that perhaps someone else will help them. But is this just an excuse? What motivates me or prompts me to stop at some and not with others? I need to look at that and pray about it. Who else would I perhaps see as enemies? Is it the fans of opposing teams to the football team I follow? I have relatives and friends who support them; I definitely don’t see them as enemies, but what about the others?

Jesus tells us not to judge; who do I judge? I have no right to judge anyone as I have plenty of my own faults to focus on and address if I truly want to walk in the light. I believe these are questions we all need to ask ourselves. Who do I see as my enemy? Who do I judge? Where in my life do I need to show more compassion?

As our psalm says today, “The Lord is compassion and love, slow to anger and rich in mercy”. Who makes us feel angry when we see them? Is this an indication of where we should be applying mercy?

This is a time when many families are finding it tough to pay for everyday items and keep their homes warm. As we approach the season of Lent, as Christians we will be looking for things to do as penance. Perhaps based on the readings from today we could ask ourselves where in my community can I show the compassion and mercy of Jesus? Where do I see a need? In what way(s) does this move me out of my comfort zone? What can I do to help and what am I prepared to do?

Further Reading

Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC)2

CCC 210-211: God of mercy
CCC 1825, 1935, 1968, 2303, 2647, 2842-2845: forgiveness of enemies
CCC 359, 504: Christ as the New Adam

The Difference Between Mercy and Compassion (catholicfaithstore.com)

Please keep in your prayers

  • Anyone who could be considered to be your enemy.
  • 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.
  • The families due to complete the Baptism Preparation Course this weekend in 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.

1 The Difference Between Mercy and Compassion (catholicfaithstore.com)

2 Catechism of the Catholic Church (vatican.va)

Deacon Tony reflects: Living a blessed life

The scripture readings used this week speak of contrasts in terms of our relationship with God. Jeremiah firstly looks at the man who trusts in earthly things and his description is of a man living in a desert; unable to see good in things distanced from the Lord. The contrast here is with a man who has put his trust in the Lord; who finds that he is blessed; never fearing for his needs and lives a fruitful life.

The psalm emphasises this trust, as it announces how happy are those who put their trust in the Lord.

St Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians also has contrast; although it may be harder to notice. St Paul is rebuking a claim that there is no resurrection; arguing that Christ the resurrected Messiah has opened the gates of heaven for all who believe and saying that if this was not true then we, as believers, have become the most unfortunate people.

The words of Jesus in St Luke’s Gospel assure us that we are not unfortunate; we are blessed. The message Jesus preaches is counter cultural; he lists the types of people that society would say, even today, are the most unfortunate of people – the poor, the hungry, those who grieve, those who are persecuted because of their belief in Jesus. Jesus turns this around; he tells everyone that these people are blessed.

So, why are they blessed? Being poor, being hungry and I am sure being persecuted would not feel like a blessing. The answer is quite simple; these are the people who will more readily put their trust in God. They cannot rely on themselves to provide; they need to rely on God and Jesus is telling us that when we trust fully in His Father then He will provide. He tells the poor that theirs is the kingdom of heaven. He tells the hungry they will be satisfied and those who are persecuted for their belief in Jesus will have great reward in heaven.

Poor is not just about financial matters. We have seen many examples of the poor in recent months those who had to die alone because of Covid restrictions, their families who could not comfort them, the doctors, nurses, health and social care staff who tried to help them; think of the things these people have had to endure and the memories they have been left with. All of these people put into context a contemporary view of ‘the poor’.

Hunger is not just about a lack of food either, those with a desire to learn, those with a desire to progress in their career, those with a desire to have decent accommodation for their family or find a country of safety to live also hunger for their needs or desires.

In Luke’s Gospel there is also a message for those who have it good in this life; the rich, those who eat well and those who laugh now. He uses the word ‘alas’, these people are the same as those in Jeremiah’s reading who rely on things of the flesh; they are like the dry scrub; blinded to what is important. Their priorities are themselves to the exclusion of those in need.

Jesus is not saying it is wrong to be wealthy, what He is saying is that it is wrong to be wealthy and not look out for those in need. True wealth is not found in earthly riches, true wealth is found when we live a life of trust in God. Loving God and loving our neighbour.

In my faith journey I have been very blessed to have been accompanied by several gifted people who have shown love to me and my family in many ways. The times when I have been poor because of my distance from God; those who have accompanied me helped bring me back into the fold. The times when I have been hungry to learn more; they suggested reading material or gave me their time, listening to me or suggesting talks to attend, guiding me and loving me as Jesus does.

I have had a very blessed life. I have a wonderful wife and a loving family. I have been fortunate always to have had a job and have been supported by my employer with education and been reasonably successful in developing my career. I can count many successes in the workplace. But I actually get more of a buzz when I see people I have supervised or managed do well, than I have ever had for any of my own promotions. I have learned from others who invested their time in helping me to develop and I now try to do the same with those who are at the earlier stage of their careers.

Life is not about getting ‘to the top’ at everyone else’s expense. Life is about supporting those around you to reach their full potential. Life is about supporting people in need so that when we see or hear about people who are hungry; they will be blessed because we care enough to do something about feeding them. When we see or hear about people who are poor; they will be blessed because we care enough to do something to help them. When people mourn; they will be blessed because we care enough to do something to comfort them and when we see people being persecuted for any reason, but especially for standing up for their faith; they will be blessed because we do not let them stand alone.

Our alas, is when we decide to do nothing. Alas for us then, because we will be treated the same as the false prophets Jesus mentioned in the Gospel.

Further Reading

Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC)1

CCC 1820: Christian hope begins in the giving of the Beatitudes
CCC 2544-2547: poverty of heart; the Lord grieves over the rich
CCC 655, 989-991, 1002-1003: hope in the Resurrection

Please keep in your prayers

  • The poor, the hungry and those who are persecuted for loving Jesus.
  • The rich, those who have had their fill and those who mock others, that they will have a change of heart.
  • 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.
  • The families due to start the Baptism Preparation Course this weekend in 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.
  • Those fighting racial injustice in our society.

1 Catechism of the Catholic Church (vatican.va)

Deacon Tony reflects: Here I am, send me

This weekend we have three examples of people who did not see themselves as being worthy; being called, being forgiven and responding to the call.

Isaiah in the first reading has a vision, he sees God on his throne surrounded by angels. He hears the call but acknowledges his faults stating he has unclean lips. The angel of the Lord purifies his lips with a hot coal; Isaiah accepts God’s forgiveness and replies to the call saying, “Here I am, send me.”

St Paul in the second reading reminds his readers that Jesus died to free us from our sins and recalls who Christ appeared to following His Resurrection stating he was the last and least worthy of the apostles as he had persecuted the Church. He goes on to say that it was only through the grace he received from Christ that he had been permitted to go on and bear fruit as an apostle. We the Christians with non-Jewish heritage are witnesses to how fruitful his work has been.

Finally in our Gospel we have Simon Peter, who answered his call from Jesus with the words “Leave me Lord, I am a sinful man.” Jesus made no reference to Peter’s sins, but said “Do not be afraid, from now on it is men you will catch.” In this story which took place beside a lake, we see Jesus take his Mission out of the synagogues and into the fields, the lakes and the hills. Jesus would speak to people wherever they gathered, giving us an example to follow.

Jesus saw past the sins of Peter and Paul. God saw past the failings of Isaiah. God sees past our sins. He sees who we really are. There is a Christian song which I am very fond of by Natalie Grant called ‘The Real Me’. It describes how God can see deep inside us, and see beyond the things we have done; our unworthiness; the same unworthiness mentioned by Isaiah, Paul and Simon Peter. To quote from the song “But you see the real me, hiding in my skin, broken from within, unveil me completely, I’m loosening my grasp, there’s no need to mask my frailty, ‘cause you see the real me.”1

The readings this week demonstrate we do not have to be perfect to follow Jesus; we just need to respond to the call; acknowledge that Jesus can already see the real me and He still wants us, He still loves us. How amazing is that?

This was something which I struggled with for a long time. God still wants me, even though He knows how many times I have gotten things so wrong in my life.

As Catholics we have the beautiful Sacrament of Reconciliation to help reconcile our relationship with God and our neighbour. I was heartened recently when I heard from a friend that he had returned to the Church and that when he approached the priest, he was so helpful and gave him time to talk over whatever it was he wanted to discuss. My friend told me this in a pub, with others listening; at least three of the others listening are lapsed Catholics. I found it uplifting that my friend had returned, that he was able to report a positive experience and by the courage of his witness. I pray for my other friends that they will also have the courage to come home and that the welcome they receive will be as positive.

As our scripture readings today demonstrate, God does not call perfect people because only God is perfect. God calls people who have flaws. We can pray for the grace to accept or change them and in doing so, we can help lead other people to God. But first, we have to respond, we have to accept the invitation to get to know Jesus better. God does not dictate to us; He always gives us a choice. Our call may not be as dramatic as the calls we have heard about in the scriptures today. His call is gentle, but persistent. God hopes our reply will be like Isaiah’s reply “Here I am, send me.”

Further Reading

Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC)2

CCC 520, 618, 923, 1618, 1642, 2053: all are called to follow Christ
CCC 2144, 2732: awe in God’s presence versus presumption
CCC 631-644: the Apostles as witnesses of the Resurrection

Please keep in your prayers

  • 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.
  • For Kamsi who is being baptised this weekend in 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.
  • Victims of human trafficking.
  • As we approach the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, we remember all those who are sick and all those preparing for a pilgrimage to Lourdes.

1 Natalie Grant – The Real Me – Bing video

2 Catechism of the Catholic Church (vatican.va)

Deacon Tony reflects: walk by on the other side?

As this month of January draws to a close, we have been asked in the secular world to remember two examples of human nature which happened in the last century.  In America they celebrated Martin Luther King Day, commemorating that great Civil Rights campaigner whose actions and eventual martyrdom contributed towards a greater awareness for people around the world that we are all part of the Human Race.  He was killed because there were some who could not accept that truth.

We also have had in the past week, Holocaust Memorial Day, when the world marked the anniversary of Auschwitz being freed towards the end of the 2nd World War.  The people slaughtered in Auschwitz and the other camps had been targeted because of hatred of people who were different.  This saw millions of people being bundled out of the towns they lived in by their neighbours and Government officials and sent off to death camps to either be killed or used as slave labour to support the people who persecuted them.

In our Gospel today we have Jesus preaching the truth, the listeners were very happy when they heard parts of the message they agreed with; winning their approval however, the people in the synagogue did not appreciate the truth relating to a prophet in his own town; they were enraged and hustled him out of the town intending to do him harm.

Contrast this with the message of love we hear from St Paul in today’s second reading.  This reading which is often used at weddings to highlight the love of the couple pledging their lives to one another.  The Greek word used for love in the context St Paul was using was ‘agape’. Agape is a type of love which means a giving of oneself, putting the other before oneself.  Agape is totally ‘other centred’. Therefore, it’s use in matrimony is warranted, because in Marriage we should put our spouse’s needs before our own.  But St Paul is also telling us that as Christians we should apply that type of love to our neighbour.

The examples used in St Paul’s reading could form a comprehensive list for when we go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and need to examine our conscience.  When was I not patient?  Who am I jealous of? That time when I was boastful? Who do I need to ask forgiveness of because I was conceited, rude or arrogant towards them?  When did I feel superior because I judged I was better than others?  When did I take pleasure in other people sinning?  Did I commend anyone for standing up to the truth?  Did I forgive those who sinned against me?  Do I trust, do I inspire hope in others to accept God’s will?  All of these questions used as an examination of conscience can help us to improve our relationship with Jesus and our neighbour.  We could use them at the end of the day or as I said in preparation for the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

If everyone could read St Paul’s words properly and understand them, then racial hatred would have ended a long time ago.  If the people in 1930’s Germany had read these words and understood them then the 2nd World War may never have happened; and the millions of people slaughtered could have been saved.  If we ignore hatred, if we ignore lies and propaganda then it can have a snowball effect.  What ‘is none of my business’ today will come knocking at our door tomorrow.  As Christians we have a duty to love our neighbour; we cannot walk on the other side of the road when people are suffering.

The prophet Jeremiah indicates that those who stand up for what is right will be rewarded.  God will protect those who stand up for what is right as he says ‘They will fight against you, but shall not overcome you, for I am with you to deliver you – it is the Lord who speaks.’

As we live here in North Hampshire in 2022, what are the things going on which are ‘none of my business’ at the moment?  Who is being persecuted in our country at the moment?  Who is ‘the injured Samaritan lying by the roadside’ elsewhere in the world at the moment?  Is it the refugees still trying to get into the UK?  Is it the people struggling to decide whether to heat their homes or feed their families?  Is it the other countries struggling to roll out a vaccine programme or feed their people?

If we stand back or walk on the other side of the road while our neighbour needs us, then we will be judged for our lack of action.  As we say in the prayer during the Penitential Act when we confess the things we have done and the things we have failed to do?  How often when we are requested to contact our MP about an injustice or a Bill which is contrary to Christian teaching do we make the time to do it? In other words, putting our faith into action.

No matter how many times a lie is told, it is still a lie.  No matter how irritated or angry someone gets about the truth it is still the truth.  The people in the synagogue that day when Jesus spoke were irritated by the truth.  As Christians we are called to share the truth, deny the lies that satan sews in the hearts of people.  We are all called to search our hearts and our minds and decide what are the things I am failing to do today?  Do I do enough to help the downtrodden?  Do I do enough to help the environment? Do I do enough for others to recognise I am a Christian?  

Our response to this is key to building up God’s Kingdom, as the words addressed by God to Jeremiah in the first reading today apply to us too; “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you came to birth I consecrated you; I have appointed you…so now brace yourself for action.”

Further Reading

Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC)

CCC 436, 1241, 1546: Christ as prophet
CCC 904-907: our participation in Christ’s prophetic office
CCC 103-104: faith, the beginning of eternal life
CCC 1822-1829: charity
CCC 772-773, 953: communion in the Church
CCC 314, 1023, 2519: those in heaven behold God face to face

Please keep in your prayers

  • 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. 
  • All those working for Christian unity.
  • For Persephone, Luca and Emilio who are being baptised this weekend in Holy Ghost Parish.
  • Those preparing for and attending the Big Picture sessions on Mondays.
  • Those attending the RCIA course at St Bede’s on Wednesdays.
  • Those preparing for and attending the Confirmation classes in St Bede’s next Friday.

Deacon Tony: Be inspired by the Word of God

In today’s Gospel we hear how the Gospel of St Luke starts with a message to Theophilus and we may wonder who Theophilus was. From what I can find there is no certainty over who he was, but his name does mean ‘friend of God,’1 so in that respect and in reality, St Luke is writing to us all, as we are all friends of God.

We hear in the passage from Luke’s Gospel that Jesus returned to a familiar place and stood up to read in the synagogue on the sabbath day and read from Isaiah; the words very familiar to us even in this day, tell of a time of great joy, when the poor will be fed, the captives freed the downtrodden free, the blind will see and the year will be declared as a year of favour by the Lord. Jesus rolled up the scroll and said ‘this text is being fulfilled today even as you listen.’

This message is the same message being preached in every Christian Church. We have been given the Spirit of the Lord; we were given it in our baptism; and we continue to have the Holy Spirit to guide us, inspire us and bless us. The freedom we are being offered is not a freedom from prison, but a freedom from sin. The blind being helped to see, is not a physical reopening of their eyes, but a spiritual ability to see the beauty of the Lord in the scriptures they can hear. When Jesus says, ‘these words are being fulfilled today even as you listen’, he was not talking just about back then, He is talking about today.

The New Covenant sealed with His blood on the Cross fulfils these words forever, and we have received His Holy Spirit and been anointed by Him at our Baptism and Confirmation.

We are in the middle of the octave of prayer for Christian Unity, the letter used from St Paul’s 1st letter to the Corinthians sums up perfectly why we need to pray for Christian Unity. We are all part of the same body; we cannot fulfil the part of another. We all have our own role to play and we must all be together; all people forming part of the Body of Christ.

Pope Francis’ Apostolic Letter, Motu proprio “Aperuit illis”2, published on 30 September 2019; the feast of St Jerome, establishes that “the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time is to be devoted to the celebration, study and dissemination of the Word of God”. Aperuit illis, means He opened their minds. We see in our first reading this week the effect on the people of God when their minds were opened to the Word of God and how reverently they listened; lying prostrate, becoming emotional as the words were read out to them and the meaning explained.

How often are we deeply touched by what we hear? What impact have those times had on us and our faith? The context behind this public reading and show of emotion is the return from exile in Babylon. God’s Chosen people finally being able to listen to God’s Word in the homeland which they had longed to return to. When they had heard the Word of God they were encouraged to celebrate and be filled with joy as this day is sacred.

This celebration of the Word of God, which Pope Francis has initiated reminds us that we need to listen attentively to the Word of God, and that we need to study scriptures to gain a full appreciation of the beauty of the words and that Scripture is a love letter from God to us. All of Holy Scripture has been inspired by God to help us to get to know Him and to love Him. The deeper we delve into His words the deeper our love for Him becomes.

This is a good day to take the opportunity to thank those who put the time and effort into reading at our Masses and to thank those who have completed their Diocesan Recognitio course for Readers. This was held recently and many of our Readers invested their time to help them to serve us in our community and in doing so, they enhance our Liturgy. If you are interested in this, please keep an eye on the Diocesan website or subscribe to the e-news for details of any future sessions.

Every Sunday is made for the Lord. In recent times we have been denied the opportunity to attend Mass in person; thank God we are now allowed to be together again. We can gather as a community to listen to the Word of God, we can share from the feast of His Eucharistic Table, with the added benefit that we can now catch up with one another after Mass. This day was made by the Lord; we rejoice and are glad.

Further Reading

Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC)3

CCC 714: Old Testament expectation of the Messiah and the Spirit
CCC 1965-1974: new Law and Gospel
CCC 106, 108, 515: God inspires human authors of Scripture, and readers
CCC 787-795: the Church as the Body of Christ

Please keep in your prayers

  • 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.
  • All those working for Christian unity.
  • For Edward who is being baptised at St Bede’s on Sunday 23rd January.
  • Those preparing for and attending the Big Picture sessions on Mondays.
  • Those attending the RCIA course at St Bede’s on Wednesdays.
  • The repose of the soul of Fr Roger Hendry; former Parish Priest at St Michael’s in Tadley, whose anniversary is at this time.

1 Who is Theophilus in the Bible books of Luke and Acts? | Bibleinfo.com

2 Apostolic Letter in the form of Motu Proprio of the Supreme Pontiff Francis “Aperuit illis” (30 September 2019) | Francis (vatican.va)

3 Catechism of the Catholic Church (vatican.va)