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)

Deacon Tony reflects: Do whatever he tells you

Sometimes we are so familiar with Bible passages that when we hear or read them again we can be unaffected. Not quite a case of familiarity breeding contempt, more being so familiar with a particular text that we do not allow the beauty or the power of the message to touch us properly.

There is so much in today’s Scripture reading that we need to be really careful not to miss the message. In his Gospel, St John tells us about the first of the signs given by Jesus. It appears from the text that Jesus was a little bit reluctant initially to give this first sign. This is not the case. Jesus was always going to give this first sign at the wedding in Cana; Jesus knew what His Mission was and nothing happened by chance.

When Mary said to Jesus, ‘they have no wine’ we see here the first intervention or what we would now call, intercession on others’ behalf. This has given us all this gift. We ask Our Lady to intercede on our behalf. Her role is to bring us closer to her Son and requires us to do what he tells us to do’. The crucial part for us here are the words spoken by Our Lady, when she told the servants “Do whatever He tells you”. This is a message for us too, as followers of Jesus we are called to do whatever He tells us; the key message being to love God and love our neighbour.

Next notice how Jesus helped the newlyweds; they were heading for great shame and embarrassment if the wine for the feast ran out too soon. Their names would be mentioned throughout the region; as the couple who failed to provide sufficiently at their wedding; but we do not know their names, because Jesus spared their blushes. If we go by the minimum quantity for the jars, Jesus changed at least 120 gallons of water into wine, that must have been some party. This demonstrates the abundance of love and grace which Jesus bestows upon those who are his friends.

We are also told that the wine provided by Jesus was the best wine, indicating the gifts supplied by Jesus will always be better than what we already have. Jesus allowed his glory to be seen and his disciples believed in him. This was a key element of the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, by allowing his glory to be seen the newly adopted disciples believed in him and were more likely to follow him; not because he provided an abundance of wine, but because the sign he gave could only be given by someone with immense power; someone close to God or as we now profess someone who is God.

Traditionally at weddings people provide gifts for the newlyweds as they give themselves completely to one another. In the passage we hear from St Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians we hear about the gifts of the Spirit and how varied they can be. Gifts given by the Holy Spirit need to be used to glorify God, they are never to be kept for oneself. The Catechism tells us that “charisms are oriented toward sanctifying grace and are intended for the common good of the Church. They are at the service of charity which builds up the Church.” (CCC 2003). As St Paul says, the Holy Spirit “distributes different gifts to different people just as he chooses” (1Cor 12:11). We cannot choose which gifts we are given by the Spirit, but we are compelled to use these gifts to build up the Church.

This weekend the Church in England and Wales, are asked to pray for Peace in our world. Peace starts in our homes. We have recently had feasts which have focussed on the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, they are a model for all families, and our Baptism joins us as their extended family. Regardless of where we were born or where our parents were born, we are all part of the same family, a family made in the image and likeness of God. This includes those with the same Faith as us, those of other Faiths or traditions and those with no Faith.

The Church calls for us to pray for peace in the world. Pope Francis is asking us to focus on education, what can we learn from the different generations around us about peace? Every generation’s experience is different. The Pandemic has demonstrated that we really need to look out for each other; unless everyone is protected then no-one is fully protected. In a sense it is the same with peace, unless everyone can live in peace then the peace for everyone is at risk. We all share a small planet; what happens in one part can significantly affect every other part.

So, I will finish by asking, are you at peace today? If not, what is disturbing your peace? What do you need to do to restore peace in your heart and in your life?

Further Reading

Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC)1

CCC 528: at Cana, Christ shows himself to be Messiah, Son of God, Saviour
CCC 796: the Church as Bride of Christ
CCC 1612-1617: marriage in the Lord
CCC 2618: Mary’s intercession at Cana
CCC 799-801, 951, 2003: charisms at the service of the Church

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 peace in our communities.
  • For Edward who is being baptised at St Bede’s on Saturday 15th January.
  • The parents and godparents attending the Baptism Preparation Course on Sunday.
  • Those preparing for and attending the Big Picture sessions on Mondays.

1 Catechism of the Catholic Church (vatican.va)

Deacon Tony reflects: God visiting his people

The Visitation is a pivotal moment in the history of our Salvation. It is the first time another human being acknowledges the presence of God become Man. That recognition is made by a baby still in his mother’s womb. In the Catechism it tells us “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.” John was “filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb” by Christ himself, whom the Virgin Mary had just conceived by the Holy Spirit. Mary’s visitation to Elizabeth thus became a visit from God to his people.” (CCC 717). The Visitation by Our Lady to Elizabeth was not just two cousins meeting to support each other during pregnancy; this was God visiting His people.

The Letter to the Hebrews reminds us that Christ obeyed the will of His Father, and He did this from the moment of conception. This links well with the Gospel as we acknowledge Mary, Elizabeth and John the Baptist as three key people who ‘carry out the will of God, each as part of the eternal plan for salvation.’1 We as, Christians are all called to fulfil a role in Salvation History; some of us have a minor role to play others more prominent, but we all have a role. Regardless of how we view our part, it is crucial for God’s plan. Each of us are called to respond, ‘Here I am Lord, I come to do your will.’

As we enter the last week of Advent, we still have time to prepare. How is our prayer life? How much time are we able to spend contemplating the Lord or reading Sacred Scriptures? How close is our relationship with Jesus as we get ready to remember His birth? I know that I need to try harder to use the time left before Christmas to get closer to Jesus; to contemplate what this Child coming into the world means for me.

The prophet Micah gave an indication of how God would turn the ideas of men upside down. ‘Bethlehem, the least of the clans of Judah, out of you will be born for me the one who is to rule over Israel.’ Whilst men may have expected a great warrior to come and overthrow the occupiers of Israel; God did things His way. Elevating a town which was the least to becoming a place which more than 2000 years on, is still central to our tradition and faith. A lowly child, born to a mother who was conceived before she was married, who would then have to flee for his life and live in exile. This child was to save the world; not just in the days of old, but for all eternity.

I am indebted to Sister Monica Adigwe for a reflection she provided which highlighted a new perspective for me. She observes that this visit is also the start of another form of Evangelisation, which may have gone unnoticed in terms of turning things upside down. This is a quiet, gentler form of Evangelisation. In Luke’s Gospel we hear of several forms of prophesy usually within the temple; for example, Zechariah following the naming of John, when his tongue was loosened (Lk 1:68-79), Simeon’s prophecy when he meets the baby Jesus (Lk 2:34-35) and Anna who never left the temple when she encountered Jesus at the same time as Simeon (Lk 2:38). All of these prophecies happened in the temple.

The Visitation was the start of Evangelisation at home. Something which Luke picks up again in his later works when at Pentecost the Apostles are gathered in the upper room of a private household (Acts :12 – 2:4); the conversion of the Gentiles was started in the household of Cornelius (Acts 10) and when Paul takes the faith to Europe for the first time the people met in Lydia’s household (Acts 16: 14-16). The visit of Mary to Elizabeth in Zechariah’s home, “have set in motion an irresistible chain of events, a firm paradigm of the proclamation of the word in the early church, which finds its matrix in the home.”2

How do we Evangelise in our homes today? When we have visitors, how would they know we are Christians? Am I happy with my response? These are questions we need to ask ourselves as we get ready to celebrate the Birth of Our Saviour. The Church has had many great prophets throughout the centuries, who made their voices heard in Churches, Cathedrals and on the world stage; but most of these would have initially heard about God or the seeds would have been sown by a voice at home or maybe in someone else’s home.

Everyone of us can make a difference, we might never know how we made a difference. However, we can be certain that the Holy Spirit will use each and every one of us to ‘water the seeds of faith’ which others may have sown. By sharing the love we have for Jesus in our homes, allowing people to feel comfortable, sharing God’s love by our actions we can help His Church grow; and continue the momentum started when a young pregnant girl visited her older cousin to share good news and support one another.

Further Reading

The Visitation: Mary Visits Elizabeth (catholicexchange.com)

Feast of the Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth — Passionist Nuns

Reflection on the Visitation of Mary | Society of the Holy Child Jesus (shcj.org)

Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC)3

CCC 148, 495, 717, 2676: the Visitation
CCC 462, 606-607, 2568, 2824: the Son becomes incarnate to do the Father’s will

Please keep in your prayers

  • Those who are pregnant and those struggling to conceive, may God bless them with successful pregnancies; with healthy mothers and healthy babies.
  • 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 struggling financially; that they get the help they need and that they are careful when deciding how much to spend this Christmas. May they not be too proud to ask for the help which is available for them.
  • Grateful thanks for all those who support the vulnerable in our communities.

1 Robert Draper, Breaking the Word Sundays – Pastoral Review Vol 17 Issue 4, (The Tablet Publishing Company, Twickenham, 2021)82.

2 Monica Adigwe SHCJ, Reflection on the Visitation of Mary, available from Reflection on the Visitation of Mary | Society of the Holy Child Jesus (shcj.org) accessed 18th December 2021

3 Catechism of the Catholic Church (vatican.va)

Deacon Tony reflects: Indeed, the Lord is near

Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice. Indeed, the Lord is near.

Ph 4:4-5

These words from their Latin source give today the name Gaudete Sunday. We are halfway through Advent, and the tone of the readings has changed slightly. If the priest is minded to, he can wear rose coloured vestments, a more joyful colour than the purple reserved for most of the rest of Advent.

Our first reading is upbeat, with the prophet Zephaniah exclaiming joy and urging everyone to celebrate. Why does he want everyone to be so happy? God has repealed their sentence and has driven their enemies away. God the mighty King of Israel is in their midst, they need fear evil anymore. He will exult with joy over you He will renew you by his love, God will dance with joy for us, such is his great love for us. What an image this conjures up; God being so delighted with us that He dances with joy.

The psalm this week is taken from the prophet Isaiah and the joy continues – we are called to sing and shout for joy because great in our midst is the Holy One of Israel. As Catholics we should be singing, shouting and dancing all the time because we have in our midst the Holy One of Israel. Christ left us His permanent Presence in the Eucharist, Jesus Present at every Mass, in every tabernacle. Rejoice and again I say rejoice!

St Paul continues the joyful theme when he tells the Philippians that he desires for them to be happy. He calls for them to be tolerant and content with their lot, not to envy their brother, if they have needs then pray to God; offer God prayer and thanksgiving. How have we prayed and offered thanksgiving to God this week? Has it been an easy week to be thankful?

Normally I see the Old Testament pointing towards what happens in the New Testament, but in today’s Gospel from St Luke we have advice from John the Baptist on how we can get to see the joy which Zephaniah was prophesying. If we can share whatever we have in surplus with those who have needs, then God will rejoice. Those spare coats we have, the spare cash we have, the spare time we have, we are called to use these gifts; which after all came from God in the first place; to serve God by loving our brothers and sisters.

This is challenging, and rightly so. Prophets come to disturb. John the Baptist’s voice cries out to us from 2,000 years ago do you really need a coat that matches your outfit when your brother or your sister is cold on the street? This is why the initiative Coats4Calais (advertised in the newsletter over the past few weeks) is so valuable, the people who initiated this are answering the call of the Gospel.

Our readings allow us to pause our Advent preparations for a moment, but there is also a reminder that when Jesus comes again, He will come to judge. We all need to ask ourselves, the same question the people asked John the Baptist – “What must we do?” Everyone of us will have a different answer when we ask ourselves that question. The focus on Advent is a reminder that we need to be ready when the Lord comes again. So, our response to that original question must not be to wait until tomorrow, we are called to respond today, because tomorrow is not guaranteed for any of us.

The UK seems to be going through a hard time again, with the rise of another variant of the Coronavirus. The Government have asked us to follow another set of rules and as Communities we have to review our risk assessments again to keep everyone safe who comes to church. Following the recent revelations of some in Government not following the rules, we could adopt an attitude of saying ‘they don’t stick to the rules, so why should we?’ This will not help. The rules are there to protect the vulnerable who live and work and worship among us. If we deliberately choose to break the rules as a political response, or out of anger, we do not harm the politicians; we harm the vulnerable and we harm those working so hard in the NHS to protect us.

As Christians we are called to help the vulnerable, those in need and to support others who help them. By following the rules; despite our personal or political opinions; we can live out our Christian duty of loving our neighbour.

Further Reading

Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC)1

CCC 30, 163, 301, 736, 1829, 1832, 2015, 2362: joy
CCC 523-524, 535: John prepares the way for the Messiah
CCC 430-435: Jesus the Saviour

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.
  • The three families who will have their children baptised in Holy Ghost Parish this weekend.
  • Those struggling financially, that they get the help they need and that they are careful when deciding how much to spend this Christmas.

1 Catechism of the Catholic Church (vatican.va)

Deacon Tony reflects: Prepare the way

We have just finished the month of November when we have remembered our deceased loved ones in prayer, in thought and in some cases in action, by visiting where they rest and perhaps having their grave blessed. This time of remembrance; which we celebrate each year; is an important step before we enter into Advent.

Advent is a time when we prepare for the coming of the Lord. In the secular world the preparations are mostly around preparing for a holiday, with the gathering of friends and family, buying of presents, a large meal, usually with alcohol and lots of merriment. We as Christians know that our preparations have to be far more than the merriment, we realise that we also need to prepare for when Christ returns, and we will face judgement.

The readings today give us a glimpse of this’ in Baruch we are told to ‘take off your dress of sorrow and distress’; for us this points us away from the sadness we remember in November and elevates our hope that when the Lord comes again we will be glorified as Jesus was glorified.

The ‘cloak of the integrity of God’ which we are to wrap around us reminds us of our Baptism; when we had the white garment signifying the outward sign of our Christian dignity wrapped around us immediately after we had been washed clean by the Baptismal waters. This is a time to be washed clean again, to repent our sins and be prepared for the second coming of Jesus. Baruch goes on to share more prophesies of how God will elevate the Holy City, filled with His Chosen People, where everyone will ‘walk in safety under the Glory of God’.

The part of St Paul’s letter to the Philippians which we hear this week one of encouragement. The Philippians have heard the Good News, they have shared it and they are living it. St Paul urges them to continue to learn, deepening their awareness of God, through this they will ‘reach the perfect goodness which Jesus Christ produces in us for the glory and praise of God’. Think about that for a minute, St Paul is telling us that the more we love each other, the more we will understand God and by doing this then we can reach ‘perfect goodness’.

What do I need to do this week to love my neighbour more?

St Luke’s Gospel lists off the rulers of the various regions and territories, this does not mean that St Luke was a bit of a history buff. This is to give us context and its history; that the Gospel is not just a group of stories like fairy tales told to keep people entertained around the campfire. These events really happened; the Gospel is truth. St John the Baptist, whose own birth was out of the ordinary, preached repentance for the forgiveness of sins. This message from 2000 years ago is as relevant now as it was then. This message is timeless, because Jesus is the creator of time and space.

St Luke reinforces his message by quoting the prophet Isaiah in his description of John the Baptist as a voice that cries from the wilderness.

This message is for us –

Prepare a way for the Lordwhat do I need to do to prepare better this Advent?

Make his paths straightwhat paths have I ventured down which lead me away from the Lord?

Every valley will be filled inwhere are the voids in my life, which only Jesus can fill?

Every mountain and hill will be laid lowwhat parts of my life do I elevate myself, which parts of my life do I need to practice humility?

Winding ways will be straightenedwhich parts of my life do I need to straighten out?

Rough roads made smoothwhat are the rough edges of my life which need to be smoother?

And all mankind shall see the salvation of God – this offer of salvation is for everyone, if we put real effort into our practice of the Faith (including our preparations for Christmas) then we can all be saved.

Please check the Parish Newsletter for details of when Reconciliation is available, there is a Pastoral Area service on the 19th December in St Bede’s, what better time to be reconciled to God and our neighbour?

I am very much encouraged by the Walk with Me booklet, the reading for Saturday 4th December urges us to set aside time for the Lord in our busy-ness. This helps us to remember that the gift of His presence is far more important than any physical gift that we can offer or receive as presents.

Further Reading

Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC)1

CCC 522, 711-716, 722: the prophets and the expectation of the Messiah
CCC 523, 717-720: the mission of John the Baptist
CCC 710: Israel’s exile foreshadowed the Passion
CCC 2532, 2636: Paul’s solicitude

Please keep in your prayers

  • All expectant mothers and those trying to conceive, may they share the same joy Our Lady had when she first saw the Baby Jesus.
  • The health care workers being asked to escalate their efforts again as the pandemic has evolved another variant.
  • 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.

1 Catechism of the Catholic Church (vatican.va)

Deacon Tony reflects: Be holy and blameless

Advent is a time of preparing for the coming of Jesus and the scriptures lead us in those preparations. Today our scripture readings focus not on the first coming of Jesus when He came as a baby being born in a stable in Bethlehem. Today our readings are reminding us, as Christians that He will come again, but this time to judge us. The readings this week are telling us to always be prepared for that day.

There are beautiful words in the excerpt we have from St Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, “May the Lord be generous in increasing your love and make you love one another and the whole human race as much as we love you.” St Paul goes on to hope that those in Thessalonica are found to be ‘holy and blameless’ when Jesus returns to judge them.

This past week has seen men, women and children perish trying to get to our country. These people have been exploited by ruthless traffickers who prey on these vulnerable people without a thought for keeping them safe. They see the people as disposable commodities and will have little or no interest in them once they have paid to get on to the boats which are woefully inadequate for the crossing when the water is still and calm in the summer, never mind attempting the crossing in the winter seas.

I pray for the repose of their souls and for the comfort of their families. But I also pray that we in the western world will look at ways to accommodate the people who seek a place of safety. As Christians we are called to “love one another and the whole human race”. Our Head of State is a Christian, our Prime Minister was married in a Christian Church. As Christians why do we talk about processing these people? Where is the humanity? Where is the compassion? Help us to remember that Jesus, Mary and Joseph were once refugees, fleeing for their lives from a jealous tyrant. May we see the Holy Family in those who seek a place of safety for their families.

As we start our preparations for Christmas this year, we have been told there might be empty shelves in the shops. As Christians may our hearts be overflowing with love for our neighbour so that we are not tempted to overstock our cupboards ‘just in case‘ perhaps leaving little else for others. May we be measured in only buying what we will actually use.

This is a time when we may find ourselves invited out for a Christmas meal with friends or work colleagues, some of these occasions can be quite expensive. When we are being generous with our friends is it possible for us to think about those who are in need at this time of year. Perhaps we could pledge the cost of a drink or the cost of our meal or maybe even the cost of a round of drinks and donate it to charity? This could be a way of loving the whole human race and help us to be in a position to ‘stand with confidence before the Son of Man’ when He comes again.

Further Reading

Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC)1

CCC 668-677, 769: the final tribulation and Christ’s return in glory
CCC 451, 671, 1130, 1403, 2817: “Come, Lord Jesus!”
CCC 439, 496, 559, 2616: Jesus is the Son of David
CCC 207, 210-214, 270, 1062-1063: God is faithful and merciful

Please keep in your prayers

  • The men, women and children who perished in the English Channel this week, their families and friends.
  • Those who are sick, those recovering from surgery, those who are dying, the recently deceased and those who mourn. Especially those who attended the bereavement event at St Bede’s on Saturday.
  • 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 three families who will have their children baptised in Holy Ghost Parish this weekend.
  • The success of the Eco -Tea event being held in St Bede’s Hall this Sunday.

1 Catechism of the Catholic Church (vatican.va)

Deacon Tony reflects: Born for this

Yes, I am a king. I was born for this, I came into the world for this: to bear witness to the truth; and all who are on the side of truth listen to my voice.

These words from the end of today’s Gospel are part of the narrative between Pilate and Jesus, during the ‘trial’ which led to Jesus being sentenced to death. To onlookers Pilate, the ruler of the territory seemingly with the power of life and death; and Jesus a local Rabbi, who had many followers, but had upset the High Priest and other Synagogue officials so much; that their jealousy and spitefulness led them to turn over a fellow Jew to the Roman occupiers in the hope that they would execute him.

Jesus being judged by Pilate. Jesus being sentenced to death. Jesus conquering death by rising from the dead. Jesus now sitting at God’s right hand to judge the living and the dead.

Like many other situations in His life, Jesus turned the normal upside down. Pilate seemingly had the power, totally unaware that Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end; the one like a Son of Man (from the first reading), who is, who was and is to come, Jesus the Almighty. Jesus had the real power, the power of truth.

As we may remember from the Passion of Our Lord, Pilate goes on to ask ‘Truth, what is that?’ If Pilate was unaware of what truth is, he would be unable to listen to the voice of Jesus. If Pilate was unaware of what truth is, he was a most unworthy judge; remembering that in courts we ask witnesses to speak the truth and it is an offence not to speak the truth in a court of law.

Being the Alpha and the Omega, Jesus chooses when and how to let His Majesty show. In the Passion, Jesus had to be the Sacrificial Lamb; unblemished, taking the place of those who have sinned. Jesus could not let His Majesty show at this stage. Jesus had to wait, in obedience, until the Resurrection to let His Majesty show. Jesus sets the example for us. Jesus obeys the Father, we in turn listen to the voice of Jesus (The Word of God) and obey what Jesus tells us.

I was reminded at last week’s session of Metanoia, that not everything we hear about Jesus is comfortable to hear. We were reminded that many followers walked away when they heard about eating His Body and drinking His Blood. We were reminded that Peter took Jesus aside when He mentioned that He had to die. With Jesus rebutting Peter, with “Get behind me Satan” (Mt 16:22-23). But we were also reminded of the words of Our Lady, at the Wedding in Cana, when she told the servants to “Do whatever He tells you” (Jn 2:5). That message is also for us, those words spoken two thousand years ago still ring true today. We are expected to obey, because the one who we listen to is the Truth; and the truth will set us free (Jn 31-33).

This month of November we remember our dead friends and relatives in prayer. This annual remembrance comes at the end of the Church Year and with this feast normally shortened to Christ the King, which if we say it fast is normalised and doesn’t have the same impact of the full name of today’s feast – Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. We pray for our dead with the hope that one day they and we, will enter His Kingdom and live with Him forever. Our God is our Creator, everything we see, touch, smell, taste and hear comes from Him.

Jesus conquered death. He was born for this, He came into the world for this, to bear witness to the truth and all who are on the side of truth listen to His voice.

Further Reading

Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC)1

CCC 440, 446-451, 668-672, 783, 786, 908, 2105, 2628: Christ as Lord and King
CCC 678-679, 1001, 1038-1041: Christ as Judge
CCC 2816-2821: “Thy Kingdom Come”

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.
  • The families completing the latest Baptism Preparation Course this Sunday at St Bede’s Church.

1 Catechism of the Catholic Church (vatican.va)

Deacon Tony reflects: Acts of mercy

The readings used today, as we approach the end of the Church Year, remind us that as humans, one day we will die and that when we die, we will be subject to judgement. They make it clear that no-one; not even the Son; knows when the end day will be, but the Gospel speaks of signs.

Over the past two weeks in my home city of Glasgow, representatives from around the world have been speaking about signs and signals that the earth is in trouble. Last week in Bishop Philip’s Pastoral Letter he said that as Christians we have a moral duty to care for the world as we follow the Creator of the world. Alongside the many environmental activists there have been representatives from Christian Communities speaking out for those whose voices cannot be heard. People coming together to pray for the success of the Conference and that the talk will be backed up by action.

November is a month when we, as Catholics, pray for our dead. Today is also National Remembrance Sunday when we as a Nation remember those who have given their lives in service of our country. We pray for all of these people and pray that they receive a merciful judgement. Mercy is key for us as Christians, mercy is love in action. We pray for mercy every day, without using that word, when we say ‘forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us’. I’d like to share a story I read recently –

In April 1986, two grey haired men greeted each other warmly in Tokyo’s International Airport. Both men had tears in their eye. One man was an American named Ponich; the other was a Japanese named Ishibashi. The last time the two men met was forty years before, as enemies, in a cave in Okinawa. At that time, the American, then Sergeant Ponich, was holding a five year old Japanese boy in his arms. The child had been shot through both legs. Ishibashi was one of two Japanese snipers hiding in a dark corner of the same cave.

Suddenly, Ishibashi and his comrade leaped from their hiding place, aimed their rifles at Ponich, and prepared to fire point blank. There wasn’t a thing Ponich could do. He simply put the five-year-old on the ground, took out his water bottle, and began to tend the child’s wounds. If he had to die, he thought, what better way to die than performing an act of mercy. The two snipers watched in amazement. Then, slowly, they lowered their rifles. Minutes later, Ponich did something Ishibashi never forgot. He took the child in his arms, stood up, bowed in gratitude to the two Japanese, and took the child to an American field hospital.

How did the two men happen to meet again after all those years? In 1985, Ponich wrote a letter to a Tokyo newspaper thanking the Japanese people for the two Japanese soldiers who had spared his life forty years before in that cave in Okinawa. Ishibashi saw the letter and contacted the newspaper who set up the meeting. The meeting was long and affectionate.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy.1

You may be thinking ‘that this is a lovely story, and it is an act of mercy in extreme circumstances, but what does that have to do with me? I’m not going to war.’ But we can be exposed to positions which require us to be merciful every day. When someone has upset us; if someone cuts us up when we are driving; when we see a homeless person on the street; when we hear someone is in hospital; when we hear someone is lonely. All of these require us to make a conscious decision to be merciful or not. Remembering that when we get things wrong, we will look for mercy from those we offend and from God.

When we remember our dead in prayer, it is not something done out of sentiment, it is an act of mercy, praying for their souls to be shown mercy. We in turn hope that when we have died and are awaiting judgement, that others will pray for us. That’s why I think it is always important to remember our loved ones in prayer, but also to remember those who have no-one left to pray for them.

Eternal rest grant unto them O Lord and let perpetual light shine upon them, may they rest in peace. Amen.

Further Reading

Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC)2

CCC 1038-1050: the Last Judgment; hope of a new heaven and a new earth
CCC 613-614, 1365-1367: Christ’s one perfect sacrifice and the Eucharist

Please keep in your prayers

  • COP 26 that the promises made at the Conference in Glasgow will not just be rhetoric but will bring action to protect the most vulnerable parts of our world.
  • Those who are sick, those recovering from surgery, those who are dying, the recently deceased and those who mourn.
  • As we remember those who gave their lives for our country, we pray that there will be peace on this earth so that no other person should be asked to make this ultimate sacrifice.
  • 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 beginning the latest Baptism Preparation Course this Sunday at St Bede’s Church.

1 William J Bausch, A World of Stories for Preachers and Teachers – Old Enemies, (Twenty-Third Publications, Mystic CT, 1998)313

2 Catechism of the Catholic Church (vatican.va)

Deacon Tony reflects: Saints – people of action

Where the entrance antiphon is used this Sunday, the people will say together the following words, “Let us all rejoice in the Lord, as we celebrate the feast day in honour of all the Saints, at whose festival the angels rejoice and praise the Son of God.” Today is a day for honouring and celebrating; we celebrate the saints which have been proclaimed saints; but also those who are known only to God. We thank God for them, and we ask for their intercession, in the hope that one day, we can join them as Saints in Heaven.

So how can we join them? The fact is that we have joined them already as brothers and sisters in Christ. They have completed their journey on earth and have overcome the hurdles life threw at them and succeeded. We have still to overcome the hurdles which form barriers in our lives which keep us from getting closer to God. We are the Church on earth, they are the Church in heaven. One Church serving one God. Our journey requires us to love God and love our neighbour.

Today’s feast emphasises for me more than most, that we have to be people of action. Last Monday, I had the privilege of sitting in on a meeting of the St Vincent de Paul Society in Basingstoke. I listened as I heard how they reach out to people, supporting them on their journey by giving them time; perhaps a phone call or a visit. What they are actually doing is showing people love. They are sharing the love Christ has given them and spreading that love to others who at this moment in time need to feel and experience being loved.

One of the sources I use when putting together my reflections/homilies is a book called “I Am With You”, it provides scriptural reflections aimed primarily at couples, but more often than not they apply to everyone. The reflection for today’s feast was provided by Maurice and Margaret and it is beautiful in its simplicity, they say

Our faithfulness and love for each other will unite us with all the Saints. On this Feast of all the Saints we are reminded that all the acts of kindness, tenderness, help and care that we give to each other and to others, no matter how large or how small, are being sanctified and made holy. Nothing, no matter how small, and no one, no matter how little they think of themselves, is missed or forgotten by God.”

Everything we do to help others, because we belong to Jesus is sanctified by Him; and no-one is forgotten by God. For me this is really encouraging. There are times when I wonder if I am doing the right thing, when I question the value of myself and my actions.

This reminds me that everyone is important to God. This is illustrated wonderfully in the Gospel used today. The translation used suggests the word ‘Happy’, but in other translations the word used is ‘Blessed’. Jesus; in what we now call the Beatitudes; is saying that if you find life tough and still persevere in His love then you will be rewarded in heaven. If you try to help people who are having a tough life, then you will be rewarded in heaven. He is also saying that if people laugh at you, persecute you or tell lies about you because you are a follower of His, then you will have a great reward in heaven.

Jesus wants us to be people of action, Jesus wants us to love, He wants us to be peace makers, He wants us to be merciful, He wants us to be pure in heart.

Where in your life can you sow peace this week?

Where in your life can you show mercy this week?

What do you need to do today to rid yourself of those doubts about other people which are stopping you from helping them?

Jesus speaks loudly in the Gospel; He wants you and He wants me to love. He already loves everyone, regardless of how insignificant they may feel. He wants us to do the same.

Further Reading

I Am With You, Two in One Flesh team (ISBN 978-0957101036)

Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC)2

CC 61, 946-962, 1090, 1137-1139, 1370: the Church, a communion of saints
CCC 956, 2683: the intercession of the saints
CCC 828, 867, 1173, 2030, 2683-2684: the saints, examples of holiness

Please keep in your prayers

  • God’s creation, that mankind will become better stewards of this world which has been entrusted to us by God and that the Conference in Glasgow this week will be a first step to every country recognising and accepting their responsibilities towards protecting the world.
  • Those who are sick, 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.
  • A renewed love of praying the Rosary as we come to the end of the month dedicated to the Rosary.
  • The three children being baptised this weekend in Holy Ghost Parish; Ethan, Uchechukwu and Marleigh; may their parents and Godparents be great role models of a Christian life and may they be raised in loving, Spirit filled homes.
  • The listening stage of the 16th Synod of Bishops which is entitled “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission” that all Catholics will take part.

1 Two in One Flesh, I Am With You – Year B, (Two in One Flesh, Caterham, 2010)154

2 Catechism of the Catholic Church (vatican.va)

Deacon Tony reflects: What do you want me to do for you?

Every week there is a message in the Scriptures, which we can take into everyday life. Last week was about service, the week before was about attachment to possessions, the week before that was about the importance of marriage. Today we are called to listen to those on the periphery. Jesus always worked in the margins, He called sinners and tax collectors, He touched lepers, He spoke with Samaritans; even with Samaritan women; all of which irritated the Authorities, because it was not in tune with their interpretation of the law. Jesus was teaching people to be merciful as He and His Father are merciful.

In a similar way to a few weeks ago; when the disciples tried to stop little children from approaching Jesus; the people tried to silence Bartimaeus. But he would not be silenced. He persisted in crying out to Jesus for pity. His prayer was answered when Jesus stopped and called Bartimaeus towards him. Jesus asked, “What do you want me to do for you?” The reply was “Master, let me see again.”

Contrast this request with the request from James and John which we heard last week. Bartimaeus had his desire met, because it had the correct focus. Bartimaeus demonstrated faith in Jesus by asking to be healed. James and John were looking for personal glory (Mark 10:35-37). Before Bartimaeus was healed he bore witness to Jesus by calling him Master, after he was healed he bore witness to Jesus by following Him.

I read a passage1 from a former prison chaplain; Ron Dale; who regularly put this question to prisoners “What do you want Jesus to do for you?” Their replies ranged from ‘I would like a job when I leave prison’, to ‘I want my family back’ to ‘I want to start a new life free from crime’ he tells us that very rarely did they ask to be pardoned. He went on to say that “the question asked of Bartimaeus is addressed to every person, in or out of prison; and it is a question Jesus persistently asks. Only when we respond in deep honesty, and sometimes painfully, do we find, like Bartimaeus, our deepest needs are met.”

If Jesus was standing in front of you right now and asked, “What do you want me to do for you?” what would you ask for? I honestly don’t know what my request would be. First of all, I would be stunned to be in the presence of God and be asked, but I don’t think I would manage to get a request out from my lips which would make sense. Bartimaeus had his request ready, his eyes were opened, [both physically and metaphorically] and he was able to follow Jesus. I think part of this is that living in the margins focusses the mind. Bartimaeus knew that being blind was what led him to destitution and what kept him there. Like the prisoners mentioned above, their time in the margins has focused their minds on what is important.

I have started reading a book which documents the conversations Pope Francis has had with Austen Ivereigh; who is a Roman Catholic journalist and biographer of Pope Francis; the book is called ‘Let us Dream – The Path to a Better Future’. In this book Pope Francis talks about how the world has been forced to think differently because of Coronavirus. He mentions the doctors, nurses, medical staff, chaplains who gave their lives while caring for others with the virus; calling them ‘the saints next door’ and contrasts this with the individualism and self-obsession which dominates some wealthier societies.

He highlights that many of these wealthier societies have a different virus which is prevalent, it is a virus of indifference, where they are only concerned with things which affect them and have little or not thought for their fellow man. We have seen evidence of this in the UK during the pandemic, with protests claiming civil liberties were being infringed because of lockdown. There are now protests in Scotland because the government there have insisted on people carrying Covid status passports which indicate whether one has been vaccinated or not.

Irrespective of our personal views or politics, we as Christians are called to do what is best for the greater good. This may challenge us; we may even resent it; but we must act; let us not be blind to who and what is around us.

The reading from Jeremiah heralds the Gospel used today, where it says I will gather them all, the blind and the lame. I will comfort them as I lead them back, I will guide them to streams of water. Jesus calls all of us to Baptism in the New Covenant; leading us to streams of water. Bartimaeus removed his cloak as if he was preparing for Baptism, he was ready to follow Jesus as he asked him to have mercy upon him. As we ask for mercy at every Mass when we say ‘Lord have mercy,’ are we ready to be granted mercy? Are we ready to follow Jesus as Bartimaeus did?

Further Reading

Let us Dream – The path to a better future, Pope Francis

Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC)2

CCC 547-550: Jesus performed messianic signs
CCC 1814-1816: faith, a gift of God
CCC 2734-2737: filial confidence in prayer

Please keep in your prayers

  • God’s creation, that mankind will become better stewards of this world which has been entrusted to us by God and that the Conference in Glasgow next month will be a first step to every country recognising and accepting their responsibilities towards protecting the world.
  • Those who worked tirelessly to defeat the assisted dying Bill in the House of Lords on Friday.
  • Those who are sick, those who are dying, the recently deceased and those who mourn.
  • All Missionaries and the people they serve, may they get the financial, practical and prayer support they need.
  • The Year of the Eucharist, which has now started, that this will lead to a fresh outpouring of love by the people of God for the Body and Blood of Christ.
  • A renewed love of praying the Rosary as we are now in the month dedicated to the Rosary.
  • The four children being baptised this weekend in St Bede’s Church; Amelia, Elias, Noah and Anna; may their parents and godparents be great role models of a Christian life and may they be raised in loving, Spirit filled homes.
  • The listening stage of the 16th Synod of Bishops which is entitled “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission” that all Catholics will take part.

1 Ron Dale, Windows on Mark (Kevin Mayhew Ltd, Stowmarket, 1999)199

2 Catechism of the Catholic Church (vatican.va)