Deacon Tony reflects: From darkness to light

This is the night of which it is written
the night shall be as bright as day,
dazzling is the night for me,
and full of gladness.

These words from the Exsultet (Easter Proclamation) remind me of my first experience of the Easter Vigil. Pam and I were teenagers and had gone to Confession on Holy Saturday morning. The priest gave us absolution and then for our penance he said we were to come to the Easter Vigil; which neither of us had heard about before. So that evening we went not knowing what to expect. The service was amazing. Something touched us both very deeply; we were filled with the Holy Spirit. it was just awesome.

After the service, Pam and I skipped on the way home to my parents’ house. It must have been about midnight; but the night had lit up for us, it was as if the night really did ‘dazzle’ for us; we were carried by the joy we felt inside of us.

The Easter Vigil is full of symbolism: fire, new light, new candle, new Holy Water, newly blessed oils, new Christians, new life. In our Baptism we die with Christ and through the mystery of our Baptism we rise with Him too. The darkness of sin and death from Good Friday is replaced by a resplendent light which shines for everyone. We are called to walk in that dazzling light and express our gladness. On that first Easter Vigil for my wife and I, we experienced that joy, that gladness. I don’t think our knees would appreciate us skipping nowadays, but we can hope to express our joy in other ways this year.

That was our first experience of the Easter Vigil. This year I will experience another few ‘firsts’, it will be my first Easter Vigil serving as a Deacon, it will also be the first time I have been present for an adult Baptism, as at St Bede’s we welcome Joe into our Church. We first met Joe on one of the Baptism Preparation sessions which we run, and we have accompanied him on his journey. We have joined in the RCIA Programme for the first time this year and are delighted that Joe is coming into the Church with all three Sacraments of Initiation alongside Oliwia who is going to be Confirmed at the same service. We are also delighted for Mo who is attending the RCIA, who will become a full member of the Church at St Michael’s in Tadley at the same time.

The last year has been a time of darkness, the whole world has felt the pain of the Pandemic, and many places continue to struggle. Here in the United Kingdom we are seeing the signs of Spring as blossom is on the trees and Spring flowers have appeared. The roll out of the vaccine programme gives us hope of better times. I would like to suggest that Joe, Oliwia and Mo receiving the Sacraments this Easter are also a sign of new life. This is new life for them and as well as for our Church. They are a sign of hope, of belief, of our Parishes continuing to grow and they are a result of the witness which we the people of out Parishes have given to the world. We need to continue to witness on behalf of Jesus, Our Risen Lord. He asks us to sow the seeds, which He will water and help us to bring to fruition.

The other evening at RCIA, it was emphasised to all three, that these Sacraments are not the end of the journey; they mark the beginning of a new life journey, where they will also witness to Our Risen Lord.

Our Sacraments are Gifts. Gifts freely given to us, which are there to sustain us until we return to God at the hour of our death. When we are Baptised, the candle used is lit from the Paschal candle [the first light of Easter] the wonderful thing about the Paschal candle is that it is not wrapped up again and put in a cupboard, it is left out for all to see and is used at various services throughout the year. This serves as another sign for us; that we are to be mindful of that gift; that gift which brings us into God’s family as his adopted children. As Christ died and is resurrected to life everlasting, our Baptism means that we have an invitation to eternal life. While it may not feel like it at times, our suffering on this earth is short lived in comparison to the life that awaits us as Baptised Christians in our Eternal Home.

Through the Sacrament of Penance we can be absolved from our sins reconciling us with God and our Community; enabling us to share in the Eucharist at Mass Through the Eucharist we share in Christ’s victory over death and we become the Body of Christ as we become what we eat; sustaining us for the battle against temptation and sin. Our Confirmation gives us an outpouring of the gifts and Charisms of the Holy Spirit, enabling us to see the world as God sees it; being guided by the Holy Spirit. The Sacraments of Holy Orders and Matrimony teach us about sacrifice; the complete giving of ourselves to others, just as Jesus did. The Sacrament of anointing allows us to be absolved from our sins at a time of serious ill health, giving us Spiritual strength at a crucial time in our life; helping us to be ready to meet the Lord if He has chosen that time to call us to Him.

As I reflect back on my first experience of the Ester Vigil it occurs to me that if the joy I felt was as a result of my ‘penance’ I can only begin to wonder about the joy I pray I might experience, should I be blessed enough to get to heaven when I die!

I wish you all a Happy and Holy Easter; that you would bask in God’s love at this time and be renewed with his special graces.

Deacon Tony

3rd April 2021

Please keep in your prayers this week

  • All those who are sick, all those who care for them and all Key workers who are striving to keep us safe.
  • All those who took part in the Walk for Water campaign to raise money for Cafod
  • Those who do not believe in God, that this Easter will open their eyes to the magnificent wonder of our Creator.
  • Joe, Oliwia and Mo, that through the Sacraments they have received this Easter they will spread the joy of Christ to those they meet.
  • All those who would love to be back at Church, but are having to shield to protect their health or the health of their loved ones.
  • All those who contribute to the Sacred Liturgy which enhances our experience and helps to bring us closer to God.

Once again, I thank those who have sponsored me on my Walk for Water Challenge in aid of Cafod. If you would like to sponsor me, please go to Deacon Tony’s Walk for Water Challenge | Walk for Water | CAFOD I have now completed more than 500,000 steps since Ash Wednesday and with your help I have raised overt £1600 for Cafod. As an aside I have also achieved a weight loss of almost one stone, it is not too late to sponsor me.

All donations are greatly appreciated and as always if you are unable to financially support me or the others taking part, your prayers are very welcome.

Deacon Tony reflects: Not a time to run away

Today’s readings are very familiar. As Christians we have heard and contemplated the Passion of Jesus Christ from our earliest days as a Christian and we hear the expression, ‘to fulfil the Scriptures’ or ‘in accordance with the Scriptures’ and in the 21st Century we accept that these things happened in Biblical times, a very long time ago. But to give this a little bit of context, today’s psalm was written a thousand years before Jesus was born, it is on a par with William the Conqueror writing about Queen Elizabeth II and getting all the facts right.

The Passion account we have this year is from the Gospel of Mark, like all of the Gospels, it has an account of when Jesus was taken into custody. When reflecting on this Gospel, I was reminded that there is a description of a young man fleeing naked from the scene, leaving behind his clothing. This has two parallels first of all the clothing he leaves behind is a linen cloth. Next Sunday, as we celebrate the resurrection, we will hear that the tomb was empty except for the linen cloth, which had been used to wrap the Body of the Crucified Christ. The second parallel is that when Jesus first called the disciples, they left everything to follow him, and at His arrest they left everything – including the clothes they wore- to get away from him.1

I don’t think anyone would blame the disciples from fleeing, firstly it was to fulfil the Scriptures, secondly it is human instinct to save oneself at a time of danger. Our Gospel reading shows Jesus at his most human and at his most divine. He displays all of the human traits of fear, concern for his friends, understanding that they were tired and excusing it as a good friend would do. His divinity was highlighted by the fact He knew He would be betrayed; He knew who would betray Him, He knew He was going to be tortured and killed and He was prepared to do all of that for us.

If you have struggled to keep to your Lenten sacrifices, please take heart this week and redouble your efforts. Read the Scriptures, fast, give to the poor. Our token effort is minimal compared to what Jesus has done for us. If you have been successful with your Lenten sacrifices, don’t rest on your laurels; the message is the same – redouble your efforts, read the Scriptures, fast and give to the poor. This is not a time to run away, we already know that following the sadness of Good Friday there will be joy on Easter Sunday. The disciples who fled on that first Holy Thursday did not have that knowledge, they had not yet received the Holy Spirit, they had not yet encountered the Risen Christ.

Please keep in your prayers this week

  • All those who are sick, all those who care for them and all Key workers who are striving to keep us safe.
  • For all those taking part in the Walk for Water campaign, that we all have the strength to overcome any physical ailments and reach their targets before the end of Lent.
  • For those who have been putting off going to the Sacrament of Reconciliation; that they will have the courage to go and receive God’s forgiveness.
  • For those who do not believe in God, that this Lent and Easter will open their eyes to the magnificent wonder of our Creator.
  • For all those taking part in the online Alpha course, as they look at how we can share God’s message.
  • For all those receiving Sacraments at our Easter Vigil Services, especially for Joe and Oliwia at St Bede’s and Mo at St Michael’s, we wish them all a blessed week and a full outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

Once again, I thank those who have sponsored me on my Walk for Water Challenge in aid of Cafod. If you would like to sponsor me, please go to Deacon Tony’s Walk for Water Challenge | Walk for Water | CAFOD I have now completed the 500,000 steps since Ash Wednesday and with your help I have raised overt £1600 for Cafod. I intend to keep going with the steps up until Easter Sunday, it is not too late to sponsor me.

All donations are greatly appreciated and as always if you are unable to financially support me or the others taking part your prayers are very welcome.

Deacon Tony Darroch, 27th March 2021.

Some thoughts and links to help us as we approach the Easter Triduum and Easter Sunday next week.

Sunday – St. Teresa of Avila and beginning again during Holy Week – Catholic World Report

Monday – “Unless there is a Good Friday in your life, there can be no Easter Sunday.” ― Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

Tuesday – 10 Quotes For Holy Week – Diocesan

Wednesday – “Mount Calvary is the academy of love” St Francis de Sales, Doctor of the Church

Thursday – “We adore you and we bless you, Lord Jesus Christ, here and in all the churches which are in the whole world, because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.” St. Francis of Assisi, Deacon

Friday – “After you say your morning offering today, Good Friday, we should all keep this in Mind about Jesus: It was not necessary for Him to undergo so much torment. He could have avoided those trials, those humiliations, that ill-usage, that iniquitous judgement, and the shame of the gallows, and the nails and the lance… But He wanted to suffer all this for you and for me. And we, are we not going to respond? Very likely there will be times, when alone in front of a crucifix, you find tears coming to your eyes. Don ‘t try to hold them back… But try to ensure that those tears give rise to a resolution. “
-St. Jose Maria Escriva’s Way of the Cross

Saturday – “If you can talk with the Lord in prayer, talk to Him, offer Him your praise; if, due to great weariness, you cannot speak, do not find displeasure in the ways of the Lord. Stay in the room like servants of the court do and make a gesture of reverence. He will see you, and your presence will be pleasing to Him. He will bless your silence and at another time you will find consolation when He takes you by the hand.” St Pio of Pietrelcina

1 Robert Draper, Pastoral Review Vol 17 Issue 1 (Tablet Publishing, Twickenham, 2021)

Deacon Tony reflects: A pure heart

Today in our first reading, we hear the prophet Jeremiah proclaiming the words of God, that He will make a new covenant, this covenant will be written on the hearts of mankind. As we know the previous covenant was written on tablets of stone and brought to the people by Moses. This new covenant, will be written on our hearts. We have heard elsewhere in Scriptures that our hearts of stone will become hearts of flesh (Ezekiel 11:19 & 36:26). This heart of flesh will enable us to love God and love our neighbour. This heart of flesh will allow us to forgive those who trespass against us and lead us to the forgiveness of God who “will forgive their iniquity and never call their sin to mind”.

Our psalm continues the theme as we ask God to create in all of us a pure heart; we ask God for mercy; we ask God to take away our sins. This psalm is very familiar to those who pray the Office of the Church, most Friday mornings this psalm is used helping those who pray, to focus on the things we need forgiveness for. This is not, however focussed on the sins, if that were the case, we would still have hearts of stone. The focus is on the joy of receiving God’s forgiveness, recognising that we cannot succeed without God’s help and that God is only too happy to help us, to forgive us and to sustain us.

Our second reading from the letter to the Hebrews, reminds us that Jesus prayed often and earnestly; Jesus always found time for prayer; there were times when He would take himself off to a quiet place to pray, maintaining His relationship with His Father. It was only through his perfect obedience to the Father that we could be saved. Jesus provided the perfect example for us, complete obedience to God, but this was done not because it was written on tablets of stone, but because it was written on His heart. Jesus is the New Covenant, Jesus gives us a focus to love, Jesus is God made flesh, Jesus is love.

In our Gospel reading today, we have Jesus again telling us that He will be lifted up. This is not Jesus as a victim, this is Jesus’ glorious victory. Jesus is fulfilling his mission; he compares himself to a grain of wheat, which must die and be buried to yield a rich harvest. He tells us to follow Him.

This passage of dialogue from Jesus was prompted by a request from some Greeks who wanted to see Jesus. Jesus did not answer the request directly with a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’, but He finished this prophecy of His Passion with the words “when I am lifted up from the earth, I shall draw all men to myself.” Jesus was saying that He was not here just to save the Israelites; He was here to save everyone, the Greeks would have to wait until the resurrection.

Jesus said, “wherever I am, my servant will be there too.” How have we served Jesus this week? I could ask in a different way, who have we taken Jesus to this week? For me, I had an encounter with a colleague from work, I don’t know if he is a believer or not, but a few months ago he told me that his wife was expecting a baby and that they had suffered miscarriages during previous pregnancies. I said I would pray for them. I met up with him this week and he was delighted to tell me that he was now the proud father to a little boy called Luke. He thanked me for my prayers. Our prayers make a difference; they give hope, they take Jesus to people who may have lost hope or are struggling with what life throws at them. Our new covenant, to love God and to love our neighbour, a covenant written by God on every person’s heart. Remember when God spoke through Jeremiah, he said “There will be no further need for neighbour to try to teach neighbour, or brother to say to brother, ‘Learn to know the Lord!’ No, they will all know me, the least no greater than greatest – it is the Lord who speaks.” This means that we all have the love of God in us, written on our hearts. It should be natural for us all to follow, by following Jesus we can bring this covenant to life in those who do not believe.

Jesus calls us to action, He wants us to light up the world with His light, to love our neighbour with His love, to restore peace with His peace. As we approach the time when we remember the sacrifice Jesus made for us, we can ask ourselves, what sacrifice am I prepared to make for Jesus? He who gave everything for us, asks us to follow Him; to pick up our cross and follow Him. How do we respond?

Please keep in your prayers this week

  • All those who are sick, all those who care for them and all Key workers who are striving to keep us safe.
  • The three families completing the Baptism Preparation Course this weekend via Zoom.
  • For all those taking part in the Walk for Water campaign, that we all have the strength to overcome any physical ailments.
  • For those who have been putting off going to the Sacrament of Reconciliation; that they will have the courage to go and receive God’s forgiveness.
  • For those who do not believe in God, that this Lent and Easter will open their eyes to the magnificent wonder of our Creator.
  • For all those taking part in the online Alpha course, as they look at how to resist evil.
  • For the success of the RCIA course next Wednesday, that all those attending will gain an understanding and develop a love for the Sacraments of the Church.

Once again, I thank those who have sponsored me on my Walk for Water Challenge in aid of Cafod. If you would like to sponsor me, please go to Deacon Tony’s Walk for Water Challenge | Walk for Water | CAFOD I have now completed the 400,000 steps since Ash Wednesday and with your help I have raised just £1542 for Cafod. I now plan to try and reach 500,000 steps before Easter Sunday.

All donations are greatly appreciated and as always if you are unable to financially support me or the others taking part your prayers are very welcome.

Deacon Tony Darroch, 20th March 2021.

Some links to help us as we approach Palm Sunday next week.

Sunday – Library : We hail you, O Cross of Christ! | Catholic Culture

Monday – “The Humility of a Little Donkey” — Heartlight®

Tuesday – On Palm Sunday, 2019: A Reflection from Venerable Fulton J. Sheen | Papal Artifacts

Wednesday – TOP 17 PALM SUNDAY QUOTES | A-Z Quotes

Thursday – 5 Quotes for Palm Sunday | The Stream

Friday – The 7 Effects of Confession (piercedhearts.org)

Saturday – – A Palm Sunday message from Pope Francis: Do not be afraid; you are not alone | America Magazine

Deacon Tony reflects: shining a light

“Rejoice, Jerusalem, and all who love her. Be joyful, all who were in mourning; exult and be satisfied at her consoling breast” (Isaiah 66:10-11). These are the words of the Entrance Antiphon this Sunday. The Latin for Rejoice is Laetare, today is Laetare Sunday. It is a day when priests and deacons are given an option to replace their purple vestments with Rose coloured vestments to recognise that we are halfway through Lent. This gives us a glimpse of the joy awaiting us at Easter, just before we enter the sombre time of Passiontide. 1

Our first reading, which comes from the end of the 2nd Book of Chronicles, tells us of the rebellious people who defiled the Temple of the Lord. God sent prophets to warn them about their behaviours, who they ignored. Eventually the Lord lost patience with the people and allowed them to be conquered, the Temple was destroyed; and the surviving people led off to Babylon to a life of servitude. They remained there for seventy years until God prompted Cyrus, King of Persia, to rebuild a Temple in Jerusalem. This is a sign for us that God will always look to bring people back to Him, He never gives up on people.

This theme is continued in St Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians; he reminds us that God loves us so much that although we were dead through our sins we have been brought to life with Christ and have been raised up with Christ to a place reserved for us in heaven. This is not something which we can earn or buy; this is a gift freely given by the grace of God to those who believe in Him. There is a beautiful little section at the end of St Paul’s letter, it says “We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus…” Have you ever thought of yourself as God’s work of art? But not only that, there is a little gem at the end of that sentence, which tells us that through Jesus the original sins of Adam and Eve have been wiped away; by becoming Christians through our Baptism we can “live the good life as from the beginning he had meant us to live it.”

Our Gospel from John gives an account of one of the times Jesus foretold His Passion. There is , however, a distinct difference in style between John’s Gospel and the other three Evangelists. Matthew, Mark and Luke describe Jesus suffering at the hands of the chief priests and the elders and being killed by them. St John tells of the Glory of the Passion. “Jesus is lifted up, so that whoever believes may have eternal life in him.”

This lifting up is continued in the Resurrection and the Ascension.2 John in recalling the words of Jesus to Nicodemus, recalls the contrast between darkness and light; in a similar way to the contrast used at the beginning of John’s Gospel when he describes a “life that was the light of men; and light shines in the darkness, and darkness could not overpower it” (John 1:4-5). Today’s passage says that “though light has come into the world men have shown that they prefer darkness to light”. This season of Lent gives us all the opportunity to turn back towards the light. It is a good time to examine our behaviours and habits and to break any cycle which leads us to eternal ruin.

In my reflection last week, I suggested using the essence of the ten commandments to examine our consciences. All of us are sinners and we all need to find a way to be more like Jesus. Another way of looking at our behaviours is when we read or listen to the News. For example, many employers will be looking at themselves following the news earlier this week about a culture of bullying in a major Company in the North-west of England.3 But it should not only be employers; all of us need to examine how we treat other people. I had reason to do this myself earlier in the week, when I fired off an email to someone who I mistakenly thought had made an error which affected me. They soon pointed out my error to me and I had to hastily send back an apology, acknowledging that I had been wrong. As I have said previously, I can get angry very quickly, this time I reacted without finding out the facts first; hopefully I will learn from this and check the facts first if anything similar happens again.

How do we treat the people we meet at work? How do we treat the people we interact with at Church? How do we treat the people we live with? Do we love them as we love ourselves? Do we have favourites? Are there people we avoid? If we do, why do we avoid them?

When we shine the light on our behaviours, habits and choices how do we feel? What are we prompted to do?

Lent gives us all the opportunity to look at ourselves and really examine ourselves, to try to see ourselves as Jesus sees us. He sees us as we really are, and he still loves us in our sinfulness; our brokenness and in our darkest times. Jesus never stops loving us. Jesus is love and He wants His love to shine on us and through us and to be shared with everyone we meet. We are not just to share it with the people we like, we are to share it with everyone, including the people we might not be too fond of. Jesus wants us to step out of the darkness into the light and then to remain in the light. By doing this we will be allowing the light of Jesus to shine on God’s works of art, us, so that everyone can appreciate the full beauty of God’s creation.

This Sunday in the UK we celebrate Mothering Sunday. This was originally a day when apprentices or those ‘in service’ would return to their Mother Church during Lent; taking a small gift like hand picked flowers to their mother. Today we thank God for our Mother, we pray for all Mothers; may they receive God’s blessing for all that they do and may we be always grateful for our mother. But we also remember the origin of this day; Our Mother Church. Some of us are far away from our Mother Church; the Church we grew up in, but we are grateful that in our one Holy and Apostolic Church we can find a home in the Church Community where we live. Mary, Queen of Mothers, Pray for us. Mary, Mother of the Church, pray for us.

Please keep in your prayers this week

  • All Mothers in our Parishes, especially those who cannot be with their children at this time.
  • All those who are sick, all those who care for them and all Key workers who are striving to keep us safe.
  • Elias de Sousa and his family as Elias joins the Christian family through Baptism this weekend at St Bede’s.
  • For all those taking part in the Walk for Water campaign, that we all have the strength to overcome any physical ailments.
  • For those who have been putting off going to Reconciliation, that they will have the courage to go and receive God’s forgiveness.
  • For those who do not believe in God, that this Lent and Easter will open their eyes to the magnificent wonder of our Creator.
  • For all those taking part in the online Alpha course, that they will be filled with the Holy Spirit.
  • For the success of the RCIA course next Wednesday, that all those attending will gain an understanding and develop a love for the Sacraments of the Church.
  • For Pope Francis, as he celebrates the eighth anniversary of his election as Pope.

Once again, I thank those who have sponsored me on my Walk for Water Challenge in aid of Cafod. If you would like to sponsor me, please go to Deacon Tony’s Walk for Water Challenge | Walk for Water | CAFOD I have now walked over 300,000 steps since Ash Wednesday and with your help I have raised just under £1500 pounds for Cafod.

All donations are greatly appreciated and as always if you are unable to financially support me or the others taking part your prayers are very welcome.

Deacon Tony Darroch, 13th March 2021.

Some links to help us with Lent this week.

Sunday – POPE FRANCIS LAETARE SUNDAY 2018: REJOICE BECAUSE GOD IS WITH US! – Catholics Striving for Holiness

Monday – TOP 25 QUOTES BY POPE JOHN XXIII (of 57) | A-Z Quotes

Tuesday – The Liberating Power of Fasting : Ancient Practice for a Catholic Lent (catholicexchange.com)

Wednesday – TOP 25 QUOTES BY SAINT PATRICK | A-Z Quotes

Thursday – Cyril of Jerusalem Quotes (Author of On the Christian Sacraments) (goodreads.com)

Friday – Quotes – Year of St. Joseph

Saturday – Saints quotes on the Blessed Virgin Mary (whitelilyoftrinity.com)

1 Michael R Heinlein, Laetare Sunday, available from Laetare Sunday | Simply Catholic accessed 11th March 2021.

2 Robert Draper, Breaking the Word Sundays, (Pastoral Review Vol 17 Issue 1, Twickenham, 2021)82.

3 Sellafield nuclear site a ‘toxic mix of bullying and harassment’ – BBC News accessed 12th March 2021

Deacon Tony reflects: cleansing the temple

In today’s first reading we have a description of what has come to be known as “The Ten Commandments”, these were given to the people of Israel after they accepted God’s offer of a Covenant. When we examine the ten Commandments and apply them to ourselves, they describe three encounters in our lives.

The first one is an encounter with God, these relate to the Commandments to have no gods except God Our Father, not to make carved images, which could be worshipped, not to take God’s name in vain and to keep the Sabbath as a special day, dedicated to the Lord. All of these commandments focus on mankind’s relationship with God. As Christians we worship the one true God, but through our attachments to other things are we in danger of inadvertently worshipping modern-day idols? Does my passion for football and my love of my favourite team ever border on worship? What activities do I have that prevent me from spending quality time with God? For me this would be the things I use to distract me, my phone or computer, watching sport. How do I keep the Sabbath special? By spending time at Church, praying, serving our Community, however, there are times when I have gone shopping after Mass, in these days where most things can be ordered online and the shops are open late every other day; do I really need to shop on a Sunday?

The next group of commandments are about how we encounter other people. First of all, we are to honour our parents, we are not to kill, we are not to commit adultery, not to steal and not to lie about our neighbour. In these commandments we have a blueprint for harmonious relationships with the people we encounter in everyday life. How do I obey these commandments? Do I remember the words of Jesus in relation to these commandments from Matthew 5:20-32 where Jesus applied a higher standard to the Commandments equating getting angry with someone with the commandment not to kill; and the looking lustfully at someone with committing adultery. Jesus wants us to recognise our sins and to make piece with those we have offended as well as to forgive those who have offended us. I can get angry very quickly; it is something which I need to work on, and I need to look at where this anger comes from and identify who I need to apologise to and seek forgiveness from.

The third encounter is an encounter with ourself, this is about how we think and how these thoughts can lead to breaking some of the other commandments; especially those which affect our relationships with our neighbour. We are not to covet; covet means to long for or wish to take possession of; these are sins which occur within, but as Jesus pointed out in Mark 7:14-16 it is from evil thoughts, which can lead us to sin. In this area I can sometimes feel sorry for myself, thinking that other people have a ‘better deal’ in life, that their life is less complicated than mine. I need to learn to accept my life and work on the aspects which I need to change; I need to stop comparing myself with others and remember that God made me the way I am; God has given me gifts, which He expects me to use, just as He expects others to use the gifts He has given them. Their gifts are not better than mine as all gifts come from God, our gifts just happen to be different; because the mission God has for each one of us, is different.

There are many guides available to help us examine our conscience in accordance with the 10 Commandments, I have attached some links to this reflection to help both adults and children to review our sins before we enter into the Sacrament of Reconciliation.12

In today’s second reading St Paul gives comfort to those who may be ridiculed for believing in the Risen Christ; he states that the Jews demand miracles (yet in Jesus’ time they questioned the source of His miracles), the Greeks demand wisdom and think that speaking of a Risen Christ as being madness. But St Paul points out that “God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.”

In today’s Gospel we have the familiar story of when Jesus drove out the money changers and market stalls which had become established within the walls of the temple. Jesus was indignant that these people were turning His Father’s house into a market place, probably with the permission and patronage of the High Priests. Jesus, like the prophets before Him, disturbed the norm. Jesus did not come to ‘lord it over us’; he came to serve and this is an example of Jesus being a man of action; he was not going to stand back idly and complain.

Jesus witnessed something which offended Him and His disciples remembered the words of Scripture (Psalm 69:9) that “zeal for your house will consume me.” The Jews then asked for a sign and Jesus, foretelling His Passion said He would destroy the sanctuary, which had taken forty-six years to build and raise it up in three days. This was how Jesus would tear down the old Covenant and establish our New Covenant. This New Covenant opened up the path for all men and women to be called to follow Jesus and become the new Chosen People. We are people of the new Covenant, the Covenant of the Risen Christ.

The cleansing of the temple in preparation for the Passion of Christ is an example for us during this Lenten Season to cleanse ourselves, to avail ourselves of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, preparing ourselves properly for the Banquet of the Lamb.

This week, as we journey further into Lent, I pray that God will give you the perseverance to continue with your Lenten fasting. Last week I suggested some quotes from Saints to ponder upon each day. This week I offer some short Bible passages to meditate on; these are the passages used in the Evening Prayers of the Divine Office on these days next week, by meditating on them you can join the priests and deacons who serve us, in their daily prayer.

I would like to end with a short update on the Walk for Water challenge, as I write this on Thursday evening, I have just gone through the 200,000 steps on day 16. Some days it has been relatively straight forward, but inevitably other days have been difficult as most of my working day is spent on video calls for work. So far you have helped me to raise £1372 for Cafod, with more than half of Lent still to go. I thank each and every one of you for this and I thank God that I live in a place where it takes me seconds to get water from the tap in my house. The people we are trying to help have to walk for hours; taking up most of their day to get water to keep their family alive. May God bless them and guide the Cafod teams towards them.

I wish you all a blessed week.

Please keep in your prayers this week

  • All the volunteers and staff providing the vaccinations to our Communities.
  • That wealthier countries will recognise it is essential to support poorer countries by sharing the Covid Vaccinations to all mankind.
  • Kahleesi and her family, as she joins the Christian family through Baptism this weekend at St Bede’s.
  • For all those taking part in the Walk for Water campaign, that we all have the strength to overcome any physical ailments.
  • For those suffering from Domestic abuse in our local area that they will have the strength and courage to seek support
  • For those who do not believe in God, that this Lent and Easter will open their eyes to the magnificent wonder of our Creator.
  • For all those taking part in the online Alpha course, as this week they look at how God guides us.
  • For the success of the RCIA course next Wednesday, that all those attending will gain an understanding and develop a love for the Sacraments of the Church.
  • Pope Francis, as he approaches the eighth anniversary of his election as Pope.

If you would like to sponsor me, please go to Deacon Tony’s Walk for Water Challenge | Walk for Water | CAFOD

All donations are greatly appreciated and as always if you are unable to financially support me or the others taking part your prayers are very welcome.

Deacon Tony Darroch, 4th March 2021.

Some Scripture passages to help us with Lent this week.

  • Sunday – 1 Corinthians 9:24-25
  • Monday – Romans 12:1-2
  • Tuesday – James 2:14,17-18
  • Wednesday – Philippians 2:12-15
  • Thursday – James 4:7-8,10
  • Friday – James 5:16, 19-20
  • Saturday – 2 Corinthians 6:1-4

1 Children’s Examination of Conscience available from Microsoft Word – An Examination of Conscience for Children Using the 10 Commandments.doc (johnpaul2center.org) accessed 4th March 2021.

2 Adult’s Examination of Conscience available from Examination of Conscience from the 10 Commandments – CatholicShare.com accessed 4th March 2021.

Deacon Tony reflects: Lent is a transforming time

Often in life we see things and are not aware of the full meaning behind what we see. For example, when my wife, Pam came home from visiting our Grandson earlier this week she saw a mark on the patio door and could not imagine what made it or the story behind it. I knew the full story. I had noticed a squirrel feeding from the seed I had put out for the birds and wanted to get a closer look, forgetting momentarily that there was a glass door between me and a better look. The marks on the door indicated where my forehead and nose hit it.

Holy Scriptures are full of signs pointing the way to Jesus and we have an example of this in today’s first reading from Genesis . Abraham being asked to sacrifice his only son and being prepared to do so, this as a forerunner of what God was prepared to do, testing Abraham to see if a man would be prepared to do this for a God he loved and feared. Abraham passed this test.

It doesn’t say it in this shortened version of the Genesis reading, but on the way to the place of Sacrifice, Isaac asked his father where the lamb for the sacrifice was? Abraham said; probably through tear-filled eyes; that God would provide. What an example of faith for us all, can you imagine taking that walk with your only child? Through Abraham’s extraordinary faith he was rewarded with an extraordinary promise, his descendants would be as many as the stars in the heaven and of grains of sand on the shore. Another sign pointing towards Jesus; is that like Jesus; Isaac carried the wood up the hill in preparation for the sacrifice.

Today’s psalm talks about fulfilling vows to the Lord; making a thanksgiving sacrifice even when we are sorely afflicted. We repeat the words I will walk in the presence of the Lord in the land of the living. This is our aim to walk with God where there is no death, our sacrifices here on earth are our offering to God.

As Christian’s today, we do not make the type of sacrifices required by the early covenants in the Bible. For us, Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice. He is the sacrificial lamb, whose head knew the thorns from a bush and who was nailed to a tree for the sins of man; man whose first sin was to disobey God by taking an apple from a tree.

In our first reading we heard that God spared Isaac; the son of Abraham, in our second reading from St Paul’s letter to the Romans we are reminded that “God did not spare his own Son, but gave him up to benefit us all.” The few sacrifices we are asked to make in our lives are nothing compared to what God has done for us.

We approach Lent each year and we ponder on what we will give up as an offering in penance for our sins; we can give a few pounds to charity, or give up chocolate or alcohol or offer to pray a little bit more. Most of us will share what we plan to do with fellow Christians, and we then congratulate ourselves when we reach the end of the forty days. These are nothing compared to what God gave up for us. God the creator of everything, lowered himself to the same level as us; who He made from the dust of the earth; and then allowed some of us to nail Him to a cross. All because He loves us and wants us to love Him and everything else that He has made.

In our Gospel we hear the Word of God speaking “This is my Son, the Beloved. Listen to him.” These words are spoken while Jesus is shown in Majesty; shining brighter than anything man could make. The Transfiguration of Jesus, where the Old and New Testament see Jesus’ Glory together, we have the prophets of old who led their people towards Jesus and the Apostles of the Church who would spread the Word of God to the rest of the world, so that everyone can become a descendant of Abraham.

The Oxford English Dictionary describes transfigure as meaning “to change the appearance of; especially to something nobler or more beautiful”, this is what happens to our souls when we are baptised. This is only achievable because Jesus died for us and rose from the dead to conquer sin and death. In the Gospel today it tells us that, at that time, the Apostles did not understand what rising from the dead could mean. By witnessing Jesus after the Resurrection; eating with Him, talking with Him and above all Listening to Him, they were given the grace to understand that Jesus died for us, He rose for us and He will come again for us.

Lent is a time for us to transform our relationship with God, we do this by offering back to God what we can from what He has given us. Everything we have is given to us, in trust, by God. This time of reflection, of giving alms, of penance and of prayer, is also given to us by God, we will be judged by God on how we use it. So, if you have struggled to find something meaningful this year or have started and already fallen away from what you committed to do, please do not give up! This is the enemy tempting you; telling you, you are not good enough, or it does not matter because God loves you whether you do something or not. (Yes, the devil uses God’s love to tempt us). Please do not give in to this temptation. God loves us and wants all of us to be with Him; make the time this Lent to be with God, find a way to climb the mountain of temptation to be alone with Jesus. Listen to Him, follow His words and He will transform your life.

Please keep in your prayers this week

  • All those who are sick, all those who care for them and all Key workers who are striving to keep us safe.
  • Stephanie Anazor and her family as Stephanie joins the Christian family through Baptism this weekend at St Bede’s.
  • For all those taking part in the Walk for Water campaign, that we all have the strength to overcome any physical ailments.
  • For those suffering from Domestic abuse in our local area that they will have the strength and courage to seek support
  • For those who do not believe in God, that this Lent and Easter will open their eyes to the magnificent wonder of our Creator.
  • For all those taking part in the online Alpha course, that this week they will be encouraged to develop a love of Sacred Scripture.
  • For the success of the RCIA course next Wednesday, that all those attending will gain an understanding and develop a love for the Sacraments of the Church.
  • Today the Diocese holds the Community of St Oswald’s, Burghfield Common, in prayer; this is a community which has supported me through my training for the Diaconate and continues to be very supportive of me through encouragement and contributing to the causes I hold dear; may God bless them all.

Once again, I thank those who have sponsored me on my Walk for Water Challenge in aid of Cafod. If you would like to sponsor me, please go to Deacon Tony’s Walk for Water Challenge | Walk for Water | CAFOD

All donations are greatly appreciated and as always if you are unable to financially support me or the others taking part your prayers are very welcome.

Deacon Tony Darroch, 20th February 2021.

Some links to help us with Lent this week.

Sunday – On Fasting | EWTN St John Chrysostom on Fasting

Monday – mother teresa quotes on fasting | Only 4 You (wordpress.com)

Tuesday – Padre Pio Quotes on Prayer – christian catholic frases (vaticansite.com)

Wednesday – Francis of Assisi and almsgiving | friarmusings

Thursday – The Saint & the Poor | Messenger of Saint Anthony (messengersaintanthony.com)

Friday – Renewing faith, hope and love: Pope Francis’ message for Lent 2021 – Vatican News

Saturday – TOP 15 QUOTES BY VENERABLE BEDE | A-Z Quotes

Deacon Tony reflects: Feasting on the Word of God

I’ve been talking about it for weeks and on Wednesday the CAFOD Walk for Water Challenge finally started. By Tuesday evening I had reached over 80% of my financial target, it was now down to me to put the steps in and hit at least 10,000 steps each day. As I started writing this on Wednesday, Day 1, I had just come in from a 3 mile walk, it rained for the whole duration, but that, added to the steps from earlier in the day took me to more than 18,000 steps. The first day ticked off, but I was wondering how much harder it will be to beat the 10,000 steps target when I have to fit in work as well.

In Lent we often look to fast from things which may be physically unhealthy for us, like chocolate, sweets and cakes, things which we may enjoy like television and from things which are unhelpful for us spiritually like sin. Pope Francis has said that fasting is not just a time to lose a few pounds by losing weight. He encourages us to switch of the television and pick up the Bible. While we are to fast from things which weaken our resolve to be better Christians; we should be feasting on things which build up our faith and allow us to have a more intimate relationship with God.

There are lots of programmes out there, with perhaps this year bringing us far more online resources than ever before as a result of the pandemic; there is something for everyone if you have access to the internet.

For those that do not have access to the internet, perhaps picking up your Missal and spending a few minutes reading the readings of the day from Mass. Sit for a few moments and think what is this telling me? Try and put your self into the readings, what do you see? What do you hear? What does the air smell of? try and immerse yourself in the reading, imagine being there when Jesus preached, or when he challenged the Scribes and Pharisees. Imagine it is you who is reaching out to touch Jesus as He passes by or that wants His shadow to be cast over you as He passes. Imagine His smile as He turns to see you, how do you feel? Then read the scripture passage again, slowly, absorb the words, get to know Jesus personally, just as He knows you and calls you by your name.

This week, in a very short Gospel from St Mark, we have Jesus being driven out into the wilderness by the Spirit, in some translations it says Jesus is ‘at once’ driven out or ‘immediately’ driven out. St Mark’s Gospel is one of action, this passage comes immediately after Jesus’ Baptism, where the voice of the Lord was heard proclaiming that Jesus is His beloved and that we are to listen to Him. This time of temptation or spiritual low follows a time of great joy, it is a message for us that when good things are happening, when powerful things are happening in our lives Spiritually, then the enemy is sure to pop up and try to spoil things; we are to model ourselves on Jesus; we are to do all we can to resist temptation and trust in God; God will provide our protection.

The passage we have from the letter of St Peter links the first reading and the Gospel well. In our first reading we have the story of Noah, which we are all familiar with. In the reading from Genesis, we are reminded that God made a Covenant and promised that He would not destroy the earth by flood again. St Peter links the saving from the waters of the eight people on the ark with how everyone can be saved through Baptism. St Peter says that our Baptism does not wash away physical dirt, but the dirt which sin causes in our life. This is a strong reminder that we can all be saved through our Baptism if we let God work in our lives. This is a message we hope to share with the parents and Godparents of the children taking part in the Baptism Preparation programme this weekend.

Now that we have started Lent, I am looking for ways of feasting on Scripture, to help me build a more intimate relationship with Jesus. I normally increase my daily prayers by adding to the Morning Prayers and Evening Prayers of the Church (which are a requirement of being a Deacon), to this I add the Office of the Church each morning and as I need to get the steps in for the challenge I walk while I pray these prayers. As I said last week, I have started reading a short daily reflection called ‘Walk with Me’, these things require time to complete, so something has to give and for me this year I will be watching less television to create the space to put my relationship with Jesus front and centre. This will be a real challenge for me as I am a bit of a couch potato, so far we have only turned the television on to watch films with a Christian theme, either based on the Bible or which highlight Christian values.

So while we contemplate Jesus’ time in the wilderness, we look at our own lives and ask ourselves what part of our lives are like a desert experience? Are there aspects of my life where I feel alone or lost? If so, where can I turn to so that I am accompanied in my wilderness? As Christians we look towards Jesus and the examples of His disciples. When Jesus was alone, He prayed, He turned to His Father and He never lost confidence that His Father was there for Him. Jesus used His time in the desert to build Himself up for His mission; as the Spirit drove Him out into the desert, the Spirit accompanied Him. The times when we are struggling can be times which we can extract energy, these times can toughen us up knowing that God is always with us.

As we are all only too aware, this past year has been devastating to many families. The virus has caused so much distress. This does not just affect the families of those who have died because of the virus. There are people in our community who are in their own wilderness today. Some may have serious health problems and are unable to be visited by family members who are fearful of passing the virus on to them. Others may be grieving the loss of a loved one, but again are unable to have the physical support of friends and family and are left to try and grieve in a manner which is alien to us. I pray that everyone affected either directly or indirectly by this virus can take comfort in knowing that Jesus spent time in the wilderness, Jesus understands the isolation, Jesus understands your pain, Jesus, innocent as He is, took on our sins and died so that we can all have eternal life and live with Him in a place where there is no more sorrow, no more pain and no more tears.

I pray that all of us can take comfort and encouragement in the words spoken by Jesus in today’s Gospel “The time has come, and the kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent, and believe the Good News.”

Please keep in your prayers this week

  • Those who are in their own personal wilderness at this time, that they are able to experience the love of God and the love of their neighbour.
  • All those who are sick, all those who care for them and all Key workers who are striving to keep us safe.
  • For all victims of violence, grant protection Lord to the innocent and prompt all who would hurt others to repent and seek help for their violent urges.
  • For the seven families taking part in the Baptism Preparation Programme, that they live up to the promises they will make on behalf of their children.
  • Our doctors, nurses, care workers and health workers who are under extreme pressure, we ask for their protection.
  • For all those taking part in the Walk for Water campaign, that we all have the strength to overcome any physical ailments.
  • For those suffering from Domestic abuse in our local area that they will have the strength and courage to seek support
  • For those who do not believe in God, that this Lent and Easter will open their eyes to the magnificent wonder of our Creator.
  • For all those taking part in the online Alpha course, may they be encouraged to enter a deeper relationship with God through prayer.
  • For all those in our Parish and Diocese who are preparing to come into the Church or to receive Sacraments, many of whom would normally have attended the Rite of Election yesterday. We pray that their preparations are blessed by the grace of God and the support in prayer of their friends, families and fellow Parishioners.
  • For the success of the RCIA course next Wednesday, that all those attending will gain an understanding and develop a love for the Liturgy and Sacraments of the Church.

Once again, I thank those who have sponsored me on my Walk for Water Challenge in aid of Cafod. If you would like to sponsor me, please go to Deacon Tony’s Walk for Water Challenge | Walk for Water | CAFOD

All donations are greatly appreciated and as always if you are unable to financially support me or the others taking part your prayers are very welcome.

Deacon Tony reflects: If you want to, you can help me

Last week I set myself the challenge of trying to spend less time looking at screens; in particular, I was going to try and say my Office prayers using the book instead of doing it on the computer. Well, my week was partially successful as I managed the first five days doing my evening prayers using the book and also reading from the Bible for my ‘Bible in a Year’ instead of reading the bible passages from the links sent by email. But I must confess that as the busy-ness of the week caught up with me, the convenience of the screen helped me to find the few minutes I needed to fit in all of the things which I had promised to myself. I will try improve on this next week.

The term unclean, as used today in our first reading from Leviticus refers to being separated from God. If someone noticed blemishes on their skin, they were to go to the priest and if a case of leprosy was diagnosed they were to be excluded from the camp. They were to warn others of their uncleanness and no-one was to touch them for fear of being declared unclean themselves. These were principally Spiritual laws, but they also protected the ‘camp’ from outbreaks of illness, by quarantining the unfortunate soul from the community.

There is an irony in today’s Gospel where the leper, the one who was excluded from society can re-join his Community once Jesus cures him. However, Jesus now finds that He is unable to venture into the towns, because everyone wanted to see Him and be with Him as a result of the miracle He performed by healing the leper.

The rituals concerning all manners of life laid down in the Book of Leviticus gave specific rules about touching, and cleanliness, and purification. By touching the leper, Jesus was potentially making Himself unclean, but Jesus demonstrated here that He has authority over both the leprosy and the laws which the Jewish people followed.

I’d like to focus on one little sentence from our Gospel reading though, the leper’s first words to Jesus were “If you want to, you can cure me”. Jesus’ response was “Of course I want to”. Jesus shows the man compassion, a compassion which we are called to mirror in today’s world.

A leper was an outcast, judged by the priest of the day and by society as being unclean, shunned by their neighbours, treated worse than a dog in the street. Everyone avoided them. What must that have been like for their mental health? How could they motivate themselves to get up every morning and attend to their own basic needs? Jesus, by touching the man was signifying the start of a new law; we are to love our neighbour, we are to love the outcast, we are to love our enemies.

We might say that we don’t see any lepers in the streets of Southern England, but we still see outcasts. There are those with mental health issues, those with alcohol or drug dependencies, there are the people who can’t speak English, migrants looking for a better life for themselves and their families. All of these are sons and daughters, all of them may have been brothers and sisters in families who may have exhausted every last bit of effort before they realised, they can no longer cope with them. All of these excluded people are looking to us as the Body of Christ here on earth today and saying “If you want to, you can help me”. How do we as the Body of Christ reply?

Closer to home we may have friends and family who are lonely, maybe struggling with this lockdown; young parents, neighbours maybe struggling with home schooling. Young people who’s parents may be unable to help them with their studies and are struggling to get the right support, they are also saying “If you want to, you can help me”. We may not be able to physically go and help just now, but we are able to help with loneliness by making a quick phone call. We may not be able to go and physically help with the challenges of home schooling, but again we may be able to help with suggestions, maybe taking a session with the children online – giving the parents some respite and the children a different voice and perspective to listen to.

God gave us free will to choose what we do and what we say, today Jesus is asking us to choose to help those less fortunate than ourselves, He is asking us to seek out the outcast and bring them into our Community, Jesus is asking us to say time and time again “Of course I want to help you”.

In our Second Reading today St Paul asks people to try not to offend others, to be helpful to others and to take him as a model – just as he takes Christ as his model. He is again pointing towards Jesus as our Saviour, our King and our role model.

Lent starts on Wednesday, with the sprinkling of ashes on our heads. Have we thought about what we are going to do during Lent to help prepare ourselves for Easter this year? As I have already shared I will be taking part alongside Fr Dominic, Fr Leo and many other parishioners in the CAFOD Walk for Water Challenge. But I am also looking at reading more; especially the religious books which I struggle to get round to, as well as watching less TV and eating less. This is a time not only to give things up, but to perhaps do something extra for God. Friends have gifted me a little book called “Walk with Me” it is a daily reflection throughout Lent, I will be building this into my daily prayer time. I normally switch off my Social Media pages during Lent and Advent, but this year I will still use them to promote the CAFOD Challenge.

This week Jesus touched the leper and changed his life for ever. Whose life can we touch this week? We might not change their life; but we could certainly brighten their day.

Please keep in your prayers this week

  • For us all, that we may identify the lepers in our life and that we may find the courage to recognise them as our brothers and sisters, welcoming them into our lives.
  • All those who are sick, we pray that Jesus will heal them as he healed those in Capernaum.
  • For those who are unemployed and seeking work, we pray that the Lord guides them towards an employer who needs them.
  • Our doctors, nurses, care workers and health workers who are under extreme pressure, we ask for their protection.
  • For all those taking part in the Walk for Water campaign.
  • For those suffering from Domestic abuse in our local area that they will have the strength and courage to seek support
  • For those who do not believe in God, that this Lent and Easter will open their eyes to the magnificent wonder of our Creator.
  • For all those in our Parish and Diocese who are preparing to come into the Church or to receive Sacraments, many of whom would normally attend the Rite of Election next Saturday. We pray that their preparations are blessed by the grace of God and the support in prayer of their friends, families and fellow Parishioners.

Once again, I thank those who have sponsored me on my Walk for Water Challenge in aid of Cafod. At the time of writing I have reached 58% of my target before a step has been taken. The serious walking starts on Ash Wednesday and will go on throughout Lent. If you would like to sponsor me, please go to Deacon Tony’s Walk for Water Challenge | Walk for Water | CAFOD

All donations are greatly appreciated and as always if you are unable to financially support me or the others taking part your prayers are very welcome.

Deacon Tony reflects: We do not walk alone

In today’s first reading we have a passage from Job, where he describes his life in total dismay. He seems to be tired of life and views it as an existence; thinking that he will never see joy again. Some people can be tempted to fall into that trap, looking at life as being like a glass half empty. We have seen in recent days, great sadness in our country, at the death of a man who had the opposite view. In the lead up to his 100th birthday, Captain Tom wanted to express his gratitude to those who had looked after him so well in the National Health Service, his original plan was to raise £1000, but thanks to great publicity he raised over £30 million for NHS charities. He could have been like Job, wishing his life away, instead he inspired a nation at a time when we needed a focus to help us get through the first lockdown. May his soul rest in peace.

Our psalm this week again asks us to sing, we are called to praise God for he is good, sing to God for he is loving. God will heal the broken hearted and call back all who are far from him. God never stops calling, we, in turn, need to listen and respond.

In our second reading we have St Paul telling the Corinthians that it is his duty to preach the Gospel. This duty is shared by all of us as Christians; it is a duty which comes from being Baptised. If we live with the peace of Christ in our hearts, His joy will shine in us and people will see that we are different. This is a peace and a joy and a love which is meant to be shared.

St Paul’s example showed that he encountered people where they were in order to bring them to God. How can we do that today? How can we as a Christian people reach others during lockdown? At a time when the needs are great this is a time, this is our time to let the love of Jesus grow in the world. There are many people doing great work by volunteering for things like the Foodbank, or less organised things like helping elderly neighbours with shopping, or just checking they are okay. As Christians we need to ask ourselves what more can I do to help my neighbour?

In our Gospel we first of all hear about Jesus healing Peter’s mother-in-law, and she responds by serving Jesus and His disciples. Bible Alive1 recalls St Bede’s observation on this “The health which is conferred at the command of the Lord returns at once entire, accompanied with such strength that she is able to minister to those of whose help she had before stood in need.” This is truly Divine, to be suffering from a fever and then by the mere touch of another to be able to get up and start working.

In the evening they brought more people for Jesus to heal and to cast out devils. Jesus then went off to find a quiet place, Jesus sets an example for us to follow; we all need to find a quiet time to be with Our Father. My days are currently filled with time spent looking at screens either through work or through some of the Church activities which have moved online or when I am meeting up with friends and family through the internet. At times I feel my eyes need respite and I need to find time away from screens; find a quiet time to spend some time with God. I struggle to do this, even my prayer time is spent on a screen as I pray the prayers of the Church through an Application on my computer. This week I will try to spend less time on screens; I will pick up my Office of the Church and use the books again, spend time with my Father away from the screen and let His light shine instead of the light from my computer screen.

These times of silence which Jesus regularly practiced, were not just respite. These were times for Jesus to be still with his thoughts and be closer to the Father. As St Paul said (elsewhere) in his first letter to the Corinthians “For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no-one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God” (1 Cor 2:11 NIV). In spending time in silence Jesus is urging us to find that time in our days, find a quiet place free of distractions and just be still. Be present for God , just as he is always present for us.

In our Gospel Jesus gives us another example, he does not want to restrict his teaching or his healing to one town. Following his time of prayer Jesus reveals that He has to spread his message to the other towns in the country; preaching, healing and casting out devils. Jesus is telling us not to keep this to ourselves, He went out to other people He did not wait for them to come to Him. There are many ways where Jesus is reaching out to us. This week in our Pastoral Area the Alpha course continues online and is very well attended. In St Bede’s the RCIA course continues online too and the Parish is looking at more ways to reach out to our community (more news soon).

The message from God is that we do not walk alone on our journey; God is always with us. We also have the accompaniment of our fellow travellers to encourage and support us. We are one body, we are only as strong as our weakest part, sometimes we are the weakest part of the body and sometimes we can be the strongest part (without realising it). It is how we accompany and encourage each other that builds up our community. We are part of something far bigger than ourselves, far bigger than our Parish, we are part of the Body of Christ which is at the same time, an awesome privilege and a great responsibility.

Please keep in your prayers this week

  • All those who are sick, we pray that Jesus will heal them as he healed those in Capernaum.
  • For an end to Human trafficking, that perpetrators of this heinous crime will have a change of heart and that victims will get the support they need.
  • On Thursday we celebrate the Feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes, may Our Lady intercede for all the sick at this time.
  • For all those affected by inclement weather in our country and for the protection of those who work to keep us all safe at these times.
  • Our doctors, nurses, care workers and health workers who are under extreme pressure, we ask for their protection.
  • For all those taking part in the Walk for Water campaign.
  • For those suffering from Domestic abuse in our local area that they will have the strength and courage to seek support
  • For those attending the Alpha Course on Monday as they explore the subject of faith and for those attending the RCIA course on Wednesday that we can learn more about Mary the mother of Jesus and our Mother.
  • A quick recovery for Fr Patrick in Tadley, who is still feeling the effects of a fall.

Once again, I thank those who have sponsored me on my Walk for Water Challenge in aid of Cafod. The serious walking starts on Ash Wednesday and will go on throughout Lent. If you would like to sponsor me, please go to Deacon Tony’s Walk for Water Challenge | Walk for Water | CAFOD

All donations are greatly appreciated and as always if you are unable to financially support me or the others taking part your prayers are very welcome.

1 Bible Alive – January 2021, (Alive Publishing, Stoke-on-Trent, 2021)53.

Deacon Tony reflects: Ring out your joy

Last week at the Alpha Course being run online, we were all asked, ‘Who is Jesus?’ This week in our Gospel from St Mark, the unclean spirit says to Jesus, ‘I know who you are, you are the Holy One of God’. Jesus then orders the unclean spirit out of the possessed man and it obeys His authority. In our first reading from Deuteronomy we also hear about authority, Moses is foretelling the times of Jesus, by telling the people of his times about a great prophet who will come from their people and will speak with the voice of God and that the people are to listen to what this prophet says. These words in Deuteronomy parallel the voice of God heard at the Transfiguration of Jesus “This is my Son, the Beloved, Listen to him” (Mark 9:7).

The same theme is within our psalm, ‘listen to his voice!’ the psalmist warns and then we hear the verse –

Come, ring out our joy to the Lord,
hail the rock who saves us.
Let us come before him, giving thanks,
with songs let us hail the Lord.”

This jumps out at me for a couple of reasons. Recently, I realised that one of the things which I really miss during this pandemic is joyful communal worship music. Last weekend while I was out for a walk, I played the rosary in my earphones for the first part of the walk and then I normally move across to some 80’s music to keep my steps lively (it helps to pass the walking time quicker). This time however, I chose to play worship music, how can I bemoan not hearing it and then choose not to listen when I have the time?

As I walked and listened to the music it really lifted my spirit. I shared this with the Afternoon Tea group last Sunday and I proposed that we finished the afternoon tea with a sing-a-long to ‘Shine Jesus Shine’, (we played the music with the lyrics on the screen and asked everyone to mute so that we were singing together). It was really joyful, and we asked one of the others to choose a different hymn for this week’s afternoon tea. For anyone meeting virtually for church meetings or with likeminded friends I recommend this as it is a very powerful way of worship, which we are being denied; due to essential health restrictions; during our Liturgy.

The other thought which jumps out at me is the word joy. We are called to ‘ring out our joy to the Lord’. We need to remember that we are here to listen to and share the Good News. Jesus is alive, he is with us. We are here at a celebration and this should fill us with joy; fill us to the brim. Our joy should overflow and touch others. In the reflection for today’s Gospel in ‘Bible Alive’1 the author highlights that those who heard Jesus’ teaching in Capernaum recognised something ‘new’. We can be something new to others, for those on the margins we can bring joy, acceptance and love.

During this pandemic, all we hear on the news is doom and gloom, all we read about is another set of depressing statistics. But as Christians we know Jesus is risen. We know that God loves us. We know that this life is not the end. ‘Let us come before him, giving thanks, with songs let us hail the Lord.’ With this in mind, I would like to suggest that we all try to find some time every day and play a joyful piece of worship music, it could be a favourite hymn, some which lifts you or inspires you. We could choose the same song every day or put a little bit of variety into our lives by choosing a different song every day. If you have access to a computer, you could perhaps play it on a video with the lyrics and join in with those who are singing. We need to remind ourselves daily that this world was created by God, let His music fill the earth, let His music fill our hearts and minds.

Today is Racial Justice Sunday. Tragically, there are too many examples occurring throughout our world that highlight why this day is still needed in the 21st Century. In this week’s Portsmouth Diocese enews there is a powerful message from Bishop Paul McAleenan urging us all to do something to support this cause. It is not enough to condemn, or offer words of support; we have to put our concerns into action if we want our children and grandchildren to grow up in a world where Racial Injustice is something taught in a history lesson where the pupils ask incredulously ‘did they really treat their brothers and sisters so badly?’ I urge everyone to take the time to read this and to respond with love.

Last week I mentioned that I had registered for the CAFOD Walk For Water campaign, during Lent I (and other Parishioners) will be walking 10,000 steps every day to raise money for CAFOD. Our daily step total is to replicate the distance some families have to walk every day to obtain fresh water. I’d like to thank those who have already sponsored me. If you would like to sponsor me, my link is Deacon Tony’s Walk for Water Challenge | Walk for Water | CAFOD there is also a general link for Holy Ghost Parish St Bede’s Church, Basingstoke is fundraising for The Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD) (justgiving.com) Whichever way you choose to donate CAFOD will be very grateful for the money, or if you would like to join in please go to Walk for Water | CAFOD. If you are not in a position to sponsor, then your prayers for all taking part would be very welcome.

Please keep in your prayers this week

  • All those who are sick, we pray for their recovery and that they do not give up hope.
  • For justice for all men, women, and children regardless of their race; for a better understanding for all of prejudice and an awareness of how much we as individuals can do to help make life fairer for all of our neighbours.
  • For the protection of those who campaign against injustice; and for a will that everyone will start to challenge injustice and will no longer tolerate prejudice of any kind.
  • For all those affected by flooding in our country.
  • Our doctors, nurses, care workers and health workers who are under extreme pressure, we ask for their protection.
  • For all those taking part in the Walk for Water campaign.
  • For those suffering from Domestic abuse in our local area that they will have the strength and courage to seek support
  • For those attending the Alpha Course on Monday help them to get a full appreciation of Why Jesus died.
  • A quick recovery for Fr Patrick in Tadley, who had a fall last weekend.

Deacon Tony Darroch, 30th January 2021.

1 Bible Alive – January 2021, (Alive Publishing, Stoke-on-Trent, 2021)46.