Deacon Tony reflects: Loving God with everything we have

Today’s message is all about love. Our Old Testament reading has Moses receiving the instruction to tell the Israelites not to oppress or molest strangers, reminding them that they were strangers themselves when they lived in Egypt. Instructing them to look out for the widow and orphans, not to exploit the poor and to look out for those in need. Being a message from the Old Testament there is also emphasis on how God will treat those who do not follow His instructions.

The psalm used today emphasises the love we should have for God, how we should recognise God as our fortress our place of refuge when times are tough and how we should thank God with our praise and worship as a result of the love He has shown us.

St Paul in his first letter to the Thessalonians praises them, telling them how their faith has been recognised by their neighbours – not through words but by their actions – serving the living God.

Matthew’s Gospel has one of the most famous passages, when someone tries to disturb Jesus by asking which is the greatest commandment. Jesus answered “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. The second resembles it; you must love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments hang the whole Law and the Prophets also.” Most of us are aware of the command to love God and love our neighbour, but there are two distinct ways of loving being commanded here.

By loving God with of our heart, all of our soul and all of our mind, it is emphasising that we are to love God with everything we have. God at the centre of our lives, not as an afterthought. By loving our neighbour as ourselves we are being instructed to treat others in a way which we would like to be treated by other people.

God is love concept text lying on the rustic wooden background.

So how do we love God with all of our heart, soul, and mind? We have plenty of examples in the lives of the saints; St Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower for example dedicated her every breath to God. She saw it as her mission to “make others love God as I do, to teach others my ‘little way.’ I will spend my Heaven in doing good upon earth…”1 Or St Pio, who constantly prayed the rosary equating holding his rosary beads as ‘holding Mama’s hands’ as he said “In times of darkness, holding the Rosary is like holding your Blessed Mother’s hand. Pray the Rosary every day. Abandon yourself in the hands of Mary. She will take care of you.” 2

These two saints loved God with everything they had, and they have encouraged generations to do the same; both while they lived and since they left this earth by the examples they have left behind.

We are also called to love our neighbour as we love ourselves. We do not have to look very far to see people who do this. Our own communities have people who do so many wonderful things; people who visit the sick, who help at the foodbank, who volunteer for the night shelter, who distribute the Parish Newsletter to those without the internet, who visit those who may be alone; and in so many other ways. We have vibrant communities, and we support our neighbours as it is part of every Christian’s vocation to do.

We are called to serve, to serve one another on a daily basis, so when we hear today’s Gospel each and every one of us has to ask ourselves the question what more can I do to love my neighbour? If we are honest there is always more to do, but if every one of us answers the call then our neighbours will be like the neighbours of the Thessalonians in our second reading, in that they will know we are Christians by our love.

This week a petition; signed by (at the time of writing) over 600,000 people to end child food poverty by providing children who receive free school meals with vouchers during school holidays; prompted a debate in Parliament which ended with our MPs voting against this proposal. This has prompted a further petition which is currently gathering pace to end the subsidies to MPs for their meals in the House of Commons; again at the time of writing over 600,000 people have signed this petition.

In our first reading today we are instructed by God to look after the vulnerable in our Community; I believe our MPs need to heed that message, for as God said in that reading when the poor cry to God, He will hear their cry and those who have neglected the poor will not like God’s response.

Please keep in your prayers this week

  • Families who are struggling to put food on their table, that they get the help they need.
  • Those who are lonely, that neighbours will reach out to them.
  • For those who find it difficult to ‘love themselves’ – may they learn to be kind to themselves and allow themselves to be loved and cherished.
  • Those looking for work.
  • Our doctors, nurses, medical staff and care workers, unpaid carers and all other keyworkers as the Coronavirus seems to be spreading further again.
  • Expectant mothers, that they will have safe pregnancies and deliver healthy babies.

Deacon Tony Darroch, 24th October 2020.

1 St Therese of Lisieux, The Story of a Soul, (TAN Books, Charlotte, North Carolina, 2010)

2 5 Thoughts from Padre Pio on the Rosary available from https://aleteia.org/2019/10/25/5-thoughts-from-padre-pio-on-the-rosary/ accessed 24th October 2020.

Deacon Tony reflects: Contributing to society

In a recent RCIA class we were discussing creation with the passages from the beginning of the Bible in Genesis. We were reminded that God created everything that we can see, touch, smell, taste and hear. Everything belongs to God as He created everything.

In today’s Gospel the Pharisees and the Herodians attempt to be as subtle as the serpent in the Garden of Eden when they set a trap for Jesus. When they ask whether it is right to pay taxes or not?

The root of the trap is that many of the Jews held to the ancient law that images were forbidden. Many others did not want to pay taxes to the occupying Romans. They knew that if Jesus advocated for the non-payment of taxes to the Romans then they could have had him arrested by the Romans for encouraging political resistance. Jesus was not like Adam and Eve; he saw through their trap. The fact that they had a coin available is noteworthy (even though they didn’t want to use the Roman coins, they had one).

By stating that they should give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and give unto God what is God’s, Jesus avoids the trap and sets a principal which holds today. We, as Christians must recognise that everything belongs to God and we need to contribute to society through our civil responsibilities, in this case paying taxes.

In discussions at an Evangelising Cell meeting this week, we looked at how far we should take this; challenging each other on things like when we have work done at home, do we ever ask what the price would be for cash? Hence avoiding the tax!

In these times when many businesses are struggling and many of us opt for the easiest option, how discerning are we when we choose which companies to give our business to? Do we choose a local family run business who may cost a little bit more and in the good times maybe sponsor a local sports team or provide prizes for a school fete or do we choose a multi-national company with a reputation for next day delivery, massive profits, and very little evidence of paying tax at appropriate levels, if at all?

Do we recognise that all we have comes from God? How do we share the many blessings bestowed upon us in our everyday life?

This October we are asked to contribute to Cafod and Missio over two successive weeks. We know that Covid 19 has hit our country hard; with thousands dying, and many people still feeling the effects of the virus months after they were first diagnosed. Hundreds of thousands have lost their jobs and many others are fearful of losing their jobs, but the people served by Cafod and Missio have no health care except what we provide through our contributions to these organisations.

Can we reflect God’s generosity to us by how we support these organisations?

Please keep in your prayers this week

  • Those completing the Baptism Preparation Course this Sunday.
  • Those who work in the Missions
  • Those looking for work.
  • Our doctors, nurses, medical staff and care workers, unpaid carers and all other keyworkers as the Coronavirus seems to be spreading further again.
  • Saturday 17th October is the International Day for the eradication of poverty, we pray for all those who are striving to end poverty in our world.

Deacon Tony reflects: acts of kindness

The Queen’s Birthday Honour’s List was announced this weekend, it has been delayed because of the Covid crisis. Not surprisingly it recognises the many unsung heroes from the NHS who have risked their own lives to try and help those affected by this horrible illness. As usual celebrities are the ones who make the headlines. One young man stands out for me, in a time when footballers can earn a fortune and become very wealthy at a young age; Marcus Rashford is one of these privileged young men. Thrown in to the first team at Manchester United while still at school, he has grabbed his chance for success on the field and is now an established England International.

As a football fan, regardless of what team you support, you admire talent, and this young man is extremely talented. Marcus has not been rewarded by the Queen for his efforts on the field. Marcus Rashford has stood up when many others have sat down. He has spoken up for those less fortunate than himself and he is a voice for the children who go to bed hungry in this country. He has remembered the times when his mother struggled to put food on the table as he was growing up and through the voice his football talents have given him he has spoken up in the media and managed to get the Government to support poorer families with food vouchers throughout the pandemic so far.

We may not have such a public voice, but we do have God given talents; which we are expected to use to help others.

This week’s Scriptures has similarities to last week’s in that we have some beautiful prose from Isaiah and then a very strong message to the Chief Priests and scribes from Jesus recorded in Matthew’s Gospel.

If you read the words in Isaiah, they are comforting for our current situation, they talk about how God will wipe away every tear and destroy death for ever. It is a message of hope for those in desperate times. As believers we look forward with hope to that day when all our tears will be wiped away and we can all praise God together basking in His light.

The psalm used today is one of the most popular and well known psalms which we have. At the root of it the response today, “in the Lord’s own house shall I dwell for ever and ever.” This statement is one of confidence; that confidence is not arrogance, but the sure knowledge that this is what God has promised us. Those who follow the Good Shepherd, have a place in heaven; Jesus told us that too when he said “In my Father’s house there are many rooms” (John 14:2).

In our Gospel today, we hear again that those originally invited to the banquet, rejected the call. So others were invited to take their place. The part where the person was spotted without a wedding garment is one which troubled me, until I read a reflection in the “I am With You” book on today’s Gospel.1 The new invitation is open to everyone who loves God and their neighbour. Our wedding garment is not something we can buy. Our wedding garment is crafted in how we live, every act of kindness, encouraging word in fact everything we do to help someone else adds stitches to our garment and we don’t even have to know how to sew! All we need to do is love.

What have you done this week to contribute to your wedding garment? Every act of kindness, which might mean nothing to the person delivering it, will mean a great deal to the person receiving it. As Christians we are called to let others know by our actions how precious they are to God. Can I whole heartedly say that is how I have treated everyone I have met or spoken with this week?

For me the response is probably not; like most people I have regrets following interactions with people. Delays in replying to messages, being too swift to judge other people’s motives. For the times when I haven’t treated other people as being precious to God I ask for forgiveness and the ability to recognise and change my behaviours so that the people I interact with are left in no doubt about how special they are.

As St Paul points out in his Letter to the Galatians for those who accompany others “it was good of you to share with me in my hardships. In return my God will fulfil all your needs, in Christ Jesus as lavishly as only God can.”

Please keep in your prayers this week

  • Those starting the Baptism Preparation Course this Sunday.
  • Those who are feeling isolated by health restrictions, loneliness or being far away from home.
  • Those looking for work.
  • Our doctors, nurses, medical staff and care workers, unpaid carers and all other keyworkers as the Coronavirus seems to be spreading further again.

Deacon Tony Darroch, 10th October 2020.

If you are struggling to find resources or would like suggestions please email me on adarroch@portsmouthdiocese.org.uk or if you would appreciate the odd call from me during this time please send me a message with your contact details and I will get in touch.

1 Two in One Flesh Team, I am with You – Year A, (Two in One Flesh, Caterham, 2013)118-9.

Deacon Tony reflects: listen to the messenger

Vineyards and vines appear throughout Scriptures and they represent Israel and God’s chosen people. In today’s first reading we have the fine prose of Isaiah, describing a friend who prepared the land and formed a vineyard, planting the best of vines and expecting a good yield. His hard work was rewarded with sour grapes. Isaiah explains that the vineyard will be allowed to be over-run, it will suffer drought and abandonment, the creator has lost patience with the vineyard. He reveals that the vineyard of the Lord of Hosts is the house of Israel and the men of Judah the chosen vines. The sour grapes are bloodshed and cries of distress.

In our Gospel Jesus uses a similar example, however Jesus is more direct. In the passage which immediately followed last week’s Gospel when we heard of the two brothers who changed their minds about labouring in their Father’s vineyard; this week Jesus directs his parable straight to the Chief priests and the elders of the people. Jesus tells of the tenants; tenants is significant here; they may have been the chosen people, but they do not own the vineyard, they are present as long as the owner allows it. The messengers in the parable are the prophets sent to plead and direct the Israelites into changing their ways and coming back to the Lord. These were assaulted and some were killed. More servants were sent and they met with the same fate. Finally, Jesus tells them that the master’s son was sent and foretelling his own death, he predicts that they will plot his death and try to steal his inheritance.

The Chief priests will have been very aware of the connection, in fact if you continue with Matthew’s Gospel until the end of the Chapter it states “When they heard his parables, the chief priests and the scribes realised he was speaking about them, but though they would have liked to arrest him they were afraid of the crowds, who looked on him as a prophet.” (Matthew 21:44-46).

We can listen to this parable and think that is the fate of the Israelites, but where do we fit in with this? Are we doing our best to follow the faith we profess? As I often do, I look to Fr Placid Murray for inspiration for my reflections, the reflection for this week includes the following –

How many messengers have we rejected? God uses many people as messengers. It could have been our Dad asking us to behave ourselves, it could have been our mother’s tears, or a sister’s kindness or a teacher’s warning or a priest’s advice. How short of a harvest will we be when the Lord of the vineyard comes to collect his produce?”

Many years ago, when I was not a regular at Mass, I was standing in a Baker’s shop in Tadley and a Parishioner came in and without warning announced to me that “I should be at Mass with my wife and children.” He promptly left, with me standing embarrassed beside a couple of work colleagues. I may not have liked his message, in fact it irritated me greatly; not because I thought it was none of his business, but because I knew he was right. I believe that man was used by God to deliver that message to me. He is now buried in the same cemetery as my Dad and every time I visit my Dad’s grave I visit his grave too and say a prayer for him. I see him as being crucial to bringing me back into the Church and I will be forever grateful to him.

The message delivered by Jesus all those years ago was delivered to the established Church, what message is Jesus giving to us today? Do we listen to or reject His messengers? Are we judgemental? Do we gossip? Do we criticise people behind their back? Or are we merciful? Do we refuse to listen to gossip and maybe even challenge those who share it? Are we supportive of those who need help?

The parables in the Gospel are meant to challenge us, they prompt us to ask questions of ourselves; our responsibility is to examine our behaviours and change them as we feel prompted. By responding appropriately, we will be able to deliver the produce to the Lord of the harvest when the season arrives.

This month of October is a time when it is traditional for Catholics to pray the Rosary, at a time of pandemic we are encouraged to offer up the Rosary to Our Lady, that she will intercede for us to relieve the suffering of those who are ill, to comfort those who are grieving, to protect those who are providing care and to inspire those who are working in the field of science to improve testing regimes or to find a vaccine which will be available for all. Mother of Perpetual Help pray for us.

Please keep in your prayers this week

  • Those continuing the RCIA journey next Wednesday at St Bede’s Hall.
  • All pregnant women, especially those in our parishes and families.
  • For vocations to the priesthood, diaconate, and the religious life (please pray the rosary for this).
  • Those who are feeling isolated by health restrictions, loneliness or being far away from home.

Deacon Tony Darroch, 2nd October 2020.

If you are struggling to find resources or would like suggestions please email me on adarroch@portsmouthdiocese.org.uk or if you would appreciate the odd call from me during this time please send me a message with your contact details and I will get in touch.

Deacon Tony reflects: a Church of Action

As I mentioned in my reflection last week, Jesus used parables to make us ask questions of ourselves and this week is no different. This week we are being challenged to think about how we live out our Faith. In fact, if you read the text again you can see the direct challenge to the chief priests and elders.

They were prominent people; well known throughout their towns, looked up to by their community. They were all about telling others what to do and being seen in the prominent places within the temple. In Jesus’ time they went around picking fault in everything he did. Their jealousy, based upon their fear of losing their place, meant that they were like the second son in the parable. They told everyone to prepare for the coming of the Messiah, but when Jesus came, they refused to recognise Him.

On the other hand Jesus is saying the tax collectors and the prostitutes were like the 1st son, their initial behaviours were to show repugnance and revolt to the established faith as they lived out their sinful lives, but once they heard the message of John the Baptist to repent and experienced the love of Jesus, they were prompted into action and changed their ways.

So, today’s parable has me asking – am I more like the first son or the second? Do I promise much and fail to deliver? Do I offer initial hostility to requests and then think better of it? How do I put my Faith into action?

The truth is that we can all be like both sons at times. We can all feel like the first son and reject requests to help and then think better of it. We can also be like the second son say ‘yes’ but then be tempted to do otherwise. Here we have the example of Jesus himself to strengthen us: he knelt down and prayed. “Father, if you will, take this cup away from me. Not my will, however, but your will be done”. (Luke 22:41, 42). These words spoken by Jesus on the eve of His Passion, show the true humanity of Jesus as He contemplated what was about to happen.

That same time period is brought to our minds in the poem which is used in the second half of our second reading today. A poem which we associate with the Passion and Resurrection of Christ. A poem which unites heaven, earth and the underworld in how we should all react at the very name of Jesus.

These are difficult times, many people are worried about their jobs, many people have already lost their jobs, many young people have never managed to secure a job. If you are in any of these groups of people, please pray that God will provide for you. If you find yourself with time on your hands, ask yourself, what can you do to make the best use of your time? How can you help to build up God’s kingdom?

How can you make God’s church a church of action here in our Parish?

Please keep in your prayers this week

  • Chimkasi and Zofia who were baptised on Saturday 26th.
  • All those seeking employment.
  • Members of the St Vincent de Paul Society.
  • The Parishioners of St Michael’s in Tadley as they celebrate their Patronal Feast this Tuesday.

Deacon Tony Darroch, 26th September 2020.

If you are struggling to find resources or would like suggestions please email me on adarroch@portsmouthdiocese.org.uk or if you would appreciate the odd call from me during this time please send me a message with your contact details and I will get in touch.

Welcome to Fr Dominic Adeiza

Our new parish priest writes:

I am Dominic Ozovehe Adeiza, born July 14th, 1969. Born into a big Muslim family of eight, of which I lost a brother, a sister and my father.

I trained in Nigeria and was ordained for the diocese of Lokoja. After my ordination I served in my diocese as the Chancellor / the Bishop’s Secretary and the co-editor of the diocesan newspaper.

After a few years, I went over to Rome to study communication at the Gregorian University while living at the English College (Sherwin House). As a student in Rome, I spent my holidays in parishes in Preston, Parbold, Wimbledon, Warwickshire and North London

After my studies I was asked to continue with a research. I came to England was gladly offered scholarship by the diocese of Portsmouth. I did my research in Sociology at Surrey University, Guildford. While doing my studies, I served as the parish priest of St Swithun’s Yateley. Mid-way, I took on the responsibility of St. Thomas More, Hartley Wintney.

At the completion of my studies, I returned to Nigeria to take on the appointment of a Training Director of Lux Terra Leadership Foundation. I served as the Coordinator and Director of the Psycho-Spiritual Institute, Nairobi, Kenya. I taught at the Albertine Institute, Fayit- Fadan Kagoma, Kaduna, Veritas University Abuja and at the Nigerian Deposit Insurance Corporation, Abuja.

At some point I served as Chaplain to the Knights, Catholic Lawyers, Prisons and Journalists.

I enjoy reading, teaching, traveling, cooking my own meals, walking and outdoor games. I love dogs and would love to engage in gardening.

I am excited with my move from Faringdon to Basingstoke (Amazingstoke).

Fr Dominic Adeiza

Deacon Tony reflects: a call to love

Thirty-nine years ago, almost to the day I started out on my working life. I started off as an apprentice, and on that first day I remember the foreman screaming abuse at one of the tradesmen, effectively telling him off in front of all the other workers. I turned to my tradesman and asked him if this was normal. I was informed that what should really happen is that the person should be taken to one side and spoken with quietly, as that is good management.

Today we hear about our responsibility as Christians not to walk by while someone else is getting things wrong. However, this is not calling us to become judges of those around us, this is a call to love.

The penalty for walking on by is outlined in our first reading from the prophet Ezekiel, if we see someone following the wrong path, we are to advise them to change their ways, if we fail to challenge them to change then we may be liable to their punishment. If, however we do advise them to change and they still fail to change then the punishment is solely their own. We will have carried out our duty in the eyes of the Lord.

Our psalm is emphasising that we need to listen out for God’s voice, as we heard a few weeks ago, God can be found in the stillness of a gentle breeze. We are encouraged to go towards the Lord and kneel before our Creator, praising Him and having a heart which is open to love.

St Paul tells us in today’s second reading that all of the challenges we are called to make are to be done in love. He tells us that ‘Love is the only thing which cannot hurt your neighbour; that is why it is the answer to every one of the commandments.’

In St Matthew’s Gospel reading today, we hear Jesus telling us to challenge our brother when he does something wrong. Again, this is not to be done to make ourselves feel superior, like the foreman I mentioned earlier. No, this must be done with the right motivation and that is LOVE. Always remembering how Jesus described how we need to remove the log from our own eye first before helping our brother to remove the splinter in his (Mat 7:3).

All of the challenges described by Jesus in Matthew’s reading are to be carried out in love. The first challenge is to be carried out in private, this is the best opportunity to win back the brother. Next, we are encouraged to take along 2 or 3 witnesses. For me this isn’t only a challenge to the brother, but a challenge to the one who feels offended. If we have already challenged a close friend or relation and we believe we are in the right, wouldn’t we want to think carefully prior to involving anyone else? Am I confident that I am in the right? Surely when we start to involve others, we would want to be certain that we are standing on solid ground?

If we have made the decision to go ahead with the challenge, witnesses in tow, and there is still no resolution then we are encouraged to bring the matter to the attention of the whole community. Bearing in mind that the main purpose of this is to change the behaviour which led to the discord in the first place. If the offender rejects the decision of the community, they in effect excommunicate themselves from the community. Even after all of these rejections, we are still called to love, as that is the key message of Jesus.

The last two paragraphs from today’s Gospel are ’Amen, Amen’ sayings – whenever we hear Jesus use the words ‘I tell you solemnly’ or ‘I tell you most solemnly’ we know we are to listen and really take in what we are about to hear. These are solemn pronouncements.

Fr Robert Draper; a Parish Priest from Dorset explains –

The solemn action of the community in pronouncing on the behaviour of one of its members becomes the judgement of heaven. The saying about ‘two or three meet in my name’ is often used to express Christ’s presence when the faithful are gathered in prayer. The reality of that saying in its context is to express divine sanction for the action of the Church in disciplining its members. That is very significant and should be reflected on carefully by those who want to insist on making one’s Church membership something simply personal and private.1

We are called to love, even those who may be considered to be our enemy!

Is there anyone in my life that I need to reach out to in love to bring them back closer to me?

Am I aware of having offended anyone? If so, can I reach out to them and ask for forgiveness? Is there anyone who is causing stress in my life at the moment? Do I feel strong enough to challenge them on their behaviour? If so, then out of love, I need to challenge them. If I do not feel strong enough to challenge them, I need to pray for them.

As Christians we never want the ultimate sanction of people being excluded to happen, we are called to live in Community, a community of love. Jesus did not want the ultimate sanction to be used either, but he outlined the foundations of the process to his disciples and gave them authority to firm up the laws of the Church. Two thousand years later, the message remains the same for us. It is now our responsibility to reflect, pray and act, it is our actions which will determine whether there will still be a Christian Community here for those who will live here after we have gone.

Please keep in your prayers this week

  • Those starting out on the Baptism Preparation Course this Sunday.
  • All the students and staff in our schools and colleges as they return after the summer break and the disruption of the lockdown.
  • As we celebrate the Nativity of Our Lady on Tuesday, we remember all who are pregnant at this time.
  • We also remember the anniversary of consecration of the Holy Ghost Church in Basingstoke (consecrated 9/9/1903), please pray for all those who have worked so hard to ensure that such a beautiful church is available for us in our Pastoral Area.

Deacon Tony Darroch, 4th September 2020.

If you are struggling to find resources or would like suggestions please email me on adarroch@portsmouthdiocese.org.uk or if you would appreciate the odd call from me during this time please send me a message with your contact details and I will get in touch.

1 Robert Draper, Breaking the Word – Sundays, The Pastoral Review Vol 16 Issue 3, (The Table Publishing Company, Twickenham, London, 2020)82.

Deacon Tony reflects: living a disciple’s life

A few years ago, my eyes were opened to the fact that a prophet is someone who disturbs. In my research for today’s reflection I came across a saying “every prophet disturbs, but not everyone who disturbs is a prophet.”1 This I believe to be true, we can be disturbed by all sorts of people by what they do, what they say, how they treat others or how they treat themselves. Just because they can disturb us does not make them a prophet.

In the Catholic Dictionary the word prophet is explained as follows

The biblical term ‘nabi’ means ‘one who spoke, acted or wrote under the extraordinary influence of God to make known the divine counsels will.’ Yet commonly associated with this primary function to proclaim the word of God, a prophet also prophesied by foretelling future events. His role, then was to both proclaim and to make the proclamation credible.2

Based on this purpose, is it any wonder that they disturb?

In today’s readings we have Jeremiah, complaining to God about the burden of being a prophet and yet despite the derision [‘daily laughing stock, everybody’s butt.’] he suffers he continues to obey God and share the message with the people God wanted to hear it. Jeremiah tried to block God, he tried to not even think about God or mention his name, but he had this ‘ fire burning’ in his heart, compelling him to continue to deliver very difficult messages.

In our Gospel today Jesus foretells for the first time of His Passion. Peter, takes Jesus aside and protests, “this cannot happen to you Lord.” Peter is disturbed by the message, and I would guess he would have been even more disturbed by Jesus’ reaction to his protest, “Get behind me, Satan!” and is told that he is an obstacle to Jesus. What are we to make of this? Only last week, in the verses preceding this week’s versus, we hear Jesus tell Peter that he is the rock upon which the Church will be built and now Peter is being called Satan. The answer was immediate. Peter was thinking as men think and not as God thinks. As I mentioned last week God does things His way, and every day we say to God that His will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.

Within our Gospel there is further disturbing news for the disciples and for us; if we want to be followers of Christ then we are to take up our cross and follow Jesus. We are to follow Jesus unto the point of death and if we lose our life for the sake of Jesus we will be rewarded with eternal life. That is the promise made by Jesus. At the end of time, when Jesus comes to judge, each of us will be rewarded according to our behaviour. On that day there will be much rejoicing, but there will also be much weeping and grinding of teeth. St Katherine Drexel sums it up very well –

The question alone important, the solution of which depends upon how I have spent my life, is the state of my soul at the moment of death. Infinite misery or infinite happiness! There is no half and half, either one or the other. And this question for me is to be decided at most in seventy years, seventy short years compared with Eternity.3

This judgement is why St Paul is urging the Romans in our excerpt from his letter to them in today’s second reading to change their behaviours, model their behaviour on their new mind. St Paul tells them that this is the “only way to discover the will of God and know what is good, what it is that God wants, what is the perfect thing to do.”

To change our current behaviours may not be easy; living the life of an intentional disciple was never going to be. Sacrifices will be needed with the rewards being priceless.

Advertisers spend vast amounts of money trying to influence and persuade us to live a certain lifestyle – doing what others do [buying fancy cars, holidays etc] – but what if we were to disturb in a way that encouraged and invited others to live a different way? How could our behaviour encourage or invite others to live?

This week we need to ask ourselves, what behaviour(s) do I need to change? What are the obstacles in my life? If God called me today would I be happy to be judged on the state of my soul today? What do my answers urge me to do?

For me, my obstacles include a fear of failure, which has held me back over the years. I can often take a long time to make decisions (procrastination), which frustrates me and those around me. I have a wife who loves to challenge, whereas I struggle with challenge (I see this as an obstacle, but Pam probably sees it as an area for growth). By nature, I am quite a private person, but my calling to the Diaconate has disturbed me out of my comfort zone to be a more public figure within the Church.

This week’s Scriptures pose us lots of questions, like everything with our faith, it is how we respond to those questions which will make the difference between infinite misery or infinite happiness.

Please keep in your prayers this week

  • All the pupils, teachers and staff of schools in England as they start the new school year; that the controls in place to protect against Covid 19 are successful, so that our schools can be a healthy place for all.
  • Those who struggle with addictive behaviours, that they may seek and find the help to change.
  • Those who struggle to change or who struggle to let others help them, that they can learn to trust people and that their trust is never betrayed.
  • All clergy who have been asked to move Parishes recently, especially Fr Chris as he prepares to move to Guernsey and Fr Dominic as he prepares to come to Holy Ghost Parish, may these moves enrich their Ministry and enrich the lives of the Parishes they serve.
  • The children Baptised in St Bede’s since the lockdown restrictions were lifted – Maria, Hannah, Leonardo, Zachary, Adrielle and Amelia, as well as Charlie and Florence who are due to be Baptised this weekend.

Deacon Tony Darroch, 26th August 2020.

If you are struggling to find resources or would like suggestions please email me on adarroch@portsmouthdiocese.org.uk or if you would appreciate the odd call from me during this time please send me a message with your contact details and I will get in touch.

1Ronald Rolheiser, Prophets as Shock Absorbers, available from https://ronrolheiser.com/prophets-as-shock-absorbers/#.X0Uc7qeSmUk accessed 25th August 2020

2 John A Hardon S.J., Catholic Dictionary – An Abridged and Updated Edition of Modern Catholic Dictionary, (Image Books, New York, 2013)407-8.

3 St Katherine Drexel, Finding your Life – reproduced in The New Jerusalem Bible – Saints Devotional Edition, (Darton, Longman & Todd, London, 2002)1228.

Deacon Tony reflects: Who do you say that Jesus is?

We often hear that our way is not God’s way and when we examine the life of Jesus we can see a real example of this. The Jewish people were hopeful of a Messiah coming and rescuing them from the tyranny of Rome. They expected a powerful leader who would go into battle, much the same as Jesus’ ancestor David did centuries earlier. Someone who would pick up the invaders by the scruff of the neck, take them to the borders and throw them out of Israel.

But as we know Jesus was not like that, Jesus was born in a stable, was forced to flee his homeland by a tyrant king, grew up within a family who trusted God and ensured Jesus learned about God and his people. Jesus advocated love instead of violence. Jesus exercised power in a way that mankind finds difficult to understand.

This is part of what St Paul is emphasising in our second reading today; God makes decisions which we humans struggle to understand and at times we find unfathomable. A perfect example of this is found within our Gospel. If we as humans were to pick the perfect person to establish the Church, take it into new lands and to new cultures; how many of us would have chosen a fisherman, who would go on to deny Jesus three times at the very moment when we humans would have judged Jesus needed his closest friends to vouch for him more than at any other time in His life?

In our first reading we hear of an unsuitable palace official; who had abused the authority given to him by his master; being removed from his post and it being given to Eliakim. Eliakim is given all of the symbols of office including the key to the House of David. Jesus as the long awaited ‘Son of David’ appoints Peter as a new steward to look after His kingdom on earth. The keys being the symbol of authority; this authority has been passed down all the way to our current Holy Father, Pope Francis, he is Christ’s representative on earth; Pastor to the world with an authority which comes from Christ Himself.

Today, the successor of Peter is the son of poor Italian immigrants who went to Argentina seeking a new life. He is a man who asks our priests to be like shepherds who smell of their flock. He advocates for the poor and preaches love for all life from conception to natural death. As Baptised Catholics we are compelled not to keep our faith to ourselves. Christ’s love is big enough to be shared with everyone.

In these difficult times, we need to look for opportunities to help. As Christians we are called to live out our faith. We each need to ask ourselves – What can I do to love my neighbour? Within society at the moment we are being asked to contribute to the common good by obeying the latest guidance to prevent the spread of Coronavirus.

I recently read that we may find it uncomfortable to wear a mask, but it is far more comfortable to wear a mask in a shop than it is to be connected to a respirator in a hospital. We are asked to curb our normal social activities and as Catholics we are well aware that we were unable to attend church for a significant part of this year.

But just because we are beginning to be permitted to go back to some of the activities we were previously accustomed to, doesn’t mean the virus has gone away. A second wave is expected, and we need to maintain our guard and continue to protect the most vulnerable in our Community.

Today Jesus asks us – Who do people say that He is? How relevant in our lives is Jesus? Would our neighbours recognise us as followers of Jesus, not just because we go to church (or take part online) but by the life we live?

As a deacon, I am called to serve. My service has to be for the benefit of those I serve and should never be self-serving. As Catholics, we have been baptised by water and the Holy Spirit, how do we allow the Spirit to work in us? Do we allow the gifts and charisms of the Holy Spirit to flourish in our lives for the benefit of others? When St Peter stated that Jesus was “the Christ, the Son of the living God”, he made that statement for us to learn, for us to acknowledge and for us to share with those we encounter. How can we share what we acknowledge in our Creed this week?

Please keep in your prayers this week

  • Pope Francis as he leads our Church during this pandemic, may he continue to be a voice for the underprivileged.
  • All those who struggle to understand the will of God.
  • All those who are at risk of unemployment or who have already lost their job.
  • For those tasked to make decisions about businesses, help them to realise that their decisions affect their fellow man and woman. Help them to make decisions which protect employees as much as they protect shareholders.

Deacon Tony Darroch, 21st August 2020.

If you are struggling to find resources or would like suggestions please email me on adarroch@portsmouthdiocese.org.uk or if you would appreciate the odd call from me during this time please send me a message with your contact details and I will get in touch.

Deacon Tony reflects: Mary, Queen of Heaven

Today the Church celebrates the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven. This is one of the oldest feasts, celebrated by the faithful in ancient times. This year is seventy years since Pope Pius XII declared to the world*; in front of 600 bishops and 700,000 of the faithful; as divinely revealed dogma, that Our Lady’s body “was preserved free from the corruption of the tomb and that, like her own Son, having overcome death, she might be taken up body and soul to the glory of heaven where, as Queen, she sits in splendour at the right hand of her Son, the immortal King of the Ages.”2

In the same Apostolic Letter (Munificentissimus Deus) Pope Pius XII also stated

Hence if anyone, which God forbid, should dare wilfully to deny or to call into doubt that which we have defined, let him know that he has fallen away completely from the divine and Catholic Faith.”

These are pretty strong words and we have a sense in today’s readings of how integral to our Catholic faith this day is. In the first reading from the book of the Apocalypse, St John uses images which would have been familiar to his readers; at least three pagan societies had mythical stories where a monster, which preyed on their society would be slayed by a saviour from within their community. John used elements of these three stories. The point John was making was that “the hope of salvation from evil and chaos, which such stories embodied has now become a reality; a reality known to the Church and shared through its witness to the whole world.” John is highlighting that “the hopes and aspirations of the world are not a threat to be avoided, but a dream which finds its waking reality in Christ.” 3

Likewise, in St Pauls’ first letter to the Corinthians we are reminded that if death came to man through the actions of one man: Adam, then man can be brought to life again through the resurrection of Christ. Jesus, the new Adam, will conquer all sovereignties, powers and dominions, and only then will he hand the kingdom of God back to his Father.

These two passages talk of heavenly conflict with victory for God, these are complimented by what initially seems like a very human story from St Luke’s Gospel. Mary having recently found out that she is pregnant, goes to help her cousin, Elizabeth, who is also pregnant. This is something which has happened in human society for what seems like forever, and still goes on today. Women who are pregnant meet up and talk about their joy, their hopes and fears. However, when they meet, the baby in Elizabeth’s womb leapt. This first human recognition of Jesus; by the prophet from within his mother’s womb, is followed by Elizabeth; the prophet’s mother; recognising the significance of Mary, as the ‘mother of my Lord’.

We then have the beautiful prayer The Magnificat, when Our Lady, no doubt prompted by the Spirit, praises God for the blessings bestowed upon her and declaring that God will turn the world upside down by overthrowing what man sees as significant and re-establishing what God holds to be significant.

St Luke then tells us that Mary stayed with Elizabeth until around the time that Elizabeth’s baby was due, before returning home.

These passages from scripture link heaven and earth, they link the beginning of time with the end of time and they link us as humans with God. As Jesus was approaching his final breath, he gave His Mother, to be our Mother too. He asked the disciple that he loved, to take His Mother into his home. We know that Jesus loves each and everyone of us, that message was not just for that one disciple, it was for all of us. Today we celebrate our Heavenly Mother’s entrance into her Heavenly home. She is sitting, waiting, beside our brother Jesus for the day when we can all be there together. Until that day let the world resound with many Ave’s as we acknowledge Mary the Queen of Heaven, as our mother and take her into our homes.

Please keep in your prayers this week

  • All pregnant women, may they be supported by the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary throughout their pregnancy, may they and their babies be kept safe during labour.
  • For those who do not have or did not have a good relationship with their mother, that they can be open to an intimate relationship with Mary the Queen of all Mothers.
  • All railway staff as they mourn the loss of their colleagues and passenger in the recent rail crash at Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire.
  • Those who affected by Covid 19, especially those who have been unable to get treatment for other conditions as a result of hospitals being focused on the pandemic.
  • All medical, nursing, health and care workers who have worked tirelessly to help those suffering, as well as the other ‘Essential workers’ who have tried to keep supplies and public services as normal as possible.

Deacon Tony Darroch, 15th August 2020.

If you are struggling to find resources or would like suggestions please email me on adarroch@portsmouthdiocese.org.uk or if you would appreciate the odd call from me during this time please send me a message with your contact details and I will get in touch.

2 Pope Pius XII, Munificentissimus Deus, available from http://www.vatican.va/content/pius-xii/en/apost_constitutions/documents/hf_p-xii_apc_19501101_munificentissimus-deus.html accessed 15th August 2020

3 Marcus Maxwell, Revelation – The People’s Bible Commentary, (The Bible Reading Fellowship, Oxford, 1997)112-3