An elderly woman named Maude had a window seat on a 747 jet that had just taken off from New York to fly to Rome. Maude had been saving for years to fulfil her dream to visit the Eternal City. It was her first time on an aircraft, and she was terrified. Even the presence of four bishops seated behind her didn’t help. With fear and trembling she finally opened her eyes just in time to see one of the plane’s four engines break loose from the wing and disappear into the clouds. “We’re going to die!” she cried out “We’re going to die!”

The air steward checked with the pilot who announced to the passengers that everything was under control, that they could fly back to New York and land safely with three engines. But Maude continued to scream out “We’re going to die!” The air steward went to her and said “Don’t worry, God is with us. We only have three engines, but look we have four bishops.” Maude replied, “I’d rather have four engines and three bishops.”1

In this story Maude’s seemingly irrational fears were realised when the aircraft malfunctioned, but how often do we find ourselves fearful over things which we cannot control? In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us three times “Do not be afraid!” you are very precious to me.

God has counted every one of our hairs and Jesus is counting on us to declare ourselves for Him to those we meet here on earth. Our reward for this is that Jesus will declare Himself for us in the presence of His Father in heaven.

As our churches start to re-open for private prayer and we take the tentative steps towards meeting again as a Community many people will still be afraid of the Coronavirus. Institutions, businesses and Governments are concerned about a second wave or perhaps of being associated with another outbreak. This possibly includes the Church. How can we as a Church ensure that everyone feels they are worth more than hundreds of sparrows? How can we re-engage with those in society who feel that they have been left behind? How can we ensure that every life is valued from the womb to those deemed as vulnerable, and everyone in between?

Have we asked God in our prayers what He wants us to do? How He wants us to re-invigorate our places of Worship and at the same time remember those who are unable to attend Services? The Mass online has been a lifeline for many, but it is not enough. There are still thousands of Catholics in this country with no access to the internet and so they have missed Mass during the lockdown. How can we as a Church reach out to them and ensure they do not feel abandoned? What can you do? What can I do?

Perhaps we can bring to people’s attention how they can access Mass. For those with access to the internet the choice is vast, we can tour the world looking for a Mass, and many who are here from other countries have taken advantage of this by visiting their original home Parishes. For those who don’t have access to the internet there is very little in the way of choice. If you find yourself in this position but have access to Sky TV, there is a live Mass on Sunday on BBC Scotland at 12:00 available on channel 876. Please share this information with anyone who may benefit from it.

Parishes need volunteers, they need them now to help the churches to open for private prayer and they will certainly need them when we are finally able to reopen for Mass. Don’t leave it to other people, if you are able to volunteer, please step forward.

In the first reading today Jeremiah describes the burning in his heart: to tell people about God, he is voicing his fears about those who have laughed at him, those who denounce him, those just waiting for him to make a mistake so that they can pounce. Then he remembers who he is prophet for; that God is with him every step of the way; God gives him strength. It is his opponents who will stumble and be scrutinised for their own errors. Jeremiah sings praise to God for he delivers on his promises.

In Chapter five of his letter to the Romans, St Paul is inextricably linking Jesus with Adam; the first man. St Paul argues that if all people were condemned by the actions of one man, then through the actions of another man, Jesus Christ then all of mankind can be saved. St Paul uses the words “the gift itself considerably outweighed the fall.” This gift freely given by God is Himself. Freely given.

When there is a new magazine or comic launched, they will often offer you a free gift, it is usually a gift without much value, but attractive enough to entice people to buy. The publisher hopes that you will become interested enough in their product to buy it again without the enticement of a free gift. With God the offer is Himself. God wants us to accept Him freely, because He has given Himself freely. This is an example of how God values each and every life created. We do not create life, God creates all life, we are called to co-operate with Him.

Today the Church in England & Wales marks as the Day for Life, the theme this year is Choose Life and the focus is the dignity and worth of unborn children and expectant mothers. Chosen to mark the twenty-fifth anniversary year of Saint John Paul II’s Encyclical Evangelium Vitae, which summoned the entire Church to be ‘a people of life and for life’. Pope Francis sent an Apostolic Blessing for the Day using these words –

In these days when our world faces the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic, the Holy Father asks the faithful to pray for all those families, volunteers and healthcare professionals committed, often heroically, to the care and healing of the suffering, and for all those who, amid the continuing ‘pandemic’ of poverty and war, work to uphold the God-given value and dignity of every human person.

It is his hope that amid the present crisis all will be led to a greater appreciation of the moral imperative to build a ‘culture of life’ marked by ever greater concern for nurturing, protecting and promoting the integral welfare of all God’s children, beginning with the most vulnerable.

With these sentiments, the Holy Father gives the assurance of his closeness in prayer and cordially imparts his Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of joy and peace in the Lord.”2

The miracle of new life is very evident for me at the moment. Our first Grandson arrived two weeks ago. At the beginning of the lockdown my younger brother became a Granddad, when my niece delivered a little girl. Another niece is expecting her third child and our God-daughter announced this week that she is due a baby in December. We have also been praying with a Parishioner for her nephew’s unborn baby; they have had complications and are in need of Divine intervention. All of these lives, precious to the families, precious to God and all in need of our prayers.

I pray that this pandemic will awaken in all humanity how precious life is from the moment of conception until the very last heartbeat; that those contemplating abortions will have a change of heart; that those trying to start a family will be blessed with children and that the dignity of life is respected by all remembering that God has counted the hairs on every one of our heads.

I wish you a blessed Sunday and a good week ahead.

Deacon Tony Darroch, 19th June 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 William J Bausch, World of Stories for Preachers and Teachers, (Columba Press, Dublin, 1998) 365.

2 Day for Life Apostolic Blessing available from https://zenit.org/articles/day-for-life-2020-in-england-and-wales-receives-apostolic-blessing-from-pope-francis/ accessed 20/6/2020