On Thursday we celebrated the Ascension of the Lord, our readings gave us an image of the apostles staring at the sky and hearing two men in white say “Why are you men from Galilee standing here looking into the sky? Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven, this same Jesus will come back in the same way as you have seen him go there”(Acts 1:11). The response of the apostles is what we hear today in our first reading.

After seeing Jesus being taken up to heaven the apostles return to the Upper room, stay together with Mary and the other members of the fledgling Church and pray. In a sense they went into lockdown again, and for the next few days they prayed. Traditionally we join them in this prayer every year as we mark the nine days between the Ascension and Pentecost Sunday, thought by some to be the original Novena.

There are various Novenas to the Holy Spirit available,

Even if you have missed the first couple of days you can still catch up!

The Psalm today has moved away from hope to certainty “I am sure I shall see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living.” The Psalmist tells us that with God in our hearts and minds then we have nothing to fear. The aim of our life is to “live in the house of the Lord, and savour the sweetness of the Lord. “ In this time when fear grips people throughout the world we need to hold on to this certainty, with “the Lord as our light and our help, who (or even what) should we fear?”

In yesterday’s Gospel (John 16:23-28) Jesus tells us that anything we ask from the Father, he will grant and that when we receive then our joy will be complete. One of the fruits of the Holy Spirit is joy, during this time of preparation for Pentecost I pray that we may be filled with the fruits of the Holy Spirit, but especially joy, because joy gives us the greatest opportunity to share our faith with others. In Day one of the video reflections I mentioned above, Sister Rebekah Marie asks us to think about who the Holy Spirit is and not what The Holy Spirit is. He is our Advocate and our friend.1

In the second reading today we are encouraged to share in the sufferings of Christ, by doing so we “will enjoy a much greater gladness when his glory is revealed”. So how do we bear our sufferings? Do we blame God when things don’t go our way? Or are we accepting of the things which happen in our lives, knowing that God is with us at those times? St John Paul II was a great example to all of us, his faith held solid when he was afflicted by old age and Parkinson’s disease, he continued to lead the Church setting a great example of maintaining a relationship with Jesus and Our Lady throughout all of his suffering.

St Peter is asking us to embrace our suffering, especially if it is because we are Christians and to offer up our loneliness, our grief, our sadness, our illness, our money troubles, our family concerns, our problems with addictions, our embarrassment; in fact anything which troubles us to Jesus as an offering; just as He offered himself to save our souls.

Our Gospel this week is the start of the great prayer of Jesus just prior to his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane. It is worth picking up a Bible and reading the whole prayer through (John 17:1-26) and just letting the words soak in. In His prayer Jesus is praying for each and every one of us, how awesome is that? Jesus, the Son of God, prays for us2 and expresses the most sincere wish that He wants us to be with Him and the Father.3

This Sunday is World Communications Sunday. Never before have Catholics been so glad of the many forms of communication available to us, as we can’t physically attend Mass. You are able to read this reflection because of the wonders of modern technology, I write it on my computer, it is emailed out and then posted on the Parish website and on the Parish Facebook page (St Bede’s) or emailed out to those on the Parish distribution list (St Michael’s and St Oswald’s) and some people are printing it and taking it to others as paper copies and posting it through their doors (thank you!).

In his message for World Communications Sunday this year4, Pope Francis tells us that we are story tellers, he especially wants to emphasise the link between generations like Grandparents and grandchildren. He says that Sacred Scripture is a Story of stories and that “The Bible is the great love story between God and humanity. At its centre stands Jesus, whose own story brings to fulfilment both God’s love for us and our love for God. Henceforth, in every generation, men and women are called to recount and commit to memory the most significant episodes of this Story of stories, those that best communicate its meaning.”

So how do we share our story as Christians? Are we practicing Social Distancing of our Faith, keeping it a safe distance from those we encounter? In St Peter’s letter, he lists crimes that he hopes Christians would never be accused of: murder, stealing, informing; if being a Christian was a crime in our country, would the prosecution have enough evidence to convict us?

To mark the generational link in Pope Francis’ message for World Communications Sunday I will leave you with a prayer this week which I found on twitter –

Click on the picture to see a larger version

Please stay safe, stay sensitive to others needs and keep those in need in your prayers.

Deacon Tony Darroch, 23rd May 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 Sister Rebekah Marie, The Fruit of Love, St Teilo’s YouTube Channel available from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V_NB6ggxrt8 accessed 23rd May 2020.

2 John 17:20 “I pray not only for these, but for those who through their teaching will come to believe in me”.

3 John 17:24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am”.

4 Pope Francis, Message for 54th World Communications Sunday, available from http://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/messages/communications/documents/papa-francesco_20200124_messaggio-comunicazioni-sociali.html accessed 23rd May 2020.