November is a traditional time for Catholics to pray for our dead relatives and friends. In the Northern Hemisphere this is a time when we see the leaves falling from the trees, the grass growing less and the summer flowers are now becoming a pleasant memory. Certain flora and fauna are going to sleep for the winter in order to protect themselves from the harsh weather which the winter season can often bring. As a nation we also remember in prayer those who have fallen in service of our country and we raise money to support their families and the service men and women who have been injured in service of our country. They have all paid a price for the freedoms we enjoy.

In our readings this week we appear to be looking at wisdom; in the first reading from the book of Wisdom this message is actually for a surprising audience. This message is addressed to pagan kings and despots (tyrants) to encourage them to seek wisdom. The message is clear that wisdom is available for all who seek it and even thinking about wisdom means that one has started a journey towards less anxiety.

The bridesmaids in our Gospel this week are a timely reminder to all of us to adopt the habits of the wise and keep ourselves in a state of readiness to meet Our Lord. We are given lots of information through the media on how to reduce the risk of Coronavirus, wash our hands, cover our faces, keep handles clean, keep our distance from others we meet, stay indoors. Now we are being denied the opportunity to be with Jesus in the Eucharist for at least the next four weeks.

How can we reduce the risk of not being ready to meet the Lord?

We need to ask for forgiveness for our sins; if we are unable to encounter Jesus in the Eucharist then we need to encounter Him through Scriptures, could we perhaps turn the TV or other screen off for an hour and read a passage from the Bible? As Christians we have an obligation to love our neighbour, can we spend some time each day checking up on a family member, a neighbour or another parishioner who lives alone? A quick phone call from one of us could be the only conversation someone else gets that day. As I mentioned earlier, this is the time of year when we think about those who have died, perhaps we can metaphorically ‘trim our lamps’ and top then up with oil by praying for the souls in purgatory during this lockdown.

St Paul in his letter to the Thessalonians gives very clear teaching on death and the resurrection, he urges us not to grieve for those who have died in the hope of being with Jesus. Why should we be sad for them? St Paul is certain that those who die in Jesus will be the first to rise from the dead when Jesus returns and those believers who are still alive at that time will be taken up to meet him so that we can all be with Jesus forever.

Bishop Philip is calling on everyone in the Diocese to join with him in a day of fasting and prayer on Friday 27th November to pray for an end to the Coronavirus; please make a note of this date in your diary and start to think about how you would like to spend time that day to earnestly ask God to intervene and bring this virus to an end.

My wife, Pam, passed on a thought the other day to me. In the past we often spoke about 20-20 vision, meaning that we have perfect eyesight or that we can see things very clearly. She said that this year of 2020; with all of the restrictions, job losses, sickness and death in the world; has helped her to see more clearly what is really important. The times when we cannot be with those we love, makes the time spent with them so much more special, giving us a new appreciation of those special people in our lives.

During this second lockdown, can we spend our time more wisely than the first? I have good intentions, I want to spend more time reading instead of watching TV, I’ve already started a book (First Comes Love, by Dr Scott Hahn) which has been on my shelf for a long time. I also want to try and lose some of the weight I put on during the first lockdown. But as we know good intentions are not enough; we have to turn our intentions into actions if we want to deliver on them. It is not enough to be thirsting like the voice in today’s psalm, if we want to satisfy our thirst we need to drink from the wells we have available. For the next four weeks our wells can include watching Mass online (both St Bede’s and Holy Ghost will be streaming Mass), returning to Spiritual Communion instead of Sacramental Communion, praying for our deceased loved ones and reading Scriptures to avail ourselves of as much quiet time with God that we can, so that when the bridegroom comes there will be oil in our lamps allowing us to can enter the feast and be recognised by our bridegroom.

Please keep in your prayers this week

  • Deceased family members, parishioners and friends and especially those who have no one else to pray for them.
  • Victims of terror.
  • 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.
  • Our priests and others who live alone; as we go in to another lockdown period, may they be encouraged by our prayers and companionship of spirit.

Deacon Tony Darroch, 3rd November 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.