Deacon Tony writes:

Firstly let me thank those who expressed thanks for last week’s reflection, I am encouraged that it was appreciated.

I am very aware that not everyone has access to the internet and so will find it impossible to access the online services which many of us have found to be a lifeline during this time of pandemic. This was reinforced for me a few moments ago when a Parishioner called me to say her daughter had printed off last week’s reflection and brought it round to her. So for those of you who do have access to this reflection online, perhaps there are some who live nearby who you are aware of who might appreciate receiving a printed copy of this and maybe other materials which are available via the web.

This week is Divine Mercy Sunday, the Sunday which closes the Octave of Easter. Yet again I find the Scriptures speak loudly for our current circumstances. In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles it talks about how the ‘whole community remained faithful to the teaching of the apostles, to the brotherhood, to the breaking of bread and to the prayers’. The number of people watching Mass online throughout the world during this time when we cannot physically attend, bears witness to this fact here in 2020. Churches and Cathedrals around the world are reporting online visits are far higher than normal, with Shrewsbury Cathedral here in England reporting an increase of more than 1000%. Proof that the Spirit which helped the Church to grow 2000 years ago is still alive and working today.

The Acts of the Apostles is being lived out today by the community spirit we see almost everywhere. Another line says “they shared out their food gladly and generously” there are lots of examples of this locally and around the country with Foodbank donations, restaurants keeping their staff in work by making food for the needy and vulnerable and thousands of people volunteering to help those less fortunate. Love of our fellow man or Divine mercy is thriving during these desperate times.

We get the opportunity to stand outside our houses every Thursday and applaud everyone who is making an effort to keep the country safe, secure and fed. These are times when we ask ourselves am I doing enough to help my neighbour? How am I contributing to my community at this time? We only need to watch the TV to see how a man approaching his 100th birthday has raised more than 18 million pounds for NHS charities.

Our Psalm this week cries out with joy about the endless love of God, it is only through the endless love of God that we are able to love. Remember we are created in the image of God and God is love, therefore we are created in the image of love, our call in life is to reflect God’s love to everyone we meet. One of the verses of the psalm talks about ‘being thrust down and falling, but the Lord was my helper. The Lord is my strength and my song, he was my saviour.’ These are inspirational words to remember in these times.

In today’s second reading St Peter is writing to the successors of the twelve tribes scattered around the known world at the time. In words very relevant for today he tells them (and us) ‘Through your faith, God’s power will guard you until the salvation which has been prepared is revealed at the end of time. This is a cause of great joy for you, even though you may for a short time have to bear being plagued by all sorts of trials; so that, when Jesus Christ is revealed, your faith will have been tested and proved like gold – only it is more precious than gold…’

Our faith is more precious than gold and is constantly under attack. There is a cartoon doing the rounds of Social Media just now where Satan is talking to God and boasting that with Coronavirus he has managed to close down all the churches. God’s reply is that on the contrary now He has established a Church in every home. I am sure this won’t come as a surprise to us because we know that our families are called to be a ‘little church’; reflecting the Trinity.

The Holy Spirit is powerful, if it was solely down to mankind the church would never have survived for 2000 years. The Spirit is alive and well living in our hearts, in our homes, in our families, in our communities including those with faith and those without faith.

I have found the strongest link to our current circumstances in today’s Gospel. The Apostles are self-isolating for fear of the Jews. They had just witnessed their leader being slaughtered, or rather some of them didn’t witness it because they scattered and left Jesus to fend for himself. In their isolation, behind closed doors, Jesus found them; just like He will find us; Jesus came in and said “Peace be with you”. He went on to give them the gift of the Holy Spirit and the authority to forgive sins. In these times it is very important that we preserve peace in our homes and are prepared to forgive and to seek forgiveness from those we share our home with. Social distancing is so contrary to our natural instinct, we have a desire to share our lives physically close to each other.

Enforced time together can lead to tension. Last week I took a couple of days off work to extend the Easter weekend. During that time we decided to do some work at home and I must admit I became a little bit resentful of using my time off to do some work at home; this led to me becoming grumpy and short tempered. Thankfully Pam (my wife) and I know each other really well and we can recognise when we become a little bit short with each other and start to probe at the reasons why. During the Easter Triduum we were able to restore peace to our house; by talking things through, compromising and accepting each other where we are at any given time; remembering that we are called to forgive and to seek forgiveness from one another.

During this time, even if you live alone, you have the opportunity to reach out to others, perhaps by telephone or the internet or maybe even by post. Is there someone you haven’t spoken with in a long time who you would like to restore peace with? Is there someone you would love to hear from, but are afraid to make the first contact with? Is there someone you would like to receive forgiveness from for something in the past? I encourage you to be like St Peter and have the courage to step out of the boat (Mt 14:29), this is an ideal time to reach out and restore the peace of Christ in our lives.

In today’s Gospel we also heard the very human story of St Thomas’ refusal to accept the Risen Lord unless he could see and touch the evidence. Jesus’ response to Thomas tells us that we who have not seen the Risen Lord and yet believe, will be happy.

I will finish this reflection with a quote from Dom Placid Murray OSB in a homily given for this day some years ago.

Let us do what Thomas failed to do. Let us set clearly the image of the crucified and Risen Saviour before our minds. Let us turn to him for guidance every day in every situation. He will show us his wounds. He will show us his pierced side, he will say to us: ‘Peace be with you.’”1

I am really looking forward to when this is over and we can all meet again together to celebrate the Eucharist, meanwhile I hope you have a good week and remember that God is with us always.

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 Darroch, 17th April 2020.

1 Dom Placid Murray, 100 Liturgical Homilies, (The Columba Press, Dublin, 1988) 39.