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  • Writer's picturePhil



Thinking about Desmond Tutu, Max Woosey and Tobias Weller this Epiphany-tide.

(Homily last Sunday at Holy Trinity).

I was so delighted to hear that twelve year-old Max Woosey had been awarded the British Empire Medal in the New Year’s Honours List. Max has raised to date £570,000 whilst camping-out for 640 nights, and all to raise funds for a hospice local to him, The North Devon Hospice. His motivation? The care extended to a neighbour who died of cancer.

Another British Empire Medal has been awarded to Tobias Weller, aged eleven, who has cerebral palsy and is autistic; the youngest person to receive such an award. Tobias was inspired by Captain Tom’s efforts during the pandemic, and over the year raised £157,000 for his special needs school and a Children’s Hospital Charity in his home city, Sheffield.

New Year’s Honours - when awards are given to people who have made

a significant difference to the lives of others, they are surely deserving of such.

I’m not sure that I can get quite so excited about awards for sports

personalities; and even less for show-business, unless they have used their

gifts and their celebrity status to highlight and campaign for various causes.

Take, for instance, Marcus Rashford, who has used his sportsmanship and his fame

to advance the provision for the poorest in our country. Tom Daley - for standing-up

for the rights of many on the margins; similarly Joanna Lumley…. and

nobody can deny that the likes of Chris Whitty, Jonathan Van-Tam

“It is only the few among us, the rarest of souls, who attain the

stature of global icon during their lifetime. In our modern age, this

term has come to be associated with celebrity and social media


So said President Cyril Ramaphosa in his excellent eulogy given

at Desmond Tutu’s Requiem Mass. He continued:

“If we are to understand a global icon to be someone of great moral

stature, of exceptional qualities and of service to humanity, there

can be no doubt that it refers to the man we are laying to rest


Epiphany celebrates the Light manifested in Christ.

Yesterday the world celebrated the Light of Christ

which shone so brightly through Desmond Tutu.

The President quoted from Proverbs 31:

“Speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves, and defend the rights of the destitute. Speak out and pronounce righteous judgments; defend the rights of the wretched and the poor.”

And the Requiem opened with words from Micah -

“What does the Lord require of you?

To act justly and to love mercy

and to walk humbly with your God.”

The Manifestation of Christ was clearly evident in Tutu.

His political activism stemmed from his encounter

with the God of justice and mercy who rejoices that all

are in the image and likeness of God,

and that each person is of unique worth in God’s sight.

He stood up for all who found themselves on or beyond the margins;

wherever he saw injustice, pain, poverty, unhappiness, enslavement,

he felt compelled to shine the Light of Christ into the darkness.

Giles Fraser said of "Arch" - “At heart, he was a prayerful,

cassock-wearing Anglo-Catholic priest of a very familiar sort.

A faithful servant of the church, with a huge personality,

preaching with enormous courage in wicked times. “

Desmond Tutu, a light in our generation;

illuminating the world around him with his desire for

justice, equality, liberation of the oppressed, human rights.

He was an ordinary boy from a very ordinary background,

but God used this man-of-small stature and big personality

to make such a difference globally.

Young Max Woosey and young Tobias Weller,

were shocked enough to receive their awards;

but in their own way they shone light into darkness,

prompted, I believe, by Christ the True Light that has come into the world.

Can you think of a time when God has challenged YOU -

To act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God?

It might seem to have been a small matter to you at the time,

…it might have been just a very ordinary act of kindness,

such as the civility shown by Fr Trevor Huddleston

in raising his hat to Desmond Tutu’s Mother….

We never know what little kindnesses

can initiate a torrent of goodwill,

but that’s all it took to inspire Desmond Tutu

to do great things under God!

There have undoubtedly been times

when God has used you and me to make a difference.

Is there more to come?

Are there situations challenging the Christ in you which require His and your action?

We are all called by the same God for the same purpose,

to manifest the Epiphanal Light that is Christ in our darkened world.

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