Reflection by Aidan Troy [Aodhán O Troighthigh] Please note: the view of the above alone.
Saturday, 2nd December will be New Year’s Eve – of a new Liturgical Year: Year A is ending; Year B begins next weekend. That is why the Parish Mass Book in your seat will be different for the Season of Advent.
On this final weekend, we look back and forward. This past year carries its own special memories – people taken from us in death; couples who married and little ones born. There were personal moments that have deeply affected our hearts and souls. Any regrets? Yes, I didn’t do all I could when Jesus was before me in needy people. Jesus was hungry, thirsty, a stranger, naked, sick, and a prisoner before my eyes. The sad part is, I could and should have done more.
God is good. Each day, month and year, He gives us new possibilities. The poor are still with us on our door steps. Pope Francis’ magnificent message for World Day of the Poor, tells how in assisting the poor:
“we touch with our own hands the flesh of Christ. If we truly wish to encounter Christ, we have to touch his body in the suffering bodies of the poor, as a response to the sacramental communion bestowed in the Eucharist. The Body of Christ, broken in the sacred liturgy, can be seen, through charity and sharing, in the faces and persons of the most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters.” [N.3]
The first name that St Paul of the Cross gave the Passionists was, ‘The Poor of Jesus’. He saw the name of Jesus written on the foreheads of the Poor. As I now read the Gospel of today, I know how great my failures are. True, I have taken a vow of poverty and so cannot own property or even have a personal bank account. But this does not leave me in the clear. The fundamental issue concerns how I see or don’t see Jesus in the poor and desperate.
Back again to Pope Francis letter - “Let us never forget that, for Christ’s disciples, poverty is above all a call to follow Jesus in his poverty.” [No 4] I am in total admiration of all that is done by individuals and groups at St Joseph’s to reach out to people going through the pain of poverty and need. The body of Christ in the poor of the street is the same Body of Christ that we are privileged to receive in the Eucharist. It is the same Jesus in both instances.
There is more. The people lined up on the left of Jesus for judgement will not just get a ‘slap on the wrist’ for neglecting the poor, hungry, thirsty, sick, strangers or prisoners. They will not be admitted to the Kingdom of Heaven. Any of us among them, will have missed out on what we were born for – eternal life with God. Tragic. It could have been so different, if I had only opened not just my eyes but my heart also. It is in the ordinary, every day events of life that we respond to Jesus. Salvation is made available NOT by power or authority but by weakness and vulnerability.
One consolation, for me, is that nobody at the Last Judgement is condemned for doing wrong. It is for the failure to do good. The aim of Christian living is not ‘me-centred’ (just about my personal holiness), but ‘other-centred’ (responding to needs).
I’m sure Pope Francis must agonise over the question of wealth held in the name of the Church and serious issues relating to the ‘Vatican Bank’. Each religious order and parish must ask if it is living in the light of today’s Gospel or not. I love the generosity and love shown in the Lenten Project and other outreaches to the poor and needy. At our Parish General Meeting in January 2018, we can examine if our finances are being used as the Gospel demands of us.
Personally, I am rich because I’m truly blessed in having so many good, generous and loving people around me at St Joseph’s.