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50 Avenue Hoche, 75008 Paris

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3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time 2020

“APERUIT ILLIS” by Pope Francis for Sunday of the Word of God

Pope Francis has given the Church a real gift which is also a challenge to all who follow Jesus. The title of his document of 30 September 2019 is from Lk 24:45, “He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.” The Pope goes on to write, “This was one the final acts of the Risen Lord before the Ascension. Jesus appeared to the assembled disciples, broke bread with them and opened their minds to understanding of the sacred Scriptures.” [Paragraph 1] The whole document is worth pondering in prayer.

Jesus, I think, suffered at the hands of those who misunderstood the Scriptures. Those who interpreted the Law of Moses, who laid down strict Sabbath laws were good people. They studied the Scriptures daily and in the Synagogue each Sabbath listened to them and shared the message as they saw it.

Sadly, at times the whole Word of God was confined to law. They were doing their best to understand but they had gone astray. When Jesus came to open their minds to what God’s Word was truly saying, He knocked at the door of their hearts and minds but did not get an answer. He even wept as He looked over Jerusalem and dreamt of what it would have been like if they had heard the Word and accepted Him.

Let us go back to Pope Francis, “the relationship between the Risen Lord, the community of believers and Sacred Scripture is essential to our identity as Christians”. Without the Lord who opens our minds to them, it is impossible to understand the Scriptures in depth. He then quotes St Jerome, “Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.” [Par. 2]

These are strong words from our Pope. They wake me up to how easy it is for me to be lazy where the sacred Word of God is concerned. For all of us this is a wake-up call. For teachers and preachers, it is a challenge that cannot be ignored.

Many of our ancestors handed on the true faith to us. Certainly, in my family and hometown, there were few Scripture Scholars. But families did hand on the faith in its beauty. There was a family bible at home, the Rosary was prayed each evening, Stations of the Cross were a feature of Lent and the Catholic Schools taught to know and love Jesus and His Body, the Church.

Today we have opportunities that did not exist back then. We had no phone at home until I was 18 years of age. The words ‘mobile’ and ‘phone’ could never be used together as all phoned were fixed or in a phone box. Today an App on a phone can bring to the screen every version of the Bible ever published. It gives me the Psalms for Morning and Evening Prayer of the Church. I can listen to the Rosary being prayed and Catholic/Christian radio/TV stations offer the Word of God in various ‘user friendly’ forms.

Often, I meet people who have contacted me about marriage, baptism, confession or some family or personal issue. I love those moments. As I listen, I try to receive what the person is saying. I try to prepare to assist by prayer to the Holy Spirit and by reflecting on any information the person has already shared with me. I cannot go in ‘cold’ to a chid of God. Neither should I ever approach the Word of God without some preparation and prayer.

To catch the sense of what Jesus is telling us in His Word, the first requirement is to meet Him. Next, I listen to His Word. When I find difficult to grasp the message, I can ask another, study what scholars are saying, or even listen to a sermon at Mass. These and others that you can come up with are gifts for understanding.

Seized with enthusiasm, someone cried out, ‘Blessed is the womb that bore you.’ Jesus replied, ‘Rather, blessed are they who hear the Word of God and keep it.’ I imagine that Mary does not disagree with her Son. She pondered in her heart all that she heard. She is a model for us all.

Aidan, C.P.

 

2nd Sunday in Ordinary time 2020

Reflection on Isaiah 49:5 [1st Reading]


We live in a world that does not treat people equally. God made everyone in His own image and likeness. He created us for peace and respect for God and each other. This was called Paradise. It disappeared very early on with Adam and Eve.  

The Second Adam [Jesus] and Second Eve [Mary] launched the restoration of God’s dream for us. Jesus launched a new way to be human and gave us a mission to rebuild the Kingdom God always wants for His people.

God gave us the way to do this. He is called Jesus. He came to model for us what a truly human life would be like. He gave some beautiful images. His put a child as an image of how God sees us. A child is vulnerable and lives not just on food and drink, but on the bond with a parent or adult caregiver that lets them feel secure and eventually coming to know that they are loved. There is a world of difference between being child-like and being childish. The latter is a caricature of the message of Jesus.

We are born to be servants of God and of each other. We are conceived equal in God’s sight. It was the Lord, ‘who formed me in the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to Him, to gather Israel to him.’ {Isaiah, 1st Reading} God is midwife assisting with all births. That is how intimate God is with our arrival on earth.

As soon as the umbilical cord is cut, people’s equality ends. Our world has a rich/poor divide with a lot of opportunities for some and very few for others. To be born into a refugee camp is not an equal start to birth in a royal palace. And that is our world.

In our Church also a ‘hierarchy’ exists where male/female roles in the People of God, while complementary, lack full equality. Some still speak of ‘Princes of the Church’ to describe Cardinals. This may seem trivial but can reveal a mentality distant from God knitting us together in our mother’s womb. One day, sooner or later, Jesus will come back to end our world as we know it. Should He come soon, what would He find that reflects the original dream of God in creating us?

We were never made to lord it over others. One day a power bid was made to get James and John one on each side of Jesus. His response was firm, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men lord it over them. It shall not be so among you.” [Matt. 20:25-26] That couldn’t be clearer.

The night before Jesus died where do we find Him? On his knees washing the Apostles feet. Only a servant, literally a slave, does this. I feel ashamed at how differently I live from Jesus teaching. Lord, forgive me.

As truly as Jesus was formed in the womb of Mary, God formed you and me in our mother’s womb. God doesn’t go in for a ‘production line’ way to bring each person into life. A baby, born or unborn, is formed in an utterly unique way by God, a human masterpiece with a divine destiny.

I must not succeed at your cost nor climb over you and keep you down. It is as servants that we are equal and become a light. There is one Master and we are all sisters and brothers. To develop a ‘servant mentality’ could serve as a motto as we edge forward to a better world and a holier church.

Aidan Troy, C.P.   

The Baptism of our Lord 2020

A few thoughts from Aidan Troy, C.P.

There are many things for which I could never sufficiently thank my Parents. They gave me life and a place in a family where their children were cherished and loved. For certain, I know that they themselves did without a lot, so that we children would have a better life.

They also did something that I knew nothing about at the time. They had me brought to the Baptismal Font in the parish church to be baptised. (It was rare for the Mother to be at the Christening as it took place days after birth nor the Father as he could not afford a day off work. Baptisms were only on Thursdays at noon.)

That day changed my life. Imagine if they had not done this for me. I could never have entered the Body of Christ to be part of a believing community. Mass, Holy Communion, Confession, Confirmation would have been rituals for others but not for me.

Obviously, I could never have been ordained a priest. What my life would have been is a matter of speculation. Maybe some unfortunate female could have ended up with me as a far less than perfect husband! But I am where I am, and I could never thank my Parents enough for my baptism setting me on this pilgrimage of faith.

There was an era when some Parents decided not to have their baby baptised. Their view was that when their child was old enough, (s)he could decide for themselves. I know of instances where this worked out very well. There were other instances when the outcome was not what these good parents had envisaged.

Infant Baptism will always leave the space for the baptised infant to grow into a committed believer in love with their Lord and Saviour. The step to Holy Communion brings into clear focus the continuation of a journey begun before the child had any idea of the beauty of Baptism that Parents had blessed them with as babies. Confirmation is another moment of accepting personally being grafted onto Christ and an active member of the community of faith, the Church.

Over my years here, I can vividly recall the great joy at Holy Communion and Confirmation of seeing children and young people take a step further into love with Christ and His people. Also, each Easter Vigil I am overwhelmed by the wonder of adults of varying ages receive Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Communion. Confirmation is received by others to  complete their journey of initiation into Christ.

At St Joseph’s there are on average 50 infant Baptisms each year. Families come to have this precious gift for their beloved child. Preparation is done thoroughly by Juliet and Chris. At the end of a busy Sunday morning, I got renewed energy when baptising babies as they are brought to Jesus.

My Baptismal name chosen for me by my parents is precious. I leave ‘Father’ to God – ‘and call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father who is in Heaven.’ [Matt 23:9] Aidan will do me!

Epiphany of Our Lord 2020

A Happy 2020 to all.

A few thoughts from Aidan Troy, C.P.

In some countries the Epiphany of Our Lord is their ‘real’ Christmas. For us it is also very real because today the veil has been lifted. East and West meet in those who followed their star and found the Light of the world. Theirs was a journey they did not need to make but chose to seek why this star had appeared.

Those first seeks of light got lost and bumped into Herod. They almost ‘let the cat out of the bag’ about Jesus whom Herod would seek to eliminate. They did not and went home by a different route. In seeking the Light, I too can take a wrong turn. A guiding star has saved me on many occasions.

When I was growing up, we looked in wonder at ‘film stars’ and wondered what it would be like to be a star?

The kernel of today’s feast of the Epiphany is that we are God’s stars. It is true and He has named and blessed us so that we can:

  • Be a light for other in a world that can seem clouded
  • Evangelise others by our own good example
  • Live Gospel values even in a hostile environment
  • Be God’s gift for those who need to feel they are loved.

We don’t come to Mass on this great feast with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. These were the best possible they had, and they brought them as a sign of respect. There is a recognition that this is a King to be worshipped but who will one day face death and the tomb. Little could they have known the details that this was the most amazing revelation of God’s saving His people by sending His Son.

Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh are not ours to offer. More intimate and of eternal value is a loving heart, an open mind and a body through which others glimpse the Body of Christ. Our bodies are carriers of His Spirit; in Holy Communion we become the tabernacle of His presence in the world. We show the way now as the star led the searchers from the East to the presence of Jesus.

To be a star today is not easy. There are many competing lights. To be a star today will not necessarily seem glamorous but the world needs stars:

  • S = Sacrifice as shown by parents; helping people who are down; giving something up to that others may live
  • T = Thanksgiving for all we receive from God and others. I received gifts at Christmas, but you are the greatest gift that I ever received.
  • A = Adoration offered to God for being God, creating and saving us and leading us into the fullness of life.
  • R = Respect for each other. Forgive me for my failures to respect you. Help us join hands and hearts to be the stars that God made us to be.

Feast of Holy Family 2019

A Happy 2020 to all. May all be blessed as we welcome a new decade.


A few thoughts from Aidan Troy, C.P.

Today we pause to reflect again on the work of God done through Mary and Joseph accepting parental roles. They are true heroes in my eyes and remind me of how God loves to start in small and simple ways.

Sometimes when I feel that God is distant from me, I look at you and there is Christ before my eyes. This is not an exaggeration but straight from the revelation of Jesus. Each of us is the nearest presence of the Divine that any can have on this earth. Thank you for reminding me of this so often by your sheer goodness, example and amazing kindness. Knowing you, it is easier to believe in God.

We have thanked God in the past year for the presence of a Passionist Parish on this site. The beautiful church building of St Joseph began to sink and had to be demolished in 1985, after one hundred and sixteen years. For two years, St Joseph’s at ave Hoche was a building site. After the passion of being away, in 1987 Passionist life and mission resumed.

This is one of the great stories of trusting in God and in the parishioners. People said to me back then, ‘they will never come back after two years away’. They were wrong. You have thronged through the doors of St Joseph’s for the past thirty-two years in ever-growing numbers.

(On a personal level, it has been a huge privilege for me to have carried the flame among you for the past decade. Many of you led me in carrying that flame for all or part of it.)

2020 opens another anniversary. In 1720 a man, Paul Daneo, followed his dream and started living an austere form of life in the countryside above Rome. He gathered a few companions around him and clothed them in a long black habit that he had seen Mary wear in a vision. They would eventually evolve into the Passionists who have served at St Joseph’s for the past 150 years and are to be found on every continent.

Like the Bethlehem scene of the Birth of Jesus, the start for St Paul of the Cross was not easy or straightforward. Most of the first members of his new community went away. Paul, like Joseph and Mary, remained faithful to his ‘yes’ to God and persevered in following the dream.

Female and male Passionists, with laity associated with his spirituality, continue today carrying the flame of Christ, seeing His face in neglected and abandoned people in the world. At St Joseph’s, you who worship and join in our mission, are sons and daughters of St Paul of the Cross.

Next year all the Passionist Family will offer prayer of thanksgiving for these past 300 years. I thank God for letting me follow the dream of St Paul of the Cross for almost 50 years as a priest. May the coming year see us all united around the Cross knowing that it will lead to Resurrection and eternal bliss.

 

StJoeParis

Saint Joseph's Catholic Church
50 Avenue Hoche
75008 Paris, France
33(0)1 42 27 28 56
stjosephparis@wanadoo.fr

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