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75008 Paris

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29th Sunday 22 Oct 2017

Some words by Aidan Troy [Aodhán O Troighthigh]
{Reflection only the view of the above}

At the beginning of this week, the old British one-pound coin ceased to be currency and cannot any longer be used. The Sterling pound-coin was introduced on 21st April 1983 to replace the one-pound note. This replacement coin is 12-sided and will be in use until the next one arrives.

Coins add up and are valuable. The only downside for me is bringing Kgs in bags of coins to the Bank – but, good exercise! Still, they help to keep St Joseph’s afloat. A word of thanks to all who support St Joseph’s so generously by any form of contribution.

Jesus gets a question today about a coin. But in truth it has little to do with finance. It was a plot of the enemies of Jesus, when ‘the Pharisees went away to work out between them how to trap Jesus in what he said.’ This makes me both sad and annoyed.

Bad enough to criticise any person, but to use a trap to try and bring them down is despicable. A ‘trap’ suggests an animal snare. It is one thing to set a trap to uncover evil; but to use a trap to damage a good person, like Jesus, is so sad.

Jesus turns the tables on his opponents who are out to trap him. He calls for a denarius. Jews found this coin objectionable because it had the image of the Emperor Tiberius on it and an inscription that called him the ‘son of the divine Augustus’. For ordinary business, a copper coin without any image was minted in Palestine. But, to pay the toll tax, the silver coin had to be used.

They hope Jesus is ‘trapped’ – if He affirms that the tax be paid, He would seem to be approving of idolatry; if He says don’t pay it, He will be accused of encouraging rebellion. This is a dilemma not easy to escape from. The wisdom of Jesus finds an escape route – He doesn’t solve the dilemma directly, but respects the civil order by paying, while the relationship with God is also part of our responsibility.

In the first reading there’s a discussion about who matters most in life. Isaiah uses a great phrase about God that gives the true order – ‘apart from me, all is nothing.’ This takes deep faith; it also takes trust. When a child holds onto the hand of a parent, there is security and safety. To let that hand go is terrifying to the little one. We are all children in need of a hand to hold onto. There are wonderful people who know when to reach out with a helping hand, that can be a matter of life or death.

The second part of Jesus’ response to those setting a trap, suggests that we give to God what belongs to God. There is no image on a coin that can match the image of God that is placed inside each person at the moment of their being created by God. God makes us in His image and likeness. Jesus looks at us and sees that image stamped on us for all eternity. We are one of His family.

In good times, we may find it a bit easier to appreciate that we have a spark of Divinity in us. But, looking at the mud through which refugees walk; the hunger in the eyes of children; the desperation in the pleading of those who feel lost and so much more, must make it harder to appreciate this.

All is not lost. So often ‘an angel of mercy’ in the form of an aid-worker, a rescuer in uniform recognises in them a valuable human being to whom a helping hand must be stretched out. The image of God in each of them keeps glowing even in the midst of the most terrible adversity. God must glow with delight whenever his image is recognised, not on a coin, but in a person.

In a competitive world where might is seen as right, it’s worth remembering that our interior life is the one that will last. At the end, faith will fall away – God will be seen. Hope will be redundant because we will have arrived. Love is all that is left – that is God’s name. Apart from me all is nothing!


28th Sunday 15 Oct 2017

Some words by Aidan Troy [Aodhán O Troighthigh]
{Reflection only the view of the above}

‘Are you lonesome tonight?This Elvis Presley song is still to be heard. It is a good question and one that can be posed in any age. In my life, I have been blessed beyond anything I deserve, to become a part of families all over the world; I have been blessed in many friendships; every year of my life, I have been surrounded by some marvellous people, some of whom move on and some who remain close. But, alongside this and with no hint of criticism, I can also tell of an inner loneliness that co-exists with these people who have been blessings in life.

‘You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.’ These words of St Augustine, sum up what I am trying to share with you. When we are blessed with people around us and with us, we are spared chasing after substitutes for intimacy and love. Apart from the usual ‘suspects’ – money, sex, possessions -  somewhere in many of us, even in the most fulfilled of people, a search goes on to steady the restlessness deep within us.

‘The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.’ This is the Responsorial Psalm at Mass today - the Word of God. These words are totally true. The Psalmist prays these wonderful words of God in a full and comprehensive statement. Of course, a lot depends on what I really want. If my wants are not of God, then there will be plenty that I’ll go on wanting.

Jesus, is my Shepherd and guide. He goes ahead and promises that He will keep me safe and not let me want for anything. It sounds too good to be true. It is true, but is it true for me and you? I would love it to be true in my life. But, it’s not. Gaps exist as to what I want in life. I search in places other than in the company of Jesus. I’m not proud of this, but I want what God wants for me. When I’m lost, the Good Shepherd looks for me and carries me on His back with joy.

‘Near restful waters he leads me, to revive my drooping spirit.’ The Psalmist is a good therapist. ‘Drooping spirit’ can be anything in life from depression to being tired, to being in bad form. It can also be those times when I’m lonely, even in the midst of people. ‘Restful waters’ mentioned by the Psalmist can be anyone or anywhere. There are people in whose company, I feel I’m in a pool of light, kindness and care. They give me a ‘lift’ and then I know that they are sent by the Good Shepherd to look for me and to comfort me when I need it most.

‘He guides me along the right path; he is true to his name’. It is not unusual for me to get lost, even in Paris after many years. My sense of direction leaves a lot to be desired. That is a minor handicap in comparison to losing direction in life. That is when the Good Shepherd comes to me in many and varied guises. The guidance received from another person often comes from a word or a gesture that reverses the wrong direction in life that I am taking. A hug can put new life and new purpose into any struggling life. It is always interesting how Jesus was able to restore people by taking the little girl’s hand, putting a paste on the eyes of a blind person, touching a leper’s infected skin. He is truly the Good Shepherd.

‘You have prepared a banquet for me in the sight of my foes. My head you have anointed with oil; my cup is overflowing.’ In recent months, I’ve been at a few wedding banquets. The banquet prepared by Jesus is not only among friends; even in the sight of our foes does He promise to feed and nourish us. The great meal above all others is the Last Supper on the night before Calvary. This continues at our Mass. On the day of our Baptism, our heads were anointed with the oil of Chrism. All the Baptised are God’s Anointed. The more I seek the company of the Good Shepherd, the greater will be my joy. With Jesus, my cup overflows. What a privilege!

27th Sunday 8 Oct 2017

Some words by Aidan Troy [Aodhán O Troighthigh]
{Reflection only the view of the above}

If you hear someone talking about the ‘Church’, what comes into your mind? Or if reading these words, you stop and read no further, what image comes to mind?

My generation started with a picture of the Pope in Rome, wearing a crown and being carried high up through huge crowds in St Peter’s Basilica, Rome. Very few of my generation ever thought that we would see a Pope travelling by Aer Lingus on a Pastoral Visit to Ireland. This happened in September 1979 when Pope St John Paul II came to see us. Next summer, Pope Francis has said that he too will visit Ireland in connection with a meeting on the Family.

Just after I left home to go to the Passionist Novitiate in 1963, I heard word of the Church being described as the ‘People of God’. The Holy Spirit opened a window in the Church when Pope St John XXIII (his feast day is on Wed.) opened an Oecumenical Council. Some dust of the past flew out and the grace-filled gifts of God came among us.

This in no way makes the Pope redundant. In fact, the opposite is happening since then. The Pope has recovered his true shepherd role as ‘the servant of the servants of God’. Popes now wash feet when once a Pope on his knees did not seem appropriate or possible.

Let me pause here for a moment and pose another question to you about the ‘Church’. When we read today in the First Reading, ‘My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill’, what is Isaiah referring to? He is, I think, referring to the ‘Church’ as we know it today. God is the vinedresser who wants not just grapes, but His People to grow to our full potential in the sunshine of His love and care. This sunshine is the climate in which His grace comes to us. It comes especially through the Sacraments and sometimes through the people who love and cherish us. They are often God’s gifts to us by their presence and action.

St Paul in the 2nd reading today at Mass spells this out far better than I can. Writing to the Philippians, his first instruction is fascinating – ‘Do not worry about anything’. But, I am a worrier, have always been one and will probably die as a worrier. There is, though, an exit strategy offered by Paul, ‘but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.’ So now I am sharing with God my worries that upset and disturb me. And what has God promised to do? ‘The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.’

I love that. My and your worries are taken and shared with God. He is ‘Our Father’ who wants us to be at peace. The sign of peace at Mass is not an idle gesture. It is a pledge that the peace of Christ which surpasses all understanding is with us and we want nothing but the best for the person next to us. That is our hope for the other because Jesus is the Prince of Peace who resides and reigns in our hearts. That is the People of God at our best. That is what Pope Francis is constantly saying and praying. The Papal Tiara or crown is gone, the ‘Sedia Gestatoria’ on which Popes were carried in the past are gone, but the beauty and power of God among His people is still there and flourishing.

In case I am coming across as making all this sound too easy for us, let me finish with the agenda Paul says we should be thinking about - whatever is:

  1. True
  2. Honourable
  3. Just
  4. Pure
  5. Pleasing
  6. Commendable
  7. Excellence
  8. Worthy of Praise

These will give me a new set of ‘worries’ or rather challenges to end needless worry. ‘Keep on doing these things, and the God of peace will be with you.’

26th Sunday 1 Oct 2017

Some words by Aidan Troy [Aodhán O Troighthigh]
{Reflection only the view of the above}

It is not easy to let go of possessions that we have. At present, during the installation of new windows on the community floor above the church, I have been trying to tidy my room. You might imagine that this is an easy task – the one room is small with just me living in it. I don’t have children’s toys to store or a huge wardrobe to hold clothes for a family. Yet, the task is tougher than I at first thought.

It is not easy for me to let go of even worthless items and most of all, books. Moving on to my interior life, it gets no easier. There is a lot of holding onto worthless thoughts, memories, ambitions, dreams and more besides. If they were ever going to be brought out into the open and make a difference to my life or others, then they should be kept. But I know in my heart of hearts, that I fear letting go. It is as if by holding on to all that is inside me, they may keep my good name, my identity, my abilities. Often, this is not true. In fact, the opposite is usually the case – by letting go of the past and the contents of my soul, mind and spirit, God grows and develops me beyond my greatest hopes.

A person was falling over a cliff with a sheer drop into the ocean below and caught hold of a tree branch at the last minute. Now, he was suspended between life and death. Then, a voice spoke – ‘I am God. Do you believe in me and trust me? ‘Of course, I do.’ ‘If you do whatever I ask of you, all will work out and your life will be saved.’ Then God said, ‘Let go’. Would you or I let go?

That is where Jesus is so amazing. On earth, His state was divine. Yet, He did not cling to this equality with God. Isn’t it amazing how some people hold fast to fame, to status, to job title, to success, to riches, to reputation. This attitude is so understandable. The downside can be that we become ‘full of ourselves’, leaving very little room for our development or improvement by God.

St Paul puts it very simply, ‘Jesus emptied himself.’ That is clear. Imagine letting go of divinity and all that means. Jesus emptying Himself was, ‘to assume the condition of a slave, and become as people are.’ Could I ever leave the security of St Joseph’s and voluntarily join the ranks of the unemployed? Could I leave aside my passport to become stateless and be simply a ‘refugee’? It would be great to say, maybe I could. Truth be told, with sadness, these are not likely to happen. But who knows? Maybe God has plans for me that He has not yet shared with me.

Jesus more than accepted our human condition; ‘he was humbler yet, even to accepting death, death on a cross.’ If this was not the revealed Word of God, it could not be believed as ever happening. But it did and continues to this day. ‘God raised him high and gave him the name that is above all other names.’ Emptying of self, death to self and rising as a new self is the life plan of Jesus given to us. It is not easy to believe this but it’s true. Our template is the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. There are many people whom I have seen living according to this divine emptying.

I’ve seen Parents empty themselves of personal ambition for the sake of their children; heroic people nurse a sick partner, child or parent even though it means an end to their usual social life. Missionaries, especially Sisters who never returned home, in order to carry the light of Christ into a dark world. There are people who do ordinary jobs that few might notice, but do them with love and dedication, turning them into beauty done with generosity.

As we begin the month of October, we think specially of Mary, Mother of Jesus. She emptied herself of all plans and ambitions to be the servant who would give us our Saviour. Mary, you are a great guide.

25th Sunday 24 Sept 2017

Some words by Aidan Troy [Aodhán O Troighthigh]
{Reflection only the view of the above}

In the Gospels, there are 42 Parables. Parables are designed to bring us to an abrupt halt and cause us to think again. The payment of the workers told today is a good example, at least for me!

Paying the same for an hour’s work as for a full day, could not be accepted as a labour law. In any country, there would be protests and strikes if this was attempted.

Then, why did Jesus give us this Parable at all? Today’s Parable reminds us that what matters is that we come to Jesus and not how or when we came to Him. Please don’t be disheartened if, like me, you have been trying to live as a Christian since the age of reason. That too is in the Parable today but let us first look at the “late-comes”.

Some people find Jesus on their death-bed. It has been my privilege to be at the side of a person who turned to Jesus before death, after a lifetime of searching, struggling and perhaps sinning. These are memorable in the life of a priest. There are others who in their teens or into adult life find Jesus. What blessings these people are among us.

Since 2008 to the present, I have been part of the journey of numerous adults as they received the Sacraments at the Easter Vigil. What I have learned from these searchers for Jesus over the years, is that God calls when and how He wills. Their joy at the Easter Vigil as they receive the gifts of Sacraments is a delight to behold.

Isaiah goes to the core of the matter – “My thoughts are not your thoughts, my ways not your ways – it is the Lord who speaks.” Then the difference is bluntly stated regarding comparison between my way and His way – “Yes, the heavens are as high above the earth as my ways are above your ways, my thoughts above your thoughts.” It takes prayer and reflection together to get to the core of this and its implications.

Jesus knew religious teaching of Judaism as Mary and Joseph had seen to that. His weekly Synagogue visits would have reinforced the foundation laid at home. There was a legalistic approach that said salvation could and must be earned. There were two main classes of religious people – the righteous who would gain salvation by fulfilling the law and the unrighteous who were despised by the other group. The righteous were good people. They had many admirable qualities and their dedication cannot be questioned. They did not appreciate though, that salvation is total gift; we can make ourselves ready, only God can save us. There’s no earning it.

When I fall into self-righteousness and think of myself as a gift to God instead of the other way around, I pray the words of Saint Ignatius:

Teach us good Lord, to serve you as you deserve; to give and not to count the cost; to fight and not to heed wounds; to toil and not to seek for rest; to labour and to ask for no reward, save that of knowing that we do your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

It’s absolutely true, that the workers who did one hour in the vineyard did not earn what the owner gave them. The mistake of those who worked all day was to resent seeing others being treated generously. I know the feeling. It can become ingrained in my thinking and acting. That is why I keep begging Our Lord to remind me daily that His ways are so much more generous and loving than mine could ever be. He is all love. My love can be reserved for those whom I think have earned it. But that is not love of another – that is self-love.

God willing, in three years’ time I’ll be 50 years a priest. I have no doubt that a priest ordained in 2017, is doing greater things for God than all I have in the Lord’s vineyard. It’s not length of years, it is God’s freedom to give gifts and graces and ours to be grateful to Him for them.


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

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