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Scripture Reflection 26 July 2020

A Reflection on Scripture Readings


On 20th July 2020, the Vatican issued a document on conversion of parish communities. The full title is long:

“The Pastoral Conversion of the Parish Community in the service of the Evangelising Mission of the Church.”

This could make a starting point for the next Parish Conversation. Our 5th in this series was held on 1st March. Since then it has not been possible to continue our dialogue and we are not sure when we can resume.

There are some interesting points in this Vatican document. It is not strong on building the parish community from the people upwards. That said, it could begin a programme for Saint Joseph’s for the coming decade. This would enthuse me but as I am ending 12 years at St Joseph’s, it will be the one who comes after me to lead this.

The blessing for St Joseph’s is that the Passionist leader is not the one who alone prepares such a programme. This is a blessing on us and indeed other parishes, who have heard the call of the Spirit to start with our Baptism as incorporation into Christ and the door into the church.

One of the lessons learnt during COVID-19 lockdown is that the Church is not the building or simply an institution. Of course, it is both, but a building is called a ‘church’ by association with the church as a community gathered inside. With the sudden lockdown in mid-March, the building could no longer safely be opened for worship, CCD, RCIA, Baptisms & Preparation, Confessions, Bible Study, Rosary, YAM, ACWO, Women’s Spirituality or Men’s Spirituality gatherings and so much else that make up our lives as church.            

Mass, Pastoral Council meetings, CCD classes, Men’s Spirituality, RCIA, YAM and other groups went online. It seemed strange to me at the start, but bit by bit, I could see the hand of God at work and continues daily.

In other situations, the Family as Church was rediscovered, and the Domestic Church made a comeback. No public Masses could be attended, 1st Communions and Confirmations and Sacraments of Initiation for Adults were deferred. Heart-breaking it was for parishioners being unable to celebrate at St Joseph’s funerals of loved ones. Pastoral visits to the sick, blessings of homes, etc. had to end.

This was totally new to me after many years as a priest. A cartoon depicts God talking to the Devil. The Devil is saying, “With Covid-19 I’ve closed your churches.”; while God is answering, “On the contrary, I have opened a church in each house.”

There has been a discovery again of the family as the Domestic church. Whole families followed Mass together online and talked about what they had seen and heard. People prayed the Rosary together online from different parts of the world. This was poignant when a loved one was seriously ill, and nobody able to visit and hold their hand. Jesus and Mary did it for them in prayer.

We do value our church buildings, but prayer can happen around a table, or sitting together or privately on our own. Some families set up their own sacred space in their homes. God is right, the virus did not close our churches but led us in new ways. Buildings must close to keep us safe and healthy. When that is necessary, we rejoice in our domestic church.

Scripture Reflection 19 july 2020

A Reflection on Scripture Readings

A washing powder advert years ago boasted that their powder made clothes, “whiter than white” and promised that colours in clothes would not run. Maybe it was not fully accurate, but it did catch people’s attention and boosted sales.

There is always a danger of a parish being fired by an ideal to become a Church only of the pure, only of God’s elect. Jesus heard this aspiration from James and John when they suggested sending fire from Heaven that would destroy the Samaritans. [Lk 9:54]  

Today we have the same question asked about the darnel – ‘do you want us to go and weed it out?’ Some people then and some of us now, may be surprised at Jesus’ answer, ‘No, because when you weed out the darnel you might pull up the wheat with it.’ What is your reaction to this?

Perhaps it depends on what way you see the wheat and the darnel. In the parable, the master is above all interested in saving the good grain. He wants to give the wheat every possible chance. He will protect it at all costs. The workers are very aware of the amount of darnel that had crept in among good seed. They saw the weeds; the master saw the wheat.

In a parish, everything can be divided into two categories: good and evil, truth and error. The priest must also guard against this as much as everyone else. It is lovely to dream of a parish where all are good and virtuous. That sounds a lot like a community of Angels and not of humans carrying the traces of Original Sin. This is well expressed in, ‘It is possible to sense the presence of an angel and yet scent the devil.’ {Glenstal Bible Missal, p.451}

This side of Eternity, weeds and wheat will co-exist below and over the earth. Sects wish to have all of the same outlook and practice. In the Kingdom we are called to follow a path with many twists and turns. Fellow pilgrims will not all be to our liking. This is real. Ambiguities arise because we humans are complex and so is our calling by Jesus. A word that we may hear about a lot is “discernment”.

In a parish or in a person, there co-exists good and evil, positive and negative attitudes. We know that evil and negativity are not of God but are part of our experience. In the name of the good, the holy, (the wheat), we can simply take the high moral ground and demand the elimination of evil and teachings that do not fit into our framework. We can then slip into a ‘spiritual violence’ towards others. There may be no wounds visible but great hurt and damage can be done.

Another attitude that can be adopted is to discern evil but have patience. Jesus did not approve of uprooting the weeds; instead, we can try to be the ‘yeast that will leaven’ the flour of our broken and sinful world and church. We are sinners striving to be saints. Certainly, I have not got there yet. A good baker knows how to add the yeast to have maximum effect.

A critical mass of ‘yeast’, (goodness), in a person or a parish brings closer the emergence of the Kingdom that Jesus has come to establish.

In a parish community committed to this approach, the world is changed for the better and the Body of Christ thrives. If there is no sin or evil among us, Jesus could be seen as not being needed. But He is, more so than ever.

{Above only view of Aidan Troy, C.P.}

 

 

 

Scripture Reflection 12 July 2020

Reflection {only view of Aidan Troy}


A seed looks so small. Yet, when the acorn becomes the great oak tree or the mustard seed grows to offer shelter, I am stopped in my tracks. The growth takes place underground and out of sight. The first sight of a tiny shoot peeping over the ground is a moment of ‘miracle’. How it happens I do not know. That it does happen is wonderful to behold.

God plants a seed of Divine life in each of us as He does in all creation. I would love to have a ‘peep’ into the plan God has in mind for me from all eternity. There is nothing wrong with the divine seed planted. The ‘soil’ of my life is the only variable that could possibly frustrate God’s plan.

As I look back over my life with God there is nothing good that I can point to that I did alone. All that happened was and is the work of God.

Take the call to be a priest that God gave me. From my earliest years I was convinced that nothing I could ever   do would be done on my own. When our training spoke of the ‘power’ and ‘authority’ that would be mine as a priest, I could not see how God fitted into this. Fortunately, I went with my original conviction that God is all, and nothing good happens that is not His.

God had sown a seed of belief in me from an early age. I realised that all comes from His loving hands. There are better priests than me through whom God can work very powerfully.

A ‘seed’ that I have treasured all my life as a priest is knowing that any good done in my life and ministry is God’s work. My only ‘power’ is to frustrate God’s dream for me. That is the sin part of my life.

What do I mean by sin in my life? Jesus in the Gospel talks about, “(s)he will have more than enough.” It is a source of shame to me as I look over my life, how often I failed to realise that I have ‘more than enough’ from God. Often, I ask God for even more.

Jesus speaks the Word of God to me throughout my life. He is the Word of God. Of me, Jesus says, “(he) looks without seeing and listens without hearing or understanding.” St Matthew explains how ‘the evil one comes and carries off what was sown in his heart.’ Other times, my heart loses its love and becomes like the place filled with rocks where the seed can find no roots. Receiving the Word in thorns is when I let the “worries of this world and the lure of riches choke the word”, and so I produce nothing. ‘Riches’ do not always refer to money; I can let ambition, my reputation as a form of ‘clericalism’, choke the Word.

Never did I want to be other than the ‘soil’ yielding a harvest. Truth is, that remains my hope. Jesus reminds me of how much God has invested in me. When God looks at the returns on His investment in me, it would not be surprising if He had given up on me years ago! Though He never will.

That is the kernel of Mass today. With all my failures, God can still say, ‘the word that goes out from my mouth does not return to me empty, without carrying out my will and succeeding in what it was sent to do.’ (Isaiah). That gives me great consolation. God chooses to want me as ‘soil’ in which to plant His Word; even when I fail to deliver, He never gives up on me. He will use even my weakness as a conduit for His power. Like St Paul, I can still glory in my weakness. Then again, I recall that His power is all.

 

Scripture Reflection 5 july 2020

Reflection* {only view of Aidan Troy}


God endows some people with great learning and cleverness. They are needed in our midst. Others have less of both. It might be assumed that more learning and cleverness put that person in top place in God’s eyes. God’s ways are not always our ways.

God came among us in Jesus not as an adult of unsurpassed learning and cleverness. Such a starting point for Redemption, coming like a Solomon filled with wisdom or an Elijah with words of prophecy, might have made it easier for the Chosen People to accept Him as God incarnate.

In contrast, God comes on earth after 9 months in the womb of a young mother called Mary. His first cry is in a stable. Shepherds come to visit as do Magi from the East. Angels sing and rejoice and then Joseph and Mary flee into Egypt to avoid the slaughter of the Innocents. What an amazing start!

This was the way God wanted it to happen and the Scriptures foretold this in a veiled way. Centuries before Christ, Isaiah prophesied that “a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel, which means, God with us.” [Mt1:23]

It takes a shift in thinking to realise that God comes among us out of pure love, with no pay off for God. He comes not because He needs to but because of our need. Jesus is born 100% dependent. He is born with all the needs of every new-born. In His humanity, he was like you and me except that He had no sin. Otherwise, the path ahead of Jesus was to grow in wisdom and understanding. Being divine, he did not cling to this but emptied himself for our sake, even to the point of becoming a servant.

In God’s eyes we are His children for as long as we live. From womb to tomb, God cares for us as a loving parent does for their child. God is attached to us by a bond that cannot be broken. He sees his own image in each of us. His attachment to us is as it was to His Son from Crib to Cross.

We all change, and some people go on to climb to the heights of learning and achievement. Others of us live with less spectacular achievements. But all of us are blessed by God not because of what one has achieved but because God sees us all as beloved. Appreciate what is said of you by Jesus in prayer to His Father:

“I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children. Yes, Father, for that is what it pleased you to do.” [Mt 11:25-26 at Mass today]

There is something reassuring about this promise of Jesus as He looks at each of us. We matter because of His love and not our achievements.

This pattern of God caring for His children goes on until the day we are called home. In the face of death each of us will revert to being as dependent as a child at birth. We will be cared for by others when we can no longer care for ourselves. Then will come the moment when Jesus will gather us into His arms as Mary once gathered him into her arms at birth.

We will be carried, we pray, to God’s Throne and Jesus will present us to His Father, ‘here is your beloved child come to possess the place prepared since the foundation of the world’. We can then rest in His love and peace.

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2020

Reflection* {only view of Aidan Troy}


The number of people who died in the previous 24 hours during the pandemic is a daily feature of news report. May all who have died rest in peace. Alongside this there often appears the number who have recovered from COVID19. Whenever I see a person being applauded out of ICU after recovering, I think of Jesus’ words that we all may have ‘life to the full’.

The mystery as to why some survive and others do not, is known only to God. But alive or dead, Jesus always stands at the core of the whole world. He always wishes not only to be near His people, but to live in every heart and soul.

Jesus does not deal in statistics or graphs. There is no anonymous person in His sight. He never has to ask, ‘Do I know you?’ Meeting Jesus, we do not need to wear a name tag. He made each of us in His own image and likeness and has branded our names on the palms of His hands. That is closeness and intimacy of a supreme order.

There are no people that God recognises by the colour of their skin or nationality. When I realise that on this earth there are people as numerous as the grains of sand on the seashore of every sea and ocean, imagine trying to pick up even a handful of sand and separate all the grains. They all look alike to me. To God, never is this so. His smile to us and ours back to Him are unique. Each female and male are a replica of Him and is beautiful in His sight.

It is not easy for me to appreciate, even in a tiny way, how totally interested God is in you and in me. Last week’s Gospel at Mass told us that the hairs on our heads are numbered. Also, a sparrow does not fall to ground without our God knowing it. Our worth is more than hundreds of sparrows.

There is not much use in all this being true if we never tell and show each other that it is true on this earth. What we will be in eternal life is way beyond any of us to imagine. We pray for each other and for ourselves that we will hear, ‘Come, blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom’.

Within God’s creation, there is a leaven that helps all rise to a greater appreciation of our origin and our destiny. This is the missionary calling of the baptized. In His love and care for people, some are asked to reveal the God who cares and protects.  

Baptised people look the same as others. Some marry and through the birth of children continue God’s work of creation. Others follow different paths. But when we were baptised, “we went into the tomb with Christ and joined him in death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the Father’s glory, we too might live a new life”. {St Paul; Mass today.} When I realise the greatness of this, I want to tell others that they are children of God. This is Good News to be proclaimed from the rooftops.

There are people who worry that the boundaries of God’s acceptance are being widened too far. The truth is that the more I can give to others of whatever faith I have received, the greater and stronger my own faith will grow. If God had wanted us to hoard our faith and the great gifts given to us, He would have supplied moth balls, as Pope Francis once commented.

Baptism into Christ is not joining a club, a political party, or sect. It is becoming part of the Body of Christ. It is about making   an eternal difference for others while on this earth. The difference is Christ and life to the full. To bring one person to Christ, is worth any of us having been born.

The key to bringing the nations to Christ is by letting others see how we live, love and act. The early followers of Jesus were remarkable by the way they loved one another. Few would have been preachers but all of us are called to be witnesses. Some had the supreme call of witnessing to Christ by martyrdom, red Baptism.

During lockdown there have been some remarkable stories of how people cared for others. Some were church based and did sterling work. Others were not but stood out by their loving care. Where love is active, God is present. We rejoice in the goodness in our world, even though the evil done often grabs the headlines.

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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