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Reflection 7 May 2017

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

“One Man and his Dog” was first screened on British television in Feb 1976. By 1980 it had 8 million viewers. The programme was about sheepdog trials. A shepherd, female or male, along with their dog was tasked with getting a flock of sheep into an enclosed area. The dog did the running and rounding up of the sheep, but only at the direction, often by whistling, of the shepherd. I enjoyed watching it.

This all came to mind when I read the Scriptures for today’s Mass. They are lovely and like the disciples last week on the road to Emmaus, ‘our hearts burn within us as he talks to us on the road, and explains the Scriptures to us.’ Of course, there are differences with Jesus as Shepherd of His people. He doesn’t need a dog in order to get us through the gate of the sheepfold.

Jesus, in fact, ‘calls his own sheep and leads them out. When he has brought out his flock, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow because they know his voice.’ Do I know the voice of Jesus, the Good Shepherd? Do I listen intently for it? I try to listen and to hear His voice – when I read his Word; when I enter into prayer to hear Him speak, sometimes in a gently whisper. When I hear a child talk, cry, laugh or scream, God speaks through the voice and the tears of little ones. They are special messengers of His and precious in his sight.

Most of all, I hear His voice when I pray or hear sung Psalm 23(22) – The Lord is my Shepherd. This psalm is appropriate at weddings, at funerals, at baptisms, at confirmations, when anointing the sick, at Mass, as a prayer before or after confession; at the ordination of a pastor, Bishop, Priest or Deacon. It is truly a prayer of praise and thanksgiving for all seasons. It is a great psalm to learn by heart and to pray with feeling on any occasion. 

This beautiful psalm starts with addressing God in the third person – ‘The Lord is my shepherd; ‘he gives me repose; he leads me; he guides me, he is true.’ Beautiful. Then half way through, the psalmist switches to direct address to God when he ‘walks in the valley of darkness’. In this total darkness where God’s presence and help are urgent, ‘you are there with your crook and your staff; you give me comfort; you have prepared a banquet for me; my head you have anointed with oil.’

There have been and are times in my life where trust in a God who is close is all I have to cling onto. In that darkness, the sound of His voice makes all the difference. It is not easy when the going is tough to listen for His gentle voice, often no more than a whisper. The darker it is where the soul lives, the brighter the Light of Christ shines, so that hope does not die or go out.

Living in the centre of Paris, means that I don’t daily sees the beautiful scenes of Scripture that describe the caring Shepherd. For instance, the opening line of the Gospel today speaks of, ‘anyone who does not enter the sheepfold through the gate, but gets in some other way is a thief or a brigand.’ What is a sheepfold like?

A sheepfold was a circular stone wall with an opening for animals to enter for protection at night. Instead of barbed wire, branches of thorns would be placed on top of the walls to deter other animals from climbing in to attack the sheep. The weak point was the opening of the sheepfold wall, without a gate or a gate-keeper. The shepherd would lie down in the opening of the wall to serve as a gate and protection for the sheep. What a great way to understand, ‘laying down your life for your friends’. That is what Jesus does for us and we’re asked to do the same for each other.

Now I reread the Good Shepherd psalm of the Mass. Thank you, Lord, for being a good shepherd for me today and always.

Reflection 30 April 2017

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

Every Mass is a repetition of a walk with Jesus, just like the two disciples had on their journey to Emmaus. The seven miles’ distance, from Jerusalem, is not the issue. The conversation – speaking and listening – is at the heart of the encounter.

When we arrive for this or any Mass we are on some journey in our lives. We have our concerns, some happy and some sad, that we may chat about on our way to Mass.

A time of quiet and reflection when in your seat is an excellent preparation for meeting Jesus at Mass. It is also expected of us not to distract others, unless absolutely needed. In these moments of reflection, we hear the voice of Jesus asking us, as He did those on the road to Emmaus, – ‘What matters are you discussing?’ If I’m distracted or chatting, I may not be ready to tell Jesus what is going on in my life.

This is like the rite of penance where Jesus offers to hear our ‘confession’ of what is happening in life for us. He knows already, but really wants us to tell Him. He is the Listener supreme. When listening, He draws ever closer. This is not imagination – this is true. He really wants to heal us and show His constant mercy.

The Word of God is next. Here God speaks to us – what a privilege to hear God.

That is why the Lectors of the Scriptures, lay or priest, are conscious that we are not reading as if from a book or a newspaper, but proclaiming a living Word who is Jesus. That is why preparation of the text to be read is so essential. If I have not taken the Word of God to heart, I will not be able to put it across to you at Mass. To proclaim the Scriptures is an awesome responsibility.

As a student, I had a professor of Scripture who left his students, ‘with hearts burning within us as he talked to us….and explained the scriptures to us.’ He really did. He spoke as the scholar he was, but from a heart that was on fire with love for the Word of God, who is Jesus. May his good soul rest in peace. Lighting a fire of love for Scripture in my heart is one of the greatest gifts I received in seven years of study.

When the Word of God is proclaimed at Mass, God loves to hear back from us. We offer prayers for our needs and those we love and care about. That is why petitions of the Prayer of the Faithful often have a reference to the Scriptures we have just heard. God loves to listen to us.

Jesus also loves to share a meal with us – a meal with a difference. The main items on the table of the Altar to which we are invited are His Body and His Blood. No human mind could have made this up. At every Mass, Jesus looks into our eyes and says, ‘This is my body and this is my blood.’ During Holy Week just past, we re-lived the giving of the Mass on Holy Thursday and the cost paid the next day, Good Friday.

Every Mass is also part of celebrating the Heavenly liturgy. What does this mean? We hope one day to reach Heaven. God will bring us to His throne and introduce us to Jesus, the Holy Spirit, Mary, Joseph and all the Saints. There, I hope, we will see, our beloved parents, siblings, children, relatives and friends. That ‘Mass’ will never end.

Reflexion23rd April 2017

Reflection by Aidan Troy [Aodhán O Troighthigh]

 {Weekly Reflections only the view of the above}

 

It is amazing what you miss when you are away from home, work, city or wherever. Some people like to remind us that while we were away something important happened. Enter Saint ‘Thomas, called the Twin, who was one of the twelve.’ [Gospel]

The Gospel simply says that he, ‘was not with them when Jesus came.’ I’ve never been able to find out for definite why Thomas was not present. I am glad that he was absent. Otherwise, I {we} would have lost out on a great lesson about believing.

Contrary to his reputation as ‘Doubting Thomas’, I have always seen Thomas as a model of faith. The death on Calvary had devastated Thomas and the others. Some of them had walked back to Emmaus to start life all over again. Others had gone back to fishing – to make a living now that the ‘vocation’ with Jesus seemed over.

Calvary was bad for Thomas – he had not been there but had heard the outcome. He had enough integrity and humility not to insult the memory of Jesus by accepting the word of His appearance from others. They had told him that Jesus was breathing peace, the Holy Spirit, sending as them as missionaries, giving them authority in His name to forgive and retain sins. Whew!

For a man broken as Thomas must have been, caution was needed. This was too serious just to nod and say to the others, ‘alright, let’s get going!’

Thomas shows courage and seriousness – he can never forget the Cross, even if he would love to believe in the Resurrection. That, to me, is why he asks for the visible sign of the nails and the wound in the side. In one sense, Thomas is the first Passionist! He has the Cross in his heart as the greatest act of God’s love for His people. He may have run away at the time of Calvary, but he had since repented and remembered that no greater love has anyone than to lay down their life for their friends.

Faith is a gift of the Resurrection that completes the Cross. The Resurrection with the Cross is the fullest expression of God’s love in Jesus. There can be some of us who get stuck, from time to time, in the sadness of the Cross. There are others of us who, from time to time, want just the brightness and joy of the Resurrection. The two are sides of the same ‘coin’ that has the face of God on both sides.

In my life, I look on Thomas as a model of faith. It seems to me that the life of Christ cannot be lived authentically without being prepared to carry in our bodies the marks of the Passion. His wounds remind me of my frailty and my total dependence on our Great God who loves me to the end. Out of suffering, I have found the key to learning to love and to accept that others do love me. I don’t deserve God’s love, nor others either, but love does not give reasons or count the cost. Thomas had a suspicion that hearing the story of Jesus rising from others meant he had to deal with Calvary, its wounds and his own, before he could embrace the Risen One.

When invited by Jesus to ‘doubt no longer but believe’, Thomas replied, ‘My Lord and my God.’ In that moment, Thomas professed the true faith of the Church. At one time, this response of Thomas was a proclamation of faith after the Consecration of the Mass – in Ireland only!

Thomas, you are not my twin by birth; can I be your Twin in faith and so be born into Eternal Life which you already enjoy?

Easter Reflection 2017

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

What a brave person! Mary from Magdala is not going home yet. It looks to be all over but some intuition says that it was worth going to the Master’s tomb. He had been interred in a hurry so as not to break the Sabbath. The stone would be problem – how to move it?

To her amazement, she sees that the stone had been moved away. But the bad news is that, ‘they have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put Him.’ She runs to Peter and John to tell them this startling news. They find the burial cloths lying on the ground inside the tomb. Jesus is risen from the dead. The penny drops, ‘He must rise from the dead.’ Magnificent!

A temptation for me, gentle reader, is to try to ‘explain’ the Resurrection. There are events in my life that I can tell you about in detail, while there are others where words fail me. The more I try to put the unutterable into words, the more I rob them of their beauty.

For those who don’t understand such wonderful moments, no words are possible to help them understand. For those who do understand, no words are necessary. That is how I feel when I read the Resurrection story. The resurrection is an event of the heart before it can be described in print. This is the Mystery of New Life now and not only back then. The Resurrection is our story. We are Easter People and Alleluia is our anthem.

May the Risen One touch your heart and may those near and dear to you hear the whisper of the Risen Christ calling to live life to the full. A Happy Easter to all!


As the Bulletin goes to print, a word of thanks to the huge crowds who joined us for Palm Sunday Masses and to those who faithfully distributed palms before all the Masses. The Penance Service on Tuesday night was a time of prayer and reconciliation for those present. Thanks to Mirelle and choir for rendering such prayerful and suitable music. I pray that the Sacred Triduum will also be celebrated in the long tradition of the Passionists at St Joseph’s since arriving here in 1869.

Reflection 9 April 2017

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


The year 2000 is the one and only time in my life when I was in Jerusalem on a Good Friday. What a privilege to walk on the same streets over which Jesus carried His Cross.  The entry into Jerusalem celebrated today, leads also to the scandal that Jesus fell on these streets under the weight of the Cross, weakened by the demeaning torture He suffered beforehand.

Palm Sunday, Good Friday and all Holy Week, are to do with people and not only with places. The events of Holy Week, take place primarily in the human heart before being enacted on a street. The events of Jesus’ last week are remembered in every parish, in every culture and in all languages, for ALL people of every religion and none. “We are aware that the Passion of Christ continues in this world until He comes in glory.” [Passionist Constitutions N.3]

On the first Palm Sunday, some people followed Jesus while others run ahead. ‘Some spread their garments on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road’, shouting, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!’ They acclaim him as, ‘the prophet Jesus from Nazareth of Galilee.’ That would all change on Good Friday with the cry, ‘Crucify him’!

What changed the people so much? Truthfully, only they could answer that. This much I do know – that in my life I have been all these people. In my better moments, I make progress towards holiness; but there are times when I am sunk in sin; there are times when I follow Jesus and times when I abandon Him; times when I publicly profess that I am a follower and times when I betray Him. 30 pieces of silver may not be the price, but betrayal is not measured by the price. In your great love, Lord have mercy on me!

If Holy Week were solely a trip down ‘memory lane’ to recall the first Holy Week, then we would not need to spend hours in worship. We could put on the DVD and watch it at home. But there is more. The entry into Jerusalem, Passion, Death and Resurrection take place in every human heart, in every family and in every parish. Only if this is real for us can the liturgy of the events of the first Holy Week in Jerusalem become alive for us. Jesus is the Son of the Living God and not a museum piece.

Refugees fleeing for their lives, some in wheelchairs, terrified children with them, are taking part in their 2017 Way of the Cross. Simon of Cyrene helped Jesus carry the Cross. Jesus is with refugees, day and night. He looks to see if we, His followers, are around. Our hands are His, our hearts are His; help that we give is His. What a privilege.

People suffering in any way, often have more than 14 traditional stations with their Cross. For some, there can be 14 stations in one hour or one day. That may be why the Founder of the Passionists, St Paul of the Cross, could say that he, ‘saw the name of Jesus written on the foreheads of the poor.’

From time to time, gently, I am reminded about the ‘giants’ of Passionists who have served at St Joseph’s Church; well-founded comments, I’m sure. This inspires me at the beginning of Holy Week to deepen my appreciation of the total love of God shown in the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus. In the coming days, I will again deepen in myself the words of St Paul of the Cross:
“Keenly aware of the evils that afflicted the people of his time, he [St Paul of the Cross] never tired of insisting that the most effective remedy is the Passion of Jesus, <the greatest and most overwhelming work of God’s love.>
[Passionist Constitutions – Chapter 1]


“Even at 70 or 80, the heart doesn’t age if one is inspired by Christian joy.” Pope Francis


 

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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