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4th Sunday of Lent (Laetare) 11March2018

Reflection by Aidan Troy [Aodhán O Troighthigh] Please note: the view of the above alone.


Paddy was minding his own business. His daydream was interrupted by a motorist rolling down the window of his car and calling, ‘Which way to Mullingar from here?” Paddy thought for a long time, while the impatient motorist fumed. Eventually, Paddy replied, ‘If I was going to Mullingar, I wouldn’t start from here.’ Not much help to the motorist, but I think I see what Paddy was getting at.

Where you get to, has a lot to do with where you start from. This Sunday, if you start with an ‘angry’ God, you are going to end up with a lot of fear, shame and guilt. You will never be good enough. Even your best efforts will seem to you and others to leave God cold towards you.

If you start off with a ‘God who loved the world so much that He gave his only Son’, you end up with not being lost but having eternal life. You have peace in your heart which flavours all you say and do. You are alright inside. Your spirit is not one of fear and dread but of knowing and feeling who is in control. It is God.

When I was a child, I thought like a child and usually acted like a child. I was very happy as a child and thought life was simply wonderful. My parents, siblings, aunts and uncles and all the ‘big people’, made me think that this is what God is like. They brought me sweets, took me for fish and chips, brought me to the      local fun fair and paid for the rides. What a great world and great people. God must be like them or they must be like God. To a child it was the same difference.

The snag is that I began to grow up, even though I was happy as I was. It seemed that God has put a way of changing inside people He made. I was hoping that when I was one of the ‘big people’, I would be as happy as when I was a child.

Maybe at too young an age, I chose to try life as a trainee priest. There I got quite a shock. God, I was taught, was often angry with his people because of their sins. There was more to God than His love and warmth. I was told, I must go out and tell people how hard they must work to pacify God for the evil done in the world. This shocked me, but these teachers of religious life told me that they knew best.

They didn’t know it all. The words of Paul to the Ephesians still bring tears of joy to my eyes – ‘God loved us with so much love that he was generous with his mercy.’ That sounds right to me. ‘When we were dead through our sins, he brought us to life with Christ.’ Brilliant! As a child when grandparents died, we were told that they had gone to God in Heaven. I never doubted that for a moment. It was never about “winning” heaven by personal struggle and being told it unlikely we would make it!

Family homespun theology was spot on – ‘it is through grace that you have been saved.’ Heaven is not the reward that I can earn. It is what God created me for and for which He prepares me daily. God does not run out of grace – ‘how infinitely rich he is in grace.’  The teachings that tell us we must keep up this ‘titanic’ struggle for Heaven miss the point – ‘not by anything of your own, but by a gift from God; not by anything you have done, so that nobody can claim the credit.’ This is pure joy to the ears.

Paddy was right. It all depends on where you start from! After leaving home, where I knew I was loved, it was a shock to learn that love is not all you need. It is. God made each us as ‘His work of art’. I may not look like a work of art. But God thinks I am; His seal as Creator and Redeemer is set on me.

Happy St Patrick’s Day to all!

Third Sunday of Lent – 4th March 2018

Reflection by Aidan Troy [Aodhán O Troighthigh] Please note: the view of the above alone.

 

The Temple is centre stage today. This was holy ground to Jewish people and to God. The Holy of Holies was special in the faith life of God’s Chosen People. Jesus was presented in the Temple and went on a bit of a tour while there – much to the consternation of Mary and Joseph. He enjoyed himself asking and answering questions with lawyers and doctors of the law. Yes, Jesus knew the Temple and held it in high esteem.

The first Christian Community of Jerusalem took part in Temple worship. The Apostles taught in the Temple. And yet, the Temple disappeared. Jesus spoke of Himself becoming the place where God is present. Jesus is greater than the temple. We too have become God’s building, His dwelling place. Christ is our Head and we each are living stones of the new Temple.

Why is Jesus angry when he enters the Temple? Religion had come down to ritual and the life-centre was missing. The religious leaders were allowing this to happen. About the year 70, within forty years after Jesus died and rose from the dead, the Temple was destroyed. This is sad in many ways when its glorious past is remembered. When the foundations are weak, the life span is limited.

When the Church does not make God’s presence real and active in our world, renewal is needed if we are to remain faithful. Only if God is alive in us, will He be alive in the church building and the structures of our parish. If God is not alive in us all week, God will not be alive on Sunday. God does not do just weekends. He is a day and night God living in our hearts. If God is not alive in our hearts, our religion can be from the neck up only.

The words of Jesus from the Crucifix to Francis of Assisi, ‘to rebuild His church’, still carries a powerful and challenging message. It was not the bricks and mortar of the building that needed rebuilding, but the people of God. Putting up a church-building is both expensive and time-consuming. But, building the Body of Christ among his people is far more demanding. This is our mission today.

At St Joseph’s Church, we are fortunate to have a wide-range of people who are engaged in building up the People of God. In the past, this would have been principally the work of the priests. With just two priests assigned here for some time past, the blessing is having a partnership between lay and ordained.

The recent parish meeting at the end of January 2018, gave great encouragement as we sat together to listen to each other as to the best way forward. To me, the presence of the Holy Spirit among us was tangible.  Please God, this will become a regular part of our life of rebuilding the Body of Christ at St Joseph’s. Further, I love to think of the many people who since 1869 have met Christ here and gone on to the ends of the earth carrying that message of love.

Jesus must have been sad to see the Temple sink from its original purpose. Just as all of us are saddened when we see the scars on the body of Christ which is the church. Prayer will be an essential element if rebuilding our church. We are more than a group of people gathered to become a business or organisation. We are sisters and brothers walking with Christ under the shadow of the Cross but never losing hope that the Resurrection will come. That is why Laetare Sunday will be celebrated next weekend.

2nd Sunday of Lent, 25 February 2018

Reflection by Aidan Troy [Aodhán O Troighthigh] Please note: the view of the above alone.

 

“Variety is the spice of life, that gives it all its flavour.”  [William Cowper 1731-1800]

Last week we went with Jesus into the wilderness led by the Holy Spirit. There He was tempted and surrounded by the wild beast for 40 days and nights. The Angels comforted Him during this time. Today, we see Jesus transfigured and with glory to such an extent that Peter doesn’t want to let this moment past. Next Sunday, we will find Jesus in the Temple making a whip out of some cord. He will drive the money changers out and knock over their tables. Rough stuff! Surely, Lent is a time to see different angles of Our Lord and Saviour.

Back to this week’s message. God’s test of Abraham to even think of sacrificing his son, Isaac, still shocks me. It makes me sad. Knowing that Isaac does not die, perhaps dulls the enormity of how Abraham must have felt as he followed God’s instructions. What a relief it must have been when the angel of God told him to stop. The moment had passed. No wonder Abraham is known as our Father in the faith. He is a giant of faith.

The Gospel leads us up a high mountain with Jesus, Peter, James and John, where He is transfigured. His clothes are whiter than white and along come Elijah and Moses. The Law and the Prophets are now with the Messiah and the beginning of the New Law and Prophecy.

It is wonderful. Peter doesn’t want this moment to pass. Let’s stay here for ever, is his suggestion. There are times when I don’t want to come down from the highs and face back into the mundane of life. It would be great if there was no end to joy and happiness. At that moment of Peter’s dream, God speaks: ‘This is my Son, The Beloved. Listen to him.’  

In spelling LENT, I see the “L” as the call of the Father to LISTEN to Jesus. At once, I think of the Word of God in Scripture. To listen to the Word requires a loving heart as well as an open mind. A phrase is often enough to catch the sound of His voice – call on his name, ‘Jesus’, and repeat it slowly. He will answer as you listen for His voice. Or, ‘Jesus, have mercy on me’, repeated slowly, will open a conversation in which you will hear His voice and listen to His love for you.

At every Mass, we listen to Jesus. His Word is central to all that happens. He asks nothing more than our attention. He works a supreme miracle at every Mass, when bread and wine, by His word and the power of the Holy Spirit, become His Body and Blood.

At every family meal, Jesus sits at table. He doesn’t intrude or raise His voice. But as we listen to each other, he slips in some of His words and assurances. Perhaps that is why we read often about Jesus being at table to eat with people. Some were ‘saints’, Mary, Martha and Lazarus. Others were notorious sinners. But He was there, and his Word touched all hearts. At the end, the Last Supper was the final meal and our Eucharist.

1st Sunday of Lent 18Feb2018

Reflection by Aidan Troy [Aodhán O Troighthigh] Please note: the view of the above alone.



One of the ‘pillars’ of Lent is ‘almsgiving’ or ‘works of love’. With the needs of many people so great, it may make us wonder if there is much we can do to help. It’s clear that there is no once for all remedy for everyone. But, because I can’t do everything, does not mean I cannot do something to make a difference.

On Ash Wednesday, I celebrated Mass for a school and signed the staff and students with blessed ashes. During the few words of the homily I offered, I mentioned that part of Lent was to look around us and see if there is anything at all that we can do to make life a bit more pleasant for somebody else. That school does a great amount both locally and overseas for people in need.

Leaving church after Mass, a young girl with her classmates came over to me. She took a few coins out of her coat pocket. She asked me to take them for a poor person. This touched me deeply. The Word of Jesus that we love God and our neighbour has found a home in her heart. I have carried out her wish.

Lent this year started on the same day when a lot of people were celebrating Valentine’s Day. A symbol much used on that day is the human heart. Lent is also the season of the heart. It seems to me that the heart is where everything is decided. The mind is important in preparing but the heart plays the crucial role. If I decide to do something with my mind, I need the heart to see it through.

It is the heart that makes us human. God places in our hearts at creation, a part of His own heart – it is called Love. Every created person has a spark of the Divine in their heart. By temptation and sin, I can deaden the divine in me. Lent helps us recover from the losses incurred by sin. It is a season of the heart.

The very first heart is the Sacred Heart. God as Father has a heart. Jesus as Son has a heart. The Holy Spirit is the love in the heart of God. Lent is a time of grace when we enter into the Divine Love and rejoice that this is where we call home.

We belong in this everlasting flow of love. How true are the words of Jesus when he told us, ‘Where your treasure is, there is your heart also.’  

My prayer at the beginning of Lent is:

Lord, give me a courageous heart to go forth and engage with life even when I am afraid and confused.

Lord, free me from a fearful heart that holds back and is hesitant.

Lord, give me a compassionate heart that does not carry the burden of judgement.

Lord, give me a forgiving heart that knows the joy of being free

Lord, give me a loving heart more like yours in all I say and do this Lent.

 

6th Sunday in Ordinary Time 11Feb2018

Reflection by Aidan Troy [Aodhán O Troighthigh] Please note: the view of the above alone.


Internet can be a blessing if properly used. Wrongly used, it can cause terrible damage. Seeking information in the past, meant going to a library for books and articles. Now, at a click of a mouse, what I’m looking for is there before me. [‘Aidan Troy’ in a search engine got 488,000 references in 0,60 seconds!).

A danger is that I presume that all life is like a computer search. The exchange between the brave leper and Jesus, reveals a beautiful sensitivity in searching for health. There are no presumptions made by this man on his desperate search for healing. Let’s listen:

Leper (on his knees pleads): ‘If you want to you can cure me.’

Jesus (feeling sorry for him stretches out his hand): ‘Of course I want to! BE CURED!’

What music this must have been for the Leper now cleansed and back to health. That is good enough, but even better he can now go home. He can talk, eat, socialise with others. We don’t know how long he was ‘ex-communicated’ because of the danger of contagion. He is now back, and life is good.

Sin has been described as ‘leprosy of the soul’. All sin is social in its effects. Even if you know nothing of my sins, I am failing you by my sins in refusing the power of God’s grace. When I‘m less holy than God has called me to be, I enter into the isolation of the ‘leper’ in the Gospel. There is a distance between us.

Seeing the damage that my sins cause, I can either harden my heart, or take the path of the ‘leper’ and with humility and courtesy come to Jesus. On my knees, I can plead, ‘If you want to you can cure me.’ There will always come the same response from Jesus, ‘Of course, I want to! Be cured!’ That is the moment in which I cease to fail you and the community of believers. Imagine the joy that there is in Heaven over this sinner doing penance than over 99 who do not. We are called to be a holy people of God.

When the leper was healed, he had to fulfil the law and go to the priest for a clean bill of health. Jesus ‘sternly ordered’ him to ‘say nothing to anyone.’ Well, the cured Leper did the opposite – and who could blame him as he made his way home. Perhaps, going home to his wife, children, job, friends. Who knows? Jesus was concerned that His mission might be seen as simply a spectacular display of bodily healing. But, Jesus came to bring us the good news of salvation of soul as well as body. Jesus saves the whole person.

Jesus came as healer but most of all as Saviour. He addresses the ‘leprosy of the soul.’ Because sin cannot easily be seen by the human eye, it can happen that it seems less ‘real’. I could not imagine myself wearing ‘clothing torn, and hair disordered…shield the upper lip and cry, “Unclean, unclean”. [1st Reading] Yet, soon we will begin Lent when the call to sackcloth and ashes will be heard again. Sin, like leprosy, is contagious.

Once the Leper had proclaimed Jesus as healer, Jesus ‘could no longer go openly into any town, but had to stay outside in places where nobody lived.’ Jesus ends up living in places where the leper once had to stay. The difference was that, ‘even so, people from all around would come to him.’

As Lent begins, we can search for Jesus and finding Him ask, ‘If you want to, you can cure me.’ He will. It will be your best gift this Lent.

 

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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