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12th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2020

A Reflection* {only view of Aidan Troy}


There is a book waiting to be written with a working title, ‘God’s Hidden Graces of COVID19’. The Introduction should honour all who died and those bereaved during this distressing time in our world. May they rest in peace; may their loved ones go on living in their memory. The Book would be dedicated to the brave people who gave their all in caring for others.

God opens the eyes of the ‘blind’:  

The Scriptures show me the wonders that God is working among us. An intense sense of newness is in the air. In my years at St Joseph’s I saw the Spirit active among us. I made the mistake of taking this for granted and called it ‘normal’. Your absence during lockdown, revealed to me the ‘miracle’ of what happens here day in, day out.

The Humble will conquer the earth: Hidden and unnoticed until lockdown, there were people who became key players in a changed world. They were not big names of newspaper gossip columns. God says that the humble will conquer the earth and they have. These people studied medical charts, baked bread in ovens, drove buses and trains and were street cleaners, while others studied stocks & shares on monitors. ‘Little’ people are small enough to go through the ‘eye of a needle’ which is not true of us all.

God always values all His people:

There are people in every parish, also at St Joseph’s, who feel they do not count for much. This may not be true, but their perception is truth for them. They do not complain about feeling of little value, just accept it. For some lockdown brought a new ‘belonging’.

Rediscovery of the Domestic Church:

During lockdown at home, many felt an intimacy of being valued by family and, also by Jesus. They discovered a ‘domestic church’ where they know they belong and are loved.

When back to the church community, their faith will be stronger and can rejoice in being as good as the next person. Once back, I must look out for quiet people who belong to no group, but matter totally to Jesus.

Worth more than 100’s of sparrows”:

Among us are people with little going for them in terms of this world.  At Mass online, they discovered Spiritual Communion, as truly welcoming their Creator and Saviour into their hearts and homes. In God’s book, ‘grade’, ‘status’, ‘importance’ has no place. In God’s eyes we are all ‘sparrows’. In future, I will try to be more sensitive to those I see but do not recognise. If such people do speak, they may say of me, ‘he   always seems to be so busy.” O God, give me the grace to be less busy and to give them more time.

A ’new’ St Joseph’s born in lockdown?

For the first time in 12 years here, I took part in three Sunday CCD classes online; what joy for me to see smiling faces and get great questions! These are moments of grace beyond words. May 2016 YouTube began here. Since then the seeds of God’s Kingdom have been sown ‘to the ends of the earth.’ Analysis of online participation by households and vulnerable people may reveal the Spirit among us. [See boxed section opposite for more.]

‘Laudato Si’ five years on: The earth once again began to breathe with greater ease than for decades. The sun shone where before there was only smog.

Smiles during lockdown: Pilate gave the washing of hands a ‘bad name’. Now it is essential for our survival. In past times we were not to hide behind our ‘masks’. Masks are also rehabilitated. St Paul was converted by Jesus on the

De-mask-us’ Road!  Sorry, Damascus.

Corpus Christi 14 June 2020

A Reflection* {only view of Aidan Troy}            

My earliest memory of the Feast of The Body and Blood of Christ was the Corpus Christi procession through the streets of Bray town with the Blessed Sacrament being carried. Altar servers, with thuribles, sent plumes of smoke up to the Monstrance being carried; girls who had made First Communion that year, walked at the front of the procession strewing rose petals. The procession ended at the seashore where there was a blessing of the sea, for water safety during the summer.

These were blessed occasions. Who could have foreseen how this Feast of Jesus would be celebrated in 2020? Certainly, not me. The blessings the Feast of Corpus Christi brings us are as great as ever. The challenges are maybe greater today than back in my childhood. A few signs of the time that I read today are:

  1. Covid19, through nobody’s fault leave few believers able to participate in person at Mass. This is becoming a possibility again as churches partially reopen, with great dedication of parishioners.
  2. An increasing number of our sisters and brothers around the world can seldom attend Mass. Mass once a year for some Catholics, as the Synod of Bishops 2019 revealed, is the norm due to a dwindling number of priests. This will spread worldwide more rapidly than may be realised.
  3. God’s special ones, children, are still awaiting the moment when Jesus comes to them in their First Holy Communion.

These are with us, but in them is the voice of God. God also sends us ‘hidden graces’ at this present time. A few reflections on these three points:

  1. To protect each other from this highly infectious virus is expected of us by God. In lockdown, we continued to be Temples of the Holy Spirit. God’s presence within us cannot be changed by any virus. With more time recently to pray for all in need and to listen, we were privileged to be in His presence day and night. The urgency to reopen churches was not because God was absent. His presence in us as Temples of the Holy Spirit is a precious gift to us.
  2. During our time apart, I missed you very much. No longer need I speculate on what it is like for people to have no Sunday Mass. Now I know what it is like for those millions of Catholics who rejoice in Mass about once each year. I need to hear this message of God speaking to us. Is it right for me to wait for a solution from someone else? Respectfully, I suggest that we could meet in prayer and reflection to act on what the Spirit is asking us to do to address this situation.
  3. What joy there will be when children soon welcome Jesus at their First Communion.

The pandemic has changed me more than I could imagine, with the pain of many because of Covid19. But I am filled with joy for the ‘hidden graces’ that we received almost unnoticed.

 

Trinity Sunday 7 June 2020

A Reflection* {only view of Aidan Troy}


Artists and icon painters have tried, authors too; preachers gone hoarse, all trying to express something of the Triune God. They are to be admired and applauded for their efforts. But like the little boy trying to empty the ocean with his bucket, none of us will ever succeed in fully grasping this mystery. You cannot do it from “outside” the Trinity. If only the little had seen something of the enormity of the ocean, he might have put his bucket down and made sandcastles.

We cannot speak about God until we learn to speak to  Him. God has spoken first, and His word created us and this wonderful universe. He had a plan for the Creation and us creatures. It fell to pieces not because it was not a good plan, but because human free will gave in to temptation and followed the lure of evil.

At that point, God could have said it was enough and simply abandoned or annihilated the whole human race. Being God, He could have created another race and started all over again. He did not but sent His Son to bring us back to our senses and His original plan of bringing us to Heaven.

The Son is the Word of God. God never stops talking to us. That is why I say that the only way into the mystery of the Trinity is to listen to His Word and to speak to Him. Once we listen and speak to God, an appreciation of the Trinity will gradually dawn on us.

A first moment in prayer may be when it comes to us that we are welcomed by God not because we are perfect, but because we have been adopted as members of the Triune God.

When the churches were closed for almost three months, an impatience grew to reopen them. Medical and allied fields advise us on this. All that time, we were living with the true presence of God within us without any break. God loves us so much that He lives in us as truly as in the church.

Each one of us is a Temple of the Holy Spirit. No virus can close us down and if it does, will still not win, because at that moment we go to God for all eternity. That is why we were created in the first place. ‘Life to the full’ will always be God’s dream for His people.

We are family in the Family of God. Through His ‘veins’ course pure Love. Out of that same love, the Trinity loved this world and each of us into existence. God did not start with a building or a Liturgy, but with people whose lives all matter equally to Him. One vocation is common to all – to love till it hurts, even to the Cross.

When it comes to skin colour, God is ‘colour-blind’, loving all colours equally. God, creator of all races, does not ‘do’ racism. Injustice breaks God’s heart, reminding Him of the Cross. At Pentecost, the Spirit gives a language that all people, in their differences, understand. Love is His universal language while racism, discrimination or labelling others is a language that God never uses; neither should we.

God wishes His people back into churches only when safe for us to be together. He then wants us to go out from our churches fired with the Spirit of love and justice. He made each of us a Temple of the Holy Spirit, always open without restrictions to loving.

[Him, He, are used of God here, but to be taken with gender inclusivity. A.T.]

Pentecost Sunday 31 May 2020

A Reflection {only view of Aidan Troy}


To be at sea during a storm can be a terrifying experience. Crossing by ferry from Ireland to Scotland in winter is not for the faint-hearted. A storm on that narrow sea often left me praying to reach land safely. The chains on the lorries below deck could be loudly heard straining to breaking point.

From the dawn of Creation God has used His breath and sent the wind to signify the Divine presence and activity. The breath of God got the world going. The seas played a big part in Jonah converting the Ninevites. For Elijah it was the gentle breeze that powerfully carried the presence of God to the prophet.

There is also the human breath that keeps us living. During the present pandemic, one of the saddest restrictions is not being able to hold the hand of a loved one as they breathe their last. That last breath is their farewell to us and their first moment before God. It is a sacred moment. To be far away at that moment cannot be made up for later. It is precious and not repeatable.

On Calvary, St Luke records the final moments, ‘Then Jesus crying out with a loud voice, said, “Father into your hands I commit my spirit.” And having said this He breathed his last.’ (23:46) Jesus did not die alone, because the Father was there. Mary and John and the women were beneath the Cross.

I believe that while these days a   family member cannot hold the hand of their beloved relative, nobody dies alone. God was not absent on Calvary, or absent for any one COVID19 death. 10 people may be the limit at a funeral. There is always one more unseen, Jesus is always present.

Today we witness the divine recreation of our world as the Holy Spirit descends upon the disciples huddled together in fear. “Suddenly, they heard what sounded like a powerful wind from Heaven, the noise of which filled the whole house in which they were sitting;’ The greatest effect of the wind was unseen. It changed people fearing for their lives, into fearless witnesses to Jesus.

A full explanation or understanding of this is not possible. Tongues of fire descend on the community and transforms timid people into brave witnesses ready to die for Jesus. As we cannot see wind, so we cannot see the work of the Spirit, not only at the first Pentecost but among us now.

The COVID19 virus cannot be seen which is why we must be so careful in reopening Churches. There are many big churches who have small numbers attending. St Joseph’s is a small church building with a big number of people crossing our doors. Within both big and small churches, like the virus, we do not see the Spirit that is within us and working day and night.

When the Spirit took possession of those first disciples, they unbolted the doors and took the first steps towards carrying the message of Jesus to the ends of the earth. The Spirit in you is as powerful as it was on Pentecost Sunday. Visible signs are not be here now, but amazing gifts are received. During this pandemic, the generosity of people reaching out as need arose, has shone as a beacon. At St Joseph’s during the past two months, some people have shared with me their struggles, only bearable by generous supported from others. The virus will die down in time. The Spirit will not but is here to stay. Thanks be to God.

7th Sunday of Easter

7th Sunday of Easter, 24 May 2020     * Month of Mary, Our Mother *


A Reflection {only view of Aidan Troy}

During the present pandemic, there has been a lot of pain felt over the absence of others. Grandparents feel the absence of the hugs of their grandchildren. School children can be heard to say that they miss their school friends and their teachers. At St Joseph’s, normally so full of people, Mass has been celebrated behind closed doors via YouTube.

It seems that absence has created a new awareness of other forms of presence. The seats in the church may be empty, but in my mind’s eye I can see faces that I know, and I love. I can almost hear the faint cry of a baby, catch the smile of a child at something funny. To be physically present is our normal, but not only way, of being present to each other.

Jesus spent three years walking dusty roads with his disciples. He dropped in on a wedding at Cana. He went to the tombs to call Lazarus back. He raised children and restored them to their parents who could not believe their eyes. He went to the bedside of Peter’s mother-in-law and restored her to health from a fever – a virus?

He never forgot that He was the Son of the Father and so went absent at times to climb into the hills long before dawn to pray. He would simply be with his Father and listen to the way that lay ahead. He always came ‘back to earth’ ready to continue the establishment of the Kingdom of God.

On Ascension Thursday, his leaving all that had made up His life on earth, including the Calvary death and the Jerusalem resurrection, is recalled. This was the beginning of His absence in favour of a different Presence.

Like many places, I come from a town built on a river, The Dargle. It divides the town to such an extent that the upper bank of the river is Big Bray and the lower bank is called Little Bray. Think of the disciples crossing a bridge spanning a river. The disciples had to leave the familiar bank of the natural presence of Jesus and cross over to unknown territory on the other side. There the Spirit of the Risen Lord takes hold of them.

My temptation is to stay with the familiar and not risk the often-perilous crossing into the land of the Spirit. While Jesus was before their eyes, they felt secure. Now this is new territory where Jesus is present in the Spirit but not visible to sight. Has that not been the experience of us all during ‘lockdown’? We know that each other are there, but we do not see   each other. The disciples felt like this while waiting for Pentecost.

Since you are not present at St Joseph’s for the past almost two months, I believe that your invisible presence has more intensity in depth and extent than if we had never been separated. We did not choose this, and therefore there is no praise or blame on any side. This is more than ‘absence making the heart grow fonder’, true though this may be.

Thanks to the Holy Spirit, this new Presence of Jesus on the other bank of the river, is established forever and not just for three years. Now He is found in Word, Sacrament, in us and in the poor and the forgotten. It is for us not a question of ‘looking into the sky’ to see Him but looking across the bridge to the other side to see Him beckon us to risk crossing over.

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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