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Reflection 20 May 2017

The Samaritans fascinate me. For the Jews, the Samaritans were a heretical group who were detested even more than pagans. We can only guess at the shock of the disciples, when one day they came back from shopping, they find Jesus at Jacob’s Well talking to a Samaritan woman from Sychar. It gets worse for his followers. Jesus stays two days in ‘enemy territory’ preaching and healing. What is the world coming to with this crossing of boundaries? But, remember it is Jesus who chooses to do this and who are the disciples, or we, to disagree?

The story of the ‘Good Samaritan’ recalls that the priest and the Levite took steps to avoid the robbed and beaten traveller. It was a Samaritan who took time and spent money to look after the unfortunate victim. When ten lepers were healed, nine went on their way. One came back to Jesus to say, ‘thanks’. He was a Samaritan.

Today in the reading from Acts we hear, ‘Philip went to a Samaritan town and proclaimed Christ to them.’ Missionaries who preach in hostile territory are true heroes of the Church. The response was every preacher’s dream – ‘the people united in welcoming the message Philip preached.’ Healings took place as happens when Jesus is preached. ‘As a result, there was great rejoicing in that town.’ This is true religion – it is not meant to be sad!

Next comes a Papal visit. Pope Peter, with John, heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God. That must have lifted the hearts of the church at Jerusalem. It must also have taken time to get used to this widening of followers of Jesus wider than Jewish people and into ‘enemy territory’. What did Pope Peter do on this visit? He had no Pope Mobile to use! He and John, ‘prayed for the Samaritans to receive the Holy Spirit; then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.’

Last weekend a group from St Joseph’s was at the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima on pilgrimage. Pope Francis came among us and did what Peter did all those centuries ago. He prayed with us. He invoked the Holy Spirit to come upon us. He canonised two little children who would never have dreamt of being the focus of attention. But, we believe, that Jesus sent His Mother to speak to these little ones and to plead for prayer and penance for the peace of the world. That was one hundred years ago. The message has the same, if not more, urgency now as it had back then.

Next Sunday week, at St Joseph’s we will have the privilege of witnessing the gift of the Holy Spirit being sent upon our Confirmation candidates. Jesus will, ‘ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you for ever.’ These words of the Gospel at Mass today will become real and effective in two weeks’ time. Pentecost Sunday is special in this parish as it is the day on which our young people are sealed with the Holy Spirit.

When I must leave St Joseph’s, it is days like these that I will miss. Along with Holy Communion the day before, we can almost touch the presence of God and sense the powerful action of Jesus among us. No longer are the Scriptures about the past alone. They tell our story and celebrate the wonder of God’s action in our community.

As our world is ‘crucified’ by loneliness, we hear the promise, ‘I will not leave you orphans; I will come back to you.’ These words in today’s Gospel help me when I feel homesick and wonder if it may be time to return to the land of my birth? Younger and better priests could serve you in my place. And yet, until asked to go, I realise the privilege it is to serve in this Spirit-filled community of St Joseph’s. This weekend marks 30 years since coming back home to avenue Hoche. We are already planning for 2019 - 150 years since St Joseph’s opened its doors to receive all who seek Jesus.

Reflection 14 May 2017

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

Last Sunday was “Vocations Sunday”. The Scriptures of the Mass were centred on the Good Shepherd. This is the Sunday of the year when prayer is specially offered for vocations to priesthood and sisters and brothers to come forward for religious life. May the prayers of last weekend and every prayer be answered by God. Amen.

God will answer in due course and in a manner now unknown to us. Into what kind of church are young or old being asked to come forward? Before a building can be judged safe and suitable, an examination of the fabric is advisable. If defects or weaknesses are found, remedial action is advisable and sometimes essential.

The only place to start our present search is with Jesus. Listen to God’s wonderful blueprint for the Body of Christ – Jesus is the ‘keystone’, but not an inert piece of masonry; He is not a statue. He is a ‘living stone, chosen by God and precious to Him.’ That is lovely and it gets better. We are called; our vocation is to ‘set ourselves close to him so that you too, may be living stones making a spiritual house.’ Human wisdom could not make this up. This is pure revelation. It is divine truth now and for us.

Within this Divine construction, we are given an identity by God who calls us to be close to His Son and it is this:

  • You are a chosen race
  • A royal priesthood
  • A consecrated nation
  • A people set apart
  • To sing the praises of God
  • Who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

Truthfully, this leaves me breathless. These descriptions of you and I with Jesus, are nothing short of mind-blowing. Did you notice that you are a royal priest? What an honour. What a responsibility.

At every baptism, ours included, an anointing with the oil of Chrism takes place. This same oil is used at the ordination of a priest and a bishop. The words of anointing at the ceremony of baptism are:

“As Christ was anointed Priest, Prophet and King, so may you live always as member of his body, sharing everlasting life.”

By this anointing with Chrism at Baptism, another person, male or female, shares in the priesthood of Christ.

No, I have not forgotten that one of the seven Sacraments is Holy Orders. Many years ago, I received this sacrament at the hands of an Archbishop of Dublin. That Sacrament remains, even should a priest cease to exercise or be prevented from exercising any ministry. He remains a priest forever. The responsibilities of ordination are extremely serious. Violations of Holy Orders are both sinful and also a sacrilege. Thank God, most of the ordained remain faithful to their ordination promises.

That said, I suggest that the ‘breeding ground’ of vocations to ordination and to religious life, is among the living stones of a church where the priesthood of all the baptised is highly prized and developed. It was great to have a ‘Year of Mercy’, a ‘Year of Call’, a ‘Year of Mission’, etc. What about a ‘Year of the Priesthood of the Baptised.’?

Maybe a better title is needed. It would be challenging if a year on this theme was planned with prayer, reflection, ministries, thanksgiving for the gifts of the Spirit given in Baptism to the Church. This would involve ordained priest and vowed religious. Bishops, Priests, Deacons are first priests by baptism before ordination as are religious before their profession of vows.

This is a dialogue that I would love to have with you at St Joseph’s - a Synod? We could celebrate how much we are already doing. We could also engage in a present search as a response to the Word of God and the promptings of Pope Francis. Any thoughts?

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?

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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