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16th Sunday 23 July 2017

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

The Passionist Novitiate’s purpose was described to those who entered as being ‘to weed out those postulants unsuitable and send them away.’ I presume other novitiates and seminaries had much the same purpose. History has proved how unsuccessful this turned out to be. Report after report on child and adult abuse, financial irregularities and other failures have left a sad legacy of a time when big numbers were entering religious congregations and seminaries.

‘To weed out’ is contrary to the mind of Christ. To assess vocational suitability and to help heal weaknesses and defects is totally laudable. In Our Lord’s time, the Pharisees (‘the separated ones’) wanted Him to separate the bad from the good. They took the high moral ground and looked down on those who did not, in their estimation, measure up.

Jesus wouldn’t go down that road. It’s not His way. He had all sorts of people around him – the learned and the ignorant; good living and those who were not; tax collectors and prostitutes. There must have been some people who wondered when He would weed out the unsuitable to set up a community of worthy, good people. I’m grateful to Our Lord that he doesn’t go in for weeding – I would be gone a long time ago.

In human life weeding out has a tragic history. Weeding out for concentration camps, ethnic cleansing, racism, sectarianism - all sought to identify society’s “weeds”.  It continues today and is visible in much of our society.

How tragic it is when greater power over nature leads to new and very sinister powers being used over nature. The unborn child can be judged to not match the standards of society and abortion becomes an acceptable ‘solution’. Then, at the other end of life, the old, the seriously sick are seen as burdensome. Euthanasia is seen as the ‘solution’. How terribly sad. Once ‘weeding out’ in any shape or form begins, there is no telling where it will end. Thank you, Lord, for being so clear that You alone are the One who decides the fate of people. God makes us and is the One who will settle our final destiny.

It saddens me to admit that I too engage in ‘weeding out’. Even if I don’t always speak it out loud, I slip into having people classified as ‘troublemakers’, ‘misfits’ or some misguided category. Imagine if Jesus had gone down this road – Peter would be gone as a leader after he denied His Master three times. Christ did not ‘weed out’ Judas. Would Judas survive in the church today?

It is only God who has ‘eyes’ to see into the depth of the soul of one of His children. He is gentle enough for this task. Imagine how wonderful life would be if I could trust God to do the ‘weeding out’. There are some things that only God can do. No wonder, we are counselled not to judge. While we accept judges in our civil courts, before the Divine Court the outcast, the sinner and the unlikely are all candidates for the Kingdom of Heaven. Thank God!

 

15th Sunday 16 July 2017

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

It amazes me what people remember from the past. From time to time, someone will remind me of words I used in a sermon, a retreat or a discussion many years before. I may have long forgotten what I said then. Somehow, though, it is rewarding that some words of mine lasted over time.

The Word of God, of course, is in a different league from any words of mine. The Word of God never returns empty to Him. It carries out His will. It succeeds in what it was sent to do. That is powerful. But then God is powerful and almighty.

Words can have an amazing life-span. The day I left home for the Passionist Novitiate, I remember the last words my mother spoke to me – ‘come back, if it doesn’t work out’. She was no believer in a ‘Mother’s vocation’ often spoken about in the past. The parent wanted the priest in the family and the pressure was put on to go through with it, come what may.

Those words were the last she spoke to me – she died 6 months later. But they are still life-giving words. They still give me the freedom to choose my vocation every day I awake. There is not any need to feel that I owe it to a parent’s memory to continue.

Sadly, our words can also damage and in some instances, kill. Words of racial hatred, religious intolerance and bigotry have been known to stoke up violence that can end in the death of another. What a distance from the King of Peace and Lord of Love!

One of the defences that I can use to block the power and beauty of God’s word is deafness. That deafness can be accidental or deliberate. Did you ever get the feeling that the other person hears your words, but is not listening? As you speak, they are looking at their phone, the computer screen or thinking of how they can tell a better story from their life than you have told.

The wish of God is that His Word fall into the rich soil of hearts open and willing to receive. Last week, the heartfelt prayer of Jesus was great – ‘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, that is what it pleased you to do.’ God’s Word is utterly simple. I can fall into the trap of making it complicated. Then, I can lead you astray by preaching a complicated message.

Sometimes, I can forget that it is never too early to attune the ears of ‘mere children’ to the Word of God revealed in the Scriptures. From after the summer at St Joseph’s, along with the Gospel Group for God’s little ones, 4 – 6-year olds will have a reading of a Bible story or passage each Sunday morning. What a blessing for the children and their families.

Another source of the seed planted by God taking root is in the Wednesday Bible Study. People there receive the Word and are helped to let it bear fruit. Other groups like Men’s Spirituality, Women’s Spirituality Ministry, also bring about a rich sowing of the Word.

 

 

14th Sunday 9 July 2017

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

“Put your hand in the hand of the man from Galilee.” This song goes back to 1971 – the year I set out on the road as a priest – and it could be heard at many prayer-meetings and during Masses at school retreats. Anne Murray was the first to record this song and others who recorded it include Elvis Presley. Younger people can look at it on YouTube to see what an ‘old timer’ like me remembers from my youth!

Putting your hand in the hand of somebody else is a gesture of intimacy. Look at a child going hand in hand with Mom or Dad. Both are secure in holding the other’s hand. This is trust at its best. In the safety of the parent’s hand, there is nowhere that the child will not go. Not only is the child happy to be led, but gets great pleasure from being led by the parent.

Somewhere along the line of growing up, we got out of holding our parents’ hands. We didn’t do this consciously, but, would not want our friends to see us hold hands with parents after a certain age.

As we grow up, our need of trust and affection, that we relished as a small child, does not disappear. Maybe in some ways, as we grow and develop the need for intimacy, affection and someone to trust absolutely becomes more urgent. But who is there for us and how do we ‘cling on’ to people who will cherish us? Not easy.

Maybe I am wrong, but I sometimes wonder if we did not let go of the hand of Jesus as we grew out of holding our parents’ hand? The words of the Gospel song to put our hand into the hand of the man from Galilee, bears revisiting. Maybe only ‘mere children’ fully understand holding hands with Jesus in total trust.____

*I’m indebted to Fr Patrick Rogers, C.P. and Association of Catholic Priests of Ireland for their reflections on the Sunday Readings.

When I began to grow up, I saw in myself a growing independent trait. I didn’t need anyone’s hand to hold onto – or so I thought. I could make it alone and while I would not dare say it, maybe I also felt less dependent on God. In a way, I may have slipped into the error of thinking that I could do without God now that I was older and wiser! I blush when I read what I have written! But, that is how I felt as I grew up.

A child depends on people – parents, family, friends. As adults, we may exchange this dependence on people for a dependence on things – for some it is money, success, status, alcohol or whatever is our ‘fix’. For a while, I may feel sorry for people who depend on people – ‘I can plough my own furrow.’ But I can’t. I need you and I need God. That is how I was created and that is how I will be happy. One day, a prop that held me up falls, and I feel the pain of being alone with no hand to reach out to hold. Those in relationships, reach out to hold hands. Never be embarrassed to tell each other how much you mean to each other. Don’t be afraid of admitting your dependence.

For some of us, there is not always a hand to hold when we are afraid. We would love to have one, but that is the way life is for us. There is ‘the hand of the man from Galilee’. He stilled the waters and He calmed the Sea. He can equally still fear and quieten nightmares. This He loves doing.

He never lets go of our hand as long as we want to hold His. In his eyes, we are always his children. More than I realise, He knows that the child inside me is often afraid and insecure. The mask of daily living tries valiantly to cover these with a smile. Then, each time I close the door at the end of the day, I must tell Jesus about hurts, failures and my sins. He smiles and tightens His grip. There will never be a time when I don’t need to put my hand ‘in the hand of the man from Galilee.’

 

13th Sunday 2July 2017

Reflection by Aidan Troy [Aodhán O Troighthigh] Only view of the writer – no more, no less.


The woman of Shunem had a place in her heart for the prophet Elisha that led her to offer him a place in her house. Homelessness does not start in a lack of buildings but in a lack of love and of caring. The woman, nameless as women often are, is the hero and makes me ashamed. She is a person of action and not just of words.

On Thursday evening, I visited a family of parishioners who are leaving Paris soon because of work reasons. This is a scenario that is part of the life of St Joseph’s every year. When I got back to St Joseph’s from this visit, I saw that the gate by which to get in was blocked with a suitcase belonging to a person who was settling down to sleep for the night. It was awful that I caused this person to have to lift his few possessions to let me enter. Why should I have a little room above the church and this person lie in the street?

Back to the great lady with room in her heart. Her reaching out to the prophet, Elisha, provokes him to reach out to her. He finds out that she has no child and would love one. As a man of God, he gives her the startling news, ‘this time next year, you will hold a son in your arms’. And she did.

Room in my heart has a contagious effect. No good and generous action is done to get something back. Is it not true that, ‘virtue is its own reward’? Anyone of us can from a spark of love for another, set going an inferno of goodness and love. Closed hearts caused Jesus, Mary and Joseph to hear, ‘there is no room at the inn’.

What I write each week, I re-read before letting it go! Never once am I satisfied. It always seems that the words I have written suggest that following Jesus is not all that tough. It is. It gets tougher the closer we draw to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. There is room in that Heart for one and all, especially the outcast, the lonely, the poor and the child. That level of having room in my heart is the ideal and the aim of life for a follower of Christ.

It is not my intention to dishearten any person. There is an immense joy in being called to such levels of greatness by Jesus. He offers us by, ‘baptism in his death, we went into the tomb with Him, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the Father’s glory, we too might live a new life.’ {2nd Reading from St Paul to the Romans}

Jesus gets down to basics in the Gospel when the challenge is put to us – Where is your heart? To whom have you given your heart? Even family, whom we are called to love and cherish, must never take priority over our calling to walk with Jesus and His people. The great mystery – that I can’t fathom in any adequate way – is the power of giving even ‘a cup of cold water to one of these little ones’, is noticed and brings a reward from Jesus. That gives having room in my heart for others a whole new meaning.

The words of John Henry Newman, that great saint received into the Catholic Church be Blessed Dominic Barberi, Passionist, sums up far better than I can what I’m trying to write: “Try yourself daily in little deeds, to prove that your faith is more than a deceit.’ [Parochial and Plain Sermons]

12th Sunday 25 June 2017

Reflection by Aidan Troy [Aodhán O Troighthigh] Only view of the writer – no more, no less.


Another Summer has arrived and I’m loving it. Keep the sun shining, Lord, for as long as possible. I grew up where we could only dream of temperatures like these. You will not find me waving a fan to keep cool. When rain, grey skies and cold is your template of weather – then, this is heaven on earth. Long may it last and thank you, Lord.

Weather report over! Now to the Word of God given today. As always it is rich in meaning and full of wisdom. The Word is a person – Jesus and all the individual words point to Him. He was made flesh and dwells among us.

God doesn’t send the Word, Jesus, in a generic way as “one size fits all”. The context in which the Word was first delivered and heard is essential to the meaning. The context in which you and I receive the Word is also essential to His full gift being received.

When Mary was approached by the Angel Gabriel, her first reaction was fear. The reaction of God was, ‘do not be afraid’. The admonition, ‘do not be afraid’ occurs at least 70 times in the Bible. God gives this message as important for us to hear and absorb.

Today, St Matthew in the Gospel read at Mass begins with the same words, ‘do not be afraid’. Regularly confidential information held by banks, governments, etc. is broken into and people fear the consequences of this falling into other people’s hands. Today, we listen to Jesus as He talks about how hidden things will be brought into the full light of day.

We are told that our whispers and hidden secrets will one day be made public. It makes me careful about what I say about others, even in secret. God sees and God cares and never wants the reputation of another damaged. Perhaps the most foolish thing anyone says is, ‘tell no one else this, it must be secret.’ God doesn’t deal in Slander, Calumny or Detraction. He detests them. It is probably a while since I preached a sermon on these sins.

‘Do not be afraid’, Matthew writes where your soul, inner self, Temple of the Holy Spirt part is attacked. One day, somehow and somewhere, each of us will die. But that is not the end. The only real end is to lose my soul and miss out on the vision of God for ever.

God treats us as special and precious and never sees us as other than beautiful. Each of us can deface that beauty and prevent ourselves entering Eternal Life. God doesn’t condemn; I pass judgement on myself by the choices I make and by how I treat you.

Jeremiah, a young, sensitive and initially reluctant prophet, suffered the cruel words, ‘Denounce him, let us denounce him.’ If he had done evil that deserved this, he could have no complaint. But he didn’t deserve this and it must have hurt. But, this didn’t derail the prophet. Jeremiah has a lovely name for God – ‘my mighty hero.’ I’m no Jeremiah, but I feel the hurt of being denounced to superiors last summer by people unknown. I admire Jeremiah and all who suffer like him. Whenever opportunities arise to take down walls, do so. In their place, build bridges. A restful Summer, and may the sun continue to shine on you!

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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