I guess for some people it was a good example of me making a big deal out of nothing. In some ways I was a bit surprised at myself. Not mind you, that I made a big deal out of something that many would think was quite trivial, no, more that I reacted to something that was well established for years. I think the first time I saw the phrase ‘Ballyfermot Upper,’ it did not have a big impact on me. At some point though I remember thinking it was strange to use it as a title for the parish. Before long it was explained to me that the term ‘Ballyfermot Upper’ was a convenient way of distinguishing between us, here in our parish, and the parish down at the roundabout, Our Lady of the Assumption, sometimes referred to as ‘Lower Ballyfermot’.
I think what happened was, the more I explored St. Matthew, the more I was drawn to him. I quickly realised that the patron of our Parish was someone we should get to know. Many parishes do not have such a proud boast as we have. Our patron, Matthew was not only one of the chosen twelve, an apostle, but is also one of the four evangelists, that is one of the four gospel writers. There’s a fair bit there to be proud of!
Somehow in my mind, and maybe more in my soul, the richness of Matthew began to jar with the term ‘Ballyfermot Upper!’ The latter sounding more to me like the description of a district, or a quarter, or worse still an electoral ward!
Corny as it may seem it was almost as if Matthew was saying to me, ‘come on, is there any chance, Ballyfermot Upper? I want to take my task as patron of this parish seriously.’ Anyway somewhere in there I resolved that I would not use the term myself nor would I encourage others in their use of it. For me, early on in my time here I fixed on the term, ‘the faith community of St. Matthew’s.’
I have been reflecting on Matthew in recent days and asking myself what is it about him that has drawn me closer over these past seven years? Of course I am intrigued as to what it would have been like to have been one of the twelve. Imagine walking with Jesus. Talking with him. Eating with him. Hearing his laugh. What was it like to see the smile of Jesus?
Sometimes I find myself wondering what was it like to be involved in the making of the Gospel of Matthew? I mean from the very beginning before there was a word written. I mean back when they were telling the precious stories and sayings of Jesus. I mean when there were eyewitnesses to the actions of Jesus. Eyewitnesses, first hand witnesses to his healing power, to his saving action. How amazing was it to see and hear Jesus himself speak of his Father and of the kingdom? Some of these witnesses gathered around Matthew. The Matthean Community.
Now wonderful as all that is, it was more than this that drew me closer to Matthew. For me I am always returning to both the call and conversion of Matthew. It is difficult to separate them. What was it in Jesus that attracted Matthew? Matthew was at work. He had a good, if not popular, job as a tax collector. Had he already heard of Jesus? To what degree was he ripe for the call of Jesus? Had he guilt or shame? Was it not more that he had dreams? Was he broken? By monotony or worse? At his going away party, especially in those who were his guests, we get a sense of Matthew’s life. Was it very materialistic? Superficial?
Yes I am inspired by Matthew. I want to be open to change, to conversion. I want to be open to the new. I hope I will let the Lord rouse me from the slumber of cosiness. I hope the Holy Spirit will breathe the courage and wisdom into my life to move me from complacency to gospel adventure.
Thanks to all of you who over the past seven years have been part of the Faith Community of St. Matthew. Thanks for your desire to know Jesus. Your desire for conversion. Your openness to God. Yes whatever about being referred to in the literature as ‘Ballyfermot Upper,’ you will always be the faith community of St. Matthew to me, and I am proud to have lived among you as priest yes, but I hope also as brother and friend.