For those who check into Today's Thoughts each day or from time to time I just want you to know that Today's Thoughts will be silent for the next eight days while I celebrate my annual retreat!
Today, Monday July 22nd I will be traveling to Trappist, Kentucky and the Abbey of Gethsemani, where later today I will begin my eight-day retreat. For the next eight days I will be celebrating my own time of retreat which means I will be going dark as far as social media (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) is concerned. Also I will not be posting on my web site. No Today’s Thoughts, Today’s Prayers, Runner’s Thoughts or Today’s Blessings until Tuesday July 30th. I am sorry if you depend on these posts daily but I need to take a break and spent the next eight days solely with God. A retreat is a special time and I need to put my electronic devices away and focus on listening to God alone. If you get a chance please offer a prayer or two for me this week. I will hold all of you in prayer during my own special time of prayer!
Have a great week and I will be back Tuesday July 30th. See you then! Peace in Christ's Passion...Fr. Paul
Today’s Thoughts: Today is the feast of St. Mary Magdalene. She is referred to as the Apostle to the Apostles. Mary was the first proclaimer of the resurrection a story we read today from John’s Gospel (John 20: 1-2, 11-18). The interesting thing about Mary’s encounter with Jesus is that at first, she does not recognize him. You might think that after following Jesus for so long it would be hard not to recognize him.
Now some might say it was because of his resurrected body but I think it was because Mary did not expect to see Jesus alive. Have you ever been in a situation when you did not expect to see someone? When the person surprises us with their presence there always seems to be a moment when we don’t recognize them. They haven’t changed, they are the same person but our eyes and brain just were not expecting them. Then they do or say something that is familiar and we recognize them. It doesn’t make sense and once we realize our mistake, we wonder how we did not recognize her or him but it happens.
The element of surprise can often catch us off guard. Perhaps today that is a good way to think about the presence of God in our life. We have a God of surprises and at any moment of our day God can walk into our midst. Are we ready? Or will we miss the moment because we are not expecting God to be there?
Through the intersession of St. Mary Magdalene may we be open today to be surprised by God! Have a great Monday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: In the first reading from the Book of Genesis, we encounter a story which emphasizes the transcendence of God and the tenderness of this God’s embrace of our humanity.
Abraham is resting in the late afternoon and he encounters three visitors. He didn’t see them or hear them coming, they seem to have just appeared. From his immediate actions of welcome, we assume that Abraham did not have many visitors or he would have soon run out of cattle and run his wife to an early grave.
Abraham invites his guests to be treated by Sarah’s hard labors and he seems to entertain the guests while dinner is being prepared. After dinner, one of the guests asks where Sarah is. When told, the guest foretells a promise. The guest knows the name of Abraham’s wife and blesses her, even though she is advanced in years, she will receive the ultimate blessing for those times, a son.
God knows, God visits, and God makes promises and keeps them. The transcendence and the tenderness of God plays out in our story of Abraham and Sarah. A few questions we might ask are, was God good to Abraham, because he and Sarah were so welcoming? Does God come to bless, because of us or because of Who God is? It is quite impractical for Sarah to have a child at her age, but a very practical promise is made. This kind of story helps us to encounter the mystery of God.
Abraham and Sarah had to trust what they heard. Sarah is not rewarded for being the good wife and cook. She is blessed to have a child, because of God’s love. She might have been thinking that God was angry with her and so she could not be blessed with motherhood. Is God good only when we have been good, welcoming, keeping the traditions and laws? These are the ancient questions which have modern echoes.
The Gospel is a rather simple little story, but within it are some very important features of God and what is expects of us. Jesus is welcomed. Martha is doing the practical things of getting a proper meal ready for Jesus, her guest. Mary is doing nothing except listening. Martha complains about her sister lack of help. Jesus responds with something simple and important. End of story.
Luke presents Jesus as a model for his disciples whom he has sent out relying on the hospitality of others and thereby, relying on God. Luke presents Martha as the righteous welcomer who does the practical things according to the Jewish religious and cultural ways. Luke presents Mary as a person of the Good News. She does the impractical thing of “listening to him speak.” She has chosen “the better part”, which is allowing the Good News to be heard.
The story of last week’s Gospel, the Good Samaritan, immediately comes before these final verses of this chapter in Luke’s Gospel. The reader or listener to the Gospel would understand that the very practical thing the “Good Samaritan” did, is what everybody would have to do if they sat at the feet of Jesus and listened to the whole Gospel. Martha is righteous by her expressing her religious traditions. Luke is presenting Mary as how each of us continues the life of Jesus, by listening and then getting up and doing all that the Gospel of Luke has offered.
This is not a family dispute, a sibling rivalry, but a call to a radical way of living. We so easily listen to what we want to hear. What Jesus is saying in all the Gospels is not exactly all we want to hear. Jesus’ conversation with us, if we listen, will change, convert us and we would rather “get out in that kitchen and rattle those pots and pans.” We would rather justify ourselves by listening to our ways and doing our thing in the hope that God would be pleased and satisfied.
It would be interesting to underline all the verses in the Gospels which we find hard and or inconvenient. The Gospel would probably get quite a bit shorter if we were to be so selective. The verses we would underline are the ones we don’t want to hear, because they call us to change images of ourselves, of others, of life and of God. The really good news is that Jesus just keeps at it, speaking to us in the pages of the Gospels, in the stories he tells, in the experiences he has. Jesus has waiting for us to tune in, to listen and to respond by living our life with trust and hope in God.
Have a great Sunday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: In today’s gospel we are made aware once again of the struggles between Jesus and the religious leaders of his time. This time rather than taking them on Jesus withdraws to a friendlier place. Many people follow Jesus and in a quiet way he heals and teaches. We find out that Isaiah words from long ago are now being fulfilled by the presence and ministry of Jesus -
Behold, my servant whom I have chosen,
my beloved in whom I delight;
I shall place my Spirit upon him,
and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.
He will not contend or cry out,
nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets.
A bruised reed he will not break,
a smoldering wick he will not quench,
until he brings justice to victory.
And in his name the Gentiles will hope.
In this passage Isaiah talks about the tenderness of God and Jesus lives out that tenderness. A bruised reed will not be broken but strengthened. A smoldering wick not quenched but ignited into a strong flame. Jesus brings to life the love and tenderness of God by uplifting the meek, strengthening the weak. Jesus provides comfort to those who are mourning and encourages those who are struggling to “be strong, and fear not.”
As Pope Francis might say Jesus reminds us in our Gospel today of the endless mercy of God. Amid all that the world throws at us God is tenderly holding us, protecting us and giving us hope to continue our journey through life. Yes, God’s mercy truly endures forever!
Have a great Saturday evening everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: “Something greater than the temple is here.” A line from our Gospel today (Matt. 12:1-8) and we might be tempted to think it was meant only for those to whom Jesus is speaking. But it is meant for us here and now. We might not have Jesus standing in our midst, but we have his Spirit with us and it is greater than any temple, any church or any cathedral. The challenge is the same for us as it was for those who gathered to listen to Jesus; we need to recognize the presence and the Spirit of God in our midst.
Jesus gives us a clue on how to make sure that we don’t miss the presence of God. The clue is to be people of mercy. People a tune to and compassionate towards the struggles, challenges, difficulties and failings of others and ourselves. People willing to help and not judge; people willing to be compassionate and not self-righteous. People willing to include not exclude.
Living life from a stance of compassion and mercy is not always easy; it can be difficult and challenging. However, being a compassionate and merciful person does help us to be ready and open to encounter something greater than ourselves the presence and friendship of God.
Have a great Friday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: In the Gospel today (Matt 11:28-30) Jesus reminds all of us that we should always come to him, that we should always come to God, when we are troubled and find life burdensome and difficult. Jesus will give us comfort and rest. With Jesus, with God, the struggles, difficulties and burdens of life can be easier. What makes them easier is having faith in our relationship with Jesus.
A few years ago, I ran across a definition of faith that went something like this – Faith is staking your life on the promises of God. Think about that for a moment – staking your life on the promises of God. In the Gospel Jesus promises that if we have faith we will always have comfort and rest even in the midst of troubles and challenges. Having faith is the key. Life is never easy, and each new day brings challenges, struggles, burdens and difficulties but knowing where and with whom to stake our life can make all the difference.
So, my friends in the midst of all that the world throws at us, let us walk by faith trusting in our friendship with God and staking our life of God’s promises.
Have a great Thursday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: A friend of mind often says, “It is hard when you are the smartest man in the room!” His point is that people with smarts often have a hard time with those of us who don’t. They believe they know it all or at least they know more than everyone around them and they find it frustrating when things don’t go their way or at least the way they think things should go.
I thought of this today in terms of our Gospel (Matthew 11: 25-27). Jesus says, "I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the child like.” In other words, sometimes the smartest, the wisest, the most learned among us have no clue!
We are all aware of just how open children are. They want to learn. They want to experience new things and they haven’t yet decided what the right way to do things is. They are open to trying new ways, learning new things and exploring life around them. I think the point that Jesus is getting at in our Gospel today is that if we are open to the word, the experience and the presence of God in our lives just like children are then we will have a better chance of hearing, encountering and recognized God in our life.
Intelligence, smartest, knowledge and wisdom are wonderful gifts however they can get in the way of God’s presence in our life. It is often better to be like a child rather than the smartest person in the room.
So, let us live, let us embrace today in a childlike way so that we don’t miss any of what God sends our way.
Have a great Wednesday everyone.
Today’s Thoughts: We might say our Gospel today is about missed opportunities. In the Gospel (Matt. 11:20-24) the cities of Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum have missed their opportunity to encounter the presence of God, they have missed their opportunity to be people of faith.
I think if we all stop and think we have all had moments when we to missed opportunities. Perhaps we missed an opportunity to help another person, we missed an opportunity to be a compassionate friend, we missed an opportunity to help someone with their struggles or we missed a moment when God was truly present in our life. In looking back at our life, we probably recognize many opportunities that we missed.
Now in looking back at our life we have two choices; we can choice to learn from our missed opportunities or not. In the Gospel today the towns of Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum chose not to learn from their missed opportunities. These three towns no longer exist; they are just piles of rocks, archeological digs sitting in the hot sun waiting for people to come and walk through them. There is no life in any of these towns today.
Perhaps we might take on the challenge of the Gospel today by learning from our encounters with God rather than not learning from them and finding ourselves like Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum today.
Thus, our challenge today is to ask ourselves if we as individuals, as families, as communities, as Church, as cities, as nations, as a culture and society are willing to learn from our mistakes, our missed opportunities? If we chose not to our fate will be like the fate of the three towns in the Gospel. What choice will we make?
Have a great Tuesday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: Today is the feast of St. Bonaventure and being that I am in a Franciscan house I will be using different readings at mass later this morning but here are a few thoughts on the readings for Monday in the Fifteenth Week of Ordinary Time…
Over the last week or so we have been reading a section of Matthew’s Gospel that is a directive for discipleship. Jesus tells the disciples to trust in God by taking nothing with them on the journey, to depend of the hospitality of others, and to offer peace and to proclaim the Kingdom wherever they go. Jesus also tells them that the journey of discipleship will not be easy, that they will be rejected and at times the peace they offer will not be accepted. And in today’s Gospel Jesus also tells the disciples that the struggles of discipleship may even start within the family and friends that they love.
In a number of ways, the picture Jesus paints of discipleship in Matthews Gospel today (Matt. 10:34-11:1) is one that seems impossible to embrace let alone live. The thought of being at odds with mother, father, sister and brother would make me wonder why I would want to journey down that road.
I think Jesus’ purpose for this instruction is simply to make it clear that if we get on broad it is not an easy ride. The journey of a disciple is not the journey of a fairy tale; it is not the journey of “happily ever after.” The journey of a disciple is a difficult road with many challenges, many struggles, many difficulties and often a great deal of change. It is a journey of choices and decisions that are not always easy. Discipleship is the journey of the Cross and Jesus wants those who take it up to understand the consequences along with the joys and hopes.
Have a great Monday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: In our Gospel today we hear the beautiful and perhaps threatening parable of the Good Samaritan. A scholar of the law asks Jesus a question, it is asked to begin a discussion rather than a request for information. Jesus, answers the question with a question. The man knows the Law well and responds correctly. According to the Book of Leviticus, 19, 18, loving neighbor is a sacred responsibility of the faithful Jewish person. So to extend the discussion and perhaps get the upper hand, the scholar asks the obvious question and Jesus takes it out of the scholar’s hand and lays it on his heart.
A Samaritan becomes the central focus of the story by placing himself in the vulnerable position of not being anybody’s neighbor. The beaten man sets up the tension. The two religious figures, who do not tend to the man, heighten the gesture of the disliked Samaritan. Jesus is telling this story to move from the Law to the Good News. The good news of the parable has several aspects.
Perhaps the two who pass by on the “opposite side” have their religious reasons. Their being faithful to their understanding of the laws of physical purity are righteous in their eyes. The good news that Jesus expresses in the parable is that “unlawful” love of the injured is the new and complete righteousness. Keeping our eyes and hearts open to those in need is more blessed than keeping our eyes on law.
The Samaritan is moved with compassion flowing from his head and heart. Jesus is the compassionate stranger to our fallen, robbed-of-innocence humanity. Jesus is on “our side” and takes us to the “inn” of his embrace after tending to our wounds through the Sacraments. “Oil” and “wine” are the healing “bandages” of Jesus’ touch.
The good news is that we are relieved from our wondering what exactly are we to do when healed and sent back on our journeys. We are to “Go and do likewise.” Selfishness in its various forms of protection, personal image, and indulgence, are very close to our minds and hearts. This interior law is not so far away or high above us. We do not need anybody to teach us how to be greedy, egocentric, or lazy.
There are two forms of “good news”. One is the selfishly good news that each of us can walk on the “opposite” side of the other “good news” which we keep hearing and making the center of our lives. The selfless law of Jesus is warming to the heart when we hear it, but the other “good news” of our ignoring selves, still remains in effect.
So once again, the Gospel puts us in tension. We ask also “who is our neighbor,” we ask whom we should care for and whom can we pass by. We would say that our neighbor is the one who will appreciate our gestures of generosity. Our neighbors are those whom we know. Our neighbors are those who are similar to us; think the way we do, act in accordance with our values. This is natural and warming to the heart and mind.
Jesus’ teaching is his whole life of including, embracing, and saving us in our being stripped, beaten by the ways of the world within and around us. He has brought us from our own being half-dead back to full life. Jesus keeps teaching us to share, to extend his compassion, and work to heal.
In doing this, Jesus lives through our stoppings. As St. Teresa of Avila put it, “Christ has no body now on earth but yours.” But ours!
Have a blessed Sunday everyone!
Fr. Paul R. Fagan, C.P. "Preacher on the Run"
Just a few thoughts to help you on your journey through life...let me know from time to time what you think...