Today’s Thoughts: Each time I read today's Gospel I think of the phrase, "You can please some of the people some of the time, but you cannot please all of the people all of the time!" I can also hear Jesus say, "But can I just please somebody!"
The fact is Jesus did please people, but his mission wasn't about pleasing people it was about helping, challenging, enlivening and gracing people. Sometimes these values of faith don't please in the way we expect. Life remains a struggle however if we come through the struggle – freedom and God's Love is waiting.
There will always be people in life who don't like anything. We have met them, nothing that gets done or is suggested is ever right. We say black, they say white. Perhaps the challenge of today's readings is to not become one of these people. The voice of God comes to us in many different ways. Sometimes it is the voice of John calling for repentance and forgiveness, other times it is the voice of Jesus offering acceptance, compassion and love. The challenge is to let God's wisdom guide and direct us so that we hear God's voice when God speaks and act so that it transforms our lives!
Have a great Friday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: Isaiah's words are challenging but also hope filled. While Jesus' words seem to have a sting to them today. Isaiah reminds us that God is in control. No matter how bad it gets in this life God is always going to be there. God is always going to keep his promise even if we do not. Jacob can turn into a worm and Israel can become a maggot, but God will still be faithful. These certainly are comforting words but also words that should challenge us to be faithful.
Jesus reminds us today that no matter how great we become in this life it still pales in comparison to what awaits us in eternal life. John the Baptist was the greatest of all prophets; perhaps the greatest of all people yet the least person in the Kingdom of Heaven at that moment was greater than John.
These are hard words to hear yet Jesus asks us to hear! We like to think of ourselves as in control. We like to think of ourselves as important. Yet the scriptures remind us today that we are not, in control or important. You might say the Word for today is "remember it is not about us, it is about God." God who is always faithful! And isn't that a hopeful message to take with us and proclaim today!
Have a great Thursday everyone – one filled with Advent hope!
Today’s Thoughts: Today’s Gospel (Luke 1:39-47) reminds us that Mary was truly a believer. Even though she did not know the full extent of her “yes” she proclaimed it anyway. She trusted in God. It was a trust that could be seen. Elizabeth saw it as Mary entered her home. For Elizabeth, Mary was blessed among women and her voice proclaimed the presence of God even to the baby in Elizabeth’s womb. Our God is not only a God of sight but also of sound.
Not having a clear vision of the road ahead is not always an easy way to live life. It demands trust, it demands faith, and it demands a sense of hope in all that one does. Mary certain defines this way of living. She did not know the implications of her “yes” but she had trust, faith and lived by an unrelenting hope.
As Calvin Miller puts it in his book The Christ of Christmas: Readings for Advent – “We must look to Mary's example to know how to deal with the glorious impossibilities of God. Look how she turned the world upside down by making one simple statement.”
Today we remember that Mary turned the New World upside down when she appeared to Juan Diego, an Aztec Indian convert, as a beautiful young woman on Tepeyac Hill near Mexico City on December 9, 1531. Just another reminder that if we trust, if we believe, if we live by hope we will encounter God most often when we least expect it but always when we are most in need!
Have a great Wednesday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: Years ago, I ran across a quote by the English theologian, Austin Farrer. I often use it for my own personal prayer. “God forgives me, for he takes my head between his hands and turns my face to his to make me smile at him. And though I struggle and hurt those hands – for they are human, though divine, human and scarred with nails – though I hurt them, they do not let go until he has smiled me into smiling; and that is the forgiveness of God.”
Perhaps these words by Austin Farrer can be useful for our reflection today. In the readings today from Isaiah (Isaiah 40: 1-11) and Matthew (Matthew 18: 12-14) we hear about the compassion and love of God. The prophet Isaiah and the evangelist Matthew embrace the image of a shepherd in telling their story of God. Isaiah’s shepherd is feeding, holding and caring for his sheep. Matthew’s shepherd is tirelessly searching for that one lost sheep. Both images communicate the unrelenting and timeless care and concern of a God for his people. The Good News which Isaiah and Matthew impart on us today is that God is always loving, caring and forgiving.
The image that Austin Farrer paints engages us in a personal way to encounter God’s care, love and forgiveness. We are asked to feel Jesus holding us, holding us so tenderly and lovingly that in the end we have to smile. At first it is an uncomfortable smile as we think about how often we have hurt, disappointed or turned away from him. However, in his shepherding hands all is well, all is forgiven, and all are loved.
Have a blessed Tuesday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: Today provides us with two wonderful readings. The first from Isaiah, within it we find a wonderful image, a world where everything is about life. A world where every obstacle is overcome. My favorite part of this reading is, "A highway will be there called the holy way...It is for those with a journey to make, and on it the redeemed will walk." Once again, Isaiah provides us with the gift of hope. Over the Thanksgiving weekend I watched the movie "The Way" with Martin Sheen. It was the third or fourth time that I have watched the movie, but I always enjoy watching because it is a journey that started out as a struggle but ended with redemption. It like Isaiah's reflection today is about faith and hope made possible by God's mercy and gracious love.
The Gospel presents us with a two-part story. One Jesus' struggle with the religious leadership and the other is the graced story of the man who cannot walk, and his friends bring him to Jesus. They cannot get to Jesus because of the crowded house so the open a hole in the roof and lower the man in so that he might be healed by Jesus. The great gift of the second part of the story is that the man is healed because of the faith of his friends.
We might say that these two readings work together for us today. The image of Isaiah's wonderful world is hopeful only if we work together, only if we journey together. Community, friendships, relationships bring about life and help us overcome what is not life. They often make healing and forgiveness possible.
Perhaps today we might get a little closer to the world of Isaiah if we get on the holy way and bring someone else with us so that we can make the journey to God's love together!
Have a great Monday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: The focus of our readings today especially the first reading from the Book of the Prophet Baruch and Luke’s Gospel is about looking in a different direction, about seeing life differently. The prophet Baruch is a disciple of Jeremiah, and he wants the people in Jerusalem to look at life differently. Rather than seeing and living life in hopelessness he wants the people to see and live life in hopefulness. He wants the Israelites look eastward for to those who will be returning from exile. He calls for a hopefulness in Jerusalem so that the city will no longer have to mourn her lost children because they will be returning. Baruch asks the people to look with hopeful eyes even in the midst of their struggles and sorrows.
John the Baptist in Luke’s Gospel is a voice in the wilderness struggling against the powers that be, Rome and his own Jewish community. He cries out Isaiah’s words of hope, that soon the mountains will be made low and the valleys will be raised up and the path to God will be straight and flat. He wants the people to look in a different direction. First at themselves, letting go of the worldly paths they have walked and secondly to look toward the east, to the coming of Christ. Baruch and John in different ways proclaim a vision of hope by asking people to look at life differently!
A number years ago, I spent the first week of Advent in a parish in Nassau in the Bahamas giving a parish mission. I had the chance to look at life differently, no TV, none of the usual comforts that create a comfort zone in life. Yet, I too had a sense of hopefulness. It came from the people that I met and what the week of mission told me about myself and about the presence of God in my life.
Friends in faith my hope for you today is that you will find your east to look toward. An east that will tell you a little more about yourself, an east that will create a sense of hope within you, an east that will help you to see and to know the gift of God in your life! Look East my friends...See Emanuel (God is with us!)
Have a great Second Sunday of Advent and make sure you give God a little time today!
Today’s Thoughts: As we celebrate the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception today our focus might be on two things, God’s gift to Mary and us by bringing her into the world untouched by sin and Mary's gift to God and us in her response of "Yes" to the angel Gabriel.
We celebrate the vision, the plan of God from the first moment of creation to touch us with the beauty, joy and faithfulness of Mary. We celebrate a simple response of “yes” by Mary. “Yes” is a response, word, we make and use many times in life. Sometimes our “yeses” are simple responses to easy questions but at other times our “yeses” become responses that change our lives forever. Mary’s “yes” changed her life and our lives profoundly because it paved the way for Christ, the gift of perfect love, to come into the world.
Mary’s “yes” was not an easy "yes" because before she could utter it, she had to deal with fear. What was God asking? What did all this mean? How could this happen? Why me? But Gabriel asked Mary to not fear. So, Mary with faith and trust in God moved beyond her fear to God’s perfect love. Remember as St. John tells us, "Love casts out fear!" Enlivened with God’s love Mary stepped beyond fear and said "Yes!" And this made all the difference for her and us!
As I pause to celebrate God’s gift of Mary to us today, I am thinking back to my trip four plus summers ago to Lourdes, France. It was there one hundred and sixty years ago that Mary appeared to a frightened teenager, Bernadette Soubirous and told her not to fear because "I am the Immaculate Conception.” St. Bernadette like Mary chose not to fear and thus brought healing waters to a world in most need of healing.
If nothing else our feast today challenges us to not live fear. It asks us to welcome God’s gift of Mary into our lives. Our feast reminds us to be like Mary and say “yes” to God because when we do impossible things happen for as Gabriel reminds us “nothing is impossible for God.”
Blessings to all on this Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception! Have a great day everyone and may you find peace, hope and joy throughout your day!
Today’s Thoughts: "Let it be done for you according to your faith. And their eyes were opened." The healing words of Jesus that we find in today’s Gospel. Two men wish to see and as we are told it is their faith that heals and enables them to see. The words Jesus speaks to them seem to echo Mary’s words to the angel Gabriel which we will hear tomorrow, “May it be done to me according to your word.” Two acts of faith, one that heals and one that brings the Eternal Healer into our midst.
Faith always seems to be the center point of our journey through life. Time and time again in our faith story we are reminded just how important faith is. It can move tree and mountains. It can make crooked ways start and turn destructive things into life giving things. Faith can heal and raise the dead. Faith can enliven hope so that we can see the possibilities when things too often seem impossible.
Many of our readings throughout Advent remind us that faith is the touchstone to encountering the presence of God in our lives. A question our scriptures ask of us today is – “What kind of faith do we have?” Is it a faith that heals and proclaims the Good News? In having faith in Jesus, the two blind men in our Gospel receive the gift of sight that sends them on a journey proclaiming the Good News. What healing can our faith bring us that will send us on a journey of proclaiming the Good News?
Have a great Friday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: In today's Gospel Jesus speaks about the Wise and the Foolish Person. The question is – on what foundation is our faith, our relationship with God built.
Six years ago, here in New York and along the New Jersey coast we had a very profound example of the power of the wind and the sea. Homes that were built near the shore took a big hit; many were ripped from their foundations. We found out firsthand the power of nature.
Jesus uses the image of the power of nature to remind us that there are many things in this life that can pose a threat to our faith, our relationship with God and if we don't have it anchored well, if we have not build our relationship with God on a strong foundation the challenges, the struggles, the difficulties of life are going to ripe our faith from its foundation.
As we learned from yesterday's Gospel God will take care of us, but we have got to trust, and we have got to be willing to share. So today let us not be foolish, let us be wise so that our faith does not collapse but that it stands firm amid of the storms of life!
An extra thought to keep our faith rooted on rock...St. John Chrysostom says: "Prayer is the place of refuge for every worry, a foundation for cheerfulness, a source of constant happiness, a protection against sadness."
Have a great Thursday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: Both of today's readings talk about a holy mountain. For Isaiah the holy mountain is the place of a wonderful feast, a banquet of rich food, of choice wines, a place where tears are wiped away. Jesus' holy mountain is a place where people are healed and feed. It is a place where all the excluded people can come and be included, the lame, the blind, the deformed, those that cannot speak and many others. Both holy mountains, or should I say, the holy mountain is a place of mystery and a place of great mercy, love, forgiveness, it is God's place!
Perhaps, today's readings are a reminder to all of us that God does not discriminated, in fact God goes looking for all who are often not included so they should be included. Perhaps today's readings remind us that none of us are perfect, we are all in need of healing and of nourishment, and we are all in this journey of life together. Let's us welcome the miracle of God's healing and love and may it be what we share during this holy day!
Have a great Wednesday 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...