Today Thoughts: In our Gospel today, we have the story of Jesus’ healing of the blind man of Bethsaida. It is a unique story because it only appears in Mark’s Gospel and because it takes Jesus two tries to accomplish the healing.
In all the Gospels, we have stories of Jesus physically healing people. However, with every healing there is a deeper meaning. It is not just about the person’s physical struggles it is also about the spiritual struggles of those who are present and us who are listening. This is easy to grasp when the healing is of blindness.
In our story today, just before Jesus heals the blind man, he chastises the disciples for failing to understand his reference to “the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod." A number of times in yesterday’s Gospel Jesus asks the disciples, “Do you still not understand or comprehend? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes and not see?” Jesus is not talking about physical blindness. He is using sight as a metaphor. For Jesus the reference to seeing is understanding.
With this focus in mind we get a sense of why Mark placed this story of the healing of the blind man right after the disciples struggle to understand and right before he asks them about who people think he is which we will encounter tomorrow.
Today’s healing story corresponds to Peter’s situation when Jesus asks, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter gets it half right. That is, he correctly identifies Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah, but he fails to understand what Messiah means in Jesus’ case. When Jesus mentions rejection and death, Peter rebukes him. In other words, Peter shows that he “sees” half way. Seeing, understanding is a process, a journey. Like the blind man today it takes a while until he sees clearly. It is going to take a while for the disciples to see clearly.
Throughout Mark’s Gospel the disciples struggle to understand, to see clearly the mission and ministry of Jesus. Each time Jesus talks about his Passion and Death the disciples seem to miss the point. Faith is a journey. It is not something we come to in a single moment or because of one event in our life. It is a journey that must be taken every day.
The disciples did not understand, they did not see yesterday. The blind man today at first did not see clearly but then did. We are all like the disciples and the blind man in our story today. Seeing clearly in not always easy. But if we take the time to listen, to understand and to have faith things will become clear.
Have a great Wednesday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: “Do you still not understand?” The closing words by Jesus in today’s Gospel are directed at the disciples with him in the boat but they could easily be directed at us today. We just don’t seem to get it at times do we?
Jesus’ disciples didn’t seem at times to be very good at connecting the dots between Jesus’ words and actions. Jesus was always asking them if they understood and at times like the Gospel today, we hear the frustration from their lack of understanding in his voice.
Even though we have the reflections and the insights of many before us we often find ourselves just like the disciples in the Gospel today. We think Jesus means one thing when it is really about something altogether different. Like the disciples we need to be reminded again just who we are as people of faith and that we are called to live lives for the glory of God.
One place where we can revive our calling as people of faith is the Eucharist. Here we listen once again to the Word of God, we retell the story of Jesus and we are nourished by the gift of Eucharist and we are forgiven for those times when we fail to understand, when we fail to live out the Gospel. The Eucharist is the table that always invited us to understand, to come back, be connect even when like the disciple we just can grasp the message!
Have a great Tuesday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: In the Gospel (Mark 8:11-13) today Jesus gives us an example of patient perseverance. He is once again tested and challenged by the religious leaders. They want a sign. Now Jesus could have engaged the Pharisees in a heated argument. He could have performed a miracle for them, but he didn’t. Jesus just asked them a question. Why do you need a sign? Why can’t you just believe? Why can’t you recognize God in your midst?
Throughout Jesus’ ministry he was challenged, frustrated and questioned. Each time he confronted the situation differently drawing upon a wide range of human emotions. In today’s story it is the emotion of patience. He feels sorrow for the Pharisees. He is frustrated, but he takes a deep breath and simply asked them to think for a moment.
Perhaps today’s challenge in the Gospel is that being patient and persevering is good food for thought for us. Can we be patient with those around us, with ourselves and with God? Can we persevere in this journey of life?
Have a great Monday everyone!
Today Thoughts: On this Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time we are confronted with the question – “Where are we rooted?”
Jeremiah in the first reading uses the images of a tree and a bush to reflect the options we have in living life. On the one hand we can be like the barren bush in the desert or the tree planted near the water. We can be cursed or blessed. We can trust in human things, in the things of the world or we can trust and hope in the Lord. The question is where are we rooted? In whom have we placed our trust?
Jesus posses this same question but differently. In Luke today we listen to the Sermon on the Plain a counterpart to the Sermon on the Mount but different. Where Matthew in the Sermon on the Mount provides us with eight Beatitudes, Luke in the Sermon on the Plain provides us with four Beatitudes and four “woe-to-you”, or maledictions. The basic question I started with is still there – “Where are you rooted?” With whom do you stand? Are you willing to let go of the world, of riches, of plenty, of adulation? Are you willing to identify with the poor, the hungry, those dealing with loss and the fact that you are not the most important?
Jesus is painting a picture of what it means to be a disciple. This is not a glamorous job, ministry or life. It demands commitment, perseverance and patience. We have got to sink our roots into God for the long haul. The life of a disciple, the life of a prophet is challenging at best with no worldly reward. Perhaps said a little differently as a follower of Jesus we are to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.
We are asked today in our readings to see life through a different lens. We are to look and see with the eyes of faith and compassion!
Have a blessed and holy Sunday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: Our first reading today is all about selfishness and blame. Adam and Eve only think about themselves. They know they have done something wrong but they look to blame their action on another. Adam blames Eve and Eve blames the serpent. They find it hard to face God.
In our Gospel today, Jesus acts with compassion. It is a counter to Adam and Eve’s behavior. Jesus thinks of others not himself. When Jesus realizes the people have all traveled far and have run out of food, he is concerned for their well-being. He knows he cannot send them home to eat because they do not have sufficient food for the trip home. So, what can he do? There are a lot of people and not nearly enough food. I have always believed this to be one of Jesus’ miracles, but it also reminds me of the story, “Stone Soup.”
As a single person, none of Jesus’ disciples has enough food to feed everyone, however when everyone adds a little something, a garnish, a bit of carrot, a potato, a drop of broth, together it ends up a flavorful meal, and enough to feed everyone.
The Gospel says there were seven loaves of bread and a few fish. Not nearly enough to feed the huge crowd, but they broke the bread and shared the fish. Miraculously, there were seven baskets left over – more leftover than they started with.
It is always tempting to hold on to what we have. What will I have if there is not enough? However, if everyone contributes to the ‘soup,’ and no one being satisfied, everyone wins. Instead of selfishly sinning, we selflessly shared, and God makes the impossible possible!
Have a great Saturday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: The first reading for today takes us almost to the end of the creation story which we have been reading since Monday. In today’s episode the serpent convinces Adam and Eve to eat from the tree is the middle of the garden which God has asked them not to eat from. The serpent convinces them that God has not told them the whole truth. His hook is that if they eat from this tree they will become like gods! Adam and Eve go for it hook, line and sinker. However, they find out that they are not like gods but rather their eyes are opened to the harsh realities of life – struggle, shame, illness and evil. They come to know the shame, hurts, disappointments and sins of life in the world so much so that now they are even ashamed of themselves and they hid from God.
In the Gospel we encounter the beautiful story of Jesus healing the man who could not hear and had a speech impediment. Jesus heals the man because the people have faith in Jesus’ healing powers and bring their friend to Jesus. Jesus’ compassionate act of healing so astonished the community, even though he asks them to say nothing, they cannot stop talking about it. They proclaimed the Good News that Jesus “does all things well.”
There is such a contrast to these two stories. On the one hand Adam and Eve place their faith in a talking serpent and not in God. They have everything. There is nothing they lack; there is no struggle, disappointment, illness, shame, hurt, death or sin in their lives. They are in paradise! Yet I guess you might say they didn’t have everything. They didn’t have faith! They didn’t trust God.
In the Gospel story a community has faith in Jesus and their friend is healed. This story tells us a lot about Jesus and his journey to Calvary. Because of Adam and Eve’s lack of faith, sin, struggle, illness, shame and death entered the world. But as our faith story tells us that – “God so love the world that he gave us his only Son that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) We might say as we begin our day’s journey that faith is always the key.
Have a great Friday everyone!
Valentine’s Day Thoughts: A few thoughts about love…
“If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” (Mother Teresa)
“The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it's indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it's indifference.” (Elie Wiesel)
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” (C.S. Lewis)
“The beginning of love is the will to let those we love be perfectly themselves, the resolution not to twist them to fit our own image.” (Thomas Merton)
“Let us not forget: we are a pilgrim church, subject to misunderstanding, to persecution, but a church that walks serene, because it bears the force of love.” (Archbishop Oscar A. Romero)
The measure of love is to love without measure.” (St. Francis de Sales)
“Always tell of God's love. If necessary, use words. ” (St. Francis of Assisi)
“Agape, the love of each one of us for the other, from the closest to the furthest, is in fact the only way that Jesus has given us to find the way of salvation and of the Beatitudes.” (Pope Francis)
“Love casts out fear.” (1 John 4:18)
Too Slow for those who Wait,
Too Swift for those who Fear,
Too Long for those who Grieve,
Too Short for those who Rejoice;
But for those who Love,
Time is not.” (Henry van Dyke)
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13)
Valentine's Day blessings upon all your loves today!
Today’s Thoughts: Where is your heart? This might be the question that we can ponder from our Gospel story today (Mark 7:24-30). In the Gospel even though the woman is a Greek, a Syrophoenican, by birth her heart is with God. In placing her heart with God her daughter is healed.
The focus of today’s Gospel reminds me of a verse in Matthew’s Gospel (Matthew 6: 21) “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” In other words what we find important, what we place value in, what our focus is in life – there is where we will find your heart.
Perhaps another way to consider our Gospel today is in the words of Thomas Merton - “Ask me not where I live or what I like to eat . . . Ask me what I am living for and what I think is keeping me from living fully that.”
The Syrophoenican woman is living for God. She puts God at the center of her life thus that is where her heart is and she is blessed with the healing of her daughter. Perhaps our questions for today are – What are we living for? What is keeping us from living fully? What is important to us? Where is our heart? Is it with God?
Have a great Thursday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: Our first reading (Genesis 2:4b-9, 15-17) focuses us on the story of creation and the beginning of our relationship with Gods. Our Gospel (Mark 7:14-23) focuses us today, like yesterday on the essentials and the non-essentials. What is essential for a person of faith is how they live from their heart. In other words, the essence of a person is what is in their heart.
Thomas Merton once wrote that “You can tell a saint by the way he [or she] sits and stands, by the way he [or she] picks things up and hold them in his [or her] hands.” I think Merton was getting at what Jesus was talking about in the Gospel today that being what we are on the outside is determined from what we hold in our hearts.
Our challenge today is to be people of the heart. It is to ground our life in our relationship with God. The world around us cannot hurt us if we are grounded in and live by the Spirit of God.
Have a great Wednesday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: I find the scripture readings today rather interesting and contrasting. On the one hand we have the second half of the creation story which we began yesterday and, in the Gospel, we find Jesus at odds with the religious leadership over traditions, rules, regulations and rituals.
I always find the ending of the sixth day of creation rather comforting, "God looked at everything he had made, and he found it very good," a change from the previous five days when God found everything "good." There seems to be a little something extra to the work of the sixth day the creation of humankind, a creation that forms us in the image and likeness of God. There is a specialness to this sixth day of creation that ends with the proclamation "very good."
It might seem prideful or conceited to think of ourselves as very good yet that is how God found us at the time of creation. The sad part though is does God find us that way now? I would answer, "Yes." There is a very goodness in all of us the problem is many of us have covered it over with junk, buried it and neglected it in search of something greater or more self-fulfilling, something that will gratify us for the moment.
All of us carry around within us the image and likeness of God which makes us special and important the trick is to find it, to believe it and to live it.
That brings me to the Gospel, Jesus' struggle with the religious leaders continues event to this day. I have often struggle myself with the way we as an institutional Church have put more emphasis on traditions, objects, rules, regulations and rituals rather than on people. Do not get me wrong, traditions, rules, regulations, and rituals are all important but not at the expense of people. One of my biggest struggles is that at times we treat inanimate object far better than we treat people. Jesus' mission, his message, his ministry, his living of life was about people. He did not disregard traditions, rules, regulations and rituals but he put them in their proper place as helps, as guides not as the be all and end all. He never valued traditions, rules, regulations and rituals over people. He never made them (rules, regulations, rituals) the faith of the community. He never let them hide the image and likeness of God.
I think if we want to be honest with ourselves, we need to be challenged by today's Gospel. We need to take a long hard look at what we do with traditions, rules, regulations, rituals in our faith life. We need to realize that perhaps at time we are just like Scribes, Pharisees and religious leaders in the Gospel today, tradition, rules, regulations and rituals get in the way of faith, get in the way of people, get in the way of God!
Have a great Tuesday 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...