Today’s Thoughts: There are two things that strike me in today’s readings. First in the Acts of the Apostles we encounter a moment of struggle within the early Church. Some want to keep things as they are. They don’t want to break with tradition, while others see no need for past tradition. The struggle focuses on past Jewish traditions and the emerging new Church into which gentles are entering. Paul and Barnabas decide to go to Jerusalem and talk about the problem. What a novel idea, sitting down and talking about issues, problems, struggles and differing views of Church. Perhaps Pope Francis has taken a page from the Acts of the Apostles over the last six years!
My second thought comes from the Gospel. Not too long-ago Jesus offered us the image of the Good Shepherd – God as the shepherd always watching out for us, always taking care of us, always walking with us. It is a comforting image of God’s presence in our life. Today the image, a repeat of Sunday, is of God as the life-giving vine extending out into the world through us the branches. God becomes the vine running through our life offering us grace by which we grow into the person we have been created be so that we can produce the fruit of God’s presence and love in the world.
As a branch of God’s presence and love in the world we don’t have to know everything. We are a branch running from the Vine. It is the Vine that offers us everything that we need as long as we stay attached. We cannot do it on our own we must depend on the Vine – God’s presence, grace, love, mercy, forgiveness and joy to produce good fruit.
Jesus through the image of the vine and the branches reminds us today that the more we are connected to God, the more we lean on God, and the more we learn from God and experience God’s presence in the world around us, the better we will be at living life – the more fruit we will produce!
Have a blessed, holy, and healthy Wednesday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: Peace is one of the most elusive gifts whether we are searching for it personally or as a family or a culture and society. There are so many things that can get in the way of peace in life. It can be the minor irritations of life like traffic, construction, a person on a cell phone sitting next to us or spring allergies. It can also be the major realities of life, civil war, civil unrest, injustice, warring nations, terrorism, natural disasters, viruses and pandemics. There are many things that can get in the way of a peaceful moment and a peaceful life.
Jesus in the Gospel today offers us peace. Yet he reminds us that the peace he offers is not of this world. In fact, the peace that Jesus offers cannot be found in this world. We cannot create the peace that Jesus speaks about. It is God’s peace, God’s creation. The peace that Jesus speaks about and offers us lies beyond this life and flows from his relationship with the Father, the Creator of peace.
Jesus reminds us that we need not be troubled or afraid that even though we cannot create, make, control or encounter his peace in this world, he will not forget us. In other words, to encounter the peace that Jesus offers we need to somehow let go and let God!
Peace is what we all want in our personal lives and in our world. We encounter it occasionally, for a moment, however it doesn’t last. Something always comes along to disturb the peace. Thus, we need to be people of faith; we need to be people of hope.
Amid life’s struggles the early Church continued to move forward. They did not get down they did not give up. It was through God’s grace that the Good News was preached. It was because the early Church had faith and hope in God that their hearts were not always afraid or troubled. They were on the journey towards the peace that Jesus offers. Let us be people of faith and hope today. May we not be troubled or afraid because we are willing to let go and let God!
To end my reflection today I offer you a reflection I read three years ago about this time. It was a reflection on peace by Sr. Bridget Haase, OSU that I found in Living With Christ –
“We may discover that PEACE is a collection of special graces permeating our lives:
Practicing non-violence through encouraging words and compassionate actions.
Evoking calm while others around us are agitated and irritable.
Accepting difficult situations with grace and serenity as we work toward conflict solutions.
Challenging ourselves and others to seek local and global justice and
Entrusting our lives to God in faith-filled surrender and exuberant hope.
Have a blessed, holy, and healthy Tuesday everyone.
Today’s Thoughts: “I am the way and the truth and the life…. If you know me, then you also know my Father.” These are familiar words of Jesus spoken to Thomas and found in today Gospel (John 14: 6-14) on this the feast of Sts. Philip and James. They are words that remind us that our Christian faith is a very profound experience; only those who have faith come to know that God, the creator of the universe, chose to enter our life, to be part of human history and in doing so reveal a profound love to all creation.
Jesus seems to be responding to the age-old question, is there a God, and if so, what is this God like? Jesus’ answer is look at me, know me, because if you see and know me then you see and know my Father. As we find earlier in John’ Gospel, “God so loved the world that he gave us his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” (John 3:16) So if we take a good look at Jesus, if we get to know Jesus then we will know God, we will know the Father, the God who so loves the world!
In coming to know God it always comes down to a relationship, a relationship with Jesus, a relationship with the Father, a relationship with the Spirit. Relationships take work, relationship can be difficult and demanding, relationship demand time and investment. Yet in the end a relationship is the only way we can come to know the love, mercy, joy and faithfulness of God!
Have a blessed and holy Monday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: There is a lot going on in our readings today. Certainly, first and for most, we encounter in our Gospel the image of the vine and branches. One of the wonderful images of John’s Gospel. An image plucked right out of everyday life during Jesus’ time and that of the early Church. Jesus becoming the vine from which we the branches can grow in a faith filled life.
In our second reading we are called “Children.” I can remember a time during my life as a Passionist student when one of my brother Passionist students seemed offended but John referring to us as children. He said, “I am not a child any more I am an adult and I want to be seen and treated as one!” I have to admit sometimes I feel that way too but I also know that if I open myself up like a child I have a better chance of encountering the vine grower and receiving life from the vine.
Also, in the second reading we are given some advice. We are asked to not to love just in word or speech but to love in deeds and in truth. In other words, actions speak louder than words. Perhaps, that is why St. Francis says, “Preach always and when necessary use words.” It is often easy to talk about doing the right thing but doing it can be a challenge.
Because John sees us as children open to learning he goes on to share how we can accomplish living out our faith – by loving one another and by keeping God’s commandments and by doing what pleases God.
This all sound rather simple, but there are many moments, people and experience that make it downright hard! I can easily think of people, experience and moments in life that presented and still present challenges to me when I try to practice the command to “love one another.” No matter what I do, or how hard I pray for patience in dealing with people or situations, loving is difficult! However, I am asked to persevere and love.
Perhaps the challenge is to stop and think of how difficult it might be to deal with me, and how it may be difficult to love me. Not easy thoughts to think. It is a heck of a lot easier to spend time thinking of the faults and failings of others than my own, but perspective is gained when I consider my own faults.
Back to our Gospel, the story starts with a description of our Father, the vine grower. The vine grower very carefully works in the vineyard caring for the individual branches daily. Those branches that are not bearing fruit are removed; the fruit bearing branches are pruned so as to produce more fruit. The vine grower wants nothing more than to have a fruitful crop. Thus, a great deal of time is spent on caring for the branches so that fruitfulness can be achieved. God will do whatever is needed and we see that down through our faith story.
Our heavenly Father spends a great deal of time and care in watching over each of us. If we remain in Jesus and his words remain in us, we are told to ask for whatever is wanted and it will be done.
Three or four years ago there was a great deal of attention paid to the death of Alfie James Evans, the little toddler from Liverpool, England who had a lot of medical issues and there was a dispute between his parents and medical people as to whether his life support should be turned off. Even Pope Francis expressed his heart felt sorrow at the time of Alfie’s death! So many prays for healing, and it may seem that those prayers were not answered. Everyone wanted a miracle. Although it seemed that everyone’s prayers weren’t answered, actually they were — leaving the struggles of this life and moving on to Eternal life, while difficult for the family and all who prayed, was perhaps the better answer for Alfie. At difficult times in our life, we are asked not to despair, because prayers are answered. God, our vine grower does prune so that we might learn, so that good fruit is born, in the midst of our faith filled journey through life.
I sense the Alfie now is resting in the joy and love of heaven. Have a blessed and holy Sunday everyone and don’t forget to give God a little of your time today!
Today’s Thoughts: It is May 1st the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker. Before I reflect a little on today readings let me take a few moments to consider our feast today. This feast in honor of St. Joseph always takes me back to my childhood. Our parish in Port Vue, PA, was named St. Joseph. It honored St. Joseph as the Worker. Out in front of the school building (our church we in the basement of the school) was a statue of St. Joseph with the tools of the trade in his hands, carpenter’s tools, the tools of a man who worked with his hands.
It was a wonderful image for the parish as most of the people in the parish worked for the steel industry. They worked in the many steel mills that ran along the rivers of Western Pennsylvania. It was a blue-collar town, a town of families, a town of workers. The ethic of family life and working hard was a daily part of my world growing up. This is not to say that I lived in “Camelot,” that everything was perfect and life for everyone was wonderful. There were struggle, problems, heartaches and sadness along with the joys, hopes and the good times of life. But St. Joseph the Worker as the patron of the parish spoke to a simple vision of life that the people of Port Vue and many other towns tried to live out.
I returned to my hometown many years later. The church building was still there and so was the statue of St. Joseph. However, like in many places it was no longer St. Joseph’s Parish; it had been merged with another parish in the area and was now called St. Mark’s. The statue was in disrepair do to years of neglect, much like my hometown which was now struggling because the steel industry was long gone. It was still a blue-collar town; it was still a town of families but also a town struggling to find hope and a vision for the future. Perhaps more than ever my hometown needed St. Joseph’s spirit.
Unfortunately, as a side note to this reflection the building that was once called St. Joseph’s Church and School was closed for good in March of 2020 just as the pandemic was starting. There was to be a closing mass on Thursday March 19, 2020 but because of the Covid-19 Virus the mass was canceled. Another sad moment in the memory of my life!
Today we celebrate a feast that honors the spirit of St. Joseph, a simple man who in a quiet, yet strong way, responded to God’s invitation. His skills as a worker and a father are not always honored or valued. Yet he lived on, he said “yes” to God’s invitation. He lived his life with honor, hard work and love for those around him. He was a blue-collar worker, a family man, an ordinary person who let God do extraordinary things with his life.
As a Church, we sometimes let his image fall into disrepair. He becomes an afterthought in a world of glitz and glamor saints. Yet, St. Joseph will always remind us that everyone is created in the image and likeness of God which makes each of us special and important to the work of God in the world!
One of my grandfathers and my uncle were gifted with the name Joseph and they were simple hard working men too and on this feast of St. Joseph I remember them and honor them in a special way.
As for our readings today, “If you know me, then you also know my Father.” These are familiar words of Jesus spoken to Thomas and Philip and found in today Gospel (John 14: 7-14). They are words that remind us that our Christian faith is a very profound experience; only those who have faith come to know that God, the creator of the universe, chose to enter our life, to be part of human history and in doing so reveals a profound love to all creation.
Jesus seems to be responding to the age-old question, is there a God, and if so what is this God like? Jesus’ answer is, look at me, know me, because if you see and know me then you see and know my Father. As we find earlier in John’ Gospel, “God so loved the world that he gave us his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might bot perish but might have eternal life.” (John 3:16) So if we take a good look at Jesus, if we get to know Jesus then we will know God, we will know the Father, the God who so loves the world!
In coming to know God it always comes down to a relationship, a relationship with Jesus, a relationship with the Father, a relationship with the Spirit. Relationships take work, relationships can be difficult and demanding, relationships demand time and investment. Yet in the end a relationship is the only way we can come to know the love, mercy, joy and faithfulness of God!
Our journey through the Easter Season reminds us that the Risen Lord is always looking for us, always waiting to encounter us in our daily lives. We can be “minding our own business” but Jesus will often walk into our life and send us forth to proclaim the Good News!
Have a blessed, holy, and healthy feast of St. Joseph the Worker Saturday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: It must have been difficult being one of the 12 apostles. Today Gospel reminds us of two realities in the life of Jesus’ friends. First that to be a friend of Jesus you had to make a leap of faith over and over again and second how Jesus is almost always patient with them. I say almost because at times you can hear little frustration in Jesus’ voice in dealing with his friends.
Imagine how new this all was to his disciples, his friends, even after the years of teaching and following. Jesus says there’s a place for you; you know the way. And yet Thomas says: “We don’t know where you are going; how can we know the way?”
Jesus is the way. This is the message his friends hear over and over again. It’s a message we are to hear and live by. We, like Jesus’ disciples, are challenged to make a leap of faith over and over again as we live our lives. We, know the way, but we sometimes struggle to follow it. We make easy choices and we let ourselves be led astray. But like Jesus’ disciples, we learn the way. We just have to go in the right direction. When we make a mistake and make the wrong turn, we are graced with God’s patience and we hear the words that open our Gospel today, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith in me.”
Have a blessed, holy, and healthy Friday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: Happy Feast Day to all my Dominican friends, especially the sisters at the Wartburg Home. Today is the feast of St. Catherine of Siena, a Dominican and Doctor of the Church. She started out on her wonderful journey of a life dedicated to God at age six when she had her first vision. During her life she challenged in the institutional church and got the Pope to return the papacy to Rome from Avignon. She is often pictured with a large wooden ship on her shoulder, the Barque of Peter, which represents the Church. St. Catherine carried the struggles of the Church and challenges all of us to do the same.
As for our readings today, “Characters welcome,” use to be the calling card of the USA network. But as I reflect on the stories of the early Church as they come to us through the Acts of the Apostles I am reminded that our Church, our community of faith is made up of characters, faith characters. Some very familiar to us like Peter and Paul others not so familiar just names or people who appear for a moment, yet they played a role in the development of the early Church.
What is it that makes a “character of faith?” Well, I think our answer is in today’s Gospel. Jesus has just washed the feet of the disciples and he reminds them that “no slave is greater than his master and no messenger is greater than the one who sent him.” Thus, a “character of faith” is someone who follows the words and actions of Jesus. A “characters of faith” has faith in God, faith in Jesus and faith in the Holy Spirit. A “characters of faith” follows Jesus and believes that in following Jesus he or she will make his or her way to the gift of eternal life. One of the great “characters of faith” in our time is Pope Francis!
One thing is for sure because we are “characters of faith” we will not live life the same way and occasionally, we will need to stop and listen for the voice of God in our life. We will need to receive those whom God sends into our life. But as a faith character we take comfort and have hope that Jesus will always take the time to point us in the right direction.
The sad thing is that just as in the early Church, and during the time of Jesus, characters are not always welcome. We have all been gifted by being created in the image and likeness of God. Each of us are different, each of us are unique and special. And as we will learn a little later in John’s Gospel Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. There are many dwelling places in the eternal home thus there is room for every character!
Happy feast of St. Catherine of Siena and have a blessed, holy, and healthy Thursday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: Once again we are privy to the life of the early Church. In today’s first reading Barnabas and Saul set apart from the others and the Holy Spirit comes upon them, sending them on their ministry to the Gentles. We meet Mark and other characters in the story of the early Church. We begin to see how the faith communities identified people alive in God’s Spirit and called them forth to proclaim the Good News.
We might say that this little section from the Acts of the Apostles is a practical example of what Jesus speaks about in John’s Gospel today. Jesus continues to remind us of how important his relationship is with the Father. He reminds us that we need to listen for the words of God as they come from Jesus and as they come from those who the Spirit sends. The Good News comes from God, it is alive with God’s Spirit, and it is the light that will guide us on our journey of faith.
Along with listening Jesus also reminds us that he is the Light sent by the Father. A light that illuminates the presence of God in our life. We might say that the story we hear in Acts is also about light. Those called by God, set apart in the community of faith are lights of God’s presence also. Perhaps, the focus of the readings today is to remind us that we are the light of God’s presence in the world today!
The challenge is always our willingness to hear, to see and to be the gift of God in the world as we live our life. The challenge is to be open each day to the many ways in which God becomes present to us. The challenge is to take the Word we hear and the Light we see and make it known to the world. The challenge is to be the voice and light of God in our world today!
Have a blessed, holy, and healthy Wednesday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: It is always interesting to me to hear the stories of the early Church as they are presented in the Acts of the Apostles. We hear about the struggling and the joyous moments of the early Church. We meet the people who made up the early Church and helped it to move forward. We hear about the wonderful faith filled moments and the dark moments of persecution and challenge.
Each time I hear the stories of the early Church I am reminded that as much as things change they also remain the same. The characters are different, the events are different, but the struggles and joys are the same. Today we face many if not all of the same challenges of the early Church and certain some new ones especially our struggle with the coronavirus.
We have communities of great faith; we have preachers on fire with the Good News. We have challenges inside and outside the Church and at times we have persecutions.
Our faith is constantly in question, challenged, and often under attack. We are faced with change, differences within and a changing, struggling world around us. Like the early Church we are a community of believers listening for the voice of the Good Shepherd. Sometimes we hear it and sometimes the noise of the world around us tries to out shout it.
Our challenge is to hear the Good Shepherd’s voice, to recognize it in the midst of all the other voices and to have faith, to trust and to believe that the Good Shepherd will always be with us and will never leave us to face our perils alone!
Have a great Tuesday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: These words of Pope Francis seem to capture the spirit of today's readings first reading (Acts 11: 1-250 and the Gospel (John 10:11-18). "Every Christian, and especially you and I, is called to be a bearer of this message of hope that gives serenity and joy: God's consolation, his tenderness toward all. But if we first experience the joy of being consoled by him, of being loved by him, then we can bring that joy to others. This is important if our mission is to be fruitful: to feel God's consolation and to pass it on to others!" (Pope Francis)
In our first reading we are confronted with the struggles of the early Church. We are reminded that there are people who want to keep God all to themselves. They want to keep the Church a closed little group of self-righteous people. You have got to follow the rules to be a part of us. yet, through Peter God says “wait a minute. I have created everyone and everything and I am giving everyone and everything the opportunity for eternal life. I am the Good Shepherd of everyone!”
A few years ago, Pope Francis set out to deal with all people who were trying to make their way to God. He especially focused on the family which involved the struggles of divorced and separated people. Pope Francis like Peter, in our first reading today, did not attack the people who did not like the way he did it or he did not justify his decisions, he called a Synod on the Family to talk about the issues and the problems. He gave people an opportunity to speak, to reflect on the issues so that the Church could move forward and be inclusive. Unlike Peter, Pope Francis paid a heavy price though of criticism, judgmentalness and self-righteousness.
Our first reading and our Gospel remind us today that God works in mysterious ways and we have the option to either get in his way or get out of his way.
In the Gospel, Jesus offers us a relationship with himself and the Father. Jesus offers us the consolation and tenderness of the Good Shepherd. Jesus brings God’s joy to us. All we must do is get out of his way, accept his offer it and be willing to offer it to others!
Have a blessed, holy, and healthy Monday 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...