Today’s Thoughts: “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, ‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’” Words of hope offered to those gathered as Church over two thousand years ago and those gathered as Church today. They are Isaiah’s words, John the Baptist’s words, Mark the Evangelist’s words and our words of hope.
Hope can often seem like an endless wait or a fleeting moment, just ask any Pirate fan or small market baseball fan or football or basketball or hockey fan whose team hasn’t won in many years. Fans who religiously try to capture the spirit of hope every spring, summer, winter or fall only to give in to the utterance, “wait until next year” when the end of the season arrives. In our own time of uncertainly, we often try to hold on to the hope that things will change, that things will get better, that anger, hate, disrespect, violence will be a thing of the past. That Congress will work together for the good of the country and all people. That our president will show leadership. Instead, hope often seems to be that elusive thing with feathers to borrow a phrase from Emily Dickinson. She wrote a poem about hope –
“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops - at all
(The first stanza from the poem “Hope” is the thing with feathers - By Emily Dickinson)
Isaiah and John the Baptist know all about the elusiveness of that “thing with feathers” called hope however that did not stop them from proclaiming it and challenging people to embrace it.
Isaiah reminded the Israelites about God’s compassion and forgiveness. He proclaimed the hopefulness of a loving God who in the end will make all things right. Isaiah sang the song of hope and never stopped – at all.
John the Baptist challenged those who followed him into the desert to look for hope in their lives by trusting in the compassion and forgiveness of God. John’s challenge was one of urgency, of being ready, of realizing the God was in their midst.
As we continue our journey through Advent we have the simple hope that Christmas will come but we are also challenged like many before us to hang on to the elusive hope of Isaiah, John the Baptist in a world that often tries to take it from us. Today Isaiah and John remind us to look for and hold on to that thing with feathers within us the sings a tune and never stops at all!
Have a great Sunday everyone and may you sing the tune of hope throughout the day!
Today’s Thoughts: “Be prepared at all times for the gifts of God, and be ready always for new ones. For God is a thousand times more ready to give than we are to receive.” (Meister Eckhart)
These thoughts from one of the great Dominican mystic of the Middle Ages, Meister Eckhart, sum up the focus of Advent. It is a time to prepare, to be ready for the coming of God in our life. It is a time to prepare and be ready for the grace of God in our life.
As Eckhart says God is always willing and ready to give – it is us who need to be willing and ready to receive. Here in lies the problem we are often not ready or willing to receive. Perhaps it is because we are looking in another place. Perhaps we are distracted by the things of the world. Yet God is patient, compassionate and merciful. God is willing to wait until we are ready.
As we journey through this first Saturday of Advent it might be a good time to stop for a moment and look around at our life. Are we prepared, are will ready for the gifts, the grace that God sends into our life? Are we ready the new gifts from God that we might encounter today? Let us be ready for any way, any gift, of the mystery that will touch our lives today.
Have a great Saturday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: As we celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception today our focus is 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 summers ago to Lourdes, France. It was there 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 need of healing.
If nothing else our feast today challenges us to not live fear. It challenges us to welcome God’s gift of Mary into our lives. Our feast challenges 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 Feast of the Immaculate Conception! Have a great Friday everyone and may you find peace, hope and joy throughout your day!
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.
Five 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 in the midst 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 can 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!
Today's Thoughts: Did you ever take time to watch little children? Periodically, I get to spend time with two of my grandnieces. Usually I am with them for a few days and at times. If it was not a holiday with others around I get the chance to spend some quality time with them. When this happened they sometimes involve me in their day to day lives and I am able to sit back and just watch them. It amazed me how they often make whatever they have at the moment into a simple play toy, boxes, board games, a piece of ribbon or string, everything seems to come to life.
When my niece Kristina, was about three years old, I would often which her play for hours on the floor by herself with board games, like Risk, Trivial Pursue, and others. She had no real understanding of how these games were played but that didn’t matter. She was content to just sit there moving pieces around, building things and imagining a whole different world. There was joy and contentment on her face as she enjoyed a moment of life. I was often jealous of her freedom, her joy and her excitement. These young women whom I am blessed to spend time with are gifted with wonderful imaginations to enliven their lives.
In reflecting on these experiences with my grandnieces I could hear Jesus' words in the Gospel today. God truly does reveal many things to children that we adults miss. Children seem to know the joy and the love of God. Through their imaginations I truly believe they often see the hidden gifts of God that we adults at times miss. We can learn a lot from children, if we let them be children and if we stop to watch and celebrate the gift of their presence in our life.
Children also keep alive the hope that Isaiah talks about in the first reading today. If we use our imaginations as children do we will be able to see the wonderful life that Isaiah envisions, where the wolf is the guest of the lamb and the leopard lies down with the kid and the baby is at play right next to the cobra’s den and all is well. In other words, if we are not afraid to use our imaginations we have a chance to encounter the Spirit of wisdom, understanding, counsel, knowledge, strength and wonder and awe and we have a chance to live in a world were justice and peace flourishes. We have a chance to make this life God’s Holy Mountain.
Yes, I know it seem farfetched but perhaps all it takes is a little imagination!
Have a great Tuesday, a blessed Advent everyone and may you find peace, hope and joy throughout the day!
Today’s Thoughts: In reading the scriptures for today two thoughts came to mind. First I have always liked the section from Isaiah which is the first reading today. It carries for me the hopefulness that one day swords, guns, bombs and all other means of violence will be beaten into plowshares, microchips, ovens, stoves, refrigerators, anything useful and life giving. I hope and live for the day when we will no longer train younger women and men for war ever again and that every nation will live in peace! Yes, I know this might be an impossible hope, but I still hope. Perhaps for me Emily Dickinson puts it best – "Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul, and sings the tune--without the words, and never stops at all!" May hope never stop for any of us!
My second thought today centers on the Gospel. It is a familiar story in Matthew's Gospel of the centurion who asks Jesus to heal a servant. Did you ever realize when reading the Gospels that many of the people whom Jesus encounters with life changing faith are not part of the faith community but seen as outsiders. This centurion has great faith, a faith that ultimately brings healing to his servant. This Gospel story and others like it should remind us that God's presence, God's healing, God's grace, God's work can come from anywhere and from anyone. Dismissing people for any reason is not a good practice because by dismissing them we may just be dismissing God and an opportunity to be healed!
As so as we begin this journey of Advent let us commit ourselves to renewing the gift of hope in our lives, strengthening our own faith and respecting the gift of others in life so that we never give up on peace or miss a chance to encounter God’s healing presence.
Have a great day everyone and a blessed Advent!
Today’s Thoughts: Our readings today present us with a few interesting images and thoughts to consider as we begin this journey of Advent.
Our Gospel today from St. Mark is from a section that is a lead-up to Christ’s Passion. Chapter 13 in Mark deals with the ending of things. There are many images of coming disasters possible, so, Jesus is urging his followers to be in a state of readiness. “Be watchful. Be alert.” “Watch!” Jesus tells all who will listen today. These are strong words which catch the ear of the disciples. They are also words by which Jesus lives his life. They are words that give focus to his mission of redeeming this world.
Alertness, awareness and watchfulness can be functions of fear, but they can also be functions of love. If being welcomed into God’s Eternal Kingdom is our final end and if Jesus’ mission was to redeem us and bring us all back to the loving hands of the “Potter” - the Creator - then we should not fear Jesus’ coming or look upon it as the final disaster, but we need to have faith that Jesus’ coming will be the final revelation of God’s creative love.
I truly love that image in our first reading from the Prophet Isaiah of God as the “Potter.” I had a chance many years ago to watch a potter sit at his wheel and create. It was a fascinating and beautiful experience. So much gentleness, tenderness, care and love goes into a potter’s creation. So much gentleness, tenderness, care and love has gone into God’s creation of us. What image to focus on as we begin our Advent journey!
In the Gospel Jesus uses an image which I think is important, but it can easily be overlooked. Jesus’ image is that of a land owner who goes on a journey, but leaves his servants, “each with his own work” to do. The landowner is God, we are the servants. The challenge is not just to stay awake, but awake so that we can do the work of bringing God’s light and life to the world. Waiting and watching, being attentive out of fear is passive and paralyzing. Waiting, watching and being attentive in faith means being enthusiastic and excited. We can wait expecting to be caught, or expecting to be caught up in our part in Jesus’ coming into this world.
Would you rather live in fear or live in the excitement of Christ? The choice is yours!
Have a great First Sunday of Advent everyone and remember to give God a little time today!
Today’s Thoughts: We wait today for the starting of a new liturgical year, but in the Gospel from Luke we are reminded to wait and focus on what is important not on what will instantly gratify us. We have to be ready because when God’s Kingdom will arrive is hidden in our hearts, it is mystery. What is clear for us today though is that we are not simply supposed to wait but also to act, to live. Because if we are living our relationship with God we will be ready to enter the Kingdom of God!
Perhaps these words from Pope Francis say what our Gospel today says but in a little different way - “To be faithful, to be creative, we need to be able to change. To change! And why must I change? So that I can adapt to the situations in which I must proclaim the Gospel. To stay close to God, we need to know how to set out; we must not be afraid to set out.” (Pope Francis)
Have a great Saturday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts. Today’s first reading from Daniel describes terrifying dream-like visions which Daniel saw during the night. The visions Daniel saw were quite alarming and violent. However, towards the end, Daniel sees a hopeful sign: One like a son of man coming, on the clouds of heaven. Daniel believes that God has intervened. The point of all the visions/dreams is that God will at some point intercede to destroy all evil so that those who stand firm in their faith will prevail.
Today, we may not have monstrous-type lions with eagle wings or bears with tusks or leopards with four heads in our dreams, but we might ask ourselves what are the challenges which block us from God, self and one another? How does fear control us and what are we missing?
In our Gospel today, Jesus reminds us that the Kingdom of God is near and there are signs wherever we choose to look, even in the effortless process of the seasonal cycle of growing trees. Our challenge is one of maintaining attention and intentional response. Perhaps as we journey through this Friday there is more than enough here to occupy our prayerful moments until the beginning of Advent on Sunday.
Have a great Friday everyone and pleasant dreams!
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...