Today’s Thoughts: We encounter the famous story of Zacchaeus in today's Gospel (Luke 19:1-10). Zacchaeus had to liabilities, one he was short, and the other was that he was a tax collector.
Now he could not do anything about his shortness that was with him to stay. Being a tax collector seemed to be his choice. We do not know how he got the job or why he wanted it but it put him in a bad light with many people and the religious leadership. He was seen as a sinner, someone who sold out to the Romans and someone who was cheating his own people just to get ahead in life.
However, there was something honest and interesting about Zacchaeus. When he heard that Jesus was in town, he wanted to see him, catch a glimpse. So as the story goes he climbed a tree and we might say the rest was history. Jesus saw him and invited him down for a closer look.
We find out through the conversation between Jesus and Zacchaeus that Zacchaeus is trying to be an honest man and he is willing to go the extra mile if he has hurt or harmed anyone by his position and he is rewarded for his honesty and good heart as Jesus comes to his house.
Zacchaeus was able to take his shortcomings, his liabilities and turn them into strengths. He was able to make a positive situation out of what seemed to be a negative. All he needs to do was seek out God in his life.
With this story Jesus once again reminds us that good things, faithful things can come from unexpected situations and people. Like Zacchaeus we need to be on the lookout for the presence of God in our life and be bold when our chance comes to encounter that presence!
Have a great Tuesday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: I have a couple of thoughts about our Gospel today...
Perhaps my first thought is not directly related to today Gospel, but it is a good starting point for my thoughts today. I was wandering around the internet the other day and came across a video of Denzel Washington giving a commencement address at a college a couple of years ago. In his talk he gave the students 5 or 6 suggestions or principles for living their life. His first principle or suggestion was – “Put God first, make God a part of everything that you do!” He told them a story about his college days and how he was not doing well, his grade point was 1.7 and he had an experience in his mother beauty shop that changed his focus. Since that time, he has tried to “put God first” in everything that he has done. I think Mr. Washington’s principle reminded me of one of my own principles of life that God asks of me each day, "stay in love with me and live out of that love!"
At a community mass a couple of years ago one of my brother Passionist reflected on today's Gospel and he challenged us with the point that sometimes we would prefer not to see. The blind man in the Gospel wants to see but sometimes we find it easier not to see, it means less responsibility, less hurt or pain, less expectations on us. If I look at my own life, I would have to say his observation is true. I think there have been times when I really didn't want to see, it was easier not to!
If we can “put God first,” if we can find and enliven our first love for God, others and ourselves then we will always want to see! Or perhaps if we ask God in faith to see then our first love will once again come to life! May this day be one of seeing, of putting God first and rich in energy grounded in love!
Have a great Monday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: “You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope.” (Thomas Merton)
This being the next to last Sunday of the present liturgical year the focus of our readings turns to that of the “end time,” or the “second coming,” as it does every year about this time. Our first reading and the Gospel come to us from the apocalyptic literature of the Old and New Testament. Certainly, the Book of Daniel represents the looking ahead, the end time theme of the Old Testament, while this particular section of Marks Gospel forms part of the Synoptic Apocalypse. The focus of each focus on the struggles and difficulties ahead for people of faith.
Jesus is trying to prepare his disciples for what they will face not just at the Second Coming but each and every day of their lives. I often feel that the readings at this time of the year are not about figuring out when Christ will come about but about keeping us focused, awake, alert, and ready. In my homily today I stressed, what is our focus each and every day?
I told a story from my early life as a priest. How on of the wisdom figures my Passionist Community gave me some sage advice one summer day, He told me he didn’t know much about retreat work, which I was entering for the first time, but that he though I should know this. He basically told me to always celebrate mass like it was my first and last time.
Perhaps, that simple piece of advice is the focus of our Sunday readings. The we need to live each day of our life as if it our first and our last. If we do this then we don’t need to know when or where!
Have a blessed Sunday everyone and don’t forget to give God a little time today!
Today’s Thoughts: Early this morning as I spent some time in prayer, I was struck by Jesus’ closing words in the Gospel today, "But when the Son of Man comes will he find faith on earth?" (Luke 18:1-8) Especially in light of all the crazy things that are going on in our country and around the world. I guess Jesus’ question in today’s Gospel is always the underlying question when it come to our human condition. There are so many experiences that seem to make faith difficult. That seem to direct our attention away from our relationship with God. In the Gospel today, Jesus reminds us to pay attention and be persistent. In many ways it is these two qualities that will help keep our faith alive so that when Jesus does return, he will find faith! ... Key thought for our journey of life today..."Being attentive to God especially through persistence in prayer!"
Have a great Saturday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: In our Gospel today, we are presented with difficult lesson. Jesus emphasizes over and over to his disciples and to those listening to him that they will not know the day or the hour that the Son of Man will be revealed. Jesus stresses that they will be going about their normal routines when they will need to stop what they are doing, leave what their belongings, there stuff, leave loved ones and friends to take note of his coming.
Jesus implies that they will otherwise be lost as the people in Noah and Lot’s time. “One will be taken, the other left.” The people, it seems, were confused by Jesus’ words, and respond, “[taken] where, Lord?” Jesus says, with a bit of frustration, “Where the body is, there also the vultures will gather.” This passage, I think, might just be saying to us that our true future, eternal life, is not about the body, but more about the spirit.
If we do not take note of the coming of the Lord and ignore Jesus’ warning that we must put matters of everyday life aside to follow him, we will be subject to death. The “vultures” will gather around us. We do have a choice, to “Stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.” Today, let us choose to follow Jesus.
Have a great Friday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: “The Kingdom of God is among you.” These are Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel (Luke 17:20-25). What do they mean?
On the one hand Jesus could be talking about himself. He is the Kingdom of God at that moment. The religious leaders are looking around for God and signs of God, yet God is in their midst. The Kingdom of God is among them and they are missing it!
Another way of looking at Jesus’ words is that Jesus does not say that the Kingdom of God is in us or above us or around us; Jesus says the Kingdom is among us. Perhaps Jesus is saying that none of us alone possesses the Kingdom of God. Each of us shares in the Kingdom, thus we need each other for the Kingdom to be fully appreciated.
With this in these two ways of understanding Jesus’ words today our challenge is to be on the lookout for marks of the Kingdom. We need to be on the lookout for the presence of Jesus in our life. And what will help us not miss the marks of the Kingdom and the presence of Jesus? Well, one way to approach this challenge each day is by “refreshing our hearts in Christ,” as St. Paul tells us in our first reading today. (Phlm 7-20)
Have a wise and wonderful Thursday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: In our Gospel (Luke 17:11-19) Jesus responds with mercy to the ten lepers who asked for mercy. Yet it is the Samaritan in the group who returns to offer thanks. How often do we get caught up in the attitude that “Life is about me!” How often do we forget that all we are and all we have comes from God? When those good moments happen; when life falls into place for us; when things work out just as we had planned, how often do we remember to pause and say thank you?
If we look at the history of the world, the history of life, the history of the Church, great decisions have been made but so to have great mistakes and poor choices. Things have constantly changed sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse yet what has endured is the presence of God.
As Jesus tells us in the Gospel today, faith and thankfulness are key ingredients in the journey of life. We need to have faith, to trust in God’s mercy. We also need to be thankful for that mercy each and every day of our life.
Blessings and peace to all today...enjoy your Wednesday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: The reading from St. Paul’s Letter to Titus seems to be answering the following questions: What does a Christian look like? How does a Christian act? How does one recognize a follower of Christ?
Whether we are young or old, female or male, we hear from St. Paul a description of the “ideal Christian.” We need to loo past the cultural disconnect that it seems to present to us and see it as a challenge to all of us, female or male, old or young. The best news is the last sentence, which begins, “For the grace of God has appeared….” We might tend to get absorbed in the earlier descriptions of conduct, examining our own behavior, wondering if we fulfill requirements. “I’m pretty good at this; that’s one of my faults; I always struggle with that.” However, if this is what we focus on then we are missing the good news here.
Behavior and attitudes, external changes, are all results of the transformation we have experience when we open our hearts and welcome God’s grace. They are the outcome of the internal changes we make because of our relationship with God. We seem to have gotten the message turned around. We focus on our behavior and berate ourselves for wrong actions, mis-steps and faults. We always seem to be trying to “fix” the outside, to re-shape ourselves to fit the ideal image, to make sure we “measure up”, rather than allowing God’s grace to continually permeate us, transforming us from the inside.
The Gospel reading further develops the value of this grace. The good that we do, the ways we help and serve each other, all the ways we give of ourselves and our gifts – we do this not in expectation of some reward, but because this is now our nature. This is who we are, transformed in Christ! Again, somewhere along the way we turned this around to thinking we will like ourselves better, and feel better about ourselves, if we act in the ways that get us the rewards of recognition, praise, status, a raise, or whatever else we think motivates us. Our transformed life is the reward! It is not external to us, not a fleeting feeling or transient title or trophy.
Today. let us love the Lord with our whole heart and God will do the rest.
Have a great Tuesday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: I am reading a book by Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM, entitled Just This, and in the section that Rohr quoted the French philosopher and savant, Blaise Pascal, “People never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from a religious conviction.” This reflection by Pascal and Rohr seemed to be a connecting point for our readings today.
In St. Paul Letter to Titus, Paul is placing his trust in Titus to find good people who can lead the Church in Crete and the surrounding area. Paul gives Titus qualifications for the kind of men he should look for. Paul wants faith-filled men not one who are led easily into self-righteousness and sin. Titus is to look for good men but not men who will think of themselves as “holier than thou!”
In Luke’s gospel Jesus continues to talk about sin, which is not a topic that most of us like to embrace with vigor. Perhaps it is because we have been influenced too much by societal norms which seem to reject the notion of sin in the modern world. As we reflect on the readings today, the words of Pope Francis come to mind also when he is asked, “Who Is Jorge Mario Bergoglio?” and he responds, “I am a sinner.” Perhaps it is good to know that we are the same company as the Pope.
Our Gospel not only dwells on the effects of sin but also the resolution to bring us back into the light of the Spirit. We hear a lesson on how to forgive others. If someone wrongs us seven times a day, we are called to forgive seven times. Yes, we are called to constantly forgive, God in his unquantifiable love forgives us if we truly have a repentant heart.
The work of faith and forgiveness is never finished. It is an ongoing process until we meet God face to face.
Have a great Monday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: At times if we are not paying attention, we can miss the power and presence of women that our scripture often offer us. In two of today’s readings we are present with simple yet powerful examples of women on the journey of faith.
In our first reading from the First Book of Kings we might be tempted to focus on the gift that Elijah leaves the widow and her son, a never-ending jar of floor and jug of oil. However, if we only focus on the end of the story, we miss its profound message. This poor widow from Zarephath is at the end of her jar of floor and jug of oil. We might even say that she and her son are at the end of their lives. Yet does she complain, does she protest, does she refuse Elijah’s request for food and drink? No instead she looks him straight in the eye and does not say no. She sees clearly the presence of God that confronts her at that moment and puts her faith and trust in that presence.
The poor widow in the Mark’s Gospel today also carries a simplicity of life with her as she goes to the temple to pray. All that she is and all that she has she carries with her as an offering to God. We might say she looks God right in the eye and does not say no. Instead she gives God her whole livelihood.
These two women in today scriptures remind us that simplicity of life always enables us to be more present, more focused, more aware of the presence of God in our life. Real poverty is certainly dehumanizing on so many levels, however like the women in our stories it can allow us to see clearly and to know of our dependence on God. Spiritual poverty, which can lead us to a deeper freedom in a world where “the one who has the most toys wins.” Spiritual poverty leads us to a place of trust. Poverty, that is spiritual, leads us to who and what we really need. It is the difference between asking, “Give me more!” And "Yes, Lord you will not leave me to face my perils alone."
The two poor widows today live out of the simplicity of their poverty, the clear vision of God’s presence and their trust in God’s mercy. Unlike the wise and clever scribes - who strive for a righteousness but don’t have compassion or care for those in need who – “Devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext, recite lengthy prayers." (Mark 12:40) They have no simplicity, no vision and no trust in the God they proclaim to believe in.
Perhaps as we journey through this Sunday, we might ask ourselves what clutters our hearts so much that we only give out of surplus not out of our livelihood, our whole self? What clouds our vision so that we do not trust in the presence of God in our lives?
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...