Today’s Thoughts: In reflecting on the readings today two themes struck me about our faith. The first is continuity, the consistency of God. In the Letter to the Hebrews we are reminded that God has made an oath with us, that he will be with us forever. This is a consistent theme throughout scripture. It is a ray of hope, God will not forget us, and God will not leave us. God will be with us always. We can count on it. We can take it to the bank. We might not understand why God continues to hang around with everything we seem to do to chase God away, but God will always be with us!
The second theme is that of change. If something is alive that means change. Jesus in the Gospel to the horror of the Pharisees indicates that things are not always going to remain the same. Change is in the air. The Sabbath was made for humankind, not humankind for the Sabbath. Jesus is asking people to look at their faith differently. The Sabbath came into being to help humankind take time to focus on God. But the Sabbath is not greater than the needs of people. In other words, the actions, the rituals, the customs, the reality of the Sabbath is not what is most important, it is people and their relationship with God. Sometimes I wish we would understand this about our own rituals and practices!
Life means changes and as we go through life the things that connect us with God are going to change, take on different forms and different importance but God's commitment to us, God covenant with us will never change! Two of God's great gifts to us Life and Hope are always guiding us, always nourishing us.
Have a great Tuesday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: I read a short quote from Pope Francis during of my morning prayer today, “Sing to the Lord a new song. (Psalm 95:1) What is this new song? It does not consist of words, it is not a melody, it is the song of your life, it is allowing our life to be identified with that of Jesus, it is sharing his sentiments, his thoughts, his actions. And the life of Jesus is a life for others. It is a life of service.”
I read this after praying for a few moments with the Gospel (Mark 2:18-22) in which Jesus says, “no one pours new wine into old wine skins…. Rather, new wine is poured into fresh wineskins.” So, if we are singing a new song it cannot be the same old life that sings. It has got to be a new life, a new way of looking at the world. It has got to be a new way of looking at ourselves and others.
Often, we are afraid of new, afraid of change, afraid of difference yet Jesus, Pope Francis and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. tell us not to be afraid, but to pour, to sing and to dream new.
Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day – Happy Monday – Happy Feast of St. Agnes – and Happy New Wine, New Song and New Dream – Everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: Sorry friends for my late posting today but I was on the road eight plus hours yesterday so that I could have a two-hour lunch with a friend. Well worth the hours of driving but it wiped me out last night. I had the 7:30 am mass this morning in Chappaqua so this is my first opportunity to sit down and share a few thoughts with you.
We have a very familiar passage from John’s Gospel today, the Wedding Feast at Cana. There are many things that I could say about this moment in the life and ministry of Jesus. For John, it is the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. It is a moment when others, especially his disciples, first encounter his glory through the miracle of changing water into wine. It is a moment when we are reminded of Mary’s presence in the life and ministry of Jesus. I could go on and on reflecting on John’s mysticism, his theology and countless theological reflection on what this passage means, however I am going to take a different approach.
I my flawed perspective perhaps the most interesting part of this Gospel story is the fact that Jesus was invited into the life of these two young people. The story tells us that Mary was invited to this wedding and so were Jesus and his disciples. We don’t know who the young couple were. Friends of the family? Prominent families in Cana? Childhood friends of Jesus? We just don’t know. All we know is that they invited Jesus to their wedding and life would never be the same again. In fact, we are still remembering and telling their story.
For me the question that this story should cause us to ask is – “Have we invited Jesus into our home, our story, our life?” When you think about it everyone who invited Jesus into their home, their life was never the same again. Peter invited Jesus into his home and the first thing Jesus did was heal his mother-in-law. Think of Jairus, the leader of the synagogue, he invited Jesus into his home and his daughter was healed. Think of Zacchaeus, the hated tax collector, he invited Jesus into his home and was never the same again, and the examples go on and on. Inviting Jesus into our home, into our life can change things forever!
All while I was growing up our family had a portrait of Jesus in our living room. It was a print of a painting done by Warner Sallman. It was always there right in our living room for everyone to see who entered our house. It traveled with us to every house we lived in and even traveled with my mother when she entered assisted living and ultimately memory care in the last years of her life.
I don’t ever remember talking about the picture with my family or others. It was just always there. I am sure I walk by it, hundreds of thousands of times. I don’t remember ever stopping to acknowledge it, but I am sure that I did. I don’t know what the rest of my family would say, but I believe that simple portrait had an impact on all our lives, for the better. At some point in the journey of life my mother and father invited Jesus into our home, and it made all the difference.
Perhaps the simple truth, simple question of our Gospel today is – “Have we invited God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit into our home, our life?”
Have a blessed and holy Sunday everyone and make sure you give God a little time today!
Today’s Thoughts: Today, we finish our journey through the first week in Ordinary Time. In the Gospel, Jesus walks along and sees another person who might make a difference at one of his disciples - a tax collector – perhaps the least likely candidate to be a disciple according to attitudes of the time. Jesus sees in Levi the very follower he needs and asks him to drop what he is doing and come follow. Can you imagine Levi looking into Jesus’ face with astonishment and saying, “Who me?” Why is this Jewish man speaking to me in such a nice, invitational way? Levi must have seen something in Jesus’ look that caused him to change his entire life. Did his heart skip a beat for a moment? Did Levi realize that all his hopes and dreams were somehow met in this encounter with Jesus? Well, in all honesty, we just don’t know, but we can imagine. Most of us have come to moments in our lives when we experienced a crossroads. The proverbial fork in the road – did the path we took make all the difference like it did for Levi?
In life it seems that if we believe in God at all, it is hard for us to believe that God is profoundly interested in our ordinary activities; profoundly interested in a young man making his living by extorting money from his neighbors who pay taxes. Is it possible that God is profoundly interested in what we are doing today? In what we are doing at our computer? In what we could be doing for the Kingdom today?
Is it possible that God is inviting, calling, cajoling us to come join the journey? It is not only possible - it is the promise and fulfillment of all that is important about being human. Levi can help us see that as ordinary as we might be, God has great things in mind for us. Things far more important than any petty pursuit of our own. Let’s go – it is a new year and a new opportunity to become what we have been created and called to be.
Have a great Saturday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: I have always liked the story in today's Gospel and the reason is because it is not just one person's faith at work. The story says, "When Jesus saw their faith...." It was the faith of the group of friends, of the community, that makes all the difference. It was the hard work and faith of the friends of the paralytic. It was the faith of the man, himself, that probably motivated his friends. All of them worked together so that this healing moment was possible.
I often refer to the parishes I go to or the people who make one of my retreats as a community of faith and I truly believe that they are. I am always happy to be in their presence because I believe there is a great power in a community gathered together for a Sunday mass, a daily mass, a prayer service, a parish mission or a retreat. I believe that it takes a community of faith to get us through life.
Sure, we need our personal faith. Sure, we need a personal relationship with God, but we also need a community because as good as we might be there are times when we cannot do it alone. We need people to pick us up, to carry us. We need people to help us find a way in, to find a way to God. We need people who believe in us and in the journey, we are on. We need people who know God just as we do.
Jesus affirms the small community of faithful friends in the Gospel today. They make it possible for their friend to be healed and to be forgiven. What great friends the paralytic man had, do we have friends like him? Are we faith filled friends willing to pick a friend up and make sure they can get to God?
Have a joyful and faith filled Friday everyone.
Today’s Thoughts: My thoughts today are similar to those I shared with you last Friday when we had the same Gospel story about Jesus’ encounter with a person with leprosy. Last week we had Luke’s version of the story and today we have Mark’s (Mark 1: 40-45). In each version Jesus encounters a person with leprosy and the following exchange takes place. "If you wish, you can make me clean. Jesus was moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched the leper and said to him, I do will it. Be made clean. And the leprosy left him immediately."
I think the key elements of this story are Jesus’ intense feelings, the person's faith in Jesus and the willingness of Jesus to heal and to touch. Maybe the most important elements are Jesus’ feelings and his touch, his willingness to be connected with someone who is unclean by the standards of culture, society and religion.
As the story unfolds Jesus is moved with pity. Now sometimes we think of pity in a negative way but in our story today this translation “moved with pity” does not really do Jesus’ feelings justice. Jesus feels compassion for this person down deep in his gut and it moves him to action. It moves him to do something beyond what most people would do. It moves Jesus to touch the person even though his is unclean in order to share God’s mercy.
Today whether we are talking about our culture, society or even our church the usual response is to disconnect ourselves from someone defined as unclean. Yet, Jesus sought to be connected. He did not want to push them away from the community but to bring them into the community.
Jesus reaches out to one who has been pushed out of the community. It is a profound moment; it is a challenge to all of us who proclaim we believe. Do we wish – do we will – that all belong to the community no matter what? Jesus does and he was willing to step across a boundary to make sure that it happens. Are we?
Perhaps it is a commitment to prayer that will help us to, wish it and will it. It is through prayer, our conversation with God, that we will find the strength to walk with Jesus across the boundaries imposed and bring others to the community, to friendship with God!
Give a little time to God today – say a prayer – talk with God. Have a great Thursday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: My thought for today is drawn from today’s readings, (Gospel Mark 1: 29-29), our constant need for healing. Healing and casting out demons seem to be the work of the day for Jesus. I was thinking of another line in the Gospel as I read today’s passage during my prayer time this morning. The line I thought of was, "The poor you will always have with you" (Matthew 26:11 and Mark 14:7). I thought Jesus could have easily said, "The sick and demons you will always have with you!"
There is always healing that needs to be done, people struggling physically, emotionally and spiritually. Sometimes when I am day dreaming I wish Jesus would walk into our midst and begin to heal or that he would give me the temporary power to heal because there are so many people who could use it!
And demons, they seem to be everywhere these days, if only Jesus were here to cast them out what a different place the world could be. It amazes me that the demons always seem to know Jesus and yet often the people in his presence don't.
Yet, there is another Gospel passage that also comes to mind, "Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be taken up and cast into the sea,' and does not doubt in his [or her] heart, but believes that what he [or she] says is going to happen, it will be granted him [or her]." (Mark 11:23) In other words the power to heal and cast out demons is within our grasp we just need to believe and not doubt.
So, remember as you go through this day, God just might be calling so be listening and “the force," the power, the presence of Jesus is always with us to heal and to cast out demons we just need to believe!
Have a great Wednesday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: On the day in Capernaum, which we hear about in today's Gospel, (Mark 1: 21-28), Jesus taught as one having authority, in fact he taught every day that way. Perhaps that is the problem today that often those teaching really do not teach with authority. They think they do but they don't.
Authority comes from living an authentic life. We cannot say one thing and then do another and expect to have authority. We cannot say life is important and then only value life at the time of birth. We cannot say children, women and men are created in the image and likeness of God and then protect people who hurt them. We cannot talk about freedom and then limit it for certain people. We cannot talk about shepherding and service then live as one who is privileged and entitled. We cannot say human life is most important and then treat inanimate objects with more reverence than people. We cannot say community is important and then restrict the participation of the community.
In the Gospel we are reminded that Jesus lived an authentic life. A life focused on others, a life of authority! We long for teaching with authority today but everywhere we turn it seems to be missing. Jesus knew what he was talking about. He knew that people were more important than things. He knew that boundaries could be crossed if it meant life. He knew that people were more important than ritual, dress and mystery. Jesus offered all who listened to him the chance to allow God to change and shape their hearts into a new way of life. If we listen to Jesus and follow his way we will come to know true authority, we will come to live an authentic life!
Have a great Tuesday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: We have closed the Christmas Season with yesterday's celebration of the Baptism of the Lord and today we enter Ordinary Time. We get a chance to take a breath and relax a little before entering the Season of Lent, or do we?
Sometimes I think when it comes to our relationship with God, there is no relaxing, there is no taking a breath, it is always full steam ahead. There is always a new challenge, a new way to live life. We certainly see that in the Gospel today!
The fishermen from Galilee get no chance to rest, a new life awaits them. They think they are settled into their ordinary life, but Jesus has something else planned for them. They think this is just another ordinary day, but Jesus makes it special.
In the Gospel today, (Mark 1: 14-20), we witness the beginning of some wonderful friendships. Simon, soon to be called Peter, his brother Andrew, James and his brother John, the two sons of Zebedee, all begin the journey of friendship, discipleship, with Jesus today. They each receives a simple invitation to "Come after me, and I will make you fishers of [people]." To follow Jesus will change their life. The change is not simply going from fishers of fish to fishers of people; the change is to become a friend of Jesus, which will always changes life.
Each morning we arise, whether in ordinary or special time we are offered the same invitation to friendship with Jesus that Simon, Andrew, James and John are offered. We are offered the same opportunity to change our life. The question is like Simon, Andrew, James and John are we willing to accept it?
Have a great Monday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: As I prayed with the Gospel this week for the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, I found myself focusing on God proclaiming Jesus as beloved. Now in growing up I was a middle child, not a true middle child because I only had an older sister and younger brother and supposedly you need two older and two younger siblings to be a true middle child. However, I have proclaimed myself a middle child. I never got any attention! I was neglected! Mom and Dad always like them best. – Not really!
For most of my childhood I sought the attention of my parents and I guess I was not good in sharing it with my sister and brother. I was also a "pleaser." I wanted everything to be affirmed by my parents, I didn't want to do anything that displeased them, believe me it was an impossible task.
Now my parents were not the most demonstrative people in the world. They had grown up through the Great Depression, World War II and where serious people. Sure, they could have fun and enjoy themselves, but they certainly did not gush over anyone or anything. My father worked long hours at times and my mother was a stay at home mom. It was not until I went to high school that we got a second car.
My parents were busy about many things, work, their faith, their family and could not always be present at the things we, the children, were involved in. They rarely came to my baseball games, my swimming meets, my basketball games. I was in one play during high school and they didn't make any of the performances. I ran cross-country and track my junior and senior year, but they never saw me run. At the time it seemed like a big deal to me, I wondered if I was really a good son? If they really loved me?
Now let me say my parents were great people, the best parents and they loved me very much but as we all know parents seems so "dumb" when we are in our teens, but they get very smart when we get to our 20's. As I look back now my parents were always present at the most significant moments of my life. They were always there at times when it really mattered.
I have two images that will always stay with me. One of my father at my profession of vows. He sat with my mother in one of the first two pews and a friend took a picture of him as I was professing my vows, the look on his face was priceless and you can even see a few tears running down his face. If I could have heard his heart at that moment, I am sure I would have heard, "This is my beloved son, in whom I am pleased!" My father died four months after I took my vows.
The second image is of my mother at my ordination. The day before my ordination as my mother was traveling to New York, she fell and broke her arm. My brother took her to the hospital and the doctor suggested that she have surgery. As my brother tells it, my mother said, "No way, just set it, my son is being ordained tomorrow and I have to be there!" The doctor set her arm and by the afternoon she continued on her way to New York. She was in a lot of pain for the next week or so, but she was there. In her presence that day I heard the words, "This is my beloved son, in whom I am pleased!"
We all have these moments when our parent’s presence speaks volumes to us, when their presence proclaims us as beloved daughters and sons. That is what we celebrate on this Sunday honoring the Baptism of the Lord. Today we remember that important moment when the Father and the Spirit needed to be there for Jesus. This moment sends Jesus on his way. This moment sends Jesus into his ministry. This moment sends Jesus to the Cross and the Resurrection.
It is a moment that gets played out over and over again in our important moments of faith through our parents, families, friends and faith community, God proclaims us as beloved daughters and sons. Moments like Baptism, First Communion, Confirmation, Marriage, Ordination and any sacramental moment in our life. God claims us as a daughter or son who is beloved and sends us on our way.
Let us pray for our mothers, our fathers, our families, our friends and to our God today so that when we next receive communion, we might hear those words in our heart, "You are my beloved daughter, you are my beloved son, I am so profoundly pleased!"
Have a blessed Sunday everyone and don’t forget to give a little time to God today.
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...