Today’s Thoughts: I find myself still moved at times by the images of Pope Francis on Good Friday three years ago. The solitary walk in the rain, as I read today’s Gospel, I could see Jesus overwhelmed by Martha and Mary’s grief making a solitary walk to Lazarus’ tomb. I sensed his profound prayer, the same kind of prayer I saw from Pope Francis. So, I live in the hope that Jesus, through the gift of Pope Francis will bring us as a Church, as a people of faith out of the grave of our divisiveness, hate and violence just as he brought Lazarus out of the tomb.
There are a number of interesting things about our Gospel (John 11: 1-45) story today. Obviously, the raising of Lazarus from the dead sits center stage. But we also see Jesus as human and divine. He cries and he performs a miracle. Then there is the growth of Martha. When last we met Martha, she was complaining about her sister’s lack of work. Yet, today she is the first out to meet Jesus and she believes not only in miracles but also in Jesus as the Christ and the gift of everlasting life. we might say she moves from complainer to preacher of the Good News!
Yes, there are many things that we can take always from the scripture today. Perhaps the most important is faith, faith in our relationship with God and faith in what lies beyond this life. Ezekiel (Ezekiel 37: 12-14) reminds the community of this gift and St. Paul in his Letter to the Romans (Romans 8: 8-11) does the same.
Pope Francis has asked us to look at things differently by his words and actions. His picking of the name Francis reflects a different way of thinking about, seeing and living life. His humility and care for others reflects a different way of thinking about, seeing and living life. His putting people first, his care for the poor, his desire for peace, for the healing of our world, reflects a different way of thinking about, seeing and living life.
Our challenge as people of faith is to always see and live life through the lens of faith. We are to think of life not death. We are to see the others first rather than just ourselves. We are to live compassionate lives of justice and peace.
If we believe we will have eternal life. If we have hope healing and life will come.
Sunday blessings everyone and don’t forget to give God and little time today!
Today’s Thoughts: Today we take a little break from the purple of Lent today to celebrate the Solemnity of the Annunciation. Mary is invited to be the Mother of Christ and she accepts even though it is an overwhelming invitation and will soon become an overwhelming task. Mary utters “yes” to God’s invitation today and her life and the life of the world was never the same. We owe Mary a lot, but we can also learn a lot from her still. Her profound trust in God shows us that all things are possible when our friend is God.
In Evangelii Gaudium Pope Francis talks about Mary in this way, “Mary was able to turn a stable into a home for Jesus, with poor swaddling clothes and an abundance of love. She is the handmaid of the Father who sings his praises. She is the friend who is ever concerned that wine not be lacking in our lives. She is the woman whose heart was pierced by a sword and who understands all our pain. As mother of all, she is a sign of hope for peoples suffering the birth pangs of justice. She is the missionary who draws near to us and accompanies us throughout life, opening our hearts to faith by her maternal love. As a true mother, she walks at our side, she shares our struggles and she constantly surrounds us with God’s love….Mary is able to recognize the traces of God’s Spirit in events great and small. She constantly contemplates the mystery of God in our world, in human history and in our daily lives. She is the woman of prayer and work in Nazareth, and she is also Our Lady of Help, who sets out from her town “with haste” (Luke 1:39) to be of service to others.”
This reflection by Pope Francis offers us a wonderful insight into the gift of Mary in our lives. He tells us of the many things that we should look for in the life of Mary. Most importantly Pope Francis reminds us that Mary was always able to recognize God’s presence in the important and unimportant moment of life. In other words, Mary always remained connected to God.
In remembering Mary today, we also remember all mothers, all women who say yes to the gift of life. Because of a mother’s yes, life forever changes for her and the world. Another gift gets the chance to enter the world and we get a chance to share in another part of the image and likeness of God.
So, I honor all mothers today, those living and those deceased. I especially pray for all expectation mothers, who carry the gift of life within them because they said yes! I remember in a special way all the mothers who have played a role in my life especially my own mother Rita, I am most grateful for her yes, and also Betty, Bernadette, Alice, Rosemarie, Sarah, Roseann, Alice, Stephanie, Erica, Alexis, Deb, Ann, Monica and Marge and many others. Thank you all for your yeses and the many ways you have given life to me along the way!
I would also like to mention all those women who say “yes” but are not able for many reasons to bring the gift of life, a child, into the world. I pray that they know that they do bring life perhaps not through a child, but through the unique gifts that they bring to the lives of many. I am thinking of many such women in my life, especially two aunts named, Mary Helen, and many others. I pray in a special way for all who want to be mothers but cannot be may God turn your impossible into a possible as he has done for many!
Have a blessed Saturday everyone and may Mary be present to you in a special way throughout this day!
Today’s Thoughts: There seems to be much more tension between Jesus and the people in John's Gospel today (John 7:1-2, 10, 25-30). Certainly, in these waning days of Lent as we read John's Gospel, we are made aware of the struggle most likely between Jesus and the religious leadership.
The leadership seems to be drawing upon tradition and Jesus seems to focus, on the moment, the work that needs to be done. The leadership seems to be living out the words that we hear in the reading from the Book Wisdom (Wisdom 2:1a, 12-22) today about the wicked ones. They don't like what Jesus is saying. His words are challenging and demanding in a way that is difficult for people who have settled into a routine of life, who have found a comfort zone that they do not want disturbed.
Are not we all like these religious leaders at times? We find a comfort zone, a routine to life and then we become angry when someone or something comes along and disturbs us, challenges us. It is particularly difficult when we somehow know that the person, the challenge, is righteous but we just do not want to change. We want to stay in our comfort zone and so we begin to find things wrong with the person, the place or the situation. If we can convince ourselves that we are right, and they are wrong, then all will be well.
The religious leaders try to do that today in the Gospel, the wicked ones try to do that in the Book of Wisdom and certainly from time to time we try to do it in our own lives. We cannot change the religious leaders of Jesus' time; we cannot change the wicked ones from the Book of Wisdom. These examples from our faith story are a reminder to us not repeat their actions. Yes, our challenge is always to recognize God in our midst even if it means letting go of our comfort zone, even if it means changing our perspective, even if it means finding the truth in another.
We pray today Lord Jesus, be close to us because we do not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from your mouth! We live on the gift of your presence and the hope that it brings to life.
Have a blessed, and holy Friday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: The readings (Exodus 32:7-14 and John 5:31-47) seem to have a common theme: the inclination for us to trade what God offers us for something of less value and splendor. There is a term in theology, “laudable exchange.” It is used to refer to the stance of giving up the things of earth for the things of heaven. Our scriptures today warn us that often we do just the opposite.
In the Exodus reading the people get focused on a molten calf as a god they think will help them. They have bought into the world, the culture, around them. No matter what God has done for them they think a calf statue can do better. They have given up on the living God and replaced him with a god they made with their own hands. These are the very people who have seen wondrous things from God, these are the very people who were freed by their journey through the Red Sea at the hands of God. Yet, somehow, they miss the fact that God loves them and cares for them. They seem to think that God is distant, and they wanted something that they can see and touch. Like we often do, they made a god to suit their specifications, to do what they think needs to be done. The outcome of all this stupidity is that they truly anger God.
The psalm for today’s mass (Psalm 106:19-20, 21-22, 23) points out their folly. “They exchanged their glory for the image of a grass-eating bullock.” They exchanged the glory of God for the glory for a human made calf. We are reminded that the only glory that we humans will ever have is the glory that comes from God, the glory that essentially is God. We have been created in the image and likeness of this merciful God and what a disrespect of God when we exchange our love of God for some creation of our own hands.
The Gospel today is a very dense section of John and it is difficult to do it justice with my little reflection. The religious leaders reject Jesus and exchange his testimony, his life, for that of others. For a time, they like John the Baptist but grow tired of him. If others come tooting their own horns, they listen to them. They are able to accept anybody and everybody but Jesus. They love Moses, or so they say. A question one might ask would be if they were alive at the time of Moses would they have followed Moses or been right in there with everyone else helping to make a god out of pieces of gold?
There is truth in the term “laudable exchange” to give up the things of this earth and embrace God. During Lent we give up certain things in the hope that doing without will help us focused on God. We sometimes do positive things or spend a little extra time in prayer with the same hope. These are wonderful practices however, we must constantly remind ourselves that what we do during Lent should help us to focus on God. If we remain focused on these things, then how are we any different than the people in the days of Moses who exchanged a thing, a hand made statue, for God?
Let us be focused today on God, let us lift our eyes and see the things that are of God today!
Have a blessed and holy Thursday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: Within our scriptures today there is the thread of intimacy and relationship running through them. In the first reading from Isaiah (Isaiah 49:8-15) we hear Advent like images of how God enters our life and helps us to make the journey home. We hear how much God desires a relationship with us and how far God is willing to go for that relationship. There is the famous image in the reading about the child in the mother’s womb and even if that mother were to forget about the child God will not forget about the child and us.
In the Gospel (John 5:17-30) it is John’s image of the relationship between the Father and the Son. Throughout John’s entire Gospel we constantly hear about the intimate relationship that Jesus has with the Father. If you see Jesus, you are looking at the Father. The two are inseparable, they work together. They know each other’s thoughts, words and actions. We are invited to have this same kind of relationship with Jesus and the Father.
Intimacy is something we all want, something we all need but it is something many of us find difficult because of what it demands of us. It demands commitment, time, energy and a willingness to be truthful and honest. It demands a willingness to see the good in others and to understand their struggles, their faults and failings. Intimacy means we are willing to stand by the other even when it is not easy, even when it is not popular.
Much talk time and print space has been given to celibacy and chastity in recent years, some of it positive and much of it negative. Being one who has tried to live this vow I know that the most difficult part is intimacy and I am not just talking about physical intimacy. I think we all have a great need, desire, longing for and deep connection with another, a person to share our joys, fears, sadness, struggles, triumphs, feelings and love. We want that soul friend who knows us, understands us, values us, forgives us and loves us no matter what and yet whether celibate or not this friend is hard to find.
Many of the great saints talk about finding this relationship after a long struggle with God. I am not a great saint so my struggle for intimacy goes on. It is a great need in everyone’s life and sometimes it is a life-long search. For me there is always sadness when I see this intimacy devalued or absent. When I see a mother, or a father forget their child, either through abuse, neglect or when their life become so self-centered they don’t make the connection. I am also encouraged and hopeful when I see the wonderful gift of intimacy at work in the lives of people, when they don’t forget!
Throughout Lent we have been reminded that living a life of faith demands looking beyond ourselves, it demands being other oriented. Relationships and intimacy are the way we can keep ourselves focus on others, focused on God. Let us live the journey of life today open to the gifts that others can bring to our lives!
Have a holy and blessed Wednesday!
Today’s Thoughts: Pope Francis has asked us to bring the mercy of God to whomever we meet. We are to look around and see the people like the man in the Gospel today who can’t get to the living water of healing and we are to bring that living water to them. We are not to be people who see themselves alone with Jesus; we are to be people of a community of faith who bring the living waters of Jesus to the world.
As I looked over the scriptures this morning a couple of thoughts came to mind. First there is a one striking thing for me about today's Gospel (John 5:1-16); it is the fact that the man whom Jesus approaches is alone. He says he has no one to help him. No one to get him to the water, he finds himself alone unable to get to the waters of life. How often do we feel alone in life? We have that feeling that we are out there on a limb by ourselves. There is no one to help, no one to lean on, and no one to help us get to where we want to go. Like the man in the Gospel today we can be surrounded by a world of people and yet still feel alone.
In those moments perhaps, it is only God who makes the difference. We perhaps are not dramatically healed as the man in the story but when we let God enter our life, life does become better. We encounter the gifts of life; we get places that seemed impossible to get to before. With God in our life being part of the world, being a part of a community is not only possible it happens.
Another aspect of our readings today is the element of water. Ezekiel (Ezekiel 47:1-9, 12) and the man in the Gospel encounter the healing power of water. They are each aware of its importance in for life. They each become aware of the presence of God in life that water represents.
Our readings today remind us of the value of God's presence in our lives. God's presence never leaves us to face life alone. God's presence is life giving, refreshing and life sustaining. As the verse for the responsorial psalm says, God is with us and God is our stronghold our support.
As we live this day let us be aware of the many ways that God enters our life. Let us be aware of the many ways in which God does not leave us alone and the many ways God sustains and refreshes our life. Let us be thankful and not fearful because God is ever with us and will never leave us to face life alone!
Have a blessed and holy Tuesday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: Happy St. Joseph’s Day everyone! Yes, I know the actual feast day was yesterday but because it was a Sunday of Lent the celebration of the feast was transferred to today. As we celebrate St. Joseph today, I hope you will take a little time this day to remember him and let him be a presence in your journey of life!
“I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security.” (Pope Francis – Evangelii Gaudium – The Joy of the Gospel)
These are perhaps odd words from Pope Francis to use on this Feast of St. Joseph, yet I think they are words which reflect the life of Joseph. He was a laborer, and he faced many challenges in his life especially when God came calling. St. Joseph was a person of life, an ordinary person who through faith did extraordinary things. St. Joseph is a wonderful image of the kind of Church Pope Francis wants, a compassionate, loving and joy filled Church.
Today we celebrate St. Joseph a person we know very little about but what we know can be an inspiration for all of us. He was a simple man skilled in the use of his hands to shape, form and build. He was an ordinary man placed in an extraordinary situation. He was a faith filled man who staked his life on the promises of God.
St. Joseph wanders into our life through a few verses of scripture and leaves a lasting impression. In every situation, we find him he pursues the right thing to do. He is righteous man who cares about the people around him. He is a loving man who protects those he loves. He is a hope filled man who places his trust in his relationship with God.
Yes, in his ordinariness St. Joseph stands as an example for all of us and we live our lives of faith. He is a model of quiet faithfulness. He is the hopefulness that fathers bring to a family. He is an example of loving attention to God’s presence. He is the humble father who reminds us of the gift of family life and the challenge of living for others!
As we celebrate St. Joseph today as the husband of Mary let us honor his faithfulness, his hopefulness and his love by letting him be an example that helps us to live our life of faith caring for those around us.
Happy St. Joseph’s Day to all and have a holy and blessed Monday!
Today’s Thoughts: “Before all else, the Gospel invites us to respond to the God of love who saves us, to see God in others and to go forth from ourselves to seek the good of others.” (Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium: The Joy of the Gospel)
Pope Francis’ words touch on the very gift of our Gospel (John 9: 1-41) today. The blind man experiences God’s love, a love that gives him the ability to see, physically and spiritually the good in himself and others. He accepts Jesus’ invitation to believe, to have faith and to bring the joy of God to the world. It is too bad that the others who make up the story miss their encounter with God.
The other scriptures today (1Samuel 16: 1b, 6-7, 10-13a – Ephesians 5:8-14) along with the Gospel touch on the themes of seeing things differently. Whether it is seeing God’s choice for the next king differently as Samuel is challenged to do or seeing the community differently because of their faith as the Ephesians are asked to do or seeing the reason for your life differently as the blind man is ask to do.
The scriptures become a lens for us to look through in order to see life differently. They ask us to see life through the eyes of faith. If we do so we have the chance to encounter the presence of God. We have chance to be surprised by the presence of God. We have a chance to be touched by the presence of God.
Our Gospel also shows us what happens when we fail to look at life through the lens of faith, we miss the gift of God’s presence. We fail to see beyond our faults and failings. We are stuck in the joylessness of the world.
Pope Francis always points to the joy of the Gospel, to the joy of life. Our scriptures today challenge us to see so that we do not miss the joy of God as it is present in ourselves and others around us.
One little extra note to my reflections this morning. In my homily on The Sunday Mass today I spoke about how people, in particular two people, Neil and Laura, make me always aware of God’s presence in life. Like the man born blind in the Gospel they struggle with physical challenges and disabilities. Yet, also like the man born blind they are in the world so that the works of God might be made visible. I thank Neil and Laura for being part of my life and for always bringing the grace and love of God into my life.
Have a holy and blessed Sunday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: In today's Gospel (Luke 18:9-14) we are reminded that it is not the quantity or style of our prayer. It is not the position we hold or all the things we can point to that we do. It is the quality of our prayer and how we live our life that counts.
The Pharisee had all the right words, all the right actions but not the right intention. He knew the law but the not the spirit. The tax collector on the other hand certainly struggled in his life but when it came to prayer, when it came to speaking with God he was right on.
Humility is a valuable gift yet one that not many people have. We grow up trying to develop our self-confidence; we try to be independent, self-assured and self-reliant. We are often told that we must promote ourselves in order to get anywhere. Yet, humility can help us recognize God, in ourselves and others. Humility can help us recognize the presence of God in the living of life.
The response to the responsorial psalm today is "It is mercy I desire, and not sacrifice." As merciful people we are called to be humble. We must realize that we are not perfect we are human, with faults and failings just like everyone else. If we are willing enough and humble enough to seek God's mercy, then we will be able to offer mercy and compassion to others.
As St. John Chrysostom put it, "We cannot be saved by seeking just our own individual salvation. We need to look first to the good of others."
Have a holy and blessed Saturday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: Before I wonder into our scripture readings for today, I would like to reflect on something that struck me during morning prayer. As I was praying the Psalms and Canticles of morning prayer I was touched by the progression on my prayer, our prayer as a Church. The opening Psalm was Psalm 51, the Psalm we pray every Friday morning. It is the famous Psalm seeking God’s mercy. “Have mercy on me, O God…”
Then I moved on to the Canticle of Jeremiah which is a lament of the people in the midst of war and famine. As I prayed it I thought this could easily be us in the midst of our current situation. “Let my eyes stream with tears…the great destruction which overwhelms…Have you cast us off completely…We wait for peace but to no avail…For your name sake spurn us not…remember your covenant with us, and break it not.” It is a canticle reflecting the struggles of people in the midst of a human and imperfect world. People trying to make sense of everything happening to them. People wondering where God is.
Then, I prayed Psalm 100, the joyful song of those entering God’s temple. “Cry out with joy to the Lord, all the earth, serve the Lord with gladness. Come before him, singing for joy.”
You might be saying to yourself, “Ok father, what are you trying to say?” Well. it was just interesting to me, and helpful to my prayer this morning to first ask God to forgive me and us as a world. Then to telling God of our struggles, difficulties and challenges, but then finally to trust in God’s presence, action and love by singing for joy. It just felt like a very hope filled morning prayer! Perhaps that is just what we need.
Now on to our morning scripture…
I have always been a bit jealous of the scribe in today's Gospel because Jesus says at the end of the exchange that the scribe is not far from the Kingdom of God. For me it would be a great comfort to know that I was not far from the Kingdom. It is one of my greatest worries. I try to live a good and faithful life but there are times when I look around and wonder if I have missed the boat! I listen to people talk about their faith, I see their actions, I am aware of what they think is important and valuable in terms of faith, church, belief and religion and I wonder if I have taken the wrong path.
Sometimes I wonder if what I believe brings me close to the Kingdom? The Church as it stands today seems a far cry from the Church that Jesus seems to be putting together as we read the Gospel. Our religious leaders often, not always, seem to be closer to the scribes and Pharisees than to the disciples of Jesus. The institution we call Church often seems closer to the institution that Jesus often challenged and confronted during his ministry.
We seem to take some words in the scriptures at face value, but others are glossed over and interpreted in ways other than what they say. We seem to be absolutely sure of what Jesus said, meant or wanted in certain situations and yet we discount or ignore other things because they don't seem to fit into the institution.
I pray. I try to love whomever I meet. I truly value my relationship with God. I care about people no matter who they are and what they have done. I try to find God in all people. I value life in all forms. I want to be of help to people who struggle. I want to be a welcoming, forgiving person, religious and priest. I want to help people know and believe in God. Yet at times I am not sure whether I am on the right path. I don't always pray in traditional ways. I am more willing to accept a person where they are even if they don't fit into the laws of the institution. I want to dialog. I want to find a way for all to be close to the Kingdom. I don't want to judge. I don't want to be self-righteous and I certainly don't have all the answers.
I want to live Hosea's words today, I want to return to the Lord, but I am not always sure the institution takes me in that direction. I live to be a man of faith, I live to be a man of hope and I live to be a man of love. I pray that like the scribe I am a man close to the Kingdom of God!
Have a blessed and holy Friday and a Happy St. Patrick’s Day 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...