Today’s Thoughts: “We have given up everything and followed you.” I wonder how many of us can really say this. Whether we are religious brothers, priests, sisters, diocesan priests, lay women and men, bishops, cardinals or popes we might think we have given up a lot or everything but we haven’t.
One of my Passionist brothers often tells the story that at his first vows the preacher said, “Today you have given up everything and tomorrow you will begin to take it all back!” And in a way, I think I have to agree with him as I look back of the course of my own religious life. It is hard giving up everything and with the way the world is going each day there are new things that we must have, that we cannot live without. We rationalize and we make excuses for needing things, for collecting things, for having things.
The same Passionist brother in the above story once put up a picture of a very beautiful chalice and paten in the office of our retreat house and he wrote on the picture, “I need this!” Being a young and brash religious I wrote underneath, “Do you need it or do you just want it?” The picture came down but we bought the chalice and paten. We didn’t need it, we just wanted it!
Yet, in the midst of all this needing, wanting and possessing the Gospel (Mark 10: 28-31) today reminds us that if we are willing to let go there is much we can receive. It might not seem as valuable and important as the things we seem to need and want but it is far more important and valuable. It is the presence of God found in the people around us and in ourselves.
Can we let go and let God today? Have a great Tuesday everyone!
“I have always said that building walls is not a solution: we have already seen one come down, during the last century. Walls solve nothing. We must build bridges. But bridges are built intelligently, through dialogue and integration. So I understand this fear, but closing borders does not solve anything, because in the long term that closure hurts the people themselves. Europe must urgently adopt policies of reception and integration, of growth, of work, of economic reform. All these things are the bridges that lead us not to raise walls." (Pope Francis)
Today’s Thoughts: In our Gospel today (Mark 10: 17-27), we hear the story of the rich young man, perhaps one of the saddest stories in the Gospel. The story of struggle because of wealth and possessions, a story that points out one of the great pitfalls of being successful, that it can go to your head. Wealth and possessions can become a god if left unchecked, if they become the most important things in life.
Yet, the end of the Gospel leaves us with a sense of hope. The hope is that “For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God” (Mark 10:27). Yes, we are going to struggle with the trappings of life. Yes, sometimes we are going to feel like the rich young man. Yes, at time the words of the disciples will be uttered by us, “Then who can be saved” (Mark 10:26). And yes, sometimes our possessions and money will overwhelm us and we will struggle.
But we live in the hope that even in our failures, our distractions all things are still possible, salvation is still possible, friendship with God is still possible because God is always with us and will never leave us to face life alone!
Have a great Monday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: In reading today Gospel, we are reminded of how truly dependent children are and about the wonderful freedom and joy that they derive from that dependence. In the Gospel Jesus is trying to help the disciples see two points with respect to allowing children to come to him. The first is to connect his care for the children with his ministry thus far. He had been curing people who are vulnerable, helpless or weak: a demoniac, a deaf man, a blind man and a Gentile woman’s daughter. And now, by welcoming and blessing the children, he is involving with another group who shared the same characteristics.
The second point is that Jesus is helping his disciples understand that to truly follow him they must become essentially dependent upon him. Thus, today we are reminded that dependence on Jesus is overwhelmingly beneficial. Jesus is hoping that his disciples will connect with memories of their own childhoods as well as with the reality of the children right in from of them.
Children are completely dependent on their parents for everything that they need, their health, for being loved, for food and for being protected. Because they are so dependent, they are free to enjoy each moment of their day. Each day is filled with discovery, with the joy of being with others, with no worries about anything else. And because of this, they can feel deeply joyful; they can go through their day and get ready to sleep with nothing left on their minds to worry about. They can begin and end each day in peace.
Jesus invites us to do the same. When we are physically, emotionally or spiritually suffering, he invites us to be dependent on him. In a way, our suffering can free us from our day-to-day worries. Some of these seem quite small when we are in pain. And by freeing us up, by unblocking our day to day worries we find room to focus on Jesus, in other words, to become dependent upon Jesus. When we are able to do this, we are assured by Jesus that our one step toward him will be met with an incredible amount of steps by him toward us. As we become more dependent upon Jesus, we will feel his unconditional grace that he is constantly sharing. We will find more joy and more peace in our lives.
Have a great Saturday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: I know many of you probably look at today as just Friday. And you are right in doing so along with most of the rest of the world but in the Passionist world today, the Friday before Ash Wednesday is the Feast of the Solemn Commemoration of the Passion. It is one of the most important and special feast days that we have in the Congregation of the Passion. It is a day when we can truly celebrate the Passion of Jesus Christ which is the lens through which we view and live our lives as Passionists.
In today's gospel, Jesus rather than debating the issue of indecency, he addresses the hardness of people’s hearts. He makes it clear that unless we invite God into our relationships, more specifically our marriages, then we enter relationships, we marry for all the wrong reasons. God offers his love and his Spirit to us so profoundly that we often find it hard to comprehend. Should our love in any personal relationship call for anything less? The capacity to do so, results from a call to a close relationship with Jesus in the Spirit.
By contrast, many of today’s marriages in our imperfect world end in divorce. We all witness this daily. It is hard to find anyone who has not been touched by the struggles and sadness of divorce. As much as we make an honest effort to console family and friends caught in the struggle of broken relationships often it is hard to find the right words, or any words at all. Divorce causes God deep sorrow. In our Church, the issue of divorced and civilly remarried Catholics is a painful pastoral problem which Pope Francis has tried to address but change is slow and not without its own struggles.
St. Paul felt the preservation of peace was a greater value than the preservation of an unpeaceful marriage. How many of us, know of someone, who spent more than half of their adult life working dutifully on their marriage only to watch it fall apart. As challenging and difficult as divorce and broken relationships can be, it is also hopeful when encounter people who move on to a place of diminished pain and hope for new life.
A good marriage, a good relationship takes a lot of faith. Faith is always the key. As Passionists we celebrate this day with the faith that God truly does love the world and Jesus’ journey to Calvary is the ultimate sign of that love. Humankind’s fall set in motion God’s greatest act of love for us and on this Friday before Ash Wednesday that is what we remember and celebrate.
As Passionists, our lives are dedicated the remembering the Passion of Jesus Christ which reveals the power of God’s love for the world and through our special vow we bind ourselves to the memory of the Passion of Christ. By our words, our ministries, our living of life and by our faith we strive to bring this gift, this grace of God’s love to every person we meet. Or perhaps stick with the story we seek to bring the struggle to Jesus because he does all things well!
My prayer for you on this special Passionist feast is that as you journey through this day you will not forget that God loves you that you will always be faithful and that the Passion of Jesus Christ will always in your heart!
Have a blessed Friday everyone!
A Thought from Pope Francis...
"How good it is for us to tap into our memories when we are tempted. How much it helps us to look at the 'stuff' of which we are made. It did not all begin with us, nor will it all end with us, and so it does us good to look back at our past experiences which have brought us to the present.” (Pope Francis)
Today’s Remembrance: I would like to pause and remember my mother today on this 100th anniversary of her birth. February 23th was always a special day and I tried never to forget it especially in the last years of her life and in these five plus years of her new life. Yes, I remember 94 plus years of her life one earth and 5 plus years of her life in heaven. Mom have a wonderful birthday today in heaven! Enjoy yourself today Mom with all the gang in heaven and know that we love you and miss you!
Today’s Thoughts: A few years ago, I ran across the following reflection by an unknown author that seems to be a good reflection for our Gospel today so I share it with you…
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves: Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?
Actually, who are we not to be? We are children of God. Our playing small doesn’t save the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around us. We were born to make visible the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us, it is all of us!
And as we let our own light shine we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our fears, our presence automatically liberates others.
So, let us not allow our salt, our flavor, to become insipid. Today let us live as the person that God has created us to be rich in the gifts of faith, hope and love, rich is all that matters to God.” (Adapted from an Unknown Writer)
Have a great Thursday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: Today we celebrate the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter and our thoughts and prayers are with Pope Francis, a humble and courageous man who has brought great joy and spirit to our Church and the world over the past few years. Some people criticize him for the way he goes about being pope but I admire him for his honesty, for his faithfulness, for his joy, for his smile, and for letting go and letting God!
The Gospel today is one of my favorites that scene when Jesus asks the disciples, "Who do people say that I am?" I know scripture scholars do not interpret this question a Jesus wanting to know what people think, however each time I hear it that is where my thoughts go. This scene for me makes Jesus a little more human in my book.
He asks who to people say that he is, and then he asks the disciple who they say he is. Don't we all want to know the answer to these questions about ourselves? What do people think of us? What are they saying about us? We wonder what people in general whom we meet and perhaps work with think about us. We wonder what our friends really think. They are questions that we would like answered.
For me, I think Jesus did too, perhaps not for the same reasons we do, but I think it was important for him to know. Maybe he wanted to know how his message was getting across. Maybe he wanted to know how well his disciples were paying attend, were learning. Maybe it was a way to know just how well their relationship had grown.
As always, we can count on Peter to bring life to the moment. Without hesitation, he responds to Jesus' question with what was in his heart, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." You can almost hear the love in Peter's voice. This heartfelt reaction and answer to the question and Jesus says, "Blessed are you Simon....For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father." Peter was speaking from the depth of his soul. He would still struggle in his relationship with Jesus, there would be more mistakes but Peter had his hand of the pulse of his friendship with Jesus.
Perhaps Pope Francis does too; maybe his journey as pope is one that constantly reveals the joy and mercy of God. As people of faith perhaps we need to trust that Pope Francis is a shepherd who doesn't lord it over us but is an example to us.
Let us remember the words of St. John of the Cross, "In all our necessities, trials, and difficulties, no better or safer aid exists for us than prayer and hope that God will provide for us by the means God desires."
Have a great Wednesday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: In today’s Gospel, we encounter Jesus as teacher and a moment in his journey of teaching. The task of a teacher is often a very difficult one, so was Jesus’ task as teacher. His students were his disciples, were mostly women and men long past their childhood. Most of them did not have much formal schooling. They were not ideal students and teaching them was not always easy. There was no classroom and there was none of our modern teaching equipment and technology. The teaching of Jesus was often done in the open air and subject to many distractions for the students. The teaching was often done, as in our story today, while the group traveled on foot. Such obstacles were frustrating for Jesus. He sometimes expressed his frustration with his disciples, especially with their slow progress of understanding, of believing.
On this journey through Galilee with his disciples, Jesus was a teacher. He explained the things that he wanted them to learn. For the second time, he predicted his coming passion and death. Yet, once again his disciples didn’t understand what he meant, and they were afraid to ask any questions. They probably feared that any questions they might ask would reveal their failure to understand. And, of course, they did not want to be seen as ignorant by the other disciples. How little has changed over the centuries. How often have we had a teacher tell us: “If there is something you don’t understand, let me know.” And yet how often do we find that difficult because we fear to show our ignorance?
In spite of these difficulties, Jesus continued his teaching. Even with his disciples fearing to ask questions, he kept to his mission. Jesus had all the characteristics of a good teacher. He excelled in patience and kept repeating the most important lessons that he wanted his disciples to learn. He also made good use of parables and stories to explain the meaning of his teaching. Gradually the disciples came to learn and understand the important lessons that Jesus wanted to teach them.
Today Jesus is still teaching us through the words of the Gospel. The most important teachings of Jesus are repeated often in the Gospel readings at Mass. All of us are encouraged to familiarize ourselves with the teachings of Jesus through our own reading of the Gospel stories. Sometimes we refer to those who read the scriptures often as students of the bible. All of us can be students in this sense. The more we read about the teachings of Jesus, the better we will understand them. And as we come to a better understanding of Christ’s teachings, we will become, like the disciples, true followers, true believers, in other words faith filled friends of Jesus.
Have a great Tuesday 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...