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: We find a very short gospel from Mark today and it contains a very interesting little story. It is a story that fits well with the realities of our life and with the Old Testament reading too.
John is concerned that someone else is driving out demons in Jesus’s name. Basically, he is suggesting to Jesus that he protect his turf and make clear that he or one of his trusted disciples are the only fully vested drivers out of demons. However, as always Jesus sees the big picture. Driving out demons, healing the sick, feeding the poor or whatever other work of charity one might do is a good thing no matter who authorizations it. We sense Jesus’s puzzlement with disciples. So, he pronounces one of the most famous and gentle rebukes in the Scriptures: “For whoever is not against us is for us.” (Mark 9:40)
Wouldn’t it be great if we could always see the world this way? Unfortunately, our view of the world is often the way the disciples see it. If they are not in line with the teaching, the dogma, the doctrine then they are really against us. This failing is as human as it is inevitable as it is ancient.
We most often gravitate towards our own needs and satisfaction and have a hard time being truly “other aware.” If this unauthorized person is driving out demons and giving relief to others in Jesus’s name, then how possibly could the work of Jesus and his disciples be diminished? What good would come of stopping him and not allowing him to do his good works for other people?
Oddly enough, we seem more concerned with who gets the credit than we do with who benefits. Deep inside, we often would prefer that half as much good be done if we could get all the credit than if twice the good were to be done with the credit shared. So here we must imitate Jesus and worry not about who is getting the credit but rather about whether God’s work is being done. As Sirach the sage tells us in our first reading trust in God’s wisdom.
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!
Today’s Thoughts: “I do believe, help my unbelief!” In many ways, all of us look at ourselves as people of faith, people who have values and in most cases, can say we are believers. Yet, perhaps like the man in today’s Gospel (Mark 9:14-29) we need help with our unbelief, we need help in those moment, those situations, those circumstances when it is hard to believe.
Belief at times can get away from us, our emotions, our feelings overrun us and cause us to doubt God’s presence in our life. Situations don’t go our way, the burden of all that life throws at us seems to overwhelm us and we let go of what is most important. We become part of a faithless generation.
Perhaps we might take our lead today from our first reading from the Book of Sirach (Sirach 1:1-10). We need to go in search of Wisdom, God’s gift that was created before anything else. It is a gift to possess because if we do we become friends of God. Wisdom is the gift that can guide us through the struggles of unbelief. Wisdom can be the very presence of God that helps our unbelief.
Wisdom is the experience of life, the doing, seeing and listening of life that enables us to encounter the presence of God when we most need it. Wisdom can be found in every living thing and thus so can God. It is a gift of the Holy Spirit that we often recognize when we take the time to pray.
Let us be believers today and trust that God’s wisdom will always help us in our moments of unbelief!
Have a great Monday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: Our Gospel is a continue of Luke’s Sermon on the Plain that we heard last week. We hear a teaching about the way the followers of Jesus are to live. In his instruction Jesus gets specific and personal. Jesus is calling his disciples to listen well and act accordingly. They have their code of conduct, but there is something more to these expectations.
If we want to understand these demands about lending without expectation of repayment, praying and blessing those who hate us, loving our enemies, and all other challenges Jesus puts forth, we need to read the ending of our passage again. God is compassionate in all these ways. God gives without expectation of being given thanks in return. God turns the other cheek when slapped. God loves those who are enemies. God blesses those who reject his love. We are invited not to judge, because God does not judge. We are not to condemn, because God does not condemn.
The listening disciples are told at the end of the sermon that they are building their foundation on rock and that only sound trees produce good fruit. One can appreciate a good tree by its good fruit, but the fruit is produced from the interior of the tree. What we hear is all about external actions such as lending, forgiving, blessings and enduring humiliations. The deeper meaning we are asked to listen to and hear, is the more interior sense. How we live is based on how faithful we are to our relationship with God. If God is compassionate and merciful so should we be.
These instructions are an invitation to try to live remembering that God offers us his divine compassion when we fail. God lends to us, blesses us, forgives us and always desires us to come to life and give that life as our way of revealing the goodness of God. What better way is there to live?
Have a great Sunday everyone and don’t for get to give God a little time today!
Today’s Thoughts: In some ways it is odd encountering the story of the transfiguration outside of the Second Sunday of Lent or the Feast of the Transfiguration. Yet, today we encounter Mark’s version of the event. As I have often reflected on this story in the life of Jesus, I have wondered why or how Jesus chose Peter, James and John to be witness to this special event. There must have been something special about these three disciples because they are also selected to accompany Jesus for his agony in the garden. Jesus must have seen something in these three that set them apart from the others. Perhaps in them Jesus saw true friends, not perfect friends, but true friends. Whatever the reason they were privileged to be present at profound moments in the life of Jesus. At the transfiguration they hear the words of God the Father and get a glimpse of the divinity of Jesus. Truly this was a very special moment for Peter, James and John.
The transfiguration is a very mysterious event. It is reserved for these three alone to witness, and they had to keep it a secret until after the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Had they spoken immediately after they came down from the mountain, others might have been unable to understand what they had encountered and heard. Only later, when Jesus had completed his instructions and teaching would all be able to understand what Peter, James and John had encountered.
Perhaps the challenge of our Gospel today is for us to take the words of God the Father from the Transfiguration as addressed to ourselves. Just as the Father called Peter, James and John on that mountain top many years ago, God invites us today to listen to the words of Jesus. God asks us not merely to hear the words of Jesus, but to really and truly listen to them. God wants us to hear, to listen and like Peter, James and John to be friends of Jesus in the most profound sense.
Have a great Saturday 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 five plus 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 for letting go and letting God!
Our thoughts are with many other shepherds as they meet in Rome trying to make sense out of something very senseless. May all who are gathered for the Abuse Summit be open to the Spirit and help bring peace to hurting people and a hurting Church.
The Gospel today is Matthew’s version of the story we heard yesterday in Mark. It 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 Friday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: In today’s Gospel, Jesus asks his disciples, "Who do people say that I am?" Their response is to mention various prophets that represent important aspect of his mission. Then he asks, “But who do you say that I am?” Ok, you have heard what people are says, but you have been with me, seen the things that I do. Heard the things that I have said. What do you think? Peter immediately responds, "You are the Christ." Well done Peter! You are catching on, you are listening. You seem to understand.
However, as Jesus continues to talk about his mission, he brings up the fact that he “must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days.” Jesus’ self-image reflects the notions of suffering, death, and resurrection. This reflection of who Jesus is does not go well with Peter. Peter’s image of Christ didn’t include a suffering and death. I can see Jesus hanging his head in disappointment. Peter doesn’t understand. More work needs to be done!
Sometimes I think our images of Jesus as Christ would trigger the same reaction from Jesus. Perhaps, like Peter, we think “not as God does, but as human beings do.” After all that is what we are. Maybe we read something into Jesus instead of listening to what Jesus says about himself. Perhaps, it is always good to pause every so often and see whether we are on the same page with Jesus. Who do we say that Jesus is? Is he the Christ? Are we willing to listen to him talk about his suffering and death and understand that this is who Christ’s is?
The first reading of today from the book of Genesis provides us with a powerful image of a faithful God who established an eternal covenant with his people and with every living being! He will not revoke the covenant, even when we ignore this covenant, when we create images of God that have nothing to do with him, when we think as humans do and not as God does.
Our question for this day might be – Who do we say Jesus is? Have a great Thursday everyone!
Today Thoughts: In our Gospel today, we have the story of Jesus’ healing of the blind man of Bethsaida. It is a unique story because it only appears in Mark’s Gospel and because it takes Jesus two tries to accomplish the healing.
In all the Gospels, we have stories of Jesus physically healing people. However, with every healing there is a deeper meaning. It is not just about the person’s physical struggles it is also about the spiritual struggles of those who are present and us who are listening. This is easy to grasp when the healing is of blindness.
In our story today, just before Jesus heals the blind man, he chastises the disciples for failing to understand his reference to “the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod." A number of times in yesterday’s Gospel Jesus asks the disciples, “Do you still not understand or comprehend? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes and not see?” Jesus is not talking about physical blindness. He is using sight as a metaphor. For Jesus the reference to seeing is understanding.
With this focus in mind we get a sense of why Mark placed this story of the healing of the blind man right after the disciples struggle to understand and right before he asks them about who people think he is which we will encounter tomorrow.
Today’s healing story corresponds to Peter’s situation when Jesus asks, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter gets it half right. That is, he correctly identifies Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah, but he fails to understand what Messiah means in Jesus’ case. When Jesus mentions rejection and death, Peter rebukes him. In other words, Peter shows that he “sees” half way. Seeing, understanding is a process, a journey. Like the blind man today it takes a while until he sees clearly. It is going to take a while for the disciples to see clearly.
Throughout Mark’s Gospel the disciples struggle to understand, to see clearly the mission and ministry of Jesus. Each time Jesus talks about his Passion and Death the disciples seem to miss the point. Faith is a journey. It is not something we come to in a single moment or because of one event in our life. It is a journey that must be taken every day.
The disciples did not understand, they did not see yesterday. The blind man today at first did not see clearly but then did. We are all like the disciples and the blind man in our story today. Seeing clearly in not always easy. But if we take the time to listen, to understand and to have faith things will become clear.
Have a great Wednesday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: “Do you still not understand?” The closing words by Jesus in today’s Gospel are directed at the disciples with him in the boat but they could easily be directed at us today. We just don’t seem to get it at times do we?
Jesus’ disciples didn’t seem at times to be very good at connecting the dots between Jesus’ words and actions. Jesus was always asking them if they understood and at times like the Gospel today, we hear the frustration from their lack of understanding in his voice.
Even though we have the reflections and the insights of many before us we often find ourselves just like the disciples in the Gospel today. We think Jesus means one thing when it is really about something altogether different. Like the disciples we need to be reminded again just who we are as people of faith and that we are called to live lives for the glory of God.
One place where we can revive our calling as people of faith is the Eucharist. Here we listen once again to the Word of God, we retell the story of Jesus and we are nourished by the gift of Eucharist and we are forgiven for those times when we fail to understand, when we fail to live out the Gospel. The Eucharist is the table that always invited us to understand, to come back, be connect even when like the disciple we just can grasp the message!
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...