Today’s Thoughts: In our Gospel Peter, James and John are given the opportunity to see and hear Jesus differently, not just through the eyes and ears of the world but also through the eyes and ears of faith. What they see and hear is terrifying, awesome and wonderful.
Abraham gets put to the ultimate test. He is asked to sacrifice his son. In many ways, this story in Genesis is a powerful one. One that probably makes every parent cringe. I cannot imagine any parent agreeing to sacrifice any of their children. They would first offer their own life. Now it is true that parents would like to kill their children at certain times but no sacrifice them! Yet, Abraham stakes his life as a parent and his son’s life on the promises of God and that makes all the difference. Abraham is not transfigured he is transformed.
Like Abraham, Peter, James and John, are gifted with God's presence. It is a presence that is also overwhelming and terrifying. They encounter the breath of God's covenant and the essence of Jesus divine nature. They want to hang on to both but quickly learn that they cannot. It is an encounter to be remembered, an encounter that they can take with them as they return to the life they live. It becomes for them an encounter of hope. Even though they must return to their everyday life, to the struggles, difficulties, the challenges, even though they must go back down the mountain and continue their journey to the next mountain, Calvary, they have this memory that will keep alive the hope they need no matter what they encounter. Peter, James and John are not transfigured they are transformed.
And so, it is for us as we continue this journey of Lent, this journey of life. We too have an encounter with the presence of God. It perhaps doesn't seem as terrifying or as awesome as Abraham’s or Peter, James and John's. It sometimes is quickly forgotten but if we have faith it is the very hope that will help us continue this journey with all its struggles, with all it difficulties, with all its challenges. Our encounter with God is the Eucharist. It is not a transfiguration but a transubstantiation. The substance changed but not the appearance. It is our mountain top, it is our moment to see and hear God not through the eyes and ears of the world, but through the eyes and ears of faith! It is our moment to be transformed.
Have a holy and blessed Sunday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: "Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you..." Probably some of the hardest words of the Gospel to put into practice. Perhaps on an intellectual level some of us might understand them. Maybe when we hear them proclaimed at mass we might give them some thought. However, when it comes to living, the vast majority of the time, these words do not find their way into how we look at life.
Enemies are not people to invest love in. People who persecute us do not find their way into our prayers. Most of the time these days we trash them on Facebook or Twitter, we gossip about them and find any way we can to discredit them, to demonize them. The twenty-four-hour news stations like FOX, MSNBC and the like will give you all the ammunition that you need! Living Jesus' words is leaving one's self open to all kinds of bad things. It reflects weakness in a world built on strength, power and being number one. We can point to many examples were others tried to be nice, tried to follow Jesus' advice and were persecuted, hurt, overrun, sent into slavery, exiled, lost all they had and end up worse than they started off. We can point to wars and conflicts that escalated into world problems because people didn't act with strength, force and might.
Living by Jesus' words seems to make us vulnerable and weak in the eyes of the people around us and the eyes of the world and to be honest with you I cannot dispute it. However, if we read a little further in the Gospel we might say in some ways Jesus is not talking about world problems and issues between nations or complex situations. Jesus is talking about our daily lives, greeting people, caring about people around us, treating people with honor and respect as we encounter them in the living of life.
Perhaps the point that Jesus is getting at is if we do the little things well, if we respect, honor and care about people in our one on one encounters. If we see a person who has hurt us or who does not value our point of view, our beliefs with love and respect and hold them in prayer, then perhaps our world problems would not be such a challenge. In other words, if we live the words of Jesus in our everyday lives then our world might have the chance of being a better place. If we do the little things with faith the big things might be easier to overcome!
Have a holy and blessed Saturday everyone.
Today’s Thoughts: “The Church which “goes forth” is a community of missionary disciples who take the first step, who are involved and supportive, who bear fruit and rejoice. An evangelizing community knows that the Lord has taken the initiative, he has loved us first (cf. 1 Jn 4:19), and therefore we can move forward, boldly take the initiative, go out to others, seek those who have fallen away, stand at the crossroads and welcome the outcast. Such a community has an endless desire to show mercy, the fruit of its own experience of the power of the Father’s infinite mercy. Let us try a little harder to take the first step and to become involved. Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. The Lord gets involved and he involves his own, as he kneels to wash their feet. He tells his disciples: “You will be blessed if you do this”” (Pope Francis – Evangelii Gaudium – The Joy of the Gospel)
Pope Francis words today might not seem like they touch on our readings, but they do. Pope Francis challenges us to be people of the world, to be people who get down and dirty with those around us. We are to be people of mercy and compassion. We are to be people who find the good in others even if they have done us wrong. We are to be people who bring joy to the world.
Sometimes this can be a difficult task. When others hurt us, our natural response is to keep them at a distance, to wait for their apology, to seek justice, to wait for repayment, to hold on to the hurt. However, Jesus challenges us to be people who seek reconciliation, who offer forgiveness, who move beyond the hurt, who are people of service and joy.
In today’s Gospel (Matthew 5:20-26) Jesus teaches us about sin. He does not talk about mortal sin and venial sin. Jesus just talks about sin. The things we do, don’t do, the things we say or don’t say that hurt our relationship with God. Sin as Jesus speaks about it is not hierarchical it is on a continuum, anger at one end, killing someone at the other. If we do not deal with our anger, we are headed down the wrong road. So, in the Gospel today Jesus asks us to look at all our faults, our failings, our struggles with others whether they are small or great. He asks us to seek forgiveness and to be compassionate so that we remain on the right road.
In other words, we are to reach out to others, to serve others, to bring the gift of God’s joy to others. And if we live life this way we will be blessed!
Have a holy and blessed Friday everyone.
Today’s Thoughts: "Do to others whatever you would have them do to you," advice given by Jesus to his disciples, advice given to us today. What a different world it would be if we just followed this simple wisdom. I do not think there is a person among us who does not want good things to happen to them. Who does not want to be treated with respect and dignity? Who does not want to be valued for who they are? It is a basic human emotion, feeling and need. We want to be accepted, we want to be loved.
Yet over and over a scene is played out in our world today that runs counter to the wisdom Jesus gives us in the Gospel today. Just think of how many times and how many different ways each day we hear about, read about and even witness people disrespecting, belittling, devaluing, making fun of and hurting others, with words, and or actions.
Take a trip some time online through Facebook, Twitter or one of the other social media sights. Read the comments people post at the bottom of article or news stories or posts on the internet and you will encounter, hate, bigotry and profound disrespect. We seem to be about tearing down not building up. If we take Jesus' words at face value it would seem we all want to be disrespected, dishonored and devalued because that is the way we seem to treat others.
I think we need to remember that we value life because each of us, all of us, are born in the image and likeness of God. There is good in all of us. Perhaps we first need to find that goodness in ourselves and allow our words, our actions to originate from that goodness.
In the first reading Queen Esther prays for God's help. In the Gospel Jesus tells us to ask for God help. Today I am praying, I am asking God to help us see and concentrate on the goodness, the image and likeness of God within us, so that we may see it in others and continue the work of the prophets of old in making this world a better place. Making it a world of respect, reverence and love!
Have a holy and blessed Thursday everyone.
Today’s Thoughts: Recognizing and responding to God in hopefulness seems to be the tread that connects our two readings today. In the first reading from the Book of Jonah, Jonah is finally convinced by God to go to Nineveh and preach his message. Before Jonah gets a third of the way through the city the people begin to repent. They proclaim a fast and put on sackcloth. As the word of God's message gets to the king, he puts on sackcloth and sits in ashes. In other words, much to Jonah's surprise the people hear God's word and respond to it right away. There is no debate, no bargaining, no resistance, the people hear the word of God and repent!
In the Gospel Jesus uses the example of Jonah to make his point to the people he is preaching to. His point is that God is in their midst, but they are missing this gift. Other people, people you would not expect, people outside the faith community hear the word of God and respond but people in the faith community do not. They want signs and yet God in right in their midst.
Recognizing and responding to God, that is always the challenge. It is certainly the challenge for us today. How many times is God present in our lives and we fail to recognize him? How many times does God speak to us and we fail to hear or listen?
God is compassionate and forgiving but we have to recognize him, we have to hear and respond. This was the biggest problem for the religious leaders of Jesus' time, God was right in their midst and they did not recognize him; they did not hear and respond to him. Let us not make the same mistake. Today let us be open and aware to the many ways God enters into our lives and invites us into his mercy and love!
Have a blessed and holy Wednesday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: God's Word in our life is like nothing else. As our first reading from Isaiah reminds us it cannot return to God without nurturing, correcting, healing and inspiring us. God's Word is just like the rain, it refreshes us, it softens us up and helps life to grow within us and around us. God's Word is always going to grow, our challenge is to allow it to grow within us.
The Our Father has always been one of my favorite prayers, perhaps because it probably was one of the first prayers I learned. It keeps me connected with the beginning of my life. It is also important to me because it is the last prayer I prayed with my father. It happened one night in the hospital not long before he died. I asked him if he wanted to pray and he said yes. We said the Our Father together and when we were finished a great feeling of loss came over me and I began to cry. My dad reached out and comforted me. I think the feeling of loss came from the fact that all that the Our Father speaks about my own father did for me in life and in praying it that night I recognized the loss that was about to take place in my life.
The hopefulness of the Our Father is that God will never leave us. That each and every day we pray that simple pray, its promises, its challenges will always be taken care of by Our Father, God. Our daily bread will always be there. Forgiveness will always be there. The care, compassion and presence of God will always be there. We just have to trust and give life to the Word of God planted within us!
As St. Augustine puts it, "If you run through the petitions of all holy prayers, I believe you will find nothing that is not contained in the Lord's Prayer."
Have a blessed and holy Tuesday 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 seven 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 and for letting go and letting God!
The Gospel today is Matthew’s version of the story when Jesus asks the disciples, "Who do people say that I am?" I know scripture scholars do not interpret this question as 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 blessed and holy Monday everyone.
Today’s Thoughts: A number of years ago around this time, I was in Sierra Madre, California at the Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center giving a married couples weekend retreat. When I arrived at the Retreat Center Friday around noon I encounter a sign that said, “Beware of Wildlife.” There were pictures of a mountain lion, some coyotes, a bear, a rattle snake and a few other animals I was sure that I didn’t want to meet. The Retreat Center is in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains and at times the wildlife from the mountains makes its way on to the property, so the retreat staff makes sure everyone know what they might encounter.
As I got settled in my room I wondered just what was is store for me on this weekend. I had been looking forward to the warm weather and some time outdoors, but how was I going to take walks fearing for my life? How was I going to enjoy the retreat if I feared what might greet me around every corner? I have to admit I am not a good wilderness person.
The Gospel today tells us that Jesus was driven out into the wilderness, the desert by the Spirit. Once out there he encounters wild beasts, Satan and probably a lot of other not too kind things. Yet it was the wilderness, the desert where Jesus was able to pause and put the journey of his life into perspective. It was the wilderness, the desert where Jesus is able to prepare himself for the journey ahead of him to Calvary.
Jesus entered the wilderness, the desert and came out a stronger, more determined, more powerful proclaimer of God’s Good News. He came out of the wilderness, the desert knowing that it was now his time of fulfilment. Jesus came out of the wilderness, the desert ready to proclaim the kingdom of God. Ready to challenge anyone who would listen to repent and believe in the Gospel.
Yes, sometimes the wilderness, the desert can be a scary place. A place to be aware of wildlife, devils and many other things. It can also be a place of quiet, prayer, aloneness and God. It can be a place to gather strength, energize our life and prepare to live the Good News.
I had a wonderful weekend with 43 married couples at the edge of the wilderness. We prayed, reflected, sought God’s forgiveness, found ourselves in God’s presence and listened to the Good News. All of us are afraid of the things we often find in our own wildernesses, but we also know that God is always with us, taking care of us, loving us and helping us to keep moving because each new day is our time of fulfilment.
Last Wednesday, Ash Wednesday, we enter the wilderness, the desert of Lent and were pushed into it by the Spirit. There can be a lot of wildlife to be aware of and there can be temptations by devils in the wilderness of Lent. However, there are also be times of prayer, of forgiveness and God’s loving presence that help us to change our life, believe in the Gospel and make our way to the kingdom!
Have a great Sunday everyone! Also have a blessed and holy Lent – and may the love of Christ’s Passion be always in your heart!
Today’s Thoughts: "Repairer of the breach...Restorer of ruined homesteads." (Isaiah 58:12) Do we not have a picture of these titles in the Gospel today from Luke? Jesus invites Levi (Matthew) to follow him. Jesus invites a tax collector a profession that made the people involved hateful to society. Yet, Jesus brings them into the community of faith. Jesus eats with tax collectors and sinners and the religious leaders are taken a back. Jesus brings those who are thought to be outside the community into the community. Yes, Jesus is the true "repairer of the breach and restorer of ruined homesteads.”
However, these words and this story are not just about Jesus. Isaiah is speaking to us. Jesus is laying down an example for us. We are to be the repairers of the breach and restorers of the ruined homesteads. It is our job as members of the faith community to reach out and make those on outside welcome within the community. It is our job to offer God’s mercy.
So often we find within the faith community people who find it much easier to judge, to exclude, to criticize, to question the actions of people then to reach out and help, then to be merciful. So often we find people within the faith community who create the breach and ruin the homesteads.
As people of faith we live with the hope that the words of Isaiah are fulfilled in the person of Jesus, but we also live with the challenge that as a disciple of Jesus we need to keep that hope alive. It has been said that through what God "does" we come to know who God "is." I think this can also be said about us. Through what we do for others as a people of faith people, people will come to know who we are.
As we continue this journey of Lent let us respond to Jesus' invitation to follow and give life, mercy and hope to life as repairers and restorers!
Have a holy and blessed Saturday everyone.
Today’s Thoughts: Who shall know the mind of God? No one really, God's thoughts are not our thoughts; God's ways are not our ways. (Adapted from Isaiah 55:8)
I find the reading from Isaiah rather interesting today. It confirms for me something about my faith that I have struggled with for many years, the idea of doing things to be seen or my own benefit rather than doing things to make a difference.
In recent years there has been a movement among some to kneel or bow profoundly when receiving communion. There are those in high places who commend this practice and there are others who think all should be doing this. Now I truly believe that when we receive communion, we should do it reverently. That said there are many ways to be reverent. If we were to apply Isaiah's words in the first reading to the action of receiving communion, they might sound something like this, "Do you call receiving communion in this way what I want? This rather, is how you are to receive communion, I want you to receive and then take me into the world, help others, be the presence of God everywhere you go. In other words, as Isaiah reminds us God is not about rituals, God is about actions.
However, we receive communion is not the point – it is what we do once we receive the Lord. It is how we treat people that makes all the difference. God does not put a lot of importance in the "show" of things, in the "how" we do it, in the "what" we look like when doing it, in how many people see it, in the how reverent it is. God puts value in the way we live our faith, the way we interact with the world, the way we treat others, the way in which we bring God's compassion and mercy to the world.
In another sense Isaiah today is telling us that fasting is not about abstaining from something in order to help ourselves, to make us feel better, to lose weight, to show that we are a good Catholic, to get something from God. Fasting needs to be about sharing. Isaiah calls us to share ourselves with other this is true fasting!
In the Gospel, the religious leaders are once again hung up on the rules, regulations and rituals but Jesus is about the living of life. Jesus is about recognizing God in our midst. Lent keeps reminding us that our thoughts are not God's thoughts and our ways are not God's way, yet we have the opportunity to recognize the presence of God in our life and change the way we think and the way we act so that we are about God and not ourselves.
Have a blessed and holy Friday 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...