Today’s Thoughts: Today’s readings (Numbers 21: 4-9 and John 8: 21-30) ask us to look at the nature and the power of our sin in our life. It is only when we do this that we can be healed from sin and its effects in our lives and our world.
In the first reading we have the familiar story of the people of the Exodus grumbling and complaining as they wander through the desert. This grumbling comes from the very people that God rescued from horrific oppression in Egypt, under a Pharaoh who consumed their lives to feed his false god persona, is grossly ungrateful. Not only had God rescued them from slavery but God also provided food to eat and a fresh stream of pure water to drink, (from a rock no less). God is taking them to a land “flowing with milk and honey” where they will be God’s people, protected and loved.
However, they are a whining group, who can’t seem to see their own dependence upon God and the need to be grateful for all that God has done for them. Their sin of ingratitude is as twisting and venomous as a poison snake which kills with its bite, but it can’t be recognized until it is lifted up on a pole and each person has to look at it and see his or her own darkness of heart to be “cured” of its effect.
In John’s Gospel the serpent on a stick becomes an image for Jesus’ crucifixion. When, battered and bleeding, he is “lifted up” in front of us. It then becomes possible for us thankless sinners to see, to know, to recognize, and to understand, through God’s grace, the nature and cost of our sin for ourselves, our world and to our loving God. Jesus took our sin into his own human personhood in order to put it to death and be the instrument for our release from the sin that condemned him and all its death-dealing consequences.
Our challenge today and always as we live our lives in the pursuit the life of grace is each day to stand before the cross and ask Jesus three questions: “What have I done for you? What am I now doing for you? What can I do for you?”
Have a blessed, holy, safe and healthy Tuesday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: Pope Francis writes in his Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium: The Joy of the Gospel, “The good news is the joy of the Father who desires that none of his little ones be lost, the joy of the Good Shepherd who finds the lost sheep and brings it back to the flock. The Gospel is the leaven which causes the dough to rise and the city on the hill whose light illumines all peoples. The Gospel has an intrinsic principle of totality: it will always remain good news until it has been proclaimed to all people, until it has healed and strengthened every aspect of humanity, until it has brought all men and women together at table in God’s kingdom. The whole is greater than the part.”
Jesus throughout his ministry is often judged by appearance. At one point in the Gospel story he even says to the religious leaders, “You judge by appearances….” This continues to happen today, often our judgments of people are just based on appearances. It is either the color of their skin, their ethnic background, the language they are speaking, the clothing they are wearing, the god they believe in, the part of the world they come from that we use to decide who people are. We have not bothered to stop and talk with them or listen to their story or understand what they believe and value. We just judge them, we put them into a box from which they will never escape.
We might say that his words remind us of the value of the Gospel today. It is “Good News” for all people, not just those we think are worthy, not just those who conform to the law, not just those who do, see and think the way we do. The Gospel heals, strengthens and brings joy to all. Like Susanna, we might be judged falsely but we should not fear because the Good Shepherd is always with us.
For me an interesting thing about our Gospel (John 8:1-11) story today has always been that it is only the woman who is brought before Jesus. She was caught in the act of adultery so there had to be a man there but only the woman is dragged before Jesus. It gives you a sense of the injustice that was present in society at that time. Women were pieces of property along with children, not treated in an equal way. She is judged by the fact that she is a woman. She has been placed in the box of judgment.
Jesus however has a different way of looking at life and society. Perhaps he sees the injustice and responds to it, or perhaps Jesus just sees every person as someone created in the image and likeness of God. Perhaps he sees someone who has made a mistake yet deserves another chance. Perhaps Jesus sees life were the crowd sees death. Perhaps Jesus sees the possibility for change and newness of life and the crowd sees only the law and punishment.
Jesus always seems to be judged by appearance by the religious leaders of his time. He cannot escape the box they have placed him in no matter what he does and says or how hard he tries. The problem is when people are judged in this way, those who do the judging lose. The religious leaders lose because they missed the presence of God in their life. God was standing in their midst and they didn’t see God. God can be standing in our midst, perhaps not as dramatically as Jesus, but God is still presence in others and if we judge them by only appearance we lose.
Susanna (Daniel 13: 1-9, 15-17, 19-30, 33-62) was judged unfairly and what we learn from her story is that unfair judgments always catch up with those who do the judging. The truth always finds its way to the surface. It can be a difficult process and at times we need people like Daniel to point out the flaws in our judgment, but truth will always win even though it may take time, sometimes a lifetime.
As we go about our day let us not judge by appearance. Let us look for the truth, look for the presence of God in all we meet. Let us be guided by the Light of the world.
Have a blessed, holy and safe Monday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: I find myself still moved by the images of Pope Francis on Friday. 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 God, through Pope Francis will bring us beyond this virus 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 of people first, his care for the poor, his desire for peace, for the healing of our world, reflects a different way of think 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 even though I times are unusual don’t forget to give God and little time today! Be well, safe and healthy.
Today’s Thoughts: In our scriptures today (Jeremiah 11: 18-20 and John 7: 40-53) we are reminded that Jesus really never had a chance with the religious leadership of his time, prophets, like Jeremiah, never fared well no matter where they came from but the thought that Jesus came from Galilee sealed the deal. The religious leadership had made their judgment, and nothing was going to change it, not even one of their own, Nicodemus calling for justice.
Jesus throughout his ministry cautioned about making judgments. He healed, taught, forgave, showed compassion and asked us to love even our enemies. His parables always reflected ways to live and not to live. They always reflected a relationship with God so that people could understand the presence of God in their lives. He showed compassion to all and forgave sinners. All of this was too much for the religious leadership of his time. Jesus' way did not fit into their view of the world, their way of living in the world. They were prejudice in the case of place, they didn't like Galilee but at other times their prejudice took on different forms. The prejudices that we allow to make a home in us can often be the very thoughts and actions that judge us!
Jesus and Jeremiah became the trusting lambs led to the slaughter. They never had a chance because their message was of God not the world. Their actions, their teachings, their lives give us examples of how to trust and hope in God's love. They help us to look at life through the eyes of faith not the eyes of prejudice.
As we enter this day let us be aware of how we often judge people without listening to their story, without knowing who they really are. Let us trust in the presence of God that every person can bring to us. Let us be people of justice, truth, compassion and love. Let us be open to finding God's presence, God's goodness everywhere.
Have a blessed, safe and healthy Saturday everyone!
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, safe and healthy 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 hand 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, holy, safe and healthy Thursday everyone!
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 Wednesday everyone and may Mary be present to you in a special way throughout this day!
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, safe and healthy Tuesday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: “Run the risk of a face-to-face encounter with others…” These words of Pope Francis echo our scriptures today. True faith is not based on extraordinary signs and wonders. True faith is grounded in the ordinary signs and wonder that we encounter every day. True faith is based in relationships, in experience, in our connections with others that allow God to be present in our life!
Jesus words in the Gospel (John 4:43-54) today are as true for us as they were for the people of Jesus’ time, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will not believe.” We are always looking for signs and wonders. If I pray to the Blessed Mother and my prayer is answered I will believe. If I pray to St. Jude and my prayer is answered I will believe. If my friend, my family member is cured of cancer I will believe. If the Blessed Mother, one of the saints, if God will just appear to me and tell me what to do, I will believe.
We are always chasing miracles, apparitions something extraordinary and if we can just find one, experience one, we will believe. Or will we? There were many people during Jesus’ time who saw him heal or raise someone from the dead and did not believe or only believed for a short time. Take his disciples as an example, all of the things they saw, all of the experiences they had with Jesus and yet they still ran away. They still betrayed him. They still denied him. Belief is not easy, and signs and wonders are not the cure. Living and believing every day requires work. Putting time into our relationship with God, prayer, good works, care and attention to others, especially those in need are what will make faith, belief possible.
There are signs and wonders going on around us every day. The sun rises and sets. People do good things for others. God is present in nature, people and us. We just have to stop and take notice. We have to be willing to stop and look at the ordinary things around us because they will make the extraordinary possible.
God desires nothing but happiness for our lives as we hear in the words of Isaiah (Isaiah 65:17-21) today. The only thing that gets in God’s way is us! There was a commercial a while back, I think for an insurance or investment company and it opened with a person doing something kind for another person. Someone saw the gesture and did something nice or kind for another person. The commercial continued with one act of kindness after another until it came full circle back to the original person and the original act of kindness. Signs and wonders are going on around us every day all we have to do is stop and take notice. If we do – faith, belief in God will be much easier!
Have a blessed Monday everyone!
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 bring the grace and love of God into my life.
Sunday blessings to all!
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...