Today’s Thoughts: Spy Wednesday, (Isaiah 50: 4-9a and Matthew 26: 14-25), the day when we pause to remember Judas’ actions many years ago. A companion, a friend of Jesus yet he allows the forces of darkness, the forces of evil to become more a friend than Jesus.
We do not truly know what motivated Judas. Was it his desire for money? Was it that he truly thought he would scare Jesus into changing his approach to life? Was it that he saw Jesus as a threat? Was it that he was angry with Jesus? Had he been caught stealing money? Was he upset that Jesus challenged him at Lazarus’ house? We just don’t know the motive.
What we do know is the Judas sold Jesus out to the religious leadership of his time. What we do know is that Judas could not admit to Jesus what he was about to do. He could not tell the truth and that until the end he continued to see himself as Jesus’ friend.
The Prophet Isaiah today reminds himself of who his friend truly is, God. That no matter what happens God is there to protect Isaiah in his ministry as prophet. It is not easy, but Isaiah is faithful to his ministry and God is faithful to Isaiah, helping him through the struggles.
We encounter Isaiah’s words and in them we see Jesus. We listen to Isaiah’s words and hear Jesus speaking. Jesus is the servant who suffers, the servant who trusts in God, the servant who is abandoned by everyone except by God.
The questions for today – Are we with God or against God? Can we remain friends of Jesus or will the trappings of the world, will anger and hate, will the uncertainly of the times, will the fear of the unknown, cause us to betray him once again? Can we trust in God even in the midst of our struggles, the world’s struggles? It is often said that every person has her or his price, what is our price?
Blessings and peace to all on this Wednesday of Holy Week!
Today’s Thoughts: Troublemakers and troubleshooters are two very different types of people. Troublemakers are those people who create anxiety, frustration, agitation and cause calamity, i.e. there are a host of people we can call troublemakers these days in culture and society, outside religion and inside religion, outside the Church and inside the Church. Troubleshooters are those people who have the ability to identify, locate and eliminate the source of the disturbance. Unfortunately, not many of these today! In today’s Gospel (John 13: 21-33, 36-38) Judas is a troublemaker and Jesus is a troubleshooter.
In the Gospel we are told that Jesus is deeply troubled and as we read on and picturing the scene we quickly understand why. The scene today is the Last Supper and Jesus is aware of the events ahead of him. He knows that Judas will betray him and in the midst of the supper Jesus sends him on his way. We all know what it feels like to lose a friend. We invest time, effort, our emotions and feelings only to have the person move on, decide that we are not worth the time, effort and trouble. Jesus has given three years to Judas, but Judas needs to move on.
Jesus has given three years to all of his disciples, yet he knows they will all run away before the night is over. One of his closest friends, Peter, will deny that he knows Jesus even though we listen to his bold statement of loyalty in the Gospel. Yes, it is a troubling time for Jesus.
However, unlike the troublemaker Judas, Jesus does not run away. He identifies the problem, the struggle, the difficulty. Jesus realizes that humankind has “fallen from love.” That is our original sin; we have fallen from God’s love. Jesus the troubleshooter is going to restore the gift of that love by his journey to the cross the empty tomb. Jesus set us free to embrace the mystery of God’s love. It is up to us to turn away from sin but through the action of Jesus, the troubleshooter, we are given the chance to once again “fall in love with God!”
As we journey through this day let us remember what Jesus has done for us. Let us look at the cross and “fall in love once again!”
Have a blessed Holy Tuesday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: As we begin this most Holy of Weeks our readings (Isaiah 42:1-7 and John 12: 1-11) remind us of the good of this week and the bad. We are reminded of the compassion and love of Jesus. We are reminded of the caring and friendship of Martha, Mary and Lazarus. We are reminded of the impact that Jesus had on peoples' lives. We are reminded how Judas lost his focus and turned away from Jesus.
These early days of Holy Week set the scene, the characters and the focus for the Triduum. They give us the background of the story that will lead us to Calvary and the empty tomb. They remind us of how easy it is to get lost in the trappings of the world. They remind us how easy it is to be distracted by the things of the world and to not recognize the presence of God. They remind us of how hard it is to be faithful people.
The scene today also reminds of the fact the Jesus is willing to accept extravagance when it is done in love. Jesus appreciates the extravagance of Mary's true love because Jesus and the Father are always about offering true love, the true love of the Cross which we will celebrate later this week.
What extravagant gesture of love can we offer someone this week? How can we make God's presence known and felt in our world this week? Remember God never turns away from a humble and contrite heart. Let us not be like Judas, someone who cannot grasp the love and support of God, rather let us be like Martha, Mary and Lazarus people who are friends of God!
Have a blessed and holy Monday of Holy Week everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: In Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis invites us to renew our relationship with Jesus when he says,
“I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day. No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her, since “no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord”. The Lord does not disappoint those who take this risk; whenever we take a step towards Jesus, we come to realize that he is already there, waiting for us with open arms. Now is the time to say to Jesus: “Lord, I have let myself be deceived; in a thousand ways I have shunned your love, yet here I am once more, to renew my covenant with you. I need you. Save me once again, Lord, take me once more into your redeeming embrace”. How good it feels to come back to him whenever we are lost! Let me say this once more: God never tires of forgiving us; we are the ones who tire of seeking his mercy. Christ, who told us to forgive one another “seventy times seven” (Mt 18:22) has given us his example: he has forgiven us seventy times seven. Time and time again he bears us on his shoulders. No one can strip us of the dignity bestowed upon us by this boundless and unfailing love. With a tenderness which never disappoints, but is always capable of restoring our joy, he makes it possible for us to lift up our heads and to start anew. Let us not flee from the resurrection of Jesus, let us never give up, come what will. May nothing inspire more than his life, which impels us onwards!”
It is my feeling that Pope Francis invitation focus us of the gift of this Holy Week. It is an invitation to once again enter a personal relationship with our God who loved us so much that he gave us his only son. As we journey through Holy Week we relive the crowning moment of Jesus’ journey, his journey of love. Today Jesus enters Jerusalem to take his last steps, steps that sum up his whole existence. He gave himself without reserve he kept nothing for himself, not even his life. May we take Pope Francis’ invitation to heart and live the joy of the Gospel proclaimed today!
As we begin this most holy of weeks, we are reminded of Jesus’ triumphant entrance into Jerusalem. This wonderful, “Hosanna” filled day is the starting point for the central story of all the Gospels, Jesus’ Passion, Death and Resurrection. Today, we reconnect ourselves to all those first gatherings of the Church as we listen to Mark's accounts of Palm Sunday and the Passion of our Lord. We remember the triumphant ride over the Mount of Olives into Jerusalem and the lonely walk to Calvary. We once again tell the story of triumphant, glory, hosanna, struggle, pain, sorrow, blessing, truth, giftedness, prayer and most importantly love. Like the early Church and all the centuries of Church that have gone before us, we are asked to remember, to believe, to have faith and to hope in the love of God as lived out by our Lord Jesus Christ. As we journey through this Holy Week, “May the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ Truly Be Always in Our Hearts!”
Have a holy and blessed Palm Sunday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: The stage is set today for Holy Week. All the characters are taking their places for the drama that will unfold throughout the coming week. The religious leadership has made its choice. They are afraid of Jesus; their comfortable life has been disturbed. Caiaphas has given the justification for the rest of their actions. He has put their social problems squarely on the shoulders of Jesus. He has put their leadership problems squarely on the shoulders of Jesus. He has put their fear and faithlessness squarely on the shoulders of Jesus.
With today’s Gospel (John 11: 45-56) we have a clear understanding of why all that we are about to reflect upon as we go through Holy Week has taken place. In many ways the ideal kingdom that Ezekiel (Ezekiel 37: 21-28) images in the first reading for today has not come about. There still is not just one God, one land, one people and one everlasting covenant of peace. We humans get in the way. We often fail to recognize God in our midst. We struggle to trust God’s presence in our life. We find it difficult to believe, to stake our lives on the promises of God. We are always looking for someone to blame, someone to sacrifice in the hope that things will get better.
As we prepare to begin this most holy of weeks let us take the time, not to plot against God, but to hear God’s word. Let us take the time to have faith in our relationship with God, to be people of faith on the journey, to be hopeful in the promises of God and to allow the love of God to embrace us and live within us as we journey through life!
Saturday blessings to everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: Both Jesus and Jeremiah find themselves in difficult situations today. For Jeremiah it is the reality of being a prophet, the people do not like what God is calling them to and so they are going to take it out on the messenger, the prophet. For Jesus it is the reality that people just will not accept him. He has done many good things, but people focus in on what they see as a problem, they look passed all the good, they only see the negative.
Isn’t that often the case, wonderful things can be happening, yet people only focus on the negative. Whether we are talking about faith, church, religion, culture or society there can be many signs of hope, many actions that are good yet for some reason what is wrong, the negative, becomes the focus. We tend to look for what is wrong with a person, an experience or situation rather than what is right and good. At times it seems like we can make every positive story, situation, experience or person into a negative just give us time.
How can we overcome this? How can we be a positive life-giving person today? How can we find the good and the hope in life? Well I think Jeremiah and Jesus give us the answer.
Jeremiah in the midst of his struggle says, “But the Lord is with me….” Yes, life isn’t exactly the best at this moment, things are not going so well, but God is with me! Jeremiah turns a negative into a positive. Jeremiah finds hope in a struggling moment.
Jesus reminds the crowd to look for and believe in good works. In other words, find the goodness in the actions and works of yourself and others. Find what is right with the world, not what is wrong!
This is certainly a different way to live life and living this way will be challenged every day. The media and I realize that it is not just the media or all the media’s fault, but with its twenty-four hour a day focus, its need to create news, it has helped us to constantly look for the negative. Let’s face it we like negative, we like seeing people’s faults and failings, negative stories sell. The stories that most often seem to capture the attention of the viewers are those that focus of the negatives of life. We search and hunt for all that is wrong. We seem to take delight in pointing the finger, in bringing a person down rather than finding the good and building up.
Perhaps our challenge today and during these difficult times is to look for the good work in ourselves and others and to believe that God is always with us!
Have a blessed, holy, safe and healthy Friday 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 Thursday everyone and may Mary be present to you in a special way throughout this day!
Today’s Thoughts: “If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” Simple words of Jesus in today Gospel (John 8: 31-42) if only we could follow them. Sometimes the truth is the last thing we choose to speak. We think it complicates life. We think it causes more problems. We think it often hurts more than it helps. We think it should only be used as a last resort only when there are no other options. The truth seems anything but free at times to us!
Yet throughout his life and ministry Jesus only spoke the truth and every time we walk into a church or a Catholic home and see a crucifix on the wall we are reminded of where the truth got Jesus. We are reminded of the price he paid for coming into this world to speak the truth. We are reminded just how much God loves us.
Perhaps a different way of thinking about Jesus’ words in the Gospel today is that the truth has set us free. If only we would embrace it. If only we would follow the example of the three young men in Nebuchadnezzar’s furnace (Daniel 3:14-20, 91-92, 95). If only we would realize the freedom that living by the truth means for our lives, the gift that it can be to ourselves and the world and the hope that it brings to life.
May we have the courage to speak and live the truth like the three young men and may the truth truly set us free to be the people God has created us to be!
Have a blessed and holy Wednesday.
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 and holy 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, their gender, 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 Pope Francis’ 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.
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. We might stay what we encounter in the Gospel and even the story of Susanna in our first reading, is male privilege. A privilege that in some ways continues today. The woman was caught in the act of adultery so there had to be a man there. It seems he was aloud to fade into the background and 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. Both women in our stories today could easily utter the words “Me Too.”
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. He sees someone who has made a mistake yet deserves another chance. Jesus sees life were the crowd sees death. 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 on 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 hopefully 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!
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...