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 amid his struggles 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, and holy Friday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: In, Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis writes, “I never tire of repeating those words of Benedict XVI which take us to the very heart of the Gospel: “Being a Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.
Thanks solely to this encounter – or renewed encounter – with God’s love, which blossoms into an enriching friendship, we are liberated from our narrowness and self-absorption. We become fully human when we become more than human, when we let God bring us beyond ourselves in order to attain the fullest truth of our being.”
These words from Pope Francis and Pope Benedict today touch on the theme of our scriptures. Who are we? What are we about? Seems to be the question asked in our readings (Genesis 17: 3-9 and John 8: 51-59). Abram is to become the father of a host of nations; his name is even changed from Abram to Abraham. He is redefined as a person because of his personal encounter with God. Abraham is now a friend of God.
Jesus does not make himself out to be just anybody; Jesus is “I AM” and if we believe we have the gift of eternal life. It is a hard pill for the religious leadership to swallow. Jesus is not able to break through their stony hearts with this personal encounter, in fact they pick up stones to do away with him. They cannot be liberated from their narrowness or self-absorption.
Perhaps our challenge today is to renew ourselves in light of our personal encounter with Christ, to have faith in the covenant, to believe in Jesus as “I AM,” to trust in our friendship with God. We are challenged today to let God bring us beyond ourselves to attain the fullest truth of who we are so that we can live this day as God’s joy filled friends who share our joy with everyone we meet!
Have a holy and blessed Thursday everyone.
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 can 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: Jesus says in the Gospel (John 8:12-20) today, “You judge by appearances….” 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.
Jesus seems always 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 and holy Monday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: I find myself still moved at times by the images of Pope Francis on Good Friday three years ago. 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 Jesus, through the gift of Pope Francis will bring us as a Church, as a people of faith out of the grave of our divisiveness, hate and violence just 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 people first, his care for the poor, his desire for peace, for the healing of our world, reflects a different way of thinking 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 don’t forget to give God and little time today!
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 Saturday everyone and may Mary be present to you in a special way throughout this day!
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, and holy 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 hands 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 and holy Thursday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: Within our scriptures today there is the thread of intimacy and relationship running through them. In the first reading from Isaiah (Isaiah 49:8-15) we hear Advent like images of how God enters our life and helps us to make the journey home. We hear how much God desires a relationship with us and how far God is willing to go for that relationship. There is the famous image in the reading about the child in the mother’s womb and even if that mother were to forget about the child God will not forget about the child and us.
In the Gospel (John 5:17-30) it is John’s image of the relationship between the Father and the Son. Throughout John’s entire Gospel we constantly hear about the intimate relationship that Jesus has with the Father. If you see Jesus, you are looking at the Father. The two are inseparable, they work together. They know each other’s thoughts, words and actions. We are invited to have this same kind of relationship with Jesus and the Father.
Intimacy is something we all want, something we all need but it is something many of us find difficult because of what it demands of us. It demands commitment, time, energy and a willingness to be truthful and honest. It demands a willingness to see the good in others and to understand their struggles, their faults and failings. Intimacy means we are willing to stand by the other even when it is not easy, even when it is not popular.
Much talk time and print space has been given to celibacy and chastity in recent years, some of it positive and much of it negative. Being one who has tried to live this vow I know that the most difficult part is intimacy and I am not just talking about physical intimacy. I think we all have a great need, desire, longing for and deep connection with another, a person to share our joys, fears, sadness, struggles, triumphs, feelings and love. We want that soul friend who knows us, understands us, values us, forgives us and loves us no matter what and yet whether celibate or not this friend is hard to find.
Many of the great saints talk about finding this relationship after a long struggle with God. I am not a great saint so my struggle for intimacy goes on. It is a great need in everyone’s life and sometimes it is a life-long search. For me there is always sadness when I see this intimacy devalued or absent. When I see a mother, or a father forget their child, either through abuse, neglect or when their life become so self-centered they don’t make the connection. I am also encouraged and hopeful when I see the wonderful gift of intimacy at work in the lives of people, when they don’t forget!
Throughout Lent we have been reminded that living a life of faith demands looking beyond ourselves, it demands being other oriented. Relationships and intimacy are the way we can keep ourselves focus on others, focused on God. Let us live the journey of life today open to the gifts that others can bring to our lives!
Have a holy and blessed Wednesday!
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...