Today’s Thoughts: Our readings today identify Jesus as the fulfillment of salvation history.
In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles we hear how Philip brings understanding of Scripture to the Ethiopian.
In the Gospel Jesus continues to remind us that he is the Bread of Life. It follows the stories of the miracles of the multiplication of the loaves and of Jesus walking on water. All of these passages are focused on bringing clarification to Jesus’ mission.
In our Psalm today, we are called to give thanksgiving for deliverance at the hands of God.
If you are like me, you are often left with a sense of turmoil and anxiety at the end of the day, because our civil discourse is often, if not always, about conflict, anger, untruth and threats. I often dream of a world where God’s activity would be easily identifiable, even if we are not looking for it.
However, at the current moment this is hardly the case at least from my perspective. I dream of living in a world where I can have an unwavering trust in God’s Divine Providence. A place where prayers are routinely answered in a way that I can see. When I pray for a couple to be blessed with the gift of life, I want to see them become pregnant. When I pray for peace, I want it to happen. I want to live in a culture, a world, of truth, trust and respect. I want to journey through life knowing that when my faith weakens it will be quickly restored. I guess what I want is to always see God right in front of me, perhaps I want things to be easy.
This imperfect world in which I/we live seems in many ways to find similarities in the world of that first Easter Church. There always seems to be hope when faith is strong and there is doubt when it is not. The time between the first Easter and Pentecost was a time when the followers of Jesus suffered with fear and questioning until they had a set of clear-cut signs, the signs I seem to be looking for, when Jesus was with them. However, these signs were not enough because often they did not recognize Jesus at first. The worries and concerns about the events that had transpired in the world in which they lived held them back from seeing the presence of Jesus.
The Easter season is often portrayed as the time of salvation and renewal. For me, and for many of those in the early Church, I do not think this is (or was) the necessarily case. When I am able to recognize God’s hand in what is happening, I find moments of great consolation, but this is a faith that is subject to my view of life and my struggles. Like those in the early Church I continue to look for a spirit filled moment to change my perspective. I continue to look for the gift of Pentecost in my life and in the life of the world. I look for the opportunity to better recognize and hold in my heart that which the Easter season brings, but it is not easy!
The Easter season is a journey, life is a journey through the struggles, difficulties, fears and challenges of life to better recognize the gift and presence of God in our life.
Have a blessed, holy, safe and healthy Thursday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: Happy Feast Day to all my Dominican friends, especially the sisters at the Wartburg Home. Today is the feast of St. Catherine of Siena, a Dominican and Doctor of the Church. She started out on her wonderful journey of a life dedicated to God at age six when she had her first vision. During her life she challenged in the institutional church and got the Pope to return the papacy to Rome from Avignon. She is often pictured with a large wooden ship on her shoulder, the Barque of Peter, which represents the Church. St. Catherine carried the struggles of the Church and challenges all of us to do the same.
The readings today speak to St. Catherine’s journey of faith. It was not an easy one as we hear in the first reading, but she made the journey because she believed in the Bread of Life!
As for our readings today, when I read the accounts in today’s first reading from the Acts of the Apostles about the things that happened after St. Stephen’s death. I am always caught by the fact that even though Saul was hell bent on destroying the Church, but God was able to change his heart and lead him to become the great Apostle Paul. It gives me hope that someone so focused on the negative, so wanting to destroy, so against the presence of some people in the world was able to become a person of joy, of peace, of love and of hope.
God did not fight Saul’s attack on his Church with vengeance, with force, with power, with war. God did not seek to destroy Saul. God did not seek to judge Saul. No God dealt with Saul’s attack through truth, compassion, love and with an invitation to be a part of the community. Somehow with words of kindness, with words of compassion, with words and gestures of love God turned Saul’s heart and created someone new Paul.
Often as we encounter our world and all its problems we think we must fight, we think that we must eliminate our enemies. We think that making fun of them, that degrading them with our words, that attacking them with half-truths, cartoons and witty jokes we will overcome them. We think that pointing to their faults and failings, that being hurtful we are doing God’s will and that we will win the battle and the war.
Yet, God has always showed us that power, vengeance and war never works. These are not the solutions to our problems or the avenues to peace. In Saul’s case God invited him to become part of the community. God invited Saul to see God in his life in a different way. God invited Saul to choose life not death. God invited Saul to a change of heart. God invited Saul to be a man of hope and love. God turn Saul’s energy of violence and hate into an energy of love, compassion, hope, mercy, joy and peace.
If we truly want our world, our culture, our society to change then perhaps rather than waging war, rather than fearing those we see as enemies, rather than attacking, rather than dismissing or making fun of those we don’t like, we should invite them into the conversation. We should extend the hand of friendship. We should invite them to be part of the community. We should show them the value of faith, hope and love. We should help them to see the light of life!
Happy feast of St. Catherine of Siena and have a blessed, holy, safe and healthy Wednesday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: The story of St. Stephen’s death in the Acts of the Apostles make me think about what often happens in our world every day. Stephen is just being a good and faith filled person and a crazy mob comes along and stones him to death. A mob of people not thinking about life, about goodness, about being positive but a mob of people only thinking about themselves. A mob of people focused on selfishness, on fear, on evil.
There are some parallels to our situation today. There are angry crowds who do not see the bigger picture, they do not understand or want to understand the needs of all. They only think of themselves they only listen to the voices of selfishness, fear and hate. They stand in protest with guns, not rocks. They like the people of Stephen’s time want to eliminate all opposition. They want to be the masters. They do not hear God at all.
But as we learn, Stephen remained the “bigger person” through his struggle, Stephen remained the faith filled person, Stephen remained the person of life not death. He lives by forgiveness not vengeance and anger.
In our world there are many people about life, about hope, about joy, and about all that is good in our culture and our society. Just think of the first responders, the health care professionals, the people who have put their needs to the side to help others during this crisis. They like Stephen often pay the price. Some with their lives, some with the burdens of life and all with what anger, terror and violence can take away from our bodies, our spirits and our souls. Sometimes it is not a mob, it is just one or two miss guided, angry people, who are more about themselves than life, who are about negativity, fear, death and evil. They often think they are about what is good, that they are doing God’s work however they are doing the work of evil and unfortunately as good people we are often reminded by the misguided of how much evil is still present in our world.
Like Stephen our challenge is to remain the “bigger person” amid a world of anger, violence and terror. We need to remain faith filled people, we need to remain people of life and not death. We need to remain people of light not darkness. We need to remain people of trust and freedom not fear. We need to remained people of hope not despair.
As we journey through this day may we continue to be remained of and to live on the Bread of Life, Jesus who is always in our midst.
Have a blessed, holy, safe and healthy Tuesday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: Today’s readings are preludes to tomorrow stories, the martyrdom of Stephen and Jesus’ discourse on the “Bread of Life.” In some ways we can say that today’s readings are about seeing, and hearing and we learn that some people only see and hear what they want to see and hear. When we live life this way we open ourselves to the possibility of missing the gift, the presence of God in our life.
The religious leaders surrounding Stephen today only see and hear what they want to see and hear. They miss the very gift from God that Stephen brings to them, the very gift of God that Stephen is. They miss a chance to grow, to see and hear thing differently. They have already decided who and what Stephen is thus God has no chance.
The people following Jesus in today’s Gospel are caught up in the miracles that Jesus has performed. They are not listening to his words, they are not open to the presence of God, they want more miraculous things. Jesus reminds them that in order for good things to happen they have to be open to the gift and presence of God in their lives. They are challenged to believe not in what they see and hear but in the presence of Jesus in their lives!
Another way of thinking about today’s readings is in what do we invest in life. Do we invest in our faith, our relationship with God or do we invest in the things of the world, the things we think we need to have in order to be successful and important? Do we invest in things that satisfy us for a moment, things that order life and make us comfortable or do we invest in the presence of God that often asks us to step outside our comfort zone?
Often, we only see, hear and invest in what we want, what we like, what makes life easy and comfortable. God can be speaking to us, calling us down a new path but we miss it. Today let us open our eyes, our ears and our hearts to the many different ways that God can be present in our lives especially those ways beyond what we want to see and hear!
Have a blessed, holy, safe and healthy Monday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: “A Christian can never be sad! Never give way to discouragement! Ours is not a joy born of having many possessions, but from having encountered a Person: Jesus, in our midst; it is born from knowing that with him we alone, even at difficult moments, even when our life’s journey comes up against problems and obstacles that seem insurmountable, and there are so many of them! And in this moment, the enemy, the devil, comes, often disguised as an angel, and slyly speaks his word to us. Do not listen to him! Let us follow Jesus!” (Pope Francis)
These words spoken by Pope Francis in a homily back in March of 2013 seem to speak to our Gospel (Luke 24:13-35) today. The disciples on the road to Emmaus find out that they cannot be sad. They find it out by having an encounter with Jesus. They find it out in the breaking of the bread and sharing of the cup. They find out that amid all the struggles of the last few days, in the midst of the many insurmountable moments of the last few days that the enemy has not won, Jesus has risen!
During this unusual time, these difficult days, in our lives it is good that we have a chance to reflect on the Emmaus story in Luke’s Gospel. Perhaps we are like the two disciples on the road. Discouraged, fearful, wondering what the future holds. At times given good news, hopeful news but unsure what to believe. Maybe we need to let Jesus walk with us during these unusual days. We need listen to the words of scripture, the Word of God, and let our hearts burn within us and as we break bread around our breakfast, lunch and dinner tables recognize the presence of God in our life so that we can move forward with hope.
Each time we come together as a community of faith, each time we have an encounter with a Person, Jesus, each time we break the bread and share the cup, each time we proclaim that Jesus is risen we are reminded that the enemy has not won. We are reminded that God is with us, at home, on the road throughout the journey of life!
Have a blessed, holy, safe, and healthy Sunday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: We celebrate the feast day of St. Mark, the evangelist, writer of the earliest and shortest Gospel. We meet Mark also known as John Mark, in the Acts of the Apostles and in the First Letter of Peter which is the first reading for today’s mass. Mark was a companion of St. Paul for a time and Peter refers to him as his son, most probably meaning his spiritual son.
Mark took the account of Jesus’ Passion and Death and formed his Gospel around this main event in the life of the faith community. Mark gives us nothing of Jesus’ birth or early life. He gives us the years of Jesus’ ministry and public life. As stated, the center of Mark’s Gospel account is Jesus Passion and Death.
The interesting aspect of our readings today is that in the first reading from the First Letter of St. Peter, Peter refers to the Devil as a lion. This not an image of the devil that is often used. Lions while power, strong and dangerous are often seen as the king of the jungle, they often seen as noble creatures. In fact, the symbol for St. Mark is a Lion with wings.
In the first reading Peter reminds us to be careful and on the look out for the devil and the Gospel reminds us that anything is possible with Jesus. Perhaps our readings and our feast today are reminding us to be on the look out for the loin who can help us to soar above the struggles, and evils of this world to the presence of God.
The tradition of Mark’s Gospel has helped to spread the Good News. His Gospel has helped to sustain our faith throughout the centuries. It has helped the Church keep alive the story, the life, the ministry, the love of Jesus for the world. As we celebrate Mark today let us be reminded of the Good News. Let us take a moment out of our day to read a few words, a story, a passage from his Gospel. Let us remember the story of Jesus and let us proclaim that story in the way we live our life!
Have a blessed, holy, safe, and healthy Saturday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: Our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles offers us a nice reflection for our journey through Easter and life. The Pharisee Gamaliel seems to be a man of wisdom as he reflects on the challenge that the Sanhedrin seem to be confronted with – are the Apostle for real? His solution is one that should be applied every time we encounter this type of challenge. Only time gives us the answer whether something is of God or not.
It is not easy to sit and wait. It is not easy to consider that someone or something might truly be of God especially when it challenges what we believe or how we are living. Put yourself in the shoes of the Scribes and Pharisees, in the shoes of the religious leadership of Jesus’ time. They had studied, believe and learned to live by certain rules, regulations and beliefs and now the Apostles and disciples of Jesus were challenging the vary way of life they believed in. Change is not easy!
But Gamaliel says wait and see if it is of God it will last, if it is not it will fail. This is wise advice for living our life in faith. It is not always easy or possible to follow but it is wisdom to be considered as we navigate through the struggles and challenges of life.
In our Gospel today we hear the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000. Jesus takes the five barley loaves and two fish and provides as much bread and fish as people need to nourish themselves. This reading reminds me of the wonderful gifts that God gives us as we journey through life. Perhaps the lesson to learn from our Gospel today is that we should never under estimate the value of the gifts that God provides to us. No matter how simple or insignificant we think they might be anything is possible with God. Are we willing to let go and let God work through what we have?
As we journey through this Easter season, let us reflect on the people and experience we encounter and not judge too quickly. Let’s give them time because we never know when someone or something might just be about God. And let’s not sell short the gifts that we have because if we are willing to place them in Jesus’ hands great things can happen and many can be fed!
Have a blessed, holy, safe, and healthy Friday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: In our Gospel today, John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, the Evangelist, testifies to Jesus. He calls us to believe in person of Jesus, in the complete person, of Jesus the Christ or, as he refers to him in today’s Gospel, the Son.
If we believe in the Son, then our fears can be turned in faith and we see in our first reading today from the Acts of the Apostles. Peter and his companions not too long ago were people of fear yet in today’s reading they stand before the religious leaders with great faith. Placing our trust and faith in Christ’s turns fear to strength. It enable us to navigate our way through difficult times and situations.
The entire Gospel of John focuses on this act of faith, for in John’s Gospel Jesus offers very little in the way of specific moral teachings or insights. He indicates that we must cling to Jesus and entrust ourselves to the love that God has revealed by sending his Son to be one of us. John’s Gospel calls us to a letting go of self. It calls us to a trust that places us in the Father's heart and hands right along with Jesus even if it leads us to death to this world.
This letting go of self is not a matter of earthly wisdom: "The one who is of the earth is earthly, and he speaks on an earthly plane." The one who comes from above calls us to something beyond earthly values and reasoning. The one from above calls us to trust in love that leaves the merely reasonable far behind. It is a wisdom that calls us to allow the Spirit to fill us and to generously share the riches we have from the Father through the Son and his Spirit.
Have a blessed, holy, safe and healthy Thursday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: In the readings today, we find the simple message - God saves us! However, it is only those who believe will be saved. Perhaps more importantly if we want to be saved, we need to acknowledge the need for God’s presence in our life in order to gain the gift of deliverance.
In the first reading from Acts, the Apostles are imprisoned, and the angel of God comes and releases them and sends them to the temple area to continue preaching. They are released from their imprisonment because God is with them.
In the Responsorial Psalm we hear the echoes of God’s response to those in need - Lord hears the cry of the poor. All who believe in God and call out to God will be aided in their time of struggle. God does not abandon his people. But there needs to be a request – God needs to hear the cry of the poor. God’s responds may not always come as quickly or as directly as it did for the Apostles in jail but down through our faith story God has always responded to the cry of those in need.
In the Gospel we encounter Jesus as the ultimate delivery of God’s response to those in need. God so loved us that he gave us his only begotten son. Out of this profound love God made the ultimate sacrifice for all of us. Only through Jesus can we truly understand God’s love and be welcomed into the Kingdom. Whether God instantly saves us, as he did the apostles from the prison, or whether it is through the Cross of Christ, God love for us ultimately will save us. It is through belief in Jesus that we have salvation, but we must be open to God’s love and not be afraid to ask for God’s help!
Have a blessed, holy, safe and healthy Wednesday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: “There was no needy person among them…” What a wonderful thought to begin the day with from our first reading today from the Acts of the Apostles. The reading paints a hope filled picture of life in the early Church. “The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one would claim any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common.”
The unfortunate thing is that if this were to happen today someone would probably call it “socialism.” The picture painted in our first reading is a far cry from our world and our church today. Nothing seems to be under control today and everything is a reason to take sides and join in a shouting match, whether it real life or the virtual life of the internet. This is true whether we are talking about our struggling life or our struggling church life.
Yes, I fear that if someone would describe the scene in our first reading today our political leaders, political pundits, 24 hour news programs or ordinary people would immediately label it socialism or label the person a socialist as they have tried to do with Pope Francis as he talks about our responsibility as Christian to care for all in need. We somehow have it in our mind that everyone must make it themselves. Sure, if there is a disaster, people can be helped but we first must learn to stand on our own two feet. It is not socialist to care for all it is Christian!
I truly believe that the spirit and presence of Pope Francis is a wonderful model of the early Christian community that we encounter today in the Acts of the Apostles. He connects us to the spirit of the early Church when the desire was to care for all. Pope Francis’ genuineness is that he doesn’t care what others think he is only concerned with those in need. He doesn’t care what it cost; he has hope in the presence of God and the community to make it work. He is not looking for riches and power, his reward is the community and each person in it. Pope Francis is a wonderful witness of unselfishness.
Perhaps in the spirit of today’s first reading and being born of the Spirit that Jesus talks about in the Gospel is our challenge to make our present-day Christian communities places where we are open to the grace of the Holy Spirit God and its transforming power so that we become communities who care and take care of all amongst us!
Have a blessed, holy, safe and healthy Tuesday everyone!
Fr. Paul R. Fagan, C.P. "Preacher on the Run"
Just a few thoughts to help you on your journey through life...let me know from time to time what you think...