Today’s Thoughts: It must have been difficult being one of the 12 apostles. Today Gospel reminds us of two realities in the life of Jesus’ friends. First that to be a friend of Jesus you had to make a leap of faith over and over again and second how Jesus is almost always patient with them. I say almost because at times you can hear little frustration in Jesus’ voice in dealing with his friends.
Imagine how new this all was to his disciples, his friends, even after the years of teaching and following. Jesus says there’s a place for you; you know the way. And yet Thomas says: “We don’t know where you are going; how can we know the way?”
Jesus is the way. This is the message his friends hear over and over again. It’s a message we are to hear and live by. We, like Jesus’ disciples, are challenged to make a leap of faith over and over again as we live our lives. We, know the way, but we sometimes struggle to follow it. We make easy choices and we let ourselves be led astray. But like Jesus’ disciples, we learn the way. We just have to go in the right direction. When we make a mistake and make the wrong turn, we are graced with God’s patience and we hear the words that open our Gospel today, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith in me.”
Have a blessed, holy, and healthy Friday 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.
As for our readings today, “Characters welcome,” use to be the calling card of the USA network. But as I reflect on the stories of the early Church as they come to us through the Acts of the Apostles I am reminded that our Church, our community of faith is made up of characters, faith characters. Some very familiar to us like Peter and Paul others not so familiar just names or people who appear for a moment, yet they played a role in the development of the early Church.
What is it that makes a “character of faith?” Well, I think our answer is in today’s Gospel. Jesus has just washed the feet of the disciples and he reminds them that “no slave is greater than his master and no messenger is greater than the one who sent him.” Thus, a “character of faith” is someone who follows the words and actions of Jesus. A “characters of faith” has faith in God, faith in Jesus and faith in the Holy Spirit. A “characters of faith” follows Jesus and believes that in following Jesus he or she will make his or her way to the gift of eternal life. One of the great “characters of faith” in our time is Pope Francis!
One thing is for sure because we are “characters of faith” we will not live life the same way and occasionally, we will need to stop and listen for the voice of God in our life. We will need to receive those whom God sends into our life. But as a faith character we take comfort and have hope that Jesus will always take the time to point us in the right direction.
The sad thing is that just as in the early Church, and during the time of Jesus, characters are not always welcome. We have all been gifted by being created in the image and likeness of God. Each of us are different, each of us are unique and special. And as we will learn a little later in John’s Gospel Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. There are many dwelling places in the eternal home thus there is room for every character!
Happy feast of St. Catherine of Siena and have a blessed, holy, and healthy Thursday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: Once again we are privy to the life of the early Church. In today’s first reading Barnabas and Saul set apart from the others and the Holy Spirit comes upon them, sending them on their ministry to the Gentles. We meet Mark and other characters in the story of the early Church. We begin to see how the faith communities identified people alive in God’s Spirit and called them forth to proclaim the Good News.
We might say that this little section from the Acts of the Apostles is a practical example of what Jesus speaks about in John’s Gospel today. Jesus continues to remind us of how important his relationship is with the Father. He reminds us that we need to listen for the words of God as they come from Jesus and as they come from those who the Spirit sends. The Good News comes from God, it is alive with God’s Spirit, and it is the light that will guide us on our journey of faith.
Along with listening Jesus also reminds us that he is the Light sent by the Father. A light that illuminates the presence of God in our life. We might say that the story we hear in Acts is also about light. Those called by God, set apart in the community of faith are lights of God’s presence also. Perhaps, the focus of the readings today is to remind us that we are the light of God’s presence in the world today!
The challenge is always our willingness to hear, to see and to be the gift of God in the world as we live our life. The challenge is to be open each day to the many ways in which God becomes present to us. The challenge is to take the Word we hear and the Light we see and make it known to the world. The challenge is to be the voice and light of God in our world today!
Have a blessed, holy, and healthy Wednesday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: It is always interesting to me to hear the stories of the early Church as they are presented in the Acts of the Apostles. We hear about the struggling and the joyous moments of the early Church. We meet the people who made up the early Church and helped it to move forward. We hear about the wonderful faith filled moments and the dark moments of persecution and challenge.
Each time I hear the stories of the early Church I am reminded that as much as things change they also remain the same. The characters are different, the events are different, but the struggles and joys are the same. Today we face many if not all of the same challenges of the early Church and certain some new ones especially our struggle with the coronavirus.
We have communities of great faith; we have preachers on fire with the Good News. We have challenges inside and outside the Church and at times we have persecutions.
Our faith is constantly in question, challenged, and often under attack. We are faced with change, differences within and a changing, struggling world around us. Like the early Church we are a community of believers listening for the voice of the Good Shepherd. Sometimes we hear it and sometimes the noise of the world around us tries to out shout it.
Our challenge is to hear the Good Shepherd’s voice, to recognize it in the midst of all the other voices and to have faith, to trust and to believe that the Good Shepherd will always be with us and will never leave us to face our perils alone!
Have a great Tuesday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: These words of Pope Francis seem to capture the spirit of today's readings first reading (Acts 11: 1-250 and the Gospel (John 10:11-18). "Every Christian, and especially you and I, is called to be a bearer of this message of hope that gives serenity and joy: God's consolation, his tenderness toward all. But if we first experience the joy of being consoled by him, of being loved by him, then we can bring that joy to others. This is important if our mission is to be fruitful: to feel God's consolation and to pass it on to others!" (Pope Francis)
In our first reading we are confronted with the struggles of the early Church. We are reminded that there are people who want to keep God all to themselves. They want to keep the Church a closed little group of self-righteous people. You have got to follow the rules to be a part of us. yet, through Peter God says “wait a minute. I have created everyone and everything and I am giving everyone and everything the opportunity for eternal life. I am the Good Shepherd of everyone!”
A few years ago, Pope Francis set out to deal with all people who were trying to make their way to God. He especially focused on the family which involved the struggles of divorced and separated people. Pope Francis like Peter, in our first reading today, did not attack the people who did not like the way he did it or he did not justify his decisions, he called a Synod on the Family to talk about the issues and the problems. He gave people an opportunity to speak, to reflect on the issues so that the Church could move forward and be inclusive. Unlike Peter, Pope Francis paid a heavy price though of criticism, judgmentalness and self-righteousness.
Our first reading and our Gospel remind us today that God works in mysterious ways and we have the option to either get in his way or get out of his way.
In the Gospel, Jesus offers us a relationship with himself and the Father. Jesus offers us the consolation and tenderness of the Good Shepherd. Jesus brings God’s joy to us. All we must do is get out of his way, accept his offer it and be willing to offer it to others!
Have a blessed, holy, and healthy Monday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: Our Gospel today introduces us to Jesus as the Good Shepherd. An intimate relationship that calls us to listen in a special way for the voice of the Good Shepherd in our lives. Sometimes the noise of our world gets very loud, but the Good Shepherds voice is always calling us. Sometimes the leadership of our world, our country, our church, our culture and society is all about power, authority, money, influence and self-interest. Jesus in John’s Gospel today reminds us that true leadership is about service, about offering one’s life and being a Good Shepherd. Jesus’ image of leadership is about mercy, compassion, forgiveness, understanding, care, support and selflessness!
Too often today we find that our shepherds are in it other reasons, money, power, selfishness, control and self-importance. At the slightest sign of danger, problems, or truth they run away, they move on to greener pastures. Not so with the Good Shepherd. He is always there, always present through thick and thin. Jesus as the Good Shepherd is built on a lasting relationship of love, the greatest love that there is, the love of offering his life for us.
We are called today to listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd. A Good Shepherd who is always there especially in the midst of struggle, challenge, fear and evil. A Good Shepherd with a Spirit that cannot be denied. Let us listen, live and be God’s faith filled people of hope!
Have a blessed and holy Sunday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: For a little more than a week now we have been making our way through the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel. This chapter is central to John’s revelation of the mystery of the Eucharist.
In yesterday’s Gospel, Jesus declares that his flesh and blood is in the Eucharist. Today, the disciples remark that Jesus’ words are a “hard saying.” Jesus does not soften his words because he is looking for faith. Faith is trusting when we do not understand. The basis of faith is not belief in a mystery but belief in the person of Jesus.
We are faced with the same challenge as the disciples. Theological mysteries have been revealed to us which we do not intellectually understand but which we accept because we trust the person of Jesus. There may be circumstances and situations in our lives which we cannot understand and for which trust in Jesus is also necessary. Just as Jesus was moving the disciples to another level of faith, so are we invited to grow in faith. In order to do so we need to ask ourselves a question. “Are we willing to trust in Jesus to take us to the next level?
Jesus’ questioning of the disciples about staying or going also applies to us. Perhaps, Peter speaks for all of us, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Perhaps put a different way, “Jesus if not you who? If not here where? If not faith in you what?”
Our question for today - Are we willing to stay and let Jesus give ultimate meaning to our lives?
Have a blessed, holy, and healthy Saturday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: I am often struck when reading our faith story how God seems to select the most unusual, undeserving or unique people to proclaim his message. Think of the Samaritan Woman at the well or Saul from our first reading today. These are two people you would not expect God to choose. The Samaritan woman seems to have her own problems with relationships and fitting in while Saul is breathing murderous threats. No people I would pick to proclaim the Good News, but God does!
It seems every time Jesus is encountered by someone they are sent on a mission to proclaim the Good News. Jesus chooses the Samaritan woman to proclaim his message to the town folks and he chooses Saul, who becomes Paul, to proclaim his message to the Gentile world. Encountering Jesus means being missioned, being sent.
Often in a less spectacular way we too encounter Jesus daily. Think of going to mass, of receiving communion. We encounter the Risen Christ. Perhaps not in the way that the Samaritan woman or Paul did but we do encounter the Risen Christ and are sent into the world to proclaim the Good News. We are to do it our own way, using our own gifts and talents. But we do encounter Jesus and we are sent.
Our every daily encounter with Jesus, which takes place differently from day to day and from person to person, are our opportunities of being missioned just like Paul was, as the Samaritan woman was. Yes, not in a spectacular way, but rather while we are “minding our own business,” as Paul and the Samaritan woman were “minding their own business”.
Our journey through the Easter Season reminds us that the Risen Lord is always looking for us, always waiting to encounter us in our daily lives. We can be “minding our own business” but Jesus especially through the Eucharist will walk into our life and send us forth to proclaim the Good News!
Have a blessed and holy Friday everyone!
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, and healthy Thursday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: 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!
Have a blessed, holy, and healthy Wednesday 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...