Today’s Thoughts: Most of us seem to respond -- however imperfectly -- to the great events of our lives. Special moments in our life like the birth of a child or the death of a loved one change the way we ordinarily live. Went something special happens we stop to appreciate, to evaluate, to react. We buy gifts, we pray, we spread the word, we come together. Our emotions match the moment: gladness, grief, and everything in between.
This is what makes the text of the Acts of the Apostles so full of life. Like you and I, the people of Jerusalem and beyond are responding to a great moment of their lives. There is confusion, celebration and concern. Something big has happened, and people are on the move.
The Church nourishes our Easter reality these days with readings of women and men excited with the Risen Lord’s spirit. The Easter event has not gone unnoticed. A trial. A crucifixion. A resurrection? Quite the combination! Our scene from Acts today shows more and more people affected and, subsequently, more and more people responding. And though the process isn't always easy, from our vantage point as readers of today's Scripture we see a great Christian movement at work.
The Gospel provides an important insight to accompany the activity of Acts. It's not a post-Easter Gospel, but it speaks to a post-Easter reality. The disciples, frightened, face the uncertainty of darkness. Winds swirl and waves rise as this group looks to proceed without the physical presence of Jesus. And yet, in the end, and in a way mysterious indeed, Jesus is with this group. "Do not be afraid." In the end his advice is rather simple yet bold.
It is advice we can heed today in our own post-Easter reality. Yes, something big has happened, and we need to respond -- each in your own way. As scary as it can be, let’s not be intimidated by confusion and uncertainty. It is important to respond. It may seem at time like Jesus is not with us, but he is!
Have a holy and blessed 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 and holy 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 enables 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, and holy 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 and holy 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 and holy Tuesday 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 lookout 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 lookout 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 and holy Monday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: In our Gospel today, John offers us three diverse, yet united encounters. First, Jesus appears to the frightened apostles, minus Thomas. He offers them peace, then invites them to take on his mission, a mission he received from his Father, and then breathed upon their fears and confusion the gift of the Holy Spirit sending them forth with the mercy of God to offer the forgiveness.
Next it is now a week later, Jesus appears to the same group of apostles, this time including Thomas. As we have learned from the time in between the two visits by Jesus, Thomas, needs to see signs and wonders. So, Jesus invites him to see and touch the signs and wonders of his Passion and believe. Thomas’ simple respond is, “My Lord and my God!” Perhaps in other words, “I believe.” Jesus then asks Thomas to not depend on signs and wonders anymore but to have faith, to see differently.
Good old Thomas is such a good friend to us and so are the apostles gathered together in fear and separated by their individual shame at having abandoned their teacher, friend and Lord. They are living our doubts, our fears, our shames, and our desires to see just a little bit more so that our faith will be strengthened. It seems that God knows us better than we know ourselves. A little bit more would always be just a little bit more of what we would want. Thomas wanted to see more than what he had heard his companions had seen. Jesus reminds Thomas, the others and us that seeing is not believing, but rather believing is a way of seeing beyond what can blind us.
Finally, at the end of today’s Gospel, John tells us that he has written enough for us to believe without seeing. Yes, there were other signs and wonders after the Resurrection, but these which have been recorded are offered so that all who read and all who pray with them might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God and through faith, they will have true life in his name.
This seeing beyond is the gift of the Holy Spirit and it leads to us being sent out beyond ourselves as well. We are sent, as the Holy Spirit was sent to us, to attract others to Christ, to the Father. How we live by faith and not by sight is a graceful challenge to this “I need to see to believe world.” If we walk by faith and not by sight, then we will make the world around us uncomfortable. If we try to live by faith and not by sight, we can become a sign and wonder to the world of God’s wonderful and awesome mercy and love.
Our struggles to live faithful, hope filled, and loving lives by going out, being sent, is the miracle of our times. By our life of faith, we become reminders that there is a beyond and what we see is the creative mercy and love of God. As reminders we give new life to this creative mercy and love. Easter is our time for walking by faith, for going out and beyond to bring God’s mercy to the world.
Have a holy and blessed Second Sunday of Easter everyone and may you truly be blessed with God’s Divine Mercy this day and always. May the Passion of Jesus Christ be always in our hearts.
Today’s Thoughts: Today in our Gospel for Mark we encounter what is called “the long ending.” Most biblical scholars agree that the ending that follows 16:8, which was the original ending, was added to the Gospel. Rather than having the Gospel end with the women finding the empty tomb and running away telling no one because they are afraid today’s ending has Mary Magdalene report to the disciples and the two disciples on the road to Emmaus reporting to the disciples but in both cases they will not believe. The disciples only believe when Jesus comes to them personally.
In both our readings today, unbelief seems to be the order of the day. The religious leaders refuse to believe Peter and John and the disciples refuse to believe the women and the two ordinary disciples. Perhaps what our readings today are telling us is that faith begins with a personal encounter. For Mary Magdalene and the other women, for the two disciples on the road it was their personal encounter with Jesus. For the eleven and the other disciples hold up in the upper room it was their personal encounter with Jesus. If we remember the story of Thomas, it wasn’t until his personal encounter with Jesus that he believed.
We might say that to be a true disciple of Jesus, to be a true person of faith, we must realize that our first task is directed to the person of Jesus. We are to love and admire, to consecrate ourselves to his sacred person, to place importance on prayer as well as action, to realize first what it means to be a disciple, a person of faith before we seek to spread the Good News.
In other words, our readings today remind us to set a firm foundation in Christ before we can truly proclaim the Good News to all the world!
Have a holy and blessed Saturday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: Periodically you hear people asked the question, “If you could meet, have dinner with, spend time with anyone in history whom would you chose?” I am sure there is a different answer for every person asked. As we listen to our Gospel today we might ask the question, “If you could have breakfast with anyone from history who would be your choice?”
I know what my answer would be – Jesus! First of all, I would choose Jesus because he brings and prepares breakfast which is always a plus in my book. But more importantly I would choose Jesus because having breakfast with him means my day could not start any better!
Even though they have encountered the Risen Christ a few times since Easter Sunday the disciples find themselves back in Galilee trying to figure out what to do next. Peter believes getting back to his usual routine is the best way to put life and the events of Jesus’ Passion, Death and Resurrection into perspective. So off he goes, to do some fishing, with the others tagging along.
However, the night doesn’t go as planned. No fish after a long hard night’s work. Enter Jesus. “Have you caught anything to eat?” “No!” is the rather tired answer. “Well then try dropping your nets again but do it on the other side of the boat.” What do you think went through the disciples’ minds? Probably some resistant thoughts to what the man on the shore proposed or a few choice words muttered under their breath toward the man on the shore. Perhaps they were just too tired and said what have we got to lose. Whatever they felt or thought they at least went with the flow and cast their nets one last time and the rest is history. They encountered a catch so big that it was now a struggle of joy to get it to the shore. They encountered a catch so big that it could only be one person, “The Lord!”
Yes, if I could have breakfast with one person from history it would be Jesus because when he enters our life whether it is breakfast, lunch, dinner or anytime in between good things have a chance to happen. The struggling disciples learn that the Risen Christ will enter their lives at any moment and is always willing to nourish them for the journey; they just have to be willing to have faith and trust that all things are possible.
As an Easter people this story is a good reminder to us that in the midst of our struggles, our unsteadiness in life, at those times when we feel our nets are empty all it takes is for us to recognize the presence of God to steady us, fill our nets and make all things possible on this journey through life.
Perhaps as we begin this day or any day, for that matter, we should consider inviting Jesus to breakfast. And as we enjoy his company we might ask his advice as to where we should cast out nets. Because as our Gospel story reminds us great things are possible especially when Jesus makes breakfast!
Have a blessed and holy Friday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: Pope Francis in an address on April 1, 2013 said the following: "The grace contained in the sacraments of Easter is an enormous potential for the renewal of our personal existence, of family life, of social relations. However, everything passes through the human heart: if I let myself be touched by the grace of the Risen Christ, if I let him change me in that aspect of mine which is not good, which can hurt me and others, I allow the victory of Christ to be affirmed in my life."
In our first reading today from the Acts of the Apostles Peter and John challenge the people about not being open to the presence of God in their lives, about not being open to the Easter mystery, the Easter sacraments as Pope Francis put it. They ask those gather to open their hearts to the grace of the Risen Lord, to let it pass through their hearts and change them.
In the Gospel the disciples at first are afraid of the presence of the Risen Lord but Jesus offers them peace and the assurance that he is really with them so that by the end of his visit they have opened their hearts to the grace and the spirit of the ultimate Easter sacrament, Jesus. Their transformation has begun. They have become the witnesses of this great sacrament and the power that it can be in a person’s, a community’s life.
Our readings and Pope Francis ask us to be open to the awesomeness of Easter, to be open to the countless ways in which God becomes present in our lives each and every day. Openness to the grace of the sacraments of Easter, openness to the presence of the Risen Lord, openness to the awesome potential that God’s presence and grace offers us can make all the difference in our journey through life.
Thus, the question or the challenge at the beginning of this new day is – Are we open to the grace of the Easter sacraments? Will we allow that grace to change us?
A blessed and holy Easter Thursday 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...