Today’s Thoughts: “I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep.” These are but a few of the words spoken by the Good Shepherd in today Gospel (John 10: 1-10). There are probably many people in life that I could image as the Good Shepherd. People who have impacted my life in profound ways. But as I sit here reflecting on our Gospel my thoughts turned to mothers. Perhaps it is because I have begun to think about Mother’s Day which we will celebrate in two weeks that I make the connection between mothers and the Good Shepherd. I am sure there are theologians and scholars out there who would cringe at the thought of connecting the image of mothers with the image of the Good Shepherd.
But it makes sense to me and that is all that is necessary as I offer you a few thoughts and musings on this Fourth Sunday of Easter. My own mother is not far from my thoughts as I prepare for another Mother’s Day without her. She has been gone now for over eleven years. I do miss her but I know that she is in a much better place and enjoying the gifts of God’s joy, peace and love abundantly now. But I still miss her!
Mothers are often the Good Shepherds of our lives, standing guard at the gate, especially early on in our life, protecting, nurturing, feeding and loving us. They are the first shepherds of our life yet even after we leave the sheep fold for what we think are greener pastures they are still with us, standing guard, nurturing, protecting, feeding and loving us. They don’t do it perfectly, mothers are human and have their flaws, but the vast majority of the time they are Good Shepherds!
A number years ago, a professional basketball player, Kevin Durant received the Most Valuable Player Award for the NBA season and unlike most other professional athletes he chose not to honor himself or his teammates but to honor his mother. For Mr. Durant, his mother was the Good Shepherd of his life, the person who made all his achievements possible.
Yes, that is what a Good Shepherd does, he makes possible all our achievements, and the Good Shepherd makes possible our life. The Good Shepherd came into the world that we might have life and have it more abundantly. That is what mothers do to. They give us life and by their care, their nurturing, their protection, their wisdom, their joy and their love we get to have life and have it more abundantly.
If we were coming up on Father’s Day I would say the same thing about fathers, but next Sunday is Mother’s Day and if you have a hard time seeing the Good Shepherd, Jesus, in all mothers, I am sorry. However, each time I think of my mother, each time I encounter the many mothers in my life there is an image that I see and the image of Jesus, as the Good Shepherd.
May the Good Shepherd, bless and be with all of us today. May Jesus, the Good Shepherd stand at the gate of life so that all of us may continue to have life and have it more abundantly!
Have blessed and holy Good Shepherd Sunday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: Two thoughts about our readings today...
In our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, I find it interesting how quickly things can change. Yesterday the early Church was in turmoil and under persecution, especially from Saul. Today it is at peace! The ebb and flow of life. How quickly things can change. How important it is as we journey through life to not give up when things are not going well. The challenge is to always have faith, hope and trust in the presence of God.
My second thought centers on the Gospel. 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 holy and blessed 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. Two people I would not 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, a Church 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 holy and blessed Thursday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: Because of the Feast of St. Mark, we missed the account in Acts of the martyrdom of St. Stephen. So today we must remember St. Stephen has been martyred as we read the accounts in Acts about the things that happened after St. Stephen’s death. When I read today’s accounts, I am always caught by the fact that even though Saul was hell bent on destroying the Church, 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, and holy Wednesday 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 and holy 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 and holy 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!”
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!
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 and holy Sunday everyone!
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. When 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!
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...