Today’s Thoughts: “How does this happen to me?” We have used some form of this saying at times in our life; probably most often out of frustration. “Why is this happening to me?” The frustration of bad things happening to good people or the frustration of being in a situation we would prefer not being in. Seeing something bad happen to family, friends or seemingly good people in life struggle. These words echo each time we encounter the tragedies of life; natural disaster like tornados, powerful storms, floods or unnatural disasters like terrorist bombs, gun violence, war, tragic accidents and we say “why is this happening?”
Yet these words spoken by Elizabeth today, “How does this happen to me?” are spoken out of excitement and joy. This ordinary woman encounters the mother of God, what a great gift! It is such a wonderful moment that all present are moved to celebrate even the child in her womb. It is not a time of frustration or struggle; it is a time of joy and hope.
I have been to Israel many times and one of my favorite stops has always been the village of Ein Karem. There you will find the Church of St. John the Baptist and to the southwest high on a hill the Church of the Visitation. Even though it is a rather steep hill and a difficult walk the Church of the Visitation is always a great treat and the words that always come to mind are, “It is good for us to be here!” As you enter the courtyard of the Church there is a statue of Elizabeth and Mary two pregnant women joyfully greeting, embracing each other.
Seeing the statues of Elizabeth and Mary is always a moment of hope for me because seeing any pregnant woman is a hopeful gift. It is a sign of life, a sign of the future, a sign of hope. With today’s Feast of the Visitation we are reminded to be a people of life because it is in and through life that we encounter the gifts of hope and love and come to know the blessing of, “how this life happens to us!”
Happy Feast of the Visitation and say a special prayer for all pregnant women that Elizabeth and Mary will walk with them as they bring new life and hope into the world!
Have a great Wednesday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: “I pray for them.” The words of Jesus from today’s Gospel (John 17: 1-11a). Throughout these closing days of the Easter season we hear over and over again Jesus’ desire for us to continue his mission and ministry in the world. He knows that it will not be easy so he prays to the Father that we might be taken care of just has the Father has taken care of him.
In the first reading (Acts 20: 17-27) St. Paul reflects on what lies ahead for him because he has taken up the mission of Jesus. He talks about being martyred. His time is short, and he realizes it. He like Jesus, in the Gospel, is sending a message to his followers. He has done his best; he has proclaimed the Gospel now they must carry on.
The message for us in these last days of Easter is to trust in the Spirit as we continue the ministry and mission of Jesus in our lives. The message is to do our best and to always know that Jesus is with us. He has offered us a relationship, a friendship with God. It is that friendship that St. Paul draws upon in living his life, in being challenged by the world around him and in staying faithful to his call. We are asked to do the same.
As we have often heard through these days of Easter God so loves the world that he has so fearfully, wonderfully made us so that as we live this day let us trust in our friendship with God and live the gift that God has created us to be!
Have a great Tuesday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: “In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.” The last sentence of today’s Gospel from John (John 16:29-33). It reminds us that being a person of faith is not easy, that we will find ourselves struggling with many things about the world, culture and society. In fact, we will struggle with many things within our own faith community because as an institution it is part of the world and run by human beings who are imperfect. Living this life will give us trouble from all sides.
However, we are not to fear because Jesus has conquered the world. He has made this life only part of the journey. There is more to life than this world; there is more to life than what we face each day. There is an eternal life where there is no more pain, no more sorrow, no more death just the eternal presence of God. As people of faith that is where we are headed but there is still this life, this world, to navigate through.
Each day we need to look for the Spirit. We need to look for those people like St. Paul who can help us connect with the Spirit, because it is the Holy Spirit who will guide us through the troubles of this world. It is the Holy Spirit who will bring to life the gift of God within us.
So be on the lookout today for the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit can come to us in many different ways, through creation, through the people we meet, through the people we love and yes, the Holy Spirit can even come to us through ourselves. Let us be the breath, the life, the Spirit of God today!
Have a great Memorial Day everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: I know that some of you who by this web site are not living in the New York area or even the east portion of the United States thus liturgically for you today is the Feast of the Ascension. However, for those of us that live in New York and in the eastern part of the United States we celebrated the Feast of the Ascension last Thursday and we have moved on to the Seventh Sunday of Easter. So, if you are looking for some thoughts on the Feast of the Ascension check out my Today’s Thoughts for Thursday, May 25th. Otherwise if you are celebrating the Seventh Sunday of Easter or are just looking for some thoughts from the Preacher on the Run then just keep reading…
For my thoughts today, I have chosen to focus on the First Reading from the Acts of the Apostles. It’s setting is shortly after the Ascension. The disciples confused, perplexed, just trying to figure out what to do next return to the upper room their safe place and decide to pray. In other words, when they were unsure of what to do. When they needed some time to put the events of life into perspective. When they need to gather strength, and make decisions, they went to a safe place and prayed!
What a simple solution to moments of challenge, discomfort, decision, and struggle in life. I know in my own life that when the chips are down, when I am struggling, when I am facing difficult choices and decisions, when I am feeling lone. I usually seek out safe or sacred places in my life and I at least try to pray.
The chapel at our former retreat center in Riverdale, New York was a sacred place for me. The roof of that same retreat center overlooking the Great Hudson River was a sacred place for me. Wherever I have lived in my journey as a Passionist I have always found a safe and sacred place. I have always found a community to pray with especially when I found it hard to pray by myself. Even at this point in my life there are safe and sacred places often with communities of faith where I can go – The Sunday Mass, the Wartburg Home to name just too. I go to these places, I pray with these communities to gather strength, to find the presence of God, to put life into perspective, to know that I am not alone, to wait for the Holy Spirit.
Perhaps, from my perspective that is what Sunday Mass is all about. It is a safe and sacred place, a community of faith, where we can go to pray and wait for the Holy Spirit to guide, direct and enliven our life!
Have a blessed Sunday everyone and a relaxing Memorial Day weekend and don’t forget to give God a little time today!
Today’s Thoughts: Dorothy Day once said, “One must constantly recall the necessity to grow in confidence in God.…Trust that prayers will be answered. Maybe not as we want but as others need it to be.” Perhaps in other words our faith is not always about ourselves and God, but about others and God.
In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles today (Acts 18:23-28) Apollos is pulled aside and helped by Priscilla, Aquila and others in his ministry. Yes, he is an eloquent speaker but a stronger relationship with God is necessary so that he can help others with his gifts. Jesus in the Gospel today (John 16:23b-28) continues to remind us of the need to ask in his name. In other words, pray in his name so that what is needed, what is desire, will be received.
But what does it mean to ask in Jesus’ name? It means to pray like Jesus. Jesus prayed always looking beyond himself to others. Jesus prayed not for his own will but for the Father’s will. Our prayer, our relationship with God must always look beyond ourselves to others. We need to be about God’s will not our own.
Perhaps in the spirit of Dorothy Day, our challenge today is to grow in our relationship with God, trust that relationship and realize that our prayers will be answered not always as we want but as others need them to be!
Have a great Saturday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: “Do not be afraid. Go on speaking, and do not be silent, for I am with you.” – “Whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you.” Perhaps these are two of the hardest statements in the scripture to trust. They come to us today from the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 18: 9-18) and John’s Gospel (John 16: 20-23). The first the Lord speaks to St. Paul one night in Corinth and the other Jesus speaks to his disciples.
How often have we asked God for something and yet it doesn’t happen, we don’t get it, we have to settle for life as it is, not as we want it to be? How often are we called to speak or we feel compelled to speak because of our faith but the words just will not come out because we are afraid of the consequences?
Living by faith is no easy task, it wasn’t in Paul’s time, and it wasn’t in Jesus’ time. The world is often a cruel place, a place where words and actions can cause us pain, sorrow and problems even if they are true and right. The feelings and emotions of the mob are usually what rules. The Gospel message is not for the weak or the afraid because many leave it at the church door on Sunday, if they have heard it at all.
Our faith tells us that God is with us. That whatever we ask in Jesus’ name we will be given, then why is there so much sickness, death, pain and sorrow in the world? Wars and violence happen every day. Did no one ask for the violence to stop in Jesus’ name?
It is easy to say that we are Christian and call ourselves Catholic but living out our faith is never easy. In some way God is always there, God always responds to us, God always gives us what we need, God always stands beside us when we speak the truth. However, the world always makes it hard to hear, feel, see and know God’s presence in our life.
As we live today, as we wonder through this life trying to believe, trying to speak, trying to trust in God remember love casts out fear. It makes us able to speak even in the most difficult times and it makes present the most profound gifts that God gives to us!
Have a great Friday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: I know for many of you this is just an ordinary Thursday but for those of us in the eastern part of the United States it is the Feast of the Ascension. This is one of those days when I truly wish the US bishops would get their act together! Decide on either Thursday or Sunday for the whole country rather than some of the people celebrating one day and others celebrating another. For those of you who celebrate the Feast of the Ascension on Sunday you can save my reflections today until Sunday!
“Men Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky?” I have always liked this little phase at the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles. For me it sets the stage for everything that Luke is going to tell Theophilus about Jesus and this community call Church. Perhaps this question directed at Jesus’ followers just after he ascended into heaven sits at the center of our life as Church.
Sometimes as a Church I think we are standing there look up at the sky. We are looking at the past. We are looking at what use to be and not what is. We are looking back hoping the past will be the present and the future.
The angel’s question to the disciples perhaps was not just a question but a challenge. Are you going to continue to stand here and just look up at the sky? Are you going to live in the past, put your hope in the past? Or are you going to get busy and be about the ministry Jesus has entrusted you with, are you going to get busy about living of life.
In the movie, the Shawshank Redemption Andy at one point tells Red, “I guess it comes down to a simple choice, really. Get busy living or get busy dying.” Perhaps that is what the angel is asking Jesus’ disciples the day of the Ascension. What are they now going to do with the mission, the ministry that Jesus has entrusted them with? Their choices are to stand here and keep looking up at the sky, waiting for Jesus to return, thinking of the past or they can get busy living the life, the faith, the hope, the love that Jesus has entrusted to them.
We might say that this celebration of the Feast of the Ascension challenges us in the same way. Are we as a Church just going to stand around looking, waiting for Jesus, are we going to stand in the midst of the past and wait or are we as a people of faith going to get busy living out our faith through the gifts of the Spirit?
Have a blessed Feast of the Ascension and Thursday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: “In [God] we live and move and have our being.” A simple phrase that Paul uses as he speaks to the crowd in Athens, it seems to have been a phrase use by a poet that Paul applies to our relationship with God.
Paul is right this phrase very simply reflects our life as a people of faith. If we believe then our life is in God and from our relationship with God, we live, we move and have our very being.
I have often imaged faith as being the breath we take every second of our life in order to live. We cannot do anything without that breath, nothing. Whether we are resting, running, alone or with people we need to breathe in order to live. From my perspective that is what faith is all about. I think that is what Paul was trying to tell the people of Athens. I think that is what Jesus was reminding his disciples of in the Gospel today.
As people of faith, we breathe in the presence of God, the Spirit of God, with and in that presence, that spirit, we live, we move and we become our very self, we have our being, our life, our purpose, our meaning. Today let us let our faith, the breath of God, enlivens us, strengthens us, inspires us and guides us on our journey through life.
Have a great Wednesday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: Sometimes we need to remember that God has the power to transform our loss into gladness and our sorrow into joy. In the reading from the Acts of the Apostles today the jailor finds himself at a moment of decision. He thinks that all the prisoners have escaped. He considers taking his own life because it would be quicker and less painful then the death he would have to endure for such a folly under his watch. However, he finds that his worst fears are unfounded and that God has given him and opportunity through Paul and Silas to change his life. Thus, rather than death the jailor and his family experience new life!
In moments of tragedy, struggle, disappointment and sadness we at times get an opportunity to grow, to see life in a different way, to change. It is not easy, it can be challenging and perhaps our first thought is to not even try, to continue to feel what we feel. Yet, God is waiting for us to step up and bring the presence of God to each moment of our life, moving beyond worry, fear, anger, resentment and sadness to the Spirit of God.
In May two years ago, Pope Francis wandered into a very tense part of the world and broke the tension by simply treating people with respect, love and joy. He put smiles on people’s faces and by his simple actions of prayer gave people pause to think. Did anything profoundly change? Probably not, but perhaps Pope Francis provided the opportunity like Paul and Silas for something new to happen.
My hope is always that we as people, as nations, as Christians, Jews, Muslims, we will at some point grasp the moment like the jailor in the reading today and allow God to transform our lives from fear and hate into peace and hope!
Have a great Tuesday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: There is a quote from St. Bede the Venerable that goes like this, “Let us speak the truth in our hearts and not practice treachery with our tongues, so that by pouring forth charity more and more in our hearts, the Spirit of truth may teach us recognition of all truth.” In this day and age, I might add a little something to what St. Bede said, “…and not practice treachery with our tongues and our fingers!” It is not only the treachery of the spoken word today; it is also the treachery of the written word today. You find it on Twitter, Facebook and in all social media today.
It amazes me how negative, hurtful, bigoted and sinful we can be with the words we write about others. We call ourselves Christian yet the pictures we post, the cartoons we send around, the ideas we put forth sometimes are anything but Christian. I guess it is easy to sit in our homes or offices or be walking down the street and attack a person, an organization, a political party, a public servant, someone in leadership, or a president. They get no chance to defend themselves and our words don’t have to be true. From the comfort of our own electronic device we can post whatever we want and often there are no consequences to our actions whether we are right or wrong. Remember it is a free country and certainly free social media!
In the readings from mass today we are reminded about the importance of truth. Jesus (John 15:26 – 16:4a) reminds us that he is sending us the truth through the Holy Spirit from the Father, not Fox News or MSNBC or any other news organization that we agree with. Truth is most often not found in the media sources of today’s world it is found in the hearts of people who journey through life as friends of God.
Lydia, whom we meet in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 16:11-15) today, went to the river to pray and her life was changed through the preaching and the presence of Paul. Paul spoke the truth and Lydia allowed it to enter her heart. She came to believe. She invited the truth into her home and into her heart.
We need to trust the Spirit in our life not 24 hour news. We need to speak truth about ourselves and others. We need to be friends of God who build up not tear down. There are always going to be those who bring deceitfulness to the living of life may we always be people who bring truth!
A few years ago I was wondering through the social media, Twitter to be exact and I came upon two tweets from Fr. James Martin, S.J. that I wrote down and I think they speaks to our scriptures today. Fr. Martin was talking about Pope Francis’ visit to the Holy Land. “To those who doubted that Pope Francis could do anything valuable in the Holy Land, or could find grace among warring factions, I say...that you've forgotten about the Holy Spirit again. Nothing is impossible with God.”
Have a blessed Monday 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...