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 and all women who want to be pregnant that Elizabeth and Mary will walk with them as they bring and hope to bring new life into the world!
Have a great Thursday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: Dietrich Bonhoeffer once wrote, “Many people are looking for an ear that will listen. They do not find it among Christians, because Christians are talking when they should be listening.” We might say that in the Gospel today (Mark 10:32-45) Jesus is looking for an ear to listen and what he gets is people who want to talk.
Jesus shares with his friends what is ahead on their journey. He shares what he is going to go through and for this sharing he gets a response that doesn’t concern him but those who are supposed to be listening. James and John think only about their future not that of Jesus or others. Jesus has come to serve. Jesus has come to carry the cross. Jesus has come to be a saving gift for others.
There often is a lot of discussion, or what I like to call chatter, when Pope Francis says something that cause people to pause and think. For instance, a few years ago he gave a homily concerning who is redeemed. The chatter turned to who is an expert that can speak or clarify to what Pope Francis meant. Or who is an official spokesperson of the Vatican who knows what Pope Francis means.
Was the point of Pope Francis’ homily that someone should respond and tell us what he means or was the point of his homily that we should listen and think? Do we know the mind of God? Do we know the mind of Pope Francis? What if God wants to welcome an atheist into heaven is that wrong? Is God making a mistake? What if Jesus’ presence in the world was to redeem everyone is that so bad?
Through the Gospel today Jesus reminds us that in order to be a part of the Kingdom our life must be a life dedicated to the care and service of others. If we make this the focus of our life, then the possibilities are endless because as Monday’s Gospel told us all things are possible with God.
Are we listening or are we talking? Have a great Wednesday everyone!
"At Cana, Our Lady showed great realism. She is a Mother who takes people's problems to heart and acts. She recognises moments of difficulty and handles them discreetly, efficiently and decisively. She is neither imperious nor intrusive, but a Mother and a handmaid. Let us ask for the grace to imitate her sensitivity and her creativity in serving those in need, and to know how beautiful it is to spend our lives in the service of others, without favourites or distinctions. May Mary, Cause of our Joy, who brings peace amid the profusion of sin and the turmoil of history, obtain for us the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and enable us to be good and faithful servants." (Pope Francis)
Today’s Thoughts: “We have given up everything and followed you.” I wonder how many of us can really say this. Whether we are religious brothers, priests, sisters, diocesan priests, lay women and men, bishops, cardinals or popes we might think we have given up a lot or everything, but we haven’t.
One of my Passionist brothers often tells the story that at his first vows the preacher said, “Today you have given up everything and tomorrow you will begin to take it all back!” And in a way I think I have to agree with him as I look back of the course of my own religious life. It is hard giving up everything and with the way the world is going each day there are new things that we must have, that we cannot live without. We rationalize, and we make excuses for needing things, for collecting things, for having things.
The same Passionist brother in the above story once put up a picture of a very beautiful chalice and paten in the office of our retreat house and he wrote on the picture, “I need this!” Being a young and brash religious I wrote underneath, “Do you need it or do you just want it?” The picture came down but we bought the chalice and paten. We didn’t need it, we just wanted it!
Yet, in the midst of all this needing, wanting and possessing the Gospel (Mark 10: 28-31) today reminds us that if we are willing to let go there is much we can receive. It might not seem as valuable and important as the things we seem to need and want but it is far more important and valuable. It is the presence of God found in the people around us and in ourselves.
Can we let go and let God today? Have a great Tuesday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: I once heard someone say that our first reading from the First Letter of St. Peter (1 Peter 1: 3-9) is the most beautiful reading in the scriptures in terms of hope. While I like the reading, I would not mark it as one of my favorites even in terms of hope, but it does create a wonderful image of our relationship with God, which some might say stands in contrast to the Gospel passage today (Mark 10: 17-27) but I would say complements it.
The Gospel brings us the story of the rich young man, perhaps one of the saddest stories in the Gospel. The story of struggle because of wealth and possessions, a story that points out one of the great pitfalls of being successful, that it can go to your head. Wealth and possessions can become a god if left unchecked, if they become the most important things in life.
Yet, the end of the Gospel like the reading from the First Letter Peter leaves us with a sense of hope. The hope is that “For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God” (Mark 10:27). Yes, we are going to struggle with the trappings of life. Yes, sometimes we are going to feel like the rich young man. Yes, at times the words of the disciples will be uttered by us, “Then who can be saved” (Mark 10:26). And yes, sometimes our possessions and money will overwhelm us, and we will struggle.
But we live in the hope that even in our failures, our distractions all things are still possible, salvation is still possible, friendship with God is still possible because God is always with us and will never leave us to face life alone!
Happy Monday, Happy Memorial Day everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: Several years ago, I read a book entitled Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith by Barbara Brown Taylor. She is one of my favorite authors, I love the way she writes and how she tells a story. In one of the chapter Barbara tells a little anecdote about life as pastor/rector of her first parish in northern Georgia. After services one Trinity Sunday she found a miniature Three Musketeer Bar and a note on her car. They were from an eccentric woman who lived across the street from the church. The note read, “One for all and all for one, Happy Trinity Sunday.”
I could not help but laugh as I read the story and the story has stuck with me over the years and I keep coming back to it. Taylor writes the story as she is talking about settling into her first parish as a pastor/rector. It wasn’t easy, there were challenges and struggles, but this story seemed to reflect an acceptance, a fitting in for her.
Perhaps that is what this feast of the Holy Trinity is all about. We celebrate the mystery of God as Trinity, three persons but one God. Just saying it seems odd. How can we have three persons but just one God? How can we talk about three individuals yet still only be talking about one God? In human language it is impossible yet that is what we believe. We celebrate the gift of three persons so connect, so intimate, so focused that they are one. Believing means that we are part of that one, members of the relationship, accepted.
We believe in, we celebrate our God today who is all for one and one for all. Happy Trinity Sunday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: In reading today Gospel, we are reminded of how truly dependent children are and about the wonderful freedom and joy that they derive from that dependence. In the Gospel Jesus is trying to help the disciples see two points with respect to allowing children to come to him. The first is to connect his care for the children with his ministry thus far. He had been curing people who are vulnerable, helpless or weak: a demoniac, a deaf man, a blind man and a Gentile woman’s daughter. And now, by welcoming and blessing the children, he is involving with another group who shared the same characteristics.
The second point is that Jesus is helping his disciples understand that to truly follow him they must become essentially dependent upon him.
In our first reading today from James, we can hear James appeal to his readers to become dependent on our Lord. If you are suffering, pray to God and depend on God to grant you the grace you need to get through the suffering. If you are in good spirits, pray to God and give praise, recognizing that your joy is the fruit from your dependence on God. If you have sinned, pray to God for forgiveness and depend on God’s merciful grace so that you will be at peace with God again.
Both our readings today remind us that dependence on Jesus is overwhelmingly beneficial. Jesus is hoping that his disciples will connect with memories of their own childhoods as well as with the reality of the children right in from of them. Children are completely dependent on their parents for everything that they need, their health, for being loved, for food and for being protected. Because they are so dependent, they are free to enjoy each moment of their day. Each day is filled with discovery, with the joy of being with others, with no worries about anything else. And because of this, they can feel deeply joyful; they can go through their day and get ready to sleep with nothing left on their minds to worry about. They can begin and end each day in peace.
Jesus invites us to do the same. When we are physically, emotionally or spiritually suffering, he invites us to be dependent on him. In a way, our suffering can free us from our day-to-day worries. Some of these seem quite small when we are in pain. And by freeing us up, by unblocking our day to day worries we find room to focus on Jesus, in other words, to become dependent upon Jesus. When we are able to do this, we are assured by Jesus that our one step toward him will be met with an incredible amount of steps by him toward us. As we become more dependent upon Jesus, we will feel his unconditional grace that he is constantly sharing. We will find more joy and more peace in our lives.
Have a great Saturday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: In today's gospel, Jesus rather than debating the issue of indecency, he addresses the hardness of people’s hearts. He makes it clear that unless we invite God into our relationships, more specifically our marriages, then we enter relationships, we marry for all the wrong reasons. God offers his love and his Spirit to us so profoundly that we often find it hard to comprehend. Should our love in any personal relationship call for anything less? The capacity to do so, results from a call to a close relationship with Jesus in the Spirit.
By contrast, the majority of today’s marriages in our imperfect world end in divorce. We all witness this daily. It is hard to find anyone who has not been touched by the struggles and sadness of divorce. As much as we make an honest effort to console family and friends caught in the struggle of broken relationships often it is hard to find the right words, or any words at all. Divorce causes God deep sorrow. In our Church, the issue of divorced and civilly remarried Catholics is a painful pastoral problem which Pope Francis has tried to address but change is slow and not without its own struggles.
St. Paul felt the preservation of peace was a greater value than the preservation of an unpeaceful marriage. How many of us, know of someone, who spent more than half of their adult life working dutifully on their marriage only to watch it fall apart. As challenging and difficult as divorce and broken relationships can be, it is also hopeful when encounter people who move on to a place of diminished pain and hope for new life.
Have a blessed Friday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: Several years ago, I ran across the following reflection by an unknown author that seems to be a good reflection for our Gospel today, so I share it with you…
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves: Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?
Actually, who are we not to be? We are children of God. Our playing small doesn’t save the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around us. We were born to make visible the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us, it is all of us!
And as we let our own light shine we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our fears, our presence automatically liberates others.
So, let us not allow our salt, our flavor, to become insipid. Today let us live as the person that God has created us to be rich in the gifts of faith, hope and love, rich is all that matters to God.” (Adapted from an Unknown Writer)
Have a great Thursday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: The message of Jesus today is a very simple one, but often we don’t want to hear it. Help the poor, love our enemies and don’t be so obsessed with wealth and power. All wonderful ideas and ones we cheer with our whole heart. Well, most of it.
Today’s readings challenge us not to be so confident and self-assured. Not to be arrogant. In the first reading, James cautions us not to count on our own plans to get us through life because “you have no idea what your life will be like tomorrow. You are a puff of smoke that appears briefly and then disappears.”
Maybe that lack of control in life is what makes us less willing to turn our life so completely over to God. In the morning, we can pray to surrender our whole life to Jesus. Then we spend the rest of the day wresting it back from him a little at a time. “Let us have just this one part back,” We will bargain. “Oh, and that one, too.”
We don’t like not being in control and all Jesus is asking is that we trust in him more. We don’t have to know what is over the next hill or the next week. But if we trust in Jesus’ presence in our life and in his loving care for us, whatever does come in life will be easier for us, whether we are in “control” or not.
Have a great 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...