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 struggling. 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 joy, hope and new life into the world!
Have a blessed, holy, safe, and healthy Memorial Day everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: Eugene Peterson in his book Subversive Spirituality writes, “Imagination is the capacity to make connections between the visible and the invisible, between heaven and earth, between present and past, between present and future. For Christians, whose largest investment is in the invisible, the imagination is indispensable, for it is only by means of the imagination that we can see reality whole, in context.”
After reading today’s Gospel (Mark 11:27-33), a question might be, do the chief priests, scribes and the elders, the religious leadership of Jesus’ time, lack imagination? It seems each time we meet them they just don’t seem to be able to make a connection between visible the invisible, between heaven and earth, between the present and the past, between the present and the future.
Perhaps an even more important question is – do we lack imagination in living out our faith?
Have a holy, blessed, and healthy Saturday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: Today’s Gospel begins with Jesus entering the Temple area, but it was late, so Jesus went to Bethany for the night only to return to the Temple area the next day to drive out the buyers and sellers. Before Jesus took it upon himself to clear the Temple of business he first paused to look around. What did he see? Did he see beauty, as well as distortion?
Often, we act before thinking; we jump in with both feet before we really know what we are landing on. We act as though we know what the real circumstances are. Our actions at time are based on our memory or worse yet, based on how we might prefer to perceive reality. Pausing and looking again can be difficult. It might cause us to change our understanding. Pausing might even cause us to ask for help even from God so that we can see things correctly!
In the Gospel today, Jesus asks us to pause but also to persevere in prayer and forgiveness. In fact, it is our willingness to forgive that helps our prayers find their way to God. Jesus pauses today in the Gospel to put into perspective just what the Temple was all about. As Jesus says, “my house shall be called a house of prayer for all people!”
Have a blessed, holy, and healthy Friday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: In our Gospel today, we are treated to the story of Bartimaeus, the blind man whom Jesus encountered as he was passing through Jericho one day. Bartimaeus not influenced by the people around him who said be quite called out to Jesus asking for sight. Jesus once again pointed to a person’s faith as the source of their healing.
A couple of 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, which is all that matters to God. (Adapted from an Unknown Writer)
Bartimaeus let his light shine. He did not worry about what others thought. He called out to Jesus and because of his faith he was healed. He believed in the fact that he was a child of God and he made visible the glory of God that was within him. Should we not do the same with our life today?
Have a blessed, holy, and healthy 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 we have been told all things are possible with God.
Are we listening or are we talking? Have a great Wednesday everyone!
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: Today we celebrate a memorial new as of three years ago to our Church calendar, a day dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church. Back in March 2018 it was announced that Pope Francis had added this new feast in honor of Mary and that it would be celebrated the Monday after Pentecost.
I remember reading on Facebook or Twitter someone sayings, “Do we really need another feast in honor of Mary?” I suppose some part of me agrees with that question but the rest of me says, “Yes, we do.”
It is common knowledge that Pope Francis has a great devotion to Mary and he has chosen to honor Mary in this way the day after Pentecost, the birthday of the Church. It seems only fitting to honor the Church’s Mother the day after. Since I was a child I have always seen Mary as mother. To me honoring Mary as the Mother of the Church is as natural as making the sign of the cross. Mary is Jesus’ mother, the Blessed Mother. But, more importantly we need to stop and think of Mary as our mother, in a personal way. Perhaps, a question we should ask ourselves today is; “What does Mary as our Mother mean for us today?
The Gospel chosen for today comes from near the end of the Passion in John’s Gospel (John 19:25-34). The passage begins right before Jesus’ death when he looks at his mother and the disciple whom he loved and says to his mother, "Woman, behold, your son." Then he said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother." We could simply pass this moment off as Jesus making sure his mother is taken of, however it is much more profound.
Jesus is not only taking care of his mother, he is also taking care of us. This moment is about Mary’s presence in our lives as Mother of the Church. Everything born into this world comes through a mother. Mothers are the touchstones of life and today we honor the most important touchstone of our faith. Perhaps we should take some time with Pope Francis today to honor Mary’s presence in our life as Mother of the Church and thank he for her faith and her “yes!”
Have a blessed, holy, and healthy Monday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: Note: Sorry I am late with my posting today but I was traveling all day yesterday and had no internet at my overnight stop and then I traveled the first half of today. So, this is the first chance I have gotten to post!
“Different gifts but the same Spirit!” It is hard sometimes to trust in the gifts that we have. We always seem to look across the fence at the other side and think it looks better. We tend to see what other people do and think, “If only I could be like Mike!”
The key to overcoming our struggle with the Spirit is to remember, that every gift comes from the same Spirit. In other words, we all have a common origin, we all are gifted. The challenge is not, are we the best, the brightest, the most powerful, the most important, the most well-known, the strongest, the most gifted. The challenge is how do we give life to the gifts we have? How do we speak and act so that when others hear and encounter us they come to know the mighty acts of God?
St. Paul was very creative when he used the image of the body to represent our relationship with God, our relationship with Jesus. It is one body with all of us as members, as parts. All of us are necessary for the body to work, to function, to have life, with each member, each part valuable and important. Some members, some parts may stand out more than others, but it is the sum of the parts working together take makes the body visible, strong and life giving.
Yes, today we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We celebrate being one of the many gifts of the Spirit. We celebrate being a part of Christ’s body. We celebrate being a member and hopefully like the disciples on the first Pentecost we give life to the gifts of the Holy Spirit that we have received so that all will hear through us in a language they understand that proclaims the mighty acts of God in the world today.
I hope you are having a great Pentecost Sunday everyone! And may the Spirit of God’s peace be with us today and always. Let the Holy Spirit fill our hearts with the Passion of Jesus Christ and bring to life the fire of God’s love within us!
Today’s Thoughts: Today we encounter the final verses of John’s Gospel. As we have traveled through the Easter season we have retold the stories of Jesus’ meetings with the disciples after the Resurrection. Drawing on yesterday’s Gospel Jesus helps the disciples catch a large number of fish and in doing so he gets their attention after which they gather to have a little breakfast. Having nourished themselves Jesus then challenges Peter three times with the question “Do you love me?” What we read today is the final call of Peter.
In the early part of John’s Gospel, Jesus, is followed by two of John the Baptist’s disciples. In the story Jesus turns and asks the two men perhaps a most important question, “What are you seeking?” The two men reply by asking Jesus where he is staying. Jesus extends the invitation to, “Come and see.” Jesus does not say, “Come and find out.” Jesus simply invites them as he will invite others and all of us for that matter, to come, to see and so believe. This is Jesus’ ongoing invitation, the challenge of being people of faith throughout our journey of life. In John’s Gospel, believing is seeing the “signs” so that believing beyond “signs” will be what it means “to follow”.
So, John ends his Gospel with Peter’s having seen enough “signs” including the large catch of fish after catching nothing, during the night. Perhaps when looking back at the disciple who Jesus loved, Peter is asking for another “sign”, a companion whom Peter could trust for support. Jesus indicates that this disciple has his own calling as does Peter, as do all of us. Peter’s calling is to trust in his friendship with Jesus throughout the rest of the story, the end of which Peter does not know.
These final verses are a summary reflection of all that Jesus has done throughout his ministry. It is a summary of all the “signs” that are there to be seen and all who can see the “signs” are no longer blind, they believe, they have faith, because of having seen, because they have encountered Christ. As John says there were many events in the life of Jesus, but those that have been written down are just the right amount for Peter and any reader of the Gospel.
With the coming of the Spirit we are given the gift of faith which is a variety of vision by which we look for and receive “signs” of the presence of Jesus and of his calling us to follow into the unknown of our tomorrows. We, like Peter, will always want assurances, companions, and more “signs” to make believing a little bit easier. God gives us just the right amount of what’s good for our own response.
Have a blessed, holy, and healthy Saturday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: We return today to one of the Easter stories where the disciples encounter the risen Jesus. Two of my favorite quotes from rather famous Jesuits came to mind this morning as I reflected on our Gospel.
The first was a quote that I have always liked from Fr. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ. – “Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.”
And the second is a prayer written by St. Ignatius of Loyola, SJ. – “Take Lord, receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, all that I have and possess. You have given all to me. To you, O Lord, I return it. All is yours, dispose of it wholly according to your will. Give me only your love and your grace, for this is enough for me.”
In reading the Gospel this morning these words from two great Jesuits came to mind. In the Gospel Jesus asks Peter three times, “Do you love me?” and three times Peter says, “Yes!” Our relationship, our friendship with God centers on love, God’s love for us and our love for God.
This exchange between Jesus and Peter along the shore of the Sea of Galilee after the Resurrection puts an exclamation point of their relationship and sends Peter out into the world to discover the energies of love, to discover fire once again all in the service of God!
Love is only realized, only understood in terms of action. How we live it out determines its power and presence. If Peter loves Jesus then he must live that love out, he must share it with the people of God and so must we!
Have a blessed, holy, and healthy 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...