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 and holy 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 over 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 five 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 and holy Monday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: “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!” or I guess I should say today, “If only I could be like Lebron!”
The key to overcoming our struggles 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 that makes the body visible, strong and life giving to others.
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 the mighty acts of God.
My friends, peace be with you today and always and receive the Holy Spirit, letting the Spirit fill your hearts and bring to life the fire of God’s love within you!
Have a wonderful, holy, and blessed Pentecost and Memorial Day Sunday everyone!
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 holy and blessed 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 and holy Friday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: “Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed saying: ‘I pray not only for these, but also for those who will believe in me through their words….’” There is comfort for us in today’s Gospel (John 17:20-26). While we still find ourselves listening to Jesus talk about his and our relationship with the Father as we have been for most of the Easter Season, today Jesus lets us know that his prayer is not only for his disciples but for us, those who believe because we have heard.
Jesus looks ahead with his prayer today, ahead to all those who will come after him and somehow, in some way, come to believe. Jesus prays for people like you and me who have listened to the words of parents, relatives, teachers, preachers and come to know and believe in Jesus.
St. Paul in the first reading (Acts 22:30; 23:6-11) is an example of the power of Jesus’ prayer. Paul knows human nature and he used it to his advantage today so that he can continue to proclaim the Good News. St. Paul is a witness to the presence of God in the world and because of his witness we to have a chance to believe.
As we journey through this day let us be thankful for Jesus’ prayer that we too might be included in God’s love if we have the courage to believe in the Good News that we hear!
Have a blessed and holy Thursday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: I have to say that I will be glad when Sunday comes and goes, and we are no longer in the Easter Season. I say this not out of disrespect or because I don’t like the Easter Season, I love it but by this point we have heard the Gospel of John especially chapters 14-17 so much that it is a little hard to focus. Throughout these chapters John goes around and around about Jesus’ relationship with the Father and our relationship with him and the Father. Sometimes I just want to say, “Ok, I get it!” I also think John may have been reincarnated in the people who wrote and translated the Roman Missal. If it is not John, then it must be somebody who studied under him or a distant relative of him.
However, with my frustrations stated I was thinking early this morning as I spent time in prayer preparing for all that I have to do today that perhaps these chapters in John are really the words of a person in love.
There have been several times in my life when I thought that I was in love or when I was in love. Obviously, they did not work out, but I can still remember the women and how I felt. I can also remember that it was hard to explain my feelings to myself and others. It was hard to talk about my feelings; the words would get all jumbled up. I would repeat them over and over again until I am sure my friends were tired of listening to me. When I would speak about my feelings to the one, I loved or tried to explain them to my friends often I did not seem to be making much sense.
Perhaps that is my struggle with the words of Jesus in John’s Gospel that we have been listening to throughout the Easter Season. Yes, they are Jesus’ words, but it is John who is trying to communicate them to us. It is John in the writing of the Gospel who is now the person in love. He is a man in love with the Father, a man in love with Jesus, a man in love with us. Both Jesus and John are trying to explain this love. Jesus to his disciples and John is trying to explain this love to us but in both cases, words do not always come out that clear. They explain this love repeatedly, hoping we will understand and hoping that we too will fall in love!
Have a blessed and holy 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 repeatedly 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 as 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 blessed and holy 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). 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 and we know this all too well these days.
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 viruses, 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 blessed and holy 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...