Dear Friends in Christ's Passion – I will be on retreat from this afternoon (June 25, 2018) until next Monday morning (July 2, 2018). My access to the internet will be limited and I really want to make a good retreat, so I am going off line and dark for the next week. I will not be on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. I will also not be posting each morning on my web site as I usually do. However, I have done my Today’s Thoughts for the next week and they are posted below. I have also posted a Today’s Prayer for each day in the Prayers for the Journey section of my website. So please keep me in your prayers and check back each day to encounter my reflections and prayers. See you live again next Tuesday July 3, 2018…
Tuesday June 26, 2018
Today’s Thoughts: I think today’s Gospel (Matt 7:6, 12-14) is about reverence, and respect. Jesus seems to indicate that the road to reverence and respect is a narrow one that is a difficult journey but certainly one that is worth the struggle.
There are always people out in the world that find it easy to disrespect us. As Jesus seems to indicate the road of selfishness and “me first” is wide and has many travelers.
Perhaps the focus of today’s Gospel rests in these words by Thomas Merton: “To be grateful is to recognize the Love of God in everything He has given us - and He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense graces from Him.
Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder and to praise of the goodness of God. For the grateful person knows that God is good, not by hearsay but by experience. And that is what makes all the difference.”
If we recognize the Love of God in ourselves and in others we will be on the right road!
Have a great Tuesday everyone!
Wednesday June 27, 2018
Today’s Thoughts: At times when I face the scriptures for a particular day I want to just close the book and tell the community gathered, “Let’s all just sit quietly and listen to what God is saying to us today.” Well, I have that feeling early this morning as I listen to the readings for today (2Kings 22: 8-13; 23: 1-3 and Matthew 7:15-20). The theme whether we are looking at the first reading or the Gospel seems to be laws, rules, regulation. I have to admit these are not my favorite topics for conversation or preaching. I know that they are important. I know that laws, rules and regulations are necessary.
The readings emphasize rules and decrees and warn us of false prophets. Yet sometimes it is a challenge to understand what are the “decrees” to be followed and what are the ones of “false prophets.” I know there are times when I need to stop and examine myself – my actions, my words, my thoughts and my blunders – to reflect on just where my relationship with God is. I know that some of the laws and decrees of the world that I live in seem contradictory to God’s expectations. I am often challenged to find a sense of balance and truth in the living of life.
A litmus test for me, is the feeling that I get in the midst of choices and decisions in my life. There is a little voice that always seems to speak up when I am trying to rationalize that what I’m doing is okay. If I really stop and am honest with myself I realize that I’m cutting corners or putting a spin on it so that I can do what I want not necessarily what God wants. I walk along with my feet of clay until I take the honest route and shake dirt from my feet. I guess you can say I argue with myself until I rid myself of the “false prophets” and find my way back to what is real, honest and true - Jesus.
A common question we sometimes hear used is – What would Jesus do? It is a question that I have asked myself often and at times in answering the question I find that I am not in sync with Jesus. In these moments I need to pause and challenge myself to do what is right – to truly forgive someone without reservation or to reach out without resentment or expectation of payback and help someone – to think that life is just about me, to look beyond myself! That is what my friend, Jesus, would do, that is what I am called do!
You might say that it is a Jesus thing or today it is a Pope Francis thing. It is finding the presence and hand of God at work in the living of life. Laws, rule, regulations and decrees might not be sexy but they guide and direct us through the pitfalls of life and often help us to make the right choices.
Have a great Wednesday everyone!
Thursday June 28, 2018
Today’s Thoughts: There was a poster I once saw that said, “If you were to be put on trial for being a Christian, would you be found guilty?” Perhaps that is what Jesus is getting at in the Gospel today (Matt 7:21-29). It is not about what we say; it is about how we live especially when there is a storm.
Mahatma Gandhi once said, “I like your Christ; I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” If we are to be people of faith, we need to be Christ like.
As Jesus images in the Gospel, our faith needs to be built on God, our rock, so that when the storms come, and the winds blow we stand firm. It does not mean that we don’t sway a little; that we are not pushed at times to our limits; or that the electricity doesn’t go off from time to time. What it does mean is that when the storm is over, the wind stops blowing and the sun comes out we are still standing and a member of the Body of Christ!
Have a great Thursday everyone!
Friday June 29, 2018
Today’s Thoughts: Today we celebrate the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, two very prominent figures in our story of faith, two men who ground and push forward the early Church but who do it in very different ways. We celebrate two men who remind us why we are Church, two men who reflect what it means to be Church.
I sometimes think that Sts. Peter and Paul reflect the Church though it might be nice to have a triptych of saints today with perhaps the third being a woman, like St. Mary Magdalen. If Mary were included in our celebration today our feast would surely be a more complete picture of the Church and the Body of Christ.
However, we celebrate Peter and Paul, two people of different approaches to life, different ways of living, different ministries. They didn’t always agree yet they forged an energy, a spirit that remains with us today.
St. Peter was a passionate man but one who was easily swayed by the moment. St. Paul was a man of conviction, spirit and energy but at least early on it was misguided. Both had to be challenged by God to accept their roles as leaders, preachers and persons of faith.
We celebrate them today by asking them to intercede for us before God so that we might be graced with the strength, the perseverance, the energy, the spirit and the faith to live as a Church, as the Body of Christ. We seek their passion so that we too might recognize God in our midst and be able to proclaim as we journey through our life of faith, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” and “To God be glory forever and ever, Amen!”
Have a great Friday and many blessings on this feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.
Saturday June 30, 2018
Today’s Thoughts: One of my many struggles with the revised Roman Missal has been with a phrase that we hear in today’s Gospel, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof….” I have just found this phrase a struggle each time I say it just before receiving communion. I keep wanting to say, “into my heart,” rather than “under my roof.”
The centurion, the one who expresses these words in our Gospel, is one who is accustom to having power and commanding others. We encounter this in his own words to Jesus, “And I say to one, 'Go,' and he goes; and to another, 'Come here,' and he comes; and to my slave, 'Do this,' and he does it.” And yet, he recognizes that his own power is nothing compared to that of Jesus. How often do we find ourselves wanting to control a situation or tell God how to do something? It sometimes takes us a while before we step back and realize that we are not in control. Once we remember that we are not in control it can often be quite liberating. Placing our trust and faith in God over and over again is a part of any spiritual journey. It is the letting go and letting God.
What is powerful about our Gospel today is the absolute faith with which the centurion approaches Jesus on behalf of his servant. He does not doubt that Jesus’ words alone can heal his servant, even without a physical encounter with Jesus. Each time we receive the Eucharist, we, unworthy as we are, are deemed worthy for a physical encounter with Christ. What an awesome and wonderful thought! And yet often the reality of Christ within us, under our roofs, in our hearts is very challenging to grasp and a reality that we don’t always approach with the faith and trust of the centurion.
Like the centurion, we have the opportunity to be transformed with each encounter with Christ, whether it is through prayer or meditation, through interactions with others in our daily lives, or through receiving Christ in the Eucharist.
As we journey through this day let us pray that we can approach Jesus with the same humility and faith that the centurion does. Let us invite Jesus into our hearts and our homes, under our roofs, and allow Him to transform us as we journey in faith.
Have a great Saturday everyone!
Sunday July 1, 2018
Today’s Thought: In a phrase we might say that today’s readings are about “the value of life” or put differently “the value of each person.” In our political and religious rhetoric these days we hear a lot about the value of life and the person. We might say that as Catholics the value and importance of life is our prime objective however often it only refers to birth rather than the entire span of life. We are profoundly intent on bringing life into the world but how concerned are we about that life after it comes into the world?
In the first reading from the Book of Wisdom we hear that God did not make death, that the creatures of the world are wholesome and that God formed us to be imperishable; in the image of God we were made. In other words, each one of us who comes into the world brings the image and likeness of God with us. We are each valuable, important, necessary and gifted. Each one of us is unique and special. Without our presence in the world a part of the image and likeness of God is missed.
St. Paul in the second reading continues this reflection on the value of life. He reminds of what Jesus has done for us. Jesus so loved us that he gave his life for us, that we might have life. In St. Paul’s words Jesus became poor that we might become rich. St. Paul’s point is that we each have a special gift and it needs to be shared. He asks us to be gracious and generous people. In St. Paul’s eyes, in God’s eyes, we are all equal and should share equally in the abundance of God’s love. If we happen to be blessed at a particular moment in life that blessing must be shared.
Finally, in Mark’s Gospel we encounter the challenge of being gracious, generous and loving lived out in the person of Jesus. He puts the value of each person ahead of the rules and regulations of his own religion. Jesus steps across the boundary of becoming ritually unclean to heal. Jesus values the life and health of the woman with the hemorrhage and the official’s daughter because they are created in the image and likeness of God. In each case Jesus becomes ceremonially unclean and was not permitted to enter the synagogue or the temple to pray liturgically or publicly. It was not that Jesus wanted to challenge the tradition; he simply acted spontaneously and lovingly because he valued life and the person, a stance that Jesus was more than willing to defend.
We can talk about the importance of life all we want but the proof of the pudding is in our actions. If we value life and making sure that life reaches the world then we must ask ourselves if we are willing to care for life from the moment of conception to the last breath? Do we value ourselves and others? Do we value the least and the best? Do we share our blessings so that all might encounter God’s love? Are we willing to step across the boundaries of culture, society and religion when someone needs us? Are we gracious, generous and loving people? These are the questions our scriptures ask of us today! What answers will we give?
Have a great Sunday everyone and do not forget to give God a little time today!
Monday July 2, 2018
Today’s Thoughts: I think today’s Gospel (Matthew 8:18-22) can be reduced to two words, essentials and incidentals. Jesus seems to be saying that there are essential things in life and there are incidental things in life and we have to figure out which are which. To follow Jesus means that we invest in the essentials and we let go of the incidentals, however this is not always easy. What is an incidental for Jesus a lot of the time is an essential for us.
Now we are never really sure what the scribes are up to, often they seem to spend their time trying to antagonize Jesus. Are Jesus’ answers in the Gospel today in response to an antagonist or words for all of us to live by? I vote that they are words for all of us to live by even though they might be difficult.
Making a commitment to follow Jesus involves letting go. The Gospel today gives us a perfect example of what it takes to let go. Jesus basically says, “If you are going to follow me it’s now or never!” He doesn’t invite us follow tomorrow, in a couple of weeks or a year from now—we are invite today…Now! Following Jesus is not easy, especially when it’s not on our terms. Living this life is about battling our own needs, wants and desires every day. As Jesus say, following him means “Picking up our crosses and following each day!”
A question for today might be what do we think are the important things in life and are we willing if necessary to let them go to follow Jesus?
Have a great Monday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: We could approach today Gospel (Matthew 7: 1-5) from a negative perspective after all that is what Jesus seems to do. We could look at it as the don’ts of life. We are not to judge so that we will not be judged. But I would like to look at Jesus’ words in a more positive light.
Perhaps the intent of Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel isn’t just to say, don’t judge so that you will not be judged but that Jesus is asking us to stop and take a look at just how we look at others. Do we look at others through what they or maybe we do wrong? Wouldn’t it be better to first try to find God’s goodness, God’s presence in others which just might lead us to finding God’s goodness and presence in ourselves?
Judging is easy. We are all imperfect, so we will always find flaws. We will always find moments of weakness. We will always find actions that don’t measure up, not only in others but also in ourselves. I think sometimes we judge or are hard on others because we know our own mistakes, our own shortcomings and if we can take the focus off our faults, our failings and look for them in others we think we can feel better.
However, the opposite is true, if we look for goodness, if we look for God’s presence in others it often opens the door to finding God within ourselves. I think this is what Jesus is getting at today. Yes, perhaps he puts it in the negative but if we walk by faith, if we trust in God’s love then Jesus’ words can be turned into a positive way of living life. After all, if we take the wooden beam from our own eye then we will have better vision not just to see the splinter in others, but to find the goodness in ourselves and others. If we can find God in ourselves, we will be able to find God in others and vice versa!
Have a great Monday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: Perhaps one of John the Baptist’s most profound sayings which can be found in John’s Gospel (John 3:30) goes like this, “He (Jesus) must increase and I must decrease.” Why is this so profound? Well because in it John shows us a humility not found very often.
Think of our world, when someone rises to power, fame, fortune the last thing they want to do is let go of control, step out of the spotlight, and turn things over to someone else i.e. Mr. Trump and to be fair many others. Yet, that is exactly what John the Baptist does. He is “the man” all eyes are focused on him, he has center stage and yet once Jesus enters John is willing to step out of the bright lights and let Jesus take over.
Today we celebrate the birth of John the Baptist. We remember his coming into the world and how he was dedicated from conception to be the forerunner, the announcer of Jesus’ presence in the world. From the very beginning John knows that at some point his presence will no longer be necessary, his mission will be completed, and he will have to decrease.
Remembering John the Baptist reminds us of our challenge to live as prophets, as disciples of Jesus. Life is not about us and if we take on the journey of discipleship, of proclaiming the presence of God we too will all be called to decrease so that God can increase.
Yes, our feast today reminds us that like John the Baptist, we too are wonderfully made so let us praise God with the living of our life today so that like John we can be ready to proclaim God’s presence to whomever we encounter!
Have a great Sunday and may you receive many blessings in the spirit of John the Baptist today and always!
Today’s Thoughts: At first glance the readings today from Chronicles and from Matthew do not seem to fit together. The reading from Chronicles relates a paints the picture of an angry God, who is focused on providing his chosen people with the lesson they will never forget. Don’t buy into the Lord’s commands and you will find yourselves crashed by your enemies.
Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel provides us with a more spiritual message. Disconnect yourself from the things that the world finds important like material goods and wants, and become more trusting of God, like the birds of the sky and the flowers of the fields.
However, in taking a second look at our readings, we might be able to say that in a certain way they are related. The leaders of Judah are involved in conduct that shows that they have lost focus, that they have taken the easy way. They have misjudged the value of their gift from God and they have placed immediate gratification over long-term growth. They stopped being focused on their relationship with God and became more selfish.
Jesus invites those listening to focus on things that really matter and not those that are distractions. Jesus challenges those listening and us to live more simply, less materialistically, and more spiritually. Jesus encourages us to be more faith-filled and less troubled by the things we are powerless to change.
In other words, it is not the temporary and fleeting things in life but the consent presence of God that can help us come to the source of real power. It is coming to the realization that we cannot serve two masters. It is making the conscious choice to put God at the center of our life. It is trusting in the reality that when we are weak we are strong. It is not worrying about tomorrow but living today!
Have a great Saturday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: There is a poem by Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ, who was the Superior General of the Society of Jesus for almost 20 years, which I like very much.
Nothing is more practical than
finding God, that is, than
falling in love
in a quite absolute, final way.
What you are in love with,
what seizes your imagination,
will affect everything.
It will decide
what will get you out of bed
in the morning,
what you do with your evenings,
how you spend your weekends,
what you read, who you know,
what breaks your heart,
and what amazes you with
joy and gratitude.
Fall in love, stay in love,
and it will decide everything.
I thought of it as I read today’s Gospel (Matthew 6:19-23). Where is your treasure? Who or what do you love? Seem to be the questions of the day. Is it God? The words of the Gospel today challenge us to find our treasure in God, but also to move beyond simple academic statements about God and love. Jesus asks us to allow our living of life to reveal to us what we really believe and value. The path we take in life can be a helpful, important, and challenging window in helping us recognize where our hearts are, what and who we are in love with, and where our treasure truly lies.
Have a great Friday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: Each time I encounter today’s Gospel, Jesus teaching the disciples to pray the Our Father I can feel the emotions well up within me. For you see I have a special memory that centers on this prayer. The Our Father was one of the last prayers I prayed with my father before he died 36 and a half years ago. It was a December night in 1982, I was in my father’s hospital room late that night and as I was about to leave he asked me to pray with him. I was more than happy to do so and I asked him what prayer he wanted to pray and he said, “The Our Father.”
I began to say the words and notice that my dad was not praying so I stopped and asked what was wrong. Dad said, “I don’t remember the words.” His illness had begun to affect his mind. So, I said, “No problem” and suggested that I say a few words of the prayer and that he repeat them after me. Do you know how hard it is to say the Our Father when you have to stop and think about what you are saying? Well, we got through the prayer and dad became very peaceful and for the most part remained peaceful over the last few weeks of his life. I have always remembered that moment.
I have never prayed the Our Father at mass, during the rosary or at any other time and not thought about that moment. What power there is in this simple prayer, what a gift this simple prayer is to all who pray it.
I would invite you at some moment today to pause and slowly, deliberately pray the Our Father. Listen to the words. Realize what God offers you through the words of this simple prayer and what God asks of you.
By the way thanks Dad! Have a great Thursday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: “God loves the cheerful giver.” This little sentence from St. Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians seems to really sum up today’s Gospel (Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18). Jesus challenges us to be humble people of prayer and service.
In the Gospel we hear those familiar phrases. “Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. When you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret.” In each case the most important reward comes not in the world knowing that we do things but in God knowing.
I think the grace and the challenge of the message of our Gospel is that what we have is a gift from God and in sharing this gift it becomes far more profound than we ever thought it could be. However, for this gift to have power, impact and abundance we need to share it – not for our glory and praise but for the glory and praise of God.
Have a great Wednesday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: “Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.” Perhaps this simple refrain from our Responsorial Psalm might be a key to understanding and living out Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel (Matthew 5:43-48). To love one’s enemies, to pray for those who persecute us, we first must realize that we too are sinners; we too have hurt others and at time made life difficult for others.
There are no perfect people out there in the world, no one can claim perfection, thus if we wish mercy and forgiveness we need to be willing to offer it too. Now I am not saying it is easy, if it were Jesus would never have included it in his teaching and I would not be writing about it this morning. Living a life of faith is often difficult and always challenging.
Perhaps the key to making it work is prayer. If our first response to the challenge, to the difficulty, to the struggle is prayer rather than anger, resentment, and judgment then we have the chance to imperfectly live the Gospel message.
Today’s Gospel is not about excusing offensive acts or being lenient with people who hurt us. It is not about looking the other way and letting people just do what they want. Today’s Gospel is about how we trust in the presence of God as we live in the midst of an imperfect world. It is about how we react to people and situation that hurt us. Do we seek vengeance, do we expect to extract our pound of flesh or do we pause and through prayer place the person, the situation in God’s hands?
Prayer can be a way of offering another Christian love. It can be a way of seeking mercy and forgiveness and also offering mercy and forgiveness. Prayer is not going to make our world perfect but it can be a starting point for us becoming the people of faith that Jesus asks us to be today!
Have a great Tuesday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: Given the negativity, anger, misinformation, violence of our world and the bad things that often seem to happen to good people living with a generous and willing heart is not always easy and sometimes is downright frustrating. At least it seems that way to me. I truly want to follow the words of Jesus in today’s Gospel (Matthew 5: 38-42), “Give to the one who asks of you and do not turn your back on the one who wants to borrow.” Yet, time and time again I struggle with the Gospel way that Jesus outlines today.
At times I want justice or maybe more so revenge, yes I want an eye for an eye. I don’t like to get hit at all and I certainly don’t want to turn the other cheek. I am happy at times to go the extra mile but not always. You can have my jacket or coat as long as it is an old one and I have another. And it seems at times there are people on every street corner and subway stop if I give to everyone I will be broke within a day!
Yes, often I fail when it comes to Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel and that bothers me! How can I be a person of faith, how can I be a Christian, a Catholic and fall so short? Jesus’ words are haunting words today and I have no answer. Sure, I have often rationalized – I can’t give to everyone; the money will surely be used for drugs or drink; they got what they deserved; somebody has to teach them a lesson; it’s too cold; I don’t have time; somebody else will help them; and on and on!
But Jesus doesn’t give conditions or excuses he just says offer no resistance, turn the other cheek, give your coat, go the extra mile and don’t turn your back! So I am still faced with my imperfection, I am still face with how to act and live. I have no intelligent answer, no sage wisdom of many years. All I can say is that it is perhaps good to pause and listen to or read Jesus’ words in Matthew’s Gospel today knowing that we are not perfect but also reminding ourselves that there is still much to learn, much to do. Perhaps, Jesus’ words make sure that we see the world around us and that we don’t close our eyes to it!
Have a great Monday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: In our Gospel today, Jesus is taking some time to prepare his disciples, and us, for the journey ahead. God's reign, God’s kingdom, Jesus explains, is not the way the disciples or we think of kingdom, reign and power.
It is like the farmer who sows seed, but doesn't really know how they grow, even with the right combination of sun, rain and good soil. It just grows. And, it's like a mustard seed which is not very impressive or powerful looking. The results, however, are wonderful.
Jesus’ teaching is not to over simplify our relationship with God by saying, "God will make everything the way we want it to be, and now." No, each of us knows moments of sadness when something did not work well in our life, or perhaps when a number of things did not work well or are not working well now. Difficult, and challenging moments, that have made it hard to have hope. Moments and experiences that tempt us to lose courage, to be discouraged, so much that we can't imagine that God is here or that God is able to bring saving grace into our situation. We don't know, can't foresee, how there can be light anywhere in this darkness, or how this loss, this death, this struggle, this difficulty can result in life.
However, as Paul reminds us we “walk by faith not by sight.” We are to see things through the eye, the lens, the filter of faith. Jesus’ parables or images in our Gospel today are asking us to see things differently. His images of the reign of God are asking us to be faithful companions on the journey.
Have a great Father's Day and a blessed Sunday 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...