Today’s Thoughts: Elijah’s journey has not been an easy one. To fully understand today’s first reading, one would need to read all of Chapter 19 in the First Book of Kings which includes today’s story. Elijah being a prophet has struggled and fought against false prophets. He has dismissed his servants fled into the desert because his life is at risk. He has encountered a messenger from God. He has encountered God and been told by God to return and anoint several new kings and then we encounter today’s story. Elijah is to anoint Elisha as his replacement. We might say that Elijah has been a busy man.
Elijah’s comes to Elisha and throws his cloak over Elisha. The prophetic garment was a symbol of property rights. Elisha receives his state as both servant and possessor of Elijah’s powers of miracles. The communication is instantaneous but as often happens when God calls there are often discussion or reason why this is not the best time. This call of Elisha is no different. He has an excuse as to why he cannot respond right way. However, as also happens when God calls, Elisha gets the picture quickly, leaves his former ways and trustingly follows God’s invitation.
In the Gospel today we encounter several distinctive and important characteristics. It is literally a turning point in Luke’s Gospel. From this point on Jesus has turned toward Jerusalem where he will be lifted up on the cross and raised up after his resurrection. The word “resolutely” speaks of his determination to fulfill his identity as priest, prophet and king. From here, Luke presents Jesus as working slowly upward and directly to the city of Jerusalem. This provides the context for the next section of today’s reading.
The group travels into a village of Samaria where they are not welcomed. James and John ask Jesus if they should call down destructive fires on the Samaritans. Jesus rebukes them and they leave having better things to do as they journey. The dispute between Jews and Samaritans is about proper interpretation of scriptures and also about where exactly the proper place of worship is, in which territory has God truly appeared. We read about this in John’s Gospel. In the story of the woman at the well this struggle between the Samaritans and Jews is evident. Even then like now there is the battle for scriptural turf and possession of the truth.
In the third part of today’s Gospel we hear about call and response. Three people interact with Jesus and the disciples. Jesus presents them with the basic principles of being one of his followers. There is an invitation offered to face the tensions between selfishness and selflessness; between not wanting to let go and letting go and letting God. It is not easy because there are always healthy and normal desires for home and family. The Gospel ends with an image of perseverance. Jesus seems to be talking of himself as well as to those who wish to follow him. Faithfulness is never an easy journey.
Jesus stayed faithful to his being raised on the cross. He remains faithful to the ministry and the mission. Our faithfulness is not just to our own personal commitments, but to Jesus’ faithful commitment to being our Savior. Jesus saves us from ourselves, and our attempts at perfection.
Perhaps a few questions we need to ask ourselves are. How can we live with ourselves who so constantly are not content? To whom are we faithful? Our baptismal promises center around Jesus being our savior. Perhaps we just need to live with ourselves, because he does!
Have a blessed and holy Sunday everyone!
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 grounded and push forward the early Church but who did 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 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 Saturday and many blessings on this feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.
Today’s Thoughts: Our focus today is the “heart,” the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The heart is the center of who we are, physically, emotionally and spiritually. It is the place where we often think of God’s presence within us.
Think for a moment, in a physical way the heart is the center of who we are. It is the pump that pushes life through us. Without it we can do nothing. All our other organs, muscles, bones and assorted other things are important but it is the heart that keeps us alive that makes everything we do, say and feel possible.
Emotionally the heart is central to what we feel. It is the home of the emotions. On February 14th we do not receive or send a card with a gallbladder on the front that says, “I love you!” No, we send or receive a card with a heart on the front. The heart is the place of feelings and emotions. If we were to write a song, a poem or a story about love we would talk about the heart. A broken heart means we have lost at or been hurt by love.
In a spiritual way the heart is important too. The heart in a spiritual sense is the dwelling place of God. In the Old Testament, the psalmists and prophets talked about the community or individual who was without God as having a stony heart. A stony heart has no room for God, is closed to the presence of God.
So, we might say the heart sits at the center of who we are as human beings. Today’s feast reminds us of just how important the heart is to us. Jesus’ heart led him through his journey of life.
Jesus’ Sacred Heart teaches us about love. It is a heart full of the kind of love and mercy that leaves no one behind. Jesus’ Sacred Heart enables him to be the Shepherd in the Gospel today who goes in search of everyone who is lost. Sometimes this love and mercy seem foolish to us but not in the eyes and heart of Jesus. Every person is valuable, ever person is important; every person is worth searching for. Now this doesn’t mean that everyone will be found because some of us don’t want to be found and some of us even when found don’t want to return. But the love of Jesus’ Sacred Heart will always look, will always search and will always wait.
This Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is about love, but it is also about hope; the hope that God is always searching, looking and waiting for us because we are that special, that important. The question for today is, “Can we believe in our value, can we believe in our specialness, can we believe in God’s love for us, can we hope in the fact that God will find us and through his mercy bring us home?”
Have a great Friday everyone!
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 stop blowing and the sun comes out we are still standing and a member of the Body of Christ!
Have a great Thursday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: In today’s Gospel Jesus warns the disciples to be aware of false prophets, who come in sheep’s clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves. Jesus tells the disciples, “by their fruits you will know them”. Perhaps in other words, Jesus is telling us to be attentive, because if we are not then we will begin to compromise our values, our convictions, our faith. Most likely not all at once but little by little in the face of daily challenges and temptations. Remember a tree does not die all at once, unless it is cut down. Rather trees die little by little, gradually giving in to decay that comes from within.
The false prophets, the wolves in sheep’s clothing plant the seeds of decay that can cause us to turn away from the presence of God in our life. The glitz and glitter of the world. The empty promises that we encounter every day that on the outside sound so good while on the inside are hallow and lifeless can begin to eat away at our faith.
There always seems to be new ideas that will make life easier, more fulfilling – just take this pill, eat this food, wear these cloths, drive this car and you will have arrived, life will be all it can be, you will be successful. Vote for me and I will fix everything that is wrong. I will bring back the good old days. Life will be easy again!
Life and faith are never easy. They are full of challenges, struggles, temptations and problems. In order to survive we need to stake our life on the promises of God. In our first reading today from the Book of Genesis that is exactly what Abram and Sarai are asked to do. Image being told after a long life and difficult life with no children that in your old age you will be father, mother of a whole nation that your children will be as numerous as the stars? Sounds like a con job to me! But it’s God’s promise and Abram and Sarai choose to stake their lives on it!
There are many things that can cause us to look beyond God’s promises for greener pastures. There are many false prophets with loud voices and answers for everything. Our scriptures today remind us to be attentive, alert, discerning and faithful. They ask us like Abram and Sarai to stake our lives on the promises of God.
Have a great Wednesday everyone!
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!
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 Monday and may you receive many blessings in the spirit of John the Baptist today and always!
Today’s Thoughts: There are many ways to look at the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ which we celebrate today. The most obvious is the gift of the Eucharist, the most cherished gift of our faith that offers us the spiritual nourishment we need to live this life of faith. The real presence of Christ in the form of bread and wine that in receiving it demands our lives, it demands that we bring this real presence to the world.
Another way to look at this feast is through the Gospel today. As Fr. James Martin, S.J. said, “God can do a lot with what you think is a little.” Just think of what he did along the Sea of Galilee when his disciples said all they had were five loaves and two fish. As we have learned God makes possible the impossible while doing a lot with little; or as Teresa Whalen Lux put it, “God often takes something small and insignificant and turns it into the extraordinary.”
A final thought about today’s feast also comes from Gospel. In America Magazine’s reflection on today’s scriptures called The Word, John Martens says that, “The verb Jesus uses when he tells the disciples to, “Give them some food yourselves,” is in the imperative, the messianic equivalent of “Just do it!” “You feed them!” In other words, long before Nike there was Jesus who challenged all who followed him to, “Just do it!”
I have often in my preaching reflected on receiving the Eucharist as a moment when God, when Jesus says to us, “I demand your life! I have given you mine so now go and give it to the world.” Our celebration of the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ today reminds us of just how blessed we are, of just what God can do and of our challenge each day as we life to trust in God and “Just do it!”
Have a great Sunday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel provides us with a spiritual blueprint for living life. He invites us to disconnect ourselves 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.
Jesus invites those listening and us 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!
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...