Today’s Thoughts: Today we celebrate the second half of the Church’s focus on the heart. Yesterday we celebrated the Sacred Heart of Jesus and today it is Mary’s Immaculate Heart that we honor. There are many things we can say about Mary’s heart but the virtue that stands out most to me about Mary is strength. I think Mary’s heart was truly a heart of strength.
In the Gospel today, Luke tells us that Mary kept all the experience of Jesus in her heart. She kept the joys and sorrows, the miracles and the opposition, the quiet moments and the great crowds, the mother and father moments of family and the community moments of discipleship. Mary kept the triumphant moments of shepherds, angels, kings and palms and failing moments of whips, nails, wooden crosses and death on a hill. Yes, Mary kept all things in her heart, so she needed a very strong heart to hold all the experiences of life that she encountered from early on. Mary was truly a woman, a mother of great strength, a strength that came from and was nourished, feed and supposed by her heart.
The heart is central to who we are as a human being. Whether we are speaking about our physical, emotion or spiritual life the heart plays a central role in how we live our life. Mary’s heart was a heart of strength carrying the grace of God’s presence in her life. Her strength enabled her to say “yes” to God and then watch as that “yes” unfolded in the life, passion, death and resurrection of her son, Jesus.
Mary, woman of strength, hold us in your heart that we too may be strong in living our journey of life!
Have a blessed, holy, and healthy Saturday everyone!
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 does not mean that everyone will be found because some of us do not want to be found and some of us even when found do not 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 blessed, holy, and healthy Friday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: I ran across a quote by David Benner the author of Healing Emotional Wounds, “Forgiveness…is letting go – letting go of the anger, letting go of the right to retaliate, and letting go of the right to savour any of the emotional consequences of the hurt."
I have always reflected with people who were struggling with forgiveness that forgiveness is about letting go. It is about moving beyond the hurt. Yet often people think that forgiveness means forgetting.
The wisdom in Brenner’s reflection is that he is not saying that we forget that we let go of the experience itself but that we let go of the human effects of being hurt that can often paralyze us. Perhaps said another way we need to let go so we can get beyond being a victim.
I think this is what Jesus is getting at in the God today (Matthew 5:20-26). In order for the commandment of love, which we reflected on yesterday, to fully be part of our life we have to let go of the anger, retaliation and the victimization that being hurt can often bring about.
Jesus talks about taking the high road. Jesus speaks about being the bigger person. Jesus teaches us the importance and power of love. However, there is one thing we always need to remember none of this is easy and sometimes taking the high road, being the bigger person, living by love can open us up to be hurt once again. It can also mean being rejected. The commandment of love requires that we be forgiving people, to seek forgiveness and to offer forgiveness whether it is successful or not.
So, we pray for the strength and the grace to be people willing to seek forgiveness and be forgiving!
Have a blessed. holy, and healthy Thursday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: After reading today’s Gospel (Matthew 5:17-19) one might ask the question, “What law is Jesus speaking about?” At first glance we might be tempted to say that Jesus was about abolishing the law rather than fulfilling it. His life and ministry often seemed to challenge Jewish law rather than support it or fulfill it.
However, we might think about a conversation Jesus had with a scribe in Mark 12:28-34, the scribe asked Jesus, “Which is the first of all the commandments?” Jesus’ responds “to love God and to love your neighbor as yourself, these are the two great commandments.” Now, if we think of this conversation considering today’s Gospel then we might begin to have a real understanding of what law Jesus is talking about.
All of law flows from these two great commandments, love of God and neighbor. Jesus’ life was about fulfilling these commandments, his life, his actions, his teaching and his ministry all centered on living a life in love of God and others. All that Jesus said and did was to bring fulfillment to the great law of love.
Jesus showed us the way to fulfill the law, to change the world. Thus, the challenge for us in today’s Gospel is about how we live our life. Do we live our life to help bring fulfillment to the law of love? Do we live life loving God, others and ourselves?
Have a blessed, holy, and healthy Wednesday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: In Matthew Jesus uses the wonderful example of salt and light in asking the disciples, in asking us to reflect on our lives. I have often preached on this Gospel using the image not of the Sermon on the Mount but of Jesus talking with his disciples one evening as they rested at an inn. They have traveled with him and Jerusalem in not far away and Jesus isn’t sure that they are ready for what is ahead, he isn’t sure their answer is “yes.” How can he help them trust in their relationship?
Then an idea comes to mind. He calls them together. Before he speaks he looks at each one of them and then says, “You are the salt of the earth! But what if salt loses it flavor? What is then good for?” Then he looks at each of them intently again and says. “You are the light of the world! People don’t put a lamp under a bushel basket, they put it on a stand so that it gives light to the whole room. In the same way your light must shine, your flavor must be tasted!”
Now I know I am being a bit free and easy with Jesus’ words, but the point is that in order for us to say “yes” to God we need to trust in the gifts and talents God has given us. We need to realize that we have something to offer no matter how ordinary our gifts, abilities and talents seem. Salt and light were everyday staples of life, yet as Jesus tells us they were also very valuable and so are we. However, it is up to us. We can hide our light, we can lose our flavor, or we can give light to the whole room and add flavor to life!
Perhaps the first place to start is to begin our day asking God to let his face shine upon us so that our flavor isn’t lost and our light shines!
Have a blessed, holy, and healthy Tuesday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: I have a couple of thoughts about the Gospel today (Matthew 5: 1-12). The Beatitudes are one of my favorite Gospels but also one of the most challenging Gospels for me. Often after hearing it proclaimed, I am energized yet also humbled. I am ready to encounter the world, yet I am also ready to head to the confessional. I want to be a true disciple, yet I know I am far from it!
Fr. James Martin, S.J. writes “What does it mean to be poor in spirit?” I must admit I have always struggle with an understanding of this first beatitude. Fr. Martin’s answer, “Poor in Spirit is to know one’s reliance on God, to understand one’s dependence on God and to grasp one’s humanity.” I guess we might say that to be “poor in spirit” is to let go and let God.
The other challenge of the beatitudes is that to live fully any one of the beatitudes, you will almost automatically begin to live them all. Perhaps to put it another way, “You can’t live just one!” In order to be a peacemaker, we need to also be meek, merciful, clean of heart, righteous and poor in spirit. In order to be merciful, we need to be clean of heart, meek, poor in spirit, righteous and a peacemaker. They go hand in hand.
However, living the beatitudes is not easy because they will make us vulnerable to insult, persecution, and the evils of our world. They will open us up to the insecurities of the world which can be troubling, harsh, insensitive, and hurtful. In other words, living the beatitudes can open us up to be stepped on, hurt, and not valued as a person. Living the beatitudes almost always put us in tension with the ways of culture, society, and the world.
Yet, during all this Jesus tells us to rejoice and be glad. The challenge of the beatitudes has been going on since the beginning of time. Women and men before us have faced the challenge and their prize, the Kingdom, awaits us. Perhaps all the beatitudes can really be proclaimed and lived in the phrase, “Let go and let God!”
Have a blessed, holy, and healthy Monday everyone!
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 institution of which we encounter in the account we hear in today Gospel. We encounter that special moment just before Jesus Passion and Death when he gathered his disciples together and gave them the central focus for the rest of their lives. The Eucharist is our most cherished gift, it is the center of our lives as people of faith, as Church. The Eucharist offers us, like it offered the first disciples, the physical and spiritual nourishment needed to live this life of faith. The real presence of Christ in the Eucharist that we receive demands our lives, it demands that we bring Christ’s real presence to the world.
Another way of looking at this feast comes from another Gospel story. Fr. James Martin, S.J. writes, “God can do a lot with what we think is a little.” Just think of what Jesus did along the Sea of Galilee when he multiplied the loaves and fishes. His disciples wanted to give up. They said all they had were five loaves and a few 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.”
When you think about the Last Supper and the story of the Multiplication of the Loaves you think of Jesus taking simple ordinary things and doing extraordinary things with them. Along the Sea of Galilee, he fed many and at the table of the Eucharist each Sunday, each day, Jesus feds many. Day in and day out Jesus takes something small, insignificant and ordinary, bread and wine, and does the extraordinary.
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 to live, to trust in God and bring the real presence of God to the world!
Have a blessed, holy, and healthy Sunday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: Once again, in our Gospel from Mark, we find Jesus in conflict with the religious leaders of his time. Jesus seems to always be hard on the religious leaders of his day. The long robes, the honors they receive so willingly, clashes with Jesus' view of leadership. For Jesus their leadership is a shame, they “recite lengthy prayers” while at the same time, devour the houses of widows." Jesus’ vision of leadership, of being a religious person is about kindness, compassion, and authenticity.
We might ask what has gone wrong for the religious leaders? What is the temptation that takes them to self-righteousness and the externals of religious practice, and away from a heart like Jesus’ rich in mercy and hearing the cry of the poor?
When our story moves to Jesus' sitting across from the temple treasury, he becomes the teacher who gives us an image to remember for life. Jesus observes, "many rich people put in large sums," but then, "a poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents." Jesus contrasts those who "contributed from their surplus wealth" and the widow who "from her poverty, has contributed all she had."
Jesus offers us an honest challenging and liberating message. Having many things makes it difficult to depend upon God alone. Letting go of things, placing our lives in God's hands, allows us to keep everything in perspective and to give generously, "and not to count the cost."
Have a blessed, holy, and healthy Saturday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: Sometimes when we encounter the daily scriptures, they create certain emotional responses. Take todays Gospel of Mark, we encounter a situation that might produce an emotional response within us. In the Gospel of Mark, we are presented with a perplexing little riddle that is part of Jesus’ ongoing tension with the religious leaders of his time – we might say our Gospel present us with the reason for ongoing conflict in life and in our Church.
Our Gospel continues the back and forth between Jesus and the religious leadership of his time. Today, Jesus challenges them with a little riddle about David and the people listening are delighted with Jesus’ mastery over those who are in charge. Throughout this exchange that takes place in Chapter Twelve of Mark, Jesus seem to constantly reinforce the fundamental qualities of life like compassion, love, forgiveness, generosity, and prayer. We might say that Jesus is saying you cannot just hold up a bible or take a picture in from of a statue and be Christian. Being a Christian is an act of living life in the presence of God.
Jesus refuses to get caught up in “when,” “where,” or “how,” Jesus is concerned about the now! It is the act of living in the now that is most important. In our first reading Tobit and Anna had hope in the future but their lives of patience and love were firmly grounded in the present and in the end, they found new sight and life-giving love.
Let’s not look too far ahead. Let us not make things too complicated. Let’s be watchful, loving, compassionate, forgiving, generous and prayerful so that we don’t miss those wonderful moments of God’s presence that come to our doorstep!
Have a blessed, holy, and healthy Friday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: I have always liked the story that we find in today’s Gospel (Mark 12: 28-34). I especially like the end when Jesus looks at the scribe and says, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.” It is perhaps the only moment in the Gospels when Jesus and the scribes are on the same page. There is a mutual understanding, a mutual respect at this moment in the struggle between Jesus and the religious leaders of his time. It is a nice thing to see. Would that this kind of understand and respect would happen between leaders of all kinds during our time.
The respect and understanding centers around the two great commandments, love of God and love of neighbor and we might say there is a third, love of self, because Jesus says we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. As Jesus teaches and the scribe comes to understand, these are the two or three great commandments and everything else flows from them, which might explain why we find ourselves in the struggles that we are in today.
If we just look around at our world, our culture, our society, our church the problems that we find relate to the way we live out or perhaps better said, do not live out these commandments. Our struggles can be directly related to how we do not value God and perhaps more importantly how we do not value others or ourselves. We might even say that our struggles as a culture, society, church, and a world can be traced to the lack of love that we have for ourselves. If we do not love ourselves how can we love others, how can we love God?
Love is not just wanting the best for ourselves, others, and God. Love is a respect, a reverence for life, for who we are as individuals, as a culture, as a society, as a church, as a world. Love is finding the good in ourselves, others, and God. Love is seeing God in others and in ourselves. Love is seeing, acknowledging, and accepting the differences in ourselves and others but most importantly still being able to find God.
Our challenge today and every day is to put into practice these three great commandments. Our challenge is to wake up each day in love with God, our neighbor and ourselves!
Have a blessed, holy, and healthy Thursday 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...