Today’s Thoughts: Welcome to the last day of June everyone!
“When God is going to do something wonderful, [God] always starts with a hardship; when God is going to do something amazing, [God] starts with an impossibility.” (Anne Lamott, Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith)
In some ways I think both our readings today speak to Anne Lamott’s thoughts about God. In our first reading Amos faces the struggle and hardship of all prophets, not being accepted. He faces banishment and probably death. But Amos stands his ground after all this is not about him. He was a shepherd and a dresser of sycamores, and he was fine with this simple life. No this is not about Amos; this is about God and his relationship with Israel. Amos’ parting words for Amaziah are not so merciful! But as Lamott says, if God is going to do something amazing God starts with hardship and the impossible. It was certainly a hardship and maybe even an impossible task for Amos. But then God stepped in, and the tables turned.
We might look at the Gospel (Matt. 9:1-8) in the same way. Jesus seemly, at least for the scribes, starts with an impossibility, forgiving sins which leads to another impossibility the healing of a paralytic. Yet from these two seemly impossible actions the hardship of sinfulness and a physical disability are taken away, in other words something amazing and wonderful takes place.
The key to both of our stories is faith and faithfulness, Amos’ faith, the paralytic and his friends’ faith and God’s faithfulness. Perhaps was we journey through this day we should give pause to look at the ways our faith is tested. May the hardships and the impossibilities of our journey through life be by the grace and mercy of God turned into the very faith and hopefulness that heals, forgives and proclaims God’s presence in the world.
Have a holy and blessed Thursday 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 blessed and holy Wednesday and many blessings on this feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.
Today’s Thoughts: In our Gospel, we have the familiar story of Jesus calming the storm. The storm is a place where we all have been; those times when things are going along just fine and then something happens, the winds and storm clouds of life overwhelm us.
Sure, there are always a few bumps in the road but that is to be expected in the living of life, but we have got things under control. As I said above, then it happens, all hell breaks loose, and we are hanging on for dear life. All our planning, all our preparations, all our good intentions seem to go right out the window. We are now hanging on by our fingertips any moment life will come crashing down on us. We followed our plan. We did all the right things. Why is this happening to us? Our life is simply out of control, and we are doomed!
“Why are you terrified, O you of little faith?” Why are we terrified? Have we lost faith? Have we lost faith in God, faith in others, faith in ourselves? Have we forgotten all the hard work we have put into life? Are we unwilling to trust ourselves any more just because a storm has entered our life? Are we really that fragile? Have we forgotten to trust who has brought us to this moment?
Storms in life are fearful moments. They seem to take control away from us, if we really ever had it. They bring to the surface all kinds of doubt from the dark reaches of our hearts. They scare us and sometimes make us think the worst. They take us out of our comfort zone. Yet, we are reminded today that no matter what, we never face the storms of life alone. Paraphrasing the words of Thomas Merton’s famous prayer, “We should not fear because God is always with us and will never leave us to face our storms alone.”
On this lazy summer day whether we find ourselves in the midst of a calm day, looking at a horizon full of storm clouds or right in the middle of an all-out storm, let us have faith in God, faith in those important in our life and faith in ourselves so that no matter what this day brings our faith will see us through.
Have a blessed and holy Tuesday everyone!
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 invited 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 our cross 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 blessed and holy Monday everyone!
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 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 holy and blessed 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 and holy Friday 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 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 holy and blessed Thursday and may you receive many blessings in the spirit of John the Baptist today and always!
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 Second Book of Kings, with the help of the High Priest Hilkiah and the scribe, Shaphan the King of Israel recommits the community to the promise of God found in the book of the law. He realizes that they have strayed to the covenant. They have to get back on the right path. They have begun to decay from the inside.
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 the king of Israel to stake our lives once again on the promises of God.
Have a blessed and holy 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 blessed and holy Tuesday 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...