Today’s Thoughts: In today’s gospel from Matthew (13:31-35), Jesus invites those listening to consider the Kingdom of Heaven by using to examples. The example is that of the parable of the mustard seed which from my perspective brings to mind the unexpected awesome experience of God’s Kingdom starting out as something tiny, something almost invisible and then becoming something all inclusive, all-embracing, a universal entity that welcomes all people.
The second example is a parable, about a woman who took leaven and mixed it into the dough. This was a familiar experience that the people of Jesus’ time could connect with. They had seen the dough rise after a tiny amount of leaven had been mixed with it. Jesus invited them to see the effect a tiny movement, a tiny experience could have on society at large.
Perhaps what are Gospel is calling us to today is what Pope Francis is calling us to in his recent encyclical, Laudato Si. We are being called to be a mustard seed or that little pinch of yeast. In other words, we are being called to give life to the presence of God in our own lives, and to be sensitive to the needs of those around us. We are called to focus on our common home, common good, and common responsibility as we strive in little, practical ways to bring a tiny piece of heaven wherever we go. This is a marvelous opportunity to open our minds and hearts to experience the saving love of Jesus here and now and give us a taste of the eternal life that awaits each one of us.
Have a great Monday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: In our Gospel today, we have three more parables. First, we have a parable telling us that the kingdom of heaven is a treasure which a person, just happens to find while digging in the field. We might ask ourselves a few questions after reading the parable. What was the person looking for in the first place, and what is the treasure that is found? Why did he bury it again and go to buy the whole field?
The finding is one thing, but buying the whole field becomes the center of the parable’s meaning. No matter what we are searching for, if we keep digging we will find God. Buying into God a relationship with God, a friendship with God means buying into the whole field including those things we do not understand or want. The person bought the field for what he believed to be treasure and later could have found other things which time revealed to him as perhaps even more a treasure.
Our second parable presents us a merchant who knows what he wants - a pearl - and he finds it and then sells all his other possessions in order to buy the pearl. He is willing to let go of everything just to possess this pearl. In other words, the kingdom of heaven, our relationship with God, requires a letting go or selling off of what we think are the importance of “pearls” of life for the great pearl of allowing God to be the center of our life.
The Gospel ends, with Jesus asking if the disciples, if we, understand these teachings, even the last parable about the net’s catching all kinds of good and less good fish. The disciples say that they do, but do we? Perhaps like the disciples we do for the moment but will we learn the deeper meaning as we journey through life in relationship with God?
Jesus tells the disciples and us that like a good storekeeper, brings out the good of the old and the good of the new. Jesus does not want his disciples and us to let go of the past, but wants the disciples and us to build on what has gone before us in order to find what is new and lifegiving.
So, the challenge of our third parable is where do we fall? Are we “good” or “bad”. Do we get placed in the heavenly “bucket” or thrown into the fiery ocean and grind our teeth for eternity? Jesus’ words are the net, but who are the bad? Can anything be bad that God made? Parables are meant to help us ask questions and try to come up with answers based on the call of Jesus to be our friend, our teacher, our priceless pearl, our treasure and our bucket.
Have a great Sunday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: “You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope.” (Thomas Merton) I thought of these words by Thomas Merton today as I reflected on the readings for the Feast of St. Martha. I think Martha fits these words well.
In the Gospel reading (John 11:19-27) we see a different side of Martha than the one in Luke (10:38-42). It is as if Martha has grown in her faith, her relationship with God and in her understanding of her friendship with Christ. In John, Martha is a faith filled woman, who does not fully understand but recognizes the possibilities and challenges and embraces them with courage, faith and hope. She seeks God in the present moment and in the end is greatly blessed.
We all need to pause and allow the gift of St. Martha’s spirit to enliven our own spirits today. May the spirit of St. Martha gift us with the courage, faith and hope to live this day ready to recognize the possibilities and challenges and embrace them with the grace of God’s love.
Have a great Saturday and many blessings to all on this Feast of St. Martha!
Today’s Thoughts: Today’s gospel reading (Matthew 13:18-23) in a way does not require much thought or reflection. Jesus takes the time to explain the meaning of the parable of the Sower and the Seed. What more can I say after Jesus has explained his story? I certainly don’t want to second guess Jesus. Perhaps I can reflect a little on the seed that has fallen on the good soil.
In Jesus’ story, there are clear differences of soil conditions for growth. So, when we get to the good soil we might think that what we get will always be 100%. However, Jesus tells us that the yield is not just 100-fold but also 60 and 30-fold. What is Jesus saying to us?
Perhaps one thing that Jesus is telling us is that sometimes we can do our very best but the results can fall short. We can do everything right, we can give 110% but because of factors beyond our control we might only make it into the 30 or 60 range and that is ok! We have a gracious God who accepts us as we are.
Another thing we might learn from Jesus’ reflection on the parable is that we should not judge other people’s yield. They too may have done their very best and yet their yield is not 100fold. We have no way of knowing what God has planted in their hearts and how they have responded to God invitation. In other words, we cannot judge what may appear to us to be low yield.
Perfectionism does not belong in the spiritual life for God works in mysterious ways. Even if there seems to be nothing but good soil we are never sure what the yield will be however if we have done our best God will accept whatever our soil puts forth. We just have to strive to do the best we can. We may not know our yield potential but God does. We just have to be good, faithful tillers of the soil and so that the seed planted in us can grow.
Have a great Friday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: “A skilled listener can help people tap into their own wisdom.” (Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM) We might apply this thought to our Gospel reading today. The focus in Matthew 13: 10-17 seems to be on the difference between hearing and listening.
We all hear unless we have some physical impediment to hearing but often we fail to listen. I believe that is what Jesus is getting at in the Gospel. People hear his parables but they don’t listen to them. They don’t take them to prayer. They don’t reflect on them and thus they miss the point of them. We can always hear things as Isaiah is quoted in the Gospel but unless we listen we will not understand.
Jesus is teaching his disciples to listen. Jesus is teaching us to listen. I very much enjoy using the parables of Jesus when I preach because if we really listen to them that have a lot to tell us. Often, if not always, when I use a parable in my preaching I learn something new because while preaching I am also listening.
Jesus was certainly a skilled listener, the most skilled listener and that is why he helps us tap into the wisdom that God graces us with each day, all we have to do is listen!
Have a great Thursday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: Just a short little reflection this morning – “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, [humankind] will have discovered fire.” (Fr. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J.) This is one of my favorite quotes and I thought of it today in terms of the Gospel (Matt. 13:1-9). Perhaps in a different way Jesus is saying to us that when we can get past all the things that seem to get in the way of our relationship with God we will discover love, the good soil. The things of the world are enticing but it is God’s love that makes all the difference!
Have a great Wednesday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: I have to say that today’s first reading on this Feast of St. James from St. Paul (2Cor. 4:7-15) is one of my all-time favorites. Paul uses the image of “earthen vessels” to talk about himself and us in terms of our relationship with God. Paul says we hold the treasure of our faith, the presence of God, in earthen vessels, in other words in us. Now some say Paul is talking about large water jugs, others say he was referring to terracotta lamps, either way it is a striking image. Within the fragility of this human condition we carry the gift of God.
What a wonderful way to think about ourselves. I have often thought about reading this little passage from St. Paul each morning upon getting up, what a way to enter a new day knowing that I carry within me the presence of God. Knowing that I am not perfect, that I am cracked, chipped, scratched, in other words, I am human yet I have this wonderful gift within me.
Paul goes on to say life is tough however because of the gift we have within us things will be ok. We will get through the trials and tribulations of life because of the power of God, the friendship of God.
So, as we journey through this day let us be reminded that we are earthen vessels, fragile, imperfect, at times struggling but we are also blessed with a great gift within us, the presence, the grace, the love of God. And when we face the struggles, difficulties and challenges that life throws at us the power of this gift within us will see us through.
Happy Feast of St. James everyone and have a great Tuesday!
Today’s Thoughts: “There is something greater than [Jonah and] Solomon here.” Today in the Gospel we once again find the scribes and Pharisees seeking more from Jesus. They want a sign. We can hear the frustration in Jesus’ words as he tells them that the only sign they will get is the sign of Jonah.
If I had been in Jesus’ shoes I might not have been so patient. I might have said, “Come on guys there are signs all around you. Every day I am preaching healing, forgiving, raising people from the dead, turning water into wine what more do you want! If you don’t realize who I am and what I am about by now I don’t know what else I can do.”
Our Gospel while addressed to the scribes and Pharisees many years ago is also addressed to us. On any given day, we are just like the scribes and Pharisees asking for a sign. We want God to assure us that he is with us and that we are on the right path. We want to see, hear, taste, smell and touch God because if we don’t then it seems impossible to believe. Yet, like the scribes and Pharisees we miss the point the signs of God are all around us. We are reminded time and time again of God’s love for us in creation, in caring family and friends that are a part of lives, in the gift of the Eucharist, the acts of kindness, care and concern that touch our lives each day and the crucifix on the wall which reminds us of God’s greatest act of love. Yes, there is something greater than Jonah and Solomon in our life every day.
Each morning that we arise and look in the mirror we are reminded that there is something greater in our life – it is the continuing presence of God. We just have to stop, listen, look around and be attentive to life and we will see, taste, smell, hear and touch God.
Perhaps as we journey through this day our prayer might be – “Lord, I believe help my unbelief.”
Have a great Monday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: My reflections this morning are going to be on the short side as I am in the midst of traveling to South Bend. In our Gospel reading from Matthew today we encounter three little parables.
In the first parable Jesus uses a planting story, similar to the parable last Sunday, to tell the crowd that he plants good seeds. His field is the world, the good seed represents the children of the Kingdom and the weeds are the children of the Evil One, which are sown by the enemy the devil. Some people don’t want to believe that the fires of hell exist, but Jesus says “the Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his Kingdom all who cause others to sin and all evildoers. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth…Whoever has ears ought to hear.” (Matthew 13: 41-43)
Jesus is using a paradox to explain the reality of our life. There is good and evil. We sometimes encounter both of them throughout our journey through life. Trying to eliminate evil is a difficult task because in doing so we might also eliminate the good. So like God, we have to be patient. The final judgment will be the moment when evil is eliminated until then we must live in the hope of the presence of the good in life.
That is were our second two parables come into play. The mustard seeds and the yeast are small and perhaps insignificant yet when planted and used they have a profound affect. From small things good can come, in other words the presence of God does not have to be something great and powerful to be affective. If we allow God to work in our life great things can happen!
Our readings today remind us of the reality of life and that hope is often found in the little insignificant experiences of life. Let us always remember the seed is the Word of God, the Grace of God and that Jesus is the sower; all who come to him will live forever!
Have a great Sunday everyone and don’t forget to give God a little time today.
Today’s Thoughts: Today is the feast of St. Mary Magdalene. She is referred to as the Apostle to the Apostles. Mary was the first proclaimer of the resurrection a story we read today from John’s Gospel (John 20: 1-2, 11-18). The interesting thing about Mary’s encounter with Jesus is that at first, she does not recognize him. You might think that after following Jesus for so long it would be hard not to recognize him.
Now some might say it was because of his resurrected body but I think it was because Mary did not expect to see Jesus alive. Have you ever been in a situation when you did not expect to see someone? When the person surprises us with their presence there always seems to be a moment when we don’t recognize them. They haven’t changed, they are the same person but our eyes and brain just were not expecting them. Then they do or say something that is familiar and we recognize them. It doesn’t make sense and once we realize our mistake, we wonder how we did not recognize her or him but it happens.
The element of surprise can often catch us off guard. Perhaps today that is a good way to think about the presence of God in our life. We have a God of surprises and at any moment of our day God can walk into our midst. Are we ready? Or will we miss the moment because we are not expecting God to be there?
Through the intersession of St. Mary Magdalene may we be open today to be surprised by God! Have a great Saturday 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...