Today’s Thoughts: All of our readings today seem to focus on the same thing but in different ways. Our first reading from the Book of Ecclesiastes opens with “Vanity of vanities, says Qoheleth, vanity of vanities! All things are vanity!” (Ecc 1:2) Now Qoheleth seems to be a collective name rather than a single person or at least means “assembler” (of students, listeners) or “collector” (of wisdom sayings). The figure is a representative of the wisdom community. expressing the community’s wisdom.
Vanity for the writer is more like mist or smoke rather than the falseness of glamour. Vanity is like the early morning mist which is gone as soon as the sun hit it. Or a puff of smoke the lingers for a moment then disappears. In today’s passage the community is wondering what life is really all about? The wise and skilled person knows that the things of this life are fleeting.
A person labors, frets and sweats and for what? As with mist and smoke, everything vanishes eventually. Remember, these are words inspired by the communal voices of the human heart which desires solidity, permanence, and security. For all the laboring, holding fast, nothing seems to last. It does sound like the familiar saying, “Don’t sweat the small stuff and everything is the small stuff.”
St. Paul in his Letter to the Colossians reminds the community that they have been created anew in Christ so their focus should not be on the world but on God. Christ needs to be the center of their life.
Finally, in today’s Gospel using a parable Jesus echo’s Qoheleth and prepares the way for St. Paul. In a simple story Jesus reminds us that, “You cannot take it with you. – You don’t ever see a U-Haul behind a hearse!” Except this summer someone tag me on Facebook, and it was a video clip of the U-Haul behind a hearse! The Facebook post withstanding you can’t take it with you and you never know when life in this world will end, just ask the people of El Paso and Dayton!
The point of our readings is where is our focus? Who or what is the center of our life? If we believe, if we have wisdom, if we don’t want our labors to be in vain, if we are followers, disciples of Jesus then our focus, our center, always needs to be on God. When we do good work like the farmer in our Gospel today, we don’t lock it away and then sit back and eat, drink and be merry. We invest it in our world, the people around us and our relationship with God. Remember each time you received Holy Communion God demands your life of you!
Have a blessed and holy Sunday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: Something to think about from Thomas Merton as you journey through the day. It is certainly something that Herod did not think about in our Gospel (Matt. 14:1-12) today!
“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, and 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.” (Thomas Merton)
Have a holy and blessed Saturday 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 Gospel for the Memorial of Sts. Martha, Mary and Lazarus. This used to be just the memorial of St. Martha but in recent years it has become a day for Martha, Mary and Lazarus. The words of Thomas Merton seem to fit the situation Martha finds herself in as we hear today’s Gospel.
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.
While our Gospel story focuses on Martha today, we are graced by all three of Jesus’ friends, Martha, Mary and Lazarus. But in hearing the Word we pause and allow the gift of Martha’s spirit to enliven our own spirits today. May the spirits of Martha, Mary and Lazarus 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 blessed, holy, and health Friday everyone. Many blessings to all of you on this Memorial of Sts. Martha, Mary and Lazarus!
Today’s Thoughts: I have always liked the image that we find in today’s reading from the Prophet Jeremiah, “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand….”
What a wonderful image of God creating us. We can trace this image back to Genesis and the story of creation, God creating humankind out of the clay of the earth and then breathing life into us. In this section from Jeremiah the focus is on God’s relationship with Israel, yet we can also connect it to ourselves.
The act of God creating us, forming us, making us the individuals that we are, giving us our own gifts and talents. When a potter sits down at the wheel what is created is unique, one of a kind. Yes, other works can look similar but each work, each creation of the potter is distinctive and so are we!
The challenge is to believe in our uniqueness, in our specialness and to live the journey, the life that God has created us to life with faith, hope, joy and love! Let us celebrate our uniqueness today and share it with all we meet!
Have a holy and blessed Thursday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: The Gospel for today (Matt. 13:44-46) talks about the Kingdom of God and Jesus uses two images for the Kingdom, a buried treasure and a fine pearl. In the case of the treasure the person sells everything and buys the field where the treasure is buried and in the case of the pearl the merchant who sells everything to buy the pearl. In other words, when it comes to the Kingdom of God we must be all in because it is worth more than anything else.
I thought the following quote from St. Ignatius of Loyola, whose feast we will celebrate on Saturday, seems to say the same thing about the Kingdom of God as Jesus in today’s Gospel, but St. Ignatius says it a little differently!
“God freely created us so that we might know, love, and serve him in this life and be happy with him forever. God's purpose in creating us is to draw forth from us a response of love and service here on earth, so that we may attain our goal of everlasting happiness with him in heaven.
All the things in this world are gifts of God, created for us, to be the means by which we can come to know him better, love him more surely, and serve him more faithfully.
As a result, we ought to appreciate and use these gifts of God insofar as they help us toward our goal of loving service and union with God. But insofar as any created things hinder our progress toward our goal, we ought to let them go.”
Have a great Wednesday everyone! May God bless your journey through this day!
Today’s Thoughts: Today’s reading from the Book of Jeremiah could have been written for us today. It is so easy to really like this prophet; his writing so often reveals his heart. Jeremiah is said to be a type and model of Jesus Christ. The reader’s guide section of the Catholic Study Bible points out the many ways his life runs parallel to the life of Jesus.
While it appears, Jeremiah is lamenting to the Lord for relief from a long draught, he also mentions their pitiful conditions from war. Jeremiah speaks of “her incurable wound” (Jer. 14:17) and later he writes, “We wait for peace, to no avail; for a time of healing, but terror comes instead. (Jer. 14:19) Our incurable wound is our human condition. We all move to levels of autonomy and independence from our God; eventually to find ourselves lost, running back in need of a Savior. The stories throughout the history of humankind depict this forward and backward movement towards and away from God. Where are we at today? Our world isn’t any different today. We suffer from the long-lasting effects of natural disasters; many people suffering because of droughts, fires, floods as well as the human-made disasters of war, terrorism and mass shootings. O Lord, we are suffering. So, Jeremiah, our prophet is interceding for us today.
We often listen to false prophets and think we won’t suffer from following false gods. We keep discovering that we need God as much today, as the people did 600 years before the birth of Christ. Today, Jeremiah is doing the work of trying to bring us back to the Lord. He like Pope Francis, calls us to feed the hungry, care for the sick, hold up the downtrodden…we have many opportunities to reach out to people today.
In the Gospel reading from Matthew, Jesus interprets the planting story for his disciples telling them that the Son of Man 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 our 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)
Let us always remember the seed is the Word of God and Jesus is the Sower; all who come to him will live forever!
Have a blessed, holy, safe, and healthy Tuesday 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 blessed, holy, safe, and healthy Monday!
Today’s Thoughts: If I could condense our readings today into one word, the word would be prayer. Jesus teaches his disciples to pray and challenges them to be people of prayer, to be askers, seekers, and ultimately finders.
Prayer for Jesus is a conversation, a conversation with the Father, a conversation with God. Prayer was always Jesus’ way of facing the task, the ministry at hand. It was a way of calming the storm, healing the moment, preparing to the journey ahead.
From Jesus’ instruction we come to understand that prayer is always about asking the questions we face, asking for the graces we need, ask for a direction to take. Prayer is the way to seek answers, to seek the presence of God, to seek the strength and grace to continue the journey. In prayer doors open, they don’t always make the journey easier but the help us to continue down the right road even if we are unsure.
Abraham in our first reading enters into a conversation with God, Abraham prays, because that is what prayer is a conversation. Abraham’s conversation might not sound like prayer, but it is. I often think my prayer must often sound just like Abraham’s, and that ok! Because it is helping me to ask, seek and find on the journey of faith.
Have a blessed and holy Sunday everyone and don’t forget to give God a little time today!
Today’s Thoughts: Today’s gospel is about a farmer who sows wheat in his field and at night his enemy sows weeds in the same field so when the plants sprout there are weeds among the wheat. When the workers ask the farmer about removing the weeds, he tells them pulling the weeds could pull up the wheat so wait until harvest when they can be separated without losing the wheat.
We might say that in this parable we are the wheat that God has sown, but there are weeds among the wheat. People that choose a different path. God will not pull the weeds from life because God has given everyone free will. God provides the love and support that we need, but it is up to us to choose to nourish our relationship with God so it becomes strong and crowds out what might make us become weeds.
Perhaps looked at another way, the point of this parable is that the farmer allows the wheat and the weeds to grow together to maturity, which is just what God does for us.
In the four Gospels Jesus tells us in many different ways that we have to choose between living joyfully with God forever and being forever separated from God, in great pain over our loss. This is not a new message.
The special spin that Jesus puts on this question of our choice here is that we have a whole lifetime to make it in. God provides us with all that we need to make a choice and to make the choice concrete in our life rather than just a vague wish or orientation, and we need to make this one central choice of life in terms of the small daily choices that inch us closer to God or away from God.
One other aspect here is that while the "harvesters" are able to tell the difference between the weeds and the wheat, we often remain in some uncertainly about whether we truly have chosen God enough, whether we have loved God enough. Any certainty about whether we are "saved" or not can be a form of self-delusion and lead to pride, laziness, and a fatal assumption that we are "good enough." This can be deadly in our human relationships, and it is no different in our relationship with God.
We simply do not know whether we are weed or wheat while we are alive, and the fact is that we are both --- but which is the dominant side of who we are? While we are responsible for the choice, it is up to God to decide what we have actually chosen. And that is where the virtue of hope comes in.
Have a blessed, holy, and healthy Saturday everyone!
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 do not recognize them. They have not 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 blessed, holy, and healthy 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...