“Mercy is the fruit of a covenant; that is why God is said to remember His covenant of mercy. At the same time, it is an utterly free act of kindness and goodness rising up from the depths of our being and finding outward expression in charity. This all-embracing character means that everyone can appreciate what it means to be merciful, to feel compassion for those who suffer, sympathy for those in need, visceral indignation in the face of patent injustice and a desire to respond with loving respect by attempting to set things right. If we reflect on this natural feeling of mercy, we begin to see how God Himself can be understood in terms of this defining attribute by which Jesus wished to reveal Him to us. God’s name is mercy.” (Pope Francis)
Today’s Thoughts: “God is always trying to give good things to us, but our hands are too full to receive them.” (St. Augustine of Hippo) I was thinking about these words from St. Augustine in terms of our Gospel today (Matthew 24: 42a, 44). Yes, I know that Jesus is focused on the end time, whether it be his final coming or the day that God calls each of us individually. Yes, we need to be awake and ready because not being ready, not being awake has dreadful consequences, (see wailing and grinding of teeth).
However, I believe Jesus words of “Stay Awake!” or maybe put another way “Be Ready!” can be looked at another way. Jesus might not be just talking about the end time or the day God calls each of us home, he might also be talking about this moment and what we are missing if we are not awake or ready. What graces? What joys? What blessings? What experiences of God’s presence are we missing if we are not awake, if we are not ready?
It is not always about the negative, about the end time, about wailing and grinding of teeth. It is also about the opportunities we miss each day, each moment of our life because God is trying to give us good things but our hands are too full!
Have a great Thursday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: "Woe to you..." Jesus continues his reflections on people who only seem to care about the non-essentials rather than the essentials. He reminds us that only taking care of the outside can have disastrous effects on the true meaning and purpose of life.
Perhaps Thomas Merton reminds us of the same thing but rather than using “Woeful” statements he asks us to focus on God’s creative act that the psalmist voice proclaims to us in today responsorial psalm (Psalm 139). “To say that I am made in the image of God is to say that love is the reason for my existence, for God is love. Love is my true identity. Selflessness is my true self. Love is my true character. Love is my name.” (Thomas Merton) "Your hand shall guide me; your right hand holds me fast." (Ps 139:9-10)
It is not just that outside that is created by God it is the whole person. We are made in the image and likeness of God and this act of love is the very reason for our existence. “And for this reason, we [need to] give thanks to God unceasingly” (1Thes 2:13), by the way we live our life. So, let us live our life today valuing those we encounter and ourselves.
Have a great Wednesday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: Today we celebrate The Passion of St. John the Baptism and our Gospel (Mark 6:17-29) is the famous story of Herod and John the Baptist. It is a rather gruesome story, it is hard sometimes to think of a young girl being presented with some one's head and then turning and giving it to her mother. Yet, I guess gruesome things happen in life every day, thankfully not in my life.
I am always struck in this story with the fact that Herod is moved by John, that he likes to listen to him, yet he gives in to the worldly pressure around him. I get the feeling Herod knows that John is right, but his power, his self-importance; his ego will not let him say yes. Herod has surrounded himself with people who push him in the wrong direction. We might say that he gives in to the peer pressure of his time!
Perhaps if Herod had heard St. Paul’s words to the Thessalonians that we find in our first reading today (1 Thessalonians 4:911) he might have acted a bit different. St. Paul reminds the Thessalonians to care one another, to work hard and to live tranquil lives. In other words, St. Paul reminds them to put the focus on God not on themselves.
There is a great line in the Letter to the Hebrews that I reflect on often, "Do not neglect hospitality, for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels." It is great advice! Perhaps it is advice that Herod should have heard or heeded. He certainly had one of God's angels, John the Baptist in his presence.
We need to be aware that God can come to us, be present to us in many ways. We need to trust that God is with us always. We need to remember that we are a community of faith not just individuals and we need to always be aware of the struggles and joys of others because they can often bring God into our midst.
Today we are reminded – “Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.” May St. John the Baptist help us to see – God as our light and our salvation, and thus never fear!
Have a great Tuesday everyone.
Today’s Thoughts: “Woe to you….” These statements seem out of character for Jesus, who usually uses positive statements to challenge us. Yet, I guess every once in a while, we need to hear what not to do. The challenge of today’s Gospel is on what we see as important. The scribes and Pharisees made it a habit of placing importance on the accidentals of life rather than the essentials. In other words, they placed importance on the unimportant.
Through his challenge to the scribes and Pharisees today Jesus asks us to stop and think about how we are living out our faith. Is it a faith grounded in unimportant things or is it a faith ground in a relationship with God? Do we think that God is the center but then we make actions, rituals, words and customs far more important than living out our relationship with God? Do we make things more important than people? Do we make ritual and places more important than prayer and actions?
Woe to us if we don’t love. Woe to us if we don’t care for those in need. Woe to us if we first don’t find God in others and ourselves. Woe to us if rituals, places and the repetition of words become more important than people. Yes, I guess every once in a while, we have to be challenged by the negative that seems to take hold of our lives.
Have a great Monday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: Our readings today especially our Gospel take us in a number of directions. I have always liked this scene in Matthew’s Gospel. Jesus and his disciples making their way to Caesarea Philippi, talking as they go about life, about the tings of the world, just enjoying one another company. Then Jesus ask, “Who to people say that I am?” Perhaps in other words, “What are people saying about me?” A very human concern. Haven’t we all been where Jesus is in the Gospel today? Haven’t we at some point in time wonder what people are saying about us?
Now scripture scholars say that this is not Jesus’ intent in asking the questions in our Gospel today, however for me when I hear this passage what I have mentioned above is the first thing I think of. I feel that this passage connects me in a human way with Jesus. I feel a kinship with him.
Jesus goes on not only wanting to know what others think but he wants to know what his closest friends think. It is here that Peter once again comes through, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” For me Peter this the quintessential human being. He can make the most profound statements and the most bone headed ones. He can be right on at time while other times he only seems to be thinking of himself. We have all been Peter at times in our life both in the faith filled moments and the bone headed ones!
The hope of our reading today is that even though we don’t know the mind of God, God is still willing to call us all to be rocks in the foundation of the community of faith called Church. We can embrace a moment of faith like Peter today or we can stumble in a moment of lack of faith like Peter at other times in his relationship with Jesus yet God is still open to inviting us into the Kingdom. God still wants to build with us as a foundation stone. “For who has known the mind of the Lord...” It is certainly a mystery but a hope filled one!
Have a great Sunday everyone and don’t forget to give God a little time today!
Today’s Thoughts: “Do and observe all things whatever they tell you, but do not follow their example.” (Today’s Gospel Matthew 23: 1-12) I have to admit every time I read this passage in Matthew’s Gospel I think of the deacons, priests, bishops, cardinals and even popes. I think of them as saying one thing and doing another, of laying heavy burdens on others, of always needing places of honor, of always being shown respect but not respecting others. Yes, it is easy to point the finger at others.
However, if I truly stop and think about Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel the first person I must really consider is yours truly, me. I too am part of the Church leadership. I am a priest, a preacher and a Passionist. Do my words and actions reflect Christ? Do I lay heavy burdens on people and then do nothing to help? Do I look for places of honor, special treatment just because of who I am? Do I expect people treat me different? Do I expect to be called “father,” “Rabbi,” or “Master?”
If I am honest at times the answer to some of these questions is, “yes” unfortunately! Yes, I get caught up in my humanness. I want to be special. I want the world to follow my words. I want people to point to me and say good things. I want to get the first place in line or be at the head table.
So, Jesus’ words today are an opportunity for me to pause and reset my priorities. They are an opportunity for me adjust my life. They offer me a chance to plant my feet on the ground again and to value the things that are most important, the things that really matter. They are a reminder of who is most important in my life, God and others.
The Chicago Bears football great Gail Sayers entitled his autobiography, I Am Third, referring to the way he lived his life, Jesus first, others second and himself third. In Jesus’ words today, I am reminded that I will never be perfect in this life and every once in a while, I do need a good kick in the behind so that I take note of why I am a Passionist, a priest and a preacher. Every once in a while, I have to remember God is first and I am third!
Have a great Saturday everyone.
Today’s Thoughts: “Love seeks one thing only: the good of the one loved. It leaves all the other secondary effects to take care of themselves. Love, therefore, is its own reward.” (Thomas Merton)
Perhaps this is what Jesus is getting at as he answers the scholar of the law in today’s Gospel (Matt. 22:34-40). Love sits at the heart of any relationship, of any friendship and the first mark of a good relationship, is benevolence. Actively, seeking and finding the good in another. In today’s Gospel Jesus reminds us that we are to love God and love others and love ourselves. In order to do this, we must find the good in the ones we love, God, others and self. As Merton says if we can do this the gift of love will be our reward!
Have a great Friday everyone.
Today’s Thoughts: “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” is Nathanael’s (Bartholomew) question to Philip in today's Gospel. In other words, Nathanael wants to know why should I waste my time? Why should I leave what I am doing or not doing to meet this Jesus? Questions any of us might ask if we were in the same situation. Yet, Philip’s invitation to “Come and see” is a life changing event for Nathanael. It is an event that gives him a different perspective on Jesus, on people who come from Nazareth, on life. It gives Nathanael and encounter with God.
The gift of the feast of St. Bartholomew (Nathanael) which we celebrate today is that Bartholomew did not miss his encounter with God and that made all the difference in his life. Throughout the Gospels we encounter people who miss the presence of God. Who are blinded by power, authority and preconceived ideas about people and life. Jesus walks into their midst and they miss their chance to encounter God. They hang on to what is comfortable, what is familiar.
Through the invitation of Philip, Bartholomew does not miss his chance, his opportunity. He however has to let go of his preconceived ideas, his comfortableness and when he does it makes all the difference. It leads him into an encounter with God that forever changes his life.
Let us ask the spirit of St. Bartholomew to help us let go and let God today. Have a great Thursday everyone!
“If God prefers humility it is not to debase us: humility is the necessary precondition for being lifted up again by Him, so as to experience the mercy that comes to fill our emptiness. The prayer of the arrogant does not reach God's heart, but the humility of the wretched opens it up. God has a predilection for the humble and, encountering a humble heart, He opens His own fully.” (Pope Francis)
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...