Today’s Thoughts: I have always liked our Gospel reading for today (Luke 4:16-30) though I have spent most of my time with the first half of the story rather than the second half.
I have done a lot of Confirmation retreats over my 34 plus years as a priest and if the retreat ended with the celebration of mass, I almost always used the first half of today’s Gospel. In my homily I tell those who have made the retreat that the Gospel calls to mind two pictures and if I include the second half of today’s Gospel I might as well say three pictures.
The first is a day in the life of Jesus. He has returned home, perhaps for a long weekend, and like a good young Jewish man he goes to the synagogue on the Sabbath to pray. Because he has gained some prominence as he has begun his pubic ministry, he is asked by the leader of the synagogue to do the reading. Jesus stands up, takes the scroll of the Prophet Isaiah and reads those now familiar words to us, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me…” The after finishing the reading he sits down, and everyone is focused on him. Perhaps feeling uncomfortable, perhaps feeling inspired Jesus then tells all those gather that “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” In other words, this is what my life from this moment forward in going to be about. This is reason why I have come into the world this is my mission!
Now in painting my first picture on a Confirmation retreat day this is where I would stop however today there is a little more to the picture. Yes, everyone is excited and amazed at Jesus’ words but doubt quickly becomes part of the picture. How can this be? We know him he is Joseph’s son, a simple carpenter. We know his family. We watched him grow up. How can he be this smart, this wise, this self-assured? They have put Jesus into a box and all he can do is challenge their perception of him which only makes them mad. So, a day, a picture that started out so well becomes a day, a picture that has Jesus’ leaving town because people think they know better.
The second picture painted by these words is a day in our life. Perhaps our Confirmation Day or our Wedding Day, or our Ordination Day, or the day we took vows in religious life or some other important day in our life of faith. We like good women and men of faith gathered with others for a celebration of faith and when the celebration ends people spoke highly of us. It was a day like Jesus’ day when we began our journey of faith by choosing a path, a mission, a vocation, a ministry that we would fulfill by the living of our life like Jesus.
The only difference between these two pictures is that we know the end of Jesus’ story. He did fulfill all that he read from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah that day by the living of his life, however we don’t know the end of our story it is not complete. How will we fulfill the mission God has given us in the living of our life? How will we make God’s presence known to the world?
The third and final picture is that in the living of our life we will have moments when doubt, preconceived ideas, notions and perceptions of us will make the journey difficult. We will encounter people who doubt our gifts, our abilities, our faithfulness. We will encounter people who see us as nothing special and refuse to accept the grace, the blessing, the gift of God that we bring to that moment of life. So, the question is how will we respond to these moments of challenge, disappointment and disrespect? Will we give up or trust in the presence of God?
Have a blessed, holy, safe, and healthy Monday everyone.
Today’s Thoughts: Our readings today, start with a section of the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah that is often called “Jeremiah’s Confessions. It is not an original part of the book. It was only found after the prophetic book was completed and edited in. We might say we are reading part of Jeremiah’s personal diary today, words only meant for Jeremiah and God!
Like most prophets Jeremiah is a reluctant prophet, he really did not want the job and his opening words today tell us how he feels. “You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped.” If that doesn’t say it all I don’t know what does. Have you ever felt like Jeremiah?
I remember when my novitiate class was working on the readings for our first profession mass. One of the readings suggested was our first reading from Jeremiah today. We laughed. Had God duped us by calling us to religious life? Well, to tell you the truth at times over the last 35 years I have thought that I was duped by God. I think we all feel that way when life gets difficult.
The job of a prophet was not an easy one. The prophet was not a fortune teller, but a spokesperson for God. The prophet invited the people into a relationship with God by asking for and sometimes demanding faithfulness.
A prophet was not just about words. The prophet was about action, the action of his or her faithfulness to God. In the words often heard these days, the prophet not only “talked the talk” but also had to “walk the walk”. A true prophet witnessed God’s vision for humankind especially to the leadership of the faith community. This was not easy task and often ended in death for the prophet. Why, because nobody likes to hear that what they see as important is wrong, especially those who think they have the power.
Jesus along with being God’s Son was also a prophet. He speaks to us about his fate as a prophet in today’s Gospel. Jesus challenges Peter today, because Peter wants to sugarcoat the message. Peter, like Jeremiah, like all of us, would rather that prophetic message be about joy and gratefulness.
Jesus knows that to be faithful to the Father, to the message, to the prophetic vocation and call, he must take up the cross and we are invited to do the same. Jesus has to lose his life. We to must lose our life to find it. Are we being duped?
Absolutely not! No, we are called to be a faithful prophet. At the end of the Eucharist we are asked to “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord” or “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your lives.” By announcing the Gospel and glorifying God in the living of our lives we are to be the Jeremiahs, the Isaiahs, the Esthers, the Judiths of our time. We are saying we are willing to lose our lives in order to find them.
Have a blessed, holy, safe, and healthy Sunday everyone and don’t forget to give God a little time today!
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!
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 blessed, holy, safe, and healthy Saturday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: In our Gospel today (Matthew 25: 1-13), Jesus is focused on the end time, whether it is his final coming or the day that God calls each of us individually. And his point is that we need to be awake and we need to be ready like the five wise virgins because not being ready, not being awake has dreadful consequences.
Jesus’ story today about the ten virgins emphasizes and illustrated his message from yesterday’s Gospel and helps us loo once again at things a little differently. Jesus is not just talking about the end time or the day God calls each of us home, he is also talking about this moment and what we are missing if we are not prepared. What graces? What joys? What blessings? What experiences of God’s presence are we missing if we are not prepared, 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 we are more concerned about what is going on around us. We are prepared, we are focused on God, we cut corners and the oil runs out!
Are you prepared? Do you have enough oil in your lamp? Or are you going to miss the wedding feast?
Have a blessed, holy, safe, and healthy Friday!
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 be 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 blessed, holy, safe, and healthy 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 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 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 blessed, holy, safe, and healthy Wednesday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: We find ourselves today amid the “Woe to you…” challenges of Jesus. He challenges the scribes, Pharisees and us on where our priorities lie. Are we concerned with the non-essentials of life or do we have our words and action aligned with God’s priorities? Our lives can look good and by all appearances we seem to be holy people, however inside is always what counts. Where are our hearts? Who or what is the center of our life?
These “Woe to you…” statements of Jesus are strong challenges that are not easy to live out. Often, we find ourselves comfortable in our nice, neat little worlds. We say all the right things. The outward expression of our faith seems to be spot on however if we look under the hood there is no life, no spirit, the tank is empty. We have allowed the non-essentials to become more important than the essentials – love of God, others and ourselves.
As we live this day let us strive to live authentically according to the values we profess. Yes, we are human, we have our faults and failings and our weaknesses. But today, let us, with God’s grace, strive to live life faithful to the Gospel. Let us look at our lives today and find those things that at times make us hypocrites and ask forgiveness so that we can grow in the essential of life, so that we can grow in the presence of God!
Have a blessed, holy, safe, and healthy Tuesday 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 must 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 blessed, holy, safe, and healthy 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 is 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 blessed, holy, safe, and healthy 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 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 so often, I need a good kick in the behind so that I take note of why I am a Passionist, a priest and a preacher. I always need to remember God is first, others are second and I am third!
Have a blessed, holy, safe, and healthy 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...