Today’s Thoughts: “Our duty, as men and women, is to proceed as if limits to our ability did not exist. We are collaborators in creation.” (Fr. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J.)
This quote by the great philosopher, scientist, theologian, Fr. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J. came to mind as I was praying with our Gospel for today (Luke 4:31-37).
Jesus in the Gospel today is helping people to experience the gift of God in their lives. His teaching has power and authority. But what gives Jesus’ teaching so much power and authority? We might say it is because he is the Son of God and we would not be wrong. However, we might also say that Jesus’ teaching has power and authority because of how he treated people. In the Gospel today, he expels a demon spirit so that a man can get on with his life. Throughout the Gospels Jesus takes people where they are and helps them to grow, to recognize the grace and presence of God in their lives.
Jesus knows that limits to our ability do not exist, because anything is possible with God. So, let’s live this day in God’s presence. Let’s look beyond what appear to be our limits and let’s work with God to make a better world. Let’s be collaborators with God to bring about peace!
Have a blessed, holy, and healthy Tuesday everyone!
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 35 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, and healthy Monday everyone.
Today’s Thoughts: Pope Francis during one of his Sunday Angelus reflections a number of years ago spoke about our Gospel today. At that time and today I find his words to be refreshing and challenging. In today’s Gospel Jesus does not look at what the person does on the outside. It is what is in a person’s heart that is the true test of faith. Pope Francis says pretty much the same thing.
Pope Francis in his Angelus talk strongly criticized Catholics who brag that they are perfect followers of the church's teachings but then criticize or speak ill of others in their faith communities, saying they cause scandal and even offer a "counter-witness" to Jesus.
In today’s Gospel from Mark, Jesus is questioned by Pharisees about why his disciples did not follow Jewish law regarding the cleansing of hands before eating. Jesus calls the Pharisees hypocrites, quoting the prophet Isaiah and saying they honor God with their lips but not their hearts.
Jesus' response to the Pharisees, the Pope said, "has the force of a prophetic pronouncement." They are words that might fill us with admiration for our teacher, for Jesus. "We feel that in him there is the truth and that his wisdom liberates us from prejudices."
But then Pope went on to sharply warned that Jesus words apply also to us today. “Caution! With these words, Jesus also wants to put us, today, on guard against considering that the exterior observance of the law may be sufficient to be good Christians."
"As it was for the Pharisees, there also exists for us the danger of considering our place as better than others for the only fact of observing the rules or customs, even if we do not love our neighbor, [even if] we are hard of heart or prideful."
In other words, the observance of the rules is something antiseptic if it does not change our hearts and is not translated into concrete attitudes. Opening yourself up to an encounter with God and God's word in prayer, searching for justice and peace, giving help to the poor, the weak and the oppressed. These are the actions that give purpose and meaning to our observances of the law.
Exterior attitudes are determined by what's in our hearts. May our hearts always be about the presence of God!
Have a great Sunday everyone and don’t forget to give God a little time today!
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)
Perhaps this is the spirit of today Gospel (Matt. 25:14-30) that we take the chance and invest our life. There are always risks involved but at the end of life, wouldn't it be great to hear God say to us, "Well done good and faithful servant, come share my joy!"
And in the spirit of the Gospel – let us be good and faithful servants by taking the chance and investing our lives. In other words, by living our lives. Let us not bury our lives afraid that we might make a mistake. Afraid that we might make a poor choice. Afraid that we might lose what God’s has given us. Let us do what the master has done and invest in life. So that when we take our last breath in this life and meet God, he will simply say to us, “Well done good and faithful servant, come share my eternal joy!”
Have a holy, blessed 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, 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, 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, and healthy Wednesday 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, and healthy 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 blessed, holy and healthy Monday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: “I'm still discovering, right up to this moment, that it is only by living completely in this world that one learns to have faith. I mean living unreservedly in life's duties, problems, successes and failures, experiences and perplexities. In so doing, we throw ourselves completely into the arms of God.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)
These words from Dietrich Bonhoeffer seem to capture the spirit of our readings today. Grumbling, complaining and whining will not change life for the better. It is in the living of life that we encounter the presence, the grace and the love of God and this is what will make all the difference.
We have encountered Jesus’ words in the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel for the last five Sundays and Jesus has reminded us each week that he is the bread of life, that he is the food that will let us really live. Today he asks us to stop complaining and whining, he asks us to live!
We are to follow in his footsteps. We are to throw ourselves into the arms of God ‘s self-sacrificing love. We are to love by making Jesus the center of our lives, the bread that will last forever. If we make Jesus the center of our life then we are called let go and let God by recognizing his words, his bread, his cup and his love as the way to eternal life.
It is easy to grumble, complain and whine but if we truly want to live our faith journey we need to take up the challenge of living life completely in the loving arms of God. Jesus does not ask us to do it alone. He is with us at every step of the way, offering us himself as the basic food for our lives. He is also sending us out into our world to love others and be the support and ‘bread’ to the world around us.
So, let us not be complainers, grumblers and whiner – let us live life today nourished by the word and the bread of life – Jesus!
Have a blessed and holy Sunday everyone and don’t forget to give God a little time today.
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...