Today’s Thoughts: “What is the Kingdom of God like? To what can [we] compare it?” We might say that these questions have been asked over and over again down through history. We are always trying to figure out what the Kingdom of God is like. What does Heaven look like?
We are always trying to compare it to what we know. Even Jesus does it today in the Gospel (Luke 13: 18-21). Jesus uses two images out of nature to teach us about the Kingdom of God. He compares the Kingdom to a mustard seed and yeast not exactly I would use to speak about God’s Kingdom but Jesus has a reason for picking these two images. He compares the Kingdom to a mustard seed and yeast because they are things in nature that are alive. They are growing, ever changing. The Kingdom of God is ever alive going and changing. Paul tells us in the first reading (Romans 8:18-25) that the Kingdom is not just humans it is for everything. All creation glories in the Kingdom! That is why it is so important to respect the gift of God’s creation because on the last day all creation will be transformed into the Kingdom of God.
Our challenge today is to look around at the people, places and things of God’s creation that are a part of our lives and be thankful for them. When we ask the question what is the Kingdom of God like, to what can we compare it? All we need to do is look around because the Kingdom of God in alive in our life.
Perhaps Fr. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ said it well when he wrote: “By means of all created things, without exception, the divine assails us, penetrates us, and molds us. We imagined it as distant and inaccessible, when in fact we live steeped in its burning layers”
Or maybe Thomas Merton said it a little differently when he wrote: “When we are alone on a starlit night, when by chance we see the migrating birds in autumn descending on a grove of junipers to rest and eat; when we see children in a moment when they are really children, when we know love in our own hearts; or when, like the Japanese poet, Basho, we hear an old frog land in a quiet pond with a solitary splash - at such times the awakening, the turning inside out of all values, the "newness," the emptiness and the purity of vision that make themselves evident, all these provide a glimpse of the cosmic dance [a glimpse of the Kingdom].”
Have a great Tuesday everyone!
Today is the Sixth Anniversary of my mother’s passing from this life into eternal life. It is a bittersweet day and a time to remember her gift in my life and in the life of the world. I thought I would share with you today a little something that I wrote a few weeks after Mom died six years ago. It is a little reflection honoring Mom and her life…
These past few weeks have been filled with great emotion. For those of you who don't know, my mother past way on October 30th after 94 plus years of life. At first glance one might say, "Hey, 94 plus years, a nice long life, you cannot ask for anything more than that!" You would be right. My mother had a very good life. There are many wonderful stories and memories about her life from early on as a child growing up in Pittsburgh to her wonderful ministry at St. Edna Parish in Arlington Heights, IL and finally to these last years when she struggled with dementia yet add to all our lives through her struggles. She lived life to the fullest, she was a wonderful mother and a gifted woman of faith. She had her own struggles, her own faults and failings but amid them she touched the lives of many people throughout her life!
As I said above Mom struggle with dementia the last 7 or 8 years and on October 30th there was part of me that was glad she had finally found peace. There was no more confusion, no more struggle to remember. Yet, I feel guilty about this feeling. I feel selfish. It was difficult to go and see her sometimes knowing she might not know me or not be able to talk about things that were happening in her life or in the family because she could not remember. Knowing she would often tell the same story or ask the same question repeatedly. It was hard to know that when we would take her out for her birthday she would not remember the celebration, the next day, the next hour or even five minutes later. Yes, it was hard for me and I find it hard to feel good about my feelings of wanting her to be at peace.
Also in the days and now weeks after her passing my memories often center on the times that I was not the best son that I could have been. Times as a child when I made life rather difficult for her. Times when I thought about myself and not about what Mom needed, wanted or deserved. Times when I just was not present to her in her struggles and difficulties. Times when I put myself before Mom, Times when I let her, my dad and my family down because again life was about me!
In the days leading up to Mom's passing as we were sitting around as a family my sister-in-law asked the question, "What is your favorite memory or story about Mom?" I could not come up with one. I could not think of a funny story or a special moment. Mom was Mom. I would like to think that I feel every moment with her was special, a favorite, but I know that is a cop out. My mother was a serious woman, who had a determination and purpose to her life. She wasn't a comedian or jokester. She didn't have humorous sayings or funny mannerisms. She was a woman of faith, substance and of great love in her own way.
Perhaps being part of the "Greatest Generation" as Tom Brokaw put it defines the purpose and determination of my mother's life. She was born at the end of WWI and grew up in the decade of the Roaring 20's top off by the Great Depression. Her young adult life was colored by the stresses and struggles of WWII and then the prosperity of the 50's only to be challenged by the revolutions of the 60's. She saw many wars or conflicts, assassinations, the growing influence of television and the explosion of technology. Her life was filled with one era of change after another but through it all Mom stood firm always eager to learn, wanting always to grow and certainly knowing the value of life and the need to work hard.
Mom was a woman who stepped beyond the usual image of the women of her time. Yes, she was a home maker, a stay at home mom, who never wore pants until the last years of her life. She was always in a dress whether cleaning the house or entertaining guests and every moment in between. Mom was always dressed properly and with dignity, respectful of people, places and situations she found herself in.
Yet, I think of my mother was a woman ahead of her time, a woman who brought respect and dignity to the place of women in the world and in the Church. Now she did not burn her bra or protest for women's right. She was not a "women's libber" or a card-carrying member of NOW. But she was a woman who challenged just what and who women are. She was educated when education for women was not seen as a value. She went to college as a science major when few if any women were science majors. Throughout her life she sought to learn, understand and be a part of the world and her faith all while taking care of a home and family just like many other women. She was a true maker of the home!
Mom saw her faith as the most valuable part of her life and when she lost Dad it took on a new dimension. With time now on her hands she made ministry within her local parish a priority. It was her way of giving back. It was her way helping others and herself see the grace of God at work in life each day. Often in my early ministry as a priest I would talk about the fact that I thought my mother did more ministry than I did! Mom was never the voice of protest in the Church. She didn't voice an opinion about whether the Church should have woman priest or that women should have a more active voice in the Church, she just went about and lived her faith. Ministering to the sick, the dying and families grieving the loss of a loved one. She read faithfully at daily mass, she was always ready to help where ever needed. Her morning walk to and from daily mass was the beginning of her day, it was what started her day much like a first cup of coffee. Once she even got up on Mother's Day and gave a short reflection at mass about being a mother and a woman of faith!
I still have feelings of guilt, of selfishness and I suppose I will always have them. I was not always there for my mother and thank God, I had a family who was. My brother and his family took wonderful care of my mother and my sister and her family while not always able to be there were very important in my mother's life. I cannot go back and undue any of those moments that come to mind often when I was not the best son that I could have been. I guest these thoughts and feelings will be with me always. But I will always remember what Mom taught me and the love she gave me unconditionally. I will remember her dignity, her determination, her purpose in living life. I will remember her faith and how she made the grace of God present to me and many others throughout her life.
I have one consultation amid my feelings of guilt and selfishness and that is that I was gifted, honored, privileged and graced to be able to celebrate her funeral mass, to preach the homily and to lay her to rest. For me as a son and a priest that was the greatest gift I could give to her. I might not be able to call to mind a favorite story about Mom, but I will always be able to remember a great woman of faith whom I will always call Mom!
Thanks Mom, for a Wonderful Life!
Today’s Thoughts: Reflecting on our readings today a rather famous line in a Robert Frost poem came to mind – “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.”
It has been said that Robert Frost intended the poem as a gentle mocking of indecision, particularly the indecision that Edward Thomas had shown on their many walks together in England. Frost later expressed chagrin that most audiences took the poem more seriously than he had intended. However, those last few lines of the poem which I began this reflection with have over the years come to reflect for many the challenge of living life whether Frost meant it that way or not.
Both Jesus and St. Paul are confronted by two roads, two paths to travel in our readings today. For Jesus it is to heal or not to heal on the Sabbath. For St. Paul it is to live according to the flesh or to live according to the Spirit. We might say that they both choose the road, the path less traveled and for us that has made all the difference.
Our scriptures challenge us to look at the decisions we make in living our life of faith and how often the choice of the road, the path that is less traveled can make all the difference. Like our world today, St. Paul encountered the road of materialism, power, influence, “life is about me,” and all the other things that make up our world of instant gratification or as St. Paul might put it, the world of the flesh. They were as present then as they are now and St. Paul askes his communities and us to consider another road, the road of the Spirit. It is often the road less traveled, but it is the road that can make all the difference in our journey of faith, in our relationship with God.
Jesus is confronted with a woman who has been crippled by a spirit for many years. Jesus responds to her with mercy and compassion and moves to heal her. The only problem is that it is the Sabbath. Yet for Jesus it is the road of healing, mercy and compassion that he takes and that makes all the difference for the woman, for those watching, for the religious leaders and for us.
If we truly believe the response of our responsorial psalm today – Our God is the God of salvation – then when we are often confronted with two roads on our journey of faith. Do we have the courage to take the one less travel because most often it will make all the difference? It will be the road where we will find God, ready to heal, ready to help and that certainly will make all the difference!
Have a great Monday 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. The first mark of a good relationship, a good friendship, is benevolence. Benevolence is actively, seeking and finding the good in another.
In the first reading from the Book of Exodus (Exodus 22:20-26) God reminds the Israelites that they are to care people not like themselves. They are to care for immigrants, aliens. They are to care for windows and orphans, those less fortunate than themselves. Because – we have all been immigrants and aliens at one point in our family history; we all have the potential of struggling and needing assistance. Care, concern, mercy and compassion are the hallmarks of a friend of God.
We find ourselves in the midst of a great debate these days about immigrants and those who are poor. Pope Francis constantly challenges us to care for these people with compassion, understanding and love. In our first reading today, God challenges not just the Israelites but us to care for the aliens, the immigrants, the poor!
In the Gospel Jesus reminds us that we are to love God and love others and also love ourselves. In order to do this, we must find the good in God, others and ourselves. We must desire good for God, others and ourselves. As Merton says if we can do this the gift of love will be our reward!
We see the effects of a lack of love every day in our culture, our society and even our church. Lack of love starts with the inability to find God’s love within ourselves and this inability produces violence, suffering, injustice, selfishness, self-centeredness and judgmentalness. The lack of love creates divisions, alienates and isolates people.
The power of God’s word challenges us to be loving people today not just to those we like or those we find easy to love but we are asked to extend the embrace of love to all, including ourselves. If we can find the love that God has created within us, then it is much easier to look beyond ourselves to love God and others!
Have a great Sunday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: As we celebrate the Feast of Sts. Simon and Jude today, two apostles, two friends of Jesus, the thoughts I would like to offer you today come from one of my favorite authors, Barbara Brown Taylor. Barbara writes about what it means to be a priest. Her thoughts have given me food for thought recently and so I offer them to you today.
“...a priest is someone willing to stand between a God and a people who are longing for one another's love, turning back and forth between them with no hope of tending either as well as each deserves. To be a priest is to serve a God who never stops calling people to do more justice and love more mercy, and simultaneously to serve people who nine times out of ten are just looking for a safe place to rest. To be a priest is to know that things are not as they should be and yet to care for them the way they are.”
I hope I live up to what it means to be a priest most of the time. I know at times I do fail and I pray that my failures do not hurt others or keep them from God. I do know that things are not as they should be and I hope and pray that I do care for all the way they are!
Have a great Saturday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: A I read today’s Gospel (Luke 12:54-59) as I prepared to celebrate mass this morning I could not help but think of one of my favorite says by Fr. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J – “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, man will have discovered fire.”
Jesus seems to be saying the same thing. As human beings we seem to get caught up, become fascinated, with the things around us and in doing so we often miss the most important. We know what will happen when the wind blows out of certain direction. For example, here in the east when we have a northeast wind blowing off the ocean, it usually means that we will get three days of rain and there is nothing wrong with knowing and understanding how nature works. However, Jesus’ and Fr. Teilhard de Chardin’s points are that there is something great, something more important, something more value to life and because we are busy about other things we miss it.
If as a Church, a nation, a culture, a society, a world we could put our efforts into harnessing the energies of God’s love we would discover fire for a second time in history and how important was that discovery the first time! The energies of God’s love are all around us but we are so busy with other seemingly important things that we most often miss the chance to encounter God’s love. We miss the opportunity to make God’s love part of our lives.
My suggestion this Friday morning to all is that we take sometime today to pause and look around ourselves. Look past the obvious, the usual, the everyday. Look for the gift of God in our lives as it comes to us in so many different and life-giving ways. Discover it. Acknowledge it. Breathe it in. Embrace it. Celebrate it. Be thankful for it. And share it!
Have a great Friday everyone!
Just a note to everyone out there in the digital world - If you or your parish are looking for someone to celebrate a Parish Mission or Retreat I have a lot of dates open this coming winter, spring or summer 2017-2018. My missions are usually three days and evening long. I begin by preaching all the masses the weekend before and then celebrate the mission or retreat Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. I am open to shorter or longer missions or retreats.
In Advent and Lent I have these weeks open
Advent 2017 - Dec. 2-6, 2017
Lent 2018 - Feb. 24-28, 2018
I also have a number of weeks open before Lent in January and early February along with weeks in the Easter Season. If you want to look ahead there is always the Summer and Fall of 2018 and the whole year 2019.
So again, if you know a parish looking for a mission or retreat preacher please direct them to my web site for contract information or copy the information below:
Fr. Paul R Fagan, C.P.
Passionist Communications/ Passionist Preaching Ministry
Office: P.O.Box 111, Rye Brook, New York 10573
Home: 190 Mount Tom Road, Pelham, New York 10803
Phone: 914-738-3344 Office or 347-920-0008 Cell
Emails: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or PFagan@cpprov.org
Web Site: www.preacherman.org
Today’s Thoughts: After praying with today’s Gospel last evening before heading to bed it was on my mind as I opened my eyes this morning. I can’t help but hear Jesus’ words in the articles, headlines and reflections that I often read about the political situation today and about the Church. With all the turmoil in our country and at times in our Church you might surmise that our country and our Church is in trouble. That we seem to be in the midst of confusion and unthinkable divisions. In all the chatter you would think the “End Time” is just around the corner.
Yet, my response to all of this chatter, media and hysteria is – in the immortal words of Aaron Charles Rodgers, quarterback of the Green Bay Packers, as the Packers got off to a slow start a few seasons ago – “Relax!”
Jesus tells us in the Gospel today (Luke 12:49-53) that there will be divisions, conflicts and struggles because of his presence, message, ministry and call. He tells us that he has come to set the earth on fire and through the centuries that is exactly what has happened from time to time. There is no reason to believe that it will stop anytime soon unless God has other plans. As long as there are two people there will be disagreements, struggles and challenges.
Yes, my suggestion for what is going on these days is to “Relax!” Yes, the living of life and the living of faith can be and often is messy, yes there are and will be fights, disagreements and divisions in our country and our churches but let’s all have some faith in the Holy Spirit. Let’s all have some faith in the process of living, of believing. Let’s all believe in the breadth and length and height and depth of Christ love!
Have a great Thursday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: “Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.” This is a demanding and challenging reflection by Jesus in today’s Gospel (Luke 12: 39-47). Each time I hear this Gospel especially these words from Jesus I always pause in thought. Am I using the gifts and talents that I have been entrusted with to the best of my ability? Perhaps more importantly, am I using the gifts and talents that I have been entrusted with to further the Kingdom of God? Am I using them not only for myself but for others?
If I am honest with myself then at times my answers to these questions is no! I have been graced, honored and entrusted with many gifts and I have to say at times I do not use them to the best of my ability. Sometimes I am selfish in my approach to life and in sharing what I have been given. At times the challenge of the Gospel especially today’s challenge weighs heavy on me.
I want to be the best person of faith I can be and I want that to be reflected in how I live my life and how I use my gifts. I was reading a reflection the other day that said, “If we have been given a keen mind, we must think. If we are filled with compassion, we must serve. If we receive a voice, we must sing. God will not ask the impossible, but will expect our talents to be used.” Perhaps the question for all of us today is what are my gifts and talents? Are they being used to make present the Kingdom of God?
Have a great Wednesday everyone!
“Let Him [Christ] speak to you, embrace you, console you, heal your wounds, dissolve your doubts and fears—and you shall be ready for the fascinating adventure of life, that precious and inestimable gift that God places every day in your hands.” (Pope Francis - To Young Adults in Canada)
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...