Today’s Thoughts: I have always liked the story that we find in today’s Gospel (Mark 12: 28b-34). I especially like the end when Jesus looks at the scribe and says, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.” It is perhaps the only moment in the Gospels when Jesus and the scribes are on the same page. There is a mutual understanding, a mutual respect at this moment in the struggle between Jesus and the religious leaders of his time. It is a nice thing to see. Would that this kind of understanding and respect would happen between leaders of all kinds during our time.
The respect and understanding centers around the two great commandments, love of God and love of neighbor and we might say there is a third, love of self, because Jesus says we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. As Jesus teaches and the scribe comes to understand, these are the two or three great commandments and everything else flows from them, which might explain why we find ourselves in the struggles that we are in today.
If we just look around at our world, our culture, our society, our church the problems that we find relate to the way we live out or perhaps better said, don’t live out these commandments. Our struggles can be directly related to how we don’t value God and perhaps more importantly how we don’t value others or ourselves. We might even say that our struggles as a culture, society, church and a world can be traced to the lack of love that we have for ourselves. If we don’t love ourselves how can we love others, how can we love God?
Love is not just wanting the best for ourselves, others and God. Love is a respect, a reverence for life, for who we are as individuals, as a culture, as a society, as a church, as a world. Love is finding the good in ourselves, others and God. Love is seeing God in others and in ourselves. Love is seeing, acknowledging, and accepting the differences in ourselves and others but most importantly still being able to find God.
Our challenge today and every day is to put into practice these three great commandments. Our challenge is to wake up each day in love with God, our neighbor and ourselves!
Have a blessed and holy Sunday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted." These words from the end of our Gospel today (Luke 14:1, 7-11), seem to be the center of what Jesus is trying to teach. Humility leads to success and respect. However, in our world today that is often not the case. How flamboyant, outrageous, bigger than life, and self-centered a person is offers them the place of honor.
If we think for a moment about where our success comes from the answer we might come to is others. God has given us our gifts and talents. Parents, family and significant other people in our life have helped us develop and hone our gifts and talents. Still others have given us opportunities to use our gifts and talents. Yes, we have had a lot to do with our success, but we always have help along the way.
That is why we always need to be grateful and humble. If we look at our life honestly, we can see how much we owe others. We also can see that we have failed and if it wasn’t for others picking us up we would never reach the positive successful moments in our life.
Another reason for humility is that God’s unearned love is always there for us. It is a gift that we can never earn, but one God’s is always willing to give to keep us going. Thus, to live life humbly means to acknowledge our dependence on God and others and makes a part of the human family, the Body of Christ and the Kingdom of God. Living humbly makes it possible to hear the words at the end of our life, “Well done, good and faithful servant, come share my joy!”
Saturday blessing to all!
Today’s Thoughts: As I ponder today’s Gospel (Luke 14: 1-6) I cannot help but think about all the articles, comments, reflections and commentaries that I have heard and read over the last eight years or so concerning Pope Francis. Many of the comments about him are complimentary but others are not so much. Especially those concerning doctrine and laws of the Church. There have been discussion and even fights over words and translations. There have been comments, articles and reflections from the proverbial right and left, conservative and liberal, traditionalists and progressives. There has been talk about remaining true to dogma, doctrine and law. There has been talk about mercy, forgiveness and compassion.
If we listen to the Gospel today Jesus is confronted in his day with perhaps the same issues that Pope Francis is confronted with today. The religious leadership of Jesus’ time is concerned about the law. You do not eat with tax collectors and sinners and you do not heal on the Sabbath! Jesus meanwhile is concerned about the person in front of him, a man struggling and while the law says, “no healing today,” Jesus responds with mercy and compassion.
I don’t know what will happen as time goes on with the vision that Pope Francis has for the Church. I don’t know what will happen with the rest of Pope Francis’ journey as pope but what I take way from today’s Gospel is the hope that God will bless Pope Francis with the strength and courage to always see the person, the people, in need and respond to them out of mercy, compassion, forgiveness and love and help and teach us to do the same.
Yes, I know that laws, doctrines and dogmas are important but if I read the Gospel right today, when needed mercy, compassion, forgiveness and love always bests law, doctrine and dogma!
Have a blessed, holy, and healthy Friday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: As we celebrate the Feast of St. Simon and St. 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!
I have a blessed, holy, and healthy Thursday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: “Let the hearts that seek the Lord rejoice; turn to the Lord and his strength; constantly seek his face.” This is the entrance antiphon for today’s mass, and I must admit I do not often pay attention to the entrance antiphon. Some parishes where I have celebrated daily mass will always stand and read the entrance antiphon as I enter others do not. I have to say I rarely even read it. Yet at I was praying with today’s readings earlier this morning my eyes stopped at this entrance antiphon because I think in a few phrases it captures the essence of our readings today.
In our first reading from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans, St. Paul reminds the community at Rome where prayer begins and ends, with the Holy Spirit. St. Paul says we cannot really pray as we ought. There are too many things that get in the way of our prayer, so we need to turn our prayer over to the Holy Spirit. St. Paul challenges us to let the Holy Spirit enter our hearts so that we will always seek the Lord.
In the Gospel Jesus is confronted with questions about who will be saved, and his answer is that to be saved is a hard journey which is not always predictable. Entering the Kingdom is fraught with many challenges and what is necessary is strength. The best way to find and enter through the narrow gate is to trust in the presence of God in life and to draw upon the strength we are graced with through our friendship with God. For Jesus it is all about the lens we look through in life. Do we see things as the world invites us to see things or do, we see things as God asks us to see things?
If we chose the world’s way of looking at things the road is wide and easy, but the end leaves us outside in the cold. If we chose God’s way of seeing things the road is narrow, difficult and challenging but in the end, we will find ourselves safe and warm in the Kingdom.
We do not make this journey alone we make our journey through life with the gift of the Holy Spirit. St. Paul tells us to let go and let God as we pray. Prayer is about letting the presence of God’s Holy Spirit dwell within us.
So let us be a community, a Church of joy because our hearts seek the Lord; let us rely on God for strength for the journey; let us constantly be focus on the face of God – with the Holy Spirit directing and enlivening our prayer today and always!
Have a blessed and holy Wednesday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: “What is the Kingdom of God like? To what can [we] compare it?” We might stay 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 what I would compare the Kingdom to but Jesus has a reason for picking these two examples. 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 growing and changing.
St. Paul in his Letter to the Romans today, images God’s Kingdom as “hope”. It is something that we cannot see, and we wait for it with patient endurance.
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 blessed, holy, and healthy Tuesday everyone!
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 in his Letter to the Romans, 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 community 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 blessed, holy, and healthy Monday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: As I reflected on and prayed with today’s gospel I was once again inspired by the enduring faith of Bartimaeus as he asks Jesus for mercy. Through his perseverance and faith Jesus extended the invitation for Bartimaeus to come and present his case. What an expression of faith in Jesus from Bartimaeus, and because of his faith he is given the opportunity to see.
Our challenge today might well be to ask ourselves a few questions – When do we enthusiastically and joyfully ask for Jesus’ help? How often are we blind to the graces that God constantly offers us?
In the first reading from the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah there is a wonderful image for our journey of faith with Jesus – “They departed in tears, but I will console them and guide them; I will lead them to brooks of water, on a level road, so that none shall stumble.” (Jeremiah 31: 9) God is always compassionate and merciful. In the midst of our struggles God is always trying to refresh us by putting us on level ground and helping us not to stumble. However, as Pope Francis tells us over and over again if we seek God’s compassion and mercy we are then asked to bring it to all we meet. If we open ourselves to God’s guidance we are challenged to better use our gifts in service with and for others.
Prayer is the place where we like Bartimaeus open ourselves to the presence of God passing by each moment of our life. Prayer is the place that enables us to call out to God and ask to see. Prayer is the place where we strengthen our faith and prepare to follow Jesus. When we fail to take time each day to pray we become blind. We stumble along in darkness not open to the loving presence of Jesus. Why not pause for a moment of prayer sometime today and let Jesus open your eyes to the presence of God in your life!
Have a blessed, holt and joyful Sunday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: Seeing Jesus to be a wise person, people ask him to help them understand the meaning of some recent catastrophes—Pilate’s slaughtering of some Galileans in the temple precincts and the death of eighteen people crushed under the collapse of the Siloam tower. Were these people singled out for catastrophe as punishment for being extraordinary sinners? No way, says Jesus, opposing the popular view that bad things only happened to bad people. Then Jesus takes the occasion of their questions to make the paradoxical point that they themselves will suffer catastrophe if they do not repent. To understand what he means, we only have to read further in this chapter to the place where he speaks of the disaster of being locked out of the banquet of the kingdom of God (Luke 13:24- 30).
The parable of the barren fig tree (Luke 13:6- 9) speaks about a fresh chance. When the owner of the orchard wants to cut down the unproductive fig tree, the gardener urges him to allow a little more time: fertilize it a little more, and maybe it will produce fruit. If we look at this story from our perspective at this moment in time we might say that Jesus is telling us that we still have the opportunity to act as people of faith and realize that the command to love our neighbor (even our enemies) requires that we voice our convictions regarding what our country, does in our name. In responding to the Gospel means that we always need to examine our conscience on the matter of justice, respect, fairness and compassion and that we communicate our values and conscience to those who lead us. Our faith calls us to always find Christ even in the most difficult of moments and situations. The tragedies of life are often difficult to explain that is why faith is so important.
Have a blessed, holy, and healthy Saturday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: As I read today’s Gospel (Luke 12:54-59) as I prepared to live life this day I could not help but think of one of my favorite sayings 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, sometimes here in the east we will have wind out of the northeast meaning it will blow in off the ocean, so we will most likely have a nor’easter rainstorm or snowstorm. Now 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 would 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 it 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 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...