Today’s Thoughts: This last day of the year we are treated to the mysticism of St. John. The profoundly familiar opening of his Gospel, "In the beginning was the Word..." It is not an opening story like in Matthew, Mark and Luke, it is a mystical reflection on God, creation and Jesus' entrance into the world. It is a reminder of where we have come from and the profound love of God we journey towards.
In the first reading John in his letter speak to a community, a church, under persecution, struggling with the reality of life in a world made up of many different realities. Things appear to be coming to an end, but John reminds the community about what they know, what they have been taught, and about the relationship with God that they have entered into, so that no matter what happens they will remain faithful.
These readings speak to our realities this last day of the year. Things are coming to an end, perhaps not in the way John envisioned them but a calendar year is coming to an end. Over the past year we have seen many struggles, many signs that point to loss, tragedy, the absence of God and a hopelessness. However, John reminds us, as he did his own community, about what we know because we are friends of God. John reminds us of a new beginning, of by whom we have been created and the hope that needs to remain alive in our hearts.
We can encounter terrorist attacks, tragic losses, challenges to our faith, natural disasters but we know the love of God, we know that the Light that shines in the darkness of life, we know that that world often does not know God, but we do and we will live in the Light and bring it to the world today and always.
Some things to ponder as we prepare to welcome a New Year…
“For last year's words belong to last year's language. And next year's words await another voice.” (T.S. Eliot)
“Keeping a journal has taught me that there is not so much new in your life as you sometimes think. When you re-read your journal you find out that your latest discovery is something you already found out five years ago. Still, it is true that one penetrates deeper and deeper into the same ideas and the same experiences.” (Thomas Merton)
“The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul and a new nose; new feet, a new backbone, new ears, and new eyes. Unless a particular man made New Year resolutions, he would make no resolutions. Unless a man starts afresh about things, he will certainly do nothing effective.” (G.K. Chesterton)
“Faith is why I'm here today and faith is why I made it through.” (Jonathan Anthony Burkett)
“If you want to identify me, ask me not where I live, or what I like to eat, or how I comb my hair, but ask me what I am living for, in detail, ask me what I think is keeping me from living fully for the thing I want to live for.” (Thomas Merton)
“Being a Christian is less about cautiously avoiding sin than about courageously and actively doing God's will.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)
“Do not forget that the value and interest of life is not so much to do conspicuous things...as to do ordinary things with the perception of their enormous value.” (Fr. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ)
“As long as we continue to live as if we are what we do, what we have, and what other people think about us, we will remain filled with judgments, opinions, evaluations, and condemnations. We will remain addicted to putting people and things in their "right" place.” (Fr. Henri J.M. Nouwen)
“Faith is not for overcoming obstacles; it is for experiencing them—all the way through!” (Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM)
Whoever you are, you are human. Wherever you are, you live in the world, which is just waiting for you to notice the holiness in it.” (Barbara Brown Taylor)
According to the Talmud, every blade of grass has its own angel bending over it, whispering, “Grow, grow.” (Barbara Brown Taylor)
If the only prayer you said was thank you, that would be enough.” (Meister Eckhart)
Have a great December 31st everyone and a Happy 2019!
Today’s Thoughts: As we celebrate this Sunday between Christmas and the New Year we do so by honoring the gift of family, specifically the gift of the Holy Family. When we honor the Holy Family, we honor all families.
I have used this image and story before but as I reflected on our readings during this past week a favorite fictional character from TV came to mind. The character, Special Agent, Leroy Jethro Gibbs, from the show NCIS. During an episode years ago part of the story line was Abby’s struggle with family. She found out that she was adopted. In a very touching scene she goes to Gibbs and says that she doesn't know who she is now, and Gibbs' reply goes something like this, "Abby, family is more than science and DNA, family is about the people who care about you and you have a lot of people who care right here." To me it was a touching scene that reflected some of Gibbs' best wisdom but also it reflects the focus of our feast today.
We might look at the Holy Family and say how can the Holy Family be an example of family life? They were the perfect family, how can a family in today’s world even begin to measure up to them? They were special people, blessed in a unique way by God. Jesus is the Son of God. Mary came into the world without sin. An angel came to both Joseph and Mary. How can any family ever measure up to the Holy Family? Well, in a word by caring!
Gibbs was right the basic value of family is that family cares no matter what, and it doesn’t always come from DNA. Haven’t there been times when you have considered a person family even though they didn’t have your DNA? You considered them family because in some way they were present to you when you needed them to be. They cared about you, about people in your life, about your family.
All the stories we find in the scriptures about the Holy Family like our Gospel today about Jesus staying behind in Jerusalem, are about people who care for each other and for those around them. The gift of the Holy Family is the grace of caring. Perhaps our challenge today is to remember the people who care, those we are connected to us by DNA and those we are not – perhaps all of whom we can call family!
Have a blessed Feast of the Holy Family everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: Feast of St. Thomas Becket – We find ourselves listening to the story of Simeon in our Gospel from Luke today (Luke 2:22-35). I have always liked the story of Simeon. It is a very tender scene. However, there is something missing in our Gospel today. From my perspective it should read just a few verses more so that we also encounter the story of Anna; to me it just seems natural to include both stories. Two people who have dedicated their lives to God waiting for this moment. You can hear the joy in their voices as they realize the purpose of their lives coming to completion, both embraced by the Holy Spirit graced with the gift of hope.
They do not sugar coat their message they tell it like it is – or should I say like it will be. There will be sorrow and struggle but also life. Rather than speak about the "rise and fall" Simeon speaks of the "fall and rise." The cross is part of Jesus' story, but it is not the end. Death leads to life, doubt is embraced by faith, sorrow and struggle turns to joy!
Perhaps as we listen to Simeon today, we need to remember that in being a person of faith our direction in life is always "upwards." Hope means that no matter how difficult things seem to get, no matter what the struggle – God is always with us. If we can be patience like Simeon and Anna the light of God will always direct our way, death, doubt, struggle and sorrow will become life, faith and joy!
Have a great Saturday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: Today is the feast of the Holy Innocents. It has special meaning for me because when I took my vows as a Passionist my title was Paul Raymond of the Holy Innocents. I took the Holy Innocents as my title, because before entering the Passionists I worked as a social worker and my responsibilities were abused and neglected children. I also worked with hard to place adoptive children. So, when I entered the Passionists I wanted to honor children particularly those often forgotten by or unwanted by the world. I thought what better way to honor and to remember the children I served, worked with and encountered by placing them and myself under the protection of the Holy Innocents.
There is not a day goes by that I don’t pause to remember many of the children that I encounter in my work. I often wonder what happened to them. Many of them were wonderful children who just need a chance to break the cycle of abuse and neglect. They were children with gifts who often didn’t get the chance to realize those gifts because of decisions that adults had made. I continue to commend them and children around the world to the care and protect of the Holy Innocents.
Recently, I also began to include in my prayers each day the children who have been abuse by a member of the Church. Like the children I work with many years ago those abused by a member of the Church are members of the Holy Innocents of our time. Children forgot, child who have had their childhood taken from them.
Herod did what he did many centuries ago out of fear. Fear that the Christ Child would change things, things that he was trying to control. Power, the future, the living of life. Children for Herod were disposable. Herod’s way of looking at life continues today. We still fear children because they will change the life we have planned. Like Herod we forget that we are not in control God is!
The Holy Innocents are martyrs and saints. Spirit of God who cares for those often not cared for or forgotten. Through the celebration of their feast today and through their always present spirits may we come to value the gift of children and the gift of life.
Blessings upon all expectant mothers and upon all children today! Have a great Friday everyone.
Today’s Thoughts: Feast of St. John the Evangelist – “Beloved: What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we looked upon and touch with our hands concerns the Word of life….” The opening lines from the First Letter of St. John which was read at today mass. They have always been comforting yet challenging words for me. They are certainly profound words today as we celebrate the feast of St. John, the apostle, evangelist and beloved friend of Jesus. As we often refer to him, the youngest of the apostle or at least the fastest as we hear in today’s Gospel (John 20: 1a and 2-8).
John by tradition lived the longest and was not martyred as the rest of the apostles were. In his old age he became a prisoner in exile, a mystic, a hermit and certainly a profound writer of the story of Jesus. Unlike his fellow evangelists John’s story is steeped in images, stories not found in the other Gospels and personal expressions of faith. John’s story of Jesus soars to the heights of the mystery of God, thus John is often imaged as an eagle.
In some ways we are all like John, living our life, running ahead when we can, believing when we get the chance to enter the mystery. We use the stories of our lives to proclaim the presence of God. We have seen things; heard things and touched things and they have all been about and from God. We are all God’s beloved.
May the spirit of St. John bring out the mystic in all of us today. May we look beyond what we hear, see and touch to the presence of God born in each of us this day!
Have a great Thursday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: Here we are on the day after Christmas, the day after the wonderful scene of Mary holding her newborn infant in a cave just outside of Bethlehem. In today’s readings, the scene has shifted to a place outside the walls of the city of Jerusalem. It is not a tranquil scene but one of mob violence as they drag a young man out of the city to his death all because he believes. Stephen becomes the first martyr of the new church.
On Friday we will celebrate the Feast of the Holy Innocents, the baby boys martyred by Herod because he was so afraid of the infant Jesus. My point here is that in these early days after Christmas two of the feasts we celebrate, St. Stephen and Holy Innocents, stand in stark contrast to Christmas and they do so as a reminder that being a person of faith, that believing, comes with a challenge, comes with resistance from the world.
Christmas is not a happily ever after story. It is the beginning of a journey of faith that will take us from a cave outside of Bethlehem to a hill outside of the Jerusalem and beyond. Christmas is the beginning of a challenge to wake up every day and find Emmanuel, God with us, in our lives.
As we celebrate the feast of St. Stephen today, we are reminded that the world will not always see things as we do. Sometimes the world’s reaction to what we believe will be harsh and at times even deadly. But like Stephen we are asked to believe, to trust and to know that God is with us.
In our prayers today we ask St. Stephen to help and protect all who are persecuted because of what they believe. We pray for peace among religions, peace in our world!
“Peace demands the most heroic labor and the most difficult sacrifice. It demands greater heroism than war. It demands greater fidelity to the truth and a much more perfect purity of conscience.” (Thomas Merton)
Have a wonderful Wednesday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: Some thoughts for a Christmas Day…
“To be grateful is to recognize the Love of God in everything He has given us - and He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense graces from Him.
Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder and to praise of the goodness of God. For the grateful person knows that God is good, not by hearsay but by experience. And that is what makes all the difference.” (Thomas Merton)
While it is good that we seek to know the Holy One, it is probably not so good to presume that we ever complete the task.”
“God loves human beings. God loves the world. Not an ideal human, but human beings as they are; not an ideal world, but the real world. What we find repulsive in their opposition to God, what we shrink back from with pain and hostility, namely, real human beings, the real world, this is for God the ground of unfathomable love.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)
“Someday, after we have mastered the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love. Then for the second time in the history of the world, we will have discovered fire.” (Fr. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ)
“Just because something is impossible, doesn't mean you shouldn't do it.” (Dorothy Day)
“It is a fair, even-handed, noble adjustment of things, that while there is infection in disease and sorrow, there is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor.”
“For it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child Himself.” (Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol)
“Maybe Christmas, the Grinch thought, doesn't come from a store.” (Dr. Seuss)
“Christmas is built upon a beautiful and intentional paradox; that the birth of the homeless should be celebrated in every home.” (G.K. Chesterton)
“For a child is born to us, a son is given to us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:5)
“We are all meant to be mothers of God...for God is always needing to be born.”
“Every creature is a word of God and is a book about God.”
“We are celebrating the feast of the Eternal Birth which God the Father has borne and never ceases to bear in all eternity…. But if it takes not place in me, what avails it? Everything lies in this, that it should take place in me.” (Meister Eckhart)
All of these thoughts have something to say about our celebration of Christmas. However, I think Eckhart, the great Dominican mystic of the Middle Ages, has his finger on the meaning of the Christmas feast we begin to celebrate today. Yes, Christ was born in history some 2,000 plus years ago and yes Christ will be born again at the Second Coming but what is most important for us is that Christ is born each day within us. As Eckhart says, “Everything lies in this, that [Christ’s birth] should take place in [us].” In other words, each day we need to take on the responsibility of giving birth to Jesus by the living of our lives. We should bring the presence of God to the world each day.
Over the next day or so if we are lucky, we will encounter children joyfully celebrating the gift of Christmas in song, in story, in pageant. We will experience them as angels, shepherds, Mary and Joseph. We will watch them place the child in the manager and proclaim, “Glory of God on high and Peace on Earth to all people of good will.” We will see the joy, the excitement, and nervousness on their faces. And after all is said, sung and done we will for a moment sense the true meaning of Christmas that God is with us!
My hope is that this Christmas, as you celebrate the mystery of the Christmas Eucharist, as you gather with family and perhaps friends, amid good food and choice drink, as presents are frantically opened and enjoyed you will look around at the faces of fellow parishioners, guests, friends and family and see the wonderful gift of God’s presence.
We are lucky people – no, we are blessed people because Emmanuel is born within us each day all we need to do is believe!
“Let us draw from the crib the joy and deep peace that Jesus comes to bring to the world.” (Pope Francis)
A Blessed and Holy Christmas to all!
Today’s Thoughts: The journey of Advent is almost over, later today we will gather with many others to begin the celebration of Christmas. Along with my own thoughts this morning I would first like to share a few thoughts from Sr. Genevieve Glen, OSB whose reflections I have been reading all of Advent…
She reflects on Zechariah’s words in this way, “God promises a firm kingdom, an enduring house, an immovable throne. Tod’s Gospel offers the only lasting reassurance: “The dawn from on high shall break upon us, / to shine on those who dwell in the darkness and the shadow of death, / and to guide our feet into the way of peace.” The firm kingdom won’t have a geographical capital, the enduring house is not made of stone mined from a local quarry, and the immovable throne won’t ever appear in a TV show about the rich and famous. The firm kingdom stands on the power of God’s word. The enduring house is not a building but a person, Jesus Christ, the new and eternal Temple not built by human hands. And the immovable throne is a wooden cross whose shadow is light that reaches into every corner of our darkness.” (From Daily Reflections for Advent and Christmas – Waiting in Joyful Hope 2018-19 – by Sr. Genevieve Glen, OSB – Liturgical Press)
So our question this morning will we gather and live this day and our life with the faith and joy of Zechariah in the promises of God?
So often there are things that get in the way of our recognizing the gift and presence of God in our lives. You might say like Zechariah we become mute. We are so busy with what we think is important we fail to speak of God's presence in our life. We fail to recognize the gift of God's love in our life. We fail to trust in the promises of God like the one's made to David and proclaimed by Zechariah in today's Gospel.
As we enter this final morning of Advent on this Eve of Christmas, we are called to remember the promises, we are called to celebrate the gift, we are called to be joyous, we are called to bless God, we are called to put our feet on the way to peace!
May these wonderful days of celebration open our mouths and our hearts to proclaim the promises of God that we encounter as we gather with family, friends and a community of faith. May we celebrate with the joy and spirit of Zechariah blessing God and embracing peace!
Have a great Monday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: Many years ago, I decided that the Christmas after my mother died, I would not go anywhere for Christmas. It had been over 30 years since I had woken up in my own bed on Christmas. It had been over 30 years since I had not travel during the busy holiday season. Yet, when the time came, I once again chose to pack my bags and wake up in a bed other than my own on Christmas, I needed to be with the important people in my life!
There are some people who like to have people around them all the time, while others often prefer solitude. At times in life all of us like doing things by ourselves. We do not want any interruptions and we find that we can get the task done faster if we have the time to ourselves. However, there are moments in our lives when we need people there. In the Gospel today once again, we are told that Mary makes her way to Elizabeth. The story does not say why Mary went, just that she went in haste. I think Mary realize that this is one of those moment when she and Elizabeth did not want to be alone. When the gift of family and friends was very important.
we might look at today’s Gospel as an ordinary moment in life. Two people, two family members connecting, yet Luke reminds us that it is often in ordinary moments that we encounter God’s grace. A simple greeting of hello and the movement of a child in mom’s womb happens all the time but for Elizabeth it was the grace of the presence of God.
Tomorrow in the afternoon we will begin celebrating the gift of Christmas and many people will make haste to be with others. There is something in each of us that knows that at this time of the year we do not want to be alone. We can be with many or just an important few. There is something special about this time of the year. Perhaps it is the need to hear the voice of God in the people we love. Perhaps it is the chance to be enlivened by the presence of God by celebrating with people important in our life. Perhaps it is being reminded that God has chosen us no matter how unimportant we think we are. Perhaps it is because we need to believe that God is truly with us!
Have a blessed and holy Sunday everyone and don’t forget to give God a little time today!
Today’s Thoughts: Mary's Magnificat one of the most beautiful prayers. It reflects her trust and faith in God. It reflects her commitment to God's plan for her. Each evening I pray this prayer hoping that as I live life, I can have the same trust, faith and commitment in and to God.
Think of the setting in our Gospel today. Mar find herself at Elizabeth house having travel some 90 miles either on foot or by donkey. She is with Joseph, her husband, but the child she carries is not his. We might ask what does she have to be thankful for? For what can she praise God? Yet, her prayer is a prayer of praise. She praises God first and foremost for his love for her.
Both women in the scriptures today teach us about praise, commitment, trust and faith. Mary and Hannah are models of what it means to be a friend of God, of what it means to be beloved by God. They teach us true friendship and commitment.
Perhaps as we prepare in these final days before Christmas, we might look at our own friendship with God and renew our commitment to proclaim God's greatness in our life!
Have a great 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...