Today’s Thoughts: Given the negativity, anger, misinformation, violence of our world and the bad things that often seem to happen to good people living with a generous and willing heart is not always easy and sometimes is downright frustrating. At least it seems that way to me. I truly want to follow the words of Jesus in today’s Gospel (Matthew 5: 38-42), “Give to the one who asks of you and do not turn your back on the one who wants to borrow.” Yet, time and time again I struggle with the Gospel way that Jesus outlines today.
At times I want justice or maybe more so revenge, yes, I want an eye for an eye. I don’t like to get hit at all and I certainly don’t want to turn the other cheek. I am happy at times to go the extra mile but not always. You can have my jacket or coat as long as it is an old one and I have another. And it seems at times there are people on every street corner and subway stop if I give to everyone I will be broke within a day!
Yes, often I fail when it comes to Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel and that bothers me! How can I be a person of faith, how can I be a Christian, a Catholic and fall so short? Jesus’ words are haunting words today and I have no answers. Sure, I have often rationalized – I can’t give to everyone; the money will surely be used for drugs or drink; they got what they deserved; somebody has to teach them a lesson; it’s too cold; I don’t have time; somebody else will help them; and on and on!
But Jesus doesn’t give conditions or excuses he just says offer no resistance, turn the other cheek, give your coat, go the extra mile and don’t turn your back! So, I am still faced with my imperfection, I am still face with how to act and live. I have no intelligent answer, no sage wisdom of many years. All I can say is that it is perhaps good to pause and listen to or read Jesus’ words in Matthew’s Gospel today knowing that we are not perfect but also reminding ourselves that there is still much to learn, much to do. Perhaps, Jesus’ words make sure that we see the world around us and that we don’t close our eyes to it!
Have a great Monday everyone!
Today Thoughts: A numbers of years ago now I read a book entitled Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith by Barbara Brown Taylor. Barbara is one of my favorite authors, I love the way she writes and how she tells a story. In one of the chapter Barbara tells a little anecdote about life as pastor/rector of her first parish in northern Georgia. After services one Trinity Sunday she found a miniature Three Musketeer Bar and a note on her car. They were from an eccentric woman who lived across the street from the church. The note read, “One for all and all for one, Happy Trinity Sunday.”
I could not help but laugh as I read the story and the story has stuck with me over the years and I keep coming back to it. Taylor writes the story as she is talking about settling into her first parish as a pastor/rector. It wasn’t easy, there were challenges and struggles, but this story seemed to reflect an acceptance, a fitting in for her.
Perhaps that is what this feast of the Holy Trinity is all about. We celebrate the mystery of God as Trinity, three persons but one God. Just saying it seems odd. How can we have three persons but just one God? How can we talk about three individuals yet still only be talking about one God? In human language it is impossible yet that is what we believe. We celebrate the gift of three persons so connect, so intimate, so focused that they are one. Believing means that we are part of that one, members of the relationship, accepted.
We believe in, we celebrate our God today who is all for one and one for all. Happy Most Holy Trinity Sunday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: “Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’” Words of wisdom from today’s Gospel (Matthew 5:33-37). Yet, they are also words that at times are hard to live out. I know at times in my life I tried to hedge my bet, not wanting to commit because something better might come along. Not wanting to be honest because it felt like it might hurt someone. Not wanting to be straight forward because I might look bad.
Yet to be honest, straight forward, committed is what we are asked to be as people of faith by Jesus today. We are asked to let go of what others, what the world thinks and be faithful to ourselves, to others and to God. It might not be the easiest way, but it is God’s way.
Jesus invites us to trust this new life. He teaches us to simply be honest, to be women and men of integrity. In Jesus, we come to know that trusting in God means letting go of the need to prove ourselves, whether by fancy oaths, cunning wordplay, or otherwise. Instead, we allow God to be our guiding light, always before us.
Have a great Saturday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: I have always like the image that St. Paul uses in the first reading today (2Corinthians 4:7-15), “earthen vessels.” The St. Louis Jesuit song by the same name introduced me to the image many, many years ago, but it has been my ministry and the living of life that has made the image “earthen vessels” so important and lasting.
I remember during the Holy Year in honor of St. Paul I was reading an article by a scripture scholar who said the Paul was not very imaginative with his examples and images. Back then and now I would disagree with that scholar. When you look over Paul’s letters and consider the images he used in order to make his point often they are images that come out of everyday life. They are images that every person listening would be able to relate to. Paul spoke to the common person and in doing so tried to make his ideas, his words understandable through the images of everyday life.
Everyone would have known what an earthen vessel was. They probably saw them and used them daily. A simple earthen container weathered by life with chips, cracks and flaws. Fragile pieces of pottery formed out of the clay of the earth by skilled and loving hands. Yet, Paul takes these simple objects of everyday life and turns them into wonderful images of our relationship with God. We are the earthen vessels, formed by the Great Potter’s hand out of the clay of the earth. We have our faults, failings, our chips and cracks but within us is a great treasure, the presence of God.
What a hopeful and wonderful way to think of ourselves. Yes, we are fragile, yes we have our faults and failing, yes we are chipped and flawed but because of God’s presence, God’s grace, God’s love we are never alone. As Paul puts it, “We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” We carry within the dying of Jesus and the life of Jesus. We carry within us the profound love of God.
May we carry within us, may we live, this special gift today in these earthen vessels to the glory of God.
Have a great Friday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: I ran across a quote by David Benner the author of Healing Emotional Wounds, “Forgiveness…is letting go – letting go of the anger, letting go of the right to retaliate, and letting go of the right to savour any of the emotional consequences of the hurt."
I have always reflected with people who were struggling with forgiveness that forgiveness is about letting go. It is about moving beyond the hurt. Yet often people think that forgiveness means forgetting.
The wisdom in Brenner’s reflection is that he is not saying that we forget that we let go of the experience itself but that we let go of the human effects of being hurt that can often paralyze us. Perhaps said another way we need to let go so we can get beyond being a victim.
I think this is what Jesus is getting at in the God today (Matthew 5:20-26). In order for the commandment of love, which we reflected on yesterday, to fully be part of our life we have to let go of the anger, retaliation and the victimization that being hurt can often bring about.
Jesus talks about taking the high road. Jesus speaks about being the bigger person. Jesus teaches us the importance and power of love. However, there is one thing we always need to remember none of this is easy and sometimes taking the high road, being the bigger person, living by love can open us up to be hurt once again. It can also mean being rejected. The commandment of love requires that we be forgiving people, to seek forgiveness and to offer forgiveness whether it is successful or not.
So, we pray for the strength and the grace to be people willing to seek forgiveness and be forgiving!
Have a great Thursday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: After reading today’s Gospel (Matthew 5:17-19) one might ask the question, “What law is Jesus speaking about?” At first glance we might be tempted to say that Jesus was about abolishing the law rather than fulfilling it. His life and ministry often seemed to challenge Jewish law rather than support it or fulfill it.
However, we might think about a conversation Jesus had with a scribe in Mark 12:28-34, the scribe asked Jesus, “Which is the first of all the commandments?” Jesus’ responds “to love God and to love your neighbor as yourself, these are the two great commandments.” Now, if we think of this conversation considering today’s Gospel then we might begin to have a real understanding of what law Jesus is talking about.
All of law flows from these two great commandments, love of God and neighbor. Jesus’ life was about fulfilling these commandments, his life, his actions, his teaching and his ministry all centered on living a life in love of God and others. All that Jesus said and did was to bring fulfillment to the great law of love.
Jesus showed us the way to fulfill the law, to change the world. Thus, the challenge for us in today’s Gospel is about how we live our life. Do we live our life to help bring fulfillment to the law of love? Do we live life loving God, others and ourselves?
Have a great Wednesday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: As I reflect on the readings for the feast of the Apostle, St. Barnabas, which we celebrate today, I am also thinking about my Uncle Joe. June 11th is the anniversary of his death. He died 36 years ago today. He was my only uncle and I guess you could say I looked up to him, both literally and figuratively. He was a big man at least by the standards of those days. He had played football in high school. He was a lineman. He had the personality of a salesman, which he was, not in a negative way, but a positive way. He could talk to anyone and just being around him made you feel at ease. He would call me “Pedro.” I am not sure why as my name is Paul and “Pedro” means Peter, however I didn’t mind and use to look forward to his greeting of “Pedro” whenever the family got together.
Uncle Joe, at least from my perspective, was a positive man always willing to pass along a good word or two. He was fun loving and at times would like to “stir the pot” at family gatherings just to keep things lively. He always seemed to have encouraging words for everyone he met.
I share these things about my uncle today as we celebrate the feast of St. Barnabas. Barnabas’ original name was Joseph. The name Barnabas means “son of encouragement.” I guess in thinking about my uncle I could not help but connect the two. Two men who because of their personalities and their outlook on life brought encouragement and energy to whomever they met. They brought the presence of God. They were gifts in the lives of the people they met. They each did it in their own way and I am grateful for having known them, one in real life and the other in my story of faith.
I am thankful for both Barnabas and Joseph today and may their spirits of encouragement bless all of us as we wander through this day and always!
Have a great Tuesday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: Today we celebrate a memorial new as of last year to our Church calendar, a day dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church. Back in March 2018 it was announced that Pope Francis had added this new feast in honor of Mary and that it would be celebrated the Monday after Pentecost.
I remember reading on Facebook or Twitter someone sayings, “Do we really need another feast in honor of Mary?” I suppose some part of me agrees with that question but the rest of me says, “Yes, we do.”
It is common knowledge that Pope Francis has a great devotion to Mary and he has chosen to honor Mary in this way the day after Pentecost, the birthday of the Church. It seems only fitting to honor the Church’s Mother the day after. Since I was a child I have always seen Mary as mother. To me honoring Mary as the Mother of the Church is as natural as making the sign of the cross. Mary is Jesus’ mother, the Blessed Mother. But, more importantly we need to stop and think of Mary as our mother, in a personal way. Perhaps, a question we should ask ourselves today is; “What does Mary as our Mother mean for us today?
The Gospel chosen for today comes from near the end of the Passion in John’s Gospel (John 19:25-34). The passage begins right before Jesus’ death when he looks at his mother and the disciple whom he loved and says to his mother, "Woman, behold, your son." Then he said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother." We could simply pass this moment off as Jesus making sure his mother is taken of, however it is much more profound.
Jesus is not only taking care of his mother, he is also taking care of us. This moment is about Mary’s presence in our lives as Mother of the Church. Everything born into this world comes through a mother. Mothers are the touchstones of life and today we honor the most important touchstone of our faith. Perhaps we should take some time with Pope Francis today to honor Mary’s presence in our life as Mother of the Church and thank he for her faith and her “yes!”
Have a great Monday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: “Different gifts but the same Spirit!” It is hard sometimes to trust in the gifts that we have. We always seem to look across the fence at the other side and think it looks better. We tend to see what other people do and think, “If only I could be like Mike!”
The key to overcoming our struggle with the Spirit is to remember, that every gift comes from the same Spirit. In other words, we all have a common origin, we all are gifted. The challenge is not, are we the best, the brightest, the most powerful, the most important, the most well-known, the strongest, the most gifted. The challenge is how do we give life to the gifts we have? How do we speak and act so that when others hear and encounter us they come to know the mighty acts of God?
St. Paul was very creative when he used the image of the body to represent our relationship with God, our relationship with Jesus. It is one body with all of us as members, as parts. All of us are necessary for the body to work, to function, to have life, with each member, each part valuable and important. Some members, some parts may stand out more than others, but it is the sum of the parts working together take makes the body visible, strong and life giving.
Yes, today we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We celebrate being one of the many gifts of the Spirit. We celebrate being a part of Christ’s body. We celebrate being a member and hopefully like the disciples on the first Pentecost we give life to the gifts of the Holy Spirit that we have received so that all will hear through us in a language they understand that proclaims the mighty acts of God in the world today.
Have a great Pentecost Sunday everyone! And may the Spirit of God’s peace be with you today and always. Let the Holy Spirit fill your hearts with the Passion of Jesus Christ and bring to life the fire of God’s love within you!
Today’s Thoughts: Today we encounter the final verses of John’s Gospel. As we have traveled through the Easter season we have retold the stories of Jesus’ meetings with the disciples after the Resurrection. Drawing on yesterday’s Gospel Jesus helps the disciples catch a large number of fish and in doing so he gets their attention after which they gather to have a little breakfast. Having nourished themselves Jesus then challenges Peter three times with the question “Do you love me?” What we read today is the final call of Peter.
In the early part of John’s Gospel, Jesus, is followed by two of John the Baptist’s disciples. In the story Jesus turns and asks the two men perhaps a most important question, “What are you seeking?” The two men reply by asking Jesus where he is staying. Jesus extends the invitation to, “Come and see.” Jesus does not say, “Come and find out.” Jesus simply invites them as he will invite others and all of us for that matter, to come, to see and so believe. This is Jesus’ ongoing invitation, the challenge of being people of faith throughout our journey of life. In John’s Gospel, believing is seeing the “signs” so that believing beyond “signs” will be what it means “to follow”.
So, John ends his Gospel with Peter’s having seen enough “signs” including the large catch of fish after catching nothing, during the night. Perhaps when looking back at the disciple who Jesus loved, Peter is asking for another “sign”, a companion whom Peter could trust for support. Jesus indicates that this disciple has his own calling as does Peter, as do all of us. Peter’s calling is to trust in his friendship with Jesus throughout the rest of the story, the end of which Peter does not know.
These final verses are a summary reflection of all that Jesus has done throughout his ministry. It is a summary of all the “signs” that are there to be seen and all who can see the “signs” are no longer blind, they believe, they have faith, because of having seen, because they have encountered Christ. As John says there were many events in the life of Jesus, but those that have been written down are just the right amount for Peter and any reader of the Gospel.
With the coming of the Spirit we are given the gift of faith which is a variety of vision by which we look for and receive “signs” of the presence of Jesus and of his calling us to follow into the unknown of our tomorrows. We, like Peter, will always want assurances, companions, and more “signs” to make believing a little bit easier. God gives us just the right amount of what’s good for our own response.
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...