Today’s Thoughts: I would like to start off my thoughts today with a little story…
Father Murphy walks into a pub in Donegal, and asks the first man he meets, 'Do you want to go to heaven?'
The man said, 'I do, Father.'
The priest said, 'Then stand over there against the wall.'
Then the priest asked the second man, 'Do you want to go to heaven?'
'Certainly, Father,' the man replied.
'Then stand over there against the wall,' said the priest.
Then Father Murphy walked up to O'Toole and asked, 'Do you want to go to heaven?'
O'Toole said, 'No, I don't Father.'
The priest said, 'I don't believe this. You mean to tell me that when you die you don't want to go to heaven?'
O'Toole said, 'Oh, when I die, yes. I thought you were getting a group together to go right now.'
Now this might seem like a strange way to begin my thoughts, but I think my little story reflects the focus of our scriptures today.
At one point in our Gospel today Jesus asks his disciples, “What were you arguing about on the way? But they remained silent.”
In the silence that follows Jesus’ simple question, like O’Toole in the bar we might hear something different from what Jesus is asking. The disciples had been discussing among themselves who was the greatest. Even after Jesus had shared with them his Passion and Death to come, they were more worried about themselves. Or perhaps they just didn’t want to face the journey of discipleship that Jesus had laid out for them.
The name given by the Letter of James to this way of thinking and acting is “selfish ambition,” which breeds, according to James, “disorder and every foul practice.” No small thing, this worrying about who is the greatest! James’ diagnosis of the human struggle presented by the disciples, points to a disease that afflicts all human hearts, but one that has a particular effect on Jesus’ closest friends.
Focus on self remains in direct opposition to focus on God. No one can move toward God who remains focused on the self. The spiritual tradition of eastern Christianity names philautia, the love of self, as the “queen of all vices.” This remains true for all, but what of those “closest to Jesus”?
In a passage from Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on evangelization, he speaks to all those who work “in and for the Church,” cautioning us about the temptation to “spiritual worldliness.” Pope Francis warns about attitudes and behaviors that seek “not the Lord’s glory but human glory and personal well-being.” This way of living life, can take on many forms, depending on the kinds of persons and groups into which it seeps. How can we avoid this? Pope Francis says, “. . . by making the Church constantly go out from herself, keeping her mission focused on Jesus Christ, and her commitment to the poor.”
The Gospel today asks all of us to pay attention to the focus of our love: Love of self? Or love of Jesus, love of the Father and those whom Jesus and the Father loves?
Have a great Sunday everyone and don’t forget to give God a little time today!
Today’s Thoughts: I have often used the parable of the Sower and the Seed that we find in today Gospel in my mission preaching. And even though Jesus explains it to his disciples I usually use a different interpretation. Jesus talks about the different kinds of soil in the parable as being different kinds of people however I often use the different kinds of soil to represent different conditions of our hearts.
If we say that Jesus is the sower and our hearts are the field, then as Jesus sowers the seed his word, his grace, his blessing, his hope, his love in our life the seed encounter four different kinds of soil. Three of which do not allow the seed to grow and one of which does. In other words, perhaps our parable today asks us to look into our own hearts to see what might not allow God’s grace, God’s blessing, God’s hope or God’s love to grow within us.
It might be the hardness of the foot path. The place of our heart that have been hurt, stepped on by the struggles of life. All of us have been hurt in life, by words, actions, the lack of words or the lack of actions in life. When we are hurt we harden so that we don’t get hurt again.
We might have some rock, stones, pebbles or boulders in our hearts that take up room and don’t allow the seed to grow. Rocks and boulders, you ask? Our sinfulness, our faults and failings, our character defects, the sins in our life that take up space in our hearts and do not allow anything to grow with in that place of our hearts.
Then there are the weeds and thorns, the stuff of life, sometimes good stuff that is over grown and chokes of whatever God plants. The things of life that often become more important than our relationship with God. Sometimes good things that become gods and choke off the grace, the blessing, the hope and the love that God offers us as a gift.
We want our hearts to be all good soil. Soil ready and willing to accept whatever God plants so that it will grow and produce fruit a hundredfold! Why not take some time today and look into your heart? What is not allowing the grace of God to be planted, take root and grow within you? What places in your heart need a little word so that they become good soil?
Have a blessed, holy, and healthy Saturday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: “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)
In today’s Gospel (Luke 8:1-3) we are reminded of the importance of women in Jesus’ ministry. They were there supporting, taking care of, helping Jesus with their resources, their gifts, their talents, their faithfulness and their faith.
I ran across a reflection that was very interesting in terms of today’s Gospel here is that reflection by Kevin Perrotta – “What is it about Mary of Magdala that cause so many misconceptions to sprout up around her? Some mark her as a great sinner; others suggest she had a romantic relationship with Jesus. Hacking our way out of this underbrush of speculation, we do know Mary had some wealth, since she supported Jesus and the male disciples. No husband is mentioned; was she widowed? Perhaps she ran her own fish business – a trade that flourished in Magdala. Rather than a repentant floozy, Mary may well have been a solid family and business woman – like many of the women in church on Sunday. Seeing her [this] way makes her a model for many of us today!” (Living with Christ)
Kevin certainly makes us stop and think about Mary Magdalene. Yes, our Gospel says seven demons came out of her, but who hasn’t fought with seven or more demons in life? In paraphrasing Thomas Merton – When trying to identify Mary Magdalene let’s not ask where she lived, or what she liked to eat or how many demons came out of her but let’s ask how she lived, what she lived for and what got in the way from time to time? If we ask these questions Mary becomes a woman of strength and great faith just like the others who followed Jesus and attended to his needs in daily life.
Let’s hear it for women today and every day! Friday blessings everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: “If I wait to be perfect before I love myself I will always be unsatisfied and ungrateful. If I wait until all the flaws, chips, and cracks disappear
I will be the cup that stands on the shelf and is never used” (Joyce Rupp)
May we live our life remembering that God is a merciful God, always willing to forgive. That God’s love and forgiveness is not earned but given freely and once we recognize God’s forgiveness and love in our life then we are able to love and forgive!
As we learn in the Gospel today it is our faith that will save us, so let us trust in God today, be faithful in living our life and know that God will bless us with forgiveness, peace and love.
A little wisdom to begin your day with. Have a blessed, holy, and healthy Thursday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: “We ask Mary that, as the first disciple, she teach us to remain watching, that she accompany us in patience, strengthen us in hope; we ask that she lead us towards the meeting with her Risen Son; that she free us from fear, so that we can hear the announcement of the angel... to announce it to others who need it so much.” (Pope Francis)
These words from Pope Francis help us to reflect on Mary’s place in our life especially as we celebrate the Feast of “Our Lady of Sorrows” or “Mother of Sorrows” today. Yes, Mary experienced much in her life. She carried the awesome responsibility of being the Mother of Jesus. She encountered moments of great sorrow throughout her life, seven moments that stand out, however Mary in many ways is our go to person. She was human, a person just like us who had great strength, great patience and great hope amid a life filled with sorrow, disappointment and pain.
Mary, particularly as Our Lady of Sorrows or Mother of Sorrows, is an example, a grace and a blessing to us as we journey through our own struggles in life. Perhaps something else that Pope Francis said best reflects the gift of Mary in our life - “To be faithful, to be creative, we need to be able to change. To change! And why must I change? So that I can adapt to the situations in which I must proclaim the Gospel. To stay close to God, we need to know how to set out; we must not be afraid to set out.” (Pope Francis)
Mary certainly was faithful. Mary certainly was willing to change, to adapt to the situations of her life. She stayed close to God and was not afraid to set out and proclaim the Gospel of her Son!
Have a blessed, holy, and healthy Wednesday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: Today is a special feast in the Church and for the Passionist Community. It is the Feast of the Triumph or the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.
As I read a reflection on today’s readings last night something the author said struct a nerve in me. The author of the reflection was focusing on the second reading for today’s mass from St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians. In his letter St. Paul talks about Jesus “did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.” (Phil. 2:6). The author’s point or question was “Do we try to be equal with God, through our actions, our arrogance, our judgmentalness, our way of looking at or treating others?”
This question or reflection recalled something I often struggle with especially when I wander through social media. There are often post saying “Let us put God back in our schools!” our families, our country, or a number of other places. When I see a post like this I often think “How arrogant we are!” To think we have the power to take God out of something. That we have the power to tell God where to go, where to be present. Perhaps we not only think equality with God is something we have but that we are bigger, and better than God!
God is present in every school, in every family, in every person, in every place. God is everywhere, whether we acknowledge his presence or not is another question. We are not equal to God. We tried being that once at the beginning of creation and where did it get us?
This feast is about reminding us that like Jesus, we need to humble ourselves, realizing our human faults, failings, and inadequacies and allow God to direct, guide and enliven our lives. It will involve suffering, struggle, disappointment, and even failure. It will also involve the glory and presence on God in our life!
So, I offer you three simple prayers to guide you through this day and life...
The first comes from our Passionist tradition it is a simple prayer we utter each day - "May the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ be always in our hearts!"
The second a prayer every Passionist prays before morning, evening and night prayer – “At the name of Jesus every knee must bend, in heaven, on earth, and under the earth, and every tongue proclaim to the glory of God the Father that Jesus Christ is Lord.”
The third prayer was written by the great Jesuit theologian Fr. Karl Rahner, S.J. - "The Cross of My Lord, Be my Standard, Be my Comfort, Be the Answer to all dark questions, The Light of all nights, The Sign that You have chosen us, The mysterious and sure Sign that we are Yours for eternity. Amen."
These three simple prayers reflect the meaning of the Cross that we as Church and as the Passionist Community celebrate this day.
May the Passion and the Cross of our Lord, Jesus Christ be not a sign of violence, oppression, war, and failure. May the Passion and Cross of Christ be a sign of God's great and unconditional love for us. May the Passion and Cross of Jesus be a walking stick that we can lean on to rest; be a protector in times of struggle and danger; and always be a reminder of just how much God love's us, no matter how imperfect we are as we journey through life!
Have a blessed, holy, and healthy feast of the Exaltation of the Cross and Tuesday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: Our faith it often tested, we might even say it is tested every day. We probably find it hard to have the faith of the centurion in today’s gospel He has a strong faith and is willing to turn everything over to God. His words to Jesus echo the words we say in the midst of every Mass, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul will be healed.”
Just before we received communion like the centurion we ask God to accept us as we are, and we have faith that God will. We trust that God loves us even as we fumble through life, as we make mistakes. I admire the faith of the centurion and all those early, early Christians, they believed so strongly, they seemed to have such unwavering faith in Jesus.
Our challenge is be like the centurion. It is to be willing to turn everything over to God. However, this kind of trust, this leap of faith can be hard, because it is hard to give up control. I think sometimes we are willing to be faithful but with some exceptions. We stand on the edge, but we just cannot take that leap of faith, our fears are holding us back.
We might say that faith is like a muscle, one that grows stronger as we exercise and stretch it, as we use it, as we live it. At times taking a leap of faith, turning everything over to God, letting go and letting God are ways that we stretch, strengthen and develop our faith.
St. Ignatius Loyola has a very famous prayer call, the Suscipe, that seems to express the faith we find in the centurion of today’s Gospel and hopefully our own faith…
Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding,
and my entire will,
All I have and call my own.
You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.
Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace,
that is enough for me.
Have a blessed, holy, and healthy Monday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: “No one can grow if he [or she] does not accept his [or her] smallness.” (Pope Francis) With this thought Pope Francis seems to get at the heart of what Jesus is saying in the Gospel today. If we don’t deal with our own faults and failings, if we cannot see our own humanness how are we ever going to be able to grow into the person God has created us to be and help others.
We cannot just look at other people’s faults and failings we need to start with our own. If we do, we will have a better, more compassionate understanding and view of the world. We will truly be able to help not hurt others. The starting point for looking at and dealing with the problems, struggles and sinfulness of the world is always ourselves. When we can proclaim our faults, failings and our need for help, our need for forgiveness we are on our way to being able to help and forgive others.
St. Augustine perhaps put the focus of our Gospel today a little differently when he said, “God is always trying to give good things to us, but our hands are too full to receive them.” So, let’s put down what fills up our hands in this world, anger, resentment, the faults and failings of others and receive the grace that God offers us and live in the joy and love of God today!
Have a holy, blessed and healthy Friday everyone.
Today’s Thoughts: Today’s scripture readings present some challenging standards by which we are called to live. At first hearing, St. Paul asks the Colossians to be grateful and to live out of the mercy and love of God. His beautiful hymn this morning challenges us to not let the negativity of life overwhelm us which is not an easy task.
In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus says; “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” These challenges along with the rest of what Jesus asks in the Gospel are seemingly impossible commands. Tall orders for the living of a faith life.
Each of our Scripture readings today in their own way are asking us to do everything for the glory of God. If we can keep this in front of us, then our actions and our words will ring true. We are always challenged to reflect on our motives for doing things especially when our feelings are hurt for being ignored.
A question always in front of us is, are we about serving God as we journey through life? Are our words and actions about the glory of God? If we can say yes to these questions, then we know we are on the right path. We will never do it perfectly because at times we step off the path because we are hurt temporarily by the insult or carelessness of the world around us. However, if God is our focus then we can refocus on the true purpose of our life, reminding ourselves that God knows our names and what we are doing always. A life of faith is not about “Me,” it is about serving God with gratitude and love!
Have a blessed, holy, and healthy Thursday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: As we celebrate the feast of the Nativity of Mary we are reminded in the Gospel (Matthew 1: 1-16, 18-23), that Mary, Joseph, and Jesus are part of the great human family. A human family made up of saints and sinners and everything in between. It might seem tedious to read the long list of names at the beginning of the Gospel many of whom we know nothing about. As I began my ministry many years ago, I would get so nervous when the genealogy of Matthew or Luke would appear as the Gospel. However, over the years I have become comfortable with them and now I even look forward to proclaiming either genealogy. I guess I have grown familiar with the cast of characters and what they remind me of concerning my faith.
Is not that what life is about – remembering the stories of life, honoring those stories, and growing accustom to life. Seeing people and things differently, telling the stories that remind us who we are and from where we have come. Remembering the characters good and bad that have made up our lives and molded us into the people we are today. Today we remember Mary’s birth into this world. We remember Joseph’s “yes” to God that kept the story going. We remember two faith filled people who celebrated and honored the gift of family and made it possible for all of us to be people of faith today.
When we read or hear the genealogy of Christ whether from Matthew or Luke we are reminded that even though Jesus is God, he is also human, also part of this great human family and the characters, the women and men, who believed, who struggled, said yes and sometimes no, who embraced a relationship with God and sometimes didn’t, who lived life making it possible for Jesus to come into this world to embrace us with his love.
Here’s to the characters in all our lives. Here’s to the characters of the human family. Here’s to Mary as we remember her birthday. Here’s to Joseph and Mary the central characters of our story today who said “yes” that we might celebrate Jesus the Christ!
Have a blessed, holy, and healthy Wednesday 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...