Today’s Thoughts: Recently in my daily reflections I have mentioned a pilgrimage that I took four years ago to France. One aspect of my journey that I have reflected on was the gift of children in life. Whether it was my encounters with families especially children at Lourdes and at other points during the journey or thinking of the children that are important in my life these days, like my three grandnieces and grandnephew. St. Bernadette and St. Thérèse of Lisieux where both children when they were profoundly touched by God.
In Aramaic, the word for child, servant, and slave is the same, which reflects the cultural attitude of first-century Palestine. But Jesus says, “for the Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” What a switch! Jesus is turning the social structure upside down! What does Jesus see that the learned and clever cannot see?
Children are vulnerable and totally dependent. Because they lack power and control, they live in trust. Relying totally on their parents, they learn and grow. This is the stance that Jesus took when he taught his disciples to pray. We need to do the same.
We need to value the gift of children in our lives. They should not be silenced, or abused, or hidden away, or seen but not heard. They should be in our midst always reminding us to be vulnerable, dependent, trusting and loving. They need to remind us to have joy always in our hearts!
Have a great Saturday everyone and be aware of the gift of children around you today because they know the Kingdom!
Today’s Thoughts: “The Church must be a place of mercy freely given, where everyone can feel welcomed, loved, forgiven, and encouraged to live the good life of the Gospel.” (Pope Francis)
I thought of these words by Pope Francis as I read today’s Gospel (Matt. 19: 3-12). In recent years there has been a lot of discussion within the Church about family life, marriage and the divorced and separated and I would guess that many who lean toward a more traditional or legalistic view of the Church might point toward today’s Gospel as a reference point in saying that we should not change our stance on marriage especially in terms of the divorced and separated. Yet, I often wonder if that is what Jesus had in mind when he spoke these words.
Now to be sure there is no way to know what Jesus meant or was thinking when he challenged the Pharisees and his disciples with the words found in today’s Gospel however, if we consider the whole of his life and ministry we might point to the words of Pope Francis as a way to look at Jesus’ words today. I am certain that Jesus’ words highlight the sacredness and importance of marriage. Making a lifelong commitment speaks volumes about two people’s love. Jesus’ life was a lifelong commitment of love for us.
However, Jesus’ life was also about mercy, forgiveness and encouragement. Think about his conversation with the woman at the well. Did he tell her to go, get her life in order then come back and see him about the “living water?” No he looked past her struggles, her relationships and welcomed her into the mercy of God and as the story goes it made all the difference.
We all make mistakes, some small and some big. At times we think we are in love when we really aren’t. We believe we have found the right person and yet we haven’t. We try to do our best and sometimes no matter how hard we try it just isn’t our best. We say forever and sometimes it isn’t. We work hard at relationships but sometimes they are beyond our control because the other person walks away. Don’t you think God, who knows all these things, is still willing to sit and talk with us at the wells of our life? You better believe he is! So why aren’t we as a Church just as willing?
The Eucharist is an altar of sacrifice and a table of forgiveness. The Eucharist is a place of welcome for everyone who believes. The Church is Eucharist thus we need to be a community where God’s mercy is freely given where all are welcome, forgiven, loved and encouraged to live the good life of the Gospel!
Have a great Friday everyone.
Today’s Thoughts: “God never tires of forgiving us; we are the ones who tire of seeking his mercy.” (Pope Francis) These words from Pope Francis come to mind as I consider the Gospel for today (Matt. 18:21 – 19:1). Peter wants to how many times he must forgive a brother who has sin against him and Jesus’ answer is always. God never tires of forgiving us so why should we tire of forgiving our sisters and brothers.
This is not easy our human nature seems to always push us in the direction of not forgiving. We think we will feel better if we can extract our pound of flesh, if we can get back at the person, if we can inflict an equal amount of pain and suffering. Yet time and time again it doesn’t work, it doesn’t satisfy and often we feel even worse.
Even though we don’t understand it God’s way is better. Mercy, forgiveness, joy and love are the essentials elements of a satisfying life. They help us to not get stuck but to move on so that we can enjoy all the moments of our life.
Remember God never tires of forgiving us.
Have a great Thursday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: Four years ago, at this time I had just returned from a pilgrimage to Lourdes. Recently I have thought a lot about that journey and how it changed my relationship with Mary. She was very present during my travels two years ago especially during my time in Lourdes. While some might wonder why we pray through Mary to Jesus or the Father, or the Holy Spirit, it became very evident to me while in Lourdes that Mary has played and continues to play a very important role in my relationship with God and in all our relationships with God. The richness of her life, her presence and her place in the Body of Christ, in the Church and in the living of everyday life is very important. She is a touch stone to the presence of God in our life. I am glad to celebrate the gift of her love to us today on the Feast of the Assumption of Mary.
As we celebrate today I turn to some words by Benedict our Pope Emeritus in offering you some faith food for the journey of life today…
“Mary is a woman who loves. How could it be otherwise? As a believer who in faith thinks with God's thoughts and wills with God's will, she cannot fail to be a woman who loves. We sense this in her quiet gestures, as recounted by the infancy narratives in the Gospel. We see it in the delicacy with which she recognizes the need of the spouses at Cana and makes it known to Jesus. We see it in the humility with which she recedes into the background during Jesus' public life, knowing that the Son must establish a new family and that the Mother's hour will come only with the Cross, which will be Jesus' true hour (cf. John 2:4; 13:1). When the disciples flee, Mary will remain beneath the Cross (cf. John 19:25-27); later, at the hour of Pentecost, it will be they who gather around her as they wait for the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 1:14).” (Pope Benedict XVI)
Happy Feast of the Assumption of Mary everyone and may the spirit of Mary enliven your journey of faith today and always!
Today’s Thoughts: Just when I begin thinking that we have moved beyond the sexual scandals of the Church it raises its ugly head again. I am convinced that we will never get beyond it in my life time and perhaps we shouldn’t! In my thoughts on today’s readings, I am going to speak from the perspective of a priest, a member of the hierarchy of the Church. While I have never abused a child in any way, or been abused myself, I am still a member of fraternal organization, a hierarchy, a leadership who has. So, I share with you my perspective.
Today’s Gospel (Matt. 18:1-5, 10, 12-14) gives me pause to ponder the scandal that has been such a presence in my life as a priest. In Jesus’ words today, we are reminded why the sexual scandals of the Church were and continued to be so wrong. Hurting children in any way goes against all that Jesus taught. The sin that we, the hierarchy of the Church, continues to carry, the sin of actions and in-actions, the sin of indifference, the sin of hurt and pain, the sin of stealing innocence, the sin of not protecting, the sin of covering up, the sin of not responding should remain with us and never leave us.
When we hear the words of today’s Gospel they should always give us pause to ponder what has been done to children in our name. These words should give us pause to ponder how our actions and in-actions as priests, deacons, bishops, cardinals and popes have led to so much hurt, pain and the loss of God’s little ones!
These words of Jesus should never be far from our thoughts and our hearts so that we will be humble people and always receive God’s children as if we are receiving God. If this is not our attitude, if this is not what drives our ministry then we should not be priests, deacons, bishops, cardinals or popes. Humility will make us people who respect not who are arrogance. May God and the children we have hurt forgive us and may we never let this happen again.
On a more positive note perhaps we need to remember the words of Fr. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ – “The future belongs to those who give the next generation reason for hope.” Let us give hope not take it away!
Have a great Tuesday everyone!
PS If you know anyone who has been hurt, affected in anyway but the actions of the hierarchy of the Church please share my reflections with them if you think they may help.
Today’s Thoughts: “I discovered later, and I'm still discovering right up to this moment, that it is only by living completely in this world that one learns to have faith. By this-worldliness I mean living unreservedly in life's duties, problems, successes and failures. In so doing we throw ourselves completely into the arms of God, taking seriously, not our own sufferings, but those of God in the world. That, I think, is faith.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)
The Gospel (Matt. 17:22-27) today for the most part is a confusing one, yet I think Bonhoeffer’s reflection on a life of faith touches the spirit of today’s Gospel. We are not exempt from life; it is part of who we are. Life asks us to participate and it is by faith in God that we find the way to participate, to live in this world.
Have a great Monday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: “Start by doing what is necessary, then what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” (St. Francis of Assisi) These words from St. Francis seem to sit at the center of our readings today.
In our first reading from the First Book of Kings we encounter a moment in the struggles of Elijah the prophet. Once Elijah starts doing what is necessary and possible in his life he finds himself engaged in impossible. In our Gospel from John, Jesus reminds us to do what is necessary and possible because if we do then what seems impossible will become the very substance of our life.
Friends work at what is necessary and possible in your life so that God can lead you to the impossible.
Have a great Sunday everyone and don’t forget to give God a little time today!
Today’s Thoughts: A couple of things stand out for me in our readings today. In the Book of Deuteronomy (6:5) we hear – “Therefore, you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength.” The journey of faith is about going all in. Faith is not halfway. Faith is not the minimum. Faith is our whole, heart, soul and strength.
Now this way of living life is not easy. I believe as human beings we are prone at times to do the minimum. What can we do to get by? What is the least we can do and still get into heaven? Take the commandment – Keep Holy the Lord’s Day. When that commandment was given to us it meant the whole day. Over the centuries we have reduced it and reduced it. Today, at times, some Catholics look to get to mass before the Gospel is read and hang around until communion begins. The minimum. However, I have never found that in print. Keeping the Lord’s Day Holy, Loving our Mother and Father, Loving God, and all the other commandments are about our whole heart, our whole soul and our whole strength as the Book of Deuteronomy tells us today.
Faith is about going all in, loving with everything we have. In our Gospel today, we see what happens when we don’t apply the challenge of Deuteronomy. Jesus becomes exasperated with the people and his disciples because of their lack of faith. The disciples are still not all in. They are still hedging their bets with Jesus and thus they struggled driving out the demon from the young boy.
Faith demands a commitment. We cannot be lukewarm, we cannot do just the minimum. Faith can be as small as a mustard seed, but we need to be all in with our whole heart, our whole soul and all of our strength.
Have a great Saturday everyone.
Today’s Thoughts: The disciples left behind rather normal lives, fishing, collecting taxes, among other things and they did it all in order to follow Jesus. As we here in Matthew’s Gospel today now comes the hard part. The kingdom that Jesus speaks about will not be established by might but by suffering and death. Jesus is not a political or military leader. His power is not to take things by force. His way is not the way of the world. It is to die to self. It is to let go of what the world think is important. It is to grab onto a relationship with God and not let go.
Following Jesus and dying to self, letting go, is not an easy task. The cross presents itself to us daily in many different ways. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer once put it “Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”
So, we are called today and every day to find that place deep within each one of us, where God is calling us, through the paschal mystery, into a relationship of love – and it is that relationship that holds the promise of a joyful, rich, and never-ending life in the kingdom.
Have a holy and blessed Friday everyone.
Father Fagan 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 Fagan walked up to Murphy and asked, "Do you want to go to heaven?"
Murphy 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."
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...