Today’s Thoughts: We are confronted with an unsettling parable from Jesus’ again. Where is the justice? Where are the workers’ rights? How could the owner of the vineyard, how could Jesus be so uncaring? What does it all mean?
There are some of the typical questions and/or response I hear when this parable of the vineyard owner and the workers comes around (Matthew 20: 1-16). I always say to people this is not about worker rights, fair pay or justice. This parable is about compassion, mercy, generosity and love. This parable is about gratitude and letting God be God!
The line that always strikes me in this parable is, “Are you envious because I am generous?” I believe this is a struggle we all have with God. We are so programed to do the right thing and in doing so we receive what is do us, but that is not how God operates.
I often think about the Good Thief when this parable rolls around, it was just before his last breath that he connected with God. We talk about him stealing heaven. He is the very point of this Gospel today. The door to the Kingdom is always open, never closed and we are probably going to be surprised when we get there to see who is waiting to greet us, because God is a generous God, a merciful God, a loving God.
The human rules of this life don’t apply to God and many of us will be thankful that God doesn’t operate by human rules and concerns when we reach the door of the Kingdom because without God’s mercy, compassion and generosity we might find ourselves outside!
Be thankful not envious or judgmental today for our God is a generous God.
Have a great Wednesday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: In today’s Gospel the disciples listen to Jesus and then wonder, “Who can be saved?” Jesus says, “For [humankind] this is impossible, but for God all things are possible.” Peter still worried about himself and asks, “If I follow you, what's in it for me?” Perhaps, the answer is not what’s in it for me but what can I do to help to make things possible? I/we can have a sense of gratitude for all God has graced us with. I/we can let go of our own need to control and live with gratitude and gratefulness toward God because it just might make all the difference.
Thomas Merton says it better than I… “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.”
Have a great Tuesday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: A sad moment in the Gospel (Matt. 19: 16-22), the young man just cannot let go of the world. He could not respond to Jesus’ call, Jesus’ invitation. There was too much to lose.
Thomas Merton talked about call, vocation in this way, “Discovering vocation does not mean scrambling toward some prize just beyond my reach but accepting the treasure of true self I already possess. Vocation does not come from a voice out there calling me to be something I am not. It comes from a voice in here calling me to be the person I was born to be, to fulfill the original selfhood given me at birth by God.”
Perhaps the young man could not hear the voice within. Perhaps he was too focused on a prize outside himself. Perhaps he really did not know his true self, the treasure that he was.
Two questions for each of us today. Do we know our true self? Do we know and accept the treasure that we are?
Have a great Monday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: There are two important lines in our scriptures today that help me to understand what they are asking. In the opening line of the Gospel Jesus says. “I have come to set the earth on fire!” (Luke 12:49) Fire in the scripture usually means the presence of God. In other words, Jesus has come to bring the presence of God to the world.
The second line comes from our second reading from the Letter to the Hebrews, the writer of the letter tells us to “persevere in running the race that lies before us while keep our eyes fixed on Jesus the leader and perfecter of faith.” (Hebrews 12:1-2) These words are reminiscent of St. Paul, running the race of life with our eyes always fixed on the end prize eternity with God.
These two lines from our readings today help us to make sense out of the challenge that Jesus is placing before us. For almost all of the summer Jesus has been reminding us that being a disciple, being a Christian, being a Catholic, being a person of faith is not easy. Believing in God is not a fairy tale, we don’t say we believe and then live happily ever after! It is a challenge each and every day of our lives. At anytime the world can turn against us, just like it did in our first reading to Jeremiah. It can cause division even among the people we love most and the only way to get through it is to keep our eyes fixed on God and let the fire of God’s presence burn within our hearts!
Have a blessed Sunday everyone and don’t forget to give God a little time today!
Today’s Thoughts: Recently in my daily reflections I have mentioned a pilgrimage that I took five 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: Five 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 five 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 for 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! Have a great Thursday.
Today’s Thoughts: “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matt. 18:20) Perhaps said a little differently by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “Where a people prays, there is the church; and where the church is; there is never loneliness.”
The focus of the Gospel today is church. It is a community gathered in God’s presence. In that presence, we can seek help, we can deal with struggles, we can get to the truth. In that presence, we can morn and celebrate. In that presence, we are never alone.
While some might hear the word church and think building or institution, church is really people, Church is community. Church is the presence of God made visible by the gathering of two or three in God’s name!
Have a great Wednesday everyone.
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 a hierarchy 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.
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!
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...