Today’s Thoughts: “What is the Kingdom of God like? To what can [we] compare it?” We might stay that these questions have been asked over and over again down through history. We are always trying to figure out what the Kingdom of God is like. What does Heaven look like?
We are always trying to compare it to what we know. Even Jesus does it today in the Gospel (Luke 13: 18-21). Jesus uses two images out of nature to teach us about the Kingdom of God. He compares the Kingdom to a mustard seed and yeast not exactly what I would compare the Kingdom to but Jesus has a reason for picking these two examples. He compares the Kingdom to a mustard seed and yeast because they are things in nature that are alive. They are growing, ever changing. The Kingdom of God is ever alive growing and changing. Paul seems to tells us in the first reading (Ephesians 5:21-33) that the Kingdom is like the committed, loving relationship of marriage. The Kingdom of God as about respect, commitment and love. The Kingdom of God is like a wife and a husband who find God in their relationship.
Our challenge today is to look around at the people, places and things of God’s creation that are a part of our lives and be thankful for them. When we ask the question what is the Kingdom of God like, to what can we compare it? All we need to do is look around because the Kingdom of God in alive in our life.
Perhaps Fr. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ said it well when he wrote: “By means of all created things, without exception, the divine assails us, penetrates us, and molds us. We imagined it as distant and inaccessible, when in fact we live steeped in its burning layers”
Or maybe Thomas Merton said it a little differently when he wrote: “When we are alone on a starlit night, when by chance we see the migrating birds in autumn descending on a grove of junipers to rest and eat; when we see children in a moment when they are really children, when we know love in our own hearts; or when, like the Japanese poet, Basho, we hear an old frog land in a quiet pond with a solitary splash - at such times the awakening, the turning inside out of all values, the "newness," the emptiness and the purity of vision that make themselves evident, all these provide a glimpse of the cosmic dance [a glimpse of the Kingdom].”
Have a blessed, holy, safe, and healthy Tuesday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: Reflecting on our readings today a rather famous line in a Robert Frost poem came to mind – “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.”
It has been said that Robert Frost intended the poem as a gentle mocking of indecision, particularly the indecision that Edward Thomas had shown on their many walks together in England. Frost later expressed chagrin that most audiences took the poem more seriously than he had intended. However, those last few lines of the poem which I began this reflection with have over the years come to reflect for many the challenge of living life whether Frost meant it that way or not.
Both Jesus and St. Paul are confronted by two roads, two paths to travel in our readings today. For Jesus it is to heal or not to heal on the Sabbath. For St. Paul it is to be compassionate and forgiving or the road of immorality, impurity and greed. We might say that they both choose the road, the path less traveled and for us that has made all the difference.
Our scriptures challenge us to look at the decisions we make in living our life of faith and how often the choice of the road, the path that is less traveled can make all the difference. Like our world today, St. Paul challenges the Ephesians to consider the roads they are walking down. Are they buying into the world around them, a world of immorality, impurity and geed or are they will to walk the path of God’s presence, the path of compassion and forgiveness, the path of love. St. Paul asking the Ephesians and us to consider the road less travel by the world because it will make all the difference in our journey of faith, in our relationship with God, it will make us Children of the Light!
Jesus is confronted with a woman who has been crippled by a spirit for many years. Jesus responds to her with mercy and compassion and moves to heal her. The only problem is that it is the Sabbath. Yet for Jesus it is the road of healing, mercy and compassion that he takes and that makes all the difference for the woman, for those watching, for the religious leaders and for us.
If we truly believe the response of our responsorial psalm today – Behave like God as his very dear children – then when we are often confronted with two roads on our journey of faith. Do we have the courage to take the one less travel because most often it will make all the difference? It will be the road where we will find God, ready to heal, ready to help and that certainly will make all the difference!
Have a blessed, holy, safe, and healthy Monday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: “Love seeks one thing only: the good of the one loved. It leaves all the other secondary effects to take care of themselves. Love, therefore, is its own reward.” (Thomas Merton)
Perhaps this is what Jesus is getting at as he answers the scholar of the law in today’s Gospel (Matt. 22: 34-40). Love sits at the heart of any relationship, of any friendship. The first mark of a good relationship, a good friendship, is benevolence. Benevolence is actively, seeking and finding the good in another.
In the first reading from the Book of Exodus (Exodus 22:20-26) God reminds the Israelites that they are to care people not like themselves. They are to care for immigrants, aliens. They are to care for windows and orphans, those less fortunate than themselves. Because – we have all been immigrants and aliens at one point in our family history; we all have the potential of struggling and needing assistance. Care, concern, mercy and compassion are the hallmarks of a friend of God.
We find ourselves in the midst of a great debate these days about immigrants and those who are poor. Pope Francis constantly challenges us to care for these people with compassion, understanding and love. In our first reading today, God challenges not just the Israelites but us to care for the aliens, the immigrants, the poor!
In the Gospel Jesus reminds us that we are to love God and love others and also love ourselves. In order to do this, we must find the good in God, others and ourselves. We must desire good for God, others and ourselves. As Merton says if we can do this the gift of love will be our reward!
We see the effects of a lack of love every day in our culture, our society and even our church. Lack of love starts with the inability to find God’s love within ourselves and this inability produces violence, suffering, injustice, selfishness, self-centeredness and judgmentalness. The lack of love creates divisions, alienates and isolates people.
The power of God’s word challenges us to be loving people today not just to those we like or those we find easy to love but we are asked to extend the embrace of love to all, including ourselves. If we can find the love that God has created within us, then it is much easier to look beyond ourselves to love God and others!
Have a blessed, holy, safe, and healthy Sunday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: Seeing Jesus to be a wise person, people ask him to help them understand the meaning of some recent catastrophes—Pilate’s slaughtering of some Galileans in the temple precincts and the death of eighteen people crushed under the collapse of the Siloam tower. Were these people singled out for catastrophe as punishment for being extraordinary sinners? No way, says Jesus, opposing the popular view that bad things only happened to bad people. Then Jesus takes the occasion of their questions to make the paradoxical point that they themselves will suffer catastrophe if they do not repent. To understand what he means, we only have to read further in this chapter to the place where he speaks of the disaster of being locked out of the banquet of the kingdom of God (Luke 13:24- 30).
The parable of the barren fig tree (Luke 13:6- 9) speaks about a fresh chance. When the owner of the orchard wants to cut down the unproductive fig tree, the gardener urges him to allow a little more time: fertilize it a little more, and maybe it will produce fruit. If we look at this story from our perspective at this moment in time we might say that Jesus is telling us that we still have the opportunity to act as people of faith and realize that the command to love our neighbor (even our enemies) requires that we voice our convictions regarding what our country, does in our name. In responding to the Gospel means that we always need to examine our conscience on the matter of justice, respect, fairness and compassion and that we communicate our values and conscience to those who lead us. Our faith calls us to always find Christ even in the most difficult of moments and situations. The tragedies of life are often difficult to explain that is why faith is so important.
Have a blessed, holy, safe, and healthy Saturday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: As I read today’s Gospel (Luke 12:54-59) as I prepared to live life this day I could not help but think of one of my favorite sayings by Fr. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J – “Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.”
Jesus seems to be saying the same thing. As human beings we seem to get caught up, become fascinated, with the things around us and in doing so we often miss the most important. We know what will happen when the wind blows out of certain direction. For example, sometimes here in the east we will have wind out of the northeast meaning it will blow in off the ocean, so we will most likely have a nor’easter rainstorm or snowstorm. Now there is nothing wrong with knowing and understanding how nature works however, Jesus’ and Fr. Teilhard de Chardin’s points are that there is something great, something more important, something more value to life and because we are busy about other things we miss it.
If as a Church, a nation, a culture, a society, a world we would put our efforts into harnessing the energies of God’s love we would discover fire for a second time in history and how important was it the first time! The energies of God’s love are all around us, but we are so busy with other seemingly important things that we most often miss the chance to encounter God’s love. We miss the opportunity to make God’s love part of our lives.
My suggestion this Friday morning to all is that we take sometime today to pause and look around ourselves. Look past the obvious, the usual, the everyday. Look for the gift of God in our lives as it comes to us in so many different and life-giving ways. Discover it. Acknowledge it. Breathe it in. Embrace it. Celebrate it. Be thankful for it. And share it!
Have a blessed, holy, safe, and healthy Friday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: After praying with today’s Gospel last evening before heading to bed it was on my mind as I opened my eyes this morning. I can’t help but hear Jesus’ words in all the rhetoric surrounding the election, in all the headlines, reflections and social media chatter yesterday about Pope Francis’ statement on civil unions. Yes, you would have thought the world was about to end.
The same thing happened in recent years when the Pope called the Synods on the Family, Youth, and the Amazon. Just by reading the headlines one might surmise have that the Church is in trouble. We seem to be full of confusion and unthinkable divisions – bishop against bishop, cardinal against cardinal, cardinal against pope, traditionalists against progressives, conservatives against liberals (well these last two are quite thinkable), but hopefully you get my point. In all the chatter especially from within the Church about the good and bad of the synods you would think the “End Time” is just around the corner.
Our upcoming election has tuned up the volume of the apocalyptic voices, – “We are about to step over the edge into the Abyss!” “We will commit a mortal sin if we vote…”
My response to all this chatter, media, hysteria and apocalyptic like chatter comes from the immortal words of Aaron Charles Rodgers, quarterback of the Green Bay Packers, as the Packers got off to a slow start a few seasons ago – “Relax!”
Jesus tells us in the Gospel today (Luke 12:49-53) that there will be divisions, conflicts and struggles because of his presence, message, ministry and call. He tells us that he has come to set the earth on fire. He is telling us of his deep feelings, emotions, and mission.
Down through the centuries the divisions and divisiveness Jesus speaks of is exactly what has happened from time to time. There is no reason to believe that it will stop anytime soon unless God has other plans. As long as there are two people on this earth there will be disagreements, struggles and challenges.
Pope Francis thoughts on Civil Unions are nothing new. He has spoken about it before. It is part of his theme of the totality of life. Everyone deserves the basic needs of life. Pope Francis is not changing the doctrine of the Church. He is just living out his faith. He is living the Beatitudes. Pope Francis has always asked people to speak frankly, honestly, truthfully and to look for ways to move the Church forward and that is what his life is about.
Unfortunately for the Church, like a football team that plays a bad game, everyone stands ready pounced, the international and national media, cardinals, bishops, priests and laity alike. What is he saying? What isn’t he saying? What does he really mean? Was the translation, right? Should he say these things? It all too confusing! It’s a mess? This confusion is of the devil! He is challenged doctrine! He is using the wrong language. He is going against natural law! He is going against God’s law! And so on and so on and so on!
Let me send this memo to the team, fans, media, to all cardinals, bishops, priests, deacons, whomever – “Relax!” Life is a work in progress, yes, it can be messy, yes, there will be fights, disagreements and divisions but let’s all have some faith in the Holy Spirit. Let’s all have some faith in the living of life. Let’s all believe in the breadth and length and height and depth of Christ love!
Have a blessed, holy, safe, and healthy Thursday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: “Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.” This is a demanding and challenging reflection by Jesus in today’s Gospel (Luke 12: 39-48). Each time I hear this Gospel especially these words from Jesus I always pause in thought. Am I using the gifts and talents that I have been entrusted with to the best of my ability? Perhaps more importantly, am I using the gifts and talents that I have been entrusted with to further the Kingdom of God? Am I using them not only for myself but for others?
If I am honest with myself then at times my answers to these questions is no! I have been graced, honored and entrusted with many gifts and I have to say at times I do not use them to the best of my ability. Sometimes I am selfish in my approach to life and in sharing what I have been given. At times the challenge of the Gospel especially the challenge in today’s Gospel weighs heavy on me.
I want to be the best person of faith I can be, and I want that to be reflected in how I live my life and how I use my gifts. I was reading a reflection the other day that said, “If we have been given a keen mind, we must think. If we are filled with compassion, we must serve. If we receive a voice, we must sing. God will not ask the impossible but will expect our talents to be used.” Perhaps the question for all of us today is what are my gifts and talents? Are they being used to make present the Kingdom of God?
Have a blessed, holy, safe, and healthy Wednesday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: Throughout the scriptures Jesus often uses the image of master and servant to make a point and describe our relationship with God. In most cases God is the master and we are the servants and the relationship is as any master and servant relationship would be in Jesus’ world.
However, in today’s Gospel (Luke 12: 35-38) the relationship between master and servant between God and us is turned upside down. God does the waiting on us today and this profound reversal of roles is the very spirit of the Gospel message. It is the very spirit of what Pope Francis has challenged his cardinals, bishops and priest to be as ministers, the very essence of what he has challenged us to be as Christians.
If we look at our relationship with God, we come to know that God not only loves us and cares for us but in the person of Jesus God has taken on our human nature in order to redeem us. Many of those who listened to Jesus’ preaching probably found his image of God as one who serves difficult if not impossible to accept. Masters of that time or anytime for that matter just are not seen or experienced as people who are willing to serve. Yet, for Jesus that is exactly what God has done in sending his own Son into the world.
May the Passion of Jesus Christ be always in our hearts!
Have a holy and blessed Tuesday everyone.
Today’s Thoughts: We often think when we hear stories like the one about the “Rich Fool” in today’s Gospel (Luke 12: 13-21) that Jesus doesn’t like those who are rich and that is not true. When Jesus talks about wealth, possessions, status and power it is not to condemn them but merely to challenge all who find themselves in possession of them. Jesus wants to know what we are going to do with what we possess. Do we use wealth, possessions, status and power to make ourselves comfortable or do we use them to help others? What we do with what we have is always the question.
As Jesus points out today, we cannot take it with us. As a friend of mine always says, “You never see a U-Haul behind a hearse!" In other words, you cannot take it with you so what are you going to do with it?
Pope Francis is constantly challenging us to care about the poor, the needy, the less fortunate, the immigrants and the struggling. This challenge is nothing new it has been part of our faith from the beginning. Care and concern for the poor flows out of the Gospel. It is the same message that Jesus presents today. In the early Church the question of those in need was always part of the Church's focus. Pope Francis is just reminding us of what Jesus has said all along.
As Passionists, St. Paul of the Cross wanted us to be called “The Poor of Jesus.” He wanted us to seek out all those struggling in in the Passion of Jesus. Our Rule, our Constitutions of Life, talk about our option for the poor. They should be our first concern, especially those who encounter the Passion of Jesus in their life today.
Wealth, power, possessions and status are not evil. They are not counter to the Gospel; unless we fail to share, unless we only think of ourselves, unless we let injustice and poverty go unchallenged. Do we use the gifts, talents, possessions, wealth and power to make the world for all people a better place? In other words, by living our life are we rich in what matters to God?
Have a blessed, holy, safe, and healthy Monday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: Our readings today, especially our first reading from the Book of Isaiah and our Gospel from Matthew, give us two thoughts to consider as we journey through our Sunday.
In the first reading from Isaiah, God makes it a point to name Cyrus. Naming Cyrus, gave him status, credence, power and importance even though he was not part of the faith community. It was Cyrus, an outsider, who would lead the Israelite back to Jerusalem and establish them as God’s chosen people again after many years of exile.
Being named by God grounds someone in the story of faith. Remember your baptism? What was the first thing the priest did? He asked your parents, “What name have you given to your child?” And then he traced the sign of the cross on your forehead and claimed you for God.
As a person of faith, we are named and claimed by God as we begin our journey of life and faith. We have a place in the story of faith and we have a responsibility for living the life that God has called and created us to live.
This leads to our second point in today’s readings. Our Gospel from Matthew has a very familiar phrase – “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs today God.” We all know what the first half of the statement means. Whether we like it or not we all pay taxes. We all must give to Caesar for the good of the community. Whether we are talking about our nation, our state, or our local community. For a nation, a state, a local municipality to survive, to provide services taxes in many forms must be paid. They are usually paid with money. We all know this. Perhaps we grumble about it. We look for loopholes or ways to get out of paying taxes with our hard earn money, but in the end for society to prosper we need to pay our share to “Caesar.”
The more important part of Jesus’ statement in Matthew’s Gospel today is “Repay to God what belongs to God.” What belongs to God is the 54,000-dollar question! Well everything belongs to God! Let start with life. We exist because of God. The life of our earth, the life of the world, our life is a gift from God. We owe God big time. In naming us at baptism we are called to respect life in all its forms. We are called to respect the earth, to respect the unborn and the born. We are called to respect the gifted and the non-gifted. We are called to respect the perfect and the non-perfect. We are called to respect and value everything and everyone! In doing this we repay God what is God’s.
October is Respect Life Month. As faithful members of God’s community we are called to respect all life from the moment of conception to the last breath taken. In repaying God what is God’s we are to honor life!
Also, today we remember St. Luke. It is his feast day, but Sunday take precedence, so we remember all who have the name Luke, all physicians, all writers and all who proclaim the Gospel. Happy Feast of St. Luke everyone!
Have a great Sunday 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...