Today’s Thoughts: If I could condense our readings today into one word, the word would be prayer. Jesus teaches his disciples to pray and challenges them to be people of prayer, to be askers, seekers, and ultimately finders.
Prayer for Jesus is a conversation, a conversation with the Father, a conversation with God. Prayer was always Jesus’ way of facing the task, the ministry at hand. It was a way of calming the storm, healing the moment, preparing to the journey ahead.
From Jesus’ instruction we come to understand that prayer is always about asking the questions we face, asking for the graces we need, ask for a direction to take. Prayer is the way to seek answers, to seek the presence of God, to seek the strength and grace to continue the journey. In prayer doors open, they don’t always make the journey easier but the help us to continue down the right road even if we are unsure.
Abraham in our first reading enters into a conversation with God, Abraham prays, because that is what prayer is a conversation. Abraham’s conversation might not sound like prayer, but it is. I often think my prayer must often sound just like Abraham’s, and that ok! Because it is helping me to ask, seek and find on the journey of faith.
Have a blessed and holy Sunday everyone and don’t forget to give God a little time today!
Today’s Thoughts: Today’s gospel is about a farmer who sows wheat in his field and at night his enemy sows weeds in the same field so when the plants sprout there are weeds among the wheat. When the workers ask the farmer about removing the weeds, he tells them pulling the weeds could pull up the wheat so wait until harvest when they can be separated without losing the wheat.
We might say that in this parable we are the wheat that God has sown, but there are weeds among the wheat. People that choose a different path. God will not pull the weeds from life because God has given everyone free will. God provides the love and support that we need, but it is up to us to choose to nourish our relationship with God so it becomes strong and crowds out what might make us become weeds.
Perhaps looked at another way, the point of this parable is that the farmer allows the wheat and the weeds to grow together to maturity, which is just what God does for us.
In the four Gospels Jesus tells us in many different ways that we have to choose between living joyfully with God forever and being forever separated from God, in great pain over our loss. This is not a new message.
The special spin that Jesus puts on this question of our choice here is that we have a whole lifetime to make it in. God provides us with all that we need to make a choice and to make the choice concrete in our life rather than just a vague wish or orientation, and we need to make this one central choice of life in terms of the small daily choices that inch us closer to God or away from God.
One other aspect here is that while the "harvesters" are able to tell the difference between the weeds and the wheat, we often remain in some uncertainly about whether we truly have chosen God enough, whether we have loved God enough. Any certainty about whether we are "saved" or not can be a form of self-delusion and lead to pride, laziness, and a fatal assumption that we are "good enough." This can be deadly in our human relationships, and it is no different in our relationship with God.
We simply do not know whether we are weed or wheat while we are alive, and the fact is that we are both --- but which is the dominant side of who we are? While we are responsible for the choice, it is up to God to decide what we have actually chosen. And that is where the virtue of hope comes in.
Have a blessed, holy, and healthy Saturday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: Today is the feast of St. Mary Magdalene. She is referred to as the Apostle to the Apostles. Mary was the first proclaimer of the resurrection a story we read today from John’s Gospel (John 20: 1-2, 11-18). The interesting thing about Mary’s encounter with Jesus is that at first, she does not recognize him. You might think that after following Jesus for so long it would be hard not to recognize him.
Now some might say it was because of his resurrected body but I think it was because Mary did not expect to see Jesus alive. Have you ever been in a situation when you did not expect to see someone? When the person surprises us with their presence there always seems to be a moment when we do not recognize them. They have not changed, they are the same person, but our eyes and brain just were not expecting them. Then they do or say something that is familiar, and we recognize them. It doesn’t make sense and once we realize our mistake, we wonder how we did not recognize her or him, but it happens.
The element of surprise can often catch us off guard. Perhaps today that is a good way to think about the presence of God in our life. We have a God of surprises and at any moment of our day God can walk into our midst. Are we ready? Or will we miss the moment because we are not expecting God to be there?
Through the intersession of St. Mary Magdalene may we be open today to be surprised by God! Have a blessed, holy, and healthy Friday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: “A skilled listener can help people tap into their own wisdom.” (Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM) We might apply this thought to our Gospel reading today. The focus in Matthew 13: 10-17 seems to be on the difference between hearing and listening.
In our first reading from the Prophet Jerimiah, God’s asks Jerimiah to remind the Israelites of their story of faith because they have not listened. They have followed the ways of the world around them. They are on the road to ruin. They need to not just hear but to listen to the Word of God.
We all hear unless we have some physical impediment to hearing but often we fail to listen. I believe that is what Jesus is getting at in the Gospel. People hear his parables, but they don’t listen to them. They don’t take them to prayer. They don’t reflect on them and thus they miss the point of them. We can always hear things as Isaiah is quoted in the Gospel but unless we listen we will not understand.
Jesus is teaching his disciples to listen. Jesus is teaching us to listen. I very much enjoy using the parables of Jesus when I preach because if we really listen to them they have a lot to tell us. Often, if not always, when I use a parable in my preaching I learn something new because while preaching I am also listening.
Jesus was certainly a skilled listener, the most skilled listener and that is why he helps us tap into the wisdom that God graces us with each day, all we have to do is listen!
Have a holy and blessed Thursday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: “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, [humankind] will have discovered fire.” (Fr. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J.)
This is one of my favorite quotes and I thought of it today in terms of the Gospel (Matt. 13:1-9). Jesus is preaching from a boat that is sitting just off the shore in the Sea of Galilee. Jesus’ words connect with the people who are listening. He is talking about their everyday life. the images of seeds and sowing, good and bad soil, and aggressive, choking weeds. A good harvest can be had if all goes well for the seeds. A happy and familiar ending for the seeds meant a good life for the people listening.
This simple parable from Jesus seems to summarize our own struggle to seek the best ground, the best place in our heart to nurture and enliven our faith. If we successfully avoid the weeds of life, and spiritually dry and shallow places, we will thrive and produce fruit “a hundred-fold”. Seek the good earth, grow in the spirit, and praise God. We surely will produce in many ways. Our daily lives, those whom we influence or influence us, and our service to others will, in fact, provide the good soil that faith must have in order to flourish.
Perhaps in a different way Jesus is saying to us that when we can get past all the things that seem to get in the way of our relationship with God we will discover love, the good soil. The things of the world are enticing but it is God’s love that makes all the difference!
Have a blessed and holy Wednesday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: At first hearing we might be taken aback by today’s Gospel (Matt.12:46-50), how could Jesus be so rude to his family? Why would he not go out and at least speak to Mary? It seems disrespectful. It seems to go against everything Jesus teaches. What about the commandment, “Honor your father and mother?”
We can look at this Gospel story through these questions or we can see it another way. Maybe Jesus was in the middle of a teaching and when he heard that his mother and brothers were there to see him, he used it as an example to emphasize his teaching at that moment.
Perhaps Jesus was not being rude or disrespectful; perhaps he was just taking the opportunity to expand our understanding of family. Perhaps he was taking the opportunity to help us understand better what it means to be community, to be church, to be family, to be the Body of Christ!
As people who believe we are not on this journey alone, we traveling as community, as church, as family, as the Body of Christ. Jesus is just reminding us that we are connected, and we can draw upon the strength of the many to help us in those moments of doubt, struggle and challenge. Believing in, valuing and living out our relationship with God makes us part of a great family of believers.
As we journey through this day let us trust in the presence of a family of faith that means we are never alone, that we are always loved by God.
Have a blessed and holy Tuesday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: “There is something greater than [Jonah and] Solomon here.” Today in the Gospel we once again find the scribes and Pharisees seeking more from Jesus. They want a sign. We can hear the frustration in Jesus’ words as he tells them that the only sign they will get is the sign of Jonah.
If I had been in Jesus’ shoes I might not have been so patient. I might have said, “Come on guys there are signs all around you. Every day I am preaching healing, forgiving, raising people from the dead, turning water into wine what more do you want! If you don’t realize who I am and what I am about by now I don’t know what else I can do.”
Our Gospel while addressed to the scribes and Pharisees many years ago is also addressed to us. On any given day we are just like them asking God for a sign. We want God to assure us that he is with us and that we are on the right path. We want to see, hear, taste, smell and touch God because if we don’t then it seems impossible to believe. Yet, like the scribes and Pharisees we miss the point the signs of God are all around us. We are reminded time and time again of God’s love for us in creation, in caring family and friends that are a part of lives, in the gift of the Eucharist, the acts of kindness, care and concern that touch our lives each day and the crucifix on the wall which reminds us of God’s greatest act of love. Yes, there is something greater than Jonah and Solomon in our life every day.
Each morning that we arise and look in the mirror we are reminded that there is something greater in our life – it is the continuing presence of God. We just have to stop, listen, look around and be attentive to life and we will see, taste, smell, hear and touch God.
Perhaps as we journey through this day our prayer might be – “Lord, I believe help my unbelief.”
Have a blessed and holy Monday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: In the first reading from the Book of Genesis, we encounter a story which emphasizes the transcendence of God and the tenderness of this God’s embrace of our humanity.
Abraham is resting in the late afternoon, and he encounters three visitors. He didn’t see them or hear them coming, they seem to have just appeared. From his immediate actions of welcome, we assume that Abraham did not have many visitors, or he would have soon run out of cattle and run his wife to an early grave.
Abraham invites his guests to be treated by Sarah’s hard labors and he seems to entertain the guests while dinner is being prepared. After dinner, one of the guests asks where Sarah is. When told, the guest foretells a promise. The guest knows the name of Abraham’s wife and blesses her, even though she is advanced in years, she will receive the ultimate blessing for those times, a son.
God knows, God visits, and God makes promises and keeps them. The transcendence and the tenderness of God plays out in our story of Abraham and Sarah. A few questions we might ask are, was God good to Abraham, because he and Sarah were so welcoming? Does God come to bless, because of us or because of Who God is? It is quite impractical for Sarah to have a child at her age, but a very practical promise is made. This kind of story helps us to encounter the mystery of God.
Abraham and Sarah had to trust what they heard. Sarah is not rewarded for being the good wife and cook. She is blessed to have a child, because of God’s love. She might have been thinking that God was angry with her and so she could not be blessed with motherhood. Is God good only when we have been good, welcoming, keeping the traditions and laws? These are the ancient questions which have modern echoes.
The Gospel is a rather simple little story, but within it are some very important features of God and what is expects of us. Jesus is welcomed. Martha is doing the practical things of getting a proper meal ready for Jesus, her guest. Mary is doing nothing except listening. Martha complains about her sister lack of help. Jesus responds with something simple and important. End of story.
Luke presents Jesus as a model for his disciples whom he has sent out relying on the hospitality of others and thereby, relying on God. Luke presents Martha as the righteous welcomer who does the practical things according to the Jewish religious and cultural ways. Luke presents Mary as a person of the Good News. She does the impractical thing of “listening to him speak.” She has chosen “the better part”, which is allowing the Good News to be heard.
The story of last week’s Gospel, the Good Samaritan, immediately comes before these final verses of this chapter in Luke’s Gospel. The reader or listener to the Gospel would understand that the very practical thing the “Good Samaritan” did, is what everybody would have to do if they sat at the feet of Jesus and listened to the whole Gospel. Martha is righteous by her expressing her religious traditions. Luke is presenting Mary as how each of us continues the life of Jesus, by listening and then getting up and doing all that the Gospel of Luke has offered.
This is not a family dispute, a sibling rivalry, but a call to a radical way of living. We so easily listen to what we want to hear. What Jesus is saying in all the Gospels is not exactly all we want to hear. Jesus’ conversation with us, if we listen, will change, convert us and we would rather “get out in that kitchen and rattle those pots and pans.” We would rather justify ourselves by listening to our ways and doing our thing in the hope that God would be pleased and satisfied.
It would be interesting to underline all the verses in the Gospels which we find hard and or inconvenient. The Gospel would probably get quite a bit shorter if we were to be so selective. The verses we would underline are the ones we don’t want to hear, because they call us to change images of ourselves, of others, of life and of God. The good news is that Jesus just keeps at it, speaking to us in the pages of the Gospels, in the stories he tells, in the experiences he has. Jesus has waiting for us to tune in, to listen and to respond by living our life with trust and hope in God.
Have a blessed and holy Sunday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: In today’s gospel we are made aware once again of the struggles between Jesus and the religious leaders of his time. This time rather than taking them on Jesus withdraws to a friendlier place. Many people follow Jesus and in a quiet way he heals and teaches. Turning to some words from Isaiah long ago we find out in today’s Gospel how they are now being fulfilled by the presence and ministry of Jesus -
Behold, my servant whom I have chosen,
my beloved in whom I delight;
I shall place my Spirit upon him,
and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.
He will not contend or cry out,
nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets.
A bruised reed he will not break,
a smoldering wick he will not quench,
until he brings justice to victory.
And in his name the Gentiles will hope.
In this passage Isaiah talks about the tenderness of God and Jesus lives out that tenderness. A bruised reed will not be broken but strengthened. A smoldering wick not quenched but ignited into a strong flame. Jesus brings to life the love and tenderness of God by uplifting the meek, strengthening the weak. Jesus provides comfort to those who are mourning and encourages those who are struggling to “be strong, and fear not.”
As Pope Francis might say Jesus reminds us in our Gospel today of the endless mercy of God. Amid all that the world throws at us God is tenderly holding us, protecting us and giving us hope to continue our journey through life. Yes, God’s mercy truly endures forever!
Have a blessed, holy, and healthy Saturday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: “Something greater than the temple is here.” A line from our Gospel today (Matt. 12:1-8) and we might be tempted to think it was meant only for those to whom Jesus is speaking. But it is meant for us here and now. We might not have Jesus standing in our midst, but we have his Spirit with us and it is greater than any temple, any church or any cathedral. The challenge is the same for us as it was for those who gathered to listen to Jesus; we need to recognize the presence and the Spirit of God in our midst.
Jesus gives us a clue on how to make sure that we don’t miss the presence of God. The clue is to be people of mercy. People a tune to and compassionate towards the struggles, challenges, difficulties and failings of others and ourselves. People willing to help and not judge; people willing to be compassionate and not self-righteous. People willing to include not exclude.
Living life from a stance of compassion and mercy is not always easy; it can be difficult and challenging. However, being a compassionate and merciful person does help us to be ready and open to encounter something greater than ourselves the presence and friendship of God.
Have a blessed, holy, and healthy Friday 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...