Today’s Thoughts: “In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.” The last sentence of today’s Gospel from John (John 16:29-33). reminds us that being a person of faith is not easy, that we will find ourselves struggling with many things about the world, culture and society. In fact, we will struggle with many things within our own faith community because as an institution it is part of the world and run by human beings who are imperfect. Living this life will give us trouble from all sides and we know this all too well these days.
However, we are not to fear because Jesus has conquered the world. He has made this life only part of the journey. There is more to life than this world; there is more to life than what we face each day. There is an eternal life where there is no more pain, no more sorrow, no more viruses, no more death just the eternal presence of God. As people of faith that is where we are headed but there is still this life, this world to navigate through.
Each day we need to look for the Spirit. We need to look for those people like St. Paul who can help us connect with the Spirit, because it is the Holy Spirit who will guide us through the troubles of this world. It is the Holy Spirit who will bring to life the gift of God within us.
So be on the lookout today for the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit can come to us in many different ways, through creation, through the people we meet, through the people we love and yes, the Holy Spirit can even come to us through ourselves. Let us be the breath, the life, the Spirit of God today!
Have a blessed, holy, safe, and healthy Memorial Day everyone!
Today's Thoughts: Today is one of those confusing days for us liturgically. In some place across the United States people are celebrating the Feast of the Ascension and in our places like here in New York people are celebrating the Seventh Sunday of Easter. If you are looking for a reflection on the Ascension just go to my Thursday reflection for this week. What you will find here today is my reflection for the Seventh Sunday of Easter…
The Gospel passage today is taken from the Last Supper discourse in John’s Gospel. You might say that this is the last meal, the last class, the last prayer-service and the last conversation that the disciples had with Jesus before his death. We could say that it is Jesus’ good-bye speech to them. Within it Jesus expresses a profound love for his friends and a deep desire for union, friendship with them. Jesus is one with the Father and longs to share that with his friends and through them to share his love with the world. As with a good-bye speech, there are strong statements of being sent and a wishing to be received. Jesus knows that these friends are a gift from God to him. Jesus loves them as he knows the Father loves him.
We might also say that today’s readings reflect a theme of the importance of prayer in our journey of faith. In our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles we encounter the first community of faith returning from the Ascension and their first impulse is to gather in prayer. They are probably dealing with many emotions, the loss of the physical presence of Jesus, the confusion of what comes next and their struggle with faith. Yet, they trust in Jesus’ presence, perhaps recalling his words, “where two or three are gather in my name, I am with you.” Prayer becomes the sustaining action of the early Church and that is still true today.
Jesus’ prayer at the Last Supper which we encounter in today Gospel reflects his own personal desire to share with his followers, his friends, his relationship with the Father and the Spirit. Jesus’ prayer is his way to teaching us how to live our life of faith.
There has been a great deal of controversy lately about Churches opening or not. I believe our readings today remind us that our faith does not depend of the brick and mortar of a building but on the willingness to enter into moments of prayer, as a person of faith, as a family of faith and when possible as a community of faith. With our technology today that community can be a physical presence or a virtual presence. What is most important is that no matter what the struggles are in our life that we do not abandon prayer, our conversation with Jesus, the Father, and the Spirit because that is what will see us through.
Have a blessed, holy, safe, and healthy Sunday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: Dorothy Day once said, “One must constantly recall the necessity to grow in confidence in God.…Trust that prayers will be answered. Maybe not as we want but as others need it to be.” Perhaps in other words our faith is not always about ourselves and God, but about others and God.
In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles today (Acts 18:23-28) Apollos is pulled aside and helped by Priscilla, Aquila, and others in his ministry. Yes, he is an eloquent speaker but a stronger relationship with God is necessary so that he can help others with his gifts. Jesus in the Gospel today (John 16:23b-28) continues to remind us of the need to ask in his name. In other words, pray in his name so that what is needed, what is desire, will be received.
But what does it mean to ask in Jesus’ name? It means to pray like Jesus. Jesus prayed always looking beyond himself to others. Jesus prayed not for his own will but for the Father’s will. Our prayer, our relationship with God must always look beyond ourselves to others. We need to be about God’s will not our own.
Perhaps in the spirit of Dorothy Day, our challenge today is to grow in our relationship with God, trust that relationship and realize that our prayers will be answered not always as we want but as others need them to be!
Have a blessed, holy, safe, and healthy Saturday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: “Do not be afraid. Go on speaking, and do not be silent, for I am with you.” – “Whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you.” Perhaps these are two of the hardest statements in the scripture to trust. They come to us today from the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 18: 9-18) and John’s Gospel (John 16: 20-23). The first the Lord speaks to St. Paul one night in Corinth and the other Jesus speaks to his disciples.
How often have we asked God for something and yet it doesn’t happen, we don’t get it, we have to settle for life as it is not as we want it to be? How often are we called to speak or we feel compelled to speak because of our faith but the words just will not come out because we are afraid of the consequences?
Living by faith is no easy task, it wasn’t in Paul’s time, and it wasn’t in Jesus’ time. The world is often a cruel place, a place where words and actions can cause us pain, sorrow and problems even if they are not true or right. The feelings and emotions of the mob are usually what rules. The Gospel message is not for the weak or the fearful.
Our faith tells us that God is with us. That whatever we ask in Jesus’ name we will be given, then why is there so much sickness, death, pain and sorrow in the world? Wars and violence happen every day. Did no one ask for the violence to stop in Jesus’ name?
It is easy to say that we are Christian and call ourselves Catholic but living out our faith is never easy. In some ways God is always there, God always responds to us, God always gives us what we need, God always stands beside us when we speak the truth. However, the world always makes it hard to hear, feel, see and know God’s presence in our life.
As we live today, as we wonder through this life trying to believe, trying to speak, trying to trust in God remember love casts out fear. It makes us able to speak even in the most difficult times and it makes present the most profound gifts that God gives to us!
Have a blessed, holy, safe and healthy Friday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: I know for many of you this is just an ordinary Thursday but for those of us in the eastern part of the United States it is the Feast of the Ascension. This is one of those days when I truly wish the US bishops would get their act together! Decide on either Thursday or Sunday for the whole country rather than some of the people celebrating one day and others celebrating another. For those of you who celebrate the Feast of the Ascension on Sunday you can save my reflections for today until Sunday!
“Men Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky?” I have always liked this little phase at the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles. For me it sets the stage for everything that Luke is going to tell Theophilus about Jesus and this community call Church. Perhaps this question directed at Jesus’ followers just after he ascended into heaven sits at the center of our life as Church.
Sometimes as a Church I think we are standing there look up at the sky. We are looking at the past. We are looking at what use to be and not what is. We are looking back hoping the past will be the present and the future.
The angel’s question to the disciples perhaps was not just a question but a challenge. Are you going to continue to stand here and just look up at the sky? Are you going to live in the past, put your hope in the past? Or are you going to get busy and be about the ministry Jesus has entrusted you with, are you going to get busy about living of life.
In the movie the Shawshank Redemption Andy at one point tells Red, “I guess it comes down to a simple choice, really. Get busy living or get busy dying.” Perhaps that is what the angel is asking Jesus’ disciples the day of the Ascension. What are they now going to do with the mission, the ministry that Jesus has entrusted them with? Their choices are to stand here and keep looking up at the sky, waiting for Jesus to return, thinking of the past or they can get busy living the life, the faith, the hope, the love that Jesus has entrusted to them.
We might say that this celebration of the Feast of the Ascension challenges us in the same way. Are we as a Church just going to stand around looking, waiting for Jesus, are we going to stand in the midst of the past and wait or are we as a people of faith going to get busy living out our faith through the gifts of the Spirit?
Have a blessed Feast of the Ascension and Thursday everyone!
Today’s Thought: “In [God] we live and move and have our being.” A simple phrase that Paul uses as he speaks to the crowd in Athens, it seems to have been a phrase use by a poet that Paul applies to our relationship with God.
Paul is right this phrase very simply reflects our life as a people of faith. If we believe then our life is in God and from our relationship with God, we live, we move and have our very being.
I have often imaged faith as being the breath we take every second of our life in order to live. We cannot do anything without that breath, nothing. Whether we are resting, running, alone or with people we need to breathe in order to live. From my perspective that is what faith is all about. I think that is what Paul was trying to tell the people of Athens. I think that is what Jesus was reminding his disciples of in the Gospel today.
As people of faith, we breathe in the presence of God, the Spirit of God, with and in that presence, that spirit, we live, we move and we become our very self, we have our being, our life, our purpose, our meaning. Today let us let our faith, the breath of God, enlivens us, strengthens us, inspires us and guides us on our journey through life.
Have a blessed, holy, safe, and healthy Wednesday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: We always need to remember that God has the power to transform our losses into gladness and our sorrows into joy. In the reading from the Acts of the Apostles today the jailor finds himself at a moment of decision. He thinks that all the prisoners have escaped. He considers taking his own life because it would be quicker and less painful then the death he would have to endure for such a folly under his watch. However, he finds that his worst fears are unfounded, and that God has given him and opportunity through Paul and Silas to change his life. Thus, rather than death the jailor and his family experience new life!
In moments of tragedy, struggle, disappointment, sadness, and even viruses we get an opportunity to grow, to see life in a different way, to change. It is not easy, it can be challenging and perhaps our first thought is to not even try, to just continue to feel what we feel. Yet, God is waiting for us to step up and bring the presence of God to each moment of our life, moving beyond worry, fear, anger, resentment and sadness to the Spirit of God.
Several years ago, Pope Francis wandered into a very tense part of the world and broke the tension by simply treating people with respect, love and joy. He put smiles on people’s faces and by his simple actions of prayer gave people pause to think. Did anything profoundly change? Probably not, but perhaps Pope Francis provided the opportunity like Paul and Silas for something new to happen.
My hope is always that we as people, as nations, as Christians, Jews, Muslims, will at some point grasp the moment like the jailor in the reading today, perhaps even this moment of a virus, and allow God to transform our lives from fear and hate into peace and hope!
Have a blessed, holy, safe and healthy Tuesday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: There is a quote from St. Bede the Venerable that goes like this, “Let us speak the truth in our hearts and not practice treachery with our tongues, so that by pouring forth charity more and more in our hearts, the Spirit of truth may teach us recognition of all truth.” In this day and age, I might add a little something to what St. Bede said, “…and not practice treachery with our tongues and our fingers!” It is not only the treachery of the spoken word today; it is also the treachery of the written word today. You find it on Twitter, Facebook and in all social media today.
It amazes me how negative, hurtful, bigoted and sinful we can be with the words we write about others. We call ourselves Christian yet the pictures we post, the cartoons and videos we send around, the ideas we put forth sometimes are anything but Christian. I guess it is easy to sit in our homes or offices or be walking down the street and attack a person, an organization, a political party, a public servant, someone in leadership. It is even easy for a president to do these things! The people attacked get no chance to defend themselves and our words don’t have to be true. From the comfort of our own electronic device we can post whatever we want and often there are no consequences to our actions whether we are right or wrong. Remember it is a free country and certainly free social media!
In the readings from mass today we are reminded about the importance of truth. Jesus (John 15:26 – 16:4a) reminds us that he is sending us the truth through the Holy Spirit from the Father, not Fox News or MSNBC or any other news organization that we agree with. Truth is most often not found in the media sources of today’s world it is found in the hearts of people who journey through life as friends of God.
Lydia, whom we meet in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 16:11-15) today, went to the river to pray and her life was changed through the preaching and the presence of Paul. Paul spoke the truth and Lydia allowed it to enter her heart. She came to believe. She invited the truth into her home and into her heart.
We need to trust the Spirit in our life not 24-hour news. We need to speak truth about ourselves and others. We need to be friends of God who build up not tear down. There are always going to be those who bring deceitfulness to the living of life may we always be people who bring truth!
A couple of years ago I was wondering through the social media, Twitter to be exact and I came upon two tweets from Fr. James Martin, S.J. that I wrote down and I think they speaks to our scriptures today. Fr. Martin was talking about Pope Francis’ visit to the Holy Land. “To those who doubted that Pope Francis could do anything valuable in the Holy Land, or could find grace among warring factions, I say...that you've forgotten about the Holy Spirit again. Nothing is impossible with God.”
Have a blessed, holy, safe, and healthy Monday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: The readings today certainly focus on the gift of the Holy Spirit. We are reminded that the Spirit is always with us even when we struggle and feel alone or abandoned. What makes the Spirit possible in our life is following Jesus’ commandment to love one another.
A thought that came to me regarding our readings today is something I read and have been praying with this week. I ran across this statement, “Jesus loved the world enough to die for it, but not so much as to be seduced by it.” The person who wrote this attributed it to G. K. Chesterton. I did a little searching myself but I could not find it among Chesterton’s quotes or anyone else for that matter.
It was a quote that stuck with me, I think because it is at the heart of what Jesus is talking about in John’s Gospel. Jesus does love us and always will. All he asks of us is to be faithful to the relationship and that faithfulness becomes present when we love one another. In other words, when we do not get sidetracked, when we do not get seduced by the world. When we do not buy into the bright lights, the must see, the must have. Trust in God’s presence as Father, Son and Spirit comes to life when we live in love.
In the opening prayer at mass today we are reminded that in celebrating the Eucharist we are to live each day in remembrance so that we may always hold on to it in what we do. Hopefully, our remembrance of God’s love for us will be made present in the living of our life and our love for one another!
Have a blessed, holy, safe, and healthy Sunday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: In some ways the image created by John in his Gospel today can be a bit confusing. In today’s Gospel Jesus talks about “the world.” He says. “If the world hates you, realize that it hates me first.” We might be led to believe by this statement that “the world” is bad, that there is nothing good about “the world.”
If we look at Jesus’ statements about “the world” in this section of John’s Gospel in this way then how do we reconcile this image of “the world” with Genesis 1:31, which tells us that God created our world good or John 3:16, which tells us that God so loved the world.
“The world” that Jesus speaks about in the Gospel today are those people who have rejected Jesus. In Jesus’ time and in our time, there is good and bad in “the world,” there is life and death, there is blessing and curse, there is good and evil. There are some in “the world” who will and do hate us. Rejection of Jesus and his message is alive and well today. There are people who reject the Gospel, who reject Jesus, who reject faith. They are “the world” that Jesus warned us about.
Just because it has been over 2,000 years since Jesus it does not mean that rejection and hate have gone away. It does not mean that we are immune from the hate and persecution that Jesus encountered. We might not have to carry a wooden cross through city streets and die on it, but we will be hated and persecuted because we believe.
The question might be how do we deal with this? I think Pope Francis has given us a clue, he says that our “weapons” of self-defense are the Gospel, humility and meekness. In other words, we are not to be like those in “the world” who hate, persecute, those who sling mud, criticize and judge. We are to be people of the Gospel, people of compassion, forgiveness and love. We are to be Gospel people in humility and meekness.
You might say these “weapons” go against every human instinct. When challenged, when persecuted our instinct is to strike back but that is not Jesus’ way and as people of faith it is not our way. If we truly know Jesus, if we truly believe then hate and persecution does not matter what does is bringing life to the presence of God through forgiveness, compassion and love!
Have a blessed, holy, safe and healthy Saturday 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...