Today’s Thoughts: I have two sections to my thoughts today. First, I would like to reflect on this day and secondly, I would like to reflect on our Gospel for this day…
Remembering the 18th Anniversary of the tragic events of September 11, 2001
“There is nothing that can replace the absence of someone dear to us, and one should not even attempt to do so. One must simply hold out and endure it. At first that sounds very hard, but at the same time it is also a great comfort. For to the extent the emptiness truly remains unfilled one remains connected to the other person through it. It is wrong to say that God fills the emptiness. God in no way fills it but much more leaves it precisely unfilled and thus helps us preserve -- even in pain -- the authentic relationship. Furthermore, the more beautiful and fuller the remembrances, the more difficult the separation. But gratitude transforms the torment of memory into silent joy. One bears what was lovely in the past not as a thorn but as a precious gift deep within, a hidden treasure of which one can always be certain.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)
As Dietrich Bonhoeffer says above there is nothing that can be said or done that replaces the loss of someone dear to us. But hopefully Bonhoeffer’s words can help to give comfort to all who lost loved ones fourteen years ago in Lower Manhattan, Washington, DC and Pennsylvania.
Perhaps, Bonhoeffer’s words can help all of us deal with what we as a city, a country and a world lost thirteen years ago. May his words give us pause to be grateful for the silent joy that all who gave their lives continue to give us. May those who lost their lives continue to be a hidden treasure for all of us, a treasure that we can always count on.
“In normal life we hardly realize how much more we receive than we give, and life cannot be rich without such gratitude. It is so easy to overestimate the importance of our own achievements compared with what we owe to the help of others.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)
To the people who gave their lives, to the families who gave their loved ones, to those who continue to give their lives because of the aftereffects of this day even these many years later, to all of you I say thank you!
Turning to our Gospel today… In Luke’s Gospel today, we experience several of the Beatitudes and we are encouraged to feel the “blessings” that come with our poverty and reliance on God. If we feel content and complete with all our earthly wealth and success how can we improve our dependence and reliance on God? How does one strengthen and enrich a relationship if there is no need for the other person in our life? If one is so independent, as to not need another person’s help, council, ideas, or support, how does a non-relationship with another enrich us?
Our Gospel is suggesting that, if we “hunger” or “weep,” if we need for others and need God, then we will experience a fulfilling life, we will find direction and come to appreciate our need for others and our need for God. When we experience poverty, sorrow, hunger or insults, and find that we can overcome these struggles in life, through our dependence on God, we then will find true joy, appreciation and satisfaction in life.
Have a blessed and prayerful Wednesday.
Today’s Thoughts: “Prayer is not asking. Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God, at His disposition, and listening to His voice in the depth of our hearts.” (Mother Teresa)
Jesus spends the night in prayer. Jesus places himself in the Father’s hands, at the Father’s disposition and listens to the Father’s voice in the depth of his own heart and look at what happens. Twelve close friends are gathered and people from everywhere are healed!
In the Gospel today (Luke 6:12-19), Jesus shows us the power of prayer. It is not just a prayer of asking for help, though I am sure Jesus asked the Father for help from time to time. For Jesus and for us prayer is the placing of oneself in the hands of God. Yes, prayer is a conversation with God but prayer is often more listening then speaking.
Jesus prayed often and not only when he faced major events in life. Jesus throughout the Gospel takes time for prayer. He takes time to hear the Father’s voice in his heart so that graced things could happen on his journey through life.
So today let’s not forget that prayer needs to be a part of our lives. Let’s take at least a little time to put ourselves in God’s loving hands and hear God’s voice in our hearts. Let’s put ourselves at the disposal of God. The outcome for us just might be more good friends and healing for life’s struggles! Remember nothing is impossible with God.
“Prayer is not asking for what you think you want, but asking to be changed in ways you can't imagine.” (Kathleen Norris)
Have a great Tuesday everyone.
Today’s Thoughts: “I ask you, is it lawful to do good on the sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than destroy it?” (Luke 6:9) This is perhaps an important question for us to consider today as a nation and as a world. What are we about? Doing good, saving life or doing evil and destroying life? Some might say it is all in how you look at it.
Yet in the Gospel today that is exactly what Jesus is getting at. How do you look at life? Do you look at life with an open mind or a closed mind? Do you look at life through the lens of possibilities or through the lens of only one possibility? The scribes and Pharisees had only one lens through which they looked at life, the law. They could see no other possibilities.
I have always admired people who walk into a situation open to seeing whatever the possibilities are. They might have their opinions, but they are also open to what others say and do. They have their own lenses, yet they can see other perspectives. Would that we all could see and live life this way!
The scribes and Pharisees only looked through one lens. Jesus was open to all possibilities especially when the possibilities meant life. We pray today that we too with the grace of God will always be open to the possibilities that produce life.
Have a great Monday everyone.
Today’s Thoughts: Our Gospel today is the conclusion to a major section of Luke’s presentation of Jesus’ teachings about who belongs in the Kingdom or who will be Jesus’ disciples. Just before our Gospel today Jesus tells a parable about wedding feast. The people invited do not come, so the doors were opened to the outcasts, the physically challenged and the poor. When Jesus finishes the story someone at table said that the ones who eat at the heavenly banquet will certainly be blest. What we hear in today Gospel is Jesus’ reply.
It is a challenging reply because Jesus’ very first statement seems to call us to hate the very people we love. We are to “hate” our father, mother, wife, children, brothers and sisters, even our very self or we cannot be a disciple. And if this is not enough if we truly want to be a disciple, we must carry our own crosses. With conditions such as these my questions is “Why be a disciple?”
Jesus then offers us two short parables to finish off the discussion. If you are going to build a tower, you’d better have enough materials to finish or else. If you are going to wage war then you’d better have enough soldiers to win, or else. Luke finishes this chapter with two verses that are not included in today Gospel. Jesus talks about salt losing its flavor and when it does it gets thrown out. He ends by reminding all who have ears better be listening.
Hating those we love and carrying our crosses are not attractive qualities to strive for from my perspective. Does Jesus really say to “hate?” It seems so. “Hating” is the exact Greek word Luke uses. Throughout the Gospels Jesus puts a lot of emphasis on loving and being loved. Next Sunday’s Gospel will relate a great story about family love. So why the focus on “hating” today?
The Kingdom, the Banquet, the discipleship that we are invited to by Jesus is the wisdom that we hear about in our first reading today from the Book of Wisdom. All relationships of love are gifts from God, and they are not meant to make gods out of those whom we love. How are we ever going to build our relationship with Jesus – by loving God above all other relationships and also carrying our crosses. It will not be easy, but God needs to be first.
How are we going to build a tower successfully or be on the victorious side of a battle or war when we feel insufficient? The challenge Jesus puts before us today is to trust in the generosity and mercy of God. The challenge is to not lose our flavor, our purpose, our meaning and to listen, hear and have faith in our relationship with God. Our crosses are many, but Jesus is there to carry them with us. Our family relationships are important and life giving but only when God sits at the center of them. In facing the overwhelming challenges, the struggles, the crosses of life we need to ask ourselves; do we have enough, do enough, and pray enough! Or put another way who is first in our life.
There is a wonderful story from the life of the great Chicago Bears running back Gale Sayers that I have always liked. In his autobiography, I Am Third, Sayers tells the story and the reason for this title. When he was at the University of Kanas his track coach Bill Easton had a little sign on his desk that said, I am third. One day Sayers asked his coach what it meant. Coach Easton said, “the Lord is first, my friends are second and I am third.” Sayers decided to make the saying his philosophy of life. When he got to the NFL he had a gold medal made in with the words I Am Third engraved on it. He wears the medal around his neck. Sayers says that “I try to live by the saying on the medal. I don’t always succeed but having the saying around my neck keeps me from straying from it too fay.”
Perhaps Gale Sayers is on to what Jesus is saying in our Gospel today. Who is first in our life? Hopefully it is God!
Have a blessed Sunday everyone.
Today’s Thoughts: Today's gospel story is an illustration of what happens when we pay attention to accidentals rather than the essentials. The Pharisees profess to not violating a single part of the law, but they are lacking in the heart of the spirit of what the law is there to support. They judge but are lacking in compassion and mercy.
Jesus asks us to be merciful. He is not looking beyond the law and tradition. Jesus' whole life and ministry was an example of how to respond to sin. The religious leadership, some of whom we meet in the Gospel today, were upset because Jesus often spent time eating and drinking with sinners. They were angry because Jesus enjoyed the presence of sinners. The scribes and Pharisees argued that Jesus should shun sinners and that his compassion for them seemed to condone their life styles. These religious leaders didn't seem to understand that love heals; that love forgives and that love builds a community of faith, hope and love.
Pope Francis constantly calls us to be a community that offers mercy and forgiveness. He asks us to build bridges rather than walls, because this is what Jesus has taught us through his words and deeds. We might think that following the letter of the law defines a good religious person yet paying attention to the accidentals does not mean that we have invested in the essentials. Pope Francis asks us to hear Jesus' message that being a good religious means people who are merciful and compassionate. Pope Francis, like Jesus, reminds us that mercy proclaims the presence of God. Being merciful shares the good news of God's mercy. It helps us to lives out our faith and become a friend of God. Our acts of mercy help to make God present to the world.
As we journey through this day let us give thanks for the mercy and love of God who has reconciled each of us, and remains our help and sustains our lives. Let us share God’s love and mercy, freely, generously and with compassion.
Have a great Saturday everyone.
Today’s Thoughts: At times when I look at the Church I think we are always trying to pour new wine into old wine skins or we are trying to sow a new piece of cloth on an old piece of clothing and the results are not so good. We seem to spend a lot of time looking back at how things were, “the good old days” – “the golden age.” Then we try and hold the present moment in these “days gone by” skins.
Perhaps it is a human condition that we all are afflicted with, that desire to hold on to what we think was good, pure and without problems. People often refer to the “good old days” with a sense of longing and a memory that has forgotten many, if not all, of the struggles, difficulties and problems. We long to put this moment, this time of life back into those “good old days” but it never works.
In the Gospel today, Jesus reminds us the new wine needs to go into new skins, in other words we need to be about this moment, this time not the past. We need to patch old with old and new with new. We need to be in the present moment in order to encounter the presence of God in our life today.
Jesus is not negating the old for the new or vice versa. He is just reminding us to always be in the present moment. The Church is alive, it is a living structure and if something is living it needs to grow. If it doesn’t grow it is dead. There is a famous quote from the movie, The Shawshank Redemption, when Andy says to Red, “Get busy living or get busy dying.” Perhaps that is Jesus’ challenge for us today.
So, friends let’s get busy living and have a great Friday.
Today’s Thoughts: “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” I am not sure how many times I have uttered these words in my own mind over the last 39 plus years. It seemed very simple 39 years ago, I got rid of most of my possessions and packed up what was left in my little orange Chevy Vega and headed east from St. Louis to Philadelphia to begin my journey into religious life and priesthood. At the time it seemed freeing, liberating. Yet not long after arriving in Philadelphia did the doubts and struggles started, the challenges of letting go of people, possessions and a way of life.
And to make matters more challenging throughout these 39 plus years there have been amazing moments when I have paused and said, “Why am I here? Depart from me, Lord, I don’t deserve this, I am a sinful man!” It is the ebb and flow of life that makes who I am, who any person of faith is a challenge. One moment we are in the midst of everyday life, doing what is expected, doing what we always do and then God seems to step in, in a profound way and we feel humbled, we feel undeserving.
I had one of those moments a few summers ago when I was the responsible adult for my three grand nieces, who at the time were 9, 5 and 1 years old. They were my responsibility for about 30 hours. Encountering the gift of life, of creation, the gift of love and the gift of family that these three little women offered me was a humbling experience. The 30 hours with them was a challenging and at times a struggling experience for someone like me who usually only experience this kind of love and family life from a distance. But then you get the opportunity to be with three wonderful little women and you recognize the profound presence of God just like Peter did. And you think to yourself “I don’t deserve this, I am a sinful man!”
However even though undeserving like Peter and the rest of the crew on the seashore that day each morning I rise and follow Jesus once again. If you happened to encounter God in a profound way today and have that feeling that you don’t deserve it remember you are in good company!
Have a great Thursday everyone.
Today’s Thoughts: “We have never preached violence, except the violence of love, which left Christ nailed to a cross, the violence that we must each do to ourselves to overcome our selfishness and such cruel inequalities among us. The violence we preach is not the violence of the sword, the violence of hatred. It is the violence of love, of brotherhood, [of sisterhood,] the violence that wills us to beat weapons into sickles for work.” (Blessed Oscar A. Romero, The Violence of Love)
St. Paul and Jesus in our readings today (Colossians 1:1-8 and Luke 4:38-44) tell us that they have come to proclaim the Good News. They do it in different ways but their goal is always to bring the Good News to whomever they meet, whether it is the community of believers at Colossae or the people in Capernaum or the many towns beyond.
The Good News that Jesus and Paul bring is the same Good News brought by Blessed Oscar Romero many centuries later. It is the Good News of love. It is the Good News of the Cross. It is the Good news of community. It is the Good News of no more war of peace!
I believe there comes a point in a believer’s life when we need to say enough. Enough violence! Enough war! Enough hate! Enough disrespect for life! If we are truly a great silent majority, if we truly want a world based on peace then it is time to say enough with one great voice! It is time to proclaim and live the Good News.
Have a great Wednesday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: “Our duty, as men and women, is to proceed as if limits to our ability did not exist. We are collaborators in creation.” (Fr. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J.)
This quote by the great philosopher, scientist, theologian, Fr. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J. came to mind as I was praying with our Gospel for today (Luke 4:31-37).
Jesus in the Gospel today is helping people to experience the gift of God in their lives. His teaching has power and authority. But what gives Jesus’ teaching so much power and authority? We might say it is because he is the Son of God and we would not be wrong. However, we might also say that Jesus’ teaching has power and authority because of how he treated people. In the Gospel today, he expels a demon spirit so that a man can get on with his life. Throughout the Gospels Jesus takes people where they are and helps them to grow, to recognize the grace and presence of God in their lives.
Jesus knows that limits to our ability do not exist, because anything is possible with God. So, let’s live this day in God’s presence. Let’s look beyond what appear to be our limits and let’s work with God to make a better world. Let’s be collaborators with God to bring about peace!
Have a great Tuesday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: I have always liked our Gospel reading for today (Luke 4:16-30) though I have spent most of my time with the first half of the story rather than the second half.
I have done a lot of Confirmation retreats over my 33 plus years as a priest and if the retreat ended with the celebration of mass, I almost always used the first half of today’s Gospel. In my homily I tell those who have made the retreat that the Gospel calls to mind two pictures and if I include the second half of today’s Gospel I might as well say three pictures.
The first is a day in the life of Jesus. He has returned home, perhaps for a long weekend, and like a good young Jewish man he goes to the synagogue on the Sabbath to pray. Because he has gained some importance as he has begun his pubic ministry, he is asked by the leader of the synagogue to do the reading. Jesus stands up, takes the scroll of the Prophet Isaiah and reads those now familiar words to us, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me…” The after finishing the reading he sits down, and everyone is focused on him. Perhaps feeling uncomfortable, perhaps feeling inspired Jesus then tells all those gather that “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” In other words, this is what my life from this moment forward in going to be about. This is reason why I have come into the world this is my mission!
Now in painting my first picture on a Confirmation retreat day this is where I would stop however today there is a little more to the picture. Yes, everyone is excited and amazed at Jesus’ words but doubt quickly becomes part of the picture. How can this be? We know him he is Joseph’s son, a simple carpenter. We know his family. We watched him grow up. How can he be this smart, this wise, this self-assured? They have put Jesus into a box and all he can do is challenge their perception of him which only makes them mad. So, a day, a picture that started out so well becomes a day, a picture that has Jesus’ leaving town because people think they know better.
The second picture painted by these words is a day in our life. Perhaps our Confirmation Day or our Wedding Day, or our Ordination Day, or the day we took vows in religious life or some other important day in our life of faith. We like good women and men of faith gathered with others for a celebration of faith and when the celebration ends people spoke highly of us. It was a day like Jesus’ day when we began our journey of faith by choosing a path, a mission, a vocation, a ministry that we would fulfill by the living of our life like Jesus.
The only difference between these two pictures is that we know the end of Jesus’ story. He did fulfill all that he read from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah that day by the living of his life, however we don’t know the end of our story it is not complete. How will we fulfill in the living of our life? How will we make God’s presence known to the world?
The third and final picture is that in the living of our life we will have moments when doubt, preconceived ideas, notions and perceptions of us will make the journey difficult. We will encounter people who doubt our gifts, our abilities, our faithfulness. We will encounter people who see us as nothing special and refuse to accept the grace, the blessing, the gift of God that we bring to that moment of life. So, the question is how will we respond to these moments of challenge, disappointment and disrespect? Will we give up or trust in the presence of God?
Have a great Labor Day 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...