Today’s Thoughts: Our faith it often tested; we might even say it is tested every day. We probably find it hard to have the faith of the centurion in today’s gospel He has a strong faith and is willing to turn everything over to God. His words to Jesus echo the words we say in the midst of every Mass, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul will be healed.”
Just before we received communion like the centurion, we ask God to accept us as we are, and we have faith that God will. We trust that God loves us even as we fumble through life, as we make mistakes. I admire the faith of the centurion and all those early Christians, they believed so strongly, they seemed to have such unwavering faith in Jesus.
Our challenge is to be like the centurion. It is to be willing to turn everything over to God. However, this kind of trust, this leap of faith can be hard, because it is hard to give up control. I think sometimes we are willing to be faithful but with some exceptions. We stand on the edge, but we just cannot take that leap of faith, our fears are holding us back.
We might say that faith is like a muscle, one that grows stronger as we exercise and stretch it, as we use it, as we live it. At times taking a leap of faith, turning everything over to God, letting go and letting God are ways that we stretch, strengthen and develop our faith.
St. Ignatius Loyola has a very famous prayer call, the Suscipe, that seems to express the faith we find in the centurion of today’s Gospel and hopefully our own faith…
Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding,
and my entire will,
All I have and call my own.
You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.
Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace,
that is enough for me.
Have a blessed and holy Monday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: The Bay of Naples, Italy, is the habitat of a jellyfish called medusa and a small snail of the nudibranch variety.
When the snail is small, the jellyfish will sometimes swallow it and draw it into its digestive tract. But the snail is protected by its shell and cannot be digested. The snail fastens itself to the inside of the jellyfish and slowly begins to eat it, from the inside out. By the time the snail is fully grown, it has consumed the entire jellyfish.
Now I know you are so glad to have stopped by my reflections to get this very important information today about snails and jellyfish! However, it is not the information that is important but the image. The last few weeks out Gospels have focused on forgiveness including today’s Gospel. But, I think an underlying theme today is anger and what it can do to us.
All of us have been hurt in life, some more than others. Our human response to being hurt by another person or group is pretty much the same. Often, we become angry, and we want to retaliate, or we want retribution, or vengeance. We want some kind of justice. We want someone to pay. You might say, we want our pound of flesh. Going biblical, we want an eye for an eye. We want someone to feel our pain.
In our first reading today, from the Book of Sirach, the wise sage reminds us of how anger, wrath and vengeance can be destructive if allow to fester and control us. Perhaps relating this to our opening image, anger, wrath, and vengeance can become the snails that attach themselves to our hearts and souls and begin to devour us from the inside out. And at times in our lives we have all had these snails.
I think we can all recall examples in our own lives or that we have seen in others who become consumed by anger, resentment and vengeance. It becomes the energy and focus of life. They can think of nothing else. When I see a person like this I am often sad because I think of all the good things they may have missed because they are so focused on getting that eye for an eye!
The story in our Gospel today teaches us that God’s forgiveness, God’s mercy, compassion and love is a grace that we must let transform us. In seeking and receiving God’s forgiveness life cannot remain the same. We need to let it transform us into a forgiving person. The king, in our story, is profoundly compassionate and merciful and he expects the servant to be the same. However, even though a great burden has been lifted from the servant he remains unchanged. The anger, hurt, wrath, vengeance, the self-centeredness remains. The snail eats away from the inside out until there is nothing left.
St. Paul reminds us that it is not about us it is about Christ. “Life is not about me!” It is about our journey of faith together in Christ. Our response to the psalm remains us that God is kind and merciful, slow to anger and rich in compassion. God is willing to grace us with his mercy, compassion and forgiveness only if we are willing to let it transform us, change us. Because if we don’t in the end we will be devoured just like the jellyfish!
Have a blessed and holy Sunday everyone and don’t forget to give God a little time today!
Today’s Thoughts: In Luke’s Gospel today, Jesus uses images from nature to talk about how our actions reflect who and what we are. Jesus says that “every tree is known by its own fruit.” He encourages us to look at what is in our mind and heart and then compare it with our actions. Actions are the fruits of our thoughts and desires, motivations and interests, joys, pains, and hurts.
However, Jesus goes further. He also challenges us to compare what is in our mind and in our heart with his Word. Jesus invites us to listen to him and allow his word to transform our hearts and minds. Perhaps said a little differently, in our Gospel today Jesus outlines a strategy for us. First, he asks us to listen to his Word. Next, Jesus challenges us, to be transformed by his Word. Finally, Jesus challenges us to act, to live in friendship with his Word.
If and when we follow this blueprint, we can be sure that our lives will bear plentiful fruit that can be enjoyed by everyone who wanders into our life. Let us live today having built our faith on solid ground and bearing good fruit!
Have a holy and blessed Saturday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: “We ask Mary that, as the first disciple, she teach us to remain watching, that she accompany us in patience, strengthen us in hope; we ask that she lead us towards the meeting with her Risen Son; that she free us from fear, so that we can hear the announcement of the angel... to announce it to others who need it so much.” (Pope Francis)
These words from Pope Francis help us to reflect on Mary’s place in our life especially as we celebrate the Feast of “Our Lady of Sorrows” or “Mother of Sorrows” today. Yes, Mary experienced much in her life. She carried the awesome responsibility of being the Mother of Jesus. She encountered moments of great sorrow throughout her life, seven moments that stand out, however Mary in many ways is our go to person. She was human, a person just like us who had great strength, great patience and great hope amid a life filled with sorrow, disappointment and pain.
Mary, particularly as Our Lady of Sorrows or Mother of Sorrows, is an example, a grace and a blessing to us as we journey through our own struggles in life. Perhaps something else that Pope Francis said best reflects the gift of Mary in our life - “To be faithful, to be creative, we need to be able to change. To change! And why must I change? So that I can adapt to the situations in which I must proclaim the Gospel. To stay close to God, we need to know how to set out; we must not be afraid to set out.” (Pope Francis)
Mary certainly was faithful. Mary certainly was willing to change, to adapt to the situations of her life. She stayed close to God and was not afraid to set out and proclaim the Gospel of her Son!
Have a blessed and holy Friday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: Today is a special feast in the Church and for the Passionist Community. It is the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.
A couple of years ago I read a reflection on today’s readings and something the author said struct a nerve in me. The author of the reflection was focusing on the second reading for today’s mass from St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians. In his letter St. Paul says, Jesus “did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.” (Phil. 2:6). The author’s point or question was “Do we try to be equal with God, through our actions, our arrogance, our judgmentalness, our way of looking at or treating others?”
This question or reflection recalled something I often struggle with especially when I wander through social media. There are often post saying “Let us put God back in our schools!” our families, our country, or a number of other places. When I see a post like this I often think “How arrogant we are!” To think we have the power to take God out of something. That we have the power to tell God where to go, where to be present. Perhaps we not only think equality with God is something we have but that we are bigger, and better than God!
God is present in every school, in every family, in every person, in every place. God is everywhere, whether we acknowledge his presence or not is another question. We are not equal to God. We tried being that once at the beginning of creation and where did it get us?
This feast is about reminding us that like Jesus, we need to humble ourselves, realizing our human faults, failings, and inadequacies and allow God to direct, guide and enliven our lives. It will involve suffering, struggle, disappointment, and even failure. It will also involve the glory and presence on God in our life!
So, I offer you three simple prayers to guide you through this day and life...
The first comes from our Passionist tradition it is a simple prayer we utter each day - "May the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ be always in our hearts!"
The second a prayer every Passionist prays before morning, evening and night prayer – “At the name of Jesus every knee must bend, in heaven, on earth, and under the earth, and every tongue proclaim to the glory of God the Father that Jesus Christ is Lord.”
The third prayer was written by the great Jesuit theologian Fr. Karl Rahner, S.J. - "The Cross of My Lord, Be my Standard, Be my Comfort, Be the Answer to all dark questions, The Light of all nights, The Sign that You have chosen us, The mysterious and sure Sign that we are Yours for eternity. Amen."
These three simple prayers reflect the meaning of the Cross that we as Church and as the Passionist Community celebrate this day.
May the Passion and the Cross of our Lord, Jesus Christ be not a sign of violence, oppression, war, and failure. May the Passion and Cross of Christ be a sign of God's great and unconditional love for us. May the Passion and Cross of Jesus be a walking stick that we can lean on to rest; be a protector in times of struggle and danger; and always be a reminder of just how much God love's us, no matter how imperfect we are as we journey through life!
Have a blessed and holy feast of the Exaltation of the Cross and Thursday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: 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 have need for others and need for 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.
Otherwise it will be a woeful life!
Have a blessed and holy Wednesday everyone!
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 blessed and holy Tuesday everyone.
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 22nd 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 twenty-two 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… “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 solemn, blessed and holy Monday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: If we want a word to describe our readings today it might be forgiveness or reconciliation or compassion or even responsibility. After all God seems to lay a pretty good guilt trip on Ezekiel today in the first reading. However, my word might also be community of faith.
How so you might ask? Well, I think what Jesus, what the Prophet Ezekiel, and what St. Paul are getting at today is that we cannot make this faith journey alone, a community of faith is profoundly important.
In the first reading, yes, God seems to muster up some pretty good guilt. It is the leader of the assembly who first and foremost needs to be faithful. If he or she is not the consequences not only rest with the community but all with the leader. If Ezekiel the prophet, the leader, does not get the Word out. If the assembly doesn’t repent and live faithfully then it is on him. However, if Ezekiel is faithful and the assembly is not it is on them.
St. Paul in his Letter to the Romans reminds us of what being a community of faith is all about the commandment of Love. Love of God, love of neighbor surpasses all other commandments. Love of neighbor – is profoundly important and is necessary for the life of a community of faith.
And this is where Jesus comes in. Living within a community of faith isn’t easy. Let’s face it, where two or three are gathered, yes Jesus is present but so are disagreements, differing opinions, conflicts, hurts and judgmentalness. Jesus today lays out a roadmap for how to live with others. He presents to us various levels of interaction, various levels of intervention to solve the differing opinions, conflicts, arguments that arise within any community of faith. The challenge is always making this roadmap work – which is not easy!
For me one of the interesting lines in the Gospel is – “If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentle or tax collector. One scripture scholar I read this week said that he thinks Matthew had a smile on his face when he wrote this line because – how did Jesus teach us to deal with Gentles and tax collectors? – With compassion, mercy, forgiveness and love!
As a community of faith, we cannot get away from the challenges to love, to forgive, to be merciful. The primary virtue by which we need to live is love! As St. Paul says elsewhere in his writings “love is the greatest.” To not love, to not forgive, to not have mercy places the onus on us just like it did for Ezekiel. You might say, we are the prophets of our day. It is difficult and sometimes downright impossible yet repeatedly we are called to love, to forgive, to be merciful. Jesus give us ways, steps but it isn’t easy!
“Again, amen, I say to you if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them.” Remember when we gather together as a community of faith to pray we are asked to pray “forgive us our trespasses and we forgive those who trespass against us! Perhaps that is why we at times feel that our prayers are not answered, because if we are not willing to forgive and love God just might not be listening!
Have a blessed and holy 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 live 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 holy and blessed 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...