Today’s Thoughts: It is often said that the story of the man in today’s Gospel is one of the saddest stories in all of the Gospels. Perhaps saddest next to Jesus’ suffering and death. The sadness is that the man is the only person in the Gospels who walks away from Jesus. Sure, the scribes, Pharisees and religious leaders don’t buy into Jesus’ message but the young man in the story comes to Jesus for help and guides and still walks away.
Why? Because the man wants to inherit eternal life but finds it hard to live the journey. Jesus looks upon him with love but in sadness he walks away. The saints that we honor and celebrate and for that matter all women and men of faith have one thing in common unlike the man in our Gospel today they chose and choose not to walk away but to accept Jesus’ invitation. They did and do it in their own way. I am sure there were and are moments in their journeys when they felt and feel like walking away like the man in the Gospel, but they didn’t and don’t. They chose and choose to make the journey with Jesus.
I have always liked the prayer in our first reading today from the Book of Wisdom. It is often referred to as Solomon’s Prayer. We hear a man, King Solomon, who literally has everything, yet he comes to realize that he has nothing if he doesn’t have Wisdom. Nothing is worth more, is as valuable as Wisdom.
The people of faith understand the importance of God’s Wisdom in their lives. It is that Wisdom that empowered them to say yes to the journey that Jesus invites them and us to live. It is in the grace, the virtue of God’s Wisdom that sad stories become stories of faith, hope and love.
May we be blessed with God’s Wisdom so that in our moments of searching for eternal life we will be willing to say yes and not sadly walk away!
Sunday blessings and peace to all today!
Today’s Thoughts: Today we have a very brief, two-line Gospel. One in which we hear a woman call to Jesus, “Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed.” But Jesus’ responds, “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.”
I think in our Gospel today Jesus is suggesting that we change our focus. That we look at life through a different lens. He is not discounting his own mother and their close relationship, for Jesus family is more than biology, more than DNA, family is hearing the Word of God and living it. Jesus is telling us that our own relationship with God can be blessed if we use God’s word as a lens through which we look at and then live life.
In today’s Gospel we are invited to be family with others beyond our immediate family relationships. We are to include others because we have been included by Jesus.
As we have encounters over the last six plus years with Pope Francis, he is a person who has heard the word of God and who lives it. He finds Jesus in the faces and lives of the poor and struggling in our world. And by his words and actions Pope Francis asks us to open our hearts to the hungry, the poor and the marginalized. He asks us to open our hearts to those struggling in the world because they are family.
We are called be the Word of God to reach out to others who are in need as a way to really be united to Jesus and his mission. What does Jesus want from us? Jesus wants a family. Jesus wants a friendship. Jesus isn’t looking for us to read more about him or discuss the theology of his ministry. Jesus longs for a close and personal friendship with us as we speak to him about our lives and lean on him for support in times of need. Blessed by his love, we hear the call to keep his word by loving as he has loved us, by being family to all.
Jesus invites us today to reach out to those who need us. Pope Francis calls us repeatedly to be a society, a church, a family of inclusion, dialog and service for all.
Have a blessed, holy, and healthy Saturday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: I have always struggled with this passage in Luke’s Gospel (Luke 11:15-26). If Jesus is taking the time to case out demons, why are people upset? Why are they casting a negative light on Jesus and his ministry? You would think that they would be pleased. You would think that they would be open to all the help they can get!
Perhaps the reason for their negativity is that they have become accustom, even comfortable with these demons. How does the old saying go, “The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know!” Sometimes we become comfortable with the devils that make a home in us. We look at them and begin to rationalize our encounters with the devils of our life. “They are just small problems, personal things, they really don’t hurt anyone. – Everybody does it. Everybody is doing it.”
Looking at it another way we might say that Beelzebul is the strong man who guards his palace. His possessions are hatred, anger, prejudice, greed, and injustice. Through them he tries to control the world. By ourselves, we are helpless against his power. But this parable is one of hope. It proclaims the gospel message. There is one stronger than Beelzebul who can overpower him and cast him out of our lives if we let him. Christ is our strength, who by his resurrection has defeated the power of evil. We are called to live each day in the faith that Christ can help us overcome our demons. If we do our heart becomes a place where no demons dwell only Christ. O Lord create in us a clean heart and a faithful spirit!
Have a blessed, holy, and healthy Friday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: Today’s Gospel (Luke 11:5-13) encourages us to be persistent, to persevere, to pray, to stay connect with God because God is so eager to help us. As Jesus says if a reluctant friend can be persuaded to help, how much more will God be willing to help!
As Kathleen Norris puts it, “Prayer is not asking for what you think you want but asking to be changed in ways you can't imagine.”
Or as St. Teresa of Calcutta puts it, “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.”
Today we are asked to put ourselves in God’s hands and let God change us in ways that we cannot imagine. This does not mean that God will always give us whatever we ask but it does mean that God always hears our prayer!
Have a blessed, holy, safe, and healthy Thursday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: In our readings today, from the Book of the Prophet Jonah (Jon 4:1-11) and Luke’s Gospel today (Luke 11:1-4) we find two interesting scenes.
On the one hand we find Jonah struggling with God’s mercy and on the other we have Jesus teaching the disciples to pray by focusing on God a father.
Jonah wants punishment. He wants the Ninevites to pay for their sinfulness. He does not like the fact that they have repented, and that God is offering them mercy. But God opens Jonah’s eyes to the fact that everything we have is gift and that God is concerned about all of his creation. God is a relentless God. Jonah found that out. God doesn’t want to lose any of his creation.
Our Gospel today reminds us that it is through prayer. Simple prayer not complex prayer. Jesus did not create a profound, theologically complex prayer. His teaching of prayer to his disciples was a simple six-line prayer.
Father, hallowed be your name,
your Kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread
and forgive us our sins
for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us,
and do not subject us to the final test. (Luke 11:2-4)
Nothing fancy, complex, or formal just a simple conversation, a simple asking for God’s presence in our life. A praise of God, a desire for God’s Kingdom, a need for God’s daily presence and bread, a forgiveness for our sins, because we are willing to forgive too, and a desire to not face the final test. In a way I like Luke’s version of the Our Father a little better than Matthew’s. It is simpler and more to the point of what I want to say to God each day.
Often, we load up our days, our life, with all kinds of prayer yet whether it is Luke’s version or Matthew’s version all Jesus asks is one simple prayer to Our Father!
Have a blessed, holy, and healthy Wednesday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: Here we are once again beating up poor Martha. Is really what today Gospel is about? (Luke 10: 38-42) Is Martha really doing the wrong thing? I think not! In essence the Gospel today reminds us we all have Martha and Mary within us. The challenge is to utilize each gift when necessary for our journey of faith!
I have often felt that Martha has gotten a bad rap because of the way we have looked at this Gospel over the centuries. We seem to think that a person who is hardworking, hospitable and concerned about her guest is somehow less faithful, less holy than a person of formal prayer and that is just not true.
Martha is a good and faithful person, her mistake in the Gospel today is that she focuses on someone else; she is concerned about what someone else is doing rather than focusing on what she is doing. If Martha had just done her work with joy, enthusiasm and unselfishness this story in Luke’s Gospel would have never taken place.
Let us for a moment reverse the roles. Suppose Mary had come to Jesus to complain about Martha. “You know Jesus she is always working, always running around being hospitable. She should stop when you come into the house and sit and listen to you!” What would Jesus have said? My guess is that he says, “Mary, Mary, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Martha has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”
You see each woman in the story chooses her journey. Choose what she does best and that becomes her better part. Martha is a worker, she does it well. Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus, she listens, and she does it well. There will always be tension between action and contemplation, between ministry and prayer, between work and quiet time. But the challenge is to pick what is best for us at that moment. What is our better part at each moment or stage of our life? What will help us to recognize God?
Martha and Mary remind us that there are many gifts and that each gift is important. We just need to recognize what is important for us and not be worried about what is important for others!
Have a blessed, holy, and healthy Tuesday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: “Run away from God,” that is Jonah’s response to what God asks of him and I have to say that there have been many times in my own life when I would have liked to have done the same thing. Sometimes what God seems to be asking of us just doesn’t feel right. Sometimes what God asks of us seems beyond our ability. Sometimes what God asks of us isn’t fun. Sometimes what God asks of us puts us at odds with the world around us. So why not run?
Well as we find out in the story of Jonah today (Jonah 1:1-2; 2, 11) you can run but you can’t hide from God! Somehow, someway God is going to find you and put you right back in the middle of things or God will find someone else to do the job. The priest and the Levite ran away but God persisted and the Samaritan did not (Luke 10: 25-37). You can hear the voice of Pope Francis in the Gospel today. He echoes Jesus’ voice on who is our neighbor. Our neighbors are the people in most need and our challenge is to always show mercy.
When faced with this challenge we can always run, we can always try to hide, we can always make excuses. But God is always going to find us, perhaps not in this life but when it most counts the life to come and if we haven’t responded, if we haven’t been merciful we will find ourselves in a terrible and unending storm!
There have been many moments in my life when I felt like running away from God and it was the simple prayer, the Our Father that held me in place. The Our Father is often the formal prayer that I pray when running because of its simplicity and power.
Today we are challenged to be merciful to the people around us. We are challenged not to run from God when things get difficult or don’t go our way and to keep our feet grounded in God and our eyes open to the needs of others.
Have a blessed, holy, and healthy Monday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: “All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of one single candle.” (St. Francis of Assisi) – Children are our candles… (Note a special prayer today for the four wonderful candles in my family - Emilia, Kristina, Natalie Ann and Michael!)
I have always liked the Gospel reading for today, Jesus’ welcoming of little children. It is imagery that can speak to us even when we are not little anymore. It seems to make things a lot less complicated and it reminds us of the gifts that children and childhood to us.
When I think of what we as a culture, a society and as a church have done to children and childhood down through the centuries I feel a profound sadness. I know that my childhood was very instrumental in helping me be the man of faith that I have become. I am profoundly grateful that I had wonderful people in my life as a child who showed me the Kingdom of God even thought I probably didn’t understand at the time.
My prayer each day is that all children can and will experience the wonder and joy that should be part of growing up. My hope is that all children get a chance to live in the moment. That they experience the joy of playing baseball or flying a kite or jumping into the deep and making it to the side. I hope and pray they feel the joy of swinging on a swing or running down a hill or eating the biggest ice cream cone ever. Children are special. They make God ever so real and anyone who take away a child’s joy, wonder and innocents does not deserve the Kingdom.
As we listen to the words of Jesus remind us of the value of children today let us remember that each new day holds a surprise for us if we approach it with the wonder and awe of a child and if we do so God just might be around every corner!
God invites us to experience joy and wonder in our lives, to be in the present moment, and to find his presence around every corner. God always offers us unconditional love and acceptance perhaps something we first felt as a child, but it is available every day and every moment of our life.
Let us embrace the child in us and get ready for God’s blessings. Perhaps St. Francis says it best – “We should seek not so much to pray but to become prayer.” Isn’t that what children do!
Have a blessed, holy, and healthy Sunday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: I have always had a special affection for our feast today, the Feast of the Holy Guardian Angels. Perhaps it goes back to my childhood, when in the first and second grade we always had to save room at our desk for our guardian angel. It was one way that the good Felician Sisters taught us about the spiritual life, but it also helped them keep order in classroom, for you see if we kept a space on our seats for our guardian angel then the theory was we would not bother the person sitting next to us. I have to say, sometimes it worked but most of the time it didn't!
A year or so ago another childhood memory came to mind. One of my favorite movies as a kid was Angels in the Outfield, (the original 1951 version with Paul Douglas, Janet Leigh, Keenan Wynn, the voice of James Whitmore and cameo appearances by Ty Cobb, Joe DiMaggio and Bing Crosby, just to name a few). I loved the movie because it took place in Pittsburgh and centered around the woeful Pittsburgh Pirates and how the Pirates overcame their last place woes with the help of Heavenly Choir Nine, a celestial team of deceased ballplayers, who began bestowing "miracles" upon the Pirates—but only on the condition that their loud mouth manager Guffy McGovern put a moratorium on swearing and fighting. It is a wonderful and funny story. I sometimes wish the Heavenly Choir Nine would return to help the Pirates once again – I can dream can’t I!
The point of my walk down memory lane is that the spirits of God's presence which we honor and celebrate today, Guardian Angels, play an important role in our life. Whether we acknowledge them by saving them a seat at our desk or laugh and cry with them as Hollywood brings them to life in movies like Angels in the Outfield or It's a Wonderful Life, we all have had moments and experiences in life when we sense that God has sent someone to help us.
It might be a special person from our past, whose loss we have grieved but who seems to continue to walk with us helping us overcome a struggle, an obstacle, or a difficult moment. Someone whose spirit whispers in our ear a good word that sends us on our way in the right direction. A loving spirit who lets us know that we are not alone, we are loved, we are important, we are special and that makes all the difference at that moment in our life.
Throughout the scriptures God sends his spirits, his messengers, to help people on their journey of faith. Why should this moment in time be any different? Why shouldn’t we believe that God sends his spirits, his messengers into our lives from time to time to help us on our journey?
Many years ago, I was running the Boston Marathon. It was my second time running that marathon. I was at mile 25 and out of gas. I could barely walk. I was just trying to find any strength so that I could keep moving forward. A young woman stepped off the sidewalk and began to walk alongside me. I didn’t know her. She asked me my name and then put her hand on my shoulder and said, “You can do this! Let’s run!” She began to run and so I began to run. She asked me if this was my first marathon and I said “no.” She said, “Then you know that you can do this so let’s run!” And we began to run faster. In the next moment as I seemed to get new energy I looked to my side and she was gone. I never got a chance to ask her name or to say thanks! I am sure it was my guardian angel just making sure I kept going. It is something that she has done now for 66 plus years in many different ways. You might say I have gotten her, “her wings,” many times over!
In the Talmud there is a saying, “Every blade of grass has an angel that bends over it and whispers... Grow, Grow!"
In the Gospel today (Matthew 18: 1-5, 10) Jesus reminds us that our angels are always looking upon the face of God. In other words, they have got a special connection with God that someday we just might need. So, as you journey through today remember to save a little space for your guardian angel and take a moment to thank her or him for the journey so far!
Have a blessed, holy, and healthy Friday everyone!
Today’s Thoughts: In today’s Gospel the towns of Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum have stepped on one of Jesus’ nerves. Towns that are so much a part of his life and ministry just don’t seem get it. They don’t recognize the presence of God in their midst. Jesus has done all kinds of great things for them and yet they are slow to respond to his message. They have had the advantage and done nothing with it.
I am always struck when this Gospel passage comes around that the towns of Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum exist no more. If you go to the Holy Land and visit the places where these towns once existed all you will find are ruins. For various reasons these town no longer have life, could it be because when they had the chance to be blessed, to celebrate the gift of God in their life, to follow along the everlasting way they missed it?
We often get focused on our own needs, thoughts, feelings, dreams and desires. In these moments at times we miss God invitation. We think we know better. We think we have it all figured out. We think we are in control, but we are not!
O God, I know I haven’t walked in your shoes. I know you have the words of everlasting life. Help us to see beyond ourselves. Guide us today and always along your everlasting way!
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...