Today’s Thoughts: I would like to start off my thoughts today with a little story…
Father Murphy walks into a pub in Donegal, and asks the first man he meets, 'Do you want to go to heaven?'
The man said, 'I do, Father.'
The priest said, 'Then stand over there against the wall.'
Then the priest asked the second man, 'Do you want to go to heaven?'
'Certainly, Father,' the man replied.
'Then stand over there against the wall,' said the priest.
Then Father Murphy walked up to O'Toole and asked, 'Do you want to go to heaven?'
O'Toole said, 'No, I don't Father.'
The priest said, 'I don't believe this. You mean to tell me that when you die you don't want to go to heaven?'
O'Toole said, 'Oh, when I die, yes. I thought you were getting a group together to go right now.'
Now this might seem like a strange way to begin my thoughts, but I think my little story reflects the focus of our scriptures today.
At one point in our Gospel today Jesus asks his disciples, “What were you arguing about on the way? But they remained silent.”
In the silence that follows Jesus’ simple question, like O’Toole in the bar we might hear something different from what Jesus is asking. The disciples had been discussing among themselves who was the greatest. Even after Jesus had shared with them his Passion and Death to come, they were more worried about themselves. Or perhaps they just didn’t want to face the journey of discipleship that Jesus had laid out for them.
The name given by the Letter of James to this way of thinking and acting is “selfish ambition,” which breeds, according to James, “disorder and every foul practice.” No small thing, this worrying about who is the greatest! James’ diagnosis of the human struggle presented by the disciples, points to a disease that afflicts all human hearts, but one that has a particular effect on Jesus’ closest friends.
Focus on self remains in direct opposition to focus on God. No one can move toward God who remains focused on the self. The spiritual tradition of eastern Christianity names philautia, the love of self, as the “queen of all vices.” This remains true for all, but what of those “closest to Jesus”?
In a passage from Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on evangelization, he speaks to all those who work “in and for the Church,” cautioning us about the temptation to “spiritual worldliness.” Pope Francis warns about attitudes and behaviors that seek “not the Lord’s glory but human glory and personal well-being.” This way of living life, can take on many forms, depending on the kinds of persons and groups into which it seeps. How can we avoid this? Pope Francis says, “. . . by making the Church constantly go out from herself, keeping her mission focused on Jesus Christ, and her commitment to the poor.”
The Gospel today asks all of us to pay attention to the focus of our love: Love of self? Or love of Jesus, love of the Father and those whom Jesus and the Father loves?
Have a great Sunday everyone and don’t forget to give God a little time today!
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...