September 30, 2012

Mark 9: 38-43, 45, 47-48

John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us. For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.

“If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell, where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)

How Will We Be Recognized?

Over the past two weeks the Jewish community has celebrated Rosh Hoshanah, the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. A thoughtful Rabbi speaks of these celebrations as moments of mindfulness—a mindfulness that sharpens one’s spiritual focus and turns one’s heart anew to serve God in wholeness and freedom.  This clear focus enables a person to freely give talents, time and treasure in service to those in need— especially the poor, the outcast, those at the margins.

Today’s readings offer Christians pretty clear criteria for becoming honest and open followers of Jesus Christ.  Rather than disorder and distrust, we who follow Jesus will be known by the ways we serve those in need and the ways we strengthen each other’s faith, especially the faith of those who are young and vulnerable.  Rather than confusion and mistrust, we are called to fashion a world tangibly alive with the gospel values of love and service.

This brings us back to that faith-filled mindfulness of turning our hearts to God.  Jesus is quite bold in saying that radical surgery may be necessary—if your hand or foot is the problem, cut it off.  If the envy in my eye is leading me astray, better to get to heaven with just one eye.  Our hearts can certainly be renewed if we learn that all-important lesson of handing over our lives to God no matter what… knowing that it is in dying to ourselves that we are all born to eternal life.

—The Jesuit prayer team

Anima Christi

Soul of Christ, sanctify me

Body of Christ, save me
Blood of Christ, drench me
Water from the side of Christ, wash me
Passion of Christ, strengthen me
Good Jesus, hear me
Within your wounds, shelter me
from turning away, keep me
From the evil one, protect me
At the hour of my death, call me
Into your presence lead me
to praise you with all your saints
Forever and ever.
Amen.
—St. Ignatius of Loyola


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September 29, 2012

John 1: 47-51

When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)

God Speaks to Us through His Messengers

Today’s feast of the archangels reminds us that we are part of a great spiritual world filled with realities invisible to us and yet still real. We participate in this spiritual realm and are affected by it whether we are aware of it or not.  It is very real. The angels (and the demons who are fallen angels) are part of this spiritual world.  Their task is to praise God and to carry out his will.

St. Michael is known in the Bible for fighting against Satan and the other rebel angels.  He reminds us that there is a great spiritual battle going on around us, the forces of good and evil battling each other for souls, and that the angels are our allies and protection in this struggle. St. Gabriel is God’s messenger, bringing to Mary the news of the Incarnation.  He reminds us that God speaks to us through his messengers, communicating his will and his love to us in a spiritual way, which we “hear” with our soul instead of our ears.  St. Raphael brings God’s loving care, sent by God to help Tobias and Tobit in answer to their prayers.  He reminds us that God listens to our prayers and answers them, helping us in our need through his agents, who are both angels and men.

With so much going on around us in the spiritual world, it is worthwhile trying to stay attuned.  Since we are accustomed to seeing and hearing with our senses, this can be difficult.  The ability to perceive spiritual realities is, of course, the fruit of prayer and discernment that allows us to recognize and understand the movements and voices that touch our souls.  Realizing that the spiritual realm is real and important, and turning to the angels as our allies and friends, is a good place to start.

—Matthew Monnig, S.J.

Prayer

Lord, it is not easy to listen for your voice. It takes effort and a degree of discipline.  Lord, give us the desire to sit in quiet and simply be with you. To fully dedicate ourselves to you for mere minutes each day is an extremely powerful way to discern your will and to recommit to putting you first in our lives. While the fruits of such a commitment may not be apparent immediately, such a practice will bear extraordinary gifts over time.  And, Lord, please give our angels a pat on their backs for intervening so many times on our behalf.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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September 28, 2012

Luke 9: 18-22

Once when Jesus was praying alone, with only the disciples near him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” They answered, “John the Baptist; but others, Elijah; and still others, that one of the ancient prophets has arisen.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “The Messiah of God.” He sternly ordered and commanded them not to tell anyone, saying, “The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)

The Appointed Time

Fr. John Naus, SJ is an elderly priest who sends out thousands of Christmas cards every year. I usually receive mine in August, because it takes the whole calendar year to get cards out to the entire mailing list. He includes little snippets of wisdom each year, and this year, one pithy line stood out in particular: “Parents give their children two great gifts – one is roots, the other is wings.” These two disparate but connected gifts – roots of family and faith, and the trust to let that faith blossom in its own time – challenge us to discern what response Christ calls us to, and when that response is appropriate.

There is an appointed time for everything,
and a time for every thing under the heavens.

A time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant.

A time to kill,and a time to heal;
a time to tear down, and a time to build.

A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance.

In today’s first reading, we continue reading the Preacher’s poetry in Ecclesiastes. This passage resonates with us because it summons to mind joys and sorrows from our own life and family. The range of human experiences described here is exalted and transformed in our life of faith.

We mark new birth and death in the Sacrament of Baptism, and again in the Rite of Christian Burial. We weep and mourn at funerals, and we laugh, dance, and weep for joy at weddings and ordinations.  Parents struggle with knowing when it is best to offer advice and when to bite their lip.  When to gather their children in, and when to let them spread their wings.

The life of Christ is a model for this, as well. There is an appointed time for both rejoicing and undergoing suffering.  And how often in His life do joy and suffering follow one another!  In our Gospel today, Jesus acknowledges that the Son of Man must suffer greatly, be rejected, killed, only to be raised on the third day.

Consider the ‘appointed times’ in your own life.  What are you undergoing or rejoicing in right now?  Ask for the grace to hear what the invitation from God is at this appointed time.

—Joseph Simmons, SJ

Prayer

Lord, our lives ebb and flow between beginnings and endings, from emptiness to fullness, from the weariness of depletion to the wonder of creation, from an agony of the heart to the burst of joy that fills our senses. And so goes the lives of all who cling to you.

Lord, through your humanity and divinity, you accepted the cycle of life. When we recall the denial and abandonment by your best friends, the brutality that lifted you up on the cross and drew forth blood and water from your side, we know that death does not have the final word. Because you stand victorious, we will one day cross over to eternal life.

And regardless of our place in our appointed time, we claim your promise “that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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September 27, 2012

Feast of St. Vincent de Paul

Luke 9: 7-9

Now Herod the ruler heard about all that had taken place, and he was perplexed, because it was said by some that John had been raised from the dead, by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the ancient prophets had arisen. Herod said, “John I beheaded; but who is this about whom I hear such things?” And he tried to see him.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)

A Weight is Lifted

Today’s readings, the first from the book of Ecclesiastes and the second from the Gospel of Luke, offer a nice contrast of the predictably old and the unprecedented new.  Nothing is new under the sun.  Even the thing of which we say “See, this is new!” has already existed in the ages that preceded us.

The Preacher in Ecclesiastes has seen it all.  His is a wisdom tinged with world-weary gloom, and he serves up a little “dose of reality” that puts those who cling to earthly goods and pleasures in their place.  Compare this with Herod’s surprise in Luke Chapter 9, upon hearing about a new man on the scene who is empowering his disciples to cast out demons and cure diseases.

“But Herod said, ‘John I beheaded. Who then is this about whom I hear such things?’ And he kept trying to see him [Jesus].”  Herod senses that something new is afoot.  And we know that in the Incarnation of the Word, there is something very much new going on in the cosmos.  Never before has God manifested Himself in someone both fully human and fully divine.  Jesus is indeed “something new under the sun.”  But what does that look like in our life?

In the self-sacrificing love of Christ, we find healing and forgiveness for sins.  The experience of being forgiven makes all things new, be it in the Sacrament of Reconciliation or the merciful pardon from someone we have wronged.  When we bring our humbled selves to God or others and are forgiven, we feel new.  A weight is lifted, a fear is dispelled, a grudge is abandoned, a sinful pattern is broken… and we find ourselves overcome with gratitude and nearness to God.  Spend time in prayer today giving thanks for a time when you have felt forgiven.  Let us pray, too, for the grace to experience again the ‘newness’ of life in Christ.

—Joseph Simmons, SJ

Prayer

Lord, we pray for the grace to experience the “newness” of life in Christ.  When we empty ourselves of all that puts us at a distance from you – carrying our burden by ourselves, staring at the loss in our life and looking past so many blessings, depleting our energy by putting ourselves last or engaging in the black hole of negative conversation – we simply cannot celebrate the “newness” of life in Christ.

We want today to be different. We will pause and thank you for all the good gifts in our lives; we will ask your help with any problem we face; we will give permission to ourselves to do something we enjoy, something that betters our mental or physical health, and we will not allow negative people to suck out our joy. With profound gratitude, Lord, we place our life totally into your hands, and we know that your divine spark will deepen the significance of our day.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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September 26, 2012

Feast of Sts. Cosmas and Damian,  Martyrs

Luke 9: 1-9

Then Jesus called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. He said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money—not even an extra tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there, and leave from there. Wherever they do not welcome you, as you are leaving that town shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” They departed and went through the villages, bringing the good news and curing diseases everywhere.

Now Herod the ruler heard about all that had taken place, and he was perplexed, because it was said by some that John had been raised from the dead, by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the ancient prophets had arisen. Herod said, “John I beheaded; but who is this about whom I hear such things?” And he tried to see him.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)

Open Palms of Indifference

Give me neither poverty nor riches; provide me only with the food I need;Lest, being full, I deny you, saying, “Who is the Lord?” Or, being in want, I steal, and profane the name of my God.” 

St. Ignatius Loyola’s First Principle and Foundation at the beginning of the Spiritual Exercises is a reminder to order all things to the greater praise, reverence, and service of God.  All created things, in turn, are to be used insofar as they lead to this end, and rejected as long as they hinder that end.  From here, Ignatius calls the followers of Christ to ‘indifference’ to all created things – neither clinging to them for fear of loss, nor throwing them aside if they can serve that primary purpose.  This indifference we might call a posture of ‘open palms’ to all things in our life.

“Give me neither poverty nor riches; provide me only with the food I need,” we read in today’s first reading from the Book of Proverbs.  Are there relationships, desires, or possessions in my life that “fill me up” and draw my attention away from God?  Conversely, do I dismiss any created things (talents, relationships, responsibilities) that might elicit a fuller response of generosity to God and neighbor?

Let our prayer today be for this Ignatian indifference to all created things.

 —Joseph Simmons, SJ

Prayer

Lord, as we read the following words by St. Ignatius, may they be imprinted on our soul.

“We should not fix our desires on health or sickness,wealth or poverty, success of failure, a long life or short one. For everything has the potential of calling forth in in us a deeper response to our life in God. Our only desire and our one choice should be this: I want and I choose what better leads to the deepening of God’s life in me.”

—St. Ignatius as paraphrased by David L. Fleming, S.J. from the beginning of the Spiritual Exercises

 


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September 25, 2012

Proverbs 21: 1-6, 10-13

The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will. All deeds are right in the sight of the doer, but the Lord weighs the heart. To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice. Haughty eyes and a proud heart— the lamp of the wicked—are sin. The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to want. The getting of treasures by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor and a snare of death.

The souls of the wicked desire evil; their neighbors find no mercy in their eyes. When a scoffer is punished, the simple become wiser; when the wise are instructed, they increase in knowledge. The Righteous One observes the house of the wicked; he casts the wicked down to ruin. If you close your ear to the cry of the poor, you will cry out and not be heard.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)

On the Streets

If you refuse to listen to the cry of the poor, your own cry for help will not be heard.  [Proverbs 21:13]

The past president of Haverford College, John Coleman, wanted to know firsthand how it felt to be poor and homeless.  So he lived for ten days on the streets of New York City without money or shelter.  A diary of his experience was published in New Yorker magazine.  One entry read: “I walk much more slowly. I no longer see a need to beat the traffic light. Force of habit still makes me look at my wrist. But there’s no watch there, and it wouldn’t make any difference if there was. The thermometer has become much more important.  I go to the heated grate on 47th Street. The man who was there last night is already in place.”

Excerpted from Mission, by Fr. Mark Link, S.J. ©2000 RCL Enterprises, Inc., Allen TX. For more prayer resources from Fr. Link, please visit www.staygreat.com

 Prayer

Lord, who will be the poor we see today? The heart has so many chambers of poverty. But the pretended smile can cover so much. Give us the sensitivity to listen well. Give us the wisdom to slow down and be fully present to the other. And should we find ourselves unable to solve the problem or contribute to the solution , let our care  uplift the spirit of the other. And, Lord, for anyone discouraged in their search for work and for those riddled with anxiety because of financial worries, please bring resources into their lives.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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September 24, 2012

Luke 8: 16-18

“No one after lighting a lamp hides it under a jar, or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a lampstand, so that those who enter may see the light. For nothing is hidden that will not be disclosed, nor is anything secret that will not become known and come to light. Then pay attention to how you listen; for to those who have, more will be given; and from those who do not have, even what they seem to have will be taken away.”

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)

Brought into the Light

“For there is nothing hidden that will not become visible, and nothing secret that will not be known and come to light.”

St. Ignatius Loyola jotted down his many insights in the Spiritual Exercises, which have become the ‘bread and butter’ of the Society of Jesus for centuries.  One such insight is the thirteenth rule for the Discernment of (good and evil) Spirits.  In it Ignatius compares the evil spirit’s seductive ways to a licentious lover who seeks to keep an illicit relationship hidden.  He continues, “When the enemy of human nature [the evil spirit] brings his wiles and persuasions to the just soul, he wants and desires that they be received and kept in secret; but when one reveals them to his good Confessor or to another spiritual person that knows the enemy’s deceits and evil ends, it is very grievous to him because he gathers, from his manifest deceits being discovered, that he will not be able to succeed with his wickedness.”

To bring into the light one’s sins, baggage, addictions, weaknesses—these frustrate the evil spirit who lulls us into that prideful autonomy that proclaims Non serviam! We are tempted to go-it-alone, putting on our best appearance before God and others. And yet today’s Gospel reminds us in no uncertain terms that what is hidden will not remain secret.  One response to this is despair: “Big Brother is watching, and he doesn’t like what he sees.” This is a common critique of Catholic Christianity, as if we worship a judgmental God who sits watching all we do and conveys his displeasure through an equally judgmental, moralistic church hierarchy.

But there is another, more freeing understanding of this Gospel. The insight? Our God, who fashioned us and sustains us in being, knows all about our dark temptations and failings. He knows when we are petty, prideful, selfish, and dishonest. Yes, He knows our sins, our grudges, our addictions, and what we are most ashamed of in our past. And He wants us to bring these things to light not to shame us, but to be free of the undue anxiety that these can have on us in mind, body, and soul.

Mold and smells, like our secrets and temptations, spawn and thrive in the dark. When my mom would expose those moldy shower curtains and musty sheets to the sunlight, they were like new. And when we name sins and temptations, and courageously bring them out into the light, we move toward greater freedom in Christ, who makes all things new.

—Joseph Simmons, SJ

 Prayer

Sometimes it is hard to comprehend that you have your hand on me so I can lend my hand to others. But I know that no day is really ordinary, mundane, or pointless. Regardless of how it may appear, I am needed this day. I have a sacred mission to bring a little more hope, a little more kindness, and the awareness to others of their value and of their distinct contributions awaiting them.  I close my prayer, Lord, with the poignant words of  Teresa of Avila:

Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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September 23, 2012

James 3: 16-4:3

For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.

Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you? You want something and do not have it; so you commit murder. And you covet something and cannot obtain it; so you engage in disputes and conflicts. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)

A True “Mother of Sorrows”

They key to the letter of James comes in his very practical challenge that we should act on God’s word that has been preached to us. We are to be doers of God’s word, not just hearers of it. This sounds a lot like the challenge of Ignatius Loyola when he reminds us that our love is shown more in deeds than in words.

This teaching became very real when I met Robertina, a 45-year old mother of six children who lives in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood. Her son was standing out in front of their home one night, laughing with friends, when tires screeched as a car lurched around the corner. Shots rang out… and her son Alberto was shot to death. It turned out later that gang members killed him by mistake.

At the end of his funeral, Robertina went to the lectern. In a strong voice filled with emotion she addressed the overflow crowd and said: “There can be no more violence; no more killing. I forgive whoever it is who killed my son. His death must not be an excuse for any act of retaliation of one gang against another, or one group of families against another. Let us change our hearts and open them to God’s love.” Then this true “mother of sorrows” went to her pew, sat down, and wept.

If we are to be “doers of the Word” then we must come to understand the Wisdom of the cross. We must throw in our lot with Jesus of Nazareth. He it is who desires to use our particular gifts and talents for the healing and hope of our world. He it is who throws us into relationship with another, a relationship grounded in God’s own generous, life-giving love. He it is who reminds us that the greatest will surely become the least; the first will certainly end up last. He it is who insists that it is in noticing and embracing society’s most vulnerable that we receive Jesus himself. This is the epitome of true wisdom.

—The Jesuit prayer team

Prayer

Lord, here we are again. There is seldom a day that passes where we do not need your wisdom. Should we speak up; should we wait? Should we move in this direction or should we pause and continue seeking? Where is that balance between patience and generosity and being a push over? How will we know that it is your wisdom directing us and not our own rationalized will shaping our behavior? We ask for the grace to evaluate our choices by the guidelines of St. James: “wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy.” We move forward confident that your wisdom will indeed bless us with a life of meaning and significance.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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September 22, 2012

1 Corinthians 15: 35-37

But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” Fool! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. And as for what you sow, you do not sow the body that is to be, but a bare seed, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved
(http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)

The Glorified Body

Someone may say, “How are the dead raised?  With what kind of body will they come back?” [1 Corinthians. 15:35]

When it comes to life after death, Paul offers metaphysics but very few specifics. Even Jesus noted merely that after death, we are “like angels” – without supplying what angels are like.  So the term “glorified bodies” is what we are stuck with.  Certainly every airbrushed celebrity you’ve ever see on a magazine cover pales in comparison.  The glorified body will be as good on the inside as it looks on the surface.

Alice Camille, 2010: A Book of Grace-Filled Days © 2009 Loyola Press, Chicago IL. For more Ignatian spiritual resources from Loyola Press, please visit www.loyolapress.com

Prayer

Lord, through your death and resurrection, our beloved family and friends have crossed over into eternal life.  Death does not have the final word. Love absolutely has no end. We trust in the communion of saints and believe that our loved ones have joined that community. Their spirit is with us, guiding, comforting, and cherishing our joys. Increase our faith, Lord, so we deeply cling to this wonderful reality that you and our loved ones are an integral part of our lives.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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September 21, 2012

Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle & Evangelist

Matthew 9: 9-13

As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard this, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)

Answer the Call

I have often heard Jesuits preach about Caravaggio’s famous painting, “The Calling of St. Matthew.” Caravaggio depicts a gaunt Jesus pointing at Matthew, who is seated around a table of well-dressed tax collectors at a shady customs post. An oblique ray of light cuts through the darkness just above Jesus’ pointed finger. The light bathes Matthew’s face, which betrays a look of tempered surprise—”surely, not I Lord?” he seems to say.  Matthew knows he is not a wholly worthy disciple of Jesus – look at the company he keeps and the life he lives, after all!  And yet there is Christ, pointing at him and summoning, “Follow me.”

All followers of Christ are called to renew our commitment to serve under the Banner of the Cross. Let us not fool ourselves—this is no small order. It takes courage and perseverance. In an exhortation from several decades ago, the Jesuit leadership wrote the following inspiring and humbling challenge to the sons of Ignatius:

“What is it to be a Jesuit?  It is to know that one is a sinner, yet called to be a companion of Jesus as Ignatius was: Ignatius, who begged the Blessed Virgin ‘to place him with her Son,’ and who then saw the Father himself ask Jesus, carrying His cross, to take this pilgrim into His company.”

Caravaggio and this exhortation from a general congregation of the Society of Jesus highlight today’s Gospel call to Matthew: “Go and learn the meaning of the words, I desire mercy, not sacrifice. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”

Today, let us rejoice that despite all of our faults, all of our sins, all of our imperfections. Jesus does not call us tomorrow, next week or next year: He calls us today. Take a few minutes today to search out the image of Caravaggio’s “Calling of St. Matthew” on the Internet. Imagine yourself in that scene, seated with Matthew. What is it like to have Christ’s light shine on your own hesitations and worries about His call to discipleship?

 —Joseph Simmons, SJ

Prayer

Lord, it was you who chose me. I really am an irreplaceable part of your great plan. The people I meet, the events of the day, the sequence of my daily conversations, are unique opportunities to give and receive Christ. No one else will live a day just like me. The part I play does matter. Though my self-talk may try to diminish my role, I will refuse to give it play in my mind. Though flawed, I am your beloved, and I will be your disciple day by day.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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September 30, 2012

Mark 9: 38-43, 45, 47-48

John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us. For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.

“If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell, where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)

How Will We Be Recognized?

Over the past two weeks the Jewish community has celebrated Rosh Hoshanah, the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. A thoughtful Rabbi speaks of these celebrations as moments of mindfulness—a mindfulness that sharpens one’s spiritual focus and turns one’s heart anew to serve God in wholeness and freedom.  This clear focus enables a person to freely give talents, time and treasure in service to those in need— especially the poor, the outcast, those at the margins.

Today’s readings offer Christians pretty clear criteria for becoming honest and open followers of Jesus Christ.  Rather than disorder and distrust, we who follow Jesus will be known by the ways we serve those in need and the ways we strengthen each other’s faith, especially the faith of those who are young and vulnerable.  Rather than confusion and mistrust, we are called to fashion a world tangibly alive with the gospel values of love and service.

This brings us back to that faith-filled mindfulness of turning our hearts to God.  Jesus is quite bold in saying that radical surgery may be necessary—if your hand or foot is the problem, cut it off.  If the envy in my eye is leading me astray, better to get to heaven with just one eye.  Our hearts can certainly be renewed if we learn that all-important lesson of handing over our lives to God no matter what… knowing that it is in dying to ourselves that we are all born to eternal life.

—The Jesuit prayer team

Anima Christi

Soul of Christ, sanctify me

Body of Christ, save me
Blood of Christ, drench me
Water from the side of Christ, wash me
Passion of Christ, strengthen me
Good Jesus, hear me
Within your wounds, shelter me
from turning away, keep me
From the evil one, protect me
At the hour of my death, call me
Into your presence lead me
to praise you with all your saints
Forever and ever.
Amen.
—St. Ignatius of Loyola


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September 29, 2012

John 1: 47-51

When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)

God Speaks to Us through His Messengers

Today’s feast of the archangels reminds us that we are part of a great spiritual world filled with realities invisible to us and yet still real. We participate in this spiritual realm and are affected by it whether we are aware of it or not.  It is very real. The angels (and the demons who are fallen angels) are part of this spiritual world.  Their task is to praise God and to carry out his will.

St. Michael is known in the Bible for fighting against Satan and the other rebel angels.  He reminds us that there is a great spiritual battle going on around us, the forces of good and evil battling each other for souls, and that the angels are our allies and protection in this struggle. St. Gabriel is God’s messenger, bringing to Mary the news of the Incarnation.  He reminds us that God speaks to us through his messengers, communicating his will and his love to us in a spiritual way, which we “hear” with our soul instead of our ears.  St. Raphael brings God’s loving care, sent by God to help Tobias and Tobit in answer to their prayers.  He reminds us that God listens to our prayers and answers them, helping us in our need through his agents, who are both angels and men.

With so much going on around us in the spiritual world, it is worthwhile trying to stay attuned.  Since we are accustomed to seeing and hearing with our senses, this can be difficult.  The ability to perceive spiritual realities is, of course, the fruit of prayer and discernment that allows us to recognize and understand the movements and voices that touch our souls.  Realizing that the spiritual realm is real and important, and turning to the angels as our allies and friends, is a good place to start.

—Matthew Monnig, S.J.

Prayer

Lord, it is not easy to listen for your voice. It takes effort and a degree of discipline.  Lord, give us the desire to sit in quiet and simply be with you. To fully dedicate ourselves to you for mere minutes each day is an extremely powerful way to discern your will and to recommit to putting you first in our lives. While the fruits of such a commitment may not be apparent immediately, such a practice will bear extraordinary gifts over time.  And, Lord, please give our angels a pat on their backs for intervening so many times on our behalf.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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September 28, 2012

Luke 9: 18-22

Once when Jesus was praying alone, with only the disciples near him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” They answered, “John the Baptist; but others, Elijah; and still others, that one of the ancient prophets has arisen.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “The Messiah of God.” He sternly ordered and commanded them not to tell anyone, saying, “The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)

The Appointed Time

Fr. John Naus, SJ is an elderly priest who sends out thousands of Christmas cards every year. I usually receive mine in August, because it takes the whole calendar year to get cards out to the entire mailing list. He includes little snippets of wisdom each year, and this year, one pithy line stood out in particular: “Parents give their children two great gifts – one is roots, the other is wings.” These two disparate but connected gifts – roots of family and faith, and the trust to let that faith blossom in its own time – challenge us to discern what response Christ calls us to, and when that response is appropriate.

There is an appointed time for everything,
and a time for every thing under the heavens.

A time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant.

A time to kill,and a time to heal;
a time to tear down, and a time to build.

A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance.

In today’s first reading, we continue reading the Preacher’s poetry in Ecclesiastes. This passage resonates with us because it summons to mind joys and sorrows from our own life and family. The range of human experiences described here is exalted and transformed in our life of faith.

We mark new birth and death in the Sacrament of Baptism, and again in the Rite of Christian Burial. We weep and mourn at funerals, and we laugh, dance, and weep for joy at weddings and ordinations.  Parents struggle with knowing when it is best to offer advice and when to bite their lip.  When to gather their children in, and when to let them spread their wings.

The life of Christ is a model for this, as well. There is an appointed time for both rejoicing and undergoing suffering.  And how often in His life do joy and suffering follow one another!  In our Gospel today, Jesus acknowledges that the Son of Man must suffer greatly, be rejected, killed, only to be raised on the third day.

Consider the ‘appointed times’ in your own life.  What are you undergoing or rejoicing in right now?  Ask for the grace to hear what the invitation from God is at this appointed time.

—Joseph Simmons, SJ

Prayer

Lord, our lives ebb and flow between beginnings and endings, from emptiness to fullness, from the weariness of depletion to the wonder of creation, from an agony of the heart to the burst of joy that fills our senses. And so goes the lives of all who cling to you.

Lord, through your humanity and divinity, you accepted the cycle of life. When we recall the denial and abandonment by your best friends, the brutality that lifted you up on the cross and drew forth blood and water from your side, we know that death does not have the final word. Because you stand victorious, we will one day cross over to eternal life.

And regardless of our place in our appointed time, we claim your promise “that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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September 27, 2012

Feast of St. Vincent de Paul

Luke 9: 7-9

Now Herod the ruler heard about all that had taken place, and he was perplexed, because it was said by some that John had been raised from the dead, by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the ancient prophets had arisen. Herod said, “John I beheaded; but who is this about whom I hear such things?” And he tried to see him.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)

A Weight is Lifted

Today’s readings, the first from the book of Ecclesiastes and the second from the Gospel of Luke, offer a nice contrast of the predictably old and the unprecedented new.  Nothing is new under the sun.  Even the thing of which we say “See, this is new!” has already existed in the ages that preceded us.

The Preacher in Ecclesiastes has seen it all.  His is a wisdom tinged with world-weary gloom, and he serves up a little “dose of reality” that puts those who cling to earthly goods and pleasures in their place.  Compare this with Herod’s surprise in Luke Chapter 9, upon hearing about a new man on the scene who is empowering his disciples to cast out demons and cure diseases.

“But Herod said, ‘John I beheaded. Who then is this about whom I hear such things?’ And he kept trying to see him [Jesus].”  Herod senses that something new is afoot.  And we know that in the Incarnation of the Word, there is something very much new going on in the cosmos.  Never before has God manifested Himself in someone both fully human and fully divine.  Jesus is indeed “something new under the sun.”  But what does that look like in our life?

In the self-sacrificing love of Christ, we find healing and forgiveness for sins.  The experience of being forgiven makes all things new, be it in the Sacrament of Reconciliation or the merciful pardon from someone we have wronged.  When we bring our humbled selves to God or others and are forgiven, we feel new.  A weight is lifted, a fear is dispelled, a grudge is abandoned, a sinful pattern is broken… and we find ourselves overcome with gratitude and nearness to God.  Spend time in prayer today giving thanks for a time when you have felt forgiven.  Let us pray, too, for the grace to experience again the ‘newness’ of life in Christ.

—Joseph Simmons, SJ

Prayer

Lord, we pray for the grace to experience the “newness” of life in Christ.  When we empty ourselves of all that puts us at a distance from you – carrying our burden by ourselves, staring at the loss in our life and looking past so many blessings, depleting our energy by putting ourselves last or engaging in the black hole of negative conversation – we simply cannot celebrate the “newness” of life in Christ.

We want today to be different. We will pause and thank you for all the good gifts in our lives; we will ask your help with any problem we face; we will give permission to ourselves to do something we enjoy, something that betters our mental or physical health, and we will not allow negative people to suck out our joy. With profound gratitude, Lord, we place our life totally into your hands, and we know that your divine spark will deepen the significance of our day.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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September 26, 2012

Feast of Sts. Cosmas and Damian,  Martyrs

Luke 9: 1-9

Then Jesus called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. He said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money—not even an extra tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there, and leave from there. Wherever they do not welcome you, as you are leaving that town shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” They departed and went through the villages, bringing the good news and curing diseases everywhere.

Now Herod the ruler heard about all that had taken place, and he was perplexed, because it was said by some that John had been raised from the dead, by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the ancient prophets had arisen. Herod said, “John I beheaded; but who is this about whom I hear such things?” And he tried to see him.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)

Open Palms of Indifference

Give me neither poverty nor riches; provide me only with the food I need;Lest, being full, I deny you, saying, “Who is the Lord?” Or, being in want, I steal, and profane the name of my God.” 

St. Ignatius Loyola’s First Principle and Foundation at the beginning of the Spiritual Exercises is a reminder to order all things to the greater praise, reverence, and service of God.  All created things, in turn, are to be used insofar as they lead to this end, and rejected as long as they hinder that end.  From here, Ignatius calls the followers of Christ to ‘indifference’ to all created things – neither clinging to them for fear of loss, nor throwing them aside if they can serve that primary purpose.  This indifference we might call a posture of ‘open palms’ to all things in our life.

“Give me neither poverty nor riches; provide me only with the food I need,” we read in today’s first reading from the Book of Proverbs.  Are there relationships, desires, or possessions in my life that “fill me up” and draw my attention away from God?  Conversely, do I dismiss any created things (talents, relationships, responsibilities) that might elicit a fuller response of generosity to God and neighbor?

Let our prayer today be for this Ignatian indifference to all created things.

 —Joseph Simmons, SJ

Prayer

Lord, as we read the following words by St. Ignatius, may they be imprinted on our soul.

“We should not fix our desires on health or sickness,wealth or poverty, success of failure, a long life or short one. For everything has the potential of calling forth in in us a deeper response to our life in God. Our only desire and our one choice should be this: I want and I choose what better leads to the deepening of God’s life in me.”

—St. Ignatius as paraphrased by David L. Fleming, S.J. from the beginning of the Spiritual Exercises

 


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September 25, 2012

Proverbs 21: 1-6, 10-13

The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will. All deeds are right in the sight of the doer, but the Lord weighs the heart. To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice. Haughty eyes and a proud heart— the lamp of the wicked—are sin. The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to want. The getting of treasures by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor and a snare of death.

The souls of the wicked desire evil; their neighbors find no mercy in their eyes. When a scoffer is punished, the simple become wiser; when the wise are instructed, they increase in knowledge. The Righteous One observes the house of the wicked; he casts the wicked down to ruin. If you close your ear to the cry of the poor, you will cry out and not be heard.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)

On the Streets

If you refuse to listen to the cry of the poor, your own cry for help will not be heard.  [Proverbs 21:13]

The past president of Haverford College, John Coleman, wanted to know firsthand how it felt to be poor and homeless.  So he lived for ten days on the streets of New York City without money or shelter.  A diary of his experience was published in New Yorker magazine.  One entry read: “I walk much more slowly. I no longer see a need to beat the traffic light. Force of habit still makes me look at my wrist. But there’s no watch there, and it wouldn’t make any difference if there was. The thermometer has become much more important.  I go to the heated grate on 47th Street. The man who was there last night is already in place.”

Excerpted from Mission, by Fr. Mark Link, S.J. ©2000 RCL Enterprises, Inc., Allen TX. For more prayer resources from Fr. Link, please visit www.staygreat.com

 Prayer

Lord, who will be the poor we see today? The heart has so many chambers of poverty. But the pretended smile can cover so much. Give us the sensitivity to listen well. Give us the wisdom to slow down and be fully present to the other. And should we find ourselves unable to solve the problem or contribute to the solution , let our care  uplift the spirit of the other. And, Lord, for anyone discouraged in their search for work and for those riddled with anxiety because of financial worries, please bring resources into their lives.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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September 24, 2012

Luke 8: 16-18

“No one after lighting a lamp hides it under a jar, or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a lampstand, so that those who enter may see the light. For nothing is hidden that will not be disclosed, nor is anything secret that will not become known and come to light. Then pay attention to how you listen; for to those who have, more will be given; and from those who do not have, even what they seem to have will be taken away.”

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)

Brought into the Light

“For there is nothing hidden that will not become visible, and nothing secret that will not be known and come to light.”

St. Ignatius Loyola jotted down his many insights in the Spiritual Exercises, which have become the ‘bread and butter’ of the Society of Jesus for centuries.  One such insight is the thirteenth rule for the Discernment of (good and evil) Spirits.  In it Ignatius compares the evil spirit’s seductive ways to a licentious lover who seeks to keep an illicit relationship hidden.  He continues, “When the enemy of human nature [the evil spirit] brings his wiles and persuasions to the just soul, he wants and desires that they be received and kept in secret; but when one reveals them to his good Confessor or to another spiritual person that knows the enemy’s deceits and evil ends, it is very grievous to him because he gathers, from his manifest deceits being discovered, that he will not be able to succeed with his wickedness.”

To bring into the light one’s sins, baggage, addictions, weaknesses—these frustrate the evil spirit who lulls us into that prideful autonomy that proclaims Non serviam! We are tempted to go-it-alone, putting on our best appearance before God and others. And yet today’s Gospel reminds us in no uncertain terms that what is hidden will not remain secret.  One response to this is despair: “Big Brother is watching, and he doesn’t like what he sees.” This is a common critique of Catholic Christianity, as if we worship a judgmental God who sits watching all we do and conveys his displeasure through an equally judgmental, moralistic church hierarchy.

But there is another, more freeing understanding of this Gospel. The insight? Our God, who fashioned us and sustains us in being, knows all about our dark temptations and failings. He knows when we are petty, prideful, selfish, and dishonest. Yes, He knows our sins, our grudges, our addictions, and what we are most ashamed of in our past. And He wants us to bring these things to light not to shame us, but to be free of the undue anxiety that these can have on us in mind, body, and soul.

Mold and smells, like our secrets and temptations, spawn and thrive in the dark. When my mom would expose those moldy shower curtains and musty sheets to the sunlight, they were like new. And when we name sins and temptations, and courageously bring them out into the light, we move toward greater freedom in Christ, who makes all things new.

—Joseph Simmons, SJ

 Prayer

Sometimes it is hard to comprehend that you have your hand on me so I can lend my hand to others. But I know that no day is really ordinary, mundane, or pointless. Regardless of how it may appear, I am needed this day. I have a sacred mission to bring a little more hope, a little more kindness, and the awareness to others of their value and of their distinct contributions awaiting them.  I close my prayer, Lord, with the poignant words of  Teresa of Avila:

Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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September 23, 2012

James 3: 16-4:3

For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.

Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you? You want something and do not have it; so you commit murder. And you covet something and cannot obtain it; so you engage in disputes and conflicts. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)

A True “Mother of Sorrows”

They key to the letter of James comes in his very practical challenge that we should act on God’s word that has been preached to us. We are to be doers of God’s word, not just hearers of it. This sounds a lot like the challenge of Ignatius Loyola when he reminds us that our love is shown more in deeds than in words.

This teaching became very real when I met Robertina, a 45-year old mother of six children who lives in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood. Her son was standing out in front of their home one night, laughing with friends, when tires screeched as a car lurched around the corner. Shots rang out… and her son Alberto was shot to death. It turned out later that gang members killed him by mistake.

At the end of his funeral, Robertina went to the lectern. In a strong voice filled with emotion she addressed the overflow crowd and said: “There can be no more violence; no more killing. I forgive whoever it is who killed my son. His death must not be an excuse for any act of retaliation of one gang against another, or one group of families against another. Let us change our hearts and open them to God’s love.” Then this true “mother of sorrows” went to her pew, sat down, and wept.

If we are to be “doers of the Word” then we must come to understand the Wisdom of the cross. We must throw in our lot with Jesus of Nazareth. He it is who desires to use our particular gifts and talents for the healing and hope of our world. He it is who throws us into relationship with another, a relationship grounded in God’s own generous, life-giving love. He it is who reminds us that the greatest will surely become the least; the first will certainly end up last. He it is who insists that it is in noticing and embracing society’s most vulnerable that we receive Jesus himself. This is the epitome of true wisdom.

—The Jesuit prayer team

Prayer

Lord, here we are again. There is seldom a day that passes where we do not need your wisdom. Should we speak up; should we wait? Should we move in this direction or should we pause and continue seeking? Where is that balance between patience and generosity and being a push over? How will we know that it is your wisdom directing us and not our own rationalized will shaping our behavior? We ask for the grace to evaluate our choices by the guidelines of St. James: “wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy.” We move forward confident that your wisdom will indeed bless us with a life of meaning and significance.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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September 22, 2012

1 Corinthians 15: 35-37

But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” Fool! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. And as for what you sow, you do not sow the body that is to be, but a bare seed, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved
(http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)

The Glorified Body

Someone may say, “How are the dead raised?  With what kind of body will they come back?” [1 Corinthians. 15:35]

When it comes to life after death, Paul offers metaphysics but very few specifics. Even Jesus noted merely that after death, we are “like angels” – without supplying what angels are like.  So the term “glorified bodies” is what we are stuck with.  Certainly every airbrushed celebrity you’ve ever see on a magazine cover pales in comparison.  The glorified body will be as good on the inside as it looks on the surface.

Alice Camille, 2010: A Book of Grace-Filled Days © 2009 Loyola Press, Chicago IL. For more Ignatian spiritual resources from Loyola Press, please visit www.loyolapress.com

Prayer

Lord, through your death and resurrection, our beloved family and friends have crossed over into eternal life.  Death does not have the final word. Love absolutely has no end. We trust in the communion of saints and believe that our loved ones have joined that community. Their spirit is with us, guiding, comforting, and cherishing our joys. Increase our faith, Lord, so we deeply cling to this wonderful reality that you and our loved ones are an integral part of our lives.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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September 21, 2012

Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle & Evangelist

Matthew 9: 9-13

As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard this, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)

Answer the Call

I have often heard Jesuits preach about Caravaggio’s famous painting, “The Calling of St. Matthew.” Caravaggio depicts a gaunt Jesus pointing at Matthew, who is seated around a table of well-dressed tax collectors at a shady customs post. An oblique ray of light cuts through the darkness just above Jesus’ pointed finger. The light bathes Matthew’s face, which betrays a look of tempered surprise—”surely, not I Lord?” he seems to say.  Matthew knows he is not a wholly worthy disciple of Jesus – look at the company he keeps and the life he lives, after all!  And yet there is Christ, pointing at him and summoning, “Follow me.”

All followers of Christ are called to renew our commitment to serve under the Banner of the Cross. Let us not fool ourselves—this is no small order. It takes courage and perseverance. In an exhortation from several decades ago, the Jesuit leadership wrote the following inspiring and humbling challenge to the sons of Ignatius:

“What is it to be a Jesuit?  It is to know that one is a sinner, yet called to be a companion of Jesus as Ignatius was: Ignatius, who begged the Blessed Virgin ‘to place him with her Son,’ and who then saw the Father himself ask Jesus, carrying His cross, to take this pilgrim into His company.”

Caravaggio and this exhortation from a general congregation of the Society of Jesus highlight today’s Gospel call to Matthew: “Go and learn the meaning of the words, I desire mercy, not sacrifice. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”

Today, let us rejoice that despite all of our faults, all of our sins, all of our imperfections. Jesus does not call us tomorrow, next week or next year: He calls us today. Take a few minutes today to search out the image of Caravaggio’s “Calling of St. Matthew” on the Internet. Imagine yourself in that scene, seated with Matthew. What is it like to have Christ’s light shine on your own hesitations and worries about His call to discipleship?

 —Joseph Simmons, SJ

Prayer

Lord, it was you who chose me. I really am an irreplaceable part of your great plan. The people I meet, the events of the day, the sequence of my daily conversations, are unique opportunities to give and receive Christ. No one else will live a day just like me. The part I play does matter. Though my self-talk may try to diminish my role, I will refuse to give it play in my mind. Though flawed, I am your beloved, and I will be your disciple day by day.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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