June 30, 2013

Luke 9: 51-62

When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But he turned and rebuked them. Then they went on to another village.

As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

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

Decision-making with the Lord

In both the first reading and the gospel,  we see invitations to follow.  Whereas, when Elisha asks to first bid farewell to his parents and Elijah gives a fast retort but then agrees,  Jesus’ response to such incidents of choice is much stronger.  Thus, in today’s passage from Luke, Jesus says: “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.”

In the second reading, Paul instructs the Galatians: “For freedom Christ set us free …” and …“serve one another through love.” With these words of Scripture in mind, we call upon the Holy Spirit and ponder:

-What means did the Holy Spirit use to let you know the path Jesus wanted you to take to follow Him?  

-Are there things in your life—prior to your

“Follow Me” call— which still block your freedom to totally embrace the call of Jesus? 

-If yes, what strategies will you take to address this lack of freedom? 

—Fr. Tim Shepard, S.J. is a pastoral minister, librarian, and retreat director living at

Colombiere, the Chicago-Detroit Jesuit retirement center in Clarkston MI.

Prayer

Lord, strengthen our resolve to follow when the way is hazy and our footsteps are not secure. Strengthen our understanding and acceptance that revelation is a process of discovering, choosing, and following you wherever we are in our day, in our life. And should we struggle with taking that first step, assure us that we need but move forward one step at a time in response to your call.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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June 29, 2013

Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul

Acts 12: 1-11

About that time King Herod laid violent hands upon some who belonged to the church. He had James, the brother of John, killed with the sword. After he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. (This was during the festival of Unleavened Bread.) When he had seized him, he put him in prison and handed him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending to bring him out to the people after the Passover.

While Peter was kept in prison, the church prayed fervently to God for him. The very night before Herod was going to bring him out, Peter, bound with two chains, was sleeping between two soldiers, while guards in front of the door were keeping watch over the prison. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He tapped Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his wrists. The angel said to him, “Fasten your belt and put on your sandals.” He did so. Then he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.”

Peter went out and followed him; he did not realize that what was happening with the angel’s help was real; he thought he was seeing a vision. After they had passed the first and the second guard, they came before the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went outside and walked along a lane, when suddenly the angel left him. Then Peter came to himself and said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hands of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.”

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

Life’s Ultimate Question

The missionary tradition of the Church began with the faith-filled witness to Jesus by his apostles and early followers.  Among these the Church gives primacy of place to St. Peter and St. Paul.  Today’s first two readings from Acts and 1 Timothy give us insight into the character and witness of these faith-filled apostles.  Both preached Jesus Christ as Messiah and Lord no matter the risk, and both were martyred in Rome.

Following in their footsteps may seem to be a formidable and even foolhardy challenge.  Jesus’ question to Peter offers an approach.  Jesus asks Peter –and each of us—“Who do you say that I am?”  Our concrete day-by-day answer over the span of our lives to that simple question will mark our own journey of faith.  Our heartfelt response to throw in our lot with this Jesus of Nazareth – especially, as Pope Francis reminds us, in our outreach to the poor — will give us “the keys to the Kingdom of heaven.”

How today do I offer a personal response to Jesus’ question:  “Who do you say that I am?”

The Jesuit Prayer Team

Prayer

Lord in your great plan, every detail is important,  even the hidden witness of those who live their faith with simplicity in everyday family relationships, work relationships, friendships.  Give us the grace to remember that we cannot proclaim the Gospel of Jesus without the tangible witness of our life.  And Lord, strengthen our desire to empty ourselves of our many small or great idols in which we take refuge, or which form the base of our security.

Adapted from Pope Francis’ Homily, April 4, 2013


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June 28, 2013

St. Irenaeus

Matthew 8: 1-4

When Jesus had come down from the mountain, great crowds followed him; and there was a leper who came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean.” He stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I do choose. Be made clean!” Immediately his leprosy was cleansed. Then Jesus said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”

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

Living Fully Alive!

St. Irenaeus may seem an ancient bishop and martyr, except for his wonderful phrase that is ever new:  God’s glory is man fully alive.  Part of a larger instruction on dealing with the heresies of the late 2nd century, this maxim goes right to the heart of living our faith amidst life’s daily successes and struggles.

Irenaeus’ quote was a favorite of Pope John Paul II.  He used it at two World Youth Days as an invitation to young people to develop their God-given talents fully and to place them at the service of the gospel and those in need.   John Paul urged a generous heart and a faith-filled spirit, especially in the face of very real 20th century heresies.

For me, when do I find myself “fully alive”?  How does my heart expand as I use my gifts and talents as Jesus invites in the gospel?  What practical difference can I make in living the Lord’s gospel…just this weekend?

–The  Jesuit  Prayer  Team

Prayer

Lord, sometimes we allow the day to day expectations to overwhelm us and to steal our laughter and happiness.  We forget to acknowledge the many gifts and opportunities that fill up our lives.  This day will be different. We pray for perspective and for balance.  And then we can give witness to St. Irenaeus proclamation, “God’s glory is man fully alive.”

The Jesuit Prayer Team


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June 27, 2013

Mathew 7: 21-29 

‘Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord”, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?” Then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.”

‘Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!’

Now when Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.

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 approvedhttp://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations

Building on Rock

The recent floods and wildfires in the U.S. across the west and Midwest point to the vulnerability of even the sturdiest structures in the face of rising water and fiery winds.  Jesus injunction that we build our “house on rock” takes on new meaning in the face of such natural disasters.

But notice that Jesus speaks of this wise builder as someone who has heard the words Jesus speaks and embodies them in faith-filled daily action.  This in contrast to the person who remains at the fringes of faith and only cries out Lord, Lord! when faced with some personal crisis.

The challenge of belief becomes real in the midst of adversity and loss.  It is at such times that we come to understand that daily practice of our faith really does make a big difference.  Like the athlete who trains each day unseen by her fans, or the pianist who practices those frustrating Hanon exercises, relationship with our God  grows strong through familiar daily conversation and prayer.

In what ways do I open my heart to God’s gentle influence and action?  How do I let the Lord find me in the midst of my daily routine?

—Christopher Staab, S.J. is a Jesuit scholastic teaching at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, Chicago IL

Prayer

With St. Paul we pray:  “I keep going on to try to win the prize for which “Christ Jesus has already won me to himself…So I run straight toward the goal in order to win the prize, which is God’s call through Christ Jesus to the life above.”   (Philippians 3)

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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June 26, 2013

Genesis  15: 1-12. 17-18

After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, “Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.”

But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “You have given me no offspring, and so a slave born in my house is to be my heir.” But the word of the Lord came to him, “This man shall not be your heir; no one but your very own issue shall be your heir.” He brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” And he believed the Lord; and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness.

Then he said to him, “I am the Lord who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess.” But he said, “O Lord God, how am I to know that I shall possess it?” He said to him, “Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” He brought him all these and cut them in two, laying each half over against the other; but he did not cut the birds in two. And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.

As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram, and a deep and terrifying darkness descended upon him.

When the sun had gone down and it was dark, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates.

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

Fear and Faith

What keeps you awake at night? Perhaps it is a pressing issue at work, a deteriorating relationship, financial concerns or the well-being of a loved one. In today’s first reading, what keeps Abram awake is his concern that he will die childless and that he will not possess the land God has promised him. The Lord’s first words to Abram are “fear not.” This reminds me of the many instances when Jesus said to his disciples “do not be afraid.” This is all too often, easier said than done. I reflect on my own worries about the safety and health of loved ones.

In the face of his fears and concerns, Abram puts his faith in the Lord. The Lord then makes a covenant with Abram promising him descendants as numerous as the stars and land from the “Wadi of Egypt to the Great River the Euphrates.” I desire to put my faith in the Lord, but how do I do this. Perhaps just like Abram, I simply talk with the Lord and share my fears and concerns. I listen to the Lord’s encouraging words and have faith that the Lord is always with me. Doing so, I know of the Lord’s absolute, unconditional and infinite love for me and my loved ones.

David McNulty is the Provincial Assistant for Advancement, Chicago-Detroit Province Jesuits

Prayer

More than ever I find myself in the hands of God.  This is what I have wanted all my life from my youth.
But now there is a difference:  the initiative is entirely with God.  It is indeed a profound spiritual experience to know and feel myself so totally in God’s hands.

—Fr. Pedro Arrupe, S.J.  (1907-1991) was the 28th Superior General of the Society of Jesus.


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June 25, 2013

Genesis 13: 14-18

After Lot had left, the Lord said to Abram:
“Look about you, and from where you are,
gaze to the north and south, east and west;
all the land that you see I will give to you
and your descendants forever.
I will make your descendants like the dust of the earth;
if anyone could count the dust of the earth,
your descendants too might be counted.
Set forth and walk about in the land,
through its length and breadth, for to you I will give it.”
Abram moved his tents and went on to settle
near the terebinth of Mamre, which is at Hebron.
There he built an altar to the Lord.

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

Life’s Promises

When I was in theology studies, our Old Testament professor told us that in the book of Genesis, there were two promises that God makes to Abram/Abraham over and over. They were land and descendants.  We have one instance of those promises in the last section of today’s first reading. That may be nice, but is there a way that God makes those promises to us as well?

If we reflect on God’s promise of land, we begin to realize that there is more involved than just a piece of property. What is at stake here is a sense of home. We can have that sense even if we are on the move, and not just because certain motel chains tell us that we will have a home away from home if we stay with them.  Jesus has called us to be part of his body, a part of his community.  As long as we have that relationship, we can rest assured that we belong, we are at home, we have “land.”

In a similar way, descendants can be understood as a reality beyond having a lot of children and grandchildren.  Disciples of Christ are called to be generative. They promote, nourish, protect, and enhance life in many different ways.  Intentionally and unintentionally they touch other people’s lives, helping them experience the presence and action of Christ’s Spirit.

God invites Abram to “set forth and walk about in the land, through its length and breadth.”  We are invited to take a similar walk, not rushing along and zooming past things, but taking our time to notice, appreciate, be grateful, and share.

How is God keeping the promises of land and descendants in my life?

Fr. Joe Folzenlogen, S.J. is vice-superior  of the Faber Jesuit Community in Cincinnati and director of Claver Jesuit Ministry.

Prayer

God, you are always faithful. You not only make promises; you keep them. Help us to pay more attention to the fulfilled promises all around us. Help us notice them with grateful praise.  And help us share them with others.

We ask this in your name.   Amen.

Fr. Joe Folzenlogen, S.J. is vice-superior  of the Faber Jesuit Community in Cincinnati and director of Claver Jesuit Ministry.


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June 24, 2013

Nativity of St. John the Baptist

Luke 1: 57-66. 80

Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him Zechariah after his father.

But his mother said, “No; he is to be called John.” They said to her, “None of your relatives has this name.” Then they began motioning to his father to find out what name he wanted to give him. He asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And all of them were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue freed, and he began to speak, praising God. Fear came over all their neighbors, and all these things were talked about throughout the entire hill country of Judea. All who heard them pondered them and said, “What then will this child become?” For, indeed, the hand of the Lord was with 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

Life’s Holy Irony

Today we commemorate the birth of St. John the Baptist.  One aspect of his life is that of “holy irony”.  His mother was barren, well-past the years of natural fertility; his father was aged as well.  Yet their ability to conceive John in this most unlikely circumstance is through the intent of God – a holy irony.

This particular passage in Luke’s Gospel focuses on the naming of John the Baptist.  His father, Zechariah, has earlier questioned the angel of God about the whole meaning of this child’s purpose, including the name to be given to his child, and had thus lost his ability to speak.  Finally, when Zechariah proclaims “John is his name,” his gift of speech returns.  The holy irony is that Zechariah’s obedience to the Word of God results in his freedom of speech.

The holy irony of Christian faith is that we   discover our own joy and freedom when we stop seeking it on our own accord, and when we surrender our self-will to God’s Will.  The holy irony of our lives of Christian discipleship is that we find our true selves in lives of service and charity.  The holy irony of love and forgiveness is that these virtues grow within us through our giving them away.

Where and how have I grown in faith, hope and love by giving these away to others? 

When and how has God surprised me with totally what I needed, once I let go of what I wanted?

—Fr. Glen Chun, S.J. is minister of the Loyola University Jesuit Community, Chicago, and also serves on the vocations staff for the Chicago-Detroit Province of the Society of Jesus

Prayer

Lord, we desire to surrender our self-will to your will.  As we grow in cultivating a heart of service, we believe that we will find our true selves.  We anticipate your wonderful surprises once we let go of our narrowed expectations and wait on you.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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June 23, 2013

Luke 9: 18-24

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.” Then he said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it.

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

Life Questions

In the first reading, we are told that “a fountain to purify from sin and unclean- ness” shall be opened to the house of David and to its inhabitants.  In the second reading St. Paul tells us “we are children of God;  we are clothed with Christ” —precisely  because we have been baptized in Christ, and “we are one.”  In the gospel Jesus asks, “Who do the crowds say that I am?”  And then he challenges Peter,  “But who do you say that I am?”

With these challenging words before us, let us call upon the Holy Spirit as we ponder:
Why do you stay true to your baptism?
Imagine yourself face to face with Christ.
He asks you, “Who do you say I am?
What is your response?

Finally, imagine that you are looking into
Jesus’ eyes and ask him:  “Who do you say
that I am?”  What is Jesus’ answer?

Fr. Tim Shepard, S.J. is a pastoral minister, librarian, and retreat director living at Colombiere, the Chicago-Detroit Jesuit retirement center in Clarkston MI.

Prayer

Lord, three questions we must ponder. Who do we say you are and who do you say we are?  And what difference do those answers make in how we live our days?  While some things may not make sense in a given day, everything makes sense at the deepest level.  With profound gratitude for your magnificent care, we surrender the joys and sorrows of this day to you.  And we pray to be every mindful that you are always near.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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June 22, 2013

 2 Corinthians 12: 1-10

It is necessary to boast; nothing is to be gained by it, but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. 2I know a person in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows. 3And I know that such a person—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows— 4was caught up into Paradise and heard things that are not to be told, that no mortal is permitted to repeat.

5On behalf of such a one I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses. 6But if I wish to boast, I will not be a fool, for I will be speaking the truth. But I refrain from it, so that no one may think better of me than what is seen in me or heard from me, 7even considering the exceptional character of the revelations.

Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. 8Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, 9but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.

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

Right with God

By the accident of the calendar we hear today’s readings on the feast day of St. Thomas More, chancellor of King Henry VIII.

Strong in faith, agile in his lawyerly mind, and ready of wit, Thomas eventually had no choice but “to be the king’s good servant, but God’s first.”   Thomas’s letters to his family and his spiritual writings reflect the struggle between power and weakness which Paul describes in today’s first reading.

Jesus’ teaching in the gospel offers a similar challenge to single-mindedness and trust in God’s ways.  If I am right with God, nothing on earth can undermine my faith, shrink my hope, or steal my love.

What do my personal faith, hope, and love look like today?

—The Jesuit Prayer Team

Prayer

O Lord,
give us a mind
that is humble, quiet, peaceable,
patient and charitable,
and a taste of your Holy Spirit
in all our thoughts, words, and deeds.

O Lord,
give us a lively faith, a firm hope,
a fervant charity, a love of you.
Take from us all lukewarmness in meditation
and all dullness in prayer.
Give us fervor and delight in thinking of you,
your grace, and your tender compassion
toward us.
Give us,
good Lord,
the grace to work for
the things we pray for.
Amen

St Thomas More: Prayer for Fervor in Thinking of God


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June 21, 2013

St. Aloysius Gonzaga, S.J.

Matthew 6: 19-23

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

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

Wealth that Endures

Jesuit St. Aloysius Gonzaga grew up in a noble family.  Against strenuous pressure he gave up his inheritance and entered the Society of As I rush from one task to another today, how is my heart generous and my spirit open?

Jesus in 1585.  He hoped to go to the missions.  But, while still a theology student in Rome, he offered to serve the sick and dying in 1591 when a virulent plague broke out in Rome.  He himself caught the plague and died three months later.

In today’s gospel Jesus cautions against attachment to our earthly treasure and “stuff”.   After all, so often “life happens” when we have other plans.  In the end it is the wealth of a generous heart and open spirit that makes all the difference.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team

Prayer

Lord, help us to be aware of those times when we are more stingy than generous. Create in us a heart of abundance. Let our generosity be motivated by our desire to love more completely. Deepen our conviction that true wealth is rooted in our relationship with you. And grant us the grace to spend more time with you so we can be more authentic and more effective in our service to others.

 —The Jesuit Prayer Team


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June 30, 2013

Luke 9: 51-62

When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But he turned and rebuked them. Then they went on to another village.

As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

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

Decision-making with the Lord

In both the first reading and the gospel,  we see invitations to follow.  Whereas, when Elisha asks to first bid farewell to his parents and Elijah gives a fast retort but then agrees,  Jesus’ response to such incidents of choice is much stronger.  Thus, in today’s passage from Luke, Jesus says: “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.”

In the second reading, Paul instructs the Galatians: “For freedom Christ set us free …” and …“serve one another through love.” With these words of Scripture in mind, we call upon the Holy Spirit and ponder:

-What means did the Holy Spirit use to let you know the path Jesus wanted you to take to follow Him?  

-Are there things in your life—prior to your

“Follow Me” call— which still block your freedom to totally embrace the call of Jesus? 

-If yes, what strategies will you take to address this lack of freedom? 

—Fr. Tim Shepard, S.J. is a pastoral minister, librarian, and retreat director living at

Colombiere, the Chicago-Detroit Jesuit retirement center in Clarkston MI.

Prayer

Lord, strengthen our resolve to follow when the way is hazy and our footsteps are not secure. Strengthen our understanding and acceptance that revelation is a process of discovering, choosing, and following you wherever we are in our day, in our life. And should we struggle with taking that first step, assure us that we need but move forward one step at a time in response to your call.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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June 29, 2013

Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul

Acts 12: 1-11

About that time King Herod laid violent hands upon some who belonged to the church. He had James, the brother of John, killed with the sword. After he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. (This was during the festival of Unleavened Bread.) When he had seized him, he put him in prison and handed him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending to bring him out to the people after the Passover.

While Peter was kept in prison, the church prayed fervently to God for him. The very night before Herod was going to bring him out, Peter, bound with two chains, was sleeping between two soldiers, while guards in front of the door were keeping watch over the prison. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He tapped Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his wrists. The angel said to him, “Fasten your belt and put on your sandals.” He did so. Then he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.”

Peter went out and followed him; he did not realize that what was happening with the angel’s help was real; he thought he was seeing a vision. After they had passed the first and the second guard, they came before the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went outside and walked along a lane, when suddenly the angel left him. Then Peter came to himself and said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hands of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.”

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

Life’s Ultimate Question

The missionary tradition of the Church began with the faith-filled witness to Jesus by his apostles and early followers.  Among these the Church gives primacy of place to St. Peter and St. Paul.  Today’s first two readings from Acts and 1 Timothy give us insight into the character and witness of these faith-filled apostles.  Both preached Jesus Christ as Messiah and Lord no matter the risk, and both were martyred in Rome.

Following in their footsteps may seem to be a formidable and even foolhardy challenge.  Jesus’ question to Peter offers an approach.  Jesus asks Peter –and each of us—“Who do you say that I am?”  Our concrete day-by-day answer over the span of our lives to that simple question will mark our own journey of faith.  Our heartfelt response to throw in our lot with this Jesus of Nazareth – especially, as Pope Francis reminds us, in our outreach to the poor — will give us “the keys to the Kingdom of heaven.”

How today do I offer a personal response to Jesus’ question:  “Who do you say that I am?”

The Jesuit Prayer Team

Prayer

Lord in your great plan, every detail is important,  even the hidden witness of those who live their faith with simplicity in everyday family relationships, work relationships, friendships.  Give us the grace to remember that we cannot proclaim the Gospel of Jesus without the tangible witness of our life.  And Lord, strengthen our desire to empty ourselves of our many small or great idols in which we take refuge, or which form the base of our security.

Adapted from Pope Francis’ Homily, April 4, 2013


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June 28, 2013

St. Irenaeus

Matthew 8: 1-4

When Jesus had come down from the mountain, great crowds followed him; and there was a leper who came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean.” He stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I do choose. Be made clean!” Immediately his leprosy was cleansed. Then Jesus said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”

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

Living Fully Alive!

St. Irenaeus may seem an ancient bishop and martyr, except for his wonderful phrase that is ever new:  God’s glory is man fully alive.  Part of a larger instruction on dealing with the heresies of the late 2nd century, this maxim goes right to the heart of living our faith amidst life’s daily successes and struggles.

Irenaeus’ quote was a favorite of Pope John Paul II.  He used it at two World Youth Days as an invitation to young people to develop their God-given talents fully and to place them at the service of the gospel and those in need.   John Paul urged a generous heart and a faith-filled spirit, especially in the face of very real 20th century heresies.

For me, when do I find myself “fully alive”?  How does my heart expand as I use my gifts and talents as Jesus invites in the gospel?  What practical difference can I make in living the Lord’s gospel…just this weekend?

–The  Jesuit  Prayer  Team

Prayer

Lord, sometimes we allow the day to day expectations to overwhelm us and to steal our laughter and happiness.  We forget to acknowledge the many gifts and opportunities that fill up our lives.  This day will be different. We pray for perspective and for balance.  And then we can give witness to St. Irenaeus proclamation, “God’s glory is man fully alive.”

The Jesuit Prayer Team


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June 27, 2013

Mathew 7: 21-29 

‘Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord”, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?” Then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.”

‘Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!’

Now when Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.

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 approvedhttp://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations

Building on Rock

The recent floods and wildfires in the U.S. across the west and Midwest point to the vulnerability of even the sturdiest structures in the face of rising water and fiery winds.  Jesus injunction that we build our “house on rock” takes on new meaning in the face of such natural disasters.

But notice that Jesus speaks of this wise builder as someone who has heard the words Jesus speaks and embodies them in faith-filled daily action.  This in contrast to the person who remains at the fringes of faith and only cries out Lord, Lord! when faced with some personal crisis.

The challenge of belief becomes real in the midst of adversity and loss.  It is at such times that we come to understand that daily practice of our faith really does make a big difference.  Like the athlete who trains each day unseen by her fans, or the pianist who practices those frustrating Hanon exercises, relationship with our God  grows strong through familiar daily conversation and prayer.

In what ways do I open my heart to God’s gentle influence and action?  How do I let the Lord find me in the midst of my daily routine?

—Christopher Staab, S.J. is a Jesuit scholastic teaching at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, Chicago IL

Prayer

With St. Paul we pray:  “I keep going on to try to win the prize for which “Christ Jesus has already won me to himself…So I run straight toward the goal in order to win the prize, which is God’s call through Christ Jesus to the life above.”   (Philippians 3)

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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June 26, 2013

Genesis  15: 1-12. 17-18

After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, “Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.”

But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “You have given me no offspring, and so a slave born in my house is to be my heir.” But the word of the Lord came to him, “This man shall not be your heir; no one but your very own issue shall be your heir.” He brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” And he believed the Lord; and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness.

Then he said to him, “I am the Lord who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess.” But he said, “O Lord God, how am I to know that I shall possess it?” He said to him, “Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” He brought him all these and cut them in two, laying each half over against the other; but he did not cut the birds in two. And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.

As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram, and a deep and terrifying darkness descended upon him.

When the sun had gone down and it was dark, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates.

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

Fear and Faith

What keeps you awake at night? Perhaps it is a pressing issue at work, a deteriorating relationship, financial concerns or the well-being of a loved one. In today’s first reading, what keeps Abram awake is his concern that he will die childless and that he will not possess the land God has promised him. The Lord’s first words to Abram are “fear not.” This reminds me of the many instances when Jesus said to his disciples “do not be afraid.” This is all too often, easier said than done. I reflect on my own worries about the safety and health of loved ones.

In the face of his fears and concerns, Abram puts his faith in the Lord. The Lord then makes a covenant with Abram promising him descendants as numerous as the stars and land from the “Wadi of Egypt to the Great River the Euphrates.” I desire to put my faith in the Lord, but how do I do this. Perhaps just like Abram, I simply talk with the Lord and share my fears and concerns. I listen to the Lord’s encouraging words and have faith that the Lord is always with me. Doing so, I know of the Lord’s absolute, unconditional and infinite love for me and my loved ones.

David McNulty is the Provincial Assistant for Advancement, Chicago-Detroit Province Jesuits

Prayer

More than ever I find myself in the hands of God.  This is what I have wanted all my life from my youth.
But now there is a difference:  the initiative is entirely with God.  It is indeed a profound spiritual experience to know and feel myself so totally in God’s hands.

—Fr. Pedro Arrupe, S.J.  (1907-1991) was the 28th Superior General of the Society of Jesus.


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June 25, 2013

Genesis 13: 14-18

After Lot had left, the Lord said to Abram:
“Look about you, and from where you are,
gaze to the north and south, east and west;
all the land that you see I will give to you
and your descendants forever.
I will make your descendants like the dust of the earth;
if anyone could count the dust of the earth,
your descendants too might be counted.
Set forth and walk about in the land,
through its length and breadth, for to you I will give it.”
Abram moved his tents and went on to settle
near the terebinth of Mamre, which is at Hebron.
There he built an altar to the Lord.

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

Life’s Promises

When I was in theology studies, our Old Testament professor told us that in the book of Genesis, there were two promises that God makes to Abram/Abraham over and over. They were land and descendants.  We have one instance of those promises in the last section of today’s first reading. That may be nice, but is there a way that God makes those promises to us as well?

If we reflect on God’s promise of land, we begin to realize that there is more involved than just a piece of property. What is at stake here is a sense of home. We can have that sense even if we are on the move, and not just because certain motel chains tell us that we will have a home away from home if we stay with them.  Jesus has called us to be part of his body, a part of his community.  As long as we have that relationship, we can rest assured that we belong, we are at home, we have “land.”

In a similar way, descendants can be understood as a reality beyond having a lot of children and grandchildren.  Disciples of Christ are called to be generative. They promote, nourish, protect, and enhance life in many different ways.  Intentionally and unintentionally they touch other people’s lives, helping them experience the presence and action of Christ’s Spirit.

God invites Abram to “set forth and walk about in the land, through its length and breadth.”  We are invited to take a similar walk, not rushing along and zooming past things, but taking our time to notice, appreciate, be grateful, and share.

How is God keeping the promises of land and descendants in my life?

Fr. Joe Folzenlogen, S.J. is vice-superior  of the Faber Jesuit Community in Cincinnati and director of Claver Jesuit Ministry.

Prayer

God, you are always faithful. You not only make promises; you keep them. Help us to pay more attention to the fulfilled promises all around us. Help us notice them with grateful praise.  And help us share them with others.

We ask this in your name.   Amen.

Fr. Joe Folzenlogen, S.J. is vice-superior  of the Faber Jesuit Community in Cincinnati and director of Claver Jesuit Ministry.


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June 24, 2013

Nativity of St. John the Baptist

Luke 1: 57-66. 80

Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him Zechariah after his father.

But his mother said, “No; he is to be called John.” They said to her, “None of your relatives has this name.” Then they began motioning to his father to find out what name he wanted to give him. He asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And all of them were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue freed, and he began to speak, praising God. Fear came over all their neighbors, and all these things were talked about throughout the entire hill country of Judea. All who heard them pondered them and said, “What then will this child become?” For, indeed, the hand of the Lord was with 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

Life’s Holy Irony

Today we commemorate the birth of St. John the Baptist.  One aspect of his life is that of “holy irony”.  His mother was barren, well-past the years of natural fertility; his father was aged as well.  Yet their ability to conceive John in this most unlikely circumstance is through the intent of God – a holy irony.

This particular passage in Luke’s Gospel focuses on the naming of John the Baptist.  His father, Zechariah, has earlier questioned the angel of God about the whole meaning of this child’s purpose, including the name to be given to his child, and had thus lost his ability to speak.  Finally, when Zechariah proclaims “John is his name,” his gift of speech returns.  The holy irony is that Zechariah’s obedience to the Word of God results in his freedom of speech.

The holy irony of Christian faith is that we   discover our own joy and freedom when we stop seeking it on our own accord, and when we surrender our self-will to God’s Will.  The holy irony of our lives of Christian discipleship is that we find our true selves in lives of service and charity.  The holy irony of love and forgiveness is that these virtues grow within us through our giving them away.

Where and how have I grown in faith, hope and love by giving these away to others? 

When and how has God surprised me with totally what I needed, once I let go of what I wanted?

—Fr. Glen Chun, S.J. is minister of the Loyola University Jesuit Community, Chicago, and also serves on the vocations staff for the Chicago-Detroit Province of the Society of Jesus

Prayer

Lord, we desire to surrender our self-will to your will.  As we grow in cultivating a heart of service, we believe that we will find our true selves.  We anticipate your wonderful surprises once we let go of our narrowed expectations and wait on you.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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June 23, 2013

Luke 9: 18-24

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.” Then he said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it.

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

Life Questions

In the first reading, we are told that “a fountain to purify from sin and unclean- ness” shall be opened to the house of David and to its inhabitants.  In the second reading St. Paul tells us “we are children of God;  we are clothed with Christ” —precisely  because we have been baptized in Christ, and “we are one.”  In the gospel Jesus asks, “Who do the crowds say that I am?”  And then he challenges Peter,  “But who do you say that I am?”

With these challenging words before us, let us call upon the Holy Spirit as we ponder:
Why do you stay true to your baptism?
Imagine yourself face to face with Christ.
He asks you, “Who do you say I am?
What is your response?

Finally, imagine that you are looking into
Jesus’ eyes and ask him:  “Who do you say
that I am?”  What is Jesus’ answer?

Fr. Tim Shepard, S.J. is a pastoral minister, librarian, and retreat director living at Colombiere, the Chicago-Detroit Jesuit retirement center in Clarkston MI.

Prayer

Lord, three questions we must ponder. Who do we say you are and who do you say we are?  And what difference do those answers make in how we live our days?  While some things may not make sense in a given day, everything makes sense at the deepest level.  With profound gratitude for your magnificent care, we surrender the joys and sorrows of this day to you.  And we pray to be every mindful that you are always near.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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June 22, 2013

 2 Corinthians 12: 1-10

It is necessary to boast; nothing is to be gained by it, but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. 2I know a person in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows. 3And I know that such a person—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows— 4was caught up into Paradise and heard things that are not to be told, that no mortal is permitted to repeat.

5On behalf of such a one I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses. 6But if I wish to boast, I will not be a fool, for I will be speaking the truth. But I refrain from it, so that no one may think better of me than what is seen in me or heard from me, 7even considering the exceptional character of the revelations.

Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. 8Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, 9but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.

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

Right with God

By the accident of the calendar we hear today’s readings on the feast day of St. Thomas More, chancellor of King Henry VIII.

Strong in faith, agile in his lawyerly mind, and ready of wit, Thomas eventually had no choice but “to be the king’s good servant, but God’s first.”   Thomas’s letters to his family and his spiritual writings reflect the struggle between power and weakness which Paul describes in today’s first reading.

Jesus’ teaching in the gospel offers a similar challenge to single-mindedness and trust in God’s ways.  If I am right with God, nothing on earth can undermine my faith, shrink my hope, or steal my love.

What do my personal faith, hope, and love look like today?

—The Jesuit Prayer Team

Prayer

O Lord,
give us a mind
that is humble, quiet, peaceable,
patient and charitable,
and a taste of your Holy Spirit
in all our thoughts, words, and deeds.

O Lord,
give us a lively faith, a firm hope,
a fervant charity, a love of you.
Take from us all lukewarmness in meditation
and all dullness in prayer.
Give us fervor and delight in thinking of you,
your grace, and your tender compassion
toward us.
Give us,
good Lord,
the grace to work for
the things we pray for.
Amen

St Thomas More: Prayer for Fervor in Thinking of God


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June 21, 2013

St. Aloysius Gonzaga, S.J.

Matthew 6: 19-23

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

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

Wealth that Endures

Jesuit St. Aloysius Gonzaga grew up in a noble family.  Against strenuous pressure he gave up his inheritance and entered the Society of As I rush from one task to another today, how is my heart generous and my spirit open?

Jesus in 1585.  He hoped to go to the missions.  But, while still a theology student in Rome, he offered to serve the sick and dying in 1591 when a virulent plague broke out in Rome.  He himself caught the plague and died three months later.

In today’s gospel Jesus cautions against attachment to our earthly treasure and “stuff”.   After all, so often “life happens” when we have other plans.  In the end it is the wealth of a generous heart and open spirit that makes all the difference.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team

Prayer

Lord, help us to be aware of those times when we are more stingy than generous. Create in us a heart of abundance. Let our generosity be motivated by our desire to love more completely. Deepen our conviction that true wealth is rooted in our relationship with you. And grant us the grace to spend more time with you so we can be more authentic and more effective in our service to others.

 —The Jesuit Prayer Team


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