July 31, 2013

St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits

Matthew 13: 44-46

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought 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

Embracing the World

How many of you still celebrate feast days? They’re not unlike birthdays; they come around once a year, always on the same date and help us to remember who we’re named for. I can’t imagine a “surprise feast-day party” or singing “Happy Feast Day to you . . .” but they do mark major milestones and can be the occasion of a good party. Today we celebrate the 447th anniversary of the day Ignatius Loyola died. When one is declared a saint, the Church generally chooses the date of death to remember so holy a life.

While this is a big day for Jesuits, millions of people celebrate it throughout the world. So many lives have been touched by the legacy of Saint Ignatius and they take comfort in remembering him this day. This July 31 marks yet another milestone; today Jesuits in Rome will celebrate Mass with the first Jesuit Pope at the Church of the Gesu beside the tomb of Saint Ignatius. I doubt that Saint Ignatius ever imagined such a scene in his lifetime, but with God all things are possible.

This year I take great comfort in the words of Pope Francis who shares his Jesuit vocation with the universal Church. This past week on the famed Copacabana beach in Brazil, Pope Francis encouraged young people “to get in shape.” But he wasn’t talking about their bodies, he was talking about their prayer life. He said, “By talking to Jesus in prayer, we can face every situation in life undaunted.” Saint Ignatius Loyola loved the world, and he never wanted us to be afraid of it. Let’s use this day to embrace this world that Ignatius loved so much, and may our own prayer with Jesus replace our fear with hope.

Fr. Timothy Kesicki, SJ, Provincial of the Chicago-Detroit Province

Prayer

Lord, where do you send us to bring your love and mercy to others? There are no borders, no limits: you send us to everyone. Grant us the grace to remember that your love is not only for those who seem close to us, more receptive, more welcoming. It is for everyone.  Help us not to be afraid to go and to bring the Gospel into every area of life, to the fringes of society, even to those who seem farthest away, most indifferent. You seek all, and you want everyone to feel the warmth of your mercy and love.

—Pope Francis, adapted from World Youth Day Homily, July 28, 2013


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July 30, 2013

Matthew 13: 36-43

Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels.

Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!

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

Active Service

This year’s World Youth Day, held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil closed on Sunday with Mass celebrated by Pope Francis with nearly 3 million young pilgrims at Campus Fidei.  This gathering site became a gigantic meeting tent where the Holy Father invited all present to lives of prayer and simplicity, leadership and active service –service especially of the poor and those on the margins of society.

Moses’ words in today’s reading from Exodus were certainly echoed on Sunday in Brazil:  “The Lord, a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity, continuing his kindness for a thousand generations.”  Surely those present formed one of those “thousand generations” Moses was speaking about.

The challenge of any large spiritual gathering—especially one as moving as WYD—is to translate the spiritual energy and personal enthusiasm into daily practice.  For all of us in the shadow of this global faith event today’s gospel offers a cue.  How is that in an ongoing way we harvest the good seed from this event into the routine of our daily living?  “Whoever has ears ought to hear,”  Jesus exclaims.  What have I heard and seen recently that moves me to gather in even a small part of this spiritual harvest … just today?!

Dear Young People:  do not bury your talents, the gifts that God has given you!  Do not be afraid to dream of great things.  The Holy Spirit truly transforms us.  With our cooperation, he also wants to transform the world we live in.          

Pope Francis

—The Jesuit Prayer Team

Prayer

Lord, we believe that we are here
not here by chance, but by your choosing. Your
hand formed us and made us the people we are.
You compare us to no one else —
we are one of a kind. We lack nothing  your grace
can’t give us. You have allowed us to be here at
this time in history to fulfill your special purpose
for this generation.

Roy Lessin, author of Christian daily devotions


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July 29, 2013

St. Martha

Luke 10: 38-42

Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.”

But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.

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 “Both / And” of Daily Living

This is the memorial feast day for St. Martha.  She is one of my favorite and personally familiar women in the bible.  I oftentimes feel like the Martha described in this Gospel narrative:  that it is all up to me; that the more I accomplish the better I am as a person; that I will be recognized and appreciated for the hard work that I do.  Yeah, right!

It is often easy to play off Mary’s way as better than Martha’s.  In reality, both personal aspects of Mary and Martha are a part of my own sense of self.  There is always the interplay of both of these within me:  the contemplative, quiet and mindful Mary…along with the active, energetic and productive Martha.  A visual example of this reality is found in the familiar ying-yang symbol.

An essential invitation in Ignatian Spirituality is to become a “contemplative in action.”  Since both realities are essential aspects of our nature, they are thus essential aspects of a fruitful spiritual relationship with God.  One is not better than the other, but the balance of both is essential for effective daily living.

We fulfill our Christian vocations and live more meaningful lives when we both contemplatively welcome and receive God’s presence in our own lives, and actively express God’s love and forgiveness in word and action with our neighbors.  Faith is both contemplative and active, inward and outward, personal and communal.

How am I attentive to both the contemplative and active side of living and expressing my Christian vocation?  

—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 Jesus, teach me to be generous;
teach me to serve you
as you deserve,
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labor and not to seek reward,
except that of knowing that
I do your will.
Amen.

—St. Ignatius of Loyola


Please share the Good Word with your friends!

July 28, 2013

Luke 11: 1-13

He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial.”

And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.

“So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.

Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask 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

Transforming Grace … whether I want it or not!

Today we have that powerful image of the man banging late at night on his neighbor’s door, in search of food for his family —a reminder of the persistence you and I should always have in asking God for all we need.  The banging on the door is quite a vivid image of God’s passionate desire to hear our prayers, along with God’s readiness to lavish upon us those deeper human gifts we really need…rather than all the “things” we think we just gotta have.

Through this year’s July gospel lessons, Jesus teaches us quite forcefully that you and I are not the center of the universe.  So we are not to hoard God’s many gifts.  Rather, with the hospitality of open arms and generous hearts, we are invited to give generously all that we have been so lavishly blessed with … even those gifts that we find hard to receive, even that smallness of spirit we find difficult to confront, even those dark corners of our hearts we find hard to open to the sunshine of God’s transforming grace.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team

Prayer

Lord, when interruptions enter our lives, we can be confused by the change of our plans. When darkness moves into our light, we can feel lost – unable to see you.  Yet you tell us to keep calling out to you. We will trust that the interruptions can bring blessings. And the darkness will not separate us from your faithfulness. This day we will knock and knock. And somehow, someway you will answer – or be preparing us for your answer.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


Please share the Good Word with your friends!

July 27, 2013

Matthew 13: 24-30

He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’

He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”

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

Those Insidious Weeds

A common definition of a weed is any undesirable plant that chokes out more desirable or productive plants. Weeds compete and often win the battle for scarce life-giving resources such as water, soil and sun.

Last month I had the opportunity to visit a wheat farm in western Kansas. Only a few days from harvest the farmer drove me slowly along the edge of the field. Suddenly he stopped the pickup to uproot some wild rye that had blown into the field. Unlike the farmer in the parable, he didn’t even wait until harvest since the rye vigorously re-seeds itself in the field. His vigilance amazed me since, to an untrained eye, the rye looked just like the wheat which is a clever disguise for a weed.

Sometimes things that seem good can obscure our truest purpose, or the end for which we are created. Are there weed-like attachments or attitudes in my life that conflict with the purpose for which I was created?

“…One must use created things, in so far as they help towards one’s end, and free oneself from them, in so far as they are obstacles to one’s end.” Excerpt from St. Ignatius, First Principle and Foundation).

John Sealey is the provincial assistant for social and international ministries for the Chicago-Detroit and Wisconsin Jesuit provinces.

Prayer

Lord, some days it is so easy to trust in you; other days trust escapes my heart and mind. In those times of fear and uncertainty, please help me to hold on to you and keep alive my belief that ultimately all will be well.  And should I be clinging to any attachments or attitudes that conflict with the purpose for which I was created, give me the resolve to release myself of these hindrances and commitment myself entirely to you.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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July 26, 2013

Saints Joachim and Anne, Parents of the Virgin Mary

Matthew 13: 18-23

“Hear then the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

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

Our Christian Mission Is To Be Good Dirt

One of my favorite images of God is as a gardener. In Genesis we encounter a God who “planted a garden in Eden” and walked through it “at the time of the evening breeze” (2:8–3:8). This week the parable of the sower invites us to dig a little deeper.

After sharing the parable with a huge crowd, Jesus explains it to his disciples: God is the sower, the Word is the seed, and we are the different types of soil.

We’re like the footpath if we hear the Word, but fail to understand it and allow it to be snatched away. We’re like the rocky ground if we receive the Word with initial enthusiasm, but allow it to die, especially in times of trial. We’re like the thorny ground if we hear the Word, but let the cares of the world choke it out. We’re like the fertile soil if we hear the Word, understand it, and let it take root in our lives so that it bears fruit.

Pause and reflect: What kind of soil am I?

Thomas Merton teaches that God is like a gardener who uses every moment and every event to plant something of spiritual significance in our lives. Our Christian mission, then, is to be “good dirt” for the seeds of faith that God plants in our lives.

What spiritual practices help you receive the Word and grow in God’s love? How might you become a better “soul gardener”?

—Jeremy Langford, Director of Communications for the Chicago-Detroit Province Jesuits and author of Seeds of Faith: Practices to Grow a Healthy Spiritual Life ©2007 Paraclete Press, Brewster, MA.

Prayer

In his book New Seeds of Contemplation (Boston: Shambhala, 2003), Thomas Merton writes:

Every moment and every event of every
person’s life on earth plants something
in his or her soul. For just as the wind
carries thousands of winged seeds, so
each moment brings with it germs of
spiritual vitality that come to rest
imperceptibly in our minds and wills.
Most of these unnumbered seeds
perish and are lost, because we are not
prepared to receive them: for such
seeds as these cannot spring up
anywhere except in the good soil of
freedom, spontaneity and love
Loving and gracious God, today we ask for the grace to be good soil.
Help us allow you to grow in and through us!

—Jeremy Langford, Director of Communications for the Chicago-Detroit Province Jesuits and author of Seeds of Faith: Practices to Grow a Healthy Spiritual Life ©2007 Paraclete Press, Brewster, MA. 


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July 25, 2013

St. James, Apostle

2 Corinthians  4: 7-15

But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies.

For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. But just as we have the same spirit of faith that is in accordance with scripture—“I believed, and so I spoke” —we also believe, and so we speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus, and will bring us with you into his presence.

Yes, everything is for your sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory 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

The Treasure We Seek Cannot Be Lost

Today is the Feast of St. James, one of the first disciples and Jesus’ closest friends. Long time ago though it was, we remember St. James because he was with Jesus at some of the most crucial junctures of his life: the Transfiguration on the mountaintop, the long night between the Last Supper and the Passion.  In our own age of searching and journeying, St. James is remembered not so much for the friendships he kept as for lending his name to the long and hugely popular pilgrimage route that follows the coast of Spain called the Santiago de Compostela.

Sometimes (often when I’m succumbing to the dull weight of expectations or feeling the gap between such and my ability to live up to them) it’s a surprise to me that in Anno Domini 2013 such religious pilgrimages are more popular than they’ve ever been. And yet at other times I am less surprised, more grateful because what (I believe) so many seek on those long Spanish roads is what human beings have always sought.

It’s the same thing we hear Paul reminding the Corinthians of, and Jesus reprimanding his friends (yes, even St. James) about, it’s the good news: that the treasure we seek cannot be lost because it is not ours to lose but God’s to give. The good news:  that the gift we are given is to live our greatness together as humble, loving servants of one another and of the poorest and most vulnerable.

—Fr. Patrick “Paddy” Gilger, SJ, was ordained on June 15, 2013, and is serving as Associate Pastor of St. John’s Parish, Creighton University, Omaha. Click here for an Ignatian News Network video on ordination featuring Fr. Gilger.

Prayer

Lord, we search for that which will brings us true success. We seek for our families that which will bring them enduring fulfillment. You have given us the pathway to such joy.  “Whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all” Today may our decisions and the ways we spend our time follow your call to greatness.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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July 24, 2013

Exodus 16: 1-5. 9-15

The whole congregation of the Israelites set out from Elim; and Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had departed from the land of Egypt. The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness.

The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” Then the Lord said to Moses, “I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather on other days.”

Then Moses said to Aaron, “Say to the whole congregation of the Israelites, ‘Draw near to the Lord, for he has heard your complaining.’“ And as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the Israelites, they looked toward the wilderness, and the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud. The Lord spoke to Moses and said, “I have heard the complaining of the Israelites; say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.’“

In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat.

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

True Freedom

“The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence” …  “Comparisons are odious.” These are two old sayings which came to my mind as I listened to our first reading this morning. The Israelites definitely see the grass as having been greener in Egypt, even though they were in bondage. And they compare their bondage in Egypt to their hunger in the desert, choosing bondage as the better of two poor alternatives.

I can think of many times in my life when I have compared myself to others to no good end. In our youth we might have asked why we were not bigger and taller and stronger so we could be just as good an athlete as Johnny? In our early working career we might have asked why we were not promoted as quickly as Mike, our work was better than his? Later in life we might ask why our retirement nest egg is not as big as our neighbor:  certainly we worked just as long and hard!

I can’t say that any of these comparisons have really given me freedom and fuller life. To the contrary, they have often led me to envy and a great lack of freedom. Nevertheless, naming these thoughts and bringing them to God has helped me see how they bind me and do not really address what is truly most important in life. Just as with the Israelites, God provides what I really need, not what I think I need. So let’s always remember to bring these thoughts to the Lord our God, just as we bring more positive thoughts to Him in good times.

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

Prayer

Lord, thank you so much for never comparing me to anyone else. May I use my gifts to be faithful to my purpose in life. And should I begin to negatively compare myself to others, help me to bring such thoughts to you so I can adjust my thinking to support a heart of gratitude.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


Please share the Good Word with your friends!

July 23, 2013

Exodus 14: 30 – 15: 1

Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. Israel saw the great work that the Lord did against the Egyptians. So the people feared the Lord and believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses.

Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the Lord: “I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; horse and rider he has thrown into the sea.

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

From Slavery to Freedom

Since July 15 we have begun to pray with texts from the Book of Exodus which describes the liberation of Israel from Egypt.  The people of Israel suffered terrible oppression during their years of slavery. The birth of Moses and his call from the Lord all prepare for the liberation of Israel. Today the Israelites complete their passage to freedom and sing a triumphant canticle of joy.

During the chase through the Red Sea, the chariot wheels of the Egyptians became clogged, preventing their pursuit of Israel.  You and I might reflect this mid-summer day on anything that might “clog” our relationship with our God: what lack of honesty, integrity, or other selfish behavior clogs my spirit this week?  What practical steps can I take towards a more open and generous outreach to the Lord and to those I meet today?  What “song of joy” is our God trying to stir in my soul?

If we act like children of God, knowing that he loves us, our lives will be made new, filled with serenity and joy.   –Pope Francis on April 10, 2013

The Jesuit Prayer Team

Prayer

Lord, we desire to be one with you; to think like you; to act like you and love like you. Take possession of our life. Change it, transform it, and free it from any darkness that tries to block your light from us. And we will follow you in spite of our limitations and weaknesses.

—Pope Francis, Adapted from Homily, April 10, 2013


Please share the Good Word with your friends!

July 22, 2013

St. Mary Magdalene

John 20: 1-2. 11-18

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.”

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”

When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher).

Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

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

Let’s Not Limit God or Ourselves

Jesus seems to have had a close relationship with Mary Magdalene. Indeed, in this account from John’s Gospel, Mary Magdalene is the first disciple to whom Jesus greets after His resurrection.

Still, Jesus says to her, “Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father.” A way of interpreting this could be “do not hold me back by your worldly expectations.” Mary had been used to, and expected, Jesus to be a certain way. That was part of the comfortable and easy way they related previously. But this is different now. Jesus’ risen body is the different…and yet Jesus familiarly calls out to her as He always did.

In our own lives, there are times when God is familiar and comfortable. God can also be full of surprises, and challenges. If we hold or cling on only to the God who is familiar and comfortable, we also limit God, and ourselves, by our worldly expectations and limited imagination.

What can we do, then? Just like Mary Magdalene, we can try to be open to seeing God for how God is, rather than how we would like. And when we have seen the LORD, we can go out to all the world and tell the good news. 

—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, there are times when you are familiar and our relationship with you is comfortable. But when we experience you as our God of surprises and challenges, we may limit you and ourselves by our worldly expectations and limited imagination. Heighten our quest to love you more dearly by trying to see you as you are rather than how we want you to be.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


Please share the Good Word with your friends!

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July 31, 2013

St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits

Matthew 13: 44-46

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought 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

Embracing the World

How many of you still celebrate feast days? They’re not unlike birthdays; they come around once a year, always on the same date and help us to remember who we’re named for. I can’t imagine a “surprise feast-day party” or singing “Happy Feast Day to you . . .” but they do mark major milestones and can be the occasion of a good party. Today we celebrate the 447th anniversary of the day Ignatius Loyola died. When one is declared a saint, the Church generally chooses the date of death to remember so holy a life.

While this is a big day for Jesuits, millions of people celebrate it throughout the world. So many lives have been touched by the legacy of Saint Ignatius and they take comfort in remembering him this day. This July 31 marks yet another milestone; today Jesuits in Rome will celebrate Mass with the first Jesuit Pope at the Church of the Gesu beside the tomb of Saint Ignatius. I doubt that Saint Ignatius ever imagined such a scene in his lifetime, but with God all things are possible.

This year I take great comfort in the words of Pope Francis who shares his Jesuit vocation with the universal Church. This past week on the famed Copacabana beach in Brazil, Pope Francis encouraged young people “to get in shape.” But he wasn’t talking about their bodies, he was talking about their prayer life. He said, “By talking to Jesus in prayer, we can face every situation in life undaunted.” Saint Ignatius Loyola loved the world, and he never wanted us to be afraid of it. Let’s use this day to embrace this world that Ignatius loved so much, and may our own prayer with Jesus replace our fear with hope.

Fr. Timothy Kesicki, SJ, Provincial of the Chicago-Detroit Province

Prayer

Lord, where do you send us to bring your love and mercy to others? There are no borders, no limits: you send us to everyone. Grant us the grace to remember that your love is not only for those who seem close to us, more receptive, more welcoming. It is for everyone.  Help us not to be afraid to go and to bring the Gospel into every area of life, to the fringes of society, even to those who seem farthest away, most indifferent. You seek all, and you want everyone to feel the warmth of your mercy and love.

—Pope Francis, adapted from World Youth Day Homily, July 28, 2013


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July 30, 2013

Matthew 13: 36-43

Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels.

Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!

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

Active Service

This year’s World Youth Day, held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil closed on Sunday with Mass celebrated by Pope Francis with nearly 3 million young pilgrims at Campus Fidei.  This gathering site became a gigantic meeting tent where the Holy Father invited all present to lives of prayer and simplicity, leadership and active service –service especially of the poor and those on the margins of society.

Moses’ words in today’s reading from Exodus were certainly echoed on Sunday in Brazil:  “The Lord, a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity, continuing his kindness for a thousand generations.”  Surely those present formed one of those “thousand generations” Moses was speaking about.

The challenge of any large spiritual gathering—especially one as moving as WYD—is to translate the spiritual energy and personal enthusiasm into daily practice.  For all of us in the shadow of this global faith event today’s gospel offers a cue.  How is that in an ongoing way we harvest the good seed from this event into the routine of our daily living?  “Whoever has ears ought to hear,”  Jesus exclaims.  What have I heard and seen recently that moves me to gather in even a small part of this spiritual harvest … just today?!

Dear Young People:  do not bury your talents, the gifts that God has given you!  Do not be afraid to dream of great things.  The Holy Spirit truly transforms us.  With our cooperation, he also wants to transform the world we live in.          

Pope Francis

—The Jesuit Prayer Team

Prayer

Lord, we believe that we are here
not here by chance, but by your choosing. Your
hand formed us and made us the people we are.
You compare us to no one else —
we are one of a kind. We lack nothing  your grace
can’t give us. You have allowed us to be here at
this time in history to fulfill your special purpose
for this generation.

Roy Lessin, author of Christian daily devotions


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July 29, 2013

St. Martha

Luke 10: 38-42

Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.”

But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.

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 “Both / And” of Daily Living

This is the memorial feast day for St. Martha.  She is one of my favorite and personally familiar women in the bible.  I oftentimes feel like the Martha described in this Gospel narrative:  that it is all up to me; that the more I accomplish the better I am as a person; that I will be recognized and appreciated for the hard work that I do.  Yeah, right!

It is often easy to play off Mary’s way as better than Martha’s.  In reality, both personal aspects of Mary and Martha are a part of my own sense of self.  There is always the interplay of both of these within me:  the contemplative, quiet and mindful Mary…along with the active, energetic and productive Martha.  A visual example of this reality is found in the familiar ying-yang symbol.

An essential invitation in Ignatian Spirituality is to become a “contemplative in action.”  Since both realities are essential aspects of our nature, they are thus essential aspects of a fruitful spiritual relationship with God.  One is not better than the other, but the balance of both is essential for effective daily living.

We fulfill our Christian vocations and live more meaningful lives when we both contemplatively welcome and receive God’s presence in our own lives, and actively express God’s love and forgiveness in word and action with our neighbors.  Faith is both contemplative and active, inward and outward, personal and communal.

How am I attentive to both the contemplative and active side of living and expressing my Christian vocation?  

—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 Jesus, teach me to be generous;
teach me to serve you
as you deserve,
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labor and not to seek reward,
except that of knowing that
I do your will.
Amen.

—St. Ignatius of Loyola


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July 28, 2013

Luke 11: 1-13

He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial.”

And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.

“So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.

Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask 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

Transforming Grace … whether I want it or not!

Today we have that powerful image of the man banging late at night on his neighbor’s door, in search of food for his family —a reminder of the persistence you and I should always have in asking God for all we need.  The banging on the door is quite a vivid image of God’s passionate desire to hear our prayers, along with God’s readiness to lavish upon us those deeper human gifts we really need…rather than all the “things” we think we just gotta have.

Through this year’s July gospel lessons, Jesus teaches us quite forcefully that you and I are not the center of the universe.  So we are not to hoard God’s many gifts.  Rather, with the hospitality of open arms and generous hearts, we are invited to give generously all that we have been so lavishly blessed with … even those gifts that we find hard to receive, even that smallness of spirit we find difficult to confront, even those dark corners of our hearts we find hard to open to the sunshine of God’s transforming grace.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team

Prayer

Lord, when interruptions enter our lives, we can be confused by the change of our plans. When darkness moves into our light, we can feel lost – unable to see you.  Yet you tell us to keep calling out to you. We will trust that the interruptions can bring blessings. And the darkness will not separate us from your faithfulness. This day we will knock and knock. And somehow, someway you will answer – or be preparing us for your answer.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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July 27, 2013

Matthew 13: 24-30

He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’

He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”

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

Those Insidious Weeds

A common definition of a weed is any undesirable plant that chokes out more desirable or productive plants. Weeds compete and often win the battle for scarce life-giving resources such as water, soil and sun.

Last month I had the opportunity to visit a wheat farm in western Kansas. Only a few days from harvest the farmer drove me slowly along the edge of the field. Suddenly he stopped the pickup to uproot some wild rye that had blown into the field. Unlike the farmer in the parable, he didn’t even wait until harvest since the rye vigorously re-seeds itself in the field. His vigilance amazed me since, to an untrained eye, the rye looked just like the wheat which is a clever disguise for a weed.

Sometimes things that seem good can obscure our truest purpose, or the end for which we are created. Are there weed-like attachments or attitudes in my life that conflict with the purpose for which I was created?

“…One must use created things, in so far as they help towards one’s end, and free oneself from them, in so far as they are obstacles to one’s end.” Excerpt from St. Ignatius, First Principle and Foundation).

John Sealey is the provincial assistant for social and international ministries for the Chicago-Detroit and Wisconsin Jesuit provinces.

Prayer

Lord, some days it is so easy to trust in you; other days trust escapes my heart and mind. In those times of fear and uncertainty, please help me to hold on to you and keep alive my belief that ultimately all will be well.  And should I be clinging to any attachments or attitudes that conflict with the purpose for which I was created, give me the resolve to release myself of these hindrances and commitment myself entirely to you.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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July 26, 2013

Saints Joachim and Anne, Parents of the Virgin Mary

Matthew 13: 18-23

“Hear then the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

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

Our Christian Mission Is To Be Good Dirt

One of my favorite images of God is as a gardener. In Genesis we encounter a God who “planted a garden in Eden” and walked through it “at the time of the evening breeze” (2:8–3:8). This week the parable of the sower invites us to dig a little deeper.

After sharing the parable with a huge crowd, Jesus explains it to his disciples: God is the sower, the Word is the seed, and we are the different types of soil.

We’re like the footpath if we hear the Word, but fail to understand it and allow it to be snatched away. We’re like the rocky ground if we receive the Word with initial enthusiasm, but allow it to die, especially in times of trial. We’re like the thorny ground if we hear the Word, but let the cares of the world choke it out. We’re like the fertile soil if we hear the Word, understand it, and let it take root in our lives so that it bears fruit.

Pause and reflect: What kind of soil am I?

Thomas Merton teaches that God is like a gardener who uses every moment and every event to plant something of spiritual significance in our lives. Our Christian mission, then, is to be “good dirt” for the seeds of faith that God plants in our lives.

What spiritual practices help you receive the Word and grow in God’s love? How might you become a better “soul gardener”?

—Jeremy Langford, Director of Communications for the Chicago-Detroit Province Jesuits and author of Seeds of Faith: Practices to Grow a Healthy Spiritual Life ©2007 Paraclete Press, Brewster, MA.

Prayer

In his book New Seeds of Contemplation (Boston: Shambhala, 2003), Thomas Merton writes:

Every moment and every event of every
person’s life on earth plants something
in his or her soul. For just as the wind
carries thousands of winged seeds, so
each moment brings with it germs of
spiritual vitality that come to rest
imperceptibly in our minds and wills.
Most of these unnumbered seeds
perish and are lost, because we are not
prepared to receive them: for such
seeds as these cannot spring up
anywhere except in the good soil of
freedom, spontaneity and love
Loving and gracious God, today we ask for the grace to be good soil.
Help us allow you to grow in and through us!

—Jeremy Langford, Director of Communications for the Chicago-Detroit Province Jesuits and author of Seeds of Faith: Practices to Grow a Healthy Spiritual Life ©2007 Paraclete Press, Brewster, MA. 


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July 25, 2013

St. James, Apostle

2 Corinthians  4: 7-15

But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies.

For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. But just as we have the same spirit of faith that is in accordance with scripture—“I believed, and so I spoke” —we also believe, and so we speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus, and will bring us with you into his presence.

Yes, everything is for your sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory 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

The Treasure We Seek Cannot Be Lost

Today is the Feast of St. James, one of the first disciples and Jesus’ closest friends. Long time ago though it was, we remember St. James because he was with Jesus at some of the most crucial junctures of his life: the Transfiguration on the mountaintop, the long night between the Last Supper and the Passion.  In our own age of searching and journeying, St. James is remembered not so much for the friendships he kept as for lending his name to the long and hugely popular pilgrimage route that follows the coast of Spain called the Santiago de Compostela.

Sometimes (often when I’m succumbing to the dull weight of expectations or feeling the gap between such and my ability to live up to them) it’s a surprise to me that in Anno Domini 2013 such religious pilgrimages are more popular than they’ve ever been. And yet at other times I am less surprised, more grateful because what (I believe) so many seek on those long Spanish roads is what human beings have always sought.

It’s the same thing we hear Paul reminding the Corinthians of, and Jesus reprimanding his friends (yes, even St. James) about, it’s the good news: that the treasure we seek cannot be lost because it is not ours to lose but God’s to give. The good news:  that the gift we are given is to live our greatness together as humble, loving servants of one another and of the poorest and most vulnerable.

—Fr. Patrick “Paddy” Gilger, SJ, was ordained on June 15, 2013, and is serving as Associate Pastor of St. John’s Parish, Creighton University, Omaha. Click here for an Ignatian News Network video on ordination featuring Fr. Gilger.

Prayer

Lord, we search for that which will brings us true success. We seek for our families that which will bring them enduring fulfillment. You have given us the pathway to such joy.  “Whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all” Today may our decisions and the ways we spend our time follow your call to greatness.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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July 24, 2013

Exodus 16: 1-5. 9-15

The whole congregation of the Israelites set out from Elim; and Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had departed from the land of Egypt. The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness.

The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” Then the Lord said to Moses, “I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather on other days.”

Then Moses said to Aaron, “Say to the whole congregation of the Israelites, ‘Draw near to the Lord, for he has heard your complaining.’“ And as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the Israelites, they looked toward the wilderness, and the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud. The Lord spoke to Moses and said, “I have heard the complaining of the Israelites; say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.’“

In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat.

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

True Freedom

“The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence” …  “Comparisons are odious.” These are two old sayings which came to my mind as I listened to our first reading this morning. The Israelites definitely see the grass as having been greener in Egypt, even though they were in bondage. And they compare their bondage in Egypt to their hunger in the desert, choosing bondage as the better of two poor alternatives.

I can think of many times in my life when I have compared myself to others to no good end. In our youth we might have asked why we were not bigger and taller and stronger so we could be just as good an athlete as Johnny? In our early working career we might have asked why we were not promoted as quickly as Mike, our work was better than his? Later in life we might ask why our retirement nest egg is not as big as our neighbor:  certainly we worked just as long and hard!

I can’t say that any of these comparisons have really given me freedom and fuller life. To the contrary, they have often led me to envy and a great lack of freedom. Nevertheless, naming these thoughts and bringing them to God has helped me see how they bind me and do not really address what is truly most important in life. Just as with the Israelites, God provides what I really need, not what I think I need. So let’s always remember to bring these thoughts to the Lord our God, just as we bring more positive thoughts to Him in good times.

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

Prayer

Lord, thank you so much for never comparing me to anyone else. May I use my gifts to be faithful to my purpose in life. And should I begin to negatively compare myself to others, help me to bring such thoughts to you so I can adjust my thinking to support a heart of gratitude.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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July 23, 2013

Exodus 14: 30 – 15: 1

Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. Israel saw the great work that the Lord did against the Egyptians. So the people feared the Lord and believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses.

Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the Lord: “I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; horse and rider he has thrown into the sea.

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

From Slavery to Freedom

Since July 15 we have begun to pray with texts from the Book of Exodus which describes the liberation of Israel from Egypt.  The people of Israel suffered terrible oppression during their years of slavery. The birth of Moses and his call from the Lord all prepare for the liberation of Israel. Today the Israelites complete their passage to freedom and sing a triumphant canticle of joy.

During the chase through the Red Sea, the chariot wheels of the Egyptians became clogged, preventing their pursuit of Israel.  You and I might reflect this mid-summer day on anything that might “clog” our relationship with our God: what lack of honesty, integrity, or other selfish behavior clogs my spirit this week?  What practical steps can I take towards a more open and generous outreach to the Lord and to those I meet today?  What “song of joy” is our God trying to stir in my soul?

If we act like children of God, knowing that he loves us, our lives will be made new, filled with serenity and joy.   –Pope Francis on April 10, 2013

The Jesuit Prayer Team

Prayer

Lord, we desire to be one with you; to think like you; to act like you and love like you. Take possession of our life. Change it, transform it, and free it from any darkness that tries to block your light from us. And we will follow you in spite of our limitations and weaknesses.

—Pope Francis, Adapted from Homily, April 10, 2013


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July 22, 2013

St. Mary Magdalene

John 20: 1-2. 11-18

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.”

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”

When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher).

Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

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

Let’s Not Limit God or Ourselves

Jesus seems to have had a close relationship with Mary Magdalene. Indeed, in this account from John’s Gospel, Mary Magdalene is the first disciple to whom Jesus greets after His resurrection.

Still, Jesus says to her, “Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father.” A way of interpreting this could be “do not hold me back by your worldly expectations.” Mary had been used to, and expected, Jesus to be a certain way. That was part of the comfortable and easy way they related previously. But this is different now. Jesus’ risen body is the different…and yet Jesus familiarly calls out to her as He always did.

In our own lives, there are times when God is familiar and comfortable. God can also be full of surprises, and challenges. If we hold or cling on only to the God who is familiar and comfortable, we also limit God, and ourselves, by our worldly expectations and limited imagination.

What can we do, then? Just like Mary Magdalene, we can try to be open to seeing God for how God is, rather than how we would like. And when we have seen the LORD, we can go out to all the world and tell the good news. 

—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, there are times when you are familiar and our relationship with you is comfortable. But when we experience you as our God of surprises and challenges, we may limit you and ourselves by our worldly expectations and limited imagination. Heighten our quest to love you more dearly by trying to see you as you are rather than how we want you to be.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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