August 31, 2013

Mt 25: 14-30

“For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them .Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’

And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’

Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest.

So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

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 Best for the Lord

St. Ignatius Loyola asks those who make a retreat to consider one’s life from the vantage point of one’s death.  It is an imagined scene, but eventually a real one.  The retreatant is asked to judge his choices from that backward and final glance.  Did I, as the Gospel suggests, live a full Christian life or am I now about to enter eternal life unfulfilled?  Yes, I can certainly point to good thoughts, deeds, kindnesses to others and adoration of my God.  But I am not returning to God all that He had hoped I would be.  After thinking of these things, I return to the present, to prepare for death and life with God.

What can I offer Him?  What will I offer Him?  Other human beings are a constant, living example of successful, but also miserable choices.  Let me think of Christ, who chose wisely, valiantly.

­–John Kilgallen, SJ, Chicago-Detroit province Jesuit, is emeritus professor at the Pontifical Biblical Institute, Rome.

Prayer

Lord, if I want to be mindful of my talents and use those gifts to their fullest, I must ask that your Spirit unite with my spirit. On my own I may let greed, selfishness, or self-doubt minimize my talents. When I surrender myself to you, I discover that I am more capable, more secure, and more aware of seizing opportunities and serving others more completely and more consistently. Lord, I will not complain that others have more talents than I do. I will trust that you gave me just the right type and the right amount of gifts to serve you day by day.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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August 30, 2013

Mt 25: 1-13

“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept.

But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise replied, ‘No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’

And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’

Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.

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

We’ve Struck Oil!

The parable of the wise and foolish virgins is perfect fodder for literary criticism; it’s the stuff of Joyce and Eliot and O’Neill. Here we have an allegory that makes us dance between the story and the deeper meaning. Are the ten bridesmaids married to one bridegroom? Where is the bride? What’s with the oil, and why did each bridesmaid need a lamp—couldn’t they share the light enough to interact with the bridegroom? Why would the bridegroom say he didn’t recognize five of the ten bridesmaids?

As my head reels, I can hear St. Ignatius saying, “Don’t be so literal! Use your imagination and engage your heart!”

Okay, now I see a little better . . . Like marriage, the relationship between God and his people is deeply intimate. Like the bridesmaids, the disciples and all people of faith wait in joyful hope for the coming of our savior, Jesus Christ (the bridegroom). And like the wise bridesmaids, we need to have enough “oil” so we can see Christ present in the world.

Ignatius calls us to linger when we’ve struck gold, or in this case, oil. As we wait in joyful hope, what lights our lamps is the oil of open hearts, love of the “other,” and works of mercy. In our Catholic tradition, oil doesn’t just light our lamps, it is used to anoint the newly baptized, catechumens, newly ordained priests, and the sick. Oil is loaded with ancient symbolism and meaning.

Today, let’s reflect on how we can stay awake and see Christ at work in the world. Let’s light our lamps with the oil of love and keep them burning through a spirit of generosity. 

—Jeremy Langford is the 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

Lord, let us live this day with no regrets. May we count our blessings when we feel downhearted or overwhelmed. May we see the magic in the common and seize opportunity though fear may try to hold us back.  May we remember those who loved us so much on earth, confident that we will one day be one with them. Here I am, Lord, I come to do your will.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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August 29, 2013

Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist

Mk 6: 17-29

For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because Herod had married her. For John had been telling Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.”  And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him.

But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee. When his daughter Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it.  ”And he solemnly swore to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.  ”She went out and said to her mother, “What should I ask for?” She replied, “The head of John the baptizer.  ”Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.”

The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her. Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.

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

Jesus, let’s talk!

Do you think Mary ever had a conversation with Jesus about the death of his cousin, John the Baptist? Mary might have asked, “Son, wasn’t there anything you could have done to save your poor cousin’s life — at least you could have spared him such a gruesome death. Jesus, I feel awful for his followers. How traumatic to bury the remains of John’s body. Help me understand, son, why you let all of this happen.”

Yet Mary understood that John’s death was a precursor to her son’s horrific fate. Sometimes we call out to Mary about the inconceivable hurt, tragedy, loss in our own lives. We don’t understand the why for the suffering. How bizarre that John the Baptist would suffer such a hideous death just to placate Herod’s selfish, vengeful wife. It seems almost a travesty of John’s life.

Yet we hold to our Lord’s promise. Nothing will separate us from his love. While we are vulnerable, we cling to his life preserving love that never abandons us — despite the surface reality. Though we don’t understand why we must endure suffering, our faith assures us that suffering and death will not have the last word. Somehow through it all we will arrive at a deeper understanding of our life’s purpose. We will find a way through because we will keep our eyes fixed on “The Way.”

—The Jesuit Prayer Team

Prayer

Lord, too, often when our position, power, image, or likeability is threatened, our backbone crumbles as the other’s reputation is decimated. Grant us your grace to surrender to you and to fill up on your love and protection. Surround us with co-workers, family members, and friends who strengthen our resolve to face conflict with truth and to remain loyal to the one wrongly accused.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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August 28, 2013

St. Augustine

Matthew 23: 27-32

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth. So you also on the outside look righteous to others, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous, and you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ Thus you testify against yourselves that you are descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your ancestors.

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

Sorrow and Grace

Jesus speaks very harsh words to the scribes and Pharisees in today’s gospel. My first reaction is to put quite a bit of distance between myself and them. I even go so far as to thank God that I am not like them. But upon further thought, maybe I am missing the opportunity to grow and come closer to God. Maybe I am not being totally honest with myself.

In the First Week of the Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius has us pray for a profound sense of, and sorrow for our own sinfulness. When I do this, the words of Jesus come home to me. While I don’t intend to make a public confession, I do realize where I have allowed evil and sin to become part of what I say and do and think. I realize that I have often been less than a good steward of the wonderful gifts God has given me. I realize that while outwardly appearing righteous, there is hypocrisy and evildoing inside.

Thank goodness the First Week does not end there. We also contemplate God, the source of all life and love. We contemplate all of God’s creation which gives us life and strength. We contemplate all the people God puts in our lives, who love us so much. We are filled with wonder at all the ways God shows His forgiving love to us. Responding to His love and grace, we want to rid ourselves of the evil and sin in our lives. We give thanks for God’s unconditional love and grace.

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

Prayer

Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy.
Act in me, O Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy.
Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit, that I love but what is holy.
Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit, to defend all that is holy.
Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit, that I always may be holy. Amen.

St. Augustine of Hippo


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August 27, 2013

St. Monica

1 Thessalonians 2: 1-8

You yourselves know, brothers and sisters, that our coming to you was not in vain, but though we had already suffered and been shamefully mistreated at Philippi, as you know, we had courage in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in spite of great opposition. For our appeal does not spring from deceit or impure motives or trickery, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the message of the gospel, even so we speak, not to please mortals, but to please God who tests our hearts.

As you know and as God is our witness, we never came with words of flattery or with a pretext for greed; nor did we seek praise from mortals, whether from you or from others, though we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children. So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us.

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

Love and Life TODAY

Today is the feast of St. Monica, the mother of St. Augustine.  She is the model of caring and concern for one’s child.  St. Paul uses this tender image in our first reading: “We were gentle among you, as a nursing mother cares for her children.  With such affection for you, we were determined to share with you not only the gospel of God, but our very selves as well, so dearly beloved had you become to us.”

This makes me think of C.S. Lewis’ description of love in The Four Loves:  friendship, erotic/romantic love, self-donating (agape) love, and parental love.  I think caring love, is a combination of God’s love for us (agape, which means total self-giving), and parental love, as when a parent gets up in the night to calm and soothe a frightened child, or lets their food get cold while tending the little one in the high chair.  May St. Monica ask that God inspire us to giving such caring love.

So what will “caring love” look like for me today?

—Fr. Robert Braunreuther, S.J., a Jesuit of the New England province,  assists in University Ministry at Loyola University Chicago, where he is also minister of the Arrupe House Jesuit community.

Prayer

Lord, some days we are overjoyed with our children’s efforts, values, and decisions; other days we worry so much for their life direction. Some days we feel like award winning parents, other days like parents watching our children drown. We can’t swim and no lifesaving raft exists. Calm our hearts; Quadruple our trust. Remind us that no one loves our children more than you. Give us the wisdom to blend compassion and firmness and may your Spirit guide us to know when to hold tight and when to let go.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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August 26, 2013

Matthew 23: 13-22

“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. For you do not go in yourselves, and when others are going in, you stop them. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cross sea and land to make a single convert, and you make the new convert twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.

“Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the sanctuary is bound by nothing, but whoever swears by the gold of the sanctuary is bound by the oath.’ You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the sanctuary that has made the gold sacred? And you say, ‘Whoever swears by the altar is bound by nothing, but whoever swears by the gift that is on the altar is bound by the oath.’ How blind you are!

For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? So whoever swears by the altar, swears by it and by everything on it; and whoever swears by the sanctuary, swears by it and by the one who dwells in it; and whoever swears by heaven, swears by the throne of God and by the one who is seated upon 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

Woe to you, hypocrites!

It’s so easy to look around and find the scribes and Pharisees of our own day. I have done this often myself. I can argue for a better ecclesiology than some that are emphasized, or which rules should take precedence over others. I may even be right in what I’m arguing.

As a theologian I certainly believe there is a place for such deliberations and that these discussions are important. At the same time, today’s Gospel challenges us in two ways. First, rather than pointing fingers, maybe we should consider the ways in which we might be the scribes and the Pharisees. Is there any way in which Paul’s “woes” are aimed at us? (Certainly not!) Second, how can we rise above such discussions in our day-to-day practice of our faith and in the evangelization we are called to?

Pope Francis has given us a great model so far.  In his first several months as Pope, he seems to be following his namesake’s famous quote: “Preach the gospel; use words only when necessary.” Such an adage may lessen the rhetoric and Pharisaic moments and help us all live out the Gospel and preach it more fully.

Prayer

Creator God,

Jesus’ mission was to reconcile the world in Christ. Help us to remember that everything Jesus did—healing, teaching, reprimanding—were only signs of that deeper miracle which is the re-creation of the world. Reconciliation is the re-creation of the world, which is Jesus’ profound mission of redemption of sinners.

Help us also to remember that Jesus did not redeem us with words, with actions or by walking on the road. He did it with his flesh. It is truly he, God, who becomes one of us, to heal us from within. Let our daily focus be on accepting the grace and healing that comes from Jesus.

Adapted from Pope Francis homily of July 4, 2013

—Elizabeth Collier has degrees from three different Jesuit universities, including a PhD in Christian Ethics from Loyola University Chicago. She teaches at Dominican University in River Forest, IL.


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August 25, 2013

Luke 13: 22-30

Jesus went through one town and village after another, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem.

Someone asked him, “Lord, will only a few be saved?” He said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able. When once the owner of the house has got up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then in reply he will say to you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’

Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ But he will say, ‘I do not know where you come from; go away from me, all you evildoers!’ There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrown out. Then people will come from east and west, from north and south, and will eat in the kingdom of God. Indeed, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”

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 Door of Life

The story is told of Jack Kerouac who set out “On the Road” expecting to reach a moment of vision.  But later on he wrote he had missed something.  “I’d thought when I got to the top, and everybody leaves . . . ,  I will come face to face with God or Buddha and find out once and for all what is the meaning of all this existence and suffering . . . . but instead I’d come face to face with myself, no liquor, no drugs, no chance of faking it, face to face with ole Hateful Me.”

He was at the narrow door, self-recognition without faking it. It’s the essential struggle we all face, to be honest with ourselves as we look toward God in hope. What’s left now is to say Yes to our essential poverty, giving up the escapes, and trusting that the banquet beyond is truly meant for us, without earning it.

The question from the sidelines about who’s going to be saved is an effort to sidestep the narrow door. “Hey look, I’ve belonged to a fairly decent culture, a churchgoing family, a good parish. I’ve had the best education, and I know all about you, Lord Jesus:  you remember, you taught in my school? I’ve eaten and drunk at your table!” What could be missing?  Here, at the door of life? ME, I could be missing.  Our actual self, our burden and our gift.

Such a learning for the disciple I wish it were easier. But no, the fakery is over. Our heart softens. We come to know the Lord now, encouraging us, heart aching for us. We begin again, as if for the first time.

So what about me—today, August 25, 2013?

—Fr. Richard Bollman, S.J., a Jesuit of the Chicago-Detroit province, has  been the long-time pastor at St. Robert Bellarmine Chapel of Xavier University, Cincinnati.  He now works with Xavier’s Center for Mission and Identity.

Prayer

Lord, you stand at the narrow gate encouraging us onward. You call out to us concerned that we have too much stuff to drag through the gate. Stuff wrapped in negativity, comparisons, grudges, and beaten down self-esteem.  You remain at the gate faithfully coaching us through it.  We take your hand. And you will pull us through the narrow gate.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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August 24, 2013

St. Bartholomew, Apostle

John 1: 45-51

­­Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!”

Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”

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

Honesty and Belief

St. Bartholemew (aka Nathaniel) was the only one of the Twelve praised by Jesus for a quality: “no duplicity in him”.  Often it seems very hard not to be duplicitous, not to be dishonest.  Yet Jesus, deceiving no one in his dealings with everyone, knew and practiced honesty.  This honesty is not only about being fair or telling the truth, but goes very deep into our souls: it does not deceive one’s God, one’s neighbor, oneself.

Maintaining and growing in our spiritual life demands honesty on all three fronts; it is necessary if the soil is to receive and make grow the seed.  Bartholemew’s lack of deceit made him interpret Jesus in the words, “What good can come from Nazareth?”  Honest, even forthright, but needing the assurance that, “if you believe, you will see things greater than you can imagine!”  It takes great honesty to really believe.

–­John Kilgallen, SJ, a Chicago-Detroit province Jesuit, is emeritus professor at the Pontifical Biblical Institute, Rome.

Prayer

Lord, we pray for the grace to speak the truth with courage and consideration. Give us the wisdom to address failed expectations or remarks that distort the truth about another’s character. As we prepare for those conversations, may your spirit guide our answers to three questions: What do I want for myself? What do I want for the other? And what do I want for the relationship?

–­The Jesuit Prayer Team


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August 23, 2013

St. Rose of Lima

Matthew 22: 34-40

When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

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

More Than Just a $20 Bill

A well-known speaker began his seminar by holding up a $20 bill. He asked, “Who would like this $20 bill?”  Hands started going up. “I am going to give this $20 to one of you – but first, let me do this.”  He proceeded to crumple up the 20 dollar bill. He then asked. “Who still wants it?”  The hands shot up in the air. “Well,” he replied, “what if I do this?” He dropped the money on the ground, grinding it into the floor and then picked it up — crumpled and dirty. “Now, who still wants it?” Still the hands enthusiastically went into the air.

“My friends, you have all learned a very valuable lesson. No matter what I did to the money, you still wanted it because the money did not decrease in value. It is still worth $20.  Many times in our lives, we are dropped, crumpled, and ground into the dirt by the decisions we make and the circumstances that come our way. We feel as though we are worthless; but no matter what happened or what will happen, we will never lose our value. The worth of our lives comes, not in what we do or who we know, but in WHO WE ARE.”  (Author Unknown)

The Pharisees puffed up their self-worth by grounding people down. In their zeal to win converts, the Pharisees required unnecessary and burdensome rules. Such requirements obscured the more important matters of religion — love of God and love of neighbor. They led people to Pharisaism rather than to God. Jesus abhorred this mindset that locked people out of the kingdom of heaven. In time we will lose everything – life is a series of letting go. But like that tarnished $20 bill, our value remains eternal because of our Lord’s eternal love.

If today you don’t feel particularly loveable or don’t feel particularly like loving others, no problem.  Ask for our Lord’s help and move out in faith -– hour by hour.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team

Prayer

Lord, help us to understand your law of love. Though we may be angry with someone, we will pray for that person. We want to take a step forward in this law of love.  We pray to do this today.

—Adapted from Pope Francis’ homily, June 12, 2013


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August 22, 2013

Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Judges 11: 29-39a

The Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah. He passed through Gilead and Manasseh, and through Mizpah-Gilead as well, and from there he went on to the Ammonites. Jephthah made a vow to the LORD.  “If you deliver the Ammonites into my power,” he said, “whoever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites shall belong to the LORD, I shall offer him up as a burnt offering.”

Jephthah then went on to the Ammonites to fight against them, and the LORD delivered them into his power, so that he inflicted a severe defeat on them, from Aroer to the approach of Minnith (twenty cities in all) and as far as Abel-keramim. Thus were the Ammonites brought into subjection by the children of Israel.

When Jephthah returned to his house in Mizpah, it was his daughter who came forth, playing the tambourines and dancing. She was an only child: he had neither son nor daughter besides her. When he saw her, he rent his garments and said, “Alas, daughter, you have struck me down and brought calamity upon me. For I have made a vow to the Lord and I cannot retract.”

She replied, “Father, you have made a vow to the LORD. Do with me as you have vowed, because the LORD has wrought vengeance for you on your enemies the Ammonites.

Then she said to her father, “Let me have this favor. Spare me for two months, that I may go off down the mountains to mourn my virginity with my companions.” “Go,” he replied, and sent her away for two months. So she departed with her companions and mourned her virginity on the mountains. At the end of the two months she returned to her father, who did to her as he had vowed.

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

A Vow to the Lord

Today’s first reading taps into a deep fear, that if I make a commitment to God, God will take what is most dear to me, what I love the most, what I fear to live without.  A decision to call on God for aid that seemed strong, brave and bold in the moment backfires on Jephthah as he is ripped apart by the consequences of his rash vow.

It would be easy to critique the appropriateness of Jephthah’s vow, but that might cause us to miss that his daughter amazingly agrees to help him uphold his promise. Though she mourns a life that might have been, his daughter returns to help her father keep his vow and offers her life for the sake of her people. The rest of the story of Jephthah reveals that the memory of her sacrifice was honored by the women of Israel through the ages.

Mary’s yes to God combined both Jephthah’s holy boldness and his daughter’s supreme humility.  It must have been quite a jolt to receive Simeon’s prophecy when they were celebrating the fulfillment of much longed for prayers, but her heart was pierced as she watched and waited with her son as he made the ultimate sacrifice of his life for ours.

We don’t know much about Jephthah in the aftermath of his daughter’s death, except that he soldiered on, leading the Israelites for another six years as Judge. That he was retained as a leader leads me to imagine that his brashness must have been tempered, at least in dealing with his own people. Perhaps a spirit of mercy and compassion grew out of the loss of his beloved daughter.

We also don’t know for sure what happened with Mary. People must have recognized that her experience of the cross had a magnifying effect on her capacity for mercy and compassion. Traditions that grew over time suggest people recognized a spirit within her that became evident at the cross and prompted a desire to honor her as the mother of mercy.

We can’t always know where the consequences of our choices will lead — for ourselves and for those we accompany who face life changing decisions. Instead of becoming paralyzed by fear or dissociating from our emotions with stoic resolve, perhaps we need to ask for the grace or desire for the grace to allow our hearts to be pierced and broken. We pray that the mercy, compassion and love of Jesus can transform us so we might become instruments of his grace for the sake of others.

Mary, Queen of Heaven, come to our aid!

—Jenéne Francis, is Provincial Assistant for Pastoral Ministries, Chicago-Detroit   Province and Wisconsin Province

Prayer

Hail Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy, our life our sweetness and our hope. To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve; To thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears. Turn then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us, and after this our exile show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary!

Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.


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August 31, 2013

Mt 25: 14-30

“For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them .Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’

And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’

Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest.

So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

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 Best for the Lord

St. Ignatius Loyola asks those who make a retreat to consider one’s life from the vantage point of one’s death.  It is an imagined scene, but eventually a real one.  The retreatant is asked to judge his choices from that backward and final glance.  Did I, as the Gospel suggests, live a full Christian life or am I now about to enter eternal life unfulfilled?  Yes, I can certainly point to good thoughts, deeds, kindnesses to others and adoration of my God.  But I am not returning to God all that He had hoped I would be.  After thinking of these things, I return to the present, to prepare for death and life with God.

What can I offer Him?  What will I offer Him?  Other human beings are a constant, living example of successful, but also miserable choices.  Let me think of Christ, who chose wisely, valiantly.

­–John Kilgallen, SJ, Chicago-Detroit province Jesuit, is emeritus professor at the Pontifical Biblical Institute, Rome.

Prayer

Lord, if I want to be mindful of my talents and use those gifts to their fullest, I must ask that your Spirit unite with my spirit. On my own I may let greed, selfishness, or self-doubt minimize my talents. When I surrender myself to you, I discover that I am more capable, more secure, and more aware of seizing opportunities and serving others more completely and more consistently. Lord, I will not complain that others have more talents than I do. I will trust that you gave me just the right type and the right amount of gifts to serve you day by day.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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August 30, 2013

Mt 25: 1-13

“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept.

But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise replied, ‘No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’

And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’

Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.

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

We’ve Struck Oil!

The parable of the wise and foolish virgins is perfect fodder for literary criticism; it’s the stuff of Joyce and Eliot and O’Neill. Here we have an allegory that makes us dance between the story and the deeper meaning. Are the ten bridesmaids married to one bridegroom? Where is the bride? What’s with the oil, and why did each bridesmaid need a lamp—couldn’t they share the light enough to interact with the bridegroom? Why would the bridegroom say he didn’t recognize five of the ten bridesmaids?

As my head reels, I can hear St. Ignatius saying, “Don’t be so literal! Use your imagination and engage your heart!”

Okay, now I see a little better . . . Like marriage, the relationship between God and his people is deeply intimate. Like the bridesmaids, the disciples and all people of faith wait in joyful hope for the coming of our savior, Jesus Christ (the bridegroom). And like the wise bridesmaids, we need to have enough “oil” so we can see Christ present in the world.

Ignatius calls us to linger when we’ve struck gold, or in this case, oil. As we wait in joyful hope, what lights our lamps is the oil of open hearts, love of the “other,” and works of mercy. In our Catholic tradition, oil doesn’t just light our lamps, it is used to anoint the newly baptized, catechumens, newly ordained priests, and the sick. Oil is loaded with ancient symbolism and meaning.

Today, let’s reflect on how we can stay awake and see Christ at work in the world. Let’s light our lamps with the oil of love and keep them burning through a spirit of generosity. 

—Jeremy Langford is the 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

Lord, let us live this day with no regrets. May we count our blessings when we feel downhearted or overwhelmed. May we see the magic in the common and seize opportunity though fear may try to hold us back.  May we remember those who loved us so much on earth, confident that we will one day be one with them. Here I am, Lord, I come to do your will.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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August 29, 2013

Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist

Mk 6: 17-29

For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because Herod had married her. For John had been telling Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.”  And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him.

But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee. When his daughter Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it.  ”And he solemnly swore to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.  ”She went out and said to her mother, “What should I ask for?” She replied, “The head of John the baptizer.  ”Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.”

The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her. Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.

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

Jesus, let’s talk!

Do you think Mary ever had a conversation with Jesus about the death of his cousin, John the Baptist? Mary might have asked, “Son, wasn’t there anything you could have done to save your poor cousin’s life — at least you could have spared him such a gruesome death. Jesus, I feel awful for his followers. How traumatic to bury the remains of John’s body. Help me understand, son, why you let all of this happen.”

Yet Mary understood that John’s death was a precursor to her son’s horrific fate. Sometimes we call out to Mary about the inconceivable hurt, tragedy, loss in our own lives. We don’t understand the why for the suffering. How bizarre that John the Baptist would suffer such a hideous death just to placate Herod’s selfish, vengeful wife. It seems almost a travesty of John’s life.

Yet we hold to our Lord’s promise. Nothing will separate us from his love. While we are vulnerable, we cling to his life preserving love that never abandons us — despite the surface reality. Though we don’t understand why we must endure suffering, our faith assures us that suffering and death will not have the last word. Somehow through it all we will arrive at a deeper understanding of our life’s purpose. We will find a way through because we will keep our eyes fixed on “The Way.”

—The Jesuit Prayer Team

Prayer

Lord, too, often when our position, power, image, or likeability is threatened, our backbone crumbles as the other’s reputation is decimated. Grant us your grace to surrender to you and to fill up on your love and protection. Surround us with co-workers, family members, and friends who strengthen our resolve to face conflict with truth and to remain loyal to the one wrongly accused.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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August 28, 2013

St. Augustine

Matthew 23: 27-32

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth. So you also on the outside look righteous to others, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous, and you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ Thus you testify against yourselves that you are descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your ancestors.

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

Sorrow and Grace

Jesus speaks very harsh words to the scribes and Pharisees in today’s gospel. My first reaction is to put quite a bit of distance between myself and them. I even go so far as to thank God that I am not like them. But upon further thought, maybe I am missing the opportunity to grow and come closer to God. Maybe I am not being totally honest with myself.

In the First Week of the Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius has us pray for a profound sense of, and sorrow for our own sinfulness. When I do this, the words of Jesus come home to me. While I don’t intend to make a public confession, I do realize where I have allowed evil and sin to become part of what I say and do and think. I realize that I have often been less than a good steward of the wonderful gifts God has given me. I realize that while outwardly appearing righteous, there is hypocrisy and evildoing inside.

Thank goodness the First Week does not end there. We also contemplate God, the source of all life and love. We contemplate all of God’s creation which gives us life and strength. We contemplate all the people God puts in our lives, who love us so much. We are filled with wonder at all the ways God shows His forgiving love to us. Responding to His love and grace, we want to rid ourselves of the evil and sin in our lives. We give thanks for God’s unconditional love and grace.

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

Prayer

Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy.
Act in me, O Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy.
Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit, that I love but what is holy.
Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit, to defend all that is holy.
Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit, that I always may be holy. Amen.

St. Augustine of Hippo


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August 27, 2013

St. Monica

1 Thessalonians 2: 1-8

You yourselves know, brothers and sisters, that our coming to you was not in vain, but though we had already suffered and been shamefully mistreated at Philippi, as you know, we had courage in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in spite of great opposition. For our appeal does not spring from deceit or impure motives or trickery, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the message of the gospel, even so we speak, not to please mortals, but to please God who tests our hearts.

As you know and as God is our witness, we never came with words of flattery or with a pretext for greed; nor did we seek praise from mortals, whether from you or from others, though we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children. So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us.

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

Love and Life TODAY

Today is the feast of St. Monica, the mother of St. Augustine.  She is the model of caring and concern for one’s child.  St. Paul uses this tender image in our first reading: “We were gentle among you, as a nursing mother cares for her children.  With such affection for you, we were determined to share with you not only the gospel of God, but our very selves as well, so dearly beloved had you become to us.”

This makes me think of C.S. Lewis’ description of love in The Four Loves:  friendship, erotic/romantic love, self-donating (agape) love, and parental love.  I think caring love, is a combination of God’s love for us (agape, which means total self-giving), and parental love, as when a parent gets up in the night to calm and soothe a frightened child, or lets their food get cold while tending the little one in the high chair.  May St. Monica ask that God inspire us to giving such caring love.

So what will “caring love” look like for me today?

—Fr. Robert Braunreuther, S.J., a Jesuit of the New England province,  assists in University Ministry at Loyola University Chicago, where he is also minister of the Arrupe House Jesuit community.

Prayer

Lord, some days we are overjoyed with our children’s efforts, values, and decisions; other days we worry so much for their life direction. Some days we feel like award winning parents, other days like parents watching our children drown. We can’t swim and no lifesaving raft exists. Calm our hearts; Quadruple our trust. Remind us that no one loves our children more than you. Give us the wisdom to blend compassion and firmness and may your Spirit guide us to know when to hold tight and when to let go.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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August 26, 2013

Matthew 23: 13-22

“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. For you do not go in yourselves, and when others are going in, you stop them. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cross sea and land to make a single convert, and you make the new convert twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.

“Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the sanctuary is bound by nothing, but whoever swears by the gold of the sanctuary is bound by the oath.’ You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the sanctuary that has made the gold sacred? And you say, ‘Whoever swears by the altar is bound by nothing, but whoever swears by the gift that is on the altar is bound by the oath.’ How blind you are!

For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? So whoever swears by the altar, swears by it and by everything on it; and whoever swears by the sanctuary, swears by it and by the one who dwells in it; and whoever swears by heaven, swears by the throne of God and by the one who is seated upon 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

Woe to you, hypocrites!

It’s so easy to look around and find the scribes and Pharisees of our own day. I have done this often myself. I can argue for a better ecclesiology than some that are emphasized, or which rules should take precedence over others. I may even be right in what I’m arguing.

As a theologian I certainly believe there is a place for such deliberations and that these discussions are important. At the same time, today’s Gospel challenges us in two ways. First, rather than pointing fingers, maybe we should consider the ways in which we might be the scribes and the Pharisees. Is there any way in which Paul’s “woes” are aimed at us? (Certainly not!) Second, how can we rise above such discussions in our day-to-day practice of our faith and in the evangelization we are called to?

Pope Francis has given us a great model so far.  In his first several months as Pope, he seems to be following his namesake’s famous quote: “Preach the gospel; use words only when necessary.” Such an adage may lessen the rhetoric and Pharisaic moments and help us all live out the Gospel and preach it more fully.

Prayer

Creator God,

Jesus’ mission was to reconcile the world in Christ. Help us to remember that everything Jesus did—healing, teaching, reprimanding—were only signs of that deeper miracle which is the re-creation of the world. Reconciliation is the re-creation of the world, which is Jesus’ profound mission of redemption of sinners.

Help us also to remember that Jesus did not redeem us with words, with actions or by walking on the road. He did it with his flesh. It is truly he, God, who becomes one of us, to heal us from within. Let our daily focus be on accepting the grace and healing that comes from Jesus.

Adapted from Pope Francis homily of July 4, 2013

—Elizabeth Collier has degrees from three different Jesuit universities, including a PhD in Christian Ethics from Loyola University Chicago. She teaches at Dominican University in River Forest, IL.


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August 25, 2013

Luke 13: 22-30

Jesus went through one town and village after another, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem.

Someone asked him, “Lord, will only a few be saved?” He said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able. When once the owner of the house has got up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then in reply he will say to you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’

Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ But he will say, ‘I do not know where you come from; go away from me, all you evildoers!’ There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrown out. Then people will come from east and west, from north and south, and will eat in the kingdom of God. Indeed, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”

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 Door of Life

The story is told of Jack Kerouac who set out “On the Road” expecting to reach a moment of vision.  But later on he wrote he had missed something.  “I’d thought when I got to the top, and everybody leaves . . . ,  I will come face to face with God or Buddha and find out once and for all what is the meaning of all this existence and suffering . . . . but instead I’d come face to face with myself, no liquor, no drugs, no chance of faking it, face to face with ole Hateful Me.”

He was at the narrow door, self-recognition without faking it. It’s the essential struggle we all face, to be honest with ourselves as we look toward God in hope. What’s left now is to say Yes to our essential poverty, giving up the escapes, and trusting that the banquet beyond is truly meant for us, without earning it.

The question from the sidelines about who’s going to be saved is an effort to sidestep the narrow door. “Hey look, I’ve belonged to a fairly decent culture, a churchgoing family, a good parish. I’ve had the best education, and I know all about you, Lord Jesus:  you remember, you taught in my school? I’ve eaten and drunk at your table!” What could be missing?  Here, at the door of life? ME, I could be missing.  Our actual self, our burden and our gift.

Such a learning for the disciple I wish it were easier. But no, the fakery is over. Our heart softens. We come to know the Lord now, encouraging us, heart aching for us. We begin again, as if for the first time.

So what about me—today, August 25, 2013?

—Fr. Richard Bollman, S.J., a Jesuit of the Chicago-Detroit province, has  been the long-time pastor at St. Robert Bellarmine Chapel of Xavier University, Cincinnati.  He now works with Xavier’s Center for Mission and Identity.

Prayer

Lord, you stand at the narrow gate encouraging us onward. You call out to us concerned that we have too much stuff to drag through the gate. Stuff wrapped in negativity, comparisons, grudges, and beaten down self-esteem.  You remain at the gate faithfully coaching us through it.  We take your hand. And you will pull us through the narrow gate.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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August 24, 2013

St. Bartholomew, Apostle

John 1: 45-51

­­Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!”

Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”

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

Honesty and Belief

St. Bartholemew (aka Nathaniel) was the only one of the Twelve praised by Jesus for a quality: “no duplicity in him”.  Often it seems very hard not to be duplicitous, not to be dishonest.  Yet Jesus, deceiving no one in his dealings with everyone, knew and practiced honesty.  This honesty is not only about being fair or telling the truth, but goes very deep into our souls: it does not deceive one’s God, one’s neighbor, oneself.

Maintaining and growing in our spiritual life demands honesty on all three fronts; it is necessary if the soil is to receive and make grow the seed.  Bartholemew’s lack of deceit made him interpret Jesus in the words, “What good can come from Nazareth?”  Honest, even forthright, but needing the assurance that, “if you believe, you will see things greater than you can imagine!”  It takes great honesty to really believe.

–­John Kilgallen, SJ, a Chicago-Detroit province Jesuit, is emeritus professor at the Pontifical Biblical Institute, Rome.

Prayer

Lord, we pray for the grace to speak the truth with courage and consideration. Give us the wisdom to address failed expectations or remarks that distort the truth about another’s character. As we prepare for those conversations, may your spirit guide our answers to three questions: What do I want for myself? What do I want for the other? And what do I want for the relationship?

–­The Jesuit Prayer Team


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August 23, 2013

St. Rose of Lima

Matthew 22: 34-40

When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

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

More Than Just a $20 Bill

A well-known speaker began his seminar by holding up a $20 bill. He asked, “Who would like this $20 bill?”  Hands started going up. “I am going to give this $20 to one of you – but first, let me do this.”  He proceeded to crumple up the 20 dollar bill. He then asked. “Who still wants it?”  The hands shot up in the air. “Well,” he replied, “what if I do this?” He dropped the money on the ground, grinding it into the floor and then picked it up — crumpled and dirty. “Now, who still wants it?” Still the hands enthusiastically went into the air.

“My friends, you have all learned a very valuable lesson. No matter what I did to the money, you still wanted it because the money did not decrease in value. It is still worth $20.  Many times in our lives, we are dropped, crumpled, and ground into the dirt by the decisions we make and the circumstances that come our way. We feel as though we are worthless; but no matter what happened or what will happen, we will never lose our value. The worth of our lives comes, not in what we do or who we know, but in WHO WE ARE.”  (Author Unknown)

The Pharisees puffed up their self-worth by grounding people down. In their zeal to win converts, the Pharisees required unnecessary and burdensome rules. Such requirements obscured the more important matters of religion — love of God and love of neighbor. They led people to Pharisaism rather than to God. Jesus abhorred this mindset that locked people out of the kingdom of heaven. In time we will lose everything – life is a series of letting go. But like that tarnished $20 bill, our value remains eternal because of our Lord’s eternal love.

If today you don’t feel particularly loveable or don’t feel particularly like loving others, no problem.  Ask for our Lord’s help and move out in faith -– hour by hour.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team

Prayer

Lord, help us to understand your law of love. Though we may be angry with someone, we will pray for that person. We want to take a step forward in this law of love.  We pray to do this today.

—Adapted from Pope Francis’ homily, June 12, 2013


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August 22, 2013

Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Judges 11: 29-39a

The Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah. He passed through Gilead and Manasseh, and through Mizpah-Gilead as well, and from there he went on to the Ammonites. Jephthah made a vow to the LORD.  “If you deliver the Ammonites into my power,” he said, “whoever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites shall belong to the LORD, I shall offer him up as a burnt offering.”

Jephthah then went on to the Ammonites to fight against them, and the LORD delivered them into his power, so that he inflicted a severe defeat on them, from Aroer to the approach of Minnith (twenty cities in all) and as far as Abel-keramim. Thus were the Ammonites brought into subjection by the children of Israel.

When Jephthah returned to his house in Mizpah, it was his daughter who came forth, playing the tambourines and dancing. She was an only child: he had neither son nor daughter besides her. When he saw her, he rent his garments and said, “Alas, daughter, you have struck me down and brought calamity upon me. For I have made a vow to the Lord and I cannot retract.”

She replied, “Father, you have made a vow to the LORD. Do with me as you have vowed, because the LORD has wrought vengeance for you on your enemies the Ammonites.

Then she said to her father, “Let me have this favor. Spare me for two months, that I may go off down the mountains to mourn my virginity with my companions.” “Go,” he replied, and sent her away for two months. So she departed with her companions and mourned her virginity on the mountains. At the end of the two months she returned to her father, who did to her as he had vowed.

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

A Vow to the Lord

Today’s first reading taps into a deep fear, that if I make a commitment to God, God will take what is most dear to me, what I love the most, what I fear to live without.  A decision to call on God for aid that seemed strong, brave and bold in the moment backfires on Jephthah as he is ripped apart by the consequences of his rash vow.

It would be easy to critique the appropriateness of Jephthah’s vow, but that might cause us to miss that his daughter amazingly agrees to help him uphold his promise. Though she mourns a life that might have been, his daughter returns to help her father keep his vow and offers her life for the sake of her people. The rest of the story of Jephthah reveals that the memory of her sacrifice was honored by the women of Israel through the ages.

Mary’s yes to God combined both Jephthah’s holy boldness and his daughter’s supreme humility.  It must have been quite a jolt to receive Simeon’s prophecy when they were celebrating the fulfillment of much longed for prayers, but her heart was pierced as she watched and waited with her son as he made the ultimate sacrifice of his life for ours.

We don’t know much about Jephthah in the aftermath of his daughter’s death, except that he soldiered on, leading the Israelites for another six years as Judge. That he was retained as a leader leads me to imagine that his brashness must have been tempered, at least in dealing with his own people. Perhaps a spirit of mercy and compassion grew out of the loss of his beloved daughter.

We also don’t know for sure what happened with Mary. People must have recognized that her experience of the cross had a magnifying effect on her capacity for mercy and compassion. Traditions that grew over time suggest people recognized a spirit within her that became evident at the cross and prompted a desire to honor her as the mother of mercy.

We can’t always know where the consequences of our choices will lead — for ourselves and for those we accompany who face life changing decisions. Instead of becoming paralyzed by fear or dissociating from our emotions with stoic resolve, perhaps we need to ask for the grace or desire for the grace to allow our hearts to be pierced and broken. We pray that the mercy, compassion and love of Jesus can transform us so we might become instruments of his grace for the sake of others.

Mary, Queen of Heaven, come to our aid!

—Jenéne Francis, is Provincial Assistant for Pastoral Ministries, Chicago-Detroit   Province and Wisconsin Province

Prayer

Hail Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy, our life our sweetness and our hope. To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve; To thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears. Turn then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us, and after this our exile show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary!

Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.


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