October 31, 2013

Rom 8: 31b-39

What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.

Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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

Greeting Others as We Would Greet Christ

Today is the feast of Alphonsus Rodriguez, a Jesuit brother who lived from 1532 to 1617. Alfonso did not have an easy life. He had very little education. His father died when Alfonso was 14. He married at the age of 26, but his wife and 3 children all died before Alfonso reached the age of 40. He suffered poor health. He entered the Society of Jesus in 1571, after many delays because of concerns about his poor health and lack of education.

After his novitiate training, Alfonso was assigned to the Jesuit college in Majorca, Spain. He worked as the porter there for over 40 years, greeting students at the door, giving them advice and encouragement, disbursing alms, and running errands as needed for the school. Perhaps the tragedies of his life gave Alfonso compassion for others, for many students benefited from Alfonso’s counsel and wisdom.

Being a porter is humble work. Alfonso imagined, however, that every time he greeted a student, he was welcoming Christ into his life.
Can we, like Alfonso, find joy in humbly serving our Lord? Can we greet everyone as we would greet Christ, and in particular be compassionate to those who are most in need?

—Ted Munz, S.J., Chicago-Detroit Province Jesuits

Prayer

Lord, we pray that the words of Saint Paul penetrate our thoughts, feelings, and actions so we live with profound hope and sincere service: “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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October 30, 2013

Rom 8: 26-30

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.

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

Come Holy Spirit!

Today we hear Paul talk with the Romans about the Spirit. Several verses before our reading this morning, Paul tells the Romans the Spirit actually dwells within them. During mass when the priest prepares the water and wine he says, “By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity.” God dwells within his people! This is amazing, we actually share in the Divine Life!

As I think about the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, two prayers come to mind. Whenever I am worried about something or trying to puzzle through a tough decision, the last two lines of this first prayer give me great comfort. No matter the troubles I face, through the Spirit I will continue to be created and renewed, as will the entire world!

Come Holy Spirit.
Fill the hearts of Your faithful.
Enkindle in us the fire of Your love.
Send forth Your Spirit.
And we shall be created.
And You will renew the face of the earth.

The second prayer, which we’ll close with today (below), is an adaptation of the daily prayer in the Vision 2000 prayer books by Mark Link, SJ. The last two lines challenge me and comfort me. The challenge is to be God’s presence in the world today. The comfort is to know it is God and grace, not simply my feeble efforts.

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

Prayer

Holy Spirit, you are within me
just as Jesus promised.
Hold me, guide me, encourage me,
confirm me.
Help me to carry out the work for which
I am created and called.
Allow me to see and to hear today,
with your wisdom.
Allow me to speak and to act today,
with your love.

—Adaptation of the daily opening prayer in the Vision 2000 prayer books by Mark Link, SJ


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October 29, 2013

Luke 13: 18-21

He said therefore, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what should I compare it? It is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in the garden; it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.”

And again he said, “To what should I compare the kingdom of God? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.”

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

Faith and Deeds

This is the first thing Jesus does NOT say in today’s Gospel: Here is your faith, a mustard seed.  Put your mustard seed of faith in your pocket, because that is all the faith you need.  This is the second thing Jesus does NOT say in today’s Gospel:  Here is your faith, yeast.  Keep your yeast of faith locked in the refrigerator so that it does not die.  Neither one of these are actual images of faith for Jesus—even though they are for us sometimes.

Faith for Jesus is not a noun, it is not a mustard seed, and it is not yeast.  Faith for Jesus is a verb in today’s Gospel. Faith is a mustard seed that is planted.  Faith is yeast that is mixed.  For us today what this means is that, when our faith is static or sterile, it is in fact not faith at all.  Jesus is challenging us to recognize the active nature of our faith.

Jesus reminds us that faith is a gift that is given to us.  But we need to mix and plant this faith in our everyday lives and in the lives of our neighbors and community.  In other words, we could substitute “faith” for “love” in St. Ignatius’ famous quote.  So that, after today’s Gospel, it would read, “Faith ought to show itself more in deeds than in words.”

—Adam DeLeon, S.J. is a Jesuit scholastic studying theology in preparation for ordination at Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, CA.

Prayer

Lord, whenever we doubt our potential to lead a life of significance help us to remember who sowed us. When we feel unworthy or overwhelmed help us to hear your voice that reminds us that you knew exactly which gifts we needed ( and did not need) to build your kingdom.

Grant us the grace to guard against comparing ourselves to others. And, Lord, should we feel discouraged or begin to underestimate our contribution, remind us that someone needs us to keep on growing!

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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October 28, 2013

Sts. Simon and Jude, apostles

Ephesians 2: 19-22

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for 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

Built Together into a Dwelling Place for God

When reflecting on the readings for today, the last line of the Ephesians passage caught my attention. Jews and Gentiles are no longer to see themselves as separated from each other or from the saints or from God. They are to see themselves as citizens with the saints, members of the household of God, and even part of the structure of God’s dwelling place.

What strikes me most is the description of us as “built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.” When I think about my own relationship with God and how I’m doing on my journey of faith and daily/weekly practice, I often focus on what I’m not doing or what virtues I’m sorely lacking. Although I know intellectually that we are interdependent and that this interdependence transcends our own time and place, my self-reflection does not often include this communal element.

By moving my reflection to include the reality of this life and journey as one that is for, with, and alongside others more fully, I am better able to overcome my own sinfulness and unworthiness. It’s the women I reflect and pray with each Sunday night via Skype who teach me that together we are more than we might be individually. It’s the people from my children’s school and our parish who teach me the power of community. It’s my colleagues from different faith traditions and disciplines on mission together to serve students who teach me how to cross boundaries.

How do I support those around me in their journey of faith? How do others support my journey? Where do I need to reach out to others more for support? Where do I need to reach out to others more to provide support?

—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.

Prayer

Creator God, give us companions whom we might support and who might support us as we seek to serve you and be your spiritual dwelling place in our part of the world this week.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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October 27, 2013

Luke 18: 9-14

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’

But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”

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

Yearning for Forgiveness

In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells a story about two characters well-known to his listeners.  The Pharisee is a man true to the religious norms of his time; he’s following all of the rules and is quite proud of himself.  All the people listening to Jesus’ story would have agreed with the Pharisee that he should be commended for being a good man.

Similarly, the tax collector is rightfully despised for being a traitor and thief.  Tax collectors must have had a lonely existence since, having betrayed their own people, they would have been publicly shunned. Their Roman masters would have similarly disdained such men regardless of their usefulness for tax collecting activities.  In truth, the tax collector has made bad choices, and he knows it.

Jesus could not have offered a parable that superficially presented two of the most opposite socially situated persons in his culture. And he draws a conclusion that any reflective listener knows is true: the socially reviled man is justified in approaching God, while the Pharisee is not.

It seems to me that Jesus is a genius at making distinctions.  He is able to cut through what only appears to be true so as to reveal the core of what is real. What is real in God’s view is the disposition of each of the men. The Pharisee approaches God with a sense that somehow he is owed something for following the rules. The tax collector acknowledges his moral failures, and approaches God with the humility of someone who knows he doesn’t deserve God’s love. Yet he longs to experience that divine love and forgiveness down deep in his heart.

How do you approach Jesus?  What is your   demeanor and attitude toward other people and the choices they make, even when they’re poor choices?

—Fr. Jim Prehn, S.J. is Vocation Director for the Chicago-Detroit Province of the Society of Jesus.  Learn more about the Jesuits at www.thinkjesuits.org  

Prayer

Lord, the depth of your sacrifice is incomprehensible. It is mind-boggling that you accepted the scourge and the thorns, the cross and the nails, and allowed the suffering inflicted by loneliness and abandonment to pierce your heart. Lord, if we cling to anything that mocks at your sacrifice, help us to admit our wrongdoing and to change our thoughts and actions.

Should we falter toward arrogance, help us to realize the truth about our motives. And guide us toward a spirit motivated by service and cautious of service motivated by ego and recognition.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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October 26, 2013

Luke 13: 1-9

At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. He asked them, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.”

Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, ‘See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’ He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’”

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

Spiritual Gardening

“Oh my God, teach me to be generous….” (St. Ignatius Loyola)

I am so grateful for the spiritual “gardeners” in my life who did not give up on me.  Despite my fits and starts, my doubts and many distractions, they cultivated my faith, feeding it with no guarantee that their efforts would ever bear fruit.  Their generosity of spirit has been a precious gift to me.

Today’s Gospel invites us to reflect on the importance of cultivating our own spiritual growth, but it is also a call to a greater generosity.  What does it mean for my life that God expects his faithful people to bear fruit?  Each of us, in our own way, affects the faith of others, for better or worse.  We do it by the witness of our lives.  We create the ground in which the faith of others can thrive.  That co-laboring with God to bring people into deeper communion with the divine is the response of a true disciple to God’s gift of love.

Can I be the generous gardener who says “Shower your grace on this person, Lord, and I will companion them so their faith may grow.”?

—Pam Coster is Executive Director of Charis Ministries. Founded in 2000, Charis Ministries reaches those in their 20s and 30s nationwide, nurturing their faith through retreats based in Ignatian spirituality.  www.charisministries.org

Prayer

Gracious God, thank you for the gift of those people in my life who have shown me your face and helped me grow in faith.  I name them now in love…….May the witness of their lives and trust in you ever be my guide.  Grant me the grace to help others discover the beauty of faith.  “May my living today reveal your goodness.”

—Pat Bergen, CSJ


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October 25, 2013

Luke 12: 54-59

He also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, ‘It is going to rain’; and so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat’; and it happens. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?“

And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right? Thus, when you go with your accuser before a magistrate, on the way make an effort to settle the case, or you may be dragged before the judge, and the judge hand you over to the officer, and the officer throw you in prison. I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the very last penny.”

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

Get to Know Jesus

Some years ago I asked a Jesuit friend and coworker, Fr. Daniel Flaherty, SJ, to serve as my spiritual director. Fr. Dan—then in his late 70s—agreed, and we got started on a variation of St. Ignatius’s Spiritual Exercises for busy people called the 19th annotation.

At the start, Fr. Dan did what any good director does—he put me at ease. “Listen,” he said with his booming voice, “there’s nothing complicated about the spiritual life. What it comes down to is this: God loves you. Do you love God? If so, are you ready to commit your life to him?

As Fr. Dan and I worked together for the next few months, things seemed to be going well. Drawing from graduate training in theology and many years in Catholic publishing, I was in a solid groove of reflecting on the prescribed passages and doing the daily Examen before bed. My weekly conversations with Fr. Dan were consistently lively and rich.

Then, one week after I’d summarized my thoughts on the material, Fr. Dan leaned back in his chair and said, “That’s all great, but I don’t hear you talking about feeling called by Jesus. What do you think Jesus wants of you at this moment, and are you willing to answer his call? Are you willing to follow him to the cross and beyond?”

Fr. Dan was right. After months of reading and reflecting, I still was approaching God from a distance. I could read all kinds of signs, but I was missing some of the most important ones. “Look,” he said, “I get it; my whole Jesuit life I’ve been the world’s best meditator. And I can talk about Scripture till the cows come home. But that’s not the point. The point is to get to know Jesus.”

As I learn how to be a companion of Christ, another piece of advice from Fr. Dan helps greatly: “Try to love others as Jesus loves you, and check in twice a day to see if you’re living the life Christ wants you to live.”

—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, where will I see your face this day? Where will I pause and ask for your direction? Where do I need your grace to listen better, to focus more on giving than receiving, and to slow down so I recognize the abundant gifts in my life? And when the day draws to a close, let me answer with a bold affirmation, “Yes, because of You, I brought a little more care, a little more happiness, and a little more hope to those whose journey weaved into the framework of my day.

—Jesuit Prayer Team

 


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October 24, 2013

Luke 12: 49-53

“I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!

From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

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 Are Companions

Andrew was angry when he came home for dinner tonight.  “I won’t follow him any more,” he said.  “It’s too demanding.  If you’re not for him, you’re against him.  If your treasure is not the Kingdom, then you will lose your life.  If you follow him, you will die with him.  He wants to set the earth on fire.  Some will decide for him, some will not.”

Well, Andrew has always been more cautious than I am.  The first hint of a storm, and he doesn’t want to take the boat out.  But, I have to admit, I left the dinner table, a bit upset myself, and headed down to the shore to quell my restless mood.

And there he was, alone by a fire, the waves lapping against the shore, the breeze soft, a sliver of the moon in the night sky.  I sat down.

“Andrew wasn’t a happy camper today,” he said.  That got my attention.   “It’s no wonder,” I rejoined.  He simply smiled.  So I asked him, “How can Andrew and I keep following you when you insist on such a singular focus to life?  With you, the Kingdom is an all or nothing proposition.  I don’t think we will ever have the strength to be like you.”

“Ah, Peter,” he responded, “We are friends, companions together.  Everything else follows from that.”

—Ted Munz, S.J., Chicago-Detroit Province Jesuits

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 Loyola, Prayer for Generosity
(Visit downloadable prayer cards for this and other prayers.)


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October 23, 2013

Rom 6: 12-18

Therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. What then? Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace?

By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted, and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.

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

Forgiveness and Love

Sin is the subject about which Paul speaks to the Romans in the first reading today. Sin and evil are subjects I tend to downplay in my own thinking and prayer. Confession is a sacrament I do not take advantage of frequently. Paul’s comments make me think about two references to sin which cause me to reconsider how little attention I pay to sin and evil.

The first is new and very refreshing. When asked who Jorge Mario Bergoglio is, Pope Francis responded “I am a sinner.” He went on to say “I trust in the infinite mercy and patience of our Lord, Jesus Christ.”  I know several other very holy Jesuits who would respond in the same way as our new Pope. I am certain they have a far deeper appreciation of sin,; an appreciation from which I would greatly benefit.

The second is almost five hundred years old. It comes from the first week of the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius Loyola. The grace of the first week of the Exercises is to know oneself as a sinner and to know with absolute certainty that God loves me, continues to create me, and invites me into more intimate union despite my sinfulness. It sounds to me like the Lord has given Pope Francis that grace of the first week of the Exercises in great abundance.

So, I resolve to more earnestly consider what sin and evil are in my life. I ask the Lord to bless me with the grace of the first week of the Spiritual Exercises.

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

Prayer

Help us, Lord, to live with no regrets. Are there talents we have not explored? Are there dreams that we have toyed with but have not given the proper attention? Are there friendships that we have put to the side until our lives slow down? Has our sense of gratitude become dulled? Do we keep looking to the future when we will finally focus on our spirituality?

This day, Lord, we want to live in the now, present to all the good things in our lives. We ask for your wisdom so we do give priority to that which really matters. Abolish our regrets as we seek to find you in the ordinary twists and turns of the day.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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October 22, 2013

Luke 12: 35-38

Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks. Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them. If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves.

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

Blessed Vigilance

One of the things you often get asked to do as a Jesuit scholastic is to participate in the weddings of friends and family. A few weeks ago, my friend asked me to read at his wedding in Philadelphia.  When we were talking about his wedding, what struck me is all of the details that go into a wedding: lists of stuff.  There are two ways to look at these details.  The first is to see them as a list of tasks, that if they are not completed the wedding is a failure.  Often this is how we look at life, not just weddings.  The fear of something going wrong is at the heart of this perspective, even in the preparation of such a joyous event.

But it seems to me that there is another way to look at a wedding, and also to approach the way we live our lives: by allowing our preparations, our vigilance to be a blessing to those we are preparing for.  As shocked as I was at all of the details needed for his wedding, my friend kept reminding me that he and his fiancée (now wife) prepared for their wedding so that they could celebrate more deeply with their loved ones.

Some of the happiest moments in the Gospels take place when Jesus is at a wedding.  Being at my friend’s wedding reminded me that I want to live my life with the same kind of blessed vigilance that he and his wife had, and that Jesus speaks about in today’s Gospel.

—Adam DeLeon, S.J. is a Jesuit scholastic studying theology in preparation for ordination at Jesuit School of Theology, Berkeley CA.

Prayer

Lord, you are knocking on our door. You beckon us toward hope, promise, and eternal surprise of astonishing joy. We fully commit all our thoughts and actions to you. And pray for gratitude as we witness the sunrises and sunsets of our life.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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October 31, 2013

Rom 8: 31b-39

What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.

Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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

Greeting Others as We Would Greet Christ

Today is the feast of Alphonsus Rodriguez, a Jesuit brother who lived from 1532 to 1617. Alfonso did not have an easy life. He had very little education. His father died when Alfonso was 14. He married at the age of 26, but his wife and 3 children all died before Alfonso reached the age of 40. He suffered poor health. He entered the Society of Jesus in 1571, after many delays because of concerns about his poor health and lack of education.

After his novitiate training, Alfonso was assigned to the Jesuit college in Majorca, Spain. He worked as the porter there for over 40 years, greeting students at the door, giving them advice and encouragement, disbursing alms, and running errands as needed for the school. Perhaps the tragedies of his life gave Alfonso compassion for others, for many students benefited from Alfonso’s counsel and wisdom.

Being a porter is humble work. Alfonso imagined, however, that every time he greeted a student, he was welcoming Christ into his life.
Can we, like Alfonso, find joy in humbly serving our Lord? Can we greet everyone as we would greet Christ, and in particular be compassionate to those who are most in need?

—Ted Munz, S.J., Chicago-Detroit Province Jesuits

Prayer

Lord, we pray that the words of Saint Paul penetrate our thoughts, feelings, and actions so we live with profound hope and sincere service: “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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October 30, 2013

Rom 8: 26-30

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.

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

Come Holy Spirit!

Today we hear Paul talk with the Romans about the Spirit. Several verses before our reading this morning, Paul tells the Romans the Spirit actually dwells within them. During mass when the priest prepares the water and wine he says, “By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity.” God dwells within his people! This is amazing, we actually share in the Divine Life!

As I think about the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, two prayers come to mind. Whenever I am worried about something or trying to puzzle through a tough decision, the last two lines of this first prayer give me great comfort. No matter the troubles I face, through the Spirit I will continue to be created and renewed, as will the entire world!

Come Holy Spirit.
Fill the hearts of Your faithful.
Enkindle in us the fire of Your love.
Send forth Your Spirit.
And we shall be created.
And You will renew the face of the earth.

The second prayer, which we’ll close with today (below), is an adaptation of the daily prayer in the Vision 2000 prayer books by Mark Link, SJ. The last two lines challenge me and comfort me. The challenge is to be God’s presence in the world today. The comfort is to know it is God and grace, not simply my feeble efforts.

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

Prayer

Holy Spirit, you are within me
just as Jesus promised.
Hold me, guide me, encourage me,
confirm me.
Help me to carry out the work for which
I am created and called.
Allow me to see and to hear today,
with your wisdom.
Allow me to speak and to act today,
with your love.

—Adaptation of the daily opening prayer in the Vision 2000 prayer books by Mark Link, SJ


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October 29, 2013

Luke 13: 18-21

He said therefore, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what should I compare it? It is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in the garden; it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.”

And again he said, “To what should I compare the kingdom of God? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.”

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

Faith and Deeds

This is the first thing Jesus does NOT say in today’s Gospel: Here is your faith, a mustard seed.  Put your mustard seed of faith in your pocket, because that is all the faith you need.  This is the second thing Jesus does NOT say in today’s Gospel:  Here is your faith, yeast.  Keep your yeast of faith locked in the refrigerator so that it does not die.  Neither one of these are actual images of faith for Jesus—even though they are for us sometimes.

Faith for Jesus is not a noun, it is not a mustard seed, and it is not yeast.  Faith for Jesus is a verb in today’s Gospel. Faith is a mustard seed that is planted.  Faith is yeast that is mixed.  For us today what this means is that, when our faith is static or sterile, it is in fact not faith at all.  Jesus is challenging us to recognize the active nature of our faith.

Jesus reminds us that faith is a gift that is given to us.  But we need to mix and plant this faith in our everyday lives and in the lives of our neighbors and community.  In other words, we could substitute “faith” for “love” in St. Ignatius’ famous quote.  So that, after today’s Gospel, it would read, “Faith ought to show itself more in deeds than in words.”

—Adam DeLeon, S.J. is a Jesuit scholastic studying theology in preparation for ordination at Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, CA.

Prayer

Lord, whenever we doubt our potential to lead a life of significance help us to remember who sowed us. When we feel unworthy or overwhelmed help us to hear your voice that reminds us that you knew exactly which gifts we needed ( and did not need) to build your kingdom.

Grant us the grace to guard against comparing ourselves to others. And, Lord, should we feel discouraged or begin to underestimate our contribution, remind us that someone needs us to keep on growing!

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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October 28, 2013

Sts. Simon and Jude, apostles

Ephesians 2: 19-22

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for 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

Built Together into a Dwelling Place for God

When reflecting on the readings for today, the last line of the Ephesians passage caught my attention. Jews and Gentiles are no longer to see themselves as separated from each other or from the saints or from God. They are to see themselves as citizens with the saints, members of the household of God, and even part of the structure of God’s dwelling place.

What strikes me most is the description of us as “built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.” When I think about my own relationship with God and how I’m doing on my journey of faith and daily/weekly practice, I often focus on what I’m not doing or what virtues I’m sorely lacking. Although I know intellectually that we are interdependent and that this interdependence transcends our own time and place, my self-reflection does not often include this communal element.

By moving my reflection to include the reality of this life and journey as one that is for, with, and alongside others more fully, I am better able to overcome my own sinfulness and unworthiness. It’s the women I reflect and pray with each Sunday night via Skype who teach me that together we are more than we might be individually. It’s the people from my children’s school and our parish who teach me the power of community. It’s my colleagues from different faith traditions and disciplines on mission together to serve students who teach me how to cross boundaries.

How do I support those around me in their journey of faith? How do others support my journey? Where do I need to reach out to others more for support? Where do I need to reach out to others more to provide support?

—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.

Prayer

Creator God, give us companions whom we might support and who might support us as we seek to serve you and be your spiritual dwelling place in our part of the world this week.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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October 27, 2013

Luke 18: 9-14

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’

But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”

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

Yearning for Forgiveness

In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells a story about two characters well-known to his listeners.  The Pharisee is a man true to the religious norms of his time; he’s following all of the rules and is quite proud of himself.  All the people listening to Jesus’ story would have agreed with the Pharisee that he should be commended for being a good man.

Similarly, the tax collector is rightfully despised for being a traitor and thief.  Tax collectors must have had a lonely existence since, having betrayed their own people, they would have been publicly shunned. Their Roman masters would have similarly disdained such men regardless of their usefulness for tax collecting activities.  In truth, the tax collector has made bad choices, and he knows it.

Jesus could not have offered a parable that superficially presented two of the most opposite socially situated persons in his culture. And he draws a conclusion that any reflective listener knows is true: the socially reviled man is justified in approaching God, while the Pharisee is not.

It seems to me that Jesus is a genius at making distinctions.  He is able to cut through what only appears to be true so as to reveal the core of what is real. What is real in God’s view is the disposition of each of the men. The Pharisee approaches God with a sense that somehow he is owed something for following the rules. The tax collector acknowledges his moral failures, and approaches God with the humility of someone who knows he doesn’t deserve God’s love. Yet he longs to experience that divine love and forgiveness down deep in his heart.

How do you approach Jesus?  What is your   demeanor and attitude toward other people and the choices they make, even when they’re poor choices?

—Fr. Jim Prehn, S.J. is Vocation Director for the Chicago-Detroit Province of the Society of Jesus.  Learn more about the Jesuits at www.thinkjesuits.org  

Prayer

Lord, the depth of your sacrifice is incomprehensible. It is mind-boggling that you accepted the scourge and the thorns, the cross and the nails, and allowed the suffering inflicted by loneliness and abandonment to pierce your heart. Lord, if we cling to anything that mocks at your sacrifice, help us to admit our wrongdoing and to change our thoughts and actions.

Should we falter toward arrogance, help us to realize the truth about our motives. And guide us toward a spirit motivated by service and cautious of service motivated by ego and recognition.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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October 26, 2013

Luke 13: 1-9

At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. He asked them, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.”

Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, ‘See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’ He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’”

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

Spiritual Gardening

“Oh my God, teach me to be generous….” (St. Ignatius Loyola)

I am so grateful for the spiritual “gardeners” in my life who did not give up on me.  Despite my fits and starts, my doubts and many distractions, they cultivated my faith, feeding it with no guarantee that their efforts would ever bear fruit.  Their generosity of spirit has been a precious gift to me.

Today’s Gospel invites us to reflect on the importance of cultivating our own spiritual growth, but it is also a call to a greater generosity.  What does it mean for my life that God expects his faithful people to bear fruit?  Each of us, in our own way, affects the faith of others, for better or worse.  We do it by the witness of our lives.  We create the ground in which the faith of others can thrive.  That co-laboring with God to bring people into deeper communion with the divine is the response of a true disciple to God’s gift of love.

Can I be the generous gardener who says “Shower your grace on this person, Lord, and I will companion them so their faith may grow.”?

—Pam Coster is Executive Director of Charis Ministries. Founded in 2000, Charis Ministries reaches those in their 20s and 30s nationwide, nurturing their faith through retreats based in Ignatian spirituality.  www.charisministries.org

Prayer

Gracious God, thank you for the gift of those people in my life who have shown me your face and helped me grow in faith.  I name them now in love…….May the witness of their lives and trust in you ever be my guide.  Grant me the grace to help others discover the beauty of faith.  “May my living today reveal your goodness.”

—Pat Bergen, CSJ


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October 25, 2013

Luke 12: 54-59

He also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, ‘It is going to rain’; and so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat’; and it happens. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?“

And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right? Thus, when you go with your accuser before a magistrate, on the way make an effort to settle the case, or you may be dragged before the judge, and the judge hand you over to the officer, and the officer throw you in prison. I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the very last penny.”

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

Get to Know Jesus

Some years ago I asked a Jesuit friend and coworker, Fr. Daniel Flaherty, SJ, to serve as my spiritual director. Fr. Dan—then in his late 70s—agreed, and we got started on a variation of St. Ignatius’s Spiritual Exercises for busy people called the 19th annotation.

At the start, Fr. Dan did what any good director does—he put me at ease. “Listen,” he said with his booming voice, “there’s nothing complicated about the spiritual life. What it comes down to is this: God loves you. Do you love God? If so, are you ready to commit your life to him?

As Fr. Dan and I worked together for the next few months, things seemed to be going well. Drawing from graduate training in theology and many years in Catholic publishing, I was in a solid groove of reflecting on the prescribed passages and doing the daily Examen before bed. My weekly conversations with Fr. Dan were consistently lively and rich.

Then, one week after I’d summarized my thoughts on the material, Fr. Dan leaned back in his chair and said, “That’s all great, but I don’t hear you talking about feeling called by Jesus. What do you think Jesus wants of you at this moment, and are you willing to answer his call? Are you willing to follow him to the cross and beyond?”

Fr. Dan was right. After months of reading and reflecting, I still was approaching God from a distance. I could read all kinds of signs, but I was missing some of the most important ones. “Look,” he said, “I get it; my whole Jesuit life I’ve been the world’s best meditator. And I can talk about Scripture till the cows come home. But that’s not the point. The point is to get to know Jesus.”

As I learn how to be a companion of Christ, another piece of advice from Fr. Dan helps greatly: “Try to love others as Jesus loves you, and check in twice a day to see if you’re living the life Christ wants you to live.”

—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, where will I see your face this day? Where will I pause and ask for your direction? Where do I need your grace to listen better, to focus more on giving than receiving, and to slow down so I recognize the abundant gifts in my life? And when the day draws to a close, let me answer with a bold affirmation, “Yes, because of You, I brought a little more care, a little more happiness, and a little more hope to those whose journey weaved into the framework of my day.

—Jesuit Prayer Team

 


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October 24, 2013

Luke 12: 49-53

“I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!

From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

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 Are Companions

Andrew was angry when he came home for dinner tonight.  “I won’t follow him any more,” he said.  “It’s too demanding.  If you’re not for him, you’re against him.  If your treasure is not the Kingdom, then you will lose your life.  If you follow him, you will die with him.  He wants to set the earth on fire.  Some will decide for him, some will not.”

Well, Andrew has always been more cautious than I am.  The first hint of a storm, and he doesn’t want to take the boat out.  But, I have to admit, I left the dinner table, a bit upset myself, and headed down to the shore to quell my restless mood.

And there he was, alone by a fire, the waves lapping against the shore, the breeze soft, a sliver of the moon in the night sky.  I sat down.

“Andrew wasn’t a happy camper today,” he said.  That got my attention.   “It’s no wonder,” I rejoined.  He simply smiled.  So I asked him, “How can Andrew and I keep following you when you insist on such a singular focus to life?  With you, the Kingdom is an all or nothing proposition.  I don’t think we will ever have the strength to be like you.”

“Ah, Peter,” he responded, “We are friends, companions together.  Everything else follows from that.”

—Ted Munz, S.J., Chicago-Detroit Province Jesuits

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 Loyola, Prayer for Generosity
(Visit downloadable prayer cards for this and other prayers.)


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October 23, 2013

Rom 6: 12-18

Therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. What then? Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace?

By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted, and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.

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

Forgiveness and Love

Sin is the subject about which Paul speaks to the Romans in the first reading today. Sin and evil are subjects I tend to downplay in my own thinking and prayer. Confession is a sacrament I do not take advantage of frequently. Paul’s comments make me think about two references to sin which cause me to reconsider how little attention I pay to sin and evil.

The first is new and very refreshing. When asked who Jorge Mario Bergoglio is, Pope Francis responded “I am a sinner.” He went on to say “I trust in the infinite mercy and patience of our Lord, Jesus Christ.”  I know several other very holy Jesuits who would respond in the same way as our new Pope. I am certain they have a far deeper appreciation of sin,; an appreciation from which I would greatly benefit.

The second is almost five hundred years old. It comes from the first week of the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius Loyola. The grace of the first week of the Exercises is to know oneself as a sinner and to know with absolute certainty that God loves me, continues to create me, and invites me into more intimate union despite my sinfulness. It sounds to me like the Lord has given Pope Francis that grace of the first week of the Exercises in great abundance.

So, I resolve to more earnestly consider what sin and evil are in my life. I ask the Lord to bless me with the grace of the first week of the Spiritual Exercises.

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

Prayer

Help us, Lord, to live with no regrets. Are there talents we have not explored? Are there dreams that we have toyed with but have not given the proper attention? Are there friendships that we have put to the side until our lives slow down? Has our sense of gratitude become dulled? Do we keep looking to the future when we will finally focus on our spirituality?

This day, Lord, we want to live in the now, present to all the good things in our lives. We ask for your wisdom so we do give priority to that which really matters. Abolish our regrets as we seek to find you in the ordinary twists and turns of the day.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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October 22, 2013

Luke 12: 35-38

Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks. Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them. If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves.

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

Blessed Vigilance

One of the things you often get asked to do as a Jesuit scholastic is to participate in the weddings of friends and family. A few weeks ago, my friend asked me to read at his wedding in Philadelphia.  When we were talking about his wedding, what struck me is all of the details that go into a wedding: lists of stuff.  There are two ways to look at these details.  The first is to see them as a list of tasks, that if they are not completed the wedding is a failure.  Often this is how we look at life, not just weddings.  The fear of something going wrong is at the heart of this perspective, even in the preparation of such a joyous event.

But it seems to me that there is another way to look at a wedding, and also to approach the way we live our lives: by allowing our preparations, our vigilance to be a blessing to those we are preparing for.  As shocked as I was at all of the details needed for his wedding, my friend kept reminding me that he and his fiancée (now wife) prepared for their wedding so that they could celebrate more deeply with their loved ones.

Some of the happiest moments in the Gospels take place when Jesus is at a wedding.  Being at my friend’s wedding reminded me that I want to live my life with the same kind of blessed vigilance that he and his wife had, and that Jesus speaks about in today’s Gospel.

—Adam DeLeon, S.J. is a Jesuit scholastic studying theology in preparation for ordination at Jesuit School of Theology, Berkeley CA.

Prayer

Lord, you are knocking on our door. You beckon us toward hope, promise, and eternal surprise of astonishing joy. We fully commit all our thoughts and actions to you. And pray for gratitude as we witness the sunrises and sunsets of our life.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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