December 31, 2013

St. Sylvester

John 1: 1-18

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him.

He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

(John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’”) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.

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 Year of Grace and Life

I can’t decide whether it is fitting or ironic that the Gospel on the last day of our calendar year starts with the words “In the beginning.” In the next few days, many people will be making New Year’s resolutions to exercise more, eat healthier, read more books, etc. Today, though, on this last day of 2013, and the seventh day of Christmas, we also have the opportunity to look back on our year and see how God has been working in our lives.

One of the most fundamental Ignatian prayer tools is the Examen. This daily prayer can help us become more aware of God each day. Another way of looking at the Examen, though, would be to look back over the past year and take note of where we have experienced God. The Gospel reading reminds us that God, the Word, “made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only-begotten Son, full of grace and truth.”

As I examine the past year in my life, I go through this modified Examen process:

1. Take time to simply be in God’s presence

2. Reflect on those gifts from the year that I am thankful for

3. Review the year, taking special note of the instances where I felt God’s presence, or an increase in faith, hope and love

4. Take note of the instances where I struggled to find God, or felt a decrease in faith, hope, and love

5. Look ahead to next year: What is God inviting me to in 2014?

Happy New Year!

—Lauren Gaffey is Director of Programs and Administration at 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

Lord, we choose that the goal of our life is to live with you forever. You, who love us, gave us life. Our own response of love allows your life to flow into us without limit. All the things in this world are gifts of you, presented to us so that we can know you more easily and make a return of love more readily.

As a result, we appreciate and use all these gifts from you insofar as they help us develop as loving persons. But if any of these gifts become the center of our lives, they displace you and so hinder our growth toward our goal. For everything has the potential of calling forth in us a deeper response to our life in you.

Our only desire and our one choice should be this: I want and I choose what better leads to the deepening of your life in me.

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


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December 30, 2013

Luke 2: 36-40

There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day.

At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.

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

Tell Everybody!

Today is the Sixth Day within the Octave of Christmas. We are still “celebrating the most sacred day” of Christmas as proclaimed in the Roman Canon and we continue for eight full days to sing the joyful angelic hymn, “Glory to God in the Highest!” The angels could not contain their joy as they shared their message with the shepherds, “Behold I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all people!” Tell everybody!

Last month my sister and her husband marked their fiftieth anniversary. It was such an important milestone that they spread their celebration over a week—eight days—throwing an intimate dinner the first and eighth days to share their joy and include as many of their family and close friends as possible. Their aim was to tell everybody how happy they are. I told Judy that was a great way to celebrate because it reminded me of how the church celebrates her biggest jubilees—the Nativity and Easter—with an octave. Tell everybody your great joy!

Today’s Gospel offers us three possible moments for meditation on Jesus’ infancy and early childhood: the moment with Anna in the Temple; the return of the Holy Family to Nazareth in Galilee; and how Jesus grew up, “and the favor of God was upon him,” in Nazareth.  The hidden life of Jesus gives ample opportunity for prayerful imagination.

Here I prefer to focus on the aged widow and prophetess Anna’s encounter with the baby and his parents after Simeon’s dramatic prophecy and canticle.  “… Coming forward at that very time Anna gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem,” that is, that Jerusalem be set free. Anna feels she must give thanks and tell everybody about the child, her joy was so great. Tell everybody!

By the way, if some of the proper names in this text put you off, I would like to play with them a bit, since Luke is clearly aware of the Hebrew meaning of the names he chooses.  Anna means “Grace;” Phanuel means “the Face of God;” and the tribe Asher means “Happy!”  Surely Anna was graced, favored and happy to look upon the face of God (like Jacob/Israel) and live! She could not help but tell everybody!

—Fr. Dennis Glasgow, S.J. is a Jesuit on health sabbatical, a new member of the Jesuit community at Colombiere Center in Clarkston, MI. He previously spent twelve years as associate pastor at St. Mary Student Parish in Ann Arbor, MI.

Prayer

Lord, is it possible “that the favor of God” is  upon me, upon those I love so dearly, and even upon those who have brought deep hurt to me? Regardless of my circumstance, regardless of the haunting fear that might strike at my soul or at souls of those I love, I will embrace your promise that your favor is upon us. You are near; you are my rescue and my foundation. Amen.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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December 29, 2013

Holy Family

Matthew 2: 13-15. 19-23

Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”

When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee. There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, “He will be called a Nazorean.”

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 Gift of Family

God didn’t come to earth on a cloud amid trumpet blasts with angels leading the way.  Instead he became a human being and was born into the world in a family, where Joseph and Mary received him with love and nourished him and raised him and taught him what he needed to know to succeed in life.

So the Holy Family has become for Christians the model family, one to be imitated by other families. And yet, Mary and Joseph and Jesus were an ordinary family in almost every way.  Joseph was a carpenter who passed his trade onto his son.  In fact, they were so ordinary that later when people wanted to question Jesus’ identity as a prophet and miracle worker they asked is this not the carpenter’s son? (Mt 13.55)  How could an ordinary man from such an ordinary family get all this wisdom?

The Holy Family had their share of misunderstandings and problems between them.  St. Luke tells us about Jesus staying behind in the Temple (Lk 2.41-52), when his parents had started their journey back to Nazareth.  After they found him, Mary asked him with tears in her eyes, no doubt:

“Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been looking for you anxiously.”  And he said to them, “How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

What makes the Holy Family the model family for us is not that everything was always perfect between them, but that somehow they learned how to work through their problems and reconcile with each other.  As God planned to save the world through a family, he also saves us by means of our families, through our daily joys and struggles, misunderstandings and reconciliations.

—Fr. Tim Howe, SJ, is president of St. Xavier High School, in Cincinnati, OH.

Prayer

Lord, we can see in you the same tension that we sometimes feel — to follow your call as well as to please the important people in our lives. We also identify with the anxiety of Mary and Joseph, seeking their lost boy and both relieved and angry when you are found in the Temple.

Discovering our purpose and parenting children have similarities.We need to lean on your grace to guide our efforts; we can’t do this alone. We can expect disappointments along the way. It is inevitable. But out of the uncertainties and the consistency of the search, we will be transformed and arrive at a life-giving acceptance and triumph as we place our lives before you.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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December 28, 2013

Holy Innocents

Matthew 2: 13-18

Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”

When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: “A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.”

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

Check Your Motives

In today’s reading, Herod responds to Jesus with anger, fear, and violence. He is furious because he believes the Magi deceived him. Fearful that Jesus will become a great king and take over his power and position, Herod tries to kill Jesus by ordering the massacre of boys two years old and under. Caring only for himself, Herod caused pain and suffering to many people. Unfortunately, even today selfishness and fearful people in our world hurt and kill others – even innocent children – in an attempt to maintain positions of authority and power.

We may think that we are not like Herod, but although our actions may not be as dramatic as his, we may have similar motivations. Often I ask myself how I respond to Jesus when I encounter him in and through others. If I am allowing God’s love to work in me, I respond with love, hope, and forgiveness. If I am concerned about myself or my position, I sometimes respond with anger, fear, or even violent words.

Some questions I ask myself:

  How do I respond when family members or co-workers upset me?

  Am I tempted to be angry with them and talk about them behind their backs or do I work at forgiveness and reconciliation?

   When a co-worker receives a promotion or an award do I respond with joy or jealousy for the person?

   When I encounter a homeless or needy person, do I take time for him or her?

As we continue to celebrate the birth of Christ, let us take a moment to pray for the grace to respond to everyone we encounter with love, hope, and forgiveness.

—Brother John Moriconi, S.J., a noted mandolinist, is provincial’s secretary for the Chicago-Detroit Jesuit Province.

Prayer

Father, you created me and put me on earth for a purpose.

Jesus, you died for me and call me to complete your work.

Holy Spirit, you help me to carry out the work for which I was created and called. May all my thoughts and inspirations have their origin in you and be directed to your glory.

—Magis Institute


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December 27, 2013

St. John

John 20: 1a and 2-8

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

The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed.

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

Relax in God’s Presence

“… We have seen it and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was made visible to us…

In the Cleveland Museum of Art there hangs a sculpture, “Christ and Saint John the Evangelist, 1300-1320.” Sr. Wendy Beckett featured this piece in her work sharing her love and appreciation of art. John is shown resting his head on Jesus’ shoulder at the Last Supper.  He would later witness Jesus dying and be entrusted to Mary and Mary to him.  We celebrate his feast day today. The fourth Gospel with which he and his community of believers are identified is the Gospel of Love. We are asked to love Jesus in His unity with the Creating Father so that we in turn experience God’s love through the Spirit and love as God loves.

How do we sit with the Mystery of the Holy Trinity? Who is this Word Incarnate?

I have found it helpful to pray the Examen before an image of this sculpture of John.   Relaxing into an awareness of God’s presence and indwelling, I ask for the grace to experience myself and others through Jesus’ loving, truthful eyes. Like John, I lean on Jesus and note where I have shared in the Creator’s labors, where I have recognized the Holy Spirit beckoning, and where I have been a disciple of Jesus, the Incarnate Word. I ask to experience myself in communion with God’s indwelling in all around me as well. Then I ask to see where I have fallen short. Jesus’ loving eyes and support help me here especially!  I entrust myself to Jesus and look forward to the remainder of the day.

—Janet Lehane is Assistant Director of the Spirituality Program for Adults at St. Ignatius High School, Cleveland OH.

Prayer

Lord, to the unbeliever, the empty tomb symbolizes a world orphaned, drifting aimlessly, ruled by greed, power, and an ever-present evil. If indeed the unbeliever is right, nothing matters. Nothing! Lord, we stand before the tomb. With John we move inside. And we see “the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself.” And we see and believe.

Now that which seems pointless has purpose; that which seems impossible has potential; and no suffering, no disappointment, no struggle is meaningless. Life with all its warts and worries will one day be transcended because of the empty tomb, because of your Resurrection!

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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December 26, 2013

St. Stephen

Acts 6: 8-10; 7: 54-59

Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and others of those from Cilicia and Asia, stood up and argued with Stephen.  But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke.

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 Gift of Giving

All that I have and all that I am is a gift from God. All my talents and abilities, my family and friends, my experiences and growth, my life and faith—all these God has given to me. So, what should I do with all the gifts I have received?

At the end of the Spiritual Exercises, after having reflected on all the ways God has offered us abundant gifts and love, Ignatius encourages us to respond by offering these gifts and this love back to God.  Rather than holding on desperately to what we have and using our gifts solely for our own benefit, by offering our gifts and ourselves back to God, we allow God to guide us and our gifts towards greater love and service for others.

Today, we celebrate the feast of Saint Stephen, the first Christian martyr.  In the reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we hear of Stephen’s gifts of preaching and “working great wonders and signs.”  What a wonderful example of someone who handed over his gifts so that the Holy Spirit could work through him!  Even in his final words, Stephen continues to offer himself to God.

During this Christmas season, as we continue to rejoice in gratitude for the wonderful gift of the Incarnation, maybe we can take some time to reflect on the many gifts we have received and offer them  to God.

—Thomas Bambrick, S.J. is a Jesuit scholastic in First Studies, studying philosophy at Fordham University, New York.

Prayer

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty
my memory, my understanding
and my entire will,
all I have and
call my own.
You have given all to me
To you, Lord, I return it.
Everything is yours
do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and grace,
that is enough for me.

—St. Ignatius of Loyola

(Click here to download this prayer card.)

 


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December 25, 2013

THE NATIVITY OF THE LORD

John 1: 1-18

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

(John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’”)From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.

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

Significance and Obscurity

One of the greatest wonders of the feast we celebrate today is the fact that an event of such great significance took place in almost total obscurity. Just think: the most momentous event in our history—the incarnation of God as a human person—took place in an insignificant country, completely unobserved by the powers of the world at that time. While nations and economic leaders went about their business of directing the world, the world’s true governor was born in their midst.

The most momentous events often go unnoticed when they take place. But they produce world-altering consequences in their wakes. So it is with the daily conversions which take place in our souls. The internal struggle that takes place within us often goes unnoticed by those around us. God’s attempt to speak to our souls and draw them toward Himself is like a “Little Bethlehem.”

There, in the quiet of our souls, the most momentous events transpire. While others may not be aware of these moments of conversion within our hearts, they definitely experience the effects as the Gospel takes root and transforms the ways we live. May the Spirit of Christ dwell richly within our hearts this Christmas!

—Kevin Dyer, SJ, Regis Jesuit High School

Prayer

“Normally Christmas seems to be a very noisy season, yet it would do us good to celebrate Christ’s birth with a little silence, to hear the Lord’s nearness and tenderness.”

—Pope Francis at the Angelus on December 14, 2013.


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December 24, 2013

2 Samuel 7: 1-5. 8b-12. 14a. 16

When King David was settled in his palace, and the LORD had given him rest from his enemies on every side, he said to Nathan the prophet, “Here I am living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God dwells in a tent!”  Nathan answered the king, “Go, do whatever you have in mind, for the LORD is with you.”  But that night the LORD spoke to Nathan and said: “Go, tell my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD: Should you build me a house to dwell in? “‘It was I who took you from the pasture and from the care of the flock to be commander of my people Israel. I have been with you wherever you went, and I have destroyed all your enemies before you.

And I will make you famous like the great ones of the earth. I will fix a place for my people Israel; I will plant them so that they may dwell in their place without further disturbance. Neither shall the wicked continue to afflict them as they did of old, since the time I first appointed judges over my people Israel.

I will give you rest from all your enemies. The LORD also reveals to you that he will establish a house for you.  And when your time comes and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your heir after you, sprung from your loins, and I will make his Kingdom firm. I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me. Your house and your Kingdom shall endure forever before me; your throne shall stand firm forever.”’

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 Building Like No Other

Who isn’t able to identify with King David? His weaknesses and his strengths are ours. He defeated Goliath; yet he is also the one who killed Uriah. His moments of special blessing by the Lord seem equally matched by his ability to forget the Lord’s favor and act on his own, woefully mistaken initiative. In today’s reading, he impulsively offers to build a house of dwelling for the Lord—a worthy and noble initiative. But it is not the initiative which God wants. God will build his own dwelling place and God doesn’t need David to do it.

In this season of Christmas, we see the culmination of God’s plans to build Himself a dwelling. He doesn’t use timber or stone, but human flesh. He dwells in a human person, Jesus the Christ. In so doing, God has saved the world and given all of us wandering, stumbling fools—sons of David—the hope that one day we might all dwell in the fullness of God’s presence. Come Lord Jesus!

—Kevin Dyer, SJ, Regis Jesuit High School

Prayer

People of God, do not be afraid.

Today you know that the Lord will come,

and in the morning you shall see God’s glory!

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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December 23, 2013

St. John Kanty

Malachi 3: 1-4. 23-24

See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness.

Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years. They shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, my special possession on the day when I act, and I will spare them as parents spare their children who serve them. Then once more you shall see the difference between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him.

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

It’s All for Us!

Who is that messenger preparing the way of the Lord in today’s first reading from the prophet Malachi? Who is that new Elijah who will “turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers”?  The Christ whose coming we anticipate during the Advent season and whose birth we celebrate in our Christmas festivities is in a very true sense ourselves! We are the ones and the only ones who as members of his body, that is,  the extension of Christ through space and time, can be for our world what he was for his. May the Lord, I pray, through His Spirit guide us in getting behind the tinsel, gift exchanges, and holiday hype to ponder the sacred reality –about ourselves—that we celebrate this Advent season.

—Fr. Jack Dister, S.J. resides at Colombiere Center, the Jesuit retirement community in Clarkston MI.

Prayer

O Emmanuel, ruler and lawgiver,

Desire of the nations,

Savior of all people:

Come and set us free, Lord our God!

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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December 22, 2013

Isaiah 7: 10-14

Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, saying, Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven. But Ahaz said, I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.Then Isaiah said: “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary mortals, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.

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

Air and Life

Is God with us or not?  That’s one of our most basic human questions, especially in hard times: is God with us or are we all alone out here? It’s Israel’s constant question, as the people wandered in the desert, facing thirst and famine: is the Lord among us or not? It’s the doubt in King Ahaz’s mind as he confronted the Assyrian invasion.  So God promises him to send a king, named God with us.

We can look around at our world this year and see a lot that troubles us: conflicts in the Middle East that don’t seem to be getting any better, the economy struggles with unemployment, violence continues in our cities. So, is this God who comes to save us with us or not?

Let’s look around us. Do we see people sometimes rise above the sad temptation to selfishness and reach out to help the poor and people in need? Do we see some people trying to reconcile with one another, forgiving those who have hurt them? Do we know people who have been able to overcome sin in some area of their lives, and turn to a new way of life? Do we see families welcoming new life like Mary and Joseph did?

Let’s look inside ourselves. Do we hear a quiet voice—a gentle tug in our hearts—that guides us in life, that leads us to love other people, to give our lives in service to others, and to live life as a mission, with a purpose?  Do we feel a steady strength supporting us and helping us to do the right in difficult moments of self-doubt or temptation?

God is with us, the Spirit of the risen Jesus, saving us in each moment. It’s like the air that surrounds us, though we often don’t notice it, until suddenly we feel a gentle breeze or a gust of wind.

—Fr. Tim Howe, SJ, is president of St. Xavier High School, in Cincinnati, OH.

Prayer

O Ruler of all nations,

the only joy of every human heart,

O Keystone of the might arch of humankind:

Come and save all those you fashioned from the dust!

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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Creighton Prep and the Midwest Jesuits have partnered to create FaithCP, a daily resource for prayer. FaithCP provides daily scripture, reflections, and prayers grounded in the spirituality of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits.


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December 31, 2013

St. Sylvester

John 1: 1-18

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him.

He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

(John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’”) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.

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 Year of Grace and Life

I can’t decide whether it is fitting or ironic that the Gospel on the last day of our calendar year starts with the words “In the beginning.” In the next few days, many people will be making New Year’s resolutions to exercise more, eat healthier, read more books, etc. Today, though, on this last day of 2013, and the seventh day of Christmas, we also have the opportunity to look back on our year and see how God has been working in our lives.

One of the most fundamental Ignatian prayer tools is the Examen. This daily prayer can help us become more aware of God each day. Another way of looking at the Examen, though, would be to look back over the past year and take note of where we have experienced God. The Gospel reading reminds us that God, the Word, “made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only-begotten Son, full of grace and truth.”

As I examine the past year in my life, I go through this modified Examen process:

1. Take time to simply be in God’s presence

2. Reflect on those gifts from the year that I am thankful for

3. Review the year, taking special note of the instances where I felt God’s presence, or an increase in faith, hope and love

4. Take note of the instances where I struggled to find God, or felt a decrease in faith, hope, and love

5. Look ahead to next year: What is God inviting me to in 2014?

Happy New Year!

—Lauren Gaffey is Director of Programs and Administration at 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

Lord, we choose that the goal of our life is to live with you forever. You, who love us, gave us life. Our own response of love allows your life to flow into us without limit. All the things in this world are gifts of you, presented to us so that we can know you more easily and make a return of love more readily.

As a result, we appreciate and use all these gifts from you insofar as they help us develop as loving persons. But if any of these gifts become the center of our lives, they displace you and so hinder our growth toward our goal. For everything has the potential of calling forth in us a deeper response to our life in you.

Our only desire and our one choice should be this: I want and I choose what better leads to the deepening of your life in me.

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


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December 30, 2013

Luke 2: 36-40

There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day.

At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.

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

Tell Everybody!

Today is the Sixth Day within the Octave of Christmas. We are still “celebrating the most sacred day” of Christmas as proclaimed in the Roman Canon and we continue for eight full days to sing the joyful angelic hymn, “Glory to God in the Highest!” The angels could not contain their joy as they shared their message with the shepherds, “Behold I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all people!” Tell everybody!

Last month my sister and her husband marked their fiftieth anniversary. It was such an important milestone that they spread their celebration over a week—eight days—throwing an intimate dinner the first and eighth days to share their joy and include as many of their family and close friends as possible. Their aim was to tell everybody how happy they are. I told Judy that was a great way to celebrate because it reminded me of how the church celebrates her biggest jubilees—the Nativity and Easter—with an octave. Tell everybody your great joy!

Today’s Gospel offers us three possible moments for meditation on Jesus’ infancy and early childhood: the moment with Anna in the Temple; the return of the Holy Family to Nazareth in Galilee; and how Jesus grew up, “and the favor of God was upon him,” in Nazareth.  The hidden life of Jesus gives ample opportunity for prayerful imagination.

Here I prefer to focus on the aged widow and prophetess Anna’s encounter with the baby and his parents after Simeon’s dramatic prophecy and canticle.  “… Coming forward at that very time Anna gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem,” that is, that Jerusalem be set free. Anna feels she must give thanks and tell everybody about the child, her joy was so great. Tell everybody!

By the way, if some of the proper names in this text put you off, I would like to play with them a bit, since Luke is clearly aware of the Hebrew meaning of the names he chooses.  Anna means “Grace;” Phanuel means “the Face of God;” and the tribe Asher means “Happy!”  Surely Anna was graced, favored and happy to look upon the face of God (like Jacob/Israel) and live! She could not help but tell everybody!

—Fr. Dennis Glasgow, S.J. is a Jesuit on health sabbatical, a new member of the Jesuit community at Colombiere Center in Clarkston, MI. He previously spent twelve years as associate pastor at St. Mary Student Parish in Ann Arbor, MI.

Prayer

Lord, is it possible “that the favor of God” is  upon me, upon those I love so dearly, and even upon those who have brought deep hurt to me? Regardless of my circumstance, regardless of the haunting fear that might strike at my soul or at souls of those I love, I will embrace your promise that your favor is upon us. You are near; you are my rescue and my foundation. Amen.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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December 29, 2013

Holy Family

Matthew 2: 13-15. 19-23

Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”

When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee. There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, “He will be called a Nazorean.”

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 Gift of Family

God didn’t come to earth on a cloud amid trumpet blasts with angels leading the way.  Instead he became a human being and was born into the world in a family, where Joseph and Mary received him with love and nourished him and raised him and taught him what he needed to know to succeed in life.

So the Holy Family has become for Christians the model family, one to be imitated by other families. And yet, Mary and Joseph and Jesus were an ordinary family in almost every way.  Joseph was a carpenter who passed his trade onto his son.  In fact, they were so ordinary that later when people wanted to question Jesus’ identity as a prophet and miracle worker they asked is this not the carpenter’s son? (Mt 13.55)  How could an ordinary man from such an ordinary family get all this wisdom?

The Holy Family had their share of misunderstandings and problems between them.  St. Luke tells us about Jesus staying behind in the Temple (Lk 2.41-52), when his parents had started their journey back to Nazareth.  After they found him, Mary asked him with tears in her eyes, no doubt:

“Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been looking for you anxiously.”  And he said to them, “How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

What makes the Holy Family the model family for us is not that everything was always perfect between them, but that somehow they learned how to work through their problems and reconcile with each other.  As God planned to save the world through a family, he also saves us by means of our families, through our daily joys and struggles, misunderstandings and reconciliations.

—Fr. Tim Howe, SJ, is president of St. Xavier High School, in Cincinnati, OH.

Prayer

Lord, we can see in you the same tension that we sometimes feel — to follow your call as well as to please the important people in our lives. We also identify with the anxiety of Mary and Joseph, seeking their lost boy and both relieved and angry when you are found in the Temple.

Discovering our purpose and parenting children have similarities.We need to lean on your grace to guide our efforts; we can’t do this alone. We can expect disappointments along the way. It is inevitable. But out of the uncertainties and the consistency of the search, we will be transformed and arrive at a life-giving acceptance and triumph as we place our lives before you.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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December 28, 2013

Holy Innocents

Matthew 2: 13-18

Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”

When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: “A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.”

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

Check Your Motives

In today’s reading, Herod responds to Jesus with anger, fear, and violence. He is furious because he believes the Magi deceived him. Fearful that Jesus will become a great king and take over his power and position, Herod tries to kill Jesus by ordering the massacre of boys two years old and under. Caring only for himself, Herod caused pain and suffering to many people. Unfortunately, even today selfishness and fearful people in our world hurt and kill others – even innocent children – in an attempt to maintain positions of authority and power.

We may think that we are not like Herod, but although our actions may not be as dramatic as his, we may have similar motivations. Often I ask myself how I respond to Jesus when I encounter him in and through others. If I am allowing God’s love to work in me, I respond with love, hope, and forgiveness. If I am concerned about myself or my position, I sometimes respond with anger, fear, or even violent words.

Some questions I ask myself:

  How do I respond when family members or co-workers upset me?

  Am I tempted to be angry with them and talk about them behind their backs or do I work at forgiveness and reconciliation?

   When a co-worker receives a promotion or an award do I respond with joy or jealousy for the person?

   When I encounter a homeless or needy person, do I take time for him or her?

As we continue to celebrate the birth of Christ, let us take a moment to pray for the grace to respond to everyone we encounter with love, hope, and forgiveness.

—Brother John Moriconi, S.J., a noted mandolinist, is provincial’s secretary for the Chicago-Detroit Jesuit Province.

Prayer

Father, you created me and put me on earth for a purpose.

Jesus, you died for me and call me to complete your work.

Holy Spirit, you help me to carry out the work for which I was created and called. May all my thoughts and inspirations have their origin in you and be directed to your glory.

—Magis Institute


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December 27, 2013

St. John

John 20: 1a and 2-8

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

The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed.

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

Relax in God’s Presence

“… We have seen it and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was made visible to us…

In the Cleveland Museum of Art there hangs a sculpture, “Christ and Saint John the Evangelist, 1300-1320.” Sr. Wendy Beckett featured this piece in her work sharing her love and appreciation of art. John is shown resting his head on Jesus’ shoulder at the Last Supper.  He would later witness Jesus dying and be entrusted to Mary and Mary to him.  We celebrate his feast day today. The fourth Gospel with which he and his community of believers are identified is the Gospel of Love. We are asked to love Jesus in His unity with the Creating Father so that we in turn experience God’s love through the Spirit and love as God loves.

How do we sit with the Mystery of the Holy Trinity? Who is this Word Incarnate?

I have found it helpful to pray the Examen before an image of this sculpture of John.   Relaxing into an awareness of God’s presence and indwelling, I ask for the grace to experience myself and others through Jesus’ loving, truthful eyes. Like John, I lean on Jesus and note where I have shared in the Creator’s labors, where I have recognized the Holy Spirit beckoning, and where I have been a disciple of Jesus, the Incarnate Word. I ask to experience myself in communion with God’s indwelling in all around me as well. Then I ask to see where I have fallen short. Jesus’ loving eyes and support help me here especially!  I entrust myself to Jesus and look forward to the remainder of the day.

—Janet Lehane is Assistant Director of the Spirituality Program for Adults at St. Ignatius High School, Cleveland OH.

Prayer

Lord, to the unbeliever, the empty tomb symbolizes a world orphaned, drifting aimlessly, ruled by greed, power, and an ever-present evil. If indeed the unbeliever is right, nothing matters. Nothing! Lord, we stand before the tomb. With John we move inside. And we see “the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself.” And we see and believe.

Now that which seems pointless has purpose; that which seems impossible has potential; and no suffering, no disappointment, no struggle is meaningless. Life with all its warts and worries will one day be transcended because of the empty tomb, because of your Resurrection!

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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December 26, 2013

St. Stephen

Acts 6: 8-10; 7: 54-59

Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and others of those from Cilicia and Asia, stood up and argued with Stephen.  But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke.

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 Gift of Giving

All that I have and all that I am is a gift from God. All my talents and abilities, my family and friends, my experiences and growth, my life and faith—all these God has given to me. So, what should I do with all the gifts I have received?

At the end of the Spiritual Exercises, after having reflected on all the ways God has offered us abundant gifts and love, Ignatius encourages us to respond by offering these gifts and this love back to God.  Rather than holding on desperately to what we have and using our gifts solely for our own benefit, by offering our gifts and ourselves back to God, we allow God to guide us and our gifts towards greater love and service for others.

Today, we celebrate the feast of Saint Stephen, the first Christian martyr.  In the reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we hear of Stephen’s gifts of preaching and “working great wonders and signs.”  What a wonderful example of someone who handed over his gifts so that the Holy Spirit could work through him!  Even in his final words, Stephen continues to offer himself to God.

During this Christmas season, as we continue to rejoice in gratitude for the wonderful gift of the Incarnation, maybe we can take some time to reflect on the many gifts we have received and offer them  to God.

—Thomas Bambrick, S.J. is a Jesuit scholastic in First Studies, studying philosophy at Fordham University, New York.

Prayer

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty
my memory, my understanding
and my entire will,
all I have and
call my own.
You have given all to me
To you, Lord, I return it.
Everything is yours
do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and grace,
that is enough for me.

—St. Ignatius of Loyola

(Click here to download this prayer card.)

 


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December 25, 2013

THE NATIVITY OF THE LORD

John 1: 1-18

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

(John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’”)From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.

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

Significance and Obscurity

One of the greatest wonders of the feast we celebrate today is the fact that an event of such great significance took place in almost total obscurity. Just think: the most momentous event in our history—the incarnation of God as a human person—took place in an insignificant country, completely unobserved by the powers of the world at that time. While nations and economic leaders went about their business of directing the world, the world’s true governor was born in their midst.

The most momentous events often go unnoticed when they take place. But they produce world-altering consequences in their wakes. So it is with the daily conversions which take place in our souls. The internal struggle that takes place within us often goes unnoticed by those around us. God’s attempt to speak to our souls and draw them toward Himself is like a “Little Bethlehem.”

There, in the quiet of our souls, the most momentous events transpire. While others may not be aware of these moments of conversion within our hearts, they definitely experience the effects as the Gospel takes root and transforms the ways we live. May the Spirit of Christ dwell richly within our hearts this Christmas!

—Kevin Dyer, SJ, Regis Jesuit High School

Prayer

“Normally Christmas seems to be a very noisy season, yet it would do us good to celebrate Christ’s birth with a little silence, to hear the Lord’s nearness and tenderness.”

—Pope Francis at the Angelus on December 14, 2013.


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December 24, 2013

2 Samuel 7: 1-5. 8b-12. 14a. 16

When King David was settled in his palace, and the LORD had given him rest from his enemies on every side, he said to Nathan the prophet, “Here I am living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God dwells in a tent!”  Nathan answered the king, “Go, do whatever you have in mind, for the LORD is with you.”  But that night the LORD spoke to Nathan and said: “Go, tell my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD: Should you build me a house to dwell in? “‘It was I who took you from the pasture and from the care of the flock to be commander of my people Israel. I have been with you wherever you went, and I have destroyed all your enemies before you.

And I will make you famous like the great ones of the earth. I will fix a place for my people Israel; I will plant them so that they may dwell in their place without further disturbance. Neither shall the wicked continue to afflict them as they did of old, since the time I first appointed judges over my people Israel.

I will give you rest from all your enemies. The LORD also reveals to you that he will establish a house for you.  And when your time comes and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your heir after you, sprung from your loins, and I will make his Kingdom firm. I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me. Your house and your Kingdom shall endure forever before me; your throne shall stand firm forever.”’

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 Building Like No Other

Who isn’t able to identify with King David? His weaknesses and his strengths are ours. He defeated Goliath; yet he is also the one who killed Uriah. His moments of special blessing by the Lord seem equally matched by his ability to forget the Lord’s favor and act on his own, woefully mistaken initiative. In today’s reading, he impulsively offers to build a house of dwelling for the Lord—a worthy and noble initiative. But it is not the initiative which God wants. God will build his own dwelling place and God doesn’t need David to do it.

In this season of Christmas, we see the culmination of God’s plans to build Himself a dwelling. He doesn’t use timber or stone, but human flesh. He dwells in a human person, Jesus the Christ. In so doing, God has saved the world and given all of us wandering, stumbling fools—sons of David—the hope that one day we might all dwell in the fullness of God’s presence. Come Lord Jesus!

—Kevin Dyer, SJ, Regis Jesuit High School

Prayer

People of God, do not be afraid.

Today you know that the Lord will come,

and in the morning you shall see God’s glory!

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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December 23, 2013

St. John Kanty

Malachi 3: 1-4. 23-24

See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness.

Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years. They shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, my special possession on the day when I act, and I will spare them as parents spare their children who serve them. Then once more you shall see the difference between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him.

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

It’s All for Us!

Who is that messenger preparing the way of the Lord in today’s first reading from the prophet Malachi? Who is that new Elijah who will “turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers”?  The Christ whose coming we anticipate during the Advent season and whose birth we celebrate in our Christmas festivities is in a very true sense ourselves! We are the ones and the only ones who as members of his body, that is,  the extension of Christ through space and time, can be for our world what he was for his. May the Lord, I pray, through His Spirit guide us in getting behind the tinsel, gift exchanges, and holiday hype to ponder the sacred reality –about ourselves—that we celebrate this Advent season.

—Fr. Jack Dister, S.J. resides at Colombiere Center, the Jesuit retirement community in Clarkston MI.

Prayer

O Emmanuel, ruler and lawgiver,

Desire of the nations,

Savior of all people:

Come and set us free, Lord our God!

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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December 22, 2013

Isaiah 7: 10-14

Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, saying, Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven. But Ahaz said, I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.Then Isaiah said: “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary mortals, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.

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

Air and Life

Is God with us or not?  That’s one of our most basic human questions, especially in hard times: is God with us or are we all alone out here? It’s Israel’s constant question, as the people wandered in the desert, facing thirst and famine: is the Lord among us or not? It’s the doubt in King Ahaz’s mind as he confronted the Assyrian invasion.  So God promises him to send a king, named God with us.

We can look around at our world this year and see a lot that troubles us: conflicts in the Middle East that don’t seem to be getting any better, the economy struggles with unemployment, violence continues in our cities. So, is this God who comes to save us with us or not?

Let’s look around us. Do we see people sometimes rise above the sad temptation to selfishness and reach out to help the poor and people in need? Do we see some people trying to reconcile with one another, forgiving those who have hurt them? Do we know people who have been able to overcome sin in some area of their lives, and turn to a new way of life? Do we see families welcoming new life like Mary and Joseph did?

Let’s look inside ourselves. Do we hear a quiet voice—a gentle tug in our hearts—that guides us in life, that leads us to love other people, to give our lives in service to others, and to live life as a mission, with a purpose?  Do we feel a steady strength supporting us and helping us to do the right in difficult moments of self-doubt or temptation?

God is with us, the Spirit of the risen Jesus, saving us in each moment. It’s like the air that surrounds us, though we often don’t notice it, until suddenly we feel a gentle breeze or a gust of wind.

—Fr. Tim Howe, SJ, is president of St. Xavier High School, in Cincinnati, OH.

Prayer

O Ruler of all nations,

the only joy of every human heart,

O Keystone of the might arch of humankind:

Come and save all those you fashioned from the dust!

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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