February 28, 2014

Mark 10: 1-12

He left that place and went to the region of Judea and beyond the Jordan. And crowds again gathered around him; and, as was his custom, he again taught them.

Some Pharisees came, and to test him they asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her.” But Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

Then in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

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

Mercy and Law

Our readings today help us privilege mercy over law. So says the psalmist: “the Lord is kind and merciful”.

In today’s gospel the Pharisees present Jesus with a test of the Hebrew law: is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife? While Jesus notes the law does provide for a man to divorce his wife, Jesus chooses a different path here. In the setting of Mark’s gospel, divorce would marginalize the wife to a life of poverty and shame. Rather than cite the law on its own merit, perhaps disconnected from particular context, Jesus prioritizes the greater good– care for the woman who would be impoverished, shamed, and marginalized by this action.

Jesus’ answer here is worth great consideration for us, in our own setting. Our newspapers are rife with this very same deliberation: law vs. mercy. And in my own life, in my own day, I encounter this same choice. What do I privilege when faced with the judgment between law and mercy, a choice I face in both obvious and subtle ways. Do I privilege what is outlined by law or custom, or is there a greater good I am missing, or a riskier choice I lack the courage to make? Lord, grant me the wisdom and strength to seek the greater good this day, which often supersedes the law and requires of me true religious faith.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team

Prayer

The Lord is kind and merciful.

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all my being bless God’s name: bless the Lord and forget not God’s benefits.

Merciful and gracious is our God: slow to anger and boundless in kindness.

—Psalm 103


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February 27, 2014

Mark 9: 41-50

For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.

“If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire.

And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell, where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.

“For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”

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

Attitudes and Actions

We are approaching the season of Lent. It is a time to center our hearts, to fix our eyes on Jesus, to live out his Word, to match our own actions to his life-giving deeds. Today’s readings engage us in frank talk about what this might look like.

“If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off…if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.” The truth is that our world view will have a greater sense of depth if we are seeing with both our eyes, and our physical actions throughout the day will be more balanced and effective if we can do them with two hands. It’s that same balanced view of reality that leads to effective spiritual health and grace-filled leadership in our professional and personal lives.

Today’s first reading from the letter of James points up the self-centered realities of life prevalent in Jesus’ day—realities certainly alive and well in our own experience. As I approach Mardi Gras weekend and the beginning of Lent, what kind of “course correction” to my attitudes and actions does Jesus ask and invite?

—The Jesuit Prayer Team

Prayer

Lord,  as Lent approaches, we anticipate our recommitment to be “living with one foot raised” ready to be your hope to others. We surrender all that we are to be filled with your Spirit so that when people meet us, they meet you.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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February 26, 2014

Mark 9: 38-40

John said to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us. Jesus replied, “Do not prevent him. There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name
who can at the same time speak ill of me.
For whoever is not against us is for us.”

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

Children of God

When I was a young boy we were taught that if you were not Catholic, you could not go to heaven. I remember having a good friend who was not Catholic. When we argued and it came down to “fighting time,” he would run, and he was faster than me and my brothers. As he ran we would yell at him, “you’re not going to heaven because you’re not Catholic!” We were not very Christian to say the least! On the other hand, another childhood memory is of an uncle who was not Catholic, but was one of the kindest men I knew. How could he not be going to heaven?

In today’s gospel Jesus is telling us not to draw such lines. Rather, he encourages us to look at the results and be inclusive rather than exclusive. This makes sense to me. It is not an exclusive club to which we belong. It is the family of God. We are all children of God, created from his infinite love and called to the same love. Let’s be inclusive and assume the best in other people. Isn’t this the message Pope Francis has been teaching us this past year?

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

Prayer

Lord, keep us deeply united to you. Help us overcome our conflicts, our divisions and our self-seeking, and to be united to one another by one force, by the power of love which the Holy Spirit pours into our hearts. Amen

— Excerpt from Pope Francis’ homily, January 25, 2014


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February 25, 2014

Mark 9: 30-37

They went on from there and passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it; for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.” But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.

Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.”

Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them,“Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”

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

Sacrament of Reconciliation: Fear Not

Twice in today’s Gospel, the disciples fear answering Jesus. The first, they feel confused about his statements, but don’t want to ask questions. The second time, Jesus recognizes their petty bickering. When asked what they are discussing, they look at Jesus silently, unwilling to acknowledge their wrongdoing. I am a prideful fellow myself, so I understand the disciples’ predicament. I am stubborn and do not like to ask for help, nor do I like my offenses pointed out.

What perfect timing then that our wonderful Pope Francis recently made a strong statement for the sacrament of Reconciliation. Francis said that we should not be afraid of the sacrament, even though it may sometimes feel daunting. What a similar emotion as the disciples today!

Reconciliation offers not just the opportunity to feel freer from our sins—it allows us to more fully approach Jesus and perhaps ask those questions of confusion or doubt. Francis ended his statement saying, “To celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation means to be wrapped in a warm embrace.” We can be the child that Christ picks up and receives into the Kingdom. What grace!

—Ken Homan, S.J. is a Jesuit brother from the Wisconsin Province. He is currently studying history and theology at Fordham University, New York.

Prayer

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

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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February 24, 2014

James 3: 13-18

Beloved: Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show his works by a good life in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. Wisdom of this kind does not come down from above but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.

For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice. But the wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace for those who cultivate peace.

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

“I can do so much, and only so much.”

(a couples’ perspective)

Lately, I have been struck with how many times a day I compare myself, or my situation in life, with someone else. Unfortunately, this is a common practice and one that rarely causes me comfort. It almost always seems “greener” when looking at someone else’s predicament—they do it better, more beautifully, easier that I can. And this comparison breeds jealousy which, James cautions, also creates “disorder”. I would agree with that both in my heart and mind.

I feel that this reading is bringing my attention to my need for humility in accepting all that I am.  I can do so much, and only so much. At some point, I will confront a limitation and no matter of comparing to another person helps me in accepting this reality peacefully. Often times, I turn to my husband to help me in this way—both naming my limitations and accepting them. He is able to bring a kind and gentle eye to me and I feel that in a good marriage, this is an exceptional gift!

—Carrie

I love the phrase “cultivate peace”! It reminds me of working in the garden in the summertime, tilling the soil, pulling out weeds, gently watering and lovingly minding budding plants.  Planting seeds is only the first step in this process. I reflected on how I cultivate peace in my own life. While I am rather far from perfect, I try to cultivate peace by being a calming presence to others—among my family and friends and co-workers and students.

Meeting anger with anger, while momentarily satisfying, does not cultivate peace. But facing anger and frustration with a kind word, a smile, a humorous quip (if appropriate) or even a simple question such as, “How are you doing today?” can diffuse a tense situation and help others feel at peace. We are offered opportunities almost daily to cultivate peace in this and other ways.  May we have open minds, eyes and ears to discover where peace needs cultivating!

Who in your life reflects the type of humility you would like to emulate?

How do you cultivate peace in your life?

—David

Carrie and David Nantais live in the city of Detroit with their two sons, Liam (almost 4 years) and Theo (5 ½ months). They are both at the University of Detroit Mercy—David as Director of University Ministry and Carrie as a PhD student in Clinical Psychology. They have been married for 5 ½ years. http://www.udmercy.edu/ministry/index.htm

Prayer

Lord, you are the poetry of wordless lives, the salting of tasteless purposes, the reminder that we are more than the sinking spiral of the dying sparrow and that the reckless rush of the galaxies marvel at the human collision of a kiss. You are the tightening hope that someone has stretched a net of peacefulness beneath this high wire act of ours.

—John Shea


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February 23, 2014

Matthew 5: 38-48

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.

For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

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

God’s River of Forgiveness

One of the things I’ve been told repeatedly by older Jesuits is that old age is not for sissies. And you know, neither is Christianity. Even when we’re not paying that much attention, the expectations of our faith are significant. And none more so than Jesus’ words today that we should love our enemies.

At the same time, if a survey was done worldwide, I suspect it would find that the most frequent sin priests hear confessed is the struggle to forgive. As awful as we can be to one another, in my experience most of us really do want to forgive, or at least let go of the pain and the rage we feel inside. Sometimes we are able to. Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, we just can’t.

That’s in a sense the whole point of the sacrament of reconciliation—we come before God to help us do the things that we find ourselves unable to do. Sin reminds us of just how small and weak we can be, and our need for not just God’s forgiveness, but his active intervention in our lives.

One confessor gave me this advice: “Think of forgiveness less as something you yourself have to do and more like a river moving on its own, guided by the Holy Spirit. And rather than try to force it (when you know you can’t), your job is just to try and stay out of its way.

—Fr. Jim McDermott, S.J, a Wisconsin province Jesuit, is an accomplished professional screenwriter who lives at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles CA.

Prayer

Father in heaven, deepen the life of Jesus within my heart. Send me as a witness of gospel hope into a world of fragile peace and broken promises. Touch my heart with your love so I in turn may love all those I meet this week. Amen!

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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February 22, 2014

Chair of Peter

Matthew 16: 13-19

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

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

Meaning of “the Chair”

Why do we celebrate “the chair” of St. Peter? The Benedictine scholars at the Abbey of Beuron in Germany offer the following thoughts. For ten days in February the ancient pagan Romans remembered their deceased relatives. Food and a chair (cathedra) were readied for them. The Christians substituted a feast remembering Peter, their father in faith.

In time the chair became a symbol for the teaching authority of the bishop of Rome. And where he preached, and taught, and celebrated the Holy Eucharist, became known as the cathedral. So, echoing the words of Jesus in today’s Gospel, we celebrate the important teaching office in Catholic Church: “You are Peter… I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

—Fr. Bob Braunreuther, S.J., a New England Jesuit, assists in pastoral ministry at Loyola University Chicago, and is minister of the Arrupe House Jesuit Community.

Prayer

St. Peter, whose heart was pierced with one look from Jesus, pray for us.
St. Peter; who cried out, “Lord, you know that I love you,” pray for us.
St. Peter, bound in chains for Christ, pray for us.
St. Peter, whose very shadow healed the sick, pray for us.
St. Peter, that we may have a constant and mutual charity among ourselves, pray for us.
That we may be zealous in loyalty to your successor, Pope Francis, pray for us.
That we may be prudent and watchful in prayer, pray for us.
That we may die the death of the just, pray for us.

—Excerpt from the Litany of St. Peter

 


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February 21, 2014

St. Peter Damian

Mk 8: 34 – 9: 1

He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life?

Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” And he said to them, “Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.”

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

Freedom to Love

Mark today outlines the cost of discipleship, pointing to the fundamental end of the Christian spiritual life: freedom. The great Saints of our tradition show us this. From Francis to Tekakwitha, Ignatius to Kolbe, we learn that the Christian path is a struggle for freedom: freedom from that which keeps me away from Christ’s love, and freedom for a full reception of this very same love.

The challenge presented in today’s reading is not in its novelty, for surely this is one of the most familiar in all of scripture. These lines are cited popularly in heroic conversion moments, Francis rejecting the world’s riches or Ignatius turning away from vainglory. And yet, the deeper challenge is as often claiming my conversion each day, as important as those seminal moments are. Conversion away from sin towards love that frees is a lifelong process, not simply a once for all moment.

Francis and Ignatius surely sinned after they dropped their riches or swords. And so do we.  We take up our cross each day. Praying with the inspiration of Mark to name that which binds me today, and that I need God’s grace to be free from. I beg God’s assistance.  Make haste to help me, O Lord!

—Matthew Couture is the assistant for secondary and pre-secondary education for the Chicago-Detroit and Wisconsin Jesuits. Matt and his wife Bridget live in Chicago and have two children.

Prayer

Give me only your love and your grace. With these I am rich enough and need nothing more.

—St. Ignatius Loyola


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February 20, 2014

Mark 8: 27-33

Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?”And they answered him, “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.” And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.

Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

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 Poor DO Teach Us

As we experience Pope Francis’s ministry for the Church, my hunch is that we read today’s first reading in a fresh way. “Compassion” and “mercy” are hallmarks of the Pope’s ethos — just watch as his face comes alive during any public encounter. His gestures of mercy match Jesus’ own words and deeds; they teach us how to respond in our own outreach to others…especially those others might relegate to the margins.

You shall love your neighbor as yourself. This notable Jewish command spoken from Jesus’ own lips offers an important personal reminder in the midst of winter 2014. Each of us wants to respond to the question Jesus asks his disciples in today’s gospel — who do you say that I am? Perhaps we will find the key to that response in the ways we love our neighbor as ourselves…through our deeds of mercy towards “our neighbor,” in our compassion for those who are “poor”…whomever and however we find them. And what is my response?

—The Jesuit Prayer Team

Prayer

Lord, open our eyes that we may see you in our brothers and sisters. Lord, open our ears that we may hear the cries of the hungry, the cold, the frightened, the oppressed. Lord, open our hearts that we may love each other as you love us. Renew in us your spirit. Lord, free us and make us one.

—Mother Teresa


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February 19, 2014

James 1: 19-27

Know this, my dear brothers and sisters:everyone should be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, for anger does not accomplish the righteousness of God. Therefore, put away all filth and evil excess and humbly welcome the word that has been planted in you and is able to save your souls.

Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his own face in a mirror. He sees himself, then goes off and promptly forgets what he looked like. But the one who peers into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres, and is not a hearer who forgets but a doer who acts; such a one shall be blessed in what he does.

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, his religion is vain. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

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

Be Doers of the Word

The first reading this morning sounds so Ignatian to me. “Be doers of the word and not hearers only… not a hearer who forgets but a doer who acts; such a one shall be blessed in what he does.” In his introduction to the Contemplation on the Love of God in the Fourth Week of the Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius says “love ought to show itself in deeds even more than in words.” This reading from James certainly reinforces that! Those who call Ignatian spirituality their home are called to be Contemplatives in Action. Our reflection calls us to action.

So I reflect on the question, to what actions am I being called right now, this day? What wounded relationship is waiting for me to take the first step of reconciliation and love? What combination of words and actions will lead to healing and fullness of life? How might I get beyond my very limited and stingy sense of love to actually act and speak with God’s infinite, unconditional and pure love?

I am also reminded of a wise saying attributed to Mother Teresa, “there is no such thing as a small act of love.” Every act of love, even a seemingly small one, is a big deal because it makes God’s presence in the world known to the people God puts in our lives. Think of it as the continuing incarnation of God. This is the work of Jesus which he calls each of us to complete.

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

Prayer

Life-giving God, help me find you in everything I say and do this day. Help my outreach to others embody your strength, your hope, your love. May I in some small way be your hands, your heart, your voice. May I always walk in your ways and show your face to all I meet. Amen!


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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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February 28, 2014

Mark 10: 1-12

He left that place and went to the region of Judea and beyond the Jordan. And crowds again gathered around him; and, as was his custom, he again taught them.

Some Pharisees came, and to test him they asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her.” But Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

Then in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

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

Mercy and Law

Our readings today help us privilege mercy over law. So says the psalmist: “the Lord is kind and merciful”.

In today’s gospel the Pharisees present Jesus with a test of the Hebrew law: is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife? While Jesus notes the law does provide for a man to divorce his wife, Jesus chooses a different path here. In the setting of Mark’s gospel, divorce would marginalize the wife to a life of poverty and shame. Rather than cite the law on its own merit, perhaps disconnected from particular context, Jesus prioritizes the greater good– care for the woman who would be impoverished, shamed, and marginalized by this action.

Jesus’ answer here is worth great consideration for us, in our own setting. Our newspapers are rife with this very same deliberation: law vs. mercy. And in my own life, in my own day, I encounter this same choice. What do I privilege when faced with the judgment between law and mercy, a choice I face in both obvious and subtle ways. Do I privilege what is outlined by law or custom, or is there a greater good I am missing, or a riskier choice I lack the courage to make? Lord, grant me the wisdom and strength to seek the greater good this day, which often supersedes the law and requires of me true religious faith.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team

Prayer

The Lord is kind and merciful.

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all my being bless God’s name: bless the Lord and forget not God’s benefits.

Merciful and gracious is our God: slow to anger and boundless in kindness.

—Psalm 103


Please share the Good Word with your friends!

February 27, 2014

Mark 9: 41-50

For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.

“If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire.

And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell, where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.

“For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”

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

Attitudes and Actions

We are approaching the season of Lent. It is a time to center our hearts, to fix our eyes on Jesus, to live out his Word, to match our own actions to his life-giving deeds. Today’s readings engage us in frank talk about what this might look like.

“If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off…if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.” The truth is that our world view will have a greater sense of depth if we are seeing with both our eyes, and our physical actions throughout the day will be more balanced and effective if we can do them with two hands. It’s that same balanced view of reality that leads to effective spiritual health and grace-filled leadership in our professional and personal lives.

Today’s first reading from the letter of James points up the self-centered realities of life prevalent in Jesus’ day—realities certainly alive and well in our own experience. As I approach Mardi Gras weekend and the beginning of Lent, what kind of “course correction” to my attitudes and actions does Jesus ask and invite?

—The Jesuit Prayer Team

Prayer

Lord,  as Lent approaches, we anticipate our recommitment to be “living with one foot raised” ready to be your hope to others. We surrender all that we are to be filled with your Spirit so that when people meet us, they meet you.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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February 26, 2014

Mark 9: 38-40

John said to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us. Jesus replied, “Do not prevent him. There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name
who can at the same time speak ill of me.
For whoever is not against us is for us.”

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

Children of God

When I was a young boy we were taught that if you were not Catholic, you could not go to heaven. I remember having a good friend who was not Catholic. When we argued and it came down to “fighting time,” he would run, and he was faster than me and my brothers. As he ran we would yell at him, “you’re not going to heaven because you’re not Catholic!” We were not very Christian to say the least! On the other hand, another childhood memory is of an uncle who was not Catholic, but was one of the kindest men I knew. How could he not be going to heaven?

In today’s gospel Jesus is telling us not to draw such lines. Rather, he encourages us to look at the results and be inclusive rather than exclusive. This makes sense to me. It is not an exclusive club to which we belong. It is the family of God. We are all children of God, created from his infinite love and called to the same love. Let’s be inclusive and assume the best in other people. Isn’t this the message Pope Francis has been teaching us this past year?

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

Prayer

Lord, keep us deeply united to you. Help us overcome our conflicts, our divisions and our self-seeking, and to be united to one another by one force, by the power of love which the Holy Spirit pours into our hearts. Amen

— Excerpt from Pope Francis’ homily, January 25, 2014


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February 25, 2014

Mark 9: 30-37

They went on from there and passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it; for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.” But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.

Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.”

Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them,“Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”

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

Sacrament of Reconciliation: Fear Not

Twice in today’s Gospel, the disciples fear answering Jesus. The first, they feel confused about his statements, but don’t want to ask questions. The second time, Jesus recognizes their petty bickering. When asked what they are discussing, they look at Jesus silently, unwilling to acknowledge their wrongdoing. I am a prideful fellow myself, so I understand the disciples’ predicament. I am stubborn and do not like to ask for help, nor do I like my offenses pointed out.

What perfect timing then that our wonderful Pope Francis recently made a strong statement for the sacrament of Reconciliation. Francis said that we should not be afraid of the sacrament, even though it may sometimes feel daunting. What a similar emotion as the disciples today!

Reconciliation offers not just the opportunity to feel freer from our sins—it allows us to more fully approach Jesus and perhaps ask those questions of confusion or doubt. Francis ended his statement saying, “To celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation means to be wrapped in a warm embrace.” We can be the child that Christ picks up and receives into the Kingdom. What grace!

—Ken Homan, S.J. is a Jesuit brother from the Wisconsin Province. He is currently studying history and theology at Fordham University, New York.

Prayer

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

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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February 24, 2014

James 3: 13-18

Beloved: Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show his works by a good life in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. Wisdom of this kind does not come down from above but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.

For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice. But the wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace for those who cultivate peace.

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

“I can do so much, and only so much.”

(a couples’ perspective)

Lately, I have been struck with how many times a day I compare myself, or my situation in life, with someone else. Unfortunately, this is a common practice and one that rarely causes me comfort. It almost always seems “greener” when looking at someone else’s predicament—they do it better, more beautifully, easier that I can. And this comparison breeds jealousy which, James cautions, also creates “disorder”. I would agree with that both in my heart and mind.

I feel that this reading is bringing my attention to my need for humility in accepting all that I am.  I can do so much, and only so much. At some point, I will confront a limitation and no matter of comparing to another person helps me in accepting this reality peacefully. Often times, I turn to my husband to help me in this way—both naming my limitations and accepting them. He is able to bring a kind and gentle eye to me and I feel that in a good marriage, this is an exceptional gift!

—Carrie

I love the phrase “cultivate peace”! It reminds me of working in the garden in the summertime, tilling the soil, pulling out weeds, gently watering and lovingly minding budding plants.  Planting seeds is only the first step in this process. I reflected on how I cultivate peace in my own life. While I am rather far from perfect, I try to cultivate peace by being a calming presence to others—among my family and friends and co-workers and students.

Meeting anger with anger, while momentarily satisfying, does not cultivate peace. But facing anger and frustration with a kind word, a smile, a humorous quip (if appropriate) or even a simple question such as, “How are you doing today?” can diffuse a tense situation and help others feel at peace. We are offered opportunities almost daily to cultivate peace in this and other ways.  May we have open minds, eyes and ears to discover where peace needs cultivating!

Who in your life reflects the type of humility you would like to emulate?

How do you cultivate peace in your life?

—David

Carrie and David Nantais live in the city of Detroit with their two sons, Liam (almost 4 years) and Theo (5 ½ months). They are both at the University of Detroit Mercy—David as Director of University Ministry and Carrie as a PhD student in Clinical Psychology. They have been married for 5 ½ years. http://www.udmercy.edu/ministry/index.htm

Prayer

Lord, you are the poetry of wordless lives, the salting of tasteless purposes, the reminder that we are more than the sinking spiral of the dying sparrow and that the reckless rush of the galaxies marvel at the human collision of a kiss. You are the tightening hope that someone has stretched a net of peacefulness beneath this high wire act of ours.

—John Shea


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February 23, 2014

Matthew 5: 38-48

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.

For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

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

God’s River of Forgiveness

One of the things I’ve been told repeatedly by older Jesuits is that old age is not for sissies. And you know, neither is Christianity. Even when we’re not paying that much attention, the expectations of our faith are significant. And none more so than Jesus’ words today that we should love our enemies.

At the same time, if a survey was done worldwide, I suspect it would find that the most frequent sin priests hear confessed is the struggle to forgive. As awful as we can be to one another, in my experience most of us really do want to forgive, or at least let go of the pain and the rage we feel inside. Sometimes we are able to. Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, we just can’t.

That’s in a sense the whole point of the sacrament of reconciliation—we come before God to help us do the things that we find ourselves unable to do. Sin reminds us of just how small and weak we can be, and our need for not just God’s forgiveness, but his active intervention in our lives.

One confessor gave me this advice: “Think of forgiveness less as something you yourself have to do and more like a river moving on its own, guided by the Holy Spirit. And rather than try to force it (when you know you can’t), your job is just to try and stay out of its way.

—Fr. Jim McDermott, S.J, a Wisconsin province Jesuit, is an accomplished professional screenwriter who lives at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles CA.

Prayer

Father in heaven, deepen the life of Jesus within my heart. Send me as a witness of gospel hope into a world of fragile peace and broken promises. Touch my heart with your love so I in turn may love all those I meet this week. Amen!

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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February 22, 2014

Chair of Peter

Matthew 16: 13-19

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

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

Meaning of “the Chair”

Why do we celebrate “the chair” of St. Peter? The Benedictine scholars at the Abbey of Beuron in Germany offer the following thoughts. For ten days in February the ancient pagan Romans remembered their deceased relatives. Food and a chair (cathedra) were readied for them. The Christians substituted a feast remembering Peter, their father in faith.

In time the chair became a symbol for the teaching authority of the bishop of Rome. And where he preached, and taught, and celebrated the Holy Eucharist, became known as the cathedral. So, echoing the words of Jesus in today’s Gospel, we celebrate the important teaching office in Catholic Church: “You are Peter… I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

—Fr. Bob Braunreuther, S.J., a New England Jesuit, assists in pastoral ministry at Loyola University Chicago, and is minister of the Arrupe House Jesuit Community.

Prayer

St. Peter, whose heart was pierced with one look from Jesus, pray for us.
St. Peter; who cried out, “Lord, you know that I love you,” pray for us.
St. Peter, bound in chains for Christ, pray for us.
St. Peter, whose very shadow healed the sick, pray for us.
St. Peter, that we may have a constant and mutual charity among ourselves, pray for us.
That we may be zealous in loyalty to your successor, Pope Francis, pray for us.
That we may be prudent and watchful in prayer, pray for us.
That we may die the death of the just, pray for us.

—Excerpt from the Litany of St. Peter

 


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February 21, 2014

St. Peter Damian

Mk 8: 34 – 9: 1

He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life?

Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” And he said to them, “Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.”

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

Freedom to Love

Mark today outlines the cost of discipleship, pointing to the fundamental end of the Christian spiritual life: freedom. The great Saints of our tradition show us this. From Francis to Tekakwitha, Ignatius to Kolbe, we learn that the Christian path is a struggle for freedom: freedom from that which keeps me away from Christ’s love, and freedom for a full reception of this very same love.

The challenge presented in today’s reading is not in its novelty, for surely this is one of the most familiar in all of scripture. These lines are cited popularly in heroic conversion moments, Francis rejecting the world’s riches or Ignatius turning away from vainglory. And yet, the deeper challenge is as often claiming my conversion each day, as important as those seminal moments are. Conversion away from sin towards love that frees is a lifelong process, not simply a once for all moment.

Francis and Ignatius surely sinned after they dropped their riches or swords. And so do we.  We take up our cross each day. Praying with the inspiration of Mark to name that which binds me today, and that I need God’s grace to be free from. I beg God’s assistance.  Make haste to help me, O Lord!

—Matthew Couture is the assistant for secondary and pre-secondary education for the Chicago-Detroit and Wisconsin Jesuits. Matt and his wife Bridget live in Chicago and have two children.

Prayer

Give me only your love and your grace. With these I am rich enough and need nothing more.

—St. Ignatius Loyola


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February 20, 2014

Mark 8: 27-33

Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?”And they answered him, “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.” And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.

Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

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 Poor DO Teach Us

As we experience Pope Francis’s ministry for the Church, my hunch is that we read today’s first reading in a fresh way. “Compassion” and “mercy” are hallmarks of the Pope’s ethos — just watch as his face comes alive during any public encounter. His gestures of mercy match Jesus’ own words and deeds; they teach us how to respond in our own outreach to others…especially those others might relegate to the margins.

You shall love your neighbor as yourself. This notable Jewish command spoken from Jesus’ own lips offers an important personal reminder in the midst of winter 2014. Each of us wants to respond to the question Jesus asks his disciples in today’s gospel — who do you say that I am? Perhaps we will find the key to that response in the ways we love our neighbor as ourselves…through our deeds of mercy towards “our neighbor,” in our compassion for those who are “poor”…whomever and however we find them. And what is my response?

—The Jesuit Prayer Team

Prayer

Lord, open our eyes that we may see you in our brothers and sisters. Lord, open our ears that we may hear the cries of the hungry, the cold, the frightened, the oppressed. Lord, open our hearts that we may love each other as you love us. Renew in us your spirit. Lord, free us and make us one.

—Mother Teresa


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February 19, 2014

James 1: 19-27

Know this, my dear brothers and sisters:everyone should be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, for anger does not accomplish the righteousness of God. Therefore, put away all filth and evil excess and humbly welcome the word that has been planted in you and is able to save your souls.

Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his own face in a mirror. He sees himself, then goes off and promptly forgets what he looked like. But the one who peers into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres, and is not a hearer who forgets but a doer who acts; such a one shall be blessed in what he does.

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, his religion is vain. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

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

Be Doers of the Word

The first reading this morning sounds so Ignatian to me. “Be doers of the word and not hearers only… not a hearer who forgets but a doer who acts; such a one shall be blessed in what he does.” In his introduction to the Contemplation on the Love of God in the Fourth Week of the Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius says “love ought to show itself in deeds even more than in words.” This reading from James certainly reinforces that! Those who call Ignatian spirituality their home are called to be Contemplatives in Action. Our reflection calls us to action.

So I reflect on the question, to what actions am I being called right now, this day? What wounded relationship is waiting for me to take the first step of reconciliation and love? What combination of words and actions will lead to healing and fullness of life? How might I get beyond my very limited and stingy sense of love to actually act and speak with God’s infinite, unconditional and pure love?

I am also reminded of a wise saying attributed to Mother Teresa, “there is no such thing as a small act of love.” Every act of love, even a seemingly small one, is a big deal because it makes God’s presence in the world known to the people God puts in our lives. Think of it as the continuing incarnation of God. This is the work of Jesus which he calls each of us to complete.

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

Prayer

Life-giving God, help me find you in everything I say and do this day. Help my outreach to others embody your strength, your hope, your love. May I in some small way be your hands, your heart, your voice. May I always walk in your ways and show your face to all I meet. Amen!


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