March 31, 2014

Isaiah 65: 17-21

For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating; for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight. I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and delight in my people; no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it, or the cry of distress.

No more shall there be in it an infant that lives but a few days, or an old person who does not live out a lifetime; for one who dies at a hundred years will be considered a youth, and one who falls short of a hundred will be considered accursed. They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.

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

Let Us Rejoice

“And they lived happily ever after,” the fairy tales assured us as we drifted off to sleep, calm and peaceful, in our early years. Then we grew up, usually with 6 or 7 years under our belts. Like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, this was the stuff of little kids, we wisely concluded. And so, sadly, at an early age and on many levels, we discounted the hope of everlasting peace and harmony and settled for life with so much less. Unwittingly, we limited God.

Enter Isaiah, with his stunning depiction of the Lord’s promise of “new heavens and a new earth.” Bad memories erased? No weeping? Eternal rejoicing? Old age and rich fare for all? Fairy tales, only repackaged for an older, wiser crowd? Or the stuff of true faith, the revelation of a magnanimous God?  “I will rejoice in Jerusalem and exult in my people,” says the Lord. We are that people, all of us, in every corner of the earth. Even in Lent, let us rejoice.

—Fr. David Mastrangelo, S.J. is superior of the Taylor St. Jesuit community, Chicago, and director of Mission and Identity at Christ the King Jesuit High School, Chicago.

Prayer

God of all life and possibility, you promise new heavens and a new earth…even for all of us slogging our way through Lent. Help me trust in your life-changing grace and boundless love. Be with me along my personal way of the cross, knowing that you long to welcome us all  into the fullness of your resurrection.  Amen!


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March 30, 2014

John 9: 1-41

As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see.

The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.” They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”

They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, “He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.” Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And they were divided.

So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” He said, “He is a prophet.” The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” His parents answered, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes.

Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.”His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.” So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, “Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.”

He answered, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?”

Then they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” The man answered, “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes.

We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?” And they drove him out.

Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” He said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped him.

Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.” Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.

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

Light and Sight

What is it that touches you lately, moves your heart, opens your eyes? What restlessness or glimpse of your world, change of view? You know how it is, maybe, when a friend spends half a year helping to rebuild a rural community in Guatemala, and she’s different now. It’s her story, of course. But it changes how she fits back home now, how she connects to her old friends. And you wonder what she sees. You wonder about your own blind spots.

What can happen to shift our own story, to see in a new way? A risky commitment; crossing a boundary? Or it could be the revolutionary discovery of being loved, being valued even as a sinner, cherished by your spouse or a friend, or God. To be known! Light comes in, a grace.

We test such a truth by telling it over in our own words. Like the man in the Gospel. That’s the leap of faith: speaking for yourself, telling what happened to calm your worries, or shift your values, or open your eyes. What a moment, to know we are different now! What a test, when life calls on us to explore that change, to live it.

And then to let Jesus know. “I believe you now. I know you.”

—Fr. Richard Bollman, S.J., a Jesuit of the Chicago-Detroit province, is currently engaged in pastoral ministries in Cincinnati and at the Jesuit Center in Milford, OH.

Prayer

Holy God, your Word, Jesus Christ, spoke peace to our sinful world and brought us the gift of reconciliation. Through his suffering and death teach us to follow the example he gave: may our daily actions turn hatred to love, conflict to peace, and death to eternal life. Amen!


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March 29, 2014

Hos 6: 1-6

“Come, let us return to the Lord; for it is he who has torn, and he will heal us; he has struck down, and he will bind us up. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him. Let us know, let us press on to know the Lord; his appearing is as sure as the dawn; he will come to us like the showers, like the spring rains that water the earth.”

What shall I do with you, O Ephraim? What shall I do with you, O Judah? Your love is like a morning cloud, like the dew that goes away early. Therefore I have hewn them by the prophets, I have killed them by the words of my mouth, and my judgment goes forth as the light. For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.

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 Want You to Know Me

Midway through this Lenten season, can you hear God calling you? In praying with today’s first reading, and bringing to it the specific challenges of our lives today, the message in Hosea might sound something like this:

Come back to me.
When you are hurting–
damaged in a relationship,
leveled by a diagnosis,
anxious in your work,
worried about your children,
diminished in your body–
I will heal you.

When you are broken–
in the throes of addiction,
grieving the loss of a person you love,
deeply in debt,
confused about sex,
struggling with a decision,
bent double by failure–
I will bind your wounds.

When hard times
and the persons
and systems you counted on–
have left you for dead,
I will raise you up.
I want you to live in my presence.
Sure as the dawn,
I am coming to meet you.

My love for you shines
as bright as the sun.

My care for you pours down
the way the spring rain waters the earth.

You don’t have to do anything.
You don’t have to be “good enough.”
I don’t require your sacrifices,
your accomplishments,
your success.
Your love is all I desire.

More than anything,
I want you to know me.

—Mary Anne Reese is an attorney in Cincinnati, Ohio. She graduated from Xavier University’s theology program and belongs to St. Robert Bellarmine Parish. She is also a published poet.

Prayer

O most merciful redeemer, friend and brother, may I know thee more clearly, love thee more dearly, and follow thee more nearly, day by day. Amen.

—From the Prayer of Saint Richard of Chichester


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March 28, 2014

Day of abstinence from meat (age 14 and up).

Mark 12: 28-34

One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, ‘Which commandment is the first of all?’ Jesus answered, ‘The first is, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” The second is this, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.’

Then the scribe said to him, ‘You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that “he is one, and besides him there is no other”; and “to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength”, and “to love one’s neighbour as oneself”,—this is much more important than all whole burnt-offerings and sacrifices.’ When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ After that no one dared to ask him any question.

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

Lenten Essentials

It seems pretty simple from today’s Gospel what Jesus desires from each of us. It also seems clear what he doesn’t want from us. He doesn’t want empty promises and meaningless practices. He desires that we love our God and each other. Jesus references the Shema, the greatest of Jewish prayers to express that everything we do stems from loving God with everything we are. It can be difficult during Lent to see past the restrictions and obligations we place on ourselves to express our faith. We measure a successful Lent on how many days we have given up chocolate.

However, Jesus wants to remember the essentials, the non-negotiable of our faith – to love God and others. As the third week of Lent comes to a close, how have you loved God this week – with your heart, your understanding, and your strength? How have you shown love for God’s greatest creation, your family, friends, co-workers?

—Catherine M. Mifsud, MA is a member of the faculty of St. Mary’s Dominican High School in New Orleans, where she teaches Theology. Catherine volunteers her time both on the Diocese of Baton Rouge Charis Retreat Leadership Team and for the Archdiocese of New Orleans Charis Team.

Prayer

Stir up your power, loving God. Give new life to our hearts, our relationships, our love of those around us. These holy days of Lent help me bring all the concerns of my life to the foot of your cross. Amen.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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March 27, 2014

Lk 11: 14-23

Now he was casting out a demon that was mute; when the demon had gone out, the one who had been mute spoke, and the crowds were amazed. But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons.” Others, to test him, kept demanding from him a sign from heaven. But he knew what they were thinking and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself becomes a desert, and house falls on house. If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? —for you say that I cast out the demons by Beelzebul.

Now if I cast out the demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your exorcists cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out the demons, then the kingdom of God has come to you. When a strong man, fully armed, guards his castle, his property is safe. But when one stronger than he attacks him and overpowers him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his plunder. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.

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

Followers and Witnesses

In this Gospel we are shown the great power of God.  Jesus drives out the demon from the mute man, and he is immediately questioned and accused. The people say he drives out the demons by the power of the prince of demons.  Jesus ever so powerfully responds, “For you say that it is by Beelzebul that I drive out demons. If I, then, drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your own people drive them out?” He also says, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste and house will fall against house.”

Jesus here is calling us to faith, faith in the power of God. In order to fully call ourselves Christians, followers and witnesses to Christ, we need to be absolutely invested in Christ.  We are called from our ways of complacency, to have a change of heart. Jesus is beckoning us to live fully as His follower, to love one another, to be Christ in the world. Let us ask Jesus for the gift of faith so that we might be true witnesses to Christ.

—Jack Lupica, a senior at Saint Ignatius High School, Cleveland, OH.

Prayer

“Today’s world stands in great need of witnesses, not so much of teachers but rather of witnesses. It’s not so much about speaking, but rather speaking with our whole lives.”

—Pope Francis, May 18, 2013.


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March 26, 2014

Matthew 5: 17-19

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of 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

God’s Law of Love

This whole thing of Law is a tricky subject. A lot of Christians – maybe especially Catholics – think that God’s law is mostly “No-no’s”! “You can’t do this, you can’t do that, you’ve got to be obedient….”  What Pope Francis has said loud and clear is: the Church isn’t about rules, it’s about love. God’s law is, first of all, the law of our being: it’s how God made us. We’re at our best when we are acting like who we really are, when we’re motivated by love. Good “laws” are simply intelligent ways of guiding us to loving behavior.

Traffic laws are, at heart, sensible applications of the deeper law that guides us not to harm ourselves or our neighbor: to obey the fifth commandment “thou shalt not kill!” Courtroom laws against perjury are not just applications of the commandment which says “don’t lie”: they are guidelines for good human behavior, and good social relations. Shakespeare’s Polonius knew this well: “to thine own self be true and it must follow as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.” Even good psychology tells us that gentleness and truthfulness bring us peace of mind in our relationships.

That’s what Jesus is trying to tell us in today’s Gospel passage: if we are true to the law of our being, we will be truly happy – ranking “high in the kingdom of Heaven.” Lent is a chance to reflect on being true to our best selves and to ask help in obeying God’s great Law of Love, of which all the other Commandments and all other good laws are simply practical applications.

Fr. John J. O’Callaghan, S.J. is senior chaplain for the health sciences division at Loyola University Chicago’s Stritch School of Medicine in Maywood IL

Prayer

Lord, wherever we go, we are called to proclaim that you are greater than our sinfulness, that you freely love us at all times and that we are made for communion and eternal life. Help us to be joyous heralds of this message of mercy and hope! May we reach out to console the broken hearts and to offer light to our brothers and sisters experiencing darkness.

—Adapted from Pope Francis’ Homily, March 5, 2014


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March 25, 2014

Solemnity of the ANNUNCIATION OF THE LORD

Luke 1: 26-38

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”

But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.”

Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

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

Handing Over My Life

What is it to be overshadowed by another?  It is to be minimized and outmatched, to let the emphasis fall on another and not on you. Yet, to be overshadowed by the power of the Most High is not a kind of falling darkness, nor is it a sidelining, head bowed in shame while flashbulbs strobe another’s rejoicing. God’s overshadowing is less about minimizing and more about fulfilling –making up for our limitation, filling in our faults, raising up our lowliness to his perfection.

If we give ourselves willingly to God, hand over our lives to his plan, we can be certain that he will overshadow us. Sometimes, though, that brings fear, a kind of butterflies in the stomach that’s often less about what the cost might be and more about the outcome – a defeat even after all that work.  To that, we need only to look to Mary.  Who would she be if she wasn’t the Mother of God?  We don’t know and we can’t know because Mary wouldn’t have been Mary if she didn’t say “yes.”  There is something almost unsettling about God’s will for us – we cannot be ourselves if we do not let God form us into who we authentically are.  To be ourselves is to be overshadowed by a God who turns failure to victory and death to new life.

What would it be like if God really asked me to radically change my life, to change it not so much for me and my desires, but to change it for him?  How would I want to respond?

—Cyril Pinchak, S.J. is a Jesuit scholastic teaching English at University of Detroit Jesuit High School and Academy, Detroit MI. He is also a published poet.

Prayer

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,     my memory, my understanding and my entire will, all I have and possess.  All you have given me I now give back to you, O Lord. All is yours, dispose of it according to your will. Give me only your love and your grace; that is enough for me.

—St. Ignatius Loyola  (click here to download the prayer card)


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March 24, 2014

Luke 4: 24-30

And he said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown. But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.”

When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.

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

Rejection and Grace

From the earliest days of his public ministry, Jesus experienced the sting of rejection.  Visiting his hometown synagogue in Nazareth, he read from the prophet Isaiah, and all were amazed.  We can infer from his response to the crowd—“Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place”—that his message was not what the people anticipated, that he was not whom they wanted.  Jesus’ own kinfolk unceremoniously drove him out of town.

We all like to be praised for witnessing to the Gospel; there is, after all, comfort in “preaching to the choir.”  But when circumstances dictate, can we step out, with quiet steadfastness or confident boldness, to proclaim the inconvenient truth about Jesus?  Like Jesus, can we accept the sting of rejection?

—Fr. David Mastrangelo, S.J. is superior of the Taylor St. Jesuit community, Chicago, and director of Mission and Identity at Christ the King Jesuit High School, Chicago.

Prayer

Through your most holy passion and death, I beg you, Lord, to grant me a holy life along with a complete death to all my vices and passions and self-love. Help me grow in your faith, hope, and charity.  Amen.

—St. Alphonsus Rodriguez, S.J.


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March 23, 2014

John 4: 5-42

So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon. A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.)

Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”

The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.” Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!”The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.”

Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.”

Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you want?” or, “Why are you speaking with her?” Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” They left the city and were on their way to him.

Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, “Rabbi, eat something.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” So the disciples said to one another, “Surely no one has brought him something to eat?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. Do you not say, ‘Four months more, then comes the harvest’? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together.

For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.” Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I have ever done.”

So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of 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

A Deeper Encounter

An encounter with Jesus: not a miracle, not a teaching, but a conversation that changes the woman, and reveals the person of Jesus. A chance meeting, with interest and curiosity, alertness, and gradually greater honesty, so there is growth, discovery. For us, by savoring what the woman found, we move closer to our own relationship with Jesus, that open place, that trust.

It happens like this. You open the scripture, or give yourself a quiet moment at lunch, and it becomes a situation in which Christ appears to be real, actually engaging you as you arrive, the way people do talk, asking what you need or wonder about, a drink of water. We might dodge a little, hesitate, but at a certain point Jesus gains our attention and our trust And he looks new, able to feel your depth, your own well of human hurt and thirst, never judging. How remarkable to be with someone who begins to know you, to see you as yourself.

Indeed, what does he ask? Your wonderings, your needs. We have this thirst to be known, with someone who grasps the burden you have carried today, that quite familiar load. What is it today? You might feel it lifted. You might find a thirst to live more free, more yourself.

We grow through these moments of encounter, almost unplanned. Here is our Lenten story unfolding.

—Fr. Richard Bollman, S.J., a Jesuit of the Chicago-Detroit province, is currently engaged in pastoral ministries in Cincinnati and at the Jesuit Center in Milford, OH.

Prayer

God of all compassion, this season of grace you invite us to turn to fasting, prayer, and care for the poor and those in need. When our weakness causes discouragement, let your compassion fill our hearts with hope. These weeks of penance we hope for the beauty of Easter joy.  Amen!


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March 22, 2014

Luke 15: 1-3. 11-32

Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So he told them this parable:

“There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need.

So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.”’

So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him.Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.

“Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him.

But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’ Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’”

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

Welcome Home

The genius of this parable is that most of us have lived it in one or more of the roles. For me, I was the “prodigal son” as early as junior high, when I once dallied with friends and missed the first bus home from an away basketball game. My lateness caused my father not only to worry, but to have to stand around the school and wait for hours.

I finally got off a later bus and saw Dad wearing the tuxedo he’d planned to wear to his company Christmas party that night. His face was red when he scolded me, “Where were you? The other bus got back hours ago.” I didn’t have a good answer.

The next morning, I sheepishly apologized to my parents. I asked if they still loved me. The response was as lavish as the one in the parable. “Of course, we love you. You’re our daughter. You made a mistake, but we will always love you.” The event blew over and my brief time of “being grounded” ended, but I remembered that response decades later.

This was not the first or last time in my life when I screwed up and needed forgiveness. But families and communities of people are complicated, and so I have also played the other roles in this parable as well–the dutiful older child who feels she deserves better, the parent who runs out to embrace the lost one.

As you consider the three roles within the parable—the free-wheeling younger child, the responsible older one, and the parent whose generosity is boundless—which role most draws you into the stories of your own life.

—Mary Anne Reese is an attorney in Cincinnati, Ohio. She graduated from Xavier University’s theology program and belongs to St. Robert Bellarmine Parish.. She is also a published poet.

Prayer

Dear God, I know that when I am off on a frolic of my own, you are always waiting for me to return. Help me to come to my senses, to stand up, and to admit my mistakes. Help me to trust that, when you catch sight of me on the road, you will run toward me with compassion, embrace me, kiss me, and welcome me home once more. Amen.

—Mary Anne Reese


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March 31, 2014

Isaiah 65: 17-21

For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating; for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight. I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and delight in my people; no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it, or the cry of distress.

No more shall there be in it an infant that lives but a few days, or an old person who does not live out a lifetime; for one who dies at a hundred years will be considered a youth, and one who falls short of a hundred will be considered accursed. They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.

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

Let Us Rejoice

“And they lived happily ever after,” the fairy tales assured us as we drifted off to sleep, calm and peaceful, in our early years. Then we grew up, usually with 6 or 7 years under our belts. Like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, this was the stuff of little kids, we wisely concluded. And so, sadly, at an early age and on many levels, we discounted the hope of everlasting peace and harmony and settled for life with so much less. Unwittingly, we limited God.

Enter Isaiah, with his stunning depiction of the Lord’s promise of “new heavens and a new earth.” Bad memories erased? No weeping? Eternal rejoicing? Old age and rich fare for all? Fairy tales, only repackaged for an older, wiser crowd? Or the stuff of true faith, the revelation of a magnanimous God?  “I will rejoice in Jerusalem and exult in my people,” says the Lord. We are that people, all of us, in every corner of the earth. Even in Lent, let us rejoice.

—Fr. David Mastrangelo, S.J. is superior of the Taylor St. Jesuit community, Chicago, and director of Mission and Identity at Christ the King Jesuit High School, Chicago.

Prayer

God of all life and possibility, you promise new heavens and a new earth…even for all of us slogging our way through Lent. Help me trust in your life-changing grace and boundless love. Be with me along my personal way of the cross, knowing that you long to welcome us all  into the fullness of your resurrection.  Amen!


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March 30, 2014

John 9: 1-41

As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see.

The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.” They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”

They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, “He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.” Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And they were divided.

So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” He said, “He is a prophet.” The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” His parents answered, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes.

Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.”His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.” So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, “Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.”

He answered, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?”

Then they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” The man answered, “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes.

We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?” And they drove him out.

Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” He said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped him.

Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.” Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.

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

Light and Sight

What is it that touches you lately, moves your heart, opens your eyes? What restlessness or glimpse of your world, change of view? You know how it is, maybe, when a friend spends half a year helping to rebuild a rural community in Guatemala, and she’s different now. It’s her story, of course. But it changes how she fits back home now, how she connects to her old friends. And you wonder what she sees. You wonder about your own blind spots.

What can happen to shift our own story, to see in a new way? A risky commitment; crossing a boundary? Or it could be the revolutionary discovery of being loved, being valued even as a sinner, cherished by your spouse or a friend, or God. To be known! Light comes in, a grace.

We test such a truth by telling it over in our own words. Like the man in the Gospel. That’s the leap of faith: speaking for yourself, telling what happened to calm your worries, or shift your values, or open your eyes. What a moment, to know we are different now! What a test, when life calls on us to explore that change, to live it.

And then to let Jesus know. “I believe you now. I know you.”

—Fr. Richard Bollman, S.J., a Jesuit of the Chicago-Detroit province, is currently engaged in pastoral ministries in Cincinnati and at the Jesuit Center in Milford, OH.

Prayer

Holy God, your Word, Jesus Christ, spoke peace to our sinful world and brought us the gift of reconciliation. Through his suffering and death teach us to follow the example he gave: may our daily actions turn hatred to love, conflict to peace, and death to eternal life. Amen!


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March 29, 2014

Hos 6: 1-6

“Come, let us return to the Lord; for it is he who has torn, and he will heal us; he has struck down, and he will bind us up. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him. Let us know, let us press on to know the Lord; his appearing is as sure as the dawn; he will come to us like the showers, like the spring rains that water the earth.”

What shall I do with you, O Ephraim? What shall I do with you, O Judah? Your love is like a morning cloud, like the dew that goes away early. Therefore I have hewn them by the prophets, I have killed them by the words of my mouth, and my judgment goes forth as the light. For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.

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 Want You to Know Me

Midway through this Lenten season, can you hear God calling you? In praying with today’s first reading, and bringing to it the specific challenges of our lives today, the message in Hosea might sound something like this:

Come back to me.
When you are hurting–
damaged in a relationship,
leveled by a diagnosis,
anxious in your work,
worried about your children,
diminished in your body–
I will heal you.

When you are broken–
in the throes of addiction,
grieving the loss of a person you love,
deeply in debt,
confused about sex,
struggling with a decision,
bent double by failure–
I will bind your wounds.

When hard times
and the persons
and systems you counted on–
have left you for dead,
I will raise you up.
I want you to live in my presence.
Sure as the dawn,
I am coming to meet you.

My love for you shines
as bright as the sun.

My care for you pours down
the way the spring rain waters the earth.

You don’t have to do anything.
You don’t have to be “good enough.”
I don’t require your sacrifices,
your accomplishments,
your success.
Your love is all I desire.

More than anything,
I want you to know me.

—Mary Anne Reese is an attorney in Cincinnati, Ohio. She graduated from Xavier University’s theology program and belongs to St. Robert Bellarmine Parish. She is also a published poet.

Prayer

O most merciful redeemer, friend and brother, may I know thee more clearly, love thee more dearly, and follow thee more nearly, day by day. Amen.

—From the Prayer of Saint Richard of Chichester


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March 28, 2014

Day of abstinence from meat (age 14 and up).

Mark 12: 28-34

One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, ‘Which commandment is the first of all?’ Jesus answered, ‘The first is, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” The second is this, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.’

Then the scribe said to him, ‘You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that “he is one, and besides him there is no other”; and “to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength”, and “to love one’s neighbour as oneself”,—this is much more important than all whole burnt-offerings and sacrifices.’ When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ After that no one dared to ask him any question.

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

Lenten Essentials

It seems pretty simple from today’s Gospel what Jesus desires from each of us. It also seems clear what he doesn’t want from us. He doesn’t want empty promises and meaningless practices. He desires that we love our God and each other. Jesus references the Shema, the greatest of Jewish prayers to express that everything we do stems from loving God with everything we are. It can be difficult during Lent to see past the restrictions and obligations we place on ourselves to express our faith. We measure a successful Lent on how many days we have given up chocolate.

However, Jesus wants to remember the essentials, the non-negotiable of our faith – to love God and others. As the third week of Lent comes to a close, how have you loved God this week – with your heart, your understanding, and your strength? How have you shown love for God’s greatest creation, your family, friends, co-workers?

—Catherine M. Mifsud, MA is a member of the faculty of St. Mary’s Dominican High School in New Orleans, where she teaches Theology. Catherine volunteers her time both on the Diocese of Baton Rouge Charis Retreat Leadership Team and for the Archdiocese of New Orleans Charis Team.

Prayer

Stir up your power, loving God. Give new life to our hearts, our relationships, our love of those around us. These holy days of Lent help me bring all the concerns of my life to the foot of your cross. Amen.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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March 27, 2014

Lk 11: 14-23

Now he was casting out a demon that was mute; when the demon had gone out, the one who had been mute spoke, and the crowds were amazed. But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons.” Others, to test him, kept demanding from him a sign from heaven. But he knew what they were thinking and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself becomes a desert, and house falls on house. If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? —for you say that I cast out the demons by Beelzebul.

Now if I cast out the demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your exorcists cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out the demons, then the kingdom of God has come to you. When a strong man, fully armed, guards his castle, his property is safe. But when one stronger than he attacks him and overpowers him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his plunder. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.

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

Followers and Witnesses

In this Gospel we are shown the great power of God.  Jesus drives out the demon from the mute man, and he is immediately questioned and accused. The people say he drives out the demons by the power of the prince of demons.  Jesus ever so powerfully responds, “For you say that it is by Beelzebul that I drive out demons. If I, then, drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your own people drive them out?” He also says, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste and house will fall against house.”

Jesus here is calling us to faith, faith in the power of God. In order to fully call ourselves Christians, followers and witnesses to Christ, we need to be absolutely invested in Christ.  We are called from our ways of complacency, to have a change of heart. Jesus is beckoning us to live fully as His follower, to love one another, to be Christ in the world. Let us ask Jesus for the gift of faith so that we might be true witnesses to Christ.

—Jack Lupica, a senior at Saint Ignatius High School, Cleveland, OH.

Prayer

“Today’s world stands in great need of witnesses, not so much of teachers but rather of witnesses. It’s not so much about speaking, but rather speaking with our whole lives.”

—Pope Francis, May 18, 2013.


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March 26, 2014

Matthew 5: 17-19

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of 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

God’s Law of Love

This whole thing of Law is a tricky subject. A lot of Christians – maybe especially Catholics – think that God’s law is mostly “No-no’s”! “You can’t do this, you can’t do that, you’ve got to be obedient….”  What Pope Francis has said loud and clear is: the Church isn’t about rules, it’s about love. God’s law is, first of all, the law of our being: it’s how God made us. We’re at our best when we are acting like who we really are, when we’re motivated by love. Good “laws” are simply intelligent ways of guiding us to loving behavior.

Traffic laws are, at heart, sensible applications of the deeper law that guides us not to harm ourselves or our neighbor: to obey the fifth commandment “thou shalt not kill!” Courtroom laws against perjury are not just applications of the commandment which says “don’t lie”: they are guidelines for good human behavior, and good social relations. Shakespeare’s Polonius knew this well: “to thine own self be true and it must follow as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.” Even good psychology tells us that gentleness and truthfulness bring us peace of mind in our relationships.

That’s what Jesus is trying to tell us in today’s Gospel passage: if we are true to the law of our being, we will be truly happy – ranking “high in the kingdom of Heaven.” Lent is a chance to reflect on being true to our best selves and to ask help in obeying God’s great Law of Love, of which all the other Commandments and all other good laws are simply practical applications.

Fr. John J. O’Callaghan, S.J. is senior chaplain for the health sciences division at Loyola University Chicago’s Stritch School of Medicine in Maywood IL

Prayer

Lord, wherever we go, we are called to proclaim that you are greater than our sinfulness, that you freely love us at all times and that we are made for communion and eternal life. Help us to be joyous heralds of this message of mercy and hope! May we reach out to console the broken hearts and to offer light to our brothers and sisters experiencing darkness.

—Adapted from Pope Francis’ Homily, March 5, 2014


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March 25, 2014

Solemnity of the ANNUNCIATION OF THE LORD

Luke 1: 26-38

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”

But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.”

Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

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

Handing Over My Life

What is it to be overshadowed by another?  It is to be minimized and outmatched, to let the emphasis fall on another and not on you. Yet, to be overshadowed by the power of the Most High is not a kind of falling darkness, nor is it a sidelining, head bowed in shame while flashbulbs strobe another’s rejoicing. God’s overshadowing is less about minimizing and more about fulfilling –making up for our limitation, filling in our faults, raising up our lowliness to his perfection.

If we give ourselves willingly to God, hand over our lives to his plan, we can be certain that he will overshadow us. Sometimes, though, that brings fear, a kind of butterflies in the stomach that’s often less about what the cost might be and more about the outcome – a defeat even after all that work.  To that, we need only to look to Mary.  Who would she be if she wasn’t the Mother of God?  We don’t know and we can’t know because Mary wouldn’t have been Mary if she didn’t say “yes.”  There is something almost unsettling about God’s will for us – we cannot be ourselves if we do not let God form us into who we authentically are.  To be ourselves is to be overshadowed by a God who turns failure to victory and death to new life.

What would it be like if God really asked me to radically change my life, to change it not so much for me and my desires, but to change it for him?  How would I want to respond?

—Cyril Pinchak, S.J. is a Jesuit scholastic teaching English at University of Detroit Jesuit High School and Academy, Detroit MI. He is also a published poet.

Prayer

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,     my memory, my understanding and my entire will, all I have and possess.  All you have given me I now give back to you, O Lord. All is yours, dispose of it according to your will. Give me only your love and your grace; that is enough for me.

—St. Ignatius Loyola  (click here to download the prayer card)


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March 24, 2014

Luke 4: 24-30

And he said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown. But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.”

When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.

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

Rejection and Grace

From the earliest days of his public ministry, Jesus experienced the sting of rejection.  Visiting his hometown synagogue in Nazareth, he read from the prophet Isaiah, and all were amazed.  We can infer from his response to the crowd—“Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place”—that his message was not what the people anticipated, that he was not whom they wanted.  Jesus’ own kinfolk unceremoniously drove him out of town.

We all like to be praised for witnessing to the Gospel; there is, after all, comfort in “preaching to the choir.”  But when circumstances dictate, can we step out, with quiet steadfastness or confident boldness, to proclaim the inconvenient truth about Jesus?  Like Jesus, can we accept the sting of rejection?

—Fr. David Mastrangelo, S.J. is superior of the Taylor St. Jesuit community, Chicago, and director of Mission and Identity at Christ the King Jesuit High School, Chicago.

Prayer

Through your most holy passion and death, I beg you, Lord, to grant me a holy life along with a complete death to all my vices and passions and self-love. Help me grow in your faith, hope, and charity.  Amen.

—St. Alphonsus Rodriguez, S.J.


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March 23, 2014

John 4: 5-42

So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon. A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.)

Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”

The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.” Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!”The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.”

Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.”

Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you want?” or, “Why are you speaking with her?” Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” They left the city and were on their way to him.

Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, “Rabbi, eat something.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” So the disciples said to one another, “Surely no one has brought him something to eat?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. Do you not say, ‘Four months more, then comes the harvest’? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together.

For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.” Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I have ever done.”

So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of 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

A Deeper Encounter

An encounter with Jesus: not a miracle, not a teaching, but a conversation that changes the woman, and reveals the person of Jesus. A chance meeting, with interest and curiosity, alertness, and gradually greater honesty, so there is growth, discovery. For us, by savoring what the woman found, we move closer to our own relationship with Jesus, that open place, that trust.

It happens like this. You open the scripture, or give yourself a quiet moment at lunch, and it becomes a situation in which Christ appears to be real, actually engaging you as you arrive, the way people do talk, asking what you need or wonder about, a drink of water. We might dodge a little, hesitate, but at a certain point Jesus gains our attention and our trust And he looks new, able to feel your depth, your own well of human hurt and thirst, never judging. How remarkable to be with someone who begins to know you, to see you as yourself.

Indeed, what does he ask? Your wonderings, your needs. We have this thirst to be known, with someone who grasps the burden you have carried today, that quite familiar load. What is it today? You might feel it lifted. You might find a thirst to live more free, more yourself.

We grow through these moments of encounter, almost unplanned. Here is our Lenten story unfolding.

—Fr. Richard Bollman, S.J., a Jesuit of the Chicago-Detroit province, is currently engaged in pastoral ministries in Cincinnati and at the Jesuit Center in Milford, OH.

Prayer

God of all compassion, this season of grace you invite us to turn to fasting, prayer, and care for the poor and those in need. When our weakness causes discouragement, let your compassion fill our hearts with hope. These weeks of penance we hope for the beauty of Easter joy.  Amen!


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March 22, 2014

Luke 15: 1-3. 11-32

Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So he told them this parable:

“There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need.

So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.”’

So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him.Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.

“Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him.

But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’ Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’”

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

Welcome Home

The genius of this parable is that most of us have lived it in one or more of the roles. For me, I was the “prodigal son” as early as junior high, when I once dallied with friends and missed the first bus home from an away basketball game. My lateness caused my father not only to worry, but to have to stand around the school and wait for hours.

I finally got off a later bus and saw Dad wearing the tuxedo he’d planned to wear to his company Christmas party that night. His face was red when he scolded me, “Where were you? The other bus got back hours ago.” I didn’t have a good answer.

The next morning, I sheepishly apologized to my parents. I asked if they still loved me. The response was as lavish as the one in the parable. “Of course, we love you. You’re our daughter. You made a mistake, but we will always love you.” The event blew over and my brief time of “being grounded” ended, but I remembered that response decades later.

This was not the first or last time in my life when I screwed up and needed forgiveness. But families and communities of people are complicated, and so I have also played the other roles in this parable as well–the dutiful older child who feels she deserves better, the parent who runs out to embrace the lost one.

As you consider the three roles within the parable—the free-wheeling younger child, the responsible older one, and the parent whose generosity is boundless—which role most draws you into the stories of your own life.

—Mary Anne Reese is an attorney in Cincinnati, Ohio. She graduated from Xavier University’s theology program and belongs to St. Robert Bellarmine Parish.. She is also a published poet.

Prayer

Dear God, I know that when I am off on a frolic of my own, you are always waiting for me to return. Help me to come to my senses, to stand up, and to admit my mistakes. Help me to trust that, when you catch sight of me on the road, you will run toward me with compassion, embrace me, kiss me, and welcome me home once more. Amen.

—Mary Anne Reese


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