July 31, 2014

Feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus

Jn 1: 35-39

The next day John was there again with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God.”  The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus.  Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come, and you will see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day.

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

Our Deepest Desire

“What are you looking for?”  That is the first question that Jesus asked Andrew and an unnamed person who the tradition believes is John in today’s scripture. Ignatian spirituality begins with a gracious, all-loving and merciful God meeting us wherever we are in life, asking us that all important question: “What do you desire?” For those of us who have fallen in love with Jesus, endlessly fascinated by his person and his story, we are like these two disciples who heard about Jesus and began to follow him. Jesus looks at us in the same way and asks us the same “million dollar question”: what do you desire?

Do our deepest desires include what I call the Godspell graces: “to see him more clearly, love him more dearly and follow him more nearly, day by day” …as that great song from the 1970s put it so well?

—Fr. Brian Paulson, S.J. serves as Provincial of the Chicago-Detroit Province of the Society of Jesus.

Prayer

Take, Lord, receive my memory, understanding, my entire will. You have given everything to me. To you I return it to be used wholly in accordance with your will. Give me only your love and your grace. With these I am rich enough and need nothing more.

 click here for a downloadable prayer card


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July 30, 2014

St. Peter Chrysologus

Mt 13: 44-46

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.

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

Co-Creators for the Kingdom

I once read through the gospels as if they were simply books. Two phrases seemed to be repeated more often than any others. They were “by your faith you have been healed” and “the Kingdom of God is at hand.”

Today’s gospel makes me want to reflect on the second. Jesus does not say the Kingdom is coming in the future. He does not say it is up there in the heavens. No, Jesus says the Kingdom of God is here and now. We are called to build this Kingdom in our lives this very day. We are invited to the privileged role of being co-creators, with God, of the Kingdom in the very mundane circumstances of our own lives. We do this by sharing the infinite, unconditional and pure love God showers upon us every moment of our lives.

—David McNulty works for the Midwest Jesuits. Dave and his wife Judy are grandparents of six

Prayer

Lord, help me be attentive to the people you put in my life this day and how I might share your love with each of them. Remember, there is no such thing as a small act of love!


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July 29, 2014

St. Martha, disciple of the Lord

Jn 11: 19-27

Many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.”

Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into 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

Busy About Many Things

I like St. Martha a lot as she is portrayed in the gospels. Like her I am a bit of a spontaneous “doer” rather than a well-planned “thinker.”  Summertime poses a particular challenge since so many folks where I live rush here and there, often leaving various “messes” to clean up or fix. I often do the cleaning and fixing, but sometimes with a fair streak of rash judgment in the process.

Here’s where Jesus’ response to Martha comes in handy:  “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and upset about many things; only one thing is required.”  That “one thing” is to keep my eye on Jesus. In him and through him and with him there is nothing that can ever go wrong. Without him I will become a selfish mess, leaving lots of “stuff” for others to clean up and fix. Come, Lord Jesus!

—The Jesuit Prayer Team

Prayer

Saint Martha, pray for us that we might serve Jesus better. As this week moves along, help me to overcome the many distractions and worries that crowd into my life. Help me to listen to the words of Jesus and to share his love this day. Amen.


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July 28, 2014

Mt 13: 31-35

He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”

He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.” Jesus told the crowds all these things in parables; without a parable he told them nothing. This was to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet: “I will open my mouth to speak in parables; I will proclaim what has been hidden from the foundation 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

As Leaven in the World

One of my favorite childhood rituals was baking bread with my mom. An accomplished cook and baker, she used bread making to teach me that good things come from starting small and having patience. Whenever possible, we’d make our own leaven by mixing flour and water with natural bread starter (wild yeast and bacteria) that we created from scratch and maintained week to week. “A little starter goes a long way,” my mom would say.

To be sure, the secret to great bread is in the ingredients and the process of putting it all together. But what I remember most about bread making as a child was spending time with my mom marveling at the intricacies of God’s creation, talking about life, and laughing. (Of course, a highlight was taking the bread out of the oven and sitting at the kitchen table eating slices slathered in butter!)

By using the parable of the leaven, Jesus reveals that the kingdom of God starts small. Like yeast, a little faith goes a long way. The kingdom of God also works from within. As our faith grows, we become better able to see “God in all things” and, ideally, we reach outside ourselves and build community. Through God’s grace, prayer, and communal worship, we become leaven in the world.

Think about that, from even the smallest faith we have the power to transform the world!

This week, reflect on your faith. No matter how small it may seem, take heart in the fact that a little goes a long way. Applying the lessons of the parable of the leaven, how might you nurture your faith so that it grows? How might you be leaven in the world, helping to foster faith in others and serving where the need is greatest?

—Jeremy Langford is the director of communications for the Midwest Jesuits and author of Seeds of Faith: Practices to Grow a Healthy Spiritual Life ©2007 Paraclete Press, Brewster, MA

Prayer

O God, protector of all who hope in you, bestow your mercy upon us. Help us throughout the coming week to be leaven for all those we live with, those we work with, those we meet along life’s journey.  May we find in you, holy God, the greatest treasure of our hearts. Amen!


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July 27, 2014

Mt 13: 44-52

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

“Have you understood all this?” They answered, “Yes.” And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”

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

Treasure Hunting

Today’s gospel highlights the human experience of finding a huge treasure causing great delight.  In the news media we see the thrill of someone who has come upon a sudden good fortune. And all of us have experienced the pain of losing something and the joy of finding it again. Let’s translate this into the fabric of our religious life.  What is the “pearl of great price” for you? What gives you passion and zeal?  What really motivates you religiously and gives you focus and energy and delight? Have you found it or are you still searching?

Don’t give a too-quick answer or just a catechetical definition. Rather, in the spirit of St. Ignatius, pray over this and let the Holy Spirit reveal the answer that God has already planted in your heart. Not just the answer but the “fire and passion” hidden within that answer. Something uniquely yours. A pearl of great price . . . It’s yours!.

—Fr. Jim Serrick, S.J. is a long-time musician, liturgist, and pastor. He currently serves at Colombiere Jesuit Center, Clarkston, MI.

Prayer

May God strengthen you inwardly through the working of his Spirit. May Christ dwell in your hearts through faith, and may charity be the root and foundation of your life. Thus you will be able to grasp fully, with all the holy ones, the breadth and length and height and depth of Christ’s love, so that you may attain to the fullness of God.

—Ephesians 3: 16-19


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July 26, 2014

Sts. Joachim and Anne, parents of the Virgin Mary

Mt 13: 24-30

He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well.

And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’ He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”

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

Growing Together

There is an ancient Crusader church (built in the 1130s) in today’s Muslim quarter of Jerusalem, at the start of the Via Dolorosa. It is Romanesque in style, with magnificent rounded arches, and has amazing acoustics. Every soprano and tenor wants to sing there. I heard the Easter Exultet sung there in April, 1981 by a Canadian Jesuit with a trained operatic voice–a once in a lifetime experience.

This is the traditional site of Mary’s birth, the home of Joachim and Anne/Anna.  The building has gone back and forth between the Muslims and the Christians, because when Saladin re-conquered Jerusalem, he made the sturdy structure into an Islamic seminary. The Arabic inscription is still over the entrance. For me, who has great difficulty with radical Muslims, it is a symbol of Jesus’ words, which might be an ecumenical prayer for us today: “Let them grow together until harvest,” – these Muslims and Christians.

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

Prayer

Lord, help us to remember that “all God’s children, of every people and language, are invited and called to be part of this great family —  as brothers and sisters and sons and daughters of the one Father in heaven.”

—Pope Francis


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July 25, 2014

St. James, apostle

2 Cor 4: 7-15

But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies.

For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. But just as we have the same spirit of faith that is in accordance with scripture—“I believed, and so I spoke” —we also believe, and so we speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus, and will bring us with you into his presence.

Yes, everything is for your sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

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

Pilgrims on the Way

My wife and her best friend walked the Camino de Santiago – the Way of St. James – during graduate school. To this day, they lovingly call each other “pilgrim.” The title is imbued with affection, a signifier of a deep physical and spiritual sharing. But, it is more than that.

Pilgrims who walk the camino describe their reliance on others as transformative. A self-emptying is involved; a death to anything but what God provides. St. Ignatius calls this “indifference.” St. Paul calls it “carrying about in the body of a dying Jesus”.

To be a pilgrim is to embrace our full humanity.  It is a journey toward dependence on God and community, a journey toward self-awareness of our human holiness. When we read that “we hold this treasure in earthen vessels,” Christ is the treasure and we are the vessels.  Be a pilgrim; embrace him.

In what aspect of your life do you resist letting go and embracing Jesus?  With whom will you share this?

—Mark Bartholet is the Pastoral Associate for Faith Formation at St. Peter Catholic Church, a Jesuit-staffed parish in Charlotte, North Carolina. He is also a graduate of John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio.

Prayer

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.   I do not see the road ahead of me and I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know  myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean I am actually doing so.  But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all I am doing. I will trust you always, though I may seem lost. I will not fear for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

—Thomas Merton


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July 24, 2014

St. Sharbel Makhluf

Mt 13: 10-17

Then the disciples came and asked him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” He answered, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.

The reason I speak to them in parables is that ‘seeing they do not perceive, and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand.’With them indeed is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah that says: ‘You will indeed listen, but never understand, and you will indeed look, but never perceive.

For this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes; so that they might not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and understand with their heart and turn— and I would heal them.’ But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. Truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.

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

Prayerful Patience

If there’s one prayer I make most often, it is a daily prayer for a “prayerful patience.” When I read today’s Gospel, I think of the many times I listen but do not hear; look but do not see; contemplate but do not understand. I consider these moments as times when I am not practicing prayerful patience. These moments in which my heart is not humbled or quieted in order to hear God’s voice resounding are the moments I know I am closing myself to him.

I have always marveled at those individuals who could be enduring a tough time in their life and undergo it with such poise and composure. They are the ones who hear, see and feel the movement of the Spirit when hardest. They are prayerfully waiting and experiencing God’s work in their life and in their hearts. They are prayerfully patient.

—Lisa M. Sroka coordinates retreats and designs marketing materials for Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House in Barrington, IL. She is a Chicago vocalist and alum of Loyola University Chicago.

Prayer

Let nothing disturb thee; let nothing frighten thee.
Everything is changing, God alone is changeless.
Patience attains the goal.
One who has God lacks nothing.
God alone fills our needs.

—St. Teresa of Avila


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July 23, 2014

St. Bridget of Sweden

Mt 13: 1-9

That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up.

Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away.

Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!”

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 Gardening Tools of Life

Whether it be giving a talk for work, making a toast as the father of the bride, or even working out, I have found that preparation is essential to insure the desired result. The one thing I know for sure is that without adequate preparation the outcome usually fails to achieve the quality for which I hope.

While we know faith is a gift given freely and without reservation by God, it still requires preparation on our part. Whether your field is law, baseball or chess, it takes many years of hard work and practice to become really good. So why are we surprised the same is true in the spiritual life? St Ignatius became a master of the spiritual life only through the deepening self-awareness he developed during his long convalescence at Loyola and then his year of “spiritual exercises” at Manresa.

So, as the gospel suggests, let’s get out the “gardening tools of life” to prepare the soil of our hearts to receive the Word of God. As Saint Ignatius is reported to have said, “work as if everything depends upon you and pray as if everything depends upon God.”

—David McNulty works for the Midwest Jesuits. Dave and his wife Judy are grandparents of six.

Prayer

O God, who guided Saint Bridget of Sweden along different paths of life and wondrously taught her the wisdom of the Cross as she contemplated the Passion of your Son, grant us, we pray, that, walking worthily in our vocation, we may seek you in all things. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

—Collect of the Mass in honor of Saint Bridget of Sweden


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July 22, 2014

St. Mary Magdalene, disciple of the Lord

Jn 20: 1-2. 11-18

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

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”

When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher).

Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to 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

Called By Name

I recently met with a young woman who was defeated by both her mother’s cancer and the labor of caring for her. One day, while the young woman was preparing a bath for the mother, the mother gently touched the young woman’s arm and gently, sweetly called her “Daughter.” For the first time, she saw her mother as not just a mom, but as a woman with vulnerabilities and desires. In turn she saw herself as the woman she longed to become. At that moment, consolation replaced defeat. She now felt a deep desire to respond in a new way to God’s invitation to care for her mother.

Like the story of the young woman and her mother, today’s Gospel reveals how being called by name can move us closer to God. In the midst of such sorrow, Mary Magdalene and Jesus call each other by name that reveals the depth of their relationship. It also provides Mary with the strength to “go and tell” the news of the resurrection.

Reflect on a time when you have been called by name. How did that change your view of yourself? How did it invite you deeper to love God and others?

—Jeffrey Sullivan, S.J., a Jesuit scholastic of the Wisconsin province, is a faculty member at Loyola Academy, Wilmette IL.

Prayer

Life-giving God, you first entrusted to Mary Magdalene the joyful news of Jesus’ resurrection. By her prayers and example may we proclaim Jesus as our living Lord and one day see him face to face.  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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July 31, 2014

Feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus

Jn 1: 35-39

The next day John was there again with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God.”  The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus.  Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come, and you will see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day.

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

Our Deepest Desire

“What are you looking for?”  That is the first question that Jesus asked Andrew and an unnamed person who the tradition believes is John in today’s scripture. Ignatian spirituality begins with a gracious, all-loving and merciful God meeting us wherever we are in life, asking us that all important question: “What do you desire?” For those of us who have fallen in love with Jesus, endlessly fascinated by his person and his story, we are like these two disciples who heard about Jesus and began to follow him. Jesus looks at us in the same way and asks us the same “million dollar question”: what do you desire?

Do our deepest desires include what I call the Godspell graces: “to see him more clearly, love him more dearly and follow him more nearly, day by day” …as that great song from the 1970s put it so well?

—Fr. Brian Paulson, S.J. serves as Provincial of the Chicago-Detroit Province of the Society of Jesus.

Prayer

Take, Lord, receive my memory, understanding, my entire will. You have given everything to me. To you I return it to be used wholly in accordance with your will. Give me only your love and your grace. With these I am rich enough and need nothing more.

 click here for a downloadable prayer card


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July 30, 2014

St. Peter Chrysologus

Mt 13: 44-46

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.

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

Co-Creators for the Kingdom

I once read through the gospels as if they were simply books. Two phrases seemed to be repeated more often than any others. They were “by your faith you have been healed” and “the Kingdom of God is at hand.”

Today’s gospel makes me want to reflect on the second. Jesus does not say the Kingdom is coming in the future. He does not say it is up there in the heavens. No, Jesus says the Kingdom of God is here and now. We are called to build this Kingdom in our lives this very day. We are invited to the privileged role of being co-creators, with God, of the Kingdom in the very mundane circumstances of our own lives. We do this by sharing the infinite, unconditional and pure love God showers upon us every moment of our lives.

—David McNulty works for the Midwest Jesuits. Dave and his wife Judy are grandparents of six

Prayer

Lord, help me be attentive to the people you put in my life this day and how I might share your love with each of them. Remember, there is no such thing as a small act of love!


Please share the Good Word with your friends!

July 29, 2014

St. Martha, disciple of the Lord

Jn 11: 19-27

Many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.”

Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into 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

Busy About Many Things

I like St. Martha a lot as she is portrayed in the gospels. Like her I am a bit of a spontaneous “doer” rather than a well-planned “thinker.”  Summertime poses a particular challenge since so many folks where I live rush here and there, often leaving various “messes” to clean up or fix. I often do the cleaning and fixing, but sometimes with a fair streak of rash judgment in the process.

Here’s where Jesus’ response to Martha comes in handy:  “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and upset about many things; only one thing is required.”  That “one thing” is to keep my eye on Jesus. In him and through him and with him there is nothing that can ever go wrong. Without him I will become a selfish mess, leaving lots of “stuff” for others to clean up and fix. Come, Lord Jesus!

—The Jesuit Prayer Team

Prayer

Saint Martha, pray for us that we might serve Jesus better. As this week moves along, help me to overcome the many distractions and worries that crowd into my life. Help me to listen to the words of Jesus and to share his love this day. Amen.


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July 28, 2014

Mt 13: 31-35

He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”

He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.” Jesus told the crowds all these things in parables; without a parable he told them nothing. This was to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet: “I will open my mouth to speak in parables; I will proclaim what has been hidden from the foundation 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

As Leaven in the World

One of my favorite childhood rituals was baking bread with my mom. An accomplished cook and baker, she used bread making to teach me that good things come from starting small and having patience. Whenever possible, we’d make our own leaven by mixing flour and water with natural bread starter (wild yeast and bacteria) that we created from scratch and maintained week to week. “A little starter goes a long way,” my mom would say.

To be sure, the secret to great bread is in the ingredients and the process of putting it all together. But what I remember most about bread making as a child was spending time with my mom marveling at the intricacies of God’s creation, talking about life, and laughing. (Of course, a highlight was taking the bread out of the oven and sitting at the kitchen table eating slices slathered in butter!)

By using the parable of the leaven, Jesus reveals that the kingdom of God starts small. Like yeast, a little faith goes a long way. The kingdom of God also works from within. As our faith grows, we become better able to see “God in all things” and, ideally, we reach outside ourselves and build community. Through God’s grace, prayer, and communal worship, we become leaven in the world.

Think about that, from even the smallest faith we have the power to transform the world!

This week, reflect on your faith. No matter how small it may seem, take heart in the fact that a little goes a long way. Applying the lessons of the parable of the leaven, how might you nurture your faith so that it grows? How might you be leaven in the world, helping to foster faith in others and serving where the need is greatest?

—Jeremy Langford is the director of communications for the Midwest Jesuits and author of Seeds of Faith: Practices to Grow a Healthy Spiritual Life ©2007 Paraclete Press, Brewster, MA

Prayer

O God, protector of all who hope in you, bestow your mercy upon us. Help us throughout the coming week to be leaven for all those we live with, those we work with, those we meet along life’s journey.  May we find in you, holy God, the greatest treasure of our hearts. Amen!


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July 27, 2014

Mt 13: 44-52

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

“Have you understood all this?” They answered, “Yes.” And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”

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

Treasure Hunting

Today’s gospel highlights the human experience of finding a huge treasure causing great delight.  In the news media we see the thrill of someone who has come upon a sudden good fortune. And all of us have experienced the pain of losing something and the joy of finding it again. Let’s translate this into the fabric of our religious life.  What is the “pearl of great price” for you? What gives you passion and zeal?  What really motivates you religiously and gives you focus and energy and delight? Have you found it or are you still searching?

Don’t give a too-quick answer or just a catechetical definition. Rather, in the spirit of St. Ignatius, pray over this and let the Holy Spirit reveal the answer that God has already planted in your heart. Not just the answer but the “fire and passion” hidden within that answer. Something uniquely yours. A pearl of great price . . . It’s yours!.

—Fr. Jim Serrick, S.J. is a long-time musician, liturgist, and pastor. He currently serves at Colombiere Jesuit Center, Clarkston, MI.

Prayer

May God strengthen you inwardly through the working of his Spirit. May Christ dwell in your hearts through faith, and may charity be the root and foundation of your life. Thus you will be able to grasp fully, with all the holy ones, the breadth and length and height and depth of Christ’s love, so that you may attain to the fullness of God.

—Ephesians 3: 16-19


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July 26, 2014

Sts. Joachim and Anne, parents of the Virgin Mary

Mt 13: 24-30

He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well.

And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’ He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”

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

Growing Together

There is an ancient Crusader church (built in the 1130s) in today’s Muslim quarter of Jerusalem, at the start of the Via Dolorosa. It is Romanesque in style, with magnificent rounded arches, and has amazing acoustics. Every soprano and tenor wants to sing there. I heard the Easter Exultet sung there in April, 1981 by a Canadian Jesuit with a trained operatic voice–a once in a lifetime experience.

This is the traditional site of Mary’s birth, the home of Joachim and Anne/Anna.  The building has gone back and forth between the Muslims and the Christians, because when Saladin re-conquered Jerusalem, he made the sturdy structure into an Islamic seminary. The Arabic inscription is still over the entrance. For me, who has great difficulty with radical Muslims, it is a symbol of Jesus’ words, which might be an ecumenical prayer for us today: “Let them grow together until harvest,” – these Muslims and Christians.

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

Prayer

Lord, help us to remember that “all God’s children, of every people and language, are invited and called to be part of this great family —  as brothers and sisters and sons and daughters of the one Father in heaven.”

—Pope Francis


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July 25, 2014

St. James, apostle

2 Cor 4: 7-15

But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies.

For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. But just as we have the same spirit of faith that is in accordance with scripture—“I believed, and so I spoke” —we also believe, and so we speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus, and will bring us with you into his presence.

Yes, everything is for your sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

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

Pilgrims on the Way

My wife and her best friend walked the Camino de Santiago – the Way of St. James – during graduate school. To this day, they lovingly call each other “pilgrim.” The title is imbued with affection, a signifier of a deep physical and spiritual sharing. But, it is more than that.

Pilgrims who walk the camino describe their reliance on others as transformative. A self-emptying is involved; a death to anything but what God provides. St. Ignatius calls this “indifference.” St. Paul calls it “carrying about in the body of a dying Jesus”.

To be a pilgrim is to embrace our full humanity.  It is a journey toward dependence on God and community, a journey toward self-awareness of our human holiness. When we read that “we hold this treasure in earthen vessels,” Christ is the treasure and we are the vessels.  Be a pilgrim; embrace him.

In what aspect of your life do you resist letting go and embracing Jesus?  With whom will you share this?

—Mark Bartholet is the Pastoral Associate for Faith Formation at St. Peter Catholic Church, a Jesuit-staffed parish in Charlotte, North Carolina. He is also a graduate of John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio.

Prayer

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.   I do not see the road ahead of me and I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know  myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean I am actually doing so.  But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all I am doing. I will trust you always, though I may seem lost. I will not fear for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

—Thomas Merton


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July 24, 2014

St. Sharbel Makhluf

Mt 13: 10-17

Then the disciples came and asked him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” He answered, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.

The reason I speak to them in parables is that ‘seeing they do not perceive, and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand.’With them indeed is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah that says: ‘You will indeed listen, but never understand, and you will indeed look, but never perceive.

For this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes; so that they might not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and understand with their heart and turn— and I would heal them.’ But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. Truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.

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

Prayerful Patience

If there’s one prayer I make most often, it is a daily prayer for a “prayerful patience.” When I read today’s Gospel, I think of the many times I listen but do not hear; look but do not see; contemplate but do not understand. I consider these moments as times when I am not practicing prayerful patience. These moments in which my heart is not humbled or quieted in order to hear God’s voice resounding are the moments I know I am closing myself to him.

I have always marveled at those individuals who could be enduring a tough time in their life and undergo it with such poise and composure. They are the ones who hear, see and feel the movement of the Spirit when hardest. They are prayerfully waiting and experiencing God’s work in their life and in their hearts. They are prayerfully patient.

—Lisa M. Sroka coordinates retreats and designs marketing materials for Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House in Barrington, IL. She is a Chicago vocalist and alum of Loyola University Chicago.

Prayer

Let nothing disturb thee; let nothing frighten thee.
Everything is changing, God alone is changeless.
Patience attains the goal.
One who has God lacks nothing.
God alone fills our needs.

—St. Teresa of Avila


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July 23, 2014

St. Bridget of Sweden

Mt 13: 1-9

That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up.

Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away.

Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!”

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 Gardening Tools of Life

Whether it be giving a talk for work, making a toast as the father of the bride, or even working out, I have found that preparation is essential to insure the desired result. The one thing I know for sure is that without adequate preparation the outcome usually fails to achieve the quality for which I hope.

While we know faith is a gift given freely and without reservation by God, it still requires preparation on our part. Whether your field is law, baseball or chess, it takes many years of hard work and practice to become really good. So why are we surprised the same is true in the spiritual life? St Ignatius became a master of the spiritual life only through the deepening self-awareness he developed during his long convalescence at Loyola and then his year of “spiritual exercises” at Manresa.

So, as the gospel suggests, let’s get out the “gardening tools of life” to prepare the soil of our hearts to receive the Word of God. As Saint Ignatius is reported to have said, “work as if everything depends upon you and pray as if everything depends upon God.”

—David McNulty works for the Midwest Jesuits. Dave and his wife Judy are grandparents of six.

Prayer

O God, who guided Saint Bridget of Sweden along different paths of life and wondrously taught her the wisdom of the Cross as she contemplated the Passion of your Son, grant us, we pray, that, walking worthily in our vocation, we may seek you in all things. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

—Collect of the Mass in honor of Saint Bridget of Sweden


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July 22, 2014

St. Mary Magdalene, disciple of the Lord

Jn 20: 1-2. 11-18

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

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”

When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher).

Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to 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

Called By Name

I recently met with a young woman who was defeated by both her mother’s cancer and the labor of caring for her. One day, while the young woman was preparing a bath for the mother, the mother gently touched the young woman’s arm and gently, sweetly called her “Daughter.” For the first time, she saw her mother as not just a mom, but as a woman with vulnerabilities and desires. In turn she saw herself as the woman she longed to become. At that moment, consolation replaced defeat. She now felt a deep desire to respond in a new way to God’s invitation to care for her mother.

Like the story of the young woman and her mother, today’s Gospel reveals how being called by name can move us closer to God. In the midst of such sorrow, Mary Magdalene and Jesus call each other by name that reveals the depth of their relationship. It also provides Mary with the strength to “go and tell” the news of the resurrection.

Reflect on a time when you have been called by name. How did that change your view of yourself? How did it invite you deeper to love God and others?

—Jeffrey Sullivan, S.J., a Jesuit scholastic of the Wisconsin province, is a faculty member at Loyola Academy, Wilmette IL.

Prayer

Life-giving God, you first entrusted to Mary Magdalene the joyful news of Jesus’ resurrection. By her prayers and example may we proclaim Jesus as our living Lord and one day see him face to face.  Amen.


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