September 30, 2014

St. Jerome

Jb 3: 1-3. 11-17

After this Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth. Job said:“Let the day perish in which I was born, and the night that said, ‘A man-child is conceived.’

“Why did I not die at birth, come forth from the womb and expire? Why were there knees to receive me, or breasts for me to suck? Now I would be lying down and quiet; I would be asleep; then I would be at rest with kings and counselors of the earth who rebuild ruins for themselves, or with princes who have gold, who fill their houses with silver. Or why was I not buried like a stillborn child, like an infant that never sees the light? There the wicked cease from troubling, and there the weary are at rest.

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

Daring and Bold Statement

According to one of the earliest Jesuits, Jerome Nadal, the origins of the Society of Jesus are found in the meditation on the two standards.  In this meditation from Ignatius´ Spiritual Exercises, the retreatant is asked to pray for the grace to be able to discern where Christ is acting in the world and where the evil spirit is acting.  As we know from our own experience, this discernment is harder than it first appears.

To say then that the Society of Jesus was born in this meditation is a daring and bold statement.  Nadal is suggesting that our Ignatian charisma is found in our service and love of others in situations where we cannot easily see Jesus´ presence.

As we hear then Job´s complaint and the vindictive anger of James and John, let us pray for the grace to be in these challenging, human places in our lives.

—Christopher Staab, S.J. is a Jesuit scholastic of the Chicago-Detroit province. He is currently in his second year of theology studies at the Jesuit house of studies in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.  Chris previously taught at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, Chicago IL.

Prayer

O Lord, show Your mercy to me and gladden my heart. I am like the man on the way to Jericho who was overtaken by robbers, wounded and left for dead. O Good Samaritan, come to my aid. I am like the sheep that went astray. O Good Shepherd, seek me out and bring me home in accord with Your will. Let me dwell in Your house all the days of my life and praise You for ever and ever with those who are there. Amen.

—A Prayer of Saint Jerome for Christ’s Mercy


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September 29, 2014

Feast of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel & Raphael

John 1: 47-51

Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Here is a true child of Israel. There is no duplicity in him.” Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.” Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.”

Jesus answered and said to him, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this.” And he said to him, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

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

An Affair of the Heart

When Jesus sees Nathanael coming toward him he calls him a “true child of Israel.”  We do not know why Jesus has this strong reaction to Nathanael. We know that Nathanael was sitting under a fig tree, but we don’t know what he was doing. We know that Philip approached him, although we don’t know why, and that Nathanael accepted his invitation to see who it was from Nazareth that was fulfillment of the law and prophets. We also know that Nathanael says the “right things” in response to meeting Jesus.

What was it about Nathanael—about who he was, about his faith, about whatever he was doing under the fig tree—that warranted Jesus’ reaction to seeing him and also the inclusion of this story in the Gospel of John? One possibility is that Jesus knew Nathanael’s heart and spirit and had known him since his own beginning. That fact and Nathanael’s curiosity and openness to the One who Phillip wanted him to see results in Jesus’ reaction.

This begs the question—what would Jesus’ reaction be if he saw me today? What would I be doing? Would I go with Phillip? What would Jesus sense of my being, my heart, my spirit be? Jesus has known me my whole life, so would the trajectory of my being and becoming warrant a similar reaction?

—Elizabeth Collier has degrees from three different Jesuit universities, including a PhD in Christian Ethics from Loyola University Chicago. She teaches at Dominican University in River Forest, IL.

Prayer

Mother, help our faith! Open our ears to hear God’s word and to recognize his voice and call.


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September 28, 2014

Matthew 21: 28-32

“What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ He answered, ‘I will not’; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir’; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.”

Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.

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

Alive for the Kingdom

Once after reading an auto repair shop’s mission statement a thousand times while waiting in line, I told the manager that, given their performance, the statement could have been reduced to one word: “whatever.” Writing a mission statement is easy; there are even “mission statement templates.” Doing the mission is the challenge.

Similarly, as individuals we can’t be content with lives marked only by our good intentions. When Jesus told his audience that “Tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you,” it was a wake-up call. Contentment with intention without action keeps us lounging comfortably on the couches of our lives, keeps us from giving ourselves fully to God’s exciting project.

James Brown sang, “Get up offa that thing, and dance ’til you feel better.” Let’s do just that. Let’s leave our metaphorical couches and get out on the dance floor with Jesus.

—Fr. Martin Connell, S.J. is a professor of education and Rector of the Jesuit community at John Carroll University, University Heights OH.

Prayer

Giver of life, Creator of all that is lovely,
Teach me to sing the words of your song;
I want to feel the music of living
And not fear the sad songs,
But from them make new songs
Composed of both laughter and tears.
Teach me to dance to the sounds of your
world and your people,
I want to move in rhythm with your plan;
Help me to try to follow your leading,
To risk even falling,
To rise and keep trying
Because you are leading the dance.

— Dancer’s Prayer,  Anonymous

 


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September 27, 2014

St. Vincent de Paul

Luke 9: 43b-45

And all were astounded at the greatness of God. While everyone was amazed at all that he was doing, he said to his disciples, “Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into human hands.” But they did not understand this saying; its meaning was concealed from them, so that they could not perceive it. And they were afraid to ask him about this saying.

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

First and Last

Did the disciples understand what Jesus was saying? Of course not. Nor do we. It’s not the way of the world that ultimate power surrenders itself to weakness. Even in the movies, good guys win and bad guys pay. What Jesus was proposing was simply ridiculous. Why should the Son of Man, who preached with authority, healed the sick, and walked on water, hand himself over to a measly bunch like the Sanhedrin? The first should never be last, kingdom or no kingdom.

—Alice Camille, in A Book of Grace-Filled Days.  © Loyola Press. 2009.

Prayer

Life-giving God, this beautiful fall weekend I place my life, my very self into your hands. Your blessings are countless, your goodness amazing. Help me endure whatever suffering comes into my days with your spirit of surrender and hope. Take, Lord, all I am and have. Amen.

 


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September 26, 2014

Sts. Cosmas and Damian, martyrs

Luke 9: 18-22

Once when Jesus was praying in solitude, and the disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” They said in reply, “John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, ‘One of the ancient prophets has arisen.’” Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter said in reply, “The Christ of God.” He rebuked them and directed them not to tell this to anyone. He said, “The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.”

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

Living with Jesus

Jesus asks his followers: “Who do you say I am?” How do I respond? Perhaps with the Baltimore Catechism answer: “Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the second Person of the Blessed Trinity, true God and true man.” Aha, correct answer but an answer from the head, not the heart. Jesus, I am sure, invites a response from my heart.

To answer from the heart requires that I must develop a personal relationship with Jesus—I must get to know the man whose word was God’s Word, whose spirit was God’s Spirit, whose feelings were God’s feelings. I must get to know the one who is the source of meaning and strength in my life, and a model for how I should live.

I am somewhat taken aback when I next read that Jesus directed his disciples not to tell this Good News to anyone. I have come to realize, however, that this direction calls on each of us to discover who Jesus is, not from theological study or rote memorization, but from getting to know Jesus, up close and personal, through prayer and reflection, and walking through our life journey with him as our companion.

Who do YOU say I am?

―George Penman Sullivan, Jr. is a Jesuit-educated lay leader who helped found Chicago’s Ignatian Volunteer Corps. He and his wife, Dorothy, live in Wilmette IL, and have four children and three grandchildren.

Prayer

Lord, three questions we must ponder. Who do we say you are and who do you say we are?  And what difference do those answers make in how we live our days?  While some things may not make sense, everything makes sense at its deepest level because you are our God and we are your beloved. With profound gratitude we surrender the joys and sorrows of this day to you.  And we pray to be ever mindful that you are always near.

―The Jesuit Prayer Team


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September 25, 2014

Lk 9: 7-9

Now Herod the ruler heard about all that had taken place, and he was perplexed, because it was said by some that John had been raised from the dead, by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the ancient prophets had arisen. Herod said, “John I beheaded; but who is this about whom I hear such things?” And he tried to see him.

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

Who Is This?

In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis posits that there are only three choices to answer Herod’s age-old question, “Who is Jesus?” He is either lunatic, liar or Lord.

First choice: Jesus was a lunatic, a crazed person who believed himself God in the same vein that another might think himself a poached egg. Second choice: Jesus was a liar, a skilled con man who has deceived millions. Third option: the credal affirmation, “I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ.”

This third option answers Herod’s question for many of us. But is such a rote affirmation enough? I think the life of Jesus begs a more focused question: “Who is Jesus to me?” “If I affirm him as my Lord, shouldn’t that impact the way I live?” Let’s pause to consider: How will my actions today reflect my belief that Jesus is Lord of my life?

—Howard Craig is the director of advancement for the Midwest Jesuits. He and his wife Cheryl have five daughters, six grandkids, and two dogs.

Prayer

Soul of Christ, sanctify me.
Body of Christ, save me.
Blood of Christ, drench me.
Water from the side of Christ, wash me.
Passion of Christ, strengthen me.
Within your wounds hide me.
Do not let me be separated from you.
From the wicked foe, defend me.
At the hour of my death call me to your side,
That with your saints I may praise you forever.

Amen.

―St, Ignatius of Loyola  (Downloadable prayer card click here.)


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September 24, 2014

Lk 9: 1-6

Then Jesus called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. He said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money—not even an extra tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there, and leave from there.Wherever they do not welcome you, as you are leaving that town shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” They departed and went through the villages, bringing the good news and curing diseases everywhere.

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

Power and Authority

This sounds like fun! How to win friends and influence people. Be the most popular kid on your block. Just find someone to commission you to cure disease and heal the sick. Then go from village to village and cure diseases everywhere. It sounds like the apostles hit the jackpot in today’s gospel. Do we believe Jesus commissions us to do the same today? I suspect not. But, how many times have your spirits been picked out of the gutters of despair by a kind word or gesture from another person. We can and are called to do the same for all the hurting people in our lives.

This reading also makes me think about the current ebola crisis in Africa. Curing and healing are urgently needed. Those who answer this call do so at great risk to themselves as we have all too often read or heard in news accounts of the crisis. Let’s pray in a very special way today for all those sick with the ebola virus and those healthcare workers attending to them.

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

Prayer

Lord, we pray for Liberia and the people of West Africa struck by the ebola virus.  Strengthen those in positions of leadership and influence to do everything possible to bring the Ebola outbreak to an end.  Protect the amazing health care workers and bring healing and comfort to the suffering. Aid those mourning for family and friends fighting this disease and bring solace to those grieving the loss of a loved one.


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September 23, 2014

St. Pio of Pietrelcina

Prv 21: 1-6

The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will. All deeds are right in the sight of the doer, but the Lord weighs the heart. To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice. Haughty eyes and a proud heart—the lamp of the wicked—are sin. The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to want. The getting of treasures by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor and a snare of death.

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

Fresh Energy and Wisdom

Chasing bubbles seems to be one of the more universal games that children play.  Maybe it is the unpredictable way the wind carries the bubble that enchants us, or the sport of pursuing and then catching something that thrills us. Bubbles invite play.

As we read today´s first reading, it is hard not to notice that the bible uses the image of pursuing a bubble. But the image is a frightening one: making a fortune by lying is compared to “chasing a bubble over deadly snares.”

It is surprising that in the midst of a reading that seems ponderous, deep, or profound, there is an image that speaks to us of play. Of chasing a bubble. Might the greatest wisdom then be found in that which is the play of a child?  Might our laughter and our “play” today be moments of great contact with God and others?

—Christopher Staab, S.J. is a Jesuit scholastic of the Chicago-Detroit province. He is currently in his second year of theology studies at the Jesuit house of studies in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.  Chris previously taught at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, Chicago IL.

Prayer

Holy God, release the laughter and curiosity of the child down deep in each of our spirits. Let the energy and playfulness of the young open us to your invitation to new life — new life today and all our days.  Amen!


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September 22, 2014

Luke 8: 16-18

Jesus said to the crowd: “No one who lights a lamp conceals it with a vessel or sets it under a bed; rather, he places it on a lampstand so that those who enter may see the light. For there is nothing hidden that will not become visible, and nothing secret that will not be known and come to light. Take care, then, how you hear. To anyone who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he seems to have will be taken away.”

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

Witness to Joy

Twenty three years ago this week I arrived in Washington D.C. to attend a weekend Labor Conference.  As I stepped up to the hotel’s front desk and gave my name, a beaming smile came across the receptionist’s face. She practically shouted “Oh, I love giving these types of messages!” She then proceeded to read a message left for me: “My name is Kathleen Eleanor and I arrived at 9:45 AM weighing 7 pounds 3 ounces”.  My niece and goddaughter had been born! I can still recall vividly the joy with which that receptionist shared, and with which I received, that exciting news. I then proceeded to enthusiastically share my news with everyone I met that day. The joy I felt seemed to demand it.

As I read the Gospel passage for today this story came to mind. We Christians are recipients of the Good News, and there has not been more joyful news ever given to the human family. Do we witness to that Gospel with joy, or do we downplay it in order to not offend, or alienate, or seem foolish? The warning in today’s Gospel seems to foreshadow our fate if we forget to light our lamp. The joy we have will multiply to the extent that we share the reason for our joy and likewise our joy will diminish and eventually become extinguished if we choose not to share it.

How can I witness today to the joy that is ours as Christians, the joy that comes from being a child of God?

—Judy Henry McMullan earned a Master of Divinity degree from the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry (formerly Weston Jesuit School of Theology). She currently teaches Theology at Archbishop Williams High School in Braintree, MA

Prayer

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  —Romans 13:15


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September 21, 2014

Matthew 20: 1-16a

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace;and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went.

When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why are you standing here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’ When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’

When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you.

Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

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

Caring for Those in Need

You might have read about Tal Fortgang, the Princeton freshman who earlier this year pressed back against what he thought was an unfair counsel to “check your privilege at the door.” Today’s gospel provides its own “check” on privilege. It reminds us that God doesn’t value the structures and the ways of the world, including who and what the world privileges.

When I lived in Tanzania, I once teasingly asked a poor mother with a load of children which of them she favored. She understood my question as a serious one and told me that her “favorite” changed all the time: “Whichever one is suffering the most is my favorite.” Her approach to loving was divine. I write “divine” because we learn in today’s Gospel that our God is inclined to show special generosity to the poor and outcast. No wonder I, enjoying my privilege, sometimes get anxious.

—Fr. Martin Connell, S.J. is a professor of education and Rector of the Jesuit community at John Carroll University, University Heights OH.

Prayer

Lord, help us to release our tight grip that clings to comparisons that place us above the other or cause us to think less of ourselves. Such comparisons may become so habitual that we are dulled to their negative impact on our energy and generosity. Let your Spirit intercede so we turn away from such thoughts. Fill us with gratitude for your infinite love, and let us rejoice in the good news of others!

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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September 30, 2014

St. Jerome

Jb 3: 1-3. 11-17

After this Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth. Job said:“Let the day perish in which I was born, and the night that said, ‘A man-child is conceived.’

“Why did I not die at birth, come forth from the womb and expire? Why were there knees to receive me, or breasts for me to suck? Now I would be lying down and quiet; I would be asleep; then I would be at rest with kings and counselors of the earth who rebuild ruins for themselves, or with princes who have gold, who fill their houses with silver. Or why was I not buried like a stillborn child, like an infant that never sees the light? There the wicked cease from troubling, and there the weary are at rest.

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

Daring and Bold Statement

According to one of the earliest Jesuits, Jerome Nadal, the origins of the Society of Jesus are found in the meditation on the two standards.  In this meditation from Ignatius´ Spiritual Exercises, the retreatant is asked to pray for the grace to be able to discern where Christ is acting in the world and where the evil spirit is acting.  As we know from our own experience, this discernment is harder than it first appears.

To say then that the Society of Jesus was born in this meditation is a daring and bold statement.  Nadal is suggesting that our Ignatian charisma is found in our service and love of others in situations where we cannot easily see Jesus´ presence.

As we hear then Job´s complaint and the vindictive anger of James and John, let us pray for the grace to be in these challenging, human places in our lives.

—Christopher Staab, S.J. is a Jesuit scholastic of the Chicago-Detroit province. He is currently in his second year of theology studies at the Jesuit house of studies in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.  Chris previously taught at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, Chicago IL.

Prayer

O Lord, show Your mercy to me and gladden my heart. I am like the man on the way to Jericho who was overtaken by robbers, wounded and left for dead. O Good Samaritan, come to my aid. I am like the sheep that went astray. O Good Shepherd, seek me out and bring me home in accord with Your will. Let me dwell in Your house all the days of my life and praise You for ever and ever with those who are there. Amen.

—A Prayer of Saint Jerome for Christ’s Mercy


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September 29, 2014

Feast of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel & Raphael

John 1: 47-51

Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Here is a true child of Israel. There is no duplicity in him.” Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.” Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.”

Jesus answered and said to him, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this.” And he said to him, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

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

An Affair of the Heart

When Jesus sees Nathanael coming toward him he calls him a “true child of Israel.”  We do not know why Jesus has this strong reaction to Nathanael. We know that Nathanael was sitting under a fig tree, but we don’t know what he was doing. We know that Philip approached him, although we don’t know why, and that Nathanael accepted his invitation to see who it was from Nazareth that was fulfillment of the law and prophets. We also know that Nathanael says the “right things” in response to meeting Jesus.

What was it about Nathanael—about who he was, about his faith, about whatever he was doing under the fig tree—that warranted Jesus’ reaction to seeing him and also the inclusion of this story in the Gospel of John? One possibility is that Jesus knew Nathanael’s heart and spirit and had known him since his own beginning. That fact and Nathanael’s curiosity and openness to the One who Phillip wanted him to see results in Jesus’ reaction.

This begs the question—what would Jesus’ reaction be if he saw me today? What would I be doing? Would I go with Phillip? What would Jesus sense of my being, my heart, my spirit be? Jesus has known me my whole life, so would the trajectory of my being and becoming warrant a similar reaction?

—Elizabeth Collier has degrees from three different Jesuit universities, including a PhD in Christian Ethics from Loyola University Chicago. She teaches at Dominican University in River Forest, IL.

Prayer

Mother, help our faith! Open our ears to hear God’s word and to recognize his voice and call.


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September 28, 2014

Matthew 21: 28-32

“What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ He answered, ‘I will not’; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir’; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.”

Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.

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

Alive for the Kingdom

Once after reading an auto repair shop’s mission statement a thousand times while waiting in line, I told the manager that, given their performance, the statement could have been reduced to one word: “whatever.” Writing a mission statement is easy; there are even “mission statement templates.” Doing the mission is the challenge.

Similarly, as individuals we can’t be content with lives marked only by our good intentions. When Jesus told his audience that “Tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you,” it was a wake-up call. Contentment with intention without action keeps us lounging comfortably on the couches of our lives, keeps us from giving ourselves fully to God’s exciting project.

James Brown sang, “Get up offa that thing, and dance ’til you feel better.” Let’s do just that. Let’s leave our metaphorical couches and get out on the dance floor with Jesus.

—Fr. Martin Connell, S.J. is a professor of education and Rector of the Jesuit community at John Carroll University, University Heights OH.

Prayer

Giver of life, Creator of all that is lovely,
Teach me to sing the words of your song;
I want to feel the music of living
And not fear the sad songs,
But from them make new songs
Composed of both laughter and tears.
Teach me to dance to the sounds of your
world and your people,
I want to move in rhythm with your plan;
Help me to try to follow your leading,
To risk even falling,
To rise and keep trying
Because you are leading the dance.

— Dancer’s Prayer,  Anonymous

 


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September 27, 2014

St. Vincent de Paul

Luke 9: 43b-45

And all were astounded at the greatness of God. While everyone was amazed at all that he was doing, he said to his disciples, “Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into human hands.” But they did not understand this saying; its meaning was concealed from them, so that they could not perceive it. And they were afraid to ask him about this saying.

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

First and Last

Did the disciples understand what Jesus was saying? Of course not. Nor do we. It’s not the way of the world that ultimate power surrenders itself to weakness. Even in the movies, good guys win and bad guys pay. What Jesus was proposing was simply ridiculous. Why should the Son of Man, who preached with authority, healed the sick, and walked on water, hand himself over to a measly bunch like the Sanhedrin? The first should never be last, kingdom or no kingdom.

—Alice Camille, in A Book of Grace-Filled Days.  © Loyola Press. 2009.

Prayer

Life-giving God, this beautiful fall weekend I place my life, my very self into your hands. Your blessings are countless, your goodness amazing. Help me endure whatever suffering comes into my days with your spirit of surrender and hope. Take, Lord, all I am and have. Amen.

 


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September 26, 2014

Sts. Cosmas and Damian, martyrs

Luke 9: 18-22

Once when Jesus was praying in solitude, and the disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” They said in reply, “John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, ‘One of the ancient prophets has arisen.’” Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter said in reply, “The Christ of God.” He rebuked them and directed them not to tell this to anyone. He said, “The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.”

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

Living with Jesus

Jesus asks his followers: “Who do you say I am?” How do I respond? Perhaps with the Baltimore Catechism answer: “Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the second Person of the Blessed Trinity, true God and true man.” Aha, correct answer but an answer from the head, not the heart. Jesus, I am sure, invites a response from my heart.

To answer from the heart requires that I must develop a personal relationship with Jesus—I must get to know the man whose word was God’s Word, whose spirit was God’s Spirit, whose feelings were God’s feelings. I must get to know the one who is the source of meaning and strength in my life, and a model for how I should live.

I am somewhat taken aback when I next read that Jesus directed his disciples not to tell this Good News to anyone. I have come to realize, however, that this direction calls on each of us to discover who Jesus is, not from theological study or rote memorization, but from getting to know Jesus, up close and personal, through prayer and reflection, and walking through our life journey with him as our companion.

Who do YOU say I am?

―George Penman Sullivan, Jr. is a Jesuit-educated lay leader who helped found Chicago’s Ignatian Volunteer Corps. He and his wife, Dorothy, live in Wilmette IL, and have four children and three grandchildren.

Prayer

Lord, three questions we must ponder. Who do we say you are and who do you say we are?  And what difference do those answers make in how we live our days?  While some things may not make sense, everything makes sense at its deepest level because you are our God and we are your beloved. With profound gratitude we surrender the joys and sorrows of this day to you.  And we pray to be ever mindful that you are always near.

―The Jesuit Prayer Team


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September 25, 2014

Lk 9: 7-9

Now Herod the ruler heard about all that had taken place, and he was perplexed, because it was said by some that John had been raised from the dead, by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the ancient prophets had arisen. Herod said, “John I beheaded; but who is this about whom I hear such things?” And he tried to see him.

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

Who Is This?

In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis posits that there are only three choices to answer Herod’s age-old question, “Who is Jesus?” He is either lunatic, liar or Lord.

First choice: Jesus was a lunatic, a crazed person who believed himself God in the same vein that another might think himself a poached egg. Second choice: Jesus was a liar, a skilled con man who has deceived millions. Third option: the credal affirmation, “I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ.”

This third option answers Herod’s question for many of us. But is such a rote affirmation enough? I think the life of Jesus begs a more focused question: “Who is Jesus to me?” “If I affirm him as my Lord, shouldn’t that impact the way I live?” Let’s pause to consider: How will my actions today reflect my belief that Jesus is Lord of my life?

—Howard Craig is the director of advancement for the Midwest Jesuits. He and his wife Cheryl have five daughters, six grandkids, and two dogs.

Prayer

Soul of Christ, sanctify me.
Body of Christ, save me.
Blood of Christ, drench me.
Water from the side of Christ, wash me.
Passion of Christ, strengthen me.
Within your wounds hide me.
Do not let me be separated from you.
From the wicked foe, defend me.
At the hour of my death call me to your side,
That with your saints I may praise you forever.

Amen.

―St, Ignatius of Loyola  (Downloadable prayer card click here.)


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September 24, 2014

Lk 9: 1-6

Then Jesus called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. He said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money—not even an extra tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there, and leave from there.Wherever they do not welcome you, as you are leaving that town shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” They departed and went through the villages, bringing the good news and curing diseases everywhere.

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

Power and Authority

This sounds like fun! How to win friends and influence people. Be the most popular kid on your block. Just find someone to commission you to cure disease and heal the sick. Then go from village to village and cure diseases everywhere. It sounds like the apostles hit the jackpot in today’s gospel. Do we believe Jesus commissions us to do the same today? I suspect not. But, how many times have your spirits been picked out of the gutters of despair by a kind word or gesture from another person. We can and are called to do the same for all the hurting people in our lives.

This reading also makes me think about the current ebola crisis in Africa. Curing and healing are urgently needed. Those who answer this call do so at great risk to themselves as we have all too often read or heard in news accounts of the crisis. Let’s pray in a very special way today for all those sick with the ebola virus and those healthcare workers attending to them.

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

Prayer

Lord, we pray for Liberia and the people of West Africa struck by the ebola virus.  Strengthen those in positions of leadership and influence to do everything possible to bring the Ebola outbreak to an end.  Protect the amazing health care workers and bring healing and comfort to the suffering. Aid those mourning for family and friends fighting this disease and bring solace to those grieving the loss of a loved one.


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September 23, 2014

St. Pio of Pietrelcina

Prv 21: 1-6

The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will. All deeds are right in the sight of the doer, but the Lord weighs the heart. To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice. Haughty eyes and a proud heart—the lamp of the wicked—are sin. The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to want. The getting of treasures by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor and a snare of death.

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

Fresh Energy and Wisdom

Chasing bubbles seems to be one of the more universal games that children play.  Maybe it is the unpredictable way the wind carries the bubble that enchants us, or the sport of pursuing and then catching something that thrills us. Bubbles invite play.

As we read today´s first reading, it is hard not to notice that the bible uses the image of pursuing a bubble. But the image is a frightening one: making a fortune by lying is compared to “chasing a bubble over deadly snares.”

It is surprising that in the midst of a reading that seems ponderous, deep, or profound, there is an image that speaks to us of play. Of chasing a bubble. Might the greatest wisdom then be found in that which is the play of a child?  Might our laughter and our “play” today be moments of great contact with God and others?

—Christopher Staab, S.J. is a Jesuit scholastic of the Chicago-Detroit province. He is currently in his second year of theology studies at the Jesuit house of studies in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.  Chris previously taught at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, Chicago IL.

Prayer

Holy God, release the laughter and curiosity of the child down deep in each of our spirits. Let the energy and playfulness of the young open us to your invitation to new life — new life today and all our days.  Amen!


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September 22, 2014

Luke 8: 16-18

Jesus said to the crowd: “No one who lights a lamp conceals it with a vessel or sets it under a bed; rather, he places it on a lampstand so that those who enter may see the light. For there is nothing hidden that will not become visible, and nothing secret that will not be known and come to light. Take care, then, how you hear. To anyone who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he seems to have will be taken away.”

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

Witness to Joy

Twenty three years ago this week I arrived in Washington D.C. to attend a weekend Labor Conference.  As I stepped up to the hotel’s front desk and gave my name, a beaming smile came across the receptionist’s face. She practically shouted “Oh, I love giving these types of messages!” She then proceeded to read a message left for me: “My name is Kathleen Eleanor and I arrived at 9:45 AM weighing 7 pounds 3 ounces”.  My niece and goddaughter had been born! I can still recall vividly the joy with which that receptionist shared, and with which I received, that exciting news. I then proceeded to enthusiastically share my news with everyone I met that day. The joy I felt seemed to demand it.

As I read the Gospel passage for today this story came to mind. We Christians are recipients of the Good News, and there has not been more joyful news ever given to the human family. Do we witness to that Gospel with joy, or do we downplay it in order to not offend, or alienate, or seem foolish? The warning in today’s Gospel seems to foreshadow our fate if we forget to light our lamp. The joy we have will multiply to the extent that we share the reason for our joy and likewise our joy will diminish and eventually become extinguished if we choose not to share it.

How can I witness today to the joy that is ours as Christians, the joy that comes from being a child of God?

—Judy Henry McMullan earned a Master of Divinity degree from the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry (formerly Weston Jesuit School of Theology). She currently teaches Theology at Archbishop Williams High School in Braintree, MA

Prayer

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  —Romans 13:15


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September 21, 2014

Matthew 20: 1-16a

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace;and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went.

When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why are you standing here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’ When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’

When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you.

Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

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

Caring for Those in Need

You might have read about Tal Fortgang, the Princeton freshman who earlier this year pressed back against what he thought was an unfair counsel to “check your privilege at the door.” Today’s gospel provides its own “check” on privilege. It reminds us that God doesn’t value the structures and the ways of the world, including who and what the world privileges.

When I lived in Tanzania, I once teasingly asked a poor mother with a load of children which of them she favored. She understood my question as a serious one and told me that her “favorite” changed all the time: “Whichever one is suffering the most is my favorite.” Her approach to loving was divine. I write “divine” because we learn in today’s Gospel that our God is inclined to show special generosity to the poor and outcast. No wonder I, enjoying my privilege, sometimes get anxious.

—Fr. Martin Connell, S.J. is a professor of education and Rector of the Jesuit community at John Carroll University, University Heights OH.

Prayer

Lord, help us to release our tight grip that clings to comparisons that place us above the other or cause us to think less of ourselves. Such comparisons may become so habitual that we are dulled to their negative impact on our energy and generosity. Let your Spirit intercede so we turn away from such thoughts. Fill us with gratitude for your infinite love, and let us rejoice in the good news of others!

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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