October 31, 2014

St. Alphonsus Rodriguez, S.J.

Luke 14: 1-6

On one occasion when Jesus was going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the sabbath, they were watching him closely.Just then, in front of him, there was a man who had dropsy. And Jesus asked the lawyers and Pharisees, “Is it lawful to cure people on the sabbath, or not?” But they were silent. So Jesus took him and healed him, and sent him away. Then he said to them, “If one of you has a child or an49 ox that has fallen into a well, will you not immediately pull it out on a sabbath day?” And they could not reply to this.

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

Judging Others

Wow, I can see being unwilling to answer Jesus’ question because they were too embarrassed by their own hardness of heart, but unable to answer?  Were these lawyers and Pharisees so deeply steeped in regulation that a simple act of mercy escaped them?  I think to myself that I don’t like these people and wonder how they can be so cold.

Then I realize that I have now become the judge.  How frequently do I categorize, stereotype and package others into my preconceived notions.  I interpret a casual comment, a glance, a gesture as an insult to me or my world view. Then I see Christ turn to me and ask why my heart is so cold and I too falter as I try to answer.

—Mr. Gerald Skoch, JD, serves as Vice-President and Chief Mission Officer at St. Ignatius High School, Cleveland, OH.

Prayer

“It should be presupposed that every good Christian ought to be more eager to put a good interpretation on a neighbor’s statement than to condemn it.”  SE [22]

Brother Jesus, help me to think the best of others and to assume their love and goodness. You ask me only heal and to love and to entrust all else to you. Amen.


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October 30, 2014

Ephesians 6: 10-20

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints.

Pray also for me, so that when I speak, a message may be given to me to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it boldly, as I must speak.

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

Confronting the Evil One

Some people seem to exist specifically to make us miserable. A student, a teacher, a classmate, a teammate. A kid you actually gave birth to. Someone whose very existence is a nine iron and you a golf ball eternally buried in the sand. They hit you over and over: just the sound of their voice, or the arrogant way they enter a room. Their insistence on being correct all the time. Their clueless fashion choices. Their too-perfect fashion choices. Their hair, their teeth, their smile. Everything about them. Other people, let’s be clear, are truly horrible.

But Paul declares that our true struggle in life is with evil spirits. Not with flesh and blood. Not with other people. They aren’t horrible. The evil spirit is.

In the Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius describes the evil spirit as that which causes the soul to be restless and agitated, depriving someone of faith, hope, love. Everyone has felt this.

What we loathe in others often has more to do with things we can’t stand about ourselves. That is the evil spirit at work. We don’t need to change other people or rage at them. We need to ward off the evil spirit in our life that can give others such power over us. Even if it feels archly medieval to call something an “evil spirit,” it is a reality that truly exists. Naming it where it lives is the first step to overcoming it.

—Joe Hoover, S.J. is a Jesuit brother writing and acting in New York. He serves as poetry editor of America magazine and also works at St. Ignatius Grammar School.

Prayer

Jesus, I feel within me a great desire to please you, but, at the same time, I feel totally incapable of doing this without your light and help, which I can expect only from you.

Accomplish your will within me, even in spite of me.

—St. Claude LaColombiere, S.J.


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October 29, 2014

Luke 13: 22-30

Jesus went through one town and village after another, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem.

Someone asked him, “Lord, will only a few be saved?” He said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able. When once the owner of the house has got up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then in reply he will say to you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’

Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ But he will say, ‘I do not know where you come from; go away from me, all you evildoers!’ There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrown out. Then people will come from east and west, from north and south, and will eat 49in the kingdom of God. Indeed, some are last who will be first, and some are first who 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

The Narrow Gate … for Me

In today’s Gospel, someone inquires about salvation.  At various time throughout our lives we may find ourselves also wondering about our own salvation or whether we will get to heaven. Like many people I take a casual look at my life and think, I pray, I go to church, I don’t hurt anyone, I do a few acts of charity. I should make it into heaven, I should be saved.

Jesus says, “strive to enter through the narrow gate.”  What that means for me is that to be a disciple takes more than a few good deeds.  Being a disciple means more than not hurting others but going out of my way to be kind, to be generous, to be patient. Being a disciple is more than just going to church but being the presence of Christ in the world.

At the end of the day I need to ask, did I act with kindness, generosity, patience, love?

—Margaret Horner earned a Master of Pastoral Studies degree from St. Francis de Sales Seminary. She currently serves as the Director of Liturgy at Gesu Parish, Milwaukee, WI.

Prayer

Life-Giving God, may you always be my hope, my trust, my riches, my delight, my joy and gladness, my rest and quiet, my food, my refreshment, my refuge and help, my wisdom, portion and possession, my treasure in which my mind and heart shall be rooted forever, fixed, firm and immovable.  Amen.


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October 28, 2014

Sts. Simon and Jude, apostles

Lk 6: 12-16

Now during those days he went out to the mountain to pray; and he spent the night in prayer to God. And when day came, he called his disciples and chose twelve of them, whom he also named apostles:Simon, whom he named Peter, and his brother Andrew, and James, and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James son of Alphaeus, and Simon, who was called the Zealot, and Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.

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

On the Mountaintop

In today’s Gospel, Jesus literally has a mountaintop experience that results in calling twelve apostles, including Saints Simon and Jude (Judas son of James) whose feast we celebrate today. We all occasionally have “mountaintop” experiences, that is, those times carved out for a profound encounter with God—retreat, World Youth Day, etc. The “mountaintop” provides a boast, or even a new start, for a deep and personal relationship to God.

After Jesus calls the twelve apostles he sets out to nurture a deep and personal relationship with them. Today’s Gospel contains one of the “mountaintops” in that journey. Other days, we find Jesus asking the apostles, “Do you still not understand?”

In between our “mountaintops” we have the ordinary days in our relationship with God—joy and sadness, gratitude and anger, near and far off. Think of your human relationships; are not all these things a part of them? So, too, with God.

—Brad Held, S.J., a Jesuit of the Wisconsin province, is currently a theology student at Boston College School of Theology and Ministry. He has just come from 3 years of teaching at Red Cloud Indian School on the Holy Rosary Jesuit Mission in Pine Ridge, SD.

Prayer

May Christ support us all the day long, till the shadows lengthen, and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over and our work is done. Then in his mercy may he give us a safe lodging, and holy rest and peace at the last. Amen.

—From A Book of Catholic Prayers


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October 27, 2014

Lk 13: 10-17

Jesus was teaching in a synagogue on the sabbath. And a woman was there who for eighteen years had been crippled by a spirit;   she was bent over, completely incapable of standing erect. When Jesus saw her, he called to her and said, “Woman, you are set free of your infirmity.” He laid his hands on her, and she at once stood up straight and glorified God.

But the leader of the synagogue, indignant that Jesus had cured on the sabbath, said to the crowd in reply, “There are six days when work should be done. Come on those days to be cured, not on the sabbath day.” The Lord said to him in reply, “Hypocrites! Does not each one of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his ass from the manger and lead it out for watering? This daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound for eighteen years now, ought she not to have been set free on the sabbath day from this bondage?” When he said this, all his adversaries were humiliated; and the whole crowd rejoiced at all the splendid deeds done by 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

Released from Bondage

We all have pieces of our lives that feel, at times, like bondage. Maybe it is not the bondage of being crippled as the woman in the Gospel was, but perhaps something that we have battled or struggled with for a long time–a broken relationship, an addiction, a deep wound, a financial crisis, or an illness.

Imagine Jesus calling to you and immediately setting you free from your “infirmity.” Imagine the freedom you would feel to be completely and instantaneously released from the bondage in your life. Imagine yourself in front of Jesus glorifying him and thanking him for the gifts of healing and freedom. Would it matter to you if your healing took place on the Sabbath or would your desperation to be healed override any law?

Talk to Jesus, today, about the healing you need in your own life.

—Becky Eldredge is a spiritual director, writer, retreat facilitator and mom of three.

Prayer

Jesus, I turn to you today, and ask for the grace
of freedom and healing from the bondages I
currently face in my life.  I turn to your great
Advocate, the Holy Spirit, and with expectant
faith pray…

Holy Spirit, come and fill this place.
Bring your healing and your warm embrace.
Show your power, make your presence known.
Holy Spirit, come fill this place.

Breath of God we need a touch from you.
Shine down on us with the light of truth
Stir our hearts and set our spirits free
Holy Spirit, come fill this place.

(This prayer was taught to me by parishioners at St. Gabriel Catholic Church in New Orleans, LA in the months after Hurricane Katrina)


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October 26, 2014

Mt 22: 34-40

When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

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

Generously Sharing God’s Love

There was a time when I thought Ignatius Loyola’s “Suscipe” was a prayer of ascetic daring. It was as though I had to prove my love to God by showing what I might forgo. At some point, however, it changed. It became a profession of love for God. Love of God and neighbor is not about performing slavish acts of ritual observance and obliged charity. It is about us communicating our experience of love to others.

Is it that the less selfish we become, the more clearly we see God’s love in the world? Is it that when we love others, we get a glimpse of God’s love for us? Perhaps. Regardless, the natural response of feeling loved is to love in return.  When we attempt to love God in return, we may just find ourselves caring for our neighbors…not as we would like, but as we would care for Christ.

—Fr. Paul Lickteig, S.J. serves as parochial vicar at St. Xavier Church, Cincinnati OH.

Prayer

More than ever I find myself in the hands of God.
This is what I have wanted all my life from my youth.
But now there is a difference;
the initiative is entirely with God.
It is indeed a profound spiritual experience
to know and feel myself so totally in God’s hands.

—Pedro Arrupe, SJ


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October 25, 2014

Ephesians 4: 7-16

But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift.Therefore it is said, “When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive; he gave gifts to his people.” (When it says, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all things.)

The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.

We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.

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

Equipped for Ministry

Paul reminds his readers that God sent people equipped with different talents to do the work of ministry in the Church and the world. It’s a helpful reminder. We may not like everything about a certain ‘minister’ but she/he has been equipped with certain Godly talents that are meant to further God’s work.

Two questions follow from this:

Are there people whom I don’t particularly like but who do a ministry well, and without whom the work of God would be diminished in the Church or the world at large?  Not just pastors or church staff – fill in the blank – but my co-workers or the homeless. What talents do they exercise for the good of others? Can I focus more on those talents and less on the things I don’t like?

And what talents do I have that are or could be useful for God’s work (ministry) in the Church or the larger world?

—Fr. Dennis Dillon, S.J. serves as pastoral minister at St. Mary Student Parish in Ann Arbor, MI. He is also an avid stamp collector and accomplished magician.

Prayer

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

—St. Ignatius Loyola click here for a downloadable prayer card


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October 24, 2014

St. Anthony Mary Claret

Luke 12: 54-59

He also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, ‘It is going to rain’; and so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat’; and it happens. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time? “

And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right? Thus, when you go with your accuser before a magistrate, on the way make an effort to settle the case, or you may be dragged before the judge, and the judge hand you over to the officer, and the officer throw you in prison. I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the very last penny.”

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

Count on It!

I often think that I have a very feeble understanding of the Gospel.  Jesus’ words often seem unreasonable to me.  Why should I be able to interpret the meaning of current events just because I know low, dark cumulous clouds mean rain?  Why would I go to court with my opponent if I wasn’t sure I was in the right?

Perhaps when I’m sure I’m in the right what I’ve really done is fail to listen, to offer mercy, to be compassionate.  It is so easy to underestimate my own arrogance.  It is much more difficult for me to trust that Christ and his graces will offer a more generous award than any magistrate would or could.  I cannot control the weather; I cannot predict the magistrate’s decision, so, as challenging as it may be, I am left only to trust in God’s abiding love for me.

—Mr. Gerald Skoch, JD, serves as Vice-President and Chief Mission Officer at St. Ignatius High School, Cleveland, OH.

Prayer

Dear Lord, pry open my narrow mind and rigid heart so I can see others as you see them.  Remove from me the illusion of self-reliance and replace it with childlike trust in you.


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October 23, 2014

Ephesians 3: 14-21

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love.

I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

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

Abandoning Myself

When I graduated from Marquette in 1994, I worked for a couple of years to “end homelessness.” And homelessness persisted and God stayed quite unfeeling in his dappled sky and my expectations for what we can do in the world lessened. Dwindled to a pithy desperate phrase: this is simply how the world is. And yet God, as Paul tells the Ephesians, can accomplish more than we can ask or imagine. St. Ignatius has a similar thought: “There are very few men who realize what God would make of them if they abandoned themselves entirely to his hands.”

Abandon yourself entirely. This feels ridiculous and terrifying. How to let go completely? I think Ignatius would say: Abandon even the fear of abandoning yourself. Abandon to God the very act of abandonment and simply let God do his work, more than you ask or imagine. Let us put homelessness to route. Let us do whatever. But let God do it through you. God and his grace. That is enough for us.

—Joe Hoover, S.J. is a Jesuit brother writing and acting in New York. He serves as poetry editor of America magazine and also works at St. Ignatius Grammar School.

Prayer

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. 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 that I am actually doing so.

But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you and I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing. And I know that if I do this, you will lead me by the right road although I may know nothing about it.

Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death, I will not fear, for you are ever with me and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

—Thomas Merton, OCSO, Prayer of Abandonment

 


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October 22, 2014

Lk 12: 39-48

But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”

Peter said, “Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for everyone?” And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and prudent manager whom his master will put in charge of his slaves, to give them their allowance of food at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives. Truly I tell you, he will put that one in charge of all his possessions.

But if that slave says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and if he begins to beat the other slaves, men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk, the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour that he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and put him with the unfaithful. That slave who knew what his master wanted, but did not prepare himself or do what was wanted, will receive a severe beating. But the one who did not know and did what deserved a beating will receive a light beating.

From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.

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

Generous Giving

“Much will be required of the person entrusted with much.”  This line from Luke’s Gospel reminds me of a pastor who, whenever there was a special collection, would say, “If you have a lot, give a lot. If you have little, give what you can.” I’ve try to make this a motto to live by. I try to give generously, remembering that all I have is a gift from God.

The one area where I have difficulty being generous is giving of my time. My time seems more valuable to me than money and I never seem to have enough. My job, my family, my friends, all compete for this limited resource.  Discerning how to best use my time and serve others is a constant struggle. It takes constant prayer to make the right decision.

Will you let God set the priorities over your time and all the gifts you have been given? God has given you much; what will you give back to God?

—Margaret Horner earned a Master of Pastoral Studies degree from St. Francis de Sales Seminary. She currently serves as the Director of Liturgy at Gesu Parish, Milwaukee, WI.

Prayer

Jesus Christ, may your death be my life.
May your struggles be my rest,
Your human weakness my courage,
Your embarrassment my honor,
Your passion my delight,
Your sadness my joy.
In your humiliation may I be exalted.
May I find all my blessings in your trials.

Amen.

—St. Peter Faber, S.J.


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October 31, 2014

St. Alphonsus Rodriguez, S.J.

Luke 14: 1-6

On one occasion when Jesus was going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the sabbath, they were watching him closely.Just then, in front of him, there was a man who had dropsy. And Jesus asked the lawyers and Pharisees, “Is it lawful to cure people on the sabbath, or not?” But they were silent. So Jesus took him and healed him, and sent him away. Then he said to them, “If one of you has a child or an49 ox that has fallen into a well, will you not immediately pull it out on a sabbath day?” And they could not reply to this.

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

Judging Others

Wow, I can see being unwilling to answer Jesus’ question because they were too embarrassed by their own hardness of heart, but unable to answer?  Were these lawyers and Pharisees so deeply steeped in regulation that a simple act of mercy escaped them?  I think to myself that I don’t like these people and wonder how they can be so cold.

Then I realize that I have now become the judge.  How frequently do I categorize, stereotype and package others into my preconceived notions.  I interpret a casual comment, a glance, a gesture as an insult to me or my world view. Then I see Christ turn to me and ask why my heart is so cold and I too falter as I try to answer.

—Mr. Gerald Skoch, JD, serves as Vice-President and Chief Mission Officer at St. Ignatius High School, Cleveland, OH.

Prayer

“It should be presupposed that every good Christian ought to be more eager to put a good interpretation on a neighbor’s statement than to condemn it.”  SE [22]

Brother Jesus, help me to think the best of others and to assume their love and goodness. You ask me only heal and to love and to entrust all else to you. Amen.


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October 30, 2014

Ephesians 6: 10-20

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints.

Pray also for me, so that when I speak, a message may be given to me to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it boldly, as I must speak.

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

Confronting the Evil One

Some people seem to exist specifically to make us miserable. A student, a teacher, a classmate, a teammate. A kid you actually gave birth to. Someone whose very existence is a nine iron and you a golf ball eternally buried in the sand. They hit you over and over: just the sound of their voice, or the arrogant way they enter a room. Their insistence on being correct all the time. Their clueless fashion choices. Their too-perfect fashion choices. Their hair, their teeth, their smile. Everything about them. Other people, let’s be clear, are truly horrible.

But Paul declares that our true struggle in life is with evil spirits. Not with flesh and blood. Not with other people. They aren’t horrible. The evil spirit is.

In the Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius describes the evil spirit as that which causes the soul to be restless and agitated, depriving someone of faith, hope, love. Everyone has felt this.

What we loathe in others often has more to do with things we can’t stand about ourselves. That is the evil spirit at work. We don’t need to change other people or rage at them. We need to ward off the evil spirit in our life that can give others such power over us. Even if it feels archly medieval to call something an “evil spirit,” it is a reality that truly exists. Naming it where it lives is the first step to overcoming it.

—Joe Hoover, S.J. is a Jesuit brother writing and acting in New York. He serves as poetry editor of America magazine and also works at St. Ignatius Grammar School.

Prayer

Jesus, I feel within me a great desire to please you, but, at the same time, I feel totally incapable of doing this without your light and help, which I can expect only from you.

Accomplish your will within me, even in spite of me.

—St. Claude LaColombiere, S.J.


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October 29, 2014

Luke 13: 22-30

Jesus went through one town and village after another, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem.

Someone asked him, “Lord, will only a few be saved?” He said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able. When once the owner of the house has got up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then in reply he will say to you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’

Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ But he will say, ‘I do not know where you come from; go away from me, all you evildoers!’ There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrown out. Then people will come from east and west, from north and south, and will eat 49in the kingdom of God. Indeed, some are last who will be first, and some are first who 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

The Narrow Gate … for Me

In today’s Gospel, someone inquires about salvation.  At various time throughout our lives we may find ourselves also wondering about our own salvation or whether we will get to heaven. Like many people I take a casual look at my life and think, I pray, I go to church, I don’t hurt anyone, I do a few acts of charity. I should make it into heaven, I should be saved.

Jesus says, “strive to enter through the narrow gate.”  What that means for me is that to be a disciple takes more than a few good deeds.  Being a disciple means more than not hurting others but going out of my way to be kind, to be generous, to be patient. Being a disciple is more than just going to church but being the presence of Christ in the world.

At the end of the day I need to ask, did I act with kindness, generosity, patience, love?

—Margaret Horner earned a Master of Pastoral Studies degree from St. Francis de Sales Seminary. She currently serves as the Director of Liturgy at Gesu Parish, Milwaukee, WI.

Prayer

Life-Giving God, may you always be my hope, my trust, my riches, my delight, my joy and gladness, my rest and quiet, my food, my refreshment, my refuge and help, my wisdom, portion and possession, my treasure in which my mind and heart shall be rooted forever, fixed, firm and immovable.  Amen.


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October 28, 2014

Sts. Simon and Jude, apostles

Lk 6: 12-16

Now during those days he went out to the mountain to pray; and he spent the night in prayer to God. And when day came, he called his disciples and chose twelve of them, whom he also named apostles:Simon, whom he named Peter, and his brother Andrew, and James, and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James son of Alphaeus, and Simon, who was called the Zealot, and Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.

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

On the Mountaintop

In today’s Gospel, Jesus literally has a mountaintop experience that results in calling twelve apostles, including Saints Simon and Jude (Judas son of James) whose feast we celebrate today. We all occasionally have “mountaintop” experiences, that is, those times carved out for a profound encounter with God—retreat, World Youth Day, etc. The “mountaintop” provides a boast, or even a new start, for a deep and personal relationship to God.

After Jesus calls the twelve apostles he sets out to nurture a deep and personal relationship with them. Today’s Gospel contains one of the “mountaintops” in that journey. Other days, we find Jesus asking the apostles, “Do you still not understand?”

In between our “mountaintops” we have the ordinary days in our relationship with God—joy and sadness, gratitude and anger, near and far off. Think of your human relationships; are not all these things a part of them? So, too, with God.

—Brad Held, S.J., a Jesuit of the Wisconsin province, is currently a theology student at Boston College School of Theology and Ministry. He has just come from 3 years of teaching at Red Cloud Indian School on the Holy Rosary Jesuit Mission in Pine Ridge, SD.

Prayer

May Christ support us all the day long, till the shadows lengthen, and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over and our work is done. Then in his mercy may he give us a safe lodging, and holy rest and peace at the last. Amen.

—From A Book of Catholic Prayers


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October 27, 2014

Lk 13: 10-17

Jesus was teaching in a synagogue on the sabbath. And a woman was there who for eighteen years had been crippled by a spirit;   she was bent over, completely incapable of standing erect. When Jesus saw her, he called to her and said, “Woman, you are set free of your infirmity.” He laid his hands on her, and she at once stood up straight and glorified God.

But the leader of the synagogue, indignant that Jesus had cured on the sabbath, said to the crowd in reply, “There are six days when work should be done. Come on those days to be cured, not on the sabbath day.” The Lord said to him in reply, “Hypocrites! Does not each one of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his ass from the manger and lead it out for watering? This daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound for eighteen years now, ought she not to have been set free on the sabbath day from this bondage?” When he said this, all his adversaries were humiliated; and the whole crowd rejoiced at all the splendid deeds done by 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

Released from Bondage

We all have pieces of our lives that feel, at times, like bondage. Maybe it is not the bondage of being crippled as the woman in the Gospel was, but perhaps something that we have battled or struggled with for a long time–a broken relationship, an addiction, a deep wound, a financial crisis, or an illness.

Imagine Jesus calling to you and immediately setting you free from your “infirmity.” Imagine the freedom you would feel to be completely and instantaneously released from the bondage in your life. Imagine yourself in front of Jesus glorifying him and thanking him for the gifts of healing and freedom. Would it matter to you if your healing took place on the Sabbath or would your desperation to be healed override any law?

Talk to Jesus, today, about the healing you need in your own life.

—Becky Eldredge is a spiritual director, writer, retreat facilitator and mom of three.

Prayer

Jesus, I turn to you today, and ask for the grace
of freedom and healing from the bondages I
currently face in my life.  I turn to your great
Advocate, the Holy Spirit, and with expectant
faith pray…

Holy Spirit, come and fill this place.
Bring your healing and your warm embrace.
Show your power, make your presence known.
Holy Spirit, come fill this place.

Breath of God we need a touch from you.
Shine down on us with the light of truth
Stir our hearts and set our spirits free
Holy Spirit, come fill this place.

(This prayer was taught to me by parishioners at St. Gabriel Catholic Church in New Orleans, LA in the months after Hurricane Katrina)


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October 26, 2014

Mt 22: 34-40

When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

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

Generously Sharing God’s Love

There was a time when I thought Ignatius Loyola’s “Suscipe” was a prayer of ascetic daring. It was as though I had to prove my love to God by showing what I might forgo. At some point, however, it changed. It became a profession of love for God. Love of God and neighbor is not about performing slavish acts of ritual observance and obliged charity. It is about us communicating our experience of love to others.

Is it that the less selfish we become, the more clearly we see God’s love in the world? Is it that when we love others, we get a glimpse of God’s love for us? Perhaps. Regardless, the natural response of feeling loved is to love in return.  When we attempt to love God in return, we may just find ourselves caring for our neighbors…not as we would like, but as we would care for Christ.

—Fr. Paul Lickteig, S.J. serves as parochial vicar at St. Xavier Church, Cincinnati OH.

Prayer

More than ever I find myself in the hands of God.
This is what I have wanted all my life from my youth.
But now there is a difference;
the initiative is entirely with God.
It is indeed a profound spiritual experience
to know and feel myself so totally in God’s hands.

—Pedro Arrupe, SJ


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October 25, 2014

Ephesians 4: 7-16

But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift.Therefore it is said, “When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive; he gave gifts to his people.” (When it says, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all things.)

The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.

We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.

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

Equipped for Ministry

Paul reminds his readers that God sent people equipped with different talents to do the work of ministry in the Church and the world. It’s a helpful reminder. We may not like everything about a certain ‘minister’ but she/he has been equipped with certain Godly talents that are meant to further God’s work.

Two questions follow from this:

Are there people whom I don’t particularly like but who do a ministry well, and without whom the work of God would be diminished in the Church or the world at large?  Not just pastors or church staff – fill in the blank – but my co-workers or the homeless. What talents do they exercise for the good of others? Can I focus more on those talents and less on the things I don’t like?

And what talents do I have that are or could be useful for God’s work (ministry) in the Church or the larger world?

—Fr. Dennis Dillon, S.J. serves as pastoral minister at St. Mary Student Parish in Ann Arbor, MI. He is also an avid stamp collector and accomplished magician.

Prayer

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

—St. Ignatius Loyola click here for a downloadable prayer card


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October 24, 2014

St. Anthony Mary Claret

Luke 12: 54-59

He also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, ‘It is going to rain’; and so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat’; and it happens. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time? “

And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right? Thus, when you go with your accuser before a magistrate, on the way make an effort to settle the case, or you may be dragged before the judge, and the judge hand you over to the officer, and the officer throw you in prison. I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the very last penny.”

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

Count on It!

I often think that I have a very feeble understanding of the Gospel.  Jesus’ words often seem unreasonable to me.  Why should I be able to interpret the meaning of current events just because I know low, dark cumulous clouds mean rain?  Why would I go to court with my opponent if I wasn’t sure I was in the right?

Perhaps when I’m sure I’m in the right what I’ve really done is fail to listen, to offer mercy, to be compassionate.  It is so easy to underestimate my own arrogance.  It is much more difficult for me to trust that Christ and his graces will offer a more generous award than any magistrate would or could.  I cannot control the weather; I cannot predict the magistrate’s decision, so, as challenging as it may be, I am left only to trust in God’s abiding love for me.

—Mr. Gerald Skoch, JD, serves as Vice-President and Chief Mission Officer at St. Ignatius High School, Cleveland, OH.

Prayer

Dear Lord, pry open my narrow mind and rigid heart so I can see others as you see them.  Remove from me the illusion of self-reliance and replace it with childlike trust in you.


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October 23, 2014

Ephesians 3: 14-21

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love.

I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

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

Abandoning Myself

When I graduated from Marquette in 1994, I worked for a couple of years to “end homelessness.” And homelessness persisted and God stayed quite unfeeling in his dappled sky and my expectations for what we can do in the world lessened. Dwindled to a pithy desperate phrase: this is simply how the world is. And yet God, as Paul tells the Ephesians, can accomplish more than we can ask or imagine. St. Ignatius has a similar thought: “There are very few men who realize what God would make of them if they abandoned themselves entirely to his hands.”

Abandon yourself entirely. This feels ridiculous and terrifying. How to let go completely? I think Ignatius would say: Abandon even the fear of abandoning yourself. Abandon to God the very act of abandonment and simply let God do his work, more than you ask or imagine. Let us put homelessness to route. Let us do whatever. But let God do it through you. God and his grace. That is enough for us.

—Joe Hoover, S.J. is a Jesuit brother writing and acting in New York. He serves as poetry editor of America magazine and also works at St. Ignatius Grammar School.

Prayer

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. 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 that I am actually doing so.

But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you and I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing. And I know that if I do this, you will lead me by the right road although I may know nothing about it.

Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death, I will not fear, for you are ever with me and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

—Thomas Merton, OCSO, Prayer of Abandonment

 


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October 22, 2014

Lk 12: 39-48

But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”

Peter said, “Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for everyone?” And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and prudent manager whom his master will put in charge of his slaves, to give them their allowance of food at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives. Truly I tell you, he will put that one in charge of all his possessions.

But if that slave says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and if he begins to beat the other slaves, men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk, the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour that he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and put him with the unfaithful. That slave who knew what his master wanted, but did not prepare himself or do what was wanted, will receive a severe beating. But the one who did not know and did what deserved a beating will receive a light beating.

From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.

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

Generous Giving

“Much will be required of the person entrusted with much.”  This line from Luke’s Gospel reminds me of a pastor who, whenever there was a special collection, would say, “If you have a lot, give a lot. If you have little, give what you can.” I’ve try to make this a motto to live by. I try to give generously, remembering that all I have is a gift from God.

The one area where I have difficulty being generous is giving of my time. My time seems more valuable to me than money and I never seem to have enough. My job, my family, my friends, all compete for this limited resource.  Discerning how to best use my time and serve others is a constant struggle. It takes constant prayer to make the right decision.

Will you let God set the priorities over your time and all the gifts you have been given? God has given you much; what will you give back to God?

—Margaret Horner earned a Master of Pastoral Studies degree from St. Francis de Sales Seminary. She currently serves as the Director of Liturgy at Gesu Parish, Milwaukee, WI.

Prayer

Jesus Christ, may your death be my life.
May your struggles be my rest,
Your human weakness my courage,
Your embarrassment my honor,
Your passion my delight,
Your sadness my joy.
In your humiliation may I be exalted.
May I find all my blessings in your trials.

Amen.

—St. Peter Faber, S.J.


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