February 28, 2015

Deuteronomy 26:16-19

This very day the Lord your God is commanding you to observe these statutes and ordinances; so observe them diligently with all your heart and with all your soul. Today you have obtained the Lord’s agreement: to be your God; and for you to walk in his ways, to keep his statutes, his commandments, and his ordinances, and to obey him.

Today the Lord has obtained your agreement: to be his treasured people, as he promised you, and to keep his commandments; for him to set you high above all nations that he has made, in praise and in fame and in honor; and for you to be a people holy to the Lord your God, as he promised.

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 Root of Obedience

Compared to my younger brother, I was the rule follower in the family. I did not make waves, get in trouble, or disappoint my parents, or teachers. While I was a good kid, I realize my motivations were not always in the right place. My obedience was solely motivated by a fear of punishment or letting others down.

In today’s first reading, Moses conveys God’s desire for the Israelites – that they follow God’s statutes, decrees and commandments with all of their hearts and souls. Their motivations should be pure. It’s not sufficient to know the rules, they must to live them — understanding the spirit in which these rules were fashioned. They must allow God’s spirit to penetrate their being so deeply that their actions and God’s desires become one. This obedience should be rooted in a love for God, for others, and for self rather than fear.

During Lent, it can be especially easy to get caught up in the rules. Guidelines abound for who should fast, what one should fast from, or when one can or cannot eat meat. In this spiritual season, let us employ its rules and other offerings to gain a greater conversion of heart and soul. May we be mindful of God’s spirit infusing the season so our obedience is not rooted in fear or guilt but in love and mercy, leading us always towards our Creator.

What barriers to do you find keeping you from a full heart and soul obedience to God?

—Andy Rebollar serves as Pastoral Associate for Parish Life at St. Pius X Parish, Grandville, MI.

Prayer

God makes us ask ourselves questions most often when God intends to resolve them. God gives us needs that God alone can satisfy and awakens capacities that God means to fulfill.

—Thomas Merton

 


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February 27, 2015

Ezekiel 18: 21-28

But if the wicked turn away from all their sins that they have committed and keep all my statutes and do what is lawful and right, they shall surely live; they shall not die. None of the transgressions that they have committed shall be remembered against them; for the righteousness that they have done they shall live. Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, says the Lord God, and not rather that they should turn from their ways and live?

But when the righteous turn away from their righteousness and commit iniquity and do the same abominable things that the wicked do, shall they live? None of the righteous deeds that they have done shall be remembered; for the treachery of which they are guilty and the sin they have committed, they shall die. Yet you say, “The way of the Lord is unfair.” Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way unfair? Is it not your ways that are unfair?

When the righteous turn away from their righteousness and commit iniquity, they shall die for it; for the iniquity that they have committed they shall die. Again, when the wicked turn away from the wickedness they have committed and do what is lawful and right, they shall save their life. Because they considered and turned away from all the transgressions that they had committed, they shall surely live; they shall not die.

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 Loving Path

“Turn! Turn,” bellowed Dad. When he quit steadying the bike, I focused on pedaling fast and holding tight… and crashed into the wall beyond the front tire.

Today’s readings speak of possible turns: away from evil; the path of virtue; leave your gift and go…clear advice, like Dad’s words. Sometimes the turn arrives too quickly, as it did for the rich young man or the girl on the bike. I must grow into a request before I give up riches or relax my death grip.

Most challenging for me are the day-to-day turnings.  I desire to share God’s love but I get mired in traps, like gossiping or backbiting. I choose extravagance over charity. Good intentions wilt.

My question becomes “What is the loving path?” If like Ignatius, I possess a strong desire to love and serve the Lord, what do I need to turn away from and turn toward?

—Maureen M. Martin is a writer, spiritual director and hospice chaplain, living in Evanston, IL.

Prayer

Refrain
Turn to me, O man and be saved,
Says the Lord for I am God;
There is no other, none beside me.

I call your name.
I am He that comforts you;
Who are you to be afraid of man who dies,
is made like the grass of the fields, soon to wither.

Listen to me, my people;
Give ear to me my nation:
a law will go forth from me,
and my justice for a light to the people.

Lift up your eyes to the heavens,
and look at the earth down below.
The heavens will vanish like smoke,
and the earth will wear out like a garment.

Composer: John Foley, SJ


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February 26, 2015

Matthew 7: 7-12

Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is 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

Do Unto Others

We hear this gospel quote often but do we really live by it? First, we realize that humans make mistakes. These words often go out the window when we’re dealing with emotions such as anger, bitterness or hurt.

Treat others the way you want to be treated? When I hear this quote, I quickly think of perseverance. It takes perseverance to treat someone with kindness, even when they stand on your feet. It takes perseverance to give, even when you’re not given to. It takes perseverance to love, even when someone does not love you back. Think about the meaning of this quote in your life: Are there people you do not particularly care for? How can you persevere through those feelings to be respectful so as to not burn the bridge you may need to walk across one day?

I challenge you to persevere in kindness and love. We need others to challenge themselves, but the challenge begins with us.

—Asia Terry ‘15 from Saint Martin de Porres High School, Cleveland, OH.

Prayer

Here is The Golden Rule as it is written in eight religions:

Baha’i: Blessed are those who prefer others before themselves.

Buddhism: Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.
Christianity: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Islam: No one is a believer until you desire for another that which you desire for yourself.

Janism: In happiness and suffering, in joy and grief, regard all creatures as you would your own self.

Judasim: What is hateful to you do not do to your neighbor. That is the entire Torah. The rest is commentary. Go and learn.
Sikhism: Be not estranged from one another for God dwells in every heart.
Zoroastrianism: Human nature is good only when it does not do unto another whatever is not good for its own self.

—from artwork of Sr. Mary Southard, CSJ, and Ministry of the Arts, LaGrange Park, IL.


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February 25, 2015

Jon 3: 1-10

The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, saying, “Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.” So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days’ walk across. Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s walk. And he cried out, “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”

And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth. When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. Then he had a proclamation made in Nineveh: “By the decree of the king and his nobles: No human being or animal, no herd or flock, shall taste anything. They shall not feed, nor shall they drink water.

Human beings and animals shall be covered with sackcloth, and they shall cry mightily to God. All shall turn from their evil ways and from the violence that is in their hands. Who knows? God may relent and change his mind; he may turn from his fierce anger, so that we do not perish.”

When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.

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

When God Repents

Jonah is a “comedy of errors.” The prophet, fleeing from God, is swallowed by a big fish.  After seeking forgiveness, he gets spit up on shore. Now a true convert back on plan, Jonah preaches hellfire to some really bad people. Destruction is a sure thing. But then a miracle! The Ninevites hear, express contrition, and repent. And God, in turn, “repented of [that] which he threatened to do.”

Why? What could override the judgment of our all-powerful, all-knowing all-present God? Simple answer? Our repentance! God knows us, and loves us as we are. God is not vindictive. He is the God of Second Chances.  He would rather forgive.

So this Lenten season, when I start thinking “Is this all really worth it? Will God really forgive me again?” I do well to remember the king of Nineveh’s words: “Who knows, God may yet repent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we perish not.”

—Howard Craig serves as Provincial Assistant for Advancement on behalf of the Chicago-Detroit and Wisconsin Province Jesuits.

Prayer

God, here I am again. As I pause to reflect on my day, I confess that I have not always done as I ought and that once again today I am in need of your forgiveness and grace. All I ask for is another chance, another opportunity to follow your path for my life and serve you as I ought. Thank you, God, for your grace and love which are always forgiving and always redeeming me. Amen.

—Howard Craig


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February 24, 2015

Matthew 6: 7-15

“When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

“Pray then in this way: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

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 Proper Position

If you have ever been a newcomer to a sport, musical instrument, or hobby, you’ve quickly realized the need for good technique. Yet technique is only effective when a person is in the proper position. Kneeling while swinging a golf club or lying down while trying to carve wood simply doesn’t work. Proper position is more fundamental than technique.

The pagans see God in a position distant from them and so babble out of their anxiety that they won’t be heard. It is not so much their technique as their position that Jesus criticizes. Position is about being in proper relationship with God: God is God and we are not. God is Abba, Father, a loving daddy and we are his beloved daughters and sons. If we could just get that position right, get that understanding at the forefront of our attention, then our prayer could become graced beyond our imaginings.

In your prayer today, focus more on your fundamental position with God than your technique; the results might surprise you. Do you trust that God loves you and is near to you always?

—Cyril Pinchak, S.J. is a first year theology student at Regis College in Toronto. He taught previously at University of Detroit High School & Academy in Detroit, MI.

Prayer

Life-giving God,

I gave you my hands to do your work today.
I give you my feet to go your way.
I give you my eyes to see as you do.
I give you my tongue to speak your words.
I give you mind that you may pray within me.
Above all, I give you my heart that you may love within me.
Blessed by your name throughout this day. Amen.

—from For You, O God: A Book of Prayers, © 1998, Loyola University Chicago


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February 23, 2015

St. Polycarp

Matthew 25: 31-46

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left.

Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’

Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’

Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’

Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

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

A Loved Sinner

“I am a sinner!”  I haven’t met many people who care to admit this!  Yet these are the words uttered by Pope Francis, “I am a sinner whom the Lord has looked upon.”

Each year, I am taken aback at how quickly this time of prayer and fasting gives rise to my disordered attachments and shortcomings.  Despite my reluctance, acknowledging my sinfulness may not be such a bad place to start at the beginning of Lent.

The commandments, whether we read them today in the context of the Old or New Testament, invite us to consider the great covenant God has made with us. God never stops loving us! All that we have, and all that we are, is God’s gift. All God asks is for our love in return. Ultimately, it is a love expressed in action, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

I am a loved sinner. Can I ask for the grace today to recognize my sins, so I am free to accept God’s mercy and move forward in love?

—Beth Knobbe is an author and ministry professional based in Chicago, IL. She blogs at www.bethknobbe.com .

Prayer

Gracious God,
Empty our hands of the barnacles of success.
Empty our minds of all arrogant thought.
Empty our hearts of all false affection.
Loving Savior,
Fill our hands with the wounds of service.
Fill our minds with the vision of your beauty.
Fill our hearts with holy tears of peace.

—J. Michael Sparough, S.J.


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February 22, 2015

Mark 1: 12-15

And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”

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

God’s Love and Grace

Many of us heard something similar to the final words of today’s Gospel when we were blessed with ashes this past Wednesday. “Repent and believe in the Gospel.” It would be a mistake, however, to take these two verbs as sequential. First we repent and then we believe? Not quite. Rather, the two are woven together in our lives.

One of our great temptations is to think we can fix ourselves and then present a better version of who we are to God. ‘If I could only change this part of my life,’ we think, ‘then God might accept me.’ But that’s our hang-up, not God’s.

Repentance isn’t a precondition for belief.  Repentance flows out of belief. And belief is strengthened by our repentance.

As we begin this journey of Lent, perhaps we can consider where we are starting. Not perfect in any way. Neither fully repentant nor filled with perfect faith, but right where we need to be. And God will meet us there. For it is God’s love and grace that will move us along the way.

—Michael Rozier, S.J. of the Central Southern Jesuit province, was ordained a priest last June. He is currently pursuing doctoral studies in Health Management and Policy at the University of Michigan.

Prayer

Lord, our God, in this time of repentance we call out for your mercy. Bring us back to you and to the life Jesus won for us by his death on the cross. May our daily lives bear witness to his dying and rising. Amen.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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February 21, 2015

Isaiah 58: 9b-14

Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am. If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday.

The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail. Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.

If you refrain from trampling the sabbath, from pursuing your own interests on my holy day; if you call the sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, serving your own interests, or pursuing your own affairs; then you shall take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride upon the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of your ancestor Jacob, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

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.

A Gateway to Grace

Just six weeks from today is Holy Saturday; Lent will be over as we stand on the threshold of Easter. The journey of life between Feb. 21 and April 4 is in our hands. What is my hope and prayer as Lent begins? More important, what is Jesus’ great desire for me this Lent 2015? It probably won’t be about what I “accomplish,” but about how I “serve,” and especially about how I invite Jesus to “take over my heart.”

Isaiah sets out our tasks for Lent: removing “oppression, false accusation and malicious speech.” Above all we are to “feed the hungry” and “care for the afflicted.” So it’s all about going out of myself to care for others after the example of Jesus!

And then—”light shall arise for you in the darkness.” Then “he will renew your strength.” Then “the Lord will guide you always.”

Welcome to the adventure of Lent 2015!

 —The Jesuit Prayer Team

Prayer

God loves a mess: a messy stable, a mixed-up world, a struggling life. Where there is a mess there is also the possibility of an open gateway to grace.

—Excerpted from 2011: A Book of Grace-Filled Days, by Margaret Silf.  © 2010, Loyola Press, Chicago IL.


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February 20, 2015

Isaiah 58: 1-9a

Shout out, do not hold back! Lift up your voice like a trumpet! Announce to my people their rebellion, to the house of Jacob their sins. Yet day after day they seek me and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that practiced righteousness and did not forsake the ordinance of their God; they ask of me righteous judgments, they delight to draw near to God.

“Why do we fast, but you do not see? Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?” Look, you serve your own interest on your fast day, and oppress all your workers. Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to strike with a wicked fist. Such fasting as you do today will not make your voice heard on high. Is such the fast that I choose, a day to humble oneself?

Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush, and to lie in sackcloth and ashes? Will you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord? Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?

Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am. If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil.

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.

Following Jesus

Today is the first Friday of Lent and I imagine that many of us may still be deciding how best to fast and prepare ourselves to join Christ triumphant over sin. There are many different recommendations that can guide our decision to walk with Jesus this Lent. Some of these involve regular practices of self-discipline that can deepen my spiritual life as I seek to imitate Christ more closely.

Isaiah reminds us how important fasting is for today´s world. Beyond the radical observance of this tradition, our fasting offers a means of liberation and compassion. “This is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; Setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke.”

What if today we change our viewpoint? What if I examine my pessimism and dissatisfaction in order to recover the enthusiasm I have as a believer in Jesus Christ? What if our Lenten sign to others is our confidence that God leads and guides our lives with his joy and hope?

—Fr. Hugo Nelson Gomez-Sevilla is a Jesuit from Colombia, currently pursuing graduate studies in educational leadership at Loyola University Chicago.

Prayer

I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security.

I do not want a Church concerned with being at the center and then ends by being caught up in a web of obsessions and procedures.

—Pope Francis, “The Joy of the Gospel,” November 2013.

 


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February 19, 2015

Luke 9: 22-25

The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” Then he said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.

For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves?

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.

Saying “Yes” to the Cross

Taking up the cross each day and living our lives as true followers of Jesus seem such countercultural messages in today’s world. These ideas were swirling through my head as I visited a family member in the hospital ICU. I assumed I would find her suffering terribly, taking up Jesus’ cross. And that was true in part: modern medicine has extended her life, but it has also brought other physical challenges.

Yet, even with her pain, I discovered that familiar bright smile and those loving eyes. She asked her daughter to put a French beret on her head to celebrate my arrival and she asked for all the family news. Almost simultaneously, we laughed about the absurdity of the bad dreams she had the night before and the tears shed about the harsh reality of her medical condition.

Then she taught me what Jesus means when he challenges us to “take up the cross”—to live life, even in the face of losing it. As I was leaving, she shook my hand, pulled me close, and looked me in the eye. “Always say yes to life. Say yes, yes, yes!”

In that spirit, what would it mean today for you to say “yes, yes, yes” to life on a deeper level?  Would do you need to let go of? What freedom might you hope to welcome?

—Charlotte Ahern is a wife and mother of three college-aged children. She is also a spiritual director and retreat leader at Jesuit schools in the Chicago area.

Prayer

Jesus Christ, may your death be my life
and in your dying may I learn how to live. 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.
In a word, may I find all my blessings in your trials. Amen.

—St. Peter Faber, S.J.


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Creighton Prep and the Midwest Jesuits have partnered to create FaithCP, a daily resource for prayer. FaithCP provides daily scripture, reflections, and prayers grounded in the spirituality of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits.


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February 28, 2015

Deuteronomy 26:16-19

This very day the Lord your God is commanding you to observe these statutes and ordinances; so observe them diligently with all your heart and with all your soul. Today you have obtained the Lord’s agreement: to be your God; and for you to walk in his ways, to keep his statutes, his commandments, and his ordinances, and to obey him.

Today the Lord has obtained your agreement: to be his treasured people, as he promised you, and to keep his commandments; for him to set you high above all nations that he has made, in praise and in fame and in honor; and for you to be a people holy to the Lord your God, as he promised.

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 Root of Obedience

Compared to my younger brother, I was the rule follower in the family. I did not make waves, get in trouble, or disappoint my parents, or teachers. While I was a good kid, I realize my motivations were not always in the right place. My obedience was solely motivated by a fear of punishment or letting others down.

In today’s first reading, Moses conveys God’s desire for the Israelites – that they follow God’s statutes, decrees and commandments with all of their hearts and souls. Their motivations should be pure. It’s not sufficient to know the rules, they must to live them — understanding the spirit in which these rules were fashioned. They must allow God’s spirit to penetrate their being so deeply that their actions and God’s desires become one. This obedience should be rooted in a love for God, for others, and for self rather than fear.

During Lent, it can be especially easy to get caught up in the rules. Guidelines abound for who should fast, what one should fast from, or when one can or cannot eat meat. In this spiritual season, let us employ its rules and other offerings to gain a greater conversion of heart and soul. May we be mindful of God’s spirit infusing the season so our obedience is not rooted in fear or guilt but in love and mercy, leading us always towards our Creator.

What barriers to do you find keeping you from a full heart and soul obedience to God?

—Andy Rebollar serves as Pastoral Associate for Parish Life at St. Pius X Parish, Grandville, MI.

Prayer

God makes us ask ourselves questions most often when God intends to resolve them. God gives us needs that God alone can satisfy and awakens capacities that God means to fulfill.

—Thomas Merton

 


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February 27, 2015

Ezekiel 18: 21-28

But if the wicked turn away from all their sins that they have committed and keep all my statutes and do what is lawful and right, they shall surely live; they shall not die. None of the transgressions that they have committed shall be remembered against them; for the righteousness that they have done they shall live. Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, says the Lord God, and not rather that they should turn from their ways and live?

But when the righteous turn away from their righteousness and commit iniquity and do the same abominable things that the wicked do, shall they live? None of the righteous deeds that they have done shall be remembered; for the treachery of which they are guilty and the sin they have committed, they shall die. Yet you say, “The way of the Lord is unfair.” Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way unfair? Is it not your ways that are unfair?

When the righteous turn away from their righteousness and commit iniquity, they shall die for it; for the iniquity that they have committed they shall die. Again, when the wicked turn away from the wickedness they have committed and do what is lawful and right, they shall save their life. Because they considered and turned away from all the transgressions that they had committed, they shall surely live; they shall not die.

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 Loving Path

“Turn! Turn,” bellowed Dad. When he quit steadying the bike, I focused on pedaling fast and holding tight… and crashed into the wall beyond the front tire.

Today’s readings speak of possible turns: away from evil; the path of virtue; leave your gift and go…clear advice, like Dad’s words. Sometimes the turn arrives too quickly, as it did for the rich young man or the girl on the bike. I must grow into a request before I give up riches or relax my death grip.

Most challenging for me are the day-to-day turnings.  I desire to share God’s love but I get mired in traps, like gossiping or backbiting. I choose extravagance over charity. Good intentions wilt.

My question becomes “What is the loving path?” If like Ignatius, I possess a strong desire to love and serve the Lord, what do I need to turn away from and turn toward?

—Maureen M. Martin is a writer, spiritual director and hospice chaplain, living in Evanston, IL.

Prayer

Refrain
Turn to me, O man and be saved,
Says the Lord for I am God;
There is no other, none beside me.

I call your name.
I am He that comforts you;
Who are you to be afraid of man who dies,
is made like the grass of the fields, soon to wither.

Listen to me, my people;
Give ear to me my nation:
a law will go forth from me,
and my justice for a light to the people.

Lift up your eyes to the heavens,
and look at the earth down below.
The heavens will vanish like smoke,
and the earth will wear out like a garment.

Composer: John Foley, SJ


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February 26, 2015

Matthew 7: 7-12

Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is 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

Do Unto Others

We hear this gospel quote often but do we really live by it? First, we realize that humans make mistakes. These words often go out the window when we’re dealing with emotions such as anger, bitterness or hurt.

Treat others the way you want to be treated? When I hear this quote, I quickly think of perseverance. It takes perseverance to treat someone with kindness, even when they stand on your feet. It takes perseverance to give, even when you’re not given to. It takes perseverance to love, even when someone does not love you back. Think about the meaning of this quote in your life: Are there people you do not particularly care for? How can you persevere through those feelings to be respectful so as to not burn the bridge you may need to walk across one day?

I challenge you to persevere in kindness and love. We need others to challenge themselves, but the challenge begins with us.

—Asia Terry ‘15 from Saint Martin de Porres High School, Cleveland, OH.

Prayer

Here is The Golden Rule as it is written in eight religions:

Baha’i: Blessed are those who prefer others before themselves.

Buddhism: Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.
Christianity: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Islam: No one is a believer until you desire for another that which you desire for yourself.

Janism: In happiness and suffering, in joy and grief, regard all creatures as you would your own self.

Judasim: What is hateful to you do not do to your neighbor. That is the entire Torah. The rest is commentary. Go and learn.
Sikhism: Be not estranged from one another for God dwells in every heart.
Zoroastrianism: Human nature is good only when it does not do unto another whatever is not good for its own self.

—from artwork of Sr. Mary Southard, CSJ, and Ministry of the Arts, LaGrange Park, IL.


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February 25, 2015

Jon 3: 1-10

The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, saying, “Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.” So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days’ walk across. Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s walk. And he cried out, “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”

And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth. When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. Then he had a proclamation made in Nineveh: “By the decree of the king and his nobles: No human being or animal, no herd or flock, shall taste anything. They shall not feed, nor shall they drink water.

Human beings and animals shall be covered with sackcloth, and they shall cry mightily to God. All shall turn from their evil ways and from the violence that is in their hands. Who knows? God may relent and change his mind; he may turn from his fierce anger, so that we do not perish.”

When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.

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

When God Repents

Jonah is a “comedy of errors.” The prophet, fleeing from God, is swallowed by a big fish.  After seeking forgiveness, he gets spit up on shore. Now a true convert back on plan, Jonah preaches hellfire to some really bad people. Destruction is a sure thing. But then a miracle! The Ninevites hear, express contrition, and repent. And God, in turn, “repented of [that] which he threatened to do.”

Why? What could override the judgment of our all-powerful, all-knowing all-present God? Simple answer? Our repentance! God knows us, and loves us as we are. God is not vindictive. He is the God of Second Chances.  He would rather forgive.

So this Lenten season, when I start thinking “Is this all really worth it? Will God really forgive me again?” I do well to remember the king of Nineveh’s words: “Who knows, God may yet repent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we perish not.”

—Howard Craig serves as Provincial Assistant for Advancement on behalf of the Chicago-Detroit and Wisconsin Province Jesuits.

Prayer

God, here I am again. As I pause to reflect on my day, I confess that I have not always done as I ought and that once again today I am in need of your forgiveness and grace. All I ask for is another chance, another opportunity to follow your path for my life and serve you as I ought. Thank you, God, for your grace and love which are always forgiving and always redeeming me. Amen.

—Howard Craig


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February 24, 2015

Matthew 6: 7-15

“When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

“Pray then in this way: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

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 Proper Position

If you have ever been a newcomer to a sport, musical instrument, or hobby, you’ve quickly realized the need for good technique. Yet technique is only effective when a person is in the proper position. Kneeling while swinging a golf club or lying down while trying to carve wood simply doesn’t work. Proper position is more fundamental than technique.

The pagans see God in a position distant from them and so babble out of their anxiety that they won’t be heard. It is not so much their technique as their position that Jesus criticizes. Position is about being in proper relationship with God: God is God and we are not. God is Abba, Father, a loving daddy and we are his beloved daughters and sons. If we could just get that position right, get that understanding at the forefront of our attention, then our prayer could become graced beyond our imaginings.

In your prayer today, focus more on your fundamental position with God than your technique; the results might surprise you. Do you trust that God loves you and is near to you always?

—Cyril Pinchak, S.J. is a first year theology student at Regis College in Toronto. He taught previously at University of Detroit High School & Academy in Detroit, MI.

Prayer

Life-giving God,

I gave you my hands to do your work today.
I give you my feet to go your way.
I give you my eyes to see as you do.
I give you my tongue to speak your words.
I give you mind that you may pray within me.
Above all, I give you my heart that you may love within me.
Blessed by your name throughout this day. Amen.

—from For You, O God: A Book of Prayers, © 1998, Loyola University Chicago


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February 23, 2015

St. Polycarp

Matthew 25: 31-46

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left.

Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’

Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’

Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’

Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

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

A Loved Sinner

“I am a sinner!”  I haven’t met many people who care to admit this!  Yet these are the words uttered by Pope Francis, “I am a sinner whom the Lord has looked upon.”

Each year, I am taken aback at how quickly this time of prayer and fasting gives rise to my disordered attachments and shortcomings.  Despite my reluctance, acknowledging my sinfulness may not be such a bad place to start at the beginning of Lent.

The commandments, whether we read them today in the context of the Old or New Testament, invite us to consider the great covenant God has made with us. God never stops loving us! All that we have, and all that we are, is God’s gift. All God asks is for our love in return. Ultimately, it is a love expressed in action, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

I am a loved sinner. Can I ask for the grace today to recognize my sins, so I am free to accept God’s mercy and move forward in love?

—Beth Knobbe is an author and ministry professional based in Chicago, IL. She blogs at www.bethknobbe.com .

Prayer

Gracious God,
Empty our hands of the barnacles of success.
Empty our minds of all arrogant thought.
Empty our hearts of all false affection.
Loving Savior,
Fill our hands with the wounds of service.
Fill our minds with the vision of your beauty.
Fill our hearts with holy tears of peace.

—J. Michael Sparough, S.J.


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February 22, 2015

Mark 1: 12-15

And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”

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

God’s Love and Grace

Many of us heard something similar to the final words of today’s Gospel when we were blessed with ashes this past Wednesday. “Repent and believe in the Gospel.” It would be a mistake, however, to take these two verbs as sequential. First we repent and then we believe? Not quite. Rather, the two are woven together in our lives.

One of our great temptations is to think we can fix ourselves and then present a better version of who we are to God. ‘If I could only change this part of my life,’ we think, ‘then God might accept me.’ But that’s our hang-up, not God’s.

Repentance isn’t a precondition for belief.  Repentance flows out of belief. And belief is strengthened by our repentance.

As we begin this journey of Lent, perhaps we can consider where we are starting. Not perfect in any way. Neither fully repentant nor filled with perfect faith, but right where we need to be. And God will meet us there. For it is God’s love and grace that will move us along the way.

—Michael Rozier, S.J. of the Central Southern Jesuit province, was ordained a priest last June. He is currently pursuing doctoral studies in Health Management and Policy at the University of Michigan.

Prayer

Lord, our God, in this time of repentance we call out for your mercy. Bring us back to you and to the life Jesus won for us by his death on the cross. May our daily lives bear witness to his dying and rising. Amen.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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February 21, 2015

Isaiah 58: 9b-14

Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am. If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday.

The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail. Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.

If you refrain from trampling the sabbath, from pursuing your own interests on my holy day; if you call the sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, serving your own interests, or pursuing your own affairs; then you shall take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride upon the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of your ancestor Jacob, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

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.

A Gateway to Grace

Just six weeks from today is Holy Saturday; Lent will be over as we stand on the threshold of Easter. The journey of life between Feb. 21 and April 4 is in our hands. What is my hope and prayer as Lent begins? More important, what is Jesus’ great desire for me this Lent 2015? It probably won’t be about what I “accomplish,” but about how I “serve,” and especially about how I invite Jesus to “take over my heart.”

Isaiah sets out our tasks for Lent: removing “oppression, false accusation and malicious speech.” Above all we are to “feed the hungry” and “care for the afflicted.” So it’s all about going out of myself to care for others after the example of Jesus!

And then—”light shall arise for you in the darkness.” Then “he will renew your strength.” Then “the Lord will guide you always.”

Welcome to the adventure of Lent 2015!

 —The Jesuit Prayer Team

Prayer

God loves a mess: a messy stable, a mixed-up world, a struggling life. Where there is a mess there is also the possibility of an open gateway to grace.

—Excerpted from 2011: A Book of Grace-Filled Days, by Margaret Silf.  © 2010, Loyola Press, Chicago IL.


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February 20, 2015

Isaiah 58: 1-9a

Shout out, do not hold back! Lift up your voice like a trumpet! Announce to my people their rebellion, to the house of Jacob their sins. Yet day after day they seek me and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that practiced righteousness and did not forsake the ordinance of their God; they ask of me righteous judgments, they delight to draw near to God.

“Why do we fast, but you do not see? Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?” Look, you serve your own interest on your fast day, and oppress all your workers. Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to strike with a wicked fist. Such fasting as you do today will not make your voice heard on high. Is such the fast that I choose, a day to humble oneself?

Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush, and to lie in sackcloth and ashes? Will you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord? Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?

Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am. If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil.

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.

Following Jesus

Today is the first Friday of Lent and I imagine that many of us may still be deciding how best to fast and prepare ourselves to join Christ triumphant over sin. There are many different recommendations that can guide our decision to walk with Jesus this Lent. Some of these involve regular practices of self-discipline that can deepen my spiritual life as I seek to imitate Christ more closely.

Isaiah reminds us how important fasting is for today´s world. Beyond the radical observance of this tradition, our fasting offers a means of liberation and compassion. “This is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; Setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke.”

What if today we change our viewpoint? What if I examine my pessimism and dissatisfaction in order to recover the enthusiasm I have as a believer in Jesus Christ? What if our Lenten sign to others is our confidence that God leads and guides our lives with his joy and hope?

—Fr. Hugo Nelson Gomez-Sevilla is a Jesuit from Colombia, currently pursuing graduate studies in educational leadership at Loyola University Chicago.

Prayer

I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security.

I do not want a Church concerned with being at the center and then ends by being caught up in a web of obsessions and procedures.

—Pope Francis, “The Joy of the Gospel,” November 2013.

 


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February 19, 2015

Luke 9: 22-25

The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” Then he said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.

For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves?

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.

Saying “Yes” to the Cross

Taking up the cross each day and living our lives as true followers of Jesus seem such countercultural messages in today’s world. These ideas were swirling through my head as I visited a family member in the hospital ICU. I assumed I would find her suffering terribly, taking up Jesus’ cross. And that was true in part: modern medicine has extended her life, but it has also brought other physical challenges.

Yet, even with her pain, I discovered that familiar bright smile and those loving eyes. She asked her daughter to put a French beret on her head to celebrate my arrival and she asked for all the family news. Almost simultaneously, we laughed about the absurdity of the bad dreams she had the night before and the tears shed about the harsh reality of her medical condition.

Then she taught me what Jesus means when he challenges us to “take up the cross”—to live life, even in the face of losing it. As I was leaving, she shook my hand, pulled me close, and looked me in the eye. “Always say yes to life. Say yes, yes, yes!”

In that spirit, what would it mean today for you to say “yes, yes, yes” to life on a deeper level?  Would do you need to let go of? What freedom might you hope to welcome?

—Charlotte Ahern is a wife and mother of three college-aged children. She is also a spiritual director and retreat leader at Jesuit schools in the Chicago area.

Prayer

Jesus Christ, may your death be my life
and in your dying may I learn how to live. 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.
In a word, may I find all my blessings in your trials. Amen.

—St. Peter Faber, S.J.


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