June 30, 2015

First Martyrs of the Church of Rome

Mt 8: 23-27

And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. A windstorm arose on the sea, so great that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him up, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, you of little faith?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a dead calm. They were amazed, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey 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

Stormy Weather

The problem with writing a reflection on the gospel passage for today is to decide on which type of storms to focus. Homilists often spiritualize the problem, speaking of the internal turmoil of our emotions and thought patterns. At times, societal storms become the focus to highlight the real challenges that global climate change, oppressive social structures, or random acts of violence place on fully living our Christian vocation.

Speaking of different types of storms might suggest each category has a different origin. Whether an external or internal storm, they are intricately connected. As Jesuit St. Peter Faber once noted, the problems that human society faces have spiritual roots. Technological advances offer assistance, but only God can touch that place of fear, greed, or despair that causes these problems. We must turn to Christ like the apostles, and ask for a peace that transforms our hearts.

When I encounter the storms of a Christian vocation, where do I turn for help? Is Christ inviting me to trust him more deeply? If I am seeking peace in my life, where areas of my heart need to be transformed?

Dano Kennedy, S.J. is a Jesuit scholastic studying philosophy at St. Louis University. He lives at the Bellarmine House of Studies.

Prayer

Living God, stand by me. Hold me up. Be my strength when I am tired, my inspiration when I am bored, my life when I am listless. Living God, I cannot always meet the standard expected of me, cannot always be the personality I am known for. Abba when I fail, Abba when I stumble, I will rest in your presence.

—Edwina Gately


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June 29, 2015

SOLEMNITY OF STS. PETER AND PAUL, Apostles

Acts 12: 1-11

About that time King Herod laid violent hands upon some who belonged to the church. He had James, the brother of John, killed with the sword. After he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. (This was during the festival of Unleavened Bread.) When he had seized him, he put him in prison and handed him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending to bring him out to the people after the Passover.

While Peter was kept in prison, the church prayed fervently to God for him. The very night before Herod was going to bring him out, Peter, bound with two chains, was sleeping between two soldiers, while guards in front of the door were keeping watch over the prison. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He tapped Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his wrists. The angel said to him, “Fasten your belt and put on your sandals.” He did so. Then he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.”

Peter went out and followed him; he did not realize that what was happening with the angel’s help was real; he thought he was seeing a vision. After they had passed the first and the second guard, they came before the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went outside and walked along a lane, when suddenly the angel left him. Then Peter came to himself and said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hands of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.”

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 Path to Freedom

The story of Peter’s liberation from prison is such a great story to pray with.  I enter into it with my imagination and sit next to Peter and feel the weight of the chains on my wrists and this quickly invites me to ask, “What is binding me this day?  What is keeping me imprisoned and unfree?” Then I imagine hearing the voice of the angel and seeing the light. This reminds me that I cannot free myself. I can only be open to the variety of ways the Lord may be reaching out to me, guiding me to healing. The scripture also reminds me that healing is a journey. The angel took Peter past one guard, then another. The gate leading out of the city opened and they made their way down an alley . . .

Today I invite you to consider, What has you bound or imprisoned, keeping you from being who God created you to be? Maybe an addiction, an attitude, expectations, fear, guilt or shame? What are the guards that are in the way on your journey to healing? And, maybe most importantly, can you pray for and notice God’s help on the journey?

—Amy Hoover, spiritual director and a frequent spiritual writer, is Director of the Creighton University Retreat Center, located in Griswold, IA.

Prayer

Holy Spirit, come! Open my mind to seek the truth.  Break down the barriers that imprison me.  Empower me to overcome any guilt by asking for forgiveness. Enable me to forgive others and release my past hurt and anger. Open my eyes to vices, habits, and attitudes that are destructive to me and to others. Guide me to true freedom with your Word.  Amen

—Excerpted from the Catholic Youth Bible, © St. Mary’s Press, Winona, MN, 2005.


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June 28, 2015

Mk 5: 21-43

When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet and begged him repeatedly, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.”

So he went with him. And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.

Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’” He looked all around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?” But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly.

When he had entered, he said to them, “Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha cum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!” And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

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

Acting Like Christ

Imagine suffering from a slow loss of blood, on and off, day after day for twelve years! And in Jesus’ time, loss of blood like this made one ritually impure, and so you became isolated from the community. Unclean!

St. Ignatius talks of the Magis: the ‘more’ that Jesus is asking of us. Look at Jesus and his Magis: though divine, he was still a first-century Jewish man, but he sees ‘more,’ feels ‘more,’ going beyond the barriers so deeply entrenched in his culture separating men from women and the clean from the unclean. He turns to her, not away, and calls her “Daughter.” Healing takes place.

Our culture is full of equally entrenched barriers separating us from one another. Do you have the courage, the love, to see ‘more’, do ‘more’? If you are united to Christ you can act like Christ.  (Don’t you really want that?)

—Fr.Mark Henninger, S.J., a philosophy professor by trade, now serves as a pastoral care chaplain at Loyola University Medical Center, Maywood, IL.

Prayer

Lord, touch our minds so worry is stilled. Touch our hearts, so compassion and forgiveness direct our behavior. Touch our bodies so we move with confidence. And touch our souls so we recognize the blessings of this day. Amen.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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June 26, 2015

Mt 8: 5-17

When he entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, appealing to him and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, in terrible distress.” And he said to him, “I will come and cure him.” The centurion answered, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only speak the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and the slave does it.”

When Jesus heard him, he was amazed and said to those who followed him, “Truly I tell you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and will eat with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the heirs of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; let it be done for you according to your faith.” And the servant was healed in that hour.

When Jesus entered Peter’s house, he saw his mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever; he touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she got up and began to serve him. That evening they brought to him many who were possessed with demons; and he cast out the spirits with a word, and cured all who were sick. This was to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah, “He took our infirmities and bore our diseases.”

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

And Sarah Laughed

Today’s Genesis reading and the healing encounters from Matthew’s gospel confound what we normally think of as the “order of nature.” God intervenes in the lives of Abraham and Sarah by promising them a son. This news prompts elderly Sarah to let out a hearty laugh. And, in the healing section of Matthew 8, Jesus cures the Centurion’s paralyzed son, releases the fever of Peter’s mother-in-law, and brings healing to many others who were possessed and otherwise afflicted.

Spiritual writers remind us that possession of various sorts and illness of all kinds are part of our daily experience. And, in ways less dramatic than we read in Scripture, Jesus invites us to carry forward his healing actions in our daily personal outreach. We see such dedication in a mother’s selfless care for her paralyzed child, a family’s patient watch over a dying grandparent, parents’ sleepless vigil until their fearless young adult stumbles home from a long night out….and the list goes on.

In God’s plan we work out our salvation, we find our redemption within the ordinary tasks and events of our daily routine…at home and work and around the neighborhood. Embedded in that daily faithfulness are moments of grace, invitations to selflessness, and the lived experience of walking at the Lord’s side, even when we might least expect we are doing so. Go for it!

—the Jesuit prayer team

Prayer

Jesus, may all that is you flow into me.
May your body and blood be my food and drink.
May your passion and death by my strength and life.
Jesus, with you by my side, enough has been given to me.
May the shelter I seek be the shadow of your cross.
Let me not run from the love which you offer,
but hold me safe from the forces of evil.
On each of my dyings shed your light and your love.
Keep calling to me until that day comes,
when, with your saints, I may praise you forever. Amen.

Anima Christi prayer, translated by David Fleming, S.J.


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June 26, 2015

Mt 8: 1-4

When Jesus had come down from the mountain, great crowds followed him; and there was a leper who came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean.” He stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I do choose. Be made clean!” Immediately his leprosy was cleansed. Then Jesus said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”

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

Movements of God’s Spirit

Jesus did what?! He touched a leper? Is he crazy? Ignatius, too, says crazy stuff, like sometimes it might be good to pray for actual poverty. It is probably important to admit, as Paul says, that these things do appear to be “foolishness,” but are we also willing to go a step further and let God show us why Jesus might invite us to do “foolish” things?  Paul says “the Spirit working within us can do more than we can ask or even imagine,” so it stands to reason that, at some point in a sincere faith walk, we are going to do things that others will think is crazy.

What “crazy” things might God be calling me to consider? Maybe to risk advancement at work to spend more time with family? Or to invite ridicule by reaching out to someone that others see as a loser? Or …

Fr. Tim Hipskind, S.J. is co-director of the Institute for Leadership and Service, as well as Director of Service Learning at the University of Detroit Mercy. He regularly ministers to Hispanic Catholics in the Detroit area.

Prayer

May God bless us with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships, so that we may live deep within our hearts.

May God bless us with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that we may work for justice, freedom, and peace.

May God bless us with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, hunger, and war, so that we may reach out our hands to comfort them and turn their pain into joy.

And may God bless us with enough foolishness to believe that we can make a difference in this world, so that we can do what others claim cannot be done, to bring justice and kindness to all our children and to the poor.

— A Franciscan Blessing


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June 25, 2015

Mt 7: 21-29

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.’

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!” Now when Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.

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

Lord Have Mercy!

May ours be a home built on the solid foundation of our love, feeling safe, knowing always that we may return to one of the many rooms you have built for us. May the grandfather sitting in the corner of the room, fingering the cross on his rosary beads, be remembered as the blind man who built that home on the rock of his great faith in you. May Our Lady of Perpetual Help be the woman at the heart of that home, so tenderly loving and caring for her children. May we be inspired by Pope Francis’ words: “God has this great joy, when one of us sinners goes to him and asks his forgiveness.”  May we come home to you believing, truly sorry no matter our failings, that your divine mercy welcomes us home when we have lost our way. Thank you, dear Lord!

—Kathleen Smolinski has spent her entire working life with the Jesuits, currently as an assistant in the Chicago-Detroit provincial’s office. She is the proud mother of three, grandmother of sixteen, and great-grandma of two.

Prayer

Lord, we ask for spiritual authority to stand for your truth, your justice, your mercy and understanding. We pray for greater faith to claim your presence in the details of this day.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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June 24, 2015

NATIVITY OF ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST

Lk 1: 57-66. 80

Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him Zechariah after his father. But his mother said, “No; he is to be called John.”

They said to her, “None of your relatives has this name.” Then they began motioning to his father to find out what name he wanted to give him. He asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And all of them were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue freed, and he began to speak, praising God.

Fear came over all their neighbors, and all these things were talked about throughout the entire hill country of Judea. All who heard them pondered them and said, “What then will this child become?” For, indeed, the hand of the Lord was with him. The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day he appeared publicly to Israel.

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 Hand of the Lord is with You

In celebrating the Nativity of John the Baptist, we celebrate multiple miracles.

We celebrate the miracle of birth. As I learned in a profound way when each of my three children came into the world, birth—giving life—is a miracle. The miracle of John’s birth was all the more noteworthy because he was born to aged, childless parents and his birth paralleled the miraculous birth of Christ.

We celebrate the miracle of God’s love and the power faith. Despite being rendered speechless for doubting the Archangel Gabriel’s announcement of John’s birth, Zechariah was saved by his faith and obedience to God. In return, Zechariah was given the gift of prophecy and foretold the future ministry of John. John’s faith made him a prophet who paved the way for Jesus, whom he later baptized.

We celebrate the miracle of building the Kingdom. The births of John and Jesus prompt us to ask, What, then, is my unique mission? Who am I becoming? The lives of John and Jesus prompt us to have faith that the hand of the Lord is with us. Let us pray on this special day that we may grow strong enough in spirit to serve as builders of God’s Kingdom on earth.

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

Prayer

Lord, increase our faith to grasp the awesome truth that your hand is upon us — no less than it was upon John and Jesus. We boldly move forward this day to serve as builders of God’s Kingdom on earth.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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June 23, 2015

Mt 7: 6. 12-14

Do not give what is holy to dogs; and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under foot and turn and maul you. In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets. Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find 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

The Narrow Gate of Forgiveness

“You hurt me. You hurt a lot of people but God forgives you, and I forgive you.”

The daughter of Ethel Lance, one of the victims of the Charleston Church tragedy, spoke these words to the man who hatefully took the lives of nine churchgoers last week. Her merciful response reflects how the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston has reacted to this devastating loss. Through their forgiving responses, the church community in Charleston serves as a tremendous example for all women and men of goodwill.

The road down the Christian life is narrow and difficult. In the face of pain and suffering, our faith calls us to choose the more loving, merciful response. Taking the narrow path means choosing love when it is easier to hate, forgiving in the midst of anger, and showing mercy when we most desire revenge.

Today, ask God to reveal to you the moments in your recent past when you have chosen the narrow path and times when you’ve avoided it. Join me in praying for all those who mourn the lives taken in this tragedy.

—Aaron Pierre, S.J., a Jesuit scholastic of the Wisconsin Province, is studying philosophy at Loyola University Chicago.

Prayer

Almighty and all-merciful God,
give me the strength of spirit to name my sins and the courage to feel shame for them.
Let me feel confounded that my sins have not destroyed me as others’ have.
Teach me to weep for the hurt and harm I have sinfully inflicted on others.
Please. Lord, I really want to live aware of how I have let this terrible evil
root itself in my life and in my life world.

—Joseph Tetlow, S.J. in Hearts on Fire, ed. by Michael Harter, S.J., © 2004, Loyola Press. A Jesuit Ministry.


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June 22, 2015

St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More

Mt 7: 1-5

Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.

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

Splinters

I often marvel, as I pull slivers of wood or metal from my husband’s hands after one of his projects, how much a small splinter can hurt and how deep it can lodge itself. Something so insignificant and tiny can cause so much pain. Jesus’ words in the Gospel reading today are especially challenging as we strive to keep joy and love alive in our hearts. While we are called to exercise good judgment and hold ourselves and others to a higher standard, God alone is the ultimate judge of others’ lives, not us. Words are like splinters of the heart—once spoken they can wound deeply and painfully. Thus we should be especially careful when tempted to be judgmental.

Reflect upon today’s Gospel and ask yourself: what planks do I need to remove from my own eyes before I am tempted “to remove the splinter” from my brother’s or sister’s eye?

—Julianne Stanz is a speaker, writer and mother of three, originally from Ireland. She currently serves as Director of the New Evangelization for the Diocese of Green Bay, WI.

Prayer

Grant me, O Lord, good digestion, and also something to digest.
Grant me a healthy body, and the necessary good humor to maintain it.

Grant me a simple soul that knows to treasure all that is good
and that doesn’t frighten easily at the sight of evil,
but rather finds the means to put things back in their place.

Give me a soul that knows not boredom, grumblings, sighs and laments,
nor excess of stress, because of that obstructing thing called “I.”

Grant me, O Lord, a sense of good humor.
Allow me the grace to be able to take a joke to discover in life a bit of joy,
and to be able to share it with others.

—Prayer for Good Humor, St. Thomas More


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June 21, 2015

Feast of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, S.J.

2 Cor 5: 14-17

For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.

From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!

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

All Is New

St. Aloysius Gonzaga would certainly have agreed with St. Paul that faith in Jesus changes the way we look at other people. “From now on, we regard no one according to the flesh,” Paul said, because “the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come.”

This Italian Jesuit grew up in a noble family, where wealth and privilege depended on bloodlines. Aloysius was among the few at the top; as eldest son of a ruler, he was to inherit great things. But he chose to follow the itinerant carpenter-turned-teacher by becoming a Jesuit. He saw the poor as his friends. Instead of court dances, he cared for plague victims whom others feared and shunned. He died after he caught the disease by helping others. Aloysius was named the patron saint of youth when he was canonized; more recently he is patron for those who care for people suffering from HIV-AIDS.

—Fr. Tom Rochford, S.J. is moving to Denver where he will serve as chaplain and artist-in-residence at Regis Jesuit High School. He is an artist (primarily oil painting), photographer and videographer.

Prayer

God of health and wholeness, we are your servants. We pray for our sisters and brothers suffering with HIV or AIDS. Please give them your healing and strength, your wholeness and hope. May they cling to the cross and resurrection of Jesus. Bless their families and communities of faith. We trust in you, Loving God, and in the strength of your Holy Spirit. Amen.


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


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June 30, 2015

First Martyrs of the Church of Rome

Mt 8: 23-27

And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. A windstorm arose on the sea, so great that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him up, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, you of little faith?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a dead calm. They were amazed, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey 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

Stormy Weather

The problem with writing a reflection on the gospel passage for today is to decide on which type of storms to focus. Homilists often spiritualize the problem, speaking of the internal turmoil of our emotions and thought patterns. At times, societal storms become the focus to highlight the real challenges that global climate change, oppressive social structures, or random acts of violence place on fully living our Christian vocation.

Speaking of different types of storms might suggest each category has a different origin. Whether an external or internal storm, they are intricately connected. As Jesuit St. Peter Faber once noted, the problems that human society faces have spiritual roots. Technological advances offer assistance, but only God can touch that place of fear, greed, or despair that causes these problems. We must turn to Christ like the apostles, and ask for a peace that transforms our hearts.

When I encounter the storms of a Christian vocation, where do I turn for help? Is Christ inviting me to trust him more deeply? If I am seeking peace in my life, where areas of my heart need to be transformed?

Dano Kennedy, S.J. is a Jesuit scholastic studying philosophy at St. Louis University. He lives at the Bellarmine House of Studies.

Prayer

Living God, stand by me. Hold me up. Be my strength when I am tired, my inspiration when I am bored, my life when I am listless. Living God, I cannot always meet the standard expected of me, cannot always be the personality I am known for. Abba when I fail, Abba when I stumble, I will rest in your presence.

—Edwina Gately


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June 29, 2015

SOLEMNITY OF STS. PETER AND PAUL, Apostles

Acts 12: 1-11

About that time King Herod laid violent hands upon some who belonged to the church. He had James, the brother of John, killed with the sword. After he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. (This was during the festival of Unleavened Bread.) When he had seized him, he put him in prison and handed him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending to bring him out to the people after the Passover.

While Peter was kept in prison, the church prayed fervently to God for him. The very night before Herod was going to bring him out, Peter, bound with two chains, was sleeping between two soldiers, while guards in front of the door were keeping watch over the prison. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He tapped Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his wrists. The angel said to him, “Fasten your belt and put on your sandals.” He did so. Then he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.”

Peter went out and followed him; he did not realize that what was happening with the angel’s help was real; he thought he was seeing a vision. After they had passed the first and the second guard, they came before the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went outside and walked along a lane, when suddenly the angel left him. Then Peter came to himself and said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hands of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.”

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 Path to Freedom

The story of Peter’s liberation from prison is such a great story to pray with.  I enter into it with my imagination and sit next to Peter and feel the weight of the chains on my wrists and this quickly invites me to ask, “What is binding me this day?  What is keeping me imprisoned and unfree?” Then I imagine hearing the voice of the angel and seeing the light. This reminds me that I cannot free myself. I can only be open to the variety of ways the Lord may be reaching out to me, guiding me to healing. The scripture also reminds me that healing is a journey. The angel took Peter past one guard, then another. The gate leading out of the city opened and they made their way down an alley . . .

Today I invite you to consider, What has you bound or imprisoned, keeping you from being who God created you to be? Maybe an addiction, an attitude, expectations, fear, guilt or shame? What are the guards that are in the way on your journey to healing? And, maybe most importantly, can you pray for and notice God’s help on the journey?

—Amy Hoover, spiritual director and a frequent spiritual writer, is Director of the Creighton University Retreat Center, located in Griswold, IA.

Prayer

Holy Spirit, come! Open my mind to seek the truth.  Break down the barriers that imprison me.  Empower me to overcome any guilt by asking for forgiveness. Enable me to forgive others and release my past hurt and anger. Open my eyes to vices, habits, and attitudes that are destructive to me and to others. Guide me to true freedom with your Word.  Amen

—Excerpted from the Catholic Youth Bible, © St. Mary’s Press, Winona, MN, 2005.


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June 28, 2015

Mk 5: 21-43

When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet and begged him repeatedly, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.”

So he went with him. And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.

Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’” He looked all around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?” But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly.

When he had entered, he said to them, “Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha cum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!” And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

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

Acting Like Christ

Imagine suffering from a slow loss of blood, on and off, day after day for twelve years! And in Jesus’ time, loss of blood like this made one ritually impure, and so you became isolated from the community. Unclean!

St. Ignatius talks of the Magis: the ‘more’ that Jesus is asking of us. Look at Jesus and his Magis: though divine, he was still a first-century Jewish man, but he sees ‘more,’ feels ‘more,’ going beyond the barriers so deeply entrenched in his culture separating men from women and the clean from the unclean. He turns to her, not away, and calls her “Daughter.” Healing takes place.

Our culture is full of equally entrenched barriers separating us from one another. Do you have the courage, the love, to see ‘more’, do ‘more’? If you are united to Christ you can act like Christ.  (Don’t you really want that?)

—Fr.Mark Henninger, S.J., a philosophy professor by trade, now serves as a pastoral care chaplain at Loyola University Medical Center, Maywood, IL.

Prayer

Lord, touch our minds so worry is stilled. Touch our hearts, so compassion and forgiveness direct our behavior. Touch our bodies so we move with confidence. And touch our souls so we recognize the blessings of this day. Amen.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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June 26, 2015

Mt 8: 5-17

When he entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, appealing to him and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, in terrible distress.” And he said to him, “I will come and cure him.” The centurion answered, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only speak the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and the slave does it.”

When Jesus heard him, he was amazed and said to those who followed him, “Truly I tell you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and will eat with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the heirs of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; let it be done for you according to your faith.” And the servant was healed in that hour.

When Jesus entered Peter’s house, he saw his mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever; he touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she got up and began to serve him. That evening they brought to him many who were possessed with demons; and he cast out the spirits with a word, and cured all who were sick. This was to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah, “He took our infirmities and bore our diseases.”

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

And Sarah Laughed

Today’s Genesis reading and the healing encounters from Matthew’s gospel confound what we normally think of as the “order of nature.” God intervenes in the lives of Abraham and Sarah by promising them a son. This news prompts elderly Sarah to let out a hearty laugh. And, in the healing section of Matthew 8, Jesus cures the Centurion’s paralyzed son, releases the fever of Peter’s mother-in-law, and brings healing to many others who were possessed and otherwise afflicted.

Spiritual writers remind us that possession of various sorts and illness of all kinds are part of our daily experience. And, in ways less dramatic than we read in Scripture, Jesus invites us to carry forward his healing actions in our daily personal outreach. We see such dedication in a mother’s selfless care for her paralyzed child, a family’s patient watch over a dying grandparent, parents’ sleepless vigil until their fearless young adult stumbles home from a long night out….and the list goes on.

In God’s plan we work out our salvation, we find our redemption within the ordinary tasks and events of our daily routine…at home and work and around the neighborhood. Embedded in that daily faithfulness are moments of grace, invitations to selflessness, and the lived experience of walking at the Lord’s side, even when we might least expect we are doing so. Go for it!

—the Jesuit prayer team

Prayer

Jesus, may all that is you flow into me.
May your body and blood be my food and drink.
May your passion and death by my strength and life.
Jesus, with you by my side, enough has been given to me.
May the shelter I seek be the shadow of your cross.
Let me not run from the love which you offer,
but hold me safe from the forces of evil.
On each of my dyings shed your light and your love.
Keep calling to me until that day comes,
when, with your saints, I may praise you forever. Amen.

Anima Christi prayer, translated by David Fleming, S.J.


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June 26, 2015

Mt 8: 1-4

When Jesus had come down from the mountain, great crowds followed him; and there was a leper who came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean.” He stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I do choose. Be made clean!” Immediately his leprosy was cleansed. Then Jesus said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”

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

Movements of God’s Spirit

Jesus did what?! He touched a leper? Is he crazy? Ignatius, too, says crazy stuff, like sometimes it might be good to pray for actual poverty. It is probably important to admit, as Paul says, that these things do appear to be “foolishness,” but are we also willing to go a step further and let God show us why Jesus might invite us to do “foolish” things?  Paul says “the Spirit working within us can do more than we can ask or even imagine,” so it stands to reason that, at some point in a sincere faith walk, we are going to do things that others will think is crazy.

What “crazy” things might God be calling me to consider? Maybe to risk advancement at work to spend more time with family? Or to invite ridicule by reaching out to someone that others see as a loser? Or …

Fr. Tim Hipskind, S.J. is co-director of the Institute for Leadership and Service, as well as Director of Service Learning at the University of Detroit Mercy. He regularly ministers to Hispanic Catholics in the Detroit area.

Prayer

May God bless us with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships, so that we may live deep within our hearts.

May God bless us with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that we may work for justice, freedom, and peace.

May God bless us with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, hunger, and war, so that we may reach out our hands to comfort them and turn their pain into joy.

And may God bless us with enough foolishness to believe that we can make a difference in this world, so that we can do what others claim cannot be done, to bring justice and kindness to all our children and to the poor.

— A Franciscan Blessing


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June 25, 2015

Mt 7: 21-29

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.’

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!” Now when Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.

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

Lord Have Mercy!

May ours be a home built on the solid foundation of our love, feeling safe, knowing always that we may return to one of the many rooms you have built for us. May the grandfather sitting in the corner of the room, fingering the cross on his rosary beads, be remembered as the blind man who built that home on the rock of his great faith in you. May Our Lady of Perpetual Help be the woman at the heart of that home, so tenderly loving and caring for her children. May we be inspired by Pope Francis’ words: “God has this great joy, when one of us sinners goes to him and asks his forgiveness.”  May we come home to you believing, truly sorry no matter our failings, that your divine mercy welcomes us home when we have lost our way. Thank you, dear Lord!

—Kathleen Smolinski has spent her entire working life with the Jesuits, currently as an assistant in the Chicago-Detroit provincial’s office. She is the proud mother of three, grandmother of sixteen, and great-grandma of two.

Prayer

Lord, we ask for spiritual authority to stand for your truth, your justice, your mercy and understanding. We pray for greater faith to claim your presence in the details of this day.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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June 24, 2015

NATIVITY OF ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST

Lk 1: 57-66. 80

Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him Zechariah after his father. But his mother said, “No; he is to be called John.”

They said to her, “None of your relatives has this name.” Then they began motioning to his father to find out what name he wanted to give him. He asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And all of them were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue freed, and he began to speak, praising God.

Fear came over all their neighbors, and all these things were talked about throughout the entire hill country of Judea. All who heard them pondered them and said, “What then will this child become?” For, indeed, the hand of the Lord was with him. The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day he appeared publicly to Israel.

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 Hand of the Lord is with You

In celebrating the Nativity of John the Baptist, we celebrate multiple miracles.

We celebrate the miracle of birth. As I learned in a profound way when each of my three children came into the world, birth—giving life—is a miracle. The miracle of John’s birth was all the more noteworthy because he was born to aged, childless parents and his birth paralleled the miraculous birth of Christ.

We celebrate the miracle of God’s love and the power faith. Despite being rendered speechless for doubting the Archangel Gabriel’s announcement of John’s birth, Zechariah was saved by his faith and obedience to God. In return, Zechariah was given the gift of prophecy and foretold the future ministry of John. John’s faith made him a prophet who paved the way for Jesus, whom he later baptized.

We celebrate the miracle of building the Kingdom. The births of John and Jesus prompt us to ask, What, then, is my unique mission? Who am I becoming? The lives of John and Jesus prompt us to have faith that the hand of the Lord is with us. Let us pray on this special day that we may grow strong enough in spirit to serve as builders of God’s Kingdom on earth.

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

Prayer

Lord, increase our faith to grasp the awesome truth that your hand is upon us — no less than it was upon John and Jesus. We boldly move forward this day to serve as builders of God’s Kingdom on earth.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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June 23, 2015

Mt 7: 6. 12-14

Do not give what is holy to dogs; and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under foot and turn and maul you. In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets. Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find 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

The Narrow Gate of Forgiveness

“You hurt me. You hurt a lot of people but God forgives you, and I forgive you.”

The daughter of Ethel Lance, one of the victims of the Charleston Church tragedy, spoke these words to the man who hatefully took the lives of nine churchgoers last week. Her merciful response reflects how the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston has reacted to this devastating loss. Through their forgiving responses, the church community in Charleston serves as a tremendous example for all women and men of goodwill.

The road down the Christian life is narrow and difficult. In the face of pain and suffering, our faith calls us to choose the more loving, merciful response. Taking the narrow path means choosing love when it is easier to hate, forgiving in the midst of anger, and showing mercy when we most desire revenge.

Today, ask God to reveal to you the moments in your recent past when you have chosen the narrow path and times when you’ve avoided it. Join me in praying for all those who mourn the lives taken in this tragedy.

—Aaron Pierre, S.J., a Jesuit scholastic of the Wisconsin Province, is studying philosophy at Loyola University Chicago.

Prayer

Almighty and all-merciful God,
give me the strength of spirit to name my sins and the courage to feel shame for them.
Let me feel confounded that my sins have not destroyed me as others’ have.
Teach me to weep for the hurt and harm I have sinfully inflicted on others.
Please. Lord, I really want to live aware of how I have let this terrible evil
root itself in my life and in my life world.

—Joseph Tetlow, S.J. in Hearts on Fire, ed. by Michael Harter, S.J., © 2004, Loyola Press. A Jesuit Ministry.


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June 22, 2015

St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More

Mt 7: 1-5

Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.

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

Splinters

I often marvel, as I pull slivers of wood or metal from my husband’s hands after one of his projects, how much a small splinter can hurt and how deep it can lodge itself. Something so insignificant and tiny can cause so much pain. Jesus’ words in the Gospel reading today are especially challenging as we strive to keep joy and love alive in our hearts. While we are called to exercise good judgment and hold ourselves and others to a higher standard, God alone is the ultimate judge of others’ lives, not us. Words are like splinters of the heart—once spoken they can wound deeply and painfully. Thus we should be especially careful when tempted to be judgmental.

Reflect upon today’s Gospel and ask yourself: what planks do I need to remove from my own eyes before I am tempted “to remove the splinter” from my brother’s or sister’s eye?

—Julianne Stanz is a speaker, writer and mother of three, originally from Ireland. She currently serves as Director of the New Evangelization for the Diocese of Green Bay, WI.

Prayer

Grant me, O Lord, good digestion, and also something to digest.
Grant me a healthy body, and the necessary good humor to maintain it.

Grant me a simple soul that knows to treasure all that is good
and that doesn’t frighten easily at the sight of evil,
but rather finds the means to put things back in their place.

Give me a soul that knows not boredom, grumblings, sighs and laments,
nor excess of stress, because of that obstructing thing called “I.”

Grant me, O Lord, a sense of good humor.
Allow me the grace to be able to take a joke to discover in life a bit of joy,
and to be able to share it with others.

—Prayer for Good Humor, St. Thomas More


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June 21, 2015

Feast of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, S.J.

2 Cor 5: 14-17

For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.

From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!

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

All Is New

St. Aloysius Gonzaga would certainly have agreed with St. Paul that faith in Jesus changes the way we look at other people. “From now on, we regard no one according to the flesh,” Paul said, because “the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come.”

This Italian Jesuit grew up in a noble family, where wealth and privilege depended on bloodlines. Aloysius was among the few at the top; as eldest son of a ruler, he was to inherit great things. But he chose to follow the itinerant carpenter-turned-teacher by becoming a Jesuit. He saw the poor as his friends. Instead of court dances, he cared for plague victims whom others feared and shunned. He died after he caught the disease by helping others. Aloysius was named the patron saint of youth when he was canonized; more recently he is patron for those who care for people suffering from HIV-AIDS.

—Fr. Tom Rochford, S.J. is moving to Denver where he will serve as chaplain and artist-in-residence at Regis Jesuit High School. He is an artist (primarily oil painting), photographer and videographer.

Prayer

God of health and wholeness, we are your servants. We pray for our sisters and brothers suffering with HIV or AIDS. Please give them your healing and strength, your wholeness and hope. May they cling to the cross and resurrection of Jesus. Bless their families and communities of faith. We trust in you, Loving God, and in the strength of your Holy Spirit. Amen.


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