December 31, 2015

1 John 2: 18-21

Children, it is the last hour! As you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. From this we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they did not belong to us; for if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us. But by going out they made it plain that none of them belongs to us. But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and all of you have knowledge. I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and you know that no lie comes from the truth.

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-translation

Trust in His Truth

How befitting this reading is for today and in these times. The first words speak of the last hour, and here we are in the waning hours of 2015. Like the lines that follow, we see so much evil in our world; so many “antichrists” rising up to spread hatred and fear. And yet this scripture passage also comforts us by pointing to our knowledge of the Holy One and His anointing upon us. It is in His truth that we will prevail.

As we enter this New Year, let us hold fast to the truth that is Christ Jesus. He is our refuge and protection. He is our courage and motivation. Through our knowledge of Him and anointing in Him, our “ordinary” becomes “extraordinary”. We can look forward to 2016 with a hope rooted in the Holy One. For in Him, there is no defeat.

—Michael Gabriele serves as Director of Communications for the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus, and is a graduate of Loyola University Maryland..

Prayer

Lord, as we begin a new year, remind us of our truest values and our deepest desires. Help us to live in the goodness that comes from doing what you want us to do. Help us to put aside anxiety about the future and the past, so that we might live in peace with you now, one day at a time.

—New Year’s prayer, © Loyola Press: A Jesuit Ministry, Chicago IL.

 


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December 30, 2015

Lk 2: 36-40

There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon 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-translation

To Anyone Who Will Listen  

Because of her advanced age and daily commitment to praying in the temple, Anna became someone who was respected. After so many years of praying, hoping, and waiting for her redeemer, God gave her the opportunity to see the Christ child face-to-face when Mary brought him to the temple. So even after so many years, hope and patience like that of Anna’s can be rewarded. In other words, we are never too old and it’s never too late to have something constructive to do in our relationship with God.

As modern day Catholics, in the busy lives we all lead, it’s both natural and typical to hope for a better job, a sleeker physique, a nicer car or place to live, and other “stuff.” But what about hoping for a better spiritual life with God? Hoping for a better relationship with Him? We don’t necessarily need to spend all day in church like Anna but, during the Christmas season, if you’ve felt your hopes dashed, maybe it’s time to take an approach like hers? Be patient, but be proactive too.

John and Katie Nicolau are active members of Our Lady of Perpetual Help parish in Glenview IL, where they have lived for over 23 years. They have been married for 32 years and have 4 children, three of whom graduated from Loyola Academy, Wilmette, IL, John’s alma mater. John also serves on the board of Charis, a Jesuit ministry for young adults.

Prayer

Christ be our light, shine in our hearts, shine through the darkness.

Christ be our light, shine in your Church, gathered today.

—Bernadette Farrell, in Christ, Be Our Light, © OCP Publications, Inc., 1993.


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December 29, 2015

St. Thomas Becket

Lk 2: 22-35

When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.

Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,“Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”

And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

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-translation

Time for Light and Love

On retreat once, I prayed with John 1:5“the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” “And,” my retreat director said, “it never will.” It’s hard to believe that these days. Closed borders and lethal bombings, environmental crises and millions in exile, racism, homophobia, hunger. We have all but forgotten that people, even more than theologies and ideologies, matter most. But, scripture reminds us.

Simeon finds peace cradling the Christ childfulfillment of the word, salvation of every people, light to all nations. Yet, still a child. A person. John implores us to remember: we who hate others are fooling ourselves into thinking that we live in light. We cannot experience the divine if we fail to care.

I must put down my anger, hatred, and fear of people. Advent is over. I have waited long enough. Now is the time for light and love.
—Eric Immel, S.J. is a Jesuit scholastic studying philosophy at Loyola University Chicago. He also serves as a Jesuit vocation promoter and is a prolific author.

Prayer

Come, O God, and set me free. Break the chains that hold me hostage. Heal my heart with the new life and love of Jesus, born anew to our waiting world. Let the gifts and lessons of this Christmas week sink deep into my soul.
Blessed be God! Amen!”


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December 28, 2015

Feast of the Holy Innocents
Mt 2: 13-18

Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”

When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: “A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.”

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-translation

Flee to Egypt

What?  Where?  Why?  But we just…The baby was just…how can we…?  Joseph must have been fraught with so many questions. What a conversation must have occurred in that dream. Joseph responded with resolute purpose in confidence that the angel of the Lord was true. Herod must have been overwhelmed with fear that he would lose his empire to this child. Joseph was overwhelmed with the assurance that the will of the Lord be done. The experiences that Joseph already had led him to extraordinary trust in the message in the dream.  

Have my experiences invited me to trust? Will this trust overwhelm my fears? Watching and praying with local and global events of violence can lead to despair. Beg the Father to help overwhelm the fear and respond with confidence for His joy and mercy. May we be filled with invitations to act with Peace.

Fr. Kevin Schneider, S.J. is Director of Adult Spiritual Enrichment Programs at Creighton Prep, Omaha, NE.

Prayer

O God, the Holy Innocents offered you praise by the death they suffered for Christ.
May our lives bear witness to the faith we profess with our lips. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

—Liturgical prayer for the feast of the Holy Innocents


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December 27, 2015

FEAST OF THE HOLY FAMILY

Lk 2: 41-52

Now every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival. When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it.Assuming that he was in the group of travelers, they went a day’s journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him.

After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.” He said to them, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

But they did not understand what he said to them. Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.

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-translation

Where God Wants Me

My sister once told me of the time my nephew got lost at a crowded beach. When Toni and my brother-in-law realized that Paul was missing, they were frantic. Toni stayed at their towels while Tom and some lifeguards went in search of Paul. About twenty minutes later Paul raced past my sister, so distraught he didn’t even see her. She had to run to catch up to him.

I realize Jesus was older than five-year-old Paul, but I’m nevertheless amazed at how composed he was, given this separation from Mary and Joseph. The difference between the two is obvious: My nephew became distraught when he realized he wasn’t where he belonged; Jesus, on the other hand, is serene because he realizes that he is exactly where he belongs.

“Where is Jesus?” they asked. Right where the Father wants him to be. Am I right where God wants me to be?

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

Prayer

JESUS, Son of God and Son of Mary, bless our family. Graciously inspire in us the unity, peace, and mutual love that you found in your own family in the little town of Nazareth.

MARY, Mother of Jesus and Our Mother, nourish our family with your faith and your love. Keep us close to your Son, Jesus, in all our sorrows and joys.

JOSEPH, Foster-father to Jesus, guardian and spouse of Mary, keep our family safe from harm. Help us in all times of discouragement or anxiety.

HOLY FAMILY OF NAZARETH, make our family one with you. Help us to be instruments of peace. Grant that love, strengthened by grace, may prove mightier than all the weaknesses and trials through which our families sometimes pass. May we always have God at the center of our hearts and homes until we are all one family, happy and at peace in our true home with you. Amen.

—Missionaries of the Holy Family


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December 26, 2015

St. Stephen, protomartyr

Acts 6: 8-10

Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and others of those from Cilicia and Asia, stood up and argued with Stephen. But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke.

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-translation

In Jesus’ Footsteps

It may seem particularly jarring to move from the rather peaceful Christmas crib scene of yesterday to the vivid stoning-to-death of Stephen described in today’s passage from Acts of the Apostles. Yet this is why Jesus was bornto hand over his very life to the Father that we might be saved. The Christian deacon Stephen similarly gave his life as somehow part of God’s plannot that God triggered the event, but rather that God was using whatever happened to bring about something good.

Our world has abundant examples of good coming from situations of great suffering and tragedy. Maybe when I’m giving my very best and still meet challenges and difficulties, God will find a way to bring some positive result out of the very struggles that I face and endure. The lives of so many Saints and holy ones remind us of this reality.

Today, in the spirit of Christmas giving, how can I hand over my time and talentseven my very lifeto the Lord, as I walk in the footsteps of Stephen and of Jesus, my Lord and Savior?

—The Jesuit Prayer Team

Prayer

I am all at once what Christ is, since he was what I am, and
This Jack, joke, poor potsherd, patch, matchwood, immortal diamond
Is immortal diamond.

—Gerard Manley Hopkins, SJ


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December 25, 2015

SOLEMNITY OF THE NATIVITY OF THE LORD

Jn 1: 1-18

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him.

But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

(John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’”) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.

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-translation

The Wisdom of the Poor

“The path of Jesus began on the peripheries, it goes from the poor and with the poor, towards others.”

Pope Francis recently spoke these powerful words at St. Joseph the Worker, a Jesuit Parish in a poor neighborhood called Kangemi in Nairobi, Kenya. On this Christmas day, I invite us to pray over these simple, yet profound words of the Holy Father as we contemplate the amazing gift of God becoming human, choosing to be poor and vulnerable so as to share the wisdom of the poor with all of us.  

Have I had a personal experience of recognizing the wisdom of the poor? Do I savor that experience, as St. Ignatius invites us to do? As I make resolutions for the new year, might one of them include finding some concrete ways in which I could have more direct contact with the materially poor so that I might be more open to what our God who comes from the poor has to say to me?

—Fr. Brian Paulson, S.J. serves as provincial superior for the Jesuits of the Chicago-Detroit Province of the Society of Jesus.

Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ, your heart was moved with love for those in need. You healed the sick, you fed the hungry, you forgave sinners, you cried over Jerusalem. Above all, you showed the pathway to true life, for you are the Way the Truth and the Life.

Open my heart this Christmas season. Help me find practical ways to build your Kingdom of justice, peace and love here on earth. Amen.

—A Jesuit Refugee Service Prayer


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December 24, 2015

Lk 1: 67-79

Then his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke this prophecy: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them. He has raised up a mighty savior for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us. Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors, and has remembered his holy covenant, the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham, to grant us that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.

And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins. By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

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-translation

Rejoice!

Our mighty savior has come, fulfilling God’s promise. What a cause for rejoicing! Zechariah rejoiced at knowing his son John would play a vital role in preparing the Lord’s path and heralding salvation through His name. We also rejoice as we share the peace of Emmanuel with others. We remember especially this night how God’s Word became flesh, showing us how to love unconditionally and taking our sins upon His own shoulders.

Zechariah’s wonderful prophecy can be summed up with perhaps the Bible’s greatest, most definitive scripture passage… that God so loved the world, He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

Rejoice!

Mike Gabriele is the Communications Director for the Maryland Province Jesuits, with offices in Towson, MD.

Prayer

O Lord, you have come to us as a small child, but you have brought us the greatest of all gifts, the gift of eternal love. Caress us with your tiny hands, embrace us with your tiny arms, and pierce our hearts with your soft, sweet cries.

Nativity prayer of St. Bernard of Clairvaux


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December 23, 2015

Lk 1: 57-66

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.

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-translation

He Shall Be Called John  

Elizabeth was directed by our Lord that, instead of following cultural tradition and naming her son Zechariah, after his father, she instead insists that her son be called John, to which his father agrees. In those days, first-born males were named after their fathers, since most of the time they followed in their father’s career footsteps, as in the case of the priest Zechariah. So Elizabeth’s going against the grain surprises everyone. This seems to indicate that, even before he was born, John’s parents remembered the Lord’ message and recognized that their son, Jesus’ cousin, would indeed be leading quite a different life than that of his father.

Especially during the season of Advent, as we prepare for the coming of our Savior, are we taking the time to slow down and listen to what God is saying to us? Feed your spiritual growth and pay attention to the message God is sending you.

John and Katie Nicolau are active members of Our Lady of Perpetual Help parish in Glenview IL, where they have lived for over 23 years. They have been married for 32 years and have 4 children, three of whom graduated from Loyola Academy, Wilmette, IL, John’s alma mater. John also serves on the board of Charis, a Jesuit ministry for young adults.

Prayer

O Emmanuel, our King and Giver of Law:
come to save us, O Lord our God!


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December 22, 2015

1 Sm 1: 24-28

When she had weaned him, she took him up with her, along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour, and a skin of wine. She brought him to the house of the Lord at Shiloh; and the child was young. Then they slaughtered the bull, and they brought the child to Eli. And she said, “Oh, my lord! As you live, my lord, I am the woman who was standing here in your presence, praying to the Lord. For this child I prayed; and the Lord has granted me the petition that I made to him. Therefore I have lent him to the Lord; as long as he lives, he is given to the Lord.” She left him there for the Lord.

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-translation

Sacrifice and Courage

Today’s readings speak of the sacrifice and courage of mothers. In a very real sense, I have two mothers. There’s Nancy, the woman who gave birth to me. I call her Nancy. And, there’s Rita, the woman who raised me. I call her Mom.

Nancy probably didn’t expect me. Mary probably didn’t expect Jesus. Nancy realized I was worthy of God’s love. Hannah realized the same about Samuel.

Rita’s spirit rejoiced when she found out I was coming. Mary rejoiced when she learned that Jesus was coming. Rita placed me into the Lord’s hands when I joined the Society of Jesus. Hannah placed Samuel in the Lord’s hands when she realized his calling.

Nancy, Hannah, Rita, Mary. Mothers who love God. Mothers who gave their sons what they needed, and then gave them away. Mothers whose faith teaches me about sacrifice and courage. Thank God for my moms.

—Eric Immel, S.J. is a Jesuit scholastic studying philosophy at Loyola University Chicago. He also serves as a Jesuit vocation promoter and is a prolific author.

Prayer

O King of all nations and keystone of the Church:
come and save all mankind,
whom you fashioned from the dust!


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December 31, 2015

1 John 2: 18-21

Children, it is the last hour! As you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. From this we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they did not belong to us; for if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us. But by going out they made it plain that none of them belongs to us. But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and all of you have knowledge. I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and you know that no lie comes from the truth.

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-translation

Trust in His Truth

How befitting this reading is for today and in these times. The first words speak of the last hour, and here we are in the waning hours of 2015. Like the lines that follow, we see so much evil in our world; so many “antichrists” rising up to spread hatred and fear. And yet this scripture passage also comforts us by pointing to our knowledge of the Holy One and His anointing upon us. It is in His truth that we will prevail.

As we enter this New Year, let us hold fast to the truth that is Christ Jesus. He is our refuge and protection. He is our courage and motivation. Through our knowledge of Him and anointing in Him, our “ordinary” becomes “extraordinary”. We can look forward to 2016 with a hope rooted in the Holy One. For in Him, there is no defeat.

—Michael Gabriele serves as Director of Communications for the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus, and is a graduate of Loyola University Maryland..

Prayer

Lord, as we begin a new year, remind us of our truest values and our deepest desires. Help us to live in the goodness that comes from doing what you want us to do. Help us to put aside anxiety about the future and the past, so that we might live in peace with you now, one day at a time.

—New Year’s prayer, © Loyola Press: A Jesuit Ministry, Chicago IL.

 


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December 30, 2015

Lk 2: 36-40

There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon 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-translation

To Anyone Who Will Listen  

Because of her advanced age and daily commitment to praying in the temple, Anna became someone who was respected. After so many years of praying, hoping, and waiting for her redeemer, God gave her the opportunity to see the Christ child face-to-face when Mary brought him to the temple. So even after so many years, hope and patience like that of Anna’s can be rewarded. In other words, we are never too old and it’s never too late to have something constructive to do in our relationship with God.

As modern day Catholics, in the busy lives we all lead, it’s both natural and typical to hope for a better job, a sleeker physique, a nicer car or place to live, and other “stuff.” But what about hoping for a better spiritual life with God? Hoping for a better relationship with Him? We don’t necessarily need to spend all day in church like Anna but, during the Christmas season, if you’ve felt your hopes dashed, maybe it’s time to take an approach like hers? Be patient, but be proactive too.

John and Katie Nicolau are active members of Our Lady of Perpetual Help parish in Glenview IL, where they have lived for over 23 years. They have been married for 32 years and have 4 children, three of whom graduated from Loyola Academy, Wilmette, IL, John’s alma mater. John also serves on the board of Charis, a Jesuit ministry for young adults.

Prayer

Christ be our light, shine in our hearts, shine through the darkness.

Christ be our light, shine in your Church, gathered today.

—Bernadette Farrell, in Christ, Be Our Light, © OCP Publications, Inc., 1993.


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December 29, 2015

St. Thomas Becket

Lk 2: 22-35

When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.

Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,“Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”

And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

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-translation

Time for Light and Love

On retreat once, I prayed with John 1:5“the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” “And,” my retreat director said, “it never will.” It’s hard to believe that these days. Closed borders and lethal bombings, environmental crises and millions in exile, racism, homophobia, hunger. We have all but forgotten that people, even more than theologies and ideologies, matter most. But, scripture reminds us.

Simeon finds peace cradling the Christ childfulfillment of the word, salvation of every people, light to all nations. Yet, still a child. A person. John implores us to remember: we who hate others are fooling ourselves into thinking that we live in light. We cannot experience the divine if we fail to care.

I must put down my anger, hatred, and fear of people. Advent is over. I have waited long enough. Now is the time for light and love.
—Eric Immel, S.J. is a Jesuit scholastic studying philosophy at Loyola University Chicago. He also serves as a Jesuit vocation promoter and is a prolific author.

Prayer

Come, O God, and set me free. Break the chains that hold me hostage. Heal my heart with the new life and love of Jesus, born anew to our waiting world. Let the gifts and lessons of this Christmas week sink deep into my soul.
Blessed be God! Amen!”


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December 28, 2015

Feast of the Holy Innocents
Mt 2: 13-18

Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”

When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: “A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.”

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-translation

Flee to Egypt

What?  Where?  Why?  But we just…The baby was just…how can we…?  Joseph must have been fraught with so many questions. What a conversation must have occurred in that dream. Joseph responded with resolute purpose in confidence that the angel of the Lord was true. Herod must have been overwhelmed with fear that he would lose his empire to this child. Joseph was overwhelmed with the assurance that the will of the Lord be done. The experiences that Joseph already had led him to extraordinary trust in the message in the dream.  

Have my experiences invited me to trust? Will this trust overwhelm my fears? Watching and praying with local and global events of violence can lead to despair. Beg the Father to help overwhelm the fear and respond with confidence for His joy and mercy. May we be filled with invitations to act with Peace.

Fr. Kevin Schneider, S.J. is Director of Adult Spiritual Enrichment Programs at Creighton Prep, Omaha, NE.

Prayer

O God, the Holy Innocents offered you praise by the death they suffered for Christ.
May our lives bear witness to the faith we profess with our lips. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

—Liturgical prayer for the feast of the Holy Innocents


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December 27, 2015

FEAST OF THE HOLY FAMILY

Lk 2: 41-52

Now every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival. When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it.Assuming that he was in the group of travelers, they went a day’s journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him.

After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.” He said to them, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

But they did not understand what he said to them. Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.

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-translation

Where God Wants Me

My sister once told me of the time my nephew got lost at a crowded beach. When Toni and my brother-in-law realized that Paul was missing, they were frantic. Toni stayed at their towels while Tom and some lifeguards went in search of Paul. About twenty minutes later Paul raced past my sister, so distraught he didn’t even see her. She had to run to catch up to him.

I realize Jesus was older than five-year-old Paul, but I’m nevertheless amazed at how composed he was, given this separation from Mary and Joseph. The difference between the two is obvious: My nephew became distraught when he realized he wasn’t where he belonged; Jesus, on the other hand, is serene because he realizes that he is exactly where he belongs.

“Where is Jesus?” they asked. Right where the Father wants him to be. Am I right where God wants me to be?

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

Prayer

JESUS, Son of God and Son of Mary, bless our family. Graciously inspire in us the unity, peace, and mutual love that you found in your own family in the little town of Nazareth.

MARY, Mother of Jesus and Our Mother, nourish our family with your faith and your love. Keep us close to your Son, Jesus, in all our sorrows and joys.

JOSEPH, Foster-father to Jesus, guardian and spouse of Mary, keep our family safe from harm. Help us in all times of discouragement or anxiety.

HOLY FAMILY OF NAZARETH, make our family one with you. Help us to be instruments of peace. Grant that love, strengthened by grace, may prove mightier than all the weaknesses and trials through which our families sometimes pass. May we always have God at the center of our hearts and homes until we are all one family, happy and at peace in our true home with you. Amen.

—Missionaries of the Holy Family


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December 26, 2015

St. Stephen, protomartyr

Acts 6: 8-10

Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and others of those from Cilicia and Asia, stood up and argued with Stephen. But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke.

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-translation

In Jesus’ Footsteps

It may seem particularly jarring to move from the rather peaceful Christmas crib scene of yesterday to the vivid stoning-to-death of Stephen described in today’s passage from Acts of the Apostles. Yet this is why Jesus was bornto hand over his very life to the Father that we might be saved. The Christian deacon Stephen similarly gave his life as somehow part of God’s plannot that God triggered the event, but rather that God was using whatever happened to bring about something good.

Our world has abundant examples of good coming from situations of great suffering and tragedy. Maybe when I’m giving my very best and still meet challenges and difficulties, God will find a way to bring some positive result out of the very struggles that I face and endure. The lives of so many Saints and holy ones remind us of this reality.

Today, in the spirit of Christmas giving, how can I hand over my time and talentseven my very lifeto the Lord, as I walk in the footsteps of Stephen and of Jesus, my Lord and Savior?

—The Jesuit Prayer Team

Prayer

I am all at once what Christ is, since he was what I am, and
This Jack, joke, poor potsherd, patch, matchwood, immortal diamond
Is immortal diamond.

—Gerard Manley Hopkins, SJ


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December 25, 2015

SOLEMNITY OF THE NATIVITY OF THE LORD

Jn 1: 1-18

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him.

But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

(John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’”) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.

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-translation

The Wisdom of the Poor

“The path of Jesus began on the peripheries, it goes from the poor and with the poor, towards others.”

Pope Francis recently spoke these powerful words at St. Joseph the Worker, a Jesuit Parish in a poor neighborhood called Kangemi in Nairobi, Kenya. On this Christmas day, I invite us to pray over these simple, yet profound words of the Holy Father as we contemplate the amazing gift of God becoming human, choosing to be poor and vulnerable so as to share the wisdom of the poor with all of us.  

Have I had a personal experience of recognizing the wisdom of the poor? Do I savor that experience, as St. Ignatius invites us to do? As I make resolutions for the new year, might one of them include finding some concrete ways in which I could have more direct contact with the materially poor so that I might be more open to what our God who comes from the poor has to say to me?

—Fr. Brian Paulson, S.J. serves as provincial superior for the Jesuits of the Chicago-Detroit Province of the Society of Jesus.

Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ, your heart was moved with love for those in need. You healed the sick, you fed the hungry, you forgave sinners, you cried over Jerusalem. Above all, you showed the pathway to true life, for you are the Way the Truth and the Life.

Open my heart this Christmas season. Help me find practical ways to build your Kingdom of justice, peace and love here on earth. Amen.

—A Jesuit Refugee Service Prayer


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December 24, 2015

Lk 1: 67-79

Then his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke this prophecy: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them. He has raised up a mighty savior for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us. Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors, and has remembered his holy covenant, the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham, to grant us that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.

And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins. By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

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-translation

Rejoice!

Our mighty savior has come, fulfilling God’s promise. What a cause for rejoicing! Zechariah rejoiced at knowing his son John would play a vital role in preparing the Lord’s path and heralding salvation through His name. We also rejoice as we share the peace of Emmanuel with others. We remember especially this night how God’s Word became flesh, showing us how to love unconditionally and taking our sins upon His own shoulders.

Zechariah’s wonderful prophecy can be summed up with perhaps the Bible’s greatest, most definitive scripture passage… that God so loved the world, He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

Rejoice!

Mike Gabriele is the Communications Director for the Maryland Province Jesuits, with offices in Towson, MD.

Prayer

O Lord, you have come to us as a small child, but you have brought us the greatest of all gifts, the gift of eternal love. Caress us with your tiny hands, embrace us with your tiny arms, and pierce our hearts with your soft, sweet cries.

Nativity prayer of St. Bernard of Clairvaux


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December 23, 2015

Lk 1: 57-66

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.

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-translation

He Shall Be Called John  

Elizabeth was directed by our Lord that, instead of following cultural tradition and naming her son Zechariah, after his father, she instead insists that her son be called John, to which his father agrees. In those days, first-born males were named after their fathers, since most of the time they followed in their father’s career footsteps, as in the case of the priest Zechariah. So Elizabeth’s going against the grain surprises everyone. This seems to indicate that, even before he was born, John’s parents remembered the Lord’ message and recognized that their son, Jesus’ cousin, would indeed be leading quite a different life than that of his father.

Especially during the season of Advent, as we prepare for the coming of our Savior, are we taking the time to slow down and listen to what God is saying to us? Feed your spiritual growth and pay attention to the message God is sending you.

John and Katie Nicolau are active members of Our Lady of Perpetual Help parish in Glenview IL, where they have lived for over 23 years. They have been married for 32 years and have 4 children, three of whom graduated from Loyola Academy, Wilmette, IL, John’s alma mater. John also serves on the board of Charis, a Jesuit ministry for young adults.

Prayer

O Emmanuel, our King and Giver of Law:
come to save us, O Lord our God!


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December 22, 2015

1 Sm 1: 24-28

When she had weaned him, she took him up with her, along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour, and a skin of wine. She brought him to the house of the Lord at Shiloh; and the child was young. Then they slaughtered the bull, and they brought the child to Eli. And she said, “Oh, my lord! As you live, my lord, I am the woman who was standing here in your presence, praying to the Lord. For this child I prayed; and the Lord has granted me the petition that I made to him. Therefore I have lent him to the Lord; as long as he lives, he is given to the Lord.” She left him there for the Lord.

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-translation

Sacrifice and Courage

Today’s readings speak of the sacrifice and courage of mothers. In a very real sense, I have two mothers. There’s Nancy, the woman who gave birth to me. I call her Nancy. And, there’s Rita, the woman who raised me. I call her Mom.

Nancy probably didn’t expect me. Mary probably didn’t expect Jesus. Nancy realized I was worthy of God’s love. Hannah realized the same about Samuel.

Rita’s spirit rejoiced when she found out I was coming. Mary rejoiced when she learned that Jesus was coming. Rita placed me into the Lord’s hands when I joined the Society of Jesus. Hannah placed Samuel in the Lord’s hands when she realized his calling.

Nancy, Hannah, Rita, Mary. Mothers who love God. Mothers who gave their sons what they needed, and then gave them away. Mothers whose faith teaches me about sacrifice and courage. Thank God for my moms.

—Eric Immel, S.J. is a Jesuit scholastic studying philosophy at Loyola University Chicago. He also serves as a Jesuit vocation promoter and is a prolific author.

Prayer

O King of all nations and keystone of the Church:
come and save all mankind,
whom you fashioned from the dust!


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