January 31, 2016

Lk 4: 21-30

Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” He said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Doctor, cure yourself!’ And you will say, ‘Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.’” And he said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown.

But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.” When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.

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

Help My Unbelief

Finally, it seemed, Jesus was revealing who he really was.  Listening to his gracious words, “all spoke highly of him and were amazed”!  …Until he touched some dangerous buttons!  …Until he suggested that God could look beyond his “chosen people,” and in fact had done so often in the past.

When he said that, his listeners were “filled with fury”!  They didn’t just walk out on him – they tried to kill him.

Easy for us to condemn those Jews. How could they simply close their ears to God’s revelation ? Where was their faith in the God of their fathers? How close-minded can people be?

But wait a minute. Am I always ready to hear unsettling words? Don’t I ever bristle when the Pope asks us Catholics to embrace the seriously poor: ex-cons, refugees, homeless people begging at street corners? Ever think (though I wouldn’t say it):  “They made their bed, let them lie in it!”  Or, if my mind concurs with the Pope’s words, do my actions follow it?  Habits still die hard, prejudices still go deep.  

Dear Lord, I do believe…Help my unbelief!

—Fr. Jack O’Callaghan, S.J. assists the Dean at Loyola University’s Stritch School of Medicine with programs in Ignatian Spirituality.

Prayer

Loving God, you have revealed yourself to us in Jesus in a way immeasurably more clearly than you did to our Jewish forebears. As we thank you for that, we also beg you to open up our faith, to enlarge our hearts, to enable us to embrace all our neighbors. Your Son died for everyone. We pray in his name. Amen.

—Fr. Jack O’Callaghan, S.J.


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January 30, 2016

2 Sm 12: 1-7a. 10-17

And the Lord sent Nathan to David. He came to him, and said to him, “There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. The rich man had very many flocks and herds; but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. He brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children; it used to eat of his meager fare, and drink from his cup, and lie in his bosom, and it was like a daughter to him.

Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was loath to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the wayfarer who had come to him, but he took the poor man’s lamb, and prepared that for the guest who had come to him.” Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man. He said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die; he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.” Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: I anointed you king over Israel, and I rescued you from the hand of Saul;

Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, for you have despised me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife. Thus says the Lord: I will raise up trouble against you from within your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes, and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this very sun. For you did it secretly; but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun.”

David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” Nathan said to David, “Now the Lord has put away your sin; you shall not die. Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord, the child that is born to you shall die.”

Then Nathan went to his house. The Lord struck the child that Uriah’s wife bore to David, and it became very ill. David therefore pleaded with God for the child; David fasted, and went in and lay all night on the ground.The elders of his house stood beside him, urging him to rise from the ground; but he would not, nor did he eat food with 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.

Pots and Kettles

Today we read the conclusion to the well-known story of David and Bathsheba’s adultery. As outside observers, we see David’s guilt right away, and it’s easy for us to frown at his hypocritical reaction to the prophet Nathan’s parable. But sin often blinds us to the realities of our own guilt and shortcomings, and David’s actions are no exception. Finally, when Nathan helps David understand the horror of what he has done, David confesses his sin and receives forgiveness.

Am I like David sometimes? Is it hard to see my own flaws and take responsibility for my own sins, while I’m quick to point out where others have fallen? Who are the prophets in my life? Who is like Nathan for me, offering counsel when I am off track? Let us ask the Lord to create new hearts in us: contrite hearts that humbly ask forgiveness; sincere hearts that freely forgive others.

Maggie Melchior is a convert to the Catholic faith. She currently serves as Coordinator of New Evangelization and Faith Formation for a parish in the Diocese of Green Bay.

Prayer

My Jesus, I feel within me a great desire to please you
but, at the same time, I feel totally incapable of doing this
without your special light and help, which I can expect only from you.
Forgive my sins and heal my heart.
Accomplish our will within meeven in spite of me. Amen.

—St. Claude La Colombiere, S.J.


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January 29, 2016

Mk 4: 26-34

He also said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.”

He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”

With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.

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

Planting Seeds

The parable of the mustard seed is well-known. But perhaps we all need to challenge ourselves to take a step back and to think creatively to find ways to plants seeds of faith and grow the kingdom of God in small ways within our families, within our circle of friends, within our work places, and within our communities. Pope Francis has been an example for all of us to serve the least of our brothers and sisters; to dialogue with and embrace those with various faith traditions; to live lives that are more simple, that are free from distractions and excessiveness, and to not partake in gossip and conversations which serve to tear others down as opposed to build them up.  

What actions can I take to plant seeds of faith, seeds of hope, seeds of compassion and mercy, and seeds of love in the Kingdom of God here on earth?

—Leigh M. Hartley works in higher education administration at the University of Chicago. Over the past 15 years she has volunteered with the Jesuits, initially with Charis Ministries more recently years through planning and organizing pilgrimages with Fr. Michael Sparough, S.J.

Prayer

When you plant a tree
every leaf that grows will tell you,
what you sow will bear fruit.
So if you have any sense, my friend
don’t plant anything but love,
you show your worth by what you seek.
Water flows to those who want purity
wash your hands of all desires and
come to the table of Love.

Do you want me to tell you a secret?
The flowers attract the most beautiful lover
with their sweet smile and scent.
If you let God weave the verse in your poem
people will read it forever.

—Rumi


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January 28, 2016

St. Thomas Aquinas

Mk 4: 21-25

He said to them, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under the bushel basket, or under the bed, and not on the lampstand? For there is nothing hidden, except to be disclosed; nor is anything secret, except to come to light. Let anyone with ears to hear listen!” And he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear; the measure you give will be the measure you get, and still more will be given you. For to those who have, more will be given; and from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.”  

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

Rigorous Honesty

“For there is nothing hidden except to be disclosed; nor is anything secret except to come to light.” There have been times in my life when these words terrified me and times in my life when I embraced them with hope.

Often my prayer feels like an exercise in rigorous honesty. I simply sit and try to be as honest as I can about my thoughts and feelings. When I can go no further, I ask for the grace to be more honest, and I often have to ask for the desire to be honest. The great thing about rigorous honesty is that it leaves me impoverished, no pretenses to defend, but confident in God’s undergirding and overwhelming mercy and love. And it’s here, I think, that I’m most ready to receive what God has to share.

May I practice rigorous honesty today, confident that God takes great joy in this attempt to share myself, just as I take joy in a loved one’s sharing with me.

—Ryen Dwyer, S.J., a Chicago-Detroit province Jesuit scholastic, is currently studying philosophy at Loyola University Chicago.

Prayer

Take, O take me as I am; summon out what I shall be.
Set your seal upon my heart and live in me.

—John L. Bell, © 1995, The Iona Community, GIA Publications, Inc., agent


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January 27, 2016

St. Angela Merici

Mk 4: 1-20

Again he began to teach beside the sea. Such a very large crowd gathered around him that he got into a boat on the sea and sat there, while the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. He began to teach them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and it sprang up quickly, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched; and since it had no root, it withered away.

Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. Other seed fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.” And he said, “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!”

When he was alone, those who were around him along with the twelve asked him about the parables. And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside, everything comes in parables; in order that

‘they may indeed look, but not perceive,
and may indeed listen, but not understand;
so that they may not turn again and be forgiven.’”

And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? Then how will you understand all the parables? The sower sows the word. These are the ones on the path where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them. And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: when they hear the word, they immediately receive it with joy. But they have no root, and endure only for a while; then, when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away.

And others are those sown among the thorns: these are the ones who hear the word, but the cares of the world, and the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things come in and choke the word, and it yields nothing. And these are the ones sown on the good soil: they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.”

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

Rich Soil

I did enough landscaping during summers in high school to know what rich soil is—dark, damp and full of nutrients. You find it and think, excellent! Things are going to work out here. But if the seed to be sown is the word and we are the soil, what is it that makes me able tobear fruit thirty and sixty and a hundredfold”?

I don’t know if there is an easy answer. I think that work, patience, and trust are what the gardener uses to nurture his soil, and I think that is what we need to develop ourselves. What can I focus on today that will make me richer soil for the Lord to work through?

Connor Walters is a communications coordinator at Saint Ignatius High School in Cleveland. He also coaches rowing and co-moderates the school’s Saint Benedict Joseph Labre Ministry to the Homeless.

Prayer

Lord, I pray today that my heart will be good soil to receive your life and love. I also pray for those I meet today.
Keep weeds and thorns far away. Help me plant a seed on good soil today. Amen.


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January 26, 2016

Sts. Timothy and Titus

Mk 3: 31-35

Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

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

Our Christian Family

It is tempting, as a mother, to be a little insulted by Jesus’ actions in today’s gospel. The relationship between mother and child is a special one and on first glance, Jesus seems to demean it by equating to the relationship he has with his followers. In actuality, the opposite is true. It is Jesus’ intent to elevate the relationship that everyone else has with him. We are to as close to Jesus as his own family.

How close am I to Jesus? To I speak with him every day, good or bad? Or do I only call upon him when I am in need? Am I labor intensive for him without asking for reward, like I would for my brother or mother? Am I in communion with Christ everyday, or do I wait until Sunday to talk with him?

Christ has so kindly extended his friendship to each of us. He has made us his family, and he loves us like his own brothers, sisters, parents. How have we returned that love to the other members of our Christian family? To the members of our human family? Let’s spend today looking at each person we communicate with as if we were dealing with a member of our family.  Let’s be kind, patient, and loving to God’s family, Christ’s sisters and brothers.

-Linda Pfenning is a Communications Teacher in the Integrated Arts and Technology Department at Creighton Prep. 

Prayer

Lord Jesus, who has made us living members of your body, keep us deeply united to yourself.  Help us overcome our conflicts, our divisions, and our self-seeking; and let us remember that unity is always better than conflict. Help us to be united to one another by one force, by the power of love which the Holy Spirit pours into our hearts. Amen.

Pope Francis,  Homily of January 25, 2014


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January 25, 2016

Conversion of St. Paul

Acts 22: 3-16

I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, educated strictly according to our ancestral law, being zealous for God, just as all of you are today. I persecuted this Way up to the point of death by binding both men and women and putting them in prison, as the high priest and the whole council of elders can testify about me. From them I also received letters to the brothers in Damascus, and I went there in order to bind those who were there and to bring them back to Jerusalem for punishment.

While I was on my way and approaching Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone about me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ Then he said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth whom you are persecuting.’ Now those who were with me saw the light but did not hear the voice of the one who was speaking to me. I asked, ‘What am I to do, Lord?’ The Lord said to me, ‘Get up and go to Damascus; there you will be told everything that has been assigned to you to do.’ Since I could not see because of the brightness of that light, those who were with me took my hand and led me to Damascus.

A certain Ananias, who was a devout man according to the law and well spoken of by all the Jews living there, came to me; and standing beside me, he said, ‘Brother Saul, regain your sight!’ In that very hour I regained my sight and saw him. Then he said, ‘The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear his own voice; for you will be his witness to all the world of what you have seen and heard. And now why do you delay? Get up, be baptized, and have your sins washed away, calling on his name.’

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 Skilled Potter

God is a skilled potter who is not at all afraid to immerse his hands into the work of molding, kneading and re-shaping us. I pray with this image a lot. It reminds me of something a spiritual advisor once told me: do you not think that God cannot re-mold you, if only you let Him?

We know the story of Paul’s conversion well: his zealousness for the persecution of the new, fledgling followers of Jesus of Nazareth is documented in the Acts of the Apostles. His conversion would have raised red flags. As Ananias says, “Lord, I have heard . . . what evil things he has done.”

Yet it is God, not us, who kneads and molds. Even Paul’s zealousness can be used by God to proclaim the good news. How might God knead and shape us, even the parts of ourselves we can’t imagine being helpful to spread the Gospel?

—Dan Finucane teaches theology and coordinates Campus Ministry activities at St. Louis University High School in St. Louis MO.

Prayer

O Lord, you search me and you know me; you know when I sit and when I stand.
All my ways lie open to you….
If I take the wings of the dawn and dwell at the sea’s furthest end,
even then your hand would lead me, your right hand hold me fast….
O search me, God, and know my heart.
Lead me in the path of life eternal.
—Psalm 139

 


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January 29, 2016

Mk 4: 26-34

He also said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.”

He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”

With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.

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

Planting Seeds

The parable of the mustard seed is well-known. But perhaps we all need to challenge ourselves to take a step back and to think creatively to find ways to plants seeds of faith and grow the kingdom of God in small ways within our families, within our circle of friends, within our work places, and within our communities. Pope Francis has been an example for all of us to serve the least of our brothers and sisters; to dialogue with and embrace those with various faith traditions; to live lives that are more simple, that are free from distractions and excessiveness, and to not partake in gossip and conversations which serve to tear others down as opposed to build them up.  

What actions can I take to plant seeds of faith, seeds of hope, seeds of compassion and mercy, and seeds of love in the Kingdom of God here on earth?

—Leigh M. Hartley works in higher education administration at the University of Chicago. Over the past 15 years she has volunteered with the Jesuits, initially with Charis Ministries more recently years through planning and organizing pilgrimages with Fr. Michael Sparough, S.J.

Prayer

When you plant a tree
every leaf that grows will tell you,
what you sow will bear fruit.
So if you have any sense, my friend
don’t plant anything but love,
you show your worth by what you seek.
Water flows to those who want purity
wash your hands of all desires and
come to the table of Love.

Do you want me to tell you a secret?
The flowers attract the most beautiful lover
with their sweet smile and scent.
If you let God weave the verse in your poem
people will read it forever.

—Rumi


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January 24, 2016

Lk 1: 1-4; 4: 14-21

Since many have undertaken to set down an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed on to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus,so that you may know the truth concerning the things about which you have been instructed.

Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone. When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

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

Footprints of Gratitude

I once made a retreat at the place on the Sea of Galilee where, archaeologists say, Jesus performed the miracle of the loaves and fishes, and where he held that memorable breakfast picnic after his resurrection. An abundance of grass watered by springs, and a large flat rock on the beach furnish evidence about this. As I walked the beach and sat on large rocks to pray, I marveled that I may have been touching the very things that Jesus touched 2000 years ago.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus himself was reaching back some eight centuries to make his own the words of Isaiah about the longed-for Messiah: “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”

What a gift our faith is! We believe in the Salvation History that God has been writing since the creation of our race, and we see ourselves situated along that long path. One day we will sit with God and look back at our footprints in the sand of our lives – sometimes paired with God’s as we were led along, and at other times only a single set, when God was carrying us. Our hearts will almost burst with gratitude.

—Fr. Jack O’Callaghan, S.J. assists the Dean at Loyola University’s Stritch School of Medicine with programs in Ignatian Spirituality.

Prayer

Loving God, Creator, Redeemer, Goal of our lives, thank you for the gift of our faith, which enables us to live in trust that we will one day be with you eternally. We thank you for the share you give us in your love, which inspires us to do whatever we can to bring others along with us to that marvelous Life your Son opened for us. We pray through Him, Christ our Lord.

—Fr. Jack O’Callaghan, S.J.


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January 23, 2016

St. Marianne Cope

Mk 3: 20-21

Then he went home; and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.”

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

Family Dynamics

What an insight into Jesus’ family dynamics! Jesus and his disciples are constantly in demandit’s even hard for them to enjoy a meal together. Amid all the miracles, healing, and forgiveness Jesus pours out to the community, his relatives get wind of the news. Rather than excitement, their response is one of cynical scorn: “He is out of his mind!” It’s easy to picture them rolling their eyes at each other, dismissing Jesus and his ministry with a scoff.

Of course, hindsight is 20/20. We know the truth about Jesuswe know the end of the story. But do I behave like Jesus’ relatives sometimes? When I hear an amazing story about a miracle, an answered prayer, or a life turned around, is my first response skeptical? Am I willing to believe that God wants to work through everyone’s life, not just the people I would expect?

Maggie Melchior is a convert to the Catholic faith. She currently serves as Coordinator of New Evangelization and Faith Formation for a parish in the Diocese of Green Bay.

Prayer

Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day. It is a choice based on the knowledge that we belong to God and have found in God our refuge and safety and that nothing, not even death, can take God away from us. Joy is the experience of knowing that you are unconditionally loved and that nothingsickness, failure, emotional distress, oppression, war, or even deathcan take that love away.”

Fr. Henri Nouwen (1932-1996)


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January 31, 2016

Lk 4: 21-30

Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” He said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Doctor, cure yourself!’ And you will say, ‘Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.’” And he said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown.

But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.” When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.

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

Help My Unbelief

Finally, it seemed, Jesus was revealing who he really was.  Listening to his gracious words, “all spoke highly of him and were amazed”!  …Until he touched some dangerous buttons!  …Until he suggested that God could look beyond his “chosen people,” and in fact had done so often in the past.

When he said that, his listeners were “filled with fury”!  They didn’t just walk out on him – they tried to kill him.

Easy for us to condemn those Jews. How could they simply close their ears to God’s revelation ? Where was their faith in the God of their fathers? How close-minded can people be?

But wait a minute. Am I always ready to hear unsettling words? Don’t I ever bristle when the Pope asks us Catholics to embrace the seriously poor: ex-cons, refugees, homeless people begging at street corners? Ever think (though I wouldn’t say it):  “They made their bed, let them lie in it!”  Or, if my mind concurs with the Pope’s words, do my actions follow it?  Habits still die hard, prejudices still go deep.  

Dear Lord, I do believe…Help my unbelief!

—Fr. Jack O’Callaghan, S.J. assists the Dean at Loyola University’s Stritch School of Medicine with programs in Ignatian Spirituality.

Prayer

Loving God, you have revealed yourself to us in Jesus in a way immeasurably more clearly than you did to our Jewish forebears. As we thank you for that, we also beg you to open up our faith, to enlarge our hearts, to enable us to embrace all our neighbors. Your Son died for everyone. We pray in his name. Amen.

—Fr. Jack O’Callaghan, S.J.


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January 30, 2016

2 Sm 12: 1-7a. 10-17

And the Lord sent Nathan to David. He came to him, and said to him, “There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. The rich man had very many flocks and herds; but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. He brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children; it used to eat of his meager fare, and drink from his cup, and lie in his bosom, and it was like a daughter to him.

Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was loath to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the wayfarer who had come to him, but he took the poor man’s lamb, and prepared that for the guest who had come to him.” Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man. He said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die; he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.” Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: I anointed you king over Israel, and I rescued you from the hand of Saul;

Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, for you have despised me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife. Thus says the Lord: I will raise up trouble against you from within your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes, and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this very sun. For you did it secretly; but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun.”

David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” Nathan said to David, “Now the Lord has put away your sin; you shall not die. Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord, the child that is born to you shall die.”

Then Nathan went to his house. The Lord struck the child that Uriah’s wife bore to David, and it became very ill. David therefore pleaded with God for the child; David fasted, and went in and lay all night on the ground.The elders of his house stood beside him, urging him to rise from the ground; but he would not, nor did he eat food with 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.

Pots and Kettles

Today we read the conclusion to the well-known story of David and Bathsheba’s adultery. As outside observers, we see David’s guilt right away, and it’s easy for us to frown at his hypocritical reaction to the prophet Nathan’s parable. But sin often blinds us to the realities of our own guilt and shortcomings, and David’s actions are no exception. Finally, when Nathan helps David understand the horror of what he has done, David confesses his sin and receives forgiveness.

Am I like David sometimes? Is it hard to see my own flaws and take responsibility for my own sins, while I’m quick to point out where others have fallen? Who are the prophets in my life? Who is like Nathan for me, offering counsel when I am off track? Let us ask the Lord to create new hearts in us: contrite hearts that humbly ask forgiveness; sincere hearts that freely forgive others.

Maggie Melchior is a convert to the Catholic faith. She currently serves as Coordinator of New Evangelization and Faith Formation for a parish in the Diocese of Green Bay.

Prayer

My Jesus, I feel within me a great desire to please you
but, at the same time, I feel totally incapable of doing this
without your special light and help, which I can expect only from you.
Forgive my sins and heal my heart.
Accomplish our will within meeven in spite of me. Amen.

—St. Claude La Colombiere, S.J.


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January 29, 2016

Mk 4: 26-34

He also said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.”

He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”

With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.

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

Planting Seeds

The parable of the mustard seed is well-known. But perhaps we all need to challenge ourselves to take a step back and to think creatively to find ways to plants seeds of faith and grow the kingdom of God in small ways within our families, within our circle of friends, within our work places, and within our communities. Pope Francis has been an example for all of us to serve the least of our brothers and sisters; to dialogue with and embrace those with various faith traditions; to live lives that are more simple, that are free from distractions and excessiveness, and to not partake in gossip and conversations which serve to tear others down as opposed to build them up.  

What actions can I take to plant seeds of faith, seeds of hope, seeds of compassion and mercy, and seeds of love in the Kingdom of God here on earth?

—Leigh M. Hartley works in higher education administration at the University of Chicago. Over the past 15 years she has volunteered with the Jesuits, initially with Charis Ministries more recently years through planning and organizing pilgrimages with Fr. Michael Sparough, S.J.

Prayer

When you plant a tree
every leaf that grows will tell you,
what you sow will bear fruit.
So if you have any sense, my friend
don’t plant anything but love,
you show your worth by what you seek.
Water flows to those who want purity
wash your hands of all desires and
come to the table of Love.

Do you want me to tell you a secret?
The flowers attract the most beautiful lover
with their sweet smile and scent.
If you let God weave the verse in your poem
people will read it forever.

—Rumi


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January 28, 2016

St. Thomas Aquinas

Mk 4: 21-25

He said to them, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under the bushel basket, or under the bed, and not on the lampstand? For there is nothing hidden, except to be disclosed; nor is anything secret, except to come to light. Let anyone with ears to hear listen!” And he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear; the measure you give will be the measure you get, and still more will be given you. For to those who have, more will be given; and from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.”  

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

Rigorous Honesty

“For there is nothing hidden except to be disclosed; nor is anything secret except to come to light.” There have been times in my life when these words terrified me and times in my life when I embraced them with hope.

Often my prayer feels like an exercise in rigorous honesty. I simply sit and try to be as honest as I can about my thoughts and feelings. When I can go no further, I ask for the grace to be more honest, and I often have to ask for the desire to be honest. The great thing about rigorous honesty is that it leaves me impoverished, no pretenses to defend, but confident in God’s undergirding and overwhelming mercy and love. And it’s here, I think, that I’m most ready to receive what God has to share.

May I practice rigorous honesty today, confident that God takes great joy in this attempt to share myself, just as I take joy in a loved one’s sharing with me.

—Ryen Dwyer, S.J., a Chicago-Detroit province Jesuit scholastic, is currently studying philosophy at Loyola University Chicago.

Prayer

Take, O take me as I am; summon out what I shall be.
Set your seal upon my heart and live in me.

—John L. Bell, © 1995, The Iona Community, GIA Publications, Inc., agent


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January 27, 2016

St. Angela Merici

Mk 4: 1-20

Again he began to teach beside the sea. Such a very large crowd gathered around him that he got into a boat on the sea and sat there, while the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. He began to teach them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and it sprang up quickly, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched; and since it had no root, it withered away.

Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. Other seed fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.” And he said, “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!”

When he was alone, those who were around him along with the twelve asked him about the parables. And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside, everything comes in parables; in order that

‘they may indeed look, but not perceive,
and may indeed listen, but not understand;
so that they may not turn again and be forgiven.’”

And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? Then how will you understand all the parables? The sower sows the word. These are the ones on the path where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them. And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: when they hear the word, they immediately receive it with joy. But they have no root, and endure only for a while; then, when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away.

And others are those sown among the thorns: these are the ones who hear the word, but the cares of the world, and the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things come in and choke the word, and it yields nothing. And these are the ones sown on the good soil: they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.”

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

Rich Soil

I did enough landscaping during summers in high school to know what rich soil is—dark, damp and full of nutrients. You find it and think, excellent! Things are going to work out here. But if the seed to be sown is the word and we are the soil, what is it that makes me able tobear fruit thirty and sixty and a hundredfold”?

I don’t know if there is an easy answer. I think that work, patience, and trust are what the gardener uses to nurture his soil, and I think that is what we need to develop ourselves. What can I focus on today that will make me richer soil for the Lord to work through?

Connor Walters is a communications coordinator at Saint Ignatius High School in Cleveland. He also coaches rowing and co-moderates the school’s Saint Benedict Joseph Labre Ministry to the Homeless.

Prayer

Lord, I pray today that my heart will be good soil to receive your life and love. I also pray for those I meet today.
Keep weeds and thorns far away. Help me plant a seed on good soil today. Amen.


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January 26, 2016

Sts. Timothy and Titus

Mk 3: 31-35

Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

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

Our Christian Family

It is tempting, as a mother, to be a little insulted by Jesus’ actions in today’s gospel. The relationship between mother and child is a special one and on first glance, Jesus seems to demean it by equating to the relationship he has with his followers. In actuality, the opposite is true. It is Jesus’ intent to elevate the relationship that everyone else has with him. We are to as close to Jesus as his own family.

How close am I to Jesus? To I speak with him every day, good or bad? Or do I only call upon him when I am in need? Am I labor intensive for him without asking for reward, like I would for my brother or mother? Am I in communion with Christ everyday, or do I wait until Sunday to talk with him?

Christ has so kindly extended his friendship to each of us. He has made us his family, and he loves us like his own brothers, sisters, parents. How have we returned that love to the other members of our Christian family? To the members of our human family? Let’s spend today looking at each person we communicate with as if we were dealing with a member of our family.  Let’s be kind, patient, and loving to God’s family, Christ’s sisters and brothers.

-Linda Pfenning is a Communications Teacher in the Integrated Arts and Technology Department at Creighton Prep. 

Prayer

Lord Jesus, who has made us living members of your body, keep us deeply united to yourself.  Help us overcome our conflicts, our divisions, and our self-seeking; and let us remember that unity is always better than conflict. Help us to be united to one another by one force, by the power of love which the Holy Spirit pours into our hearts. Amen.

Pope Francis,  Homily of January 25, 2014


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January 25, 2016

Conversion of St. Paul

Acts 22: 3-16

I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, educated strictly according to our ancestral law, being zealous for God, just as all of you are today. I persecuted this Way up to the point of death by binding both men and women and putting them in prison, as the high priest and the whole council of elders can testify about me. From them I also received letters to the brothers in Damascus, and I went there in order to bind those who were there and to bring them back to Jerusalem for punishment.

While I was on my way and approaching Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone about me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ Then he said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth whom you are persecuting.’ Now those who were with me saw the light but did not hear the voice of the one who was speaking to me. I asked, ‘What am I to do, Lord?’ The Lord said to me, ‘Get up and go to Damascus; there you will be told everything that has been assigned to you to do.’ Since I could not see because of the brightness of that light, those who were with me took my hand and led me to Damascus.

A certain Ananias, who was a devout man according to the law and well spoken of by all the Jews living there, came to me; and standing beside me, he said, ‘Brother Saul, regain your sight!’ In that very hour I regained my sight and saw him. Then he said, ‘The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear his own voice; for you will be his witness to all the world of what you have seen and heard. And now why do you delay? Get up, be baptized, and have your sins washed away, calling on his name.’

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 Skilled Potter

God is a skilled potter who is not at all afraid to immerse his hands into the work of molding, kneading and re-shaping us. I pray with this image a lot. It reminds me of something a spiritual advisor once told me: do you not think that God cannot re-mold you, if only you let Him?

We know the story of Paul’s conversion well: his zealousness for the persecution of the new, fledgling followers of Jesus of Nazareth is documented in the Acts of the Apostles. His conversion would have raised red flags. As Ananias says, “Lord, I have heard . . . what evil things he has done.”

Yet it is God, not us, who kneads and molds. Even Paul’s zealousness can be used by God to proclaim the good news. How might God knead and shape us, even the parts of ourselves we can’t imagine being helpful to spread the Gospel?

—Dan Finucane teaches theology and coordinates Campus Ministry activities at St. Louis University High School in St. Louis MO.

Prayer

O Lord, you search me and you know me; you know when I sit and when I stand.
All my ways lie open to you….
If I take the wings of the dawn and dwell at the sea’s furthest end,
even then your hand would lead me, your right hand hold me fast….
O search me, God, and know my heart.
Lead me in the path of life eternal.
—Psalm 139

 


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January 29, 2016

Mk 4: 26-34

He also said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.”

He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”

With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.

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

Planting Seeds

The parable of the mustard seed is well-known. But perhaps we all need to challenge ourselves to take a step back and to think creatively to find ways to plants seeds of faith and grow the kingdom of God in small ways within our families, within our circle of friends, within our work places, and within our communities. Pope Francis has been an example for all of us to serve the least of our brothers and sisters; to dialogue with and embrace those with various faith traditions; to live lives that are more simple, that are free from distractions and excessiveness, and to not partake in gossip and conversations which serve to tear others down as opposed to build them up.  

What actions can I take to plant seeds of faith, seeds of hope, seeds of compassion and mercy, and seeds of love in the Kingdom of God here on earth?

—Leigh M. Hartley works in higher education administration at the University of Chicago. Over the past 15 years she has volunteered with the Jesuits, initially with Charis Ministries more recently years through planning and organizing pilgrimages with Fr. Michael Sparough, S.J.

Prayer

When you plant a tree
every leaf that grows will tell you,
what you sow will bear fruit.
So if you have any sense, my friend
don’t plant anything but love,
you show your worth by what you seek.
Water flows to those who want purity
wash your hands of all desires and
come to the table of Love.

Do you want me to tell you a secret?
The flowers attract the most beautiful lover
with their sweet smile and scent.
If you let God weave the verse in your poem
people will read it forever.

—Rumi


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January 24, 2016

Lk 1: 1-4; 4: 14-21

Since many have undertaken to set down an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed on to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus,so that you may know the truth concerning the things about which you have been instructed.

Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone. When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

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

Footprints of Gratitude

I once made a retreat at the place on the Sea of Galilee where, archaeologists say, Jesus performed the miracle of the loaves and fishes, and where he held that memorable breakfast picnic after his resurrection. An abundance of grass watered by springs, and a large flat rock on the beach furnish evidence about this. As I walked the beach and sat on large rocks to pray, I marveled that I may have been touching the very things that Jesus touched 2000 years ago.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus himself was reaching back some eight centuries to make his own the words of Isaiah about the longed-for Messiah: “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”

What a gift our faith is! We believe in the Salvation History that God has been writing since the creation of our race, and we see ourselves situated along that long path. One day we will sit with God and look back at our footprints in the sand of our lives – sometimes paired with God’s as we were led along, and at other times only a single set, when God was carrying us. Our hearts will almost burst with gratitude.

—Fr. Jack O’Callaghan, S.J. assists the Dean at Loyola University’s Stritch School of Medicine with programs in Ignatian Spirituality.

Prayer

Loving God, Creator, Redeemer, Goal of our lives, thank you for the gift of our faith, which enables us to live in trust that we will one day be with you eternally. We thank you for the share you give us in your love, which inspires us to do whatever we can to bring others along with us to that marvelous Life your Son opened for us. We pray through Him, Christ our Lord.

—Fr. Jack O’Callaghan, S.J.


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January 23, 2016

St. Marianne Cope

Mk 3: 20-21

Then he went home; and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.”

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

Family Dynamics

What an insight into Jesus’ family dynamics! Jesus and his disciples are constantly in demandit’s even hard for them to enjoy a meal together. Amid all the miracles, healing, and forgiveness Jesus pours out to the community, his relatives get wind of the news. Rather than excitement, their response is one of cynical scorn: “He is out of his mind!” It’s easy to picture them rolling their eyes at each other, dismissing Jesus and his ministry with a scoff.

Of course, hindsight is 20/20. We know the truth about Jesuswe know the end of the story. But do I behave like Jesus’ relatives sometimes? When I hear an amazing story about a miracle, an answered prayer, or a life turned around, is my first response skeptical? Am I willing to believe that God wants to work through everyone’s life, not just the people I would expect?

Maggie Melchior is a convert to the Catholic faith. She currently serves as Coordinator of New Evangelization and Faith Formation for a parish in the Diocese of Green Bay.

Prayer

Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day. It is a choice based on the knowledge that we belong to God and have found in God our refuge and safety and that nothing, not even death, can take God away from us. Joy is the experience of knowing that you are unconditionally loved and that nothingsickness, failure, emotional distress, oppression, war, or even deathcan take that love away.”

Fr. Henri Nouwen (1932-1996)


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