March 31, 2016

Lk 24: 35-48

Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread. While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”

And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence. Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.”

Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.

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.

Witnesses on Mission

Today’s Gospel is a wonderful reminder of the profound mission entrusted to the apostles of Jesus – the mission to witness. It is no surprise that they are at first alarmed and confused by the presence of Jesus after his death, but it is this encounter with the risen Christ that is central to their future witness to others who did not share the same encounter.  Their initial feelings of fright and uncertainty quickly turned to joy and amazement. These positive emotions aid in their witness of Jesus’ resurrection, despite those who continued to feel confused or doubtful.

As I consider the apostles’ willingness to embrace the resurrection with excitement and passion, I must ask myself: Do I witness the joy, love, and salvation of the resurrection still today? Am I continuing the mission of the first apostles to witness to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus by virtue of my life?

—Sadie Curtin serves as Co-Director of Faith Formation at the Church of the Gesu, University Heights, OH.

Prayer

Lord, you did not speak a single harsh word to your disciples when you first appeared to them. No chastisement for abandoning you. No mention of their cowardice. You speak these same words to us, “Peace be with you.” What wondrous love! As you have extended your peace to us, we will do the same to family, friends, strangers, and even to our enemies.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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March 30, 2016

Lk 24: 13-35

Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” He asked them, “What things?”

They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.”

Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures. As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them.

When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

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.

Finding God

At the heart of Ignatian Spirituality is the idea that we must always strive to find God in all things. Too often I find myself “on the road to Emmaus” in my life. I ask for the guidance of the Lord, but I am sometimes oblivious to his presence, even when he is standing right in front of me. Like the disciples, I am unable to make sense of the “empty tomb,” the signs and meanings that reveal God.

Where do we see Christ in our lives and not recognize him? How are we witnesses to Christ’s love and mercy? In this Easter season, let’s pray that we may have our eyes opened like the disciples did in the Gospel. In order to understand God’s will, we need to slow down and listen to the call of the Holy Spirit in all the corners of our lives. Let’s ask God for the clarity to truly see and hear Him in everything we do, just as Saint Ignatius taught us.

—Andrew Perz is a senior at St. Ignatius High School, Cleveland OH.

Prayer

Lord, grant that I may see thee more clearly,
Love thee more dearly,
Follow thee more nearly.

—St. Ignatius Loyola, Spiritual Exercises, #104


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March 29, 2016

Jn 20: 11-18

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”

When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher).

Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

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.

Joy and Hope

We are a resurrection people. We know the joy and the hope of Jesus’ resurrection that we celebrate in this Easter season. Today’s gospel gives us a glimpse into the first taste of that hope, in Jesus’ apparition to Mary Magdalene. Mary received one of the greatest gifts, and then was charged to go out and share it.

We too have received this gift. And, just like Mary Magdalene, we are also called to go out and share the “good news.” We are invited to experience this immense joy and hope that Mary felt. We have gone through the depths of darkness in Christ’s passion, and are now invited to experience Christ’s great joy and hope.

What are the signs of resurrection in my life today?
How can I share this joy and hope for those who do not recognize it yet?

—Marcos Gonzales, a Jesuit scholastic of the California province, is completing his masters of social work at Loyola University Chicago and interning with the Cook County Juvenile Probation Department.

Prayer

Go to the world. Go into every place.
Go live the Word of God’s redeeming grace.
Go seek God’s presence in each time and space.

—Sylvia Dunstan © 1991, GIA Publications, Inc.


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March 28, 2016

Mt 28: 8-15

So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

While they were going, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests everything that had happened. After the priests had assembled with the elders, they devised a plan to give a large sum of money to the soldiers, telling them, “You must say, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ If this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story is still told among the Jews to this day.

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.

Do Not Be Afraid

What would our world be like if each of us could follow Jesus’ instruction to Mary Magdalen in today’s gospel?
What would really happen if we could live by Jesus’ words: “Do not be afraid!

Our daily news digest is filled with the realities of fear and conflict, alienation and mistrust. Neighborhoods and nations live amidst a daily diet of anxiety and violence. Yet into each of these situations Jesus comes with these life-saving words: “Peace be with you–do not be afraid!” Before the freshness of Easter 2016 begins to fade amidst the press of our daily routine, can I commit myself to be an ambassador of peace?  Can I find practical strategies to bring words of hope into the mess of a family quarrel or neighborhood unrest? Help me take confidence in the psalm verse we read today: “You will show me the path of life, fullness of you in your presence.”

—The Jesuit prayer team

Prayer

I bless the Lord who counsels me; even in the night my heart instructs me.
I set the Lord ever before me; with God at my right hand I will not be disturbed.
O Lord, you are my allotted portion and my cup; it is you who hold fast my lot.

—From Psalm 16

 


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March 27, 2016

Easter Sunday

Jn 20: 1-9  

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in.

Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead.

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.

See and Believe

“Seeing,” “hearing,” “knowing,” and “believing” are all key concepts in John’s Gospel. Near the end of his Gospel, John the Evangelist tells us, “Jesus did many other signs that are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God; and that through this belief you may have life in his name.”

In John’s Easter Sunday Gospel, Mary of Magdala comes to Simon Peter and to “the other disciple that Jesus loved” (very often identified as John himself), and tells them that the body of Jesus has been taken away from the tomb, and that she has no idea where it is. Peter and John then run to the tomb. John, yielding to Peter’s authority as the leader of the disciples in the Lord’s absence, bends down to look into the tomb, seeing the burial cloths there, but doesn’t go in. When Peter arrives, he goes in, and finds the burial shroud there, but what seems most to impress Peter is that the cloth that had covered the head of Jesus was not on the ground, scattered or torn, but “rolled up in a separate place.”

How that cloth was treated seems to convince Peter that the body of Jesus was not stolen or moved, but that something else happened. And then, John tells us, that when he finally followed Peter into the tomb, he “saw and believed.” What will it take for us to believe? What will remove our every doubt? What experience of the power of the Risen Lord does God want us to have this Easter of 2016? May our prayer be that we, too, will come to “see and believe.”

—Fr. Michael A. Vincent, S.J. serves as associate pastor of the Church of the Gesu, University Heights, OH.

Prayer

Holy God, Give peace and hope to our fractured world. ay the risen Jesus breathe on our minds and open our eyes to know him in the breaking of bread,
and follow him in his risen life.  Amen!


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March 26, 2016

Holy Saturday

Rom 6: 3-11

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For whoever has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

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.

Look What Awaits

On the first Holy Saturday, the disciples and Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Jesus did not know what was about to happen. They were in terrible grief, afraid, some perhaps ashamed or others angry at what had occurred. There was such total contrast between the Friday “tragedy” and the life Jesus had announced and demonstrated, the power of Jesus the miracle worker, the anticipation of importance as his followers and companions.

For us this day is very different. We are in a sort of rest period, between the Lenten introspection and its focus this year on Jesus as proclaimer of God’s mercy and our expectation of Easter’s joyful celebration. The apostles and Gospel women  experienced this entry in God’s Life and Spirit at Easter. We pause today to await what we already believe and have come to know—for us it is the promise of Life and Love forever.

—Fr. Jim Stoeger, S.J., a notable Jesuit educator, now serves as Vocation Director for the Chicago-Detroit and Wisconsin Jesuit provinces.

Prayer

Loving God, may your Spirit gently stir in me peaceful anticipation of the Easter feast. Bless particularly those about to be baptized into the life of Jesus and our Church community. This holy night bring peace to  our hearts, hope to our families, and your vibrant gift of new life for our world. Amen.

—Fr. Jim Stoeger, S.J,


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March 25, 2016

Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion and Death

Jn 18: 1-19: 42

After Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the Kidron valley to a place where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, because Jesus often met there with his disciples. So Judas brought a detachment of soldiers together with police from the chief priests and the Pharisees, and they came there with lanterns and torches and weapons.Then Jesus, knowing all that was to happen to him, came forward and asked them, “Whom are you looking for?” They answered, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus replied, “I am he.”

Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they stepped back and fell to the ground. Again he asked them, “Whom are you looking for?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So if you are looking for me, let these men go.” This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken, “I did not lose a single one of those whom you gave me.” Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear. The slave’s name was Malchus. Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword back into its sheath. Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?” So the soldiers, their officer, and the Jewish police arrested Jesus and bound him.

First they took him to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was better to have one person die for the people. Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, but Peter was standing outside at the gate. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out, spoke to the woman who guarded the gate, and brought Peter in. The woman said to Peter, “You are not also one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.”

Now the slaves and the police had made a charcoal fire because it was cold, and they were standing around it and warming themselves. Peter also was standing with them and warming himself. Then the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and about his teaching. Jesus answered, “I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret.Why do you ask me? Ask those who heard what I said to them; they know what I said.”

When he had said this, one of the police standing nearby struck Jesus on the face, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?” Jesus answered, “If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong. But if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?” Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest. Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. They asked him, “You are not also one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it and said, “I am not.” One of the slaves of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Did I not see you in the garden with him?” Again Peter denied it, and at that moment the cock crowed.

Then they took Jesus from Caiaphas to Pilate’s headquarters. It was early in the morning. They themselves did not enter the headquarters, so as to avoid ritual defilement and to be able to eat the Passover. So Pilate went out to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?”They answered, “If this man were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him according to your law.” The Jews replied, “We are not permitted to put anyone to death.” (This was to fulfill what Jesus had said when he indicated the kind of death he was to die.) Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?”

Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate asked him, “What is truth?” After he had said this, he went out to the Jews again and told them, “I find no case against him. But you have a custom that I release someone for you at the Passover. Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” They shouted in reply, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a bandit.

Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. And the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they dressed him in a purple robe. They kept coming up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and striking him on the face. Pilate went out again and said to them, “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no case against him.” So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!” When the chief priests and the police saw him, they shouted, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him; I find no case against him.” The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has claimed to be the Son of God.”

Now when Pilate heard this, he was more afraid than ever. He entered his headquarters again and asked Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. Pilate therefore said to him, “Do you refuse to speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?” Jesus answered him, “You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.” From then on Pilate tried to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are no friend of the emperor. Everyone who claims to be a king sets himself against the emperor.”

When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus outside and sat on the judge’s bench at a place called The Stone Pavement, or in Hebrew Gabbatha. Now it was the day of Preparation for the Passover; and it was about noon. He said to the Jews, “Here is your King!” They cried out, “Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!” Pilate asked them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but the emperor.” Then he handed him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus;and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them.

Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek. Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’” Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.” When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier. They also took his tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. So they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it.” This was to fulfill what the scripture says, “They divided my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots.” And that is what the soldiers did.

Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home. After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), “I am thirsty.” A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Since it was the day of Preparation, the Jews did not want the bodies left on the cross during the sabbath, especially because that sabbath was a day of great solemnity. So they asked Pilate to have the legs of the crucified men broken and the bodies removed. Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who had been crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out. (He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth.) These things occurred so that the scripture might be fulfilled, “None of his bones shall be broken.” And again another passage of scripture says, “They will look on the one whom they have pierced.”

After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body. Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

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.

Life that Transforms

The image of Jesus crucified presses me back, away from this torture and dying, repulsed, fearful. Still the cross and Jesus draw me into the completeness of his self-giving love and trust. Is there not in me a stirring, a desire to entrust myself, more and more to this Lord, calling out more of my energy for the wholeness of others? How far can I entrust my life and love to God for good? Is the pain and bleakness of Calvary a grace of freedom to attend more deeply, more thoughtfully to others, to their needs? As Jesus invites us into Life that transforms, are we not set free to invite others into life as well?

—Fr. Jim Stoeger, S.J., a noted Jesuit educator, now serves as Vocation Director for the Chicago-Detroit and Wisconsin Jesuit provinces.

Prayer

Dear Jesus, I truly need you! Your passion and death are very real amidst this week’s global terror and violence.

Help me to remain with you this sacred day and not hurry off to a less challenging place. Your way is to prefer others over self. In this you gave your entire self. May I grow able to regard all others with dignity, all people loved and saved by your sacrifice. Help me to accept your love that cost your life. May I grow in your way of giving over myself for others. When I am tempted to diminish another as inconvenient or unworthy, help me to put that person rightly ahead of my prideful self. May I come to regard others as those for whom you gave your life. Amen.

—Fr. Jim Stoeger, S.J.


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March 24, 2016

Holy Thursday. Easter Triduum begins

Jn 13: 1-15

Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself.

Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him.He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.”

Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.” After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.

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.

Invitation and Care

Such a powerful image: Jesus, as servant to his disciples, washes their feet. Jesus demonstrates so clearly that I am to serve others, not necessarily by washing their feet—though there are plenty of opportunities for practical care—but by listening well and responding openly to others. May I see in my “washing another’s feet” the dignity of the person I face and also the tender reality of my own humbled dignity as servant.  “As I have done for you, you should do also.”

This “Last Supper”  was not an unplanned event. Jesus made choices about how this would proceed, from the selection of the venue, to having his closest disciples gathered with him, to the statement of washing their feet. In this setting, with closest disciples, just before his arrest, he transformed the ritual supper into a new participation in redemption. Now we are drawn together as disciples of Jesus the Christ. Here he presents to us his body and blood, uniting us as his body and directing us outwards, remembering who he is and what he has done for us.

—Fr. Jim Stoeger, S.J., a noted Jesuit educator, now serves as Vocation Director for the Chicago-Detroit and Wisconsin Jesuit provinces.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, help me to respect the dignity of each person I meet…even amidst in the face of the world’s terror and violence as experienced this week in Belgium. . This Holy Week help each of us — especially those who are victims of terror — to trust in God’s boundless mercy, to reach out to all those in need, and to open ourselves to the goodness of one another.

Thank you for the gift of Eucharist. May our families, neighbors, friends, our church community each be united as members of your body. Help me, Lord, to recognize and revere your presence when people reach towards others and seek to include them in the benefits of our community. May I help to build and support and celebrate the community that you would have us become.

—Fr. Jim Stoeger, S.J.


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March 23, 2016

Mt 26: 14-25

Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I betray him to you?” They paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he began to look for an opportunity to betray him.

On the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where do you want us to make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?” He said, “Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is near; I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.’”

So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover meal. When it was evening, he took his place with the twelve; and while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.” And they became greatly distressed and began to say to him one after another, “Surely not I, Lord?”

He answered, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.” Judas, who betrayed him, said, “Surely not I, Rabbi?” He replied, “You have said so.”

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.

Choosing Life

Today, Judas betrays Jesus and in exchange receives 30 pieces of silver. While it is easy to think of times when we have been betrayed, too often we are not aware of the ways we betray others.

When we gossip, when we lie, when we cheat, when we take advantage of others, when we steal, when we do any of these things that fail to show love to others—that is betrayal. The temporary relief or enjoyment or success or fun that we gain—these are our own 30 pieces of silver.

Who do my actions identify me with more: Judas Iscariot or Jesus Christ? Lord, help us to recognize that we are sinful, but we can choose to live more like Christ each day.

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

Prayer

Father, in your plan of salvation, Jesus accepted the cross and gave us new life.
May all of us come to share the glory of his resurrection. Amen.

 


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March 22, 2016

Jn 13: 21-33. 36-38

After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, “Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.” The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking. One of his disciples—the one whom Jesus loved—was reclining next to him; Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. So while reclining next to Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?” Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.”

So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot. After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “what you are going to do, do quickly.” Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. Some thought that, because Judas had the common purse, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the festival”; or, that he should give something to the poor. So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.

When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’

Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered, “Where I am going, you cannot follow me now; but you will follow afterward.” Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Very truly, I tell you, before the cock crows, you will have denied me three times.

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.

Denying Christ

Wait, what?! They just LET HIM GO?!

I remember always thinking of this reading in such a way when I was a child. Jesus knows who is going to betray him, and he simply allows Judas to leave (“what you are going to do, do quickly”).  Why not tie him up?  He is outnumbered; keep him there and allow Jesus to get away…

Christ does not treat us in such a way. He knows that we will sin.  He cannot stop us from doing it, but He can continue to love us and welcome us back into relationship with Him.

It is tempting to think that I do not betray God in my sin; I’m not THAT bad. Judas is not the only sinner in this story, however.  Even Peter, who is held in the highest regard even among the apostles, will deny Christ.  How do I deny my relationship with Jesus through my daily sin?  Maybe I harm others with my words, or I allow impure thoughts to linger, or I ignore someone in need… I deny Jesus too.  Fortunately, and especially in this time of Lent, I am reminded that Christ died for us sinners.  His resurrection reminds me that His love for us endures our denials and betrayals.

-Mr. Kevin Van Winkle is a Social Studies teacher at Creighton Preparatory School in Omaha, NE.

 

Prayer

Lord God, our loving Father, you know all my sins and failures, my weaknesses and temptations.
I come to you with deep sorrow in my heart for the wrong I have done and for the good I have failed to do.
Forgive me, accept me, strengthen me, now and always. Amen.

-Bishop David Konstant


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March 31, 2016

Lk 24: 35-48

Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread. While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”

And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence. Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.”

Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.

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.

Witnesses on Mission

Today’s Gospel is a wonderful reminder of the profound mission entrusted to the apostles of Jesus – the mission to witness. It is no surprise that they are at first alarmed and confused by the presence of Jesus after his death, but it is this encounter with the risen Christ that is central to their future witness to others who did not share the same encounter.  Their initial feelings of fright and uncertainty quickly turned to joy and amazement. These positive emotions aid in their witness of Jesus’ resurrection, despite those who continued to feel confused or doubtful.

As I consider the apostles’ willingness to embrace the resurrection with excitement and passion, I must ask myself: Do I witness the joy, love, and salvation of the resurrection still today? Am I continuing the mission of the first apostles to witness to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus by virtue of my life?

—Sadie Curtin serves as Co-Director of Faith Formation at the Church of the Gesu, University Heights, OH.

Prayer

Lord, you did not speak a single harsh word to your disciples when you first appeared to them. No chastisement for abandoning you. No mention of their cowardice. You speak these same words to us, “Peace be with you.” What wondrous love! As you have extended your peace to us, we will do the same to family, friends, strangers, and even to our enemies.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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March 30, 2016

Lk 24: 13-35

Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” He asked them, “What things?”

They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.”

Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures. As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them.

When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

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.

Finding God

At the heart of Ignatian Spirituality is the idea that we must always strive to find God in all things. Too often I find myself “on the road to Emmaus” in my life. I ask for the guidance of the Lord, but I am sometimes oblivious to his presence, even when he is standing right in front of me. Like the disciples, I am unable to make sense of the “empty tomb,” the signs and meanings that reveal God.

Where do we see Christ in our lives and not recognize him? How are we witnesses to Christ’s love and mercy? In this Easter season, let’s pray that we may have our eyes opened like the disciples did in the Gospel. In order to understand God’s will, we need to slow down and listen to the call of the Holy Spirit in all the corners of our lives. Let’s ask God for the clarity to truly see and hear Him in everything we do, just as Saint Ignatius taught us.

—Andrew Perz is a senior at St. Ignatius High School, Cleveland OH.

Prayer

Lord, grant that I may see thee more clearly,
Love thee more dearly,
Follow thee more nearly.

—St. Ignatius Loyola, Spiritual Exercises, #104


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March 29, 2016

Jn 20: 11-18

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”

When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher).

Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

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.

Joy and Hope

We are a resurrection people. We know the joy and the hope of Jesus’ resurrection that we celebrate in this Easter season. Today’s gospel gives us a glimpse into the first taste of that hope, in Jesus’ apparition to Mary Magdalene. Mary received one of the greatest gifts, and then was charged to go out and share it.

We too have received this gift. And, just like Mary Magdalene, we are also called to go out and share the “good news.” We are invited to experience this immense joy and hope that Mary felt. We have gone through the depths of darkness in Christ’s passion, and are now invited to experience Christ’s great joy and hope.

What are the signs of resurrection in my life today?
How can I share this joy and hope for those who do not recognize it yet?

—Marcos Gonzales, a Jesuit scholastic of the California province, is completing his masters of social work at Loyola University Chicago and interning with the Cook County Juvenile Probation Department.

Prayer

Go to the world. Go into every place.
Go live the Word of God’s redeeming grace.
Go seek God’s presence in each time and space.

—Sylvia Dunstan © 1991, GIA Publications, Inc.


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March 28, 2016

Mt 28: 8-15

So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

While they were going, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests everything that had happened. After the priests had assembled with the elders, they devised a plan to give a large sum of money to the soldiers, telling them, “You must say, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ If this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story is still told among the Jews to this day.

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.

Do Not Be Afraid

What would our world be like if each of us could follow Jesus’ instruction to Mary Magdalen in today’s gospel?
What would really happen if we could live by Jesus’ words: “Do not be afraid!

Our daily news digest is filled with the realities of fear and conflict, alienation and mistrust. Neighborhoods and nations live amidst a daily diet of anxiety and violence. Yet into each of these situations Jesus comes with these life-saving words: “Peace be with you–do not be afraid!” Before the freshness of Easter 2016 begins to fade amidst the press of our daily routine, can I commit myself to be an ambassador of peace?  Can I find practical strategies to bring words of hope into the mess of a family quarrel or neighborhood unrest? Help me take confidence in the psalm verse we read today: “You will show me the path of life, fullness of you in your presence.”

—The Jesuit prayer team

Prayer

I bless the Lord who counsels me; even in the night my heart instructs me.
I set the Lord ever before me; with God at my right hand I will not be disturbed.
O Lord, you are my allotted portion and my cup; it is you who hold fast my lot.

—From Psalm 16

 


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March 27, 2016

Easter Sunday

Jn 20: 1-9  

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in.

Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead.

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.

See and Believe

“Seeing,” “hearing,” “knowing,” and “believing” are all key concepts in John’s Gospel. Near the end of his Gospel, John the Evangelist tells us, “Jesus did many other signs that are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God; and that through this belief you may have life in his name.”

In John’s Easter Sunday Gospel, Mary of Magdala comes to Simon Peter and to “the other disciple that Jesus loved” (very often identified as John himself), and tells them that the body of Jesus has been taken away from the tomb, and that she has no idea where it is. Peter and John then run to the tomb. John, yielding to Peter’s authority as the leader of the disciples in the Lord’s absence, bends down to look into the tomb, seeing the burial cloths there, but doesn’t go in. When Peter arrives, he goes in, and finds the burial shroud there, but what seems most to impress Peter is that the cloth that had covered the head of Jesus was not on the ground, scattered or torn, but “rolled up in a separate place.”

How that cloth was treated seems to convince Peter that the body of Jesus was not stolen or moved, but that something else happened. And then, John tells us, that when he finally followed Peter into the tomb, he “saw and believed.” What will it take for us to believe? What will remove our every doubt? What experience of the power of the Risen Lord does God want us to have this Easter of 2016? May our prayer be that we, too, will come to “see and believe.”

—Fr. Michael A. Vincent, S.J. serves as associate pastor of the Church of the Gesu, University Heights, OH.

Prayer

Holy God, Give peace and hope to our fractured world. ay the risen Jesus breathe on our minds and open our eyes to know him in the breaking of bread,
and follow him in his risen life.  Amen!


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March 26, 2016

Holy Saturday

Rom 6: 3-11

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For whoever has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

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.

Look What Awaits

On the first Holy Saturday, the disciples and Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Jesus did not know what was about to happen. They were in terrible grief, afraid, some perhaps ashamed or others angry at what had occurred. There was such total contrast between the Friday “tragedy” and the life Jesus had announced and demonstrated, the power of Jesus the miracle worker, the anticipation of importance as his followers and companions.

For us this day is very different. We are in a sort of rest period, between the Lenten introspection and its focus this year on Jesus as proclaimer of God’s mercy and our expectation of Easter’s joyful celebration. The apostles and Gospel women  experienced this entry in God’s Life and Spirit at Easter. We pause today to await what we already believe and have come to know—for us it is the promise of Life and Love forever.

—Fr. Jim Stoeger, S.J., a notable Jesuit educator, now serves as Vocation Director for the Chicago-Detroit and Wisconsin Jesuit provinces.

Prayer

Loving God, may your Spirit gently stir in me peaceful anticipation of the Easter feast. Bless particularly those about to be baptized into the life of Jesus and our Church community. This holy night bring peace to  our hearts, hope to our families, and your vibrant gift of new life for our world. Amen.

—Fr. Jim Stoeger, S.J,


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March 25, 2016

Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion and Death

Jn 18: 1-19: 42

After Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the Kidron valley to a place where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, because Jesus often met there with his disciples. So Judas brought a detachment of soldiers together with police from the chief priests and the Pharisees, and they came there with lanterns and torches and weapons.Then Jesus, knowing all that was to happen to him, came forward and asked them, “Whom are you looking for?” They answered, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus replied, “I am he.”

Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they stepped back and fell to the ground. Again he asked them, “Whom are you looking for?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So if you are looking for me, let these men go.” This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken, “I did not lose a single one of those whom you gave me.” Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear. The slave’s name was Malchus. Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword back into its sheath. Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?” So the soldiers, their officer, and the Jewish police arrested Jesus and bound him.

First they took him to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was better to have one person die for the people. Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, but Peter was standing outside at the gate. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out, spoke to the woman who guarded the gate, and brought Peter in. The woman said to Peter, “You are not also one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.”

Now the slaves and the police had made a charcoal fire because it was cold, and they were standing around it and warming themselves. Peter also was standing with them and warming himself. Then the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and about his teaching. Jesus answered, “I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret.Why do you ask me? Ask those who heard what I said to them; they know what I said.”

When he had said this, one of the police standing nearby struck Jesus on the face, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?” Jesus answered, “If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong. But if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?” Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest. Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. They asked him, “You are not also one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it and said, “I am not.” One of the slaves of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Did I not see you in the garden with him?” Again Peter denied it, and at that moment the cock crowed.

Then they took Jesus from Caiaphas to Pilate’s headquarters. It was early in the morning. They themselves did not enter the headquarters, so as to avoid ritual defilement and to be able to eat the Passover. So Pilate went out to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?”They answered, “If this man were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him according to your law.” The Jews replied, “We are not permitted to put anyone to death.” (This was to fulfill what Jesus had said when he indicated the kind of death he was to die.) Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?”

Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate asked him, “What is truth?” After he had said this, he went out to the Jews again and told them, “I find no case against him. But you have a custom that I release someone for you at the Passover. Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” They shouted in reply, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a bandit.

Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. And the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they dressed him in a purple robe. They kept coming up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and striking him on the face. Pilate went out again and said to them, “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no case against him.” So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!” When the chief priests and the police saw him, they shouted, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him; I find no case against him.” The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has claimed to be the Son of God.”

Now when Pilate heard this, he was more afraid than ever. He entered his headquarters again and asked Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. Pilate therefore said to him, “Do you refuse to speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?” Jesus answered him, “You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.” From then on Pilate tried to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are no friend of the emperor. Everyone who claims to be a king sets himself against the emperor.”

When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus outside and sat on the judge’s bench at a place called The Stone Pavement, or in Hebrew Gabbatha. Now it was the day of Preparation for the Passover; and it was about noon. He said to the Jews, “Here is your King!” They cried out, “Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!” Pilate asked them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but the emperor.” Then he handed him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus;and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them.

Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek. Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’” Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.” When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier. They also took his tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. So they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it.” This was to fulfill what the scripture says, “They divided my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots.” And that is what the soldiers did.

Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home. After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), “I am thirsty.” A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Since it was the day of Preparation, the Jews did not want the bodies left on the cross during the sabbath, especially because that sabbath was a day of great solemnity. So they asked Pilate to have the legs of the crucified men broken and the bodies removed. Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who had been crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out. (He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth.) These things occurred so that the scripture might be fulfilled, “None of his bones shall be broken.” And again another passage of scripture says, “They will look on the one whom they have pierced.”

After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body. Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

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.

Life that Transforms

The image of Jesus crucified presses me back, away from this torture and dying, repulsed, fearful. Still the cross and Jesus draw me into the completeness of his self-giving love and trust. Is there not in me a stirring, a desire to entrust myself, more and more to this Lord, calling out more of my energy for the wholeness of others? How far can I entrust my life and love to God for good? Is the pain and bleakness of Calvary a grace of freedom to attend more deeply, more thoughtfully to others, to their needs? As Jesus invites us into Life that transforms, are we not set free to invite others into life as well?

—Fr. Jim Stoeger, S.J., a noted Jesuit educator, now serves as Vocation Director for the Chicago-Detroit and Wisconsin Jesuit provinces.

Prayer

Dear Jesus, I truly need you! Your passion and death are very real amidst this week’s global terror and violence.

Help me to remain with you this sacred day and not hurry off to a less challenging place. Your way is to prefer others over self. In this you gave your entire self. May I grow able to regard all others with dignity, all people loved and saved by your sacrifice. Help me to accept your love that cost your life. May I grow in your way of giving over myself for others. When I am tempted to diminish another as inconvenient or unworthy, help me to put that person rightly ahead of my prideful self. May I come to regard others as those for whom you gave your life. Amen.

—Fr. Jim Stoeger, S.J.


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March 24, 2016

Holy Thursday. Easter Triduum begins

Jn 13: 1-15

Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself.

Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him.He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.”

Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.” After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.

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.

Invitation and Care

Such a powerful image: Jesus, as servant to his disciples, washes their feet. Jesus demonstrates so clearly that I am to serve others, not necessarily by washing their feet—though there are plenty of opportunities for practical care—but by listening well and responding openly to others. May I see in my “washing another’s feet” the dignity of the person I face and also the tender reality of my own humbled dignity as servant.  “As I have done for you, you should do also.”

This “Last Supper”  was not an unplanned event. Jesus made choices about how this would proceed, from the selection of the venue, to having his closest disciples gathered with him, to the statement of washing their feet. In this setting, with closest disciples, just before his arrest, he transformed the ritual supper into a new participation in redemption. Now we are drawn together as disciples of Jesus the Christ. Here he presents to us his body and blood, uniting us as his body and directing us outwards, remembering who he is and what he has done for us.

—Fr. Jim Stoeger, S.J., a noted Jesuit educator, now serves as Vocation Director for the Chicago-Detroit and Wisconsin Jesuit provinces.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, help me to respect the dignity of each person I meet…even amidst in the face of the world’s terror and violence as experienced this week in Belgium. . This Holy Week help each of us — especially those who are victims of terror — to trust in God’s boundless mercy, to reach out to all those in need, and to open ourselves to the goodness of one another.

Thank you for the gift of Eucharist. May our families, neighbors, friends, our church community each be united as members of your body. Help me, Lord, to recognize and revere your presence when people reach towards others and seek to include them in the benefits of our community. May I help to build and support and celebrate the community that you would have us become.

—Fr. Jim Stoeger, S.J.


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March 23, 2016

Mt 26: 14-25

Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I betray him to you?” They paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he began to look for an opportunity to betray him.

On the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where do you want us to make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?” He said, “Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is near; I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.’”

So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover meal. When it was evening, he took his place with the twelve; and while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.” And they became greatly distressed and began to say to him one after another, “Surely not I, Lord?”

He answered, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.” Judas, who betrayed him, said, “Surely not I, Rabbi?” He replied, “You have said so.”

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.

Choosing Life

Today, Judas betrays Jesus and in exchange receives 30 pieces of silver. While it is easy to think of times when we have been betrayed, too often we are not aware of the ways we betray others.

When we gossip, when we lie, when we cheat, when we take advantage of others, when we steal, when we do any of these things that fail to show love to others—that is betrayal. The temporary relief or enjoyment or success or fun that we gain—these are our own 30 pieces of silver.

Who do my actions identify me with more: Judas Iscariot or Jesus Christ? Lord, help us to recognize that we are sinful, but we can choose to live more like Christ each day.

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

Prayer

Father, in your plan of salvation, Jesus accepted the cross and gave us new life.
May all of us come to share the glory of his resurrection. Amen.

 


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March 22, 2016

Jn 13: 21-33. 36-38

After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, “Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.” The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking. One of his disciples—the one whom Jesus loved—was reclining next to him; Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. So while reclining next to Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?” Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.”

So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot. After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “what you are going to do, do quickly.” Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. Some thought that, because Judas had the common purse, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the festival”; or, that he should give something to the poor. So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.

When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’

Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered, “Where I am going, you cannot follow me now; but you will follow afterward.” Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Very truly, I tell you, before the cock crows, you will have denied me three times.

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.

Denying Christ

Wait, what?! They just LET HIM GO?!

I remember always thinking of this reading in such a way when I was a child. Jesus knows who is going to betray him, and he simply allows Judas to leave (“what you are going to do, do quickly”).  Why not tie him up?  He is outnumbered; keep him there and allow Jesus to get away…

Christ does not treat us in such a way. He knows that we will sin.  He cannot stop us from doing it, but He can continue to love us and welcome us back into relationship with Him.

It is tempting to think that I do not betray God in my sin; I’m not THAT bad. Judas is not the only sinner in this story, however.  Even Peter, who is held in the highest regard even among the apostles, will deny Christ.  How do I deny my relationship with Jesus through my daily sin?  Maybe I harm others with my words, or I allow impure thoughts to linger, or I ignore someone in need… I deny Jesus too.  Fortunately, and especially in this time of Lent, I am reminded that Christ died for us sinners.  His resurrection reminds me that His love for us endures our denials and betrayals.

-Mr. Kevin Van Winkle is a Social Studies teacher at Creighton Preparatory School in Omaha, NE.

 

Prayer

Lord God, our loving Father, you know all my sins and failures, my weaknesses and temptations.
I come to you with deep sorrow in my heart for the wrong I have done and for the good I have failed to do.
Forgive me, accept me, strengthen me, now and always. Amen.

-Bishop David Konstant


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