June 30, 2016

First Martyrs of the Church of Rome

Mt 9: 1-8

And after getting into a boat he crossed the sea and came to his own town. And just then some people were carrying a paralyzed man lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” Then some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” But Jesus, perceiving their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and walk’?

But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” —he then said to the paralytic—’stand up, take your bed and go to your home.” And he stood up and went to his home. When the crowds saw it, they were filled with awe, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to human beings.

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.

Forgiveness and Faith

In today’s gospel we read an example of both faith and forgiveness. The people of the town fully believe Jesus will heal the paralyzed man. But, rather than Jesus first healing the man’s paralysis, Jesus forgives his sins. Jesus heals the man’s soul before healing his body.

Today’s gospel reminds us that healing internally should be our priority. When we seek forgiveness for our sins, we begin to cultivate a place for Jesus to dwell and grow within us. In seeking forgiveness we can imitate the faith of the town’s people and truly believe that Jesus will and does forgive. We must have faith in Jesus’ healing mercy.

Is there someone I need to forgive today? Is there some family situation which I need to heal?

—Samantha Grady is currently completing her Masters in Theology degree at Loyola University Chicago.

Prayer

God is forgiveness,
Dare to forgive and
God will be with you.
God is forgiveness,
Love and do not fear.

—Taize chant


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June 29, 2016

Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul

Acts 12: 1-11

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

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

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

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.

Pointing the Way

Armed guards; hero chained in a dungeon; daring rescue by a mysterious being with superpowers: that sounds like the plot of a summer blockbuster film. But what strikes me as I read the account of Peter’s escape is actually quite ordinary, and that is: Peter didn’t realize what God was doing for him as it was taking place. It was only in retrospect—after the angel had led him to freedom—that “Peter recovered his senses and said, ‘Now I know for certain that the Lord … rescued me’.”

How often do I fail to recognize God at work in my life? Don’t ask! And yet that’s why I love Peter in the Scriptures. I can always count on him to stumble right where I am most likely to stumble, and also to “recover his senses,” in time to point the way for this wayward soul.

—Tom McGrath is a spiritual director, as well as Director of Trade Books at Loyola Press, Chicago IL.

Prayer

God, grant me the confidence to trust that you are laboring for me and with me, especially when I feel I’m on my own.

—Tom McGrath


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June 28, 2016

St. Irenaeus

Mt 8: 23-27

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

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.

Horizons of Faith

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Irenaeus, an early Christian bishop and martyr (c.130-200 AD). Irenaeus embodied a bold vision of Christian living. In today’s gospel Jesus admonishes his disciples in these words: “Why are you terrified, you of little faith?” Irenaeus invited those of his era to stretch their horizons in words often translated: “The glory of God is found in a person fully alive.” The deeper challenge of this phrase comes clear in this longer sentence by Irenaeus: “The only true and steadfast Teacher, the Word of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, through his transcendent love, became what we are, that he might bring us to be what he is himself” (Against Heresies, Book 5, preface).

The first Christians had a very clear understanding of the unity of everything. As humans, we are one with the whole material world. All that exists is created and kept in being by the love of God, the maker of all things. The act of bridging the immense gulf between God and the physical world, drawing human beings into a life like his, was no haphazard afterthought; it was part of God’s loving plan and intention from the dawn of creation. We are loved as we are, for all that we can become through the life and communion that God offers each day. What does this horizon of faith look like in my life todayJune 28, 2016?

—The Jesuit Prayer Team

Prayer

It is not you who shapes God;
it is God who shapes you.
If then you are the handiwork of God
await the hand of the Artist
who does all things in due season.

Offer the pottery of your heart,
soft and tractable,
and keep well the form
in which the Artist has fashioned you.
Let your clay be moist,
lest you grow hard
and lose the imprint of the Potter’s fingers.

—St. Irenaeus, in For You, O God: Prayers and Reflections. Loyola University Chicago, 1998.


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June 27, 2016

St. Cyril of Alexandria

Am 2: 6-10. 13-16

Thus says the Lord: For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment; because they sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals— they who trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth, and push the afflicted out of the way; father and son go in to the same girl, so that my holy name is profaned; they lay themselves down beside every altar on garments taken in pledge; and in the house of their God they drink wine bought with fines they imposed.

Yet I destroyed the Amorite before them, whose height was like the height of cedars, and who was as strong as oaks; I destroyed his fruit above, and his roots beneath. Also I brought you up out of the land of Egypt, and led you forty years in the wilderness, to possess the land of the Amorite. So, I will press you down in your place, just as a cart presses down when it is full of sheaves. Flight shall perish from the swift, and the strong shall not retain their strength, nor shall the mighty save their lives; those who handle the bow shall not stand, and those who are swift of foot shall not save themselves, nor shall those who ride horses save their lives; and those who are stout of heart among the mighty shall flee away naked in that day, says the Lord.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.

Power for Love?

The prophet Amos colorfully articulates how abuse of power leads to oppression and unjust systems. People are bought and sold, and policy-making that should protect the common good instead oppresses those who dare to be righteous. Worse, those with power imagine that they deserve all the money and influence they have acquired. God reminds such abusers that they would have nothing at all were it not for God’s power and compassion.

In his Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius’ “Three Kinds of Humility” prayer helps us search our hearts for the humility to follow Jesus in loving others, even, if called upon, sacrificing our status and possessions for the sake of God’s kingdom. It’s impossible to oppress others when we see ourselves rightlyas loved by God and acting with God to express that love in the world.

How do I see myself? Can I give up power for love?

—Vinita Wright serves as Managing Editor, New Product Development, at Loyola Press, Chicago, IL.

Prayer

Jesus, you humbled yourself to reach us.
You spoke human language to tell us who we really are.
Help us remember that, always, your love lifts us to the Father
and that humility’s love—tireless, gentle, and true—is power made holy.
Amen.

—Vinita Wright


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June 26, 2016

1 Kgs 19: 16b. 19-21

Also you shall anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel; and you shall anoint Elisha son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah as prophet in your place.

So he set out from there, and found Elisha son of Shaphat, who was plowing. There were twelve yoke of oxen ahead of him, and he was with the twelfth. Elijah passed by him and threw his mantle over him. He left the oxen, ran after Elijah, and said, “Let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you.” Then Elijah said to him, “Go back again; for what have I done to you?” He returned from following him, took the yoke of oxen, and slaughtered them; using the equipment from the oxen, he boiled their flesh, and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out and followed Elijah, and became his servant.

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.

Follow me!

Today’s first reading from 1 Kings and today’s gospel from Luke offer stories of invitation and call to follow.  Elijah in his encounter with God on the mountain is told to anoint Elisha to be his successor. Elijah is very no-nonsense. He throws his cloak over Elisha. When Elisha asks if he can kiss his father and mother goodbye, Elijah growls. Elisha’s response is to slaughter the oxen he has been plowing with, feed his people, and follow Elijah.

There are many calls in our lives. Some like Elisha’s are to a new way of life like marriage or the single life, religious life or priesthood. But each of us receives daily calls within those calls. We begin our days, hopefully asking God’s help to be open and generous to those calls that come our way this new daycalls from a friend in need, calls from an illness (our own or that of someone else), meeting strangers with their needs, dealing with joy and sorrows. We are invited at the end of the day to see how we responded to those calls to to understand God’s presence within them.

The stories from the Hebrew Scriptures and Luke’s gospel invite us to have open and generous heartslike Luke’s Jesus, like our Jesus. Can we make that simple but life-changing prayer: Give us hearts like Jesus’ heart?

—Fr. Jim Dixon, S.J. serves as chaplain to the Ignatian Volunteer Corps and is Superior of the Woodlawn Jesuit Residence, Chicago IL.

Prayer

Father in heaven, the light of Jesus has scattered the darkness of hatred and sin.
Called to that light we ask for your guidance.
Form our lives in your truth, our hearts in your love.
Amen!

—from The Sacramentary, © 1985, Catholic Book Publishing Co.


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June 25, 2016

Mt 8: 5-17

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

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

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

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.

Trust and Control

Let’s take a look at the final paragraph of today’s gospel reading:  “As evening drew on…he expelled the spirits by a simple command and cured all who were afflicted.” We see here the concrete manifestation of Jesus’ invitation from Matthew 11 : “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.”  Do you and I believe that Jesus does in fact take on our burdens? Can we trust that Jesus really does “cure all who are afflicted”even me?

What exactly are the burdens and “afflictions” I carry these last days of June 2016? What daily “labor” weighs me down and saps my spirit? Perhaps a frayed relationship. Maybe a family situation that I can’t seem to  “fix.” Or even a financial or work or community reality over which I have little control? ….and so I pray and wait.

This last weekend of June, what if I hand over these family and community and personal burdens to Jesus? Can I trust that in the Lord’s own good time some response will come to these knotty challenges…perhaps a response I least expect?

—The Jesuit Prayer Team

Prayer:

Life-giving God, I open my hands and my heart to your life-saving grace and goodness.
Heal my heart. Strengthen my spirit. As I watch and wait, send me your love and your grace. Amen.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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June 24, 2016

NATIVITY OF JOHN THE BAPTIST

Lk 1: 57-66. 80

Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him Zechariah after his father. But his mother said, “No; he is to be called John.” They said to her, “None of your relatives has this name.” Then they began motioning to his father to find out what name he wanted to give him.

He asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And all of them were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue freed, and he began to speak, praising God. Fear came over all their neighbors, and all these things were talked about throughout the entire hill country of Judea. All who heard them pondered them and said, “What then will this child become?” For, indeed, the hand of the Lord was with him. The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day he appeared publicly to Israel.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.

Called By Name

Today we celebrate the birth of Saint John the Baptist. In both the first reading and the Gospel, we see the power of a name. Two of our great prophets, Isaiah and John, were both called from the womb to serve God. It was here that they were given their names, names that would come to embody much more than their human existence. Their names would become integral parts of our movement towards the fulfillment of God’s Kingdom.

Reflecting on our own names, we see our journeys. Our names have amassed our life experiences in such a way that they contain much more than several letters. Our identities are wrapped up in the cumulative experiences of our names. Somehow, what we are called serves as a symbol of our lifelong development. There is great power in the names we assign.

Providing a name moves us beyond simple understanding and allows us to construct a story. God names “Isaiah” and “John” because they are instruments in the Kingdom. Their names will play a fundamental role in the creation story. Names have significance. What does your name mean to you?  How do others hear your name?

Liliana Mamani Condori is a Peruvian lawyer pursuing a master’s degree in theological studies at Boston College. Sam Hay is finishing his MA in Theology and Ministry at B.C., and currently works for its School of Education.

Prayer

Oh, Lord my God,
You called me from the sleep of nothingness
merely because in your tremendous love
you want to make good and beautiful beings.
You have called me by my name in my mother’s womb.
You have given me breath and light and movement
and walked with me every moment of my existence.

I am amazed, Lord God of the universe,
that you attend to me and, more, cherish me.
Create in me the faithfulness that moves you,
and I will trust you and yearn for you all my days.
Amen.

Joseph Tetlow, SJ


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June 23, 2016

Mt 7: 21-29

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?’

Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.’ “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock.

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

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.

Listen and Act

The first thing that resonated with me after reading today’s gospel reading was the “practical” message that Jesus gave to his disciples about where to build a house. On top of being practical, his instructions seem very simple and easy to follow.

When we place this message within our current world context the core of Jesus’ message would be to listen and act upon God’s word. At times of despair and rushed action, this may seem like the least practical thing to do. In events that may lead us to feeling abandoned or forgotten by God, hearing that voice may be anything but simple. Let us remember, though, that God’s voice is always present, and God’s message of love, comfort and peace will always prevail – even when rain falls and floods come. Let us continue to hold in our hearts those impacted by the recent events in Orlando.

—Mark Joseph Ehrbar is Co-Director of Music at Gesu Church, University Heights, OH.

Prayer

Life-giving God, thank you for sending your son, Jesus, to guide my daily living.  Help me to trust you and to build my life today on the rock of your Word and the life of your Sacraments. May I walk always in your good grace. Amen.

—The Jesuit prayer team


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June 22, 2016

Sts. John Fisher  and Thomas More

Mt 7: 15-20

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits.

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.

Deeper Desires

Jesus warns his disciples to beware of false prophets, using imagery they understood. Ignatius provided us with the imaginative meditation of the Two Standards, pitting the life of riches, honor, and pride offered by the “enemy of our human nature,” over against Christ’s life of poverty, powerlessness and humility. What imagery would we use to describe false prophets today? More importantly, how do we discover them vigorously or subtly controlling our lives, and then find the courage and freedom to abandon them and follow Christ?  

The discernment process is the ongoing task of learning to recognize when we are being driven by false, negative, distractive spirits and when we are drawn to the good, positive, creative spirits in our hearts. We must discern where our imagination and life energy is focused. Are we focused on ourselves or on God and others?  Jesus wants us to bear good fruit. What do we desire?

Jim Sweany is a spiritual director in the Ignatian tradition. He is associated with the Chicago Region Ignatian Volunteer Corps as a spiritual animator, reflector, and Advisory Board Chair. He also directs the Spiritual Exercises for the SEEL program at Loyola University Chicago.

Prayer

Show your ways to me, O Lord;
teach me your paths.
Direct me in your truth, and teach me;
for you are God my Savior.

—St. Peter Faber, S.J.


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June 21, 2106

St.  Aloysius Gonzaga

Mt 7: 6. 12-14

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

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.

Entering the Kingdom

Why is it so hard for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God?

On retreat earlier this month, I learned a possible answer: Jesus can save all of us — and he wants to — but we have to let him. Often we try to save ourselves with our money, our talents, or our hard work. We begin to think we don’t need God. So, our retreat leader asked, “Are we poor enough to let Christ save us?”

St. Aloysius Gonzaga was born into a royal family; he renounced his inheritance and became a Jesuit. Six years later he died caring for plague victims. He could say, with Peter, “We have given up everything and followed you.” He could also affirm, with Peter, that his decision brought both persecutions and rewards.

On this feast day, let us ask ourselves: Are we poor enough to let Christ work in our lives?

—Daniel Everson, S.J., a Jesuit scholastic of the U.S. Central Southern province, is currently studying philosophy at Loyola University Chicago.

Prayer

O Holy Mary, my mother, into your blessed trust and custody, and into the care of your mercy,
I this day, every day, and in the hour of my death, commend my soul and body.
To you I commit all my anxieties and miseries, my life and end of my life.
By your most holy intercession and by your merits may all my actions
be directed and disposed according to your will and that of your Son. Amen.

—St. Aloysius Gonzaga, S.J.


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June 30, 2016

First Martyrs of the Church of Rome

Mt 9: 1-8

And after getting into a boat he crossed the sea and came to his own town. And just then some people were carrying a paralyzed man lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” Then some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” But Jesus, perceiving their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and walk’?

But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” —he then said to the paralytic—’stand up, take your bed and go to your home.” And he stood up and went to his home. When the crowds saw it, they were filled with awe, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to human beings.

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.

Forgiveness and Faith

In today’s gospel we read an example of both faith and forgiveness. The people of the town fully believe Jesus will heal the paralyzed man. But, rather than Jesus first healing the man’s paralysis, Jesus forgives his sins. Jesus heals the man’s soul before healing his body.

Today’s gospel reminds us that healing internally should be our priority. When we seek forgiveness for our sins, we begin to cultivate a place for Jesus to dwell and grow within us. In seeking forgiveness we can imitate the faith of the town’s people and truly believe that Jesus will and does forgive. We must have faith in Jesus’ healing mercy.

Is there someone I need to forgive today? Is there some family situation which I need to heal?

—Samantha Grady is currently completing her Masters in Theology degree at Loyola University Chicago.

Prayer

God is forgiveness,
Dare to forgive and
God will be with you.
God is forgiveness,
Love and do not fear.

—Taize chant


Please share the Good Word with your friends!

June 29, 2016

Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul

Acts 12: 1-11

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

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

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

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.

Pointing the Way

Armed guards; hero chained in a dungeon; daring rescue by a mysterious being with superpowers: that sounds like the plot of a summer blockbuster film. But what strikes me as I read the account of Peter’s escape is actually quite ordinary, and that is: Peter didn’t realize what God was doing for him as it was taking place. It was only in retrospect—after the angel had led him to freedom—that “Peter recovered his senses and said, ‘Now I know for certain that the Lord … rescued me’.”

How often do I fail to recognize God at work in my life? Don’t ask! And yet that’s why I love Peter in the Scriptures. I can always count on him to stumble right where I am most likely to stumble, and also to “recover his senses,” in time to point the way for this wayward soul.

—Tom McGrath is a spiritual director, as well as Director of Trade Books at Loyola Press, Chicago IL.

Prayer

God, grant me the confidence to trust that you are laboring for me and with me, especially when I feel I’m on my own.

—Tom McGrath


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June 28, 2016

St. Irenaeus

Mt 8: 23-27

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

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.

Horizons of Faith

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Irenaeus, an early Christian bishop and martyr (c.130-200 AD). Irenaeus embodied a bold vision of Christian living. In today’s gospel Jesus admonishes his disciples in these words: “Why are you terrified, you of little faith?” Irenaeus invited those of his era to stretch their horizons in words often translated: “The glory of God is found in a person fully alive.” The deeper challenge of this phrase comes clear in this longer sentence by Irenaeus: “The only true and steadfast Teacher, the Word of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, through his transcendent love, became what we are, that he might bring us to be what he is himself” (Against Heresies, Book 5, preface).

The first Christians had a very clear understanding of the unity of everything. As humans, we are one with the whole material world. All that exists is created and kept in being by the love of God, the maker of all things. The act of bridging the immense gulf between God and the physical world, drawing human beings into a life like his, was no haphazard afterthought; it was part of God’s loving plan and intention from the dawn of creation. We are loved as we are, for all that we can become through the life and communion that God offers each day. What does this horizon of faith look like in my life todayJune 28, 2016?

—The Jesuit Prayer Team

Prayer

It is not you who shapes God;
it is God who shapes you.
If then you are the handiwork of God
await the hand of the Artist
who does all things in due season.

Offer the pottery of your heart,
soft and tractable,
and keep well the form
in which the Artist has fashioned you.
Let your clay be moist,
lest you grow hard
and lose the imprint of the Potter’s fingers.

—St. Irenaeus, in For You, O God: Prayers and Reflections. Loyola University Chicago, 1998.


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June 27, 2016

St. Cyril of Alexandria

Am 2: 6-10. 13-16

Thus says the Lord: For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment; because they sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals— they who trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth, and push the afflicted out of the way; father and son go in to the same girl, so that my holy name is profaned; they lay themselves down beside every altar on garments taken in pledge; and in the house of their God they drink wine bought with fines they imposed.

Yet I destroyed the Amorite before them, whose height was like the height of cedars, and who was as strong as oaks; I destroyed his fruit above, and his roots beneath. Also I brought you up out of the land of Egypt, and led you forty years in the wilderness, to possess the land of the Amorite. So, I will press you down in your place, just as a cart presses down when it is full of sheaves. Flight shall perish from the swift, and the strong shall not retain their strength, nor shall the mighty save their lives; those who handle the bow shall not stand, and those who are swift of foot shall not save themselves, nor shall those who ride horses save their lives; and those who are stout of heart among the mighty shall flee away naked in that day, says the Lord.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.

Power for Love?

The prophet Amos colorfully articulates how abuse of power leads to oppression and unjust systems. People are bought and sold, and policy-making that should protect the common good instead oppresses those who dare to be righteous. Worse, those with power imagine that they deserve all the money and influence they have acquired. God reminds such abusers that they would have nothing at all were it not for God’s power and compassion.

In his Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius’ “Three Kinds of Humility” prayer helps us search our hearts for the humility to follow Jesus in loving others, even, if called upon, sacrificing our status and possessions for the sake of God’s kingdom. It’s impossible to oppress others when we see ourselves rightlyas loved by God and acting with God to express that love in the world.

How do I see myself? Can I give up power for love?

—Vinita Wright serves as Managing Editor, New Product Development, at Loyola Press, Chicago, IL.

Prayer

Jesus, you humbled yourself to reach us.
You spoke human language to tell us who we really are.
Help us remember that, always, your love lifts us to the Father
and that humility’s love—tireless, gentle, and true—is power made holy.
Amen.

—Vinita Wright


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June 26, 2016

1 Kgs 19: 16b. 19-21

Also you shall anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel; and you shall anoint Elisha son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah as prophet in your place.

So he set out from there, and found Elisha son of Shaphat, who was plowing. There were twelve yoke of oxen ahead of him, and he was with the twelfth. Elijah passed by him and threw his mantle over him. He left the oxen, ran after Elijah, and said, “Let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you.” Then Elijah said to him, “Go back again; for what have I done to you?” He returned from following him, took the yoke of oxen, and slaughtered them; using the equipment from the oxen, he boiled their flesh, and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out and followed Elijah, and became his servant.

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.

Follow me!

Today’s first reading from 1 Kings and today’s gospel from Luke offer stories of invitation and call to follow.  Elijah in his encounter with God on the mountain is told to anoint Elisha to be his successor. Elijah is very no-nonsense. He throws his cloak over Elisha. When Elisha asks if he can kiss his father and mother goodbye, Elijah growls. Elisha’s response is to slaughter the oxen he has been plowing with, feed his people, and follow Elijah.

There are many calls in our lives. Some like Elisha’s are to a new way of life like marriage or the single life, religious life or priesthood. But each of us receives daily calls within those calls. We begin our days, hopefully asking God’s help to be open and generous to those calls that come our way this new daycalls from a friend in need, calls from an illness (our own or that of someone else), meeting strangers with their needs, dealing with joy and sorrows. We are invited at the end of the day to see how we responded to those calls to to understand God’s presence within them.

The stories from the Hebrew Scriptures and Luke’s gospel invite us to have open and generous heartslike Luke’s Jesus, like our Jesus. Can we make that simple but life-changing prayer: Give us hearts like Jesus’ heart?

—Fr. Jim Dixon, S.J. serves as chaplain to the Ignatian Volunteer Corps and is Superior of the Woodlawn Jesuit Residence, Chicago IL.

Prayer

Father in heaven, the light of Jesus has scattered the darkness of hatred and sin.
Called to that light we ask for your guidance.
Form our lives in your truth, our hearts in your love.
Amen!

—from The Sacramentary, © 1985, Catholic Book Publishing Co.


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June 25, 2016

Mt 8: 5-17

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

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

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

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.

Trust and Control

Let’s take a look at the final paragraph of today’s gospel reading:  “As evening drew on…he expelled the spirits by a simple command and cured all who were afflicted.” We see here the concrete manifestation of Jesus’ invitation from Matthew 11 : “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.”  Do you and I believe that Jesus does in fact take on our burdens? Can we trust that Jesus really does “cure all who are afflicted”even me?

What exactly are the burdens and “afflictions” I carry these last days of June 2016? What daily “labor” weighs me down and saps my spirit? Perhaps a frayed relationship. Maybe a family situation that I can’t seem to  “fix.” Or even a financial or work or community reality over which I have little control? ….and so I pray and wait.

This last weekend of June, what if I hand over these family and community and personal burdens to Jesus? Can I trust that in the Lord’s own good time some response will come to these knotty challenges…perhaps a response I least expect?

—The Jesuit Prayer Team

Prayer:

Life-giving God, I open my hands and my heart to your life-saving grace and goodness.
Heal my heart. Strengthen my spirit. As I watch and wait, send me your love and your grace. Amen.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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June 24, 2016

NATIVITY OF JOHN THE BAPTIST

Lk 1: 57-66. 80

Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him Zechariah after his father. But his mother said, “No; he is to be called John.” They said to her, “None of your relatives has this name.” Then they began motioning to his father to find out what name he wanted to give him.

He asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And all of them were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue freed, and he began to speak, praising God. Fear came over all their neighbors, and all these things were talked about throughout the entire hill country of Judea. All who heard them pondered them and said, “What then will this child become?” For, indeed, the hand of the Lord was with him. The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day he appeared publicly to Israel.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.

Called By Name

Today we celebrate the birth of Saint John the Baptist. In both the first reading and the Gospel, we see the power of a name. Two of our great prophets, Isaiah and John, were both called from the womb to serve God. It was here that they were given their names, names that would come to embody much more than their human existence. Their names would become integral parts of our movement towards the fulfillment of God’s Kingdom.

Reflecting on our own names, we see our journeys. Our names have amassed our life experiences in such a way that they contain much more than several letters. Our identities are wrapped up in the cumulative experiences of our names. Somehow, what we are called serves as a symbol of our lifelong development. There is great power in the names we assign.

Providing a name moves us beyond simple understanding and allows us to construct a story. God names “Isaiah” and “John” because they are instruments in the Kingdom. Their names will play a fundamental role in the creation story. Names have significance. What does your name mean to you?  How do others hear your name?

Liliana Mamani Condori is a Peruvian lawyer pursuing a master’s degree in theological studies at Boston College. Sam Hay is finishing his MA in Theology and Ministry at B.C., and currently works for its School of Education.

Prayer

Oh, Lord my God,
You called me from the sleep of nothingness
merely because in your tremendous love
you want to make good and beautiful beings.
You have called me by my name in my mother’s womb.
You have given me breath and light and movement
and walked with me every moment of my existence.

I am amazed, Lord God of the universe,
that you attend to me and, more, cherish me.
Create in me the faithfulness that moves you,
and I will trust you and yearn for you all my days.
Amen.

Joseph Tetlow, SJ


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June 23, 2016

Mt 7: 21-29

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?’

Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.’ “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock.

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

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.

Listen and Act

The first thing that resonated with me after reading today’s gospel reading was the “practical” message that Jesus gave to his disciples about where to build a house. On top of being practical, his instructions seem very simple and easy to follow.

When we place this message within our current world context the core of Jesus’ message would be to listen and act upon God’s word. At times of despair and rushed action, this may seem like the least practical thing to do. In events that may lead us to feeling abandoned or forgotten by God, hearing that voice may be anything but simple. Let us remember, though, that God’s voice is always present, and God’s message of love, comfort and peace will always prevail – even when rain falls and floods come. Let us continue to hold in our hearts those impacted by the recent events in Orlando.

—Mark Joseph Ehrbar is Co-Director of Music at Gesu Church, University Heights, OH.

Prayer

Life-giving God, thank you for sending your son, Jesus, to guide my daily living.  Help me to trust you and to build my life today on the rock of your Word and the life of your Sacraments. May I walk always in your good grace. Amen.

—The Jesuit prayer team


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June 22, 2016

Sts. John Fisher  and Thomas More

Mt 7: 15-20

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits.

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.

Deeper Desires

Jesus warns his disciples to beware of false prophets, using imagery they understood. Ignatius provided us with the imaginative meditation of the Two Standards, pitting the life of riches, honor, and pride offered by the “enemy of our human nature,” over against Christ’s life of poverty, powerlessness and humility. What imagery would we use to describe false prophets today? More importantly, how do we discover them vigorously or subtly controlling our lives, and then find the courage and freedom to abandon them and follow Christ?  

The discernment process is the ongoing task of learning to recognize when we are being driven by false, negative, distractive spirits and when we are drawn to the good, positive, creative spirits in our hearts. We must discern where our imagination and life energy is focused. Are we focused on ourselves or on God and others?  Jesus wants us to bear good fruit. What do we desire?

Jim Sweany is a spiritual director in the Ignatian tradition. He is associated with the Chicago Region Ignatian Volunteer Corps as a spiritual animator, reflector, and Advisory Board Chair. He also directs the Spiritual Exercises for the SEEL program at Loyola University Chicago.

Prayer

Show your ways to me, O Lord;
teach me your paths.
Direct me in your truth, and teach me;
for you are God my Savior.

—St. Peter Faber, S.J.


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June 21, 2106

St.  Aloysius Gonzaga

Mt 7: 6. 12-14

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

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.

Entering the Kingdom

Why is it so hard for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God?

On retreat earlier this month, I learned a possible answer: Jesus can save all of us — and he wants to — but we have to let him. Often we try to save ourselves with our money, our talents, or our hard work. We begin to think we don’t need God. So, our retreat leader asked, “Are we poor enough to let Christ save us?”

St. Aloysius Gonzaga was born into a royal family; he renounced his inheritance and became a Jesuit. Six years later he died caring for plague victims. He could say, with Peter, “We have given up everything and followed you.” He could also affirm, with Peter, that his decision brought both persecutions and rewards.

On this feast day, let us ask ourselves: Are we poor enough to let Christ work in our lives?

—Daniel Everson, S.J., a Jesuit scholastic of the U.S. Central Southern province, is currently studying philosophy at Loyola University Chicago.

Prayer

O Holy Mary, my mother, into your blessed trust and custody, and into the care of your mercy,
I this day, every day, and in the hour of my death, commend my soul and body.
To you I commit all my anxieties and miseries, my life and end of my life.
By your most holy intercession and by your merits may all my actions
be directed and disposed according to your will and that of your Son. Amen.

—St. Aloysius Gonzaga, S.J.


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