January 31, 2017

St. John Bosco

Mk 5: 21-43

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

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

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

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

Then he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha cum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!” And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

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

Winding Journeys

I doubt Jesus began his day with the knowledge of the two encounters he would have. Still, as he often does, he side-steps the crowd encouraging him to do something “better” and instead focuses on the most left out, because no one is insignificant to him. 

We often find ourselves in today’s main characters. The little girl doesn’t approach Jesus herself, but it’s her dad’s radical faith that brings Jesus’ healing to her. The woman had endured twelve years of exclusion, and her faith is of a type that nears desperation. Even when cured, her instinct for shame returns; yet Jesus encourages this “daughter” of God.

Our faith journeys are naturally winding and we may sometimes not feel worth the trouble but, like the two in today’s Gospel, no one is ever too far gone from Jesus’ healing touch.

A Question: What hidden part of me does Jesus want to heal?

—Henoch Derbew, S.J., a scholastic of the US Northeast province, is currently studying philosophy at Loyola University Chicago.  

Prayer

I beg of you, my Lord, to remove anything which separates me from you, and you from me.

—Excerpt from a prayer of St. Peter Faber, S.J.

 


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January 30, 2017

Mk 5: 1-20

They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. And when he had stepped out of the boat, immediately a man out of the tombs with an unclean spirit met him. He lived among the tombs; and no one could restrain him any more, even with a chain; for he had often been restrained with shackles and chains, but the chains he wrenched apart, and the shackles he broke in pieces; and no one had the strength to subdue him.

Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always howling and bruising himself with stones. When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and bowed down before him; and he shouted at the top of his voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.”

For he had said to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion; for we are many.” He begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. Now there on the hillside a great herd of swine was feeding; and the unclean spirits begged him, “Send us into the swine; let us enter them.” So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the swine; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea, and were drowned in the sea.

The swineherds ran off and told it in the city and in the country. Then people came to see what it was that had happened. They came to Jesus and saw the demoniac sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had had the legion; and they were afraid. Those who had seen what had happened to the demoniac and to the swine reported it.Then they began to beg Jesus to leave their neighborhood. As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed by demons begged him that he might be with him.

But Jesus refused, and said to him, “Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and what mercy he has shown you.” And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed.

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.

Letting Go

Lord, why would anyone beg a miracle worker to “leave their district”? But don’t I do the same when I push you away? The people of the territory of Gerasenes were “seized with fear” when they saw how changed the possessed man became.

I too am afraid of the transformation I would need to make if I truly accepted you into my life. I would rather spend my days and nights among the tombs and wandering the hillsides, than to allow you to lead me into unfamiliar territory. I wonder what I would do with my hands if I were to ever to let go of the stones I use to bruise myself—the need to be admired, the endless unnecessary worry, the self-righteousness.

Lord, help me to welcome you into my life.  Help me be unafraid to proclaim all you have done for me.

—Peg Anderson, a partner in Chicago’s Fox Swibel law firm, is on the board of the Ignatian Spirituality Project.

Prayer

Give me your strength, Lord, because sometimes things get tough…
and I am ready to quit.
Give me your love, Lord, because sometimes people reject me…
and I am tempted to hate.
Give me your eyes, Lord, because sometimes life gets dark…
and I lose my way.
Give me  your courage, Lord, because often I feel pressure…
and it is hard to do what is right.
Give me yourself, Lord, because my heart was made for you…
and I will not rest until I rest in you.

—Fr. Mark Link, S.J.  (1924–2017)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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January 29, 2017

Mt 5: 1-12a

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.

Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before 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.

Light and Salt

The gospel reading for this Sunday includes the first verses of the Sermon on the Mount. There we hear Jesus call “blessed” the poor in spirit, the meek, those who mourn, those who hunger for justice, even the persecuted — all those who the world judges as “losers.”

Jesus calls them blessed because they have not given themselves over to the false idols of greed, violence, and the desire for unbridled power over others. Instead they try to be good and faithful people who live lives of faith, hope, and love, knowing, as  Psalm 62 says, that only in God will our souls be at rest and from God alone comes our salvation. And, in the process, they serve as blessings to others as well.

You might want to take some time to think about who have been light and salt in your life and for whom you are trying to be light and salt.

—Fr. Frank Majka, S.J., a Wisconsin Jesuit, is engaged in pastoral ministry at Marquette University High School in Milwaukee.

Prayer

May my actions draw attention to you, my God!

Help me to bring light into the darkness of life,
spreading hope for a better world,
a world where justice is made real by your children
living together in harmony.

Help me to bring salt into the blandness of life,
encouraging vitality and joy in living
in a world that dares to hope
for the future that you promise,
where all your children will know they are
loved and valued and treasured,
created in your image,
bringing you glory forever.
Amen.

—a Church of Scotland prayer

 

 

 

 

 


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January 28, 2017

St. Thomas Aquinas, O.P.

Mk 4: 35-41

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”

He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind 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.

Calming Those Storms

Have you ever been out on a lake or river as a storm gathers force? Even as you head towards shore there is this down-in-the-gut terror that “we won’t make it.” It’s that gnawing fear that I can’t manage what’s happening, the awareness that “this is more than I can handle.” So what do I do in the face of such challenging life events?

This is exactly why taking daily steps to build a rock solid relationship with Jesus is so important. And this is why Jesus’ quiet daily invitation to “come and see” pays off. Each of us will certainly encounter the storms of life and its daily relationships. So can I come to trust that, by handing my life and time and daily experience over to Jesus, there is no “storm” that the two of us can’t handle together.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team

Prayer

Lord, increase my faith in your life and loving presence!
Amen!

 

 

 


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January 27, 2017

Mk 4: 26-34

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

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

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

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

Pray Frequently

Last summer, like the sower in the Gospel “not knowing how this growth goes”, I, a backyard gardener, planted a new variety of French filet pole beans. In a few weeks, the beans sprouted and grew to over 8 feet tall, overpowering the trellis.  The instructions read: “pick frequently to ensure a continuous crop”. The harvest came. I picked and picked, frequently, feeding ourselves and several neighbors.  

Jesus says our faith can be like a seed, simple and unimpressive, but as it grows and flourishes it can do marvelous things (like nourish others’ faith).

Each of us, in our everyday lives, can bear witness to Christ, and, with the small faith we have, we can grow strong.  How do we develop a strong faith? From God through prayer.

As soil, moisture, and sun nourish the seed, so prayer nourishes our faith. The instructions read: “pray frequently to ensure a strong faith.”

―George P. Sullivan, Jr. is a Jesuit-educated lay leader who helped found the Ignatian Volunteer Corps, Chicago Chapter. He and his wife, Dorothy Turek, live in Wilmette IL, and have four children and four grandchildren.

Prayer

This is a prayer we need to pray every day, every day: “Our Father: thy kingdom come!”
For this invocation means: “May your kingdom grow in us, in our actions, in society. 
May God’s kingdom increase!”  

―adapted from Pope Francis

 

 

 


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January 26, 2017

Sts. Timothy and Titus

2 Tm 1: 1-8

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, for the sake of the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus, To Timothy, my beloved child: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.I am grateful to God—whom I worship with a clear conscience, as my ancestors did—when I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. Recalling your tears, I long to see you so that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you.

For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline. Do not be ashamed, then, of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God.

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.

Proclaiming Christ

I recall your sincere faith.” Today we celebrate two great saints of the early church, Timothy and Titus. These two men witnessed to their faith and helped to build the early church. By their preaching and their example they brought others to faith in Christ. They carried on the work that Paul had begun.

So what am I doing to proclaim the Gospel? What can I do to bring others to faith in Christ? I am certainly not like Paul or Timothy or Titus and cannot go around preaching and establishing churches. But I testify to my faith by the way I treat others. By being respectful, honest and sincere, kind and merciful, I can let others know who Jesus is. My actions become the words of my message. If my actions do not reflect the life of Christ, then my faith lacks depth and my message is lost.

How will you proclaim Christ today?

—Margaret Horner earned a Master of Pastoral Studies degree from St. Francis de Sales Seminary in Milwaukee. She currently serves as the Director of Liturgy at Gesu Parish, Milwaukee, WI.

Prayer

Dear Lord, you have no hands but my hands
to do your work today;
You have no feet but my feet
to lead others along your way.

You have no tongue but my tongue
to tell all you lived and died.
You have no help but my help
to bring all to your side.

—a Catholic Action prayer


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January 25, 2017

Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul

Mk 16:15-18

And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: by using my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

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.

Signs and Gifts

Today’s gospel reminds us:

“These signs will accompany those who believe:
in my name they will drive out demons,
they will speak new languages.
They will pick up serpents with their hands,
and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them.
They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

My first thought when I read these verses was:
If someone told me I could do these things, I would think that they were crazy.
Nobody can do these things!

My second thought is:
These are amazing things Jesus tells his apostles that they will do. Who wouldn’t want these great powers and abilities?

Then I thought:
The disciples must follow Jesus down a road full of hatred, suffering, pain, and eventually martyrdom.  Maybe the remarkable gifts were intended to support and strengthen the disciples as they followed Jesus toward martyrdom.

A lingering thought:
How am I using the gifts Jesus has given me to help bring about the kingdom of God?

—John Moriconi, S.J. is a Jesuit brother who serves as provincial secretary for the Chicago-Detroit Jesuit province.

Prayer

Lord, teach me to be generous,
to serve as you deserve:
to give and not to count the cost;
to fight and not to heed the wounds;
to toil and not to seek for rest;
to labor and not to ask for any reward,
but that of knowing that I do your will.

—St. Ignatius Loyola


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January 24, 2017

St. Francis de Sales

Mk 3: 31-35

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

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

New Family in God

For many people family is a true blessing, the place where they are born, protected, nurtured and educated. It is in the family where many people learn to love and be loved. However, in order to flourish into our authentic selves, the relationship with the family eventually has to transform, and we gradually grow out of the experience and knowledge we gain from the family. This process oftentimes involves some real struggle as well as reconciliation and healing for the harm done.

Today Jesus’ word not only recognizes this human condition, but also invites us to go beyond it and pursue a higher calling to form our new family in God’s Kingdom. This new relationship connects us to the entire human family through a common commitment to doing “the will of God,” which transcends our human limitation.

How do you recognize others as your brothers and sisters within this new family? 

—Chia-Yang Kao, S.J., a Jesuit scholastic of the Maryland province, is currently studying philosophy at Loyola University Chicago.

Prayer

Do not look forward in fear to the changes in life;
rather, look to them with full hope that as they arise,
God, whose very own you are,
will lead you safely through all things;
and when you cannot stand it,
God will carry you in His arms.

Do not fear what may happen tomorrow;
the same understanding Father who cares for
you today will take care of you then and every day.

He will either shield you from suffering
or will give you unfailing strength to bear it.
Be at peace,
and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations.

—prayer of St. Francis de Sales


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January 23, 2017

Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children

Mk 3: 22-30

And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.

“Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”

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.

Strong Faith

Lord, I did not know how strong my faith in the communion of saints and in the resurrection was until my mother died. I knew then with absolute certainty that I would see her again. Her death also reminded me that I believe life starts at the moment of conception. Before she died, I lost two children in the early stages of pregnancy. Within hours of my mother’s death, I found myself saying to her: “Mommy, when you meet my children, tell them I love them.” Because our society does not value the unborn, people tend to act as if a miscarriage is no big deal, instead of the loss it truly is.

Today, pray for all the parents who lost a child they never got to hold. And work so that everyone in our society has access to a quality education, the opportunity for a job that pays wages you can live on, safe housing and freedom from gun violence, so that fewer women feel that abortion is their only choice.

—Peg Anderson is a Chicago lawyer who is on the board of the Ignatian Spirituality Project.

Prayer

Every day, think as you wake up, today I am fortunate to be alive!
I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it.
I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart for others;
to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings.
I am going to have kind thoughts towards others,
I am not going to get angry or think badly about others.
I am going to benefit others as much as I can.”

—Prayer of the Dalai Lama

 

 


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January 22, 2017

Mt 4: 12-23

Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.” From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.

Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.

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.

The Kingdom at Hand   

My grandmother lived two doors down from The Handy Grocery. The name let everyone know that all they had to do was to pick out what they needed, put it in their shopping basket, and check out.

What does my grandmother’s grocery store have to do with the Kingdom of God? I think quite a bit. The Kingdom of God is “at hand” (“handy”) according to Jesus. He might have meant it was getting closer by the minute, but also that it was within arm’s reach.

If the Kingdom is so close that we can reach out and touch it, then when we look at what is right around us, perhaps we’ll see the Kingdom of God there.

It may take some time and effort to retrain our vision so we get better at seeing what (or who) is right around us. Just go to a public place like a mall and spend time just looking at what’s around you. It’s not difficult and it’s not a bad way to pray. If Jesus is right, we might catch a glimpse of God’s Kingdom there.

—Fr. Frank Majka, S.J., a Wisconsin Jesuit, is engaged in pastoral ministry at Marquette University High School in Milwaukee.

Prayer

Lord, you never grow impatient. You never take a day off from pursuing us. We take great comfort in knowing you always have your hand upon us and those we love.  If there is any relationship, any decision, or any unsettled conversation that needs our attention, let us first come to you for direction. And should we need to change our way of thinking, we ask you for the courage and humility to do so.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team

 

 

 

 


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January 31, 2017

St. John Bosco

Mk 5: 21-43

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

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

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

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

Then he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha cum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!” And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

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

Winding Journeys

I doubt Jesus began his day with the knowledge of the two encounters he would have. Still, as he often does, he side-steps the crowd encouraging him to do something “better” and instead focuses on the most left out, because no one is insignificant to him. 

We often find ourselves in today’s main characters. The little girl doesn’t approach Jesus herself, but it’s her dad’s radical faith that brings Jesus’ healing to her. The woman had endured twelve years of exclusion, and her faith is of a type that nears desperation. Even when cured, her instinct for shame returns; yet Jesus encourages this “daughter” of God.

Our faith journeys are naturally winding and we may sometimes not feel worth the trouble but, like the two in today’s Gospel, no one is ever too far gone from Jesus’ healing touch.

A Question: What hidden part of me does Jesus want to heal?

—Henoch Derbew, S.J., a scholastic of the US Northeast province, is currently studying philosophy at Loyola University Chicago.  

Prayer

I beg of you, my Lord, to remove anything which separates me from you, and you from me.

—Excerpt from a prayer of St. Peter Faber, S.J.

 


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January 30, 2017

Mk 5: 1-20

They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. And when he had stepped out of the boat, immediately a man out of the tombs with an unclean spirit met him. He lived among the tombs; and no one could restrain him any more, even with a chain; for he had often been restrained with shackles and chains, but the chains he wrenched apart, and the shackles he broke in pieces; and no one had the strength to subdue him.

Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always howling and bruising himself with stones. When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and bowed down before him; and he shouted at the top of his voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.”

For he had said to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion; for we are many.” He begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. Now there on the hillside a great herd of swine was feeding; and the unclean spirits begged him, “Send us into the swine; let us enter them.” So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the swine; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea, and were drowned in the sea.

The swineherds ran off and told it in the city and in the country. Then people came to see what it was that had happened. They came to Jesus and saw the demoniac sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had had the legion; and they were afraid. Those who had seen what had happened to the demoniac and to the swine reported it.Then they began to beg Jesus to leave their neighborhood. As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed by demons begged him that he might be with him.

But Jesus refused, and said to him, “Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and what mercy he has shown you.” And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed.

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.

Letting Go

Lord, why would anyone beg a miracle worker to “leave their district”? But don’t I do the same when I push you away? The people of the territory of Gerasenes were “seized with fear” when they saw how changed the possessed man became.

I too am afraid of the transformation I would need to make if I truly accepted you into my life. I would rather spend my days and nights among the tombs and wandering the hillsides, than to allow you to lead me into unfamiliar territory. I wonder what I would do with my hands if I were to ever to let go of the stones I use to bruise myself—the need to be admired, the endless unnecessary worry, the self-righteousness.

Lord, help me to welcome you into my life.  Help me be unafraid to proclaim all you have done for me.

—Peg Anderson, a partner in Chicago’s Fox Swibel law firm, is on the board of the Ignatian Spirituality Project.

Prayer

Give me your strength, Lord, because sometimes things get tough…
and I am ready to quit.
Give me your love, Lord, because sometimes people reject me…
and I am tempted to hate.
Give me your eyes, Lord, because sometimes life gets dark…
and I lose my way.
Give me  your courage, Lord, because often I feel pressure…
and it is hard to do what is right.
Give me yourself, Lord, because my heart was made for you…
and I will not rest until I rest in you.

—Fr. Mark Link, S.J.  (1924–2017)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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January 29, 2017

Mt 5: 1-12a

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.

Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before 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.

Light and Salt

The gospel reading for this Sunday includes the first verses of the Sermon on the Mount. There we hear Jesus call “blessed” the poor in spirit, the meek, those who mourn, those who hunger for justice, even the persecuted — all those who the world judges as “losers.”

Jesus calls them blessed because they have not given themselves over to the false idols of greed, violence, and the desire for unbridled power over others. Instead they try to be good and faithful people who live lives of faith, hope, and love, knowing, as  Psalm 62 says, that only in God will our souls be at rest and from God alone comes our salvation. And, in the process, they serve as blessings to others as well.

You might want to take some time to think about who have been light and salt in your life and for whom you are trying to be light and salt.

—Fr. Frank Majka, S.J., a Wisconsin Jesuit, is engaged in pastoral ministry at Marquette University High School in Milwaukee.

Prayer

May my actions draw attention to you, my God!

Help me to bring light into the darkness of life,
spreading hope for a better world,
a world where justice is made real by your children
living together in harmony.

Help me to bring salt into the blandness of life,
encouraging vitality and joy in living
in a world that dares to hope
for the future that you promise,
where all your children will know they are
loved and valued and treasured,
created in your image,
bringing you glory forever.
Amen.

—a Church of Scotland prayer

 

 

 

 

 


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January 28, 2017

St. Thomas Aquinas, O.P.

Mk 4: 35-41

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”

He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind 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.

Calming Those Storms

Have you ever been out on a lake or river as a storm gathers force? Even as you head towards shore there is this down-in-the-gut terror that “we won’t make it.” It’s that gnawing fear that I can’t manage what’s happening, the awareness that “this is more than I can handle.” So what do I do in the face of such challenging life events?

This is exactly why taking daily steps to build a rock solid relationship with Jesus is so important. And this is why Jesus’ quiet daily invitation to “come and see” pays off. Each of us will certainly encounter the storms of life and its daily relationships. So can I come to trust that, by handing my life and time and daily experience over to Jesus, there is no “storm” that the two of us can’t handle together.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team

Prayer

Lord, increase my faith in your life and loving presence!
Amen!

 

 

 


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January 27, 2017

Mk 4: 26-34

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

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

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

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

Pray Frequently

Last summer, like the sower in the Gospel “not knowing how this growth goes”, I, a backyard gardener, planted a new variety of French filet pole beans. In a few weeks, the beans sprouted and grew to over 8 feet tall, overpowering the trellis.  The instructions read: “pick frequently to ensure a continuous crop”. The harvest came. I picked and picked, frequently, feeding ourselves and several neighbors.  

Jesus says our faith can be like a seed, simple and unimpressive, but as it grows and flourishes it can do marvelous things (like nourish others’ faith).

Each of us, in our everyday lives, can bear witness to Christ, and, with the small faith we have, we can grow strong.  How do we develop a strong faith? From God through prayer.

As soil, moisture, and sun nourish the seed, so prayer nourishes our faith. The instructions read: “pray frequently to ensure a strong faith.”

―George P. Sullivan, Jr. is a Jesuit-educated lay leader who helped found the Ignatian Volunteer Corps, Chicago Chapter. He and his wife, Dorothy Turek, live in Wilmette IL, and have four children and four grandchildren.

Prayer

This is a prayer we need to pray every day, every day: “Our Father: thy kingdom come!”
For this invocation means: “May your kingdom grow in us, in our actions, in society. 
May God’s kingdom increase!”  

―adapted from Pope Francis

 

 

 


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January 26, 2017

Sts. Timothy and Titus

2 Tm 1: 1-8

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, for the sake of the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus, To Timothy, my beloved child: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.I am grateful to God—whom I worship with a clear conscience, as my ancestors did—when I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. Recalling your tears, I long to see you so that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you.

For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline. Do not be ashamed, then, of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God.

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.

Proclaiming Christ

I recall your sincere faith.” Today we celebrate two great saints of the early church, Timothy and Titus. These two men witnessed to their faith and helped to build the early church. By their preaching and their example they brought others to faith in Christ. They carried on the work that Paul had begun.

So what am I doing to proclaim the Gospel? What can I do to bring others to faith in Christ? I am certainly not like Paul or Timothy or Titus and cannot go around preaching and establishing churches. But I testify to my faith by the way I treat others. By being respectful, honest and sincere, kind and merciful, I can let others know who Jesus is. My actions become the words of my message. If my actions do not reflect the life of Christ, then my faith lacks depth and my message is lost.

How will you proclaim Christ today?

—Margaret Horner earned a Master of Pastoral Studies degree from St. Francis de Sales Seminary in Milwaukee. She currently serves as the Director of Liturgy at Gesu Parish, Milwaukee, WI.

Prayer

Dear Lord, you have no hands but my hands
to do your work today;
You have no feet but my feet
to lead others along your way.

You have no tongue but my tongue
to tell all you lived and died.
You have no help but my help
to bring all to your side.

—a Catholic Action prayer


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January 25, 2017

Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul

Mk 16:15-18

And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: by using my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

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.

Signs and Gifts

Today’s gospel reminds us:

“These signs will accompany those who believe:
in my name they will drive out demons,
they will speak new languages.
They will pick up serpents with their hands,
and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them.
They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

My first thought when I read these verses was:
If someone told me I could do these things, I would think that they were crazy.
Nobody can do these things!

My second thought is:
These are amazing things Jesus tells his apostles that they will do. Who wouldn’t want these great powers and abilities?

Then I thought:
The disciples must follow Jesus down a road full of hatred, suffering, pain, and eventually martyrdom.  Maybe the remarkable gifts were intended to support and strengthen the disciples as they followed Jesus toward martyrdom.

A lingering thought:
How am I using the gifts Jesus has given me to help bring about the kingdom of God?

—John Moriconi, S.J. is a Jesuit brother who serves as provincial secretary for the Chicago-Detroit Jesuit province.

Prayer

Lord, teach me to be generous,
to serve as you deserve:
to give and not to count the cost;
to fight and not to heed the wounds;
to toil and not to seek for rest;
to labor and not to ask for any reward,
but that of knowing that I do your will.

—St. Ignatius Loyola


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January 24, 2017

St. Francis de Sales

Mk 3: 31-35

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

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

New Family in God

For many people family is a true blessing, the place where they are born, protected, nurtured and educated. It is in the family where many people learn to love and be loved. However, in order to flourish into our authentic selves, the relationship with the family eventually has to transform, and we gradually grow out of the experience and knowledge we gain from the family. This process oftentimes involves some real struggle as well as reconciliation and healing for the harm done.

Today Jesus’ word not only recognizes this human condition, but also invites us to go beyond it and pursue a higher calling to form our new family in God’s Kingdom. This new relationship connects us to the entire human family through a common commitment to doing “the will of God,” which transcends our human limitation.

How do you recognize others as your brothers and sisters within this new family? 

—Chia-Yang Kao, S.J., a Jesuit scholastic of the Maryland province, is currently studying philosophy at Loyola University Chicago.

Prayer

Do not look forward in fear to the changes in life;
rather, look to them with full hope that as they arise,
God, whose very own you are,
will lead you safely through all things;
and when you cannot stand it,
God will carry you in His arms.

Do not fear what may happen tomorrow;
the same understanding Father who cares for
you today will take care of you then and every day.

He will either shield you from suffering
or will give you unfailing strength to bear it.
Be at peace,
and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations.

—prayer of St. Francis de Sales


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January 23, 2017

Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children

Mk 3: 22-30

And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.

“Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”

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.

Strong Faith

Lord, I did not know how strong my faith in the communion of saints and in the resurrection was until my mother died. I knew then with absolute certainty that I would see her again. Her death also reminded me that I believe life starts at the moment of conception. Before she died, I lost two children in the early stages of pregnancy. Within hours of my mother’s death, I found myself saying to her: “Mommy, when you meet my children, tell them I love them.” Because our society does not value the unborn, people tend to act as if a miscarriage is no big deal, instead of the loss it truly is.

Today, pray for all the parents who lost a child they never got to hold. And work so that everyone in our society has access to a quality education, the opportunity for a job that pays wages you can live on, safe housing and freedom from gun violence, so that fewer women feel that abortion is their only choice.

—Peg Anderson is a Chicago lawyer who is on the board of the Ignatian Spirituality Project.

Prayer

Every day, think as you wake up, today I am fortunate to be alive!
I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it.
I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart for others;
to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings.
I am going to have kind thoughts towards others,
I am not going to get angry or think badly about others.
I am going to benefit others as much as I can.”

—Prayer of the Dalai Lama

 

 


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January 22, 2017

Mt 4: 12-23

Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.” From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.

Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.

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.

The Kingdom at Hand   

My grandmother lived two doors down from The Handy Grocery. The name let everyone know that all they had to do was to pick out what they needed, put it in their shopping basket, and check out.

What does my grandmother’s grocery store have to do with the Kingdom of God? I think quite a bit. The Kingdom of God is “at hand” (“handy”) according to Jesus. He might have meant it was getting closer by the minute, but also that it was within arm’s reach.

If the Kingdom is so close that we can reach out and touch it, then when we look at what is right around us, perhaps we’ll see the Kingdom of God there.

It may take some time and effort to retrain our vision so we get better at seeing what (or who) is right around us. Just go to a public place like a mall and spend time just looking at what’s around you. It’s not difficult and it’s not a bad way to pray. If Jesus is right, we might catch a glimpse of God’s Kingdom there.

—Fr. Frank Majka, S.J., a Wisconsin Jesuit, is engaged in pastoral ministry at Marquette University High School in Milwaukee.

Prayer

Lord, you never grow impatient. You never take a day off from pursuing us. We take great comfort in knowing you always have your hand upon us and those we love.  If there is any relationship, any decision, or any unsettled conversation that needs our attention, let us first come to you for direction. And should we need to change our way of thinking, we ask you for the courage and humility to do so.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team

 

 

 

 


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