February 28, 2019

Mk 9: 41-50

For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.

“If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire.

And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell, where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.

“For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”

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.

What causes me to “miss the mark”?

In today’s Gospel, Jesus offers pointed advice to his disciples, warning them about temptations to sin. Sin signifies more than breaking a rule or committing a forbidden act; in the New Testament the word for sin is often hamartia, a term used in archery for “missing the mark.” What does it mean to miss the mark in following Jesus? In the words of Fr. James Keenan, SJ, it means to “fail to bother to love.”

Jesus invites us to examine our lives to detect fixations or distractions that hold us back from bothering to love God, others, and our self. If we are to be the “salt of the earth” (Matt 5:13) and agents of spiritual wisdom in the world (Col 4:5-6), we cannot be complacent about the beliefs, habits, relationships, or structures that impede love.

Just in time for Lent—which begins next week—this is an opportunity to discern where my life needs purification. Purification is not just about self-denial; it’s about transformation to love more freely and fully. What keeps me from bothering to love God, others, and myself? What steps can I take to cut this out of my life? How can I help others free themselves, too?

—Dr. Marcus Mescher is Assistant Professor of Christian Ethics at Xavier University in Cincinnati, and is a graduate of Marquette University High School, Marquette University, and Boston College.  

Prayer

Good and gracious God, may we always be bothered to love you.  Let this love drive us to service of our neighbor, for your greater glory.  We ask this through Christ, our Lord.

—The Jesuit Prayer team

 

 

 

 

 


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February 27, 2019

Mk 9: 38-40

John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us.

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.

Those who are not against us are with us

Loyalty … or fear? When the apostle John witnesses another exorcist driving out demons, he responds in a way that reveals both his love for Jesus and his flawed understanding of God.

His affection and allegiance to Jesus drive him to protect Jesus’ name so as to not have falsehoods attributed to his friend. His loyalty demonstrates his friendship.

Why John wanted this man to stop might have more to do with his human understanding of faith than our desire to protect Him whom we love. By qualifying, “because he was not following us” highlights an exclusivity which we all desire, but which is often more selfish than a selfless act of protection.

In a world quick to divide, Jesus teaches us to avoid condemning others who are participating in His work – purifying souls.

—Alan Ratermann is an English teacher and Director of Ignatian Service Programs at Rockhurst High School in Kansas City, Missouri.

Prayer

Lord, help us recognize you in all holy people working to bring the Kingdom of God to Earth.

—Alan Ratermann

 

 

 


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February 26, 2019

Mk 9: 30-37

They went on from there and passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it; for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.” But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.

Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”

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.

What does it mean to fear the Lord?

The apostles “were afraid to question him.” Why? Why should the apostles be afraid of Jesus? And, is that supposed to be a good thing? Maybe.

There is a great quote from the ’90s movie First Night that can help us understand. King Arthur tells Lancelot, “A person who fears nothing is a person who loves nothing.” Basically, if you truly love someone, you will fear not being with them, disappointing them or losing them. That is the one good type of fear. It is a fear that drives us to be in union with, to serve, and to do right by the ones we love.

This is what we mean by “fear of the Lord.” We do not want to disappoint our Lord. If we love him, we do not want to do anything to be separated from him. And that is a good thing.

What or whom do I fear losing? Is that fear based on love? Do I fear disappointing or being separated from our Lord?

—Stephen Kramer, SJ, is a Jesuit deacon of the Central and Southern Province currently finishing his Master’s degree in Theology at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry.

Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ,
whom I love with all of my heart,
help me to never be afraid,
except to fear not loving you as I should.

—Steven Kramer, SJ

 


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February 25, 2019

Sir 1: 1-10

All wisdom is from the Lord,
and with him it remains forever.
The sand of the sea, the drops of rain,
and the days of eternity—who can count them?
The height of heaven, the breadth of the earth,
the abyss, and wisdom—who can search them out?

Wisdom was created before all other things,
and prudent understanding from eternity.
The root of wisdom—to whom has it been revealed?
Her subtleties—who knows them?
There is but one who is wise, greatly to be feared,
seated upon his throne—the Lord.

It is he who created her;
he saw her and took her measure;
he poured her out upon all his works,
upon all the living according to his gift;
he lavished her upon those who love 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.

God cares for me and so much more

In reading the Wisdom Literature of the Old Testament, we are invited into God’s knowledge and understanding of everything. I found beauty in the first reading from Sirach today as I considered the rhetorical questions the author posed in each stanza. I certainly do not and cannot grasp all of the things the author names, but I find relief in that. I can never know how many grains of sand there are on the seashore or where the root of wisdom lies; these things are out of my control and not my responsibility to comprehend. Faith comes in recognizing and trusting that God has all of these things numbered and that it is not my job to hold the entire universe together. God can account for all of this and keep it aligned. And still God cares for and loves me as part of this vast creation.

—Sara Spittler is the First Years Chaplain and a Religious Studies teacher at Saint Ignatius College Prep in Chicago.

Prayer

Lord God, you created the universe and everything in it.  Show me how to honor and care for the gifts of creation, while remembering that I am not you, and trusting that you care for it infinitely better than I can.  Increase my faith and remind me that I am always loved by you. Amen.

—The Jesuit Prayer team

 

 

 

 


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January 24, 2019

1 Sam 26: 2, 7-9, 12-13, 22-23

So Saul rose and went down to the Wilderness of Ziph, with three thousand chosen men of Israel, to seek David in the Wilderness of Ziph. So David and Abishai went to the army by night; there Saul lay sleeping within the encampment, with his spear stuck in the ground at his head; and Abner and the army lay around him. Abishai said to David, “God has given your enemy into your hand today; now therefore let me pin him to the ground with one stroke of the spear; I will not strike him twice.”

But David said to Abishai, “Do not destroy him; for who can raise his hand against the Lord’s anointed, and be guiltless?” So David took the spear that was at Saul’s head and the water jar, and they went away. No one saw it, or knew it, nor did anyone awake; for they were all asleep, because a deep sleep from the Lord had fallen upon them.

Then David went over to the other side, and stood on top of a hill far away, with a great distance between them. David replied, “Here is the spear, O king! Let one of the young men come over and get it. The Lord rewards everyone for his righteousness and his faithfulness; for the  you into my hand today, but I would not raise my hand against the Lord’s anointed.

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.

Obeying God’s Truths

I took an Old Testament class in grad school I liked very much. We had a passionate teacher with a gift for bringing colorful stories like King David’s to life. But it felt strange to approach my Bible for the first time as assigned reading and not as a tool for worship.

Adam Gopnik considered these feelings in The New Yorker recently. He wrote that when we open sacred texts, “We forget at our peril that, through most of their history, these have been not books, to be appreciated, but truths, to be obeyed.” In other words, it’s fine to take a reader’s pleasure in King David’s adventures, but our call as believers is to find and pray with lasting truths. Some aren’t easy to live by!

We have a challenging faith lesson in this reading, paired with today’s Gospel (Lk 6: 27-38): God gets to judge, not us. Whenever I feel pulled to take on that role, I must remember, as David did, that only God has the perfect vision to judge and to act on it. Resisting judgment does not mean we approve of sin. It is an invitation into deeper patience, a better understanding and mercy.

Jesus lived his lessons. Ask for his guidance and help in your walk with him today!

——Joe Kraemer, SJ, is a Jesuit scholastic of the Jesuits West Province currently finishing his second year of Regency in the Advancement Office in Los Gatos, California.

Prayer

O Sacred Heart of Jesus, fountain of eternal life,
your heart is a glowing furnace of love.

You are my refuge and my sanctuary.
Consume my heart with the burning fire
with which yours is inflamed.

Pour down on my soul those graces that
flow from your love.

Let my heart be united with yours.
Let my will be conformed to yours
in all things.

May your will be the rule of all my desires and actions.

Amen.

—St. Gertrude the Great

 


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February 23, 2019

St. Polycarp, Bishop and Martyr

Heb 11: 1-7

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.

By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain’s. Through this he received approval as righteous, God himself giving approval to his gifts; he died, but through his faith he still speaks. By faith Enoch was taken so that he did not experience death; and “he was not found, because God had taken him.” For it was attested before he was taken away that “he had pleased God.” And without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would approach him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

By faith Noah, warned by God about events as yet unseen, respected the warning and built an ark to save his household; by this he condemned the world and became an heir to the righteousness that is in accordance with faith.

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.

Faith even when we don’t see

In today’s reading, we are reminded that we do not have faith because of something that we have seen.  In today’s Mass, this reading is paired with Mark’s account of the Transfiguration when Jesus took Peter, James, and John up a mountain where he appeared with Moses and Elijah.  The disciples had an experience of Jesus that they perceived through their senses. Most of us don’t have that sort of experience. Our faith is “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen,” just like the faith of Abel, Enoch, and Noah.

But faith is not the same as random, blind belief.  We have encounters with the Living God every day, although sometimes it takes a bit to recognize them.  The Examen is a prayer tool that can help us see the movements of God in our lives. When we identify God’s invitations in our lives, we are able to set out in faith in that direction.

—The Jesuit Prayer team

Prayer

Daily Examen

Step 1: God, I believe at this quiet moment that I am in Your presence and You are now loving me.  Come Holy Spirit.

Step 2: God, I acknowledge your love for me in the various gifts for which I am very grateful. Thanks be to God.

Step 3: God, help me now to review the events of this day in order to recognize you in all parts of my life. Lord, I want to see.

Step 4: God, please forgive the times I have fallen short, and strengthen my attempts to follow you.  Lord have mercy.

Step 5: God, enlighten me so that my future choices praise, reverence, and serve You above all else. Show me Your way.

Conclude with an Our Father

—A Daily Examen, click here for a downloadable prayer card

 

 

 

 


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February 22, 2019

Chair of St. Peter

1 Peter 5:1-4

Now as an elder myself and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as one who shares in the glory to be revealed, I exhort the elders among you to tend the flock of God that is in your charge, exercising the oversight, not under compulsion but willingly, as God would have you do it—not for sordid gain but eagerly. Do not lord it over those in your charge, but be examples to the flock. And when the chief shepherd appears, you will win the crown of glory that never fades away.

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

Service to the Chief Shepherd

This reading from Peter’s first letter oozes with a spirit of humble service. Rather than emphasize his standing as the one singled out by Christ and given the “keys of the kingdom,” or even as one of the original Apostles, Peter numbers himself among the “presbyters” or “elders.” Their shepherding, Peter insists, must be seen as service to the Chief Shepherd: Christ.

How desperately our world needs to see Christian leaders known most of all for the resemblance between their service and the humble Christ they profess to serve. What if my words and actions are the closest that those around me will get to seeing the Chief Shepherd today? Am I doing a good job helping others see him?

—Mark McNeil is the assistant principal for formation at Strake Jesuit College Preparatory in Houston, Texas.

Prayer

Look into the eyes of the crucified Christ and ask him: What have I done for you? What am I doing for you? What ought I do for you?

—Modified from the Spiritual Exercises (paragraph 53).

 

 

 


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February 21, 2019

Mk 8:27-33

Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” And they answered him, “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.” And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.

Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

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

Who is Jesus to me?

What was it like for the first followers to make sense of Jesus’ identity and mission? In today’s Gospel, Jesus himself is curious to learn how people – including his own disciples – interpret his teaching and healing ministry.

Lifelong Christians may take for granted that Jesus is fully human and fully divine, the Son of God, the “Christ.” We know Jesus is more than a rabbi or prophet; He is the Incarnation of God Who-Is-Love, who reconciles the relationship between God and humanity.

But what would it be like to encounter Jesus without this theological framework already in place? What would it take to change our beliefs and what we imagine possible, as the disciples did? How do I answer Jesus’ question for myself: “Who do you say that I am?”

Everyone has a god; it is their center of value, what orders their decisions, habits, and relationships. Today, how can I look for ways to keep Jesus at the center of my life?

—Dr. Marcus Mescher is Assistant Professor of Christian Ethics at Xavier University in Cincinnati, and is a graduate of Marquette University High School, Marquette University, and Boston College.  

Prayer

Keep me safe, O God;
in you I take refuge.
I say to the LORD,
you are my Lord,
you are my only good.

I keep the LORD always before me;
with him at my right hand, I shall never be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad, my soul rejoices;
my body also dwells secure,
For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
nor let your devout one see the pit.

You will show me the path to life,
abounding joy in your presence,
the delights at your right hand forever.

—Ps 16: 1-2, 8-11

 


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February 20, 2019

Mk 8:22-26

They came to Bethsaida. Some people brought a blind man to him and begged him to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village; and when he had put saliva on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Can you see anything?”

And the man looked up and said, “I can see people, but they look like trees, walking.” Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he looked intently and his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. Then he sent him away to his home, saying, “Do not even go into the village.”

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 two-part miracle

In today’s reading, we see a man we know and love doing what we expect him to do. Seeing Jesus perform miracles time and time again, we grow closer to God through the gifts he gives – amazing gifts. Sight to the blind man of Bethsaida is no less impressive than other miracles, but something happens in the short passage that causes pause.

Jesus, in typical fashion, leads the man out of the village, spits in his hand, rubs the man’s eyes and poof! But the miracle is not yet complete. The man sees only partially and distorts what it is he can see.

With another pass, the man regains sight. Though there are likely many implications of the two-part miracle, consider focusing with me on patience. It was not Jesus’ lack of “power.” Perhaps Jesus taught us an additional lesson: faith and patience reveal wonders.

—Alan Ratermann is an English teacher and Director of Ignatian Service Programs at Rockhurst High School in Kansas City, Missouri.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, we are often impatient and want immediate results, whether it is finding out a test result, waiting for someone to text us back, or wanting an answer to a prayer.  Grant us patience to wait for your perfect time in all things, and peace and comfort in times of anxiety. Like the blind man of Bethsaida, may we be willing to wait for the fullness of your work in our lives to be revealed.  Amen.

—The Jesuit Prayer team

 

 

 


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February 19, 2019

Mk 8:14-21

Now the disciples had forgotten to bring any bread; and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. And he cautioned them, saying, “Watch out—beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod.” They said to one another, “It is because we have no bread.” And becoming aware of it, Jesus said to them, “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes, and fail to see? Do you have ears, and fail to hear?

And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?” They said to him, “Twelve.” “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?” And they said to him, “Seven.” Then he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?”

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.

Who do we imitate?

One of our first and most basic instincts is to imitate. Babies, for example, learn to clap their hands by imitation. My nephew learned to “mow the grass” with a toy lawnmower in imitation of his father. The reflex to imitate follows us our entire lives. It can affect what we do, how we dress, and even what we think.

This is exactly what Jesus is talking about in today’s Gospel. The things, people, and ideas that we surround ourselves with tend to affect us. Unless we are careful, we may find ourselves adopting some unhealthy examples.

There are many Herods and Pharisees for us to imitate. Only imitating Jesus, who is pure love, leads to life. His example feeds the hungry and results in seven and twelve baskets of abundance; numbers representing goodness and perfection.

God, help me to guard against bad examples. Let me be surrounded only by Christ.  What am I surrounding myself with every day? And is it affecting the way that I think, what I believe, and what I do? Do my words and actions serve as an example of Christ for others?

—Stephen Kramer, SJ, is a Jesuit deacon of the Central and Southern Province currently finishing his Master’s degree in Theology at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry.

Prayer

Prayer for Generosity

Lord, teach me to be generous,
to serve you 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 look for any reward,
save that of knowing that I do your holy will.

—St. Ignatius of Loyola

 


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Welcome to FaithCP

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February 28, 2019

Mk 9: 41-50

For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.

“If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire.

And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell, where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.

“For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”

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.

What causes me to “miss the mark”?

In today’s Gospel, Jesus offers pointed advice to his disciples, warning them about temptations to sin. Sin signifies more than breaking a rule or committing a forbidden act; in the New Testament the word for sin is often hamartia, a term used in archery for “missing the mark.” What does it mean to miss the mark in following Jesus? In the words of Fr. James Keenan, SJ, it means to “fail to bother to love.”

Jesus invites us to examine our lives to detect fixations or distractions that hold us back from bothering to love God, others, and our self. If we are to be the “salt of the earth” (Matt 5:13) and agents of spiritual wisdom in the world (Col 4:5-6), we cannot be complacent about the beliefs, habits, relationships, or structures that impede love.

Just in time for Lent—which begins next week—this is an opportunity to discern where my life needs purification. Purification is not just about self-denial; it’s about transformation to love more freely and fully. What keeps me from bothering to love God, others, and myself? What steps can I take to cut this out of my life? How can I help others free themselves, too?

—Dr. Marcus Mescher is Assistant Professor of Christian Ethics at Xavier University in Cincinnati, and is a graduate of Marquette University High School, Marquette University, and Boston College.  

Prayer

Good and gracious God, may we always be bothered to love you.  Let this love drive us to service of our neighbor, for your greater glory.  We ask this through Christ, our Lord.

—The Jesuit Prayer team

 

 

 

 

 


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February 27, 2019

Mk 9: 38-40

John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us.

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.

Those who are not against us are with us

Loyalty … or fear? When the apostle John witnesses another exorcist driving out demons, he responds in a way that reveals both his love for Jesus and his flawed understanding of God.

His affection and allegiance to Jesus drive him to protect Jesus’ name so as to not have falsehoods attributed to his friend. His loyalty demonstrates his friendship.

Why John wanted this man to stop might have more to do with his human understanding of faith than our desire to protect Him whom we love. By qualifying, “because he was not following us” highlights an exclusivity which we all desire, but which is often more selfish than a selfless act of protection.

In a world quick to divide, Jesus teaches us to avoid condemning others who are participating in His work – purifying souls.

—Alan Ratermann is an English teacher and Director of Ignatian Service Programs at Rockhurst High School in Kansas City, Missouri.

Prayer

Lord, help us recognize you in all holy people working to bring the Kingdom of God to Earth.

—Alan Ratermann

 

 

 


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February 26, 2019

Mk 9: 30-37

They went on from there and passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it; for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.” But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.

Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”

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.

What does it mean to fear the Lord?

The apostles “were afraid to question him.” Why? Why should the apostles be afraid of Jesus? And, is that supposed to be a good thing? Maybe.

There is a great quote from the ’90s movie First Night that can help us understand. King Arthur tells Lancelot, “A person who fears nothing is a person who loves nothing.” Basically, if you truly love someone, you will fear not being with them, disappointing them or losing them. That is the one good type of fear. It is a fear that drives us to be in union with, to serve, and to do right by the ones we love.

This is what we mean by “fear of the Lord.” We do not want to disappoint our Lord. If we love him, we do not want to do anything to be separated from him. And that is a good thing.

What or whom do I fear losing? Is that fear based on love? Do I fear disappointing or being separated from our Lord?

—Stephen Kramer, SJ, is a Jesuit deacon of the Central and Southern Province currently finishing his Master’s degree in Theology at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry.

Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ,
whom I love with all of my heart,
help me to never be afraid,
except to fear not loving you as I should.

—Steven Kramer, SJ

 


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February 25, 2019

Sir 1: 1-10

All wisdom is from the Lord,
and with him it remains forever.
The sand of the sea, the drops of rain,
and the days of eternity—who can count them?
The height of heaven, the breadth of the earth,
the abyss, and wisdom—who can search them out?

Wisdom was created before all other things,
and prudent understanding from eternity.
The root of wisdom—to whom has it been revealed?
Her subtleties—who knows them?
There is but one who is wise, greatly to be feared,
seated upon his throne—the Lord.

It is he who created her;
he saw her and took her measure;
he poured her out upon all his works,
upon all the living according to his gift;
he lavished her upon those who love 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.

God cares for me and so much more

In reading the Wisdom Literature of the Old Testament, we are invited into God’s knowledge and understanding of everything. I found beauty in the first reading from Sirach today as I considered the rhetorical questions the author posed in each stanza. I certainly do not and cannot grasp all of the things the author names, but I find relief in that. I can never know how many grains of sand there are on the seashore or where the root of wisdom lies; these things are out of my control and not my responsibility to comprehend. Faith comes in recognizing and trusting that God has all of these things numbered and that it is not my job to hold the entire universe together. God can account for all of this and keep it aligned. And still God cares for and loves me as part of this vast creation.

—Sara Spittler is the First Years Chaplain and a Religious Studies teacher at Saint Ignatius College Prep in Chicago.

Prayer

Lord God, you created the universe and everything in it.  Show me how to honor and care for the gifts of creation, while remembering that I am not you, and trusting that you care for it infinitely better than I can.  Increase my faith and remind me that I am always loved by you. Amen.

—The Jesuit Prayer team

 

 

 

 


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January 24, 2019

1 Sam 26: 2, 7-9, 12-13, 22-23

So Saul rose and went down to the Wilderness of Ziph, with three thousand chosen men of Israel, to seek David in the Wilderness of Ziph. So David and Abishai went to the army by night; there Saul lay sleeping within the encampment, with his spear stuck in the ground at his head; and Abner and the army lay around him. Abishai said to David, “God has given your enemy into your hand today; now therefore let me pin him to the ground with one stroke of the spear; I will not strike him twice.”

But David said to Abishai, “Do not destroy him; for who can raise his hand against the Lord’s anointed, and be guiltless?” So David took the spear that was at Saul’s head and the water jar, and they went away. No one saw it, or knew it, nor did anyone awake; for they were all asleep, because a deep sleep from the Lord had fallen upon them.

Then David went over to the other side, and stood on top of a hill far away, with a great distance between them. David replied, “Here is the spear, O king! Let one of the young men come over and get it. The Lord rewards everyone for his righteousness and his faithfulness; for the  you into my hand today, but I would not raise my hand against the Lord’s anointed.

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.

Obeying God’s Truths

I took an Old Testament class in grad school I liked very much. We had a passionate teacher with a gift for bringing colorful stories like King David’s to life. But it felt strange to approach my Bible for the first time as assigned reading and not as a tool for worship.

Adam Gopnik considered these feelings in The New Yorker recently. He wrote that when we open sacred texts, “We forget at our peril that, through most of their history, these have been not books, to be appreciated, but truths, to be obeyed.” In other words, it’s fine to take a reader’s pleasure in King David’s adventures, but our call as believers is to find and pray with lasting truths. Some aren’t easy to live by!

We have a challenging faith lesson in this reading, paired with today’s Gospel (Lk 6: 27-38): God gets to judge, not us. Whenever I feel pulled to take on that role, I must remember, as David did, that only God has the perfect vision to judge and to act on it. Resisting judgment does not mean we approve of sin. It is an invitation into deeper patience, a better understanding and mercy.

Jesus lived his lessons. Ask for his guidance and help in your walk with him today!

——Joe Kraemer, SJ, is a Jesuit scholastic of the Jesuits West Province currently finishing his second year of Regency in the Advancement Office in Los Gatos, California.

Prayer

O Sacred Heart of Jesus, fountain of eternal life,
your heart is a glowing furnace of love.

You are my refuge and my sanctuary.
Consume my heart with the burning fire
with which yours is inflamed.

Pour down on my soul those graces that
flow from your love.

Let my heart be united with yours.
Let my will be conformed to yours
in all things.

May your will be the rule of all my desires and actions.

Amen.

—St. Gertrude the Great

 


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February 23, 2019

St. Polycarp, Bishop and Martyr

Heb 11: 1-7

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.

By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain’s. Through this he received approval as righteous, God himself giving approval to his gifts; he died, but through his faith he still speaks. By faith Enoch was taken so that he did not experience death; and “he was not found, because God had taken him.” For it was attested before he was taken away that “he had pleased God.” And without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would approach him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

By faith Noah, warned by God about events as yet unseen, respected the warning and built an ark to save his household; by this he condemned the world and became an heir to the righteousness that is in accordance with faith.

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.

Faith even when we don’t see

In today’s reading, we are reminded that we do not have faith because of something that we have seen.  In today’s Mass, this reading is paired with Mark’s account of the Transfiguration when Jesus took Peter, James, and John up a mountain where he appeared with Moses and Elijah.  The disciples had an experience of Jesus that they perceived through their senses. Most of us don’t have that sort of experience. Our faith is “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen,” just like the faith of Abel, Enoch, and Noah.

But faith is not the same as random, blind belief.  We have encounters with the Living God every day, although sometimes it takes a bit to recognize them.  The Examen is a prayer tool that can help us see the movements of God in our lives. When we identify God’s invitations in our lives, we are able to set out in faith in that direction.

—The Jesuit Prayer team

Prayer

Daily Examen

Step 1: God, I believe at this quiet moment that I am in Your presence and You are now loving me.  Come Holy Spirit.

Step 2: God, I acknowledge your love for me in the various gifts for which I am very grateful. Thanks be to God.

Step 3: God, help me now to review the events of this day in order to recognize you in all parts of my life. Lord, I want to see.

Step 4: God, please forgive the times I have fallen short, and strengthen my attempts to follow you.  Lord have mercy.

Step 5: God, enlighten me so that my future choices praise, reverence, and serve You above all else. Show me Your way.

Conclude with an Our Father

—A Daily Examen, click here for a downloadable prayer card

 

 

 

 


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February 22, 2019

Chair of St. Peter

1 Peter 5:1-4

Now as an elder myself and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as one who shares in the glory to be revealed, I exhort the elders among you to tend the flock of God that is in your charge, exercising the oversight, not under compulsion but willingly, as God would have you do it—not for sordid gain but eagerly. Do not lord it over those in your charge, but be examples to the flock. And when the chief shepherd appears, you will win the crown of glory that never fades away.

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

Service to the Chief Shepherd

This reading from Peter’s first letter oozes with a spirit of humble service. Rather than emphasize his standing as the one singled out by Christ and given the “keys of the kingdom,” or even as one of the original Apostles, Peter numbers himself among the “presbyters” or “elders.” Their shepherding, Peter insists, must be seen as service to the Chief Shepherd: Christ.

How desperately our world needs to see Christian leaders known most of all for the resemblance between their service and the humble Christ they profess to serve. What if my words and actions are the closest that those around me will get to seeing the Chief Shepherd today? Am I doing a good job helping others see him?

—Mark McNeil is the assistant principal for formation at Strake Jesuit College Preparatory in Houston, Texas.

Prayer

Look into the eyes of the crucified Christ and ask him: What have I done for you? What am I doing for you? What ought I do for you?

—Modified from the Spiritual Exercises (paragraph 53).

 

 

 


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February 21, 2019

Mk 8:27-33

Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” And they answered him, “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.” And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.

Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

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

Who is Jesus to me?

What was it like for the first followers to make sense of Jesus’ identity and mission? In today’s Gospel, Jesus himself is curious to learn how people – including his own disciples – interpret his teaching and healing ministry.

Lifelong Christians may take for granted that Jesus is fully human and fully divine, the Son of God, the “Christ.” We know Jesus is more than a rabbi or prophet; He is the Incarnation of God Who-Is-Love, who reconciles the relationship between God and humanity.

But what would it be like to encounter Jesus without this theological framework already in place? What would it take to change our beliefs and what we imagine possible, as the disciples did? How do I answer Jesus’ question for myself: “Who do you say that I am?”

Everyone has a god; it is their center of value, what orders their decisions, habits, and relationships. Today, how can I look for ways to keep Jesus at the center of my life?

—Dr. Marcus Mescher is Assistant Professor of Christian Ethics at Xavier University in Cincinnati, and is a graduate of Marquette University High School, Marquette University, and Boston College.  

Prayer

Keep me safe, O God;
in you I take refuge.
I say to the LORD,
you are my Lord,
you are my only good.

I keep the LORD always before me;
with him at my right hand, I shall never be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad, my soul rejoices;
my body also dwells secure,
For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
nor let your devout one see the pit.

You will show me the path to life,
abounding joy in your presence,
the delights at your right hand forever.

—Ps 16: 1-2, 8-11

 


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February 20, 2019

Mk 8:22-26

They came to Bethsaida. Some people brought a blind man to him and begged him to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village; and when he had put saliva on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Can you see anything?”

And the man looked up and said, “I can see people, but they look like trees, walking.” Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he looked intently and his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. Then he sent him away to his home, saying, “Do not even go into the village.”

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 two-part miracle

In today’s reading, we see a man we know and love doing what we expect him to do. Seeing Jesus perform miracles time and time again, we grow closer to God through the gifts he gives – amazing gifts. Sight to the blind man of Bethsaida is no less impressive than other miracles, but something happens in the short passage that causes pause.

Jesus, in typical fashion, leads the man out of the village, spits in his hand, rubs the man’s eyes and poof! But the miracle is not yet complete. The man sees only partially and distorts what it is he can see.

With another pass, the man regains sight. Though there are likely many implications of the two-part miracle, consider focusing with me on patience. It was not Jesus’ lack of “power.” Perhaps Jesus taught us an additional lesson: faith and patience reveal wonders.

—Alan Ratermann is an English teacher and Director of Ignatian Service Programs at Rockhurst High School in Kansas City, Missouri.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, we are often impatient and want immediate results, whether it is finding out a test result, waiting for someone to text us back, or wanting an answer to a prayer.  Grant us patience to wait for your perfect time in all things, and peace and comfort in times of anxiety. Like the blind man of Bethsaida, may we be willing to wait for the fullness of your work in our lives to be revealed.  Amen.

—The Jesuit Prayer team

 

 

 


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February 19, 2019

Mk 8:14-21

Now the disciples had forgotten to bring any bread; and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. And he cautioned them, saying, “Watch out—beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod.” They said to one another, “It is because we have no bread.” And becoming aware of it, Jesus said to them, “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes, and fail to see? Do you have ears, and fail to hear?

And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?” They said to him, “Twelve.” “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?” And they said to him, “Seven.” Then he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?”

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.

Who do we imitate?

One of our first and most basic instincts is to imitate. Babies, for example, learn to clap their hands by imitation. My nephew learned to “mow the grass” with a toy lawnmower in imitation of his father. The reflex to imitate follows us our entire lives. It can affect what we do, how we dress, and even what we think.

This is exactly what Jesus is talking about in today’s Gospel. The things, people, and ideas that we surround ourselves with tend to affect us. Unless we are careful, we may find ourselves adopting some unhealthy examples.

There are many Herods and Pharisees for us to imitate. Only imitating Jesus, who is pure love, leads to life. His example feeds the hungry and results in seven and twelve baskets of abundance; numbers representing goodness and perfection.

God, help me to guard against bad examples. Let me be surrounded only by Christ.  What am I surrounding myself with every day? And is it affecting the way that I think, what I believe, and what I do? Do my words and actions serve as an example of Christ for others?

—Stephen Kramer, SJ, is a Jesuit deacon of the Central and Southern Province currently finishing his Master’s degree in Theology at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry.

Prayer

Prayer for Generosity

Lord, teach me to be generous,
to serve you 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 look for any reward,
save that of knowing that I do your holy will.

—St. Ignatius of Loyola

 


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