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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February 18, 2019

Mk 8:11-13

The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, asking him for a sign from heaven, to test him. And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to this generation.” And he left them, and getting into the boat again, he went across to the other side.

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.

Even Jesus got frustrated

Despite the short reading, there is plenty to be said about Christ and our relationship with him in today’s Gospel. Passages that show Jesus’ emotions reveal to us the very human side of God. When the Pharisees asked Christ to yet again prove himself, Jesus was resigned to the fact that nothing he did would be enough for them. Their hard-hearted nature prevented them from understanding the countless signs Christ had already provided; one more miracle, one more explanation would not change their minds. This passage reminds me that frustration is a human emotion, one which we must know how to address within ourselves. Jesus retreated from a frustrating situation, aware of his own needs in the moment. As a high school teacher, I resonate with Christ’s profound sigh, “deeply from his spirit.” Jesus’s self-awareness in this Gospel story encourages me to listen to my own emotions in frustrating situations.

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

Prayer

Lord Jesus, you know our emotions because you experienced them, and you understand the frustration we feel at times.  Grant us patience, with ourselves and with others, and help us to know the right way to act when we encounter those to test our limits.  May we use these encounters as opportunities to grow closer to you. Amen.

—The Jesuit Prayer team

 


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February 17, 2019

Lk 6:17, 20-26

He came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon.

Then he looked up at his disciples and said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. “Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.

“But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. “Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry. “Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep. “Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.

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 Voice of Jesus

The Oscars are next Sunday! I love the Academy Awards. They give us a chance to recall the outstanding films of last year. My favorite was a documentary called “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” It’s a moving portrait of the television personality Fred Rogers, who inspired generations of children, like me, with his imagination and compassion for others.

“Mister Rogers” was my first encounter with a truly Christ-like teacher. A recent critic noticed how he moved us, gently and liturgically, through his home. Each episode included an “opening greeting, invocations of friends and family, followed by a physical movement through the set’s spaces. In the kitchen, Rogers might learn from a friend how to make paper hats. He concluded where he started, changing back into street clothes and singing a dismissal, with a last spoken note on the value of caring for others, followed by a song.”

This film reminded me how grateful I am for early faith teachers like Fred Rogers. He helped me to feel what the warm welcome, friendly smile and kind voice of Christ might have been like. I use all that to imagine Jesus speaking today’s Sermon on the Plain, the sum of his ethical teachings. We’re told in John 7:46, “No man ever spoke like this Man!”

How might the voice of Jesus have sounded to our ears had we stood with him on that “level place” long ago? Try to imagine him speaking the words to you that Fred Rogers often sang for his audience at home: “It’s you I like!”

—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

It’s you I like,
It’s not the things you wear,
It’s not the way you do your hair
But it’s you I like
The way you are right now,
The way down deep inside you
Not the things that hide you,
Not your toys
They’re just beside you.
But it’s you I like
Every part of you.
Your skin, your eyes, your feelings
Whether old or new.
I hope that you’ll remember
Even when you’re feeling blue
That it’s you I like,
It’s you yourself
It’s you.
It’s you I like.

—Written by Fred M. Rogers, 1971

 


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February 16, 2019

Mk 8:1-10

In those days when there was again a great crowd without anything to eat, he called his disciples and said to them, “I have compassion for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way—and some of them have come from a great distance.” His disciples replied, “How can one feed these people with bread here in the desert?” He asked them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven.”

Then he ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground; and he took the seven loaves, and after giving thanks he broke them and gave them to his disciples to distribute; and they distributed them to the crowd. They had also a few small fish; and after blessing them, he ordered that these too should be distributed.

They ate and were filled; and they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. Now there were about four thousand people. And he sent them away. And immediately he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the district of Dalmanutha.

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.

Meeting our needs

In the New American Bible translation of today’s Gospel that we hear at Mass, the disciples’ question is translated “where can anyone get enough bread to satisfy them in this deserted place?”  Basically, in a place that seems devoid of nourishment, how can we find what we need?

While the disciples are speaking literally, this is also a question we may ask ourselves when it comes to our own prayer and spiritual lives.  Even St. Teresa of Calcutta, someone we think of as having a rich interior spiritual life, struggled to see God at times. In our world that can sometimes seem devoid of kindness and compassion, it can be easy to miss God’s presence.  But just as the physical needs of the 4,000 were met by Jesus, so too can our need for a deeper connection to Christ be met simply by making our needs known.

What is a need in your heart that you can bring to prayer today?

—The Jesuit Prayer team

Prayer

Jesus, hear my prayer. If this pleases you, if my pain and suffering, my darkness and separation gives you a drop of consolation, my own Jesus do with me as you wish, as long as you wish, without a single glance at my feelings and pain. I am your own. Imprint on my soul and life the sufferings of your heart. Don’t mind my feelings; don’t mind even my pain, if my suffering separation from you brings others to you, and in their love and company you find joy and pleasure.

—St. Teresa of Calcutta in a letter to Jesus, from Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light

 


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February 15, 2019

St Claude de la Colombière, SJ

Mk 7:31-37

Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.”

And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. They were astounded beyond measure, saying, “He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.”

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 is our faith based on?

I find it interesting how often Jesus orders people not to tell anyone about the miracles he has performed.  Generally, they don’t listen and instead proclaim the news far and wide. I have to wonder why he doesn’t want the word to get out.  News like that would – and did – draw people to him in droves, and wasn’t that a good thing? But perhaps he didn’t want people to believe in him solely on the basis of the miracles he performed.  There is more to faith than that, especially the faith that Jesus invites us to. The Kingdom of God that Jesus preached and lived is about how we love one another, not about what our God can do for us.

This then begs the question – what do we base our faith on?  On what God can do for us? Whether or not our prayers are answered?  Or is our faith grounded in something deeper, such as our love for God and for one another and our identity as God’s children?

—Mandy Dillon is a Retreat Coordinator at Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House in Barrington, IL.

Prayer

Nothing is more practical than
finding God, than
falling in Love
in a quite absolute, final way.
What you are in love with,
what seizes your imagination, will affect everything.
It will decide
what will get you out of bed in the morning,
what you do with your evenings,
how you spend your weekends,
what you read, whom you know,
what breaks your heart,
and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in Love, stay in love,
and it will decide everything.

—Attributed to Pedro Arrupe, SJ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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February 14, 2019

Sts. Cyril and Methodius

Mk 7:24-30

From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet.

Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” But she answered him, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Then he said to her, “For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.” So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

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.

Asking for your deepest desire

Using your imagination – you can see Jesus in this house where he’s gone for a little escape. But even here in Tyre, land of Gentiles, his fame draws people to him. The Syrophoenician woman who enters is daring. She dares to be alone with Jesus, a Jew and a man. She dares to ask him for help when he has hidden himself away. And she is the only person we know of who wins an argument with him. Jesus is surprised, impressed. Perhaps he laughs with pleasure at her repartee. But her focus is on her daughter, and Jesus heals the child.

Place yourself in the scene, in all its vivid detail. Perhaps you take the place of the woman, asking Jesus for your deepest desire. How does he respond?

Spend a few moments in conversation with Jesus – listening as well as talking.

—Catherine Heinhold is the Pastoral Assistant for Ignatian Programming at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Washington, D.C. where she facilitates prayer programs and the Young Adult Community.

Prayer

Lord, help me to see where I can be more daring in my faith – and where I might need to be open to changing my mind. Amen.

—Catherine Heinhold

 

 

 

 

 


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Feburary 13, 2019

Gen 2:4b-9, 15-17

These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created.

In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no one to till the ground; but a stream would rise from the earth, and water the whole face of the ground— then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground,and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being.

And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed. Out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.’

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.

Caring for God’s Creation

In today’s first reading we are given a tremendous responsibility and a tremendous gift. The responsibility is tilling and keeping God’s creation. The gift is freedom to interact with that creation as we see fit. It’s our choice how we want to coexist with the physical world in which we live.

On World Environment Day, Pope Francis challenged us. “… this task entrusted to us by God the Creator requires us to grasp the rhythm and logic of creation. But we are often driven by pride of domination, of possessions, manipulation, of exploitation; we do not ‘care’ for it, we do not respect it, we do not consider it as a free gift that we must care for.”

A free gift that calls us to be stewards of our earth. Living as Adam and Eve did before the fall, in harmony with nature, enjoying the fruits so abundantly provided. Tilling and keeping creation so all who inhabit this planet might enjoy this abundance.

In my own way, how do I till and keep creation?

—Tom Drexler is the Executive Director of the Ignatian Spirituality Project, a ministry providing Ignatian retreats to men and women experiencing homelessness.

Prayer

Praised be my Lord God with all creatures;
and especially our brother the sun,
which brings us the day, and the light;
fair is he, and shining with a very great splendor:
O Lord, he signifies you to us!
Praised be my Lord for our sister the moon,
and for the stars,
which God has set clear and lovely in heaven.

—Excerpt from Canticle of the Sun by St. Francis of Assisi

 

 

 


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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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February 18, 2019

Mk 8:11-13

The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, asking him for a sign from heaven, to test him. And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to this generation.” And he left them, and getting into the boat again, he went across to the other side.

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.

Even Jesus got frustrated

Despite the short reading, there is plenty to be said about Christ and our relationship with him in today’s Gospel. Passages that show Jesus’ emotions reveal to us the very human side of God. When the Pharisees asked Christ to yet again prove himself, Jesus was resigned to the fact that nothing he did would be enough for them. Their hard-hearted nature prevented them from understanding the countless signs Christ had already provided; one more miracle, one more explanation would not change their minds. This passage reminds me that frustration is a human emotion, one which we must know how to address within ourselves. Jesus retreated from a frustrating situation, aware of his own needs in the moment. As a high school teacher, I resonate with Christ’s profound sigh, “deeply from his spirit.” Jesus’s self-awareness in this Gospel story encourages me to listen to my own emotions in frustrating situations.

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

Prayer

Lord Jesus, you know our emotions because you experienced them, and you understand the frustration we feel at times.  Grant us patience, with ourselves and with others, and help us to know the right way to act when we encounter those to test our limits.  May we use these encounters as opportunities to grow closer to you. Amen.

—The Jesuit Prayer team

 


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February 17, 2019

Lk 6:17, 20-26

He came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon.

Then he looked up at his disciples and said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. “Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.

“But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. “Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry. “Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep. “Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.

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 Voice of Jesus

The Oscars are next Sunday! I love the Academy Awards. They give us a chance to recall the outstanding films of last year. My favorite was a documentary called “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” It’s a moving portrait of the television personality Fred Rogers, who inspired generations of children, like me, with his imagination and compassion for others.

“Mister Rogers” was my first encounter with a truly Christ-like teacher. A recent critic noticed how he moved us, gently and liturgically, through his home. Each episode included an “opening greeting, invocations of friends and family, followed by a physical movement through the set’s spaces. In the kitchen, Rogers might learn from a friend how to make paper hats. He concluded where he started, changing back into street clothes and singing a dismissal, with a last spoken note on the value of caring for others, followed by a song.”

This film reminded me how grateful I am for early faith teachers like Fred Rogers. He helped me to feel what the warm welcome, friendly smile and kind voice of Christ might have been like. I use all that to imagine Jesus speaking today’s Sermon on the Plain, the sum of his ethical teachings. We’re told in John 7:46, “No man ever spoke like this Man!”

How might the voice of Jesus have sounded to our ears had we stood with him on that “level place” long ago? Try to imagine him speaking the words to you that Fred Rogers often sang for his audience at home: “It’s you I like!”

—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

It’s you I like,
It’s not the things you wear,
It’s not the way you do your hair
But it’s you I like
The way you are right now,
The way down deep inside you
Not the things that hide you,
Not your toys
They’re just beside you.
But it’s you I like
Every part of you.
Your skin, your eyes, your feelings
Whether old or new.
I hope that you’ll remember
Even when you’re feeling blue
That it’s you I like,
It’s you yourself
It’s you.
It’s you I like.

—Written by Fred M. Rogers, 1971

 


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February 16, 2019

Mk 8:1-10

In those days when there was again a great crowd without anything to eat, he called his disciples and said to them, “I have compassion for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way—and some of them have come from a great distance.” His disciples replied, “How can one feed these people with bread here in the desert?” He asked them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven.”

Then he ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground; and he took the seven loaves, and after giving thanks he broke them and gave them to his disciples to distribute; and they distributed them to the crowd. They had also a few small fish; and after blessing them, he ordered that these too should be distributed.

They ate and were filled; and they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. Now there were about four thousand people. And he sent them away. And immediately he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the district of Dalmanutha.

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.

Meeting our needs

In the New American Bible translation of today’s Gospel that we hear at Mass, the disciples’ question is translated “where can anyone get enough bread to satisfy them in this deserted place?”  Basically, in a place that seems devoid of nourishment, how can we find what we need?

While the disciples are speaking literally, this is also a question we may ask ourselves when it comes to our own prayer and spiritual lives.  Even St. Teresa of Calcutta, someone we think of as having a rich interior spiritual life, struggled to see God at times. In our world that can sometimes seem devoid of kindness and compassion, it can be easy to miss God’s presence.  But just as the physical needs of the 4,000 were met by Jesus, so too can our need for a deeper connection to Christ be met simply by making our needs known.

What is a need in your heart that you can bring to prayer today?

—The Jesuit Prayer team

Prayer

Jesus, hear my prayer. If this pleases you, if my pain and suffering, my darkness and separation gives you a drop of consolation, my own Jesus do with me as you wish, as long as you wish, without a single glance at my feelings and pain. I am your own. Imprint on my soul and life the sufferings of your heart. Don’t mind my feelings; don’t mind even my pain, if my suffering separation from you brings others to you, and in their love and company you find joy and pleasure.

—St. Teresa of Calcutta in a letter to Jesus, from Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light

 


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February 15, 2019

St Claude de la Colombière, SJ

Mk 7:31-37

Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.”

And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. They were astounded beyond measure, saying, “He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.”

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 is our faith based on?

I find it interesting how often Jesus orders people not to tell anyone about the miracles he has performed.  Generally, they don’t listen and instead proclaim the news far and wide. I have to wonder why he doesn’t want the word to get out.  News like that would – and did – draw people to him in droves, and wasn’t that a good thing? But perhaps he didn’t want people to believe in him solely on the basis of the miracles he performed.  There is more to faith than that, especially the faith that Jesus invites us to. The Kingdom of God that Jesus preached and lived is about how we love one another, not about what our God can do for us.

This then begs the question – what do we base our faith on?  On what God can do for us? Whether or not our prayers are answered?  Or is our faith grounded in something deeper, such as our love for God and for one another and our identity as God’s children?

—Mandy Dillon is a Retreat Coordinator at Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House in Barrington, IL.

Prayer

Nothing is more practical than
finding God, than
falling in Love
in a quite absolute, final way.
What you are in love with,
what seizes your imagination, will affect everything.
It will decide
what will get you out of bed in the morning,
what you do with your evenings,
how you spend your weekends,
what you read, whom you know,
what breaks your heart,
and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in Love, stay in love,
and it will decide everything.

—Attributed to Pedro Arrupe, SJ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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February 14, 2019

Sts. Cyril and Methodius

Mk 7:24-30

From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet.

Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” But she answered him, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Then he said to her, “For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.” So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

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.

Asking for your deepest desire

Using your imagination – you can see Jesus in this house where he’s gone for a little escape. But even here in Tyre, land of Gentiles, his fame draws people to him. The Syrophoenician woman who enters is daring. She dares to be alone with Jesus, a Jew and a man. She dares to ask him for help when he has hidden himself away. And she is the only person we know of who wins an argument with him. Jesus is surprised, impressed. Perhaps he laughs with pleasure at her repartee. But her focus is on her daughter, and Jesus heals the child.

Place yourself in the scene, in all its vivid detail. Perhaps you take the place of the woman, asking Jesus for your deepest desire. How does he respond?

Spend a few moments in conversation with Jesus – listening as well as talking.

—Catherine Heinhold is the Pastoral Assistant for Ignatian Programming at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Washington, D.C. where she facilitates prayer programs and the Young Adult Community.

Prayer

Lord, help me to see where I can be more daring in my faith – and where I might need to be open to changing my mind. Amen.

—Catherine Heinhold

 

 

 

 

 


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Feburary 13, 2019

Gen 2:4b-9, 15-17

These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created.

In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no one to till the ground; but a stream would rise from the earth, and water the whole face of the ground— then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground,and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being.

And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed. Out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.’

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.

Caring for God’s Creation

In today’s first reading we are given a tremendous responsibility and a tremendous gift. The responsibility is tilling and keeping God’s creation. The gift is freedom to interact with that creation as we see fit. It’s our choice how we want to coexist with the physical world in which we live.

On World Environment Day, Pope Francis challenged us. “… this task entrusted to us by God the Creator requires us to grasp the rhythm and logic of creation. But we are often driven by pride of domination, of possessions, manipulation, of exploitation; we do not ‘care’ for it, we do not respect it, we do not consider it as a free gift that we must care for.”

A free gift that calls us to be stewards of our earth. Living as Adam and Eve did before the fall, in harmony with nature, enjoying the fruits so abundantly provided. Tilling and keeping creation so all who inhabit this planet might enjoy this abundance.

In my own way, how do I till and keep creation?

—Tom Drexler is the Executive Director of the Ignatian Spirituality Project, a ministry providing Ignatian retreats to men and women experiencing homelessness.

Prayer

Praised be my Lord God with all creatures;
and especially our brother the sun,
which brings us the day, and the light;
fair is he, and shining with a very great splendor:
O Lord, he signifies you to us!
Praised be my Lord for our sister the moon,
and for the stars,
which God has set clear and lovely in heaven.

—Excerpt from Canticle of the Sun by St. Francis of Assisi

 

 

 


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