July 24, 2019

Mt 13: 1-9

That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away.

Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!”

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.

I wonder…

I have been a Youth Worship leader at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church for 14 years (fun fact – I married Presbyterian clergy.)

Today’s Gospel is a favorite of the group.  Telling the story involves acting out the passage with play figures and asking “I wonder” questions.  The adult asks, “I wonder… who is the sower?” “Jesus!” they all answer. It’s a Bible story, after all.  But then we go a little deeper and we wonder what the seeds might represent. Littler ones stay concrete – actual seeds.  But older children might bring up that *seeds* are gifts from God like love, generosity, or mercy. Every now and then, a particularly insightful child even wonders if the seeds are ideas for action.

For me, I wonder…  Am I offering rocky ground or rich soil to offered gifts? Where are the thorns in my response to Jesus? Where do my roots run deep, and what fruit will they bear? 

For me, it’s a story ripe for discernment. Hmmmm…. I wonder…

Jen LaMaster is an Assistant Principal at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in Indianapolis, IN.

Prayer

Your Heart Today

Where there is fear I can allay,
Where there is pain I can heal,
Where there are wounds I can bind,
And hunger I can fill:
Lord, grant me courage,
Lord, grant me strength,
Grant me compassion
That I may be your heart today.

Where there is hate I can confront,
Where there are yokes I can release,
Where there are captives I can free
And anger I can appease:
Lord, grant me courage,
Lord, grant me strength,
Grant me compassion
That I may be your heart today.

When comes the day I dread
To see our broken world,
Protect me from myself grown cold
That your people I may behold.
And when I’ve done all that I could,
Yet, there are hearts I cannot move,
Lord, give me hope,
That I may be your heart today.

—Fr. Manoling Francisco, SJ


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July 23, 2019

St. Bridget

Mt 12: 46-50

While he was still speaking to the crowds, his mother and his brothers were standing outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, “Look, your mother and your brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.” But to the one who had told him this, Jesus replied, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 

And pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

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

Seeking to do the will of the Father

It would be easy to interpret Jesus as slighting Mary in today’s Gospel. She shows up to see him in his traveling ministry and, when he is informed that his family has come, Jesus calls into question who he should consider his family. In that moment, we are given the chance to be counted among Christ’s brothers and sisters and mother while Mary’s role seems to be downplayed. Yet Mary is the mother of Christ precisely because she preceded all of us in seeking wholeheartedly to do the will of the Father. Even in this passage, she continues to follow Jesus and seek chances to draw near to him.

Do I truly wish to follow Jesus that closely and that persistently? Am I really willing to wholeheartedly make God’s will the center of my life? How deeply do I want to be Jesus’ sister or brother today?

Nick Courtney, SJ, is a Jesuit scholastic from the USA Central and Southern Province currently working at Strake Jesuit College Preparatory in Houston, TX, where he teaches history and coaches football.

Prayer

Jesus, help me to listen for the will of the Father today. Grant me the grace to do that will as generously and as humbly as your mother. Give me the courage to live as one of your family. Amen.

—Nick Courtney, SJ


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July 22, 2019

St. Mary Magdalen

Jn 20: 1-2, 11-18

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.”

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

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

Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 

Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

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

Falling in love with our neighbor

“Stop holding onto me – go tell the others,” says Jesus to Mary Magdalene.  In this we hear echoes of Jesus’ new commandment from earlier in John’s Gospel: Love one another as I have loved you.   As opposed to many of the world’s former religions which focused on sacrifice to appease an angry God, Jesus reoriented religion to focus upon love of neighbor which, in this case, required Mary to run to disciples rather than dropping to her knees to worship Jesus.  Loving Jesus equals loving others.

Dean Brackley, SJ, who worked at the University of Central America and passionately advocated for social justice, shared the following about what happens to affluent North Americans when they journey to El Salvador: “They feel a little confused–again–like the disorientation of falling in love. In fact, that is what is happening, a kind of falling in love.”

It’s time to fall in love again, with Jesus and with the poor who hold a privileged place in his heart.  What can I do today to put myself in a position where I might experience and respond to the confusing and disorienting experience of falling in love?

Bill Kriege serves as the director of campus ministry at Rockhurst University in Kansas City, MO.

Prayer

Dear God, help us to fall in love, stay in love, for we know that it will decide everything.

—Modified by Bill Kriege from Pedro Arrupe’s Fall in Love


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July 21, 2019

Gn 18: 1-10a

The Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day. He looked up and saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground. He said, “My lord, if I find favor with you, do not pass by your servant. Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. Let me bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on—since you have come to your servant.” 

So they said, “Do as you have said.” And Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah, and said, “Make ready quickly three measures of choice flour, knead it, and make cakes.” Abraham ran to the herd, and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to the servant, who hastened to prepare it.Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree while they ate.

They said to him, “Where is your wife Sarah?” And he said, “There, in the tent.” Then one said, “I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent entrance behind 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.

For others 

While teaching Hebrew Scriptures at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Chicago, this favorite passage reinforced what it means to be a Christian people, to be men and women for others.

The word ‘for’ serves as a function word, linking men and women to others. In its ambiguity, we may wonder what it means to be ‘for’ someone else…

Abraham rushed to the three strangers…and begged them to stay.

The root of hospitality is being hospitable, hosting others. From the simple, water to wash their feet, to the succulent, a tender and good calf, Abraham took good care of the strangers.

We note that Abraham does not wash the feet of the strangers nor does he eat with them. He simply does for them.

Out of their generosity, the promise found fulfillment: Sarah would bear a son!

How are we called to be for others today?

Fr. Mark Luedtke, SJ, has completed his term as president of Loyola High School in Detroit and will soon leave for his tertianship experience in Cape Town, South Africa

Prayer

Lord Jesus, help us hear your call to host others, the stranger, the marginalized, the neglected, with our very best selves and our very best portion. And, in doing our very best, open our hearts to all you have promised us – your love and your grace – for those are enough for me. Amen.

—Fr. Mark Luedtke, SJ


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July 20, 2019

Mt 12: 14-21

But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him. When Jesus became aware of this, he departed. Many crowds followed him, and he cured all of them, and he ordered them not to make him known. This was to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah: “Here is my servant, whom I have chosen, my beloved, with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles. He will not wrangle or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets. He will not break a bruised reed or quench a smoldering wick until he brings justice to victory. And in his name the Gentiles will hope.”

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.

Model of a servant leader

Some people exude moral force.  That is, they live such a transparently principled life that they inspire others to grow in virtue.

Often, though, these same people are so strident that they alienate their peers before they might inspire them, weakening the effect they might have on the world.

An antidote to this dilemma is to pray for the grace to become like the object of Isaiah’s servant song quoted in today’s Gospel.  The finest leaders that I know are cast in this mold.

The fulfillment and ultimate exemplar of the servant song is the person of Jesus.  Spending time with Jesus and asking for this grace that we seek can shape us into this model of servant leaders.

Paul Mitchell is a Jesuit educator who has stepped out of the classroom into full-time care of his two young sons. He is the author of Audacious Ignatius.

Prayer

Will you let me be your servant,
let me be as Christ to you;
Pray that I might have the grace
to let you be my servant too.

We are pilgrims on the journey,
we are travellers on the road;
We are here to help each other
walk the mile and bear the load

—Lyrics of The Servant Song, words by Richard Gilliard, © 1977 Scripture in Song


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July 19, 2019

Mt 12: 1-8

At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the sabbath; his disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. When the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the sabbath.” He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him or his companions to eat, but only for the priests. 

Or have you not read in the law that on the sabbath the priests in the temple break the sabbath and yet are guiltless? I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the sabbath.”

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.

Putting the Lord ahead of the law

Golf, football games, family dinners, and yard-work would all be prohibited on the Sabbath according to Jewish law. It seems Jesus frequently ran afoul of the Sabbath regulations, healing withered hands, curing the crippled and now, snacking on grain. Is it really unreasonable for the Pharisees to challenge him on these violations of the law? This one comes from the Ten Commandments after all.

I think Jesus is teaching the Pharisees and reminding us about priorities. Is it good to obey the laws? Yes. Is it good to attend to someone who is “greater than the temple?” Yes. Which is better? I hear the Lord of the Sabbath warning me again about false idols and inordinate attachments. Nothing, not even the best of laws, should displace Christ as the center of my life.

—Jerry Skoch is a Spiritual Director and Vice President & Chief Mission Officer at Saint Ignatius High School in Cleveland, OH.

Prayer

Dear Lord,
Help me to recognize your voice,
to see you in the people and daily miracles that surround me.
Amidst the daily swirl of tasks and commitments please stay as my center and core.

—Jerry Skoch


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July 18, 2019

Mt 11: 28-30

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

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

Letting go of our burdens

In late May, the World Health Organization redefined burnout – as a syndrome of chronic stress at work. Yikes! In today’s Gospel, Jesus instructs us: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” In 2019, it’s easy to find yourself “burdened” – whether by work, your personal life, or another reason. Today, my question is simple: How often do you seek out Jesus as a source of comfort, rest, and refreshment when you feel weighed down? How can you begin to practice this so you “will find rest for your souls?”

—Mikayla Lofton is the Grants Program Manager for the Cristo Rey Network and was a Jesuit Volunteer in Atlanta (‘15-’16).

Prayer

More than ever I find myself in the hands of God.
This is what I have wanted all my life from my youth.
But now there is a difference;
the initiative is entirely with God.
It is indeed a profound spiritual experience
to know and feel myself so totally in God’s hands.

—Pedro Arrupe, SJ


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July 17, 2019

Ex 3: 1-6, 9-12

Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.” 

When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” He said further, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” 

And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.”

But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” He said, “I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.”

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 am I to do this?

In late June, over 500 Jesuit educators from Canada and US gathered for a conference at Loyola University Chicago.  In his keynote address, Mike Gilson, SJ, challenged the group to acknowledge the power of fear… but not to let fear have the final word. 

But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”

There is the question for me: who am I that I should [fill in the blank] for God?  Moses’ fear is so refreshingly human. I ask his question every morning – recognizing my human frailty, selfishness, and well, normalness. 

“I will be with you”

Just as God called Moses, I find myself called to go forth – to speak up for the voiceless, stand up to oppressors, and reach out in love.  Like Moses, I ask God every day “who am I?” and everyday God responds “I will be with you.” We can find courage in God’s presence as we step out into the world.

Jen LaMaster is the Assistant Principal at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in Indianapolis, IN.

Prayer

God of my life,
I give you thanks and praise that I have life,
and that my life is filled with touches of your love. 

You have given me a heart that wants to be happy,
and You have placed in me a desire to make a difference.

Quiet the fears and distractions of my heart long enough
for me to listen to the movement of Your Spirit,
to hear your gentle invitation.

Reveal to me the choices that will make me happy.
Help me to discover my identity.

Let me understand how best to use the gifts
You have so lovingly lavished upon me
in preparation for our journey together.

And give me the courage to choose You
as You have chosen me.

Lord, let me know myself and let me know You.
In this is my happiness.  Amen.

—Augustinian Prayer for Discernment


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July 16, 2019

Mt 11: 20-24

Then he began to reproach the cities in which most of his deeds of power had been done, because they did not repent. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, on the day of judgment it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 

And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? No, you will be brought down to Hades. For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that on the day of judgment it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom than for you.”

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

What sign are you waiting for?

How often do we say that we would make this or that big change in our lives, if only we had a clear sign from God? Often what that has meant for me is that it’s a change I already know I should make, but I am resisting. I wonder, in those moments, if a sign would really have been enough to move me to the action I knew I should take.

As we see in the Gospel, Jesus’ signs left many living the same lives as before. The problem wasn’t simply one of knowledge, or even faith. It was, and is for us, one of will.

Do we truly desire to follow Christ, to trust Christ, and is that desire greater than the fears and complacency that hold us back? Is there a sign great enough to move us outright, or must we first open ourselves to being moved?

Nick Courtney, SJ, is a Jesuit scholastic from the USA Central and Southern Province currently working at Strake Jesuit College Preparatory in Houston, TX, where he teaches history and coaches football.

Prayer

God, you created me with the innermost desire to know you and follow you. Help me to nurture that desire and to clear away the other desires and the fears that get in the way. Give me the strength to trust you and to act on that trust, especially when it is easier to avoid or put off the new things you wish to do in my life. Amen.

—Nick Courtney, SJ


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July 15, 2019

St. Bonaventure, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

Ex 1: 8-14, 22

Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. He said to his people, “Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and more powerful than we. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, or they will increase and, in the event of war, join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.” 

Therefore they set taskmasters over them to oppress them with forced labor. They built supply cities, Pithom and Rameses, for Pharaoh. But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread, so that the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites.The Egyptians became ruthless in imposing tasks on the Israelites, and made their lives bitter with hard service in mortar and brick and in every kind of field labor. They were ruthless in all the tasks that they imposed on them. 

Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, “Every boy that is born to the Hebrews you shall throw into the Nile, but you shall let every girl live.”

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.

Continuing to speak out against oppression 

Oppression, cruelty, and slavery marked Israel’s time in Egypt.  Sadly, oppression, cruelty, and slavery have marred the entirety of humanity’s time on Earth. 

In his 1982 commencement address at Santa Clara University, Fr. Ignacio Ellacuria, SJ, told the story of Salvadoran priest, Fr. José Simeon Cañas, who addressed the [Salvadoran] Constitutional Assembly in 1824, with these words: “I come crawling; and if I were dying, dying I would come to make a request for humanity. I beg before anything else that our slaves he declared free citizens. For this is the order of justice: that the deprived be restored to the possession of their goods, and there is no good more valuable than liberty… This nation has declared itself free; so, then, must all its people be free.”’

Fr. Cañas’ impassioned address helped to free Central American slaves 14 years before Georgetown University sold 272 slaves to secure its economic prosperity and 39 years before Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.  

Our faith calls us to prophetic, out-front action on behalf of oppressed peoples.  One does not need to sleuth for opportunities: caged refugees on the US southern border, environmental racism in our cities, and inequalities of our public schools beg for our attention.  Let us use our power and position for their benefit and for God’s greater glory.

Bill Kriege serves as the director of campus ministry at Rockhurst University in Kansas City, MO.

Prayer

Holy prophet José Simeon Cañas, pray for us.
Holy Martyr Rutilio Grande, SJ, pray for us.
Holy Martyr Oscar Romero, pray for us.
Holy Martyr Maura Clarke, MM, pray for us
Holy Martyr Jean Donovan, pray for us.
Holy Martyr Ita Ford, MM, pray for us
Holy Martyr Dorothy Kazel, OSU, pray for us
Holy Martyr Ignacio Martín-Baró, SJ, pray for us.
Holy Martyr Ignacio Ellacuría, SJ, pray for us.
Holy Martyr Amando López, SJ, pray for us.
Holy Martyr Joaquín López y López, SJ, pray for us.
Holy Martyr Segundo Montes, SJ, pray for us.
Holy Martyr Juan Ramón Moreno, SJ, pray for us.
Holy Martyr Elba Ramos, pray for us.
Holy Martyr Celina Ramos, pray for us.

—Salvadoran Prayer Litany adapted by Bill Kriege


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July 24, 2019

Mt 13: 1-9

That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away.

Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!”

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.

I wonder…

I have been a Youth Worship leader at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church for 14 years (fun fact – I married Presbyterian clergy.)

Today’s Gospel is a favorite of the group.  Telling the story involves acting out the passage with play figures and asking “I wonder” questions.  The adult asks, “I wonder… who is the sower?” “Jesus!” they all answer. It’s a Bible story, after all.  But then we go a little deeper and we wonder what the seeds might represent. Littler ones stay concrete – actual seeds.  But older children might bring up that *seeds* are gifts from God like love, generosity, or mercy. Every now and then, a particularly insightful child even wonders if the seeds are ideas for action.

For me, I wonder…  Am I offering rocky ground or rich soil to offered gifts? Where are the thorns in my response to Jesus? Where do my roots run deep, and what fruit will they bear? 

For me, it’s a story ripe for discernment. Hmmmm…. I wonder…

Jen LaMaster is an Assistant Principal at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in Indianapolis, IN.

Prayer

Your Heart Today

Where there is fear I can allay,
Where there is pain I can heal,
Where there are wounds I can bind,
And hunger I can fill:
Lord, grant me courage,
Lord, grant me strength,
Grant me compassion
That I may be your heart today.

Where there is hate I can confront,
Where there are yokes I can release,
Where there are captives I can free
And anger I can appease:
Lord, grant me courage,
Lord, grant me strength,
Grant me compassion
That I may be your heart today.

When comes the day I dread
To see our broken world,
Protect me from myself grown cold
That your people I may behold.
And when I’ve done all that I could,
Yet, there are hearts I cannot move,
Lord, give me hope,
That I may be your heart today.

—Fr. Manoling Francisco, SJ


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July 23, 2019

St. Bridget

Mt 12: 46-50

While he was still speaking to the crowds, his mother and his brothers were standing outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, “Look, your mother and your brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.” But to the one who had told him this, Jesus replied, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 

And pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

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

Seeking to do the will of the Father

It would be easy to interpret Jesus as slighting Mary in today’s Gospel. She shows up to see him in his traveling ministry and, when he is informed that his family has come, Jesus calls into question who he should consider his family. In that moment, we are given the chance to be counted among Christ’s brothers and sisters and mother while Mary’s role seems to be downplayed. Yet Mary is the mother of Christ precisely because she preceded all of us in seeking wholeheartedly to do the will of the Father. Even in this passage, she continues to follow Jesus and seek chances to draw near to him.

Do I truly wish to follow Jesus that closely and that persistently? Am I really willing to wholeheartedly make God’s will the center of my life? How deeply do I want to be Jesus’ sister or brother today?

Nick Courtney, SJ, is a Jesuit scholastic from the USA Central and Southern Province currently working at Strake Jesuit College Preparatory in Houston, TX, where he teaches history and coaches football.

Prayer

Jesus, help me to listen for the will of the Father today. Grant me the grace to do that will as generously and as humbly as your mother. Give me the courage to live as one of your family. Amen.

—Nick Courtney, SJ


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July 22, 2019

St. Mary Magdalen

Jn 20: 1-2, 11-18

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.”

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

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

Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 

Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

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

Falling in love with our neighbor

“Stop holding onto me – go tell the others,” says Jesus to Mary Magdalene.  In this we hear echoes of Jesus’ new commandment from earlier in John’s Gospel: Love one another as I have loved you.   As opposed to many of the world’s former religions which focused on sacrifice to appease an angry God, Jesus reoriented religion to focus upon love of neighbor which, in this case, required Mary to run to disciples rather than dropping to her knees to worship Jesus.  Loving Jesus equals loving others.

Dean Brackley, SJ, who worked at the University of Central America and passionately advocated for social justice, shared the following about what happens to affluent North Americans when they journey to El Salvador: “They feel a little confused–again–like the disorientation of falling in love. In fact, that is what is happening, a kind of falling in love.”

It’s time to fall in love again, with Jesus and with the poor who hold a privileged place in his heart.  What can I do today to put myself in a position where I might experience and respond to the confusing and disorienting experience of falling in love?

Bill Kriege serves as the director of campus ministry at Rockhurst University in Kansas City, MO.

Prayer

Dear God, help us to fall in love, stay in love, for we know that it will decide everything.

—Modified by Bill Kriege from Pedro Arrupe’s Fall in Love


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July 21, 2019

Gn 18: 1-10a

The Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day. He looked up and saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground. He said, “My lord, if I find favor with you, do not pass by your servant. Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. Let me bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on—since you have come to your servant.” 

So they said, “Do as you have said.” And Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah, and said, “Make ready quickly three measures of choice flour, knead it, and make cakes.” Abraham ran to the herd, and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to the servant, who hastened to prepare it.Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree while they ate.

They said to him, “Where is your wife Sarah?” And he said, “There, in the tent.” Then one said, “I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent entrance behind 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.

For others 

While teaching Hebrew Scriptures at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Chicago, this favorite passage reinforced what it means to be a Christian people, to be men and women for others.

The word ‘for’ serves as a function word, linking men and women to others. In its ambiguity, we may wonder what it means to be ‘for’ someone else…

Abraham rushed to the three strangers…and begged them to stay.

The root of hospitality is being hospitable, hosting others. From the simple, water to wash their feet, to the succulent, a tender and good calf, Abraham took good care of the strangers.

We note that Abraham does not wash the feet of the strangers nor does he eat with them. He simply does for them.

Out of their generosity, the promise found fulfillment: Sarah would bear a son!

How are we called to be for others today?

Fr. Mark Luedtke, SJ, has completed his term as president of Loyola High School in Detroit and will soon leave for his tertianship experience in Cape Town, South Africa

Prayer

Lord Jesus, help us hear your call to host others, the stranger, the marginalized, the neglected, with our very best selves and our very best portion. And, in doing our very best, open our hearts to all you have promised us – your love and your grace – for those are enough for me. Amen.

—Fr. Mark Luedtke, SJ


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July 20, 2019

Mt 12: 14-21

But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him. When Jesus became aware of this, he departed. Many crowds followed him, and he cured all of them, and he ordered them not to make him known. This was to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah: “Here is my servant, whom I have chosen, my beloved, with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles. He will not wrangle or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets. He will not break a bruised reed or quench a smoldering wick until he brings justice to victory. And in his name the Gentiles will hope.”

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.

Model of a servant leader

Some people exude moral force.  That is, they live such a transparently principled life that they inspire others to grow in virtue.

Often, though, these same people are so strident that they alienate their peers before they might inspire them, weakening the effect they might have on the world.

An antidote to this dilemma is to pray for the grace to become like the object of Isaiah’s servant song quoted in today’s Gospel.  The finest leaders that I know are cast in this mold.

The fulfillment and ultimate exemplar of the servant song is the person of Jesus.  Spending time with Jesus and asking for this grace that we seek can shape us into this model of servant leaders.

Paul Mitchell is a Jesuit educator who has stepped out of the classroom into full-time care of his two young sons. He is the author of Audacious Ignatius.

Prayer

Will you let me be your servant,
let me be as Christ to you;
Pray that I might have the grace
to let you be my servant too.

We are pilgrims on the journey,
we are travellers on the road;
We are here to help each other
walk the mile and bear the load

—Lyrics of The Servant Song, words by Richard Gilliard, © 1977 Scripture in Song


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July 19, 2019

Mt 12: 1-8

At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the sabbath; his disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. When the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the sabbath.” He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him or his companions to eat, but only for the priests. 

Or have you not read in the law that on the sabbath the priests in the temple break the sabbath and yet are guiltless? I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the sabbath.”

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.

Putting the Lord ahead of the law

Golf, football games, family dinners, and yard-work would all be prohibited on the Sabbath according to Jewish law. It seems Jesus frequently ran afoul of the Sabbath regulations, healing withered hands, curing the crippled and now, snacking on grain. Is it really unreasonable for the Pharisees to challenge him on these violations of the law? This one comes from the Ten Commandments after all.

I think Jesus is teaching the Pharisees and reminding us about priorities. Is it good to obey the laws? Yes. Is it good to attend to someone who is “greater than the temple?” Yes. Which is better? I hear the Lord of the Sabbath warning me again about false idols and inordinate attachments. Nothing, not even the best of laws, should displace Christ as the center of my life.

—Jerry Skoch is a Spiritual Director and Vice President & Chief Mission Officer at Saint Ignatius High School in Cleveland, OH.

Prayer

Dear Lord,
Help me to recognize your voice,
to see you in the people and daily miracles that surround me.
Amidst the daily swirl of tasks and commitments please stay as my center and core.

—Jerry Skoch


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July 18, 2019

Mt 11: 28-30

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

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

Letting go of our burdens

In late May, the World Health Organization redefined burnout – as a syndrome of chronic stress at work. Yikes! In today’s Gospel, Jesus instructs us: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” In 2019, it’s easy to find yourself “burdened” – whether by work, your personal life, or another reason. Today, my question is simple: How often do you seek out Jesus as a source of comfort, rest, and refreshment when you feel weighed down? How can you begin to practice this so you “will find rest for your souls?”

—Mikayla Lofton is the Grants Program Manager for the Cristo Rey Network and was a Jesuit Volunteer in Atlanta (‘15-’16).

Prayer

More than ever I find myself in the hands of God.
This is what I have wanted all my life from my youth.
But now there is a difference;
the initiative is entirely with God.
It is indeed a profound spiritual experience
to know and feel myself so totally in God’s hands.

—Pedro Arrupe, SJ


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July 17, 2019

Ex 3: 1-6, 9-12

Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.” 

When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” He said further, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” 

And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.”

But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” He said, “I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.”

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 am I to do this?

In late June, over 500 Jesuit educators from Canada and US gathered for a conference at Loyola University Chicago.  In his keynote address, Mike Gilson, SJ, challenged the group to acknowledge the power of fear… but not to let fear have the final word. 

But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”

There is the question for me: who am I that I should [fill in the blank] for God?  Moses’ fear is so refreshingly human. I ask his question every morning – recognizing my human frailty, selfishness, and well, normalness. 

“I will be with you”

Just as God called Moses, I find myself called to go forth – to speak up for the voiceless, stand up to oppressors, and reach out in love.  Like Moses, I ask God every day “who am I?” and everyday God responds “I will be with you.” We can find courage in God’s presence as we step out into the world.

Jen LaMaster is the Assistant Principal at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in Indianapolis, IN.

Prayer

God of my life,
I give you thanks and praise that I have life,
and that my life is filled with touches of your love. 

You have given me a heart that wants to be happy,
and You have placed in me a desire to make a difference.

Quiet the fears and distractions of my heart long enough
for me to listen to the movement of Your Spirit,
to hear your gentle invitation.

Reveal to me the choices that will make me happy.
Help me to discover my identity.

Let me understand how best to use the gifts
You have so lovingly lavished upon me
in preparation for our journey together.

And give me the courage to choose You
as You have chosen me.

Lord, let me know myself and let me know You.
In this is my happiness.  Amen.

—Augustinian Prayer for Discernment


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July 16, 2019

Mt 11: 20-24

Then he began to reproach the cities in which most of his deeds of power had been done, because they did not repent. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, on the day of judgment it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 

And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? No, you will be brought down to Hades. For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that on the day of judgment it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom than for you.”

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

What sign are you waiting for?

How often do we say that we would make this or that big change in our lives, if only we had a clear sign from God? Often what that has meant for me is that it’s a change I already know I should make, but I am resisting. I wonder, in those moments, if a sign would really have been enough to move me to the action I knew I should take.

As we see in the Gospel, Jesus’ signs left many living the same lives as before. The problem wasn’t simply one of knowledge, or even faith. It was, and is for us, one of will.

Do we truly desire to follow Christ, to trust Christ, and is that desire greater than the fears and complacency that hold us back? Is there a sign great enough to move us outright, or must we first open ourselves to being moved?

Nick Courtney, SJ, is a Jesuit scholastic from the USA Central and Southern Province currently working at Strake Jesuit College Preparatory in Houston, TX, where he teaches history and coaches football.

Prayer

God, you created me with the innermost desire to know you and follow you. Help me to nurture that desire and to clear away the other desires and the fears that get in the way. Give me the strength to trust you and to act on that trust, especially when it is easier to avoid or put off the new things you wish to do in my life. Amen.

—Nick Courtney, SJ


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July 15, 2019

St. Bonaventure, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

Ex 1: 8-14, 22

Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. He said to his people, “Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and more powerful than we. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, or they will increase and, in the event of war, join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.” 

Therefore they set taskmasters over them to oppress them with forced labor. They built supply cities, Pithom and Rameses, for Pharaoh. But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread, so that the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites.The Egyptians became ruthless in imposing tasks on the Israelites, and made their lives bitter with hard service in mortar and brick and in every kind of field labor. They were ruthless in all the tasks that they imposed on them. 

Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, “Every boy that is born to the Hebrews you shall throw into the Nile, but you shall let every girl live.”

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.

Continuing to speak out against oppression 

Oppression, cruelty, and slavery marked Israel’s time in Egypt.  Sadly, oppression, cruelty, and slavery have marred the entirety of humanity’s time on Earth. 

In his 1982 commencement address at Santa Clara University, Fr. Ignacio Ellacuria, SJ, told the story of Salvadoran priest, Fr. José Simeon Cañas, who addressed the [Salvadoran] Constitutional Assembly in 1824, with these words: “I come crawling; and if I were dying, dying I would come to make a request for humanity. I beg before anything else that our slaves he declared free citizens. For this is the order of justice: that the deprived be restored to the possession of their goods, and there is no good more valuable than liberty… This nation has declared itself free; so, then, must all its people be free.”’

Fr. Cañas’ impassioned address helped to free Central American slaves 14 years before Georgetown University sold 272 slaves to secure its economic prosperity and 39 years before Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.  

Our faith calls us to prophetic, out-front action on behalf of oppressed peoples.  One does not need to sleuth for opportunities: caged refugees on the US southern border, environmental racism in our cities, and inequalities of our public schools beg for our attention.  Let us use our power and position for their benefit and for God’s greater glory.

Bill Kriege serves as the director of campus ministry at Rockhurst University in Kansas City, MO.

Prayer

Holy prophet José Simeon Cañas, pray for us.
Holy Martyr Rutilio Grande, SJ, pray for us.
Holy Martyr Oscar Romero, pray for us.
Holy Martyr Maura Clarke, MM, pray for us
Holy Martyr Jean Donovan, pray for us.
Holy Martyr Ita Ford, MM, pray for us
Holy Martyr Dorothy Kazel, OSU, pray for us
Holy Martyr Ignacio Martín-Baró, SJ, pray for us.
Holy Martyr Ignacio Ellacuría, SJ, pray for us.
Holy Martyr Amando López, SJ, pray for us.
Holy Martyr Joaquín López y López, SJ, pray for us.
Holy Martyr Segundo Montes, SJ, pray for us.
Holy Martyr Juan Ramón Moreno, SJ, pray for us.
Holy Martyr Elba Ramos, pray for us.
Holy Martyr Celina Ramos, pray for us.

—Salvadoran Prayer Litany adapted by Bill Kriege


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