October 15, 2019

St. Teresa of Avila

Lk 11: 37-41 

While he was speaking, a Pharisee invited him to dine with him; so he went in and took his place at the table. The Pharisee was amazed to see that he did not first wash before dinner. 

Then the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You fools! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? So give for alms those things that are within; and see, everything will be clean 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.

Making our hearts match our actions

Jesus’ address to the Pharisee teaches us that exterior actions are crucial for interior transformation. He tells the Pharisee, “inside you are full of extortion and wickedness… But give for alms those things that are within; and, behold, everything is clean for you.” To counteract his sin of extortion, Jesus tells him to give alms. The root of the sin, greed for money, is counteracted by the very giving away of that attachment. In doing so, the Pharisee not only does justice to his neighbor but also works to remove his heart’s attachment.

As bodily creatures, interior transformation requires our whole person, both body and soul. If we are angry with someone, we can counteract it by considering the good in that person. If we are experiencing spiritual lethargy, we can add an extra Mass a week. Jesus carries out the work of transformation, but he does so in a way that calls us to put forth an effort.

Alex Coffey, SJ, is a Jesuit scholastic of the U.S. Central and Southern Province studying philosophy at Saint Louis University.

Prayer

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

Remove anything that makes me unworthy
of your sight, your control, your reprehension;
of your speech and conversation,
of your benevolence and love.

Cast from me every evil
that stands in the way of my seeing you,
hearing, tasting, savoring, and touching you;
fearing and being mindful of you;
knowing, trusting, loving, and possessing you;
being conscious of your presence
and, as far as may be, enjoying you.

This is what I ask for myself
and earnestly desire from you. Amen.

—St. Peter Faber, SJ


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October 14, 2019

Lk 11: 29-32

When the crowds were increasing, he began to say, “This generation is an evil generation; it asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah. For just as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so the Son of Man will be to this generation. 

The queen of the South will rise at the judgment with the people of this generation and condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to listen to the wisdom of Solomon, and see, something greater than Solomon is here! 

The people of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the proclamation of Jonah, and see, something greater than Jonah is here!

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.

My failure to recognize the One who is among us.

Jesus’ words are harsh; is he talking to me? I am tempted to exclude myself, but I tend to seek signs, while ignoring the ones in plain sight. I condemn myself in my failure to recognize the One among us, the One who is greater than Jonah, or Solomon, the One who is in the destitute, the disenfranchised, who exists on the margins; the One I walk by every day, without truly seeing. 

St. Ignatius asks “What more can I do for Christ?” It might start with me actually noticing him. I so often compartmentalize my commitment to seeing the One. I make my solidarity with the One a mental exercise, free of Incarnation. I ask for signs, but the signs are all around me.

I want to believe Jesus is talking about those people, but I cannot assume this; he is talking to me, and it is Wisdom. May I be attentive.

Tom Murray teaches Theology at Creighton Preparatory School in Omaha, NE.

Prayer

Lord, as I work out my salvation in fear and trembling, allow me to feel discomfort, to never rest in my desire to serve you, to see you in the faces of all who suffer, and to heed your words, especially the ones that are difficult to hear. Help me to never rest until the race has been run, and to heed the Wisdom you give to all who will listen.

—Tom Murray


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October 13, 2019

Lk 17:11-19 

On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” 

When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. 

Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”

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.

Practicing gratitude

Brené Brown suggests: It’s not joy that makes us grateful, it’s gratitude that makes us joyful. We are not just to cultivate an “attitude-of-gratitude” or simply feel grateful, Brown says, but rather it is about inviting joy into our lives through creative, intentional, tangible practices of gratitude.

In the first reading (2 Kgs 5: 14-17), Naaman, a foreigner, insists on taking two mule-loads of Israelite dirt back to his homeland so he can continue praising the Lord. The psalmist sings new songs (Ps 98). And in the Gospel, only one of the ten lepers return to give Jesus glory and honor. Each of these figures finds intentional, tangible ways of practicing gratitude: concrete acts of praise, singing, and deliberate expressions of thanks. Their joy is palpable and leaps off the page. Their witness inspires us to consider how we might more creatively, intentionally, and tangibly practice gratitude, that our joy may be more complete.

—Christopher Alt, SJ, is a member of the Midwest Jesuits. He writes for The Jesuit Post and is currently pursuing a Master of Social Work at Loyola University Chicago.

Prayer

Loving and compassionate God, move us to courageously and intentionally empty ourselves out in thanksgiving, that in so doing we may be filled with the joy only you can give. Amen. 

—Christopher Alt, SJ


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October 12, 2019

Lk 11: 27-28

While he was saying this, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that nursed you!” But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it!”

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

Looking forward

At first glance, today’s Gospel might appear to have Jesus slighting his mother.  In response to a woman acknowledging Jesus’ greatness by calling out blessings to the woman who gave birth to him and raised him, Jesus turns the blessing around.  His reply, “blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it,” seems a bit jarring.

Throughout the Gospels, we see evidence of the profound love Jesus had for his mother.  It is at her request that Jesus performs his first miracle at the wedding at Cana. One of his last acts before dying on the cross was to entrust Mary’s care to the disciple whom he loved.  

Jesus’s response in today’s Gospel should not discount Mary’s role, but rather to focus on the future.  We are not to look to our past to give us glory, but rather on how we live our lives going forward. Do we hear the word of God, take it to heart, and live it out in our daily lives?  

—The Jesuit Prayer team

Prayer

Magnificat

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.

He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.

He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children forever.  

—Luke 1:46-55

 


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October 11, 2019

St. John XXIII

Lk 11: 15-26

But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons.” Others, to test him, kept demanding from him a sign from heaven. But he knew what they were thinking and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself becomes a desert, and house falls on house. If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? —for you say that I cast out the demons by Beelzebul. 

Now if I cast out the demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your exorcists cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out the demons, then the kingdom of God has come to you. When a strong man, fully armed, guards his castle, his property is safe. But when one stronger than he attacks him and overpowers him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his plunder. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. 

“When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it wanders through waterless regions looking for a resting place, but not finding any, it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ When it comes, it finds it swept and put in order. Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and live there; and the last state of that person is worse than the first.”

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 evil spirit

For a long time, I had a hard time reading this Gospel without picturing small cartoonish red demons chasing people around with pitchforks.  Surely this wasn’t what Jesus was warning us about! But while I am happy to let go of this childish image, I recognize that I shouldn’t so quickly dismiss the idea of evil spirits among us.  While recovering from a battle injury, St. Ignatius of Loyola began to recognize what he would later refer to as the movement of spirits. He acknowledged that there are both good and evil spirits acting in our lives.  The evil spirits may manifest as those things that make us afraid, doubtful, proud, or jealous. They lead us away from the path that Jesus invites us to follow.

The Examen prayer tool offers us a way to help identify these evil spirits in our lives.  As we reflect back on the day, we look for those times when we felt distant from God, or perceived a decrease in faith, hope, and love.  Noticing these patterns can make it easier to discern where the Holy Spirit is inviting us.

How can you take note of the movement of the spirits in your life today?  What is the good spirit leading you to do?

—Lauren Gaffey is the Associate Director of Communications for the Midwest Jesuits and the Program Director of Charis Ministries and Jesuit Connections.

Prayer

Grant me, O Lord, to see everything now with new eyes, to discern and test the spirits that help me read the signs of the times, to relish the things that are yours, and to communicate them to others. Give me the clarity of understanding that you gave Ignatius.

—Pedro Arrupe, SJ


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October 10, 2019

Lk 11: 5-13

And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs. 

“So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? 

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask 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.

What Do I Really Want, God?

Personally, I don’t want a rash of unprepared neighbors beating on my door at midnight asking for something that could wait until morning. “Hey, sorry to bother you while you sleep, but I was wondering if I could borrow your lawn edger.” No. That’s a terrible idea, and I don’t think Jesus is advocating for that. In today’s Gospel, the unprepared neighbor has a little more at stake than my thoughtless neighbor doing lawn work at 1am. The neighbor in the Gospel is put into the position of living up to a strict code of hospitality. Unprepared to meet this societal obligation, he asks his friend for aid, likely ashamed because he knows it’s unreasonable, but persists because of the need’s importance. The friend in the parable is also understandable in his reluctance to open the door but still meets his obligation as devoted friend and one who respects the norms of the culture.

Jesus, as he often does to us, switches our lens on his proposition: what if we are not the awakened neighbor, but the one unexpectedly in need? Should we fear asking for something important or deeply desired? What if we’re not asking a fallible human neighbor but our infinitely merciful God for help? Can God be annoyed? Will God tell us to go away? Jesus assures us God would not. We absolutely should ask for what we desire. God may not answer us in the way we expect, but God will answer and likely with something much more appropriate. If we ask God for a lawn edger, we should be confident we will not be sent away with a monkey wrench. But we may need to be prepared for God to send us home with something even more useful.

Jim Broderick King is Director of Ignatian Spirituality and Formation at Regis Jesuit High School in Aurora, Colorado, and is a spiritual director at the Ignatian Spirituality Program of Denver.

Prayer

Jesus, please help me to really know my deepest desires, the desires I know you have for me as well. Guide me with the words to ask the Father for those desires. Give me a deeper understanding of myself and the grace of God’s patience as I fumble to express what I truly want and need.

—Jim Broderick King


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October 9, 2019

Jon 4: 1-11

But this was very displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord and said, “O Lord! Is not this what I said while I was still in my own country? That is why I fled to Tarshish at the beginning; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing. And now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” And the Lord said, “Is it right for you to be angry?”

Then Jonah went out of the city and sat down east of the city, and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, waiting to see what would become of the city. The Lord God appointed a bush, and made it come up over Jonah, to give shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort; so Jonah was very happy about the bush. But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the bush, so that it withered. 

When the sun rose, God prepared a sultry east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint and asked that he might die. He said, “It is better for me to die than to live.” But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the bush?” And he said, “Yes, angry enough to die.” 

Then the Lord said, “You are concerned about the bush, for which you did not labor and which you did not grow; it came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?”

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

God’s mercy toward our enemy

Jonah was so focused on his own desires that even though he was following God’s will, he was angry when things didn’t go his way. God pardoned the nation that Jonah wanted to see destroyed. He was so overcome with hatred that he wished to die instead of seeing his enemy live. 

How often do we hear it preached to love your enemies, practice mercy, and welcome the stranger? But how quick are we to judge when things don’t go the way we want. It’s easy to follow God’s will if we get what we want. But what if we don’t get the results we desire? 

Can we relate this story to a person or group that we do not like? How do we respond when we see them receive the same mercy that God extends to ourselves? How might we try to respond differently in those cases?

—Sam Mauck is the Director of Youth, Campus, and Young Adult Ministry for the Diocese of Memphis, which is a member of the Charis Ministries partner program.

Prayer

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Amen

—Peace Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi


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October 8, 2019

Lk 10: 38-42

Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from 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.

Sitting with God as Mary

There’s a saying – if you want something done, ask a busy person to do it. I have convinced myself through years of work and study that I’m happier when busy – that, when faced with a mile-long to-do list, I rise up and become my best self. Pay no mind to the stress and anxiety, the resentment that others aren’t working as hard, the feeling that the whole world rests on my shoulders. I feel like Martha most days, and it doesn’t always feel good.

Busyness stalks us. There’s always more to do. Demands will always be made on our time. Yet, I also know that my finest moments exist in between the tasks – tender encounters with loved ones, mere minutes of unstructured time, moments when I see God seeing me. For all of my Martha, my Mary knows better. May I, for just a moment today, sit with God.

—Eric Immel, SJ, is a member of the Midwest Jesuits.  After six years in Chicago, he recently moved to Boston where he studies theology.

Prayer

My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird—
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be
Astonished.
The phoebe, the delphinium.The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here,

which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.

“Messenger” by Mary Oliver


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October 7, 2019

Our Lady of the Rosary

Lk 10: 25-37

Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.” But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 

Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 

But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ 

Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

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.

Holy discomfort

How many times have we heard today’s Gospel, the Parable of the Good Samaritan? As a child, it was one of the first stories that helped me make the connection between faith and doing good in the world. When I was younger I was sure I would always be the good Samaritan in this passage. It can’t be that hard, right? Re-reading it now, it’s much easier to sympathize with the priest and the Levite. The right thing to do isn’t always obvious or comfortable or even endorsed by society at large. I don’t like discomfort and tension, and often it’s easier for me to choose the path of least resistance. 

As we move into this week, can we pause to recognize the ways that the Holy Spirit might be moving in our discomfort, challenging us to discern a difficult but holy way forward?

Christine Dragonette is the Director of Social Ministry at St. Francis Xavier College Church in St. Louis.

Prayer

All knowing and loving God,
send your Spirit to fill me with holy discomfort.
Grant me the wisdom to know and trust your will,
and the courage to act upon it.
Amen

—Christine Dragonette


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October 6, 2019

Lk 17: 5-10

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” The Lord replied, “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you. “Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here at once and take your place at the table’? 

Would you not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink’? Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, ‘We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!’”

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.

Invited to be friends of the Lord

There is such a thing as preaching to the choir – or to the usual readers of this site – too much.  With all of September and now into October, the Gospels from Luke have been words of warning not to the occasional Christian but to seasoned followers of Christ. 

We are not to take the place of honor (1 Sept) or to love even the most precious things of this world too much (8 Sept); we were to identify with the elder son, not the younger, prodigal one (15 Sept), and were warned that like the dishonest steward, we cannot serve both God and mammon (22 Sept); we flinched at noticing the unnamed rich man in all of us (29 Sept); and today “We are worthless servants; we have done only what we ought to have done!”  What are we to do? 

Perhaps we are only to remember that we are loved sinners who actually are invited to the Lord’s table, where our God calls us servants no longer, but friends.

—Fr. Greg Ostdiek, SJ, is a Jesuit priest of the Midwest Province.  Ordained this past June, he is spending his first year after ordination studying education at Harvard.

Prayer

Lord,
Give me only your love and your grace;
That is enough for me.
Amen

—Excerpt from the Suscipe Prayer of St. Ignatius of Loyola


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Creighton Prep and the Midwest Jesuits have partnered to create FaithCP, a daily resource for prayer. FaithCP provides daily scripture, reflections, and prayers grounded in the spirituality of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits.


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October 15, 2019

St. Teresa of Avila

Lk 11: 37-41 

While he was speaking, a Pharisee invited him to dine with him; so he went in and took his place at the table. The Pharisee was amazed to see that he did not first wash before dinner. 

Then the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You fools! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? So give for alms those things that are within; and see, everything will be clean 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.

Making our hearts match our actions

Jesus’ address to the Pharisee teaches us that exterior actions are crucial for interior transformation. He tells the Pharisee, “inside you are full of extortion and wickedness… But give for alms those things that are within; and, behold, everything is clean for you.” To counteract his sin of extortion, Jesus tells him to give alms. The root of the sin, greed for money, is counteracted by the very giving away of that attachment. In doing so, the Pharisee not only does justice to his neighbor but also works to remove his heart’s attachment.

As bodily creatures, interior transformation requires our whole person, both body and soul. If we are angry with someone, we can counteract it by considering the good in that person. If we are experiencing spiritual lethargy, we can add an extra Mass a week. Jesus carries out the work of transformation, but he does so in a way that calls us to put forth an effort.

Alex Coffey, SJ, is a Jesuit scholastic of the U.S. Central and Southern Province studying philosophy at Saint Louis University.

Prayer

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

Remove anything that makes me unworthy
of your sight, your control, your reprehension;
of your speech and conversation,
of your benevolence and love.

Cast from me every evil
that stands in the way of my seeing you,
hearing, tasting, savoring, and touching you;
fearing and being mindful of you;
knowing, trusting, loving, and possessing you;
being conscious of your presence
and, as far as may be, enjoying you.

This is what I ask for myself
and earnestly desire from you. Amen.

—St. Peter Faber, SJ


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October 14, 2019

Lk 11: 29-32

When the crowds were increasing, he began to say, “This generation is an evil generation; it asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah. For just as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so the Son of Man will be to this generation. 

The queen of the South will rise at the judgment with the people of this generation and condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to listen to the wisdom of Solomon, and see, something greater than Solomon is here! 

The people of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the proclamation of Jonah, and see, something greater than Jonah is here!

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.

My failure to recognize the One who is among us.

Jesus’ words are harsh; is he talking to me? I am tempted to exclude myself, but I tend to seek signs, while ignoring the ones in plain sight. I condemn myself in my failure to recognize the One among us, the One who is greater than Jonah, or Solomon, the One who is in the destitute, the disenfranchised, who exists on the margins; the One I walk by every day, without truly seeing. 

St. Ignatius asks “What more can I do for Christ?” It might start with me actually noticing him. I so often compartmentalize my commitment to seeing the One. I make my solidarity with the One a mental exercise, free of Incarnation. I ask for signs, but the signs are all around me.

I want to believe Jesus is talking about those people, but I cannot assume this; he is talking to me, and it is Wisdom. May I be attentive.

Tom Murray teaches Theology at Creighton Preparatory School in Omaha, NE.

Prayer

Lord, as I work out my salvation in fear and trembling, allow me to feel discomfort, to never rest in my desire to serve you, to see you in the faces of all who suffer, and to heed your words, especially the ones that are difficult to hear. Help me to never rest until the race has been run, and to heed the Wisdom you give to all who will listen.

—Tom Murray


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October 13, 2019

Lk 17:11-19 

On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” 

When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. 

Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”

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.

Practicing gratitude

Brené Brown suggests: It’s not joy that makes us grateful, it’s gratitude that makes us joyful. We are not just to cultivate an “attitude-of-gratitude” or simply feel grateful, Brown says, but rather it is about inviting joy into our lives through creative, intentional, tangible practices of gratitude.

In the first reading (2 Kgs 5: 14-17), Naaman, a foreigner, insists on taking two mule-loads of Israelite dirt back to his homeland so he can continue praising the Lord. The psalmist sings new songs (Ps 98). And in the Gospel, only one of the ten lepers return to give Jesus glory and honor. Each of these figures finds intentional, tangible ways of practicing gratitude: concrete acts of praise, singing, and deliberate expressions of thanks. Their joy is palpable and leaps off the page. Their witness inspires us to consider how we might more creatively, intentionally, and tangibly practice gratitude, that our joy may be more complete.

—Christopher Alt, SJ, is a member of the Midwest Jesuits. He writes for The Jesuit Post and is currently pursuing a Master of Social Work at Loyola University Chicago.

Prayer

Loving and compassionate God, move us to courageously and intentionally empty ourselves out in thanksgiving, that in so doing we may be filled with the joy only you can give. Amen. 

—Christopher Alt, SJ


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October 12, 2019

Lk 11: 27-28

While he was saying this, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that nursed you!” But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it!”

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

Looking forward

At first glance, today’s Gospel might appear to have Jesus slighting his mother.  In response to a woman acknowledging Jesus’ greatness by calling out blessings to the woman who gave birth to him and raised him, Jesus turns the blessing around.  His reply, “blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it,” seems a bit jarring.

Throughout the Gospels, we see evidence of the profound love Jesus had for his mother.  It is at her request that Jesus performs his first miracle at the wedding at Cana. One of his last acts before dying on the cross was to entrust Mary’s care to the disciple whom he loved.  

Jesus’s response in today’s Gospel should not discount Mary’s role, but rather to focus on the future.  We are not to look to our past to give us glory, but rather on how we live our lives going forward. Do we hear the word of God, take it to heart, and live it out in our daily lives?  

—The Jesuit Prayer team

Prayer

Magnificat

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.

He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.

He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children forever.  

—Luke 1:46-55

 


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October 11, 2019

St. John XXIII

Lk 11: 15-26

But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons.” Others, to test him, kept demanding from him a sign from heaven. But he knew what they were thinking and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself becomes a desert, and house falls on house. If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? —for you say that I cast out the demons by Beelzebul. 

Now if I cast out the demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your exorcists cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out the demons, then the kingdom of God has come to you. When a strong man, fully armed, guards his castle, his property is safe. But when one stronger than he attacks him and overpowers him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his plunder. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. 

“When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it wanders through waterless regions looking for a resting place, but not finding any, it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ When it comes, it finds it swept and put in order. Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and live there; and the last state of that person is worse than the first.”

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 evil spirit

For a long time, I had a hard time reading this Gospel without picturing small cartoonish red demons chasing people around with pitchforks.  Surely this wasn’t what Jesus was warning us about! But while I am happy to let go of this childish image, I recognize that I shouldn’t so quickly dismiss the idea of evil spirits among us.  While recovering from a battle injury, St. Ignatius of Loyola began to recognize what he would later refer to as the movement of spirits. He acknowledged that there are both good and evil spirits acting in our lives.  The evil spirits may manifest as those things that make us afraid, doubtful, proud, or jealous. They lead us away from the path that Jesus invites us to follow.

The Examen prayer tool offers us a way to help identify these evil spirits in our lives.  As we reflect back on the day, we look for those times when we felt distant from God, or perceived a decrease in faith, hope, and love.  Noticing these patterns can make it easier to discern where the Holy Spirit is inviting us.

How can you take note of the movement of the spirits in your life today?  What is the good spirit leading you to do?

—Lauren Gaffey is the Associate Director of Communications for the Midwest Jesuits and the Program Director of Charis Ministries and Jesuit Connections.

Prayer

Grant me, O Lord, to see everything now with new eyes, to discern and test the spirits that help me read the signs of the times, to relish the things that are yours, and to communicate them to others. Give me the clarity of understanding that you gave Ignatius.

—Pedro Arrupe, SJ


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October 10, 2019

Lk 11: 5-13

And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs. 

“So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? 

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask 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.

What Do I Really Want, God?

Personally, I don’t want a rash of unprepared neighbors beating on my door at midnight asking for something that could wait until morning. “Hey, sorry to bother you while you sleep, but I was wondering if I could borrow your lawn edger.” No. That’s a terrible idea, and I don’t think Jesus is advocating for that. In today’s Gospel, the unprepared neighbor has a little more at stake than my thoughtless neighbor doing lawn work at 1am. The neighbor in the Gospel is put into the position of living up to a strict code of hospitality. Unprepared to meet this societal obligation, he asks his friend for aid, likely ashamed because he knows it’s unreasonable, but persists because of the need’s importance. The friend in the parable is also understandable in his reluctance to open the door but still meets his obligation as devoted friend and one who respects the norms of the culture.

Jesus, as he often does to us, switches our lens on his proposition: what if we are not the awakened neighbor, but the one unexpectedly in need? Should we fear asking for something important or deeply desired? What if we’re not asking a fallible human neighbor but our infinitely merciful God for help? Can God be annoyed? Will God tell us to go away? Jesus assures us God would not. We absolutely should ask for what we desire. God may not answer us in the way we expect, but God will answer and likely with something much more appropriate. If we ask God for a lawn edger, we should be confident we will not be sent away with a monkey wrench. But we may need to be prepared for God to send us home with something even more useful.

Jim Broderick King is Director of Ignatian Spirituality and Formation at Regis Jesuit High School in Aurora, Colorado, and is a spiritual director at the Ignatian Spirituality Program of Denver.

Prayer

Jesus, please help me to really know my deepest desires, the desires I know you have for me as well. Guide me with the words to ask the Father for those desires. Give me a deeper understanding of myself and the grace of God’s patience as I fumble to express what I truly want and need.

—Jim Broderick King


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October 9, 2019

Jon 4: 1-11

But this was very displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord and said, “O Lord! Is not this what I said while I was still in my own country? That is why I fled to Tarshish at the beginning; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing. And now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” And the Lord said, “Is it right for you to be angry?”

Then Jonah went out of the city and sat down east of the city, and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, waiting to see what would become of the city. The Lord God appointed a bush, and made it come up over Jonah, to give shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort; so Jonah was very happy about the bush. But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the bush, so that it withered. 

When the sun rose, God prepared a sultry east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint and asked that he might die. He said, “It is better for me to die than to live.” But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the bush?” And he said, “Yes, angry enough to die.” 

Then the Lord said, “You are concerned about the bush, for which you did not labor and which you did not grow; it came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?”

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

God’s mercy toward our enemy

Jonah was so focused on his own desires that even though he was following God’s will, he was angry when things didn’t go his way. God pardoned the nation that Jonah wanted to see destroyed. He was so overcome with hatred that he wished to die instead of seeing his enemy live. 

How often do we hear it preached to love your enemies, practice mercy, and welcome the stranger? But how quick are we to judge when things don’t go the way we want. It’s easy to follow God’s will if we get what we want. But what if we don’t get the results we desire? 

Can we relate this story to a person or group that we do not like? How do we respond when we see them receive the same mercy that God extends to ourselves? How might we try to respond differently in those cases?

—Sam Mauck is the Director of Youth, Campus, and Young Adult Ministry for the Diocese of Memphis, which is a member of the Charis Ministries partner program.

Prayer

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Amen

—Peace Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi


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October 8, 2019

Lk 10: 38-42

Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from 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.

Sitting with God as Mary

There’s a saying – if you want something done, ask a busy person to do it. I have convinced myself through years of work and study that I’m happier when busy – that, when faced with a mile-long to-do list, I rise up and become my best self. Pay no mind to the stress and anxiety, the resentment that others aren’t working as hard, the feeling that the whole world rests on my shoulders. I feel like Martha most days, and it doesn’t always feel good.

Busyness stalks us. There’s always more to do. Demands will always be made on our time. Yet, I also know that my finest moments exist in between the tasks – tender encounters with loved ones, mere minutes of unstructured time, moments when I see God seeing me. For all of my Martha, my Mary knows better. May I, for just a moment today, sit with God.

—Eric Immel, SJ, is a member of the Midwest Jesuits.  After six years in Chicago, he recently moved to Boston where he studies theology.

Prayer

My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird—
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be
Astonished.
The phoebe, the delphinium.The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here,

which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.

“Messenger” by Mary Oliver


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October 7, 2019

Our Lady of the Rosary

Lk 10: 25-37

Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.” But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 

Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 

But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ 

Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

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.

Holy discomfort

How many times have we heard today’s Gospel, the Parable of the Good Samaritan? As a child, it was one of the first stories that helped me make the connection between faith and doing good in the world. When I was younger I was sure I would always be the good Samaritan in this passage. It can’t be that hard, right? Re-reading it now, it’s much easier to sympathize with the priest and the Levite. The right thing to do isn’t always obvious or comfortable or even endorsed by society at large. I don’t like discomfort and tension, and often it’s easier for me to choose the path of least resistance. 

As we move into this week, can we pause to recognize the ways that the Holy Spirit might be moving in our discomfort, challenging us to discern a difficult but holy way forward?

Christine Dragonette is the Director of Social Ministry at St. Francis Xavier College Church in St. Louis.

Prayer

All knowing and loving God,
send your Spirit to fill me with holy discomfort.
Grant me the wisdom to know and trust your will,
and the courage to act upon it.
Amen

—Christine Dragonette


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October 6, 2019

Lk 17: 5-10

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” The Lord replied, “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you. “Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here at once and take your place at the table’? 

Would you not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink’? Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, ‘We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!’”

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.

Invited to be friends of the Lord

There is such a thing as preaching to the choir – or to the usual readers of this site – too much.  With all of September and now into October, the Gospels from Luke have been words of warning not to the occasional Christian but to seasoned followers of Christ. 

We are not to take the place of honor (1 Sept) or to love even the most precious things of this world too much (8 Sept); we were to identify with the elder son, not the younger, prodigal one (15 Sept), and were warned that like the dishonest steward, we cannot serve both God and mammon (22 Sept); we flinched at noticing the unnamed rich man in all of us (29 Sept); and today “We are worthless servants; we have done only what we ought to have done!”  What are we to do? 

Perhaps we are only to remember that we are loved sinners who actually are invited to the Lord’s table, where our God calls us servants no longer, but friends.

—Fr. Greg Ostdiek, SJ, is a Jesuit priest of the Midwest Province.  Ordained this past June, he is spending his first year after ordination studying education at Harvard.

Prayer

Lord,
Give me only your love and your grace;
That is enough for me.
Amen

—Excerpt from the Suscipe Prayer of St. Ignatius of Loyola


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