July 31, 2020

St. Ignatius of Loyola

Mt 13: 54-58

He came to his hometown and began to teach the people in their synagogue, so that they were astounded and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these deeds of power? Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all this?” 

And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor except in their own country and in their own house.” And he did not do many deeds of power there, because of their unbelief.

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 what holds us back from love

It feels like Jesus is challenging me in this Gospel. On today’s feast day, however, I look to St. Ignatius’ wisdom, who sees this total surrender of the things of this world as an invitation. Be free. Free of cultural norms, obligations, anxieties, and all my stuff. Listen to Jesus and you will learn to let go. Sure, there will be suffering, but we all suffer. With him, there is a deeper meaning along with unity and redemption. With Jesus the invitation is to be free to love fully and completely with total abandon.

What do I need to let go of, in order to love more fully?  

Erin Maiorca is the Executive Director at Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House in Barrington, IL. Erin’s other vocations include wife to Tom and mother to two wonderful sons. 

Prayer

Good and gracious God, help me to see as you see,
Free me to be guided by your Holy Spirit.
Create in me the freedom to choose that which leads me to you. 

—Erin Maiorca


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July 30, 2020

Jer 18: 1-6

The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: ‘Come, go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.’ So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. The vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as seemed good to him.

Then the word of the Lord came to me: Can I not do with you, O house of Israel, just as this potter has done? says the Lord. Just like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.

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.

Emptying ourselves to be formed by God

Lately, I have felt somewhat uninspired and out of a normal spiritual routine. I struggled to decide what to share in this reflection. I’m sure this feeling of inadequacy can be relatable to most on some level. The beauty of these moments thus comes when we empty ourselves of our feelings of inadequacy and allow Christ to act in incredible ways. 

God has a funny way of shaping us for the unpredictable experiences we find ourselves in, especially in the times we feel most out of touch with his grace and presence.  As a potter speaks beauty and life into their lump of clay, God too moves in our lives – to make meaning and give form to the mess. God works beyond our anxieties and stresses of the future. Let us pray that we empty ourselves to make way for the Holy spirit and God’s formative hand, knowing that although we may not be adequate, God’s design always is. 

What anxieties can we trade today for the strength and confidence of the potter’s hands?

—Rose-Carmel Goddard is a student at the University of Michigan and is an active member of St. Mary Student Parish in Ann Arbor, MI.

Prayer

I’ve come to think that the only, the supreme, prayer
we can offer up, during these hours
when the road before us is shrouded in darkness,
is that of our master on the cross:
“In manus tuas commendo spiritum meum.”
(Into your hands I commend my spirit.)

To the hands that broke and gave life to the bread,
that blessed and caressed, that were pierced; . . .
to the kindly and mighty hands that reach down
to the very marrow of the soul that mould and create
to the hands through which so great a love is transmitted
it is to these that it is good to surrender our soul,
and above all when we suffer or are afraid.
and in so doing there is a great happiness and a great merit.

—Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ


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July 29, 2020

St. Martha

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.

Pause and listen

My four year old grandson came for a sleepover last week and around 5:15am stood wide-eyed at my bedside, ever so gently shook my arm to awaken me with a whisper, “Listen, Amma, the birds are speaking”! 

“Listen, Amma”! Listen. What a key message this is in Luke’s passage from today’s Gospel where we picture Mary sitting beside the Lord listening to him speak.  Jesus tells us she has her priorities right.  Mary gets it.  For distracted, anxious, worried Martha busy with serving, this was a teachable moment.  Jesus uses her name twice, perhaps the first time just to get her attention, the second time to draw her unto himself. I don’t think that Jesus was telling Martha not to serve, rather he was teaching her how to serve with a listening heart.  St. Ignatius would say he taught how to be a “contemplative in action”.

What have been the teachable moments in the past months for you?  When have you heard the Master speaking?

Last week God spoke to me through a precious little boy who reminded me to “Listen, Amma”.  

Mary McKeon is a retreat master and spiritual director at the Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House, in Barrington, IL.   

Prayer

Teach Me To Listen

Teach me to listen, O God, to those nearest me, my family, my friends, my co-workers.

Help me to be aware that no matter what words I hear, the message is, “Accept the
person I am. Listen to me.”

Teach me to listen, my caring God, to those far from me– the whisper of the hopeless, the plea of the forgotten, the cry of the anguished.

Teach me to listen, O God my Mother, to myself. Help me to be less afraid to trust the voice inside — in the deepest part of me.

Teach me to listen, Holy Spirit, for your voice — in busyness and in boredom, in certainty and doubt, in noise and in silence.

Teach me, Lord, to listen.

Amen.

—Adapted by John Veltri, SJ


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July 28, 2020

Jer 14: 17-22

You shall say to them this word: Let my eyes run down with tears night and day, and let them not cease, for the virgin daughter—my people—is struck down with a crushing blow, with a very grievous wound. If I go out into the field, look—those killed by the sword! And if I enter the city, look—those sick with famine! For both prophet and priest ply their trade throughout the land, and have no knowledge. 

Have you completely rejected Judah? Does your heart loathe Zion? Why have you struck us down so that there is no healing for us? We look for peace, but find no good; for a time of healing, but there is terror instead. We acknowledge our wickedness, O Lord, the iniquity of our ancestors, for we have sinned against you. 

Do not spurn us, for your name’s sake; do not dishonor your glorious throne; remember and do not break your covenant with us. Can any idols of the nations bring rain? Or can the heavens give showers? Is it not you, O Lord our God? We set our hope on you, for it is you who do all this.

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

Pray, Pray, Pray, Pray!

After a year of theology school, I notice more than ever when a priest sidesteps a tough first reading to get to the Good News of the Gospel. I can feel that pull, too. But what about those days when even Jesus offers cold comfort? It may be back to the first reading after all!

Often we turn to the Word of God not just for comfort and consolation, but for information: What does God want us to understand about our journey here on earth? Hard readings like today’s from the prophet Jeremiah ask to be read in context. Earlier, in Jeremiah 14:11, God tells Jeremiah clearly, “Do not pray for the well-being of this people.” But Jeremiah pushes his luck: he cannot stop praying. Even when God says, Stop praying!, Jeremiah pleads, argues, and inches his way closer and closer to the Lord: “We set our hope in you!”

These aren’t easy days, but we share a job as Christians: We never stop praying!

Joe Kraemer, SJ, is a scholastic of the Jesuits West Province who begins his second year of Theology at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, CA this fall.

Prayer

My life flows on in endless song;
Above earth’s lamentation,
I hear the sweet, though far-off hymn
That hails a new creation.

Through all the tumult and the strife,
I hear that music ringing;
It finds an echo in my soul—
How can I keep from singing?

What though my joys and comforts die?
The Lord my Savior liveth;
What though the darkness gather round?
Songs in the night he giveth

No storm can shake my inmost calm
While to that rock I’m clinging.
Since Christ is Lord of heaven and earth
How can I keep from singing?

—Robert Wadsworth Lowry, “How Can I Keep from Singing?” (1869)


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July 27, 2020

Mt 13: 31-35

He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.” Jesus told the crowds all these things in parables; without a parable he told them nothing. This was to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet: “I will open my mouth to speak in parables; I will proclaim what has been hidden from the foundation of the world.”

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.

Leavening our world

In “Letter from Birmingham City Jail,” Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., refers to ordinary people who were suffering in the cause of justice as “leaven in the lump of the race.” Two years later, Vatican II employed the same metaphor in describing the Church’s relationship to the modern world. The church is “a leaven and, as it were, the soul of human society.” It is “a most certain seed of unity, hope and salvation for the whole human race.”

What joins a mustard seed, a bit of yeast, and a rag-tag group of disciples badly shaken in the wake of Jesus’s death with tens of thousands of protesters marching after George Floyd’s death? Are we seeing in our times the small yet powerful signs of a “leavening” of the human race?

Christ, let it be so. And let me do my part, this day, to leaven all that I do with your love.

—Christopher Pramuk is the University Chair of Ignatian Thought and Imagination and an associate professor of theology at Regis University

Prayer

Do not depend on the hope of results. When you are doing the sort of work you have taken on, essentially an apostolic work, you may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself…

The real hope, then, is not in something we think we can do but in God who is making something good out of it in some way we cannot see. If we can do God’s will, we will be helping in this process. But we will not necessarily know all about it beforehand. 

—Excerpt from “Letter to a Young Activist” by Thomas Merton


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July 26, 2020

Mt 13: 44-46

‘The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought 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.

Letting ourselves be found by God

For so long I imagined the buried treasure to be the “kingdom of heaven”, but the Gospel doesn’t exactly say that. Rather, the focus is on the action of the person who finds it, and with great joy sells everything he has to buy it. Naturally, this image invites an interpretation that makes me the searching person, and the kingdom the treasure. But what if the person searching is God, and the treasure God finds buried in a field is me? This reversal, though not exhaustive, consoles me, and resonates with Jesus’s mission to seek and save the lost (cf. Lk 19:10). Today, rather than thinking about how clever I must be to find secret divine treasure in my life, perhaps I can turn the image upside down and see with new eyes how God is looking for me, and that I should let myself be found.

—Deacon David A. Lugo, SJ, is a transitional deacon of the Central and Southern Province who will be ordained to the priesthood on August 15th in St. Louis, MO.  He studies theology at Comillas Pontifical University in Madrid, Spain.

Prayer

Loving God, you love us unconditionally and always desire a deeper relationship with us. Since we know you will never stop looking for us and reaching out to us, help us to accept your love and allow ourselves to be “found” by you.  Draw us ever closer into your friendship. Amen.

—The Jesuit Prayer team


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June 25, 2020

St. James

Mt 20: 20-28

Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to him with her sons, and kneeling before him, she asked a favor of him. And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Declare that these two sons of mine will sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” But Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” 

They said to him, “We are able.” He said to them, “You will indeed drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left, this is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” When the ten heard it, they were angry with the two brothers. 

But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

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 are our motivations?

More than a year has passed since the college admissions scandal first made headlines. In March of last year, news broke that celebrity parents had been investing thousands of dollars to build false resumes for their children in order to get them admitted into prestigious schools.  Some parents purchased impressive SAT scores or presented their children as top athletes in sports they never even played. Clearly, admission into a prestigious institution was worth the risk for them. But why? 

There are many possible answers, but do any of them point to an authentic desire for education? Isn’t that the purpose of college anyway? Think of how many less prestigious universities would have gladly accepted these students! Their motivations are skewed!

This scandal sheds some modern light on today’s Gospel for me. The mother of James and John deserves some credit; she’s bold, and she seeks a certain good for her sons. But has she forgotten why her sons started following Jesus in the first place? The sons of Zebedee will reign with Christ, but never for worldly acclaim.  

How often do I perform good acts for the wrong reasons? How often do I ask Christ for things not appointed to me by the Father?

Jarvis Williams is wrapping up his year of service at Cristo Rey Jesuit in Houston as a part of the Volunteer Service Corps.

Prayer

Lord, grant me the grace that all my intentions, actions, and operations may be ordered purely to the service and praise of Thy Divine Majesty.

—Preparatory Prayer of St. Ignatius of Loyola


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July 24, 2020

Mt 13: 18-23

“Hear then the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. 

As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

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 love cannot be contained

We are told the goal of Ignatian mysticism is to praise, reverence and serve our Lord. But what, exactly, is service for Ignatius? According to Fr. Paul Coutinho, SJ, service is not simply doing things for others; it’s about loving God first, and then, out of that love, going out and serving others. The challenge of a loving relationship, then, is not to love, but to allow yourself to be loved. Not just to love God or love your neighbor, but to allow God to love us, to allow our neighbor to love us. That’s transformative. It’s finally realizing that when we “hear the word and understand it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundred fold,” we are in relationship. God’s love flows only from the love that we receive from God first, and only then can flow to everyone we encounter. It cannot be contained. 

Pause for a moment right now, and breathe. Feel the unconditionally love of God. Rejoice in this relationship. 

—Deacon Chuck Thompson is the Director of Adult Ministry at Saint Ignatius College Prep in Chicago.

Prayer

A gentle reminder:
we only bear much fruit when we are in You, O Lord.
Seeds, all, alive only in Your soil.
May I learn to love the ground where I have fallen,
whatever awaits, no matter how far I have strayed,
May your strength and glory always lift me,
Bending low in Your infinite garden, Your church, our church,
where the rain falls on the just and the unjust.
Where the rain falls on me.
And I am lifted up.

—Deacon Chuck Thompson


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July 23, 2020

St. Bridget

Mt 13: 10-17

Then the disciples came and asked him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” He answered, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. The reason I speak to them in parables is that ‘seeing they do not perceive, and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand.’ 

With them indeed is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah that says: ‘You will indeed listen, but never understand, and you will indeed look, but never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes; so that they might not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and understand with their heart and turn— and I would heal them.’ 

But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. Truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear 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.

How do you encounter the mystery of God?

Growing up I was blessed to have the opportunity to grow in my faith in Spanish. I first learned all my prayers in Spanish, attended Mass in Spanish and my CCD lessons were taught in Spanish. It was not until high school where it switched to bilingual studies of theology and religion classes. There is something about communicating with God in Spanish that’s different than when I’m doing it in English. Spanish brings me deeper in contemplation and worship than I can get in English.

I bring all this up because Jesus used parables as his teaching tool to reach his audience. Jesus gave clear and precise illustrations to which his audience could relate. We all find ourselves in different stages of faith and understanding in our lives. There is no one correct way of worshipping. Jesus speaks in parables to lead us to think and to get involved in history from our own life experiences. It makes our experience lead us to discover that God is present in our daily life.

How do I learn the mysteries of the kingdom of God? 

—Maria Elena Juarez is the Assistant Director of Marketing and Events for the Midwest Jesuits, a proud alum of Cristo Rey Jesuit High School and Xavier University.

Prayer

Juntos, como hermanos
Miembros, de una iglesia
Vamos caminando
Al encuentro del señor

Together, like a family
Members of a church
Together we are walking
To meet the lord

Excerpt of “Juntos Como Hermanos” by Cesáreo Gabarain, © 1979 OCP Publications


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July 22, 2020

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.

The Beauty of an Empty Cave

I have always been a fan of this reading for two main reasons. For one, today’s Gospel reading from John exemplifies how important women were in the early church. It was a woman who first spread the good news of Jesus’ resurrection. Women have and continue to hold preeminent place in our Church!

The second reason I love this passage is that it is here where “the point” of Jesus’ life’s work is revealed to the world. His rising from the dead shows people everywhere that nothing can separate human beings from God’s love. Even the world’s most heinous and violent of deaths fails to surmount the love God has for us. In a world that seems void of any sense of justice and normalcy, we can look to the empty tomb to hear God’s final say on it all.  

—Michael Petterson is a senior at the University of Michigan and is an active member of St. Mary Student Parish in Ann Arbor, MI.

Prayer

God of love and mercy, you raised the broken body of Jesus to new life with you. In the many ways I am broken, in my moments of darkness, remind me of your unceasing love and raise me to your side. For your greater glory, Amen. 

—Michael Petterson


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July 31, 2020

St. Ignatius of Loyola

Mt 13: 54-58

He came to his hometown and began to teach the people in their synagogue, so that they were astounded and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these deeds of power? Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all this?” 

And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor except in their own country and in their own house.” And he did not do many deeds of power there, because of their unbelief.

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 what holds us back from love

It feels like Jesus is challenging me in this Gospel. On today’s feast day, however, I look to St. Ignatius’ wisdom, who sees this total surrender of the things of this world as an invitation. Be free. Free of cultural norms, obligations, anxieties, and all my stuff. Listen to Jesus and you will learn to let go. Sure, there will be suffering, but we all suffer. With him, there is a deeper meaning along with unity and redemption. With Jesus the invitation is to be free to love fully and completely with total abandon.

What do I need to let go of, in order to love more fully?  

Erin Maiorca is the Executive Director at Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House in Barrington, IL. Erin’s other vocations include wife to Tom and mother to two wonderful sons. 

Prayer

Good and gracious God, help me to see as you see,
Free me to be guided by your Holy Spirit.
Create in me the freedom to choose that which leads me to you. 

—Erin Maiorca


Please share the Good Word with your friends!

July 30, 2020

Jer 18: 1-6

The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: ‘Come, go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.’ So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. The vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as seemed good to him.

Then the word of the Lord came to me: Can I not do with you, O house of Israel, just as this potter has done? says the Lord. Just like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.

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.

Emptying ourselves to be formed by God

Lately, I have felt somewhat uninspired and out of a normal spiritual routine. I struggled to decide what to share in this reflection. I’m sure this feeling of inadequacy can be relatable to most on some level. The beauty of these moments thus comes when we empty ourselves of our feelings of inadequacy and allow Christ to act in incredible ways. 

God has a funny way of shaping us for the unpredictable experiences we find ourselves in, especially in the times we feel most out of touch with his grace and presence.  As a potter speaks beauty and life into their lump of clay, God too moves in our lives – to make meaning and give form to the mess. God works beyond our anxieties and stresses of the future. Let us pray that we empty ourselves to make way for the Holy spirit and God’s formative hand, knowing that although we may not be adequate, God’s design always is. 

What anxieties can we trade today for the strength and confidence of the potter’s hands?

—Rose-Carmel Goddard is a student at the University of Michigan and is an active member of St. Mary Student Parish in Ann Arbor, MI.

Prayer

I’ve come to think that the only, the supreme, prayer
we can offer up, during these hours
when the road before us is shrouded in darkness,
is that of our master on the cross:
“In manus tuas commendo spiritum meum.”
(Into your hands I commend my spirit.)

To the hands that broke and gave life to the bread,
that blessed and caressed, that were pierced; . . .
to the kindly and mighty hands that reach down
to the very marrow of the soul that mould and create
to the hands through which so great a love is transmitted
it is to these that it is good to surrender our soul,
and above all when we suffer or are afraid.
and in so doing there is a great happiness and a great merit.

—Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ


Please share the Good Word with your friends!

July 29, 2020

St. Martha

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.

Pause and listen

My four year old grandson came for a sleepover last week and around 5:15am stood wide-eyed at my bedside, ever so gently shook my arm to awaken me with a whisper, “Listen, Amma, the birds are speaking”! 

“Listen, Amma”! Listen. What a key message this is in Luke’s passage from today’s Gospel where we picture Mary sitting beside the Lord listening to him speak.  Jesus tells us she has her priorities right.  Mary gets it.  For distracted, anxious, worried Martha busy with serving, this was a teachable moment.  Jesus uses her name twice, perhaps the first time just to get her attention, the second time to draw her unto himself. I don’t think that Jesus was telling Martha not to serve, rather he was teaching her how to serve with a listening heart.  St. Ignatius would say he taught how to be a “contemplative in action”.

What have been the teachable moments in the past months for you?  When have you heard the Master speaking?

Last week God spoke to me through a precious little boy who reminded me to “Listen, Amma”.  

Mary McKeon is a retreat master and spiritual director at the Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House, in Barrington, IL.   

Prayer

Teach Me To Listen

Teach me to listen, O God, to those nearest me, my family, my friends, my co-workers.

Help me to be aware that no matter what words I hear, the message is, “Accept the
person I am. Listen to me.”

Teach me to listen, my caring God, to those far from me– the whisper of the hopeless, the plea of the forgotten, the cry of the anguished.

Teach me to listen, O God my Mother, to myself. Help me to be less afraid to trust the voice inside — in the deepest part of me.

Teach me to listen, Holy Spirit, for your voice — in busyness and in boredom, in certainty and doubt, in noise and in silence.

Teach me, Lord, to listen.

Amen.

—Adapted by John Veltri, SJ


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July 28, 2020

Jer 14: 17-22

You shall say to them this word: Let my eyes run down with tears night and day, and let them not cease, for the virgin daughter—my people—is struck down with a crushing blow, with a very grievous wound. If I go out into the field, look—those killed by the sword! And if I enter the city, look—those sick with famine! For both prophet and priest ply their trade throughout the land, and have no knowledge. 

Have you completely rejected Judah? Does your heart loathe Zion? Why have you struck us down so that there is no healing for us? We look for peace, but find no good; for a time of healing, but there is terror instead. We acknowledge our wickedness, O Lord, the iniquity of our ancestors, for we have sinned against you. 

Do not spurn us, for your name’s sake; do not dishonor your glorious throne; remember and do not break your covenant with us. Can any idols of the nations bring rain? Or can the heavens give showers? Is it not you, O Lord our God? We set our hope on you, for it is you who do all this.

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

Pray, Pray, Pray, Pray!

After a year of theology school, I notice more than ever when a priest sidesteps a tough first reading to get to the Good News of the Gospel. I can feel that pull, too. But what about those days when even Jesus offers cold comfort? It may be back to the first reading after all!

Often we turn to the Word of God not just for comfort and consolation, but for information: What does God want us to understand about our journey here on earth? Hard readings like today’s from the prophet Jeremiah ask to be read in context. Earlier, in Jeremiah 14:11, God tells Jeremiah clearly, “Do not pray for the well-being of this people.” But Jeremiah pushes his luck: he cannot stop praying. Even when God says, Stop praying!, Jeremiah pleads, argues, and inches his way closer and closer to the Lord: “We set our hope in you!”

These aren’t easy days, but we share a job as Christians: We never stop praying!

Joe Kraemer, SJ, is a scholastic of the Jesuits West Province who begins his second year of Theology at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, CA this fall.

Prayer

My life flows on in endless song;
Above earth’s lamentation,
I hear the sweet, though far-off hymn
That hails a new creation.

Through all the tumult and the strife,
I hear that music ringing;
It finds an echo in my soul—
How can I keep from singing?

What though my joys and comforts die?
The Lord my Savior liveth;
What though the darkness gather round?
Songs in the night he giveth

No storm can shake my inmost calm
While to that rock I’m clinging.
Since Christ is Lord of heaven and earth
How can I keep from singing?

—Robert Wadsworth Lowry, “How Can I Keep from Singing?” (1869)


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July 27, 2020

Mt 13: 31-35

He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.” Jesus told the crowds all these things in parables; without a parable he told them nothing. This was to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet: “I will open my mouth to speak in parables; I will proclaim what has been hidden from the foundation of the world.”

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.

Leavening our world

In “Letter from Birmingham City Jail,” Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., refers to ordinary people who were suffering in the cause of justice as “leaven in the lump of the race.” Two years later, Vatican II employed the same metaphor in describing the Church’s relationship to the modern world. The church is “a leaven and, as it were, the soul of human society.” It is “a most certain seed of unity, hope and salvation for the whole human race.”

What joins a mustard seed, a bit of yeast, and a rag-tag group of disciples badly shaken in the wake of Jesus’s death with tens of thousands of protesters marching after George Floyd’s death? Are we seeing in our times the small yet powerful signs of a “leavening” of the human race?

Christ, let it be so. And let me do my part, this day, to leaven all that I do with your love.

—Christopher Pramuk is the University Chair of Ignatian Thought and Imagination and an associate professor of theology at Regis University

Prayer

Do not depend on the hope of results. When you are doing the sort of work you have taken on, essentially an apostolic work, you may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself…

The real hope, then, is not in something we think we can do but in God who is making something good out of it in some way we cannot see. If we can do God’s will, we will be helping in this process. But we will not necessarily know all about it beforehand. 

—Excerpt from “Letter to a Young Activist” by Thomas Merton


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July 26, 2020

Mt 13: 44-46

‘The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought 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.

Letting ourselves be found by God

For so long I imagined the buried treasure to be the “kingdom of heaven”, but the Gospel doesn’t exactly say that. Rather, the focus is on the action of the person who finds it, and with great joy sells everything he has to buy it. Naturally, this image invites an interpretation that makes me the searching person, and the kingdom the treasure. But what if the person searching is God, and the treasure God finds buried in a field is me? This reversal, though not exhaustive, consoles me, and resonates with Jesus’s mission to seek and save the lost (cf. Lk 19:10). Today, rather than thinking about how clever I must be to find secret divine treasure in my life, perhaps I can turn the image upside down and see with new eyes how God is looking for me, and that I should let myself be found.

—Deacon David A. Lugo, SJ, is a transitional deacon of the Central and Southern Province who will be ordained to the priesthood on August 15th in St. Louis, MO.  He studies theology at Comillas Pontifical University in Madrid, Spain.

Prayer

Loving God, you love us unconditionally and always desire a deeper relationship with us. Since we know you will never stop looking for us and reaching out to us, help us to accept your love and allow ourselves to be “found” by you.  Draw us ever closer into your friendship. Amen.

—The Jesuit Prayer team


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June 25, 2020

St. James

Mt 20: 20-28

Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to him with her sons, and kneeling before him, she asked a favor of him. And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Declare that these two sons of mine will sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” But Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” 

They said to him, “We are able.” He said to them, “You will indeed drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left, this is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” When the ten heard it, they were angry with the two brothers. 

But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

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 are our motivations?

More than a year has passed since the college admissions scandal first made headlines. In March of last year, news broke that celebrity parents had been investing thousands of dollars to build false resumes for their children in order to get them admitted into prestigious schools.  Some parents purchased impressive SAT scores or presented their children as top athletes in sports they never even played. Clearly, admission into a prestigious institution was worth the risk for them. But why? 

There are many possible answers, but do any of them point to an authentic desire for education? Isn’t that the purpose of college anyway? Think of how many less prestigious universities would have gladly accepted these students! Their motivations are skewed!

This scandal sheds some modern light on today’s Gospel for me. The mother of James and John deserves some credit; she’s bold, and she seeks a certain good for her sons. But has she forgotten why her sons started following Jesus in the first place? The sons of Zebedee will reign with Christ, but never for worldly acclaim.  

How often do I perform good acts for the wrong reasons? How often do I ask Christ for things not appointed to me by the Father?

Jarvis Williams is wrapping up his year of service at Cristo Rey Jesuit in Houston as a part of the Volunteer Service Corps.

Prayer

Lord, grant me the grace that all my intentions, actions, and operations may be ordered purely to the service and praise of Thy Divine Majesty.

—Preparatory Prayer of St. Ignatius of Loyola


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July 24, 2020

Mt 13: 18-23

“Hear then the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. 

As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

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 love cannot be contained

We are told the goal of Ignatian mysticism is to praise, reverence and serve our Lord. But what, exactly, is service for Ignatius? According to Fr. Paul Coutinho, SJ, service is not simply doing things for others; it’s about loving God first, and then, out of that love, going out and serving others. The challenge of a loving relationship, then, is not to love, but to allow yourself to be loved. Not just to love God or love your neighbor, but to allow God to love us, to allow our neighbor to love us. That’s transformative. It’s finally realizing that when we “hear the word and understand it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundred fold,” we are in relationship. God’s love flows only from the love that we receive from God first, and only then can flow to everyone we encounter. It cannot be contained. 

Pause for a moment right now, and breathe. Feel the unconditionally love of God. Rejoice in this relationship. 

—Deacon Chuck Thompson is the Director of Adult Ministry at Saint Ignatius College Prep in Chicago.

Prayer

A gentle reminder:
we only bear much fruit when we are in You, O Lord.
Seeds, all, alive only in Your soil.
May I learn to love the ground where I have fallen,
whatever awaits, no matter how far I have strayed,
May your strength and glory always lift me,
Bending low in Your infinite garden, Your church, our church,
where the rain falls on the just and the unjust.
Where the rain falls on me.
And I am lifted up.

—Deacon Chuck Thompson


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July 23, 2020

St. Bridget

Mt 13: 10-17

Then the disciples came and asked him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” He answered, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. The reason I speak to them in parables is that ‘seeing they do not perceive, and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand.’ 

With them indeed is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah that says: ‘You will indeed listen, but never understand, and you will indeed look, but never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes; so that they might not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and understand with their heart and turn— and I would heal them.’ 

But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. Truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear 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.

How do you encounter the mystery of God?

Growing up I was blessed to have the opportunity to grow in my faith in Spanish. I first learned all my prayers in Spanish, attended Mass in Spanish and my CCD lessons were taught in Spanish. It was not until high school where it switched to bilingual studies of theology and religion classes. There is something about communicating with God in Spanish that’s different than when I’m doing it in English. Spanish brings me deeper in contemplation and worship than I can get in English.

I bring all this up because Jesus used parables as his teaching tool to reach his audience. Jesus gave clear and precise illustrations to which his audience could relate. We all find ourselves in different stages of faith and understanding in our lives. There is no one correct way of worshipping. Jesus speaks in parables to lead us to think and to get involved in history from our own life experiences. It makes our experience lead us to discover that God is present in our daily life.

How do I learn the mysteries of the kingdom of God? 

—Maria Elena Juarez is the Assistant Director of Marketing and Events for the Midwest Jesuits, a proud alum of Cristo Rey Jesuit High School and Xavier University.

Prayer

Juntos, como hermanos
Miembros, de una iglesia
Vamos caminando
Al encuentro del señor

Together, like a family
Members of a church
Together we are walking
To meet the lord

Excerpt of “Juntos Como Hermanos” by Cesáreo Gabarain, © 1979 OCP Publications


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July 22, 2020

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.

The Beauty of an Empty Cave

I have always been a fan of this reading for two main reasons. For one, today’s Gospel reading from John exemplifies how important women were in the early church. It was a woman who first spread the good news of Jesus’ resurrection. Women have and continue to hold preeminent place in our Church!

The second reason I love this passage is that it is here where “the point” of Jesus’ life’s work is revealed to the world. His rising from the dead shows people everywhere that nothing can separate human beings from God’s love. Even the world’s most heinous and violent of deaths fails to surmount the love God has for us. In a world that seems void of any sense of justice and normalcy, we can look to the empty tomb to hear God’s final say on it all.  

—Michael Petterson is a senior at the University of Michigan and is an active member of St. Mary Student Parish in Ann Arbor, MI.

Prayer

God of love and mercy, you raised the broken body of Jesus to new life with you. In the many ways I am broken, in my moments of darkness, remind me of your unceasing love and raise me to your side. For your greater glory, Amen. 

—Michael Petterson


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