On the night I lied to my father about having brushed my teeth, he taught me a pretty clear lesson by making me turn over my best friend, Little Bunny—a love-tattered stuffed animal. At bedtime, I asked for Little Bunny. My father’s response: “He’s been torn to shreds. He’s in the trash.” My father was lying to me. I was devastated. Clever dad.
I always tried to tell the truth after that, until I was in the fourth grade, and my mother and I saw a crate of puppies at a feed store. She told me we could get one, but we’d have to tell my father the puppy had been abandoned. My mother told me I’d have to take this secret to my grave. I reluctantly agreed. No joke, we even named the dog “Lucky.”
My mother passed away when I was 22, and Lucky a year later. My father was so upset when Lucky died, seemingly reliving the grief from the loss of my mother. So, I told him the secret I had kept for so many years. I told him how Mom had orchestrated the entire story because her heart broke for this puppy. And my dad doubled over in laughter.
What is essentially good about our lives looks best in the light of truth. It’s important for us to remember that though we’re all capable of sin, all will be revealed in the sunlight of the morning.
—Austin Freeman is an English teacher and the Test Prep Coordinator forJesuit High School in Tampa, FL.
In the Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius invites us to meditate on the “Two Standards” – the banner of Christ and the banner of Satan. In this meditation, the Evil Spirit leaves traps for us, traps of riches, honors and pride. These traps are placed to ensnare us in our lives and to keep us from growing in our loving relationship with Christ. Jesus, on the other hand, helps us to combat these traps by having us ask for poverty (spiritual and perhaps even material), insults and humility. The disciples in today’s Gospel reading sure sound like they’ve been ensnared by pride. How often do we find ourselves similarly ensnared? How are we drawn away from Christ by the lure of riches and honors?
When I was a child, I remember hearing this parable and saying “well, I’ll just be the good soil because that’s the kind Jesus wants.” I thought it was quite simple! But in reality, I move back and forth between the different types of soil on a regular basis. There are days when I find it easy to be open and attentive to the movements of the spirit. There are other days when I get so wrapped up in my head that very little of God’s message gets through to me.
One gift of the Ignatian Examen can be to begin to recognize the times in our day, or the people who we encounter, who make it more difficult for us to be that fertile soil that is ready to receive God’s word in its entirety. That awareness offers an opportunity to pray for the grace of openness when we find ourselves in certain situations.
Just like a gardener works to amend the soil and create the best possible environment for a plant to thrive, we need to continually check in with ourselves to make our hearts receptive to the word of God.
—The Jesuit Prayer team
Caravaggio’s famous painting of the Calling of St. Matthew depicts a man bewildered by Jesus’ attention. “Who, me??” the man seems to say. “Yes, you,” Jesus replies to Matthew and to each one of us. Today’s first reading invites us to respond to this invitation by leading a life worthy of that incredible call. It’s easy to separate our faith from our work and hobbies and friendships. But as St. Paul reminds us and St. Ignatius echoes, the one God and Father of all can be found in all things. That makes our work, our homes, our extracurricular activities and relationships a locus for God’s presence in the world. Do you live with an awareness and reverence of that presence?
Spend some time basking in God’s gaze today. Allow yourself to feel startled, amazed, and honored by Jesus’ call. And allow that call to transform the rest of your day.
—Sarah Otto is a Retreat and Program Director at Ignatius House Jesuit Retreat Center in Atlanta, GA.
I learned from a Catholic archaeologist that women from Mary Magdalene’s time would collect their tears in tiny vials. He said that when women married, they would give this vial to their husbands—that is to say, they handed over to his care everything that was most precious to them, in sorrow and in joy. In tradition, we know Magdalene as the woman who anointed Jesus with oil and her tears and then dried him with her hair, she who, having been forgiven much loved much.
When Magdalene washed Christ’s feet, some believe it may have been with the tears from this little vial, tears that marked the most precious moments of her life. That in this gesture, she was giving to Jesus everything most precious to her, entrusting to him everything that mattered to her heart.
This is the Magdalene I treasure most and so long to be.
—Liz Kelly is the author of the award-winning Jesus Approaches published by Loyola Press and trained as a director in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.
September is the month of parent meetings at school. Hundreds of parents flock into our assembly room eagerly excited, and perhaps a little anxious, for the start of a new school year and a new chapter in their son’s life. At each meeting, they get to reflect on what tremendous growth their son will experience the coming year in high school – both vertically, for most, as well as internally. The essence of what we as Ignatian educators and they as parents are hoping for, however, is that they grow mostly in love for one another and for God – for the greatest of these is love.
As a new academic year begins, how are you open to growth and change in yourself and those around you this year? What are the great examples of love in your life, and how can you seek to emulate them?
—Gretchen Crowder is the Director of Campus Ministry at Jesuit College Preparatory School of Dallas and an adjunct faculty member at the University of Dallas.
I’m blessed to live with a Bishop Emeritus Carlos A. Sevilla, SJ. I told him this week that I would soon meet with benefactors in Southern California who support the works of our Jesuits West Province. I admitted my confusion about how to defend or explain the state of our Church. What mending words could I offer others out of my own upset and shame?
He said: “The Church is in one of the most challenging storms in its history. Assure those with whom you visit that Jesus is with us in the storm. I’m certain that the changes that must be made will make us a better Church and seen more clearly to be The Body of Christ.”
How this gentle man’s reassurance— along with that image— comforted me when I prayed with today’s readings. The Church has weathered storms from its start. St. Paul encountered them throughout his ministry: in Rome, Galatia, Philippi, Colossae, Thessalonica, Ephesus, and in Corinth, where today he gives the Corinthians the precise image that Bishop Sevilla shared with me: the Body of Christ. If any part of it suffers, the entire body feels it.
The Body of our Church suffers today. Pray with me that Jesus walks with us in the storm!
—Joe Kraemer, SJ, is a Jesuit scholastic of the Jesuits West Province currently starting his second year of Regency in the Advancement Office in Los Gatos, California.
Because I am a teacher, I often find myself stressed about money. I think this feeling arises from time to time for most teachers, even the best investors among them. I remember venting this stress to my father-in-law right before I got married six years ago. I have always had a close relationship with him, so this conversation was not really out of left field. I remember how he laughed at me in response. He said of my wife and me, “You’re young, you’re poor, and you’re in love. There’s never been a better time to get married.” He had faith in me, faith that was slipping from my grasp because of my focus on my own material wealth. I mean, I was about to be married! Reading the story of the centurion provides me with a powerful reminder of what actually constitutes a strong investment.
Where might your faith be waning? How can you place your trust in God?
—Austin Freeman is an English teacher and the Test Prep Coordinator for Jesuit High School in Tampa, FL.
I teach theology at a Jesuit high school in Denver, Colorado, and the other day, while discussing the role of the Church in our lives, I asked my students “Who gave us the Sacraments – these wonderful tools to help us on our path to salvation?”. One student timidly raised her hand in the back of the room and whispered tentatively, “Jesus?”. I was hoping for a more brave, brazen approach, much like Peter’s in today’s Gospel reading! “You are the Christ!” Peter offers such a clear understanding of who Jesus was (and is) – our Savior – the Anointed One.
Why be timid? Perhaps we’re afraid of being wrong. What if we bravely proclaim Jesus’ saving power and somehow we’ve missed the mark? What if our faith is off base and our belief is misguided? If we wish to come after Christ, we have to take up his cross and follow. No doubt our eternal salvation is worth some possible humiliation here on earth.
Talk about Ignatian indifference! Jesus did not see his equality with God as something to be exploited. He surrendered it freely so that we, too, could share intimacy with the divine. Jesus modeled what power truly is: service to those in need. How counter to the models of leadership we’ve seen in our nation, in our world and in our own Church, where power has too often been used to dictate and abuse rather than to minister and lead. We may not have the same form of institutional power that a politician or a clergy member has. But we all have spheres of influence, from our families to our workplaces. Today’s second reading reminds us that true power invites us into the experience of others. Jesus took on our humanity. He ate with sinners, ministered with women, befriended the poor and the outcast. He emptied himself… How will you use your power today?
—Sarah Otto is a Retreat and Program Director at Ignatius House Jesuit Retreat Center in Atlanta, GA.