This reading from Peter’s first letter oozes with a spirit of humble service. Rather than emphasize his standing as the one singled out by Christ and given the “keys of the kingdom,” or even as one of the original Apostles, Peter numbers himself among the “presbyters” or “elders.” Their shepherding, Peter insists, must be seen as service to the Chief Shepherd: Christ.
How desperately our world needs to see Christian leaders known most of all for the resemblance between their service and the humble Christ they profess to serve. What if my words and actions are the closest that those around me will get to seeing the Chief Shepherd today? Am I doing a good job helping others see him?
—Mark McNeil is the assistant principal for formation at Strake Jesuit College Preparatory in Houston, Texas.
What was it like for the first followers to make sense of Jesus’ identity and mission? In today’s Gospel, Jesus himself is curious to learn how people – including his own disciples – interpret his teaching and healing ministry.
Lifelong Christians may take for granted that Jesus is fully human and fully divine, the Son of God, the “Christ.” We know Jesus is more than a rabbi or prophet; He is the Incarnation of God Who-Is-Love, who reconciles the relationship between God and humanity.
But what would it be like to encounter Jesus without this theological framework already in place? What would it take to change our beliefs and what we imagine possible, as the disciples did? How do I answer Jesus’ question for myself: “Who do you say that I am?”
Everyone has a god; it is their center of value, what orders their decisions, habits, and relationships. Today, how can I look for ways to keep Jesus at the center of my life?
In today’s reading, we see a man we know and love doing what we expect him to do. Seeing Jesus perform miracles time and time again, we grow closer to God through the gifts he gives – amazing gifts. Sight to the blind man of Bethsaida is no less impressive than other miracles, but something happens in the short passage that causes pause.
Jesus, in typical fashion, leads the man out of the village, spits in his hand, rubs the man’s eyes and poof! But the miracle is not yet complete. The man sees only partially and distorts what it is he can see.
With another pass, the man regains sight. Though there are likely many implications of the two-part miracle, consider focusing with me on patience. It was not Jesus’ lack of “power.” Perhaps Jesus taught us an additional lesson: faith and patience reveal wonders.
—Alan Ratermann is an English teacher and Director of Ignatian Service Programs at Rockhurst High School in Kansas City, Missouri.
One of our first and most basic instincts is to imitate. Babies, for example, learn to clap their hands by imitation. My nephew learned to “mow the grass” with a toy lawnmower in imitation of his father. The reflex to imitate follows us our entire lives. It can affect what we do, how we dress, and even what we think.
This is exactly what Jesus is talking about in today’s Gospel. The things, people, and ideas that we surround ourselves with tend to affect us. Unless we are careful, we may find ourselves adopting some unhealthy examples.
There are many Herods and Pharisees for us to imitate. Only imitating Jesus, who is pure love, leads to life. His example feeds the hungry and results in seven and twelve baskets of abundance; numbers representing goodness and perfection.
God, help me to guard against bad examples. Let me be surrounded only by Christ. What am I surrounding myself with every day? And is it affecting the way that I think, what I believe, and what I do? Do my words and actions serve as an example of Christ for others?
Despite the short reading, there is plenty to be said about Christ and our relationship with him in today’s Gospel. Passages that show Jesus’ emotions reveal to us the very human side of God. When the Pharisees asked Christ to yet again prove himself, Jesus was resigned to the fact that nothing he did would be enough for them. Their hard-hearted nature prevented them from understanding the countless signs Christ had already provided; one more miracle, one more explanation would not change their minds. This passage reminds me that frustration is a human emotion, one which we must know how to address within ourselves. Jesus retreated from a frustrating situation, aware of his own needs in the moment. As a high school teacher, I resonate with Christ’s profound sigh, “deeply from his spirit.” Jesus’s self-awareness in this Gospel story encourages me to listen to my own emotions in frustrating situations.
—Sara Spittler is the First Years Chaplain and a Religious Studies teacher at Saint Ignatius College Prep in Chicago.
The Oscars are next Sunday! I love the Academy Awards. They give us a chance to recall the outstanding films of last year. My favorite was a documentary called “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” It’s a moving portrait of the television personality Fred Rogers, who inspired generations of children, like me, with his imagination and compassion for others.
“Mister Rogers” was my first encounter with a truly Christ-like teacher. A recent critic noticed how he moved us, gently and liturgically, through his home. Each episode included an “opening greeting, invocations of friends and family, followed by a physical movement through the set’s spaces. In the kitchen, Rogers might learn from a friend how to make paper hats. He concluded where he started, changing back into street clothes and singing a dismissal, with a last spoken note on the value of caring for others, followed by a song.”
This film reminded me how grateful I am for early faith teachers like Fred Rogers. He helped me to feel what the warm welcome, friendly smile and kind voice of Christ might have been like. I use all that to imagine Jesus speaking today’s Sermon on the Plain, the sum of his ethical teachings. We’re told in John 7:46, “No man ever spoke like this Man!”
How might the voice of Jesus have sounded to our ears had we stood with him on that “level place” long ago? Try to imagine him speaking the words to you that Fred Rogers often sang for his audience at home: “It’s you I like!”
—Joe Kraemer, SJ, is a Jesuit scholastic of the Jesuits West Province currently finishing his second year of Regency in the Advancement Office in Los Gatos, California.
In the New American Bible translation of today’s Gospel that we hear at Mass, the disciples’ question is translated “where can anyone get enough bread to satisfy them in this deserted place?” Basically, in a place that seems devoid of nourishment, how can we find what we need?
While the disciples are speaking literally, this is also a question we may ask ourselves when it comes to our own prayer and spiritual lives. Even St. Teresa of Calcutta, someone we think of as having a rich interior spiritual life, struggled to see God at times. In our world that can sometimes seem devoid of kindness and compassion, it can be easy to miss God’s presence. But just as the physical needs of the 4,000 were met by Jesus, so too can our need for a deeper connection to Christ be met simply by making our needs known.
What is a need in your heart that you can bring to prayer today?
—The Jesuit Prayer team
I find it interesting how often Jesus orders people not to tell anyone about the miracles he has performed. Generally, they don’t listen and instead proclaim the news far and wide. I have to wonder why he doesn’t want the word to get out. News like that would – and did – draw people to him in droves, and wasn’t that a good thing? But perhaps he didn’t want people to believe in him solely on the basis of the miracles he performed. There is more to faith than that, especially the faith that Jesus invites us to. The Kingdom of God that Jesus preached and lived is about how we love one another, not about what our God can do for us.
This then begs the question – what do we base our faith on? On what God can do for us? Whether or not our prayers are answered? Or is our faith grounded in something deeper, such as our love for God and for one another and our identity as God’s children?
—Mandy Dillon is a Retreat Coordinator at Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House in Barrington, IL.
Using your imagination – you can see Jesus in this house where he’s gone for a little escape. But even here in Tyre, land of Gentiles, his fame draws people to him. The Syrophoenician woman who enters is daring. She dares to be alone with Jesus, a Jew and a man. She dares to ask him for help when he has hidden himself away. And she is the only person we know of who wins an argument with him. Jesus is surprised, impressed. Perhaps he laughs with pleasure at her repartee. But her focus is on her daughter, and Jesus heals the child.
Place yourself in the scene, in all its vivid detail. Perhaps you take the place of the woman, asking Jesus for your deepest desire. How does he respond?
Spend a few moments in conversation with Jesus – listening as well as talking.
—Catherine Heinhold is the Pastoral Assistant for Ignatian Programming at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Washington, D.C. where she facilitates prayer programs and the Young Adult Community.
In today’s first reading we are given a tremendous responsibility and a tremendous gift. The responsibility is tilling and keeping God’s creation. The gift is freedom to interact with that creation as we see fit. It’s our choice how we want to coexist with the physical world in which we live.
On World Environment Day, Pope Francis challenged us. “… this task entrusted to us by God the Creator requires us to grasp the rhythm and logic of creation. But we are often driven by pride of domination, of possessions, manipulation, of exploitation; we do not ‘care’ for it, we do not respect it, we do not consider it as a free gift that we must care for.”
A free gift that calls us to be stewards of our earth. Living as Adam and Eve did before the fall, in harmony with nature, enjoying the fruits so abundantly provided. Tilling and keeping creation so all who inhabit this planet might enjoy this abundance.
In my own way, how do I till and keep creation?
—Tom Drexler is the Executive Director of the Ignatian Spirituality Project, a ministry providing Ignatian retreats to men and women experiencing homelessness.