A Sign of New Life

What strikes me about the synagogue official is his determination to get Jesus to come down and heal his son. Jesus scoffs at the people’s “seeing signs and wonders.” Watch what happens next: not rebuffed by Jesus’ attitude, the official insists that Jesus come with him to heal his son. Jesus tells him, “Your son will live,” and that’s enough for the official. He had come to Jesus, not seeking “signs and wonders” but only life for his son. When Jesus tells him “Your son will live,” he is satisfied because he believes Jesus’ word.  

He returns home, is told that his son got better when Jesus said he would, and he has a sign that his active faith in the word of Jesus brought life. And that sign led to his whole household coming to believe in the word and person of Jesus. He was led beyond the wonders to new life, a new creation.

—Fr. Jim Riley, S.J. serves as assistant to the Jesuit superior at Colombiere Center, Clarkston, MI.

 

 

 


Blind From Birth

I have often reflected on the fact that everyone whom Jesus healed eventually got sick again and died.  Even the man blind from birth who is healed in today’s gospel eventually had his eyes darken in death.  St. John calls these miracles “signs” because they point to something greater than a temporary fix. These signs take us from what we can see with our natural eyes to what can only be revealed to the eyes of our souls.  

In one story after another, John’s gospel reminds us that to open the eyes of our souls to faith in Jesus is to experience rebirth, living water, and now new sight. This is the healing that doesn’t end in death. When we resist this grace, we descend, like the Pharisees, into the blindness of sin.  New sight comes only when we are humble enough to own our blindness and ask for this grace.

—J. Michael Sparough, S.J. is a Retreat Master and Spiritual Director at the Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House outside Chicago. He blogs weekly at  www.heartoheart.org/Lent

 

 


Here I Am, Lord

We pause mid-way through Lent to celebrate the feast of the Annunciation. Isaiah records the prophecy of this event as spoken to Ahaz: “The virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.” Suddenly God breaks into human history with a unique miracle of life and grace. The world will never be the same with the advent of the Messiah. The verse for today’s responsorial psalm sums up Mary’s response: “Here am I, Lord: I come to do your will.”

The events of our own lives are usually less dramatic. Yet, as we trace the patterns of God’s grace in our hearts, there are clear “crossroads moments” when any of us comes to a point of decision. Recall such moments in your own life today: How did you struggle? How did you decide? This Lent 2017 how are you invited to respond to some situation large or small as Mary did: “Here am I, Lord: I come to do your will.”

—The Jesuit Prayer Team

 

 

 


Simply Listening

In today’s Gospel, a scribe who engaged Jesus in dialogue with is told—in encouragement and even perhaps accolade—that he is not far from the Kingdom of God. What has the scribe done to receive this reassurance from Jesus that he has “answered with understanding”? Described his love for God over all else? Given a few examples of how he cares for his neighbor? No: he simply listened. He listened to Jesus’ answer about the greatest two commandments, and then, slightly paraphrasing, repeated it back to him.

 Anyone with a skilled spiritual director, therapist, or wise friend might recognize this activity. It demonstrates attention and care without suggesting solutions or providing opinions on what has been shared. The listener feels understood. Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said that “[we] forget that listening can be a greater service than speaking.” Today’s scribe gives us a small lesson in the value of such service.

—Catherine Ruffing Drotleff current serves as Development Director for the Ignatian Spirituality Project, based in Chicago IL.

 


A Heart Check-up

Today’s Gospel offers a good “check-up” for our hearts. I may outwardly be “with Jesus” in my exterior actions—praying, giving alms, observing Lenten penances. But I can do these things without being “with him” in my heart. If my heart is not fully turned toward God at each moment, I am “against him,” not able to “gather” with him, and in fact may be “scattering” those he is calling back to him.

What does it mean that God gathers, and that we gather with him? I think Jesus names it in his reference to the “finger of God.” The finger of God points out the path, touches and heals us in our most painful wounds, encourages and unites, and thereby gathers us close to his heart.  When we do something “by the finger of God,” we point out the path to God, heal, encourage, and unite those around us. We gather them back to the heart of Jesus. We cannot do this if we are not first gathered, fully turned toward God in the depths of our being, allowing him to touch every part of us. Are you with Jesus, or against him?

—Rachel Fitzgibbon serves as Retreat Coordinator at Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House, Barrington IL.

 


Deeds and Words

In the Gospel today Jesus condemns those who break the commandments, but he adds the extra line “and teaches other to do so.” The words of our lives may sound upright but do our actions imitate the words we profess? Too often in my own life I forget that my own actions (both good and bad) can be teachable moments for those around me.

As we enter deeper into the Lenten season the Gospel challenges us to reflect on how our actions lead others to Jesus or whether they lead them away from the Kingdom. Let us ask God for the grace to observe and demonstrate the commandments, and so reflect the great Kingdom of heaven.

—Fr. Tom Neitzke, S.J. serves as president of Creighton Prep, Omaha, NE.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Mercies Remembered

Remember your mercies, O Lord,” says the psalmist. If you think about it, it’s kind of strange to be reminding God of his covenant to us, his promise of mercy. Our faith has unwaveringly taught that God is unchanging and that his love endures forever. Perhaps it is not so much that we need to remind God about his enduring love for us, but we must remind ourselves. We often forget God’s love because we get so wrapped up in ourselves and our daily lives—our day-to-day tasks, our struggles, our triumphs. But we cannot let ourselves be fooled into thinking that the love of God is not worth remembering. The evil spirit is really good at exploiting our tendency to forget by keeping our minds and hearts pointed toward ourselves.

The gift of remembering is one of the graces of the Ignatian examen. When we remember the love of God in our daily lives, we overcome the evil spirit’s tactics to make us forget. Let us pray with a sincere heart, “We remember your mercies, O Lord.”

—James Antonio, S.J., a Jesuit scholastic of the Oregon Province, is currently studying philosophy at St. Louis University. He lives at the Bellarmine House of Studies in St. Louis.

 

 

 

 

 


Joseph and Fatherhood

I sometimes wonder what kind of relationship Joseph had with Jesus. For example, when his parents find him in the Jerusalem temple, it is his mother who reprimands him, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” I guess I would have expected Joseph to have a few firm words with Jesus, but I get the impression that Joseph was a strong but silent man. He raised Jesus by the example of his life and not by his words. He taught him by example to play fair, to tell the truth, to love and be loved.  

Joseph taught Jesus by his example to be a Jewish man, to work conscientiously and pay attention to the need of others and not be afraid of the poor. Do I model in my daily behavior a person coming to maturity and living the Gospel values in my dealings with others?

—Fr. Jim Riley, S.J. serves as assistant to the Jesuit superior at Colombiere Center, Clarkston, MI.

 


I Thirst

Thirst. It’s something we’ve all experienced, including Jesus. His thirst is compounded when the least likely person to share her water with a Jew and a man shows up at the least likely time of day.

But there’s a deeper thirst that can’t be quenched by water from Jacob’s well. That thirst only God can satisfy. And when this woman of shame even sips from Jesus’ well, she discovers a fountain of living water springing up inside her.

Yet there’s a still deeper thirst in the heart of Jesus. In every chapel of Saint Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity the words “I Thirst” are inscribed next to the crucifix. The words he spoke to the Samaritan woman and reaffirmed on the cross are now whispered each day to each of us. How different our lives will become when we live in the belief that our return of love really matters to God!

—J. Michael Sparough, SJ is a Retreat Master, writer, and Spiritual Director at the Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House outside Chicago. Click to watch a video of this reflection: www.heartoheart.org/Lent

 


Digging Deep

When considering a particular gospel passage, Ignatius Loyola invites us to place ourselves within the situation and frame of mind/heart of the gospel person we find there. So, in today’s very familiar passage, what happens if any of us places ourselves in the mind/heart of the parent … or the prodigal child … or the faithful child back home? How do things look like through the eyes of the parent, or in the heart of the prodigal? What do the servants experience? What takes place during the feast at which the fatted calf is served? And what is going on behind the scenes? What is the back talk?

After considering any of these viewpoints, St. Ignatius invites our personal reflection: today—March 18, 2017— What jumps out in my own heart as I consider this story? Where am I attracted? Where am I put off? How am I drawn to the Lord this weekend? What does Jesus ask and invite these early days of Lent? How might I act differently today with those I live with, those I meet, those I love?

—The Jesuit prayer team

 


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A Sign of New Life

What strikes me about the synagogue official is his determination to get Jesus to come down and heal his son. Jesus scoffs at the people’s “seeing signs and wonders.” Watch what happens next: not rebuffed by Jesus’ attitude, the official insists that Jesus come with him to heal his son. Jesus tells him, “Your son will live,” and that’s enough for the official. He had come to Jesus, not seeking “signs and wonders” but only life for his son. When Jesus tells him “Your son will live,” he is satisfied because he believes Jesus’ word.  

He returns home, is told that his son got better when Jesus said he would, and he has a sign that his active faith in the word of Jesus brought life. And that sign led to his whole household coming to believe in the word and person of Jesus. He was led beyond the wonders to new life, a new creation.

—Fr. Jim Riley, S.J. serves as assistant to the Jesuit superior at Colombiere Center, Clarkston, MI.

 

 

 


Blind From Birth

I have often reflected on the fact that everyone whom Jesus healed eventually got sick again and died.  Even the man blind from birth who is healed in today’s gospel eventually had his eyes darken in death.  St. John calls these miracles “signs” because they point to something greater than a temporary fix. These signs take us from what we can see with our natural eyes to what can only be revealed to the eyes of our souls.  

In one story after another, John’s gospel reminds us that to open the eyes of our souls to faith in Jesus is to experience rebirth, living water, and now new sight. This is the healing that doesn’t end in death. When we resist this grace, we descend, like the Pharisees, into the blindness of sin.  New sight comes only when we are humble enough to own our blindness and ask for this grace.

—J. Michael Sparough, S.J. is a Retreat Master and Spiritual Director at the Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House outside Chicago. He blogs weekly at  www.heartoheart.org/Lent

 

 


Here I Am, Lord

We pause mid-way through Lent to celebrate the feast of the Annunciation. Isaiah records the prophecy of this event as spoken to Ahaz: “The virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.” Suddenly God breaks into human history with a unique miracle of life and grace. The world will never be the same with the advent of the Messiah. The verse for today’s responsorial psalm sums up Mary’s response: “Here am I, Lord: I come to do your will.”

The events of our own lives are usually less dramatic. Yet, as we trace the patterns of God’s grace in our hearts, there are clear “crossroads moments” when any of us comes to a point of decision. Recall such moments in your own life today: How did you struggle? How did you decide? This Lent 2017 how are you invited to respond to some situation large or small as Mary did: “Here am I, Lord: I come to do your will.”

—The Jesuit Prayer Team

 

 

 


Simply Listening

In today’s Gospel, a scribe who engaged Jesus in dialogue with is told—in encouragement and even perhaps accolade—that he is not far from the Kingdom of God. What has the scribe done to receive this reassurance from Jesus that he has “answered with understanding”? Described his love for God over all else? Given a few examples of how he cares for his neighbor? No: he simply listened. He listened to Jesus’ answer about the greatest two commandments, and then, slightly paraphrasing, repeated it back to him.

 Anyone with a skilled spiritual director, therapist, or wise friend might recognize this activity. It demonstrates attention and care without suggesting solutions or providing opinions on what has been shared. The listener feels understood. Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said that “[we] forget that listening can be a greater service than speaking.” Today’s scribe gives us a small lesson in the value of such service.

—Catherine Ruffing Drotleff current serves as Development Director for the Ignatian Spirituality Project, based in Chicago IL.

 


A Heart Check-up

Today’s Gospel offers a good “check-up” for our hearts. I may outwardly be “with Jesus” in my exterior actions—praying, giving alms, observing Lenten penances. But I can do these things without being “with him” in my heart. If my heart is not fully turned toward God at each moment, I am “against him,” not able to “gather” with him, and in fact may be “scattering” those he is calling back to him.

What does it mean that God gathers, and that we gather with him? I think Jesus names it in his reference to the “finger of God.” The finger of God points out the path, touches and heals us in our most painful wounds, encourages and unites, and thereby gathers us close to his heart.  When we do something “by the finger of God,” we point out the path to God, heal, encourage, and unite those around us. We gather them back to the heart of Jesus. We cannot do this if we are not first gathered, fully turned toward God in the depths of our being, allowing him to touch every part of us. Are you with Jesus, or against him?

—Rachel Fitzgibbon serves as Retreat Coordinator at Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House, Barrington IL.

 


Deeds and Words

In the Gospel today Jesus condemns those who break the commandments, but he adds the extra line “and teaches other to do so.” The words of our lives may sound upright but do our actions imitate the words we profess? Too often in my own life I forget that my own actions (both good and bad) can be teachable moments for those around me.

As we enter deeper into the Lenten season the Gospel challenges us to reflect on how our actions lead others to Jesus or whether they lead them away from the Kingdom. Let us ask God for the grace to observe and demonstrate the commandments, and so reflect the great Kingdom of heaven.

—Fr. Tom Neitzke, S.J. serves as president of Creighton Prep, Omaha, NE.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Mercies Remembered

Remember your mercies, O Lord,” says the psalmist. If you think about it, it’s kind of strange to be reminding God of his covenant to us, his promise of mercy. Our faith has unwaveringly taught that God is unchanging and that his love endures forever. Perhaps it is not so much that we need to remind God about his enduring love for us, but we must remind ourselves. We often forget God’s love because we get so wrapped up in ourselves and our daily lives—our day-to-day tasks, our struggles, our triumphs. But we cannot let ourselves be fooled into thinking that the love of God is not worth remembering. The evil spirit is really good at exploiting our tendency to forget by keeping our minds and hearts pointed toward ourselves.

The gift of remembering is one of the graces of the Ignatian examen. When we remember the love of God in our daily lives, we overcome the evil spirit’s tactics to make us forget. Let us pray with a sincere heart, “We remember your mercies, O Lord.”

—James Antonio, S.J., a Jesuit scholastic of the Oregon Province, is currently studying philosophy at St. Louis University. He lives at the Bellarmine House of Studies in St. Louis.

 

 

 

 

 


Joseph and Fatherhood

I sometimes wonder what kind of relationship Joseph had with Jesus. For example, when his parents find him in the Jerusalem temple, it is his mother who reprimands him, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” I guess I would have expected Joseph to have a few firm words with Jesus, but I get the impression that Joseph was a strong but silent man. He raised Jesus by the example of his life and not by his words. He taught him by example to play fair, to tell the truth, to love and be loved.  

Joseph taught Jesus by his example to be a Jewish man, to work conscientiously and pay attention to the need of others and not be afraid of the poor. Do I model in my daily behavior a person coming to maturity and living the Gospel values in my dealings with others?

—Fr. Jim Riley, S.J. serves as assistant to the Jesuit superior at Colombiere Center, Clarkston, MI.

 


I Thirst

Thirst. It’s something we’ve all experienced, including Jesus. His thirst is compounded when the least likely person to share her water with a Jew and a man shows up at the least likely time of day.

But there’s a deeper thirst that can’t be quenched by water from Jacob’s well. That thirst only God can satisfy. And when this woman of shame even sips from Jesus’ well, she discovers a fountain of living water springing up inside her.

Yet there’s a still deeper thirst in the heart of Jesus. In every chapel of Saint Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity the words “I Thirst” are inscribed next to the crucifix. The words he spoke to the Samaritan woman and reaffirmed on the cross are now whispered each day to each of us. How different our lives will become when we live in the belief that our return of love really matters to God!

—J. Michael Sparough, SJ is a Retreat Master, writer, and Spiritual Director at the Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House outside Chicago. Click to watch a video of this reflection: www.heartoheart.org/Lent

 


Digging Deep

When considering a particular gospel passage, Ignatius Loyola invites us to place ourselves within the situation and frame of mind/heart of the gospel person we find there. So, in today’s very familiar passage, what happens if any of us places ourselves in the mind/heart of the parent … or the prodigal child … or the faithful child back home? How do things look like through the eyes of the parent, or in the heart of the prodigal? What do the servants experience? What takes place during the feast at which the fatted calf is served? And what is going on behind the scenes? What is the back talk?

After considering any of these viewpoints, St. Ignatius invites our personal reflection: today—March 18, 2017— What jumps out in my own heart as I consider this story? Where am I attracted? Where am I put off? How am I drawn to the Lord this weekend? What does Jesus ask and invite these early days of Lent? How might I act differently today with those I live with, those I meet, those I love?

—The Jesuit prayer team