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January 31, 2014

St. John Bosco

Mark 4: 26-34

He also said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.”

He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”

With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.

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 http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations

In Due Time; In Due Season

In the barren setting of a late January in the Upper Midwest, it is good to hear Mark’s Gospel comparing the mystery of the growth cycle to the Kingdom of God.  The Gospel writer notes, “the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how.”  As I stare out across the brown bare land, pock marked only by the sporadic white patch of snow, it is indeed a mystery that seeds deep beneath the frozen subsoil lie in wait.  Although I have experienced the return of spring many times around now, as I stare out the frozen paned glass of my office window, I am incredulous to its present promise.

And so it is with me, with us: when will new life return?  Are there seeds within my own heart, lying in wait? This question alone consoles my winter weary soul.  For Mark reminds us, “of its own accord the land yields fruit.”  Always.  Every year, without fail.  Our winter may yield its grip soon, or perhaps longer we know.  And the first sign of new life close behind.  And so it is with me, with us.  The Kingdom of God unfolds in due time, in due season.  Always.  Every year, without fail.  We wait in trust.

—Matthew Couture is the assistant for secondary and pre-secondary education for the Chicago-Detroit and Wisconsin Jesuits. Matt and his wife Bridget live in Chicago and have two children.

Prayer

We should like to skip the intermediate
stages. We are impatient of being on the
way to something unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress
that is made by passing through some
stages of instability—and that it may take
a very long time.

Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you, and accept the
anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and
incomplete….

Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.

—Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ (excerpted from Hearts on Fire)


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January 30, 2014

Mark 4: 21-25

He said to them, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under the bushel basket, or under the bed, and not on the lampstand? For there is nothing hidden, except to be disclosed; nor is anything secret, except to come to light. Let anyone with ears to hear listen!”

And he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear; the measure you give will be the measure you get, and still more will be given you. For to those who have, more will be given; and from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.”

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 http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations.

Listening and Sharing

Today’s readings offer us both encouragement and lots of faith. In the passage from the Book of Samuel, God establishes the house of Israel as the “line of David” forever. That’s quite a dose of encouragement for the Jewish people who were in a perpetual state of homelessness. And Jesus reminds us in the gospel that “the measure with which you measure out will be measured back to you. To the one who has, more will be given.”

In truth, each of us inherits that same promise of God’s overwhelming generosity to people of faith. As believers who have received so much, the personal challenge to respond in love is obvious. How can we possibly measure up?

Pope Francis reminds us that the poor so often show us how. Look around your neighborhood, even in your own school and home. Perhaps it is in small gestures of sharing and speaking, lifting a burden and offering support, listening first and then responding as possible that we share the Lord’s love. As always, the “poor” —however we find them—will show us the way.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team

Prayer

Lord, teach me to be generous, to serve you as you deserve: to give and not to count the cost; to fight and not to heed the wounds; to toil and not to seek for rest; to labor and not to ask for any reward, save that of doing your will.

—St. Ignatius Loyola (click here for a downloadable prayer card.)


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January 29, 2014

Mark 4: 1-20

Again he began to teach beside the sea. Such a very large crowd gathered around him that he got into a boat on the sea and sat there, while the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. He began to teach them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and it sprang up quickly, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched; and since it had no root, it withered away.

Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain.Other seed fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.” And he said, “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!”

When he was alone, those who were around him along with the twelve asked him about the parables. And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside, everything comes in parables; in order that

‘they may indeed look, but not perceive,
and may indeed listen, but not understand;
so that they may not turn again and be forgiven.’”

And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? Then how will you understand all the parables? The sower sows the word. These are the ones on the path where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them. And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: when they hear the word, they immediately receive it with joy. But they have no root, and endure only for a while; then, when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away.

And others are those sown among the thorns: these are the ones who hear the word, but the cares of the world, and the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things come in and choke the word, and it yields nothing. And these are the ones sown on the good soil: they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.”

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 http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations

God the Sower

We all have heard the Parable of the Sower from today’s gospel many times in the course of our lives. When reflecting on it, I have usually asked myself what kind of ground have I prepared to receive the seed, the word of God? This is a question well worth praying over with total honesty and truthfulness.

As I hear the parable today, however, another perspective jumps into my mind and heart. It is the perspective of the sower, the farmer. This person desperately wants the seed to flourish and bear much fruit. His livelihood depends on it. I would think such a person would be more careful than to throw the seed on the pathways, rocky ground, and where thorns are already growing.

But the sower of the word is no ordinary farmer. It is God who sows his word in the hearts of all people. This is God who desperately wants us to respond to his invitation of love with love in return. He is rooting for us with wild abandon. Even when we have not done a good job of preparing the ground for his presence in our lives, he is sowing the seeds with hope that his grace and love will touch our hearts. How lucky are we that God will spare no expense, will sow seeds at all times and in all places to let us know his love for us.

—David McNulty is the Provincial Assistant for Advancement, Chicago-Detroit Province Jesuits

Prayer

Lord, we claim the assurance that you desperately want us to respond to your personal invitation of love. Let us be mindful of opportunities so easy to pass over that will help us prepare the ground for your presence in our lives. We trust that you are sowing the seeds that will lead us to abundance.

How lucky are we that you spare no expense to sow seeds at all times and in all places to remind us of your very real presence. We count on you in the questions we face, the decision we must make, in the people relying on us, and in those uncertainties tugging at our spirit.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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January 28, 2014

St. Thomas Aquinas

Mark 3: 31-35

Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

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 http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations

Love One Another

Today’s Gospel invites us to ponder the question, “Who are my brothers and sisters?” Questions of family have always been important, but were particularly so in Jesus’ time. Because the ancient Jews lived in harsh climates and a world with foreign political boundaries, families formed the rock and center of life. When Jesus challenged the makeup of his family, he challenged the deepest social fabric of his time.

Although Jesus challenged the social norm of family, he did not reject it. Rather, he built upon an already solid foundation. He broadened the common understanding to demonstrate the awesome reach of God’s love and goodness. Rather than contain the fraternal love of God to an immediate nuclear family, Jesus shared the Good News with all who do the will of the Father. Although this message of openness may seem fluffy to our modern ears, Jesus’ statement bore amazing implications—families took special care, supporting each other economically, socially, and physically. Jesus’ compassion demonstrates the beautiful and awesome tenderness and self-sacrifice of God.

Despite its brevity, the Gospel asks questions that require depth—How do we act with love and mercy toward our brothers and sisters? Do we consider others our siblings, or are we sometimes too guarded with our love? Do we work for solidarity and peace, a sense of fraternal love in our world? Perhaps a quote from Thomas Aquinas, whose feast we celebrate today, can guide our thoughts for the day: “How can we live in harmony? First we need to know we are all madly in love with the same God.”

—Ken Homan, S.J. is a Jesuit brother from the Wisconsin Province. He is currently studying history and theology at Fordham University, New York.

Prayer

Holy God, you have made us. Red, yellow, brown, white and black, tall and short, fat and thin, rich and poor, young and old—all are your children.

Teach us to cooperate rather than to compete, to respect rather than to revile, to forgive rather than to condemn. Jesus turned from no one. May we learn, like him, to be open to the share of the divine that you have implanted in each of our hearts. And may we forge a bond of love that will make a living reality of the unity we profess to believe.

—The Christopher Prayer Book


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January 27, 2014

2 Samuel 5: 1-7. 10

Then all the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron, and said, ‘Look, we are your bone and flesh. For some time, while Saul was king over us, it was you who led out Israel and brought it in. The Lord said to you: It is you who shall be shepherd of my people Israel, you who shall be ruler over Israel.’

So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron; and King David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the Lord, and they anointed David king over Israel. David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned for forty years. At Hebron he reigned over Judah for seven years and six months; and at Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah for thirty-three years.

The king and his men marched to Jerusalem against the Jebusites, the inhabitants of the land, who said to David, ‘You will not come in here, even the blind and the lame will turn you back’—thinking, ‘David cannot come in here.’ Nevertheless, David took the stronghold of Zion, which is now the city of David.

And David became greater and greater, for the Lord, the God of hosts, was with him.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations

Care and Attention

( A couple’s perspective)

I had several great theologians as professors while I was in seminary. One of them, while lecturing on the Old Testament passages such as above, used to state that these passages are important not only because they are holy texts, but that the history it shares reminds us of a very specific group of people to which we belong. And as I think about David’s agreement with his elders, I think of it as the people to whom he is beholden, who depend upon him.

For me, this agreement is with my husband and my young children. Whether it is easy or not, for the rest of my life I am to care for them and “shepherd” them, my family, my people. I pray for help and guidance every day from God as I do this work.

—Carrie

My wife and I are involved in “helping” professions—psychology and counselling for her and ministry and teaching for me. We are good at taking care of others’ needs. We even do a decent job of taking care of one another’s needs (although she definitely does this better than me!).

Unfortunately, we can both overlook our own needs and desires sometimes. It is an occupational hazard, I suppose, that affects many who focus so much on helping other people. I have learned that it is important to pay attention to myself now and then—to feed my soul with music and reading, to rest when I can, and to focus on what is truly important in life. Obligations to self sometimes seem selfish to me, but I need to resist the temptation of believing that I do not need or deserve care and attention.

For reflection—

To whom are you beholden? Who requires your care and attention today?

—David

—Carrie and David Nantais live in the city of Detroit with their two sons, Liam (almost 4 years) and Theo (5 ½ months). They are both at the University of Detroit Mercy—David as Director of University Ministry and Carrie as a PhD student in Clinical Psychology.  They have been married for 5 ½ years. http://www.udmercy.edu/ministry/index.htm

Prayer

Lord, you see grand potential in each of us. You believe in us. Should we be doubting ourselves or feeling a dullness to the goodness of life, awaken us from discouragement, boredom, or fear that holds us back from stretching our talents to be present to others. We believe good will be with us this day, and we praise you for every good gift you have lavished upon us.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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January 26, 2014

Matthew 4: 12-23

Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.”

From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him.

As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him. Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.

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 http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations

Who Am I Dismissing?

For as much as the four Gospels share the story of Jesus in common, each of them offers its own distinct set of emphases. Matthew, whose Gospel we follow during Ordinary Time this year, was interested in showing that Jesus’ life and ministry were consistent with his Jewish upbringing. So Matthew repeatedly depicts Jesus’ life as fulfilling Old Testament passages, as in today’s Gospel.

Citations like these can seem painfully dull (and often not easy to follow during Mass, either). And few today would look to such “proofs” of Jesus’ identity as a source of solace or confidence in our faith. So Jesus went to the region of Zebulun and Napthali—big whoop!

And yet, what Matthew was responding to was the instinct to dismiss Jesus because he didn’t fit community expectations. And that impulse remains alive and well today. Consciously and unconsciously, we too have our expectations of what being “a good Christian” looks like, who is and isn’t one, even what Jesus asks of us. But how often do we go back to God and ask, do I have this right?

In the midst of our busy lives, it’s hard not to make snap judgments. From time to time it’s good to step back and ask, who doesn’t get a place at my table right now? Who am I dismissing? Because who knows, it might just be Jesus.

—Fr. Jim McDermott, S.J., a Wisconsin province Jesuit, is an accomplished professional screenwriter who lives at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles,CA.

Prayer

Lord, with so much pressing upon us, it is really difficult not to dismiss others because of our commitments. How many dear friends have we “dismissed” because we are too busy to check in with them? Slow us down. Let us put relationships, kindness, and presence before our agenda that forgets we live for you through our attention to others.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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January 25, 2014

Conversion of St.  Paul

Acts 22: 3-16

”I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, educated strictly according to our ancestral law, being zealous for God, just as all of you are today. I persecuted this Way up to the point of death by binding both men and women and putting them in prison, as the high priest and the whole council of elders can testify about me.

From them I also received letters to the brothers in Damascus, and I went there in order to bind those who were there and to bring them back to Jerusalem for punishment. “While I was on my way and approaching Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone about me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ Then he said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth whom you are persecuting.’

Now those who were with me saw the light but did not hear the voice of the one who was speaking to me. I asked, ‘What am I to do, Lord?’ The Lord said to me, ‘Get up and go to Damascus; there you will be told everything that has been assigned to you to do.’ Since I could not see because of the brightness of that light, those who were with me took my hand and led me to Damascus.

“A certain Ananias, who was a devout man according to the law and well spoken of by all the Jews living there, came to me; and standing beside me, he said, ‘Brother Saul, regain your sight!’ In that very hour I regained my sight and saw him.

Then he said, ‘The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear his own voice;for you will be his witness to all the world of what you have seen and heard. And now why do you delay? Get up, be baptized, and have your sins washed away, calling on his name.’

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 http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations

The Conversion of Love

The conversion of Paul is such an important event in the history of Christianity that Luke describes it three times in Acts of the Apostles (Acts 9:1-19, 22:3-16, and 26: 9-18).

William James in his classic, The Varieties of Religious Experience, describes the results of conversion: we have a sense that a higher power is grasping us; there is a loss of worry and anxiety; we see truths not known before, or truths become clearer; the world appears more beautiful than before; we have a sense of happiness, even ecstasy.

Isn’t this really a description of what happens when we fall in love? Paul’s conversion—falling in love with Jesus—came suddenly. For most of us it is a slow life-long process. The Greek word for conversion is metanoia, that is, a change in our way of thinking. When we fall in love with Jesus we begin to take on his way of thinking . . . and his way of loving people.

Who and what am I in love with these days?

What type of metanoia is God inviting within me . . . today?

—Fr. Bob Braunreuther, S.J., a New England Jesuit, assists in pastoral ministry at Loyola University Chicago, and is minister of the Arrupe House Jesuit Community.

Prayer

Today’s feast of the Conversion of St. Paul marks the end of the international week of prayer for Christian Unity. The following ecumenical prayer to ask God for this gift of unity.

Lord Jesus Christ, at the Last Supper you prayed to the Father that all should be one. Send your Holy Spirit upon all who bear your name and walk in your ways. Strengthen our faith in you, and lead us to love one another in humility. Through the intercession of St. Paul we pray for the gifts of unity among our Christian churches. May we take practical steps to bring to life your gifts of unity and peace, grace and hope.  Amen!

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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January 24, 2014

St. Francis de Sales

Mark 3: 13-19

He went up the mountain and called to him those whom he wanted, and they came to him. And he appointed twelve, whom he also named apostles, to be with him, and to be sent out to proclaim the message,and to have authority to cast out demons.

So he appointed the twelve:Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); James son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); and Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

Then he went home

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 http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations

Wanted by Jesus

This is a difficult reading for me in some ways. The gospel reference to man after man can make me feel like the other, the un-named, and unimportant, to Jesus and to our Church. I take great comfort in the line “Jesus went to the mountain and summoned those whom he wanted and they came to him.” I trust that I am wanted by Jesus, and need to have the faith to answer the call to come to him, even when I feel less than.

I can easily get bogged down in the hierarchy of the church, but at my core I know that I am invited by Jesus, and called to extend the invitation. I believe that Jesus counts me among his disciples, along with the millions of other faithful women throughout history. In some ways, it is good to feel the exclusion of “the other,” to know the searing pain of being on the outside. Many men and women throughout the world are faced with the daily message that they are not important to their family, neighborhood, community, church or world. May I have the grace and compassion to “be a refuge for them until harm passes,” to name the nameless, and to assure “the other” that they are invited to the mountain.

—Bridget Grady Couture, PhD, serves as Director of Diversity and Community Outreach at Sacred Heart Schools, Chicago, IL. Bridget and her husband Matthew have two children and live in Chicago.

A Prayer of Awareness

God is the foundation for everything.

This God undertakes, God gives.

Such that nothing that is necessary for life is lacking.

Now humankind needs a body that at all times honors and praises God.

This body is supported in every way through the earth.

Thus the earth glorifies the power of God.

—Hildegard of Bingen


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January 23, 2014

1 Sm 18: 6-9; 19: 1-7

As they were coming home, when David returned from killing the Philistine, the women came out of all the towns of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with songs of joy, and with musical instruments. And the women sang to one another as they made merry, “Saul has killed his thousands, and David his ten thousands.” Saul was very angry, for this saying displeased him. He said, “They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed thousands; what more can he have but the kingdom?” So Saul eyed David from that day on.

Saul spoke with his son Jonathan and with all his servants about killing David. But Saul’s son Jonathan took great delight in David. Jonathan told David, “My father Saul is trying to kill you; therefore be on guard tomorrow morning; stay in a secret place and hide yourself. I will go out and stand beside my father in the field where you are, and I will speak to my father about you; if I learn anything I will tell you.”

Jonathan spoke well of David to his father Saul, saying to him, “The king should not sin against his servant David, because he has not sinned against you, and because his deeds have been of good service to you; for he took his life in his hand when he attacked the Philistine, and the Lord brought about a great victory for all Israel. You saw it, and rejoiced; why then will you sin against an innocent person by killing David without cause?”

Saul heeded the voice of Jonathan; Saul swore, “As the Lord lives, he shall not be put to death.” So Jonathan called David and related all these things to him. Jonathan then brought David to Saul, and he was in his presence as before.

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 http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations

Peace-making

Jealousy is an insidious disease of the spirit. It eats away deep within and can lead a person to acts she or he might otherwise consider unthinkable…if in their “right mind.” How fortunate for David that Jonathan had courage enough to stand up to King Saul, mollifying his anger and reasoning with him about the truth of the situation.

Across the globe we can readily identify any number of political situations which are deteriorating because of similar intolerance and hubris. The same is true of difficult family situations where the “wheels have come off” in a fit of anger or hatred. It takes quite a bit of courage to speak up in the face of hardened attitudes and angry threats. Bringing the angry party to a point of reason and reality involves the skill and commitment of true peacemaking. Hard work–but well worth it for the health and hope of a family, a community, even our Church.

Is there some situation where I can bring words of calm, a gesture of peace, even a brief oasis of forgiveness? If so, ask the Lord to give you the “right words”… and go for it!

—The Jesuit Prayer Team

Prayer

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

—St. Francis of Assisi


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January 22, 2014

Mk 3: 1-6

Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand. They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man who had the withered hand, “Come forward.” Then he said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent.

He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately conspired with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations

What’s Important

In today’s gospel we are called to consider what is really important in our lives. Jesus asks the Pharisees, “Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath . . . to save life rather than to destroy it?”  I respond immediately, “of course.” In fact just two verses before this morning’s gospel, Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” It’s so easy, isn’t it?

But then I look at my own life and see many instances when I hold to what seems like a very important principle or rule that justifies far less than reaching out with love to those people God puts in my life and to those on the margins. I often remain silent, if not outright defiant, in the face of the question Jesus poses, just as the Pharisees did. Isn’t this the same question Pope Francis has wonderfully posed to us and to the world in so many ways this past year?

I am encouraged though, because the gospel goes on to say Jesus “grieved at their hardness of heart.” Jesus’ invitation to love and to be loved is always present in my life, even at my worst moments. God’s grace enables me to not only say, but to live my life, answering “of course!”

—David McNulty is the Provincial Assistant for Advancement, Chicago-Detroit Province Jesuits

Prayer

The Church asks us to pray for the legal protection of unborn children today. Jesus’ question in today’s gospel is very appropriate, “Is it lawful… to save life rather than to destroy it?” Let’s pray to Mary for all mothers and unborn children:

Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known, that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help, or sought your intercession was left unaided.

Inspired by this confidence, we fly unto you, O Virgin of virgins, our Mother. To you we come, before you we stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not our petitions, but in your mercy, hear and answer us. Amen

—Jesuit Prayer Team


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January 31, 2014

St. John Bosco

Mark 4: 26-34

He also said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.”

He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”

With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.

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 http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations

In Due Time; In Due Season

In the barren setting of a late January in the Upper Midwest, it is good to hear Mark’s Gospel comparing the mystery of the growth cycle to the Kingdom of God.  The Gospel writer notes, “the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how.”  As I stare out across the brown bare land, pock marked only by the sporadic white patch of snow, it is indeed a mystery that seeds deep beneath the frozen subsoil lie in wait.  Although I have experienced the return of spring many times around now, as I stare out the frozen paned glass of my office window, I am incredulous to its present promise.

And so it is with me, with us: when will new life return?  Are there seeds within my own heart, lying in wait? This question alone consoles my winter weary soul.  For Mark reminds us, “of its own accord the land yields fruit.”  Always.  Every year, without fail.  Our winter may yield its grip soon, or perhaps longer we know.  And the first sign of new life close behind.  And so it is with me, with us.  The Kingdom of God unfolds in due time, in due season.  Always.  Every year, without fail.  We wait in trust.

—Matthew Couture is the assistant for secondary and pre-secondary education for the Chicago-Detroit and Wisconsin Jesuits. Matt and his wife Bridget live in Chicago and have two children.

Prayer

We should like to skip the intermediate
stages. We are impatient of being on the
way to something unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress
that is made by passing through some
stages of instability—and that it may take
a very long time.

Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you, and accept the
anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and
incomplete….

Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.

—Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ (excerpted from Hearts on Fire)


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January 30, 2014

Mark 4: 21-25

He said to them, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under the bushel basket, or under the bed, and not on the lampstand? For there is nothing hidden, except to be disclosed; nor is anything secret, except to come to light. Let anyone with ears to hear listen!”

And he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear; the measure you give will be the measure you get, and still more will be given you. For to those who have, more will be given; and from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.”

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 http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations.

Listening and Sharing

Today’s readings offer us both encouragement and lots of faith. In the passage from the Book of Samuel, God establishes the house of Israel as the “line of David” forever. That’s quite a dose of encouragement for the Jewish people who were in a perpetual state of homelessness. And Jesus reminds us in the gospel that “the measure with which you measure out will be measured back to you. To the one who has, more will be given.”

In truth, each of us inherits that same promise of God’s overwhelming generosity to people of faith. As believers who have received so much, the personal challenge to respond in love is obvious. How can we possibly measure up?

Pope Francis reminds us that the poor so often show us how. Look around your neighborhood, even in your own school and home. Perhaps it is in small gestures of sharing and speaking, lifting a burden and offering support, listening first and then responding as possible that we share the Lord’s love. As always, the “poor” —however we find them—will show us the way.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team

Prayer

Lord, teach me to be generous, to serve you as you deserve: to give and not to count the cost; to fight and not to heed the wounds; to toil and not to seek for rest; to labor and not to ask for any reward, save that of doing your will.

—St. Ignatius Loyola (click here for a downloadable prayer card.)


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January 29, 2014

Mark 4: 1-20

Again he began to teach beside the sea. Such a very large crowd gathered around him that he got into a boat on the sea and sat there, while the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. He began to teach them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and it sprang up quickly, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched; and since it had no root, it withered away.

Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain.Other seed fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.” And he said, “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!”

When he was alone, those who were around him along with the twelve asked him about the parables. And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside, everything comes in parables; in order that

‘they may indeed look, but not perceive,
and may indeed listen, but not understand;
so that they may not turn again and be forgiven.’”

And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? Then how will you understand all the parables? The sower sows the word. These are the ones on the path where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them. And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: when they hear the word, they immediately receive it with joy. But they have no root, and endure only for a while; then, when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away.

And others are those sown among the thorns: these are the ones who hear the word, but the cares of the world, and the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things come in and choke the word, and it yields nothing. And these are the ones sown on the good soil: they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.”

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 http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations

God the Sower

We all have heard the Parable of the Sower from today’s gospel many times in the course of our lives. When reflecting on it, I have usually asked myself what kind of ground have I prepared to receive the seed, the word of God? This is a question well worth praying over with total honesty and truthfulness.

As I hear the parable today, however, another perspective jumps into my mind and heart. It is the perspective of the sower, the farmer. This person desperately wants the seed to flourish and bear much fruit. His livelihood depends on it. I would think such a person would be more careful than to throw the seed on the pathways, rocky ground, and where thorns are already growing.

But the sower of the word is no ordinary farmer. It is God who sows his word in the hearts of all people. This is God who desperately wants us to respond to his invitation of love with love in return. He is rooting for us with wild abandon. Even when we have not done a good job of preparing the ground for his presence in our lives, he is sowing the seeds with hope that his grace and love will touch our hearts. How lucky are we that God will spare no expense, will sow seeds at all times and in all places to let us know his love for us.

—David McNulty is the Provincial Assistant for Advancement, Chicago-Detroit Province Jesuits

Prayer

Lord, we claim the assurance that you desperately want us to respond to your personal invitation of love. Let us be mindful of opportunities so easy to pass over that will help us prepare the ground for your presence in our lives. We trust that you are sowing the seeds that will lead us to abundance.

How lucky are we that you spare no expense to sow seeds at all times and in all places to remind us of your very real presence. We count on you in the questions we face, the decision we must make, in the people relying on us, and in those uncertainties tugging at our spirit.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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January 28, 2014

St. Thomas Aquinas

Mark 3: 31-35

Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

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 http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations

Love One Another

Today’s Gospel invites us to ponder the question, “Who are my brothers and sisters?” Questions of family have always been important, but were particularly so in Jesus’ time. Because the ancient Jews lived in harsh climates and a world with foreign political boundaries, families formed the rock and center of life. When Jesus challenged the makeup of his family, he challenged the deepest social fabric of his time.

Although Jesus challenged the social norm of family, he did not reject it. Rather, he built upon an already solid foundation. He broadened the common understanding to demonstrate the awesome reach of God’s love and goodness. Rather than contain the fraternal love of God to an immediate nuclear family, Jesus shared the Good News with all who do the will of the Father. Although this message of openness may seem fluffy to our modern ears, Jesus’ statement bore amazing implications—families took special care, supporting each other economically, socially, and physically. Jesus’ compassion demonstrates the beautiful and awesome tenderness and self-sacrifice of God.

Despite its brevity, the Gospel asks questions that require depth—How do we act with love and mercy toward our brothers and sisters? Do we consider others our siblings, or are we sometimes too guarded with our love? Do we work for solidarity and peace, a sense of fraternal love in our world? Perhaps a quote from Thomas Aquinas, whose feast we celebrate today, can guide our thoughts for the day: “How can we live in harmony? First we need to know we are all madly in love with the same God.”

—Ken Homan, S.J. is a Jesuit brother from the Wisconsin Province. He is currently studying history and theology at Fordham University, New York.

Prayer

Holy God, you have made us. Red, yellow, brown, white and black, tall and short, fat and thin, rich and poor, young and old—all are your children.

Teach us to cooperate rather than to compete, to respect rather than to revile, to forgive rather than to condemn. Jesus turned from no one. May we learn, like him, to be open to the share of the divine that you have implanted in each of our hearts. And may we forge a bond of love that will make a living reality of the unity we profess to believe.

—The Christopher Prayer Book


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January 27, 2014

2 Samuel 5: 1-7. 10

Then all the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron, and said, ‘Look, we are your bone and flesh. For some time, while Saul was king over us, it was you who led out Israel and brought it in. The Lord said to you: It is you who shall be shepherd of my people Israel, you who shall be ruler over Israel.’

So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron; and King David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the Lord, and they anointed David king over Israel. David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned for forty years. At Hebron he reigned over Judah for seven years and six months; and at Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah for thirty-three years.

The king and his men marched to Jerusalem against the Jebusites, the inhabitants of the land, who said to David, ‘You will not come in here, even the blind and the lame will turn you back’—thinking, ‘David cannot come in here.’ Nevertheless, David took the stronghold of Zion, which is now the city of David.

And David became greater and greater, for the Lord, the God of hosts, was with him.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations

Care and Attention

( A couple’s perspective)

I had several great theologians as professors while I was in seminary. One of them, while lecturing on the Old Testament passages such as above, used to state that these passages are important not only because they are holy texts, but that the history it shares reminds us of a very specific group of people to which we belong. And as I think about David’s agreement with his elders, I think of it as the people to whom he is beholden, who depend upon him.

For me, this agreement is with my husband and my young children. Whether it is easy or not, for the rest of my life I am to care for them and “shepherd” them, my family, my people. I pray for help and guidance every day from God as I do this work.

—Carrie

My wife and I are involved in “helping” professions—psychology and counselling for her and ministry and teaching for me. We are good at taking care of others’ needs. We even do a decent job of taking care of one another’s needs (although she definitely does this better than me!).

Unfortunately, we can both overlook our own needs and desires sometimes. It is an occupational hazard, I suppose, that affects many who focus so much on helping other people. I have learned that it is important to pay attention to myself now and then—to feed my soul with music and reading, to rest when I can, and to focus on what is truly important in life. Obligations to self sometimes seem selfish to me, but I need to resist the temptation of believing that I do not need or deserve care and attention.

For reflection—

To whom are you beholden? Who requires your care and attention today?

—David

—Carrie and David Nantais live in the city of Detroit with their two sons, Liam (almost 4 years) and Theo (5 ½ months). They are both at the University of Detroit Mercy—David as Director of University Ministry and Carrie as a PhD student in Clinical Psychology.  They have been married for 5 ½ years. http://www.udmercy.edu/ministry/index.htm

Prayer

Lord, you see grand potential in each of us. You believe in us. Should we be doubting ourselves or feeling a dullness to the goodness of life, awaken us from discouragement, boredom, or fear that holds us back from stretching our talents to be present to others. We believe good will be with us this day, and we praise you for every good gift you have lavished upon us.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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January 26, 2014

Matthew 4: 12-23

Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.”

From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him.

As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him. Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.

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 http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations

Who Am I Dismissing?

For as much as the four Gospels share the story of Jesus in common, each of them offers its own distinct set of emphases. Matthew, whose Gospel we follow during Ordinary Time this year, was interested in showing that Jesus’ life and ministry were consistent with his Jewish upbringing. So Matthew repeatedly depicts Jesus’ life as fulfilling Old Testament passages, as in today’s Gospel.

Citations like these can seem painfully dull (and often not easy to follow during Mass, either). And few today would look to such “proofs” of Jesus’ identity as a source of solace or confidence in our faith. So Jesus went to the region of Zebulun and Napthali—big whoop!

And yet, what Matthew was responding to was the instinct to dismiss Jesus because he didn’t fit community expectations. And that impulse remains alive and well today. Consciously and unconsciously, we too have our expectations of what being “a good Christian” looks like, who is and isn’t one, even what Jesus asks of us. But how often do we go back to God and ask, do I have this right?

In the midst of our busy lives, it’s hard not to make snap judgments. From time to time it’s good to step back and ask, who doesn’t get a place at my table right now? Who am I dismissing? Because who knows, it might just be Jesus.

—Fr. Jim McDermott, S.J., a Wisconsin province Jesuit, is an accomplished professional screenwriter who lives at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles,CA.

Prayer

Lord, with so much pressing upon us, it is really difficult not to dismiss others because of our commitments. How many dear friends have we “dismissed” because we are too busy to check in with them? Slow us down. Let us put relationships, kindness, and presence before our agenda that forgets we live for you through our attention to others.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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January 25, 2014

Conversion of St.  Paul

Acts 22: 3-16

”I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, educated strictly according to our ancestral law, being zealous for God, just as all of you are today. I persecuted this Way up to the point of death by binding both men and women and putting them in prison, as the high priest and the whole council of elders can testify about me.

From them I also received letters to the brothers in Damascus, and I went there in order to bind those who were there and to bring them back to Jerusalem for punishment. “While I was on my way and approaching Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone about me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ Then he said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth whom you are persecuting.’

Now those who were with me saw the light but did not hear the voice of the one who was speaking to me. I asked, ‘What am I to do, Lord?’ The Lord said to me, ‘Get up and go to Damascus; there you will be told everything that has been assigned to you to do.’ Since I could not see because of the brightness of that light, those who were with me took my hand and led me to Damascus.

“A certain Ananias, who was a devout man according to the law and well spoken of by all the Jews living there, came to me; and standing beside me, he said, ‘Brother Saul, regain your sight!’ In that very hour I regained my sight and saw him.

Then he said, ‘The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear his own voice;for you will be his witness to all the world of what you have seen and heard. And now why do you delay? Get up, be baptized, and have your sins washed away, calling on his name.’

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 http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations

The Conversion of Love

The conversion of Paul is such an important event in the history of Christianity that Luke describes it three times in Acts of the Apostles (Acts 9:1-19, 22:3-16, and 26: 9-18).

William James in his classic, The Varieties of Religious Experience, describes the results of conversion: we have a sense that a higher power is grasping us; there is a loss of worry and anxiety; we see truths not known before, or truths become clearer; the world appears more beautiful than before; we have a sense of happiness, even ecstasy.

Isn’t this really a description of what happens when we fall in love? Paul’s conversion—falling in love with Jesus—came suddenly. For most of us it is a slow life-long process. The Greek word for conversion is metanoia, that is, a change in our way of thinking. When we fall in love with Jesus we begin to take on his way of thinking . . . and his way of loving people.

Who and what am I in love with these days?

What type of metanoia is God inviting within me . . . today?

—Fr. Bob Braunreuther, S.J., a New England Jesuit, assists in pastoral ministry at Loyola University Chicago, and is minister of the Arrupe House Jesuit Community.

Prayer

Today’s feast of the Conversion of St. Paul marks the end of the international week of prayer for Christian Unity. The following ecumenical prayer to ask God for this gift of unity.

Lord Jesus Christ, at the Last Supper you prayed to the Father that all should be one. Send your Holy Spirit upon all who bear your name and walk in your ways. Strengthen our faith in you, and lead us to love one another in humility. Through the intercession of St. Paul we pray for the gifts of unity among our Christian churches. May we take practical steps to bring to life your gifts of unity and peace, grace and hope.  Amen!

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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January 24, 2014

St. Francis de Sales

Mark 3: 13-19

He went up the mountain and called to him those whom he wanted, and they came to him. And he appointed twelve, whom he also named apostles, to be with him, and to be sent out to proclaim the message,and to have authority to cast out demons.

So he appointed the twelve:Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); James son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); and Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

Then he went home

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 http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations

Wanted by Jesus

This is a difficult reading for me in some ways. The gospel reference to man after man can make me feel like the other, the un-named, and unimportant, to Jesus and to our Church. I take great comfort in the line “Jesus went to the mountain and summoned those whom he wanted and they came to him.” I trust that I am wanted by Jesus, and need to have the faith to answer the call to come to him, even when I feel less than.

I can easily get bogged down in the hierarchy of the church, but at my core I know that I am invited by Jesus, and called to extend the invitation. I believe that Jesus counts me among his disciples, along with the millions of other faithful women throughout history. In some ways, it is good to feel the exclusion of “the other,” to know the searing pain of being on the outside. Many men and women throughout the world are faced with the daily message that they are not important to their family, neighborhood, community, church or world. May I have the grace and compassion to “be a refuge for them until harm passes,” to name the nameless, and to assure “the other” that they are invited to the mountain.

—Bridget Grady Couture, PhD, serves as Director of Diversity and Community Outreach at Sacred Heart Schools, Chicago, IL. Bridget and her husband Matthew have two children and live in Chicago.

A Prayer of Awareness

God is the foundation for everything.

This God undertakes, God gives.

Such that nothing that is necessary for life is lacking.

Now humankind needs a body that at all times honors and praises God.

This body is supported in every way through the earth.

Thus the earth glorifies the power of God.

—Hildegard of Bingen


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January 23, 2014

1 Sm 18: 6-9; 19: 1-7

As they were coming home, when David returned from killing the Philistine, the women came out of all the towns of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with songs of joy, and with musical instruments. And the women sang to one another as they made merry, “Saul has killed his thousands, and David his ten thousands.” Saul was very angry, for this saying displeased him. He said, “They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed thousands; what more can he have but the kingdom?” So Saul eyed David from that day on.

Saul spoke with his son Jonathan and with all his servants about killing David. But Saul’s son Jonathan took great delight in David. Jonathan told David, “My father Saul is trying to kill you; therefore be on guard tomorrow morning; stay in a secret place and hide yourself. I will go out and stand beside my father in the field where you are, and I will speak to my father about you; if I learn anything I will tell you.”

Jonathan spoke well of David to his father Saul, saying to him, “The king should not sin against his servant David, because he has not sinned against you, and because his deeds have been of good service to you; for he took his life in his hand when he attacked the Philistine, and the Lord brought about a great victory for all Israel. You saw it, and rejoiced; why then will you sin against an innocent person by killing David without cause?”

Saul heeded the voice of Jonathan; Saul swore, “As the Lord lives, he shall not be put to death.” So Jonathan called David and related all these things to him. Jonathan then brought David to Saul, and he was in his presence as before.

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 http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations

Peace-making

Jealousy is an insidious disease of the spirit. It eats away deep within and can lead a person to acts she or he might otherwise consider unthinkable…if in their “right mind.” How fortunate for David that Jonathan had courage enough to stand up to King Saul, mollifying his anger and reasoning with him about the truth of the situation.

Across the globe we can readily identify any number of political situations which are deteriorating because of similar intolerance and hubris. The same is true of difficult family situations where the “wheels have come off” in a fit of anger or hatred. It takes quite a bit of courage to speak up in the face of hardened attitudes and angry threats. Bringing the angry party to a point of reason and reality involves the skill and commitment of true peacemaking. Hard work–but well worth it for the health and hope of a family, a community, even our Church.

Is there some situation where I can bring words of calm, a gesture of peace, even a brief oasis of forgiveness? If so, ask the Lord to give you the “right words”… and go for it!

—The Jesuit Prayer Team

Prayer

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

—St. Francis of Assisi


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January 22, 2014

Mk 3: 1-6

Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand. They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man who had the withered hand, “Come forward.” Then he said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent.

He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately conspired with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations

What’s Important

In today’s gospel we are called to consider what is really important in our lives. Jesus asks the Pharisees, “Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath . . . to save life rather than to destroy it?”  I respond immediately, “of course.” In fact just two verses before this morning’s gospel, Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” It’s so easy, isn’t it?

But then I look at my own life and see many instances when I hold to what seems like a very important principle or rule that justifies far less than reaching out with love to those people God puts in my life and to those on the margins. I often remain silent, if not outright defiant, in the face of the question Jesus poses, just as the Pharisees did. Isn’t this the same question Pope Francis has wonderfully posed to us and to the world in so many ways this past year?

I am encouraged though, because the gospel goes on to say Jesus “grieved at their hardness of heart.” Jesus’ invitation to love and to be loved is always present in my life, even at my worst moments. God’s grace enables me to not only say, but to live my life, answering “of course!”

—David McNulty is the Provincial Assistant for Advancement, Chicago-Detroit Province Jesuits

Prayer

The Church asks us to pray for the legal protection of unborn children today. Jesus’ question in today’s gospel is very appropriate, “Is it lawful… to save life rather than to destroy it?” Let’s pray to Mary for all mothers and unborn children:

Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known, that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help, or sought your intercession was left unaided.

Inspired by this confidence, we fly unto you, O Virgin of virgins, our Mother. To you we come, before you we stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not our petitions, but in your mercy, hear and answer us. Amen

—Jesuit Prayer Team


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