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January 31, 2015

St. John Bosco

Mk 4: 35-41

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”

He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey 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.

Strong Winds

A week ago we experienced a vivid reminder of “strong winds” during the Mass Pope Francis celebrated in Tacloban in the Philippines. (This is the same area hard hit by typhoon Yolanda in Nov. 2013.) Wearing a plastic poncho over his vestments, the pope still wasn’t shielded from the strong winds and heavy rain that came at him sideways throughout the Mass. It was really a bit of a “holy mess.”

The Holy Father remained serene throughout the Mass; his strong faith and focus gave energy to the crowds who sang and prayed with gusto…even as they wiped away the insistent raindrops.

What strong winds and rain are drenching my spirit these days? How does Jesus help me to “be still,” to find both faith and focus as I go about my daily duties?

—The Jesuit Prayer Team

Prayer

Living God, our refuge and strength, even the wind and sea obey your voice. Put the wind back in its place, and say to the sea: Peace! Be still!

Fill us with great faith, and save us from the surging waters, so that we may always tell the good news of your saving love. Through Jesus Christ, our hope in every storm. Amen.  (based on Mark 4)

—From the prayerbook of the Presbyterian Church USA


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January 30, 2015

Mk 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.

God’s Kingdom Always Growing

I do not know much about botany or gardening, but I bet there are bigger trees and smaller seeds than those from the mustard plant. So I believe Mark´s gospel is not referring to size or any other scientific fact, but to the natural process of a seed becoming a large tree. This is exactly how God’s kingdom works—a gradual process that invites our attention along the whole process to understand how it works.

The formation of the Kingdom of God is like a seed that is constantly growing. It sprouts, grows, and patiently flourishes until becoming a strong tree. Little by little God is making transformations, continually working in our lives. God is essentially a creator and can help us transform our lives.  All we need is to invite God to enter into our daily lives.

Our Ignatian spirituality is centered in this concept of establishing the Kingdom of God.  Our central petition is that we are able to act according to God’s will. So I ask the Lord today to move my will and put into my soul all I ought to do, so as to further promote God´s will.

—Fr. Hugo Nelson Gomez-Sevilla is a Jesuit from Colombia, currently pursuing graduate studies in educational leadership at Loyola University Chicago.

Prayer

Eternal Lord of all things, I make my offering with your favor and help, in the presence of your infinite Goodness and in the presence of your glorious mother and of all the saints of the heavenly court: I want and desire, and it is my deliberate determination, if only it be your greater service and praise, to imitate you in bearing all injuries and all abuse and all poverty of spirit, and actual poverty, too, if your most Holy Majesty wants to choose and receive me to such a life and state.

—St. Ignatius Loyola, Spiritual Exercises, #98, “Oblation of the Kingdom”


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January 29, 2015

Mk 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.

Sharing our light

Each of us has been given a light to share, as Jesus points out in today’s reading. If we fail to share it, or hide it under a bushel basket, it may be “taken away.”

I can intentionally practice shining my light could be tested out on a trip to the grocery store. It might start with giving up the closest parking spot. Then entering the door with a genuine smile; talking and really listening to the neighbor you would normally avoid; making light of your rattling cart; complimenting the deli worker on her efforts as she passes your lunch meat; and encouraging the man who you know is battling a disease. Then it means telling a good enough joke so the checkout person really laughs, not just chuckles.

What everyday chore can you intentionally practice that would share your light with others? What is the “corner of light” that only you have to give the world?  And what would it mean for you, and those around you, if it were taken away?

—Charlotte F. Ahern is a wife and mother of three college-aged children. She is also a spiritual director and retreat leader at Jesuit schools in the Chicago area.

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.

O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

—Attributed to St. Francis of Assisi


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January 28, 2015

St. Thomas Aquinas

Heb 10: 11-18

And every priest stands day after day at his service, offering again and again the same sacrifices that can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, “he sat down at the right hand of God,” and since then has been waiting “until his enemies would be made a footstool for his feet.”

For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us, for after saying, “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds,” he also adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.

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.

Loving Forgiveness

Today’s first reading speaks of forgiveness. The first week of the Spiritual Exercises has us consider our sins and God’s forgiveness and love.

When I was five or six years old, I remember my father teaching me how to hit a baseball. He would stand close and underhand the ball to home plate where I was standing, ready to hit it out of the park like the Mighty Casey of the famous poem. I took a mighty swing and failed to hold onto the bat. It flew out of my hands and hit my father square in the shin. He fell to the ground in pain. I ran into the house and to my room where I cried uncontrollably in shame and sorrow.

It was only a matter of a minute or two before my father came into the room and hugged me with all the love he had, so much love that my shame, sorrow and tears disappeared. He assured me that he was fine and one day I would be a great baseball player. I don’t know about becoming a great baseball player, but I sure did learn an awful lot about unconditional love that day.

This is but a small indication of God’s love for each of us. Imagine it!

—David McNulty works for the Midwest Jesuits. Dave and his wife Judy are grandparents of six.

Prayer

“It is God’s justice that is revealed to us on the Cross: the Cross is God’s judgement on us and on the world. But how does God judge us? By giving His life for us! Here is the supreme act of justice that defeats the Prince of this world once and for all; and this supreme act of justice is precisely also the supreme act of mercy. Jesus calls all of us to follow this path: ‘Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.’”

—Pope Francis


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January 27, 2015

St. Angela Merici

Mk 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.

Reaching Out

No matter what, every time I read this gospel, I first think, “What! Jesus had brothers?!”

But this gospel is much less about Jesus’ family, I think, than about ours and God’s: this family of God grows when we do God’s will, when we love one another.

I don’t think I’m a particularly good example of this, but I do think about how many people call me “brother”—my three delightful blood brothers, of course, but then also my Jesuit community and, perhaps most surprisingly, a smattering of east and west African men who are refugees in Chicago, men whose families I have gotten to know and accompany in their challenging transitions.

When we reach out to others in generous love, our own and God’s family grow wider, creating more chances to see a former stranger as brother, sister, son or mother.

Who has become part of your wider family?

—Garrett Gundlach, S.J. is a Jesuit scholastic from the Wisconsin Province. He is engaged in Master of Social Work studies at Loyola University Chicago.

Prayer

You were born into a small family.
There, you learned to love in small ways, and
from there, you left to share this love abroad.
From a small family, you then built a larger one.

You went to the margins of your world,
to the sick, the despised rich and the forgotten poor,
You went to the fisherman, the leper and the widow,
and you brought them together into a new family,
bound not by blood but bound by sharing love.

This wide family is our Church;
this cast of characters, including me,
is our Christian community.

Jesus, show me the way today
that I can stretch this family even wider.

Amen.

—Garrett Gundlach, S.J.


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January 26, 2015

Sts. Timothy and Titus

2 Tm 1: 1-8

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, for the sake of the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus, To Timothy, my beloved child: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. I am grateful to God—whom I worship with a clear conscience, as my ancestors did—when I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day.

Recalling your tears, I long to see you so that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you.

For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline. Do not be ashamed, then, of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God,

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.

Strong, Loving, Wise

Do you remember your confirmation?  Mine is a little hazy though I do recall lining up in front of the altar with two or three other teenagers, sponsors behind us, their hands on our shoulders. A bishop went down the line, gently placing his hands on our heads to anoint and confirm us in the Holy Spirit  There was probably a party afterwards.

Memories of my grandmothers, mother, aunties and confirmation sponsor-mom are much stronger. The expression of faith in the lives of these good women looks very different one from another, yet they all had a hand in my formation. Gifts I received from each live on in my own life of faith.

To name just a few: a desire to celebrate Sunday Eucharist and share Sunday dinner; an appreciation for the hard work required for good marriages to last, the courage it takes to end bad ones, and the knowledge that both choices can make lives of love and hope possible for others; the grace to open heart and home to the many and often unexpected ways we find ourselves called to be family, even or especially in difficult times.

Today I give joyful thanks for the gift of Elizabeth, Gretchen, Rena, Mary, Kathy, Marj, Anne, Connie, Chris and Donna, and lift them all up in prayer to God. I invite you to do the same for your foremothers. St. Paul and I are confident that their faith “lives on also in you.”

—Jenéne Francis, is Provincial Assistant for Pastoral Ministries, Chicago-Detroit Province and Wisconsin Province of the Society of Jesus

Prayer

Loving God, as a mother gives life and nourishment to her children, so you watch over your Church. Bless these women, that they may be strengthened as Christian mothers. Let the example of their faith and love shine forth. Grant that we, their sons and daughters, may honor them always with a spirit of profound respect. Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

—from Book of Blessings, © The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota, 1989


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January 25, 2015

Mk 1: 14-20

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him.

As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed 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.

Free to Serve

When I was the Jesuit vocation director for Kenya, I would sometimes have occasion to say to a candidate, “If you say the only reason you want to be a Jesuit is for the love of God, I don’t believe you and you’re surely deceiving yourself.” Maybe Peter wanted to get away from his mother-in-law or James and John were tired of working for their father. Maybe each thought following Jesus would be exactly the great adventure he was looking for.

All of our choices, most especially the big ones, are made for a variety of reasons, both loving and selfish, conscious and unconscious. And God uses all these motives to move us forward for good. How many priests can say that an early motivation for priesthood was foreseeing getting to dress in attractive vestments and saying Mass! One of the works of the lifetime for each of us is to become aware of all our motives, and to become more focused on and committed to the loving ones. In that way we will become freer to “do” the Reign of God.

—Fr. Terry Charlton, SJ, joined the Chicago province and now serves as assistant provincial in Eastern Africa. He is the co-founder and chaplain of St. Aloysius Gonzaga High School for AIDS orphans from the Kibera slum in Nairobi, Kenya.

Prayer

Lord, we pray for your grace to examine our motives through the lens of Mother Teresa’s insight:

“I am not sure exactly what heaven will be like, but I know that when we die and it comes time for God to judge us, he will not ask, ‘How many good things have you done in your life?’ rather he will ask, ‘How much love did you put into what you did?”


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January 24, 2015

St. Francis de Sales

Mk 3: 20-21

And the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.”

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.

Commitment

So many folks seem truly out of their minds as they accomplish the near-impossible—a marathon runner, a student juggling two jobs to graduate on time, a Cristo Rey president hoping to raise enough money to open a new school, a medical team accomplishing an intricate surgery, parents providing for the needs of a severely ill child…. Each reader can add to the list.

Those in Jesus’ time thought he was out of his mind as he healed diseases, cast out evil spirits, invited disciples to “come, follow me.” Even his relatives clucked about his mental status. Yet Jesus—as anyone with strong commitment—was “on mission” and was single-minded in its pursuit.

What am I passionate about? What drives me to focus my talents and energy on a project or need? How does the message and vision of Jesus engage my “best self”?

—The Jesuit Prayer Team

Prayer

How do you, Lord, look at me?
What do you feel in your heart for me?

—John Eagan, S.J. in Hearts on Fire ed. Michael Harter, S.J. © Loyola Press, 2004.


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January 23, 2015

Mk 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.

Answering the Call

One of the most inspiring meditations in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius is the Two Standards. [cf. Spiritual Exercises ##136-147]. I love considering how the Lord of all the world chooses so many persons—apostles, disciples, etc.—and sends them forth throughout all the world. What I imagine is that God not only wants to spread good news through all states and conditions of persons, but also that he engages different people from all states and conditions for this mission.

In the gospel of Mark, we read today that Jesus appointed twelve whom he named “apostles.” We are also called to follow Jesus and to be apostles to fulfill three specific functions: walking with Jesus, announcing his word, and acting with the authority given to us. It does not matter how sinful we are since we are called to be with Jesus. He transforms our hearts, making us able to spread good news across the world.  And so our actions inspired by Jesus will transform our surroundings to become better communities and thereby to heal our suffering world.

—Fr. Hugo Nelson Gomez-Sevilla is a Jesuit from Colombia, currently pursuing graduate studies in educational leadership at Loyola University Chicago.

Prayer

May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all …so that he may strengthen your hearts. May you be blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ..

—1 Thessalonians 3: 12-13


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January 22, 2015

Mk 3: 7-12

Jesus departed with his disciples to the sea, and a great multitude from Galilee followed him;hearing all that he was doing, they came to him in great numbers from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, beyond the Jordan, and the region around Tyre and Sidon.

He told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, so that they would not crush him; for he had cured many, so that all who had diseases pressed upon him to touch him.

Whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and shouted, “You are the Son of God!” But he sternly ordered them not to make him known.

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.

Exploring Truth

The last line in this gospel strikes me as a bit unusual.

If Jesus had just miraculously cured many of debilitating diseases, would he expect witnesses to proclaim the healing with evangelistic fervor? Not in this story. Jesus sternly warns them “not to make him known.”

Scholars note that here Jesus is attempting to communicate his truth on his own terms. Personally, I have come to view spiritual direction, as a directee and a director, as a sacred space to explore where God is calling each one of us to uncover our own truth, to live the life that only we can lead.

Sometimes a new truth emerges when preparing for an appointment; sometimes a graced understanding spills out at the meeting; and sometimes a new perspective gently unfolds in hindsight. But, for me, my favorite revelation of a new truth is when I am doing something a bit later and notice I am responding with a new instinct, a new sense of generosity.

Like Jesus in this reading, how are each of us being called to communicate our own truth in this world? Do we have the space and time to explore that truth?

—Charlotte Ahern is a wife and mother of three college-aged children. She is also a spiritual director and retreat leader at Jesuit schools in the Chicago-area.

Prayer

Oh, Lord my God,
You called me from the sleep of nothingness
merely because in your tremendous love
you want to make good and beautiful beings.
You have called me by my name in my mother’s womb.
You have given me breath and light and movement
and walked with me every moment of my existence.
I am amazed, Lord God of the universe,
that you attend to me and, more, cherish me.
Create in me the faithfulness that moves you,
and I will trust you and yearn for you all my days.

Amen.

—Joseph Tetlow, SJ in Hearts on Fire, ed. Michael Harter, S.J. © Loyola Press, 2004.


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January 31, 2015

St. John Bosco

Mk 4: 35-41

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”

He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey 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.

Strong Winds

A week ago we experienced a vivid reminder of “strong winds” during the Mass Pope Francis celebrated in Tacloban in the Philippines. (This is the same area hard hit by typhoon Yolanda in Nov. 2013.) Wearing a plastic poncho over his vestments, the pope still wasn’t shielded from the strong winds and heavy rain that came at him sideways throughout the Mass. It was really a bit of a “holy mess.”

The Holy Father remained serene throughout the Mass; his strong faith and focus gave energy to the crowds who sang and prayed with gusto…even as they wiped away the insistent raindrops.

What strong winds and rain are drenching my spirit these days? How does Jesus help me to “be still,” to find both faith and focus as I go about my daily duties?

—The Jesuit Prayer Team

Prayer

Living God, our refuge and strength, even the wind and sea obey your voice. Put the wind back in its place, and say to the sea: Peace! Be still!

Fill us with great faith, and save us from the surging waters, so that we may always tell the good news of your saving love. Through Jesus Christ, our hope in every storm. Amen.  (based on Mark 4)

—From the prayerbook of the Presbyterian Church USA


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January 30, 2015

Mk 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.

God’s Kingdom Always Growing

I do not know much about botany or gardening, but I bet there are bigger trees and smaller seeds than those from the mustard plant. So I believe Mark´s gospel is not referring to size or any other scientific fact, but to the natural process of a seed becoming a large tree. This is exactly how God’s kingdom works—a gradual process that invites our attention along the whole process to understand how it works.

The formation of the Kingdom of God is like a seed that is constantly growing. It sprouts, grows, and patiently flourishes until becoming a strong tree. Little by little God is making transformations, continually working in our lives. God is essentially a creator and can help us transform our lives.  All we need is to invite God to enter into our daily lives.

Our Ignatian spirituality is centered in this concept of establishing the Kingdom of God.  Our central petition is that we are able to act according to God’s will. So I ask the Lord today to move my will and put into my soul all I ought to do, so as to further promote God´s will.

—Fr. Hugo Nelson Gomez-Sevilla is a Jesuit from Colombia, currently pursuing graduate studies in educational leadership at Loyola University Chicago.

Prayer

Eternal Lord of all things, I make my offering with your favor and help, in the presence of your infinite Goodness and in the presence of your glorious mother and of all the saints of the heavenly court: I want and desire, and it is my deliberate determination, if only it be your greater service and praise, to imitate you in bearing all injuries and all abuse and all poverty of spirit, and actual poverty, too, if your most Holy Majesty wants to choose and receive me to such a life and state.

—St. Ignatius Loyola, Spiritual Exercises, #98, “Oblation of the Kingdom”


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January 29, 2015

Mk 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.

Sharing our light

Each of us has been given a light to share, as Jesus points out in today’s reading. If we fail to share it, or hide it under a bushel basket, it may be “taken away.”

I can intentionally practice shining my light could be tested out on a trip to the grocery store. It might start with giving up the closest parking spot. Then entering the door with a genuine smile; talking and really listening to the neighbor you would normally avoid; making light of your rattling cart; complimenting the deli worker on her efforts as she passes your lunch meat; and encouraging the man who you know is battling a disease. Then it means telling a good enough joke so the checkout person really laughs, not just chuckles.

What everyday chore can you intentionally practice that would share your light with others? What is the “corner of light” that only you have to give the world?  And what would it mean for you, and those around you, if it were taken away?

—Charlotte F. Ahern is a wife and mother of three college-aged children. She is also a spiritual director and retreat leader at Jesuit schools in the Chicago area.

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.

O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

—Attributed to St. Francis of Assisi


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January 28, 2015

St. Thomas Aquinas

Heb 10: 11-18

And every priest stands day after day at his service, offering again and again the same sacrifices that can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, “he sat down at the right hand of God,” and since then has been waiting “until his enemies would be made a footstool for his feet.”

For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us, for after saying, “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds,” he also adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.

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.

Loving Forgiveness

Today’s first reading speaks of forgiveness. The first week of the Spiritual Exercises has us consider our sins and God’s forgiveness and love.

When I was five or six years old, I remember my father teaching me how to hit a baseball. He would stand close and underhand the ball to home plate where I was standing, ready to hit it out of the park like the Mighty Casey of the famous poem. I took a mighty swing and failed to hold onto the bat. It flew out of my hands and hit my father square in the shin. He fell to the ground in pain. I ran into the house and to my room where I cried uncontrollably in shame and sorrow.

It was only a matter of a minute or two before my father came into the room and hugged me with all the love he had, so much love that my shame, sorrow and tears disappeared. He assured me that he was fine and one day I would be a great baseball player. I don’t know about becoming a great baseball player, but I sure did learn an awful lot about unconditional love that day.

This is but a small indication of God’s love for each of us. Imagine it!

—David McNulty works for the Midwest Jesuits. Dave and his wife Judy are grandparents of six.

Prayer

“It is God’s justice that is revealed to us on the Cross: the Cross is God’s judgement on us and on the world. But how does God judge us? By giving His life for us! Here is the supreme act of justice that defeats the Prince of this world once and for all; and this supreme act of justice is precisely also the supreme act of mercy. Jesus calls all of us to follow this path: ‘Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.’”

—Pope Francis


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January 27, 2015

St. Angela Merici

Mk 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.

Reaching Out

No matter what, every time I read this gospel, I first think, “What! Jesus had brothers?!”

But this gospel is much less about Jesus’ family, I think, than about ours and God’s: this family of God grows when we do God’s will, when we love one another.

I don’t think I’m a particularly good example of this, but I do think about how many people call me “brother”—my three delightful blood brothers, of course, but then also my Jesuit community and, perhaps most surprisingly, a smattering of east and west African men who are refugees in Chicago, men whose families I have gotten to know and accompany in their challenging transitions.

When we reach out to others in generous love, our own and God’s family grow wider, creating more chances to see a former stranger as brother, sister, son or mother.

Who has become part of your wider family?

—Garrett Gundlach, S.J. is a Jesuit scholastic from the Wisconsin Province. He is engaged in Master of Social Work studies at Loyola University Chicago.

Prayer

You were born into a small family.
There, you learned to love in small ways, and
from there, you left to share this love abroad.
From a small family, you then built a larger one.

You went to the margins of your world,
to the sick, the despised rich and the forgotten poor,
You went to the fisherman, the leper and the widow,
and you brought them together into a new family,
bound not by blood but bound by sharing love.

This wide family is our Church;
this cast of characters, including me,
is our Christian community.

Jesus, show me the way today
that I can stretch this family even wider.

Amen.

—Garrett Gundlach, S.J.


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January 26, 2015

Sts. Timothy and Titus

2 Tm 1: 1-8

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, for the sake of the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus, To Timothy, my beloved child: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. I am grateful to God—whom I worship with a clear conscience, as my ancestors did—when I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day.

Recalling your tears, I long to see you so that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you.

For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline. Do not be ashamed, then, of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God,

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.

Strong, Loving, Wise

Do you remember your confirmation?  Mine is a little hazy though I do recall lining up in front of the altar with two or three other teenagers, sponsors behind us, their hands on our shoulders. A bishop went down the line, gently placing his hands on our heads to anoint and confirm us in the Holy Spirit  There was probably a party afterwards.

Memories of my grandmothers, mother, aunties and confirmation sponsor-mom are much stronger. The expression of faith in the lives of these good women looks very different one from another, yet they all had a hand in my formation. Gifts I received from each live on in my own life of faith.

To name just a few: a desire to celebrate Sunday Eucharist and share Sunday dinner; an appreciation for the hard work required for good marriages to last, the courage it takes to end bad ones, and the knowledge that both choices can make lives of love and hope possible for others; the grace to open heart and home to the many and often unexpected ways we find ourselves called to be family, even or especially in difficult times.

Today I give joyful thanks for the gift of Elizabeth, Gretchen, Rena, Mary, Kathy, Marj, Anne, Connie, Chris and Donna, and lift them all up in prayer to God. I invite you to do the same for your foremothers. St. Paul and I are confident that their faith “lives on also in you.”

—Jenéne Francis, is Provincial Assistant for Pastoral Ministries, Chicago-Detroit Province and Wisconsin Province of the Society of Jesus

Prayer

Loving God, as a mother gives life and nourishment to her children, so you watch over your Church. Bless these women, that they may be strengthened as Christian mothers. Let the example of their faith and love shine forth. Grant that we, their sons and daughters, may honor them always with a spirit of profound respect. Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

—from Book of Blessings, © The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota, 1989


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January 25, 2015

Mk 1: 14-20

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him.

As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed 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.

Free to Serve

When I was the Jesuit vocation director for Kenya, I would sometimes have occasion to say to a candidate, “If you say the only reason you want to be a Jesuit is for the love of God, I don’t believe you and you’re surely deceiving yourself.” Maybe Peter wanted to get away from his mother-in-law or James and John were tired of working for their father. Maybe each thought following Jesus would be exactly the great adventure he was looking for.

All of our choices, most especially the big ones, are made for a variety of reasons, both loving and selfish, conscious and unconscious. And God uses all these motives to move us forward for good. How many priests can say that an early motivation for priesthood was foreseeing getting to dress in attractive vestments and saying Mass! One of the works of the lifetime for each of us is to become aware of all our motives, and to become more focused on and committed to the loving ones. In that way we will become freer to “do” the Reign of God.

—Fr. Terry Charlton, SJ, joined the Chicago province and now serves as assistant provincial in Eastern Africa. He is the co-founder and chaplain of St. Aloysius Gonzaga High School for AIDS orphans from the Kibera slum in Nairobi, Kenya.

Prayer

Lord, we pray for your grace to examine our motives through the lens of Mother Teresa’s insight:

“I am not sure exactly what heaven will be like, but I know that when we die and it comes time for God to judge us, he will not ask, ‘How many good things have you done in your life?’ rather he will ask, ‘How much love did you put into what you did?”


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January 24, 2015

St. Francis de Sales

Mk 3: 20-21

And the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.”

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.

Commitment

So many folks seem truly out of their minds as they accomplish the near-impossible—a marathon runner, a student juggling two jobs to graduate on time, a Cristo Rey president hoping to raise enough money to open a new school, a medical team accomplishing an intricate surgery, parents providing for the needs of a severely ill child…. Each reader can add to the list.

Those in Jesus’ time thought he was out of his mind as he healed diseases, cast out evil spirits, invited disciples to “come, follow me.” Even his relatives clucked about his mental status. Yet Jesus—as anyone with strong commitment—was “on mission” and was single-minded in its pursuit.

What am I passionate about? What drives me to focus my talents and energy on a project or need? How does the message and vision of Jesus engage my “best self”?

—The Jesuit Prayer Team

Prayer

How do you, Lord, look at me?
What do you feel in your heart for me?

—John Eagan, S.J. in Hearts on Fire ed. Michael Harter, S.J. © Loyola Press, 2004.


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January 23, 2015

Mk 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.

Answering the Call

One of the most inspiring meditations in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius is the Two Standards. [cf. Spiritual Exercises ##136-147]. I love considering how the Lord of all the world chooses so many persons—apostles, disciples, etc.—and sends them forth throughout all the world. What I imagine is that God not only wants to spread good news through all states and conditions of persons, but also that he engages different people from all states and conditions for this mission.

In the gospel of Mark, we read today that Jesus appointed twelve whom he named “apostles.” We are also called to follow Jesus and to be apostles to fulfill three specific functions: walking with Jesus, announcing his word, and acting with the authority given to us. It does not matter how sinful we are since we are called to be with Jesus. He transforms our hearts, making us able to spread good news across the world.  And so our actions inspired by Jesus will transform our surroundings to become better communities and thereby to heal our suffering world.

—Fr. Hugo Nelson Gomez-Sevilla is a Jesuit from Colombia, currently pursuing graduate studies in educational leadership at Loyola University Chicago.

Prayer

May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all …so that he may strengthen your hearts. May you be blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ..

—1 Thessalonians 3: 12-13


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January 22, 2015

Mk 3: 7-12

Jesus departed with his disciples to the sea, and a great multitude from Galilee followed him;hearing all that he was doing, they came to him in great numbers from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, beyond the Jordan, and the region around Tyre and Sidon.

He told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, so that they would not crush him; for he had cured many, so that all who had diseases pressed upon him to touch him.

Whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and shouted, “You are the Son of God!” But he sternly ordered them not to make him known.

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.

Exploring Truth

The last line in this gospel strikes me as a bit unusual.

If Jesus had just miraculously cured many of debilitating diseases, would he expect witnesses to proclaim the healing with evangelistic fervor? Not in this story. Jesus sternly warns them “not to make him known.”

Scholars note that here Jesus is attempting to communicate his truth on his own terms. Personally, I have come to view spiritual direction, as a directee and a director, as a sacred space to explore where God is calling each one of us to uncover our own truth, to live the life that only we can lead.

Sometimes a new truth emerges when preparing for an appointment; sometimes a graced understanding spills out at the meeting; and sometimes a new perspective gently unfolds in hindsight. But, for me, my favorite revelation of a new truth is when I am doing something a bit later and notice I am responding with a new instinct, a new sense of generosity.

Like Jesus in this reading, how are each of us being called to communicate our own truth in this world? Do we have the space and time to explore that truth?

—Charlotte Ahern is a wife and mother of three college-aged children. She is also a spiritual director and retreat leader at Jesuit schools in the Chicago-area.

Prayer

Oh, Lord my God,
You called me from the sleep of nothingness
merely because in your tremendous love
you want to make good and beautiful beings.
You have called me by my name in my mother’s womb.
You have given me breath and light and movement
and walked with me every moment of my existence.
I am amazed, Lord God of the universe,
that you attend to me and, more, cherish me.
Create in me the faithfulness that moves you,
and I will trust you and yearn for you all my days.

Amen.

—Joseph Tetlow, SJ in Hearts on Fire, ed. Michael Harter, S.J. © Loyola Press, 2004.


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