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March 31, 2015

John 13: 21-33. 36-38

After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, “Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.” The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking. One of his disciples—the one whom Jesus loved—was reclining next to him; Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. So while reclining next to Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?” Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot. After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “Do quickly what you are going to do.”

Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. Some thought that, because Judas had the common purse, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the festival”; or, that he should give something to the poor. So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night. When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’

Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered, “Where I am going, you cannot follow me now; but you will follow afterward.” Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Very truly, I tell you, before the cock crows, you will have denied me three times.

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

Ordinary Glory

In today’s readings we can see that what is most exceptional about these holy days is how they are so ordinary: a meal like so many thousands of other meals, a trial like the millions of people on trial and in jails today, an execution so commonplace it was grouped in with two other state criminals.

Yet, we want this Lent to be exceptional, the one where we finally figure it out, where we actually get it right. We long for this Holy Week to be the one where it clicks and we are changed forever.

In the midst of all his ordinariness and ours, Christ explains that is precisely in the ordinary where glory comes. What makes his ordinary days so extra-ordinary is that Christ’s will and the Father’s will are one. So too, for us, glory comes breaking in and charges our ordinary world when God’s will and our will are one.

Who does God long for me to become in my own ordinary days?  How does God long to fill my ordinary world with his glory?

—Cyril Pinchak, S.J. is a first year theology student at Regis College in Toronto. He taught previously at University of Detroit High School & Academy in Detroit, MI.

Prayer

Life-giving God, in your plan of salvation Jesus Christ accepted the cross, teaching us how to live our ordinary days in your love and grace. Strengthen our hearts these days of Holy Week and renew our hope in the everlasting life Jesus promises. Amen.

 


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March 30, 2015

John 12: 1-11

Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.)

Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.” When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus.

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

Extravagant Worshiper

Christian singer and songwriter, Darlene Zschech, wrote the following message in the liner notes of one of her albums, “I long to be an extravagant worshiper…that God would discover the song in my heart to be elaborate, over-generous and wasteful in my pursuit of Him.”  Her words could easily be inspired by Mary’s actions in today’s gospel!

Jesus finds himself in Bethany in the company of good friends—Mary who has spent endless amounts of time sitting at his feet, Martha who has served with her whole heart, and their brother Lazarus who is alive again.

Surely they had heard the murmuring among the chief priests and Pharisees who were plotting to arrest Jesus. Did they know this would be the last time sharing a meal with Jesus in their home?  Mary holds nothing back and pours out everything she has for Jesus.  In a precursor to Jesus’ death and burial, Mary anoints him in the most extravagant, elaborate, over-generous, and wasteful sort of way. Jesus does need this kind of affection, and yet, his relationship with Mary evokes this incredibly generous response.

As we enter into this final week of Lent, where has the journey taken you? What would it look like to be over-generous in our prayer, our fasting, and our almsgiving? What more can I do for Christ— in offering forgiveness, extending generosity to the poor, and entering into prayer during this Holy Week?

Lord, I long to be an extravagant worshiper, to make a generous response in my relationship with you.

—Beth Knobbe is an author and ministry professional based in Chicago, IL. She blogs at www.bethknobbe.com .

Prayer

Teach me how to be compassionate to the suffering, to the poor, the blind, the lame, and the lepers. Show me, My Jesus, how you revealed your deepest emotions, as when you shed tears, or when you felt sorrow and anguish to the point of sweating blood and needed an angel to console you.

Above all, I want to learn how you supported the extreme pain of the cross, including the abandonment of your Father.

—Fr. Pedro Arrupe, S.J.

 


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March 29, 2015

PALM SUNDAY OF THE LORD’S PASSION

Philippians 2: 6-11

Though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

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

“At the name of Jesus…”

There is a window in the chapel of the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, CA with the name of Jesus inscribed in more languages than I can even identify. It is a beautiful window near the tabernacle. In the center of this cluster of names you’ll find today’s quote from Philippians 2: “ At the name of Jesus every knee should bend.

Today’s gospel is long and the story while familiar is difficult. As we think of that name, the name of Jesus, we often focus on the resurrected Jesus. We know how the movie ends; perhaps Mass should begin with a spoiler alert. The story and the power of the passion can seem so intense that there is a tendency to move through it quickly and jump to the resurrection. But if we really want to understand why every knee should bend, we must go sit with the intensity of the passion. This week, spend some time sitting with the tension in which our gospel leaves us. In these days of waiting for Easter we should feel unfinished. We are unfinished. We are waiting.

—Fr. Eric Sundrup, S.J., a Jesuit of the Chicago-Detroit Province, serves in campus ministry for the University of Michigan at St. Mary Student Parish, Ann Arbor, MI.

Prayer

Lord God, increase the faith of your people and hear our prayers. Today we honor Jesus Christ, our triumphant King. Guide our lives by the example of his suffering and death. May we live always, holy God, in the kingdom of your promise.  Amen.

—from the Gelasian Sacramentary

 


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March 28, 2015

John 11: 45-56

Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what he had done. So the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the council, and said, “What are we to do? This man is performing many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation.” But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all! You do not understand that it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed.” H

e did not say this on his own, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus was about to die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but to gather into one the dispersed children of God. So from that day on they planned to put him to death. Jesus therefore no longer walked about openly among the Jews, but went from there to a town called Ephraim in the region near the wilderness; and he remained there with the disciples. Now the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before the Passover to purify themselves. They were looking for Jesus and were asking one another as they stood in the temple, “What do you think? Surely he will not come to the festival, will he?”

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

Trust and Surrender

Last week a friend reflected on his recent diagnosis and treatment for cancer. He joked how he was being asked to follow the advice he so frequently shared: surrender and trust in God. Unlike my friend, when my way of life is threatened or is challenged, my instincts lead me away from surrender and trust and closer towards self-preservation.

In today’s Gospel, with Jesus threatening their influence, power, and way of life, the Jewish religious leaders look beyond what God may be asking and respond with their interests in mind. While their decision helped lead to Jesus’ death, it was Jesus’ choice to surrender to his Father’s will that led to something greater than death, his resurrection.

As Holy Week approaches, may I seek the opportunity for new life and move beyond the areas in my life where selfishness and self-preservation prevail. Can I open myself to God’s call and have the courage to follow the models my friend Jesus puts forth, through trust and surrender?

How might you be called away from selfishness so you can surrender more fully to God’s will?

—Andy Rebollar serves as Pastoral Associate for Parish Life at St. Pius X Parish, Grandville, MI.

Prayer

Lord, teach me to be generous.
Teach me 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 reward,
save that of knowing that I do your will.

—Prayer for Generosity (St. Ignatius of Loyola) Click here to download the prayer card.

 


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March 27, 2015

John 10: 31-42

The Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus replied, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these are you going to stone me?” The Jews answered, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you, but for blasphemy, because you, though only a human being, are making yourself God.” Jesus answered, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, you are gods’? If those to whom the word of God came were called ‘gods’ —and the scripture cannot be annulled— can you say that the one whom the Father has sanctified and sent into the world is blaspheming because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me. But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”

Then they tried to arrest him again, but he escaped from their hands. He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing earlier, and he remained there. Many came to him, and they were saying, “John performed no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.” And many believed in him there.

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 Jesus’ Heart

In my imagination, Jesus sits on the banks of the Jordan. As dusk settles in, he ponders all he has stored in his heart. Here he encountered John, lean and dusty, filled with fire and proclamations. Jesus smiles as he thinks of his own baptism, so much set in motion, so much he could not predict. He remembers walks and talks, healings and riddles. He shakes his head as he thinks of his followers, with their flashes of brilliance and their desire to conquer.

His heart swells with love for all of them, even the schemers and the lost ones. He prays they find a way through the worst, to the best, yet to come. He prays they will share his words and stick together. Quietly, he begs, “Be with me, Abba.”

Can I find the courage to follow Jesus to Jerusalem?

—Maureen M. Martin is a writer, spiritual director and hospice chaplain, living in Evanston, IL.

Prayer

God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.

—Serenity Prayer

 


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March 26, 2015

Genesis 17: 3-9

Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him,

“As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you.

I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. And I will give to you, and to your offspring after you, the land where you are now an alien, all the land of Canaan, for a perpetual holding; and I will be their God.” God said to Abraham, “As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations.

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

At the Right Time

Everyday I look up at the blue sky
and just wonder why
why, do I have to go through these things God?
I followed the sacraments and I read the bible
But I still don’t know where you’re leading me.

Will you come in if I open the door?
Will you answer my prayer and not hit ignore?
Yes or no?
Will my blessing come to me fast or slow?
How should I know?

When I talk to you how is it that you don’t make a sound?
But…I believe in you and you always come at the right time
Maybe that’s why I keep hoping because soon you might give me a sign.

When are times in your life where you have had to be patient? How has that challenged you and benefited you?

— Martin Hayes, class of 2016,  St.  Martin de Porres High School, Cleveland, OH

Prayer

Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me.
Christ within me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ in the heart of every one who thinks of me
Christ in the mouth of every one who speaks of me
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

—The Breastplate of St. Patrick

 


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March 25, 2015

Luke 1: 26-38

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.

The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.”

Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

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

Bring it On

Confession time. I’ve always felt like I was missing something important in today’s Gospel. As a white, middle-class American male of the 21st century, I have trouble grasping what Mary was feeling when she heard the angel’s words.

I can relate to the human struggle. Like Mary, I must face realities that I might rather not accept. So what may I learn as I watch Mary respond to God? How does her response, “Let it be to me according to your word,” inform my response? Is Mary’s “let it be” just passive acceptance of her fate or is something lost in translation? Thankfully, I discovered that the Greek phrase “let it be” denotes more than passive acceptance; it carries also the desire to fulfill God’s will. In today’s vernacular, a modern-day Mary might say “Bring it on!”

So how do I face the day? Will I choose to stand with Mary and say, “Bring it on!”?

—Howard Craig serves as Provincial Assistant for Advancement on behalf of the Chicago-Detroit and Wisconsin Province Jesuits.

Prayer

Lord God, I do not know what challenges this day may hold for me. I do not know what sorrows I may endure, what graces I may enjoy, or what choices I may face.  But I will choose. And my first choice is this: Lord, I embrace this day. . . according to your will, bring it on!

—Howard Craig

 


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March 24, 2015

John 8: 21-30

Again he said to them, “I am going away, and you will search for me, but you will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come.” Then the Jews said, “Is he going to kill himself? Is that what he means by saying, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come’?” He said to them, “You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins, for you will die in your sins unless you believe that I am he.” They said to him, “Who are you?”

Jesus said to them, “Why do I speak to you at all? I have much to say about you and much to condemn; but the one who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him.” They did not understand that he was speaking to them about the Father. So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own, but I speak these things as the Father instructed me. And the one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what is pleasing to him.” As he was saying these things, many believed in 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

Life – Love – God

When the evangelist John speaks of the “world,” he is not talking about our spinning blue and green planet. For him, the “world” is all that is fallen; it is that stubborn preference in our hearts for what is not life, not love, not God. When Jesus says that he is not from the world, he is not saying that he is some kind of extraterrestrial alien. He is saying that the preference and desires of his heart are only life, love, and God.

When Christ was lifted up, the cross became a sign for the whole world to see. The cross is a sign that God can work through anything, even failure.  It is a sign that says when are our hearts are in God, all will be well. Nothing, no failure of ours, not even death, can separate us from life, from love, from God when we give our hearts to him.

What would it look like to place my heart in Christ’s and desire what Christ desires? What keeps me from accepting my failures and believing that God can work through them as well?

—Cyril Pinchak, S.J. is a first year theology student at Regis College in Toronto. He taught previously at University of Detroit High School & Academy in Detroit, MI.

Prayer

Take, O take me as I am;
Summon out what I shall be;
Set your seal upon my heart,
and live in me.

—John L. Bell, © 1995 Iona Community, admin. GIA Publications, Inc.

 


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March 23, 2015

John 8: 1-11

Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, they said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”

They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him.

Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, sir.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.”

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

Go

Shame is the feeling we experience when we’ve been “caught.” It is the feeling of being exposed, especially in a moment of weakness or sinfulness. Today’s lectionary gives us two shame-filled readings: the old men hiding in the garden lusting after Susanna (Daniel 13:1-62) and the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11).

A healthy sense of shame is not a bad thing!  Shame helps us set boundaries, alerts us to risky behavior, and leads to genuine sorrow.  Which is why, in the first week of the Spiritual Exercises, we ask for the grace to feel shame and confusion when confronting the reality of sin. The difficulty with shame is that it hits at the very core of our identity. At its worst, shame can lead us to believe that we are no longer lovable and not worthy of forgiveness.

When the Pharisees bring the woman caught in adultery to Jesus, he does not ask for an explanation. Jesus does not interrogate or humiliate her any further. Jesus responds with compassion, because her identity is not tied to her sin. When Jesus looks at her, he sees a beloved daughter of God. Jesus doesn’t deny that she has sinned, but he sees beyond her sinfulness. As he recognizes her dignity and self-worth, he simply extends mercy, “Neither do I condemn you.”

Jesus, how do you see me?  Give me the grace to know myself as your beloved daughter, as your beloved son, as your beloved friend – even when I sin.

—Beth Knobbe is an author and ministry professional based in Chicago, IL. She blogs at www.bethknobbe.com .

Prayer

Lord, you extend your hand to me, and I take it. You see through my exterior. You know my failures, my nagging weaknesses. Yet, there will be no hesitation. You speak the same words to me that redeemed the woman: “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.”

Lord, how much you really do love me! I have but one request. May I be your companion each and every day of my life?

—The Jesuit Prayer Team

 


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March 22, 2015

John 12: 20-33

Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.

“Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.

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

Into the Paschal Mystery

I cannot hear this passage from the Gospel of John and not think of Archbishop Oscar Romero. As the most visible figure of the Church at the beginning of his country’s civil war, his is a powerful example of someone whose God-given vocation could not be conquered by death. He is quoted as saying, “If I am killed, I shall rise again in the Salvadoran people.” Anyone who has lived in or visited El Salvador knows that to be true.

Yet it wasn’t Romero who rose in the Salvadoran people, but his faith in God. His faith that life with ultimately overcome death, that oppression will one day end, that our troubles will be turned into God’s glory.

In two days time, we commemorate the 35th year since Romero was assassinated while presiding at the Eucharist. I am sure that he had doubts along the way, like us all. But we are each invited in our own way into the Paschal mystery of Christ—a life, death, and resurrection that always point to God.

—Michael Rozier, S.J. of the Central Southern Jesuit province, was ordained a priest last June. He is currently pursuing doctoral studies in Health Management and Policy at the University of Michigan.

Prayer

It helps, now and then, to step back and take the long view. The Kingdom is not only beyond our efforts; it is beyond our vision. We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is the Lord’s work…

We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the Master Builder and the worker. We are workers, but not master builders; ministers, not messiahs. We are prophets of a future that is not our own.

—Words attributed to Archbishop Oscar Romero

 


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March 31, 2015

John 13: 21-33. 36-38

After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, “Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.” The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking. One of his disciples—the one whom Jesus loved—was reclining next to him; Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. So while reclining next to Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?” Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot. After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “Do quickly what you are going to do.”

Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. Some thought that, because Judas had the common purse, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the festival”; or, that he should give something to the poor. So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night. When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’

Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered, “Where I am going, you cannot follow me now; but you will follow afterward.” Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Very truly, I tell you, before the cock crows, you will have denied me three times.

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

Ordinary Glory

In today’s readings we can see that what is most exceptional about these holy days is how they are so ordinary: a meal like so many thousands of other meals, a trial like the millions of people on trial and in jails today, an execution so commonplace it was grouped in with two other state criminals.

Yet, we want this Lent to be exceptional, the one where we finally figure it out, where we actually get it right. We long for this Holy Week to be the one where it clicks and we are changed forever.

In the midst of all his ordinariness and ours, Christ explains that is precisely in the ordinary where glory comes. What makes his ordinary days so extra-ordinary is that Christ’s will and the Father’s will are one. So too, for us, glory comes breaking in and charges our ordinary world when God’s will and our will are one.

Who does God long for me to become in my own ordinary days?  How does God long to fill my ordinary world with his glory?

—Cyril Pinchak, S.J. is a first year theology student at Regis College in Toronto. He taught previously at University of Detroit High School & Academy in Detroit, MI.

Prayer

Life-giving God, in your plan of salvation Jesus Christ accepted the cross, teaching us how to live our ordinary days in your love and grace. Strengthen our hearts these days of Holy Week and renew our hope in the everlasting life Jesus promises. Amen.

 


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March 30, 2015

John 12: 1-11

Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.)

Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.” When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus.

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

Extravagant Worshiper

Christian singer and songwriter, Darlene Zschech, wrote the following message in the liner notes of one of her albums, “I long to be an extravagant worshiper…that God would discover the song in my heart to be elaborate, over-generous and wasteful in my pursuit of Him.”  Her words could easily be inspired by Mary’s actions in today’s gospel!

Jesus finds himself in Bethany in the company of good friends—Mary who has spent endless amounts of time sitting at his feet, Martha who has served with her whole heart, and their brother Lazarus who is alive again.

Surely they had heard the murmuring among the chief priests and Pharisees who were plotting to arrest Jesus. Did they know this would be the last time sharing a meal with Jesus in their home?  Mary holds nothing back and pours out everything she has for Jesus.  In a precursor to Jesus’ death and burial, Mary anoints him in the most extravagant, elaborate, over-generous, and wasteful sort of way. Jesus does need this kind of affection, and yet, his relationship with Mary evokes this incredibly generous response.

As we enter into this final week of Lent, where has the journey taken you? What would it look like to be over-generous in our prayer, our fasting, and our almsgiving? What more can I do for Christ— in offering forgiveness, extending generosity to the poor, and entering into prayer during this Holy Week?

Lord, I long to be an extravagant worshiper, to make a generous response in my relationship with you.

—Beth Knobbe is an author and ministry professional based in Chicago, IL. She blogs at www.bethknobbe.com .

Prayer

Teach me how to be compassionate to the suffering, to the poor, the blind, the lame, and the lepers. Show me, My Jesus, how you revealed your deepest emotions, as when you shed tears, or when you felt sorrow and anguish to the point of sweating blood and needed an angel to console you.

Above all, I want to learn how you supported the extreme pain of the cross, including the abandonment of your Father.

—Fr. Pedro Arrupe, S.J.

 


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March 29, 2015

PALM SUNDAY OF THE LORD’S PASSION

Philippians 2: 6-11

Though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

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

“At the name of Jesus…”

There is a window in the chapel of the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, CA with the name of Jesus inscribed in more languages than I can even identify. It is a beautiful window near the tabernacle. In the center of this cluster of names you’ll find today’s quote from Philippians 2: “ At the name of Jesus every knee should bend.

Today’s gospel is long and the story while familiar is difficult. As we think of that name, the name of Jesus, we often focus on the resurrected Jesus. We know how the movie ends; perhaps Mass should begin with a spoiler alert. The story and the power of the passion can seem so intense that there is a tendency to move through it quickly and jump to the resurrection. But if we really want to understand why every knee should bend, we must go sit with the intensity of the passion. This week, spend some time sitting with the tension in which our gospel leaves us. In these days of waiting for Easter we should feel unfinished. We are unfinished. We are waiting.

—Fr. Eric Sundrup, S.J., a Jesuit of the Chicago-Detroit Province, serves in campus ministry for the University of Michigan at St. Mary Student Parish, Ann Arbor, MI.

Prayer

Lord God, increase the faith of your people and hear our prayers. Today we honor Jesus Christ, our triumphant King. Guide our lives by the example of his suffering and death. May we live always, holy God, in the kingdom of your promise.  Amen.

—from the Gelasian Sacramentary

 


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March 28, 2015

John 11: 45-56

Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what he had done. So the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the council, and said, “What are we to do? This man is performing many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation.” But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all! You do not understand that it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed.” H

e did not say this on his own, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus was about to die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but to gather into one the dispersed children of God. So from that day on they planned to put him to death. Jesus therefore no longer walked about openly among the Jews, but went from there to a town called Ephraim in the region near the wilderness; and he remained there with the disciples. Now the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before the Passover to purify themselves. They were looking for Jesus and were asking one another as they stood in the temple, “What do you think? Surely he will not come to the festival, will he?”

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

Trust and Surrender

Last week a friend reflected on his recent diagnosis and treatment for cancer. He joked how he was being asked to follow the advice he so frequently shared: surrender and trust in God. Unlike my friend, when my way of life is threatened or is challenged, my instincts lead me away from surrender and trust and closer towards self-preservation.

In today’s Gospel, with Jesus threatening their influence, power, and way of life, the Jewish religious leaders look beyond what God may be asking and respond with their interests in mind. While their decision helped lead to Jesus’ death, it was Jesus’ choice to surrender to his Father’s will that led to something greater than death, his resurrection.

As Holy Week approaches, may I seek the opportunity for new life and move beyond the areas in my life where selfishness and self-preservation prevail. Can I open myself to God’s call and have the courage to follow the models my friend Jesus puts forth, through trust and surrender?

How might you be called away from selfishness so you can surrender more fully to God’s will?

—Andy Rebollar serves as Pastoral Associate for Parish Life at St. Pius X Parish, Grandville, MI.

Prayer

Lord, teach me to be generous.
Teach me 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 reward,
save that of knowing that I do your will.

—Prayer for Generosity (St. Ignatius of Loyola) Click here to download the prayer card.

 


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March 27, 2015

John 10: 31-42

The Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus replied, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these are you going to stone me?” The Jews answered, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you, but for blasphemy, because you, though only a human being, are making yourself God.” Jesus answered, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, you are gods’? If those to whom the word of God came were called ‘gods’ —and the scripture cannot be annulled— can you say that the one whom the Father has sanctified and sent into the world is blaspheming because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me. But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”

Then they tried to arrest him again, but he escaped from their hands. He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing earlier, and he remained there. Many came to him, and they were saying, “John performed no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.” And many believed in him there.

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 Jesus’ Heart

In my imagination, Jesus sits on the banks of the Jordan. As dusk settles in, he ponders all he has stored in his heart. Here he encountered John, lean and dusty, filled with fire and proclamations. Jesus smiles as he thinks of his own baptism, so much set in motion, so much he could not predict. He remembers walks and talks, healings and riddles. He shakes his head as he thinks of his followers, with their flashes of brilliance and their desire to conquer.

His heart swells with love for all of them, even the schemers and the lost ones. He prays they find a way through the worst, to the best, yet to come. He prays they will share his words and stick together. Quietly, he begs, “Be with me, Abba.”

Can I find the courage to follow Jesus to Jerusalem?

—Maureen M. Martin is a writer, spiritual director and hospice chaplain, living in Evanston, IL.

Prayer

God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.

—Serenity Prayer

 


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March 26, 2015

Genesis 17: 3-9

Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him,

“As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you.

I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. And I will give to you, and to your offspring after you, the land where you are now an alien, all the land of Canaan, for a perpetual holding; and I will be their God.” God said to Abraham, “As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations.

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

At the Right Time

Everyday I look up at the blue sky
and just wonder why
why, do I have to go through these things God?
I followed the sacraments and I read the bible
But I still don’t know where you’re leading me.

Will you come in if I open the door?
Will you answer my prayer and not hit ignore?
Yes or no?
Will my blessing come to me fast or slow?
How should I know?

When I talk to you how is it that you don’t make a sound?
But…I believe in you and you always come at the right time
Maybe that’s why I keep hoping because soon you might give me a sign.

When are times in your life where you have had to be patient? How has that challenged you and benefited you?

— Martin Hayes, class of 2016,  St.  Martin de Porres High School, Cleveland, OH

Prayer

Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me.
Christ within me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ in the heart of every one who thinks of me
Christ in the mouth of every one who speaks of me
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

—The Breastplate of St. Patrick

 


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March 25, 2015

Luke 1: 26-38

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.

The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.”

Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

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

Bring it On

Confession time. I’ve always felt like I was missing something important in today’s Gospel. As a white, middle-class American male of the 21st century, I have trouble grasping what Mary was feeling when she heard the angel’s words.

I can relate to the human struggle. Like Mary, I must face realities that I might rather not accept. So what may I learn as I watch Mary respond to God? How does her response, “Let it be to me according to your word,” inform my response? Is Mary’s “let it be” just passive acceptance of her fate or is something lost in translation? Thankfully, I discovered that the Greek phrase “let it be” denotes more than passive acceptance; it carries also the desire to fulfill God’s will. In today’s vernacular, a modern-day Mary might say “Bring it on!”

So how do I face the day? Will I choose to stand with Mary and say, “Bring it on!”?

—Howard Craig serves as Provincial Assistant for Advancement on behalf of the Chicago-Detroit and Wisconsin Province Jesuits.

Prayer

Lord God, I do not know what challenges this day may hold for me. I do not know what sorrows I may endure, what graces I may enjoy, or what choices I may face.  But I will choose. And my first choice is this: Lord, I embrace this day. . . according to your will, bring it on!

—Howard Craig

 


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March 24, 2015

John 8: 21-30

Again he said to them, “I am going away, and you will search for me, but you will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come.” Then the Jews said, “Is he going to kill himself? Is that what he means by saying, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come’?” He said to them, “You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins, for you will die in your sins unless you believe that I am he.” They said to him, “Who are you?”

Jesus said to them, “Why do I speak to you at all? I have much to say about you and much to condemn; but the one who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him.” They did not understand that he was speaking to them about the Father. So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own, but I speak these things as the Father instructed me. And the one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what is pleasing to him.” As he was saying these things, many believed in 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

Life – Love – God

When the evangelist John speaks of the “world,” he is not talking about our spinning blue and green planet. For him, the “world” is all that is fallen; it is that stubborn preference in our hearts for what is not life, not love, not God. When Jesus says that he is not from the world, he is not saying that he is some kind of extraterrestrial alien. He is saying that the preference and desires of his heart are only life, love, and God.

When Christ was lifted up, the cross became a sign for the whole world to see. The cross is a sign that God can work through anything, even failure.  It is a sign that says when are our hearts are in God, all will be well. Nothing, no failure of ours, not even death, can separate us from life, from love, from God when we give our hearts to him.

What would it look like to place my heart in Christ’s and desire what Christ desires? What keeps me from accepting my failures and believing that God can work through them as well?

—Cyril Pinchak, S.J. is a first year theology student at Regis College in Toronto. He taught previously at University of Detroit High School & Academy in Detroit, MI.

Prayer

Take, O take me as I am;
Summon out what I shall be;
Set your seal upon my heart,
and live in me.

—John L. Bell, © 1995 Iona Community, admin. GIA Publications, Inc.

 


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March 23, 2015

John 8: 1-11

Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, they said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”

They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him.

Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, sir.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.”

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

Go

Shame is the feeling we experience when we’ve been “caught.” It is the feeling of being exposed, especially in a moment of weakness or sinfulness. Today’s lectionary gives us two shame-filled readings: the old men hiding in the garden lusting after Susanna (Daniel 13:1-62) and the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11).

A healthy sense of shame is not a bad thing!  Shame helps us set boundaries, alerts us to risky behavior, and leads to genuine sorrow.  Which is why, in the first week of the Spiritual Exercises, we ask for the grace to feel shame and confusion when confronting the reality of sin. The difficulty with shame is that it hits at the very core of our identity. At its worst, shame can lead us to believe that we are no longer lovable and not worthy of forgiveness.

When the Pharisees bring the woman caught in adultery to Jesus, he does not ask for an explanation. Jesus does not interrogate or humiliate her any further. Jesus responds with compassion, because her identity is not tied to her sin. When Jesus looks at her, he sees a beloved daughter of God. Jesus doesn’t deny that she has sinned, but he sees beyond her sinfulness. As he recognizes her dignity and self-worth, he simply extends mercy, “Neither do I condemn you.”

Jesus, how do you see me?  Give me the grace to know myself as your beloved daughter, as your beloved son, as your beloved friend – even when I sin.

—Beth Knobbe is an author and ministry professional based in Chicago, IL. She blogs at www.bethknobbe.com .

Prayer

Lord, you extend your hand to me, and I take it. You see through my exterior. You know my failures, my nagging weaknesses. Yet, there will be no hesitation. You speak the same words to me that redeemed the woman: “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.”

Lord, how much you really do love me! I have but one request. May I be your companion each and every day of my life?

—The Jesuit Prayer Team

 


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March 22, 2015

John 12: 20-33

Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.

“Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.

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

Into the Paschal Mystery

I cannot hear this passage from the Gospel of John and not think of Archbishop Oscar Romero. As the most visible figure of the Church at the beginning of his country’s civil war, his is a powerful example of someone whose God-given vocation could not be conquered by death. He is quoted as saying, “If I am killed, I shall rise again in the Salvadoran people.” Anyone who has lived in or visited El Salvador knows that to be true.

Yet it wasn’t Romero who rose in the Salvadoran people, but his faith in God. His faith that life with ultimately overcome death, that oppression will one day end, that our troubles will be turned into God’s glory.

In two days time, we commemorate the 35th year since Romero was assassinated while presiding at the Eucharist. I am sure that he had doubts along the way, like us all. But we are each invited in our own way into the Paschal mystery of Christ—a life, death, and resurrection that always point to God.

—Michael Rozier, S.J. of the Central Southern Jesuit province, was ordained a priest last June. He is currently pursuing doctoral studies in Health Management and Policy at the University of Michigan.

Prayer

It helps, now and then, to step back and take the long view. The Kingdom is not only beyond our efforts; it is beyond our vision. We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is the Lord’s work…

We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the Master Builder and the worker. We are workers, but not master builders; ministers, not messiahs. We are prophets of a future that is not our own.

—Words attributed to Archbishop Oscar Romero

 


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