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April 30, 2015

John 13: 16-20

When Jesus had washed the disciples’ feet, he said to them:  “Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you understand this, blessed are you if you do it. I am not speaking of all of you. I know those whom I have chosen. But so that the Scripture might be fulfilled, The one who ate my food has raised his heel against me. From now on I am telling you before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe that I AM.  Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.”

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

God Never Gives Up

This is a tough reading. Jesus knows that he will be betrayed, but he stays with his apostles even though he know he is facing death. He actually had just completed washing the feet of his apostles even the feet of Judas. My imagination tells me that perhaps Jesus was still hoping against all odds that Judas would remain faithful to him. He did not give up on Judas, Judas gave up on him.

Isn’t that the story of salvation history! God loves us and will never give up on us. Emmanuel, God with us, waits to be received no matter what. How often do I give up on people? How often do I judge someone quickly and finally? Thank God I am not God!

—Moira and Richard Clark are Catholic high school educators in Cleveland, OH. Rich is President of St. Martin dePorres High School, and Moira is Dean of Student Life & Formation at Magnificat High School.

Prayer

Peace is my farewell to you, my peace is my gift to you. I do not give it to you
as the world gives peace. Do not be distressed or fearful.

—John 14:27

 


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April 29, 2015

St. Catherine of Siena

Acts 12: 24 — 13: 5a

The word of God continued to spread and grow. After Barnabas and Saul completed their relief mission,they returned to Jerusalem, taking with them John, who is called Mark.  Now there were in the Church at Antioch prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Symeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who was a close friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.  While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”  Then, completing their fasting and prayer, they laid hands on them and sent them off. So they, sent forth by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia and from there sailed to Cyprus. When they arrived in Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the Jewish synagogues.

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 in Jesus

Just a week ago we read about Saul’s (Paul’s) role in the martyrdom of Stephen. Today we hear how the Holy Spirit chooses Saul to proclaim the good news in Salamis. What an improbable and complete change in Saul’s life and relationship with God! Paul believes in Jesus so strongly that his whole life is changed. He no longer persecutes believers in Jesus, but actually travels the world to convince people they should believe in Jesus.

What does it mean to believe in someone, to really believe? I think it means to totally trust a person, to unreservedly count on a person, and to love a person with certain knowledge that love is returned unconditionally. To make this more concrete for myself, I remember the absolute trust and love I felt as a child with my parents.

I ask myself, what will it take for me to believe, trust, count on and love Jesus to the point I am willing to follow the Holy Spirit wherever that may lead?

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

Prayer

Spirit of the living God,
Fall afresh on me.
Spirit of the living God,
Fall afresh on me.

Break me, melt me,
Mold me, fill me,
Spirit of the living God,
Fall afresh on me.

—Daniel Iverson, 1926


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April 28, 2015

Feast of St. Peter Chanel  and  St. Louis Mary de Montfort

Acts 11: 19-26

Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that took place over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, and they spoke the word to no one except Jews. But among them were some men of Cyprus and Cyrene who, on coming to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists also, proclaiming the Lord Jesus. The hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number became believers and turned to the Lord.

News of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he came and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast devotion; for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were brought to the Lord. Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for an entire year they met with the church and taught a great many people, and it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called “Christians.”

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

The Spirit Shows the Way

Today’s reading from Acts tells the story of the first believers to call themselves Christians in Antioch. They were persecuted from without and divided within, but drawn together by the power of the Spirit. Being a Christian then as now means overcoming internal and external strife through the power of the Spirit. Acts tells us that many of the Christians in Antioch came there after the martyrdom of Stephen in Jerusalem [Acts 8:1-4]. There was division in the Church of Antioch, whether to preach only to Jews or also to Gentiles. Many Gentiles accepted God’s word and the community came to see that God’s word is for all.

By the power of the Spirit the Church of Antioch overcame persecution and internal division to show Christ to the world. The call for the today’s Church is the same. The same Spirit shows the way.

—Matthew Dunch, S.J. is a Jesuit scholastic studying theology in preparation for ordination, at Regis College in Toronto. He previously taught at Xavier University in Cincinnati, OH.

Prayer

Above all trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress that it is made by passing through some stages
of instability—and that it may take a very long time.
And so I think it is with you:
your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.

—Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J. Excerpted from Hearts on Fire: Praying with Jesuits, © 1993Institute of Jesuit Sources, St. Louis MO

 


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April 27, 2015

Feast St. Peter Canisius, S.J.

Acts 11: 1-18

Now the apostles and the believers who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also accepted the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him, saying, “Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?” Then Peter began to explain it to them, step by step, saying, “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. There was something like a large sheet coming down from heaven, being lowered by its four corners; and it came close to me. As I looked at it closely I saw four-footed animals, beasts of prey, reptiles, and birds of the air. I also heard a voice saying to me, ‘Get up, Peter; kill and eat.’

But I replied, ‘By no means, Lord; for nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ But a second time the voice answered from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, you must not call profane.’ This happened three times; then everything was pulled up again to heaven. At that very moment three men, sent to me from Caesarea, arrived at the house where we were. The Spirit told me to go with them and not to make a distinction between them and us. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man’s house. He told us how he had seen the angel standing in his house and saying, ‘Send to Joppa and bring Simon, who is called Peter; he will give you a message by which you and your entire household will be saved.’

And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as it had upon us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?” When they heard this, they were silenced. And they praised God, saying, “Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life.”

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

Who was I to hinder God?

Earlier this week, I saw a dad holding hands with his son. The little boy looked so happy to be with his dad, and tell him that they needed to wait for the light to change before they could cross the street. I felt the father’s joy and delight in his son—as a mother, I could relate. It was the morning rush hour, but despite the chaos, the father and son were totally united, like they were glowing in God’s love.

That experience drew me to Peter in today’s first reading, as he faced criticism over who could be part of the community of faith. Would I have recognized the love on the street that morning, if I was preoccupied with this father’s religion, race, economics or political views? I’m not sure. But that morning I saw a father who loves his son. What does that tell us about God’s love for us?

Who are the “Gentiles” in your life? Is there someone or “types of someones” that bring out criticism in you? Bring that to prayer today, and ask God how you can bring them closer to Him. Then ask for the grace to see how they can draw you closer to Him, too.

—Kristin Dillon is a lay minister who has worked with Charis Ministries and Holy Name Cathedral. She lives in Chicago with her husband and son

Prayer

Risen Jesus, you surround me with such a  rich variety of personalities from all races and places and languages. Help my heart to be open to the gift of each person I meet today. Thank you for their grace and strength, their humor and hope, their insight into your goodness and greatness. Amen.

 


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April 26, 2015

John 10: 11-18

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep.

I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my 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

I Know Mine

“I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father.”

Several years ago I preached at a First Communion liturgy at Gesu Parish in Milwaukee, WI.  On this particular Sunday, instead of preaching from the ambo, I walked up and down the main aisle of the church going on and on about the good deeds of the Good Shepherd.  Unbeknownst to me, a two-year old had wandered out from one of the pews.

At some point he must have became aware he was lost and the next thing I knew, this little one began tugging at my vestments.  I reached down and pulled him up into my arms.  At that point I stopped preaching.  Why go on?  What had just happened became a real life example of the Good Shepherd that looks out after each one of us.

Where have I allowed the Good Shepherd to find me?

—Fr. Michael Bayard, S.J. serves as Provincial Assistant for parishes and spiritual ministries of the Oregon and California Jesuit provinces.

Prayer

Lord, I will trust in your protection. I will go through this day confident that you will not fail me for I am your beloved.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team

 


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April 25, 2015

Feast of  St.  Mark

Mark 16: 15-20

And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: by using my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and proclaimed the good news everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that accompanied it.

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

Preaching Everywhere

The current TV series A.D. introduces us to St. Mark. Coptic tradition holds that he hosted the disciples in his house after Jesus’ death. He wrote down the sermons of Peter, thereby composing the gospel of Mark. He traveled to Alexandria and is honored as the founder of Christianity in Africa. Thus he is one of those who “went forth and preached everywhere.”

Each of us is “on the road” today, preaching the gospel (whether we think about or not) by our words and actions. We may not pick up serpents or drink poisons, as today’s gospel notes. Yet quite likely our kindness, compassion, and thoughtful words may well hold some demon at bay. Further, as any of us speak new iPad and iPhone languages, we bring the work and words of the Lord to bear on the knotty situations of our daily living. So who is to say that the Risen Jesus is not confirming our words and actions “through accompanying signs”? Let us be alert to the God’s influence alive in our hearts!

―The Jesuit Prayer Team

Prayer

Holy God, you gave St. Mark the privilege of proclaiming your gospel. Help me to bring the word and work of Jesus everywhere I travel today, all for your greater honor and glory. Amen.

 


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April 24, 2015

Acts 9: 1-20

Meanwhile Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” He asked, “Who are you, Lord?”

The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless because they heard the voice but saw no one. Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. For three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” He answered, “Here I am, Lord.” The Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul. At this moment he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.”

But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel; I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”

So Ananias went and entered the house. He laid his hands on Saul and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. Then he got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength. For several days he was with the disciples in Damascus, and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son 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 http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations

God’s Call

Paul’s conversion, described so vividly in today’s reading, has been a familiar story for close to two millennia—told thrice in Acts, and depicted in numerous artworks.

Paul can appear quite contemporary, an intellectual schooled by the Rabbi Gamaliel, a Roman citizen respected and entrusted with protecting the Jewish faith, including from the followers of the Way; and, above all, a driven man busily traveling the countryside on his chosen mission.

In the midst of this busyness, God summons Saul in a dramatic fashion.  Three days of blindness follow—a time to listen to the Lord, be led by others, and reflect on what God is calling him to do.

We are unlikely to be thrown from a horse due to a light from the sky, hear the voice of God personally, or be blinded for three days.  But, in the midst of our own busyness we face the same questions as Paul:  What is God calling me to do?  How am I being called to conversion, to transform my life?

―George Penman Sullivan, Jr. is a Jesuit-educated lay leader who helped found Chicago’s Ignatian Volunteer Corps. He and his wife, Dorothy, live in Wilmette IL, and have four children and three grandchildren.

Prayer

Lord, grant me the ability to become myself—grant me the silence, emptiness and open space that the Word of God can fill, and the Spirit of God can set on fire for the good of others. May I, like Paul, make the time to listen to God’s voice calling me, and may my life be thus transformed and driven by the love of God in all I do.

―George Penman Sullivan, Jr.

 


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April 23, 2015

Feast of St. George

Acts 8: 26-40

Then an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Get up and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is a wilderness road.) So he got up and went. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning home; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over to this chariot and join it.”

So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” He replied, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him. Now the passage of the scripture that he was reading was this: “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter, and like a lamb silent before its shearer, so he does not open his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.” The eunuch asked Philip, “About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?”

Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus. As they were going along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?” He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, Philip and the eunuch, went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he was passing through the region, he proclaimed the good news to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.

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

Ready or Not

This passage is not about the merits and measure of others. This message is for those who hear the call to discipleship, and choose to live and move and have their being in response. It is for those who choose to remain within the gravitational pull of the invitation inherent in that call.

The invitation issued by and through Jesus is the invitation to accept the gift of discipleship. The gift is the ability to  recognize the Incarnational Activity of the Father taking place in our lives and in our world through the Spirit, and to participate in it.

When, where, how do we participate in the work and the will of the Father, in Christ, through the Spirit? Here and now, in the everyday stuff of living; in the flesh and the blood and the breath taking. Here and now, in the Bread, and all that’s implied in its breaking. Here and now, in the Other, in all that compassion unleashes, and in all that love requires.

Somewhere, beyond the literal, and metaphorical, resides the Sacramental, and it is there, in the surrender to the Paschal Mystery that somehow we, as disciples, see the face of God and live. Ready, or not!

Alleluia.

—Moira and Richard Clark are Catholic high school educators in Cleveland, OH. Rich is President of St. Martin dePorres High School, and Moira is Dean of Student Life & Formation at Magnificat High School.

Prayer

Lord, let everything I experience this day be touched by your Spirit. Give me the desire and grace to co-labor with you in all my relationships and projects.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team

 


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April 22, 2015

Feast of Mary, Mother of the Society of Jesus

Acts 8: 1b-8

And Saul approved of their killing him. That day a severe persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout the countryside of Judea and Samaria. Devout men buried Stephen and made loud lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church by entering house after house; dragging off both men and women, he committed them to prison.

Now those who were scattered went from place to place, proclaiming the word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah to them. The crowds with one accord listened eagerly to what was said by Philip, hearing and seeing the signs that he did, for unclean spirits, crying with loud shrieks, came out of many who were possessed; and many others who were paralyzed or lame were cured. So there was great joy in that city.

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

Present Persecution

“The blood of martyrs is the seed of faith.” These words were first written by Tertullian, a Christian convert, in the late second century when severe persecution persisted throughout the Roman world. I tend to think religious persecution is a thing of the long distant past, not part of our current experience.

Upon further reflection, I recall many news stories during the past year about persecution driven by religious belief in the Middle East, Africa, India and so many other areas of the world. I have to work hard to convince myself these terrible situations are important to me. They involve real people like you and me who are children of God just like you and me.

I don’t have answers, but I do have questions. How might I accompany and even help people halfway around the world who suffer persecution today? When have I clothed the naked, fed the hungry, given shelter to strangers and visited the prisoner? Might I be more attentive to how people close to me are being persecuted.

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

Prayer

Lord, we pray for those suffering the agony of persecution at this very moment. We pray for their families, whose hearts are pierced by the cruelty inflicted on their loved ones. Let our prayers unite to bring comfort, courage, and hope to our brothers and sisters. Amen.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team

 


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April 21, 2015

Feast of St. Anselm

John 6: 30-35

So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

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

Real Freedom

I wonder how St. Ignatius and his first companions felt on this night in 1541. They were on the cusp of making a major commitment. The next day, they would walk across Rome to the Basilica of St. Paul Outside-the Walls, where they would profess their solemn vows as Jesuits.

We often hesitate at the thought of making permanent commitments, especially ones that reconfigure the whole of our lives, such as getting married or entering a religious vocation. Our culture feeds this anxiety, telling us freedom comes in having unlimited options available to us.

For St. Ignatius, freedom meant something different. It was found not in having many options, but instead in pursuing one option wholeheartedly, namely, the option for God and the will of God as it is made known to me in my life.

What commitment is God asking me to make that will bring me into a deeper freedom?

—Vincent Strand, S.J., a Jesuit scholastic of the Wisconsin Province, is studying theology in preparation for priestly ordination at the International College of the Gesù in Rome.

Prayer

Lord, we desire to commit more deeply to you. We ask that you sharpen our awareness to recognize you in the comings and goings of this day. Teach us what it means to surrender to you. We give you our hopes, our sufferings, our gratitude. For you are our God and we are your beloved.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team

 


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April 30, 2015

John 13: 16-20

When Jesus had washed the disciples’ feet, he said to them:  “Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you understand this, blessed are you if you do it. I am not speaking of all of you. I know those whom I have chosen. But so that the Scripture might be fulfilled, The one who ate my food has raised his heel against me. From now on I am telling you before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe that I AM.  Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.”

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

God Never Gives Up

This is a tough reading. Jesus knows that he will be betrayed, but he stays with his apostles even though he know he is facing death. He actually had just completed washing the feet of his apostles even the feet of Judas. My imagination tells me that perhaps Jesus was still hoping against all odds that Judas would remain faithful to him. He did not give up on Judas, Judas gave up on him.

Isn’t that the story of salvation history! God loves us and will never give up on us. Emmanuel, God with us, waits to be received no matter what. How often do I give up on people? How often do I judge someone quickly and finally? Thank God I am not God!

—Moira and Richard Clark are Catholic high school educators in Cleveland, OH. Rich is President of St. Martin dePorres High School, and Moira is Dean of Student Life & Formation at Magnificat High School.

Prayer

Peace is my farewell to you, my peace is my gift to you. I do not give it to you
as the world gives peace. Do not be distressed or fearful.

—John 14:27

 


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April 29, 2015

St. Catherine of Siena

Acts 12: 24 — 13: 5a

The word of God continued to spread and grow. After Barnabas and Saul completed their relief mission,they returned to Jerusalem, taking with them John, who is called Mark.  Now there were in the Church at Antioch prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Symeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who was a close friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.  While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”  Then, completing their fasting and prayer, they laid hands on them and sent them off. So they, sent forth by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia and from there sailed to Cyprus. When they arrived in Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the Jewish synagogues.

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 in Jesus

Just a week ago we read about Saul’s (Paul’s) role in the martyrdom of Stephen. Today we hear how the Holy Spirit chooses Saul to proclaim the good news in Salamis. What an improbable and complete change in Saul’s life and relationship with God! Paul believes in Jesus so strongly that his whole life is changed. He no longer persecutes believers in Jesus, but actually travels the world to convince people they should believe in Jesus.

What does it mean to believe in someone, to really believe? I think it means to totally trust a person, to unreservedly count on a person, and to love a person with certain knowledge that love is returned unconditionally. To make this more concrete for myself, I remember the absolute trust and love I felt as a child with my parents.

I ask myself, what will it take for me to believe, trust, count on and love Jesus to the point I am willing to follow the Holy Spirit wherever that may lead?

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

Prayer

Spirit of the living God,
Fall afresh on me.
Spirit of the living God,
Fall afresh on me.

Break me, melt me,
Mold me, fill me,
Spirit of the living God,
Fall afresh on me.

—Daniel Iverson, 1926


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April 28, 2015

Feast of St. Peter Chanel  and  St. Louis Mary de Montfort

Acts 11: 19-26

Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that took place over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, and they spoke the word to no one except Jews. But among them were some men of Cyprus and Cyrene who, on coming to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists also, proclaiming the Lord Jesus. The hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number became believers and turned to the Lord.

News of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he came and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast devotion; for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were brought to the Lord. Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for an entire year they met with the church and taught a great many people, and it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called “Christians.”

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

The Spirit Shows the Way

Today’s reading from Acts tells the story of the first believers to call themselves Christians in Antioch. They were persecuted from without and divided within, but drawn together by the power of the Spirit. Being a Christian then as now means overcoming internal and external strife through the power of the Spirit. Acts tells us that many of the Christians in Antioch came there after the martyrdom of Stephen in Jerusalem [Acts 8:1-4]. There was division in the Church of Antioch, whether to preach only to Jews or also to Gentiles. Many Gentiles accepted God’s word and the community came to see that God’s word is for all.

By the power of the Spirit the Church of Antioch overcame persecution and internal division to show Christ to the world. The call for the today’s Church is the same. The same Spirit shows the way.

—Matthew Dunch, S.J. is a Jesuit scholastic studying theology in preparation for ordination, at Regis College in Toronto. He previously taught at Xavier University in Cincinnati, OH.

Prayer

Above all trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress that it is made by passing through some stages
of instability—and that it may take a very long time.
And so I think it is with you:
your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.

—Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J. Excerpted from Hearts on Fire: Praying with Jesuits, © 1993Institute of Jesuit Sources, St. Louis MO

 


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April 27, 2015

Feast St. Peter Canisius, S.J.

Acts 11: 1-18

Now the apostles and the believers who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also accepted the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him, saying, “Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?” Then Peter began to explain it to them, step by step, saying, “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. There was something like a large sheet coming down from heaven, being lowered by its four corners; and it came close to me. As I looked at it closely I saw four-footed animals, beasts of prey, reptiles, and birds of the air. I also heard a voice saying to me, ‘Get up, Peter; kill and eat.’

But I replied, ‘By no means, Lord; for nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ But a second time the voice answered from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, you must not call profane.’ This happened three times; then everything was pulled up again to heaven. At that very moment three men, sent to me from Caesarea, arrived at the house where we were. The Spirit told me to go with them and not to make a distinction between them and us. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man’s house. He told us how he had seen the angel standing in his house and saying, ‘Send to Joppa and bring Simon, who is called Peter; he will give you a message by which you and your entire household will be saved.’

And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as it had upon us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?” When they heard this, they were silenced. And they praised God, saying, “Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life.”

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

Who was I to hinder God?

Earlier this week, I saw a dad holding hands with his son. The little boy looked so happy to be with his dad, and tell him that they needed to wait for the light to change before they could cross the street. I felt the father’s joy and delight in his son—as a mother, I could relate. It was the morning rush hour, but despite the chaos, the father and son were totally united, like they were glowing in God’s love.

That experience drew me to Peter in today’s first reading, as he faced criticism over who could be part of the community of faith. Would I have recognized the love on the street that morning, if I was preoccupied with this father’s religion, race, economics or political views? I’m not sure. But that morning I saw a father who loves his son. What does that tell us about God’s love for us?

Who are the “Gentiles” in your life? Is there someone or “types of someones” that bring out criticism in you? Bring that to prayer today, and ask God how you can bring them closer to Him. Then ask for the grace to see how they can draw you closer to Him, too.

—Kristin Dillon is a lay minister who has worked with Charis Ministries and Holy Name Cathedral. She lives in Chicago with her husband and son

Prayer

Risen Jesus, you surround me with such a  rich variety of personalities from all races and places and languages. Help my heart to be open to the gift of each person I meet today. Thank you for their grace and strength, their humor and hope, their insight into your goodness and greatness. Amen.

 


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April 26, 2015

John 10: 11-18

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep.

I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my 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

I Know Mine

“I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father.”

Several years ago I preached at a First Communion liturgy at Gesu Parish in Milwaukee, WI.  On this particular Sunday, instead of preaching from the ambo, I walked up and down the main aisle of the church going on and on about the good deeds of the Good Shepherd.  Unbeknownst to me, a two-year old had wandered out from one of the pews.

At some point he must have became aware he was lost and the next thing I knew, this little one began tugging at my vestments.  I reached down and pulled him up into my arms.  At that point I stopped preaching.  Why go on?  What had just happened became a real life example of the Good Shepherd that looks out after each one of us.

Where have I allowed the Good Shepherd to find me?

—Fr. Michael Bayard, S.J. serves as Provincial Assistant for parishes and spiritual ministries of the Oregon and California Jesuit provinces.

Prayer

Lord, I will trust in your protection. I will go through this day confident that you will not fail me for I am your beloved.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team

 


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April 25, 2015

Feast of  St.  Mark

Mark 16: 15-20

And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: by using my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and proclaimed the good news everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that accompanied it.

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

Preaching Everywhere

The current TV series A.D. introduces us to St. Mark. Coptic tradition holds that he hosted the disciples in his house after Jesus’ death. He wrote down the sermons of Peter, thereby composing the gospel of Mark. He traveled to Alexandria and is honored as the founder of Christianity in Africa. Thus he is one of those who “went forth and preached everywhere.”

Each of us is “on the road” today, preaching the gospel (whether we think about or not) by our words and actions. We may not pick up serpents or drink poisons, as today’s gospel notes. Yet quite likely our kindness, compassion, and thoughtful words may well hold some demon at bay. Further, as any of us speak new iPad and iPhone languages, we bring the work and words of the Lord to bear on the knotty situations of our daily living. So who is to say that the Risen Jesus is not confirming our words and actions “through accompanying signs”? Let us be alert to the God’s influence alive in our hearts!

―The Jesuit Prayer Team

Prayer

Holy God, you gave St. Mark the privilege of proclaiming your gospel. Help me to bring the word and work of Jesus everywhere I travel today, all for your greater honor and glory. Amen.

 


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April 24, 2015

Acts 9: 1-20

Meanwhile Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” He asked, “Who are you, Lord?”

The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless because they heard the voice but saw no one. Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. For three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” He answered, “Here I am, Lord.” The Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul. At this moment he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.”

But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel; I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”

So Ananias went and entered the house. He laid his hands on Saul and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. Then he got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength. For several days he was with the disciples in Damascus, and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son 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 http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations

God’s Call

Paul’s conversion, described so vividly in today’s reading, has been a familiar story for close to two millennia—told thrice in Acts, and depicted in numerous artworks.

Paul can appear quite contemporary, an intellectual schooled by the Rabbi Gamaliel, a Roman citizen respected and entrusted with protecting the Jewish faith, including from the followers of the Way; and, above all, a driven man busily traveling the countryside on his chosen mission.

In the midst of this busyness, God summons Saul in a dramatic fashion.  Three days of blindness follow—a time to listen to the Lord, be led by others, and reflect on what God is calling him to do.

We are unlikely to be thrown from a horse due to a light from the sky, hear the voice of God personally, or be blinded for three days.  But, in the midst of our own busyness we face the same questions as Paul:  What is God calling me to do?  How am I being called to conversion, to transform my life?

―George Penman Sullivan, Jr. is a Jesuit-educated lay leader who helped found Chicago’s Ignatian Volunteer Corps. He and his wife, Dorothy, live in Wilmette IL, and have four children and three grandchildren.

Prayer

Lord, grant me the ability to become myself—grant me the silence, emptiness and open space that the Word of God can fill, and the Spirit of God can set on fire for the good of others. May I, like Paul, make the time to listen to God’s voice calling me, and may my life be thus transformed and driven by the love of God in all I do.

―George Penman Sullivan, Jr.

 


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April 23, 2015

Feast of St. George

Acts 8: 26-40

Then an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Get up and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is a wilderness road.) So he got up and went. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning home; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over to this chariot and join it.”

So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” He replied, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him. Now the passage of the scripture that he was reading was this: “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter, and like a lamb silent before its shearer, so he does not open his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.” The eunuch asked Philip, “About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?”

Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus. As they were going along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?” He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, Philip and the eunuch, went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he was passing through the region, he proclaimed the good news to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.

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

Ready or Not

This passage is not about the merits and measure of others. This message is for those who hear the call to discipleship, and choose to live and move and have their being in response. It is for those who choose to remain within the gravitational pull of the invitation inherent in that call.

The invitation issued by and through Jesus is the invitation to accept the gift of discipleship. The gift is the ability to  recognize the Incarnational Activity of the Father taking place in our lives and in our world through the Spirit, and to participate in it.

When, where, how do we participate in the work and the will of the Father, in Christ, through the Spirit? Here and now, in the everyday stuff of living; in the flesh and the blood and the breath taking. Here and now, in the Bread, and all that’s implied in its breaking. Here and now, in the Other, in all that compassion unleashes, and in all that love requires.

Somewhere, beyond the literal, and metaphorical, resides the Sacramental, and it is there, in the surrender to the Paschal Mystery that somehow we, as disciples, see the face of God and live. Ready, or not!

Alleluia.

—Moira and Richard Clark are Catholic high school educators in Cleveland, OH. Rich is President of St. Martin dePorres High School, and Moira is Dean of Student Life & Formation at Magnificat High School.

Prayer

Lord, let everything I experience this day be touched by your Spirit. Give me the desire and grace to co-labor with you in all my relationships and projects.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team

 


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April 22, 2015

Feast of Mary, Mother of the Society of Jesus

Acts 8: 1b-8

And Saul approved of their killing him. That day a severe persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout the countryside of Judea and Samaria. Devout men buried Stephen and made loud lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church by entering house after house; dragging off both men and women, he committed them to prison.

Now those who were scattered went from place to place, proclaiming the word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah to them. The crowds with one accord listened eagerly to what was said by Philip, hearing and seeing the signs that he did, for unclean spirits, crying with loud shrieks, came out of many who were possessed; and many others who were paralyzed or lame were cured. So there was great joy in that city.

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

Present Persecution

“The blood of martyrs is the seed of faith.” These words were first written by Tertullian, a Christian convert, in the late second century when severe persecution persisted throughout the Roman world. I tend to think religious persecution is a thing of the long distant past, not part of our current experience.

Upon further reflection, I recall many news stories during the past year about persecution driven by religious belief in the Middle East, Africa, India and so many other areas of the world. I have to work hard to convince myself these terrible situations are important to me. They involve real people like you and me who are children of God just like you and me.

I don’t have answers, but I do have questions. How might I accompany and even help people halfway around the world who suffer persecution today? When have I clothed the naked, fed the hungry, given shelter to strangers and visited the prisoner? Might I be more attentive to how people close to me are being persecuted.

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

Prayer

Lord, we pray for those suffering the agony of persecution at this very moment. We pray for their families, whose hearts are pierced by the cruelty inflicted on their loved ones. Let our prayers unite to bring comfort, courage, and hope to our brothers and sisters. Amen.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team

 


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April 21, 2015

Feast of St. Anselm

John 6: 30-35

So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

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

Real Freedom

I wonder how St. Ignatius and his first companions felt on this night in 1541. They were on the cusp of making a major commitment. The next day, they would walk across Rome to the Basilica of St. Paul Outside-the Walls, where they would profess their solemn vows as Jesuits.

We often hesitate at the thought of making permanent commitments, especially ones that reconfigure the whole of our lives, such as getting married or entering a religious vocation. Our culture feeds this anxiety, telling us freedom comes in having unlimited options available to us.

For St. Ignatius, freedom meant something different. It was found not in having many options, but instead in pursuing one option wholeheartedly, namely, the option for God and the will of God as it is made known to me in my life.

What commitment is God asking me to make that will bring me into a deeper freedom?

—Vincent Strand, S.J., a Jesuit scholastic of the Wisconsin Province, is studying theology in preparation for priestly ordination at the International College of the Gesù in Rome.

Prayer

Lord, we desire to commit more deeply to you. We ask that you sharpen our awareness to recognize you in the comings and goings of this day. Teach us what it means to surrender to you. We give you our hopes, our sufferings, our gratitude. For you are our God and we are your beloved.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team

 


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