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August 31, 2015

Lk 4: 16-30

When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” He said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Doctor, cure yourself!’ And you will say, ‘Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.’”

And he said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown. But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.”

When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage.They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.

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-translation

The Agenda

Even before I met a Jesuit, I took up St. Ignatius’ admonition: “go…and set the world on fire.” Change the world – that’s what I wanted to do!

Then I grew up. Somewhere along the way, I realized that passion alone was not enough. I needed an agenda that would channel my zeal. And that is when today’s Gospel became real for me. Question: “So how, exactly, do you plan to set the world on fire?” Answer: “Preach good news to the poor, proclaim release to the captives, give sight to the blind, and set at liberty those who are oppressed.”  And lest anyone was dozing during the day’s reading, Jesus’ homily made it clear. He would not be working flashy miracles in their midst; rather, Jesus would minister to the least, the lost, and the last.

Not a bad agenda. So how does his agenda inform my agenda today?

—Howard Craig is the provincial assistant for Advancement on behalf of the Chicago-Detroit and Wisconsin provinces of the Society of Jesus.

Prayer

Grant me, O Lord, to see everything now with new eyes,
to discern and test the spirits that help me read the signs of the times,
to relish the things that are yours,
and to communicate them to others.
Give me the clarity of understanding that you gave Ignatius.

—Pedro Arrupe, SJ


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August 30, 2015

James 1: 17-18. 21b-22. 27

Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures.

Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness, and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves.

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

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-translation

For Others

Social scientists note that there are definite stages in the development of human moral character.  Children need well-defined rules of behavior with the promise/threat of rewards/punishment as a consequence of misbehavior. With more life-experience and a growing sense of personal selfhood, one tends to balance strict obedience to rules with heightened awareness of the inevitable complexity of real-life situations. One thus feels free to bend the rules occasionally for the sake of what is thought to be a higher good (either for the self or for others).

Self-deception, of course, can always play a role here. But in today’s Gospel passage, Jesus takes that chance in chastising the Scribes and Pharisees for their hypocrisy in rigidly conforming to prescribed Jewish rituals simply to gain favor with one another.  One should rather seek moral perfection in serving the needs of others as the second reading for this Sunday (James 1:27) recommends.

—Fr. Joseph Bracken, S.J. is an emeritus professor of theology at Xavier University, Cincinnati, OH.

Prayer

Lord, make us mindful of all your gifts.
May we be content and grateful,
giving our love and lives to you all our days.
Fill us with grateful hearts,
and remind us constantly of all you have given us.
May we never take for granted your love
and your generosity and your goodness. Amen.

—The Jesuit prayer team


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August 29, 2015

Martyrdom of  St. John the Baptist

1 Thes 4: 9-11

Now concerning love of the brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anyone write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another; and indeed you do love all the brothers and sisters throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, beloved, to do so more and more, to aspire to live quietly, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we directed you,

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-translation

Living Our Baptism

John, son of Elizabeth and Zechariah, was minding his own business when he came to understand that God wanted him to do something quite different with his life. So he went to the desert where he gradually learned that he was to preach a baptism of repentance. John is described as “the voice of one crying in the desert.” John’s prophetic preaching  eventually brought him to the Jordan river, where he meets Jesus, his cousin. “Behold the Lamb of God,” John shouts, as Jesus asks him for baptism. Eventually John is imprisoned and then beheaded at Herod’s command, as Mark’s gospel account describes.

Today’s reading from Thessalonians helps us understand John’s life of brotherly love. God used John to introduce the life and purpose, the ministry and mission of Jesus as our Savior, the redeemer of the world. John’s life of faith invites us “to love one another” and  “to make even greater progress.” What small steps can I take today to live out my own baptism in love and in service?

—The Jesuit Prayer Team

Prayer

God our Father, you called John the Baptist to be the herald of your son’s birth and death.
As he gave his life in witness to to truth and justice, so may we strive to profess faith in your gospel.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

—The Roman Sacramentary.


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August 28, 2015

St. Augustine

1 Thes 4: 1-8

Finally, brothers and sisters, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus that, as you learned from us how you ought to live and to please God (as, in fact, you are doing), you should do so more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from fornication; that each one of you know how to control your own body in holiness and honor, not with lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one wrong or exploit a brother or sister in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, just as we have already told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God did not call us to impurity but in holiness. Therefore whoever rejects this rejects not human authority but God, who also gives his Holy Spirit to you.

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-translation

Growing in the Lord

Holiness is not the easiest nor most popular conversation topic. Yet holiness is what our God asks and invites, each and every day. Think of it as centering our daily living in God’s good grace, grounding my attitudes, decisions, and personal interactions in the Lord’s ever-present life and love. Easy to say; harder to accomplish….especially if I try to do it all alone.

If you think about it, holiness takes root within communitywith the faith, support, and example of family members, good friends, those I pray and worship with, even total strangers whose prayers and support power us forward throughout the day.

If you are not “into” holiness today, think about all those others in your life who need your strength and count on your prayers and active example of gospel living. Then say a prayer of thanks and hope.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team

Prayer

Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy.
Act in me, O Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy.
Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit, that I love but what is holy.
Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit, to defend all that is holy.
Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit, that I always may be holy. Amen.

—St. Augustine of Hippo


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August 27, 2015

St. Monica

Matthew 24: 42-51

Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour. “Who then is the faithful and wise slave, whom his master has put in charge of his household, to give the other slaves their allowance of food at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives.

Truly I tell you, he will put that one in charge of all his possessions. But if that wicked slave says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ and he begins to beat his fellow slaves, and eats and drinks with drunkards, the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour that he does not know. He will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

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-translation

Freedom and Joy

Jesus challenges the disciples to “Stay Awake,” to be prepared. Through his book, Awareness, Jesuit author Anthony deMello challenges the reader to become aware – to wake up – from those assumptions, concepts, emotions and habits with which we unconsciously live. As we become more aware of these, that is as we become more conscious and intentional, we also grow in freedom to become more who we are meant to be.

Jesus’ describes the “faithful servant” as someone who fulfills who he or she is — persons with the freedom to live as we are meant to be. St. Ignatius establishes the Principle & Foundation as a key underpinning of the Spiritual Exercises. Both Jesus and Ignatius express this hope that, as we become more aware of who we are meant to bepeople who strive to reside in God’s lovewe become more fulfilled and we thrive in freedom and joy.

Fr. Glen Chun, S.J. is a campus ministry chaplain at Loyola University Chicago, IL, as well as the peripatetic minister of the Loyola University Jesuit community.

Prayer

The goal of our life is to live with God forever. God, who loves us, gave us life. Our own response of love allows God’s life to flow into us without limit.

All the things in this world are gifts of God, presented to us so that we can know God more easily and make a return of love more readily. As a result, we appreciate and use all these gifts of God insofar as they help us develop as loving persons.

But if any of these gifts become the center of our lives, they displace God and so hinder our growth toward our goal. In everyday life, then, we must hold ourselves in balance before all of these created gifts insofar as we have a choice and are not bound by some obligation. We should not fix our desires on health or sickness, wealth or poverty, success or failure, a long life or a short one.

For everything has the potential of calling forth in us a deeper response to our life in God. Our only desire and our one choice should be this: I want and I choose what better leads to God’s deepening his life in me.

— The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola (translate by  David Fleming, S.J.


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August 26, 2015

Psalm 139:7-12

Where can I go from your spirit?
From your presence where can I flee?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I sink to the nether world, you are present there.

If I take the wings of the dawn,
if I settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
even there your hand shall guide me,
and your right hand hold me fast.

If I say, “Surely the darkness shall hide me,
and night shall be my light”–
For you darkness itself is not dark,
and night shines as the day.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All1 rights reserved. USCCB approved. http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translation

Good Days and Bad Days

Today this psalm of marvel sits between St. Paul exhorting and encouraging the Thessalonians with great fondness, reminding them of the example he and his companions set for good gospel living, and Jesus with great distress exhorting and lamenting the bad examples of the Pharisees. Jesus goes on to ask “how many times I yearned to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her young under her wings, but you were unwilling?” (Mt 23:37)

I am grateful for the good days when I participate in graced moments, able to “walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into his kingdom and glory” (1Thes2:12).  I also have bad hypocritical days when I don’t act with transparency and integrity, or I perpetuate unhealthy patterns of behavior in my relationship with family, friends or neighbors. On those unworthy days I want to flee from God’s presence, yet the psalmist reminds me I am pursued by Love to the ends of the earth.

The realization that I am a loved sinner is the grace of the first week of the Spiritual Exercises.  St. Ignatius instructs me to pray for “shame and confusion” for my sins. Another way to pray this is to ask for “deep embarrassment over my actions and amazement at God’s goodness and mercy.”  It is part of human nature to have both good days and bad. It is part of God’s nature to search and know us and reach out to us through every means possible, to show us that we are each loved beyond measure every day.

—Jenene Francis is the provincial assistant for pastoral ministries for the Chicago-Detroit and Wisconsin provinces of the Society of Jesus.

Prayer

I cry with wonder accompanied by surging emotions as I pass in review all creatures. How is it that they have permitted me to live, and have sustained me in life? Why have the angels, though they are the sword of God’s justice, tolerated me, guarded me, and prayed for me? Why have the saints interceded for me and asked favors for me?

And the heavens, sun, moon, stars, and the element; the fruits, birds, fishes, and other animals – why have they all been at my service?  How is it that the earth did not open to swallow me up, and create new hells in which I would be tormented forever?  I extol the mercy of God our Lord, pouring out my thoughts to him and giving thanks to him that up to this very moment he has granted me life. I will resolve with his grace to amend for the future.

—St. Ignatius Loyola, Spiritual Exercises,  #60-61


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August 25, 2015

Mt 23: 23-26

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel! “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may become clean.

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-translation

Mercy and Faithfulness

A frequently sung psalm antiphon invites reads: “Create in me a clean heart, O God.”  It echoes the spirit of Matthew’s words in today’s gospel. More important than external observance is the interior spiritual strength of mind and heart. Pope Francis frequently reminds us to take the road of mercy and forgiveness in our interactions with family, friends, and even total strangers. A merciful heart witnesses to a person’s faithfulness, grounded in God’s life and love. A forgiving attitude bespeaks another’s ability to accept me as I am, to walk with me when I am in trouble, when I doubt and even despair.

It can be convenient to put on a happy face and pretend that all is well, but this deception won’t last very long. Jesus reminds us today that it takes both courage and grace to face the demons within, and then to “clean up” the messiness in my relationships with othersespecially with those I live with and love.

So where do I begin…today?

—The Jesuit prayer team

Prayer

Have mercy on me, God, in your kindness; in your compassion blot out my offense.
O wash me more and more from my guilt, and cleanse me from my sin.

—Psalm 51


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August 24, 2015

St. Bartholomew

Jn 1: 45-51

Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.”

Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.”And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”

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-translation

Missing Jesus

Have you have seen him? “Homeless Jesus” is a bronze sculpture that depicts Jesus as a homeless person, sleeping on a park bench. Installed first in Toronto, a casting was recently installed in front of Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church, operated by the Jesuits in downtown Detroit. The life-like statue is startling, and can be misinterpreted. Once police received a call from someone who confused the sculpture with a vagrant. You see, the only indication that it represents Jesus is the marks from the nails in the man’s feet. If you don’t look carefully, you may miss him.

It is easy to let our preconceptions cloud our perceptions; to see only what we want to see. Then we can miss seeing Jesus. We miss seeing him on the park bench, in the face of a crying child, perhaps even among our closest friends and loved ones. So how will Jesus reveal himself to me today? Will I see him, or will I miss him?

—Howard Craig is the provincial assistant for Advancement on behalf of the Chicago-Detroit and Wisconsin provinces of the Society of Jesus.

Prayer

Who is Jesus to me? Jesus is the Word made Flesh….
Jesus is the Hungryto be fed.
Jesus is the Thirstyto be satiated.
Jesus is the Nakedto be clothed.
Jesus is the Homelessto be taken in.
Jesus is the Sickto be healed.
Jesus is the Lonelyto be loved.
Jesus is the Unwantedto be wanted.
Jesus is the Leperto wash his wounds.
Jesus is the Beggarto give him a smile.
Jesus is the Drunkardto listen to him.
Jesus is the Little Oneto embrace him.
Jesus is the Dumbto speak to him.
Jesus is the Crippledto walk with him.
Jesus is the Drug Addictto befriend him.
Jesus is the Prostituteto remove from danger and befriend her.
Jesus is the Prisonerto be visited.
Jesus is the Old – to be served.

To me Jesus is my God, Jesus is my Spouse, Jesus is my Life, Jesus is my only Love, Jesus is my All in All, Jesus is my Everything.  Amen.

St. Teresa of Calcutta  (Mother Teresa)


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August 23, 2015

Eph 5: 21-32

Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, be subject to your husbands as you are to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is the head of the church, the body of which he is the Savior. Just as the church is subject to Christ, so also wives ought to be, in everything, to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, in order to make her holy by cleansing her with the washing of water by the word, so as to present the church to himself in splendor, without a spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind—yes, so that she may be holy and without blemish.

In the same way, husbands should love their wives as they do their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hates his own body, but he nourishes and tenderly cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, because we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a great mystery, and I am applying it to Christ and the church.

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-translation

Self-Giving Love

One can argue that in contemporary society, Paul’s dictum that wives should be subordinate to their husbands is no longer tenable. This objection, however, overlooks the significance of Paul’s words of advice to husbands to love their wives in the way that Christ loved the church. The term “church” here does not signify an ecclesiastical institution presided over by pope and bishops, but rather the community of believers as the Mystical Body of Christ. Just as Christ offers his Body and Blood  under the symbols of bread and wine in the Eucharist to his followers, so also husbands “should love their wives as their own bodies,” that is, give themselves  wholeheartedly to the service of their spouses and children. As one  Catholic layman  remarked, a wife will usually have no  trouble in allowing  her husband to have the last word on important family decisions if she senses that he truly loves her and their children.

—Fr. Joseph Bracken, S.J. is an emeritus professor of theology at Xavier University, Cincinnati, OH.

Prayer

A Couple’s Prayer

God of everlasting joy,
help us to find a new you in the face of routine,
to share our needs with an open heart,
to acknowledge when we have been wrong,
to forgive when we have been forgiven,
to love as your son Jesus taught us to love. Amen.


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August 22, 2015

Memorial of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary

MT 23:1-12

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long.

They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them rabbi. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students. And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father—the one in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.

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-translation

Mary, Mother and Queen

In all the events of Mary’s life, she is always associated with Jesus. Further, today’s feast of Mary’s queenship has strong Scriptural roots, precisely because Mary’s title as queen is her sharing in Jesus’ kingship. At the Annunciation, the angel Gabriel announced that Mary’s Son would receive the throne of David and rule forever. And at the Visitation, Elizabeth calls Mary the “mother of my Lord.”

In the fourth century St. Ephrem called Mary “Lady” and “Queen.” Church fathers continued to use the title. Church hymns of the early centuries address Mary as queen: “Hail, Holy Queen,” (Salve Regina) and “Queen of Heaven” (Regina Coeli) are two of them.  The Dominican rosary and numerous invocations in the Litany of Loreto celebrate her queenship.

Who among us doesn’t rely on special friends to make our way through life. Today’s feast offers the opportunity to reflect and celebrate Mary as a mentor, a special friend, the mother of Jesus.  The hymn below celebrates the special role plays within my personal life and within our family.

—Jesuit Prayer Team

Prayer

Hail, holy Queen, mother of mercies, our life, our sweetness, and our hope;
To you do we cry, poor banished children of Eve.
To you do send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears.
Turn then, most gracious Advocate, your eyes of mercy towards us,
and after this exile show us the blessed fruit of your womb, Jesus.
O clement,O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.

—Traditional Salve Regina Hymn


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August 31, 2015

Lk 4: 16-30

When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” He said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Doctor, cure yourself!’ And you will say, ‘Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.’”

And he said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown. But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.”

When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage.They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.

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-translation

The Agenda

Even before I met a Jesuit, I took up St. Ignatius’ admonition: “go…and set the world on fire.” Change the world – that’s what I wanted to do!

Then I grew up. Somewhere along the way, I realized that passion alone was not enough. I needed an agenda that would channel my zeal. And that is when today’s Gospel became real for me. Question: “So how, exactly, do you plan to set the world on fire?” Answer: “Preach good news to the poor, proclaim release to the captives, give sight to the blind, and set at liberty those who are oppressed.”  And lest anyone was dozing during the day’s reading, Jesus’ homily made it clear. He would not be working flashy miracles in their midst; rather, Jesus would minister to the least, the lost, and the last.

Not a bad agenda. So how does his agenda inform my agenda today?

—Howard Craig is the provincial assistant for Advancement on behalf of the Chicago-Detroit and Wisconsin provinces of the Society of Jesus.

Prayer

Grant me, O Lord, to see everything now with new eyes,
to discern and test the spirits that help me read the signs of the times,
to relish the things that are yours,
and to communicate them to others.
Give me the clarity of understanding that you gave Ignatius.

—Pedro Arrupe, SJ


Please share the Good Word with your friends!

August 30, 2015

James 1: 17-18. 21b-22. 27

Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures.

Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness, and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves.

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

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-translation

For Others

Social scientists note that there are definite stages in the development of human moral character.  Children need well-defined rules of behavior with the promise/threat of rewards/punishment as a consequence of misbehavior. With more life-experience and a growing sense of personal selfhood, one tends to balance strict obedience to rules with heightened awareness of the inevitable complexity of real-life situations. One thus feels free to bend the rules occasionally for the sake of what is thought to be a higher good (either for the self or for others).

Self-deception, of course, can always play a role here. But in today’s Gospel passage, Jesus takes that chance in chastising the Scribes and Pharisees for their hypocrisy in rigidly conforming to prescribed Jewish rituals simply to gain favor with one another.  One should rather seek moral perfection in serving the needs of others as the second reading for this Sunday (James 1:27) recommends.

—Fr. Joseph Bracken, S.J. is an emeritus professor of theology at Xavier University, Cincinnati, OH.

Prayer

Lord, make us mindful of all your gifts.
May we be content and grateful,
giving our love and lives to you all our days.
Fill us with grateful hearts,
and remind us constantly of all you have given us.
May we never take for granted your love
and your generosity and your goodness. Amen.

—The Jesuit prayer team


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August 29, 2015

Martyrdom of  St. John the Baptist

1 Thes 4: 9-11

Now concerning love of the brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anyone write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another; and indeed you do love all the brothers and sisters throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, beloved, to do so more and more, to aspire to live quietly, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we directed you,

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-translation

Living Our Baptism

John, son of Elizabeth and Zechariah, was minding his own business when he came to understand that God wanted him to do something quite different with his life. So he went to the desert where he gradually learned that he was to preach a baptism of repentance. John is described as “the voice of one crying in the desert.” John’s prophetic preaching  eventually brought him to the Jordan river, where he meets Jesus, his cousin. “Behold the Lamb of God,” John shouts, as Jesus asks him for baptism. Eventually John is imprisoned and then beheaded at Herod’s command, as Mark’s gospel account describes.

Today’s reading from Thessalonians helps us understand John’s life of brotherly love. God used John to introduce the life and purpose, the ministry and mission of Jesus as our Savior, the redeemer of the world. John’s life of faith invites us “to love one another” and  “to make even greater progress.” What small steps can I take today to live out my own baptism in love and in service?

—The Jesuit Prayer Team

Prayer

God our Father, you called John the Baptist to be the herald of your son’s birth and death.
As he gave his life in witness to to truth and justice, so may we strive to profess faith in your gospel.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

—The Roman Sacramentary.


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August 28, 2015

St. Augustine

1 Thes 4: 1-8

Finally, brothers and sisters, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus that, as you learned from us how you ought to live and to please God (as, in fact, you are doing), you should do so more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from fornication; that each one of you know how to control your own body in holiness and honor, not with lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one wrong or exploit a brother or sister in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, just as we have already told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God did not call us to impurity but in holiness. Therefore whoever rejects this rejects not human authority but God, who also gives his Holy Spirit to you.

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-translation

Growing in the Lord

Holiness is not the easiest nor most popular conversation topic. Yet holiness is what our God asks and invites, each and every day. Think of it as centering our daily living in God’s good grace, grounding my attitudes, decisions, and personal interactions in the Lord’s ever-present life and love. Easy to say; harder to accomplish….especially if I try to do it all alone.

If you think about it, holiness takes root within communitywith the faith, support, and example of family members, good friends, those I pray and worship with, even total strangers whose prayers and support power us forward throughout the day.

If you are not “into” holiness today, think about all those others in your life who need your strength and count on your prayers and active example of gospel living. Then say a prayer of thanks and hope.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team

Prayer

Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy.
Act in me, O Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy.
Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit, that I love but what is holy.
Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit, to defend all that is holy.
Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit, that I always may be holy. Amen.

—St. Augustine of Hippo


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August 27, 2015

St. Monica

Matthew 24: 42-51

Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour. “Who then is the faithful and wise slave, whom his master has put in charge of his household, to give the other slaves their allowance of food at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives.

Truly I tell you, he will put that one in charge of all his possessions. But if that wicked slave says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ and he begins to beat his fellow slaves, and eats and drinks with drunkards, the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour that he does not know. He will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

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-translation

Freedom and Joy

Jesus challenges the disciples to “Stay Awake,” to be prepared. Through his book, Awareness, Jesuit author Anthony deMello challenges the reader to become aware – to wake up – from those assumptions, concepts, emotions and habits with which we unconsciously live. As we become more aware of these, that is as we become more conscious and intentional, we also grow in freedom to become more who we are meant to be.

Jesus’ describes the “faithful servant” as someone who fulfills who he or she is — persons with the freedom to live as we are meant to be. St. Ignatius establishes the Principle & Foundation as a key underpinning of the Spiritual Exercises. Both Jesus and Ignatius express this hope that, as we become more aware of who we are meant to bepeople who strive to reside in God’s lovewe become more fulfilled and we thrive in freedom and joy.

Fr. Glen Chun, S.J. is a campus ministry chaplain at Loyola University Chicago, IL, as well as the peripatetic minister of the Loyola University Jesuit community.

Prayer

The goal of our life is to live with God forever. God, who loves us, gave us life. Our own response of love allows God’s life to flow into us without limit.

All the things in this world are gifts of God, presented to us so that we can know God more easily and make a return of love more readily. As a result, we appreciate and use all these gifts of God insofar as they help us develop as loving persons.

But if any of these gifts become the center of our lives, they displace God and so hinder our growth toward our goal. In everyday life, then, we must hold ourselves in balance before all of these created gifts insofar as we have a choice and are not bound by some obligation. We should not fix our desires on health or sickness, wealth or poverty, success or failure, a long life or a short one.

For everything has the potential of calling forth in us a deeper response to our life in God. Our only desire and our one choice should be this: I want and I choose what better leads to God’s deepening his life in me.

— The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola (translate by  David Fleming, S.J.


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August 26, 2015

Psalm 139:7-12

Where can I go from your spirit?
From your presence where can I flee?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I sink to the nether world, you are present there.

If I take the wings of the dawn,
if I settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
even there your hand shall guide me,
and your right hand hold me fast.

If I say, “Surely the darkness shall hide me,
and night shall be my light”–
For you darkness itself is not dark,
and night shines as the day.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All1 rights reserved. USCCB approved. http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translation

Good Days and Bad Days

Today this psalm of marvel sits between St. Paul exhorting and encouraging the Thessalonians with great fondness, reminding them of the example he and his companions set for good gospel living, and Jesus with great distress exhorting and lamenting the bad examples of the Pharisees. Jesus goes on to ask “how many times I yearned to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her young under her wings, but you were unwilling?” (Mt 23:37)

I am grateful for the good days when I participate in graced moments, able to “walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into his kingdom and glory” (1Thes2:12).  I also have bad hypocritical days when I don’t act with transparency and integrity, or I perpetuate unhealthy patterns of behavior in my relationship with family, friends or neighbors. On those unworthy days I want to flee from God’s presence, yet the psalmist reminds me I am pursued by Love to the ends of the earth.

The realization that I am a loved sinner is the grace of the first week of the Spiritual Exercises.  St. Ignatius instructs me to pray for “shame and confusion” for my sins. Another way to pray this is to ask for “deep embarrassment over my actions and amazement at God’s goodness and mercy.”  It is part of human nature to have both good days and bad. It is part of God’s nature to search and know us and reach out to us through every means possible, to show us that we are each loved beyond measure every day.

—Jenene Francis is the provincial assistant for pastoral ministries for the Chicago-Detroit and Wisconsin provinces of the Society of Jesus.

Prayer

I cry with wonder accompanied by surging emotions as I pass in review all creatures. How is it that they have permitted me to live, and have sustained me in life? Why have the angels, though they are the sword of God’s justice, tolerated me, guarded me, and prayed for me? Why have the saints interceded for me and asked favors for me?

And the heavens, sun, moon, stars, and the element; the fruits, birds, fishes, and other animals – why have they all been at my service?  How is it that the earth did not open to swallow me up, and create new hells in which I would be tormented forever?  I extol the mercy of God our Lord, pouring out my thoughts to him and giving thanks to him that up to this very moment he has granted me life. I will resolve with his grace to amend for the future.

—St. Ignatius Loyola, Spiritual Exercises,  #60-61


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August 25, 2015

Mt 23: 23-26

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel! “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may become clean.

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-translation

Mercy and Faithfulness

A frequently sung psalm antiphon invites reads: “Create in me a clean heart, O God.”  It echoes the spirit of Matthew’s words in today’s gospel. More important than external observance is the interior spiritual strength of mind and heart. Pope Francis frequently reminds us to take the road of mercy and forgiveness in our interactions with family, friends, and even total strangers. A merciful heart witnesses to a person’s faithfulness, grounded in God’s life and love. A forgiving attitude bespeaks another’s ability to accept me as I am, to walk with me when I am in trouble, when I doubt and even despair.

It can be convenient to put on a happy face and pretend that all is well, but this deception won’t last very long. Jesus reminds us today that it takes both courage and grace to face the demons within, and then to “clean up” the messiness in my relationships with othersespecially with those I live with and love.

So where do I begin…today?

—The Jesuit prayer team

Prayer

Have mercy on me, God, in your kindness; in your compassion blot out my offense.
O wash me more and more from my guilt, and cleanse me from my sin.

—Psalm 51


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August 24, 2015

St. Bartholomew

Jn 1: 45-51

Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.”

Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.”And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”

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-translation

Missing Jesus

Have you have seen him? “Homeless Jesus” is a bronze sculpture that depicts Jesus as a homeless person, sleeping on a park bench. Installed first in Toronto, a casting was recently installed in front of Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church, operated by the Jesuits in downtown Detroit. The life-like statue is startling, and can be misinterpreted. Once police received a call from someone who confused the sculpture with a vagrant. You see, the only indication that it represents Jesus is the marks from the nails in the man’s feet. If you don’t look carefully, you may miss him.

It is easy to let our preconceptions cloud our perceptions; to see only what we want to see. Then we can miss seeing Jesus. We miss seeing him on the park bench, in the face of a crying child, perhaps even among our closest friends and loved ones. So how will Jesus reveal himself to me today? Will I see him, or will I miss him?

—Howard Craig is the provincial assistant for Advancement on behalf of the Chicago-Detroit and Wisconsin provinces of the Society of Jesus.

Prayer

Who is Jesus to me? Jesus is the Word made Flesh….
Jesus is the Hungryto be fed.
Jesus is the Thirstyto be satiated.
Jesus is the Nakedto be clothed.
Jesus is the Homelessto be taken in.
Jesus is the Sickto be healed.
Jesus is the Lonelyto be loved.
Jesus is the Unwantedto be wanted.
Jesus is the Leperto wash his wounds.
Jesus is the Beggarto give him a smile.
Jesus is the Drunkardto listen to him.
Jesus is the Little Oneto embrace him.
Jesus is the Dumbto speak to him.
Jesus is the Crippledto walk with him.
Jesus is the Drug Addictto befriend him.
Jesus is the Prostituteto remove from danger and befriend her.
Jesus is the Prisonerto be visited.
Jesus is the Old – to be served.

To me Jesus is my God, Jesus is my Spouse, Jesus is my Life, Jesus is my only Love, Jesus is my All in All, Jesus is my Everything.  Amen.

St. Teresa of Calcutta  (Mother Teresa)


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August 23, 2015

Eph 5: 21-32

Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, be subject to your husbands as you are to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is the head of the church, the body of which he is the Savior. Just as the church is subject to Christ, so also wives ought to be, in everything, to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, in order to make her holy by cleansing her with the washing of water by the word, so as to present the church to himself in splendor, without a spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind—yes, so that she may be holy and without blemish.

In the same way, husbands should love their wives as they do their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hates his own body, but he nourishes and tenderly cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, because we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a great mystery, and I am applying it to Christ and the church.

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-translation

Self-Giving Love

One can argue that in contemporary society, Paul’s dictum that wives should be subordinate to their husbands is no longer tenable. This objection, however, overlooks the significance of Paul’s words of advice to husbands to love their wives in the way that Christ loved the church. The term “church” here does not signify an ecclesiastical institution presided over by pope and bishops, but rather the community of believers as the Mystical Body of Christ. Just as Christ offers his Body and Blood  under the symbols of bread and wine in the Eucharist to his followers, so also husbands “should love their wives as their own bodies,” that is, give themselves  wholeheartedly to the service of their spouses and children. As one  Catholic layman  remarked, a wife will usually have no  trouble in allowing  her husband to have the last word on important family decisions if she senses that he truly loves her and their children.

—Fr. Joseph Bracken, S.J. is an emeritus professor of theology at Xavier University, Cincinnati, OH.

Prayer

A Couple’s Prayer

God of everlasting joy,
help us to find a new you in the face of routine,
to share our needs with an open heart,
to acknowledge when we have been wrong,
to forgive when we have been forgiven,
to love as your son Jesus taught us to love. Amen.


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August 22, 2015

Memorial of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary

MT 23:1-12

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long.

They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them rabbi. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students. And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father—the one in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.

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-translation

Mary, Mother and Queen

In all the events of Mary’s life, she is always associated with Jesus. Further, today’s feast of Mary’s queenship has strong Scriptural roots, precisely because Mary’s title as queen is her sharing in Jesus’ kingship. At the Annunciation, the angel Gabriel announced that Mary’s Son would receive the throne of David and rule forever. And at the Visitation, Elizabeth calls Mary the “mother of my Lord.”

In the fourth century St. Ephrem called Mary “Lady” and “Queen.” Church fathers continued to use the title. Church hymns of the early centuries address Mary as queen: “Hail, Holy Queen,” (Salve Regina) and “Queen of Heaven” (Regina Coeli) are two of them.  The Dominican rosary and numerous invocations in the Litany of Loreto celebrate her queenship.

Who among us doesn’t rely on special friends to make our way through life. Today’s feast offers the opportunity to reflect and celebrate Mary as a mentor, a special friend, the mother of Jesus.  The hymn below celebrates the special role plays within my personal life and within our family.

—Jesuit Prayer Team

Prayer

Hail, holy Queen, mother of mercies, our life, our sweetness, and our hope;
To you do we cry, poor banished children of Eve.
To you do send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears.
Turn then, most gracious Advocate, your eyes of mercy towards us,
and after this exile show us the blessed fruit of your womb, Jesus.
O clement,O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.

—Traditional Salve Regina Hymn


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