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February 29, 2016

Lk 4: 24-30

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.

Seeking Jesus

For many years this Gospel was difficult for me to relate to. It is rare that I have been furious in my life. It has happened however that a disappointment turned to anger, that anger into fury. Just like these Nazoreans I was unable to see the reality of what was really happening right in front of me.

Blinded by anger. Spiraling out of control. Emotions can be that way. When we are emotional it is challenging to step back and open up. In this story Jesus is offering an invitation to discipleship. In this time of Lent he invites us to open our hearts to the invitation to seek him and his love. Jesus reminds us he is in our midst waiting for our “yes.” Can you seek him today not only in prayer but in the world around you?

—Erin Maiorca serves as associate director of Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House, Barrington, IL.

Prayer

Merciful God,
in whom we live and move and have our being,
your face is hidden from us by our sins.
We forget your mercy in the blindness of our hearts.
Cleanse me from my failings.
Deliver me from proud thoughts and vain desires.
With lowliness and weakness may I draw near to you,
confessing my faults, confiding in your grace.
Merciful God, through Jesus, your son,
be my refuge and my strength now and always.  Amen.
—The Jesuit prayer team


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February 28, 2016

Lk 13: 1-9

At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. He asked them, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.”

Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, ‘See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’ He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’”

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.

Second Chances

In one of the most significant Gospels of Lent, Jesus offers us an insight into our relationship with God and a further understanding of how and why people undergo evil. Rather than seeing human suffering as simply a punishment for sin, Jesus instead tells a story about second chances. Jesus ask whether some Galileans, put to death by Pontius Pilate were more guilty of sin than other Galileans. And Jesus answers his own questions by saying, “No.” Then Jesus considers the case of people who were killed in the collapse of a building. Was God punishing them for some transgression? Jesus once again affirms that their deaths had nothing to do with sin or punishment by God for sinfulness of some sort.

And then Jesus tells a parable about a fig tree that produces no fruit. The master of the house wants to cut it down, but the gardener suggests that it should be fertilized and given special treatment just one more season, and then – if there is still no fruit – then the owner can carry out his will. Should we conclude that Jesus sees himself as the gardener, asking the master for just one more chance for the tree? Or is it God himself who offers all of us second chances?  

—Fr. Michael A. Vincent, S.J. serves as associate pastor of the Church of the Gesu, University Heights, OH.

Prayer

Holy God, Jesus calls us to repentance and a change of heart during these days of Lent.
Open our hearts to the voice of your Word. Give light and life to our attitudes and actions. Amen.

 


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February 27, 2016

Lk 15: 1-3. 11-32

Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So he told them this parable:

Then Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything.

But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.”’ So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him.

Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.

“Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’

Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’”

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.

Digging Deep

When considering a particular gospel passage, Ignatius Loyola invites us to place ourselves within the situation and frame of mind/heart of the gospel person we find there. So, in today’s very familiar passage, what happens if any of us places ourselves in the mind/heart of the parent … or the prodigal child … or the faithful child back home? How do things look like through the eyes of the parent, or in the heart of the prodigal? What do the servants experience? What takes place during the feast at which the fatted calf is served? And what is going on behind the scenes? What is the back talk?

After considering any of these viewpoints, St. Ignatius invites our personal reflection: todayFeb. 27, 2016
What jumps out in my own heart as I consider this story? Where am I attracted? Where am I put off? How am I drawn to the Lord this weekend? What does Jesus ask and invite these early days of Lent? How might I act differently today with those I live with, those I meet, those I love?

—The Jesuit prayer team

Prayer

O God, I am so fragile;
    my dreams get broken
    my relationships get broken
    my heart gets broken…

What can I believe
except what Jesus taught:
that only what is first broken,
    like bread,
can be shared;
only what is broken
is open to your entry.

So I believe, Lord;
    help my unbelief
    that I may have courage
    to keep trying,
    even when I am tired.
Amen.

—Written by a student while on retreat


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February 26, 2016

Mt 21: 33-43. 45-46

“Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a winepress in it, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country.When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way.

Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.”

So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.”

Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is amazing in our eyes’? Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom. When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them. They wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowds, because they regarded him as a prophet.

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.

Transformation

Both readings today are fraught with violence provoked by the very human tendency toward jealousy. And while the readings depict an external conflict, the same battle often happens internally. We look at other people’s gifts and strengths and reactively beat ourselves up for our own faults and weaknesses. Yet Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel free us to look at our brokenness in a different way:

The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
by the Lord has this been done,
and it is wonderful in our eyes.

Instead of feeling shame for past mistakes or seeing your brokenness as a form of weakness, Jesus invites us to see exactly those things as a possible cornerstone of our identity. These very things can be the foundation of compassion and empathy toward others. Ask God to transform the rejected places in your heart into a life-giving source for others.

Sarah Otto received her M.Div. degree  from Boston College. She currently serves as director of the Newman Catholic Center in Chico, CA.

Prayer

The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Rumi


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February 25, 2016

Jer 17: 5-10

Thus says the Lord: Cursed are those who trust in mere mortals and make mere flesh their strength, whose hearts turn away from the Lord. They shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when relief comes. They shall live in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land. Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord.

They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit. The heart is devious above all else; it is perverse— who can understand it? I the Lord test the mind and search the heart, to give to all according to their ways, according to the fruit of their doings.

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.

Trust in God’s Love

In this Year of Mercy, Pope Francis is calling us to express mercy in many ways, including for God’s creation. Today’s first reading from Jeremiah identifies those “who trust in human beings, who seek his strength in flesh” with creation imagery that is rather undesirable – barren bush, lava waste, empty earth. Isn’t this true of humanity’s tendency to trust our own desires, abusing the created world for our personal benefit and leaving it barren, wasted, and empty? Jeremiah goes on to identify those “who trust in the Lord, whose hope is in the Lord” with creation imagery of a planted tree, of green leaves, of bearing fruit.

If we are to take Jeremiah’s message to heart today, we realize that if we trust in God’s love and plan for creation we will indeed be satisfied. Merciful God, forgive our human failings and guide us to care for the gift of creation.

—Sadie Curtin serves as Co-Director of Faith Formation at the Church of the Gesu, University Heights, OH.

Prayer

O Most High, all-powerful, good Lord God,
to you belong praise, glory,
honour and all blessing.
Be praised, my Lord, for all your creation
and especially for our Brother Sun,
who brings us the day and the light;
he is strong and shines magnificently.
O Lord, we think of you when we look at him.

Be praised, my Lord, for Sister Moon,
and for the stars
which you have set shining and lovely
in the heavens.
Be praised, my Lord,
for our Brothers Wind and Air
and every kind of weather
by which you, Lord,
uphold life in all your creatures.
Be praised, my Lord, for Sister Water,
who is very useful to us,
and humble and precious and pure.

Be praised, my Lord, for Brother Fire,
through whom you give us light in the darkness:
he is bright and lively and strong.
Be praised, my Lord,
for Sister Earth, our Mother,
who nourishes us and sustains us,
bringing forth
fruits and vegetables of many kinds
and flowers of many colours.

Be praised, my Lord,
for those who forgive for love of you;
and for those
who bear sickness and weakness
in peace and patience
– you will grant them a crown.
Be praised, my Lord, for our Sister Death,
whom we must all face.
I praise and bless you, Lord,
and I give thanks to you,
and I will serve you in all humility.

The Canticle of Creation, Saint Francis of Assisi


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February 24, 2016

Mt 20: 17-28

While Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside by themselves, and said to them on the way, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death; then they will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified; and on the third day he will be raised.”

Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to him with her sons, and kneeling before him, she asked a favor of him. And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Declare that these two sons of mine will sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” But Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” He said to them, “You will indeed drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left, this is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”

When the ten heard it, they were angry with the two brothers. But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

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.

Pay Attention

Just as the mother of the sons of Zebedee expected her sons to be at Jesus’ right and left, we, too, expect instant gratification for our work. Our culture has us turn the ego up, drowning out the quiet voice of God. We take for granted the very spirit that sustains us while telling God that “I know what is best for me.” In this gospel, Jesus reminds us of the essential characteristic of humility we must possess. He asks us to quiet our ego so we may see the subtle ways he is showing his love for us. Our expectations of our God, families, friends, and even self can lead us to isolation.

Today, reflect on the unexpected moments of the day and realize how God is constantly drawing you closer to him. All we need to do is pay attention.

Mary Catherine Koehler is a Campus Minister at Saint Ignatius High School in Cleveland. She also co-moderates the school’s Ignatians for Peace and Justice and S.A.D.D. groups.

Prayer

Lord, if I only focus on my abilities and my opportunities, I can become self-centered. If I dwell on my shortcomings and the brick walls that stand in my way, I can feel defeated. Lord, help me to remember that each talent is your gift to me. And each challenge an occasion to lean on your mercy and to trust in your everlasting faithfulness.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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February 23, 2016

Is 1: 10. 16-20

Hear the word of the Lord, you rulers of Sodom! Listen to the teaching of our God, you people of Gomorrah! Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow. Come now, let us argue it out, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be like snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured by the sword; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

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.

Loved Sinners

When Pope Francis was asked, “Who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio?” he responded, “I am a sinner whom the Lord has looked upon.” In the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, we are guided to recognize that we are “sinners yet loved.” Just as Pope Francis states, the Lord looks upon us with great love, and then calls us forth to share the love that we so mercifully receive.

Pope Francis has called an Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy. As we continue into this jubilee year and enter more fully into Lent, we are being invited to “wash ourselves clean” and “set things right.” God’s mercy and love are greater than any sin we may commit. How do I encounter God’s mercy in my life, as a sinner loved by God? How might I share God’s mercy with those around me?

—Marcos Gonzales, a Jesuit scholastic of the California province, is completing his masters of social work at Loyola University Chicago and interning with the Cook County Juvenile Probation Department.

Prayer

“Lord, I am a sinner. Come with your Mercy.” Pope Francis

 


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February 22, 2016

Feast of the Chair of St. Peter

Mt 16: 13-19

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

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.

Who do you say that I am?

On this feast day I find myself grateful for the wisdom of our Lord in preparing a leader for us. Jesus pauses alone with the twelve. The teacher poses questions. To the first—Who do people say that I am?—various responses ensue. The second question however is personal—Who do you say that I am? Peter alone is ready to respond;  he is aware of the truth and articulates it. Jesus anoints him and takes “fishers of men” to a new level. Peter is ready to provide leadership and strength.

In this moment I imagine awe and wonder.  His role of leader is set and the structure of the church begins to take shape. Two thousand years later we are inspired by Pope Francis, Peter’s successor, calling us to mercy.  Let us celebrate this feast by answering Jesus’ question. “Who do you say I am?”

Erin Maiorca is the Associate Director at Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House in Barrington, Illinois where she is participating in a Spiritual Direction internship. Erin and her husband of 22 years have two sons, and their oldest attends St. Ignatius College Prep, Chicago IL.

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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February 21, 2016

Lk 9: 28b-36

Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him.

Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” —not knowing what he said. While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.

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.

Awake and Praying

In the various Gospels, Jesus often goes to a “deserted place,” or to a “mountaintop” to pray. And he often goes alone. In this portion of Luke’s Gospel, he takes Peter, James, and John with him to pray. (There seems to be just one more time when Jesus doesn’t pray alone, and that is when, in the Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, he undergoes what we call “The Agony in the Garden.”)

In Luke, we are just told that he takes his disciples with him. In Mark and Matthew, we see him once again single out Peter, James, and John, the three mentioned in today’s account of the Transfiguration, and allows them to stay closer to him as he prays. Perhaps that night, they were hoping for a special revelation like the one they experienced in today’s Gospel. Perhaps that brief moment of seeing Jesus in his glory and endorsed by Moses and Elijah gave Peter, James and John the courage they needed to keep on going. The experience on the mountaintop may have even increased their faith.  But it wasn’t enough to sustain them through the death of their Master, for they pretty much abandon Jesus and hide themselves away. What would it have taken to keep them by his side?

Are we asleep or in a trance when all the important events of our lives take place? Does the Lord offer us a chance to pray that we miss out on, because we just take him for granted or forget how much he means to us?

—Fr. Michael A. Vincent, S.J. serves as associate pastor of the Church of the Gesu, University Heights, OH.

Prayer

God of the Covenant, you invited Peter, James, and John to witness Jesus’ transfigured glory. At Jesus’ touch may I get up and go unafraid to tell about the life and light Jesus brings to our hearts and homes.  Amen.

 


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February 20, 2015

Mt 5: 43-48

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.

For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

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.

Love Without Limits

Today’s Gospel presents a beautiful and difficult command: we must love our enemies. Jesus doesn’t let us off the hook with something simpler like, “tolerate your enemies” or, “put up with your enemies while making snide remarks about them in your head.” No, Jesus is clear: we are to love our enemies. Love wills the good of the other; love puts the other first; love values the other the way God does. Loving our family and friends seems easy. Loving enemies – or even loving those who just annoy us – seems a lot harder. Loving those who love us in return is natural. But as disciples of Jesus Christ, we are called to a supernatural way of loving.

During this season of Lent, how can I re-ignite love for those who have hurt me? How can I pray for them with sincerity? How can I show love without any expectations?

Maggie Melchior is a convert to the Catholic faith. She currently serves as Coordinator of New Evangelization and Faith Formation for a parish in the Diocese of Green Bay.

Prayer

“The love of a single heart can make a world of difference.”

Immaculee Ilibagiza, survivor of the Rwandan genocide


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February 29, 2016

Lk 4: 24-30

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.

Seeking Jesus

For many years this Gospel was difficult for me to relate to. It is rare that I have been furious in my life. It has happened however that a disappointment turned to anger, that anger into fury. Just like these Nazoreans I was unable to see the reality of what was really happening right in front of me.

Blinded by anger. Spiraling out of control. Emotions can be that way. When we are emotional it is challenging to step back and open up. In this story Jesus is offering an invitation to discipleship. In this time of Lent he invites us to open our hearts to the invitation to seek him and his love. Jesus reminds us he is in our midst waiting for our “yes.” Can you seek him today not only in prayer but in the world around you?

—Erin Maiorca serves as associate director of Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House, Barrington, IL.

Prayer

Merciful God,
in whom we live and move and have our being,
your face is hidden from us by our sins.
We forget your mercy in the blindness of our hearts.
Cleanse me from my failings.
Deliver me from proud thoughts and vain desires.
With lowliness and weakness may I draw near to you,
confessing my faults, confiding in your grace.
Merciful God, through Jesus, your son,
be my refuge and my strength now and always.  Amen.
—The Jesuit prayer team


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February 28, 2016

Lk 13: 1-9

At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. He asked them, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.”

Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, ‘See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’ He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’”

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.

Second Chances

In one of the most significant Gospels of Lent, Jesus offers us an insight into our relationship with God and a further understanding of how and why people undergo evil. Rather than seeing human suffering as simply a punishment for sin, Jesus instead tells a story about second chances. Jesus ask whether some Galileans, put to death by Pontius Pilate were more guilty of sin than other Galileans. And Jesus answers his own questions by saying, “No.” Then Jesus considers the case of people who were killed in the collapse of a building. Was God punishing them for some transgression? Jesus once again affirms that their deaths had nothing to do with sin or punishment by God for sinfulness of some sort.

And then Jesus tells a parable about a fig tree that produces no fruit. The master of the house wants to cut it down, but the gardener suggests that it should be fertilized and given special treatment just one more season, and then – if there is still no fruit – then the owner can carry out his will. Should we conclude that Jesus sees himself as the gardener, asking the master for just one more chance for the tree? Or is it God himself who offers all of us second chances?  

—Fr. Michael A. Vincent, S.J. serves as associate pastor of the Church of the Gesu, University Heights, OH.

Prayer

Holy God, Jesus calls us to repentance and a change of heart during these days of Lent.
Open our hearts to the voice of your Word. Give light and life to our attitudes and actions. Amen.

 


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February 27, 2016

Lk 15: 1-3. 11-32

Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So he told them this parable:

Then Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything.

But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.”’ So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him.

Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.

“Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’

Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’”

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.

Digging Deep

When considering a particular gospel passage, Ignatius Loyola invites us to place ourselves within the situation and frame of mind/heart of the gospel person we find there. So, in today’s very familiar passage, what happens if any of us places ourselves in the mind/heart of the parent … or the prodigal child … or the faithful child back home? How do things look like through the eyes of the parent, or in the heart of the prodigal? What do the servants experience? What takes place during the feast at which the fatted calf is served? And what is going on behind the scenes? What is the back talk?

After considering any of these viewpoints, St. Ignatius invites our personal reflection: todayFeb. 27, 2016
What jumps out in my own heart as I consider this story? Where am I attracted? Where am I put off? How am I drawn to the Lord this weekend? What does Jesus ask and invite these early days of Lent? How might I act differently today with those I live with, those I meet, those I love?

—The Jesuit prayer team

Prayer

O God, I am so fragile;
    my dreams get broken
    my relationships get broken
    my heart gets broken…

What can I believe
except what Jesus taught:
that only what is first broken,
    like bread,
can be shared;
only what is broken
is open to your entry.

So I believe, Lord;
    help my unbelief
    that I may have courage
    to keep trying,
    even when I am tired.
Amen.

—Written by a student while on retreat


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February 26, 2016

Mt 21: 33-43. 45-46

“Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a winepress in it, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country.When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way.

Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.”

So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.”

Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is amazing in our eyes’? Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom. When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them. They wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowds, because they regarded him as a prophet.

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.

Transformation

Both readings today are fraught with violence provoked by the very human tendency toward jealousy. And while the readings depict an external conflict, the same battle often happens internally. We look at other people’s gifts and strengths and reactively beat ourselves up for our own faults and weaknesses. Yet Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel free us to look at our brokenness in a different way:

The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
by the Lord has this been done,
and it is wonderful in our eyes.

Instead of feeling shame for past mistakes or seeing your brokenness as a form of weakness, Jesus invites us to see exactly those things as a possible cornerstone of our identity. These very things can be the foundation of compassion and empathy toward others. Ask God to transform the rejected places in your heart into a life-giving source for others.

Sarah Otto received her M.Div. degree  from Boston College. She currently serves as director of the Newman Catholic Center in Chico, CA.

Prayer

The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Rumi


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February 25, 2016

Jer 17: 5-10

Thus says the Lord: Cursed are those who trust in mere mortals and make mere flesh their strength, whose hearts turn away from the Lord. They shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when relief comes. They shall live in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land. Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord.

They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit. The heart is devious above all else; it is perverse— who can understand it? I the Lord test the mind and search the heart, to give to all according to their ways, according to the fruit of their doings.

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.

Trust in God’s Love

In this Year of Mercy, Pope Francis is calling us to express mercy in many ways, including for God’s creation. Today’s first reading from Jeremiah identifies those “who trust in human beings, who seek his strength in flesh” with creation imagery that is rather undesirable – barren bush, lava waste, empty earth. Isn’t this true of humanity’s tendency to trust our own desires, abusing the created world for our personal benefit and leaving it barren, wasted, and empty? Jeremiah goes on to identify those “who trust in the Lord, whose hope is in the Lord” with creation imagery of a planted tree, of green leaves, of bearing fruit.

If we are to take Jeremiah’s message to heart today, we realize that if we trust in God’s love and plan for creation we will indeed be satisfied. Merciful God, forgive our human failings and guide us to care for the gift of creation.

—Sadie Curtin serves as Co-Director of Faith Formation at the Church of the Gesu, University Heights, OH.

Prayer

O Most High, all-powerful, good Lord God,
to you belong praise, glory,
honour and all blessing.
Be praised, my Lord, for all your creation
and especially for our Brother Sun,
who brings us the day and the light;
he is strong and shines magnificently.
O Lord, we think of you when we look at him.

Be praised, my Lord, for Sister Moon,
and for the stars
which you have set shining and lovely
in the heavens.
Be praised, my Lord,
for our Brothers Wind and Air
and every kind of weather
by which you, Lord,
uphold life in all your creatures.
Be praised, my Lord, for Sister Water,
who is very useful to us,
and humble and precious and pure.

Be praised, my Lord, for Brother Fire,
through whom you give us light in the darkness:
he is bright and lively and strong.
Be praised, my Lord,
for Sister Earth, our Mother,
who nourishes us and sustains us,
bringing forth
fruits and vegetables of many kinds
and flowers of many colours.

Be praised, my Lord,
for those who forgive for love of you;
and for those
who bear sickness and weakness
in peace and patience
– you will grant them a crown.
Be praised, my Lord, for our Sister Death,
whom we must all face.
I praise and bless you, Lord,
and I give thanks to you,
and I will serve you in all humility.

The Canticle of Creation, Saint Francis of Assisi


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February 24, 2016

Mt 20: 17-28

While Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside by themselves, and said to them on the way, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death; then they will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified; and on the third day he will be raised.”

Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to him with her sons, and kneeling before him, she asked a favor of him. And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Declare that these two sons of mine will sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” But Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” He said to them, “You will indeed drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left, this is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”

When the ten heard it, they were angry with the two brothers. But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

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.

Pay Attention

Just as the mother of the sons of Zebedee expected her sons to be at Jesus’ right and left, we, too, expect instant gratification for our work. Our culture has us turn the ego up, drowning out the quiet voice of God. We take for granted the very spirit that sustains us while telling God that “I know what is best for me.” In this gospel, Jesus reminds us of the essential characteristic of humility we must possess. He asks us to quiet our ego so we may see the subtle ways he is showing his love for us. Our expectations of our God, families, friends, and even self can lead us to isolation.

Today, reflect on the unexpected moments of the day and realize how God is constantly drawing you closer to him. All we need to do is pay attention.

Mary Catherine Koehler is a Campus Minister at Saint Ignatius High School in Cleveland. She also co-moderates the school’s Ignatians for Peace and Justice and S.A.D.D. groups.

Prayer

Lord, if I only focus on my abilities and my opportunities, I can become self-centered. If I dwell on my shortcomings and the brick walls that stand in my way, I can feel defeated. Lord, help me to remember that each talent is your gift to me. And each challenge an occasion to lean on your mercy and to trust in your everlasting faithfulness.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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February 23, 2016

Is 1: 10. 16-20

Hear the word of the Lord, you rulers of Sodom! Listen to the teaching of our God, you people of Gomorrah! Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow. Come now, let us argue it out, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be like snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured by the sword; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

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.

Loved Sinners

When Pope Francis was asked, “Who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio?” he responded, “I am a sinner whom the Lord has looked upon.” In the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, we are guided to recognize that we are “sinners yet loved.” Just as Pope Francis states, the Lord looks upon us with great love, and then calls us forth to share the love that we so mercifully receive.

Pope Francis has called an Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy. As we continue into this jubilee year and enter more fully into Lent, we are being invited to “wash ourselves clean” and “set things right.” God’s mercy and love are greater than any sin we may commit. How do I encounter God’s mercy in my life, as a sinner loved by God? How might I share God’s mercy with those around me?

—Marcos Gonzales, a Jesuit scholastic of the California province, is completing his masters of social work at Loyola University Chicago and interning with the Cook County Juvenile Probation Department.

Prayer

“Lord, I am a sinner. Come with your Mercy.” Pope Francis

 


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February 22, 2016

Feast of the Chair of St. Peter

Mt 16: 13-19

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

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.

Who do you say that I am?

On this feast day I find myself grateful for the wisdom of our Lord in preparing a leader for us. Jesus pauses alone with the twelve. The teacher poses questions. To the first—Who do people say that I am?—various responses ensue. The second question however is personal—Who do you say that I am? Peter alone is ready to respond;  he is aware of the truth and articulates it. Jesus anoints him and takes “fishers of men” to a new level. Peter is ready to provide leadership and strength.

In this moment I imagine awe and wonder.  His role of leader is set and the structure of the church begins to take shape. Two thousand years later we are inspired by Pope Francis, Peter’s successor, calling us to mercy.  Let us celebrate this feast by answering Jesus’ question. “Who do you say I am?”

Erin Maiorca is the Associate Director at Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House in Barrington, Illinois where she is participating in a Spiritual Direction internship. Erin and her husband of 22 years have two sons, and their oldest attends St. Ignatius College Prep, Chicago IL.

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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February 21, 2016

Lk 9: 28b-36

Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him.

Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” —not knowing what he said. While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.

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.

Awake and Praying

In the various Gospels, Jesus often goes to a “deserted place,” or to a “mountaintop” to pray. And he often goes alone. In this portion of Luke’s Gospel, he takes Peter, James, and John with him to pray. (There seems to be just one more time when Jesus doesn’t pray alone, and that is when, in the Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, he undergoes what we call “The Agony in the Garden.”)

In Luke, we are just told that he takes his disciples with him. In Mark and Matthew, we see him once again single out Peter, James, and John, the three mentioned in today’s account of the Transfiguration, and allows them to stay closer to him as he prays. Perhaps that night, they were hoping for a special revelation like the one they experienced in today’s Gospel. Perhaps that brief moment of seeing Jesus in his glory and endorsed by Moses and Elijah gave Peter, James and John the courage they needed to keep on going. The experience on the mountaintop may have even increased their faith.  But it wasn’t enough to sustain them through the death of their Master, for they pretty much abandon Jesus and hide themselves away. What would it have taken to keep them by his side?

Are we asleep or in a trance when all the important events of our lives take place? Does the Lord offer us a chance to pray that we miss out on, because we just take him for granted or forget how much he means to us?

—Fr. Michael A. Vincent, S.J. serves as associate pastor of the Church of the Gesu, University Heights, OH.

Prayer

God of the Covenant, you invited Peter, James, and John to witness Jesus’ transfigured glory. At Jesus’ touch may I get up and go unafraid to tell about the life and light Jesus brings to our hearts and homes.  Amen.

 


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February 20, 2015

Mt 5: 43-48

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.

For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

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.

Love Without Limits

Today’s Gospel presents a beautiful and difficult command: we must love our enemies. Jesus doesn’t let us off the hook with something simpler like, “tolerate your enemies” or, “put up with your enemies while making snide remarks about them in your head.” No, Jesus is clear: we are to love our enemies. Love wills the good of the other; love puts the other first; love values the other the way God does. Loving our family and friends seems easy. Loving enemies – or even loving those who just annoy us – seems a lot harder. Loving those who love us in return is natural. But as disciples of Jesus Christ, we are called to a supernatural way of loving.

During this season of Lent, how can I re-ignite love for those who have hurt me? How can I pray for them with sincerity? How can I show love without any expectations?

Maggie Melchior is a convert to the Catholic faith. She currently serves as Coordinator of New Evangelization and Faith Formation for a parish in the Diocese of Green Bay.

Prayer

“The love of a single heart can make a world of difference.”

Immaculee Ilibagiza, survivor of the Rwandan genocide


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