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December 31, 2016

Jn 1: 1-18

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him.

He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

(John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’”) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.

A New Year’s Clean Slate

It’s hard to resist making New Year’s resolutions. Every January I have big plans to pray more, study longer, and eat better every day. Behind all my good intentions is a desire to return my life to some kind of order I feel I lost over the past year.

John’s gospel begins with a rich word— the “Word”— which comes from the ancient Greek logos. Greek philosophers viewed the logos as the power that puts sense into the world: making it a place of order over one of chaos. John seems to say to us, “You thought a long time about ‘the Word.’ Now I’m going to tell you who that is.” He explained Jesus in a way that both Jews and Greeks would have understood: as the one who brings order to our lives.

What amazing new order might we anticipate by making our friendship with Jesus our first resolution for this new year?

—Joe Kraemer, S.J., a Jesuit scholastic of the California province, is studying philosophy at Fordham University.

Prayer

Come, Lord Jesus,
come, Lord Jesus,
come, Lord Jesus:
come, and be born in our hearts.

Come, O Prince of Peace,
come, O Prince of Peace,
come, O Prince of Peace:
come, and be born in our hearts.

 


Please share the Good Word with your friends!

December 30, 2016

Feast of the Holy Family

Mt 2: 13-15. 19-23

Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”

When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.”Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee. There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, “He will be called a Nazorean.”

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.

Mercy and Faithfulness

I met Orlando about ten years ago on an Ignatian Spirituality Project (www.ispretreats.org) retreat. He was a young man who was experiencing homelessness after being released from prison. He, like all of us, was struggling with fear. While incarcerated, Orlando’s son was born. They were about to meet for the first time. Orlando was terrified: “What if my son says he doesn’t love me?”

The Holy Family likewise knew pain. No idyllic, cherubic pictures in this icon. They were homeless.  They were poor refugees who fled to survive. They were tired, desperate, but full of grit. They leaned on each other, and they made it…together.

I never heard what Orlando’s son said to him, but I know any family is made holy through fidelity and forgiveness. It is the kind of mercy and faithfulness that God has for each of us in whatever exile we might find ourselves.

—Jordan Skarr works with the Jesuits at the Midwest province office in Chicago, assisting with programming for pastoral ministries.

Prayer

Jesus, Mary, Joseph — Holy Family! Bless my family;
bless all those I love this holy season of new life. Amen!

 


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December 29, 2016

St. Thomas Becket

Lk 2: 22-35

When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.

Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,“Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”

And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

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.

Light in Darkness

These are days I treasure.  Our agency is closed, graduate school and opera on break, the days mine to enjoy and fill as I wish. I catch up on books, walks at the lake, movies, time with friends. This is my Christmas, one of nurturing and needed rest.

I pray this time will restore body and soul from the rigors of recent weeks. Pain-filled reality has been laid bare challenging me again ‘to give it all to God.’ The readings today offer images that mirror this time. God’s love has surrounded, sustained and caught me in many unexpected kindnesses and miracles of all shapes and sizes.  Waiting for the Savior’s birth and living in his active presence has been my light this Advent and Christmastide. Simeon notes in the temple that this light “reveals you to the nations.” I welcome and celebrate this light that pierced my own darkness.

—Mary Burke-Peterson  is a parishioner at St. Nicholas Church, Evanston, an active volunteer in the Ignatian Spirituality Project, and a graduate student at Institute for Pastoral Studies at Loyola University.  

Prayer

Send us your light, O Lord, Loving God.
Nurture new life, Savior of us all!

—Christmas verse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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December 28, 2016

Feast of the Holy Innocents

Mt 2: 13-18

Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”

When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: “A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.”

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.

Your Will Be Done

At the sight of the angel in his dream, I can imagine Joseph saying, “oh no, not you again. The last time you came around, my whole life was changed, causing me a lot of grief and angst. Now, what do you want?” The angel might have replied, “I understand how you feel and you have every right, but I am just the messenger, please don’t shoot. Believe me, a trip to Egypt right now is the best for you and your family.”

How many times have I felt like Joseph when things unexpected and unwelcome happen? How many times have I been angry and totally dispirited by such things? Can I turn to God and express myself honestly, even with anger? Can I ultimately pray with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass by me. But in the end, let your will be done.”

When I see and read about all the horrific things happening in the Middle East these days, isn’t Jesus’ prayer the least I can offer?

—David McNulty serves as Assistant for Operations at the Chicago-Detroit Jesuit Province.

Prayer

I asked for health, that I might do greater things;
I was given infirmity, that I might do better things…
I asked for riches that I might be happy;
I was given poverty, that I might be wise…
I asked for power, that I might have the praise of men;
I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God…
I got nothing I asked for, but everything I hoped for.
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.
I am among all men most richly blessed.

—Reflection found on a dead Confederate soldier

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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December 27, 2016

1 Jn 1: 1-4

We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us— we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

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.

Choosing to Believe

John reminds us of this all-important truth of our Christian faith: we believe in a person, and we receive this belief from people. I often consider belief in Jesus in only one sense: believing that Jesus existed. That’s important for John. Yet there are so many other nuances to belief, which I can find just by looking at my relationships:

I believe when I allow distrust to give way to trust, when I give the benefit of the doubt, when I give relationships time and space to develop, when I let go of having to be right, when I accompany people who are suffering, only able to offer my presence, and when I honor my gifts rather than downplaying them.

John says that this concrete act of belief is a fellowship that gives birth to joy. When I believe in others, I believe in Jesus. It’s the yoke that seems heavy at first but is actually easy and light.

Who do I choose to believe today? How will I choose to believe them?

— Ryen Dwyer, S.J., a Chicago-Detroit province Jesuit scholastic, is currently studying philosophy at Loyola University Chicago.

Prayer

Lord, I do believe: help my unbelief!

—Mark 9:24

 

 

 

 

 


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December 26, 2016

Feast of St. Stephen the First Martyr

Acts 6: 8-10; 7: 54-59

Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and others of those from Cilicia and Asia, stood up and argued with Stephen. But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke.

When they heard these things, they became enraged and ground their teeth at Stephen. But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!”

But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”

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.

Martyrdom of the Heart

This fall I volunteered at a local hospital. Something of a self-confessed germaphobe and directionally challenged in a cavernous building in which one was required to use the unmarked labyrinthine back hallways, I was way out of my comfort zone! Any tendencies toward arrogance or grandiosity quickly fizzled in the face of repeated moments of humility. I was clearly the novice at the tasks assigned to me! A martyrdom of the ego, to be sure!

St. Stephen experienced a violent death that most of us will not have to face. But Stephen can teach us much about the daily martyrdoms we encounter: choosing patience when we feel frustrated, forgiving those we’d rather not, speaking kind words instead of hasty retorts. Each time we choose divine tenderness over human violence we labor with God in a creative way.

What is the martyrdom of the heart asked of me today?

—Susan Kusz, SND serves as Associate Director at the Jesuit Retreat House in Oshkosh, WI.

Prayer

“Into your hands, Lord, I commend my spirit.”

—Luke 22: 46

 


Please share the Good Word with your friends!

December 25, 2016

Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord

Lk 2: 1-14

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David.

He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.

This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”

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.

Let Us Rejoice

Back on September 8th, I celebrated the Mass of the Holy Spirit at John Carroll University. The church that day celebrated the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The gospel was the story of the Annunciation—an easy springboard to reflecting on the Holy Spirit. I was struck by the “Prayer over the Offerings” which reads: “May the humanity of your Only Begotten Son come, O Lord, to our aid, and may he, who at his birth from the Blessed Virgin did not diminish but consecrated her integrity, by taking from us now our wicked deeds, make our offering acceptable to you.”  

Surely, the English text of this prayer is more than a bit stilted. But what amazes me about its wording is that we are asking God the Father, through the humanity of Jesus, to come to our aid and make our offering acceptable to God. The Church is reminding us that the birth of Jesus Christ – fully human and fully divine – is the source of our salvation, because in Christ the divine became fully human both in time and in eternity. God became more like us, so that we could grow in holiness and become more like God.  As the psalmist writes: “This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad!”  
Merry Christmas!    

—Fr. Brian Paulson, S.J. is the Jesuit Provincial of the Chicago-Detroit province of the Society of Jesus.

Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ, your heart was moved with love for those in need. You healed the sick, you fed the hungry, you forgave sinners, you cried over Jerusalem. Above all, you showed the pathway to true life, for you are the Way the Truth and the Life.

Open my heart this Christmas season. Help me find practical ways to build your Kingdom of justice, peace and love here on earth. Amen.

—A Jesuit Refugee Service Prayer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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December 24, 2016

Lk 1: 67-79

Then his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke this prophecy: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them. He has raised up a mighty savior for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us.

Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors, and has remembered his holy covenant, the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham, to grant us that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins.

By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

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.

The Eyes of Jesus

Mary and Joseph encountered many surprises the night their newborn son arrived. But what was it like when the eyes of Jesus first opened on them? How must that have felt?

How would we respond if Jesus looked at us today? Would we avert our eyes like the rich man in Matthew who turned away sadly? Would we close them entirely as Judas did? Or like Peter, would we struggle to maintain eye contact, however hard it was to do at first?

Anne Lamott wrote, “The love of our incredible dogs and cats may be the closest most of us will come, on this side of eternity, to knowing the direct love of God.”  Imagine the eyes of a beloved pet— infant, sibling, grandparent— and try—in a Jesuit affirmation I love— to Behold God, beholding you, and smiling.”  

When Christ looks at us he teaches us how we might look at one another!

—Joe Kraemer, S.J., a Jesuit scholastic of the California province, is studying philosophy at Fordham University.

Prayer

O Lord, you have come to us as a small child, but you have brought us the greatest of all gifts, the gift of eternal love. Caress us with your tiny hands, embrace us with your tiny arms, and pierce our hearts with your soft, sweet cries.

Nativity prayer of St. Bernard of Clairvaux

 


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December 23, 2016

Lk 1: 57-66

Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him Zechariah after his father. But his mother said, “No; he is to be called John.” They said to her, “None of your relatives has this name.”

Then they began motioning to his father to find out what name he wanted to give him. He asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And all of them were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue freed, and he began to speak, praising God. Fear came over all their neighbors, and all these things were talked about throughout the entire hill country of Judea. All who heard them pondered them and said, “What then will this child become?” For, indeed, the hand of the Lord was with him.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.

Finding God

As our children’s birth drew near, we brainstormed what we might call them.  The list ranged from very pious, to very contemporary, to very selfish. (As a Cubs fan, I still maintain Ron Santo Skarr has a nice ring to it, boy or girl.)

It’s a rather humbling experience, praying over what name you might give the new life entrusted to you.

After all, in scripture, God is the one who names (cf. the Book of Genesis). Naming something is to give it agency, purpose, hope.

Ignatius encourages us to prayerfully review with God our day’s moments. In the quiet or busyness of our hearts, we can name the substance of our experience. All the joys, all the sorrows. The times we were impatient, the times we were generous. Ignatius found God in the very fabric of human existence which, just like welcoming new life, is a miraculous experience.

—Jordan Skarr works with the Jesuits at the Midwest province office in Chicago, assisting with programming for pastoral ministries.

Prayer

O Emmanuel, our King and Giver of Law:
come to save us, O Lord our God!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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December 22, 2016

Lk 1: 46-56

And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.

He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.

He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.” And Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.

Joyful Words

The tone changes in these readings. Our Advent gift nears and our waiting gives way to dreams of impending celebrations. Our lives mirror Mary and Joseph’s who hurriedly made ready, travelled from afar, begged shelter for nights of rest to await the birth. We ready a house, travel to visit family, welcome guests, struggle when plans wither in the face of unexpected challenges that sap energy and hope.

Four Advent Sundays have passed, four candles are lit, this birth days away, the excitement palpable. All is ready, still we wait.

Hannah gave thanks for Samuel’s birth. Mary’s words are joyful, proclaiming the greatness of the child she carries, this graced life received through God and Spirit. We lowly servants are filled as we welcome gifts of joy, mercy, compassion, and maybe an unexpected miracle. The season is here, our spirits rejoice as again we celebrate God’s greatness and salvation.

—Mary Burke-Peterson  is a parishioner at St. Nicholas Church, Evanston, an active volunteer in the Ignatian Spirituality Project, and a graduate student at Institute for Pastoral Studies at Loyola University. 

Prayer

O King of all peoples and keystone of the Church:
come and save all mankind,
whom you fashioned from the dust!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Please share the Good Word with your friends!

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December 31, 2016

Jn 1: 1-18

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him.

He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

(John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’”) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.

A New Year’s Clean Slate

It’s hard to resist making New Year’s resolutions. Every January I have big plans to pray more, study longer, and eat better every day. Behind all my good intentions is a desire to return my life to some kind of order I feel I lost over the past year.

John’s gospel begins with a rich word— the “Word”— which comes from the ancient Greek logos. Greek philosophers viewed the logos as the power that puts sense into the world: making it a place of order over one of chaos. John seems to say to us, “You thought a long time about ‘the Word.’ Now I’m going to tell you who that is.” He explained Jesus in a way that both Jews and Greeks would have understood: as the one who brings order to our lives.

What amazing new order might we anticipate by making our friendship with Jesus our first resolution for this new year?

—Joe Kraemer, S.J., a Jesuit scholastic of the California province, is studying philosophy at Fordham University.

Prayer

Come, Lord Jesus,
come, Lord Jesus,
come, Lord Jesus:
come, and be born in our hearts.

Come, O Prince of Peace,
come, O Prince of Peace,
come, O Prince of Peace:
come, and be born in our hearts.

 


Please share the Good Word with your friends!

December 30, 2016

Feast of the Holy Family

Mt 2: 13-15. 19-23

Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”

When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.”Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee. There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, “He will be called a Nazorean.”

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.

Mercy and Faithfulness

I met Orlando about ten years ago on an Ignatian Spirituality Project (www.ispretreats.org) retreat. He was a young man who was experiencing homelessness after being released from prison. He, like all of us, was struggling with fear. While incarcerated, Orlando’s son was born. They were about to meet for the first time. Orlando was terrified: “What if my son says he doesn’t love me?”

The Holy Family likewise knew pain. No idyllic, cherubic pictures in this icon. They were homeless.  They were poor refugees who fled to survive. They were tired, desperate, but full of grit. They leaned on each other, and they made it…together.

I never heard what Orlando’s son said to him, but I know any family is made holy through fidelity and forgiveness. It is the kind of mercy and faithfulness that God has for each of us in whatever exile we might find ourselves.

—Jordan Skarr works with the Jesuits at the Midwest province office in Chicago, assisting with programming for pastoral ministries.

Prayer

Jesus, Mary, Joseph — Holy Family! Bless my family;
bless all those I love this holy season of new life. Amen!

 


Please share the Good Word with your friends!

December 29, 2016

St. Thomas Becket

Lk 2: 22-35

When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.

Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,“Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”

And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

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.

Light in Darkness

These are days I treasure.  Our agency is closed, graduate school and opera on break, the days mine to enjoy and fill as I wish. I catch up on books, walks at the lake, movies, time with friends. This is my Christmas, one of nurturing and needed rest.

I pray this time will restore body and soul from the rigors of recent weeks. Pain-filled reality has been laid bare challenging me again ‘to give it all to God.’ The readings today offer images that mirror this time. God’s love has surrounded, sustained and caught me in many unexpected kindnesses and miracles of all shapes and sizes.  Waiting for the Savior’s birth and living in his active presence has been my light this Advent and Christmastide. Simeon notes in the temple that this light “reveals you to the nations.” I welcome and celebrate this light that pierced my own darkness.

—Mary Burke-Peterson  is a parishioner at St. Nicholas Church, Evanston, an active volunteer in the Ignatian Spirituality Project, and a graduate student at Institute for Pastoral Studies at Loyola University.  

Prayer

Send us your light, O Lord, Loving God.
Nurture new life, Savior of us all!

—Christmas verse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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December 28, 2016

Feast of the Holy Innocents

Mt 2: 13-18

Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”

When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: “A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.”

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.

Your Will Be Done

At the sight of the angel in his dream, I can imagine Joseph saying, “oh no, not you again. The last time you came around, my whole life was changed, causing me a lot of grief and angst. Now, what do you want?” The angel might have replied, “I understand how you feel and you have every right, but I am just the messenger, please don’t shoot. Believe me, a trip to Egypt right now is the best for you and your family.”

How many times have I felt like Joseph when things unexpected and unwelcome happen? How many times have I been angry and totally dispirited by such things? Can I turn to God and express myself honestly, even with anger? Can I ultimately pray with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass by me. But in the end, let your will be done.”

When I see and read about all the horrific things happening in the Middle East these days, isn’t Jesus’ prayer the least I can offer?

—David McNulty serves as Assistant for Operations at the Chicago-Detroit Jesuit Province.

Prayer

I asked for health, that I might do greater things;
I was given infirmity, that I might do better things…
I asked for riches that I might be happy;
I was given poverty, that I might be wise…
I asked for power, that I might have the praise of men;
I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God…
I got nothing I asked for, but everything I hoped for.
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.
I am among all men most richly blessed.

—Reflection found on a dead Confederate soldier

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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December 27, 2016

1 Jn 1: 1-4

We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us— we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

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.

Choosing to Believe

John reminds us of this all-important truth of our Christian faith: we believe in a person, and we receive this belief from people. I often consider belief in Jesus in only one sense: believing that Jesus existed. That’s important for John. Yet there are so many other nuances to belief, which I can find just by looking at my relationships:

I believe when I allow distrust to give way to trust, when I give the benefit of the doubt, when I give relationships time and space to develop, when I let go of having to be right, when I accompany people who are suffering, only able to offer my presence, and when I honor my gifts rather than downplaying them.

John says that this concrete act of belief is a fellowship that gives birth to joy. When I believe in others, I believe in Jesus. It’s the yoke that seems heavy at first but is actually easy and light.

Who do I choose to believe today? How will I choose to believe them?

— Ryen Dwyer, S.J., a Chicago-Detroit province Jesuit scholastic, is currently studying philosophy at Loyola University Chicago.

Prayer

Lord, I do believe: help my unbelief!

—Mark 9:24

 

 

 

 

 


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December 26, 2016

Feast of St. Stephen the First Martyr

Acts 6: 8-10; 7: 54-59

Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and others of those from Cilicia and Asia, stood up and argued with Stephen. But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke.

When they heard these things, they became enraged and ground their teeth at Stephen. But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!”

But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”

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.

Martyrdom of the Heart

This fall I volunteered at a local hospital. Something of a self-confessed germaphobe and directionally challenged in a cavernous building in which one was required to use the unmarked labyrinthine back hallways, I was way out of my comfort zone! Any tendencies toward arrogance or grandiosity quickly fizzled in the face of repeated moments of humility. I was clearly the novice at the tasks assigned to me! A martyrdom of the ego, to be sure!

St. Stephen experienced a violent death that most of us will not have to face. But Stephen can teach us much about the daily martyrdoms we encounter: choosing patience when we feel frustrated, forgiving those we’d rather not, speaking kind words instead of hasty retorts. Each time we choose divine tenderness over human violence we labor with God in a creative way.

What is the martyrdom of the heart asked of me today?

—Susan Kusz, SND serves as Associate Director at the Jesuit Retreat House in Oshkosh, WI.

Prayer

“Into your hands, Lord, I commend my spirit.”

—Luke 22: 46

 


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December 25, 2016

Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord

Lk 2: 1-14

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David.

He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.

This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”

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.

Let Us Rejoice

Back on September 8th, I celebrated the Mass of the Holy Spirit at John Carroll University. The church that day celebrated the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The gospel was the story of the Annunciation—an easy springboard to reflecting on the Holy Spirit. I was struck by the “Prayer over the Offerings” which reads: “May the humanity of your Only Begotten Son come, O Lord, to our aid, and may he, who at his birth from the Blessed Virgin did not diminish but consecrated her integrity, by taking from us now our wicked deeds, make our offering acceptable to you.”  

Surely, the English text of this prayer is more than a bit stilted. But what amazes me about its wording is that we are asking God the Father, through the humanity of Jesus, to come to our aid and make our offering acceptable to God. The Church is reminding us that the birth of Jesus Christ – fully human and fully divine – is the source of our salvation, because in Christ the divine became fully human both in time and in eternity. God became more like us, so that we could grow in holiness and become more like God.  As the psalmist writes: “This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad!”  
Merry Christmas!    

—Fr. Brian Paulson, S.J. is the Jesuit Provincial of the Chicago-Detroit province of the Society of Jesus.

Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ, your heart was moved with love for those in need. You healed the sick, you fed the hungry, you forgave sinners, you cried over Jerusalem. Above all, you showed the pathway to true life, for you are the Way the Truth and the Life.

Open my heart this Christmas season. Help me find practical ways to build your Kingdom of justice, peace and love here on earth. Amen.

—A Jesuit Refugee Service Prayer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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December 24, 2016

Lk 1: 67-79

Then his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke this prophecy: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them. He has raised up a mighty savior for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us.

Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors, and has remembered his holy covenant, the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham, to grant us that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins.

By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

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.

The Eyes of Jesus

Mary and Joseph encountered many surprises the night their newborn son arrived. But what was it like when the eyes of Jesus first opened on them? How must that have felt?

How would we respond if Jesus looked at us today? Would we avert our eyes like the rich man in Matthew who turned away sadly? Would we close them entirely as Judas did? Or like Peter, would we struggle to maintain eye contact, however hard it was to do at first?

Anne Lamott wrote, “The love of our incredible dogs and cats may be the closest most of us will come, on this side of eternity, to knowing the direct love of God.”  Imagine the eyes of a beloved pet— infant, sibling, grandparent— and try—in a Jesuit affirmation I love— to Behold God, beholding you, and smiling.”  

When Christ looks at us he teaches us how we might look at one another!

—Joe Kraemer, S.J., a Jesuit scholastic of the California province, is studying philosophy at Fordham University.

Prayer

O Lord, you have come to us as a small child, but you have brought us the greatest of all gifts, the gift of eternal love. Caress us with your tiny hands, embrace us with your tiny arms, and pierce our hearts with your soft, sweet cries.

Nativity prayer of St. Bernard of Clairvaux

 


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December 23, 2016

Lk 1: 57-66

Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him Zechariah after his father. But his mother said, “No; he is to be called John.” They said to her, “None of your relatives has this name.”

Then they began motioning to his father to find out what name he wanted to give him. He asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And all of them were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue freed, and he began to speak, praising God. Fear came over all their neighbors, and all these things were talked about throughout the entire hill country of Judea. All who heard them pondered them and said, “What then will this child become?” For, indeed, the hand of the Lord was with him.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.

Finding God

As our children’s birth drew near, we brainstormed what we might call them.  The list ranged from very pious, to very contemporary, to very selfish. (As a Cubs fan, I still maintain Ron Santo Skarr has a nice ring to it, boy or girl.)

It’s a rather humbling experience, praying over what name you might give the new life entrusted to you.

After all, in scripture, God is the one who names (cf. the Book of Genesis). Naming something is to give it agency, purpose, hope.

Ignatius encourages us to prayerfully review with God our day’s moments. In the quiet or busyness of our hearts, we can name the substance of our experience. All the joys, all the sorrows. The times we were impatient, the times we were generous. Ignatius found God in the very fabric of human existence which, just like welcoming new life, is a miraculous experience.

—Jordan Skarr works with the Jesuits at the Midwest province office in Chicago, assisting with programming for pastoral ministries.

Prayer

O Emmanuel, our King and Giver of Law:
come to save us, O Lord our God!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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December 22, 2016

Lk 1: 46-56

And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.

He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.

He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.” And Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.

Joyful Words

The tone changes in these readings. Our Advent gift nears and our waiting gives way to dreams of impending celebrations. Our lives mirror Mary and Joseph’s who hurriedly made ready, travelled from afar, begged shelter for nights of rest to await the birth. We ready a house, travel to visit family, welcome guests, struggle when plans wither in the face of unexpected challenges that sap energy and hope.

Four Advent Sundays have passed, four candles are lit, this birth days away, the excitement palpable. All is ready, still we wait.

Hannah gave thanks for Samuel’s birth. Mary’s words are joyful, proclaiming the greatness of the child she carries, this graced life received through God and Spirit. We lowly servants are filled as we welcome gifts of joy, mercy, compassion, and maybe an unexpected miracle. The season is here, our spirits rejoice as again we celebrate God’s greatness and salvation.

—Mary Burke-Peterson  is a parishioner at St. Nicholas Church, Evanston, an active volunteer in the Ignatian Spirituality Project, and a graduate student at Institute for Pastoral Studies at Loyola University. 

Prayer

O King of all peoples and keystone of the Church:
come and save all mankind,
whom you fashioned from the dust!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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