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July 31, 2017

St. Ignatius of Loyola
Jeremiah 20: 7-10, 11a, 12

O Lord, you have enticed me, and I was enticed; you have overpowered me, and you have prevailed. I have become a laughingstock all day long; everyone mocks me. For whenever I speak, I must cry out, I must shout, “Violence and destruction!” For the word of the Lord has become for me a reproach and derision all day long. If I say, “I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,” then within me there is something like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.

For I hear many whispering: “Terror is all around! Denounce him! Let us denounce him!” All my close friends are watching for me to stumble. “Perhaps he can be enticed, and we can prevail against him, and take our revenge on him.” But the Lord is with me like a dread warrior; therefore my persecutors will stumble, and they will not prevail. They will be greatly shamed, for they will not succeed. Their eternal dishonor will never be forgotten. O Lord of hosts, you test the righteous, you see the heart and the mind; let me see your retribution upon them, for to you I have committed my cause.

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.

Surrender to God

I like this reading as an option for the Feast of St. Ignatius, because it calls to mind how our souls wrestle with discernment of spirits as a result of being touched by God’s love and called to respond to the Lord. For St. Ignatius, there is a cosmic battle going on between good and evil spirits which affects each and every one of us. The victory has been won by Christ, but the “clean-up campaign” is going on throughout human history, and each day we need to sign up for the side of Christ, the side of light and love.

Jeremiah is a young prophet who is reluctant to respond at first, but in the end he cannot not respond to God’s call. He said “it is like a fire is burning in my heart… I grow weary holding back, I cannot.” All of us who take seriously prayer and discerning God’s will can identify with Jeremiah. Certainly, St. Ignatius had a similar experience as he was convalescing at his family castle after being injured at the battle of Pamplona, and later in the cave at Manresa. St. Ignatius finally surrendered his sword in front of the statue of the Black Virgin Mary of Montserrat, symbolically showing the surrender of his will to the Lord before he went into the cave at Manresa.

As we celebrate this feast today, let us commit ourselves to examen our lives in prayer and acknowledge where God might be calling us to let go of something which prevents us from embracing God’s unconditional love, mercy and forgiveness. Perhaps it is a grudge or a resentment because of past hurt. Perhaps it is the disappointment or even anger as a result of an unrealized dream or desire? Might the fire of God’s love in our hearts lead us to surrender at least some of our “swords” today and in the days ahead?

—Fr. Brian Paulson, SJ, is the Provincial for the Midwest Jesuits.

Prayer

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding,
and my entire will,
All I have and call my own.
You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.
Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace,
that is enough for me.

—Suscipe prayer of St. Ignatius Loyola

 


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July 30, 2017

1 Kgs 3: 5. 7-12

At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, “Ask what I should give you.” And now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David, although I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?”

It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, I now do according to your word. Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind; no one like you has been before you and no one like you shall arise after you.

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

Our deepest desires

A key step in Ignatian prayer is the identification of our deepest desires and naming of a specific grace that we seek from God. Naming our deepest desires requires discernment, honesty, and boldness in prayer. In the first reading from the First Book of Kings, God commended King Solomon for asking for the grace of discerning right from wrong and the wisdom to govern Israel wisely. Solomon did not ask for a long life, riches, or revenge over his enemies. No wonder we call him wise.

If you were to ask God for one and only one thing right now, what would it be? Be honest. Improved health? A long life? More money? An updated smartphone? The return of a prodigal son or daughter to the Church? Or the destruction of an enemy?

The Our Father contains something greater than the Wisdom of Solomon. There we pray first and foremost that God’s kingdom come, God’s will be done. Seek first the kingdom of God and all good things will be given to us at the proper time.

Lord, we beg you for the grace to ask wisely.

—Fr. Ed Witt, SJ, is a member of the Midwest Province and pastor of St. Isaac Jogues Church in Rapid City, SD. Last year the Lord granted his deepest desire that the Chicago Cubs win the World Series!

Prayer

Our only desire and our one choice should be this:
I want and I choose what better leads
to God’s deepening his life in me.

—First Principle and Foundation, St. Ignatius Loyola as paraphrased by David L. Fleming, SJ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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July 29, 2017

St. Martha, disciple of the Lord

Jn 11: 19-27

And many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”

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

Unconditional trust

We have two main Gospel stories that focus on Martha and, in both, she is a woman of action.  In today’s Scripture, she and her sister Mary are both distraught over their brother Lazarus’s death, but Martha is the one who goes out to meet Jesus when he arrives.  In an Ignatian contemplation with this Scripture passage, I imagine that there is a tone of frustration in her voice when she tells Jesus “if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”  But in the midst of her despair, or possible anger, she still places her trust in completely in Jesus: “even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.”

Do we have the same kind of faith that Martha shows?  Are we able and willing to place our trust, wholly and completely, in Jesus, no matter what we are going through at the time?  

—The Jesuit Prayer team

Prayer

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think that I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.
And I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this, you will lead me by the right road
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always
though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

—Thomas Merton

 

 

 

 

 


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July 28, 2017

Mt 13: 18-23

“Hear then the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away.

As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

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.

Bear fruit, don’t compare

Today’s Gospel parable illustrates a common saying in Jesuit formation: “Compare and despair.”

Even when seeds fall on rich soil, some bear more fruit than others. But Jesus is unconcerned about which seed bears more fruit. He just wants his seeds to bear fruit, whether “a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.”

This is good news for those of us who like to compare ourselves to others. Maybe a classmate is always getting grades a little higher than ours. Maybe a coworker churns out multiple projects in the time it takes us to finish one. But Jesus is not worried about how much fruit we produce. He just wants us to bear as much fruit as we can, using the gifts we have. So try not to compare. Otherwise, “worldly anxiety and the lure of riches” keep us from bearing any fruit at all, and indeed, we begin to despair.

—Dan Everson, SJ, is a Jesuit scholastic of the U.S. Central and Southern Province, studying philosophy at Loyola University Chicago.

Prayer

We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.

—Excerpt of the prayer attributed to Archbishop Oscar Romero, written by Bishop Ken Untener of Saginaw

 

 

 

 

 


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July 27, 2017

Ex 19: 1-2. 9-11. 16-20b

On the third new moon after the Israelites had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that very day, they came into the wilderness of Sinai. They had journeyed from Rephidim, entered the wilderness of Sinai, and camped in the wilderness; Israel camped there in front of the mountain.

Then the Lord said to Moses, “I am going to come to you in a dense cloud, in order that the people may hear when I speak with you and so trust you ever after.” When Moses had told the words of the people to the Lord, the Lord said to Moses: “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow. Have them wash their clothes and prepare for the third day, because on the third day the Lord will come down upon Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people.

On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, as well as a thick cloud on the mountain, and a blast of a trumpet so loud that all the people who were in the camp trembled. Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God. They took their stand at the foot of the mountain. Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke, because the Lord had descended upon it in fire; the smoke went up like the smoke of a kiln, while the whole mountain shook violently.

As the blast of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses would speak and God would answer him in thunder. When the Lord descended upon Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain, the Lord summoned Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up.

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.

God’s presence in the less than obvious

In today’s first reading, God makes his presence so abundantly clear that it involves thunder and lightning, smoke, and a trumpet blast.  God wanted there to be no doubt in the minds of the Israelites that he was there, and that he was speaking to them through Moses.  How much easier our lives would be if God made his presence in our lives this obvious!  We wouldn’t have any doubt as to what God was asking of us.

In the absence of lightning and a trumpet, how can we identify God’s presence in our lives?  St. Ignatius gave us the Examen as a beautiful and powerful prayer tool, with the goal being to notice God’s presence in the big and little moments of our days.  Who are the people and events that illuminate God working in our lives?  What is God saying to us in the noise and in the silence that surrounds us?

—Jim and Lauren Gaffey.  Jim is a science teacher at Saint Ignatius College Prep.  Lauren is the Charis Ministries Program Coordinator for the Office of Ignatian Spirituality, and does work for the Midwest Jesuits.  

Prayer

Steps of the Examen
1. Ask God for light
2. Give thanks
3. Review the day
4. Face your shortcomings
5. Look toward the day to come

—Jim Manney, A Simple Life-Changing Prayer, published by Loyola Press

 

 

 

 


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July 26, 2017

Sts. Joachim and Anne

Mt 13: 1-9

That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil.

But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!”

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.

Creating Rich Soil

The Gospel reading today seems to speak to me in my roles as home owner/gardener and parent to my two young children, as well as to other areas of my life.  The parable of the sower and the seed causes me to marvel at the abundance of fertile soil in my yard (as evidenced by the prolific weeds in the garden!).  The compost and summer rain showers help, but how and why are the conditions on the ground in my yard so rich and life-giving?

I also wonder the same about my life. Do I create, till and nurture the ground to raise seeds that will produce sixty or thirtyfold?  Where might I have some scorched or thorny areas, or shallow soil in my daily, routine, and “ordinary” events of this liturgical season?

How did Saints Joachim and Anne, whose feast we celebrate today, tend and create rich soil in raising their daughter Mary?  May our nurturing God teach us to create rich soil for his abundance.

—Colleen Chiacchere directs Magis Catholic Teacher Corps, the post-graduate teaching service program, at Creighton University.

Prayer

God of our fathers, you gave Saints Anne and Joachim the privilege of being the parents of Mary, the mother of your incarnate Son. May their prayers help us to attain the salvation you have promised to your people. We ask this through Christ our Lord.

—Collect from the Roman Missal, © 1973

 


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July 25, 2017

St.  James, Apostle

Mt 20: 20-28

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.

First martyred apostle

Today we celebrate the feast of St. James the Apostle. According to legend, his remains are held in Santiago de Compostela in Spain. In the Middle Ages, the saint became known as Santiago Matamoros: “St. James the Moor-slayer.” Under this title, he was deployed as the spiritual inspiration for the Christian re-conquest of Iberia and the subsequent expulsion of Jews and Muslims from the peninsula.

What this tells us is that the desire for domination that we read in today’s Gospel reading did not end in the first century. But in the Gospel, Jesus responds with love. In the end, he sees through the mother’s ambition to focus on courage and dignity that James will show.  James can and will drink his cup. Indeed, St. James is remembered as the first apostle to be martyred, killed by Herod in the year 44. He is undoubtedly a great patron for many of us, though perhaps not in all the ways we have wanted.

—Joe Lorenz, SJ, is a Jesuit scholastic of the Northeast Province studying philosophy at Loyola University Chicago.

Prayer

Almighty ever-living God, who consecrated the first fruits of your Apostles by the blood of Saint James, grant, we pray, that your Church may be strengthened by his confession of faith and constantly sustained by his protection. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

—Collect prayer for the feast of St. James, Apostle


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July 24, 2017

Ex 14: 5-18

When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, the minds of Pharaoh and his officials were changed toward the people, and they said, “What have we done, letting Israel leave our service?” So he had his chariot made ready, and took his army with him; he took six hundred picked chariots and all the other chariots of Egypt with officers over all of them. The Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt and he pursued the Israelites, who were going out boldly. The Egyptians pursued them, all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots, his chariot drivers and his army; they overtook them camped by the sea, by Pi-hahiroth, in front of Baal-zephon.

As Pharaoh drew near, the Israelites looked back, and there were the Egyptians advancing on them. In great fear the Israelites cried out to the Lord. They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us, bringing us out of Egypt? Is this not the very thing we told you in Egypt, ‘Let us alone and let us serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.” But Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the Lord will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.”

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why do you cry out to me? Tell the Israelites to go forward. But you lift up your staff, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, that the Israelites may go into the sea on dry ground. Then I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them; and so I will gain glory for myself over Pharaoh and all his army, his chariots, and his chariot drivers. And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I have gained glory for myself over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his chariot drivers.”

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.

Keeping the faith

The Israelites are having second thoughts. Despite risking everything for freedom, after seeing great signs and wonders through Moses, they have reached a point of no return and now the full force of their enslavement is bearing down.

It is amazing how easily, how quickly the richness and vibrancy of faith can drain from our cupped hands. With near certainty, we can expect our worst attachments to revisit, even after we are fully dedicated to the liberation God offers us in faith.

But God is unphased by these dark forces. He might even be extra motivated by them. “The Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I receive glory through Pharaoh and his chariots and charioteers.”

Picture those things that are most scary, most intense, and most likely to bring us to abandon what is true and good. Can you see the chariots? Ego, addiction, power, anger, selfishness, racism, greed, vanity, insecurity, pettiness… Yeah, those things. God intends to flat out massacre them, to make a mess of our scariest temptations and for their defeat to burn as a persisting flame of glory within us. “Stand your ground …”

—Sean Agniel is ending a term as the provincial’s assistant for secondary and pre-secondary education for the U.S. Central and Southern Province. This summer he will begin working at St. Louis University High School as the advancement chief of staff.

Prayer

“…Thus, as far as we are concerned, we should not want health more than illness, wealth more than poverty, fame more than disgrace, a long life more than a short one, and similarly for all the rest, but we should desire and choose only what helps us more towards the end for which we are created.”

—First Principle and Foundation, St. Ignatius Loyola as paraphrased by David L. Fleming, SJ

 

 

 

 

 

 


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July 23, 2017

Wis 12: 13. 16-19

For neither is there any god besides you, whose care is for all people,
to whom you should prove that you have not judged unjustly;
For your strength is the source of righteousness,
and your sovereignty over all causes you to spare all.
For you show your strength when people doubt the completeness of your power,
and you rebuke any insolence among those who know it.
Although you are sovereign in strength, you judge with mildness,
and with great forbearance you govern us;
For you have power to act whenever you choose.
Through such works you have taught your people
that the righteous must be kind,
and you have filled your children with good hope,
because you give repentance for sins.

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.

God’s merciful power

We often project our notions of power onto God and then attempt to enlist God as we imagine him into our battles, eagerly expecting the divine power to be deployed to root out and destroy what we consider evil. But God is God, and his power will not be domesticated by our petty battles. Indeed, the divine power is immense and marked not by petty vindictiveness but rather by overwhelming magnanimity. God rules with forbearance and mercy, provisions for repentance and forgiveness.

—Fr. Martin Connell, SJ is Professor of Education at John Carroll University and Rector of the John Carroll University Jesuit community.

Prayer

Merciful Lord, it does not surprise me that you forget completely the sins of those who repent. I am not surprised that you remain faithful to those who hate and revile you. The mercy which pours forth from you fills the whole world. It was by your mercy that we were created, and by your mercy that you redeemed us by sending your Son.

—St. Catherine of Siena

 

 

 

 

 

 


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July 22, 2017

St. Mary Magdalene, disciple of the Lord

Jn 20: 1-2. 11-18

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.”

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet.They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus.

Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father.

But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

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

Witness to the Resurrection

Our church today celebrates the feast of St. Mary Magdalene, the disciple who followed Jesus through his earthly ministry and, in today’s Gospel, was the first to encounter the risen Christ.  Mary returns to the tomb to prepare Jesus’s body according to Jewish burial customs of the time.  While the other disciples see the empty tomb and leave, Mary remains, weeping for her beloved Jesus.  It is here, in the midst of her suffering, that Jesus comes to her.  It is not until Jesus says her name that she recognizes that he is the Lord.

Isn’t this what we all want: to be called by name by someone who we love?  Jesus spoke to Mary, inviting her to rethink the relationship she had with him.  He tells her to “stop holding on to [him],” and sends her on a mission to tell the other disciples.  Mary goes from being someone who followed Jesus to someone sent out to spread the good news to others.

How are we being invited to be like Mary Magdalene?  How can we take the words of Jesus that we have received and take them out into the world?

—The Jesuit Prayer team

Prayer

St. Mary Magdalene, you followed Jesus throughout his ministry and were the first to see him after his Resurrection.  Intercede for us that we may be open to Jesus’s call in our lives so that we can follow him as true disciples.  Amen

—The Jesuit Prayer team

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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July 31, 2017

St. Ignatius of Loyola
Jeremiah 20: 7-10, 11a, 12

O Lord, you have enticed me, and I was enticed; you have overpowered me, and you have prevailed. I have become a laughingstock all day long; everyone mocks me. For whenever I speak, I must cry out, I must shout, “Violence and destruction!” For the word of the Lord has become for me a reproach and derision all day long. If I say, “I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,” then within me there is something like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.

For I hear many whispering: “Terror is all around! Denounce him! Let us denounce him!” All my close friends are watching for me to stumble. “Perhaps he can be enticed, and we can prevail against him, and take our revenge on him.” But the Lord is with me like a dread warrior; therefore my persecutors will stumble, and they will not prevail. They will be greatly shamed, for they will not succeed. Their eternal dishonor will never be forgotten. O Lord of hosts, you test the righteous, you see the heart and the mind; let me see your retribution upon them, for to you I have committed my cause.

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.

Surrender to God

I like this reading as an option for the Feast of St. Ignatius, because it calls to mind how our souls wrestle with discernment of spirits as a result of being touched by God’s love and called to respond to the Lord. For St. Ignatius, there is a cosmic battle going on between good and evil spirits which affects each and every one of us. The victory has been won by Christ, but the “clean-up campaign” is going on throughout human history, and each day we need to sign up for the side of Christ, the side of light and love.

Jeremiah is a young prophet who is reluctant to respond at first, but in the end he cannot not respond to God’s call. He said “it is like a fire is burning in my heart… I grow weary holding back, I cannot.” All of us who take seriously prayer and discerning God’s will can identify with Jeremiah. Certainly, St. Ignatius had a similar experience as he was convalescing at his family castle after being injured at the battle of Pamplona, and later in the cave at Manresa. St. Ignatius finally surrendered his sword in front of the statue of the Black Virgin Mary of Montserrat, symbolically showing the surrender of his will to the Lord before he went into the cave at Manresa.

As we celebrate this feast today, let us commit ourselves to examen our lives in prayer and acknowledge where God might be calling us to let go of something which prevents us from embracing God’s unconditional love, mercy and forgiveness. Perhaps it is a grudge or a resentment because of past hurt. Perhaps it is the disappointment or even anger as a result of an unrealized dream or desire? Might the fire of God’s love in our hearts lead us to surrender at least some of our “swords” today and in the days ahead?

—Fr. Brian Paulson, SJ, is the Provincial for the Midwest Jesuits.

Prayer

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding,
and my entire will,
All I have and call my own.
You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.
Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace,
that is enough for me.

—Suscipe prayer of St. Ignatius Loyola

 


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July 30, 2017

1 Kgs 3: 5. 7-12

At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, “Ask what I should give you.” And now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David, although I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?”

It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, I now do according to your word. Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind; no one like you has been before you and no one like you shall arise after you.

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

Our deepest desires

A key step in Ignatian prayer is the identification of our deepest desires and naming of a specific grace that we seek from God. Naming our deepest desires requires discernment, honesty, and boldness in prayer. In the first reading from the First Book of Kings, God commended King Solomon for asking for the grace of discerning right from wrong and the wisdom to govern Israel wisely. Solomon did not ask for a long life, riches, or revenge over his enemies. No wonder we call him wise.

If you were to ask God for one and only one thing right now, what would it be? Be honest. Improved health? A long life? More money? An updated smartphone? The return of a prodigal son or daughter to the Church? Or the destruction of an enemy?

The Our Father contains something greater than the Wisdom of Solomon. There we pray first and foremost that God’s kingdom come, God’s will be done. Seek first the kingdom of God and all good things will be given to us at the proper time.

Lord, we beg you for the grace to ask wisely.

—Fr. Ed Witt, SJ, is a member of the Midwest Province and pastor of St. Isaac Jogues Church in Rapid City, SD. Last year the Lord granted his deepest desire that the Chicago Cubs win the World Series!

Prayer

Our only desire and our one choice should be this:
I want and I choose what better leads
to God’s deepening his life in me.

—First Principle and Foundation, St. Ignatius Loyola as paraphrased by David L. Fleming, SJ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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July 29, 2017

St. Martha, disciple of the Lord

Jn 11: 19-27

And many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”

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

Unconditional trust

We have two main Gospel stories that focus on Martha and, in both, she is a woman of action.  In today’s Scripture, she and her sister Mary are both distraught over their brother Lazarus’s death, but Martha is the one who goes out to meet Jesus when he arrives.  In an Ignatian contemplation with this Scripture passage, I imagine that there is a tone of frustration in her voice when she tells Jesus “if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”  But in the midst of her despair, or possible anger, she still places her trust in completely in Jesus: “even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.”

Do we have the same kind of faith that Martha shows?  Are we able and willing to place our trust, wholly and completely, in Jesus, no matter what we are going through at the time?  

—The Jesuit Prayer team

Prayer

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think that I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.
And I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this, you will lead me by the right road
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always
though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

—Thomas Merton

 

 

 

 

 


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July 28, 2017

Mt 13: 18-23

“Hear then the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away.

As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

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.

Bear fruit, don’t compare

Today’s Gospel parable illustrates a common saying in Jesuit formation: “Compare and despair.”

Even when seeds fall on rich soil, some bear more fruit than others. But Jesus is unconcerned about which seed bears more fruit. He just wants his seeds to bear fruit, whether “a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.”

This is good news for those of us who like to compare ourselves to others. Maybe a classmate is always getting grades a little higher than ours. Maybe a coworker churns out multiple projects in the time it takes us to finish one. But Jesus is not worried about how much fruit we produce. He just wants us to bear as much fruit as we can, using the gifts we have. So try not to compare. Otherwise, “worldly anxiety and the lure of riches” keep us from bearing any fruit at all, and indeed, we begin to despair.

—Dan Everson, SJ, is a Jesuit scholastic of the U.S. Central and Southern Province, studying philosophy at Loyola University Chicago.

Prayer

We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.

—Excerpt of the prayer attributed to Archbishop Oscar Romero, written by Bishop Ken Untener of Saginaw

 

 

 

 

 


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July 27, 2017

Ex 19: 1-2. 9-11. 16-20b

On the third new moon after the Israelites had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that very day, they came into the wilderness of Sinai. They had journeyed from Rephidim, entered the wilderness of Sinai, and camped in the wilderness; Israel camped there in front of the mountain.

Then the Lord said to Moses, “I am going to come to you in a dense cloud, in order that the people may hear when I speak with you and so trust you ever after.” When Moses had told the words of the people to the Lord, the Lord said to Moses: “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow. Have them wash their clothes and prepare for the third day, because on the third day the Lord will come down upon Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people.

On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, as well as a thick cloud on the mountain, and a blast of a trumpet so loud that all the people who were in the camp trembled. Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God. They took their stand at the foot of the mountain. Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke, because the Lord had descended upon it in fire; the smoke went up like the smoke of a kiln, while the whole mountain shook violently.

As the blast of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses would speak and God would answer him in thunder. When the Lord descended upon Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain, the Lord summoned Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up.

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.

God’s presence in the less than obvious

In today’s first reading, God makes his presence so abundantly clear that it involves thunder and lightning, smoke, and a trumpet blast.  God wanted there to be no doubt in the minds of the Israelites that he was there, and that he was speaking to them through Moses.  How much easier our lives would be if God made his presence in our lives this obvious!  We wouldn’t have any doubt as to what God was asking of us.

In the absence of lightning and a trumpet, how can we identify God’s presence in our lives?  St. Ignatius gave us the Examen as a beautiful and powerful prayer tool, with the goal being to notice God’s presence in the big and little moments of our days.  Who are the people and events that illuminate God working in our lives?  What is God saying to us in the noise and in the silence that surrounds us?

—Jim and Lauren Gaffey.  Jim is a science teacher at Saint Ignatius College Prep.  Lauren is the Charis Ministries Program Coordinator for the Office of Ignatian Spirituality, and does work for the Midwest Jesuits.  

Prayer

Steps of the Examen
1. Ask God for light
2. Give thanks
3. Review the day
4. Face your shortcomings
5. Look toward the day to come

—Jim Manney, A Simple Life-Changing Prayer, published by Loyola Press

 

 

 

 


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July 26, 2017

Sts. Joachim and Anne

Mt 13: 1-9

That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil.

But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!”

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.

Creating Rich Soil

The Gospel reading today seems to speak to me in my roles as home owner/gardener and parent to my two young children, as well as to other areas of my life.  The parable of the sower and the seed causes me to marvel at the abundance of fertile soil in my yard (as evidenced by the prolific weeds in the garden!).  The compost and summer rain showers help, but how and why are the conditions on the ground in my yard so rich and life-giving?

I also wonder the same about my life. Do I create, till and nurture the ground to raise seeds that will produce sixty or thirtyfold?  Where might I have some scorched or thorny areas, or shallow soil in my daily, routine, and “ordinary” events of this liturgical season?

How did Saints Joachim and Anne, whose feast we celebrate today, tend and create rich soil in raising their daughter Mary?  May our nurturing God teach us to create rich soil for his abundance.

—Colleen Chiacchere directs Magis Catholic Teacher Corps, the post-graduate teaching service program, at Creighton University.

Prayer

God of our fathers, you gave Saints Anne and Joachim the privilege of being the parents of Mary, the mother of your incarnate Son. May their prayers help us to attain the salvation you have promised to your people. We ask this through Christ our Lord.

—Collect from the Roman Missal, © 1973

 


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July 25, 2017

St.  James, Apostle

Mt 20: 20-28

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.

First martyred apostle

Today we celebrate the feast of St. James the Apostle. According to legend, his remains are held in Santiago de Compostela in Spain. In the Middle Ages, the saint became known as Santiago Matamoros: “St. James the Moor-slayer.” Under this title, he was deployed as the spiritual inspiration for the Christian re-conquest of Iberia and the subsequent expulsion of Jews and Muslims from the peninsula.

What this tells us is that the desire for domination that we read in today’s Gospel reading did not end in the first century. But in the Gospel, Jesus responds with love. In the end, he sees through the mother’s ambition to focus on courage and dignity that James will show.  James can and will drink his cup. Indeed, St. James is remembered as the first apostle to be martyred, killed by Herod in the year 44. He is undoubtedly a great patron for many of us, though perhaps not in all the ways we have wanted.

—Joe Lorenz, SJ, is a Jesuit scholastic of the Northeast Province studying philosophy at Loyola University Chicago.

Prayer

Almighty ever-living God, who consecrated the first fruits of your Apostles by the blood of Saint James, grant, we pray, that your Church may be strengthened by his confession of faith and constantly sustained by his protection. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

—Collect prayer for the feast of St. James, Apostle


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July 24, 2017

Ex 14: 5-18

When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, the minds of Pharaoh and his officials were changed toward the people, and they said, “What have we done, letting Israel leave our service?” So he had his chariot made ready, and took his army with him; he took six hundred picked chariots and all the other chariots of Egypt with officers over all of them. The Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt and he pursued the Israelites, who were going out boldly. The Egyptians pursued them, all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots, his chariot drivers and his army; they overtook them camped by the sea, by Pi-hahiroth, in front of Baal-zephon.

As Pharaoh drew near, the Israelites looked back, and there were the Egyptians advancing on them. In great fear the Israelites cried out to the Lord. They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us, bringing us out of Egypt? Is this not the very thing we told you in Egypt, ‘Let us alone and let us serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.” But Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the Lord will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.”

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why do you cry out to me? Tell the Israelites to go forward. But you lift up your staff, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, that the Israelites may go into the sea on dry ground. Then I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them; and so I will gain glory for myself over Pharaoh and all his army, his chariots, and his chariot drivers. And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I have gained glory for myself over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his chariot drivers.”

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.

Keeping the faith

The Israelites are having second thoughts. Despite risking everything for freedom, after seeing great signs and wonders through Moses, they have reached a point of no return and now the full force of their enslavement is bearing down.

It is amazing how easily, how quickly the richness and vibrancy of faith can drain from our cupped hands. With near certainty, we can expect our worst attachments to revisit, even after we are fully dedicated to the liberation God offers us in faith.

But God is unphased by these dark forces. He might even be extra motivated by them. “The Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I receive glory through Pharaoh and his chariots and charioteers.”

Picture those things that are most scary, most intense, and most likely to bring us to abandon what is true and good. Can you see the chariots? Ego, addiction, power, anger, selfishness, racism, greed, vanity, insecurity, pettiness… Yeah, those things. God intends to flat out massacre them, to make a mess of our scariest temptations and for their defeat to burn as a persisting flame of glory within us. “Stand your ground …”

—Sean Agniel is ending a term as the provincial’s assistant for secondary and pre-secondary education for the U.S. Central and Southern Province. This summer he will begin working at St. Louis University High School as the advancement chief of staff.

Prayer

“…Thus, as far as we are concerned, we should not want health more than illness, wealth more than poverty, fame more than disgrace, a long life more than a short one, and similarly for all the rest, but we should desire and choose only what helps us more towards the end for which we are created.”

—First Principle and Foundation, St. Ignatius Loyola as paraphrased by David L. Fleming, SJ

 

 

 

 

 

 


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July 23, 2017

Wis 12: 13. 16-19

For neither is there any god besides you, whose care is for all people,
to whom you should prove that you have not judged unjustly;
For your strength is the source of righteousness,
and your sovereignty over all causes you to spare all.
For you show your strength when people doubt the completeness of your power,
and you rebuke any insolence among those who know it.
Although you are sovereign in strength, you judge with mildness,
and with great forbearance you govern us;
For you have power to act whenever you choose.
Through such works you have taught your people
that the righteous must be kind,
and you have filled your children with good hope,
because you give repentance for sins.

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.

God’s merciful power

We often project our notions of power onto God and then attempt to enlist God as we imagine him into our battles, eagerly expecting the divine power to be deployed to root out and destroy what we consider evil. But God is God, and his power will not be domesticated by our petty battles. Indeed, the divine power is immense and marked not by petty vindictiveness but rather by overwhelming magnanimity. God rules with forbearance and mercy, provisions for repentance and forgiveness.

—Fr. Martin Connell, SJ is Professor of Education at John Carroll University and Rector of the John Carroll University Jesuit community.

Prayer

Merciful Lord, it does not surprise me that you forget completely the sins of those who repent. I am not surprised that you remain faithful to those who hate and revile you. The mercy which pours forth from you fills the whole world. It was by your mercy that we were created, and by your mercy that you redeemed us by sending your Son.

—St. Catherine of Siena

 

 

 

 

 

 


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July 22, 2017

St. Mary Magdalene, disciple of the Lord

Jn 20: 1-2. 11-18

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.”

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet.They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus.

Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father.

But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

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

Witness to the Resurrection

Our church today celebrates the feast of St. Mary Magdalene, the disciple who followed Jesus through his earthly ministry and, in today’s Gospel, was the first to encounter the risen Christ.  Mary returns to the tomb to prepare Jesus’s body according to Jewish burial customs of the time.  While the other disciples see the empty tomb and leave, Mary remains, weeping for her beloved Jesus.  It is here, in the midst of her suffering, that Jesus comes to her.  It is not until Jesus says her name that she recognizes that he is the Lord.

Isn’t this what we all want: to be called by name by someone who we love?  Jesus spoke to Mary, inviting her to rethink the relationship she had with him.  He tells her to “stop holding on to [him],” and sends her on a mission to tell the other disciples.  Mary goes from being someone who followed Jesus to someone sent out to spread the good news to others.

How are we being invited to be like Mary Magdalene?  How can we take the words of Jesus that we have received and take them out into the world?

—The Jesuit Prayer team

Prayer

St. Mary Magdalene, you followed Jesus throughout his ministry and were the first to see him after his Resurrection.  Intercede for us that we may be open to Jesus’s call in our lives so that we can follow him as true disciples.  Amen

—The Jesuit Prayer team

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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