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June 19, 2018

Mt 5:43-48

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

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

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

Everyone deserves love

I imagine that some people see me as an enemy.

I’ve hurt people. I’ve been a bully. I’ve broken hearts. I have the capacity to use people. I’ve robbed people of joy, I’ve dashed hopes, and I’ve caused people to question the sincerity of my love. I’ve asked for forgiveness and trust in God’s mercy, but still…

Jesus demands that we love those who have caused us pain. It can feel like an impossible task.

I wonder though, whether his commandment to love our enemies comes easier when I remember how desperately I need to be loved – even by those people who have good reason not to love me anymore.

It’s brave to ask for love, and everyone asks somehow. I can choose to love my enemies, because just like me, they deserve it too.

—Eric Immel, SJ, is the Associate Dean for Student Success at Arrupe College and an editor for The Jesuit Post.

Prayer

Jesus, Prince of Peace,
you have asked us to love our enemies
and pray for those who persecute us.
We pray for our enemies and those who oppose us.
With the help of the Holy Spirit,
may all people learn to work together
for that justice which brings true and lasting peace.
To you be glory and honor for ever and ever.  

—Prayer for our Enemies, from the USCCB website


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June 18, 2018

Mt 5:38-42

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from 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.

Jesus’ message is countercultural

“An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” was not encouragement to take revenge but was meant to put a limitation on one’s retaliation. We live in a world that calls on us to seek revenge and retaliation when we have been wronged, but Jesus calls us to a very different kind of response, one that requires great inner strength, self-respect and respect for the dignity of our attacker. He calls us to mercy and love.

We have more than enough evidence in our world of the never-ending cycle of hate, mistrust and violence. Not many ever seems to try Jesus response of mercy and love. G.K. Chesterton once said, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.”

Jesus tells us to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us. How different would the world be if we responded to hate, mistrust and violence with forgiveness and by doing a sacrificial good for that person? Jesus gave us the ultimate example of responding with love and mercy with his willingness to suffer and die on the cross for the sins of mankind.

Are you willing to respond with mercy and love next time you have been wronged? How can you start to move in that direction?

—Chris LaMothe teaches theology at Jesuit High School in New Orleans.

Prayer

Father, forgive them for the do not know what they do.

—Luke 23:34

 

 

 


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June 17, 2018

Mk 4:26-34

He also said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.”

He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”

With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.

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.

Recognizing God’s gifts

The Kingdom of God is like seeds that, once planted, grow on their own without human intervention. Our role is to plant the seeds and harvest the fruit but to leave the spiritual maturation to God. Like the birds who nest in the shade of the mustard bush, our role is simply to use the gifts God has already given us. It can be very easy to believe that we are responsible for our own successes. We sometimes lack the humility that comes from knowing that everything we have is a gift from God. But with that humility can also come great freedom as we increasingly rely on God’s power rather than our own.

How can I be more grateful in my life for my talents, my fortunes and my successes? Where do I need to ask for God’s grace in my life rather than continue to struggle on my own?

—Fr. Philip Sutherland, SJ, is a priest of the USA West Province and doctoral student in philosophy at Marquette University.

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.

—St. Ignatius of Loyola

 

 


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June 16, 2018

Mt 5:33-37

“Again, you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.’ But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one.

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.

Saying yes to God

Jesus’ prohibition against oaths in today’s Gospel emphasizes our utter poverty in offering collateral to back up what we swear to do. The heavens and the earth, and even our own body, are ultimately only lent to us so that we, in the words of St. Ignatius Loyola, “may accomplish the end for which we are created” each day: to attain salvation and glorify God. The complete sacrifice of Elisha in the first reading today (1 Kgs 19:19-21) models how ready we ought to be to drop everything and watch it all go up in smoke when God calls us away from our paltry ways of doing things into his ever greater Way.

How can I say “yes” to God today? Lord Jesus, help me to mean it.

—Fr. Michael Wegenka, SJ, is a member of the Jesuits USA Central and Southern Province. He was ordained to the priesthood last weekend. His first assignment as a priest will be at St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Grand Coteau, La.

Prayer

I am no longer my own, but yours.
Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will;
put me to doing, put me to suffering;
let me be employed for you, or laid aside for you,
exalted for you, or brought low for you;
let me be full,
let me be empty,
let me have all things,
let me have nothing.

—Excerpt from the Wesley Covenant Prayer

 

 


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June 15, 2018

1 Kings 19:9A, 11-16

At the mountain of God, Horeb, Elijah came to a cave, where he took shelter. But the word of the LORD came to him, He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence.

When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

He replied, “I have been most zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts. But the children of Israel have forsaken your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to the sword. I alone am left, and they seek to take my life.” The LORD said to him, “Go, take the road back to the desert near Damascus. When you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king of Aram. Then you shall anoint Jehu, son of Nimshi, as king of Israel, and Elisha, son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah, as prophet to succeed 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.

Listening for God’s whisper

Elijah recognizes the voice of the Lord not in wind, earthquake, or fire, but in the tiniest of whispers. St Ignatius counseled that we, too, can hear the voice of God. God is present when we experience consolation, i.e., peace, joy, freedom, and connection to others. Those experiences of God’s communication are often gentle. I might admire the drawing my young child is making with sidewalk chalk and find that a sense of gratitude wells up in my heart. Or I might suddenly recognize that participating in a service project has led me to connect deeply with a community. In prayer, too, we need make space to listen to God, who often speaks with the simplest words, or leads us by subtle yet sensible interior movements. Today, can I make room to listen to God?

—Marina McCoy is an associate professor of philosophy at Boston College.

Prayer

Be silent.
Be still.
Alone.
Empty
before your God.
Say nothing.
Ask nothing.
Be silent.
Be still.
Let your God look upon you.
That is all.
God knows.
God understands.
God loves you with an enormous love
and only wants to look upon you
with that generous love.
Quiet.
Be still.
Let your God love you.

—Edwina Gately

 

 

 

 


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June 14, 2018

Mt 5:20-26

For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

“You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire. So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.

Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.

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.

Loving our neighbor

I’ve been following this young rabbi since he first came to Galilee. I go to hear him whenever I can, and everyone in the village is talking about him.

He talks a lot about love—love of God, love of neighbor. A few days ago he talked for a long time about how blessed it is to be poor in spirit, merciful and pure of heart.

But today he had a message that was in sharp contrast: if we don’t act out of love, we can expect to be punished! I was shocked at first, but then I realized: how can I claim to be merciful or pure of heart if I approach God while nursing grievances against my brother? How can I claim to “love my neighbor as myself” if I’m lashing out in anger?

Love is not abstract!

—Barbara Lee is a spiritual director, an Ignatian Volunteer, and the author of God Isn’t Finished With Me Yet: Discovering the Spiritual Graces of Later Life published by Loyola Press

Prayer

Heavenly Father, give me a pure heart. Give me a heart that is big enough to let go of resentments and grievances, a heart that is able to forgive and to ask forgiveness. Give me a heart to love as Jesus loved—as Jesus loves.

—Barbara Lee

 

 


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June 13, 2018

St. Anthony of Padua, Priest and Doctor of the Church

Mt 5:17-19

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

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

Embodiment of God’s law

Jesus wasn’t trying to start a new religion. Matthew is making it clear to his Jewish audience that the law and the prophets weren’t going away; Jesus was just interpreting them anew. Perhaps he was just trying to get us to listen to the law in our hearts!

As Christians we don’t adhere to the Mosaic law, but we’re still an audience of this Gospel text—albeit a contemporary one. And Jesus was clear when he said the entirety of the law boiled down to love of God and love of neighbor. After all, the law taught the Jews how to relate to God and to one another. That is something we can understand as 21st century Christians. For us Jesus becomes an embodiment of God’s law, exemplifying the love of God and neighbor. And as people for whom Christ is their name, we are called to embody this, too. Every day.

—Andy Otto is a pastoral associate at St. Thomas More Jesuit Church and a retreat director at Ignatius House Jesuit Retreat Center in Atlanta, GA. He is the author of God Moments.

Prayer

We love you O, our God;
And we desire to love you more and more.
Grant to us that we may love you as much as we desire, and as much as we ought.
O Dearest Friend, who has so loved and saved us,
The thought of whom is so sweet and always growing sweeter,
Come with Christ and dwell in our hearts;
Then you will keep a watch over our lips, our steps, our deeds,
And we shall not need to be anxious either for our souls or our bodies.
Give us love, sweetest of all gifts, which knows no enemy.
Give us in our hearts pure love born of your love to us
That we may love others as you love us.
O most loving Father of Jesus Christ, from whom flows all love,
Let our hearts frozen in sin, cold to you and cold to others, be warmed by this divine fire.
So help and bless us in your Son.
Amen.

—St. Anselm

 


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June 12, 2018

Mt 5:13-16

“You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot. “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

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

Witnessing through our blessed and broken moments

When I lived on the Rosebud Indian Reservation, I sometimes sat with with folks in addiction recovery and listened to them “admit to God, to themselves, and to another human being the exact nature of their wrongs.” It’s step five of AA and similar programs.

When they would speak, they would begin nervous and closed. Slowly, though, their posture would shift upright. Their eyes would soften in recalling painful memories. They would eventually find the strength to smile and leave with courage to carry on.

Jesus says that we are salt and light. We season the world with the fullness of our lives, the blessed and broken moments. If we serve as witnesses to the possibility of goodness in light of everything we’ve done, we can become a vehicle for others to witness God’s infinite love and mercy. In that, every life takes meaning and will shine forth.

—Eric Immel, SJ, is the Associate Dean for Student Success at Arrupe College and an editor for The Jesuit Post.

Prayer

Don’t surrender your loneliness so quickly.
Let it cut more deep.
Let it ferment and season you
As few human or even divine ingredients can.
Something missing in my heart tonight
Has made my eyes so soft,
My voice so tender,
My need of God
Absolutely
Clear.

—Hafiz, as translated by Daniel Ladinsky

 


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June 11, 2018

St. Barnabas, Apostle

Mt 5:1-12

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before 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.

Happy are the meek?

We live in a world that promotes narcissism, domination and entitlement. If any entity in existence had the right to be narcissistic, dominating or entitled it would be God, but when he came in the incarnation of Jesus, he was none of these, rather he came in meekness and humbleness.

Most of our unhappiness is tied to the belief that we are better and more deserving than the next person and when we don’t get the good fortune we feel we are entitled to, we are unhappy. The truth is we are all children of God, loved by God.

To be meek or humble means to understand I am no better or worse than anyone else. That we are all sinners in need of mercy and salvation, and that is exactly what God offers every one of us, nothing more and nothing less. Everything else in this world can distract us from that fact or help us reach unity with our God.

Do I see myself as more worthy of the good things in life than others? Do I see the ups and downs of life as paths to deepening my unity with God?

—Chris LaMothe teaches theology at Jesuit High School in New Orleans.

Prayer

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being honored, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being praised, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being preferred to others, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being consulted, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being humiliated, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being despised, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being forgotten, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being ridiculed, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being wronged, Deliver me, Jesus.
That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be praised and I unnoticed, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

—Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val


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June 10, 2018

Mk 3: 20-35

And the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.”

And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.

“Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”

Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

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.

Doing the will of God

Mark’s Gospel presents a jarring theology of the family. Rather than our blood relatives, our true religious family is anyone who “does the will of God.” It is helpful to remember that Christianity was generally a despised religious sect in the Roman world of the late first century because Christians refused to worship the traditional deities and instead denounced them as mere lifeless idols. Christians also stood up for those ostracized by society, and anyone who stands up for the marginalized is bound to be marginalized as well.  It is likely this pericope reflects experiences of early Christians who were likewise ostracized by their families and larger social groups.

Where do you need to do God’s will, even at the risk of abandonment, insult or ridicule? Where is doing the “will of God” the right thing to do but unpopular among your social circles?

—Fr. Philip Sutherland, SJ, is a priest of the USA West Province and doctoral student in philosophy at Marquette University.

Prayer

Lord God, you invite us to do your will, even when it is the hard or unpopular thing to do.  Give us the courage to respond to your invitation and stand with those on the margins so that we may truly be brothers and sisters of Christ.  Amen.

—The Jesuit Prayer team

 


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June 19, 2018

Mt 5:43-48

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

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

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

Everyone deserves love

I imagine that some people see me as an enemy.

I’ve hurt people. I’ve been a bully. I’ve broken hearts. I have the capacity to use people. I’ve robbed people of joy, I’ve dashed hopes, and I’ve caused people to question the sincerity of my love. I’ve asked for forgiveness and trust in God’s mercy, but still…

Jesus demands that we love those who have caused us pain. It can feel like an impossible task.

I wonder though, whether his commandment to love our enemies comes easier when I remember how desperately I need to be loved – even by those people who have good reason not to love me anymore.

It’s brave to ask for love, and everyone asks somehow. I can choose to love my enemies, because just like me, they deserve it too.

—Eric Immel, SJ, is the Associate Dean for Student Success at Arrupe College and an editor for The Jesuit Post.

Prayer

Jesus, Prince of Peace,
you have asked us to love our enemies
and pray for those who persecute us.
We pray for our enemies and those who oppose us.
With the help of the Holy Spirit,
may all people learn to work together
for that justice which brings true and lasting peace.
To you be glory and honor for ever and ever.  

—Prayer for our Enemies, from the USCCB website


Please share the Good Word with your friends!

June 18, 2018

Mt 5:38-42

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from 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.

Jesus’ message is countercultural

“An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” was not encouragement to take revenge but was meant to put a limitation on one’s retaliation. We live in a world that calls on us to seek revenge and retaliation when we have been wronged, but Jesus calls us to a very different kind of response, one that requires great inner strength, self-respect and respect for the dignity of our attacker. He calls us to mercy and love.

We have more than enough evidence in our world of the never-ending cycle of hate, mistrust and violence. Not many ever seems to try Jesus response of mercy and love. G.K. Chesterton once said, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.”

Jesus tells us to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us. How different would the world be if we responded to hate, mistrust and violence with forgiveness and by doing a sacrificial good for that person? Jesus gave us the ultimate example of responding with love and mercy with his willingness to suffer and die on the cross for the sins of mankind.

Are you willing to respond with mercy and love next time you have been wronged? How can you start to move in that direction?

—Chris LaMothe teaches theology at Jesuit High School in New Orleans.

Prayer

Father, forgive them for the do not know what they do.

—Luke 23:34

 

 

 


Please share the Good Word with your friends!

June 17, 2018

Mk 4:26-34

He also said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.”

He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”

With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.

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.

Recognizing God’s gifts

The Kingdom of God is like seeds that, once planted, grow on their own without human intervention. Our role is to plant the seeds and harvest the fruit but to leave the spiritual maturation to God. Like the birds who nest in the shade of the mustard bush, our role is simply to use the gifts God has already given us. It can be very easy to believe that we are responsible for our own successes. We sometimes lack the humility that comes from knowing that everything we have is a gift from God. But with that humility can also come great freedom as we increasingly rely on God’s power rather than our own.

How can I be more grateful in my life for my talents, my fortunes and my successes? Where do I need to ask for God’s grace in my life rather than continue to struggle on my own?

—Fr. Philip Sutherland, SJ, is a priest of the USA West Province and doctoral student in philosophy at Marquette University.

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.

—St. Ignatius of Loyola

 

 


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June 16, 2018

Mt 5:33-37

“Again, you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.’ But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one.

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.

Saying yes to God

Jesus’ prohibition against oaths in today’s Gospel emphasizes our utter poverty in offering collateral to back up what we swear to do. The heavens and the earth, and even our own body, are ultimately only lent to us so that we, in the words of St. Ignatius Loyola, “may accomplish the end for which we are created” each day: to attain salvation and glorify God. The complete sacrifice of Elisha in the first reading today (1 Kgs 19:19-21) models how ready we ought to be to drop everything and watch it all go up in smoke when God calls us away from our paltry ways of doing things into his ever greater Way.

How can I say “yes” to God today? Lord Jesus, help me to mean it.

—Fr. Michael Wegenka, SJ, is a member of the Jesuits USA Central and Southern Province. He was ordained to the priesthood last weekend. His first assignment as a priest will be at St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Grand Coteau, La.

Prayer

I am no longer my own, but yours.
Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will;
put me to doing, put me to suffering;
let me be employed for you, or laid aside for you,
exalted for you, or brought low for you;
let me be full,
let me be empty,
let me have all things,
let me have nothing.

—Excerpt from the Wesley Covenant Prayer

 

 


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June 15, 2018

1 Kings 19:9A, 11-16

At the mountain of God, Horeb, Elijah came to a cave, where he took shelter. But the word of the LORD came to him, He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence.

When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

He replied, “I have been most zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts. But the children of Israel have forsaken your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to the sword. I alone am left, and they seek to take my life.” The LORD said to him, “Go, take the road back to the desert near Damascus. When you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king of Aram. Then you shall anoint Jehu, son of Nimshi, as king of Israel, and Elisha, son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah, as prophet to succeed 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.

Listening for God’s whisper

Elijah recognizes the voice of the Lord not in wind, earthquake, or fire, but in the tiniest of whispers. St Ignatius counseled that we, too, can hear the voice of God. God is present when we experience consolation, i.e., peace, joy, freedom, and connection to others. Those experiences of God’s communication are often gentle. I might admire the drawing my young child is making with sidewalk chalk and find that a sense of gratitude wells up in my heart. Or I might suddenly recognize that participating in a service project has led me to connect deeply with a community. In prayer, too, we need make space to listen to God, who often speaks with the simplest words, or leads us by subtle yet sensible interior movements. Today, can I make room to listen to God?

—Marina McCoy is an associate professor of philosophy at Boston College.

Prayer

Be silent.
Be still.
Alone.
Empty
before your God.
Say nothing.
Ask nothing.
Be silent.
Be still.
Let your God look upon you.
That is all.
God knows.
God understands.
God loves you with an enormous love
and only wants to look upon you
with that generous love.
Quiet.
Be still.
Let your God love you.

—Edwina Gately

 

 

 

 


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June 14, 2018

Mt 5:20-26

For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

“You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire. So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.

Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.

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.

Loving our neighbor

I’ve been following this young rabbi since he first came to Galilee. I go to hear him whenever I can, and everyone in the village is talking about him.

He talks a lot about love—love of God, love of neighbor. A few days ago he talked for a long time about how blessed it is to be poor in spirit, merciful and pure of heart.

But today he had a message that was in sharp contrast: if we don’t act out of love, we can expect to be punished! I was shocked at first, but then I realized: how can I claim to be merciful or pure of heart if I approach God while nursing grievances against my brother? How can I claim to “love my neighbor as myself” if I’m lashing out in anger?

Love is not abstract!

—Barbara Lee is a spiritual director, an Ignatian Volunteer, and the author of God Isn’t Finished With Me Yet: Discovering the Spiritual Graces of Later Life published by Loyola Press

Prayer

Heavenly Father, give me a pure heart. Give me a heart that is big enough to let go of resentments and grievances, a heart that is able to forgive and to ask forgiveness. Give me a heart to love as Jesus loved—as Jesus loves.

—Barbara Lee

 

 


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June 13, 2018

St. Anthony of Padua, Priest and Doctor of the Church

Mt 5:17-19

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

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

Embodiment of God’s law

Jesus wasn’t trying to start a new religion. Matthew is making it clear to his Jewish audience that the law and the prophets weren’t going away; Jesus was just interpreting them anew. Perhaps he was just trying to get us to listen to the law in our hearts!

As Christians we don’t adhere to the Mosaic law, but we’re still an audience of this Gospel text—albeit a contemporary one. And Jesus was clear when he said the entirety of the law boiled down to love of God and love of neighbor. After all, the law taught the Jews how to relate to God and to one another. That is something we can understand as 21st century Christians. For us Jesus becomes an embodiment of God’s law, exemplifying the love of God and neighbor. And as people for whom Christ is their name, we are called to embody this, too. Every day.

—Andy Otto is a pastoral associate at St. Thomas More Jesuit Church and a retreat director at Ignatius House Jesuit Retreat Center in Atlanta, GA. He is the author of God Moments.

Prayer

We love you O, our God;
And we desire to love you more and more.
Grant to us that we may love you as much as we desire, and as much as we ought.
O Dearest Friend, who has so loved and saved us,
The thought of whom is so sweet and always growing sweeter,
Come with Christ and dwell in our hearts;
Then you will keep a watch over our lips, our steps, our deeds,
And we shall not need to be anxious either for our souls or our bodies.
Give us love, sweetest of all gifts, which knows no enemy.
Give us in our hearts pure love born of your love to us
That we may love others as you love us.
O most loving Father of Jesus Christ, from whom flows all love,
Let our hearts frozen in sin, cold to you and cold to others, be warmed by this divine fire.
So help and bless us in your Son.
Amen.

—St. Anselm

 


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June 12, 2018

Mt 5:13-16

“You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot. “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

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

Witnessing through our blessed and broken moments

When I lived on the Rosebud Indian Reservation, I sometimes sat with with folks in addiction recovery and listened to them “admit to God, to themselves, and to another human being the exact nature of their wrongs.” It’s step five of AA and similar programs.

When they would speak, they would begin nervous and closed. Slowly, though, their posture would shift upright. Their eyes would soften in recalling painful memories. They would eventually find the strength to smile and leave with courage to carry on.

Jesus says that we are salt and light. We season the world with the fullness of our lives, the blessed and broken moments. If we serve as witnesses to the possibility of goodness in light of everything we’ve done, we can become a vehicle for others to witness God’s infinite love and mercy. In that, every life takes meaning and will shine forth.

—Eric Immel, SJ, is the Associate Dean for Student Success at Arrupe College and an editor for The Jesuit Post.

Prayer

Don’t surrender your loneliness so quickly.
Let it cut more deep.
Let it ferment and season you
As few human or even divine ingredients can.
Something missing in my heart tonight
Has made my eyes so soft,
My voice so tender,
My need of God
Absolutely
Clear.

—Hafiz, as translated by Daniel Ladinsky

 


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June 11, 2018

St. Barnabas, Apostle

Mt 5:1-12

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before 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.

Happy are the meek?

We live in a world that promotes narcissism, domination and entitlement. If any entity in existence had the right to be narcissistic, dominating or entitled it would be God, but when he came in the incarnation of Jesus, he was none of these, rather he came in meekness and humbleness.

Most of our unhappiness is tied to the belief that we are better and more deserving than the next person and when we don’t get the good fortune we feel we are entitled to, we are unhappy. The truth is we are all children of God, loved by God.

To be meek or humble means to understand I am no better or worse than anyone else. That we are all sinners in need of mercy and salvation, and that is exactly what God offers every one of us, nothing more and nothing less. Everything else in this world can distract us from that fact or help us reach unity with our God.

Do I see myself as more worthy of the good things in life than others? Do I see the ups and downs of life as paths to deepening my unity with God?

—Chris LaMothe teaches theology at Jesuit High School in New Orleans.

Prayer

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being honored, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being praised, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being preferred to others, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being consulted, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being humiliated, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being despised, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being forgotten, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being ridiculed, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being wronged, Deliver me, Jesus.
That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be praised and I unnoticed, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

—Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val


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June 10, 2018

Mk 3: 20-35

And the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.”

And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.

“Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”

Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

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.

Doing the will of God

Mark’s Gospel presents a jarring theology of the family. Rather than our blood relatives, our true religious family is anyone who “does the will of God.” It is helpful to remember that Christianity was generally a despised religious sect in the Roman world of the late first century because Christians refused to worship the traditional deities and instead denounced them as mere lifeless idols. Christians also stood up for those ostracized by society, and anyone who stands up for the marginalized is bound to be marginalized as well.  It is likely this pericope reflects experiences of early Christians who were likewise ostracized by their families and larger social groups.

Where do you need to do God’s will, even at the risk of abandonment, insult or ridicule? Where is doing the “will of God” the right thing to do but unpopular among your social circles?

—Fr. Philip Sutherland, SJ, is a priest of the USA West Province and doctoral student in philosophy at Marquette University.

Prayer

Lord God, you invite us to do your will, even when it is the hard or unpopular thing to do.  Give us the courage to respond to your invitation and stand with those on the margins so that we may truly be brothers and sisters of Christ.  Amen.

—The Jesuit Prayer team

 


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