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December 14, 2018

St. John of the Cross

Is 48: 17-19

Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: I am the Lord your God, who teaches you for your own good, who leads you in the way you should go. O that you had paid attention to my commandments!

Then your prosperity would have been like a river, and your success like the waves of the sea; your offspring would have been like the sand, and your descendants like its grains; their name would never be cut off or destroyed from before me.

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.

Teaching us for our own good

Clunk, shuffle. “Take off mama’s boots and put them by the door.”

Twist, squeak. “Let me adjust the bathtub knobs.”

News from day care. “We do not bite people.”

I don’t mean to be overbearing. But I see what’s happening, and I don’t want my daughter to fall, to burn herself, or to hurt other people.

With boundaries and instructions, I try to teach her for her own good. Yet, I cannot protect her from every physical and emotional hurt in this life. Instead, I try to show her the way she should go and also hold space for her to explore, take risks and grow.

As a parent of a two-year old, I can begin to imagine what God may feel like in this passage. How many times must God have said to humanity, “O that you had paid attention…!”

What is God teaching me for my own good?

—Lauren Hackman-Brooks is a Chaplain in University Ministry at Loyola University Chicago – Health Sciences Division and serves on the Board of Directors at Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House.

Prayer

God, You are more patient than the most patient parent. Help me to allow myself to be loved by you. Teach me for my own good. Lead me in the ways I should go. Guide my feet in the way of peace.

Amen.  

—Lauren Hackman-Brooks

 


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December 13, 2018

St. Lucy

Is 41: 13-20

For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Do not fear, I will help you.” Do not fear, you worm Jacob, you insect Israel! I will help you, says the Lord; your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel. Now, I will make of you a threshing sledge, sharp, new, and having teeth; you shall thresh the mountains and crush them, and you shall make the hills like chaff. You shall winnow them and the wind shall carry them away, and the tempest shall scatter them. Then you shall rejoice in the Lord; in the Holy One of Israel you shall glory.

When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the Lord will answer them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I will open rivers on the bare heights, and fountains in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water. I will put in the wilderness the cedar, the acacia, the myrtle, and the olive; I will set in the desert the cypress, the plane and the pine together, so that all may see and know, all may consider and understand, that the hand of the Lord has done this, the Holy One of Israel has created it.

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 will be all in all

Before I read this prophecy to my third graders last weekend, I asked some questions:

Me: “What is Advent all about?”

Child: “Preparing for Jesus’s birthday.”

Me: “True. We’re also preparing for something else. Does anyone know?”

Child: “When Jesus comes back and God will be all in all.”  

Then we read the prophecy and looked for clues of either event. Despite the tough vocabulary, at least one child listened to the end. She said this was a Parousia prophecy. “The end says that everybody sees and knows that God made everything. All people – Catholics, Jewish people, Hindus – all together seeing and knowing God.” After catching my breath – she actually said Hindus – I realized I could probably read the passage a little closer. Take a few minutes to read it again to find something that you missed about the time when God will be all in all.

—Mark Bartholet is a John Carroll University alumnus who coordinates the Contemplative Leaders in Action program and Catechesis of the Good Shepherd at St. Peter Catholic Church, the Jesuit parish in Charlotte, NC.

Prayer

Hearing Better Voices

We make a pause
amid many voices–
some innocent and some seductive,
some violent and some coercive,
some forgiven and genuine,
some not.
Amid this cacophony that pulls us
in many directions,
we have these old voices of your prophets;
these voices attest to
your fierce self,
your severe summons,
your generous promise,
your abiding presence.

Give us good ears,
perchance you have a word for us tonight;
Give us grace and courage to listen,
to answer,
to care,
and to rejoice,
that we may be more fully your people.

—Walter Brueggemann from Prayers for a Privileged People

 

 

 

 


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December 12, 2018

Our Lady of Guadalupe

Lk 1: 26-38

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.

The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.”

Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from 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.

God is with us

Today, we celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, who appeared to St. Juan Diego in Mexico in 1531. She looked like a woman from his own culture and spoke to him in his own language, and she gave a message like the angel’s message in today’s Gospel: “Don’t be afraid. Nothing is impossible with God. Go, and tell those in power that God is with you.”

When I was teaching students from Mexican immigrant families at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Chicago, I heard the name of Our Lady of Guadalupe often in conversations with my students’ parents about their prayers and hopes for their children. She reminds us that God is with us, in all nations, and has a special care for the humble and those in need.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us!

—Beth Franzosa teaches in the Religious Studies department at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School.

Prayer

O God, Father of mercies, who placed your people under the singular protection of your Son’s most holy Mother, grant that all who invoke the Blessed Virgin of Guadalupe, may seek with ever more lively faith the progress of peoples in the ways of justice and of peace. 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 Our Lady of Guadalupe

 

 

 


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December 11, 2018

Mt 18: 12-14

What do you think? If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.

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 Deepest Desire: Our Closeness

Jesus’ parable about the lost sheep is one we have heard very often. In the context of Advent, we can imagine not only ourselves, but the entire world as a lost sheep. At one point in the Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius invites those making the retreat to look down on the world with God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They see the world for what it is, the holy, the profane, and the mundane. They look on us now, too. They see people loving and hating, at peace and at war, some starving and some in luxury, those working for justice and those who (hopefully) unknowingly work against it. Those who have wandered, and those who are close to his heart. They see our own hearts, at times following the law written in our hearts, at other times turning away from our creator. And they say in unison “It is time for salvation to come. It is time for them to know how great Our love is.”

—Mike Tedone, SJ, is a Jesuit scholastic of the Jesuits West Province in his first year of regency at Sacred Heart Nativity Schools in San Jose, CA.

Prayer

Lord, at times I am in the fold. Other times, I am lost and wandering. But you come and search for me, to bring me close to you. Grant me the grace to see you as you enter into my life each day, so that by your grace I may live in such a way that others may see that I am inspired by you, the Good Shepherd. Amen.

—Mike Tedone, SJ

 


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December 10, 2018

Lk 5:15-26

But now more than ever the word about Jesus spread abroad; many crowds would gather to hear him and to be cured of their diseases. But he would withdraw to deserted places and pray.

One day, while he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting near by (they had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem); and the power of the Lord was with him to heal. Just then some men came, carrying a paralyzed man on a bed. They were trying to bring him in and lay him before Jesus; but finding no way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the middle of the crowd in front of Jesus.

When he saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven you.” Then the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, “Who is this who is speaking blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” When Jesus perceived their questionings, he answered them, “Why do you raise such questions in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” —he said to the one who was paralyzed—”I say to you, stand up and take your bed and go to your home.”

Immediately he stood up before them, took what he had been lying on, and went to his home, glorifying God. Amazement seized all of them, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, “We have seen strange things today.”

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.

Bringing another into the presence of Jesus

In Jesus’ time, it was believed that disease or paralysis was a result of a personal sin. It was believed that being paralyzed was an outward sign that identified that the person had a shady moral compass.

What sticks out to me about the Gospel passage today is the willingness and dedication of the people who help the paralyzed man attain forgiveness (ultimately, to be physically healed) for his sins. First, these men are helping a man who by his physical health was considered by society to be a bad person. Then these men are going out of their way, climbing a roof, lowering a paralyzed man who is probably very heavy and difficult to move, from the top story of a building just to bring him in the presence of Jesus. These men took the outcast of society and did all that they could to bring that individual to the face of God.

Perhaps we should look within our own society and lives. Who are the “paralyzed” outcasts that are in need of seeing the love, forgiveness, and greatness of God? In what ways can we lower them, so they may find themselves in the presence of Jesus?

—Beth Moeller is a member of the Billiken Teacher Corps through Saint Louis University and is the campus minister and theology teacher at Loyola Academy of Saint Louis, a middle school for boys.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, open my eyes to recognize the needs of those around me, so that I may respond in love and, in doing so, make you known in their midst.  Amen.

—The Jesuit Prayer team

 


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December 9, 2018

Second Sunday of Advent

Lk 3:1-6

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness.

He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”

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.

Preparing to see God

Advent brings a time of hope and expectation for new life. Luke quotes the prophet Isaiah:

In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD….
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed

Preparation is needed to “see” God’s saving action. Images include creating a level playing field and facilitating an encounter with God.

The prophet Baruch gives hope to God’s people. Paul, in Philippians, wants us to grow in awareness to then choose well:

… that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value …

What are the “rough places” and disordered affects in my life? Can I perceive and react to suffering – and also to grace! – in my midst?

—Fr. Rafael Garcia, SJ, is a member of the Jesuits Central and Southern Province. He serves as associate pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in El Paso, Texas, where he ministers to people who are migrants and refugees.

Prayer

Loving God, as I once again anticipate the coming of Jesus, help me prepare by both looking inward and outward to recognize your presence.

—Fr. Rafael Garcia, SJ

 

 

 

 

 


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December 8, 2018

Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

LK 1:26-38

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.

The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.”

Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from 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.

Called and Sent

A personal challenge during these Advent days is to recognize just what Jesus’ invitation and call might involve for me this year. Who are the “sick” I am to cure? How in particular—perhaps with a listening ear, a bright smile, or a few thoughtful words—can I strengthen the heart of a family member or good friend?

And then there is Jesus’ challenging reminder that “without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.” Who needs a piece of my heart this weekend? Probably not in a dramatic, earth-shattering way, but more likely in the time it takes to listen, to affirm, perhaps to challenge, but always to love. Ask Mary to help you love totally as she did!

—The Jesuit Prayer team at St. Camillus

Prayer

Hail Mary, full of grace,
the Lord is with you.
Blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners,
now and at the hour of our death.
Amen.

—Traditional prayer

 


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December 7, 2018

St. Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

Mt 9: 27-31

As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, crying loudly, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!” When he entered the house, the blind men came to him; and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They said to him, “Yes, Lord.”

Then he touched their eyes and said, “According to your faith let it be done to you.” And their eyes were opened. Then Jesus sternly ordered them, “See that no one knows of this.” But they went away and spread the news about him throughout that district.

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.

Healed by a touch

Many of us are tempted to hide our wounds, pain, and brokenness. Our shame may run deep. We may wonder: If people really knew the things we’ve said and done and thought… if they really knew us, would they love us?

This story shows Jesus healing in a very particular way. He heals not with a look or with words but with touch. Touch requires closeness. Jesus does not keep them – or us- at arm’s length.

Our God is the God of the incarnation, our God is a God of intimacy.

As we prepare our hearts this Advent, I invite you to pray with me: What is the pain in your life that you’d like Jesus to touch? What is the pain in our world that you’d like Jesus to touch?

—Lauren Hackman-Brooks is a Chaplain in University Ministry at Loyola University Chicago – Health Sciences Division and serves on the Board of Directors at Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House.

Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. Touch the parts of my life and our world that are hurting. Amen.

—Adapted from the Jesus Prayer by Lauren Hackman-Brooks

 


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December 6, 2018

St. Nicholas

Is 26:1-6

On that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah: We have a strong city; he sets up victory like walls and bulwarks. Open the gates, so that the righteous nation that keeps faith may enter in. Those of steadfast mind you keep in peace— in peace because they trust in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for in the Lord God you have an everlasting rock.

For he has brought low the inhabitants of the height; the lofty city he lays low. He lays it low to the ground, casts it to the dust. The foot tramples it, the feet of the poor, the steps of the needy.

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.

Bulldozed by God

Bulldozers! Dynamite! Global warming! These are the very literal explanations my first graders give for how God tumbles cities to the ground, lifts valleys, and makes low mountains. As adults, we look for meaning in these texts instead of trying to figure out how God might accomplish such wonders. The reading today, however, addresses both the how and the why.

“The foot tramples it, the feet of the poor, the steps of the needy.” Creation is transformed by the poor, for the poor. We should know this. We’ve read the Gospels and listened to Pope Francis. Somehow we still miss it. I live in suburbia, numbed to physical poverty by landscaping and consumerism, but I encounter the spiritually deprived daily. Yet, I shelter my eyes to their need too. My busyness shelters me and oppresses others.

Will I let the Christmas Incarnation bulldoze me? Will you?

—Mark Bartholet is a John Carroll University alumnus who coordinates the Contemplative Leaders in Action program and Catechesis of the Good Shepherd at St. Peter Catholic Church, the Jesuit parish in Charlotte, NC.

Prayer

Prayer for the Poor

God of Justice,
open our eyes
to see you in the face of the poor.
Open our ears
to hear you in the cries of the exploited.
Open our mouths
to defend you in the public squares
as well as in private deeds.
Remind us that what we do
to the least ones,
we do to you.

Amen.

—Prayer from Being Neighbor, the Catechism and Social Justice, Catholic Campaign for Human Development, ©1998 United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

 

 

 

 

 


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December 5, 2018

Mt 15: 29-37

After Jesus had left that place, he passed along the Sea of Galilee, and he went up the mountain, where he sat down. Great crowds came to him, bringing with them the lame, the maimed, the blind, the mute, and many others. They put them at his feet, and he cured them, so that the crowd was amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the maimed whole, the lame walking, and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel.

Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat; and I do not want to send them away hungry, for they might faint on the way.” The disciples said to him, “Where are we to get enough bread in the desert to feed so great a crowd?” Jesus asked them, “How many loaves have you?” They said, “Seven, and a few small fish.”

Then ordering the crowd to sit down on the ground, he took the seven loaves and the fish; and after giving thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all of them ate and were filled; and they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full.

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.

Begin with compassion

Jesus tells the disciples, “I have compassion for the crowd.” Do the disciples allow themselves to feel this compassion? Or, when they ask where they will get enough bread, are they too overwhelmed by the impossibility of the of the task of feeding them all? Reading this account, I see myself as one of the disciples and remember many times I’ve looked at hunger or other problems in the world and in my own community and thought, “It’s too much. How can I even begin to address it??

Jesus gently guides the disciples away from their complacency by asking, “What do you have?” Let us begin by allowing ourselves to be moved with compassion, offering the little we have to begin, and praying with faith that Jesus will make it enough.

—Beth Franzosa teaches in the Religious Studies department at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School.

Prayer

Our Father,
who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
Amen.

—The Lord’s Prayer

 

 

 

 


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December 14, 2018

St. John of the Cross

Is 48: 17-19

Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: I am the Lord your God, who teaches you for your own good, who leads you in the way you should go. O that you had paid attention to my commandments!

Then your prosperity would have been like a river, and your success like the waves of the sea; your offspring would have been like the sand, and your descendants like its grains; their name would never be cut off or destroyed from before me.

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.

Teaching us for our own good

Clunk, shuffle. “Take off mama’s boots and put them by the door.”

Twist, squeak. “Let me adjust the bathtub knobs.”

News from day care. “We do not bite people.”

I don’t mean to be overbearing. But I see what’s happening, and I don’t want my daughter to fall, to burn herself, or to hurt other people.

With boundaries and instructions, I try to teach her for her own good. Yet, I cannot protect her from every physical and emotional hurt in this life. Instead, I try to show her the way she should go and also hold space for her to explore, take risks and grow.

As a parent of a two-year old, I can begin to imagine what God may feel like in this passage. How many times must God have said to humanity, “O that you had paid attention…!”

What is God teaching me for my own good?

—Lauren Hackman-Brooks is a Chaplain in University Ministry at Loyola University Chicago – Health Sciences Division and serves on the Board of Directors at Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House.

Prayer

God, You are more patient than the most patient parent. Help me to allow myself to be loved by you. Teach me for my own good. Lead me in the ways I should go. Guide my feet in the way of peace.

Amen.  

—Lauren Hackman-Brooks

 


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December 13, 2018

St. Lucy

Is 41: 13-20

For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Do not fear, I will help you.” Do not fear, you worm Jacob, you insect Israel! I will help you, says the Lord; your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel. Now, I will make of you a threshing sledge, sharp, new, and having teeth; you shall thresh the mountains and crush them, and you shall make the hills like chaff. You shall winnow them and the wind shall carry them away, and the tempest shall scatter them. Then you shall rejoice in the Lord; in the Holy One of Israel you shall glory.

When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the Lord will answer them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I will open rivers on the bare heights, and fountains in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water. I will put in the wilderness the cedar, the acacia, the myrtle, and the olive; I will set in the desert the cypress, the plane and the pine together, so that all may see and know, all may consider and understand, that the hand of the Lord has done this, the Holy One of Israel has created it.

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 will be all in all

Before I read this prophecy to my third graders last weekend, I asked some questions:

Me: “What is Advent all about?”

Child: “Preparing for Jesus’s birthday.”

Me: “True. We’re also preparing for something else. Does anyone know?”

Child: “When Jesus comes back and God will be all in all.”  

Then we read the prophecy and looked for clues of either event. Despite the tough vocabulary, at least one child listened to the end. She said this was a Parousia prophecy. “The end says that everybody sees and knows that God made everything. All people – Catholics, Jewish people, Hindus – all together seeing and knowing God.” After catching my breath – she actually said Hindus – I realized I could probably read the passage a little closer. Take a few minutes to read it again to find something that you missed about the time when God will be all in all.

—Mark Bartholet is a John Carroll University alumnus who coordinates the Contemplative Leaders in Action program and Catechesis of the Good Shepherd at St. Peter Catholic Church, the Jesuit parish in Charlotte, NC.

Prayer

Hearing Better Voices

We make a pause
amid many voices–
some innocent and some seductive,
some violent and some coercive,
some forgiven and genuine,
some not.
Amid this cacophony that pulls us
in many directions,
we have these old voices of your prophets;
these voices attest to
your fierce self,
your severe summons,
your generous promise,
your abiding presence.

Give us good ears,
perchance you have a word for us tonight;
Give us grace and courage to listen,
to answer,
to care,
and to rejoice,
that we may be more fully your people.

—Walter Brueggemann from Prayers for a Privileged People

 

 

 

 


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December 12, 2018

Our Lady of Guadalupe

Lk 1: 26-38

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.

The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.”

Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from 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.

God is with us

Today, we celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, who appeared to St. Juan Diego in Mexico in 1531. She looked like a woman from his own culture and spoke to him in his own language, and she gave a message like the angel’s message in today’s Gospel: “Don’t be afraid. Nothing is impossible with God. Go, and tell those in power that God is with you.”

When I was teaching students from Mexican immigrant families at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Chicago, I heard the name of Our Lady of Guadalupe often in conversations with my students’ parents about their prayers and hopes for their children. She reminds us that God is with us, in all nations, and has a special care for the humble and those in need.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us!

—Beth Franzosa teaches in the Religious Studies department at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School.

Prayer

O God, Father of mercies, who placed your people under the singular protection of your Son’s most holy Mother, grant that all who invoke the Blessed Virgin of Guadalupe, may seek with ever more lively faith the progress of peoples in the ways of justice and of peace. 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 Our Lady of Guadalupe

 

 

 


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December 11, 2018

Mt 18: 12-14

What do you think? If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.

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 Deepest Desire: Our Closeness

Jesus’ parable about the lost sheep is one we have heard very often. In the context of Advent, we can imagine not only ourselves, but the entire world as a lost sheep. At one point in the Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius invites those making the retreat to look down on the world with God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They see the world for what it is, the holy, the profane, and the mundane. They look on us now, too. They see people loving and hating, at peace and at war, some starving and some in luxury, those working for justice and those who (hopefully) unknowingly work against it. Those who have wandered, and those who are close to his heart. They see our own hearts, at times following the law written in our hearts, at other times turning away from our creator. And they say in unison “It is time for salvation to come. It is time for them to know how great Our love is.”

—Mike Tedone, SJ, is a Jesuit scholastic of the Jesuits West Province in his first year of regency at Sacred Heart Nativity Schools in San Jose, CA.

Prayer

Lord, at times I am in the fold. Other times, I am lost and wandering. But you come and search for me, to bring me close to you. Grant me the grace to see you as you enter into my life each day, so that by your grace I may live in such a way that others may see that I am inspired by you, the Good Shepherd. Amen.

—Mike Tedone, SJ

 


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December 10, 2018

Lk 5:15-26

But now more than ever the word about Jesus spread abroad; many crowds would gather to hear him and to be cured of their diseases. But he would withdraw to deserted places and pray.

One day, while he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting near by (they had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem); and the power of the Lord was with him to heal. Just then some men came, carrying a paralyzed man on a bed. They were trying to bring him in and lay him before Jesus; but finding no way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the middle of the crowd in front of Jesus.

When he saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven you.” Then the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, “Who is this who is speaking blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” When Jesus perceived their questionings, he answered them, “Why do you raise such questions in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” —he said to the one who was paralyzed—”I say to you, stand up and take your bed and go to your home.”

Immediately he stood up before them, took what he had been lying on, and went to his home, glorifying God. Amazement seized all of them, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, “We have seen strange things today.”

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.

Bringing another into the presence of Jesus

In Jesus’ time, it was believed that disease or paralysis was a result of a personal sin. It was believed that being paralyzed was an outward sign that identified that the person had a shady moral compass.

What sticks out to me about the Gospel passage today is the willingness and dedication of the people who help the paralyzed man attain forgiveness (ultimately, to be physically healed) for his sins. First, these men are helping a man who by his physical health was considered by society to be a bad person. Then these men are going out of their way, climbing a roof, lowering a paralyzed man who is probably very heavy and difficult to move, from the top story of a building just to bring him in the presence of Jesus. These men took the outcast of society and did all that they could to bring that individual to the face of God.

Perhaps we should look within our own society and lives. Who are the “paralyzed” outcasts that are in need of seeing the love, forgiveness, and greatness of God? In what ways can we lower them, so they may find themselves in the presence of Jesus?

—Beth Moeller is a member of the Billiken Teacher Corps through Saint Louis University and is the campus minister and theology teacher at Loyola Academy of Saint Louis, a middle school for boys.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, open my eyes to recognize the needs of those around me, so that I may respond in love and, in doing so, make you known in their midst.  Amen.

—The Jesuit Prayer team

 


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December 9, 2018

Second Sunday of Advent

Lk 3:1-6

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness.

He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”

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.

Preparing to see God

Advent brings a time of hope and expectation for new life. Luke quotes the prophet Isaiah:

In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD….
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed

Preparation is needed to “see” God’s saving action. Images include creating a level playing field and facilitating an encounter with God.

The prophet Baruch gives hope to God’s people. Paul, in Philippians, wants us to grow in awareness to then choose well:

… that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value …

What are the “rough places” and disordered affects in my life? Can I perceive and react to suffering – and also to grace! – in my midst?

—Fr. Rafael Garcia, SJ, is a member of the Jesuits Central and Southern Province. He serves as associate pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in El Paso, Texas, where he ministers to people who are migrants and refugees.

Prayer

Loving God, as I once again anticipate the coming of Jesus, help me prepare by both looking inward and outward to recognize your presence.

—Fr. Rafael Garcia, SJ

 

 

 

 

 


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December 8, 2018

Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

LK 1:26-38

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.

The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.”

Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from 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.

Called and Sent

A personal challenge during these Advent days is to recognize just what Jesus’ invitation and call might involve for me this year. Who are the “sick” I am to cure? How in particular—perhaps with a listening ear, a bright smile, or a few thoughtful words—can I strengthen the heart of a family member or good friend?

And then there is Jesus’ challenging reminder that “without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.” Who needs a piece of my heart this weekend? Probably not in a dramatic, earth-shattering way, but more likely in the time it takes to listen, to affirm, perhaps to challenge, but always to love. Ask Mary to help you love totally as she did!

—The Jesuit Prayer team at St. Camillus

Prayer

Hail Mary, full of grace,
the Lord is with you.
Blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners,
now and at the hour of our death.
Amen.

—Traditional prayer

 


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December 7, 2018

St. Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

Mt 9: 27-31

As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, crying loudly, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!” When he entered the house, the blind men came to him; and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They said to him, “Yes, Lord.”

Then he touched their eyes and said, “According to your faith let it be done to you.” And their eyes were opened. Then Jesus sternly ordered them, “See that no one knows of this.” But they went away and spread the news about him throughout that district.

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.

Healed by a touch

Many of us are tempted to hide our wounds, pain, and brokenness. Our shame may run deep. We may wonder: If people really knew the things we’ve said and done and thought… if they really knew us, would they love us?

This story shows Jesus healing in a very particular way. He heals not with a look or with words but with touch. Touch requires closeness. Jesus does not keep them – or us- at arm’s length.

Our God is the God of the incarnation, our God is a God of intimacy.

As we prepare our hearts this Advent, I invite you to pray with me: What is the pain in your life that you’d like Jesus to touch? What is the pain in our world that you’d like Jesus to touch?

—Lauren Hackman-Brooks is a Chaplain in University Ministry at Loyola University Chicago – Health Sciences Division and serves on the Board of Directors at Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House.

Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. Touch the parts of my life and our world that are hurting. Amen.

—Adapted from the Jesus Prayer by Lauren Hackman-Brooks

 


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December 6, 2018

St. Nicholas

Is 26:1-6

On that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah: We have a strong city; he sets up victory like walls and bulwarks. Open the gates, so that the righteous nation that keeps faith may enter in. Those of steadfast mind you keep in peace— in peace because they trust in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for in the Lord God you have an everlasting rock.

For he has brought low the inhabitants of the height; the lofty city he lays low. He lays it low to the ground, casts it to the dust. The foot tramples it, the feet of the poor, the steps of the needy.

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.

Bulldozed by God

Bulldozers! Dynamite! Global warming! These are the very literal explanations my first graders give for how God tumbles cities to the ground, lifts valleys, and makes low mountains. As adults, we look for meaning in these texts instead of trying to figure out how God might accomplish such wonders. The reading today, however, addresses both the how and the why.

“The foot tramples it, the feet of the poor, the steps of the needy.” Creation is transformed by the poor, for the poor. We should know this. We’ve read the Gospels and listened to Pope Francis. Somehow we still miss it. I live in suburbia, numbed to physical poverty by landscaping and consumerism, but I encounter the spiritually deprived daily. Yet, I shelter my eyes to their need too. My busyness shelters me and oppresses others.

Will I let the Christmas Incarnation bulldoze me? Will you?

—Mark Bartholet is a John Carroll University alumnus who coordinates the Contemplative Leaders in Action program and Catechesis of the Good Shepherd at St. Peter Catholic Church, the Jesuit parish in Charlotte, NC.

Prayer

Prayer for the Poor

God of Justice,
open our eyes
to see you in the face of the poor.
Open our ears
to hear you in the cries of the exploited.
Open our mouths
to defend you in the public squares
as well as in private deeds.
Remind us that what we do
to the least ones,
we do to you.

Amen.

—Prayer from Being Neighbor, the Catechism and Social Justice, Catholic Campaign for Human Development, ©1998 United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

 

 

 

 

 


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December 5, 2018

Mt 15: 29-37

After Jesus had left that place, he passed along the Sea of Galilee, and he went up the mountain, where he sat down. Great crowds came to him, bringing with them the lame, the maimed, the blind, the mute, and many others. They put them at his feet, and he cured them, so that the crowd was amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the maimed whole, the lame walking, and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel.

Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat; and I do not want to send them away hungry, for they might faint on the way.” The disciples said to him, “Where are we to get enough bread in the desert to feed so great a crowd?” Jesus asked them, “How many loaves have you?” They said, “Seven, and a few small fish.”

Then ordering the crowd to sit down on the ground, he took the seven loaves and the fish; and after giving thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all of them ate and were filled; and they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full.

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.

Begin with compassion

Jesus tells the disciples, “I have compassion for the crowd.” Do the disciples allow themselves to feel this compassion? Or, when they ask where they will get enough bread, are they too overwhelmed by the impossibility of the of the task of feeding them all? Reading this account, I see myself as one of the disciples and remember many times I’ve looked at hunger or other problems in the world and in my own community and thought, “It’s too much. How can I even begin to address it??

Jesus gently guides the disciples away from their complacency by asking, “What do you have?” Let us begin by allowing ourselves to be moved with compassion, offering the little we have to begin, and praying with faith that Jesus will make it enough.

—Beth Franzosa teaches in the Religious Studies department at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School.

Prayer

Our Father,
who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
Amen.

—The Lord’s Prayer

 

 

 

 


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