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July 31, 2019

St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus

Mt 13: 44-46

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought 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.

Finding that treasure beyond price

Today we celebrate the feast day of St. Ignatius of Loyola. The story goes that, while recovering from injuries he sustained in battle, Ignatius read a book on the lives of the saints and on the life of Christ. These readings changed the direction of his life. Without even knowing that he was searching, Ignatius had found his treasure, not in earthly possessions nor in worldly fame, as his noble family may have expected, but in a spiritual gift beyond price. 

Every day don’t we also search for our treasure? If we examine what is truly important to us in our lives, we may just find that our treasure is an unexpected gift of the Holy Spirit right in front of our eyes. As the Gospel message for today asks, will we, out of joy, go and sell all that we have so we can own that treasure?

—Kathy England is a Pastoral Associate at St. Francis Xavier Church in Cincinnati, OH.

Prayer

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding,
and my entire will,
All I have and call my own.

You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.

Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace,
that is enough for me.

—Suscipe of St. Ignatius of Loyola


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July 30, 2019

Ex 33: 7-11; 34:5B-9, 28

Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, far off from the camp; he called it the tent of meeting. And everyone who sought the Lord would go out to the tent of meeting, which was outside the camp. Whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people would rise and stand, each of them, at the entrance of their tents and watch Moses until he had gone into the tent. 

When Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent, and the Lordwould speak with Moses. When all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would rise and bow down, all of them, at the entrance of their tent. Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Then he would return to the camp; but his young assistant, Joshua son of Nun, would not leave the tent.

The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name, “The Lord.” The Lord passed before him, and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, yet by no means clearing the guilty, but visiting the iniquity of the parents upon the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” 

And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth, and worshiped. He said, “If now I have found favor in your sight, O Lord, I pray, let the Lord go with us. Although this is a stiff-necked people, pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for your inheritance.”

He was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights; he neither ate bread nor drank water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the ten commandments.

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.

Holy Other and Wholly Other

The God of grandeur and closeness

Moses’ conversations with God, like most of ours, are a mix of strangeness and comfort. The encounter is surrounded with smoke and clouds, with the pomp and ceremony of God’s people standing at rapt attention outside their tents as Moses meets the mighty God who led them out of Egypt. Yet inside the tent Moses was encountering God in a very different way, speaking to God “as one speaks to a friend.” God, it seems, is both the Holy Other, a partner in an intimate friendship with the Divine but also Wholly Other, a creator God who cannot be reduced to our scale. 

In the Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius invites us, like Moses, to speak intimately to God “as one friend speaks to another.” Today’s readings are a good reminder that God invites us both to familiarity with God who is near as well as to wonder at the grandeur and bigness of God.

Fr. Matt Spotts, SJ, is a recently ordained priest of the Midwest Jesuits serving as an associate pastor at Ss. Joseph-St. Francis Xavier parish in Wilmette, IL as well as doing pastoral ministry at Loyola Academy in Wilmette.

Prayer

God, you are the source of everything that is, the ground of all Being and the creator of all. Yet somehow we are not beneath your notice. Today, give me the strength to speak to you as a friend does to another, and in your time and your way, draw me into the bigness of you. 

—Fr. Matt Spotts, SJ


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July 29, 2019

St. Martha

Lk 10: 38-42

Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away 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.

Two parts of ourselves

At first when I read this story I imagine two women at odds with one another and a big part of me wants to defend Martha.  I empathize with her, especially as a working mother. There is stuff that needs to get done and someone has to make sure it does.  But the challenge for me is not to imagine two separate, differently motivated women, but rather two parts of myself. One part strives and desires order, justice, goodness, change and all the things. The other part is the one that just desires God. Too often I think I pay more attention to the first part, when what will most deeply satisfy me is the second. This Gospel reminds me to slow down and just sit with God. The dishes will always get done, or maybe they won’t.  But nothing will ever satisfy me as much as closeness to God.    

Megan Agliano teaches in religious studies at Brophy College Preparatory in Phoenix, AZ.  

Prayer

Jesus, help calm my heart and mind.  Open my ears to hear your voice and feel your presence.  To be with you is enough. Amen.  

—Megan Agliano


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July 28, 2019

Lk 11: 1-13

He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial.” 

And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs. 

“So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? 

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

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

Teach us to pray

Frequently in the Gospels, when someone makes a request of Jesus or asks him a question, his response makes it clear that there was something disordered in the request. Not so here. When one of the disciples says to Jesus, “teach us to pray,” he is only too happy to oblige. Making it possible for us to enter into the intimate exchange between Father, Son, and Spirit is precisely what the Son took flesh to do. But notice that Jesus does not set out on his own to speak about prayer to the disciples. He waits for one of them to ask. Having seen him go off time after time to pray, a growing sense of wonder develops in the disciples: What is this world of prayer that he enters? Can we enter it too? This disposition of awe remains the essential touchstone of Christian prayer, which leaves the Lord free to show us and give us whatever most pleases him.

Matthew Baugh SJ is a member of the USA Central and Southern Province and serves as the associate pastor of St. Francis Xavier College Church in St. Louis.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, you taught us how to pray, but we know that you hear us even when we don’t feel we have the right words.  Let us always remember that we will find you when we seek you, and that you will open any door on which we knock. Amen.

—The Jesuit Prayer team


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July 27, 2019

Mt 13: 13-24-30

The reason I speak to them in parables is that ‘seeing they do not perceive, and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand.’

He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. 

So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’ He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 

But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”

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.

Weeds among the wheat of our lives

Jesus gives us a powerful reminder in today’s Gospel: be careful about your judgments.  If our human freedom is one of God’s greatest gifts, then we know we are always capable of a change of heart (ours or someone else’s).  There are likely a few weeds growing alongside some of the fine wheat in each of our lives, so who are we to judge who might be “good” or “bad” amongst our neighbors, coworkers, family, or friends?  The truth is that life’s natural planting, cultivating, and watering will, in the end, allow God to take good care of the final sorting out.  

—The Jesuit Prayer team

Prayer

Lord God, help us to recognize the weeds growing in our own lives so that we can pull them out and grow closer to you.  May we focus on the wheat growing in the hearts of others, and avoid the temptation to judge those around us. Amen.

—The Jesuit Prayer team


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July 26, 2019

Sts. Joachim and Anne

Mt 13: 18-23

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

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

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

Cooperating with the growing process

I recall that when I was young I so wanted to be the person who fits into the final category and to be the person who bears fruit for Christ. My juvenile brain wanted to make the Christian life some sort of competition. I now realize that I am in every category Christ describes as he interprets this parable. It just depends on the day.

The challenge for me is to accept that, whether I am the path, rocky ground, among thorns or rich soil I am still loved infinitely and unconditionally by the Father who created me. I can’t will myself to be rich soil. I need to trust that the sower will continue, unceasingly, to sow while I pray for the grace to be cooperative with the growing process.

—Jerry Skoch is a Spiritual Director and Vice President & Chief Mission Officer at Saint Ignatius High School in Cleveland, OH.

Prayer

Dear Lord,
Give me the patience to wait upon your graces. Quiet my head so that I can listen to you with my heart. Give me the wisdom to discern your will and the freedom to choose your will for me.
Amen.

—Jerry Skoch


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July 25, 2019

St. James, Apostle

Mt 20: 20-28

Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to him with her sons, and kneeling before him, she asked a favor of him. And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Declare that these two sons of mine will sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” But Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.”

He said to them, “You will indeed drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left, this is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” When the ten heard it, they were angry with the two brothers. But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

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

Choose to help

In The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life, Fr. Jim Martin, SJ, writes: “…Jesus condemns the ‘strong’ who could help if they wanted, but don’t bother to do so.”

Jesus makes it very clear in today’s Gospel that he came to serve, not to be served. In the same light, God wants us to use our gifts and talents to serve those we encounter each and every day. God isn’t asking us to hold back our potential and limit our success. Rather, God encourages us to serve others no matter what we do. 

In your daily life, how can you choose to help, rather than disregard? When someone asks your help, can you challenge yourself to look them in the eyes and answer as if you were speaking to Jesus?

—Mikayla Lofton is the Grants Program Manager for the Cristo Rey Network and was a Jesuit Volunteer in Atlanta (‘15-’16).

Prayer

Prayer for Generosity

Lord Jesus, teach me to be generous;
teach me to serve you as you deserve,
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labor and not to seek reward,
except that of knowing that I do your will.

—St. Ignatius of Loyola


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July 24, 2019

Mt 13: 1-9

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

Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!”

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

I wonder…

I have been a Youth Worship leader at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church for 14 years (fun fact – I married Presbyterian clergy.)

Today’s Gospel is a favorite of the group.  Telling the story involves acting out the passage with play figures and asking “I wonder” questions.  The adult asks, “I wonder… who is the sower?” “Jesus!” they all answer. It’s a Bible story, after all.  But then we go a little deeper and we wonder what the seeds might represent. Littler ones stay concrete – actual seeds.  But older children might bring up that *seeds* are gifts from God like love, generosity, or mercy. Every now and then, a particularly insightful child even wonders if the seeds are ideas for action.

For me, I wonder…  Am I offering rocky ground or rich soil to offered gifts? Where are the thorns in my response to Jesus? Where do my roots run deep, and what fruit will they bear? 

For me, it’s a story ripe for discernment. Hmmmm…. I wonder…

Jen LaMaster is an Assistant Principal at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in Indianapolis, IN.

Prayer

Your Heart Today

Where there is fear I can allay,
Where there is pain I can heal,
Where there are wounds I can bind,
And hunger I can fill:
Lord, grant me courage,
Lord, grant me strength,
Grant me compassion
That I may be your heart today.

Where there is hate I can confront,
Where there are yokes I can release,
Where there are captives I can free
And anger I can appease:
Lord, grant me courage,
Lord, grant me strength,
Grant me compassion
That I may be your heart today.

When comes the day I dread
To see our broken world,
Protect me from myself grown cold
That your people I may behold.
And when I’ve done all that I could,
Yet, there are hearts I cannot move,
Lord, give me hope,
That I may be your heart today.

—Fr. Manoling Francisco, SJ


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July 23, 2019

St. Bridget

Mt 12: 46-50

While he was still speaking to the crowds, his mother and his brothers were standing outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, “Look, your mother and your brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.” But to the one who had told him this, Jesus replied, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 

And pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven 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.

Seeking to do the will of the Father

It would be easy to interpret Jesus as slighting Mary in today’s Gospel. She shows up to see him in his traveling ministry and, when he is informed that his family has come, Jesus calls into question who he should consider his family. In that moment, we are given the chance to be counted among Christ’s brothers and sisters and mother while Mary’s role seems to be downplayed. Yet Mary is the mother of Christ precisely because she preceded all of us in seeking wholeheartedly to do the will of the Father. Even in this passage, she continues to follow Jesus and seek chances to draw near to him.

Do I truly wish to follow Jesus that closely and that persistently? Am I really willing to wholeheartedly make God’s will the center of my life? How deeply do I want to be Jesus’ sister or brother today?

Nick Courtney, SJ, is a Jesuit scholastic from the USA Central and Southern Province currently working at Strake Jesuit College Preparatory in Houston, TX, where he teaches history and coaches football.

Prayer

Jesus, help me to listen for the will of the Father today. Grant me the grace to do that will as generously and as humbly as your mother. Give me the courage to live as one of your family. Amen.

—Nick Courtney, SJ


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July 22, 2019

St. Mary Magdalen

Jn 20: 1-2, 11-18

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

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

When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 

Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 

Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

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

Falling in love with our neighbor

“Stop holding onto me – go tell the others,” says Jesus to Mary Magdalene.  In this we hear echoes of Jesus’ new commandment from earlier in John’s Gospel: Love one another as I have loved you.   As opposed to many of the world’s former religions which focused on sacrifice to appease an angry God, Jesus reoriented religion to focus upon love of neighbor which, in this case, required Mary to run to disciples rather than dropping to her knees to worship Jesus.  Loving Jesus equals loving others.

Dean Brackley, SJ, who worked at the University of Central America and passionately advocated for social justice, shared the following about what happens to affluent North Americans when they journey to El Salvador: “They feel a little confused–again–like the disorientation of falling in love. In fact, that is what is happening, a kind of falling in love.”

It’s time to fall in love again, with Jesus and with the poor who hold a privileged place in his heart.  What can I do today to put myself in a position where I might experience and respond to the confusing and disorienting experience of falling in love?

Bill Kriege serves as the director of campus ministry at Rockhurst University in Kansas City, MO.

Prayer

Dear God, help us to fall in love, stay in love, for we know that it will decide everything.

—Modified by Bill Kriege from Pedro Arrupe’s Fall in Love


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July 31, 2019

St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus

Mt 13: 44-46

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought 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.

Finding that treasure beyond price

Today we celebrate the feast day of St. Ignatius of Loyola. The story goes that, while recovering from injuries he sustained in battle, Ignatius read a book on the lives of the saints and on the life of Christ. These readings changed the direction of his life. Without even knowing that he was searching, Ignatius had found his treasure, not in earthly possessions nor in worldly fame, as his noble family may have expected, but in a spiritual gift beyond price. 

Every day don’t we also search for our treasure? If we examine what is truly important to us in our lives, we may just find that our treasure is an unexpected gift of the Holy Spirit right in front of our eyes. As the Gospel message for today asks, will we, out of joy, go and sell all that we have so we can own that treasure?

—Kathy England is a Pastoral Associate at St. Francis Xavier Church in Cincinnati, OH.

Prayer

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding,
and my entire will,
All I have and call my own.

You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.

Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace,
that is enough for me.

—Suscipe of St. Ignatius of Loyola


Please share the Good Word with your friends!

July 30, 2019

Ex 33: 7-11; 34:5B-9, 28

Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, far off from the camp; he called it the tent of meeting. And everyone who sought the Lord would go out to the tent of meeting, which was outside the camp. Whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people would rise and stand, each of them, at the entrance of their tents and watch Moses until he had gone into the tent. 

When Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent, and the Lordwould speak with Moses. When all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would rise and bow down, all of them, at the entrance of their tent. Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Then he would return to the camp; but his young assistant, Joshua son of Nun, would not leave the tent.

The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name, “The Lord.” The Lord passed before him, and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, yet by no means clearing the guilty, but visiting the iniquity of the parents upon the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” 

And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth, and worshiped. He said, “If now I have found favor in your sight, O Lord, I pray, let the Lord go with us. Although this is a stiff-necked people, pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for your inheritance.”

He was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights; he neither ate bread nor drank water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the ten commandments.

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.

Holy Other and Wholly Other

The God of grandeur and closeness

Moses’ conversations with God, like most of ours, are a mix of strangeness and comfort. The encounter is surrounded with smoke and clouds, with the pomp and ceremony of God’s people standing at rapt attention outside their tents as Moses meets the mighty God who led them out of Egypt. Yet inside the tent Moses was encountering God in a very different way, speaking to God “as one speaks to a friend.” God, it seems, is both the Holy Other, a partner in an intimate friendship with the Divine but also Wholly Other, a creator God who cannot be reduced to our scale. 

In the Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius invites us, like Moses, to speak intimately to God “as one friend speaks to another.” Today’s readings are a good reminder that God invites us both to familiarity with God who is near as well as to wonder at the grandeur and bigness of God.

Fr. Matt Spotts, SJ, is a recently ordained priest of the Midwest Jesuits serving as an associate pastor at Ss. Joseph-St. Francis Xavier parish in Wilmette, IL as well as doing pastoral ministry at Loyola Academy in Wilmette.

Prayer

God, you are the source of everything that is, the ground of all Being and the creator of all. Yet somehow we are not beneath your notice. Today, give me the strength to speak to you as a friend does to another, and in your time and your way, draw me into the bigness of you. 

—Fr. Matt Spotts, SJ


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July 29, 2019

St. Martha

Lk 10: 38-42

Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away 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.

Two parts of ourselves

At first when I read this story I imagine two women at odds with one another and a big part of me wants to defend Martha.  I empathize with her, especially as a working mother. There is stuff that needs to get done and someone has to make sure it does.  But the challenge for me is not to imagine two separate, differently motivated women, but rather two parts of myself. One part strives and desires order, justice, goodness, change and all the things. The other part is the one that just desires God. Too often I think I pay more attention to the first part, when what will most deeply satisfy me is the second. This Gospel reminds me to slow down and just sit with God. The dishes will always get done, or maybe they won’t.  But nothing will ever satisfy me as much as closeness to God.    

Megan Agliano teaches in religious studies at Brophy College Preparatory in Phoenix, AZ.  

Prayer

Jesus, help calm my heart and mind.  Open my ears to hear your voice and feel your presence.  To be with you is enough. Amen.  

—Megan Agliano


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July 28, 2019

Lk 11: 1-13

He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial.” 

And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs. 

“So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? 

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

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

Teach us to pray

Frequently in the Gospels, when someone makes a request of Jesus or asks him a question, his response makes it clear that there was something disordered in the request. Not so here. When one of the disciples says to Jesus, “teach us to pray,” he is only too happy to oblige. Making it possible for us to enter into the intimate exchange between Father, Son, and Spirit is precisely what the Son took flesh to do. But notice that Jesus does not set out on his own to speak about prayer to the disciples. He waits for one of them to ask. Having seen him go off time after time to pray, a growing sense of wonder develops in the disciples: What is this world of prayer that he enters? Can we enter it too? This disposition of awe remains the essential touchstone of Christian prayer, which leaves the Lord free to show us and give us whatever most pleases him.

Matthew Baugh SJ is a member of the USA Central and Southern Province and serves as the associate pastor of St. Francis Xavier College Church in St. Louis.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, you taught us how to pray, but we know that you hear us even when we don’t feel we have the right words.  Let us always remember that we will find you when we seek you, and that you will open any door on which we knock. Amen.

—The Jesuit Prayer team


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July 27, 2019

Mt 13: 13-24-30

The reason I speak to them in parables is that ‘seeing they do not perceive, and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand.’

He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. 

So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’ He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 

But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”

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.

Weeds among the wheat of our lives

Jesus gives us a powerful reminder in today’s Gospel: be careful about your judgments.  If our human freedom is one of God’s greatest gifts, then we know we are always capable of a change of heart (ours or someone else’s).  There are likely a few weeds growing alongside some of the fine wheat in each of our lives, so who are we to judge who might be “good” or “bad” amongst our neighbors, coworkers, family, or friends?  The truth is that life’s natural planting, cultivating, and watering will, in the end, allow God to take good care of the final sorting out.  

—The Jesuit Prayer team

Prayer

Lord God, help us to recognize the weeds growing in our own lives so that we can pull them out and grow closer to you.  May we focus on the wheat growing in the hearts of others, and avoid the temptation to judge those around us. Amen.

—The Jesuit Prayer team


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July 26, 2019

Sts. Joachim and Anne

Mt 13: 18-23

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

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

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

Cooperating with the growing process

I recall that when I was young I so wanted to be the person who fits into the final category and to be the person who bears fruit for Christ. My juvenile brain wanted to make the Christian life some sort of competition. I now realize that I am in every category Christ describes as he interprets this parable. It just depends on the day.

The challenge for me is to accept that, whether I am the path, rocky ground, among thorns or rich soil I am still loved infinitely and unconditionally by the Father who created me. I can’t will myself to be rich soil. I need to trust that the sower will continue, unceasingly, to sow while I pray for the grace to be cooperative with the growing process.

—Jerry Skoch is a Spiritual Director and Vice President & Chief Mission Officer at Saint Ignatius High School in Cleveland, OH.

Prayer

Dear Lord,
Give me the patience to wait upon your graces. Quiet my head so that I can listen to you with my heart. Give me the wisdom to discern your will and the freedom to choose your will for me.
Amen.

—Jerry Skoch


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July 25, 2019

St. James, Apostle

Mt 20: 20-28

Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to him with her sons, and kneeling before him, she asked a favor of him. And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Declare that these two sons of mine will sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” But Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.”

He said to them, “You will indeed drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left, this is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” When the ten heard it, they were angry with the two brothers. But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

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

Choose to help

In The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life, Fr. Jim Martin, SJ, writes: “…Jesus condemns the ‘strong’ who could help if they wanted, but don’t bother to do so.”

Jesus makes it very clear in today’s Gospel that he came to serve, not to be served. In the same light, God wants us to use our gifts and talents to serve those we encounter each and every day. God isn’t asking us to hold back our potential and limit our success. Rather, God encourages us to serve others no matter what we do. 

In your daily life, how can you choose to help, rather than disregard? When someone asks your help, can you challenge yourself to look them in the eyes and answer as if you were speaking to Jesus?

—Mikayla Lofton is the Grants Program Manager for the Cristo Rey Network and was a Jesuit Volunteer in Atlanta (‘15-’16).

Prayer

Prayer for Generosity

Lord Jesus, teach me to be generous;
teach me to serve you as you deserve,
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labor and not to seek reward,
except that of knowing that I do your will.

—St. Ignatius of Loyola


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July 24, 2019

Mt 13: 1-9

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

Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!”

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

I wonder…

I have been a Youth Worship leader at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church for 14 years (fun fact – I married Presbyterian clergy.)

Today’s Gospel is a favorite of the group.  Telling the story involves acting out the passage with play figures and asking “I wonder” questions.  The adult asks, “I wonder… who is the sower?” “Jesus!” they all answer. It’s a Bible story, after all.  But then we go a little deeper and we wonder what the seeds might represent. Littler ones stay concrete – actual seeds.  But older children might bring up that *seeds* are gifts from God like love, generosity, or mercy. Every now and then, a particularly insightful child even wonders if the seeds are ideas for action.

For me, I wonder…  Am I offering rocky ground or rich soil to offered gifts? Where are the thorns in my response to Jesus? Where do my roots run deep, and what fruit will they bear? 

For me, it’s a story ripe for discernment. Hmmmm…. I wonder…

Jen LaMaster is an Assistant Principal at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in Indianapolis, IN.

Prayer

Your Heart Today

Where there is fear I can allay,
Where there is pain I can heal,
Where there are wounds I can bind,
And hunger I can fill:
Lord, grant me courage,
Lord, grant me strength,
Grant me compassion
That I may be your heart today.

Where there is hate I can confront,
Where there are yokes I can release,
Where there are captives I can free
And anger I can appease:
Lord, grant me courage,
Lord, grant me strength,
Grant me compassion
That I may be your heart today.

When comes the day I dread
To see our broken world,
Protect me from myself grown cold
That your people I may behold.
And when I’ve done all that I could,
Yet, there are hearts I cannot move,
Lord, give me hope,
That I may be your heart today.

—Fr. Manoling Francisco, SJ


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July 23, 2019

St. Bridget

Mt 12: 46-50

While he was still speaking to the crowds, his mother and his brothers were standing outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, “Look, your mother and your brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.” But to the one who had told him this, Jesus replied, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 

And pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven 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.

Seeking to do the will of the Father

It would be easy to interpret Jesus as slighting Mary in today’s Gospel. She shows up to see him in his traveling ministry and, when he is informed that his family has come, Jesus calls into question who he should consider his family. In that moment, we are given the chance to be counted among Christ’s brothers and sisters and mother while Mary’s role seems to be downplayed. Yet Mary is the mother of Christ precisely because she preceded all of us in seeking wholeheartedly to do the will of the Father. Even in this passage, she continues to follow Jesus and seek chances to draw near to him.

Do I truly wish to follow Jesus that closely and that persistently? Am I really willing to wholeheartedly make God’s will the center of my life? How deeply do I want to be Jesus’ sister or brother today?

Nick Courtney, SJ, is a Jesuit scholastic from the USA Central and Southern Province currently working at Strake Jesuit College Preparatory in Houston, TX, where he teaches history and coaches football.

Prayer

Jesus, help me to listen for the will of the Father today. Grant me the grace to do that will as generously and as humbly as your mother. Give me the courage to live as one of your family. Amen.

—Nick Courtney, SJ


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July 22, 2019

St. Mary Magdalen

Jn 20: 1-2, 11-18

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

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

When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 

Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 

Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

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

Falling in love with our neighbor

“Stop holding onto me – go tell the others,” says Jesus to Mary Magdalene.  In this we hear echoes of Jesus’ new commandment from earlier in John’s Gospel: Love one another as I have loved you.   As opposed to many of the world’s former religions which focused on sacrifice to appease an angry God, Jesus reoriented religion to focus upon love of neighbor which, in this case, required Mary to run to disciples rather than dropping to her knees to worship Jesus.  Loving Jesus equals loving others.

Dean Brackley, SJ, who worked at the University of Central America and passionately advocated for social justice, shared the following about what happens to affluent North Americans when they journey to El Salvador: “They feel a little confused–again–like the disorientation of falling in love. In fact, that is what is happening, a kind of falling in love.”

It’s time to fall in love again, with Jesus and with the poor who hold a privileged place in his heart.  What can I do today to put myself in a position where I might experience and respond to the confusing and disorienting experience of falling in love?

Bill Kriege serves as the director of campus ministry at Rockhurst University in Kansas City, MO.

Prayer

Dear God, help us to fall in love, stay in love, for we know that it will decide everything.

—Modified by Bill Kriege from Pedro Arrupe’s Fall in Love


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