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September 15, 2019

Lk 15: 1-32

Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So he told them this parable: “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? 

When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. 

“Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Then Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. 

So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.”’ 

So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate. 

“Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. 

But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’ Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’”

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.

There are sinners in heaven

The hardest part about heaven will be accepting that there are sinners there with us.

We will have to accept the presence in heaven of those who have done wrong – perhaps even great wrong – while on earth.  We will have to accept the presence of those who have done us wrong while on earth. We will have to love, and to forgive, those people.  We will have to accept that they belong in heaven because they are sinners loved and forgiven by God.

And we will have to accept that we are in heaven with those people because, like them, we too are sinners loved and forgiven by God.  We will have to be able to accept being loved, and forgiven, by those sinners. We will be in the company of those sinners, and we will be those sinners.

The hardest part about heaven will be accepting that there are other sinners there with us.

—Fr. Greg Ostdiek, SJ, is a former Navy officer who is now a Jesuit priest of the Midwest Province.  Ordained this past June, he is spending his first year after ordination studying education at Harvard.

Prayer

May the receiving of your Body and Blood,
Lord Jesus Christ,
not bring me to judgment and condemnation,
but through your loving mercy
be for me protection in mind and body
and a healing remedy.

—Fr. Greg Ostdiek, SJ


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September 14, 2019

Exaltation of the Cross

Jn 3: 13-17

No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

‘Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through 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.

The gift of the cross

Today’s feast invites us to pray anew over the gift that the dying and rising of Jesus is for each of us and for our families. That gift becomes more practical to us in times of illness, loss of work, family disagreement, or other struggles. Like Jesus, you and I lurch towards understanding that these personal and community experiences of dying and rising actually become our path towards wholeness and redemption. 

Pope Francis speaks about in urging us to find that “narrow gate” which defines our personal share in the cross of Jesus. Today’s Gospel reminds us that “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son….” What finer companion can I have in this journey of life than one who teaches me so personally how to meet life’s pain and sadness, as well as the hope and joy they also promise. 

Imagine you are standing before Jesus on his cross today.  Look intently into his eyes. Hand over to him your anxiety and pain. Find a place in your heart to let Jesus love you, strengthen you, and bring you hope.

—The Jesuit Prayer team

Prayer

Jesus, love of my soul, center of my heart!
Why am I not more eager
to endure pains and tribulations for love of you,
when you, my God, have suffered so many for me?

Come, then, every sort of trial in the world,
for this is my delight, to suffer for Jesus.
This is my joy, to follow my Savior,
and to find my consolation
with my consoler on the cross.

This is my happiness, this my pleasure:
to live with Jesus, to walk with Jesus,
to converse with Jesus;
to suffer with and for him,
this is my treasure.

—St. Alphonsus Rodriguez, SJ


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September 13, 2019

St. John Chrysostom

Lk 6: 39-42

He also told them a parable: “Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit? A disciple is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully qualified will be like the teacher. Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Friend, let me take out the speck in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log in your own eye? 

You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.

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.

Noticing the flaws around us

Today’s Gospel is one that seems to come up regularly when I’m talking with my children.  They are quick to point out when a sibling has snuck a piece of candy, or snatched a toy away, or said something hurtful, while seeming to forget that they engaged in these same behaviors sometimes minutes earlier. I need to remind them that each of us–adults included–makes mistakes and we need to focus on our own behavior rather than someone else’s.  In my own life, though, this is something I know intellectually, but can still struggle to put into practice. How easy it is to point out the flaws of relatives, coworkers, or even public figures we have never personally met.

Jesus knows that none of us are without flaws, and offers us this reminder to look at our own blind spots before starting in on others.  What are the errors that I am quick to point out in others? When these come to mind, how can I instead turn inward and take the opportunity to change my own behavior?

—Lauren Gaffey is the Associate Director of Communications for the Midwest Jesuits and the Program Director of Charis Ministries and Jesuit Connections.

Prayer

Good and gracious God, you look upon us with a compassionate gaze, not despising us for our shortcomings.  Help us to take this same view of others, while at the same time looking within ourselves to strive to overcome our failings.  May we never be so blinded by a log in our eye that we are unable to grow in friendship with you. Amen.

—Lauren Gaffey


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September 12, 2019

Lk 6: 27-38

“But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.“

If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”

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.

You can’t be serious, Jesus

Take more from the many who have little.

It is not enough to mock the estranged, but tear down your closest friends as well.

Seek community in being alone…with your smartphone.

We read these farcical statements and reject them as obviously inhuman, as we should. Still, when we engage their absurdity, we can sense a kind of perverse logic that may actually ring true with our experience and observations. Hard to see? Take a moment to recognize that each paradox above is actually lived out in our world in some way in how we spend our free time, the way we form public policy, or the paths where we seek wholeness. Modern life is full of paradoxical values and advice, and we often have no hesitation embracing their strange logic.

And so, Jesus offers us a list of paradoxical statements in today’s Gospel. We know some by heart: love enemies, give your coat and your shirt as well, lend money and expect nothing in return, the Golden Rule. It is far too easy to dismiss these statements as hyperbole; “Jesus didn’t literally mean to turn the other cheek!” What if he did?

One cold, rainy night in Washington, D.C., last year, I encountered a woman without shelter and literally gave her the shirt off my back. I still had two other layers on. I think of that encounter often and ponder, “Jesus, maybe my other two layers weren’t really necessary for that woman, but I know I missed something else I could give her. Forgive me.”

Jim Broderick King is Director of Ignatian Spirituality and Formation at Regis Jesuit High School in Aurora, Colorado, and is a spiritual director at the Ignatian Spirituality Program of Denver.

Prayer

Jesus, you challenge me. I want to follow your words, even your greatest command. But it costs a lot and it is uncomfortable. It even seems to defy what the world is telling me. Help me wear your compassion, humility, patience, hope, peace, and love not as burdens but as signs of our closeness. Teach me to shed these garments for any who need them – the poor, the afflicted, the lonely, even my enemies. I offer you my freedom, because it is my only path to true freedom. I offer you my life, because it is my only path to eternal life. May your mercy pour forth on me even more abundantly than I have offered it to others.

—Jim Broderick King


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September 11, 2019

Col 3: 1-11

So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.

Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient. These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life.

But now you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!

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.

What is holding you down?

Imagine you are suspended in the air. In one hand, a balloon is gently pulling you up to heaven. Wrapped around your feet are a number of vines, securely rooted in the earth. Each of those vines has a name. One might be “Anger”, one “Lust”, and another “Resentment.” Today, Paul teaches us that if we are to live in Christ, we have to kill these vines. Saint Ignatius teaches us to detach ourselves from those things which keep us from our ultimate purpose. When we do, we experience the freedom to follow Christ wherever he leads and to see him in all things. Fortunately, Christ, through his death and resurrection, provides us the pruning shears to cut these oppressive vines out of our lives. What vines are holding you down? Ask Jesus for the loving grace to know their names and to rid them from your life.

—Sam Mauck is the Director of Youth, Campus, and Young Adult Ministry for the Diocese of Memphis, which is a member of the Charis Ministries partner program.

Prayer

Prayer for Detachment

I beg of you, my Lord,
to remove anything which separates
me from you, and you from me.

Remove anything that makes me unworthy
of your sight, your control, your reprehension;
of your speech and conversation,
of your benevolence and love.

Cast from me every evil
that stands in the way of my seeing you,
hearing, tasting, savoring, and touching you;
fearing and being mindful of you;
knowing, trusting, loving, and possessing you;
being conscious of your presence
and, as far as may be, enjoying you.

This is what I ask for myself
and earnestly desire from you. Amen.

—St. Peter Faber, SJ


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September 10, 2019

Lk 6: 12-19

Now during those days he went out to the mountain to pray; and he spent the night in prayer to God. And when day came, he called his disciples and chose twelve of them, whom he also named apostles:Simon, whom he named Peter, and his brother Andrew, and James, and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James son of Alphaeus, and Simon, who was called the Zealot, and Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor. 

He came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon. They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. And all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of them.

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.

Co-laboring with humility

It’s hard to be excluded. In spite of myself, I still feel anxious about not being invited, about getting passed by, about being forgotten. 

At some point Jesus had to look at his disciples and make some decisions. He had his reasons to name twelve Apostles; in my weaker moments, I wonder what it felt like to be one of the unchosen, equally committed but kept out of center. 

As quickly as the thought occurs, though, I remember that my pride and ego are at work. It’s not about me or what I want. It’s about the work Jesus asks of me, and the humility with which I do it. At times, that might land me in the middle of things. Most times, though, I will be called to stand quietly and witness Gospel love unfold.

—Eric Immel, SJ, is a member of the Midwest Jesuits.  After six years in Chicago, he recently moved to Boston where he studies theology.

Prayer

Let me have too deep a sense of humor to be proud.
Let me know my absurdity before I act absurdly.
Let me realize that when I am humble I am most human, most truthful,
and most worthy of your serious consideration.

—Daniel Lord, SJ


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September 9, 2019

St. Peter Claver, SJ

Lk 6: 6-11

On another sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught, and there was a man there whose right hand was withered. The scribes and the Pharisees watched him to see whether he would cure on the sabbath, so that they might find an accusation against him. Even though he knew what they were thinking, he said to the man who had the withered hand, “Come and stand here.” He got up and stood there. Then Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to destroy it?” After looking around at all of them, he said to him, “Stretch out your hand.” He did so, and his hand was restored. But they were filled with fury and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus.

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

Choosing the side of righteousness

“…Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to destroy it?” In this question, there is no neutral option. Jesus knows that healing the man is taboo, but makes a pointed choice to do it anyway, despite the expectant onlookers waiting to catch him breaking the rules. Beyond that, Jesus makes it abundantly clear that restoring the man’s health is the right thing to do. 

On this feast day of St. Peter Claver, SJ, I am reminded of the ways in which Peter Claver’s life was a response to this call from Jesus to reject unjust societal norms in the name of what’s right. The Jesuit saint who ministered to slaves arriving in America and called for the abolition of slavery knew he could not remain neutral. In what ways can Peter Claver’s life be an example to us of how to courageously choose the side of righteousness?

Christine Dragonette is the Director of Social Ministry at St. Francis Xavier College Church in St. Louis.

Prayer

O God, who made Saint Peter Claver a slave of slaves
and strengthened him with wonderful charity and patience
as he came to their help,
grant, through his intercession,
that, seeking the things of Jesus Christ,
we may love our neighbor in deeds and in truth.
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.

—USCCB materials for a prayer service on the feast of St. Peter Claver

 


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September 8, 2019

Lk 14: 25-33

Now large crowds were traveling with him; and he turned and said to them, “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. 

For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ 

Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.

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.

Is Jesus the runner-up in your life?

The best coach I ever had, my high school track and cross-country coach, told us “the runner-up is the enemy of the champion.”  He was, of course, exaggerating – as my twin brother would tell me after finishing just ahead of me in a race! But his point was sound: we should especially avoid allowing from ourselves an all-too-easy second-best effort at whatever we put our hearts to in this life.

Today’s Gospel makes a similar exaggeration.  Jesus does not want us to “hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even life itself”.  That exaggeration just grabs our attention for the next (also figurative) sentence: “Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple”.  That is the cost of discipleship: to prefer Jesus above all earthly things and even above all people. Is there anything that makes Jesus the runner-up in your life instead of the champion?

Greg Ostdiek, SJ is a priest of the Midwest Jesuits who was a distance runner in high school and college.  He was ordained this past June.

Prayer

I am the Lord your God,
who brought you out of the land of Egypt,
out of the house of slavery;
you shall have no other gods before me.
You shall not make for yourself an idol,
whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above,
or that is on the earth beneath,
or that is in the water under the earth.
You shall not bow down to them or worship them;
for I the Lord your God am a jealous God…

—Ex 20:2-5a


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September 7, 2019

Lk 6:1-5

One sabbath while Jesus was going through the grainfields, his disciples plucked some heads of grain, rubbed them in their hands, and ate them.But some of the Pharisees said, “Why are you doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?” 

Jesus answered, “Have you not read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God and took and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and gave some to his companions?” Then he said to them, “The Son of Man is lord of the sabbath.”

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.

How to “do sabbath”

The Pharisees in today’s Gospel likely interpreted Jesus’ actions and response to their question as refusing to honor the sabbath.  This meant he wasn’t simply disobeying one of the 613 Mosaic laws, he was breaking one of the Ten Commandments. But Jesus, as “lord of the sabbath” isn’t attempting to abolish that law, rather he offers the Pharisees and his disciples the opportunity to think about how they can best follow the commandment in their own lives.  

It is clear that a one size fits all approach to sabbath law doesn’t work.  For example, some people eschew doing any paid work on Sunday while others have work schedules that don’t allow this. When we go back to the original commandment, and the way that Jesus treated the sabbath, it is clear that we are asked to find ways to pause, reflect, and spend some time with God.  

How will you “do sabbath” this week?  

—The Jesuit Prayer team

Prayer

Lord Jesus, you modeled for us what it means to “do sabbath” and set aside time for our relationship with you.  Help us to open ourselves to your movements in our lives so that we may co-labor with you throughout our lives. Amen.

—The Jesuit Prayer team


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September 6, 2019

Lk 5: 33-39

Then they said to him, “John’s disciples, like the disciples of the Pharisees, frequently fast and pray, but your disciples eat and drink.Jesus said to them, “You cannot make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them, can you? The days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.” 

He also told them a parable: “No one tears a piece from a new garment and sews it on an old garment; otherwise the new will be torn, and the piece from the new will not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine desires new wine, but says, ‘The old is good.’”

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.

Leaving our old ways behind

I don’t think I’m alone in saying that I don’t always like change.  The uncertainty of what might lie ahead can sometimes be enough for me to try to stick with my old ways of thinking and acting rather than doing the hard work of opening myself up to change.  But in today’s Gospel, Jesus reminds his disciples that trying to continue in our old ways despite new knowledge or experiences won’t do us any good.  

New input can come in many forms.  Perhaps we read the news and come to a different understanding of social or political issues than we had before.  Maybe we try to interact with that difficult family member or colleague from the perspective of love and patience instead of anger or irritation.  Or perhaps we read a familiar Scripture passage with new eyes, allowing God to offer us a new message through the familiar words.  

How can you open your heart to a new experience or way of thinking today?

—Lauren Gaffey is the Associate Director of Communications for the Midwest Jesuits and the Program Director of Charis Ministries and Jesuit Connections.

Prayer

Good and gracious God, just as a wineskin needs to stretch to accommodate the new wine that is poured into it, let our hearts and minds stretch to allow for new experiences.  Help us to move past our preconceived notions to be open to your invitation in our lives. May we grow in our relationship with you and with all those we encounter today. Amen.

—Lauren Gaffey


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September 15, 2019

Lk 15: 1-32

Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So he told them this parable: “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? 

When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. 

“Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Then Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. 

So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.”’ 

So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate. 

“Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. 

But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’ Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’”

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.

There are sinners in heaven

The hardest part about heaven will be accepting that there are sinners there with us.

We will have to accept the presence in heaven of those who have done wrong – perhaps even great wrong – while on earth.  We will have to accept the presence of those who have done us wrong while on earth. We will have to love, and to forgive, those people.  We will have to accept that they belong in heaven because they are sinners loved and forgiven by God.

And we will have to accept that we are in heaven with those people because, like them, we too are sinners loved and forgiven by God.  We will have to be able to accept being loved, and forgiven, by those sinners. We will be in the company of those sinners, and we will be those sinners.

The hardest part about heaven will be accepting that there are other sinners there with us.

—Fr. Greg Ostdiek, SJ, is a former Navy officer who is now a Jesuit priest of the Midwest Province.  Ordained this past June, he is spending his first year after ordination studying education at Harvard.

Prayer

May the receiving of your Body and Blood,
Lord Jesus Christ,
not bring me to judgment and condemnation,
but through your loving mercy
be for me protection in mind and body
and a healing remedy.

—Fr. Greg Ostdiek, SJ


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September 14, 2019

Exaltation of the Cross

Jn 3: 13-17

No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

‘Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through 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.

The gift of the cross

Today’s feast invites us to pray anew over the gift that the dying and rising of Jesus is for each of us and for our families. That gift becomes more practical to us in times of illness, loss of work, family disagreement, or other struggles. Like Jesus, you and I lurch towards understanding that these personal and community experiences of dying and rising actually become our path towards wholeness and redemption. 

Pope Francis speaks about in urging us to find that “narrow gate” which defines our personal share in the cross of Jesus. Today’s Gospel reminds us that “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son….” What finer companion can I have in this journey of life than one who teaches me so personally how to meet life’s pain and sadness, as well as the hope and joy they also promise. 

Imagine you are standing before Jesus on his cross today.  Look intently into his eyes. Hand over to him your anxiety and pain. Find a place in your heart to let Jesus love you, strengthen you, and bring you hope.

—The Jesuit Prayer team

Prayer

Jesus, love of my soul, center of my heart!
Why am I not more eager
to endure pains and tribulations for love of you,
when you, my God, have suffered so many for me?

Come, then, every sort of trial in the world,
for this is my delight, to suffer for Jesus.
This is my joy, to follow my Savior,
and to find my consolation
with my consoler on the cross.

This is my happiness, this my pleasure:
to live with Jesus, to walk with Jesus,
to converse with Jesus;
to suffer with and for him,
this is my treasure.

—St. Alphonsus Rodriguez, SJ


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September 13, 2019

St. John Chrysostom

Lk 6: 39-42

He also told them a parable: “Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit? A disciple is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully qualified will be like the teacher. Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Friend, let me take out the speck in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log in your own eye? 

You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.

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.

Noticing the flaws around us

Today’s Gospel is one that seems to come up regularly when I’m talking with my children.  They are quick to point out when a sibling has snuck a piece of candy, or snatched a toy away, or said something hurtful, while seeming to forget that they engaged in these same behaviors sometimes minutes earlier. I need to remind them that each of us–adults included–makes mistakes and we need to focus on our own behavior rather than someone else’s.  In my own life, though, this is something I know intellectually, but can still struggle to put into practice. How easy it is to point out the flaws of relatives, coworkers, or even public figures we have never personally met.

Jesus knows that none of us are without flaws, and offers us this reminder to look at our own blind spots before starting in on others.  What are the errors that I am quick to point out in others? When these come to mind, how can I instead turn inward and take the opportunity to change my own behavior?

—Lauren Gaffey is the Associate Director of Communications for the Midwest Jesuits and the Program Director of Charis Ministries and Jesuit Connections.

Prayer

Good and gracious God, you look upon us with a compassionate gaze, not despising us for our shortcomings.  Help us to take this same view of others, while at the same time looking within ourselves to strive to overcome our failings.  May we never be so blinded by a log in our eye that we are unable to grow in friendship with you. Amen.

—Lauren Gaffey


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September 12, 2019

Lk 6: 27-38

“But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.“

If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”

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.

You can’t be serious, Jesus

Take more from the many who have little.

It is not enough to mock the estranged, but tear down your closest friends as well.

Seek community in being alone…with your smartphone.

We read these farcical statements and reject them as obviously inhuman, as we should. Still, when we engage their absurdity, we can sense a kind of perverse logic that may actually ring true with our experience and observations. Hard to see? Take a moment to recognize that each paradox above is actually lived out in our world in some way in how we spend our free time, the way we form public policy, or the paths where we seek wholeness. Modern life is full of paradoxical values and advice, and we often have no hesitation embracing their strange logic.

And so, Jesus offers us a list of paradoxical statements in today’s Gospel. We know some by heart: love enemies, give your coat and your shirt as well, lend money and expect nothing in return, the Golden Rule. It is far too easy to dismiss these statements as hyperbole; “Jesus didn’t literally mean to turn the other cheek!” What if he did?

One cold, rainy night in Washington, D.C., last year, I encountered a woman without shelter and literally gave her the shirt off my back. I still had two other layers on. I think of that encounter often and ponder, “Jesus, maybe my other two layers weren’t really necessary for that woman, but I know I missed something else I could give her. Forgive me.”

Jim Broderick King is Director of Ignatian Spirituality and Formation at Regis Jesuit High School in Aurora, Colorado, and is a spiritual director at the Ignatian Spirituality Program of Denver.

Prayer

Jesus, you challenge me. I want to follow your words, even your greatest command. But it costs a lot and it is uncomfortable. It even seems to defy what the world is telling me. Help me wear your compassion, humility, patience, hope, peace, and love not as burdens but as signs of our closeness. Teach me to shed these garments for any who need them – the poor, the afflicted, the lonely, even my enemies. I offer you my freedom, because it is my only path to true freedom. I offer you my life, because it is my only path to eternal life. May your mercy pour forth on me even more abundantly than I have offered it to others.

—Jim Broderick King


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September 11, 2019

Col 3: 1-11

So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.

Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient. These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life.

But now you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!

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.

What is holding you down?

Imagine you are suspended in the air. In one hand, a balloon is gently pulling you up to heaven. Wrapped around your feet are a number of vines, securely rooted in the earth. Each of those vines has a name. One might be “Anger”, one “Lust”, and another “Resentment.” Today, Paul teaches us that if we are to live in Christ, we have to kill these vines. Saint Ignatius teaches us to detach ourselves from those things which keep us from our ultimate purpose. When we do, we experience the freedom to follow Christ wherever he leads and to see him in all things. Fortunately, Christ, through his death and resurrection, provides us the pruning shears to cut these oppressive vines out of our lives. What vines are holding you down? Ask Jesus for the loving grace to know their names and to rid them from your life.

—Sam Mauck is the Director of Youth, Campus, and Young Adult Ministry for the Diocese of Memphis, which is a member of the Charis Ministries partner program.

Prayer

Prayer for Detachment

I beg of you, my Lord,
to remove anything which separates
me from you, and you from me.

Remove anything that makes me unworthy
of your sight, your control, your reprehension;
of your speech and conversation,
of your benevolence and love.

Cast from me every evil
that stands in the way of my seeing you,
hearing, tasting, savoring, and touching you;
fearing and being mindful of you;
knowing, trusting, loving, and possessing you;
being conscious of your presence
and, as far as may be, enjoying you.

This is what I ask for myself
and earnestly desire from you. Amen.

—St. Peter Faber, SJ


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September 10, 2019

Lk 6: 12-19

Now during those days he went out to the mountain to pray; and he spent the night in prayer to God. And when day came, he called his disciples and chose twelve of them, whom he also named apostles:Simon, whom he named Peter, and his brother Andrew, and James, and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James son of Alphaeus, and Simon, who was called the Zealot, and Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor. 

He came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon. They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. And all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of them.

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.

Co-laboring with humility

It’s hard to be excluded. In spite of myself, I still feel anxious about not being invited, about getting passed by, about being forgotten. 

At some point Jesus had to look at his disciples and make some decisions. He had his reasons to name twelve Apostles; in my weaker moments, I wonder what it felt like to be one of the unchosen, equally committed but kept out of center. 

As quickly as the thought occurs, though, I remember that my pride and ego are at work. It’s not about me or what I want. It’s about the work Jesus asks of me, and the humility with which I do it. At times, that might land me in the middle of things. Most times, though, I will be called to stand quietly and witness Gospel love unfold.

—Eric Immel, SJ, is a member of the Midwest Jesuits.  After six years in Chicago, he recently moved to Boston where he studies theology.

Prayer

Let me have too deep a sense of humor to be proud.
Let me know my absurdity before I act absurdly.
Let me realize that when I am humble I am most human, most truthful,
and most worthy of your serious consideration.

—Daniel Lord, SJ


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September 9, 2019

St. Peter Claver, SJ

Lk 6: 6-11

On another sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught, and there was a man there whose right hand was withered. The scribes and the Pharisees watched him to see whether he would cure on the sabbath, so that they might find an accusation against him. Even though he knew what they were thinking, he said to the man who had the withered hand, “Come and stand here.” He got up and stood there. Then Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to destroy it?” After looking around at all of them, he said to him, “Stretch out your hand.” He did so, and his hand was restored. But they were filled with fury and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus.

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

Choosing the side of righteousness

“…Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to destroy it?” In this question, there is no neutral option. Jesus knows that healing the man is taboo, but makes a pointed choice to do it anyway, despite the expectant onlookers waiting to catch him breaking the rules. Beyond that, Jesus makes it abundantly clear that restoring the man’s health is the right thing to do. 

On this feast day of St. Peter Claver, SJ, I am reminded of the ways in which Peter Claver’s life was a response to this call from Jesus to reject unjust societal norms in the name of what’s right. The Jesuit saint who ministered to slaves arriving in America and called for the abolition of slavery knew he could not remain neutral. In what ways can Peter Claver’s life be an example to us of how to courageously choose the side of righteousness?

Christine Dragonette is the Director of Social Ministry at St. Francis Xavier College Church in St. Louis.

Prayer

O God, who made Saint Peter Claver a slave of slaves
and strengthened him with wonderful charity and patience
as he came to their help,
grant, through his intercession,
that, seeking the things of Jesus Christ,
we may love our neighbor in deeds and in truth.
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.

—USCCB materials for a prayer service on the feast of St. Peter Claver

 


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September 8, 2019

Lk 14: 25-33

Now large crowds were traveling with him; and he turned and said to them, “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. 

For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ 

Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.

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.

Is Jesus the runner-up in your life?

The best coach I ever had, my high school track and cross-country coach, told us “the runner-up is the enemy of the champion.”  He was, of course, exaggerating – as my twin brother would tell me after finishing just ahead of me in a race! But his point was sound: we should especially avoid allowing from ourselves an all-too-easy second-best effort at whatever we put our hearts to in this life.

Today’s Gospel makes a similar exaggeration.  Jesus does not want us to “hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even life itself”.  That exaggeration just grabs our attention for the next (also figurative) sentence: “Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple”.  That is the cost of discipleship: to prefer Jesus above all earthly things and even above all people. Is there anything that makes Jesus the runner-up in your life instead of the champion?

Greg Ostdiek, SJ is a priest of the Midwest Jesuits who was a distance runner in high school and college.  He was ordained this past June.

Prayer

I am the Lord your God,
who brought you out of the land of Egypt,
out of the house of slavery;
you shall have no other gods before me.
You shall not make for yourself an idol,
whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above,
or that is on the earth beneath,
or that is in the water under the earth.
You shall not bow down to them or worship them;
for I the Lord your God am a jealous God…

—Ex 20:2-5a


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September 7, 2019

Lk 6:1-5

One sabbath while Jesus was going through the grainfields, his disciples plucked some heads of grain, rubbed them in their hands, and ate them.But some of the Pharisees said, “Why are you doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?” 

Jesus answered, “Have you not read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God and took and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and gave some to his companions?” Then he said to them, “The Son of Man is lord of the sabbath.”

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.

How to “do sabbath”

The Pharisees in today’s Gospel likely interpreted Jesus’ actions and response to their question as refusing to honor the sabbath.  This meant he wasn’t simply disobeying one of the 613 Mosaic laws, he was breaking one of the Ten Commandments. But Jesus, as “lord of the sabbath” isn’t attempting to abolish that law, rather he offers the Pharisees and his disciples the opportunity to think about how they can best follow the commandment in their own lives.  

It is clear that a one size fits all approach to sabbath law doesn’t work.  For example, some people eschew doing any paid work on Sunday while others have work schedules that don’t allow this. When we go back to the original commandment, and the way that Jesus treated the sabbath, it is clear that we are asked to find ways to pause, reflect, and spend some time with God.  

How will you “do sabbath” this week?  

—The Jesuit Prayer team

Prayer

Lord Jesus, you modeled for us what it means to “do sabbath” and set aside time for our relationship with you.  Help us to open ourselves to your movements in our lives so that we may co-labor with you throughout our lives. Amen.

—The Jesuit Prayer team


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September 6, 2019

Lk 5: 33-39

Then they said to him, “John’s disciples, like the disciples of the Pharisees, frequently fast and pray, but your disciples eat and drink.Jesus said to them, “You cannot make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them, can you? The days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.” 

He also told them a parable: “No one tears a piece from a new garment and sews it on an old garment; otherwise the new will be torn, and the piece from the new will not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine desires new wine, but says, ‘The old is good.’”

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.

Leaving our old ways behind

I don’t think I’m alone in saying that I don’t always like change.  The uncertainty of what might lie ahead can sometimes be enough for me to try to stick with my old ways of thinking and acting rather than doing the hard work of opening myself up to change.  But in today’s Gospel, Jesus reminds his disciples that trying to continue in our old ways despite new knowledge or experiences won’t do us any good.  

New input can come in many forms.  Perhaps we read the news and come to a different understanding of social or political issues than we had before.  Maybe we try to interact with that difficult family member or colleague from the perspective of love and patience instead of anger or irritation.  Or perhaps we read a familiar Scripture passage with new eyes, allowing God to offer us a new message through the familiar words.  

How can you open your heart to a new experience or way of thinking today?

—Lauren Gaffey is the Associate Director of Communications for the Midwest Jesuits and the Program Director of Charis Ministries and Jesuit Connections.

Prayer

Good and gracious God, just as a wineskin needs to stretch to accommodate the new wine that is poured into it, let our hearts and minds stretch to allow for new experiences.  Help us to move past our preconceived notions to be open to your invitation in our lives. May we grow in our relationship with you and with all those we encounter today. Amen.

—Lauren Gaffey


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