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March 31, 2020

Nm 21: 4-9

From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; but the people became impatient on the way. The people spoke against God and against Moses, ‘Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we detest this miserable food.’ 

Then the Lord sent poisonous serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, ‘We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord to take away the serpents from us.’ So Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Make a poisonous serpent, and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live.’ 

So Moses made a serpent of bronze, and put it upon a pole; and whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live.

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.

Quickly forgotten gifts

For the Israelites in today’s reading, the water that “flowed abundantly” (Nm 20:4) from the rock was not enough and the food they received “in abundance” (Nm 11) was “miserable” and insufficient (Nm 21:5).  One reason we read stories like this from God’s saving work among the Israelites is because our human nature has not changed. The gift God gives us one day is quickly forgotten on the next and what was a miracle on Monday is by Friday all but taken for granted.  How many times has a kind word or deed done by a co-worker, family member, or friend been forgotten the minute he or she does ‘that thing’ that always gets on our nerves? How often do we take for granted the mundane gifts God gives us day after day?

—Erin Kast, SJ, is a Jesuit scholastic of the Midwest Province studying philosophy at Loyola University Chicago.

Prayer

Practice: Pay attention to God’s small gifts today and give thanks for them.

Prayer: Jesus, give me eyes to see, ears to hear, and wisdom to understand all the ways you have and continue to sustain me on life’s journey.

—Erin Kast, SJ


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March 30, 2020

Jn 8: 1-11

Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, they said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. 

When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, sir.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.”

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.

Drop the stones in our hands

As a longtime Catholic high school administrator, my budding-existentialist students loved to cry hypocrisy against their teachers who enforced school policies. “But Mr. Kennedy, why can that teacher be on her phone, and I can’t?” Or in the all-important case of facial hair, “If I have to shave, why don’t you have to?” While these students didn’t quite get the concept of adult rules and student rules, they weren’t always wrong noting how we adults sometimes behaved. Teacher lounges are oft ripe with some of the juiciest gossip or insubordination banter, behavior we would never tolerate from our students. We adults fall into the same traps that our students do. Our kids are listening, and they are emulating us. All too often, we find stones in our hands.

Do we demonstrate the self-awareness Jesus calls for in today’s readings? Are our everyday conversations reflective of our highest selves? Adultery and gossip are not the same, but each is a sinful act that dishonors God.

We can be better. We must be better. This goes for what we say, what we tweet, and ultimately how we treat one another. It begins with us. Drop the stone, “Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.”

—Patrick Kennedy, is a Major Gift Officer for the Midwest Jesuits, holds a Masters degree from the  McGrath Institute for Jesuit Catholic Education at the University of San Francisco.

Prayer

Heavenly Father, fill me with patience to look at myself when I am quick to judge others. Help me see my own shortcomings, address them, and commit to leading a more altruistic life, and in doing so, serve as an example of your love. Amen.

—Patrick Kennedy


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March 29, 2020

Fifth Sunday of Lent

Jn 11: 1-45

Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it, he said, “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” 

Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.” 

After saying this, he told them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.” The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.” Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” 

Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” 

She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.” When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. 

They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus began to weep. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 

Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” 

When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in 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.

Bringing new life out of death

“And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves…” (Ez 37:13).

In today’s first reading, Ezekiel’s words of hope to a people who have been defeated and exiled are embodied by Jesus in a powerful but mysterious way in today’s Gospel. He assures his disciples that the illness of Lazarus is not to end in death, but then tells them that Lazarus has indeed died. We might call to mind our experiences of defeat, loss, weakness and failure, the hopes and desires that seem to have died or been buried under the rubble of our lives. In so many ways, we all share the sadness and resignation of Martha and Mary. But Jesus brings to life the words of Ezekiel, ordering the stone to be removed and calling in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” Lazarus leaves the tomb, but still needs to be untied and set free from the burial bands. Jesus brings new life out of death and calls on us to support one another in this new life, untying the bonds that still hold us captive.

Fr. Christopher J. Viscardi, SJ, is a Jesuit of the Central and Southern Province teaching theology at Spring Hill College in Mobile, AL.

Prayer

Soul of Christ, sanctify me
Body of Christ, save me
Blood of Christ, inebriate me
Water from the side of Christ, wash me
Passion of Christ, strengthen me
O good Jesus, hear me
Within thy wounds, hide me
From the wicked foe, defend me
At the hour of my death, call me
And bid me come to thee,
That with thy saints I may praise thee.

—Anima Christi


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March 28, 2020

Jer 11: 18-20

It was the Lord who made it known to me, and I knew; then you showed me their evil deeds. But I was like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter. And I did not know it was against me that they devised schemes, saying, “Let us destroy the tree with its fruit, let us cut him off from the land of the living, so that his name will no longer be remembered!” 

But you, O Lord of hosts, who judge righteously, who try the heart and the mind, let me see your retribution upon them, for to you I have committed my cause.

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

Not seeking vengeance

Every two years the cost of my internet increases. I make a phone call and attempt to haggle the price down. I plead and yell and get passed from one person to the next, trying to summon whatever magical words I need to save a few bucks.

I consult my friends to see who has gotten a better deal, how I stack up against others. And I shake my fist at the sky, decrying the opaque process that always makes me feel cheated and taken advantage of.

Jeremiah was hardly negotiating for more affordable WiFi. But I am struck by his concern that plots were being hatched around him—and his desire to see God strike down those who were treating him unfairly. This sense of always looking over your shoulder, this desire for vengeance—surely, these are not healthy and productive traits.

And they may bubble up in us over little things like internet costs if we aren’t careful.

—Eric Clayton is a senior communications manager at the Jesuit Conference.

Prayer

Good and gracious God, may we always strive to follow St. Ignatius’ encouragement that we presume good intentions in others.  Help us to see others as you see them, so that we can work together to build your kingdom here on earth. Amen.

—The Jesuit Prayer team


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March 27, 2020

Ps 34:17-18, 19-20, 21 and 23

The face of the Lord is against evildoers,

   to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.

When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears,

   and rescues them from all their troubles.

The Lord is near to the broken-hearted,

   and saves the crushed in spirit.

Many are the afflictions of the righteous,

   but the Lord rescues them from them all.

He keeps all their bones;

   not one of them will be broken.

Evil brings death to the wicked, 

and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.

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

God is close to our broken hearts

In the midst of a global pandemic, the constant reality is one of noise. In the midst of that noise, one can feel alone in one’s pain and suffering: a world in crisis blocks out many sources of comfort. While we seek social distancing for our collective health, we experience social alienation and isolation as individuals. That, for many, can be heartbreaking. We ask, quite reasonably, where God is as our hearts break. The psalmist understood that feeling well, knowing the troubles that befall the human spirit and the human community. In that knowledge, the psalmist cries out: “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted.” 

As we live through a Lent in which Easter itself seems cancelled by events, how can we rest in the closeness of God in the midst of coronavirus? We must, above all, remember our hope that lies just past the end of Lent: that our God, who loves us into being in every moment, joined us in our infirmities so that we might rise with Jesus to eternal life. God, as the psalmist says, is close to our broken hearts.

James Kennedy, SJ, is a Jesuit of the Midwest Province teaching history at Marquette University High School in Milwaukee, WI.

Prayer

I’ve come to think that the only, the supreme, prayer
we can offer up, during these hours
when the road before us is shrouded in darkness,
is that of our master on the cross:
“In manus tuas commendo spiritum meum.”
(Into your hands I commend my spirit.)
To the hands that broke and gave life to the bread,
that blessed and caressed, that were pierced; . . .
to the kindly and mighty hands that reach down
to the very marrow of the soul that mould and create
to the hands through which so great a love is transmitted
it is to these that it is good to surrender our soul,
and above all when we suffer or are afraid.
and in so doing there is a great happiness and a great merit.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ


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March 26, 2020

Ex 32: 7-14

The Lord said to Moses, “Go down at once! Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have acted perversely; they have been quick to turn aside from the way that I commanded them; they have cast for themselves an image of a calf, and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt! 

The Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, how stiff-necked they are. Now let me alone, so that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them; and of you I will make a great nation.” But Moses implored the Lord his God, and said, “O Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth’? 

Turn from your fierce wrath; change your mind and do not bring disaster on your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, how you swore to them by your own self, saying to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants like the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’“ And the Lord changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people.

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.

Moving toward more love and mercy

The last line of today’s first reading grabbed my attention: “And the Lord changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people.” I don’t usually think of God as a big mind-changer, though there are a handful of famous examples in the Old Testament of impassioned pleas from the Lord’s people leading God to pivot away from a decision. I love how Moses’ prayer is in the form of an argument here, which reminds me that it’s OK to go to God with frustrations and even anger – God can certainly handle it. I also love that when God changes his mind in the Scripture stories like today’s first reading, God goes in the direction toward more love, more mercy.

—Mike Jordan Laskey is the Senior Communications Director of the Jesuit Conference in Washington DC and an alum of Contemplative Leaders in Action in Philadelphia.

Prayer

God, Help me to trust in the Resurrection.The Risen Christ reminds us that there is always the hope of something new. Death is never the last word for us. Neither is despair. And help me remember that when the Risen Christ appeared to his disciples, he bore the wounds of his Crucifixion. Like Christ, the church is always wounded, but always a carrier of grace. Give me hope.

From Fr. James Martin, SJ’s, “A Prayer for Angry Catholics,” America Magazine, June 6, 2012


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March 25, 2020

Feast of the Annunciation

Lk 1: 26-38

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

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

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

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

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

God in the unexpected

Today’s reading and, in fact, the Feast of the Annunciation in general, have always seemed a bit jarring in the midst of our Lenten journey.  Reading a Gospel that I associate with Advent and Christmas is not what I expect in this season of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. But I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that this year’s Lent doesn’t look at all like what any of us expected.  Around our country and our world, the daily routines of our lives have come to a screeching halt. Many churches have suspended public Masses, leaving us to find new ways to pray and be a part of this community of faith.

Despite this, as is often the case, the rhythm of our liturgical readings aligns perfectly with the situations in our lives.  We didn’t expect to be practicing social distancing and, in many cases, self-isolating in our homes. Mary didn’t expect to have a conversation with an angel or to become the mother of the Messiah.  But even though she was surprised, confused, and likely more than a little bit fearful, she placed her trust in the angel’s words that “The Lord is with you.” This promise is not for Mary alone. Our faith tells us that the Lord is with each of us, and we are not left alone.  

In this time of uncertainty and fear, may we remember that our God continues to be with us, individually and in our world, even when this season looks nothing like what we expected.

—Lauren Gaffey is the Associate Director of Communications for the Midwest Jesuits and the Program Director of Charis Ministries and Jesuit Connections, ministries of the Office of Ignatian Spirituality.

Prayer

God is our refuge and our strength,
an ever-present help in distress.
Thus we do not fear, though earth be shaken
and mountains quake to the depths of the sea,
Though its waters rage and foam
and mountains totter at its surging.

Streams of the river gladden the city of God,
the holy dwelling of the Most High.
God is in its midst; it shall not be shaken;
God will help it at break of day.

Though nations rage and kingdoms totter,
he utters his voice and the earth melts.
The LORD of hosts is with us;
our stronghold is the God of Jacob.

—Psalm 46: 2-8


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March 24, 2020

Jn 5: 1-16

After this there was a festival of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Beth-zatha, which has five porticoes. In these lay many invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.” 

Jesus said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.” At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk. Now that day was a sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who had been cured, “It is the sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your mat.” But he answered them, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Take up your mat and walk.’” They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take it up and walk’?” 

Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had disappeared in the crowd that was there. Later Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you have been made well! Do not sin any more, so that nothing worse happens to you.” The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. Therefore the Jews started persecuting Jesus, because he was doing such things on 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.

Hearing God’s Voice

“I have no one to put me into the pool…”

I have no one…

No one helps me. No one cares about me. No one truly loves me.

This is a tempting and dangerous refrain we can tell ourselves at times. It can keep us angry, bitter, blind to reality, and paralyzed. And this can last for a long time for some (38 years, for the man in the Gospel today!).

But Jesus exposes this refrain for the falsehood that it is. He embodies a different message: I am here with you. I care about you. I love you.

In this time of uncertainty, worry, and isolation, how can we reject that false refrain and be attentive to the voice and presence of Jesus in our lives? How can we be that presence for those who may be feeling particularly lonely, uncared for, or unloved? How can we embody that message that says: I am here with you. I care about you. I love you.

—Thomas Bambrick, SJ, is a Jesuit scholastic of the Midwest Province studying at the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University in Berkeley, CA.

Prayer

God of Love and of Presence,
we trust that you are with us
and love us.
Help us to hear your voice,
to feel your presence,
and to know your love for us,
so that we can be that voice,
that presence, that love
for those who need it most.

—Thomas Bambrick, SJ


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March 23, 2020

Jn 4: 43-54

When the two days were over, he went from that place to Galilee (for Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in the prophet’s own country). When he came to Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, since they had seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the festival; for they too had gone to the festival. Then he came again to Cana in Galilee where he had changed the water into wine. 

Now there was a royal official whose son lay ill in Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went and begged him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. Then Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my little boy dies.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and started on his way. 

As he was going down, his slaves met him and told him that his child was alive. So he asked them the hour when he began to recover, and they said to him, “Yesterday at one in the afternoon the fever left him.” The father realized that this was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” So he himself believed, along with his whole household. Now this was the second sign that Jesus did after coming from Judea to Galilee.

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.

A quiet encounter with Jesus

Have you ever felt over-extended and put upon?  Deadlines at work, needy children at home, jumping in the car to run multiple errands, or opening the mail to one more form to fill out… Jesus seems to be a bit weary of those who had heard of his miracles and were, as realtors sometimes say, “Lookie-Loos”.  But here comes someone from the royal palace to beg him to return with him and save his little boy. Jesus does not want a scene, with a crowd following curiously to see the next “event”. Jesus simply speaks to the agonized father, and the official returns home to find his son healed, even as Jesus spoke to him.

Something happened in that quiet conversation, just between the two of them. A deep faith was kindled in the man by a few simple words of Jesus, by merely being in his presence.   And there were miraculous, though “uneventful”, consequences. How often, when we talk to God, do we take our “blueprints” with us? But when we remove these “things” from our wish list, and simply share our trust in God’s providence, we may suddenly hear and take to heart, “Go. I’ve got this.  It’s going to be okay.”

—Donna K. Becher, M.S.  is an associate spiritual director intern at the West Virginia Institute for Spirituality, Charleston, West Virginia.  Her training is rooted in the Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola.

Prayer

O Christ Jesus,
When all is darkness
And we feel our weakness and helplessness,
Give us the sense of Your Presence,
Your love, and Your strength.
Help us to have perfect trust
In Your protecting love
And strengthening power,
So that nothing may frighten or worry us,
For, living close to You,
We shall see Your Hand,
Your Purpose, Your Will through all things.

—St. Ignatius of Loyola


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March 22, 2020

Fourth Sunday of Lent

Jn 9: 1-41

As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 

When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see.

The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.” They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”

They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, “He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.” Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath.” 

But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And they were divided. So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” He said, “He is a prophet.” The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” 

His parents answered, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.” 

So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, “Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.” He answered, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” 

Then they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” The man answered, “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?” And they drove him out.

Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” He said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped him.

Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.” Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.

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.

Fix our eyes on Jesus

The irony in this Sunday’s Gospel begins with the “sinner” in question. According to the Jewish Law, blindness, or any other physical handicap, resulted from either the person’s sin, or that of his or her parents. This blind man we hear about naturally provokes Jesus’ largely Jewish disciples to ask: Who’s sin is responsible for the man’s blindness? Jesus redirects his disciples’ question, however, punning to make his point: It is no one’s sin, but rather this man’s healing, that action that makes Jesus visible as the Messiah, that ought to be their focus.

The irony builds. Enter the Pharisees, the guardians of the Law, who now must account for the blind man’s healing, while also condemning this Jesus who heals on the Sabbath. But why merely condemn Jesus to their followers when they can discredit Jesus to the formerly blind man and let him condemn more convincingly on their behalf. Compared to the Pharisees, what knowledge can this once-blind man – a sinner – have of God’s Law?! What follows illustrates how Christ’s authority supplants that of Moses, representative of the Jewish Law. In the process, the supposed know-nothing blind man effectively shuts down the Pharisees’ efforts with a one-line response: “One thing I do know is that I was blind and now I see,” (Jn 9: 25b).

The overall irony is that it takes a blind man to point out the Messiah in the Pharisees’ midst. And still, they do not see. But, do we? Lent affords the opportunity to not only repent for our sins, but to call upon Jesus for forgiveness and grace that we might see. This Lent we fix our gaze on Jesus, the light that dispels all darkness.

—Fr. William T. Sheahan, SJ, is a Jesuit of the Central and Southern Province serving as rector of the Rockhurst Jesuit Community in Kansas City, MO.

Prayer

Lord God, in the midst of all the darkness around us, at a time when we may find it difficult to see beyond the fear and uncertainty in our midst, help us to fix our eyes on you, knowing that you are here with us.  Amen.

—The Jesuit Prayer team


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March 31, 2020

Nm 21: 4-9

From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; but the people became impatient on the way. The people spoke against God and against Moses, ‘Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we detest this miserable food.’ 

Then the Lord sent poisonous serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, ‘We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord to take away the serpents from us.’ So Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Make a poisonous serpent, and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live.’ 

So Moses made a serpent of bronze, and put it upon a pole; and whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live.

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.

Quickly forgotten gifts

For the Israelites in today’s reading, the water that “flowed abundantly” (Nm 20:4) from the rock was not enough and the food they received “in abundance” (Nm 11) was “miserable” and insufficient (Nm 21:5).  One reason we read stories like this from God’s saving work among the Israelites is because our human nature has not changed. The gift God gives us one day is quickly forgotten on the next and what was a miracle on Monday is by Friday all but taken for granted.  How many times has a kind word or deed done by a co-worker, family member, or friend been forgotten the minute he or she does ‘that thing’ that always gets on our nerves? How often do we take for granted the mundane gifts God gives us day after day?

—Erin Kast, SJ, is a Jesuit scholastic of the Midwest Province studying philosophy at Loyola University Chicago.

Prayer

Practice: Pay attention to God’s small gifts today and give thanks for them.

Prayer: Jesus, give me eyes to see, ears to hear, and wisdom to understand all the ways you have and continue to sustain me on life’s journey.

—Erin Kast, SJ


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March 30, 2020

Jn 8: 1-11

Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, they said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. 

When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, sir.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.”

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.

Drop the stones in our hands

As a longtime Catholic high school administrator, my budding-existentialist students loved to cry hypocrisy against their teachers who enforced school policies. “But Mr. Kennedy, why can that teacher be on her phone, and I can’t?” Or in the all-important case of facial hair, “If I have to shave, why don’t you have to?” While these students didn’t quite get the concept of adult rules and student rules, they weren’t always wrong noting how we adults sometimes behaved. Teacher lounges are oft ripe with some of the juiciest gossip or insubordination banter, behavior we would never tolerate from our students. We adults fall into the same traps that our students do. Our kids are listening, and they are emulating us. All too often, we find stones in our hands.

Do we demonstrate the self-awareness Jesus calls for in today’s readings? Are our everyday conversations reflective of our highest selves? Adultery and gossip are not the same, but each is a sinful act that dishonors God.

We can be better. We must be better. This goes for what we say, what we tweet, and ultimately how we treat one another. It begins with us. Drop the stone, “Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.”

—Patrick Kennedy, is a Major Gift Officer for the Midwest Jesuits, holds a Masters degree from the  McGrath Institute for Jesuit Catholic Education at the University of San Francisco.

Prayer

Heavenly Father, fill me with patience to look at myself when I am quick to judge others. Help me see my own shortcomings, address them, and commit to leading a more altruistic life, and in doing so, serve as an example of your love. Amen.

—Patrick Kennedy


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March 29, 2020

Fifth Sunday of Lent

Jn 11: 1-45

Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it, he said, “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” 

Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.” 

After saying this, he told them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.” The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.” Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” 

Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” 

She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.” When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. 

They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus began to weep. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 

Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” 

When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in 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.

Bringing new life out of death

“And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves…” (Ez 37:13).

In today’s first reading, Ezekiel’s words of hope to a people who have been defeated and exiled are embodied by Jesus in a powerful but mysterious way in today’s Gospel. He assures his disciples that the illness of Lazarus is not to end in death, but then tells them that Lazarus has indeed died. We might call to mind our experiences of defeat, loss, weakness and failure, the hopes and desires that seem to have died or been buried under the rubble of our lives. In so many ways, we all share the sadness and resignation of Martha and Mary. But Jesus brings to life the words of Ezekiel, ordering the stone to be removed and calling in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” Lazarus leaves the tomb, but still needs to be untied and set free from the burial bands. Jesus brings new life out of death and calls on us to support one another in this new life, untying the bonds that still hold us captive.

Fr. Christopher J. Viscardi, SJ, is a Jesuit of the Central and Southern Province teaching theology at Spring Hill College in Mobile, AL.

Prayer

Soul of Christ, sanctify me
Body of Christ, save me
Blood of Christ, inebriate me
Water from the side of Christ, wash me
Passion of Christ, strengthen me
O good Jesus, hear me
Within thy wounds, hide me
From the wicked foe, defend me
At the hour of my death, call me
And bid me come to thee,
That with thy saints I may praise thee.

—Anima Christi


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March 28, 2020

Jer 11: 18-20

It was the Lord who made it known to me, and I knew; then you showed me their evil deeds. But I was like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter. And I did not know it was against me that they devised schemes, saying, “Let us destroy the tree with its fruit, let us cut him off from the land of the living, so that his name will no longer be remembered!” 

But you, O Lord of hosts, who judge righteously, who try the heart and the mind, let me see your retribution upon them, for to you I have committed my cause.

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

Not seeking vengeance

Every two years the cost of my internet increases. I make a phone call and attempt to haggle the price down. I plead and yell and get passed from one person to the next, trying to summon whatever magical words I need to save a few bucks.

I consult my friends to see who has gotten a better deal, how I stack up against others. And I shake my fist at the sky, decrying the opaque process that always makes me feel cheated and taken advantage of.

Jeremiah was hardly negotiating for more affordable WiFi. But I am struck by his concern that plots were being hatched around him—and his desire to see God strike down those who were treating him unfairly. This sense of always looking over your shoulder, this desire for vengeance—surely, these are not healthy and productive traits.

And they may bubble up in us over little things like internet costs if we aren’t careful.

—Eric Clayton is a senior communications manager at the Jesuit Conference.

Prayer

Good and gracious God, may we always strive to follow St. Ignatius’ encouragement that we presume good intentions in others.  Help us to see others as you see them, so that we can work together to build your kingdom here on earth. Amen.

—The Jesuit Prayer team


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March 27, 2020

Ps 34:17-18, 19-20, 21 and 23

The face of the Lord is against evildoers,

   to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.

When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears,

   and rescues them from all their troubles.

The Lord is near to the broken-hearted,

   and saves the crushed in spirit.

Many are the afflictions of the righteous,

   but the Lord rescues them from them all.

He keeps all their bones;

   not one of them will be broken.

Evil brings death to the wicked, 

and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.

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

God is close to our broken hearts

In the midst of a global pandemic, the constant reality is one of noise. In the midst of that noise, one can feel alone in one’s pain and suffering: a world in crisis blocks out many sources of comfort. While we seek social distancing for our collective health, we experience social alienation and isolation as individuals. That, for many, can be heartbreaking. We ask, quite reasonably, where God is as our hearts break. The psalmist understood that feeling well, knowing the troubles that befall the human spirit and the human community. In that knowledge, the psalmist cries out: “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted.” 

As we live through a Lent in which Easter itself seems cancelled by events, how can we rest in the closeness of God in the midst of coronavirus? We must, above all, remember our hope that lies just past the end of Lent: that our God, who loves us into being in every moment, joined us in our infirmities so that we might rise with Jesus to eternal life. God, as the psalmist says, is close to our broken hearts.

James Kennedy, SJ, is a Jesuit of the Midwest Province teaching history at Marquette University High School in Milwaukee, WI.

Prayer

I’ve come to think that the only, the supreme, prayer
we can offer up, during these hours
when the road before us is shrouded in darkness,
is that of our master on the cross:
“In manus tuas commendo spiritum meum.”
(Into your hands I commend my spirit.)
To the hands that broke and gave life to the bread,
that blessed and caressed, that were pierced; . . .
to the kindly and mighty hands that reach down
to the very marrow of the soul that mould and create
to the hands through which so great a love is transmitted
it is to these that it is good to surrender our soul,
and above all when we suffer or are afraid.
and in so doing there is a great happiness and a great merit.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ


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March 26, 2020

Ex 32: 7-14

The Lord said to Moses, “Go down at once! Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have acted perversely; they have been quick to turn aside from the way that I commanded them; they have cast for themselves an image of a calf, and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt! 

The Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, how stiff-necked they are. Now let me alone, so that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them; and of you I will make a great nation.” But Moses implored the Lord his God, and said, “O Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth’? 

Turn from your fierce wrath; change your mind and do not bring disaster on your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, how you swore to them by your own self, saying to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants like the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’“ And the Lord changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people.

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.

Moving toward more love and mercy

The last line of today’s first reading grabbed my attention: “And the Lord changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people.” I don’t usually think of God as a big mind-changer, though there are a handful of famous examples in the Old Testament of impassioned pleas from the Lord’s people leading God to pivot away from a decision. I love how Moses’ prayer is in the form of an argument here, which reminds me that it’s OK to go to God with frustrations and even anger – God can certainly handle it. I also love that when God changes his mind in the Scripture stories like today’s first reading, God goes in the direction toward more love, more mercy.

—Mike Jordan Laskey is the Senior Communications Director of the Jesuit Conference in Washington DC and an alum of Contemplative Leaders in Action in Philadelphia.

Prayer

God, Help me to trust in the Resurrection.The Risen Christ reminds us that there is always the hope of something new. Death is never the last word for us. Neither is despair. And help me remember that when the Risen Christ appeared to his disciples, he bore the wounds of his Crucifixion. Like Christ, the church is always wounded, but always a carrier of grace. Give me hope.

From Fr. James Martin, SJ’s, “A Prayer for Angry Catholics,” America Magazine, June 6, 2012


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March 25, 2020

Feast of the Annunciation

Lk 1: 26-38

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

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

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

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

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

God in the unexpected

Today’s reading and, in fact, the Feast of the Annunciation in general, have always seemed a bit jarring in the midst of our Lenten journey.  Reading a Gospel that I associate with Advent and Christmas is not what I expect in this season of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. But I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that this year’s Lent doesn’t look at all like what any of us expected.  Around our country and our world, the daily routines of our lives have come to a screeching halt. Many churches have suspended public Masses, leaving us to find new ways to pray and be a part of this community of faith.

Despite this, as is often the case, the rhythm of our liturgical readings aligns perfectly with the situations in our lives.  We didn’t expect to be practicing social distancing and, in many cases, self-isolating in our homes. Mary didn’t expect to have a conversation with an angel or to become the mother of the Messiah.  But even though she was surprised, confused, and likely more than a little bit fearful, she placed her trust in the angel’s words that “The Lord is with you.” This promise is not for Mary alone. Our faith tells us that the Lord is with each of us, and we are not left alone.  

In this time of uncertainty and fear, may we remember that our God continues to be with us, individually and in our world, even when this season looks nothing like what we expected.

—Lauren Gaffey is the Associate Director of Communications for the Midwest Jesuits and the Program Director of Charis Ministries and Jesuit Connections, ministries of the Office of Ignatian Spirituality.

Prayer

God is our refuge and our strength,
an ever-present help in distress.
Thus we do not fear, though earth be shaken
and mountains quake to the depths of the sea,
Though its waters rage and foam
and mountains totter at its surging.

Streams of the river gladden the city of God,
the holy dwelling of the Most High.
God is in its midst; it shall not be shaken;
God will help it at break of day.

Though nations rage and kingdoms totter,
he utters his voice and the earth melts.
The LORD of hosts is with us;
our stronghold is the God of Jacob.

—Psalm 46: 2-8


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March 24, 2020

Jn 5: 1-16

After this there was a festival of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Beth-zatha, which has five porticoes. In these lay many invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.” 

Jesus said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.” At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk. Now that day was a sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who had been cured, “It is the sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your mat.” But he answered them, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Take up your mat and walk.’” They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take it up and walk’?” 

Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had disappeared in the crowd that was there. Later Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you have been made well! Do not sin any more, so that nothing worse happens to you.” The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. Therefore the Jews started persecuting Jesus, because he was doing such things on 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.

Hearing God’s Voice

“I have no one to put me into the pool…”

I have no one…

No one helps me. No one cares about me. No one truly loves me.

This is a tempting and dangerous refrain we can tell ourselves at times. It can keep us angry, bitter, blind to reality, and paralyzed. And this can last for a long time for some (38 years, for the man in the Gospel today!).

But Jesus exposes this refrain for the falsehood that it is. He embodies a different message: I am here with you. I care about you. I love you.

In this time of uncertainty, worry, and isolation, how can we reject that false refrain and be attentive to the voice and presence of Jesus in our lives? How can we be that presence for those who may be feeling particularly lonely, uncared for, or unloved? How can we embody that message that says: I am here with you. I care about you. I love you.

—Thomas Bambrick, SJ, is a Jesuit scholastic of the Midwest Province studying at the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University in Berkeley, CA.

Prayer

God of Love and of Presence,
we trust that you are with us
and love us.
Help us to hear your voice,
to feel your presence,
and to know your love for us,
so that we can be that voice,
that presence, that love
for those who need it most.

—Thomas Bambrick, SJ


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March 23, 2020

Jn 4: 43-54

When the two days were over, he went from that place to Galilee (for Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in the prophet’s own country). When he came to Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, since they had seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the festival; for they too had gone to the festival. Then he came again to Cana in Galilee where he had changed the water into wine. 

Now there was a royal official whose son lay ill in Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went and begged him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. Then Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my little boy dies.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and started on his way. 

As he was going down, his slaves met him and told him that his child was alive. So he asked them the hour when he began to recover, and they said to him, “Yesterday at one in the afternoon the fever left him.” The father realized that this was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” So he himself believed, along with his whole household. Now this was the second sign that Jesus did after coming from Judea to Galilee.

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.

A quiet encounter with Jesus

Have you ever felt over-extended and put upon?  Deadlines at work, needy children at home, jumping in the car to run multiple errands, or opening the mail to one more form to fill out… Jesus seems to be a bit weary of those who had heard of his miracles and were, as realtors sometimes say, “Lookie-Loos”.  But here comes someone from the royal palace to beg him to return with him and save his little boy. Jesus does not want a scene, with a crowd following curiously to see the next “event”. Jesus simply speaks to the agonized father, and the official returns home to find his son healed, even as Jesus spoke to him.

Something happened in that quiet conversation, just between the two of them. A deep faith was kindled in the man by a few simple words of Jesus, by merely being in his presence.   And there were miraculous, though “uneventful”, consequences. How often, when we talk to God, do we take our “blueprints” with us? But when we remove these “things” from our wish list, and simply share our trust in God’s providence, we may suddenly hear and take to heart, “Go. I’ve got this.  It’s going to be okay.”

—Donna K. Becher, M.S.  is an associate spiritual director intern at the West Virginia Institute for Spirituality, Charleston, West Virginia.  Her training is rooted in the Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola.

Prayer

O Christ Jesus,
When all is darkness
And we feel our weakness and helplessness,
Give us the sense of Your Presence,
Your love, and Your strength.
Help us to have perfect trust
In Your protecting love
And strengthening power,
So that nothing may frighten or worry us,
For, living close to You,
We shall see Your Hand,
Your Purpose, Your Will through all things.

—St. Ignatius of Loyola


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March 22, 2020

Fourth Sunday of Lent

Jn 9: 1-41

As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 

When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see.

The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.” They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”

They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, “He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.” Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath.” 

But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And they were divided. So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” He said, “He is a prophet.” The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” 

His parents answered, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.” 

So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, “Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.” He answered, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” 

Then they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” The man answered, “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?” And they drove him out.

Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” He said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped him.

Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.” Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.

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.

Fix our eyes on Jesus

The irony in this Sunday’s Gospel begins with the “sinner” in question. According to the Jewish Law, blindness, or any other physical handicap, resulted from either the person’s sin, or that of his or her parents. This blind man we hear about naturally provokes Jesus’ largely Jewish disciples to ask: Who’s sin is responsible for the man’s blindness? Jesus redirects his disciples’ question, however, punning to make his point: It is no one’s sin, but rather this man’s healing, that action that makes Jesus visible as the Messiah, that ought to be their focus.

The irony builds. Enter the Pharisees, the guardians of the Law, who now must account for the blind man’s healing, while also condemning this Jesus who heals on the Sabbath. But why merely condemn Jesus to their followers when they can discredit Jesus to the formerly blind man and let him condemn more convincingly on their behalf. Compared to the Pharisees, what knowledge can this once-blind man – a sinner – have of God’s Law?! What follows illustrates how Christ’s authority supplants that of Moses, representative of the Jewish Law. In the process, the supposed know-nothing blind man effectively shuts down the Pharisees’ efforts with a one-line response: “One thing I do know is that I was blind and now I see,” (Jn 9: 25b).

The overall irony is that it takes a blind man to point out the Messiah in the Pharisees’ midst. And still, they do not see. But, do we? Lent affords the opportunity to not only repent for our sins, but to call upon Jesus for forgiveness and grace that we might see. This Lent we fix our gaze on Jesus, the light that dispels all darkness.

—Fr. William T. Sheahan, SJ, is a Jesuit of the Central and Southern Province serving as rector of the Rockhurst Jesuit Community in Kansas City, MO.

Prayer

Lord God, in the midst of all the darkness around us, at a time when we may find it difficult to see beyond the fear and uncertainty in our midst, help us to fix our eyes on you, knowing that you are here with us.  Amen.

—The Jesuit Prayer team


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