Prayers and Reflections
September 17, 2023~24th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Gathering - The God of All Grace #300
Presentation - Hosea #665
Communion - One Love Released #353
Sending Forth - Let There be Peace on Earth #533
Responsorial Psalm: The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger and rich in compassion.
Gloria #914 in Breaking Bread
Mass parts Mass of of Christ the Savior #917,918,921,922
Click here for the lLink to USCCB Mass readings- click on appropriate day.
Act of Spiritual Communion prayer can be found on our opening page
The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it
Welcome to the Parish of Saints Philip and James
Our Parish Office is open for your needs - Monday - Wednesday 9 am - 7 pm. Thursday 9 am - 5 pm. Closed - Friday-Saturday-Sunday
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Memorial Day - prayer
GRACIOUS GOD, ON THIS MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND,
WE REMEMBER AND GIVE THANKS
FOR THOSE WHO HAVE GIVEN THEIR LIVES
IN THE SERVICE OF OUR COUNTRY.
WHEN THE NEED WAS GREATEST,
THEY STEPPED FORWARD AND DID THEIR DUTY
TO DEFEND THE FREEDOMS THAT WE ENJOY,
AND TO WIN THE SAME FOR OTHERS.
O GOD, YOU YOURSELF HAVE TAUGHT US
THAT NO LOVE IS GREATER THAN THAT
WHICH GIVES ITSELF FOR ANOTHER.
THESE HONORED DEAD GAVE THE MOST PRECIOUS
GIFT THEY HAD, LIFE ITSELF,
FOR LOVED ONES AND NEIGHBORS,
FOR COMRADES AND COUNTRY – AND FOR US.
HELP US TO HONOR THEIR MEMORY BY CARING FOR THE FAMILY MEMBERS THEY HAVE LEFT BEHIND,
BY ENSURING THAT THEIR WOUNDED COMRADES ARE PROPERLY CARED FOR, BY BEING WATCHFUL CARETAKERS OF THE FREEDOMS FOR WHICH THEY GAVE THEIR LIVES, AND BY DEMANDING THAT NO OTHER YOUNG MEN AND WOMEN FOLLOW THEM TO A SOLDIER’S GRAVE UNLESS THE REASON IS WORTHY AND THE CAUSE IS JUST.
HOLY ONE, HELP US TO REMEMBER THAT FREEDOM IS NOT FREE.
THERE ARE TIMES WHEN ITS COST IS, INDEED, DEAR.
NEVER LET US FORGET THOSE WHO PAID SO TERRIBLE A PRICE TO ENSURE THAT FREEDOM WOULD BE OUR LEGACY.
THOUGH THEIR NAMES MAY FADE WITH THE PASSING OF GENERATIONS, MAY WE NEVER FORGET WHAT THEY HAVE DONE.
HELP US TO BE WORTHY OF THEIR SACRIFICE, O GOD, HELP US TO BE WORTHY.
– J. VELTRI, S.J.
Click Here: April 30, 2022 Word on Fire
Second Week of Easter
Friends, in today’s Gospel, Jesus demonstrates his authority over nature by walking on the sea. Water is, throughout the Scriptures, a symbol of danger and chaos. At the very beginning of time, when all was a formless waste, the spirit of the Lord hovered over the surface of the waters. This signals God’s lordship over all of the powers of darkness and disorder.
In the Old Testament, the Israelites are escaping from Egypt, and they confront the waters of the Red Sea. Through the prayer of Moses, they are able to walk through the midst of the waves.
Now in the New Testament, this same symbolism can be found. In all four of the Gospels, there is a version of this story of Jesus mastering the waves. The boat, with Peter and the other disciples, is evocative of the Church, the followers of Jesus. It moves through the waters, as the Church will move through time.
All types of storms—chaos, corruption, stupidity, danger, persecution—will inevitably arise. But Jesus comes walking on the sea. This is meant to affirm his divinity: just as the spirit of God hovered over the waters at the beginning, so Jesus hovers over them now.
Click Here: April 29, 2022
Reflection on the Book Page
Today we celebrate the feast of Saint Catherine of Siena, who was born in 1347. She was
the 25th child, and her mother was 40 years old when she was born. Siena at the time was
hit by an outbreak of the plague. Catherine did not enter a convent, but instead she joined
the Third Order of St. Dominic, which allowed her to associate with a religious society whilst
living at home. She lived a life of prayer and contemplation, during which she had regular
mystical experiences, culminating in an extraordinary union with God granted to only a few
mystics, known as a 'mystical marriage'.
Our Gospel reading today speaks of Jesus thanking his Father ‘for hiding these things from
the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children’. Catherine had this purity of
heart and child-like innocence where she approached her faith in God in wonderful openness
and receptiveness. Jesus calls us to be child-like, not childish, an entirely different thing. Jesus
thanks his Father for actively participating in keeping the truth from those who think they are
smart. He thanks God for revealing the hidden truth to ‘little children’, people who are open
and willing to learn, just like Saint Catherine of Siena.
Our artwork is a very early book on Saint Catherine of Siena published by Wynkyn de Worde.
He was a printer and publisher in London, and is recognised as the first to popularise the products
of the printing press in England. We see a woodcut illustration of Saint Catherine holding her heart
in her left hand, stigmata in both hands, being infused by the Holy Spirit descending from
God the Father.
Saint Catherine was only 33 when she died. And I leave you with one of her many poignant and
"Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire."
- Saint Catherine of Siena
Daily Inspiration from JesuitPrayer.org
April 28, 2022
The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is of the earth belongs to
the earth and speaks about earthly things. The one who comes from heaven is above
all. He testifies to what he has seen and heard, yet no one accepts his testimony.
Whoever has accepted his testimony has certified this, that God is true. He whom God
has sent speaks the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. The Father
loves the Son and has placed all things in his hands. Whoever believes in the Son has
eternal life; whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure God’s wrath.
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
Don’t Ration Love
God holds nothing back but gives all of his love. In this vein, the Gospel is telling us not to ration anything but to give constant love to others as God gives constant love to us. At the same time, we also live in a society where often the most we can give is still considered not enough. We need boundaries to make sure that we can give to the best of our abilities. Yet God is the one that can continue to give us more without losing anything. He is rather an overflowing cup, that is constantly filling other cups with his love. This is the one great thing about love, that in giving away more and more of it, we find ourselves filled up with love even more. In this Easter season, let us keep our boundaries and ration our energy, but never ration the love we show to our neighbors. —Alex Hale, SJ, is a Jesuit scholastic from the Midwest Province studying philosophy at Loyola University Chicago.
O master, grant that I may not seek so much to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love with all my soul. For it’s in giving that we receive, in pardoning that we are pardoned, and in dying that we are born to eternal life. —Excerpt of the Peace Prayer of St. Francis
Click Here: April 27, 2022 Jesuit Post
I spent my early childhood in Vietnam, and one of the things I remember quite
vividly is the frequent blackouts. Imagine a huge chunk of the metropolis going
dark, succumbing to the night. The darkness seemed to have power over us. It
literally stopped everything in its tracks, from us children playing on the street to
the vendors by the roadside; everyone packed up and went home because without
light, we were powerless against the dark.
Every household had to have a secondary source of light, and during the late 1980s,
the most economical form of backup lighting was the oil lamp; a flickering flame
with its continuous stream of black smoke hiding behind a glass bubble.
As a child, I had a fear of darkness. Imagine what a power blackout could do to a child
who is afraid of the dark. There is always a feeling of something prowling in that dark
abyss, and my first instinct is to get away. Perhaps this is the reason why I remember
so well all those nights spent fixing my eyes on the burning glass lamps, their soft and
dim glow driving away the ever-consuming darkness, closing in from all directions.
This tiny warm bloom was able to keep the seemingly infinite darkness at bay, never
yielding even an inch.
I am enamored by this theme of light in the darkness. A lot of what I like to paint tends to revolve around the contrast of light and dark. Whether it be the moon slicing through the dark cloudy night or the hopeful radiance in a gloomy forest, the light warding off the
darkness always draws my attention.
That same light may not garner much attention on a sunny day, but in the dark or a forest or a nighttime sea or a powerless metropolis, the light shines forth brilliantly. Regardless of how hard the darkness tries, it can never overcome the light. The resilience of the light sends forth sparks of hope within me. No matter how scary the darkness may be, by clinging to the light we can overcome our fear of it. Regardless of how dreary things may appear, there is light somewhere that can guide us through to the end.
We see the same image of the light in the darkness being used at the beginning of the Gospel of John: “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (Jn 1:5). Here we are, trapped in the darkness of our own web of ignorance and despair, yet liberated by the light that is Christ. Regardless of how far we may stray from Him, Christ finds a way to bring us back. Sure, the darkness is still there, but it is not the main attraction of the show; the main protagonist will always be Christ. Christ is the light that shines through the dark, and our focus will always be on that light hope.
It may sound trite to hammer home the theme of hope when so much of the news around the world seems to perpetuate the ever-present veil of despair. For precisely this reason we need to never let go of that light of hope. We have to cling to it like our lives depend on it, because we need hope.
As a child, I fixed my eyes on the burning oil lamp for comfort against the scary darkness, and never once did that light yield to the darkness. Growing up both in age and in faith, I try to keep my gaze on Christ because the light of Christ can cast away all the darkness, “and the darkness has not overcome it.” Our eyes will always orient toward that bright spot in the dark, the hope in the midst of the gloom.
Click Here: April 26, 2022
Of Creighton University's Online Ministries
April 26, 2022
by Barbara Dilly
Tuesday of the Second Week of Easter
Most Christians do not take the passage in Acts 4 for today literally. But we should all take it seriously. St. Paul noted that this early community of Christian believers was of one heart and mind. What did that mean, and must we conduct our lives in Christian community to such an extent that we hold all things in common? This intentional community was powerfully effective in bearing witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus because they made sure there was no needy person among them.
That is certainly one way to do it. But communalism is not considered the only way to meet human needs by most people. There are many debates regarding the best ways to make sure there are no needy persons in our societies in terms of the rules of engagement in economic activity. How do our economic practices bear witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus? These questions can be deeply troubling.
I look often to the intentional communities of the Amish for practices that bear witness to the resurrection. Yet, even the Amish, who will give generously to help each other in times of need, do not own property in common. And while they have rules about what kinds of economic activities they will engage in, they are far more innovative that their non-Amish rural community neighbors in developing profitable economic niches that celebrate individual initiative. And it works well for them. Apart from the excessive costs of cancer treatment expenses, they do not have any problem meeting the needs of their members through their self-insured system of stepping up according to their circumstances in times of need of their members. Their spirit of generosity is motivated by love as much as obedience.
Taking up collections and sharing food in times of need has always been a practice in the communities to which I have belonged. In most rural and urban communities, Lutherans work together with Catholics, Methodists, Baptists, and other churches to help each other in times of disasters and great need. But we share out of possessions that we call our own. It gets more difficult when we must step up for famines in Africa and war in Ukraine, but we all do it. In one week, my congregation collected $10,000 for Ukraine administered through Lutheran Disaster Relief. Even together with all the other Christians who participate, it is a drop in the bucket. Despite our faithful intentions and generosity there are still too many needy persons among us on the planet and even in our own communities.
This great need is weighing us down. And then we read that “the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” There is a lot of heavy lifting that needs to be done to witness to the resurrection. Even if Christians everywhere give everything we have to the poor and stand on the corner preaching day and all night, we cannot do it. We are certainly humbled by our need for Christ to help us. I stand today with Nicodemus. What must I do? Jesus tells us we must be born of the spirit. It is not about what we do with our material things. It is about what happens to unify our hearts and minds when the spirit guides us. How will that unified Christian community of faith give us the power to witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus in our times? I pray today that we will each find renewed purpose in our faith response through our Christian communities.
Click Here: April 25, 2022
Reflection on the Illuminated Miniature
Today we celebrate the feast of Saint Mark the evangelist. Our illuminated manuscript miniature was
executed circa 1503 by Jean Bourdichon (1456-1521), one of Europe’s most accomplished miniature
painters. It is taken from the book of hours ‘Grandes Heures of Anne of Brittany’, Queen of France to
two kings in succession. In the history of illuminated manuscripts, this is a very late book. The miniature
in fact looks more like a painting than a book illustration. The highly intricate detailing, especially in the
gilding is particularly exquisite.
We see Saint Mark depicted at his desk, writing his Gospel. Mark was a companion of Saint Peter and
is said to have survived being thrown to the lions, which is why he is shown with a lion. He is often also
shown with a winged lion, as another legend has it that Mark, while taking refuge from a storm in the
city of Venice, was visited in a dream by an angel in the form of a winged lion.
In addition to writing his Gospel, Saint Mark is credited with founding the Church of Alexandria in
Egypt, one of the original Apostolic Sees of Christianity (along with Rome, Antioch, Constantinople,
and Jerusalem). I always find it fascinating that already at the time, people such as Mark evangelised
the word of Christ by traveling such great distances. The Gospel of Mark is the oldest of the four
Gospels (Matthew and Luke based a lot of their writings on Mark; these three Gospels of Mark, Luke
and Matthew are also called the ‘Synoptic Gospels’).
Mark doesn’t include a Christmas story. What is striking in the Gospel of Mark is that Jesus is portrayed
as a man of action who hits the ground running, with no time to waste. The start of today’s Gospel
reading ‘Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News to all creation’ reflects this sense of
urgency… An urgency we are all called to act upon.
In the story of “doubting Thomas,” Jesus shows compassion and mercy on him by showing Thomas his wounds. Matthew Zurcher, SJ, reflects on the vastness of God’s mercy on Divine Mercy Sunday. Based on the readings for Sunday, April 24, 2022.
Christ is risen and nothing, and I mean nothing, is bigger than the ocean of his mercy.
My name is Matthew Zurcher, and this is my One-Minute Reflection.
Today the Church celebrates Divine Mercy Sunday, hearing once again the familiar story of Thomas, who had to touch and see before he believed. If, like Thomas or like me, you struggle to comprehend the resurrection, it’s because it’s like trying to fit the sky in a jar.
Jesus understood this. He has mercy on us in our doubts, in our fragile need to see for ourselves. When he returned to that locked room, it wasn’t for the ten who had already seen him, it was for Thomas––the one who had not. Jesus always pursues his lost sheep. As he said to St. Faustina, the great apostle of today’s feast, “the greater the sinner, the greater the right they have to my mercy.”
Today, picture God’s ocean of mercy, imagine yourself dropped in as a little rock of salt, and dissolve in those faithful words: “My Lord and my God, I trust in you.”
Click Here: April 23, 2022
Saturday within the Octave of Easter
Friends, in today’s Gospel, the risen Lord commissions the eleven Apostles to proclaim the Good News to everyone. And this commission to evangelize the people of the world extends to all baptized Christians.
To evangelize is to proclaim Jesus Christ crucified and risen from the dead. When this kerygma, this Paschal Mystery, is not at the heart of the project, Christian evangelization effectively disappears, devolving into a summons to bland religiosity or generic spirituality. When Jesus crucified and risen is not proclaimed, a beige and unthreatening Catholicism emerges, a thought system that is, at best, an echo of the environing culture.
Peter Maurin, one of the founders of the Catholic Worker movement, said that the Church has taken its own dynamite and placed it in hermetically sealed containers and sat on the lid. In a similar vein, Stanley Hauerwas commented that the problem with Christianity is not that it is socially conservative or politically liberal, but that “it is just too damned dull”!
For both Maurin and Hauerwas, what leads to this attenuation is a refusal to preach the dangerous and unnerving news concerning Jesus risen from the dead.
Click Here: April 22, 2022
Friday within the Octave of Easter
Friends, today’s Gospel tells of the appearance of the risen Jesus to seven disciples by the shore of the Sea of Galilee.
Peter and six other Apostles were in a boat on the sea. Seeing Peter and the disciples in a boat, we are meant to think of the Church, and the peculiar number of seven—evocative of completion or fulfillment—is meant to make us consider the eschatological Church, the community of Jesus approaching the end of its journey.
On the shore (though they don’t recognize him at first) is the Lord Jesus. At his command, they lower their nets and bring in an extraordinary catch. Well, this is the work of the Church until the end of the age: to gather in souls and to bring them to Christ.
When they empty their nets they discover 153 large fish. Many theories as to the meaning of this figure have been proposed. My favorite is the one put forward by St. Augustine. According to the science of that time, Augustine argued, there were 153 species of fish in the sea, and therefore, this extraordinary number is meant to signal the universality of the Church’s salvific mission.
Click Here: April 21, 2022 Word on Fire
Friends, in today’s Gospel, Jesus appeared alive again to his followers. Upon seeing him, “they were startled and terrified.” They are terrified because the one they abandoned and betrayed and left for dead is back—undoubtedly for revenge!
Luke’s risen Jesus does two things in the presence of his shocked followers. The first thing is that he shows them his wounds. This move is a reiteration of the judgment of the cross: don’t forget, he tells them, what the world did when the Author of life appeared.
But he does something else; he says, “Shalom”—“Peace be with you.” In this, he opens up a new spiritual world and thereby becomes our Savior. From ancient creation myths to the Rambo and Dirty Harry movies, the principle is the same: order, destroyed through violence, is restored through a righteous exercise of greater violence.
And then there is Jesus. The terrible disorder of the cross (the killing of the Son of God) is addressed not through an explosion of divine vengeance but through a radiation of divine love. When Christ confronts those who contributed to his death, he speaks words not of retribution but of reconciliation and compassion.
Reflection on the Old Master Drawing
Today’s drawing by Giovanni Antonio Guardi captures beautifully the mystical nature of the
breaking of bread . Using brown ink, pen, pencil and watercolour, Guardi almost makes light
flicker over the surface, giving the sheet of paper a luminous quality. This is a study for an
altarpiece painting that Guardi was commissioned in Venice, where, in the mid 18th century,
there was an insatiable demand for religious subject paintings. We see Jesus, surrounded by
a burst of light, being recognised by the two disciples. As in our gospel reading today ‘their
eyes were opened and they recognised him’.
On this Easter Wednesday we are told of the two disciples walking away from Jerusalem.
They walked away from the grief and disappointment that Jerusalem had brought to them.
They were grief-stricken. The city had killed their friend, Jesus, and had killed their hopes with
it. It is exactly in that moment of disappointment and disillusionment that Jesus walked with
them. He journeyed with these two disciples to make them see that Jerusalem was not a place
where only his crucifixion and death took place... but also where he rose from the dead.
In our own lives, we often want to walk away from places and situations that have brought us
disappointment and hardship. We feel that we want to close such chapters in our lives. Fair
enough. But are these places or situations of disappointment not exactly the very places where
the seeds of hope and fresh life are found? Jesus journeys with us in our moments of difficulty…
and makes us see that a past situation which we experience as negative may actually be the
very seed of new life.
by Patrick van der Vorst
Reflection on the painting
Jesus tells Mary Magdalene in today’s reading: ‘Don’t cling on to me’, or in Latin ‘Noli me tangere’,
the title of our painting by Abraham Janssens and Jan Wildens. So ‘Noli me tangere’ means much
more than ‘don’t touch me’. I means don’t hang on to me or don’t cling to me as in our Gospel
translation. ‘Cling’ is actually a good word to use, as it implies that we would cling to something in
its physical form. So Jesus tells Mary not to hang on to him in his physical form… as soon he will
ascend into heaven.
This is the single most important event in Mary Magdalene’s life. She is depicted in our painting in
a graceful pose, gently reaching out to Jesus, but yet in a reserved manner. Kneeling, she is in awe
after having recognised the gardener as Jesus. He is depicted in a blood red open cloak revealing
his side wound. He is holding a spade (as is usual in paintings depicting this topic), the only sign of
his humanity. The tip of the spade is touching the earth.
Christ works the garden in which our spiritual lives grow and blossom. Look at all the fruit behind
him! We too can generate such abundant fruits if we let Jesus be the gardener to our souls.
Click Here: April 18, 2022 Jesuit Prayer.org
So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
While they were going, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests everything that had happened. After the priests had assembled with the elders, they devised a plan to give a large sum of money to the soldiers, telling them, “You must say, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’
If this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story is still told among the Jews to this day.
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.
Transformed by Something Marvelous
Having borne the unbearable together over several traumatic days, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary return to the tomb of Jesus crucified. Whatever drew these devoted women there that morning – love, sorrow, fidelity, emptiness, curiosity, a steadfast spirit of accompaniment – these unwavering disciples experienced an earth-shaking, dramatic inversion of reality as they had previously known it. Something entirely new is dawning. By steering in the direction of loss and emptiness, emptiness itself (theirs and the tomb’s) becomes an inexplicable encounter with faint hopes dramatically fulfilled. Fearful, yet overjoyed, they run and tell Jesus’s disciples that something marvelous is about to happen. They run until something even more marvelous happens directly to them. Jesus meets them along their way, and they embrace.
When has Jesus embraced my emptiness and transformed it to something new and joy-filled?
With whom am I called to share the hope and promise of this exceptionally Good News?
—Patricia Feder serves as the administrator of the Office of Ignatian Spirituality for the Jesuits USA Central and Southern Province.
Therefore, my heart is glad and my soul rejoices, my body, too, abides in confidence; Because you will not abandon my soul to the nether world, nor will you suffer your faithful one to undergo corruption. You will show me the path to life, fullness of joys in your presence, the delights at your right hand forever.”
Click Here: April 17, 2022
A Feast of Hope
In a homily offered on Easter Sunday 2019, Father Richard Rohr shared the good news of the resurrection:
The Brazilian writer and journalist Fernando Sabino (1923–2004) wrote, “In the end, everything will be [all right]. If it’s not [all right], it’s not the end.”  That’s what today is all about, “Everything will be okay in the end.”
The message of Easter is not primarily a message about Jesus’ body, although we’ve been trained to limit it to this one-time “miracle.” We’ve been educated to expect a lone, risen Jesus saying, “I rose from the dead; look at me!” I’m afraid that’s why many people, even Christians, don’t really seem to get too excited about Easter. If the message doesn’t somehow include us, humans don’t tend to be that interested in theology. Let me share what I think the real message is: Every message about Jesus is a message about all of us, about humanity. Sadly, the Western church that most of us were raised in emphasized the individual resurrection of Jesus. It was a miracle that we could neither prove nor experience, but that we just dared to boldly believe.
But there’s a great secret, at least for Western Christians, hidden in the other half of the universal church. In the Eastern Orthodox Church—in places like Syria, Turkey, Greece, and Egypt—Easter is not usually painted with a solitary Jesus rising from the dead. He’s always surrounded by crowds of people—both haloed and unhaloed. In fact, in traditional icons, he’s pulling people out of Hades. Hades is not the same as hell, although we put the two words together, and so we grew up reciting in the creed that “Jesus descended into hell.”
Instead, Hades is simply the place of the dead. There’s no punishment or judgment involved. It’s just where a soul waits for God. But we neglected that interpretation. So the Eastern Church was probably much closer to the truth that the resurrection is a message about humanity. It’s a message about history. It’s a corporate message, and it includes you and me and everyone else. If that isn’t true, it’s no wonder that we basically lost interest.
Today is the feast of hope, direction, purpose, meaning, and community. We’re all in this together. The cynicism and negativity that our country and many other countries have descended into show a clear example of what happens when people do not have hope. If it’s all hopeless, we individually lose hope too. Easter is an announcement of a common hope. When we sing in the Easter hymn that Christ destroyed death, that means the death of all of us. It’s not just about Jesus; it’s to humanity that God promises, “Life is not ended, it merely changes,” as we say in the funeral liturgy. That’s what happened in Jesus, and that’s what will happen in us. In the end, everything will be all right. History is set on an inherently positive and hopeful tangent.
Click Here: April 16, 2022
Wounded by Beauty’s Absence
By Cecilia González-Andrieu, Ph.D.
War rages. Christ dies. The earth trembles under the pounding of bombs. The sky darkens as his body is taken down from the Cross. Children, grandparents, and soldiers, perish under the weight of our rejection of God’s vision for who we can be. Christ waits in the tomb and the rock shelters him. God’s gift of God’s self is spurned and destroyed, and yet in spite of this God still loves. The women will come to the tomb to anoint Christ’s body. A nurse will gently bind a wound. The women will not find him in the tomb, because Christ lives and a teacher will teach in a refugee camp. Because Christ lives, strangers will bring food and offer shelter. Because Christ lives, the wounds of the world will move us to act. Because Christ lives, we will live as light bearers, as peace makers, as the ones who know God’s heart. Christ lives because God is love and the tomb is the very moment and place where that wounded love explodes into all reality, sending small shards of its light into each of us.
We will awaken—not just to the dawn, but to the hope that the starkness of the tomb urges us to create. We have been wounded by beauty’s absence, and standing at the door of the empty tomb recommit ourselves to reimagine, reclaim, rebuild, and rejoice, because… Christ lives.
Is there a tomb keeping me from stepping out to live the fullness of God’s vision for me?
In what way, however small, can I be a source of light and hope to those in my midst?
Can I make it a practice to listen intently to my heart each day to hear God’s gentle voice guiding me?
Share your thoughts
[Image: Christ, Bianca Badillo, for Meeting Christ in Faith & Art, LMU 2022]
Click Here: April 15, 2022
Our Denial of Suffering
By Ellie Hidalgo
“I am not.”
I twinge each time during the Good Friday service when Peter denies being Jesus’ disciple with the words, “I am not.” Peter and Jesus have been through so much together, and yet on Good Friday Peter denies having been a close disciple. Three times Peter betrays his friend, his own integrity, and his own belief that a better world is possible.
I twinge because who could fault Peter for wanting to protect himself during a violent, vulnerable moment, when the cause he has pledged himself to appears to be unraveling completely. I twinge because I’ve been there, and I know you’ve been there. We’ve all denied Jesus hundreds of times in order to avoid suffering as a Christian.
Good Friday is raw. This day invites us to look at the suffering we deny, the suffering we can’t bear to see and feel in a world fraught with sin, death, violence, war, hate, injustice, division, poverty, and illness.
The desire to escape suffering is all too human, all too understandable. It seems impossibly difficult sometimes that God would ask us to risk our own comfort, our own security, or perhaps even our own lives to accompany others in their pain. Do you ever become frustrated with God by the amount of suffering that pleads for accompaniment in our world today? Do you ever become frustrated with yourself for resembling Peter’s pattern of denial? I know I do.
It is impossibly hard to deal with so much pain by ourselves, which is why I am grateful that our Ignatian spiritual tradition encourages us to pray for the graces we need. On Good Friday we can pray for the grace to remain at the foot of the Cross and be present with someone who suffers. We can pray for the grace of faith in the Paschal Mystery even before it unfolds.
In what ways do you resemble Peter’s denial of suffering?
What graces do you need to pray for to accompany someone in your life who is suffering?
Click Here: April 14, 2022
Holy Thursday of The Lord’s Supper
Jn 13: 1-15
Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him.
And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him.
He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.”
After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
Love in the Midst of Despair
Tonight we are presented with three options. We can turn on Jesus and our Christian family when it no longer fits our needs like Judas did. If we’re all honest, we’ve probably done this in some form at some time.
The more common route is to turn to Peter. We say everything with the best of intentions. We are bold in words but we run away out of fear as soon as we lose hope.
Finally, we could choose the way of John, who just gently lays his head on the chest of Jesus at the Last Supper. I imagine John heard that sacred heartbeat and feeling the love coming off of it gave him the ability to endure the pain and stand with Mary at the foot of the cross. It is through being loved that we are able to love in the midst of despair without counting the cost.
—Alex Hale, SJ, is a Jesuit scholastic from the Midwest Province studying philosophy at Loyola University Chicago.
Take my hand, I’ll lead you to salvation. Take my love, for love is everlasting. And remember the truth that once was spoken, ‘to love another person is to see the face of God.’
—From “Epilogue” from Les Miserables
Click Here: April 13, 2022
Click Here: April 12, 2022
Tuesday of Holy Week:
Fickleness and Frustration into Friendship with God
By Alyssa Perez
This is maybe one of the first passages where Jesus is being sarcastic (at least in my mind), and it caught me off guard. Simon Peter tells Jesus, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Very truly, I tell you, before the cock crows, you will have denied me three times." Jesus is saying: truly, will you? Because you are saying one thing and are about to do another. This got me thinking.
When was the last time we were guilty of this? When is the last time that we may have said one thing, but done another? It is tempting, sometimes, to quickly judge Simon Peter for his denial of Jesus, yet sometimes the peer pressure and temptation is so strong that we all find our ways into the wrong situation or decision at times.
This reading feels very timely for our Lenten journey as we move closer and closer towards Easter during this Holy Week. How many times have we been fickle in our commitment, or made exceptions out of convenience to our Lenten observance? I am for sure guilty of it, and Simon Peter's story is a good example for us to reflect on. It is easy to see other people's flaws and shortcomings, such as any of us reading today’s gospel about Judas or Simon Peter in 2022. We may think to ourselves: How could Simon and Judas do that to Jesus? I would never.
And yet, how can we instead turn our prayer inward to refocus our energy and frustration into looking at our own lives? May those without sin throw the first stone. In choosing to admit our own fickleness and denials of Jesus, we are reminded that we are all sinners, no one person better than another. It humanizes each of us, so even when we don't agree with other people—politicians, leaders, colleagues, or friends—and they seem dissonant in their action, we are able to understand and show compassion. We all have something to work on in terms of living out our values, and today's readings invite us into reflection about our own commitments and beliefs. Do we act in accordance with our beliefs and values every day, or do we have some things to work on moving forward into these last few days of Lent?
It's a little scary to look inward and face ourselves, but we find peace and comfort in the loving kindness that God surrounds us with each day. No matter our situation, God is always there to catch us or put an arm around us to wrap in a warm embrace. God is calling each of us into friendship with Her. Our journey during Holy Week is the perfect time to answer that call.
Click Here: April 11, 2022
Monday of Holy Week
Friends, in today’s Gospel, Mary of Bethany anoints Jesus’ feet with perfumed oil, preparing him for burial.
This gesture—wasting something as expensive as an entire jar of perfume—is sniffed at by Judas, who complains that, at the very least, the nard could have been sold and the money given to the poor.
Why does John use this tale to preface his telling of the Passion? Why does he allow the odor of this woman’s perfume to waft, as it were, over the whole of the story? It is because, I believe, this extravagant gesture shows forth the meaning of what Jesus is about to do: the absolutely radical giving away of self.
There is nothing calculating, careful, or conservative about the woman’s action. Flowing from the deepest place in the heart, religion resists the strictures set for it by a fussily moralizing reason (on full display in those who complain about the woman’s extravagance). At the climax of his life, Jesus will give himself away totally, lavishly, unreasonably—and this is why Mary’s beautiful gesture is a sort of overture to the opera that will follow.
Click Here: April 10, 2022
The Lord God has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to
sustain the weary with a word. Morning by morning he wakens— wakens my
ear to listen as those who are taught. The Lord God has opened my ear, and
I was not rebellious, I did not turn backward.
I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to those who pulled
out the beard; I did not hide my face from insult and spitting. The Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame.
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.
Being Present to Suffering
How quickly the mood changes on Palm Sunday. Suddenly we go from the jubilation of Jesus being greeted with palms as he enters Jerusalem, to the brutality of the suffering servant passage of the first reading. This solemn theme continues with the reading of the Passion.
How am I being called to be present to my own suffering and the suffering of others this Holy Week? As we look upon Jesus hanging on the cross as St. Ignatius suggests in the third week of the Spiritual Exercises, can we begin to appreciate Jesus’ tremendous love for us? I believe he would have died for me even if I was the only one needing redemption.
—Fr. Paul Macke, SJ, is the Jesuit Mission Coordinator at the Jesuit Spiritual Center in Milford, Ohio. He co-leads a Spiritual Direction Training Program for the Cincinnati Region.
O Christ Jesus
May your death be my life,
Your labor my repose,
Your human weakness my strength,
Your confusion my glory.
—Saint Peter Faber, SJ
Click Here: April 9, 2022
Ez 37: 21-28
Thus says the Lord God: I will take the people of Israel from the nations among which they have gone, and will gather them from every quarter, and bring them to their own land. I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king over them all. Never again shall they be two nations, and never again shall they be divided into two kingdoms.
They shall never again defile themselves with their idols and their detestable things, or with any of their transgressions. I will save them from all the apostasies into which they have fallen, and will cleanse them. Then they shall be my people, and I will be their God. My servant David shall be king over them; and they shall all have one shepherd. They shall follow my ordinances and be careful to observe my statutes.
They shall live in the land that I gave to my servant Jacob, in which your ancestors lived; they and their children and their children’s children shall live there forever; and my servant David shall be their prince forever. I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; and I will bless them and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary among them forevermore.
My dwelling place shall be with them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Then the nations shall know that I the Lord sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary is among them forevermore.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
God’s Dream For the World
Have you ever felt sorry for God? Through Ezekiel, we sense God’s unrealized dreams and hopes and feel God’s deep yearning and desire to enter into a relationship with us. Like a couple on their wedding day, like a child imagining the perfect summer vacation, like one answering a call to religious life, initially, none can imagine anything ruining the dream. Today, God shares God’s dream for us: a life - a world - filled with unity and peace. So, what happened?
Each generation is invited to live this dream. As we enter Holy Week, may we start by asking:
Where is there division in my life?
What idols do I place before my relationship with God and others?
Who needs my forgiveness and from whom do I need to ask forgiveness?
Let us ask Jesus for the grace to create this everlasting covenant with God and with one another.
—Sue Robb is the Pastoral Associate for Justice & Life at St. Francis Xavier Parish in Kansas City, Missouri.
May Your will be my will, O God.
May Your obedience be my obedience, dear Jesus.
May Your breath be my breath, Holy Spirit.
May your “Yes” be my yes, Mother Mary.
May your witness be my witness, Saints of Heaven.
And may Love and Peace reign forever in our hearts and in our world.
Click Here: April 8, 2022
A Reflection for the Friday of the Fifth Week of Lent By Jim Keane
“If I do not perform my Father’s works, do not believe me;
but if I perform them, even if you do not believe me,
believe the works, so that you may realize and understand
that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”
Then they tried again to arrest him;
but he escaped from their power” (Jn 10:37-39).
Among the many wise things St. Ignatius Loyola wrote is a simple line from his famous “Contemplation on Divine Love” from the Spiritual Exercises: “Love ought to manifest itself in deeds rather than in words.” Given as a presupposition for a retreatant who has normally spent several weeks contemplating the working of God in human history and in the retreatant’s own life, it is a succinct summary of how St. Ignatius thinks we should respond to God’s gifts in our lives: not with pious talk or lofty promises but with concrete acts of devotion and love.
But the phrase is not only for those who can disappear from everyday life for a month; nor is it only about how we respond to God’s gifts. As Jesus notes in today’s Gospel, we can also recognize what is truly from God by the same principle: “Even if you do not believe me, believe the works.” Jesus tells those seeking to arrest him that they need not accept his words, but they can’t deny the works and deeds: the miracles, the conversions, the growing crowd of disciples following him.
Note that the baptismal promises we will recite at the Easter Vigil reflect an understanding of this reality. When we say that we reject Satan, we also say that we reject “all his empty promises.” Satan offers words but not deeds—the easy way out, the false consolation, the Hallmark card, the thoughts and prayers with you at this time. Jesus offers the narrow gate, the hard saying, the camel through the eye of the needle—but he also assures us that his way won’t be all words; there will be deeds. It will not just be us offering our love to God but God offering love to us in deeds. Forgiveness. Fidelity. Resurrection.
That last is of course the greatest gift, and the whole reason for Lent: to prepare ourselves for the great gift of the Resurrection. But elsewhere in our lives, can we look at the good things we receive, the gifts other people bring (or the gifts other people are), and see those, too, as God’s deeds? It can be a hard thing to trust in a world gone mad—God does not submit to the empirical method, after all—but Jesus asks us not to believe what we’re told, necessarily, as much as to believe because of what has been done.
Day 37: A Problem too Big, A God too Small?
By Br. Mark Mackey, S.J.
My image of God is too small.
Or, I could say, my image of God is never big enough. This can have frustrating consequences.
Between teaching environmental science classes at Loyola Chicago, working with our Jesuit Green Team, collaborating on various Church environmental efforts, and trying to keep up with the latest writing and research regarding the state of our planet, I spend a lot of my time thinking about what we call our current ecological crisis. On a daily basis I can get pulled back to a familiar feeling of frustration and existential dread that first began to form almost 18 years ago as I started my higher education in environmental science.
Sometimes I catch myself in prayer thinking “How can you ask for trust and peace—do you know the state of the planet? Have you seen the latest science in the IPCC report? Do you know the state of biodiversity loss in the world?” Like those in today’s Gospel, I can find myself addressing Jesus simply as some man in first century Palestine. Unlike the prostrating Abraham in the first reading or a person in the first two steps of AA, I can lack the humility it takes to see God as God is.
On occasion and with grace, I remember to let my certainties and questions go. I find myself fixed by the loving gaze of Christ. My endless questions and uncertainties drop away, and I find Jesus, the one who was before anything was. Whoa.
In humility I realize it was God who inspired my desire for environmental justice in the first place. In humility I remember God is the source of Creation and Being itself.
Can I trust God’s promises and covenant? Can I have hope in He who was, is, and will be?
Click Here: April 6, 2022
A Reflection for the Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Lent
By Joe Hoover, S.J.
“If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (Jn 8:31).
The ancient Greek term aletheia, which appears at least 25 times in the Gospel of John, is central to the evangelist’s understanding of the messiah. It is best translated as “truth.” The Scripture scholar Bruce Vawter, C.M., writes that aletheia “represents, as indeed it did in the Old Testament, divine revelation (8:32), and therefore it is identified with Jesus himself.”
In today’s reading, Jesus is telling the Jews that if only they possessed aletheia, if only they knew the divine as revealed in him, they would be truly free. Christ goes on to explain that the Jews’ lack of freedom is not a political or physical bondage but slavery to sin.
And freedom, true freedom from sin, says Christ, is now at hand.
The concept of truth as freedom is a universal one that appears across many religions and philosophies. In Plato’s “allegory of the cave,” prisoners chained to a wall of a cave are constrained to see only shadows of real life, not reality itself. If these captives only knew that what they were seeing was not real, that they were in essence living a lie, they would break out of the cave. The truth would set them free.
The translation of Greek terms; the marshaling of theologians; the extending out to other philosophical traditions: This is all a very appropriate and important way to study our way into understanding Jesus and his exhortations.
But another kind of theology, another way to study the depth of this Scripture passage, is to just say, or even simply listen to the words: The truth shall set you free. Six words, six syllables that over the centuries have worked their way into our lives and culture. Not just because of what they mean—becoming fundamentally liberated by Christ—but because of the way the words fit together. Because the interlocking of consonants and syllables, four iambs, four thrumming phrases, the truth–will set–you free. The rhythm and chant and music is itself a theology, an effortless path to the divine. “The truth will set you free.” It just feels good to say.
We are all in bondage. No one is not. Or we have been. We are sinking under a ridiculous mortgage we can’t pay for, drowning in a toxic relationship we never imagined we would be in, chained by constant violent unheard mutterings to our sworn enemy on the shop floor. We are enslaved to a miserable idea of who we are.
And when we hear or say such words, “the truth shall set you free,” they create a desire to experience what they mean. To wrest ourselves from the abusive marriage, to pierce the numbing lie of an addiction, to accept the cold fact we are loved exactly as we are by our 9-year-old or a best friend. When we experience such freedom, the breath drops deeper, the voice is released, tension leaves the shoulders; we are able to sit before a crucifix and just dwell there, with a deeper knowing of Christ’s suffering and unmatchable gratitude for his redemption.
Click Here: April 5, 2022
What Is Jesus Trying to Set Free?
Until I was 16, it consumed my days, my evenings, my weekends. It made me feel good about myself, connected me with others, and caused me a great deal of enjoyment. This activity was a fundamental part of me and defined so much of my (and my family’s) life.
When I got sick during my junior year of high school, I realized I had become a slave to dancing. Any enjoyment had become overshadowed by the all-consuming commitment and the shame at never being good enough. Something life-giving had become a source of pain. Instead of drawing me closer to my true self, dance began to pull me deeper into despair.
This is how the false spirit often works. We are lured into complacency, and these gifts that God has given us become the very center of our lives. Today’s readings remind us that we are enslaved by our own sinfulness. We become inordinately attached to things that have the potential for good: activities, social media, gossip, and perhaps even a beloved ministry. The good becomes the goal, and there is no room for God.
As we draw nearer to Holy Week, what might Jesus be trying to set free within me?
The goal of our life is to live with God forever. God, who loves us, gave us life.
Our own response of love allows God’s life to flow into us without limit.
All the things in this world are gifts of God, presented to us so that we can know God more easily and make a return of love more readily. As a result, we appreciate and use all these gifts of God insofar as they help us develop as loving persons.
But if any of these gifts become the center of our lives, they displace God and so hinder our growth toward our goal. In everyday life, then, we must hold ourselves in balance before all of these created gifts insofar as we have a choice and are not bound by some obligation.
We should not fix our desires on health or sickness, wealth or poverty, success or failure, a long life or a short one. For everything has the potential of calling forth in us a deeper response to our life in God.
Our only desire and our one choice should be this: I want and I choose what better leads to God’s deepening his life in me.
How are you inviting me to a deepened life in You, God?
—First Principle and Foundation, translated by David Fleming, SJ
Click Here: April 3, 2022
What would it feel like to wake up every morning not worrying about past hurts or past events we couldn't possibly change? What would it be like to stop condemning ourselves every day for the sins that keep replaying in our minds, even though we have confessed our sins to God and we have been forgiven? Wouldn't it be nice to begin each day with hope, renewed trust in God's love, and the faith to know God is doing something new for us every day? So, why do we hold on to past hurts, failures, misspoken words, and the little things that prevent us from taking steps forward towards our own resurrection into life with Christ?
While we condemn ourselves, or expect others to judge and condemn us, we sometimes forget to ask Jesus what he thinks about what we have said, done, or didn’t do when we weren’t our better selves. If we, in a moment of human failing, after we have hurt or disappointed another, stood before Jesus Christ and said, "Lord, I have sinned, and I am afraid everyone would judge me, unfriend me on social media accounts, ignore me, or even push me away. I am afraid no one would like me anymore. I am afraid I will be alone.” Jesus might say, “No human being is completely innocent; everyone has sinned, and still I love you and stand with you. May that love be a healing balm for your brokenness; may that love be a stop sign for the next time sin knocks at your door.”
It is easy for anyone to say, “Forget the past, just look ahead,” or “don’t worry, time heals all wounds.” We have all heard these words of encouragement from friends, family, mentors, and colleagues. However, it is difficult to forget. It is difficult to not stir up anxieties about past failings or hurts. It is difficult to strain forward while the wind of regret and fear is right in our faces forcing us to frequently take steps backwards or stand still in terror. It is difficult to move towards the upward calling of loving ourselves and others.
When Jesus responded to the scribes and the Pharisees who brought him the woman who had been caught in adultery, he never proclaimed the woman’s innocence, nor did he pass judgment. Jesus called their attention to her humanity and theirs. Jesus chose mercy over judgment. Jesus bent down and away from the height of judgment, standardized punishment, chastisement, and condemnation. Jesus leaned into her humanity, her imperfection, and the impermanence of the path she had taken as he wrote on an impermanent ground that holds no one's secrets for long. We could maybe lean into the humanity of those who have hurt us or disappointed us. We could maybe lean into our own humanity and realize we are forgivable and loveable. We could maybe trust in the Lord God, who doesn't condemn us, who puts water in the desert of our soul, who does great things for us and lifts us up.
Lord, please lift us up from sin and help us lean forward into a new life with you. Amen
Click Here: April 2, 2022
Openness To New Ideas
In the verses preceding this passage, Jesus invites all who are thirsty to come to him and drink of the living water thus causing the clamor we read about today. Some believed Jesus without question and celebrated the invitation. Some reverted to the “law” to invalidate Jesus’ divinity. The powerful refused to see Jesus for who he was and the gift he was offering. They rejected views that did not align with theirs. Sound familiar?
How many times do I refuse to listen to another’s perspective because I am convinced of what (I think) I know?
What happens when, like Nicodemus, I try to see things another way and then am challenged for speaking my truth?
How many times have I just gone home and accomplished nothing?
Today, may I be mindful of how well (or how poorly) I embrace other ideas. How is Jesus inviting me to change?
—Sue Robb is the Pastoral Associate for Justice & Life at St. Francis Xavier Parish in Kansas City, Missouri.
Jesus, educate me – not in the law – but in your invitation to come and drink of your living water. Show me those times when I dig in and refuse to listen openly to other perspectives. Be with our elected leaders and our world leaders. Open their hearts and guide them to work for peace in our world and justice for the least among us. Amen.
Speaking with an Unbridled Tongue
And here he is, speaking openly, but they say nothing to him! John 7:26
Speaking openly, the evidence that Jesus even under the threat of death could only testify to the truth. He did not allow his mouth to be bridled to the testimony of truth. Jesus spoke openly and honestly to the people, in their ordinary circumstances. His words healed them, saved them.
How often do we get caught in the snares of obscuring the truth? Our talk and actions are at times not reflective of honest communication. We are called to proclaim in Christ Jesus. How often, for the sake of comfort, do we shy away from speaking about the Catholic Social Teachings that are foundational to our moral theology?
This Lent the fruit of this Scripture is to preach with an unbridled tongue to proclaim the Word of God, so that the promise of salvation, that God is Love, can be heard.
—Dr. Valerie D. Lewis-Mosley is a Pastoral Theologian–Spiritual Director and adjunct Professor of Theology. She embraces the Ignatian Examen and the Dominican charism of preaching to lead others to healing from the trauma of racism and injustice.
Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding and my entire will, all I have and call my own. You have given all to me. To you, Lord, I return it. Everything is yours; do with it what you will. Give me only your love and grace, that is enough for me.
—St. Ignatius of Loyola
Day 30: Signs and Reminders
By John Dougherty
Sometimes I wonder if we deserve to be saved.
It’s hard to argue in our favor. Human history is written in blood. We kill each other, exploit each other, enslave and torture and destroy. We have the ability to eradicate our entire species with the push of a button, but not the wisdom to ensure it never happens. We’re even killing the planet, one of God’s greatest gifts, in pursuit of temporary idols. In my darkest moments, I’m tempted to believe that we’ll never learn, never change. The psalm feels like an epitaph for our species: “They forgot the God who had saved them.”
Today’s readings are full of God’s frustration with us, a holy frustration to end all others. In the first reading, it almost boils over: God plans to destroy the Israelites for turning to a golden idol. But Moses reminds God, and us, of God’s abiding love and faithfulness.
Similarly, I look for reminders of hope. I find them in my students, organizing socially-distant service opportunities, supporting one another on retreat, or engaging our community in hard, necessary conversations about race. I find it in the work of a Jesuit friend accompanying those seeking asylum at Kino Border Initiative. I see it in my own small children, their innate kindness and wonder at the world. And of course I see it in the Ignatian Solidarity Network, in this family that dares to imagine a world committed to love and justice.
Maybe we don’t deserve to be saved. Fortunately, grace isn’t about deserving. God doesn’t give up on us, even after all we’ve done to deserve it. And if God won’t give up, then I won’t either. This Lent, let’s continue to look for signs of hope, and to be them for others.
Take a few moments to be attentive to the signs and reminders of hope in your own life and work for justice.
Click Here: March 30, 2022
A Reflection for the Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Lent
By Gloria Purvis
“But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me;
my Lord has forgotten me.”
Can a mother forget her infant,
be without tenderness for the child of her womb?
Even should she forget,
I will never forget you” (Is 49:14-15).
During Lent, we make plans for deeper conversion. Some of us refrain from eating certain foods, maybe a dish we like, or we avoid social media. Whatever the case, we are trying to discipline ourselves in some way. Sometimes, we don’t stick with what we planned. Sometimes, we completely abandon the good work we started.
We may fall into negative self-talk and convince ourselves it is futile to begin yet again. We may even wonder where God is when we fail. What does God think of us during these moments? Does God help us or has God forgotten us?
Today’s reading from Isaiah reminds us of the faithfulness of God. It reminds us that God never forgets us and that God is ever-present to us. God is with us even when we fail to continue the good work we started.
Like little children learning to walk, we might fall frequently, but we should remember God is there like a patient nurturing mother. God sees us stumble and urges us to get up and keep going. Like a mother urging and encouraging an unsteady toddler to keep walking, God gives support to our efforts.
Can we try again to pick up our Lenten practices? Can we be more resolved to continue what we have started or restarted? Let us drown out the negative self-talk with the reminders of the Prophet Isaiah that the Lord will cut a road through mountains and make highways level so we can get to him. The Lord comforts his people and shows mercy to the afflicted. We may be weak, but with the support of the Lord, we can and should continue or restart our Lenten practices.
Get to know Gloria Purvis, host of the Gloria Purvis podcast
What are you giving up for Lent?
I am fasting on the appointed days and I am also focusing on praying the Liturgy of the Hours. So I suppose I am taking on a positive action of more prayer.
Do you cheat on Sundays?
No. I suppose there is no cheating when taking on good work.
Favorite non-meat recipe
A can of big white beans
A few cloves of garlic
Cooked Rice or cooked spaghetti or toast
Shredded cheese, optional
Cut up the onion and garlic. Sauté that in olive oil until the onion is soft. Then add the beans, heat it through, and drizzle with really good olive oil. Sprinkle it with salt and pepper or some cheese. Serve it with rice or toast or spaghetti and you’re done.
Favorite Easter hymn
Bach’s “O Sacred Head, Surrounded.”
Click Here: March 29, 2022
Trust That Consolation Will Return
Ezekiel had an awful vision. He saw the glory of the Lord, the most precious treasure of Israel,
get up and depart from the Temple in Jerusalem. The destruction of Jerusalem and the exile
of the people to Babylon was complete.
Yet, God is faithful and does not abandon God’s people. Ezekiel has a new vision. The glory of
God returns to the Temple, bringing life-giving waters to the barren land. Life, health, food and
prosperity come after the time of desolation.
There is an Ignatian lesson here for us. When we are in desolation, it is important to convince
ourselves that consolation will soon come (St. Ignatius’s Eighth Rule for the Discernment of Spirits).
Doing this will help us pass through the desolation with patience.
Can you trust that consolation will come to those barren parts of your life?
—David Kiblinger, SJ, is a deacon of the USA Central and Southern Province of the Society of Jesus studying theology at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry. He will be ordained a priest this June.
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my help and my God.
God Our Loving Father
The next two Lenten Sundays focus on God’s hard to believe mercy for us. Today Luke’s Prodigal Son is a passage better called the Loving Father. I still remember the profound experience of viewing Rembrandt’s famous painting of this Gospel scene in the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Imagine yourself in the depths of despair over your failings and sin, being embraced by the Loving Father. This counters my dominant childhood image of God as primarily a judge of my faults.
This Lent, how is the Good News of God’s Word challenging us to re-imagine our image of God as a Loving Father?
—Paul Macke, SJ, is the Jesuit Mission Coordinator at the Jesuit Spiritual Center in Milford, Ohio. He co-leads a Spiritual Direction Training Program for the Cincinnati Region.
“Jesus, I believe; Help my unbelief.”
—Mark 9: 24b
Click Here: March 27, 2022 The Forgiving Father - Praying with Art - Geoff Wheaton SJ
27th March 2022
‘Rejoice! This child of mine was lost, and is found!’
On this Laetare (‘Rejoice!’) Sunday midway through Lent, we are encouraged to celebrate with
hope and joy before we enter the darker times of Holy Week. Today we particularly rejoice in the
reconciliation and forgiveness of sins bought for us by Jesus’s suffering and death.
In the First Reading, the Israelites celebrate their first Passover in the Promised Land. No longer
reliant on the manna with which God had sustained them during their years in the desert, they
rejoice that God has brought them to a place where the bounty of the earth feeds them.
The Psalm is one of praise, rejoicing in God’s goodness. It glorifies the Lord, who hears and answers
our prayers when we are afraid or in distress.
St Paul speaks of the ‘new creation’ made possible by Christ’s suffering and death. Through this
sacrifice, God has reconciled humanity to God’s self, and our faults are forgiven. Because of this, we
ourselves are then called to share the good news of forgiveness with others. (Second Reading)
The Gospel relates the first part of the story of the return of the prodigal son. We witness the total
and utter forgiveness the father bestows on his selfish and wayward son, who now regrets his
foolishness. Just as the father forgives his son, so we know that we too will be forgiven, as we express
our sorrow for actions and inactions that take us away from God.
As we celebrate the joy of knowing that we are totally loved and forgiven, in these final weeks of Lent
we ask for the grace to see ourselves as God sees us, and to see others just as God sees them too.
Click Here: March 26, 2022 Word on Fire
Third Week of Lent
Friends, today’s Gospel compares the self-centered prayer of the Pharisee with the God-centered prayer of the tax collector.
The Pharisee spoke his prayer to himself. This is, Jesus suggests, a fraudulent, wholly inadequate prayer, precisely because it simply confirms the man in his self-regard. And the god to which he prays is, necessarily, a false god, an idol, since it allows itself to be positioned by the ego-driven needs of the Pharisee.
But then Jesus invites us to meditate upon the publican’s prayer. He speaks with a simple eloquence: "[He] beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’" Though it is articulate speech, it is not language that confirms the independence and power of the speaker—just the contrary. It is more of a cry or a groan, an acknowledgement that he needs to receive something, this mysterious mercy for which he begs.
In the first prayer, "god" is the principal member of the audience arrayed before the ego of the Pharisee. But in this second prayer, God is the principal actor, and the publican is the audience awaiting a performance the contours of which he cannot fully foresee.
Click Here: March 25, 2022
Who knows at what time of day the Annunciation of the Angel Gabriel came to Mary? Was it at dawn at her waking, as in the Tanner painting? Was it at midday at the well where she went to fill a vessel with water? Was it at evening strolling the streets of Nazareth and stopping to behold a stunning sunset? Was it at night as she gazed at the moonlight coming through the window in the room where she slept? Whenever it happened, it was “just in time.” The annunciation is the moment in time of God’s breaking into human time and space and conceiving a new way of being divinely human. Thanks be to God for Mary’s willingness to be there “just in time.”
As you pray with the familiar Gospel of the Annunciation, do you sense that God desires an annunciation for you? What could the surprise be that God has in store for you? Can you remember a time in your life when God's grace came to you "just in time?" Reflect on how Mary's life is "Holy Ground" for us who have received the gift of her Son in whom we "live and move and have our being"
Here are links to two "Annunciation" dances that may enhance your prayer. The first from 1991 and the second from 2018, were choreographed by Fr. Bob Vereecke for "A Dancer's Christmas."
Click Here: March 24, 2022
Reflection on the Painting
First of all I would like to share a link to a video which was uploaded on YouTube by
John Rutter. How can a composer respond to a global tragedy? He hopes his music
and lyrics will reach out to the people in Ukraine: Click here to see video.
The first two sentences of today’s Gospel reading mention the word ‘devil’ four times,
and the whole reading mentions Satan and the devil eight times. It is no coincidence
that we have this reading mid-way through Lent. The Devil is the master-tempter and
how are we doing thus far in Lent? Do temptations slip back into our daily routines?
Our German painting from 1471, by Michael Pacher, depicts Saint Wolfgang and the
Devil. The Devil is showing Wolfgang an agreement he has drafted. It states that he
would help Wolfgang build his church under the one condition: ‘to take the soul of the
first person who steps inside it’. All the Devil wanted was the one soul; then the rest of
the church and all the churchgoers would be Wolfgang’s thereafter. What a temptation
the Devil is proposing! But Saint Wolfgang resisted.
The painting realistically depicts the cruel temptations under which human beings are
tested by the Devil and his ability to bargain with us. Looking at this painting during Lent
drives home the point that we can be torn between good and evil, between doing what is
right or what is wrong, between helping and passively sitting back, etc…
We also know how, after His temptation in the desert, Jesus didn’t remain alone. He soon
gathered disciples around Him. So today’s Gospel reading may perhaps prompt us to think
of a person in our circle of friends or community who is struggling with his or her burdens
or temptations. Maybe we can be there to help move them away from an evil agreement
as depicted in our painting…
The readings today invite us to consider our relationship to God and the urgency of seeking to see and understand reality as God creates it and loves it, including and especially God’s “plan” for the flourishing of human persons.
What Moses and the Jews in the Desert (who we are walking with during these Lenten days) discovered is that God’s LAW can be best imagined as God’s desire for the great joy of the whole human community. God created Adam and Eve to flourish in the heart of the Trinity which is a garden of total joy and growth. At the center of the Garden is the Tree of Life – by which we humans can discover right relationship with our Creator.
We humans are designed as creatures that God intends to become companions for each other. The key to this companionship is our acceptance of God’s desire for us that we love and care for one another and honor God the creator.
By my will, God’s gift that distinguishes me from other animal creatures, I can choose to participate in the creative action of God; shaping my desires and thus shaping my selfhood. What today’s readings tell us is that to shape our authentic selfhood, that self that will flourish and bring forth fruit, I need to allow my will to be shaped by God’s hope for me. This doesn’t mean that God controls every little decision, but rather there are core behaviors that allow me to explore the ways that the world contributes to my joy by virtue of God’ plan.
The central choice is to recognize that I am not the source of my life, so I am called to honor and obey the One who calls me into being and gifts me beyond my understanding. A core choice requires me to seek community and to be formed by the love and care of others. As choice that is at the core of my flourishing is to love myself in gratitude to the creator. Another core choice requires that I not hoard goods but share them with those unable to secure them for themselves. Always a core choice is to reverence life – all life around me, the life of nature that nurtures me, the cosmos that surrounds our world, and above all the lives other humans at every stage of life.
The logic of God’s law – given in a verbal set of teachings to God’s people – is this. If we seek and follow God’s desire, we become our fullest and truest self as we are created to be. In that context we flourish, we love and are loved, we give life to all around us, we enable others to discover themselves, and mysteriously in this project God transfigures us into such intimate companionship that we are drawn into Trinitarian life and share the power and the joy of being Divinized, that is made Holy as God is Holy. That is the outcome of Easter for those who truly walk with God’s pilgrim people and discover God’s desire as expressed in the teaching or the law of love.
The Church gave us the account of the disclosure of Jesus’ Transfiguration on the Second Sunday of Lent to show us that his transfiguration in glory occurred in the labor of His Mission. As companions of Jesus in Mission and love we are transfigured by seeking and following God’s will in the law He gave us.
Click Here: March 22, 2022 Christian Art
Reflection on the Painting
Today’s reading tells us that to be forgiven we must forgive our brothers and sisters. We
unburden ourselves through forgiveness. Forgiveness has, perhaps, become a rather alien
concept in Western society. If someone hurts us, we ‘expect’ an apology. They have to
take the first step, and then we’ll see. But we often forget how, when we forgive, we are
unburdened of a lot of negative thoughts and feelings. Without forgiveness these negative
feelings which started off as directed towards one person, soon extend into a larger web of
negativity. By forgiving we shed negativity.
Our painting by Douglas Ramsey is a good illustration of how forgiveness unburdens us. We
see a man running up a hill and falling on his knees at the foot of a cross. He feels the
forgiveness coming from the cross, and the burden he has been carrying all this time becomes
loose from his shoulders and now rolls off the top of the hill and into a valley, never to be seen
anymore. The encounter with the cross has unburdened him.
So why do we find it so difficult to forgive? Much has to do with expectations. We expect
others to behave in a certain way and when something happens that doesn’t match our
expectations, we get annoyed or even hurt. So maybe forgiveness may come a little easier if we
realise that the other person, too, is also doing his or her best. We all get it wrong occasionally.
The main thing is always to remember why we liked or loved the other person to begin with,
and then re-focus on their good qualities. That way we won’t even create a load of burdens that
we need to shed, like the man in our painting.
Day 20: The Small Things
By Miles Tiemeyer
In a world where a pandemic can change our lives in an instant, it is inevitable that things will be delayed or canceled. Because of this, I struggle to be vulnerable and open myself up to new experiences. Every cautious step taken comes with the fear of rejection and hurt. We have been living in a pandemic for two years, and I see it everyday as my students navigate through evolving covid policies on top of changing and canceled events. It is easy to get frustrated and feel rejected.
Rejection will always be a risk in life, but God invites us to be vulnerable. Naaman, rejected by the King and frustrated by Elisha’s response, expects a dramatic act of God to be required to heal his leprosy. Bathing in the Jordan seemed too easy a solution to solve his frustrations. We can see what God asks of us through Elisha, the small intentional change.
The burnout created by adjusting constantly for the last two years makes me feel like the only answer is to constantly rework everything; to do the dramatic act. But what if our solution is as simple as Naaman’s? I need to slow down. Enjoy simple conversations. Forgive myself for any anger I am holding on to. I am angry at myself, the world, and God for our reality and its' injustices. What am I supposed to do with that anger and frustration? It is easy to shut down and turn away from my friends, from work, or from God. It is scary to risk putting myself out there, but the risk is worth it. God calls us to take risks and push ourselves to address our frustrations with loss and injustice. Our frustrations can be the motivation we need to make the small change, have the hard conversation, or show God’s love to our neighbors.
Where are you doing the big dramatic act, when you could be doing a small thing?
How can doing a small thing in your life better bring God's love into the world?
Click Here: March 20, 2022
Reflection on the Engraving
In our Gospel reading today, we hear the story of a fig tree that seems as good as
dead, set in a vineyard. The tree has failed to bear fruit for three successive years.
It is quite understandable that the vineyard owner wants to cut it down, as it is
simply taking up valuable space which could be used for more vines. However, the
man looking after the vineyard says to be patient. He still sees the potential in the
dead tree and hopes that one day it may bear fruit again. He has a more generous,
more positive vision of the fig tree. The parable tells us that this is the way that
God looks at us, seeing potential in us even when we may have lapsed or fallen away
from Him. The parable is also prompting us to look at people this way ourselves: we
can never give up on people. Even though we may feel that someone is 'a lost cause',
we are asked to still be hopeful for what that person may be capable of doing in the
future. Generous hearts are required, even when at first sight things may seem lost.
Like the worker in the vineyard, we need to be hopeful, positive, patient and content
to wait. Beneath the unpromising surface, faint new signs of growth and life may be there...
if we open our eyes. That is what the worker of the vineyard saw, depicted on the left of
our Dutch engraving by Jan Luyken issued in 1712. He isn't holding a saw or an axe to cut
down the tree. He merely points to the roots of the fig tree. The landowner depicted on
the right of the engraving listens attentively to his worker.
This parable tells us how Jesus looks at us: He believes in our potential to grow and bear fruit.
Even when we may seem dead inside, He believes in our capacity to blossom.
He is reluctant to give up on us!
Click Here: March 18, 2022 Creighton
a reflection by Dennis Hamm, S.J., from 2016 on these readings.
The rejected one becomes the savior. Believe it or not, today’s readings present not just two stories that mirror each other—the story of Joseph rejected by his brothers (who will emerge to becomes their savior) and the story of Jesus rejected by the leaders of his day (only to become the savior of his people—but really four stories that all have this same plot. Let me explain.
When Jesus begins to realize that the religious leadership, together with their Roman oppressors, are planning to have him killed, he reaches back to a parable that Isaiah told some seven centuries earlier—Isaiah 5:1-7, the parable of the vineyard that produced wild grapes and is therefore rejected by the Lord God; which parable Isaiah explains as standing for the people of Israel, led by wealthy leaders who have been self-indulgent and violent, and forgetful of God’s ownership of the vineyard of Israel (Isa 5:8-12). Jesus updates that parable and applies it to what the religious and imperial power-holders are doing in his own day—thinking of themselves first and using violence (like killing him!) to implement their selfish desires to control events for their own purposes.
The Lectionary tradition that joins this reading to the Genesis story of Joseph’s brothers “removing” him to implement their violent jealousy because they (i.e. the designers of the Lectionary) discern a similar pattern: the rejected one will become the savior. So far, we have three stories—the Joseph story, the parable of Isaiah and the passion and resurrection of Jesus exhibiting this divine plot.
There is yet another expression of the same phenomenon—the quotation of a verse from Psalm 118 that comes toward the end of Jesus’ speech:
The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
by the Lord has this been done,
and it is wonderful in our eyes?
The early church found in those words of an ancient psalm the perfect summary of the Paschal mystery. While the original psalmist seems to be speaking about the eventual thriving of tyrannized Israel, those words are now wonderfully fulfilled in the life death and resurrection of Jesus. The “builders” (the religious and imperial authorities of Jesus’ day) reject Jesus (like quarrymen rejecting a block of limestone as not worthy of their building plans) by killing him; but Jesus is raised from the dead and becomes the foundation stone of the New Temple that is the renewed people of God, the Church. And so, already this early in Lent, we are given a glimpse of what will happen in the death and resurrection of Jesus that we celebrate during Passion Week, Easter, and Pentecost.
Click Here: March 19, 2022
Click Here: March 17, 2022
Click Here: March 16, 2022 Ignatian solidarity
Day 15: A Cup of Holy Frustration
By Elise Gower
Today’s Gospel theme is, fittingly, frustration. The saying goes, “What would Jesus do?” And while Matthew invites us to explore that more deeply, I find myself pondering a different question, “What did the disciples do?” Sometimes this helps me make sense of my very human responses to things like the pandemics of racism and Covid, or my own resistance to growth and change. Of course, I prayerfully work towards a life more holy, more rooted in the desire to be Christ-like. But, when I start with the disciples, I become aware that Jesus invites me to wholeness; to leadership.
I can feel the disciples’ frustration. They’re afraid. Jesus is not only sharing that he will die, but describes his pain, suffering and crucifixion. I imagine being a disciple, hearing this:
I’ve left everything to follow this man—my job, my family, my comfort! And now, I’m going to lose him? And who is this mother making this request on behalf of her sons?!
The passage says, “When the ten heard this, they became indignant.” Frustrated.
Jesus asks, “Can you drink the chalice that I am going to drink?” This is a big ask, knowing his impending execution—a death that holds the sin of a society that resists and terrorizes what they fear. We see this all too often. Suddenly, following Jesus takes on a whole new meaning. Am I willing to give of myself, completely, in response to the realities of our world today—not just when it’s comfortable or convenient? To lead is to act against the grain.
Contemplative Leaders in Action is a spirituality and leadership formation program. Our curriculum moves young adults through a process of discerning and enacting Ignatian leadership. This Gospel offers a pretty profound definition of what this is—drinking from the same cup as Jesus. A cup of holy frustration. Drinking this cup demands a daily commitment; sometimes, minute by minute. It’s not performative allyship. It’s not the kind of advocacy that also ensures my privileges remain intact. It’s looking within before righteously blaming others. This Lent, will you drink this cup of holy frustration, to follow Jesus towards new life?
Imagine yourself, a disciple in today’s society. What tires and frustrates you?
What does drinking from the same cup as Jesus look like today?
Where are you called to deepen your commitment?
Click Here: March 15, 2022
A Reflection for the Tuesday of the Second Week of Lent
By Sarah Vincent
“For they preach but they do not practice.
All their works are performed to be seen.
Whoever exalts himself will be humbled;
but whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Mt 23:11-12).
I recently joked that the Venn diagram of Catholics and busybodies is just a single circle. Although I was kidding, I do think that we as Catholics just cannot help but have a bit of natural curiosity about how other people live their faith. There are so many different ways of understanding and practicing Catholicism that I think it’s pretty normal to want to peek at how others are doing it. But it can become a problem when it crosses the line from curiosity to judgment.
Finding and respecting that line can be an especially difficult challenge during Lent when people are making and publicly discussing Lenten sacrifices and commitments. It’s not a bad thing to ask what people are doing for Lent—it can be a great way to get inspired by others and enjoy the shared culture of being Catholic! But there is a danger of comparing or judging what other people are doing.
It seems pretty obvious that we should not shame others for their observances. But I think there can also be a temptation to look at other people’s Lenten observances as a way of measuring ourselves. Compared to our neighbor or friend, is what we are doing enough? Is it hard enough, holy enough, creative enough, interesting enough? Do we need to go bigger, do better, be more intense?
I used to know somebody who would join me at the gym to unsubtly compete with me as I did my casual, once-a-week workout. She would crane her neck to read the display on whatever machine I was using, exercise furiously until she surpassed whatever I had done by .1 of a mile or a couple of calories, and then declare that we should both stop and get off the machines. Her need to one-up me said a lot about her own dissatisfaction with herself. She wasn’t happy just exercising; she felt she needed to exercise specifically more than me to feel like she had done enough, regardless of how long we were in the gym for.
This is a trap that I think Catholics can fall into during Lent. If you are trying to pray for five minutes a day but someone tweets that they are trying to pray for 50, does that mean you aren’t doing enough? The solution can seem like finding somebody who is doing less than you to feel better about yourself, or to keep increasing your observance until you are doing more than the others around you.
Even when it is done with the best of intentions, when Lent turns into a competition, it loses its meaning. After a certain point, when sacrifices become too restrictive or we find ourselves talking about them too much, it can become not about God anymore but about our own feelings of inadequacy or our desire to have the biggest or holiest observance. And then it becomes hard to actually follow through on the giant sacrifices we have promised and posted online about.
Today’s reading warns about the behavior of the Pharisees, that “they preach but they do not practice” and “all their works are performed to be seen.” So long as your observance is about you and God, it can be fun to talk about and share with other Catholics. But when it becomes about boasting, self-measuring or competing, it is time to recalibrate.
Some people do strict observances that are meaningful to them, and that’s great! Others only do something small, and that’s great too. So next time you talk about Lent, ask yourself this: Are you asking in a spirit of competition or in a spirit of community?
Click Here: March 14, 2022
Click Here: March 13, 2022
Second Sunday of Lent:
By Maureen O'Connell, Ph.D.
Today's Gospel makes me wonder if Jesus ever got tangry. That's my word for the kind of frustration I feel when sensing that my busyness isn't amounting to much. I feel tired from managing all of my bottomless to do lists. And I feel angry when I suddenly notice that my lists are in fact managing me and we're not headed in the direction I want to go. Tangry. It's a frustration I feel in my body. The wheels in my stomach start spinning. Nagging questions about my self-worth tighten my shoulders. My breath gets shallow as the walls of my lungs start to close in.
Surely, Jesus' humanity—not to mention the human context he was immersed in and the human beings he was surrounded by—ensures that he got tangry. So how did He make this embodied experience holy?
Luke's account of the Transfiguration provides a few concrete action steps. Step out of your busy routine and get your body outside. Move your body to a place where you can feel as close to God as possible. Then pray. Pray that God, from who you can never be separated, helps you reconnect to God's purpose for you. Pray that God puts you in conversation with your Moses—the parts of you created and chosen by God to join God in the ongoing holy work of repairing the world. Pray that God puts you in conversation with your Elijah—the parts of you that give you holy courage to name, for yourself and others, when priorities are not aligned with God. Converse with these holy parts of yourself—the likeness of God in you—about your desire to be released from the tangriness so you can rejoin what the time management and creativity gurus call flow, deep work, big magic.
How can you make time—or where can you make space—to reconnect with your God-given purpose and courage this Lent?
Imagine conversation among you, Jesus, Moses and Elijah. Where would it happen? What would you four talk about? What would that conversation feel like? What in you might be transfigured?
WE ARE CALLED TO LOVE
What’s the distinctive feature of Jesus’ life and the life of those transformed by His redeeming love? It is grace---treating others not as they deserve, but as our heavenly Father wishes them to be treated---with loving kindness and mercy. Jesus is God’s grace incarnate. His love is unconditional and is wholly directed towards our good. We need to remember that God is good to all, the just and the unjust. His love is to embrace those who are good and those who are sinful. We are to be a people sacred to the Lord. With God all things are possible!
I read a little story that I would like to share with you. We do know that Jesus’ most radical command is to love our enemies. We do ask ourselves often how exactly we are supposed to do that. One of the best ways is to begin by learning from the example of others. A man was waiting in his car at the window of a drive-thru coffee bistro. His order was taking some time and eventually the person behind him began impatiently blowing his horn. Instead of becoming angry himself, the first man paid for the second one’s drink and drove away. With this profoundly simple but powerful act he set off a chain reaction that lasted the entire day. This is a great story to help challenge us today.
Points to Pray and Ponder:
Picture yourself in that drive-thru line, and how would you have reacted to the blowing horn behind you?
Reflection on the Painting
The theme of our gospel reading today captures one of the most basic themes of Lent:
reconciliation. Jesus asks us not to reconcile ourselves just with our fellow brothers and
sisters, but also to reconcile ourselves with God. Etymologically the word ‘reconciliation’
comes from the Latin words ‘re’, meaning ‘again’ and ‘concilare', meaning ‘to make
friendly’. It is the act of making two people or groups to become friendly again after an
argument or disagreement. It is easy to see how that works between people. We can all
probably think of examples of where people have been reconciled. However, thinking of
reconciliation with God is harder to do, as often our lack of humility prevents us from
seeing that there is anything broken or ruptured in our relationship with God in the first
Only when we start to recognise that our relationship with God needs mending do we
grow closer to the heart of God. Did He not reach out to us first by sending His Son in
our midst, nailed to the cross for our sake! Of course we also have the Sacrament of
Reconciliation to help us. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (§§1423-24) gives various
names for this sacrament: the sacrament of Conversion; the sacrament of Penance; the
sacrament of Confession; the sacrament of Forgiveness; and the sacrament of Reconciliation.
These names encapsulate the graces that we receive through the sacrament.
Our painting by Giuseppe Molteni depicts a well dressed young woman going to confession.
At the time this was painted, critics thought that the lady was a young mother who had yielded to the advances of an admirer. But we don’t know for sure who she is. The artists never revealed who she was. A Catholic art critic at the time, Pietro Estense Selvatico, simply stated that the painting was designed to illustrate the moral beauty of everyday life. However we may read this painting, it is a beautiful depiction of the Sacrament of Reconciliation… there to make us friendly again with God.
Click Here: March 10, 2022
Reflection on the Painting
Our Gospel reading today mentions how we should persist in our faith and keep knocking
on God’s door and we will receive. At the same time Jesus is knocking on our door too…
so why not fling open that door and leave it open so there is a free-flowing exchange
between us and God?
Our contemporary painting by Estonian artist Ain Vares depicts Christ knocking on our door,
ready to let His light in. Look at all the other doors he is knocking on too. Ain Vares sees his
life as an artist as a true vocation. On his website he writes: ‘Since 1993 I have painted
Christian art. It is the best thing for me. I can spend time in the Word of God and at the same
time put on canvas or paper what God has revealed to me. The meaning of a Christian life is
not to serve Him for personal gain, but to live God's life and to become more like Christ so
that we could receive from God what he has prepared for us even before we were born’…
For Ain Vares that calling is to be a Christian artist.
In our reading Jesus makes three promises to us if we pray:
Ask, and it will be given to you;
Search, and you will find;
Knock, and the door will be opened to you;
And yes, all these are actual promises. They are not just mere ‘things that may happen’.
It is never in vain that we pray. God will always answer us. He may not answer us in the way we
might expect or might want to, but He will answer.
It is such an encouraging thought, especially during Lent, that our prayers will be answered... so today we can rejoice in Jesus’ promise.
Click Here: March 9, 2022 An Ignatian Solidarity Network Series
Forty more days and Nineveh shall be destroyed.
A recently released report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change underscored the grave and existential threat posed by climate change and emphasized that the actions we take in this decade will be key to the future viability of life on Earth. We must rapidly transition away from fossil fuels to preserve a livable planet for current and future generations; each day that we fail to change course puts the possibility of a thriving future further out of reach.
Forty days for Nineveh, ten years for planet Earth.
I don’t believe that God wills the climate crisis as punishment for human wrongdoing, but neither does it seem that God intervenes to spare us the consequences of our choices. To do so would be to negate our free will. In the case of the climate crisis, the choices of a few—namely, fossil fuel companies who for decades have knowingly covered up the grave threat posed by emissions and, to a lesser extent, those of us whose consumer lifestyles have maintained demand for fossil fuels—have outsized consequences for the many. The poorest of the poor have been impacted first, but none of us will be altogether spared.
Today’s readings, however, are about second chances. We are not beyond redemption; all hope is not lost. Where the first reading picks up, Jonah himself has just been given a second chance after initially fleeing the call to deliver God’s warning to the Ninevites. Upon hearing Jonah’s admonishment, all of Nineveh hastens to repent, and they are spared destruction. Today we are replete with warnings, and our forty days are not yet up.
In the Psalm, we pray, “A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.” The word “humbled” derives from “humus,” the organic matter in soil. To be humbled is to be of the earth. Today, may we remember that we are of the earth, and that to live otherwise is to hasten our own destruction. Where we are called to repent of our pillaging of the earth, may we make like the Ninevites and “turn from [our] evil way and from the violence [we have] in hand.” Where we are called to join our voices to the Jonahs of today, may our prophetic cries reverberate within the halls of power.
To the God of second chances, we pray: have mercy on us.
How are you being called to humility—to remember that we are of the earth?
Where can you join your voice to the Jonahs of today, to challenge the injustice that intensifies the climate crisis?
THE WORD OF GOD IN ACTION
God’s Word has power to change and transform us! Isaiah says that God’s Word is like the rain and the snow which make the barren ground spring to life and become abundantly fertile. God’s Word has power to penetrate our dry barren hearts and make them springs of new life. If God’s Word takes root in our heart, it will transform us into His likeness. Ambrose, a fourth century church Father, wrote that the reason we should devote time for reading scripture is to hear Christ speak to us. “Are you not occupied with Christ? Why do you not talk with him? By reading the Scriptures, we listen to Christ.”
The power of speech, or communication, is one of the most wonderful gifts that God has given us. Through words we can tell others our thoughts, our feelings, our hopes and our joys. What we say to others in words can change completely their attitude toward us and establish a new relationship.
The prayer He taught, the “Our Father,” was intended to be a model for prayer. Jesus did not mean that the words of the “Our Father” are the only ones we should use. It is the spirit behind those words which matter the most--a spirit of simplicity, directness and sincerity.
Points to Pray and Ponder:
Words are wonderful, especially the Word of God. We must listen to that Word and put it into action and this happens because we have given it great attention. Our words will also be pretty wonderful as well, if we pray in the way Jesus taught us. All we need to do is be real with “our Father.” Are you?
Reflection on the Mosaics
Today’s reading is taken from Chapter 25 in the Gospel of Matthew. This chapter
gives us some of the last teachings of Jesus before His passion and death. Therefore
these teachings especially carry a lot of weight. In all of the Gospels this is 'the'
passage where Jesus tells us explicitly who will be going to Heaven and who won’t
make it. Jesus divides humanity into two groups: the sheep and the goats. The sheep
go to His ‘right hand’, and the goats to His ‘left hand’. The sheep are blessed for they
were virtuous and helped the needy in society. The goats on the other hand will be
sent to ‘the eternal fire prepared for the devil’, for they did not help other people.
Our artwork, of which the original is part of the Ravenna mosaics, puts Christ at the
very centre. He is dressed in a purple robe and seated on the judgment seat. His halo,
including three blue jewels, is more elaborate than that of the angels flanking Him on
either side. His right hand is pointing towards the sheep. On His left we see three
darker toned goats. Jesus is not even acknowledging their presence. These goats are
also placed on a lower level-line than the sheep. While the angels look sideways, Jesus
is staring straight into the eyes of us, the viewers. Which will we be, sheep or goats?
While we don’t know what will happen at the final judgement and who will make it to heaven or not, today’s reading is a wake up call to prompt us into action and be aware of the needs of others. But probably the most poignant words in the reading are at the end of paragraph two where we read that when we help people ‘you did it to me’. It doesn’t say ‘you did it for me’. It says 'you did it TO me'. Jesus completely self-identifies Himself with the needy, the hungry, the poor. So every time we don’t help the more vulnerable in society, we ignore Christ Himself.
Click Here: March 6, 2022
Temptations are not always obvious. Sometimes we are tempted by what seems good. Tucker Redding, SJ, reflects on the temptation of Jesus in the desert. Based on the readings for Sunday, March 6, 2022.
Where is our focus?
Hi, my name is Tucker Redding and this is my One-Minute Reflection.
The Gospels of Matthew and Luke include similar versions of the Temptation in the Desert, but they put the temptations in a different order. In Luke, the final temptation is when the devil brings Jesus to the top of the temple and says, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down.” For God will protect you.
For Luke, this is the biggest test. The other two are…well…tempting, but also kind of obvious. The final test is deceptive because it tempts Jesus to display his faith in God.
Sometimes temptations aren’t so obvious. We can even be tempted by acts that seem good and pious. The true test of a temptation is when it causes us to focus only on ourselves, rather than the love of God and neighbor.
Sometimes we have to ask: is this about me or the Greater Glory of God?
Click Here: March 5, 2022 ~ An Ignatian Solidarity
Day 4: How Will You Seek Light?
By Yasi Mahallaty
In today’s first reading, Isaiah describes an idyllic future of God’s vision: light rising in the way of darkness, renewed strength, a land of plenty. He asks us to be “repairers of the breach”—sounds simple enough, right?
Throughout my career, I have had the privilege of accompanying underserved students to, through, and beyond college. I felt God’s presence at each of my workplaces, particularly in my relationships with students and their families. Of course, it was easy to get sidetracked by the daily distractions of life and bury myself in the seemingly endless barriers stemming from systematic oppression. In these moments of distraction and despair, I often ask myself—“where is the light?”
Isaiah serves as a model of remaining steadfast. He emphasizes the importance of being in right relationship with others, particularly those on the margins. This type of focus is what can ensure that God’s presence is not missed, but at the center of every interaction.
Jesus and Levi’s relationship similarly displays the importance of remaining devoted and seeking holiness. Levi, a tax collector who benefits from an unjust system, reveals an open heart when Jesus asks for his kinship. Levi, too, seems to be seeking the light.
This Lent, I invite you to join me in searching for God’s light at various points throughout your day, amidst the hustle and bustle and moments of despair. We must remain committed and ensure our place as “repairers of the breach.” How will you seek light?
How are you being called to be in right relationship with others?
In what ways can you learn to search for God's light in all of the messiness of life, so as to keep your heart open and committed to the work of justice?
Click Here: March 4, 2022 Word on Fire
Friday after Ash Wednesday
Friends, in today’s Gospel, people ask Jesus why he and his disciples do not fast when John and his disciples do. Jesus’ answer is wonderful: “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them?” Could you imagine people fasting at a wedding banquet? It would be ridiculous!
Jesus later says, “People do not put new wine into old wineskins.” The new wine is the Gospel. The receptacle for this wine must be conformed to it, not the other way around.
To take in the Good News, we can’t be living in the cramped space of our sinful souls. We can’t have an “expect the worst” attitude. Instead we repent, or change the minds that we have. Another way to get at this is to say that like is known by like. If God is love, then only a soul that is on fire with love will properly take him in.
Reflection on the Painting
In today’s Gospel reading Jesus says, ‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce
himself and take up his cross every day and follow me’. So I simply want to share the following
story with you:
A young man was overwhelmed by the problems of life. Seeing no way out, he dropped to his
knees in prayer. "Lord, I can't go on," he said. "I have too heavy a cross to bear.”
The Lord pointed to a door in a room and replied, "My son, if you can't bear its weight, just place
your cross inside this room. Then open that other door and pick out any cross you wish.”
The young man was filled with relief. "Thank you Lord," he sighed, and he did what he was told.
Upon entering the other door, he saw many other crosses, as depicted in our painting, some so
large the tops weren't even visible. Then he spotted a tiny cross leaning against the far wall. "I'd
like that one Lord," he whispered.
And the Lord replied, "My son, that is the cross you just brought in."
Click Here: March 2, 2022
A Reflection for Ash Wednesday
By James Martin, S.J.
“Even now, says the LORD, return to me with your whole heart,
with fasting, and weeping, and mourning;
Rend your hearts, not your garments,
and return to the LORD, your God” (Joel 2:12).
Today’s readings for Ash Wednesday are almost too much to take in. Too rich. Too challenging. Too consoling. So let us look at just a small part–the beginning of the first reading, from the Book of Joel: “Even now, says the LORD, return to me with your whole heart...”
“Even now” may seem like a throwaway phrase, like “now” or “well.” But it is far more than a conversational tic. “Even now” means: even after all you have done, even after this life you have led, even after having tried and tried. Even after failing. Even after many Lents. Even now, says God, I want you to return to me.
In God’s world, it is never too late. Every day is an “even now.”
God wants us to “return,” which means that from the beginning God was with us. Otherwise, how could we return? God created us “in our mother’s womb,” as Psalm 139 says, and so has accompanied us from the start of our lives. The Neoplatonic philosophers of the third century, who would influence Medieval Christian philosophers and theologians, often talked about “emanation” and “return” from God. I have always loved that idea. We begin from God, we are sent into the world, and at the end of our lives, we return to God.
But that “return” is not simply an end-of-life issue. It is a day-to-day reality. During Lent, through practices of prayer, almsgiving and fasting, we can focus ourselves on that return.
What would it mean in your own life to “return” to God? Where have you grown distant? Where have you lost sight of God? What practices need to fall away? Which ones do you need to take up?
Once you have decided on these paths back to God, can you do them “with your whole heart,” as the Book of Joel says? We all know what it is like to carry a promise half-heartedly. Of course, we will never live our resolutions perfectly, but at least today, on Ash Wednesday, can we, with our whole hearts, resolve to return to the one who wants nothing more than to welcome us? Even now?
Happy Mardi Gras, everyone! Today’s readings provide a somewhat telescopic view of Peter’s journey of faith. We hear his words to communities following Christ after the Resurrection, then we affirm that we are one of those communities (“Yes, the Lord has made his salvation known!”), then proclaim that God reveals the mysteries of the kingdom to “little ones,” and finally arrive towards the beginning of Peter’s journey, as he was following Jesus.
“Peter began to say…”
It sounds like he had more to say, but Jesus answered him after the first sentence. What would the second sentence have been? Remembering yesterday’s Gospel, Jesus has just told them that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God. The disciples asked, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus answers, “For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God.” In other words, we cannot save ourselves.
If I were Peter at that point, I might have thought, “Well… won’t we who are following you be saved because we chose to follow you? It wasn’t an easy choice, if I’m being honest. And you keep telling us that it’s not going to get easier. I left so much behind to do this – my wife, my family, my house, my boat and my nets, everything I knew how to do. We all gave up so much to follow you. And I know you’re the Messiah, but I’m starting to wonder that if choosing to follow you and sacrificing what feels like everything isn’t enough… what if God decides not to save me after all that? Will it be worth it?”
And Jesus tells him, even before he’s finished asking, in the easiest language for Peter to understand, that it’s worth it and he will get everything back in abundance that he’s given up. Looking back at the first reading, we might see how the seed of that conversation flourished in Peter years down the road. At that point he’d witnessed the Crucifixion, the Resurrection, the Ascension, and the martyrdom of his friends. He writes telling other followers, “Everything we have been told by prophets in the past and everything we have witnessed points to this: it is worth it. Stop acting like you did before you wanted to know God; act like you want to know God by following Christ’s example.”
Many of us are probably fasting from something during Lent. It will probably not be on the scale of Peter leaving behind his family and livelihood, or Jesus freely giving his life for us. But what might Peter’s words offer us today, as we begin this season? Perhaps encouragement echoing through the centuries that if we give or fast from a desire to know God better, our small sacrifices will be worth it. We are called to holiness and the example of Christ, as members of the body of Christ.
“Out of Darkness” by Christopher Walker
Click Here: February 28, 2022 Word on Fire
Eighth Week in Ordinary Time
Friends, in today’s Gospel, a rich young man asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. There is something absolutely right about the young man, something spiritually alive, and that is his deep desire to share in everlasting life. He knows what he wants, and he knows where to find it.
Jesus responds to his wonderful question by enumerating many of the commandments. The young man takes this in and replies, “Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth.” So Jesus looks at him with love and says, “Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor . . . Then come, follow me.”
God is nothing but love straight through, and therefore the life of friendship with him, in the richest sense, is a life of total, self-forgetting love. Jesus senses that this young man is ready for the high adventure of the spiritual life; he is asking the right question and he is properly prepared.
But at this point, the young man tragically balks. The spiritual life, at the highest pitch, is about giving your life away, and this is why having many possessions is a problem.
Click Here: February 27, 2022 Christian Art
Reflection on the Painting
Our painting by Flemish artist Sebastian Vrancx depicts the subject of the Blind leading the
Blind, popularised about 50 years before by Pieter Brueghel the Elder in the late 16th
century. We see the leader of the group already having fallen into water, whilst the second
man is on a narrow bridge about to tumble in, too. A small dog clings to the path, desperately
trying to climb up again onto steady ground. The other figures are still on dry land, feeling
their way forward. Soon they too may fall into the water. Look at what the men are carrying:
the first a beer pitcher, the second a musical instrument underneath his cloak and the third
man a purse over his shoulders…
Jesus paints this lovely image of the blind leading the blind, recognising that we all have our
blind spots - the failings and shortcomings that block our vision. So when we go out there and
proclaim the word of God, we have to be humble at all times and hold back from criticising others.
Today we pray that we may receive the grace to see our blindness. Recognising where we are blind
is already a major part of opening our hearts fully to Christ. But whether we see well, or are partially
blind, the main thing to remember is how God sees each of us from the inside.
He has full vision of who we are!
Click Here: February 26, 2022 Christian Art
Reflection on the Painting
Our Gospel reading today tells us of the very special place young children have in God’s plan.
The very first word in our reading is ‘people’. People were bringing children to Jesus. Who
are these people? They are the parents, aunts, uncles, older siblings, friends, neighbours, etc…
They all had heard about Christ’s love and what He shared about the eternal life. That is what
they wanted for their children, a blessing from Jesus. The end of that same first sentence says
‘for Jesus to touch them’, meaning giving an embrace or a blessing.
Blessings are important. Biblically, blessings go all the way back to the to the book of Genesis.
Noah blessed two of his sons, Isaac blessed his children too, and Jacob blessed his sons. They all,
with parental love, wanted the best for their children. So it became a strong tradition with the
Jewish elders who practised, when blessing their children, that the parent should touch the child
(as in laying their hands on the child’s head), so that the child may be strong in the Law, faithful
in marriage, and abundant in good works.
I remember that when I was young, my mother would make a sign of the cross on my forehead
before I went to bed, saying the words in Flemish 'God zegen je en God beware je’ (may the
Lord bless you and keep you). The physical element of touch is important when blessing: a touch
of love, a touch of compassion.
Our artwork by Dutch painter Nicolas Maes depicts Jesus blessing a little girl by laying hands on
her. Christ holds the child's wrist firmly as she tries to turn away from Him, finger in mouth, not
quite knowing what is going on. Christ is depicted in a classical robe, surrounded by people in
17th-century dress. Maes thus wanted to stress the eternal qualities of Jesus by putting him in a
The only bits of colour in this darkly toned painting are the reds of Jesus’ cloak, the small girl’s cheeks and a baby’s arm towards the top left. The reds unite Jesus with the children….
Click Here: February 25, 2022 Christian Art
Reflection on the Painting
It is important when reading today’s Gospel reading to remember that Jesus is now on
His way to Jerusalem and to the cross. So everywhere He stops, in Judea today, He is
teaching, and the Pharisees are testing him again. It is the way they ask the question that
shows their mindset. They don’t ask, ‘Jesus, what can you teach us about marriage?’. They
ask ’Is it against the law for a man to divorce his wife?’ They immediately take the legal
route to talk about marriage, but above all their question implies they want to know what
He thinks the Law would allow people to do, or to put even more boldly, they want to know
‘what they can get away with', in order not to get in trouble with God. They are simply
interested in their own rights, and not in learning about their responsibilities in marriage.
After yesterday’s painting, if I may stay on the more humorous theme of paintings, I would
like to share this panel by Quentin Massys, painted circa 1520. It depicts a married couple.
Titled Ill Matched Lovers, it shows an old man being seduced by a younger woman. This theme of pairing ‘unequal’ couples has a literary history dating back to antiquity when Plautus, a Roman comic poet from the 3rd century BC, cautioned elderly men against courting younger ladies. This also became a favourite theme in European literature and art in the early 16th century. Our painting is an amusing illustration of the idea that old age can leads to foolishness as far as romanticism is concerned. This is further illustrated by the presence of a fool in the background, helping to rob the old man's purse. The artist conveys humorously how a women's sexual powers cause men to behave absurdly and to lose their wits and their money. The deck of cards in the foreground further implies morally loose, gambling behaviour.
Jesus goes onto tell us how marriage is to be a reflection of God’s relationship with us. He calls for greater love, intimacy and fidelity... the opposite of what is depicted in the painting...
Reflection on the Painting
In today’s reading we hear Jesus say ‘If your hand should cause you to sin, cut it off’… And what
do we see in our painting? An altar server is using his hand to try to steal a piece of bread whilst
the baker boy is looking away. Obviously our cheeky altar boy hasn’t been listening to the Sunday
readings! Oh dear! Isn’t this a fun painting though, filled with humour and mischief. The ashes have
flown out of the boy’s thurifer. He has already passed on a bun to his friends behind him. They are
taking great delight in the altar server’s naughtiness. The other two boys on the right are completely
unaware of what is going on, engrossed in reading ‘Le Petit Journal’ newspaper.
Our artist Paul-Charles Chocarne-Moreau introduced in the late 19th century these amazing scenes
of young boys at play, recalling for his audience the playful deceptiveness that characterised the
viewers' age of youth. We all recognise something of ourselves in these boys. These sentimental
canvasses of the childish play of young boys were a pleasing respite from the often serious industrial
age during which these were painted.
When Jesus uses the term ‘cut it off’, He is not asking us to take this literally. He simply wants to warn us of the many things that stand in the way between us and God. Any stumbling blocks should be removed. Jesus deliberately paints a stark image, so we realise that the stakes are high if we truly want to help build the Kingdom of God.
Reflection on the Painting
Today’s reading offers us an interesting insight into the minds of the disciples.
They have just witnessed an exorcism performed by someone they don’t know.
Not only that, but the stranger performed the exorcism in Jesus’ name. There is
an air of superiority about them: only they should be allowed to perform such
miracles. To rub salt into the wound, earlier in this chapter of Mark we read how
the disciples attempted to cast a demon out of a boy and were unsuccessful. Now
a perfect stranger casts out a demon successfully, with authority, and using the
name of Jesus. The disciples are annoyed. Their pride was hurt.
This can happen to us in our parish churches or in the works of charity that we do:
we sometimes have a sense of entitlement that prevents us from recognising that
others have a ministry as important ministry as ours. Or we feel that the way we do
things in our local church or charity is the only way.
Other suggestions put forward by people who are less involved get immediately
dismissed. ‘Who are they to tell us?’ This is sad: it blinds us to the humility that comes
from knowing that all are just as special in the eyes of Jesus, as we are. Others have
just as much of an important ministry as we do, in order to help build God’s kingdom
here on earth.
Jesus rejects the disciples' attitude, making it clear that working together for the greater good is exactly the strength of Christianity. It is because of such readings as today’s that we are a world church and continue to reach out beyond any borders and any individual agendas. The universality of our faith, onall continents (as depicted in our painting), is made very clear.
Our painting by Peter Paul Rubens depicts the Four Continents. We see the four female personifications of the continents (Europe, Asia, Africa and America) sitting with their respective male personifications of the major rivers on their continents (Danube, Ganges, Nile and Rio de la Plata): Europe is shown on the left, Africa in the middle, Asia on the right and America behind it, to the left. The tigress, protecting the cubs from the crocodile, is used as a symbol of Asia. The personification of the Danube holds a rudder. The Christian faith spread to all of these continents, and continues to do so…
Click Here: February 22, 2022
Reflection on the Sculptural Chair
Today's feast day has a rather peculiar name: the Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter. How does
the chair of an apostle merit a holy day? Let’s first of all look at the object itself. The Chair of
St Peter is a relic kept at the very back of St Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. It is a basic wooden
relic of a throne that tradition claims was used by St Peter himself when he was leading the early
Christians in Rome. The chair is now enclosed in a sculpted gilt-bronze ornamental chair designed
by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, which he completed between 1647 and 1653. In 2012,
Pope Benedict XVI described the chair as 'a symbol of the special mission of Peter and his Successors
to tend to Christ’s flock, keeping it united in faith and in charity’. The chair is only a few feet away
from St Peter’s tomb. The wooden throne chair was a gift from Holy Roman Emperor Charles the
Bald to Pope John VIII in 875. In today’s Gospel reading Christ says, ‘You are Peter and on this rock I
will build my Church’. Whilst the chair in St Peter’s might look opulent in its magnificence, the chair is
not intended to be a regal throne or a vain assertion of power. No, it is placed at the very end of the
basilica to be an authentic reflection of the office entrusted by Jesus Christ to Saint Peter (as in today’s
reading) and his successor shepherds of the Church.
I have stood in front of that chair many times and each time it reminds me of the responsibility placed in
all of our hands by Jesus Christ… Our humble roles are very different and modest compared with what
St Peter and his successors achieved, but the responsibilities are exactly the same for us all through our
baptism: to spread the Word of God…
Click Here: February 21, 2022 Richard Rohr's Daily Meditations
Father Richard believes that we can only experience true intimacy when we are willing to be vulnerable ourselves:
The big and hidden secret is this: an infinite God seeks and desires intimacy with the human soul. Once we experience such intimacy, only the intimate language of lovers describes what is going on for us: mystery, tenderness, singularity, specialness, nakedness, risk, ecstasy, incessant longing, and also, of course, suffering. This is the mystical vocabulary of the saints.
Our biggest secrets and desires are often revealed to others, and even discovered by ourselves, in the presence of sorrow, failure, or need—when we are very vulnerable, and when we feel entirely safe in the arms of love. When that happens, there is always a broadening of being on both sides. We are larger people afterwards.
And it is only when we are in such a tender place that God can safely reveal the “inside” of God to us. All self-sufficient people remain outsiders to the mystery of divine love because they will always misuse it. Only the need of a beloved knows how to receive the need and gift of the lover, and only the need of a lover knows how to receive the need and gift of the beloved without misusing such love. It is a kind of deliberate “poverty” on both sides. A mutually admitted emptiness is the ultimate safety net for love.
“Fullness” in a person cannot permit love because it leaves no openings, offers no handles, no give and take, nor is there any deep hunger. Human vulnerability gives the soul an immense head start on its travels.
Our desire for intimacy or communion first creates the very hunger that God, with a little help from God’s friends, can then satisfy (though never totally) in this world. In fact, the bit of satisfied desire only increases the desire for more and again! The mystics (those who personally know the inner space of God) are aware that they have been let in on a big and wondrous secret. Anyone not privy to this inner dialogue would call such people presumptuous, foolish, or even arrogant. This is without a doubt “God’s secret, in which all the jewels of wisdom and knowledge are hidden” (Colossians 2:3).
The secret becomes unhidden when people stop hiding—from God, from themselves, and from at least one other person. Such risky self-disclosure is what I mean by intimacy and it is the way that love is transmitted. Some say the word comes from the Latin intimus, which is interior or inside. Some say its older meaning is found by in timor, “into fear.” In either case, the point is clear. Intimacy happens when we expose our insides and this is always scary. We never really know if the other can receive what is exposed, will respect it, or will run fast in the other direction. We must be prepared to be rejected. It is always a risk.
Click Here: February 20, 2022 Word on Fire
Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Friends, our Gospel today is taken from Jesus’ Sermon on the Plain in Luke. It is one of the more puzzling texts in the New Testament. It speaks of loving our enemies—not tolerating them, or vaguely accepting them, but loving them. When you hate your enemy, you confirm him as your enemy. But when you love him in response to his hatred, you confuse and confound him, taking away the very energy that feeds his hatred.
There is a form of oriental martial arts called aikido. The idea of aikido is to absorb the aggressive energy of your opponent, moving with it, continually frustrating him until he comes to the point of realizing that fighting is useless.
Some have pointed out that there is a great deal of this in Jesus’ strategy of nonviolence and love of the enemy. You creatively absorb the aggression of your opponent, really using it against him, to show him the futility of violence. So when someone insults you, send back a compliment instead of an insult.
Click Here: February 19, 2022 Word on Fire
Sixth Week in Ordinary Time
Friends, today’s Gospel presents the Transfiguration of Christ. What is the Transfiguration itself? Mark speaks literally of a metamorphosis, a going beyond the form that he had. If I could use Paul’s language, it is "the knowledge of the glory of God on the face of Jesus Christ." In and through his humble humanity, his divinity shines forth. The proximity of his divinity in no way compromises the integrity of his humanity, but rather makes it shine in greater beauty. This is the New Testament version of the burning bush.
The Jesus who is both divine and human is the Jesus who is evangelically compelling. If he is only divine, then he doesn’t touch us; if he is only human, he can’t save us. His splendor consists in the coming together of the two natures, without mixing, mingling, or confusion.
Note how this same Jesus then accompanies his disciples back down the mountain and walks with them in the ordinary rhythms of their lives. This is the Christ who wants to reign as Lord of our lives in every detail. If we forget about this dimension, then Jesus becomes a distant memory, nothing more than a figure from the past.
Click Here: February 18, 2022 Word on Fire
Sixth Week in Ordinary Time
Friends, in today’s Gospel, Jesus lays down the conditions of discipleship.
A few verses before our reading, Jesus predicted his Passion for the first time. He will sacrifice himself in love for the other—and in this, he will come to deeper life and become a source of life to others. Ronald Knox talked about the sign of the cross this way: the first two gestures form the letter “I,” and the next two cross it out. That’s what the cross of Jesus meant and means.
In this scene, he gathered the crowd with his disciples and pronounced the formula for following him. We ought to be listening too with great attention: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” The path of discipleship is the path of self-sacrificing love, and that means the path of suffering.
Then the great paradox: “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the Gospel will save it.” Put that over your door, on the refrigerator, on your screensaver. There is no better one-line guide to the happy life.
Click Here: February 17, 2022 Richard Rohr
An Intimate Sharing
Contemporary mystic and writer Beverly Lanzetta has thought deeply about how to live a contemplative life in the world. In describing prayer, she turns to Teresa of Ávila (1515–1582) and Thomas Merton (1915–1968):
Teresa of Avila describes mental (contemplative) prayer as, “nothing else than an intimate sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with [God] who we know loves us.”  We can imagine God as our intimate friend, with whom we share everything. We can talk to the Divine about our needs, complaints, and difficulties. We can ask for advice, offer thanksgiving, and make acts of faith or reparation for our sins. We can seek guidance for our children, or shed tears about illness and death.
Quite frequently, the most efficacious [way to] pray is found in darkness, emptiness. When we find ourselves simply open to the vast mystery surrounding us, when we center our hearts on an obscure faith, and are absorbed into the divine Presence. This is the contemplation of night, when darkness quiets the soul, and we surrender to unknowing. Thomas Merton prays:
Your brightness is my darkness. I know nothing of You and, by myself, I cannot even imagine how to go about knowing You. If I imagine You, I am mistaken. If I understand You, I am deluded. If I am conscious and certain I know You, I am crazy. The darkness is enough. 
James Finley describes what happens inside us when we commit to such a path of prayer:
As you develop the habit of meditation, you will become more skilled in learning to enter more directly into a quiet state of meditative openness to God. Little by little you will experience yourself becoming more familiar with the inner landscape of your newly awakened heart. As your newly awakened heart is allowed to repeatedly rest in meditative awareness, it slowly discovers its center of gravity in the hidden depths of God. . . .
Since “God is love” (1 John 4:8), God’s ways are the ways in which love awakens you again and again to the infinite love that is the reality of all that is real. As you ripen and mature on the spiritual path that meditation embodies, you will consider yourself blessed and most fortunate in no longer being surprised by all the ways in which you never cease to be delighted by God. Your heart becomes accustomed to God, peeking out at you from the inner recesses of the task at hand, from the sideways glance of the stranger in the street, or from the way sunlight suddenly fills the room on a cloudy day.
Learning not to be surprised by the ways in which you are perpetually surprised, you will learn to rest in an abiding sense of confidence in God. Learning to abide in this confidence, you learn to see God in learning to see the God-given Godly nature of yourself, others, and everything around you. 
Click Here: February 16, 2022
BRIDLE OUR TONGUE
In the first Reading from the letter of St James, James has very little tolerance for flowery, pious words that evaporate almost as soon as they are spoken. He emphasizes the need to be “doers of the Word.” Words alone are not enough! The challenge is to take the words of the Gospel and put them into practice.
In today’s Gospel we read about Jesus who takes action by curing a blind man and it took a second laying of hands for the man to see perfectly. It is a picture of what happens to the spiritual blindness of the disciples--as we move on, they come to more clarity, and their blindness likewise is overcome in stages. The fact that the disciples took such a long time to catch on to what Jesus was about is, in a way, comforting to us. Most importantly, their experience of gradually learning to see and to have faith in Jesus as the Savior teaches us is always a growing affair. It is never complete and full at any one moment. Experiences and changes in our life all bring up new demands, make new requirements of faith and it cause us to actualize our faith. To say that we really have faith in the Lord as our Redeemer and Savior, means a lot more when we are still able to say it after a life-threatening illness, or the devastating loss of a son or daughter, or with much anxiety for elderly residents who will have to relocate because a facility is closing. Faith grows and deepens us through experiences that are good and bad.
Points to Pray and Ponder:
Our challenge from the scripture readings today is that it is most important to be attentive to issues of justice, which is here symbolized by the phrase “to care for orphans and widows in their affliction.” James, as well as Jesus Christ, was apparently aware of how easy it is for us to get all caught up in our rhetoric, our laws and our abstract truths. We need to remember that Christianity is a way of life that is only as effective as it is concretely lived out. As James wrote: “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, his religion is in vain… Are you a doer of the word?
Click Here: February 15, 2022
Engaging in Love as a Practice
I have found during recent years that I enjoy choosing my first book of the year with a heightened sense of intention, as though I’m setting a direction for the year. In 2019 my first book was Becoming, by Michelle Obama. Beyond a desire to learn more about the former First Lady, as a spiritual director, I was attracted to the title. I started 2020 by reading, Backlash: What Happens When We Talk Honestly about Racism in America, by George Yancy. Certainly, conversation of racism deepened in painful and unexpected ways during 2020. Last year, my first book of the year was, Power of Subversive Love by M. Shawn Copeland and this year I followed the theme of love once again with, All About Love, by Bell Hooks.
It’s this exploration of love that resonates so deeply with today’s first reading. bell hooks wrote, “This is why it’s helpful to see love as a practice. When we act, we need not feel inadequate or powerless; we can trust that there are concrete steps to take on love’s path. We learn to communicate, to be still and listen to the needs of our hearts, and we learn to listen to others. We learn compassion by being willing to hear the pain, as well as the joy, of those we love.” Like St. James says, we should be “quick to listen, slow to speak… and doers of the word.” How will you engage in love as a practice today?
Click Here: February 14, 2022
Memorial of Saints Cyril, Monk, and Methodius, Bishop
Friends, in today’s Gospel, the Pharisees demand Jesus give them a sign in order to prove his authority, perhaps a miracle. But I’d like to draw your attention to the final line in the passage: "He left them, got into the boat again, and went off to the other shore."
Whose boat was this? Well, the previous verses confirm it belonged to his disciples. Jesus entering the boat calls to mind his first encounter with Peter. One day, Peter was going about his ordinary business, washing his nets and preparing for a catch. Then without warning, without asking permission, Jesus got into his boat. Now the boat was everything for Peter; it was his livelihood, his security. But Jesus just got in and began giving orders.
So it goes in the order of grace. The true God cannot be manipulated, determined by us, or controlled through our efforts. We can’t act like the Pharisees in today’s Gospel, demanding that God behave for us. Rather, he comes into our lives—often unbidden and unexpected—and determines us, controls us. His presence is pure grace.
Don’t demand signs from God. Instead, do what the disciples did and let him enter your boat.
Click Here: February 13, 2022
Reflection on the Painting
In our Gospel reading today Jesus is telling us, ‘How happy are you who are poor; happy you who
weep now; happy are you when people hate you…’. Really? Do we feel happy when people don’t
like us, or when we weep or are in financial difficulty…? I don’t think any of us feel blessed when
we go through any pain or sorrow…
In the second part of the reading, Jesus talks about the other end of the ‘happiness spectrum’, if we
can call it that: ‘Alas for you who are rich, alas for you who laugh now,…’ It is easy in those happy
circumstances to forget God and forget where our happiness came from in the first place.
So Jesus is prompting us to have a balanced view of the world and of our own lives. When things
seemingly go well, it is important never to lose sight of the people who are less fortunate than us.
When things are seemingly hard to deal with and a struggle is on our hand, remember the other
blessings we have received such as our families, friends and a roof over our heads or a job. Jesus asks
us to be balanced. When things are tough, focus on the blessings we do have. If things go well, put it
in perspective and don’t forget those less well off.
Our painting by Florida-based Debbie Criswell is a fun take on living a balanced life. The black and the white cats are carefully balanced on a circle which is standing on another larger sphere. The cats perform a delicate balancing act. If one cat makes the wrong move, they may well fall…
Click Here: February 12, 2022
Fifth Week in Ordinary Time
Friends, today’s Gospel tells of Jesus feeding the four thousand with seven loaves and a few fish.
An awful lot of contemporary theologians and Bible commentators have tried to explain away the miracles of Jesus as spiritual symbols. Perhaps most notoriously, many preachers tried to explain the multiplication of the loaves and fishes as a "miracle" of charity, with everyone sharing the little that he had.
But I think it’s hard to deny that the first Christians were intensely interested in the miracles of Jesus, and that they didn’t see them as mere literary symbols! They saw them for what they really were: actions of God, breaking into our world.
Click Here: February 11, 2022
Fifth Week in Ordinary Time
Friends, our Gospel for today has to do with Jesus’ healing of a deaf man with a speech impediment. As always, we have to look at the surface and at the depth. Jesus is performing a physical miracle. But every one of his actions should also be read symbolically, so as to uncover a deeper spiritual meaning.
So what does Jesus do? He "put his finger into the man’s ears and, spitting, touched his tongue." Jesus establishes, as it were, an electrical current, running from God the Father, through him, to this man. He—almost literally—plugs him into the divine current, compelling him to hear the Word. He says "Ephphatha," be opened. When he does, his speech impediment is immediately overcome. Now he is able to speak the Word of God clearly.
So this deaf man stands for all of us who do not hear the Word of God, who have grown oblivious to it. And what is the result of this deafness? A speech impediment. At the spiritual level, if you don’t hear the Word of God clearly, then your capacity to speak it is also severely compromised.
Click Here: February 10, 2022
Reflection on the Painting
In our Gospel reading today we hear about the worries of a woman. Her ‘little daughter’
was possessed by an evil spirit. The words ‘little daughter’ that Mark the Evangelist uses
re very sweet as it implies that the girl was very young. How awful for a young girl to be
possessed by an unclean spirit. It is an age where she should be playing with the other
children and enjoy youthful activities. No wonder that her mother was worried and wanted
to do all she could to set her child free. A mother’s great joy is to watch her children grow
into beautiful human beings and make them blossom. Something was preventing her from
doing that, and she took the initiative to go and see Jesus. She was strong willed and had
great faith that Jesus would help her.
Her display of faith is simple. She has a problem and she turns to Jesus. That’s all. She had
nothing to offer to Jesus or to claim. She was totally dependent on Jesus’ mercy. Her
begging prayer is pure. She is a great example of how to empty ourselves of all our hypocrisy,
pride, and self-righteousness when we come to Jesus to ask for His mercy. Jesus, seeing her
display of humility, responded and healed the child.
Motherhood is most poignantly painted by American Impressionist painter Mary Cassatt. In
this painting we can see what the Syro-Phoenician woman wanted: to spend simple, straight-
forward time with her daughter and together read, play, bathe, etc… Like her close friend
Edgar Degas, Cassatt concentrated on the human figure in her Impressionist works rather than
landscapes. There is little perspective in this painting, and the flattened composition is reminiscent of the Japanese woodblock prints that so fascinated Cassat. The nakedness of the child and her white legs are as straight as the lines of the woman’s striped dress. The elevated vantage point gives the viewer the impression like we are looking in on an intimate family moment. We look, but don’t participate in what is happening. The mother may even be telling the daughter a story as she bathes her… This is what the Syro-Phoenician woman wanted, to get back to tender, intimate family moments with her daughter.
Click Here: February 9, 2022
Reflection on the Painting
All of us are guilty at times of telling ourselves that our sin is the result of someone else
or of something outside of us. We don’t want to take responsibility. But Jesus is placing
the responsibility of our actions firmly back on us. Sin comes from within us. The issue is
not outside of oneself, but inside oneself. It is an issue of the heart. But that is also where
the solution lies: in the very depth of our heart God dwells, and when we fling wide open
the gates to let Him take over our heart, our hearts can be healed. It reminds me of the
hymn ‘Fling wide the gates, unbar the ancient doors; salute your King in his triumphant cause’…
So by opening the gates of our hearts to Christ, we let in the light, as illustrated in our
charming painting by American Thomas Kinkade. He describes on his website how his ‘wish had
always been that my artwork would be a messenger of hope and inspiration to others – a