Prayers and Reflections
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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
October 2, 2022
27th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Gathering – Gather Your People #313
Presentation – Prayer of St. Francis #528
Communion – One Bread, One Body #337
Sending Forth – Let There Be Peace on Earth # 535
Responsorial Psalm – If today you hear His voice,
harden not your hearts.
The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it
Homilies and Reflections for the 19th Sunday
From Bishop Robert Barron. God cannot be analyzed scientifically the way one would study the things of the world, but God can be approached through religious reasoning, or Faith. Faith is often criticized as unintelligent tomfoolery. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The Catholic tradition reveals that Faith is a rational reaction to God in the religious person. It is the reasoning of the religious mind.
Also from Bishop Robert Barron. The Bible is a treasure trove of hero’s journey stories. But what makes the biblical accounts so distinctive is that God is the one who is drawing and prompting the journey; in fact, the Bible tells the story of God’s own hero’s journey!
From Scott Hahn. We are born of the faith of our fathers, descending from a great cloud of witnesses whose faith is attested to on every page of Scripture. We have been made His people, chosen for His own inheritance, as we sing in this Sunday’s Psalm. Our fathers, we are told, trusted in the Word of God, put their faith in His oaths. They were convinced that what He promised, He would do.
MESSAGE OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS
FOR THE SECOND WORLD DAY FOR GRANDPARENTS AND THE ELDERLY
24 July 2022
"In old age they will still bear fruit" (Psalm 92:15)
"In old age they will still bear fruit" (Ps 92:15). These words of the Psalmist are glad tidings, a true “gospel” that we can proclaim to all on this second World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly. They run counter to what the world thinks about this stage of life, but also to the attitude of grim resignation shown by some of us elderly people, who harbour few expectations for the future.
Many people are afraid of old age. They consider it a sort of disease with which any contact is best avoided. The elderly, they think, are none of their concern and should be set apart, perhaps in homes or places where they can be cared for, lest we have to deal with their problems. This is the mindset of the “throw-away culture”, which leads us to think that we are somehow different from the poor and vulnerable in our midst, untouched by their frailties and separated from “them” and their troubles. The Scriptures see things differently. A long life – so the Bible teaches – is a blessing, and the elderly are not outcasts to be shunned but living signs of the goodness of God who bestows life in abundance. Blessed is the house where an older person lives! Blessed is the family that honours the elderly!
Old age is not a time of life easily understood even by those of us who are already experiencing it. Even though it eventually comes with the passage of time, no one prepares us for old age, and at times it seems to take us by surprise. The more developed societies expend large sums on this stage of life without really helping people to understand and appreciate it; they offer healthcare plans to the elderly but not plans for living this age to the full.  This makes it hard to look to the future and discern what direction to take. On the one hand, we are tempted to ward off old age by hiding our wrinkles and pretending to be forever young, while on the other, we imagine that the only thing we can do is bide our time, thinking glumly that we cannot “still bring forth fruit”.
Retirement and grown children make many of the things that used to occupy our time and energy no longer so pressing. The recognition that our strength is ebbing or the onset of sickness can undermine our certainties. The fast pace of the world – with which we struggle to keep up – seems to leave us no alternative but to implicitly accept the idea that we are useless. We can resonate with the heartfelt prayer of the Psalmist: “Do not cast me off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength is spent” (71:9).
Yet that same psalm – which meditates on how the Lord has been present at every stage of our lives – urges us to persevere in hope. Along with old age and white hairs, God continues to give us the gift of life and to keep us from being overcome by evil. If we trust in him, we will find the strength to praise him still (cf. vv. 14-20). We will come to see that growing old is more than the natural decline of the body or the inevitable passage of time, but the gift of a long life. Aging is not a condemnation, but a blessing!
For this reason, we ought to take care of ourselves and remain active in our later years. This is also true from a spiritual standpoint: we ought to cultivate our interior life through the assiduous reading of the word of God, daily prayer, reception of the sacraments and participation in the liturgy. In addition to our relationship with God, we should also cultivate our relationships with others: first of all by showing affectionate concern for our families, our children and grandchildren, but also for the poor and those who suffer, by drawing near to them with practical assistance and our prayers. These things will help us not to feel like mere bystanders, sitting on our porches or looking out from our windows, as life goes on all around us. Instead, we should learn to discern everywhere the presence of the Lord.  Like “green olive trees in the house of God” (cf. Ps 52:10), we can become a blessing for those who live next to us.
Old age is no time to give up and lower the sails, but a season of enduring fruitfulness: a new mission awaits us and bids us look to the future. “The special sensibility that those of us who are elderly have for the concerns, thoughts and the affections that make us human should once again become the vocation of many. It would be a sign of our love for the younger generations”.  This would be our own contribution to the revolution of tenderness,  a spiritual and non-violent revolution in which I encourage you, dear grandparents and elderly persons, to take an active role.
Our world is passing through a time of trial and testing, beginning with the sudden, violent outbreak of the pandemic, and then by a war that is harming peace and development on a global scale. Nor is it a coincidence that war is returning to Europe at a time when the generation that experienced it in the last century is dying out. These great crises risk anaesthetizing us to the reality of other “epidemics” and other widespread forms of violence that menace the human family and our common home.
All this points to the need for a profound change, a conversion, that disarms hearts and leads us to see others as our brothers or sisters. We grandparents and elderly people have a great responsibility: to teach the women and men of our time to regard others with the same understanding and loving gaze with which we regard our own grandchildren. We ourselves have grown in humanity by caring for others, and now we can be teachers of a way of life that is peaceful and attentive to those in greatest need. This attitude may be mistaken for weakness or resignation, yet it will be the meek, not the aggressive and the abusive, who will inherit the earth (cf. Mt 5:5).
One fruit that we are called to bring forth is protecting the world. “Our grandparents held us in their arms and carried us on their knees”;  now is the time for us to carry on our own knees – with practical assistance or with prayer alone – not only our own grandchildren but also the many frightened grandchildren whom we have not yet met and who may be fleeing from war or suffering its effects. Let us hold in our hearts – like Saint Joseph, who was a loving and attentive father – the little ones of Ukraine, of Afghanistan, of South Sudan…
Many of us have come to a sage and humble realization of what our world very much needs: the recognition that we are not saved alone, and that happiness is a bread we break together. Let us bear witness to this before those who wrongly think that they can find personal fulfilment and success in conflict. Everyone, even the weakest among us, can do this. The very fact that we allow ourselves to be cared for – often by people who come from other countries – is itself a way of saying that living together in peace is not only possible, but necessary.
Dear grandparents, dear elderly persons, we are called to be artisans of the revolution of tenderness in our world! Let us do so by learning to make ever more frequent and better use of the most valuable instrument at our disposal and, indeed, the one best suited to our age: prayer. “Let us too become, as it were, poets of prayer: let us develop a taste for finding our own words, let us once again take up those taught by the word of God”.  Our trustful prayer can do a great deal: it can accompany the cry of pain of those who suffer, and it can help change hearts. We can be “the enduring ‘chorus’ of a great spiritual sanctuary, where prayers of supplication and songs of praise sustain the community that toils and struggles in the field of life”. 
The World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly is an opportunity to proclaim once more, with joy, that the Church wants to celebrate together with all those whom the Lord – in the words of the Bible – has “filled with days”. Let us celebrate it together! I ask you to make this Day known in your parishes and communities; to seek out those elderly persons who feel most alone, at home or in residences where they live. Let us make sure that no one feels alone on this day. Expecting a visit can transform those days when we think we have nothing to look forward to; from an initial encounter, a new friendship can emerge. Visiting the elderly who live alone is a work of mercy in our time!
Let us ask Our Lady, Mother of Tender Love, to make all of us artisans of the revolution of tenderness, so that together we can set the world free from the spectre of loneliness and the demon of war.
To all of you, and to your loved ones, I send my blessing and the assurance of my closeness and affection. And I ask you, please, not to forget to pray for me!
Rome, Saint John Lateran, 3 May 2022, Feast of the Apostles Philip and James
St. Mary Magdalene was one of the disciples of Jesus. She was probably wealthy and provided
financial support for his ministry. She was present at Jesus’ crucifixion and burial and was one
of the first witnesses to his resurrection.
She ran to the apostles with the words “I have seen the Lord!”, but according to gospel accounts,
they did not believe her at first. She is sometimes called “The apostle of the apostles” because she
was the first to tell them of his resurrection.
Although she is often identified as the sinful woman who anoints Jesus feet and washes them with her tears and dries them with her hair, this association came later, in the Middle Ages. The belief that she was a prostitute is probably not accurate. Read more about Who Framed Mary Magdalene.
Her feast day is July 22.
Patron Saint of …She is the patron saint of converts, glove makers, perfumeries,
hairdressers, pharmacists,and contemplative life. She is also the patroness of people who
are made fun of for their piety.
In the gospel of John, St. Mary Magdalene encounters Jesus at the tomb. She recognizes
him when he speaks her name. He instructs her to go tell the disciples what she has seen.
She runs to them and says “I have seen the Lord!”. For this reason, St. Mary Magdalene
is called the Apostle of the Apostles.
Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and then
reported what he told her.
The readings for 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C are focused on hospitality.
In the first reading Abraham and Sarah welcome the Lord in the form of three
strangers and are promised a child. The psalm tells us treat others with kindness
and justice. In the second reading Paul tells us that we are one in Christ Jesus. In
the gospel we hear of when Jesus visited Martha and Mary. Martha is working to
get a meal ready and becomes frustrated with Mary, who is spending her time
listening to Jesus.
Listening to Jesus
Having a balanced spiritual life
Caring for others and listening to them
There was a code of hospitality during the time of Abraham. This ensured that neither the host nor the visitor would be taken advantage of. The host would offer food and shelter. The visitor would bring news of the world, or entertainment in the form of stories.
Sarah might have thought the promise of a child was a humorous fairy tale. But Abraham saw his guests as divine visitors. In fact, these three men are often seen as the Trinity. Abraham offered them the best he had.
Martha and Mary also offer hospitality. Martha is sometimes depicted as not paying the right kind of attention to Jesus in this story. But in fact, she was doing what was expected of her. But she failed to recognize both the holy presence in her home and that Mary was also offering hospitality by listening to Jesus.
Our discipleship must balance service with contemplation. Taking action is important, but knowledge of our Lord must be there also. Otherwise our actions are just good works and not a chance to encounter Christ.
Reflection Questions for the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C
How do I practice hospitality?
Do I tend to be a Martha or a Mary?
When I am putting my faith in action, do I take time to recognize the divine presence?
Our Lady of Mount Carmel is the title given to Our Blessed Mother as the patroness
of the Carmelite order. Mount Carmel is located in the Holy Land. The early
Carmelites lived as hermits there. They are a contemplative order.
There is also a tradition of the brown scapular associated with Our Lady. This
devotion was started by St. Simon Stock, a Carmelite, who had a vision of her in
1251 in England. Learn more about this devotion.
Her feast day is July 16.
Patron Saint of …
In addition to being the patroness of the Carmelites, Our Lady of Mount Carmel is
also the patroness of protection from harm and deliverance from Purgatory.
Sunday July 10 Faith and Family for July 10: Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
First reading: Dt 30:10-14
Second reading: Col1:15-20
Gospel: Lk 10:25-37
UNDERSTAND | By Father Greg Friedman, OFM
Cincinnati, my hometown, is a city of neighborhoods. Cincinnatians will tell you that they’re from Clifton or Hyde Park or Delhi or Over-the-Rhine. We think locally, proud of the different neighborhoods we come from.
Today, we hear in the Gospel the familiar story of the Good Samaritan. The key question is: Who is my neighbor? When the Jewish audience first heard this parable, there must have been shock: Jesus says a Samaritan—a member of a group the Jews shunned—was neighbor to the man in trouble, because he showed mercy. This story fits into one of Luke’s special Gospel themes—the welcoming of the strangers, the outcast, the poor, into the circle of God’s Kingdom. Luke’s missionary community must have faced a special challenge to welcome people from a variety of backgrounds and cultures.
Perhaps this is a good Sunday to examine our parish’s hospitality and welcoming attitude. Who is my neighbor? is an important question for every Christian community. Though we may take pride in the history and traditions of our parish, we cannot exclude strangers or newcomers. Rather, we must recognize Christ in the stranger, as we heed Jesus’ command to “Go and do likewise.”
DISCUSS | By Father Dan Kroger, OFM
According to the first reading, Is God’s law far away or near? Where is it?
How does St Paul describe Jesus in the second reading?
In this week's Gospel, who asks a question in order to test Jesus? What is the question about?
ACT | By Susan Hines-Brigger
The June/July issue of St. Anthony Messenger magazine is devoted to the concept of welcoming "the other." Read about different situations in which we can care for our brothers and sisters.
Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati loved to climb mountains. He served the poor with the
same enthusiasm which he participated in this athletic activity. He contracted
poliomyelitis, which is related to polio, in 1925 at age 24. Doctors speculated that
he caught the disease from the poor he loved to serve. He died within a week of
The phrase “verso l’alto” is often associated with Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati. It means
“to the heights”. It refers to the desire to reach the summit of eternal life. He is called
“Man of the Eight Beatitudes” because of his holiness.
His feast day is July 4.
Patron of …
He is the patron of students, young Catholics, mountaineers, youth groups, and World Youth Day.
Sunday - July 3rd
On this Independence Day I am reminded
of all those who have sacrificed for my freedom,
following the example of your Son, Jesus Christ.
Let me not take my freedom, both physical and spiritual,
for granted. May I always remember that my freedom
was purchased with a very high price. My freedom cost
others their very lives. Lord, today, bless those who have
served and continue to give their lives for my freedom.
With favor and bounty meet their needs and watch over
their families. Help me to live my life in a way that glorifies
you, Lord. Give me the strength to be a blessing in someone
else's life today, and grant me the opportunity to lead others
into the freedom that can be found in knowing Christ.
Today, the second Sunday after Pentecost, we celebrate a second solemnity, which
marks our return to Ordinary Time. Today is the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body
and Blood of Christ. At one time, this day was called Corpus Christi, Latin for “the
Body of Christ.” In the most recent revision of the liturgy, the name for this day is
expanded to be a more complete reflection of our Eucharistic theology.
The feeding of the 5,000 is the only one of Jesus' miracles to appear in all four
Gospels. Luke places it between Herod's question, “Who is this about whom I hear
such things?” and Peter's response to Jesus' question about who he thought Jesus
was: “You are the Messiah of God.” In Luke the feeding is not the result of Jesus'
compassion for the crowd but is instigated by the disciples. They wanted Jesus to
send the crowd away to town. Instead Jesus tells the disciples to give them some
food on their own.
The passage is meant to remind us of two feedings in the Old Testament: the feeding
of the Israelites in the desert and Elisha's feeding of 100 people with 20 loaves in
2 Kings 4:42-44. It is also connected to the institution of the Eucharist. As in the Last
Supper accounts in Matthew, Mark, and Luke and in Paul's account in 1 Corinthians
11:23-24, Jesus takes bread, looks up to heaven, blesses the bread, breaks it, and then
gives it to the disciples. In using this exact language, Luke is reminding his readers that in this miracle Jesus is doing more than feeding hungry people as God did for the Israelites and the prophet Elisha did as well. The bread he gives is his body, which he will continue to give as often as the community breaks bread in remembrance of him in the Eucharist.
Today is the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. At one time, this day was called Corpus Christi, Latin for “the Body of Christ.” In the most recent revision of the liturgy, the name for this day is expanded to be a more complete reflection of our Eucharistic theology.
Today’s readings mention blessings several times. The people we read about in Scripture took blessings very seriously. A blessing was not just a nice thing to say. It represented real, material benefits. For example, the blessing a father gave his son was considered a true inheritance.
Melchizedek blesses Abram through his offering of bread and wine. Shortly later, God presents Abram with a lasting covenant, promising many descendants and a land to call their own. To the ancients, this would have been connected tot the blessing.
Do I connect the Eucharist with real blessings in my life?
How does the Eucharist transform me?
How can I transmit God’s blessing to another person today?
The readings for The Feast of the Most Holy Trinity for Year C invite us to live in the light of God’s truth. In the first reading we hear of the eternal nature of God. The psalm praises God for the wonders of his creation and his care for us. In the second reading Paul reminds us that faith brings us hope. In the gospel Jesus tells us that all that is the Father’s is also his and he promises us the Spirit of truth.
The relationship between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
Lover, Beloved, and Love
What the Trinity means to us
What does the mystery of the Trinity tell us? It tells us that God is relationship. In fact, God is such a perfect relationship in unity that God is truly one.
Holy Trinity Sunday
Solemnity of Pentecost
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. Th