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February 28, 2018

Mt 20:17-28

While Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside by themselves, and said to them on the way, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death; then they will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified; and on the third day he will be raised.”

Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to him with her sons, and kneeling before him, she asked a favor of him. And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Declare that these two sons of mine will sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” But Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.”He said to them, “You will indeed drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left, this is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”

When the ten heard it, they were angry with the two brothers. But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

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

Understanding Jesus’ message

Today’s gospel reading expresses the continual challenge of Christ’s call to discipleship.  From the beginning of his ministry, Jesus has preached a kingdom that entails a complete reversal of social values and expectations.  Jesus’ call to serve rather than to be served goes against everything our society teaches us about success and happiness; perhaps it is a contradiction of human nature itself.  

We all want what is best for ourselves and the ones that we love, as the mother of James and John desires a privileged position for her sons.  The strange thing about her request, though, is that she makes it immediately after Jesus quite clearly predicts his own suffering and death.  The mother hasn’t been able to truly hear Jesus in what he has been suggesting will bring fullness of life for her and her two sons.  So, she doesn’t even “know what she is asking.”  Jesus, however, knows that James and John will eventually share Jesus’ cup and serve the kingdom of God in his way.  

Lent is a good time to pause to ask ourselves if we are truly hearing Jesus’ call to serve the kingdom of God, or if we have distorted that message and turned it into what we wish to hear, or what our society wants us to hear.    

—Tom Weiler is a teacher in the department of Religious Studies and the moderator of Club Vinyl at Saint Ignatius College Prep in Chicago.  

Prayer

O Jesus, I come before you at the
beginning of this day.
I gaze at your face, I look upon
your side pierced by the lance.
Your wounded heart speaks to me of
God’s love poured out for us.

Take, Lord, and receive my heart:
the words of faith that I speak,
the works of justice I would do,
my joys and sufferings.

When I come to the Eucharistic table,
gather my offerings to your own
for the life of the world.

At the end of the day, place me
with Mary, your mother,
and for her sake take me to
your Heart.
Amen.

—Fr. James Devereux, S.J.

 


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February 27, 2018

Mt 23:1-12

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long.

They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them rabbi. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students. And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father—the one in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah.

The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.

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.

Struggling to be more like Jesus

Jesus, at first when I read your words today I thought to myself: ‘This is something I still need a lot of work on…’ I’m a perfect Pharisee. Often, when I have more knowledge on a topic than someone else, I catch myself being condescending. When I’m busy, I can make all sorts of excuses why I don’t need to help with this chore but why others should. And the worst is when I’m busy and someone interrupts me. Don’t they know that I’m really important?! Frankly, sometimes I act like I’m king of the universe.

Jesus, you know I struggle with this, but I’m trying! I need your help. I want nothing more than to be like you. Help me to see your image in others and to give myself in service to love.

Can I offer control of my day today to God?

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

Prayer

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

—Daniel J. Lord, SJ

 

 


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February 26, 2018

Lk 6:36-38

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

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

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

Let God be God

In a world that measures strength by force, numbers, and material goods, Jesus’ instruction to “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” strikes an opposing chord to reveal what God considers most important, namely, our capability to choose love in the face of everything else.

We’re human; our brains function by detecting contrast and making distinctions. Our complex, fast-paced world demands judgments about actions, issues, and options. Yet Jesus’ words challenge us to remember: the business of judging hearts and motivations belongs to God. Our call is to emulate God’s higher standard of mercy and forgiveness, with the promise that our behavior – loving or otherwise – will be reflected back to us. Choosing to love is clearly the better course, and its rewards beyond measure.

How easily do I cross the subtle line between judging others’ actions and their hearts? Am I willing to let God be God?

—Cindy Ristroph is a parish minister at St. Aloysius Parish in Baton Rouge, LA, and occasionally writes for the dotMagis blog.

Prayer

Thank you, Lord, for making clear your desire for us to love one another. I pray for the awareness to recognize when my human inclination to be right or in control distances me from you, and for the grace to choose to love.

—Cindy Ristroph

 


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February 25, 2018

Mk 9:2-10

Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He did not know what to say, for they were terrified.

Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.

As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead could mean.

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.

Listen to him

Jesus chooses Peter, James, and John, three of his closest friends, to witness what Pope Saint John Paul II calls the “the Luminous Mystery par excellence.” The brilliance of Jesus’ divinity shines forth through his humanity. Transfiguration provides a glimpse of future glory. Just as at his baptism, Jesus is revealed as the Beloved of the Father. The chosen are charged to “listen to him.” Soon these same three will be again called to witness the agony that even the Beloved of God must endure as he prays in a lonely garden. We all need special friends to share our joy and to help us bear our sorrow. Jesus is no exception. Today, as then, he seeks companions who are willing to listen to him, to go the distance with him – up the mountain and down the mountain to the cross. How far into the journey am I willing to companion Jesus?

—Fr. J. Michael Sparough, SJ, is a retreat master, writer, and spiritual director at the Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House outside Chicago.  His daily Lenten video reflections can be seen at heartoheart.org

Prayer

As a mother’s heart is tuned
to the voice of her child in a crowd,
teach us to sift through the many voices
that confuse our minds
and crowd our hearts.
Attune us to the voice of the Beloved.
For in listening to his life-giving words
and gazing upon his radiant face,
we come to relish his life-giving revelation:
We are the de-light of God,
called to shine like the Son!

—Fr. J. Michael Sparough, SJ


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February 24, 2018

Mt 5:43-48

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.

For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

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.

Praying for enemies

Enemies is such a strong word, and may seem a hard label to assign someone.  But the “enemies” and “those who persecute” who Jesus commands us to love can take many forms.  Perhaps it is the person on social media who insists on attacking others. Maybe it is the coworker who seems to go out of his or her way to make our job more difficult. It might be the friend or family member who gossips or shares our private information with the world. It is much easier to wish these people illor at the very least not wish them wellthan it is to pray for them.

But Jesus sets a high bar for us.  He doesn’t say “be fairly good,” or “do a little bit.”  He tells us to “be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  No pressure there!  Jesus sets this bar for us, knowing that we may fail at times, but reminding us that we shouldn’t stop trying to love those who hurt us, and recognizing that they too are God’s children.  

Who is an “enemy” in my life who I can pray for today?

—The Jesuit Prayer team

Prayer

Lord God, you love us even when we fail, and you love all those around us.  Help us to treat our “enemies” as friends, and let go of grudges, anger, and hurt.  In all that we do, may we try our best to emulate your perfect, all-loving heart.

—The Jesuit Prayer team

 


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February 23, 2018

Mt 5:20-26

For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

“You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire.

So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.

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.

Healing our relationships

In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus tells us it is not enough simply to follow the commandments; even our thoughts and words will be judged. Anger in our hearts that spills out into malicious words or rumors offends the Lord. It kind of reminds me of my Mom’s oft-spoken advice “if you don’t have something good to say about someone, best say nothing!”

Upon further reflection, I was struck that Jesus calls for reconciliation from both sides of the conflict: “if you are angry with a brother or sister” and later, “remember that your brother or sister has something against you.” To Jesus, it does not matter who is responsible for the anger and insults, you “go first and be reconciled with your brother.”

So, it isn’t always about me and my sense of fairness, but more about becoming a catalyst for reconciliation and right relationship. Makes me want to sing, “If today you hear God’s voice, harden not your hearts!”

—Vicki Simon is the director of the Ignatian Volunteer Corps in St. Louis.

Prayer

Loving God, as I journey through this Lenten season, help me to let go of negative thoughts and unkind words and arguments that end in “but it’s not my fault.” By reaching out and reconciling with my sisters and brothers, I can take the first step to reconciling with you.

—Vicki Simon

 

 

 

 


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February 22, 2018

Feast of the Chair of St. Peter

Mt 16:13-19

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”

Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.

I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

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.

Peter the rock

In the Scripture readings for this first week of Lent, Jesus has 1) condensed the Ten Commandments into the command to love God and neighbor equally; 2) warned us that practicing our faith meets resistance within and without, but grace can prevail; prophets like Jonah have pointed to Jesus, who 3) calls us to repent and live a graced life of love.

Today Jesus prepares for his eventual departure by selecting Peter as the rock upon whom the good news of Jesus rests. Through that same rock will flow the living water of forgiveness and sanctity.  We also see water from the rock in Ex 17:1-7 and Jesus as the source of living waters in Jn 4:1-10.

Jesus does not leave us orphans to face life alone. We have a community to birth us, to educate us and to empower us to bring the kingdom of God closer to reality. Now the challenge is to live it.

—Fr. Karl Voelker, SJ, is on the staff of the Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House in Barrington, IL.

Prayer

Lord, you know that I like Mother Teresa’s phrase “Do something beautiful for God today.” I cannot paint landscapes nor do I have $20 bills to spare, but I can smile. I can talk to that person whom others seem to avoid. I can give a compliment to someone whom I often overlook. Gee, I can do beautiful things!

—Fr. Karl Voelker, SJ

 


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February 21, 2018

Jonah 3:1-10

The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, saying, “Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.”So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days’ walk across.Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s walk. And he cried out, “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”

And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth. When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.

Then he had a proclamation made in Nineveh: “By the decree of the king and his nobles: No human being or animal, no herd or flock, shall taste anything. They shall not feed, nor shall they drink water. Human beings and animals shall be covered with sackcloth, and they shall cry mightily to God. All shall turn from their evil ways and from the violence that is in their hands. Who knows? God may relent and change his mind; he may turn from his fierce anger, so that we do not perish.”

When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.

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

Encountering God

The irony of the story of Jonah and the Ninevites strikes the heart of its reader.  The city of Nineveh is so great and prosperous that it takes three days to walk across.   Yet, the whole city of Nineveh, and especially its powerful king, receives Jonah’s message with the humility and contrition necessary for the metanoia (or conversion) that brings about salvation.  Most striking is the city’s response in relation to the simplicity of Jonah’s preaching.  It is clearly not Jonah’s preaching that strikes the heart of the people of Nineveh.  One even gets the sense that Jonah is phoning it in.  His preaching is neither eloquent nor profound.  It is hardly convincing, let alone moving.  It is not Jonah’s preaching that leads to the city’s change of heart; It is their personal encounter with the “Word of the Lord” that they encounter through Jonah.

In the Gospel passage from today’s Mass (Luke 11:29-32), Jesus teaches us that this generation will not receive a sign.  But, we are also told that we have received something far greater than Jonah in the person of Jesus Christ. A sign is something which points and directs toward another reality.  In Christ, we have received the fullness of the reality of God’s Word itself.  This personal encounter is God’s gift that continually brings about the turning of our hearts and minds to God, to which no mere sign could ever bring us.       

—Tom Weiler is a teacher in the department of Religious Studies and the moderator of Club Vinyl at Saint Ignatius College Prep in Chicago.  

Prayer

Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.

—Prayer for the imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday

 


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February 20, 2018

Mt 6:7-15

“When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

“Pray then in this way: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one.

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

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.

Thy will be done

In today’s Gospel, Jesus passes on to us the Our Father and for two thousand years we’ve been saying it. In all that time, have we yet plumbed that little prayer’s depths? Or do we more often than not babble our way through it? I can’t count all the times that I’ve said the Our Father at Mass and gone into autopilot, only to recognize that I’ve mentally skipped the whole prayer.

But there are graced moments as well when I say the prayer slowly and meditatively. How powerful it is to say “thy will be done” throughout the course of challenging day when there are conflicts to manage, constant interruptions, and things going awry. And how beautiful it is to recognize that you, O God, are our loving Father, calling us back time and again regardless of our trespasses.

Can I pause throughout my day today and prayerfully say the Our Father?

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

Prayer

Our Father,
who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
Amen.

—Our Father

 


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February 19, 2018

Mt 25:31-46

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left.

Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’

Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’

Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’

Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

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.

Sheep on his right and goats on his left.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus describes the final judgment in terms of sheep and goats, referring to the docile nature of sheep vs the more independent temperaments of goats. Those who cared for others in need during their time on earth shall “inherit the kingdom,” while those who ignored others “will go away into eternal punishment.” Jesus further explains that our actions will be judged based on how we treated “the least” of his brothers and sisters.

Particularly during this season of repentance, regularly examining our posture of heart reveals underlying motivations for our actions. Ultimately, the best teachers of love are those we find most difficult to love, “the least” among us, for they provide the most opportunities to practice selflessness.

Am I willing to let myself be led by love? Am I open to the possibility of seeing – and serving – Jesus in “the least” of those I encounter each day?

—Cindy Ristroph is a parish minister at St. Aloysius Parish in Baton Rouge, LA, and occasionally writes for the dotMagis blog.

Prayer

Gracious God, please increase my awareness of your presence in every person I encounter today. Help me to recognize you even in the midst of people or situations that frustrate or challenge me. I pray for the willingness to follow your spirit of love with a heart open to grace.  Amen.

—Cindy Ristroph


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February 28, 2018

Mt 20:17-28

While Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside by themselves, and said to them on the way, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death; then they will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified; and on the third day he will be raised.”

Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to him with her sons, and kneeling before him, she asked a favor of him. And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Declare that these two sons of mine will sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” But Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.”He said to them, “You will indeed drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left, this is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”

When the ten heard it, they were angry with the two brothers. But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

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

Understanding Jesus’ message

Today’s gospel reading expresses the continual challenge of Christ’s call to discipleship.  From the beginning of his ministry, Jesus has preached a kingdom that entails a complete reversal of social values and expectations.  Jesus’ call to serve rather than to be served goes against everything our society teaches us about success and happiness; perhaps it is a contradiction of human nature itself.  

We all want what is best for ourselves and the ones that we love, as the mother of James and John desires a privileged position for her sons.  The strange thing about her request, though, is that she makes it immediately after Jesus quite clearly predicts his own suffering and death.  The mother hasn’t been able to truly hear Jesus in what he has been suggesting will bring fullness of life for her and her two sons.  So, she doesn’t even “know what she is asking.”  Jesus, however, knows that James and John will eventually share Jesus’ cup and serve the kingdom of God in his way.  

Lent is a good time to pause to ask ourselves if we are truly hearing Jesus’ call to serve the kingdom of God, or if we have distorted that message and turned it into what we wish to hear, or what our society wants us to hear.    

—Tom Weiler is a teacher in the department of Religious Studies and the moderator of Club Vinyl at Saint Ignatius College Prep in Chicago.  

Prayer

O Jesus, I come before you at the
beginning of this day.
I gaze at your face, I look upon
your side pierced by the lance.
Your wounded heart speaks to me of
God’s love poured out for us.

Take, Lord, and receive my heart:
the words of faith that I speak,
the works of justice I would do,
my joys and sufferings.

When I come to the Eucharistic table,
gather my offerings to your own
for the life of the world.

At the end of the day, place me
with Mary, your mother,
and for her sake take me to
your Heart.
Amen.

—Fr. James Devereux, S.J.

 

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February 27, 2018

Mt 23:1-12

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long.

They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them rabbi. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students. And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father—the one in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah.

The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.

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.

Struggling to be more like Jesus

Jesus, at first when I read your words today I thought to myself: ‘This is something I still need a lot of work on…’ I’m a perfect Pharisee. Often, when I have more knowledge on a topic than someone else, I catch myself being condescending. When I’m busy, I can make all sorts of excuses why I don’t need to help with this chore but why others should. And the worst is when I’m busy and someone interrupts me. Don’t they know that I’m really important?! Frankly, sometimes I act like I’m king of the universe.

Jesus, you know I struggle with this, but I’m trying! I need your help. I want nothing more than to be like you. Help me to see your image in others and to give myself in service to love.

Can I offer control of my day today to God?

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

Prayer

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

—Daniel J. Lord, SJ

 

 

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February 26, 2018

Lk 6:36-38

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

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

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

Let God be God

In a world that measures strength by force, numbers, and material goods, Jesus’ instruction to “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” strikes an opposing chord to reveal what God considers most important, namely, our capability to choose love in the face of everything else.

We’re human; our brains function by detecting contrast and making distinctions. Our complex, fast-paced world demands judgments about actions, issues, and options. Yet Jesus’ words challenge us to remember: the business of judging hearts and motivations belongs to God. Our call is to emulate God’s higher standard of mercy and forgiveness, with the promise that our behavior – loving or otherwise – will be reflected back to us. Choosing to love is clearly the better course, and its rewards beyond measure.

How easily do I cross the subtle line between judging others’ actions and their hearts? Am I willing to let God be God?

—Cindy Ristroph is a parish minister at St. Aloysius Parish in Baton Rouge, LA, and occasionally writes for the dotMagis blog.

Prayer

Thank you, Lord, for making clear your desire for us to love one another. I pray for the awareness to recognize when my human inclination to be right or in control distances me from you, and for the grace to choose to love.

—Cindy Ristroph

 

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February 25, 2018

Mk 9:2-10

Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He did not know what to say, for they were terrified.

Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.

As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead could mean.

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.

Listen to him

Jesus chooses Peter, James, and John, three of his closest friends, to witness what Pope Saint John Paul II calls the “the Luminous Mystery par excellence.” The brilliance of Jesus’ divinity shines forth through his humanity. Transfiguration provides a glimpse of future glory. Just as at his baptism, Jesus is revealed as the Beloved of the Father. The chosen are charged to “listen to him.” Soon these same three will be again called to witness the agony that even the Beloved of God must endure as he prays in a lonely garden. We all need special friends to share our joy and to help us bear our sorrow. Jesus is no exception. Today, as then, he seeks companions who are willing to listen to him, to go the distance with him – up the mountain and down the mountain to the cross. How far into the journey am I willing to companion Jesus?

—Fr. J. Michael Sparough, SJ, is a retreat master, writer, and spiritual director at the Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House outside Chicago.  His daily Lenten video reflections can be seen at heartoheart.org

Prayer

As a mother’s heart is tuned
to the voice of her child in a crowd,
teach us to sift through the many voices
that confuse our minds
and crowd our hearts.
Attune us to the voice of the Beloved.
For in listening to his life-giving words
and gazing upon his radiant face,
we come to relish his life-giving revelation:
We are the de-light of God,
called to shine like the Son!

—Fr. J. Michael Sparough, SJ

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February 24, 2018

Mt 5:43-48

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.

For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

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.

Praying for enemies

Enemies is such a strong word, and may seem a hard label to assign someone.  But the “enemies” and “those who persecute” who Jesus commands us to love can take many forms.  Perhaps it is the person on social media who insists on attacking others. Maybe it is the coworker who seems to go out of his or her way to make our job more difficult. It might be the friend or family member who gossips or shares our private information with the world. It is much easier to wish these people illor at the very least not wish them wellthan it is to pray for them.

But Jesus sets a high bar for us.  He doesn’t say “be fairly good,” or “do a little bit.”  He tells us to “be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  No pressure there!  Jesus sets this bar for us, knowing that we may fail at times, but reminding us that we shouldn’t stop trying to love those who hurt us, and recognizing that they too are God’s children.  

Who is an “enemy” in my life who I can pray for today?

—The Jesuit Prayer team

Prayer

Lord God, you love us even when we fail, and you love all those around us.  Help us to treat our “enemies” as friends, and let go of grudges, anger, and hurt.  In all that we do, may we try our best to emulate your perfect, all-loving heart.

—The Jesuit Prayer team

 

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February 23, 2018

Mt 5:20-26

For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

“You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire.

So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.

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.

Healing our relationships

In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus tells us it is not enough simply to follow the commandments; even our thoughts and words will be judged. Anger in our hearts that spills out into malicious words or rumors offends the Lord. It kind of reminds me of my Mom’s oft-spoken advice “if you don’t have something good to say about someone, best say nothing!”

Upon further reflection, I was struck that Jesus calls for reconciliation from both sides of the conflict: “if you are angry with a brother or sister” and later, “remember that your brother or sister has something against you.” To Jesus, it does not matter who is responsible for the anger and insults, you “go first and be reconciled with your brother.”

So, it isn’t always about me and my sense of fairness, but more about becoming a catalyst for reconciliation and right relationship. Makes me want to sing, “If today you hear God’s voice, harden not your hearts!”

—Vicki Simon is the director of the Ignatian Volunteer Corps in St. Louis.

Prayer

Loving God, as I journey through this Lenten season, help me to let go of negative thoughts and unkind words and arguments that end in “but it’s not my fault.” By reaching out and reconciling with my sisters and brothers, I can take the first step to reconciling with you.

—Vicki Simon

 

 

 

 

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February 22, 2018

Feast of the Chair of St. Peter

Mt 16:13-19

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”

Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.

I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

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.

Peter the rock

In the Scripture readings for this first week of Lent, Jesus has 1) condensed the Ten Commandments into the command to love God and neighbor equally; 2) warned us that practicing our faith meets resistance within and without, but grace can prevail; prophets like Jonah have pointed to Jesus, who 3) calls us to repent and live a graced life of love.

Today Jesus prepares for his eventual departure by selecting Peter as the rock upon whom the good news of Jesus rests. Through that same rock will flow the living water of forgiveness and sanctity.  We also see water from the rock in Ex 17:1-7 and Jesus as the source of living waters in Jn 4:1-10.

Jesus does not leave us orphans to face life alone. We have a community to birth us, to educate us and to empower us to bring the kingdom of God closer to reality. Now the challenge is to live it.

—Fr. Karl Voelker, SJ, is on the staff of the Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House in Barrington, IL.

Prayer

Lord, you know that I like Mother Teresa’s phrase “Do something beautiful for God today.” I cannot paint landscapes nor do I have $20 bills to spare, but I can smile. I can talk to that person whom others seem to avoid. I can give a compliment to someone whom I often overlook. Gee, I can do beautiful things!

—Fr. Karl Voelker, SJ

 

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February 21, 2018

Jonah 3:1-10

The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, saying, “Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.”So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days’ walk across.Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s walk. And he cried out, “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”

And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth. When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.

Then he had a proclamation made in Nineveh: “By the decree of the king and his nobles: No human being or animal, no herd or flock, shall taste anything. They shall not feed, nor shall they drink water. Human beings and animals shall be covered with sackcloth, and they shall cry mightily to God. All shall turn from their evil ways and from the violence that is in their hands. Who knows? God may relent and change his mind; he may turn from his fierce anger, so that we do not perish.”

When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.

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

Encountering God

The irony of the story of Jonah and the Ninevites strikes the heart of its reader.  The city of Nineveh is so great and prosperous that it takes three days to walk across.   Yet, the whole city of Nineveh, and especially its powerful king, receives Jonah’s message with the humility and contrition necessary for the metanoia (or conversion) that brings about salvation.  Most striking is the city’s response in relation to the simplicity of Jonah’s preaching.  It is clearly not Jonah’s preaching that strikes the heart of the people of Nineveh.  One even gets the sense that Jonah is phoning it in.  His preaching is neither eloquent nor profound.  It is hardly convincing, let alone moving.  It is not Jonah’s preaching that leads to the city’s change of heart; It is their personal encounter with the “Word of the Lord” that they encounter through Jonah.

In the Gospel passage from today’s Mass (Luke 11:29-32), Jesus teaches us that this generation will not receive a sign.  But, we are also told that we have received something far greater than Jonah in the person of Jesus Christ. A sign is something which points and directs toward another reality.  In Christ, we have received the fullness of the reality of God’s Word itself.  This personal encounter is God’s gift that continually brings about the turning of our hearts and minds to God, to which no mere sign could ever bring us.       

—Tom Weiler is a teacher in the department of Religious Studies and the moderator of Club Vinyl at Saint Ignatius College Prep in Chicago.  

Prayer

Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.

—Prayer for the imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday

 

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February 20, 2018

Mt 6:7-15

“When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

“Pray then in this way: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one.

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

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.

Thy will be done

In today’s Gospel, Jesus passes on to us the Our Father and for two thousand years we’ve been saying it. In all that time, have we yet plumbed that little prayer’s depths? Or do we more often than not babble our way through it? I can’t count all the times that I’ve said the Our Father at Mass and gone into autopilot, only to recognize that I’ve mentally skipped the whole prayer.

But there are graced moments as well when I say the prayer slowly and meditatively. How powerful it is to say “thy will be done” throughout the course of challenging day when there are conflicts to manage, constant interruptions, and things going awry. And how beautiful it is to recognize that you, O God, are our loving Father, calling us back time and again regardless of our trespasses.

Can I pause throughout my day today and prayerfully say the Our Father?

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

Prayer

Our Father,
who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
Amen.

—Our Father

 

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February 19, 2018

Mt 25:31-46

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left.

Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’

Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’

Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’

Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

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.

Sheep on his right and goats on his left.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus describes the final judgment in terms of sheep and goats, referring to the docile nature of sheep vs the more independent temperaments of goats. Those who cared for others in need during their time on earth shall “inherit the kingdom,” while those who ignored others “will go away into eternal punishment.” Jesus further explains that our actions will be judged based on how we treated “the least” of his brothers and sisters.

Particularly during this season of repentance, regularly examining our posture of heart reveals underlying motivations for our actions. Ultimately, the best teachers of love are those we find most difficult to love, “the least” among us, for they provide the most opportunities to practice selflessness.

Am I willing to let myself be led by love? Am I open to the possibility of seeing – and serving – Jesus in “the least” of those I encounter each day?

—Cindy Ristroph is a parish minister at St. Aloysius Parish in Baton Rouge, LA, and occasionally writes for the dotMagis blog.

Prayer

Gracious God, please increase my awareness of your presence in every person I encounter today. Help me to recognize you even in the midst of people or situations that frustrate or challenge me. I pray for the willingness to follow your spirit of love with a heart open to grace.  Amen.

—Cindy Ristroph

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