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March 31, 2018

Holy Saturday

Mk 16:1-7

When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?”

When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told 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.

Waiting in hope

As Christians, we spend today waiting.  Jesus was laid in the tomb just before the start of the sabbath, which began at sundown on Friday.  Mary Magdelene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome must have spent an agonizing sabbath, mourning for their friend and teacher, and waiting until they could anoint his body as was the Jewish custom.  They had witnessed Jesus’ cruel death, and did not fully understand what it meant.

Today, we have the benefit of knowing how this part of the story ends.  We know that death does not win; we know that Jesus is triumphant. So today, this day of waiting that sits between the agony of Good Friday and the joy of the Resurrection, we wait in hope.  We hope for the new life that Jesus has won for all of us, and we pray that we may follow the Risen Christ in the way we live our lives.

—The Jesuit Prayer team

Prayer

Lord God, Creator of heaven and earth, as your Son’s body lay in the tomb on this Holy Saturday, may we wait with him in hope of the new life he won for each of us.  We pray this in the name of Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.

—The Jesuit Prayer team

 


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March 30, 2018

Good Friday

Is 52:13-53:12

See, my servant shall prosper; he shall be exalted and lifted up, and shall be very high. Just as there were many who were astonished at him—so marred was his appearance, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of mortals— so he shall startle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which had not been told them they shall see, and that which they had not heard they shall contemplate.

Who has believed what we have heard? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity; and as one from whom others hide their faces he was despised, and we held him of no account.

Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By a perversion of justice he was taken away. Who could have imagined his future? For he was cut off from the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people. They made his grave with the wicked and his tomb with the rich, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.

Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him with pain. When you make his life an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days; through him the will of the Lord shall prosper. Out of his anguish he shall see light; he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge. The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.

Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he poured out himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

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.

Trusting God through the pain

Having just returned from a border immersion experience in El Paso, Texas and Juarez, Mexico, I found myself reading and re-reading the words from today’s first reading.

As we gather today in mourning, I can’t help but remember the tired eyes of the five-year-old girl on the Juarez side of the border … the devout manner of the way-too-young girls and boys in the detention center … and the shy smile of a man and his son just delivered to the shelter, waiting for their number to be called. They, too, were spurned and avoided, held in no esteem for want of amnesty, a job, a way to eat, a roof.

Today we are inspired to realize deeply the tragedy of Jesus’ death in the context of our own sorrows and trials. It amazes me how the migrants we encountered on our trip can sustain such suffering and pain. Perhaps the will of the Lord is accomplished through the migrants’ trust in God and through the caring, committed individuals who accompany them on their journeys?

How can we treat our brothers and sisters in such a manner? Have I, too, gone astray like a sheep … just following my own way?

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

Prayer

In you, O Lord, I take refuge; let me never be put to shame.
In your justice rescue me, incline your ear to me,
Make haste to deliver me!
Be my rock of refuge, a stronghold to give me safety.
You are my rock and my fortress; for your name’s sake you will lead and guide me.
You will free me from the snare they set for me, for you are my refuge.
Into your hands I commend my spirit; you will redeem me, O Lord, O faithful God.

—Psalm 31:2-6


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March 29, 2018

Holy Thursday

Ex 12:1-8, 11-14

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt: This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you. Tell the whole congregation of Israel that on the tenth of this month they are to take a lamb for each family, a lamb for each household. If a household is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join its closest neighbor in obtaining one; the lamb shall be divided in proportion to the number of people who eat of it.

Your lamb shall be without blemish, a year-old male; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month; then the whole assembled congregation of Israel shall slaughter it at twilight. They shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. They shall eat the lamb that same night; they shall eat it roasted over the fire with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.

This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly. It is the passover of the Lord. For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both human beings and animals; on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord.

The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live: when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt. This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance.

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.

Recalling the Passover

For the Jewish mind, to “remember” was literally to recall, to bring back to their present reality the action of God many years before. In that very recalling, the mystery and its power is present. As Walter Cronkite used to say: “You are there.” Our faith tells us that we are now present to God’s action, and take part in it.

This mystery of our faith is not a fairytale but a sacred reenactment of the Last Supper and the Passover put together. Jesus offers himself as the Paschal Lamb whose blood will save the Apostles just as the Israelites were saved and the Good Thief was saved. Jesus offers his life for the salvation of the world. Thus we take and eat and drink the blood of the Lamb as the Jews did on Passover. God’s Living Word enters our life and changes it. We can only say Amen!

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

Prayer

By his word the Word almighty,
Makes of bread his flesh indeed:
Wine becomes his very life-blood:
Faith God’s living Word must heed!
Faith alone may safely guide us
Where the senses cannot lead.

—Pange Lingua (Sing, my Tongue), verse 4 by St. Thomas Aquinas

 


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March 28, 2018

Mt 26:14-25

Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I betray him to you?” They paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he began to look for an opportunity to betray him.

On the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where do you want us to make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?” He said, “Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is near; I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.’”

So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover meal. When it was evening, he took his place with the twelve; and while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.” And they became greatly distressed and began to say to him one after another, “Surely not I, Lord?” He answered, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me.

The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.” Judas, who betrayed him, said, “Surely not I, Rabbi?” He replied, “You have said so.”

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.

Radical table fellowship

Jesus gathers his disciples into the intimacy of the Passover meal, one of the most joyous and celebratory festivals of the Jewish religion.  Jesus does with his last night on earth what he has done throughout his entire ministry; he calls people into close and loving relationship with him through the act of table fellowship.  

The passage cuts to the heart of the reader with its dramatic irony.  To eat off of the same dish with someone was against the purity laws that governed Jewish customs centered around the intimate act of eating.  It was Jesus’ radical breaking of these same laws that so upset and threatened the Pharisees that they sought a way to bring his ministry to an end.

It is through this radical act of sharing food in an intimate way that Jesus brings his followers together in relationship to him throughout the Gospels.  And, it is in the same act which Jesus’ betrayer becomes known. In the Eucharist, Jesus offers himself to us as the bread of life. Have we, like Judas, failed to live out the fullness of life and love that Jesus invites us to?

—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

In the breaking of the bread
We have known him; we have been fed.
Jesus the stranger, Jesus the Lord,
Be our companion, be our hope.

Bread for the journey, strength for our years,
Manna of ages, of struggle and tears.
Cup of salvation, fruit of the land,
Bless and receive now the work of our hands.

—In the Breaking of the Bread, text by Bob Hurd and Michael Downey, © 1987 OCP Publications

 


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March 27, 2018

John 13:21-33, 36-38

After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, “Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.” The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking. One of his disciples—the one whom Jesus loved—was reclining next to him; Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. So while reclining next to Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?” Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.”

So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot. After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “Do quickly what you are going to do.” Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. Some thought that, because Judas had the common purse, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the festival”; or, that he should give something to the poor. So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.

When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’

Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered, “Where I am going, you cannot follow me now; but you will follow afterward.” Peter said to him, “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.

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.

Jesus chooses to be close to us

Jesus, in today’s Gospel, you reveal that you are going to be betrayed by people who are supposed to be your best friends. I know why Peter eventually lied and said he didn’t know you. He was afraid. I know because I’ve done the same thing.

When I’ve turned my back on you, I’ve often felt like such a hypocrite that I hated myself. I would think: Why am I so weak that I keep failing in the same way over and over again? I’m sure Peter must have felt the same way.

What I need help remembering, Jesus, is that you chose Peter even though he would betray you. You chose to be close to a weak man named Peter and now you choose to be close to me.  You see all my weaknesses, fears, imperfections, and yet, you still love me.

Do I let my failures have the final say?

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

Prayer

Lord Jesus, you know our fears and you know when we fail you, and yet you never stop loving us.  Just as you didn’t let Peter’s denial define his relationship with you, help us to come back to you again and again so that we can follow you more fully.  Amen.

—The Jesuit Prayer team

 


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March 26, 2018

Jn 12:1-11

Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him.Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”

When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus.

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

Humble gratitude

As Holy Week begins, the tension between extravagant love and human weakness is on vivid display. While Mary tenderly anoints Jesus’ feet with expensive oil and dries them with her hair, Judas and others blinded by pride can only criticize her generosity. Jesus’ response confirms the power of love: he receives Mary’s gift in humble appreciation. Unwavering love will conquer all, but the journey through the weakness of sin and death is certain to be rough at times. Jesus’ model of humble gratitude is echoed by St. Ignatius’ teachings: God remains with us always, and gratitude – even for the dark times – enables eyes of faith to sense his presence. Allowing love to help us balance our persistent human weakness ensures that we’re following God’s path of life through the darkness.

Am I grateful for my weaknesses and vulnerabilities? Does pride blind me from recognizing God’s presence during my difficult times?

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

Prayer

A cup must be empty before it can be filled.
If it is already full, it can’t be filled again except by emptying it out.
In order to fill anything, there must be a hollowed-out space.
Otherwise it can’t receive.

This is especially true of God’s word.
In order to receive it, we must be hollowed out.
We must be capable of receiving it,
emptied of the false self and its endless demands.

When Christ came, there was no room in the inn.
It was full.  The inn is a symbol of the heart.
God’s word, Christ, can take root only in a hollow.

—William Breault, SJ, published in Hearts on Fire: Praying with Jesuits

 


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March 25, 2018

Mk 11:1-10

When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.’”

They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, some of the bystanders said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it.

Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting,

“Hosanna!

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!

Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!

Hosanna in the highest 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.

From “Hosanna!” to “Crucify him!”

What a difference five days can make. Palm Sunday’s crowd sings “Hosanna!” But on Good Friday this same crowd will shout, “Crucify him!“ We hear two Gospels today- both the praise and the condemnation.

Like the ancient crowd, are we not as fickle as the weather? We praise God when it’s in our best interest to do so, but are quick to abandon our faith if we risk our popularity, a promotion, or public censure.

Paul, Apostle of Christ is a new movie that opened nationwide this weekend. The film makes dramatically clear how much Paul and the early Christian community lovingly suffered to witness to Christ. They are severely tested under Nero’s brutal persecution. They waver, but remain faithful.

St. Ignatius invites each of us to pray often before a crucifix asking: What have I done for Christ? What am I doing for Christ? What will I do for Christ?

—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

A PRAYER FOR FIDELITY

When the wind blows strong,
Cloudy days can clear,
But clear days can cloud.
So why am I surprised when,
Without warning,
My heart is gripped by fear
Or stunned by a sadness
I cannot explain?

Whatever the weather,
Lord, teach me –
To be faithful, as you are faithful,
To trust you in every season of my soul,
To shout “Hosanna,” even in the lion’s den.

—J. Michael Sparough, SJ

 

 

 



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March 24, 2018

Jn 11:45-56

Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what he had done. So the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the council, and said, “What are we to do? This man is performing many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation.”

But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all! You do not understand that it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed.” He did not say this on his own, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus was about to die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but to gather into one the dispersed children of God. So from that day on they planned to put him to death.

Jesus therefore no longer walked about openly among the Jews, but went from there to a town called Ephraim in the region near the wilderness; and he remained there with the disciples. Now the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before the Passover to purify themselves. They were looking for Jesus and were asking one another as they stood in the temple, “What do you think? Surely he will not come to the festival, will he?”

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.

Fearing the messenger

I tend to think about the people who encounter Jesus in the Gospel stories as being either believers, or unbelievers.  It is interesting to note the first words of the chief priests and Pharisees in today’s Gospel, though. They are afraid because “this man is performing many signs.”  It is not disbelief in these signs that upsets them; they acknowledge that he is performing signs. Their fear is that others will come to believe in Jesus and there will be political ramifications from their Roman rulers.  The leaders of the Jewish people are willing to overlook a message from Godand indeed overlook the Messiah himself!because they are afraid of the consequences.  They are afraid of how their lives might have to change.

What are the ways that God is speaking to you in your life?  Are there signs or people who you are overlooking because the message requires you to rethink something you thought you knew?  How is God inviting you to follow him as we prepare to enter into this Holy Week?

—The Jesuit Prayer team

Prayer

Good and gracious God, you speak to me in many ways and through many people.  Help me to better recognize your presence and movement in my life, no matter how unexpected it may seem.  Lead me to a greater openness to follow you. Amen.

—The Jesuit Prayer team

 


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March 23, 2018

Jer 20:10-13

For I hear many whispering: “Terror is all around! Denounce him! Let us denounce him!” All my close friends are watching for me to stumble. “Perhaps he can be enticed, and we can prevail against him, and take our revenge on him.”

But the Lord is with me like a dread warrior; therefore my persecutors will stumble, and they will not prevail. They will be greatly shamed, for they will not succeed. Their eternal dishonor will never be forgotten. O Lord of hosts, you test the righteous, you see the heart and the mind; let me see your retribution upon them, for to you I have committed my cause.

Sing to the Lord; praise the Lord! For he has delivered the life of the needy from the hands of evildoers.

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.

Questioning injustice

The prophet Jeremiah, like Jesus in today’s Gospel (Jn 10:31-42), is surrounded by phony friends who feel betrayed because their own interests are being threatened. They are watching and waiting to entrap him so as not to lose their power or leadership roles.

Jeremiah, who was a good man, chose not to play it safe but places his full trust and assurance in the Lord who “sees the heart and the mind.” He believed God spoke to power not through violence nor force, but through faith and trust. “In my distress I called upon the Lord and he heard me.”

He speaks of a God who heard him and “has delivered the life of the needy.” Jesus rescues by stories of truth and by healing the sick, consoling the poor and forgiving sinners. Not by arguments or open judgements, Jesus quietly questioned injustice, hypocrisy and false securities.

When feeling stressed or at risk, do I let go of my own security and personal interests and put my full trust and confidence in God? Do my stories and choices speak for the poor and question injustices?

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

Prayer

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

—Unknown, often attributed to St. Ignatius Loyola

 


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March 22, 2018

John 8:51-59

Very truly, I tell you, whoever keeps my word will never see death.” The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon. Abraham died, and so did the prophets; yet you say, ‘Whoever keeps my word will never taste death.’ Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? The prophets also died. Who do you claim to be?”

Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, he of whom you say, ‘He is our God,’ though you do not know him. But I know him; if I would say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you. But I do know him and I keep his word. Your ancestor Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day; he saw it and was glad.”

Then the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, before Abraham was, I am.” So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.

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.

Resurrection of the dead

I vividly remember one day when there was a broken article in the house and my mother confronted me: “Karl, was that you?” I responded: “Yes.” She said: “Karl, you cannot lie to me, can you?” “No”, I admitted. My confession may sound honest or contrite, but note that I was contrite only after being caught.

In the Gospel today, Jesus openly proclaims that he is not a liar, but the Messiah of God who promises that his followers “will never taste death.” For Jesus to make such a promise was both shocking and laughable. Then he dares to claim to be sent by God. The Jewish authorities responded: “Blasphemy!” Yet we Catholics profess the resurrection of the dead each Sunday and in each rosary. “Jesus, are you lying to us?” He looks at us and says: “Put your hand into my side and believe.”

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

Prayer

I believe in the communion of Saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the dead, and life everlasting. Amen

—End of the Apostles’ Creed

 


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March 31, 2018

Holy Saturday

Mk 16:1-7

When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?”

When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told 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.

Waiting in hope

As Christians, we spend today waiting.  Jesus was laid in the tomb just before the start of the sabbath, which began at sundown on Friday.  Mary Magdelene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome must have spent an agonizing sabbath, mourning for their friend and teacher, and waiting until they could anoint his body as was the Jewish custom.  They had witnessed Jesus’ cruel death, and did not fully understand what it meant.

Today, we have the benefit of knowing how this part of the story ends.  We know that death does not win; we know that Jesus is triumphant. So today, this day of waiting that sits between the agony of Good Friday and the joy of the Resurrection, we wait in hope.  We hope for the new life that Jesus has won for all of us, and we pray that we may follow the Risen Christ in the way we live our lives.

—The Jesuit Prayer team

Prayer

Lord God, Creator of heaven and earth, as your Son’s body lay in the tomb on this Holy Saturday, may we wait with him in hope of the new life he won for each of us.  We pray this in the name of Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.

—The Jesuit Prayer team

 

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March 30, 2018

Good Friday

Is 52:13-53:12

See, my servant shall prosper; he shall be exalted and lifted up, and shall be very high. Just as there were many who were astonished at him—so marred was his appearance, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of mortals— so he shall startle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which had not been told them they shall see, and that which they had not heard they shall contemplate.

Who has believed what we have heard? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity; and as one from whom others hide their faces he was despised, and we held him of no account.

Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By a perversion of justice he was taken away. Who could have imagined his future? For he was cut off from the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people. They made his grave with the wicked and his tomb with the rich, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.

Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him with pain. When you make his life an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days; through him the will of the Lord shall prosper. Out of his anguish he shall see light; he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge. The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.

Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he poured out himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

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.

Trusting God through the pain

Having just returned from a border immersion experience in El Paso, Texas and Juarez, Mexico, I found myself reading and re-reading the words from today’s first reading.

As we gather today in mourning, I can’t help but remember the tired eyes of the five-year-old girl on the Juarez side of the border … the devout manner of the way-too-young girls and boys in the detention center … and the shy smile of a man and his son just delivered to the shelter, waiting for their number to be called. They, too, were spurned and avoided, held in no esteem for want of amnesty, a job, a way to eat, a roof.

Today we are inspired to realize deeply the tragedy of Jesus’ death in the context of our own sorrows and trials. It amazes me how the migrants we encountered on our trip can sustain such suffering and pain. Perhaps the will of the Lord is accomplished through the migrants’ trust in God and through the caring, committed individuals who accompany them on their journeys?

How can we treat our brothers and sisters in such a manner? Have I, too, gone astray like a sheep … just following my own way?

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

Prayer

In you, O Lord, I take refuge; let me never be put to shame.
In your justice rescue me, incline your ear to me,
Make haste to deliver me!
Be my rock of refuge, a stronghold to give me safety.
You are my rock and my fortress; for your name’s sake you will lead and guide me.
You will free me from the snare they set for me, for you are my refuge.
Into your hands I commend my spirit; you will redeem me, O Lord, O faithful God.

—Psalm 31:2-6

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March 29, 2018

Holy Thursday

Ex 12:1-8, 11-14

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt: This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you. Tell the whole congregation of Israel that on the tenth of this month they are to take a lamb for each family, a lamb for each household. If a household is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join its closest neighbor in obtaining one; the lamb shall be divided in proportion to the number of people who eat of it.

Your lamb shall be without blemish, a year-old male; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month; then the whole assembled congregation of Israel shall slaughter it at twilight. They shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. They shall eat the lamb that same night; they shall eat it roasted over the fire with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.

This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly. It is the passover of the Lord. For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both human beings and animals; on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord.

The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live: when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt. This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance.

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.

Recalling the Passover

For the Jewish mind, to “remember” was literally to recall, to bring back to their present reality the action of God many years before. In that very recalling, the mystery and its power is present. As Walter Cronkite used to say: “You are there.” Our faith tells us that we are now present to God’s action, and take part in it.

This mystery of our faith is not a fairytale but a sacred reenactment of the Last Supper and the Passover put together. Jesus offers himself as the Paschal Lamb whose blood will save the Apostles just as the Israelites were saved and the Good Thief was saved. Jesus offers his life for the salvation of the world. Thus we take and eat and drink the blood of the Lamb as the Jews did on Passover. God’s Living Word enters our life and changes it. We can only say Amen!

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

Prayer

By his word the Word almighty,
Makes of bread his flesh indeed:
Wine becomes his very life-blood:
Faith God’s living Word must heed!
Faith alone may safely guide us
Where the senses cannot lead.

—Pange Lingua (Sing, my Tongue), verse 4 by St. Thomas Aquinas

 

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March 28, 2018

Mt 26:14-25

Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I betray him to you?” They paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he began to look for an opportunity to betray him.

On the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where do you want us to make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?” He said, “Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is near; I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.’”

So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover meal. When it was evening, he took his place with the twelve; and while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.” And they became greatly distressed and began to say to him one after another, “Surely not I, Lord?” He answered, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me.

The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.” Judas, who betrayed him, said, “Surely not I, Rabbi?” He replied, “You have said so.”

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.

Radical table fellowship

Jesus gathers his disciples into the intimacy of the Passover meal, one of the most joyous and celebratory festivals of the Jewish religion.  Jesus does with his last night on earth what he has done throughout his entire ministry; he calls people into close and loving relationship with him through the act of table fellowship.  

The passage cuts to the heart of the reader with its dramatic irony.  To eat off of the same dish with someone was against the purity laws that governed Jewish customs centered around the intimate act of eating.  It was Jesus’ radical breaking of these same laws that so upset and threatened the Pharisees that they sought a way to bring his ministry to an end.

It is through this radical act of sharing food in an intimate way that Jesus brings his followers together in relationship to him throughout the Gospels.  And, it is in the same act which Jesus’ betrayer becomes known. In the Eucharist, Jesus offers himself to us as the bread of life. Have we, like Judas, failed to live out the fullness of life and love that Jesus invites us to?

—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

In the breaking of the bread
We have known him; we have been fed.
Jesus the stranger, Jesus the Lord,
Be our companion, be our hope.

Bread for the journey, strength for our years,
Manna of ages, of struggle and tears.
Cup of salvation, fruit of the land,
Bless and receive now the work of our hands.

—In the Breaking of the Bread, text by Bob Hurd and Michael Downey, © 1987 OCP Publications

 

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March 27, 2018

John 13:21-33, 36-38

After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, “Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.” The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking. One of his disciples—the one whom Jesus loved—was reclining next to him; Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. So while reclining next to Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?” Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.”

So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot. After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “Do quickly what you are going to do.” Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. Some thought that, because Judas had the common purse, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the festival”; or, that he should give something to the poor. So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.

When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’

Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered, “Where I am going, you cannot follow me now; but you will follow afterward.” Peter said to him, “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.

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.

Jesus chooses to be close to us

Jesus, in today’s Gospel, you reveal that you are going to be betrayed by people who are supposed to be your best friends. I know why Peter eventually lied and said he didn’t know you. He was afraid. I know because I’ve done the same thing.

When I’ve turned my back on you, I’ve often felt like such a hypocrite that I hated myself. I would think: Why am I so weak that I keep failing in the same way over and over again? I’m sure Peter must have felt the same way.

What I need help remembering, Jesus, is that you chose Peter even though he would betray you. You chose to be close to a weak man named Peter and now you choose to be close to me.  You see all my weaknesses, fears, imperfections, and yet, you still love me.

Do I let my failures have the final say?

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

Prayer

Lord Jesus, you know our fears and you know when we fail you, and yet you never stop loving us.  Just as you didn’t let Peter’s denial define his relationship with you, help us to come back to you again and again so that we can follow you more fully.  Amen.

—The Jesuit Prayer team

 

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March 26, 2018

Jn 12:1-11

Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him.Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”

When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus.

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

Humble gratitude

As Holy Week begins, the tension between extravagant love and human weakness is on vivid display. While Mary tenderly anoints Jesus’ feet with expensive oil and dries them with her hair, Judas and others blinded by pride can only criticize her generosity. Jesus’ response confirms the power of love: he receives Mary’s gift in humble appreciation. Unwavering love will conquer all, but the journey through the weakness of sin and death is certain to be rough at times. Jesus’ model of humble gratitude is echoed by St. Ignatius’ teachings: God remains with us always, and gratitude – even for the dark times – enables eyes of faith to sense his presence. Allowing love to help us balance our persistent human weakness ensures that we’re following God’s path of life through the darkness.

Am I grateful for my weaknesses and vulnerabilities? Does pride blind me from recognizing God’s presence during my difficult times?

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

Prayer

A cup must be empty before it can be filled.
If it is already full, it can’t be filled again except by emptying it out.
In order to fill anything, there must be a hollowed-out space.
Otherwise it can’t receive.

This is especially true of God’s word.
In order to receive it, we must be hollowed out.
We must be capable of receiving it,
emptied of the false self and its endless demands.

When Christ came, there was no room in the inn.
It was full.  The inn is a symbol of the heart.
God’s word, Christ, can take root only in a hollow.

—William Breault, SJ, published in Hearts on Fire: Praying with Jesuits

 

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March 25, 2018

Mk 11:1-10

When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.’”

They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, some of the bystanders said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it.

Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting,

“Hosanna!

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!

Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!

Hosanna in the highest 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.

From “Hosanna!” to “Crucify him!”

What a difference five days can make. Palm Sunday’s crowd sings “Hosanna!” But on Good Friday this same crowd will shout, “Crucify him!“ We hear two Gospels today- both the praise and the condemnation.

Like the ancient crowd, are we not as fickle as the weather? We praise God when it’s in our best interest to do so, but are quick to abandon our faith if we risk our popularity, a promotion, or public censure.

Paul, Apostle of Christ is a new movie that opened nationwide this weekend. The film makes dramatically clear how much Paul and the early Christian community lovingly suffered to witness to Christ. They are severely tested under Nero’s brutal persecution. They waver, but remain faithful.

St. Ignatius invites each of us to pray often before a crucifix asking: What have I done for Christ? What am I doing for Christ? What will I do for Christ?

—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

A PRAYER FOR FIDELITY

When the wind blows strong,
Cloudy days can clear,
But clear days can cloud.
So why am I surprised when,
Without warning,
My heart is gripped by fear
Or stunned by a sadness
I cannot explain?

Whatever the weather,
Lord, teach me –
To be faithful, as you are faithful,
To trust you in every season of my soul,
To shout “Hosanna,” even in the lion’s den.

—J. Michael Sparough, SJ

 

 

 


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March 24, 2018

Jn 11:45-56

Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what he had done. So the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the council, and said, “What are we to do? This man is performing many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation.”

But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all! You do not understand that it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed.” He did not say this on his own, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus was about to die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but to gather into one the dispersed children of God. So from that day on they planned to put him to death.

Jesus therefore no longer walked about openly among the Jews, but went from there to a town called Ephraim in the region near the wilderness; and he remained there with the disciples. Now the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before the Passover to purify themselves. They were looking for Jesus and were asking one another as they stood in the temple, “What do you think? Surely he will not come to the festival, will he?”

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.

Fearing the messenger

I tend to think about the people who encounter Jesus in the Gospel stories as being either believers, or unbelievers.  It is interesting to note the first words of the chief priests and Pharisees in today’s Gospel, though. They are afraid because “this man is performing many signs.”  It is not disbelief in these signs that upsets them; they acknowledge that he is performing signs. Their fear is that others will come to believe in Jesus and there will be political ramifications from their Roman rulers.  The leaders of the Jewish people are willing to overlook a message from Godand indeed overlook the Messiah himself!because they are afraid of the consequences.  They are afraid of how their lives might have to change.

What are the ways that God is speaking to you in your life?  Are there signs or people who you are overlooking because the message requires you to rethink something you thought you knew?  How is God inviting you to follow him as we prepare to enter into this Holy Week?

—The Jesuit Prayer team

Prayer

Good and gracious God, you speak to me in many ways and through many people.  Help me to better recognize your presence and movement in my life, no matter how unexpected it may seem.  Lead me to a greater openness to follow you. Amen.

—The Jesuit Prayer team

 

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March 23, 2018

Jer 20:10-13

For I hear many whispering: “Terror is all around! Denounce him! Let us denounce him!” All my close friends are watching for me to stumble. “Perhaps he can be enticed, and we can prevail against him, and take our revenge on him.”

But the Lord is with me like a dread warrior; therefore my persecutors will stumble, and they will not prevail. They will be greatly shamed, for they will not succeed. Their eternal dishonor will never be forgotten. O Lord of hosts, you test the righteous, you see the heart and the mind; let me see your retribution upon them, for to you I have committed my cause.

Sing to the Lord; praise the Lord! For he has delivered the life of the needy from the hands of evildoers.

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.

Questioning injustice

The prophet Jeremiah, like Jesus in today’s Gospel (Jn 10:31-42), is surrounded by phony friends who feel betrayed because their own interests are being threatened. They are watching and waiting to entrap him so as not to lose their power or leadership roles.

Jeremiah, who was a good man, chose not to play it safe but places his full trust and assurance in the Lord who “sees the heart and the mind.” He believed God spoke to power not through violence nor force, but through faith and trust. “In my distress I called upon the Lord and he heard me.”

He speaks of a God who heard him and “has delivered the life of the needy.” Jesus rescues by stories of truth and by healing the sick, consoling the poor and forgiving sinners. Not by arguments or open judgements, Jesus quietly questioned injustice, hypocrisy and false securities.

When feeling stressed or at risk, do I let go of my own security and personal interests and put my full trust and confidence in God? Do my stories and choices speak for the poor and question injustices?

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

Prayer

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

—Unknown, often attributed to St. Ignatius Loyola

 

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March 22, 2018

John 8:51-59

Very truly, I tell you, whoever keeps my word will never see death.” The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon. Abraham died, and so did the prophets; yet you say, ‘Whoever keeps my word will never taste death.’ Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? The prophets also died. Who do you claim to be?”

Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, he of whom you say, ‘He is our God,’ though you do not know him. But I know him; if I would say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you. But I do know him and I keep his word. Your ancestor Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day; he saw it and was glad.”

Then the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, before Abraham was, I am.” So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.

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.

Resurrection of the dead

I vividly remember one day when there was a broken article in the house and my mother confronted me: “Karl, was that you?” I responded: “Yes.” She said: “Karl, you cannot lie to me, can you?” “No”, I admitted. My confession may sound honest or contrite, but note that I was contrite only after being caught.

In the Gospel today, Jesus openly proclaims that he is not a liar, but the Messiah of God who promises that his followers “will never taste death.” For Jesus to make such a promise was both shocking and laughable. Then he dares to claim to be sent by God. The Jewish authorities responded: “Blasphemy!” Yet we Catholics profess the resurrection of the dead each Sunday and in each rosary. “Jesus, are you lying to us?” He looks at us and says: “Put your hand into my side and believe.”

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

Prayer

I believe in the communion of Saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the dead, and life everlasting. Amen

—End of the Apostles’ Creed

 

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