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March 19, 2019

St. Joseph

Mt 1:16, 18-21, 24A

Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary. Of her was born Jesus who is called the Christ.

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly.

But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife.

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.

Guardians of Christ

We often think of Joseph as gentle and quiet, but it is a mistake to interpret his quiet gentility as weakness.

Joseph had one assignment: to protect and provide for Christ and his mother. This was no easy task. Every time we hear of Joseph, he is being bold. He whisks his family to safety from murderous Herod. He courageously walks his family past Herod’s palace to visit the Temple every year. Even taking Mary into his home in the first place was an act of courage and resolve.

Joseph is a model for all Christians, for we are also called to be guardians of Christ. We nourish Christ in ourselves. We protect Christ in the poor who suffer. We stand up for the Word with our lives.

We may do these things quietly and gently, but make no mistake, it takes Christian courage to do so. Be brave, do not be afraid to take Christ into your heart!

For reflection: Do I nourish Christ in my heart? Do I protect Christ in the suffering of others? Do I guard the truth and Word of Christ in the world?

—Stephen Kramer, SJ, is a Jesuit deacon of the Central and Southern Province currently finishing his Master’s degree in Theology at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry.  He will be ordained to the priesthood in June.

Prayer

Joseph, son of David, and husband of Mary;
We honor you, guardian of the Redeemer,
and we adore the child you named Jesus.
Saint Joseph, patron of the universal church,
pray for us, that like you we may live totally dedicated to the interests of the Savior.
Amen.

—From the Rosary of St. Joseph

 

 


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March 18, 2019

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.

Living up to God’s expectations

After sharing good advice on how we should be interacting with others, Christ expresses that “the measure you give will be the measure you get back.” He tells us that the expectations we hold for those we encounter are the expectations that God has for us. Recently I realized that I often set very high expectations for the people in my life and never verbalize them. Yet, I am disappointed when they don’t live up to my expectations and therefore feel that our relationship has been damaged. If God is measuring me the same way I am measuring the people I love, I’m miserably failing at meeting his expectations. Sometimes it takes a reality check to see with eyes of compassion and mercy, to recognize that forgiveness always supersedes teaching someone a lesson, and to open our hearts to loving even when it is most difficult to do so.  

—Sara Spittler is the First Years Chaplain and a Religious Studies teacher at Saint Ignatius College Prep in Chicago.

Prayer

Good and gracious God, help me to view others with the loving and merciful heart with which you look at me.  May I be quick to offer forgiveness rather than anger, love rather than judgment. Amen.

—The Jesuit Prayer team

 


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March 17, 2019

St. Patrick

Gen 15: 5-12, 17-18

He brought him outside and said, ‘Look towards heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be.’ And he believed the Lord; and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness.

Then he said to him, ‘I am the Lord who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess.’

But he said, ‘O Lord God, how am I to know that I shall possess it?’ He said to him, ‘Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtle-dove, and a young pigeon.’ He brought him all these and cut them in two, laying each half over against the other; but he did not cut the birds in two. And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.

As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram, and a deep and terrifying darkness descended upon him.

When the sun had gone down and it was dark, a smoking fire-pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, ‘To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates.

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.

The faith of the “Fighting Irish”

St. Patrick was born far from the Emerald Isle, in Scotland. The son of a wealthy Roman official, he was kidnapped as a teenager and sold into slavery in Ireland, where he found Christ. In looking back on his distressing childhood, Patrick later wrote: “I prayed in the woods and on the mountain, even before dawn. I felt no hurt from the snow or ice or rain.”

Not all of us meet God in such a harrowing way. In today’s reading, Abraham has a calmer conversation with God that carries great resonance for our faith. This is the first time in the Bible that “faith” and “righteousness” are mentioned in such a unique way, and St. Paul comes back to this scene several times in his letters. As with Patrick, the man who would eventually bring Christianity to Ireland, Abraham’s encounter with God began with a trust and was bold, intentional and personal.

In this second week of Lent, let’s ask for faith like theirs, which goes beyond just believing in the existence of God to actually believing God and all the good things we proclaim today in Psalm 27: that God is our helper, our refuge, our salvation and our light!

—Joe Kraemer, SJ, is a Jesuit scholastic of the Jesuits West Province currently finishing his second year of Regency in the Advancement Office in Los Gatos, California.

Prayer

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through a belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of creation…

I arise today
In the hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In the prayers of patriarchs,
In preachings of the apostles,
In faiths of confessors,
In innocence of virgins,
In deeds of righteous men…

I arise today
Through God’s strength to pilot me;
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s shield to protect me.
Amen.

—Excerpt from The Breastplate of St. Patrick

 


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March 16, 2019

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.

How do we treat our enemies?

No one likes to think of themselves as having enemies.  It seems like such a drastic label to call someone. But the “enemies” and “those who persecute” who Jesus commands us to love can take many forms.  Perhaps it is the person who trolls social media intent on attacking and insulting 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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March 15, 2019

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.

Knowing Jesus through our weakness

Today’s Gospel reading is a part of the Sermon on the Mount. This famous text not only deepens the demands of the Old Testament laws and the traditions that arose from them, but it also deepens the meaning of our religious acts. Fasting, praying, and almsgiving are all occasions of inflating our egos and producing arrogant self-righteousness, if we are not careful. When I take these chapters seriously, I feel imperfect and unworthy of Christ’s kingdom. But didn’t Christ come for the weak and poor? Christ’s kingdom, as stated at the beginning of this sermon, belongs to the “poor in spirit.” It is precisely in knowing myself as poor that I understand why Jesus’ demands were so high. When I am weak, he is strong.

—Mark McNeil is the assistant principal for formation at Strake Jesuit College Preparatory in Houston, Texas.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, shelter me in your kingdom that is made of those who find life in knowing their poverty. Embrace me and all my neighbors in your divine love. Amen.

—Mark McNeil

 


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March 14, 2019

Mt 7:7-12

“Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

“In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.

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.

For What Shall I Ask?

We live in a culture that pushes us to strive for what’s new, what’s next, and what’s better. It’s tempting to think that I never have enough and I never am enough. Not so, Fr. Greg Boyle, SJ, tells us: “You are exactly who God had in mind when God created you … you could not be one bit better.”

Today’s Gospel is not about asking God for more, like one might imagine a genie granting wishes. It is instead a reminder to trust that God provides exactly what we most deeply desire. When we feel restless, it’s actually a blessing, an indication that we cannot be fulfilled by things. “Our hearts are restless until they rest in You, O Lord,” St. Augustine wrote. God never tires of giving Godself to us. This gift—which we call grace—not only fulfills us, but it makes everything possible; it builds on and perfects our human nature so we can cooperate with God in the world. Today’s Gospel invites me to ponder: How can I be more attentive and responsive to grace so I can cooperate with God this day?

This passage concludes with the Golden Rule: treat others the way you would like to be treated. Since we don’t always know how others would like to be treated, some have suggested a revised version, the so-called Platinum Rule: treat others the way they would like to be treated. (I like Wendell Berry’s version: treat those downstream as you would like those upstream to treat you.) It’s easy to get stuck thinking about how others have wronged me or to become preoccupied by thinking about how others might take advantage of me, if I’m not careful. But today’s Gospel interrupts that defensive mentality and calls us to be agents of grace and courtesy. If I trust that I am enough—and I don’t have to prove it or be protective all the time—then how can I help others see that they, too, are enough?  

—Dr. Marcus Mescher is Assistant Professor of Christian Ethics at Xavier University in Cincinnati, and is a graduate of Marquette University High School, Marquette University, and Boston College.  

Prayer

Good and Gracious God, thank you for the gift of yourself and thank you for the gift of myself. Help me to more deeply trust that your grace is all that I need to be the person you know that I am. Let me tune my heart and mind into your loving presence so that I can cooperate with you this day. Empower us—the whole church—to incarnate your love in the world.

—Dr. Marcus Mescher

 


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March 13, 2019

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.

Opportunities for repentance

Jonah, empowered by God’s word, gives the Ninevites an opportunity for repentance. God’s message to repent transcends political, financial and social dividing lines. In their repentance, the Ninevites are instructed to take nothing of taste, to dress humbly, to avoid evil and violence.

From today’s reading, we find many similarities with our contemporary Lenten practices:
-40 days of preparation
-Emphasis on personal discipline
-Intention to avoid wrongdoing and violence
-Direction to seek the Lord

One week ago, as we stood before ministers of the Church to receive ashes, many of us heard the same message, “Repent and believe in the Gospel.” Our charge is twofold. We seek temperance to focus desires, and we seek faith in our Savior and the truth of the Gospel. As we go about our prayer, fasting and almsgiving, may we focus on and draw near to Jesus, through whom our sins are forgiven.

—Alan Ratermann is an English teacher and Director of Ignatian Service Programs at Rockhurst High School in Kansas City, Missouri.

Prayer

Lord God, help us to focus our Lenten practices on those things that draw us closer to you. Give us the strength to fast from those things that are not giving us life as we continue through this season of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Amen.

—The Jesuit Prayer team

 


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March 12, 2019

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.

Prayer: Not as hard as we think

Does prayer sometimes seem intimidating? The feeling that we don’t know what to say or do can cause a lot of anxiety.

Prayer, however, is not as complicated as it may seem. For example, St. Ignatius’ most important prayer happened while daydreaming in bed. Only later did he realize that his daydreams were filled with God’s grace. If Ignatius can accidentally pray, then it must be easier to do than we think.

This is, of course, part of Jesus’ point. We do not need to have complex formulas, lots of time, or the right words. Be simple and direct. Say thanks, ask for what you need, and remember that God has your back. This is exactly what the Our Father is: an example of simple, direct prayer.

Do not fear getting it right or following a set of rules. Just turn to God, speak as you would to a friend, and remember that God does indeed have your back.

Do I ever avoid prayer because I do not know what to do or say?
Do I skip prayer because I feel don’t have enough time?
Try to remember that God is thrilled even when we just say, “hi.”

—Stephen Kramer, SJ, is a Jesuit deacon of the Central and Southern Province currently finishing his Master’s degree in Theology at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry.  He will be ordained to the priesthood in June.

Prayer

Lord, bowing before your Most Sacred Heart,
I beg you, in your compassion and generosity,
help me to always turn to you in prayer.
Help me to realize that you always desire my attention,
and that you hold even the smallest of my prayers as precious to you.
Let me not fear turning to you in my times of need,
inspire me to run to you in my times of joy,
and invite me to speak with you during all the times in between.
May I always love you, trust you, and know that you hear me.

Amen.

—Stephen Kramer, SJ

 


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March 11, 2019

St. John Ogilvie, SJ

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.

Jesus tells us exactly what is expected

The message of today’s Gospel seems obvious: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” However, Jesus rephrases the Golden Rule, instead offering concrete examples of how to best love one’s neighbor.

Whenever Christ tells us exactly what is expected, I get a little overwhelmed. The directness with which he shares the needs of our neighbors and our role in making sure those needs are met is leaves me no place to hide. It is my responsibility to care for the hungry, the stranger, the imprisoned. I cannot leave it to Christ or my Christian role models to address these issues alone – I must be part of the solution. As St. Teresa of Avila said, “Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours.” To gain his presence in heaven, we must practice his mission on earth.

—Sara Spittler is the First Years Chaplain and a Religious Studies teacher at Saint Ignatius College Prep in Chicago.

Prayer

Christ has no body now on earth but yours;
no hands but yours; no feet but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which
the compassion of Christ must look out on the world.
Yours are the feet with which
He is to go about doing good.
Yours are the hands with which He is to bless His people.

—Attributed to St. Teresa of Avila

 


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March 10, 2019

First Sunday of Lent

Lk 4: 1-13

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’” Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world.

And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’”

Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’” Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.

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.

Knowing our own demons

As a Jesuit “regent,” I currently serve on the board of directors for Loyola Productions, Inc. A film our company is developing now with Sony Pictures is based on the Italian Catholic priest Gabriele Amorth, who was an exorcist for the Diocese of Rome in the 90’s. He performed thousands of exorcisms in his career as the Vatican’s “Exorcist in Chief.”

Like all of us, Jesus faced his own demons. Whether Satan himself, or the personal demons that can throw our own hearts into shadow, Jesus demonstrates through his own self-knowledge and faith what all trained exorcists knows well: that every demon must be called by its proper name before it can be cast out. And it was not any complicated spiritual spell that Jesus spoke; it was the truth of his Father as revealed to each one of us in Scripture.

On this first Sunday of Lent, Lord, help us to know ourselves better. Open up your Word to us and grant us the graces we require to convert our hearts to you!

—Joe Kraemer, SJ, is a Jesuit scholastic of the Jesuits West Province currently finishing his second year of Regency in the Advancement Office in Los Gatos, California.

Prayer

God, no temptations will overtake us except what is common to all people. Lord, you are faithful. You will never allow us be tempted beyond what we can bear.

And when we are tempted, you will always provide a way for us to endure it. Give us the faith we need to follow you and to believe.

In your name we pray,

Amen.

—Adapted from 1 Cor 10:13 by Joe Kraemer, SJ

 


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Welcome to PrayLA

As a Jesuit school, Loyola Academy is rooted in the spirituality of St. Ignatius of Loyola. Daily prayer was an essential tool by which Ignatius reflected on his life and deepened his relationship with Christ.

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March 19, 2019

St. Joseph

Mt 1:16, 18-21, 24A

Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary. Of her was born Jesus who is called the Christ.

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly.

But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife.

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.

Guardians of Christ

We often think of Joseph as gentle and quiet, but it is a mistake to interpret his quiet gentility as weakness.

Joseph had one assignment: to protect and provide for Christ and his mother. This was no easy task. Every time we hear of Joseph, he is being bold. He whisks his family to safety from murderous Herod. He courageously walks his family past Herod’s palace to visit the Temple every year. Even taking Mary into his home in the first place was an act of courage and resolve.

Joseph is a model for all Christians, for we are also called to be guardians of Christ. We nourish Christ in ourselves. We protect Christ in the poor who suffer. We stand up for the Word with our lives.

We may do these things quietly and gently, but make no mistake, it takes Christian courage to do so. Be brave, do not be afraid to take Christ into your heart!

For reflection: Do I nourish Christ in my heart? Do I protect Christ in the suffering of others? Do I guard the truth and Word of Christ in the world?

—Stephen Kramer, SJ, is a Jesuit deacon of the Central and Southern Province currently finishing his Master’s degree in Theology at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry.  He will be ordained to the priesthood in June.

Prayer

Joseph, son of David, and husband of Mary;
We honor you, guardian of the Redeemer,
and we adore the child you named Jesus.
Saint Joseph, patron of the universal church,
pray for us, that like you we may live totally dedicated to the interests of the Savior.
Amen.

—From the Rosary of St. Joseph

 

 

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March 18, 2019

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.

Living up to God’s expectations

After sharing good advice on how we should be interacting with others, Christ expresses that “the measure you give will be the measure you get back.” He tells us that the expectations we hold for those we encounter are the expectations that God has for us. Recently I realized that I often set very high expectations for the people in my life and never verbalize them. Yet, I am disappointed when they don’t live up to my expectations and therefore feel that our relationship has been damaged. If God is measuring me the same way I am measuring the people I love, I’m miserably failing at meeting his expectations. Sometimes it takes a reality check to see with eyes of compassion and mercy, to recognize that forgiveness always supersedes teaching someone a lesson, and to open our hearts to loving even when it is most difficult to do so.  

—Sara Spittler is the First Years Chaplain and a Religious Studies teacher at Saint Ignatius College Prep in Chicago.

Prayer

Good and gracious God, help me to view others with the loving and merciful heart with which you look at me.  May I be quick to offer forgiveness rather than anger, love rather than judgment. Amen.

—The Jesuit Prayer team

 

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March 17, 2019

St. Patrick

Gen 15: 5-12, 17-18

He brought him outside and said, ‘Look towards heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be.’ And he believed the Lord; and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness.

Then he said to him, ‘I am the Lord who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess.’

But he said, ‘O Lord God, how am I to know that I shall possess it?’ He said to him, ‘Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtle-dove, and a young pigeon.’ He brought him all these and cut them in two, laying each half over against the other; but he did not cut the birds in two. And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.

As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram, and a deep and terrifying darkness descended upon him.

When the sun had gone down and it was dark, a smoking fire-pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, ‘To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates.

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.

The faith of the “Fighting Irish”

St. Patrick was born far from the Emerald Isle, in Scotland. The son of a wealthy Roman official, he was kidnapped as a teenager and sold into slavery in Ireland, where he found Christ. In looking back on his distressing childhood, Patrick later wrote: “I prayed in the woods and on the mountain, even before dawn. I felt no hurt from the snow or ice or rain.”

Not all of us meet God in such a harrowing way. In today’s reading, Abraham has a calmer conversation with God that carries great resonance for our faith. This is the first time in the Bible that “faith” and “righteousness” are mentioned in such a unique way, and St. Paul comes back to this scene several times in his letters. As with Patrick, the man who would eventually bring Christianity to Ireland, Abraham’s encounter with God began with a trust and was bold, intentional and personal.

In this second week of Lent, let’s ask for faith like theirs, which goes beyond just believing in the existence of God to actually believing God and all the good things we proclaim today in Psalm 27: that God is our helper, our refuge, our salvation and our light!

—Joe Kraemer, SJ, is a Jesuit scholastic of the Jesuits West Province currently finishing his second year of Regency in the Advancement Office in Los Gatos, California.

Prayer

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through a belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of creation…

I arise today
In the hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In the prayers of patriarchs,
In preachings of the apostles,
In faiths of confessors,
In innocence of virgins,
In deeds of righteous men…

I arise today
Through God’s strength to pilot me;
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s shield to protect me.
Amen.

—Excerpt from The Breastplate of St. Patrick

 

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March 16, 2019

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.

How do we treat our enemies?

No one likes to think of themselves as having enemies.  It seems like such a drastic label to call someone. But the “enemies” and “those who persecute” who Jesus commands us to love can take many forms.  Perhaps it is the person who trolls social media intent on attacking and insulting 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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March 15, 2019

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.

Knowing Jesus through our weakness

Today’s Gospel reading is a part of the Sermon on the Mount. This famous text not only deepens the demands of the Old Testament laws and the traditions that arose from them, but it also deepens the meaning of our religious acts. Fasting, praying, and almsgiving are all occasions of inflating our egos and producing arrogant self-righteousness, if we are not careful. When I take these chapters seriously, I feel imperfect and unworthy of Christ’s kingdom. But didn’t Christ come for the weak and poor? Christ’s kingdom, as stated at the beginning of this sermon, belongs to the “poor in spirit.” It is precisely in knowing myself as poor that I understand why Jesus’ demands were so high. When I am weak, he is strong.

—Mark McNeil is the assistant principal for formation at Strake Jesuit College Preparatory in Houston, Texas.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, shelter me in your kingdom that is made of those who find life in knowing their poverty. Embrace me and all my neighbors in your divine love. Amen.

—Mark McNeil

 

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March 14, 2019

Mt 7:7-12

“Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

“In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.

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.

For What Shall I Ask?

We live in a culture that pushes us to strive for what’s new, what’s next, and what’s better. It’s tempting to think that I never have enough and I never am enough. Not so, Fr. Greg Boyle, SJ, tells us: “You are exactly who God had in mind when God created you … you could not be one bit better.”

Today’s Gospel is not about asking God for more, like one might imagine a genie granting wishes. It is instead a reminder to trust that God provides exactly what we most deeply desire. When we feel restless, it’s actually a blessing, an indication that we cannot be fulfilled by things. “Our hearts are restless until they rest in You, O Lord,” St. Augustine wrote. God never tires of giving Godself to us. This gift—which we call grace—not only fulfills us, but it makes everything possible; it builds on and perfects our human nature so we can cooperate with God in the world. Today’s Gospel invites me to ponder: How can I be more attentive and responsive to grace so I can cooperate with God this day?

This passage concludes with the Golden Rule: treat others the way you would like to be treated. Since we don’t always know how others would like to be treated, some have suggested a revised version, the so-called Platinum Rule: treat others the way they would like to be treated. (I like Wendell Berry’s version: treat those downstream as you would like those upstream to treat you.) It’s easy to get stuck thinking about how others have wronged me or to become preoccupied by thinking about how others might take advantage of me, if I’m not careful. But today’s Gospel interrupts that defensive mentality and calls us to be agents of grace and courtesy. If I trust that I am enough—and I don’t have to prove it or be protective all the time—then how can I help others see that they, too, are enough?  

—Dr. Marcus Mescher is Assistant Professor of Christian Ethics at Xavier University in Cincinnati, and is a graduate of Marquette University High School, Marquette University, and Boston College.  

Prayer

Good and Gracious God, thank you for the gift of yourself and thank you for the gift of myself. Help me to more deeply trust that your grace is all that I need to be the person you know that I am. Let me tune my heart and mind into your loving presence so that I can cooperate with you this day. Empower us—the whole church—to incarnate your love in the world.

—Dr. Marcus Mescher

 

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March 13, 2019

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.

Opportunities for repentance

Jonah, empowered by God’s word, gives the Ninevites an opportunity for repentance. God’s message to repent transcends political, financial and social dividing lines. In their repentance, the Ninevites are instructed to take nothing of taste, to dress humbly, to avoid evil and violence.

From today’s reading, we find many similarities with our contemporary Lenten practices:
-40 days of preparation
-Emphasis on personal discipline
-Intention to avoid wrongdoing and violence
-Direction to seek the Lord

One week ago, as we stood before ministers of the Church to receive ashes, many of us heard the same message, “Repent and believe in the Gospel.” Our charge is twofold. We seek temperance to focus desires, and we seek faith in our Savior and the truth of the Gospel. As we go about our prayer, fasting and almsgiving, may we focus on and draw near to Jesus, through whom our sins are forgiven.

—Alan Ratermann is an English teacher and Director of Ignatian Service Programs at Rockhurst High School in Kansas City, Missouri.

Prayer

Lord God, help us to focus our Lenten practices on those things that draw us closer to you. Give us the strength to fast from those things that are not giving us life as we continue through this season of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Amen.

—The Jesuit Prayer team

 

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March 12, 2019

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.

Prayer: Not as hard as we think

Does prayer sometimes seem intimidating? The feeling that we don’t know what to say or do can cause a lot of anxiety.

Prayer, however, is not as complicated as it may seem. For example, St. Ignatius’ most important prayer happened while daydreaming in bed. Only later did he realize that his daydreams were filled with God’s grace. If Ignatius can accidentally pray, then it must be easier to do than we think.

This is, of course, part of Jesus’ point. We do not need to have complex formulas, lots of time, or the right words. Be simple and direct. Say thanks, ask for what you need, and remember that God has your back. This is exactly what the Our Father is: an example of simple, direct prayer.

Do not fear getting it right or following a set of rules. Just turn to God, speak as you would to a friend, and remember that God does indeed have your back.

Do I ever avoid prayer because I do not know what to do or say?
Do I skip prayer because I feel don’t have enough time?
Try to remember that God is thrilled even when we just say, “hi.”

—Stephen Kramer, SJ, is a Jesuit deacon of the Central and Southern Province currently finishing his Master’s degree in Theology at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry.  He will be ordained to the priesthood in June.

Prayer

Lord, bowing before your Most Sacred Heart,
I beg you, in your compassion and generosity,
help me to always turn to you in prayer.
Help me to realize that you always desire my attention,
and that you hold even the smallest of my prayers as precious to you.
Let me not fear turning to you in my times of need,
inspire me to run to you in my times of joy,
and invite me to speak with you during all the times in between.
May I always love you, trust you, and know that you hear me.

Amen.

—Stephen Kramer, SJ

 

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March 11, 2019

St. John Ogilvie, SJ

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.

Jesus tells us exactly what is expected

The message of today’s Gospel seems obvious: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” However, Jesus rephrases the Golden Rule, instead offering concrete examples of how to best love one’s neighbor.

Whenever Christ tells us exactly what is expected, I get a little overwhelmed. The directness with which he shares the needs of our neighbors and our role in making sure those needs are met is leaves me no place to hide. It is my responsibility to care for the hungry, the stranger, the imprisoned. I cannot leave it to Christ or my Christian role models to address these issues alone – I must be part of the solution. As St. Teresa of Avila said, “Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours.” To gain his presence in heaven, we must practice his mission on earth.

—Sara Spittler is the First Years Chaplain and a Religious Studies teacher at Saint Ignatius College Prep in Chicago.

Prayer

Christ has no body now on earth but yours;
no hands but yours; no feet but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which
the compassion of Christ must look out on the world.
Yours are the feet with which
He is to go about doing good.
Yours are the hands with which He is to bless His people.

—Attributed to St. Teresa of Avila

 

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March 10, 2019

First Sunday of Lent

Lk 4: 1-13

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’” Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world.

And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’”

Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’” Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.

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.

Knowing our own demons

As a Jesuit “regent,” I currently serve on the board of directors for Loyola Productions, Inc. A film our company is developing now with Sony Pictures is based on the Italian Catholic priest Gabriele Amorth, who was an exorcist for the Diocese of Rome in the 90’s. He performed thousands of exorcisms in his career as the Vatican’s “Exorcist in Chief.”

Like all of us, Jesus faced his own demons. Whether Satan himself, or the personal demons that can throw our own hearts into shadow, Jesus demonstrates through his own self-knowledge and faith what all trained exorcists knows well: that every demon must be called by its proper name before it can be cast out. And it was not any complicated spiritual spell that Jesus spoke; it was the truth of his Father as revealed to each one of us in Scripture.

On this first Sunday of Lent, Lord, help us to know ourselves better. Open up your Word to us and grant us the graces we require to convert our hearts to you!

—Joe Kraemer, SJ, is a Jesuit scholastic of the Jesuits West Province currently finishing his second year of Regency in the Advancement Office in Los Gatos, California.

Prayer

God, no temptations will overtake us except what is common to all people. Lord, you are faithful. You will never allow us be tempted beyond what we can bear.

And when we are tempted, you will always provide a way for us to endure it. Give us the faith we need to follow you and to believe.

In your name we pray,

Amen.

—Adapted from 1 Cor 10:13 by Joe Kraemer, SJ

 

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