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July 31, 2012

Feast of St. Ignatius Loyola, Founder of the Society of Jesus

Luke 9: 18-25

Once when Jesus was praying alone, with only the disciples near him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” They answered, “John the Baptist; but others, Elijah; and still others, that one of the ancient prophets has arisen.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “The Messiah of God.”

He sternly ordered and commanded them not to tell anyone,saying, “The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” Then he said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves?
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 (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)

Service Beneath the Banner of the Cross

As we celebrate today with St. Ignatius, let us ponder his service to “our supreme commander and Lord.” All of his spirituality centers on this service, understood in the first place as military service. In the Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius begs to be received “under the standard,” or into the service, of Christ. He describes a Jesuit as one who “desires to serve as a soldier of God beneath the banner of the cross.” He looks for ways to distinguish himself ” in total service to [his] eternal King and universal Lord.”

This service, though, is distinguished from worldly service in two crucial ways. First, it is intimate service. Jesus is a genuine leader, with true affection and closeness to those who serve with him. He shares with his soldiers all that he has; he shares hardships with them as well as the glory to be won. He shares his company and friendship with them. We serve not a distant, unconcerned leader, but rather enjoy the close companionship of the King we serve in the everyday life spent in his service. We are his companions in the battle, serving always with him at our side.

Secondly, the battle strategy is Jesus’ own strategy, a decidedly spiritual one which he developed and perfected. Jesus’ strategy is one of poverty, suffering, and humility. When St. Ignatius had his mystical experience at La Storta, in which he was received into the service of Christ, he did not see Christ in his battle finery, glorious and triumphant, but humble and poor, carrying his cross. The enemy is defeated and souls, including are own, are saved for the glory of God through these weapons of poverty and humility.

Like all true military service, service under the standard of the Cross can be daunting. But undertaken as friends and companions of Jesus Christ, not only is it possible, it is joyful and exhilarating, as by following our true King, we win the glory for which we were created.

—Fr. Matthew Monnig, S.J.

Prayer of St. Ignatius

(Suscipe)
Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding
and my entire will, all I have and
call my own.
You have given all to me. To you, Lord, I
return it.
Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and grace,
that is enough for me.

—St. Ignatius of Loyola





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July 30, 2012

Matthew 13: 31-35

He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”

He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.” Jesus told the crowds all these things in parables; without a parable he told them nothing. This was to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet: “I will open my mouth to speak in parables; I will proclaim what has been hidden from the foundation of the world.”

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 (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)

The Power of Story

In today’s Gospel, Jesus gives two familiar parables, comparing the Kingdom of Heaven to a mustard seed and to leaven mixed in bread. These well-known tales illustrate the fertile power of the word of God to transform lives and the world, to build up a great communion of people in God from tiny, humble origins. These simple stories explain this truth in a far richer way than even an eloquent theoretical discussion ever could.

The Gospel explains Jesus’ choice to teach in parables: in so doing, he fulfilled a divine plan and fulfilled an ancient prophecy. But it was also based on sound natural principles, for stories are essential to our lives. They shape us, change the way we think, what we imagine, what we treasure. They inspire us to do things and discourage us from doing others. That is why it is so important to surround ourselves with good stories. There is no such thing as “just a story.” Every story has power, for good or bad. Stories are not just things in children’s books: they are what we see on the news, what we hear in music, what we watch in movies and TV, what we hear from our friends. And every story we hear subtly shapes us, for better or worse.

So it’s worth the effort to be formed by good stories, from the Bible of course, but also from literature, film, and music. And it’s not enough simply to avoid the bad stuff. We all need the help that good stories can give us in growing in virtue and holiness. They may not have the divine power of one of Jesus’ parables, but they can teach us in ways far more powerful than we could ever imagine.

—Fr. Matthew Monnig, S.J.

Prayer

Lord, we wait on so many things: the healing of a sick family member, the completion of an arduous project, the answer to a long standing prayer, the guidance to make the right decision, the end to financial struggle, and the deliverance from a fear that continues to haunt us. Yet you remind us that if we have but the seed of faith – a sincere desire to listen and serve you – we will be moving in the right direction and your divine timing will provide for us. With gratitude we ask you to continue to accompany us this day.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team





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July 29, 2012

John 6: 1-15

After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do.

Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all.

Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.”

When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.

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(http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)

More than Bread

The gospel today provides John’s account of the multiplication of the loaves. Chapter 6 begins with an account of the multiplication of loaves and concludes with Jesus’ admonition that “my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.” This passage, like many others in the Gospels and the Epistles, grounds the Catholic belief in the Real presence and its saving work among us.

Today’s gospel reveals that when Jesus supplied for the material needs of thousands who came to hear here him, the response of the crowds was to try to take him off and make him king. For supplying bread alone? Yes for bread alone. It was not until the industrial revolution, well into the 19th century, that most people (at least 75% of the population) spent at least 75% of their wages just on bread. So anyone who could supply bread, the basic material substance of life, was seen as a great king. Jesus rejected this offer, for he saw in it a job description that limited human existence to supplying only material needs.

There is no doubt that we need bread and many other material things, but the limited horizon of desiring only material things diminishes our potential as men and women, created in the image and likeness of God, whose deepest desires are not satisfied by bread alone.

—Fr. Michael Maher, S.J.

Prayer

Lord, in some ways we are like the young boy in the Gospel today. We have but little to give to those whose needs are great. Yet if we offer what we do have and lean on you for the rest, we will make a difference. When we feel overwhelmed or question if our efforts really matter, help us to remember that together we are an awesome team.

-The Jesuit Prayer Team





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July 28, 2012

Matthew 13:24-30

He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’

He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, “‘Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”

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 (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)

Discernment of the Spirits

I experience mild spiritual paralysis – that dread rising from the pit of my stomach – whenever I recognize that the evil spirit has lulled me down his deceptive path. “Lord, I want to rid myself of this evil spirit’s hold on my life. I want to remove the bad and give space for the good to grow!” But often enough, I cannot tell what is the most prudent first step in turning from the bad.

The Greek word zizanion refers not to weeds in general, but to a particular Eurasian grass, the darnel.  Darnel resembles wheat at first (except its grains are black), and only later shows itself for what it really is – a poisonous weed.

‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field?
Where have the weeds come from?
He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’

Today’s gospel is prime material for considering Ignatian discernment of spirits. Young St. Ignatius was a man of the court, a womanizer, and a vain soldier. He knew well the ways of the world. While recuperating from a cannonball injury at his family castle in Loyola, Ignatius became attentive to the different movements of spirits in his life. After spending time considering the delights of a life of personal success, Ignatius would begin to feel stale, dissatisfied, and empty. When meditating on the life of Christ and the saints, however, he was filled with lasting peace, joy, and a desire to dedicate himself to God.  He came to call this latter feeling spiritual consolation – a growth in faith, hope, and love of God. Whatever was contrary to this he called spiritual desolation.

Ignatius recorded these and further spiritual insights in what became his Rules for the Discernment of Spirits in the Spiritual Exercises. He delves into the strategies of the good spirit and the evil spirit. The latter he calls the Enemy of Human Nature, one who knows how to masquerade as the good spirit and redirect our energy away from God.

‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’
He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds
you might uproot the wheat along with them.
Let them grow together until harvest.’

We are faced with several tensions in the life of faith. The balance between a healthy striving toward perfection for God, and making peace with certain ‘weeds among the wheat,’ is one of those dynamics. Today’s gospel is an invitation to a mature patience, recalling that the task is not ours to pull out the weeds, lest we also tear out the wheat. Let the grace today be to recognize what is from the Sower, and what is not – and to be patient in our striving for greater life in Christ.

—Mr. Joseph Simmons, S.J.

Prayer

Lord, deepen our faith to trust that you are leading us to a good place where we will find joy, fulfillment, and happiness. Though we may be called to sacrifice and may experience suffering, we hold to the promise that our life will have greater meaning and joy by surrendering control to you. We need to trust that you are not going to lead us off a cliff! And help us to remember that you are a loving God who desires our highest good.

 —The Jesuit Prayer Team





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July 27, 2012

Jeremiah 3: 14-17

Return, O faithless children, says the Lord, for I am your master; I will take you, one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion.I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding. And when you have multiplied and increased in the land, in those days, says the Lord, they shall no longer say, “The ark of the covenant of the Lord.” It shall not come to mind, or be remembered, or missed; nor shall another one be made. At that time Jerusalem shall be called the throne of the Lord, and all nations shall gather to it, to the presence of the Lord in Jerusalem, and they shall no longer stubbornly follow their own evil will.

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 (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)

The Ark of the Covenant and More

They will in those days no longer say, “The ark of the covenant of the Lord.” They will no longer think of it, or remember it, or miss it, or make another.” (Jeremiah 3: 16)

The Ark of the Covenant is a big deal in the Old Testament. God gives the blueprints for the ark to Moses at Sinai, and the ark becomes the holiest object in the world.  It’s the seat where God sits on earth.  Yet Jeremiah foretells a day when no one will even miss it. God has an even greater intimacy in mind for those who are faithful.

Alice Camille, 2010: A Book of Grace-Filled Days © 2009 Loyola Press, Chicago IL. For more Ignatian spiritual resources from Loyola Press, please visit www.loyolapress.com

Prayer

Anima Christi

Soul of Christ, sanctify me
Body of Christ, save me
Blood of Christ, drench me
Water from the side of Christ, wash me
Passion of Christ, strengthen me
Good Jesus, hear me
Within your wounds, shelter me
From turning away, keep me
From the evil one, protect me
At the hour of my death, call me
Into your presence lead me
To praise you with all your saints
Forever and ever.
Amen.

—St. Ignatius of Loyola





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July 26, 2012

Feast of St. Joachim and St. Anne, Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Matthew 13: 10-17

Then the disciples came and asked him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” He answered, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.

The reason I speak to them in parables is that ‘seeing they do not perceive, and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand.’ With them indeed is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah that says: ‘You will indeed listen, but never understand, and you will indeed look, but never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes; so that they might not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and understand with their heart and turn— and I would heal them.’

But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. Truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear 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 (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)

The Foretelling

In Matthew’s Gospel, Joseph gets the word about the birth of Jesus from an angel. In Luke,  Mary does. But in an early, non-biblical story called The Birth of Mary, Joachim and Anne have simultaneous visitations foretelling their daughter’s arrival.  He leaves the shepherding fields and she runs from the house, both meeting under Jerusalem’s Golden Gate. There they exchange a kiss of joy because the kingdom of heaven is often like a baby that has no chance of being conceived – and yet it is.

—Alice Camille, 2010: A Book of Grace-Filled Days © 2009 Loyola Press, Chicago IL. For more Ignatian spiritual resources from Loyola Press, please visit www.loyolapress.com

Prayer

Lord, some days we are overjoyed with our children’s efforts, values, and decisions; other days we worry so much for their life direction. Some days we feel like award winning parents, other days like parents watching their children drown. We can’t swim and no lifesaving raft exists. Calm our hearts. Remind us that no one loves our children more than you. Give us the wisdom to blend compassion and firmness and may your Spirit guide us to know when to hold tight and when to let go.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team





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7-25-2012

Feast of St. James, Apostle

Matthew 20: 20-28

Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to him with her sons, and kneeling before him, she asked a favor of him. And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Declare that these two sons of mine will sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.”

But Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” He said to them, “You will indeed drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left, this is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”

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

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)

Inadequate but Fully Ready to Serve

I have yet to meet a newly ordained priest who has said, “I think I’ve got this Christian life all figured out.  Let me at ’em.” One is braced with a sense of inadequacy in living out the Christian call to holiness. “I am not wise enough; not old enough; not skilled enough; not persuasive enough,” we say to ourselves, doubting our capacity to serve Christ’s mission. And yet in yesterday’s gospel, we are invited to be disciples – even brothers and sisters – whom Jesus called to labor with him.

Clearly St. James the Apostle was a man of many gifts. Jesus saw great talent in him as he invited James and his brother to “come follow me.” It is easy (and perhaps desirable) to hold St. James and other saints on a pedestal — and at a respectable distance.  “That’s not me, Lord. I am too young. Too old. Too weak. Too sinful. Too caught up with myself. Not as gifted as others. I’ve got a family to raise; studies to do; work to attend to; bills to pay.” The list of ‘no’ can go on, and our admiration of the saints becomes like our awareness of today’s celebrities – vague, and ultimately insignificant to our day-to-day living. And yet isn’t the invitation of the first reading from Jeremiah precisely to find God’s missioning in whatever state of life we are in — right now, today?

A dear friend of mine, Ronny, describes the saints as those people who show us how to be most fully human. Lord, I desire to find your call to sainthood in the concrete realities of my work and interactions, joys and sufferings. Quiet my needless anxieties and doubts, Lord, and remind me of your call to be a saint – to be more fully human, in amy own time and place.

—Mr. Joseph Simmons, S.J.

Prayer

Lord, if I only focus on my abilities and my opportunities, I can become self-centered. If I dwell on my shortcomings and the brick walls that stand in my way, I can feel defeated. Lord, help me to remember that each talent is your gift to me. And each challenge an occasion to lean on your mercy and to trust in your everlasting faithfulness.

When my motivation aligns with serving you, and I give thanks for the talents you have given me, I can accomplish so much more and wield a power rooted in your Spirit. This day I am united to you – body, mind, and soul, and I believe that I will be your instrument to bring a bit more hope, joy, love, and even fun into those lives that cross my pathway.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team





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July 24, 2012

Matthew 12: 46-50

While he was still speaking to the crowds, his mother and his brothers were standing outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, “Look, your mother and your brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.” But to the one who had told him this, Jesus replied, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

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 (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)

The Core of One’s Identity

Like many of us, I enjoy weddings, graduation parties, post-ordination gatherings, and the like. Looking around such gatherings, a guest can learn much about the different dimensions of the host’s life: his neighbors, extended family, childhood friends, college roommates, colleagues, fellow parishioners, etc. The joy of hosting such a party is to look around and cherish those people who, in a real sense, constitute and deepen our identity.

Today’s gospel passage concludes the weighty twelfth chapter of Matthew, in which Jesus is repeatedly challenged and tested by scribes and Pharisees. At last, surrounded by his disciples, it appears that Jesus is given a respite from his interrogators.

“Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” Christ stretches out his hand to the disciples around him, inviting them to share more intimately in his mission. “Whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, sister, and mother.” Jesus feels at ease amidst this gathering, knowing that they desire to unite their hearts and lives to the will of his Father. Would Jesus recognize my face in this crowd? Do the circles that I travel in draw me closer to, or away from, this intimate mission with Christ? Do I give witness to his mission, or detract from it by how I live as a Christian? May the grace today be to recognize his outstretched hand, inviting us to move toward closer discipleship. 

—Mr. Joseph Simmons, S.J.

Prayer

Lord, it’s quite extraordinary that you love us as you loved your mother and your closet friends.  When we speak in hypotheticals or critique the behaviors of fallen sports figures, celebrities, and politicians, we usually see ourselves taking the higher road and choosing to sacrifice, prestige, money, reputation to do the right thing.

But how many times have we not agreed with the more senior leader and sold out the less influential person just to stay in good graces with those who determine salary increases and promotions? Please give us the courage to look upon others as mother, brother, and sister in Christ so we do not cave to superficial success and instead honor your call to love despite the cost.

-The Jesuit Prayer Team





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7-23-2012

Matthew 12: 38-42

Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to him, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so for three days and three nights the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth.

The people of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the proclamation of Jonah, and see, something greater than Jonah is here! The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to listen to the wisdom of Solomon, and see, something greater than Solomon is here!

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 (http://www.usccb.org/bible/</em>approved-translations)

Just Two Things

“An evil and unfaithful generation seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it,” Jesus warns the skeptical scribes and Pharisees. The twelfth chapter of Matthew reveals a Jesus who is growing weary of others’ desire to pin Him down and figure Him out. At every turn, the Pharisees pose questions to probe and test Jesus. They do so not in order to believe, but to ensnare and disprove Him.

But what of those of us who desire to follow Him? Pier Paolo Pasolini’s 1964 film The Gospel According to St. Matthew stars Enrique Irazoqui as a brooding, severe, on-the-go Jesus. His stern demeanor and pointed orders leave His disciples, and many of us, wondering whether we have what it takes to follow Him, wherever He may lead.

Our gospel today reminds us that demanding further signs from God misses the point of how God works. Lest we think that Jesus holds His followers to impossible standards of discipleship, today’s first reading from Micah reminds us of something we easily forgot: God does not demand unreasonable signs from us, either. We read, “With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow before God most high?” After considering several sacrificial offerings to God, we hear a revealing, and relieving, response: “You have been told, O man, what is good, and what the Lord requires of you: Only to do the right and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God.”

God does not demand that we know everything about Him before we follow Him. In fact, the more we try to neatly ‘figure out’ God, the more mysterious He becomes. God asks simply that we (1) strive to love goodness, and (2) act from that love. At least three times today, when faced with a concrete choice, choose to love the greater good and act on that — even if no one but you and God will ever know. Unlike the scribes and Pharisees, you will not likely be disappointed by what you find.

—Mr. Joseph Simmons, S.J. 

Prayer

Lord, in our lives you have given us signs to guide our decisions, to experience your love, to even connect us with a loved one who has crossed over to eternity. While we may have been convinced of your presence through this communication, the passage of time can make us doubt the occurrence of the sign or it significance. Just like your apostles who wobbled in their faith after magnificent signs of healing, after the Transfiguration, and even after the raising of Lazarus from the dead, don’t let our unbelief diminish your gift of signs.

We pray, Lord, that our faith keeps us open to the signs you place in our lives, and, more importantly, we ask that we be a sign of your gracious love. Help us to model your love particularly when we feel worn down, preoccupied with the urgent tasks, and focused on our concerns.

— The Jesuit Prayer Team





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7-22-2012

Mark 6: 30-34

The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught.He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.

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 (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations/)

No Greater Joy

“When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity…” These words of today’s gospel are striking in their simplicity. The heart of God can be moved! The heart of God can be so touched by our miserable condition that it is motivated to reach out and save us. What a wonderful reality this is. There is no greater joy for God than to give of himself to us needy creatures.

We are invited today to re-entrust ourselves and our misery to the Good Shepherd. We need to bleat out our needs to him. He is waiting for us to open the door to him (cf. Rev. 3:20). He knows us better than we know ourselves and he recognizes our unique voice and has a unique love for each one of us. He creates us intimately and he loves us with the same intimacy. Though sheep are not particularly intelligent creatures, they do know the voice of their master perfectly and they follow only his voice. We must develop in the course of our lives a kind of listening prayer that is able to parse out the voice of our true shepherd from the cacophony of other voices around us.

We rejoice today that we have a true shepherd in Christ, and we rejoice in those “secondary shepherds” who truly model their lives after him. These “secondary shepherds” lead us back to the one Shepherd, Christ. And Christ always leads us back to the Father, in the same Spirit of love. What are our needs today? Let us make them clearly known to the Good Shepherd.

—Fr. Anthony Wieck, S.J.

Prayer

Lord, we pray for the grace to feel your presence through our thoughts, circumstances, and moments of love that weave in and out of our day. We know that more times than not, the “feeling” is transitory.  And that’s okay.

Our life meaning is not advanced by a feeling, but it is anchored in the guarantee of your personal care for every aspect of our lives. To this claim we cling. Though storms may pound the securities and loves of our lives, we will not be vanquished. We will triumph through a reciprocal faithfulness: you being there for us and we being there for you.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team





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Ignatian spirituality reminds us that God pursues us in the routines of our home and work life, and in the hopes and fears of life's challenges. The founder of the Jesuits, Saint Ignatius of Loyola, created the Spiritual Exercises to deepen our relationship with Christ and to move our contemplation into service. May this prayer site anchor your day and strengthen your resolve to remember what truly matters.

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July 31, 2012

Feast of St. Ignatius Loyola, Founder of the Society of Jesus

Luke 9: 18-25

Once when Jesus was praying alone, with only the disciples near him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” They answered, “John the Baptist; but others, Elijah; and still others, that one of the ancient prophets has arisen.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “The Messiah of God.”

He sternly ordered and commanded them not to tell anyone,saying, “The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” Then he said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves?
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 (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)

Service Beneath the Banner of the Cross

As we celebrate today with St. Ignatius, let us ponder his service to “our supreme commander and Lord.” All of his spirituality centers on this service, understood in the first place as military service. In the Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius begs to be received “under the standard,” or into the service, of Christ. He describes a Jesuit as one who “desires to serve as a soldier of God beneath the banner of the cross.” He looks for ways to distinguish himself ” in total service to [his] eternal King and universal Lord.”

This service, though, is distinguished from worldly service in two crucial ways. First, it is intimate service. Jesus is a genuine leader, with true affection and closeness to those who serve with him. He shares with his soldiers all that he has; he shares hardships with them as well as the glory to be won. He shares his company and friendship with them. We serve not a distant, unconcerned leader, but rather enjoy the close companionship of the King we serve in the everyday life spent in his service. We are his companions in the battle, serving always with him at our side.

Secondly, the battle strategy is Jesus’ own strategy, a decidedly spiritual one which he developed and perfected. Jesus’ strategy is one of poverty, suffering, and humility. When St. Ignatius had his mystical experience at La Storta, in which he was received into the service of Christ, he did not see Christ in his battle finery, glorious and triumphant, but humble and poor, carrying his cross. The enemy is defeated and souls, including are own, are saved for the glory of God through these weapons of poverty and humility.

Like all true military service, service under the standard of the Cross can be daunting. But undertaken as friends and companions of Jesus Christ, not only is it possible, it is joyful and exhilarating, as by following our true King, we win the glory for which we were created.

—Fr. Matthew Monnig, S.J.

Prayer of St. Ignatius

(Suscipe)
Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding
and my entire will, all I have and
call my own.
You have given all to me. To you, Lord, I
return it.
Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and grace,
that is enough for me.

—St. Ignatius of Loyola





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July 30, 2012

Matthew 13: 31-35

He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”

He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.” Jesus told the crowds all these things in parables; without a parable he told them nothing. This was to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet: “I will open my mouth to speak in parables; I will proclaim what has been hidden from the foundation of the world.”

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 (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)

The Power of Story

In today’s Gospel, Jesus gives two familiar parables, comparing the Kingdom of Heaven to a mustard seed and to leaven mixed in bread. These well-known tales illustrate the fertile power of the word of God to transform lives and the world, to build up a great communion of people in God from tiny, humble origins. These simple stories explain this truth in a far richer way than even an eloquent theoretical discussion ever could.

The Gospel explains Jesus’ choice to teach in parables: in so doing, he fulfilled a divine plan and fulfilled an ancient prophecy. But it was also based on sound natural principles, for stories are essential to our lives. They shape us, change the way we think, what we imagine, what we treasure. They inspire us to do things and discourage us from doing others. That is why it is so important to surround ourselves with good stories. There is no such thing as “just a story.” Every story has power, for good or bad. Stories are not just things in children’s books: they are what we see on the news, what we hear in music, what we watch in movies and TV, what we hear from our friends. And every story we hear subtly shapes us, for better or worse.

So it’s worth the effort to be formed by good stories, from the Bible of course, but also from literature, film, and music. And it’s not enough simply to avoid the bad stuff. We all need the help that good stories can give us in growing in virtue and holiness. They may not have the divine power of one of Jesus’ parables, but they can teach us in ways far more powerful than we could ever imagine.

—Fr. Matthew Monnig, S.J.

Prayer

Lord, we wait on so many things: the healing of a sick family member, the completion of an arduous project, the answer to a long standing prayer, the guidance to make the right decision, the end to financial struggle, and the deliverance from a fear that continues to haunt us. Yet you remind us that if we have but the seed of faith – a sincere desire to listen and serve you – we will be moving in the right direction and your divine timing will provide for us. With gratitude we ask you to continue to accompany us this day.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team





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July 29, 2012

John 6: 1-15

After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do.

Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all.

Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.”

When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.

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(http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)

More than Bread

The gospel today provides John’s account of the multiplication of the loaves. Chapter 6 begins with an account of the multiplication of loaves and concludes with Jesus’ admonition that “my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.” This passage, like many others in the Gospels and the Epistles, grounds the Catholic belief in the Real presence and its saving work among us.

Today’s gospel reveals that when Jesus supplied for the material needs of thousands who came to hear here him, the response of the crowds was to try to take him off and make him king. For supplying bread alone? Yes for bread alone. It was not until the industrial revolution, well into the 19th century, that most people (at least 75% of the population) spent at least 75% of their wages just on bread. So anyone who could supply bread, the basic material substance of life, was seen as a great king. Jesus rejected this offer, for he saw in it a job description that limited human existence to supplying only material needs.

There is no doubt that we need bread and many other material things, but the limited horizon of desiring only material things diminishes our potential as men and women, created in the image and likeness of God, whose deepest desires are not satisfied by bread alone.

—Fr. Michael Maher, S.J.

Prayer

Lord, in some ways we are like the young boy in the Gospel today. We have but little to give to those whose needs are great. Yet if we offer what we do have and lean on you for the rest, we will make a difference. When we feel overwhelmed or question if our efforts really matter, help us to remember that together we are an awesome team.

-The Jesuit Prayer Team





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July 28, 2012

Matthew 13:24-30

He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’

He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, “‘Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”

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 (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)

Discernment of the Spirits

I experience mild spiritual paralysis – that dread rising from the pit of my stomach – whenever I recognize that the evil spirit has lulled me down his deceptive path. “Lord, I want to rid myself of this evil spirit’s hold on my life. I want to remove the bad and give space for the good to grow!” But often enough, I cannot tell what is the most prudent first step in turning from the bad.

The Greek word zizanion refers not to weeds in general, but to a particular Eurasian grass, the darnel.  Darnel resembles wheat at first (except its grains are black), and only later shows itself for what it really is – a poisonous weed.

‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field?
Where have the weeds come from?
He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’

Today’s gospel is prime material for considering Ignatian discernment of spirits. Young St. Ignatius was a man of the court, a womanizer, and a vain soldier. He knew well the ways of the world. While recuperating from a cannonball injury at his family castle in Loyola, Ignatius became attentive to the different movements of spirits in his life. After spending time considering the delights of a life of personal success, Ignatius would begin to feel stale, dissatisfied, and empty. When meditating on the life of Christ and the saints, however, he was filled with lasting peace, joy, and a desire to dedicate himself to God.  He came to call this latter feeling spiritual consolation – a growth in faith, hope, and love of God. Whatever was contrary to this he called spiritual desolation.

Ignatius recorded these and further spiritual insights in what became his Rules for the Discernment of Spirits in the Spiritual Exercises. He delves into the strategies of the good spirit and the evil spirit. The latter he calls the Enemy of Human Nature, one who knows how to masquerade as the good spirit and redirect our energy away from God.

‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’
He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds
you might uproot the wheat along with them.
Let them grow together until harvest.’

We are faced with several tensions in the life of faith. The balance between a healthy striving toward perfection for God, and making peace with certain ‘weeds among the wheat,’ is one of those dynamics. Today’s gospel is an invitation to a mature patience, recalling that the task is not ours to pull out the weeds, lest we also tear out the wheat. Let the grace today be to recognize what is from the Sower, and what is not – and to be patient in our striving for greater life in Christ.

—Mr. Joseph Simmons, S.J.

Prayer

Lord, deepen our faith to trust that you are leading us to a good place where we will find joy, fulfillment, and happiness. Though we may be called to sacrifice and may experience suffering, we hold to the promise that our life will have greater meaning and joy by surrendering control to you. We need to trust that you are not going to lead us off a cliff! And help us to remember that you are a loving God who desires our highest good.

 —The Jesuit Prayer Team





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July 27, 2012

Jeremiah 3: 14-17

Return, O faithless children, says the Lord, for I am your master; I will take you, one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion.I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding. And when you have multiplied and increased in the land, in those days, says the Lord, they shall no longer say, “The ark of the covenant of the Lord.” It shall not come to mind, or be remembered, or missed; nor shall another one be made. At that time Jerusalem shall be called the throne of the Lord, and all nations shall gather to it, to the presence of the Lord in Jerusalem, and they shall no longer stubbornly follow their own evil will.

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 (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)

The Ark of the Covenant and More

They will in those days no longer say, “The ark of the covenant of the Lord.” They will no longer think of it, or remember it, or miss it, or make another.” (Jeremiah 3: 16)

The Ark of the Covenant is a big deal in the Old Testament. God gives the blueprints for the ark to Moses at Sinai, and the ark becomes the holiest object in the world.  It’s the seat where God sits on earth.  Yet Jeremiah foretells a day when no one will even miss it. God has an even greater intimacy in mind for those who are faithful.

Alice Camille, 2010: A Book of Grace-Filled Days © 2009 Loyola Press, Chicago IL. For more Ignatian spiritual resources from Loyola Press, please visit www.loyolapress.com

Prayer

Anima Christi

Soul of Christ, sanctify me
Body of Christ, save me
Blood of Christ, drench me
Water from the side of Christ, wash me
Passion of Christ, strengthen me
Good Jesus, hear me
Within your wounds, shelter me
From turning away, keep me
From the evil one, protect me
At the hour of my death, call me
Into your presence lead me
To praise you with all your saints
Forever and ever.
Amen.

—St. Ignatius of Loyola





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July 26, 2012

Feast of St. Joachim and St. Anne, Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Matthew 13: 10-17

Then the disciples came and asked him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” He answered, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.

The reason I speak to them in parables is that ‘seeing they do not perceive, and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand.’ With them indeed is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah that says: ‘You will indeed listen, but never understand, and you will indeed look, but never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes; so that they might not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and understand with their heart and turn— and I would heal them.’

But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. Truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear 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 (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)

The Foretelling

In Matthew’s Gospel, Joseph gets the word about the birth of Jesus from an angel. In Luke,  Mary does. But in an early, non-biblical story called The Birth of Mary, Joachim and Anne have simultaneous visitations foretelling their daughter’s arrival.  He leaves the shepherding fields and she runs from the house, both meeting under Jerusalem’s Golden Gate. There they exchange a kiss of joy because the kingdom of heaven is often like a baby that has no chance of being conceived – and yet it is.

—Alice Camille, 2010: A Book of Grace-Filled Days © 2009 Loyola Press, Chicago IL. For more Ignatian spiritual resources from Loyola Press, please visit www.loyolapress.com

Prayer

Lord, some days we are overjoyed with our children’s efforts, values, and decisions; other days we worry so much for their life direction. Some days we feel like award winning parents, other days like parents watching their children drown. We can’t swim and no lifesaving raft exists. Calm our hearts. Remind us that no one loves our children more than you. Give us the wisdom to blend compassion and firmness and may your Spirit guide us to know when to hold tight and when to let go.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team





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7-25-2012

Feast of St. James, Apostle

Matthew 20: 20-28

Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to him with her sons, and kneeling before him, she asked a favor of him. And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Declare that these two sons of mine will sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.”

But Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” He said to them, “You will indeed drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left, this is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”

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

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)

Inadequate but Fully Ready to Serve

I have yet to meet a newly ordained priest who has said, “I think I’ve got this Christian life all figured out.  Let me at ’em.” One is braced with a sense of inadequacy in living out the Christian call to holiness. “I am not wise enough; not old enough; not skilled enough; not persuasive enough,” we say to ourselves, doubting our capacity to serve Christ’s mission. And yet in yesterday’s gospel, we are invited to be disciples – even brothers and sisters – whom Jesus called to labor with him.

Clearly St. James the Apostle was a man of many gifts. Jesus saw great talent in him as he invited James and his brother to “come follow me.” It is easy (and perhaps desirable) to hold St. James and other saints on a pedestal — and at a respectable distance.  “That’s not me, Lord. I am too young. Too old. Too weak. Too sinful. Too caught up with myself. Not as gifted as others. I’ve got a family to raise; studies to do; work to attend to; bills to pay.” The list of ‘no’ can go on, and our admiration of the saints becomes like our awareness of today’s celebrities – vague, and ultimately insignificant to our day-to-day living. And yet isn’t the invitation of the first reading from Jeremiah precisely to find God’s missioning in whatever state of life we are in — right now, today?

A dear friend of mine, Ronny, describes the saints as those people who show us how to be most fully human. Lord, I desire to find your call to sainthood in the concrete realities of my work and interactions, joys and sufferings. Quiet my needless anxieties and doubts, Lord, and remind me of your call to be a saint – to be more fully human, in amy own time and place.

—Mr. Joseph Simmons, S.J.

Prayer

Lord, if I only focus on my abilities and my opportunities, I can become self-centered. If I dwell on my shortcomings and the brick walls that stand in my way, I can feel defeated. Lord, help me to remember that each talent is your gift to me. And each challenge an occasion to lean on your mercy and to trust in your everlasting faithfulness.

When my motivation aligns with serving you, and I give thanks for the talents you have given me, I can accomplish so much more and wield a power rooted in your Spirit. This day I am united to you – body, mind, and soul, and I believe that I will be your instrument to bring a bit more hope, joy, love, and even fun into those lives that cross my pathway.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team





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July 24, 2012

Matthew 12: 46-50

While he was still speaking to the crowds, his mother and his brothers were standing outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, “Look, your mother and your brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.” But to the one who had told him this, Jesus replied, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

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 (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)

The Core of One’s Identity

Like many of us, I enjoy weddings, graduation parties, post-ordination gatherings, and the like. Looking around such gatherings, a guest can learn much about the different dimensions of the host’s life: his neighbors, extended family, childhood friends, college roommates, colleagues, fellow parishioners, etc. The joy of hosting such a party is to look around and cherish those people who, in a real sense, constitute and deepen our identity.

Today’s gospel passage concludes the weighty twelfth chapter of Matthew, in which Jesus is repeatedly challenged and tested by scribes and Pharisees. At last, surrounded by his disciples, it appears that Jesus is given a respite from his interrogators.

“Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” Christ stretches out his hand to the disciples around him, inviting them to share more intimately in his mission. “Whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, sister, and mother.” Jesus feels at ease amidst this gathering, knowing that they desire to unite their hearts and lives to the will of his Father. Would Jesus recognize my face in this crowd? Do the circles that I travel in draw me closer to, or away from, this intimate mission with Christ? Do I give witness to his mission, or detract from it by how I live as a Christian? May the grace today be to recognize his outstretched hand, inviting us to move toward closer discipleship. 

—Mr. Joseph Simmons, S.J.

Prayer

Lord, it’s quite extraordinary that you love us as you loved your mother and your closet friends.  When we speak in hypotheticals or critique the behaviors of fallen sports figures, celebrities, and politicians, we usually see ourselves taking the higher road and choosing to sacrifice, prestige, money, reputation to do the right thing.

But how many times have we not agreed with the more senior leader and sold out the less influential person just to stay in good graces with those who determine salary increases and promotions? Please give us the courage to look upon others as mother, brother, and sister in Christ so we do not cave to superficial success and instead honor your call to love despite the cost.

-The Jesuit Prayer Team





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7-23-2012

Matthew 12: 38-42

Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to him, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so for three days and three nights the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth.

The people of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the proclamation of Jonah, and see, something greater than Jonah is here! The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to listen to the wisdom of Solomon, and see, something greater than Solomon is here!

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 (http://www.usccb.org/bible/</em>approved-translations)

Just Two Things

“An evil and unfaithful generation seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it,” Jesus warns the skeptical scribes and Pharisees. The twelfth chapter of Matthew reveals a Jesus who is growing weary of others’ desire to pin Him down and figure Him out. At every turn, the Pharisees pose questions to probe and test Jesus. They do so not in order to believe, but to ensnare and disprove Him.

But what of those of us who desire to follow Him? Pier Paolo Pasolini’s 1964 film The Gospel According to St. Matthew stars Enrique Irazoqui as a brooding, severe, on-the-go Jesus. His stern demeanor and pointed orders leave His disciples, and many of us, wondering whether we have what it takes to follow Him, wherever He may lead.

Our gospel today reminds us that demanding further signs from God misses the point of how God works. Lest we think that Jesus holds His followers to impossible standards of discipleship, today’s first reading from Micah reminds us of something we easily forgot: God does not demand unreasonable signs from us, either. We read, “With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow before God most high?” After considering several sacrificial offerings to God, we hear a revealing, and relieving, response: “You have been told, O man, what is good, and what the Lord requires of you: Only to do the right and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God.”

God does not demand that we know everything about Him before we follow Him. In fact, the more we try to neatly ‘figure out’ God, the more mysterious He becomes. God asks simply that we (1) strive to love goodness, and (2) act from that love. At least three times today, when faced with a concrete choice, choose to love the greater good and act on that — even if no one but you and God will ever know. Unlike the scribes and Pharisees, you will not likely be disappointed by what you find.

—Mr. Joseph Simmons, S.J. 

Prayer

Lord, in our lives you have given us signs to guide our decisions, to experience your love, to even connect us with a loved one who has crossed over to eternity. While we may have been convinced of your presence through this communication, the passage of time can make us doubt the occurrence of the sign or it significance. Just like your apostles who wobbled in their faith after magnificent signs of healing, after the Transfiguration, and even after the raising of Lazarus from the dead, don’t let our unbelief diminish your gift of signs.

We pray, Lord, that our faith keeps us open to the signs you place in our lives, and, more importantly, we ask that we be a sign of your gracious love. Help us to model your love particularly when we feel worn down, preoccupied with the urgent tasks, and focused on our concerns.

— The Jesuit Prayer Team





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7-22-2012

Mark 6: 30-34

The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught.He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.

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 (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations/)

No Greater Joy

“When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity…” These words of today’s gospel are striking in their simplicity. The heart of God can be moved! The heart of God can be so touched by our miserable condition that it is motivated to reach out and save us. What a wonderful reality this is. There is no greater joy for God than to give of himself to us needy creatures.

We are invited today to re-entrust ourselves and our misery to the Good Shepherd. We need to bleat out our needs to him. He is waiting for us to open the door to him (cf. Rev. 3:20). He knows us better than we know ourselves and he recognizes our unique voice and has a unique love for each one of us. He creates us intimately and he loves us with the same intimacy. Though sheep are not particularly intelligent creatures, they do know the voice of their master perfectly and they follow only his voice. We must develop in the course of our lives a kind of listening prayer that is able to parse out the voice of our true shepherd from the cacophony of other voices around us.

We rejoice today that we have a true shepherd in Christ, and we rejoice in those “secondary shepherds” who truly model their lives after him. These “secondary shepherds” lead us back to the one Shepherd, Christ. And Christ always leads us back to the Father, in the same Spirit of love. What are our needs today? Let us make them clearly known to the Good Shepherd.

—Fr. Anthony Wieck, S.J.

Prayer

Lord, we pray for the grace to feel your presence through our thoughts, circumstances, and moments of love that weave in and out of our day. We know that more times than not, the “feeling” is transitory.  And that’s okay.

Our life meaning is not advanced by a feeling, but it is anchored in the guarantee of your personal care for every aspect of our lives. To this claim we cling. Though storms may pound the securities and loves of our lives, we will not be vanquished. We will triumph through a reciprocal faithfulness: you being there for us and we being there for you.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team





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