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August 31, 2012

1 Corinthians 1: 17-25

For Christ did not send me to baptize but to proclaim the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power. For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart. ”Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?

For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

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)

Leadership

Where is the wise one? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of the age? Has not God made the wisdom of the world foolish? [1 Corinthians 1:20]

I turn off the TV. I put down the newsmagazine. I am so weary of following the debates of world leaders and the talking heads of analysis. Is it that no one gets it, or that those who get it can’t personally afford to say so? I pray for courageous and visionary leaders and uncompromised sages.

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, when we see those we love suffer with acute physical or mental pain, it can shake our confidence in you. When death steals away the lives of the young or crushes the life of someone who had battled so hard to regain health, we can even feel a sense of abandonment. Then we recall St. Paul’s reminder: “For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” Though reason cannot explain the “why” for such hardships, we know that the cross transports us into eternal life. And through our earthly pain, we deepen our reliance on you and through our vulnerability we surrender our life to you and experience a security and hope that passes human understanding.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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August 30, 2012

Matthew 24: 42-51

Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this:if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into.Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour. “Who then is the faithful and wise slave, whom his master has put in charge of his household, to give the other slaves their allowance of food at the proper time?

Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives. Truly I tell you, he will put that one in charge of all his possessions. But if that wicked slave says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ and he begins to beat his fellow slaves, and eats and drinks with drunkards, the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour that he does not know. He will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

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)

Stay Awake

The bell rang at 4 am, several times and loud enough to rouse anyone from sleep. It wasn’t a particularly pleasant sound, but then again most things that jar one out of slumber aren’t particularly pleasant. A few minutes passed, giving everyone enough time to wake themselves up and make their way to the abbey church, where the night time office of Vigils would begin. Soon enough the bell rang again and someone began the solemn chanting, “Lord open my lips, and my mouth will proclaim your praise.” Each morning, as I was making my retreat as a guest of the monastery, the psalms and readings would go on and on. Sometimes I had profound experiences of prayer. Most of the time, though, I was just tired. I thought to myself, “Didn’t we pray this psalm already today?” I found myself thankful when the psalms that morning were the shorter ones. Vigilance is not easy.

The monastic life enfleshes in concrete practices the admonition of our Lord to “stay awake!” These monks, day in and day out, choose the time of the day most prone to sleeping and dreaming, and they wake up to pray. It is a symbolic action with a message for each and every one of us, even if we cannot imitate their schedule. The Lord advises us to be ready at all times, since He is returning at any moment. Whether we are working, relaxing, spending time with family or friends, at prayer or resting, an attitude of vigilance should pervade our whole life. We should be ready and waiting when He returns, “So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”

—Mr. Timothy Kieras, SJ

Prayer

Lord, an Indian proverb reminds us that when the sun goes down at sunset, it will take a part of our life with it. Help us, Lord, to live with no regrets. Are there talents we have not explored? Are there dreams that we have toyed with but have not given the proper attention? Are there friendships that we have put to the side until our lives slow down? Has our sense of gratitude become dulled? Do we keep looking to the future when we will finally focus on our spirituality? This day, Lord, we want to live in the now, present to all the good things in our lives. We ask for your wisdom so we do give priority to that which really matters. Abolish our regrets as we seek to find you in the ordinary twists and turns of the day.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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August 29, 2012

Passion of John the Baptist

Mark 6: 17-29

For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because Herod had married her. For John had been telling Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him. But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee.

When his daughter Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it.” And he solemnly swore to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.” She went out and said to her mother, “What should I ask for?” She replied, “The head of John the baptizer.”

Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her. Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.

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)

A Warning

An innocent man loses his life so that a guilty man can save his honor. This ancient atrocity is repeated year after year as we defend our national and personal pride, no matter the cost in innocent lives or to the poor andhelpless. May we be as critical of our own strategies as we are of Herod.

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

Prayer

Lord, why is it more common for people to betray one another than to defend the person wrongly accused? It happens every day in the work place, in social gatherings, and in daily conversations. When position, power, image, and likeability are threatened, we frequently possess a styrofoam backbone that crumbles as the other’s reputation is decimated.

To escape the behavior of the everyday traitor, we must surrender to you and fill up on your love and protection.  Surround us with co-workers, family members, and friends who strengthen our resolve to face conflict with truth and to remain loyal to the one wrongly accused.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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August 28, 2012

St. Augustine, Bishop and Doctor

Matthew 23: 23-26

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel!“ Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may become clean.

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)

“Our hearts are restless, Lord, until they rest in thee.”

This line from St. Augustine’s Confessions is deservedly well known, and it captures so much of this great man’s life and work. For he was a man who had long listened to his heart, followed it where it would take him, and often into deep trouble. Like St. Ignatius, Augustine of Hippo was a man of great desires, whose sheer energy of heart would be dangerous for himself and for the world, were it not directed toward God. Like the good servants in today’s Gospel, Augustine used well what God had given him.

One of those gifts was a restless heart, a keen sense of being unfulfilled, unsettled. This led him to search eagerly for the truth that would satisfy his mind and ease his conscience. After searching through various philosophical sects, each unsatisfying and unhelpful, he eventually returned to the religion of his youth – Catholic Christianity. In the Holy Scriptures, Augustine found an image of God different from what the philosophers could offer, an image which could satisfy his restless heart. And the rest, as they say, is history.

That image of the restless heart may be a helpful one to hold on to, since it so often corresponds to the reality of our lives. To begin to seek God does not require us already having found Him, but just the desire for Him, a desire born out of our restless heart. In other words, the first step in deepening our relationship with God is simply recognizing our need for Him. St. Augustine, pray for us.

—Mr. Timothy Kieras, SJ

Prayer

Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy.
Act in me, O Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy.
Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit, that I may love only what is holy.
Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit, that I may defend all that is holy.
Guard me, O Holy Spirit, that I myself may always be holy.

— St. Augustine of Hippo


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August 27, 2012

St. Monica

2 Thessalonians 1:1-5, 11-12

Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. We must always give thanks to God for you, brothers and sisters, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. Therefore we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith during all your persecutions and the afflictions that you are enduring.

This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, and is intended to make you worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering.  To this end we always pray for you, asking that our God will make you worthy of his call and will fulfill by his power every good resolve and work of faith, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

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)

Why Petition God in Prayer?

There is a mental conundrum about prayer that we can at times get trapped in. The problem is this: why do I need to ask God for something when He already knows that I need it? It gets even worse the deeper into the mystery of God we go… if God’s will is eternal and unchanging, then how can my prayer have any “effect”?

Or, if we say that all our good intentions and all our faith comes from God, then why is prayer necessary at all – if my desire and ability to pray for my mother’s health comes to me from God, then it can almost seem like a ‘hoop’ that we must jump through, arbitrary and perhaps somewhat cruel. Why wouldn’t God just give us everything we need?

Perhaps these questions do not trouble you at all – a blessing. But we who are accustomed to think in worldly ways must learn to change our way of thinking. In the first reading today, St. Paul gives us something of an answer to these questions: “We always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and powerfully bring to fulfillment every good purpose and every effort of faith, that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, in accord with the grace of our God and Lord Jesus Christ.”

God has willed that our salvation and transformation takes place through constant petition for our needs – material, but more importantly, spiritual. God desires to have mercy on us, yet that mercy comes in and through our own petition for it. By constantly asking, we acknowledge our dependence, and thus we make ourselves open to grace. Prayer does involve something of a circular motion – from God, to us, from us to God. But rather than being pointless, as if prayer was merely information processing caught in an endless loop; the very motion of this circle is what transforms and glorifies us in Christ.

—Mr. Timothy Kieras, SJ

 Prayer

Lord, as your follower I am called to be another Christ. Therefore I must empty myself of me to make room for you. Woe to me if my brothers and sisters come to me seeking you and find only me.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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August 26, 2012

John 6: 60-69

When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, “Does this offend you? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But among you there are some who do not believe.”

For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him. And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.” Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. So Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”

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)

“Do You Also Wish to Go Away?”

We hear today a familiar yet challenging passage from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. It represents marriage as a mirror of the relationship between Christ and the Church. Husbands in particular are reminded to surrender power and prerogative for the sake of their wives. For all of us the strength of this reading comes in its reminder that it is within the nitty-gritty of our relationships one with another that we work out our salvation. Either we learn to make the necessary sacrifices to see our relationships prosper or we are doomed to lives of disruption and upset as we search high and low for the kind of acceptance and understanding which make us whole. It is really all about God’s gift of mutuality – being there for one another. This is one lesson of today’s Scriptures.

There is another lesson which we have prayed over in different ways the past three Sundays. This is that Jesus gives us food and drink that are so real that they bring us God’s own divine life, indeed the very life of God’s Holy Spirit. It is God’s Spirit who strengthens our hearts, transforms our lives, and gives us the wisdom and insight we need to make those practical decisions which make all the difference – for our families, for our professional lives, for our own peace of heart down deep within.

In this very human and uniquely spiritual process, don’t we also learn that Jesus offer us his total self? He draws us together as learners and teachers, seekers and givers, holy pilgrims and vessels of clay. And in freedom he invites our total, loving response. This brings us to the fundamental question of today’s gospel: “Do you also wish to go away?”  Some of those listening to Jesus did just that – they shook their heads and walked away. So what about each of us? Do we grumble? Do we walk away? Or do we come to throw in our lot more faithfully with this Jesus, the Son of God, whose Holy Spirit brings insight and grace to our daily routine?  Lord Jesus, come again to our waiting world. Give us your wisdom; send us your Holy Spirit!

 —The Jesuit Prayer Team

Prayer

Lord, we can easily relate to your disciples’ words, “Lord, to whom can we go?”  Without you how could we ever answer the daunting question posed by Eric Fromm: “If I am what I have and if I lose what I have who then am I?” It is inevitable that we will eventually lose everything. Without faith death has the final word, stripping us of our beloved relationships, wiping out our very essence. We cling to your promise that you guarantee us eternal life. And when the time comes for those closest to us to cross over or for our own finite life to end, we believe that the best is yet to come. This day we will try to be present to the moment as we strive to live, to love, to learn, and to leave a legacy.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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August 25, 2012

Matthew 23: 1-12

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them rabbi.

But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students. And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father—the one in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.

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

Substance Over Image

I heard a story once concerning the Little Sisters of the Poor. While fundraising for one of their new homes for the aged poor, they were offered a multi-million dollar gift which included one condition: that the new home be named after the family behind the gift. The sisters smiled politely and thanked them for their generosity, but informed them that all their houses are named after saints. The sisters were given an ultimatum: you will not receive anything if you do not name it after their family and, if the sisters did not receive the gift, they might not be able to pay for the building. At the end of the day, the home was built and it was named after a family: the Holy Family. The sisters found that over the years, St. Joseph was the best fundraiser. God takes care of those who serve others. Maybe the story is apocryphal. But I sure hope it’s true.

Yesterday’s reflection discussed the attractive power of leading an ordered and disciplined life whose focus is God. Today’s reading from Matthew completes the picture. Not only an ordered life, but a life spent in humble service does more to spread the kingdom than any number of 10-year plans. Jesus came to serve, not to be served. He tells us today that the exalted will be humbled but the humble will be exalted. That is to say, the Lord sees the character of our hearts.

He knows how we use the talents and privileges we enjoy, whether we use them for self-aggrandizement or for building up those who are weak and creating good things where none existed before. Some people by birth, education, and talent, will gravitate toward exalted positions. This in and of itself is not bad —it’s natural. Our goal is to allow God to draw all these talents into the service of God and neighbor. All we have has been given to us by God. Let us imitate God by continuing the process.

—Fr. Kevin Dyer, S.J.

Prayer

“I am not sure exactly what heaven will be like, but I know that when we die and it comes time for God to judge us, he will not ask, ‘How many good things have you done in your life?’ rather he will ask, ‘How much love did you put into what you did?” ― Mother Teresa

Lord, it is so easy to fall into the trap of appearances. Too often we can place image over substance. When we manipulate our good deeds, our compliments, or gift giving to bring praise upon ourselves then we have fallen into behavior that you strongly warned against. Lord, help us to align our actions with loving intentions. And should we start down the path of hypocrisy, help us to refocus our hearts and reclaim a sincerity rooted in our relationship with you.

― The Jesuit Prayer Team


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August 24, 2012

Feast of St. Bartholomew, apostle

Gospel: John 1: 45-51

Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”

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)

Included in God’s Work

Today’s feast is of an apostle, St. Bartholomew, a messenger from the Lord. What stands out in the Gospel reading, an almost imperceptible detail that is beside the point of the story, is this: Philip is the one who called Nathanael. Jesus himself acknowledges this: “Before Philip called you…” This is not to say that the Lord had nothing to do with that call – on the contrary, it was clearly a moment of grace. But Philip was the instrument, the more immediate figure calling Nathanael (whom we now refer to as “Bartholomew”) to come and see this Jesus from Nazareth.

In our own lives, we are given a share in the ministry of the apostles – by our baptism we are made priests, prophets, and kings – sharing in Jesus Christ’s own life. At times, we are asked to invite others to come to know Jesus, sometimes simply by our silent witness, other times by quite clear and inviting words. Philip’s joy at finding the one promised by God and attested to in the Scriptures overflows even into the skeptical heart of Nathanael. And it becomes clear that Jesus desired Nathanael’s presence, but the connection was made only by Philip. Thus, our own role – fully known only by God – is instrumental in God’s will being carried into effect. What a blessing it is, to be included by God in His own work!

—Mr. Timothy Kieras, SJ

Prayer

Lord, I choose to live my day with great purpose. Whether all seems ordinary or all seems upside down, I believe you will use me to be a light to others. In those times when I feel unprepared or even unworthy to be your ambassador, I will remember that it is your grace that will move me forward for good. With this perspective, I am rejuvenated and better able to find meaning and joy in the details of the day. With this mindset I can expect more happiness and a deeper sense of gratitude for realizing my call from you.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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August 23, 2012

St. Rose of Lima

Ezekiel 36: 23-28

I will sanctify my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them; and the nations shall know that I am the Lord, says the Lord God, when through you I display my holiness before their eyes. I will take you from the nations, and gather you from all the countries, and bring you into your own land.

I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my spirit within you, and make you follow my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances. Then you shall live in the land that I gave to your ancestors; and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.

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 Work of the Spirit

Work and effort are good things —indispensable in the Christian life. The price of our freedom is the requirement to use that freedom productively. Yet, our efforts do not produce the Kingdom of God through their own power. The Kingdom of God is a work of the Spirit which far outstrips our own efforts to create it.

In today’s passage from the prophet Ezekiel, God promises through the prophet to gather the people of Israel from among the nations and re-establish them in their own land, living by the statutes of the Lord. God’s action, though, will not limit itself to the external work of their national fate. More essentially, God will touch them in the inner self, changing their hearts through His own power to save. It is appropriate that this passage from Ezekiel is followed by Psalm 51, the Miserere, which pleads: “a clean heart create for me, O God.” This is a beautiful psalm to pray after going to confession because this change of heart is exactly what we seek through the sacrament. We desire the descent of the Holy Spirit into our hearts to create some space, however minute, where the Kingdom of God can reign.

—Fr. Kevin Dyer, S.J.

Prayer

Lord, what can we expect when we implore you to create within us a clean heart? When we ask that your Spirit be within us?  What do we expect of ourselves if we sincerely pray such words?  No doubt, a clenched grip will give way to a relaxed opened hand to give and receive. We will be mindful of our infinite importance to you. We will look back aware of your companionship along the way, and we will look forward with hope despite the murky and rising waters before us. We will risk the approval of others to stand true for your principles of integrity and goodness. So, Lord, we are ready to ask for a clean heart.  “Here I am, Lord, I come to do your will.”

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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August 22, 2012

The Queenship of the Blessed Virgin

Ezekiel 34: 1-11

The word of the LORD came to me: Mortal, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel: prophesy, and say to them—to the shepherds: Thus says the Lord GOD: Ah, you shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fatlings; but you do not feed the sheep. You have not strengthened the weak, you have not healed the sick, you have not bound up the injured, you have not brought back the strayed, you have not sought the lost, but with force and harshness you have ruled them.

So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd; and scattered, they became food for all the wild animals. My sheep were scattered, they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill; my sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with no one to search or seek for them.

Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: As I live, says the Lord GOD, because my sheep have become a prey, and my sheep have become food for all the wild animals, since there was no shepherd; and because my shepherds have not searched for my sheep, but the shepherds have fed themselves, and have not fed my sheep; therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: Thus says the Lord GOD, I am against the shepherds; and I will demand my sheep at their hand, and put a stop to their feeding the sheep; no longer shall the shepherds feed themselves.

I will rescue my sheep from their mouths, so that they may not be food for them. For thus says the Lord GOD: I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out.

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)

Love in Action

Today’s reading from Ezekiel forms part of the background of the shepherd imagery applied to Jesus in the New Testament. Jesus surpassed the imperfect shepherds who have ruled in the past with more concern for their personal advancement than the good of the people that have placed under them.

One point to consider in today’s reading concerns the activity of the good shepherd. Not only does he shepherd the “good sheep,” the ones who dutifully occupy the fold. He even ventures out to seek those who have strayed and find themselves lost and wandering. All of us have been given some small amount of authority in life, whether that be in family, business, or church affairs. We all know what it is like to have one person under our charge who is wandering away. The fallen human tendency toward writing off those who don’t follow our lead can be strong. Yet, the scriptures show us an image of God who is not content with allowing the lost to suffer our disregard. The example of the Good Shepherd leads us out into the paths of the lost to bind their wounds and bring them back. This “love in action” is a hallmark of Christian discipleship.

—Fr. Kevin Dyer, S.J.

Prayer

Lord, we take comfort in knowing that our Good Shepherd is ever vigilant for our well-being and the well-being of our families. It is contrary to your nature not to search for us. We will remember that you love our children, our spouse, our mom and dad, our grandkids, our best friend and cherished pets– even more than we do. Lord, we will persist in our prayers just as you persist in your search for us.

—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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August 31, 2012

1 Corinthians 1: 17-25

For Christ did not send me to baptize but to proclaim the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power. For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart. ”Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?

For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

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)

Leadership

Where is the wise one? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of the age? Has not God made the wisdom of the world foolish? [1 Corinthians 1:20]

I turn off the TV. I put down the newsmagazine. I am so weary of following the debates of world leaders and the talking heads of analysis. Is it that no one gets it, or that those who get it can’t personally afford to say so? I pray for courageous and visionary leaders and uncompromised sages.

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, when we see those we love suffer with acute physical or mental pain, it can shake our confidence in you. When death steals away the lives of the young or crushes the life of someone who had battled so hard to regain health, we can even feel a sense of abandonment. Then we recall St. Paul’s reminder: “For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” Though reason cannot explain the “why” for such hardships, we know that the cross transports us into eternal life. And through our earthly pain, we deepen our reliance on you and through our vulnerability we surrender our life to you and experience a security and hope that passes human understanding.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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August 30, 2012

Matthew 24: 42-51

Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this:if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into.Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour. “Who then is the faithful and wise slave, whom his master has put in charge of his household, to give the other slaves their allowance of food at the proper time?

Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives. Truly I tell you, he will put that one in charge of all his possessions. But if that wicked slave says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ and he begins to beat his fellow slaves, and eats and drinks with drunkards, the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour that he does not know. He will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

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)

Stay Awake

The bell rang at 4 am, several times and loud enough to rouse anyone from sleep. It wasn’t a particularly pleasant sound, but then again most things that jar one out of slumber aren’t particularly pleasant. A few minutes passed, giving everyone enough time to wake themselves up and make their way to the abbey church, where the night time office of Vigils would begin. Soon enough the bell rang again and someone began the solemn chanting, “Lord open my lips, and my mouth will proclaim your praise.” Each morning, as I was making my retreat as a guest of the monastery, the psalms and readings would go on and on. Sometimes I had profound experiences of prayer. Most of the time, though, I was just tired. I thought to myself, “Didn’t we pray this psalm already today?” I found myself thankful when the psalms that morning were the shorter ones. Vigilance is not easy.

The monastic life enfleshes in concrete practices the admonition of our Lord to “stay awake!” These monks, day in and day out, choose the time of the day most prone to sleeping and dreaming, and they wake up to pray. It is a symbolic action with a message for each and every one of us, even if we cannot imitate their schedule. The Lord advises us to be ready at all times, since He is returning at any moment. Whether we are working, relaxing, spending time with family or friends, at prayer or resting, an attitude of vigilance should pervade our whole life. We should be ready and waiting when He returns, “So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”

—Mr. Timothy Kieras, SJ

Prayer

Lord, an Indian proverb reminds us that when the sun goes down at sunset, it will take a part of our life with it. Help us, Lord, to live with no regrets. Are there talents we have not explored? Are there dreams that we have toyed with but have not given the proper attention? Are there friendships that we have put to the side until our lives slow down? Has our sense of gratitude become dulled? Do we keep looking to the future when we will finally focus on our spirituality? This day, Lord, we want to live in the now, present to all the good things in our lives. We ask for your wisdom so we do give priority to that which really matters. Abolish our regrets as we seek to find you in the ordinary twists and turns of the day.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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August 29, 2012

Passion of John the Baptist

Mark 6: 17-29

For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because Herod had married her. For John had been telling Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him. But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee.

When his daughter Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it.” And he solemnly swore to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.” She went out and said to her mother, “What should I ask for?” She replied, “The head of John the baptizer.”

Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her. Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.

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)

A Warning

An innocent man loses his life so that a guilty man can save his honor. This ancient atrocity is repeated year after year as we defend our national and personal pride, no matter the cost in innocent lives or to the poor andhelpless. May we be as critical of our own strategies as we are of Herod.

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

Prayer

Lord, why is it more common for people to betray one another than to defend the person wrongly accused? It happens every day in the work place, in social gatherings, and in daily conversations. When position, power, image, and likeability are threatened, we frequently possess a styrofoam backbone that crumbles as the other’s reputation is decimated.

To escape the behavior of the everyday traitor, we must surrender to you and fill up on your love and protection.  Surround us with co-workers, family members, and friends who strengthen our resolve to face conflict with truth and to remain loyal to the one wrongly accused.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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August 28, 2012

St. Augustine, Bishop and Doctor

Matthew 23: 23-26

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel!“ Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may become clean.

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)

“Our hearts are restless, Lord, until they rest in thee.”

This line from St. Augustine’s Confessions is deservedly well known, and it captures so much of this great man’s life and work. For he was a man who had long listened to his heart, followed it where it would take him, and often into deep trouble. Like St. Ignatius, Augustine of Hippo was a man of great desires, whose sheer energy of heart would be dangerous for himself and for the world, were it not directed toward God. Like the good servants in today’s Gospel, Augustine used well what God had given him.

One of those gifts was a restless heart, a keen sense of being unfulfilled, unsettled. This led him to search eagerly for the truth that would satisfy his mind and ease his conscience. After searching through various philosophical sects, each unsatisfying and unhelpful, he eventually returned to the religion of his youth – Catholic Christianity. In the Holy Scriptures, Augustine found an image of God different from what the philosophers could offer, an image which could satisfy his restless heart. And the rest, as they say, is history.

That image of the restless heart may be a helpful one to hold on to, since it so often corresponds to the reality of our lives. To begin to seek God does not require us already having found Him, but just the desire for Him, a desire born out of our restless heart. In other words, the first step in deepening our relationship with God is simply recognizing our need for Him. St. Augustine, pray for us.

—Mr. Timothy Kieras, SJ

Prayer

Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy.
Act in me, O Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy.
Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit, that I may love only what is holy.
Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit, that I may defend all that is holy.
Guard me, O Holy Spirit, that I myself may always be holy.

— St. Augustine of Hippo


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August 27, 2012

St. Monica

2 Thessalonians 1:1-5, 11-12

Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. We must always give thanks to God for you, brothers and sisters, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. Therefore we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith during all your persecutions and the afflictions that you are enduring.

This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, and is intended to make you worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering.  To this end we always pray for you, asking that our God will make you worthy of his call and will fulfill by his power every good resolve and work of faith, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

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)

Why Petition God in Prayer?

There is a mental conundrum about prayer that we can at times get trapped in. The problem is this: why do I need to ask God for something when He already knows that I need it? It gets even worse the deeper into the mystery of God we go… if God’s will is eternal and unchanging, then how can my prayer have any “effect”?

Or, if we say that all our good intentions and all our faith comes from God, then why is prayer necessary at all – if my desire and ability to pray for my mother’s health comes to me from God, then it can almost seem like a ‘hoop’ that we must jump through, arbitrary and perhaps somewhat cruel. Why wouldn’t God just give us everything we need?

Perhaps these questions do not trouble you at all – a blessing. But we who are accustomed to think in worldly ways must learn to change our way of thinking. In the first reading today, St. Paul gives us something of an answer to these questions: “We always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and powerfully bring to fulfillment every good purpose and every effort of faith, that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, in accord with the grace of our God and Lord Jesus Christ.”

God has willed that our salvation and transformation takes place through constant petition for our needs – material, but more importantly, spiritual. God desires to have mercy on us, yet that mercy comes in and through our own petition for it. By constantly asking, we acknowledge our dependence, and thus we make ourselves open to grace. Prayer does involve something of a circular motion – from God, to us, from us to God. But rather than being pointless, as if prayer was merely information processing caught in an endless loop; the very motion of this circle is what transforms and glorifies us in Christ.

—Mr. Timothy Kieras, SJ

 Prayer

Lord, as your follower I am called to be another Christ. Therefore I must empty myself of me to make room for you. Woe to me if my brothers and sisters come to me seeking you and find only me.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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August 26, 2012

John 6: 60-69

When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, “Does this offend you? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But among you there are some who do not believe.”

For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him. And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.” Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. So Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”

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)

“Do You Also Wish to Go Away?”

We hear today a familiar yet challenging passage from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. It represents marriage as a mirror of the relationship between Christ and the Church. Husbands in particular are reminded to surrender power and prerogative for the sake of their wives. For all of us the strength of this reading comes in its reminder that it is within the nitty-gritty of our relationships one with another that we work out our salvation. Either we learn to make the necessary sacrifices to see our relationships prosper or we are doomed to lives of disruption and upset as we search high and low for the kind of acceptance and understanding which make us whole. It is really all about God’s gift of mutuality – being there for one another. This is one lesson of today’s Scriptures.

There is another lesson which we have prayed over in different ways the past three Sundays. This is that Jesus gives us food and drink that are so real that they bring us God’s own divine life, indeed the very life of God’s Holy Spirit. It is God’s Spirit who strengthens our hearts, transforms our lives, and gives us the wisdom and insight we need to make those practical decisions which make all the difference – for our families, for our professional lives, for our own peace of heart down deep within.

In this very human and uniquely spiritual process, don’t we also learn that Jesus offer us his total self? He draws us together as learners and teachers, seekers and givers, holy pilgrims and vessels of clay. And in freedom he invites our total, loving response. This brings us to the fundamental question of today’s gospel: “Do you also wish to go away?”  Some of those listening to Jesus did just that – they shook their heads and walked away. So what about each of us? Do we grumble? Do we walk away? Or do we come to throw in our lot more faithfully with this Jesus, the Son of God, whose Holy Spirit brings insight and grace to our daily routine?  Lord Jesus, come again to our waiting world. Give us your wisdom; send us your Holy Spirit!

 —The Jesuit Prayer Team

Prayer

Lord, we can easily relate to your disciples’ words, “Lord, to whom can we go?”  Without you how could we ever answer the daunting question posed by Eric Fromm: “If I am what I have and if I lose what I have who then am I?” It is inevitable that we will eventually lose everything. Without faith death has the final word, stripping us of our beloved relationships, wiping out our very essence. We cling to your promise that you guarantee us eternal life. And when the time comes for those closest to us to cross over or for our own finite life to end, we believe that the best is yet to come. This day we will try to be present to the moment as we strive to live, to love, to learn, and to leave a legacy.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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August 25, 2012

Matthew 23: 1-12

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them rabbi.

But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students. And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father—the one in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.

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

Substance Over Image

I heard a story once concerning the Little Sisters of the Poor. While fundraising for one of their new homes for the aged poor, they were offered a multi-million dollar gift which included one condition: that the new home be named after the family behind the gift. The sisters smiled politely and thanked them for their generosity, but informed them that all their houses are named after saints. The sisters were given an ultimatum: you will not receive anything if you do not name it after their family and, if the sisters did not receive the gift, they might not be able to pay for the building. At the end of the day, the home was built and it was named after a family: the Holy Family. The sisters found that over the years, St. Joseph was the best fundraiser. God takes care of those who serve others. Maybe the story is apocryphal. But I sure hope it’s true.

Yesterday’s reflection discussed the attractive power of leading an ordered and disciplined life whose focus is God. Today’s reading from Matthew completes the picture. Not only an ordered life, but a life spent in humble service does more to spread the kingdom than any number of 10-year plans. Jesus came to serve, not to be served. He tells us today that the exalted will be humbled but the humble will be exalted. That is to say, the Lord sees the character of our hearts.

He knows how we use the talents and privileges we enjoy, whether we use them for self-aggrandizement or for building up those who are weak and creating good things where none existed before. Some people by birth, education, and talent, will gravitate toward exalted positions. This in and of itself is not bad —it’s natural. Our goal is to allow God to draw all these talents into the service of God and neighbor. All we have has been given to us by God. Let us imitate God by continuing the process.

—Fr. Kevin Dyer, S.J.

Prayer

“I am not sure exactly what heaven will be like, but I know that when we die and it comes time for God to judge us, he will not ask, ‘How many good things have you done in your life?’ rather he will ask, ‘How much love did you put into what you did?” ― Mother Teresa

Lord, it is so easy to fall into the trap of appearances. Too often we can place image over substance. When we manipulate our good deeds, our compliments, or gift giving to bring praise upon ourselves then we have fallen into behavior that you strongly warned against. Lord, help us to align our actions with loving intentions. And should we start down the path of hypocrisy, help us to refocus our hearts and reclaim a sincerity rooted in our relationship with you.

― The Jesuit Prayer Team


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August 24, 2012

Feast of St. Bartholomew, apostle

Gospel: John 1: 45-51

Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”

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)

Included in God’s Work

Today’s feast is of an apostle, St. Bartholomew, a messenger from the Lord. What stands out in the Gospel reading, an almost imperceptible detail that is beside the point of the story, is this: Philip is the one who called Nathanael. Jesus himself acknowledges this: “Before Philip called you…” This is not to say that the Lord had nothing to do with that call – on the contrary, it was clearly a moment of grace. But Philip was the instrument, the more immediate figure calling Nathanael (whom we now refer to as “Bartholomew”) to come and see this Jesus from Nazareth.

In our own lives, we are given a share in the ministry of the apostles – by our baptism we are made priests, prophets, and kings – sharing in Jesus Christ’s own life. At times, we are asked to invite others to come to know Jesus, sometimes simply by our silent witness, other times by quite clear and inviting words. Philip’s joy at finding the one promised by God and attested to in the Scriptures overflows even into the skeptical heart of Nathanael. And it becomes clear that Jesus desired Nathanael’s presence, but the connection was made only by Philip. Thus, our own role – fully known only by God – is instrumental in God’s will being carried into effect. What a blessing it is, to be included by God in His own work!

—Mr. Timothy Kieras, SJ

Prayer

Lord, I choose to live my day with great purpose. Whether all seems ordinary or all seems upside down, I believe you will use me to be a light to others. In those times when I feel unprepared or even unworthy to be your ambassador, I will remember that it is your grace that will move me forward for good. With this perspective, I am rejuvenated and better able to find meaning and joy in the details of the day. With this mindset I can expect more happiness and a deeper sense of gratitude for realizing my call from you.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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August 23, 2012

St. Rose of Lima

Ezekiel 36: 23-28

I will sanctify my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them; and the nations shall know that I am the Lord, says the Lord God, when through you I display my holiness before their eyes. I will take you from the nations, and gather you from all the countries, and bring you into your own land.

I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my spirit within you, and make you follow my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances. Then you shall live in the land that I gave to your ancestors; and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.

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 Work of the Spirit

Work and effort are good things —indispensable in the Christian life. The price of our freedom is the requirement to use that freedom productively. Yet, our efforts do not produce the Kingdom of God through their own power. The Kingdom of God is a work of the Spirit which far outstrips our own efforts to create it.

In today’s passage from the prophet Ezekiel, God promises through the prophet to gather the people of Israel from among the nations and re-establish them in their own land, living by the statutes of the Lord. God’s action, though, will not limit itself to the external work of their national fate. More essentially, God will touch them in the inner self, changing their hearts through His own power to save. It is appropriate that this passage from Ezekiel is followed by Psalm 51, the Miserere, which pleads: “a clean heart create for me, O God.” This is a beautiful psalm to pray after going to confession because this change of heart is exactly what we seek through the sacrament. We desire the descent of the Holy Spirit into our hearts to create some space, however minute, where the Kingdom of God can reign.

—Fr. Kevin Dyer, S.J.

Prayer

Lord, what can we expect when we implore you to create within us a clean heart? When we ask that your Spirit be within us?  What do we expect of ourselves if we sincerely pray such words?  No doubt, a clenched grip will give way to a relaxed opened hand to give and receive. We will be mindful of our infinite importance to you. We will look back aware of your companionship along the way, and we will look forward with hope despite the murky and rising waters before us. We will risk the approval of others to stand true for your principles of integrity and goodness. So, Lord, we are ready to ask for a clean heart.  “Here I am, Lord, I come to do your will.”

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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August 22, 2012

The Queenship of the Blessed Virgin

Ezekiel 34: 1-11

The word of the LORD came to me: Mortal, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel: prophesy, and say to them—to the shepherds: Thus says the Lord GOD: Ah, you shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fatlings; but you do not feed the sheep. You have not strengthened the weak, you have not healed the sick, you have not bound up the injured, you have not brought back the strayed, you have not sought the lost, but with force and harshness you have ruled them.

So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd; and scattered, they became food for all the wild animals. My sheep were scattered, they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill; my sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with no one to search or seek for them.

Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: As I live, says the Lord GOD, because my sheep have become a prey, and my sheep have become food for all the wild animals, since there was no shepherd; and because my shepherds have not searched for my sheep, but the shepherds have fed themselves, and have not fed my sheep; therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: Thus says the Lord GOD, I am against the shepherds; and I will demand my sheep at their hand, and put a stop to their feeding the sheep; no longer shall the shepherds feed themselves.

I will rescue my sheep from their mouths, so that they may not be food for them. For thus says the Lord GOD: I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out.

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)

Love in Action

Today’s reading from Ezekiel forms part of the background of the shepherd imagery applied to Jesus in the New Testament. Jesus surpassed the imperfect shepherds who have ruled in the past with more concern for their personal advancement than the good of the people that have placed under them.

One point to consider in today’s reading concerns the activity of the good shepherd. Not only does he shepherd the “good sheep,” the ones who dutifully occupy the fold. He even ventures out to seek those who have strayed and find themselves lost and wandering. All of us have been given some small amount of authority in life, whether that be in family, business, or church affairs. We all know what it is like to have one person under our charge who is wandering away. The fallen human tendency toward writing off those who don’t follow our lead can be strong. Yet, the scriptures show us an image of God who is not content with allowing the lost to suffer our disregard. The example of the Good Shepherd leads us out into the paths of the lost to bind their wounds and bring them back. This “love in action” is a hallmark of Christian discipleship.

—Fr. Kevin Dyer, S.J.

Prayer

Lord, we take comfort in knowing that our Good Shepherd is ever vigilant for our well-being and the well-being of our families. It is contrary to your nature not to search for us. We will remember that you love our children, our spouse, our mom and dad, our grandkids, our best friend and cherished pets– even more than we do. Lord, we will persist in our prayers just as you persist in your search for us.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


Please share the Good Word with your friends!