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November 30, 2012

Feast of St. Andrew, Apostle

Matthew 4: 18-22

As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.”

Immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.

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 Word of Christ

We are called to reverence the Word of God by reading it with great care and attention. Sometimes great spiritual fruit can be brought from even a point of grammar. On today’s feast of St. Andrew the apostle, the Church offers us a first reading in which St. Paul speaks of the mission of an apostle to bring the Gospel to the world. He says, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

But how do we come to this faith that saves us? The role of the apostle is to spread the good news of faith in Jesus Christ: “Thus faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.”

But what is this word of Christ? Is it Christ’s word, that is, the same teaching that Jesus made while he was with the apostles: the Beatitudes, the Great Commandment, the Our Father, the parables? Or is Christ the word that is preached, so that Jesus himself is the content of this good news: that Jesus Christ is God’s own Son who died and rose from the dead that we might have life? From the point of view of grammar, even in the original language, it could be either. The ambiguity can’t be completely resolved, and in that ambiguity lies great richness, for it could just as well be both.

We are saved by the teaching of Christ, by his word, but Christ himself is the Word made flesh. What distinguishes Jesus Christ from every other teacher who teaches the truth is that he is himself the truth that he taught. His teaching was about himself as the way to salvation: “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” and “he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.” The apostles have handed on to us (in the apostolic succession that is the Church’s great treasure) the “word of Christ”: not only his teaching, but much more, Christ himself. As we prepare our souls for the coming of Christ during this season of Advent, let us seek to hear and be transformed by that word of Christ in all the richness of its meaning.

—Fr. Matthew Monnig, S.J.

Prayer

Lord, every day you whisper your call to us. Heighten our awareness to recognize your presence in the seemingly ordinary encounters of the day. In the chill of the approaching winter, let us be touched by the beauty of the stars and the moon and the falling snow. Let the Advent season be our time to really embrace the greatest gift– God with us.  Let this reality truly inspire and direct our relationships, our decisions, our greatest concerns, and the many common moments of our day.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team





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November 29, 2012

Luke 21: 20-28

When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. Then those in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those inside the city must leave it, and those out in the country must not enter it; for these are days of vengeance, as a fulfillment of all that is written.

Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress on the earth and wrath against this people; they will fall by the edge of the sword and be taken away as captives among all nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.

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 Majestic Mystery of God

John writes: I heard what sounded like the roar of a large crowd of people in heaven, saying “Praise God! Salvation, glory, and power belong to our God!” -Revelation 19:1

Job says of God, “We cannot understand the great things he does, and to his miracles there is no end. . . . I can’t believe he would listen to me.” (Job 9: 10, 16)

God is beyond all comprehension. The greatest blunder we can make is to try to reduce God to the level of human definition. Saint Augustine put it this way: “God is inexpressible. It is easier for us to say what God is not than what God is. . . . God is not at all what we have conceived God to be.”

With what kind of reverence and awe ought I place myself in God’s presence?
I sing the might power of God, that made the mountains rise;
That spread the flowing skies abroad, and built the lofty skies. —Isaac Watts (1715)

—Excerpted from Mission, by Fr. Mark Link, S.J. ©2000 RCL Enterprises, Inc., Allen TX. For more prayer resources from Fr. Link, please visit www.staygreat.com

Prayer

Lord, we pray that we do not fix our desires on health or sickness, wealth or poverty, success or failure, a long life or short one. For everything has the potential of calling forth in us a deeper response to our life in God.  Lord, our only desire and our one choice should be this: we want and we choose what better leads to the deepening of God’s life in us.

—  Adapted from St. Ignatius as paraphrased by David L. Fleming, S.J. from the beginning of the Spiritual Exercises





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November 28, 2012

Luke 21: 12-19

But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. This will give you an opportunity to testify. So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict.

You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls.

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)

Get Out of the Way

The Church has looked to the Society of Jesus for spiritual direction throughout the centuries.
Many people come to Jesuits seeking sound spiritual wisdom and insight into how God is
at work in their lives. I recall with gratitude my own Jesuit spiritual directors—men of God
attuned to the Spirit working in the lives of those who desire to follow Christ in an intentional
way. As a spiritual director myself now, I am humbled by the trust people place in our hands.
God’s love frees us from the sins, illusions, and un-freedoms that hold us back in our response to
Him. And it is a privileged grace to serve the Church as a Jesuit spiritual director.

I am also aware of the poverty of wisdom that I bring to these intimate conversations. In the
interest of ‘helping souls,’ I desire to have the right answer or response that will really deepen
people’s prayer lives, or shed new light on God’s love. It is easy for this response of generosity
to become a point of pride.

When I begin to head down this road toward self-importance, I am reminded of the need to entrust these spiritual conversations to God, first and foremost. For a spiritual director, faith entails a trust that God is in fact working in the life of his or her directee, and that the faithful directee will receive God’s needed, if challenging, perspective. And so I pray at the start of each direction session that I may recognize God at work and not get in the way with my own words or plan.

This is a freeing act of faith, because it reminds us that God can and will use us in helping others along the Christian path. God does not ask of us slick proofs or persuasive conversations to bring people closer to Him. Rather, as our Gospel reminds us, He will give us the wisdom to
speak, if we would only trust in Him.

As the great Catholic apologist St. John Henry Newman once wrote, “I do not want to be
converted by a smart syllogism; if I am asked to convert others by it, I say plainly I do not care
to overcome their reasons without touching their hearts.”

—Joseph Simmons, S.J.

Prayer

Lord, we turn over to you even our good intentions to serve you and others. Use our gifts this day
as you see fit, and free us from any pride that may interfere with your plan. Before we intervene with our insights and our recommendations, we will pause and ask for your Spirit to direct our thoughts, our hearts, and our actions.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team





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November 27, 2012

Luke 21: 5-11

When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said, “As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.” They asked him, “Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?”

And he said, “Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is near!’ Do not go after them. “When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately.”

Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.

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

God of Our Present; God of Our Future

The sense of immediacy that many early Christians felt about Christ’s second coming is evident in Paul’s Letters and the fervor of early martyrs. Each generation since then has lived with the hope that He will return soon, in a way that will draw the suffering, warring, sin and death to an end. Yet we know neither the hour nor the day of His return. So we are given Christ’s instructions for how to live in the world, seeking to transform it to reflect better the Kingdom of God.

For many Christians, especially the young and eager, impatience with the world as it is leads to anxiety, cynicism or doubt about Christ’s promises. What to make of all the war, famine, and suffering?  What sort of God would sit idly by, watching the world unravel before His eyes? “Enough of concerns about some life with God in the future. We need to fight and advocate for the rights and needs of people here!” The Kingdom of God can quickly turn into trying to build a kingdom here on earth.

In a famous letter to a disillusioned young activist, Thomas Merton wrote:

The great thing after all is to live, not to pour out your life in the service of a myth; and we turn the best things into myths. If you can get free from the domination of causes and just serve Christ’s truth, you will be able to do more and will be less crushed by the inevitable disappointments.

Because I see nothing whatever in sight but much disappointment, frustration, and confusion.  The real hope, then, is not in something we think we can do, but in God who is making something good out of it in some way we cannot see. If we can do His will, we will be helping in this process. 

To be clear, we Catholic Christians are called to corporal works of mercy, living our faith in concrete love of neighbor. But we must keep our eyes fixed on the hereafter, as Christ reminds us in today’s Gospel. Let the grace of today be to place into God’s hands whatever hopes, fears, or anxieties we hold today, trusting that He is laboring and bringing to completion His plan for salvation.

—Joseph Simmons, S.J.

Prayer

Lord, deepen our understanding of the insight of Thomas Merton: “The real hope, then, is not in something we think we can do, but in God who is making something good out of it in some way we cannot see. If we can do His will, we will be helping in this process.”

It is our desire, Lord, to strengthen our resolve to hope when darkness tries to triumph; it is our desire to persevere, to stay faithful to your call of discipleship. And should our dedication to people or to programs fall short of our efforts, we must remember that God will make “something good out of it in some way we cannot see.”

—The Jesuit Prayer Team





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November 26, 2012

Feast of St. John Berchmans, S.J.

Luke 21: 1-4

He looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasury; he also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. He said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on.”

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)

Little in Comparison

The story of the widow’s mite, which we hear in the Gospel of Luke today, always gives me a bit of pause. It is easier to come before God when we feel spiritually poor and humbled than when we are swimming in successes and worldly acceptance. How often do we turn to God in our hour of need, only to take Him for granted when things are going well?

And yet the story from Luke goes to a level deeper. Not only does the poor widow depend on the temple for spiritual succor and support, but she makes a total offering of her treasure in return.

The comfortable wealthy do the right external action – putting their offerings into the treasury – but Jesus does not find in them the internal disposition to give of their whole selves. And so their sizable offering means little in comparison.

Being poor in spirit entails a recognition of one’s dependence, and a willingness to hold nothing back. And this is a grace to pray for, especially in the face of rightfully gained (and even deserved) worldly success. “Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face,” the psalmist writes for today. Do I long to see God’s face, or am I wound up in trying to keep up good appearances, only giving from my excess?

—Joe Simmons, S.J.

Prayer

Lord, the poor widow is not embarrassed by her donation contrasted to the gift of the wealthy. She is not intimidated by the appearance of their greatness. Instead the widow drops her two coins into the treasury and gains a wondrous gift – your tender gratitude and affirmation.

Lord, like the widow, we want to live an authentic life so our choices reflect our gospel values and not the illusion of greatness too often portrayed in our world. Lord, we pray for a more generous heart. We desire to feel the sting of sacrifice and therein love more completely.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team





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November 25, 2012

Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe  

John 18: 33b-37

Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me.

What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

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)

Claim Him Your King

I heard it for the first time—as a Jesuit novice at the Cathedral of St. Paul — on the Solemnity of Christ the King. From the momentous first notes of the Kyrie, Mozart’s Coronation Mass strikes the senses as heralding something very special. Each movement begins with sharp thrusts from voices, strings, brass, percussion, and woodwinds alike. One cannot not be affected by the mass setting. Yes! I believe! Vivat Christus Rex! Today would be a good day to listen to this piece of sacred music, all the better if experienced in the Mass itself.

When the rush of beauty subsides, however, we are left wondering how to celebrate such a solemnity. Crowning Him ‘king’ seems like an anachronistic ritual to modern, western sensibilities. We do not elevate our elected leaders to such exaltation, nor do we entrust ourselves unreservedly to their protection. And does Christ not dismiss His disciples’ attempts to give Him earthly glory and recognition? How then are we to “crown Him with many crowns,” as the familiar hymn says?

A recently-ordained Jesuit priest was asked to preach on Christ the King last year to a group of high school students, and struggled to convey its importance and application for today. What he came to in prayer was surely of God, for it was simple, clear, and it cut to the heart of the matter: We crown Christ King every day that we live our life in faith, hope, and love for Him.

May the grace today be to claim Him our king in both Sacrament and by our Christian witness. Vivat Christus Rex!

—Joe Simmons, S.J.

Prayer

Lord, when we listen to your Spirit and rest in your love, we partake of your kingdom. We are awed by your majesty and humbled by your humanity. We bow to you, the King of the Universe; we look away as your crown of thorns streams with blood. We praise you as the supreme authority of time immortal; we remove our sandals as you wash your disciples’ feet.  You are Savior and Servant – our amazing God!

—The Jesuit Prayer Team





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November 24, 2012

St. Andrew Dung-Lac, S.J. and Vietnamese Jesuit martyrs

Luke 20: 27-40

Some Sadducees, those who say there is no resurrection, came to him and asked him a question, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no children, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother. Now there were seven brothers; the first married, and died childless; then the second and the third married her, and so in the same way all seven died childless. Finally the woman also died. In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be?

For the seven had married her.” Jesus said to them, “Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage; but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. Indeed they cannot die anymore, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection.

And the fact that the dead are raised Moses himself showed, in the story about the bush, where he speaks of the Lord as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.”

Then some of the scribes answered, “Teacher, you have spoken well.” For they no longer dared to ask him another question.

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)

Affirmation of Marriage

Today’s Gospel, in which Jesus affirms the truth of the resurrection in the face of the Sadducees’ denial, also offers us an opportunity to consider the reality of marriage, especially since most of you receiving these reflections are yourselves married. Marriage is, most basically, a humaninstitution ordained by God, common to men and women from all cultures, religions and historical periods. Jesus raised marriage to the dignity of a Christian sacrament, making it a sign of both God’s love for the human race and Jesus’ love for His Bride, the Church.

As a sacrament it is a special kind of sign, one that effects what it signifies. A sacramental marriage not only points to divine love, it also makes that love present in the world. Through a married couple’s self-sacrificing love, embodies in many different ways (including the marital embrace), God’s love breaks forth more tangibly into the world.

Marriage and the family are threatened today, especially in Western societies. Various ideologies and philosophies seek to trivialize or redefine them. New statistics drawn from the recent U.S. census indicate that the number of people choosing to live together and raise children without ever marrying is rapidly rising. Many young people, including Catholics, choose to cohabitate before marrying, even though evidence shows that cohabitation makes for less successful marriages.

Today we can thank God for the marriages we have entered into ourselves, as well as those of our families and friends. We can pray that God will protect and strengthen marriage and family. We can also ponder Jesus’ words about the relative value of marriage, since those risen from the dead “neither marry nor are given in marriage” (Luke 20: 35). Our most fundamental vocation is not the married, ordained or consecrated state. Our core calling, the one that never passes away, is that of Christian disciple and saint.

—Fr. Rob Kroll, S.J.

Prayer

Lord, where would we be without the relationships that mean so much to us? We place before you the hopes, the fears, the aspirations of those we love. Keep us always close to each other; do not let us drift into complacency or become misdirected by selfishness, ego, or the demands of the day. Help us to be faithful in the small acts of love — saying “Thank you,” or “How can I help,” or “I appreciate you.”  For in the constancy of love we glimpse your divine care and your eternal promise of life everlasting.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team





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November 23, 2012

Blessed Miguel Agustin Pro, S.J

Luke 19: 45-48

Then he entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling things there; and he said, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer’; but you have made it a den of robbers.” Every day he was teaching in the temple. The chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people kept looking for a way to kill him; but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people were spellbound by what they heard.

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 Emotional Experience

I am in the midst of writing a research paper on Thomas Aquinas’s treatise on the emotions found in the Summa Theologiae. Perhaps this explains why Jesus’ emotional response in the past two days has caught my attention. Yesterday Jesus wept over Jerusalem. Today Jesus drives out those who treat God’s house like a den of thieves, an incident recorded by all four evangelists. Even though Luke omits the details of overturned tables, spilled coins and a whip made of cords, Jesus is clearly angry. Sadness, anger, compassion, joy, fear: part of Jesus’ full humanity means that He felt the same emotions we do, and could express them appropriately.

While temperaments differ, emotions are such a significant dimension of human life. Psychologically healthy persons experience a wide range of emotions, and sometimes we feel numerous emotions in the course of a single day. Catholics do not embrace the Stoic philosophical belief that emotions are a “disease” to be suppressed because they undermine reason. We also avoid the other extreme, the tendency common to Romantic literature and art to exalt emotions above reason.

Experience shows that we usually regret giving emotions free reign over our actions. We should listen to our emotions and the wisdom they offer, yet our intelligence and freewill ought to shape and integrate our emotions, sometimes even rouse them, as when we stir into flame courage or love. Emotions can participate in our reason and have a moral dimension for humans absent in nonhuman animals.

We can also pray with our emotions, as Fr. Dennis Hamm, S.J. encourages when “rummaging through our day” by means of the Ignatian Examen. We might try this today: explore under the Holy Spirit’s inspiration the most intense emotion (whether “positive” or “negative”) I experienced in the last 24 hours. What insights—about me, the world, and God—come by pondering this emotional experience?

—Fr. Rob Kroll, S.J.

Prayer

Lord, under the Holy Spirit’s inspiration help me to reflect on the most intense emotions of my day. Is it possible my emotions reveal a need for more life balance, for more honest communication, for more agility in sidestepping negativity or a realization that you are beckoning me to rely more on you?  Lord, as you speak to me through the kaleidoscope of my emotions, let my feelings join with my reason to seek you more completely and live ever more sincerely and courageously for you,

 —The Jesuit Prayer Team





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November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving Day (USA)

Luke 17: 11-19

On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean.

Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”

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)

Two Graces

Today we celebrate the feast of Thanksgiving in the United States, a time to give thanks to God for the many material and spiritual blessings we have received. Today’s first reading from the Book of Sirach reads in part:

And now, bless the God of all, who has done wondrous things on earth.
May he grant you joy of heart, and may peace abide among you;
May his goodness toward us endure in Israel to deliver us all our days.

Time spent with loved ones on holidays has the potential to bring out the best and worst in us. Our parents, siblings, and extended family are the people who have formed us over the years. We owe them for much of who we are and what we believe. These same people know our weak spots, they know just how to ‘push our buttons,’ and they can irritate us more easily than any stranger or coworker. We are most easily loved and hurt by those closest to us.

Consider the people with whom you will spend Thanksgiving today. Are there petty quibbles, past hurts, or mistrust in your heart that stand in the way of greater charity and love? Do the usual dynamics of your family foster trust, care, and mutual support? Or do the old ruts lead to sniping, criticism, and unsolicited advice on how to live one another’s lives?

Now consider the gift that these same people are in your life. A mother who taught you how to cook and bake as a child. A father who wanted nothing more than to talk football with you as a son. A sister whom you can share anything with, or a brother who helped you through a tough period in your marriage. A daughter who made you a proud grandfather. A thoughtful son who always calls you on your birthday.

Recall now that time with loved ones is limited in this life. Ask God which aspects of your family dynamics— the negative or the positive?—God would like you to hold onto today. Do the goods not outweigh the petty slights and lack if charity that keep us from living and loving as God calls us to? Are there old grudges or unforgiven past mistakes that weigh on your heart?

Let us pray today for two graces: First, for the magnanimity to remember that, in God, patient love quenches pettiness and the urge to correct, control, and critique others’ lives. Second, for gratitude for the loved ones with whom we spend this feast, especially those hard to love as we should.

Joseph Simmons, S.J.

Thanksgiving Prayer

O God, when I have food,
help me to remember the hungry;
When I have work,
help me to remember the jobless;
When I have a home,
help me to remember those who have no home at all;
When I am without pain,
help me to remember those who suffer,
And remembering,
help me to destroy my complacency;
bestir my compassion,
and be concerned enough to help;
By word and deed,
Those who cry out for what we take for granted.

Samuel Pugh





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November 21, 2012

Feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Luke 19: 11-28

As they were listening to this, he went on to tell a parable, because he was near Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately. So he said, “A nobleman went to a distant country to get royal power for himself and then return. He summoned ten of his slaves, and gave them ten pounds, and said to them, ‘Do business with these until I come back.’

But the citizens of his country hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to rule over us.’ When he returned, having received royal power, he ordered these slaves, to whom he had given the money, to be summoned so that he might find out what they had gained by trading.

The first came forward and said, ‘Lord, your pound has made ten more pounds.’ He said to him, ‘Well done, good slave! Because you have been trustworthy in a very small thing, take charge of ten cities.’ Then the second came, saying, ‘Lord, your pound has made five pounds.’ He said to him, ‘And you, rule over five cities.’ Then the other came, saying, ‘Lord, here is your pound. I wrapped it up in a piece of cloth, for I was afraid of you, because you are a harsh man; you take what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.’

He said to him, ‘I will judge you by your own words, you wicked slave! You knew, did you, that I was a harsh man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow? Why then did you not put my money into the bank? Then when I returned, I could have collected it with interest.’ He said to the bystanders, ‘Take the pound from him and give it to the one who has ten pounds.’

(And they said to him, ‘Lord, he has ten pounds!’)‘ I tell you, to all those who have, more will be given; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. But as for these enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and slaughter them in my presence.’”

After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.

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)

Inspired by the Spirit

To everyone who has more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. Luke 19: 26

It seems that when a project is truly inspired by the Spirit, the fruits will far outweigh the effort we put into it, but if a project is something we are trying to bring about with our inadequate strength, the fruits will be minimal in spite of our efforts. So perhaps we could say this: to everything that flow with the Spirit, there will disproportionate growth; to all that does not truly flow from the Spirit, even the effort we can bring will come to nothing.

—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, each of us has been blessed with unique gifts. We have received just the right combination of talents to build your kingdom. It is through this divine synergy that we truly achieve our best self. Lord, help us to be faithful in uniting our hopes and aspirations with your Spirit. United with you we will persevere through obstacles and disappointments. We will experience unexpected joy, wonderful surprises, and cherished relationships.

—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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November 30, 2012

Feast of St. Andrew, Apostle

Matthew 4: 18-22

As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.”

Immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.

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 Word of Christ

We are called to reverence the Word of God by reading it with great care and attention. Sometimes great spiritual fruit can be brought from even a point of grammar. On today’s feast of St. Andrew the apostle, the Church offers us a first reading in which St. Paul speaks of the mission of an apostle to bring the Gospel to the world. He says, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

But how do we come to this faith that saves us? The role of the apostle is to spread the good news of faith in Jesus Christ: “Thus faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.”

But what is this word of Christ? Is it Christ’s word, that is, the same teaching that Jesus made while he was with the apostles: the Beatitudes, the Great Commandment, the Our Father, the parables? Or is Christ the word that is preached, so that Jesus himself is the content of this good news: that Jesus Christ is God’s own Son who died and rose from the dead that we might have life? From the point of view of grammar, even in the original language, it could be either. The ambiguity can’t be completely resolved, and in that ambiguity lies great richness, for it could just as well be both.

We are saved by the teaching of Christ, by his word, but Christ himself is the Word made flesh. What distinguishes Jesus Christ from every other teacher who teaches the truth is that he is himself the truth that he taught. His teaching was about himself as the way to salvation: “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” and “he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.” The apostles have handed on to us (in the apostolic succession that is the Church’s great treasure) the “word of Christ”: not only his teaching, but much more, Christ himself. As we prepare our souls for the coming of Christ during this season of Advent, let us seek to hear and be transformed by that word of Christ in all the richness of its meaning.

—Fr. Matthew Monnig, S.J.

Prayer

Lord, every day you whisper your call to us. Heighten our awareness to recognize your presence in the seemingly ordinary encounters of the day. In the chill of the approaching winter, let us be touched by the beauty of the stars and the moon and the falling snow. Let the Advent season be our time to really embrace the greatest gift– God with us.  Let this reality truly inspire and direct our relationships, our decisions, our greatest concerns, and the many common moments of our day.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team





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November 29, 2012

Luke 21: 20-28

When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. Then those in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those inside the city must leave it, and those out in the country must not enter it; for these are days of vengeance, as a fulfillment of all that is written.

Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress on the earth and wrath against this people; they will fall by the edge of the sword and be taken away as captives among all nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.

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 Majestic Mystery of God

John writes: I heard what sounded like the roar of a large crowd of people in heaven, saying “Praise God! Salvation, glory, and power belong to our God!” -Revelation 19:1

Job says of God, “We cannot understand the great things he does, and to his miracles there is no end. . . . I can’t believe he would listen to me.” (Job 9: 10, 16)

God is beyond all comprehension. The greatest blunder we can make is to try to reduce God to the level of human definition. Saint Augustine put it this way: “God is inexpressible. It is easier for us to say what God is not than what God is. . . . God is not at all what we have conceived God to be.”

With what kind of reverence and awe ought I place myself in God’s presence?
I sing the might power of God, that made the mountains rise;
That spread the flowing skies abroad, and built the lofty skies. —Isaac Watts (1715)

—Excerpted from Mission, by Fr. Mark Link, S.J. ©2000 RCL Enterprises, Inc., Allen TX. For more prayer resources from Fr. Link, please visit www.staygreat.com

Prayer

Lord, we pray that we do not fix our desires on health or sickness, wealth or poverty, success or failure, a long life or short one. For everything has the potential of calling forth in us a deeper response to our life in God.  Lord, our only desire and our one choice should be this: we want and we choose what better leads to the deepening of God’s life in us.

—  Adapted from St. Ignatius as paraphrased by David L. Fleming, S.J. from the beginning of the Spiritual Exercises





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November 28, 2012

Luke 21: 12-19

But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. This will give you an opportunity to testify. So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict.

You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls.

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)

Get Out of the Way

The Church has looked to the Society of Jesus for spiritual direction throughout the centuries.
Many people come to Jesuits seeking sound spiritual wisdom and insight into how God is
at work in their lives. I recall with gratitude my own Jesuit spiritual directors—men of God
attuned to the Spirit working in the lives of those who desire to follow Christ in an intentional
way. As a spiritual director myself now, I am humbled by the trust people place in our hands.
God’s love frees us from the sins, illusions, and un-freedoms that hold us back in our response to
Him. And it is a privileged grace to serve the Church as a Jesuit spiritual director.

I am also aware of the poverty of wisdom that I bring to these intimate conversations. In the
interest of ‘helping souls,’ I desire to have the right answer or response that will really deepen
people’s prayer lives, or shed new light on God’s love. It is easy for this response of generosity
to become a point of pride.

When I begin to head down this road toward self-importance, I am reminded of the need to entrust these spiritual conversations to God, first and foremost. For a spiritual director, faith entails a trust that God is in fact working in the life of his or her directee, and that the faithful directee will receive God’s needed, if challenging, perspective. And so I pray at the start of each direction session that I may recognize God at work and not get in the way with my own words or plan.

This is a freeing act of faith, because it reminds us that God can and will use us in helping others along the Christian path. God does not ask of us slick proofs or persuasive conversations to bring people closer to Him. Rather, as our Gospel reminds us, He will give us the wisdom to
speak, if we would only trust in Him.

As the great Catholic apologist St. John Henry Newman once wrote, “I do not want to be
converted by a smart syllogism; if I am asked to convert others by it, I say plainly I do not care
to overcome their reasons without touching their hearts.”

—Joseph Simmons, S.J.

Prayer

Lord, we turn over to you even our good intentions to serve you and others. Use our gifts this day
as you see fit, and free us from any pride that may interfere with your plan. Before we intervene with our insights and our recommendations, we will pause and ask for your Spirit to direct our thoughts, our hearts, and our actions.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team





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November 27, 2012

Luke 21: 5-11

When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said, “As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.” They asked him, “Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?”

And he said, “Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is near!’ Do not go after them. “When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately.”

Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.

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

God of Our Present; God of Our Future

The sense of immediacy that many early Christians felt about Christ’s second coming is evident in Paul’s Letters and the fervor of early martyrs. Each generation since then has lived with the hope that He will return soon, in a way that will draw the suffering, warring, sin and death to an end. Yet we know neither the hour nor the day of His return. So we are given Christ’s instructions for how to live in the world, seeking to transform it to reflect better the Kingdom of God.

For many Christians, especially the young and eager, impatience with the world as it is leads to anxiety, cynicism or doubt about Christ’s promises. What to make of all the war, famine, and suffering?  What sort of God would sit idly by, watching the world unravel before His eyes? “Enough of concerns about some life with God in the future. We need to fight and advocate for the rights and needs of people here!” The Kingdom of God can quickly turn into trying to build a kingdom here on earth.

In a famous letter to a disillusioned young activist, Thomas Merton wrote:

The great thing after all is to live, not to pour out your life in the service of a myth; and we turn the best things into myths. If you can get free from the domination of causes and just serve Christ’s truth, you will be able to do more and will be less crushed by the inevitable disappointments.

Because I see nothing whatever in sight but much disappointment, frustration, and confusion.  The real hope, then, is not in something we think we can do, but in God who is making something good out of it in some way we cannot see. If we can do His will, we will be helping in this process. 

To be clear, we Catholic Christians are called to corporal works of mercy, living our faith in concrete love of neighbor. But we must keep our eyes fixed on the hereafter, as Christ reminds us in today’s Gospel. Let the grace of today be to place into God’s hands whatever hopes, fears, or anxieties we hold today, trusting that He is laboring and bringing to completion His plan for salvation.

—Joseph Simmons, S.J.

Prayer

Lord, deepen our understanding of the insight of Thomas Merton: “The real hope, then, is not in something we think we can do, but in God who is making something good out of it in some way we cannot see. If we can do His will, we will be helping in this process.”

It is our desire, Lord, to strengthen our resolve to hope when darkness tries to triumph; it is our desire to persevere, to stay faithful to your call of discipleship. And should our dedication to people or to programs fall short of our efforts, we must remember that God will make “something good out of it in some way we cannot see.”

—The Jesuit Prayer Team





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November 26, 2012

Feast of St. John Berchmans, S.J.

Luke 21: 1-4

He looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasury; he also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. He said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on.”

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)

Little in Comparison

The story of the widow’s mite, which we hear in the Gospel of Luke today, always gives me a bit of pause. It is easier to come before God when we feel spiritually poor and humbled than when we are swimming in successes and worldly acceptance. How often do we turn to God in our hour of need, only to take Him for granted when things are going well?

And yet the story from Luke goes to a level deeper. Not only does the poor widow depend on the temple for spiritual succor and support, but she makes a total offering of her treasure in return.

The comfortable wealthy do the right external action – putting their offerings into the treasury – but Jesus does not find in them the internal disposition to give of their whole selves. And so their sizable offering means little in comparison.

Being poor in spirit entails a recognition of one’s dependence, and a willingness to hold nothing back. And this is a grace to pray for, especially in the face of rightfully gained (and even deserved) worldly success. “Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face,” the psalmist writes for today. Do I long to see God’s face, or am I wound up in trying to keep up good appearances, only giving from my excess?

—Joe Simmons, S.J.

Prayer

Lord, the poor widow is not embarrassed by her donation contrasted to the gift of the wealthy. She is not intimidated by the appearance of their greatness. Instead the widow drops her two coins into the treasury and gains a wondrous gift – your tender gratitude and affirmation.

Lord, like the widow, we want to live an authentic life so our choices reflect our gospel values and not the illusion of greatness too often portrayed in our world. Lord, we pray for a more generous heart. We desire to feel the sting of sacrifice and therein love more completely.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team





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November 25, 2012

Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe  

John 18: 33b-37

Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me.

What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

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)

Claim Him Your King

I heard it for the first time—as a Jesuit novice at the Cathedral of St. Paul — on the Solemnity of Christ the King. From the momentous first notes of the Kyrie, Mozart’s Coronation Mass strikes the senses as heralding something very special. Each movement begins with sharp thrusts from voices, strings, brass, percussion, and woodwinds alike. One cannot not be affected by the mass setting. Yes! I believe! Vivat Christus Rex! Today would be a good day to listen to this piece of sacred music, all the better if experienced in the Mass itself.

When the rush of beauty subsides, however, we are left wondering how to celebrate such a solemnity. Crowning Him ‘king’ seems like an anachronistic ritual to modern, western sensibilities. We do not elevate our elected leaders to such exaltation, nor do we entrust ourselves unreservedly to their protection. And does Christ not dismiss His disciples’ attempts to give Him earthly glory and recognition? How then are we to “crown Him with many crowns,” as the familiar hymn says?

A recently-ordained Jesuit priest was asked to preach on Christ the King last year to a group of high school students, and struggled to convey its importance and application for today. What he came to in prayer was surely of God, for it was simple, clear, and it cut to the heart of the matter: We crown Christ King every day that we live our life in faith, hope, and love for Him.

May the grace today be to claim Him our king in both Sacrament and by our Christian witness. Vivat Christus Rex!

—Joe Simmons, S.J.

Prayer

Lord, when we listen to your Spirit and rest in your love, we partake of your kingdom. We are awed by your majesty and humbled by your humanity. We bow to you, the King of the Universe; we look away as your crown of thorns streams with blood. We praise you as the supreme authority of time immortal; we remove our sandals as you wash your disciples’ feet.  You are Savior and Servant – our amazing God!

—The Jesuit Prayer Team





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November 24, 2012

St. Andrew Dung-Lac, S.J. and Vietnamese Jesuit martyrs

Luke 20: 27-40

Some Sadducees, those who say there is no resurrection, came to him and asked him a question, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no children, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother. Now there were seven brothers; the first married, and died childless; then the second and the third married her, and so in the same way all seven died childless. Finally the woman also died. In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be?

For the seven had married her.” Jesus said to them, “Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage; but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. Indeed they cannot die anymore, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection.

And the fact that the dead are raised Moses himself showed, in the story about the bush, where he speaks of the Lord as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.”

Then some of the scribes answered, “Teacher, you have spoken well.” For they no longer dared to ask him another question.

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)

Affirmation of Marriage

Today’s Gospel, in which Jesus affirms the truth of the resurrection in the face of the Sadducees’ denial, also offers us an opportunity to consider the reality of marriage, especially since most of you receiving these reflections are yourselves married. Marriage is, most basically, a humaninstitution ordained by God, common to men and women from all cultures, religions and historical periods. Jesus raised marriage to the dignity of a Christian sacrament, making it a sign of both God’s love for the human race and Jesus’ love for His Bride, the Church.

As a sacrament it is a special kind of sign, one that effects what it signifies. A sacramental marriage not only points to divine love, it also makes that love present in the world. Through a married couple’s self-sacrificing love, embodies in many different ways (including the marital embrace), God’s love breaks forth more tangibly into the world.

Marriage and the family are threatened today, especially in Western societies. Various ideologies and philosophies seek to trivialize or redefine them. New statistics drawn from the recent U.S. census indicate that the number of people choosing to live together and raise children without ever marrying is rapidly rising. Many young people, including Catholics, choose to cohabitate before marrying, even though evidence shows that cohabitation makes for less successful marriages.

Today we can thank God for the marriages we have entered into ourselves, as well as those of our families and friends. We can pray that God will protect and strengthen marriage and family. We can also ponder Jesus’ words about the relative value of marriage, since those risen from the dead “neither marry nor are given in marriage” (Luke 20: 35). Our most fundamental vocation is not the married, ordained or consecrated state. Our core calling, the one that never passes away, is that of Christian disciple and saint.

—Fr. Rob Kroll, S.J.

Prayer

Lord, where would we be without the relationships that mean so much to us? We place before you the hopes, the fears, the aspirations of those we love. Keep us always close to each other; do not let us drift into complacency or become misdirected by selfishness, ego, or the demands of the day. Help us to be faithful in the small acts of love — saying “Thank you,” or “How can I help,” or “I appreciate you.”  For in the constancy of love we glimpse your divine care and your eternal promise of life everlasting.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team





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November 23, 2012

Blessed Miguel Agustin Pro, S.J

Luke 19: 45-48

Then he entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling things there; and he said, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer’; but you have made it a den of robbers.” Every day he was teaching in the temple. The chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people kept looking for a way to kill him; but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people were spellbound by what they heard.

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 Emotional Experience

I am in the midst of writing a research paper on Thomas Aquinas’s treatise on the emotions found in the Summa Theologiae. Perhaps this explains why Jesus’ emotional response in the past two days has caught my attention. Yesterday Jesus wept over Jerusalem. Today Jesus drives out those who treat God’s house like a den of thieves, an incident recorded by all four evangelists. Even though Luke omits the details of overturned tables, spilled coins and a whip made of cords, Jesus is clearly angry. Sadness, anger, compassion, joy, fear: part of Jesus’ full humanity means that He felt the same emotions we do, and could express them appropriately.

While temperaments differ, emotions are such a significant dimension of human life. Psychologically healthy persons experience a wide range of emotions, and sometimes we feel numerous emotions in the course of a single day. Catholics do not embrace the Stoic philosophical belief that emotions are a “disease” to be suppressed because they undermine reason. We also avoid the other extreme, the tendency common to Romantic literature and art to exalt emotions above reason.

Experience shows that we usually regret giving emotions free reign over our actions. We should listen to our emotions and the wisdom they offer, yet our intelligence and freewill ought to shape and integrate our emotions, sometimes even rouse them, as when we stir into flame courage or love. Emotions can participate in our reason and have a moral dimension for humans absent in nonhuman animals.

We can also pray with our emotions, as Fr. Dennis Hamm, S.J. encourages when “rummaging through our day” by means of the Ignatian Examen. We might try this today: explore under the Holy Spirit’s inspiration the most intense emotion (whether “positive” or “negative”) I experienced in the last 24 hours. What insights—about me, the world, and God—come by pondering this emotional experience?

—Fr. Rob Kroll, S.J.

Prayer

Lord, under the Holy Spirit’s inspiration help me to reflect on the most intense emotions of my day. Is it possible my emotions reveal a need for more life balance, for more honest communication, for more agility in sidestepping negativity or a realization that you are beckoning me to rely more on you?  Lord, as you speak to me through the kaleidoscope of my emotions, let my feelings join with my reason to seek you more completely and live ever more sincerely and courageously for you,

 —The Jesuit Prayer Team





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November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving Day (USA)

Luke 17: 11-19

On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean.

Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”

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)

Two Graces

Today we celebrate the feast of Thanksgiving in the United States, a time to give thanks to God for the many material and spiritual blessings we have received. Today’s first reading from the Book of Sirach reads in part:

And now, bless the God of all, who has done wondrous things on earth.
May he grant you joy of heart, and may peace abide among you;
May his goodness toward us endure in Israel to deliver us all our days.

Time spent with loved ones on holidays has the potential to bring out the best and worst in us. Our parents, siblings, and extended family are the people who have formed us over the years. We owe them for much of who we are and what we believe. These same people know our weak spots, they know just how to ‘push our buttons,’ and they can irritate us more easily than any stranger or coworker. We are most easily loved and hurt by those closest to us.

Consider the people with whom you will spend Thanksgiving today. Are there petty quibbles, past hurts, or mistrust in your heart that stand in the way of greater charity and love? Do the usual dynamics of your family foster trust, care, and mutual support? Or do the old ruts lead to sniping, criticism, and unsolicited advice on how to live one another’s lives?

Now consider the gift that these same people are in your life. A mother who taught you how to cook and bake as a child. A father who wanted nothing more than to talk football with you as a son. A sister whom you can share anything with, or a brother who helped you through a tough period in your marriage. A daughter who made you a proud grandfather. A thoughtful son who always calls you on your birthday.

Recall now that time with loved ones is limited in this life. Ask God which aspects of your family dynamics— the negative or the positive?—God would like you to hold onto today. Do the goods not outweigh the petty slights and lack if charity that keep us from living and loving as God calls us to? Are there old grudges or unforgiven past mistakes that weigh on your heart?

Let us pray today for two graces: First, for the magnanimity to remember that, in God, patient love quenches pettiness and the urge to correct, control, and critique others’ lives. Second, for gratitude for the loved ones with whom we spend this feast, especially those hard to love as we should.

Joseph Simmons, S.J.

Thanksgiving Prayer

O God, when I have food,
help me to remember the hungry;
When I have work,
help me to remember the jobless;
When I have a home,
help me to remember those who have no home at all;
When I am without pain,
help me to remember those who suffer,
And remembering,
help me to destroy my complacency;
bestir my compassion,
and be concerned enough to help;
By word and deed,
Those who cry out for what we take for granted.

Samuel Pugh





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November 21, 2012

Feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Luke 19: 11-28

As they were listening to this, he went on to tell a parable, because he was near Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately. So he said, “A nobleman went to a distant country to get royal power for himself and then return. He summoned ten of his slaves, and gave them ten pounds, and said to them, ‘Do business with these until I come back.’

But the citizens of his country hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to rule over us.’ When he returned, having received royal power, he ordered these slaves, to whom he had given the money, to be summoned so that he might find out what they had gained by trading.

The first came forward and said, ‘Lord, your pound has made ten more pounds.’ He said to him, ‘Well done, good slave! Because you have been trustworthy in a very small thing, take charge of ten cities.’ Then the second came, saying, ‘Lord, your pound has made five pounds.’ He said to him, ‘And you, rule over five cities.’ Then the other came, saying, ‘Lord, here is your pound. I wrapped it up in a piece of cloth, for I was afraid of you, because you are a harsh man; you take what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.’

He said to him, ‘I will judge you by your own words, you wicked slave! You knew, did you, that I was a harsh man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow? Why then did you not put my money into the bank? Then when I returned, I could have collected it with interest.’ He said to the bystanders, ‘Take the pound from him and give it to the one who has ten pounds.’

(And they said to him, ‘Lord, he has ten pounds!’)‘ I tell you, to all those who have, more will be given; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. But as for these enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and slaughter them in my presence.’”

After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.

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)

Inspired by the Spirit

To everyone who has more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. Luke 19: 26

It seems that when a project is truly inspired by the Spirit, the fruits will far outweigh the effort we put into it, but if a project is something we are trying to bring about with our inadequate strength, the fruits will be minimal in spite of our efforts. So perhaps we could say this: to everything that flow with the Spirit, there will disproportionate growth; to all that does not truly flow from the Spirit, even the effort we can bring will come to nothing.

—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, each of us has been blessed with unique gifts. We have received just the right combination of talents to build your kingdom. It is through this divine synergy that we truly achieve our best self. Lord, help us to be faithful in uniting our hopes and aspirations with your Spirit. United with you we will persevere through obstacles and disappointments. We will experience unexpected joy, wonderful surprises, and cherished relationships.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team





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