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September 30, 2015

St.  Jerome

Lk 9: 57-62

As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom 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-translation

A Hard Row to Hoe

Today we honor St. Jerome (340­-420), the learned priest-monk and Doctor of the Church, for translating the Bible into Latin (the Vulgate). We also honor the fiery and intense scholar as the patron saint of people with difficult personalities.

Speaking of difficult personalities—Jesus certainly doesn’t make discipleship sound easy in our Gospel reading!

And that’s the point: God’s ways often are contrary to our human ways.

Following Jesus is not glorious or comfortable (the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head). In fact, it requires faith (let the spiritually dead bury the physically dead) and dedication (choose Jesus over even the best of human priorities).

Following Jesus requires us to put a hand to the plow and to keep our focus on the future. It may be a hard row to hoe, as the saying goes, but isn’t building the Kingdom of God worth it?

—Jeremy Langford is the director of communications for the Midwest Jesuits, founding editor of JesuitPrayer.Org, and author of Seeds of Faith: Practices to Grow a Healthy Spiritual Life ©2007 Paraclete Press, Brewster, MA.

Prayer

Lord, it’s easy to speak the words, “I want to follow you wherever you go.” But then when we are called upon to sacrifice, to take a risk, to go where we never anticipated, those words are far more difficult to utter. Though our path may be covered in thorns if we say “Yes” to you, we are confident that loyalty to you will bring us an inner security. We also trust that we will realize true success because you are always at our side ultimately leading us to a far better place.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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September 29, 2015

Feast of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel & Raphael

Jn 1: 47-51

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-translation

The Goal of the Christian Life Is Joy

As we witnessed during his U.S. visit, Pope Francis is a man of high spirits and good humor—he smiles, laughs and embraces people freely. In today’s Gospel we meet the apostle Nathanael, also someone with a great sense of humor. Before this passage, Nathanael had been told that Jesus came from the insignificant town of Nazareth, a hamlet of only 200 to 400 people.

His response? “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”

We often glaze over that sentence, but it is a real insult of Jesus’ hometown. And what did Jesus do in response? Does he condemn Nathanael? Does he refuse to speak to him? Not at all! In fact he praises him saying that there is no “duplicity” in him. It’s a reminder that Jesus not only tolerated good humor, but welcomed it. In fact, Nathanael was welcomed into the circle of the apostles.

As Pope Francis reminds us so often, the goal of the Christian life is not seriousness, but something else: joy.

—Fr. James Martin, SJ, is the author of our special series of reflections in honor of Pope Francis’ visit to the U.S. Fr. Martin is associate editor of America magazine; a frequent commentator in the media; and author of many books, including, most recently, Jesus: A Pilgrimage and his novel The Abbey.

Prayer

The joy of the gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With Christ joy is constantly born anew.

—Pope Francis


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September 28, 2015

Lk 9: 46-50

An argument arose among them as to which one of them was the greatest. But Jesus, aware of their inner thoughts, took a little child and put it by his side, and said to them, “Whoever welcomes this child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me; for the least among all of you is the greatest.” John answered, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.” But Jesus said to him, “Do not stop him; for whoever is not against you is for you.”

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

Servant Leadership

One of the hallmarks of Pope Francis’s papacy is the idea of “servant leadership.” He continually reminds us, through his words and his deeds that true leadership is about service. This is evident in particular in his Holy Thursday liturgies, where he takes care to wash the feet not only of ordained priests, as is often the custom; not only of men, as often is the custom; not only of Catholics, which is often the custom; but of all. He has washed the feet, for example, of Muslim women. The true leader is the servant of all.

In today’s Gospel, as Jesus places a child by his side, he reminds his disciples of the virtue of humility, simplicity and littleness. It’s not something that’s very popular today. It wasn’t popular among the disciples, either, who argued about who was the greatest. But littleness is a big part of the Christian life.

—Fr. James Martin, SJ, is the author of our special series of reflections in honor of Pope Francis’ visit to the U.S. Fr. Martin is associate editor of America magazine; a frequent commentator in the media; and author of many books, including, most recently, Jesus: A Pilgrimage and his novel The Abbey.

Prayer

The life of Jesus is a life for others. It is a life of service. So let me ask you: when you help others, do you look them in the eye? Do you embrace them without being afraid to touch them? Do you embrace them with tenderness? Think about this: how do you help? From a distance or with tenderness, with closeness?

—Pope Francis


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September 27, 2015

Mk 9: 38-43. 45. 47-48

John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us. For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.

“If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell, where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.

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-translation

Freedom in Jesus

One of the guiding principles of Ignatian spirituality is freedom. In his classic manual for prayer, the Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius Loyola asks us to free ourselves of “disordered attachments,” that is, anything that could keep us from responding to God’s will in our lives.

Pope Francis is probably one of the best examples of that kind of Ignatian freedom. He is a free man, as many of us can see. After his election as pope, he did not need to live in the grand Apostolic Palace, but preferred to move into a more modest hostel. He did away with the traditional red shoes of the pope. He feels free to spontaneously embrace people during his visits overseas, as he has done here in the United States.  He is free.

Today’s Gospel reminds us to remove anything that could prevent us from responding to God’s word. Jesus speaks with typical hyperbole, saying “If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.”

He’s not saying we should go around eyeless, but rather free.

As we bid farewell to the Pope today, let us pray for the courage to be freely who God dreams us to be.

—Fr. James Martin, SJ, is the author of our special series of reflections in honor of Pope Francis’ visit to the U.S. Fr. Martin is associate editor of America magazine; a frequent commentator in the media; and author of many books, including, most recently, Jesus: A Pilgrimage and his novel The Abbey.

Prayer

What does freedom mean? It is certainly not doing whatever you want, allowing yourself to be dominated by the passions, to pass from one experience to another without discernment, to follow the fashions of the day; freedom does not mean, so to speak, throwing everything that you don’t like out the window… Let us not be afraid of life commitments, commitments that take up and concern our entire life! In this way our life will be fruitful! So this is freedom: to have the courage to make decisions with generosity…. The more men and women are at the service of others, the greater their freedom.

—Pope Francis


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September 26, 2015

Sts. Cosmas and Damian

Lk 9: 43b-45

And all were astounded at the greatness of God. While everyone was amazed at all that he was doing, he said to his disciples, “Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into human hands.” But they did not understand this saying; its meaning was concealed from them, so that they could not perceive it. And they were afraid to ask him about this saying.

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-translation

Suffering with Jesus

Pope Francis often focuses his attention on those who sufferthe materially poor, migrants, refugees, the sick, the aged. It’s an antidote to the belief that Christianity is all about “pie in the sky after you die.” And it’s a response to the so-called “Prosperity gospel,” which says that if you believe in Jesus Christ you will not suffer. But the Pope, as he has recently, often reminds us that suffering is a part of our human existence.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus reminds the disciples that he himself will suffer. It was a hard message for them to hear. In general, they expected a Messiah who would be triumphant, particularly over the Roman authorities, not one who would suffer and die. In proclaiming his message he knew that he would come under attack, as the prophets did before him. Yet he was willing to undergo such attacks so that we might encounter God more deeply in our lives.

We do not have a God who does not understand our suffering. We have one who understands perfectly well, because he underwent it all himself.  Can this help you enter into a deeper relationship with God?

—Fr. James Martin, SJ, is the author of our special series of reflections in honor of Pope Francis’ visit to the U.S. Fr. Martin is associate editor of America magazine; a frequent commentator in the media; and author of many books, including, most recently, Jesus: A Pilgrimage and his novel The Abbey.

Prayer

Suffering is a call to conversion;
It reminds us of our frailty and vulnerability.

—Pope Francis


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September 25, 2015

Lk 9: 18-22

Once when Jesus was praying alone, with only the disciples near him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” They answered, “John the Baptist; but others, Elijah; and still others, that one of the ancient prophets has arisen.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “The Messiah of God.” He sternly ordered and commanded them not to tell anyone, saying, “The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”

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-translation

Coming to Know Jesus

A few months ago before the Pope’s visit to the United States, a journalist asked me, “What’s the Pope’s main message going to be during his visit? The economy or the environment?”

I think my answer surprised him. “His main message is going to be Jesus Christ.” The Pope’s recent encyclical, Laudato Si’, focused on the environment; he also has written and spoken at length about economic matters and other social justice issues.  But his main message is the Gospel. His main task is to proclaim the Gospel.  And to help people come to know Jesus.

In today’s Gospel Jesus asks the disciples if they understand his identity. You can hear their hesitation. They won’t say what they believe; instead, they talk about others’ beliefs. Finally Peter gives the correct answer: “Christ.”

It’s important for all of us to ask ourselves the question, even if we understand that Jesus is the Christ. Who is Jesus for me? And what difference will he make in my life?

—Fr. James Martin, SJ, is the author of our special series of reflections in honor of Pope Francis’ visit to the U.S. Fr. Martin is associate editor of America magazine; a frequent commentator in the media; and author of many books, including, most recently, Jesus: A Pilgrimage and his novel The Abbey.

Prayer

“Who is Jesus for me? Is he simply a name? an idea? A person from history? Or is he really someone who loves me, Who gave his life for me, and walks with me?” … “All that we have in this world will not satisfy our hunger for the infinite. We need Jesus; we need to remain with him, to nourish ourselves at his table, on his words of eternal life. When we are attached to Jesus, in a true relationship of faith and love, we are not bound, but rather, are profoundly free as we journey with him through life.”

—Pope Francis


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September 24, 2015

Lk 9: 7-9

Now Herod the ruler heard about all that had taken place, and he was perplexed, because it was said by some that John had been raised from the dead, by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the ancient prophets had arisen. Herod said, “John I beheaded; but who is this about whom I hear such things?” And he tried to see 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-translation

Mercy and Compassion

The message of Pope Francis’s pontificate has been mainly one of mercy and compassion, of understanding and forgiveness, and also of one directed towards caring for the poor and marginalized.

But not everyone is open to this message, and some of these insights, particularly around economic matters and environmental matters, can be threatening to people.

Nonetheless, even for those in opposition to these basic Christian truths, there is in all of us in innate desire to hear the word of God. We see that in our reading today. Even King Herod, one of the least palatable figures in the Gospels, wants to hear about John the Baptist. He is intrigued. In another Gospel passage we are told that Herod “liked to listen” to John the Baptist. So Herod is similar to many men and women of our time who feel drawn to the word of God, but also have a hard time accepting it.

It’s a reminder to treat each person, even people who might be opposed to the Christian message, with care.

—Fr. James Martin, SJ, is the author of our special series of reflections in honor of Pope Francis’ visit to the U.S. Fr. Martin is associate editor of America magazine; a frequent commentator in the media; and author of many books, including, most recently, Jesus: A Pilgrimage and his novel The Abbey.

Prayer

We are all sinners, but God heals us with an abundance of grace, mercy, and tenderness.
Let the Church always be a place of mercy and hope, where everyone is welcomed, loved, and forgiven.

—Pope Francis


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September 23, 2015

St. Pio of Pietrelcina

Lk 9: 1-6

Then Jesus called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. He said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money—not even an extra tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there, and leave from there.Wherever they do not welcome you, as you are leaving that town shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” They departed and went through the villages, bringing the good news and curing diseases everywhere.

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-translation

Traveling Lightly

Like Jesus’ original disciples, Pope Francis is traveling lightly through the United States. (Unlike the original disciples, the media is traveling with him!) And he has gotten a much better welcome than some of the disciples did. In fact, Jesus tells them in today’s Gospel not to expect to be greeted everywhere with joy. People aren’t always ready to hear the Good News proclaimed to them.

That’s true for us today.  People don’t always want to hear that they are called to love, show mercy, and forgive one another. So what do we do when people aren’t willing to listen? First of all, as Jesus says, it’s important not to waste time when our message falls on deaf ears. He says we should “shake the dust off  our feet” and move on. That doesn’t mean we aren’t open to the possibility that these same people may be open to the message in the future, however.

Move on, but come back when they might be ready later.

—Fr. James Martin, SJ, is the author of our special series of reflections in honor of Pope Francis’ visit to the U.S. Fr. Martin is associate editor of America magazine;a frequent commentator in the media; and author of many books, including, most recently, Jesus: A Pilgrimage and his novel The Abbey.

Prayer

Do not be afraid of holiness, do not be afraid to aim high,
to be loved and purified by God.
Do not be afraid to let yourself be guided by the Holy Spirit.

—Pope Francis


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September 22, 2015

Lk 8: 19-21

Then his mother and his brothers came to him, but they could not reach him because of the crowd. And he was told, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you.” But he said to them, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.”

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

Welcome, Pope Francis!

Even though Pope Francis has just arrived in our country to help celebrate the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia (with stops in Washington, DC, and New York), today’s Gospel reading is, believe it or not, somewhat critical of the family.

Jesus’ family, including his mother, have come all the way from Nazareth to Capernaum, a distance of some 40 miles, to see him. In another Gospel passage, they have come to “restrain him.” The clear implication is that they don’t agree with what he is doing, or are at least hoping for an explanation.

But when Jesus is told that they have arrived, he says that his mother and family are those who hear and put into practice the word of God. Jesus isn’t saying it’s not important to love our families. Rather, the most important relationship in our lives is with God. Nothing comes before that, and it trumps even family ties. So the main focus of the World Meeting of Families is not, in point of fact, the family—it’s God.

—Fr. James Martin, SJ, is the author of our special series of reflections in honor of Pope Francis’ visit to the U.S. Fr. Martin is associate editor of America magazine;a frequent commentator in the media; and author of many books, including, most recently, Jesus: A Pilgrimage and his novel The Abbey.

Pope Francis’ Five Finger Prayer

Using the fingers on your hand, start with the thumb and pray these intentions in this order:

1.) The thumb is closest finger to you. So start praying for those who are closest to you. They are the persons easiest to remember. To pray for our dear ones is a “Sweet Obligation.”

2.) The next finger is the index. Pray for those who teach you, instruct you and heal you. They need the support and wisdom to show direction to others. Always keep them in your prayers.

3.) The following finger is the tallest. It reminds us of our leaders, the governors and those who have authority. They need God’s guidance.

4.) The fourth finger is the ring finger. Even though it may surprise you, it is our weakest finger. It should remind us to pray for the weakest, the sick or those plagued by problems. They need your prayers.

5.) And finally we have our smallest finger, the smallest of all. Your pinkie should remind you to pray for yourself. When you are done praying for the other four groups, you will be able to see your own needs but in the proper perspective, and also you will be able to pray for your own needs in a better way.

Pope Francis


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September 21, 2015

St. Matthew, apostle

Mt 9: 9-13

As Jesus passed by, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post. He said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. While he was at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat with Jesus and his disciples. The Pharisees saw this and said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” He heard this and said, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, I desire mercy, not sacrifice. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”

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-translation

No, Not Me!

In one of his first interviews after being elected, Pope Francis said, “That finger of Jesus, pointing at Matthew. That’s me. I feel like him. Like Matthew. It is the gesture of Matthew that strikes me: he holds on to his money as if to say, ‘No, not me! No, this money is mine.’ Here, this is me, a sinner on whom the Lord has turned his gaze. And this is what I said when they asked me if I would accept my election as pontiff.”

No, not me, not again! I just got comfortable with your last invitation, Lord: to change, to move, to do more. Why can’t I just hold on to what I know and what I have become comfortable with?

With these words, thoughts and feelings, I am assuming that all depends on me and my efforts. I have to keep reminding myself to trust in the Lord and rely on his grace and love.

Give me your grace and your love, O Lord, in their greatest abundance, these will be enough for me!

—David McNulty works for the Midwest Jesuits. Dave and his wife Judy are grandparents of six.

Prayer

Take, Lord, receive my liberty, my memory, my entire will. You have given everything to me. To you I return it all. Give me only your love and your grace. With these I am rich enough and need nothing more.

—St. Ignatius of Loyola

Note: As an additional resource, you may enjoy a video reflection on Caravaggio’s painting, “The Calling of St. Matthew,” by Fr. Jim Grummer, SJ, General Councilor for the Society and Assistant ad providentiam serving at the Jesuit Curia in Rome.


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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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September 30, 2015

St.  Jerome

Lk 9: 57-62

As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom 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-translation

A Hard Row to Hoe

Today we honor St. Jerome (340­-420), the learned priest-monk and Doctor of the Church, for translating the Bible into Latin (the Vulgate). We also honor the fiery and intense scholar as the patron saint of people with difficult personalities.

Speaking of difficult personalities—Jesus certainly doesn’t make discipleship sound easy in our Gospel reading!

And that’s the point: God’s ways often are contrary to our human ways.

Following Jesus is not glorious or comfortable (the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head). In fact, it requires faith (let the spiritually dead bury the physically dead) and dedication (choose Jesus over even the best of human priorities).

Following Jesus requires us to put a hand to the plow and to keep our focus on the future. It may be a hard row to hoe, as the saying goes, but isn’t building the Kingdom of God worth it?

—Jeremy Langford is the director of communications for the Midwest Jesuits, founding editor of JesuitPrayer.Org, and author of Seeds of Faith: Practices to Grow a Healthy Spiritual Life ©2007 Paraclete Press, Brewster, MA.

Prayer

Lord, it’s easy to speak the words, “I want to follow you wherever you go.” But then when we are called upon to sacrifice, to take a risk, to go where we never anticipated, those words are far more difficult to utter. Though our path may be covered in thorns if we say “Yes” to you, we are confident that loyalty to you will bring us an inner security. We also trust that we will realize true success because you are always at our side ultimately leading us to a far better place.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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September 29, 2015

Feast of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel & Raphael

Jn 1: 47-51

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-translation

The Goal of the Christian Life Is Joy

As we witnessed during his U.S. visit, Pope Francis is a man of high spirits and good humor—he smiles, laughs and embraces people freely. In today’s Gospel we meet the apostle Nathanael, also someone with a great sense of humor. Before this passage, Nathanael had been told that Jesus came from the insignificant town of Nazareth, a hamlet of only 200 to 400 people.

His response? “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”

We often glaze over that sentence, but it is a real insult of Jesus’ hometown. And what did Jesus do in response? Does he condemn Nathanael? Does he refuse to speak to him? Not at all! In fact he praises him saying that there is no “duplicity” in him. It’s a reminder that Jesus not only tolerated good humor, but welcomed it. In fact, Nathanael was welcomed into the circle of the apostles.

As Pope Francis reminds us so often, the goal of the Christian life is not seriousness, but something else: joy.

—Fr. James Martin, SJ, is the author of our special series of reflections in honor of Pope Francis’ visit to the U.S. Fr. Martin is associate editor of America magazine; a frequent commentator in the media; and author of many books, including, most recently, Jesus: A Pilgrimage and his novel The Abbey.

Prayer

The joy of the gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With Christ joy is constantly born anew.

—Pope Francis


Please share the Good Word with your friends!

September 28, 2015

Lk 9: 46-50

An argument arose among them as to which one of them was the greatest. But Jesus, aware of their inner thoughts, took a little child and put it by his side, and said to them, “Whoever welcomes this child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me; for the least among all of you is the greatest.” John answered, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.” But Jesus said to him, “Do not stop him; for whoever is not against you is for you.”

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

Servant Leadership

One of the hallmarks of Pope Francis’s papacy is the idea of “servant leadership.” He continually reminds us, through his words and his deeds that true leadership is about service. This is evident in particular in his Holy Thursday liturgies, where he takes care to wash the feet not only of ordained priests, as is often the custom; not only of men, as often is the custom; not only of Catholics, which is often the custom; but of all. He has washed the feet, for example, of Muslim women. The true leader is the servant of all.

In today’s Gospel, as Jesus places a child by his side, he reminds his disciples of the virtue of humility, simplicity and littleness. It’s not something that’s very popular today. It wasn’t popular among the disciples, either, who argued about who was the greatest. But littleness is a big part of the Christian life.

—Fr. James Martin, SJ, is the author of our special series of reflections in honor of Pope Francis’ visit to the U.S. Fr. Martin is associate editor of America magazine; a frequent commentator in the media; and author of many books, including, most recently, Jesus: A Pilgrimage and his novel The Abbey.

Prayer

The life of Jesus is a life for others. It is a life of service. So let me ask you: when you help others, do you look them in the eye? Do you embrace them without being afraid to touch them? Do you embrace them with tenderness? Think about this: how do you help? From a distance or with tenderness, with closeness?

—Pope Francis


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September 27, 2015

Mk 9: 38-43. 45. 47-48

John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us. For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.

“If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell, where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.

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-translation

Freedom in Jesus

One of the guiding principles of Ignatian spirituality is freedom. In his classic manual for prayer, the Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius Loyola asks us to free ourselves of “disordered attachments,” that is, anything that could keep us from responding to God’s will in our lives.

Pope Francis is probably one of the best examples of that kind of Ignatian freedom. He is a free man, as many of us can see. After his election as pope, he did not need to live in the grand Apostolic Palace, but preferred to move into a more modest hostel. He did away with the traditional red shoes of the pope. He feels free to spontaneously embrace people during his visits overseas, as he has done here in the United States.  He is free.

Today’s Gospel reminds us to remove anything that could prevent us from responding to God’s word. Jesus speaks with typical hyperbole, saying “If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.”

He’s not saying we should go around eyeless, but rather free.

As we bid farewell to the Pope today, let us pray for the courage to be freely who God dreams us to be.

—Fr. James Martin, SJ, is the author of our special series of reflections in honor of Pope Francis’ visit to the U.S. Fr. Martin is associate editor of America magazine; a frequent commentator in the media; and author of many books, including, most recently, Jesus: A Pilgrimage and his novel The Abbey.

Prayer

What does freedom mean? It is certainly not doing whatever you want, allowing yourself to be dominated by the passions, to pass from one experience to another without discernment, to follow the fashions of the day; freedom does not mean, so to speak, throwing everything that you don’t like out the window… Let us not be afraid of life commitments, commitments that take up and concern our entire life! In this way our life will be fruitful! So this is freedom: to have the courage to make decisions with generosity…. The more men and women are at the service of others, the greater their freedom.

—Pope Francis


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September 26, 2015

Sts. Cosmas and Damian

Lk 9: 43b-45

And all were astounded at the greatness of God. While everyone was amazed at all that he was doing, he said to his disciples, “Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into human hands.” But they did not understand this saying; its meaning was concealed from them, so that they could not perceive it. And they were afraid to ask him about this saying.

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-translation

Suffering with Jesus

Pope Francis often focuses his attention on those who sufferthe materially poor, migrants, refugees, the sick, the aged. It’s an antidote to the belief that Christianity is all about “pie in the sky after you die.” And it’s a response to the so-called “Prosperity gospel,” which says that if you believe in Jesus Christ you will not suffer. But the Pope, as he has recently, often reminds us that suffering is a part of our human existence.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus reminds the disciples that he himself will suffer. It was a hard message for them to hear. In general, they expected a Messiah who would be triumphant, particularly over the Roman authorities, not one who would suffer and die. In proclaiming his message he knew that he would come under attack, as the prophets did before him. Yet he was willing to undergo such attacks so that we might encounter God more deeply in our lives.

We do not have a God who does not understand our suffering. We have one who understands perfectly well, because he underwent it all himself.  Can this help you enter into a deeper relationship with God?

—Fr. James Martin, SJ, is the author of our special series of reflections in honor of Pope Francis’ visit to the U.S. Fr. Martin is associate editor of America magazine; a frequent commentator in the media; and author of many books, including, most recently, Jesus: A Pilgrimage and his novel The Abbey.

Prayer

Suffering is a call to conversion;
It reminds us of our frailty and vulnerability.

—Pope Francis


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September 25, 2015

Lk 9: 18-22

Once when Jesus was praying alone, with only the disciples near him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” They answered, “John the Baptist; but others, Elijah; and still others, that one of the ancient prophets has arisen.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “The Messiah of God.” He sternly ordered and commanded them not to tell anyone, saying, “The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”

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-translation

Coming to Know Jesus

A few months ago before the Pope’s visit to the United States, a journalist asked me, “What’s the Pope’s main message going to be during his visit? The economy or the environment?”

I think my answer surprised him. “His main message is going to be Jesus Christ.” The Pope’s recent encyclical, Laudato Si’, focused on the environment; he also has written and spoken at length about economic matters and other social justice issues.  But his main message is the Gospel. His main task is to proclaim the Gospel.  And to help people come to know Jesus.

In today’s Gospel Jesus asks the disciples if they understand his identity. You can hear their hesitation. They won’t say what they believe; instead, they talk about others’ beliefs. Finally Peter gives the correct answer: “Christ.”

It’s important for all of us to ask ourselves the question, even if we understand that Jesus is the Christ. Who is Jesus for me? And what difference will he make in my life?

—Fr. James Martin, SJ, is the author of our special series of reflections in honor of Pope Francis’ visit to the U.S. Fr. Martin is associate editor of America magazine; a frequent commentator in the media; and author of many books, including, most recently, Jesus: A Pilgrimage and his novel The Abbey.

Prayer

“Who is Jesus for me? Is he simply a name? an idea? A person from history? Or is he really someone who loves me, Who gave his life for me, and walks with me?” … “All that we have in this world will not satisfy our hunger for the infinite. We need Jesus; we need to remain with him, to nourish ourselves at his table, on his words of eternal life. When we are attached to Jesus, in a true relationship of faith and love, we are not bound, but rather, are profoundly free as we journey with him through life.”

—Pope Francis


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September 24, 2015

Lk 9: 7-9

Now Herod the ruler heard about all that had taken place, and he was perplexed, because it was said by some that John had been raised from the dead, by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the ancient prophets had arisen. Herod said, “John I beheaded; but who is this about whom I hear such things?” And he tried to see 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-translation

Mercy and Compassion

The message of Pope Francis’s pontificate has been mainly one of mercy and compassion, of understanding and forgiveness, and also of one directed towards caring for the poor and marginalized.

But not everyone is open to this message, and some of these insights, particularly around economic matters and environmental matters, can be threatening to people.

Nonetheless, even for those in opposition to these basic Christian truths, there is in all of us in innate desire to hear the word of God. We see that in our reading today. Even King Herod, one of the least palatable figures in the Gospels, wants to hear about John the Baptist. He is intrigued. In another Gospel passage we are told that Herod “liked to listen” to John the Baptist. So Herod is similar to many men and women of our time who feel drawn to the word of God, but also have a hard time accepting it.

It’s a reminder to treat each person, even people who might be opposed to the Christian message, with care.

—Fr. James Martin, SJ, is the author of our special series of reflections in honor of Pope Francis’ visit to the U.S. Fr. Martin is associate editor of America magazine; a frequent commentator in the media; and author of many books, including, most recently, Jesus: A Pilgrimage and his novel The Abbey.

Prayer

We are all sinners, but God heals us with an abundance of grace, mercy, and tenderness.
Let the Church always be a place of mercy and hope, where everyone is welcomed, loved, and forgiven.

—Pope Francis


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September 23, 2015

St. Pio of Pietrelcina

Lk 9: 1-6

Then Jesus called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. He said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money—not even an extra tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there, and leave from there.Wherever they do not welcome you, as you are leaving that town shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” They departed and went through the villages, bringing the good news and curing diseases everywhere.

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-translation

Traveling Lightly

Like Jesus’ original disciples, Pope Francis is traveling lightly through the United States. (Unlike the original disciples, the media is traveling with him!) And he has gotten a much better welcome than some of the disciples did. In fact, Jesus tells them in today’s Gospel not to expect to be greeted everywhere with joy. People aren’t always ready to hear the Good News proclaimed to them.

That’s true for us today.  People don’t always want to hear that they are called to love, show mercy, and forgive one another. So what do we do when people aren’t willing to listen? First of all, as Jesus says, it’s important not to waste time when our message falls on deaf ears. He says we should “shake the dust off  our feet” and move on. That doesn’t mean we aren’t open to the possibility that these same people may be open to the message in the future, however.

Move on, but come back when they might be ready later.

—Fr. James Martin, SJ, is the author of our special series of reflections in honor of Pope Francis’ visit to the U.S. Fr. Martin is associate editor of America magazine;a frequent commentator in the media; and author of many books, including, most recently, Jesus: A Pilgrimage and his novel The Abbey.

Prayer

Do not be afraid of holiness, do not be afraid to aim high,
to be loved and purified by God.
Do not be afraid to let yourself be guided by the Holy Spirit.

—Pope Francis


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September 22, 2015

Lk 8: 19-21

Then his mother and his brothers came to him, but they could not reach him because of the crowd. And he was told, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you.” But he said to them, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.”

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

Welcome, Pope Francis!

Even though Pope Francis has just arrived in our country to help celebrate the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia (with stops in Washington, DC, and New York), today’s Gospel reading is, believe it or not, somewhat critical of the family.

Jesus’ family, including his mother, have come all the way from Nazareth to Capernaum, a distance of some 40 miles, to see him. In another Gospel passage, they have come to “restrain him.” The clear implication is that they don’t agree with what he is doing, or are at least hoping for an explanation.

But when Jesus is told that they have arrived, he says that his mother and family are those who hear and put into practice the word of God. Jesus isn’t saying it’s not important to love our families. Rather, the most important relationship in our lives is with God. Nothing comes before that, and it trumps even family ties. So the main focus of the World Meeting of Families is not, in point of fact, the family—it’s God.

—Fr. James Martin, SJ, is the author of our special series of reflections in honor of Pope Francis’ visit to the U.S. Fr. Martin is associate editor of America magazine;a frequent commentator in the media; and author of many books, including, most recently, Jesus: A Pilgrimage and his novel The Abbey.

Pope Francis’ Five Finger Prayer

Using the fingers on your hand, start with the thumb and pray these intentions in this order:

1.) The thumb is closest finger to you. So start praying for those who are closest to you. They are the persons easiest to remember. To pray for our dear ones is a “Sweet Obligation.”

2.) The next finger is the index. Pray for those who teach you, instruct you and heal you. They need the support and wisdom to show direction to others. Always keep them in your prayers.

3.) The following finger is the tallest. It reminds us of our leaders, the governors and those who have authority. They need God’s guidance.

4.) The fourth finger is the ring finger. Even though it may surprise you, it is our weakest finger. It should remind us to pray for the weakest, the sick or those plagued by problems. They need your prayers.

5.) And finally we have our smallest finger, the smallest of all. Your pinkie should remind you to pray for yourself. When you are done praying for the other four groups, you will be able to see your own needs but in the proper perspective, and also you will be able to pray for your own needs in a better way.

Pope Francis


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September 21, 2015

St. Matthew, apostle

Mt 9: 9-13

As Jesus passed by, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post. He said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. While he was at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat with Jesus and his disciples. The Pharisees saw this and said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” He heard this and said, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, I desire mercy, not sacrifice. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”

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-translation

No, Not Me!

In one of his first interviews after being elected, Pope Francis said, “That finger of Jesus, pointing at Matthew. That’s me. I feel like him. Like Matthew. It is the gesture of Matthew that strikes me: he holds on to his money as if to say, ‘No, not me! No, this money is mine.’ Here, this is me, a sinner on whom the Lord has turned his gaze. And this is what I said when they asked me if I would accept my election as pontiff.”

No, not me, not again! I just got comfortable with your last invitation, Lord: to change, to move, to do more. Why can’t I just hold on to what I know and what I have become comfortable with?

With these words, thoughts and feelings, I am assuming that all depends on me and my efforts. I have to keep reminding myself to trust in the Lord and rely on his grace and love.

Give me your grace and your love, O Lord, in their greatest abundance, these will be enough for me!

—David McNulty works for the Midwest Jesuits. Dave and his wife Judy are grandparents of six.

Prayer

Take, Lord, receive my liberty, my memory, my entire will. You have given everything to me. To you I return it all. Give me only your love and your grace. With these I am rich enough and need nothing more.

—St. Ignatius of Loyola

Note: As an additional resource, you may enjoy a video reflection on Caravaggio’s painting, “The Calling of St. Matthew,” by Fr. Jim Grummer, SJ, General Councilor for the Society and Assistant ad providentiam serving at the Jesuit Curia in Rome.


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