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July 21, 2019

Gn 18: 1-10a

The Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day. He looked up and saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground. He said, “My lord, if I find favor with you, do not pass by your servant. Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. Let me bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on—since you have come to your servant.” 

So they said, “Do as you have said.” And Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah, and said, “Make ready quickly three measures of choice flour, knead it, and make cakes.” Abraham ran to the herd, and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to the servant, who hastened to prepare it.Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree while they ate.

They said to him, “Where is your wife Sarah?” And he said, “There, in the tent.” Then one said, “I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent entrance behind 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.

For others 

While teaching Hebrew Scriptures at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Chicago, this favorite passage reinforced what it means to be a Christian people, to be men and women for others.

The word ‘for’ serves as a function word, linking men and women to others. In its ambiguity, we may wonder what it means to be ‘for’ someone else…

Abraham rushed to the three strangers…and begged them to stay.

The root of hospitality is being hospitable, hosting others. From the simple, water to wash their feet, to the succulent, a tender and good calf, Abraham took good care of the strangers.

We note that Abraham does not wash the feet of the strangers nor does he eat with them. He simply does for them.

Out of their generosity, the promise found fulfillment: Sarah would bear a son!

How are we called to be for others today?

Fr. Mark Luedtke, SJ, has completed his term as president of Loyola High School in Detroit and will soon leave for his tertianship experience in Cape Town, South Africa

Prayer

Lord Jesus, help us hear your call to host others, the stranger, the marginalized, the neglected, with our very best selves and our very best portion. And, in doing our very best, open our hearts to all you have promised us – your love and your grace – for those are enough for me. Amen.

—Fr. Mark Luedtke, SJ


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July 20, 2019

Mt 12: 14-21

But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him. When Jesus became aware of this, he departed. Many crowds followed him, and he cured all of them, and he ordered them not to make him known. This was to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah: “Here is my servant, whom I have chosen, my beloved, with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles. He will not wrangle or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets. He will not break a bruised reed or quench a smoldering wick until he brings justice to victory. And in his name the Gentiles will hope.”

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.

Model of a servant leader

Some people exude moral force.  That is, they live such a transparently principled life that they inspire others to grow in virtue.

Often, though, these same people are so strident that they alienate their peers before they might inspire them, weakening the effect they might have on the world.

An antidote to this dilemma is to pray for the grace to become like the object of Isaiah’s servant song quoted in today’s Gospel.  The finest leaders that I know are cast in this mold.

The fulfillment and ultimate exemplar of the servant song is the person of Jesus.  Spending time with Jesus and asking for this grace that we seek can shape us into this model of servant leaders.

Paul Mitchell is a Jesuit educator who has stepped out of the classroom into full-time care of his two young sons. He is the author of Audacious Ignatius.

Prayer

Will you let me be your servant,
let me be as Christ to you;
Pray that I might have the grace
to let you be my servant too.

We are pilgrims on the journey,
we are travellers on the road;
We are here to help each other
walk the mile and bear the load

—Lyrics of The Servant Song, words by Richard Gilliard, © 1977 Scripture in Song


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July 19, 2019

Mt 12: 1-8

At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the sabbath; his disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. When the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the sabbath.” He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him or his companions to eat, but only for the priests. 

Or have you not read in the law that on the sabbath the priests in the temple break the sabbath and yet are guiltless? I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the sabbath.”

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.

Putting the Lord ahead of the law

Golf, football games, family dinners, and yard-work would all be prohibited on the Sabbath according to Jewish law. It seems Jesus frequently ran afoul of the Sabbath regulations, healing withered hands, curing the crippled and now, snacking on grain. Is it really unreasonable for the Pharisees to challenge him on these violations of the law? This one comes from the Ten Commandments after all.

I think Jesus is teaching the Pharisees and reminding us about priorities. Is it good to obey the laws? Yes. Is it good to attend to someone who is “greater than the temple?” Yes. Which is better? I hear the Lord of the Sabbath warning me again about false idols and inordinate attachments. Nothing, not even the best of laws, should displace Christ as the center of my life.

—Jerry Skoch is a Spiritual Director and Vice President & Chief Mission Officer at Saint Ignatius High School in Cleveland, OH.

Prayer

Dear Lord,
Help me to recognize your voice,
to see you in the people and daily miracles that surround me.
Amidst the daily swirl of tasks and commitments please stay as my center and core.

—Jerry Skoch


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July 18, 2019

Mt 11: 28-30

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

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.

Letting go of our burdens

In late May, the World Health Organization redefined burnout – as a syndrome of chronic stress at work. Yikes! In today’s Gospel, Jesus instructs us: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” In 2019, it’s easy to find yourself “burdened” – whether by work, your personal life, or another reason. Today, my question is simple: How often do you seek out Jesus as a source of comfort, rest, and refreshment when you feel weighed down? How can you begin to practice this so you “will find rest for your souls?”

—Mikayla Lofton is the Grants Program Manager for the Cristo Rey Network and was a Jesuit Volunteer in Atlanta (‘15-’16).

Prayer

More than ever I find myself in the hands of God.
This is what I have wanted all my life from my youth.
But now there is a difference;
the initiative is entirely with God.
It is indeed a profound spiritual experience
to know and feel myself so totally in God’s hands.

—Pedro Arrupe, SJ


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July 17, 2019

Ex 3: 1-6, 9-12

Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.” 

When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” He said further, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” 

And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.”

But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” He said, “I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.”

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.

Who am I to do this?

In late June, over 500 Jesuit educators from Canada and US gathered for a conference at Loyola University Chicago.  In his keynote address, Mike Gilson, SJ, challenged the group to acknowledge the power of fear… but not to let fear have the final word. 

But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”

There is the question for me: who am I that I should [fill in the blank] for God?  Moses’ fear is so refreshingly human. I ask his question every morning – recognizing my human frailty, selfishness, and well, normalness. 

“I will be with you”

Just as God called Moses, I find myself called to go forth – to speak up for the voiceless, stand up to oppressors, and reach out in love.  Like Moses, I ask God every day “who am I?” and everyday God responds “I will be with you.” We can find courage in God’s presence as we step out into the world.

Jen LaMaster is the Assistant Principal at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in Indianapolis, IN.

Prayer

God of my life,
I give you thanks and praise that I have life,
and that my life is filled with touches of your love. 

You have given me a heart that wants to be happy,
and You have placed in me a desire to make a difference.

Quiet the fears and distractions of my heart long enough
for me to listen to the movement of Your Spirit,
to hear your gentle invitation.

Reveal to me the choices that will make me happy.
Help me to discover my identity.

Let me understand how best to use the gifts
You have so lovingly lavished upon me
in preparation for our journey together.

And give me the courage to choose You
as You have chosen me.

Lord, let me know myself and let me know You.
In this is my happiness.  Amen.

—Augustinian Prayer for Discernment


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July 16, 2019

Mt 11: 20-24

Then he began to reproach the cities in which most of his deeds of power had been done, because they did not repent. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, on the day of judgment it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 

And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? No, you will be brought down to Hades. For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that on the day of judgment it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom than 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.

What sign are you waiting for?

How often do we say that we would make this or that big change in our lives, if only we had a clear sign from God? Often what that has meant for me is that it’s a change I already know I should make, but I am resisting. I wonder, in those moments, if a sign would really have been enough to move me to the action I knew I should take.

As we see in the Gospel, Jesus’ signs left many living the same lives as before. The problem wasn’t simply one of knowledge, or even faith. It was, and is for us, one of will.

Do we truly desire to follow Christ, to trust Christ, and is that desire greater than the fears and complacency that hold us back? Is there a sign great enough to move us outright, or must we first open ourselves to being moved?

Nick Courtney, SJ, is a Jesuit scholastic from the USA Central and Southern Province currently working at Strake Jesuit College Preparatory in Houston, TX, where he teaches history and coaches football.

Prayer

God, you created me with the innermost desire to know you and follow you. Help me to nurture that desire and to clear away the other desires and the fears that get in the way. Give me the strength to trust you and to act on that trust, especially when it is easier to avoid or put off the new things you wish to do in my life. Amen.

—Nick Courtney, SJ


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July 15, 2019

St. Bonaventure, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

Ex 1: 8-14, 22

Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. He said to his people, “Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and more powerful than we. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, or they will increase and, in the event of war, join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.” 

Therefore they set taskmasters over them to oppress them with forced labor. They built supply cities, Pithom and Rameses, for Pharaoh. But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread, so that the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites.The Egyptians became ruthless in imposing tasks on the Israelites, and made their lives bitter with hard service in mortar and brick and in every kind of field labor. They were ruthless in all the tasks that they imposed on them. 

Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, “Every boy that is born to the Hebrews you shall throw into the Nile, but you shall let every girl live.”

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.

Continuing to speak out against oppression 

Oppression, cruelty, and slavery marked Israel’s time in Egypt.  Sadly, oppression, cruelty, and slavery have marred the entirety of humanity’s time on Earth. 

In his 1982 commencement address at Santa Clara University, Fr. Ignacio Ellacuria, SJ, told the story of Salvadoran priest, Fr. José Simeon Cañas, who addressed the [Salvadoran] Constitutional Assembly in 1824, with these words: “I come crawling; and if I were dying, dying I would come to make a request for humanity. I beg before anything else that our slaves be declared free citizens. For this is the order of justice: that the deprived be restored to the possession of their goods, and there is no good more valuable than liberty… This nation has declared itself free; so, then, must all its people be free.”’

Fr. Cañas’ impassioned address helped to free Central American slaves 14 years before Georgetown University sold 272 slaves to secure its economic prosperity and 39 years before Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.  

Our faith calls us to prophetic, out-front action on behalf of oppressed peoples.  One does not need to sleuth for opportunities: caged refugees on the US southern border, environmental racism in our cities, and inequalities of our public schools beg for our attention.  Let us use our power and position for their benefit and for God’s greater glory.

Bill Kriege serves as the director of campus ministry at Rockhurst University in Kansas City, MO.

Prayer

Holy prophet José Simeon Cañas, pray for us.
Holy Martyr Rutilio Grande, SJ, pray for us.
Holy Martyr Oscar Romero, pray for us.
Holy Martyr Maura Clarke, MM, pray for us
Holy Martyr Jean Donovan, pray for us.
Holy Martyr Ita Ford, MM, pray for us
Holy Martyr Dorothy Kazel, OSU, pray for us
Holy Martyr Ignacio Martín-Baró, SJ, pray for us.
Holy Martyr Ignacio Ellacuría, SJ, pray for us.
Holy Martyr Amando López, SJ, pray for us.
Holy Martyr Joaquín López y López, SJ, pray for us.
Holy Martyr Segundo Montes, SJ, pray for us.
Holy Martyr Juan Ramón Moreno, SJ, pray for us.
Holy Martyr Elba Ramos, pray for us.
Holy Martyr Celina Ramos, pray for us.

—Salvadoran Prayer Litany adapted by Bill Kriege


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July 14, 2019

Lk 10: 25-37

Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.” 

But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.

But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ 

Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

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.

Responding to our neighbor

Sometimes even basic equations are tough to balance.

Love of God + Love of neighbor = Eternal life

All our heart, soul, strength, and mind? All our neighbors? Not there yet Lord…
Do we still qualify for eternal life?
God promises the answer is ‘yes’ if we do what is asked of us…
to love God and to love our neighbor…

Jesuit Gustavo Gutierrez reflected on the Spanish translations for neighbor – vecino (a person living nearby) and prójimo (our shared humanity) – to make a point about loving others.

The Good Samaritan encountered a person left for dead. The authentically human response in that or any moment was to love the other. He cared for someone he did not know because he saw himself in the other and could do nothing less. “Go and do likewise,” said Jesus.

How ready are we to respond likewise to the people we encounter today?

Fr. Mark Luedtke, SJ, completed his term as president of Loyola High School in Detroit and will soon leave for his tertianship experience in Cape Town, South Africa

Prayer

Lord Jesus, give me the courage to respond as you would respond, with love and compassion. Help me put my humanity into relationship with the humanity of others, to feel what they feel, to suffer what they suffer and, in being truly with them, to allow us together to find our way into life eternal – a life of love, total and complete love. Amen.

—Fr. Mark Luedtke, SJ


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July 13, 2019

Mt 10: 24-33

“A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household! “So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. 

Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows. 

“Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in 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.

Freed to step out into the future

Have you heard of The Sparrow, the science fiction story of a Jesuit on mission to another planet? The book is one of combinatory creativity. That is, a product of the author’s observation of the church and the world as well as her imagination of what could be.

How powerful is a creativity that employs both keen observation and vivid imagination!  The Spirit can use this to set the world on fire.

What keeps us from creating with a combinatory creativity? Likely, fear.

We are freed from fear and for this creativity when we internalize Gospel message today.  Deep peace comes from the knowledge that we are held tenderly by God and this peace frees us to co-create the future boldly.

Paul Mitchell is a Jesuit educator who has stepped out of the classroom into full-time care of his two young sons. He is the author of Audacious Ignatius.

Prayer

Loving God, you have created us and know us so intimately that you know every hair on our heads.  Free us from the fear that keeps us from accepting your invitation to co-labor in your field and be your hands in this world.  May we never let fear stop us from imagining and working toward a world that more closely resembles your heavenly kingdom. Amen.

—The Jesuit Prayer team


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July 12, 2019

Mt 10: 16-23

“See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles. 

When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all because of my name. 

But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly I tell you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

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.

Christianity isn’t always easy

This Gospel reminds me of a story a priest friend of mine once related. On vacation, on the beach, he was approached by some Christian evangelizers who were unaware of his vocation. They asked him if he had a personal relationship with Jesus Christ; his response? “Unfortunately, yes.” His wry comment reflects Jesus’ clear point that the Christian life is not an easy choice. Jesus is very clear that what his father values is radically different than what the world values.

We live in a broken world where goodness and faith are often unrewarded. Christ is warning his disciples and us that betrayal and pain are real, as real as Christ’s own Passion and death. The Resurrection, however, is a greater reality than the darkness of the world.

—Jerry Skoch is a Spiritual Director and Vice President & Chief Mission Officer at Saint Ignatius High School in Cleveland, OH.

Prayer

Dear Lord, I know that this pilgrimage has moments of suffering. Please give me the wisdom and courage to suffer for you and your kingdom rather than suffering as a result of my own sinful choices.

—Jerry Skoch


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July 21, 2019

Gn 18: 1-10a

The Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day. He looked up and saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground. He said, “My lord, if I find favor with you, do not pass by your servant. Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. Let me bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on—since you have come to your servant.” 

So they said, “Do as you have said.” And Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah, and said, “Make ready quickly three measures of choice flour, knead it, and make cakes.” Abraham ran to the herd, and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to the servant, who hastened to prepare it.Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree while they ate.

They said to him, “Where is your wife Sarah?” And he said, “There, in the tent.” Then one said, “I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent entrance behind 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.

For others 

While teaching Hebrew Scriptures at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Chicago, this favorite passage reinforced what it means to be a Christian people, to be men and women for others.

The word ‘for’ serves as a function word, linking men and women to others. In its ambiguity, we may wonder what it means to be ‘for’ someone else…

Abraham rushed to the three strangers…and begged them to stay.

The root of hospitality is being hospitable, hosting others. From the simple, water to wash their feet, to the succulent, a tender and good calf, Abraham took good care of the strangers.

We note that Abraham does not wash the feet of the strangers nor does he eat with them. He simply does for them.

Out of their generosity, the promise found fulfillment: Sarah would bear a son!

How are we called to be for others today?

Fr. Mark Luedtke, SJ, has completed his term as president of Loyola High School in Detroit and will soon leave for his tertianship experience in Cape Town, South Africa

Prayer

Lord Jesus, help us hear your call to host others, the stranger, the marginalized, the neglected, with our very best selves and our very best portion. And, in doing our very best, open our hearts to all you have promised us – your love and your grace – for those are enough for me. Amen.

—Fr. Mark Luedtke, SJ


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July 20, 2019

Mt 12: 14-21

But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him. When Jesus became aware of this, he departed. Many crowds followed him, and he cured all of them, and he ordered them not to make him known. This was to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah: “Here is my servant, whom I have chosen, my beloved, with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles. He will not wrangle or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets. He will not break a bruised reed or quench a smoldering wick until he brings justice to victory. And in his name the Gentiles will hope.”

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.

Model of a servant leader

Some people exude moral force.  That is, they live such a transparently principled life that they inspire others to grow in virtue.

Often, though, these same people are so strident that they alienate their peers before they might inspire them, weakening the effect they might have on the world.

An antidote to this dilemma is to pray for the grace to become like the object of Isaiah’s servant song quoted in today’s Gospel.  The finest leaders that I know are cast in this mold.

The fulfillment and ultimate exemplar of the servant song is the person of Jesus.  Spending time with Jesus and asking for this grace that we seek can shape us into this model of servant leaders.

Paul Mitchell is a Jesuit educator who has stepped out of the classroom into full-time care of his two young sons. He is the author of Audacious Ignatius.

Prayer

Will you let me be your servant,
let me be as Christ to you;
Pray that I might have the grace
to let you be my servant too.

We are pilgrims on the journey,
we are travellers on the road;
We are here to help each other
walk the mile and bear the load

—Lyrics of The Servant Song, words by Richard Gilliard, © 1977 Scripture in Song


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July 19, 2019

Mt 12: 1-8

At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the sabbath; his disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. When the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the sabbath.” He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him or his companions to eat, but only for the priests. 

Or have you not read in the law that on the sabbath the priests in the temple break the sabbath and yet are guiltless? I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the sabbath.”

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.

Putting the Lord ahead of the law

Golf, football games, family dinners, and yard-work would all be prohibited on the Sabbath according to Jewish law. It seems Jesus frequently ran afoul of the Sabbath regulations, healing withered hands, curing the crippled and now, snacking on grain. Is it really unreasonable for the Pharisees to challenge him on these violations of the law? This one comes from the Ten Commandments after all.

I think Jesus is teaching the Pharisees and reminding us about priorities. Is it good to obey the laws? Yes. Is it good to attend to someone who is “greater than the temple?” Yes. Which is better? I hear the Lord of the Sabbath warning me again about false idols and inordinate attachments. Nothing, not even the best of laws, should displace Christ as the center of my life.

—Jerry Skoch is a Spiritual Director and Vice President & Chief Mission Officer at Saint Ignatius High School in Cleveland, OH.

Prayer

Dear Lord,
Help me to recognize your voice,
to see you in the people and daily miracles that surround me.
Amidst the daily swirl of tasks and commitments please stay as my center and core.

—Jerry Skoch


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July 18, 2019

Mt 11: 28-30

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

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.

Letting go of our burdens

In late May, the World Health Organization redefined burnout – as a syndrome of chronic stress at work. Yikes! In today’s Gospel, Jesus instructs us: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” In 2019, it’s easy to find yourself “burdened” – whether by work, your personal life, or another reason. Today, my question is simple: How often do you seek out Jesus as a source of comfort, rest, and refreshment when you feel weighed down? How can you begin to practice this so you “will find rest for your souls?”

—Mikayla Lofton is the Grants Program Manager for the Cristo Rey Network and was a Jesuit Volunteer in Atlanta (‘15-’16).

Prayer

More than ever I find myself in the hands of God.
This is what I have wanted all my life from my youth.
But now there is a difference;
the initiative is entirely with God.
It is indeed a profound spiritual experience
to know and feel myself so totally in God’s hands.

—Pedro Arrupe, SJ


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July 17, 2019

Ex 3: 1-6, 9-12

Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.” 

When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” He said further, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” 

And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.”

But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” He said, “I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.”

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.

Who am I to do this?

In late June, over 500 Jesuit educators from Canada and US gathered for a conference at Loyola University Chicago.  In his keynote address, Mike Gilson, SJ, challenged the group to acknowledge the power of fear… but not to let fear have the final word. 

But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”

There is the question for me: who am I that I should [fill in the blank] for God?  Moses’ fear is so refreshingly human. I ask his question every morning – recognizing my human frailty, selfishness, and well, normalness. 

“I will be with you”

Just as God called Moses, I find myself called to go forth – to speak up for the voiceless, stand up to oppressors, and reach out in love.  Like Moses, I ask God every day “who am I?” and everyday God responds “I will be with you.” We can find courage in God’s presence as we step out into the world.

Jen LaMaster is the Assistant Principal at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in Indianapolis, IN.

Prayer

God of my life,
I give you thanks and praise that I have life,
and that my life is filled with touches of your love. 

You have given me a heart that wants to be happy,
and You have placed in me a desire to make a difference.

Quiet the fears and distractions of my heart long enough
for me to listen to the movement of Your Spirit,
to hear your gentle invitation.

Reveal to me the choices that will make me happy.
Help me to discover my identity.

Let me understand how best to use the gifts
You have so lovingly lavished upon me
in preparation for our journey together.

And give me the courage to choose You
as You have chosen me.

Lord, let me know myself and let me know You.
In this is my happiness.  Amen.

—Augustinian Prayer for Discernment


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July 16, 2019

Mt 11: 20-24

Then he began to reproach the cities in which most of his deeds of power had been done, because they did not repent. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, on the day of judgment it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 

And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? No, you will be brought down to Hades. For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that on the day of judgment it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom than 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.

What sign are you waiting for?

How often do we say that we would make this or that big change in our lives, if only we had a clear sign from God? Often what that has meant for me is that it’s a change I already know I should make, but I am resisting. I wonder, in those moments, if a sign would really have been enough to move me to the action I knew I should take.

As we see in the Gospel, Jesus’ signs left many living the same lives as before. The problem wasn’t simply one of knowledge, or even faith. It was, and is for us, one of will.

Do we truly desire to follow Christ, to trust Christ, and is that desire greater than the fears and complacency that hold us back? Is there a sign great enough to move us outright, or must we first open ourselves to being moved?

Nick Courtney, SJ, is a Jesuit scholastic from the USA Central and Southern Province currently working at Strake Jesuit College Preparatory in Houston, TX, where he teaches history and coaches football.

Prayer

God, you created me with the innermost desire to know you and follow you. Help me to nurture that desire and to clear away the other desires and the fears that get in the way. Give me the strength to trust you and to act on that trust, especially when it is easier to avoid or put off the new things you wish to do in my life. Amen.

—Nick Courtney, SJ


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July 15, 2019

St. Bonaventure, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

Ex 1: 8-14, 22

Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. He said to his people, “Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and more powerful than we. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, or they will increase and, in the event of war, join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.” 

Therefore they set taskmasters over them to oppress them with forced labor. They built supply cities, Pithom and Rameses, for Pharaoh. But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread, so that the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites.The Egyptians became ruthless in imposing tasks on the Israelites, and made their lives bitter with hard service in mortar and brick and in every kind of field labor. They were ruthless in all the tasks that they imposed on them. 

Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, “Every boy that is born to the Hebrews you shall throw into the Nile, but you shall let every girl live.”

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.

Continuing to speak out against oppression 

Oppression, cruelty, and slavery marked Israel’s time in Egypt.  Sadly, oppression, cruelty, and slavery have marred the entirety of humanity’s time on Earth. 

In his 1982 commencement address at Santa Clara University, Fr. Ignacio Ellacuria, SJ, told the story of Salvadoran priest, Fr. José Simeon Cañas, who addressed the [Salvadoran] Constitutional Assembly in 1824, with these words: “I come crawling; and if I were dying, dying I would come to make a request for humanity. I beg before anything else that our slaves be declared free citizens. For this is the order of justice: that the deprived be restored to the possession of their goods, and there is no good more valuable than liberty… This nation has declared itself free; so, then, must all its people be free.”’

Fr. Cañas’ impassioned address helped to free Central American slaves 14 years before Georgetown University sold 272 slaves to secure its economic prosperity and 39 years before Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.  

Our faith calls us to prophetic, out-front action on behalf of oppressed peoples.  One does not need to sleuth for opportunities: caged refugees on the US southern border, environmental racism in our cities, and inequalities of our public schools beg for our attention.  Let us use our power and position for their benefit and for God’s greater glory.

Bill Kriege serves as the director of campus ministry at Rockhurst University in Kansas City, MO.

Prayer

Holy prophet José Simeon Cañas, pray for us.
Holy Martyr Rutilio Grande, SJ, pray for us.
Holy Martyr Oscar Romero, pray for us.
Holy Martyr Maura Clarke, MM, pray for us
Holy Martyr Jean Donovan, pray for us.
Holy Martyr Ita Ford, MM, pray for us
Holy Martyr Dorothy Kazel, OSU, pray for us
Holy Martyr Ignacio Martín-Baró, SJ, pray for us.
Holy Martyr Ignacio Ellacuría, SJ, pray for us.
Holy Martyr Amando López, SJ, pray for us.
Holy Martyr Joaquín López y López, SJ, pray for us.
Holy Martyr Segundo Montes, SJ, pray for us.
Holy Martyr Juan Ramón Moreno, SJ, pray for us.
Holy Martyr Elba Ramos, pray for us.
Holy Martyr Celina Ramos, pray for us.

—Salvadoran Prayer Litany adapted by Bill Kriege


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July 14, 2019

Lk 10: 25-37

Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.” 

But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.

But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ 

Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

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.

Responding to our neighbor

Sometimes even basic equations are tough to balance.

Love of God + Love of neighbor = Eternal life

All our heart, soul, strength, and mind? All our neighbors? Not there yet Lord…
Do we still qualify for eternal life?
God promises the answer is ‘yes’ if we do what is asked of us…
to love God and to love our neighbor…

Jesuit Gustavo Gutierrez reflected on the Spanish translations for neighbor – vecino (a person living nearby) and prójimo (our shared humanity) – to make a point about loving others.

The Good Samaritan encountered a person left for dead. The authentically human response in that or any moment was to love the other. He cared for someone he did not know because he saw himself in the other and could do nothing less. “Go and do likewise,” said Jesus.

How ready are we to respond likewise to the people we encounter today?

Fr. Mark Luedtke, SJ, completed his term as president of Loyola High School in Detroit and will soon leave for his tertianship experience in Cape Town, South Africa

Prayer

Lord Jesus, give me the courage to respond as you would respond, with love and compassion. Help me put my humanity into relationship with the humanity of others, to feel what they feel, to suffer what they suffer and, in being truly with them, to allow us together to find our way into life eternal – a life of love, total and complete love. Amen.

—Fr. Mark Luedtke, SJ


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July 13, 2019

Mt 10: 24-33

“A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household! “So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. 

Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows. 

“Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in 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.

Freed to step out into the future

Have you heard of The Sparrow, the science fiction story of a Jesuit on mission to another planet? The book is one of combinatory creativity. That is, a product of the author’s observation of the church and the world as well as her imagination of what could be.

How powerful is a creativity that employs both keen observation and vivid imagination!  The Spirit can use this to set the world on fire.

What keeps us from creating with a combinatory creativity? Likely, fear.

We are freed from fear and for this creativity when we internalize Gospel message today.  Deep peace comes from the knowledge that we are held tenderly by God and this peace frees us to co-create the future boldly.

Paul Mitchell is a Jesuit educator who has stepped out of the classroom into full-time care of his two young sons. He is the author of Audacious Ignatius.

Prayer

Loving God, you have created us and know us so intimately that you know every hair on our heads.  Free us from the fear that keeps us from accepting your invitation to co-labor in your field and be your hands in this world.  May we never let fear stop us from imagining and working toward a world that more closely resembles your heavenly kingdom. Amen.

—The Jesuit Prayer team


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July 12, 2019

Mt 10: 16-23

“See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles. 

When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all because of my name. 

But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly I tell you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

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.

Christianity isn’t always easy

This Gospel reminds me of a story a priest friend of mine once related. On vacation, on the beach, he was approached by some Christian evangelizers who were unaware of his vocation. They asked him if he had a personal relationship with Jesus Christ; his response? “Unfortunately, yes.” His wry comment reflects Jesus’ clear point that the Christian life is not an easy choice. Jesus is very clear that what his father values is radically different than what the world values.

We live in a broken world where goodness and faith are often unrewarded. Christ is warning his disciples and us that betrayal and pain are real, as real as Christ’s own Passion and death. The Resurrection, however, is a greater reality than the darkness of the world.

—Jerry Skoch is a Spiritual Director and Vice President & Chief Mission Officer at Saint Ignatius High School in Cleveland, OH.

Prayer

Dear Lord, I know that this pilgrimage has moments of suffering. Please give me the wisdom and courage to suffer for you and your kingdom rather than suffering as a result of my own sinful choices.

—Jerry Skoch


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