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April 30, 2020

Jn 6: 44-51

No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. 

Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

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.

Feeding our brothers and sisters

I just made shortbread. Social media features friends with sourdough starters. We lament the loss of Eucharist.

Food banks have longer lines but less food without donations from closed restaurants and overrun grocery stores.

The World Food Program estimates the number of people facing acute food shortages will double to 265 million by the end of the year as a result of the coronavirus.

So much of Jesus’ ministry is about feeding people – dining with tax collectors, breaking bread at the Last Supper, cooking the disciples breakfast on the seashore. Before the multiplication of the loaves, Jesus looks to the disciples and says, “Give them some food yourselves.”

With Jesus, there is enough for everyone. 

How is Jesus calling me to be the bread of life for others in a spiritual sense? How is he calling me to share my literal bread (food, talent, treasure) to feed people in this pandemic?

Lauren Hackman-Brooks serves on the Board of Directors at Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House and is the Associate Director of Mission and Ministry at Gonzaga University.

Prayer

Bread of life, hope of the world,
Jesus Christ, our brother:
feed us now, give us life,
lead us to one another.

—From “Bread of Life” by Bernadette Farrell, © 1982, 1987.  Published by OCP.


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April 29, 2020


St. Catherine of Siena 

Acts 8: 1B-8

And Saul approved of their killing him. That day a severe persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout the countryside of Judea and Samaria. Devout men buried Stephen and made loud lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church by entering house after house; dragging off both men and women, he committed them to prison.

Now those who were scattered went from place to place, proclaiming the word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah to them. The crowds with one accord listened eagerly to what was said by Philip, hearing and seeing the signs that he did, for unclean spirits, crying with loud shrieks, came out of many who were possessed; and many others who were paralyzed or lame were cured. So there was great joy in that city.

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 God’s call 

Jesus spreads the word, shedding his light.  Later the same proclamations and works result in his self-sacrifice on the cross, allowing us to be born to eternal life.  Not my will but yours be done. 

Now the apostles, set alight by Jesus, spread the word and set others alight with his message.  Following God’s will, not their own, their acts result in persecution and death but also give the hope of resurrection.  Their self-sacrifice helped others achieve salvation.

We are, in turn, called to be set alight, to spread the word and light up Christ in others, setting aside our will while responding to God’s, withstanding persecution, evangelizing, working toward redemption.  Do I ignore God’s call to follow truth to eternal salvation?  Am I a facilitator for the journey to redemption for others?  Or do I ignore his call by imposing my will for self-preservation, hindering my own path, being a roadblock?

—Mariette P. Baxendale, Ph.D., is the Science Department chair, member of the Ignatian Charism Committee and Active Proponent of Mission and Identity in the Classroom at De Smet Jesuit High School, St. Louis.

Prayer

Lord, set me alight with the fire of Your love.  Steel me against temptation and my human tendency to place my will above Yours.  Remove my protective shell of weakness and fear and expose my heart so that I may receive You and give You.  Guide me to be your conduit to make a way or clear the path for others to reach salvation.  Amen

—Mariette P. Baxendale


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April 28, 2020

St. Peter Chanel

Acts 7:51-8:1a

”You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you are forever opposing the Holy Spirit, just as your ancestors used to do. Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute? They killed those who foretold the coming of the Righteous One, and now you have become his betrayers and murderers. You are the ones that received the law as ordained by angels, and yet you have not kept it.”

When they heard these things, they became enraged and ground their teeth at Stephen. But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. 

Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he died.

And Saul approved of their killing him. That day a severe persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout the countryside of Judea and Samaria.

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.

Making the most of our time

The philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche – of “God is dead” fame – once commented that martyrs are likely surprised not by death’s lack of pain but by pain in a place they did not expect it.  For saints like Stephen of the 1st century and Peter Chanel of the 19th, I imagine their greatest suffering came in the thought of leaving a world in which so much remained to be done.  Little has changed in the intervening centuries; Stephen’s words – “you stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears” – apply as much to us as to the listeners of his time!  In myriad ways our hearts remain hardened and our ears stopped to Jesus’ insistent call to “justice, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rm 14:17).  Are we making the most of our limited time on Earth? 

—Erin Kast, SJ, is a Jesuit scholastic of the Midwest Province studying philosophy at Loyola University Chicago.

Prayer

Practice: This week look for little ways to overcome the selfishness, resentment, and indifference that continues to leave us “uncircumcised in hearts and ears.”

Prayer: Lord Jesus, in martyrs like Stephen and Peter Chanel you give us examples of a life lived entirely for you.  Encourage us by their example to do whatever we can to build a kingdom where justice, peace, and joy reign in the minds and hearts of all.

—Erin Kast, SJ


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April 27, 2020

St. Peter Canisius, SJ

Jn 6: 22-29 

The next day the crowd that had stayed on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there. They also saw that Jesus had not got into the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. Then some boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus. When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?”

Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.”

Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

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.

A deep hunger

With the end of the school year and graduation ceremonies (in some format) just around the corner, students at all levels of education likely desire to get onto “what’s next.” They are eager to assimilate to something new, something that marks their growth and demonstrates their readiness. One could assert that they are “hungry.” Whether they are hungry for success, a job, a fresh start with new classmates, or something else, and they are growing hungrier by the day!  

Just like our students, as we thirst for this food. Perhaps you’re like me and you’ve grown tired of our dormant state, our working remotely, and our needing to ‘wait.’ Our desire to make up for lost time of the last few months is making us hungry. Just like the graduating student, we also must remind ourselves that we shall not yearn for the “food that will perish.’” Rather, we must work “for the food that endures for eternal life.” We hunger for something more meaningful, more nurturing, more enriching.  

Where can we find this sustenance? Where can we become full? We need to go find our teacher. Yes, that teacher. I have a feeling he has a really good idea of how we can be nourished and satisfied once and for all.   

Let’s go find him.  

—Patrick Kennedy, is a Major Gift Officer for the Midwest Jesuits, holds a Masters degree from the  McGrath Institute for Jesuit Catholic Education at the University of San Francisco.

Prayer

You do not live by bread alone,
but by every word
That proceeds from the mouth of God
Allelu, allelulia!

—Excerpt of “Seek Ye First” by Karen Lafferty, © 1972 CCCM Mucis


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April 26, 2020

Third Sunday of Easter

Lk 24: 13-35

Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” 

They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. 

Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.” 

Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures. As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 

But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” 

That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

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.

Recognizing the presence of Christ

This beautiful story of the disciples of Emmaus is the story of our own faith. Despite the words of the prophets, the testimony of the women, even Jesus himself who “drew near and walked with them,” the disciples were trapped in disillusionment. They had hoped that Jesus “would be the one to redeem Israel,” but nothing turned out as they expected. As they listen to the words of the stranger who joins them unexpectedly, they urge him to stay, “for it is nearly evening.” And when he “took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them,” their eyes were opened and their hope brought back to life. 

How often in our own journey of faith do we lose hope, close our hearts and our eyes to the hidden presence of Christ our King. In this Eastertide, may the breaking of the bread and the contemplation of Scripture renew our hope and ignite our faith.

Fr. Christopher J. Viscardi, SJ, is a Jesuit of the Central and Southern Province teaching theology at Spring Hill College in Mobile, AL.

Prayer

Above all, trust in the slow work of God
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay… 

Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you, and accept the anxiety
of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.

—Excerpt of “Patient Trust” by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ


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April 25, 2020

St. Mark

1 Pt 5: 5b-14

In the same way, you who are younger must accept the authority of the elders. And all of you must clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another, for

‘God opposes the proud,

   but gives grace to the humble.’

Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. Discipline yourselves; keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters throughout the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering. 

And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.

Through Silvanus, whom I consider a faithful brother, I have written this short letter to encourage you, and to testify that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it. Your sister church in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you greetings; and so does my son Mark. Greet one another with a kiss of love.

Peace to all of you who are in Christ.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.

Clothed in humility

Today’s reading hits a bit too close to home. It seems that the Enemy is “prowling around” on every continent affected by the pandemic. The world yearns for God to “restore, support, strengthen, and establish” us.

Why does Peter write of humility? I wrote my undergraduate thesis on this virtue, concluding that humility is the intersection of knowledge of God and knowledge of self, an acceptance of the truth that “God is before me.” Is this not what we are being asked to discover now? That we truly possess nothing, that everything is a gift.

As many aspects of our lives are surrendered to protect the vulnerable, we realize our innate poverty and God’s innate goodness in sustaining our very lives. May we “clothe ourselves in humility” that acknowledges our dependence on God and our responsibility for one another – so that we may experience the peace of living in Christ.

Rachel Forton is the Marketing Coordinator for Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House in Barrington, IL. 

Prayer

Dear Lord, the Great Healer, I kneel before You,
Since every perfect gift must come from You.
I pray, give skill to my hands, clear vision to my mind, kindness and meekness to my heart.
Give me singleness of purpose, strength to lift up a part of the burden of my suffering fellow men, and a true realization of the privilege that is mine.
Take from my heart all guile and worldliness,
That with the simple faith of a child, I may rely on You.

Prayer of the Missionaries of Charity before Leaving for Apostolate


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April 24, 2020

Jn 6: 1-15

After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” 

One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. 

When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.”

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

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.

Love is shown in humility

As a child I remember having elbow macaroni and whole kernel corn for supper and wondering to myself why anyone would think this was a good meal? At the time I assumed my parents liked it. It didn’t dawn on me that they were trying to feed the dozen of us around the table while still making ends meet. 

Today’s Gospel witnesses the bounty of fish and bread that is produced when Jesus blesses what the people have, and the crowd’s amazement leads them to want him as their king. Jesus as Messiah, however, was not sent to gain earthly prestige and power as the crowd imagined.

Just as that supper puzzled me, so Jesus puzzled others with his humble, suffering life. Why would anyone think macaroni and corn was a good supper? Or, choose humility and suffering? With time, however, the love of each choice is realized and celebrated. 

Fr. Chris Manahan, SJ, is director of the Jesuit Retreat House on Lake Winnebago, near Oshkosh, WI.

Prayer

Jesus, I do not know who I will meet today, what situations I will face today, where I will go today, when I will need you today, or why you have placed me where I am today. But with you by my side I am blessed, and what I have will be more than enough to meet your call, others’ needs, and my deepest desires.

—Fr. Chris Manahan, SJ


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April 23, 2020

St. George

Acts 5: 27-33

When they had brought them, they had them stand before the council. The high priest questioned them, saying, “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you are determined to bring this man’s blood on us.” 

But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than any human authority. The God of our ancestors raised up Jesus, whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior that he might give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.” 

When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them.

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.

Witness to hope in uncertain times

“In these uncertain times…”

How many times have I written those words in the past month? Dozens. In emails to colleagues and students, in my prayer journal, in this very reflection. I have so many questions. So much is unknown.

For how long will we shelter in place?

For how long will we be physically distanced?

How many will lose their jobs?

How many will lose their lives?.

In this context of pandemic and crisis, the certainty of the Apostles in today’s first reading is all the more striking. Peter and the others are so sure of their calling, so sure that God was with them in Jesus and that God continues to be with them in the Holy Spirit.

In these uncertain times, how is God calling me to witness the joy and hope of the Resurrection? 

Lauren Hackman-Brooks serves on the Board of Directors at Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House and is the Associate Director of Mission and Ministry at Gonzaga University.

Prayer

Good and gracious God, you raised Jesus to new life and sent your Holy Spirit to be with us. Fill us with the faith and conviction of the early Apostles so that we, too, might witness the Resurrection in our uncertain times. We ask this in your most Holy Name, amen.  

—Lauren Hackman-Brooks


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April 22, 2020

Blessed Virgin Mary, mother of the Society of Jesus

Jn 3: 16-21

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 

And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in 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.

God opens the door to salvation

Picture a child who strayed to the deep end, struggling to keep his head above water and in danger of going under.  At this moment, does a loving parent call out what the child is doing wrong or dive in to fish him out?  The Gospel tells us that God sent Jesus to bring us to safety.  Out of his great love, God sent his only Son, the Lamb of God, to remove the weight of sin and open the door to salvation.  Thank you, God!  Hope in the Resurrection!  But hope is not a strategy.  We are called to believe in the Word made flesh, walk in his light, live in truth and join him in eternal life.  

Do we believe? Is our belief evident in our works?  The incarnation of Christ happens every Mass through the consecration.  Do we let his light, his truth, his love live through us?

—Mariette P. Baxendale, Ph.D., is the Science Department chair, member of the Ignatian Charism Committee and Active Proponent of Mission and Identity in the Classroom at De Smet Jesuit High School, St. Louis.

Prayer

Soul of Christ, sanctify me.
Body of Christ, save me.
Blood of Christ, inebriate me.
Water from the side of Christ, wash me.
Passion of Christ, strengthen me.
O good Jesus, hear me.
Within your wounds, hide me.
Do not allow me to be separated from you.
From the malevolent enemy defend me.
In the hour of my death call me,
And bid me come to you,
That with your saints I may praise you
Forever and ever.
Amen

—Anima Christi


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April 21, 2020

St. Anselm

Acts 4: 32-37

Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. 

There was a Levite, a native of Cyprus, Joseph, to whom the apostles gave the name Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”). He sold a field that belonged to him, then brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

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.

Making Earth more like heaven

In the Gospel today Jesus chides Nicodemus: “If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things” (Jn 3:12)?  Well, what St. Luke describes in our first reading certainly sounds more heavenly than earthly! We’re told that all “those who believed were of one heart and soul…[and] everything they owned was held in common” (Acts 4:32).  Is this even possible? It seems like a longshot on Earth, but really it’s a snapshot of heaven. St. Anselm – whom we celebrate today – wrote a famous treatise entitled Why God Became Human in which he attempts to justify the Incarnation.  Perhaps in today’s reading St. Luke has given his own justification: so that by the Word’s coming to Earth, the Church on Earth might learn how to become “as it is in heaven.”

—Erin Kast, SJ, is a Jesuit scholastic of the Midwest Province studying philosophy at Loyola University Chicago.

Prayer

Practice: This week, take time to think of some way of sharing God’s gifts to you with your Church, work, or broader community and commit to acting on your conclusions before the Easter season is over.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, in your life and that of the first disciples you have given us an image of what the Kingdom could look like.  Grant us the grace this year to help you bring that Kingdom one step closer to Earth.

—Erin Kast, SJ


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April 30, 2020

Jn 6: 44-51

No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. 

Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

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.

Feeding our brothers and sisters

I just made shortbread. Social media features friends with sourdough starters. We lament the loss of Eucharist.

Food banks have longer lines but less food without donations from closed restaurants and overrun grocery stores.

The World Food Program estimates the number of people facing acute food shortages will double to 265 million by the end of the year as a result of the coronavirus.

So much of Jesus’ ministry is about feeding people – dining with tax collectors, breaking bread at the Last Supper, cooking the disciples breakfast on the seashore. Before the multiplication of the loaves, Jesus looks to the disciples and says, “Give them some food yourselves.”

With Jesus, there is enough for everyone. 

How is Jesus calling me to be the bread of life for others in a spiritual sense? How is he calling me to share my literal bread (food, talent, treasure) to feed people in this pandemic?

Lauren Hackman-Brooks serves on the Board of Directors at Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House and is the Associate Director of Mission and Ministry at Gonzaga University.

Prayer

Bread of life, hope of the world,
Jesus Christ, our brother:
feed us now, give us life,
lead us to one another.

—From “Bread of Life” by Bernadette Farrell, © 1982, 1987.  Published by OCP.


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April 29, 2020


St. Catherine of Siena 

Acts 8: 1B-8

And Saul approved of their killing him. That day a severe persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout the countryside of Judea and Samaria. Devout men buried Stephen and made loud lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church by entering house after house; dragging off both men and women, he committed them to prison.

Now those who were scattered went from place to place, proclaiming the word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah to them. The crowds with one accord listened eagerly to what was said by Philip, hearing and seeing the signs that he did, for unclean spirits, crying with loud shrieks, came out of many who were possessed; and many others who were paralyzed or lame were cured. So there was great joy in that city.

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 God’s call 

Jesus spreads the word, shedding his light.  Later the same proclamations and works result in his self-sacrifice on the cross, allowing us to be born to eternal life.  Not my will but yours be done. 

Now the apostles, set alight by Jesus, spread the word and set others alight with his message.  Following God’s will, not their own, their acts result in persecution and death but also give the hope of resurrection.  Their self-sacrifice helped others achieve salvation.

We are, in turn, called to be set alight, to spread the word and light up Christ in others, setting aside our will while responding to God’s, withstanding persecution, evangelizing, working toward redemption.  Do I ignore God’s call to follow truth to eternal salvation?  Am I a facilitator for the journey to redemption for others?  Or do I ignore his call by imposing my will for self-preservation, hindering my own path, being a roadblock?

—Mariette P. Baxendale, Ph.D., is the Science Department chair, member of the Ignatian Charism Committee and Active Proponent of Mission and Identity in the Classroom at De Smet Jesuit High School, St. Louis.

Prayer

Lord, set me alight with the fire of Your love.  Steel me against temptation and my human tendency to place my will above Yours.  Remove my protective shell of weakness and fear and expose my heart so that I may receive You and give You.  Guide me to be your conduit to make a way or clear the path for others to reach salvation.  Amen

—Mariette P. Baxendale


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April 28, 2020

St. Peter Chanel

Acts 7:51-8:1a

”You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you are forever opposing the Holy Spirit, just as your ancestors used to do. Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute? They killed those who foretold the coming of the Righteous One, and now you have become his betrayers and murderers. You are the ones that received the law as ordained by angels, and yet you have not kept it.”

When they heard these things, they became enraged and ground their teeth at Stephen. But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. 

Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he died.

And Saul approved of their killing him. That day a severe persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout the countryside of Judea and Samaria.

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.

Making the most of our time

The philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche – of “God is dead” fame – once commented that martyrs are likely surprised not by death’s lack of pain but by pain in a place they did not expect it.  For saints like Stephen of the 1st century and Peter Chanel of the 19th, I imagine their greatest suffering came in the thought of leaving a world in which so much remained to be done.  Little has changed in the intervening centuries; Stephen’s words – “you stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears” – apply as much to us as to the listeners of his time!  In myriad ways our hearts remain hardened and our ears stopped to Jesus’ insistent call to “justice, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rm 14:17).  Are we making the most of our limited time on Earth? 

—Erin Kast, SJ, is a Jesuit scholastic of the Midwest Province studying philosophy at Loyola University Chicago.

Prayer

Practice: This week look for little ways to overcome the selfishness, resentment, and indifference that continues to leave us “uncircumcised in hearts and ears.”

Prayer: Lord Jesus, in martyrs like Stephen and Peter Chanel you give us examples of a life lived entirely for you.  Encourage us by their example to do whatever we can to build a kingdom where justice, peace, and joy reign in the minds and hearts of all.

—Erin Kast, SJ


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April 27, 2020

St. Peter Canisius, SJ

Jn 6: 22-29 

The next day the crowd that had stayed on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there. They also saw that Jesus had not got into the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. Then some boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus. When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?”

Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.”

Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

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.

A deep hunger

With the end of the school year and graduation ceremonies (in some format) just around the corner, students at all levels of education likely desire to get onto “what’s next.” They are eager to assimilate to something new, something that marks their growth and demonstrates their readiness. One could assert that they are “hungry.” Whether they are hungry for success, a job, a fresh start with new classmates, or something else, and they are growing hungrier by the day!  

Just like our students, as we thirst for this food. Perhaps you’re like me and you’ve grown tired of our dormant state, our working remotely, and our needing to ‘wait.’ Our desire to make up for lost time of the last few months is making us hungry. Just like the graduating student, we also must remind ourselves that we shall not yearn for the “food that will perish.’” Rather, we must work “for the food that endures for eternal life.” We hunger for something more meaningful, more nurturing, more enriching.  

Where can we find this sustenance? Where can we become full? We need to go find our teacher. Yes, that teacher. I have a feeling he has a really good idea of how we can be nourished and satisfied once and for all.   

Let’s go find him.  

—Patrick Kennedy, is a Major Gift Officer for the Midwest Jesuits, holds a Masters degree from the  McGrath Institute for Jesuit Catholic Education at the University of San Francisco.

Prayer

You do not live by bread alone,
but by every word
That proceeds from the mouth of God
Allelu, allelulia!

—Excerpt of “Seek Ye First” by Karen Lafferty, © 1972 CCCM Mucis


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April 26, 2020

Third Sunday of Easter

Lk 24: 13-35

Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” 

They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. 

Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.” 

Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures. As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 

But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” 

That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

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.

Recognizing the presence of Christ

This beautiful story of the disciples of Emmaus is the story of our own faith. Despite the words of the prophets, the testimony of the women, even Jesus himself who “drew near and walked with them,” the disciples were trapped in disillusionment. They had hoped that Jesus “would be the one to redeem Israel,” but nothing turned out as they expected. As they listen to the words of the stranger who joins them unexpectedly, they urge him to stay, “for it is nearly evening.” And when he “took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them,” their eyes were opened and their hope brought back to life. 

How often in our own journey of faith do we lose hope, close our hearts and our eyes to the hidden presence of Christ our King. In this Eastertide, may the breaking of the bread and the contemplation of Scripture renew our hope and ignite our faith.

Fr. Christopher J. Viscardi, SJ, is a Jesuit of the Central and Southern Province teaching theology at Spring Hill College in Mobile, AL.

Prayer

Above all, trust in the slow work of God
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay… 

Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you, and accept the anxiety
of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.

—Excerpt of “Patient Trust” by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ


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April 25, 2020

St. Mark

1 Pt 5: 5b-14

In the same way, you who are younger must accept the authority of the elders. And all of you must clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another, for

‘God opposes the proud,

   but gives grace to the humble.’

Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. Discipline yourselves; keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters throughout the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering. 

And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.

Through Silvanus, whom I consider a faithful brother, I have written this short letter to encourage you, and to testify that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it. Your sister church in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you greetings; and so does my son Mark. Greet one another with a kiss of love.

Peace to all of you who are in Christ.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.

Clothed in humility

Today’s reading hits a bit too close to home. It seems that the Enemy is “prowling around” on every continent affected by the pandemic. The world yearns for God to “restore, support, strengthen, and establish” us.

Why does Peter write of humility? I wrote my undergraduate thesis on this virtue, concluding that humility is the intersection of knowledge of God and knowledge of self, an acceptance of the truth that “God is before me.” Is this not what we are being asked to discover now? That we truly possess nothing, that everything is a gift.

As many aspects of our lives are surrendered to protect the vulnerable, we realize our innate poverty and God’s innate goodness in sustaining our very lives. May we “clothe ourselves in humility” that acknowledges our dependence on God and our responsibility for one another – so that we may experience the peace of living in Christ.

Rachel Forton is the Marketing Coordinator for Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House in Barrington, IL. 

Prayer

Dear Lord, the Great Healer, I kneel before You,
Since every perfect gift must come from You.
I pray, give skill to my hands, clear vision to my mind, kindness and meekness to my heart.
Give me singleness of purpose, strength to lift up a part of the burden of my suffering fellow men, and a true realization of the privilege that is mine.
Take from my heart all guile and worldliness,
That with the simple faith of a child, I may rely on You.

Prayer of the Missionaries of Charity before Leaving for Apostolate


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April 24, 2020

Jn 6: 1-15

After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” 

One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. 

When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.”

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

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.

Love is shown in humility

As a child I remember having elbow macaroni and whole kernel corn for supper and wondering to myself why anyone would think this was a good meal? At the time I assumed my parents liked it. It didn’t dawn on me that they were trying to feed the dozen of us around the table while still making ends meet. 

Today’s Gospel witnesses the bounty of fish and bread that is produced when Jesus blesses what the people have, and the crowd’s amazement leads them to want him as their king. Jesus as Messiah, however, was not sent to gain earthly prestige and power as the crowd imagined.

Just as that supper puzzled me, so Jesus puzzled others with his humble, suffering life. Why would anyone think macaroni and corn was a good supper? Or, choose humility and suffering? With time, however, the love of each choice is realized and celebrated. 

Fr. Chris Manahan, SJ, is director of the Jesuit Retreat House on Lake Winnebago, near Oshkosh, WI.

Prayer

Jesus, I do not know who I will meet today, what situations I will face today, where I will go today, when I will need you today, or why you have placed me where I am today. But with you by my side I am blessed, and what I have will be more than enough to meet your call, others’ needs, and my deepest desires.

—Fr. Chris Manahan, SJ


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April 23, 2020

St. George

Acts 5: 27-33

When they had brought them, they had them stand before the council. The high priest questioned them, saying, “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you are determined to bring this man’s blood on us.” 

But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than any human authority. The God of our ancestors raised up Jesus, whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior that he might give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.” 

When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them.

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.

Witness to hope in uncertain times

“In these uncertain times…”

How many times have I written those words in the past month? Dozens. In emails to colleagues and students, in my prayer journal, in this very reflection. I have so many questions. So much is unknown.

For how long will we shelter in place?

For how long will we be physically distanced?

How many will lose their jobs?

How many will lose their lives?.

In this context of pandemic and crisis, the certainty of the Apostles in today’s first reading is all the more striking. Peter and the others are so sure of their calling, so sure that God was with them in Jesus and that God continues to be with them in the Holy Spirit.

In these uncertain times, how is God calling me to witness the joy and hope of the Resurrection? 

Lauren Hackman-Brooks serves on the Board of Directors at Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House and is the Associate Director of Mission and Ministry at Gonzaga University.

Prayer

Good and gracious God, you raised Jesus to new life and sent your Holy Spirit to be with us. Fill us with the faith and conviction of the early Apostles so that we, too, might witness the Resurrection in our uncertain times. We ask this in your most Holy Name, amen.  

—Lauren Hackman-Brooks


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April 22, 2020

Blessed Virgin Mary, mother of the Society of Jesus

Jn 3: 16-21

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 

And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in 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.

God opens the door to salvation

Picture a child who strayed to the deep end, struggling to keep his head above water and in danger of going under.  At this moment, does a loving parent call out what the child is doing wrong or dive in to fish him out?  The Gospel tells us that God sent Jesus to bring us to safety.  Out of his great love, God sent his only Son, the Lamb of God, to remove the weight of sin and open the door to salvation.  Thank you, God!  Hope in the Resurrection!  But hope is not a strategy.  We are called to believe in the Word made flesh, walk in his light, live in truth and join him in eternal life.  

Do we believe? Is our belief evident in our works?  The incarnation of Christ happens every Mass through the consecration.  Do we let his light, his truth, his love live through us?

—Mariette P. Baxendale, Ph.D., is the Science Department chair, member of the Ignatian Charism Committee and Active Proponent of Mission and Identity in the Classroom at De Smet Jesuit High School, St. Louis.

Prayer

Soul of Christ, sanctify me.
Body of Christ, save me.
Blood of Christ, inebriate me.
Water from the side of Christ, wash me.
Passion of Christ, strengthen me.
O good Jesus, hear me.
Within your wounds, hide me.
Do not allow me to be separated from you.
From the malevolent enemy defend me.
In the hour of my death call me,
And bid me come to you,
That with your saints I may praise you
Forever and ever.
Amen

—Anima Christi


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April 21, 2020

St. Anselm

Acts 4: 32-37

Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. 

There was a Levite, a native of Cyprus, Joseph, to whom the apostles gave the name Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”). He sold a field that belonged to him, then brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

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.

Making Earth more like heaven

In the Gospel today Jesus chides Nicodemus: “If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things” (Jn 3:12)?  Well, what St. Luke describes in our first reading certainly sounds more heavenly than earthly! We’re told that all “those who believed were of one heart and soul…[and] everything they owned was held in common” (Acts 4:32).  Is this even possible? It seems like a longshot on Earth, but really it’s a snapshot of heaven. St. Anselm – whom we celebrate today – wrote a famous treatise entitled Why God Became Human in which he attempts to justify the Incarnation.  Perhaps in today’s reading St. Luke has given his own justification: so that by the Word’s coming to Earth, the Church on Earth might learn how to become “as it is in heaven.”

—Erin Kast, SJ, is a Jesuit scholastic of the Midwest Province studying philosophy at Loyola University Chicago.

Prayer

Practice: This week, take time to think of some way of sharing God’s gifts to you with your Church, work, or broader community and commit to acting on your conclusions before the Easter season is over.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, in your life and that of the first disciples you have given us an image of what the Kingdom could look like.  Grant us the grace this year to help you bring that Kingdom one step closer to Earth.

—Erin Kast, SJ


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