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June 30, 2020

Mt 8: 23-27

And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. A windstorm arose on the sea, so great that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him up, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, you of little faith?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a dead calm. They were amazed, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey 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.

Do not be afraid!

“Why are you afraid?” The Lord asks his disciples this question because he sees fear and despair in them. The disciples forget that it is the Lord who is on the boat. He is always on the boat of life, so the most important thing is to realize that he is with us.

But we are constantly facing a temptation to stay on the shores of life because we are comfortable there, safely away from the danger of storms. We do not want to get on the boat with others because we are afraid to sail, we are afraid to go where the Lord leads us.

Once again, Jesus invites us to trust in him, he invites us not to be afraid because he calms all storms. Let us meditate on those areas of our life where the Lord is asking us not to be afraid.

Ronald Ruiz Gill, SJ, is a Jesuit scholastic from the Central American Province who studies philosophy at the ITESO, Universidad Jesuita de Guadalajara in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Prayer

Lord, you are in control of the boat of my life. Grant me the grace to continue trusting in you and to be able to resist life’s strong winds and storms. Come with me and guide me always. Amen.

—Ronald Ruiz Gill, SJ


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June 29, 2020

Sts. Peter and Paul  

Mt 16: 13-19

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. 

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed 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.

Authentic self

For twenty-five years, I have worked with youth and young adults. Their idealism and desire to reshape the world has been a constant. In recent years, I have marveled at their ability to use social media to organize, educate, and create change. I remember attending a workshop about Generation Z that highlighted their ability to “manage their brand” to create and maintain a virtual image of themselves. This was a new concept to me. To me, brand management was for marketing a product not a personal identity.

Today’s Gospel reading reminded me of that workshop. When Jesus asks “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” was he taking a pulse of his public self? Then he asked the ones who knew him best, “who do you say that I am?” Was this to check if the public self was consistent with the private self?  Simon Peter, who lived and worked with Jesus, saw his authentic self and declared, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Was this the knowledge gained in seeing God work through Jesus each day?

Do we dare show our authentic self to the world? Or do we craft one version for the world and a separate one for those closest to us? How do we show that we are children of God in our brand?

Julia Vargas is the director of the Center for Service Learning at Rockhurst University

Prayer

Good and gracious God, you have known us since before we were born, and you know us better than we know ourselves.  Help us to strive to be sure that our public identity always comes from our core identity as your beloved son or daughter.  May we always draw strength from that assurance of your love.  Amen.

—The Jesuit Prayer team


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June 28, 2020

Mt 10: 37-42

Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. 

“Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”

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 Prophet’s Reward

Have you prayed before a crucifix lately?  There we’re reminded of Jesus’ promise that those who lose their life for his sake will find it. A prophet’s reward comes not in this lifetime. The film Selma documents the efforts in 1965 of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his colleagues to challenge Southern laws that blocked African Americans from voting.  After images of non-violent black protesters being mercilessly beaten by police appeared on national television, 25,000 people of every race and faith tradition from around the nation joined Dr. King in a 50-mile march from Selma to Montgomery.  Picking up the cross and walking in the footsteps of Jesus, this nonviolent protest moved the conscience of the president and the nation. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed, guaranteeing the right of every adult American to vote. Only three years later, at the age of 39, Dr. King was assassinated.  Tragically, the fullness of this prophet’s reward is still in the making. Our nation continues to struggle toward full racial equality. 

—Fr. J. Michael Sparough, SJ, is a retreat master, writer, and spiritual director at the Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House, in Barrington, IL.  His weekly video reflections can be viewed at Heart to Heart.  

Prayer

O God, we thank you for the fact that you have inspired men and women in all nations and in all cultures. We call you different names: some call you Allah; some call you Elohim; some call you Jehovah; some call you Brahma; some call you the Unmoved Mover. But we know that these are all names for one and the same God. Grant that we will follow you and become so committed to your way and your kingdom that we will be able to establish in our lives and in this world a brother and sisterhood, that we will be able to establish here a kingdom of understanding, where men and women will live together as brothers and sisters and respect the dignity and worth of every human being. In the name and spirit of Jesus. Amen.

—Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


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June 27, 2020

Mt 8: 5-17

When he entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, appealing to him and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, in terrible distress.” And he said to him, “I will come and cure him.” The centurion answered, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only speak the word, and my servant will be healed. 

For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and the slave does it.” When Jesus heard him, he was amazed and said to those who followed him, “Truly I tell you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith. 

I tell you, many will come from east and west and will eat with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the heirs of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; let it be done for you according to your faith.” And the servant was healed in that hour.

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.

Having true faith

“Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof…”

For any seasoned Catholic, these words roll right off the tongue. In today’s readings, we find that this phrase reflects the greatest faith, and they’re found on the lips of a Roman centurion of all people!  

Just picture the usual gaud of an Imperial official, clad in purples, golds, and reds. This is a man familiar with the top of the hierarchy. Yet, this prestige mocks him as his friend writhes in pain. In this mess, as a gesture of humility, he prays, “Lord, I am not worthy.”  

It’s the very character of the Eternal Son to enter under the roof of such a messy situation. In fact, this is Christianity’s central mystery. Although in the form of God, he too becomes a servant for his servants (cf. Philippians 2:6-11). As in the case of the centurion, great faith mirrors the humility of the Son of God. To the humble centurion, the Son replies, “Truly I tell you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith.” 

Jarvis Williams is wrapping up his year of service at Cristo Rey Jesuit in Houston as a part of the Volunteer Service Corps.

Prayer

Eternal Word, bend my own desires
To match the needs of my neighbor.
Teach me how to pour myself out
Onto the feet of friends and enemies.
Teach me that my life is hollow
Until my character matches yours.
Amen.

—Jarvis Williams


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June 26, 2020

Mt 8: 1-4

When Jesus had come down from the mountain, great crowds followed him; and there was a leper who came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean.” He stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I do choose. Be made clean!” Immediately his leprosy was cleansed. Then Jesus said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to 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.

Healing leads to joy

If you ask people what the opposite of suffering is, most people would answer “joy.”  But as we see in today’s Gospel, there’s a necessary step that needs to happen first: healing. In order to move to joy, we have to be healed from whatever it was that was afflicting us – a physical ailment as in our Gospel today, an addiction, an abusive relationship, a healing of our financial lack. Christians know this almost intuitively. We know that the suffering of the Messiah was actually the catalyst for healing – first, with the little band of broken Jewish disciples, and then, as a free invitation for us all to heal, stretching to the ends of the earth. Pentecost, if nothing else, was a moment of healing first, for only then the joy of evangelization was unleashed. Healing our lives. Healing our suffering. Healing us, so we can go forth and do the same.

“Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.” In this quiet moment, is there something within that needs the healing touch of Christ?     

—Deacon Chuck Thompson is the Director of Adult Ministry at Saint Ignatius College Prep in Chicago.

Prayer

Today I come to you a leper, Lord.
As I was yesterday, and the day before.
It’s always been a part of me, it seems —
it’s just who I am, part of my relationship with Your world.
Burdened with anxiety, stress and fear.

But I’m here now to ask that you heal me,
for I have looked at myself  – repeatedly, fearlessly, humbly —
and desire to change what needs to be changed. 
If You wish, you can make me clean.
If You wish, you can heal me once again.

—Deacon Chuck Thompson


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June 25, 2020

Mt 7: 21-29

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.’ “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. 

The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!” 

Now when Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.

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 in action

There is a bulletin board by the Campus Ministry office at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School that reads “Amor en Accion” or “Love in Action” and below it are the pictures of all of the Cristo Rey students at different service sites. In today’s Gospel, Jesus is telling those who listen to him that he gave them, through his teachings, the ability to go forth into the world. I remind my students that they are acting on their faith  through their actions of servitude. We are all facing an uncertain time with Covid-19 and the fight for racial equality; it seems that it is time where my students, myself, my community… everyone is being tested by those torrential floods. With that same faith that we put in action, guided by the teachings of Jesus, we are urged to hunker down on our house built on rock.  

Rocio Juarez is the Service Coordinator at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Chicago, and a proud alum of both that school and Xavier University.

Prayer

Lord, you have made me in your image and have taught me to take the path of wisdom so as to act as a disciple of your truth. The truth is my faith and it is built solidly like rock. Help me to be resilient in times of peril and to empower others as you taught your disciples as one having authority and not as scribes. Amen.  

—Rocio Juarez


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June 24, 2020

Birth of St. John the Baptist

Lk 1: 57-66, 80

Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him Zechariah after his father. But his mother said, “No; he is to be called John.” They said to her, “None of your relatives has this name.” Then they began motioning to his father to find out what name he wanted to give him. 

He asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And all of them were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue freed, and he began to speak, praising God. Fear came over all their neighbors, and all these things were talked about throughout the entire hill country of Judea. All who heard them pondered them and said, “What then will this child become?” For, indeed, the hand of the Lord was with him. The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day he appeared publicly to Israel.

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.

Seeing who we truly are

Who are we? Who am I? These might seem to be trivial questions with trivial answers. I am a student, I am an accountant, I am a teacher. He is a parent; she is a daughter. Yet, how often do we identify ourselves as children of God, formed in the image and likeness of the one who created us? That ought to be the first response that comes to mind when someone asks us who we are.

Today, it seems that many people look at their neighbors as anything but brothers and sisters in Christ. They insist on conferring others with earthly labels, unable, or unwilling, to look deeper. May those veils that prevent us from seeing Jesus in those around us dissolve away, so that, like Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, we too may speak and act and see in a way that blesses God and God’s creation.  

—Michael Petterson is a senior at the University of Michigan and is an active member of St. Mary Student Parish in Ann Arbor, MI.

Prayer

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel;
he has come to his people and set them free. 

He has raised up for us a mighty savior,
born of the house of his servant David. 

Through his holy prophets he promised of old,
that he would save us from our enemies,
from the hands of all who hate us. 

He promised to show mercy to our fathers
and to remember his holy covenant. 

This was the oath he swore to our father Abraham,
to set us free from the hands of our enemies,
Free to worship him without fear,
holy and righteous in his sight
all the days of our life. 

You, my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High,
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way, 

To give his people knowledge of salvation
by the forgiveness of their sins. 

In the tender compassion of our God
the dawn from on high shall break upon us, 

To shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death,
and to guide our feet into the way of peace.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever.  Amen.

—Canticle of Zechariah (Lk 1: 68-79)


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June 23, 2020

Mt 7: 6, 12-14

“Do not give what is holy to dogs; and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under foot and turn and maul you.

“In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets. “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.

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

Each of us is made holy

Jesus invites us today to reflect on three important points. The first is to recognize that there are things in this world that are holy or sacred and, therefore, worthy of reverence and respect. God, of course, is the holy of holies, and we are created in his image and likeness, which means we share in his sacredness too. This leads to our second point. As temples of the Holy Spirit, we are called to treat ourselves and others with the dignity and respect we deserve, the dignity of the children of God. Third, Jesus invites us to acknowledge that, at times, we struggle to see others in this way, we prefer the easy way. But Jesus shows us that the way is often difficult to follow, and yet, it is only there where we become witnesses of this great truth: that we are made holy, made to love and to be loved. This path, however hard it may feel, is a life-giving path because it is the one Jesus himself followed.

Bryan R. Torres Santiago, SJ, is a Jesuit scholastic of the Central and Southern Province studying philosophy at the ITESO, Universidad Jesuita de Guadalajara in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Prayer

Good and gracious God, you have created us in your image and likeness so that we may be temples of your Holy Spirit.  Help us to see ourselves and everyone around us as your beloved children, brothers and sisters of Jesus, so that we may truly follow in your footsteps.  Amen.

—The Jesuit Prayer team


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June 22, 2020

Sts. Thomas More and John Fisher  

Mt 7: 1-5

“Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.

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 Zoom view of ourselves

Over the past three months, I have become well acquainted with Zoom meetings. The online meeting platform has been used to hold meetings for work and stay connected to friends and family during our shelter at home time. I have noticed that in each of these meetings, even though I want to connect with others, my eyes focus on my own face. Perhaps you can relate? I see a hair out of place or a small blemish. It becomes very uncomfortable to be so aware of my own likeness.

Today’s reading demonstrates the uncomfortableness of self-examination. It is often easier to look at the faults of others instead of our own. Yet, the daily Examen invites us to do just that and more. It invites us to review the day prayerfully giving gratitude for God’s presence, acknowledging the things that brought joy and those that brought grief, asking the Holy Spirit to direct your attention (lovingly pointing out the log in your eye), and moving forward with hope to tomorrow.

How has God revealed himself through the daily Examen to you? Has the Examen offered you a Zoom view of yourself? 

Julia Vargas is the director of the Center for Service Learning at Rockhurst University

Prayer

  1. Become aware of God’s presence.
    2. Review the day with gratitude.
    3. Pay attention to your emotions.
    4. Choose one feature of the day and pray from it.
    5. Look toward tomorrow.

—Steps of the Examen


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June 21, 2020

Mt 10: 26-33

“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.

More Than Many Sparrows

The United Nations’ latest estimate of the world’s population is 7.8 billion people.  In a sea of so many faces, it’s easy to assume that God doesn’t have time to listen to one more sad story of our struggle.  But Jesus reassures us that our heavenly Father is infinitely aware of the needs of all his creations, even the flight of the smallest sparrow or Sparough.  (Admittedly God’s job of counting the hairs on my head is getting easier year by year!

Jesus helps us remember that, however long we walk upon this earth, our footsteps are heard by the one who gave us the ability to walk.  So, let us stand in the assurance that each step is a gift, every breath a blessing, every blink of our eyes an invitation to remember that we will one day gaze upon the face of the one who sculpts every human heart with love.

—Fr. J. Michael Sparough, SJ, (pronounced “sparrow”) is a retreat master, writer, and spiritual director at the Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House, in Barrington, IL.  His weekly video reflections can be viewed at Heart to Heart.  

Prayer

Abba, Who counts every hair on my head,
Who watches the sky for a sparrow’s fall,
Change the channel of my thought
From sitting in my sorrow, counting my loss, forgetting my gain.
Raise my eyes to your gaze. Press my ear to your breast
To hear there and everywhere the eternal heartbeat of your mercy!

—Fr. J. Michael Sparough, SJ


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June 30, 2020

Mt 8: 23-27

And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. A windstorm arose on the sea, so great that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him up, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, you of little faith?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a dead calm. They were amazed, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey 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.

Do not be afraid!

“Why are you afraid?” The Lord asks his disciples this question because he sees fear and despair in them. The disciples forget that it is the Lord who is on the boat. He is always on the boat of life, so the most important thing is to realize that he is with us.

But we are constantly facing a temptation to stay on the shores of life because we are comfortable there, safely away from the danger of storms. We do not want to get on the boat with others because we are afraid to sail, we are afraid to go where the Lord leads us.

Once again, Jesus invites us to trust in him, he invites us not to be afraid because he calms all storms. Let us meditate on those areas of our life where the Lord is asking us not to be afraid.

Ronald Ruiz Gill, SJ, is a Jesuit scholastic from the Central American Province who studies philosophy at the ITESO, Universidad Jesuita de Guadalajara in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Prayer

Lord, you are in control of the boat of my life. Grant me the grace to continue trusting in you and to be able to resist life’s strong winds and storms. Come with me and guide me always. Amen.

—Ronald Ruiz Gill, SJ


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June 29, 2020

Sts. Peter and Paul  

Mt 16: 13-19

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. 

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed 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.

Authentic self

For twenty-five years, I have worked with youth and young adults. Their idealism and desire to reshape the world has been a constant. In recent years, I have marveled at their ability to use social media to organize, educate, and create change. I remember attending a workshop about Generation Z that highlighted their ability to “manage their brand” to create and maintain a virtual image of themselves. This was a new concept to me. To me, brand management was for marketing a product not a personal identity.

Today’s Gospel reading reminded me of that workshop. When Jesus asks “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” was he taking a pulse of his public self? Then he asked the ones who knew him best, “who do you say that I am?” Was this to check if the public self was consistent with the private self?  Simon Peter, who lived and worked with Jesus, saw his authentic self and declared, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Was this the knowledge gained in seeing God work through Jesus each day?

Do we dare show our authentic self to the world? Or do we craft one version for the world and a separate one for those closest to us? How do we show that we are children of God in our brand?

Julia Vargas is the director of the Center for Service Learning at Rockhurst University

Prayer

Good and gracious God, you have known us since before we were born, and you know us better than we know ourselves.  Help us to strive to be sure that our public identity always comes from our core identity as your beloved son or daughter.  May we always draw strength from that assurance of your love.  Amen.

—The Jesuit Prayer team


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June 28, 2020

Mt 10: 37-42

Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. 

“Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”

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 Prophet’s Reward

Have you prayed before a crucifix lately?  There we’re reminded of Jesus’ promise that those who lose their life for his sake will find it. A prophet’s reward comes not in this lifetime. The film Selma documents the efforts in 1965 of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his colleagues to challenge Southern laws that blocked African Americans from voting.  After images of non-violent black protesters being mercilessly beaten by police appeared on national television, 25,000 people of every race and faith tradition from around the nation joined Dr. King in a 50-mile march from Selma to Montgomery.  Picking up the cross and walking in the footsteps of Jesus, this nonviolent protest moved the conscience of the president and the nation. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed, guaranteeing the right of every adult American to vote. Only three years later, at the age of 39, Dr. King was assassinated.  Tragically, the fullness of this prophet’s reward is still in the making. Our nation continues to struggle toward full racial equality. 

—Fr. J. Michael Sparough, SJ, is a retreat master, writer, and spiritual director at the Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House, in Barrington, IL.  His weekly video reflections can be viewed at Heart to Heart.  

Prayer

O God, we thank you for the fact that you have inspired men and women in all nations and in all cultures. We call you different names: some call you Allah; some call you Elohim; some call you Jehovah; some call you Brahma; some call you the Unmoved Mover. But we know that these are all names for one and the same God. Grant that we will follow you and become so committed to your way and your kingdom that we will be able to establish in our lives and in this world a brother and sisterhood, that we will be able to establish here a kingdom of understanding, where men and women will live together as brothers and sisters and respect the dignity and worth of every human being. In the name and spirit of Jesus. Amen.

—Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


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June 27, 2020

Mt 8: 5-17

When he entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, appealing to him and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, in terrible distress.” And he said to him, “I will come and cure him.” The centurion answered, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only speak the word, and my servant will be healed. 

For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and the slave does it.” When Jesus heard him, he was amazed and said to those who followed him, “Truly I tell you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith. 

I tell you, many will come from east and west and will eat with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the heirs of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; let it be done for you according to your faith.” And the servant was healed in that hour.

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.

Having true faith

“Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof…”

For any seasoned Catholic, these words roll right off the tongue. In today’s readings, we find that this phrase reflects the greatest faith, and they’re found on the lips of a Roman centurion of all people!  

Just picture the usual gaud of an Imperial official, clad in purples, golds, and reds. This is a man familiar with the top of the hierarchy. Yet, this prestige mocks him as his friend writhes in pain. In this mess, as a gesture of humility, he prays, “Lord, I am not worthy.”  

It’s the very character of the Eternal Son to enter under the roof of such a messy situation. In fact, this is Christianity’s central mystery. Although in the form of God, he too becomes a servant for his servants (cf. Philippians 2:6-11). As in the case of the centurion, great faith mirrors the humility of the Son of God. To the humble centurion, the Son replies, “Truly I tell you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith.” 

Jarvis Williams is wrapping up his year of service at Cristo Rey Jesuit in Houston as a part of the Volunteer Service Corps.

Prayer

Eternal Word, bend my own desires
To match the needs of my neighbor.
Teach me how to pour myself out
Onto the feet of friends and enemies.
Teach me that my life is hollow
Until my character matches yours.
Amen.

—Jarvis Williams


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June 26, 2020

Mt 8: 1-4

When Jesus had come down from the mountain, great crowds followed him; and there was a leper who came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean.” He stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I do choose. Be made clean!” Immediately his leprosy was cleansed. Then Jesus said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to 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.

Healing leads to joy

If you ask people what the opposite of suffering is, most people would answer “joy.”  But as we see in today’s Gospel, there’s a necessary step that needs to happen first: healing. In order to move to joy, we have to be healed from whatever it was that was afflicting us – a physical ailment as in our Gospel today, an addiction, an abusive relationship, a healing of our financial lack. Christians know this almost intuitively. We know that the suffering of the Messiah was actually the catalyst for healing – first, with the little band of broken Jewish disciples, and then, as a free invitation for us all to heal, stretching to the ends of the earth. Pentecost, if nothing else, was a moment of healing first, for only then the joy of evangelization was unleashed. Healing our lives. Healing our suffering. Healing us, so we can go forth and do the same.

“Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.” In this quiet moment, is there something within that needs the healing touch of Christ?     

—Deacon Chuck Thompson is the Director of Adult Ministry at Saint Ignatius College Prep in Chicago.

Prayer

Today I come to you a leper, Lord.
As I was yesterday, and the day before.
It’s always been a part of me, it seems —
it’s just who I am, part of my relationship with Your world.
Burdened with anxiety, stress and fear.

But I’m here now to ask that you heal me,
for I have looked at myself  – repeatedly, fearlessly, humbly —
and desire to change what needs to be changed. 
If You wish, you can make me clean.
If You wish, you can heal me once again.

—Deacon Chuck Thompson


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June 25, 2020

Mt 7: 21-29

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.’ “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. 

The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!” 

Now when Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.

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 in action

There is a bulletin board by the Campus Ministry office at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School that reads “Amor en Accion” or “Love in Action” and below it are the pictures of all of the Cristo Rey students at different service sites. In today’s Gospel, Jesus is telling those who listen to him that he gave them, through his teachings, the ability to go forth into the world. I remind my students that they are acting on their faith  through their actions of servitude. We are all facing an uncertain time with Covid-19 and the fight for racial equality; it seems that it is time where my students, myself, my community… everyone is being tested by those torrential floods. With that same faith that we put in action, guided by the teachings of Jesus, we are urged to hunker down on our house built on rock.  

Rocio Juarez is the Service Coordinator at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Chicago, and a proud alum of both that school and Xavier University.

Prayer

Lord, you have made me in your image and have taught me to take the path of wisdom so as to act as a disciple of your truth. The truth is my faith and it is built solidly like rock. Help me to be resilient in times of peril and to empower others as you taught your disciples as one having authority and not as scribes. Amen.  

—Rocio Juarez


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June 24, 2020

Birth of St. John the Baptist

Lk 1: 57-66, 80

Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him Zechariah after his father. But his mother said, “No; he is to be called John.” They said to her, “None of your relatives has this name.” Then they began motioning to his father to find out what name he wanted to give him. 

He asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And all of them were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue freed, and he began to speak, praising God. Fear came over all their neighbors, and all these things were talked about throughout the entire hill country of Judea. All who heard them pondered them and said, “What then will this child become?” For, indeed, the hand of the Lord was with him. The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day he appeared publicly to Israel.

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.

Seeing who we truly are

Who are we? Who am I? These might seem to be trivial questions with trivial answers. I am a student, I am an accountant, I am a teacher. He is a parent; she is a daughter. Yet, how often do we identify ourselves as children of God, formed in the image and likeness of the one who created us? That ought to be the first response that comes to mind when someone asks us who we are.

Today, it seems that many people look at their neighbors as anything but brothers and sisters in Christ. They insist on conferring others with earthly labels, unable, or unwilling, to look deeper. May those veils that prevent us from seeing Jesus in those around us dissolve away, so that, like Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, we too may speak and act and see in a way that blesses God and God’s creation.  

—Michael Petterson is a senior at the University of Michigan and is an active member of St. Mary Student Parish in Ann Arbor, MI.

Prayer

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel;
he has come to his people and set them free. 

He has raised up for us a mighty savior,
born of the house of his servant David. 

Through his holy prophets he promised of old,
that he would save us from our enemies,
from the hands of all who hate us. 

He promised to show mercy to our fathers
and to remember his holy covenant. 

This was the oath he swore to our father Abraham,
to set us free from the hands of our enemies,
Free to worship him without fear,
holy and righteous in his sight
all the days of our life. 

You, my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High,
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way, 

To give his people knowledge of salvation
by the forgiveness of their sins. 

In the tender compassion of our God
the dawn from on high shall break upon us, 

To shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death,
and to guide our feet into the way of peace.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever.  Amen.

—Canticle of Zechariah (Lk 1: 68-79)


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June 23, 2020

Mt 7: 6, 12-14

“Do not give what is holy to dogs; and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under foot and turn and maul you.

“In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets. “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.

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

Each of us is made holy

Jesus invites us today to reflect on three important points. The first is to recognize that there are things in this world that are holy or sacred and, therefore, worthy of reverence and respect. God, of course, is the holy of holies, and we are created in his image and likeness, which means we share in his sacredness too. This leads to our second point. As temples of the Holy Spirit, we are called to treat ourselves and others with the dignity and respect we deserve, the dignity of the children of God. Third, Jesus invites us to acknowledge that, at times, we struggle to see others in this way, we prefer the easy way. But Jesus shows us that the way is often difficult to follow, and yet, it is only there where we become witnesses of this great truth: that we are made holy, made to love and to be loved. This path, however hard it may feel, is a life-giving path because it is the one Jesus himself followed.

Bryan R. Torres Santiago, SJ, is a Jesuit scholastic of the Central and Southern Province studying philosophy at the ITESO, Universidad Jesuita de Guadalajara in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Prayer

Good and gracious God, you have created us in your image and likeness so that we may be temples of your Holy Spirit.  Help us to see ourselves and everyone around us as your beloved children, brothers and sisters of Jesus, so that we may truly follow in your footsteps.  Amen.

—The Jesuit Prayer team


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June 22, 2020

Sts. Thomas More and John Fisher  

Mt 7: 1-5

“Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.

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 Zoom view of ourselves

Over the past three months, I have become well acquainted with Zoom meetings. The online meeting platform has been used to hold meetings for work and stay connected to friends and family during our shelter at home time. I have noticed that in each of these meetings, even though I want to connect with others, my eyes focus on my own face. Perhaps you can relate? I see a hair out of place or a small blemish. It becomes very uncomfortable to be so aware of my own likeness.

Today’s reading demonstrates the uncomfortableness of self-examination. It is often easier to look at the faults of others instead of our own. Yet, the daily Examen invites us to do just that and more. It invites us to review the day prayerfully giving gratitude for God’s presence, acknowledging the things that brought joy and those that brought grief, asking the Holy Spirit to direct your attention (lovingly pointing out the log in your eye), and moving forward with hope to tomorrow.

How has God revealed himself through the daily Examen to you? Has the Examen offered you a Zoom view of yourself? 

Julia Vargas is the director of the Center for Service Learning at Rockhurst University

Prayer

  1. Become aware of God’s presence.
    2. Review the day with gratitude.
    3. Pay attention to your emotions.
    4. Choose one feature of the day and pray from it.
    5. Look toward tomorrow.

—Steps of the Examen


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June 21, 2020

Mt 10: 26-33

“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.

More Than Many Sparrows

The United Nations’ latest estimate of the world’s population is 7.8 billion people.  In a sea of so many faces, it’s easy to assume that God doesn’t have time to listen to one more sad story of our struggle.  But Jesus reassures us that our heavenly Father is infinitely aware of the needs of all his creations, even the flight of the smallest sparrow or Sparough.  (Admittedly God’s job of counting the hairs on my head is getting easier year by year!

Jesus helps us remember that, however long we walk upon this earth, our footsteps are heard by the one who gave us the ability to walk.  So, let us stand in the assurance that each step is a gift, every breath a blessing, every blink of our eyes an invitation to remember that we will one day gaze upon the face of the one who sculpts every human heart with love.

—Fr. J. Michael Sparough, SJ, (pronounced “sparrow”) is a retreat master, writer, and spiritual director at the Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House, in Barrington, IL.  His weekly video reflections can be viewed at Heart to Heart.  

Prayer

Abba, Who counts every hair on my head,
Who watches the sky for a sparrow’s fall,
Change the channel of my thought
From sitting in my sorrow, counting my loss, forgetting my gain.
Raise my eyes to your gaze. Press my ear to your breast
To hear there and everywhere the eternal heartbeat of your mercy!

—Fr. J. Michael Sparough, SJ


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