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June 24, 2015

NATIVITY 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. http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations

The Hand of the Lord is with You

In celebrating the Nativity of John the Baptist, we celebrate multiple miracles.

We celebrate the miracle of birth. As I learned in a profound way when each of my three children came into the world, birth—giving life—is a miracle. The miracle of John’s birth was all the more noteworthy because he was born to aged, childless parents and his birth paralleled the miraculous birth of Christ.

We celebrate the miracle of God’s love and the power faith. Despite being rendered speechless for doubting the Archangel Gabriel’s announcement of John’s birth, Zechariah was saved by his faith and obedience to God. In return, Zechariah was given the gift of prophecy and foretold the future ministry of John. John’s faith made him a prophet who paved the way for Jesus, whom he later baptized.

We celebrate the miracle of building the Kingdom. The births of John and Jesus prompt us to ask, What, then, is my unique mission? Who am I becoming? The lives of John and Jesus prompt us to have faith that the hand of the Lord is with us. Let us pray on this special day that we may grow strong enough in spirit to serve as builders of God’s Kingdom on earth.

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

Prayer

Lord, increase our faith to grasp the awesome truth that your hand is upon us — no less than it was upon John and Jesus. We boldly move forward this day to serve as builders of God’s Kingdom on earth.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team

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June 17, 2015

Mt 6: 1-6. 16-18

“Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven. “So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

“And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward.But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

“And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

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

The Spirit of Generosity

We live in a fast-paced, hyper-connected culture that praises being noticed and keeping score. Reality shows abound. But what reality do they represent?

Jesus invites us into a deeper reality that we are created by God, who loves and cares for us. A reality in which God sends us into the world as agents of his love, as builders of the Kingdom.

In his “Meditation on the Two Standards” from the Spiritual Exercises, Saint Ignatius makes clear that all disciples have to choose whether they will stand with Jesus or with the world. Standing with Jesus means recognizing life and all that we have as a gift from God. It means being so grateful that we can’t help but give back through love and service.

As we go through this day, how might we show our gratitude by giving without counting the cost?

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

Prayer

Prayer for Generosity
Lord Jesus, teach me to be generous;
teach me to serve you as you deserve,
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labor and not to seek reward,
except that of knowing that I do your will.

Amen.

—Saint Ignatius Loyola


June 10, 2015

Mt 5: 17-19

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

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

What You Focus on Grows

Following Jesus can be quite a trip.

While he challenges those in power and the structures that support them, he makes clear that his mission is not to abolish the law but to fulfill it.

It helps to understand that by “law,” Jesus means God’s commandments, which give life.

For some, obeying any law—let alone God’s law—seems restricting. But Jesus invites us to recognize that the commandments are actually liberating because they draw us into deeper relationship with God, ourselves, and others. God’s law is the path to greater love.

What you focus on grows. Today let us grow in understanding of God’s law by focusing on our faith, respect for others, forgiveness, and love of our neighbor.

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

Prayer

Teach me your paths, my God,
and guide me in your truth.

—Psalm 25:4B, 5A

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June 3, 2015

St. Charles Lwanga & companions, martyrs

Mk 12: 18-27

Some Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him and asked him a question, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that ‘if a man’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no child, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother.’ There were seven brothers; the first married and, when he died, left no children; and the second married her and died, leaving no children; and the third likewise; none of the seven left children. Last of all the woman herself died. In the resurrection whose wife will she be? For the seven had married her.”

Jesus said to them, “Is not this the reason you are wrong, that you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God? For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the story about the bush, how God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is God not of the dead, but of the living; you are quite wrong.”

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

God is the God of the Living!

Before we wave our fingers at the Sadducees for trying to trap Jesus into revealing the resurrection as pure folly, let’s pause a moment and ask: Do I really believe in the resurrection? And if so, what does the resurrection mean in my daily life?

Jesus, of course, turns the trap into a teachable moment. God is the God of the living, including the Sadducees’ forebears Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But the resurrected life is very different from earthly life. Those who rise from the dead are like the angels in heaven, alive in God’s presence.

If the resurrected life means being alive in God’s presence, then count me in.

In the here and now, being fully alive means being present to each moment and savoring the sacred within. It means giving, and giving more. It means being a contemplative in action, as Saint Ignatius would say. It means sacrifice and solidarity with and for others. It means being comfortable with who we are and where we are. It means laughing and loving.

In their track “Roll Away Your Stone,” the band Mumford & Sons offers some profound spiritual wisdom: “Roll away your stone, I’ll roll away mine. Together we can see what we will find.”

What if today we rolled away the stone that blocks us from being fully alive? What if we joined others on this resurrection journey?

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

Prayer

It is not you that shapes God; it is God that shapes you.
If you are the work of God await the hand of the artist
who does all things in due season.

Offer Him your heart, soft and tractable, and keep the form
in which the artist has fashioned you.
Let your clay be moist, lest you grow hard and lose the imprint of his fingers.

– St. Irenaeus (130-202 AD)

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May 27, 2015

St. Augustine of Canterbury

Mark 10: 32-45

They were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them; they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. He took the twelve aside again and began to tell them what was to happen to him, saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death; then they will hand him over to the Gentiles;they will mock him, and spit upon him, and flog him, and kill him; and after three days he will rise again.”

James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” They replied, “We are able.” Then Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”

When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John.So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

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

Radical Love

Time and again the disciples just don’t get it. And for that, we can take great consolation.

It’s easy to criticize James and John for missing Jesus’ message in favor of their own self-interest. But deep down, we know that our own petty concerns often cloud our relationship with Jesus.

Thankfully, Jesus is patient with the disciples and with us. Time and again he reveals that having a seat in the kingdom isn’t about winning a competition or gaining power over others. It’s about radical love and serving others.

In his Spiritual Exercises, Saint Ignatius invites us to walk with Jesus through four weeks or “movements.” In the first two, we come to know ourselves as loved sinners and respond in generosity by serving God and others to the best of our ability. In the third week, we contemplate the Cross and God’s faithfulness and love for us. In the final week, we are sent forth by the Risen Christ to find God in all things and serve the world in concrete ways.

Today, how can we “get it” by focusing on God’s love and serving wherever there is a need, no matter how small?

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

Prayer

Lord, we search for true success. We seek the same for our families. You have given us the pathway to fulfillment. “Whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all.” May our choices in  how we spend our time follow your call to greatness.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team

 

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May 20, 2015

Jn 17: 11b-19

And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.

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

Sent into the World

Today’s gospel raises a key question all believers face: what is our relationship to the world?

For Christians, the answer boils down to which Christ we purport to follow.

In his landmark book, Christ and Culture, H. Richard Niebuhr identifies five concepts of Christ that have prevailed throughout Christian history—Christ against culture, Christ of culture, Christ above Culture, Christ and culture in paradox, and Christ transforming culture.

Giants of the Catholic tradition such as St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Ignatius Loyola navigated their way through the two extremes—Christ against culture and Christ of culture—by embracing Christ above culture. For them, above does not mean “aloof” or “disengaged.” Rather, it means recognizing all that is good in the world as a gift from God while acknowledging that God’s grace and the mediation of the church are necessary to bring the world to full fruition.

As Jesus prepares to return to the Father, he prays for the disciples. Yet, no matter how great his concern for their well being in the world, he makes clear, “I am not asking you to take them out of the world . . .” Quite the opposite. Jesus prays to the Father, “As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.”

Like Jesus and the disciples, we do not belong to the world. But we are sent into the world with the mission of knowing and revealing God’s love.

Ignatian spirituality challenges us to ask, How can I better see “God in all things”? How can I be a true “person for others”?

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

Prayer

Act of Love
O my God, I love you above all things with my whole heart and soul, because you are all good and worthy of all my love. I love my neighbor as myself for the love of you. I forgive all who have injured me and I ask pardon of those whom I have injured.

Amen.

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August 25, 2014

St. Louis of France

2 Thes 1: 1-5. 11-12

Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. We must always give thanks to God for you, brothers and sisters, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of everyone of you for one another is increasing. Therefore we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith during all your persecutions and the afflictions that you are enduring.

This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, and is intended to make you worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering.

To this end we always pray for you, asking that our God will make you worthy of his call and will fulfill by his power every good resolve and work of faith, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus 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. http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations

Your Faith Flourishes Ever More

In reflecting on Paul’s letter, I unexpectedly was moved to tears.

Tomorrow, a prayer vigil to remember slain journalist James Foley and to show support for the Foley family will be held at 6 p.m. in Milwaukee’s Church of the Gesu. Suddenly it hit me that Paul’s words to the Thessalonians are beautifully and painfully addressed to the Foley family, the Marquette University community James so dearly loved, and all who mourn the loss of a true man for others.

Grace and peace from God the Father and Jesus Christ to you, James, the Foley family, and all in your faith-filled community, says Saint Paul.

Thank God for you because your faith flourishes ever more, and the love of every one of you for one another grows ever greater.

Because of your endurance and faith in all your persecutions, your work in building the Kingdom of God continues. Even in the face of unfathomable evil.

We pray for you now, James, in gratitude for the good that you have brought to fulfillment through your faithful witness. And we ask for your intercession to give us the strength to respond to God’s call by continuing as a community of faith, hope, and love in a world that needs us more than ever.

Visit Marquette University’s website  for more information on the prayer vigil, the James Foley Scholarship Fund, and a moving letter James wrote his alma mater (class of 1996) in 2011 after his first abduction in Libya.

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

Prayer

A Prayer for Journalists

St. Francis de Sales, patron saint of writers and journalists

Almighty God,

Strengthen and direct, we pray, the will of all whose work it is to write what many read, and to speak where many listen.

May we be bold to confront evil and injustice: understanding and compassionate of human weakness; rejecting alike the half-truth which deceives, and the slanted word which corrupts.

May the power which is ours, for good or ill, always be used with honesty and courage, with respect and integrity, so that when all here has been written, said and done, we may, unashamed, meet Thee face to face.

Amen

posted by Marquette University in honor of alumnus James Foley, 1973-2014

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August 18, 2014

Mt 19: 16-22

Then someone came to him and said, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother; also, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

The young man said to him, “I have kept all these; what do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this word, he went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

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

Come, Follow Me

The story of the rich young man is haunting, particularly for those of us who like to follow rules and earn our way to the top. We are stunned to find someone who chooses checklists over grace and possessions over accepting Jesus’ personal invitation to “come, follow me.” But are we really all that different?

Ignatius of Loyola, himself a rich young man at the time of his conversion from courtier to companion of Jesus, struggled with the very same issues. Having received the graces of revelation, faith, and prayer, he developed the Spiritual Exercises to help us be open to the same graces in our lives. Ignatius’s “First Principle and Foundation,” which begins the Exercises, offers an ideal reflection for today:

The goal of our life is to live with God forever. God, who loves us, gave us life. Our own response of love allows God’s life to flow into us without limit.

All the things in this world are gifts of God, presented to us so that we can know God more easily and make a return of love more readily.

As a result, we appreciate and use all these gifts of God insofar as they help us develop as loving persons. But if any of these gifts become the center of our lives, they displace God and so hinder our growth toward our goal.

In everyday life, then, we must hold ourselves in balance before all of these created gifts insofar as we have a choice and are not bound by some obligation. We should not fix our desires on health or sickness, wealth or poverty, success or failure, a long life or short one. For everything has the potential of calling forth in us a deeper response to our life in God.

Our only desire and our one choice should be this: I want and I choose what better leads to God’s deepening his life in me.

—St. Ignatius, as paraphrased by David Fleming, SJ. Click here for prayer card.

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

Prayer

Lord, today may I only make choices based on what better leads to you deepening your life in me.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team

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August 11, 2014

St. Clare

Matthew 17: 22-27

As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised.” And they were greatly distressed.

When they reached Capernaum, the collectors of the temple tax came to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the temple tax?” He said, “Yes, he does.” And when he came home, Jesus spoke of it first, asking, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tribute? From their children or from others?” When Peter said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the children are free.

However, so that we do not give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook; take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a coin; take that and give it to them for you and me.”

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

A Ransom for Many

Today’s gospel is something of a two-for. Here we encounter two seemingly disparate scenes and one coin that covers the tax for Jesus and Peter while representing much larger tenets of our faith.

Using some Ignatian imagination, we place ourselves in these scenes to mine their meaning.

In the first, we are among the disciples as Jesus tells us that he will be betrayed, killed, and raised from the dead. We have heard Jesus foretell his death before, but this time we get it. And this time we are greatly distressed. How can this be? How can our savior be killed? Does this mean that we, too, will be killed for following Jesus? Is this really how it all ends?

The second scene is no less complex. If we put ourselves in Peter’s shoes, how do we respond to the tax collectors when they ask if Jesus pays the temple tax? On one hand, we don’t believe Jesus should have to pay the temple tax because he is the Son of God! On the other hand, if we say no, we will cause scandal. So, we answer yes and then think of a way to ask Jesus about it later.

Jesus, anticipating our every need, raises the issue first by asking us whether kings take tolls from their children (subjects) or others (foreigners). “From others,” we respond, thinking that by extension Jesus and we, his disciples who belong to the kingdom of heaven, are exempt from paying taxes to those who are not of the kingdom.

Jesus affirms, but then teaches that the greater good is to avoid offense or confusion by paying the tax. Nothing should stand in the way of following Jesus or spreading the Gospel.

As Peter, we stand in awe of Jesus as he performs the miracle of the coin-bearing fish and pays the tax for us both. We are reminded of Jesus’ divinity, and then the revelation hits us: “For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mk 10:45; Mt 20:28).

What does it mean to “give to the emperor what belongs to the emperor and to God what belongs to God”? As disciples, how can we follow Jesus by serving others?  

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

Prayer

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me Jesus.
From the desire of being loved, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being extolled, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being honored, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being praised, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being preferred to others, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being consulted,  Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being approved, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being humiliated, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being despised, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of suffering rebukes, Deliver me, Jesus.

—Excerpted from the Litany of Humility by Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val (1865-1930), Secretary of State to Pope Saint Pius X

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August 4, 2014

St. John Mary Vianney

Mt 14: 22-36

Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them.

And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.”

So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret. After the people of that place recognized him, they sent word throughout the region and brought all who were sick to him, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.

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

Lord, Save Me!

Today’s gospel has it all: faith versus fear, walking on water versus drowning, doubt versus belief. Promotional copy might read: “If you read one scripture passage this year, make it Matthew 14:22-36!”

Here we learn that Jesus prays. Alone. After feeding the crowds, he goes up the mountainside to connect with his Father. Even Jesus needs periods of solitude and prayer to fulfill his mission. What if we followed his example and prayed regularly?

Jesus also has enough faith in his disciples to send them out on their own ahead of him. But they struggle to have the same faith in Jesus. It’s easy to disparage the disciples for not recognizing Jesus as he walked across the sea toward them. But don’t we often fail to recognize Jesus in our daily lives, especially in times of turmoil?

Even after Jesus tells the disciples not to be afraid, Peter needs more proof. With such little faith, it’s hard enough to put one foot in front of the other, let alone walk on water! When Peter sinks and cries out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus stretches out his hand and catches his beloved disciple. In what ways is Jesus reaching out to us, responding to even our quietest cries to be saved?

Always the teacher, Jesus asks Peter, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” Then Jesus offers yet another sign—the calming of the storm—which allows the disciples to recognize him as the Son of God. What signs of God at work in the world will we see today? How might we live our faith boldly, trusting that if we falter Jesus will offer a saving hand?

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

Prayer

Lord, in many ways we are like Peter. When we take our eyes off of you, life can become overwhelming. Help us to refocus on you and therein remember what really matters in life. We know the waves will come and torrential winds will shake our foundation. There is no escaping this. But through it all, we have your assurance that nothing can separate us from you. Though you might seem so distant, we will not claim this as our truth. Instead you seek us in the dark of night and promise to bring us into the light.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team

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Ignatian spirituality reminds us that God pursues us in the routines of our home and work life, and in the hopes and fears of life's challenges. The founder of the Jesuits, Saint Ignatius of Loyola, created the Spiritual Exercises to deepen our relationship with Christ and to move our contemplation into service. May this prayer site anchor your day and strengthen your resolve to remember what truly matters.

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June 24, 2015

NATIVITY 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. http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations

The Hand of the Lord is with You

In celebrating the Nativity of John the Baptist, we celebrate multiple miracles.

We celebrate the miracle of birth. As I learned in a profound way when each of my three children came into the world, birth—giving life—is a miracle. The miracle of John’s birth was all the more noteworthy because he was born to aged, childless parents and his birth paralleled the miraculous birth of Christ.

We celebrate the miracle of God’s love and the power faith. Despite being rendered speechless for doubting the Archangel Gabriel’s announcement of John’s birth, Zechariah was saved by his faith and obedience to God. In return, Zechariah was given the gift of prophecy and foretold the future ministry of John. John’s faith made him a prophet who paved the way for Jesus, whom he later baptized.

We celebrate the miracle of building the Kingdom. The births of John and Jesus prompt us to ask, What, then, is my unique mission? Who am I becoming? The lives of John and Jesus prompt us to have faith that the hand of the Lord is with us. Let us pray on this special day that we may grow strong enough in spirit to serve as builders of God’s Kingdom on earth.

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

Prayer

Lord, increase our faith to grasp the awesome truth that your hand is upon us — no less than it was upon John and Jesus. We boldly move forward this day to serve as builders of God’s Kingdom on earth.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team

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June 17, 2015

Mt 6: 1-6. 16-18

“Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven. “So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

“And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward.But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

“And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

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

The Spirit of Generosity

We live in a fast-paced, hyper-connected culture that praises being noticed and keeping score. Reality shows abound. But what reality do they represent?

Jesus invites us into a deeper reality that we are created by God, who loves and cares for us. A reality in which God sends us into the world as agents of his love, as builders of the Kingdom.

In his “Meditation on the Two Standards” from the Spiritual Exercises, Saint Ignatius makes clear that all disciples have to choose whether they will stand with Jesus or with the world. Standing with Jesus means recognizing life and all that we have as a gift from God. It means being so grateful that we can’t help but give back through love and service.

As we go through this day, how might we show our gratitude by giving without counting the cost?

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

Prayer

Prayer for Generosity
Lord Jesus, teach me to be generous;
teach me to serve you as you deserve,
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labor and not to seek reward,
except that of knowing that I do your will.

Amen.

—Saint Ignatius Loyola


June 10, 2015

Mt 5: 17-19

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

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

What You Focus on Grows

Following Jesus can be quite a trip.

While he challenges those in power and the structures that support them, he makes clear that his mission is not to abolish the law but to fulfill it.

It helps to understand that by “law,” Jesus means God’s commandments, which give life.

For some, obeying any law—let alone God’s law—seems restricting. But Jesus invites us to recognize that the commandments are actually liberating because they draw us into deeper relationship with God, ourselves, and others. God’s law is the path to greater love.

What you focus on grows. Today let us grow in understanding of God’s law by focusing on our faith, respect for others, forgiveness, and love of our neighbor.

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

Prayer

Teach me your paths, my God,
and guide me in your truth.

—Psalm 25:4B, 5A

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June 3, 2015

St. Charles Lwanga & companions, martyrs

Mk 12: 18-27

Some Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him and asked him a question, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that ‘if a man’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no child, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother.’ There were seven brothers; the first married and, when he died, left no children; and the second married her and died, leaving no children; and the third likewise; none of the seven left children. Last of all the woman herself died. In the resurrection whose wife will she be? For the seven had married her.”

Jesus said to them, “Is not this the reason you are wrong, that you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God? For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the story about the bush, how God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is God not of the dead, but of the living; you are quite wrong.”

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

God is the God of the Living!

Before we wave our fingers at the Sadducees for trying to trap Jesus into revealing the resurrection as pure folly, let’s pause a moment and ask: Do I really believe in the resurrection? And if so, what does the resurrection mean in my daily life?

Jesus, of course, turns the trap into a teachable moment. God is the God of the living, including the Sadducees’ forebears Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But the resurrected life is very different from earthly life. Those who rise from the dead are like the angels in heaven, alive in God’s presence.

If the resurrected life means being alive in God’s presence, then count me in.

In the here and now, being fully alive means being present to each moment and savoring the sacred within. It means giving, and giving more. It means being a contemplative in action, as Saint Ignatius would say. It means sacrifice and solidarity with and for others. It means being comfortable with who we are and where we are. It means laughing and loving.

In their track “Roll Away Your Stone,” the band Mumford & Sons offers some profound spiritual wisdom: “Roll away your stone, I’ll roll away mine. Together we can see what we will find.”

What if today we rolled away the stone that blocks us from being fully alive? What if we joined others on this resurrection journey?

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

Prayer

It is not you that shapes God; it is God that shapes you.
If you are the work of God await the hand of the artist
who does all things in due season.

Offer Him your heart, soft and tractable, and keep the form
in which the artist has fashioned you.
Let your clay be moist, lest you grow hard and lose the imprint of his fingers.

– St. Irenaeus (130-202 AD)

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May 27, 2015

St. Augustine of Canterbury

Mark 10: 32-45

They were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them; they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. He took the twelve aside again and began to tell them what was to happen to him, saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death; then they will hand him over to the Gentiles;they will mock him, and spit upon him, and flog him, and kill him; and after three days he will rise again.”

James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” They replied, “We are able.” Then Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”

When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John.So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

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

Radical Love

Time and again the disciples just don’t get it. And for that, we can take great consolation.

It’s easy to criticize James and John for missing Jesus’ message in favor of their own self-interest. But deep down, we know that our own petty concerns often cloud our relationship with Jesus.

Thankfully, Jesus is patient with the disciples and with us. Time and again he reveals that having a seat in the kingdom isn’t about winning a competition or gaining power over others. It’s about radical love and serving others.

In his Spiritual Exercises, Saint Ignatius invites us to walk with Jesus through four weeks or “movements.” In the first two, we come to know ourselves as loved sinners and respond in generosity by serving God and others to the best of our ability. In the third week, we contemplate the Cross and God’s faithfulness and love for us. In the final week, we are sent forth by the Risen Christ to find God in all things and serve the world in concrete ways.

Today, how can we “get it” by focusing on God’s love and serving wherever there is a need, no matter how small?

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

Prayer

Lord, we search for true success. We seek the same for our families. You have given us the pathway to fulfillment. “Whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all.” May our choices in  how we spend our time follow your call to greatness.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team

 

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May 20, 2015

Jn 17: 11b-19

And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.

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

Sent into the World

Today’s gospel raises a key question all believers face: what is our relationship to the world?

For Christians, the answer boils down to which Christ we purport to follow.

In his landmark book, Christ and Culture, H. Richard Niebuhr identifies five concepts of Christ that have prevailed throughout Christian history—Christ against culture, Christ of culture, Christ above Culture, Christ and culture in paradox, and Christ transforming culture.

Giants of the Catholic tradition such as St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Ignatius Loyola navigated their way through the two extremes—Christ against culture and Christ of culture—by embracing Christ above culture. For them, above does not mean “aloof” or “disengaged.” Rather, it means recognizing all that is good in the world as a gift from God while acknowledging that God’s grace and the mediation of the church are necessary to bring the world to full fruition.

As Jesus prepares to return to the Father, he prays for the disciples. Yet, no matter how great his concern for their well being in the world, he makes clear, “I am not asking you to take them out of the world . . .” Quite the opposite. Jesus prays to the Father, “As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.”

Like Jesus and the disciples, we do not belong to the world. But we are sent into the world with the mission of knowing and revealing God’s love.

Ignatian spirituality challenges us to ask, How can I better see “God in all things”? How can I be a true “person for others”?

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

Prayer

Act of Love
O my God, I love you above all things with my whole heart and soul, because you are all good and worthy of all my love. I love my neighbor as myself for the love of you. I forgive all who have injured me and I ask pardon of those whom I have injured.

Amen.

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August 25, 2014

St. Louis of France

2 Thes 1: 1-5. 11-12

Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. We must always give thanks to God for you, brothers and sisters, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of everyone of you for one another is increasing. Therefore we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith during all your persecutions and the afflictions that you are enduring.

This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, and is intended to make you worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering.

To this end we always pray for you, asking that our God will make you worthy of his call and will fulfill by his power every good resolve and work of faith, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus 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. http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations

Your Faith Flourishes Ever More

In reflecting on Paul’s letter, I unexpectedly was moved to tears.

Tomorrow, a prayer vigil to remember slain journalist James Foley and to show support for the Foley family will be held at 6 p.m. in Milwaukee’s Church of the Gesu. Suddenly it hit me that Paul’s words to the Thessalonians are beautifully and painfully addressed to the Foley family, the Marquette University community James so dearly loved, and all who mourn the loss of a true man for others.

Grace and peace from God the Father and Jesus Christ to you, James, the Foley family, and all in your faith-filled community, says Saint Paul.

Thank God for you because your faith flourishes ever more, and the love of every one of you for one another grows ever greater.

Because of your endurance and faith in all your persecutions, your work in building the Kingdom of God continues. Even in the face of unfathomable evil.

We pray for you now, James, in gratitude for the good that you have brought to fulfillment through your faithful witness. And we ask for your intercession to give us the strength to respond to God’s call by continuing as a community of faith, hope, and love in a world that needs us more than ever.

Visit Marquette University’s website  for more information on the prayer vigil, the James Foley Scholarship Fund, and a moving letter James wrote his alma mater (class of 1996) in 2011 after his first abduction in Libya.

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

Prayer

A Prayer for Journalists

St. Francis de Sales, patron saint of writers and journalists

Almighty God,

Strengthen and direct, we pray, the will of all whose work it is to write what many read, and to speak where many listen.

May we be bold to confront evil and injustice: understanding and compassionate of human weakness; rejecting alike the half-truth which deceives, and the slanted word which corrupts.

May the power which is ours, for good or ill, always be used with honesty and courage, with respect and integrity, so that when all here has been written, said and done, we may, unashamed, meet Thee face to face.

Amen

posted by Marquette University in honor of alumnus James Foley, 1973-2014

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August 18, 2014

Mt 19: 16-22

Then someone came to him and said, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother; also, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

The young man said to him, “I have kept all these; what do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this word, he went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

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

Come, Follow Me

The story of the rich young man is haunting, particularly for those of us who like to follow rules and earn our way to the top. We are stunned to find someone who chooses checklists over grace and possessions over accepting Jesus’ personal invitation to “come, follow me.” But are we really all that different?

Ignatius of Loyola, himself a rich young man at the time of his conversion from courtier to companion of Jesus, struggled with the very same issues. Having received the graces of revelation, faith, and prayer, he developed the Spiritual Exercises to help us be open to the same graces in our lives. Ignatius’s “First Principle and Foundation,” which begins the Exercises, offers an ideal reflection for today:

The goal of our life is to live with God forever. God, who loves us, gave us life. Our own response of love allows God’s life to flow into us without limit.

All the things in this world are gifts of God, presented to us so that we can know God more easily and make a return of love more readily.

As a result, we appreciate and use all these gifts of God insofar as they help us develop as loving persons. But if any of these gifts become the center of our lives, they displace God and so hinder our growth toward our goal.

In everyday life, then, we must hold ourselves in balance before all of these created gifts insofar as we have a choice and are not bound by some obligation. We should not fix our desires on health or sickness, wealth or poverty, success or failure, a long life or short one. For everything has the potential of calling forth in us a deeper response to our life in God.

Our only desire and our one choice should be this: I want and I choose what better leads to God’s deepening his life in me.

—St. Ignatius, as paraphrased by David Fleming, SJ. Click here for prayer card.

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

Prayer

Lord, today may I only make choices based on what better leads to you deepening your life in me.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team

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August 11, 2014

St. Clare

Matthew 17: 22-27

As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised.” And they were greatly distressed.

When they reached Capernaum, the collectors of the temple tax came to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the temple tax?” He said, “Yes, he does.” And when he came home, Jesus spoke of it first, asking, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tribute? From their children or from others?” When Peter said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the children are free.

However, so that we do not give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook; take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a coin; take that and give it to them for you and me.”

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

A Ransom for Many

Today’s gospel is something of a two-for. Here we encounter two seemingly disparate scenes and one coin that covers the tax for Jesus and Peter while representing much larger tenets of our faith.

Using some Ignatian imagination, we place ourselves in these scenes to mine their meaning.

In the first, we are among the disciples as Jesus tells us that he will be betrayed, killed, and raised from the dead. We have heard Jesus foretell his death before, but this time we get it. And this time we are greatly distressed. How can this be? How can our savior be killed? Does this mean that we, too, will be killed for following Jesus? Is this really how it all ends?

The second scene is no less complex. If we put ourselves in Peter’s shoes, how do we respond to the tax collectors when they ask if Jesus pays the temple tax? On one hand, we don’t believe Jesus should have to pay the temple tax because he is the Son of God! On the other hand, if we say no, we will cause scandal. So, we answer yes and then think of a way to ask Jesus about it later.

Jesus, anticipating our every need, raises the issue first by asking us whether kings take tolls from their children (subjects) or others (foreigners). “From others,” we respond, thinking that by extension Jesus and we, his disciples who belong to the kingdom of heaven, are exempt from paying taxes to those who are not of the kingdom.

Jesus affirms, but then teaches that the greater good is to avoid offense or confusion by paying the tax. Nothing should stand in the way of following Jesus or spreading the Gospel.

As Peter, we stand in awe of Jesus as he performs the miracle of the coin-bearing fish and pays the tax for us both. We are reminded of Jesus’ divinity, and then the revelation hits us: “For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mk 10:45; Mt 20:28).

What does it mean to “give to the emperor what belongs to the emperor and to God what belongs to God”? As disciples, how can we follow Jesus by serving others?  

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

Prayer

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me Jesus.
From the desire of being loved, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being extolled, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being honored, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being praised, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being preferred to others, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being consulted,  Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being approved, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being humiliated, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being despised, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of suffering rebukes, Deliver me, Jesus.

—Excerpted from the Litany of Humility by Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val (1865-1930), Secretary of State to Pope Saint Pius X

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August 4, 2014

St. John Mary Vianney

Mt 14: 22-36

Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them.

And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.”

So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret. After the people of that place recognized him, they sent word throughout the region and brought all who were sick to him, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.

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

Lord, Save Me!

Today’s gospel has it all: faith versus fear, walking on water versus drowning, doubt versus belief. Promotional copy might read: “If you read one scripture passage this year, make it Matthew 14:22-36!”

Here we learn that Jesus prays. Alone. After feeding the crowds, he goes up the mountainside to connect with his Father. Even Jesus needs periods of solitude and prayer to fulfill his mission. What if we followed his example and prayed regularly?

Jesus also has enough faith in his disciples to send them out on their own ahead of him. But they struggle to have the same faith in Jesus. It’s easy to disparage the disciples for not recognizing Jesus as he walked across the sea toward them. But don’t we often fail to recognize Jesus in our daily lives, especially in times of turmoil?

Even after Jesus tells the disciples not to be afraid, Peter needs more proof. With such little faith, it’s hard enough to put one foot in front of the other, let alone walk on water! When Peter sinks and cries out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus stretches out his hand and catches his beloved disciple. In what ways is Jesus reaching out to us, responding to even our quietest cries to be saved?

Always the teacher, Jesus asks Peter, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” Then Jesus offers yet another sign—the calming of the storm—which allows the disciples to recognize him as the Son of God. What signs of God at work in the world will we see today? How might we live our faith boldly, trusting that if we falter Jesus will offer a saving hand?

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

Prayer

Lord, in many ways we are like Peter. When we take our eyes off of you, life can become overwhelming. Help us to refocus on you and therein remember what really matters in life. We know the waves will come and torrential winds will shake our foundation. There is no escaping this. But through it all, we have your assurance that nothing can separate us from you. Though you might seem so distant, we will not claim this as our truth. Instead you seek us in the dark of night and promise to bring us into the light.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team

Please share the Good Word with your friends!

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