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December 31, 2017

Feast of the Holy Family

Lk 2:22-40

When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.

Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,“Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”

And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.

When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon 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.

A Meditation on Bartolomé Esteban Murillo’s The Holy Family with Little Bird

This image on which this reflection is based can be found here.

It is years past the first Christmas with its cold cave,
Straw beds, sleepy shepherds and barnyard beasts.
Here is warmth, soft blankets and animal friends.

Time to play, time to rest, together for a time.
The pleasure of leisure watching God grow up.
A holy family is love made real.

His hammer silent, a father protects, delights in his son.
A spinning woman smiles, stops her daily duties
Of mothering, no smothering here.

We see what we can almost hear –
A savior who smiles and squeals with delight,
Teasing, taunting, prey held high.

His playmate rapt at attention,
Begging for a bit of bird.
All eyes on the boy’s mischievous fun.

Something slumbering inside me awakens.
Year after year I return to this family
To teach me what I forget to remember.

Life is more than work.
Love is not a burden to be borne.
Simple joys in simple living simply strips away the years.

Holy, holy, holy family.
No halos, no angel choirs, no heavenly lights.
The extraordinary ordinary of the holy.

—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 seen at heartoheart.org

Prayer

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, pray for us!

—Traditional prayer

 


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December 30, 2017

Lk 2:36-40

There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.

When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon 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.

God’s Grace Was Upon Him

One again the reality of the calendar crams so much spiritual reality into this long New Year’s weekend. Today we meet the prophetess Anna as she prays and fasts in the temple at Jerusalem. She was speaking to everyone about the child born in Bethlehem. As she did so, Mary and Joseph arrived in the temple to present Jesus to the Lord, meeting both Simeon and Anna. In two sentences, Luke then relates that Mary and Joseph returned with Jesus to Nazareth. where Jesus “grew in size and strength, filled with wisdom….and the grace of God was upon him.”

Take some time this weekend, as the New Year 2018 dawns, to flip through your 2017 calendar. Where over the last 12 months was God’s grace strong in your personal life? How was God’s grace active and alive within your family? What personal life experiences do you especially treasure from this past year? How will they influence the way you begin this new year of grace and possibility?

—The Jesuit Prayer team

Prayer

For all that has been, thank you. For all that is to come, yes!

—Dag Hammarskjöld


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December 29, 2017

 

St. Thomas Becket

Lk 2: 22-35

 

When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”

 

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.

 

Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,“Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”

 

And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

 

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.

 

Emmanuel is with us

 

Today’s gospel from St. Luke contains the account of Christ’s Presentation in the Jerusalem temple by his parents.  We also read of the appearance of the venerable old man Simeon who, after long years of prayer, finally holds in his arms the infant Christ.  We can be sure that the faith, love and messianic hopes of Simeon had been purified by this journey of many years.  We can learn from his persevering prayer.

 

After blessing Mary and Joseph, Simeon speaks directly to Mary: “Sorrow, like a sharp sword, will break your heart.” The little family then returned to their hometown of Nazareth where “the Child grew and became strong…full of wisdom…with God’s blessing upon him.”  

 

These events are enriched by many biblical themes going back centuries.  To join our own prayer to that of this unique company is both a challenge and an invitation.  The future can never be the same for us, for Emmanuel is truly with us, now and forever.

 

—Fr. Walter J. Stohrer, SJ, is a member of the St. Camillus Jesuit Community in Wauwatosa, WI.

 

Prayer

 

Immanuel
Our God is with us
And if God is with us
Who could stand against us
Our God is with us
Immanuel

 

—Refrain of Immanuel by Michael Card, © 1986 Birdwing Music and Mole End Music

 

 

 

 

 


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December 29, 2017

St. Thomas Becket

Lk 2: 22-35

When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.

Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,“Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”

And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

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.

Emmanuel is with us

Today’s gospel from St. Luke contains the account of Christ’s Presentation in the Jerusalem temple by his parents.  We also read of the appearance of the venerable old man Simeon who, after long years of prayer, finally holds in his arms the infant Christ.  We can be sure that the faith, love and messianic hopes of Simeon had been purified by this journey of many years.  We can learn from his persevering prayer.

After blessing Mary and Joseph, Simeon speaks directly to Mary: “Sorrow, like a sharp sword, will break your heart.” The little family then returned to their hometown of Nazareth where “the Child grew and became strong…full of wisdom…with God’s blessing upon him.” 

These events are enriched by many biblical themes going back centuries.  To join our own prayer to that of this unique company is both a challenge and an invitation.  The future can never be the same for us, for Emmanuel is truly with us, now and forever.

—Fr. Walter J. Stohrer, SJ, is a member of the St. Camillus Jesuit Community in Wauwatosa, WI.

Prayer

Immanuel
Our God is with us

And if God is with us
Who could stand against us
Our God is with us
Immanuel

 —Refrain of Immanuel by Michael Card, © 1986 Birdwing Music and Mole End Music


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December 28, 2017

Feast of the Holy Innocents

Mt 2: 13-18

Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”

When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: “A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.”

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

What change can we make?

Herod realized that he had been deceived and ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem, two years old and younger. Hearing this today, we may be tempted to imitate the Pharisee in Luke, standing in the Temple, praying: “God, I thank you that I am not like other people…” Certainly today, 2000 years later, we are not like Herod; we’re not wiping out scores of little kids. But are we really any better?

Recall the photos of the body of the refugee boy washed up on a Turkish beach. His name was Aylan. Remember the massacre at Sandy Hook. And Sutherland Springs. The ongoing genocide of the Rohingya. And the untold thousands who have died in the name of God, or country, or ideology, or indifference. We all share in the responsibility for these acts. And we all must “be the change we want to see”(Ghandi). All of us.

What action can you take to bring about a positive change in the world?

—Michael Sarafolean is an Ignatian Associate in St. Paul, MN, and a member of Saint Thomas More Catholic Community, the Jesuit parish of the Twin Cities.

Prayer

Soul of Christ, be my sanctification;
Body of Christ, be my salvation;
Blood of Christ, fill all my veins;
Water of Christ’s side, wash out my stains;
Passion of Christ, my comfort be;
O good Jesus, listen to me;
In Thy wounds I fain would hide;
Ne’er to be parted from Thy side;
Guard me, should the foe assail me;
Call me when my life shall fail me;
Bid me come to Thee above,
With Thy saints to sing Thy love,
World without end.
Amen.

—Anima Christi, translated by Blessed John Henry Newman

 


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December 27, 2017

Feast of St. John, apostle and evangelist

1 Jn 1: 1-4

We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us— we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

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.

Pay attention

In her poem “Sometimes,” Mary Oliver writes:

Instructions for living a life:a

         Pay attention.
         Be astonished.
        Tell about it.

It strikes me that Mary Oliver and the Apostle-evangelist John may be kindred spirits.

Throughout Jesus’ ministry, the apostles were awake (well, mostly) to experience firsthand, through their senses, his presence in first century Palestine.

They basked in the astonishment of fellowship with Jesus, which revealed to them who God is and who they were.

Finally – and this is crucial – their joy was made complete in the telling of the story.

This is the heart of our identity as Christians and as “Ignatians” – people attentive to “God in all things,” who stop and savor the wonder of it all, and who rejoice in sharing it with others.

What is keeping me from paying attention to God? What has astonished me lately? With whom can I share my noticing?      

—Katie Davis is a former member of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps and JVC Magis currently working as a Chaplain and Religious Studies teacher at Saint Ignatius College Prep in Chicago.  She serves on the Advisory Board for Jesuit Connections in Chicago and the Chicago Women’s Team for the Ignatian Spirituality Project.

Prayer

“Open my eyes that I may see…”

—Psalm 119:18

 


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December 26, 2017

Feast of St. Stephen the First Martyr

Acts 6: 8-10; 7: 54-59

Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and others of those from Cilicia and Asia, stood up and argued with Stephen. But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke.

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

But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”

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.

Changes of Heart

Only once or twice in my Jesuit formation so far have I personally felt the Enemy actively and urgently at work. In my ministry at juvenile hall, where teenage boys await sentencing, I often sense a dark fist tightening on the hearts and minds of those young men: fueling their guilt, feeding their anger and tearing away at the truth that God loves us all without condition. Convincing the incarcerated that they are greater than their worst deeds isn’t easy, but that challenge never stopped Christ from emphatic calls not to overlook care for prisoners.

Something to remember as we honor St. Stephen today are the actions for which Paul was responsible before starting his own ministry. While we don’t know if Paul heaved a rock at the Church’s first martyr himself, we do know that this great persecutor of early Christians went on to experience a ferocious change of heart that led him to become a leader in our faith history.

We are better than our worst actions. The trust we place in the boundless grace and mercy of God opens the door to forgiveness, healing, profound change and the Christmas light of Christ.

—Joe Kraemer, SJ, is a scholastic of the West Province currently in Regency in the Advancement Office at Sacred Heart Jesuit Center in Los Gatos, California.

Prayer

Come to my assistance my Lord and my God, that I may do for You all that you ask. Strengthen me in adversity and do not let me succumb to my feelings of worthlessness.

Come live within me, that I may die to myself so You may fill my very being. Let me serve others as You would serve them, that in doing so I may serve You. Do not let me fail, oh Lord, or lead your people astray.

Call me to live in your presence today, that tomorrow I may die in Your hands. May You raise me one day that I may touch your face and live in Your glory.

—Adapted excerpt from a prayer to mark the Feast of St. Stephen, first deacon and martyr, by Deacon Lazaro J. Ulloa.


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December 25, 2017

Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord

Lk 2:15-20

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told 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.

Voices of angels in our prayer

There are many heroes surrounding the birth of Jesus.  Certainly, the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph responded with uncommon, heroic graciousness to God’s unexpected invitation to be the mother and father of Jesus. They were well aware that something miraculous had taken place which allowed Mary to conceive and bear a son without “having known man.”   

But perhaps the unsung heroes of today are the shepherds who also trusted the messages of angels.  The shepherds took this divine prompting so seriously that they traveled to Bethlehem to see “this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.”  Maybe they even brought their flocks of sheep with them!  

As we ponder the mystery of how God heals a broken world from the “inside out” through the incarnation of God’s love in Jesus, may we, like the shepherds, listen to the voices of angels in our prayer, and may these divine promptings help us to notice, savor and celebrate God’s healing, reconciling grace and love at work in our world.

—Fr. Brian Paulson, S.J. is the provincial of the Midwest Jesuits.

Prayer

Today true peace came down to us from heaven.
Today the whole earth was filled with heaven’s sweetness.
Today a new day dawns,
the day of our redemption, prepared by God from ages past,
The beginning of our never ending gladness.

—Responsory from the Liturgy of the Hours for the Christmas season

 


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December 24, 2017

Lk 1: 26-38

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”

But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.

And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

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.

           THE ANNUNCIATION

                In the intimacy of a bedchamber
              Your soul is awakened from sleep,
             Fragile flesh before angelic brilliance.
           Your rumpled night sheets tossed aside,
          You listen in peace with your whole self.
           To the question that will define history,
             Holding its breath for your answer,
                        All heaven pauses.

                   “LET IT BE DONE TO ME…”

                              Here it begins,
                      In such utter simplicity,
            In quiet strength, at the appointed hour,
          With the rippled rungs of time at your feet,
        And the broad lines of history at your back.
          At the balance of His grace in your will,
           Eve reborn, humanity to be redeemed
                Through a child, from a virgin
                       Whose name is Mary.

This poem is based on the painting The Annunciation by Henry Ossawa Tanner, housed in the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

—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 seen at heartoheart.org

Prayer

Hail Mary, full of grace,
the Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou amongst women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.

Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners,
now, and at the hour of our death.
Amen.

—Traditional prayer


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December 23, 2017

Mal 3: 1-4, 23-24

Thus says the Lord GOD:

Lo, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me; And suddenly there will come to the temple the LORD whom you seek. And the messenger of the covenant whom you desire. Yes, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts.

But who will endure the day of his coming? And who can stand when he appears? For he is like the refiner’s fire, or like the fuller’s lye. He will sit refining and purifying silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi, refining them like gold or like silver that they may offer due sacrifice to the LORD. Then the sacrifice of Judah and Jerusalem will please the LORD, as in the days of old, as in years gone by.

Lo, I will send you Elijah, the prophet, before the day of the LORD comes, the great and terrible day, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with doom.

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.

Yes, He Is Coming!

It is Christmas weekend, with all the personal energy and family activity this involves. No doubt we will cram many “adventures” into the next 72 hours. As it all begins, take some time to ponder and savor the verses from psalm 25 which we pray at Mass today:

Your ways, O Lord, make known to me: teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my savior.
Good and upright is the Lord: thus he shows sinners the way.
He guides the humble to justice; he teaches the humble his way.
All the paths of the Lord are kindness and constancy
toward those who keep his covenant and his decrees.

—The Jesuit Prayer team 

Prayer

O Emmanuel, God’s presence among us, our King and our Judge:
Come and save us, O Lord our God.

—”O Antiphon” for December 23


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December 31, 2017

Feast of the Holy Family

Lk 2:22-40

When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.

Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,“Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”

And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.

When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon 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.

A Meditation on Bartolomé Esteban Murillo’s The Holy Family with Little Bird

This image on which this reflection is based can be found here.

It is years past the first Christmas with its cold cave,
Straw beds, sleepy shepherds and barnyard beasts.
Here is warmth, soft blankets and animal friends.

Time to play, time to rest, together for a time.
The pleasure of leisure watching God grow up.
A holy family is love made real.

His hammer silent, a father protects, delights in his son.
A spinning woman smiles, stops her daily duties
Of mothering, no smothering here.

We see what we can almost hear –
A savior who smiles and squeals with delight,
Teasing, taunting, prey held high.

His playmate rapt at attention,
Begging for a bit of bird.
All eyes on the boy’s mischievous fun.

Something slumbering inside me awakens.
Year after year I return to this family
To teach me what I forget to remember.

Life is more than work.
Love is not a burden to be borne.
Simple joys in simple living simply strips away the years.

Holy, holy, holy family.
No halos, no angel choirs, no heavenly lights.
The extraordinary ordinary of the holy.

—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 seen at heartoheart.org

Prayer

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, pray for us!

—Traditional prayer

 


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December 30, 2017

Lk 2:36-40

There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.

When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon 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.

God’s Grace Was Upon Him

One again the reality of the calendar crams so much spiritual reality into this long New Year’s weekend. Today we meet the prophetess Anna as she prays and fasts in the temple at Jerusalem. She was speaking to everyone about the child born in Bethlehem. As she did so, Mary and Joseph arrived in the temple to present Jesus to the Lord, meeting both Simeon and Anna. In two sentences, Luke then relates that Mary and Joseph returned with Jesus to Nazareth. where Jesus “grew in size and strength, filled with wisdom….and the grace of God was upon him.”

Take some time this weekend, as the New Year 2018 dawns, to flip through your 2017 calendar. Where over the last 12 months was God’s grace strong in your personal life? How was God’s grace active and alive within your family? What personal life experiences do you especially treasure from this past year? How will they influence the way you begin this new year of grace and possibility?

—The Jesuit Prayer team

Prayer

For all that has been, thank you. For all that is to come, yes!

—Dag Hammarskjöld


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December 29, 2017

 

St. Thomas Becket

Lk 2: 22-35

 

When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”

 

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.

 

Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,“Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”

 

And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

 

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.

 

Emmanuel is with us

 

Today’s gospel from St. Luke contains the account of Christ’s Presentation in the Jerusalem temple by his parents.  We also read of the appearance of the venerable old man Simeon who, after long years of prayer, finally holds in his arms the infant Christ.  We can be sure that the faith, love and messianic hopes of Simeon had been purified by this journey of many years.  We can learn from his persevering prayer.

 

After blessing Mary and Joseph, Simeon speaks directly to Mary: “Sorrow, like a sharp sword, will break your heart.” The little family then returned to their hometown of Nazareth where “the Child grew and became strong…full of wisdom…with God’s blessing upon him.”  

 

These events are enriched by many biblical themes going back centuries.  To join our own prayer to that of this unique company is both a challenge and an invitation.  The future can never be the same for us, for Emmanuel is truly with us, now and forever.

 

—Fr. Walter J. Stohrer, SJ, is a member of the St. Camillus Jesuit Community in Wauwatosa, WI.

 

Prayer

 

Immanuel
Our God is with us
And if God is with us
Who could stand against us
Our God is with us
Immanuel

 

—Refrain of Immanuel by Michael Card, © 1986 Birdwing Music and Mole End Music

 

 

 

 

 


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December 29, 2017

St. Thomas Becket

Lk 2: 22-35

When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.

Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,“Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”

And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

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.

Emmanuel is with us

Today’s gospel from St. Luke contains the account of Christ’s Presentation in the Jerusalem temple by his parents.  We also read of the appearance of the venerable old man Simeon who, after long years of prayer, finally holds in his arms the infant Christ.  We can be sure that the faith, love and messianic hopes of Simeon had been purified by this journey of many years.  We can learn from his persevering prayer.

After blessing Mary and Joseph, Simeon speaks directly to Mary: “Sorrow, like a sharp sword, will break your heart.” The little family then returned to their hometown of Nazareth where “the Child grew and became strong…full of wisdom…with God’s blessing upon him.” 

These events are enriched by many biblical themes going back centuries.  To join our own prayer to that of this unique company is both a challenge and an invitation.  The future can never be the same for us, for Emmanuel is truly with us, now and forever.

—Fr. Walter J. Stohrer, SJ, is a member of the St. Camillus Jesuit Community in Wauwatosa, WI.

Prayer

Immanuel
Our God is with us

And if God is with us
Who could stand against us
Our God is with us
Immanuel

 —Refrain of Immanuel by Michael Card, © 1986 Birdwing Music and Mole End Music


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December 28, 2017

Feast of the Holy Innocents

Mt 2: 13-18

Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”

When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: “A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.”

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

What change can we make?

Herod realized that he had been deceived and ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem, two years old and younger. Hearing this today, we may be tempted to imitate the Pharisee in Luke, standing in the Temple, praying: “God, I thank you that I am not like other people…” Certainly today, 2000 years later, we are not like Herod; we’re not wiping out scores of little kids. But are we really any better?

Recall the photos of the body of the refugee boy washed up on a Turkish beach. His name was Aylan. Remember the massacre at Sandy Hook. And Sutherland Springs. The ongoing genocide of the Rohingya. And the untold thousands who have died in the name of God, or country, or ideology, or indifference. We all share in the responsibility for these acts. And we all must “be the change we want to see”(Ghandi). All of us.

What action can you take to bring about a positive change in the world?

—Michael Sarafolean is an Ignatian Associate in St. Paul, MN, and a member of Saint Thomas More Catholic Community, the Jesuit parish of the Twin Cities.

Prayer

Soul of Christ, be my sanctification;
Body of Christ, be my salvation;
Blood of Christ, fill all my veins;
Water of Christ’s side, wash out my stains;
Passion of Christ, my comfort be;
O good Jesus, listen to me;
In Thy wounds I fain would hide;
Ne’er to be parted from Thy side;
Guard me, should the foe assail me;
Call me when my life shall fail me;
Bid me come to Thee above,
With Thy saints to sing Thy love,
World without end.
Amen.

—Anima Christi, translated by Blessed John Henry Newman

 


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December 27, 2017

Feast of St. John, apostle and evangelist

1 Jn 1: 1-4

We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us— we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

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.

Pay attention

In her poem “Sometimes,” Mary Oliver writes:

Instructions for living a life:a

         Pay attention.
         Be astonished.
        Tell about it.

It strikes me that Mary Oliver and the Apostle-evangelist John may be kindred spirits.

Throughout Jesus’ ministry, the apostles were awake (well, mostly) to experience firsthand, through their senses, his presence in first century Palestine.

They basked in the astonishment of fellowship with Jesus, which revealed to them who God is and who they were.

Finally – and this is crucial – their joy was made complete in the telling of the story.

This is the heart of our identity as Christians and as “Ignatians” – people attentive to “God in all things,” who stop and savor the wonder of it all, and who rejoice in sharing it with others.

What is keeping me from paying attention to God? What has astonished me lately? With whom can I share my noticing?      

—Katie Davis is a former member of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps and JVC Magis currently working as a Chaplain and Religious Studies teacher at Saint Ignatius College Prep in Chicago.  She serves on the Advisory Board for Jesuit Connections in Chicago and the Chicago Women’s Team for the Ignatian Spirituality Project.

Prayer

“Open my eyes that I may see…”

—Psalm 119:18

 


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December 26, 2017

Feast of St. Stephen the First Martyr

Acts 6: 8-10; 7: 54-59

Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and others of those from Cilicia and Asia, stood up and argued with Stephen. But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke.

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

But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”

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.

Changes of Heart

Only once or twice in my Jesuit formation so far have I personally felt the Enemy actively and urgently at work. In my ministry at juvenile hall, where teenage boys await sentencing, I often sense a dark fist tightening on the hearts and minds of those young men: fueling their guilt, feeding their anger and tearing away at the truth that God loves us all without condition. Convincing the incarcerated that they are greater than their worst deeds isn’t easy, but that challenge never stopped Christ from emphatic calls not to overlook care for prisoners.

Something to remember as we honor St. Stephen today are the actions for which Paul was responsible before starting his own ministry. While we don’t know if Paul heaved a rock at the Church’s first martyr himself, we do know that this great persecutor of early Christians went on to experience a ferocious change of heart that led him to become a leader in our faith history.

We are better than our worst actions. The trust we place in the boundless grace and mercy of God opens the door to forgiveness, healing, profound change and the Christmas light of Christ.

—Joe Kraemer, SJ, is a scholastic of the West Province currently in Regency in the Advancement Office at Sacred Heart Jesuit Center in Los Gatos, California.

Prayer

Come to my assistance my Lord and my God, that I may do for You all that you ask. Strengthen me in adversity and do not let me succumb to my feelings of worthlessness.

Come live within me, that I may die to myself so You may fill my very being. Let me serve others as You would serve them, that in doing so I may serve You. Do not let me fail, oh Lord, or lead your people astray.

Call me to live in your presence today, that tomorrow I may die in Your hands. May You raise me one day that I may touch your face and live in Your glory.

—Adapted excerpt from a prayer to mark the Feast of St. Stephen, first deacon and martyr, by Deacon Lazaro J. Ulloa.


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December 25, 2017

Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord

Lk 2:15-20

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told 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.

Voices of angels in our prayer

There are many heroes surrounding the birth of Jesus.  Certainly, the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph responded with uncommon, heroic graciousness to God’s unexpected invitation to be the mother and father of Jesus. They were well aware that something miraculous had taken place which allowed Mary to conceive and bear a son without “having known man.”   

But perhaps the unsung heroes of today are the shepherds who also trusted the messages of angels.  The shepherds took this divine prompting so seriously that they traveled to Bethlehem to see “this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.”  Maybe they even brought their flocks of sheep with them!  

As we ponder the mystery of how God heals a broken world from the “inside out” through the incarnation of God’s love in Jesus, may we, like the shepherds, listen to the voices of angels in our prayer, and may these divine promptings help us to notice, savor and celebrate God’s healing, reconciling grace and love at work in our world.

—Fr. Brian Paulson, S.J. is the provincial of the Midwest Jesuits.

Prayer

Today true peace came down to us from heaven.
Today the whole earth was filled with heaven’s sweetness.
Today a new day dawns,
the day of our redemption, prepared by God from ages past,
The beginning of our never ending gladness.

—Responsory from the Liturgy of the Hours for the Christmas season

 


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December 24, 2017

Lk 1: 26-38

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”

But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.

And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

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.

           THE ANNUNCIATION

                In the intimacy of a bedchamber
              Your soul is awakened from sleep,
             Fragile flesh before angelic brilliance.
           Your rumpled night sheets tossed aside,
          You listen in peace with your whole self.
           To the question that will define history,
             Holding its breath for your answer,
                        All heaven pauses.

                   “LET IT BE DONE TO ME…”

                              Here it begins,
                      In such utter simplicity,
            In quiet strength, at the appointed hour,
          With the rippled rungs of time at your feet,
        And the broad lines of history at your back.
          At the balance of His grace in your will,
           Eve reborn, humanity to be redeemed
                Through a child, from a virgin
                       Whose name is Mary.

This poem is based on the painting The Annunciation by Henry Ossawa Tanner, housed in the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

—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 seen at heartoheart.org

Prayer

Hail Mary, full of grace,
the Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou amongst women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.

Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners,
now, and at the hour of our death.
Amen.

—Traditional prayer


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December 23, 2017

Mal 3: 1-4, 23-24

Thus says the Lord GOD:

Lo, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me; And suddenly there will come to the temple the LORD whom you seek. And the messenger of the covenant whom you desire. Yes, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts.

But who will endure the day of his coming? And who can stand when he appears? For he is like the refiner’s fire, or like the fuller’s lye. He will sit refining and purifying silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi, refining them like gold or like silver that they may offer due sacrifice to the LORD. Then the sacrifice of Judah and Jerusalem will please the LORD, as in the days of old, as in years gone by.

Lo, I will send you Elijah, the prophet, before the day of the LORD comes, the great and terrible day, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with doom.

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.

Yes, He Is Coming!

It is Christmas weekend, with all the personal energy and family activity this involves. No doubt we will cram many “adventures” into the next 72 hours. As it all begins, take some time to ponder and savor the verses from psalm 25 which we pray at Mass today:

Your ways, O Lord, make known to me: teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my savior.
Good and upright is the Lord: thus he shows sinners the way.
He guides the humble to justice; he teaches the humble his way.
All the paths of the Lord are kindness and constancy
toward those who keep his covenant and his decrees.

—The Jesuit Prayer team 

Prayer

O Emmanuel, God’s presence among us, our King and our Judge:
Come and save us, O Lord our God.

—”O Antiphon” for December 23


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