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July 31, 2018

Feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola

Lk 14:25-33

Now large crowds were traveling with him; and he turned and said to them, “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’

Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your 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.

Encountering Christ and being transformed

St. Ignatius, whose feast is today, joyfully models what Jesus instructs in today’s Gospel when he says to “carry the cross and follow” him. Ignatius decided to place his whole life in touch with Christ and the Church, and he lived to communicate the joy of that encounter. Ignatius shows us that God’s love is not a sort of reserve from which we withdraw inspiration when we feel dry, but something that can always make us new.

St. Ignatius guides people who yearn for a very real experience of God in their lives. He helps us know the invitation to encounter Jesus in his suffering and that we can find a renewed life even when life’s circumstances seem to suggest otherwise. Ignatius was left a new person at each new encounter with Christ, and the same can be true for us.

Fr. Joe Simmons, SJ, is a priest of the Midwest Province and a proud alumnus of Marquette University High School and Marquette University.  He begins doctoral studies in theology and literature at the University of Oxford in October.

Prayer

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

—Anima Christi

 


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July 30, 2018

Mt 13: 31-35

He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”

He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.” Jesus told the crowds all these things in parables; without a parable he told them nothing. This was to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet: “I will open my mouth to speak in parables; I will proclaim what has been hidden from the foundation of the world.”

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.

Above all, trust in the slow work of God

A retreat director once told me that progress in the spiritual life is like the slow, almost imperceptible growth of yeast as described in today’s Gospel. This parable presents a perfect image of how God’s grace works within us and among us. The marvelous power of yeast shows that the quiet, gentle evolution of God’s kingdom may seem insignificant, even hidden, but a little bit of it changes the world. Even our smallest acts of love are multiplied by God beyond our expectations.

The parable of the yeast is especially helpful when we grow impatient at not seeing awaited signs of God’s transforming grace in ourselves and others. It is really about trust – “patient trust” in God. As Teilhard de Chardin said, you “cannot be today what time… will make of you tomorrow.”

Do I trust that God is always with me, inviting me to live in confident hope in his ways?

—Sister Ruth Hoerig, OSF is co-editor of Alive Magazine and social media content developer for her congregation, the School Sisters of St. Francis. She has completed more than 30 Ignatian retreats, including a 30-day retreat on the Spiritual Exercises.

Prayer

Patient Trust

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
           to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
           unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress
           that it is made by passing through
           some stages of instability-
           and that it may take a very long time.

—Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ

 


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July 29, 2018

Jn 6:1-15

After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do.

Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all.

Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.”

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

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

From where and to what?

“Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?”In today’s Gospel, Jesus asks Philip how on earth the disciples intend to feed 5,000 people.  The Greek that starts Jesus’ question — pothen (“from where?”) –is a favorite word in John’s Gospel.  Time and again people ask Jesus where his authority comes from, where he is from, where the life-giving water will come from, etc.  In this passage, Jesus turns the tables on his disciples, and on us. He empowers his disciples not with a command, but a question: how will you join Christ’s mission?  We might consider our own meager stable of resources – talents, treasure, time – and how God is inviting us to put them to use for the good of the Kingdom of God.

From where they come is only the first half of the question.  For the Christian, the question leads to another, to where and to what should my resources go?

—Fr. Joe Simmons, SJ, is a priest of the Midwest Province and a proud alumnus of Marquette University High School and Marquette University.  He begins doctoral studies in theology and literature at the University of Oxford in October.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, like the disciples in today’s Gospel, I come to you hungry.  I hunger for a deeper connection with you. I want to take all that you have given me, and all you have taught me, and join you in your ministry.  Guide me on the path that you desire for me. Amen.

—The Jesuit Prayer team

 


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July 28, 2018

Jer 7: 1-11

The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: Stand in the gate of the Lord’s house, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of the Lord, all you people of Judah, you that enter these gates to worship the Lord. Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Amend your ways and your doings, and let me dwell with you in this place. Do not trust in these deceptive words: “This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.”

For if you truly amend your ways and your doings, if you truly act justly one with another, if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan, and the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own hurt, then I will dwell with you in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your ancestors forever and ever. Here you are, trusting in deceptive words to no avail.

Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, “We are safe!” —only to go on doing all these abominations? Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your sight? You know, I too am watching, says the Lord.

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.

How will you respond?

The Lord’s words, spoken through the prophet Jeremiah, ring out to us today as much as they did when they were first uttered.  Jeremiah proclaims both a promise and a warning. The warning is that God sees our behavior, the way we treat “the alien, the orphan, and the widow,” and knows both our actions and our thoughts.  The promise is that God will dwell with us.

“‘You know, I too am watching,’ says the Lord.”  God is watching the way that we respond to those in our society who are on the margins.  God is watching how we respond to obvious injustices that we see. How will you respond?

—The Jesuit Prayer team

Prayer

Break My Heart

God,
I know you are out there,
waiting to break my heart open
through service to your people.
Show me how to find you in them,
to open my heart and hands to feel and to touch,
to laugh and to cry with your chosen ones, the poor,
who carry with them direct pathways to your loving heart.
Give me a taste for service
so that I too might desire more
and more.
Amen.

—Author unknown, published on jesuitresource.org


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July 27, 2018

Mt 13: 18-23

“Hear then the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away.

As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

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 Seed Sown

Taking the long way home, our road trip took us through Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas. We passed working farms with livestock and acre after acre of growing crops. I was surprised yet consoled by the abundance over the horizon. I felt grateful for those who till the land, tend the sheep (and cattle), and labor to feed their neighbors. My heart opened to a new perspective of Jesus’ story of the sower.

Perhaps like others, when listening to Jesus’ story I typically consider the ground – the path, the rock, the thorns, and rich soil. I might be excused since this is where Jesus draws attention in his explanation of the story. Somehow, however, I have missed that the sower and seed sustain the story. Jesus speaks, “Hear then the parable of the sower” – the sower who either lacks expertise of farming or is tremendously generous with his wealth. The seed – it’s everywhere! This is what abundance looks like. This sower does not deny seed to the path, the rock, or the thorns, rather blankets the earth with seed in freedom and apparent hope.

Among the many temptations faced in today’s culture, a favorite lie is that of scarcity-an undergirding of fear that there is not enough for everyone. How does Jesus’ story shed light on the dark place of fear? I wonder what God’s generosity of seed is inviting.

—Carol Ackels is director of the Ignatian Spirituality Institute in Dallas. She serves as retreat director of the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius offered in various formats, and is co-author of Finding Christ in the World, a twelve week Ignatian retreat.

Prayer

Jesus, who tells stories of hope
that invite and challenge us.
Give us the grace to bid farewell to fear.
Forgive us for expecting what we think we deserve
while failing to receive the abundance you give.
Seed falls in unexpected places so teach us to find you
in places we think you are not supposed to go.
Help us, dear friend, to love
To love
To love
As we have been loved.

Amen.

—Carol Ackels

 

 

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July 26, 2018

Sts. Joachim and Anne, Parents of Our Lady

Mt 13:10-17

Then the disciples came and asked him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” He answered, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. The reason I speak to them in parables is that ‘seeing they do not perceive, and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand.’

With them indeed is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah that says: ‘You will indeed listen, but never understand, and you will indeed look, but never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes; so that they might not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and understand with their heart and turn— and I would heal them.’

But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. Truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.

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

Getting Jesus’ meaning

I guess it’s blasphemous to say that Jesus should have articulated something differently? When the Lord said that insight into the parables “to you has been given to know….but to them it has not been given,” I understand the meaning: it’s only through faith and deeper conversion that we come to comprehend Jesus’ words, way, and call more clearly. And, when it comes to conversion, we’re all still works in progress.

That said, I often tend to imagine myself among those who do get the meaning of those parables. Passages like this one become my subtle, insidious license to judge those I perceive as not getting it: whether Catholics who don’t interpret the world (or Gospels) as I do, politicians I disagree with, you name it. Instead of judging those arrogant Pharisees (and others) who don’t get it, today’s scripture invites me to pray for humble understanding that I myself don’t “get it” as much as I sometimes imagine I do.

—Chris Lowney is author of various books. His most recent is Make Today Matter: 10 Habits for a Better Life (and World) published by Loyola Press.

Prayer

Lord, I ask forgiveness for my judgmentalism, whenever that has manifested itself. Teach me to be a more humble person, who is preoccupied with understanding and following your Word, not with how others are living out their own followership of you. Amen.

—Chris Lowney

 

 

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July 25, 2018

St. James, Apostles

Mt 20: 20-28

Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to him with her sons, and kneeling before him, she asked a favor of him. And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Declare that these two sons of mine will sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” But Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” He said to them, “You will indeed drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left, this is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”

When the ten heard it, they were angry with the two brothers. But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as 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.

Service over Status

We can learn much about who Jesus is from this reading. Instead of observing the bold helicopter parenting of the mother of the sons of Zebedee or the disciples’ angry reactions, let’s look at Jesus.

He’s approachable because the mother feels comfortable asking him a favor.

He’s eager to help and asks her, “What do you want?”

He listens and asks questions to help the sons clarify their own desires.

He values service over status and bluntly explains how greatness is achieved. And it is not what the mother, her sons, or the other disciples expected. We are to be imitators of Jesus who came to serve and who gave his life as a ransom for many.

Approach Jesus today with the desires in your heart. Through these desires, are you being called to do or be something more? Boldly ask for the grace to desire to do more for others.

—Diane Amento Owens is a spiritual director who encourages her directees to see the world through the lens of Ignatian spirituality.

Prayer

Jesus, today as I approach you, I’m somewhat confused. I’m torn by my desire to achieve greatness and success in the eyes of the world. And I’d much rather drink the cup of honor and privilege than the cup of insignificance or suffering. What do you want for me, Lord? I ask for the grace to recognize the deep desires you’ve placed in my heart and the courage to act upon them. When you ask me, “What do you want?” give me the desire to serve others instead of the desire to achieve status for myself. Form me into the person you want me to be, Jesus, and help me to become more and more like you every day.

—Diane Amento Owens

 

 

 

 

 


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July 24, 2018

Mt 12:46-50

While he was still speaking to the crowds, his mother and his brothers were standing outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, “Look, your mother and your brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.” But to the one who had told him this, Jesus replied, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

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

Love our neighbors as our family

In Pixar’s Coco, 10 year-old Miguel rejects his family because they refuse to accept his passion for music. Ironically, they fear music’s ability to push young men to abandon their family ties. It may seem in today’s reading that Jesus is inviting his followers to a similar rejection of their relations in favor of the greater ties through Jesus with God.

I think Jesus is actually subverting the notion of families entirely. He reminds us that the ties that bind us as Christians are so deep that we ought to offer familial love to all those in our faith community. Who in your faith community might you love today with the intensity of your sister, brother, father, or mother?

—Jake Braithwaite, SJ, is a Jesuit scholastic of the Northeast Province studying philosophy at Loyola University Chicago.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, you challenge us to expand our idea of who we ought to love whether it is our neighbor, our family, or strangers. Open our hearts to those around us who might need special care, attention, or prayers. Help us to treat each person as Jesus treated his own family, and as he treats each of us.  We pray this in your name. Amen.

—The Jesuit Prayer team

 


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July 23, 2018

St. Bridget of Sweden

Micah 6:1-4, 6-8

Hear what the Lord says: Rise, plead your case before the mountains, and let the hills hear your voice. Hear, you mountains, the controversy of the Lord, and you enduring foundations of the earth; for the Lord has a controversy with his people, and he will contend with Israel. “O my people, what have I done to you? In what have I wearied you? Answer me! For I brought you up from the land of Egypt, and redeemed you from the house of slavery; and I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.

“With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

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

Beyond the routine

The prophet Micah in today’s first reading speaks out on behalf of an incredulous Lord, who puts the Israelites on trial: “O my people, what have I done to you?  In what have I wearied you? Answer me!”

If you are a parent, surely you can relate to our Father’s frustration. In this case, that frustration is borne not out of a failure on the Israelites’ part to make the appropriate sacrificial offerings – it sounds like they pretty much had that part licked. Rather, Micah points to their inability to follow the most basic of precepts – to be good people and to do the right thing.

This season of Ordinary Time, with its spans of virtually uninterrupted religious “routine,” can find us, too, going through the spiritual motions. But our Lord calls us to offer more than our ritual burnt offerings – he calls us to go set the world ablaze.

As I consider this day – a gift from our Lord – where do I detect God’s invitation to a more active collaboration on my part?

—Corey Quinn is the president of De Smet Jesuit High School in St. Louis.

Prayer

Jesus, Join my Life to Yours

I want to unite my life to your life,
my thoughts to your thoughts,
my affections to your affections,
my heart to your heart,
my works to your works,
my whole self to your self,
in order to become through this union
more holy and more pleasing in the sight our your Father
and in order to make my life more worthy of your grace
and of the reward of eternity.

—Excerpt from Jesus, Join My Life to Yours by Jean-Pierre Médaille, SJ

 

 

 


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July 22, 2018

Mark 6:30-34

The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.

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

Seeing with the Heart of Christ

“He saw a vast crowd, and his heart was moved with pity for them,” is the translation of the last verse as we hear it at Mass in today’s Gospel.  Christian wisdom is to see the world around us with the eyes of Christ. St. Ignatius’s work, Spiritual Exercises, is a very good way of allowing Christ to work this miracle in us. Through these exercises, Christ changes the patterns of significance and value that shape our perceptions.

The culture around us, in countless, relentless ways drums into us its own ‘patterns of significance and value.’  We hear messages that“This is fantastic! You gotta have this!” But how is it that just this one image of Christ ‘moved with pity for them’ can move us more deeply? There’s the miracle. And the Spiritual Exercises focus on that miracle: the little calls and inspirations that are often on the periphery of our consciousness and often lost, these are brought into the foreground and treasured. Your heart is changed and you see with the eyes of Christ!

—Fr. Mark Henninger, SJ, is a spiritual care chaplain at Loyola University Medical Centerin Maywood, IL.

Prayer

Lord, we pray for the grace to feel your presence through our thoughts, circumstances, and moments of love that weave in and out of our day. We know that more times than not, the “feeling” is transitory.  And that’s okay.

Our life meaning is not advanced by a feeling, but it is anchored in the guarantee of your personal care for every aspect of our lives. To this claim we cling. Though storms may pound the securities and loves of our lives, we will not be vanquished. We will triumph through a reciprocal faithfulness: you being there for us and we being there for you.

—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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July 31, 2018

Feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola

Lk 14:25-33

Now large crowds were traveling with him; and he turned and said to them, “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’

Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your 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.

Encountering Christ and being transformed

St. Ignatius, whose feast is today, joyfully models what Jesus instructs in today’s Gospel when he says to “carry the cross and follow” him. Ignatius decided to place his whole life in touch with Christ and the Church, and he lived to communicate the joy of that encounter. Ignatius shows us that God’s love is not a sort of reserve from which we withdraw inspiration when we feel dry, but something that can always make us new.

St. Ignatius guides people who yearn for a very real experience of God in their lives. He helps us know the invitation to encounter Jesus in his suffering and that we can find a renewed life even when life’s circumstances seem to suggest otherwise. Ignatius was left a new person at each new encounter with Christ, and the same can be true for us.

Fr. Joe Simmons, SJ, is a priest of the Midwest Province and a proud alumnus of Marquette University High School and Marquette University.  He begins doctoral studies in theology and literature at the University of Oxford in October.

Prayer

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

—Anima Christi

 


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July 30, 2018

Mt 13: 31-35

He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”

He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.” Jesus told the crowds all these things in parables; without a parable he told them nothing. This was to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet: “I will open my mouth to speak in parables; I will proclaim what has been hidden from the foundation of the world.”

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.

Above all, trust in the slow work of God

A retreat director once told me that progress in the spiritual life is like the slow, almost imperceptible growth of yeast as described in today’s Gospel. This parable presents a perfect image of how God’s grace works within us and among us. The marvelous power of yeast shows that the quiet, gentle evolution of God’s kingdom may seem insignificant, even hidden, but a little bit of it changes the world. Even our smallest acts of love are multiplied by God beyond our expectations.

The parable of the yeast is especially helpful when we grow impatient at not seeing awaited signs of God’s transforming grace in ourselves and others. It is really about trust – “patient trust” in God. As Teilhard de Chardin said, you “cannot be today what time… will make of you tomorrow.”

Do I trust that God is always with me, inviting me to live in confident hope in his ways?

—Sister Ruth Hoerig, OSF is co-editor of Alive Magazine and social media content developer for her congregation, the School Sisters of St. Francis. She has completed more than 30 Ignatian retreats, including a 30-day retreat on the Spiritual Exercises.

Prayer

Patient Trust

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
           to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
           unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress
           that it is made by passing through
           some stages of instability-
           and that it may take a very long time.

—Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ

 


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July 29, 2018

Jn 6:1-15

After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do.

Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all.

Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.”

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

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

From where and to what?

“Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?”In today’s Gospel, Jesus asks Philip how on earth the disciples intend to feed 5,000 people.  The Greek that starts Jesus’ question — pothen (“from where?”) –is a favorite word in John’s Gospel.  Time and again people ask Jesus where his authority comes from, where he is from, where the life-giving water will come from, etc.  In this passage, Jesus turns the tables on his disciples, and on us. He empowers his disciples not with a command, but a question: how will you join Christ’s mission?  We might consider our own meager stable of resources – talents, treasure, time – and how God is inviting us to put them to use for the good of the Kingdom of God.

From where they come is only the first half of the question.  For the Christian, the question leads to another, to where and to what should my resources go?

—Fr. Joe Simmons, SJ, is a priest of the Midwest Province and a proud alumnus of Marquette University High School and Marquette University.  He begins doctoral studies in theology and literature at the University of Oxford in October.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, like the disciples in today’s Gospel, I come to you hungry.  I hunger for a deeper connection with you. I want to take all that you have given me, and all you have taught me, and join you in your ministry.  Guide me on the path that you desire for me. Amen.

—The Jesuit Prayer team

 


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July 28, 2018

Jer 7: 1-11

The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: Stand in the gate of the Lord’s house, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of the Lord, all you people of Judah, you that enter these gates to worship the Lord. Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Amend your ways and your doings, and let me dwell with you in this place. Do not trust in these deceptive words: “This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.”

For if you truly amend your ways and your doings, if you truly act justly one with another, if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan, and the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own hurt, then I will dwell with you in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your ancestors forever and ever. Here you are, trusting in deceptive words to no avail.

Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, “We are safe!” —only to go on doing all these abominations? Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your sight? You know, I too am watching, says the Lord.

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.

How will you respond?

The Lord’s words, spoken through the prophet Jeremiah, ring out to us today as much as they did when they were first uttered.  Jeremiah proclaims both a promise and a warning. The warning is that God sees our behavior, the way we treat “the alien, the orphan, and the widow,” and knows both our actions and our thoughts.  The promise is that God will dwell with us.

“‘You know, I too am watching,’ says the Lord.”  God is watching the way that we respond to those in our society who are on the margins.  God is watching how we respond to obvious injustices that we see. How will you respond?

—The Jesuit Prayer team

Prayer

Break My Heart

God,
I know you are out there,
waiting to break my heart open
through service to your people.
Show me how to find you in them,
to open my heart and hands to feel and to touch,
to laugh and to cry with your chosen ones, the poor,
who carry with them direct pathways to your loving heart.
Give me a taste for service
so that I too might desire more
and more.
Amen.

—Author unknown, published on jesuitresource.org


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July 27, 2018

Mt 13: 18-23

“Hear then the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away.

As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

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 Seed Sown

Taking the long way home, our road trip took us through Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas. We passed working farms with livestock and acre after acre of growing crops. I was surprised yet consoled by the abundance over the horizon. I felt grateful for those who till the land, tend the sheep (and cattle), and labor to feed their neighbors. My heart opened to a new perspective of Jesus’ story of the sower.

Perhaps like others, when listening to Jesus’ story I typically consider the ground – the path, the rock, the thorns, and rich soil. I might be excused since this is where Jesus draws attention in his explanation of the story. Somehow, however, I have missed that the sower and seed sustain the story. Jesus speaks, “Hear then the parable of the sower” – the sower who either lacks expertise of farming or is tremendously generous with his wealth. The seed – it’s everywhere! This is what abundance looks like. This sower does not deny seed to the path, the rock, or the thorns, rather blankets the earth with seed in freedom and apparent hope.

Among the many temptations faced in today’s culture, a favorite lie is that of scarcity-an undergirding of fear that there is not enough for everyone. How does Jesus’ story shed light on the dark place of fear? I wonder what God’s generosity of seed is inviting.

—Carol Ackels is director of the Ignatian Spirituality Institute in Dallas. She serves as retreat director of the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius offered in various formats, and is co-author of Finding Christ in the World, a twelve week Ignatian retreat.

Prayer

Jesus, who tells stories of hope
that invite and challenge us.
Give us the grace to bid farewell to fear.
Forgive us for expecting what we think we deserve
while failing to receive the abundance you give.
Seed falls in unexpected places so teach us to find you
in places we think you are not supposed to go.
Help us, dear friend, to love
To love
To love
As we have been loved.

Amen.

—Carol Ackels

 

 

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July 26, 2018

Sts. Joachim and Anne, Parents of Our Lady

Mt 13:10-17

Then the disciples came and asked him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” He answered, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. The reason I speak to them in parables is that ‘seeing they do not perceive, and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand.’

With them indeed is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah that says: ‘You will indeed listen, but never understand, and you will indeed look, but never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes; so that they might not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and understand with their heart and turn— and I would heal them.’

But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. Truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.

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

Getting Jesus’ meaning

I guess it’s blasphemous to say that Jesus should have articulated something differently? When the Lord said that insight into the parables “to you has been given to know….but to them it has not been given,” I understand the meaning: it’s only through faith and deeper conversion that we come to comprehend Jesus’ words, way, and call more clearly. And, when it comes to conversion, we’re all still works in progress.

That said, I often tend to imagine myself among those who do get the meaning of those parables. Passages like this one become my subtle, insidious license to judge those I perceive as not getting it: whether Catholics who don’t interpret the world (or Gospels) as I do, politicians I disagree with, you name it. Instead of judging those arrogant Pharisees (and others) who don’t get it, today’s scripture invites me to pray for humble understanding that I myself don’t “get it” as much as I sometimes imagine I do.

—Chris Lowney is author of various books. His most recent is Make Today Matter: 10 Habits for a Better Life (and World) published by Loyola Press.

Prayer

Lord, I ask forgiveness for my judgmentalism, whenever that has manifested itself. Teach me to be a more humble person, who is preoccupied with understanding and following your Word, not with how others are living out their own followership of you. Amen.

—Chris Lowney

 

 

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July 25, 2018

St. James, Apostles

Mt 20: 20-28

Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to him with her sons, and kneeling before him, she asked a favor of him. And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Declare that these two sons of mine will sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” But Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” He said to them, “You will indeed drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left, this is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”

When the ten heard it, they were angry with the two brothers. But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as 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.

Service over Status

We can learn much about who Jesus is from this reading. Instead of observing the bold helicopter parenting of the mother of the sons of Zebedee or the disciples’ angry reactions, let’s look at Jesus.

He’s approachable because the mother feels comfortable asking him a favor.

He’s eager to help and asks her, “What do you want?”

He listens and asks questions to help the sons clarify their own desires.

He values service over status and bluntly explains how greatness is achieved. And it is not what the mother, her sons, or the other disciples expected. We are to be imitators of Jesus who came to serve and who gave his life as a ransom for many.

Approach Jesus today with the desires in your heart. Through these desires, are you being called to do or be something more? Boldly ask for the grace to desire to do more for others.

—Diane Amento Owens is a spiritual director who encourages her directees to see the world through the lens of Ignatian spirituality.

Prayer

Jesus, today as I approach you, I’m somewhat confused. I’m torn by my desire to achieve greatness and success in the eyes of the world. And I’d much rather drink the cup of honor and privilege than the cup of insignificance or suffering. What do you want for me, Lord? I ask for the grace to recognize the deep desires you’ve placed in my heart and the courage to act upon them. When you ask me, “What do you want?” give me the desire to serve others instead of the desire to achieve status for myself. Form me into the person you want me to be, Jesus, and help me to become more and more like you every day.

—Diane Amento Owens

 

 

 

 

 


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July 24, 2018

Mt 12:46-50

While he was still speaking to the crowds, his mother and his brothers were standing outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, “Look, your mother and your brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.” But to the one who had told him this, Jesus replied, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

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

Love our neighbors as our family

In Pixar’s Coco, 10 year-old Miguel rejects his family because they refuse to accept his passion for music. Ironically, they fear music’s ability to push young men to abandon their family ties. It may seem in today’s reading that Jesus is inviting his followers to a similar rejection of their relations in favor of the greater ties through Jesus with God.

I think Jesus is actually subverting the notion of families entirely. He reminds us that the ties that bind us as Christians are so deep that we ought to offer familial love to all those in our faith community. Who in your faith community might you love today with the intensity of your sister, brother, father, or mother?

—Jake Braithwaite, SJ, is a Jesuit scholastic of the Northeast Province studying philosophy at Loyola University Chicago.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, you challenge us to expand our idea of who we ought to love whether it is our neighbor, our family, or strangers. Open our hearts to those around us who might need special care, attention, or prayers. Help us to treat each person as Jesus treated his own family, and as he treats each of us.  We pray this in your name. Amen.

—The Jesuit Prayer team

 


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July 23, 2018

St. Bridget of Sweden

Micah 6:1-4, 6-8

Hear what the Lord says: Rise, plead your case before the mountains, and let the hills hear your voice. Hear, you mountains, the controversy of the Lord, and you enduring foundations of the earth; for the Lord has a controversy with his people, and he will contend with Israel. “O my people, what have I done to you? In what have I wearied you? Answer me! For I brought you up from the land of Egypt, and redeemed you from the house of slavery; and I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.

“With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

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

Beyond the routine

The prophet Micah in today’s first reading speaks out on behalf of an incredulous Lord, who puts the Israelites on trial: “O my people, what have I done to you?  In what have I wearied you? Answer me!”

If you are a parent, surely you can relate to our Father’s frustration. In this case, that frustration is borne not out of a failure on the Israelites’ part to make the appropriate sacrificial offerings – it sounds like they pretty much had that part licked. Rather, Micah points to their inability to follow the most basic of precepts – to be good people and to do the right thing.

This season of Ordinary Time, with its spans of virtually uninterrupted religious “routine,” can find us, too, going through the spiritual motions. But our Lord calls us to offer more than our ritual burnt offerings – he calls us to go set the world ablaze.

As I consider this day – a gift from our Lord – where do I detect God’s invitation to a more active collaboration on my part?

—Corey Quinn is the president of De Smet Jesuit High School in St. Louis.

Prayer

Jesus, Join my Life to Yours

I want to unite my life to your life,
my thoughts to your thoughts,
my affections to your affections,
my heart to your heart,
my works to your works,
my whole self to your self,
in order to become through this union
more holy and more pleasing in the sight our your Father
and in order to make my life more worthy of your grace
and of the reward of eternity.

—Excerpt from Jesus, Join My Life to Yours by Jean-Pierre Médaille, SJ

 

 

 


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July 22, 2018

Mark 6:30-34

The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.

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

Seeing with the Heart of Christ

“He saw a vast crowd, and his heart was moved with pity for them,” is the translation of the last verse as we hear it at Mass in today’s Gospel.  Christian wisdom is to see the world around us with the eyes of Christ. St. Ignatius’s work, Spiritual Exercises, is a very good way of allowing Christ to work this miracle in us. Through these exercises, Christ changes the patterns of significance and value that shape our perceptions.

The culture around us, in countless, relentless ways drums into us its own ‘patterns of significance and value.’  We hear messages that“This is fantastic! You gotta have this!” But how is it that just this one image of Christ ‘moved with pity for them’ can move us more deeply? There’s the miracle. And the Spiritual Exercises focus on that miracle: the little calls and inspirations that are often on the periphery of our consciousness and often lost, these are brought into the foreground and treasured. Your heart is changed and you see with the eyes of Christ!

—Fr. Mark Henninger, SJ, is a spiritual care chaplain at Loyola University Medical Centerin Maywood, IL.

Prayer

Lord, we pray for the grace to feel your presence through our thoughts, circumstances, and moments of love that weave in and out of our day. We know that more times than not, the “feeling” is transitory.  And that’s okay.

Our life meaning is not advanced by a feeling, but it is anchored in the guarantee of your personal care for every aspect of our lives. To this claim we cling. Though storms may pound the securities and loves of our lives, we will not be vanquished. We will triumph through a reciprocal faithfulness: you being there for us and we being there for you.

—The Jesuit Prayer team

 


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