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March 23, 2019

Lk 15: 1-3, 11-32

Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So he told them this parable:

Then Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything.

But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.”’ So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.

“Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him.

But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’

Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’”

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.

Digging Deep

One of the prayer tool that St. Ignatius frequently used was praying with his imagination.  In this method, we are invited to place ourselves within the situation and frame of mind of one of the figures in a Scripture passage. Today’s story is very familiar, but how does it change for you if you place yourself in the role of the parent, or the prodigal child, or the faithful child back home? How do things look like through the eyes of the parent, or in the heart of the prodigal? What do the servants experience? What takes place during the feast at which the fatted calf is served? And what is going on behind the scenes? What is the back talk?

As you spend time with the Scripture, consider what jumps out in your own heart as you reflect on this story? How are you drawn to Jesus this weekend?  How might you act differently today based on these reflections?

—The Jesuit Prayer team

Prayer

Loving God, you open your arms to us whenever we turn back to you.  Give us the heart of humility and repentance of the younger son so that we may know what it is to be welcomed back into your loving embrace. We pray this through Christ, our Lord. Amen.

—The Jesuit Prayer team

 


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March 22, 2019

Gn 37: 3-4, 12-13A, 17B-28A

Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his children, because he was the son of his old age; and he had made him a long robe with sleeves. But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him.

Now his brothers went to pasture their father’s flock near Shechem.And Israel said to Joseph, “Are not your brothers pasturing the flock at Shechem? Come, I will send you to them.” He answered, “Here I am.”The man said, “They have gone away, for I heard them say, ‘Let us go to Dothan.’ “ So Joseph went after his brothers, and found them at Dothan. They saw him from a distance, and before he came near to them, they conspired to kill him.

They said to one another, “Here comes this dreamer. Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits; then we shall say that a wild animal has devoured him, and we shall see what will become of his dreams.” But when Reuben heard it, he delivered him out of their hands, saying, “Let us not take his life.”Reuben said to them, “Shed no blood; throw him into this pit here in the wilderness, but lay no hand on him” —that he might rescue him out of their hand and restore him to his father.

So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe, the long robe with sleeves that he wore; and they took him and threw him into a pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it. Then they sat down to eat; and looking up they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, with their camels carrying gum, balm, and resin, on their way to carry it down to Egypt.

Then Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and not lay our hands on him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.” And his brothers agreed. When some Midianite traders passed by, they drew Joseph up, lifting him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver. And they took Joseph to Egypt.

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.

Never doubt that God intends our good

The story of Joseph is a delightful depiction of some moments of our religious journey. Joseph was inspired by dreams of greatness, only to find that life over and again seemed to support the conclusion that he was deluded and misguided. False accusations, time in jail, facing execution, forgotten by his friends, betrayed by his brothers, and separated from his loved ones, Joseph had every reason to doubt and wallow in self-pity. Instead, he continued to use his gift of interpreting dreams and rose to great heights. His ability to see God at work in his life, even in the midst of his trials, gave him a perspective that led to great compassion and understanding, even towards those who wanted to destroy his life. Others may intend evil, but God intends our good.

—Mark McNeil is the assistant principal for formation at Strake Jesuit College Preparatory in Houston, Texas.

Prayer

God of all time and places, grant me the wisdom and perspective of Joseph. Help me see beyond life’s misfortunates and find peace and rest in your good will. Amen.

—Mark McNeil

 

 


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March 21, 2019

Lk 16: 19-31

“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried.

In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’

He said, ‘Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house— for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.’ Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’ He said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”

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 if we switched places?

In today’s Gospel, Jesus discusses a rich man who enjoyed a lifestyle that wasn’t just comfortable, it was luxurious—even while Lazarus languished at his doorstep. The wealthy man was obviously untroubled by Lazarus’ suffering. Perhaps the wealthy many was convinced that Lazarus deserved his fate or maybe he was simply too self-centered to imagine what Lazarus’ life was like. (Even after death, the wealthy man still sees Lazarus as less-than: a servant who can be sent to cool his tongue, a supporting role rather than the lead in his own story.) Do you think the wealthy man ever stopped to consider what life was like from Lazarus’ point of view?

Pope Francis calls us to fight the “globalization of indifference.” He says, “We have become used to the suffering of others: it doesn’t affect me; it doesn’t concern me; it’s none of my business!” We might think we are too busy to help others in need. Or maybe we think it’s someone else’s job to ease their suffering. A lot of us can probably more easily relate to the wealthy man than to Lazarus. But what if I were to switch places with the hungry, the sick, the lonely, or the stranger? How would that change what I see, feel, and desire?

—Dr. Marcus Mescher is Assistant Professor of Christian Ethics at Xavier University in Cincinnati, and is a graduate of Marquette University High School, Marquette University, and Boston College.  

Prayer

My God,
You are with me each moment of this day.
When I am tempted to be indifferent to the needs of others, open my eyes and my ears.
When I feel anxious and overwhelmed, fill my heart with your peace and love.
When I feel depressed or despair at the state of the world, inspire me with hope.
Help me be a source of light in darkness, tenderness in suffering, comfort in loneliness, strength in vulnerability.
Let me be an instrument of your healing presence and power today.
Amen

—Dr. Marcus Mescher

 


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March 20, 2019

Mt 20: 17-28

While Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside by themselves, and said to them on the way, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death; then they will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified; and on the third day he will be raised.”

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.

A desire to stay close to Jesus

The mother of James and John is real. She sounds like my mom.

My mother always desires what is best for me. Their mother observes and understands the influence this man, Jesus, has on her sons, and from the depths of her heart, she longs for her boys to stay close to Jesus – a prayer of many mothers.

Consider Jesus’ words, “Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?”

His response avoids an authoritative Yes or No; the answer to the mother’s request is held in our freedom to choose to follow him. Earlier in the passage, Jesus tells them what will happen to the Son of Man in Jerusalem. Is this really what James and John desire?

In the season of Lent, we have many good desires – pray more, fast more, give more – all with the desire to right our relationship with God and others. The way of Lent is the way of the cross. Do my desires for peace, joy, and love lead me to the cross?

—Alan Ratermann is an English teacher and Director of Ignatian Service Programs at Rockhurst High School in Kansas City, Missouri.

Prayer

What would you have me do this Lent, Lord?
Give up chocolate or soda or alcohol?
Save my pennies and dimes and dollars?
Or, just maybe, I drink the cup. I follow your lead. I offer my life.
I pray, I fast and I give.
I love.

—The Jesuit Prayer team

 


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March 19, 2019

St. Joseph

Mt 1:16, 18-21, 24A

Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary. Of her was born Jesus who is called the Christ.

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly.

But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife.

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.

Guardians of Christ

We often think of Joseph as gentle and quiet, but it is a mistake to interpret his quiet gentility as weakness.

Joseph had one assignment: to protect and provide for Christ and his mother. This was no easy task. Every time we hear of Joseph, he is being bold. He whisks his family to safety from murderous Herod. He courageously walks his family past Herod’s palace to visit the Temple every year. Even taking Mary into his home in the first place was an act of courage and resolve.

Joseph is a model for all Christians, for we are also called to be guardians of Christ. We nourish Christ in ourselves. We protect Christ in the poor who suffer. We stand up for the Word with our lives.

We may do these things quietly and gently, but make no mistake, it takes Christian courage to do so. Be brave, do not be afraid to take Christ into your heart!

For reflection: Do I nourish Christ in my heart? Do I protect Christ in the suffering of others? Do I guard the truth and Word of Christ in the world?

—Stephen Kramer, SJ, is a Jesuit deacon of the Central and Southern Province currently finishing his Master’s degree in Theology at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry.  He will be ordained to the priesthood in June.

Prayer

Joseph, son of David, and husband of Mary;
We honor you, guardian of the Redeemer,
and we adore the child you named Jesus.
Saint Joseph, patron of the universal church,
pray for us, that like you we may live totally dedicated to the interests of the Savior.
Amen.

—From the Rosary of St. Joseph

 

 


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March 18, 2019

Lk 6: 36-38

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”

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.

Living up to God’s expectations

After sharing good advice on how we should be interacting with others, Christ expresses that “the measure you give will be the measure you get back.” He tells us that the expectations we hold for those we encounter are the expectations that God has for us. Recently I realized that I often set very high expectations for the people in my life and never verbalize them. Yet, I am disappointed when they don’t live up to my expectations and therefore feel that our relationship has been damaged. If God is measuring me the same way I am measuring the people I love, I’m miserably failing at meeting his expectations. Sometimes it takes a reality check to see with eyes of compassion and mercy, to recognize that forgiveness always supersedes teaching someone a lesson, and to open our hearts to loving even when it is most difficult to do so.  

—Sara Spittler is the First Years Chaplain and a Religious Studies teacher at Saint Ignatius College Prep in Chicago.

Prayer

Good and gracious God, help me to view others with the loving and merciful heart with which you look at me.  May I be quick to offer forgiveness rather than anger, love rather than judgment. Amen.

—The Jesuit Prayer team

 


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March 17, 2019

St. Patrick

Gen 15: 5-12, 17-18

He brought him outside and said, ‘Look towards heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be.’ And he believed the Lord; and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness.

Then he said to him, ‘I am the Lord who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess.’

But he said, ‘O Lord God, how am I to know that I shall possess it?’ He said to him, ‘Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtle-dove, and a young pigeon.’ He brought him all these and cut them in two, laying each half over against the other; but he did not cut the birds in two. And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.

As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram, and a deep and terrifying darkness descended upon him.

When the sun had gone down and it was dark, a smoking fire-pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, ‘To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates.

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 faith of the “Fighting Irish”

St. Patrick was born far from the Emerald Isle, in Scotland. The son of a wealthy Roman official, he was kidnapped as a teenager and sold into slavery in Ireland, where he found Christ. In looking back on his distressing childhood, Patrick later wrote: “I prayed in the woods and on the mountain, even before dawn. I felt no hurt from the snow or ice or rain.”

Not all of us meet God in such a harrowing way. In today’s reading, Abraham has a calmer conversation with God that carries great resonance for our faith. This is the first time in the Bible that “faith” and “righteousness” are mentioned in such a unique way, and St. Paul comes back to this scene several times in his letters. As with Patrick, the man who would eventually bring Christianity to Ireland, Abraham’s encounter with God began with a trust and was bold, intentional and personal.

In this second week of Lent, let’s ask for faith like theirs, which goes beyond just believing in the existence of God to actually believing God and all the good things we proclaim today in Psalm 27: that God is our helper, our refuge, our salvation and our light!

—Joe Kraemer, SJ, is a Jesuit scholastic of the Jesuits West Province currently finishing his second year of Regency in the Advancement Office in Los Gatos, California.

Prayer

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through a belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of creation…

I arise today
In the hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In the prayers of patriarchs,
In preachings of the apostles,
In faiths of confessors,
In innocence of virgins,
In deeds of righteous men…

I arise today
Through God’s strength to pilot me;
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s shield to protect me.
Amen.

—Excerpt from The Breastplate of St. Patrick

 


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March 16, 2019

Mt 5:43-48

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.

For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters,what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

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 do we treat our enemies?

No one likes to think of themselves as having enemies.  It seems like such a drastic label to call someone. But the “enemies” and “those who persecute” who Jesus commands us to love can take many forms.  Perhaps it is the person who trolls social media intent on attacking and insulting others. Maybe it is the coworker who seems to go out of his or her way to make our job more difficult. It might be the friend or family member who gossips or shares our private information with the world. It is much easier to wish these people illor at the very least not wish them wellthan it is to pray for them.

But Jesus sets a high bar for us.  He doesn’t say “be fairly good,” or “do a little bit.”  He tells us to “be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  No pressure there! Jesus sets this bar for us, knowing that we may fail at times, but reminding us that we shouldn’t stop trying to love those who hurt us, and recognizing that they too are God’s children.  

Who is an “enemy” in my life who I can pray for today?

—The Jesuit Prayer team

Prayer

Lord God, you love us even when we fail, and you love all those around us.  Help us to treat our “enemies” as friends, and let go of grudges, anger, and hurt.  In all that we do, may we try our best to emulate your perfect, all-loving heart.

—The Jesuit Prayer team


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March 15, 2019

Mt 5: 20-26

For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

“You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire.

So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.

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.

Knowing Jesus through our weakness

Today’s Gospel reading is a part of the Sermon on the Mount. This famous text not only deepens the demands of the Old Testament laws and the traditions that arose from them, but it also deepens the meaning of our religious acts. Fasting, praying, and almsgiving are all occasions of inflating our egos and producing arrogant self-righteousness, if we are not careful. When I take these chapters seriously, I feel imperfect and unworthy of Christ’s kingdom. But didn’t Christ come for the weak and poor? Christ’s kingdom, as stated at the beginning of this sermon, belongs to the “poor in spirit.” It is precisely in knowing myself as poor that I understand why Jesus’ demands were so high. When I am weak, he is strong.

—Mark McNeil is the assistant principal for formation at Strake Jesuit College Preparatory in Houston, Texas.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, shelter me in your kingdom that is made of those who find life in knowing their poverty. Embrace me and all my neighbors in your divine love. Amen.

—Mark McNeil

 


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March 14, 2019

Mt 7:7-12

“Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

“In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.

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.

For What Shall I Ask?

We live in a culture that pushes us to strive for what’s new, what’s next, and what’s better. It’s tempting to think that I never have enough and I never am enough. Not so, Fr. Greg Boyle, SJ, tells us: “You are exactly who God had in mind when God created you … you could not be one bit better.”

Today’s Gospel is not about asking God for more, like one might imagine a genie granting wishes. It is instead a reminder to trust that God provides exactly what we most deeply desire. When we feel restless, it’s actually a blessing, an indication that we cannot be fulfilled by things. “Our hearts are restless until they rest in You, O Lord,” St. Augustine wrote. God never tires of giving Godself to us. This gift—which we call grace—not only fulfills us, but it makes everything possible; it builds on and perfects our human nature so we can cooperate with God in the world. Today’s Gospel invites me to ponder: How can I be more attentive and responsive to grace so I can cooperate with God this day?

This passage concludes with the Golden Rule: treat others the way you would like to be treated. Since we don’t always know how others would like to be treated, some have suggested a revised version, the so-called Platinum Rule: treat others the way they would like to be treated. (I like Wendell Berry’s version: treat those downstream as you would like those upstream to treat you.) It’s easy to get stuck thinking about how others have wronged me or to become preoccupied by thinking about how others might take advantage of me, if I’m not careful. But today’s Gospel interrupts that defensive mentality and calls us to be agents of grace and courtesy. If I trust that I am enough—and I don’t have to prove it or be protective all the time—then how can I help others see that they, too, are enough?  

—Dr. Marcus Mescher is Assistant Professor of Christian Ethics at Xavier University in Cincinnati, and is a graduate of Marquette University High School, Marquette University, and Boston College.  

Prayer

Good and Gracious God, thank you for the gift of yourself and thank you for the gift of myself. Help me to more deeply trust that your grace is all that I need to be the person you know that I am. Let me tune my heart and mind into your loving presence so that I can cooperate with you this day. Empower us—the whole church—to incarnate your love in the world.

—Dr. Marcus Mescher

 


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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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March 23, 2019

Lk 15: 1-3, 11-32

Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So he told them this parable:

Then Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything.

But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.”’ So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.

“Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him.

But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’

Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’”

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.

Digging Deep

One of the prayer tool that St. Ignatius frequently used was praying with his imagination.  In this method, we are invited to place ourselves within the situation and frame of mind of one of the figures in a Scripture passage. Today’s story is very familiar, but how does it change for you if you place yourself in the role of the parent, or the prodigal child, or the faithful child back home? How do things look like through the eyes of the parent, or in the heart of the prodigal? What do the servants experience? What takes place during the feast at which the fatted calf is served? And what is going on behind the scenes? What is the back talk?

As you spend time with the Scripture, consider what jumps out in your own heart as you reflect on this story? How are you drawn to Jesus this weekend?  How might you act differently today based on these reflections?

—The Jesuit Prayer team

Prayer

Loving God, you open your arms to us whenever we turn back to you.  Give us the heart of humility and repentance of the younger son so that we may know what it is to be welcomed back into your loving embrace. We pray this through Christ, our Lord. Amen.

—The Jesuit Prayer team

 


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March 22, 2019

Gn 37: 3-4, 12-13A, 17B-28A

Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his children, because he was the son of his old age; and he had made him a long robe with sleeves. But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him.

Now his brothers went to pasture their father’s flock near Shechem.And Israel said to Joseph, “Are not your brothers pasturing the flock at Shechem? Come, I will send you to them.” He answered, “Here I am.”The man said, “They have gone away, for I heard them say, ‘Let us go to Dothan.’ “ So Joseph went after his brothers, and found them at Dothan. They saw him from a distance, and before he came near to them, they conspired to kill him.

They said to one another, “Here comes this dreamer. Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits; then we shall say that a wild animal has devoured him, and we shall see what will become of his dreams.” But when Reuben heard it, he delivered him out of their hands, saying, “Let us not take his life.”Reuben said to them, “Shed no blood; throw him into this pit here in the wilderness, but lay no hand on him” —that he might rescue him out of their hand and restore him to his father.

So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe, the long robe with sleeves that he wore; and they took him and threw him into a pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it. Then they sat down to eat; and looking up they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, with their camels carrying gum, balm, and resin, on their way to carry it down to Egypt.

Then Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and not lay our hands on him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.” And his brothers agreed. When some Midianite traders passed by, they drew Joseph up, lifting him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver. And they took Joseph to Egypt.

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.

Never doubt that God intends our good

The story of Joseph is a delightful depiction of some moments of our religious journey. Joseph was inspired by dreams of greatness, only to find that life over and again seemed to support the conclusion that he was deluded and misguided. False accusations, time in jail, facing execution, forgotten by his friends, betrayed by his brothers, and separated from his loved ones, Joseph had every reason to doubt and wallow in self-pity. Instead, he continued to use his gift of interpreting dreams and rose to great heights. His ability to see God at work in his life, even in the midst of his trials, gave him a perspective that led to great compassion and understanding, even towards those who wanted to destroy his life. Others may intend evil, but God intends our good.

—Mark McNeil is the assistant principal for formation at Strake Jesuit College Preparatory in Houston, Texas.

Prayer

God of all time and places, grant me the wisdom and perspective of Joseph. Help me see beyond life’s misfortunates and find peace and rest in your good will. Amen.

—Mark McNeil

 

 


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March 21, 2019

Lk 16: 19-31

“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried.

In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’

He said, ‘Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house— for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.’ Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’ He said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”

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 if we switched places?

In today’s Gospel, Jesus discusses a rich man who enjoyed a lifestyle that wasn’t just comfortable, it was luxurious—even while Lazarus languished at his doorstep. The wealthy man was obviously untroubled by Lazarus’ suffering. Perhaps the wealthy many was convinced that Lazarus deserved his fate or maybe he was simply too self-centered to imagine what Lazarus’ life was like. (Even after death, the wealthy man still sees Lazarus as less-than: a servant who can be sent to cool his tongue, a supporting role rather than the lead in his own story.) Do you think the wealthy man ever stopped to consider what life was like from Lazarus’ point of view?

Pope Francis calls us to fight the “globalization of indifference.” He says, “We have become used to the suffering of others: it doesn’t affect me; it doesn’t concern me; it’s none of my business!” We might think we are too busy to help others in need. Or maybe we think it’s someone else’s job to ease their suffering. A lot of us can probably more easily relate to the wealthy man than to Lazarus. But what if I were to switch places with the hungry, the sick, the lonely, or the stranger? How would that change what I see, feel, and desire?

—Dr. Marcus Mescher is Assistant Professor of Christian Ethics at Xavier University in Cincinnati, and is a graduate of Marquette University High School, Marquette University, and Boston College.  

Prayer

My God,
You are with me each moment of this day.
When I am tempted to be indifferent to the needs of others, open my eyes and my ears.
When I feel anxious and overwhelmed, fill my heart with your peace and love.
When I feel depressed or despair at the state of the world, inspire me with hope.
Help me be a source of light in darkness, tenderness in suffering, comfort in loneliness, strength in vulnerability.
Let me be an instrument of your healing presence and power today.
Amen

—Dr. Marcus Mescher

 


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March 20, 2019

Mt 20: 17-28

While Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside by themselves, and said to them on the way, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death; then they will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified; and on the third day he will be raised.”

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.

A desire to stay close to Jesus

The mother of James and John is real. She sounds like my mom.

My mother always desires what is best for me. Their mother observes and understands the influence this man, Jesus, has on her sons, and from the depths of her heart, she longs for her boys to stay close to Jesus – a prayer of many mothers.

Consider Jesus’ words, “Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?”

His response avoids an authoritative Yes or No; the answer to the mother’s request is held in our freedom to choose to follow him. Earlier in the passage, Jesus tells them what will happen to the Son of Man in Jerusalem. Is this really what James and John desire?

In the season of Lent, we have many good desires – pray more, fast more, give more – all with the desire to right our relationship with God and others. The way of Lent is the way of the cross. Do my desires for peace, joy, and love lead me to the cross?

—Alan Ratermann is an English teacher and Director of Ignatian Service Programs at Rockhurst High School in Kansas City, Missouri.

Prayer

What would you have me do this Lent, Lord?
Give up chocolate or soda or alcohol?
Save my pennies and dimes and dollars?
Or, just maybe, I drink the cup. I follow your lead. I offer my life.
I pray, I fast and I give.
I love.

—The Jesuit Prayer team

 


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March 19, 2019

St. Joseph

Mt 1:16, 18-21, 24A

Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary. Of her was born Jesus who is called the Christ.

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly.

But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife.

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.

Guardians of Christ

We often think of Joseph as gentle and quiet, but it is a mistake to interpret his quiet gentility as weakness.

Joseph had one assignment: to protect and provide for Christ and his mother. This was no easy task. Every time we hear of Joseph, he is being bold. He whisks his family to safety from murderous Herod. He courageously walks his family past Herod’s palace to visit the Temple every year. Even taking Mary into his home in the first place was an act of courage and resolve.

Joseph is a model for all Christians, for we are also called to be guardians of Christ. We nourish Christ in ourselves. We protect Christ in the poor who suffer. We stand up for the Word with our lives.

We may do these things quietly and gently, but make no mistake, it takes Christian courage to do so. Be brave, do not be afraid to take Christ into your heart!

For reflection: Do I nourish Christ in my heart? Do I protect Christ in the suffering of others? Do I guard the truth and Word of Christ in the world?

—Stephen Kramer, SJ, is a Jesuit deacon of the Central and Southern Province currently finishing his Master’s degree in Theology at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry.  He will be ordained to the priesthood in June.

Prayer

Joseph, son of David, and husband of Mary;
We honor you, guardian of the Redeemer,
and we adore the child you named Jesus.
Saint Joseph, patron of the universal church,
pray for us, that like you we may live totally dedicated to the interests of the Savior.
Amen.

—From the Rosary of St. Joseph

 

 


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March 18, 2019

Lk 6: 36-38

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”

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.

Living up to God’s expectations

After sharing good advice on how we should be interacting with others, Christ expresses that “the measure you give will be the measure you get back.” He tells us that the expectations we hold for those we encounter are the expectations that God has for us. Recently I realized that I often set very high expectations for the people in my life and never verbalize them. Yet, I am disappointed when they don’t live up to my expectations and therefore feel that our relationship has been damaged. If God is measuring me the same way I am measuring the people I love, I’m miserably failing at meeting his expectations. Sometimes it takes a reality check to see with eyes of compassion and mercy, to recognize that forgiveness always supersedes teaching someone a lesson, and to open our hearts to loving even when it is most difficult to do so.  

—Sara Spittler is the First Years Chaplain and a Religious Studies teacher at Saint Ignatius College Prep in Chicago.

Prayer

Good and gracious God, help me to view others with the loving and merciful heart with which you look at me.  May I be quick to offer forgiveness rather than anger, love rather than judgment. Amen.

—The Jesuit Prayer team

 


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March 17, 2019

St. Patrick

Gen 15: 5-12, 17-18

He brought him outside and said, ‘Look towards heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be.’ And he believed the Lord; and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness.

Then he said to him, ‘I am the Lord who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess.’

But he said, ‘O Lord God, how am I to know that I shall possess it?’ He said to him, ‘Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtle-dove, and a young pigeon.’ He brought him all these and cut them in two, laying each half over against the other; but he did not cut the birds in two. And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.

As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram, and a deep and terrifying darkness descended upon him.

When the sun had gone down and it was dark, a smoking fire-pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, ‘To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates.

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 faith of the “Fighting Irish”

St. Patrick was born far from the Emerald Isle, in Scotland. The son of a wealthy Roman official, he was kidnapped as a teenager and sold into slavery in Ireland, where he found Christ. In looking back on his distressing childhood, Patrick later wrote: “I prayed in the woods and on the mountain, even before dawn. I felt no hurt from the snow or ice or rain.”

Not all of us meet God in such a harrowing way. In today’s reading, Abraham has a calmer conversation with God that carries great resonance for our faith. This is the first time in the Bible that “faith” and “righteousness” are mentioned in such a unique way, and St. Paul comes back to this scene several times in his letters. As with Patrick, the man who would eventually bring Christianity to Ireland, Abraham’s encounter with God began with a trust and was bold, intentional and personal.

In this second week of Lent, let’s ask for faith like theirs, which goes beyond just believing in the existence of God to actually believing God and all the good things we proclaim today in Psalm 27: that God is our helper, our refuge, our salvation and our light!

—Joe Kraemer, SJ, is a Jesuit scholastic of the Jesuits West Province currently finishing his second year of Regency in the Advancement Office in Los Gatos, California.

Prayer

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through a belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of creation…

I arise today
In the hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In the prayers of patriarchs,
In preachings of the apostles,
In faiths of confessors,
In innocence of virgins,
In deeds of righteous men…

I arise today
Through God’s strength to pilot me;
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s shield to protect me.
Amen.

—Excerpt from The Breastplate of St. Patrick

 


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March 16, 2019

Mt 5:43-48

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.

For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters,what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

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 do we treat our enemies?

No one likes to think of themselves as having enemies.  It seems like such a drastic label to call someone. But the “enemies” and “those who persecute” who Jesus commands us to love can take many forms.  Perhaps it is the person who trolls social media intent on attacking and insulting others. Maybe it is the coworker who seems to go out of his or her way to make our job more difficult. It might be the friend or family member who gossips or shares our private information with the world. It is much easier to wish these people illor at the very least not wish them wellthan it is to pray for them.

But Jesus sets a high bar for us.  He doesn’t say “be fairly good,” or “do a little bit.”  He tells us to “be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  No pressure there! Jesus sets this bar for us, knowing that we may fail at times, but reminding us that we shouldn’t stop trying to love those who hurt us, and recognizing that they too are God’s children.  

Who is an “enemy” in my life who I can pray for today?

—The Jesuit Prayer team

Prayer

Lord God, you love us even when we fail, and you love all those around us.  Help us to treat our “enemies” as friends, and let go of grudges, anger, and hurt.  In all that we do, may we try our best to emulate your perfect, all-loving heart.

—The Jesuit Prayer team


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March 15, 2019

Mt 5: 20-26

For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

“You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire.

So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.

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.

Knowing Jesus through our weakness

Today’s Gospel reading is a part of the Sermon on the Mount. This famous text not only deepens the demands of the Old Testament laws and the traditions that arose from them, but it also deepens the meaning of our religious acts. Fasting, praying, and almsgiving are all occasions of inflating our egos and producing arrogant self-righteousness, if we are not careful. When I take these chapters seriously, I feel imperfect and unworthy of Christ’s kingdom. But didn’t Christ come for the weak and poor? Christ’s kingdom, as stated at the beginning of this sermon, belongs to the “poor in spirit.” It is precisely in knowing myself as poor that I understand why Jesus’ demands were so high. When I am weak, he is strong.

—Mark McNeil is the assistant principal for formation at Strake Jesuit College Preparatory in Houston, Texas.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, shelter me in your kingdom that is made of those who find life in knowing their poverty. Embrace me and all my neighbors in your divine love. Amen.

—Mark McNeil

 


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March 14, 2019

Mt 7:7-12

“Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

“In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.

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.

For What Shall I Ask?

We live in a culture that pushes us to strive for what’s new, what’s next, and what’s better. It’s tempting to think that I never have enough and I never am enough. Not so, Fr. Greg Boyle, SJ, tells us: “You are exactly who God had in mind when God created you … you could not be one bit better.”

Today’s Gospel is not about asking God for more, like one might imagine a genie granting wishes. It is instead a reminder to trust that God provides exactly what we most deeply desire. When we feel restless, it’s actually a blessing, an indication that we cannot be fulfilled by things. “Our hearts are restless until they rest in You, O Lord,” St. Augustine wrote. God never tires of giving Godself to us. This gift—which we call grace—not only fulfills us, but it makes everything possible; it builds on and perfects our human nature so we can cooperate with God in the world. Today’s Gospel invites me to ponder: How can I be more attentive and responsive to grace so I can cooperate with God this day?

This passage concludes with the Golden Rule: treat others the way you would like to be treated. Since we don’t always know how others would like to be treated, some have suggested a revised version, the so-called Platinum Rule: treat others the way they would like to be treated. (I like Wendell Berry’s version: treat those downstream as you would like those upstream to treat you.) It’s easy to get stuck thinking about how others have wronged me or to become preoccupied by thinking about how others might take advantage of me, if I’m not careful. But today’s Gospel interrupts that defensive mentality and calls us to be agents of grace and courtesy. If I trust that I am enough—and I don’t have to prove it or be protective all the time—then how can I help others see that they, too, are enough?  

—Dr. Marcus Mescher is Assistant Professor of Christian Ethics at Xavier University in Cincinnati, and is a graduate of Marquette University High School, Marquette University, and Boston College.  

Prayer

Good and Gracious God, thank you for the gift of yourself and thank you for the gift of myself. Help me to more deeply trust that your grace is all that I need to be the person you know that I am. Let me tune my heart and mind into your loving presence so that I can cooperate with you this day. Empower us—the whole church—to incarnate your love in the world.

—Dr. Marcus Mescher

 


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