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April 18, 2019

Holy Thursday

Jn 13:1-15

Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself.

Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.”

Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.

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

Doing as Jesus Does

I noticed my friend’s bare feet resting, not on her wheelchair supports, but on the cold tile floor. Her health rapidly declining, she had invited friends and family to be present for her anointing. We hadn’t washed her feet, so had we done what Jesus asked us to do?

Had our gentle touches and hugs poured relief over her fears?

Had her weary heart been washed and refreshed by our words of blessing?

Had the isolation of her illness been rinsed away by our presence surrounding her like a river of love?

Jesus tells his disciples to follow his example, but offering to wash another’s feet may be an unusual or unwelcome act in our time. So we must find other ways to pour out kindness and compassion. To dry tears by our presence, and to gently touch another’s weary heart.

How is Jesus asking you to follow his example today?

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

Prayer

Jesus, my teacher, help me to respond to others in compassionate and humble service, just as you did when you washed the feet of your disciples. Give me courage when I’m afraid to touch another’s aching spirit. May I follow your example of loving service today and always.

—Diane Amento Owens


April 17, 2019

Mt 26: 14-25

Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I betray him to you?” They paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he began to look for an opportunity to betray him. On the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where do you want us to make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?”

He said, “Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is near; I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.’” So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover meal. When it was evening, he took his place with the twelve; and while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.”

And they became greatly distressed and began to say to him one after another, “Surely not I, Lord?” He answered, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.” Judas, who betrayed him, said, “Surely not I, Rabbi?” He replied, “You have said so.”

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.

Recognizing God

I’ve always thought The Beatles song, Ticket To Ride, fit the story of Judas, as it captures Jesus’ sentiment. Slightly altered lyrics can read:

I think I’m gonna be sad, I think it’s today, yeah.
Judas that’s driving me mad, is going away.
He’s got a ticket to ride, he’s got a ticket, he’s got a ticket to ride,
But he don’t care.

When everything around you appears to be falling apart, your survival instincts kick into full gear and your inclinations turn towards the self. Judas’ world (and the Jewish world) was breaking down politically, socially, religiously, and economically. As the Temple started to collapse, so did his faith. Judas represents a hopeless resignation to a system too big to defeat. So, he bought a “ticket to ride” out of his relationship with Jesus because he failed to recognize God in the flesh. But those who recognized that Christ was in fact reclining with them were given something far greater than 30 pieces of silver. They were given the Kingdom of God.

—Mark Chang is a Theology Teacher and the Director of the New Teacher Induction Program at Loyola Academy in Wilmette, IL.

Prayer

O God, who willed your Son to submit for our sake to the yoke of the Cross, so that you might drive from us the power of the enemy, grant us, your servants, to attain the grace of the resurrection. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

—Collect prayer from today’s Mass


April 16, 2019

Is 49: 1-6

Listen to me, O coastlands, pay attention, you peoples from far away! The Lord called me before I was born, while I was in my mother’s womb he named me. He made my mouth like a sharp sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me a polished arrow, in his quiver he hid me away. And he said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.”

But I said, “I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity; yet surely my cause is with the Lord, and my reward with my God.”

And now the Lord says, who formed me in the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him, and that Israel might be gathered to him, for I am honored in the sight of the Lord, and my God has become my strength— he says, “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

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.

Trusting God in the midst of suffering

“But I said, ‘I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity; yet surely my cause is with the Lord, and my reward with my God.”

How often do we feel abandoned, or that our suffering is just too much? If we truly take to heart the words of Isaiah, that “The Lord called me before I was born, while I was in my mother’s womb he named me”, then it seems that even if I might feel like I’ve been abandoned, and my suffering is too great, that the God who knew me before I was born, who also sent his only Son to save the world, will truly be there for me when I am in need.

Jesus continued to trust the will of the Father even in the face of abandonment and betrayal. May we trust in the saving power of Jesus as we continue our journey towards Easter.

—Jonathan Harmon, SJ, is a transitional deacon of the Jesuits USA Central and Southern Province. He is currently in theology studies at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, CA.

Prayer

Good and gracious God, you have known us since before we were born, and you continue to offer us unconditional love. In the midst of trials or sufferings, remind us to turn to you, who are with us through it all. Amen.

—The Jesuit Prayer team


April 15, 2019

Jn 12:1-11

Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”

When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus.

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.

Standing firm in service to God

In today’s Gospel passage, I find myself standing with Mary of Bethany and watching how she responds to the criticism she receives for her actions. What does she say to Judas? I imagine she is aware that her actions surprise everyone at dinner, and that Judas’s words are not coming from a place of genuine concern for the poor. I imagine Mary standing firm in the knowledge that she is choosing to serve Jesus in the unique way she has been called to do.

How do I react when someone criticizes a decision that is close to my heart? It can be hard to act boldly in the face of opposition. The First Principle and Foundation is one of my favorite prayers for anchoring myself to God in a challenging situation. Ultimately, only I know how God is calling me. I pray for the freedom to center myself on my unique vocation to love, and “direct all that is me toward your praise”.

—Katie Broussard is the illustrator of the picture book Audacious Ignatius and is on the Advisory Board of Jesuit Connections in Chicago.

Prayer

Lord my God, when your love spilled over into creation,
You thought of me.
I am from Love, of Love, for Love.

Let my heart, O God, always recognize, cherish,
and enjoy your goodness in all of creation.
Direct all that is me to your praise.
Teach me reverence for every person, all things.
Energize me in your service.

Lord God may nothing ever distract me from your love…
Neither health nor sickness,
wealth nor poverty,
honor nor dishonor,
long life nor short life. May I never seek nor choose to be other than You intend me to be. Amen.

—St. Ignatius Loyola, First Principle & Foundation, trans. Bergan & Schwan, 1985.


April 14, 2019

Palm Sunday

Jn 11: 45-56

When the hour came, he took his place at the table, and the apostles with him. He said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”

Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.

But see, the one who betrays me is with me, and his hand is on the table. For the Son of Man is going as it has been determined, but woe to that one by whom he is betrayed!” Then they began to ask one another, which one of them it could be who would do this. A dispute also arose among them as to which one of them was to be regarded as the greatest.

But he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you; rather the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. “You are those who have stood by me in my trials; and I confer on you, just as my Father has conferred on me, a kingdom, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

“Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” And he said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death!” Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the cock will not crow this day, until you have denied three times that you know me.”

He said to them, “When I sent you out without a purse, bag, or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “No, not a thing.” He said to them, “But now, the one who has a purse must take it, and likewise a bag. And the one who has no sword must sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you, this scripture must be fulfilled in me, ‘And he was counted among the lawless’; and indeed what is written about me is being fulfilled.” They said, “Lord, look, here are two swords.” He replied, “It is enough.”

He came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him. When he reached the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not come into the time of trial.” Then he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.” Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength. In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground.

When he got up from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping because of grief, and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not come into the time of trial.”

While he was still speaking, suddenly a crowd came, and the one called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him; but Jesus said to him, “Judas, is it with a kiss that you are betraying the Son of Man?” When those who were around him saw what was coming, they asked, “Lord, should we strike with the sword?” Then one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear.

But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him.Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple police, and the elders who had come for him, “Have you come out with swords and clubs as if I were a bandit? When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness!”

Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house. But Peter was following at a distance. When they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat among them. Then a servant-girl, seeing him in the firelight, stared at him and said, “This man also was with him.” But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” A little later someone else, on seeing him, said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not!” Then about an hour later still another kept insisting, “Surely this man also was with him; for he is a Galilean.” But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about!”

At that moment, while he was still speaking, the cock crowed. The Lord turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.

Now the men who were holding Jesus began to mock him and beat him; they also blindfolded him and kept asking him, “Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?” They kept heaping many other insults on him. When day came, the assembly of the elders of the people, both chief priests and scribes, gathered together, and they brought him to their council. They said, “If you are the Messiah, tell us.”

He replied, “If I tell you, you will not believe; and if I question you, you will not answer. But from now on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” All of them asked, “Are you, then, the Son of God?” He said to them, “You say that I am.” Then they said, “What further testimony do we need? We have heard it ourselves from his own lips!”

Then the assembly rose as a body and brought Jesus before Pilate. They began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man perverting our nation, forbidding us to pay taxes to the emperor, and saying that he himself is the Messiah, a king.” Then Pilate asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” He answered, “You say so.” Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no basis for an accusation against this man.”

But they were insistent and said, “He stirs up the people by teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee where he began even to this place.” When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. And when he learned that he was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him off to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time. When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had been wanting to see him for a long time, because he had heard about him and was hoping to see him perform some sign.

He questioned him at some length, but Jesus gave him no answer. The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him. Even Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him; then he put an elegant robe on him, and sent him back to Pilate. That same day Herod and Pilate became friends with each other; before this they had been enemies.

Pilate then called together the chief priests, the leaders, and the people,and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was perverting the people; and here I have examined him in your presence and have not found this man guilty of any of your charges against him. Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us. Indeed, he has done nothing to deserve death. I will therefore have him flogged and release him.”

Then they all shouted out together, “Away with this fellow! Release Barabbas for us!” (This was a man who had been put in prison for an insurrection that had taken place in the city, and for murder.) Pilate, wanting to release Jesus, addressed them again; but they kept shouting, “Crucify, crucify him!” A third time he said to them, “Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no ground for the sentence of death; I will therefore have him flogged and then release him.”

But they kept urgently demanding with loud shouts that he should be crucified; and their voices prevailed. So Pilate gave his verdict that their demand should be granted. He released the man they asked for, the one who had been put in prison for insurrection and murder, and he handed Jesus over as they wished.

As they led him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming from the country, and they laid the cross on him, and made him carry it behind Jesus. A great number of the people followed him, and among them were women who were beating their breasts and wailing for him.

But Jesus turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For the days are surely coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us’; and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots to divide his clothing. And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!”

The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.” One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”

But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last. When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, “Certainly this man was innocent.”

And when all the crowds who had gathered there for this spectacle saw what had taken place, they returned home, beating their breasts. But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.

Now there was a good and righteous man named Joseph, who, though a member of the council, had not agreed to their plan and action. He came from the Jewish town of Arimathea, and he was waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down, wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid it in a rock-hewn tomb where no one had ever been laid.

It was the day of Preparation, and the sabbath was beginning. The women who had come with him from Galilee followed, and they saw the tomb and how his body was laid. Then they returned, and prepared spices and ointments. On the sabbath they rested according to the commandment.

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.

Jesus the Messiah

Liturgists advise priests that on Palm Sunday and Good Friday, when the Passion of the Lord is read as a part of the Liturgy, it is neither the proper time nor place for a lengthy homily. I’ve been advised by people I trust that the Passion is itself a homily, and that very few additional words from me are required during these very lengthy liturgies.

But if I could give a homily on a day when the Passion of the Lord is read in church, I would choose to talk about the Gospel of the First Sunday of Lent, and about how the Passion Narrative brings the account of the temptations of the Lord to a conclusion. In Luke’s version, Luke 4:13 ends – after Jesus doesn’t give in to the three very severe and intense temptations of Satan – with these words: “[Satan] departed from [Jesus] for a time.” In Greek, the word “time” used by Luke is not the ordinary word for plain, old “time”; it is, instead, a word that means “a special time” or “a golden opportunity” or “a moment of crisis”.

And that “time,” that “golden opportunity” for Satan, that “moment of crisis” for Jesus, I believe, is when Jesus is dying on the cross. In Luke’s Passion narrative, passersby and Roman soldiers taunt Jesus, saying, “Let him save himself if he is the Chosen One, the Christ of God.” These words are Satan’s ultimate temptation of the Lord. If Jesus, goaded on by these words, had decided to give in to prove that he was, indeed, the long-awaited Messiah, the true Son of God, he would not have accomplished his mission. So, rather than prove who he is, Jesus simply carried out his mission to die for the redemption of sinners.

—Fr. Michael A. Vincent, SJ, serves as associate pastor of the Church of the Gesu in University Heights, OH.

Prayer

Jesus, may all that is you flow into me.
May your body and blood be my food and drink.
May your passion and death be my strength and life.
Jesus, with you at my side enough has been given.
May the shelter I seek be the shadow of your cross.

—Joseph Tetlow, SJ


April 13, 2019

Jn 11: 45-56

Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what he had done. So the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the council, and said, “What are we to do? This man is performing many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation.”

But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all! You do not understand that it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed.” He did not say this on his own, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus was about to die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but to gather into one the dispersed children of God. So from that day on they planned to put him to death.

Jesus therefore no longer walked about openly among the Jews, but went from there to a town called Ephraim in the region near the wilderness; and he remained there with the disciples. Now the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before the Passover to purify themselves. They were looking for Jesus and were asking one another as they stood in the temple, “What do you think? Surely he will not come to the festival, will he?”

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.

Entering Holy Week

The Passover is near; there is a plot afoot to kill Jesus. he could no longer move freely around the city. These phrases from today’s Gospel remind us that the long preparation of Lent now brings us to the flurry of events of Holy Week.

This “preparation day” offers me the chance to strengthen my relationship with Jesus, to renew my commitment to walk in his footsteps towards Calvary—whatever “Calvary” might mean in my life this Holy Week. How have these weeks of Lent strengthened my relationship with Jesus? How is Jesus inviting me to walk with him these coming days of grace? What Easter gifts—personal and spiritual—is Jesus offering me this year? What gifts do I hope for? What gifts do I really need?

—The Jesuit prayer team

Prayer

You are all we have; you give us what we need. Our lives are in your hands, O Lord; our lives are in your hands.

—Francis Patrick O’Brien, © 1992, GIA Publications, Inc.


April 12, 2019

Jn 10: 31-42

The Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus replied, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these are you going to stone me?” The Jews answered, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you, but for blasphemy, because you, though only a human being, are making yourself God.”

Jesus answered, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, you are gods’? If those to whom the word of God came were called ‘gods’ —and the scripture cannot be annulled— can you say that the one whom the Father has sanctified and sent into the world is blaspheming because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me. But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”

Then they tried to arrest him again, but he escaped from their hands. He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing earlier, and he remained there. Many came to him, and they were saying, “John performed no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.” And many believed in him there.

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 waters that nourish us

Jesus returns to the Jordan. Muddy, narrow, shallow, it is a humble sort of river. Yet its flowing waters are a source of life for an otherwise arid region. They are also grace-filled, the baptismal waters of Jesus.

The evangelist John wastes no words. His writings flow with richness, like the waters of the Jordan, compact but layered, and life giving. Wade in them and believe. Like Jesus, find nourishment in the waters of the Jordan. Wade with Christ. As they did for him, let the peaceful waters quench the aridity we face. Let them nourish us in this final leg of our Lenten journey as we follow him to Jerusalem and witness the egregious injustice of his passion and death.

—Stephen Hutchison founded and leads Revitalization 2000, Inc., a nonprofit organization that emerged from St. Matthew the Apostle Catholic Church to assist its Ignatian-based mission to serve the poor in the surrounding neighborhood of north St. Louis.

Prayer 

Jesus, what a gift are these stories of You
not so long ago divinely walking this earth
teaching, healing, caring, loving
but too humanly fearing
feeling abandoned needing to return to the waters
where Your Father acclaimed You
as beloved
and therein finding the strength
to accept His will.
Christ, amidst my own vulnerability
may my awareness of Your love
likewise be enough
that I too surrender all.

—Stephen Hutchison


April 11, 2019

Gn 17: 3-9

Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him, ‘As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you.

I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. And I will give to you, and to your offspring after you, the land where you are now an alien, all the land of Canaan, for a perpetual holding; and I will be their God.’

God said to Abraham, ‘As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations.

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.

Abraham’s Offspring

I have admired Abraham and his relationship with God ever since I had a realization at Mass that Abraham was my faith father and that his God was my God. Since this experience many years ago, I’ve felt a connection to this Old Testament patriarch whose relationship with God was deeply personal.

Abraham trusts God. He accepts his new name and identity. And although he laughs in a later passage when God tells him Isaac will be born, he has faith that God will make it so—God will indeed make him “exceedingly fruitful.”

We are some of those offspring God promised to Abraham. We are each as precious to God as Abraham was. Today, what will you and I do to serve this awesome God and uphold our part of the everlasting covenant? Who are your faith fathers and mothers that you might remember today and thank God for?

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

Prayer

Lord God, you planted a mustard seed of faith within me, just as you did with Abraham. Water this tiny seed with your love and your grace so that my faith and trust may grow. Thank you for all the people of faith who have nurtured my tiny seed. May my acts of love this day be exceedingly fruitful for others. Amen.

—Diane Amento Owens


April 10, 2019

Jn 8: 31-42

Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, ‘You will be made free’?”

Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are descendants of Abraham; yet you look for an opportunity to kill me, because there is no place in you for my word. I declare what I have seen in the Father’s presence; as for you, you should do what you have heard from the Father.”

They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing what Abraham did, but now you are trying to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. You are indeed doing what your father does.” They said to him, “We are not illegitimate children; we have one father, God himself.”

Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now I am here. I did not come on my own, but he sent me.

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

Our identity with God

We are inheritors of identity politics. We are just as divided as the Jews were in Jesus’ time. The Jews identified as sons of Abraham, yet sectioned off from each other because of ideological differences. The Essenes fled to the desert, the Pharisees prayed within their clan, the Sadducees kept busy in the Temple, and the Zealots plotted to blow the whole thing up. They could not identify with each other. Is this not the current landscape of our world?

Then there’s Jesus, who identified himself as a child of God, the Son of God. It’s no wonder scholars struggle identifying Jesus’ Jewish faction. Perhaps it’s because he only identified with God, as God. He knew that identity politics was nothing more than tribalism, colonization, and dominance. It wasn’t going to save anyone.

—Mark Chang is a Theology Teacher and the Director of the New Teacher Induction Program at Loyola Academy in Wilmette, IL.

Prayer

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 pleasing in the sight of your Father
and in order to make my life more worthy of your grace
and of the reward of eternity.

—Excerpt of a prayer by Jean-Pierre Médaille, SJ


April 9, 2019

Jn 8: 21-30

Again he said to them, “I am going away, and you will search for me, but you will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come.” Then the Jews said, “Is he going to kill himself? Is that what he means by saying, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come’?” He said to them, “You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins, for you will die in your sins unless you believe that I am he.”

They said to him, “Who are you?” Jesus said to them, “Why do I speak to you at all? I have much to say about you and much to condemn; but the one who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him.” They did not understand that he was speaking to them about the Father.

So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own, but I speak these things as the Father instructed me. And the one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what is pleasing to him.” As he was saying these things, many believed in him.

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

Recognizing Jesus

Our Gospel for today shows, once again, a people that does not understand what Jesus is saying to them. The Pharisees, just like us, often cannot see beyond their own pride and sinfulness when faced with the truth of who Jesus is. Lent is a time when we open our hearts and our minds and let the light of Christ burn away anything that might keep us from truly seeing the love of God present in our lives.

Jesus tells us quite clearly today that he does nothing on his own, but only what the Father taught him. Perhaps during the last couple weeks of Lent we might ask ourselves what is it that Jesus, through Our Father, is teaching us. How can we lift up the Son of man so as to recognize that he is I AM.

—Jonathan Harmon, SJ, is a transitional deacon of the Jesuits USA Central and Southern Province. He is currently in theology studies at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, CA.

Prayer

Prayer for Generosity

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

—St. Ignatius of Loyola


Welcome to Pray.ignatius.org

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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April 18, 2019

Holy Thursday

Jn 13:1-15

Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself.

Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.”

Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.

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

Doing as Jesus Does

I noticed my friend’s bare feet resting, not on her wheelchair supports, but on the cold tile floor. Her health rapidly declining, she had invited friends and family to be present for her anointing. We hadn’t washed her feet, so had we done what Jesus asked us to do?

Had our gentle touches and hugs poured relief over her fears?

Had her weary heart been washed and refreshed by our words of blessing?

Had the isolation of her illness been rinsed away by our presence surrounding her like a river of love?

Jesus tells his disciples to follow his example, but offering to wash another’s feet may be an unusual or unwelcome act in our time. So we must find other ways to pour out kindness and compassion. To dry tears by our presence, and to gently touch another’s weary heart.

How is Jesus asking you to follow his example today?

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

Prayer

Jesus, my teacher, help me to respond to others in compassionate and humble service, just as you did when you washed the feet of your disciples. Give me courage when I’m afraid to touch another’s aching spirit. May I follow your example of loving service today and always.

—Diane Amento Owens


April 17, 2019

Mt 26: 14-25

Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I betray him to you?” They paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he began to look for an opportunity to betray him. On the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where do you want us to make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?”

He said, “Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is near; I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.’” So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover meal. When it was evening, he took his place with the twelve; and while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.”

And they became greatly distressed and began to say to him one after another, “Surely not I, Lord?” He answered, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.” Judas, who betrayed him, said, “Surely not I, Rabbi?” He replied, “You have said so.”

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.

Recognizing God

I’ve always thought The Beatles song, Ticket To Ride, fit the story of Judas, as it captures Jesus’ sentiment. Slightly altered lyrics can read:

I think I’m gonna be sad, I think it’s today, yeah.
Judas that’s driving me mad, is going away.
He’s got a ticket to ride, he’s got a ticket, he’s got a ticket to ride,
But he don’t care.

When everything around you appears to be falling apart, your survival instincts kick into full gear and your inclinations turn towards the self. Judas’ world (and the Jewish world) was breaking down politically, socially, religiously, and economically. As the Temple started to collapse, so did his faith. Judas represents a hopeless resignation to a system too big to defeat. So, he bought a “ticket to ride” out of his relationship with Jesus because he failed to recognize God in the flesh. But those who recognized that Christ was in fact reclining with them were given something far greater than 30 pieces of silver. They were given the Kingdom of God.

—Mark Chang is a Theology Teacher and the Director of the New Teacher Induction Program at Loyola Academy in Wilmette, IL.

Prayer

O God, who willed your Son to submit for our sake to the yoke of the Cross, so that you might drive from us the power of the enemy, grant us, your servants, to attain the grace of the resurrection. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

—Collect prayer from today’s Mass


April 16, 2019

Is 49: 1-6

Listen to me, O coastlands, pay attention, you peoples from far away! The Lord called me before I was born, while I was in my mother’s womb he named me. He made my mouth like a sharp sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me a polished arrow, in his quiver he hid me away. And he said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.”

But I said, “I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity; yet surely my cause is with the Lord, and my reward with my God.”

And now the Lord says, who formed me in the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him, and that Israel might be gathered to him, for I am honored in the sight of the Lord, and my God has become my strength— he says, “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

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.

Trusting God in the midst of suffering

“But I said, ‘I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity; yet surely my cause is with the Lord, and my reward with my God.”

How often do we feel abandoned, or that our suffering is just too much? If we truly take to heart the words of Isaiah, that “The Lord called me before I was born, while I was in my mother’s womb he named me”, then it seems that even if I might feel like I’ve been abandoned, and my suffering is too great, that the God who knew me before I was born, who also sent his only Son to save the world, will truly be there for me when I am in need.

Jesus continued to trust the will of the Father even in the face of abandonment and betrayal. May we trust in the saving power of Jesus as we continue our journey towards Easter.

—Jonathan Harmon, SJ, is a transitional deacon of the Jesuits USA Central and Southern Province. He is currently in theology studies at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, CA.

Prayer

Good and gracious God, you have known us since before we were born, and you continue to offer us unconditional love. In the midst of trials or sufferings, remind us to turn to you, who are with us through it all. Amen.

—The Jesuit Prayer team


April 15, 2019

Jn 12:1-11

Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”

When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus.

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.

Standing firm in service to God

In today’s Gospel passage, I find myself standing with Mary of Bethany and watching how she responds to the criticism she receives for her actions. What does she say to Judas? I imagine she is aware that her actions surprise everyone at dinner, and that Judas’s words are not coming from a place of genuine concern for the poor. I imagine Mary standing firm in the knowledge that she is choosing to serve Jesus in the unique way she has been called to do.

How do I react when someone criticizes a decision that is close to my heart? It can be hard to act boldly in the face of opposition. The First Principle and Foundation is one of my favorite prayers for anchoring myself to God in a challenging situation. Ultimately, only I know how God is calling me. I pray for the freedom to center myself on my unique vocation to love, and “direct all that is me toward your praise”.

—Katie Broussard is the illustrator of the picture book Audacious Ignatius and is on the Advisory Board of Jesuit Connections in Chicago.

Prayer

Lord my God, when your love spilled over into creation,
You thought of me.
I am from Love, of Love, for Love.

Let my heart, O God, always recognize, cherish,
and enjoy your goodness in all of creation.
Direct all that is me to your praise.
Teach me reverence for every person, all things.
Energize me in your service.

Lord God may nothing ever distract me from your love…
Neither health nor sickness,
wealth nor poverty,
honor nor dishonor,
long life nor short life. May I never seek nor choose to be other than You intend me to be. Amen.

—St. Ignatius Loyola, First Principle & Foundation, trans. Bergan & Schwan, 1985.


April 14, 2019

Palm Sunday

Jn 11: 45-56

When the hour came, he took his place at the table, and the apostles with him. He said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”

Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.

But see, the one who betrays me is with me, and his hand is on the table. For the Son of Man is going as it has been determined, but woe to that one by whom he is betrayed!” Then they began to ask one another, which one of them it could be who would do this. A dispute also arose among them as to which one of them was to be regarded as the greatest.

But he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you; rather the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. “You are those who have stood by me in my trials; and I confer on you, just as my Father has conferred on me, a kingdom, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

“Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” And he said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death!” Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the cock will not crow this day, until you have denied three times that you know me.”

He said to them, “When I sent you out without a purse, bag, or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “No, not a thing.” He said to them, “But now, the one who has a purse must take it, and likewise a bag. And the one who has no sword must sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you, this scripture must be fulfilled in me, ‘And he was counted among the lawless’; and indeed what is written about me is being fulfilled.” They said, “Lord, look, here are two swords.” He replied, “It is enough.”

He came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him. When he reached the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not come into the time of trial.” Then he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.” Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength. In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground.

When he got up from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping because of grief, and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not come into the time of trial.”

While he was still speaking, suddenly a crowd came, and the one called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him; but Jesus said to him, “Judas, is it with a kiss that you are betraying the Son of Man?” When those who were around him saw what was coming, they asked, “Lord, should we strike with the sword?” Then one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear.

But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him.Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple police, and the elders who had come for him, “Have you come out with swords and clubs as if I were a bandit? When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness!”

Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house. But Peter was following at a distance. When they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat among them. Then a servant-girl, seeing him in the firelight, stared at him and said, “This man also was with him.” But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” A little later someone else, on seeing him, said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not!” Then about an hour later still another kept insisting, “Surely this man also was with him; for he is a Galilean.” But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about!”

At that moment, while he was still speaking, the cock crowed. The Lord turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.

Now the men who were holding Jesus began to mock him and beat him; they also blindfolded him and kept asking him, “Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?” They kept heaping many other insults on him. When day came, the assembly of the elders of the people, both chief priests and scribes, gathered together, and they brought him to their council. They said, “If you are the Messiah, tell us.”

He replied, “If I tell you, you will not believe; and if I question you, you will not answer. But from now on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” All of them asked, “Are you, then, the Son of God?” He said to them, “You say that I am.” Then they said, “What further testimony do we need? We have heard it ourselves from his own lips!”

Then the assembly rose as a body and brought Jesus before Pilate. They began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man perverting our nation, forbidding us to pay taxes to the emperor, and saying that he himself is the Messiah, a king.” Then Pilate asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” He answered, “You say so.” Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no basis for an accusation against this man.”

But they were insistent and said, “He stirs up the people by teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee where he began even to this place.” When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. And when he learned that he was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him off to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time. When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had been wanting to see him for a long time, because he had heard about him and was hoping to see him perform some sign.

He questioned him at some length, but Jesus gave him no answer. The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him. Even Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him; then he put an elegant robe on him, and sent him back to Pilate. That same day Herod and Pilate became friends with each other; before this they had been enemies.

Pilate then called together the chief priests, the leaders, and the people,and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was perverting the people; and here I have examined him in your presence and have not found this man guilty of any of your charges against him. Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us. Indeed, he has done nothing to deserve death. I will therefore have him flogged and release him.”

Then they all shouted out together, “Away with this fellow! Release Barabbas for us!” (This was a man who had been put in prison for an insurrection that had taken place in the city, and for murder.) Pilate, wanting to release Jesus, addressed them again; but they kept shouting, “Crucify, crucify him!” A third time he said to them, “Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no ground for the sentence of death; I will therefore have him flogged and then release him.”

But they kept urgently demanding with loud shouts that he should be crucified; and their voices prevailed. So Pilate gave his verdict that their demand should be granted. He released the man they asked for, the one who had been put in prison for insurrection and murder, and he handed Jesus over as they wished.

As they led him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming from the country, and they laid the cross on him, and made him carry it behind Jesus. A great number of the people followed him, and among them were women who were beating their breasts and wailing for him.

But Jesus turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For the days are surely coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us’; and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots to divide his clothing. And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!”

The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.” One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”

But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last. When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, “Certainly this man was innocent.”

And when all the crowds who had gathered there for this spectacle saw what had taken place, they returned home, beating their breasts. But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.

Now there was a good and righteous man named Joseph, who, though a member of the council, had not agreed to their plan and action. He came from the Jewish town of Arimathea, and he was waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down, wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid it in a rock-hewn tomb where no one had ever been laid.

It was the day of Preparation, and the sabbath was beginning. The women who had come with him from Galilee followed, and they saw the tomb and how his body was laid. Then they returned, and prepared spices and ointments. On the sabbath they rested according to the commandment.

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.

Jesus the Messiah

Liturgists advise priests that on Palm Sunday and Good Friday, when the Passion of the Lord is read as a part of the Liturgy, it is neither the proper time nor place for a lengthy homily. I’ve been advised by people I trust that the Passion is itself a homily, and that very few additional words from me are required during these very lengthy liturgies.

But if I could give a homily on a day when the Passion of the Lord is read in church, I would choose to talk about the Gospel of the First Sunday of Lent, and about how the Passion Narrative brings the account of the temptations of the Lord to a conclusion. In Luke’s version, Luke 4:13 ends – after Jesus doesn’t give in to the three very severe and intense temptations of Satan – with these words: “[Satan] departed from [Jesus] for a time.” In Greek, the word “time” used by Luke is not the ordinary word for plain, old “time”; it is, instead, a word that means “a special time” or “a golden opportunity” or “a moment of crisis”.

And that “time,” that “golden opportunity” for Satan, that “moment of crisis” for Jesus, I believe, is when Jesus is dying on the cross. In Luke’s Passion narrative, passersby and Roman soldiers taunt Jesus, saying, “Let him save himself if he is the Chosen One, the Christ of God.” These words are Satan’s ultimate temptation of the Lord. If Jesus, goaded on by these words, had decided to give in to prove that he was, indeed, the long-awaited Messiah, the true Son of God, he would not have accomplished his mission. So, rather than prove who he is, Jesus simply carried out his mission to die for the redemption of sinners.

—Fr. Michael A. Vincent, SJ, serves as associate pastor of the Church of the Gesu in University Heights, OH.

Prayer

Jesus, may all that is you flow into me.
May your body and blood be my food and drink.
May your passion and death be my strength and life.
Jesus, with you at my side enough has been given.
May the shelter I seek be the shadow of your cross.

—Joseph Tetlow, SJ


April 13, 2019

Jn 11: 45-56

Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what he had done. So the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the council, and said, “What are we to do? This man is performing many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation.”

But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all! You do not understand that it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed.” He did not say this on his own, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus was about to die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but to gather into one the dispersed children of God. So from that day on they planned to put him to death.

Jesus therefore no longer walked about openly among the Jews, but went from there to a town called Ephraim in the region near the wilderness; and he remained there with the disciples. Now the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before the Passover to purify themselves. They were looking for Jesus and were asking one another as they stood in the temple, “What do you think? Surely he will not come to the festival, will he?”

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.

Entering Holy Week

The Passover is near; there is a plot afoot to kill Jesus. he could no longer move freely around the city. These phrases from today’s Gospel remind us that the long preparation of Lent now brings us to the flurry of events of Holy Week.

This “preparation day” offers me the chance to strengthen my relationship with Jesus, to renew my commitment to walk in his footsteps towards Calvary—whatever “Calvary” might mean in my life this Holy Week. How have these weeks of Lent strengthened my relationship with Jesus? How is Jesus inviting me to walk with him these coming days of grace? What Easter gifts—personal and spiritual—is Jesus offering me this year? What gifts do I hope for? What gifts do I really need?

—The Jesuit prayer team

Prayer

You are all we have; you give us what we need. Our lives are in your hands, O Lord; our lives are in your hands.

—Francis Patrick O’Brien, © 1992, GIA Publications, Inc.


April 12, 2019

Jn 10: 31-42

The Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus replied, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these are you going to stone me?” The Jews answered, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you, but for blasphemy, because you, though only a human being, are making yourself God.”

Jesus answered, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, you are gods’? If those to whom the word of God came were called ‘gods’ —and the scripture cannot be annulled— can you say that the one whom the Father has sanctified and sent into the world is blaspheming because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me. But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”

Then they tried to arrest him again, but he escaped from their hands. He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing earlier, and he remained there. Many came to him, and they were saying, “John performed no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.” And many believed in him there.

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 waters that nourish us

Jesus returns to the Jordan. Muddy, narrow, shallow, it is a humble sort of river. Yet its flowing waters are a source of life for an otherwise arid region. They are also grace-filled, the baptismal waters of Jesus.

The evangelist John wastes no words. His writings flow with richness, like the waters of the Jordan, compact but layered, and life giving. Wade in them and believe. Like Jesus, find nourishment in the waters of the Jordan. Wade with Christ. As they did for him, let the peaceful waters quench the aridity we face. Let them nourish us in this final leg of our Lenten journey as we follow him to Jerusalem and witness the egregious injustice of his passion and death.

—Stephen Hutchison founded and leads Revitalization 2000, Inc., a nonprofit organization that emerged from St. Matthew the Apostle Catholic Church to assist its Ignatian-based mission to serve the poor in the surrounding neighborhood of north St. Louis.

Prayer 

Jesus, what a gift are these stories of You
not so long ago divinely walking this earth
teaching, healing, caring, loving
but too humanly fearing
feeling abandoned needing to return to the waters
where Your Father acclaimed You
as beloved
and therein finding the strength
to accept His will.
Christ, amidst my own vulnerability
may my awareness of Your love
likewise be enough
that I too surrender all.

—Stephen Hutchison


April 11, 2019

Gn 17: 3-9

Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him, ‘As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you.

I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. And I will give to you, and to your offspring after you, the land where you are now an alien, all the land of Canaan, for a perpetual holding; and I will be their God.’

God said to Abraham, ‘As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations.

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.

Abraham’s Offspring

I have admired Abraham and his relationship with God ever since I had a realization at Mass that Abraham was my faith father and that his God was my God. Since this experience many years ago, I’ve felt a connection to this Old Testament patriarch whose relationship with God was deeply personal.

Abraham trusts God. He accepts his new name and identity. And although he laughs in a later passage when God tells him Isaac will be born, he has faith that God will make it so—God will indeed make him “exceedingly fruitful.”

We are some of those offspring God promised to Abraham. We are each as precious to God as Abraham was. Today, what will you and I do to serve this awesome God and uphold our part of the everlasting covenant? Who are your faith fathers and mothers that you might remember today and thank God for?

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

Prayer

Lord God, you planted a mustard seed of faith within me, just as you did with Abraham. Water this tiny seed with your love and your grace so that my faith and trust may grow. Thank you for all the people of faith who have nurtured my tiny seed. May my acts of love this day be exceedingly fruitful for others. Amen.

—Diane Amento Owens


April 10, 2019

Jn 8: 31-42

Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, ‘You will be made free’?”

Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are descendants of Abraham; yet you look for an opportunity to kill me, because there is no place in you for my word. I declare what I have seen in the Father’s presence; as for you, you should do what you have heard from the Father.”

They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing what Abraham did, but now you are trying to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. You are indeed doing what your father does.” They said to him, “We are not illegitimate children; we have one father, God himself.”

Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now I am here. I did not come on my own, but he sent me.

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

Our identity with God

We are inheritors of identity politics. We are just as divided as the Jews were in Jesus’ time. The Jews identified as sons of Abraham, yet sectioned off from each other because of ideological differences. The Essenes fled to the desert, the Pharisees prayed within their clan, the Sadducees kept busy in the Temple, and the Zealots plotted to blow the whole thing up. They could not identify with each other. Is this not the current landscape of our world?

Then there’s Jesus, who identified himself as a child of God, the Son of God. It’s no wonder scholars struggle identifying Jesus’ Jewish faction. Perhaps it’s because he only identified with God, as God. He knew that identity politics was nothing more than tribalism, colonization, and dominance. It wasn’t going to save anyone.

—Mark Chang is a Theology Teacher and the Director of the New Teacher Induction Program at Loyola Academy in Wilmette, IL.

Prayer

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 pleasing in the sight of your Father
and in order to make my life more worthy of your grace
and of the reward of eternity.

—Excerpt of a prayer by Jean-Pierre Médaille, SJ


April 9, 2019

Jn 8: 21-30

Again he said to them, “I am going away, and you will search for me, but you will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come.” Then the Jews said, “Is he going to kill himself? Is that what he means by saying, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come’?” He said to them, “You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins, for you will die in your sins unless you believe that I am he.”

They said to him, “Who are you?” Jesus said to them, “Why do I speak to you at all? I have much to say about you and much to condemn; but the one who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him.” They did not understand that he was speaking to them about the Father.

So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own, but I speak these things as the Father instructed me. And the one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what is pleasing to him.” As he was saying these things, many believed in him.

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

Recognizing Jesus

Our Gospel for today shows, once again, a people that does not understand what Jesus is saying to them. The Pharisees, just like us, often cannot see beyond their own pride and sinfulness when faced with the truth of who Jesus is. Lent is a time when we open our hearts and our minds and let the light of Christ burn away anything that might keep us from truly seeing the love of God present in our lives.

Jesus tells us quite clearly today that he does nothing on his own, but only what the Father taught him. Perhaps during the last couple weeks of Lent we might ask ourselves what is it that Jesus, through Our Father, is teaching us. How can we lift up the Son of man so as to recognize that he is I AM.

—Jonathan Harmon, SJ, is a transitional deacon of the Jesuits USA Central and Southern Province. He is currently in theology studies at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, CA.

Prayer

Prayer for Generosity

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

—St. Ignatius of Loyola