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Looking past our own merits

Today’s reading from Ezekiel portrays a God who seems to mock the prince of Tyre. God here speaks with sarcasm that becomes condemnation after stating that this prince has allowed his personal merits to become his defining traits. In short, God says he will leave this prince to defend himself, as the prince has placed himself on a godlike pedestal.

Pope Francis’ latest apostolic exhortation, Gaudete et Exsultate, has a warning against forging an identity through “an absorption with social and political advantages” or “a vanity about the ability to manage practical matters.” The pope does not want us to become lost in our own merits, but rather be “passionate about communicating the beauty and the joy of the Gospel and seeking out the lost among the immense crowds that thirst for Christ.” I pray that I can use my gifts to help others recognize the face of Christ.

—Joe Wotawa, SJ, is a scholastic of the USA Central and Southern Province completing his theology studies at the Xavier University Institute for Black Catholic Studies and the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University.

 

 

 


Jesus calls us to true freedom

Sometimes we delude ourselves into thinking that the right job, a certain luxurious car, or a substantial bank account is what’s most important in life. But the life of Jesus depicts a different approach. He did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage. Rather he chose to be born in lowly status and live as a poor man.

St. Ignatius, too, turned his back on riches and honor. He believed that the foundational human experience was freedom – freedom from attachments that would get in the way of our relationship with God. “True freedom,” he said, “is gained when we are indifferent to health or sickness, wealth or poverty, success or failure, a long life or a short life.”

The biting tragedy of the story of the rich young man is that he couldn’t accept Jesus’ challenge to live in true freedom. He “went away sad.”

Ask God, “How am I not free?” Take note of what God says.

—Sister Ruth Hoerig is a writer and co-editor of Alive magazine and social media content developer for the School Sisters of St. Francis. She is author of Seeds of Hope: Catholic Sisters in Action Around the World.

 

 

 

 


Growing in wisdom

When was the last moment you grew in wisdom about some aspect of yourself or the world?  What changed in your life that allowed you to grow in wisdom?

Teachers can dispense knowledge, but even the best educators cannot force someone to grow in wisdom.  Today’s first reading at Mass (Proverbs 9:1-6) personifies Wisdom as a host who has decked her house, set the table, prepared the meats and readied the wines for all to partake.  Then Wisdom invites any and all to partake of her generous bounty.

In today’s Gospel Jesus continues his extended “Bread of Life” discourse at another important meal. He explains to all who would listen that he isthe living bread, come down from heaven.  All who come to eat his body and drink his blood will have eternal life. Like Wisdom, Christ invites without imposition, and calls without coercion.  Yet the Gospel stories are littered with characters who look but do not see; who listen but do not hear.

Are we disposed to grow in wisdom, or have we decided we’ve seen enough?

Paul offers solid advice for us: “Watch carefully how you live, not as foolish persons but as wise, making the most of the opportunity” (“Kairos” in Greek) to grow in our relationship to God (Ephesians 5:15).

Where might Christ, that gentle teacher, be inviting you today? Are you ready to accept his invitation?

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

 

 


Loved as children

Our Gospel today is a familiar one.  We often see images of Jesus sitting in a field with smiling, agreeable, tidy children gathered around him.  While kids can certainly fit this picture at times, they can also be unruly, obstinate, and anything but well-behaved.  This must be just how God sees us! At our best, we are loving and generous and responsive to God’s invitations in our lives.  But at other times, not so much.

When Jesus says to the disciples “let the little children come to me,” we are reminded that we too can be childlike in God’s eyes.  It is easy to think of examples in my life when I have been short tempered, unwilling to listen, and selfish. But, like the children Jesus calls in the Gospel, I am nonetheless fully loved by God.  The First Week of the Spiritual Exercises helps us to come to understand ourselves as loved sinners.  How does that play out in your desire to draw closer to Jesus?

—The Jesuit Prayer team

 

 

 

 

 


All is Gift

We have so much. Even when we’re not aware of it, we have been given everything we have. God reminds the inhabitants of Jerusalem (i.e., us today) that God has given us untold riches in all that we have. How wonderful are the gifts of our intellects and talents, that have produced innovations and works of art to advance our human culture; what a joy it is to experience a fine meal or a relaxing vacation; how peaceful it is to follow the impulses of our hearts toward generosity and charity! All of these things God has robed us in, has bestowed upon us to make us shine in splendor.

How often do we consider that all we have is given to us by God who loves us and treasures us beyond measure? To what do we dedicate our gifts in the service of throughout this day?

—Ken Weber is a University Minister in the Department of Student Life and Ministry at Loyola University New Orleans.

 


The difficulties of forgiveness

If I’m being honest, I have to admit that I always inwardly cringe when the forgiveness Gospels come up.  My better self is all on board with forgiving seventy-seven times, but sometimes the side of me that really likes to be right, or to hold a grudge, gets in the way.  The king in today’s story was completely in the right. He was owed an amount of money that his servant had promised to repay. But he doesn’t leave it at that, although everyone would certainly understand if he did.  Instead, he is moved to pity, and chooses mercy over vindication.

What might some of our relationships look like if we stopped keeping track of what is fair, and instead focused on what would be the best for the relationship?  I know that the grudges I hold tend to eat at me, and make me miserable in those relationships. When I am able to really forgive someone, it doesn’t mean that I forget the past, but it does mean that I make an effort to move past the hurt and enter into a new phase in that relationship.  

Who in your life might you offer forgiveness to today?  

—Lauren Gaffey is the Program Director of Charis Ministries, a part of the Ignatian Young Adult Ministries outreach of the Office of Ignatian Spirituality.  She also works with Jesuit Connections in Chicago and other programs of the Midwest Jesuits.

 


My soul magnifies the Lord

One small thought as you pray one of the greatest prayers in our tradition, the Magnificat…

How does your heart feel if you assume Mary’s voice and proclaim, “My soul magnifies the Lord?”

Does it ring true? Does it feel descriptive? Aspirational? Indicting? When has it happened in the last day? Is it an accomplishment or a gift I experience? What’s my role in giving birth to the presence of God in this life? If I experience hesitancy in praying this bold statement, what is my authentic prayer in juxtaposition to Mary’s?

As you live this day, keep this first line of Mary’s proclamation as a brief prayer and give the Spirit some space to work with you. Your soul does magnify the Lord.

—Michael Coffey is the Executive Director of Casa Romero Renewal Center, an Ignatian, urban, bilingual spirituality center in the central city of Milwaukee.

 


Becoming like children

The Gospel today presents Jesus speaking clearly and directly, leaving little room to argue over his words: “Take care that you do not despise one of these little ones.” Caring for a child, who has little to no social standing in his society, is Jesus’ way to greatness, and he does not complicate this message. Feasibility, returns, and personal risk do not measure the depth of his concern and compassion for the wronged. Not only does he instruct us to be like him and care for the least in a way that magnifies their humanity, he also asks us to be like him and see the world from the perspective of the aggrieved.

Though direct, Jesus’ instructions today might rightly unsettle those who hear it. He asks much from us, but he also truly offers a glimpse of the kingdom of heaven here on earth.

—Joe Wotawa, SJ, is a scholastic of the USA Central and Southern Province completing his theology studies at the Xavier University Institute for Black Catholic Studies and the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


God’s all-powerful love for us

Modern day prophets like Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the six Jesuit martyrs in San Salvador, and Archbishop Oscar Romero courageously took a stand against unjust government structures that authorized oppression of the poor and powerless – but not without a price! Jesus, too, often pointed out the oppressive tactics of unjust and merciless religious leaders in his time – but not without a price!

In today’s Gospel, Jesus predicts that he will be “betrayed into human hands.” He knew that his efforts to bring about a world of peace, justice and love would likely bring opposition, but this did not deter him. The Gospel shows how his enemies were trying to entrap him by setting him up to risk a run-in with civil authorities, but he found a way around their scheme.

How might Jesus be inviting me to promote a greater sense of justice in my workplace? My parish? My country?

—Sister Ruth Hoerig is a writer and co-editor of Alive magazine and social media content developer for the School Sisters of St. Francis. She is author of Seeds of Hope: Catholic Sisters in Action Around the World.

 

 

 


Gift of faith

What does it mean to say “faith is a gift”?  In our first reading, Elijah is ready to give up on life, crying out to God.  He is exhausted from running for his life into the desert. He falls asleep under a broom tree, a desert bush that must sink deep roots to reach water.  In a dream Elijah is told to get up and eat; when he awakens he finds at his side unexpected cake and water. He falls asleep again, and is encouraged again to eat and drink.  Then, and only then, is he ready to continue his journey to the mountain of God.

The ‘gift of faith’ is not a carrot-on-a-stick reward that leads us to God — rather, faith is the eyes to see God’s laboring presence, even in our desert experiences.  Elijah’s story reminds us that God has been faithfully sustaining and feeding us in light of — and in spite of — the circumstances of our lives. God offers Elijah renewal and refuge under a tree, and provides him strength to continue his journey to God.   But even Elijah needs a second reminder.

What, and who, has fed and sustained you in the desert experiences of life?  

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

 

  

 

 

 

 


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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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Looking past our own merits

Today’s reading from Ezekiel portrays a God who seems to mock the prince of Tyre. God here speaks with sarcasm that becomes condemnation after stating that this prince has allowed his personal merits to become his defining traits. In short, God says he will leave this prince to defend himself, as the prince has placed himself on a godlike pedestal.

Pope Francis’ latest apostolic exhortation, Gaudete et Exsultate, has a warning against forging an identity through “an absorption with social and political advantages” or “a vanity about the ability to manage practical matters.” The pope does not want us to become lost in our own merits, but rather be “passionate about communicating the beauty and the joy of the Gospel and seeking out the lost among the immense crowds that thirst for Christ.” I pray that I can use my gifts to help others recognize the face of Christ.

—Joe Wotawa, SJ, is a scholastic of the USA Central and Southern Province completing his theology studies at the Xavier University Institute for Black Catholic Studies and the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University.

 

 

 


Jesus calls us to true freedom

Sometimes we delude ourselves into thinking that the right job, a certain luxurious car, or a substantial bank account is what’s most important in life. But the life of Jesus depicts a different approach. He did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage. Rather he chose to be born in lowly status and live as a poor man.

St. Ignatius, too, turned his back on riches and honor. He believed that the foundational human experience was freedom – freedom from attachments that would get in the way of our relationship with God. “True freedom,” he said, “is gained when we are indifferent to health or sickness, wealth or poverty, success or failure, a long life or a short life.”

The biting tragedy of the story of the rich young man is that he couldn’t accept Jesus’ challenge to live in true freedom. He “went away sad.”

Ask God, “How am I not free?” Take note of what God says.

—Sister Ruth Hoerig is a writer and co-editor of Alive magazine and social media content developer for the School Sisters of St. Francis. She is author of Seeds of Hope: Catholic Sisters in Action Around the World.

 

 

 

 


Growing in wisdom

When was the last moment you grew in wisdom about some aspect of yourself or the world?  What changed in your life that allowed you to grow in wisdom?

Teachers can dispense knowledge, but even the best educators cannot force someone to grow in wisdom.  Today’s first reading at Mass (Proverbs 9:1-6) personifies Wisdom as a host who has decked her house, set the table, prepared the meats and readied the wines for all to partake.  Then Wisdom invites any and all to partake of her generous bounty.

In today’s Gospel Jesus continues his extended “Bread of Life” discourse at another important meal. He explains to all who would listen that he isthe living bread, come down from heaven.  All who come to eat his body and drink his blood will have eternal life. Like Wisdom, Christ invites without imposition, and calls without coercion.  Yet the Gospel stories are littered with characters who look but do not see; who listen but do not hear.

Are we disposed to grow in wisdom, or have we decided we’ve seen enough?

Paul offers solid advice for us: “Watch carefully how you live, not as foolish persons but as wise, making the most of the opportunity” (“Kairos” in Greek) to grow in our relationship to God (Ephesians 5:15).

Where might Christ, that gentle teacher, be inviting you today? Are you ready to accept his invitation?

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

 

 


Loved as children

Our Gospel today is a familiar one.  We often see images of Jesus sitting in a field with smiling, agreeable, tidy children gathered around him.  While kids can certainly fit this picture at times, they can also be unruly, obstinate, and anything but well-behaved.  This must be just how God sees us! At our best, we are loving and generous and responsive to God’s invitations in our lives.  But at other times, not so much.

When Jesus says to the disciples “let the little children come to me,” we are reminded that we too can be childlike in God’s eyes.  It is easy to think of examples in my life when I have been short tempered, unwilling to listen, and selfish. But, like the children Jesus calls in the Gospel, I am nonetheless fully loved by God.  The First Week of the Spiritual Exercises helps us to come to understand ourselves as loved sinners.  How does that play out in your desire to draw closer to Jesus?

—The Jesuit Prayer team

 

 

 

 

 


All is Gift

We have so much. Even when we’re not aware of it, we have been given everything we have. God reminds the inhabitants of Jerusalem (i.e., us today) that God has given us untold riches in all that we have. How wonderful are the gifts of our intellects and talents, that have produced innovations and works of art to advance our human culture; what a joy it is to experience a fine meal or a relaxing vacation; how peaceful it is to follow the impulses of our hearts toward generosity and charity! All of these things God has robed us in, has bestowed upon us to make us shine in splendor.

How often do we consider that all we have is given to us by God who loves us and treasures us beyond measure? To what do we dedicate our gifts in the service of throughout this day?

—Ken Weber is a University Minister in the Department of Student Life and Ministry at Loyola University New Orleans.

 


The difficulties of forgiveness

If I’m being honest, I have to admit that I always inwardly cringe when the forgiveness Gospels come up.  My better self is all on board with forgiving seventy-seven times, but sometimes the side of me that really likes to be right, or to hold a grudge, gets in the way.  The king in today’s story was completely in the right. He was owed an amount of money that his servant had promised to repay. But he doesn’t leave it at that, although everyone would certainly understand if he did.  Instead, he is moved to pity, and chooses mercy over vindication.

What might some of our relationships look like if we stopped keeping track of what is fair, and instead focused on what would be the best for the relationship?  I know that the grudges I hold tend to eat at me, and make me miserable in those relationships. When I am able to really forgive someone, it doesn’t mean that I forget the past, but it does mean that I make an effort to move past the hurt and enter into a new phase in that relationship.  

Who in your life might you offer forgiveness to today?  

—Lauren Gaffey is the Program Director of Charis Ministries, a part of the Ignatian Young Adult Ministries outreach of the Office of Ignatian Spirituality.  She also works with Jesuit Connections in Chicago and other programs of the Midwest Jesuits.

 


My soul magnifies the Lord

One small thought as you pray one of the greatest prayers in our tradition, the Magnificat…

How does your heart feel if you assume Mary’s voice and proclaim, “My soul magnifies the Lord?”

Does it ring true? Does it feel descriptive? Aspirational? Indicting? When has it happened in the last day? Is it an accomplishment or a gift I experience? What’s my role in giving birth to the presence of God in this life? If I experience hesitancy in praying this bold statement, what is my authentic prayer in juxtaposition to Mary’s?

As you live this day, keep this first line of Mary’s proclamation as a brief prayer and give the Spirit some space to work with you. Your soul does magnify the Lord.

—Michael Coffey is the Executive Director of Casa Romero Renewal Center, an Ignatian, urban, bilingual spirituality center in the central city of Milwaukee.

 


Becoming like children

The Gospel today presents Jesus speaking clearly and directly, leaving little room to argue over his words: “Take care that you do not despise one of these little ones.” Caring for a child, who has little to no social standing in his society, is Jesus’ way to greatness, and he does not complicate this message. Feasibility, returns, and personal risk do not measure the depth of his concern and compassion for the wronged. Not only does he instruct us to be like him and care for the least in a way that magnifies their humanity, he also asks us to be like him and see the world from the perspective of the aggrieved.

Though direct, Jesus’ instructions today might rightly unsettle those who hear it. He asks much from us, but he also truly offers a glimpse of the kingdom of heaven here on earth.

—Joe Wotawa, SJ, is a scholastic of the USA Central and Southern Province completing his theology studies at the Xavier University Institute for Black Catholic Studies and the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


God’s all-powerful love for us

Modern day prophets like Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the six Jesuit martyrs in San Salvador, and Archbishop Oscar Romero courageously took a stand against unjust government structures that authorized oppression of the poor and powerless – but not without a price! Jesus, too, often pointed out the oppressive tactics of unjust and merciless religious leaders in his time – but not without a price!

In today’s Gospel, Jesus predicts that he will be “betrayed into human hands.” He knew that his efforts to bring about a world of peace, justice and love would likely bring opposition, but this did not deter him. The Gospel shows how his enemies were trying to entrap him by setting him up to risk a run-in with civil authorities, but he found a way around their scheme.

How might Jesus be inviting me to promote a greater sense of justice in my workplace? My parish? My country?

—Sister Ruth Hoerig is a writer and co-editor of Alive magazine and social media content developer for the School Sisters of St. Francis. She is author of Seeds of Hope: Catholic Sisters in Action Around the World.

 

 

 


Gift of faith

What does it mean to say “faith is a gift”?  In our first reading, Elijah is ready to give up on life, crying out to God.  He is exhausted from running for his life into the desert. He falls asleep under a broom tree, a desert bush that must sink deep roots to reach water.  In a dream Elijah is told to get up and eat; when he awakens he finds at his side unexpected cake and water. He falls asleep again, and is encouraged again to eat and drink.  Then, and only then, is he ready to continue his journey to the mountain of God.

The ‘gift of faith’ is not a carrot-on-a-stick reward that leads us to God — rather, faith is the eyes to see God’s laboring presence, even in our desert experiences.  Elijah’s story reminds us that God has been faithfully sustaining and feeding us in light of — and in spite of — the circumstances of our lives. God offers Elijah renewal and refuge under a tree, and provides him strength to continue his journey to God.   But even Elijah needs a second reminder.

What, and who, has fed and sustained you in the desert experiences of life?  

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