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July 17, 2019

Ex 3: 1-6, 9-12

Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.” 

When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” He said further, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” 

And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.”

But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” He said, “I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.”

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.

Who am I to do this?

In late June, over 500 Jesuit educators from Canada and US gathered for a conference at Loyola University Chicago.  In his keynote address, Mike Gilson, SJ, challenged the group to acknowledge the power of fear… but not to let fear have the final word. 

But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”

There is the question for me: who am I that I should [fill in the blank] for God?  Moses’ fear is so refreshingly human. I ask his question every morning – recognizing my human frailty, selfishness, and well, normalness. 

“I will be with you”

Just as God called Moses, I find myself called to go forth – to speak up for the voiceless, stand up to oppressors, and reach out in love.  Like Moses, I ask God every day “who am I?” and everyday God responds “I will be with you.” We can find courage in God’s presence as we step out into the world.

Jen LaMaster is the Assistant Principal at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in Indianapolis, IN.

Prayer

God of my life,
I give you thanks and praise that I have life,
and that my life is filled with touches of your love. 

You have given me a heart that wants to be happy,
and You have placed in me a desire to make a difference.

Quiet the fears and distractions of my heart long enough
for me to listen to the movement of Your Spirit,
to hear your gentle invitation.

Reveal to me the choices that will make me happy.
Help me to discover my identity.

Let me understand how best to use the gifts
You have so lovingly lavished upon me
in preparation for our journey together.

And give me the courage to choose You
as You have chosen me.

Lord, let me know myself and let me know You.
In this is my happiness.  Amen.

—Augustinian Prayer for Discernment


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July 16, 2019

Mt 11: 20-24

Then he began to reproach the cities in which most of his deeds of power had been done, because they did not repent. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, on the day of judgment it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 

And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? No, you will be brought down to Hades. For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that on the day of judgment it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom than for 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.

What sign are you waiting for?

How often do we say that we would make this or that big change in our lives, if only we had a clear sign from God? Often what that has meant for me is that it’s a change I already know I should make, but I am resisting. I wonder, in those moments, if a sign would really have been enough to move me to the action I knew I should take.

As we see in the Gospel, Jesus’ signs left many living the same lives as before. The problem wasn’t simply one of knowledge, or even faith. It was, and is for us, one of will.

Do we truly desire to follow Christ, to trust Christ, and is that desire greater than the fears and complacency that hold us back? Is there a sign great enough to move us outright, or must we first open ourselves to being moved?

Nick Courtney, SJ, is a Jesuit scholastic from the USA Central and Southern Province currently working at Strake Jesuit College Preparatory in Houston, TX, where he teaches history and coaches football.

Prayer

God, you created me with the innermost desire to know you and follow you. Help me to nurture that desire and to clear away the other desires and the fears that get in the way. Give me the strength to trust you and to act on that trust, especially when it is easier to avoid or put off the new things you wish to do in my life. Amen.

—Nick Courtney, SJ


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July 15, 2019

St. Bonaventure, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

Ex 1: 8-14, 22

Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. He said to his people, “Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and more powerful than we. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, or they will increase and, in the event of war, join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.” 

Therefore they set taskmasters over them to oppress them with forced labor. They built supply cities, Pithom and Rameses, for Pharaoh. But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread, so that the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites.The Egyptians became ruthless in imposing tasks on the Israelites, and made their lives bitter with hard service in mortar and brick and in every kind of field labor. They were ruthless in all the tasks that they imposed on them. 

Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, “Every boy that is born to the Hebrews you shall throw into the Nile, but you shall let every girl live.”

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.

Continuing to speak out against oppression 

Oppression, cruelty, and slavery marked Israel’s time in Egypt.  Sadly, oppression, cruelty, and slavery have marred the entirety of humanity’s time on Earth. 

In his 1982 commencement address at Santa Clara University, Fr. Ignacio Ellacuria, SJ, told the story of Salvadoran priest, Fr. José Simeon Cañas, who addressed the [Salvadoran] Constitutional Assembly in 1824, with these words: “I come crawling; and if I were dying, dying I would come to make a request for humanity. I beg before anything else that our slaves he declared free citizens. For this is the order of justice: that the deprived be restored to the possession of their goods, and there is no good more valuable than liberty… This nation has declared itself free; so, then, must all its people be free.”’

Fr. Cañas’ impassioned address helped to free Central American slaves 14 years before Georgetown University sold 272 slaves to secure its economic prosperity and 39 years before Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.  

Our faith calls us to prophetic, out-front action on behalf of oppressed peoples.  One does not need to sleuth for opportunities: caged refugees on the US southern border, environmental racism in our cities, and inequalities of our public schools beg for our attention.  Let us use our power and position for their benefit and for God’s greater glory.

Bill Kriege serves as the director of campus ministry at Rockhurst University in Kansas City, MO.

Prayer

Holy prophet José Simeon Cañas, pray for us.
Holy Martyr Rutilio Grande, SJ, pray for us.
Holy Martyr Oscar Romero, pray for us.
Holy Martyr Maura Clarke, MM, pray for us
Holy Martyr Jean Donovan, pray for us.
Holy Martyr Ita Ford, MM, pray for us
Holy Martyr Dorothy Kazel, OSU, pray for us
Holy Martyr Ignacio Martín-Baró, SJ, pray for us.
Holy Martyr Ignacio Ellacuría, SJ, pray for us.
Holy Martyr Amando López, SJ, pray for us.
Holy Martyr Joaquín López y López, SJ, pray for us.
Holy Martyr Segundo Montes, SJ, pray for us.
Holy Martyr Juan Ramón Moreno, SJ, pray for us.
Holy Martyr Elba Ramos, pray for us.
Holy Martyr Celina Ramos, pray for us.

—Salvadoran Prayer Litany adapted by Bill Kriege


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July 14, 2019

Lk 10: 25-37

Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.” 

But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.

But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ 

Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

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.

Responding to our neighbor

Sometimes even basic equations are tough to balance.

Love of God + Love of neighbor = Eternal life

All our heart, soul, strength, and mind? All our neighbors? Not there yet Lord…
Do we still qualify for eternal life?
God promises the answer is ‘yes’ if we do what is asked of us…
to love God and to love our neighbor…

Jesuit Gustavo Gutierrez reflected on the Spanish translations for neighbor – vecino (a person living nearby) and prójimo (our shared humanity) – to make a point about loving others.

The Good Samaritan encountered a person left for dead. The authentically human response in that or any moment was to love the other. He cared for someone he did not know because he saw himself in the other and could do nothing less. “Go and do likewise,” said Jesus.

How ready are we to respond likewise to the people we encounter today?

Fr. Mark Luedtke, SJ, completed his term as president of Loyola High School in Detroit and will soon leave for his tertianship experience in Cape Town, South Africa

Prayer

Lord Jesus, give me the courage to respond as you would respond, with love and compassion. Help me put my humanity into relationship with the humanity of others, to feel what they feel, to suffer what they suffer and, in being truly with them, to allow us together to find our way into life eternal – a life of love, total and complete love. Amen.

—Fr. Mark Luedtke, SJ


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July 13, 2019

Mt 10: 24-33

“A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household! “So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. 

Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows. 

“Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.

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.

Freed to step out into the future

Have you heard of The Sparrow, the science fiction story of a Jesuit on mission to another planet? The book is one of combinatory creativity. That is, a product of the author’s observation of the church and the world as well as her imagination of what could be.

How powerful is a creativity that employs both keen observation and vivid imagination!  The Spirit can use this to set the world on fire.

What keeps us from creating with a combinatory creativity? Likely, fear.

We are freed from fear and for this creativity when we internalize Gospel message today.  Deep peace comes from the knowledge that we are held tenderly by God and this peace frees us to co-create the future boldly.

Paul Mitchell is a Jesuit educator who has stepped out of the classroom into full-time care of his two young sons. He is the author of Audacious Ignatius.

Prayer

Loving God, you have created us and know us so intimately that you know every hair on our heads.  Free us from the fear that keeps us from accepting your invitation to co-labor in your field and be your hands in this world.  May we never let fear stop us from imagining and working toward a world that more closely resembles your heavenly kingdom. Amen.

—The Jesuit Prayer team


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June 12, 2019

Mt 10: 16-23

“See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles. 

When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all because of my name. 

But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly I tell you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

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.

Christianity isn’t always easy

This Gospel reminds me of a story a priest friend of mine once related. On vacation, on the beach, he was approached by some Christian evangelizers who were unaware of his vocation. They asked him if he had a personal relationship with Jesus Christ; his response? “Unfortunately, yes.” His wry comment reflects Jesus’ clear point that the Christian life is not an easy choice. Jesus is very clear that what his father values is radically different than what the world values.

We live in a broken world where goodness and faith are often unrewarded. Christ is warning his disciples and us that betrayal and pain are real, as real as Christ’s own Passion and death. The Resurrection, however, is a greater reality than the darkness of the world.

—Jerry Skoch is a Spiritual Director and Vice President & Chief Mission Officer at Saint Ignatius High School in Cleveland, OH.

Prayer

Dear Lord, I know that this pilgrimage has moments of suffering. Please give me the wisdom and courage to suffer for you and your kingdom rather than suffering as a result of my own sinful choices.

—Jerry Skoch


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July 11, 2019

St. Benedict, Abbot

Mt 10: 7-15

As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment. Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for laborers deserve their food. Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave. 

As you enter the house, greet it. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.

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 needs will be met

This Gospel takes me back to my days as a member of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps (JVC). One of the four values of JVC is simple living – to learn to separate needs from wants and gain freedom from the material. I struggled as I packed for my year of service, unsure of what was to come and doubting whether or not I would be prepared.

Jesus asks his apostles to live simply as they go proclaim the Good News, and to have faith that their needs will be met on the journey. I would imagine there were a few apostles who doubted Jesus when he told them to leave behind their sandals and second tunic. And yet, their needs were met throughout the journey. How can we renew our faith that God will fulfill our needs, even when we doubt?

—Mikayla Lofton is the Grants Program Manager for the Cristo Rey Network and was a Jesuit Volunteer in Atlanta (‘15-’16).

Prayer

Lord, give me the grace to labor with you without seeking myself – to live the Kingdom in its full reality.

John Futrell, SJ


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July 10, 2019

Mt 10: 1-7

Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness. These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him.

These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’

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.

Called to be 21st century apostles

In today’s Gospel, Jesus shares his own divine authority with the apostles – the power to drive out unclean spirits and cure every illness.  Jesus empowers the disciples to go forth and take up the job of proclaiming love and hope. That’s one heck of a job description full of other duties as assigned!

Two thousand years later, the new Universal Apolostalic Preferences of the Society of Jesus authorizes us “to walk with the poor, the outcasts of the world, and those whose dignity has been violated.”  God has given us amazing powers for healing, and God calls us to go into the world and do amazing things. 

So I ask you, Jesus’ 21st century apostles….

Imagine a place where you see illness, poverty, loss of dignity, or people cast out.

Where do you feel called to heal?

Pray for the grace to respond and proclaim the hope in Christ.

Heaven is already at hand.

Jen LaMaster is an Assistant Principal at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in Indianapolis, IN.

Prayer

Creator God,
Thank you for this beautiful world full of opportunity.
Please give me ears to hear the cry of the poor denied the riches I take for granted.
Grant me your healing grace as I respond in my awkward, very human way.

Redeemer God,
Thank you for companionship of friends and family who hold me in their love.
Please give me the words to stand up for those cast out and alone.
Grant me your strength to speak with the power of your hope that all are wanted and worthy. 

Sustainer God,
Thank you for my abundant security of my health and faith.
Please give me the eyes to see where dignity is lost, where your beloved souls are violated in body and spirit.
Grant me your wisdom as I struggle to act with generosity and open arms to welcome the wounded and walk alongside them.

—Jen LaMaster


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July 9, 2019

St. Leo Mangin, SJ, and companions

Gn 32: 22-33

The same night he got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had.

Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him.Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” 

But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.” So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then the man said, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him.

So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.” The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip. Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the thigh muscle that is on the hip socket, because he struck Jacob on the hip socket at the thigh muscle.

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.

Following Jesus may not be easy

Jacob limps away from his encounter with God. He gets his blessing but getting close to God is risky and it costs something. The writer Flannery O’Connor always loved to depict the work of God’s grace as violent, and I can’t help but wonder if this was one of her favorite scripture passages. I am more comfortable thinking of God as a warm, loving parent ready to support me through anything. Yet Jesus both promised great things to those who followed him and was also clear that the way was going to be difficult and violent—just as his own life demonstrated.

Since I am imperfect and prone to my own sins and self-involvements, the grace needed to follow Christ might also leave me limping. How can I be more open to God’s grace today and more ready to see it even in the pain and struggle of my life?

Nick Courtney, SJ, is a Jesuit scholastic from the USA Central and Southern Province currently working at Strake Jesuit College Preparatory in Houston, TX, where he teaches history and coaches football.

Prayer

God, help me to trust in you when you make demands on me, when you try to lead me to places I do not want to go. Give me the strength to get up and follow you, especially when there is a cost. Keep me always mindful of the great price you have already paid for me, and that all I am able to offer is already a gift from you. 

—Nick Courtney, SJ


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July 8, 2019

Mt 9: 18-26

While he was saying these things to them, suddenly a leader of the synagogue came in and knelt before him, saying, “My daughter has just died; but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.” And Jesus got up and followed him, with his disciples. Then suddenly a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his cloak, for she said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be made well.” Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well. When Jesus came to the leader’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion, he said, “Go away; for the girl is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl got up. And the report of this spread throughout that district.

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.

Trust Sparks Joy

In his 2019 Ash Wednesday homily at Rockhurst University, Fr. Sean Salai, SJ, encouraged the faithful to view Lenten sacrifices through the lens of Marie Kondo, the Japanese organizing consultant of Netflix fame.  When coaching her clients to simplify, Marie Kondo invites them to hold items (an old shirt, a knick-knack on a shelf, etc.) that are cluttering their space. If that item sparks joy, then she advises to keep it. If not, then it needs to go!  Fr. Salai invited us to channel our inner Marie Kondo for Lent: instead of “giving up” chocolate for 40 days, we were encouraged to “let go” of habits that fail to spark joy in our relationship with self, God, and others.

In St. Ignatius’ First Principle and Foundation, he advises the “making use of those things that help to bring us closer to God and leaving aside those things that don’t.”  This is the core Ignatian value of indifference, or detachment. This requires trust. Specifically, this requires trust in the Lord, which most certainly can spark lasting, even if not instantaneous, joy.

Bill Kriege serves as the director of campus ministry at Rockhurst University in Kansas City, MO.

Prayer

Patient Trust

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

And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow. 

Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ


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July 17, 2019

Ex 3: 1-6, 9-12

Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.” 

When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” He said further, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” 

And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.”

But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” He said, “I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.”

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.

Who am I to do this?

In late June, over 500 Jesuit educators from Canada and US gathered for a conference at Loyola University Chicago.  In his keynote address, Mike Gilson, SJ, challenged the group to acknowledge the power of fear… but not to let fear have the final word. 

But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”

There is the question for me: who am I that I should [fill in the blank] for God?  Moses’ fear is so refreshingly human. I ask his question every morning – recognizing my human frailty, selfishness, and well, normalness. 

“I will be with you”

Just as God called Moses, I find myself called to go forth – to speak up for the voiceless, stand up to oppressors, and reach out in love.  Like Moses, I ask God every day “who am I?” and everyday God responds “I will be with you.” We can find courage in God’s presence as we step out into the world.

Jen LaMaster is the Assistant Principal at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in Indianapolis, IN.

Prayer

God of my life,
I give you thanks and praise that I have life,
and that my life is filled with touches of your love. 

You have given me a heart that wants to be happy,
and You have placed in me a desire to make a difference.

Quiet the fears and distractions of my heart long enough
for me to listen to the movement of Your Spirit,
to hear your gentle invitation.

Reveal to me the choices that will make me happy.
Help me to discover my identity.

Let me understand how best to use the gifts
You have so lovingly lavished upon me
in preparation for our journey together.

And give me the courage to choose You
as You have chosen me.

Lord, let me know myself and let me know You.
In this is my happiness.  Amen.

—Augustinian Prayer for Discernment


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July 16, 2019

Mt 11: 20-24

Then he began to reproach the cities in which most of his deeds of power had been done, because they did not repent. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, on the day of judgment it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 

And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? No, you will be brought down to Hades. For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that on the day of judgment it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom than for 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.

What sign are you waiting for?

How often do we say that we would make this or that big change in our lives, if only we had a clear sign from God? Often what that has meant for me is that it’s a change I already know I should make, but I am resisting. I wonder, in those moments, if a sign would really have been enough to move me to the action I knew I should take.

As we see in the Gospel, Jesus’ signs left many living the same lives as before. The problem wasn’t simply one of knowledge, or even faith. It was, and is for us, one of will.

Do we truly desire to follow Christ, to trust Christ, and is that desire greater than the fears and complacency that hold us back? Is there a sign great enough to move us outright, or must we first open ourselves to being moved?

Nick Courtney, SJ, is a Jesuit scholastic from the USA Central and Southern Province currently working at Strake Jesuit College Preparatory in Houston, TX, where he teaches history and coaches football.

Prayer

God, you created me with the innermost desire to know you and follow you. Help me to nurture that desire and to clear away the other desires and the fears that get in the way. Give me the strength to trust you and to act on that trust, especially when it is easier to avoid or put off the new things you wish to do in my life. Amen.

—Nick Courtney, SJ


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July 15, 2019

St. Bonaventure, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

Ex 1: 8-14, 22

Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. He said to his people, “Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and more powerful than we. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, or they will increase and, in the event of war, join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.” 

Therefore they set taskmasters over them to oppress them with forced labor. They built supply cities, Pithom and Rameses, for Pharaoh. But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread, so that the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites.The Egyptians became ruthless in imposing tasks on the Israelites, and made their lives bitter with hard service in mortar and brick and in every kind of field labor. They were ruthless in all the tasks that they imposed on them. 

Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, “Every boy that is born to the Hebrews you shall throw into the Nile, but you shall let every girl live.”

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.

Continuing to speak out against oppression 

Oppression, cruelty, and slavery marked Israel’s time in Egypt.  Sadly, oppression, cruelty, and slavery have marred the entirety of humanity’s time on Earth. 

In his 1982 commencement address at Santa Clara University, Fr. Ignacio Ellacuria, SJ, told the story of Salvadoran priest, Fr. José Simeon Cañas, who addressed the [Salvadoran] Constitutional Assembly in 1824, with these words: “I come crawling; and if I were dying, dying I would come to make a request for humanity. I beg before anything else that our slaves he declared free citizens. For this is the order of justice: that the deprived be restored to the possession of their goods, and there is no good more valuable than liberty… This nation has declared itself free; so, then, must all its people be free.”’

Fr. Cañas’ impassioned address helped to free Central American slaves 14 years before Georgetown University sold 272 slaves to secure its economic prosperity and 39 years before Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.  

Our faith calls us to prophetic, out-front action on behalf of oppressed peoples.  One does not need to sleuth for opportunities: caged refugees on the US southern border, environmental racism in our cities, and inequalities of our public schools beg for our attention.  Let us use our power and position for their benefit and for God’s greater glory.

Bill Kriege serves as the director of campus ministry at Rockhurst University in Kansas City, MO.

Prayer

Holy prophet José Simeon Cañas, pray for us.
Holy Martyr Rutilio Grande, SJ, pray for us.
Holy Martyr Oscar Romero, pray for us.
Holy Martyr Maura Clarke, MM, pray for us
Holy Martyr Jean Donovan, pray for us.
Holy Martyr Ita Ford, MM, pray for us
Holy Martyr Dorothy Kazel, OSU, pray for us
Holy Martyr Ignacio Martín-Baró, SJ, pray for us.
Holy Martyr Ignacio Ellacuría, SJ, pray for us.
Holy Martyr Amando López, SJ, pray for us.
Holy Martyr Joaquín López y López, SJ, pray for us.
Holy Martyr Segundo Montes, SJ, pray for us.
Holy Martyr Juan Ramón Moreno, SJ, pray for us.
Holy Martyr Elba Ramos, pray for us.
Holy Martyr Celina Ramos, pray for us.

—Salvadoran Prayer Litany adapted by Bill Kriege


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July 14, 2019

Lk 10: 25-37

Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.” 

But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.

But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ 

Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

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.

Responding to our neighbor

Sometimes even basic equations are tough to balance.

Love of God + Love of neighbor = Eternal life

All our heart, soul, strength, and mind? All our neighbors? Not there yet Lord…
Do we still qualify for eternal life?
God promises the answer is ‘yes’ if we do what is asked of us…
to love God and to love our neighbor…

Jesuit Gustavo Gutierrez reflected on the Spanish translations for neighbor – vecino (a person living nearby) and prójimo (our shared humanity) – to make a point about loving others.

The Good Samaritan encountered a person left for dead. The authentically human response in that or any moment was to love the other. He cared for someone he did not know because he saw himself in the other and could do nothing less. “Go and do likewise,” said Jesus.

How ready are we to respond likewise to the people we encounter today?

Fr. Mark Luedtke, SJ, completed his term as president of Loyola High School in Detroit and will soon leave for his tertianship experience in Cape Town, South Africa

Prayer

Lord Jesus, give me the courage to respond as you would respond, with love and compassion. Help me put my humanity into relationship with the humanity of others, to feel what they feel, to suffer what they suffer and, in being truly with them, to allow us together to find our way into life eternal – a life of love, total and complete love. Amen.

—Fr. Mark Luedtke, SJ


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July 13, 2019

Mt 10: 24-33

“A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household! “So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. 

Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows. 

“Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.

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.

Freed to step out into the future

Have you heard of The Sparrow, the science fiction story of a Jesuit on mission to another planet? The book is one of combinatory creativity. That is, a product of the author’s observation of the church and the world as well as her imagination of what could be.

How powerful is a creativity that employs both keen observation and vivid imagination!  The Spirit can use this to set the world on fire.

What keeps us from creating with a combinatory creativity? Likely, fear.

We are freed from fear and for this creativity when we internalize Gospel message today.  Deep peace comes from the knowledge that we are held tenderly by God and this peace frees us to co-create the future boldly.

Paul Mitchell is a Jesuit educator who has stepped out of the classroom into full-time care of his two young sons. He is the author of Audacious Ignatius.

Prayer

Loving God, you have created us and know us so intimately that you know every hair on our heads.  Free us from the fear that keeps us from accepting your invitation to co-labor in your field and be your hands in this world.  May we never let fear stop us from imagining and working toward a world that more closely resembles your heavenly kingdom. Amen.

—The Jesuit Prayer team


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June 12, 2019

Mt 10: 16-23

“See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles. 

When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all because of my name. 

But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly I tell you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

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.

Christianity isn’t always easy

This Gospel reminds me of a story a priest friend of mine once related. On vacation, on the beach, he was approached by some Christian evangelizers who were unaware of his vocation. They asked him if he had a personal relationship with Jesus Christ; his response? “Unfortunately, yes.” His wry comment reflects Jesus’ clear point that the Christian life is not an easy choice. Jesus is very clear that what his father values is radically different than what the world values.

We live in a broken world where goodness and faith are often unrewarded. Christ is warning his disciples and us that betrayal and pain are real, as real as Christ’s own Passion and death. The Resurrection, however, is a greater reality than the darkness of the world.

—Jerry Skoch is a Spiritual Director and Vice President & Chief Mission Officer at Saint Ignatius High School in Cleveland, OH.

Prayer

Dear Lord, I know that this pilgrimage has moments of suffering. Please give me the wisdom and courage to suffer for you and your kingdom rather than suffering as a result of my own sinful choices.

—Jerry Skoch


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July 11, 2019

St. Benedict, Abbot

Mt 10: 7-15

As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment. Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for laborers deserve their food. Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave. 

As you enter the house, greet it. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.

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 needs will be met

This Gospel takes me back to my days as a member of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps (JVC). One of the four values of JVC is simple living – to learn to separate needs from wants and gain freedom from the material. I struggled as I packed for my year of service, unsure of what was to come and doubting whether or not I would be prepared.

Jesus asks his apostles to live simply as they go proclaim the Good News, and to have faith that their needs will be met on the journey. I would imagine there were a few apostles who doubted Jesus when he told them to leave behind their sandals and second tunic. And yet, their needs were met throughout the journey. How can we renew our faith that God will fulfill our needs, even when we doubt?

—Mikayla Lofton is the Grants Program Manager for the Cristo Rey Network and was a Jesuit Volunteer in Atlanta (‘15-’16).

Prayer

Lord, give me the grace to labor with you without seeking myself – to live the Kingdom in its full reality.

John Futrell, SJ


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July 10, 2019

Mt 10: 1-7

Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness. These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him.

These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’

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.

Called to be 21st century apostles

In today’s Gospel, Jesus shares his own divine authority with the apostles – the power to drive out unclean spirits and cure every illness.  Jesus empowers the disciples to go forth and take up the job of proclaiming love and hope. That’s one heck of a job description full of other duties as assigned!

Two thousand years later, the new Universal Apolostalic Preferences of the Society of Jesus authorizes us “to walk with the poor, the outcasts of the world, and those whose dignity has been violated.”  God has given us amazing powers for healing, and God calls us to go into the world and do amazing things. 

So I ask you, Jesus’ 21st century apostles….

Imagine a place where you see illness, poverty, loss of dignity, or people cast out.

Where do you feel called to heal?

Pray for the grace to respond and proclaim the hope in Christ.

Heaven is already at hand.

Jen LaMaster is an Assistant Principal at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in Indianapolis, IN.

Prayer

Creator God,
Thank you for this beautiful world full of opportunity.
Please give me ears to hear the cry of the poor denied the riches I take for granted.
Grant me your healing grace as I respond in my awkward, very human way.

Redeemer God,
Thank you for companionship of friends and family who hold me in their love.
Please give me the words to stand up for those cast out and alone.
Grant me your strength to speak with the power of your hope that all are wanted and worthy. 

Sustainer God,
Thank you for my abundant security of my health and faith.
Please give me the eyes to see where dignity is lost, where your beloved souls are violated in body and spirit.
Grant me your wisdom as I struggle to act with generosity and open arms to welcome the wounded and walk alongside them.

—Jen LaMaster


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July 9, 2019

St. Leo Mangin, SJ, and companions

Gn 32: 22-33

The same night he got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had.

Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him.Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” 

But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.” So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then the man said, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him.

So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.” The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip. Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the thigh muscle that is on the hip socket, because he struck Jacob on the hip socket at the thigh muscle.

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.

Following Jesus may not be easy

Jacob limps away from his encounter with God. He gets his blessing but getting close to God is risky and it costs something. The writer Flannery O’Connor always loved to depict the work of God’s grace as violent, and I can’t help but wonder if this was one of her favorite scripture passages. I am more comfortable thinking of God as a warm, loving parent ready to support me through anything. Yet Jesus both promised great things to those who followed him and was also clear that the way was going to be difficult and violent—just as his own life demonstrated.

Since I am imperfect and prone to my own sins and self-involvements, the grace needed to follow Christ might also leave me limping. How can I be more open to God’s grace today and more ready to see it even in the pain and struggle of my life?

Nick Courtney, SJ, is a Jesuit scholastic from the USA Central and Southern Province currently working at Strake Jesuit College Preparatory in Houston, TX, where he teaches history and coaches football.

Prayer

God, help me to trust in you when you make demands on me, when you try to lead me to places I do not want to go. Give me the strength to get up and follow you, especially when there is a cost. Keep me always mindful of the great price you have already paid for me, and that all I am able to offer is already a gift from you. 

—Nick Courtney, SJ


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July 8, 2019

Mt 9: 18-26

While he was saying these things to them, suddenly a leader of the synagogue came in and knelt before him, saying, “My daughter has just died; but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.” And Jesus got up and followed him, with his disciples. Then suddenly a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his cloak, for she said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be made well.” Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well. When Jesus came to the leader’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion, he said, “Go away; for the girl is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl got up. And the report of this spread throughout that district.

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.

Trust Sparks Joy

In his 2019 Ash Wednesday homily at Rockhurst University, Fr. Sean Salai, SJ, encouraged the faithful to view Lenten sacrifices through the lens of Marie Kondo, the Japanese organizing consultant of Netflix fame.  When coaching her clients to simplify, Marie Kondo invites them to hold items (an old shirt, a knick-knack on a shelf, etc.) that are cluttering their space. If that item sparks joy, then she advises to keep it. If not, then it needs to go!  Fr. Salai invited us to channel our inner Marie Kondo for Lent: instead of “giving up” chocolate for 40 days, we were encouraged to “let go” of habits that fail to spark joy in our relationship with self, God, and others.

In St. Ignatius’ First Principle and Foundation, he advises the “making use of those things that help to bring us closer to God and leaving aside those things that don’t.”  This is the core Ignatian value of indifference, or detachment. This requires trust. Specifically, this requires trust in the Lord, which most certainly can spark lasting, even if not instantaneous, joy.

Bill Kriege serves as the director of campus ministry at Rockhurst University in Kansas City, MO.

Prayer

Patient Trust

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

And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow. 

Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ


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