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January 31, 2020

St. John Bosco

Mk 4: 26-34

He also said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.”

He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”

With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.

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.

Caring for the seeds

Pay it forward.  We’ve all heard that phrase before; we have been blessed and challenged with different talents and life situations, our task in life is to use them for the greater glory of God.  On Creighton University’s Online Ministries portal you will find a prayer that I begin my day with:

…Please help me to clarify and purify my actions and intentions…my activity seems to be full of busyness, chasing after things that don’t seem to matter or last…May all that I am today, all that I try to do today, may all my encounters, reflections, even the frustrations and failings all place my life in your hands…

How do we pay it forward?  The seeds of our life our scattered throughout our day, some will land on fertile soil and grow like the mustard seed, others will not.  Whether they reach a full life is not in our control, our task is to plant those seeds, fertilize and care for them, whether the seeds are helping troubled youth like St. John Bosco, whose feast day is today, having lunch with someone who is bullied at school, or checking in on a lonely, elderly neighbor.   

—Jim Bozik is a permanent deacon at St. Peter Catholic Church in Charlotte, NC, the Jesuit parish in the Diocese of Charlotte.

Prayer

Lord, I so wish to prepare well for this time.
I so want to make all of me ready and attentive and available to you.
Please help me clarify and purify my intentions.
I have so many contradictory desires.
My activity seems to be so full of busyness and running after stuff that doesn’t really seem to
matter or last.
I know that if I give you my heart whatever I do will follow my new heart.  
May all that I am today, all that I try to do today, may all my encounters, reflections, even the frustrations and failings all place my life in your hands.  
Lord, my life is in your hands.
Please, let this day give you praise.

—St. Ignatius of Loyola


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January 30, 2020

Mk 4: 21-25

He said to them, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under the bushel basket, or under the bed, and not on the lampstand? For there is nothing hidden, except to be disclosed; nor is anything secret, except to come to light. Let anyone with ears to hear listen!” 

And he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear; the measure you give will be the measure you get, and still more will be given you. For to those who have, more will be given; and from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.”

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.

Pulled out of hiding

I vividly recall playing competitive rounds of hide-and-seek throughout my childhood. Sometimes my ingenuity got the best of me and I’d be stuck in a hiding place for longer than my body could tolerate. It’s at those times thatI cried out so my siblings could “find” me. Today’s Gospel reminds me that there’s no need for me to hide. Mistakes may have led me to hide out of shame or regret, but I must cry out to Jesus to rescue me from these hidden places. 

We are made in the image and likeness of God and are to let our light shine. Although our actions may disgrace our image, there is nothing that will ever erase our image. We were divinely formed and ordained with a specific purpose. God sees our purpose and not our problems. He invites us to accept his unconditional love, mercy and forgiveness.

Jesus is waiting to pull you out of hiding and into the light of freedom. Will you take his hand?

—Lori Stanley is the Executive Director of Loyola Institute for Spirituality in Orange, CA.

Prayer

God, help me to see myself how you see me. Give me the grace to hear your word and to listen for your voice. Give me the grace to pay attention so that I may receive your love. Amen.

—Lori Stanley


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January 29, 2020

Mk 4: 1-20

Again he began to teach beside the sea. Such a very large crowd gathered around him that he got into a boat on the sea and sat there, while the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. He began to teach them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and it sprang up quickly, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched; and since it had no root, it withered away. 

Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. Other seed fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.” And he said, “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!”

When he was alone, those who were around him along with the twelve asked him about the parables. And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside, everything comes in parables; in order that

‘they may indeed look, but not perceive,

and may indeed listen, but not understand;

so that they may not turn again and be forgiven.’”

And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? Then how will you understand all the parables? The sower sows the word. These are the ones on the path where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them. And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: when they hear the word, they immediately receive it with joy. But they have no root, and endure only for a while; then, when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away. 

And others are those sown among the thorns: these are the ones who hear the word, but the cares of the world, and the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things come in and choke the word, and it yields nothing. And these are the ones sown on the good soil: they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.”

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.

Be rich, fertile soil

In today’s Gospel reading, we are introduced to the Parable of the Sower, the first of Jesus’ parables in which he uses metaphors as a way of teaching and preaching. 

In this parable, we find Jesus teaching us about the multiple ways in which the seeds of God’s word, love and invitation to new life for us may miss the rich and fertile longings of our hearts and souls.

Just as the farmer is longing for lush life in his harvest, we, too, may long for lush and flourishing life in God’s love and care.

And yet, through this parable, Jesus is able to teach us, and caution us, that, despite our strong longings and best intentions for a life-giving relationship in God, we may miss, reject or confuse the various invitations we receive from him.

Jesus shows us in this parable that we need to cooperate with God in the tending, growth and cultivation of these seeds of relationship with him- a relationship full of love, possibility, redemption and new life.  Jesus helps call us to a rich and fertile spiritual life by reminding us to tend to the openness and welcome of the fertile soil of our minds, hearts and spirits to receive God and all that he brings to us. 

In this parable, Jesus prompts us to, once again, orient our lives, prayer, listening, attention, discernment and choices towards living, loving and choosing that which best leads to a rich harvest of the best fruits of the Spirit of God within us. 

—Kathy Coffey-Guenther, Ph.D., is senior mission and Ignatian leadership specialist at Marquette University in Milwaukee, WI.

Prayer

Dear God:

Thank you for the many ways in which you help prepare my mind, heart and spirit for your love and care and deepening knowledge of your invitations for my life.

Help me to stay awake and alert, to pay attention to the ways in which I am opening to your call in relationship with me, and to the ways in which you are inviting me to help you serve your people.

Dear God, help me to push away any fears or hesitation to walk with you, making more space for you to live within me, while releasing those traits, behaviors and feelings that pull me further from you.

God, keep me humble in my longing and seeking for peace in you, always.

Amen

—Kathy Coffey-Guenther


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January 28, 2020

St. Thomas Aquinas

Mk 3: 31-35

Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

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

Invitation to be Christ’s family

“Then his mother and his brothers came.” Jesus is at home, but the family is not just coming to visit. They’re coming “to restrain him, for people were saying, ‘He has gone out of his mind’” (Mk 3:21). Yikes! Family drama!

Jesus seems aware of the tension. He offers no VIP treatment, no TSA pre-check, that would let his family cut in front of the crowd. His words may seem cold: “Who are my mother and my brothers?” But they are also an invitation: “If you do the will of God, you can be my brother, my sister, or even my mother.”

We often hear about our dignity as children of God. Here, perhaps, is something even greater. Jesus invites us to be the brother, sister, or even mother of God. Imagine yourself in that role. What impact would that have on your thoughts, words, and actions this day?

Dan Everson, SJ, is a Jesuit scholastic of the Central and Southern Province who currently teaches theology and coordinates community service at Arrupe Jesuit High School in Denver.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, you love us as you loved your own family, because we are your brothers and sisters.  Help us to recognize the privileged role this affords us as co-laborers with you in building the kingdom.  May we honor you in all that we do. Amen.

—The Jesuit Prayer team


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January 27, 2020

Mk 3: 22-30

And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 

And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.

“Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”

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 holds us back right now?

The last few weeks of Gospel readings, Jesus continues repeatedly to reveal who he is to those around him, calling them to follow him.  He does this through his teachings, healings, and miracles. And yet, many around him refuse to listen. They are distracted or blinded by their own status, power, and fear.  They lack the humility and courage to be open to Jesus’ call.

What is keeping me right now from listening to Jesus’ calling in my life?  What is keeping me right now from following and doing God’s will?

—Dr. Sajit U. Kabadi is the Assistant Principal for Mission, Ministry, and Diversity at Regis Jesuit High School in Aurora, CO.

Prayer

Lord, grant that I may always allow myself to be guided by You,
always follow Your plans,
and perfectly accomplish Your Holy Will.
Grant that in all things, great and small,
today and all the days of my life,
I may do whatever You require of me.
Help me respond to the slightest prompting of Your Grace,
so that I may be Your trustworthy instrument for Your honour.
May Your Will be done in time and in eternity by me,
in me, and through me. Amen.

—St. Teresa of Avila


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January 26, 2020

Mt 4: 12-23

Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.” From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.

Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.

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.

United under Jesus

I’ve always wondered what Zebedee’s reaction was to his sons just picking up and leaving their work with him to follow a stranger.  Knowing the harsh words that would have come out of my own father’s mouth in a comparable situation, I can’t imagine that Zebedee said nothing, or just sloughed it off.  Unless he saw that same something in Jesus that his sons did. There must have been something so compelling about Jesus that it would cause some to just drop whatever they were doing and follow him!  

Indeed, this might speak to what St. Paul is addressing in the second reading today, that our loyalty to Jesus should supersede every other loyalty in our life, even our loyalty to our parents (1 Cor 1: 10-13, 17).  And, if that’s the case, then the distinctions we often make in the Catholic community these days ought to be questioned. It’s difficult, but I try my best to draw a line between my secular political views and what I believe that we are called to as a Church community.  That doesn’t mean that I don’t bring my Christian convictions to bear on the social issues of our day like care for refugees or protection of the unborn. In truth, we each differ in our preferences, and in the particular missions that God calls us to focus on. But, the divisions that we sometimes foster between “social justice” Catholics and “pro-life” Catholics, or “Pope Benedict” Catholics vs. “Pope Francis” Catholics are precisely what St. Paul is speaking so strongly against.  Certainly, we must first be Jesus Catholics, no matter where our other passions or particular vocations place us.

—Fr. Mark Mossa, SJ, is a Jesuit of the Central and Southern Province and is the Director of Campus Ministry at St. Mary Student Parish in Ann Arbor, MI.

Prayer

Jesus, help me to follow you,
Help me to see you through all the blurriness of my vision,
Help me to hear you amidst the cacophony of competing voices,
Help me to touch you by offering a hand to the stranger,
Give me the courage to sow peace where there is division,
Give me the faith to stand where I believe you would stand,
Give me the humility to change my mind, and admit when I’m wrong,
I want to put you before all else.
I wanted to live in a community devoted to you.
Jesus, show us the way.

—Fr. Mark Mossa, SJ


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January 25, 2020

Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle

Mk 16: 15-18

And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: by using my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

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.

Choose the standard of Christ

I can’t imagine a world of the condemned, one with devils, snakes, and poisons. But today, Jesus asks us to imagine one. And then, he asks us to imagine another: a world of believers who are fearless and remain unharmed, who have gifts of language and heal with the touch of their hands. 

Jesus asks us to “will” or to “choose” one world over the other: the world with the standard of the Other, of riches, honor and pride, or; the world with the standard of Christ, of service, liberation, and love.

St Ignatius knew that, in the end, there is no ground between these worlds: we must choose.

What is my heart’s desire? Which world do I believe in and choose?

—Carla Orlando coordinates Spiritual Direction Services for the Ignatian Spirituality Center in Seattle.

Prayer

The King

You will find him among those who have nothing.
He is the man of any color unnoticed
In the back of the room.

Within all living ones,
Wherever there is respect, kindness, caring,
His kingdom is there.

The old ones realized that he followed
The heart of their teachings,
He was the king of their hearts.

He chose the difficult road,
The mysterious and dangerous road,
Bringing little with him.

He never left anyone out.
He despised only the actions of those
Who used jealousy and hatred
To advance their kingdoms.

His kingdom lives only in the inmost center
Of all living ones,
It manifests itself not outside,
In displays of arrogance and power;
But inside, in kind and courageous manners.
He is the king of their hearts.

No magic ever saved him
From the sharp edges of this world.
He accepted all burdens and pain.

In the midst of chaos and unbelievable cruelty
He stayed on his feet, his eyes focused
On the capacity for goodness in all living ones,
His gaze fixed on a gathering place not here,
Created only by love.
He is the king of all hearts.

—Pat Twohy, SJ


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January 24, 2020

St. Francis de Sales

Jn 15: 9-17

As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 

You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. 

And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.

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.

Remain in Jesus’ love

Several years ago during a trip I opened up one of those airline magazines and stumbled upon a prayer from St. Francis deSales:

Persevere in overcoming yourself in the little, everyday frustrations that bother you, let your best efforts be direct there; God wishes nothing else of you at present, so don’t waste your time doing anything else…be thoroughly who you are.  Direct your thoughts to being very good at that and bearing the crosses, little or great, that you will find there…

I still have that tattered piece of paper in my breviary today. 

In today’s feast day readings, Jesus reminds us today to remain in his love – Jesus chose us, not the other way around.  St. Ignatius reminds us to find God in all things. How do we do that? It’s not all that complicated, as we are reminded by following the wisdom and example of St. Francis deSales.

—Jim Bozik is a permanent deacon at St. Peter Catholic Church in Charlotte, NC, the Jesuit parish in the Diocese of Charlotte.

Prayer

Do not look forward in fear to the changes in life; rather, look to them with full hope that as they arise, God, whose very own you are, will lead you safely through all things; and when you cannot stand it, God will carry you in His arms.

Do not fear what may happen tomorrow; the same understanding Father who cares for you today will take care of you then and every day.

He will either shield you from suffering or will give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace, and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations.

—St. Francis de Sales


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January 23, 2020

Mk 3: 7-12

Jesus departed with his disciples to the sea, and a great multitude from Galilee followed him; hearing all that he was doing, they came to him in great numbers from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, beyond the Jordan, and the region around Tyre and Sidon. He told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, so that they would not crush him; for he had cured many, so that all who had diseases pressed upon him to touch him. 

Whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and shouted, “You are the Son of God!” But he sternly ordered them not to make him known.

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 Jesus’ love

Mark’s Gospel reminds me that Jesus will allow us to encounter him regardless of where we are coming from. Jesus was not confined by walls of judgment or tradition, but by a passion to heal, to love and to free all who came to him.

Wherever we find ourselves will never be too far from Jesus’ reach. St. Ignatius reminds us that we are sinners who are loved by God. Although our sinfulness may cause disgrace and pain, it will never erase our value in God’s eyes.

Falling in love with a God who loves me and whispers, “You are to die for” is breathtaking. This personal love affair is what Jesus desires for each of us. He is awaiting our response. The unclean spirits try to steal this awareness from us. Jesus’ swift command of silence was so that each in the multitude could have a personal encounter with him.  What must you quiet in your life to encounter Christ?

—Lori Stanley is the Executive Director of Loyola Institute for Spirituality in Orange, CA.

Prayer

Dear God, you told me I was worth saving, so you sent your Son to save my life. I am free and I am whole because of your grace, mercy and unfathomable love for me. Amen.

—Lori Stanley


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January 22, 2020

Mk 3: 1-6

Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand. They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man who had the withered hand, ‘Come forward.’ Then he said to them, ‘Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?’ But they were silent. 

He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately conspired with the Herodians against him, how to destroy 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.

The importance of presence and availability

In today’s reading we encounter a familiar scene of Jesus entering the synagogue, and once again finding someone who needs healing, care, belief and cure.  And just beyond this man, we notice that we again find Jesus in tension with the “powers that be.”

 These powers have been alerted to the fact that Jesus is not following the rule of law as he should.  Instead, he is staying present and available to the people who need love and kindness and advocacy and healing and cure and resources. 

Instead of sticking to the clean black-and-white straight lines of the rules and laws of the day, Jesus is jumping right into the mess of the grey, where the needs of the people and their call to him for love and service and justice moves him deeply.  The people’s call to Jesus’ heart and spirit is one that brings grief, anger, and danger with it. 

Jesus names this dilemma clearly: “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?” 

Choosing to amend or reject a rule or law or to go against power is neither an easy nor superficial decision.  It requires discernment in which we can gain clarity about the choices before us, and in which we can learn to choose the “greater good” of those choices. 

While the law may be good, Jesus demonstrates that presence, availability and love for the person before us may be the greatest good of all, regardless of the consequences.

—Kathy Coffey-Guenther, Ph.D., is senior mission and Ignatian leadership specialist at Marquette University in Milwaukee, WI.

Prayer

“We must take sides.  Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.  Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.  Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant.  Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion or political views, that place must- at that moment- become the center of the universe.”

Lord, hear our prayer.  Amen.

Elie Wiesel (1928-2016), professor, writer, Nobel peace prize winner, humanitarian, activist and Holocaust survivor


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January 31, 2020

St. John Bosco

Mk 4: 26-34

He also said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.”

He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”

With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.

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.

Caring for the seeds

Pay it forward.  We’ve all heard that phrase before; we have been blessed and challenged with different talents and life situations, our task in life is to use them for the greater glory of God.  On Creighton University’s Online Ministries portal you will find a prayer that I begin my day with:

…Please help me to clarify and purify my actions and intentions…my activity seems to be full of busyness, chasing after things that don’t seem to matter or last…May all that I am today, all that I try to do today, may all my encounters, reflections, even the frustrations and failings all place my life in your hands…

How do we pay it forward?  The seeds of our life our scattered throughout our day, some will land on fertile soil and grow like the mustard seed, others will not.  Whether they reach a full life is not in our control, our task is to plant those seeds, fertilize and care for them, whether the seeds are helping troubled youth like St. John Bosco, whose feast day is today, having lunch with someone who is bullied at school, or checking in on a lonely, elderly neighbor.   

—Jim Bozik is a permanent deacon at St. Peter Catholic Church in Charlotte, NC, the Jesuit parish in the Diocese of Charlotte.

Prayer

Lord, I so wish to prepare well for this time.
I so want to make all of me ready and attentive and available to you.
Please help me clarify and purify my intentions.
I have so many contradictory desires.
My activity seems to be so full of busyness and running after stuff that doesn’t really seem to
matter or last.
I know that if I give you my heart whatever I do will follow my new heart.  
May all that I am today, all that I try to do today, may all my encounters, reflections, even the frustrations and failings all place my life in your hands.  
Lord, my life is in your hands.
Please, let this day give you praise.

—St. Ignatius of Loyola


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January 30, 2020

Mk 4: 21-25

He said to them, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under the bushel basket, or under the bed, and not on the lampstand? For there is nothing hidden, except to be disclosed; nor is anything secret, except to come to light. Let anyone with ears to hear listen!” 

And he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear; the measure you give will be the measure you get, and still more will be given you. For to those who have, more will be given; and from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.”

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.

Pulled out of hiding

I vividly recall playing competitive rounds of hide-and-seek throughout my childhood. Sometimes my ingenuity got the best of me and I’d be stuck in a hiding place for longer than my body could tolerate. It’s at those times thatI cried out so my siblings could “find” me. Today’s Gospel reminds me that there’s no need for me to hide. Mistakes may have led me to hide out of shame or regret, but I must cry out to Jesus to rescue me from these hidden places. 

We are made in the image and likeness of God and are to let our light shine. Although our actions may disgrace our image, there is nothing that will ever erase our image. We were divinely formed and ordained with a specific purpose. God sees our purpose and not our problems. He invites us to accept his unconditional love, mercy and forgiveness.

Jesus is waiting to pull you out of hiding and into the light of freedom. Will you take his hand?

—Lori Stanley is the Executive Director of Loyola Institute for Spirituality in Orange, CA.

Prayer

God, help me to see myself how you see me. Give me the grace to hear your word and to listen for your voice. Give me the grace to pay attention so that I may receive your love. Amen.

—Lori Stanley


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January 29, 2020

Mk 4: 1-20

Again he began to teach beside the sea. Such a very large crowd gathered around him that he got into a boat on the sea and sat there, while the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. He began to teach them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and it sprang up quickly, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched; and since it had no root, it withered away. 

Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. Other seed fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.” And he said, “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!”

When he was alone, those who were around him along with the twelve asked him about the parables. And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside, everything comes in parables; in order that

‘they may indeed look, but not perceive,

and may indeed listen, but not understand;

so that they may not turn again and be forgiven.’”

And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? Then how will you understand all the parables? The sower sows the word. These are the ones on the path where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them. And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: when they hear the word, they immediately receive it with joy. But they have no root, and endure only for a while; then, when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away. 

And others are those sown among the thorns: these are the ones who hear the word, but the cares of the world, and the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things come in and choke the word, and it yields nothing. And these are the ones sown on the good soil: they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.”

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.

Be rich, fertile soil

In today’s Gospel reading, we are introduced to the Parable of the Sower, the first of Jesus’ parables in which he uses metaphors as a way of teaching and preaching. 

In this parable, we find Jesus teaching us about the multiple ways in which the seeds of God’s word, love and invitation to new life for us may miss the rich and fertile longings of our hearts and souls.

Just as the farmer is longing for lush life in his harvest, we, too, may long for lush and flourishing life in God’s love and care.

And yet, through this parable, Jesus is able to teach us, and caution us, that, despite our strong longings and best intentions for a life-giving relationship in God, we may miss, reject or confuse the various invitations we receive from him.

Jesus shows us in this parable that we need to cooperate with God in the tending, growth and cultivation of these seeds of relationship with him- a relationship full of love, possibility, redemption and new life.  Jesus helps call us to a rich and fertile spiritual life by reminding us to tend to the openness and welcome of the fertile soil of our minds, hearts and spirits to receive God and all that he brings to us. 

In this parable, Jesus prompts us to, once again, orient our lives, prayer, listening, attention, discernment and choices towards living, loving and choosing that which best leads to a rich harvest of the best fruits of the Spirit of God within us. 

—Kathy Coffey-Guenther, Ph.D., is senior mission and Ignatian leadership specialist at Marquette University in Milwaukee, WI.

Prayer

Dear God:

Thank you for the many ways in which you help prepare my mind, heart and spirit for your love and care and deepening knowledge of your invitations for my life.

Help me to stay awake and alert, to pay attention to the ways in which I am opening to your call in relationship with me, and to the ways in which you are inviting me to help you serve your people.

Dear God, help me to push away any fears or hesitation to walk with you, making more space for you to live within me, while releasing those traits, behaviors and feelings that pull me further from you.

God, keep me humble in my longing and seeking for peace in you, always.

Amen

—Kathy Coffey-Guenther


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January 28, 2020

St. Thomas Aquinas

Mk 3: 31-35

Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

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

Invitation to be Christ’s family

“Then his mother and his brothers came.” Jesus is at home, but the family is not just coming to visit. They’re coming “to restrain him, for people were saying, ‘He has gone out of his mind’” (Mk 3:21). Yikes! Family drama!

Jesus seems aware of the tension. He offers no VIP treatment, no TSA pre-check, that would let his family cut in front of the crowd. His words may seem cold: “Who are my mother and my brothers?” But they are also an invitation: “If you do the will of God, you can be my brother, my sister, or even my mother.”

We often hear about our dignity as children of God. Here, perhaps, is something even greater. Jesus invites us to be the brother, sister, or even mother of God. Imagine yourself in that role. What impact would that have on your thoughts, words, and actions this day?

Dan Everson, SJ, is a Jesuit scholastic of the Central and Southern Province who currently teaches theology and coordinates community service at Arrupe Jesuit High School in Denver.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, you love us as you loved your own family, because we are your brothers and sisters.  Help us to recognize the privileged role this affords us as co-laborers with you in building the kingdom.  May we honor you in all that we do. Amen.

—The Jesuit Prayer team


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January 27, 2020

Mk 3: 22-30

And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 

And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.

“Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”

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 holds us back right now?

The last few weeks of Gospel readings, Jesus continues repeatedly to reveal who he is to those around him, calling them to follow him.  He does this through his teachings, healings, and miracles. And yet, many around him refuse to listen. They are distracted or blinded by their own status, power, and fear.  They lack the humility and courage to be open to Jesus’ call.

What is keeping me right now from listening to Jesus’ calling in my life?  What is keeping me right now from following and doing God’s will?

—Dr. Sajit U. Kabadi is the Assistant Principal for Mission, Ministry, and Diversity at Regis Jesuit High School in Aurora, CO.

Prayer

Lord, grant that I may always allow myself to be guided by You,
always follow Your plans,
and perfectly accomplish Your Holy Will.
Grant that in all things, great and small,
today and all the days of my life,
I may do whatever You require of me.
Help me respond to the slightest prompting of Your Grace,
so that I may be Your trustworthy instrument for Your honour.
May Your Will be done in time and in eternity by me,
in me, and through me. Amen.

—St. Teresa of Avila


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January 26, 2020

Mt 4: 12-23

Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.” From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.

Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.

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.

United under Jesus

I’ve always wondered what Zebedee’s reaction was to his sons just picking up and leaving their work with him to follow a stranger.  Knowing the harsh words that would have come out of my own father’s mouth in a comparable situation, I can’t imagine that Zebedee said nothing, or just sloughed it off.  Unless he saw that same something in Jesus that his sons did. There must have been something so compelling about Jesus that it would cause some to just drop whatever they were doing and follow him!  

Indeed, this might speak to what St. Paul is addressing in the second reading today, that our loyalty to Jesus should supersede every other loyalty in our life, even our loyalty to our parents (1 Cor 1: 10-13, 17).  And, if that’s the case, then the distinctions we often make in the Catholic community these days ought to be questioned. It’s difficult, but I try my best to draw a line between my secular political views and what I believe that we are called to as a Church community.  That doesn’t mean that I don’t bring my Christian convictions to bear on the social issues of our day like care for refugees or protection of the unborn. In truth, we each differ in our preferences, and in the particular missions that God calls us to focus on. But, the divisions that we sometimes foster between “social justice” Catholics and “pro-life” Catholics, or “Pope Benedict” Catholics vs. “Pope Francis” Catholics are precisely what St. Paul is speaking so strongly against.  Certainly, we must first be Jesus Catholics, no matter where our other passions or particular vocations place us.

—Fr. Mark Mossa, SJ, is a Jesuit of the Central and Southern Province and is the Director of Campus Ministry at St. Mary Student Parish in Ann Arbor, MI.

Prayer

Jesus, help me to follow you,
Help me to see you through all the blurriness of my vision,
Help me to hear you amidst the cacophony of competing voices,
Help me to touch you by offering a hand to the stranger,
Give me the courage to sow peace where there is division,
Give me the faith to stand where I believe you would stand,
Give me the humility to change my mind, and admit when I’m wrong,
I want to put you before all else.
I wanted to live in a community devoted to you.
Jesus, show us the way.

—Fr. Mark Mossa, SJ


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January 25, 2020

Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle

Mk 16: 15-18

And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: by using my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

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.

Choose the standard of Christ

I can’t imagine a world of the condemned, one with devils, snakes, and poisons. But today, Jesus asks us to imagine one. And then, he asks us to imagine another: a world of believers who are fearless and remain unharmed, who have gifts of language and heal with the touch of their hands. 

Jesus asks us to “will” or to “choose” one world over the other: the world with the standard of the Other, of riches, honor and pride, or; the world with the standard of Christ, of service, liberation, and love.

St Ignatius knew that, in the end, there is no ground between these worlds: we must choose.

What is my heart’s desire? Which world do I believe in and choose?

—Carla Orlando coordinates Spiritual Direction Services for the Ignatian Spirituality Center in Seattle.

Prayer

The King

You will find him among those who have nothing.
He is the man of any color unnoticed
In the back of the room.

Within all living ones,
Wherever there is respect, kindness, caring,
His kingdom is there.

The old ones realized that he followed
The heart of their teachings,
He was the king of their hearts.

He chose the difficult road,
The mysterious and dangerous road,
Bringing little with him.

He never left anyone out.
He despised only the actions of those
Who used jealousy and hatred
To advance their kingdoms.

His kingdom lives only in the inmost center
Of all living ones,
It manifests itself not outside,
In displays of arrogance and power;
But inside, in kind and courageous manners.
He is the king of their hearts.

No magic ever saved him
From the sharp edges of this world.
He accepted all burdens and pain.

In the midst of chaos and unbelievable cruelty
He stayed on his feet, his eyes focused
On the capacity for goodness in all living ones,
His gaze fixed on a gathering place not here,
Created only by love.
He is the king of all hearts.

—Pat Twohy, SJ


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January 24, 2020

St. Francis de Sales

Jn 15: 9-17

As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 

You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. 

And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.

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.

Remain in Jesus’ love

Several years ago during a trip I opened up one of those airline magazines and stumbled upon a prayer from St. Francis deSales:

Persevere in overcoming yourself in the little, everyday frustrations that bother you, let your best efforts be direct there; God wishes nothing else of you at present, so don’t waste your time doing anything else…be thoroughly who you are.  Direct your thoughts to being very good at that and bearing the crosses, little or great, that you will find there…

I still have that tattered piece of paper in my breviary today. 

In today’s feast day readings, Jesus reminds us today to remain in his love – Jesus chose us, not the other way around.  St. Ignatius reminds us to find God in all things. How do we do that? It’s not all that complicated, as we are reminded by following the wisdom and example of St. Francis deSales.

—Jim Bozik is a permanent deacon at St. Peter Catholic Church in Charlotte, NC, the Jesuit parish in the Diocese of Charlotte.

Prayer

Do not look forward in fear to the changes in life; rather, look to them with full hope that as they arise, God, whose very own you are, will lead you safely through all things; and when you cannot stand it, God will carry you in His arms.

Do not fear what may happen tomorrow; the same understanding Father who cares for you today will take care of you then and every day.

He will either shield you from suffering or will give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace, and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations.

—St. Francis de Sales


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January 23, 2020

Mk 3: 7-12

Jesus departed with his disciples to the sea, and a great multitude from Galilee followed him; hearing all that he was doing, they came to him in great numbers from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, beyond the Jordan, and the region around Tyre and Sidon. He told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, so that they would not crush him; for he had cured many, so that all who had diseases pressed upon him to touch him. 

Whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and shouted, “You are the Son of God!” But he sternly ordered them not to make him known.

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 Jesus’ love

Mark’s Gospel reminds me that Jesus will allow us to encounter him regardless of where we are coming from. Jesus was not confined by walls of judgment or tradition, but by a passion to heal, to love and to free all who came to him.

Wherever we find ourselves will never be too far from Jesus’ reach. St. Ignatius reminds us that we are sinners who are loved by God. Although our sinfulness may cause disgrace and pain, it will never erase our value in God’s eyes.

Falling in love with a God who loves me and whispers, “You are to die for” is breathtaking. This personal love affair is what Jesus desires for each of us. He is awaiting our response. The unclean spirits try to steal this awareness from us. Jesus’ swift command of silence was so that each in the multitude could have a personal encounter with him.  What must you quiet in your life to encounter Christ?

—Lori Stanley is the Executive Director of Loyola Institute for Spirituality in Orange, CA.

Prayer

Dear God, you told me I was worth saving, so you sent your Son to save my life. I am free and I am whole because of your grace, mercy and unfathomable love for me. Amen.

—Lori Stanley


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January 22, 2020

Mk 3: 1-6

Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand. They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man who had the withered hand, ‘Come forward.’ Then he said to them, ‘Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?’ But they were silent. 

He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately conspired with the Herodians against him, how to destroy 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.

The importance of presence and availability

In today’s reading we encounter a familiar scene of Jesus entering the synagogue, and once again finding someone who needs healing, care, belief and cure.  And just beyond this man, we notice that we again find Jesus in tension with the “powers that be.”

 These powers have been alerted to the fact that Jesus is not following the rule of law as he should.  Instead, he is staying present and available to the people who need love and kindness and advocacy and healing and cure and resources. 

Instead of sticking to the clean black-and-white straight lines of the rules and laws of the day, Jesus is jumping right into the mess of the grey, where the needs of the people and their call to him for love and service and justice moves him deeply.  The people’s call to Jesus’ heart and spirit is one that brings grief, anger, and danger with it. 

Jesus names this dilemma clearly: “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?” 

Choosing to amend or reject a rule or law or to go against power is neither an easy nor superficial decision.  It requires discernment in which we can gain clarity about the choices before us, and in which we can learn to choose the “greater good” of those choices. 

While the law may be good, Jesus demonstrates that presence, availability and love for the person before us may be the greatest good of all, regardless of the consequences.

—Kathy Coffey-Guenther, Ph.D., is senior mission and Ignatian leadership specialist at Marquette University in Milwaukee, WI.

Prayer

“We must take sides.  Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.  Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.  Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant.  Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion or political views, that place must- at that moment- become the center of the universe.”

Lord, hear our prayer.  Amen.

Elie Wiesel (1928-2016), professor, writer, Nobel peace prize winner, humanitarian, activist and Holocaust survivor


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