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February 29, 2020

Lk 5: 27-32

After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up, left everything, and followed him. Then Levi gave a great banquet for him in his house; and there was a large crowd of tax collectors and others sitting at the table with them. 

The Pharisees and their scribes were complaining to his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus answered, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance.”

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 conversion

Three distinct and perhaps contradictory themes emerge from this short passage: simplicity, extravagance and healing. Levi suddenly embraces a life of austerity, leaving everything behind to follow Jesus. A tough pill to swallow: I find myself less eager to abandon my own comforts and security.

But wait: Levi hasn’t really abandoned all of his stuff, one might say. He’s put it at the disposal of Jesus and those he’s come to serve. What a great banquet!  

It’s too easy, though, to simply say that my stuff is good so long as I use it for others. (I have a cluttered basement that would argue differently.) Rather, Jesus invites us to conversion, to heal our broken relationships with material comforts and security.

We are called to live intentionally, to take what we need, recognizing that all things are God’s things—and God’s things are for all people.  

—Eric Clayton is a senior communications manager at the Jesuit Conference.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, open our hearts so that we may continually turn to you.  May this conversion make us more aware of the needs of our brothers and sisters around us, so that we can respond generously to their needs out of love.  Amen.

—The Jesuit Prayer team


Please share the Good Word with your friends!

February 28, 2020

Is 58: 1-9a

Shout out, do not hold back! Lift up your voice like a trumpet! Announce to my people their rebellion, to the house of Jacob their sins. Yet day after day they seek me and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that practiced righteousness and did not forsake the ordinance of their God; they ask of me righteous judgments, they delight to draw near to God.

“Why do we fast, but you do not see? Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?” Look, you serve your own interest on your fast day, and oppress all your workers. Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to strike with a wicked fist. Such fasting as you do today will not make your voice heard on high. Is such the fast that I choose, a day to humble oneself? Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush, and to lie in sackcloth and ashes? Will you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord? 

Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?

Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am. 

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.

God is here among us

After Adam eats of the fruit of the tree in Genesis, he hides himself from God. God comes through the garden, seeking Adam and asking “where are you?” We might feel the desire to turn that question to God. We look throughout the world and see all manner of hurt. We think of friends and loved ones who are sick, who are in broken and harmful situations that they cannot escape from and we ask God “where are you?” We look at our lives, we see our own thwarted desires and disappointment and ask God “where are you?” We wonder if God, like Adam in the garden, is hiding from us in shame.

Today’s first reading from Isaiah gives us an answer: when we help people be free, when we feed and clothe and shelter those in need, when we make peace and share justice, God will cry to us: “Here I am!” In other words, when we let God use us to bring the Kingdom to people, we won’t have to ask God “where are you?” Instead, we will know from the good that we do that our God is here with us.

James Kennedy, SJ, is a Jesuit of the Midwest Province teaching history at Marquette University High School in Milwaukee, WI.

Prayer

God,
give us minds to know the good,
mouths to speak the truth,
and hearts to do beautiful deeds for your kingdom.
Amen.

—James Kennedy, SJ


Please share the Good Word with your friends!

February 27, 2020

Lk 9: 22-25

“The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” Then he said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 

For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves?

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.

Nonstop self-giving love

I learned a whole lot about “taking up my cross daily” during a two-week period around New Year’s when a slow-moving stomach bug ripped its way through our house, taking down, in order, our toddler, me, our pre-schooler and my wife. (Our newborn was spared as of this writing.) Whether it was holding the sickness bucket in front of the kiddos or watching “Sesame Street” at midnight, my time wasn’t my own, my body wasn’t my own, my life wasn’t my own. All this led my wife to observe that parenting is definitely making us better people – despite some personal lapses into impatience and frustration. Raising little ones is a nonstop exercise in self-giving love, which Christ crucified modeled for us par excellence. I think this is one of the great opportunities of Lent: It’s a chance to clear out some of the spiritual cobwebs and to recommit to loving God and each other without holding anything back.

—Mike Jordan Laskey is the Senior Communications Director of the Jesuit Conference in Washington DC and an alum of Contemplative Leaders in Action in Philadelphia.

Prayer

Loving God,

On this feast of the English Jesuit martyr Blessed Roger Filcock, we pray for the strength to live our faith with similar boldness and devotion.

We offer the same words of prayer Blessed Roger spoke after witnessing the execution of a fellow priest and ask for his intercession: “Pray for me to our Lord, whose presence you now enjoy, that I too may faithfully run my course.”

Martyrdom is unlikely for most all of us today, but we continue to ask for the grace to carry out God’s will in all we do and say, even when it is most difficult.

We pray this through Christ, Our Lord, Amen.

—Mike Jordan Laskey


Please share the Good Word with your friends!

February 26, 2020

Ash Wednesday

2 Cor 5:20-6:2

So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. For he says, “At an acceptable time I have listened to you, and on a day of salvation I have helped you.” See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation!

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 the face of mercy

It’s Ash Wednesday.  We are, once again, invited into the Lenten practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. I really love being on a Catholic, Jesuit campus on Ash Wednesday. All the usual classes, meetings, sights, and sounds are going on—but then there’s this palpable sense of shared experience.  There’s an unstated sense of our collective sinfulness—and shared redemption. Like Pope Francis has said of himself—we are loved sinners. And churches are so full on Ash Wednesday—what a gift! 

Today’s reading from Corinthians reminds us that we are ambassadors for Christ.  I wonder what it would be like if each of us made a conscious decision this Lent, to reach out to someone that we don’t see at church at other times of the year? Not to guilt them back into returning, but as an expression of hospitality and welcome. Could God be calling each of us to be the face of mercy?

—Kristi Gonsalves-McCabe is the Chief of Staff in the Office of the Provost at Regis University.

Prayer

God of mercy, please open my heart to those near me that are most in need of your tender embrace. Set my heart on fire with the desire to do your will.  Amen.

—Kristi Gonsalves-McCabe


Please share the Good Word with your friends!

February 25, 2020

Mk 9: 30-37

Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. 

For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.

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.

Being Sacraments

We are sacraments for one another. When we open our hearts to welcome, appreciate, and love another person, we encounter God in them, and they encounter God in us.

However, like the disciples in today’s Gospel, when we are so full of ourselves and our own concerns for power and prestige, there’s little room for God to become present to us or to those around us.

When we interact with family, co-workers, classmates, friends, or strangers, rather than asking What can I gain from this person?, Jesus invites us to ask: How can I appreciate and love this person? 

Yes, this kind of living may lead, as it did for Jesus, to suffering. But wouldn’t we rather live, rejoice, and suffer together than succeed (or fail) alone? 

How can you encounter other people today as the sacrament that they are? How can you be a sacrament, revealing God to them?

—Thomas Bambrick, SJ, is a Jesuit scholastic of the Midwest Province studying at the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University in Berkeley, CA.

Prayer

Jesus, our companion and our model,
help us to be sacraments for each other—
encountering God and revealing God
through our welcome, appreciation, and love—
just as you were and are a sacrament for us.

—Thomas Bambrick, SJ


Please share the Good Word with your friends!

February 24, 2020

Jas 3: 13-18

Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. 

For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.

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 with wisdom from above

“Whatever possessed you to do that?!”   I’ve heard it before- when I’ve done something surprisingly idiotic, mean-spirited, or rude.  Certainly it was not wisdom from above. Once I skipped school on a dare, once I snuck out with a boy my parents disapproved of.  More recently, I can recall making a barbed remark to sting someone I love, or turning away from someone in need because I was preoccupied with my own desires.  Or perhaps those times I enthusiastically got involved spreading ill will toward distant or vague “others” who don’t agree with me or think like me.

Knowing the consolations that come from being in sync with God’s plan for me (God’s knowing my true self and who I could be), how do I seek today to be more gentle, to cultivate peace?

—Donna K. Becher, M.S.  is an associate spiritual director intern at the West Virginia Institute for Spirituality, Charleston, West Virginia.  Her training is rooted in the Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola.

Prayer

Dear God, you have formed me and you know me.   Help me today to be the best I can be, the real me, without guile or malice.  “One thing I ask, this alone I seek- to dwell in the house of the Lord all my days.” 

—Based on Psalm 27


Please share the Good Word with your friends!

February 23, 2020

Mt 5: 38-48

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 

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

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

Called to loving action

As a child hearing today’s Gospel, my attention always focused mistakenly on Christ’s line, “An eye for an eye . . .,” rather than its main point about loving our enemies. I remember an interminable safety lecture from Sr. John Michael Richie, S.L., our first grade teacher, before our excited class was allowed to first take sharpened pencils in hand. Though Sister’s warnings underscored the ghastly outcome should we injure ourselves or another, the prospect of losing one’s eye seemed remote. I thought: “People in the Old Testament actually took out people’s eyes?! Whew! No wonder Jesus had to say something!”

In truth, “an eye for an eye,” illustrated the “law of retaliation” in the code of the Ancient Near East. It was meant to keep retaliation in check and encourage just proportionate response to aggression. Even with this tempered understanding of the text, however, Jesus is not satisfied, and neither should we be. Jesus’ message reminds us we are called not to mere passivity when facing an adversary, but to loving action. On the eve of Lent, the Gospel counsels that in seeking understanding in disagreement, in extending mercy to one with whom we quarrel, lies the means of true “perfection.”

—Fr. William T. Sheahan, SJ, is a Jesuit of the Central and Southern Province and serves as rector of the Rockhurst Jesuit Community in Kansas City, MO.

Prayer

Heavenly Father, you challenge me to love my enemies. I cannot love like this without your help. Unite me to your heart. Forgive me for labeling others an “enemy” simply out of disagreement or injured feelings. Expand my capacity for love and forgiveness. Grant me your compassion. Amen

—The Jesuit Prayer team


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February 22, 2020

Chair of St. Peter

Mt 16: 13-19

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” 

And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed 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.

Who are we?

Jesus’ question—“Who do you say that I am?”—has a straight-forward answer: “The Son of the living God.” As modern-day readers, it’s obvious. The question almost feels condescending, as though Jesus is checking in to make sure his followers have been paying attention.

But what if I put myself in the story as Jesus? What if I ask the question of my friends and family? How do they answer? Am I a father, husband, teacher, writer?

I’m ever mindful that this question of identity can be sliced in dozens of ways—even more so as we project images of ourselves across social media that may hardly resemble lived reality. Our answer may vary based on who we’re talking to.

Who do people say that we are really? The question, then, becomes less about the self-image we project and more about how we are received by, and how we treat others.   

—Eric Clayton is a senior communications manager at the Jesuit Conference.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, from the start
You invite ordinary people to come to where you live.
When they come, you welcome them
and call them to labor and rejoice with you.
You are the most beautiful among all men,
and I hardly believe you want me for your friend.
You are powerful, Lord.
Draw me more and more into your friendship
and lead me along the way you took with friends.

—Joseph Tetlow, SJ


Please share the Good Word with your friends!

February 21, 2020

Jas 2: 14-24, 26

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” 

Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder. Do you want to be shown, you senseless person, that faith apart from works is barren? Was not our ancestor Abraham justified by works when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was brought to completion by the works. 

Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead.

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

Faith leading to action

The letter of James exhorts us to take action. Written in blunt language, the letter asks what use our faith is if that faith doesn’t lead to good given to those around us, especially those who are justly due that goodness. The letter, like a good poker player calling a bluff, demands that we show the liveliness of our faith in the good work we do.

In service of the good work we must do is discernment. God right now is acting to remake the world to share more fully in God’s goodness. So, discern! God is at work and wills you to join him. Pay attention to your desires: in what ways is God calling you to share your goodness with those in need around you?

James Kennedy, SJ, is a Jesuit of the Midwest Province teaching history at Marquette University High School in Milwaukee, WI.

Prayer

As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves—goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying What I do is me: for that I came.

I say more: the just man justices;
Keeps grace: that keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is—
Chríst—for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces.

—Gerard Manley Hopkins, SJ


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February 20, 2020

Jas 2: 1-9

My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Have a seat here, please,” while to the one who is poor you say, “Stand there,” or, “Sit at my feet,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? 

Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who oppress you? Is it not they who drag you into court? Is it not they who blaspheme the excellent name that was invoked over you?

You do well if you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you show partiality, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.

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.

Holding up a mirror to our choices

Sometimes, the old-fashioned language and complex theological concepts of Scripture can make the Bible difficult to understand. Not so with the Letter of St. James, which has been appearing in the lectionary this week. I love the plain way James lays down the law, challenging his readers to treat those on the margins of society with honor and dignity. My initial response to today’s first reading was, “Right on, James. You tell those hypocrites who judge others based on wealth or appearance.” But I must hold up the passage as a mirror: How am I doing at loving the poor? Would James see my daily life choices and think I was living the Gospel? Am I really what Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ, called a “man for others”? Perhaps sometimes, but not as consistently as I’d like. I still waste food and money, I turn away from a beggar at the subway station. The challenge of St. James is a stark one for all of us.

—Mike Jordan Laskey is the Senior Communications Director of the Jesuit Conference in Washington DC and an alum of Contemplative Leaders in Action in Philadelphia.

Prayer

Loving God,

Help me to see your face in the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the ill, the imprisoned.

When I’m tempted to think of myself as better than the poor, help me to imitate your special love for those who have been pushed to the peripheries of society.

Give me the zeal St. James had for lifting up my oppressed and beaten-down sisters and brothers. Give me the strength to work to change social structures that target the poor.

I pray this through Christ, Our Lord, amen.

—Mike Jordan Laskey


Please share the Good Word with your friends!

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February 29, 2020

Lk 5: 27-32

After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up, left everything, and followed him. Then Levi gave a great banquet for him in his house; and there was a large crowd of tax collectors and others sitting at the table with them. 

The Pharisees and their scribes were complaining to his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus answered, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance.”

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 conversion

Three distinct and perhaps contradictory themes emerge from this short passage: simplicity, extravagance and healing. Levi suddenly embraces a life of austerity, leaving everything behind to follow Jesus. A tough pill to swallow: I find myself less eager to abandon my own comforts and security.

But wait: Levi hasn’t really abandoned all of his stuff, one might say. He’s put it at the disposal of Jesus and those he’s come to serve. What a great banquet!  

It’s too easy, though, to simply say that my stuff is good so long as I use it for others. (I have a cluttered basement that would argue differently.) Rather, Jesus invites us to conversion, to heal our broken relationships with material comforts and security.

We are called to live intentionally, to take what we need, recognizing that all things are God’s things—and God’s things are for all people.  

—Eric Clayton is a senior communications manager at the Jesuit Conference.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, open our hearts so that we may continually turn to you.  May this conversion make us more aware of the needs of our brothers and sisters around us, so that we can respond generously to their needs out of love.  Amen.

—The Jesuit Prayer team


Please share the Good Word with your friends!

February 28, 2020

Is 58: 1-9a

Shout out, do not hold back! Lift up your voice like a trumpet! Announce to my people their rebellion, to the house of Jacob their sins. Yet day after day they seek me and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that practiced righteousness and did not forsake the ordinance of their God; they ask of me righteous judgments, they delight to draw near to God.

“Why do we fast, but you do not see? Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?” Look, you serve your own interest on your fast day, and oppress all your workers. Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to strike with a wicked fist. Such fasting as you do today will not make your voice heard on high. Is such the fast that I choose, a day to humble oneself? Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush, and to lie in sackcloth and ashes? Will you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord? 

Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?

Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am. 

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.

God is here among us

After Adam eats of the fruit of the tree in Genesis, he hides himself from God. God comes through the garden, seeking Adam and asking “where are you?” We might feel the desire to turn that question to God. We look throughout the world and see all manner of hurt. We think of friends and loved ones who are sick, who are in broken and harmful situations that they cannot escape from and we ask God “where are you?” We look at our lives, we see our own thwarted desires and disappointment and ask God “where are you?” We wonder if God, like Adam in the garden, is hiding from us in shame.

Today’s first reading from Isaiah gives us an answer: when we help people be free, when we feed and clothe and shelter those in need, when we make peace and share justice, God will cry to us: “Here I am!” In other words, when we let God use us to bring the Kingdom to people, we won’t have to ask God “where are you?” Instead, we will know from the good that we do that our God is here with us.

James Kennedy, SJ, is a Jesuit of the Midwest Province teaching history at Marquette University High School in Milwaukee, WI.

Prayer

God,
give us minds to know the good,
mouths to speak the truth,
and hearts to do beautiful deeds for your kingdom.
Amen.

—James Kennedy, SJ


Please share the Good Word with your friends!

February 27, 2020

Lk 9: 22-25

“The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” Then he said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 

For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves?

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.

Nonstop self-giving love

I learned a whole lot about “taking up my cross daily” during a two-week period around New Year’s when a slow-moving stomach bug ripped its way through our house, taking down, in order, our toddler, me, our pre-schooler and my wife. (Our newborn was spared as of this writing.) Whether it was holding the sickness bucket in front of the kiddos or watching “Sesame Street” at midnight, my time wasn’t my own, my body wasn’t my own, my life wasn’t my own. All this led my wife to observe that parenting is definitely making us better people – despite some personal lapses into impatience and frustration. Raising little ones is a nonstop exercise in self-giving love, which Christ crucified modeled for us par excellence. I think this is one of the great opportunities of Lent: It’s a chance to clear out some of the spiritual cobwebs and to recommit to loving God and each other without holding anything back.

—Mike Jordan Laskey is the Senior Communications Director of the Jesuit Conference in Washington DC and an alum of Contemplative Leaders in Action in Philadelphia.

Prayer

Loving God,

On this feast of the English Jesuit martyr Blessed Roger Filcock, we pray for the strength to live our faith with similar boldness and devotion.

We offer the same words of prayer Blessed Roger spoke after witnessing the execution of a fellow priest and ask for his intercession: “Pray for me to our Lord, whose presence you now enjoy, that I too may faithfully run my course.”

Martyrdom is unlikely for most all of us today, but we continue to ask for the grace to carry out God’s will in all we do and say, even when it is most difficult.

We pray this through Christ, Our Lord, Amen.

—Mike Jordan Laskey


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February 26, 2020

Ash Wednesday

2 Cor 5:20-6:2

So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. For he says, “At an acceptable time I have listened to you, and on a day of salvation I have helped you.” See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation!

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 the face of mercy

It’s Ash Wednesday.  We are, once again, invited into the Lenten practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. I really love being on a Catholic, Jesuit campus on Ash Wednesday. All the usual classes, meetings, sights, and sounds are going on—but then there’s this palpable sense of shared experience.  There’s an unstated sense of our collective sinfulness—and shared redemption. Like Pope Francis has said of himself—we are loved sinners. And churches are so full on Ash Wednesday—what a gift! 

Today’s reading from Corinthians reminds us that we are ambassadors for Christ.  I wonder what it would be like if each of us made a conscious decision this Lent, to reach out to someone that we don’t see at church at other times of the year? Not to guilt them back into returning, but as an expression of hospitality and welcome. Could God be calling each of us to be the face of mercy?

—Kristi Gonsalves-McCabe is the Chief of Staff in the Office of the Provost at Regis University.

Prayer

God of mercy, please open my heart to those near me that are most in need of your tender embrace. Set my heart on fire with the desire to do your will.  Amen.

—Kristi Gonsalves-McCabe


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February 25, 2020

Mk 9: 30-37

Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. 

For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.

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.

Being Sacraments

We are sacraments for one another. When we open our hearts to welcome, appreciate, and love another person, we encounter God in them, and they encounter God in us.

However, like the disciples in today’s Gospel, when we are so full of ourselves and our own concerns for power and prestige, there’s little room for God to become present to us or to those around us.

When we interact with family, co-workers, classmates, friends, or strangers, rather than asking What can I gain from this person?, Jesus invites us to ask: How can I appreciate and love this person? 

Yes, this kind of living may lead, as it did for Jesus, to suffering. But wouldn’t we rather live, rejoice, and suffer together than succeed (or fail) alone? 

How can you encounter other people today as the sacrament that they are? How can you be a sacrament, revealing God to them?

—Thomas Bambrick, SJ, is a Jesuit scholastic of the Midwest Province studying at the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University in Berkeley, CA.

Prayer

Jesus, our companion and our model,
help us to be sacraments for each other—
encountering God and revealing God
through our welcome, appreciation, and love—
just as you were and are a sacrament for us.

—Thomas Bambrick, SJ


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February 24, 2020

Jas 3: 13-18

Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. 

For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.

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 with wisdom from above

“Whatever possessed you to do that?!”   I’ve heard it before- when I’ve done something surprisingly idiotic, mean-spirited, or rude.  Certainly it was not wisdom from above. Once I skipped school on a dare, once I snuck out with a boy my parents disapproved of.  More recently, I can recall making a barbed remark to sting someone I love, or turning away from someone in need because I was preoccupied with my own desires.  Or perhaps those times I enthusiastically got involved spreading ill will toward distant or vague “others” who don’t agree with me or think like me.

Knowing the consolations that come from being in sync with God’s plan for me (God’s knowing my true self and who I could be), how do I seek today to be more gentle, to cultivate peace?

—Donna K. Becher, M.S.  is an associate spiritual director intern at the West Virginia Institute for Spirituality, Charleston, West Virginia.  Her training is rooted in the Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola.

Prayer

Dear God, you have formed me and you know me.   Help me today to be the best I can be, the real me, without guile or malice.  “One thing I ask, this alone I seek- to dwell in the house of the Lord all my days.” 

—Based on Psalm 27


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February 23, 2020

Mt 5: 38-48

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 

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

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

Called to loving action

As a child hearing today’s Gospel, my attention always focused mistakenly on Christ’s line, “An eye for an eye . . .,” rather than its main point about loving our enemies. I remember an interminable safety lecture from Sr. John Michael Richie, S.L., our first grade teacher, before our excited class was allowed to first take sharpened pencils in hand. Though Sister’s warnings underscored the ghastly outcome should we injure ourselves or another, the prospect of losing one’s eye seemed remote. I thought: “People in the Old Testament actually took out people’s eyes?! Whew! No wonder Jesus had to say something!”

In truth, “an eye for an eye,” illustrated the “law of retaliation” in the code of the Ancient Near East. It was meant to keep retaliation in check and encourage just proportionate response to aggression. Even with this tempered understanding of the text, however, Jesus is not satisfied, and neither should we be. Jesus’ message reminds us we are called not to mere passivity when facing an adversary, but to loving action. On the eve of Lent, the Gospel counsels that in seeking understanding in disagreement, in extending mercy to one with whom we quarrel, lies the means of true “perfection.”

—Fr. William T. Sheahan, SJ, is a Jesuit of the Central and Southern Province and serves as rector of the Rockhurst Jesuit Community in Kansas City, MO.

Prayer

Heavenly Father, you challenge me to love my enemies. I cannot love like this without your help. Unite me to your heart. Forgive me for labeling others an “enemy” simply out of disagreement or injured feelings. Expand my capacity for love and forgiveness. Grant me your compassion. Amen

—The Jesuit Prayer team


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February 22, 2020

Chair of St. Peter

Mt 16: 13-19

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” 

And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed 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.

Who are we?

Jesus’ question—“Who do you say that I am?”—has a straight-forward answer: “The Son of the living God.” As modern-day readers, it’s obvious. The question almost feels condescending, as though Jesus is checking in to make sure his followers have been paying attention.

But what if I put myself in the story as Jesus? What if I ask the question of my friends and family? How do they answer? Am I a father, husband, teacher, writer?

I’m ever mindful that this question of identity can be sliced in dozens of ways—even more so as we project images of ourselves across social media that may hardly resemble lived reality. Our answer may vary based on who we’re talking to.

Who do people say that we are really? The question, then, becomes less about the self-image we project and more about how we are received by, and how we treat others.   

—Eric Clayton is a senior communications manager at the Jesuit Conference.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, from the start
You invite ordinary people to come to where you live.
When they come, you welcome them
and call them to labor and rejoice with you.
You are the most beautiful among all men,
and I hardly believe you want me for your friend.
You are powerful, Lord.
Draw me more and more into your friendship
and lead me along the way you took with friends.

—Joseph Tetlow, SJ


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February 21, 2020

Jas 2: 14-24, 26

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” 

Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder. Do you want to be shown, you senseless person, that faith apart from works is barren? Was not our ancestor Abraham justified by works when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was brought to completion by the works. 

Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead.

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

Faith leading to action

The letter of James exhorts us to take action. Written in blunt language, the letter asks what use our faith is if that faith doesn’t lead to good given to those around us, especially those who are justly due that goodness. The letter, like a good poker player calling a bluff, demands that we show the liveliness of our faith in the good work we do.

In service of the good work we must do is discernment. God right now is acting to remake the world to share more fully in God’s goodness. So, discern! God is at work and wills you to join him. Pay attention to your desires: in what ways is God calling you to share your goodness with those in need around you?

James Kennedy, SJ, is a Jesuit of the Midwest Province teaching history at Marquette University High School in Milwaukee, WI.

Prayer

As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves—goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying What I do is me: for that I came.

I say more: the just man justices;
Keeps grace: that keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is—
Chríst—for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces.

—Gerard Manley Hopkins, SJ


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February 20, 2020

Jas 2: 1-9

My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Have a seat here, please,” while to the one who is poor you say, “Stand there,” or, “Sit at my feet,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? 

Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who oppress you? Is it not they who drag you into court? Is it not they who blaspheme the excellent name that was invoked over you?

You do well if you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you show partiality, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.

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.

Holding up a mirror to our choices

Sometimes, the old-fashioned language and complex theological concepts of Scripture can make the Bible difficult to understand. Not so with the Letter of St. James, which has been appearing in the lectionary this week. I love the plain way James lays down the law, challenging his readers to treat those on the margins of society with honor and dignity. My initial response to today’s first reading was, “Right on, James. You tell those hypocrites who judge others based on wealth or appearance.” But I must hold up the passage as a mirror: How am I doing at loving the poor? Would James see my daily life choices and think I was living the Gospel? Am I really what Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ, called a “man for others”? Perhaps sometimes, but not as consistently as I’d like. I still waste food and money, I turn away from a beggar at the subway station. The challenge of St. James is a stark one for all of us.

—Mike Jordan Laskey is the Senior Communications Director of the Jesuit Conference in Washington DC and an alum of Contemplative Leaders in Action in Philadelphia.

Prayer

Loving God,

Help me to see your face in the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the ill, the imprisoned.

When I’m tempted to think of myself as better than the poor, help me to imitate your special love for those who have been pushed to the peripheries of society.

Give me the zeal St. James had for lifting up my oppressed and beaten-down sisters and brothers. Give me the strength to work to change social structures that target the poor.

I pray this through Christ, Our Lord, amen.

—Mike Jordan Laskey


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