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August 25, 2019

Lk 13: 22-30

Jesus went through one town and village after another, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem.

Someone asked him, “Lord, will only a few be saved?” He said to them,“Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able. When once the owner of the house has got up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then in reply he will say to you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ 

Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ But he will say, ‘I do not know where you come from; go away from me, all you evildoers!’ There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrown out. 

Then people will come from east and west, from north and south, and will eat in the kingdom of God. Indeed, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”

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.

Encountering Christ in a personal way

How tempting it is to treat religion as a realm of abstract, theoretical questions, such as the one posed in today’s Gospel: “Lord, will only a few be saved?” It is a question that, not only in Jesus’ day but even down to our own, has consistently preoccupied people and sparked some of the most rancorous of debates. But notice how Jesus responds, by refusing to accept the impersonal framing of the question. What is at stake is the questioner’s own salvation. “Strive to enter through the narrow door,” Jesus replies. Because salvation consists of being drawn into personal communion with the Father, Son and Spirit, the Son comes into the world so that we might encounter him in a direct, personal way. 

Those who insist on standing outside this encounter with Jesus may well have lots to say about Christianity, but it always has an empty ring to it. They are always one step removed from Christianity, because they are one step removed from Christ: “We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.” But the Son wants us to drink him in and feed on him! Not only can we dare to hope that all will at last do so, we can offer our whole lives to the Lord in service of this end.

—Fr. Matthew Baugh, SJ, is a member of the USA Central and Southern Province and serves as the associate pastor of St. Francis Xavier College Church in St. Louis.

Prayer

Dear Lord, grant me the grace not to be deaf to your call, but prompt and diligent in fulfilling your most holy will. (Adapted from St Ignatius, Spiritual Exercises, #91)

—Fr. Matthew Baugh, SJ


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August 24, 2019

St. Bartholomew

Jn 1: 45-51

Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” 

Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.”And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”

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.

Don’t let assumptions get in the way

“Can anything good come from Nazareth”? What a comment about our Savior! Jesus had not done anything yet, but an assumption was made about him, his character, and his possible lack of contribution to the society of his day. Jesus did not let this comment deter his mission to be the sacrificial lamb for each of us. What a great gift.

These types of assumptions are often still made about others who may not be from well-off communities. Jesus had not done anything yet, but he ultimately did. Providing opportunities for others who come from little economic means should be our focus in order to help fulfill what God has in store for them to do.

Will you give someone the chance today to do what she/he has not done yet? Or will you assume the worst?

Dr. Phyllis Graham-Dickerson is a professor and assistant dean at Regis University, Rueckert-Hartman College for Health Professions, Loretto Heights School of Nursing for seven years, with a tenure of 17 years on the nursing faculty.

Prayer

Heavenly Father, help me to see the potential in all people. Amen.

—Phyllis Graham-Dickerson


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August 23, 2019

Mt 22: 34-40

When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. 

And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

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 does it mean to love?

If you had to pick out a single, easy-to-memorize mission statement for Christians, drawing from today’s Gospel would be a good bet: Love God with everything you have and love your neighbor as yourself. The only problem is that the word “love” is used so much and in so many different contexts it has lost almost all of its meaning. (For instance, I love God, I love my family, I love the New York Yankees, I love pizza…)

What might Jesus mean when he says love? He doesn’t spell it out explicitly in this passage from Matthew, but when “the Great Commandment” appears in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus follows it up with the Parable of the Good Samaritan. From that famous story, we can reverse-engineer a definition of what love means to Jesus: concrete actions of compassion, reaching out to those who are suffering. 

—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 us to remember what we are called to do, in the words of Thomas Merton: “Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. That is not our business and, in fact, it is nobody’s business. What we are asked to do is to love, and this love itself will render both ourselves and our neighbors worthy if anything can.” 

—Mike Jordan Laskey, Thomas Merton quote


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August 22, 2019

Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Mt 22: 1-14

Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. 

Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’ But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. 

The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests. “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless.

Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.”

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.

Accepting God’s invitation

What does it mean to accept an invitation? At many weddings I’ve attended, the celebrant has pointed out that by celebrating with the couple, friends and family offer their love and support, both on the wedding day and through the years ahead. Accepting the invitation isn’t just about the party, but about what we offer from the heart.

Today, on the Memorial of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we remember Mary’s “yes” to God. Without knowing the difficulties that lay ahead, she had the faith to accept God’s invitation. Unlike most of the wedding guests in the parable, she accepts the invitation with joy and offers her whole life in response. 

Beth Franzosa teaches in the Religious Studies department at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School

Prayer

O God, who made the Mother of your Son to be our Mother and our Queen, graciously grant that, sustained by her intercession, we may attain in the heavenly Kingdom the glory promised to your children. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

—Collect prayer from today’s Mass


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August 21, 2019

St. Pius X

Mt 20: 1-16

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace;and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. 

When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why are you standing here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’ When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’ 

When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ 

But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

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’s abundant generosity

It seems so unfair that the latecomers earned the same as the early birds.  The injustice! That’s our human nature reaction. “I’m being cheated; someone else is getting a greater share than I!” Scripture scholar Nicholas King, SJ, proposes a possible response to these emotions. “God is utterly generous (generosity is the quality that defines God), and we do not lose out because God has been equally generous to those undeserving people next door”. 

This parable will always remain something of a stumbling block if our hearts are not in line with the heart of Jesus. Apparent inequality will always smack of injustice unless we believe in God’s generosity and overflowing compassion. The Lord sees how little we deserve, but he wants to hold nothing back, if only we open our hands to receive.

—Kathy England is a Pastoral Associate at St. Francis Xavier Church in Cincinnati, OH.

Prayer

Prayer for Generosity

Lord, teach me to be generous.
Teach me to serve you as you deserve;
to give and not to count the cost;
to fight and not to heed the wounds;
to toil and not to seek for rest;
to labor and not to ask for any reward
save that of knowing that I am doing your will.

—St. Ignatius of Loyola


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August 20, 2019

St. Bernard

Mt 19: 23-30

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astounded and said, “Then who can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible.” 

Then Peter said in reply, “Look, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man is seated on the throne of his glory, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold, and will inherit eternal life.

But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.

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.

Stretched to greater freedom

Peter asks, “What then will we have?” Has Peter really left everything behind or has he simply traded it in, anticipating something in return?

The distinction between “leaving” and “trading” bothers me because I often find myself asking Peter’s question. When I’ve left behind homes, communities, friends, and jobs that I love, I usually manage to make it through because I’m bargaining with God in my prayer for a fair rate of exchange on what I’ve left.

Time and grace can make us a little more free, but I suspect that even my best efforts will never make me completely free. Maybe that’s why Jesus reminds us today about what we can do (the possible) and what God can do (the impossible). Where in my life do I need to stretch myself to greater freedom today? And where do I need to trust God to do what I can’t?

Fr. Matt Spotts, SJ, is a recently ordained priest of the Midwest Jesuits serving as an associate pastor at Ss. Joseph-St. Francis Xavier parish in Wilmette, IL as well as doing pastoral ministry at Loyola Academy in Wilmette.

Prayer

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding,
and my entire will,
All I have and call my own.
You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.
Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace,
that is enough for me.

—Suscipe of St. Ignatius


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August 19, 2019

Mt 19: 16-22

Then someone came to him and said, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” 

He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother; also, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 

The young man said to him, “I have kept all these; what do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” 

When the young man heard this word, he went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

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

Jesus offers what we deeply desire

It is too  easy to get distracted by the end of this passage about giving up everything.  I believe an essential detail here is that this passage begins with the young man seeking out Jesus.  Jesus is not going around, unprompted, demanding people give away everything. This young man asks.  He wants more.  And to get what he deeply desires, will demand something major of him.  Something he may not be quite ready for. But I like to imagine him going home, staying up all night thinking, and then just showing up quietly a week or so later having done what Jesus said, because he realizes he is right.   Jesus knows what we deeply desire and how we can actually get it. Jesus does not want us to be half satisfied, and therefore half measures will not help us. So what do we deeply desire, and how might Jesus be telling us we can have it?   

Megan Agliano teaches in religious studies at Brophy College Preparatory in Phoenix, AZ.  

Prayer

Jesus, you know my deepest desires better than I do.  Help me to listen, understand and follow. Amen  

—Megan Agliano


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August 18, 2019

Lk 12: 49-53

“I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

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.

Casting fire into our hearts

In The Divine Comedy, Satan is frozen solid at the bottommost pit of hell, which Dante envisions as the iciest place in the cosmos. And in The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis depicts the reign of the White Witch as one of endless winter. If in the popular imagination, hell is closely associated with fire and heat, these literary giants propose exactly the opposite view, for reasons that help make sense of Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel. “I came to cast fire on the earth!”

Heat is what gets things moving. It is the kinetic energy that enables molecules fixed solidly in place to become fluid again and thus able to take on new and different forms. In one sense, hell is the precise opposite: it is a refusal to budge, a remaining locked in place. There is a kind of “peace” in such a state, as anyone who has experienced the tranquility of a snow-covered landscape knows. But it is ultimately a lifeless one, as the austerity of the arctic tundra makes clear.

Jesus seeks to cast fire in our hearts to melt away our disordered attachments, the things we cling to that freeze us in place. What are those icy areas of my own life?

—Fr. Matthew Baugh, SJ, is a member of the USA Central and Southern Province and serves as the associate pastor of St. Francis Xavier (College) Church in St. Louis.

Prayer

I believe, O Lord; but strengthen my faith…
Heart of Jesus, I love Thee; but increase my love.
Heart of Jesus, I trust in Thee; but give greater vigor to my confidence.
Heart of Jesus, I give my heart to Thee; but so enclose it in Thee that it may never be separated from Thee.
Heart of Jesus, I am all Thine; but take care of my promise so that I may be able to put it in practice even unto the complete sacrifice of my life.

—Blessed Miguel Pro, SJ


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August 17, 2018

Mt 19: 13-15

Then little children were being brought to him in order that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples spoke sternly to those who brought them; but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.” And he laid his hands on them and went on his way.

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.

Living by a child’s framework

Children are such special gifts to each of us and to the world. The way they come to a space is so honest, innocent and caring. “Cura Personalis” (care for the whole person) is embedded into the core of their being. Accepting others without judgment is the framework they use in life. How beautiful our world would be if we lived by children’s framework.

Jesus tells us to come like children. If we did that, what a different world this would be. Then, the kingdom of heaven would belong to us. The question I pose today for you is: How do we transition to this? How do we prevent our children from assimilating to the adult way of living which is not always encompassing “Cura Personalis.”

Dr. Phyllis Graham-Dickerson is a professor and assistant dean at Regis University, Rueckert-Hartman College for Health Professions, Loretto Heights School of Nursing for seven years, with a tenure of 17 years on the nursing faculty.

Prayer

Heavenly Father, please grant us the wisdom and knowledge to move to the ways of a child. Amen.

—Dr. Phyllis Graham-Dickerson


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August 16, 2019

Mt 19: 3-12

Some Pharisees came to him, and to test him they asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that the one who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” They said to him, “Why then did Moses command us to give a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her?” He said to them, “It was because you were so hard-hearted that Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another commits adultery.” His disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” But he said to them, “Not everyone can accept this teaching, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.”

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.

Choosing the good of the other

In her book The Cloister Walk, Kathleen Norris quotes a monk who lived in a small monastery in Colorado: “Our biggest problem is that each man here had a mother who fried potatoes in a different way.” I have never been a monk, but I am married, and the quote rings true to me as a husband. As Jesus says in today’s Gospel, a married couple becomes one flesh, which happens in a myriad of ways. We bring all our experiences to a marriage and quickly realize the ways we grew up doing things like decorating the Christmas tree, watching TV every night or rarely watching it, or cooking potatoes can be sources of tension and conflict.

“One-flesh” marriage means choosing the good of the other over my own biases and my commitment to being right all the time. It means big and small sacrifices, over and over, every single day.

—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

Almighty and eternal God,
You blessed the union of married couples
so that they might reflect the union of Christ with his Church:
look with kindness on them.
Renew their marriage covenant,
increase your love in them,
and strengthen their bond of peace so that, with their children,
they may always rejoice in the gift of your blessing.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

—Prayer for Married Couples © United States Conference of Catholic Bishops


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August 25, 2019

Lk 13: 22-30

Jesus went through one town and village after another, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem.

Someone asked him, “Lord, will only a few be saved?” He said to them,“Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able. When once the owner of the house has got up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then in reply he will say to you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ 

Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ But he will say, ‘I do not know where you come from; go away from me, all you evildoers!’ There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrown out. 

Then people will come from east and west, from north and south, and will eat in the kingdom of God. Indeed, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”

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.

Encountering Christ in a personal way

How tempting it is to treat religion as a realm of abstract, theoretical questions, such as the one posed in today’s Gospel: “Lord, will only a few be saved?” It is a question that, not only in Jesus’ day but even down to our own, has consistently preoccupied people and sparked some of the most rancorous of debates. But notice how Jesus responds, by refusing to accept the impersonal framing of the question. What is at stake is the questioner’s own salvation. “Strive to enter through the narrow door,” Jesus replies. Because salvation consists of being drawn into personal communion with the Father, Son and Spirit, the Son comes into the world so that we might encounter him in a direct, personal way. 

Those who insist on standing outside this encounter with Jesus may well have lots to say about Christianity, but it always has an empty ring to it. They are always one step removed from Christianity, because they are one step removed from Christ: “We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.” But the Son wants us to drink him in and feed on him! Not only can we dare to hope that all will at last do so, we can offer our whole lives to the Lord in service of this end.

—Fr. Matthew Baugh, SJ, is a member of the USA Central and Southern Province and serves as the associate pastor of St. Francis Xavier College Church in St. Louis.

Prayer

Dear Lord, grant me the grace not to be deaf to your call, but prompt and diligent in fulfilling your most holy will. (Adapted from St Ignatius, Spiritual Exercises, #91)

—Fr. Matthew Baugh, SJ


Please share the Good Word with your friends!

August 24, 2019

St. Bartholomew

Jn 1: 45-51

Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” 

Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.”And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”

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.

Don’t let assumptions get in the way

“Can anything good come from Nazareth”? What a comment about our Savior! Jesus had not done anything yet, but an assumption was made about him, his character, and his possible lack of contribution to the society of his day. Jesus did not let this comment deter his mission to be the sacrificial lamb for each of us. What a great gift.

These types of assumptions are often still made about others who may not be from well-off communities. Jesus had not done anything yet, but he ultimately did. Providing opportunities for others who come from little economic means should be our focus in order to help fulfill what God has in store for them to do.

Will you give someone the chance today to do what she/he has not done yet? Or will you assume the worst?

Dr. Phyllis Graham-Dickerson is a professor and assistant dean at Regis University, Rueckert-Hartman College for Health Professions, Loretto Heights School of Nursing for seven years, with a tenure of 17 years on the nursing faculty.

Prayer

Heavenly Father, help me to see the potential in all people. Amen.

—Phyllis Graham-Dickerson


Please share the Good Word with your friends!

August 23, 2019

Mt 22: 34-40

When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. 

And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

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 does it mean to love?

If you had to pick out a single, easy-to-memorize mission statement for Christians, drawing from today’s Gospel would be a good bet: Love God with everything you have and love your neighbor as yourself. The only problem is that the word “love” is used so much and in so many different contexts it has lost almost all of its meaning. (For instance, I love God, I love my family, I love the New York Yankees, I love pizza…)

What might Jesus mean when he says love? He doesn’t spell it out explicitly in this passage from Matthew, but when “the Great Commandment” appears in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus follows it up with the Parable of the Good Samaritan. From that famous story, we can reverse-engineer a definition of what love means to Jesus: concrete actions of compassion, reaching out to those who are suffering. 

—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 us to remember what we are called to do, in the words of Thomas Merton: “Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. That is not our business and, in fact, it is nobody’s business. What we are asked to do is to love, and this love itself will render both ourselves and our neighbors worthy if anything can.” 

—Mike Jordan Laskey, Thomas Merton quote


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August 22, 2019

Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Mt 22: 1-14

Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. 

Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’ But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. 

The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests. “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless.

Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.”

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.

Accepting God’s invitation

What does it mean to accept an invitation? At many weddings I’ve attended, the celebrant has pointed out that by celebrating with the couple, friends and family offer their love and support, both on the wedding day and through the years ahead. Accepting the invitation isn’t just about the party, but about what we offer from the heart.

Today, on the Memorial of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we remember Mary’s “yes” to God. Without knowing the difficulties that lay ahead, she had the faith to accept God’s invitation. Unlike most of the wedding guests in the parable, she accepts the invitation with joy and offers her whole life in response. 

Beth Franzosa teaches in the Religious Studies department at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School

Prayer

O God, who made the Mother of your Son to be our Mother and our Queen, graciously grant that, sustained by her intercession, we may attain in the heavenly Kingdom the glory promised to your children. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

—Collect prayer from today’s Mass


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August 21, 2019

St. Pius X

Mt 20: 1-16

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace;and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. 

When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why are you standing here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’ When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’ 

When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ 

But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

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’s abundant generosity

It seems so unfair that the latecomers earned the same as the early birds.  The injustice! That’s our human nature reaction. “I’m being cheated; someone else is getting a greater share than I!” Scripture scholar Nicholas King, SJ, proposes a possible response to these emotions. “God is utterly generous (generosity is the quality that defines God), and we do not lose out because God has been equally generous to those undeserving people next door”. 

This parable will always remain something of a stumbling block if our hearts are not in line with the heart of Jesus. Apparent inequality will always smack of injustice unless we believe in God’s generosity and overflowing compassion. The Lord sees how little we deserve, but he wants to hold nothing back, if only we open our hands to receive.

—Kathy England is a Pastoral Associate at St. Francis Xavier Church in Cincinnati, OH.

Prayer

Prayer for Generosity

Lord, teach me to be generous.
Teach me to serve you as you deserve;
to give and not to count the cost;
to fight and not to heed the wounds;
to toil and not to seek for rest;
to labor and not to ask for any reward
save that of knowing that I am doing your will.

—St. Ignatius of Loyola


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August 20, 2019

St. Bernard

Mt 19: 23-30

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astounded and said, “Then who can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible.” 

Then Peter said in reply, “Look, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man is seated on the throne of his glory, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold, and will inherit eternal life.

But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.

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.

Stretched to greater freedom

Peter asks, “What then will we have?” Has Peter really left everything behind or has he simply traded it in, anticipating something in return?

The distinction between “leaving” and “trading” bothers me because I often find myself asking Peter’s question. When I’ve left behind homes, communities, friends, and jobs that I love, I usually manage to make it through because I’m bargaining with God in my prayer for a fair rate of exchange on what I’ve left.

Time and grace can make us a little more free, but I suspect that even my best efforts will never make me completely free. Maybe that’s why Jesus reminds us today about what we can do (the possible) and what God can do (the impossible). Where in my life do I need to stretch myself to greater freedom today? And where do I need to trust God to do what I can’t?

Fr. Matt Spotts, SJ, is a recently ordained priest of the Midwest Jesuits serving as an associate pastor at Ss. Joseph-St. Francis Xavier parish in Wilmette, IL as well as doing pastoral ministry at Loyola Academy in Wilmette.

Prayer

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding,
and my entire will,
All I have and call my own.
You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.
Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace,
that is enough for me.

—Suscipe of St. Ignatius


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August 19, 2019

Mt 19: 16-22

Then someone came to him and said, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” 

He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother; also, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 

The young man said to him, “I have kept all these; what do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” 

When the young man heard this word, he went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

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

Jesus offers what we deeply desire

It is too  easy to get distracted by the end of this passage about giving up everything.  I believe an essential detail here is that this passage begins with the young man seeking out Jesus.  Jesus is not going around, unprompted, demanding people give away everything. This young man asks.  He wants more.  And to get what he deeply desires, will demand something major of him.  Something he may not be quite ready for. But I like to imagine him going home, staying up all night thinking, and then just showing up quietly a week or so later having done what Jesus said, because he realizes he is right.   Jesus knows what we deeply desire and how we can actually get it. Jesus does not want us to be half satisfied, and therefore half measures will not help us. So what do we deeply desire, and how might Jesus be telling us we can have it?   

Megan Agliano teaches in religious studies at Brophy College Preparatory in Phoenix, AZ.  

Prayer

Jesus, you know my deepest desires better than I do.  Help me to listen, understand and follow. Amen  

—Megan Agliano


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August 18, 2019

Lk 12: 49-53

“I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

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.

Casting fire into our hearts

In The Divine Comedy, Satan is frozen solid at the bottommost pit of hell, which Dante envisions as the iciest place in the cosmos. And in The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis depicts the reign of the White Witch as one of endless winter. If in the popular imagination, hell is closely associated with fire and heat, these literary giants propose exactly the opposite view, for reasons that help make sense of Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel. “I came to cast fire on the earth!”

Heat is what gets things moving. It is the kinetic energy that enables molecules fixed solidly in place to become fluid again and thus able to take on new and different forms. In one sense, hell is the precise opposite: it is a refusal to budge, a remaining locked in place. There is a kind of “peace” in such a state, as anyone who has experienced the tranquility of a snow-covered landscape knows. But it is ultimately a lifeless one, as the austerity of the arctic tundra makes clear.

Jesus seeks to cast fire in our hearts to melt away our disordered attachments, the things we cling to that freeze us in place. What are those icy areas of my own life?

—Fr. Matthew Baugh, SJ, is a member of the USA Central and Southern Province and serves as the associate pastor of St. Francis Xavier (College) Church in St. Louis.

Prayer

I believe, O Lord; but strengthen my faith…
Heart of Jesus, I love Thee; but increase my love.
Heart of Jesus, I trust in Thee; but give greater vigor to my confidence.
Heart of Jesus, I give my heart to Thee; but so enclose it in Thee that it may never be separated from Thee.
Heart of Jesus, I am all Thine; but take care of my promise so that I may be able to put it in practice even unto the complete sacrifice of my life.

—Blessed Miguel Pro, SJ


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August 17, 2018

Mt 19: 13-15

Then little children were being brought to him in order that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples spoke sternly to those who brought them; but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.” And he laid his hands on them and went on his way.

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.

Living by a child’s framework

Children are such special gifts to each of us and to the world. The way they come to a space is so honest, innocent and caring. “Cura Personalis” (care for the whole person) is embedded into the core of their being. Accepting others without judgment is the framework they use in life. How beautiful our world would be if we lived by children’s framework.

Jesus tells us to come like children. If we did that, what a different world this would be. Then, the kingdom of heaven would belong to us. The question I pose today for you is: How do we transition to this? How do we prevent our children from assimilating to the adult way of living which is not always encompassing “Cura Personalis.”

Dr. Phyllis Graham-Dickerson is a professor and assistant dean at Regis University, Rueckert-Hartman College for Health Professions, Loretto Heights School of Nursing for seven years, with a tenure of 17 years on the nursing faculty.

Prayer

Heavenly Father, please grant us the wisdom and knowledge to move to the ways of a child. Amen.

—Dr. Phyllis Graham-Dickerson


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August 16, 2019

Mt 19: 3-12

Some Pharisees came to him, and to test him they asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that the one who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” They said to him, “Why then did Moses command us to give a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her?” He said to them, “It was because you were so hard-hearted that Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another commits adultery.” His disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” But he said to them, “Not everyone can accept this teaching, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.”

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.

Choosing the good of the other

In her book The Cloister Walk, Kathleen Norris quotes a monk who lived in a small monastery in Colorado: “Our biggest problem is that each man here had a mother who fried potatoes in a different way.” I have never been a monk, but I am married, and the quote rings true to me as a husband. As Jesus says in today’s Gospel, a married couple becomes one flesh, which happens in a myriad of ways. We bring all our experiences to a marriage and quickly realize the ways we grew up doing things like decorating the Christmas tree, watching TV every night or rarely watching it, or cooking potatoes can be sources of tension and conflict.

“One-flesh” marriage means choosing the good of the other over my own biases and my commitment to being right all the time. It means big and small sacrifices, over and over, every single day.

—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

Almighty and eternal God,
You blessed the union of married couples
so that they might reflect the union of Christ with his Church:
look with kindness on them.
Renew their marriage covenant,
increase your love in them,
and strengthen their bond of peace so that, with their children,
they may always rejoice in the gift of your blessing.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

—Prayer for Married Couples © United States Conference of Catholic Bishops


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