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December 31, 2019

Jn 1: 1-18

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 

But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

(John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’”) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.

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

Christ, the Light of the World

As a photography teacher, I convey to my students that photography is an artform that involves drawing with light. A student of photography has to come to know and love light because light is what shapes and sculpts the subject of one’s photographs.

Today, we hear John testifying to the “true light”, Christ Jesus, who in a way partakes in the activity of shaping and sculpting. Since Christ came into the world, he and his disciples have shaped the centuries in ways that we can name and ways that are hidden to us. Undoubtedly, Christ has shaped and sculpted the world anew.

The invitation for us on this last day of 2019 might be to rest in the light. As we are warmed by the gentleness of the rays, can we ponder and name the many ways we have allowed Christ, the Light of the world, to shape and sculpt us throughout this year?

—Minh Le, SJ, is a Jesuit of the Midwest Province teaching and coaching at Loyola Academy in Wilmette, IL.

Prayer

Longing for light, we wait in darkness
Longing for truth, we turn to You.
Make us Your own, Your holy people
Light for the world to see.

Christ, be our light!
Shine in our hearts.
Shine through the darkness.
Christ, be our light!
Shine in Your church gathered today.

—Excerpt from Christ, Be Our Light! by Bernadette Farrell, © 1993, published by OCP


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December 30, 2019

Lk 2:36-40

There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. 

At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.

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

Waiting for the Messiah

The second chapter of Luke contains the account of the birth of Jesus and the only glimpse we get into his childhood in the Gospels. Here we are introduced to Anna, who we are told was an octogenarian prophetess who spent her life in the temple, devout with prayer and fasting, after losing her husband at a young age.  Anna is rewarded for her lifelong faith by being able to spread the word about Jesus as the Messiah for all those waiting for the Savior and redemption. As an elderly woman who had experienced hardship, disappointment, and a lifetime of wisdom and experience, it would be easy to grow cynical and doubtful about whether the Messiah would ever come. Anna remained hopeful and steadfast and thus when she was blessed to know of Jesus’ arrival, she earned her gift to be able to spread the Good News.

—John LaMantia is a graduate of Fordham University and Saint Ignatius College Prep who is a trial attorney in the service of others. He is on the JFAN Chicago board for the Midwest Jesuits and continues to provide his four children with a Jesuit high school and college education.

Prayer

Lord, no matter our age, experience, or station in life, help us to keep our hearts and minds open and enthusiastic to hope, faith, and trust in your redemption through Jesus Christ. Stoke the fires within us to keep burning steady and bright to give you thanks, praise and glory.

—John LaMantia


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December 29, 2019

Feast of the Holy Family

Mt 2: 13-15, 19-23

Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’ 

Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I have called my son.’

When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.’ 

Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee. There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, ‘He will be called a Nazorean.’

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.

Contemplating the Hidden Life of the Child Jesus

In his Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius Loyola proposes a contemplation on the Hidden Life of Jesus who honored his father and obeyed his mother. The object Ignatius proposes is “the obedience of the Child Jesus to his parents.” Jesus freely accepted his most ordinary, most average family life as normal. He played with the other boys, sat at the feet of the rabbi to prepare for his Bar Mitzvah, hung around Joseph in the workshop, loved family meals, learned to pray from his parents, attended synagogue every Sabbath.

Like me, many retreatants have found imaginative contemplation on our Lord and Savior as the child Jesus very nourishing. They see him with his Mother watching over him, or Joseph teaching him. St. Ignatius was right; all these aspects of his Hidden Life are certainly worth contemplating so that we may attain a more profound loving understanding of Jesus, Our Lord and Savior.

—Fr. Louis McCabe, SJ, is a retreat director at Our Lady of the Oaks Retreat House in Grand Coteau, LA.

Prayer

O God, who were pleased to give us the shining example of the Holy Family, graciously grant that we may imitate Jesus, Mary and Joseph in practicing the virtues of family life in the bonds of love, so that the joy of our home may be a foretaste of life in our Heavenly Home.

—Fr. Louis McCabe, SJ, based on the collect prayer for the Feast of the Holy Family


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December 28, 2019

Feast of the Holy Innocents

Mt 2: 13-18

Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”

When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: “A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.”

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.

Opening our hearts to the innocents 

We used to have a delightful tradition in my community: the youngest novice made three wishes on Holy Innocents Day to be granted to the entire provincial house community. As I was the youngest novice in 1977, I packed those wishes with all sorts of goodies to make sure my Sisters had fun-filled evenings three times in the months to come! 

Our Gospel is a stark contrast to such innocent celebration: little ones slaughtered because of another’s narcissism. Amid our celebration, we are challenged to consider the “innocents” today: marginalized and excluded people, those who live on our streets, unborn children whose lives are ended through abortion, immigrants at our borders, the innocent on death row and so many more with eyes, bellies and hearts filled with hunger for physical and spiritual nourishment.

Today allow your heart to be softened with compassion as you pray for our world.

—Susan Kusz, SND is a Sister of Notre Dame serving as Associate Director of the Jesuit Retreat House on Lake Winnebago in Oshkosh, WI.

Prayer

God of Wisdom, the Holy Innocents witnessed to Jesus by the shedding of their blood. Console the hearts of parents who must watch helplessly when their children are taken from them by death. Fill them with your strength, comfort and courage. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Notre Dame Prays, the Sisters of Notre Dame in the United States


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December 27, 2019

St. John, apostle and evangelist

Jn 20: 1A and 2-8

On the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb,and we do not know where they put him.” So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb. They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first; he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in. 

When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed.

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.

Run with joy to Jesus

I am not a runner. I have a low tolerance for pain, and everytime I’ve tried to run, it doesn’t take long for me to succumb to that voice that tempts me to stop and take a break. I’m actually very good at moseying from one place to another. Why run when I can get there by spending as little energy as possible?

As I place myself in today’s reading, I wonder if the risen Jesus and the empty tomb would have been enough of a reason for me to push past my limits and spend as much energy as possible. Isn’t the risen Christ worth running after?

In this Christmas season, Jesus is born! Am I still running towards the infant Jesus? Or have I already moved on to mosey towards the next thing.

From the crowded manger to the empty tomb, let us run with joy to Jesus.

Joe Nava is a math teacher and 2002 graduate of Jesuit College Preparatory School of Dallas.

Prayer

O come, all ye faithful,
Joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem.
Come and behold Him,
Born the King of Angels!

O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

O, Come, All Ye Faithful, Attr. to John F. Wade, ca. 1711–1786; trans. by Frederick Oakeley, 1802–1880


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December 26, 2019

St. Stephen

Acts 6: 8-10; 7: 54-59

Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and others of those from Cilicia and Asia, stood up and argued with Stephen. But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke.

When they heard these things, they became enraged and ground their teeth at Stephen. But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” 

But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”

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

Listening generously

“But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke.”

These words leap off the page. What an image! An eloquent orator, St. Stephen was so filled with the Holy Spirit that those gathered could not help but hear the good news he delivered.

If you read this line alone, it’s easy to think that God’s truth easily wins the day. But we know, on this feast of St. Stephen’s martyrdom, that though the crowd heard the words he spoke, they could not bear to listen. And so, Stephen becomes our first martyr, and his words are silenced.

Truth does not triumph all by itself. A quick survey of today’s culture reveals as much. Arriving at truth demands honest dialogue, honest listening, and a resistance to the temptation of shutting down views that make us uncomfortable. On this Feast of Stephen, to whom should we lend a more generous ear?   

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

Prayer

Lord Jesus, you gave St. Stephen the strength and courage to speak your truth despite the consequences.  Grant that we, too, can be bold in sharing our faith with the world, through our words or actions, so that all may come to a closer relationship with you.  Amen.

—The Jesuit Prayer team


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December 25, 2019

Nativity of the Lord

Jn 1: 1-18

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 

He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

(John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’”) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.

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

The Gift of the Incarnation

What did you get for Christmas? … What did you give your [spouse, child, parent, boss] for Christmas? These seemingly simple questions can spiral into a dangerous game of gifting one-upmanship. The recipient of a smartwatch is outdone by the recipient of a new car. The parents who gave their child a new bike are outdone by the parents whose child wanted donations to charity, in lieu of gifts. There is nothing wrong with giving or receiving smartwatches, cars, bikes, charitable donations, or any gifts, for that matter. The trouble is that we fail to recognize that today we have received the most precious gift of all – the gift of the Incarnation. 

While the Gospels of Luke and Matthew recount the traditional infancy narrative, John’s Gospel proclaims the Incarnation. “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.” Through the Incarnation, God saves us and makes us his children, showering us with “grace upon grace.” There is nothing in this world that tops that. 

Today, engage your heart and mind in a meditation on the Incarnation, and give thanks to God for this extraordinary gift. 

Jackie Schulte is the Dean of Faculty Formation and a history teacher at Creighton Preparatory School in Omaha, NE.

Prayer

When not only the glimmer of candles, the joy of children, and the fragrance of the Christmas tree
but the heart itself answers God’s childlike word of love with a gracious yes,
then Christmas really takes place, not only in mood, but in the most unalloyed reality.
For this word of the heart is then truly produced by God’s holy grace;
God’s word is then born in our heart, too.
God himself then moves into our heart,
just as he moved into the world in Bethlehem,
just as truly and really, and yet even more intimately.
When the heart itself answers, we really open its gates high and wide,
and God comes and takes possession of our hearts,
just as in the first Christmas he came and took possession of the world.

—Karl Rahner, SJ


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December 24, 2019

Lk 1: 67-79

Then his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke this prophecy: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them. He has raised up a mighty savior for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us. 

Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors, and has remembered his holy covenant, the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham, to grant us that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins. 

By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of 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.

Today, What Fills Our Hearts?

Zachariah, “filled” with the Holy Spirit, proclaims these beautiful words prayerfully to our God. These words are familiar. For the daily practitioners of Morning Prayer, we recite them as the Canticle of Zachariah. Even with a familiarity, they always feel so natural, authentic, and spirited. I can just imagine Zachariah, welling up with the Holy Spirit and speaking with a lightness of being, proclaiming these beautiful words.

On this eve of Christmas, what fills our hearts? What do we want to say to our God, the baby that we find resting in the manger tonight? May we let these words flow from the depths of our being, like that of Zachariah.

—Minh Le, SJ, is a Jesuit of the Midwest Province teaching and coaching at Loyola Academy in Wilmette, IL.

Prayer

Come Holy Spirit,
fill the hearts of your faithful
and kindle in them the fire of your love.
Send forth your Spirit
and they shall be created.
And You shall renew the face of the earth.
Amen.

—Traditional prayer


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December 23, 2019

Lk 1: 57-66

Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him Zechariah after his father. But his mother said, “No; he is to be called John.” They said to her, “None of your relatives has this name.” 

Then they began motioning to his father to find out what name he wanted to give him. He asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And all of them were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue freed, and he began to speak, praising God. Fear came over all their neighbors, and all these things were talked about throughout the entire hill country of Judea. 

All who heard them pondered them and said, “What then will this child become?” For, indeed, the hand of the Lord was with him.

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

Fitting into God’s plan

God’s grace and work in blessing Elizabeth and Zechariah with a child as older parents speaks to our own baptism and how we fit into God’s plan.  Elizabeth chose the name John for her son, which is translated in Hebrew to mean “The Lord is gracious.” God’s plan brought John into the world to later announce the birth of the Saviour, Jesus Christ. 

The story of the birth of John has many similarities to the birth of Jesus. Both were wondrous miracles, unexpected, and heralded with great joy.  As we reflect and await the birth of Jesus this Advent season we should also celebrate the birth of John the Baptist and take a moment to seek wonder, joy, and excitement ourselves to see where we fit into God’s plan.

—John LaMantia is a graduate of Fordham University and Saint Ignatius College Prep who is a trial attorney in the service of others. He is on the JFAN Chicago board for the Midwest Jesuits and continues to provide his four children with a Jesuit high school and college education.

Prayer

Lord, as I look to the remainder of this Advent season, make me aware that you are with me. Show me how to be the person you want me to be and help me discern how I fit into Your plan.

—John LaMantia


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December 22, 2019

Fourth Sunday of Advent

Mt 1: 18-24

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. 

But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 

All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.” When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife.

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.

Angels among us

“The young woman is with child and shall bear a son,.” The angel announced to Mary that she would become the mother of “the Son of the Most High.” An angel appeared to Joseph: “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife.”

Angels still appear in our days. A beautiful grade school friend of my mother, terminally ill, made her own special prayer. “Lord, make all sick people well.” Her mother wished the sun would shine for her sick daughter. The daughter said; “Mom, if you want the sun to shine, it will shine.” At her funeral, the sun broke through for the first time in a week.

When my father was near death, my mother pinned a relic of that angel on his hospital gown. As she was leaving, the sun suddenly flooded her car. At that moment she knew my father would live.

—Fr. Louis McCabe, SJ, is a retreat director at Our Lady of the Oaks Retreat House in Grand Coteau, LA.

Prayer

Hail Mary, full of grace,
the Lord is with you.
Blessed are you among women
and blest is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners now
and at the hour of death.
Amen.

Gentle woman, quiet light,
morning star, so strong and bright,
gentle Mother, peaceful dove,
teach us wisdom; teach us love.

You were chosen by the Father;
you were chosen for the Son.
You were chosen from all women
and for woman, shining one.

Gentle woman, quiet light,
morning star, so strong and bright,
gentle Mother, peaceful dove,
teach us wisdom; teach us love.

Blessed are you among women,
blest in turn all women, too.
Blessed they with peaceful spirits.
Blessed they with gentle hearts.

Hail Mary, Gentle Woman by Carey Landry, © 1975, 1978. Published by OCP Publications.


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December 31, 2019

Jn 1: 1-18

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 

But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

(John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’”) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.

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

Christ, the Light of the World

As a photography teacher, I convey to my students that photography is an artform that involves drawing with light. A student of photography has to come to know and love light because light is what shapes and sculpts the subject of one’s photographs.

Today, we hear John testifying to the “true light”, Christ Jesus, who in a way partakes in the activity of shaping and sculpting. Since Christ came into the world, he and his disciples have shaped the centuries in ways that we can name and ways that are hidden to us. Undoubtedly, Christ has shaped and sculpted the world anew.

The invitation for us on this last day of 2019 might be to rest in the light. As we are warmed by the gentleness of the rays, can we ponder and name the many ways we have allowed Christ, the Light of the world, to shape and sculpt us throughout this year?

—Minh Le, SJ, is a Jesuit of the Midwest Province teaching and coaching at Loyola Academy in Wilmette, IL.

Prayer

Longing for light, we wait in darkness
Longing for truth, we turn to You.
Make us Your own, Your holy people
Light for the world to see.

Christ, be our light!
Shine in our hearts.
Shine through the darkness.
Christ, be our light!
Shine in Your church gathered today.

—Excerpt from Christ, Be Our Light! by Bernadette Farrell, © 1993, published by OCP


Please share the Good Word with your friends!

December 30, 2019

Lk 2:36-40

There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. 

At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.

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

Waiting for the Messiah

The second chapter of Luke contains the account of the birth of Jesus and the only glimpse we get into his childhood in the Gospels. Here we are introduced to Anna, who we are told was an octogenarian prophetess who spent her life in the temple, devout with prayer and fasting, after losing her husband at a young age.  Anna is rewarded for her lifelong faith by being able to spread the word about Jesus as the Messiah for all those waiting for the Savior and redemption. As an elderly woman who had experienced hardship, disappointment, and a lifetime of wisdom and experience, it would be easy to grow cynical and doubtful about whether the Messiah would ever come. Anna remained hopeful and steadfast and thus when she was blessed to know of Jesus’ arrival, she earned her gift to be able to spread the Good News.

—John LaMantia is a graduate of Fordham University and Saint Ignatius College Prep who is a trial attorney in the service of others. He is on the JFAN Chicago board for the Midwest Jesuits and continues to provide his four children with a Jesuit high school and college education.

Prayer

Lord, no matter our age, experience, or station in life, help us to keep our hearts and minds open and enthusiastic to hope, faith, and trust in your redemption through Jesus Christ. Stoke the fires within us to keep burning steady and bright to give you thanks, praise and glory.

—John LaMantia


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December 29, 2019

Feast of the Holy Family

Mt 2: 13-15, 19-23

Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’ 

Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I have called my son.’

When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.’ 

Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee. There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, ‘He will be called a Nazorean.’

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.

Contemplating the Hidden Life of the Child Jesus

In his Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius Loyola proposes a contemplation on the Hidden Life of Jesus who honored his father and obeyed his mother. The object Ignatius proposes is “the obedience of the Child Jesus to his parents.” Jesus freely accepted his most ordinary, most average family life as normal. He played with the other boys, sat at the feet of the rabbi to prepare for his Bar Mitzvah, hung around Joseph in the workshop, loved family meals, learned to pray from his parents, attended synagogue every Sabbath.

Like me, many retreatants have found imaginative contemplation on our Lord and Savior as the child Jesus very nourishing. They see him with his Mother watching over him, or Joseph teaching him. St. Ignatius was right; all these aspects of his Hidden Life are certainly worth contemplating so that we may attain a more profound loving understanding of Jesus, Our Lord and Savior.

—Fr. Louis McCabe, SJ, is a retreat director at Our Lady of the Oaks Retreat House in Grand Coteau, LA.

Prayer

O God, who were pleased to give us the shining example of the Holy Family, graciously grant that we may imitate Jesus, Mary and Joseph in practicing the virtues of family life in the bonds of love, so that the joy of our home may be a foretaste of life in our Heavenly Home.

—Fr. Louis McCabe, SJ, based on the collect prayer for the Feast of the Holy Family


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December 28, 2019

Feast of the Holy Innocents

Mt 2: 13-18

Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”

When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: “A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.”

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.

Opening our hearts to the innocents 

We used to have a delightful tradition in my community: the youngest novice made three wishes on Holy Innocents Day to be granted to the entire provincial house community. As I was the youngest novice in 1977, I packed those wishes with all sorts of goodies to make sure my Sisters had fun-filled evenings three times in the months to come! 

Our Gospel is a stark contrast to such innocent celebration: little ones slaughtered because of another’s narcissism. Amid our celebration, we are challenged to consider the “innocents” today: marginalized and excluded people, those who live on our streets, unborn children whose lives are ended through abortion, immigrants at our borders, the innocent on death row and so many more with eyes, bellies and hearts filled with hunger for physical and spiritual nourishment.

Today allow your heart to be softened with compassion as you pray for our world.

—Susan Kusz, SND is a Sister of Notre Dame serving as Associate Director of the Jesuit Retreat House on Lake Winnebago in Oshkosh, WI.

Prayer

God of Wisdom, the Holy Innocents witnessed to Jesus by the shedding of their blood. Console the hearts of parents who must watch helplessly when their children are taken from them by death. Fill them with your strength, comfort and courage. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Notre Dame Prays, the Sisters of Notre Dame in the United States


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December 27, 2019

St. John, apostle and evangelist

Jn 20: 1A and 2-8

On the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb,and we do not know where they put him.” So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb. They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first; he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in. 

When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed.

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.

Run with joy to Jesus

I am not a runner. I have a low tolerance for pain, and everytime I’ve tried to run, it doesn’t take long for me to succumb to that voice that tempts me to stop and take a break. I’m actually very good at moseying from one place to another. Why run when I can get there by spending as little energy as possible?

As I place myself in today’s reading, I wonder if the risen Jesus and the empty tomb would have been enough of a reason for me to push past my limits and spend as much energy as possible. Isn’t the risen Christ worth running after?

In this Christmas season, Jesus is born! Am I still running towards the infant Jesus? Or have I already moved on to mosey towards the next thing.

From the crowded manger to the empty tomb, let us run with joy to Jesus.

Joe Nava is a math teacher and 2002 graduate of Jesuit College Preparatory School of Dallas.

Prayer

O come, all ye faithful,
Joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem.
Come and behold Him,
Born the King of Angels!

O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

O, Come, All Ye Faithful, Attr. to John F. Wade, ca. 1711–1786; trans. by Frederick Oakeley, 1802–1880


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December 26, 2019

St. Stephen

Acts 6: 8-10; 7: 54-59

Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and others of those from Cilicia and Asia, stood up and argued with Stephen. But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke.

When they heard these things, they became enraged and ground their teeth at Stephen. But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” 

But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”

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

Listening generously

“But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke.”

These words leap off the page. What an image! An eloquent orator, St. Stephen was so filled with the Holy Spirit that those gathered could not help but hear the good news he delivered.

If you read this line alone, it’s easy to think that God’s truth easily wins the day. But we know, on this feast of St. Stephen’s martyrdom, that though the crowd heard the words he spoke, they could not bear to listen. And so, Stephen becomes our first martyr, and his words are silenced.

Truth does not triumph all by itself. A quick survey of today’s culture reveals as much. Arriving at truth demands honest dialogue, honest listening, and a resistance to the temptation of shutting down views that make us uncomfortable. On this Feast of Stephen, to whom should we lend a more generous ear?   

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

Prayer

Lord Jesus, you gave St. Stephen the strength and courage to speak your truth despite the consequences.  Grant that we, too, can be bold in sharing our faith with the world, through our words or actions, so that all may come to a closer relationship with you.  Amen.

—The Jesuit Prayer team


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December 25, 2019

Nativity of the Lord

Jn 1: 1-18

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 

He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

(John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’”) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.

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

The Gift of the Incarnation

What did you get for Christmas? … What did you give your [spouse, child, parent, boss] for Christmas? These seemingly simple questions can spiral into a dangerous game of gifting one-upmanship. The recipient of a smartwatch is outdone by the recipient of a new car. The parents who gave their child a new bike are outdone by the parents whose child wanted donations to charity, in lieu of gifts. There is nothing wrong with giving or receiving smartwatches, cars, bikes, charitable donations, or any gifts, for that matter. The trouble is that we fail to recognize that today we have received the most precious gift of all – the gift of the Incarnation. 

While the Gospels of Luke and Matthew recount the traditional infancy narrative, John’s Gospel proclaims the Incarnation. “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.” Through the Incarnation, God saves us and makes us his children, showering us with “grace upon grace.” There is nothing in this world that tops that. 

Today, engage your heart and mind in a meditation on the Incarnation, and give thanks to God for this extraordinary gift. 

Jackie Schulte is the Dean of Faculty Formation and a history teacher at Creighton Preparatory School in Omaha, NE.

Prayer

When not only the glimmer of candles, the joy of children, and the fragrance of the Christmas tree
but the heart itself answers God’s childlike word of love with a gracious yes,
then Christmas really takes place, not only in mood, but in the most unalloyed reality.
For this word of the heart is then truly produced by God’s holy grace;
God’s word is then born in our heart, too.
God himself then moves into our heart,
just as he moved into the world in Bethlehem,
just as truly and really, and yet even more intimately.
When the heart itself answers, we really open its gates high and wide,
and God comes and takes possession of our hearts,
just as in the first Christmas he came and took possession of the world.

—Karl Rahner, SJ


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December 24, 2019

Lk 1: 67-79

Then his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke this prophecy: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them. He has raised up a mighty savior for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us. 

Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors, and has remembered his holy covenant, the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham, to grant us that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins. 

By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of 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.

Today, What Fills Our Hearts?

Zachariah, “filled” with the Holy Spirit, proclaims these beautiful words prayerfully to our God. These words are familiar. For the daily practitioners of Morning Prayer, we recite them as the Canticle of Zachariah. Even with a familiarity, they always feel so natural, authentic, and spirited. I can just imagine Zachariah, welling up with the Holy Spirit and speaking with a lightness of being, proclaiming these beautiful words.

On this eve of Christmas, what fills our hearts? What do we want to say to our God, the baby that we find resting in the manger tonight? May we let these words flow from the depths of our being, like that of Zachariah.

—Minh Le, SJ, is a Jesuit of the Midwest Province teaching and coaching at Loyola Academy in Wilmette, IL.

Prayer

Come Holy Spirit,
fill the hearts of your faithful
and kindle in them the fire of your love.
Send forth your Spirit
and they shall be created.
And You shall renew the face of the earth.
Amen.

—Traditional prayer


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December 23, 2019

Lk 1: 57-66

Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him Zechariah after his father. But his mother said, “No; he is to be called John.” They said to her, “None of your relatives has this name.” 

Then they began motioning to his father to find out what name he wanted to give him. He asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And all of them were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue freed, and he began to speak, praising God. Fear came over all their neighbors, and all these things were talked about throughout the entire hill country of Judea. 

All who heard them pondered them and said, “What then will this child become?” For, indeed, the hand of the Lord was with him.

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

Fitting into God’s plan

God’s grace and work in blessing Elizabeth and Zechariah with a child as older parents speaks to our own baptism and how we fit into God’s plan.  Elizabeth chose the name John for her son, which is translated in Hebrew to mean “The Lord is gracious.” God’s plan brought John into the world to later announce the birth of the Saviour, Jesus Christ. 

The story of the birth of John has many similarities to the birth of Jesus. Both were wondrous miracles, unexpected, and heralded with great joy.  As we reflect and await the birth of Jesus this Advent season we should also celebrate the birth of John the Baptist and take a moment to seek wonder, joy, and excitement ourselves to see where we fit into God’s plan.

—John LaMantia is a graduate of Fordham University and Saint Ignatius College Prep who is a trial attorney in the service of others. He is on the JFAN Chicago board for the Midwest Jesuits and continues to provide his four children with a Jesuit high school and college education.

Prayer

Lord, as I look to the remainder of this Advent season, make me aware that you are with me. Show me how to be the person you want me to be and help me discern how I fit into Your plan.

—John LaMantia


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December 22, 2019

Fourth Sunday of Advent

Mt 1: 18-24

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. 

But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 

All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.” When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife.

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.

Angels among us

“The young woman is with child and shall bear a son,.” The angel announced to Mary that she would become the mother of “the Son of the Most High.” An angel appeared to Joseph: “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife.”

Angels still appear in our days. A beautiful grade school friend of my mother, terminally ill, made her own special prayer. “Lord, make all sick people well.” Her mother wished the sun would shine for her sick daughter. The daughter said; “Mom, if you want the sun to shine, it will shine.” At her funeral, the sun broke through for the first time in a week.

When my father was near death, my mother pinned a relic of that angel on his hospital gown. As she was leaving, the sun suddenly flooded her car. At that moment she knew my father would live.

—Fr. Louis McCabe, SJ, is a retreat director at Our Lady of the Oaks Retreat House in Grand Coteau, LA.

Prayer

Hail Mary, full of grace,
the Lord is with you.
Blessed are you among women
and blest is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners now
and at the hour of death.
Amen.

Gentle woman, quiet light,
morning star, so strong and bright,
gentle Mother, peaceful dove,
teach us wisdom; teach us love.

You were chosen by the Father;
you were chosen for the Son.
You were chosen from all women
and for woman, shining one.

Gentle woman, quiet light,
morning star, so strong and bright,
gentle Mother, peaceful dove,
teach us wisdom; teach us love.

Blessed are you among women,
blest in turn all women, too.
Blessed they with peaceful spirits.
Blessed they with gentle hearts.

Hail Mary, Gentle Woman by Carey Landry, © 1975, 1978. Published by OCP Publications.


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