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December 12, 2019

Our Lady of Guadalupe

Zechariah 2: 14-17

Sing and rejoice, daughter Zion! Now, I am coming to dwell in your midst—oracle of the Lord. Many nations will bind themselves to the Lord on that day. They will be my people, and I will dwell in your midst. Then you shall know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you. The Lord will inherit Judah as his portion of the holy land, and the Lord will again choose Jerusalem.  Silence, all people, in the presence of the Lord, who stirs forth from his holy dwelling.

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 always brings friends

A text from a friend: “Want to grab dinner tonight?”

“Yes!” you reply. “Free all night.”

“Great. Dorothy and Anthony are coming, too.”

Ugh, you think. You can’t stand Dorothy and Anthony. You wanted time alone with your friend.

This isn’t unlike today’s first reading: “I will come and dwell in your midst,” says the Lord. That’s great!

But… “Many nations shall join themselves to the Lord on that day.” Oh man. God’s bringing friends.

It’s easy to think that it’s all about me and my personal relationship with God. But God demands more: God who is community challenges us to live in community. God always brings friends—typically the marginalized and excluded, who we’re least likely to invite to our dinner parties.

Today, on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, our shared Mother, reflect on those friends of God we tend to ignore, demonize or exclude. How can we build up God’s global family?

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

Prayer

O God, Father of mercies, who placed your people under the singular protection of your Son’s most holy Mother, grant that all who invoke the Blessed Virgin of Guadalupe, may seek with ever more lively faith the progress of peoples in the ways of justice and of peace. 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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December 11, 2019

Mt 11: 28-30

‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’

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.

Bringing our burdens to Jesus

I have a bag problem. Every day, I haul no less than three bags full of electronics, binders, books, and papers to and from school. While lugging my bags in/out of the building, someone usually asks if I need help, and I will politely decline, saying “Oh, no thank you, I’ve got it” (while asking myself, “do you? do you really have it?”).  But the “burdens” we carry around in our bags, backpacks, purses, and totes pale in comparison to the emotional and spiritual burdens we bear each and every day – fear, pride, envy, worry, stress, anxiety, grief. 

In today’s Gospel, Jesus invites us to share our burdens with him, to allow him to lighten our loads, to ease our minds, and to rest our weary heads and hearts in his gentleness and humility. Jesus also instructs us “learn from me.” He is modeling for us what we are to do for others – to bear each other’s burdens. 

What burdens do you need to bring to Jesus? What keeps you from doing so? Who, in your life, is “weary and carrying heavy burdens”? How can you help that person bear those burdens?

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

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 of Loyola


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December 10, 2019

Our Lady of Loreto

Mt 18: 12-14

What do you think? If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.

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.

A God who values us

Recently, I taught my freshman students the parables found throughout the Gospels. Not surprisingly, many knew of the Parable of the Lost Sheep. What was surprising was what they had to say about the parable.

One student spoke, quite profoundly, about why this parable had personal significance. She was struck by why God would set aside the 99 and look for the stray sheep. Identifying as the stray sheep, she articulated a sense of being valued because God is revealed as One who takes time to look for the one among the many.

This student expresses what we all want to experience–being valued–even when we lose our way. A question worth pondering today might be, how does God convey to you that God values you? 

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

Prayer

Good and gracious God, you have loved us since before we were born.  You know the number of hairs on our heads. May we always dwell in this unconditional love, confident that we are valued by you, our Good Shepherd.  We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

—The Jesuit Prayer team


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December 9, 2019

Feast of the Immaculate Conception

Lk 1: 26-38

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 

But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 

Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” 

Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

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

Our response to God

In today’s Gospel, we receive the angel’s announcement of the coming birth of Jesus. It is easy to take this reading at face value for the glorious announcement about Jesus, but this passage tells us much more about Mary. When the angel approaches Mary we can feel her fear and wonder as she unconditionally submits to the will of God. Mary is truly the very first disciple of Jesus, so we are called to ask what motivates Mary’s response to God? What is our response as disciples when God asks something difficult of us? Through the lens of Ignatian Spirituality we ask “what more does God want of me?” and “what more does God want NOW?”

—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

Take, Lord, receive. All my liberty.
My memory, understanding, my entire will!
Give me only your LOVE, and your Grace,
that’s enough for me!
Your love and your grace, are enough for me! 

Take Lord, receive, All I have and posses.
You have given unto me, Now I return it.
Give me only your love, and your grace,
that’s enough for me!
Your love and your grace, are enough for me!

—Lyrics to Take, Lord, Receive by John Foley, SJ, © 1975, 1996 John B. Foley, SJ, and OCP


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December 8, 2019

Second Sunday of Advent

Ps 72:1-2, 7-8, 12-13, 17

Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to a king’s son.

May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice.

In his days may righteousness flourish and peace abound, until the moon is no more.

May he have dominion from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.

For he delivers the needy when they call, the poor and those who have no helper.

He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy.

May his name endure forever, his fame continue as long as the sun. May all nations be blessed in him; may they pronounce him happy.

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.

Pray for peace in our world

Psalm 72 asks God to endow the king with God’s judgment so that “in his days may righteousness flourish and peace abound.” Listen to judgments of our recent popes and bishops. Paul VI: “No more war, war never again!” John-Paul II: “War is not the answer.” Francis at Hiroshima: “The use of atomic energy for purposes of war is immoral, as is the possession of atomic weapons.” We pray that God endow all government leaders with his judgment.

In the 1980’s the US Bishops published two letters: The Challenge of Peace and Economic Justice for All. Besides denouncing nuclear weapons, they demanded an economy that includes all, in agreement with the cry of the prophet Isaiah. No country, including the US, is living up to these prophetic statements of God’s wishes for our world. We pray every day for the end of war and equal distribution of this world’s goods.

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

Prayer

Make these words, presented in the spirit of St. Oscar Romero, archbishop martyr of El Salvador, our prayer:

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do something, and to do it very well. It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.

—Excerpt of Prophets of a Future Not Our Own, originally written by Bishop Ken Untener


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December 7, 2019

St. Ambrose

Is 30: 19-21, 23-26

Truly, O people in Zion, inhabitants of Jerusalem, you shall weep no more. He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry; when he hears it, he will answer you. Though the Lord may give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself any more, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. And when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left, your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” 

He will give rain for the seed with which you sow the ground, and grain, the produce of the ground, which will be rich and plenteous. On that day your cattle will graze in broad pastures; and the oxen and donkeys that till the ground will eat silage, which has been winnowed with shovel and fork. 

On every lofty mountain and every high hill there will be brooks running with water—on a day of the great slaughter, when the towers fall. Moreover the light of the moon will be like the light of the sun, and the light of the sun will be sevenfold, like the light of seven days, on the day when the Lord binds up the injuries of his people, and heals the wounds inflicted by his blow.

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.

Walk in The Way

Not long ago, one of our elder Sisters who held positions of considerable influence in our community as well as in various dioceses during her active ministry was asked about her current life in which she volunteers at a retreat house, often washing the dishes for retreatants. Her honest, humble response was “This is my life now.” Sister’s comment has stayed with me these past weeks; I find myself repeating those words amid various tasks in my active ministry.

“This is my life now” — “This is the way; walk in it.” How similar those words are as we consider our Isaian text today. God shows me the way; I am to walk in it, to accept it as my life now, every moment of every day. I open myself to listen and walk that way.

How attentive will I be to walk in The Way today?

—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

Creator God, you are the source of all life and motivation.
May we journey in faith and love, rejoicing and eager to serve you.
Grant us a glimpse of your glory as we seek to follow you –
The Way, the Truth and the Life. Amen.

Pilgrimage Prayers, Jenny Child


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December 6, 2019

Mt 9: 27-31

As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, crying loudly, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!” When he entered the house, the blind men came to him; and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They said to him, “Yes, Lord.” 

Then he touched their eyes and said, “According to your faith let it be done to you.” And their eyes were opened. Then Jesus sternly ordered them, “See that no one knows of this.” But they went away and spread the news about him throughout that district.

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

Can we respond like the blind men?

If I were in Jesus’s presence, how would I respond? Like the blind men, would I follow after him? Would I cry out for his mercy and healing? 

I ask God for their courage, so that I too may follow Jesus. I ask God for their hope, so that I too may see the light in the darkness. I ask God for their faith, so that I too may trust that what I ask for will be answered. 

Would I also share in their response? Could I be so overcome with joy and gratitude that I would also be unable to keep silent even when asked?

Our journey through Advent will lead us to the manger where we find the infant Jesus and kneel humbly before him. May we share in the prayer of the blind men: Yes, Lord. I do believe you are able to do this.

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

Prayer

O Christ Jesus
When all is darkness
And we feel our weakness and helplessness,
Give us the sense of Your Presence,
Your Love and Your Strength.
Help us to have perfect trust
In Your protecting love
And strengthening power,
So that nothing may frighten or worry us,
For, living close to You,
We shall see Your Hand,
Your Purpose, Your Will through all things.

—St. Ignatius of Loyola


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December 5, 2019

Is 26: 1-6

On that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah: We have a strong city; he sets up victory like walls and bulwarks. Open the gates, so that the righteous nation that keeps faith may enter in. Those of steadfast mind you keep in peace— in peace because they trust in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for in the Lord God you have an everlasting rock.

For he has brought low the inhabitants of the height; the lofty city he lays low. He lays it low to the ground, casts it to the dust. The foot tramples it, the feet of the poor, the steps of the needy.

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.

A strong city of God

When I read Isaiah’s words—“We have a strong a city”—I picture in my mind the streets I walk each day on my daily commute from Baltimore to Washington, DC.

Isaiah speaks of justice, faith, and the promotion of peace. It’s easy for me to scoff: Baltimore and DC have speckled records where these virtues are concerned.

But Isaiah’s words don’t stop there. Indeed, I’m reminded that cities—communities—are made up of individuals. People like me. It’s my responsibility to strive for these virtues—as an individual member of a community.

Isaiah goes on. Those in high places are brought low; those who ignore or exploit the vulnerable are brought to justice. And certainly, I pass opportunities each day on that daily commute to engage in small acts of justice, charity, love.

Do we contribute to a strong city of God’s justice, or a lofty city of wealth, pleasure and pride?    

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

Prayer

Grant us, Lord God, a vision of your world as your love would have it:
a world where the weak are protected, and none go hungry or poor;
a world where the riches of creation are shared, and everyone can enjoy them;
a world where different races and cultures live in harmony and mutual respect;
a world where peace is built with justice, and justice is guided by love.
Give us the inspiration and courage to build it, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

—Author unknown, published on Xavier University’s Jesuit Resource


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December 4, 2019

Mt 15: 29-37

After Jesus had left that place, he passed along the Sea of Galilee, and he went up the mountain, where he sat down. Great crowds came to him, bringing with them the lame, the maimed, the blind, the mute, and many others. They put them at his feet, and he cured them, so that the crowd was amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the maimed whole, the lame walking, and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel. 

Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat; and I do not want to send them away hungry, for they might faint on the way.” The disciples said to him, “Where are we to get enough bread in the desert to feed so great a crowd?” Jesus asked them, “How many loaves have you?” They said, “Seven, and a few small fish.” 

Then ordering the crowd to sit down on the ground, he took the seven loaves and the fish; and after giving thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all of them ate and were filled; and they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full.

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.

For what do you hunger today?

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, my husband and I traveled 600 miles – ten hours in the car – fueled by 33 gallons of gas. In today’s Gospel, despite having restored the people’s sight or speech, curing their ailments, or healing their brokenness, Jesus is still concerned that, without “fuel,” the people will not have enough strength for their journey. He does “not want to send them away hungry, for they might faint on the way.” 

All of our journeys – on the road and throughout life – require fuel. It can be overwhelming to imagine how to satisfy such a tremendous need. Jesus simply asks us to bring him what we have, no matter how small, humble, or insignificant, and he will do the rest. When we bring Jesus the tiny shred of hope to which we cling, or our last bit of patience, or the small sliver of peace we hold in our hearts, He multiplies those shreds, bits, and slivers into an abundance of love, peace, patience, hope. 

For what do you hunger? Today, bring what little you have to Jesus, and allow him to multiply it into an abundance of what you need.

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

Prayer

O Lord, support us all the day long, until the shadows lengthen, and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over, and our work is done. Then in your mercy, grant us a safe lodging and a holy rest, and peace at the last. Through Jesus Christ Our Lord, Amen.

—St. John Henry Newman


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December 2, 2019

Mt 8: 5-11

When he entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, appealing to him and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, in terrible distress.” And he said to him, “I will come and cure him.” The centurion answered, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only speak the word, and my servant will be healed. 

For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and the slave does it.” 

When Jesus heard him, he was amazed and said to those who followed him, “Truly I tell you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and will eat with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.

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

Humble enough to ask for help

As a Roman centurion and officer of the imperial army, the man seeking Jesus’ blessings and intervention in Matthew’s Gospel account had far superior socio-economic status to Jesus; yet he begged for help while declaring himself unworthy to even invite Jesus to his house. Jesus is surprised to find the grace and humility in the centurion not merely for his faith in Jesus’ healing power, but more for his care and compassion for his servant.

Roman soldiers were trained to be superior to those they conquered and presided over and they scorned the Jews. This centurion humbles himself significantly before Jesus by giving him great honor and deference. At the same time, he also puts his own reputation on the line by seeking help for, and showing compassion for, his servant. Like the centurion, St. Ignatius was a soldier who went through a conversion and who then instituted the Constitutions of the Society of Jesus to be constantly in the service of others.

—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, so much of our daily activities are structured and compartmentalized by societal conventions and barriers. Give us the grace to listen to our heart, and the strength to reach out to those we can help, regardless of status or circumstance.

—John LaMantia


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At Loyola Medicine, “we also treat the human spirit. ®” Inspired by the vision of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits and our namesake, we care for our patients as whole people - body, mind and spirit - and seek to be a healing presence in our communities. Whether you are a patient, family member, clinician, chaplain, or student, we invite you to pray these reflections and prayers with us.



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December 12, 2019

Our Lady of Guadalupe

Zechariah 2: 14-17

Sing and rejoice, daughter Zion! Now, I am coming to dwell in your midst—oracle of the Lord. Many nations will bind themselves to the Lord on that day. They will be my people, and I will dwell in your midst. Then you shall know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you. The Lord will inherit Judah as his portion of the holy land, and the Lord will again choose Jerusalem.  Silence, all people, in the presence of the Lord, who stirs forth from his holy dwelling.

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 always brings friends

A text from a friend: “Want to grab dinner tonight?”

“Yes!” you reply. “Free all night.”

“Great. Dorothy and Anthony are coming, too.”

Ugh, you think. You can’t stand Dorothy and Anthony. You wanted time alone with your friend.

This isn’t unlike today’s first reading: “I will come and dwell in your midst,” says the Lord. That’s great!

But… “Many nations shall join themselves to the Lord on that day.” Oh man. God’s bringing friends.

It’s easy to think that it’s all about me and my personal relationship with God. But God demands more: God who is community challenges us to live in community. God always brings friends—typically the marginalized and excluded, who we’re least likely to invite to our dinner parties.

Today, on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, our shared Mother, reflect on those friends of God we tend to ignore, demonize or exclude. How can we build up God’s global family?

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

Prayer

O God, Father of mercies, who placed your people under the singular protection of your Son’s most holy Mother, grant that all who invoke the Blessed Virgin of Guadalupe, may seek with ever more lively faith the progress of peoples in the ways of justice and of peace. 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


Please share the Good Word with your friends!

December 11, 2019

Mt 11: 28-30

‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’

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.

Bringing our burdens to Jesus

I have a bag problem. Every day, I haul no less than three bags full of electronics, binders, books, and papers to and from school. While lugging my bags in/out of the building, someone usually asks if I need help, and I will politely decline, saying “Oh, no thank you, I’ve got it” (while asking myself, “do you? do you really have it?”).  But the “burdens” we carry around in our bags, backpacks, purses, and totes pale in comparison to the emotional and spiritual burdens we bear each and every day – fear, pride, envy, worry, stress, anxiety, grief. 

In today’s Gospel, Jesus invites us to share our burdens with him, to allow him to lighten our loads, to ease our minds, and to rest our weary heads and hearts in his gentleness and humility. Jesus also instructs us “learn from me.” He is modeling for us what we are to do for others – to bear each other’s burdens. 

What burdens do you need to bring to Jesus? What keeps you from doing so? Who, in your life, is “weary and carrying heavy burdens”? How can you help that person bear those burdens?

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

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 of Loyola


Please share the Good Word with your friends!

December 10, 2019

Our Lady of Loreto

Mt 18: 12-14

What do you think? If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.

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.

A God who values us

Recently, I taught my freshman students the parables found throughout the Gospels. Not surprisingly, many knew of the Parable of the Lost Sheep. What was surprising was what they had to say about the parable.

One student spoke, quite profoundly, about why this parable had personal significance. She was struck by why God would set aside the 99 and look for the stray sheep. Identifying as the stray sheep, she articulated a sense of being valued because God is revealed as One who takes time to look for the one among the many.

This student expresses what we all want to experience–being valued–even when we lose our way. A question worth pondering today might be, how does God convey to you that God values you? 

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

Prayer

Good and gracious God, you have loved us since before we were born.  You know the number of hairs on our heads. May we always dwell in this unconditional love, confident that we are valued by you, our Good Shepherd.  We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

—The Jesuit Prayer team


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December 9, 2019

Feast of the Immaculate Conception

Lk 1: 26-38

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 

But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 

Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” 

Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

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

Our response to God

In today’s Gospel, we receive the angel’s announcement of the coming birth of Jesus. It is easy to take this reading at face value for the glorious announcement about Jesus, but this passage tells us much more about Mary. When the angel approaches Mary we can feel her fear and wonder as she unconditionally submits to the will of God. Mary is truly the very first disciple of Jesus, so we are called to ask what motivates Mary’s response to God? What is our response as disciples when God asks something difficult of us? Through the lens of Ignatian Spirituality we ask “what more does God want of me?” and “what more does God want NOW?”

—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

Take, Lord, receive. All my liberty.
My memory, understanding, my entire will!
Give me only your LOVE, and your Grace,
that’s enough for me!
Your love and your grace, are enough for me! 

Take Lord, receive, All I have and posses.
You have given unto me, Now I return it.
Give me only your love, and your grace,
that’s enough for me!
Your love and your grace, are enough for me!

—Lyrics to Take, Lord, Receive by John Foley, SJ, © 1975, 1996 John B. Foley, SJ, and OCP


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December 8, 2019

Second Sunday of Advent

Ps 72:1-2, 7-8, 12-13, 17

Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to a king’s son.

May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice.

In his days may righteousness flourish and peace abound, until the moon is no more.

May he have dominion from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.

For he delivers the needy when they call, the poor and those who have no helper.

He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy.

May his name endure forever, his fame continue as long as the sun. May all nations be blessed in him; may they pronounce him happy.

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.

Pray for peace in our world

Psalm 72 asks God to endow the king with God’s judgment so that “in his days may righteousness flourish and peace abound.” Listen to judgments of our recent popes and bishops. Paul VI: “No more war, war never again!” John-Paul II: “War is not the answer.” Francis at Hiroshima: “The use of atomic energy for purposes of war is immoral, as is the possession of atomic weapons.” We pray that God endow all government leaders with his judgment.

In the 1980’s the US Bishops published two letters: The Challenge of Peace and Economic Justice for All. Besides denouncing nuclear weapons, they demanded an economy that includes all, in agreement with the cry of the prophet Isaiah. No country, including the US, is living up to these prophetic statements of God’s wishes for our world. We pray every day for the end of war and equal distribution of this world’s goods.

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

Prayer

Make these words, presented in the spirit of St. Oscar Romero, archbishop martyr of El Salvador, our prayer:

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do something, and to do it very well. It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.

—Excerpt of Prophets of a Future Not Our Own, originally written by Bishop Ken Untener


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December 7, 2019

St. Ambrose

Is 30: 19-21, 23-26

Truly, O people in Zion, inhabitants of Jerusalem, you shall weep no more. He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry; when he hears it, he will answer you. Though the Lord may give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself any more, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. And when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left, your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” 

He will give rain for the seed with which you sow the ground, and grain, the produce of the ground, which will be rich and plenteous. On that day your cattle will graze in broad pastures; and the oxen and donkeys that till the ground will eat silage, which has been winnowed with shovel and fork. 

On every lofty mountain and every high hill there will be brooks running with water—on a day of the great slaughter, when the towers fall. Moreover the light of the moon will be like the light of the sun, and the light of the sun will be sevenfold, like the light of seven days, on the day when the Lord binds up the injuries of his people, and heals the wounds inflicted by his blow.

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.

Walk in The Way

Not long ago, one of our elder Sisters who held positions of considerable influence in our community as well as in various dioceses during her active ministry was asked about her current life in which she volunteers at a retreat house, often washing the dishes for retreatants. Her honest, humble response was “This is my life now.” Sister’s comment has stayed with me these past weeks; I find myself repeating those words amid various tasks in my active ministry.

“This is my life now” — “This is the way; walk in it.” How similar those words are as we consider our Isaian text today. God shows me the way; I am to walk in it, to accept it as my life now, every moment of every day. I open myself to listen and walk that way.

How attentive will I be to walk in The Way today?

—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

Creator God, you are the source of all life and motivation.
May we journey in faith and love, rejoicing and eager to serve you.
Grant us a glimpse of your glory as we seek to follow you –
The Way, the Truth and the Life. Amen.

Pilgrimage Prayers, Jenny Child


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December 6, 2019

Mt 9: 27-31

As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, crying loudly, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!” When he entered the house, the blind men came to him; and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They said to him, “Yes, Lord.” 

Then he touched their eyes and said, “According to your faith let it be done to you.” And their eyes were opened. Then Jesus sternly ordered them, “See that no one knows of this.” But they went away and spread the news about him throughout that district.

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

Can we respond like the blind men?

If I were in Jesus’s presence, how would I respond? Like the blind men, would I follow after him? Would I cry out for his mercy and healing? 

I ask God for their courage, so that I too may follow Jesus. I ask God for their hope, so that I too may see the light in the darkness. I ask God for their faith, so that I too may trust that what I ask for will be answered. 

Would I also share in their response? Could I be so overcome with joy and gratitude that I would also be unable to keep silent even when asked?

Our journey through Advent will lead us to the manger where we find the infant Jesus and kneel humbly before him. May we share in the prayer of the blind men: Yes, Lord. I do believe you are able to do this.

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

Prayer

O Christ Jesus
When all is darkness
And we feel our weakness and helplessness,
Give us the sense of Your Presence,
Your Love and Your Strength.
Help us to have perfect trust
In Your protecting love
And strengthening power,
So that nothing may frighten or worry us,
For, living close to You,
We shall see Your Hand,
Your Purpose, Your Will through all things.

—St. Ignatius of Loyola


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December 5, 2019

Is 26: 1-6

On that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah: We have a strong city; he sets up victory like walls and bulwarks. Open the gates, so that the righteous nation that keeps faith may enter in. Those of steadfast mind you keep in peace— in peace because they trust in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for in the Lord God you have an everlasting rock.

For he has brought low the inhabitants of the height; the lofty city he lays low. He lays it low to the ground, casts it to the dust. The foot tramples it, the feet of the poor, the steps of the needy.

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.

A strong city of God

When I read Isaiah’s words—“We have a strong a city”—I picture in my mind the streets I walk each day on my daily commute from Baltimore to Washington, DC.

Isaiah speaks of justice, faith, and the promotion of peace. It’s easy for me to scoff: Baltimore and DC have speckled records where these virtues are concerned.

But Isaiah’s words don’t stop there. Indeed, I’m reminded that cities—communities—are made up of individuals. People like me. It’s my responsibility to strive for these virtues—as an individual member of a community.

Isaiah goes on. Those in high places are brought low; those who ignore or exploit the vulnerable are brought to justice. And certainly, I pass opportunities each day on that daily commute to engage in small acts of justice, charity, love.

Do we contribute to a strong city of God’s justice, or a lofty city of wealth, pleasure and pride?    

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

Prayer

Grant us, Lord God, a vision of your world as your love would have it:
a world where the weak are protected, and none go hungry or poor;
a world where the riches of creation are shared, and everyone can enjoy them;
a world where different races and cultures live in harmony and mutual respect;
a world where peace is built with justice, and justice is guided by love.
Give us the inspiration and courage to build it, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

—Author unknown, published on Xavier University’s Jesuit Resource


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December 4, 2019

Mt 15: 29-37

After Jesus had left that place, he passed along the Sea of Galilee, and he went up the mountain, where he sat down. Great crowds came to him, bringing with them the lame, the maimed, the blind, the mute, and many others. They put them at his feet, and he cured them, so that the crowd was amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the maimed whole, the lame walking, and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel. 

Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat; and I do not want to send them away hungry, for they might faint on the way.” The disciples said to him, “Where are we to get enough bread in the desert to feed so great a crowd?” Jesus asked them, “How many loaves have you?” They said, “Seven, and a few small fish.” 

Then ordering the crowd to sit down on the ground, he took the seven loaves and the fish; and after giving thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all of them ate and were filled; and they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full.

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.

For what do you hunger today?

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, my husband and I traveled 600 miles – ten hours in the car – fueled by 33 gallons of gas. In today’s Gospel, despite having restored the people’s sight or speech, curing their ailments, or healing their brokenness, Jesus is still concerned that, without “fuel,” the people will not have enough strength for their journey. He does “not want to send them away hungry, for they might faint on the way.” 

All of our journeys – on the road and throughout life – require fuel. It can be overwhelming to imagine how to satisfy such a tremendous need. Jesus simply asks us to bring him what we have, no matter how small, humble, or insignificant, and he will do the rest. When we bring Jesus the tiny shred of hope to which we cling, or our last bit of patience, or the small sliver of peace we hold in our hearts, He multiplies those shreds, bits, and slivers into an abundance of love, peace, patience, hope. 

For what do you hunger? Today, bring what little you have to Jesus, and allow him to multiply it into an abundance of what you need.

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

Prayer

O Lord, support us all the day long, until the shadows lengthen, and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over, and our work is done. Then in your mercy, grant us a safe lodging and a holy rest, and peace at the last. Through Jesus Christ Our Lord, Amen.

—St. John Henry Newman


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December 2, 2019

Mt 8: 5-11

When he entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, appealing to him and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, in terrible distress.” And he said to him, “I will come and cure him.” The centurion answered, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only speak the word, and my servant will be healed. 

For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and the slave does it.” 

When Jesus heard him, he was amazed and said to those who followed him, “Truly I tell you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and will eat with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.

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

Humble enough to ask for help

As a Roman centurion and officer of the imperial army, the man seeking Jesus’ blessings and intervention in Matthew’s Gospel account had far superior socio-economic status to Jesus; yet he begged for help while declaring himself unworthy to even invite Jesus to his house. Jesus is surprised to find the grace and humility in the centurion not merely for his faith in Jesus’ healing power, but more for his care and compassion for his servant.

Roman soldiers were trained to be superior to those they conquered and presided over and they scorned the Jews. This centurion humbles himself significantly before Jesus by giving him great honor and deference. At the same time, he also puts his own reputation on the line by seeking help for, and showing compassion for, his servant. Like the centurion, St. Ignatius was a soldier who went through a conversion and who then instituted the Constitutions of the Society of Jesus to be constantly in the service of others.

—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, so much of our daily activities are structured and compartmentalized by societal conventions and barriers. Give us the grace to listen to our heart, and the strength to reach out to those we can help, regardless of status or circumstance.

—John LaMantia


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