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January 22, 2020

Mk 3: 1-6

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

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

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

The importance of presence and availability

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prayer

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

Lord, hear our prayer.  Amen.

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


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January 21, 2020

St. Agnes

Mk 2: 23-28

One sabbath he was going through the grainfields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?” And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need of food? He entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and he gave some to his companions.” 

Then he said to them, “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath; so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.”

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.

Glorify God through the sabbath

At my school, teachers talk about the “Sunday scaries” — that feeling when the weekend is ending and we still aren’t ready for school. This week, with the Martin Luther King Day holiday, we had Monday scaries instead!

I imagine the “scaries” are not unique to teachers. We all know the feeling — at the end of a break or a weekend — when thoughts of work creep into our time of rest. Mercifully, Jesus knows what it’s like.

Jesus says, “the sabbath was made for humankind.” As St. Ignatius would say, that means it is up to us to use the sabbath to glorify God. That surely includes setting time aside for God, like going to Sunday Mass. But it might also include food preparation for the disciples, or lesson preparation for teachers. And that’s o.k. The real question, at work or at play, is whether we use the sabbath to glorify God.

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

Prayer

Good and gracious God, you gave us the sabbath as a means of pausing our routine to reconnect with you.  May these times of rest renew our spirits, strengthen our faith, and deepen our relationships with you. We pray this through Christ Jesus, our Lord.  Amen.

—The Jesuit Prayer team


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January 20, 2020

Mk 2: 18-22

Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting; and people came and said to him, “Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” Jesus said to them, “The wedding guests cannot fast while the bridegroom is with them, can they? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast on that day.

“No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old cloak; otherwise, the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost, and so are the skins; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins.”

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.

Practices that bring us closer to Jesus

Am I truly free and open to experience the grace to be present to Jesus in my life?

Religious practices (such as fasting) are intended to create for us a pathway and space in our busy lives to experience God.  Sometimes though, structures of religion can embed us by overemphasizing the letter of the law at the expense of the spirit of it.  This can obstruct our true focus which is to be present to God.

Jesus is asking us to reflect on our religious practices in this passage.  What are our true desires, intentions, and motivations in our religious practice? 

Is it for societal status, self-righteousness, or a tool to judge others?  Or is it to humbly create a space of grace to truly seek God’s presence in our lives?

All our religious practices must bring us closer in our relationship with Jesus assisting us to experience his unwavering hope, unconditional love, and abundant joy.

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

Prayer

Spend time looking at God. 
Who is God for you now?
How is God present with you at this moment?
What is God’s desire for you like?
Listen to God express this desire.

Maureen Conroy


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January 19, 2020

Is 49: 3, 5-6

And he said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.” And now the Lord says, who formed me in the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him, and that Israel might be gathered to him, for I am honored in the sight of the Lord, and my God has become my strength— he says, “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

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

What choice does God want us to make?

I can pinpoint very clearly the moment that changed the trajectory of my life, an experience without which I may not have happily found myself where I am at now.  It was one of those restless times, when I was wondering what to do next. I was offered an opportunity to go and live in Japan and teach English. I was excited and ready for this new challenge!  And then I got a call. It was my friend Meg. “I saw that St. Peter’s parish in town is looking for a youth and young adult ministry director,” she said, “and I immediately thought of you.” Could this be more than just a call from Meg?  Suddenly, I had two opportunities which appealed to me. Up until then, my choices were often based on what I thought God might want me to do.  But, now, for the first time, it occurred to me that maybe I should ask God what choice he wanted for me.  Was this a choice between being just the Lord’s servant or God making me a light to the nations? I’m not exactly Isaiah the prophet, but I think this experience was something like what Isaiah describes.  Certainly, my choice to apply for my first professional ministry job had a profound impact on my future. I learned that I didn’t have to go to Japan to be a light to the nations, I did this simply by letting God choose my course.

Certainly, God can make the best out of any decision we make.  But, when it comes to discerning what God is calling us to, there are choices that are too little for what God made us for.  So, we should have the courage—and humility—to ask God what choices will make us “a light to the nations.” As he did with Isaiah, God will show us.

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

Prayer

Lord, I desire to be what you made me for.
Help me to believe that I can be “a light to the nations.”
Let me see beyond my own desires, even if they are ones that might please you.
Give me the courage to ask you to guide my choices.
Provide me with the humility to make your choice, no matter how small or great.
And guide me along the path to becoming more and more each day the light that you created me to be.
Amen.

—Fr. Mark Mossa, SJ


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January 18, 2020

Mk 2: 13-17

Jesus went out again beside the sea; the whole crowd gathered around him, and he taught them. As he was walking along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. And as he sat at dinner in Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were also sitting with Jesus and his disciples—for there were many who followed him. 

When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, they said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” When Jesus heard this, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”

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.

Get proximate to Jesus

When social justice lawyer and activist Bryan Stevenson came to our college, he spoke into a crowded gymnasium of students, faculty and staff. Like Jesus in the Gospel who calls Levi to “follow me,” Bryan called to us to get “proximate” that day. 

Getting “proximate,” according to Bryan, is moving close to the dark places of our society where people are in need of our healing light of truth and hope. Like Levi being called to join the disciples and sit and eat with other sinners, we are each called to bring light to the ones who are far away and in the dark.

Retreat teams of the Jesuit Restorative Justice Initiative visit the Monroe Correctional Complex in Washington State where we gather with the incarcerated men for prayer and a midday meal.  We listen and share from our hearts in small groups together. We “get proximate” to one another as we seek forgiveness, healing, and the release from what imprisons us.

In Ordinary Time, each of us is called to visit the dark places and circumstances that need the light of Jesus, to “begin the work of Christmas,” as Howard Thurman writes,

“To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among all,
To make music in the heart.”

How are you called to follow, to get “proximate” today? What needs your healing light of hope and truth? In what ways do you seek freedom and release?

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

Prayer

There is a balm in Gilead
To make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead
To heal the sin-sick soul.

Sometimes I feel discouraged,
And think my work’s in vain,
But then the Holy Spirit
Revives my soul again.

There is a balm in Gilead
To make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead
To heal the sin-sick soul.

—Traditional African-American spiritual


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January 17, 2020

St. Anthony

Mk 2: 1-12

When he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. So many gathered around that there was no longer room for them, not even in front of the door; and he was speaking the word to them. Then some people came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. And when they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and after having dug through it, they let down the mat on which the paralytic lay. 

When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this fellow speak in this way? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 

At once Jesus perceived in his spirit that they were discussing these questions among themselves; and he said to them, “Why do you raise such questions in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and take your mat and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” —he said to the paralytic— “I say to you, stand up, take your mat and go to your home.” 

And he stood up, and immediately took the mat and went out before all of them; so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”

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.

Maintaining our zeal for God

In both our Gospel and today’s first reading (1 Sm 8:4-7, 10-22a), we see examples of people who go to extraordinary levels to get closer to God and to Jesus.  The Gospel story is the well known one where friends of the paralytic man lower him to Jesus through a hole in the roof. How often our response to prayers lack the depth of Samuel, or the men who lifted the paralyzed man down to Jesus?  We want answers, and we want them now!

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Anthony the Abbot.  St. Anthony told his visitors that perseverance meant waking up each day with the same zeal as the first day.  Now that Christmas and New Year’s Day have passed and we are again in “ordinary time”, let us pause and reflect how we practice the same level of prayer, gratitude, and service that we professed during the Christmas season.

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

Prayer

O God, who brought the Abbot Saint Anthony to serve you by a wondrous way of life in the desert, grant, through his intercession, that, denying ourselves, we may always love you above all things. 

—Collect prayer from today’s Mass


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January 16, 2020

Mk 1:40-45

A leper came to him begging him, and kneeling he said to him, “If you choose, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, “I do choose. Be made clean!” Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. After sternly warning him he sent him away at once, saying to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” 

But he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the word, so that Jesus could no longer go into a town openly, but stayed out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter.

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

What do you expect from God?

Faith that moves mountains gets results! In Mark’s Gospel, the leper’s statement is filled with faithful purpose. “If you choose, you can make me clean.”

When I repeat the leper’s words, it resonates as a prayer, a statement and a command rolled into one. The joyful conviction that spills out of these words is “I know God. I love God, and I am loved by my God.  God has the power to heal me.” When you pray, do you expect God to do something?  

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

Prayer

Lord, you want me to ask for what I want, knowing that my prayer gives you great honor. You are my merciful and gracious father who is waiting to meet my needs. Amen.


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January 15, 2020

1 Sm 3: 1-10, 19-20

Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord under Eli. The word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread. At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his room; the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was. Then the Lord called, “Samuel! Samuel!” and he said, “Here I am!” and ran to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” 

But he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” So he went and lay down. The Lord called again, “Samuel!” Samuel got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.” Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. The Lord called Samuel again, a third time. And he got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” 

Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. Now the Lord came and stood there, calling as before, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

As Samuel grew up, the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was a trustworthy prophet of the Lord.

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

God’s persistent call

“Here I am,” says Samuel, awakened from sleep by a God who calls to him personally and persistently.  Samuel, in training with the temple priest, Eli, assumes it is Eli who keeps arousing him from sleep. He continues to go to Eli saying, “Here I am”, to which Elli says, “Go back to sleep”, assuming the boy has had a dream or heard some other noise in his sleep.

However, upon God’s third call to Samuel, Eli understands the possibility of God at work here, and teaches Samuel how to respond, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

Sometimes we may not recognize the persistent call of God to us in ordinary time and in the midst of our ordinary lives.  Often it may be someone else- through something we read or a piece of music, a homily at Mass, discerning clarity through Eucharist, a spiritual director’s insightful question or dear friend’s keen listening ear- who first hears God’s continual knocking at the walls of our hearts, minds and spirits. 

Today, may we be blessed like Samuel, with the wisdom and grace to take note, to listen to the counsel we receive, and to say, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”  Today, may we be blessed to welcome the persistent presence of the Lord more deeply into our lives.

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

Prayer

Dear Lord, here I am.  Like Samuel, I, too, may be sleeping in my life- distracted and busy, listening to all manner of external noise and finding it hard to focus on the life I truly desire, grounded in your love and life.  Dear Lord, please don’t give up on me! Like Samuel, I ask you to keep reaching out and calling my name through the people and experiences you place in my life. Lord, thank you for all of the “Elis” you have given to me, those faithful companions who can hear your voice and see your work in my life- sometimes before I am able to recognize you myself. 

Thank you, Lord, for all of the ways your love for me brings you back to me with new invitations and urgent callings to let you in deeper into my life and heart.  Thank you, Lord, for the many ways you bless me through your people, the beauty of your creation, and through the rich living of the joys and sorrows of walking with you each day.

Speak, Lord, for I am listening.  Here I am, Lord.

—Kathy Coffey-Guenther


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January 14, 2020

1 Sm 1: 9-20

After they had eaten and drunk at Shiloh, Hannah rose and presented herself before the Lord. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat beside the doorpost of the temple of the Lord. She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord, and wept bitterly. She made this vow: ‘O Lord of hosts, if only you will look on the misery of your servant, and remember me, and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a male child, then I will set him before you as a nazirite until the day of his death. He shall drink neither wine nor intoxicants, and no razor shall touch his head.’

As she continued praying before the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. Hannah was praying silently; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard; therefore Eli thought she was drunk. So Eli said to her, ‘How long will you make a drunken spectacle of yourself? Put away your wine.’ But Hannah answered, ‘No, my lord, I am a woman deeply troubled; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord. Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation all this time.’ 

Then Eli answered, ‘Go in peace; the God of Israel grant the petition you have made to him.’ And she said, ‘Let your servant find favor in your sight.’ Then the woman went to her quarters, ate and drank with her husband, and her countenance was sad no longer.

They rose early in the morning and worshipped before the Lord; then they went back to their house at Ramah. Elkanah knew his wife Hannah, and the Lord remembered her. In due time Hannah conceived and bore a son. She named him Samuel, for she said, ‘I have asked him of the Lord.’

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.

Remember God

In a famous scene from The Lion King, Simba communicates with his dead father Mufasa. As Mufasa’s voice fades, his final words reverberate: “Remember who you are. Remember.”

Watching this scene, I usually associate Mufasa’s voice with God’s. But today it is a human voice — Hannah’s — that reminds me of Mufasa: “Remember me. Do not forget your servant.”

Remember that you are the God who gave Abraham and Sarah a son in their old age. Remember me the way you “remembered” Rachel, wife of Jacob, whom you also granted a son after many infertile years (Gen. 30:22). Remember.

It’s fair to ask, “How could God ever forget?” But if nothing else, when we remind God to remember us, we also remember God. Like Hannah, we “present ourselves before the Lord,” to remember him and be remembered. And isn’t that prayer?

How will you remember God today? And how might God remember you?

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

Prayer

Loving God, just as I ask you to remember me, help me to always remember you.  Deepen my relationship with you so that I can recognize your presence in all things.  Amen.

—The Jesuit Prayer team


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January 13, 2020

St. Hilary

Mk 1: 14-20

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. 

And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed 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.

Casting a wide enough net

Over the Christmas holiday, my family and I went on a whirlwind trip to India with my parents to explore our ancestry, visit relatives, and to see the origins of their childhood.  My mother is from the coastal city of Kochi in the Southern Indian state of Kerala. As we visited the Kochi coastlines, I saw the vast fishing boats and their large casting nets. They are exactly how I picture the fishing nets discussed in this passage. 

I have a close friend and colleague who is always emphasizing the importance of casting a wide enough net. After Jesus declared his kingdom is at hand and upon calling Simon and Andrew to follow him, Jesus kept “casting his net” inviting James and John.  Later on, he would call tax collectors, sinners, foreigners, and so forth, casting the net of the kingdom wide and far.

Do I cast a wide enough net that is all inclusive, inviting, and open to the entire kingdom of God?  Am I willing to let go of my preconceived notions and trepidations to get out of my comfort zone to engage with those outside of my immediate communal circles?

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

Prayer

Dear Lord, help me to engage far and deep your kingdom on earth.  Help me to intentionally reach out to the stranger, the foreigner, the outcast, and the other, willing to stretch my net to the fullest.  Help me to appreciate the diverse gifts of the Holy Spirit they bring. Help me to truly make them my brothers and sisters in and through you.  Amen.


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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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January 22, 2020

Mk 3: 1-6

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

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

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

The importance of presence and availability

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prayer

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

Lord, hear our prayer.  Amen.

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


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January 21, 2020

St. Agnes

Mk 2: 23-28

One sabbath he was going through the grainfields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?” And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need of food? He entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and he gave some to his companions.” 

Then he said to them, “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath; so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.”

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.

Glorify God through the sabbath

At my school, teachers talk about the “Sunday scaries” — that feeling when the weekend is ending and we still aren’t ready for school. This week, with the Martin Luther King Day holiday, we had Monday scaries instead!

I imagine the “scaries” are not unique to teachers. We all know the feeling — at the end of a break or a weekend — when thoughts of work creep into our time of rest. Mercifully, Jesus knows what it’s like.

Jesus says, “the sabbath was made for humankind.” As St. Ignatius would say, that means it is up to us to use the sabbath to glorify God. That surely includes setting time aside for God, like going to Sunday Mass. But it might also include food preparation for the disciples, or lesson preparation for teachers. And that’s o.k. The real question, at work or at play, is whether we use the sabbath to glorify God.

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

Prayer

Good and gracious God, you gave us the sabbath as a means of pausing our routine to reconnect with you.  May these times of rest renew our spirits, strengthen our faith, and deepen our relationships with you. We pray this through Christ Jesus, our Lord.  Amen.

—The Jesuit Prayer team


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January 20, 2020

Mk 2: 18-22

Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting; and people came and said to him, “Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” Jesus said to them, “The wedding guests cannot fast while the bridegroom is with them, can they? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast on that day.

“No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old cloak; otherwise, the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost, and so are the skins; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins.”

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.

Practices that bring us closer to Jesus

Am I truly free and open to experience the grace to be present to Jesus in my life?

Religious practices (such as fasting) are intended to create for us a pathway and space in our busy lives to experience God.  Sometimes though, structures of religion can embed us by overemphasizing the letter of the law at the expense of the spirit of it.  This can obstruct our true focus which is to be present to God.

Jesus is asking us to reflect on our religious practices in this passage.  What are our true desires, intentions, and motivations in our religious practice? 

Is it for societal status, self-righteousness, or a tool to judge others?  Or is it to humbly create a space of grace to truly seek God’s presence in our lives?

All our religious practices must bring us closer in our relationship with Jesus assisting us to experience his unwavering hope, unconditional love, and abundant joy.

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

Prayer

Spend time looking at God. 
Who is God for you now?
How is God present with you at this moment?
What is God’s desire for you like?
Listen to God express this desire.

Maureen Conroy


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January 19, 2020

Is 49: 3, 5-6

And he said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.” And now the Lord says, who formed me in the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him, and that Israel might be gathered to him, for I am honored in the sight of the Lord, and my God has become my strength— he says, “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

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

What choice does God want us to make?

I can pinpoint very clearly the moment that changed the trajectory of my life, an experience without which I may not have happily found myself where I am at now.  It was one of those restless times, when I was wondering what to do next. I was offered an opportunity to go and live in Japan and teach English. I was excited and ready for this new challenge!  And then I got a call. It was my friend Meg. “I saw that St. Peter’s parish in town is looking for a youth and young adult ministry director,” she said, “and I immediately thought of you.” Could this be more than just a call from Meg?  Suddenly, I had two opportunities which appealed to me. Up until then, my choices were often based on what I thought God might want me to do.  But, now, for the first time, it occurred to me that maybe I should ask God what choice he wanted for me.  Was this a choice between being just the Lord’s servant or God making me a light to the nations? I’m not exactly Isaiah the prophet, but I think this experience was something like what Isaiah describes.  Certainly, my choice to apply for my first professional ministry job had a profound impact on my future. I learned that I didn’t have to go to Japan to be a light to the nations, I did this simply by letting God choose my course.

Certainly, God can make the best out of any decision we make.  But, when it comes to discerning what God is calling us to, there are choices that are too little for what God made us for.  So, we should have the courage—and humility—to ask God what choices will make us “a light to the nations.” As he did with Isaiah, God will show us.

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

Prayer

Lord, I desire to be what you made me for.
Help me to believe that I can be “a light to the nations.”
Let me see beyond my own desires, even if they are ones that might please you.
Give me the courage to ask you to guide my choices.
Provide me with the humility to make your choice, no matter how small or great.
And guide me along the path to becoming more and more each day the light that you created me to be.
Amen.

—Fr. Mark Mossa, SJ


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January 18, 2020

Mk 2: 13-17

Jesus went out again beside the sea; the whole crowd gathered around him, and he taught them. As he was walking along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. And as he sat at dinner in Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were also sitting with Jesus and his disciples—for there were many who followed him. 

When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, they said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” When Jesus heard this, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”

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.

Get proximate to Jesus

When social justice lawyer and activist Bryan Stevenson came to our college, he spoke into a crowded gymnasium of students, faculty and staff. Like Jesus in the Gospel who calls Levi to “follow me,” Bryan called to us to get “proximate” that day. 

Getting “proximate,” according to Bryan, is moving close to the dark places of our society where people are in need of our healing light of truth and hope. Like Levi being called to join the disciples and sit and eat with other sinners, we are each called to bring light to the ones who are far away and in the dark.

Retreat teams of the Jesuit Restorative Justice Initiative visit the Monroe Correctional Complex in Washington State where we gather with the incarcerated men for prayer and a midday meal.  We listen and share from our hearts in small groups together. We “get proximate” to one another as we seek forgiveness, healing, and the release from what imprisons us.

In Ordinary Time, each of us is called to visit the dark places and circumstances that need the light of Jesus, to “begin the work of Christmas,” as Howard Thurman writes,

“To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among all,
To make music in the heart.”

How are you called to follow, to get “proximate” today? What needs your healing light of hope and truth? In what ways do you seek freedom and release?

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

Prayer

There is a balm in Gilead
To make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead
To heal the sin-sick soul.

Sometimes I feel discouraged,
And think my work’s in vain,
But then the Holy Spirit
Revives my soul again.

There is a balm in Gilead
To make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead
To heal the sin-sick soul.

—Traditional African-American spiritual


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January 17, 2020

St. Anthony

Mk 2: 1-12

When he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. So many gathered around that there was no longer room for them, not even in front of the door; and he was speaking the word to them. Then some people came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. And when they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and after having dug through it, they let down the mat on which the paralytic lay. 

When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this fellow speak in this way? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 

At once Jesus perceived in his spirit that they were discussing these questions among themselves; and he said to them, “Why do you raise such questions in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and take your mat and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” —he said to the paralytic— “I say to you, stand up, take your mat and go to your home.” 

And he stood up, and immediately took the mat and went out before all of them; so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”

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.

Maintaining our zeal for God

In both our Gospel and today’s first reading (1 Sm 8:4-7, 10-22a), we see examples of people who go to extraordinary levels to get closer to God and to Jesus.  The Gospel story is the well known one where friends of the paralytic man lower him to Jesus through a hole in the roof. How often our response to prayers lack the depth of Samuel, or the men who lifted the paralyzed man down to Jesus?  We want answers, and we want them now!

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Anthony the Abbot.  St. Anthony told his visitors that perseverance meant waking up each day with the same zeal as the first day.  Now that Christmas and New Year’s Day have passed and we are again in “ordinary time”, let us pause and reflect how we practice the same level of prayer, gratitude, and service that we professed during the Christmas season.

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

Prayer

O God, who brought the Abbot Saint Anthony to serve you by a wondrous way of life in the desert, grant, through his intercession, that, denying ourselves, we may always love you above all things. 

—Collect prayer from today’s Mass


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January 16, 2020

Mk 1:40-45

A leper came to him begging him, and kneeling he said to him, “If you choose, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, “I do choose. Be made clean!” Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. After sternly warning him he sent him away at once, saying to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” 

But he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the word, so that Jesus could no longer go into a town openly, but stayed out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter.

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

What do you expect from God?

Faith that moves mountains gets results! In Mark’s Gospel, the leper’s statement is filled with faithful purpose. “If you choose, you can make me clean.”

When I repeat the leper’s words, it resonates as a prayer, a statement and a command rolled into one. The joyful conviction that spills out of these words is “I know God. I love God, and I am loved by my God.  God has the power to heal me.” When you pray, do you expect God to do something?  

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

Prayer

Lord, you want me to ask for what I want, knowing that my prayer gives you great honor. You are my merciful and gracious father who is waiting to meet my needs. Amen.


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January 15, 2020

1 Sm 3: 1-10, 19-20

Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord under Eli. The word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread. At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his room; the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was. Then the Lord called, “Samuel! Samuel!” and he said, “Here I am!” and ran to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” 

But he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” So he went and lay down. The Lord called again, “Samuel!” Samuel got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.” Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. The Lord called Samuel again, a third time. And he got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” 

Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. Now the Lord came and stood there, calling as before, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

As Samuel grew up, the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was a trustworthy prophet of the Lord.

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

God’s persistent call

“Here I am,” says Samuel, awakened from sleep by a God who calls to him personally and persistently.  Samuel, in training with the temple priest, Eli, assumes it is Eli who keeps arousing him from sleep. He continues to go to Eli saying, “Here I am”, to which Elli says, “Go back to sleep”, assuming the boy has had a dream or heard some other noise in his sleep.

However, upon God’s third call to Samuel, Eli understands the possibility of God at work here, and teaches Samuel how to respond, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

Sometimes we may not recognize the persistent call of God to us in ordinary time and in the midst of our ordinary lives.  Often it may be someone else- through something we read or a piece of music, a homily at Mass, discerning clarity through Eucharist, a spiritual director’s insightful question or dear friend’s keen listening ear- who first hears God’s continual knocking at the walls of our hearts, minds and spirits. 

Today, may we be blessed like Samuel, with the wisdom and grace to take note, to listen to the counsel we receive, and to say, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”  Today, may we be blessed to welcome the persistent presence of the Lord more deeply into our lives.

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

Prayer

Dear Lord, here I am.  Like Samuel, I, too, may be sleeping in my life- distracted and busy, listening to all manner of external noise and finding it hard to focus on the life I truly desire, grounded in your love and life.  Dear Lord, please don’t give up on me! Like Samuel, I ask you to keep reaching out and calling my name through the people and experiences you place in my life. Lord, thank you for all of the “Elis” you have given to me, those faithful companions who can hear your voice and see your work in my life- sometimes before I am able to recognize you myself. 

Thank you, Lord, for all of the ways your love for me brings you back to me with new invitations and urgent callings to let you in deeper into my life and heart.  Thank you, Lord, for the many ways you bless me through your people, the beauty of your creation, and through the rich living of the joys and sorrows of walking with you each day.

Speak, Lord, for I am listening.  Here I am, Lord.

—Kathy Coffey-Guenther


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January 14, 2020

1 Sm 1: 9-20

After they had eaten and drunk at Shiloh, Hannah rose and presented herself before the Lord. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat beside the doorpost of the temple of the Lord. She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord, and wept bitterly. She made this vow: ‘O Lord of hosts, if only you will look on the misery of your servant, and remember me, and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a male child, then I will set him before you as a nazirite until the day of his death. He shall drink neither wine nor intoxicants, and no razor shall touch his head.’

As she continued praying before the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. Hannah was praying silently; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard; therefore Eli thought she was drunk. So Eli said to her, ‘How long will you make a drunken spectacle of yourself? Put away your wine.’ But Hannah answered, ‘No, my lord, I am a woman deeply troubled; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord. Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation all this time.’ 

Then Eli answered, ‘Go in peace; the God of Israel grant the petition you have made to him.’ And she said, ‘Let your servant find favor in your sight.’ Then the woman went to her quarters, ate and drank with her husband, and her countenance was sad no longer.

They rose early in the morning and worshipped before the Lord; then they went back to their house at Ramah. Elkanah knew his wife Hannah, and the Lord remembered her. In due time Hannah conceived and bore a son. She named him Samuel, for she said, ‘I have asked him of the Lord.’

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.

Remember God

In a famous scene from The Lion King, Simba communicates with his dead father Mufasa. As Mufasa’s voice fades, his final words reverberate: “Remember who you are. Remember.”

Watching this scene, I usually associate Mufasa’s voice with God’s. But today it is a human voice — Hannah’s — that reminds me of Mufasa: “Remember me. Do not forget your servant.”

Remember that you are the God who gave Abraham and Sarah a son in their old age. Remember me the way you “remembered” Rachel, wife of Jacob, whom you also granted a son after many infertile years (Gen. 30:22). Remember.

It’s fair to ask, “How could God ever forget?” But if nothing else, when we remind God to remember us, we also remember God. Like Hannah, we “present ourselves before the Lord,” to remember him and be remembered. And isn’t that prayer?

How will you remember God today? And how might God remember you?

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

Prayer

Loving God, just as I ask you to remember me, help me to always remember you.  Deepen my relationship with you so that I can recognize your presence in all things.  Amen.

—The Jesuit Prayer team


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January 13, 2020

St. Hilary

Mk 1: 14-20

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. 

And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed 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.

Casting a wide enough net

Over the Christmas holiday, my family and I went on a whirlwind trip to India with my parents to explore our ancestry, visit relatives, and to see the origins of their childhood.  My mother is from the coastal city of Kochi in the Southern Indian state of Kerala. As we visited the Kochi coastlines, I saw the vast fishing boats and their large casting nets. They are exactly how I picture the fishing nets discussed in this passage. 

I have a close friend and colleague who is always emphasizing the importance of casting a wide enough net. After Jesus declared his kingdom is at hand and upon calling Simon and Andrew to follow him, Jesus kept “casting his net” inviting James and John.  Later on, he would call tax collectors, sinners, foreigners, and so forth, casting the net of the kingdom wide and far.

Do I cast a wide enough net that is all inclusive, inviting, and open to the entire kingdom of God?  Am I willing to let go of my preconceived notions and trepidations to get out of my comfort zone to engage with those outside of my immediate communal circles?

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

Prayer

Dear Lord, help me to engage far and deep your kingdom on earth.  Help me to intentionally reach out to the stranger, the foreigner, the outcast, and the other, willing to stretch my net to the fullest.  Help me to appreciate the diverse gifts of the Holy Spirit they bring. Help me to truly make them my brothers and sisters in and through you.  Amen.


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