Thursday, January 30, 2014

Jan. 30, 2014 Thursday: 3rd Week in Ordinary A

What does the image of light and a lamp tell us about God's kingdom? Lamps in the ancient world served a vital function, much like they do today. They enable people to see and work in the dark and to avoid stumbling. The Jews also understood "light" as an expression of the inner beauty, truth, and goodness of God. In his light we see light ( Psalm 36:9). His word is a lamp that guides our steps (Psalm 119:105). God's grace not only illumines the darkness in our lives, but it also fills us with spiritual light, joy, and peace. Jesus used the image of a lamp to describe how his disciples are to live in the light of his truth and love. Just as natural light illumines the darkness and enables one to see visually, so the light of Christ shines in the hearts of believers and enables us to see the heavenly reality of God's kingdom. In fact, our mission is to be light-bearers of Christ so that others may see the truth of the gospel and be freed from the blindness of sin and deception.

Jesus remarks that nothing can remain hidden or secret. We can try to hide things from others, from ourselves, and from God. How tempting to shut our eyes from the consequences of our sinful ways and bad habits, even when we know what those consequences are. And how tempting to hide them from others and even from God. But, nonetheless, everything is known to God who sees all. There is great freedom and joy for those who live in God's light and who seek his truth. Those who listen to God and heed his voice will receive more from him; they will not lack what they need to live as Christ's disciples, and they will shine as lights to those who hunger for God's truth and wisdom. Do you know the joy and freedom of living in God's light?

"Lord Jesus, you guide me by the light of your saving truth. Fill my heart and mind with your light and truth and free me from the blindness of sin and deception that I may see your ways clearly and understand your will for my life. May I radiate your light and truth to others in word and deed."

Don Schwager,

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Jan. 29, 2014 Wednesday: 3rd Week in Ordinary Time A

God the Sower
We all have heard the Parable of the Sower from today’s gospel many times in the course of our lives. When reflecting on it, I have usually asked myself what kind of ground have I prepared to receive the seed, the word of God? This is a question well worth praying over with total honesty and truthfulness.

As I hear the parable today, however, another perspective jumps into my mind and heart. It is the perspective of the sower, the farmer. This person desperately wants the seed to flourish and bear much fruit. His livelihood depends on it. I would think such a person would be more careful than to throw the seed on the pathways, rocky ground, and where thorns are already growing.

But the sower of the word is no ordinary farmer. It is God who sows his word in the hearts of all people. This is God who desperately wants us to respond to his invitation of love with love in return. He is rooting for us with wild abandon. Even when we have not done a good job of preparing the ground for his presence in our lives, he is sowing the seeds with hope that his grace and love will touch our hearts. How lucky are we that God will spare no expense, will sow seeds at all times and in all places to let us know his love for us.

—David McNulty is the Provincial Assistant for Advancement, Chicago-Detroit Province Jesuits

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Jan. 28, 2014 Tuesday: St. Thomas Aquinas

Panis Angelicus

Bread of the Angels
Is made bread for mankind;
Gifted bread of Heaven
Of all imaginings the end;
Oh, thing miraculous!
This body of God will nourish
the poor, the servile, and the humble.

Thee Triune God,
We beseech;
Do us Thou visit,
Just as Thee we worship.
By Thy ways,
lead us where we are heading,
to the light Thou dwellest in.

by St. Thomas Aquinas

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Jan. 26, 2014: 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time A

To say that it was cold in Donaldsonville and the Baton Rouge area this past Friday is an understatement. There was a wedding scheduled on Friday at our church at 7PM and a priest from across the river was coming to celebrate the ceremony. Around noon, I innocently began to text the priest and the bride who was also coming from across the river. What would have ordinarily been an hour drive for the priest, turned into a 6½ hour ordeal because various parts of the interstate were closed. The priest had to drive down to the New Orleans area to cross the Mississippi River. The bride’s group and the groom’s group fared no better. Their drive was supposed to be just 25 minutes but both groups were stuck across the river and had to drive down to New Orleans to come across. They were late to their wedding, but they were married, nonetheless.

This Friday may have been a difficult and a testing day for most people, but for a select few it was a vastly different experience. One parishioner told me that her husband went out early in the morning in the freezing rain to spend time in the deer stand in the tree. I wonder what it was like sitting up there in the cold tree in the pitch darkness. I imagine as he looked out into the landscape barely perceptible to the naked eye, he heard the drizzle of rain hitting the fallen leaves below. He wasn’t in a hurry to go somewhere. He welcomed the opportunity to be patient. He was gazing and anticipating something. Many of you who frequent the Perpetual Adoration Chapel have told me that as you are sitting before the Blessed Sacrament, you are looking, gazing, waiting, and anticipating something. In the Gospel today, Jesus was also looking, gazing, and anticipating something.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus was walking along the Sea of Galilee near the town of Capernaum. This area was where the Prophet Isaiah foretold the inhabitants who were in darkness that they would see a great light arise in their midst. Jesus was walking along the shore with a sense of profound intention. He then caught sight of Peter and Andrew in their boats, casting a net into the sea. It was not a momentary glimpse, but a prolonged gaze.

Have you ever had an experience of someone staring at you? Even though your back was turned, you sensed that someone was watching. Many a moments you turn around, and you find no one there. I wonder if Jesus was the one who was gazing at you. Just as Jesus found Peter and Andrew in their daily routine, he finds us in our ordinary, mundane and daily routine, ready to call us to a mission by an invitation, “Come follow me.”

What is Jesus calling us to? “Come be My light,” Jesus told Mother Teresa. That invitation is for all of us as well. Mother Teresa tells us a story of a man who was brought out of darkness into the light. One day in a big city, Mother Teresa visited a man who lived all alone in a dark, untidy, and neglected room. There was no light in the room. He never opened the blinds. The darkness reflected his life--he had no friends, nor anyone visited him. Mother immediately began to clean the room. At first he protested, saying, 'Leave it alone. It's all right as it is.' But she went ahead anyway. Under a pile of rubbish she found a beautiful oil lamp but it was covered with dust. She cleaned and polished it. then she asked him, 'How come you never light the lamp?' 'Why should I light it?' he replied, "no one ever comes to see me. I never see anybody.' Mother asked, 'Will you promise to light it if one of my sister comes to see you?' 'Yes,' he replied. 'If I hear a human voice I'll light the lamp.' Two of Mother Teresa's nuns began to visit him on a regular basis. Things gradually improved for him. Then one day he said to the nuns, 'Sister, I'll be able to manage on my own from now on. But do me a favour. Tell that first sister who came to see me that the light she lit in my life is still burning.'

If we look around, there still are many people who live in darkness and in the shadow of death. We need now more than ever disciples of Jesus who have the burning light and fire of Jesus’ love in them to illuminate the world. The light of Jesus did not come to judge us, but to save us, to show us how to live, to show us the way to the Father's Kingdom. Each of us can be sources of light to a darkened world. Indeed each of us is called to that task. But unless our own lamp is lighted, we won't be able to enlighten anyone else. There is great joy in being in the light. And there is an even greater joy in being a source of light to others.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Jan. 24, 2014 Friday: St. Francis de Sales

“The loving heart of the Redeemer measures and organizes all events in the world. He does all this for the benefit of souls who want to respond wholeheartedly to his divine love. It is there, my dear, that our faults are thorns in our souls. But once removed through voluntary self-accusations, they are subsequently transformed into roses and perfumes. They enter our heart through our malice, but they are thrown out by the Holy Spirit.”

“In confession, he says, you will practice the virtues of humility, obedience, simplicity, and charity. You will exercise more virtues in this single act of confession than in any other act whatsoever.”

-St. Francis de Sales

Anger & Envy

He who has received less ought not to become dejected, nor become angry, nor envious of the one who has received more. Rather, he should look to You and praise Your great goodness since You have bestowed Your gifts so freely, so willingly, so lavishly, and without respect of persons.

All good things come from You and, therefore, You are to be praised in all things.

You know what is best for each of us, and the reason You grant more to one and less to another is not for us to comprehend. this is for You to decide since You alone know each one’s merits.

Therefore, O God, I consider it a great blessing not to have many of those goods that in men’s eyes and in outward appearance call for praise and honor. – The Imitation of Christ, Book III, Chapter 22, p. 109-110.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

January 23, 2014 Thursday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time A

Oddly enough Iago, in Shakespeare’s play Othello, the very man who instigated the whole tragedy of the drama caused by envy and jealousy, was the very man who planted the seed of envy in Othello’s heart. Iago gave this warning to the conquering hero Othello who, by the end of the play, was ruined by envy:


O, beware, my lord, of jealousy;
It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock
The meat it feeds on; that cuckold lives in bliss
Who, certain of his fate, loves not his wronger;
But, O, what damned minutes tells he o’er
Who dotes, yet doubts, suspects, yet strongly loves!

Today’s first reading notes the growing envy in the heart of Saul over the success of David and his military victories. Saul noted that songs sung in honor of military victories noted that he had killed thousands but David was credited with killing ten thousands and therefore he felt cheated and envious of David’s abilities. And it went downhill from there for Saul.

Ignatius realized that what you value will in turn shape the decisions that are made because all decisions are based on one’s values. Envy and jealousy are simply the aspiration of an in appropriate value and as Shakespeare and the writer of the Book of Samuel both noted, an aspiration that usually ends in tragedy.

By Michael Maher, S.J.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Jan. 22, 2014 Wednesday: 2nd Week in Ordinary Time A

What’s Important

In today’s gospel we are called to consider what is really important in our lives. Jesus asks the Pharisees, “Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath . . . to save life rather than to destroy it?” I respond immediately, “of course.” In fact just two verses before this morning’s gospel, Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” It’s so easy, isn’t it?

But then I look at my own life and see many instances when I hold to what seems like a very important principle or rule that justifies far less than reaching out with love to those people God puts in my life and to those on the margins. I often remain silent, if not outright defiant, in the face of the question Jesus poses, just as the Pharisees did. Isn’t this the same question Pope Francis has wonderfully posed to us and to the world in so many ways this past year?

I am encouraged though, because the gospel goes on to say Jesus “grieved at their hardness of heart.” Jesus’ invitation to love and to be loved is always present in my life, even at my worst moments. God’s grace enables me to not only say, but to live my life, answering “of course!”

—David McNulty is the Provincial Assistant for Advancement, Chicago-Detroit Province Jesuits

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Jan. 21, 2014 Tuesday: St. Agnes

Memorial of St. Agnes Virgin and Martyr

The Church celebrates today in a special way the memory of St. Agnes, Virgin and Martyr. St. Agnes died in Rome during the great persecutions of the Christians led by Emperor Diocletian in 304. Her strength and resolve in maintaining her Christian witness even at death and at the young age of 13 earned her the respect of the early Christian community. She has the honor of being one of the 7 women in the “Roman Canon,” the only Eucharistic prayer used until the liturgical reforms of Vatican II.

Tertullian in the second century identified the blood of martyrs as the seed of the Church, meaning that it was through their witness—even at death—that would inspire others to value and join the church. The word itself comes from the Greek term for witness and does not necessarily imply death. However, by the 3rd century, a martyr became synonymous for someone who died for his or her beliefs.

Martyrdom is not that distant of a phenomenon. The 20th century, that which we claim as modern” far exceeded the number of deaths caused by witness to the Christian faith compared to the persecutions of the early church and the so called “religious” wars of the 17th century that the number is staggering.

Although we may not be called to give our lives, we may be called to give witness to our faith, especially at times when, not when the lions are in the coliseum, but rather when it may cause us embarrassment at a cocktail party.

By Michael Maher, S.J.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Jan. 20, 2014 Monday: 2nd Week in Ordinary Time A

Savoring God’s New Gifts
(A couple’s perspective)

Mark 2: 18-22
“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.”

This is a great gospel passage for the beginning of not only the new Church year but also the calendar year! We all want to have new wineskins in which to pour the wine of 2014—God willing, it’s all good things. But given what we know of life, difficult experiences are all part of the ‘new’, too.

Is this what Jesus is saying to us all? Yes, in part. But I think Jesus is also trying to comfort us by saying that if we reverence each new experience, it will become part of us and shape us; literally, it will give us new skin. I believe this gospel invites us to live in the now, as fully as we are able. I will try to remember that I am creating “new skin” during these long days of parenting young children and being a good friend to my husband.

— Carrie Nantais

Last year brought several new blessings to my life—a new baby, a new employee, a new course to teach and new friendships. It is too easy in my busy life to under-appreciate just how amazing all of these new blessings are to me. I feel invited to savor these and all of the blessings I receive in 2014. Instead of gobbling them up like a frozen dinner before an appointment, I want to chew on them, taste their succulence and enjoy!

I hope that through reflection and appreciation that the sense of grace from these blessings will settle more deeply in my heart and allow me to live in them, love them, and be ever more grateful for them.

For reflection:

What circumstance or event in your life is ‘new skin’? How might Jesus be calling to you to embrace this experience?

— David Nantais ( Carrie and David live in the city of Detroit with their two sons, Liam (almost 4 years) and Theo (5 ½ months). They are both at the University of Detroit Mercy—David as Director of University Ministry and Carrie as a PhD student in Clinical Psychology. They have been married for 5 ½ years.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Jan. 19, 2014: 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time A

Do you like pizza?  A while back when a new pizza place opened its doors in our small town on the corner directly across the street from another pizza place, a new marketing campaign was deployed--a dancing employee holding a sign of the new pizza place. It is the hope of the management that people will be drawn into the store.

Believe it or not, most of us are walking advertising signs for various companies. Although we may think that what we buy indicates our sophisticated and discerning taste, in reality, we are like that dancing employee, holding up a sign for a particular lifestyle that companies have promoted in order to sell their product. Did you ever imagine that a $300 headphone would ever become a must have accessory for teenagers? With the companies paying certain well-known athletes and musicians to wear their headphone in public--despite looking so goofy--the sales took off and many parents’ wallets were empty. However, all this pursuit of a certain look and lifestyle can leave us empty. In the end, one feels used by the marketing forces and the emptiness that we feel indicates to us that our lives should point to something greater and more noble.

Some years back, a man who was a high profile person in the country of Brazil wrote a letter to Mother Teresa. He explained in the letter that he had lost total faith in God and in man, and he gave everything up—his position and everything. He had felt so empty that he had a great desire to end his life. Then one day, as he was passing by a shop, his eyes suddenly fell on a television and there was a news clip of Mother Teresa’s sisters looking after the sick and dying in their house in India. He went on to explain in the letter that after seeing the news clip, he then, for the first time after many years, knelt and prayed. He wrote that the incident turned him back to God and to have faith in humanity because he saw that God still loves the world—he saw this on the television.

What did that man see? He saw women whose lives of sacrifice and compassion pointed to someone greater than themselves; their lives pointed to the Lamb of God. In a sense, their lives proclaimed a sign with this simple message, “Behold, the Lamb of God. Behold Him who takes away the sin of the world. Blessed are those who are invited to His Supper.” As much as we are encouraged in this world to perform, to earn, and to do things that bring the spotlight to ourselves, we learn quickly that it leads to emptiness. The author of the Book of  Ecclesiastes  proclaims this self absorption writing: “Vanity of vanities!  All is vanity!  I said in my heart, ‘Come, now, let me try you with pleasure and the enjoyment of good things...’ I amassed for myself silver and gold, and the treasures of kings and provinces. I accumulated much more than all others before me in Jerusalem...But when I turned to all the works that my hands had wrought, and to the fruit of the toil for which I had toiled so much, see! all was vanity and a chase after wind. There is no profit under the sun.” (cf. Eccl. 1-2)

In the Gospel today, John the Baptist offers us a very different approach to living our lives here on earth. His vocation from the very beginning moment of his life was one thing: to be a sign pointing to Christ. “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world,” John cried out to everyone. Pope Francis said about John: "John seems to be nothing. That is John’s vocation: he negates himself.” Pope Francis said that John modeled for us how we should negate ourselves, so that we could always be at the service of Christ. What is it about the life of John the Baptist that attracted people to see and yearn for Christ? It was not his fine clothes, which he had none. It was not his wealth, which he had none. It was his life of sacrifice and compassion, lived for Christ. It was his life which echoed the Responsorial Psalm today: I have waited, waited for the LORD, and he stooped toward me and heard my cry. And he put a new song into my mouth, a hymn to our God. Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will. Let us remember that our lives should be a sign to attract and move people to Christ’s love and mercy. Will they be moved by our lives to visit and encounter Jesus in our church?

Friday, January 17, 2014

Jan. 17, 2014 Friday: St. Anthony, abbot

Memorial of Saint Anthony, Abbot

Imagine yourself as paralyzed from the neck down: what a profound powerlessness. We all have places in our lives in which we are paralyzed in some way. For example, perhaps we are bound by some fear or a seeming inability to forgive. We also know the places in others’ lives in which they are paralyzed. I recently spoke with a friend who is feeling paralyzed by a prolonged inability to conceive a first child. Today’s Scripture gives us a vivid image of Jesus encountering “a paralytic carried by four men.” They go to such lengths as to dismantle the roof of the building in order to lower him on his mat to the feet of Jesus.

Here is a representation of our ecclesial reality: we intercede for one another before God, in prayer and in service. We gain strength from one another’s prayers. No wonder Pope Francis is always asking for people’s prayers! I also ask the readers of this reflection to join me in praying for the couple I mentioned, that if it is God’s will, they might receive the baby they so desire. Who carries you to Jesus? Whom do you help carry to Jesus? Each day, let us actively remember and ask God for the needs of those for whom we care and for all those in the world who are suffering, at-risk, and forgotten.

By John Roselle, S.J.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Jan. 16, 2014 Thursday: 1st Week in Ordinary Time A

Thursday of the First Week in Ordinary Time

Today is a familiar scene: a leper approaches Jesus, falls to his knees and pleads for healing from our Lord. For this leper, life must have been truly terrible until this point. Having been cast out from his family and his entire community, the man was surely covered in not just sores but shame. Yet instead of further shunning him, we hear that Jesus, being “moved with pity…stretched out his hand,” then made physical and verbal contact with him.

Many have seen the photo of Pope Francis reaching out to a man covered with horrendous disfigurements. The man reported, ”He embraced me without speaking … I quivered. I felt a great warmth.” For him, it was no doubt a life-changing encounter with unconditional acceptance. How do we also need the experience of our “sores” and “disfigurements” being touched by the perfect, incarnate love of God?

By John Roselle, S.J.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Jan. 15, 2014 Wednesday: 1st Week of Ordinary A

Pope Francis: we are all called to be witnesses of the Gospel before the world

Pope Francis on Wednesday reminded the faithful that through baptism we are reborn to a new life of grace and we are called to be witnesses of the Gospel before the world.

Speaking to the crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the weekly General Audience, the Pope continued in his catechesis on the sacrament of baptism.
He reflected on how, through baptism we become members of Christ’s mystical body, the Church. “In every generation” – he said – “through baptism, we are reborn to the new life of grace and called to be witnesses of the Gospel before the world. Baptism makes us “missionary disciples” within the communion of the Church”.
The Pope said there is a close bond, then, “between our rebirth in water and the Holy Spirit, our responsibility to live this new life within the Church, in our families and our parishes, and our mission to bring the Gospel to others as channels of God’s grace”.
And he invited us to look to the remarkable history of the Church in Japan “where small communities of the faithful survived clandestinely for over two centuries thanks to the grace of baptism”.

The Pope conclude his address pointing us to this example to “help us to appreciate more fully the profound mystical, communitarian and missionary dimensions of our baptism”.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Jan. 14, 2014 Tuesday: 2nd Week of Ordinary Time A

Astonishment and Awe

Astonished. When was the last time any of us were astonished at the words of Jesus? The awe of Jesus is very important. But I can easily miss it. After all, the story seems to focus on a demon and its desire to identify Jesus. This passage points to the Messianic secret used by Mark—demons and sinners identify Christ, but followers struggle to do so. I typically do some pondering and theological reflection on this secret, but rarely am I astonished.

Perhaps, however, we should focus more on the simple awe. We hear the same or similar gospel readings relatively frequently and they sometimes become just another regular feature in the day. The same can be said of our religious celebrations. We are just at the closing edge of Christmas and the Epiphany. I have to ask myself—did any of these shock or astound me? Did the radical love of Jesus, bursting into the world, surprise me in any way?

I can easily slip into the routines and habits of my faith. But it is very good for me to be surprised, wowed, and amazed by Jesus. The Jews in the synagogue experienced Jesus for the very first time. We have heard the Christ story for years and it is a major part of our society. How do we experience Jesus for the first time? How do we let Christ astonish us by his love and teaching?

Maybe take some time to reflect how Jesus has astonished you by his love through others and yourself. Or perhaps, try Ignatian Contemplation and enter the scene to find out what it was like to be a first-century Jew discovering Jesus for the first time.

—Ken Homan, S.J.


Lord, we ask two things this day. We want to be like those in the synagogue who experienced the authority of your teaching. Let your Spirit embrace our spirit so your Word touches the deepest channels of our being. And let our conversations with others be infused with your authority so we can be an instrument of your truth and courage.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team

Monday, January 13, 2014

Jan. 13, 2014 Monday: St. Hilary

Hearts Made for Loving

Lately I have been humming the hymn, “Lord, When You Came to the Seashore” as I rock our 5 ½ month old son, Theo, to sleep in the middle of the night.  I love the stanza which says, “Lord, have you need of my labor?  Hands for service, a heart made for loving.”  I think of this song as I reflect on this passage where Jesus calls to several of the disciples and they make such quick, powerful decisions.

As I contemplate Jesus’ invitation and the apostles’ response, I’m thinking about how it relates to my marriage with my husband, David. In what ways is God calling out to us, as husband and wife, to more closely follow God? As we live, work, study and raise our two young sons, I wonder if we’re at all free, amidst the busyness of our home life, to respond as Simon and the others did.

I am both amazed and nervous by the apparent quick and generous nature of their response.  Maybe the better context for me to reflect upon about this passage would be to think that David and I are already on our journey following Christ—we left behind our boats and relatives when we said “I do” on our wedding day.

—Carrie and David Nantais, www.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Jan. 12, 2014: Baptism of the Lord

Many of us remember and celebrate anniversary dates of our loved ones—weddings, birthdays, deaths. I venture to say that there is one anniversary that most of us don’t remember or celebrate. This past Wednesday, Pope Francis asked this simple question to the tens of thousands of faithful gathered in the Vatican Square,: “How many of you remember the date of your baptism? Raise your hands.”

I asked the same question to the seminarians this week. This past week, I was at a retreat facility in Houma giving a retreat to a group of seminarians who just entered the seminary. For these seminarians, the past several months have been hard for them. Some of these men are transitioning from careers that had lucrative salaries; some stepped away from their education plans that could have led them to  professional careers; all of these men sacrificed  their plans to get married. For some, the question they were pondering was, “Did I make the right choice by coming to the seminary?” When I asked how many of them remembered their date of baptism, only two hands went up (I didn’t raise mine either).

Knowing the answer to this question is very important for the seminarians and for us. Jesus offers us baptism as the way to enter into communion with God -- God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit -- and to live our lives as God’s beloved children. Through baptism we reject the world and its temptations. We declare that we no longer want to remain children of the darkness but want to become children of the light, God’s children. We do not want to escape the world, but we want to live in it without belonging to it. That is what baptism enables us to do.

Pope Francis told the people gathered in the square, “To know the date of our Baptism is to know a blessed day. The danger of not knowing it is losing awareness of what the Lord has done in us, the memory of the gift we have received. Thus, we end up considering it only as an event that took place in the past – something that our parents have done for us--and, thus, has no impact on the present.”

The Pope continued, “A question can stir within us: is Baptism really necessary to live as Christians and follow Jesus? Isn't it merely a ritual, a formal act of the Church in order to give a name to the little boy or girl?” The Pope then posed this thought provoking question: “Is there a difference between a baptized child versus an unbaptized child? Or are they the same?” Let me take this question one step further. Is there a difference between you (who are sitting here or reading this homily) and an adult who is not baptized?”

Those of you who said that there is a difference, how does this difference manifest itself? How does this difference manifest in your daily life?  St. Paul makes this distinction about those who are baptized, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life’ (Rom 6:3-4).” Baptism is not merely a ceremony, not merely a rite of passage. Our baptism is our entry into a New Covenant bond, a new family, a new life, a new birth, a new creation. It is through baptism that we now can call God, Our Father. Through birth a child is given to parents; through baptism a child is given to God. At baptism the parents acknowledge that their parenthood is a participation in God’s parenthood, that all fatherhood and motherhood comes from God.

Christian baptism gives us the power to live in a way that we could not do on our own. Baptism with the Holy Spirit does not merely express a desire to live a better life; it actually changes the person, uniting the soul with Christ’s death and resurrection and filling it with his divine life, so that it has the power to live and act under the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Filled with Christ’s Spirit, the Christian can begin to love not with his own fallen, selfish love, but with Christ’s divine love overcoming his weaknesses. As St. Paul wrote, “yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:20).

Pope Francis urged everyone to live out the meaning of their own Baptism in their daily life.  He said, “We must reawaken the memory of our Baptism. We are called to live our Baptism every day, as the current reality of our lives. If we manage to follow Jesus and to remain in the Church, despite our limitations and with our weaknesses and with our sins, it is precisely through Baptism that we have become new creatures and are clothed in Christ. Let us ask the Lord from our hearts to be able to experience ever more in everyday life this grace that we have received at Baptism. And let’s not forget our homework: find out the date of Baptism!"

Friday, January 10, 2014

Jan. 10, 2014: Friday after Epiphany

 “Faith makes all things possible,” but we must place our trust completely in God.

Pope Francis recalled the great praise that Our Lord had for the faith of the hemorrhagic woman, the Caananite woman, or the man who was blind from birth – saying that faith as large as a mustard seed could move mountains. “This faith,” he said, “affirms and requires of us two attitudes: confessing and trusting.

“Faith,” Said Pope Francis, “means confessing God – the God who revealed Himself to us, from the time of our fathers down to the present: the God of history. This we recite each day in the Creed – but it is one thing to recite the Creed heartily, and another [merely] to parrot it, no? I believe, I believe in God, I believe in Jesus Christ, I believe – but do I believe what I am saying? Is this a true confession of faith or is it something I says somehow by rote, because it is [the thing to say]? Do I believe only halfway? Confess the Faith! All of it, not part of it! Safeguard this faith, as it came to us, by way of tradition: the whole Faith! And how may I know that I confess the Faith well? There is a sign: he, who confesses the faith well – the whole Faith – has the capacity to worship God.”

The other attitude is that of trusting:

“The man or woman who has faith relies on God: entrusts himself or herself to Him! Paul, in a dark time in his life, said, ‘I know well to whom I have entrusted myself.’ To God! To the Lord Jesus! Trusting [in God] is what leads us to hope. Just as the confession of faith leads us to the worship and praise of God, so trust in God leads us to an attitude of hope. There are many Christians with a hope too watered down, not strong: a faint hope. Why? Because they do not have the strength and the courage to trust in the Lord. But if we Christians believe confessing the faith, and safeguarding it, taking custody of the faith, and, entrusting ourselves to God, to the Lord, we shall be Christian victors- and this is the victory that has overcome the world: our faith.”
-Pope Francis, Daily Mass, 1/10/14

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Jan. 9, 2014: Thursday after Epiphany

Love is concrete, and it is based on two criteria:

“The first criterion: to love with deeds, not words. Words are taken away by the wind! They are here today, tomorrow they are not. The second criterion of concreteness is: in love it is more important to give than to receive. The one who loves, gives. . . . Gives things, gives life, gives oneself to God and to others. On the other hand, [is] the one who does not love, who is selfish, always seeks to receive, always seeks to have things, to have advantages. Stay with an open heart, not like that of the disciples, which was closed, which did not understand anything: remaining in God and God remaining in us; remaining in love.”

Pope Francis, Jan. 8, 2014 Daily Mass

Jan. 8, 2014 Wednesday: Our Lady of Prompt Succor

Mary saw many difficult moments in her life, from birth of Jesus, when "there was no place for them in the inn," to Calvary. And like a good mother, she is close to us, so that we may never lose courage before the adversities of life, before our weakness, before our sins: she gives us strength, she shows us the path of her Son.

Pope Francis, Address, May 4, 2013

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Jan. 7, 2014 Tuesday: St. Raymond of Peñafort

Those Daily Miracles
As I read today’s Gospel, one that is so familiar to us, I wondered if there was anything to be said about the story that hasn’t already been said. The foreshadowing of the Eucharist, the importance of Jesus’ “table ministry”—entire books have been written on this passage. Then a wise coworker suggested I try the true Ignatian prayer of placing myself into the scene. She said that she imagined herself as one of the people being fed.

In praying with the Scripture in this way, I found myself wondering if the people who ate even realized that it was going on. With the exception of the disciples, and perhaps those who were very nearby, did people realize that 5,000 were fed with five loaves and two fish? Did they realize that they were the recipients of a miracle? If someone could miss the significance of what has become such a “famous” event in Jesus’ ministry, how easy it is for us to miss the significance of smaller moments in our own lives.

In this new year, is God inviting me to be more attentive to the “miracles” around me? How can I be more mindful of God’s presence each day? For me, it is a recommitment to praying the Examen every day, to take note of God active and working in the routine aspects of my life. For others, it might be a pledge to spend a few minutes in silence at the beginning of the day. Regardless of the method we choose, how can we be sure to not miss out on God’s miracles, both big and small, in our own lives?

—Lauren Gaffey is Director of Programs and Administration at Charis Ministries. Founded in 2000, Charis Ministries reaches those in their 20s and 30s nationwide, nurturing their faith through retreats based in Ignatian

Monday, January 6, 2014

Jan. 6, 2014 Monday: St. Andre Bessette

Lord, our God, friend of the lowly, you gave your servant, St. André Bessette, a great devotion to St. Joseph and a special commitment to the poor and afflicted. Through his intercession, help us to follow his example of prayer and love and so come to share with him in your glory. We ask this in the name of Jesus, the Lord. Amen

—Congregation of Holy Cross

Value of Brokenness
A water bearer in India had two large pots, each hung on the end of a pole which he carried across his neck. One of the pots was perfectly made and never leaked. The other pot had a crack in it and by the time the water bearer reached his master’s house, it had leaked much of its water and was only half full. For a full two years this went on daily, with the bearer delivering only one and a half pots full of water to his master’s house. Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do.

After two years of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, it spoke to the water bearer one day by the stream. ‘I am ashamed of myself, and I want to apologize to you.’ ‘Why?’ asked the bearer. ‘What are you ashamed of?’ ‘I have been able, for these past two years, to deliver only half my load because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your master’s house. Because of my flaws, you have to do all of this work, and you don’t get full value from your efforts,’ the pot said.

The water bearer felt sorry for the old cracked pot, and in his compassion he said, ‘As we return to the master’s house, I want you to notice the beautiful flowers along the path.’ Indeed, as they went up the hill, the old cracked pot took notice of the sun warming the beautiful wild flowers on the side of the path, and this cheered it some. But at the end of the trail, it still felt bad because it had leaked out half its load, and so again the pot apologized to the bearer for its failure.

The bearer said to the pot, ‘Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of the path, but not on the other pot’s side? That’s because I have always known about your flaw, and I took advantage of it. I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back from the stream, you’ve watered them. For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate my master’s table. Without you being just the way you are, he would not have this beauty to grace his house. (Author Unknown)

We are like the cracked pot carried by the ever present Spirit. We simply must do our best to bring our Lord’s highest good to others. Don’t focus on your cracks. It’s going to happen. Wrong decisions will be made; character flaws will surface. You will disappoint yourselves and those you love.

Use the lessons from your losses to bring more compassion, communication, and comfort to those stumbling down their path. We have been promised that “the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned “Such an amazing guarantee. Depend on our Lord. He will use all of your life experiences to nourish his kingdom.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Jan. 5, 2014: Epiphany

Click to hear audio homily

Click to hear: What Child is This
Do you ever watch those reality shows about choosing a bride's wedding gown or the bride's maids' gowns? Gentlemen, I don't even expect you to know what I'm talking about. Since I officiate at one or two weddings a month, I sometimes watch these shows out of curiosity. Through these shows, I have come to appreciate how much time, energy, and money go into making even the smallest of details of each wedding just right.

Being featured on any reality show of course is a double edged sword. You can gain fame, but you can also become infamous. You have heard how they say that on TV you look 15 pounds heavier? Well also on TV, your selfishness blows up to the size of the 60" crystal clear HDTV. Just as we marvel at how we can see every blemish on someone's face on these high definition TVs, we also see their glaring personal faults, namely their insistence on having their own way. Their insistence makes everyone uncomfortable, including the TV viewers. Is it because we see in the TV personalities so much of what we do in real life?

I wish there was a reality show dedicated to revealing real people who seek Christ in their lives. Certainly, this show would have to feature people who struggle with their faults--selfishness, impatience, rudeness, worldliness-- and would also show how these people try to find time during their busy day to pray, seek Jesus and try to see Jesus in others. It would also have to show people who are humble enough to admit that they have failed. Wouldn’t it be cool to see people seeking forgiveness from Jesus and those they have offended. I have yet to see a reality TV program that shows such persons seeking Jesus in the midst of the dilemmas. I’ve read that producers usually edit out those kind of clips from their shows. Conflicts, tensions, and selfishness sell; faithfulness to Christ and reconciliation do not sell well on TV.

We see a glimpse of such reality TV in today's Gospel passage where the Magi travel a long distance seeking Jesus. Along the way they encounter King Herod, who represents the part of us that loves the limelight, hates being second fiddle, and hates losing control.  In someway, we are all tempted to be this kind of earthly king. Yet guided by the divine light from the star, these Magi are led to a very different King--a humble servant of servants who loves by self-sacrifice. These men are not forced to come to Him. These men have something that we too can have if we but turn our gaze away from being absorbed with the things of the world -- they have a desire to see Jesus.

How many of you made New Year Resolutions? Are these among your resolutions:  Like the Magi, will we long to know Jesus? Will we seek Him, and will we behold the Christ Child and love as he loved? Will we seek peaceful ways to resolve conflicts and tensions in our daily lives? These are the gifts that we need to bring to the Christ Child just as did the Magi: desire to know him, desire to love as he loved, desire to be peaceful. Let us behold the Christ Child today. He will guide us to live a very different life in this world where we are encouraged to behold our own self. Let us turn to Jesus at all times. His heart wi
ll teach us to know how to truly love. There will be suffering, but all will be for the glory of Jesus our King.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Jan. 3, 2014 Friday: The Most Holy Name of Jesus

Blessed be the name of the Lord for this time forth and for evermore.

The name Jesus speaks to “Yahweh, our salvation.” Jesus is our Way into the mysteries of Creation, Incarnation and Redemption. I am grateful for the Christian faith and revelation handed down through the ages and the Living Christ indwelling, for the Creator creating and our creaturehood evolving filling us with awe and wonder, for the Spirit drawing us towards full life in God’s love in our original goodness.

The Blessed Trinity speaks to me of relationship, of being sentient, differentiated and in communion. I find my desire to be in union and communion with God. I find my Way through the human Jesus as He lived in union with His Father.

Whose name do I call on in my humanity when I feel myself lost in a well of desolation, in suffering and sinfulness? Whose name do I call on in the joys of consolation? I have worked in hospice and been with many people in their dying and whose name do they often call out? The name of Jesus is real and personal and human. I have struggled with understanding who this Jesus is in his humanity and divinity. In prayer, it is Jesus who understands and takes on my memories, understandings, and will and then accompanies me with love and grace. I pray that all encounter Jesus in their lives.

Who do you entrust with your memories, dreams, understandings and will? How do you pray the Suscipe of St. Ignatius? Who is your Way and Truth?

—Janet Lehane is Assistant Director of the Spirituality Program for Adults at St. Ignatius High School, Cleveland OH.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Jan. 2, 2014: Memorial of Sts. Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen

Bearing Witness to Christ’s Love
January 2, 2014

Sometimes we think that if we work hard enough, we can solve every problem and fix every issue. Even if we don’t believe this, often enough we act as though we do. We try to help our spouse, family members, and friends, assuming that if they listen to our advice or follow our example, everything will be fine. In other words, we act as though we are Christ, the Messiah, the one who brings salvation to all.

In the Gospel, John the Baptist gives us a wonderful reminder, “I am not the Messiah.” I cannot save others from all their problems, nor can I even save myself. So, how is this good news?

Like John the Baptist, we are not Christ. Yet, like John, we can use our words and our actions to bear witness to the love of Christ. We can proclaim God-with-us by sharing our love and life with others, by working for justice in a world plagued with injustice, and by doing all that we can do and letting go of what only God can do.

During this Christmas season, we remember and celebrate that Christ has come into the world and dwells among us. Our role is to bear witness to this great love which comes not from ourselves but from God.

—Thomas Bambrick, S.J., is a Jesuit scholastic in First Studies, studying philosophy at Fordham University, New York.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Jan. 1, 2013: Mary, Mother of God

The other day, I was at an office supply place buying some short pens that will fit in my shirt pocket. I had my black clothes on but not my collar. The clerk who was scanning my purchase looked at me and said, “You must be buying these for your work at the restaurant. You must be busy these days.” I replied, “Yes.” He must have thought that I was working at a Chinese restaurant as a waiter.

Several of you have said to me when I do not have my collar on, “You must be working undercover today.” If there was one person who worked “undercover” all her life, it was Blessed Mother. Only her husband Joseph, her son Jesus, her cousin Elizabeth, the angels, and Heavenly Father knew her true identity as the the Theotokos, the God-bearer, or literally, Mother of God. She spent her whole life in silent pondering of what God has done through her.

In today’s Gospel passage, we hear about the shepherds who went to the manger to see Mary, Joseph and the infant child. When the shepherds arrived, they not only saw the child who was the Emmanuel, they saw the mysterious mother of the child; she was the ideal disciple, for she heard the good news, pondered it in her heart, then responded fully to it. Her heart became the place of discovering Jesus, and who he truly is. And as Mary pondered that visible Word, we too must ponder that Word in scripture, that Word in each other, that Word in the created world around us. We too are asked to incarnate Jesus in our lives. This is needed by all of us in this new year, in this strange and confusing age.

Blessed Mother is blessed of all women, and we are told in the blessing from the Book of Numbers in today’s first reading, that God will smile upon those he loves and who love him, that his face will shine upon them. And today, this New Year’s day, we know that the face that smiles upon Mary as she holds him in her arms. presenting Him to His Father in the Temple, is that of her new-born Son Jesus. This is the face we yearn to see, the face of God made flesh, born of the Virgin Mary.

O Blessed Virgin Mary, from the cross your Son appointed you to be Mother of the entire human race. This great gift of Jesus reveals how much I need you to be my Mother. O Mother of God, deepen my love for you. You lead us to your Son, and your Son leads us back to you. May I find in your maternal love the total acceptance I need from moment to moment to live my life. Mother of the Life, by which all things live, be the Mother of my whole person. Take my sorrows and turn them into joys. Mold me in your way of holiness. Whenever you love us, you give us Jesus. Bless me with the certainty of being loved, and help me to grow in intimacy with God. With confidence in your maternal mediation, I entrust to you my intentions.