Friday, 1 March 2013

Friday of the Second Week of Lent

GN 37:3-4, 12-13A, 17B-28A

PS 105:16-17, 18-19, 20-21

MT 21:33-43, 45-46

The readings for the day can be found here.

 

In the readings for today, we hear about favored sons who are loved by their fathers but who are treated pretty roughly by their siblings. This is still pretty early in Lent, but the Church gives us these readings as a way of preparing us to encounter again in a deeper way when Holy Week comes around, what the central Christian mystery is. God the Father sends his eternal Son to humble himself and become a person in order to embody not only the message but the reality of the Father’s love for all people, in every corner of the globe. This reality of God’s self-emptying love for us culminates in Jesus’ death on the cross where even to the moment of his death, he intercedes for those who are killing him that they might be forgiven by his Father.

A prefiguration of this story is in the Old Testament in the narrative about Joseph, son of Israel (Jacob) who ends up being the “savior” of his brothers even after they have tried to kill him out of their own insecurity and jealousy. The first reading describes the situation: “Israel loved Joseph best of all his sons” (Gen 37:3). There’s something about the closeness of Joseph to his father that makes his brothers despise him. In the end, that’s what does in Jesus too. He is killed because people refuse to believe that a regular person like us could be that close to God, could even be God. Surely God would not act like this, coming this close to us!

In the gospel, Jesus tells a parable that illumines a similar reality. A landowner goes away and sends his servants to stay in touch with the tenants, but they rise up in jealousy and kill all the messengers (read: prophets). But the landowner who is also a Father does not give up. Jesus explains, “Finally, he sent his son to them, thinking, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.’ They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.”

Here is the mystery for us to contemplate at this point in Lent. Rather than focusing primarily on our own need to get our lives into order, let’s turn and look and wonder at what God’s solution is to our human reality of radical selfishness and pettiness and sometimes even hostility and violence. He sends his Son. And even when the son is rejected, he does not back off from the mission. He continues to open his heart up to all, even to those who reject him, so that they might be touched by that relentless love.

At the moment of the crucifixion, the soldier who was complicit in Jesus’ crucifixion, perhaps the one who thrust the spear through Jesus’ heart to make sure he was dead, only moments later, has a clear vision of reality: “This man was innocent beyond doubt!” (Lk 23:47). Something happens in the act of the faithful son, taking all of the hostility of the world in love. And when that fidelity of Jesus is witnessed by that centurion, something in turn happens to him. He is moved from an act of violence to a profession of faith and conversion of heart.

May we be opened up to the same change of heart this Lent, that we might come to a new vision of the depth of the love God has for us by sending his own Son to open the heart of God to all of humanity so that our hearts might be opened up to Him.

Fr. Chris Collins, S.J. is Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology in the Department of Theological Studies.

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Thursday, 28 February 2013

Thursday of the Second Week of Lent

JER 17:5-10

PS 1:1-2, 3, 4 AND 6

LK 16:19-31

The readings for the day can be found here.

 

Today’s New Testament Gospel reading comes from Luke 16:19-31 and is the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. This parable begins with an earthly contrast of the “have’s” (the rich man) and the “have not’s” (Lazarus).  Jesus paints a vivid picture of a well dressed man who dines on splendid food each day and of the sore covered Lazarus who waits at the rich man’s door hoping to taste a few of his scraps.  This immediately makes me feel uncomfortable because I see my reflection in the rich man.  Now by American standards I am not rich, just somewhere in the middle. Whew, that makes me feel a little better, until I consider the global community.  In that context I am definitely rich, considering I have never had to worry about where I will find my next meal.  And yet when I hear the statistics on world hunger and the lack of clean drinking water it can seem overwhelming.  What can I possibly do to change the world?  What difference will I actually be able to make?

As Jesus’ parable continues we see the spiritual contrast of Lazarus and the rich man.  When Lazarus died the angels carried him off to heaven (the bosom of Abraham).  Later, the rich man died and while enduring the torment of hell he was able to see Abraham with Lazarus at his side.  He called out for relief and to warn his family still living, but it was too late.  A great chasm was fixed and could not be crossed.  In the end, the rich man is not in hell because of his riches but because he failed to apply the word of God.  Consider God’s word in Matthew 25:35-36, ‘For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

From these contrasts, the parable challenges me.  I know that I am not wanting and in fact have plenty.  But it is easy for me to become numb to the needs of those around me.  Only through God can I remove this indifference.  Please God help me to see Lazarus and have mercy.  Matthew 25:40 says, The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’  Don’t let me get overwhelmed by thinking I have to single handedly change the world.  Instead give me your spirit that I may see those in need around me and give me your heart to help them.  In this way I reflect the love of your son Jesus.

 

Eric Anderson is the Director of Simon Recreation Center.

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Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Wednesday of the Second Week of Lent

JER 18:18-20

PS 31:5-6, 14, 15-16

MT 20:17-28

The readings for the day can be found here.

 

“…whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant;

whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.

Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve

and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

~Matthew 20:27-28

As we continue our preparations for the Resurrection of our Lord, we must ask ourselves how we might humble ourselves to better accept and receive the unconditional love of God. This ideal—of humbling ourselves before God and others—is radically counter-cultural in that we are all told to strive for greatness and are socialized to work towards achieving wealth and sufficient influence in the world.  We as a society glorify those with fortune and those with fame, yet it requires a great deal more strength and courage to be humble than to be proud.

We, as humans, are all inherently imperfect.  This is not something that should be hidden or pushed aside with shame; this reality is what makes us wonderfully human, and uniquely so.  We all make mistakes, and we all have shortcomings.  Tomorrow, Pope Benedict XVI will be stepping down from his holy office, in an embodiment of humility and an authentic acknowledgement of his own limitations and frailties.  This decision must have taken great strength, and hopefully Pope Benedict’s self-awareness and humility can be a model for us all in this nearly unprecedented public display of voluntary downward mobility.

Even Jeremiah, in the first reading, has a tinge of pride, as he feels entitled to the preservation of his life in exchange for having spoken on behalf of those now threatening his life.  I myself have often felt owed something for the good deeds I have performed in my life, as if I had somehow collected enough points to earn my ticket into Heaven—like frequent flyer miles.  It is not through any merit of my own that I am saved, but it is through God’s unimaginable love and kindness.  Whenever I find myself falling into this fallacy of entitlement, I try to remember that Jesus himself, our Lord and Savior, came not as a typical king with crown in hand, but as a lowly carpenter who took every opportunity to humble himself in service of others.  Jesus Christ demonstrated for us the model of humility as he humbled himself in front of all whom he encountered expecting nothing in return, and who are we to disagree with Christ?  Flying in the face of societal norms of self-centeredness and self-interested egoism, we can remember the more humble approach demonstrated in the responsorial psalm, as we resign ourselves to the Lord saying “into your hands I commend my spirit.”

Truly I am not worthy to receive You, but only say the Word and my soul shall be healed.

 

David Gaillardetz is a senior in the School of Education and Public Service.

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Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Tuesday of the Second Week of Lent

IS 1:10, 16-20

PS 50:8-9, 16BC-17, 21 AND 23

MT 23:1-12

The readings for the day can be found here.

 

How much God loves us! How much He wants to know us and be a part of our lives! Today’s readings reiterate this fact in its simplicity. God reminds us how to be present to Him and how to open ourselves up to the potential inside ourselves with God by our side. God wants us to do good, to be good people who love life and love being with one another. The first reading tells us “cease doing evil, learn to do good, make justice your aim, redress the wronged, hear the orphan’s plea, and defend the widow.”

God knows that being human is not easy; He sent His son to be one of us completely and experience the world how we do. He knows we are often tempted by evil to have more things, be the most popular, achieve the highest success, etc. but He also knows that these things will not bring us happiness. It is when we reach out to those in need, when we say “I’m sorry” or accept forgiveness from someone that we will be on our way to experiencing true happiness and joy. God has every intention of forgiving us for turning away from Him so long as we recognize in ourselves the moments we failed to live up to our potential and our goodness. We must also forgive ourselves and one another. The Gospel proclaims that we are all brothers; we must allow ourselves to be present to the marginalized and the “least” of men.  This is where God lies, in the little moments, the daily interactions, when we pass people in the hall, see someone in the dining areas; we must recognize God in everyone we meet on the street. We are all brothers, this fits so well with Ignatian Spirituality that we attempt to embody here at SLU. We are men and women for and with others and I would add, loving others in a way that resembles Christ’s love and God’s love of us.

Isn’t it humbling to know how much God loves us and how much good He wants for us? I am awestruck over how much God desires to know us and help us learn and grow and become who we are meant to be. God loves us no matter what, even if we mess up, even if we desire popularity, and He even loves us when we fail to love ourselves.  Learn to do good, your sins as red as scarlet will become white as snow.

Annie Shaver is the Campus Ministry liturgy intern.

 

 

 

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Monday, 25 February 2013

Monday of the Second Week of Lent

DN 9:4B-10

PS 79:8, 9, 11 AND 13

LK 6:36-38

The readings for the day can be found here.

 

On Thursday after Ash Wednesday a student in class asked me what I had given up for Lent. I responded: elevators! In fact, I had decided to do just that, but I never guessed I would be asked that question (and have to tell the truth). I know that a bit of physical discipline will be good for me…and good for others, to the extent I reduce thereby the carbon imprint by which I trash future generations coming after me.

I am not so sure, however, that this individual discipline alone qualifies for a Lenten practice. Although self-discipline during Lent is a positive thing, Lent is more about prayer and the giving of alms (generosity). It is these which help the whole community of Christians prepare and enter into the experience of the Passover of the Lord, within the great mystery of Jesus’s suffering, death, and resurrection. These shared practices help all of us together as God’s People to “passover” from our own narrowness into the great and wide open glory of the Lord. A glimpse of this was given on the mountain in yesterday’s Gospel (Lk 9:28ff), the second Sunday of Lent. Peter, James, and John “saw his glory.”

Today’s Gospel (Lk 6 36ff) also moves us toward what characterizes a community that prepares for the paschal feast: “Be compassionate, as your Father is compassionate. …Pardon and you shall be pardoned. Give and it will be given to you.” To do that requires prayer and generous self-giving. And by the way, how well will we welcome new Christians and/or new Catholics of the RCIA into the Easter mystery, into new life and communion with the Holy Spirit?

Fr. Wayne Hellmann, O.F.M. is Professor of Medieval Christianity in the Department of Theological Studies.

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Sunday, 24 February 2013

Second Sunday of Lent

GN 15:5-12, 17-18

PS 27:1, 7-8, 8-9, 13-14

PHIL 3:17—4:1

LK 9:28B-36

The readings for the day can be found here.

 

St. Ignatius Loyola encourages us to pray in a variety of ways to help us to get closer to God in order to be able to listen more carefully how God is guiding us. One of those ways is praying with our imagination.

For example, today’s Gospel tells of a mystical experience in which Jesus invites Peter, John and James to go up the mountain with him to pray with him. The men see a vision. They see Jesus’s face transform and his clothes become dazzling white. Then Moses and Elijah appear and speak with Jesus.

In my prayer, what if I use my imagination to put myself in the scene? Would I see myself as one of the three disciples? Would I be a bystander off in the distance? Can I hear what is said? Do they interact with me?

This time, in my prayer, I am myself, and I am standing next to John. The four of us had fallen asleep and the brightness woke us. As I stand next to John I notice that I am in awe at the presence of Moses and Elijah. My mouth is hanging open in amazement. Peter is talking excitedly to Jesus. I do not understand what Peter is saying. While Peter is still speaking and waving his arms, a cloud envelopes Jesus, Moses, and Elijah.

From the cloud comes a rich, deep sound. At first I think it is thunder, but soon realize it is a voice  saying, “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.” Jesus is now before us alone and I have crumpled to the ground, never taking my eyes off Jesus – not for one second.

This prayer experience for me is now, so often, part of my prayer. Every time I read the Gospels or hear them read, and Jesus speaks, I am nearby listening carefully – just as I was told in that prayer experience.  Jesus speaks to each of us. Listen to him. Let him guide and bless you with each encounter.

May Lent bring you deep joy as you continue to develop your relationship with Jesus, our Lord!

 

Carol Boerding is the Campus Minister on the Medical Center: School of Nursing, Doisy College of Health Sciences, and the School of Public Health. Her office is in SON 325. Stop by!

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Saturday, 23 February 2013

Saturday of the First Week of Lent

DT 26:16-19

PS 119:1-2, 4-5, 7-8

MT 5:43-48

The readings for the day can be found here.

Lent is not only a season of reflection, but a time to recognize how we can grow closer with God. Many times Lent is seen as 40 days to “give something up” that we feel we cannot live without. It is certainly important to make that sacrifice for God, but more importantly, what can we take away after the 40 days are over?

This week’s reading speaks of the faithfulness we should have to God just as he is faithful and always loving of us. The first reading says, “This day the LORD, your God, commands you to observe these statutes and decrees. Be careful, then, to observe them with all your heart and with all your soul.”  At times it may be difficult to have the kind of unshakable faith the scripture says we should have; maybe a medical report comes out  negative, a relationship doesn’t turn out the way we thought it would, but when God puts a promise in your heart, nothing and no one can talk you out of it. All the circumstances may tell you “your financial situation will never get better, you’ll never meet the right person, never see your family restored,” but deep down, you have to have the confidence in God that he is still on the throne, still in control, and bigger than any obstacle you will ever have to face.

The Gospel touches on an important idea this week that Jesus told his disciples which seemed contrary to public belief at the time. “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you that you may be children of your heavenly Father.” Many times it may be difficult for us to be kind to all those around us. We may try a little harder during Lent, but everything goes back to normal once Lent is finished. But God teaches us that we should love our enemies always. He doesn’t love us some days when he is feeling good then forgets about us when we make a mistake. Our God is a God of unconditional love; he is already fighting battles for us that we don’t even know we have to face yet. Our God always has a way even when we don’t see a way. This scripture is guiding us to apprehend the actions we may take to prepare us for the Lord’s ultimate sacrifice for us on Good Friday. And each of us will be faced with temptation throughout the next few weeks. For those who gave up sweets, it just seems that everyone is baking cookies left and right. For those who gave up ice cream, your roommate comes in with your favorite flavor that Fusz rarely stocks. Despite these challenges, we should have confidence that victory is in our futures. God did not bring us this far just to leave us, he has brought us through difficult times, and we know, he will do it again. That is having unshakable faith.

Michelle Palka is a sophomore in the Cook School of Business.

 

 

 

 

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Friday, 22 February 2013

Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, Apostle

1 PT 5:1-4

PS 23:1-3A, 4, 5, 6

MT 16:13-19

The readings for the day can be found here.

 

It may seem odd to have a Christian feast in honor of a chair!  Yet for centuries upon centuries now, Christians have celebrated the unity that St. Peter not only represents but effects.  Pope Benedict XVI who now sits on this symbolic chair, or cathedra in Greek and Latin (from where we get the term cathedral, the place of diocesan unity where one finds the bishop’s chair), recently reminded us that, “The Chair represents the pope’s mission as guide of the entire People of God.  Celebrating the ‘Chair’ of Peter means attributing a strong spiritual significance to it and recognizing it as a privileged sign of the love of God.”  This is why the first reading today reminds us that true Christian authority is not a matter of lordship but of freedom and growth (in Latin, the word authority and growth are the related); the Gospel, then, recalls Christ’s decision to establish his Church on Peter, thereby providing all he would need to ensure division and distortion never prevail over his holy people (that’s you and me!).

All Christians need this apostolic “Chair” of Peter  because we all need to know what Christ asks of us.  It is today popular to stress one’s “spirituality” while rejecting any particular commitment or demands on that faith life—”spiritual but not religious.”  This is convenience, not Christianity.  Since the time of the Apostles, God’s chosen ones knew and celebrated the very concrete nature of the faith as expressed by their bishops.  As Cyprian taught as early as the year 250, we cannot have God for our Father if we refuse to have the Church for our Mother.  Mother Church is what allows us not only to know the demands of discipleship but to receive the grace to flourish in living truly Christian lives: to love God and neighbor above all, but also to ensure we honor the Sabbath by (at least!) weekly Mass attendance, to live lives of sober and chaste virtue, to care for the poor, and to grow in the routine use of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Eucharistic Adoration, and daily—constant—prayer.  The Chair of Peter makes demands upon our hearts and minds because through his Mother, through his Apostles, through all his Saints, Christ continues to draw all peoples to himself.

Fr. David Meconi, S.J. is an Assistant Professor of Early Christianity in the Department of Theological Studies.

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Thursday, 21 February 2013

Thursday of the First Week of Lent

EST C:12, 14-16, 23-25

PS 138:1-2AB, 2CDE-3, 7C-8

MT 7:7-12

The readings for the day can be found here.

 

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Ask and it will be given to you;
seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds;
and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
Which one of you would hand his son a stone
when he asked for a loaf of bread,
or a snake when he asked for a fish?
If you then, who are wicked,
know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will your heavenly Father give good things
to those who ask him.

“Do to others whatever you would have them do to you.
This is the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 7: 7-12)

 

My husband and I have a blended family of six children and fourteen grandchildren, so this passage speaks to me.  We love our family, and want only the best for each and every one of them.  We provided good gifts of bread and fish, and sacrificed so that they could have options for life opportunities.

Also, I have used this Scripture all my life, sometime to wait on God for answers, other times to bargain with God for my way.  I always knew God was present and cared for me.

And yet, we know that there are those who cannot identify with this Scripture.  Their images of Father and Mother are horrific.  Their childhood was full of pain and suffering.  They were given stones, not bread; snake, not fish.  They were hungry, naked, abused or neglected.   They may be living in a dark place now where they cannot receive any love.   How do they understand the passage, “Do to others whatever you would have them do to you,” when they have little experience of good things happening to them.

My thoughts turn to God—and I feel that God understands all this, and is always present, all around the world, knowing and feeling our pain and suffering.   I look at the earlier part of the Scripture.  I ponder if Jesus is beckoning us, as His Body, as the Body of Christ, to ask for the grace to be His eyes and ears to truly see and not look away and hear the pleas on the street where we are walking, not to change the channel while a commercial is telling the story of children going hungry and who are alone.    We are Christ’s legs and arms for the suffering people across our world, let us seek how to help, as just one example, to take time from our couches after work and embrace a child by volunteering as a tutor.

Do we feel called to the dark places of the world, our city, even our neighborhoods?  If not can we financially support those who have answered that call, and maybe write a note of appreciation for their service.

I believe that if we don’t, our safe world is only an illusion, for we are only as safe as our least safe person.

Kathy Herron is the Pastoral Care Administrative Assistant at SLU Hospital, a SLU alumna and a devoted wife, mother, and grandmother.

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Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Wednesday of the First Week of Lent

JON 3:1-10

PS 51:3-4, 12-13, 18-19

LK 11:29-32

The readings for the day can be found here.

 

Today’s gospel is a good reminder of the mystery of God.  Many people of Jesus’ time did not understand who he was, and even his own apostles sometimes struggled to believe.  They asked for signs, for Jesus to prove himself.  Sometimes I imagine myself back in that time, and I try to picture what it would be like if I knew a man like Jesus.  Would I understand who he was?  Would I have the faith to trust him, some guy that I knew?  I can’t imagine how difficult it would actually be, and I would probably be one of the people asking to see some sort of sign that could guide me in knowing who this man really was.  Because of our humanity we cannot grasp the fullness of who and what God is, but in our daily lives we catch glimpses if we take time to look.  Relationships consist in getting to know another person better, and we do this with God in our relationship with him.  It is a long process, but Jesus asks us to trust in his mystery, in his greatness.

“There is something greater than Solomon here,” “there is something greater than David here,” says Jesus.  When we feel lost, confused, and challenged by our faith, we hold onto the mystery of Christ.  It is okay that we do not understand, but amidst the business of daily life, the gospel calls us to stop, take a moment, and recognize the sacredness, the vastness, the significance of this season of lent and of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection.  With humble and contrite hearts, we recommit ourselves to a God who gives us the most perfect love.  We acknowledge our shortcomings and we repent in word and in action, because only this will draw us closer to the heart of God – a heart that of perfect love and forgiveness.  Like the Ninevites from the first reading, God forgives us and saves us, not in scorn and resentment for our failures, but in unconditional love.  As humans, we work to find and create that unconditional love and acceptance from others here on earth and we must remember that God will always provide that for us.  What a humbling, humbling truth.  Let us remember this lent the hugeness and awesomeness that is God, and with humble and contrite hearts he will always show us mercy.


Sarah Hanel is a Junior studying Social Work and Spanish.  She is a member of
the Micah Program, SLUCORE, and the Spanish Mass community.

 

 

 

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