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August 22, 2019

Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Mt 22: 1-14

Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. 

Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’ But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. 

The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests. “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless.

Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.”

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.

Accepting God’s invitation

What does it mean to accept an invitation? At many weddings I’ve attended, the celebrant has pointed out that by celebrating with the couple, friends and family offer their love and support, both on the wedding day and through the years ahead. Accepting the invitation isn’t just about the party, but about what we offer from the heart.

Today, on the Memorial of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we remember Mary’s “yes” to God. Without knowing the difficulties that lay ahead, she had the faith to accept God’s invitation. Unlike most of the wedding guests in the parable, she accepts the invitation with joy and offers her whole life in response. 

Beth Franzosa teaches in the Religious Studies department at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School

Prayer

O God, who made the Mother of your Son to be our Mother and our Queen, graciously grant that, sustained by her intercession, we may attain in the heavenly Kingdom the glory promised to your children. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

—Collect prayer from today’s Mass





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August 21, 2019

St. Pius X

Mt 20: 1-16

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace;and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. 

When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why are you standing here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’ When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’ 

When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ 

But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

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 abundant generosity

It seems so unfair that the latecomers earned the same as the early birds.  The injustice! That’s our human nature reaction. “I’m being cheated; someone else is getting a greater share than I!” Scripture scholar Nicholas King, SJ, proposes a possible response to these emotions. “God is utterly generous (generosity is the quality that defines God), and we do not lose out because God has been equally generous to those undeserving people next door”. 

This parable will always remain something of a stumbling block if our hearts are not in line with the heart of Jesus. Apparent inequality will always smack of injustice unless we believe in God’s generosity and overflowing compassion. The Lord sees how little we deserve, but he wants to hold nothing back, if only we open our hands to receive.

—Kathy England is a Pastoral Associate at St. Francis Xavier Church in Cincinnati, OH.

Prayer

Prayer for Generosity

Lord, teach me to be generous.
Teach me to serve you as you deserve;
to give and not to count the cost;
to fight and not to heed the wounds;
to toil and not to seek for rest;
to labor and not to ask for any reward
save that of knowing that I am doing your will.

—St. Ignatius of Loyola





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August 20, 2019

St. Bernard

Mt 19: 23-30

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astounded and said, “Then who can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible.” 

Then Peter said in reply, “Look, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man is seated on the throne of his glory, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold, and will inherit eternal life.

But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.

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.

Stretched to greater freedom

Peter asks, “What then will we have?” Has Peter really left everything behind or has he simply traded it in, anticipating something in return?

The distinction between “leaving” and “trading” bothers me because I often find myself asking Peter’s question. When I’ve left behind homes, communities, friends, and jobs that I love, I usually manage to make it through because I’m bargaining with God in my prayer for a fair rate of exchange on what I’ve left.

Time and grace can make us a little more free, but I suspect that even my best efforts will never make me completely free. Maybe that’s why Jesus reminds us today about what we can do (the possible) and what God can do (the impossible). Where in my life do I need to stretch myself to greater freedom today? And where do I need to trust God to do what I can’t?

Fr. Matt Spotts, SJ, is a recently ordained priest of the Midwest Jesuits serving as an associate pastor at Ss. Joseph-St. Francis Xavier parish in Wilmette, IL as well as doing pastoral ministry at Loyola Academy in Wilmette.

Prayer

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding,
and my entire will,
All I have and call my own.
You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.
Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace,
that is enough for me.

—Suscipe of St. Ignatius





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August 19, 2019

Mt 19: 16-22

Then someone came to him and said, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” 

He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother; also, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 

The young man said to him, “I have kept all these; what do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” 

When the young man heard this word, he went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

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.

Jesus offers what we deeply desire

It is too  easy to get distracted by the end of this passage about giving up everything.  I believe an essential detail here is that this passage begins with the young man seeking out Jesus.  Jesus is not going around, unprompted, demanding people give away everything. This young man asks.  He wants more.  And to get what he deeply desires, will demand something major of him.  Something he may not be quite ready for. But I like to imagine him going home, staying up all night thinking, and then just showing up quietly a week or so later having done what Jesus said, because he realizes he is right.   Jesus knows what we deeply desire and how we can actually get it. Jesus does not want us to be half satisfied, and therefore half measures will not help us. So what do we deeply desire, and how might Jesus be telling us we can have it?   

Megan Agliano teaches in religious studies at Brophy College Preparatory in Phoenix, AZ.  

Prayer

Jesus, you know my deepest desires better than I do.  Help me to listen, understand and follow. Amen  

—Megan Agliano





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August 18, 2019

Lk 12: 49-53

“I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

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 fire into our hearts

In The Divine Comedy, Satan is frozen solid at the bottommost pit of hell, which Dante envisions as the iciest place in the cosmos. And in The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis depicts the reign of the White Witch as one of endless winter. If in the popular imagination, hell is closely associated with fire and heat, these literary giants propose exactly the opposite view, for reasons that help make sense of Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel. “I came to cast fire on the earth!”

Heat is what gets things moving. It is the kinetic energy that enables molecules fixed solidly in place to become fluid again and thus able to take on new and different forms. In one sense, hell is the precise opposite: it is a refusal to budge, a remaining locked in place. There is a kind of “peace” in such a state, as anyone who has experienced the tranquility of a snow-covered landscape knows. But it is ultimately a lifeless one, as the austerity of the arctic tundra makes clear.

Jesus seeks to cast fire in our hearts to melt away our disordered attachments, the things we cling to that freeze us in place. What are those icy areas of my own life?

—Fr. Matthew Baugh, SJ, is a member of the USA Central and Southern Province and serves as the associate pastor of St. Francis Xavier (College) Church in St. Louis.

Prayer

I believe, O Lord; but strengthen my faith…
Heart of Jesus, I love Thee; but increase my love.
Heart of Jesus, I trust in Thee; but give greater vigor to my confidence.
Heart of Jesus, I give my heart to Thee; but so enclose it in Thee that it may never be separated from Thee.
Heart of Jesus, I am all Thine; but take care of my promise so that I may be able to put it in practice even unto the complete sacrifice of my life.

—Blessed Miguel Pro, SJ





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August 17, 2018

Mt 19: 13-15

Then little children were being brought to him in order that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples spoke sternly to those who brought them; but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.” And he laid his hands on them and went on his way.

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.

Living by a child’s framework

Children are such special gifts to each of us and to the world. The way they come to a space is so honest, innocent and caring. “Cura Personalis” (care for the whole person) is embedded into the core of their being. Accepting others without judgment is the framework they use in life. How beautiful our world would be if we lived by children’s framework.

Jesus tells us to come like children. If we did that, what a different world this would be. Then, the kingdom of heaven would belong to us. The question I pose today for you is: How do we transition to this? How do we prevent our children from assimilating to the adult way of living which is not always encompassing “Cura Personalis.”

Dr. Phyllis Graham-Dickerson is a professor and assistant dean at Regis University, Rueckert-Hartman College for Health Professions, Loretto Heights School of Nursing for seven years, with a tenure of 17 years on the nursing faculty.

Prayer

Heavenly Father, please grant us the wisdom and knowledge to move to the ways of a child. Amen.

—Dr. Phyllis Graham-Dickerson





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August 16, 2019

Mt 19: 3-12

Some Pharisees came to him, and to test him they asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that the one who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” They said to him, “Why then did Moses command us to give a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her?” He said to them, “It was because you were so hard-hearted that Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another commits adultery.” His disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” But he said to them, “Not everyone can accept this teaching, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.”

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.

Choosing the good of the other

In her book The Cloister Walk, Kathleen Norris quotes a monk who lived in a small monastery in Colorado: “Our biggest problem is that each man here had a mother who fried potatoes in a different way.” I have never been a monk, but I am married, and the quote rings true to me as a husband. As Jesus says in today’s Gospel, a married couple becomes one flesh, which happens in a myriad of ways. We bring all our experiences to a marriage and quickly realize the ways we grew up doing things like decorating the Christmas tree, watching TV every night or rarely watching it, or cooking potatoes can be sources of tension and conflict.

“One-flesh” marriage means choosing the good of the other over my own biases and my commitment to being right all the time. It means big and small sacrifices, over and over, every single day.

—Mike Jordan Laskey is the Senior Communications Director of the Jesuit Conference in Washington DC and an alum of Contemplative Leaders in Action in Philadelphia.

Prayer

Almighty and eternal God,
You blessed the union of married couples
so that they might reflect the union of Christ with his Church:
look with kindness on them.
Renew their marriage covenant,
increase your love in them,
and strengthen their bond of peace so that, with their children,
they may always rejoice in the gift of your blessing.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

—Prayer for Married Couples © United States Conference of Catholic Bishops





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August 15, 2019

Assumption of Our Lady

Lk 1: 39-56

In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 

And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.” 

And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. 

He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.” And Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.

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.

Mary’s message of hope

Anyone who has been, or has accompanied, someone who hoped and prayed for a child, facing loss and discouragement, can imagine the joy that Mary and Elizabeth shared. After many years of hoping by Elizabeth, a baby was on the way! And Mary came with news about her own baby that must have filled them both with joy and wonder.

Few of Mary’s words are recorded in the Gospels, but what amazing words these are. God is making everything new! God is reaching out and favoring those at the bottom of society’s ladder. God has remembered all the things promised in the covenant with Abraham. The people’s hopes for generations are coming true! Let us celebrate today with Mary and her message of hope in God. 

Beth Franzosa teaches in the Religious Studies department at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School

Prayer

Hail Mary, full of grace.
The Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou amongst women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners,
now and at the hour of our death.
Amen.

—Traditional prayer





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August 14, 2019

St. Maximillian Kolbe

Dt 34: 1-12

Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho, and the Lord showed him the whole land: Gilead as far as Dan, all Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Western Sea, the Negeb, and the Plain—that is, the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees—as far as Zoar. The Lord said to him, “This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants’; I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not cross over there.”

Then Moses, the servant of the Lord, died there in the land of Moab, at the Lord’s command. He was buried in a valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth-peor, but no one knows his burial place to this day. Moses was one hundred twenty years old when he died; his sight was unimpaired and his vigor had not abated. The Israelites wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days; then the period of mourning for Moses was ended.

Joshua son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, because Moses had laid his hands on him; and the Israelites obeyed him, doing as the Lordhad commanded Moses. Never since has there arisen a prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face. He was unequaled for all the signs and wonders that the Lord sent him to perform in the land of Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his servants and his entire land, and for all the mighty deeds and all the terrifying displays of power that Moses performed in the sight of all Israel.

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.

Following Jesus, the new Moses

The death of Moses led to the choice of Joshua as his immediate successor.  In truth, Jesus is the new Moses. The signs and wonders performed by Moses are all fulfilled in the Word of God, the Christ.  It’s important to remember that the Church Jesus promised to build was not only the universal (“catholic”) sacrament of salvation for all peoples, but also the fulfillment of the Mosaic law. None of God’s commands were abandoned, but Jesus reaffirmed the Ten Commandments with the two great commands to love God and love your neighbor as yourself.

We too fulfill God’s call to spread the Good News. The same power that drew the people of Israel to follow Moses now draws us to follow Jesus.  Perhaps as we review these movements of salvation history, we too express our gratitude for the might and terrifying power of the Word of God given in Christ. 

—Kathy England is a Pastoral Associate at St. Francis Xavier Church in Cincinnati, OH.

Prayer

Stay with us, Lord Jesus.
Be our companion on our way.
In your mercy inflame our hearts and raise our hope,
so that, in union with our brothers and sisters,
we may recognize you in the scriptures,
and in our daily living. 

—Kathy England





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August 13, 2019

Mt 18: 1-5, 10, 12-14

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a child, whom he put among them,and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. 

“Take care that you do not despise one of these little ones; for, I tell you, in heaven their angels continually see the face of my Father in heaven. What do you think? If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? 

And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.

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

Risk going after the lost

As a young Jesuit, I spent several months on the Pine Ridge Lakota Reservation. It was the heart of winter, and we would occasionally see cattle who had gotten lost and frozen to death. A parishioner who was a rancher explained that this was more or less normal. “You never like it,” he said, “but you try to take care of as many as you can. You can’t always stop the odd stray.” 

Jesus makes a different calculation. Unwilling to accept that even a single ‘little one’ be lost, he proposes the image of a shepherd willing to risk whatever might happen to the other ninety-nine in the hills in order to find the lost little one. 

Who are the little ones who I know are lost, the ones I’m tempted to shrug off as “just one of those things?” What am I willing to leave behind or risk to go find the lost one?

Fr. Matt Spotts, SJ, is a recently ordained priest of the Midwest Jesuits serving as an associate pastor at Ss. Joseph-St. Francis Xavier parish in Wilmette, IL as well as doing pastoral ministry at Loyola Academy in Wilmette.

Prayer

God, nothing is beneath your notice because you love all things into being. Help me to seek out the one who is lost, to rejoice in the finding of that one and, little by little, to become humble like a child. 

—Fr. Matt Spotts, SJ





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August 22, 2019

Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Mt 22: 1-14

Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. 

Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’ But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. 

The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests. “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless.

Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.”

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.

Accepting God’s invitation

What does it mean to accept an invitation? At many weddings I’ve attended, the celebrant has pointed out that by celebrating with the couple, friends and family offer their love and support, both on the wedding day and through the years ahead. Accepting the invitation isn’t just about the party, but about what we offer from the heart.

Today, on the Memorial of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we remember Mary’s “yes” to God. Without knowing the difficulties that lay ahead, she had the faith to accept God’s invitation. Unlike most of the wedding guests in the parable, she accepts the invitation with joy and offers her whole life in response. 

Beth Franzosa teaches in the Religious Studies department at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School

Prayer

O God, who made the Mother of your Son to be our Mother and our Queen, graciously grant that, sustained by her intercession, we may attain in the heavenly Kingdom the glory promised to your children. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

—Collect prayer from today’s Mass





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August 21, 2019

St. Pius X

Mt 20: 1-16

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace;and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. 

When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why are you standing here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’ When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’ 

When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ 

But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

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 abundant generosity

It seems so unfair that the latecomers earned the same as the early birds.  The injustice! That’s our human nature reaction. “I’m being cheated; someone else is getting a greater share than I!” Scripture scholar Nicholas King, SJ, proposes a possible response to these emotions. “God is utterly generous (generosity is the quality that defines God), and we do not lose out because God has been equally generous to those undeserving people next door”. 

This parable will always remain something of a stumbling block if our hearts are not in line with the heart of Jesus. Apparent inequality will always smack of injustice unless we believe in God’s generosity and overflowing compassion. The Lord sees how little we deserve, but he wants to hold nothing back, if only we open our hands to receive.

—Kathy England is a Pastoral Associate at St. Francis Xavier Church in Cincinnati, OH.

Prayer

Prayer for Generosity

Lord, teach me to be generous.
Teach me to serve you as you deserve;
to give and not to count the cost;
to fight and not to heed the wounds;
to toil and not to seek for rest;
to labor and not to ask for any reward
save that of knowing that I am doing your will.

—St. Ignatius of Loyola





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August 20, 2019

St. Bernard

Mt 19: 23-30

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astounded and said, “Then who can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible.” 

Then Peter said in reply, “Look, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man is seated on the throne of his glory, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold, and will inherit eternal life.

But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.

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.

Stretched to greater freedom

Peter asks, “What then will we have?” Has Peter really left everything behind or has he simply traded it in, anticipating something in return?

The distinction between “leaving” and “trading” bothers me because I often find myself asking Peter’s question. When I’ve left behind homes, communities, friends, and jobs that I love, I usually manage to make it through because I’m bargaining with God in my prayer for a fair rate of exchange on what I’ve left.

Time and grace can make us a little more free, but I suspect that even my best efforts will never make me completely free. Maybe that’s why Jesus reminds us today about what we can do (the possible) and what God can do (the impossible). Where in my life do I need to stretch myself to greater freedom today? And where do I need to trust God to do what I can’t?

Fr. Matt Spotts, SJ, is a recently ordained priest of the Midwest Jesuits serving as an associate pastor at Ss. Joseph-St. Francis Xavier parish in Wilmette, IL as well as doing pastoral ministry at Loyola Academy in Wilmette.

Prayer

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding,
and my entire will,
All I have and call my own.
You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.
Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace,
that is enough for me.

—Suscipe of St. Ignatius





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August 19, 2019

Mt 19: 16-22

Then someone came to him and said, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” 

He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother; also, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 

The young man said to him, “I have kept all these; what do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” 

When the young man heard this word, he went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

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.

Jesus offers what we deeply desire

It is too  easy to get distracted by the end of this passage about giving up everything.  I believe an essential detail here is that this passage begins with the young man seeking out Jesus.  Jesus is not going around, unprompted, demanding people give away everything. This young man asks.  He wants more.  And to get what he deeply desires, will demand something major of him.  Something he may not be quite ready for. But I like to imagine him going home, staying up all night thinking, and then just showing up quietly a week or so later having done what Jesus said, because he realizes he is right.   Jesus knows what we deeply desire and how we can actually get it. Jesus does not want us to be half satisfied, and therefore half measures will not help us. So what do we deeply desire, and how might Jesus be telling us we can have it?   

Megan Agliano teaches in religious studies at Brophy College Preparatory in Phoenix, AZ.  

Prayer

Jesus, you know my deepest desires better than I do.  Help me to listen, understand and follow. Amen  

—Megan Agliano





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August 18, 2019

Lk 12: 49-53

“I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

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 fire into our hearts

In The Divine Comedy, Satan is frozen solid at the bottommost pit of hell, which Dante envisions as the iciest place in the cosmos. And in The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis depicts the reign of the White Witch as one of endless winter. If in the popular imagination, hell is closely associated with fire and heat, these literary giants propose exactly the opposite view, for reasons that help make sense of Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel. “I came to cast fire on the earth!”

Heat is what gets things moving. It is the kinetic energy that enables molecules fixed solidly in place to become fluid again and thus able to take on new and different forms. In one sense, hell is the precise opposite: it is a refusal to budge, a remaining locked in place. There is a kind of “peace” in such a state, as anyone who has experienced the tranquility of a snow-covered landscape knows. But it is ultimately a lifeless one, as the austerity of the arctic tundra makes clear.

Jesus seeks to cast fire in our hearts to melt away our disordered attachments, the things we cling to that freeze us in place. What are those icy areas of my own life?

—Fr. Matthew Baugh, SJ, is a member of the USA Central and Southern Province and serves as the associate pastor of St. Francis Xavier (College) Church in St. Louis.

Prayer

I believe, O Lord; but strengthen my faith…
Heart of Jesus, I love Thee; but increase my love.
Heart of Jesus, I trust in Thee; but give greater vigor to my confidence.
Heart of Jesus, I give my heart to Thee; but so enclose it in Thee that it may never be separated from Thee.
Heart of Jesus, I am all Thine; but take care of my promise so that I may be able to put it in practice even unto the complete sacrifice of my life.

—Blessed Miguel Pro, SJ





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August 17, 2018

Mt 19: 13-15

Then little children were being brought to him in order that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples spoke sternly to those who brought them; but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.” And he laid his hands on them and went on his way.

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.

Living by a child’s framework

Children are such special gifts to each of us and to the world. The way they come to a space is so honest, innocent and caring. “Cura Personalis” (care for the whole person) is embedded into the core of their being. Accepting others without judgment is the framework they use in life. How beautiful our world would be if we lived by children’s framework.

Jesus tells us to come like children. If we did that, what a different world this would be. Then, the kingdom of heaven would belong to us. The question I pose today for you is: How do we transition to this? How do we prevent our children from assimilating to the adult way of living which is not always encompassing “Cura Personalis.”

Dr. Phyllis Graham-Dickerson is a professor and assistant dean at Regis University, Rueckert-Hartman College for Health Professions, Loretto Heights School of Nursing for seven years, with a tenure of 17 years on the nursing faculty.

Prayer

Heavenly Father, please grant us the wisdom and knowledge to move to the ways of a child. Amen.

—Dr. Phyllis Graham-Dickerson





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August 16, 2019

Mt 19: 3-12

Some Pharisees came to him, and to test him they asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that the one who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” They said to him, “Why then did Moses command us to give a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her?” He said to them, “It was because you were so hard-hearted that Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another commits adultery.” His disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” But he said to them, “Not everyone can accept this teaching, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.”

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.

Choosing the good of the other

In her book The Cloister Walk, Kathleen Norris quotes a monk who lived in a small monastery in Colorado: “Our biggest problem is that each man here had a mother who fried potatoes in a different way.” I have never been a monk, but I am married, and the quote rings true to me as a husband. As Jesus says in today’s Gospel, a married couple becomes one flesh, which happens in a myriad of ways. We bring all our experiences to a marriage and quickly realize the ways we grew up doing things like decorating the Christmas tree, watching TV every night or rarely watching it, or cooking potatoes can be sources of tension and conflict.

“One-flesh” marriage means choosing the good of the other over my own biases and my commitment to being right all the time. It means big and small sacrifices, over and over, every single day.

—Mike Jordan Laskey is the Senior Communications Director of the Jesuit Conference in Washington DC and an alum of Contemplative Leaders in Action in Philadelphia.

Prayer

Almighty and eternal God,
You blessed the union of married couples
so that they might reflect the union of Christ with his Church:
look with kindness on them.
Renew their marriage covenant,
increase your love in them,
and strengthen their bond of peace so that, with their children,
they may always rejoice in the gift of your blessing.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

—Prayer for Married Couples © United States Conference of Catholic Bishops





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August 15, 2019

Assumption of Our Lady

Lk 1: 39-56

In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 

And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.” 

And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. 

He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.” And Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.

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.

Mary’s message of hope

Anyone who has been, or has accompanied, someone who hoped and prayed for a child, facing loss and discouragement, can imagine the joy that Mary and Elizabeth shared. After many years of hoping by Elizabeth, a baby was on the way! And Mary came with news about her own baby that must have filled them both with joy and wonder.

Few of Mary’s words are recorded in the Gospels, but what amazing words these are. God is making everything new! God is reaching out and favoring those at the bottom of society’s ladder. God has remembered all the things promised in the covenant with Abraham. The people’s hopes for generations are coming true! Let us celebrate today with Mary and her message of hope in God. 

Beth Franzosa teaches in the Religious Studies department at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School

Prayer

Hail Mary, full of grace.
The Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou amongst women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners,
now and at the hour of our death.
Amen.

—Traditional prayer





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August 14, 2019

St. Maximillian Kolbe

Dt 34: 1-12

Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho, and the Lord showed him the whole land: Gilead as far as Dan, all Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Western Sea, the Negeb, and the Plain—that is, the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees—as far as Zoar. The Lord said to him, “This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants’; I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not cross over there.”

Then Moses, the servant of the Lord, died there in the land of Moab, at the Lord’s command. He was buried in a valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth-peor, but no one knows his burial place to this day. Moses was one hundred twenty years old when he died; his sight was unimpaired and his vigor had not abated. The Israelites wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days; then the period of mourning for Moses was ended.

Joshua son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, because Moses had laid his hands on him; and the Israelites obeyed him, doing as the Lordhad commanded Moses. Never since has there arisen a prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face. He was unequaled for all the signs and wonders that the Lord sent him to perform in the land of Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his servants and his entire land, and for all the mighty deeds and all the terrifying displays of power that Moses performed in the sight of all Israel.

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.

Following Jesus, the new Moses

The death of Moses led to the choice of Joshua as his immediate successor.  In truth, Jesus is the new Moses. The signs and wonders performed by Moses are all fulfilled in the Word of God, the Christ.  It’s important to remember that the Church Jesus promised to build was not only the universal (“catholic”) sacrament of salvation for all peoples, but also the fulfillment of the Mosaic law. None of God’s commands were abandoned, but Jesus reaffirmed the Ten Commandments with the two great commands to love God and love your neighbor as yourself.

We too fulfill God’s call to spread the Good News. The same power that drew the people of Israel to follow Moses now draws us to follow Jesus.  Perhaps as we review these movements of salvation history, we too express our gratitude for the might and terrifying power of the Word of God given in Christ. 

—Kathy England is a Pastoral Associate at St. Francis Xavier Church in Cincinnati, OH.

Prayer

Stay with us, Lord Jesus.
Be our companion on our way.
In your mercy inflame our hearts and raise our hope,
so that, in union with our brothers and sisters,
we may recognize you in the scriptures,
and in our daily living. 

—Kathy England





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August 13, 2019

Mt 18: 1-5, 10, 12-14

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a child, whom he put among them,and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. 

“Take care that you do not despise one of these little ones; for, I tell you, in heaven their angels continually see the face of my Father in heaven. What do you think? If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? 

And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.

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

Risk going after the lost

As a young Jesuit, I spent several months on the Pine Ridge Lakota Reservation. It was the heart of winter, and we would occasionally see cattle who had gotten lost and frozen to death. A parishioner who was a rancher explained that this was more or less normal. “You never like it,” he said, “but you try to take care of as many as you can. You can’t always stop the odd stray.” 

Jesus makes a different calculation. Unwilling to accept that even a single ‘little one’ be lost, he proposes the image of a shepherd willing to risk whatever might happen to the other ninety-nine in the hills in order to find the lost little one. 

Who are the little ones who I know are lost, the ones I’m tempted to shrug off as “just one of those things?” What am I willing to leave behind or risk to go find the lost one?

Fr. Matt Spotts, SJ, is a recently ordained priest of the Midwest Jesuits serving as an associate pastor at Ss. Joseph-St. Francis Xavier parish in Wilmette, IL as well as doing pastoral ministry at Loyola Academy in Wilmette.

Prayer

God, nothing is beneath your notice because you love all things into being. Help me to seek out the one who is lost, to rejoice in the finding of that one and, little by little, to become humble like a child. 

—Fr. Matt Spotts, SJ





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