Friday, March 25, 2016

Reflection for Friday, March 25, 2016

Good Friday of the Lord's Passion
IS 52: 13-53:12
PS 31: 2, 6, 12-13, 15-16, 17, 25
HEB 4:14-16; 5:7-9
JN 18: 1-19:42

In today’s Gospel, we turn away from Jesus in his hour of need.

The Passion’s prose is a dry, clinical narration of agonizing facts, as Christ is betrayed, arrested, tortured, and executed. In the passive voice, John tells us that thus are the Scriptures “fulfilled.” The readings reproach and chide us, for we know in our hearts we have scorned this “man of suffering.” He was “one of those from whom people hide their faces.”

The chilling phrase, “in order that the bodies might not remain on the cross on the Sabbath,” is perhaps most haunting. We hear its echo in encounters and events in our nation and across the world. We read about it in our newspapers and watch it on television: murders, beatings, rapes, and other forms of physical and psychological violence and oppression. There are too many places and moments today when Pilate would be at home.

In October 2014, we lived intensively our Ignatian mission at Saint Louis University, when in a tense and difficult moment, we chose to listen with open hearts to a community’s hurt and rage. Positive change is taking place, but with excruciating slowness. I urge you to uncover your face for all of those enduring injustice. Listen. “Be woke.”

Reflection Questions:

What actions can you take to protect those who are already victims, or could become victims, of injustice?

To “be woke” is to understand that many live in fear. Another key concept is “poverty is violence.” How do these ideas speak to you, or move you to take action?

Fred P. Pestello, Ph.D., is the 33rd president of Saint Louis University.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Reflection for Thursday, March 24, 2016

Holy Thursday-Chrism Mass
IS 61: 1-3A, 6A, 8B-9
PS 89: 21-22, 25 AND 27
RV 1: 5-8
LK 4:16-21

As often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes (1 Corinthians 11:26)
Tonight we celebrate the institution of the Eucharist, that great feast of our salvation that recalls another great feast, the Passover, the liberation of the children of Israel from slavery in Egypt and their journey to freedom in the Promised Land.
The first letter to the Corinthians (11:23-26) recounts this great event in our Christian tradition:
The Lord Jesus on the night he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is broken for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, he took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
On this night we recall our own journey to freedom and our passage to new life. And we can learn from other peoples who have made this journey, such as this testimony from a refugee who fled El Salvador during its civil war, only to return to celebrate Holy Thursday night with the gratitude of one who has known great suffering and great joy:
Just as the people of Israel recalled their liberation from slavery in Egypt, in the paschal supper we, too, recall our own history, how we lived under oppression, how we organized to struggle against injustice, how we had to flee to the hills to take refuge, and how we prepared ourselves there, learning many things so that when we returned one day we could help rebuild our country. 
What is our experience of Passover? How have we passed from slavery to freedom in this Lenten journey? How have we experienced the liberation that comes from our identification with Christ suffering in the “crucified peoples” of the planet, in those whom we encounter along the way, in those who are entrusted to our care each day?
How do we experience this liberation in the Eucharist that we share tonight? The Gospel shares with us the true meaning of this sacrament, the example of unconditional love and service: “So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example that you also should do as I have done to you” (John 13:14-15).
As often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Reflection for Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Wednesday of Holy Week
IS 50: 4-9A 
PS 69: 8-10, 21-22, 31 AND 33-34
MT 26: 14-25

Our American history has had too many instances of social groups being denied economic opportunities, or worse, being promised prosperity only to be deceived for the economic gain of others. The sordid history extends from redlining, to banks and insurance companies denying economic opportunities to certain geographical areas that had “undesirable racial concentrations,” to predatory, high-interest subprime mortgaging. These secret deals have handed over too many neighborhoods and cities to the bondage of economic disparity.
In the past years, we have seen more books and articles dedicated to exploring the history of systematic, economic oppression along racial lines. Books like Not In My Neighborhood: How Bigotry Shaped a Great American City by Antero Pietila have helped me better understand the social construction of the neighborhoods I walk and drive through as a resident of Baltimore City. Ta-Nehisi Coates’s article, “The Case for Reparations” weaves together this heinous history of wealth stalling and depletion and connects it to those living today. Like Isaiah, those who care about justice must become advocates and “speak to the weary” and set our “faces like flint.” Though our cities have been and still are places of deceit and treachery, we must face it head on, call it what it is, and put events into motion that will bring true transformation. We have been betrayed and have been the betrayers, but God is compassionate with our errors and offers us answers. But are we willing to look?

Reflection Questions:

  • When have you asked the question, “Why?” when faced with economic disparity in your neighborhood, community, or city?
  • How have you actively play a role in helping to bring justice to the landscape of your neighborhood, community, or city?
Justin White teaches theology and serves as Director of Community Service and Outreach at Cristo Rey Baltimore, a Catholic, co-educational, college preparatory school, empowering students in Baltimore City to succeed in college, work, and life.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Reflection for Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Tuesday of Holy Week
IS 49: 1-6
PS 71: 1-2, 3-4A, 5AB-6AB, 15 AND 17
JN 13: 21-33, 36-38

I really empathize with Peter in today’s Gospel as he makes the bold statement, “I will lay down my life for you.” Like Peter, we are quick to name the things we are doing right. In the case of working toward racial justice, claiming the ways we are not racist is easy. “I don’t use racial slurs.” “I have friends of color.” “I read this in-depth article about racism in our country.”
I also really empathize with Jesus’ quick quip: but will you really? Too often, I have felt silenced or “othered” by folks quick to make “I am not a racist” claims. Too often, I have witnessed these folks perpetuate systems that prioritize white voices and leave the voices of people of color out.
Often, we are afraid of naming when we are racist. As Peter’s fear caused him to deny his friend Jesus, our fear prevents us from naming for ourselves moments when we are complicit in and contribute to racism. Our fear prevents us from taking the first steps toward laying down our lives to work toward racial justice.
As Peter was later poignantly forgiven by the resurrected Christ and committed his life (eventually laying it down) to following Jesus’ teachings, we must remember to continually move past our fears and our guilt to build the racially just world that we long for.

Reflection Questions

  • What does it mean for you to lay down your life for Jesus and racial justice?
  • What fears prevent you from following Jesus by working toward racial justice?

Monday, March 21, 2016

Reflection for Monday, March 21, 2016

Monday of the Holy Week
IS 42: 1-7
PS 27: 1, 2, 2, 13-14
JN 12: 1-11

Sometimes I get overwhelmed. As I flip through my Facebook or Twitter feed, watch the news, or even walk down the streets, I see so much pain and hurt. Injustice and brokenness seem to be everywhere I turn. Sometimes I just get so tired. I want to turn away from the pain in my own life, the life of my family and friends, and so many around the world. But I cannot.

Today’s Lenten passages are a reminder that we serve a God that is invested in bringing rightness, justice, and His heavenly kingdom to this broken and hurting world. Not only is He invested in it but He is in fact strong enough to accomplish this task.

I love this mix of passages because in Isaiah we are reminded of the dedication of our Creator to His redemptive plan. He will see justice. In the Psalms we see our God who hears our cries when we are overwhelmed and afraid. And in the gospel we see our Savior who will soon go to the cross to bring redemption to all creation sitting in the house of his friends and allowing a woman to wash and anoint his feet.

God says to us,
“I, the LORD, have called you for the victory of justice,
I have grasped you by the hand;
I formed you, and set you
as a covenant of the people,
a light for the nations,
To open the eyes of the blind,
to bring out prisoners from confinement,
and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.”

During Lent we have the opportunity to worship at the feet of our Lord just as Mary did. To remember the sacrifice he made in order to fulfill his purpose of renewal and restoration of creation. He will give us strength for the task He has called us to.

I am tired. I am overwhelmed. But I also know that the God who has called me to seek justice is Creator and Sustainer and as I sit at His feet and reflect on who He is in the midst of a community of fellow justice seekers I know I can stand up and continue on to victory.

Bonnie Atkins is finishing up a Masters in Social Work and works as a Graduate Assistant with Fraternity and Sorority Life. She is looking forward to finding her place in the fight for justice.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Reflection for Sunday, March 20, 2016

Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion
IS 50: 47
PHIL 2: 6-11
LK 22: 14-23: 56 OR LK 23:1-49

I often find it difficult on Palm Sunday to stay with the spirit of the day.

Today, Jesus is king for a day! His glorious entrance into Jerusalem begins the journey through Holy Week with joy and praise. Followers cheered while dreaming of the changes that he would bring. We can only imagine the expectations of his disciples and those who accompanied him singing and waving palm branches. King David has finally returned! Jesus confronts the powers of the world! But we do not remain in this moment. Instead we read ahead, almost to the end of the story, and we know what the week will bring.
What if we lingered longer on this day saturated with hope and possibility? Jesus proceeds into Jerusalem in obedience to God. Obedience involves deep listening to the guidance of God’s presence within us, where resistance gives way to receptivity, trust, and responsiveness. Confronting the unjust use of power of any form involves courage, hard work, risk—and sometimes the willingness to die.
We do not know where God will ask us to go in our lives. We do not know what me might face when we put ourselves at God’s disposal. For me, it has included life at a Catholic Worker house on the West Side of Chicago, raising four children, and three years at the nexus of power between the Holy See and the Obama Administration. Challenging personal and social sin within ourselves and around us at whatever level of power requires the courage and hope of Palm Sunday—as well as the strength of knowing that whatever comes, the only power worth having is that which comes from God alone.

Reflection Questions:

  • What do you hope for at this time for our country and world?
  • What life decisions might God be calling you to discern during this Holy Week? Can you give up resisting what God asks of you?
  • What risks have you taken to confront the unjust use of power against oppressed groups in our country?
Marian K. Diaz is an Assistant Professor of Practical Theology at Loyola University Chicago.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Reflection for Saturday, March 19, 2016

Solemnity of Saint Joseph, husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary
2 SM 7: 4-5A, 12-14A, 16
ROM 4: 13, 16-18, 22
MT 1: 16, 18-21, 24A, OR LK 2: 41-51A

“Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he said to them.

Are you ever confused by God’s plan for your life? In the Gospel for today, we see that even Mary and Joseph were confused by God’s plan sometimes. After they worried for four days as they looked for their son, they were relieved to find him, and all Jesus had to say was, “Didn’t you know this is where I would be?” That must have been a confusing response from a twelve-year-old boy. Much like Joseph and Mary, I know that I’ve looked back on experiences in my own life and heard a similar question from God echoing in my mind. God is constantly surprising us with His presence in our lives, often in ways we don’t expect. We can go through life, attempting to see how God is working, and despite seeing Him moving, not understand it. The great thing about Lent is that we can gain clarity on the amazing plan God has for us.

Lent is a time for reflection, for stepping back to see the bigger picture or for leaning in and see the minute details of how God is working in our lives. Through this season, we pray more, we step into Christ’s footsteps, and we try to understand what God is saying to us. This process of reflection draws us closer to God and opens our ears and heart to the words He proclaims in our daily lives through the world around us and the people we interact with. I pray that during this Lenten season, you can be more attentive to the flow of God’s workings in your life. And maybe, with a little help from the Holy Spirit, we can gain an understanding of His plan for us.

Sarah Ferretti is a sophomore majoring in Nursing from St. Louis, Missouri.