Sunday, April 20, 2014

Reflection for Sunday, April 20, 2014

Acts 10: 34A, 37-43
PS 118: 1-2, 16-17, 22-23
COL 3: 1-4
1 COR 5: 6B-8

Easter Sunday, 31 March 2013

Dear brothers and sisters in Rome and throughout the world, Happy Easter!  Happy Easter!
What a joy it is for me to announce this message: Christ is risen! I would like it to go out to every house and every family, especially where the suffering is greatest, in hospitals, in prisons …
Most of all, I would like it to enter every heart, for it is there that God wants to sow this Good News: Jesus is risen, there is hope for you, you are no longer in the power of sin, of evil!  Love has triumphed, mercy has been victorious! The mercy of God always triumphs!
We too, like the women who were Jesus’ disciples, who went to the tomb and found it empty, may wonder what this event means (cf. Lk 24:4). What does it mean that Jesus is risen? It means that the love of God is stronger than evil and death itself; it means that the love of God can transform our lives and let those desert places in our hearts bloom. The love God can do this!
This same love for which the Son of God became man and followed the way of humility and self-giving to the very end, down to hell - to the abyss of separation from God - this same merciful love has flooded with light the dead body of Jesus, has transfigured it, has made it pass into eternal life.  Jesus did not return to his former life, to earthly life, but entered into the glorious life of God and he entered there with our humanity, opening us to a future of hope.
This is what Easter is: it is the exodus, the passage of human beings from slavery to sin and evil to the freedom of love and goodness.  Because God is life, life alone, and we are his glory: the living man (cf. Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses, 4,20,5-7).
Dear brothers and sisters, Christ died and rose once for all, and for everyone, but the power of the Resurrection, this passover from slavery to evil to the freedom of goodness, must be accomplished in every age, in our concrete existence, in our everyday lives. How many deserts, even today, do human beings need to cross!  Above all, the desert within, when we have no love for God or neighbour, when we fail to realize that we are guardians of all that the Creator has given us and continues to give us.  God’s mercy can make even the driest land become a garden, can restore life to dry bones (cf. Ez 37:1-14).
So this is the invitation which I address to everyone: Let us accept the grace of Christ’s Resurrection!  Let us be renewed by God’s mercy, let us be loved by Jesus, let us enable the power of his love to transform our lives too; and let us become agents of this mercy, channels through which God can water the earth, protect all creation and make justice and peace flourish.
And so we ask the risen Jesus, who turns death into life, to change hatred into love, vengeance into forgiveness, war into peace.  Yes, Christ is our peace, and through him we implore peace for all the world.
Peace for the Middle East, and particularly between Israelis and Palestinians, who struggle to find the road of agreement, that they may willingly and courageously resume negotiations to end a conflict that has lasted all too long.  Peace in Iraq, that every act of violence may end, and above all for dear Syria, for its people torn by conflict and for the many refugees who await help and comfort.  How much blood has been shed!  And how much suffering must there still be before a political solution to the crisis will be found?
Peace for Africa, still the scene of violent conflicts.  In Mali, may unity and stability be restored; in Nigeria, where attacks sadly continue, gravely threatening the lives of many innocent people, and where great numbers of persons, including children, are held hostage by terrorist groups.  Peace in the East of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and in the Central African Republic, where many have been forced to leave their homes and continue to live in fear.
Peace in Asia, above all on the Korean peninsula: may disagreements be overcome and a renewed spirit of reconciliation grow.
Peace in the whole world, still divided by greed looking for easy gain, wounded by the selfishness which threatens human life and the family, selfishness that continues in human trafficking, the most extensive form of slavery in this twenty-first century; human trafficking is the most extensive form of slavery in this twenty-first century! Peace to the whole world, torn apart by violence linked to drug trafficking and by the iniquitous exploitation of natural resources! Peace to this our Earth!  Made the risen Jesus bring comfort to the victims of natural disasters and make us responsible guardians of creation.
Dear brothers and sisters, to all of you who are listening to me, from Rome and from all over of the world, I address the invitation of the Psalm: “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good; for his steadfast love endures for ever. Let Israel say: ‘His steadfast love endures for ever’” (Ps 117:1-2).

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Reflection for Saturday, April 19, 2014

GN 1: 1 - 2: 2
PS 104: 1-2, 5-6, 10, 12, 13-14, 24, 35
GN 22: 1-18
PS 16: 5, 8, 9-10, 11
EX 14: 15 - 15: 1
EX 15: 1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 17-18
IS 54: 5-14
PS 30: 2, 4, 5-6, 11-12, 13
IS 55: 1-11
IS 12: 2-3, 4, 5-6
BAR 3: 9-15, 32 - 4: 4
PS 19: 8, 9, 10, 11
EZ 36: 16-17A, 18-28
PS 42: 3, 5; 43: 3, 4
IS 12: 2-3, 4BCD, 5-6
ROM 6: 3-11
PS 118: 1-2, 16-17, 22-23
MT 28: 1-10

Vatican Basilica
Holy Saturday, 30 March 2013
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. In the Gospel of this radiant night of the Easter Vigil, we first meet the women who go the tomb of Jesus with spices to anoint his body (cf. Lk 24:1-3). They go to perform an act of compassion, a traditional act of affection and love for a dear departed person, just as we would. They had followed Jesus, they had listened to his words, they had felt understood by him in their dignity and they had accompanied him to the very end, to Calvary and to the moment when he was taken down from the cross. We can imagine their feelings as they make their way to the tomb: a certain sadness, sorrow that Jesus had left them, he had died, his life had come to an end. Life would now go on as before. Yet the women continued to feel love, the love for Jesus which now led them to his tomb. But at this point, something completely new and unexpected happens, something which upsets their hearts and their plans, something which will upset their whole life: they see the stone removed from before the tomb, they draw near and they do not find the Lord’s body. It is an event which leaves them perplexed, hesitant, full of questions: “What happened?”, “What is the meaning of all this?” (cf. Lk 24:4). Doesn’t the same thing also happen to us when something completely new occurs in our everyday life? We stop short, we don’t understand, we don’t know what to do. Newness often makes us fearful, including the newness which God brings us, the newness which God asks of us. We are like the Apostles in the Gospel: often we would prefer to hold on to our own security, to stand in front of a tomb, to think about someone who has died, someone who ultimately lives on only as a memory, like the great historical figures from the past. We are afraid of God’s surprises. Dear brothers and sisters, we are afraid of God’s surprises! He always surprises us! The Lord is like that.
Dear brothers and sisters, let us not be closed to the newness that God wants to bring into our lives! Are we often weary, disheartened and sad? Do we feel weighed down by our sins? Do we think that we won’t be able to cope? Let us not close our hearts, let us not lose confidence, let us never give up: there are no situations which God cannot change, there is no sin which he cannot forgive if only we open ourselves to him.
2. But let us return to the Gospel, to the women, and take one step further. They find the tomb empty, the body of Jesus is not there, something new has happened, but all this still doesn’t tell them anything certain: it raises questions; it leaves them confused, without offering an answer. And suddenly there are two men in dazzling clothes who say: “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; but has risen” (Lk 24:5-6). What was a simple act, done surely out of love – going to the tomb – has now turned into an event, a truly life-changing event. Nothing remains as it was before, not only in the lives of those women, but also in our own lives and in the history of mankind. Jesus is not dead, he has risen, he is alive! He does not simply return to life; rather, he is life itself, because he is the Son of God, the living God (cf. Num 14:21-28; Deut 5:26; Josh 3:10). Jesus no longer belongs to the past, but lives in the present and is projected towards the future; Jesus is the everlasting “today” of God. This is how the newness of God appears to the women, the disciples and all of us: as victory over sin, evil and death, over everything that crushes life and makes it seem less human. And this is a message meant for me and for you dear sister, for you dear brother. How often does Love have to tell us: Why do you look for the living among the dead? Our daily problems and worries can wrap us up in ourselves, in sadness and bitterness... and that is where death is. That is not the place to look for the One who is alive! Let the risen Jesus enter your life, welcome him as a friend, with trust: he is life! If up till now you have kept him at a distance, step forward. He will receive you with open arms. If you have been indifferent, take a risk: you won’t be disappointed. If following him seems difficult, don’t be afraid, trust him, be confident that he is close to you, he is with you and he will give you the peace you are looking for and the strength to live as he would have you do.
3. There is one last little element that I would like to emphasize in the Gospel for this Easter Vigil. The women encounter the newness of God. Jesus has risen, he is alive! But faced with empty tomb and the two men in brilliant clothes, their first reaction is one of fear: “they were terrified and bowed their faced to the ground”, Saint Luke tells us – they didn’t even have courage to look. But when they hear the message of the Resurrection, they accept it in faith. And the two men in dazzling clothes tell them something of crucial importance: remember. “Remember what he told you when he was still in Galilee… And they remembered his words” (Lk 24:6,8). This is the invitation to remember their encounter with Jesus, to remember his words, his actions, his life; and it is precisely this loving remembrance of their experience with the Master that enables the women to master their fear and to bring the message of the Resurrection to the Apostles and all the others (cf. Lk 24:9). To remember what God has done and continues to do for me, for us, to remember the road we have travelled; this is what opens our hearts to hope for the future. May we learn to remember everything that God has done in our lives.
On this radiant night, let us invoke the intercession of the Virgin Mary, who treasured all these events in her heart (cf. Lk 2:19,51) and ask the Lord to give us a share in his Resurrection. May he open us to the newness that transforms, to the beautiful surprises of God. May he make us men and women capable of remembering all that he has done in our own lives and in the history of our world. May he help us to feel his presence as the one who is alive and at work in our midst. And may he teach us each day, dear brothers and sisters, not to look among the dead for the Living One. Amen.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Reflection for Friday, April 18, 2014

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

St. Peter's Basilica
Good Friday, 29 March 2013

“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, but they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith in his blood. He did this to show his righteousness [...] to prove at the present time that he is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom 3:23-26).

We have reached the summit of the Year of Faith and its decisive moment. This is the faith that saves, "faith that overcomes the world" (1 Jn 5:5)! Faith – the appropriation by which we make ours the salvation worked by Christ, by which we put on the mantle of his righteousness. On the one hand there is the outstretched hand of God offering man His grace; on the other hand, the hand of man reaching out to receive it through faith. The "new and everlasting Covenant" is sealed with a handclasp between God and man.

We have the opportunity to make, on this day, the most important decision of our lives, one that opens wide before us the doors of eternity: to believe! To believe that "Jesus died for our sins and rose again for our justification" (Rom 4:25)! In an Easter homily of the 4th century, the bishop pronounced these extraordinarily modern, and one could say existentialist, words: “For every man, the beginning of life is when Christ was immolated for him. However, Christ is immolated for him at the moment he recognizes the grace and becomes conscious of the life procured for him by that immolation” (The Paschal Homily of the Year 387 : SCh, 36 p. 59f.).

What an extraordinary thing! This Good Friday celebrated in the Year of Faith and in the presence of the new successor of Peter, could be, if we wish, the principle of a new kind of existence. Bishop Hilary of Poitiers, converted to Christianity as an adult, looking back on his past life, said, "before meeting you, I did not exist".

What is required is only that we do not hide from the presence of God, as Adam and Eve did after their sin, that we recognize our need to be justified; that we cannot justify ourselves. The publican of the parable came to the temple and made a short prayer: "O God, have mercy on me a sinner". And Jesus says that the man returned to his home "justified", that is, made right before him, forgiven, made a new creature, I think singing joyfully in his heart (Lk 18:14). What had he done that was so extraordinary? Nothing, he had put himself in the truth before God, and it is the only thing that God needs in order to act.
* * *
Like he who, in climbing a mountain wall, having overcome a dangerous step, stops for a moment to catch his breath and admire the new landscape that has opened up before him, so does the Apostle Paul at the beginning of Chapter 5 of the letter to the Romans, after having proclaimed justification by faith:

“Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Rom 5: 1-5).

Today, from artificial satellites infrared photographs of whole regions of the Earth and of the whole planet are taken. How different the landscape looks when seen from up there, in the light of those rays, compared to what we see in natural light and from down here! I remember one of the first satellite pictures published in the world; it reproduced the entire Sinai Peninsula. The colors were different, the reliefs and depressions were more noticeable. It is a symbol. Even human life, seen in the infrared rays of faith, from atop Calvary, looks different from what you see "with the naked eye".

"The same fate”, said the wise man of the Old Testament, “comes to all, to the righteous and to the wicked...I saw under the sun that in the place of justice, wickedness was there, and in the place of righteousness, wickedness was there as well" (Ecc 3:16; 9:2). And in fact at all times man has witnessed iniquity triumphant and innocence humiliated. But so that people do not believe that there is something fixed and sure in the world, behold, Bossuet notes, sometimes you see the opposite, namely, innocence on the throne and lawlessness on the scaffold. But what did Qoheleth conclude from all this? " I said in my heart: God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time for everything" (Ecc 3:17). He found the vantage point that puts the soul in peace.

What Qoheleth could not know and that we do know is that this judgement has already happened: "Now”, Jesus says when beginning his passion, “is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself"(Jn 12:31-32).

In Christ dead and risen, the world has reached its final destination. Human progress is advancing today at a dizzying pace and humanity sees new and unexpected horizons unfolding before it, the result of its discoveries. Still, it can be said that the end of time has already come, because in Christ, who ascended to the right hand of the Father, humanity has reached its ultimate goal. The new heavens and new Earth have already begun.

Despite all the misery, injustice, the monstrosities present on Earth, he has already inaugurated the final order in the world. What we see with our own eyes may suggest otherwise, but in reality evil and death have been defeated forever. Their sources are dry; the reality is that Jesus is the Lord of the world. Evil has been radically defeated by redemption which he operated. The new world has already begun.

One thing above all appears different, seen with the eyes of faith: death! Christ entered death as we enter a dark prison; but he came out of it from the opposite wall. He did not return from whence he came, as Lazarus did who returned to life to die again. He has opened a breach towards life that no one can ever close, and through which everyone can follow him. Death is no longer a wall against which every human hope is shattered; it has become a bridge to eternity. A "bridge of sighs", perhaps because no one likes to die, but a bridge, no longer a bottomless pit that swallows everything. "Love is strong as death", says the song of songs (Sgs 8:6). In Christ it was stronger than death!

In his "Ecclesiastical History of the English People", the Venerable Bede tells how the Christian faith made its entrance into the North of England. When the missionaries from Rome arrived in Northumberland, the local King summoned a Council of dignitaries to decide whether to allow them, or not, to spread the new message. Some of those present were in favor, others against. It was winter and outside there was a blizzard, but the room was lit and warm. At one point a bird came from a hole in the wall, fluttered a bit, frightened, in the hall, and then disappeared through a hole in the opposite wall.

Then one of those present rose and said: "Sire, our life in this world resembles that bird. We come we know not from where, for a while we enjoy the light and warmth of this world and then we disappear back into the darkness, without knowing where we are going. If these men are capable of revealing to us something of the mystery of our lives, we must listen to them". The Christian faith could return on our continent and in the secularized world for the same reason it made its entrance: as the only message, that is, which has a sure answer to the great questions of life and death.
* * *
The cross separates unbelievers from believers, because for the ones it is scandal and madness, for the others is God's power and wisdom of God (cf. 1 Cor 1:23-24); but in a deeper sense it unites all men, believers and unbelievers. "Jesus had to die [...] not for the nation only, but to gather into one the dispersed children of God" (cf. Jn 11:51f). The new heavens and the new Earth belong to everyone and are for everyone, because Christ died for everyone.

The urgency that comes from all this is that of evangelizing: "The love of Christ urges us, at the thought that one has died for all" (2 Cor 5:14). It urges us to evangelize! Let us announce to the world the good news that "there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because the law of the spirit which gives life in Christ Jesus has delivered us from the law of sin and death" (Rom 8:1-2).

There is a short story by Franz Kafka that is a powerful religious symbol and takes on a new meaning, almost prophetic, when heard on Good Friday. It's titled "An Imperial Message". It speaks of a king who, on his deathbed, calls to his side a subject and whispers a message into his ear. So important is that message that he makes the subject repeat it, in turn, into his hear. Then, with a nod, he sends off the messenger, who sets out on his way. But let us hear directly from the author the continuation of this story, characterized by the dreamlike and almost nightmarish tone typical of this writer:

"Now pushing with his right arm, now with his left, he cleaves a way for himself through the throng; if he encounters resistance he points to his breast, where the symbol of the sun glitters. But the multitudes are so vast; their numbers have no end. If he could reach the open fields how fast he would fly, and soon doubtless you would hear the welcome hammering of his fists on your door. But instead how vainly does he wear out his strength; still he is only making his way through the chambers of the innermost palace; never will he get to the end of them; and if he succeeded in that nothing would be gained; he must next fight his way down the stair; and if he succeeded in that nothing would be gained; the courts would still have to be crossed; and after the courts the second outer palace; and so on for thousands of years; and if at last he should burst through the outermost gate—but never, never can that happen—the imperial capital would lie before him, the center of the world, crammed to bursting with its own sediment. Nobody could fight his way through here even with a message from a dead man. But you sit at your window when evening falls and dream it to yourself”.

From his deathbed, Christ also confided to his Church a message: "Go throughout the whole world, preach the good news to all creation" (MK 16:15). There are still many men who stand at the window and dream, without knowing it, of a message like his. John, whom we have just heard, says that the soldier pierced the side of Christ on the cross "so that the Scripture may be fulfilled which says 'they shall look on him whom they have pierced" (Jn 19:37). In the Apocalypse he adds: "Behold, he is coming on the clouds, and every eye will see him; they will see him even those who pierced him, and all the tribes of the Earth will lament for him "(Rev 1:7).

This prophecy does not announce the last coming of Christ, when it will no longer be the time of conversion, but of judgment. It describes the reality of the evangelization of the peoples. In it, a mysterious but real coming of the Lord occurs, which brings salvation to them. Theirs won't be a cry of despair, but of repentance and of consolation. This is the meaning of that prophetic passage of Scripture that John sees realized in the piercing of the side of Christ, and that is, the passage of Zechariah 12:10: "I will pour out on the House of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the spirit of grace and consolation; they will look to me, to him whom they have pierced".

The evangelization has a mystical origin; it is a gift that comes from the cross of Christ, from that open side, from that blood and from that water. The love of Christ, like that of the Trinity of which it is the historical manifestation, is "diffusivum sui", it tends to expand and reach all creatures, "especially those most needy of thy mercy." Christian evangelization is not a conquest, not propaganda; it is the gift of God to the world in his Son Jesus. It is to give the Head the joy of feeling life flow from his heart towards his body, to the point of vivifying its most distant limbs.

We must do everything possible so that the Church may never look like that complicated and cluttered castle described by Kafka, and the message may come out of it as free and joyous as when the messenger began his run. We know what the impediments are that can restrain the messenger: dividing walls, starting with those that separate the various Christian churches from one another, the excess of bureaucracy, the residue of past ceremonials, laws and disputes, now only debris.

In Revelation, Jesus says that He stands at the door and knocks (Rev 3:20). Sometimes, as noted by our Pope Francis, he does not knock to enter, but knocks from within to go out. To reach out to the "existential suburbs of sin, suffering, injustice, religious ignorance and indifference, and of all forms of misery."

As happens with certain old buildings. Over the centuries, to adapt to the needs of the moment, they become filled with partitions, staircases, rooms and closets. The time comes when we realize that all these adjustments no longer meet the current needs, but rather are an obstacle, so we must have the courage to knock them down and return the building to the simplicity and linearity of its origins. This was the mission that was received one day by a man who prayed before the Crucifix of San Damiano: "Go, Francis, and repair my Church".

"Who could ever be up to this task?" wondered aghast the Apostle before the superhuman task of being in the world "the fragrance of Christ"; and here is his reply, that still applies today: "We're not ourselves able to think something as if it came from us; our ability comes from God. He has made us to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; because the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life" (2 Cor 2:16; 3:5-6).

May the Holy Spirit, in this moment in which a new time is opening for the Church, full of hope, reawaken in men who are at the window the expectancy of the message, and in the messengers the will to make it reach them, even at the cost of their life.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Reflection for April 17, 2014

EX 12: 1-8, 11-14
PS 116: 12-13, 15-16 BC, 17-18
1 COR 11: 23-26
JN 13: 1-15

Prison for Minors "Casal del Marmo", Rome
Holy Thursday, 28 March 2013


This is moving. Jesus, washing the feet of his disciples. Peter didn’t understood it at all, he refused. But Jesus explained it for him. Jesus – God – did this! He himself explains to his disciples: “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord – and you are right, for that is what I am. 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” (Jn 13:12-15).

It is the Lord’s example: he is the most important, and he washes feet, because with us what is highest must be at the service of others. This is a symbol, it is a sign, right? Washing feet means: “I am at your service”. And with us too, don’t we have to wash each other’s feet day after day? But what does this mean? That all of us must help one another. Sometimes I am angry with someone or other … but… let it go, let it go, and if he or she asks you a favour, do it.

Help one another: this is what Jesus teaches us and this what I am doing, and doing with all my heart, because it is my duty. As a priest and a bishop, I must be at your service. But it is a duty which comes from my heart: I love it. I love this and I love to do it because that is what the Lord has taught me to do. But you too, help one another: help one another always. One another. In this way, by helping one another, we will do some good.

Now we will perform this ceremony of washing feet, and let us think, let each one of us think: “Am I really willing, willing to serve, to help others?”. Let us think about this, just this. And let us think that this sign is a caress of Jesus, which Jesus gives, because this is the real reason why Jesus came: to serve, to help us.

Reflection for Wednesday, April 16, 2014

IS 50: 4-9A
PS 69: 8-10, 21-22, 31 and 33-34
MT 26: 14-25

Welcome to the final day of Lent, 2014, "Spy Wednesday," remembering the day Judas asked, "What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?"

In the composition of place, we read the third song of the Suffering Servant, perhaps even experiencing the acceptance, the surrender and the peace Jesus feels. We can also sense the betrayal, the pain, of His day as we go through our own lives, our own days…

Spy Wednesday can be an appropriate day to pray the Stations of the Cross, if we haven’t already done so.

The readings of the day certainly speak for themselves as we enter the Triduum, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, all leading us to the triumph and fulfillment of Easter Sunday.

Have a blessed Easter, all the better because of a blessed Lent.

May the Lord bless us,
protect us from all evil
and bring us to everlasting life.
Giving something up notwithstanding, Lent is more about giving in…giving more…entering more deeply…preparing for all that is to come…making ourselves ready, with the grace of God…for the grace of God.

We read in Isaiah that, despite the betrayal and suffering, The Lord GOD is my help, therefore I am not disgraced… We pray in the Responsorial Psalm, with the hope and confidence of the psalmist, beseeching, Lord, in your great love, answer me.  We learn in the Gospel about Judas, the betrayer of Jesus.

Lent, briefly and to the point, is the time we can start doing what God calls us to do, only doing it better than we did it before.  So rather than simply focusing on what we gave up, we can pray in gratitude about what are becoming.  We can be grateful for the confidence, and the courage, and the strength to live in the promises of God and the hope of the Kingdom…we can with increasing confidence, answer the Baptismal questions.. 
                        Do you reject sin so as to live in the freedom of God’s children?
                   Do you reject the glamour of evil and refuse to be mastered by sin?

Isn’t Lent also, primarily, a time for us to reconcile--with ourselves, with others, and, mostly, with God?
The 35th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus, in Challenges to our Mission Today, charges us Jesuits, As servants of Christ’s mission we are invited to assist him as he sets right our relationships with God, with other human beings, and with creation. (GC35, n. 62)   Lent is a good time to look at how we respond to that invitation.  This type of preparation and examination seems much more than giving up something.

We can accept more fully the gift we’re being offered, and enter more fully into the opportunities we have been given, to live life abundantly in accordance with what our Lord has given us.

Have a blessed Triduum, as together we prepare to celebrate joyfully the mysteries of our salvation during this Holy Week, and look forward to a bright Easter.
Have a blessed Easter.  God bless you…

Fr. Paul Stark, S.J. is Vice President of Mission and Ministry.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Reflection for Tuesday, April 15, 2014

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

Today we are at the very end of Lent, and Jesus' betrayal is almost at hand. Looking at his situation from the perspective of the Romans, it could seem like "I had toiled in vain,
and for nothing, uselessly, spent my strength," (IS 49:4) -- about to be betrayed by one of his closest friends and abandoned by the rest, have the city of Jerusalem turn their backs on him after "hosannah-ing" him in just  a few days earlier, and have his efforts to heal and feed and liberate be rewarded by being condemned to a grisly and shameful death.

As it so happens, today is also the 149th anniversary of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln; I just saw a poster from several years back advertising "the 200th anniversary of the birth of America's greatest president," but at the time he died, his life too might have seen like a failure: getting the nation into the most horrible and bloody war they had ever seen, destroying the infrastructure of the very people he was fighting not to secede, and not even living to see the end of all the fighting (General Lee having surrendered the week before his death, but the fighting still carrying on several more months as the news disseminated). Not exactly a scene that might lead him to believe that he would be so widely revered as the greatest or one of the presidents in American history.

Hope in these circumstances might simply look like a dogged refusal to acknowledge reality - wishful thinking. Friedrich Nietzsche famously wrote, "Hope is the worst of all evils, for it prolongs the torments of Man," and we all know people who have stayed in unhealthy relationships, sick work environments, abusive marriages, and so on for far too long because they held out continual wishful thinking that "next time will be different." But hope might also, and I suggest more properly, be understood as a recognition that there is more possibility out there than what I am capable of seeing from my limited vantage point. Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann suggests that hope has something to do with trusting that God will be in the future as God has been in the past: this is why so many lament psalms can have enough chutzpah to ask where God is, why things are so bad, and how long things will stay the way they are now: because the psalmist knows God from God's history of fidelity and action, and so comes to expect more of the same and can even "remind" God of who God has been.

As Lent draws near, consider the areas of your life and our lives together that may seem the most broken, that most feel like an exercise in futility. Simply put, hope. Know that there is more goodness at work than what you are able to manage or even identify. You may know the prayer that has been ascribed to Archbishop Oscar Romero, sometimes called "The Long View" - a reminder of our limited vantage point and ability to manipulate reality. Jesus did not end the injustices he fought, Abraham Lincoln did not end racism (or even slavery), and we do not accomplish our lives all at once, or even once and for all. But knowing that "the kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision" can free us to not despair over the realities that we cannot yet see, and give us confidence that our lives are situated in a larger Life, a larger project of the coming of the reign of God, that promises the renewal of the world even where that renewal seems utterly impossible - as impossible as the return of a condemned criminal from the grave.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Reflection for Monday, April 14, 2014

IS 42: 1-7
PS 27: 1, 2, 3, 13-14
JN 12: 1-11

“God, the LORD, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spreads out the earth with its crops, Who gives breath to its people and spirit to those who walk on it….” Isaiah 42:5

We often worry about the small things in life: Am I smart enough, pretty enough, busy enough, good enough? I have found it beneficial in my own experiences to zoom out of the situation in order to gain a new perspective on my worries. Lately, I have been literally looking up at the sky to remind myself how small my worries actually are...  About 13.8 billion years ago, God created our expanding, intricate, and ever changing universe. God created billions of galaxies in this universe and in each galaxy, billions of solar systems. The most distant galaxies that God created are so far away that the light arriving from them on Earth today set out from the galaxies billions of years ago. In this vast universe lies planet Earth. This sphere that is full of humans of different races, beliefs, and stories. The planet that is consumed by love and happiness, but also hatred and sadness.

He created our detailed bodies that are currently working very hard as you read this. Your heart fuels itself, paces itself, and alters in response to life’s daily happenings ALL with no conscious effort. Cells are currently being formed and destroyed. Your kidneys are currently detoxifying blood. God was so detailed in the creation of humans that he made little proteins called laminins, which form the foundation for most cells and organs, to be shaped as a cross! Take a break and Google “Laminin.” It is amazing. God formed us with great detail and love so that we may know Him, love Him, and follow Him.

He says, “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.” Isaiah 42:6-7

God created us with so much potential to be companions for those around us. Now, what do we do? How can WE know, love, and follow this incredible creator of ours? I believe that it begins with loving ourselves first. We can only truly be a light for others if we are a light for ourselves. Be kind and patient with yourself as you take on life’s joys and challenges.

“To open the eyes of the blind…”
This Lent, let us see past the haze of judgments that we place on people. Next time we see someone who might seem “different” than us, let’s break down that screen and remember that person was also made in God’s image. That person is meant to teach us something in that moment.  When we stop being blind to the things around us, we can unite with others to continue helping each other see. Once we see that we are not all that different from another, peace and connection can begin.

“To bring out prisoners of confinement…”
This coming week, let us practice breaking out of the confinements we build around ourselves. If you get nervous in class, push yourself to speak; if you are scared to be yourself, practice doing something small each day that exemplifies you; if you have an addiction, take one step this week into a positive direction. When we know how hard it is to be a “prisoner” in our own jail, we can know how to help others break out of their jails. What walls do you need to bring down?

“And from the dungeons, those who live in darkness…”
God asks us to bring people out of darkness of the dungeons of our lives. Let us be vulnerable to the darkness. God made us to be together, to help one another, to love one another. Our friends that we vent to are God’s messengers. Let us be lights for one another. He created us in order to connect. To share in the sorrow. To break down our walls together. When we are brave enough to explore the darkness of our dungeons we will be able to find the infinite power of our light.

RISE and BE a light for the nations. Find the light that God planted within yourself and shine it for all to see. We have one week left before Easter. How can we be a light this week for ourselves and for others?

“Be who God meant for you to be and you will set the world on fire.”
-St. Catherine of Siena

Kaitlyn Vokaty is a junior majoring in Occupational Therapy.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Reflection for Sunday, April 13, 2014

Behold, your king comes to you, meek and riding on an ass, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.

The story of God revealed in Jesus has and continues to confound the world.  As we enter into Holy week, I find it difficult to place myself in the immediate context of Jesus’s entrance into Jerusalem. My problem is that I know how it all ends, so I do not find myself convinced by the proclamation of the crowds that come out to greet him and announce, “This is Jesus the prophet, from Nazareth in Galilee.” In my own mind I know beforehand the role the crowd plays in the passion we read as today’s Gospel.
Certitude about how this story ends spoils all the remaining plot twists. The Romans are not kicked out of Palestine, Jesus dies, and then is raised from the dead. More importantly, certitude cuts against one of the major themes of the Gospels; God’s actions in our lives does not conform to our expectations or rules for how God should act in our lives.
That Jesus, “The Son of David” entered Jerusalem on a beast of burden confounds some human expectations.  Instead of entering the city as a conqueror, as King David did, Jesus enters on an ass. The crowd tries to dress it up by cutting palms and throwing their cloaks before him – royal enough in a pinch. By the end of today’s Gospel there is no dressing it up.  The Son of David is dead, unable to throw off the yoke of foreign conquerors and restore God's Justice among the people of Israel.
This is not how it was supposed to go. The Messiah – The Son of David was supposed to restore the good-ole days. God is not bound by our expectations and rules.  I re-encounter this fact every Sunday, and especially during Easter when so many of our stories are contain this theme. The Son of David washing the disciples’ feet.  Peter denying Jesus and going on to become the rock the Church is built on. The multiple renditions of Jesus’s death on the cross as a convicted criminal.  The challenge is not to figure out how God is going to act, but being present to and recognizing God's Grace at work in our lives.

John Burke is the Campus Minister for Faith and Justice. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Reflection for Saturday, April 12, 2014

EZ 37: 21-28
JER 31: 10, 11-12ABCD, 13
JN 11: 45-56

“It is better for you that one man should die instead of the people, so that the whole nation may not perish.” (JN 11:50)

A cultural theorist named RenĂ© Girard has made much of this very pattern of sacrificing one for the good of the many, a pattern which he sees working, usually invisibly, across literature and religion and mythology: the creation of unity among disparate groups as a result of the unanimous expulsion or death of an outsider, a scapegoat. If you have read the Oedipus trilogy or Freud’s Totem and Taboo, if you have read the graphic novel Watchmen or seen the Avengers movie, you have encountered the idea of shared opposition to a common foe bringing disparate peoples together. It doesn't work for very long, but it does work, as long as you are ok with constantly having (and destroying) an "other" over against whom you define yourself.

John’s Gospel uses this image ironically, as Caiaphas imagines the death of Jesus as a means of placating Rome so they do not “take away both our land and our nation.” (11:48) Of course, Rome DID attack Jerusalem several times, none of which were because of Jesus: the destruction of the Temple in 70AD, the sack of the city in 135, The irony is that Caiaphas does not realize that Jesus’ death is indeed for the life of the nation, not by stifling a troublemaker, but by Jesus being “lifted up” (JN 3:14, 12:32) so as to “draw everyone to myself,” echoing the image from Ezekiel of bringing together those members of the children of Israel who had been scattered by the Exile (586-538 B.C.) to the ends of the known world.

I can't help but think that the unity that Caiaphas tried to create was linked to expelling people who did not fit his vision - that is, uniformity and intolerance of dissent were the content of his version of unity. We are called to unity as well, but not by excising whoever does not look like us, think like us, act like us. On Friday, Campus Ministry celebrated a Way of the Cross with stations based on Catholic Social Teaching and situations of injustice that people face around the world today, situations that continue the crucifixion of the Body of Christ. Do we create negative peace through imposing silence, through stifling cries of pain and critique, through creating spaces of fear? Or do we create positive peace that is messy and complex through its openness to the other, its ability to move and change in response to needs, and its vulnerability to being unsettled by those who are different? As the end of Lent draws close and Holy Week begins, be mindful of how easily we choose the path of peace-through-silencing-outsiders instead of the chaotic peace in which differences are respected and valued.

Reflection for Friday, April 11, 2014

JER 20: 10-13
PS 18: 2-3A, 3BC-4, 5-6, 7
JN 10: 31-42

At this time in the semester it is almost essential to take things in small steps. Many of us need to take it one day at a time while still trying to plan far enough ahead to keep ourselves out of trouble.  In today’s Gospel, Jesus is conversing with a crowd who is ready to stone him for blaspheming because he says that he is the Son of God. Jesus’ response invites us to something much deeper, but also gives us the option of taking small steps.  Jesus says, “if I do not perform my Father’s works, do not believe me; but if I perform them, even if you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may realize and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” Jesus knows our humanity and appeals to this. If we are not ready to take on all that God has led us to at this point or to take that leap of faith, he invites us to look at the blessings around us – all of His good works – and take it one step at a time.

I have found myself asking what the point of Lent is as we have progressed through this season. Why are we asked to take these forty days and to focus our attention on having a change of heart and mind? I think Jesus’ response can give us some insight on this. We are called to become closer to God; to know his love and to find ways to show it – to live it. Jesus invites us to come to know him, and his Father, more deeply through small steps. This is something we can all manage.

For this last week of Lent, I challenge you to look around you and see the works Jesus has done. If we only look for it, God’s infinite grace and love is visible all around us. One day our small steps might even lead us to take that leap and to let our belief guide us to live as Jesus did.

Emily Polovick is a junior studying Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Reflection for Thursday, April 10, 2014


I recently saw a banner in a local church that said “Redesigned by Christ”.  It struck me that there were areas of my life that have been and still could be redesigned by Christ.  His design of me was perfect but I felt the need to tweak it in an effort to control certain aspects of my life.  Of course, I know what is best for me, right? 
We feel the need to control many aspects of our lives and at times find that we are successful but only to a point.  Finances, health, peace of mind, relationships all can be stable and with a sudden miss-step, all is lost and we cannot find a way to re-gain control. 
Once we’ve lost control, what we should seek is for Christ to redesign our perspective and to offer up the situation to Him. But it is not easy to let go of a situation that we believe has a huge impact on our lives.  When we give total control to Christ in any situation and seek His guidance we re-gain the stability we felt was lost. 

Christ gave up total control to our Heavenly Father to die on the cross for us.  Could there be any situation we face any more difficult than that?  I am challenged and challenge all of us to give control of every aspect of life each day to Christ so that we not only find peace and stability but also know the will of God in our lives.

Cindy Bush is the Coordinator of the Busch Student Center.