Saturday, February 28, 2015

Reflection for Saturday, February 28, 2015

Saturday of the First Week of Lent
DT 26: 16-19
PS 119: 1-2, 4-5, 7-8
MT 5: 43-48

We all have some sort of calling in life. Some days, we have big callings like going out into the world and do something.  Other days, we are called just to be pleasant to those around us and treat them with love. As a student, and for any busy person, it can be difficult to take the time to listen to what God is calling us to do.  Half the time I don’t know what day of the week it is (although that’s kind of normal).  Taking the time to listen to what God wants me to do and then do it can be hard.
Today, take a moment and listen to what God is calling you to do. It only has to be a minute.
Do you feel like God is calling you to do more or change something?
The answer can be “no,” God wants you just where you are right now. Some days, I feel God is calling me just to keep on keeping on.  Other times there is a desire to do more, to reach out to others. That’s one of my callings, but what does God want you to do? 
“Now is a very acceptable time”
-2 COR 6:2B
Today is your day. Answer that calling. If no one else is going to answer that call, then it might as well be you. My goal for today and this Lenten season is to listen to what God wants me to do and do it. God knows where you are and He will not ask you to do the impossible, for you.  Trust God and respond.   

Sarah Love is a Junior in the College for Public Health and Social Justice. She likes to read and listen to music.  Currently, Sarah is studying abroad in Heidelberg, Germany.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Reflection for Friday, February 27, 2015

Friday of the First Week of Lent

My superhero name in our department is Captain Lemonade. I can make lemonade out almost any lemons thrown in my direction. And some days offer more opportunity than others.
As I write this reflection, I am in the course in my second Federal trial. I am being sued by a former patient of mine—a former inmate of the Saint Louis County Jail. I’m defending myself again charges that I was deliberately indifferent to the health care needs of the plaintiff while he was incarcerated and under my care. This is one of the biggest nightmares for any physician—being called to court on charges of malpractice or deliberate indifference.
But, this is not why we go to medical school. This is not why we get up in the morning to go to work. To have our character and our life’s work questioned is hurtful—regardless of how ridiculous the claim. And we know that when we enter court, our intentions, our work and our reputations become the focus of games of semantics and documentation.
So I certainly found it ironic that today’s readings speak to black and white, iniquities and righteousness, courtrooms and altars. These are topics and locations of high drama and judgment. However, a careful reading points us to an emphasis of what happens prior to judgment—not to the judgment itself.
The real work, at least for the defendant in a med-mal case, is not in the courtroom drama; it is in the hours of preparation, of examining documents, of providing depositions, and perhaps most importantly, of examining one’s conscience and one’s actions regarding motivation, treatment and possibility of oversight or bias.
This is my second time to Federal Court. Again, I have been forced to reflect and reevaluate my devotion to underserved care and incarcerated populations. I fully expect the jury will rule in my favor once again. And despite the fact that this has cost me scores of hours of time and cost SLU thousands of dollars in legal fees, good will come of it.
In this process of reflections and action, I been become more articulate in communicating my professional mission in clinical care and integrating this mission into my teaching and writing. I have renewed my commitment to serve as an expert defense witness for medical providers put in my situation. And I have vowed to discuss possibilities for reform in Criminal Justice and Correctional Health Care with our School of Law and School for Public Health and Social Justice.
Ezekiel, the Psalmist and Jesus agree on a point of justice—don’t play. Be consistent in living your values. Have integrity. Avoid unnecessary drama. Live lives of truth in your thoughts and actions.
And I’ll continue to try to do the same. And while I can’t control what lemons get thrown my way, I can maintain the practice of reflection and action. And keep making lemonade.

Fred Rottnek, MD, MAHCM
Director of Corrections Medicine, Saint Louis County Department of Health
Associate Professor and Director of Community Medicine, Saint Louis University

BTW: All verdicts came back in my favor, and I’m back at work.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Reflection for Thursday, February 26, 2015

Thursday of the First Week of Lent

Up until recently, when the Book of Esther was discussed, the first image that propelled itself into my thought process was VeggieTales.

I see Mortecai, Esther’s cousin, as a squash, and Esther as this tall thin beautiful asparagus, scared and dependent on those around her. Her people, the Jews, are going to be destroyed because of her squashly kin standing up to the king, who also happens to be her husband.

In the first reading today we see her begging God for help as all her friends' and family’s lives rest in the hands of her husband. She wants an answer, a purpose. She wants to be more than the box of “beautiful woman” that she was placed in during her arranged marriage.

As my image of Esther begins to change from “beautiful asparagus” to “strong, courageous, faith filled woman,”  I think of the way we define ourselves. So often we place ourselves in boxes. We want to be “smart” or “athletic,” “holy” or “member of __ club.” But what I find fascinating about Esther’s prayer is that she prayed for a solution that was outside of her hands. Inside of asking God to help her use her box to her advantage, she is asking to be torn from it. She placed the burden of perfection and solution onto God, and God responded.

God didn’t respond with an answer of ease or grace, but instead assigned Esther and her people a job. A three day Fast. Prayer. Almsgiving. Through this experience, this community, the people were renewed in the eyes of those who had pushed them to the margins. They were given a strength that transcends.

This Lent, what strengths are you looking for, and how are you asking for them? As Jesus says in the Gospel “ask and it shall be given to you.” But I invite you this Lenten Season to invite in the courage of Esther, and ask God for the permission to step outside of your comfort zone. Ask for difficult things, or for new ways to grow in your image of God. Invite conversation and community as you begin to explore this new way to converse with God. Let the promise of the resurrection guide growth that is to come.

Abbie Amico is a Junior majoring in Theological Studies.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Reflection for Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Wednesday of the First Week of Lent
JON 3: 1-10
PS 51: 3-4, 12-13, 18-19
LK 11: 29-32

A few weeks ago I attended a prayer service at my daughter’s preschool. “Open your heart to his heart,” the children sang, “let it be a part of the life you live for him…welcome his Sacred Heart!” The tears welled up in my eyes as I watched these sweet and innocent little ones joyfully and confidently offering their hearts to Jesus in song. They know what we at times forget: that he will not refuse them.

In today’s first reading, we are told that Jonah called the people of Ninevah to repentance, and that all the inhabitants, starting with the king himself, clothed themselves in sackcloth and began a fast in the hope that God would “relent and forgive, and withhold his blazing wrath” so that they should not perish. This passage, read through the lens of Psalm 51, gives insight into what Lenten sacrifice is intended to accomplish in us.

Too often, I think, we catch ourselves musing over what we’ll “give up” for Lent, as though our mortifications will somehow earn God’s forgiveness. But the psalmist, singing to God, shatters our petty theories of transactional forgiveness: “For you are not pleased with sacrifices; / should I offer a burnt offering, you would not accept it.” God’s compassion and mercy, and not our own offerings, wipe out our offenses, cleanse our hearts, and wash us of our guilt. What, then, does God want from us? “A heart contrite and humbled,” the psalmist says, “you will not spurn.” Herein lies the beauty of sacrifice: God doesn’t want your chocolate, or your FaceBook account, or your happy hour. To be sure, fasting from all of these things can be a healthful exercise in removing the distractions that keep you from giving God your heart. But it’s important to keep in mind that that’s what he wants: He wants your heart, your heart that, like all of our hearts, is broken and bruised because as Saint Paul reminds us, “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23). He wants to make it whole and clean; all you have to do is surrender it to him.

The ever-eloquent Caryll Houselander sums it up beautifully in her book This War Is the Passion when she explains the meaning of sacrifice. In telling the story of an eleven year old girl asked to teach a four year old child to “make a sacrifice,” Houselander relates that the girl taught the little boy to make the Sign of the Cross: “Asked why this should be a sacrifice, she answered with supreme wisdom, ‘Because for a little minute he gives all of himself to God.’” This imperative to “give all of oneself to God” is the reason, she explains, that we must always give something up: “the offering of ourselves is a complete offering, it means a whole attention, a whole concentration, a whole donation.” We thus fast from our attachment to things of various kinds so that we can approach God with our whole selves.

How much harder it is, as an adult, to approach God with the childlike confidence of the children at my daughter’s preschool, offering him our hearts. “I’m not good enough,” we think. We make excuses, telling ourselves, “God couldn’t possibly want my heart; I’m too broken,” or we find it impossible to relinquish control of our hearts for fear of the pain of rejection. Yet this is precisely what Lenten preparation entails, and what today’s scripture readings exhort us to do: “Even now, says the LORD, return to me with your whole heart for I am gracious and merciful.” And how can we refuse when Jesus calls to us? The gospel reading tells us that the Queen of Sheba and the people of Ninevah both responded to God’s call through the wisdom of Solomon and Jonah’s preaching, respectively. We, however, have something far greater in our midst: Jesus himself, offering his own perfect heart on the cross so that we might have the courage to offer our own wounded and broken ones to God alongside him. Sometimes, that is the hardest sacrifice of all.

Yvonne Angieri Klein is a second year PhD student in Historical Theology studying Patristics.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Reflection for Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Tuesday of the First Week of Lent

Forgiveness is tough.  Forgiving somebody for inflicting pain on us, or someone we love, can be difficult and painful, perhaps even as painful as the original transgression.  In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus tells us how to pray using the Our Father as an example, then goes on to stress the importance of forgiveness – indeed, the necessity – of forgiveness.  Unless we are able to forgive others, our sins and transgressions will not be forgiven.  
I have been trespassed against many times in my life, as have we all.  But I have also trespassed against others.  Each of those times I trespassed, I wanted nothing more than for the other person to forgive me.  It can be so hard to forgive another, especially if the transgression was particularly harsh.  Forgiving someone means seeing past the sin, and looking instead at the sinner.   Whenever I have been wronged, and am contemplating what to do next, I try to remember the times that I was forgiven, and how emotionally powerful that act was. 
Jesus of course provides the ultimate example of forgiveness – to be able to forgive the people who have killed you is the ultimate act of love, one that I cannot comprehend.  But if Jesus was able to do this, surely we can forgive others for their transgressions, especially those that are petty or slight. 
There are many ways we can immerse ourselves in this season of Lent – giving things up, acting in service to others, engaging in regular prayer.  But we should also consider the act of forgiving as another small, yet powerful way to engage with each other during Lent and beyond.  Lent is about recognizing our own sins, and how we can atone for those – part of this act must include both forgiving ourselves and others in the process.    A challenge for us all would be to forgive one person this Lenten season, no matter how small of large the transgression might have been. 

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. perhaps says it best about forgiveness:
“We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.”

We must recognize that as human beings, we are all sinners – we all make mistakes, we all inflict pain, and we all struggle with the act of forgiveness.  But seeing past the sin, and instead forgiving the sinner, is the very essence of the love which Jesus calls us all to embrace.

Bobby Wassel works in the Center for Service and Community Engagement and the Faith and Justice Collaborative. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Reflection for Monday, February 23, 2015

Monday of the First Week of Lent

You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

In the reading today, the Lord reminds Moses of the golden rule that many of us grew up with. We should not lie to our neighbor, or steal from them, or judge them. We should love them as we love ourselves; treat others the way we want to be treated. At first it sounds like a simple task, but we need to remember that our neighbors include those who are not so easy to love. But as God loves each one of us, He calls us to love all others.

Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.

As we begin this first full week of Lent, we reflect on what we can do for the least of our brothers and sisters. The remaining days before Easter can serve as a time to focus our attention on our neighbors who are marginalized or isolated within the community. Often times these are the people who need our love and support the most. At Saint Louis University, we are often reminded of the Jesuit mission. The Lenten season can serve as a 40-day challenge to further our commitment to live as men and women for others by striving to treat our neighbors as friends.

Jenny Ernst is a senior studying Communication Sciences and Disorders.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Reflection for Sunday, February 22, 2015

First Sunday of Lent
GN 9: 8-15
PS 25: 4-5, 6-7, 8-9
1 PT 3: 18-22
MK 1: 12-15

This Sunday’s readings give a wonderful illustration of covenant.  Through covenants, God communicates to us, redeems us, and guarantees us eternal life.  A covenant is a promise and there are some 321 occurrences of covenant within the Bible.  There is a distinct pattern to a covenant, emphasizing that this promise cannot and should not be broken.  We describe what we have done, we list the obligations between the two (or more) parties, and we talk about rewards and punishments for keeping or breaking our covenants.

I love the response from Psalm 25 today:  “Your ways, O Lord, are love and truth to those who keep your covenant.”  To be in covenant with God, others, and even ourselves is an awesome opportunity and an even greater responsibility.  And this covenant is underscored with love. 

As we begin this season of Lent, let’s think about the covenants in our lives.  This is a perfect time for that reflection on covenant, as we are preparing for the New Covenant between Christ and us.  Perhaps we can incorporate this reflection on our covenants into our daily prayer during Lent.

One way we can reflect is to imagine our own covenants with God.  How is my relationship with God?  What have I done each day that welcomes God into my life?  Have I made any special promises to God?  Are those promises contingent on me getting something in return?  What happens if I break my promise to God?  Focus on the loving relationship you have with God.  Spend some time praying about this and sitting quietly with this.

Another way we can reflect is to pray about our covenants with others?  How are my relationships with others?  What have I done each day that welcomes “the other” into my life?  How can I really take my faith, what I believe, and make a promise to work for justice for “the other”?  How can I walk in solidarity with people and get to know people so that they become part of my loving and intrinsic self, rather than even referring to them as “other”?  Focus on the loving relationship you have or want to have with people you know and even people you don’t know.  Pray about the awesome opportunity to see the face of Christ in everyone you meet.

Finally, take time to reflect and pray about your covenants with yourself.  How am I taking care of myself – body, mind, faith life, spirit?  What have I done each day that welcomes a loving relationship with myself?  Have I made any special promises to myself or do I negotiate with myself?  What happens if I break those promises?  How can I love myself more?  Spend some time praying about this and sitting quietly with this.

Lent promises for each of us some great opportunities to reflect – take the time and the space and promise yourselves that you will follow through!

Sue Chawszczewski is the Director of Campus Ministry.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Reflection for Saturday, February 21, 2015

Saturday after Ash Wednesday
IS 58:9-15B
PS 86: 1-2, 3-4, 5-6
LK 5: 27-32

I recently had the opportunity to travel to Belize, the tiny Central American country bordered by Mexico and Guatemala, with a group of students and professionals from the University.   On one of the final days there, I along with two colleagues, met a local artist and wood carver, named Frank, who was perhaps one of the most Christ-like people I have ever met.   Upon seeing us, Frank immediately jumped up from his workbench, leaving everything behind, and began sharing with us stories about his life and his faith-inspired artwork.  He shared that through his own struggle with cancer, he had come to realize his reliance on God.  As our conversation progressed, it became clear that Frank was a spiritually deep person with a profound trust in God and God’s plan for his life.  Much like Levi in today’s Gospel, Jesus called, and Frank followed.

The key to Levi’s response, and Frank’s, I believe, was a profound sense of humility. On the surface, the story of Levi is a simple story of a call and response.  What lies beneath the surface, however, is the story of someone who had the humility to realize that he was in need of God’s grace and compassion.   Both Levi and Frank were willing to see their own sinfulness. This was the main difference between the scribes and Pharisees and Levi.

Ultimately, Lent is a time for practicing humility.  It is a time for looking inward, for going deeper and for realizing our own need for conversion and grace to be followers of Jesus. 

This Lent, let us recommit ourselves to going deeper- to introspection and humility.  Perhaps by realizing our own need for God’s grace and healing, we, like Levi, may heed the call to follow Jesus.

Ben Smyth is the Manager of the Service Leadership Program in the Cook School of Business.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Reflection for Friday, February 20, 2015

Friday After Ash Wednesday

Live your life fully and well, declaring the word of God with every footstep, every breath, every hug, every song. Maybe not in the sense of preaching and using “God language” all the time, but by being intentional towards how you treat the God you encounter every day- in people, in nature, and in yourself.  
Lent is a time to acknowledge our crosses, and to carry them in solidarity with Jesus as he carried his to Calvary. Jesus does not call us to fast as a sacrifice for ourselves or as a personal challenge, but rather he calls us to fast from the ways in which we live that separate us from him. That may mean looking inside ourselves and learning to love the God within us despite what we have deemed unworthy of love. After all, if we cannot fully love ourselves, how can we fully love the God that is within us? I think that some of our biggest doubts of faith in God come from our biggest doubts of faith in ourselves. What can we do this Lenten season to embrace our imperfections and love whom God made us to be?
It also may mean turning outward to see how our actions affect the rest of God’s creation. The last bit of Isaiah is very reminiscent to the beatitudes. During this time of year we are called to fast, but not just for the sake of fasting. We are called to fast from the ways we luxuriously live our lives at the expense of others. From where do we buy clothes, food, shoes, electronics, alcohol, drugs? Who is behind the machine producing our luxuries, how are they paid, what are their working conditions? Can we fast from these things so that our fast “releases those bound unjustly” or “sets free the oppressed” or “shares bread with the hungry... and homeless,” or “clothes the naked” and “that does not turn our back on our own” brothers and sisters?
God wants us to look at the crosses and burdens of others, and help carry them right now. The psalm says that God is “not pleased with sacrifices” in the form of burnt offerings, but rather “a heart contrite and humble.” Can we sacrifice the blind eye we turn to our suffering brothers and sisters this Lenten season for a humble and loving heart? We walk in solidarity with Jesus during this time of year, carrying our own crosses so that our eyes may be open to those currently crucified by society. Let us reflect this season on how we can eliminate crucifying others by our lives, and how we can live our lives to take the already crucified down from their crosses.

Emily Haas is a Junior studying Psychology, Spanish, and International Studies with minors in Theology and Urban Poverty Studies. She is currently studying in Argentina.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Reflection for Thursday, February 19, 2015

Thursday after Ash Wednesday
DT 30: 15-20
PS 1: 1-2, 3, 4, AND 6
LK 9:22-25

I have decided of late that I like to play with fire.  This is certainly true in the physical sense as I love what fire does. Fire provides warmth, and there is also beauty in the way that it burns at varying degrees. And chemically it is present both on earth and within the larger universe. But, I am speaking metaphorically as well. Sometimes I play with heart fire and the connectivity through which relationships are made. It is both a dangerous game and an awareness exercise for me, and at the present moment God is teaching me about myself in relationship to fire.
Specifically my prayer life is leading me to more deeply understand the rootedness of broken relationships in the human story, and how false gods and self-centeredness distract us from both reality and the gifts that the Lord wishes to bestow on us in our daily lives. These themes also resound in today’s scripture readings.
In the first reading, we hear “today, I have set before you life and death, prosperity and doom…if you obey the commandments of the Lord…you will live and grow numerous…if, however, you turn away your hearts and will not listen, but adore and serve other gods…you will not have a long life” (Deut. 30: 15-18). And in the gospel Jesus tells us “if anyone wishes to follow after me,” (Luke 9:23) he or she must deny self, take up the cross and follow.
In the Old Testament, the god Ba’al often tempted the Israelites to turn away from God. The first reading today is an exhortation from the Lord that Moses delivers to the people. We might recall the golden calf and think of ourselves more superior, for seriously, who in our time worships a golden calf? Yet, culturally, our era is filled with golden calves that take on different shapes and sizes. We have phones, computers, television shows, other people that we falsely form into gods or goddesses, busyness, and perhaps the most subtle idol of all, our own self-centeredness.
Relational fire is necessary if we are going to connect to each other and to God, for it is in others that we begin to perceive the brilliance of God’s face. But it is also true that our perceptions often miss reality and we fail to see others as they truly are. Sometimes we make people into gods or goddesses while at other times we miss the giftedness present in our brothers and sisters as we focus on our own ailments, struggles and needs.
God invites us into right relationship with the Blessed Trinity, others, and our true self through prayer. The poet James Montgomery (1771-1854) wrote “prayer is the soul’s sincere desire/uttered or unexpressed/the motion of a hidden fire/that trembles in the breast” (1819). The poem continues beautifully and is attached here on YouTube as a hymn.

As we begin this Lenten season, God invites us to put ourselves aside in order that our eyes might begin to see beyond our own plights and worldviews. We begin this Lenten fast with a resolve to be revived back into communion with each other and to God. What are some gods in your life that take away from right relationship with the Lord and others? And how does your Lenten fast reflect your own needs and desires? Let us journey together and pray for new hearts refined as though through fire so that we are able to perceive the world beyond ourselves--a world in great need of transformation and deep love.
Christy Hicks is a Campus Minister in Griesedieck Complex.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Reflection for Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Ash Wednesday
JL 2: 12-18
PS 51: 3-4, 5-6AB, 12-13, 14 AND 17
2 COR 5: 20 - 6:2
MT 6: 1-6, 16-18

A few Lents ago I picked up a book entitled Suspicion and Faith, written by Merold Westphal, who is both a philosophy professor at Fordham and a Protestant minister. The book suggested reading the so-called “masters of suspicion” (Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, and Friedrich Nietzsche) as a Lenten discipline. I don’t mean doing so as a penance (although most of my friends seem to see that kind of reading as masochistic), but as a kind of whetstone against which to sharpen one’s own practice of the faith, by taking seriously some of the most significant critiques ever pointed at religious belief and practice. The goal is not to land where they landed, rejecting religion, but to take seriously the unhealthy attitudes and practices they saw and recommit to a better, more authentic practice of religion.

Paradoxically, while Westphal certainly gives space for the masters of suspicion to challenge the complacencies in our faith lives, he goes a step further and accuses them of plagiarizing the Bible, which he sees as the most “irreligious” religious book in the world. Today’s gospel is a perfect example: Jesus spends the whole gospel warning people how easily practices that are intended to foster conversion and humility can become sources of self-congratulations, and how easily can practices that are intended to bring us into greater solidarity with others become a painkiller. He suggests that the more modern critiques of religion are in fact simply plagiarizing from Christianity itself (or at least, Christianity at its most honest) in ferreting out all the places where “bad faith” can hide. I have been struck for many years by how much Lent paradoxically says that doing the right thing can be the problem: fast and pray and give alms, but beware. Not that they are bad, but that they are dangerous if we let them create a hierarchy of holiness or righteousness. Is it any wonder that Jesus’ most biting critiques are all aimed at religious authorities, who are perhaps most liable to allowing religious performance to become a means of inflating the ego instead of transforming it?

As much as we might think of Jesus being all about forgiveness and “niceness,” he spent a lot of time challenging people; I suggest that he had no patience with sins of the ego, sins that inflated one’s self-importance and supposed holiness by shows of good deeds or religious observance. However, he was endlessly patient with sins of the shadow - the things that people were ashamed of, the things that rendered them unclean or a public sinner or an outcast.

Perhaps a Lenten goal should be to listen to the things that don’t fit our confirmation bias about ourselves; that doesn’t mean getting sucked into other people’s negativity or making our self-worth depend on other people’s approval, but asking again about motives and motivations that may look shiny on the surface but maybe hide deeper and less pristine impulses. That’s quite different from a “repentance” that just focuses on things we have done wrong - that’s a good thing too, but it just might keep us from seeing the good things which have become a problem for us by giving us space to become complacent, self-righteous or even judgmental.

Patrick Cousins is a member of the Department of Campus Ministry.

Monday, February 16, 2015


Thank you for visiting Campus Ministry's 2015 Lent blog. We hope this series of daily reflections and other resources will aid you in your Lenten observance. Please also visit for information about additional resources and upcoming events.