Monday, February 29, 2016

Reflection for Monday, February 29, 2016

Monday of the Third Week of Lent
2 KGS 5: 1-15 AB
PS 42: 2, 3; 43: 3, 4
LK 4: 24-30

How do you get yourself nearly lynched by your own neighbors?
This is the question that confronts us in today’s gospel from Luke. How does Jesus spark such animosity in a synagogue crowd that had just “spoken highly of him” and was “amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth” (Luke 4:22)? Within seven verses, this very same home crowd was not only booing Jesus…they were “filled with fury,” “drove him out of the town,” and intended to “hurl him down headlong” from the top of the town’s hill (4:28-29). Jesus doesn’t just encounter indifference or skepticism…he is nearly the victim of a popular lynching. Why?    
For me, the question comes down to identity. The townspeople of Nazareth were surely happy to welcome home the local-boy-made-good, drawing praise across the synagogues of Galilee (Luke 4:14-15). It seems that Jesus made a good initial impression in his Sabbath address. No one protested his fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecies to “bring glad tidings to the poor,” “proclaim liberty to the captives,” “let the oppressed go free,” or announce a jubilee year (4:18-21). But they still can’t get the image of “local boy Jesus” out of their head, and some seem skeptical that this average Joe (or, better yet, “son of Joe”) is claiming such an exalted mission.
After questions arise about his own identity, Jesus “crosses the Rubicon” (or better yet, the Jordan), challenging his audience’s sense of entitlement and privilege. Not only does he refuse to deliver any prophetic pork barrel benefits to his native place, but he reminds them that God appears to have a “preferential option for the other”…namely Gentiles like the widow of Zarephath or Naaman the Syrian.
It is easy to betray a kind of smug condescension toward Jesus’s townspeople (and the Pharisees, Sadducees, and anyone else in the gospel who seems “intolerant”). Perhaps a better approach is to ask ourselves, “which identities are sacralized in our own cultures today?” Which identities cut to the core of us…to the point that a perceived threat produces deep wellsprings of anger, resentment, and hatred? For example, if we substituted the word “America” for “Israel” in Luke 4:25 and 4:27, how would most local USA congregations react? What about the American presidential candidates who purport to love Jesus?
As Naaman the Syrian demonstrates in today’s first reading, it is not easy to overcome ethnic and national prejudice, even if this is in our direct self-interest. In fact, the classification of “insider and outsider” is one of the fundamental tensions that cuts through the Scriptures. This Lent, may we reflect on the “outsiders” in our lives and in our countries, remembering that our outsiders are often God’s insiders. 

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Reflection for Sunday, February 28, 2016

Third Sunday of Lent
EX 3: 1-8A, 13-15
PS 103: 1-2, 3-4, 6-7, 8, 11
1 COR 10: 1-6, 10-12
LK 13: 1-9

In today’s Gospel, Jesus delivers the parable of the gardener and the fig tree. The owner of the orchard wants the tree to be cut down because it doesn’t bear fruit, but the gardener asks him to spare the tree, which he will care for so that it will bear fruit in the future.

This parable is short, but can teach us a great deal about God and ourselves. Some say that the owner of the orchard is God the Father and the gardener is Jesus, but I want to offer another way to look at it. The gardener is God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He is the one who actually knows the trees in the orchard and knows what it takes to produce fruit. He is quick to say that the tree needs another chance. God is merciful and constantly invites us to come back to him when we fall away. The gardener is also willing to get his hands dirty to help the tree. He will cultivate the soil and fertilize the tree to help it produce fruit. The focus of Lent, leading up to the remembrance of Jesus’ Passion and Death, is the epitome of God’s willingness to get his hands dirty for our sake. The other readings for today serve as a reminder that God not only steps in to save his people, but he is willing to get his hands dirty in order to accomplish it.

So who is the owner of the orchard? The owner is quick to judge the tree based on expectations that he created for it. He is willing to give up and sees the tree as a waste of space. Often enough, I think that role belongs to us. We can be our worst critic. We look into our own life and say that we haven’t measured up to the expectations we created for ourselves. We judge ourselves harshly and sometimes we even give up on ourselves. When we say that we haven’t accomplished enough or even that we are worthless, it is God who wants to step in to say, “No, give me a chance to show you.”

God, the gardener, is constantly working to show us what he sees in us. To show us how great we really are and how great we can continue to become. Let’s spend some time this Lent, and hopefully beyond, to examine our days and ask ourselves, “How is God working to produce fruit in me?” “What is God working to produce in and through me?”

Tucker Redding is a Jesuit scholastic and a graduate student in the Department of Communication.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Reflection for Saturday, February 27, 2016

Saturday of the Second Week of Lent
MI 7:14-15, 18-20
PS 103: 1-2, 3-4, 9-10, 11-12
LK 15: 1-3, 11-32

When I first read today’s set of passages, I couldn’t help noticing how well they work together to share one of Christ’s most influential messages. With the first reading, we get to see a glimpse of Jesus as our shepherd, guiding His followers to the Promised Land, ultimately revealed as the path away from sin and guilt.

After the responsorial psalm reinstates God’s mercy, Luke brings it all home with one of the most popular Gospel passages in the world, the parable of the Prodigal Son. From start to finish, today’s Word really drives the point of God’s mercy.

And isn’t that really what Lent is all about? Sometimes I think we get so caught up in the act of giving up material pleasures or bad habits that we overlook the spiritual journey we can experience in these 40 days. Taking on a contemplative perspective, we can use this time to walk with Jesus through the desert of His 40-day journey. We fast, pray, and reflect, calling to mind that we are sinners. And once we reach Easter, Jesus pulls off the greatest miracle of His career in His Resurrection! The wait is over, and we are finally able to celebrate the feat that made the possibility of Heaven a reality for us.

Today’s Gospel is one of the most beloved Scriptures of all time, and I think that reality of Heaven is what makes it so appealing to people in the first place. Here we have a perfect human example of our worst sins in the son, who abandons his father and brother with his inheritance and sins it away. This part right here is where I think so many people can relate, as it can be easy to get into habits and learn to live with them. However, it’s what happens next that amazes me, when the son decides to return to his father and ask for forgiveness. This is my favorite part of the story because of the sheer courage that it must have taken to size up his tremendous wrongdoings and ask his father face-to-face for forgiveness. For me, I often struggle with even going to Confession to admit my sins to a priest! And when the father welcomes his son with open arms, I am filled with joy. For me, this is how I feel after I face down my discomfort and go to Confession. My sins are gone, and I’m ready to join my Father for His banquet. THIS is what we receive at Easter, a reward for our fasting. THIS is why we repent, why we give up our material pleasures. On Easter Sunday, we get to celebrate with Christ. He has risen from the dead, and we are invited to the banquet. Now, it’s just our job to finish the journey.

As you go through this day, try and think of some of the habits you may have gotten into, and prepare yourself to abandon these habits and return home to your Father.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Reflection for Friday, February 26, 2016

Friday of the Second Week of Lent
GN 37: 3-4, 12-13A, 17 B- 28A
PS 105: 16-17, 18-19, 20-21
MT 21: 33-43, 45-46

The Year of Mercy has been proclaimed by Pope Francis.  This means more than forgiving the small things that people have done to hurt you.  This means that we should be open to the needs of all people.  When 2017 starts, the doors of mercy don’t close.  Jesus teaches us in the Gospel that we need to be merciful to all people at all times.  The Gospel tells us that those who are seen as lesser in human eyes are seen as the greatest in God’s eyes; “the stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.”  God’s cornerstone is those who are seen as lesser.  We are to help them see how wonderful all life is in God’s eyes.  We are to go out, especially in this Lenten season, and share the grace and love that God has given us.  Jesus is willing to forgive the tenets that had harmed their landowner’s son.  God is open to the love of all people, no matter what has happened in your life.

Those who are contrite and are willing to be merciful are those who God choses to be with Him.  We are all called by God to go and spread God’s mercy to those who know it and those who don’t. This Lent, remember those who are trying to find God again.  Pray for those who need prayers and also for those who do not seem to need them.  God is willing to love and show mercy with all of Him, and we can only love and show mercy with our whole heart, which is enough for God.

Claire Weesner is a freshman chemistry student hoping to become a dentist.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Reflection for Thursday, February 25, 2016

Thursday of the Second Week of Lent
JER 17: 5-10
PS 1: 1-2, 3, 4 AND 6
SEE LK 8:15
LK 16: 19-31

Jeremiah and the psalmist might have been describing a Dutch landscape painting with their idyllic imagery of a tree planted by a stream. But the word rendered in our English translations as “planted” comes from a Hebrew root meaning “to transplant.” This more dynamic image is apt for the Lenten season’s emphasis on change and renewal in our lives.

Transplanting a tree can be daunting. At the new site, you have to dig a deep hole, at least two times the diameter of the rootball. The more mature the tree, the larger the rootball, and the more challenging it is to wrestle the tree into place. In our spiritual lives, we may know changes are needed but feel like our roots are too well established. Even if our situation isn’t the best, it seems like too much effort to do the prep work, let alone uproot ourselves and get to a new place.

Newly transplanted trees typically experience some degree of transplant shock. Damaged roots are less able to absorb water and nutrients, plus the tree has to adapt to new environmental conditions. As a result, there may be stunting or inconsistency in new growth for a time. Similarly, a successful and long-lasting change of heart is easier if we prepare for the shock of change—say, letting go of unhealthy relationships or long-accustomed habits. People may challenge us on the changes we make, and perhaps even reject the “new me.” 

With care and time, trees overcome transplant shock, but the work continues. Even under the best conditions the establishment phase can take one growing season per inch of trunk diameter. Sometimes the establishment phase may take many years or, in the worst case, the tree may hang on for a few years and then gradually decline. The lesson for us? We must commit to regular care and feeding of our spiritual lives to bring them to full fruition. 

Fortunately, God provides the resources, care, and attention we need when we seek to make positive changes in our lives. Stymied in the parched land of spiritual drought, we may be surprised to discover that God has brought us right to the edge of the stream and even dug the hole. But we must choose to extend our roots into the rich topsoil. True, additional pruning may be required—trees need help assuming their optimal habit—but God does it with with a patient, loving hand and an eye toward helping us become our truest selves. 

This Lent, let’s look at where we’re planted. What living streams already sustain us? Perhaps a supportive spouse or partner, a wise friend, a vibrant worshipping community, a favorite spot outdoors, or artworks that speak to transcendent truths. And what sort of transplanting is needed to bring us closer to the living water and make us healthier and holier? Let’s ask God, the master gardener, to assist us.

David Brinker is the Assistant Director of the Museum of Contemporary Religious Art (MOCRA).

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Reflection for Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Wednesday of the Second Week of Lent
JER 18:18-20
PS 31: 5-6, 14, 15-16
MT 20: 17-28

The readings for today inspire me to reflect on service. In the gospel Jesus is solicited by a mother to make a place for her two sons to sit at either side of him in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus says no and explains “Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mathew 20:26-28). There is much to reflect on in this statement. I think about service. When you serve others are you motivated to genuinely help the other person without a promise to receive something in return or are you serving with the hope of gaining something? Do you help out of a feeling of obligation or a desire to be liked? I feel Jesus’s comment is a challenge to give from a place of love. Where might you be able to challenge yourself to serve others more lovingly? Perhaps during Lent you may choose to attend more to others’ and opt to listen, console, or support when you otherwise would have chosen to avoid the person. It is in the small moments that we can truly be Christ for one another.

Katie Hoff is an Organizational Effectiveness Specialist for Learning & Development in Human Resources.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Reflection for Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Tuesday of the Second Week of Lent
IS 1:10, 16-20
PS 50:8-9, 16 BC-17, 21 AND 23
MT 23: 1-12

Why I Serve
“The greatest among you must be your servant.  Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Matthew 23:11-12).  Although, these are the words of Jesus Christ, I first heard a very similar message from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during a sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, GA on February 4, 1968.  King stated, “If you want to be important, wonderful.  If you want to be recognized, wonderful.  If you want to be great, wonderful.  But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant.  That's the new definition of greatness…by giving that definition of greatness, it means that everybody can be great, because everybody can serve.”

I entered the field of higher education as a service leader, working in Allegheny College’s Office of Community Service and Service Learning.  Leaving that office taught me that we are all called to serve, whether it’s in our job title or not.  God has blessed us with many gifts and talents.  Sharing them with others is an act of humility that enables us to exhibit greatness. 

Service is not exhibited through what a person says; it’s expressed through what a person does.  We all can fall victim to hypocrisy—allowing our words and values to contradict our behaviors.    In the scripture, Jesus says “For they preach but they do not practice.  They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them” (Matthew 23: 3-4).  God calls us to speak words and claim values that we are willing and able to put to practice.    
I’ve often asked myself the following question: Why do you do what you do?  Are your works only “performed to be seen” (Matthew 23:5) or do you have a greater purpose?  For me, it’s the latter.  Service has always been a passion of mine.  Wherever I go, it gently tugs at my spirit.  Being of service is a constant reminder that I am here for reasons much larger than myself.  I am called to honor those who have come before me and blaze a trail for those who will come after.  This is my why.  When I get weary, I have to remind myself of this why.  At times I find a mirror and say something along the lines of, “I do it for those who are no longer here, who are far better and more worthy than me, those who are no longer able to exhibit their greatness to the world.  When I have reached my limit I am carried by them.  At times I may look lonely, but I'm not alone.  I will not be defeated because I am connected to something much greater than myself.  I will never quit because there’s always something/someone to fight for.”  With this as my why and God as my how, I am unstoppable.

Willie Gore is the Residence Hall Coordinator for Fusz Hall.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Reflection for Monday, February 22, 2016

Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter, Apostle
1 PT 5: 1-4
PS 23: 1-3A, 4, 5, 6
MT 16: 13-19

He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.”

A few weeks ago, I was at a training event for my upcoming race. As I was pulling my bike out of my car to get ready for the ride, I overheard my coach telling another woman that my name was Beth and I worked at SLU. As the ride progressed I found myself spinning side by side with the woman and our conversation immediately began with her asking me about the courses I taught and my research focus.

While it did not strike my initially as odd, it left me with a strange feeling afterward. Here I was meeting someone for the first time- someone who shares my passion for triathlons- someone whose family supports her spending countless hours training, like mine does- and yet the first conversation we have is focused on the meaning behind the titles that we hold from our careers.

It begs the question: how often do we introduce ourselves by our careers and work?  Hi, my name is ________, I am a __________(professor/student/doctor/lawyer/administrator).

“But who do you say that I am?”

Arguably, Jesus is not looking for clarification on his job title or possible upcoming promotion. Jesus could have easily insisted on being referred to as the Master, Teacher, Lord, Messiah, or King.

Instead, Jesus wanted his disciples to understand who he is in the context of his relationships with others. He is the Son of the living God. He further emphasizes this by addressing Simon Peter in a similar way as Simon son of Jonah.

Rather than using titles that potentially push people away, such as Master or King (How can I possibly build a relationship with someone as high and mighty as that?) Jesus uses an introduction that we can all relate to. He is someone’s son.

As human beings called into relationship with one another, why do we not introduce ourselves that way? The titles that come with our careers say nothing about our families, passions, personalities and beliefs.

Who do people say that you are? Who do you say that you are?

Beth Embry
Wife, Daughter, Sister, Aunt, Friend, Traveler, Triathlete, Child of God
(Also, Director of Global Health and Interim Director of Pre-Health and Pre-Law Studies)

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Reflection for Sunday, February 21, 2016

Second Sunday of Lent
GN 15: 5-12
PS 27:1, 7-8, 8-9, 13-14
PHIL 3: 17-4: 1 OR PHIL 3: 20-4:1 
LK 9: 28B-36

In this Sunday’s readings, Jesus shares a glimpse of not only who he is, but who we too can be.  The Transfiguration is one of the most revered moments of scripture in the Church’s tradition, for here we see how divinity and humanity are no longer at odds but have been joined perfectly in this God-Man Jesus Christ.

The first reading from Genesis introduces us to “our father in Faith”, as the First Eucharistic Prayer names Abraham.  Called by God to form a new chosen people, Abraham has to overcome his and his wife Sarah’s own natural limitations of old age and supposed barrenness in order to trust that God could rely on them to make his covenant known.  Abraham is asked to look up to the stars (Gn 15:5), and then falls into a “deep sleep” (Gn 15:12).  This is always a sign of spousal union and marital fruitfulness (e.g., think back to Adam’s “deep sleep” from which Eve is thus born at Gn 2:21, or Christ’s “sleep” on the Cross bringing forth the Church from his side at Jn 19:34). But what did Adam actually see?  Notice earlier in Gn 15:12, “the sun was about to set”.  Abraham looked up not at a sky full of stars, but saw only the sun!  He thus had to trust that God would make him fruitful even when he himself could not understand how.

Paul appears next because this is the kind of trust we too are to imitate (Phil 3:17).  The Christian life is ultimately one of emulating Jesus and his friends, the saints, allowing Christ to be formed in our souls. Such imitation assumes that holiness is never a personal possession but shines throughout the Mystical Body, the Church. This is why St. Augustine teaches that we are not simply to gaze upon Jesus from afar but to take on his very person: “We have been made not only Christians, we have been made Christ” (Tractate on John 21.8). Participation in Christ’s own life, then, is the foundation of imitation (cf. Gal2:20), as all Christians must allow Christ to be reproduced within and throughout their souls, thoughts, words and actions.  In this way Christians not only “imitate” but also “become” Christ in that we can now manifest superhuman agency, performing supernatural actions such as professing Christ as Lord (cf. 1 Cor 12:3), loving one another as God loves (cf. 1 Jn 4:11), and living forever (cf. 2 Cor 5:1). 

That is how we meet the Transfigured Christ today: by allowing ourselves to be with him, attentive and alert, getting a glimpse—every now and then—of who he truly is.  He is a man like us longing for relationship and acceptance; but he is also God, the Lord and Lover of all!  Today he strengthens us in our Lent in order to bring us back down our own mountains into the world (and campus) he wants to consecrate for all.

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

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Reflection for Saturday, February 20, 2016

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

“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

Jesus lays down controversy today in the Gospel. He tells “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Isn’t it hard enough to love the people who love us? I find myself struggling to love everyone that I claim that I do love. How many times do we find ourselves angry and selfish with our families and friends; not wanting to do something for them? I certainly find myself doing this quite often. It is a challenge! Now Jesus tells us that that isn’t even good enough. He wants us to love those who hate us.

“Ok Jesus… yeah right man. Not gonna happen. Too tough. I already am putting so much effort into trying to love my family and friends more selflessly and that is exhausting enough! I can’t add on more people to the love list.”

Jesus’ statement is such a tough one for us to hear that the readings leading up to it are all about how important it is to obey God’s laws and statutes and that we must “observe them with all our heart and with all our soul.” Even in the responsorial psalm we say “blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord”. And we say it 4 times… so yeah… we definitely need to follow God’s laws and this is a big law! We know that we cannot follow this law without the Lord’s help. Even in the responsorial psalm, we beg the Lord not to abandon us. We need God. We need to pray to him daily. We need to make him a priority to the best of our abilities. We need to bring ourselves as close to God as possible. How else could we love our enemies if we do not have a relationship with the One who showed us better than anyone else how to do it.

St. Francis has a brilliant prayer that captures the essence and challenge of this Gospel. Let us reflect on it, slowly.

“Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.
O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.”

Francis McDonald is in his 2nd professional year of the Doctor of Physical Therapy Program.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Reflection of Friday, February 19, 2016

Friday of the First Week of Lent
EZ 18: 21-28
PS 130: 1-2, 3-4, 5-7A, 7BC-8
MT 5: 20-26

We live in a very judgmental society. Too often, we criticize those who have done wrong, expressing how we would never do what they did, and eagerly serve them their consequences. We rarely think or talk about how to help those who have made mistakes turn their lives around. And too often, we expect them to suffer the consequences forever, evident by controversial felony disenfranchisement (not allowing felons to vote, even after they have served their time) laws and capital punishment (death penalty) practices that we see in many states. In various aspects of society, it is not the norm to give second chances.

This is always very interesting to me because we are all sinners. We have all done things wrong, and honestly, all have skeletons in our closets that we hope and pray others never find out about. It is only by God’s grace and mercy that some of our life’s circumstances did not lead to us choosing the wrong roads in life, and experiencing the consequences of them. I am always reminded of when Jesus said, “He who is without sin, let him cast the first stone” (John 8:7). Honestly, none of us have room to judge others.  

Today’s reading tells us that God readily forgives our sins, remembering our crimes no more and granting us new life. So why is it that we are more content with people being persecuted for their wrong than helping them turn from it and begin to do what is right in the eyes of God? The reading states, “Do I indeed derive any pleasure from the death of the wicked? says the Lord GOD. Do I not rather rejoice when he turns from his evil way that he may live?” In this Lenten season, let us challenge ourselves not to find pleasure in the persecution of wrongdoers and to follow God’s example of finding joy when others turn away from their sin. Let us offer a second chance.

Aleidra Allen is the Program Coordinator for Multicultural Education in the Cross Cultural Center.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Reflection for Thursday, February 18, 2016

Thursday of the First Week in Lent
EST C: 12, 14-16, 23-25
PS 138: 1-2 AB, 2 CDE-3, 7C-8
MT 7: 7-12

Having gotten through the very beginning of the Lenten season now, it’s time to really start buckling down in preparation for Easter. Lent is a beautiful time to reflect on our everyday lives and think about how we can better them. The beginning of this gospel passage can be essentially summed up in the statement “Ask and you shall receive.”  While currently in Spain I have been realizing more and more about how much I have been given in my life. While most of the time the things God gives me are things that I don’t even ask for, but almost always if I ask God for something, it is given to me. Lent is a beautiful opportunity to give back to God. Thinking about this statement, it almost seems impossible. How can we give back to the God that has given us everything we could imagine and more, and to the God that already has everything? I think this passage ends with the answer to that question. “Do to others whatever you would have them do to you.” It seems pretty simple, which is why I think this is a great answer and a great way to give back and love God as he has loved us. While this seems fairly trivial, considering I don’t think anyone reading this reflection is going around doing terrible things to anyone; I believe there is a deeper challenge behind this. Maybe a good way to rephrase this saying is “Go the extra mile.” By going the extra mile were giving to others without the expectation of them giving anything back to us. Going the extra mile doesn’t have to be something big and extravagant. It can be anything from thanking your parents for everything they’ve given you, to a smile and hello to the homeless man standing at the crosswalk on Grand.  Going the extra mile is a great way to prepare ourselves for the coming of Christ because we are consciously thinking about the things that we wouldn’t do normally do and going out of our way to do them. A great way to finish the small acts of kindness is a short prayer to God whether it be a prayer of thanksgiving or an intentional prayer for that person. Doing little things for other people can be a great way to show God your appreciation this Lenten season. One of my favorite saying comes from Mother Teresa and it says “Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love.” God has given us everything and a great way to show him our love is to love others even through the smallest acts. This Lenten season go the extra mile and try to give a little more to others than you did the day before. “If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.”

Tommy Schulte is a sophomore studying Computer Engineering, currently studying abroad in Madrid.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Reflection for Wednesday, February 17, 2016

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

Today, in the first reading from John’s gospel, we hear how God speaks to Jonah, telling him to go to the city of Nineveh and announce that Nineveh will be destroyed in forty days.  In response to hearing this message, the people of Nineveh began to fast.  The King of Nineveh proclaimed to the people that “every man shall turn from his evil way and from the violence he has in hand”.  Seeing that his people were making an effort to turn away from evil, God saved them from evil.

This story of John’s gospel truly relates to our own lives, especially during the Lenten season.  When the people of Nineveh fasted, the Lord saw their sacrifice and efforts of giving themselves up to God and turning away from evil.  The Lenten season is about fasting from what keeps us from God and from what prevents us from seeing Him in our world.  When we do this, Christ sees that we want to be closer to Him and has mercy on us.  Just as the Ninevites fasted and turned to God, we are called to follow their example and work towards eliminating those things from our lives that pull us away from Christ.  In the Responsorial Psalm, we hear, “A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn”.  Through fasting, we are able to humble ourselves before God and recognize that our desires need not be focused on the desires we have in this world but focused on the desire to be closer to Christ and more like Him.  The gospel reading from Luke reiterates how “at the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because at the preaching of Jonah they repented, and there is something greater than Jonah here”.  The pleasures and desires we have on this earth are not nearly as great as what is in store for us in God’s heavenly kingdom. He is calling us to recognize that what is promised us in life after death is what we should be striving for.  Lent helps us to refocus our desires on God.

As you continue throughout the day, keep in mind the example of the people of Nineveh and their steadfast fasting.  Offer up a prayer to Christ to have the strength to turn away from evil and to focus your desires on God.  During the Lenten season, focus your fast on what can make you more like Christ and what will draw you closer to Him.  Replace those earthly desires and practices with other things such as more time devoted to prayer, quite reflection, or simply listening to God in silence. Fasting from these things and filling them instead with time spent in Christ’s presence will allow you to understand and feel Him more in your life during this Lenten season.  Peace be with you and God Bless!

Anne Staten is a freshman studying to become an Elementary teacher with a minor in Theology and Catholic Education.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Reflection for Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Tuesday of the First Week of Lent
IS 55: 10-11
PS 34: 4-5, 6-7, 16-17, 18-19
MT 6: 7-15

Before he became Minnesota’s junior senator, Al Franken performed for many years on Saturday Night Live. His most famous character was Stuart Smalley, a sincere but slightly ridiculous self-help guru with a memorable daily affirmation: “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.”

Occasionally, the Stuart Smalley sketch included the guest host. One segment featured Michael Jordan, then in the prime of his career and the most popular athlete on earth. Stuart, being a self-help guru, asks Jordan whether he ever struggles with self-loathing. “I can imagine that, a night before a game, you must lie awake thinking ‘I’m not good enough,’ ‘everybody’s better than me,’ ‘I’m not going to score any points,’ ‘I have no business playing this game.’”

Jordan’s answer’s is simple, and priceless: “Well…not really.”

I think this sketch reveals the way I’ve often thought about Jesus. Theoretically, I can accept his humanity, but I’ve always assumed that he was human like Jordan was athletic: beyond the clutches of self doubt.  

Today’s Gospel suggests that I’m wrong. Though I’ve uttered the Our Father a million times, I’ve never noticed how perfect, how polished the prayer seems. Unless one is following the Michael Jordan theory of Jesus’s awesomeness, you have to believe that Jesus didn’t compose those timeless words on the spot. It seems equally possible that Jesus knew the prayer because he himself had prayed it. After all, the Our Father regularly invokes the second person plural:

Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

One might assume that the “we’s” and “us’s” suggest that Jesus was simply adopting the voice of the mere mortals whom he was teaching. But I’m not so sure. We do know that Jesus was led into temptation, where he probably longed for His daily bread (Mt 4, 1-11). We know that he prayed a lot.

But surely sinless Jesus never trespassed? Surely that line is offered for use by us regular human beings, the bumbling Stuart Smalley’s of the world? Maybe. But perhaps the human Jesus sometimes wondered whether he had trespassed. Did he think, if only for a moment, that it had been rude to imply that the Canaanite woman was a dog (Mt 15, 21-28)? Did he think he’d overshot it when he called Peter Satan (Mt 16, 23)? Did he think, after he overturned the money changers’ tables, “Well, that could’ve gone better” (Mt 21, 12)?

I’m not saying he did trespass. Sometimes bluntness, in word or in deed, is called for. What I’m saying is that the Our Father suggests that Jesus prayed like the rest of us—out of need and doubt. When he prayed, he prayed. He didn’t ethereally commune with the other persons of the Blessed Trinity; he called for help. He did it so often that he learned exactly what to say.

Dr. Paul Lynch is Associate Professor of English and Director of the English Department Writing Program.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Reflection for Monday, February 15, 2016

Monday of the First Week of Lent
LV 19: 1-2, 11-18
PS 19: 8, 9, 10, 15
MT 25: 31-46

During this time of Lent, we are often reminded of the powerful spiritual healing of the sacrament of Penance. Some may ponder what should be shared in the confessional. What should I confess?

We need only to reflect on today’s first reading:
“You shall not steal.
You shall not lie or speak falsely to one another.
You shall not swear falsely by my name,
thus profaning the name of your God….

“You shall not act dishonestly in rendering judgment.
Show neither partiality to the weak nor deference to the mighty,
but judge your fellow men justly.
You shall not go about spreading slander among your kin;
nor shall you stand by idly when your neighbor’s life is at stake…

“You shall not bear hatred for your brother in your heart.
Though you may have to reprove him,
do not incur sin because of him.
Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against your fellow countrymen.
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

Returning to these basics, the Ten Commandments, we will know what we need to confess. If we only see the image and likeness of God in every human being we would be most likely to treat others as we would wish to be treated.

Yes, we can give up chocolate for Lent, but how about offering of ourselves to those in need, donating to a worthy cause, or simply asking someone new or different to join us at lunch or to be part of our study group? By opening our eyes to others to really see those in need, we will be fulfilling our Lord’s very powerful message:

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

Joanne C. Langan, PhD, RN, CNE is Associate Dean for Undergraduate and Pre-Licensure Education in the School of Nursing.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Reflection for Sunday, February 14, 2016

First Sunday of Lent 
DT 26: 4-10
PS 91: 1-2, 10-11, 12-13, 14-15
ROM 10: 8-13
MT 4:4B
LK 4:1-13

A colleague of mine runs an annual program called “Atheism for Lent”; not exactly what one would expect of a minister running a church-based program! His point is not that people literally “give up God for Lent,” but that they allow the most important critiques of religion to “test” our faith, burning away impurities and leaving behind a more serious and mature faith, like refining ore to get down to a pure sample of metal.

It is no coincidence that during the 40 days of Lent we read about Jesus’ 40 days of testing in the desert; this scene comes immediately after Jesus’ baptism, at which he hears the words, “You are my beloved son; with you I am well pleased (LK 3:22). Whatever Jesus might or might not have known about himself by that point in his life, that sort of moment demands some unpacking. Hence, the testing in the desert – less “temptations” than tests, in the sense of proving the solidity of his understanding of God and his commitment to that God.

Twice the tempter begins his test by saying, “IF you are the Son of God…”; that does not sound to me like doubt about WHETHER Jesus is the Son of God, but what it means for him to BE the Son of God, and indirectly what it means for God to be God. After a long fast, the temptation is to make stones into bread, because ‘if you are the Son of God, you should not be hungry.’ The implication of Jesus’ response is, ‘I AM the Son of God, but that does not mean I will always be well-fed and taken care of.’ Similarly, the third test is for Jesus to rely on angels to save him from bodily harm, because ‘if you are the Son of God,’ you should be invulnerable.  Again, the implication of Jesus’ response is, “I AM the Son of God, but that does not mean that I will always be safe.”

From a certain angle, the tempter’s tests make sense: if God is the all-powerful King, and Jesus is the son of that God, Jesus should live like royalty. But what if Jesus is the Son of a different kind of God? If Jesus is vulnerable, able to suffer, moved by the pain of others, but God is all-powerful and above suffering, then Jesus is not actually what God is like, which would be pretty misleading. What if God is less properly understood in terms of power and invulnerability and better understood in terms of solidarity with the marginalized?

We all want safety, security, to be well-fed and properly thanked for our efforts; there is nothing magical about any of that. But any number of examples throughout our history, right to the present moment, demonstrate the riskiness of being a part of God’s family. Of course we too often collude with the powers that be, make God look like just a bigger and stronger version of the powers that be, imagine God on our side destroying our enemies or at least clearing our path. That is the tempter’s vision of God, and it is indeed tempting – so much so that I imagine most of us have given in often enough to the impulse to favor security over sacrifices.

One way we might imagine Jesus’ relationship to God is that Jesus does not go scrambling towards what we WANT God to be like, a God of security and power. Jesus acknowledges his limitedness and vulnerability in the context of his proclamation of the reign of God, whereas we so often expect our religion and our world to provide us all the things that Jesus clearly did not expect: absolute certainty, security, popularity, success.

This season, as we consider what we give up each Lent, consider the value of giving up God-images which no longer bring life in favor of more mature and serious models of relating to the God who calls us to justice.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Reflection for Saturday, February 13, 2016

Saturday after Ash Wednesday
LK 5: 27-32

Today’s readings call me to challenge my vision of relationship.  As I spent some time this week reflecting on the readings for today, I noted that I love the interplay between Isaiah’s words and Luke’s description of Jesus’ interaction with the tax collectors.  I believe that these readings really call us to examine ourselves during Lent.   How are we in relationship to ourselves, to God, and to others?  How am I a restorer of ruined homesteads?  How am I a repairer of the breach?

When I think about Isaiah’s words, I am called to consider that these homesteads are the landscapes of my own life.  And these landscapes can sure be complicated! In the past few weeks, I’ve struggled with my own sense of self.  My own personal homestead has been challenged.  Perhaps it is because I’ve been tired; perhaps my own fears and anxieties have been getting the best of me in this cold weather where the sun doesn’t often shine; perhaps it is because I took a tumble on the ice.  Lent is the time for me to examine that personal homestead and how my relationship with self is going.  Maybe you struggle too – and maybe we together should not be so hard on ourselves and rely on prayer to bring us to a fuller sense of self.

Speaking of prayer, I’ve switched around my prayer habits a bit during the last couple of weeks and in concert with my relationship with self, I’ve looked at my relationship with God.  My relationship with God is a vast homestead, and Lent calls me to really hone in and cultivate this homestead.  Renewing myself and my relationship with God through the daily Examen is fruitful, but so is finding one moment of grace in each and every day.  Together, let’s consider how we pray, how we are in relationship with God, and how we can experiment with prayer
during Lent.

Finally, I’ve looked at the vast panorama that is my relationship with others. Like the example of Jesus and the tax collectors, who really needs me now?  What is my call, or rather obligation, to not only cultivate but to repair the homesteads of my relationships with others?   How can I use prayer and self-reflection?  How is my faith positioned to call me to be radically challenging, as Jesus was, to issues of intolerance and injustice?  Together, let’s pray about our call to not only repair but to celebrate our relationships.

These homesteads represent for me, the story of Lent, and of Jesus’ journey to the cross.  In my own personal landscape, Lent is a time of journeying together with Jesus and of finding the grace to examine the homesteads of my life.

Sue Chawszczewski is the Director of Campus Ministry.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Reflection for Friday, February 12, 2016

Friday after Ash Wednesday
IS 58: 1-9 A
PS: 51: 3-4, 5-6 AB, 18-19
MT 9: 14-15

A common theme in both today’s first reading and Gospel is the act of fasting.  As a 20-year-old college woman with a big appetite, fasting isn’t something that necessarily sounds very appealing to me.  When I think of fasting, I immediately think of no snacking, eating extremely healthy, and being careful about my portions. Possibly this Lenten season, some people have already decided to fast in different ways. Some people may give up luxury things or addicting foods to fast from, as every person can view fasting in a different light.

Last week, just days before Lent began, I came across one of those articles on Facebook that about 17 of your friends have shared, so you know it must be important.  This time it wasn’t the super high-tech new SLU video that just went viral, but rather an article called “Pope Francis’ Guide to Lent: What You Should Give Up This Year.” As I had just begun the thinking and reflecting process of what I personally wanted to do for Lent this year, I immediately was intrigued knowing that Papa Francisco would definitely have some good and challenging insight for us.  And of course, he did.

In this article, Pope Francis shares some new ways of fasting this Lenten season.  This time it wasn’t holding back on the candy and chocolate, cutting out the carbs, or giving up warm showers, this time it was about one another rather than ourselves. It was about doing good for the people around us and sharing Christ with each other.  This year, our leader in the Catholic church has challenged us to not make fasting become superficial, but rather “reconsider the heart of this activity this Lenten season.”  And he encourages us to do this by fasting from indifference towards one another.  In his Lenten message he says, “Indifference to our neighbor and to God represents a real temptation for us Christians.  Each year during Lent we need to hear once more the voice of the prophets who cry out and trouble our conscience.”  Pope Francis shares with the people that when we fast from this indifference towards others, we can begin to feast on love. If we do no good to others, we do nothing great.  Today’s first reading from Isaiah tells us, “This, rather, is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke; sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own.” He doesn’t talk about food, but rather he talks about acts of kindness towards one another.

So I hope your Lent this year is off to a great start. Although we are already a few days in, it’s not too late to begin something new.  Take the words of our reading and gospel today, and the words from our church leader, to challenge yourself into a new way of fasting and relationship with Christ and one another.

Betty Goodwin is a Junior studying Education and Theology.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Reflection for Thursday, February 11, 2016

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

How do we live out God’s will in our everyday decisions? Overall, we know we want to follow God, but do our everyday choices, big and small, reflect that commitment? As humans, many times we blatantly go against God’s will and choose sin. Other times we hope we are doing the right thing, but we have no way of knowing for certain if we are doing the right thing. We wrestle with different options and wish that God would simply send us a sign confirming that we are on the right path. When reflecting on the readings of today, it is hard not to become a little apprehensive with the emphasis on the destructive outcomes if we do not follow God’s commands. If these are the consequences, which is even more reason He should make His will a little more clear.
When I was struggling last year with how to know if I was following God’s will, a friend shared this following prayer with me. It has since become my favorite prayer, and I hope you enjoy it also. I had been praying for God to show me what to do with my life, and I knew I wanted to follow His will. However, I did not know if I was actually doing so or just making my own path and convincing myself it was what God would want. The prayer is as follows:

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.” ~Thomas Merton

Focus on the line “the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.” My hope is to keep that desire to please God in the forefront of our Lenten journeys, growing in our desire to do God’s will without losing sight of the big picture by stressing the details. The prayer provides a sense of comfort that our attempts to follow His ways, no matter if we stumble or succeed, bring God joy. A genuine desire to please God and an effort to step back and let Him have direction over our lives will allow those details fall into place.

Emily Kirsch is a sophomore majoring in Public Health with a minor in Spanish. She is involved with the Micah community, Campus Ministry, and Billikens for Clean Water.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Reflection for Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Ash Wednesday
JL 2: 12-18
Gospel Mt 6: 1-6, 16-18

As we begin our annual Lenten observance, I have to admit that I have something of a love-hate relationship with Lent, and in particular with Ash Wednesday. I love that it is the most “irreligious” (i.e., critical of external religious practices) day in the liturgical calendar, the day that spends the most energy on telling people not to take their ritual performance as a mark of moral or spiritual perfection. As they are today, the readings are always something about religion being about a change of heart and life, not just about looking good: “rend your hearts, not your garments,” “don’t let people see you fast or give alms or pray,” that kind of thing. Even more personally, the words we hear when we receive the ashes cut right at my vain little heart: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Translation: Keep building sandcastles, but remember that the tide is coming in.

Yet paradoxically, Ash Wednesday is the day on which our churchgoing is most visible and on which we spend the most energy thinking about ourselves. My more liturgically expert colleagues and friends tell me that more people show up to church on Ash Wednesday than on any other day of the year, even more than Easter and Christmas – and it isn’t even a holy day of obligation. I can’t help but wonder if it is such a popular day because we are wearing a sign of our church attendance right on our foreheads – precisely what the readings warn us to beware…

Of course, we also spend an inordinate amount of mental energy on changing some pattern in our lives - giving up chocolate or caffeine or beer, doing our pushups every morning, whatever - for the next month and a half. Here’s my problem with that: we tend to think that the content of the discipline is less important than having a discipline. “What are you giving up for Lent?” means that giving up SOMETHING is what matters, but SOMETHING easily turns into ANYTHING. Except that the whole point of it, of any of the religious things we do, is the coming of the reign of God, the overcoming of everything that tears down the fullness of human life. That’s it. So say the documents of Vatican II: “the Church has but one sole purpose – that the Kingdom of God may come and the salvation of the human race be accomplished.” (Gaudium et Spes 45) It isn’t just that God likes it when we give things up; we are about the Kingdom of God, the healing and restoration of a world that is torn apart by greed and indifference, which means that WHAT we do matters.

This Lent, might our discipline be about something that actually responds to a bleeding world? Instead of (or if you must, in addition to) giving up something arbitrary, or doing something that just makes us feel good about ourselves, this Lent is a good time to commit to learning more, saying more, doing more about racism, classism, economic injustice, all the things that destroy life - not just for the next forty days, but in ways that we can't -- won't -- take back after the season ends.

Patrick Cousins works in the Department of Campus Ministry.