Friday, March 25, 2016

Reflection for Friday, March 25, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

Reflection Questions:

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

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

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

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Reflection for Thursday, March 24, 2016

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

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

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Reflection for Wednesday, March 23, 2016

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

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

Reflection Questions:

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

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Reflection for Tuesday, March 22, 2016

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

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

Reflection Questions

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

Monday, March 21, 2016

Reflection for Monday, March 21, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Reflection for Sunday, March 20, 2016

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

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

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

Reflection Questions:

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

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Reflection for Saturday, March 19, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 18, 2016

Reflection for Friday, March 18, 2016

Friday of the Fifth Week of Lent
JER 20: 10-13
PS 18: 2-3A, 3BC-4, 5-6, 7
JN 10: 31-42

In John’s Gospel, directly preceding today’s reading, Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” Enter our reading. The people in charge have had enough: it’s time to stone Jesus because he’s chosen to cast his lot with the "out crowd," the marginalized members in the community. He stands with the poor, not with the power and authority of the dominant oppressor.
I work at a dialysis unit in the Bronx meeting with patients struggling through their dialysis treatment. None of them are white. All of them are poor. They’ve played the game of life with structural disadvantages and discrimination at every checkpoint. Now dependent on a machine for life, they exclaim the presence of Jesus who rescues, who continues to cast his lot with them.
Sitting with them, I can’t help but wonder who I am in the story. More times than not, I’m the one throwing the stone, making their burdens worse. My judgments and prejudices remain hidden from sight, yet, I’m haunted by my privilege. I’m the one who need them, it’s not the other way around. While they try to prolong death with one more dialysis treatment, I’m called to conversion—to hear his voice amidst a hope that eludes my privilege.

I’m called to stand where Jesus is standing. For as Jesus knew so intimately, it is when I stand with the out crowd that I’m one step closer to the Kingdom of God.

Reflection Questions

  • Who do I stand with in my community? Where do I cast my lot? Who do I direct stones at in my community?
  • How do my brothers and sisters facing discrimination and racial injustice call me to conversion?
  • How am I invited to help build the Kingdom of God?
Lucas Sharma, SJ, is a Jesuit Scholastic of the U.S. West Coast Jesuits. Originally from Olympia, WA, Lucas currently studies philosophy and Spanish at Fordham University.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Reflection for Thursday, March 17, 2016

Thursday of the Fifth Week of Lent
GN 17: 3-9
PS 105: 4-5, 6-7, 8-9
JN 8: 51-59

As an undergraduate, one day while finishing my lunch and staring at a large wooden crucifix in the dining room, I thought to myself: How absurd and yet so profoundly beautiful.  Given all the reasons to believe and not believe in this ultimate antidote to death, it was above all the beauty of this mystery of Christian faith unfolding in the experience of lived reality that intensified my desire to believe.  After all, I had fallen in love with the beauty of Christ’s life long before I understood it.

Standing before unsettling mystery, we can either prostrate like Abraham and listen to God’s Spirit stirring in our desires, or we can throw stones in protest like Jesus’ persecutors.

I can bet that a lot of what Jesus said sounded as absurd to his own followers as it did to his opponents.  “[B]efore Abraham came to be, I AM.”  No surprise people wanted to kill him.  But some of Jesus’ followers haunted by Christ’s beauty stopped to listen to what they desired.  As a result, faith and understanding ensued.

Though the disciples who remained with Jesus struggled to comprehend his teachings, their prostrated hearts knew that this Jesus expressed a beauty and attractiveness that satisfied deep desires in ways that nothing else could.  Rather than beholding beauty like a piece of artifact in a museum, the disciples strove to emulate the beauty of Christ’s life in their daily lives, which in turn affirmed the truth and reality of such beauty.  

With his own life, Jesus paints for us this beautiful vision:  in him there is immortality, intimate union with God as Father, and glorification.  Do we desire this beauty?  Or, at the very least, do we want to desire this beauty?  If desire at its core is the compass to God’s beauty, then Lent is a time for intense purification of desires so we can better distinguish between authentic and artificial beauty.  

Quang D. Tran, S.J., currently serves as the associate pastor of College Church.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Reflection for Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Lent
DN 3:14-20, 91-92, 95
DN 3:52, 53, 54, 55, 56
JN 8: 31-42

Catholic guilt often compels me to make things harder on myself than they need to be, which is funny, because I’m not even Catholic. As a confirmed and baptized Methodist though, I’ve learned from the best after 8 years at Jesuit/Catholic institutions.

That feeling that I MUST be doing one thing or another, or it makes me a bad Christian, magnifies during the Lenten season. Our pursuit of piety becomes a weekly self-imposed berating for not being “good enough”. How many of you have fried up some bacon for breakfast, or had a roast beef sandwich for lunch and then realize that it happens to be Friday? I skate by on my Methodist laurels and just gobble up all the pork and beef all y’all Catholics are so committed to not eating. Even so, the guilt or pang of making a mistake is still there.

As students at Saint Louis University, Catholics, and people IN the world, we hold ourselves to a higher standard, which is too our credit. But where does that shame, that feeling of less-than-ness come from when we fail? Why do I feel terrible when I forget that I gave up chocolate and pop a Hershey’s kiss into my mouth? Why does a pit grow in my stomach when I realize that I didn’t do something absolutely perfectly? That feeling is useful in small does and from the right perspective. But that feeling can twist around in our gut until we don’t have the heart to do anything. I have felt so bad about missing church, or skipping out on choir practice, that I just haven’t gone to church. Avoided the problem altogether.

That is most assuredly not God’s desire for us.

I’m reminded of our “set-apartness” and our constant guilt trip, when I read the scripture from today: the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. It was my good luck that this classic from the Old Testament, just happened to be the reading for today. They too were held to a higher standard, both as people of Israel and their God, Jehovah, and as King Nebuchadnezzar’s select elite. And just like the world today, they were split between what God asked of them, and what their King, or their society asked of them. Those two priorities can never coexist, for no one “can serve two masters”. If only I could be like them! If only I could stand up so bravely to the things in life that pull me away from God.I am blessed to not face a burning furnace, but misplaced priorities can burn us in other ways.

We can be so tied up in doing everything just right, that we get burned for doing nothing at all. Or, we’re so worried about getting it wrong, that we never try in the first place. Lent is not a time to beat up on ourselves for forgetting a promise, or sinning, as we are so prone to do. Lent is about making room for the word of God among us, setting aside the trivial and putting God’s word and kingdom first.

A simple way that I look at it is simply this: do I need it, or do I want it? Will it give me life, or take life from me? Will it ease my worries, or generate them? Will it further God’s will, or does it further mine?

I don’t think Jesus can free us from the guilt of our mistakes or our sins, but he does free us from sin itself: “if the Son frees you, then you will truly be free”. So, I’m free huh? That’s funny, Jesus. It really is, because I’ve got a sinking feeling in my stomach and loans from Fannie Mae that say otherwise. What Jesus talks about is being truly free. In the battles that matter, God has already won. In the places that matter, you’re already free. It just takes the eyes to see it. It takes shifting your gaze to what truly matters, to embrace the Lenten season. In a world and in a season where I often am so hard on myself, that is a very comforting thought.

Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to eat the fish on Friday.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Reflection for Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Lent
NM 21:4-9
PS 102: 2-3, 16-18, 19-21
JN 8: 21-30

Today's reflection comes from The Ignatian Solidarity Network's Lenten Blog "Lift Every Voice: A Lenten Journey Toward Racial Justice"
In today’s first reading, the people are suffering from an affliction by serpents (which they seemed to have brought on themselves) and they look to Moses for a cure. Following the directions God gives, Moses makes a bronze serpent and mounts it on a pole and “whenever anyone who had been bitten by a serpent looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.” God hears the cries of the people, providing them with a visual source of their salvation.
We wish that the suffering we endure in the form of racial injustice and systemic racism were as easily cured. Is there any possibility that the second reading – where Jesus forecasts his fate — suggests that we have a visual source to bring us closer to healing?crown-of-thorns-1376423052xJU
In Karl Barth’s Epistle to the Romans, the great theologian reflected on the role that Christ on the cross might play as a visual cue reflecting back to us “the crimson thread which runs through all history.” At the foot of the cross, gazing upon the disfigured, tortured and crucified body of Christ, humanity stands indicted; responsible for all the ways in which we crucify, torture and disfigure others.
As we near the Good Friday remembrance of the torture, crucifixion and death of Jesus, we might look to the visual cue mounted on a pole and be reminded of the many ways we have contributed to the crimson thread which runs through all history, the ways we have been the torturers, the ways we have crucified our racialized Others. Could the recognition of our culpability, as we look at the Crucified One, be the first step toward new life?

Reflection Questions:

1. When I look at the Crucified One, can I see the Crucified People who have been disfigured, tortured and put to death by racial injustice?
2. When I look at the Crucified One, can I take responsibility for all the ways I participate in structural and interpersonal injustice that contributes to the crimson thread which runs through all history, and continues to torture and crucify today?
3. When I look at the Crucified One taking responsibility, might I live?

Jeannine Hill Fletcher is Professor of Theology and Faculty Director of Service-Learning at Fordham University, Bronx NY.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Reflection for Monday, March 14, 2016

Monday of the Fifth Week of Lent 
DN 13:1-9, 15-17, 19-30, 33-62 or DN 13: 41C-62
PS 23: 1-3A, 3B-4, 5, 6
JN 8: 12-20 or JN 8:1-11

We can imagine the story of Jesus turning out like that of Susanna. There are many similarities after all. Like her, Jesus is set up by the elders of the people. Like Susanna, he is subjected to a sham trial. Both are condemned to die for crimes they did not commit. Both are patently innocent.

The main difference is, of course, the way the stories end. Yet even here we could imagine Jesus’ story turning out differently. What if – in place of young Daniel – Peter or John or James played the hero and cried out to the people, “Are you such fools, to condemn a man without clear evidence?” The momentum of the crowd would shift at this rebuke. Perhaps they would turn on the Jewish and Roman leaders. Certainly Jesus would be released. “Thus was innocent blood spared that day.” We could imagine that, right?

The story of Susanna has been read during Lent since ancient times because of its many resonances with the Passion of Jesus. The real difference between these stories is the difference between the happy ending of human myths and tragedy of the human condition. The Gospels present the stark truth about human nature, a truth through which all other stories must be read.

We’d like to think that Susanna is also true, that is simply depicts another side of our humanity. There is evil, but justice prevails. The innocent suffer, but they are in the end vindicated. The guilty are ultimately punished in this world black-and-white moral world. The Gospel story is unique among all human stories (even some stories in the Bible) precisely because it reveals the innocence of the criminal. The man who everyone believed was guilty received what everyone believed he deserved – death. In this light, Jesus should not be compared to chaste Susanna, but rather to the lecherous elders who seduced her, the criminals who suffer and die.

Reading the story of Susanna, it’s easy for us to put ourselves in the place of Susanna the victim or Daniel the hero. Even the bovine crowd in the Susanna story eventually finds itself on the side of right. What is most difficult is for us to recognize ourselves in the dirty old men. To cast ourselves as the perpetrators. The ones condemned to die. The logic of the cross compels us to see Christ both in Susanna and in her accusers.

The Passion of Jesus confronts us with the uncomfortable truth that we, like those elders, are the executioners of the innocent. In our efforts to hide the less attractive parts of ourselves, the dirty secrets, the sinful habits, we crucify someone else, casting the blame on them. Jesus calls us to face the truth about ourselves: we are unloving, yet always loved; sinful, but always already forgiven. Yes, we commit “crimes,” but no, we do not “deserve” to die. And neither does anyone else. This is the truth that Jesus says will make us free (John 8:32). Only by recognizing it can our violence be stopped and the cycle of blame and guilt come to end. A world free from judgement, sin, and death – can you imagine that?

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Reflection for Sunday, March 13, 2016

Fifth Sunday of Lent
IS 43: 16-21
PS 126: 1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 6
PHIL 3: 8-14
JN 8: 1-11

“Lazarus, come out!”

This simple command really jumped out at me this Lent when I heard the readings for today.  Only two weeks away from Easter, the readings this Sunday are packed full of imagery and references to the resurrection.  Ezekiel speaks of God opening our graves and having us rise from them.  Paul writes to the Romans about renewed life in the spirit.  Finally, in John’s gospel, Jesus
calls back to life a dear friend who had been dead and buried for four days.  Themes of sleep and death are erased by themes of new life and awakening.  It’s a message that links the penitence of Lent with the joy of Easter and which calls to us every morning.

When your alarm goes off in the morning, do you immediately get out of bed feeling refreshed and ready to meet the challenges of that day with determination and a positive attitude?  Or do you hit the snooze alarm, reluctantly role out of bed at a later moment and confront that day’s challenges with a more pessimistic outlook?  If you are like me, you can lay claim to both scenarios.  We all have those occurrences in our lives that weigh on our spirit: a particularly ominous school project, a relationship that is going through rough times, or maybe a recent injury or loss of a loved one.  Now I want you to think of a bad day you had recently.  Was there a particular experience that day that helped to turn that day and your attitude around for the better?  How did that experience help you to find new hope, strength, or joy when you most needed it?  Do you remember feeling refreshed after that experience?  That’s Lent!

Lent is to be a refreshing time, a time when we can let go of whatever weighs on our spirits and with our relationship with God.  There is a quote from the animated movie Kung Fu Panda which I especially like and which seems to have particular relevance to today’s readings.  When our hero Po is having doubts of his destiny and his own abilities to fulfill that destiny, he is forced to ponder an old proverb.  “Yesterday is history; tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift.  That is why it is called present.”  Each day is a gift, and it comes to us from a God who bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things with us.

I pray this Lent that we remember that gift.  I hope in our daily lives that when we hear “[Your name], come out!” we might meet that call with renewed hope and joy.

Stephen Kissel is a doctoral candidate in the History Department at Saint Louis University.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Reflection for Saturday, March 12, 2016

Saturday of the Fourth Week of Lent
JER 11: 18-20
PS 7: 2-3, 9BC-10, 11-12
JN 7: 40-53

Today’s reading certainly wasn’t comfortable. The first passage describes trusting the wrong person and getting hurt; the Psalm pleads for refuge and justice; and the Gospel tells of a plot to arrest Jesus. These passages remind me of the classic “where’s God when…” question. Where’s God when I’m scared? Where’s God when I’m hurt? Where’s God when the world is scared and hurting? The truth that’s often hard to see is that God is right there, in the midst of suffering, ready to receive our prayers and cries for help. It is up to us to look to Him.

In Luke 8, the “good soil” are those “who have kept the word with a generous heart and yield a harvest through perseverance.” To me, generosity and perseverance are the virtues that look to God. The most generous people I know are the ones who never answer “Yes, but…” rather they always answer “Yes,” and without reservation. They’re open to seeking God wherever they are, and are willing to give whatever they must to find Him. The perseverant heart doesn’t stop until it does.  

The journey of life is sometimes glorious, and it’s easy to give freely and seek God with enthusiasm. But sometimes, the journey is dark, and injustices threaten this energetic spirit. It is these times when it is most important to call on God, and to keep an open, giving, and persistent heart. When we find God in the darkness, we will be rewarded with His sustenance and peace.

Ashley Johann

Friday, March 11, 2016

Reflection for Friday, March 11, 2016

Friday of the Fourth Week of Lent 
WIS 2: 1A, 12-22
PS 34: 17-18, 19-20, 21 AND 23
JN 7: 1-2, 10, 25-30

“Jesus moved about within Galilee;
he did not wish to travel in Judea,
because the Jews were trying to kill him.”

We see Jesus as scared in this gospel. Jesus came into the world to save us so that we might find life, but Jesus had a real, human life, and felt the same emotions that we did. This does not by any means imply that Jesus was imperfect; rather, Jesus felt all of the same emotions that we do, and He never let them lead Him into sin.

In the readings for today, we see many instances where followers of God had to choose between doing what was right and doing what everyone else was doing. We can find this many times in our daily lives at SLU, and often it can seem like we are choosing between two good things: hanging out with friends or going to mass, studying for a test or grabbing coffee with a professor, exploring the city or staying on campus. Choices pervade our everyday lives, just as they did for the people in the readings today. Ultimately, we must choose what is going to bring us to more life, even if that means being a little bit scared. Jesus was under even the threat of death and persecution, and yet he did what brought Him to glorify God. Though we are not often facing immediate death or violence, we too must ask ourselves what brings us to glorify God more in our everyday lives.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Reflection for Thursday, March 10, 2016

Thursday of the Fourth Week of Lent
EX 32: 7-14
PS 106: 19-20, 21-22, 23
JN 5:31-47

Today’s reading reminds us that Lent is a time for spiritual growth, self-denial, and conversion. In the first reading, the scripture states, “Go down at once to your people…for they have become depraved.
They have soon turned aside from the way I pointed out to them…”

In the midst of our busy lives, sometimes we find that we have let our relationship with Christ fall on the wayside. We have become victim to the habit of busyness that we jeopardize our relationship with Christ. We have so many roles as individuals – students, professors, mothers, fathers, friends -- that we get so caught up in the millions of things we need to do and the never-ending to-do lists. We tell ourselves that there aren’t enough hours in the day to do all the things we need to do and as a result our relationship with God suffers. It is during this season of Lent that God whispers to us, “Come back. Remember my love.”  Lent is a time in which we need to come back to Christ and to remember that we can never be too busy to enrich our relationship with Him. Ask yourself where you are in your relationship with God, and then ask yourself where you want to be.

Like the scripture indicates, sometimes we lose sight of what is at the heart of it all – Christ. Lent is a time to repair whatever distance you might find between where you are with God and where you want to be. Lent calls you to deny yourself and come back to the open arms of God and to the love that He freely offers.

“God so loved the world that he gave his only be-gotten Son, so that everyone who believes in him might have eternal life.”

Sometimes it’s hard to grasp this beauty of Christ’s love. Let today be a reminder of why you made these Lenten promises. Lent is a reminder of Christ’s unfailing love and the beauty of God’s love for us, His children, so much so that he sacrificed his only begotten Son, so that we might be saved and be with Him for all eternity. We can get lost in the sacrifice of Lent that we forget to be thankful for the fruits of the spirit that come from self-denial. Lent is not just a time of taking away something in our life, but rather the addition of graces that come from the self-denial of these sacrifices. We take away those ties to the world, in hopes of gaining more for our soul. In the Gospel, Jesus asks the Jews why they turn to everywhere else except Him. Why is it that we look to other places to satisfy our longings? Why do we feel that anything of this world can satisfy the deepest longings of our hearts more than Christ? We must look at the beauty of the Crucifix and recognize that that alone is proof of the greatest love there ever was. A man died to save us and sometimes we become so numb to that fact.

We must take this time of Lent to understand the beauty that lies behind the cross. We must believe in the love that God has freely given. Sometimes we forget. But Christ died on the cross, not so that we may forget but so that we may be saved and rejoice in the joy of being saved. Each time we celebrate the beauty of the mass we are called to remember the beauty of the sacrifice that Christ so freely gave.Christ invites us to open our hearts to Him and He wants to make a dwelling place in our hearts. His arms are open wide, yet sometimes we do not accept that open invitation. How beautiful it is that the same God who created the complexity and intricacy of the stars and the universe wants to have a deeper relationship with us. What a beautiful thought to know that our hearts were made for Him by Him.

Lent is a time to recognize God’s deeper love so that we might set our eyes on that which Christ has always called us to - a greater intimacy with Him. Let these readings speak to your eternal soul and let this lent be a time of self-sacrifice in the beauty of Christ’s invitation. It is through self-sacrifice that we might be reminded that the only thing we need to sustain our souls is God alone.

This Lenten season, let us become more aware of the beauty of God’s presence and His unfailing love in our lives.

Leigh-Ann Calotes is a Sophomore studying Psychology.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Reflection for Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Lent 
IS 49
PS 145: 8-9, 13CD-14, 17-18
JN 5: 17-30

College is a completely different type of busy. While it allows more freedom than high school did, a new level of discipline is required. I am constantly trying to balance work, class, clubs and a social life, which can all make a relationship with God a difficult thing to maintain. It’s really easy to begin to feel distant from God, just as it’s really easy for college students to become with their parents. Sure, I called them all of the time when I first started school, but as I’ve begun to move into my later years in college and my schedule has become more and more jam packed, the conversations have become fewer and further between. However, I know in the back of my mind that when the time comes that I need advice, a few extra bucks, or simply a reassuring voice at the other end of the the line after a long day, my parents will be there with open arms.

The exact same thing is told to us about our relationship with God in today’s readings. In the first reading from Isaiah, we are told that God calls for all of us—the prisoners of the world and those who have fallen into darkness to “come out!” and “show yourselves!” He will provide food and water for us when we hunger and thirst, guidance through the mountains and valleys when we are lost, and a beacon of light for us when we are struggling. The Lord, like a mother and her infant, will never forget us, even when we have: “Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you.”

The Gospel reading from John offers us a different look: our relationship with God the Father. Growing up, I wanted to be just like my dad. I wanted to have the same job as him, know everything that he knew, hold my mother’s hand like he did: my dad was, and always will be, my hero. He, in turn, has dreams for me: to ultimately be a faithful and honest representation of him. The same is true for Christ and God, his (and our) heavenly Father and hero. When looking at the actions of Christ, you are seeing the will of his Father. For everything that the Father does for his Son, the Son will do even “greater works that these, so that you may be amazed.” The Son has been given the power of judgment by his Father, so you must honor the Son as the Father. The two are one in the same, mutually dependent upon the other, just as any son’s relationship should be with his father. Christ knew that his Father would always be there for him no matter the trial or tribulation; let us never forget that either, that our heavenly Father is always there for us if only we remember to reach out.
I pray that this Lenten season is an opportunity for you to not only grow closer with your heavenly Father, but your earthly parents as well.

Byron Abrigg is a junior majoring in Economics and Entrepreneurship and minoring in English from Youngstown, OH. He is heavily involved with St. Benedict Joseph Labre Ministries with the Homeless.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Reflection for Monday, March 7, 2016

Monday of the Fourth Week of Lent 
IS 65: 11-21
PS 30: 2 AND 4, 5-6, 11-12A AND 13B
JN 4: 43-54

In our Gospel story today, we read about a father drawn to Jesus for love of his son.  The father as a political power holder in the community must have exhausted other options before turning to an itinerant preacher acclaimed to be a wonder worker.  Jesus asks for nothing from the father, but sends him back to be with his son, now healed.  The boy's fever dissipates at what appears to be the time Jesus proclaimed him such.

We as readers are meant to conclude the healing to be a miracle. Whatever we call a miracle in our lives, it usually comes about because our expectations for a given situation turned out differently than we originally thought.  As people of faith, we take our personal experience of miracles as a sign of God's responsiveness to us. Every miracle is also a story of our responsiveness to God.  The gospel passage today contains two miracles in how the father responded to Jesus that offers us an invitation for this Lenten season.

First off, the father went to Jesus instead of to someone else about what distressed him most in his life.  For us today, it is more likely we go to something else: Netflix, our phones, or another distraction to avoid facing problems.  To go to Jesus in prayer and share what is weighing on our hearts and minds might be breaking the chain of usual events for us.

The second miracle is patience.  Thoughts must have been racing through the father's head in the gospel story today as he walked back to his home.  ""Does Jesus have the power to do this?"  "How long should I wait for this to work?"  Lent is usually full of many broken resolutions, and dry periods when we feel we are not drawing closer to God.  We might be tempted to abandon our holy desires with which we began the season.  The journey of Lent is a time of waiting for God to heal the brokenness in our world and in ourselves caused by sin.  With the desire centered on growing closer to God, we trust change is occurring although we might not see it in ourselves.  

Let us pray that Lent will be a time of healing and miracles for one another, in situations both near and far, and in our hearts.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Reflection for Sunday, March 6, 2016

Fourth Sunday of Lent
JOS 5: 9A, 10-12
PS 34: 2-3, 4-5, 6-7
2 COR 5: 17-21
LK 15: 1-3, 11-32

In high school, I loved giving tours to prospective students, showing them around the well-traveled halls and pointing out particular places of interest. The same desire continued at SLU; although I was not an official tour guide I always give a friendly wave to visiting families and students, and am eager to point them in the right direction. Giving presentations at SLU 101 over the summer, I would feel so energized talking to incoming students and telling them why and how to get involved in student organizations. In the second reading for today, we are called in the same way to be “ambassadors for Christ.” This task Paul gives us is a bit more nuanced than pointing out places to eat or giving advice on the best professors. The task of being an ambassador for Christ means being a vehicle through which others may see God’s love manifest in us and through our actions. It means following the call of today’s gospel reading to give precedence to the poor and the lowest of society, and not only to pay attention to these people but to give them a feast!

The lost son returned to his father, and Jesus commands us to celebrate his return. Our God is a God of abundance; God wants us to go all in when it comes to how we love and how we live. Today, I challenge you to examine the parts of your life where you fall short in celebrating life, including the life of those who aren’t often celebrated in our society: the poor, the disabled, and the elderly. What sorts of stereotypes or prejudices hold you back from treating people as fully human? What can you do to celebrate their lives with them? How can you be a better ambassador for Christ?

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Reflection for Saturday, March 5, 2016

Saturday of the Third Week of Lent
HOS 6: 1-6
PS 51: 3-4, 18-19, 20-21 AB
LK 18: 9-14

“For it is love that I desire, not sacrifice” At first this may seem counterintuitive.  The three pillars of Lent are prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.  But today, Hosea is telling us that God does not want our sacrifices.

So if God is not asking us to give things up, then what does he want from us this Lenten season Maybe He is asking us to examine our motivations.  Did I give up chocolate for Lent because I think that is what God wanted from me?  Or do we make these Lenten sacrifices in an effort to deepen our relationship with God?  This idea is further explored in today’s Gospel.  Jesus critiques the actions of the Pharisee. The Pharisees, as we see throughout the Gospels, have a tendency to simply go through the motions and do all the “right” things: pray, fast, give alms, and follow the rules.  It seems as though the Pharisees are just going through the motions to appear holy to others and make himself feel better.  Jesus juxtaposes the prayers of the Pharisee with those of a tax collector, who seems to pray with earnest as he recognizes his mistakes and asks for mercy.  Here we are given examples of two types of sacrifice.  The Pharisee is praying for his own self-righteousness.  This is the type of sacrifice Hosea is telling us God does not want; it is not all about us.  On the other hand, the tax collector is praying honestly and trying to deepen his relationship with God.  This is what God is asking us to do.  He wants us to love Him and have our actions reflect that love of Him.

So what exactly does it mean to act out of love?  God is asking for our love.  God does not want us to go through the motions.  It is easy to take an hour and show up to mass, but how often are we really there?  If someone asked you what the readings or homily was about when you walked out of mass, would you be able to answer them?  Or are we preoccupied thinking about that meeting tomorrow or the exam on Wednesday.  I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes my mind wanders and I start to tune out during mass.  Today’s readings remind us that God is asking for our attention and devotion.  God is asking for love, not sacrifice.  He does not want us to just show up for an hour, but to really be present and participate.  This Lenten season, may we work to be more attentive to God and focus on acting out of love, rather than simply going through the motions, as it is so easy to do.

Maggie Carvill is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences studying Biochemistry and French.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Reflection for Friday, March 4, 2016

Friday of the Third Week of Lent
HOS 14: 2-10
PS 81: 6C-8A, 8BC-9, 10-11AB, 14 AND 17
MK 12: 28-34

“Return, O Israel, to the Lord, your God; you have collapsed through your guilt.”
“I am the Lord your God: hear my voice”

Many times, I share in Israel’s fear of being lost, turning to God for direction. I usually feel as if I am on the verge of hearing His plans for me but right when I am ready, I am caught up in the distractions of life. Usually, a test I need to study for, a meeting to go to, or having to check something off my ever-growing to-do-list. Last week at 9pm mass, Fr. Hellman emphasized the importance of waiting to hear God’s voice. He repeated, “Here I am God” and most importantly, followed it up with “I am Yours.” Being reminded of not only waiting for God, but also believing whole-heartedly that we are His, is how we can truly heed His voice. As it is easy to say, it is often difficult in practice, thus that is how we can continue our Lenten journey: using it as a time to practice receiving His voice.

During the Lenten season, we are not only challenged to hear God’s voice and live out His will, but to also be open to His saving power as He says “I will heal their defection, says the Lord, I will love them freely.” In order to feel such power, we need to turn to Him and be open to hearing His voice wherever we are. The beauty of this is that we can see Him wherever we go but that can also be the challenge. As it is often easy to see God everywhere, such as in friends or in nature, it can also be tough to see Him when we don’t feel ready.  But that is our Lenten challenge, to prepare for His coming by readying our minds, bodies, and souls for Him. One of my own efforts to prepare for His coming is by reading daily devotionals. One of the reflection quotes was, “How many times does it take you to respond to God’s Word?” I took this to heart and realized that I often say or think I should act on one thing, but know my heart is not actually devoted to the plan. Through reflection, I can practice focusing on God, with my entire being. As today’s reading focuses on the Commandments, the first being that “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your strength,” we are reminded to commit one’s entire self to God, not just the parts of us we think we should commit to Him.

This season, we are to work towards God, as we are given the tools to get to there. All that is left is to fully commit ourselves to knowing Him. We can begin the path if we, “Take with you words and return to the Lord.”

 Anna Becker is a sophomore studying Biology on an undecided medical track.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Reflection for Thursday, March 3, 2016

Thursday of the Third Week of Lent 
JER 7: 23-28
PS 95: 1-2, 6-7, 8-9
LK 11: 14-23

*Today's reflection comes from the Ignatian Solidarity Network's Lent blog, "Lift Every Voice: A Lenten Journey Toward Racial Justice." (

The Urban League of Cincinnati recently published “The State of Black Cincinnati 2015: Two Cities.” At 150 pages of careful statistical analysis, the report describes itself as a “bleak, possibly overwhelming snapshot of Cincinnati’s African American community and its economic and social challenges.” From health care and education to employment and incarceration, the picture of “Black Cincinnati” is bleak indeed, and not a little overwhelming to this white reader and citizen.
In truth, the study might have been entitled, “The State of White Cincinnati’s Ignorance and Complicity.” As Urban League President Donna Jones Baker writes, “Sadly, many white citizens . . . do not see our urban neighborhoods. They are not aware of the positive people and energy that exist here, even in the face of daily challenges.”Dr. O’dell Owens puts it more pointedly: “African-Americans still live largely in a country that is separate, unequal, and sometimes hostile.”
A house “divided against itself will be laid waste,” warns Jesus in today’s Gospel. Yet his warnings, like those of the great Hebrew prophets, were repeatedly met with scorn by a hard-hearted people. And still God’s Spirit of renewal and hope cries out to us today in contemporary friends of God and prophets. “We are creating a mechanism,” writes Donna Jones Baker, “whereby anyone who wants to help will be able to easily find their niche and begin their work.”
Do I want to see? Do I care to help? Lord, give us the capacity to see, the desire to serve, and the courage to find our niche. Light the fire of love within us, so that we may begin the sacred work of racial justice, healing, and reconciliation in our neighborhoods, our schools, our cities.

Reflection Questions:

  • How familiar are you with the life situation of peoples of color where you live, work, worship, and travel? To what extent do you see evidence of a house “divided against itself” in these places?
  • What signs of “hard-heartedness” do you recognize in yourself? How might God’s grace and mercy help you overcome this during Lent?
Christopher Pramuk is Associate Professor of Theology at Xavier University, and the author of Hope Sings, So Beautiful: Graced Encounters Across the Color Line(Liturgical, 2013).

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Reflection for Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Wednesday of the Third Week of Lent 
DT 4: 1, 5-9 
PS 147: 12-13, 15-16, 19-20
MT 5: 17-19

*Today's reflection comes from the Ignatian Solidarity Network's daily Lenten blog, "Lift Every Voice: A Lenten Journey Toward Racial Justice."

The idea “that you may live, and may enter in and take possession of the land which the LORD, the God of your fathers, is giving you” (Deut. 4:1), provided scriptural warrant for Christians to claim the land that would become the United States. This presumably God-given blessing provided powerful symbolic justification for conquest, echoing throughout Christian reasoning to dispossess First Nations peoples and build America as a white Christian nation.
The claim of Christian supremacy over First Nations peoples was written into U.S. law in 1823, when a distinction was made between the natives’ mere “right to occupancy” (as “heathens”) and the “right to title” for any Christian people who had made a discovery of the land. Over several hundred years, the Christian imagination established “a great nation” through dispossession, forced resettlements, and the exclusion of non-white peoples from land ownership, homeownership, and citizenship. The “doctrine of discovery” continues to be employed in legal arguments that impact First Nations peoples today.
The symbolic capital of a story of divine right to the land fed into generations of transferring the blessings of the earth to white Christians. These generations of wealth transfer created the conditions for racialized disparities in our world: where whites enjoy disproportionately high rates of home and land ownership in comparison with black, Latino, and Native American counterparts; and where such ownership grants access to higher levels of education, recreation, wealth, and social capital.
Supremacist scriptural readings and their material impact in our world are causes for the repentance that is hallmark of Lent. But this repentance must include repudiation of the doctrine of discovery that gave European Christians title to the land, and it must include reparation for white Christian sin.

Reflection Questions:

  • On whose land am I living? How might I put my repentance into action in solidarity with First Nations peoples in the call for a repeal of the doctrine of discovery? How has my “great nation” and “possession of the land” involved the dispossession of others?
  • Does my theological imagination include God’s favor on Christians and the Christian supremacy over non-Christian peoples? Does my theological imagination harbor a sense of God’s favor on white Christians as reflected in prosperity and success?
Share Your Thoughts 

About the Author: 
Jeannine Hill Fletcher is Professor of Theology and Faculty Director of Service-Learning at Fordham University in the Bronx, NY.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Reflection for Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Tuesday of the Third Week of Lent
DN 3: 25, 34-43
PS 25: 4-5 AB, 6 AND 7 BC, 8-9
MT 18: 21-35

“For we are reduced, O Lord, beyond any other nation,
brought low everywhere in the world this day
because of our sins.
But with contrite heart and humble spirit
let us be received;”

I began this Lenten season determined to find something that I could offer up every day as a way for me to grow closer to Christ. After all, this is the central purpose of Lent isn’t it?  Give something up or add on a small sacrifice that will constantly remind us over the course of these 40 days that we are extremely blessed, but more importantly that these blessings come from the ultimate sacrifice of our beloved Savior. However, as we continue through this Lenten season, we may be struggling to keep our Lenten resolutions. We began the Lenten season wholeheartedly determined to uphold them, but now it seems almost every day is a constant temptation to break our promises. In fact, it’s likely that we have broken them at least once already. We should not punish ourselves for these shortcomings, this is the point of Lent. We see in today’s readings that we fail to uphold these resolutions because of our sins; and while there is nothing we can do to prevent this, there is something we can to do heal it. We are reminded that despite our sins, God has given us the opportunity for redemption if we return to Him “with contrite heart and humble spirit.” This is the beauty of Lent, it is a time of struggle, but more importantly a time for preparation. As we continue to walk through this Lenten season, we reflect on our struggles and prepare our hearts for the salvation that was won for us through Jesus’ suffering and death. Personally, I don’t believe that I am deserving of this salvation, for every sin I commit is essentially a spiritual slap in the face of Jesus. How can I possibly deserve Jesus’ love if I continue to reject Him when I sin? In today’s Gospel, we get a glimpse into Jesus’ unconditional love.

“Lord, if my brother sins against me,
how often must I forgive him?
As many as seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.”

Forgiveness. Forgiveness is one of the truest signs of Jesus’ love for us. Despite the fact that our sinful human nature causes us to repeatedly reject God’s love for us, He never holds it against us. We are forgiven “not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”  As Lent continues, I will continue to reflect on this forgiveness and do my best not to take it for granted because it was bought for a price, the most valuable price ever paid, Jesus’ life. While I know that I will continue to struggle to perfectly maintain my Lenten sacrifices, I will always keep in mind that I am forgiven and I will continue to work on preparing my heart to accept Jesus’ salvation.

Greg Weissler is a senior Neuroscience major who will be attending SLU School of Medicine next year.