Category Archives: The Daily Word

December 3 – Feast of St. Francis Xavier

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By Matt Keppel

I shall live in the house of the Lord all of my days.

Recently, I was praying on this psalm trying to determine what exactly it means to live in the house of the Lord. Do I even want to live in the House of the Lord? If this is the goal, then how do I get there?

I would like to imagine that these are the questions that would have gone through Francis Xavier’s mind before undertaking his journey. In fact, I sincerely hope he had his share of doubts before embarking on a journey to places unknown, to die far from home. Most of all, I hope that through his doubts came this shimmering vision or idea of the goal, a mirage even. It must be a mirage, something hoped for, yet really unseen. What are our lives but this: seeking something that is beyond the scope of our imagination, something so great that we cannot even fathom it.

St. Francis Xavier is the patron saint of missionaries, easily dismissed because most of us do not live the life we attribute to the mission fields. However, each of us is missioned by our Baptism. We are all called to serve, to live as disciples of Christ. I think we all approach the journey with our own perspective of what the House of the Lord may be. We all have to face the ultimate question: is the journey worth it? Is it worth giving our lives to Christ? Is heaven worth the prize?

I still have a difficult time determining what is and isn’t worth the struggle. Francis is my inspiration to keep struggling along, continuing my own journey with St. Ignatius’s parting words to his friend: “Ite inflammate omnia” – Go set the world aflame!

(Check out this and other Advent Reflections at http://www.tdinhsj.com/)

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This was originally posted at FaithND, which provides daily Gospel reflection from Notre Dame alumni.  Check it out and sign up if you’d like!

(Luke 6:12 -19)

**Jesus went out to the mountain to pray; and he spent the night in prayer to God. And when day came, he called his disciples and chose twelve of them, whom he also named apostles: Simon, whom he named Peter, and his brother Andrew, and James, and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James son of Alphaeus, and Simon, who was called the Zealot, and Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.

He came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon. They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. And all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of them.**

I often fear for the children that my (non-existent) wife and I have not yet brought into this world. Children imitate their parents. They take on their mannerisms, their habits, and their language. This means I have a lot of cleaning up to do. It means I have to embark on my own journey of imitation—an imitation of Jesus.

This call to imitation, however, does not just apply to my future status as a parent, but as today’s Gospel indicates, to any and all vocations to ministry.

While it is tempting to focus on this “Choosing of the Twelve” scene as the pivotal moment in this Gospel passage, it might be more fruitful focus on the bracketing actions: Jesus praying and Jesus healing.

When we see the choosing of the Twelve in the light of Jesus praying and healing, we realize that Jesus is up to something far greater than simply selecting his followers. He is teaching them, giving them a model for their lives of ministry after he returns to the Father. Jesus’ actions in this Gospel are showing them that they must pray before they serve.

As Luke indicates (and Mark elsewhere), the healing and reconciliation of God’s people has a tangible, draining effect on Jesus: “Power came out from him.” Jesus knows the Twelve will not be exempt from this experience of being drained, nor will any who come after them (I envision a lot of heads nodding here).

Thus, when Jesus calls us to serve, whether as parents, priests, educators, or whatever—he calls to a life like his. He calls us to begin in prayer, to build a real and robust relationship with God. Only then can we bring healing—only then can we ourselves be worth imitating.

Javier Soegaard ‘10

Meditating Good Friday

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Christ Crucified with the Virgin, Saint John, and Mary Magdalene
by Sir Anthony van Dyck (1599–1641)

GOOD FRIDAY is a peculiar day. Not only do we call one of the most solemn days in our liturgical calendar “Good” (a fact whose origin still eludes scholars), but the actual celebration on this holy day differs from the familiar weekday Mass at our local parishes. The liturgy of this day, like Holy Saturday, does not allow for the celebration of a Mass. Instead, we are led through several readings, an adoration of the Cross, and a Holy Communion. The whole ceremony, the whole day even, is shrouded in the gravity of the Passion.

So how do we commemorate this day? Well, the liturgy offers us a beautiful way to experience this somber day. Indeed, blessed are we that our liturgical calendar offers us a whole day devoted to reflection on and commemoration of the Cross of Calvary. The readings and rituals on this day allow us to enter into the solemnity of the day.

Ignatius of Loyola, in his Spiritual Exercises, a four week long retreat, invites his retreatants to recall our Lord’s Passion during the entire third week. In introducing the week, he encourages us to “ask for what I desire” and advises that “[h]ere it will be to ask for heartfelt sorrow and confusion, because the Lord is going to his Passion for my sins.” He further advises, “Consider what Christ our Lord suffers in his human nature, or desires to suffer… begin here with much effort to bring oneself to grief, sorrow, and tears… Consider how his divinity hides itself; that is, how he could destroy his enemies but does not, and how he allows his most holy humanity to suffer so cruelly” (See §§193, 195, 196).

Continue reading Meditating Good Friday

Trust the Process: A Reflection on Today’s Gospel

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Ireland, so I had heard, was a land of thin places–places so rich in spirituality they were practically gateways to Divine Eternity.  In the summer of 2012 I was eager to meet these places.  I was in a considerable spiritual funk but had a wicked 3-week trip planned to tour the island, first by myself and later with friends, all to end up in Dublin for a Notre Dame football game.  As the weeks of summer passed and brought me closer to my departure, I began to put a considerable amount of pressure on the trip.  I kept telling myself, and telling God, that I needed to experience something there–that I needed to find something there.  Before long I began to dread the trip and the possibility of spiritual failure.

Today’s Gospel–or rather, a lazy reading of it–allowed this trend of fear and presumption to persist.

Continue reading Trust the Process: A Reflection on Today’s Gospel

“Do You Still Not Understand?”

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In yesterday’s Gospel, Christ, in what I imagine to be the same frustrated tone I use with my students when they ask, yet again, if they have to answer a question in a complete sentence, asks “Do you not understand?” I imagine him throwing up his hands at his disciples’ ignorance as he offers proof of God’s constant fidelity: the multiplication of the loaves and fish, which is added to the multiple miracles he’s already accomplished. The main point of this section of the Gospel is to remind us, yet again, that God is ever-faithful and that, in those moments that require the most trust, we must look on the ways that God has already provided for us as a source of a faith that moves us forward to confront the ever-available challenges of day-to-day life.

Continue reading “Do You Still Not Understand?”

The Daily Word: Of Spirits and Signs

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Today’s Gospel is a short one – and a challenging one too:

The Pharisees came forward and began to argue with Jesus,
seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him.
He sighed from the depth of his spirit and said,
“Why does this generation seek a sign?
Amen, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.”
Then he left them, got into the boat again,
and went off to the other shore.
What are we to make of this?
I think a helpful first move may be to put the terms “spirit” and “sign” alongside each other.  Mark uses the classic “pneuma” for spirit: there is the sense that Jesus’ frustration stems from the very depths of his being.  At the same time, Mark does not use the word for “sign” that is largely associated with miracles: he eschews “dynameis,” and instead uses “semeion.”  Semeion has the sense of being just a sign: not something that necessarily points to something greater.*
Where I am going with this?  I admit, I’m not particularly sure, but my initial inclination is that there is something here that may provide a  very helpful meditation for our spiritual lives.  The question, then, is this: have we plumbed the deeps of our relationship with God’s Christ, attempting to reach the place where the Word sighs, or are we looking for a surface relationship whereby we see great signs, but refuse to enter in the Pasch of that same Christ?

Daily Word: The Ties that Bind

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And looking around at those seated in the circle he said,
“Here are my mother and my brothers.
For whoever does the will of God
is my brother and sister and mother.”

It’s easy to hear today’s passage from Mark and be a bit put off by the directness of Jesus’ language.

Instead of thinking of what the Lord is saying as primarily exclusionary, perhaps another angle from which to look is its expansive nature.  In the coming Kingdom, family relationships aren’t based upon blood, but rather the Spirit which testifies to each’s relationship with Christ.

What a family!

(Just don’t call me junior!)

Forgivable Sins

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Amen, I say to you, all sins and all blasphemies
that people utter will be forgiven them.
But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit
will never have forgiveness,
but is guilty of an everlasting sin.”

Homilists, students of Sacred Scripture, and the casual observer all want to know: what is this unforgivable sin?  What is this sin against the Holy Spirit?

I have my theories, but I think there is something more important going on here: everything else is forgivable!

Today, let’s seek forgiveness — the odds are in our favor.

 

Daily World: From All the Nations

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Hearing what he [Jesus] was doing,
a large number of people came to him also from Jerusalem,
from Idumea, from beyond the Jordan,
and from the neighborhood of Tyre and Sidon.

Have you ever looked around at your parish on Sundays? Sure, we hear the oft-repeated narrative about the gray hair in the pews and in the presider’s chair.

But, when you really look around, it’s not just gray.  Even more importantly, however, it’s a lot more than hair: it’s stories, sins, graces, woes, hopes, and joys.  It’s the Kingdom, folks.