February 2017

Pope's Prayer Intention

Comfort for the Afflicted: That all those who are afflicted, especially the poor, refugees, and marginalized, may find welcome and comfort in our communities.

Urgent Prayer Intention

Sacredness of Life: We pray for the children who are in danger of the interruption of pregnancy, as well as for persons who are at the end of life — every life is sacred! — so that no one is left alone and that love may defend the meaning of life. 

When Pope Francis celebrated the Way of the Cross during World Youth Day last summer in Krakow he asked questions that naturally arise when we encounter human suffering: “Where is God, if evil is present in our world, if there are men and women who are hungry and thirsty, homeless, exiles and refugees? Where is God, when innocent persons die as a result of violence, terrorism and war? Where is God, when cruel diseases break the bonds of life and affection? Or when children are exploited and demeaned, and they too suffer from grave illness? Where is God, amid the anguish of those who doubt and are troubled in spirit?”

He answered: “‘God is in them’. Jesus is in them; he suffers in them and deeply identifies with each of them. He is so closely united to them as to form with them, as it were, ‘one body’. Jesus himself chose to identify with these our brothers and sisters enduring pain and anguish by agreeing to tread the ‘way of sorrows’ that led to Calvary. By embracing the wood of the cross, Jesus embraced the nakedness, the hunger and thirst, the loneliness, pain and death of men and women of all times.”

When we welcome those who suffer into our communities we welcome Jesus. Pope Francis went on to say: “We are called to serve the crucified Jesus in all those who are marginalized, to touch his sacred flesh in those who are disadvantaged, in those who hunger and thirst, in the naked and imprisoned, the sick and unemployed, in those who are persecuted, refugees and migrants. There we find our God; there we touch the Lord. Jesus himself told us this when he explained the criterion on which we will be judged: whenever we do these things to the least of our brothers and sisters, we do them to him (Mt 25: 31-46).”

Elaborating on these words, Pope Francis said that if we ignore those who suffer we ignore, even deny, Jesus himself: “In the face of evil, suffering and sin, the only response possible for a disciple of Jesus is the gift of self, even of one’s own life, in imitation of Christ; it is the attitude of service. Unless those who call themselves Christians live to serve, their lives serve no good purpose. By their lives, they deny Jesus Christ.”

We pray that we, as individuals and communities, may never deny Jesus.

Scripture and Reflection

Matthew 25: 31-46 Neither group saw Jesus in the hungry, sick, and strangers, but one group had a heart like Jesus that was moved by suffering. The other group had hard hearts and Jesus said that there was no room in his heavenly kingdom for those with hard hearts. By their “sins of omission” they ended up “omitted.” How am I challenged to reject sins of omission?

1 Corinthians 12: 12-26 The Body of Christ consists of Jesus, the Head, and all the baptized, parts who are joined to him. Thus, “if one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it.” How do I find myself suffering when I see suffering in the world?

For Reflection:

Pope Francis’ Daily Meditation of September 13, 2016 on Overcoming the Culture of Indifference with a Culture of Encounter: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/cotidie/2016/documents/papa-francesco-cotidie_20160913_for-a-culture-of-encounter.html

Pope Francis’ Address during the Way of the Cross at World Youth Day 2016 in Krakow, Poland: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/speeches/2016/july/documents/papa-francesco_20160729_polonia-via-crucis.html

Pope Francis’ Message for the 2017 World Day of the Sick: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/messages/sick/documents/papa-francesco_20161208_giornata-malato.html

January 2017

Pope's Prayer Intention

Christian Unity: That all Christians may be faithful to the Lord’s teaching by striving with prayer and fraternal charity to restore ecclesial communion and by collaborating to meet the challenges facing humanity.

Urgent Prayer Intention

Homeless people affected by the cold: In these days of such great cold, I invite you to think of all the people living on the streets, affected by the cold and often indifference. We pray for them and ask the Lord to warm the hearts of others to help them.

Jesus taught that division leads to weakness. He said: “Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste” (Lk 11: 17). Is that true, even for the Church, through which the Kingdom of God is breaking into the world? Yes. Unfortunately the divisions among Christians make us weak. We cannot confront the evils in our world because our energy is sapped by the divisions among us.

Who is behind division? Pope Francis’ answer is clear: “The devil plants evil where there is good, trying to divide people, families and nations.” Weakened by division, the People of God become fair game for devilish assaults. Satan wants to destroy the Church and humanity. We can’t ignore our divisions.

Pope Francis said: “Either you are with me, says the Lord, or you are against me. On this point, there are no nuances. There is a battle and a battle where salvation is at play, eternal salvation. We must always be on guard, on guard against deceit, against the seduction of evil.”
By means of prayer and works of charity, we can stay close to the one who won the victory over evil and division. Pope Francis exhorts us: “Let us ask the Lord for the grace to take these things seriously. He came to fight for our salvation. He won against the devil! Please, let us not do business with the devil!”

We meet Jesus in both prayer and in whatever we do for the least of our brothers and sisters (see Mt 25: 31-45). One concrete way that we Christians can come together, even though we are divided by doctrines and the way we worship, is by working together to protect human life.
In his encyclical The Gospel of Life Pope St. John Paul II wrote: “Service of the Gospel of life increasingly appears as a valuable and fruitful area for positive cooperation with our brothers and sisters of other Churches and ecclesial communities.” And in his encyclical about ecumenism, Ut Unum Sint, he wrote: “With increasing frequency Christians are working together to defend human dignity…Before the world, united action in society on the part of Christians has the clear value of a joint witness to the name of the Lord.”

We join Pope Francis this month in praying for Christian unity. We ask that this prayer may lead us to work with other Christians to meet the challenges facing humanity.

Reflection and Discussion

How are discouragement and gossip a matter of “doing business with the devil”?

How do they contribute to divisions?

Scripture

Luke 11: 14-23 “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.”
John 13: 34-35 “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

For Reflection:

Pope Francis’ Homily and Joint Statement on the occasion of his trip to Sweden: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/homilies/2016/documents/papa-francesco_20161031_omelia-svezia-lund.html

Resources for the Celebration of the 2017 Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity from the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/chrstuni/weeks-prayer-doc/rc_pc_chrstuni_doc_20160531_week-prayer-2017_en.html

Pope Francis’ Message for the 2017 World Day of Peace: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/messages/peace/documents/papa-francesco_20161208_messaggio-l-giornata-mondiale-pace-2017.html