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"Prayer is our continuing response to God's continuing call to mission."
— You are Sent, Constitution of the School Sisters of Notre Dame


Liturgical Reflections

Mary in the Garden imagePrayer brings our whole religious life into focus; it supports the rhythm of our lives emphasizing now the person, now the community, now the world we serve. Thus, prayer is our continuing response to God's continuing call to mission."

You Are Sent, Constitution of the School Sisters of Notre Dame

Sister Rea McDonnell, SSND, offers reflections on the Liturgical Readings for each day. If you wish to share your own reflections or have comments or questions, please feel free to email Sister Rea. For information about Sister Rea's publications, visit our online gift shop.                                     


Sunday, July 27, 2014 - Seventeenth Day in Ordinary Time

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July 27-August 2

 1 KINGS 3:5-12; PSALM 119; ROMANS 8: 28-30; MATTHEW 13: 44-52

King Solomon has such a fine reputation, built on this reading and the story of the two mothers fighting over a child. God was pleased that the young king asked for a wise and discerning heart, but perhaps even God does not know how we will handle our great gift of free will. The real Solomon was so unwise as to abuse power and enslave his own people to work the salt mines. He squandered, made a mockery of God’s gift. The parables Jesus tells of the kin-dom also show a seeming foolishness, selling all that one has to buy something greater. Solomon was lured by wealth and power. The figures in the parables take a reasonable risk with their money. Not to worry, Paul says. “For those who love God all things work together for the good.” Out of the foolishness of crucifixion God draws new life, making Jesus “firstborn among many brothers and sisters.”

Hear God asking you: “What should I give you?” What is your first response? And after you ponder that question, what do you really, really want? Tell God your desire. What is your experience of everything working together for your good? Reflect for a while, remembering the details, the feelings. Or does this happen often—when you trust? Remembering makes present. It is a way of thanking God for such detailed care which God offers you.

Give our leaders deep wisdom, discerning and understanding hearts. Teach them to do justice and to lead always to peace. Forgive us the ways we all enslave one another. 

Monday, July 28, 2014

 JEREMIAH 13:1-11; CANTICLE from Deuteronomy 32; matthew 13: 31-35

God instructs Jeremiah to buy a new loin cloth, to wear it a while and then to hide it in “the cleft of the rock” near the Euphrates river, quite a distance from Israel. After a while Jeremiah is to retrieve that loin cloth which is thoroughly ruined. A parable. God wanted “the whole house and the whole house of Judah” to cling to God, as the loin cloth “clings to one’s loins.” The psalm compares God to a woman who gives birth: “You forgot the God who gave you birth.” Jesus’ parables about the kin-dom of God conclude our readings. After we image God with underwear and God as giving birth, it is comforting to return to parables about mustard seeds and leaven.

Prophets not only used words to teach, but “prophetic actions,” like the one described for Jeremiah. The original hearers may have been more shocked by God’s giving birth than God’s using a loin cloth as an example of intimacy with the people. These Jews were comfortable with their bodies, even nudity, but probably not with a womanly God, a God who gives birth. Jesus uses simple examples, indicating that he has probably paid attention to the growth of a mustard shrub/tree and watched a woman (his mother?) making bread. How deep his hope for the kin-dom to grow! For what do you hope? What calls your attention to God’s action in the ordinary?

Make us comfortable with and accepting of our bodies, Jesus, and challenge us to a deeper hope for the peace and unity of all people, all creation, gathered in you, lifted up for our salvation.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014 - Martha, Friend, Disciple

 JEREMIAH 14:17-22; psalm 79; luke 10: 38-42

Before there was a renewal of Scripture, theologians taught that God could not suffer. How could anyone read God’s response to our suffering, God’s tears “night and day” for a people struck down, and not feel with our pain-filled God? Then Jeremiah responds to God’s grief with questions about God’s pain. “We look for peace…for a time of healing, but there is terror instead.” He concludes: “We set our hope on you…” Martha set her hope on Jesus in John’s story of Lazarus, sick and dying. Here, in Luke’s introducing us to these two sisters, all Martha wants is some help in the kitchen! Jesus calls her “worried and distracted.” What might he call us?

And yet he loves us, and he loves Martha with all his heart. He wants to be with her. She wants to serve him. Which one when? In order to look for peace and a time of healing, it seems we need to sit quietly at the feet of Jesus, to wipe away his tears for our world today, to absorb his hope. “Hope has two daughters,” writes Augustine, “Anger and courage.” Hope moves us to anger over sin, the pain of the earth and every one of its creatures. Courage motivates us to action. To what service, to what action might your hope be leading you? Ask the Spirit. Listen.

Martha, Martha, worried and distracted. Jesus, Jesus, unworried but sad, senses alert to our pain, yet focused. Help us, we beg you, to pay attention to suffering and to offer your own hope to those to whom we attend.  

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

 JEREMIAH 15:10, 16-21; PSALM 59; matthew 13: 44-46

Jeremiah berates God for a mission turned sour, an incurable wound, and much worse: a betrayal. “You are to me like a deceitful brook, like waters that fail.” In response, God promises deliverance. The psalmist continues this theme of needing God’s strength and steadfast love, needing God to be a fortress and a refuge. “I will watch for you,” he cries. Patient watching, listening and searching are other functions of hope. Jesus tells of the hope of two men who search. One found a treasure in a field, hid it again and went off “in his joy” to sell all he had to buy that field. The second man also sells everything in order to buy a most valuable pearl.

While not explicit, Jesus’ implicit question to you is “What would you be willing to sell, joyfully, in order to buy…?” What do you really, really want? Martha, come in from your kitchen and sit quietly with Jesus to hear what is most valuable. Sit. Be quiet. Watch for him and watch with him, hopefully. Listen.

“Take, Lord, receive all I have and possess. You have given all to me. To you I return it. Give me only your love and your grace. That’s enough for me.” Free us from the illusion that we possess anything.

Thursday, July 31, 2014 - Ignatius of Loyola

 JEREMIAH 18: 1-6; PSALM 146; MATTHEW 13: 47-52

Another prophetic action. The Lord instructs Jeremiah to go to the pottter’s house and to watch him work. The prophet noticed how if the clay was spoiled, the potter “reworked it into another vessel.” God can rework us, and it is that continuing conversion that Ignatius experiences. By paying attention to his feelings and desires, Ignatius is like the fishermen of the gospel parable. After dragging in the net full of all kinds of creatures, they separate what is useful from the junk. This is the gift of discernment. Fishermen know at once what is edible and what not, and Ignatius promises that after enough practice of “tasting” God and God’s grace, we too will grow in discernment.

How many conversions have you experienced? “We are being transfigured into the likeness of Christ, from glory to glory” (2 Cor 3: 17). Remember and give thanks. Sifting and sorting is a skill and God’s gift. Remember the times even recently when you had to – for example, decide (by sniffing and seeing) what in the back of the refrigerator needs to be tossed; which brand of tire would give you the safest ride for the money; which college course would better prepare you for your life’s work, etc. Does God have a “will” for the food, the tire, the college course? Yes, God wants your health, your safety, your learning. Ask for the gift of discernment and faithfulness (with joy—remember the man who buys the field) to what God wants for you and us.

Transform us, our church and our world, we beg you, Jesus. Thank you for the Spirit who influences us toward God’s desires.

Friday, August 1, 2014

 JEREMIAH 26: 1-9; PSALM 69; MATTHEW 13: 54-58

Our passage from Jeremiah is so reminiscent of Jesus’ cleansing the Temple that one wonders whether as a boy and young man, Jesus frequetly pondered these words and this fate of Jeremiah. Jeremiah speaks prophetic words, challenging priests and people; Jesus does a prophetic action. They lay hold of Jeremiah, and the psalm includes “Zeal for your house has consumed me.” In the gospel periocope Jesus astounds the people of Nazareth, who scorn him. As the psalm asserts, “I have become a stranger to my kindred, an alien to my mother’s children.”

Jesus is our leader in pondering Scripture. Ask him how he absorbed the Word of God and how you might better taste, digest, and be transformed by this Word. We know that he often prayed on that dark mountaintop, without a scroll. What words of Scripture come spontaneously to you in times of joy, in times of distress or fear? Remember that many of our post-Vatican II hymns are scriptural, and can rise in our consciousness to strengthen us. You can remember, make a list etc, but Jesus would probably prefer if you would simply tell him about those songs. Sing them together. (Singing is twice praying!)

We praise you, our God, for all your works are wonderful! We are not afraid because you go before us when we speak your word to foreigners or family. Thank you for this consolation!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

 JEREMIAH 26: 11-16, 24; PSALM 69; MATTHEW 14: 1-12

Jeremiah is taken before the officials. The priests and prophets (the false ones) ask for the death penalty. Jeremiah repeats the messag God has sent him with and concludes by saying, “Do with me what seems good and right to you.” Such freedom and serenity! Jeremiah concludes by asserting that they will be spilling innocent blood. The officials and the people believe Jeremiah and he is not killed. “I am lowly and in pain,” cries the psalmist. Hopefully, John the Baptizer knew Psalm 69 when he was capriciously arrested and then beheaded. He spoke the truth to power. John told Herod he was committing adultery, but Herod was afraid of the people and took shelter behind a girl to get rid of John.

When you are in trouble from other people, what happens to your serenity? You may begin by raging and crying (and rightly so; we have shorthand in scripture), and then what happens next? The discernment that you asked for a few days ago will help you sort out your words and actions, and sift out what is true, what is false. That will help you be free, no matter what is decided. Jeremiah was certain of his truth, as was John. One was released and one was murdered. The outcome is not promised. God’s will is our shalom, which means peace and serenity but also means integrity. Pray for the gift of integrity, for yourself and for those with whom you must deal. Pray for integrity for world leaders, and for our bishops too.

Jerusalem, still in trouble, makes trouble for the lowly Palestinians. Give them hope and let justice roll like a river. Bless all Israelis who long for peace, and justice for the Palestinians.

Sunday, August 3, 2014 - Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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August 3 - 9

 Isaiah 55: 1-3; PSALM 145; romans 8: 35, 37-39; matthew 14: 13-21

While most Christians believe (and it is in Scripture) that Jesus came to save us from our sins, Franciscan theology offers us another way to look at the meaning of the incarnation. God is so abundantly generous, so full of life, that God wants to share that abundant life with creatures. We hear that in God’s invitation to come to the waters, to milk, wine and bread—all freely given. As the psalmist teaches: “You open your hand” and all good flows from God’s generosity. Nothing can thwart God’s gift of Christ to us; “nothing can separate us from the love of God”—not even “mortal” sin. If we have not understood yet, Jesus puts flesh on God’s desire to give us all. He takes two fish and five loaves and creates an abundance for 5,000 men (men are so attracted to him!), not counting women and children.

How, where, when do you experience God’s abundant life poured out? Savor each memory, roll it around your tongue like fresh water, roll it around your heart until gratitude begins to flow. Sit quietly with that array of memories and let the generosity of God fill you again.

We come to you for every good thing, God of abundance, but so many creatures are desperate for fresh water. Save us from our greed and grasping, our misuse of all your gifts, and especially water. 

Monday, August 4, 2014

 jeremiah 28: 1-17; PSALM 119; MATTHEW 14: 22-36

“Lord, save me,” cries Peter who tested Jesus, “If it is you, command me to walk on water.” Jeremiah tests the prophet Hananiah who told the people that Babylon would be defeated. How do we test our own religious experience? How do we know if a prophet, even ourselves, speaks the Word of God? Jeremiah says when peace comes, we know it is a true word. When we cry out to Jesus for saving, placing our religious experience before him, we ask him to be a two edged sword, sorting our motivations. If love grows, our hearts expand and deepen, then we can be fairly sure the experience is of God.

Hear Jesus say directly to you as he did to Peter, “Come.” Let that word roll around your ears, your mind, your heart. Where does he want you to come? Ask him and wait in silence to see what bubbles up from deep within you. Feel the bubbles! Respond.

May your word of truth be always in our hearts and on our lips. Save us, free us to be honest in word, in action. Keep us always authentic in our dealings. Thank you!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

 JEREMIAH 30: 1-2, 12-15, 18-22; PSALM 102; MATTHEW 15: 1-2, 10-14

Although this Thursday we will read of the new covenant God promises through Jeremiah, it is foreshadowed here. Merrymaking, fruitfulness, thanksgiving will be our response to God’s favor. Jesus quickly deflates the Pharisees’ condemnation of his friends for not observing ritual washings. Instead Jesus looks to the heart, and how the heart speaks, to discern true purity.

How do you respond to God’s favor in your life? And how is your heart today? What rises to your lips? Joy, anger, fear, grief, love? Show your heart to Jesus and ask for healing of your heart and the heart of the world.

By your cross and resurrection, you have set us free. You are the savior of the world, and how much we need your saving grace, your favor. Help us! Thank you.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014 - Transfiguration

 daniel 7: 9-10, 13-14; PSALM 97; MATTHEW 17: 1-9

Daniel offers a vision of God as the Ancient One (no wonder so many image God as a bearded grandfather). “One like a human being” (traditionally translated Son of Man) is presented to him, and the Ancient One presents him with power and dominion. The gospel narrates Jesus’ transformation on Mount Tabor, flanked by Elijah and Moses. “We behold the glory of God, shining on the face of Jesus,” as the song puts it. Yet this glory leads Jesus to shed his power and dominion on his last night on earth to kneel before his friends and wash their feet.

How does the glory of God shine on your face? How does the power of God work through your weakness? Look at Jesus, shining with the glory of God, looking at you, tenderly and humbly, ready to wash your feet. And you respond….

Thank you for your Son, the beloved. May we always listen to him. May we come to share the divinity of him who emptied himself to share our humanity.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

 jeremiah 31-34; PSALM 51; MATTHEW 16: 13-23

Through Jeremiah God promises a new covenant, a new way of knowing God, with an interior and heart-felt law binding them in love. The psalm begs for this new heart and faithful spirit. After Peter confesses that Jesus is the Messiah, Jesus throws over the old covenant’s hope for a kingly Messiah to promise that his Messiahship will be marked by suffering. It will be a new covenant in his blood, our liturgy announces day after day.

How do you know God? How do you know Jesus? How do you know the Spirit? “Create in me a new heart, and put a good and faithful spirit within me….Give me back the joy of your salvation.” Pray for all those who have no knowledge of God, no heart-felt experience of God, and no joy.

Show us how we can find you in the weakest and most forlorn of those who people our TV screens during the news. Let all nations know you and rejoice in your love.

Friday, August 8, 2014

 nahum 115, 2:2, 3: 1-3, 6-7; deuteronomy 32; MATTHEW 16: 24-28

Jesus moves from announcing his suffering and death yesterday to telling us today in our continuous reading that we will be in the same straits, taking up our own cross. Like him (and we know how his story ends), if we lose our life we will truly find it. Nahum tells of God’s avenging Israel’s enemies, while “on the mountain tops are the feet of those who bring good news.”

What is the cross in your life that you have been bearing? Show it to Jesus and ask him to share it. What is the good news in your life that you want to shout from the mountain tops? Share that with him too. Today, look for the dying/rising pattern of Christian life.

If we have died with you, Lord, we shall live with you, Lord. Open our eyes to see this mystery in our daily lives, to accept the hard and the joyous with trust in you.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Habakkuk 1: 12-2: 4; psalm 9; MATTHEW 17: 14-20

The prophet hears God promise a vision. Perhaps God does not have a will, definitely not a blueprint,and perhaps not even a preference that we have to search out. God has a vision. “The dream I have today, my Lord, is only a shadow of your dream for me.” Only a shadow of God’s dream for us. God has a vision for the world, and we are invited to share it. Jesus shows us that God’s vision is to cast out evil from people, from the earth. He heals a child who throws himself into the fire and into the water. May he heal the children who are hurling themselves across the border into the Unites States. God’s vision is of peace, peace within and peace in the world.

What is God’s dream for you? Ask God. Be still, wait, listen. What is God’s passionate desire for your life? Wait, listen. What is God’s vision for our planet, its people, the water, air, soil? Join that vision in your imagination, “a peaceable kin-dom,” and contemplate it.

Deepen our faith, Jesus, so that we too can cast out evil, so that we can be bearers of God’s vision, that we can be instruments of peace and unity. Thank you.

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