Prayer 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.
Daniel 7: 13-14; Psalm 93; Revelation 1:5-8; John 18: 33-37
Does power mean ruling, managing, fixing, competing? Does power mean being with, staying with, listening, holding and listening again? Sometimes, especially in grief, people rage at God’s powerlessness. God’s is not always the king that Daniel portrays. God may not be clothed with strength, to quote the psalmist. We look to Jesus, “the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead” before we ever bow before him as “Alpha and Omega, the Almighty”. We “Behold the man” as Pilate questions him, shivering in his blood soaked robe. Jesus responds, “You say that I am a king”—the strong, the leader. Then adds, “For this was I born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.” He might have continued, “And when you kill me, God will show my power as Emmanuel,” the God who stays with, listens, holds.
How over the years have you wrestled with the paradox of God’s weakness and strength? When you call on a powerful God for rescue and you get a humble, gentle closeness from a very human Jesus, how do you feel? When others call on you, whom do they get? Someone who listens or someone who tries to fix problems? If it is hard for you just to stay faithful, to witness the pain of someone whom you can’t fix, pray for this gift of com-passion, suffering with, feeling with.
Jesus, our faithful witness, so many of us need leading, need direction, need meaning in our lives. Be our leader, our Prince of Peace, God’s justice-in-the-flesh.
Monday, November 23, 2015
Daniel 1:1-6, 8-20; Canticle from Daniel 3; Luke 21:1-4
The book of Daniel opens with the king of Babylon choosing the brightest and best of Israel’s young men to be his personal servants. Besides educating them in Chaldean culture (remember that Abraham came from Ur of the Chaldees?), the king wanted them to have a share of the royal feasts. Daniel pleaded that he and his companions should eat only vegetables and then be tested. Indeed, at the end of the ten day test, they “were fatter” than the others who had meat and wine! They willingly chose the simple life; the widow in Luke’s gospel willingly chose to be destitute, giving to the temple treasury “all she had to live on.” Hopefully, she had thought it through. What were the priests going to do with her little coins? Sometimes we may have to starve the system rather than ourselves.
For what, to whom are you willing to give all you have to live on (and I don’t mean just money)? Discuss these priorities with Jesus. Listen to his priorities. Will you act on his advice, the Spirit’s nudging? Ask for the gift of wisdom, to make wise decisions.
We pray not only for vegetarians who act in conscience for the good of the earth; we pray for those who have nothing to eat, or just a few grains each day.
Tuesday, November 24, 2015
Daniel 2: 3, 9-10, 27, 31-45; Canticle from Daniel 3; Luke 21: 5-11
The king of Babylon was disturbed by a dream, which Daniel could interpret, detailing the fall of one kingdom after another. The Canticle calls on all creatures to “Bless the Lord”. Then Jesus in Luke’s gospel warns about the destruction of the temple, the deception of false Messiahs, “earthquakes… famines and plagues.” He assures us we need not be afraid: “When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified.” We remember that apocalyptic is a form of literature written to give hope to people oppressed by evil. Since we are friends of Jesus, we must take his encouragement not to fear very seriously.
How do you feel about the end of the world as we know it? If you are terrified of other races and religions, talk with Jesus about your fears. He will not scold you. If you are terrified of natural disasters or terrorists, ask for the gift of trust. When friends, relatives and especially youngsters talk with you about the end of the world, how will you respond? Talk with Jesus and ask him.
Kingdoms fall, and you stand, Prince of Peace. Help us to be at peace, trusting that you will lead us through every kind of calamity. Help us to help others be at peace, and accepting of those who are different.
Wednesday, November 25, 2015
Daniel 5: 1-6, 13-17, 23-28; Canticle from Daniel 3; Luke 21: 12-19
The kings of Babylon fall. A new king takes the vessels stolen from the Temple to use at his banquet for his thousand lords, his wives and concubines. In response to the desecration, suddenly a finger appears and writes on the wall of the palace. Terrified, the king sends for Daniel, who interprets the writing. He testifies to “God in whose power is your very breath.” Jesus expands his warnings about the end time. Bad enough, these natural disasters and wars, but even families and friends will betray us. Relationships are ruined. We are not to prepare a defense. Jesus himself will give us “words and a wisdom” to confound our oppressors.
Breathe in deeply and know that your breath is enveloped in God’s power. You are breathing in the very breath of God, the Spirit. Breathe out deeply and know that you are breathing out peace into our world. Breathe out God’s peace and power on each friend and relative, praying that your relationships may hold steady through crisis.
How much we need your words, Jesus, to calm the fears and prejudices of our compatriots. How much we need your wisdom to pray and work for peace and unity.
Thursday, November 26, 2015 Thanksgiving Day in the United States
Sirach 50:22-24; Psalm 138; 1 Corinthians 1: 3-9; Luke 17:11-19
With apologies to Canadians and those from other countries who use these reflections, we will use the special readings today for Thanksgiving. Eucharisto in Greek means “I thank you”. Giving thanks, then, fits every eucharistic celebration. In fact, many prepare for Eucharist by gathering up all they are thankful for during the week, or remembering all the dying and rising they have done in union with Christ. The gospel today is the experience of Jesus’ disappointment that ten lepers are healed and only one gives thanks. Paul gives thanks to God for all the grace we have received. The antiphon for the psalm is “We thank you for your faithfulness and love.” Sirach is simple and short: “Bless the God of all…who fosters people’s growth from their mothers’ wombs...May God grant you joy of heart and may peace abide among you.”
For what will you give thanks today? Healing, grace, God’s faithfulness and unconditional love, growth, joy, peace not only within you but among you? Something else? Don’t just list, but savor these gifts. Alcuin of York lived long before Canada and the US celebrated Thanksgiving days, but he prayed, “”Lord Christ, we ask you to spread our tables with your mercy…”
Christ Jesus, thank you for loving to eat, for feasting with both your friends and those who hoped to trap you. Deepen our love for friends and family and open us to our perceived enemies.
Friday, November 27, 2015
Daniel 7: 2-14; Canticle from Daniel 3; Luke 21: 29-33
Daniel had a dream-vision of many beasts with many horns, rather scary, as apocalyptic literature can be, to frighten those who persecute us. Then his vision turns to the Ancient One who took dominion away from the beasts. Finally, one like a son of man (in the Canadian version: one like a human being) came on the clouds and to him was given dominion and a kin-dom for all ages. The Son of Man imagery in the New Testament comes from this vision. Luke’s Jesus says we will know when the kin-dom of heaven is near. “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”
We know that literally heaven and earth have not passed away—yet—but the Word lives forever. How does the Word live in your heart? In your community or family? Is Jesus the Word made flesh in your prayer life? Or does he appear as the cosmic Christ, risen in glory? Some recent Office Books read: “Glory to you, Source of all Being, Eternal Word…” –or would you substitute “Word made flesh?” Why or why not?
Jesus, Word made flesh, Son of Man, son of Mary, Lord and Christ, cosmic Christ, redeemer, savior of the world, pioneer, first born of all creation, we adore you!
Saturday, November 28, 2015
Daniel 7: 15-27; Canticle from Daniel 3; Luke 21: 34-36
Grim times. Daniel is so disturbed by his vision he asks “an attendant” for an interpretation. Daniel, the interpreter of dreams and visions, asks for help? Jesus warns us not to let our hearts be heavy with dissipation and worries (Lk 24 on the road to Emmaus: “Oh you dull of heart!”). “Be alert,” Jesus insists. So let us turn to Daniel’s prayer, the Benedicite, so named because the opening of each phrase is “bless”-- Bless the Lord. All creatures all week have been called on to bless the Lord. Today we conclude with all peoples blessing God. To bless is to hand over all that one is. God lavishes on us all that God is (Romans 8) and we are invited to bless or surrender all that we are to God. Mutual self-giving. That is another meaning of Eucharist.
What does “dissipation” mean to you? Does worry enhance or dissipate your prayer? Do worries make you more alert or less to God’s care for you? God lavishes good on us. Does God really want us to surrender our worries, irritations, faults? What will you put on the paten tonight or tomorrow?
Don’t let us fly apart, God of wholeness. Keep us one, inside our own hearts, within our families and communities. Help us stay alert to our neighbors in need.
Jeremiah 33: 14-16; Psalm 25; 1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:2; Luke 21: 25-28, 34-36
Advent! “Lift up your heads!” Contemplate the picture which opens these reflections. A young peasant girl, working the fields, head lifted up, listening. This “Song of the Lark” could be Mary’s listening for God, an annunciation in daily life.
Luke continues the end times scenario. Jesus warns that people will faint from fear, but we are to fling off worries, stay alert, and lift up our heads to greet the Son of Man coming on the clouds. Jeremiah too promises a coming one who will bring justice. It is believed that the first letter to the Thessalonians is Paul’s first letter that was saved, maybe close to his own conversion from fear, needing to be perfect in keeping the law. He writes a joyful and encouraging word. His prayer for his new community is still his prayer for us who hear this word, for the word does what it says, and Paul continues to pray. “May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you.”
What or who threatens you? When you cast off worries, where do they go? Will you be one who lifts up his/her head to greet Jesus coming again? He will come on the clouds, but he also comes in all those whom we love. Day after day, Jesus comes to us in each person we meet in order to love us and to call forth our love. Share with him your difficulties in loving. Pray for an abounding love.
Only you can lift our heads, Jesus, for we are ashamed that our love so often doesn’t translate into action for the “widows and orphans” of our day. Come, forgive us.
Monday, November 30, 2015 Andrew, apostle
Romans 10:9-18; Psalm 19; Matthew 4: 8-22
Matthew tells of Jesus’ calling Andrew and Peter from casting their nets. While the sons of Zebedee were mending their nets, Andrew and Peter were hard at work. There must be a school of fish in sight. They left their livelihood “immediately” (we won’t surmise about their families, but Jews did not believe in nor practice celibacy). A journey, an adventure. We are more discerning of Christ’s calls, perhaps a true call to leave everything to “fish” for people, or perhaps to offer our free time, talent and treasure to further his mission. Paul asks, how can anyone believe in Jesus if they have not heard of him?
How do you share your love for Jesus with others? What holds you back? To “believe” in Jesus is to entrust yourself to him. You have done that, whether you have left “nets” or not. So what makes it so hard to speak of him? Or is it easy for you? Discuss this with him. Ask for the gift, so prevalent in the early church, of “speaking boldly.”
Lift up our heads, we ask you again, Jesus. With so much scandal among our hierarchy it is hard for some of us to admit we are Roman Catholics. Give us courage.
Tuesday, December 1, 2015
Isaiah 11: 1-10; Psalm 72; Luke 10: 21-24
Because, with the exception of feasts, the readings for Advent are the same each year, this Advent we will focus on the entrance and/or the communion antiphon. “See, the Lord is coming, and with him all his saints. Then there will be endless day.” What very much characterizes Roman Catholics and most mainline Protestants is our belief that our ancestors, our loved ones live and continue to love us. We are all, the living and the dead, the Body of Christ.
While Zechariah was writing about the Lord God, the church applies this to Jesus, the cosmic Christ. How do you picture the coming of the Lord, Jesus Christ? Can you picture all those whom you know who have died and are alive with Christ? How do they look on you? Notice: Jesus comes with all his saints because we are all one Body.
Come, Holy Spirit, into all of our hearts: Jesus Christ is Lord. We adore you, Lord. We thank you for all your saints, and for including us among them.
Wednesday, December 2, 2015 Four women martyred in El Salvador, and so many more
Isaiah 25:6-10; Psalm 23; Matthew 15: 29-37
“The Lord is coming and will not delay,” promises Habakkuk; Paul adds: “Christ will bring every hidden thing to light and reveal God to every nation.” Advent insists that every nation is involved in receiving Christ’s coming. Muslim nations, Israel, Hindu nations, Buddhist nations, all are welcome.
What hidden thing in your life might Christ bring to light? What do you want? He will not judge you or make you ashamed. What if he brings a gift to light, or a special grace that you may have forgotten. How do you want Jesus to use your prayer to “reveal God to every nation”? Perhaps you would like to choose a small, poor, forgotten nation to pray for each day in Advent.
Good, abundant God, thank you for the abundance of light whom Jesus is, scattering the darkness, healing the world. He is our radiance and our hope.
Thursday, December 3, 2015 Francis Xavier, SJ
Isaiah 26: 1-6; Psalm 118; Matthew 7:21, 24-2
“This is a holy man who became God’s friend and glorious herald of God’s truth.” Do we become a friend of God, or has God befriended us from the first moment of our life? How do we accept the friendship already offered? Francis with great eagerness, was so zealous that Ignatius had so keep him grounded in his studies. When Francis would dream of traveling to Asia, Ignatius told him to give God his great desires and turn back to his books. Ignatius taught that God loves and uses our great desires.
What is your great desire? Maybe you have a number of great desires? Give them to God who can turn our desires for unity and peace, for love and truth into a building up of Christ’s body in various parts of the world.
With Francis, Therese and all missionaries with great desires, we beg you, Holy Spirit, to deepen and expand our desires. May all peoples hear the gospel of God’s love.
Friday, December 4, 2015
Isaiah 29: 17-24; Psalm 27; Matthew 9:27-31
“The Lord is coming from heaven in splendor to visit God’s people, and bring them peace and eternal life.” The wonder of this season is the Lord Jesus came not just to visit but to become one of God’s lowly, poor people, a carpenter without many prospects for splendor and glory. Not in splendor but in a manger, not from heaven but from a peasant woman’s womb, here is the peace and the very life of God, pitching his tent among us. Becoming human, like us in all things.
The Word was made flesh and continues to dwell not only among us but within us. Contemplate the living Lord, the cosmic Christ who penetrates every cell of your being with life and peace. Breathe in that peace, and breathe out all that troubles you.
Holy Spirit, we breathe in your peace, and we exhale all the greed, pride, ambition that is not for God’s glory. Fill our minds and hearts with God’s own love for the lowly.
Saturday, December 5, 2015
Isaiah 30: 19-26; Psalm 147; Matthew 9: 35-10:1, 5-8
“Come, Lord, from your cherubim thrones. Let us see your face and we shall be saved.” This antiphon is from Psalm 79 and refers to God as Lord. The reference is to the Ark of the Covenant with its carving of the cherubim rank of angels. Jews then and now never refer to God as YHWH, so sacred is that holy name. Instead they substitute Adonai, Lord. Moses had seen the burning bush, and the back of God; Israel had seen the cloud and the pillar of fire. Their longing, like ours, is never satisfied. They want to see God’s face, and then they will be truly free, saved.
Have you seen God’s face? Where, when, how? How has that experience set you more free? If you have never seen God’s face, BEG that this be the Advent when you can see God’s face and be freed from hatred, from fear.
We long to see your face. Help us to find your face in the faces of the distressed here and the violated overseas. Forgive us for making war. Show us your face.