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.
Numbers 21: 4-9; Psalm 78; Philippians 2: 6-11; John 3: 13-17
The first reading of God’s sending poisonous serpents because of the people’s complaints, and the psalm which boldly states: “When God killed them, the people sought for God” reinforces images of a God which Jesus lay down his life to correct. Yes, God so loved the world that God lifted up and exalted the one who emptied himself in service and love. Lifting up is the theme today. The word in Greek means both exalt and lift up. Because of Jesus’ obedience, God lifted him up as a beacon, an attractive sign. Jesus didn’t obey God’s will by being murdered. God’s will is not the cross and injustice. Jesus obeyed God’s mission for him to teach good news, heal, welcome the outcast, and that got Jesus murdered. God’s will is shalom, which also means integrity. Jesus obeyed God’s will and was faithful to his mission, a man of integrity.
When might you succumb to images of a God who kills? What changed, and hopefully is still changing, your image of God? Some New Testament writers might think God “needed” Jesus to die a bloody death to make up for sin, but John’s gospel corrects that. “Jesus died to gather into one new family all the scattered children of God” (John 11:52). Jesus, lifted up, draws all people to himself. How do you empty yourself day by day? Pray for the gift of such humility that you can be emptied more and more of ego, striving for your own glory.
By your cross and resurrection, you have set us free. You are the savior of the world! Send your Spirit that we may so love the world that we carry on God’s mission.
Monday, September 15, 2014 - Feast of the Sorrowful Mother
Hebrews 5: 7-9; Psalm 31; John 19: 25-27
We continue the theme of cross and obedience, with a focus on Mary. The prayer and the gospel note that “Mary stood” by Jesus. Just that. The reading from Hebrews is this author’s account of Jesus’ agony in the garden. “With loud cries” in Greek means the screams of a wild animal that is trapped. Jesus is no stoic. He expressed his terror, a panic attack. He begged God to “save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.” How was he heard and “saved?” Remember that in Hebrew to save is to be set free, not to be rescued. Neither he nor his mother were rescued from suffering, but rather set free from death in resurrection and assumption. The psalm reinforces their trust in God’s deliverance.
When have you experienced terror, panic, helplessness? When have you stood, helpless when one you loved was suffering? No words can help. Ask Mary to teach you how to listen to those in pain without offering advice, cheer, or that terrible lie, “It must be God’s will.” Is there someone in your life today who is suffering? Can you, how will you respond?
Thank you, Jesus, for sharing the compassionate heart of Mary with us. Help us to stand with hope when we are helpless. We revere our mother’s faithful, courageous, and compassionate stance.
Tuesday, September 16, 2014
1 Corinthians 12: 12-14, 27-31; Psalm 100; Luke 7: 11-17
Paul reminds us that we are all one Body, the Body of Christ, equipped with a variety of gifts for ministering in and to that Body. Jesus in today’s gospel does an unusual thing. Most often before offering a healing he will question the faith of the one to be helped. He asks nothing of this widowed mother who has lost her only son. “He had compassion for her”, meaning he was suffering-with her. A speculation: could he himself have been the only son of a widowed mother, and so knew in his gut how much Mary was grieving? The people acclaim him as a great prophet, like Elijah who raised the son of a widow from the dead.
And you, what gift do you bring to the community? Are you an apostle, sent with good news? A prophet, so close to God’s mind and heart that you speak in God’s name? A teacher, faithfully handing on God’s word through the long haul? A wielder of power, a healer, a servant-leader? Or something Paul doesn’t even mention? Ask the Spirit to teach you what you have to offer. Let your gifts bubble up, and after this prayer time, then write them down so you don’t forget how gifted you are.
Thank you, Jesus, for your willingness to suffer with all the people of this world. Help us to join you, filling up what is lacking in your passion (Col 1:24).
Wednesday, September 17, 2014
1 Corinthians 12: 31-13-13; Psalm 33; Luke 7: 31-35
Paul sings about love today, the greatest and most lasting of all God’s gifts. In the gospel, Jesus, the one who loves without measure, is labeled today as demon-possessed, glutton, drunkard, friend of tax collectors and sinners. Jesus knows from experience what it is like to turn the other cheek! And he may well be proud to be known as friend to the outcasts of Jewish society.
As each aspect of love is listed for the Corinthians here, substitute your own name for “love” and see how it rings, whether this is you (and thank God for the gift), or whether you need God’s grace to love more completely. For example, “Love is patient” becomes “Rea is patient”; I am not, so I can ask for this gift. Insert your name in the blanks below:
_________is patient, is kind, is not envious, is not boastful, is not arrogant, is not rude. _________does not insist on her/his own way, is not irritable, is not resentful, does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. ___________bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Then pray, in gratitude, and in hope.
Give us the greatest gift, gracious God. Give us your Spirit who is your love poured into our hearts. Open our hearts to all your people, especially those who label us or whom we label.
Thursday, September 18, 2014
1 Corinthians 15:1-11; Psalm 118; Luke 7: 36-50
How lovely in the fall of the year to be reminded of Easter, both by Paul and the psalm. Jesus is a guest at the banquet of a Pharisee when a woman with a reputation bursts onto the scene. With so many tears that she can wash the feet of a grown man, she sobs out her sadness and loneliness. This is not Mary of Magdala, but an unknown woman who brings the wrath of the Pharisee on Jesus. Jesus defends her, and reminds us, as does our Pope, that we are all always sinful. She is forgiven because of her great love, “but the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.”
Do you have great love or little love? How delighted are you to be classed as a sinner, a loved sinner? Discuss this with Jesus and see how he is with you.
Thank you, Jesus, for breaking the Jewish taboos about women, their inherent dignity, their role in family and in community. We owe so much to you. Thank you!
Friday, September 19, 2014
1 Corinthians 15:12-20; Psalm 17; Luke 8:1-3
Paul continues his resurrection message of hope, concluding today: “In fact, Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died.” The psalm calls attention to the beautiful face of God. Luke simply introduces the women whom Jesus invited to travel with him, who provided for him and the twelve. Probably he found the beautiful face of God in them and in their generosity.
“In fact,” Paul writes. No fact there, only faith. If we can prove a fact, we no longer need faith. What is your experience (not ideas about) that Jesus is very much alive and active in the world today, and in your own life and loves? If you need help, ask the Spirit to bubble up those experiences from your memory. Be still. Listen.
Thank you, Jesus, for choosing women and men for your friends. Thank you for choosing us. Give us or deepen in us the experience that you are alive and active in our world.
Saturday, September 20, 2014
1 Corinthians 15: 35-37, 42-50; Psalm 56; Luke 8: 4-15
Paul scolds those who ask what kind of body the dead have. He responds: “What you sow does not come to life unless it dies.” He offers an image of the seed which is hard and dark and small. It is buried, “dies”, and bursts open. What we see is deeply related to that small, hard seed, but looks so different. It is green and tall, flexible and nourishing. Our physical body is sown in weakness, he teaches, but it is raised as a spiritual body, raised in power. Jesus too speaks of seeds sown and flourishing in the good soil. That good soil are those who, “when they hear the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patient endurance.”
The greatest of the gifts is love, but Jesus offers us other gifts to pray for. Holding fast connotes faithfulness. Honesty, authenticity mark a person who loves. A good heart is listed as a fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5: 22) as are fidelity, patience and long-suffering. Fruits are not virtues. We cannot produce joy, peace, kindness, gentleness, goodness, patience and love. Ask for these fruits for yourself, for those whom you love, and for those whom you do not like.
We offer you our weakness, creator God, and the sinful weakness of our world and church. Only you can transform us in power, only you can make our soil fruitful.
Isaiah 55: 6-9; Psalm 145; Philippians 1: 20-24, 27; Matthew 20: 1-16
Paul offers a familiar dilemma: is it better to live and serve, or is it better to die and be totally with Christ? Of course, that it is not our choice. Perhaps it was not our choice to “seek the Lord where God may be found” either, but there was a hunger deep within that made us seekers of God. What we found is God’s mercy, Isaiah assures us, and the psalmist adds that we found a faithful, gracious mercy and kindness in God. So was it our choice to begin work in God’s vineyard at the break of day? If so, we knew God’s promises and we were willing to serve. At nine, noon, three in the afternoon and then finally at five, more come to work in God’s vineyard. The five o’clock workers receive the same pay as those who have spent the day, and there is grumbling. “Are you envious because the master is generous?” asks the owner. God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, God’s ways not our ways. God is infinitely generous!
What energizes your work for God? Rewards and payment? Good feelings and self-satisfaction? Ask Jesus to purify your motives for your ministry, whatever way you serve the people of God. When have you experienced that the Master is generous? Try to remember the event in detail and feel what happens in your body as you relax into God’s merciful generosity.
We seek you, gracious God, and we know you want to be found. Thank you for sharing your life, love and generosity with us. Help us to do all for your glory, your joy.
Monday, September 22, 2014
Proverbs 3:27-34; Psalm 15; Luke 8: 16-18
This week we dip into the wisdom literature for some common sense sayings. Jesus’ wisdom is much more exciting, exhorting us to “pay attention to how you listen.” We are light shining from the lamp stand so that all may see our good works and glorify God.
How do you listen? Ask the Spirit to call to mind all that you listened to yesterday (or if doing this in the evening, today). What called for your full attention? What was noise? What gift do you want when you are listening to a person? Ask for it.
May our small works of justice, for peace, glorify you, gracious God. Open our hearts to listen. Thank you for always listening to us.
Tuesday, September 23, 2014
Proverbs 21: 1-6, 10-13; Psalm 119; Luke 8: 19-21
“If you close your ear to the cry of the poor, you will cry out and not be heard.” And another proverb: “Justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.” Then Jesus offers us this piece of good news: “Those who hear the word of God and do it are my mother and my brothers.”
How was your listening yesterday or today? When did you hear anyone who is poor crying out? Some years ago The Last Lecture by a professor with a terminal illness was on the best seller list for months. What sayings would you include if you were to write your own “last lecture”? Your own proverbs? To whom would you address them?
We pray with the whole church: “Increase your gifts within us and give us peace in our days.” Make us your instruments of justice and peace. Thank you.
Wednesday, September 24, 2014
Proverbs 30: 5-9; Psalm 119; Luke 9:1-6
The proverb today, a prayer really, that is important to Ignatius of Loyola is one of “holy indifference.” “Give me neither poverty nor riches.” The only riches the psalmist wants are God’s words, “better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.” Jesus wants us to live simply as we go on our missionary way (and we are all missionary thanks to our baptism, sharing in God’s mission!). “Take nothing for your journey.” Count on the hospitality of others and if you are not welcome, leave, shake the dust from your feet.
What do you consider the riches of your life, past and present? What do you need for the future? When have you stayed too long when you should have moved on? Pray for the gift of discernment, to know what God wants, where the Spirit is leading.
The communion antiphon: “We turn to you for shelter, you who have given us freedom. We rely on you. You are always there to help us.” Thank you!
Thursday, September 25, 2014
Ecclesiastes 1:2-11; Psalm 90; Luke 9: 7-9
“Vanity of vanities!” This passage is even more depressing than even Jeremiah usually is! So Psalm 90, which begins, “O God, you have always been our home,” is a comfort. Yes, we are to count our days, but that counting can lead to sadness or to wisdom. “Satisfy us in the morning with your faithful love, so that we may rejoice all our days.” The gospel is a brief account of Herod’s questions about Jesus. “And Herod tried to see Jesus.”
The end of today’s gospel can be the beginning of your desire to contemplate Jesus, to look deeply into his eyes, to let him satisfy your heart with his faithful love. According to Teresa of Avila, contemplation means looking at Jesus looking at you, humbly and tenderly. Spend some time doing just that. Then try to see Jesus in all the events of your day.
Open our eyes, Jesus, to see you not only in the good and beautiful, but especially in the ones we judge wicked, the ones who need you most, the poor, ourselves. Thank you!
Friday, September 26, 2014 - Feast of the North American Martyrs in Canada
Revelation 7: 9-17; Psalm 124; 2 Corinthians 4:7-15; Luke 9: 23-26
These daily reflections span, as did the Jesuit martyrs, both Canada and the United States. Today these men are celebrated in Canada, and in October, in the USA. How wonderful that these six priests were accompanied in preaching and in death by two lay associates. The Book of Revelation is so appropriate here because it was written to encourage early Christians being persecuted in the Roman empire. The psalm praises God’s help in breaking the snare. Second Corinthians is the familiar “earthen vessels” passage, and Luke’s Jesus speaks of taking up the cross, willing to lose one’s life for his sake. “While we live we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh.”
Pray, as these men did, for those who persecute you, or even annoy you. How might the life of Jesus be made visible in your life today? Ask the Spirit to show you; then be quiet and listen.
We pray for all the First People, native Americans wherever they find themselves today. Thank you for their spirituality and all they have shared with us, their persecutors.
Saturday, September 27, 2014
Ecclesiastes 11:9-12:8; Psalm 90; Luke 9: 43-45
More gloom and misery from the author who concludes with the refrain, “Vanity of vanities.” Emptiness, literally, emptiness because we are all going to die. Psalm 90, too, is a repeat from Thursday. Who shall save us from this body of death? Paul once asked. Only Christ Jesus, he answers himself. But in today’s gospel Jesus is foretelling his death and the disciples were afraid to ask him what he meant. So we turn to the Alleluia verse (2 Tim 1) for the only comfort: “Our saviour Jesus Christ has done away with death and brought us life through the gospel.” Yes! Alleluia!
The call is clear. To ponder your own dying, the psalmist says, is to gain wisdom. What would you like to have said about you in your obituary? What do you want your last words to be? Say them often during each day. Any regrets, were you to die today? Ask the Spirit to show you, and to reconcile you, and to comfort you.
Let those who are dying all around the world, especially those in war zones, oppressed, starving or alone, experience your faithful love, O God who saves us from death.