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.
Acts 4:7-12; Psalm 118; 1 John 3:1-2; John 10: 11-18
Often this is called Good Shepherd Sunday. For Jesus, good shepherding means knowing each of us. “Knowing” in the Jewish religious culture means union. “This is eternal life: to know you and the one whom you sent,” prays Jesus at his last supper (Jn 17:3). Many people find the image of our being “sheep” most distasteful. So John’s first letter assures us that our true dignity is in being children of God. “We are God’s children now, and what we shall be has not yet been revealed.” Here is a hint of what we shall be, from the Offertory of every Mass: “May we come to share the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share our humanity.” We are in the process of becoming divine.
How can you let Jesus share in your unique way of being human? How can you be more deeply united with him today, freely inviting him know the depth of you? How much do you want to know him in depth?
Jesus, open our ears to recognize your voice and to trust your leadership more completely. We pray that there may soon be one flock and you, the one Shepherd.
Monday, April 27, 2015
Acts 11: 1-18; Psalm 42; John 10:1-10
Rich readings. The gospel might be summed up in Jesus’ promise that he has come that we might have life in abundance, not a drop, not a trickle but a flood of life! The psalm cries out in thirst for the living God. The story in Acts is very important in Luke’s theology which is so inclusive. Peter is accused by Judaizing Christians of eating with the uncircumcised Cornelius and his household. Peter “explained it to them step by step.” He had had a vision of unclean animals and had heard God’s command to eat them. “Never!” insisted Peter, the perfect! Peter needed the vision and the voice three times, with the finale: “What God has made clean, you dare not call unclean.” Just then Gentiles called for Peter to come to the house of Cornelius. Even before Peter can begin to preach, the Holy Spirit fell on the whole household. Peter dared to share his religious experience not only with his friends but with those who are suspicious, who want converts first to become Jews. Rites of ritual purity are done away with, God has made all clean, and the Spirit is supremely free.
With whom do you dare share your religious experience? How is it received? How do you receive another’s story of what happens when they pray? What is our church community calling unclean? Ask God how God feels/thinks about this exclusion. Listen. Pray for openness to the Spirit in our church, and for your own freedom to move with the Spirit.
Come, Holy Spirit, with your power and creativity. Help us to reverence every bit of creation and all peoples, no matter how different they may seem. Fill us with the abundance of Christ’s life!
Tuesday, April 28, 2015
Acts 11:19-26, Psalm 87, John 10:22-30
Jesus assures us today that no one can snatch us from his hand. The Good Shepherd clings to us. Faith in Hebrew means that we cling to God. How reassuring to know that Jesus holds us fast. That could free us from all worry. We are held! Even in times of persecution, as described by Acts, life will arise. Because the followers of Jesus were persecuted in Judea, they scattered around the Mediterranean with the good news. Antioch becomes a center, and Barnabas calls Paul to work with him, teaching the new members, even Greeks/ Gentiles.
Ask the Spirit to remind you of a time (just one for now) when you were persecuted, ignored, laughed at, or hurt in any way. Remember the incident or relationship in as great detail as you can. Where was God in that experience? Ask the Spirit to show you the new life that came from that very pain. (Not too recent a hurt, since we need time to heal). Respond.
Thank you, Jesus, for holding us close to you, letting no thing, no one snatch us away. Thank you that out of our many daily dyings, your new life arises in us.
Wednesday, April 29, 2015
Acts 12: 24-13:5; Psalm 67; John 12: 44-50
In Acts, a small community, praying and fasting together, together hear the Holy Spirit instruct them to set aside Barnabas and Saul for the Spirit’s work. It is not unusual to hear the Spirit speak in our prayer, but it is important too to have the message confirmed in community. Jesus points out the commandment of God, which is to pay attention to the word of Jesus.
What does it mean that Jesus and his word is the commandment of God? Not ten commandments, and certainly not the 613 commands of the Jews, just the simple word of Jesus. Which word gives you life? Let some of his words bubble up, let the Spirit speak in your heart.
Help us to absorb your word, Jesus. Holy Spirit, keep the word, the light, the life of Jesus fresh within us and among us. Help us to hand it on, with joy!
Thursday, April 30, 2015
Acts 13: 13-25, Psalm 89, John 13: 16-20
In Acts we have moved from a focus on Peter to Paul’s message. The gospel today begins a continuous reading of the Last Supper discourse. Yesterday we concentrated on Paul and companions being sent. Today Jesus explains how we are to be received. “Whoever receives the one I send, receives me, and whoever receives me, receives the One who sent me.”
Ask the Spirit to lead you through the memories of those to whom you were sent, to see how you were received. How was it for you? Even if those whom you encountered were not aware that in receiving you they were receiving Jesus and the One who sent him, ask for the grace for you to be more aware. Pray for all those whom you met this week.
Jesus, sacrament of God, thank you for transforming us to be sacraments of you. Help us be more aware of the Spirit’s guiding us to act, speak, and be you.
Friday, May 1, 2015
In the US: the following readings; in Canada: feast of Joseph the Worker (below)
Acts 13:26-33; Psalm 2; John 14: 1-6
“God raised him from the dead!” Paul proclaims. Hopefully we never tire of hearing of the events saving us, setting us free. How are we to be set free? Jesus gives the way, the truth and the life in himself. “You have faith in God,” he tells, not only those at his last supper, but each one of us.
What saving events help you be more free? How have you discovered that Jesus is the way for you, the truth for you, the life that floods your whole being? What more do you want? (Feel free to be greedy for the gifts of God!) Hear Jesus say directly to you: “You have faith in God.” Respond to him.
You have gone to prepare a place for us, and yet you are always with us, dear Emmanuel, deep in our hearts, deep in our communities, deep in our world. Light us up from inside that all may see your life lived through us.
We miss the opportunity to celebrate liturgically one of the most important people in the life of Jesus. This is Labor Day in many countries. In 1955 Pope Pius XII inaugurated the feast as an antidote to the Communist celebration. It is also the day that George W. Bush declared, long ago, “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq. Begun on March 19, also a feast of Joseph, the invasion of Iraq supposedly ended just six or so weeks later. That invasion and its continuous aftermath could provide us with hours of prayer. As could our imaginations which take us around the world where people long for honest and meaningful work. Pray for workers, for fathers. Honor Joseph, the worker.
Joseph, holy and just, thank your accepting Mary as your wife, for rearing Jesus as your own, for suffering through the journey to Bethlehem, for obeying the message to go into Egypt. Thank you for modeling justice on the move, a refugee, hoping to find work in a strange land. Thank you, time after time, for listening to your dreams and trusting God’s voice through them. Thank you for loving Mary so well, for teaching Jesus about God, for teaching him your trade, for sharing your values with him: values about respecting women, welcoming outcasts, going beyond the Law (which would have had Mary executed for adultery) to offer mercy. Thank you, workman and protector of our church-community. Share your values with us, we pray in Jesus’ name.
Saturday, May 2, 2015
Acts 13: 44-52; Psalm 98; John 14: 7-14
Here is a major turning point for the young community. When Paul’s and Barnabas’ teaching is rejected, they turn to the Gentiles who are delighted to hear the good news. As the violence from the Jewish leaders grows more vicious, the apostles shake the dust from their feet and move on, “filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.” God’s will is never the “violent abuse” that they suffered. In the gospel Jesus reminds Philip just to look at him in order to see the Father. Jesus never sanctioned violent abuse but asked us to pray for our persecutors. God and Jesus passionately desire peace, justice, inclusion, unity.
Pray for those who feel trapped in abusive situations and cannot seem to shake the dust from their feet. Pray for those who are literally trapped, the trafficked. As for you, what do you desire with all your heart? Are there any little pockets in your heart of fear or mistrust of God? Ask the Spirit to show you how good God is. Be quiet. Listen. Then look at Jesus’ ministry. How did he behave? To see him is to see God and God’s will.
We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you because by your holy will, you have set us free. Deepen our desires that we may share your passionate desires for all that is good.
Acts 9: 26-31; Psalm 22; 1 John 3:18-24; John 15:1-8
Acts details the successes and failures which the newly converted Paul experienced in preaching Christ. First, the Christians were afraid of Paul, but Barnabas stood up for him. When Paul debated with Greek-speaking Jews, however, he was almost killed. So the “brothers” sent him home to Tarsus, and the church “was at peace.” Paul was trying to bear the fruit that Jesus promised those who remained in him, like branches on a vine, receiving their life-blood directly from him. God is glorified, no matter what the outcome of our generativity. The whole paschal mystery is “the triumph of failure”, as a book by Edward Leen called it. So much more important than success is that we abide in God and God in us, in loving union. “We know that Christ remains in us from the Spirit he gave us,” John’s first letter concludes today. This union gives God glory.
A good way to celebrate Sunday is to take a walk in the beauty of spring. Look deeply at each living thing, knowing how branches live from the trunk, grass from its roots, flowers from their stems. Feel the pulsation of life in the growing things around you. Then stand still and feel the pulse of the Spirit filling you with Christ’s life. How will you respond? A definition of contemplation is “a long, loving look at the real.” A name for God, according to Augustine, is Beauty.
Jesus, our vine, source of life, thank you for sharing your image of God as vine-grower, or in Greek, “farmer”. Farmer-God, grow us strong and fruitful that we may love “in deed and truth.”
Monday, May 4, 2015
Acts 14: 5-18; Psalm 115; John 14: 21-26
Note how earlier in Acts Peter and John were persecuted after the crippled man at the Beautiful Gate in Jerusalem jumped to his feet. Now Paul and Barnabas are heralded as gods by the Gentiles after Paul tells a cripple to stand, and he too jumps up. For Peter, persecution; for Paul, acclaim. No matter what the consequence, both Peter and Paul act for the glory of God and are instruments of God’s healing of cripples. Jesus offers us an inflow of God’s love and the Holy Spirit who will teach us “everything, and remind you of all that I told you.”
Ask the Spirit to show you where parts of your personality are crippled, paralyzed, in any way dis-eased. Ask for the inflow of God’s healing, and God’s dwelling in your self. Jesus says directly to you: “My Father will love you and we will come to you and make our dwelling with you.” Ponder that loving, healing union happening right now within your self, flawed as it may be.
Thank you, Jesus, for joining us together with one another in you, in God, in the power and love of your Holy Spirit. We long for a deepening of your Spirit at Pentecost. Make us ready to jump up in your service!
Tuesday, May 5, 2015
Acts 14: 19-28; Psalm 145; John 14: 27-31
We follow the travels of Paul and Barnabas around Asia Minor and back to Antioch where they began their partnership, co-laboring as Paul would call it in his letters. They give a report of all that God had done among the Gentiles, and soon will be summoned to Jerusalem to give an account to their “enemies”, the Judaizing Christians. Jesus has a word for them and for us: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” In Acts 15 we will attend to the conflict in the early church: whether Paul and Barnabas were right in allowing Gentiles to be baptized without circumcising the men and making men and women pledge to keep the Jewish Law. Or whether they violated the norms of the community. (Judaizing Christians wanted Gentiles to become Jews first and then Christians).
Peace as the world gives? Surely Jesus jokes? Even in the first community there is conflict. What does peace mean to you? How is the peace Jesus gives different? Where at this moment is your heart troubled? What/whom do you fear? Hear Jesus directly address you: “Peace.” Picture his peace as an inflow of color and warmth and let it circulate through your blood stream. Breathe deeply. Enjoy the peace of Christ. Rest.
Holy Spirit, open our minds and hearts to see laws and norms in perspective. Open us especially to the peace of Christ and his inclusive loving, loving through us.
Wednesday, May 6, 2015
Acts 15: 1-6; Psalm 122; John 15: 1-8
Judaizing Christians would often follow Paul and insist that the new Gentile converts had to follow the Law. “There arose no little dissension and debate.” We who are divided among right wing Catholics and liberal Catholics are in much the same situation. Do we follow Law? Do we know and respond to the Spirit? The gospel gives us a way, a truth and a life: “Whoever remains in me and I in that person will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.” No matter our position on sexual morality, on doctrine, on authority, we are always joined with one another and our life-giving vine, Jesus. Both “sides” do bear fruit, do they not? Isn’t God good?! Jesus concludes today: “By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”
Become my disciples? Are we not already? Maybe not. Discipulus/a in Latin is a learner. Ask the Spirit to teach you where (perhaps unconsciously) you are closed to learning from “the other” Catholics. Let the Spirit bubble up the truth in you. Ask to be opened to all facets of truth. Who could have all the truth about God, Jesus, the Spirit, the way to live, to pray, to respond? Ask for openness.
Jesus, make us one with all Catholic Christians, no matter what our positions. Let us all bear your fruit and glorify our God. Make us one with all Christians, and with all God’s children, no matter what their faith or lack of it.
Thursday, May 7, 2015
Acts 15: 7-21; Psalm 96; John 15: 9-11
There are many ways to discern what God is wanting for us as individuals and as a community. Next Thursday, in the choosing of Matthias, we find the most simple way::
casting lots. Today’s periscope from Acts offers us a more sure way, for it includes prayer and reflection, and much dialogue. This is not an exercise in logic, but rather a deeper, more intimate way of learning what is God’s desire. There seems to be a milling around of various opinions about the admission of Gentiles to the young community.
Then Peter shares –in the whole assembly—his experience of “God making a a choice”
by sending the Spirit on Cornelius and his household. Law, a yoke, will not save us, but rather “we will be saved by the grace of the Lord Jesus…” After listening to the ministry of Paul and Barnabas, the leader of the Jerusalem community, James, confirms this religious experience by finding a passage in Amos that opens good news, as Pope Francis too insists, to the world. “Proclaim God’s marvelous deeds to all the nations,” the psalmist respond. And Jesus finds his joy in us, and not only in us gathered at the table but all those on the periphery.
Is the tent of the Catholic church opened wide enough in our day? Whom would you exclude? Whom would Jesus exclude? Picture those whom you would keep out
(Muslims, gays, dictators, prisoners) and look at Jesus looking at them tenderly. See him reach for a towel and kneel before each one to wash their feet. Talk with Jesus about your feelings. Let him speak to you.
Jesus, thank you for admitting us, Gentiles, to your community through the outpouring of your Spirit, especially on those who do not deserve such grace. Keep us from judging, we pray.
Friday, May 8, 2015
Acts 15: 22-31; Psalm 57; John 15: 12-17
The educator Sidney Simon offers a classification for the people in our lives. In the farthest circle are our acquaintances: a clerk at the grocery, our family physician, etc. In German this person would be called a neighbor as in “love your neighbor.” A more inner circle, according to Sidney Simon, are our companions, and Acts offers the description of how the early Christians shared (com) bread (panion) with one another. Still closer are our friends, in German a “co-person.” Jesus speaks of his disciples (and us) as friends “because I have told you everything that I have heard from my Father.” The deepest and closest relationship in Simon’s schema is intimacy. Jesus and God are intimate. Jesus assures us that we are more than servants, more than friends. Jesus and we are intimates.
How can you respond to this call to intimacy? How does it make you feel? The psalmist responds: “My heart is ready, O God, my heart is ready!” Speak with Jesus about your feelings about being so very close with him. Listen. Rest.
Thank you, Jesus, for choosing us as your friends, as your co-persons, as the ones whom you send to bear your fruit. Let our intimacy with you make us fruitful today.
Saturday, May 9, 2015
Acts 16: 1-10; Psalm 100; John 15: 18-21
Paul chooses Timothy to be his companion and together they follow the directive of the Spirit. Twice the Spirit “prevents” or “does not allow” them to go to certain areas, but then Paul has a vision in which a Macedonian (northern Greece) invites him to come and help. They conclude “that God had called them to proclaim the Good News to them.” If we wish we might have visions and know so clearly where God calls us, we need to attend to all the feelings that arise in us, all the desires of our hearts, becoming more and more aware of them each day. We might examine our consciousness every day to see what feelings stir the Spirit, and which drag us more into isolation. As we attend daily to our feelings and desires we, like Paul, can grow more alert to the promptings of the Spirit.
Examine yesterday (or today, if you are reading this at night). First, for what do you give God thanks? What did you do? How did you feel? What did you want -- all through the day? Where was the Spirit at work? Where did you find God? How was your heart expanding or shrinking? Offer the day with its joys and sorrows to God.
Jesus, keep us alert to the movements of the Spirit in our hearts, in our families and communities. Thank you for all the grace at work in our world. Thank you for your Spirit.