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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, August 17, 2014 - Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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Aug. 17-23

Isaiah 56: 1, 6-7; Psalm 67; Romans 11: 13-15, 29-32; Matthew 15:  21-28

            While usually the first reading and gospel are chosen to complement each other, it is unusual for the second reading to fit. Today, with a theme of God’s welcoming all the nations, Paul’s sorrow over the Jews’ rejection of Jesus and the Gentiles acceptance connects with the gospel of a Canaanite woman (Gentile) who believes in Jesus and is at first rejected by him. The struggle over whether to admit Gentiles to “the Way” rocked the early church.  They missed Isaiah’s promise of salvation, that God wants foreigners to join, to minister, to love and worship Israel’s God. The psalm reiterates, “Let all the nations praise you.”  Paul believes that because the Jews to whom he preached Jesus rejected his Messiahship, Paul’s ministering to the Gentiles created reconciliation. If only the Jews would change their stance and accept Jesus, there would be for them “life from the dead.” In the gospel, Jesus is en route to the beach, “the district of Tyre and Sidon,” and is bothered by a persistent woman with a possessed daughter.  At first he refers to her and all Gentiles as dogs, and still she will not give up. Jesus changes his mind.  Metanoia  in Greek means a change of mind, a repentance. Jesus wakes up to his own unconscious bigotry and heals the girl.

            Today’s readings are so appropriate, with 50 million people as refugees. Possible host countries are trying to close their borders, and US citizens struggle over issues of immigration.  Where does Jesus stand?  With immigrants hungering for help like the Canaanite woman, whom he at first rebuffed?  With an African American as the US president, surfacing so much unconscious racism? What has Jesus to say?  Pray that the demon of racism and fear of foreigners be cast out, first from yourself and those you love, and then from all peoples of the world.

            Please be gracious to us and bless us, letting your face shine on us and all your people. Please open and stretch our minds and hearts, as this Gentile woman did for Jesus.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Ezekiel 24: 15-24; Deuteronomy 32; Matthew 19: 16-22

            First, Ezekiel is warned that God will take away “the delight of [his] eyes,” his wife, and he is not to mourn her. His stoic behavior is a sign to the people that they too will lose the “delight of their eyes,” God’s sanctuary. They will pine away and groan to each other. They have forgotten “the Rock that bore you…the God who gave you birth,” explains the response from Deuteronomy.  Mothering language.  But Matthew omits the tender language of Mark’s version of the man who approaches Jesus and can admit to keeping all the commandments.  “What do I still lack?” the man asks. In Mark, Jesus looks at him tenderly and then says: “Go, sell your possessions….”

            How is the church the delight of your eyes?  Discuss that with Jesus.  How do you feel about God’s giving you birth, God as your mother?  Discuss that with Jesus (and be sure to listen as well).  And then the question you ask: “Jesus, what do I still lack?” Listen.  Then look at him looking at you tenderly.  Hold that gaze as long as you can.

            How much we need you, how much we lack!  We offer you all the losses of our lives, and we groan to you. Hear us, Mother-God, and comfort all your people.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014 

Ezekiel 28:1-10; Deuteronomy 32; Matthew 19: 23-30

            Yesterday’s charge from Jesus, “Go, sell” continues today. First the king of Tyre is warned by the prophet that although his wisdom has garnered him great wealth, he will die violently. In the gospel Jesus promises an inheritance of eternal life for those who leave everything, but this will call for a change of attitude, a metanoia for those who are rich.  What is our motivation for letting go?  The Alleluia verse proclaims another kind of riches which will be ours: “Jesus Christ was rich but he became poor to make you rich out of his poverty.”

            Jesus speaks of leaving property and relationships “for his name’s sake.” A paradox: we are to love one another and build relationships; we are to cherish the earth.

Change “leave” to let go. Can we not grasp and cling, but hold lightly, trusting that all the riches we need will be given, all the loves will be “for his name’s sake” and not simply to calm our loneliness?  Take some time now to show him all that you love: the people, the things, the treasures of nature. As each passes before your mind’s eye, say: “For your name’s sake.”

            Please give us wisdom to garner true riches, all that you want to give us through Jesus.  Your abundance, your goodness, your generosity moves us to such gratitude.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Ezekiel 34: 1-11; Psalm 23; Matthew 20: 1-16

            God excoriates the priests (shepherds) of Israel through another priest-prophet, Ezekiel. In today’s passage, God lists all the neglect of the false shepherds. Unfortunately, Ezekiel 34:15-16 is omitted in our somewhat continuous reading of Ezekiel. In those verses, God, our true shepherd, does all this for us: “feeds…strengthens the weak…heals the sick…binds up the injured, brings back the stray and seeks the lost.”  Whatever way we find ourselves, hungry or weak or hurt or lost, God meets us where we are, not with judgment but with compassion.  That is why in Jesus’ parable of the vineyard workers, whether we have worked since the break of day or have been hired at noon or five o’clock, we all receive the same reward.  “…[T]he master is generous”  !

            How are you today? For what do you hunger, where does your weakness lie, what is sick in you, what is injured, what is lost? Share that with your compassionate shepherd.

And your work in the vineyard?   At what hour did you begin to work? Ask to trust the generosity of the master instead of your own efforts. Rely on God’s generosity.  Renew your commitment to work for God’s glory.

            Master, shepherd, how generous you are!  Thank you for loving us as we are.  Let us share in your all-encompassing love and reach out to those who need your riches.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Ezekiel 36: 23-28; Psalm 51; Matthew 22: 1-14

            God the shepherd is gathering the people, Ezekiel proclaims, giving them a new heart, removing their hearts of stone and giving them hearts of flesh. God puts God’s own spirit in them.  Jesus describes a wedding banquet to which the rich refuse to come, so busy are they with their farms and business. So the king commands his slaves to “go into the streets and gather all whom they found, both good and bad….”

            Imagine yourself, at God’s invitation, at this wedding banquet.  People from the streets swarm into the banquet hall.  What do you see, hear, smell?  How do you feel with these poor strangers?  Do not be afraid to admit your fears and revulsions to God.  Pray with the psalmist: “A clean heart create in me, O God.”  Ask for God’s own spirit, God’s own heart that loves and welcomes the poor, the marginalized, the foreigner.  Remind God that you are only a five o’clock worker, but you trust that the master is generous.

            Take away our hearts of stone, we beg you, God. As Jesus took flesh and dwelt among us, so let our hearts of flesh dwell, in reality or in our prayer, with the most outcast.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Ezekiel 37: 1-14; Psalm 107; Matthew 23: 34-40

            In the SSND mother church of St. James in Munich, Jesus leans from the cross to crown his mother.  Today is the feast of the Queenship of Mary. How appropriate then to have the familiar story of the field of dry bones which Ezekiel is shown.  God promises new life for those bones, which will be animated by God’s own spirit. Mary is raised to new life, and rules with the cosmic Christ. The gospel summarizes just why she is our queen, our leader, our pioneer into risen life.  The commandments to love God  and our neighbors as ourselves were fulfilled in her loving.

            Asking the Spirit to help you, let your memory run through the events of Mary’s life.  Ask her to show you in each event (the ones narrated in Scripture and ones you know this very human woman would have had to experience, even old age), how she was loving God and her neighbor.  How was she loving herself?  Ask her. Listen. Ask to love your self as you love your neighbor.

            With all our heart, with all our mind, with all our being, we do love you, our God. Teach us to love ourselves well so we may love our neighbors well too.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Ezekiel 43: 1-7; Psalm 85; Matthew 23: 1-12

            Ezekiel receives another vision of God’s glory and a promise that God will reside with the people forever. The psalm’s antiphon is “The glory of the Lord will dwell in our land.”   How? The psalm tells us that God speaks peace to us, but Israel seems to be refusing peace. The psalmist continues: “Justice and peace shall kiss, truth shall spring out of the earth.”   That will let God’s glory shine. Justice will go before God.  And the gospel?  Jesus is scolding the Pharisees and scribes for tying heavy burdens on the people’s backs and making a show of their own glory.  No truth and authenticity in their practice of religion, no justice, no peace.

            If we want peace, we work for justice.  How do you do that?  Ask the Spirit to remind you, and listen.  Pray that God’s glory might dwell in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank. Show God your great desires for justice and peace in your land and around the world. Then be still and let God show you God’s desire for justice and peace.  Share your hearts’ (plural!) desire.

            Take our desire for authenticity in our religion, and lead us to an ever renewing church (semper reformanda, to quote Saint John XXIII).  Forgive us any burdens we lay on others.

Sunday, August 24, 2014 - Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

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Aug. 24-31

ISAIAH 22: 15, 19-23; PSALM 138; ROMANS 11: 33-36; MATTHEW 16: 13-20

The honor of a name! Twice the psalm thanks and exalts God’s holy name. The name of our God is wisdom, and oh, the depth of the wisdom of God, cries Paul. To God be glory forever! Then Jesus asks his friends, Who do people say that I am, and who do you say that I am? Peter names Jesus Messiah and son of the living God; Jesus names Simon bar Jonah the head, the Cephas and the Rock, Petrus.

Who do people say that you are? What face do you show to the public? Who do you say that you are? What name do you give yourself? What name does God give you?

We exalt your name, our God, and thank you for naming us as your own, Christian, one in Christ. Make us more and more aware of how we carry his name.

Monday, August 25, 2014

2 THESSALONIANS 1: 1-5, 11-12; PSALM 96; MATTHEW 23: 13-22

Paul gives thanks to God for all those who read his letters: “We must always give thanks to God for you, brothers and sisters, as is right because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of everyone of you for one another is increasing”. Today too, Paul emphasizes the name, “that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and you in him.” Perhaps the worst name Jesus gives the Pharisees, whom he calls hypocrites and blind guides, is “children of hell.” He accuses them of making converts and leading them to hell.

Whom do you call a child of hell? Pray for that person, or that group. Ask to be released from the demons of prejudice. How is your faith growing? How is your heart expanding? Ask for an increase of faith (trust) and love (trust and service).

You in us and we in you, may we all be one, Jesus, to the glory of our God! May our unity be an attractive sign and lead all to you, lifted up and drawing all to yourself.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

2 Thessalonians 2: 1-3, 14-17; Psalm 96; Matthew 23: 23-26

Paul reminds us that the final ingathering is coming, the psalm tells us we have no need to fear judgment day, and Jesus gives us criteria by which we may discern. At the end of time we will be gathered together to Jesus. God will judge with equity and justice. Jesus, still crying Woe! to the Pharisees, notes that they neglect “the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith”. Rather they are “full of greed and self-indulgence”.

When you think of being gathered together to Jesus, how do you feel? Ask for the gift of trusting that God’s judgment will be a cause for joy. How are you growing in justice and mercy and faith? Ask pardon for any greed and self-indulgence that still clings to you. Pray for our society, that each one of us might choose justice over greed.

Help us to trust that you will indulge us, generous God, so that we can give up grasping all that we think we need. You are the cause of our joy! Thank you.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

2 Thessalonians 3: 6-10, 16-18; Psalm 128; Matthew 23: 27-32

Paul (or the anonymous author, for this letter is disputed) warns us to stay away from believers who are living in idleness. Then he begins to sound like a workaholic, which addiction receives such high praise in our church. “I didn’t eat anyone’s bread without paying for it…” We forget that part of loving is receiving love and other gifts. “With toil and labour we worked day and night so that we might not burden any of you.” Is this the authentic Paul who did write: “Bear one another’s burdens and so you will fulfill the law of Christ”? (Gal 6:2) So many of us are afraid of being a burden, especially in our old age or illness. How are others to bear our burdens then?

Examine your own attitudes and practices of working. If you find your identity in your work, your position, your contribution, what of your identity as receptive, interdependent, contemplative? Examine your attitudes and practice of receiving from others. How we receive from others often mirrors how we receive from God.

Not to us the glory, O God, but to you! Bless the work of our hands, our minds and our hearts. Teach us to balance work and leisure, giving and receiving.

Thursday, August 28, 2014 - Augustine, bishop of Hippo

1 Corinthians 1: 1-9; Psalm 145; Matthew 24: 42-51

Some of you comment to me that our “continuous” reading of a biblical book really does skip around. It is good at times to do your own continuous reading, and this particular letter of Paul is a fine starter. Every chapter in Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth is about community, so dear also to Augustine’s heart. Today I quote a piece of Augustine’s writing for your absorbing:

“Let us rejoice and give thanks not only that we have become Christians, but that we have become Christ. Do you grasp this? Do you understand the enormous grace God has given us? Stand in awe and rejoice -- we have become Christ!”

We do rejoice and give thanks that you have made us Christ in your world, attractive signs of your love and work, sacraments of the Sacrament.

Friday, August 29, 2014 - Martyrdom of John the Baptist

Jeremiah 1: 17-19; Psalm 71; Mark 6: 17-29

God promises Jeremiah deliverance when he preaches justice to the powerful. This reading is selected to emphasize John’s prophetic mission to speak truth to Herod. Herod lacks courage. He wants to save face before his guests, and so John is beheaded to please Herod’s unlawful wife. We can imagine John in prison praying Psalm 71: “Be to me a rock of refuge, a strong fortress…my hope.” Jesus “must increase, I must decrease,” John once said, and what must he have been wondering about Jesus’ prophetic mission.

Ask the Spirit to root out human respect from your life. What do you want God to be for you? A rock, a fortress, a_______? Pray for those who speak truth to power, and pray for courage for yourself. Pray often throughout the day: “You must increase, I must decrease.”

We ask for courage to see injustice and to name it. Give us the strength to take small steps toward a more just church and society. Give us a share in your justice.


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