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.
Monday, April 14, 2014
Isaiah 42: 1-7; Psalm 27; John 12: 1-7
Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. The he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.
As the crowd disperses, Matthew places two women close. In the Duomo in Florence, Michaelangelo has offered us another pieta: Joseph of Arimathea, Mary of Magdala and Mary, Jesus’ mother, are taking the dead body off the cross. It is not nearly so serene as his Pieta in the Vatican with the dead body on his mother’s lap. These two marbles were the sculptor’s last works.
What will your last works be? What do you want them to be? Tell Mary. Then imagine her holding your dead body. How is she, as she contemplates you, another Christ?
Hail, Mary, full of sorrow and pain. The Lord lies on your lap. Holy Mary, mother of the ever so human one, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. And hold us, please.
Tuesday, April 15, 2014
Isaiah 49: 1-6; Psalm 71; John 13: 21-33, 36-38
Matthew 27: 62-66
The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’ [In the Greek, “I am raised”] Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.” Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.” So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard.
Just as the Jewish leaders wanted to secure the tomb, so you may notice that I want to assure you that Jesus was raised. Isn’t that picky? Not according to scripture. Paul incorporates a hymn more ancient than his epistle to the Philippians (2: 5-11) to emphasize that Jesus surrendered all claim to divinity, he emptied himself and was obedient. This is not obedience to “God’s will” –“even to death on the cross”, for God would never will, nor condone torture. Jesus is obedient to the mission he perceived in the desert. He included women among his disciples, welcomed sinners and the unclean, broke laws of ritual purity and so much more. At his last supper his final prayer was that all may be one. Jewish leaders needed to get rid of him. “Therefore God exalted him and gave him the name above all names…” Jesus’ whole focus in life and in death is on God; he is surrendered to God.
Pharisees did teach resurrection of the dead, but Jesus was raised in an untimely manner. We can then see why the early Christians expected he would return at once. God gave him a name above all names: Lord. Jesus Christ is Lord, the early church confessed, their only creed. Do you believe that creed? How is Jesus lord of your life? How surrendered are you? Would you be obedient to your mission (mother, teacher, check out person, wait-person, doctor, friend etc) even to death? Ask for the grace to be faithful to the gifts and the mission God has given you. Ask that Jesus and only Jesus be your Lord.
Jesus, Jesus! All creation is bending the knee before you. In our hemisphere, the earth is blossoming with new life. You are Lord of the whole universe. Bless our planet with life.
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Isaiah 50: 4-9; Psalm 69; Matthew 26: 14-26
God has given the Servant the tongue of a teacher, opening his ear morning after morning to “sustain the weary with a word.” The psalmist proclaims, and we can hear Jesus’ praying this with absolute trust in God: “You who seek God, let your hearts revive. For God hears the needy, and does not despise God’s own who are in bonds.”
Any minute now Jesus will be in bonds, he will give a great cry from the cross and yet he trusts. The acclamation says he goes to “crucifixion like a gentle lamb.” Perhaps his silence stems from interior peace, and perhaps it springs from a rage too deep for words. The good news that he has been taught morning after morning by his Father-God is about to be destroyed. How would you feel? Don’t fall back on “He’s God so he knows all will be well.” Not if he is like us in all things. We have to trust that all will be well. We may rage at the injustice done to this good and innocent man. We may rage at the injustice done to all martyrs (the Greek word for witness) and to all who fall victim to war, violence, hunger, thirst and….
We feel with you, Jesus, as you feel with us. On behalf of all who suffer, with you we give a great cry. So many in bonds! Help us be instruments of peace and freedom.
Holy Thursday, April 17, 2014
These next three days we will simplify our words and our prayers. Tonight Jesus will wash feet, overthrowing our ideas of who is great, who is needy, who is Lord. Then he will pray: “This is eternal life—to know you, Father, and the one whom you have sent…May they all be one, I in them and you in me, all one in us…”
O God, this year give your world and church the gift of unity. Let us work with you to grant Jesus’ deepest desire.
Good Friday, April 18, 2014
Some New Testament authors believe that Jesus died to save us from sin and some theologians elaborate: he died to pay God the debt we owe for the sin of Adam and Eve. Today we pray to take in and absorb another reason for Jesus’ death (which really flowed from his overthrowing his people’s ideas and images of a vengeful God) according to John. “Jesus died to gather into one new family all the scattered children of God” (Jn 11: 52). Then he, lifted up (exalted, according to the Philippians hymn, cf Tuesday of this week) , will draw all to himself (Jn 12:32), a beacon for all creation,
O Jesus, gather us—all races, all religions, all genders, all creatures, all universes—into God’s new family for whom you gave your life.
Holy Saturday, April 19, 2014
Jesus returns to another kind of desert, the hard rock slab of the tomb. Alone.
When have you felt so utterly alone, dead inside, paralyzed by any emotion: fear, hatred, fury, grief…? Be with him now who is Emmanuel, God always and everywhere with us. Just be.
O Spirit, giver of life, bond of unity, God’s love poured into our hearts, energy and power of God, renew the face of the earth and all its peoples. Make mercy in us.
for April 20-26
Acts 10: 34, 37-43; Psalm 118; Colossians 3: 1-4; John 20: 1-9
There are so many readings to choose from. Today’s selection from Colossians summarizes the Good News of baptism. As baptism continues in our life, we are being co-raised with Christ. We are to seek him continually, keeping our minds fixed on him. In baptism, we have died; our life is now hidden with Christ in God. We have already re-entered the watery womb of God with Christ. To live now in that grace, God’s life warming, protecting and nourishing us with all our sisters and brothers, is a glimpse of joy forever. We may be hidden with Christ, but Christ is also made manifest. We are the means of his manifestation and continuing mission to the world. Both dead and alive, both wounded and healing, both suffering and glorified, we bear in our bodies the dying of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in this mortal flesh of ours (2 Corinthians 4: 10-11). Alleluia!
Contemplate the wounded hands of Jesus. Once bloodied, now his wounds stream grace and glory and healing to us. See him lay his hands in blessing on each nation, on your loved ones and on your enemies. Be with him as he heals.
Glory be to you, Savior of the world! Glory be to God in whose womb we discover our kinship! Glory be to you, Spirit, life blood of the Body! Alleluia!
Having journeyed for 40 days through the Lenten desert, today we begin another journey which seems to last only the 50 days until Pentecost. However, this celebration of Christ will last our whole life, and into eternity. We contemplate the beauty of the risen Christ forever. This period of on-going entry into mystery is termed mystagogia, the term used in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults to name a deeper formation of new members between Easter and Pentecost. But entering into mystery, becoming a mystic, continues even throughout eternity. As Karl Rahner, SJ, teaches: Mystery is that which is infinitely knowable. We can never finish exploring the mystery of God, of the incarnation, of risen life in Christ. God is ever and always more. We will never finish knowing God and the one whom God sent (Jn 17:3), for this is eternal life. And it begins now.
We are indeed called to contemplation whether we are monks or mothers, presidents of companies or residents of nursing homes. To keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, our pioneer through life and death, is to contemplate. We do not ask, What would Jesus do? Jesus is doing right now just what we are doing. “It is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me”, Paul writes (Galatians 2:20).
Caryll Houselander, English mystic, writes in her letters “that the direct contemplation of Christ in [people], in the world...is the way to him... [W]e can contemplate him in our own life and come closer to him through it. This means a more intense living and perhaps a more intense dying. I am confident now that the poetry, the beauty of life, which is nothing else but our divine Lord living in human beings, will go on...” This life in God is inexhaustible.
We too are called to be mystics, those who peer through the eyelashes, and find God in all things. “We see his blood upon the rose,” the Irish poet wrote. All creation, every person is a sacrament of the risen Christ. As we look more deeply into persons (including ourselves), as we discover the depths of poetry and beauty in all creation, we come to experience with our whole being that indeed “the world is charged with the glory of God!” (GM Hopkins, SJ) Alleluia!
Monday, April 21, 2014 - Easter Monday
Acts 2: 14, 22-33, Psalm 16, Matthew 28:8-15
Peter has a hard sell. The crowd is hostile and the Law taught that “cursed is one who hangs on a tree” (Deuteronomy 21:23). Peter argues that Jesus is not cursed; on the contrary, “God raised him up, having freed him from death...” Peter supports his experience by quoting from Psalm 16, that God’s faithful ones (and not just Jesus and Mary) should not know corruption of the flesh. “This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses ....having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit...”For our prayer today, let us first listen to Jesus as he prays parts of Psalm 16: “I say to God, ‘I have no good apart from you.’ I bless you who gives me counsel, and even in the night my heart exhorts me... So my heart is glad, my being rejoices, my body too rests secure.. You show me the path to life, fullness of joy in your presence forever.” Then pray those words in your own name. Finally, repeat it on behalf of all those who are not resting secure in this war-torn world, who desperately need joy in God’s presence.
Jesus, thank you for the fullness of joy in your presence. Comfort with your tangible presence all those who suffer.
Tuesday, April 22, 2014 - Easter Tuesday
Acts 2: 36-41; Psalm 33; John 20: 11-18
“You will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit,” Peter promises. You will hear the voice of Jesus calling your name, as the risen Christ called, “Mary” to his friend weeping in the garden. “Woman, why are you weeping?” he asks her. To receive the Holy Spirit is to be deeply bonded with all those who weep.
Do you want this gift of bonding Spirit? Picture all the women who are weeping in this world: in our own country, weeping because they have been abused, abandoned or because their children are hungry and homeless; women around the world weeping in prisons and refugee camps, longing for their children; women wailing as they hold the dead bodies of their husbands and children in Iraq, Congo, Sri Lanka. Listen to Jesus call your own name. Then watch as he calls to these women. Name your own friends who weep, and ask the Spirit-comforter to heal their hearts.
Come, Holy Spirit, through Mary who mourned Jesus. Make us one with all the men, women and children who weep. Console them, and let us be your instruments of consolation.
Wednesday, April 23, 2014 - Easter Wednesday
Acts 3: 1-10; Psalm 105; Luke 24: 13-35
Jesus meets the disciples who are conversing and debating as they walk to Emmaus. He asks them to include him, and they share their dashed hopes for Jesus. First Jesus calls them “dull of heart,” although our translation softens it to “slow of heart.” After he explains Scripture to them and he eats with them, their hearts are on fire.
What in your life dulls your heart? What sets your heart on fire? Ask for the fiery Spirit of Christ to permeate your every thought, word and action today. Ask the Spirit to quicken what is slow in you, burnish your dullness, spark your laziness, purify your grossness of heart. Ask for the gift of falling in love with Jesus yet again.
Holy Spirit, we ask you to let us “flee with a fling of our hearts to the heart of the Host” (GMH) at every table. May we recognize him in breaking bread and in the broken hearts around us.
Thursday, April 24, 2014 - Easter Thursday
Acts 3: 11-26; Psalm 8; Luke 24: 35-48
From Acts we learn the earliest Christology of the new community: that Jesus is appointed the coming Christ (anointed one) whom God will send at the end of the world, a “time of universal restoration.” He will become the Messiah (anointed) only then. For a clear and complete Christology, read Elizabeth Johnson’s Consider Jesus. If we set out on a Lenten journey for 40 days, now we are engaged in a 50 day study of all that Christ is and means to us. His mission continues in and through us: “repentance for the forgiveness of sins in his name should be preached to all nations.” Forgiveness, reconciliation, unity is the mission he entrusts to us.
What is your experience of Christ risen and active? How do you feel about that experience? If you have never had it, BEG for it. If you have had it, how has your life changed, and continues to change? Pray that every Christian may know the living Christ experientially.
You stand in our midst, Jesus, and bless us with your peace. Let peace seep into all the violence in our own hearts, homes, communities, countries, world, and heal us. Prince of Peace, save us.
Friday, April 25, 201 - Easter Friday
Acts 4: 1-12; Psalm 118; John 21: 1-14
Peter tells the Sanhedrin who have arrested him and John that a crippled man was healed through the powerful name of Jesus “whom you crucified [but] whom God raised from the dead.” Jesus, rejected by the leaders, is vindicated and more than restored by God. The gospel tells of Jesus’ restoration of friendship with those who abandoned him. Tenderly, he calls to his friends out fishing, “Children, have you caught anything to eat?” Jesus had made provision. Can you see him building a charcoal fire and cooking the fish, toasting the bread, making them breakfast on the beach? He comes to serve, to forgive, to make one.
Picture Jesus moving around that shore of the Sea of Tiberias, preparing the fire and the fish. As you watch, repeat his powerful name slowly. Ask to fall in love with him because he is so good, so tender. Let his name and his person fill your whole being now.
Jesus, our foot washer and our chief chef, how we do love you! Help us to let you serve us, and teach us to let others serve us as well. Grant us that humility, please.
April 26, 2014 - Easter Saturday
Acts 4: 13-21; Psalm 118; Mark 16: 9-15
In Acts we see civil and religious disobedience perpetrated by none other than Peter and John who refuse to stop using the name of Jesus. They reply to the Sanhedrin’s attempted silencing: “Whether it is right in the sight of God for us to obey you rather than God, you be the judges.” They must preach and teach In the name of Jesus. Mark’s brief description of Jesus’ appearance to his friends is as harsh as yesterday’s appearance was tender. The Eleven did not believe the women’s experience, nor the disciples newly returned from Emmaus, so Jesus rebuked them for their “unbelief and stubbornness”.
“Whatever you do in word or in work, do all in the name of Jesus,” Paul exhorts us. Take a look ahead through your day, or (if at night) at the next day. As each person, task, event passes before your mind, speak the name of Jesus. Try to keep his name on your lips as you actually go through your day.
Jesus! Your name is like oil poured out. Heal us and our war-weary world. Jesus! Your name fills up our senses. Fill us with your self. Fill the world with your peace.