Africa, Asia, North America

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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. 


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Oct. 19-25

Sunday, October 19, 2014 - Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
World Mission Sunday

Isaiah 45: 1, 4-6; Psalm 96; 1 Thessalonians 1: 1-5; Matthew 22: 15-21

Such appropriate readings for World Mission Sunday. The Jews must have been shocked to learn that the pagan ruler, Cyrus of Persia (Iran) was chosen by God to free them, THE chosen people, from captivity in Babylon (Iraq). Cyrus is called the anointed, Messiah in Hebrew, Christ in Greek. Hopefully that shocks some of us into a wider vision of whom God loves and includes. The psalm celebrates the welcoming of all nations. Jesus says it is necessary to pay taxes to “Caesar” for the common good. But we are to give to God the things that are God’s. Today? One thing that we need to give to God is our missionary service, since we were anointed in baptism, called to holiness and sent by Christ and by our Pope to bring the good news to all whom we meet.

We were anointed (Christ-ed) in baptism to share God’s mission to the world. How do you do that? What vision do you have? What gifts? What do you need? How can you work in some small way for the redistribution of the earth’s wealth? How will you serve the needy in our midst? Will you, even shut-in or bed-ridden, be like Therese of Lisieux and pray your heart out for the peoples of the world?

Thank you for choosing us, anointing us, sending us to be attractive signs of your love in our war-torn, desperate world. Open our eyes to ways we can be of service.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Ephesians 2: 1-10; Psalm 100; Luke 12: 13-21

Ephesians insists: “God is rich in mercy… the immeasurable riches of God’s grace. For by grace you have been saved through faith. This is not your own doing; it is the gift of God. You are God’s work of art.” Jesus then warns: “Be on guard against all kinds of greed.” He illustrates with the parable of the man who has to build an extra barn to store not only his grain but all his goods. “But God said to him, ‘You fool!’” Countering the line from the movie, “Wall Street,” greed is not good. We have all the riches of God’s own self lavished on us, forming us into God’s own work of art.

Where does your heart lead you? How shall you pray? Would you like to ponder the riches of God’s grace; the unmerited nature of God’s saving; your being God’s work of art; “all kinds of greed” and how they might infiltrate your life? What are “all your goods” that you want to store? Can you entrust them to God?

Thank you for your riches, God of all grace, lavishing on us so freely. Heal our hearts of all kinds of greed. “Give us only your love and your grace. That’s enough for us.”

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Ephesians 2: 12-22; Psalm 85; Luke 12: 35-38

A paradox. It is Luke’s Jesus who reminds us that we are unprofitable servants. Even when we have done all we are supposed to, we cannot expect the Master to seat us at table, for we are but unprofitable servants. Yet today, Luke tells us, if we stay alert the Master will come to serve us. Ephesians tells us that the Master serves us by breaking barriers between races, nations and religions, reconciling and making peace. “He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity.” Bottom line: we all belong in him, no longer “strangers and aliens.”

Table fellowship is a Lukan theme, and we have a Master who not only seats us together but serves us, the one new humanity which includes Buddhists and Muslims, Chileans and Chinese, fat cats and the starving. Which piece of the “new humanity” do you find it hard to welcome? Speak peace to that group. Breathe in the peace of Christ and breathe out a smile on this group whom you find alien.

Thank you, Jesus, for breathing out peace on all peoples, reconciling us all. Help us to know your reconciling, welcoming action in our gut. Help us feel your smile on our small steps toward unity.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Ephesians 3: 2-12; Isaiah 12; Luke 12: 39-48

Again we hear of God’s boundless riches, brought by the missionary Paul, to help everyone (even Gentiles) see the mystery of Christ. Mystery in the original Greek is translated into Latin as sacramentum. Like our sacraments, especially the sacrament of God who is Christ, mystery (according to Karl Rahner) is “that which is infinitely knowable.” We will never stop, for all eternity, coming to know Christ, God, the meaning of the incarnation, resurrection – all the mysteries of faith. We will never exhaust mystery. The canticle of Isaiah underlines the depth of the riches of God, for we will draw water joyfully from the unending depths, the springs of God’s great kindness. For all eternity.

What were you taught about mystery when you were young? What do you think of Rahner’s understanding? How have you deepened your own understanding of the mystery of your self, your vocation, Eucharist, reconciliation, incarnation (and on and on) over the years? Ask, search, draw water from the depths!

Teach us, Holy Spirit, “the wisdom of God in its rich variety.” Teach us Jesus, the wisdom and word of God. May we never stop coming to know God more deeply.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Ephesians 3:13-21; Psalm 33; Luke 12: 49-53

The deeper our faith the more we can accept paradox. Ephesians has just said (Tuesday) that Jesus is the reconciler, bringing peace, and today Luke’s Jesus says he comes to set family members against each other. He comes to bring fire to the earth. Paradox is the mystery which calls for trust (faith) and imagination. The author of Ephesians offers a prayer that our inner being be rooted and grounded in love, and that we may know Christ’s love for us “that surpasses knowledge.” “To God…who is able to accomplish far more than all we can ask or even imagine, to God be glory!

What surpasses knowledge? Christ’s love for us. Think of all that you have ever prayed for (asked) and all that you have ever imagined. God is accomplishing and will accomplish even more than we can dream of. God is the ground of our being, and we are rooted in God, in Christ, in love. What will grow out of this grounding? How do you want to bear fruit today?

Holy Spirit, we offer you our imaginations. Heal them, make them fruitful. We do imagine peace, and know, trust that you can give more peace than we can ask or imagine. Still we ask: Peace, please!

Friday, October 24, 2014 - Anniversary of the founding of SSND

Ephesians 4: 1-6; Psalm 24; Luke 12: 54-59

Jesus speaks to the crowds about interpreting the signs of the times. When Mother Mary Teresa Gerhardinger, SSND, “longed to see God’s face (Psalm 24), and read the signs of her times, she was called to educate poor girls in Bavaria. Her devotion to the poor and their education is what the School Sisters of today try to put flesh on in 39 countries of the world. More, especially since Vatican II, we realize Jesus’ deep desire for unity as a gift of the Spirit which Teresa shared with him. How appropriate then that our Ephesians portion is about “maintaining unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” There is one body, one Spirit, one hope, one faith, one baptism, one God of all.

Please pray for all School Sisters of Notre Dame and associates, all those with whom they work, all those whom they teach or minister to in any way, that “we may all lead a life worthy of the calling”. Pray Jesus’ own prayer for all the nations of our broken world: “May they be one.”

May all your people be one, Jesus. You gave your life, lifted up as THE attractive sign, drawing all to yourself, gathering into one the scattered children of God. Thank you.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Ephesians 4: 7-16; Psalm 122; Luke 13: 1-9

“I am the Savior of all people,” says God in the entrance antiphon, which paradoxically sets off the hymn of praise to Jerusalem in the psalm. Through his parable of the fig tree that seems barren, Jesus promises us another year so that he might “dig around it and put manure on it.” Ephesians continues the theme of unity. Many gifts are listed, all “equipping the saints (that’s us!) for ministry”. All gifts have one purpose: to build up the Body of Christ. There are those who would trick us away from Christ, but “speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into Christ,” building the Body up in love.

What happens when Jesus digs around you? What manure has been tossed on you? How has it helped you bear fruit? Have you named your gifts for ministry lately? Don’t think or remember. Sit quietly and ask the Spirit to let them bubble up. Small gifts count too, such as smiling, hidden services, refusal to pass on gossip. How are you at speaking the truth in love? Do you need the Spirit to give you courage? Or do you hide things under the rug? Ask for this gift of seeing and speaking truth only in love.

By your cross and resurrection, you have set us free. You are the savior of the world, Jesus, and how blessed we are to share your mission and ministry, especially to the voiceless ones.

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Oct. 26-Nov. 1

Sunday, October 26, 2014 - Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Exodus 22: 21-27; Psalm 18; 1 Thessalonians 1:5-10; Matthew 22:34-40

When we think of keeping the commandments, we refer to the Ten Commandments. Israel had, however, 613 laws. Some are mentioned in today’s first reading, commands that keep Israel’s eyes fixed on the weaker ones in their community: resident aliens, widows, orphans. They are not to charge interest when lending to the poor; they are not to keep overnight a cloak that is pawned, “for it may be their only clothing to use as a cover.” Paul today notes that turning from idols is essential. When Jesus is challenged as to the most important commandment, he responds: love. Love is twofold: love of God with all of one’s being and love of neighbor. To love God who has first loved us may seem simple, but the measure of our love of God is our love of neighbor. How can you love your neighbor if you do not love yourself?

What do you think is the most important commandment? How do you love yourself? How do you care for your body, your emotions, your relationship with God and with others? What does Jesus say to you if you love others more than yourself? Ask him. Ask the Spirit to teach you to love, and to love your own self.

Free us from all the idols of our lives, Jesus. Thank you for your Spirit who is love, poured into our hearts. Open our hearts to the resident aliens and the poor in our midst.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Ephesians 4:32-5:8; Psalm 1; Luke 13: 10-17

Just as the preacher yesterday could stop after “Do not wrong a resident alien,” to let it sink in, so the preacher today could stop after the first sentence from Ephesians: “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another…” The gospel story of a woman bent for 18 years must be proclaimed. It is never read on a Sunday, perhaps because the leader of the synagogue is the antagonist. He doesn’t scold Jesus for healing on the Sabbath but turns on the congregation, accusing them of coming on the Sabbath to be cured. Surely this crippled woman came to worship, not to be cured. Jesus has a retort which leaves the congregation rejoicing and “all his opponents put to shame.” So when the author of Ephesians exhorts us to be kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving—and Jesus is just that--- “Let there be thanksgiving.”

Imagine the thanksgiving that rocked that synagogue where Jesus set this woman free. Be that woman. What has bent you over for many years? What keeps you from standing tall? Jesus calls you forward to himself. He touches you. And you feel…? If it takes you a while to stretch those unused muscles to stand up straight, Jesus will wait for as long as it takes. He is kind and tender with you, patient with your healing. How will you respond to him?

Jesus, lay your hands on all those in our world bent by poverty, hunger, abuse, violence of any kind. Comfort them, Jesus, and let us be instruments of your healing too.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014 - Feast of Simon and Jude, aspostles

Ephesians 2: 19-22; Psalm 19; Luke 6: 12-19

The centerpiece of the gospel reading is Jesus’ calling the twelve, but it continues with Jesus surrounded by a great crowd of disciples and multitudes of people trying to hear him, trying to touch him. Some of these are from Tyre and Sidon, pagan people, “aliens,” as Ephesians refers to us Gentiles. “You are no longer strangers and aliens,” (Eph 2: 19), but we are being built into the very building where God dwells. We are the Body of Christ, we are the dwelling of God. We are not among the Twelve, but we are apostles, chosen and sent (apostolos in Greek) to teach the multitudes, letting them touch us, touch our hearts.

As immigrants and refugees flood Canada and the United States, how do you feel about aliens, strangers? Discuss this with Jesus who wasn’t too pleased to heal a Syro-Phoenician woman’s daughter. How have the stories of immigrants touched your heart? Tell Jesus what you want for them. Is there any way you can take a step on their behalf?

Simon and Jude, patron of the impossible, change the hearts of our compatriots that we may welcome all kinds of people to join us: all races, religions, colors and creeds.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Ephesians 6: 1-9; Psalm 145; Luke 13: 22-30

The gospel is harsh, if we try to claim closeness to Jesus because “we ate and drank with you.” Paul reminds us in I Corinthians 11 that our sacramental eating and drinking may condemn us if we do not recognize the Body of Christ in the poor. Jesus says people from all over will be welcomed to eat in the kin-dom of God. Once again we are reminded how important “aliens” are to God. Ephesians tells us that slaves and masters are equal in the sight of God, and with God there is no partiality. “Some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last” (Lk 13: 30).

What are you doing or being that will make you welcome in the heavenly banquet? How is the kingdom a kin-dom in your life? Whom do you welcome?

We are unworthy, Jesus, and so we throw ourselves on your mercy, knowing that you show no partiality in loving us. Set us free. You are the savior of the world.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Ephesians 6:10-20; Psalm 144; Luke 13: 31-35

Ephesians gets a bit warlike, detailing the various pieces of armor we should put on to defeat cosmic powers and forces of evil. However, Jesus has already conquered those. So we attend to the centerpiece of today’s reading: “Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert, and always persevere…” Jesus’ supplication is to Jerusalem. “Jerusalem, Jerusalem,” he cries. He is so distraught by Jerusalem’s rejection of the good news. “How often I have desired to gather you together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing.” Like John’s gospel who sees Jesus’ crucifixion as God’s will, “gathering into one new family all the scattered children of God (Jn 11:52), Luke’s Jesus too wants to gather people together. “May they all be one.”

First, look at Jesus looking at Jerusalem and hear his cry, his discouragement. Over what nations and cities is he crying now? How do you feel? Be with his feelings and your own for a while. Then--with whom do you not want to be gathered? Whom would you exclude? A person near to you, a class of people who frightens you? Discuss this with Jesus. Ask that more and more your desires might match his deep desire for unity.

We do believe that you have overcome the cosmic powers of evil that divide people, Jesus. Help our unbelief and make us instruments of the unity you so deeply desire.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Philippians 1:1-11; Psalm 111; Luke 14: 1-6

As Jesus incurred the wrath of the leader of the synagogue for healing a woman in Monday’s reading, so today (as Luke often does, pairing a woman story with a man story), at “the house of a leader of the Pharisees,” Jesus heals a man with dropsy – on the Sabbath. For us, it is the eve of All Hallows, the old English word for All Saints. The Celts believed that at this time of year, the veil between this world and the next was very thin. How providential then that Paul’s opening words to a church led by women (see Acts 16) are ones often chosen for a funeral Mass: “I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you…I am confident that the One who began good work in you will bring it to completion …. This is my prayer: that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight…”

To know Christ is to love Christ. To love Christ is to know him. What do you know about Christ now? What do you want to know? Remember those whom you love, one by one, and thank God with joy for their presence in your life. As you go through the day and you think of someone, friend or enemy, thank God – and you will be praying constantly.

Jesus, make our love for you and for our near neighbors, friends and family overflow. Let our love reach into the most wretched places, to the most forgotten people.

Saturday, November 1, 2014 - Feast of All Saints

Revelation 7: 2-4, 9-14; Psalm 24; 1 John 3: 1-3; Matthew 5: 1-12

The 144,000 who are “sealed” has sparked fear among some Christians. What if only that many are received into the kin-dom? However, John of Patmos (neither the apostle nor evangelist) continues: “there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation…” The second reading is from the first letter of John (perhaps the evangelist) and is often used for funeral services: “See what love the Father has given us!...We are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed.” This reading says we shall be like God. Our offertory prayer proclaims: May we come to share the divinity of him who emptied himself to share our humanity. We are in the process of becoming divine!

In the gospel Jesus announces the Beatitudes. Can you name the Ten Commandments? Can you name the eight Beatitudes, and the promises attached to each? Try it. Then test your response as you pray to be gifted with poverty of spirit, a compassion that makes you mourn, meekness, desire for justice, mercy, singleness of heart, peace that overflows through you. Can you dare pray for persecution? Ask for others to think less of you? What would you be willing to be persecuted for?

Bless us, Jesus! Share your poverty and peace, your meekness and mourning with us. Let your desire for unity, justice and mercy be our single-hearted desire too.

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