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.
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.
Saturday, August 30, 2014
1 Corinthians 1:26-31; Psalm 33; Matthew 25: 14-30
The parable of the talents has probably led to much workaholism among Christians, afraid their Lord will require payback! This parable is contradicted by Paul’s realization that God chooses the weak and the foolish, the “low and despised” so that no one may boast of his/her own talents. A pastor from Haiti offered this explanation of the parable through the lens of his destitute country. “Master, I knew you were a harsh man, reaping what you did not sow…” The priest commended the one who was thrown out into the darkness because he refused to touch ill-gotten gain. How much we can learn from the poor, women, prisoners etc., when approaching scripture.
Whom do you consider weak, foolish? Whom do you despise (not hate, but rather look down upon)? Ask the Spirit to send up these persons or groups to your consciousness. As each appears before your mind’s eye, repeat the mantra: “God chooses you.” Return to someone or group that really riles your inner peace and stay there with God.
Free us from our need to save ourselves, to produce in order to win your favor, generous God. Thank you for your constant favor, and for your choosing those whom we might ignore.
Sunday, August 31, 2014 - Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jeremiah 20:7-9; Psalm 63; Romans 12: 1-2; Matthew 16: 21-27
Jesus’ call to take up our cross might frighten us. After Vatican II when the School Sisters rewrote our rule, the chapter on conversion of heart omitted the difficult penances and extraordinary disciplines. Instead, it calls for our acceptance of the many ordinary pains of daily living as a way toward heart-conversion. Jeremiah says if he refuses to speak, God’s word it is like a fire in his bones, wearying him. That is a “cross.” “I am thirsting for you,” the psalmist cries. That is a “cross.” Paul urges us to present our bodies as a living sacrifice; and God knows the aches, pains, limits that plague our bodies are “ordinary crosses.” Paul warns “Do not be conformed to this world.” To be counter cultural needs daily discernment and is a cross.
Ask the Spirit to show you where you are already acting in a counter cultural way. Ask, as the Alleluia verse does, for God “to enlighten the eyes of our heart,” so that we can see what the “cross” looks like in our daily living. What does it mean for you to offer your body as a living sacrifice?
Creator-God, you love the world, and consecrate all you have made in Jesus. Forgive us for marring your creation, ignoring our responsibilities to the earth and its people.
Monday, September 1, 2014 - Labour Day
1 Corinthians 2:1-5; Psalm 119; Luke 4: 16-30
Although there is a special set of readings for Labor Day, the account of God’s work of creating in Genesis and Matthew’s parable of the talents, the ordinary readings fit perhaps even better. Paul explains that his work of proclamation is flawed by his speech and personal lack of wisdom. He comes to Corinth weak, fearful and trembling, and yet he proclaims all the better that God is wisdom and power. In Luke, Jesus finds the text in Isaiah which details the work he will do: “bring good news to the poor, proclaim release for the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, free the oppressed and proclaim the year of God’s favor.”
God’s work, God’s mission takes flesh in Jesus and in Paul. When have you been weak in your work/ministry/relationships only to witness God’s power at work? Savor that memory. With all that Jesus promises he will do, which of the above services do you need? Are you poor, captive, blind, oppressed, or just in need of God’s favor (same word as grace)? Tell Jesus what you need from him.
Bless the work of our hands, God of grace! Bless our ministries, our needs, our relationships, our desires so that all will know this year of your favor! Bless us with integrity in all our work.
Tuesday, September 2, 2014
1 Corinthians 2: 10-16; Psalm 145; Luke 4: 31-37
After Jesus read from Isaiah yesterday and all were marveling, he continued to speak about inclusion of Gentiles in God’s favor. His own townsfolk tried to kill him. Today he moves on to Capernaum, speaking “with authority.” That authority commands demons, and people are restored to their right minds and free wills. Paul writes of discernment which calls for right minds and free wills. Only the Spirit can really know the depths of God, and yet, wonder of wonders, “we have the mind of Christ.”
Your prayer might go in either of two directions: who is included in God’s favor? Or, what does it mean to you in your daily discernments to have the mind of Christ? Pray to have the welcoming heart of Christ, as well as his mind, his way of thinking and choosing. Pray for those who are mired in exclusivity because of race, religion, wealth.
Please give us the gift of discerning your mind, Jesus, and letting your wisdom and compassion move us in all the small and large choices of today. Give us your heart.
Wednesday, September 3, 2014
Corinthians 3:1-9; Psalm 33; Luke 4: 38-44
Paul speaks sternly to the Corinthians because of the factions that riddle the community. Paul refuses credit for “watering” what his disciple “Apollos” had planted in Corinth (the young church), for it is only God who gives the growth. His image of us the church is a building, with which most of us are familiar, but Paul also calls us “God’s field.” Jesus heals the fever of Peter’s mother in law, casts out demons and heals disease, but disentangles himself because he “must proclaim the good news” to others also.
Let your imagination play today as you imagine yourself and your family/community/parish/neighborhood as God’s building. What does your building look like? How does it serve? Now imagine you and yours as God’s field. What does that look like? What is growing? What do you need to support growth?
Flowers, wheat, corn, soybeans, potatoes, and weeds—we are all your field, God of growth. Plant us, grow us, make us fruitful and able to nourish your people today.
Thursday, September 4, 2014
1 Corinthians 3:18-23; Psalm 24; Luke 5: 1-11
Would that Jesus would call us to discipleship as he called Peter, James and John. Such a marvelous catch of fish after a futile night of work, no wonder Peter fell at Jesus’ feet. Paul wants us to become fools for Christ, that we might become wise. “Let no one boast about human leaders,” he urges. Jesus is Lord and leader—not some political party or nation. Everything belongs to us “and you belong to Christ and Christ belongs to God.”
When has something in your life feel futile, empty? When did you work at something for a long, hard time and not seen results? “All the works of God go forward slowly and painfully,” the SSND foundress, Mother Theresa of Jesus wrote. True? When has something you thought foolish turned out for the glory of God? Discuss former successes and failures with Jesus. Then fall at his feet and worship him, trusting his ways.
Thank you for calling us to belong to you, Jesus. “You have given all to us; to you we return it. Give us only your love and your grace. That is enough for us.”
Friday, September 5, 2014
1 Corinthians 4:1-5; Psalm 37; Luke 5: 33-39
“You cannot make wedding guests fast when the bridegroom is with them,” Jesus says. As we more and more believe that Christ is with us and within us, penance and fasting become less important as spiritual disciplines. The real discipline (disciple-making activity) is to trust Jesus, letting go of our fears, our judgments even of ourselves. As Paul says, “I do not even judge myself.” When the Lord returns, good news! “Each one will receive commendation from God.” If God commends us, what do human judgments of us mean?
How can you fast from worrying about what others think of you? You are who you are and God commends you. God loves you perfectly, totally right now. How does that feel? Can you trust that? Pray for the gift of letting go of self-criticism, and ask the Spirit to show you where you might improve or grow. The Spirit corrects “most courteously” according to Julian of Norwich, and does not criticize.
We do trust you, Jesus, and ask that you transform our hearts. Transform, too, our church and our society into communities of acceptance and abundant compassion.
Saturday, September 6, 2014
1 Corinthians 4: 6-15; Psalm 145; Luke 6: 1-5
Jesus relativizes the Law in today’s gospel, and it is this, not God’s will or need for satisfaction, that gets Jesus crucified. For him, Sabbath rules yield to human need. Jesus protects his friends from the Pharisees’ criticism but Paul’s mission gets no such protection. Listen to all that he suffers for the sake of the mission: he and his companions are judged as fools, weak, disreputable, hungry, thirsty, poorly clothed, beaten, homeless, weary, like rubbish. His response to his suffering? “When reviled, we bless…when slandered, we speak kindly.”
What do you suffer for the sake of sharing in God’s mission? This is all the “fasting” we need do: blessing, speaking kindly, praying for those who cause us annoyance or downright pain. Whom will you bless today? Pray for the gift of reconciliation in your life, in our church, in our nations and in our world.
You do protect us, Jesus, even when all looks hopeless. Give us a share in your courage, your faithfulness to God’s mission. Thank you for our call to mission.