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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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July. 26 - Aug. 1

Sunday, July 26, 2015 - Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

2 Kings 4:42-44; Psalm 145; Ephesians 4: 1-6; John 6:1-15

There is a theme today: abondanza.  Abundance.  God’s generosity overflows, satisfying our physical needs, as Elisha offers scarce food to many people, and all are satisfied.  As with Jesus in the narrative of the feeding of 5, 000, there is even some left over. God also satisfies the hungry heart with a lavishing of grace. Only when we know how gifted we are, can we respond with a life of real morality, a response to God’s abundant love.  The morality we Christians have been called to is detailed in Ephesians, not the keeping of the Law, but a calling, a vocation “to humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”  Notice:  God has already given us the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Our response is to pay attention (contemplate) and work for unity (act).  God initiates, abundantly; we respond. When we pray for vocations, don’t limit God to priests and religious.  Ask that we all hear the call to holiness, the vocation to love.

Where do you notice in your life the unity of the Spirit?  What do you do to respond to the bond of peace?  Ask for the gift of living in an attitude of abundance, not scarcity.  If you decided to live more abundantly, what might change in your life? Discuss this with Jesus.

You satisfy our hungry hearts with the gift of your own self!  Thank you for your abundant generosity, God of grace. Help us to nourish one another, especially the hungry and vulnerable.


Monday, July 27, 2015

Exodus 32: 15-24. 30-34; Psalm 106; Matthew 13: 31-35

Exodus tells of the rage of Moses, breaking the tablets with God’s own writing, when he discovers that in his absence, the people are celebrating and worshipping a golden calf.
His brother Aaron shirks responsibility, first saying in effect, “they made me do it” and then when he threw all the gold the people offered into the fire, “out came this calf.” Moses returns to the mountaintop to plead for God’s forgiveness.  The psalmist describes the scene: “They exchanged the glory of God for the image of an ox that eats grass.”  The psalm continues: “Therefore God said he would destroy them, had not Moses, his chosen one, stood in the breach before him to turn away his wrath from destroying them.”  This “standing in the breach” is often applied to Jesus, as mediator between God and ourselves.

First, ask the Spirit to show you when you may have exchanged the glory of God for something as silly as an ox that eats grass.  What have been/are your idols?  Many Catholics fear the wrath of God so much that they turn to Mary, the refuge of sinners, to plead for them; others cling to Jesus to “stand in the breach.”  And you?  What do you know, from your own experience, of God’s anger?  Back to the question, ever ancient, ever new: What is your image of God? Who is God for you?

Clarify our understanding of you, dear Mystery.  Help us to believe and live and pass on the good news that you are a God of mercy, and you will be faithful even when we are not.


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Exodus 33: 7-11, 34:4-9, 28; Psalm 103; Matthew 13: 36-43

The psalm’s antiphon reinforces: “The Lord is kind and merciful.”  In a verse of Exodus that is not included today, Moses asks to know God’s beautiful name.  (“I am who I am” is not enough).  God places Moses in a cleft of a rock and passes by, calling out a new name: “a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness…”  The Hebrew word for merciful is rchm.  Hebrew does not print vowels, so there is a play on words here:  rachum means merciful and rechem means womb.  God’s is a womb-compassion. “Can a mother forget her baby?” God asks through Isaiah (49).  “As far as the east is from the west so far God removes our transgressions from us”(Ps 103).   Jesus reinforces this good news, explaining the parable of weeds sown among wheat.  Remember, we are not to pull up weeds lest we mistake what is weed. So too, we are to trust that God will do the judging at the end of our lives. Do not judge is the message between the lines: not anyone else, not even your own self.

When have you rooted something out of your life that later you discovered was a 
blessing?  When have you judged someone or something or some whole segment of society as “weed”? Place your judgment in God’s womb compassion.  How does God  judge it?  When you looked again at your image of God yesterday, was it a beautiful image?  Ask God to show you God’s beauty.

O Beauty, ever ancient, ever new, late have we loved you, yet never loved we till now. (Augustine).  Take into your womb compassion all those who do not experience beauty in their lives.


Wednesday, July 29, 2015 - Martha of Bethany

Exodus 34: 29-35; Psalm 34; Luke 10: 38-42

Moses is described as coming down from his face-to-face encounter with God on Mount Sinai with his skin aglow.   Notice: Martha welcomes Jesus into her home. Not her husband’s, not Lazarus’ but her own home.   After Martha met Jesus, became friends, fed, and sheltered him, what must have been the afterglow?  Martha knew Jesus, and knowing him makes her a disciple, one who learns.  Where was she on Pentecost when the Spirit filled the Twelve, the women--120 in all?  How might the Spirit have transformed her, missioned her, made her an apostle?

In your imagination, join Martha at the fireplace in her home in Bethany. Jesus is coming.  Watch her face, her hands.  Ask her what she is feeling, what she wants.  Be with her.  Watch her interactions with Jesus. Cool water to drink, more to soothe his feet. Martha the comforter, and Martha the confronter. When Lazarus dies and she goes to meet Jesus, her face was aglow with anger that he had not come.   Yet she knows, really and deeply knows, that he is resurrection and life.  Ask for this gift of knowing that we too will be raised in glory.

Let our hearts glow with God’s glory, Jesus, as we serve others today. As Martha served you, we pray to be alert to the needs of others. As for our far neighbors, may many Marthas meet their needs.


Thursday, July 30, 2015

Exodus 40: 16-21, 34-36; Psalm 84; Matthew 13: 47-52

Later Moses will learn to delegate, but today we hear how he builds the Tabernacle to house the Ark of the Covenant all by himself.  The cloud rests on this tent, becoming a pillar of fire by night.  The psalmist lauds the dwelling place of God, a simple tent.  “One day in your house is better than a thousand elsewhere.”  Jesus continues speaking of how at the end of time the good and evil will be separated, like fish all drawn in together in a net, and then separated.

“A day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.”  Lately we have become more aware of how God inheres in every atom in every form of matter, so that we might praise God’s dwelling, not only in cloud and fire, but in every created thing, animate and inanimate.  If you can, take a prayer walk today, trying to remain conscious of God’s presence in all creation. If you cannot go out, focus on each object in your room, knowing that you are “a doorkeeper in the house of God.” 

Thank you for your creation in all its wondrous, myriad forms! Thank you for your presence in all of it. Help us to cherish our earth and all its creatures.


Friday, July 31, 2015 - Ignatius of Loyola

Leviticus 23:1, 4-11, 15-16, 27, 34-37; Psalm 81; Matthew 13: 54-58

What have these readings to do with Ignatius who calls all of us to prayer, contemplation, discerned decisions, reflective action?  As the entrance antiphon notes, the name of Jesus is at the core of his spiritual life, a name which is itself a “deed of power” to quote today’s gospel.  The Leviticus reading details the times and ways to celebrate worship. Ignatius hoped all times and hours of the day would be devoted to the “greater glory of God.”  The psalm is a joyful shout, the commandment of God.  Some translate, “This is the Law of God…”  What is? All sorts of “thou shall not”?  No. “Raise a song, blow the trumpet,” make music and rejoicing to honor the God who set you free from slavery. God’s law is: make music!

Ask the Spirit to remind you today, as you change each activity, to say: “All for the greater glory of God.”  At the end of the day, review your motivations.  Were your actions done for God’s glory or your glory?  As you think of some person or other during the day, say the name “Jesus” over that person, and let that powerful name embrace the one of whom you are thinking, friend or foe.

Jesus, how much our world needs your wisdom and deeds of power. Increase our faith, our trust in your freeing action so that our belief may invite you to deeds of power for all in need.


Saturday, August 1, 2015 - Alphonsus Liguori

Leviticus 25: 1, 8-17; Psalm 67; Matthew 14: 1-12

Again this week we celebrate a founder of a religious congregation.   Alphonsus, who founded the Redemptorists, was noted as a confessor and moral theologian.  His own integrity led him to resign his first “career,” the law, after he lost a case because he missed a bit of evidence. Yet this master of law is noted for his kindness and mercy.  So is the Law promulgated in the Leviticus reading today one of mercy.  Israel kept slaves rather than prisoners. If someone should rob, for example, instead of going to prison, the offender and his whole family was enslaved to the victim for a time. Today the year of jubilee is proclaimed when all slaves are set free, all debts are cancelled, all land is returned to its original owner.  

When have you celebrated jubilee in your life: when you forgave past hurts, let go of grudges, taken a long Sabbath time?   What is your attitude to confession?  To whom do you confess your sin?  The early church did not have a sacrament of penance for about 200 years, and then only for murder, adultery (we hear of Herod’s today in the gospel) or apostasy. People confessed to the one whom they offended, not in slavish fear, but in trust of God’s mercy working through the one they hurt. It is helpful and humble to acknowledge our wrongdoing. What do you think?  Discuss this with Jesus.

Give the gift of integrity, please, to all lawyers, judges, public officials-- and to us that we may extend mercy, we who so often receive your mercy.



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Aug. 2 - Aug. 8

Sunday, August 2, 2015 - Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Exodus 16: 2-4, 12-15, 31; Psalm 78; Ephesians 4:17, 20-24; John 6: 24-35

These are days in the northern hemisphere to rest awhile, to take siesta from the broiling sun.  Ephesians picks up Jesus’s call to come apart and rest. The author warns: “do not live in the futility of your minds.  That is not how you learned Christ…”  Even when we rest, so often our minds keep racing, planning, comparing, evaluating. The Greek word for futility is “vanity.”  In vain do we work and slave and save.  God’s abundance feeds us. Ah, but we ask with the crowds, “What must we do…?” Surely we must do something to pay God back for this abundance. Surely we must perform the works of God.  Jesus responds: “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one God sent.” To believe in means to trust. The work of God is to trust Jesus. This may take a life time to learn. Instead we pile up rosaries, novenas, good works for the poor, many Masses, donations of canned goods and money. But we cannot save ourselves, we cannot make God love us more. God loves us perfectly right now. It is futile to keep examining our spiritual life; it is vain. Jesus grows our spiritual life, and we are to rest awhile.

Perhaps you are one who can rest your mind, hold your plans loosely. Perhaps you can take one day at a time, one moment at a time. You can live in the present. Thank God for that grace and ask it for all those who worry, fret, lack trust in God’s abundance.
Let your mind rest now and ask to learn Christ more intimately.

Such a frantic, restless world we live in, as well you know, Jesus.  Fill our hungry hearts and help us to nourish others, handing on your peace that the world cannot give.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Numbers 11:4-15; Psalm 81; Matthew 14: 13-21

The people are hungry, weeping, complaining, and Moses is weary of his “leadership.” Moses offers God an ultimatum. “If this is the way you are going to treat me, put me to death at once.”  God responds through the psalm: “Oh if only you would listen to me…if only you would open your mouths I would feed you with the finest wheat and honey from the rock!”  Jesus puts flesh on God’s desire to feed us. With meager supplies, Jesus feeds 5,000 men (not women and children).

Whom do you consider your leader(s)?  How do you relate with them?  How do they nourish you?  How do you handle your complaints?  How does God’s longing for us to open our ears and our mouths make you feel?  Would you sit with open hands and open mouth for a while, asking God to feed you all that God wants to give? Try it.

Where are the five loaves and two fish to feed the starving of our world? Lord Jesus, come! Open our hearts generously to respond to all those who hunger for bread.

Tuesday, August 4, 2012 - John Vianney, priest

Numbers 12: 1-13; Psalm 51; Matthew 14: 22-36

Again, our readings can fit the feast of this simple French priest whom Pope Benedict named patron of “The Year of the Priest.” John barely had the rudiments of doctrine when he was ordained, somewhat like Peter who began to walk on water simply because Jesus summoned him. John did walk on water, becoming so well known as a confessor that people flocked to his small parish in Ars.  He received them in the confessional sometimes for 16 hours a day.  The first reading is about Moses’ prayer that God heal his sister Miriam.  The psalm is about the forgiveness of sin, and some lines are well worth memorizing:
    Have mercy on me, O God, in your steady kindness….
    A clean heart create in me and a faithful spirit put within me.
    Do not cast me from your presence and do not take your holy Spirit from me.

Thank God for priests who are trying to love well.  Pray today for the healing of those who sin.  Pray that the clerics among them might receive new hearts, brimming with the pastoral love Jesus himself. Ask that they may have the smell of the sheep.  Pray that they may never finish learning Jesus Christ, and that they might honor Christ in each of us, who are also priests by reason of our baptism.

Have mercy on us, your church, O God.  Give us new and loving hearts that we might faithfully mediate your love to all whom we meet, our near and far neighbors.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Numbers 13:2, 25-33, 14:1-2, 26-29, 34-35; Psalm 106; Matthew15:21-28

At God’s command, Moses sends spies to survey the promised land, and while it flows with milk and honey, the scouts tell of giant inhabitants.  So of course, the people weep and complain! God is so angry he promises that they shall wander for 40 years and die in the desert. In the psalm, Moses again stands in the breach, as we pray the antiphon: “In your love, remember us, Lord!” In the gospel, Jesus is angry too.  A Canaanite woman begs for healing for her demon-tormented daughter and Jesus calls her a dog. She reminds him that the dogs can eat the scraps.  Here Jesus praises her faith and heals the girl. In Mark’s version he says: “Woman, for saying that, I will heal your daughter.”  Jesus needs his consciousness raised. Galileans whose fields were burned and whose women were raped are enraged by Assyrians and Egyptians armies who for centuries plow through Galilee. This desperate, shouting woman undercuts Jesus’ unconscious bigotry, and for saying that, for insisting that Gentiles too are children of God, she 
moves him to heal.

Ask the Spirit to reveal to you any unconscious prejudice. Don’t think. Wait. See what rises in your consciousness. Of whom are you afraid?  Whom do you disdain, even hold in contempt?  Discuss with Jesus what you learn from the Spirit.  He too was human and had to learn to understand and accept those who were different.

Change our complaining about world conditions into prayer and action for justice, peace, unity; for tolerance, respect, acceptance, for those who are different from us.

Thursday, August 6, 2015 - Transfiguration

2 Peter 1:16-19; Psalm 97; Mark 9:2-10

Your celebrant may choose the reading from Daniel, but whether that or this, from 2 Peter, we have apocalyptic hope in our first reading.  Apocalypsis is Greek for revelation, the drawing back of the veil which covers the last things, the majesty of Christ’s final coming.  2 Peter offers a powerful image: “You will do well to be attentive…as to a lamp shining in the dark, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts.”  Not only is Jesus transfigured, but we too carry the morning star, the risen Christ, to others.  As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians: “We are being transformed from glory to glory.”

So let us be attentive.  Imagine the darkness of outer space (actually, the Hubble Telescope shows us, full of light, colors and activity) which surrounds us, and then see a pinprick of light coming closer, slowly, steadily closer.  Here comes Jesus to transform our lowly bodies into his own glorious body.  Here comes the light of the world, surrounding you, penetrating you, transfiguring you.  And you respond…?

By the mystery of your transfiguration, may we come to share the divinity of you who emptied yourself to share our humanity. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Friday, August 7, 2015

Deuteronomy 4: 32-40; Psalm 77; Matthew 16: 24-28

“You way, O God, is holy,” sings the psalmist.  The word “holy” and the word “just” are the same in both Hebrew and Greek.  Moses asks the people to be in awe that the Holy One has shepherded the people with such mercy. Has any other god chosen a nation? Moses asks them. Jesus too speaks of holiness, the giving of one’s life for Jesus’ sake in order to find life. Then he promises that when the Son of Man comes at the end of time, “he will repay everyone for what has been done.”

How do you give your life for Jesus’ sake?  Remember all the kindnesses you offered people yesterday; all the phone calls, emails, smiles that you returned; all the ways you “washed the feet” of your family, friends—this is giving your life. As for Jesus’ “repaying”?  Throw yourself on his mercy and be at peace, the peace that only he can give. 

“Your way, O God, is holy.”  Make us holy as you are holy, sharing your mission: serving, feeding, smiling, thanking, accepting—especially the vulnerable and needy.

Saturday, August 8, 2015 - Dominic

Deuteronomy 6:4-13; Psalm 18; Matthew 17: 14-20

“Shema, Israel!”  This is the creed of Israel: “Hear, Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord alone.”  Islam’s creed is much the same: “The Lord our God is one.”  Moses enumerates many of the mercies of God in leading the people, urging them to pass on this creed to their children.  Jesus meets a tormented child after he returns from the mount of transfiguration.  The boy is an epileptic, throwing himself in the fire and in the water. Jesus casts out the demon and when the disciples ask why they couldn’t do this exorcism, Jesus is blunt: “Because of your little faith.”  Dominic was a defender and teacher of faith as he wandered, a beggar.  Our faith has been enriched and preached by his followers, both men and women.

What is your personal creed?  What do you believe in so strongly (as Paul would say, even if an angel would tell you differently, you would not falter)?  Dominic believed in the incarnation, God joining humanity and all creation in tangible and visible ways through Jesus. And you? Ask the Spirit to teach you and give you the courage of your belief.

Jesus, we do believe! Help our unbelief.  Deepen our trust in you. Help us preach about your love by incarnating your justice, kindness and healing in our lives.

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