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.
Wisdom 12:13, 16-19; Psalm 86; Romans 8: 26-27; Matthew 13: 24-43
Both the reading from Wisdom and the psalm praise God’s judging us with mildness, “for you are good and forgiving.” Through God’s kindness in judging, we learn and are grateful that “you have taught your people that they must be kind.” Paul is grateful for the Spirit who helps us in our weakness, “for we do not know how to pray as we ought.” Instead of judging our prayer, we can rejoice that it is the Spirit who prays continually in us, “putting our inarticulate groans into words that God can understand.” The gospel parable emphasizes that we cannot judge ourselves, let alone anyone else. What we consider the weeds in our lives may be the seeds of great blessing, and we “might uproot the wheat with them. Let them both grow together until the harvest.”
We must judge in order to choose wisely. It is the motive, the heart, which only God can see to judge. We barely know our own motivation, our “inarticulate groans” deep in our unconscious, so we dare not judge another’s. We even judge our prayer life, when it is the Spirit’s work to pray within us. When have you felt your prayer was weak, your attention to God not steadfast? Can you trust Paul’s good news that the Spirit prays within you, all the time, even when you are asleep. Entrust your prayer, this prayer, to the Spirit now. Are you caught in a drive for perfection, tearing at yourself to get rid of what you judge weeds? Give God your human function of judging so that God may teach you kindness and mercy, or deepen what has already been God’s gift to you.
Take, Spirit, receive, all our attempts and desire to pray. Take our memories, understandings, judgments, our entire will. Give us only your merciful love and your grace.
Monday, July 21, 2014
Micah 6: 1-4, 6-8; Psalm 50; Matthew 12: 38-42
How many times we are told in Jewish and Christian scriptures that God does the saving, that God prefers mercy to one another rather than all the sacrifices we offer. Today we are reminded how simple it is to please God: act justly, love tenderly, walk humbly with God. And God’s love enfolds us even if we don’t do well. We honor God the psalmist tells us with a sacrifice of thanksgiving. How hard is that? Jesus offers us two signs: Jonah and the Queen of the South. Jonah called people to repent, literally a change of mind. The Queen wanted the wisdom of Solomon, and “behold, one greater than Solomon is here.”
What do you want from God? Repentance, wisdom, justice, tenderness, humility, a grateful heart? Don’t do damage to your heart, trying to root out imperfections. Start with a sacrifice of thanksgiving for all that God has given you already. Ask that you might love God tenderly as God walks with you.
Mercy on your people, God! Let us see the signs of your presence and work in our war torn world. Transform us into attractive signs of your justice and love.
Tuesday, July 22, 2014 - Mary of Magdala, apostle to the apostles
2 Corinthians 5: 14-17; Psalm 63; John 20: 1, 11-18
Another title for Mary might be, sister to the brothers. Jesus has been so intimate at the last supper, sharing with his friends his inner thoughts and desires. “I call you no longer servants, but friends”. Now he calls them brothers. A new kin-ship is established when God raises Jesus. Our first reading announces: “the love of Christ urges us on.” Mary’s mission spreads beyond the disciples as she is urged on by love. “My whole being thirsts for you, O Lord, my God,” is her song. In the last stanza she proclaims, “My whole being clings to you.” Yet in the gospel she is told not to cling, because Jesus has not yet ascended. But when his physical presence is gone, what must have been her clinging?
“How can I keep from singing, when to that Rock I’m clinging?” And yet you thirst as Mary does, for a deeper intimacy with Jesus. You wouldn’t be praying regularly unless you hunger and thirst for him, long to be sent by him, filled with his love that urges you to the least of the brothers and sisters, your new kin. Share your desires with Jesus, and let him share his with you.
Thank you, Jesus, for loving this woman so well. Keep on teaching us to love well, to offer your compassion and mercy to outcasts and strangers.
Wednesday, July 23, 2014
Jeremiah 1: 1, 4-10; Psalm 71; Matthew 13: 1-9
Imagine a boy appointed by God to be “over the nations.” Prophets have power not their own, for they are so close to the mind and heart of God that they can speak God’s will to the nations. Jeremiah might well have sung this psalm in which the psalmist states: “From my youth you have taught me….” Jesus concludes his parable of the sower and seed with “Let anyone with ears listen!”
A disciple is a learner, a listener. What have you heard God speak to you over your lifetime? When did you begin to be taught by God? What was your first communion like, your confirmation? What has God been teaching you when you married or professed your religious vows? Use as a mantra throughout the day: “Speak, Lord. Your servant is listening.”
Thank you for calling us too so close to your mind and heart, God, that we dare to speak justice to the nation, speak truth to power. Give us courage to change what we can.
Thursday, July 24, 2014
Jeremiah 2: 1-3, 7-8, 12-13; Psalm 36; Matthew 13: 10-17
“Be appalled, be shocked, be utterly desolate, says the Lord.” Why? Not only have the people abandoned God, the fountain of living water so available to them. They also have taken water into their own hands, building cisterns to catch rain water, cisterns which crack. The stupidity of thinking we can do life better than God! The psalmist says, “You give them to drink from the river of your delights” and they turn away. The psalm continues: “With you is the fountain of life, and in your light we are bathed in light.”
If you have ever taken life into your own hands instead of trusting the abundance of life Jesus came to offer, ask pardon. What are the delights of God that God offers you? Picture the fountain of life welling up from deep within you, the Spirit. Let Christ’s light bathe you in light. Send him to your loved ones and watch him bathe them in light. Send him to the nations, to the city streets, to the hospitals, prisons and refugee camps with life. On this feast of Saint Sharbel Makhluf of Lebanon, pray for the people of the Middle East, especially for the Palestinians who are losing all.
You are the fountain of life, Holy Spirit, and how grateful we are that you bathe us in the light and life of Christ. Thank you! Deepen our trust in your abundance. Deepen our love for those oppressed.
Friday, July 25, 2014 - James, apostle
2 Corinthians 4: 7-15; Psalm 126; Matthew 20:20-28
This is the son of Zebedee who has a mother ambitious for him. The other readings are chosen to highlight martyrdom, the cup James asserts, in front of that mother, that he will drink. Paul lists the sufferings that may precede a martyr’s death, for we are but earthen vessels. However, the good news is that we “bear in our bodies the dying of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may be made manifest in this mortal flesh of ours,” Life comes out of death, joy out of sorrow.
“Those who sow in tears will reap rejoicing!”
Contemplate your body. Where is it carrying or has it carried the dying of Jesus? Show Jesus your earthen vessel with its defects, cracks, pick you up, hold you, caress you just as you are. Ask to let his life shine through you, just as you are. Broken or beautiful, he claims you. Ask him to change the tears soaking our war- world to rejoicing, to let the broken vessel of the world be healed.
Look on your own Body, the church, Jesus, and see how broken we are, how bruised and ignored. Heal us, and make us instruments of your healing.
Saturday, July 26, 2014 - Anne and Joachim
Sirach 44:1, 8, 10-15; Psalm 132; Matthew 13: 16-17
Legend names the maternal grandparents of Jesus, Mary’s mother and father. Anne and Joachim are products of legends but Joseph’s father, Jacob, is actually named in Matthew’s genealogy. “Let us sing the praises of our ancestors in their generations,” Sirach begins. Their names live on and “the assembly declares their wisdom.” We do know that Jesus had four grandparents, and we can wonder if, when, how he related with them.
Did Jesus know his grandparents? Let’s play in our imaginations for a while, picturing some of the activities, feeling some of the warmth of these elders as they tend their grandson. Then let us remember what we can of our own grandparents. Is there any wisdom you still remember receiving from them? Speak with them now, for they care for you perfectly now.
Thank you, Jesus, for sharing our humanity, enjoying your grandparents. Bless all grandparents, especially those who are far physically, emotionally, religiously from their grandchildren.
Sunday, July 27, 2014 - Seventeenth Day in Ordinary Time
1 KINGS 3:5-12; PSALM 119; ROMANS 8: 28-30; MATTHEW 13: 44-52
King Solomon has such a fine reputation, built on this reading and the story of the two mothers fighting over a child. God was pleased that the young king asked for a wise and discerning heart, but perhaps even God does not know how we will handle our great gift of free will. The real Solomon was so unwise as to abuse power and enslave his own people to work the salt mines. He squandered, made a mockery of God’s gift. The parables Jesus tells of the kin-dom also show a seeming foolishness, selling all that one has to buy something greater. Solomon was lured by wealth and power. The figures in the parables take a reasonable risk with their money. Not to worry, Paul says. “For those who love God all things work together for the good.” Out of the foolishness of crucifixion God draws new life, making Jesus “firstborn among many brothers and sisters.”
Hear God asking you: “What should I give you?” What is your first response? And after you ponder that question, what do you really, really want? Tell God your desire. What is your experience of everything working together for your good? Reflect for a while, remembering the details, the feelings. Or does this happen often—when you trust? Remembering makes present. It is a way of thanking God for such detailed care which God offers you.
Give our leaders deep wisdom, discerning and understanding hearts. Teach them to do justice and to lead always to peace. Forgive us the ways we all enslave one another.
Monday, July 28, 2014
JEREMIAH 13:1-11; CANTICLE from Deuteronomy 32; matthew 13: 31-35
God instructs Jeremiah to buy a new loin cloth, to wear it a while and then to hide it in “the cleft of the rock” near the Euphrates river, quite a distance from Israel. After a while Jeremiah is to retrieve that loin cloth which is thoroughly ruined. A parable. God wanted “the whole house and the whole house of Judah” to cling to God, as the loin cloth “clings to one’s loins.” The psalm compares God to a woman who gives birth: “You forgot the God who gave you birth.” Jesus’ parables about the kin-dom of God conclude our readings. After we image God with underwear and God as giving birth, it is comforting to return to parables about mustard seeds and leaven.
Prophets not only used words to teach, but “prophetic actions,” like the one described for Jeremiah. The original hearers may have been more shocked by God’s giving birth than God’s using a loin cloth as an example of intimacy with the people. These Jews were comfortable with their bodies, even nudity, but probably not with a womanly God, a God who gives birth. Jesus uses simple examples, indicating that he has probably paid attention to the growth of a mustard shrub/tree and watched a woman (his mother?) making bread. How deep his hope for the kin-dom to grow! For what do you hope? What calls your attention to God’s action in the ordinary?
Make us comfortable with and accepting of our bodies, Jesus, and challenge us to a deeper hope for the peace and unity of all people, all creation, gathered in you, lifted up for our salvation.
Tuesday, July 29, 2014 - Martha, Friend, Disciple
JEREMIAH 14:17-22; psalm 79; luke 10: 38-42
Before there was a renewal of Scripture, theologians taught that God could not suffer. How could anyone read God’s response to our suffering, God’s tears “night and day” for a people struck down, and not feel with our pain-filled God? Then Jeremiah responds to God’s grief with questions about God’s pain. “We look for peace…for a time of healing, but there is terror instead.” He concludes: “We set our hope on you…” Martha set her hope on Jesus in John’s story of Lazarus, sick and dying. Here, in Luke’s introducing us to these two sisters, all Martha wants is some help in the kitchen! Jesus calls her “worried and distracted.” What might he call us?
And yet he loves us, and he loves Martha with all his heart. He wants to be with her. She wants to serve him. Which one when? In order to look for peace and a time of healing, it seems we need to sit quietly at the feet of Jesus, to wipe away his tears for our world today, to absorb his hope. “Hope has two daughters,” writes Augustine, “Anger and courage.” Hope moves us to anger over sin, the pain of the earth and every one of its creatures. Courage motivates us to action. To what service, to what action might your hope be leading you? Ask the Spirit. Listen.
Martha, Martha, worried and distracted. Jesus, Jesus, unworried but sad, senses alert to our pain, yet focused. Help us, we beg you, to pay attention to suffering and to offer your own hope to those to whom we attend.
Wednesday, July 30, 2014
JEREMIAH 15:10, 16-21; PSALM 59; matthew 13: 44-46
Jeremiah berates God for a mission turned sour, an incurable wound, and much worse: a betrayal. “You are to me like a deceitful brook, like waters that fail.” In response, God promises deliverance. The psalmist continues this theme of needing God’s strength and steadfast love, needing God to be a fortress and a refuge. “I will watch for you,” he cries. Patient watching, listening and searching are other functions of hope. Jesus tells of the hope of two men who search. One found a treasure in a field, hid it again and went off “in his joy” to sell all he had to buy that field. The second man also sells everything in order to buy a most valuable pearl.
While not explicit, Jesus’ implicit question to you is “What would you be willing to sell, joyfully, in order to buy…?” What do you really, really want? Martha, come in from your kitchen and sit quietly with Jesus to hear what is most valuable. Sit. Be quiet. Watch for him and watch with him, hopefully. Listen.
“Take, Lord, receive all I have and possess. You have given all to me. To you I return it. Give me only your love and your grace. That’s enough for me.” Free us from the illusion that we possess anything.
Thursday, July 31, 2014 - Ignatius of Loyola
JEREMIAH 18: 1-6; PSALM 146; MATTHEW 13: 47-52
Another prophetic action. The Lord instructs Jeremiah to go to the pottter’s house and to watch him work. The prophet noticed how if the clay was spoiled, the potter “reworked it into another vessel.” God can rework us, and it is that continuing conversion that Ignatius experiences. By paying attention to his feelings and desires, Ignatius is like the fishermen of the gospel parable. After dragging in the net full of all kinds of creatures, they separate what is useful from the junk. This is the gift of discernment. Fishermen know at once what is edible and what not, and Ignatius promises that after enough practice of “tasting” God and God’s grace, we too will grow in discernment.
How many conversions have you experienced? “We are being transfigured into the likeness of Christ, from glory to glory” (2 Cor 3: 17). Remember and give thanks. Sifting and sorting is a skill and God’s gift. Remember the times even recently when you had to – for example, decide (by sniffing and seeing) what in the back of the refrigerator needs to be tossed; which brand of tire would give you the safest ride for the money; which college course would better prepare you for your life’s work, etc. Does God have a “will” for the food, the tire, the college course? Yes, God wants your health, your safety, your learning. Ask for the gift of discernment and faithfulness (with joy—remember the man who buys the field) to what God wants for you and us.
Transform us, our church and our world, we beg you, Jesus. Thank you for the Spirit who influences us toward God’s desires.
Friday, August 1, 2014
JEREMIAH 26: 1-9; PSALM 69; MATTHEW 13: 54-58
Our passage from Jeremiah is so reminiscent of Jesus’ cleansing the Temple that one wonders whether as a boy and young man, Jesus frequetly pondered these words and this fate of Jeremiah. Jeremiah speaks prophetic words, challenging priests and people; Jesus does a prophetic action. They lay hold of Jeremiah, and the psalm includes “Zeal for your house has consumed me.” In the gospel periocope Jesus astounds the people of Nazareth, who scorn him. As the psalm asserts, “I have become a stranger to my kindred, an alien to my mother’s children.”
Jesus is our leader in pondering Scripture. Ask him how he absorbed the Word of God and how you might better taste, digest, and be transformed by this Word. We know that he often prayed on that dark mountaintop, without a scroll. What words of Scripture come spontaneously to you in times of joy, in times of distress or fear? Remember that many of our post-Vatican II hymns are scriptural, and can rise in our consciousness to strengthen us. You can remember, make a list etc, but Jesus would probably prefer if you would simply tell him about those songs. Sing them together. (Singing is twice praying!)
We praise you, our God, for all your works are wonderful! We are not afraid because you go before us when we speak your word to foreigners or family. Thank you for this consolation!
Saturday, August 2, 2014
JEREMIAH 26: 11-16, 24; PSALM 69; MATTHEW 14: 1-12
Jeremiah is taken before the officials. The priests and prophets (the false ones) ask for the death penalty. Jeremiah repeats the messag God has sent him with and concludes by saying, “Do with me what seems good and right to you.” Such freedom and serenity! Jeremiah concludes by asserting that they will be spilling innocent blood. The officials and the people believe Jeremiah and he is not killed. “I am lowly and in pain,” cries the psalmist. Hopefully, John the Baptizer knew Psalm 69 when he was capriciously arrested and then beheaded. He spoke the truth to power. John told Herod he was committing adultery, but Herod was afraid of the people and took shelter behind a girl to get rid of John.
When you are in trouble from other people, what happens to your serenity? You may begin by raging and crying (and rightly so; we have shorthand in scripture), and then what happens next? The discernment that you asked for a few days ago will help you sort out your words and actions, and sift out what is true, what is false. That will help you be free, no matter what is decided. Jeremiah was certain of his truth, as was John. One was released and one was murdered. The outcome is not promised. God’s will is our shalom, which means peace and serenity but also means integrity. Pray for the gift of integrity, for yourself and for those with whom you must deal. Pray for integrity for world leaders, and for our bishops too.
Jerusalem, still in trouble, makes trouble for the lowly Palestinians. Give them hope and let justice roll like a river. Bless all Israelis who long for peace, and justice for the Palestinians.