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.
Genesis 2: 7-8, 18-24; Psalm 128; Hebrews 2:9-11; Mark 10: 2-16
The Lord God forms man (adam in Hebrew) from the dust of the ground (adamah) and gives the Woman (ishah in Hebrew) formed from his rib to the Man
(ish). The relation of these Hebrew words emphasizes the unity of the two. First God calls woman a helper, but in the same breath, then a partner. Therein lies the possibility of conflict in modern marriage. There is conflict among the disciples too. They “sternly” warn children away from Jesus, but he speaks to them with indignation: “Let the little children come to me.” Hebrews calls Jesus our pioneer in relationship, “the pioneer of [our] salvation.” He emptied himself and became not a partner to us, but a child, a helper, a slave, obedient to all the realities of being human, including death, “tasting death for everyone.”
Here is a paradox: are we called to be partners with God, “co-creators,” as some writers put it, or helpers? Are we to be cloaked as “prophet, priest and royal” or are we to be foot washers? Which one when? To decide which (for sometimes Jesus was very authoritative and sometimes very “meek and humble of heart”) we need the gift of wisdom, the gift of discernment. A foot washer is not a door mat; a healer and teacher is not savior of the world. Pray for wisdom; pray to be obedient to reality; pray to love as Jesus loves. He is our pioneer, showing us how to love.
May the love and wisdom of Christ which we receive moment by moment lead us to love and serve others, bring us closer to them and more aware of you, gracious Giver.
Monday, October 5, 2015
Jonah 1:1-17, 2:10; canticle from Jonah 2; Luke 10: 25-37
The brief book of Jonah should be read in one sitting, it is so intriguing. Today we begin the story with God’s calling Jonah to be prophet to Nineveh. He races in the other direction, and today’s piece (pericope) ends with the large fish spewing Jonah onto the beach. The canticle of Jonah which contains all the traditional forms of prayer: adoration, thanksgiving, contrition and petition, Jonah prays while still in the belly of the fish, trusting that “Deliverance belongs to the Lord.” Then the fish spews. Jesus, after commending the lawyer who questions him, responds to a further question about who is this neighbor to be loved with the story of the good Samaritan. Only Luke carries this parable in which God is the good Samaritan. In German “co-man” can mean neighbor. To love our neighbor is not only to love the one who lives next door, but to love the “ co-man” who lives next to our heart. God is the one who lives next to and deep within our hearts, caring for our every wound.
Today, show God all your wounds, wounds received from those who live “next door”—colleagues, former teachers, doctors, bosses, and wounds received from those who live next to our hearts---spouses, children, friends, parents. Pray for the gift of forgiving them and for the gift of healing. Then rest, ask for the grace, and then feel God’s healing energy.
“Lives are ebbing away,” we cry with Jonah. So many wounded, so many ignored! Keep us aware of your mercy and teach us to extend your care to others.
Tuesday, October 6, 2015
Jonah 3: 1-10; Psalm 130; Luke 10:38-42
Jesus goes to Martha’s house in Bethany; “Martha’s house!!” She owns her own home, so no wonder she is “distracted by many things,” so many responsibilities. Our culture is distracted by many things as well. Would that our distractions stemmed from hospitality! Once Jonah has learned his lesson he is no longer distracted, but obediently walks through the large city crying out for them to repent. The Ninevites hear and obey, even the king, who proclaims: “All shall turn from their evil ways and from the violence that is in their hands.” Are we so distracted that we have no prophet focused on calling the United States from its violence? Tomorrow marks the anniversary of the bombing of Afghanistan by the US.
God asks you: “Whom shall I send?” Isaiah responded: “Send me.” We who are US citizens can flood the White House and Congress today and tomorrow with petitions to leave our violence behind. What do Canadians do to promote justice and peace?
Forgive us our small and hidden violence, prejudices and hatred, Jesus, Savior of the world. Bombs and soldiers merely carry out the violence in the hearts of all of us. Save us!
Wednesday, October 7, 2015
Jonah 4: 1-11; Psalm 86; Luke 11: 1-4
Jesus’ perfect prayer for today: “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” Jonah, roaming around today’s area of Iraq and Iran, is angry with God for being so forgiving of wicked Nineveh, so angry he prefers to die. He waits outside the city and God causes a bush to spring up to offer him shade, “so Jonah was very happy about the bush.” When he woke the next day the bush was destroyed, the sun beat down, a fierce wind buffeted him and again he wants to die. “God said to Jonah, ‘Is it right for you to be angry about the bush?’ And Jonah said, ‘Yes, angry enough to die.’” God marvels that Jonah should care so much about an ephemeral bush and God not care about the numerous lives in Nineveh, so valuable to God.
How are you like Jonah: angry, dispirited, happy, despairing? How much do you care about the numerous lives in the Muslim world? Who is lord of their world: God or ISIS? If you can, pray “Forgive me my sin as I forgive those who sin against me and my country.” If you cannot, ask for the grace to forgive your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. On this feast of the Rosary, we ask Mary as well as her Son to teach us to pray. Ask her how she ever came eventually to forgive those who tortured her son.
Hail Mary, forgiving those who killed your Son, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Help us not to fear death, not to fear terrorists, or simply those whose religion differs.
Thursday, October 8, 2015
Malachi 3: 13-4:2; Psalm 1; Luke 11: 5-13
The Canadian and the United States versions of Living in Christ, have different translations. The Canadian translation uses non-sexist language from the New Revised Standard Version of the Scriptures, which is more ecumenical and closer to the original language. This becomes important in our first reading in which the arrogant (Canadian translation) are equated with the proud (US translation). A-rogare comes from the Latin which means not asking. The arrogant do not ask. Yet today’s gospel is all about asking, asking fiercely from friends, asking like a child from God. Jesus tells us: ask, search, knock. Jesus asks us, “If you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask? Asking, intercession, petition has sometimes been termed the lowest form of prayer. Not according to Jesus. Jesus stands before the face of God for all eternity making intercession for us.
For whom will you ask the fullness of the Spirit? Write their names. Some families or communities keep a book open on the coffee table and add petitions day by day. For what or for whom are you searching? What do you want—now, out of life, for yourself, for those whom you love, for those whom you hate? How do you feel when you have to ask someone for a favor? Jesus tells us God is available for our asking. Ask for the gift of availability so that others might easily approach you to ask.
Forgive us our arrogance, our feelings of superiority, of contempt. Save us from our feelings of unworthiness when we ask, our fear of a “no.” Let your Spirit be at the core of who we are.
Friday, October 9, 2015
Joel 1: 13-15, 2:1-2; Psalm 9; Luke 11: 15-26
Joel describes the terrors of the coming “Day of the Lord.” This is the “end of the world” that many of us as youngsters dreaded. Now, we love the Lord, we know that we are loved unconditionally, and we hope for a new creation. That is why the psalmist cries out: “I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart!” Jesus takes on his accusers in the gospel. The Alleluia verse sums up the first reading’s and the gospel’s message: “The prince of this world will now be cast out, and when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all to myself.”
Picture Jesus being lifted up from the earth, first lifted up on the cross and drawing all to himself: the persecuted, the criminal, the grieving, the innocent, all are welcome on Calvary. Then see him lifted up into glory on resurrection/ascension day,
“leading all the saints in glory” as the hymn puts it. As you alternate between the two kinds of lifting up, be sure to include yourself in both events.
May we come to share the divinity of you, Jesus, who humbled yourself to share our humanity. May we be lifted up with you, giving thanks to the glory of God.
Saturday, October 10, 2015
Joel 3: 12-21; Psalm 97; Luke 11: 27-28
Joel sees multitudes gathered in the “valley of decision.” After the darkness of the “Day of the Lord”, the mountains, hills and deserts flow with wine, milk and fountains of fresh water. We rejoice and give thanks to God’s holy name, declares the psalmist. Many of us keep Saturday as a day to honor Mary, and yet today’s gospel SEEMS to dishonor her. When a woman cries out (unheard of in Jewish society!), “Blessed” are the womb and breasts of Mary, Jesus contradicts her. He is not denying Mary’s importance in his life but says she is blessed because (according to Luke in his first two chapters) she is the one par excellence “who hears the word of God and obeys it.”
Ask for the gift of an Ignatian contemplation with this gospel. Be the woman in the crowd. What would you really, really like to say to Jesus if this is the only sentence you would ever be able to cry out? Think about it. Then “raise your voice” and say aloud: “______!” Repeat it frequently today.
Bless us, Jesus, our bodies with all their precious parts. Bless our spirits, our hearts open to your word, open to obedience and the freedom of your Spirit.
Wisdom 7:7-11; Psalm 90; Hebrews 4:12-13; Mark 10: 17-30
Wisdom is more precious than wealth, health and beauty. We receive the Spirit who is wisdom through prayer, claims our first author; through counting our days and being satisfied each morning by God’s faithful love, states the psalmist; by opening our thoughts, intentions and hearts to the word of God; and by selling all, giving to the poor and journeying with Jesus, he says in the gospel. A good law-abiding man approaches Jesus, wanting more. Jesus offers him more. He looks on the man tenderly. Will this man be wise and leave all to the poor to be with Jesus? Will he be sad because he has decided to sell everything? How will that man respond to Jesus’ love, so obvious on his face, Jesus’ welcome, so obvious in his smile?
Look at Jesus looking at you tenderly. Rest in his loving gaze. Then, what does he say to you? Open your thoughts, intentions, fears, desires to him. What will satisfy you each morning? Discuss all this with Jesus, but keep noticing his look of love as you do.
Direct the work of our hands for us (Ps 90), we ask. Direct the work of our minds, our loving, our needs and desires. Teach us to desire you with all our hearts. Thank you for desiring us.
Monday, October 12, 2015
Thanksgiving Day in Canada: Colossians 3: 12-17; Psalm 113; Matthew 7:7-12
Romans 1-7; Psalm 98; Luke 11: 29-32
I went to the grocery store in Greece and the salesperson said, “Efcharisto.” Thank you. The eu changes to ef in modern Greece. A common word, but not a common event in our lives. Everyday that you read these scriptures and pray with them is a thanksgiving, a liturgy of the Word. As priests become more and more scarce, we will
more and more be needing the nourishment of Scripture, the living word. Pause and remember all for which you are grateful. In Colossians, the author is grateful for community, all the ways in which the Spirit moves us to love and serve one another as we worship together. In Matthew, Jesus is grateful for bread and fish, simple items of daily life, and especially that we have a God who gives us “every good thing.” In Luke, Jesus calls us to repentance, for which we can be grateful—God’s constant readiness to forgive. In Romans, Paul is grateful that with the resurrection, God “has declared [Jesus] to be Son of God with power;” and that we “are called to belong to Jesus Christ.”
With which one of the scriptures above do you most resonate? Tell Jesus why that is so. Ask for the gift of constant gratitude. Pray for those who are deprived of the Eucharistic celebration. In communal prayer, or alone in your room, you might mix water and wine and pray:
By the mingling of water and wine, may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share our humanity. Thank you, God, for the incarnation.
Tuesday, October 13, 2015
Romans 1: 16-25; Psalm 19; Luke 11: 37-41
Paul details so many ways we humans sin, especially through idolatry. We can only be saved by faith, he asserts, which God gives, “to the Jew first and then to the Gentile.” Those who are “righteous will live by faith.” Jesus warns those who live by greed, yet follow the rituals of purity: “You fools!”
By what do you live? Greed? Ambition? Joy? Faith? What might be some of the idols in your life? Not little statues, but things we think we cannot live without. Show them to Jesus, to whom you belong, and who will never call you Fool. Then pray with St. Ignatius:
Take, Lord, receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding and all my will—all that I have and possess. You have given all to me. Now I return it. All is yours. Dispose of it according to your will. Give me the love of yourself and your grace. That is enough for me.
Wednesday, October 14, 2015
Romans 2: 1-11; Psalm 62; Luke 11: 42-46
Jesus continues condemning the Pharisees’ emphasis on ritual purities. “One of the lawyers answered him and said, ‘Teacher, when you say these things you insult us too.’” Right! Jesus replies: “You load people with burdens hard to bear and you do not lift a finger to help them.” Paul, who has never met the community at Rome, is not afraid to insult them either. “You have no excuse, whoever you are, whenever you judge others.” He continues, “You say, ‘We know that God’s judgment on those who do such things is in accordance with truth.’” Paul then asks, “Do you not realize that God’s kindness is meant is meant to lead you to repentance?”
Ask the Spirit to show you, kindly, slowly, maybe even outside of this formal prayer time, whom it is that you judge? Persons close at hand, groups, whole peoples?
Ask to know whom you might be loading with burdens? Ask to share God’s kindness, remembering how God’s kindness has led you to repent.
May your kindness, God of grace, shine through us to everyone whom we meet today and to those whom we see on the news. Keep us always far away from gossip.
Thursday, October 15, 2015 - Saint Teresa of Avila
Romans 3: 21-30; Psalm 130; Luke 11: 47-54
Jesus continues to “insult” those at table with him. Teresa in her reform of Carmel was probably accused of insulting the way things were. But she herself first had to be reformed, transformed by the grace of God. She might have joined the psalmist: “Out of the depths I cry to you! If you should mark iniquities, who could stand?” Paul explains quite clearly this dynamic of sin and grace which effected Teresa’s conversion as well as our own. “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. They are now justified by his grace as a gift….For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law.” Teresa wasn’t evil, just mediocre in her middle age. Meeting Jesus, falling in love, made all the difference.
Ask the Spirit to remind you of the power of grace in your life. When have you cried to God “from the depths”? What happened? When, how have you met Jesus? If you are not yet, ask, BEG for the grace of falling in love with him.
Thank you, God, for Teresa, for her exuberant joy that led her to dance on the table tops to give her Sisters “pleasure”, for her passionate love for you and for her Sisters and John of the Cross.
Friday, October 16, 2015
Romans 4:1-8; Psalm 32; Luke 12: 1-7
Paul’s argument, that faith trumps law, points to Abraham who lived long before Moses received the Torah. Abraham was not justified by works of the law; rather “’Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.’” To believe God does not mean believe in God, believe truths about God, but rather, as Jesus notes in the gospel today, faith means to trust God’s love and care. “Do not be afraid.” If one sparrow is so well attended to by God, “You are worth more than many sparrows.”
Do you feel worth more than many sparrows? Of what, of whom are you afraid today? When God looks on that situation or that person, how can God still find even that worth more than many sparrows? Discuss your fear (s) with God.
“Alleluia! Lord, let your mercy be upon us, as we place our trust in you. Alleluia!” Deepen our trust, remove our fear, make us one in justice and peace.
Saturday, October 17, 2015
Romans 4:13, 16-18; Psalm 105; Luke 12: 8-12
Paul continues his argument for faith over law, “in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants…to those who share the faith of Abraham. God is the father of all of us….” Jesus tells us to depend on the Holy Spirit to teach us if we must defend our faith. Five or six years ago there was a demonstration of about 3,000 Muslims who decided to offer their Friday noon prayer on the lawn of the US Capitol. An awesome sight, and yet the group, bowing to the ground, were surrounded by hecklers, warning them to repent, carrying 10 foot plaques of the Ten Commandments. As if Muslims don’t revere Moses, the Torah, the Bible, both Testaments. In fact the Qur’an has more material about Mary, mother of Jesus, than does the New Testament. God is the father of us all, and Abraham is the father of Jews, Muslims and Christians.
Ask the Spirit to remind you what you appreciate about Jews and Muslims. Take some time, and listen. Then ask the Spirit to light up any dark places where fear of them lurk. Can you let the Spirit help you get underneath the fear in order to heal?
Open our minds and hearts to all the children of Abraham, God our true father and true mother. We worship you in so many ways, and you receive us all as your very own. Thank you!