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.
Jeremiah 31: 31-34; Psalm 51; Hebrews 5: 7-9; John 12: 20-33 – OR—
Ezekiel 37: 12-14; Psalm 130; Romans 8: 8-11; John 11: 1-45 (Theme of resurrection for the RCIA. “Lazarus, come out!”)
The New Covenant proclaimed by Jeremiah includes our directly knowing God. Remembering that knowing means union with, we are then united with the suffering Jesus. The readings from Hebrews and John are descriptions of Jesus’ agony. Not pictured in Gethsemane as in the synoptic gospels, nonetheless Jesus is troubled, John writes. Jesus argues with himself, but concludes with the prayer: “Father, glorify your name.” Hebrews portrays just how troubled Jesus is. With loud cries and tears he begs God to save him from death. The “loud cries” in Greek is the word that describes the screams of a wild animal that is trapped. And he was heard. Note: Jesus is not rescued from death, but saved. Saving is about setting free in the open, not about rescuing. God set him free by raising him, lifting him to be an attractive sign, drawing all to himself. “Jesus died to bring into one new family all the scattered children of God.”
Look at a crucifix and imagine all the people of the world, through all the ages, streaming to the crucified one, drawn, attracted to this man who keeps loving, through rejection, through pain.
Jesus, help us not to deny your suffering or to numb our own with various addictions. Set us free, save us, Savior of the world.
Monday, March 23, 2015
Daniel 13:1-9, 15-17, 19-30, 33-62; Psalm 23; John 8:1-11
“Neither do I condemn you.”
Young Daniel acts as defense attorney for the innocent Susanna, accused of adultery by the very men who raped her. Jesus acts in defense of a woman caught in adultery. Both stories are tense and dramatic with a twist at the end. They are separated by the peace of Psalm 23 where restful waters comfort. The gospel story should be titled “The Hypocritical Men,” since none of the woman’s accusers dared to pick up a stone. This incident, which circulated as a single story in the early church and was put here in John’s gospel so it wouldn’t get lost, quite specifically dramatizes and gives priority to Jesus’ continual teaching not to judge. Who among us has not sinned? No doubt, a first step in learning how to love is to set aside judgment of others. And love is all that Jesus wants from us.
How do you define love? What does it look like in action? In your life? Ask for the Spirit who is love, God’s love poured into our hearts. Pray for the people in Pakistan who become violent in response to violence against them. Pray to be released from any desire in your own heart for revenge. Pray for the comfort of peace for all those persecuted for their faith and/or for their standing for justice.
Thank you, Jesus, for loving this woman, for loving all sinners. Remove judgment from our hearts, and please keep teaching us to love. Let your love flow through us.
Tuesday, March 24, 2015 - Feast of Bishop Oscar Romero
Numbers 21:4-9; Psalm 102; John 8: 21-30
“When you have lifted up the Son of Man
… then you will realize that I AM. I do nothing on my own, but I say only what the Father has taught me”. Keep that image of Jesus lifted up before your eyes and in your hearts today. For John, Jesus does not die to make satisfaction for human sin, but rather, to gather into one new family all the scattered children of God (John 11:52). When Jesus is lifted up, John is playing on the Greek word for exalted. We know he was lifted up on the cross, but as you listen on Good Friday to the Passion according to John, watch for the royal dignity with which Jesus mounts his throne, the cross. He is the first disciple (disciplus/a--learner) of God, the one who learns God completely and hands on what he has been taught. He learns how much God wants unity among all the scattered. Jesus will be the magnet that will attract all the world to himself, and through him to God.
What has God taught you directly, as you pray, and continue to listen throughout the day? Are you willing to say with Jesus, “I do nothing on my own”? Prepare your day, the various decisions you will be making, and consult with God now, so that you too do nothing on your own. Imagine each encounter of this day and give it to God: “Take, Lord, receive_____.”
You call us all to obedience, to do nothing on our own. Thank you for Jesus, our leader, who works with us, co-laboring for justice, peace and unity. Thank you for this great gift of his bringing us all into one new family.
Wednesday, March 25, 2015 - Feast of the Annunciation to Mary
Isaiah 7:10-14, 8:10; Psalm 40; Hebrews 10: 4-10; Luke 1: 26-38
“Here I am, Lord! I come to do your will!”
“Here I am, the servant of God. Let it be done to me according to your word” (Luke). Hebrews attributes the quotation, our mantra for today from Psalm 40, to Jesus. Like mother, like son. Both surrender to what God desires. The incarnation which begins today shows us that God desires to become flesh, to live and love, laugh and cry amid the muck and the glory of all that is human. God’s passionate desire is to be one with us, and to invite us to unity with one another. God’s will is shalom (Jeremiah 29:11), God’s word is shalom in the flesh. Through the prayer of Jesus and Mary, God speaks peace, healing, wholeness, integrity to us and to all of creation.
Today the Incarnation begins. And continues, in Jesus and in you. Look at all the ways in which you are in the body. Thank God for each of your senses, your blood and bones, every bit of you. Now look at God living and loving in your body, and through your body, your flesh. This is God’s passionate desire-- to be one with you. God wants to be Emmanuel, with you and for you. How will you respond?
Here we are, O God! We come to do your will. Help us to speak of your tender love and faithfulness today to whomever you send our way. Help us to share our joy in your Incarnation.
Thursday, March 26, 2015
Genesis 17:3-9; Psalm 105; John 8:51-55
“God remembers the covenant, made binding for a thousand generations”.
When we forget, God remembers. “God said to Abraham: ‘I will maintain my covenant with you...throughout the ages as an everlasting pact, to be your God...” (Genesis 17). “Look to God and seek to serve God faithfully. Recall the wonders God has done...” (Psalm 105) Covenant is an important theme in the Jewish scriptures. Jesus makes a new covenant with his people, a covenant sealed in his own blood. So much more than the pact we may have made as children with our best buddy, nicking our skin and mingling our blood, friends forever. Blood brother, blood sister, we would promise each other. We drink the blood of Christ in our eucharistic celebrations and truly do become more even than brother and sister to him. We let him take up life in us and through us, extend his mission to everyone whom we meet, day by day.
Making deals with God is a common way to pray. Some saints have done so. In today’s reading God initiates a special relationship and promises nothing but to be OUR God. No tit for tat here. God does all the giving. In response to God’s initiating this intimate relationship, we seek to serve. Sit quietly and let bubble up from deep within you all that God has given you. “Not that we love God, but that God has first loved us!” (I John) Enjoy God’s giving.
O generous God, thank you for calling us to covenant with you and with each other. Make us truly brothers and sisters, one in you and in Christ’s Body, through the power of the Spirit.
Friday, March 27, 2015
Jeremiah 20:7, 10-13; Psalm 18; John 10:31-42
“I love you, Lord, my rock, my deliverer.”
“When the Jews reached for rocks to stone him, Jesus protested to them, ‘Many good deeds I have shown you from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?’” (John 10). As we come closer to the death of Jesus we see the hatred of his enemies escalate. He doesn’t let them walk over him. He protests. Yet he will not back down. What did he do that so enraged these religious leaders? It seems he had good news to preach about God, and he criticized the church authorities of his day for “laying heavy burdens on peoples’ backs.” He went about doing good, healing, loving, putting God’s heart on his sleeve so everyone could see, touch, hear God’s love in the flesh. For which good work did they eventually kill him? For breaking the Law. For healing on the Sabbath. For setting people free. For offering them hope in God’s unconditional love.
Today’s psalm (18) is one Jesus may have prayed when he “eluded their grasp and went back across the Jordan.” Pray it with Jesus.
I love you, God, my strength! God, my rock, my fortress, my deliverer!
God, my rock of refuge, my shield, my stronghold!
The waves of death surged round about me, the snares of death overtook me.
In my distress I called to God and God heard my cries.
Repeat frequently during the day: “I love you, God, my strength!”
Thank you for calling us to share in Jesus’ mission to comfort the afflicted and to speak the truth to power. Deepen your gift of justice in us. Bless us with unity and peace!
Saturday, March 28, 2015
Ezekiel 37: 21-28; Jeremiah 31; John 11: 45-57
"Jesus died to gather into one family all the scattered children of God".
Each evangelist understands the death of Jesus a little differently. John and his community experienced how the dying of Jesus brought the frightened friends of Jesus together, just a few daring to stand at Calvary, but gradually growing more united, more courageous, more on fire with a mission to continue his mission. This gospel sees the mission of Jesus as uniting us all. "If I am lifted up [on the cross], I will draw all people to myself," he promised earlier. We become family through the cross. When Jesus gives Mary and the Beloved Disciple to each other’s care, he symbolizes this new family, a community where Mary is mother and we are all brothers and sisters. He prayed before he died that we might all be one. Now he gives his life to make that happen.
In our scattered, fast paced world, Jesus offers a center, an interior unity. In our scattered relationships, Jesus offers a focus, a way to be brother and sister to near family, a way to reach across oceans to our far family. In reality, in him we are already and not yet one. Let your imagination circle the block, the city, the country, the globe and picture all peoples coming together to contemplate Jesus, lifted up. Tell him how you feel as you watch so many streaming to him. His great desire is that we all be one. Tell him what you desire.
We offer you all our tensions and pressures, Jesus, so that you may take them and center them in yourself. Please focus us, our feelings and desires in you. Thank you for making us one.
Isaiah 50:4-7; Psalm 22; Philippians 2:6-11; Mark 14:1-15:47
Today we celebrate Jesus’ power and passion as he comes riding into Jerusalem on a colt. No warhorse, no armies for him. Children singing -- that is the peace we pray for as we greet the Prince of Peace. When the passion narrative begins, instead of John’s footwashing scene, in Mark Jesus receives the anointing of an unnamed woman. He is grateful for this kindness and service of an outcast. In his prayer in Gethsemane he calls God “Abba”—the only time in the four gospels that he prays “Abba.” In the first reading from Isaiah, the power of a teacher to influence is the focus: “that I might know how to encourage the weary with a word. Every morning God wakens me, opens my ear to listen as those who are taught.” Paul in the second reading speaks of the self-emptying of Jesus, the letting go, the being stripped, the becoming obedient to the reality of death. Yet God gives Jesus an exalted name, a new power, the power (dynamis in Greek) who is the Spirit. Paul is clear about what we should pray for today: “Have this mind in you that was in Christ Jesus...”
Pray with all the passion of your heart to have the mind of Christ, to share the passion of Jesus, his passion for peace and for unity. Pray for a share in Christ’s power that you too may be obedient to reality in whatever form it comes. Obedience simply means having an openness, an ear for God, who wants to encourage the weary with a word. Let yourself be encouraged during this prayer time so that you may, less self-absorbed, spend today offering encouragement to the weary.
“This is my body,” you tell us, Jesus. We respond: Here is our body that is also your body, our church-community. Hold us close to you as your own, and share your passion and power with us.
Monday, March 30, 2015
Isaiah 42:1-7; Psalm 27; John 12: 1-11
“I formed you and set you…a light for the nations, to open the eyes of the blind, and bring out prisoners” (Isaiah). We believe that the word does what it says. When we read that sentence from Isaiah’s servant song, which the first Christians applied to Jesus, we believe that God is at this very moment continuing to form us and to set us as light. When we hear in the gospel that Mary of Bethany (while Martha served!) poured perfumed oil on Jesus’ feet, we are the ones who are anointing, by our prayer and love, those doomed to death, whether by sickness, accident, persecution, war…
Christ suffers in his Body, encircling the globe. Quiet yourself and let the Spirit send up from the depths of you images of the sick, the grieving, the blind, the prisoners, the refugees, and anoint them with the name of Jesus. Envision the person or group with JESUS in large gold letters above them. Say the psalm verse: “Your name is like oil poured out” and watch the gold letters melt and anoint the person. And to quote Isaiah 58, “and do not forget your own kin.”
You are our light and our salvation! Whom should we fear? We want to wait for you with courage, asking to share in your suffering that we might share even now in your risen life!
Tuesday, March 31, 2015
Isaiah 49:1-6; Psalm 71; John 13: 21-33, 36-38
“You are my servant, through whom I show my glory’, says the Lord. But I said, I have toiled in vain, and for nothing, uselessly, have spent my strength” (Isaiah). Such discouragement the servant suffers. Discouraged like Jesus at his last supper, described in today’s gospel. “Satan enters into Judas” in the presence of Jesus, unnoticed by the disciples. Then Jesus realistically warns his disciples that they cannot follow him now. Peter blusters about his willingness to lay down his life. What feelings must have risen up in Jesus as he promises that Peter will deny him three times?
Work with the feelings mentioned above. Picture yourself at that table, sharing a last meal with Jesus. Watch his face, his eyes as he sends Judas off “quickly,” and cuts through Peter’s boasting. Let the others clean the dishes, and you move off with Jesus alone to ask him about his experiences tonight. Stand by the window with him, looking out at the night. Listen to him as he tells you about his feelings.
Give us courage, Jesus, to accompany you through discouragement, betrayal, and abandonment. These experiences are ours too, and we thank you, our pioneer, for your willingness to share all that is human.
Wednesday, April 1, 2015
Isaiah 50: 4-9; Psalm 69; Matthew 26:14-25
“The Lord God has given me a well-trained tongue that I may know how to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them. Morning after morning, God opens my ear…” (Isaiah). This sentence might be an SSND mission statement. A mission statement for all of you who let God, who invite God to open your ear morning after morning. This listening to God, to God’s word to you, gives you the wisdom to speak to the weary, to console them, to motivate them, even to rouse them. In the gospel we see that Jesus has failed to motivate Judas, for he slinks off to betray his Teacher.
Undoubtedly, Jesus is weary and his festive meal with his friends is mightily marred by the interaction with Judas. Ask God how you might console Jesus. Listen. Then as the others clean up the supper dishes, once again you and he walk over to look together out the window and you say to him….
You are weary, Jesus, and we too are weary of war, of violence, of disunity, of all that defies God’s will for our peace. Console us, Jesus, and thank you for needing our consolation as you face all that is ahead.
Thursday, April 2, 2015 - Holy Thursday
Exodus 12: 1-8, 11-14; Psalm 116; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; John 13: 1-15
“Our blessing cup is a communion with the blood of Christ” is the refrain for today’s Psalm. It opens by asking what return we can make to God for all God’s goodness to us. It is so simple, we think: lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord. That cup, cup of joy and cup of tears, is a cup that sets free and makes healthy and whole. Salvation, from the Latin salus, does mean health and wholeness. In Hebrew, blessing means an “exchange of the entire contents of the self ”. Jesus blesses the cup and pours the entirety of himself into it; it is his blood. Not a gory sacrifice. For the Jews, blood did not symbolize death, let alone torture, but rather life. Jesus pours his blessing, his abundance of life into a cup of wine that now is his blood for us to drink. We can take his very life and self into our bodies. In the footwashing, Jesus also pours his full self into the most menial service, the service of a slave. Not even a Jewish slave who was male was allowed to wash the feet of another Jewish man. Only Gentile slaves, and Jewish women and children could perform such service, so lowly, so degrading was it considered.
“I will offer you a thanksgiving sacrifice.” Efchariston still means thank you in modern Greece. We are priestly people who offer Eucharist. More than ritual with bread and wine, Jesus’ liturgical action in today’s gospel, his thanksgiving sacrifice, is to get on his knees before the dirty, smelly feet of his friends. How can we offer thanksgiving today? Besides thanking God, whom can you thank during these holy days with your footwashing service?
Tonight you give us a new commandment: to love one another AS you love us. Give us the grace to love with your own love, especially those we find most unloveable. Thank you! Efcharisto!
Friday, April 3, 2015 - Good Friday
Isaiah 52: 13-53: 12; Psalm 31; Hebrews 4:14-16, 5:7-9; John 18:1-19:42
Today, darkness covers the earth. There is no Eucharistic celebration, no action of Jesus’ dying and rising. Our remembering his dying and rising, however, makes that action present. “We remember how you loved us to your death…” Like the psalmist, Jesus might say, “I am like a broken dish, a laughingstock.” Such sadness. Such agony and terror, as portrayed in Hebrews 5: 7. In the garden of Gethsemane, the author of Hebrews pictures Jesus like a wild animal, trapped. That is what the Greek word, “loud cries,” connotes: the screams of a wild animal who is trapped. “He offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to the one who was able to save him from death. And he was heard because of his reverence.” He was heard? He was saved? We cannot equate “save” with “rescue.” We remember that to save means to be set free. This man who moved so freely all his life, then was trapped on the cross, was made the source of our freedom when God raised him and made him Lord and the Christ.
If you attend a service, listen to the reading of the passion as one of the characters in the story, perhaps a lowly private in the Roman army, or a brave woman disciple who darts in and out of the crowds around Jesus. If you plan to read it privately, you can do the same, but if you read it out loud and slowly, the power of the Word can change your heart.
A prayer from Ghana: “Come, Lord, and cover us with night. Spread your grace over us…more than all the stars of the skies. Your mercy is deeper than the night…Night comes, the end comes, you come. We wait for you.”
Saturday, April 4, 2015 - The Easter Vigil
“Oh happy fault, oh truly necessary sin of Adam, which gained for us so great a Redeemer!” sings the Exultet. Yes, this is what many believe, but not the Franciscan theologian St. Bonaventure, contemporary of Thomas Aquinas. Bonaventure challenges us with the question: If Adam had not sinned, would Jesus still have come to us? STOP. THINK. ASK THE SPIRIT.
Bonaventure teaches that Jesus would have come to us because of God’s abundant generosity. Sin was not necessary. God passionately desired to pour out all that God is into the person of Jesus. God wanted to give all that God is to this earth and all its creatures. Thus we have readings of the creation, the setting of Israel free from slavery, the water drawn joyfully from the springs of God’s great kindness. The stars themselves call out to God, “’Here we are!” shining with joy for their Maker” (Baruch).
How shall we pray with such an abundance of readings? Perhaps remembering all that our baptism has given us. Perhaps by composing our own litany of our favorite saints. Perhaps by contemplating the gift of water, or of fire, whether in a fireplace or a simple candle.
Christ, our light! Thanks be to God! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! We are shining with the glory of our Risen Lord who lives, who lives in this world, who lives in our bodies. Jesus lives!