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.
Exodus 22: 21-27; Psalm 18; 1 Thessalonians 1:5-10; Matthew 22:34-40
When we think of keeping the commandments, we refer to the Ten Commandments. Israel had, however, 613 laws. Some are mentioned in today’s first reading, commands that keep Israel’s eyes fixed on the weaker ones in their community: resident aliens, widows, orphans. They are not to charge interest when lending to the poor; they are not to keep overnight a cloak that is pawned, “for it may be their only clothing to use as a cover.” Paul today notes that turning from idols is essential. When Jesus is challenged as to the most important commandment, he responds: love. Love is twofold: love of God with all of one’s being and love of neighbor. To love God who has first loved us may seem simple, but the measure of our love of God is our love of neighbor. How can you love your neighbor if you do not love yourself?
What do you think is the most important commandment? How do you love yourself? How do you care for your body, your emotions, your relationship with God and with others? What does Jesus say to you if you love others more than yourself? Ask him. Ask the Spirit to teach you to love, and to love your own self.
Free us from all the idols of our lives, Jesus. Thank you for your Spirit who is love, poured into our hearts. Open our hearts to the resident aliens and the poor in our midst.
Monday, October 27, 2014
Ephesians 4:32-5:8; Psalm 1; Luke 13: 10-17
Just as the preacher yesterday could stop after “Do not wrong a resident alien,” to let it sink in, so the preacher today could stop after the first sentence from Ephesians: “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another…” The gospel story of a woman bent for 18 years must be proclaimed. It is never read on a Sunday, perhaps because the leader of the synagogue is the antagonist. He doesn’t scold Jesus for healing on the Sabbath but turns on the congregation, accusing them of coming on the Sabbath to be cured. Surely this crippled woman came to worship, not to be cured. Jesus has a retort which leaves the congregation rejoicing and “all his opponents put to shame.” So when the author of Ephesians exhorts us to be kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving—and Jesus is just that--- “Let there be thanksgiving.”
Imagine the thanksgiving that rocked that synagogue where Jesus set this woman free. Be that woman. What has bent you over for many years? What keeps you from standing tall? Jesus calls you forward to himself. He touches you. And you feel…? If it takes you a while to stretch those unused muscles to stand up straight, Jesus will wait for as long as it takes. He is kind and tender with you, patient with your healing. How will you respond to him?
Jesus, lay your hands on all those in our world bent by poverty, hunger, abuse, violence of any kind. Comfort them, Jesus, and let us be instruments of your healing too.
Tuesday, October 28, 2014 - Feast of Simon and Jude, aspostles
Ephesians 2: 19-22; Psalm 19; Luke 6: 12-19
The centerpiece of the gospel reading is Jesus’ calling the twelve, but it continues with Jesus surrounded by a great crowd of disciples and multitudes of people trying to hear him, trying to touch him. Some of these are from Tyre and Sidon, pagan people, “aliens,” as Ephesians refers to us Gentiles. “You are no longer strangers and aliens,” (Eph 2: 19), but we are being built into the very building where God dwells. We are the Body of Christ, we are the dwelling of God. We are not among the Twelve, but we are apostles, chosen and sent (apostolos in Greek) to teach the multitudes, letting them touch us, touch our hearts.
As immigrants and refugees flood Canada and the United States, how do you feel about aliens, strangers? Discuss this with Jesus who wasn’t too pleased to heal a Syro-Phoenician woman’s daughter. How have the stories of immigrants touched your heart? Tell Jesus what you want for them. Is there any way you can take a step on their behalf?
Simon and Jude, patron of the impossible, change the hearts of our compatriots that we may welcome all kinds of people to join us: all races, religions, colors and creeds.
Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Ephesians 6: 1-9; Psalm 145; Luke 13: 22-30
The gospel is harsh, if we try to claim closeness to Jesus because “we ate and drank with you.” Paul reminds us in I Corinthians 11 that our sacramental eating and drinking may condemn us if we do not recognize the Body of Christ in the poor. Jesus says people from all over will be welcomed to eat in the kin-dom of God. Once again we are reminded how important “aliens” are to God. Ephesians tells us that slaves and masters are equal in the sight of God, and with God there is no partiality. “Some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last” (Lk 13: 30).
What are you doing or being that will make you welcome in the heavenly banquet? How is the kingdom a kin-dom in your life? Whom do you welcome?
We are unworthy, Jesus, and so we throw ourselves on your mercy, knowing that you show no partiality in loving us. Set us free. You are the savior of the world.
Thursday, October 30, 2014
Ephesians 6:10-20; Psalm 144; Luke 13: 31-35
Ephesians gets a bit warlike, detailing the various pieces of armor we should put on to defeat cosmic powers and forces of evil. However, Jesus has already conquered those. So we attend to the centerpiece of today’s reading: “Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert, and always persevere…” Jesus’ supplication is to Jerusalem. “Jerusalem, Jerusalem,” he cries. He is so distraught by Jerusalem’s rejection of the good news. “How often I have desired to gather you together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing.” Like John’s gospel who sees Jesus’ crucifixion as God’s will, “gathering into one new family all the scattered children of God (Jn 11:52), Luke’s Jesus too wants to gather people together. “May they all be one.”
First, look at Jesus looking at Jerusalem and hear his cry, his discouragement. Over what nations and cities is he crying now? How do you feel? Be with his feelings and your own for a while. Then--with whom do you not want to be gathered? Whom would you exclude? A person near to you, a class of people who frightens you? Discuss this with Jesus. Ask that more and more your desires might match his deep desire for unity.
We do believe that you have overcome the cosmic powers of evil that divide people, Jesus. Help our unbelief and make us instruments of the unity you so deeply desire.
Friday, October 31, 2014
Philippians 1:1-11; Psalm 111; Luke 14: 1-6
As Jesus incurred the wrath of the leader of the synagogue for healing a woman in Monday’s reading, so today (as Luke often does, pairing a woman story with a man story), at “the house of a leader of the Pharisees,” Jesus heals a man with dropsy – on the Sabbath. For us, it is the eve of All Hallows, the old English word for All Saints. The Celts believed that at this time of year, the veil between this world and the next was very thin. How providential then that Paul’s opening words to a church led by women (see Acts 16) are ones often chosen for a funeral Mass: “I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you…I am confident that the One who began good work in you will bring it to completion …. This is my prayer: that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight…”
To know Christ is to love Christ. To love Christ is to know him. What do you know about Christ now? What do you want to know? Remember those whom you love, one by one, and thank God with joy for their presence in your life. As you go through the day and you think of someone, friend or enemy, thank God – and you will be praying constantly.
Jesus, make our love for you and for our near neighbors, friends and family overflow. Let our love reach into the most wretched places, to the most forgotten people.
Saturday, November 1, 2014 - Feast of All Saints
Revelation 7: 2-4, 9-14; Psalm 24; 1 John 3: 1-3; Matthew 5: 1-12
The 144,000 who are “sealed” has sparked fear among some Christians. What if only that many are received into the kin-dom? However, John of Patmos (neither the apostle nor evangelist) continues: “there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation…” The second reading is from the first letter of John (perhaps the evangelist) and is often used for funeral services: “See what love the Father has given us!...We are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed.” This reading says we shall be like God. Our offertory prayer proclaims: May we come to share the divinity of him who emptied himself to share our humanity. We are in the process of becoming divine!
In the gospel Jesus announces the Beatitudes. Can you name the Ten Commandments? Can you name the eight Beatitudes, and the promises attached to each? Try it. Then test your response as you pray to be gifted with poverty of spirit, a compassion that makes you mourn, meekness, desire for justice, mercy, singleness of heart, peace that overflows through you. Can you dare pray for persecution? Ask for others to think less of you? What would you be willing to be persecuted for?
Bless us, Jesus! Share your poverty and peace, your meekness and mourning with us. Let your desire for unity, justice and mercy be our single-hearted desire too.
Lamentations 3:17-26; Psalm 103; 1 Corinthians 15:51- 57; Matthew 11: 25-30
All souls? The Jewish Scriptures use the Hebrew word, nepes, pronounced nephesh, which in the Greek of the New Testament is translated psyche. That moves to English as “soul” which is a part of the human being. Jews cannot separate us into two parts, and evidently some other cultures cannot either. Day of the dead as Mexicans name it seems more appropriate. What we translate as “soul” is the self, a whole. Dualism is a Greek addition and a distortion of biblical spirituality. So we hear the whole self of the author crying in anguish in our first reading. He feels his exile as homelessness. And like all lament (from the Hebrew lamah?) in scripture, finally his hope revives him, hope in God’s everlasting mercies. Psalm 103, is one of the greatest tributes to God’s mercy, God’s remembering that we are dust even when we tend to forget our creature hood. The gospel begins with Jesus giving thanks that the wise and intelligent don’t grasp what children can: that we can run to God when we are heavy burdened, homeless, weary, and in God find our rest.
When have you felt homeless? How and where did you ever find a home? Ask the Spirit to spark your memories. When have you experienced death as stripping you of home? How do you feel, even years later? Share that feeling with Jesus who wants to bear your burden. Pray for the dead whom you know and love, and then pray for the dead whom you saw in this past week’s news.
Strengthen our hope, God of mercies, that all our departed brothers and sisters are now sharing Jesus’ risen glory, joy and love. Let them love us perfectly.
Monday, November 3, 2014
Philippians 2: 1-4; Psalm 131; Luke 14: 12-14
Paul introduces a pre-Pauline hymn (coming tomorrow) with his own exhortation that we share the same mind and heart, sharing compassion and joy and humility, “looking to the interests of others.” The psalm expresses the humble joy of those defenseless as children on their mothers’ laps. Jesus offers a specific way we can climb off those laps and offer, humbly and joyfully, compassion for the “poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind.” We can welcome them to our table, and to the table where Christ is the host.
With whom do you share mind and heart? Whose interests do you put before your own? To offer compassion, what do you know about being poor yourself? What in you is crippled and lame? Where are your blind spots? Of course we don’t know our blind spots, so ask the Spirit to show you yourself.
Holy Spirit, do not let us deny truth today. Make us strong enough to know the truth about ourselves so that the truth may set us free to be open and compassionate.
Tuesday, November 4, 2014
Philippians 2:5-11; Psalm 22; Luke 14: 15-24
Our humility is to be that of Jesus, who emptied himself to become a foot washing slave. Going through death, Jesus received from God the ultimate victory, the name above all names: Jesus Christ is Lord! The selection from of Psalm 22 slips past the horrors of suffering, detailed in it, to the end of any Jewish lament: the praise of God who delivers us. Jesus continues to champion the “poor, crippled, blind and lame” and all those in the roads and lanes in his parable of the “great dinner,” and “there is still room.”
How have you “this mind in your which was also in Christ Jesus?” He emptied himself. The psalm puts these words in our mouths: “I shall live for God.” Are they true for you? Tell God what you want. Pray: “He must increase, I must decrease.”
“There is still room,” Jesus, in your heart and at your table for all the misfits of society. Help us to welcome them as you do. Give us your mind, you heart, we beg.
Wednesday, November 5, 2014
Philippians 2: 12-18; Psalm 27; Luke 14: 25-33
A great relief is hidden in Paul’s letter today: “It is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for God’s good pleasure.” God, our light and salvation, casts all fear from us (Ps 27). Finally Jesus reminds us that we must carry the cross. Carrying the cross is not ours to decide, but to accept whatever God works in us, God working in us to cast out fear and replace it with light and the beauty of God’s own self.
Look at the cross in your life. How was God working in you as you shared the struggle with Jesus? How did it happen that struggle and suffering gave way to “light and salvation?” Try to turn over all your will and all your work to God, so that God may work in you.
“You are our light and salvation. Whom should we fear?” Your perfect love casts out fear, God of mercies at work in us. Keep us from fearing the cross, trusting that your love and your grace will be enough for us.
Thursday, November 6, 2014
Philippians 3: 3-8; Psalm 105; Luke 15: 1-10
Today we attend carefully to Paul’s autobiographical statement. He offers us his credentials, concluding with his keeping the law perfectly. He does not mean Ten Commandments but the 613 laws of the Jews. Yet he counts all that perfection not only loss but rubbish (Greek word is manure) for the sake of knowing Christ Jesus. Remember that for a Jew, to know means to be in the most intimate union possible. Jesus speaks of union too, God’s searching for one lost sheep, found and laid on God’s shoulders; one lost coin, found and the cause of a grand celebration in the community.
When did you try to keep the law perfectly? Why? How did you do? When did you come to “know” Christ Jesus in your heart, your gut, your whole being? Remember that or those incidents of union when you were laid so closely not on his shoulders but in his heart. Rest there in his presence, his heart.
O God, searching shepherd, careful housewife, broaden our images of you so we can “know” your image in each person in our world, no matter color, creed or nationality.
Friday, November 7, 2014
Philippians 3: 17-21, 4:1; Psalm 122; Luke 16: 1-8
Our liturgists have skipped in our continuous readings two important sections. In Philippians Paul writes of his stretching forward to take hold, to grasp Christ who has already grasped him. In Luke, we pass over the parable of the prodigal son. Both offer us such confidence: Christ has hold of us, the Father runs to meet us. However, what we do hear today is the method of preaching that the early church used. First Paul offers good news (Christ has already grasped us) and then today he teaches the behavior that flows from being held fast: “Stand firm in the Lord.”
How does it feel to know that Scripture does what it says, that in reading “Christ has already taken hold” it happens? Do you feel happy, scared, unfree? Share your feelings with Christ Jesus. How will you stand firm today? How do you want to? Share your desires with Jesus, for he counts your desires as done (It was Benjamin Franklin, hardly a moral figure! who said the road to heaven is paved with good intentions). On the contrary, Ignatius and Teresa tell us God loves our great desires.
Deepen our desires, Jesus, to be held firm in love and mercy for all your peoples, especially the poor, the lame, the blind, the prisoners, the lost, sinners, and even our persecutors.
Saturday, November 8, 2014
Philippians 4: 10-19; Psalm 112; Luke 16: 9-15
We bid Paul farewell as he concludes his letter to this church founded and maintained by women (cf Acts 16). He is tender and grateful for their caring for his material needs. In response he promises that God will “fully satisfy every need of yours according to God’s riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Following this promises of God’s riches, the psalm praises those who “distribute freely, giving to the poor.” Jesus warns that if we are not faithful and honest in small things, “who will entrust to you the true riches?...You cannot serve God and wealth.” “The Pharisees who loved money ridiculed Jesus….”
Enter this scene and watch Jesus as he preaches to his disciples, to us. How is his face, his body? The Pharisees are listening too. How do the Pharisees react? Watch them, hear them ridicule Jesus. And you? What will you say to him about wealth and true riches? Continue the dialogue and ask for what you need to savor God’s riches.
Whether, like Paul, we are well fed or hungry, set us free, Jesus. Help us to see our “wealth” in perspective and to distribute freely of our time, gifts, presence.