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.
Isaiah 55: 6-9; Psalm 145; Philippians 1: 20-24, 27; Matthew 20: 1-16
Paul offers a familiar dilemma: is it better to live and serve, or is it better to die and be totally with Christ? Of course, that it is not our choice. Perhaps it was not our choice to “seek the Lord where God may be found” either, but there was a hunger deep within that made us seekers of God. What we found is God’s mercy, Isaiah assures us, and the psalmist adds that we found a faithful, gracious mercy and kindness in God. So was it our choice to begin work in God’s vineyard at the break of day? If so, we knew God’s promises and we were willing to serve. At nine, noon, three in the afternoon and then finally at five, more come to work in God’s vineyard. The five o’clock workers receive the same pay as those who have spent the day, and there is grumbling. “Are you envious because the master is generous?” asks the owner. God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, God’s ways not our ways. God is infinitely generous!
What energizes your work for God? Rewards and payment? Good feelings and self-satisfaction? Ask Jesus to purify your motives for your ministry, whatever way you serve the people of God. When have you experienced that the Master is generous? Try to remember the event in detail and feel what happens in your body as you relax into God’s merciful generosity.
We seek you, gracious God, and we know you want to be found. Thank you for sharing your life, love and generosity with us. Help us to do all for your glory, your joy.
Monday, September 22, 2014
Proverbs 3:27-34; Psalm 15; Luke 8: 16-18
This week we dip into the wisdom literature for some common sense sayings. Jesus’ wisdom is much more exciting, exhorting us to “pay attention to how you listen.” We are light shining from the lamp stand so that all may see our good works and glorify God.
How do you listen? Ask the Spirit to call to mind all that you listened to yesterday (or if doing this in the evening, today). What called for your full attention? What was noise? What gift do you want when you are listening to a person? Ask for it.
May our small works of justice, for peace, glorify you, gracious God. Open our hearts to listen. Thank you for always listening to us.
Tuesday, September 23, 2014
Proverbs 21: 1-6, 10-13; Psalm 119; Luke 8: 19-21
“If you close your ear to the cry of the poor, you will cry out and not be heard.” And another proverb: “Justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.” Then Jesus offers us this piece of good news: “Those who hear the word of God and do it are my mother and my brothers.”
How was your listening yesterday or today? When did you hear anyone who is poor crying out? Some years ago The Last Lecture by a professor with a terminal illness was on the best seller list for months. What sayings would you include if you were to write your own “last lecture”? Your own proverbs? To whom would you address them?
We pray with the whole church: “Increase your gifts within us and give us peace in our days.” Make us your instruments of justice and peace. Thank you.
Wednesday, September 24, 2014
Proverbs 30: 5-9; Psalm 119; Luke 9:1-6
The proverb today, a prayer really, that is important to Ignatius of Loyola is one of “holy indifference.” “Give me neither poverty nor riches.” The only riches the psalmist wants are God’s words, “better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.” Jesus wants us to live simply as we go on our missionary way (and we are all missionary thanks to our baptism, sharing in God’s mission!). “Take nothing for your journey.” Count on the hospitality of others and if you are not welcome, leave, shake the dust from your feet.
What do you consider the riches of your life, past and present? What do you need for the future? When have you stayed too long when you should have moved on? Pray for the gift of discernment, to know what God wants, where the Spirit is leading.
The communion antiphon: “We turn to you for shelter, you who have given us freedom. We rely on you. You are always there to help us.” Thank you!
Thursday, September 25, 2014
Ecclesiastes 1:2-11; Psalm 90; Luke 9: 7-9
“Vanity of vanities!” This passage is even more depressing than even Jeremiah usually is! So Psalm 90, which begins, “O God, you have always been our home,” is a comfort. Yes, we are to count our days, but that counting can lead to sadness or to wisdom. “Satisfy us in the morning with your faithful love, so that we may rejoice all our days.” The gospel is a brief account of Herod’s questions about Jesus. “And Herod tried to see Jesus.”
The end of today’s gospel can be the beginning of your desire to contemplate Jesus, to look deeply into his eyes, to let him satisfy your heart with his faithful love. According to Teresa of Avila, contemplation means looking at Jesus looking at you, humbly and tenderly. Spend some time doing just that. Then try to see Jesus in all the events of your day.
Open our eyes, Jesus, to see you not only in the good and beautiful, but especially in the ones we judge wicked, the ones who need you most, the poor, ourselves. Thank you!
Friday, September 26, 2014 - Feast of the North American Martyrs in Canada
Revelation 7: 9-17; Psalm 124; 2 Corinthians 4:7-15; Luke 9: 23-26
These daily reflections span, as did the Jesuit martyrs, both Canada and the United States. Today these men are celebrated in Canada, and in October, in the USA. How wonderful that these six priests were accompanied in preaching and in death by two lay associates. The Book of Revelation is so appropriate here because it was written to encourage early Christians being persecuted in the Roman empire. The psalm praises God’s help in breaking the snare. Second Corinthians is the familiar “earthen vessels” passage, and Luke’s Jesus speaks of taking up the cross, willing to lose one’s life for his sake. “While we live we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh.”
Pray, as these men did, for those who persecute you, or even annoy you. How might the life of Jesus be made visible in your life today? Ask the Spirit to show you; then be quiet and listen.
We pray for all the First People, native Americans wherever they find themselves today. Thank you for their spirituality and all they have shared with us, their persecutors.
Saturday, September 27, 2014
Ecclesiastes 11:9-12:8; Psalm 90; Luke 9: 43-45
More gloom and misery from the author who concludes with the refrain, “Vanity of vanities.” Emptiness, literally, emptiness because we are all going to die. Psalm 90, too, is a repeat from Thursday. Who shall save us from this body of death? Paul once asked. Only Christ Jesus, he answers himself. But in today’s gospel Jesus is foretelling his death and the disciples were afraid to ask him what he meant. So we turn to the Alleluia verse (2 Tim 1) for the only comfort: “Our saviour Jesus Christ has done away with death and brought us life through the gospel.” Yes! Alleluia!
The call is clear. To ponder your own dying, the psalmist says, is to gain wisdom. What would you like to have said about you in your obituary? What do you want your last words to be? Say them often during each day. Any regrets, were you to die today? Ask the Spirit to show you, and to reconcile you, and to comfort you.
Let those who are dying all around the world, especially those in war zones, oppressed, starving or alone, experience your faithful love, O God who saves us from death.
Ezekiel 18: 25-28; Psalm 25; Philippians 2: 1-11; Matthew 21: 28-32
Justice, mercy and righteousness theme our readings today, but the true center of the Liturgy of the Word is Paul’s hymn: Jesus becomes fully human and obedient to human reality. He did not consider being divine something to be clung to, but emptied himself, humbled himself. God (who did not kill him nor “need” his death) brought true justice out of the murder that righteous Pharisees plotted. Then God exalted the humble one. The righteous Pharisees say they do the will of God but do not follow through with actual obedience, as Jesus’ parable points out.
For a while we have been celebrating that forgotten prayer in the Offertory: May we come to share the divinity of him who emptied himself to share our humanity. How have you been growing in wisdom and grace? To grow in grace is “coming to share divinity,” God’s own life mingled with ours. How do you feel? What do you want from God?
“Remember your mercies, O God!” (Ps 25). What mercy you have poured into all creation with the sending of your Mercy in the flesh, Jesus! Thank you!
Monday, September 29, 2014 - Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael
Revelation 12:7-12; Psalm 138; John 1: 47-51
We call these three angels Archangels. Angelos means messenger in Greek and arche means first. Notice that all three names and the name of the one whom Jesus calls in today’s gospel, Nathanael, end with “el,” the Hebrew word for God. Michael is “like God.” Gabriel means “God is mighty.” Raphael means “God heals”( we can read about Raphael in the book of Tobit (ch 12) in the Jewish scriptures). Nathanael is “God is given.” The soon to be apostle whom Jesus has called is about to be given, bearing in his heart and in his preaching, God-made-flesh in Jesus “Alleluia! Bless God all you angels who minister before God.”
What do you need right now? God’s power or healing or the gift of God’s self? Who is God’s human messenger now in your life? Who ministers to you? Whom do you let minister to you? For whom are you a messenger of God, a minister? Contemplate them.
Thank you, God of all the angels, that you constantly send your messengers into our lives. Thank you for calling us through our baptism to minister with Christ.
Tuesday, September 30, 2014 - St. Jerome
Job 3: 1-3, 11-17, 20-23; Psalm 88; Luke 9: 51-56
We celebrate Jerome today, one skilled in Greek and Hebrew and who translated Scripture into the language of the common people, the “vulgar” in its original meaning. Thus we call this translation the Vulgate. We begin a short but continuous reading of Job. Five times in today’s passage, Job cries “Why?” “Lamah?” In the gospel we begin a long and arduous journey with Jesus, who “sets his face” to go to Jerusalem where he is sure he will be killed. He sends messengers (angels in Greek!) before him, as he leaves Galilee and has to pass through Samaria. The sons of thunder, James and John, want to call down fire (as Elijah had) on those who rejecte Jesus. Jesus rebukes them. When Job asks why God has fenced him in, the good news is that Jesus’ name, yesh, means just the opposite. Yesh means to be set free, set out in the open, given room and time. Jesus strides toward imprisonment and nailing to the cross so that he might set all creation free.
Job’s inclusion in Scripture (for Job is not Jewish, it is believed) gives us permission to cry our “Why?” to God. His is a cry of anguish, as was Jesus’ cry from the cross: “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabacthani?” What anguish do you want to cry to God? What questions trouble your heart? What wars disturb your peace, let alone the lives of millions? (There are currently 50 million refugees in the world). Ask why, and then try to listen. Or at least try to be-with God who cries too.
Jesus, rebuke all those who want to do violence in your name. Prince of Peace, save us from religious wars and hate-driven theological difference. Set us free!
Wednesday, October 1, 2014 - Therese of Lisieux
Job 9: 1-12, 14-16; Psalm 88; Luke 9: 57-62
Job stands in awe, giving God the credit for all creation and seeing himself as sinful (he who once protested his innocence). Job realizes, “I must appeal for mercy to my accuser.” Mercy is Therese’s theme too. She was probably made a Doctor of the church because in the milieu of Jansenism into which she was born, she realized and taught that she was so little and the mercy of Jesus was so infinite, that she could trust, depend, and let him save her. Therese could easily apply Paul’s experience to her own: “Alleluia! I count all things worthless except this: to gain Christ Jesus and to be found in him.”
Job and Therese, both suffering mightily, both throwing themselves on the mercy of God. What has been your experience of suffering loss: of beloved people, of work, of reputation, of possessions, of….? What happened to your baptismal gift of hope when you lost so much? Pray for hope and deeper trust in God’s mercy, for yourself and especially for those despairing in our war-weary world.
O Jesus, heart of our heart, help us to see all things as nothing compared to your love and mercy. Gather the hopeless of our world to yourself. Gather us, we pray.
Thursday, October 2, 2014 - Guardian Angels
Exodus 23: 20-23; Psalm 91; Matthew 18: 1-5, 10
Therese did not have special readings for her feast, and yet today’s gospel so aptly fits her own self and her little way. We do break our continuous reading of Job and Luke to focus again on these messengers who guide the Israelites in the desert and who protect the little ones. Taking a child, Jesus guides us: “Unless you become like little children… Whoever becomes humble like this child … Whoever welcomes one such child in my name, welcomes me.”
What does it mean for you to become like a child, to become humble? Whom can you welcome? Who welcomed you as a child? Who in your family? Who taught you, protected you, mentored you? Remember and give thanks. Or, if your memories are desolate, pray for the gift of forgiveness and for the great gift of knowing that God is enough for you.
We offer you, Jesus, all children who are abused, trafficked, starving, dying without medicine or comfort. Open us to welcome the little ones of this world, especially those at the US border.
Friday, October 3, 2014
Job 38: 12-21, 40: 3-5; Psalm 139; Luke 10: 13-16
Amazingly, we continue the theme of smallness, the little way. Job, confronted by the awesome deeds of God, cries out in repentance: “See, I am of small account.” Psalm 139 acknowledges that God has known us from our mother’s womb, and knit us together. Jesus, after saying yesterday in Matthew that the one who welcomes a child welcomes him, today in Luke says whoever rejects his disciples, rejects him and the one who sent him. In fact, while crying Woe! to Chorazin, Tyre, Sidon and Capernaum, notice that he is addressing his disciples, not necessarily the citizens of those towns.
Picture Jesus crying Woe! to those biblical towns. Now listen. To what cities in our world today is Jesus crying Woe! Pray passionately (as Abraham once did) for Jesus’ mercy to heal the ills of each city you name.
We may be of small account, Jesus, but we have big prayers! So many poor and humble are exploited and threatened in our cities today. You are the savior they need. Go, please, go to them.
Saturday, October 4, 2014 - Francis of Assisi
Job 42: 1-3, 5-6, 12-13, 15-17; Psalm 119; Luke 10: 17-24
Two of our most beloved saints, Therese and Francis, do not have special readings. In fact, once Job has repented “in dust and ashes,” God restores his fortunes. He receives many more animals and a whole new family! Francis saw clearly how little possessions counted and chose dust and ashes, even over his family. In his childlike humility, he preferred to receive what Jesus offers today: rejoicing in the Holy Spirit. “I thank you, Father…because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to infants….”
What in your life has caused you to rejoice in the Holy Spirit? If you can’t remember, ask the Spirit to call these things to mind. Be quiet and listen. Then pray, “I thank you because…..” and slowly name that for which you are grateful.
Thank you for Francis’ influence on all Christians. Open our eyes to find you in all creation and to know our unity with all creation. Give us the gifts of reverence and joy.