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 1: 1-4, 17-19; Psalm 71; 1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13; Luke 4: 21-30
Prophets frustrate our expectations, and God often frustrates prophets! Jeremiah is one who argues that he is too young to be a prophet. God insists that he who was consecrated before he was born stand up and speak to all nations. Psalm 71 could have been written by Jeremiah, once he let God send him. Although his message is often forlorn and he himself beset by depression, he is a man who loves God. Paul writes about love, the greatest of all God’s gifts, even more than faith. Jesus shows us that love is not romantic, for no sooner have his townspeople accepted his “gracious words” than Jesus draws their murderous rage by announcing that God is claiming pagans as God’s own children. Prophets console the afflicted and challenge those who are closed to God’s ways.
Paul describes how love acts. Jesus did too with his parables of the Good Samaritan, the prodigal son. He demonstrated love as well. For example, washing his disciples’ feet, eating with outcasts, welcoming those judged sinful. What do you remember of Jesus’ teachings about and ways of loving? Ask the Spirit to teach you, and listen. Then show Jesus how you want to love and listen to him again. Ask to love well.
Ask for wisdom and courage to stand up for pagans and Muslims, for refugees and the disabled, all those whom God claims as God’s own.
Deepen our love of sinners and outcasts, generous and loving Jesus. Thank you for creating us prophets through Baptism. Let our light and love shine to those in need.
Monday, February 1, 2016
2 Samuel 15: 13-14, 30, 16: 5-13; Psalm 3; Mark 5: 1-20
Both readings mention stones. In David’s sorrow that his son Absalom has turned against him, a shouting man throws stones at David. David protects the wild man, wondering if indeed God has sent him to curse him. Jesus confronts a howling man who gashes himself with stones, demon-possessed, with strength to break out of shackles. Jesus approaches him, unafraid. The man bows before Jesus and cries out, “Do not torment me!” Jesus sends the multitude of demons into pigs which rush into the sea. The man is healed and wants to join Jesus. Jesus however tells him to go home and tell his friends how much the Lord (the Jewish name for God) has graced him with mercy.
When was there a time in your life when you felt cursed? When you “gashed” yourself with “stones” of self-loathing, of disgust with your “shackles” and addictions,
of fear for your mental stability? To whom did you turn? What happened next? As you remember these terrible times, how will you respond to Jesus, your healer?
Jesus, please give us the wisdom to discern when leaders should be confronted, and to do that with justice as our only aim. May we be merciful to all who are shunned.
Tuesday, February 2, 2016 Presentation of the Lord
Hebrews 2: 10-11, 13-18; Psalm 24; Luke 2: 22-40
The “Lord” (Adonai) is what Jews call God, never using the sacred YHWH. Paradoxically on this feast when the Lord is presented to the Lord, it is a baby who is offered to God. This baby is called “the source of our salvation” in the Hebrews passage, our brother, a merciful and faithful high priest, “like us in every respect.” In the gospel, Simeon calls him “salvation,” “a light of revelation to the Gentiles and to Israel, the glory.” Simeon also calls him a “sign that will be opposed.” God coming to us as an infant, needing to grow in wisdom, needing to grow in grace, needing to learn to speak and walk and be toilet trained is indeed a scandal, a sign opposed by those who want a glorious and powerful Lord.
And you? How do you feel about such a helpless God? Why do you think God would come to us so dependent and needy? Ask. Then listen. If we have seen Jesus, he tells us, we have seen the Father. Is anyone in the Trinity powerful? Ask. Listen.
O wondrous exchange! May we come to share the divinity of him who emptied himself to share our humanity. May we reverence his and all humanity.
Wednesday, February 3, 2016
2 Samuel 24: 2, 9-17; Psalm 32; Mark 6:1-6
We meet a new prophet, Gad, accosting David, and in the gospel, Jesus refers to himself as a prophet. David has sinned by numbering the people “who could draw the sword.” Planning a war, is he? Through Gad, God gives David a choice of his punishment, and a pestilence afflicts the people (“God sent a pestilence”). God finally repents and David asks, why should the innocent suffer? “Let your hand be against me,”
he says; “I alone have sinned.” Jesus’ hometown rejects him, and while Jesus doesn’t judge them (is simply “amazed at their unbelief), he “could do no work of power there.”
Healing takes not only the power of Jesus but the faith of those needing healing.
Ask for the grace of an ever-deepening faith, which means trusting the God who loves you. Ask for an ever more encompassing healing of yourself, your family and circle of friends, our society, our church, the world. Beg for an end to all war.
“In time of great distress, preserve your people,” especially in Syria, in Israel and Palestine and so many countries of Africa. Give us all peace and trust, not terror.
Thursday, February 4, 2016
1 Kings 2:1-4, 10-12; canticle from 1 Chronicles 29; Mark 6: 7-13
David dies, blessing and warning his son Solomon to keep the Lord’s ways. “His kingdom was firmly established.” In Mark’s gospel, Jesus shares his authority with the twelve, sending them on mission. He sends them to drive out demons, a real theme in Mark’s gospel, but they also anoint the sick with oil to heal them. Jesus tells them to travel lightly, and to leave any place that does not welcome them.
Have you discovered any demons that you want Jesus to cast out? Talk with him about it. What parts of your life and your loves need anointing? Ask for it. Have you ever stayed too long in a place or in a relationship, when you should have shaken the dust from your feet? What did you learn?
Thank you for sharing your authority with us, Jesus. Teach us to use it to do justice, to offer mercy, to work for reconciliation and unity. We need your authority.
Friday, February 5, 2016
Sirach 47: 2-11; Psalm 18; Mark 6: 14-29
“John had been telling Herod…” There is persistence in prophets. John the Baptist names the sin adultery. While Herod liked to listen to John, Herodias “had a grudge against him.” When she asked for John’s head, “the king was deeply grieved…”, yet sins further. He sounds like David who also committed murder. David’s life is summarized in this chapter from Sirach, but his sins are barely acknowledged. He is praised for both his warring, and his artistic and musical liturgies.
When do you use the gift of perseverance? For what do you need persistence?
If your life were to be summarized in three paragraphs, what would you want said about you? What would Jesus want said about you? Ask him. Listen.
We make music to praise you, God, even while we mourn the poverty of your people. Help us to persevere in prayer and in action, to do justice and love tenderly.
Saturday, February 6, 2016
1 Kings 3: 4-13; Psalm 119; Mark 6: 30-34
In his youth, Solomon was humble, asking God for wisdom, “an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern…” God was pleased and gave him a wise and discerning mind, and also riches and honors. The latter will eventually lead Solomon to be unjust, enslaving his own people. Jesus welcomes his friends back from “their first mission,” and invites them to come apart for awhile to rest. Although they try to get away by boat, the people “hurried on foot” and gave them no rest. Jesus takes a long, loving look at the crowd and “had compassion on them.”
Take a long, loving look at your youth. What was important to you then? How did that change, or did it? Can you hear Jesus invite you to come apart and rest awhile?
Hear him call your name, hear him thank you for all your work on his behalf. Then just smile at him and rest in his loving gaze.
O God, make us aware that we are one with all creeds, colors, and cultures around the world. Your Spirit unites us. Help us to believe and act out of our belief with mercy.
Isaiah 6: 1-8; Psalm 138; 1 Corinthians 15: 1-11; Luke 5: 1-11
The first Sunday reading is always chosen with the gospel in mind. It is a continuous reading. The second reading is also often a continuous reading without any linking. Today’s liturgy then is a work of art! Each reading begins with a vision and the human response of overwhelming awe that leads to the realization that he (Isaiah, Paul and Peter) is a sinner. With that admission, God transforms (Isaiah’s sin is blotted out; Paul is filled with grace; Simon is reassured). Then the person is sent. “Here I am, send me!” cries Isaiah. Paul is made Apostle (from the Greek, one sent) and Peter is commissioned to “catch” people instead of fish.
When have you been overwhelmed with awe? When have you “seen” God (or, like Paul, heard a voice)? What was your response? Ignatius of Loyola structures his Spiritual Exercises in somewhat the same way: first we contemplate the goodness of God, and that goodness toward me; safe in being so incredibly loved, then we can admit our personal sin and complicity in the sin of the world; following Jesus, we are transformed by his dying and rising; and then we too are sent, finding God in all things. If you have never been overcome with awe, spend some time giving a long, loving look at some beauty or goodness of God. Gaze at the beautiful face of Jesus, who is for you.
Holy, holy, holy! The whole earth is full of your glory! Come close, Jesus, for we are sinners -- whom you choose to eat with. Heal us, free us, send us. We are yours!
Monday, February 8, 2016
1 Kings 8:1-7, 9-13; Psalm 132; Mark 6: 53-56
David must not have told Solomon of God’s reproach: “You will build me a house?” How dare we box God in? Yet Solomon does construct a temple that will be such a symbol of Jewish identity that it borders on idolatry. When the Ark of the Covenant is placed in the temple, Solomon boasts: “I have built you an exalted house, a place for you to dwell in forever.” Poor man, as in anyone who boasts. In the gospel, Jesus is besieged by the needy crowds, rushing about. Is Jesus an introvert? Is he exhausted by all this work, or is he energized by the crowds? They are grabbing at the edge of his robe. What is he thinking? How is he praying?
Ask Jesus what all this rushing about means to him. Ask him to come apart with you and rest awhile – with you. How will you comfort him? Refresh him?
O God who dwells in clouds and crowds, help us to find you in all that delights us and in all that besieges us. Give the crowds who protest injustice hope and courage. Be with them.
Tuesday, February 9, 2016
1 Kings 8: 22-23, 27-30; Psalm 84; Mark 7: 1-13
Solomon, in dedicating the temple, realizes that he needs forgiveness for thinking that God could be contained in such a house. He asks a poignant question: “Will God indeed dwell on the earth?” As Lent fast approaches, we are reminded of the incarnation.
With the psalmist we can sing: How lovely is your dwelling place! whether in earth, on earth, in peoples, in galaxies, in Jesus, in the smallest cell. Jesus is angry with the scribes and Pharisees who bow and scrape and ostracize people according to their laws and customs and neglect basic charity due even parents. They “teach human precepts as doctrines,” and “make void the word of God through your tradition.” May the hierarchy and clerics take notice as they learn to be pastoral shepherds.
Before you throw a stone, ask the Spirit to remind you of a time when you used the Law as an excuse, or when you clung to a tradition or custom (which might be called idolatry, or at least, a lack of freedom). When you pray: “How lovely is your dwelling place”, to what places are you drawn, places easy to find God?
Help us to find your dwelling place among the rubble of the Middle East, and in the cries and the smiles of its people. Set us free from all that we idolize, even things of religion.
Wednesday, February 10, 2016 Ash Wednesday
Joel 2:12-18; Psalm 51; 2 Corinthians 5: 20-6:2; Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18
At last! The entrance antiphon begins: “Lord, you hate nothing that you have created.” If you still plan to give up candy or meat or whatever, remember that God loves candy, meat and all the good things of earth. We fast to be in solidarity with the hungry and to turn our hungers to God. We give alms to alleviate suffering of our far neighbors, and sometimes the alms will be our listening heart offered to our family and/or near neighbors. As for prayer, because we have the same readings for Lent year after year, I suggest you read one of the three scriptures slowly, because Lent comes from the Italian, lente, slowly. If prayer, as Teresa of Avila says, is a conversation with one whom we know loves us, then to hear the Word of God is to let God take the initiative in that conversation.
Today: “We are ambassadors for Christ…we entreat you on behalf of Christ: be reconciled to God.” (2 Cor)
Paul continues, “We are ambassadors of reconciliation”. Pray to know where in your circle or in our world people need to speak again to God and to each other. What can you do to foster that healing of divisions? What do you want to do? Dream big, for God loves our great desires!
Come, Holy Spirit, into all of our hearts. Open us to new ways of fasting, prayer and almsgiving. Let us take long loving looks at our world as we join Jesus in the desert.
Thursday, February 11, 2016 Our Lady of Lourdes, World Day of the Sick
1 Kings 11:4-13; Psalm 106; Mark 7: 24-30
Although there are no special readings for this feast, but because so much of our world is sick physically or sick at heart, and because this Lent we (the church) will be serving in the field hospital (the church) we can look at both readings through that lens. Solomon’s heart was not “true” or faithful, and he turned to idols. God promised him a divided kingdom as his punishment. Jesus’ mind and heart seems to have been bent, as all of us are bent, by a culture that is unexamined – for Jesus, the xenophobic culture of Galilee and for us, what is purveyed by the media. Surely Mary and Joseph never taught Jesus to call Gentiles “dogs,” and yet in this passage he does. His culture has infiltrated his mind. The woman is so focused on her demon-possessed daughter that she accepts the slur and asks for crumbs. Jesus’ consciousness is raised. “For saying that…” He who calls us to conversion, in this passage is himself converted.
Ask the Spirit to show you where you might harbor unconscious prejudice, and to bring it to mind. Look at it with Jesus. Ask for healing for anything that feels like your own sickness of heart and mind, and ask for that openness that Jesus learned to extend. Pray for the sick of the world, especially those without care—in war zones, in refugee camps, on our own city streets.
Ave Maria! Mary, we beg you to comfort the sick wherever you find them. Help us to remember their vicious pain and deep loneliness when we begin to complain.
Friday, February 12, 2016
Isaiah proclaims the fast that God wants. So we will these next two days fast from words by reading the scripture carefully, closely. First we will pay attention to the words and the meaning of the passage. We will read it again, this time letting the Word sink into our hearts and all our being. A third time we will read it with an openness that begs for transformation of our hearts.
The fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs
of the yoke, to let the oppressed grow free; to share your bread with the
hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the
naked, to cover them and to remember your own kin.
We pray for all those in slavery today: women and children who are trafficked, those caught in any kind of addiction, those used by their bosses. Set us free, saving God, and make us one.
Saturday, February 13, 2016
If this Lent we offer the fast that God wants, Isaiah records what God will do for us (and for our world): Again, use the method of reading slowly, carefully, perhaps out loud this passage of hope three times:
If you remove from you the yoke, the pointing finger, the speaking evil; if
you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then
your light will rise in the darkness, and your gloom like the noonday…
the Lord will satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones
strong. You shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water.
O God, in the abundance of your mercies, look upon us, guide us, free us, love us with your unbounded kindness. We want to bring your light, your fruitful waters to all the parched places of our world and to each human heart.
Picture it: Solomon’s two sons: Jeroboam is king of the northern kingdom of Israel (10 tribes) and Rehoboam king in the southern kingdom of Judah (2 tribes). Jerusalem is located in Judah, and Jeroboam is fearful that his people will want to return to the temple in the south. As a result, he creates his own religion, gold calves, altars, priests. With God’s promise to destroy Israel, here ends our continuous reading of Kings.
In the gospel, again Jesus has compassion on the large crowds who follow him and have nothing to eat. Again he finds a few loaves and fishes with which to feed 4,000 people.
In an Ignatian contemplation, be one of the listening crowd or one of the disciples. See, feel, hear, smell, taste. Be there. Then--why will you choose one over the other? If a listener, what do you want to hear from Jesus? Be silent and listen. If a server, why do you serve? What is your motivation? Ask the Spirit to show you. Be silent and listen.
Thank you, Jesus, for constantly feeding us – with yourself, with the Spirit, with the beauty of creation, through our loved ones, and even through those who do not love us.