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.
Monday, December 9, 2013 - Mary’s immaculate conception
Genesis 3; 9-15, 20; Psalm 98; Ephesians 1: 3-6, 11-12; Luke 1: 26-38
We enter, singing with Mary: “I exult for joy in the Lord, who has clothed me in the garment of salvation and robed me in the cloak of justice.” The psalm, pointing us toward Christmas, is the basis of the hymn, “Joy to the World.” Today’s antiphon “repeats the sounding joy”: “Sing to the Lord a new song for God has done marvelous things!” Finally, “Mary, from you arose the sun of justice, Christ our God.” Remember, like Jesus, she is human, like us in every way. How might Mary have done justice?
Notice the repetition of “justice” in today’s readings, meaning to be in right relationship with God and with human beings. Examine some of your relationships and pray for God’s gift of justice for yourself. Then roam around the world in your imagination and beg that God’s justice might lead world leaders.
Our hearts magnify you, our God, and our spirits rejoice in you. Let all those who are deprived in any way, in any way oppressed, experience your justice and your peace.
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Isaiah 40:1-11; Psalm 96; Matthew 18: 12-14
Ordinarily the first reading and gospel on weekdays do not correspond, but this is Advent. Isaiah ends yet another description of Messianic times with the image of God carrying the lambs tenderly. The gospel is Jesus’ imaging of God as good shepherd, seeking the lost. “The will of God,” Jesus says, “is that not one of these little ones be lost.”
Christmas is so much about children. Pray for the little ones in your life, and include the homeless, starving children who live in war torn areas and refugee camps. Much of Isaiah 40 is recorded in Handel’s Messiah, beginning with “Comfort ye.” You might pray with that music today, placing the children in God’s arms.
Give us the hearts of children, God of grace, so that we might be excited all over again at the coming of Jesus. Never let us tire of welcoming him, especially in the poor and needy.
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Isaiah 40: 25-31; Psalm 103; Matthew 11: 28-30
Such good news today! Isaiah speaks of God who “does not faint or grow weary…[but] gives power to the faint and strengthens the powerless.” God’s power lies in mercy: “God forgives…heals…crowns you with faithful love and mercy…[Our God] is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in faithful, steady love.” Jesus puts flesh on this empowering God, inviting us, in all the bustle of our materialistic preparation for Christmas, to come to him and rest.
Some of the heavy burdens you might bring to Jesus in this season are painful memories of past Christmases, loneliness, divided families. All that you do to promote unity this season gladdens the heart of Christ. Because you are crowned with faithful and unconditional love, whom do you want to forgive, how can you bring about reconciliations, what can you do to heal divisions in our very broken world? Ask the Spirit to teach you. Ask for the gift of gladdening the heart of Christ.
Thank you, creative God, for giving us yourself in human flesh, like us in every way, tempted as we are to be quick to anger, unforgiving. Thank you that he lives within us, as your light and joy in our war-weary world.
Thursday, December 12, 2013 - Our Lady of Guadalupe
Zechariah 2: 10-13; Canticle from Judith 13; Luke 1: 39-47
How appropriate that this particular feast of the poor and needy comes in Advent. Mary appeared to Juan Diego at Tepeyac in Mexico. The Spanish conquerors renamed the town after Guadalupe in Spain. Our readings serve as a corrective to that imperialism. In the first, God tells daughter Zion (an image of Mary) that God will dwell in her midst and all nations shall join themselves to God. All of Latin America, Canada and United States welcome this mother, patroness of the Americas. She may be mother, but she is portrayed not so much as a comforting but rather a liberating mother. Judith was a warrior woman. The Magnificat is a song of justice, a promise that God will pull down the mighty from their thrones and fill the poor and needy with good things.
Pray for the people of Mexico, for all Hispanic people who look to Mary for their freedom and to God to fill the starving with good things. Pray for our countries, that hearts may be changed and we, as two rich nations, may welcome those who love Mary. In the United States, what might you do to empower a “path to citizenship”?
We magnify you, our God. We want to make you bigger in our hearts, but are helpless. Enlarge our hearts, we beg you, so we better respond to the needs of those we meet today, especially those who are looking for a new home.
Friday, December 13, 2013
Isaiah 48: 17-19; Psalm 1; Matthew 11: 16-19
Isaiah is contemplating waters, waves, grains of sand, and the psalmist compares good people to fruitful trees planted near running waters. And who are the good? According to Psalm 1, those who obey God’s laws. According to Jesus, being authentic. John the Baptist fasted and was accused of having a demon; Jesus comes eating and drinking and is labeled a drunkard and glutton. Truth will out. “Wisdom is vindicated,” Jesus concludes.
What in your life is authentically you? What parts of yourself are subject to impression management? What parts do you hide away even from yourself? Of what are you ashamed? Ask the Spirit to show you and then discuss these revelations with Jesus.
You give us the light of life, Jesus. You give us the Spirit to teach us the truth about ourselves and then to set us free. Thank you! Keep us walking in your light and truth.
Saturday, December 14, 2013
Sirach 48: 1-4, 9-11; Psalm 80; Matthew 17: 10-13
Elijah is expected by the Jews of Jesus’ time to return and herald the coming Messiah. Thus Elijah, his word and work, are highlighted in the first reading. The psalm gives us this cry to God: “Stir up your power and come to save us!” In the gospel we are transported to Mt. Tabor where the friends of Jesus question him about Elijah as they come down the mountain. Jesus claims that John the Baptist was Elijah returned, “and they [the authorities] did to him what they pleased.”
Consider all those who are victims, like John, of unjust policies and policing. Consider, for example, what the United States is doing in Guantanamo and other prisons where “the enemy” is held. What if God did really stir up power to come and save, set free all those of whom we are afraid? Tell God now how you have judged, just whom God need not save, and then listen to God’s evaluation. We are a people driven by faith, not by fear. What drives you?
Stir up your power, Prince of peace, and come. Let all people see and experience your salvation, your power to set everyone free from anxiety, fear and hatred. Do it, Jesus!
for Dec. 15 - 21
Isaiah 35: 1-6, 10; Psalm 146; James 5:7-10; Matthew 11: 2-11
What can we expect from the Messiah? Even John the Baptist was confused in prison as he tried to figure out who was this man whom he had baptized. Instead of a royal revolutionary, what people could see with their own eyes is that this “Messiah” traveled with the blind, the lame, the lepers, the poor. Could this be he? How did the contemporaries of Jesus miss the description of the Messianic times described by Isaiah and made even more memorable for us in the music of Handel? Why doesn’t the Messiah return in glory on the clouds and clear away the evil in our world? James encourages us to be patient, like the farmer, waiting for “the precious crop from the earth.”
If someone told you that the Messiah was coming to your town, what would you expect? If the Pope were coming, and then showed up, not surrounded by bishops but by prisoners, the disabled, the slovenly, how would you feel? What would you think? Talk over many of your expectations with Jesus to see just what needs adjusting.
You set prisoners free; set us free, Jesus, from our prejudices. You open the eyes of the blind; open our eyes and hearts, Jesus. Help us be strong, not to be afraid.
Monday, December 16, 2013
Numbers 24: 2-7, 15-17; Psalm 25; Matthew 21: 23-27
Balaam is summoned by his pagan king to deliver oracles against Israel, but instead of cursing, Balaam blesses Israel, promising abundance of the land and the stars of Jacob. How can a pagan utter the word of the Lord? The psalmist answers: “God instructs sinners in the way.” If John was sincerely confused yesterday about Jesus, today the chief priests and elders try to trick Jesus, but he turns the question back on them. By what authority did John baptize? The leaders are now the confused, and have to admit they do not know. The psalmist has said, God teaches the humble the way. It is obvious that these interrogators are hardly the humble!
What “pagans” in our society utter the Word and the will of God? Ask for the gift of openness to discern truth wherever you find it. Ask for the gift of being slow to judge and for willingness to explore other cultures, religions, even political parties. Pray that, through understanding differences, you may contribute to unity in our broken, hostile world.
You did not cling to divinity, Jesus, but emptied yourself so you might ever so deeply understand all that it means to be human. You are humble. Make us humble of heart too.
Tuesday, December 17, 2013
Genesis 49: 2, 8-10; Psalm 72; Matthew 1: 1-17
Matthew traces Jesus’ origins to Abraham, father of us all. Abraham’s grandson, Jacob, in the first reading, blesses his son Judah, from whose tribe the Messianic ruler will come. The psalmist describes the work of this Anointed (messiah in Hebrew; Christos in Greek). He (or she, since we all now are Christ-ed in baptism) will bring justice for the poor and deliverance for the needy. Today we begin the O antiphons for the Alleluia verse. We begin by addressing the Messiah as “Wisdom.” Wisdom is the Word, Jesus, who guides creation with power and love.
Ask for the gift of open eyes to see just how Christ is guiding creation right now with power and love. If you wonder about the power which “allows” such pain in the world, remember that there is a power, not patriarchal which manages and fixes, but a power which stays-with, Emmanuel. Where has Christ stayed with you in your sorrows and pain? How will you respond?
Wisdom of God, come and guide us into the ways of wisdom. Give us the wisdom to see your kind of staying-with power at work in our lives and our world. Give us courage to stay-with the needy.
Wednesday, December 18, 2013
Jeremiah 23:5-8; Psalm 72; Matthew 1:18-24
Jeremiah promises a descendant of David who will rule with justice. Yesterday Matthew traced Jesus’ line from Abraham, through David, to Joseph, whom today we hear is a just man. Not a doer of the Law, for then he would have had Mary put to death for adultery. He is a just man, so close to the mind and heart of God that he shares God’s values. Justice means holiness in the biblical languages. Joseph trusts, he receives an annunciation through a dream, and takes Mary as wife. The O antiphon addresses God as Leader who gives the Law. When Joseph breaks the Law and does not insist on capital punishment for Mary, a new mercy breaks into the world. Now we salute Jesus as our Leader and pioneer into the glorious freedom of the children of God.
In Luke, Mary is given the name of the child as Jesus, who saves us from sin (yesh means save); in Matthew, Joseph receives the same name, but Matthew adds the name Emmanuel, God with us. Ponder in your heart the name Jesus, and then the name Emmanuel. Ask to deepen your trust in both names which describe Jesus’ action.
Come, Leader, to save us from sin, and to deliver the poor and needy. Show us where we today can hand on the good news of your saving power, God-with-us.
Thursday, December 19, 2013
Judges 13:2-7, 24-25; Psalm 71; Luke 1: 5-25
Today our liturgists link the barrenness of Samson’s mother with Elizabeth’s, wife of Zechariah and mother of John. The mother of Samson receives the annunciation of his birth from the angel, with instructions about disciplines which mark him as a nazirite. Samson grew, “and the spirit of the Lord began to stir him.” In the gospel, the priest Zechariah receives the announcement of John’s conception and the disciplines which the boy is to follow. “He will be filled with the Holy Spirit…with the spirit and power of Elijah…” Although we hear about the ascetism and power of these two boys, the O antiphon calls Jesus the flower of Jesse’s stem (Jesse, the father of King David), “sign of God’s love for all God’s people.”
What is the relationship between power and love? In your experience, who has the most power in your life? How is that shown? Who is the sign of God’s love for you? How will you respond to God’s love in the flesh?
“Come, Flower of Jesse’s stem, sign of God’s love for all God’s people! Save us without delay!” Set us free from injustice, hatred and divisiveness. Give us your love to hand on.
Friday, December 20, 2013
Isaiah 7: 10-14, 8:10; Psalm 24; Luke 1: 26-38
In Isaiah’s account, King Ahaz does not want to put God to the test, but God gives the king a sign anyway: a young girl will conceive, Ahaz is promised, and a chapter later, (8:10), the child is named Immanuel, God-with-us. Psalm 24 cries: “Let the king enter!” As the song continues, “The king of glory comes, the nation rejoices. Open the gates before him, lift up your voices!” The king of glory is the Son of the Most High to whom Mary opens her heart and her body. Mary doesn’t hesitate to put the angel to the test, asking how this can be. Today’s O antiphon addresses Jesus as the Key, the one who opens and sets free.
The angel says: “Rejoice, highly favored one!” and we are used to saying, “Hail! Mary, full of grace.” During the rosary, no doubt for many years, you have pondered the Hail Mary. Do so now, taking into account each word of the angel. And you? What do you hear God (or God’s messenger) calling you today?
Help us not to be afraid when we hear your voice, our God of all grace! Key of David, help us to open our hearts, minds and bodies to your loving presence and action.
Saturday, December 21, 2013
Zephaniah 3: 14-18; Psalm 33; Luke 1: 39-45
We asked to be opened yesterday, and today the prophet assures us that God is in our midst. God rejoices in us, renews us in love, exults over us, and as the song says, “dances for us as on a day of joy!” This is a very ecstatic lover, this God of ours! The psalm continues the rejoicing. Then Luke tells of a child dancing in the womb of Elizabeth. “How is it the mother of my Lord comes to me? At your greeting the child leapt for joy!”
“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb,” Elizabeth says, continuing our prayer, the Hail Mary. She calls Mary the mother of her Lord. What do you call Mary? What does Mary like to be called? Ask her. Listen.
“O come, Emmanuel, God’s presence among us.” You, Jesus, are the center of our lives, personally and in our church. Help all nations realize that you are the center of our world.