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.
Week of Prayer for Church Unity - World Day of Migrants and Refugees
1 Samuel 3: 3-10, 19; Psalm 40; 1 Corinthians 6: 13-15, 17-20; John 1: 35-42
What could be dearer to Jesus’ heart than that we come and see, see where he lives, learn to listen as he does to God (“Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening!”); learn to obey as he does (“Here I am, Lord! I come to do your will!”); and learn to love God’s will as Jesus does. Jesus not only invites two disciples of the Baptist then to learn (discipulus/a is student in Latin), he invites us. He is called “Rabbi”, Teacher, by these two. After remaining with Jesus (or abiding, a word John uses frequently), they go to call others to Jesus. Discipleship, learning from Jesus, moves to mission, moving out to others in Jesus’ name. Our mission this week is to pray for and work for Christian Unit, to pray for and work for justice and welcome for migrants and refugees.
What do you want to learn from Jesus? What do you need to learn? Jesus is the disciple of the Father, closest to God’s heart, making God known (Jn 1:18). Jesus learns and then teaches. How might you make God known? Remain in Jesus’ presence for a while right now and see what you learn, what he wants you to learn.
Jesus’ own prayer for unity: “May all be one as you are, Father, in me, and I in you; may they be one in us. I in them and you in me, may they be completely one”
Monday, January 19, 2015
Hebrews 5: 1-10; Psalm 110; Mark 2: 18-22
One of the teaching techniques of the Rabbis was “If this and this about a human being, how much more God?” So Hebrews implies, if the high priest of Israel “is able to deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is subject to weakness….” how much more Jesus? Then the author offers us a description of Jesus’ agony in the garden: “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplication, with loud cries and tears...” Loud cries is the word used for the screams of wild animals that are captured. Jesus is terrified. Loud cries “to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard…” How did God “save” Jesus from death? No rescue plan. Saving means setting free, from the Hebrew. Jesus was set free in the resurrection, “and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.”
Which phrase, sentence above touches your heart? Read it aloud. Stay (remain, abide) with it. Why Jesus’ agony so close to Christmas? Because every Eucharist remembers and makes present the dying and the rising of Jesus, the mystery of faith. “Jesus died to gather into one new family all the scattered children of God” (Jn 1:52). Pray for Christian unity.
Free us from our need to make ourselves perfect, Jesus. We offer you our loud cries in union with your suffering people, especially those held captive by war.
Tuesday, January 20, 2015
Hebrews 6:10-20; Psalm 111; Mark 2: 23-28
Today we will do a lectio divina. Read this passage solely, out loud if possible. According to Hebrews: “Brothers and sisters, God is not unjust. God will not overlook your work and the love you showed for God’s sake in serving the saints, as you still do. We want each one of you to show the same diligence so as to realize (make real) the full assurance of hope to the very end, so that you may not become sluggish but… through faith and patience inherit the promises…. We have this hope, a sure and steady anchor, a hope that enters the inner shrine where Jesus, a pioneer on our behalf, has entered…”
What word, phrase, sentence touched your heart? Abide in that word. Taste it again and again. Savor it. Read the whole passage again.
Remove our sluggishness, our despondency over financial crises, wars without end, and give us your own faith, patience and hope, Jesus. Restore justice to our world.
Wednesday, January 21, 2015
Hebrews 7:1-3, 15-17; Psalm 110; Mark 3: 1-6
Although earlier in Mark’s gospel Jesus engaged in conflict with the religious rulers, here a healing on the Sabbath provokes them to “conspire with the Herodians against Jesus, how to destroy him.” If they are enraged, Jesus too “looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart.” Jesus orders the man with the withered hand, “Stretch out your hand.”
Enter the scene. What is withered in you? Jesus says directly to you, looking at you with the softness of his heart visible in his eyes, “Stretch out your_____,” and what will you show him, give him, turn over to him with trust? Stay with him, stretching toward him.
You are our only high priest, Jesus. You mediate healing and life, you restore hands and hearts. Restore justice in our world and soften all of our hearts.
Thursday, January 22, 2015
Hebrews 7: 25-8:6; Psalm 40; Mark 3: 7-12
Mark offers a summary statement of all that Jesus was doing to overcome demons and heal diseases. By his compassion, his actions showed the “glad news of deliverance in the great congregation,” as the psalm sings. Hebrews says now he has “obtained a more excellent ministry….a mediator of a better covenant.” What Jesus did then, he continues now, “and forever, able for all time to save those who approach God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” To pray in Hebrew simply means to ask. Intercession, which Jesus spends his eternity doing on our behalf, is a wonderful way to pray.
How do you want to approach God? How do you want Jesus to intercede for you? (NB: intercede means to plead, and does not mean to intervene, two words frequently confused.) What do you need? What do you want? How will you join his prayer? Ask him for what he is begging right now. Do you want that as well?
May our actions show our compassion today, Jesus, really your compassion made flesh in us. May we be kind to our near neighbors and beg passionately on behalf of our far neighbors.
Friday, January 23, 2015
Hebrews 8: 6-13; Psalm 85; Mark 3: 13-19
Where does Jesus get the energy to give himself so totally to the needy, the ill and the outcast? First, today, he goes up the mountain, his sacred place of meeting God who energizes him. Then he delegates, calling co-workers to himself, “whom he also named apostles.” He is bringing the new covenant promised in Jeremiah and quoted today in Hebrews to fulfillment. Because Hebrews is a theology of hope, everything will be new again, in Jesus’ “more excellent ministry.” In him, “kindness and truth shall meet, justice and peace shall kiss; faithfulness will spring up out of the earth and justice look down from heaven” (Ps 85).
What energizes you? Where is your sacred space? Whom do you call partners in ministry? What do you hope for? “Visualize peace” reads a bumper sticker. Visualize justice and peace kissing. What happens next?
Thank you, Jesus, for calling us, like the twelve, to yourself, for sending us out to proclaim the message, for giving us authority over the evil that plagues the poor.
Saturday, January 24, 2015
Hebrews 9: 2-3, 11-14; Psalm 47; Mark 3: 20-21
Hebrews announces the perfection of Jesus’ offering himself to God. Psalm 47 captures God’s “going up,” applied to Jesus’ ascension. The gospel must be the shortest pericope (which means “snippet” and really is a snippet today). Here it is in full: “Jesus and the disciples went home. The crowd came together so that they could not even eat. When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, ‘He has gone out of his mind.’”
What do you make of this piece (pericope, accent on the short i) of gospel? What do you notice? Jesus’ home is now in Caparnaum. Who would his family be, coming from Nazareth? Restrain is a very strong word. First his enemies plot to destroy him, now his family? Speak to him about how he feels. Ask God, to whom he is offering his life, how God feels. And how do you feel?
We ask you, Jesus, to make intercession for all families who misunderstand and are even cruel to each other. We ask you to pray for nations who plot to destroy the poor.
Jonah 31-5, 10; Psalm 25; 1 Corinthians 7: 29-31; Mark 1: 14-20
The early community of Christians felt an urgency about the good news. Jesus would return on the clouds soon. That is the context of Paul’s urging us not to be attached to our possessions, our sorrows or our joys: “The present form of this world is passing away.” The great city of Nineveh would have passed away had not Jonah finally preached repentance to its citizens. Even God has a “change of mind,” and repents in this first reading. God would not ask us to do (repent) what God was not willing to do. Finally, Jesus comes preaching repentance. “Repent and believe the good news!” Immediately four fisherman leave their nets to travel with him.
You were consecrated a prophet in your Baptism. A prophet is so close to the mind and heart of God that he/she dares to speak in God’s name. How do you preach repentance, and if you do, how do you model it first? The Twelve Steps call together a community of loved addicts, always recovering. Jesus calls a community, the church, always repenting, always reforming. Ponder in your heart: what prevents you from holding everything loosely, as Paul exhorts, except Jesus? What keeps you from being close to the mind and heart of God?
Free us, Jesus, to be with you in joy and in sorrow. Help us see how everything we think so important is transitory. Yours is the only peace and we beg for it, for ourselves and for our world.
Monday, January 26, 2015
2 Timothy 1: 1-9 or Titus 1:1-5; Psalm 96; Mark 3: 22-30
Today we celebrate two disciples of Paul, Timothy and Titus, along with “the Pastor,” the one who, using Paul’s name, penned letters to the two. The U.S. missalette continues the reading from Mark, whereas the Canadian version switches to Luke’s commissioning of the 72. Mark’s gospel today is key to his understanding of Jesus and his ministry of exorcism. Jesus drives out demons. This infuriates the scribes who accuse Jesus of using Satan’s power. What might Jesus have felt in being so misunderstood? God’s power is called Satan’s power – what blasphemy! Jesus reminds us that all sin can be forgiven, but not blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.
Join Jesus in his feelings. Is he sad, furious, repulsed by this accusation? Ask him. Listen to him and do not try to talk him out of these feelings. He is like us in every way. Listen and console him. When have you felt as he did, and how did you respond?
Jesus, we need your mind and heart so that we may feel with you and respond as you did and do. Give us the gift of discernment that we may see evil as you do, not as we sometimes judge.
Tuesday, January 27, 2015
Hebrews 10: 1-10; Psalm 40; Mark 3: 31-35
The theme in all three readings is the will of God. Last Saturday, we had a mere two verses from Mark, in which the family of Jesus, including his mother came to take him home because people were saying he was out of his mind. Here in these few verses we can believe that Mary was included in Jesus’ new family. “Who are my mother and brothers?” Jesus asks and then announces (to us too!) that whoever does the will of God is part of his new family. Her response to Gabriel in Luke shows her a woman willing to do God’s will. She may have often prayed Psalm 40 with its refrain: “Here I am, Lord. I come to do your will.”
You might invite Mary to pray Psalm 40 with you now. How, when, where do you do God’s will? God’s will is our peace (Jer 29:11). How, when and where are you passing on God’s peace? Are there times, situations where you lose your inner peace? Share these good times and disturbed times with Jesus. He accepts you just as you are.
Jesus, prince of peace, heal our war torn world! Let all peace in the world, in families, in our hearts be your peace, peace the world cannot give. We want to do God’s will!
Wednesday, January 28, 2015
Hebrews 10: 11-18; Psalm 110; Mark 4: 1-20
Jesus tells a parable about a sower sowing seed, and explains to his disciples that the seed is the Word of God. When God’s word falls into our hearts, how will it grow? This parable comes just after Mark has told us how to be Jesus’ mother, brother and sister. Looking back two millennia, we can see that Mary who is rich soil hears the Word, receives it and bears fruit a hundredfold. She is “perfected” by Jesus, “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are made holy.”
You too are made holy in Baptism. So Jesus is preparing your soil to receive the Word of God, turning it over, breaking up its clods, fertilizing it to plant himself deep within your being. What has been turned over in your life? What hard pieces have been softened? What smelly fertilizer has enriched you in the long run? Have you ever wanted to be perfect? Ask for the grace to give up that desire and let Jesus do the perfecting.
Jesus, plant yourself even more deeply in our hearts and in our world. How much we, who are rocky ground, laden with thorns, need you to clear the soil so that your good news may grow and flourish.
Thursday, January 29, 2015
Hebrews 10: 19-25; Psalm 24; Mark 4: 21-25
There is a psalm that asks that we be given what we deserve (God forbid!). Jesus almost says the same here: “the measure you give will be the measure you get.” But God is not a tit for tat God; rather God floods us and our world with an abundance of love and life. One way to receive this abundance is “to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together….but encouraging one another,” according to Hebrews. We receive abundance in community, thanks to Jesus and “the new and living way, that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, his flesh)…a great priest over the house of God.”
Is your God a tit for tat giver? If so, return to the parable in Matthew (20:1-16) of the vineyard workers, the one in which the Master pays the five o’clock workers the same pay as those who work all day. Paul says that if God has already given us the Son, how much more God wants to lavish on us all that God has to give (Rom 8). Rest in the lavish abundance of God’s love for you, so much more than you could ever deserve.
Thank you, God of all grace, all wisdom, all love, all life! How much we relish the good you flood us with. Relieve us of judging ourselves and one another “as we deserve,” for who could ever deserve you?!?!
Friday, January 30, 2015
Hebrews 10: 32-39; Psalm 37; Mark 4: 26-34
Jesus offers some more parables, comparing the tiny mustard seed which grows to be “the greatest of shrubs” to the kin-dom of God. The psalm promises security if we delight in God, “our refuge in time of trouble.” Hebrews tells of a persecution of Christians in which their possessions were plundered. Sounds like Wall Street, USA. “You cheerfully accepted the plundering of your possessions, knowing that you yourselves possessed something better and more lasting.”
Who has plundered your possessions? Do you know what you really possess? Where does your security lie? What is your experience of something small in your life growing, like a mustard seed, into a large grace and gift of God? Ask the Spirit to help you remember. Be quiet. Listen. Discuss what bubbles up with Jesus.
Your kin-dom come, your will be done on earth! Thank you for planting the small seed of good news in us and growing it into a mighty witness. Make us worthy of your Word.
Saturday, January 31, 2015
Hebrews 11: 1-2, 8-19; Benedictus canticle, Luke 1; Mark 4: 35-41
Faith is the theme today. Hebrews (even the parts that are omitted from the today’s liturgy) details the faith of those of the former covenant noted for their faith, hoping for a lasting city “whose architect and builder is God.” In the gospel, after Jesus had spoken “all day long” he wanted to move away from the crowds. He boarded a boat and fell asleep in the stern “on the cushion”. When a storm blows up, the disciples, terrified, wake him. He rebukes the storm which is stilled, and then rebukes his disciples: “Why are you still afraid? Have you still no faith?”
A bumper sticker announces: “Driven by faith, not by fear.” The media hypes terrorism. Try an Ignatian contemplation today. You are in the boat and you peacefully gaze at Jesus, asleep. You imagine the cushion to be your shoulder. He can lean on you. A violent blast of thunder, a roll of a large wave and you cling to the mast. What is roiling about inside your heart now? What is the storm that is shaking the world now? Rebuke Jesus as his friends did: “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” What happens next? Let it flow and do not censor anything….
How deeply you do care about the storms inside the peoples and nations of our world. Calm us, heal us, deepen our faith in you as our only security. Help our unbelief!