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.
Genesis 9: 8-15; Psalm 25; 1 Peter 3: 18-22; Mark 1: 12-15
This year we begin Lent with a movement toward our initiation, our immersion into the dying and rising of Christ: Baptism. Noah’s escape from a corrupt society and Psalm 25 both remind us of the afflictions, the sinful condition into which we are born. This Lent may we and our world have a felt need to be washed, cleansed, graciously loved. I Peter is a homily about baptism, and after Mark briefly mentions Jesus’ baptism, we pick up the narrative just as the Spirit is driving him into the wilderness. Forty days of growing in wisdom and grace, growing in discernment as he is tempted. John’s arrest pulls him out of solitude: Now is the time! Repent! Believe in the good news! To repent means to have a renewed mind, a changed heart, a transformed love. Baptism has immersed us in God who is constant change, always faithful but never static.
And you, what do you want God to change in you this Lent? Notice: not what you will do this Lent, but what will you allow God to do with your heart. What fruits have you discovered flowing from your baptism, even so long ago? What good news has Jesus proclaimed to you?
O God, reach into our world and touch every heart. Teach us to uncover good news amid so much hatred, violence and discord. Immerse us in unity and peace. Make us one.
Monday, February 23, 2015
Leviticus 19: 1-2, 11-18; Psalm 19; Matthew 25: 31-46
“All nations will be gathered before him.”
Imagine all the nations with their hungry, their immigrants, their prisoners, their sick, their homeless. What happens to God’s heart when God sees all these nations, what happens in the heart of Jesus and Mary?
Pray for the grace to hunger and thirst for justice and to share God’s own love for the weak and neglected. You cannot measure your spiritual progress. You are never finished letting your heart expand. What one small step can you take today to alleviate poverty or its causes in your city, state or country? Ask the Spirit to show you. Listen. Then act.
Holy Spirit, give us the mind and heart of God. Give us your power and courage to speak out, your wisdom and energy to find ways to influence our nations.
Tuesday, February 24, 2015
Isaiah 55: 10-11; Psalm 34; Matthew 6: 7-15
“Look to God and be radiant…”
As the Word sinks deeply into us we do radiate God’s will for shalom. Too many people believe that God’s will involves pain and distress. “On earth as it is in heaven,” Jesus prays. There is no pain in heaven. Our God saves, sets free, heals and makes whole. Ask for the grace to forgive as you have been forgiven.
How have you understood God’s will in the past? How has your understanding been changing? What experiences have led you to new understandings? Join Jesus’ prayer now and frequently throughout the day: “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” and you will be radiant with joy!
Open us, Jesus, to share freely with you and with our friends our weaknesses, losses and heartaches. We offer you the heartache of all who suffer violence and beg you for peace.
Wednesday, February 25, 2015
Jonah 3:1-10; Psalm 51; Luke 11: 29-32
“With all your heart, turn to me, for I am tender and compassionate.”
If we, like Jonah, are not yet ready for the mission of a prophet, critiquing unjust structures in church and society, God will return to create a new spirit in us and steady our backbone (Ps 51). Baptism has made us ready, showered us with every gift so that through our daily activities: prayer, interaction, work, play—and our daily passivities: prayer, rest, even sleep fill us with the Spirit’s power. The Spirit sends us today to continue Christ’s mission.
First, hear what God says to you, and listen for that good word often throughout the day. Ask the Spirit to bubble up from deep within you all that baptism once did and continues to do in you. Sit quietly for a while and don’t censor anything the Spirit brings
to your consciousness. What do you want?
Deepen your friendship with us, Jesus, and re-create in us your faithful and powerful Spirit. Open us to know and to use our baptismal power for the sake of others.
Thursday, February 26, 2015
Esther 14: 1, 3-5, 12-14; Psalm 138; Matthew 7:7-12
“Turn our mourning into gladness, our sorrow into wholeness.”
A Jewish queen lies prostrate with anguish, prostrate in prayer in the palace of her pagan husband. Her prayer brings wholeness, shalom. Shalom means peace, wholeness, integrity. Esther prays, and Jesus teaches about prayer: If we who are sinners give our children good gifts, how much more God will flood us with ever so many more good gifts, if we but ask. And sometimes before we ask. We baptize infants as a sign to the community that God graces the child before she can do anything to deserve grace.
If you are one who still believes that you have to earn grace or merit salvation, ask for the grace of experiencing God’s unconditional love. Don’t pray today because it will grow you in grace, but because God is in love with you. Respond. And pray that bold-faced prayer often throughout the day, if not for your self, then for all those in sorrow.
Jesus, we ask for peace in our hearts, our homes, our nations, our world. We ask for health for those physically in pain or disease and health for our planet earth.
Friday, February 27, 2015
Ezekiel 18: 21-28; Psalm 130; Matthew 5: 20-26
“First, be reconciled to your brother or your sister…”
Lenten penance? We are called to put aside the stations of the cross, our rosaries and giving up chocolate and look for those who have anything against us. Jesus calls for reconciliation: on an international scale, in homes and schools and offices and factories and shops. God’s will is shalom, that we may all be one.
Ask the Spirit to remind you when you were led from anger or contempt to reconciliation. Where might the Spirit be leading you to dialogue and reconciliation this Lent. Listen. Then ask for the grace to make one small step…
Jesus, deepen in us a hunger and thirst for justice. Re-form us, Spirit, and send us as peacemakers, ambassadors of reconciliation in our broken world.
Saturday, February 28, 2015
Deuteronomy 26: 16-19; Psalm 119; Matthew 5: 43-48
“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
Whole societies see other cultures and other religions as enemies, and we make war on them. To be a Christian nation, however, we must love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Openness to friends and enemies alike helps to make us perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect. Our perfect God blesses all nations, welcomes people of all religions, seeks the lost and outcast. Being perfect means being so deeply united to and within the heart of God that we mirror God’s welcoming love to everyone—even enemies.
Ask the Spirit to call to mind who has hurt you recently. Who is persecuting you right now? Will you pray for these enemies? “Bless_____, change me” is an effective prayer for those whom we have trouble loving. If you write off a particular nation or culture or religion, what do you really know, and as the Pope says: “Who am I to judge?”
Jesus, forgive us. Help us admit our fears of other races and religions. Only you can transform our fears into freedom and love. You are the Savior of the world!
Genesis 22: 1-2, 9-13, 15-18; Psalm 116; Romans 831-35, 37; Mark 9:2-10
“I will offer you a sacrifice of thanksgiving”
Jesus’ transfiguration is meant to give us hope for the long, Lenten desert trek ahead of us, the long journey toward our own transformation. What has happened to Jesus is meant to happen to us. But what Abraham is asked to sacrifice might well frighten us. Sacrifice does not mean killing a son or a ram. From the Latin, sacra- facere means to make holy. Lent is a time for our offering a sacrifice of thanksgiving. Paul asks, If God gave us God’s own son, how much more God wants to lavish on us all that God is! Give thanks! Jesus is dazzling in light. Give thanks! We behold the glory of God shining on the face of Jesus. Give thanks! We behold the glory of God shining on our own. Give thanks! “May we come to share the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share our humanity.”
Look for life coming to light throughout your day today. Look for the glory of God shining through every creature in your path today. Ask for the grace of coming ever so slowly to share Jesus’ humanity and divinity. Ask yourself: how might that happen? Then ask the Spirit to teach you. And always and everywhere, offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving!
May we be transformed from glory to glory. Such is the influence of your Spirit (I Cor 3:18), Lord Jesus, king of endless glory. Help us to surrender to your Spirit’s transforming power.
Monday, March 2, 2015
Daniel 9: 4-10; Psalm 79; Luke 6:36-38
“Be merciful as your Father is merciful.”
Jesus continues: “Do not judge and you will not be judged” How often we may have scourged ourselves for not being perfect ( Matthew’s gospel). Notice how Luke changes that saying too often carved into our brains by parents, teachers, preachers. Trying to be perfect usually ties us up in knots and makes us difficult to live with. On the other hand, trying to grow in compassion and mercy makes us open, loving, non-judgmental, and giving.
Ask for the gift of compassion in your personal relationships, compassion for your “near neighbors.” Then ask God to expand your heart so that you may learn to love your far neighbors, those “foreigners” whom so many of our compatriots may fear and/or hate. If you feel your heart closing toward someone during the day, or feel some judgment arising, stop, take a deep breath, and ask to share God’s compassion and love for the person or the group.
We praise and thank you, our God, for your constant mercy, your faithful compassion. Let us be instruments of your mercy and peace. Make us one.
Tuesday, March 3, 2015
Isaiah 1:10, 16-20; Psalm 50; Matthew 23: 1-12
“Come, let us argue it out…Though your sins be like scarlet, they shall become white as snow”.
God promises this through Isaiah. Two pieces of good news in this verse. First, God invites us to be ourselves, say what we want, argue with God as one friend disputes with another. Being angry with God and voicing it in our prayer can help us come eventually to clarity and peace. Working through our anger with God, like working it through with a human friend, can deepen our relationship. Secondly, when God forgives our sins they are totally transformed. As St. Paul assures us, “Where sin once abounded, grace now more abounds!”
Can you remember a time when you were stuck in sin, perhaps a major sin in your life? In your memory and imagination, return to that sinful situation and invite God, Jesus, and/or the Spirit to walk with you through this relationship, misery, whatever you remember as sin. Ask the Spirit to show you how grace, peace and love gradually grew out of this sinful situation. Then sit quietly and listen.
With you, our God, there is no need to be afraid, or ashamed. We look to you that our faces may not blush with shame, but be radiant with joy (Ps 34). Thank you.
Wednesday, March 4, 2015
Jeremiah 18: 18-20; Psalm 31; Matthew 20: 17-28
“Terror all around!” (Ps 31)
There is a bumper sticker: Driven by faith, not by fear. At the moment when all is lost--his work, his friends, his life--still Jesus trusts God as he hangs helpless on the cross. Like us in all things, Jesus needs faith and trust, hope and love as he goes to the cross. He is not play acting the pain and feelings of abandonment. Yet he trusts, praying this verse of today’s psalm: “Into your hands I commend my spirit, for you will redeem me, O faithful God...My trust is in you” .In John’s account of Jesus’ death, these words of Psalm 31 are on Jesus’ lips.
Prepare your day. What feelings might arise in you today? When a worry or an irritation or a sadness rises in your heart during the day, pray with Jesus: “In your hands, I commend ______” and name that person, situation, worry, irritation or sadness as you entrust it to God.
God, grant us the serenity (and the trust) to accept the things we cannot change. We entrust our joys and sorrows, all our feelings and desires to you, faithful God.
Thursday, March 5, 2015
Jeremiah 17:5-10; Psalm 1; Luke 16: 19-31
At his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores...”(Luke 16).
Jesus told parables to shock his hearers into new awarenesses. Many people of his day felt that God favored the rich, and that the poor, the sick and the sore among them were sinners. Jesus spent much energy trying to overturn this misconception. The poor, the sick and the sinners were precisely the ones he wanted to welcome and eat with. The morality Jesus preached is not about personal purity but about social justice, about the arrogant way the “haves” treat the “have-nots”. God’s kin-dom is about loving each other as kin, in right relationships, caring for the outcast, and working to change unjust structures in our government.
How from your own experience do you describe morality? How does it correspond to Jesus’ teaching? What do you want? How do you want to treat the poor, the sinner, the foreigner, those who are “other”? Ask for the grace to love as Jesus loves, to let him continue his loving through you today.
Open our eyes and hearts, Jesus, to all those whom our society and even some church leaders scorn and whom you treasure. Help us to treasure the outcasts. And have mercy on us!
Friday, March 6, 2015
Genesis 37: 3-4, 12-13,17-28; Psalm 105; Matthew 21: 33-43, 45-46
“Remember the marvels our God has done!’ (Ps 105)
Our first reading gives the account of Jacob’s sons who are jealous of their father’s favorite son, Joseph. Notice how their treatment resembles what Jesus’ “brothers” did to him as their jealousy escalated. They stripped Jesus, and threw him in a pit (prisons of that day were deep pits in which the prisoner had to stand upright) after Judas sold him for 30 pieces of silver. The good news is that Joseph, after much suffering in Egypt, eventually rose to power in that country and used his power to feed the people, again much like Jesus, raised from death into power as Cosmic Christ, eager to feed people.
What suffering have you experienced at the hands of those you thought you could trust? Jesus too was betrayed. Share your memories of your hurt with him and then listen, letting him tell you of his pain at being betrayed. What shall the two of you do? How shall the two of you pray?
Thank you for making Jesus Lord of the universe. Thank you, our just God, that you can and do transform persecution into glory. Please comfort all those being persecuted now.
Saturday, March 7, 2015
Micah 7: 14-15, 18-20; Psalm 103; Luke 15: 1-3, 11-32
“All that is mine is yours” (Luke 15).
So “The father said to his older son...”. Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son is found in anthologies of world literature, so powerful is this story of the return of the prodigal and the subtext of the older son’s “perfect” behavior. Some of us may identify with the sinful younger son; we may have squandered our gifts and graces. Others of us may cry out with the elder son: “I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command.” God does not need slaves and obedience. God wants to be needed and loved.
Whether we are prodigal or perfect, God says to each of us, as the father says to the elder son: “All that is mine is yours.” How deeply God desires to give a banquet for us, and more-- to share all that God is. St Paul writes (Romans 8) that if God has already given us Jesus, how much more God wants to lavish on us all that God is. Not all that we want. All that God is. Ponder that gift now and during the day listen to God remind you: “All that is mine is yours.”
How generous you are! You crown us not only with compassion but with your whole self. You plant your very self in our hearts and in our world. Thank you!