Sister Rea McDonnell, SSND, offers daily 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.
The King of Glory enters the temple, as Psalm 24 announces, but as a baby carried there by his parents. Who is this King of Glory?, the psalmist asks. Simeon, the layman who receives the baby in his arms, calls him "a light of revelation to the Gentiles and a light of glory for Israel." Hebrews, our first reading, calls Jesus the "source of our salvation," our brother, the destroyer of death, and above all, our compassionate and faithful high priest.
Who is the King of Glory for you? What do you call him? "Lift up your gates," the psalmist invites. To whom will you open your heart today?
The communion antiphon is Jesus’ deep desire, from the Last Supper according to John: "Father, I pray for them (us). May they be one in us so that the world may believe that it was you who sent me." With Jesus always living to make intercession for us, we have nothing to fear, as the people trembled when God gave Moses the Law on Mt. Sinai. Instead, our Hebrews reading reminds us, we are one in a "festal gathering" when we come to the heavenly Jerusalem with Jesus as the one who inaugurates the new covenant. Before that final ingathering, that everlasting banquet, however, there is mission. In the gospel Jesus sends out the Twelve (and us) to proclaim, anoint and heal.
How are you making Jesus’ deepest desire a reality in your daily life? How are you bringing unity and peace to our world (thus healing its violence and division)? Just small steps. Ask the Spirit to guide you. Just for today, keep your eyes fixed on Jesus, the host at the everlasting "festal gathering," and your feet walking the path to unity.
What a contrast in our two readings. Herod’s hospitality is false, people-pleasing, cowardly, as he yields to Herodias’ request for John the Baptist’s head. In the Hebrews reading, we are instructed to offer true hospitality, for we may be entertaining angels. (A suggestion for Lent which is almost upon us: watch a social justice video each week, such as the story of Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin, "Entertaining Angels." Other ideas: "Dead Man Walking," "Romero," "Shawshank Redemption." Our author who begins, "let mutual love continue," then spells out what that love entails: hospitality, remembering the imprisoned and the tortured, honoring our sexuality, avoiding greed, and imitating the faith of those who lead us in faith. Hebrews concludes: "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever."
What does love entail for you? Why not make your own list of loving attitudes and actions, ones that permeate your daily living? Where does hospitality fit into your life?
Ah! At last, our quick trip from Christmas to Lent ends, and Jesus invites us to come apart and rest awhile. Hebrews encourages us to sacrifices of praise, to sharing, to obedience that leads to joy, and then God, the God of peace, "will make you complete in everything good."
Yet, not much rest for in the gospel, although Jesus and his friends take a boat to a deserted place, the crowds race ahead of them. Coming ashore, what is Jesus to do? He has compassion on them, "because they were like a sheep without a shepherd." Hebrews today calls Jesus "the great shepherd of the sheep," and Psalm 23 hails God’s shepherding work with us "near restful waters."
What do you need? Rest, restful waters, a banquet spread before you, to be alone with Jesus in a deserted place, to offer more compassion to your near neighbors and/or far neighbors? Ask God to make you complete in everything good that you need today. Be as specific as you can. We will find only compassion when we are needy.
With Lent only three days away, our readings today are preparing us. First, God speaks through Isaiah and teaches us that the fast GOD wants is justice, social justice and integrity. If we respond, God promises us both healing and light. Psalm 112 echoes Isaiah; if your translation reads "righteousness," in Hebrew that is the word for justice, and also holiness. "The hearts of the just are steady; they will not be afraid." Paul gives the Corinthians and us a focus for Lent: "I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified." He admits he is weak and trembling but that only proves that the word he preaches springs from the Spirit. Finally, in the gospel, Jesus calls us the light of the world, the salt of the earth. Too many of us were never taught or never grasped the amazing worth of our very weak and trembling self: salt, light, shining through the world. In a few days, Jesus will tell us to wash our faces when we fast; today he tells us the inner light will gleam as we pray for and do justice.
Jesus is the light of the world. So are we. United so closely with him, identified with him. Jesus is God’s justice in the flesh. So are we. How will we live that day by day, small steps for justice, "sharing our bread...bringing in the homeless poor...covering the naked...removing the yoke and the pointing finger..." (Is 58) Ask for the grace to give God the fast that God wants this Lent.
Still we prepare for Lent. The forty days climax in the Easter Vigil and its recounting of the origins of creation. These first words of Genesis are our first reading: "the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while the Spirit of God swept over the waters. Then God said: ‘Let there be light.’" Psalm 104 is a hymn to God’s creative powers: "How diverse are your wonderful works, O God! In wisdom you have made them all." Then the light who is Jesus, the creativity who is Jesus, the wisdom who is Jesus is made flesh and spends his time, according to Mark, healing the sick "wherever he went," besieged by the crowds.
The cosmic Christ breaks the boundaries of creation and inheres in every creature. Not pantheism, but pan-en-theism. Even if it is cold out, try to take a walk today and look carefully at each creature, a manifestation of God’s wisdom and Spirit. Or sit by a window and really look deeply at the bit of nature framed there. Or even contemplate the inanimate objects where you sit. Try to see the light within each creature.
Genesis recounts the creation of our first parents; Jesus speaks of honoring our own parents. He scolds the Pharisees for keeping the letter of the Laws about ritual purity and missing the matters of the heart. "You hypocrites," he cries, quoting Isaiah, "‘This people honors me with their lips but their hearts are far from me. In vain do they worship, teaching human precepts and doctrines.’" Even though we may be celebrating Mardi Gras today, we can keep before us as a heartfelt prayer the Alleluia verse, the last one we will hear for 40 days: "Turn my heart to your will, O God! Alleluia!"
Since singing is twice praying, according to St. Augustine, why not sing every Alleluia melody you remember and insert the "Turn my heart" prayer between each rendition. Offer God your heart this Lent. If you know the melody, then sing on behalf of us all: "Grant to us, O Lord, a heart renewed. Recreate in us your own Spirit, Lord."
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