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.
Today we have a tension between works and receptivity. Jesus says we will do works greater than even his. God knows how he worked in those few years of ministry! And we will do greater works than healing the sick of body and heart, feeding the hungry, letting prisoners of sin and sadness go free. Yet, the first letter of Peter urges us to "let" ourselves be built into a "spiritual house, to be a royal priesthood." The "work" that God wants is for us to believe in Jesus, to cling to him, to trust his grace. With our US work ethic, "letting" God build us, letting Jesus save us might be a great work indeed.
You do many works at home and at work, among neighbors or in the parish; or you suffer from sickness, age or other limits. How is your "work" and/or your "suffering" a continuation of Jesus' work? What work will you let Jesus work in you today? Pray for our youth, that they may continue Christ's work in their world.
To repeat the psalm's antiphon: "Let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you." And let your mercy, Lord Jesus, be in us, and flow out from us. This is your work, alleluia!
Although the Peter reading was chosen because of a reference to Mark, it is a powerful message: "Cast all your anxiety on God, because God cares for you." If every Christian, in this country alone, really did that, believed it and responded, Al Qaeda would fail. What is there to fear? Listen to Godís promise: "After you have suffered for a while, the God of all grace...will restore, support, strengthen and establish you."
Ask for the grace to give all your anxieties (plural!), your fears, your terrors to God who cares for you. You can list them, picture them, draw them--and then give them. Hear Jesus say directly to you, using your name: "______, do not be afraid. I am with you."
From the psalm: "Happy the people who know the festal shout and who walk in the light of your face, Lord!" Lord Jesus, let your face shine on us. Bathe us and our nation in your light and joy.
"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.... Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid," Jesus assures us in the gospel. Yet in Acts, Paul is stoned so badly they drag him outside the city, thinking he is dead. The risen Lord often told Paul, do not be afraid. How do we, lesser lights than Paul, be not afraid? First, when we are afraid we have to feel it and acknowledge the feeling. We might ask: If that really happened, what would be so bad about that? We might next hand over those fears to God as yesterdayís reading exhorted us. Mark Twain said, "I have lived through many catastrophes--and some of them actually happened."
Take yesterdayís list, drawings, images of your anxieties and ask: If this really happened, what would be so bad about that?† This is where Jesus enters, inviting, "Give me your fears and your hurts and your ______ [name it] and I will bring life out of them."
Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief! Jesus, give us that peace which you promised as you relieve the troubles of our hearts. You are the savior of the world!
Certain scholars claim that Johnís gospel has no concept of church, but in todayís word from Jesus about vine and branches, yielding fruit, being pruned and especially abiding in him, the true vine, we have a fairly clear image of ourselves as church. Abiding can be difficult in our fast-paced, driven culture; we can numb ourselves to Godís pruning; but the yield is worth the pain. In the first reading, Paul and Barnabas, summoned to Jerusalem to give an account of their mission after "much dissension and debate," spread the good news as they go, especially how the Gentiles are turning to Christ.
Is there a vine, perhaps a philodendron, in your home with which you could pray? Contemplate the deep union of a leaf or branch with the stalk, the vine. The utter dependence of the offshoot on the rooted trunk is a parable for these papal election times. JESUS is the vine, and the cardinals and Pope, like us, are the branches. Pray for the whole church, the cardinals and the Pope.
God, we glorifiy you by our bearing fruit, whether through our relationships, our work or our simply abiding in Christ. Please remind us to rest in him frequently throughout the day, to remember who is the source of our life.
Only two verses of good news, but how important. As God has loved Jesus, so Jesus loves us. Jesus finds his joy in us! This unconditional love of God for Jesus and his for us is made concrete in the early church, whose most important decision is outlined today. James is the head of the church in Jerusalem, and Peter is simply the witness of how the Spirit has chosen Gentiles to join the community. Peter shares his faith, his religious experience with the whole assembly, and they all keep silence. How difficult it is for most of us to voice our religious experience; how hard to listen in simple silence. Peter also startles us, "Why are you...placing on the neck of the [Gentile] disciples a yoke [the Law] that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear? On the contrary, we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will."
Like the early church, keep silence before Peterís affirmation of faith, grace, and Jesusí saving power. Then, trusting Jesusí word, let Godís love, Godís unconditional, steady compassion flood your whole being. Ask for the gift of knowing the joy that Jesus takes in you.
Thank you, Lord Jesus, for freeing us from the power of the Law, sin, guilt in our lives to fill us with love and joy in your presence! Let our love and joy overflow today to all whom we meet.
The good news for us begins after the Council of Jerusalem (Acts). We Gentiles do not need to keep the Law, except for the prohibitions against idol worship and fornication. Instead, as Jesus tells us the night before he dies, we are a people marked by Love. We are not oriented to Law which we can measure, but to Love which we can never finish, even were we to lay down our lives for our friends. But more good news: we are the friends of Jesus, not merely servants. Friends share their inner life with one another, and Jesus has told us all that he has learned from God, the depths of his inner, spiritual life. He has chosen us and given us the power to love one another.
Lay before your liberating Lord all your hangups, guilts, shames, fears and ask to be set free to love more completely, with less self-absorption -- just for today. Thank him for choosing you as his friend.
Todayís psalm response: "My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast! I will sing and make music! I will wake the dawn." Keep us faithful, Jesus, to loving, as you love us.
Paul is on the move around the Mediterranean, stirring up division as Jesus promises in todayís gospel: Some will hate and persecute us, and some will keep his/our word. The entrance antiphon summarizes the whole Christian life: "In baptism we have died with Christ, and we have risen to new life with him because we believed that the power of God raised him from the dead." We are baptized, plunged into the dynamic of dying and rising. Whether in good times or times of rejection, we are living Christís life, hoping in the power of God always to raise us.
Look back over your week, calling on the power of the Spirit to remind you. Where was your daily dying in the past week? Where was rising? Where was Godís power at work in you? How will you respond?
Let us pray with Jesus his Last Supper prayer: "May they be one in us, Father, so that the world may believe that you have sent me." May we all be one. May the world come to know, love and serve you, our dear friend, Jesus, risen Christ.
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