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.
Although we celebrate Jesus' leaving this earth for "a little while," we also look forward in our readings to receiving the promise and the power of God, both names for the Holy Spirit. We "will be baptized with (plunged into) the Holy Spirit not many days hence." What that baptism offers, the author of Ephesians spells out: our hearts are enlightened; we have hope; we have the very riches of God's own self; and we are given "the immeasurable greatness of God's power." All this flows from God's raising Jesus and seating him at God's right hand, letting the fullness of Christ fill not only his Body, but the whole of creation. Finally, we are to remember, in Jesus' own words: "I am with you (emmanu-El) always, to the end of ages.
As you look back over your felt experience of the Holy Spirit's work, gifts, acting in your life, what do you discover? How will you respond? Maybe you could dance your prayer today, with much lifting up of your arms and eyes!
Lord Jesus, thank you for the power of your Spirit which you have unleashed on our suffering world! Melt us, mold us, fill us, transform us all in the power of your Spirit. Thank you!
Acts tells of Paul's success in furthering the education (just like our Mother Theresa!) of some disciples of John the Baptist, laying hands on them. They receive the Spirit and speak in tongues and prophesy. Jesus reminds us, however, that we will face less success than persecution. "The hour is coming when you will be scattered... and you will leave me alone." And yet at that very moment he is consoling his friends, promising that in the midst of persecution they will have peace. Even if we leave Jesus alone, he offers us peace.
Our Mother Theresa longed for unity. And you? When people leave you alone, ignore, reject or insult you, do you offer them peace? If so, thank God for the gift of a reconciling heart. If not, pray that you may share Jesus' generosity in offering peace to the weak who impinge on your life. Bring them into your prayer right now and watch Jesus breathe peace into them. Will you join him?
We breathe deeply, and breathe out into your loving hands, Jesus, your wounded hands, all that hurts us. We breathe deeply, and breathe in your peace. May your peace and unity flood our hearts and our world.
We know the Lord's prayer. Here for three days we learn another Lord's prayer, Jesus' prayer at his last supper. He prays for union and unity because that will glorify God. Paul embodies God's hunger for unity, tying the many Gentile churches together, but finally "being captive to the Spirit," and moving toward Jerusalem. His ministry? He is not a priest but a rabbi and so he is called and sent "to testify to the good news of God's grace." God's grace is described in Psalm 68. "God bears our burdens day after day. Our God is a God who saves!"
How do you describe your ministry? If you are called to testify to good news, how do you describe the good news as you perceive it? What burdens would you like to share with our burden-bearing God? Lay them all out before our God who saves (in Hebrew, saving means setting free).
Our saving God, set us free from our fears, prejudices, loneliness, all that burdens us, we beg you. Let our freedom put us at the service of all those who need your grace. We ask this in Jesus' name.
Jesus prays that we be protected so that we may be one. He prays that he may be made holy so that we too may be made holy "in truth." He also prays that "they [and we] may have my joy made complete in themselves." Unity, holiness, joy, truth. That is Jesus' will for us, his passionate desire! In Hebrew truth is not so much an intellectual grasp of reality as a faithfulness to relationship. "...so that they may be sanctified in truth." That we may be made holy in fidelity to our relationships with God, Jesus, the Spirit, one another.
As you have come to know Jesus over the years, what else do you discover he passionately wants of you, of his Body, of the world, for the world? Ask him again. Listen. Is there some new desire he shares with you? How do you respond?
Thank you, our saving God, that Jesus stayed faithful to your good news even through death. Give us courage to be faithful to all that you passionately desire for our selves, our church, our world.
As we prayed for courage to be faithful yesterday, today the Lord himself stands near Paul and en-courages him, "and said, ‘Keep up your courage!" Paul needed courage and creativity to pit the two factions of Jews against each other by reminding them that as a Pharisee he was on trial for his hope in the resurrection, a doctrine supported by the Pharisees. Jesus prays that although we use courage and creativity to let the world know that God sent Jesus, the most attractive and visible sign is our unity in him. "May they become completely one so that the world may know that you have sent me and that you love them AS you have loved me."
"As" God loves Jesus, so much does God love us. Ask the Spirit to increase your trust in that love, that unconditional, extravagant love. Ask for courage and creativity to bring those whom you love, those strangers whom you meet, even more together in unity.
O God, grant us the trust to accept the things we cannot change, the courage and creativity to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Give us your Spirit of wisdom!
Gossip, or behind the back sniping in work place or neighborhood, destroys unity and weakens trust. Amazing that ancient Rome should offer us a remedy! In Acts, Festus, the Roman governor, says: "It is not the custom of the Romans to hand over anyone [in this case, Paul] before the accused had met the accusers face to face..." If anyone complains to us, how simple to refuse to listen until the "accused" is included in the conversation. Jesus does that today with Peter. However, he doesn't accuse, but asks for a reassurance that Peter who betrayed him loves him. They are reconciling, that is "talking together again," and rebuilding trust.
Ask the Spirit to bring to your mind anyone with whom you need to talk again, to rebuild trust. Ask forgiveness for petty, mean-spirited remarks, and for the awareness to cut them off before you betray your better self.
Jesus, you know that we love you. We ask you to deepen our respect, acceptance and love for the brothers and sisters, your very Body-- especially those who annoy us. Share your heart with us, please.
For Luke, apostles are the Twelve, modeled after the Twelve Tribes of Israel, and so it is necessary that someone replace Judas in the new Israel, the church. After prayer, they draw lots and Matthais is chosen. Jesus affirms our choices, but reminds us "You did not choose me. I chose you... to go and bear fruit." He chooses us, today's gospel asserts, not simply to be his servants, but to be his friends. He takes joy in us.
Look back at some of your major choices in life. Was it you who chose, or was Jesus choosing you for a deeper relationship with him through those choices? How are you his servant? How are you his friend? How are you his apostle? How are you bearing fruit? Don't just think and remember. Listen, and let the Spirit teach you.
Jesus, we believe that just our being brings you joy. But we "be" branches on you, our vine, and so we ask you to fill all of us, your church, with your vital energy so that we may bring good news to all we meet.
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