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.
"You shall be my treasured possession." God has carried us, our first reading proclaims, on eagles' wings. God speaks not just to Israel of old, but you and me today: "I brought you to myself." While we were weak and/or sinners and/or enemies of God, God was reconciling us in Christ, Paul writes, not just to the Romans but to us. And Jesus sees us, harassed and helpless, and longs to shepherd us.
Stay with the word, events, experiences above. Which one has been good news for you in the past; which has nourished your intimacy with God/Jesus/Spirit? Which do you need help believing and experiencing for yourself? Ask for your current need and then return in gratitude to all that has been done for you, all that you already mean to God.
Carry us on eagles' wings, our saving God. Reconcile us with one another, whether in our families, communities or nations. Shepherd us, O Christ, beyond our needs, from death into life.
It is a good thing that Jesus didn't return an eye for an eye, that he did not resist evildoers, that he practiced what he preached. How very hard for us to let him continue his non-violent life within our hearts. Paul enumerates all the sufferings he and his friends underwent, and all without retaliation. Paul lives in paradox, a sign of mature spiritual development. "We are treated...as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything."
How has Jesus been working his non-violence in your heart? Where have the fruits of the Spirit such as mercy, gentleness, peace been showing up in your relationships? How do you discern when to resist evil in the name of justice, and when to turn the other cheek with courage? Is there a subtle longing in you for retaliation? Pray for those in our country who want to retaliate, seek revenge, make judgments about who is evil and punish them.
Free us from violence, harsh judgments, Jesus, gentle and humble of heart. Remove arrogance from us and our compatriots. Prince of peace, fill our hearts and our country with the peace only you can give.
"...Christ, though he was rich, became poor for your sakes, so that by his poverty, you might become rich." How do we become rich? According to Jesus, by going beyond the letter of the law to the abundance of life. If we love those who love us, we are no different from pagans. What distinguishes us as Christians is our love for enemies and those who persecute us. Generous love is not a lofty ideal. Paul has concrete evidence that the churches of Macedonia in "their extreme poverty" were full of joy and generous "even beyond their means."
What distinguishes you as a Christian? What distinguishes our nation? How have you ever experienced joy and generosity in your extreme poverty? When have you loved someone who despised you? How did you show that generosity in concrete ways? Ask for the gift of generosity, not only in your personal life, but that our wealthy nation might care for our own poor and give to the poor of the world.
Let us share your emptying of your self, Jesus. Save us from self-absorption, from hungering after more than we need, of turning our backs on those who have less or even despise us. Make us poor in spirit and generous of heart.
Both Paul and Jesus continue the theme of generosity, almsgiving and fasting for the sake of others. Jesus warns us to fast in secret and Paul tells us why: we give because "God loves a cheerful giver." Ascetics may fast to control their bodies, but Christians fast so as to sow abundantly without guilt or compulsion, reap abundantly and trust God to provide all we need. "They scatter abroad, they give to the poor," and so Paul assures us, "You will be enriched in every way."
From what do you need to fast? (Not just food but violence, sharp remarks, self pity, etc) What would free you to be more generous? More cheerful in your sharing with others? How has your generosity in the past made you "rich in every way" today?
Jesus, help us to give and not to count the cost. Holy Spirit, show us and then help us to fast from anything that blocks God's will in our lives, God's will for peace.
So many of us fear being a burden to others, especially when we are sick and elderly. It is comforting to know then that Paul shares that wish. He says he had his needs supplied by other Christians. Jesus, in teaching us to pray the "Our Father," promises that our daily bread will come from God. In this gospel Jesus continues with more teaching on the need for forgiving everyone, for "if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive you." Oh oh! Yet forgiveness is not an act of the will. Forgiveness is part of that daily bread for which we ask, a gift from God.
Look over the events and persons of your life, "the elephants in the living room" as they say, which are still unreconciled. Ask the Spirit to call such to mind. Hold each person, each event before God and ask our Father for the gift of forgiveness and reconciliation. If the Spirit moves you and it seems wise, you might even write or phone. But take your time. Forgiving is a process.
Jesus, let us share your forgiving heart. As you longed for unity among all peoples, "dying to gather into one new family all the scattered children of God," so let us be instruments of reconciliation and unity in your name.
The context for Paul's boasting is his need to refute the "super-apostles" who have stirred up the young church with miracles and healings. Instead of spectacular feats, he counts himself blessed to have suffered much to spread the good news, and enumerates those sufferings. "Who is weak, and I am not weak?... If I must boast, I will boast of my weakness." Weakness is no cause for shame in the Christian community. The psalmist says all who look to God will not blush for shame but shall have radiant faces, for as Jesus says, our treasure lies in God, and our heart is centered in God. "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
Is there anything of which you are ashamed? Give it to God for healing. Let the radiance of the Risen Lord flood that flaw. What do you treasure? What is your deep desire? Share that too with God/Jesus/Spirit.
Make our faces radiant with joy, our God, whether we feel weak or strong, a success or a failure. Knowing you is life, radiant life full of joy and abundance. We seek you with all our hearts.
Jesus tells us we have nothing to worry about. If God can care for sparrows and lilies, how much more God attends to our needs. "Pagans strive for material things," he warns, but we look to God for our treasure. Paul continues to boast of his weakness "gladly, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me...for whenever I am weak, then I am strong." A paradox. If we can live with paradox, not needing everything neatly catalogued as right/wrong, all/nothing etc, we have been led to a deep form of spiritual development. Our Alleluia verse offers another paradox: "Jesus Christ was rich but became poor to make us rich out of his poverty."
When have you experienced that when you are weak, then you are strong? That when you are poor in material things, you are rich in God? Can you name other paradoxes in your spiritual life? Pray for those who are deepening in their faith life and feel unsure and worried.
You are our treasure, our riches, our strength--you alone, O God. Deepen our trust, our faith in you. Free us from the need to be doctrinally correct, morally perfect. Let us keep our eyes on Jesus and follow the freeing movement of the Spirit.
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