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.
How interesting that in Canada today, the Jeremiah reading will begin with verse 7: "You seduced me, O Lord, and I let myself be seduced." The U.S. missalette omits that verse (v. 7) to begin with his enemies whispering, "Terror!" to Jeremiah. But the prophet is secure in God, his champion. The psalm echoes the same: God's love is great; zeal for God's house consumes us. Paul assures the Romans (and us) that the grace of God overflows through the gift of one man, Jesus Christ. Jesus in Matthew wants us to acknowledge that grace of God, that championing of God, our consuming zeal for God to the world.
Perhaps you are one who hears "Terror!" all around you. Perhaps you are one easily lured by God no matter what the cost. No matter your personality, fears, hopes, grace, God's love is great. Offer your self just as you are to God today: Take, Lord, receive my liberty, memory, understanding, my entire will. Keep your eyes fixed on the center of your self where it is Christ who lives and moves.
Jesus, our faithful champion no matter what our fear, may we have the grace and courage to confess your importance in our lives, through our lives, offered with you for the many.
Jesus asks, Why do we notice the speck in our neighbor's eye and miss the beam in our own? The first reading tells of Abram and Sarai packing their possessions and "the persons they had acquired in Haran." Slaves? Wait. What is the beam in our own eye? To what are we enslaved? How do we enslave others? Jesus promises that the judgment we offer others, so will we be judged. It is impossible not to judge, for it is a function of our intellect. What we are forbidden to judge are the motives of others. As the Rule of the SSNDs states: "Always presume the good will of others."
Take a long loving look (a definition of contemplation) at the judgments you make of others and of your own self. Ask Jesus to share that long loving look. Ask him to teach you to separate beams and specks. Let him grace you with the discernment to see evil as evil, and yet different from the persons who are always God's beloved.
Jesus, let your Spirit who is God's love poured into our hearts, soften our hearts, gentle our judgments, continually teach us to love as you did love and do love, through us, today.
Abram is very rich, and thus opens our first reading. The gate is narrow, and thus ends our gospel reading. We know how hard it is for the rich to pass through the eye of a needle. "The gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life." We, however, have a pioneer, who has blazed a trail for us along that hard road, one who, as the Alleluia verse proclaims, is light, and gives us the light of life. There is nothing we cannot do or endure with Christ abiding deep within us.
Ask the Spirit to call to your mind the hardships of your past life. How has wisdom, light, blessing stemmed from those difficulties? How has dying led to life?
Christ, our light, we trust in your power to lead, to stay with, to rejoice in our joys and strengthen us in our sorrows. We bear your dying in our bodies, so please let your life shine through us as a witness to the world.
God says Abram's reward will be great, but Abram questions God and complains about his lack of children. Then God promises Abram offspring as numerous as the stars. "Abram believed and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness." That verse plays a major role in Paul's theology of faith. To trust God is what makes us righteous, holy, saved. Not law, for Moses had not yet received the law (which would take another 500 or so years). Faith, trust. Jesus tells us how we can know our faith is strong: we bear good fruit. Wolves in sheep's clothing are easily distinguished by their "fruits"-- attacking the sheep. Faith makes us authentic, even if we are complaining.
First, thank God for the trust that you have already been given. Then ask for a deepening and a maturing of your faith, your trust in God's power to save. Ask the Spirit to show you the fruits of your faith: love, joy, peace, gentleness, generosity, kindness etc.
We offer you, our God, the first fruits of your Spirit within us. We ask you for a deeper authenticity in living our Christ-life. We ask you for simple, child-like faith in you, only you. And we thank you.
Our readings highlight words and obedience. Sarai manipulates the pregnancy of Hagar, her slave, and then drives her away, scolding Abram who had done as Sarai asked. The negative description of Hagar's son, Ishmael, is the long standing Jewish description of the Arab people, his descendants for almost 4000 years. On the other hand, Jesus calls us to obey his word, not just call on his name. "Did we not prophesy, cast out demons, do many deeds of power in your name?" Jesus casts them out for their disobedience. What may look like fruits -- prophecy, exorcism, deeds of power, dynamic preaching -- may not be in obedience to the Word.
With the guidance of the Spirit, look at all you do in a day, how you use your gifts, great or simple. Make an intention to do everything "in word or in work" in obedience to the Spirit and in the name of Jesus.
We do call on your name, Jesus, and ask you, living Word, to probe our hearts and sift our motives so that all we do or say may be in obedience to you, and to glorify our God. Just for today.
How familiar is the gospel of the visitation, with John leaping in his mother's womb. Today we hear of John's naming. The psalm broadens John's being chosen in the womb to all of us who are so intricately formed. And what do we chosen persons do? According to Isaiah's Servant Song, "God, who formed me in the womb to be God's own servant, to bring God's people back and gather them ... says ... I will give you as a light to the nations, so that my saving power might reach to the ends of the earth." John bore witness to the Light, but we live in the Light and the Light in us.
Adore the Light who lives at the center of your being. Worship the one who calls you to be a light to the nations. How? Don't forget that Therese of Lisieux who died young in a cloistered Carmel is co-patron of missions. Let your imagination take you to all the nations of the world. Sometimes it helps to write them down as the Spirit brings them to mind. You might see "Hotel Rwanda" or read a book from another culture as a response to your call to "reach the ends of the earth" in Christ's name.
Open us, O God, to the wonder of your forming us, choosing us in the womb to grow in wisdom and grace, to bear the Light to all nations--and to the people whom we will meet today.
Our first reading shows how nonsensical it is to hide our true feelings from God. After a touching story of Hebrew hospitality, as Abraham runs to make a meal for traveling strangers, they promise the couple a son. "Sarah laughed to herself...." The Lord then asked Abraham why Sarah laughed. "Sarah denied, saying, ‘I did not laugh,' for she was afraid. The Lord said, ‘Oh yes, you did laugh.'" Mary exults in her true feelings as she sings in the presence of the once childless Elizabeth. And Jesus openly admires a pagan centurion.
What feelings do you have when you come to prayer? Are there certain feelings which arise in you during prayer or during the day that you would like to hide from God? What things still make you ashamed? Would you feel less afraid to share any areas of shame with Jesus or Mary, like us in all things? Do so. If you are not bothered by shame, pray for those who are afraid of God, that they may know Mary's freedom and exult.
We rejoice in you, God our Savior, for you have looked on the lowliness of us, your servants. Let us take in more deeply Jesus' love and even admiration for the likes of us.
School Sisters of Notre Dame, Baltimore Province
6401 North Charles Street
Baltimore, MD 21212-1016
Comments or questions? E-mail us
Technical questions about this website? E-mail our WebSpinner