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.
"Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet's reward," Jesus promises. On the surface this may refer to the childless woman who befriended the prophet Elijah and was able to conceive as Elijah promised for her reward. However, what is happening in Matthew's community is dissension, and Matthew tries to reconcile two factions in the early church. The righteous or holy ones were those Jewish Christians who still adhered to Jewish law; the prophets were those in the Christian community who moved with the Spirit and were freed from the Law. (Somewhat like the conservative and liberal Catholics of our country). Because, as Paul writes, he who was always trying to reconcile factions, we have died, been buried with Christ in baptism, we are to walk in newness of life. Paul is free from the Law, but Matthew's community for the most part held to the old ways. Jesus invites them to welcome each other, no matter what their theological differences.
Ponder in your heart your relationship to the Jewish Law and to the Spirit of Jesus. Where do you stand? In what areas? Now, most importantly, how cam you welcome "the other," the one who disagrees with you about the beginning and end of life, for example; about capital punishment and war and homosexual unions? Can you believe that you are one in Christ? Pray for the grace of inclusivity, and ask the Spirit to root the judgments out of your heart.
May we be one with each other, as you are, Jesus, with God and with the Spirit. Thank you for calling us into a community with such diversity and giving the Spirit as our true bond of unity.
For a profound picture of the intimacy between God and Abraham, read this Genesis passage. God does not want to hide from Abraham, Abraham dares to challenge God and remind God of unconditional love. This is the theme of Psalm 103, again best read in its entirety. "God forgives your iniquities, heals all your diseases, crowns you with faithful love and mercy." Although not used today, the psalm reminds us that "God knows that we are dust; God remembers how we are made." We can be our dusty selves with God.
How do you and God express your intimacy with each other? Do you dare challenge God? How would you like to? Do it now. What does God reveal to you? As Job cried: "Show yourself to me;" and as Jesus said, "I no longer call you servants but friends, because I have made known to you all that God has made known to me."
Deepen our intimacy with God, Jesus. Let us be our true selves with God: loving and kind, but angry and sad as well. Help us to let God be God's true self with us, too.
Today is the feast of Irenaeus, early bishop of Lyon, who penned the mighty words: "The glory of God is the human being, fully human and fully alive." Who is more fully human and alive than Jesus? In today's gospel, in the midst of a storm at sea, he is exhausted enough to continue to sleep, although the boat was swamped by waves. "Lord, save us, we are perishing!" To be fully human is not only love and joy and peace, but exhaustion. And for us, to be real with a real Savior, is to cry-- Lord, save us, we are perishing!
How, where, when do you feel like you are perishing? When have you known deep in your bones that kind of exhaustion, when everything swamps you? When do you wake in the middle of the night and find it hard to get back to sleep? Then rest your head next to Jesus' head on the pillow, and let the terror subside as you sleep next to him.
Lord, save us! Our nation is perishing and we don't even know it. Wake us up to the materialism and greed which swamps us, the overt and hidden violence which violates people and all of creation.
Our readings celebrate Peter's being freed from prison; Paul's finishing his race, his missionary journey; and Jesus' praising Peter's response to "Who do you say that I am?" Because there is so much to fear in our day, let us focus on the Psalm, 34, and its antiphon: "The Lord set me free from all my fears." In their day, prison (Peter), death (Paul). In our day, terrorists maybe, death always and perhaps also not getting our Christian life "right", getting the wrong answer (gospel). There is no one right answer, and the psalm's second verse assures us: "I sought the Lord...and God delivered me from all my fears." You wouldn't be reading this right now if you were not a seeker. God doesn't ask for accomplishment, but seeking. "Look to God, be radiant, for your faces will never blush with shame," the psalmist continues.
Let us contemplate, sit quietly, and look to God. Now, and all day long. Invite God's radiance to flood your being, and see God's radiant grace flooding and healing the world.
Our saving God, deliver us and all peoples of the world from war, from domestic abuse, from random acts of violence. Deliver us from fear of these deep disturbances, and especially fear from one another.
Just as it was impossible for the scribes to hear Jesus say, "Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven" to a paralyzed man, so it is impossible for us to ascribe to God such a testing of Abraham that God would ask him to kill and burn the body of Isaac. Does God know our hearts or not? It is an angel who stays the knife and says, "Now I know that you fear God." Scholars tell us that this is the way God showed the Israelites that they were not to practice the human sacrifice which they found in the Canaanite culture. Unfortunately, it reminds too many Christians of God's willingness to "kill" God's own son for our sins.
Wrestle with that in your prayer. Does God want pain, suffering, war, the killing of innocents (or even criminals)? Does God need Jesus' gory death to atone for sin? When in the gospel Jesus so freely forgives sin, why does God demand blood-- or does God? Ask God. Ask Jesus. Listen.
Burn deep in our hearts, God of love and mercy, your plans for us, plans of peace, not disaster. Help us to embrace your will for peace--peace within us, among us, among nations and all faith traditions.
Matthew, in Jesus' sermon on the mount, with its highlight of the Beatitudes, the gospel for Canada Day, has also emphasized the importance of forgiveness and loving enemies. In the chapters that follow that sermon, Jesus is putting his own teaching into practice. Not for him to sit home and wait for the sinners to come to confession. He was on the lookout for the sinners and outcasts in his culture and faith tradition. Matthew himself qualifies! Jesus quotes God according to Hosea:"Go and learn the meaning of 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.'" The theme for the Canada Day liturgy is peace, God's will for shalom.
So let's obey Jesus and learn mercy and peace. Roll that two-fold desire of God's over in your mouth and in your heart. Use it as a mantra. Repeat it all day (perhaps each time you hear the news, stop at a red light, enter the kitchen). "This is God's holy will: mercy, not sacrifice. This is God's will: peace."
Thank you, our God, for so much mercy, an abundance of forgiving kindness, an unconditional love. Help us to be instruments of your mercy and peace--just for today.
Why, in the story of Isaac's blessing Jacob, is there no blessing for Esau who is tricked out of his birthright by his mother and his twin? Isaac gives a "special blessing" reserved for only the eldest, somewhat like our last will and testament. In the Jewish faith, blessing meant the sharing of all that one was, had, owned, including not only goods but personality and character. Isaac has given all of himself to Jacob. When God blesses us, God gives all of God's self to us. When we bless God, it is an act of complete surrender of all we are and have.
How does the phrase "Bless the Lord, my whole self!" (Ps 103) make you feel? How willing are you to let God share your complete personality and character? God wants to lavish on us all that God is, Paul tells us in Romans 8. How willing are you to let God share with you all that God is? Discuss this with God.
Thank you for lavishing on us all that you are, our God. Forgive us our fears and weakness that won't allow you to give us that "all." Open us a bit more widely to your love today, please.
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