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.
With such readings as today, how could we ever have imaged God as a despot, a tyrant, someone to tremble before? Jesus tells us he has put flesh and Spirit on our God, so that we can come to him, our footwashing leader, for rest and refreshment. Who does not weary of the flesh, and want to live in the Spirit as Paul urges? Who does not feel the burdens of responsibility at home, at work, tgrying to bring justice in the political arena? Who would not want to come to Jesus, rejoicing that God's wisdom is revealed to little ones, offering us his heart, so gentle and humble?
Imagine your self resting on the heart, the chest of Jesus. Feel his heart beating with love for all the weary of the world. Don't do anything or say any thing. Just try to listen to the beat of love, and breathe deeply. Breathe in the Spirit and breathe out all that worries you.
All your works give thanks to you, O God. You offer peace to the nations, and we beg you for peace to the little ones, those who are heavy burdened. We ask you to fill us with your peace.
Unlike Canada Day there are no special readings for today. Yet, how well the first reading, Jacob's dream of land, fits the rich land of the United States. When he awakes he cries, "Surely the Lord is in this place--and I did not know it." He anoints the stone on which he slept with oil and calls it Beth- el which means, House of God. The gospel takes some imagination to fit with our fireworks and picnic celebrations. A distraught father begs for the healing of his daughter, a woman hemorrhaging for 12 years touches Jesus and is healed, and finally, Jesus is "laughed at."
Let us beg for healing for all our children, the next generation who will face polluted waters, unhealthy air, depleted earth turned into concrete. Let us beg healing for the hemorrhaging of our values, especially God's will for mercy and for peace ("My plans for you are plans of peace, not disaster", Jer 29:11). Let us pray for those who laugh at Christ or who ignore Christ, who will always be the footwashing Lord of our nation, whether people acknowledge him or not.
Jesus, our only healer, help us to reverence the holy ground as House of God. Please heal our hearts so we always recognize you in the lowly, outcast, impoverished, sinners who crowd our nation and need your mercy, and ours. "Lord, be merciful to us, sinners."
Jesus has compassion on the crowds because they are harassed and confused, and although he heals many, he notes that we need to ask the "Lord of the harvest to send out workers into the harvest." While this could mean religious and priests, it can also refer to the baptismal mission of each one, called to wrestle with God, like Jacob in the first reading. We wrestle with where we can help harvest all that God has planted around us, and like Jacob, we might even limp a bit. We, as wounded healers, may be all the more effective for those in our circle who are confused, rushed and helpless.
Whom do you know who seems harassed, confused, helpless, in need of healing? Image Christ within you, the good shepherd, breathing out the Spirit of peace on each one. (Although you are imagining, you are in reality a Christ-bearer.) Hold one of these people in your mind's eye, and let Christ breathe healing on that person. Then move to the next.
Thank you, our God, for sending us such a compassionate healer to begin the harvesting. Please send more to help harvest, and convince each Christian of his or her mission, no matter how small it may seem.
Our first reading presupposes we know the Bible story of Joseph, his dreams, the betrayal by his brothers, his adventures in Egypt, in prison and his eventual saving Egypt and its neighbors from famine. If you don't know it, take some time to read it, just a few chapters in Genesis and as good as any story in the Jewish Scriptures. The story culminates now as the brothers come to beg Joseph, Pharaoh's right hand man, for food. They do not recognize him, but Joseph knows them, turns away and weeps. A chance for revenge? Or mercy? Stay tuned!
Put yourself in Joseph's place. He has been almost killed, then sold into slavery because his brothers are jealous of the love their father bears this first son of the beloved Rachel. Joseph has come through incredible dangers to rise high in the Egyptian dynasty, and how will he use his power? How do you use your power? How is it in your family of origin? Jealousy? Broken relationships? Everyone talks to everyone else? Some have died perhaps without that "talking again" which is the literal meaning of "reconciliation." They are alive with God and can be talked with, if you choose.
Jesus, you who desire that all be one in you, please unite all the scattered children in our own families of origin. At least unite our hearts, help us to speak again with one another. And if we do, we know your Spirit is the bond among us, and we thank you!
So much emotion in the first reading: first Judah's passionate plea for mercy; then Jacob's with the re-opening of the wound, that Joseph has been torn to pieces by a wild animal according to his brothers' lies, and Jacob's current fear of letting Rachel's other child leave him. "Then Joseph could no longer control himself." He sends all the courtiers away and says to his brothers: "I am Joseph." Now the brothers cannot speak for the emotion of it all. Joseph says to them, "Come closer."
What part does emotion play in your life? Which emotions are easy for you to feel? To express? Which are hard to feel? To express? When have you been so overwhelmed by grief or joy or rage or love that you could not speak? Return in memory to these experiences of deep, long lasting emotion and share them with Jesus who has felt every emotion that we have. Every emotion.
Thank you, Jesus, for being like us in every way, to give us courage in feeling and expressing every emotion to God, to you and sometimes to others. Deepen our feelings for others, and help us befriend any emotion that threatens to harm us or anyone else.
In Matthew, Jesus says, from his own experience and his contemplation of the Joseph story surely, "Brother will betray brother." Meanwhile, back in Genesis, the elderly Jacob, renamed Israel, is making his way to Egypt with his total family where God has promised he will flourish. When Joseph sees Israel "he falls on his neck, weeping for a long time." How Jacob/Israel responds is like Simeon's response when he sees baby Jesus in the Temple: "I can die now, having seen that you are still alive."
Look at your whole life, your one and only life. What would you still like to do before you can say, "I can die now"? Share those desires with Jesus (or maybe Mary). Ignatius Loyola and Teresa of Avila, great teachers of prayer, tell us that God loves our great desires. So get in touch with them and tell God.
"Now, Lord, you may dismiss your servant in peace, for my eyes have seen your salvation which you have prepared" for the whole world. Help those who are dying now to accept with gratitude their one and only life. Take away any fear of death that might cling to us.
Jesus assures us we have nothing to fear from those who harm the body, but we need to beware of those who twist our spirit. Joseph and his brothers are a model. When Jacob died, blessing each of his sons uniquely, the brothers become afraid. Without their father's protection, now will Joseph turn on them? When they ask Joseph's forgiveness he begins weeping again! "I myself will provide for you and your little ones," he assures them. Sold into slavery, false charges of adultery (you must read the whole story!), but nothing breaks Joseph's spirit of mercy and reconciliation.
From whom are you in danger, not so much of their "killing the body but killing the spirit," or at least numbing your spirit or twisting it? Ask Jesus for the gift of quickly recognizing your own mistakes or ways of hurting others and asking pardon. Ask for the gift of daily reconciliation.
Jesus, protect us from all that hardens our hearts to your people, those near us or far distant. Remove our prejudices and let nothing break our spirit of mercy and reconciliation. Thank you!
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