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.
All of creation receives the abundance of God, and gives us in return a fruitful land and harvest. However, as Paul reminds us, there is a groaning in all of creation as well, waiting with us for the final liberation: the "freedom of the glory of the children of God." Even the wilderness overflows with God's bounty, proclaims the psalm.
What is dry and rocky and the wilderness in your life? How will you open yourself to let the warm rains of the Word of God? What in you needs to be "softened with showers" of God's grace and growth? Lay your unfreedoms before your bountiful God and God's powerful and gentle Word made flesh.
You visit us and enrich us, our God. Help us to notice your abundance in our life, your setting us free, your fruitfulness. Let our every word and act today give you thanks.
Benedict, the founder of the monastic way of life, is the patron of our new Pope. His Rule which emphasizes prayer and work, as well as unfailing hospitality, is easily adapted to the lives of the laity. Benedict's flight from the decadence of Rome may well raise a desire in us to be rid of this society of violence, greed, sex without love. The first reading recounts how Jacob's descendants become so numerous in Egypt that they are "ruthlessly" enslaved. Psalm 124 tells of God's rescue from the mighty torrent, and ends with the verse which opens the Divine Office: "Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth." The gospel tells of the communal nature of grace: if we welcome someone different from us (whether in custom, values, religion, race, etc) we receive that person's reward. Grace unites us in all our differences.
Imagine the world that Benedict fled in the fifth century, and then look at your city, our country, our world. How do you see us as enslaved as the Hebrew people? How do you see God at work setting people free from the "raging waters" of greed? What desires arise in you? If you want to be another Dorothy Day and never leave your computer desk, share your desire with God. Ignatius and Teresa teach that God honors our desires, and "we receive that person's reward," for we are all one in our desire for God's will.
Deepen our desires, Jesus, that we may share your desire for the freedom of God's people and the unity of all creation. Create in us a hunger, a restlessness for God's holy will for shalom.
Although Pharaoh has ordered all the Hebrew boys killed, Moses' mother protects him. Moses' sister is positively ingenious in getting the Pharaoh's daughter to pay Moses' natural mother to nurse him. Wise as serpents, Jesus would say. Moses' name means: drawn from the water. How rich that name, since Moses will be God's instrument of drawing a people through the water to freedom. However, first, like most of us, Moses sins. He murders a slave driver in anger at an unjust beating, and he himself has to flee.
So often God chooses sinners to be leaders: Sarah, Jacob, Moses, Saul, David, even Peter whom Jesus calls "Satan." Paul writes, where sin abounds, grace more abounds. How is that statement true in your life? Where are you still enslaved, maybe even to sin? Picture Jesus drawing you fresh through the waters of baptism. Let him free you, again, today.
Thank you, our God, for your wisdom in choosing the weak to confound the strong. When we are weak, then you are able to be strong. We count on your strength. May our weakness give you glory!
Moses hides his face from God's self-revelation in the burning bush. Jesus thanks God for revealing the depths of God to little ones. If Moses will learn that God's name is "I am who I am", the psalm gives us another name used for God throughout the Jewish scriptures: faithful love and mercy.
How do you come to know God? In the past? Now? How do you name God? Where and when do you experience God's own self? How does that make you feel? Don't hide your face. Share those feelings with God/Jesus/ Spirit.
Keep us simple, our God, in knowing you, loving you, and clinging always to your faithful love and mercy made flesh in Jesus.
Moses is often called a prophet. The verses from Matthew are usually believed to be the word of a Christian prophet, speaking to the local church. A note about prophecy, which differs entirely from prediction. A prophet is one so close to the mind and heart of God (as Moses surely was) that he or she dares to speak on God's behalf. Prophecy in the early church was the word of the Spirit, the Risen Christ in the midst of the community, speaking to current situations. Prophets in both Testaments speak critique to the people when injustice rules. In today's gospel, prophets speak God's word of comfort when the people are oppressed. "Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy burdened and I will give you rest."
Through your prayer you too are becoming so very close to the mind and heart of God. Baptism made you a prophet, someone who could discern the needs of the church and speak a word of challenge or a word of consolation. Ask the Spirit to remind you of when you had the courage to critique, and when you had the compassion to comfort. Thank God for your gift of prophecy.
Thank you, our God, for choosing little ones like us to be your prophets, for revealing your mind and heart for justice, for love. Give us the gift of discernment and the courage to change the things we can.
Our liturgists have skipped detailing the plagues and bring us today to the Passover story, the final devastation wreaked on the Egyptians because of their stubborn leader. The firstborn of children and animals will be killed, but the blood of the lamb eaten by the Israelites will alert the angel of death to pass over their homes. Get it? What kind of God is this? Please do not take every word of the Bible as literal truth. This is a story of how a people once in slavery were set free. Story tellers are allowed to find symbols, see threads and weave new threads. Our God does not and never did kill the innocent (not even the guilty) willy-nilly. God has given us all free will, but surely God will hold our leaders accountable for innocent deaths. In today's gospel, Jesus says: If you understood that God desires mercy, not sacrifice, "you would not have condemned the guiltless."
Let your mind roam the world and look at the guiltless whom WE have condemned, whether the victims of our invasion of Iraq, of the tsunami, of international economic injustice. Think of the poor in our cities and the starving in refugee camps. Ask for the gift of mercy, mercy in your judgments, mercy in your actions, mercy that takes action, even one small step.
Forgive us our trespasses. We ask pardon for our consumerism, life style, greed and violence which dishearten and even destroys others in our world-community. Convert us, Christ Jesus, and make us people of mercy.
There is an Easter quality to today's readings. First, the story of the exodus when the Lord kept vigil and told all of God's people to keep a vigil "for all generations", the night God led them/us out of Egypt. Then a song of victory. Finally a gospel which uses the words of Isaiah to apply to Jesus (the scriptural method of interpretation called pesher), God's "servant whom I have chosen, the beloved...I will put my spirit on him and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles...He will not break a bruised reed...until he brings justice to victory. And in his name the Gentiles will have hope."
Obviously the church applies the Isaiah passage to Jesus. But we are Christ in the world today. Return to that long quote and insert your name. This is your mission, to continue Christ's mission. Who are the Gentiles (the aliens, the marginalized, the despised) in your neighborhood, our country?
Let all people find hope in us, your Body, Jesus. May our growing in peace, justice and mercy be a light to everyone who knows us, meets us even casually. May we embody you ever more fully.
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