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.
The theme today is humility. Only God knows us thoroughly. How dare we judge? How dare we pull up weeds in our psyche, let alone weed out the others in God's garden of our human family? We don't even know how to pray as we ought, Paul reminds us. In our weakness the Spirit prays in sighs too deep for words. Another translation is: the Spirit puts our unutterable groans into words which God understands. Who are we to decide what is weed, what is wheat? We let the Spirit pray within us, we let God do the sorting at harvest time, unafraid, confident of God's kindness and faithful love.
The Spirit prays continually within us. Stop and listen. Can you hear your own unutterable groanings? Can you see a field full of wheat and weed deep within you? Can you taste and touch your weakness, your sinfulness (not necessarily acts of sin)? Ask the Spirit to teach you not to judge your self, to take your eyes off yourself and instead, eyes fixed on Jesus, to rejoice in God's kindness to the weak, the helpless, the sinner. Take as a mantra all through this day of sabbath: "I am a loved sinner. Alleluia!"
Spirit of the living, loving God, open us to an even deeper realization that we are loved just as we are, weak, barely able to pray, full of weeds and wheat. We are yours. Take us. Thank you.
Jesus is angry and warning of judgment; God "hardens" the hearts of Pharaoh and the Egyptians as the Israelites escape from slavery. Moses assures his frightened people that God will fight for them, "and you only have to be still." The Alleluia verse repeats the theme: If today you hear God's voice, do not harden your hearts. Yes, who does that hardening? God, or the free will of the oppressors, the free will of Israel, our own free will?
Can you try for just 3-4 minutes to "be still" and know that God loves you and protects you from slavery? After your still contemplation, ask the Spirit to show you just where you are enslaved by habits, addictions, others' opinion etc. Then try to be still again and let God fight for you. Ask the Spirit to show you any hard places in your heart, any resentments, old wounds scarred over. Be still and let God soften you, heal you.
Save us, our warrior God, from all that enslaves us, hardens our hearts, keeps us from that stillness where we can meet you, even in the midst of turmoil, trouble and ordinary tasks. Wake us up to you!
From Exodus we have the familiar story of the sea parting and the Israelites crossing into freedom. One of our pray-ers clicked on my name to get my E-mail, and asked, Why sometimes do we skip a verse? An example is Matthew 12: 47 today. That verse is only in some ancient manuscripts and is repetitious of 12: 48. Good question, however. Just as the evangelists picked and chose among the stories and sayings of Jesus, so our liturgists today can mold our spirituality by what they put before us in the daily readings. A suggestion: read a gospel all the way through on your own. You may meet material you have never seen/heard before. The point of today's passage: Jesus is creating a new family, all those who do God's will belong to Jesus in a new and intimate way. And God's will? Shalom.
How does shalom, peace, wholeness, integrity, set you free? How shall you do shalom today, bringing and being peace in your family, workplace. Offer God that desire, and pray for the awareness of being an instrument of peace in your various encounters today.
Savior God, setting Israel free, we too long for the freedom of the Spirit, the peace which the world cannot give. We long to belong totally to Jesus, to be his brother and/or sister, always joining our desires to his: for peace, for unity, for love.
Israel does not appreciate being set free into a desert and complain against God. They want to return to slavery where at least they had food, "the fleshpots of Egypt." The psalmist states: "They spoke against God, saying, ‘Can God spread a table in the wilderness?'" Most of us when we complain to God are afraid, but the command is: "Draw near to the Lord, for God has heard your complaining."
Let your imagination roam the world and see the wildernesses, the deserts of Africa, the steppes of Asia, the refugee camps, the hovels of our own country, the barrios of Latin America. Be bold. Draw near to God and demand: Can you spread a table for these people? Be passionate about this desire to have the hungry and thirsty filled. Stay with that passion until your body subsides. Then listen to God.
O God, let us share your passion for the poor of this world. Open our minds and hearts to the needs of our far neighbors, and let us be on the lookout today for the needy whom we might meet close at hand.
Exodus describes Moses' ascent of Mount Sinai and his meeting God face to face, amid thunder, trumpet blasts and dark smoke. The response we are given is the "Benedicite," the canticle of Daniel, with each verse beginning, Blessed are you... The verses given us today offer a title: Blessed are you, God of our ancestors; a place: Blessed are you in the temple; an action: Blessed are you who look into the depths....
Look around your place of prayer (supposing you light a candle) and bless God. For example: Blessed are you, God of light. Blessed are you in every candle that burns. Blessed are you who brighten our lives. Then in your imagination move around your house, and bless God. Move around your neighborhood. Move around the world.
We bless you and praise you. We worship you, we give you thanks, we praise you for your great glory. We join all creation in singing praise to your glory.
So much commotion with the Da Vinci Code about this friend of Jesus' from the town of Magdala. She was not his wife or she would have been named Mary of Jesus (see Mary of Clopas). Better, so much better than a physical relationship, in this new family, Mary is named apostle to the apostles. In the garden, Jesus calls her name and she recognizes the Risen One. He sends (apostellein) her to announce to the disciples (surely including the Twelve) that she had seen the Lord. Mary is not a reformed prostitute. All Scripture says is that she had demons cast out of her by Jesus. (So did St. John Vianney, the Cure of Ars.) Possession is not a sign of evil. However, before critical scripture scholarship, Mary was misunderstood. John's gospel understands her: she is present at the dying and the rising of Jesus. She is sent.
Today the SSNDs celebrate the death of our apostle to North America, Mother Mary Caroline Friess. How fitting that she, a woman of great passion and zeal, should have gone to Jesus on the feast of another of Jesus' apostolic women!
When have you been misunderstood? When have you searched for Jesus with your heart broken? When have you heard him call your name? When have you been fired by love for him and spread the good news? What is your desire? Share all this with him.
Thank you, Jesus, apostle of God, for calling us in Baptism to share your apostolic mission: to spread the good news, give sight to the blind, set prisoners free. Give us the courage, skill and zeal to continue your mission.
For the gospel, see Sunday, July 17. Let us concentrate on a strange custom in Israel, the sprinkling of animal blood on the people as a sign of their covenant with God. Psalm 50, in other verses about God not needing (or liking) the blood of oxen or the smell of holocausts, offsets the gore of Exodus with this: "Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving." We tend to equate sacrifice with difficulty and pain. Blood is a sign of death. For the Jews, blood is the sign of life. They are being sprinkled with life, as we are sprinkled (sometimes immersed) with the waters of life in Baptism. Sacrifice need not be hard or bloody, but living a simple, grateful life in covenant with our God.
Psalm 50 also sings: "The perfection of beauty, God shines forth." How do you image God's beauty? Contemplate that "beauty ever ancient, ever new." Then, offer God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, naming all for which you are grateful. See if you can keep on thanking throughout the day.
We worship you. We give you thanks. We praise you for your great glory, for your beauty, for your power, for your freedom, for your being with us, staying with us, for your love incarnate in Jesus.
School Sisters of Notre Dame, Baltimore Province
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