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.
What Peter acknowledges to Jesus in Matthew's gospel, Martha confesses in John's gospel: Jesus is the Anointed, the son of the living God. Now, thanks be to Jesus' pioneering work, so are we anointed and children of the living God. It has been revealed, Jesus tells Peter. Paul too speaks of the mind of God, revealed. "O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!" In John 17:3, Jesus says that knowing God, that is union with God, and with Jesus is life everlasting, not in a future heaven but right now.
Ask the Spirit to recall for you all the different ways you have learned Jesus and God. What did you once believe that has been set aside? God reveals to children and the simple. Ask to know God more simply, more deeply, to grow in wisdom and in fascination with this limitless mystery whom we call God. Then be quiet and listen for God's revelation of the riches of God's own self.
We "give thanks to your holy name for your steadfast love and faithfulness." Teach us all we can absorb about the depths of your love and faithfulness, and open us to even more, day by day.
The psalm antiphon is: "God takes delight in God's people." The opening verses of Paul to the church at Thessalonika expresses Paul's delight in these new converts. The authentic letters of Paul show a tenderness and deep love in the man too often written off as angry and arrogant. Today it is Jesus who is angry with the Pharisees, the official teachers, whom he calls blind guides.
The psalm suggests a method of prayer: Let the faithful praise by dancing, making melody to God. As you dance, let God wrap you in tenderness and deep love. Then cloak those whom you love with affection, letting your arms reach out--perhaps even to the whole world.
Purify our hearts, dear God, from any teaching by blind guides that leads (or led) to hate, exclusion, distrust, disunity. Heal us and let us lead your people in a dance of joy, all to your praise!
Paul compares himself to a woman (quite a conversion from the prayer Jewish men still say today upon rising: "I thank you God that you have not made me a Gentile, a slave or a woman."). He points out how gentle he was with this community, "like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children. So deeply do we care for you that we...share our own very selves." Jesus is not finished with the Pharisees, repeating "blind guides." They have neglected justice and mercy and faith. "You strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!"
Many Catholics believe that the Vatican and some local bishops are straining gnats. Better we should ask the Spirit to teach us where we have neglected justice, mercy and faith. Remember that faith is no longer intellectual assent to divinely revealed truths, as once we learned, and no matter how high the authority who strains doctrinal gnats. John Paul II puts before us Mary as a model of faith, with her "total, trusting self-surrender of her mind and body to God." Ask for that kind of faith.
Jesus, thank you for the gentleness you worked in Paul. Convert us too to a trusting faith, a welcoming of all that happens today. Keep us focused on your desires so we can avoid catching gnats.
Bartholomew is the same apostle as Nathaniel whom Philip calls, using Jesus' own words. "Come and see," Philip invites. Earlier in John's first chapter, Jesus invited, "Come and see."
Let's stop there and look at Jesus looking at us tenderly. Hear him say directly to you, Come and see. What would he want you to see? Ask him. Wait. Listen. Then think of women and men whom you know who might need your invitation to activate their baptismal call to apostleship. Lay people with gifts for ministry, single or single again people who might check out religious life or priesthood, or just the young people in your own family whom you, the apostle, invite to come and see Jesus for themselves.
Thank you, Jesus, for letting us know that you are alive, active and still calling apostles, calling us to bring others to you. We believe. Help our unbelief.
Jesus urges us to keep awake, "for you do not know what day your Lord is coming." Paul, who writes much about the second coming to this community, says he prays night and day for them, such is his joy and love for them. The psalmist encourages us to come awake because "You satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love."
How will your Lord come to you today? How do you feel about "the second coming?" Share your feelings with Jesus and the One who satisfies you morning after morning. Then we will use as our prayer this piece of Paul's letter, praying for ourselves and one another:
"May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all... May Jesus strengthen your hearts in holiness so that you may be blameless...at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints."
Paul gives instructions for a life of holiness, the psalm praises God's sovereignity, and Jesus tells the parable of the 10 virgins, five of whom are caught without due preparation. "Keep awake, then, for you know neither the day nor the hour." For our prayer today, let us use the Alleluia verse which sums it all up: "Be watchful, pray constantly." This is Jesus speaking in Luke's gospel, but Paul too tells the Thessalonians to pray constantly. How do we do that?
Ponder that question in your heart for a while. Then ask the Spirit to reveal to you how you can pray constantly. Listen. How have you kept united with God/Jesus/Spirit all day long? You may have some experience of that. How do you do that through the night? Believe -- that as Paul writes in Romans 8:26 that the "Spirit prays continually within us, putting our unutterable groanings into words". We are helpless to pray constantly. It is all the Spirit!
Thank you, Holy Spirit, for your work, your prayer, your loving continually in our depths. Thank you for being the bond of unity among us all, night and day, keeping us alert for our Lord whenever and however he comes.
The parable of the talents is frightening, and may force too many Catholics to workaholism, constant measuring of their merit and other unhealthy self-absorptions. So Paul offers us today an antidote, worthy to be quoted directly: "You yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, and indeed you do...We urge you , beloved, to do more and more, to aspire to live quietly, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands as we directed you." The "more and more" is not the work or the quiet, but the love.
If we are being taught by God, then we know a different God than the one we first met, thinking the master in the parable was the taskmaster God of our youth. How has your image of God changed? How does God continually teach you to love? The "more and more?" Who can say they are ever finished loving? Ask for an expanding of your heart and a diminishing of self-absorption.
Thank you, Jesus, for your new commandment: to love as you love. Send your Spirit even deeper within us to carve out new space, new openness, new capacity for loving more and more.
School Sisters of Notre Dame, Baltimore Province
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