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.
Although we are doing continuous readings of Romans and Matthew, all our readings fit the theme of passion. Jesus predicts his passion in Jerusalem and shows a terrible rage when Peter dares to contradict, calling him Satan. Jeremiah tries to resist the word of God but it becomes "like a burning fire in my bones. I am weary with holding it in." Psalm 63 expresses the passion of longing, thirsting for God. Paul asks for our passion to be continually transformed. Passion means suffering; deep and long lasting emotion, like rage or a burning experience of God's word; profound and focused desire, like a thirst.
Where is your passion? What meaning do you usually associate with it? Look at Jesus' suffering all through his life, all his emotions, his focused desire for love, unity, inclusion. Contemplate his passion in all its meaning. Tell him how you feel about him.
We offer you, O God, our bodies as living offerings, our passions which we want transformed into the very passion of Christ, whatever that might mean today. Deepen our passion for him!
Although this is only a memorial we have readings for the feast, especially the story of John's beheading. One verse of the psalm is especially appropriate not only for John but for us. Let us ponder this in our hearts:
You, O God, are my hope -- my trust, O my God from my youth.
Upon you have I leaned since my birth; it was you who took me from my mother's womb.
O God, from my youth you have taught me.
Be for me a rock of refuge, a strong hold to save me.
Holy Spirit, as you gave John a discerning eye to see sin and call it such, give us discernment and courage to oppose all those who trample on God's holy will, God's plans for shalom.
Paul urges us to keep awake for the coming of the Lord and to encourage one another, building each other up. The psalm asks of whom should we be afraid? If God is the strong hold of our life, who can really harm us? "Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your hearts take courage." Jesus exercises authority not only in his teaching but in casting out a demon. With such a demonstration of power over evil, how could we not trust Jesus, no matter what terrorists (or random acts of violence) might destroy? We are headed for God.
Ask the Spirit to show you all your terrors, your fears and your anxieties, in the measure that you can absorb such an onslaught. (The Spirit, a perfect teacher, never offers more than we can take in with peace.) Then share them with Jesus, and ask for a deeper trust in his power over evil.
Jesus, we do wait for your coming every day in our relationships, prayer, work, joys and sufferings. Keep our hearts in peace, and let us bring justice, peace and kindness to those in our circle who suffer from fear.
"Grace to you and peace!" Whether Paul wrote this letter or not, this is the standard greeting of all the epistles. "In our prayers we always give thanks for you for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and your love for all the saints...." The psalm continues the gratitude: "I will thank you forever for what you have done in the presence of your faithful ones." Gratitude for her healing moves Peter's mother in law to service.
For what are you grateful--yesterday, today? All the small gifts of grace and peace. Name them. Great gifts, milestones in your life. Name them. Smile on God in gratitude.
Thank you, our God, for all your gifts of grace and peace. We ask you to extend grace to all the world and let us be your instruments of peace to all whom we meet today. Thank you!
"Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful person!" cries Peter after Jesus directs him to a wondrous catch of fish. This is true for all of us, no matter that we may not be able to tick off one sin here, another there. At the same time we have been "rescued from he powers of darkness and transferred into the kindom of God's beloved Son." As we grow in spiritual life, we are able to live with such paradox. Loved sinners, always saved but always sinful.
Show your sinfulness to Jesus, as Peter did, and see how he responds. Then show him how you can dance and "make a joyful noise to God," as the psalm suggests, because you are so grateful for being loved, saved, set free.
From Colossians: "May we be filled with the knowledge of God's will in all spiritual wisdom...May we be made strong....May we be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to you, God."
A joyous set of readings, for how can we mope or fast when the bridegroom is always with us? The psalm continues to "make a joyful noise to the Lord." The first reading tells us why: "Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation." As Jesus says in John 14:9, no one has ever seen God, but if we have seen Jesus, then we have seen God. And his work: "To reconcile...by making peace through the blood of his cross."
Image of the invisible God. What other images of God have meant a lot to you throughout your relationship? Muslims have 100 names for God and Hindus have 1000. Call out some of your names, and let the Spirit bubble them up in you. Then pronounce the name of Jesus, the most true image of the God whom we cannot even imagine.
Jesus! Jesus! Jesus! Keep your name, your image before us all day long, please, Jesus. Let our joyful noise be the sound of your name. Jesus!
The good news comes in our first reading: Jesus has done it all for us. He has reconciled us, he has presented us as holy to God, "provided that you continue securely established and steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised you in the gospel." As the New Testament clearly teaches, and Martin Luther reiterated, it is our faith, our clinging to Christ, which saves us. Now, thanks be to God, the Roman Catholic church and Lutheran church have signed an agreement to that effect. Christ (our relationship with him) saves, not the works which surely will flow from the relationship.
Amid all the doctrines you have been taught, what do you question, what do you doubt? Bring those teachings to Jesus now and ask him to help you learn and prioritize. Doubting does not mean a lack of faith, but taking your relationship with God/Spirit and the Body of Christ seriously enough to question, study, learn -- a way of discipleship (discipulus/a in Latin means a learner).
Thank you for calling us to discipleship, Jesus. Thank you for keeping our minds open and growing, Holy Spirit. Thank your for the ever greater capacity for knowing and loving which you create in our hearts.
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