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.
"If today you hear God's voice, harden not your hearts." Today we hear about true sin, against which Ezekiel warns, and which Paul sums up as refusal to love. Paul writes that all commandments can be summed up in loving one another, our neighbor as ourself. Jesus wants us to speak the corrective truth to a brother or sister "who sins against you," first privately and then in the community. We are not to judge the sinner, but when someone sins against us, we need to recognize and not deny or cover it over, and yet "harden not our hearts."
Where is your heart hard? Against whom? Have you tried to talk about it with the person? Tried to listen? Pray to the Spirit for a softened heart, for a heart open to real dialogue. Ask for discernment to know when is the right moment to express the hurt or anger. Even if the person is dead, he/she is alive with God and needs your forgiveness. Speak with that dead person, who now understands you perfectly.
Jesus, give us not just softened, open hearts. Give us your very own heart, your love for our brothers and sisters, our near neighbors with whom we relate, our far neighbors for whom we pray. Thank you.
The author of our first reading speaks of his mission, his work, making known to the Gentiles "the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you." Jesus too is at work, although both readings are continual readings. A coincidence on Labor Day? Jesus worked on the sabbath (all law is relative!), healing a man with a withered hand. The scribes and Pharisees were "filled with fury" and began to plot against Jesus.
With Jesus who needs a break from all that fury, look together at the variety of labors in your life. With Christ who is in you, try to realize (make real) the fact that it is he who works in you, with you, through you. Respond to him.
Whatever we do in word or in work, Jesus, you who live deep within us, we want to do everything in your name, for the glory of our God. Help us. Empower us in our work. Thank you.
Two long quotes from Colossians provide much to ponder: "Continue to live your lives in Christ Jesus, rooted and built up in him, steady in faith...abounding in thanksgiving." And in hope for unity and peace throughout all the war torn nations: "Christ [in his resurrection] disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them, triumphing over them." Jesus is the only one with true authority and power, the gospel proclaims, power to heal and drive out demons. Any healing power, any gift for facilitating peace or unity or justice we might have flows from his power.
How do you experience being rooted in Christ? How do you build up his Body? What power and authority does he share with you? How has he gifted you, equipping you as really as he did the apostles with the power of the Spirit? How will you respond?
Jesus, "increase our eagerness to do your will and help us to know the saving power of your love." Help us to know, to experience your power who is Holy Spirit.
Both our readings catalogue some sin, which Jesus introduces with "Woe to you!" Sin does make us woe-full. Most New Testament preaching consistently begins with the good news, and only then calls for repentance, or names some sins. Jesus begins with the "Blessed are you" promises before calling "Woe!" In Colossians, first we hear about how we have been raised with Christ, and therefore should put away specific sin. Then the conclusion about the gift of a "new self which is being renewed....In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all in all!"
Is there anything making you feel woeful now? Offer it to Jesus for healing. Let Jesus contemplate your new and continually renewing self with you. How does he feel about the new you? Respond. Is Christ all in all in your world view? Whom do you consider "outside?" Those barbarians, however you name them? Offer them to Jesus, to make them one with all of us.
Jesus, you are the source of life, our life in one new family. In your light we are bathed in light, light deep within us, light for the world. Bless us, and let us be a blessing for all whom we meet today.
So many Marys in the New Testament but we all know who is honored today. Please pray for me, because I have been asked by St. Anthony Messenger Press to write a book about Mary, especially geared to fundamentalists, Baptists, young adult Catholics who may not know much about her or appreciate her even less. Any ideas or experiences you would like to share, just click on my name in the introduction.... Thank you!
The genealogy of Jesus ends with his special name, Emmanuel, "God with us." Romans offers insight into Mary for whom "all things worked together for good, who was called according to God's purpose."
Psalm 13 is our prayer today as we ponder in our hearts our relationship
with this peasant woman, now our mother and our sister and our friend:
"With delight I rejoice in the Lord.Pray that with Mary.
I trust your steadfast love and my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing to you because you have dealt bountifully with me."
Happy birthday, dear Mary! We celebrate with you and all your friends and relations. Pray for us now and at the hour of our death when we too will join the celebration!
As we begin this continuous reading of Timothy, please know that these letters do not come from Paul but from a second generation Christian who used Paul's authority, a custom in those ancient days and no misrepresentation intended. "Internal evidence" convinces us it is written by The Pastor. For example, "Paul" here calls himself "a blasphemer, a persecutor, a man of violence." The historical Paul was a rabbi who zealously was defending the true faith of Judaism, that there is only one God. He says (Philippians 3; well worth reading all of that chapter) that in keeping the Law he was perfect. Then when encountering the risen Christ he considered all that perfection and zeal as nothing. Not blasphemy, not violence. Whether by Paul or not, this letter is scripture and contains much truth and beauty, for example: "the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus." In the gospel, Jesus warns about the beam in our own eye while we are busy trying to remove the speck in our neighbor's eye.
Using your imagination, let the grace of Christ flow over you, removing beams and specks and judgments from your eyes, ears, hearts. Then let the flow fill you with faith and love and Christ's own Spirit-self. Breathe deeply and stay "in the flow."
We need your wisdom, Holy Spirit, to see ourselves truly, not putting ourselves down and making our sin worse than you judge it, but not puffing ourselves up either. Let us see all as gift. Especially you!
Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, the Pastor assures us. To save means to set free. Jesus saves through patience and mercy, he continues. The psalmist too hymns the mercy of God. In Luke, Jesus gives us a way to discern our own conduct: by the fruits we produce. In our continuous reading of Luke this week, the birthday feast of Mary overrode Luke 6:36: "Be you merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful." The Pastor would add, as Jesus too is patient and merciful.
Pray in gratitude for all those throughout your life who have been patient, merciful and so have set you free, even in small ways. Freedom is a chief fruit of the Spirit, along with love, peace, joy, kindness, mercy, faithfulness and self-control (Galatians 5:22). How are these fruits of the Spirit growing in your life? Tell the Spirit what more you need in order to em-body Christís mercy today.
Come, Holy Spirit, set us free. Produce your fruit in us and in all the Christians of the world so that every person might look up and see only the merciful Jesus--in us.
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