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.
In our gospel, Jesus tells a parable of strict justice for those who refuse to forgive. May all of us who cling to a desire for revenge for 9/11 be warned! Sirach begins: "Anger and wrath are abominations!...does anyone harbor anger against another and expect healing from the Lord?...Remember the end of your life, and set enmity aside." Our only hope? Psalm 103 echoes a familiar refrain in the psalms and Isaiah: "God is kind and merciful, slow to anger, rich in compassion."
Where is your heart in remembrance of 9/11? How are you able to forgive terrorists and murderers of the innocent? How are Iraqis able to forgive us? Pray for the gift of forgiving, and pray for Godís compassion for all peoples of the world.
We give you, compassionate God, all the feelings of rage and revenge which hide out in our hearts. Give us softer hearts day by day, that we may love as you love, and love with your love.
One word recurs today: save, and its cognate, salvation. Jesus heals the servant of a Roman army officer from afar, and praises the centurionís faith as beyond Israelís. "They found the slave in good health." (The word for health in Latin is salus). The Pastor too works outside Israel as a teacher of the Gentiles. "Save us, God our Savior, and gather us together from the nations..." we cry in the entrance song. Health in Latin, setting free in Hebrew are Godís work, "Godís desire is that everyone be saved..." (I Tim 2).
Let us pray for the salvation of those affected by the floods on our Gulf Coast and in central Europe, and all those still suffering from the tsunami last December 26. Tell God about the freedom and the health that they need to recover, how they need to be re-gathered into families, workplaces, schools.
Save us, and all your suffering people, Savior God. How much we need your health, your kind of freedom, your kind of love and unity. Let your Spirit work through us. Thank you.
The word today is widow. In Hebrew the word means one without voice. Jesus gives voice to the widow of Nain. Without asking her what she wants, nor about her faith, he simply resuscitates her only son from the dead. In Timothy we hear instructions for how bishops, deacons and women were to behave. However, due to the feasts tomorrow and Thursday, we stop the continuous reading before the widows are instructed. What a marvelous freedom our church offers women who belong to the "order of widows" and who are accorded power, prestige and the greatest honor: to teach. Widows receive a voice in the early church.
What is your experience of women in the Roman Catholic Church? What do you want? What do you fear? Share your feelings with Jesus, and ask for his comments. Then be quiet and listen.
Thank you, Jesus, for showing us a new way to lead, to exercise power. Thank you for all who serve us in true leadership. Change the hearts of leaders, whether in church or society, who lord it over others.
We continue the theme of the self-emptying leader, and in this case Paul calls Jesus a slave. Jesus was not a slave to God, for God glories in the human being fully human and alive. Rather Jesus became obedient to reality, the reality of a religious power structure which was stifling the very freedom God have given the people in the Exodus. Remember how much God hates all that was inflicted on Jesus: betrayal, abandonment, torture, mockery, abuse of power by Pilate, Herod, the Jewish leaders, the crowds. This is NOT Godís will. Godís will for Jesus is shalom, not disaster, let alone the onslaught of evil. So God lifts Jesus up, exalts him, and lets him be the focal point, the perfectly human and alive one, the magnet to draw all to himself.
Look at a crucifix and let this "slave" speak to you about obedience to reality, accepting in humility the things you cannot change. Ask for a heart ready to welcome whatever comes today, whether joy or sorrow, cross or resurrection. Ask to be humble and obedient in Christís name.
We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you, because through your cross, your acceptance of evil without handing it back or passing it on, you have transformed human hatred into redeeming love.
Mary by the time of the cross seems to be a widow. The sword has pierced her heart. Then to witness such a tortured and violated body that once she cuddled. To return to Sundayís readings, how did she reach forgiveness? How did she hear Jesusí prayer to God to forgive his persecutors? Note that Jesus doesnít say, "I forgive you" in some magnificent and supernatural gesture, for what human has power to forgive such violence? He asks God to forgive. Could she?
Ask Mary about her struggle to bear that sword of sorrow all her life long. If Jesus is like us in all things, so is Mary. Her husband seems to have died, and her son surely did. Share with her, your sorrowful mother, all the sorrows and pain of your life. Then listen to her sorrows. Respond to her.
Mary, help us grow in friendship with you who will always be our mother. Please share with us some of your special moments with Jesus, and help us to share ours with you. You are truly our sister!
In the first reading we have the famous verse: "The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil." Our country is fast becoming bankrupt, and it may be the wake-up call we need. Yes, there is violence and sexual sin, but greed is too often the root of sin in our society. "We brought nothing into the world, so we can take nothing out of it," the Pastor writes. Money wonít keep us from dying, the psalmist assures us. Then we see how the women who walked with Jesus spent their money: caring for this rag tag band of disciples. In the wake of Katrina, many Christian disciples are opening their wallets and even their homes to those who lost all in the flood. Many around the world are also contributing.
In your imagination see Susanna, Joanna and Mary of Magdala working their way through the flooded areas of the south, handing out food, washing children and clothes, distributing water and letting people of all ages sob on their shoulders. Now join them -- and Jesus. Your great desires, both Ignatius and Teresa teach, please God. Desire all you can for these people, so stripped.
Deepen our desires, Jesus, to use our money well, to share our time and treasure with the less fortunate. Uproot all the kinds of greed (any addiction is a greed) which burden us. Set us free!
The pastor concludes with praise of Christ, now immortal in glory. Psalm 100 is a song of worship. Jesus tells the parable of the seed which falls on good soil, and that which falls by the wayside. There is paradox here. The psalmist urges us to "enter Godís gates with thanksgiving," and Jesusí parable urges us to be good, receptive soil. We are to act, and to receive. Not either/or but both/and.
Are you an active person, always busy about many things? Then today be still and let Godís word fall into the good soil of your heart. Are you usually a passive person? Then stand up and follow the directions of the psalm: "Make a joyful noise. Come into Godís presence. Enter Godís gates. Give thanks." Better, do both during your period of prayer, and all day long.
Prepare the soil of our hearts, our gardening God. Let your word penetrate deeply, especially in those dark places hardened by fear. Water us, shine on us, make us grow, Son/Sun and Spirit.
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