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.
Through September the theme of our Sunday gospels has been justice: how to do justice in the community, how to forgive as we have been forgiven, how to work for a just wage, how to do the work we are assigned. Today we have the image of God's vineyard, and the master's son being killed by unjust servants. Our planet is God's vineyard, and God's sons and daughters are being trampled on and killed all around the world. The planet itself is being killed by so much first world greed.
Let us summarize all this with today's entrance antiphon: "O God, you have given everything its place in the world, and no one can make it otherwise. It is all your creation, the heavens, the earth and the stars. You are Lord of all." We believe; help our unbelief, give us your gift of hope.
And in a reprise, let us ponder and pray the Prayer for the Millennium Goals:
In a world where so many go hungry, let us make the fruits of Creation available for all. In a world where one billion of our brothers and sisters do not have safe drinking water, let us help the waters run clear. In a world where so many children die so young, and so many mothers die in childbirth, and so many families are ravaged by disease, let us bring health and healing. In a world where women carry such heavy burdens, let us recognize and restore the rights of all.
Let us join together with a new sense of global community, a new awareness of our need for one another and for this fragile planet, to meet the clear challenges of the Millennium Goals, to bring hope as substantial as bread, to make human dignity as visible as wheat int he fields. We pray to you our Creator, to you Risen Lord of all, and to you Spirit of Love.
Today we begin dipping into the minor prophets. Jonah is given a prophet's mission to call the people of Nineveh to repentance, balks...we know the story. What is interesting is that our responsorial psalm is Jonah's own song of dying and rising, long before that became our Christian pattern. Who raises up, who heals? In the gospel it is the foreigner, the Samaritan. This is not a story about how we should behave so much as Jesus' image of God, always on the road, always alert for the wounded of our world. God who was once far away has become our neighbor, as together we care for those left by the side of the road.
Begin your prayer today by showing God your wounds. Which people have tended you and so put a face on God's care? As Jonah did, create your own psalm today. Name your distress, name God's goodness and express your feelings -- in words, in song, in dance.
Holy Spirit, thank you for being the oil and wine, constantly healing our wounds, carrying us to safety. Make us instruments of your healing power and grace to those strangers we meet today, even if only with a smile.
What have Jonah and Martha and Mary of Bethany to do with this feast of Francis of Assisi, who has caught the attention and devotion of all Christian denominations? Certainly Francis listened like Mary to the words of Jesus, and certainly he worked like Martha to rebuild the house of God, the church of Christ. Perhaps Jonah offers a better image, for at the end of the reading, God "changes God's mind" and spares the city of Nineveh. Metanoia in Greek, a change of mind, is the word we use for "repent." God repents. And so does Francis. What a change of attitude, from a rich merchant's son to a begging preacher. Like Jonah, Francis preached repentance.
Ask the Spirit to show you what attitudes you might need to change in order better to image and incarnate God in your life. Wait. Listen. Don't think. Let the Spirit reveal your need, your fault, your sin. Listen as quietly as you can for your normal amount of prayer time. The revelation may come at another time, but you have opened yourself (like Francis) to the Spirit. That is prayer.
As you called Nineveh to repentance, O God, call the United States to repent of the way we treat the beauties and goodness of your creatures: earth, sea, sky, animals, growing things, and people.
Prophets are not easy people. Today Jonah is angry with God and says so. Why preach to sinners when he knows that God is "a gracious God, merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love"? That description of God threads through the whole of Jewish scriptures, first spoken by God to Moses in Exodus 34:6. Psalm 86 repeats the refrain. And Jesus teaches us to pray to such a God as "Father." What is the repentance that God always wants? "Forgive us our sins," we pray, "for we ourselves forgive everyone who has sinned against us." Do we now? The only way we will have the power and the grace to be forgiving is through the Spirit whom the Alleluia verse (Romans 8) hymns, for the Spirit prays (and forgives) deep within us.
Ask the Spirit to show you whom you need to forgive. Wait. Listen. How do you feel when these persons, these situations "bubble up" into your consciousness? Share those feelings with the Spirit, just as they are. Do you want the Spirit's power to help you forgive? If you are not ready yet, pray with Jesus, that God might forgive them at least: "Father, forgive them."
Our Father/Mother God, our Parent whose love is so unconditional, heal our relationships, please. Make us gracious, slow to anger and abounding in faithful compassion, with Jesus and in the power of his Spirit.
Malachai hears God's promise of destruction for the evildoers, but for those "who revere my name, the sun of justice shall arise with healing in its wings." Yesterday we prayed with Jesus: "hallowed be your name." We prayed for healing of our relationships. We prayed for the gift of the Holy Spirit. Jesus confirms our prayer with today's gospel: If we know how to give good gifts to our children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask." If once we were taught that intercession is the "lowest" form of prayer, here Jesus teaches us through parables that prayer is indeed asking. In Hebrew the word for prayer is "to ask". To ask in Hebrew means to "stroke the face of God."
Stay quietly with the image that touches your heart: revering the Name, or sun of justice, or healing, or stroking the face of God. Let the name, the sun, the healing, the face of God penetrate your heart. "Be still and know" your God in an even more intimate way today.
Sun of justice, you who stand forever before the face of God making intercession for us, stroke God's face on our behalf. Help us to stroke the face of God with every kindness we offer anyone today.
If Joel issues a call to repentance, the Psalm sounds a bit like Mary's Magnificat, on this feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. The gospel continues our reading of Luke, and is about casting out demons. The Alleluia verse from John's gospel offers the meaning of exorcism: "The prince of this world shall now be cast out, and when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all to myself." The ultimate act of evil, murder re-enacted constantly through the ages, will be overcome by Jesus' being lifted up both on the cross, and into glory. Evil will be overcome by an ingathering of all to Christ's own self. Jesus casts out demons so that all will be welcome, all can come to him.
Picture Jesus on the cross with his mother consoling him. Join them. She hears Jesus pray: "Father, forgive them"-- and how does she respond? How do you respond? Can you imagine all the people of the world -- all races, nations, creeds, "slave or free, male or female," healthy or sick or maimed-- coming to gather with Mary around the cross? Ask her for that grace of welcoming all.
We thank you, Mary, for drawing so many to yourself through the rosary, only to keep turning them to Jesus, to the mysteries of Jesus' living, dying and rising, THE mystery of faith: Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again!
If Mary turns us to Jesus, in today's gospel Jesus turns us to his mother. When a woman from the crowd DARES (for women in that culture were never allowed to speak in public; see what a radical Jesus was!) to cry out "Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that nursed you!" Jesus might seem to dismiss his mother's mothering. Mary's worth is not in physically giving him life. Rather she heard the word of God and obeyed it. Luke in his infancy narrative has set the scene for Mary's response to God's call. A discipula is a learner. Mary is the first disciple who absorbs the word of God and acts on it: "Be it done to me according to your word."
Go through the events of your day, whether they will come or have already been experienced. As you foresee or remember each segment, each encounter, bow your head in reverence, say "Welcome," and then, quite deliberately, "Be it done to me according to your word." If you do this exercise each night, you will be joining with thousands of others who practice the examen of consciousness, finding and welcoming and obeying God in all things.
Help us to welcome everyone, every event, every joy, every sorrow with our obedience to you, gracious God. Let it be done to us according to your word and your will for our shalom.
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