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.
The Exodus reading shows how God cares for widows and orphans but will widow and orphan us if we "wrong or oppress a resident alien." Given the debate in our country about illegal immigrants, perhaps this will wake us up. In the gospel Jesus offers the great commandment to love God whole-heartedly, but immediately adds the second: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Linking with the first reading, "Remember that you yourselves were aliens in the land of Egypt," we can add a third commandment: Love one another as God has loved you. Care for one another as God has cared for you.
How do you love yourself? How has God cared for you when you were alien, or felt alien? Ask for the gift of loving your self appropriately, caring for your body, expanding your mind, deepening your spirit. Then your love of neighbor will flow more easily. All loving is a gift. Ask for it.
Thank you for welcoming us, gracious God, when we felt alien and alone. Thank you for your care-full acceptance and love. Make us instruments of your love and acceptance of those whom we call alien. On this world mission Sunday, teach us again that each creature is meant to hear good news.
All three readings are rich! Paul writes that we didn't receive a spirit of slavery but of freedom, and specifically, freedom from fear. The Spirit cries God's name deep within us, linking us always with God. The Psalm not only reiterates yesterday's good news that God is the father of orphans and protector of widows, but also frees prisoners, builds homes and bears us up. A favored translation: "Our God bears our burdens day after day; our God is a God who saves." Then Jesus inserts God's freeing action into a very specific situation, a story which is never read in our Sunday liturgy, and so not too well known (why not tell the story today to someone?!?). A woman bent for 18 years, with no obligation to attend synagogue comes, and is called by Jesus to the front, through the rows of staring men. They would be thinking: a sinner, to be so bent. When Jesus' lays hands on her and she stands tall, the leader of the assembly criticizes Jesus who has a comeback that causes the congregation to rejoice.
Depending on your mood, you may want to sit quietly today and listen to the Spirit cry God's name from the depths of you. Or you may remember times when you felt orphaned, imprisoned, homeless, and let those memories surface your gratitude yet again. Or you may act out Jesus' healing of this woman. Walk around your prayer space for five or ten minutes, bent over. You might imagine all the burdens that bend you over. Then Jesus enters your room, and all you can see is his feet, until he tells you that you are free. Try standing up and feel how painful that can be after only a few minutes.
Whom do you know who is bent with burdens, crippled with arthritis or osteoporosis, crushed with defeat, rejection, hurt? Bring them to Jesus, to the Spirit, to the God who bears our burdens day after day. Let the Comforter wrap them round. Let Jesus lay hands on them. Let God shoulder their burden. Watch, rejoice and give thanks!
Free us, Holy Spirit, from the various fears that keep us from loving each other. Free us, God, from our burdens and from the burdens we place on others. Love us, Jesus. Please just love us!
How good to hear these readings in the context of yesterday's, for they continue Romans and Luke. Many people of the Gulf Coast have reported that they "consider the sufferings of these present times not worthy compared to the glory to be revealed to us." What a witness to proper priorities! All creation is groaning in labor pains, Paul writes, longing for freedom -- and we too groan in hope for the future, although we are assured that we are already saved. The psalmist reiterates: "Those who go out weeping, weeping...shall come home with shouts of joy!" Jesus promises in his two parables that the little (like the bent widow) shall be made mighty in the kin-dom of God. Out of our dying comes our rising!
Look back over your past week and ask the Spirit to remind you of the tiny (perhaps even a major blow) deaths you have suffered. Then look for the risings and rejoicings in your very daily living. Offer them in union with Eucharist being offered now many places in our world.
O God, we proclaim the mystery of faith: Risen Savior, king of glory, come to us in mystery. Let us share your death and rising till you come in majesty.
Jesus warns us that our claim to have eaten with him will not necessarily stand us in good stead at the end of the world. We who think we are chosen might be dismissed in favor of the sinners, the Gentiles (read "impure") who will eat in the kin-dom of God. Who then shall be saved? The psalmist tells us how to proceed: "I trusted in your steadfast love. All my hope is in your loving kindness." And Paul really spells out the good news: "The Spirit helps us in our weakness. When we do not know how to pray as we ought, the Spirit intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words." Another translation: The Spirit puts our unutterable groanings into words which God can understand. Paul continues: "We know that all things work together for good for those who love God." As Dame Julian of Norwich echoed: "All will be well." As Jesus would say: "Be not afraid."
Claim your sinfulness: "Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner." Then express your trust in God's kindness. Ask the Spirit to take all the unutterable "stuff" down in your unconscious and make it prayer. Admit that you don't know how to pray as you ought and that you depend only on God.
O God, we trust your steadfast love. We cling to Jesus, our only savior. We beg for the fullness of your Spirit who makes all things work together for our good, and more importantly, for your glory!
All our readings are tinged with trouble, and possible persecution. Jesus is warned, by some Pharisees of all people, that Herod wants to kill him. His response is an ache for Jerusalem, how he longed to gather it to his heart "and you were not willing." The psalmist uses the same imagery: "I am poor and needy and my heart is pierced within me." Paul promises (since he knows that God raised Jesus), that if God is for us, no one can condemn us. If God has given us God's son, "how much more God wants to lavish on us all that God is." (Phillips translation). And nothing can separate us from this love of Christ. Not earthly persecution nor heavenly powers. Not even mortal sin -- "nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Return to a phrase or sentence above that touches your heart and stay with it. Repeat it. Let it sit in your center for a while. Ask to be willing, to really, really believe the good news. Ask to be willing to accept "all that God wants to lavish" on you, God's own self.
Jesus, Mary, thank you for being willing to accept all that God wanted to lavish on you, all of God's own self. Remove the blocks in us that make us afraid to receive God's own self. Thank you.
Jude is the patron of hopeless cases; Simon was a zealot, someone who wanted to war against the Romans. When we feel that our efforts at peacemaking are hopeless, we can turn to these two, and we can also listen to Ephesians, words directed to us: "Brothers and sisters: you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are co-citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God....In Christ Jesus you are being built together into a dwelling place for God in the Spirit." In a photo of grieving Iraqi women, each woman's hand was held out in blessing for whomever lay, unseen in the photo, on the ground. We are being built together.
Who are your co-citizens? The zealots and warmongers? The grieving, blessing women? The Pakistani rescue workers who still maintained their Ramadan fast as they gave their energy to finding and rebuilding?
Build us together, Lord Jesus, especially with all those close by whom we don't like, with all those around the world whom we disdain. We are your household, we believe. Help our unbelief.
In chapters 9-11 of Romans, Paul wrestles with the fate of his Jewish compatriots whom he esteems and loves so much that he would be willing to be damned if they could only receive Christ. He may be exaggerating, to make his point. However, he insists that they are still chosen and beloved "because of the patriarch," even if they persecute Christians. The other group that is beloved, with its ancestry traced to the same patriarch are the Muslims. The psalmist reassures us: God will not abandon such chosen people (Jews, Christians and Muslims). Jesus warns that we had better not exalt ourselves, for everyone who exalts him/herself will be humbled. Those who have been humbled will be exalted. Who is Number One?
Ask the Spirit to light up any dark place in your heart where pride and/or prejudice hides out. Do not be afraid. God corrects us "most courteously" as Julian of Norwich explains. Ask for healing of pride and prejudice in our country and in our world.
Thank you for making us, too, your chosen and beloved ones, our God. Let our security in your love make us open to others, especially those who are different from us.
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