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.
Two themes collide in today's readings. Being able to live with paradox in our faith is a sign of spiritual maturity. The first theme, of Malachi and Matthew, is the harsh correction of the priests, Pharisees, scribes, religious leaders. The second is the gentle nurse theme. The usually fierce Paul likens himself to a nurse with her babies, and the psalm sings of our being like weaned children on our mothers' laps. Its antiphon is: "In you, O Lord, I have found my peace." Paul does not want to be a burden to the new Christians, but Jesus excoriates the leaders who "lay heavy burdens, hard to bear, on the shoulders" of God's little ones. If we have indeed found our peace, then neither will we burden others, but will shoulder the burdens of others with Jesus whose yoke is easy and whose burden is light.
How are you a burden to others? Don't scrape your conscience but let the Spirit light up from within. (A note to the sick, frail elderly, disabled: you are never a burden, but a cause for others' growth in love). How does God call you to remove or at least to share burdens? Whose? Who is it hard for you to bear? Imagine that person on your lap, a weaned child, and looking on this person, keep repeating: "In you, I have found my peace." If you are sick, frail or disabled, you can still hold your caregivers in your imagination and bless them with peace.
Thank you, Jesus, for standing up for the little people of your day and for calling their religious leaders to task. Thank you for your nurturing those who have no defender but you.
Our Romans reading on Saturday ended with today's opening line: "The gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable." What good news to us who have received God's call through baptism, and have been gifted with the Spirit. That can never be taken from us, no matter how weak or sinful we may be. The psalm promises that when we are most in need, "The Lord hears the needy and does not despise God's own who are in bonds." Jesus challenges us to invite to our homes, our meals, our hearts "the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind." God is giving us the irrevocable gift of responding, gradually, in baby steps perhaps, to Jesus' call to be among the poor.
First, remember all the gifts God has given you. Then ask the Spirit to show you some simple way to share at least one of your gifts with someone who is poor, blind, lame. Next, ask the Spirit to show you your blindness, where you are crippled, what holds you in bonds. Do you want to be healed? Set free? Ask for a deeper and a freer desire to respond to God's call.
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!
Thank you, Jesus, for all the comfort and gifts you have offered us throughout our life. Thank you, now, for the challenges you extend. Give us courage and creativity to respond some how to your poor.
While many Christians fear the Apocalypse, also called the Book of Revelation, it is designed to comfort those who were being persecuted in the early church. It is not a prediction of the end of time. Rather its images of heavenly liturgy are meant to inspire us to worship. Jesus offers us ways to live a life of worship: the Beatitudes. And at our death? 1 John assures us that if we are already God's children we cannot even imagine what we will become in the next world. Our offertory prayer gives us a clue: "By this mystery of water and wine, may we come to share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity." We are in the process of becoming divine.
Focus on the offertory prayer, "may we come to share in the divinity of Christ." What would that look like in the flesh, your flesh? You too are already a saint. Pray with all your saints, those who have gone before you and the ones still around you (even with their annoying habits!).
May we come to share in your divinity, Christ, our pioneer, our leader and Lord! Thank you for calling us to be God's children, and keep us ever more aware of how your Spirit is transforming us.
"In my flesh I shall see God," Job proclaims. Although we are like flowers in the field, God remembers us, knowing we are dust that will live forever (Ps 103). Paul assures us that Jesus is the first fruit, the pioneer for us, blazing a trail through death to new life. John gives us a serene picture of Jesus' agony: "Unless a grain of wheat fall into the earth and die, it remains but a single grain of wheat, but if it die, it brings forth much fruit." Another translation: "it remains alone." Who wants to be alone in this life or in the next? Rather, in our flesh now, and in our risen bodies given us immediately upon death (cf Karl Rahner), we will see God. We will be not alone, but forever fruitful.
Ask the Spirit to remind you of all the fruit in your life, the flowering of your relationships. Nothing will be lost, but all will be transformed. Look at your "faithful departed"--not lingering in some purgatory but taken immediately into the wide embrace of God's compassion and still bearing fruit in you and through you, to build up the Body of Christ.
Thank you, Holy Spirit, for the changes of Vatican II, renewing our understanding of bodily resurrection, our communion of and with saints, and the primacy of Jesus who leads us through death to the glory of God.
Today's readings seem to carry on the theme of All Saints, all the faithful departed. "Whether we live or die, we are the Lord's," Paul insists. The Psalmist cries: "I believe that I shall see the good things of the Lord in the land of the living...I shall look on the beauty of the Lord." How will be gathered into that wide embrace of God's compassion and beauty? Jesus tells us in two parables. If we are lost sheep, bleating in fear, God will search for us, laying us on God's shoulders, and calling all to rejoice. More, God is like a housewife. We know how care-ful they are. God will never let us be lost but will light up everything until we, just lying there like a coin, are found. Then what rejoicing God will lead.
In the past, what did a happy death mean for you? And now? Where do you find the beauty of the Lord in your life? What does it feel like to be lost? To be found? To be laid on God's shoulders? How is God like a housewife?
You have shown us so much beauty, Jesus, in the images of God as shepherd and housewife. Keep us alert to God's beauty all through the day, and make us more aware of the beautiful God within us.
Sadly, in our continuous reading of Luke, our liturgists skip over the story of the Prodigal Son. We know it well, surely, but since many of us identify with the elder son, working obediently (as Paul writes to the Romans) we may have missed the good news for the elder child: "My son," says the father, "All I have is yours." Paul is obedient to grace working in him; his only ambition is to proclaim the good news. He longs for all nations to come to Christ. And thus Psalm 98 responds to that longing: "All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God."
All God has is yours. Stay with that for a while and let it sink in deeply. For what else do you long? Then you might want to name nations in the news, and pronounce the powerful name of Jesus over each one.
Jesus, prince of peace, Lord of the universe, bring us all to unity and peace. Let us rest and rejoice in God's sharing all that God is with us, whether we are obedient or wayward. Help us obey grace.
Why would our liturgists have us read Paul's farewell and greetings to important members of the Roman community? Perhaps because women are called apostles and teachers. However, they skip over Phoebe who was the governor of the church at Cenchrae (Romans 16:1-2), a smaller town near Corinth. Prisca risked her life for Paul (and she taught the brilliant scholar, Apollo, according to Acts). "Mary has worked very hard among you." Junia, Paul's relative, was in prison and is called prominent among the apostles. "Greet one another with a holy kiss." The psalmist notes: "One generation will declare your mighty acts to another," and here is Paul's handing on his teaching that this group in Rome might continue to hand it on. As for the gospel, Jesus issues a challenge: You cannot love God and money, you cannot serve God and wealth.
With the help of Jesus and Paul, examine your feelings about women's ministry in the Roman Catholic church. Then discuss with them Jesus' insistence that we choose: God or wealth. Paul admired Jesus' own poverty. And you? What do you want?
Free us, Jesus, from our longing for possessions, our clinging to any thing but you. We surrender all to you to use as you want. Give us only your love and your grace. That is enough for us.
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