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.
November is a time to remember the final harvest when God will gather us all to God's own self, sometimes called the "end of the world." Our Sunday gospels from now until Advent will offer parables of how to prepare for the coming of Christ in glory, which Paul describes to the Thessalonian community. He depicts the cry of Christ, the sounding of the trumpet, and all that we associate with apocalyptic times. However, he explains the purpose of apocalyptic, which so frightens many: "Encourage one another with these words." To seek God with our lamps (our hearts) ready to meet the bridegroom is all that is asked. To thirst for God (Ps 63) even medical professionals tell us is "hard-wired" into the human nervous system. We all hunger and thirst for God, for wisdom, "radiant and unfading," for the "rich feast", for "joyful lips."
For what do you seek? For what do you hunger and thirst? Share your deep desires, and even your little hopes, with Jesus who has come, will come, but is already deep within you. Let him shape and/or transform your desires.
Jesus, light deep within us, we trust that we will always have enough because you are our source of unending wisdom and grace. In return, let us burn with love for you, and for the members of your Body.
Your translation of the gospel might begin with the word stumble, but in Greek the word is skandalon. All our Christian churches are rife with scandal, but woe to those who harm the children! Wisdom, claims our first author, lets God witness our innermost feelings and observe our hearts. Wisdom, "the spirit of the Lord, has filled the world and holds all things together." Wisdom does see the unity of all in God. Psalm 139 celebrates how God has knitted wisdom and God's own self into our being.
First let us confess our sinfulness, not necessarily personal sin, against children throughout the world, and ask God to bless them with food, water and love. Let us ask forgiveness for scandals which rip the Body of Christ apart, and pray for unity. Then we might ponder what wisdom means to us, and how like Jesus, we might grow in it. Finally, we might pray the whole of Psalm 139, a hymn to the one who creates us.
O God, you search us and you know us. Your right hand holds us fast. When we were made in secret, knitted together in our mothers' wombs, you were there. Thank you for your presence.
The two readings seem to contradict each other, but they are, once again, paradox. In the gospel, Jesus reminds us that after we have done our duty, and done it well, the truth is, we are worthless servants because we have done only what we had to. On the other hand, wisdom paints a scene of the dead who are like sparks of glory among the stubble because they trusted God rather than themselves and their duty. Only God is to be magnified, says the psalmist, and to the broken-hearted, the humbled, the crushed in spirit God comes very close indeed.
What is your attitude toward your duty, your responsibilities in life? Pray not to overwork, nor to exalt yourself. What is your attitude toward the broken-hearted, the humbled? Ask to have the mind of Christ within you, "who humbled himself and became a slave...."
Jesus, open our hearts to the broken-hearted and our minds to find creative ways to serve them. Thank you for listening to us without judgment; may we listen to others and not judge.
This is the feast of the cathedral of Rome, built on property donated by the Laterani family. As the prayer today points out, we chance ponder the fact that we are the church. We are living stones. Paul calls the Corinthians God's building, a temple, a dwelling place for God's Spirit. Then Jesus comes on the scene with such violence that in the other three gospels, this incident of cleansing the Temple creates the final crisis, and his enemies arrest him for rebellion. Did Jesus ever have to say he was sorry? Probably, after this mess. The money changers and sellers of animals had been told by the priests that they were "doing ministry," helping the pilgrims exchange their foreign coins for temple coins. Nowhere in the account does it say, as countless preachers have put it, that these men were swindlers, extortionists. They were the ushers of their day, obeying the priests. Jesus might well have said he was sorry when he saw an overturned table crushing the leg of a money changer. If ever you go to Jerusalem, avoid the church of the Resurrection where (non-Roman) priests collect money and sell as at a bazaar. Go instead to the peace of the Protestants' garden tomb where you can pray in reverent silence.
For our meditation, let us take the postcommunion antiphon from 1 Peter: "Like living stones, let yourself be built on Christ as a spiritual house, a royal priesthood." Ask Jesus to explain this good news and show you how to act priestly today.
How well we know, dear God, that love means having to say we are sorry again and again. Thank you for your constant and consistent forgiveness. Help us to rejoice as your temple for the Spirit.
As Matthew's gospel read on Sundays is preparing us for the end of the church year and the end of the world, so our daily readings from Luke are taking on that hue. Jesus promises: "The kin dom of God is not coming with things that can be observed." Do not be afraid, for "in fact, the kin dom of God is among you." The psalm says God's face shines on us, God's words give us light. Wisdom is described as intelligent, holy, subtle, clear, keen, irresistible, kind, humane, steadfast, free from anxiety, penetrating. "She is a breath of the power of God...an image of God's goodness." She makes us "friends of God and prophets."
A temple of the Spirit, a royal priesthood, and now the bearer of wisdom. We are those who are called to be the image, ikon in Greek, the very embodiment of God's goodness. What descriptions of wisdom are operating in you already, and what more do you need? Look for the kin dom among all those with whom you live and work today.
Free us, Lord Jesus, from any fear and let your wisdom, your very self, cast out all useless anxiety. Thank you for calling us friends of God, making us priests and prophets through our baptism.
Such good news: "the author of beauty" created "fire, wind, swift air, the circle of the stars, the waves of the seas and the lights of the sky." The psalmist responds: "The heavens are telling the glory of God!" Paradoxically, Jesus is warning about the end time, using examples of Noah and Lot, with "fire raining from heaven." Fundamentalists, even in our church, are waiting for God to rain down fire on the Evil Empire, or whatever the latest demon is set up. We can be people of hope, knowing that God's will is shalom, not disaster, or we can join other "Christians" in condemning sinners.
Gaze on the author of beauty. Let the beauties of creation pass before the eyes of your imagination and bless each element, each creature, giving thanks, breathing peace on each one. You might start with the beauties in your own family and circle of friends. Don't forget to include any enemies.
Only you can judge, our God. Keep us from demonizing any group of people, any race, any religion. Let our Christianity go beyond the bedroom values to stand with you, wresting justice for the poor and neglected in our society, in our world.
Until women began exegeting scripture, the parable of the unjust judge was frightening. We could only see God as male, and therefore as the judge who can be persuaded by the widow. Women now identify God as the persistent widow. God is pleading with us, the unjust judges, to give the poor their daily bread. In the Wisdom reading, the female wisdom (hakmah in Hebrew; sophia in Greek) leaps down when all things were in quiet silence. This verse is used to describe the incarnation in our Christmas readings. Only because Jesus was male in body, he who was Lady Wisdom (feminine) became the logos, the masculine Word. Wisdom and Word are interchangeable in the Jewish scriptures. In Jesus, however, over the centuries we have lost his function as God's co-creator, throne-partner, Wisdom, and instead have idolized the male body as the only kind worthy to stand at the altar.
Pray with God. Pray for all the unjust judges and other civic leaders who refuse to care for widows and orphans, who slash aid to our own poor let alone the starving overseas, who keep so many women and minorities in powerlessness. Then write a letter to congress.
Word made flesh, we plead for a change of heart for our bishops, who refuse to let women exercise their priesthood. Forgive them, and keep us hopeful and courageous.
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