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.
As the liturgical season draws to a close, we learn again from Paul what the early church expected at the end of the world. Last week had a theme of wisdom and foolishness, and again this week. The woman of Proverbs embodies Lady Wisdom, at the service of us all who choose her. She is ready. Paul assumes we are like her, "children of light," and so we keep awake and alert for the coming of the Lord. Both the alleluia verse and the psalm promise fruitfulness. Then, like thunder, comes the dreaded parable of the Talents. Perhaps no other parable has caused so much workaholism in our society as we work and work to use every talent, lest we be cast out. A suggestion, since we know our God is generous. When third world theologians work with this text, they highlight that this master reaps what he did not sow; in other words, he is a thief. In refusing to make capital on that thievery, the poor fellow is willing to be cast out. He will not compromise his integrity by participating in ill-gotten gain.
Do you work with wisdom, work wisely or compulsively? What drives you in your work? If you are not sure, ask the Spirit to show you. "I like my work," you say? So does the alcoholic like her drink! What underlies overwork (if indeed you do overwork)? Discuss that with the Spirit, or with Lady Wisdom.
Jesus, purify our motives and desires in our work, even in our service of you in your little ones. Thank you for all the talents you have given us, and all the fruit you have matured in us.
Since we are beginning a continuous reading of the Maccabees, I suggest that you read the two books at one sitting. They read like an adventure story, only it is the history of Israel's refusal to compromise their Law and customs to pagan Roman conquerors. In today's gospel a blind man makes a commotion to attract Jesus' attention, and the crowd tries to hush him. "Son of David," he shouts, "Have mercy on me!" Jesus asks, "What do you want me to do for you?" Isn't it obvious? He already said he wanted mercy, and shouldn't he want to see again? Maybe he has a deeper desire than sight. What respect for our unique needs Jesus shows.
Jesus says to you: "What do you want me to do for you?" How will you respond? Are there certain desires that "the crowd" inside you (parents, teachers, priests, the Vatican, society) would want you to hush? Share it all with Jesus. He accepts you with all your feelings and desires.
Jesus, have mercy on us! Jesus, have mercy on our blindness to the plight of the poor! Jesus, have mercy on our trying to hush certain "undesirables" in our church and society! Thank you for respecting us.
If we ever needed proof that Jesus accepts us as we are, today's meeting with Zachaeus embodies it. When we really, really meet Jesus, we respond with reparation: "half of my possessions to the poor and if I have ever defrauded anyone, I will pay them back four times as much!" Jesus never raised an eyebrow, never even corrected the tax collector. He just "had to stay at your [Zachaeus'] house today." Of course the crowd more than raises an eye brow; they grumble.
Ask Jesus to come and stay in your house. No matter how low you feel, how angry or hateful or discouraged or thankful--Jesus wants to stay with you. Ask to know him and his acceptance of ALL people even more deeply.
Soften our hearts, Jesus, and open them to welcome the sinners, and to welcome the sinner we so often find in ourselves. Jesus, have mercy on us! Let us know the depths of your love.
On Sunday we heard Matthew's version of the parable and here is Luke's interpretation of the parable of the ten, five and one talent, only they have money values. The nobleman gives instructions: "Do business with this money until I come back." And of course, the one who received the least hid it in a handkerchief. Luke, the evangelist of compassion! In fact, Luke's Jesus adds the tension of enemies whom the nobleman orders slaughtered for opposing him. So we have to know this is not a story about God. God does not ask us to "do business" out of fear. Since "Jesus was near to Jerusalem," is it possible that the "ruler" could be the religious leaders who exact perfection in keeping the Law, and who are about to slaughter the one who has accused them of being harsh?
What is your "business" in which God is your partner, working with you? What work have you done thus far today? Was God co-operating with you, literally working-with? What business will you be doing? Invite God to work with you, in you and through you. Ask to be more aware of sharing in God's work.
Jesus, bless our budgets: personal, corporate, and national. Help us to allocate funds wisely, for the relief of the poor and those suddenly made poor by disaster.
Jesus weeps over Jerusalem. "If only you knew the things that made for your peace." In Oklahoma City is a statue of Jesus weeping over the spot where once stood the federal building that our own home-grown and Catholic-reared boys blew up. Jesus weeps over ground zero and the pentagon. Jesus weeps over the West Bank and Iraq. Jesus weeps over Central America devastated, as New Orleans and Florida were, by this year's hurricanes (but with much less capital to re-build). Jesus weeps over Pakistan and Afghanistan and Sudan, Congo, Sri Lanka, and....
First, get a very concrete image of Jesus weeping. How does he look? What does he sound like? Are his tears gentle but constant, or is he sobbing in grief? Continue going around the world with the weeping Jesus, and bless each nation with his tears and his passionate desire for their peace.
Jesus, you weep over the United States of America because we refuse the things that would make for our peace. Forgive us, have mercy on us! Forgive us especially our arrogance, hatred and greed.
Jesus moves straight from weeping over Jerusalem to a rage as he enters the temple "to drive out those who were selling things there." That is all. No money changers or animals. Just that simple statement. Selling. Business will never make for our peace. Meanwhile, Jesus takes up his position in the temple to teach there "every day," and the people "were spellbound by what they heard."
What of Jesus holds you spellbound? His face, his heart, his eyes, his teaching? Which teachings in particular have power to move your heart day after day? Tell him what you have learned and ask to be a life-long learner of him, who is meek and humble of heart.
Take our weeping, Jesus. Take our rage. Take our buying and selling. All is yours: our feelings, our desires, our greeds, and our joys, our thanks. Thank you for teaching us "every day" so patiently.
Now that he has driven the sellers from the temple, the enemies redouble their attack on Jesus, trying to trip him up in heresy. He trumps them with his responses and then "some of the scribes answered, 'Teacher, you have spoken well.' For they no longer dared ask him another question." Whew! Maybe that night when Jesus prayed, he used our communion antiphon: "Look at the Lord with gladness, and smile. Your face will never be ashamed." This man is not only logical and spellbinding, but what deep emotions we have encountered in him this week: grief, rage and now, joy in his prayer.
For your prayer today, just "Look at the Lord with gladness, and smile." Hold that smile! When you smile at God or Jesus or the Spirit, what response do you get? Hold that, in mutual love.
Thank you for your intelligence, Jesus, for all your emotions, your smile. Thank you that you are like us in every way, that you loved humanness so much that you got immersed in us and in our world!
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