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.
Ezekiel is a priest and roundly thrashes the priestly caste, the shepherds of Israel. God accuses the priests of abusing the flock, so God will come to shepherd us rightly. No matter how we are, God will tend us: resting us, seeking us, binding our injuries, carrying the weak, feeding us. There is one work God will do to the strong and healthy (or fat and sleek) which doesn't fit. The Roman Catholic version says, God will destroy them; the Revised Standard, an ecumenical translation, says God will watch over; and the New English Bible says, God will set them out to play. The Hebrew word is missing. Note how each group fills in the missing word. What will God do when we are strong and healthy? Our criterion for how God acts is always Jesus. (If you have seen me, Philip, you have seen the Father.) What does Jesus do with the strong and healthy Martha and Mary, James and John? He calls, he sends, he loves, he lets them play on the hillside under his caring eye. And as for the only scene of the last judgment in the New Testament, it is the nations that the king will judge. Our nation's record with the hungry and homeless, the imprisoned and those needing health care, calls us to stand over against policies which strangle the poor.
How are you feeling right this minute? How does God tend you just as you are? Since God sent Jesus to bring us life in abundance (to make us strong and healthy), how will you use the abundance you have been given? Which of the "least of the brothers and sisters" calls to you today?
God of all nations, heal our nation. Forgive us our violence, our greed, and our divisiveness. Let us let you shepherd us rightly, into what you value. Let Jesus continue, through us, to wash the feet of the little ones, the poor.
The Babylonian king found the handsome young men of Israel whom he had chosen ten times better in their wisdom than all the magicians of his realm. Jesus finds the widow who puts two small coins into the temple treasury better than all those who contribute out of their abundance. Widow, in Hebrew, means a voiceless one. Jesus gives her a voice. "Out of her poverty, she has put in all she has to live on." Jesus was extremely sensitive to the oppressive ways of the priests and their temple taxation, but here he chooses to look at the heart of the one of the "least," a widow generous beyond her means.
And we? Could we be trusting enough to give all we have to live on? Some people in responding to victims of Katrina gave more than prudence would dictate. They gave without counting the cost. Pray for the gift of trust, of generosity. Pray not to count the cost of whatever service you offer your family, your co-workers, the world.
Thank you, Jesus, for pointing us to the deep generosity of the poor. How they trust your providence, and how much we need that trust. Open our hearts again today to the "least" whom we encounter.
Jesus has just watched the widow put in two small coins, and those listening to (but not hearing) him in the temple begin to admire the beauty and glory of the temple building. Does any one get it? So Jesus gets very blunt: "Not one stone will be left upon another." When his hearers ask about the destruction of the temple, Jesus continues with warnings against false comings in the name of Christ, wars, earthquakes, plagues, famines. As we come to the end of the liturgical year, we are always reminded that this world will not last forever. We will begin anew in the kin-dom of God.
Share with Jesus your feelings about the end of the world-- what you are afraid of, what encourages you, what you hope for. Many Christians in our country may be frightened. How today can you be an instrument of someone's inner peace, perhaps not even talking religion?
Give us, we ask you, Jesus, the trust and inner peace to accept the things we cannot change, the courage and creativity to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
In warning us about coming persecutions from human authorities, Jesus makes a strange statement: "So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance." Don't we pride ourselves on long-range planning, preparedness, worldly wisdom? Make up our minds, Jesus says. Decide NOT to prepare. Why, we wonder. Because we are to decide to trust. Jesus next promises: "I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand." We choose to trust the Defender, another name for the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, our Advocate. We decide to trust.
Remember a time of tension, of division, perhaps with someone whom you love. How did it resolve? Here is a way to handle conflict, if there is such in your life today. Imagine yourself and this person getting quiet together. One person begins to speak of his/her feelings, hurts, etc. The other listens in silence, deciding not to prepare a defense. Leave five minutes of silence. Then the other person (you?) speaks your side of the story. Leave five minutes of silence. In that silence we are allowing the Spirit to work, and we are able to listen more attentively since we are not preparing to rebut. Go back and forth as needed, but always leaving the silence in between.
Jesus, thank you for your passion for our unity. "May they be one as we are one, Father!" Thank you for your continuing prayer that we work together for reconciliation, forgiveness, understanding and unity.
What a surprise! Even the US version of the Canadian missalette, Living with Christ, has no special readings for Thanksgiving. Let's improvise. Ask the Spirit to show you for which Scripture passages you are most grateful. As Vatican II's document on Scripture, Dei Verbum, paragraph 11, promises: the truth we find in Scripture is that which we need for our salvation. Which passages have most shaped your life? Remember and give thanks.
When Katrina hit the Gulf coast, some of our Sisters spoke of the fear the children around the country had, not only of disaster, but of the end of the world. All these predictions were coming true, they thought. Jesus says, "When you see all these things taking place, you know that the kin-dom of God is near." Why would any adult Christian be afraid of the kin-dom of God coming near? The kin-dom of justice and peace, the kin-dom of love and kindness, of peace and joy....
Continue the listing above. How does the kin-dom of God look to you? for it is very near, already among us. When, where, in whom do you notice the kin-dom of God close at hand? How do you feel? Look for evidence of the kin-dom within your own heart and in the circumstances of today.
We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you for in you the kin-dom of God is ever so near. Give us the love to live as citizens of your kin-dom, to cooperate with your bringing a kin-dom of justice, truth, peace, and....
Today we finish our reading from Daniel. You will have noticed that instead of a psalm response we have been using all week the "Benedicte", the hymn in Daniel, chapter 3. "Bless the Lord, all wild animals and cattle! Sing praise to God and highly exalt God forever!" is the way today's section begins. To bless the Lord is an awesome exercise. It does not mean making the sign of the cross with arm lifted to heaven. To bless for the Hebrew is to offer the whole self in total surrender. Isaac blessed Jacob, and had nothing left for Esau, you remember. God blesses us, and gives us all that God is. When we bless God we are offering all of us, as we are. Cattle, sun and moon, rain and dew, all of creation blesses God in Daniel's hymn. Blessing entails a mutual exchange of selves. God wants that, wants to do that.
And do you want that mutual exchange? Do you want to surrender all of yourself to God? What parts will you entrust to God? What do you want to hold on to? Be honest. Just tell God, "This much is ready now." How much of God do you want to receive?
O God, by the mystery of water mixed with wine in the Eucharist, may we come to share the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share our humanity.
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