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.
"You, O Lord, are our Father... our redeemer...our potter." Once it was said that Jesus' great contribution to our knowing God is that God is like a father, but here we see it is quite an ancient image of God. Usually we think of Jesus as our redeemer or savior, and yet Israel named God that too. No wonder Jesus said at his last supper: "If you have seen me, Philip, you have seen the Father." Isaiah continues: "There is no one calls on your name or attempts to take hold of you." Too often we may think we take hold of God, we can define God, but Isaiah says we are but clay in the hands of the potter, God. Not to fear, assures Paul, for God, whatever we call God, is faithful.
What do you call God? What names, what images speak to your heart? Recite 10 or 20 of them, slowly. Muslims have 100 names for God, Hindus have 1,000. Ask the Spirit to teach you even more ways to image God, all the while knowing that you cannot take hold of God.
God, you indeed are faithful, and you are free. We cannot define you, but only catch glimpses of your glory. Let us see your glory this Advent as we prepare for your coming as baby Jesus, as Christ dying and rising in Eucharist, as Lord of the universe at the end of time.
Jesus heals a paralyzed servant of a Gentile and a soldier, one of the occupying force that made life in Galilee both frightening and destitute. Jesus is practicing what Isaiah hoped for: that swords shall be remade into plows and spears into pruning hooks. How shall we learn war no more? By being Christian, letting Christ act for peace through us. He pays attention to the "enemy" and cares for a centurion who persecuted his people. We are to love our enemies, but the psalm reminds us to love our friends as well: "For the sake of my relatives and friends, I will say, ‘Peace be within you.'"
Reflect on your past week. Since Thanksgiving Day, how have you let Christ offer peace or caring through you? In your family, your workplace, in your heart as you watch the news and pray for peace in the world? With Jesus, share your feelings about war and peace, and let him tell you what he values. Listen.
Prince of Peace, we long for your coming to such a violent world as ours. Remove all violence from our own hearts in this season of joyful anticipation. You be the peace in our hearts. Please.
Notice how often in our advent readings we long for justice. This justice which is meted out by the coming "root of Jesse" is on behalf of the poor, so we have nothing to fear at the end of days, provided we know our need for God, that we are dependent on God, that we are poor, creatures and sinners. Or, as Jesus names us, "little ones" to whom God chooses to reveal the glories of the Son. The psalm speaks of the Anointed, and refers to this son of David, the Messiah (Hebrew for anointed; Christos is Greek for anointed) as "he." Of course, this descendent of Jesse and David is Jesus.
Find a copy of Psalm 72 and take out the "he" language, substituting "she." Think of this anointed person now as Mary, mother of Jesus. She too, anointed by the Spirit, stands with the poor and needy. Then re-pray the psalm realizing that you too have been anointed, "christ"ened in your baptism. Substitute your own name, as the psalmist records all that this anointed one, you, does.
May the name of Jesus, the name of Mary, and our own names endure as long as the sun. Thank you for anointing us, God, teaching us how to be just, and how, like Mary, to give Christ flesh.
Andrew's call by Jesus from fishing the Sea of Galilee to fishing for people "to the ends of the earth" is our good news. Jesus continues calling in every age, in every nation. Jesus calls us and like Andrew, asks us to spend time with him as a disciple. Disciples learn from their masters. Then, like Andrew, Jesus sends us to bring good news, and to be sent in Greek, apostello, makes us apostles. I recently spoke with a priest who did not know he was an apostle. Surely, we are not like Andrew, one of the 12. But like Paul who never knew Jesus of history, we have met the risen Christ. That experience of knowing Christ constitutes us apostles.
You spend time each day (or many) with Jesus. You are a disciple. Have you met the risen Lord? How did that happen? Remember that initial experience when you knew in your gut that Jesus was alive and with you. If you have never had that experience that Jesus is truly risen, alive, with you, BEG for that experience. It will be your call to be an apostle.
Change our lives, we beg you, Jesus, by being as real in our lives as you were in Andrew's and Paul's. Let our hearts know you deeply, and in union with you, carry on your mission of living and teaching good news.
Our theme today is rock, a favorite image of God in the Jewish scriptures. In desert wanderings a rock could be cool, and shelter from the sun. Isaiah exhorts us: "Trust in God forever for in God you have an everlasting rock ... Those of steadfast mind you, O God, keep in peace--in peace because they trust in you." Jesus exhorts us to build our "house", our lives, on rock, on God. He promises us the kin-dom of heaven if we do the will of God, and the will of God is indeed peace (Jeremiah 29:11).
How are you today? Do you feel like a desert wanderer in need of shade and rest? Do you feel your mind is cluttered and stressed, or are you of "steadfast mind?" Share your feelings with Jesus and ask for the grace to trust and to BE peace today.
O God, grant us the trust and the 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.
Today our theme is light. Jesus opens the eyes of two blind men, Isaiah promises sight and all kinds of healing in the Messianic times, and our psalm refrain is: "God is my light and my salvation." The psalmist continues, "Of whom should I be afraid?" There is so much fear in our society today that we carry handguns to "protect" ourselves, and make war on those who have power over our fears. What to do? The psalmist instructs: "Wait for God. Be strong. Take courage." -- and also offers the fearful a different vision: "I believe that I shall see the beauty of our God in the land of the living."
Do you believe that you will see God's beauty even now? How? What do you want? Where will you put your focus during this time of waiting? Of whom are you afraid now? Share all that fear and deep desire with Jesus. Repeat all through the day: "Our God is my light and my salvation. Of whom shall I be afraid?"
Jesus, you are the very beauty of God in the flesh. Help us keep our eyes fixed on you, especially this season. You light up our lives. Let us be your light for someone today.
If there is a theme today it is the joy, the abundance, the compassion of God poured out, and poured out in Jesus. "When Jesus saw the crowds he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd." The psalmist proclaims that "God heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds." Jesus, at the end of this piece of gospel, says we are to continue his mission and his ministry of compassion. We all, not just priests and religious, are the laborers in the vineyard, because we are the baptized.
If you are feeling harassed, helpless, brokenhearted and/or helpless, lay those feelings before the compassionate one who "carries the lambs in his arms." This is a difficult season for so many people, a time of depression, painful memories, disappointed dreams. Pray for those who are emotionally spent, depressed, grieving. Who needs your understanding today?
Jesus, our good shepherd, thank you for carrying us close to your heart, tending our every need, healing us and then sending us into the vineyard to tend your little ones. Thank you for sharing your mission with us.
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