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.
The shepherd-God of Isaiah offers comfort and carrying. "The Lord God comes with might," but to do what? To feed the flock, to gather the lambs and carry them, to lead the ewes gently. The psalmist too comforts us because the coming of our God will bring peace. "Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; holiness and peace will kiss." So when we hear of blazing heavens and destruction in Second Peter (not the apostle), we have no need to fear.
Imagine yourself being carried in the arms of God. Rest. Fall asleep if you want. God does the feeding, growing us in grace. Can you believe it? Ask for the gift of faith which is trust. Now relax.
Jesus, thank you for making God so real, so present. You too are our good shepherd, leading us gently, never scaring us into obedience, but washing our feet tenderly. Thank you, Emmanuel.
How much do we want to be in the healing presence of Jesus? The paralyzed man in today's gospel got his friends to cut through the roof tiles to lower his bed through the ceiling, depositing him in front of Jesus. In case we didn't get it yesterday, our liturgists repeat the very same verses of Psalm 85: kindness and faithfulness meet. All of Isaiah chapter 35 flowers, the desert blooms, the messianic times of healing arrive.
If poetry will refresh you today, take all of Isaiah 35 and read it slowly, knowing that God makes you blossom even as you read. God's word does what it says. But if you feel paralyzed today by stress or depression, tighten your muscles and get inside the skin of the gospel character. Whom will you ask to bring you to Jesus? How will it feel to swing up to the roof and down again? How will it feel to have Jesus' eyes on you? Speak to him.
Thank you for being God-with-us, Jesus, in our deserts and paralyses. Thank you for healing us so many times of physical, emotional, spiritual ills, and thank you for all that has bloomed in our emptiness.
With the heavens ablaze as we heard on Sunday, we need not be afraid. Psalm 96 tells of the seas roaring, the trees rejoicing, the fields exulting because God is coming close. The Isaiah reading repeats the Sunday good news of God's shepherding, but the Matthean gospel adds a new note. The good shepherd also searches for those who are lost and when it is found, there is such rejoicing, "more than over the 99 that never went astray."
You may not be a sheep but no doubt you have strayed at some time in your life. Paul promises us that where sin abounds, grace more abounds. Ask the Spirit to show you the truth of that in your own life. Or, if you have never strayed, ask to be converted from your goodness.
Jesus, so many in our family, among our friends need you. We pray that you search for _________ and bring them close to you. Give us a wise word to let them know your care.
Good news: God is coming among us. Isaiah notes that God never grows weary and in our weariness, gives us strength like eagles. The psalmist announces that we are crowned with God's own steadfast love and mercy. Jesus invites us to come to him if we are weary and burdened so that he can give us rest.
Even if you have sworn off consumerism, even if your life is simplified, there is still so much to do to prepare the house and heart for Christmas. Who is not weary at this time of year? Who does not need to be borne up on eagles' wings or to rest on Jesus' shoulder? Do it. Rest. Trust and rest.
You, O God, are merciful and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in kindness. You do not deal with us according to our sins, but you forgive us, heal us, strengthen us and rest our burdened hearts. Thank you!
This feast, declaring that Mary was conceived by her parents without original sin, was long in coming. Although Paul says all are born in sin (Romans 5: 12), although Thomas Aquinas could not believe it, finally in 1854 it was defined as Catholic dogma. Because Catholics believe there are two sources of revelation, scripture and tradition, it was important to find a scriptural reference. Thus the Genesis reading, although we all know that Satan is not a serpent. More helpful to us is the Ephesians reading about God's choice of us all before the foundation of the world, God's adoption of us all, God's giving us all an inheritance. "We who were the first to set our hope on Christ...live for the praise of his glory." With the doctrine of original sin under theological discussion these days, let us concentrate on all that God has done for Mary and "us all."
What has God done for you? How are you like Mary? How are you different? What do you want? If Jesus grew in wisdom and grace, so must have Mary. How? And how are you growing in wisdom and grace? Talk it all over with the one who is your sister in Christ.
Hail, Mary, full of grace! The Lord is with you! Thank you, Mary, for making sure by your willingness, that we too are full of grace and that the Lord is with us. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and grace with us all!
God, through Isaiah, tells us that God leads us, teaches us, and calls us to obedience. The psalm praises those who meditate on God's first self-expression, the Law. Then comes God's most perfect self-expression, Jesus, the Word made flesh. Like Mary, we are to meditate on this Word as well. Imagine Mary pondering not only events in her heart, but pondering the wonder of her baby, her boy, her adult son.
Perhaps you, like the rich man, have kept the Law since your youth. Yet who is ever finished pondering Jesus? Meditating on him day and night? Contemplating him? Join Mary's contemplation of her son and watch as he slowly grows in his capacity for wisdom, as his capacity for God's life within him (grace) expands. If you claim you have no imagination, I say: if you can empathize with others, if you can enter their world, then you can imagine the growing of Jesus, and can enter his world. Ask the Spirit to help you try.
How much you love us, God, to give your self to us, first in Law and then in Person. Thank you for the Word made flesh. Let him take flesh in our lives today.
In the Jewish community of Jesus' time there was a belief that Elijah, who was taken up to heaven, would return at the end of days to announce the Messiah's arrival. He was a fiery miracle worker, so the last line of our first reading is awesome: "Happy are those who saw you (Elijah) and were adorned with your love. For we also shall surely live." Some New Testament texts portray Jesus as a new Elijah, but in today's gospel, Jesus says John the Baptizer is Elijah returned.
A greater than Elijah is here, a greater than John the Baptizer. Have you seen Jesus? Do you feel adorned with his love? Do you believe that because of him, you will surely live forever? Ask for the gift of seeing Jesus everywhere today, in people, in beauty, in kindness--anywhere and everywhere.
Baby Jesus, now Risen Christ and always Emmanuel, open our eyes to the wonder of your love which adorns all of creation.
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