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.
We begin ordinary time, ordinary discipleship, invited by Jesus day by day in the daily events and in the non-events of our lives to "come and see" where "he is staying." "And they remained with him..." Staying, abiding, remaining in and with is a key word in Johnís gospel. There are usually some 35 or 40 Sundays in Ordinary Time, so remaining is an important attitude and action of a disciple. Coming, seeing can be fascinating. Hanging in with Jesus, hanging on to Jesus is the meaning of biblical faith. "Here I am, Lord. I come to do your will." Every day. Little by little.
Take yesterday. Go through it with the aid of the Spirit to your memory, and perhaps paper and pen. It may well have been an ordinary day. List everything you did, everyone you met, every feeling that may still linger, every desire, every accomplishment, every bit of laziness or failure. Then "come and see" where Jesus was in all that ordinary stuff of one day in the life of.... To find God in all things, in sin and in grace, in daily dyings and in little risings, this is contemplation. To respond to it all with "Here I am, I come to do your will," allows Jesus to respond to us, "Here I am too, and I come to be with you, to remain with you in ordinary time." Hear him.
You do not want our sacrifices, Jesus, but our open ears. You want us to reverence the temple of our bodies, our hearts, and you want to remain deep within us, consecrating us. Thank you.
Saul is so like us. God tells him to destroy all the spoils of war. He is practical, and so devout. He tells the judge, Samuel, "From the spoils we took sheep and cattle, the best of the things devoted to destruction, to sacrifice to the Lord your God in Gilgal." Samuel replies in the words God will use in Psalm 50: "Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Surely, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to pay attention to God better than the fat of rams." Jesus tells us not to put new wine in old skins because the skins will burst and all will be lost.
Could the new wine be paying attention to God, finding God in all things, a kind of continual contemplation? Could the old skins be all those sacrifices we made in our youth in order to please (or placate?) God? Wouldnít we agree with Saul that the best should go to God? God does not want things, but our hearts. Tell God how you feel about all this.
We know what you want, God. Your plans are plans of shalom, not disaster, not destruction. Thank you for sending us Jesus to pray with us: Here we are, God. We come to do your will.
Saul was the least, David is the youngest. Godís choices are not always like ours. Jesusí choices are not always within the Law of God. Jesus overturns so many of the religious values of his day, and continues to overturn our values today. How can a nation supposedly Christian neglect widows and orphans, cut food and medical aid to the poor, cut taxes for the rich, spend flagrantly on military might? Jesus overturns the Law, those commandments that are to be posted in courthouses and schools, and asks as "Lord of the Sabbath" and of the United States: "When I was hungry, did you feed me? When I was naked, did you clothe me?...."
Pray for our country. Pray that the values of Jesus might become ours. Pray that we might have the mind of Christ who emptied himself and became a slave, a footwasher; who emptied himself in order to gather the poor and the sinful and the outcast to himself. Pray that his choices might become ours, individually and as a nation.
"Alleluia! May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ enlighten the eyes of our hearts, that we may know the hope to which we are called," that we may love and choose the poor.
We have the paradox of Davidís killing Goliath; and then the psalmist in one breath claiming that it is God who trains his hands for war, and in the next breath singing a new song. That same paradox of hate/rejoicing is present in the gospel when Jesus heals a man with a withered hand (one trained for war?) and at once, (and we are only in chapter 3!), his enemies begin to plot "how to destroy him." What is Jesusí response to their hatred? "Jesus looked around at them with anger. He was grieved at their hardness of heart." Good and gentle Jesus is furious. This man is no wimp, but he did not express that anger in violence and abuse. Rather he channels the energy of it and says to the man, "Stretch out your hand."
Speak to Jesus about the role of anger, hatred, violence in your life. Tell him your fears, your desires and be honest. Ask to see the depth of your various rages. Ask him to join you in those depths. Just stay there with your fury and your friend. See what happens.
We stretch out all that is withered in us to you. Heal us. Grant to us, O Lord, softened hearts. Let our energy be channeled into healing, and into action to promote peace and unity.
Today we have strong feelings expressed in our readings. Many of us were taught that such passions were dangerous, but without being aware of our feelings, we cannot discern. In the first reading Jonathan takes a totally rational position in explaining to his father Saul that there is no cause for jealousy against Jonathanís friend David. Saul agrees--for the moment-- and David is restored to favor. In the gospel we see the rush and crush to get to Jesus, strong emotions and desires for healing impelling the crowd so that "Jesus told his disciples to have a boat ready" for an escape. The psalm is one of trust, that nothing of our sorrow and oppression is lost. "You have kept count of my tossings, put every one of my tears in your bottle."
What strong emotions have you felt recently? Where did they lead you? Are there any feelings and desires of which you are ashamed? Ask the Spirit to let you feel your feelings, knowing that they are Godís creatures, given us to help us relate to God and with each other; given to us to move (e-mote) out of ourselves to action. Pray for a healing of your emotions, or in gratitude for the ones that can flow freely (not abusively).
Jesus, thank you for feeling every human feeling and desire. Thank you for keeping our tears in your care, for noticing how we feel, and for never escaping from us and our pain. Help us to "be-with" those experiencing strong emotions.
Todayís first reading is one of the most powerful narratives of reconciliation in Scripture, as deep as Josephís forgiveness of his murdering brothers, as respectful as Jesusí praying for those who do not know what they do. No wonder the Alleluia verse is: "God was in Christ to reconcile the world to Godís own self. The good news of reconciliation God has entrusted to us." It is worth reading this whole story of how Saul, jealousy returning to him with a vengeance, pursues David with 3, 000 soldiers. David has a vulnerable but unaware Saul right before him, but instead of killing his king he cuts a piece of Saulís cloak and later confronts him. Saul, weeping, acknowledges that David is a better man than he.
Ask the Spirit to help you remember your own deep moments of reconciliation, literally "talking again." Remember in detail, for in a biblical spirituality, to remember is to make present again. Pray again for those who hurt you, or whom you hurt. How have you been an ambassador of reconciliation? Pray for peace and unity around the world.
O Christ, reconciler, healer, unifier, be in us to hand on the good news of reconciliation in our families, workplaces, neighborhoods. Continue your mission through us, we beg, and keep our hearts free to love and to dialogue through our differences with others.
David at first is a reconciler, weeping and tearing his clothes when he hears of the death of Saul and his dear friend Jonathan in battle. He creates poetry in his grief, and so all the psalms were once attributed to him. However, the gospel in its brevity captures our attention. In two verses we learn that Jesus was so single-heartedly devoted to the needs of the crowd that he didnít bother to eat; and that his family came from Nazareth "to restrain him, for people were saying, ĎHe has gone out of his mind.í" Next Tuesday we will learn that "his family" includes his mother.
Saul does go out of his mind, mentally ill. Davidís grief overwhelms him. Why, however, would Jesusí neighbors and even family think he was out of his mind? Ponder that in your heart. There is no "right" response. Let us just pray for all families in which the misunderstandings are deep and divisive. Let us pray for all parents who cannot let their children leave home at an appropriate age, and all the adult children who cannot separate from their parents, their expectations and their judgments. Ask the Spirit to help you discern now if there is any parental "tape" that hinders your interior freedom.
"For freedom Christ has set you free. Let nothing make you a slave again" (Galatians 5:1). Set us free, Holy Spirit, from anything, anyone who keeps us trapped and emotionally dependent. Help us to live in interdependence, not only with people but with all creation.
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