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.
Today we begin eight days of praying for and dialoguing about unity among the Christian churches. It seems that in order to bring about or deepen unity, whether churches, in a marriage, in community or parish life, we must change. Jesus' first words as he comes from his long retreat in the desert is "Repent." Metanoia in the original Greek means to have a change of attitude. Feelings and behaviors flow from thinking, psychology instructs us. Change our attitudes towards sinners as Jonah was called to do, and the Ninevites changed their attitudes as well. Change our attitudes, exclaims the psalmist, and let God teach us God's ways. Change our attitudes toward the end of the world, Paul exhorts, which for some of us will mean a change from fear to joy, joy that Christ is coming to us. Jesus calls: "Repent", and more: "Believe the good news!" What is the good news that you have discovered in Jesus? The communion antiphon, from Colossians 3, is a call to community through love and through the peace of Christ in our hearts.
Pray to love more openly and more deeply. Pray for the peace of Christ in your own heart and in those of your loved ones and your enemies. Pray for unity within our church and among churches.
Prayer for Christian unity: "O God, hear our prayers and bring the hearts of believers together in your praise and in common sorrow for our sins. Heal all divisions among Christians, that we may rejoice in the unity of your church and move together as one toward life in your kin-dom."
Who anoints us? In the case of David, first Samuel anointed him king-elect, chosen by God. In today's first reading, the elders of the community anointed him; and in the psalm, we hear that God anointed David. To be anointed is to be in Hebrew, messiah, christos in Greek. God anoints us in baptism; we are christ-ened through Christ's Spirit. To blaspheme against the Spirit, the unpardonable sin in today's gospel, is to speak against the Holy Spirit.
Let us praise the Holy Spirit who fills our every cell with life, energy, God's own love. Let us worship this "forgotten" one who has anointed us and made us Christ in today's world. Be still and breathe out any worries and then take a deep breath, breathing in the Spirit. Out with annoyances, and breathe in the Spirit who is peace. Out with petty judgments, and breathe in the Spirit who is love.
We praise and thank you, our God, for this great gift of the Holy Spirit, Christ's own Spirit who is transforming us day by day into Christ, from glory to glory. Help us to recognize and glory in the Spirit.
We are not so far from Christmas. We remember today Bethlehem, the city of David where David dances before the Ark of the Covenant. David has pitched a tent to cover the Ark, the sacred box, just as according to John 1: 14, the Word became flesh and pitched his tent among us. The gates of the city rise up as the King of Glory enters, a refrain we heard in Advent as we waited for the coming of Christ. Finally, Jesus creates a new family, all of us one in the kin-dom, all of us children of God who do God's will for shalom.
Where has the Word pitched a tent in your life? In your family? Your place of work? Your prayer corner? Your parish? Where do you find Christ in your ordinary time? Who is in the new family which Jesus has created? Look at each one and bless them with God's shalom: peace, health and well-being.
Thank you, Jesus, for remaining with us, loving us through so many people. We raise our gates so that you may enter more deeply our hearts, our lives and our world.
In Acts, Luke offers us three accounts of Paul's turning to Jesus, the one whom he persecutes in persecuting any member of Christ's body. This powerful experience becomes a touchstone for Paul's further activity. First he retreats for three years in the desert to ponder his call and then moves vigorously around the Mediterranean, an apostle (from apostello, one who is sent) and an evangelist (eu-angelia means good (eu) message (angelia)). For Paul, anyone who experiences that Jesus is alive and active, even if their experience is not so earth-moving as was Paul's, is thus called and consecrated apostle. How can we keep from singing? the hymn asks. To know Christ alive urges us to communicate him in every way we can.
When did you first know that Jesus lives? Return to that experience and savor it again. Let your gratitude flow. If you say you don't know in your gut that Jesus is alive, ask, beg, BEG for that experience right now. And don't stop begging until you know he is alive, with you, within you -- and then start singing!
A new song! We sing your good news, Lord Jesus! Thank you for sending us to all whom we meet today not only to speak good news but to be good news for the weary, the loveless and especially the unlovable in our lives.
The gospel continues the theme of apostles, missionaries, traveling with the good news of God's shalom, the kin-dom of God coming near. As the Alleluia verse proclaims: "God sends me to bring good news to the poor and freedom to prisoners." The Pastor who writes to Timothy repeats two of our themes from this week: strong emotion ("Recalling your tears, I long to see you so that I might be filled with joy.") and from Sunday: change ("rekindle the gift of God that is in you").
For whom do you long so that you may be filled with joy? Remember and give thanks for those who are at a distance, for those who have died. How will you rekindle God's gift in you? Or can you? Ask the Spirit who came once as fire to set you ablaze, to set our church ablaze with new life and love and eagerness to spread the GOOD news to all creatures.
Thank you, our God, for calling us into your new family, the kin-dom of peace and joy. Rekindle in us your peace, your joy, your love, your Spirit. Fire us with love for your world!
Our first reading details one of the most famous sins in Judeo-Christian history, and it is not that David got Bathsheba pregnant. Rather, he hid her pregnancy first by sending for her husband to have a leave from his military campaign, but Uriah did not sleep with Bathsheba. So David got Uriah drunk, and still he did not sleep with his wife. Finally David had him sent to the front in the war, and Uriah was killed. Adultery is not so much about illicit sex as it is about injustice (and in this case murder) against one of the couple. When David comes to his senses (and we will soon read that dramatic story) it is believed he composed Psalm 51: "My sin is before me always." At last, David won't manipulate and deny what he has done. "Have mercy on me, O God, in your faithful love and abundant mercy."
Today is the 250th birthday of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, whose personal life was in no way pristine, but who composed glorious church music. Someone said Mozart's music is the laughter of God. If you have some, play a piece of Mozart and listen for God's laughter in being able to forgive such a conniving sinner as David, such a weak sinner as Mozart and such a sinner as you!
Ave verum corpus! Behold the true Body! So Mozart composed, and so have we sung through the years. Behold us, O God, behold the Body of your beloved Jesus around the world, sinful and sincere, weak and wonderful. Thank you for your abundant mercy!
How fitting that David who tried to trap Uriah is now trapped by the story the prophet Nathan tells him of an injustice done to a poor man. David is incensed: "As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die!" Nathan responds: "You are that man." The psalm continues a recital of David's repentance with three lines that deserve our memorization. The gospel tells of Jesus' deep exhaustion so that he slept through a storm at sea that frightened the fishermen.
Listen. Jesus says to us, as to his fearful friends: "Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?" Let that prophetic word sink in and convict you. Then respond with David's prayer:
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and faithful spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence. Do not take your holy Spirit from me.
Give me back the joy of your salvation, and put a willing spirit within me.
We pray: Create in us clean hearts, O God, and put new and faithful spirits within us. Give us back the joy of your salvation and fill us with a willing spirit, your own holy, faithful Spirit.
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