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.
Paul asks, "Why should my liberty be subject to the judgment of someone else's conscience?" He is referring to the fact that in Corinth, all meat brought in from the farms made a stop at pagan temples to be offered to the gods, and some Christians then refrained from meat lest they be sharing in idolatry. Jesus does not let his liberty bow to the fears and the teaching of his co-religionists. As we hear today in Leviticus, the Law isolated anyone with a discharge that might become leprosy. The rabbis also declared unclean anyone who touched a leper, a menstruous woman or a dead person. To be unclean was to be in a state of alienation from God. Jesus deliberately lays hands on this leper, and how soothing his touch must have been for one who was cast out of family and village. Jesus deliberately commits "mortal sin" in order to comfort a leper who had been so alone.
The leper says to Jesus, "If you want to...." Jesus replies, "Of course I want to!" What do you want from Jesus? To be made clean? Whole? Jesus wants to do what for you? Give what to you? Ask him. Ask the Spirit to show you if there are hidden pockets of disease anywhere in your system, whether that system is bodily, family, work, society. Wait. Listen. Bring the disease to Jesus and hear him say to you, "Of course I want to heal____!"
Jesus, thank you for your passionate desire to heal which continues and is magnified in your glory. As you stand continually before the face of God making intercession for us, tell God what we, you and us, what we need and want.
We begin a continuous reading of James, a very Jewish homily. It sparked the chief debate of the Reformation in the sixteenth century. What saves us? Faith alone, says Luther. Faith without works is dead, writes James centuries earlier. James opens his homily today by cautioning against doubt. Catholics before Vatican II were warned that doubts indicated a lack of faith; now we are encouraged to seek and to question everything. We do that without doubting IF we understand that biblical faith is not about "intellectual assent to divinely revealed truths." Biblical faith, which alone does save, means clinging to Jesus, attachment to Christ, trusting God, commitment to God. The mysteries of God do need much probing, intellectual curiosity etc. Faith to James means an entrusting of the heart. And if our hearts are too concentrated on riches, "in the midst of a busy life, they will wither away."
Pray for an increase of your faith, a deepening of your faith, and that of those whom you love. Check out where your heart is attached. To whom, to what do you cling? Make up your own act of faith right now.
Lord, we believe. Help our unbelief. Free us from anything that keeps our hearts too busy for you. Teach us to know God, and you whom God sent to us.
James assures us that God does not tempt us, because God cannot lead us into evil. Rather it is our own free will which tempt us. God is the Father of Lights who generously gives us every gift. If God is father, God is also mother, "giving us birth by the word of truth." James also states that with God there is no change. This belief persisted in the Western church, whereas in the East, God is constant change, uncreated energy. Vatican II helped us understand that God undergirds all change, but God's "love and faithfulness endure forever." In the gospel Jesus has given abundant gifts of food to the people, "feeding the multitudes." In the Alleluia, the real food that Jesus gives is God's love: God will love us "and we will come to them."
A day to ponder all the ways in which God loves us, and all the ways in which God's love is made visible in those people who love us. "All who love me," Jesus says. How do you love Jesus? How is that love for him made specific in your love of human beings, and all of creation?
Come to us, we beg you, our ever-giving God, Jesus, Holy Spirit. Let us open to your love, your light, your generosity poured out for us. Thank you for the myriad ways you feed us each day!
"Be doers of the word," James exhorts us. To be blessed in our doing, we have the perfect Law, "the law of liberty." Although Luther contrasted James and Paul, here Paul's emphasis on our freedom from any Jewish Law, except "to bear one another's burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ," (Galatians 6:2) matches James' law of liberty. Paul and James would agree that "Religion pure and undefiled is ... to care for widows and orphans." Jesus cares for a blind man in the gospel, and the blind man models for us how to offer Jesus honest feedback. Jesus did not heal him well enough, he says, because now people looked like trees walking. He tells Jesus that. Jesus lays hands on him again.
What does your heart need today? Freedom from Law? Courage and faithfulness in bearing others' burdens as well as your own? Growth in the ability to be straight with Jesus, to tell Jesus (or God) how much more you need? Where do you need Jesus' healing touch again and again? Who are the "widows" and "orphans" who people your life?
Thank you, Holy Spirit, for setting us free from Law and writing the law of love in our hearts. Open our eyes to the widows and orphans among us, those who need us again and again. Make us even more responsive to them, and so "fulfill the law of Christ."
Who do we say Jesus is? James portrays him as the "glorious Lord Jesus Christ," who comes to us in the poor of our community. James asks, "Has not God chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith?" When Jesus asks his friends for feedback, Peter gets it right: "You are the Messiah." However, Jesus then confuses their image of the Messiah, for he will be a suffering servant, rejected and killed. Peter dares to rebuke Jesus for these innovative ideas. Jesus is really furious and calls his best friend "Satan." From glory to suffering to glory: such is the pattern of Christian living.
Where do you hear the word today and want to do something? Do you need to contemplate the "poor" in your family, workplace, neighborhood and world? Do you need to wrestle with the question of who Christ is for you? Do you need to expose some of your anger to Jesus and share this moment of his rage? Do you need reconciliation with someone whom you love? Ask him how he and Peter got back in touch again. Listen.
That we may all be one! Jesus, we join you in your prayer. Help us to be reconciled and to be reconcilers. Teach us to be honest with our friends and gracious to our enemies.
Here is the crux of the faith versus works debate. James says if we proclaim our faith without caring for the needs of our neighbors, our faith is dead. Because biblical faith means an attachment to God, if we are in union with God or with Jesus, our lives and loves overflow into action. "Faith without works is dead," James concludes. The Alleluia verse reinforces the Jewish understanding of knowing and believing as union with God. In it today Jesus says, "I call you my friends because I have made known to you all that Father has told me."
What has Jesus made known to you? About God? About yourself in God? Because we know God, we are in union with God. Rest in that union. Rest in that intimacy.
Thank you, Jesus, for making us your friends and sharing with us all that God is. Open us to absorb this abundant love, and to pass it on to whomever we meet today. Thank you.
James offers us a meditation on the power of the human tongue. He also warns us against becoming teachers because of the awesome responsibilities teaching entails. In the gospel, Jesus invites not only Peter, James and John, but us as well to climb Mount Tabor where he will be transfigured before us.
Choose one line from the gospel and ask the Spirit to help you
plumb its depths.
"It is good for us to be here. Let us set up three tents..."
From the overshadowing cloud came a voice: "This is my son, my beloved. Listen to him."
"When they looked up they saw no one, but only Jesus."
Jesus, keep our eyes fixed on you all day today. We ask you to bless all teachers around the world, whether in a school system, or whether parents, mentors, pastors. Thank you for all who have taught us through the years.
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