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.
What is the newness that God promises through Isaiah? In the gospel, Jesus tells a paralyzed man that his sins are forgiven. But isn't God always saying that? Isn't Jesus always embodying God's kindness and inclusion of sinners? What may be new is our Yes to forgiveness. Jesus, Paul writes, is himself the Yes to all of God's promises, God, the faithful one. Mary said her Yes, and now, Paul reminds us that it is only through Christ that we can say Yes, Amen to the glory of God. And what is the glory of God? Not sickness, paralysis, fear, sin, but wholeness and peace. "The glory of God is the human being fully human, fully alive" (St. Irenaeus).
What in your life paralyzes you? What do you fear? What keeps you from being fully human and fully alive? Give all of that to Jesus. He doesn't want just our good works but our sin, our failure, our disappointments, weakness and fears. He says Yes to us as we are. Pray to accept his acceptance.
May we like those who observed the healing of the paralytic be amazed and glorify you, our God. May we give you glory by our becoming a bit more human, a bit more alive today. Glory to you!
The gospel story reminds us of the raising of Jairus' daughter a few chapters earlier. Here it is a young boy whose father pleads for him, and Jesus casts a demon out of the child. "Most [of the crowd] said, ‘He is dead.' But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up and he was able to stand."This week's gospels will frequently focus on children. There are thousands of children roaming the world, homeless, refugees, orphaned, starving. Let us dedicate our intercession this week to remembering them, praying for them, and finding some way to help alleviate their suffering.
Look in your imagination at the children roaming the streets of the richest country in the world, picking in garbage cans to stave off hunger. Look at the children of the Sudan running from civil war that has plagued them since 1983. Look at the girl babies left out to die and the boys trained as soldiers when they are 10 years old. See Jesus take each one by the hand and lift each one up. See each child standing, fully human and fully alive. This is contemplation too.
Jesus, hear our prayer, receive our fasting and alms for these least of your brothers and sisters, these tormented children of our world. Thank you for loving them and comforting them.
James asks, Where do conflicts and disputes among us come from? So many of the children of this world are at terrible risk because of conflicts, wars, violence in the streets and in their own homes. Cravings and greed, James answers his own question. Thousands of children are being sold into slavery, trafficked for work or for sex. Jesus sees children as the antidote to greed and power struggles such as his disciples engage in. He takes a child in his arms and instructs his friends: "Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me..."
In our prayer today let us welcome children. Imagine your arms large enough to gather in all the children of the world. Your arms and Jesus' reach out. Do you want the Muslim children, those with running sores, the emaciated, the dope addicted, the lice-infected children? Talk with Jesus about your fears and hesitations. Ask for the gift of welcoming anyone whom you meet today.
Welcome, Jesus! You are welcome in our world and in our hearts, no matter what form you take. Baby Jesus full of sores, five-year-old Jesus being used for sex, ten-year-old trained to toss a grenade-- welcome, Jesus!
This baptismal homily, called the First Letter of Peter, exhorts the elders among us to tend God's people willingly, not out of compulsion nor for "sordid gain." We are not to lord it over people. What of the "youngers" among us? Are not all of us called by Baptism to shepherd the little ones? We who have been so well tended by the Shepherd-God of Psalm 23 in turn hand on God's kindness and mercy to the next generation.
How shall we attend to and tend God's children? Ask the Spirit to show you how you can set a banquet for them, how you can diminish the evil that lurks in the dark valleys. Pray for the elders who care for children: grandparents, teachers, pastors, even young parents, that their energy might not flag, and that they remain willing. Pray for your self.
We say, Yes, to you, our God. You have called all of us to watch over the least, to shepherd your people willingly. Yes. Yes. Yes. Give us the heart and zeal to attend to all whom we meet today.
James cries woe to the rich among us. The psalmist comforts us: "Do not be afraid when some become rich....for when they die they will carry nothing with them." Some of us are not so much afraid at the terribly unequal distribution of wealth and natural resources among the nations, but angry at the injustice of it. Some of us are angry that those who harm the little ones, putting a "stumbling block in front of them", have not had a millstone hung around them to be drowned. James and Jesus are sad and angry. Jesus is in each child who is abused, neglected or violated.
Will you join Jesus in his sadness and his rage at those who abuse children? Ponder in your heart the futility of riches. Pray for world leaders who will share their country' wealth, who will work for justice and peace.
Jesus, thank you for the salt in you, that brings out flavor, that adds spice to our life. Keep us salty, as you invite, and help us "to be at peace with one another."
"Do not grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged," writes James. Be at peace with one another, as Jesus said in yesterday's gospel. James continues that we must let our Yes be yes, and our No, no.
Using verses from Psalm 103, say yes to all that God wants to give you:
Our God forgives all your sin and heals all your diseases. YES!Now return to a phrase that moves your heart and adore the God who graces you.
Our God crowns you with faithful love and mercy. YES!
Our God is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in faithful love. YES!
As the heavens are high, so great is God's continuous love. YES!
As far as the east is from the west, so far does God remove our sin from us. YES!
You who have accepted us so unconditionally, please give us the grace to accept others. Remove grumbling and judgment from our hearts and give us a willing spirit. Give our world peace.
James exhorts the community to pray over the sick and suffering, and to confess our sins to one another. This was the practice for the first two hundred years of the church . Thomas Aquinas teaches that, just as in case of emergency a lay Christian may baptize, so in an emergency may a lay Christian assure another that his/her sins are forgiven. Lay confession had a long history among us. Finally, we see Jesus not just blessing the children from a distance but "Jesus took the children up in his arms, laid his hands on them and blessed them."
Look at Jesus looking at the children of the world, humbly and tenderly, no matter what their condition. Join him in his loving gaze. There is a child who lives in you too, perhaps neglected as a youngster or abused at home, in school, by so called friends. "Let the little children come to me." Hear Jesus invite your inner child to come to him for even deeper healing.
Thank you, Jesus, that you came to us as a vulnerable child, and that you continue to come to us in all these children of our world who are so in need. Keep our eyes and ears open to the cries of these little ones. Give us the generosity to respond -- somehow.
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