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.
Jesus stands in the midst of his friends, the Eleven and the rest of the company, which probably included his mother (see Acts 1: 14, a continuation of Luke's gospel). Not only does he eat a piece of fish to show them the reality of his risen body, but he explains scripture for them and commissions them to preach repentance and forgiveness to all nations. In Acts we see Peter carrying out that commission, calling on the crowd to repent and their sins will be "wiped away." John's first letter uses the word expiate to translate the action, God's action, of wiping away. We have heard of Yom Kippur; the Hebrew word kippur means "wipe away" and it is God's work, not ours to atone. Jesus, John writes, is expiation for the sins of the whole world. How is it that the Christian churches have wandered so far from this good news of forgiveness and God's wiping away of sin?
Ponder that question in your heart. How can a so-called Christian country exact revenge, whether on terrorists, those on death row, the innocent victims of our preemptive strike on Iraq, immigrants who are undocumented? What if we emulated Peter and called people to repent and accept God's forgiveness?
O God, we desperately need you to wipe out the violence in our hearts and in our world. Cleanse us from desires to hurt, to be revenged. Risen Lord, save us!
Our continuous readings in Acts and John proceed, while we miss the opportunity to celebrate liturgically one of the most important people in the life of Jesus. This feast is about work, Labor Day in many countries and an antidote to the Communist celebration. It is also, however, the day that George W. Bush declared, long ago, "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq. Begun on March 19, also a feast of Joseph, the invasion of Iraq supposedly ended just six or so weeks later. That invasion and its continuous aftermath could provide us with hours of prayer. However, below is a prayer I composed to honor Joseph, the just man.
Joseph, holy and just, thank your accepting Mary as your wife, for rearing Jesus as your own, for suffering through the journey to Bethlehem, for obeying the message to go into Egypt. Thank you for modeling justice on the move, a refugee, hoping to find work in a strange land. Thank you, time after time, for listening to your dreams and trusting God's voice through them. Thank you for loving Mary so well, for teaching Jesus about God, for teaching him your trade, for sharing your values with him: values about respecting women, welcoming outcasts, going beyond the Law (which would have had Mary executed for adultery) to offer mercy. Thank you, workman and protector of our church-community. Share your values with us, we pray. In Jesus' name.
Stephen has accused the Sanhedrin of murdering Jesus and they are enraged. Their fury does not disturb the inner peace of Stephen who sees the heavens open to the glory of God, with Jesus standing at God's right hand. He shares this vision with his enemies which further aggravates them. His final words echo Jesus' own, only he asks the Lord Jesus to receive his Spirit and concludes: "Lord, do not hold this sin against them!" Jesus' own, "Father, forgive them..." was so radical that manuscript copiers of the first eight centuries kept taking that prayer of Jesus out of Luke's gospel. It stays in Luke now, and challenges us to pray like Jesus and like Stephen.
Notice, neither Jesus nor Stephen offer forgiveness. They pray for those who persecute them. For whom do you need to pray? Who persecutes you, personally, at home or work or in our country or world? You could pray a cursing psalm against them (which is quite acceptable to God!), or if you are ready, you could use Stephen's prayer.
Into your hands, O God, we commend our spirits. You are our stronghold to give us safety. Please protect all those who have no safety: refugees, immigrants, victims of war, trafficking, abuse of any kind.
With all the current commentary on the Gospel of Judas, in our first reading Paul mentions Jesus' resurrection appearance to one named "James." There is an apocryphal gospel of James which was not included in the canon of scripture. In it James is so ashamed of his cowardice during Jesus' death that he refuses to eat until the Lord himself visits him to offer forgiveness. However, it is today's gospel conversation Jesus has with Philip at his last supper that carries most import: "Whoever has seen me has seen the Father." People too often equate God's will with pain and suffering. Whoever knows what Jesus wants knows what God wants. Jesus passionately desires our healing, reconciliation, unity. So does God. "My plans for you are plans of peace, not disaster," says our God (Jeremiah 29:11).
Let your memory carry you through some of the incidents in Jesus' ministry. To see him in action is to see God in action. Remember what Jesus wants in each situation, and as you move from incident to incident in his ministry, profess: "This is the will of God".
Jesus, help us to see you in every situation, to find God in all things. Thank you for choosing us too as apostles of your peace, reconciliation and unity.
In today's gospel Jesus says that no one can come to him unless God draws the person, and that such persons "shall all be taught by God." Today's passage from Acts puts flesh and bone on God's drawing (another word would be "attracting") and teaching. Philip, one of the Greek-speaking deacons, is able to teach a royal official from Ethiopia the meaning of scriptures that point to God's servant, Jesus. God has so attracted the Ethiopian through Jesus that the man wants to be baptized at once, and is.
How does God attract you? How does God teach you? How can you come closer to Jesus today? Ask for that grace.
Jesus, we ask you to keep teaching and leading the people of Ethiopia to you and to God, even if some name God Allah. Help us to learn from one another and to dialogue to peace, in the power of your Spirit.
In Acts, Luke tells the story of Paul's religious experience three times, to three different audiences. We call it conversion, but it was a deep, personal encounter with the Risen Christ. Paul must have reflected continually on Jesus' words: "I am Jesus whom you are persecuting." Paul's constant theme in his writings is that we are all one in Christ and with Christ. We are the Body of Christ. To meet the Risen Christ in a personal religious experience makes us apostles, Paul would teach. We are like him, not knowing Jesus in the flesh but knowing him through religious experience. To know him is to be zealous to make him known.
When have you personally met the Risen One? Where and how did that happen? What was your response? How are you making him known? Ask the Spirit for the gifts of zeal and creativity in being an attractive sign that Christ is within you and among us.
Jesus, we need you to be real, deeply present to us day by day, and through us to our world where so many are mired in violence, greed, fear and sadness. Confront us and our world as you did Paul.
Our translation calls the church "she," but the church is not feminine, any more than God is masculine. In fact, to return to Paul's teaching, "In Christ there is no male nor female," (Galatians 3:28)--not in Christ who is beyond gender in his risen life, nor in the church, for those divisions are united in him. Yet in the gospel we find another kind of division: those who find Jesus' invitation to eat his body so disgusting that they walk no more with him. Jesus is not play acting when he asks the Twelve if they will leave him too. What if revealing himself, opening his heart that wants to be so close to us that we can eat him, drives his dearest friends away?
What is your response to Jesus' question, "Will you also go away?" How does his question make you feel? How will you comfort him? What return will you make, as the psalmist asks today, for all the good Jesus has done for you?
"To you we will offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving!" We offer you Eucharist, our God, Jesus' dying and rising, and ours in union with his. Thank you!
School Sisters of Notre Dame, Baltimore Province
6401 North Charles Street
Baltimore, MD 21212-1016
Comments or questions? E-mail us
Technical questions about this website? E-mail our WebSpinner