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.
Luke reminds Theophilus that his first book was the good news of Jesus. Sometimes his second book, Acts of the Apostles, is known as the gospel of the Spirit, with whom the disciples will soon be baptized. Mark's conclusion of his gospel is almost a summary statement of all that we have read in Acts during the seven weeks of Easter celebration. Let us focus on the poetic reading from Ephesians. The author prays, and we with him (or her):
May the God...of glory give you a spirit of wisdom....
May the eyes of your heart be enlightened...
May you may know hope...
May you know the riches of God's glory...
May you know the greatness of God's power, which God worked in Christ,
raising him from the dead and seating him at God's right hand...
Return to the phrase that stirs your desire. Rest in your desire, knowing that God too wants that for you. Then pray for each family member, friend, colleague. Pray each for the world.
How great is your desire for us, dear God. How much you must have desired Jesus' return to you. Deepen our desires, not just for your gifts, but for you, for Jesus, for the Spirit. Thank you.
Jesus' final words in the gospel today are a consolation. He promises that we will have peace in him, and that when we find trouble in the world "Take courage, I have conquered the world." The psalm promises much the same: God is the father of orphans, defender of widows; "God gives a home to the forsaken and leads forth prisoners to prosperity."
When have you felt orphaned, forsaken, or a prisoner to your moods or addictions? Return in memory to that trouble in your life, or trouble in the world. Hold Jesus and God to their promises. Be bold. BEG. Or if you know that you are freed and in peace, give thanks.
Jesus, conquer the world again and again with your non-violent way. Give us peace to gentle any violence in our own hearts and in our communities. We breath in your Spirit and breathe out a smile on our world.
Paul attests to his constant listening to the Spirit. Psalm 68 proclaims good news: God bears our burdens day after day. We have a God who saves. And the Last Supper discourse is coming to a climax in Jesus' final prayer. He prays for his friends and for us and promises that to know him and the One who sent him is eternal life. Now. Not later. We can, according to John's theology, begin to experience eternal life right now. Remember that to know is to be intimately united. Our final union with God has begun. We will never finish knowing God. That is the meaning of mystery. Our union with God can only deepen.
Rest in that wondrous experience of knowing God. Our union can only deepen. Sit quietly and let that union happen. Breathe in the Spirit and breathe out a smile that comes straight from your union with God.
Thank you for bearing our burdens, saving God. Thank you, Jesus, for sharing our burdens. We ask to see the burdens of others, our near neighbors and far neighbors, and to join you in bearing burdens.
The visitation story is familiar from Luke's gospel. The Zephaniah reading may be familiar as Cary Landry's hymn: "And the Father will dance." The Isaiah response in place of a psalm may also be familiar as Weston Priory's: "Yahweh is the God of my salvation....I draw deeply from the springs of God's great kindness." What may not be familiar, because we so often use I Corinthians 13's hymn to love, is the reading from Romans which also details specific actions and attitudes of love. If we draw deeply from the springs of God's kindness, then we will flow with love that is sincere, affectionate, zealous, fervent, serving, rejoicing, hoping, enduring, prayerful, contributing, hospitable, and feeling with those who sorrow or rejoice. How's that for a program!?!
Paul does not give us a program. All of the above ways of loving are sheer gifts of grace. First God loves us, a never-ending spring of great kindness. What characterizes the love that flows from you, because you are so well loved by God? For which of Paul's specifics do you need God's grace ? Ask. Thank. Love.
We do believe you rejoice in us, as Mary and Elizabeth rejoiced in each other's presence. Open our hearts ever more to your loving presence today, Christ Jesus. Make us aware of your visitations.
Jesus prays at his Last Supper not only for those few gathered with him but all who would ever believe that he is sent by God, "so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they may be one in us." This is not just for our mystical union, or as the psalmist puts it, that we may have "fullness of joys in your presence." Our union and our unity is "so that the world may believe ...that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them (and remember, not just those there that night!) AS you have loved me, Father." Everyone who sees our love and unity will come to know God's love and indwelling. Union leads to action. And the world will know.
We know that God loves Jesus with all that God is. Jesus says God loves us that same way. Why? Because we are good? No, because God is good and all inclusive. The whole world will know God. In your imagination, move around the world, whether nations or oceans, peoples of other races or creeds, and ask God to love them through you. Now.
Your love working in us, Jesus, is transforming us, and through us, the world. Thank you for this baptismal mission. Deepen our love, especially for those with whom we don't feel in union.
We have finished our continuous reading of Jesus' last supper discourse in John and move to graphic scenes on the seashore these two days before Pentecost. Today, Jesus asks Peter, and each one of us: "Do you love me?" Today, Jesus warns Peter that in the end he will be limited and led where he does not want to go. "Bless the Lord, all my being bless God's holy name," sings the psalmist. To bless is to hand over to God all that we are and have and ever will be; it means to surrender, Peter's end, and probably ours.
How do you want your aging to be? How will you hand over to God all that you are, and be led? Go through memories of your youth until now, and hear Jesus ask you at each turning point: "________, do you love me?" And you will answer?
We bless you, God, and with all our being, we return to you all that you have given us. Help us to surrender day by day with a free and loving heart.
Now we have come to the end of the Word's journey to the ends of the earth. Paul has brought, according to Luke, the good news to the "center of the universe," Rome. Luke who began his two volumes with Mary's consent to the Word becoming flesh, now is able to rejoice that even though under house arrest, Paul "with complete assurance and without hindrance proclaimed the kin-dom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ." The narrative of the Holy Spirit's action in the world ends today, and tomorrow we will hear of its beginning. We are never finished receiving and proclaiming the Spirit.
When did you first learn about the Spirit? When did you first experience the Spirit? What happened in that experience? What is growing in you? What more do you want? Stay alert for the movement of the Spirit in your heart today, perhaps little bursts of affection.
Come, Holy Spirit, and fill the hearts of your faithful. Fill the hearts, transform the hearts of the faithless, the hopeless, the loveless, and let us be your instruments to draw everyone closer to the fire of your love.
Why all capital letters? Correct me if I am wrong, but today ranks with Christmas and Easter as a most major feast. We celebrate the coming of Light in December, the coming of Life with the resurrection, and the coming of Love to fill the whole earth today. "We are all given to drink of the one Spirit," Paul sings. "When you send forth your Spirit we are created, and you renew the face of the earth!" sings the psalmist.
And what will you sing today? How will you respond to this never-ending and all-encompassing Love poured into your heart? Contemplate the center of your self where the Spirit is welling up in you, a fountain of life and love, eager to spill out into the world, both your personal world and God's great world.
Holy Spirit, come and dance in the city streets! Blow through the fields and forests, caress the oceans, and fill each human heart with your precious, singing self!
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