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.
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!
Our liturgists corrected me. Although we had a sequence yesterday, and although once we celebrated a full octave after Pentecost, today we are back to regular readings. The Scripture is so rich in description of the Spirit that we are missing so much from the liturgy these days. So let us use the first words of Psalm 91 as a way to "enter" the Spirit. The translation from the Hebrew is "O God, you have always been our home."
How are you "at home" in the Spirit? How is the Spirit living, acting, being, loving in and through you? How can you respond?
Thank you for making your home in us, Holy Spirit. Help us to be at home with you and within your all-encompassing love and life. Let us breathe with you, Breath of God.
Today's gospel is Jesus' own separation of church and state, rendering to Caesar what is Caesar's. The passage from 2 Peter is apocalyptic, dire predictions of the end-time, but ending with an exhortation for us to "grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ." So let us ponder one line from the psalm: "Fill us at daybreak with your kindness," and also the Alleluia verse from Ephesians: "Enlighten the eyes of our hearts..."
What is your usual way of waking up, opening your eyes? This is a special moment, a liminal or threshold moment between sleep and waking when we are most alert to our unconscious. Let the Spirit speak to the "eyes of your heart" with kindness. Let the Spirit do that now, as you close and then open your eyes. Pray for the grace to remember this when you wake tomorrow.
Thank you for filling us, Holy Spirit, morning after morning with your kindness. We need your energy too, please, and the enlightenment of our hearts. Open us in every way to you.
The pastor who wrote the letters to Timothy and Titus promises that he remembers his people "constantly in my prayers, night and day." He asks them to remember "to stir into flame the gift of God...for God gave us a [a spirit] of power and love". The pastor continues: God set us free and called us "to a holy life, not according to our works but according to God's own design and the grace bestowed on us in Christ Jesus." Once again we are taught that salvation, freedom and a holy life are God's work in us, grace, God's life and not our practices, penances, and perfectionism. God has graced us with the flame of the Spirit, the power and love who is God's own deepest self.
How can anyone pray constantly, night and day? Only because it is the Spirit who prays continually within us, linking our spirit to God (Romans 8:26), putting all our unutterable groanings into prayer. Be quiet now and listen for the prayer of the Spirit welling up in your heart. Ask to feel that union with God.
Thank you, Holy Spirit, for your never-failing prayer within us. We offer all our groanings and the groans of our world that you may transform us and renew the face of the earth.
The word of God cannot be chained, the pastor proclaims. Scripture has been used to pound "truth" or the "right way" into others. The Word, however, is supremely free, with so many and varying meanings, because it is the truth that we need for our salvation. The truth can only be shared in love, which is Jesus' command, spoken today in response to a scribe's question about the greatest commandment. We usually think the greatest is twofold: love of God and love of neighbor. However, note, the command is threefold: to love as one loves oneself. God, neighbor and self.
How do you love yourself? What were you taught as a youngster? How have you grown in wisdom about loving yourself? Let the Spirit teach you about loving yourself more care-fully and deeply. Be quiet and see what bubbles up from the fount of living water within you.
Enlighten the eyes of our hearts, Spirit, so we may discern between self-love and self-absorption. Please let us love ourselves as God loves us. Bring us into unity with our selves, God's great gift, and "God's work of art." (Eph 2: 10)
More from the pastor on Scripture, which he says we have heard from our infancy. Hopefully. Scripture "is capable of giving you wisdom for salvation." Just as Vatican II promised: not historical, geographical, biographical truth, but in Scripture we find the truth we need for our salvation. "All Scripture is inspired by God" and equips us who belong to God. God's Word is in-spired, in-spirited, full of life, power and the Spirit.
How has reading, hearing, studying Scripture led you to the source who is the Spirit? For the Jews, to study Scripture is to worship. When have you had a similar experience with the Word? When has any passage lit up from within and touched your heart with God's living presence? Remember and give thanks.
Thank you, Holy Spirit, for all the wisdom you have given us for our salvation. Thank you for equipping us to bring and to be good news for our weary world.
The pastor warns about the false teachers and teachings that will circulate, but we are to put up with these hardships, "perform the work of an evangelist; and fulfill your ministry." The psalmist, getting older, begs God not to cast aside his ministry in old age because he still has strength to proclaim God's wondrous deeds. Jesus warns against those whose "ministry" is pomp and power, the scribes of his day. Jesus shows that true power lies in the offering of a widow who gives all she has to live on. The work of an evangelist is to give all to those whom we want to bring to Christ. We share good news of God's love poured out in Jesus; we are not to "devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext, recite lengthy prayers." True power, leadership, evangelization, ministry lies in foot-washing service, giving all, laying aside one's self-absorption for the sake of the other.
What criteria can you use to distinguish false teaching from true? Lengthy prayers may not impress God, but care for the widow and orphan is true religion. Jesus' own preference for sinners and outcasts are good criteria too. He did not "sweat the small stuff" and was careful not to strain gnats while swallowing camels. Pray for our church leaders, and for all who evangelize, that their message be GOOD news.
Enlighten the eyes of our hearts, Holy Spirit, that we may distinguish wisely between the competing voices we hear even within our own church community. Let love be our chief criterion.
Just as ministry and evangelization are the response-abilities of us all, so Jesus begins that commission by sending his friends to "go, make disciples of all nations." The second reading details the work of the Spirit, and the first, the work of God who is not only Creator (the psalm) but also Savior. We are so used to Jesus as Savior that this is good news to open our eyes. Or as Moses would exhort us: "fix in your heart" that God is God and there is no other. Sounds like the Muslim praise of Allah. There is nothing to fear from Muslims. Paul writes today, "You did not receive a Spirit of slavery to fall back into fear."
Let us pray for the earthly trinity, the people of the Book: Jews, Christians and Muslims. May we all be one, appreciate that God is God of us all, and that all of us are freed from fear by the Spirit. Let us especially pray for those in our country who are closed because they are afraid, that the Spirit would fall afresh on them and open their eyes and hearts. Pray that we all may have a discerning heart.
God, thank you for always saving us and setting us free from slavery. Today, how much we need to be freed from fear of other races, nations, religions. Give us your greatness of heart.
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