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.
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.
We hear the beatitudes on the feast of All Saints, and often at funeral Masses. How wonderful that they are part of our "ordinary time." They are simple ways to be happy, to be blessed which means that all of God is lavished on us. Michael Crosby, Capuchin, is a noted lecturer who sometimes surprises his audience with a pop quiz. He asks them to write the Ten Commandments; most can. Then he asks them to name the eight Beatitudes and their corresponding promise; few can. Are we, full of the Spirit who sets us free, so tied to Law rather than happiness? Are we Christian?
Please, after you have tried the little quiz, look up the beatitudes in your gospel. Which ones did you miss? Ask the Spirit what that forgetting might mean. For example, I missed "Blessed are the peacemakers," although I talk the talk! What does the Spirit speak to your heart about ordinary ways to be holy? Tell the Spirit what you want today.
O God, lavish your own self on the poor in spirit, the mourners, the meek, those hungry for justice, the merciful, the singlehearted, the peacemakers and the persecuted. Grow this happiness in all of us, please.
Yesterday we began a continuous reading of the Sermon on the Mount. We also began a continuous reading about Elijah and his many wondrous works. It is tempting to follow a story rather than a sermon, but before we do, let us remember as we attend to Jesus' words, that he would never dare to preach what he himself had not experienced. So today when he tells us to be salt and light, he must have come at some point in his human development to know that his identity was salt for the earth and light for the world. In Kings we hear how Elijah in the midst of drought and famine asked a widow for all she had to eat (sounds like Jesus with the widow's mite); her generosity to the point of "laying down her life" was rewarded with flour and oil that never ran out.
Salt, light, flour, oil. God permeates the most simple, ordinary things. All creation points to God, God's generosity, God's laying down all that God is for our nourishment, and from that fullness of God's life in us, that we be salt and light for others. First, receive God with hands, eyes, mouth open to all that God wants to give. Receive. Then, ask the spirit how you can be food and light for others today.
Thank you, generous God, for the generosity of the poor of this earth. Thank you for all that they teach us about giving without counting the cost. Open us to learn from them.
In my circles at least there is a lot of talk as to whether anyone can be in hell. Jesus says today that anyone who breaks the least of the commandments (and he means 637 commandments, one of which is to care for the strangers and immigrants) will be called least in the kin-dom of heaven. Maybe least, but still and always with God. Shocking! Elijah's calling down fire on an altar soaked with water must have been equally shocking in a physical sense. The psalmist is not shocked. Rather his God is steady, and we shall not be disturbed. His God shows us the path to life, fullness of joy in God's presence forever.
Don't worry. Be happy. Return to the Beatitudes you studied on Monday and rejoice that you can forget the Jewish Law. Jesus has made it full of life (fulfill) and there is nothing to fear, nothing that can disturb. Ask God to remove various fears and anxieties from your heart and to fill you with joy in God's presence. Rest in that joy and presence.
Thank you for the abundance of life made present in Jesus, and poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. Make us instruments of your generosity and joy today.
What connection could there be between the end of the drought in Kings and Jesus' sermon? The psalm links to the first reading; there God waters the earth, breaks up clods, softening the earth with showers. Jesus speaks about reconciliation, the water of grace that softens our hearts, makes us sensitive to the judgments and hurts we inflict on others, the need to reconcile before offering our gifts at the altar. Re-conciliare means to talk again, to end the drought of anger and grudges. Forgiveness, however, is not ours to will; it is God's to give us. All we can do is pray for forgiveness: to be forgiven and to receive the gift to forgive those who hurt us.
Is there any hard part in your heart where God needs to break up a clod or soften with grace? Don't examine your conscience but ask the Spirit to show you. Then be quiet. Wait. Listen. When the Spirit shows us our sin, it is such a gentle correction. Ask to see with whom you need to speak again, and for the courage to make a move.
O God, grant us the serenity and the trust in you to accept the things and people we cannot change; the courage and creativity to change what we can and to be open to their changing us; and the wisdom to know the difference.
So many people love the story of Elijah's hearing God's voice in the "tiny, whispering sound." However, our passage concludes with the anointing of certain leaders, but then omits the command of God to these leaders to slaughter God's enemies. We cannot romanticize Scripture! The psalmist exhorts us to wait for God with stout hearts and courage. Yet the gospel can frighten us, for Jesus is warning us not to lust in our hearts. We need courage and the gift of discernment to distinguish between lusting (which implies a violent taking), between temptation which is not sin, and between admiring a lovely body (and perhaps more, if we know the person). It is not lust to want to be united, even sexually, with a good person. If one of the two people is not free to move toward marriage however, this is temptation and calls for a stout heart, especially in our culture, to resist any kind of "taking," no matter how secret.
How does God speak to you in strong wind, earthquakes, fire or whispering voice? How does God speak to you in the desires of your heart? Ask for the gift of a discerning heart so as to distinguish God's heart and voice and desire where ever you may find it.
We praise and thank you, wild and whispering God, for the many ways you communicate with us in the ordinary events and encounters of each day. Make us alert for you today.
In Kings we have the call of Elisha to be the attendant of Elijah. Elisha asks permission to kiss his parents goodbye. Unlike Jesus, Elijah allows that farewell, which Elisha expands to a feast for "his people." He uses the wood of his plow to cook the meat of his oxen, and his work in the field would expand too, to work in God's service as a prophet. Elisha, making such a clean break with his past, could use Psalm 16 to pray: "Lord, you are my allotted portion and my cup. You hold fast my lot." Another translation is: You are all I have, and you give me all I need. My life is in your hands.
To what are you clinging right now? How might God be calling you to move into new territory, whether physically, emotionally or spiritually? Who is your portion and cup? How much of your life do you entrust to God's hands? Ask for the grace to deepen your trust in God's freeing action.
Our hearts are glad, and our bodies too abide in confidence. You are all we have and you give us all we need. Help us to discern the real needs of those who call to us today, and to be generous.
Today's reading put more emphasis on the blood than the Body of Christ. If any of us think that our God is bloodthirsty, be assured that blood to Israelites signified life, not death. Moses splashing blood on the altar and the people is a sign of their being united in life as a community and in life in God. The only return for all the good God has done for us is to take the cup of salvation and keep on calling on God, offering not bloody sacrifices but "the sacrifice of thanksgiving." Thus we see that sacrifice too for Israel was not always bloody or difficult. Our gospel is Mark's Last Supper account. "This is my body...this is my blood." Jesus, according to Hebrews, is our only high priest. We do not need someone to mediate between God and ourselves, for God loves us immeasurably. Rather, Christ's body and blood infuses us, stands guard between our better and our destructive selves, making all the split off parts of ourselves one in him.
What is in your cup of salvation? For what are you thankful? Breathe in deeply. Breathe in the Spirit and let the love, joy and peace of the Spirit course through your own blood and bathe your whole self in God.
We offer you this sacrifice of thanksgiving. We offer you Jesus, our thanksgiving in the flesh. And we ask him to offer us to you, our life-giving God, as gift.
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