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.
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.
When King Ahab could not have a particular vineyard he coveted, and negotiated with the owner, his wife scoffed at him as a weakling. She took control and set up the rightful owner to be falsely accused and killed. The king got the vineyard and his wife's name, Jezebel, has been used as a slur ever since. Psalm 5 declares that "the bloodthirsty and deceitful God abhors." Jesus, however, puts flesh on the mercy of God who does not offer resistance but freedom even to those who harm us. "Offer no resistance to one who is evil," Jesus insists. Eye for eye is wiped out (the meaning of the word "expiate"). Christians are to turn the other cheek, give to those who ask, and even "go the extra mile."
Think about the political situation in the United States right now. How does God respond to us as a nation? Ask God. Ask Jesus. Listen. Wait. What is your responsibility for social justice? Who will support you?
O God, share your justice with us. You gave us Jesus. Give us prophets again, please, to speak the truth to power in our society.
David lusted and arranged for murder; Ahab coveted a vineyard and his wife arranged the murder. Both kings repent in sackcloth, with fasting. Psalm 51 is the great penitential psalm in which all of us admit our guilt and trust that "in the greatness of your mercy you will wipe out my offense." Here we part company with the psalm for it continues: "Against you only have I sinned." Rather, against the whole people of God have we sinned, whether near neighbors or our far neighbors in Iraq and Afghanistan. We believe that if one part of the Body of Christ sins, the whole Body is hurt, suffers, and needs to repent. Jesus makes that call to communal conversion very clear. We are to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. As our nation since 9/11 has proved, it is a difficult vocation to be Christian. Lust? Greed? Our communal sin is probably violence and arrogance. Thomas Merton long ago wondered how the church could be so obsessed with the loss of sperm (birth control) and yet so unconcerned about the loss of life through war. Good question.
What do you name as the sin of our people, our church, our nation? What social sin(s) do you find influencing your day to day living? Pray Psalm 51 in the name of the whole church.
O God, in the greatness of your mercy, wipe out our sins. Melt the barriers that keep us from being one in Christ: religion, gender, nationalism, militarism, lust, greed, violence and.....
The flamboyant (literally, flaming) way in which Elijah is assumed into heaven in a fiery chariot contrasts with the warning of Jesus to pray, give alms and fast in secret. Elijah leaves his mantle for his successor Elisha, and Elisha will continue to work the wonders of his predecessor. Jesus leaves his power to us, his successors. Instead of miracles and wonders, his/our power is designed to touch hearts. It is the power of love. Whether our personality is flamboyant, fiery, charismatic, or, on the other hand, quiet, hidden, behind-the-scenes, Jesus' love flowing through our unique personalities will touch the world. He is at work in hidden ways and bids us join him.
How do you describe your personality? How does God use your uniqueness of gifts, character, background, interests, etc to touch your near neighbors with the power of Jesus' love? Jesus is always loving, and asks if you will join him. You respond....
Although we are very small like a mustard seed, hidden like yeast, let your power, Jesus, course through us to magnify God, you, and your love poured into our hearts, the Spirit.
Sirach summarizes the life and work of Elijah and his friend and colleague, Elisha. In the gospel Jesus teaches us to pray "the Lord's prayer" for our daily bread. In Sirach we might focus on one line of what daily bread our hearts desire: "Blessed is the one who falls asleep in friendship." Today we commemorate two sets of friends. Paulinus of Nola, a married priest named bishop in 409, who counted as his friends saints Ambrose, Augustine, Jerome and Martin of Tours. The second set is Bishop John Fisher and Sir Thomas More, Lord Chancellor of England. Both refused to acknowledge Henry VIII's religious authority, and when the Pope in reaction made John a Cardinal, Henry had him beheaded. Thomas' story is more familiar to us, especially through the play and movie, A Man for All Seasons by Robert Bolt.
Remember all whom you have counted as friend throughout your life. If they have died, speak directly to them. If they are alive, picture them and breathe the Spirit on them. Ask Jesus to deepen your intimacy with them, even if they are far away. Forgive us as we forgive, Jesus prays in the gospel. Are there any friendships that need reconciliation?
Thank you, Jesus, our friend. Keep us growing more intimate with you, for you long to be close, and for us to be friends with one another. May we be one in you.
We celebrate not the physical organ but the overwhelming love of God for us, made tangible in Jesus. For Jews who knew nothing of a "soul" (we translate the word for throat as soul), the heart is the center of the person, the place of knowing, choosing, feeling, desiring. In Hosea, God teaches us how to walk and says, "My heart is overwhelmed with pity." The Isaiah reading promises that we will draw water at the fountain of salvation. The Weston Priory song interprets that as "You will draw deeply from the springs of God's great kindness." Ephesians sings of the riches, the mystery, the wisdom, the faith found in Christ. Then the author prays for us (see the prayer below). Our gospel is the opening of Jesus' side with the soldier's lance, the birthing of the church.
Look on him whom they have pierced. Contemplate. Draw deeply from the springs of God's great kindness flowing from Jesus' side. Just as Mary stood at the cross, stand there and assist in the birthing of this community of Christ. How will you bring Christ to birth today? Hand on his kindness in some small way?
May God grant us the riches of God's glory and strength with power in our inner spirits. May Christ dwell in our hearts. May we be rooted and grounded in love, and know the love of Christ, being filled with the very fullness of God (Ephesians).
When the baby John leapt in Elizabeth's womb at Mary's greeting, it would be obvious to Jewish readers that John would be a prophet, called from before his birth to speak the word of God, consoling the poor, challenging the powerful. God made me a polished arrow, Isaiah writes, but the church applied it to John whose arrow of truth would pierce the adultery of Herod. As Acts reminds us, John always pointed to Jesus, not to himself or his own message. "He must increase, I must decrease."
How is Christ increasing in your life, your relationships, your work? How is your arrogance, self-importance, boasting decreasing? Ask for the grace to let Jesus always grow in you while you become, day by day, a little less self-absorbed.
We are your servants, creator God, as Isaiah reminds us, and you have made us a light to all nations that your saving action, your saving love may touch all the peoples of the earth. Help us!
God speaks to Job from the depths of a raging storm. The psalm describes a storm that pitched a ship up and plunged it down. Paul assures us that Christ died so that we "might no longer live for [ourselves]". Then the gospel pictures Jesus so exhausted in his friends' boat that he sleeps through a tumult on the lake. The disciples wake him, sure that they are perishing. Here is Jesus' question to us, especially in the United States where fear of fear (or terror) has made us suspicious and inhospitable, has changed our national character. No longer do we welcome the storm tossed to our shores, as the Statue of Liberty proclaims. So Jesus asks us, individually and as a nation: "Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?"
Let his question roll around your mind and heart? Of what are you afraid? What is the worst thing that could happen? Is Jesus asleep? Have you faith? And in what? In whom? Ask the Spirit to set you free from fear, day by day.
Jesus, help us to live no longer for ourselves. Free us from our self-absorption, our preoccupation with self-protection. Forgive us as we forgive those who trespass against us.
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