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.
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.
2 Kings describes in part a pattern known as the Deuteronomic cycle: the people sin, God gets angry and punishes, the people repent and renew their covenant, God blesses them, the people get cocky and sin, God punishes and on it goes. Jesus warns us not to look for the speck in our neighbor's eye when we have a beam in our own. Let's turn the gospel on our own religious leaders and law-abiders, who accuse some of being "cafeteria Catholics." How can they notice that when time and again, our official liturgists pick and choose certain verses of a passage, leaving out a few verses, and sometimes only half a verse!
Pray for unity among Catholics, the law abiding ones and the free spirits. Pray to attend to your own beams and specks and yet, to ask for help, for who can see clearly? Only Jesus. Ask the Spirit to show you your own sin, but don't examine your conscience. Sit quietly and see what bubbles up.
O God, be merciful to us, sinners. We want to be more than justified, we want to be holy as you are holy. Help us trust that the Spirit is working within us and among us; let us join your Spirit in this work.
Don't you want to know what verse 35B is in Kings? Enough already! Readings like this from Kings are helpful in the passionate prayer, for example, offered by the king Hezekiah, but reinforce the fear many have of God's anger and punishment. This time God punishes the invaders, not the people, who are spared because of the king's prayer. Jesus sums up the Law and the prophets in this simple rule: "Do to others what you would have them do to you."
Go through yesterday (or if in the evening, today) and look at what others have done to you. Note their kindness with gratitude. How can you pass on kindness? And if someone hurt you or annoyed you? Back to yesterday's beam! Can you do to the hurting one what you want them to do to you in your next encounter? Can you stop the cycle of violence in your own heart, in your own home? Ask for Jesus' power to end violence in the world.
Free us, Jesus, from any fear we have of God's anger and violence. Help us see in Scripture not God's actual action, but a people's perception of God. Open us that the Spirit might transform our images of God.
Again the cycle: the people have sinned, the king tears his garments as a sign of repentance, and calls the people to listen to the reading of the Law, a book newly found in the ruins of the Temple. King and people promise with "their whole heart" to obey the terms of the covenant. The psalmist prays for the gift of discernment to know God's will. Jesus warns us against false prophets.
Pray for the gift of discerning those who would use religion to enslave. Pray to know and carry out God's will. "My plans for you are plans of peace, not disaster" (Jeremiah 29:11). Where will you look for God's peacemaking today? How will you join God's peacemaking? Pray for peace and unity world-wide.
Give us discernment, O God, that we may pay attention to your Word, and treasure your Word deep in our hearts.
We hear of the persecution of the early church, Peter's imprisonment and rescue; Paul's mission to the Gentiles, and rescue. Yet both these apostles are killed for their faith in Jesus. We see that rescue does not equal saving. They are not rescued from eventual martyrdom, but are set free, as the Timothy reading states, bringing them to God's kin-dom of heaven. As the psalmist attests, both have tasted and seen how good Jesus is. They "look to him that their faces may be radiant with joy."
What makes you radiant with joy? What blocks joy in your life? It may be the physical disease of depression, or some normal crisis or suffering or grief. Talk over the block with Jesus because he wants his very joy to be in you and to grow in you. If nothing blocks that inner radiance, give thanks with your whole heart and renew your covenant with him.
Jesus, with you, let us glorify our God and together bless God's holy name. With you, let us look to God that our faces may radiate joy. With you, let us taste and savor the goodness of God.
The king of Babylon (where the Iraq invasion continues) conquers Israel, kills its princes, blinds its king who had been abandoned by his whole army. Thus begins the Babylonian captivity in which the aristocracy and artisans are carried away to serve their captors but the poor and those who worked the land were left behind. Jesus heals a leper. Good news that lepers can be included in the kin-dom of heaven.
Migrant workers, grape pickers, poor, lepers, undocumented foreigners, homosexuals -- how included are they in your parish, your city? Pray for openness in our church to all people, for as it is written in Leviticus, "once you were a stranger in a strange land." Pray for the personal gift of inclusivity, and pray for the gift for our church and our society.
Thank you, Jesus, that by your being lifted up you drew and still draw all people to yourself. Make us one as we stand at the cross of our continuing-to-suffer brothers and sisters. Let us welcome them in your name.
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