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“Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits. He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick—no food, no sack, no money in their belts. They were, however, to wear sandals but not a second tunic. He said to them, ‘Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave. Whatever place does not welcome you or listen to you, leave there and shake the dust off your feet in testimony against them.’ So they went off and preached repentance. The Twelve drove out many demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them” (Mark 6:7-13).

The disciples had heard Jesus preach; they had seen him perform miracles. They had also seen him rejected. Now it was their turn to go out and do what they had seen him do.

The mission Jesus gave to his disciples is the same mission given to us every Sunday when we are dismissed (sent forth) from Mass. Jesus received that mission from the Father and set out to fulfill it after his baptism by John. At our sacramental baptism, each of us was anointed “priest, prophet, and king.” By our baptism, we are summoned and given the challenge to be bearers of the Good News and to preach repentance.

We may not be traveling to nearby towns or distant shores in missionary work. Perhaps our own mission area is our family, our workplace, our school, or our neighborhood. We have the opportunity to respond to the summons, to our baptismal call, on a daily basis.

Have you ever had the sense of being “called” by God to do something? How did you respond?

Adapted from PrayerTime: Faith-Sharing Reflections on the Sunday Gospels, available at the RENEW International store

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“When the sabbath came he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished. They said, ‘Where did this man get all this? What kind of wisdom has been given him? What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands! Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?’ And they took offense at him. Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house.’ So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there, apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them. He was amazed at their lack of faith” (Mark 6:2-6).

Being rejected, questioned, and doubted were not new experiences to Jesus. Since the beginning of his public ministry, he was an open target of the religious leaders of the day. In this gospel reading, those whom Jesus lived and grew up with were the ones who rejected him. Their questions – “Where did this man get all this? What kind of wisdom has been given him?” – sounded more like suspicion and cynicism than awe.

Jesus’ human response to the crowd’s rejection is one of amazement. He brought them the good news of salvation, but the people would not hear it. His ability to work the same kind of miracles as he did for Jairus’ daughter was dramatically diminished. However, that did not stop him from doing the work he was called to do.

It is helpful to remember that we are not alone when we face rejection and misunderstanding from the people to whom we are closest. Jesus offers us the very grace he possessed so that we may carry on and be faithful to the work at hand.

Have you ever allowed yourself to be caught up in a “group reaction” to someone? If this were to happen in the future, how can you be prepared to respond in truth and love?

Adapted from PrayerTime: Faith-Sharing Reflections on the Sunday Gospels, available at the RENEW International store

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Pope_FrancisWhile I was working as a local reporter, I spent a couple of years covering a city that for decades had hosted big industries—mostly heavy metals and petroleum.
 
This was in the 1960s, when the nation’s great awakening regarding care of the environment had not yet occurred.
 
The industries located in this city emitted all sorts of toxic materials into surface and ground water, into the earth, and
into the atmosphere.
 
Few voices were raised then about examining the nature of these emissions and their effect on ecology, and particularly their effect on human, animal, and vegetable life.
 
One of those voices belonged to a young lawyer who regularly appeared at public meetings to discuss this issue.
 
Far from being taken seriously, he was widely regarded as eccentric and naïve.
 
I was covering a meeting of the city governing body one day when this young man stood up and told the officials that he had recently bought a new car:
 
“I drove the car home from the showroom and parked it in front of my house and, gentlemen, when I went out the next morning, I could write my name in the filth that had accumulated on the hood.”
 
The city attorney, who wasn’t supposed to speak unless he was asked a question, muttered loudly enough for everyone to hear: “Gee, it’s nice to be educated,” and the audience laughed.
 
This vignette represents the state of mind that prevailed in those days when “we”—if I may generalize—did not think about the consequences of what we did in the environment.
 
The young lawyer eventually was vindicated as government and society began to recognize that practices once were taken for granted were damaging air, water, earth, and the health of human beings and other species of life.
 
Industries that once had released substances including sulfur, lead, and mercury into the environment were compelled to adopt controls on their smokestacks and effluent outflows and in general use safer means to dispose of waste.
 
But progress in this field has never caught up with the full dimension of the problem; human activity is still damaging the environment, which is an observable phenomenon, whether or not one wants to blame mankind, wholly or in part, for global warming in particular.
 
Pope Francis made this point in his encyclical, On Care for Our Common Home (Laudato Si’), writing that “our industrial system, at the end of its cycle of production and consumption, has not developed the capacity to absorb and reuse waste and by-products.’’
 
This is not still subject to scientific investigation; it’s an observable fact. With respect to the end of the cycle of consumption, it’s an observable fact in American homes and businesses that send as much or more waste to landfills than to recycling centers.
 
Resistance to this and other messages in the encyclical has tended to be expressed on a macro scale, but damage to the air, earth, and water on which we all depend begins with individual human beings.
 
In this regard, Pope Francis cited Patriarch Bartholomew, leader of the world’s Orthodox Christian community, who has “called attention to the need for each of us to repent of the ways we have harmed the planet, for ‘inasmuch as we all generate small ecological damage,’ we are called to acknowledge ‘our contribution, smaller or greater, to the disfigurement and destruction of creation.’ ”
 
In the 1950s I worked in my family’s grocery store where we used a very large cardboard barrel, hidden behind a refrigeration unit, to dispose of all sorts of trash including paper, metal, and plastic.
 
One of my chores, when this barrel was filled to the top, was to drag it around the back of the building and burn everything in it.
 
Being a kid and naturally attracted to fire, I enjoyed this part of my job, particularly when the occasional aerosol can that had been thrown into the barrel would explode with a sharp bang.
 
None of us then thought about the smoke and fumes that spread out from that fire; they were out of sight and out of mind.
 
But I hope that if we were operating that store today we would know better and that we would find a safer, if more complex, means of disposing of that trash.
 
If we did not, given what we now know about ecology, how could we escape moral culpability for the outcomes of our cynicism and carelessness?
 
RENEW International is working with the Catholic Climate Covenant and Greenfaith to produce a small-group resource on Pope Francis’ encyclical for parishes, college campuses, and religious communities. For more information, visit www.renewintl.org/renewearth
 
Charles Paolino is a member of the RENEW staff and a permanent Deacon in the Diocese of Metuchen.

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“When they arrived at the house of the synagogue official, [Jesus] caught sight of a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. So he went in and said to them, ‘Why this commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but asleep.’ And they ridiculed him. Then he put them all out. He took along the child’s father and mother and those who were with him and entered the room where the child was. He took the child by the hand and said to her, ‘Talitha koum,’ which means, ‘Little girl, I say to you, arise!’ The girl, a child of twelve, arose immediately and walked around. At that they were utterly astounded. He gave strict orders that no one should know this and said that she should be given something to eat” (Mark 5:38-43).

This is a powerful account of humility and the power of faith over death. Jairus humbly pleaded for Jesus to save his daughter, who was at the point of death, and was propelled from a place of desperation to a place of faith. Jesus ignored the people outside of Jairus’ home, who said, “Your daughter has died, why trouble the teacher any longer? (Mark 5:35). What mattered to Jesus was the faith with which he was approached. He said to Jairus, “Do not be afraid; just have faith” (Mark 5:36).

This Gospel gives a clear picture of how we, individually and as a community, are called to minister. When we minister in Jesus’ name, we minister with compassion and single-minded attentiveness. We are also shown how to approach Jesus – with the needs of our hearts, with humility and sincerity of faith. It is only with humility and faith that we can truly minister with equality, compassion, and clarity.

Jairus’ faith saved his daughter. What impact can your faith have on those around you? How will you extend your compassion to those around you?

Adapted from PrayerTime: Faith-Sharing Reflections on the Sunday Gospels, available at the RENEW International store

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Archbishop_Thomas_WenskiWe live in interesting times – this month (June) Pope Francis issues his first social encyclical, Laudato Sii, dealing with ecological questions; and, the US Supreme Court will hand down its decision on same sex marriage. At any rate, both of these happenings will give us Catholics both the opportunity, and, to be sure, the duty to engage the world and witness to our teachings, to our vision of the human person, of our place and our dignity in the world which we recognized as both fallen and redeemed.
 
This “vision” enshrined in the Church’s moral teachings embraces what we could call both a natural and a human ecology, or what has also been referred to as “integral ecology”.
 
All that touches on human flourishing involves ethics and morality. “Creation care” or commitment to stewardship of the world’s resources is therefore an ethical choice. It recognizes that the earth, in the words of Pope Benedict, is “not simply our property, which we can exploit according to our interests and desires…It is, instead, a gift of the Creator who designed its intrinsic order and, in this way, provided the instructions for us to consult.” There is today broad consensus among scientists that climate change presents real threat to human flourishing on this planet. The Church cannot be indifferent. Because we believe in the Creator, the Church “has a responsibility with creation and has to fulfill this responsibility in public”.
 
Given that today greater numbers of people are more keenly aware of the need to protect the natural environment, these words concerning a natural ecology are generally welcomed. However, it is much more difficult today for people to connect the dots and see that there is a linkage between a natural ecology and a human ecology.
 
As human beings, we do not “create” ourselves; rather we are created – as the Book of Genesis says, “in the image and likeness of God”. The nature of the human being is to be a man or a woman. This order of creation also must be respected and protected if human beings are to flourish. To accept our creatureliness does not contradict our freedom but it is a precondition for its true exercise.
 
An integral ecology demands that rain forests be protected – because of what they do potentially and actually for the flourishing of the human species on this earth. Likewise, marriage, understood for millennia as a union of one man and one woman, ought to be respected and protected. Marriage always has been primarily about the raising of children (who seem to be hardwired to be best raised by a father and a mother who are married to each other). It is certainly legitimate then to favor such traditional marriages – in law and custom -as a way of investing in the future of society by providing for the human flourishing of upcoming generations.
 
Just as we favor laws that limit the danger of pollutants damaging our sensitive ecosystems, should we not be concerned about the “toxic waste” of pornography and its effects on the human ecology of the young?
 
Today, some hold for a radical autonomy by which truth is determined not by the nature of things but by one’s own individual will. Such thinking has brought about the degradation of our physical environment; and, it now threatens our social environment as well. In the face of increasing relativism and individualism in the wider culture, we have too often forgotten that marriage (and the family built on marriage) reflects the truth of our human nature as social beings. Our human nature – like Mother Nature itself – is a “gift of the Creator who designed its intrinsic order, and in this way provided the instructions for us to consult…” As Pope Francis said in Manila this past January citing a popular adage, “God always forgives, we sometimes forgive, but when nature – creation – is mistreated, she never forgives.”
 
Minimizing our “carbon footprint”, implementing sustainable farming techniques, protecting the O-zone layer, working to reduce waste and pollution are part of “Creation care” – and in attending to these things, we exercise our stewardship over the earth; but at the same time, defending marriage, promoting the family, protecting the young, are also part of the “Creation care” necessary for human flourishing on planet Earth.
 
Archbishop Thomas Wenski is the Archbishop of Miami.

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