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grainWe are accustomed to the gentle Jesus, the humble carpenter who taught us to “turn the other cheek.” But there is another side to him—the bold breaker of rules when those rules do not serve justice, love, and mercy.
 
The gospel of Luke (6:1-5), for instance, tells of the Sabbath day when the disciples of Jesus picked and ate grain from a field as they were passing by. The Pharisees, of course, were quick to condemn them for “working” on
the Sabbath.
 
Jesus answered, “Have you not read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God and took and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and gave some to his companions.” Then Jesus told them, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”
 
The lesson for us is that God’s mercy transcends rules and regulations. Any hour of the day is a good time to do good. Any day of the week is a good time to ask for God’s mercy. Any time at all is a good time to show mercy to a neighbor.
 
This is why Pope Francis urges us not to be afraid of making mistakes in our efforts to do good.
 
Our prayer today:
 

Dear Jesus,
Lord of the Sabbath and Lord of Mercy,
strengthen us as we seek to serve justice, love and mercy.

 
Peter W. Yaremko, a former journalist, is the owner of Executive Media, Inc. and is a specialist in executive communications. He attends St. Peter the Apostle Church in Provincetown, Massachusetts and blogs at peterwyaremko.com/paradise_diaries.

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Be_My_WitnessGiven the challenges of the day, wouldn’t it be great if there were a turn-key process to help infuse new life into your parish? Or, how about a practical program for making Pope Francis’ call for a pastoral and missionary conversion of the Church come to life?
 
Inspired by The Joy of the Gospel, RENEW International has prepared just such a resource. Its core planning process for pastors and parish leaders includes video learning modules and guides on the following themes:
 

  • Sunday Matters: To the extent that people are still connected to the Church, then Sunday is clearly the best day to connect with them. Wouldn’t it be nice to help parish leaders as they look for ways to reinvigorate outreach opportunities on Sunday?
  • Welcome Matters: Let’s face it, we all know what “unwelcome” looks and feels like–and no one likes it. Since the world already delivering more than enough incivility and indifference, how about if our parishes were known for flipping the script?
  • Belonging Matters: Many commentators have noted that the old model for parish life was “Behave-Believe-Belong”; that is, if we acted like Christians, it would strengthen our faith and would result in us understanding to whom we belonged (both personally and communally). Today, the post-modern approach is “Belong-Believe-Behave”: that is, most people seek first a sense of belonging, and then their commitment to the Christian faith and way of life flow out from this experience. Given that Christians specialize in the communal life, isn’t it time we find new ways to share this experience in a world that is so un-grounded and up-rooted?
  • Witness Matters: Nothing is more powerful than personal testimony about how the Lord has been active and present in the real details of a person’s life; God is no abstraction, and the Resurrection is no mere symbol. Wouldn’t it be nice if we grew more comfortable about sharing our experience of his presence and the “irresistible force” of the resurrection (Pope Francis, The Joy of the Gospel,,256).
  • Mission Matters: For those of us who might be a bit “churchy” and/or fairly comfortable with our faith life, it is time to “go forth” from our comfort zones. After all, the Church exists not to provide contentment to those who happen to show up, but to nudge the core out the door. Wouldn’t it be great if the world was once again drawn to the light of the Gospel by the mighty works of mercy wrought by her members?

 
Even if your parish is already excelling in many ways, isn’t it safe to say that every parish community has room to grow in one or more of these mission-critical domains? The following link provides more information for parishes interested in engaging leadership in such essential questions; in addition, a second phase of the Be My Witness/Sean mis testigos program helps mobilize the parish as a whole through small faith-sharing experiences: http://bemywitness.org/.
 
In the first century, St. Paul wrote, “where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more” (Romans 5:20): The post-modern corollary to this might be, where darkness and doubt increased, inspired resources overflowed all the more. The time has arrived for us to embrace resources which will be able to equip us for the journey out of the dark valley into the light of the emerging Kingdom.
 
David Spasia is the Director of Lay Formation and Be My Witness Coordinator for the Diocese of Joliet, Illinois

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Model Preacher, Evangelizer and Friend of Jesus
 
Mary_MagdalaA good friend of mine, a no-nonsense man of deep integrity and dynamic faith, was once falsely accused of a crime and was eventually acquitted. He was famously quoted as asking the judge, “Which office do I go to get my reputation back?” Mary Magdalene, a disciple of Jesus who was included in his most trusted and intimate circle, could have asked the same question. Mary of Magdala was one of the many women Jesus included in his Galilean discipleship along with Joanna, Susanna, and the other Marys (Luke 8:1-3). She was, as St. Thomas Aquinas proclaimed, an “Apostle of the Apostles,” because she was the one who announced Jesus’ resurrection to the Twelve and to the world. And yet most people today think of her as “the prostitute” or as the “repentant sinner” and not as an apostle. There is no evidence in the Scriptures to support this indictment, so how did she garner this reputation?
 
In 591, Pope Gregory the Great preached a sermon in Rome that tarnished Mary’s reputation from that day forward. He erroneously combined the stories of three women found in the Gospels: an unnamed sinful woman who anointed and washed Jesus’ feet with her tears (Luke 7:37-50), Mary of Bethany (John 11:1-45), and the demonically possessed Mary of Magdala (Mark 6:19). Not only was Mary Magdalene not the repentant fallen woman of legend, but she was not necessarily even a noteworthy sinner. The Scripture tells us she was possessed by “seven demons” that were exorcised by Jesus. Some scholars argue that she was probably more victim than sinner; in that time and place, serious illness was often explained as demonic possession.
 
The office of Pope Gregory the Great marred Mary Magdalene’s reputation, and now the office of Pope Francis has restored it. Pope Francis has declared that Mary Magdalene’s feast day, July 22, is elevated to a major feast marking women as the first evangelizers—placing Mary on par with the celebrations of male apostles. She is the first woman other than Mary, the Mother of God, whose liturgical celebration has been raised to a feast. Cardinal Robert Sarah, the head of the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, says St. Mary Magdalene can be considered by the faithful as “a paradigm of the ministry of women in the Church.”
 
Although first-century culture usually minimized the importance of women, the Gospel of Luke portrays women as disciples and friends of Jesus, strong and courageous, and witnesses to his resurrection. I find it helpful to study the Gospel of Luke and reflect on the faithful women who were the first announcers of the resurrection.
 
According to Martin Lang, author of Luke: My Spirit Rejoices!—a Scripture-based resource from RENEW International—“Those who walk with Jesus are of central importance. They are not only the Twelve, as we would expect, but also the unexpected. They are the women, some of whom have been relieved of their infirmities and some of whom are followers and contributors to the cause. They accompany Jesus as disciples, unlike anything the Pharisees of the day would have tolerated.” Because the Church has raised Mary Magdalene to the stature of the male apostles both women and men can look to her as model of ministry, preaching, evangelization and, most important, a deep and abiding friendship with Jesus, the Christ.
 
Sr. Terry Rickard is the Executive Director of RENEW International and a Dominican Sister from Blauvelt, NY.

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“Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.’ He said to them, ‘When you pray, say:
Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread and forgive us our sins for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us, and do not subject us to the final test’” (Luke 11:1-4).
 
In first-century Palestine, groups were recognized by the way they prayed, so when the disciples asked Jesus how to pray they were asking him to give them an identity. Christian identity is rooted in the community’s prayer.
 
In today’s gospel reading, Jesus presents us with his catechism on prayer. Jesus’ prayer was presented to the community, not to individuals. The Gospels present us with two forms of the Lord’s Prayer—Matthew’s and Luke’s. Matthew’s version (Matthew 6:9-13) is future-oriented, whereas Luke’s version, which we hear today, is present-centered with an eye to the future. The petition for daily bread is a request that God provide the physical necessities needed to carry out his mission on earth. Jesus’ prayer asks that disciples not be entrapped by the daily seductions of life and that they never stop praying.
 
The Roman Missal reminds us that the Lord’s Prayer proclaimed in the liturgy is a request for daily food and for the forgiveness of sins, so that the Eucharist, which is holy, may be given to us who are also holy. We, who are holy, are strengthened and nourished by the power of the Spirit to go out and proclaim the reign of God. For this we pray; for this we lay down our lives. The prayer Jesus taught us is rooted in love and concern for others. Are we ready to go forth boldly? Are we willing?
 
– How might you offer The Lord’s Prayer with greater devotion and expectancy?
 
Adapted from PrayerTime: Faith-Sharing Reflections on the Sunday Gospels, available at the RENEW International store.

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st_thomas_aquinasTomorrow is the anniversary of the canonization of St. Thomas Aquinas—July 18, 1323.
 
Aquinas is considered not only one of the greatest minds that formed the Catholic understanding of God and humanity but also perhaps the most brilliant philosopher since Aristotle, the ancient Greek thinker.
 
Pope Francis quoted Aquinas in declaring the Jubilee Year of Mercy we are now celebrating: “It is proper to God to exercise mercy, and he manifests his omnipotence particularly in this way.” In his apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, Francis also reminded us that Aquinas identified mercy as the greatest of the virtues. Aquinas said that all the other virtues revolve around mercy. Not only that, Aquinas wrote, but it is through mercy that “God’s omnipotence is manifested to the greatest degree.”
 
On the feast of St. Nicholas in 1273, Aquinas was in chapel when he received a revelation that affected him so much that he completely stopped writing, leaving unfinished his great work, the Summa Theologiae (Summary of Theology). He reputedly explained to a colleague, “I can write no more. I have seen things that make my writings seem like straw.’’ He died three months later.
 
Our prayer today:
 

St. Thomas Aquinas,
pray for us that we may persevere—as you did—
in hope, humility, and mercy
toward our brothers and sisters in Christ.

 
Peter W. Yaremko, a former journalist, is the owner of Executive Media, Inc. and is a specialist in executive communications. He attends St. Peter the Apostle Church in Provincetown, Massachusetts and blogs at peterwyaremko.com/paradise_diaries.

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