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“Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise like a trap. For that day will assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth. Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:34-36).

The message of this Gospel passage is simple: salvation is coming to the world and it is coming through the Son of Man. We are warned to pay attention, because he will come when we least expect him. We need to keep our ears open and pay attention to what is going on around us so that we can recognize him when he is near.

As we begin our preparations for Christmas, these words remind us that Advent is a time for peace and quiet. This is a stark contrast to the fast-paced way in which our culture celebrates the season.

Why is Advent a time meant for peace and quiet? So that we can detect those hints or signals of God’s presence in our lives; so that we can hear when God knocks on the door of our consciousness; so that we can respond “Yes” to God’s call, just as Mary did when the Angel Gabriel came to her. Our need to be still and listen opens in us opportunities to see, hear, and respond.

The Scriptures tell us that Jesus will come again at the end-time. But now, this very day, Jesus wants to come into our hearts. It is our choice whether or not to let him in. How do we see and hear him? Be still and listen.

Realizing that Jesus is present in the people and places we least expect, what can you do for someone less fortunate?

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

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Year_of_MercyWhat does the logo of the Jubilee Year of Mercy try to say to us?
The logo and the motto of the Jubilee Year of Mercy summarize what the year is all about. The motto “Merciful Like the Father” invites us to follow the example of the Father, who asks us not to judge or condemn but to forgive and to love without measure.
The figure of the shepherd bearing the lamb on his shoulders is one of the earliest images of Christ—found in the Catacombs. It reminds us that the Son—himself the Lamb of God—embraces the lost soul upon his shoulders and carries us to redemption.
The Good Shepherd leaves the ninety-nine in the flock to save the one—the hundredth lamb. Christ’s message is counter-intuitive to our world today, where it’s more acceptable to sacrifice the one for the good of the many.
The lamb is us.
Notice how, in the logo, the Good Shepherd’s eyes merge with those of humanity? Christ sees with the eyes of Adam, and Adam with the eyes of Christ. Christ is the new Adam, and in his gaze we recognize the love of the Father.
Even the almond shape of the image is important. It calls to mind the two natures of Christ—divine and human. The three concentric ovals, growing lighter as they move outward, symbolize how Christ carries humanity out of the night of sin and death. The darker color shows how unfathomable the love of the Father is. He shows mercy to us all.
Our prayer today:

Merciful Jesus, you know we are little lost lambs and you lift us in your love.
Keep us in your protection always.

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

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“Pilate said to Jesus, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’ Jesus answered, ‘Do you say this on your own or have others told you about me?’ Pilate answered, ‘I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests handed you over to me. What have you done?’ Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom does not belong to this world. If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not here.’ So Pilate said to him, ‘Then you are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice’” (John 18:33b-37).

The feast of Christ the King marks the end of the liturgical year and celebrates Jesus as Lord over all of creation. This feast also proclaims Jesus’ mission to bring God’s reign of justice and peace to the entire world. The kingdom that Jesus will rule is very different from the one that Pilate had in mind in when he asked the questions recorded in this reading. Pilate was unable to see beyond his own ideas and was unable to envision a kingdom not founded on power and suppression of enemies.

As this liturgical year draws to a close, we have an opportunity to reflect on how we have grown and changed as a result of studying the nature of discipleship throughout the Gospel according to Mark.

As Christians, we are always on a journey towards a deeper union with God and in service to our brothers and sisters. With Jesus as our King, who welcomes everyone into the fold regardless of economic or social status, we are to bring about a new vision of God’s kingdom of peace and justice. We are to reach out to the disfranchised, the marginalized, and the unacknowledged.

This feast of Christ the King is a feast of hope for all people. Jesus proclaimed a message of love for everyone. We, as his disciples, are called to do no less.

What are your expectations of a leader? How do those expectations affect your own leadership?

Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International.

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MercyThe Jubilee Year of Mercy proclaimed by Pope Francis begins December 8. What is it that makes mercy such an important part of our relationship with God and of our treatment of other people? Why is Pope Francis dedicating an entire year for us to be so mindful of mercy?
Simply this: if you hope to receive mercy, show mercy. If you look for kindness, show kindness. If you want to receive, give. Do not ask for yourself what you deny
to others.
These thoughts come from St. Peter Chrysologus, a fifth-century Italian bishop. Peter said that when you open your ear to others you open God’s ear to yourself.
This idea of treating others with mercy is something well known to us as Catholics. We don’t show mercy to win heaven but because Jesus asks us to—in the prayer he taught us: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
The Jubilee Year of Mercy is intended to help us remember these words of Jesus and try to love others in the same way God loves us.
We tend to love others because they’re attractive or fun or because we want them to love us. That’s not why God loves us. He loves us not because we’re good, but because he is.
Our prayer today:

God of love, you pour out your mercy to overflowing.
Help us to show mercy to others with the same generosity.

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

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“Learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see these things happening, know that he is near, at the gates. Amen, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father’” (Mark 13:28-32).

This reading begins, “In those days after that tribulation the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken” (Mark 13:24-25). Darkness, earthquakes, the end of the world … This certainly is not an easy passage to hear.

Mark’s Gospel was written during turbulent times, which ended with the destruction of the Temple in AD 70. Faced with these signs of disaster, Mark’s community was sure that the end was near. They anticipated that the second coming of Christ would happen any day.

Mark affirmed that there would be a second coming and also stressed that we can’t know when it will occur. Mark invited his downcast community into a deeper understanding of the end of time. Instead of giving up in the face of the apocalypse and expecting Jesus to rescue us, true disciples will be working and doing good right through it.

Talk of “doom and gloom” reminds us of the harsh reality that being a disciple brings persecution and suffering. Discipleship is about another way of life, not to be measured by the values of this world. Only when all we know is gone will we really understand what our faithful discipleship has brought.

How are you living the values of the world yet to come? How can you better live these values?

Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International.

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The Jubilee Year of Mercy proclaimed by Pope Francis begins one month from today—December 8. Even though it is weeks away, we should get ready now to celebrate this once-in-a-lifetime event.
The Jubilee Year of Mercy is a new step on the Church’s journey to bring the Gospel of mercy to each person, including us. As the pope reminds us, the whole Church is “in such need of mercy, for we are sinners (homily, March 13, 2015).What is the Jubilee Year of Mercy? A formal way that our Catholic community might share a living experience of the closeness of the Father, whose tenderness toward us, Pope Francis says, is “almost tangible.” During this year, we hope to rediscover the joy of God’s mercy, which is greater than any sin.
The jubilee also is intended to remind us that we, in turn, are instructed by Jesus to give comfort to others throughout the human family. “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful,” he said (Luke 6:36).
Perhaps the most encouraging words from Pope Francis? No one can judge us except God, and “his is a judgment of mercy.” The pope adds, “Do not forget that God forgives all and God forgives always. Let us never tire of asking forgiveness.”
Our prayer today:

God of mercy, you are eager to forgive and quick to forget.
Help us accept the gift of your mercy without question,
and grant forgiveness to ourselves and to others.

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

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“Jesus sat down opposite the treasury and observed how the crowd put money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents. Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them, ‘Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood’” (Mark 12:41-44).

The selfless widow exemplifies humility, discretion, and generosity, which are all part of authentic discipleship. Her gift represented everything she had. It was not given from her surplus but rather from her need.

Discipleship means recognizing two things about gifts. First, God has bestowed gifts upon every one of us. Second, whatever gifts or “riches” God has entrusted to us are to be cheerfully and willingly shared for the benefit of others—particularly those in greatest need.

In our day-to-day lives, we need to recognize that we all have gifts and talents to offer our peers in need. In addition to recognizing these gifts, we could (and should) share them, for example, by spending time with someone who is having problems in a relationship or volunteering in a community support organization.

What is your contribution to others? How do you share yourself and your gifts, not from your abundance but out of what you truly need?

Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International.

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When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. He began to teach them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn,for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful,for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you
and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me.
Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven” (Matthew 5:1-12a).
St. Bernard of Clairvaux, the twelfth century abbot and reformer, asked a blunt and perhaps unexpected question about the Solemnity of All Saints, which we celebrate on November 1. “Why,’’ St. Bernard said in a homily on the day of the solemnity, “should our praise and glorification, or even the celebration of this feast day mean anything to the saints? What do they care about earthly honors when their heavenly Father honors them by fulfilling the faithful promise of the Son? What does our commendation mean to them? The saints have no need of honor from us; neither does our devotion add the slightest thing to what is theirs. Clearly, if we venerate their memory, it serves us, not them.’’

How does it serve us to venerate the memory of the saints—those formally recognized by the Church and those whose names we do not know?

St. Bernard answered that by saying that when he thought of the saints, he felt “inflamed by a tremendous yearning. … to enjoy their company” (Disc. 2, Opera Omnia Cisterc. 5, 364ff).

So, as Pope Benedict XVI has pointed out, the meaning of All Saints Day is that we do not simply honor the saints in a passive way but look at their example and apply it to ourselves. It’s an especially fitting idea as we observe this Year of Faith. We contemplate the lives of those who are “blessed” because they lived by the faith, lived in keeping with the Gospel and, in particular, the Beatitudes, the call to humility, simplicity, mercy, charity, and faithfulness. And, the pope said, their example reawakens in us “the great longing to be like them: happy to live near God, in his light, in the great family of God’s friends’’ (Pope Benedict XVI, Homily at Holy Mass on the Solemnity of All Saints, November 1, 2006).

In other words, when we pause to consider the lives of the saints, it inspires us to long for holiness in our own lives, and the path to holiness, Pope Benedict said, “always passes through the Way of the Cross.’’ St. Bernard, again coming right to the point, addressed this with his contemporaries: “The saints want us to be with them, and we are indifferent. The souls of the just await us, and we ignore them. Come … let us at length spur ourselves on. We must rise again with Christ; we must seek the world that is above and set our mind on the things of heaven.’’

This does not come as a surprise to us; Jesus told us those who want to follow him must deny themselves and take up the cross, meaning that they must imitate him and live in keeping with his Gospel day to day, at home, at school, at work, in the community. They bend their will to his, they honor and glorify him, and they live as he did by making the needs and cares of others as important as their own.

To the extent that we set out each day, each one in his or her own circumstances, to follow Jesus, Pope Benedict said, “we too can participate in his blessedness. With him, the impossible becomes possible, and even a camel can pass through the eye of a needle’’ (cf. Mt. 5:48).

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

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When I was a junior in high school I went on a retreat called Christian Awakening. It was based on the Cursillo retreat weekend. During that retreat I had my first conscious personal encounter with Christ, and, as I look back on my faith journey, I see that that encounter was my launching pad to becoming a missionary disciple—with lots of fits and starts. I had studied the Bible as history in both my Catholic grammar and high schools. In my freshman year I took a religion course on the Old Testament. I found the Bible boring and often was in trouble for talking and joking during that class. However, on that retreat the Word came alive for me—it moved from being a dry history about dead people to a living word about Jesus, my friend and my Lord, which touched my heart and inspired my daily living. During the retreat I received my first Bible—the “Good News” paperback version of the New Testament—and I was hooked. I began to pray with Scripture, underlining and highlighting words in that small grey paperback Bible that inspired me and began to guide my life.
A couple of years later, through a similar retreat experience, my mom discovered the power of God’s Word. She began to pray the Word, signed up for every Bible class offered, and became a huge promoter of the Bible for Catholics. My mom was the parish coordinator for RENEW, and she loved RENEW because it helped people to read, reflect on, and, most important, connect the Word to their lives. She often lamented that she had been deprived of the Word for so many years. In her early Catholic formation, personal Bible reading was discouraged and thought of as something that Protestants do. On the headstone my mom shares with my dad there is an open Bible on one side and a rosary on the other.
One of the fruits of the Second Vatican Council was a renewed understanding of the Bible for prayer and daily inspiration. Bible studies began to be offered in parishes, and many of the renewal movements that sprung up invited people to an encounter with Christ and a personal reading of Scripture for prayer and inspired living. However, most Catholics still don’t read the Bible regularly. The most common way that Catholics hear and pray the Word is through worship, particularly Sunday Mass. The Mass consists of almost 30 percent Scripture. This is good, but many Catholics are missing the many parts of the Bible that are not read at Mass, as well as the power of reading the Word for personal reflection and daily living.
Some people tell me they don’t read the Bible because they do not know where to start—its size and sometimes strange names and places seem a bit intimidating. If you share that feeling, I encourage you to try lectio divina, an ancient but simple method of encountering God through prayerful reading of Scripture.
You start by choosing a short passage from a book of the Bible (I suggest starting with one of the synoptic gospels—Matthew, Luke, or Mark). Place yourself in God’s presence, making an act of faith in the power of God’s Word. Begin reading slowly and reverently. Stop when a word, a phrase, or a feeling within touches you. Stay there, in God’s presence, pondering it and allowing God to speak to you. Eventually, you will sense that this time has come to an end. When that happens, begin reading again until you are prompted to pause and reflect.
When your time for prayer is over, give God thanks for the experience. You may want to have a journal to jot down afterwards what happened during your prayer or any questions about the passage that you need to look up. Many books and articles have been written about lectio divina but this is the basic process. It is important to remember that only what you are reading matters—you don’t have to finish a passage, a chapter, or the book of the Bible. What matters is being in communion with God through his Word and letting God guide you. Don’t miss the invitation to read the Bible regularly and encounter Jesus, the Word of God.
Sr. Terry Rickard is the Executive Director of RENEW International and a Dominican Sister from Blauvelt, NY.

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Thérèse-LisieuxEarlier this month we celebrated the feast of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, the Little Flower. She is a wonderful role model for all of us, but in many ways she speaks to the heart of small Christian communities in this regard: It is not always necessary to do great things, but to always do small things with great love.
As you work with your small group many tasks will arise. These will range from the larger job of actually running the group to the small, simple things sometimes taken for granted, such as having your meeting room prepared. It helps a leader to remember St. Thérèse’s philosophy and approach these tasks, and those who accomplish them, with great love.
While we hope to grow and change as we participate in our small groups, we all bring specific gifts to them at the outset. Recognizing those gifts in others and asking them to do tasks in keeping with those gifts, plays to their strengths and allows members to thrive and feel that they are making a contribution. For example, the parent who seems to know every other family in the parish is a natural choice for a group leader. The parishioner with the sunny nature and welcoming smile is a natural recruiter for bringing in new members.
When you ask participants to take on various tasks, tell them why. Affirm their gifts, and explain how those gifts are useful to the greater purpose. By naming and identifying the gifts of your small-community members you make each person feel valued and appreciated for who he or she is. It is a small thing to do, but when we do it with great love it is a powerful motivator. As you move forward and members want to take on new roles, be sensitive to the desire for change and encouraging as they explore new gifts.
When we follow the example of St. Thérèse and approach this small affirmation with great love, our small groups will grow and flourish.
Jennifer Bober is a RENEW Marketing Associate with both non-profit and publishing experience. In addition to her marketing career, she is a professional liturgical musician.

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“On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, ‘Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.’ And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he kept calling out all the more, ‘Son of David, have pity on me.’ Jesus stopped and said, ‘Call him.’ So they called the blind man, saying to him, ‘Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you.’ He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus. Jesus said to him in reply, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ The blind man replied to him, ‘Master, I want to see.’ Jesus told him, ‘Go your way; your faith has saved you.’ Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way (Mark 10:47-52).

Bartimeaus, the blind beggar, clearly “saw” who Jesus was. He quickly cast his cloak aside when Jesus called him. This cloak, most likely spread out to collect coins, was probably all that he owned. Abandoning the cloak showed he understood that what Jesus could offer him was worth more than any material possession.

Bartimeaus also wasn’t worried about what the people around him thought. They kept telling him to be quiet, but he continued to shout out to Jesus in faith. He could not be dissuaded from proclaiming the truth of Jesus’ identity as the messiah.

And how did Bartimeaus respond to his healing? Jesus told him to “go your way,” and instead he followed Jesus.

We are called to be like Bartimeaus—to be persistent in faith and to have the courage to share our faith with others. By being aware of what blinds us from recognizing God’s presence, we can take a step toward deepening our understanding of what it means to live out our Christian faith.

We are all beggars. We are all in need of growth and healing. But we are all servants as well, and charged to “see” and reach out to others in mercy and love.

What are things that blind you from recognizing signs of God’s presence in your life? How can you be healed of that blindness?

Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International.

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“Jesus summoned the Twelve and said to them, ‘You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many’” (Mark 10:42-25).

Sometimes it’s easy to become so focused on a goal or so engrossed in day-to-day activities that our actions begin to take an unhealthy turn. Perhaps a little part of us feels that we’ve “worked so hard” or “given up so much” that we deserve perks, recognition, and rewards.

James and John got caught up in exactly this trap in the incident described in this week’s Gospel reading. They approached Jesus and tried to improve their privileges by asking for a greater position for themselves, for the distinction of sitting at the left and right hand of Jesus at the end of time.

Using this example of James and John, Mark continues to show us the gap between the disciples’ understanding of discipleship and the actual demands of discipleship. The brothers do not understand that Jesus’ “glory” is not what they think it is. We have the luxury of knowing the rest of the story. James and John did not realize that they were asking for death.

With discipleship and leadership come tremendous responsibility to do what is right. While this may challenge us, and sometimes even discourage us, Mark emphasizes that Jesus continuously gave this message as he journeyed with the disciples. Each time they “strayed,” Jesus was there to show them the true way.

In what situations have you wondered “What’s in it for me?”? What motivated you to think this way, and what did you learn from such situations?

Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International.

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I stayed up way past my bedtime Saturday night watching Lone Survivor. Then I was up for hours with a teething infant. After hearing about the shootings in Oregon on Friday and then watching this true story of a Navy Seal team, I was so grateful to be able to be up with my baby. There are so many men and women who can’t be with their kids—and some who will never be with their kids again. These heroes defend us overseas, and, in incidents such as this most recent shooting, they defend us at home too.
Monday morning I awoke to the news of a thwarted attack on a California high school that was to be carried out by four of its students. Also on the news was an alert to all Philadelphia-area schools of a potential threat.
I drove my older son to school that morning with my heart in my throat. These attacks are coming with increased frequency, and they are occurring all over the country—how can any of us ever feel safe?
When a former auxiliary bishop for the military services, Most Reverend Joseph W. Estabrook, was fighting cancer, he told his good friend Sr. Maureen Colleary—a member of the RENEW International Staff—“Fear and faith can’t live in the same space.” When she told me this, it stuck with me. I think of that phrase often when I’m worried about anything—and lately these worries are about persecuted Christians in the Middle East, terrorist attacks, and mass shootings at schools, movie theaters, and other places where we should be safe.
I thought about that quote a lot after I dropped my son off. How is that possible? Can you really live a fearless life in today’s world? Did those college students feel fear when they stood up to the gunman and told them they were Christian before he shot them? Did the brave army veteran, on his son’s sixth birthday, feel any fear as he rushed the gunman?
The best we can do is to have faith, to trust in God, and to pray as often as possible. We pray for peace, and we pray in thanksgiving for the heroes that help stop these attacks at home and protect us abroad. We are all charged with being vigilant, with knowing our surroundings and exit routes, with seeing something and saying something. If we don’t have faith while we do it, fear will just consume us.
Amy Reed is a member of RENEW International’s Marketing and Communications team and a Notre Dame alumna.

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“As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before him, and asked him, ‘Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ Jesus answered him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; honor your father and your mother.’ He replied and said to him, ‘Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth.’ Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, ‘You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ At that statement his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions” (Mark 10:17-22).

A rich man approached Jesus seeking to inherit the kingdom and spend eternity with God. However, Jesus’ answer shocked him into realizing that discipleship comes at a greater cost than he realized.

Jesus invites this man, and us, to focus less on following the rules, and more on getting rid of whatever gets in the way of our relationship with God and others. Mark shares with us a sad example of someone who can’t accept that Jesus’ mission is about a different way of life, and so walks away. Jesus wants our desire for discipleship to be a free commitment of our whole selves.

If we feel sad for the man in the story, it could be because we empathize so much with his response. It is difficult to admit that some of our possessions can compete with our call to follow Christ. Sometimes our possessions own us rather than we owning our possessions.

Jesus makes it clear that all the status and possessions in the world do not determine one’s place in the kingdom of heaven. Despite our efforts to live “good Christian lives,” we sometimes become enslaved to unessential possessions or actions—such as having the latest smartphone or a daily cup of expensive coffee.

All we hear is “buy, buy, buy” in our consumer culture. We need to create space in our hearts and lives to pay more attention to God, not to our possessions.

Which of your possessions compete with your call to follow Christ? In what way do your possessions interfere with your relationship with God and others?

Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International.

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Today we celebrate the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi—a great day for all Franciscans around the world. Today is also the feast day of our pope – who has chosen to call himself Francis after this holy and simple man of God.
Recently we have been challenged by Pope Francis’ encyclical letter, “Laudato Si’,” which he opens with a quote from St. Francis’ famous Canticle of the Creatures. I think it would be fair to say this is truly a “Franciscan” encyclical! Pope Francis begins, “LAUDATO SI’, mi’ Signore” – “Praise be to you, my Lord”. In the words of this beautiful canticle, St. Francis reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us: “Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with colored flowers and herbs”(No. 1).
Pope Francis calls all of us, especially those committed to the Franciscan tradition, to take seriously St. Francis’ profound theological beliefs about seeing God embedded in a spectacularly interconnected world—God as the source of each and every creature, no matter how small.
We read: “(St. Francis’) response to the world around him was so much more than intellectual appreciation or economic calculus, for to him each and every creature was a sister united to him by bonds of affection…Such a conviction cannot be written off as naïve romanticism, for it affects the choices which determine our behavior” (No. 11).
RENEW International, in conjunction with GreenFaith and the Catholic Climate Covenant, is producing Creation at the Crossroads, a small-group, faith-sharing resource that examines the encyclical through the lens of prayer and Scripture. This resource will bring people of faith a conversion of spirit that will lead to greater action to care for our common home and all who inhabit it.
We know that we can make a difference, opening the eyes of Catholics and other people of faith to the significance of this timely issue. While people of faith know the importance of caring for human life, they do not always grasp that caring for all of creation is an integral component of that mission. Our people and our planet are inextricably linked. We cannot truly help one while contributing to the destruction of the other.
Pope Francis encourages us to follow the example of Francis of Assisi whose own experience of conversion and appreciation of our connection to the environment helped him embrace all God’s creation.
“I ask all Christians,” the pope writes, “to recognize and to live fully this dimension of their conversion. May the power and the light of the grace we have received also be evident in our relationship to other creatures and to the world around us. In this way, we will help nurture that sublime fraternity with all creation which Saint Francis of Assisi so radiantly embodied” (No. 221).
Sr. Maureen P. Colleary, FSP is a member of RENEW’s Pastoral Services Team and is a Franciscan Sister of Peace.

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