RENEW International - Home   RENEW International - Blog   RENEW International - Shop   RENEW International - Donate   RENEW International - Request Info
Search

 
 

“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

EmailLinkedInDeliciousShare
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 
 

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.

EmailLinkedInDeliciousShare
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 
 

“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

EmailLinkedInDeliciousShare
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 
 

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.

EmailLinkedInDeliciousShare
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 
 

Jesus_Calms_Storm“A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was already filling up. Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion. They woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ He woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ The wind ceased and there was great calm. Then he asked them, ‘Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?’” (Mark 4:37-40)
 
Many of us have had the experience of either driving or being a passenger in a vehicle when without warning, the skies open up and we’re in the middle of a downpour or blinding snow squall. The visibility decreases dramatically, road conditions are unstable, and we’re not sure if we should pull off the road. It can be very alarming, not unlike what the disciples experienced in the boat with Jesus.
 
This story is not only about Jesus’ power over the wind and sea; it is about Jesus’ presence during the storm. Trust is a quality that is built over time and through experience. When we are feeling overwhelmed by upsetting circumstances, it is easy to think God has broken trust with us. When a storm is swirling about us, it is easy to lose our sense of direction and become confused as to what the next step ought to be. The practices of prayer, reading, and quiet time can get lost in the confusion, and when we seemingly lose that connection with God, maintaining trust becomes even harder.
 
A powerful aspect of the Jewish Passover celebration, which we experience most fully during the Easter Vigil, is the retelling of the stories of God’s deliverance of the Hebrew people. By recalling what God has done for us, we remember God’s unwavering presence in our lives and reinforce the sometimes thin thread of trust when rough seas buffet us. We are reminded that even during the most distressing times, we are never alone. And after the storms have passed, we may find we have the grace to answer this most profound question, “Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?” (Mark 4:41).
 
Have I ever felt that Jesus was “asleep in the boat” and what did I do?

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

EmailLinkedInDeliciousShare
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 
 

leading-prayer-in-small-groupsYou are a leader of prayer, and that’s something to ponder and celebrate. This is not everyone’s task or gift, but it is yours. What sets the prayer leader apart? You are welcoming, you are fully present, you project a calm confidence, and you create the atmosphere and set the tone for the gathering.
 
Can you appreciate the grace and gift that is yours in this opportunity? Can you enjoy the role and responsibility, too? Do you know that none of this is accidental? It’s all about you and God—your unique and special relationship and how this relationship is lived out in the way you lead your faith-
sharing group in prayer.
 
When you can celebrate who you are and how leading prayer is an expression of the love you and God have for each other and the gifts and talents God has generously given you, you can extend the opportunity for leading prayer to others whose gifts you can nurture.
 
You will see in others what they see in you—reverence, confidence, competence, attentiveness to the group’s needs, ease of manner, and a well-groomed appearance.
 
From your vantage point as a leader of prayer, consider the following steps:
 

  • Let your small group know that you are looking for future prayer leaders because the present leaders may not always be available and because the ministry belongs to all baptized Christians. Encourage volunteers to approach you.
  • Observe the group closely to identify those who are particularly prayerful and reliable. Begin a conversation with this person to determine if he or she is interested in a leader’s role.
  • Spend time explaining the process to your candidates and assure them of your continuing help.
  • Schedule time with your candidates to share your techniques and experiences, to help them get comfortable with the process, and to practice.
  • Use one of your group’s meetings as an opportunity for your candidates to lead or read parts of the session. Let the whole group know what you are doing and why.
  • Invite each candidate to assist you in preparing a group meeting.
  • Allow each candidate to conduct a session while you observe only as a member of the group. Plan the dates with each candidate well in advance.
  • Meet privately with each candidate after he or she has led a session, listen to the candidate’s reaction to the experience and give your own feedback—always being as positive and encouraging as possible.
  • Encourage the candidates to lead more than one session so that they can become more comfortable with the role.

 
May God’s grace help you to see and nurture in others the gifts he has bestowed on you and, through your encouragement, provide the Church with new leadership.
 
Based on Leading Prayer in Small Groups, Chapters 2 and 9

EmailLinkedInDeliciousShare
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

 
 

There are common phrases such as “Have a heart,” “Is your heart in it?”, “The heart of the matter is…” When I hear these, I know we are talking “essentials.’’ As we celebrate the Feast of the Sacred Heart, I consider the Heart of Jesus. I think of qualities and characteristics such as love, peace, respect, dignity, mercy, compassion, forgiveness. This feast, for me, is also an invitation to rededicate myself to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and reflect on how these essential qualities are lived through my heart and in my everyday life.

I consider myself truly blessed to know Jesus and want to be like him. It’s a gift that I treasure and enjoy sharing—knowing this world would be an even better place if everyone did. Today is a good day to delight in and share the joy and blessing of our faith in him. He has faith in us!

Anne Scanlan is a member of the RENEW staff, serves on the Pastoral Services Team, and is an exceptional liturgist.

EmailLinkedInDeliciousShare
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 
 


 
 
“Mercy is the force that reawakens us to new life and instills in us the courage to look to the future with hope.” —Pope Francis, The Face of Mercy
 
Year of MercyPope Francis has done it again—he has found an innovative way to touch people’s hearts by calling a special jubilee named the Holy Year of Mercy. It will begin on December 8, 2015, the feast of the Immaculate Conception, and close on November 20, 2016, the feast of Christ the King. In The Face of Mercy, the pope explains that on December 8 he will open the special holy door of St. Peter’s Basilica to mark the beginning of the jubilee. He is also asking every diocese to identify a similar Door of Mercy at a cathedral or other special church to be opened during the year. In this way, the year of mercy is not only for those who make a pilgrimage to Rome but for all people. Francis hopes that in the symbolic act of opening the door it “will become a Door of Mercy through which anyone who enters will experience the love of God who consoles, pardons, and instills hope.”
 
A door can be a powerful image—when it is wide open it invites and welcomes us to freely enter; if it is slightly ajar we think twice before we carefully peer in and see if it is okay to enter. When the door is closed we knock and sometimes begin to pound on it, hoping someone on the other side will hear us. However, when the door is bolted shut we don’t even bother to knock—we just walk away. Over these last twenty or so years many people have walked away from the Church because they have felt shut out. In some cases they got tired of sneaking in, pushing through, or knocking until their knuckles bled, seeking mercy for themselves or a loved one. The pope writes, “The temptation…to focus exclusively on justice made us forget that this is only the first, albeit necessary and indispensable step. The time has come for the Church to take up the joyful call to mercy once more.”
 
The pope reminds us that Jesus is the compassion and mercy of God and that those who have experienced God’s infinite mercy are called to show mercy to others. Each one of us who has been marked by the forgiving and saving love of God is to practice mercy—we are to ask God to transform our hearts into open doors of mercy by which people experience in us consolation, pardon, and hope.
 
In his letter on mercy Francis reveals his “burning desire” that during the jubilee year we reflect on Jesus’ call to his followers, especially in the Gospel of Matthew, to act on their faith through the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Francis exhorts us: “We cannot escape the Lord’s words to us, and they will serve as the criteria upon which we will be judged: whether we have fed the hungry and given drink to the thirsty, welcomed the stranger and clothed the naked, or spent time with those in prison.”
 
May we enter the open and merciful heart of our God and experience his unconditional love and forgiveness and, in turn, may we become a door of mercy for others.
 

For the full text of Pope Francis’ Proclamation of the Holy Year, click here.
 
Sr. Terry Rickard is the Executive Director of RENEW International and a Dominican Sister from Blauvelt, NY.

EmailLinkedInDeliciousShare
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 
 

“He said, ‘To what shall we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable can we use for it? It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth. But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.’ With many such parables he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it” (Mark 4:30-33).

What a sense of hope this image of the growing seed must have given to those who followed Jesus and those who first read Mark’s Gospel. The first believers suffered tremendously for their faith. To understand that the kingdom of God starts as something no bigger than a mustard seed but grows into something large and sturdy must have been encouraging. This parable gave those early disciples strength, patience, persistence, and hope.

Today, the world is troubled by war and the threat of war, by greed, injustice, and poverty. It is just as urgent for us to hear this Gospel as it was for Mark’s contemporaries. The growth of a seed is slow and imperceptible. All we can do is work to provide the right environment for that seed and trust that if we do our part the seed will grow.

Just as the early Church could not know the effect its faith would have on the world, we cannot know how our faith will contribute to building up the reign of God on earth. Our job is to help God’s reign spread by cultivating the soil of our lives and living the word of God.

What are the ways in which you keep the soil of your life cultivated so that it fosters the word of God? Are there things that you could do differently?

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

EmailLinkedInDeliciousShare
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 
 

“The disciples then went off, entered the city, and found it just as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover. While they were eating, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, gave it to them, and said, ‘Take it; this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them, ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many. Amen, I say to you, I shall not drink again the fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God’” (Mark 14:16, 22-25).

Blood is mentioned in all of the readings for today and in each case it is used in connection with the idea of covenant. God marked his special relationships with people by establishing covenants with them. God’s covenant with the Israelite nation, for example, was celebrated with a special sacrifice of atonement. Each year, a high priest would liturgically put all the sins of the people on a single lamb, and that lamb would then be slain.

This gospel reading described Jesus sharing the great feast of Passover with his disciples and celebrating the liberation of the people of God from slavery. He pronounced the words, “This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many. Amen, I say to you, I shall not drink again the fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”

The next day, the disciples discovered the reality of that promise. The blood that sealed this new covenant was that of Jesus himself. God showed the greatness of his love in emptying himself to become human and shared in our humanity to the extent of death on a cross. Jesus, the Son of God, was now the lamb whose blood sealed the new covenant of love between God and all human beings.

By being the lamb, Jesus also inaugurated a new healing covenant. Every time we share his body and blood in the Eucharist, we are involved in that sacrifice that has the power to transcend time and space and meet us where we are.

There may come decisive moments, or even whole chapters of our lives, that require us to empty ourselves as Jesus did. People rarely receive awards or recognition for feeding the poor, tutoring the struggling, or “being the lamb” in countless of other ways. But, in doing these things, we build up the love that exists between ourselves and those we serve and between ourselves and God.

What are some sacrifices you have seen others make for you? How have those sacrifices impacted your life?

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

EmailLinkedInDeliciousShare
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 
 

“The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them. When they all saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted. Then Jesus approached and said to them, ‘All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age’” (Matthew 28:16-20).

In event described in this Gospel reading, the disciples were invited to a special encounter with Christ, and, through them, the whole world was invited as well.

Imagine the fear and doubt the disciples must have experienced as they made their way toward the meeting place in Galilee. They must have hoped that the words the women spoke were true, that Jesus was no longer in the tomb and had risen from the dead, yet they probably tried not to get their hopes up too high. They may also have been afraid of what Jesus would say to them. They had, after all, abandoned him after his arrest.

Jesus did not only appear to them. He told them some of the greatest news in the Gospel, that he would be with them (and us) always! He commissioned them to go and make disciples of all nations and to baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This encounter helped the disciples move from hiding in fear to being courageous evangelizers.

Like the disciples, we may at times be hesitant to believe that God will meet us where we are, and to allow our encounters with God to make a difference in our lives. However, having faith and responding to our encounters with the Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – will open up new horizons for us and may help us to find needed direction in our lives.

What encounters have changed the direction of your life? How did you see God in those encounters?

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

EmailLinkedInDeliciousShare
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 
 

“‘I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming. He will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you. Everything that the Father has is mine; for this reason I told you that he will take from what is mine and declare it to you’” (John 16:12-15).

The story of Pentecost is the story of the early Church. The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus were fulfilled, and the believers began to spread the Good News.

The Pentecost story in the first reading in the Acts of the Apostles is a reversal of the Tower of Babel story. In the Book of Genesis, we are told of a time when all people spoke the same language. The people banded together to create a tower that would reach up to Heaven. The tower had such grandeur that the people praised the builders instead of God. Since people had used the gift of language to rebel, God took away their common language and scattered them (Genesis 11:1-0). This is the perfect example of what not to do with a divine gift. The people in the story fell in love with their gift and forgot the giver.

In the Pentecost story, the people who spoke all of the languages of the known world gathered in Jerusalem and, suddenly, they were able to communicate as one again. This gift came directly from God.

This is important to remember as we think about the gifts that we’ve been given. Whether we are physically strong or charismatic, these are gifts from God. Our response to these gifts is to use them in gratitude.

Of course, we may also have the opposite problem. Instead of feeling pride in our gifts, we may feel jealous of the gifts of others. Too often we beat ourselves up for not being strong enough or smart enough. Instead of using our own gifts, we waste our energy wishing for the gifts of others.

But we are not in competition with one another. As a community of Christians, we are a single body with a single mission to proclaim the Good News. Each member’s task is to figure out how his or her unique set of skills and talents can help all of us reach that common goal. There is one mission but many ministries.

Your gifts are God-given, and the best way to give thanks to God for those gifts is to use those talents in the service of God and others.

What are some of the prime passions and talents God has given you? How do you use them?

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

EmailLinkedInDeliciousShare
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 
 

Rembrant: Ascension of Christ“Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned. These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages. They will pick up serpents with their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them. They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.’ So then the Lord Jesus, after he spoke to them, was taken up into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God. But they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word through accompanying signs” (Mark 16:15-20).

The Ascension is a beautiful development in the story we have been following for the past forty days. Jesus was “taken up” and seated “at the right hand of God” before our very eyes.

In this Gospel, Mark assures us the Resurrection has taken place— the Ascension is the culmination of the resurrection narrative. Jesus ascended from the warm embrace of his community of believers on earth. He was teaching and affirming at the moment of his ascension. He was with those he loved, his friends and followers, and assured them that they were ready to begin the serious work. Before the Ascension, he gave them instructions.

This Great Commission to the disciples was to proclaim the Gospel to all creation.

These are our instructions, too. The faithful fulfillment of our duties is to proclaim that God is with us and God is gracious. This simple and blessed assurance is our job.

As the disciples had grown and developed in the Easter narratives, we faithful continue to grow and mature, to evolve and change. Now we do so as living witnesses, developing the gifts that God has entrusted to us, bearing fruit by sharing the word with others.

The Ascension is far from the end of the story. The faithful are on earth, and Jesus is at the right hand of God, readying us for the next stage. The story is really just beginning.

How do you proclaim the Good News in your own life? How can you be a better witness of Jesus through your actions and in your conversations with others?

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

EmailLinkedInDeliciousShare
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 
 

“’I speak this in the world so that they may share my joy completely. I gave them your word, and the world hated them, because they do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world. And I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth’” (John 17:13-19).

John’s Gospel is one of contrasts—to be of the spirit rather than of the flesh, this world as opposed to heaven, light instead of dark.

This passage from John was part of Jesus’ last discourse before his passion and resurrection. This reading is used in the liturgy between the feasts of the Ascension (when Jesus ascends to heaven) and Pentecost (when the Holy Spirit descends upon the followers of Jesus).

In John’s Gospel, to follow Jesus is to live in the light. “The world” here refers to those who have not understood Jesus’ message—those who ultimately arrest and kill him. Jesus knows that he will depart from the disciples’ presence. He is preparing them for the time when he will no longer be present in the flesh but will be with them in a different way. He tells them that they will be protected by God, as they are entrusted to be the bearers of Jesus’ mission.

So, why is this reading used between the feasts of Ascension and Pentecost? Perhaps it is because as Jesus’ mission in the world had come to an end, he passed this mission along to the disciples. We, too, are the disciples of Jesus and must take up the mission of Jesus in the world. The end of the physical presence of Jesus was directly connected to the beginning of the new Church, which is enlivened and protected by the spiritual presence of Christ.

God is with us, no matter where we are or where we are going. Like the disciples, perhaps we also need to hear that we are protected, even as we are living through challenging times. This reading reminds us that every ending is another beginning—the beginning of something more powerful than we could have imagined.

What “in between” times have you been through? How have you experienced the presence of God in these times?

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

EmailLinkedInDeliciousShare
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 
 

Dom_Helder_CamaraEarlier this week, the Vatican opened the cause for the canonization of Dom Helder Camara, the “bishop of the poor” and one of the most influential Latin American church leaders of the twentieth century.
 
I never met an archbishop who was smaller in stature than me. However, his smallness of height was no indication of the influence of his soul and life. He was almost 70 but seemed older with a wizened brown face, battered by years of exposure to the harsh sun of drought-ravaged Brazil. I remember, above all, his gentleness and his concern for everything in the world around him, including animals and plants (which had earned him the nickname of St. Francis).
 
It was the early 80s; I was pastoral associate at St. James Cathedral in Brooklyn, N.Y. Dom Helder had been nominated four times for the Noble Peace Prize, but it was never awarded to him. In spite of this, or maybe because of it, Riverside Church in Manhattan recognized his greatness and invited him speak at an evening of prayer during a major disarmament conference. I had the good fortune to be his host for the weekend. No fancy hotels; no special meals. He drank tea, and he ate bread and vegetables.
In 1959 Dom Helder was appointed archbishop of Olinda e Recife, a very poor diocese in Northeastern Brazil. He rejected the pomp and ceremony of his rank. He always wore a battered brown cassock, adorned only by a simple wooden cross. This was what he wore that weekend to Riverside Church. For me, one who is so concerned about appearances and wardrobe, this was a reminder of what is important.
 
Dom Helder also refused to live in the archbishop’s house! “I’m not one of those evil elitist Church-people you know. The poor are at the center of MY Gospel,” he said. He lived in a small, three-room house behind the sacristy of the cathedral. During his tenure, he was informally called the “bishop of the slums” for his clear position on the side of the urban poor. He encouraged peasants to think beyond their conventionally fatalistic outlook by studying the Gospels in small groups and asking what conclusions could be drawn for social change. He was active in the formation of the Brazilian Bishops’ Conference in 1952, and he served as its first general secretary until 1964. In 1959 he founded Banco da Providência in Rio de Janeiro, a philanthropic organization to fight poverty and social injustice by making it easier for poor people to receive loans.
 
Dom Helder Camara founded a seminary where the formation of the priest candidates in social action was as important as formation in theology.
 
When we arrived at Riverside, the church with its two balconies, which seats 1900, was jammed. After bringing Dom Helder to the sacristy, I squeezed into a spot in the balcony. The music was glorious; the procession included 25-foot-high puppets mocking armaments as a way to peace. High-ranking clerics from all over the world processed into the church, the colors and designs of the vestments were astounding. As Dom Helder entered the nave the congregation stood and applauded for what seemed to be a solid twenty minutes. Tears ran down my cheeks. I recall that as he spoke that evening he made a statement that has often been quoted since: “When I feed the hungry they call me saint. When I ask why they are hungry they call me a communist.”
 
Camara attended all four sessions of the Second Vatican Council and was instrumental in developing the document The Church in the Modern World (Lumen Gentium). Perhaps Camara’s greatest achievement was to help organize the historic meeting of CELAM (Consejo Episcopal Latinoamerican or the Latin American Episcopal Conference) in Medellin in Colombia in 1968. In a decisive break with their old role of supporting the rich and the powerful, the bishops declared a “preferential option for the poor,” openly identifying themselves with the excluded and the exploited. It was an important victory for the progressive wing of the Church, which at that time was enthused with the ideas of liberation theology sweeping through the continent, particularly Brazil.
 
Will people call Oscar Romero, a martyr for the faith who will be beatified this month in El Salvador; Dom Helder Camara of Brazil; and Pope Francis of Argentina and Rome communists because they actually love the poor?
 
You can read more about Dom Helder Camara in his downloadable book, The Spiral of Violence.
 
Sister Honora is the Assistant Director at RENEW and a Dominican Sister of Amityville, NY.

EmailLinkedInDeliciousShare
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 
Home / Request Information / Site Map / Contact Us / Shop Online
Why Catholic? / ¿Por qué ser católico? / ARISE Together in Christ / Longing for the Holy
Campus RENEW / Theology on Tap / RENEW Worldwide