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skyrocketsDuring one of our visits to my family in Italy, my cousin asked on a Thursday morning if we wanted to attend Mass that evening.
 
My relatives live in a tiny village that hasn’t changed appreciably since my grandparents left it more than a hundred years ago; in fact, the house the Paolinos live in hasn’t changed appreciably since it was built in the late 1680s.
 
In such a place, “events” that extend beyond eating meals, gathering eggs, and milking the goat, are rare.
 
So we would have accepted my cousin’s invitation almost regardless of what he was inviting us to.
 
The Mass—which turned out to be a devotion to St. Nicholas of Bari followed by the liturgy—was to begin at 6.
 
The parish church, as are many in Italy, is dedicated to St. Nicholas, a fourth-century Greek prelate whose reputation gave rise to the legend of Santa Claus.
 
After eating an early supper, we were sitting around in the house at about 5:30 when we were jolted by a series of loud explosions coming from nearby.
 
That is, my wife and I were jolted; my family hardly reacted except by laughing at us.
 
The source of the noise, it turned out, was a young man crouching on a hill above the village church and launching skyrockets—the local means of calling people to prayer.
 
This seemed incongruous to me at first; I had never associated fireworks with the celebration of the Eucharist. I even wondered if it was appropriate.
 
But as I reflected on it, it occurred to me that the spirit expressed by launching those skyrockets, rather than being out of place, was something to aspire to.
 
The skyrockets, which continued even as we were walking the short distance from my family’s house to the church, seemed to say, “Listen up! Something amazing is about to happen. Don’t miss it!”
 
Given the sparse population in the mountains where this event took place, and given the obscure location of the village, the turnout for a weeknight of devotions and Mass was respectable—including a youngish folk group that provided the music.
 
What did these villagers experience that was so amazing that it was announced by skyrockets? That people—regardless of what might distinguish them one from another—were about to gather as one family and, together, express their gratitude to God for his grace, express their good will toward each other and toward the world at large, and then become one with each other, with the whole Church, and, in a sense, with all of Creation, by sharing the body and blood of Christ in the bread and wine of the Eucharist.
 
December 6 is the feast day of St. Nicholas of Bari.
 
This post also appeared in The Catholic Spirit, Diocsese of Metuchen.
 
Charles Paolino is a member of the RENEW staff and a permanent Deacon in the Diocese of Metuchen.

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“When John the Baptist heard in prison of the works of the Christ, he sent his disciples to Jesus with this question, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?’ Jesus said to them in reply,
‘Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed,
the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them. And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.’
As they were going off, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John, ‘What did you go out to the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind? Then what did you go out to see? Someone dressed in fine clothing? Those who wear fine clothing are in royal palaces. Then why did you go out? To see a prophet?
Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written: Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way before you. Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he’” (Matthew 11:2-11).
 
Prophecy during Advent is an illustration of confounded expectations. Jesus has been preaching about how his followers will not be content or successful, but, rather will endure endless persecution in his name. John took a message of repentance to the king and found himself in chains. That might have been John’s first clue that Jesus was telling the truth, but still, where was the purifying fire, the revolution?
There were many messianic figures in those times, stirring the people’s sense of prophecy and superstition. One can understand John’s need to know, as he sat in jail, if Jesus was for real or just another charismatic preacher.
 
Consider our own expectations and the gospel pattern of confounding them. At this point, each of the answers suggested in the Advent gospel readings seem a little dubious, a little unlikely, yet inevitable. As twentieth century author Flannery O’Connor said, endings, like answers, work that way—we could never have imagined them, but when they come, they feel absolutely true and fitting.
 
So in today’s gospel reading we see Jesus neatly side-stepping the question of who he is. First, Jesus tells John’s followers to simply report what they have seen: not revolution, not fire, but healing and good news among the poor. Then, he calls John God’s messenger, the one who prepares the way. Yet John has always been a frightening prophet, preparing us for the worst—for being incomplete and unworthy when the Messiah comes. Jesus does not contradict John’s prophecies. The winnowing rod, the burning fire, the avenging Jewish King are still possibilities. By suggesting that the two visions are compatible, he again confounds expectations.
 
The answers we have been seeking come as a complete surprise, not so much in the “what” but in the fact that the results are actually there for those with the eyes of faith to see, and once realized, they seem inevitable. Jesus is telling John he should trust himself. He who has ears, Jesus will soon say, let him hear.
 
– What is Jesus asking his followers to rethink about whom to trust and follow?
 
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International.

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adventLoving God and Father,
You sent the messenger John
with words to move us, and shake us.
Let us be attentive to the Baptist’s call
to prepare for the coming
of the One who is more powerful than he.
Amen.
 
From Advent Awakenings, Year A: Trust the Lord.

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repentance“John the Baptist appeared, preaching in the desert of Judea and saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!’ It was of him that the prophet Isaiah had spoken when he said:
A voice of one crying out in the desert, Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.
John wore clothing made of camel’s hair and had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. At that time Jerusalem, all Judea, and the whole region around the Jordan were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins. When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance. Therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire’” (Matthew 3:1-8; 10b-11).
 
A lucrative position that has emerged in our modern economy is that of consultant. We try to drastically improve our prospects by soliciting advice from someone who seems to see more deeply, more clearly than we do. Consultants always appear superb in manner, dress, and expression. They radiate power and trust. When we dread the unknown, we pay consultants well to forge ahead of us, paving the way.
 
The wild man we meet in the gospel reading today is deliberately pictured by Matthew in a way that his listeners would recognize: clothed in rags and eating bugs—code for “this is a prophet.”
 
Deliberately abrasive, difficult, and unnerving, John is someone whose very abrasiveness might threaten the message he wishes to convey. He does not “consult” his followers on how to understand their lives. He exhorts, extols, and reminds his followers of service. An ancient voice cries in the wilderness, stirring our pity, igniting our sense of duty. But to hear the voice is not enough; we need to hear with a heart untainted by selfishness, motivated by truth, and purified by repentance.
 
Each of us must struggle to see beyond the medium to the message and ask, Is this truly the Spirit of God speaking to me?
 
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International.

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AdventLord Jesus, Advent invites us
to a time of new beginning.
Help us to make a fresh start—
to rid our lives
of distractions or preoccupations
that keep us from preparing ourselves
to welcome you at your second coming.
This we ask in your name,
who live and reign with the Father

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever.
Amen.

 
From Advent Awakenings, Year A: Trust the Lord.

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1st Sunday of Advent Be Prepared“Jesus said to his disciples: ‘As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. In those days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day that Noah entered the ark. They did not know until the flood came and carried them all away. So will it be also at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be out in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and one will be left. Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come’” (Matthew 24:37-42).
 
Be prepared. Nearly every young male can give you the source for that citation: the motto of the Boy Scouts, invoked by leaders at the start of every meeting. It wasn’t unusual for the boys to glance around, worrying a little and asking themselves, Prepared for what?
 
Robert Baden-Powell, the British founder of the Boy Scouts, once explained what he meant by that motto. “Prepared for what?” he said. “Why, for any old thing.” Being stranded in the woods with no matches. Noticing someone drowning in the deep end of a pool. The explicit lesson was that if we took time to prepare for most eventualities, then the future wouldn’t be nearly so haphazard, nor be a cause for dread.
 
“Advent” means coming, appearance, arrival. In these early days of Advent the focus is on the second coming of Christ, so we begin with eyes on the future, straining to focus on what might be headed this way. This reading is not about the coming of a poor little child; rather, it is about the coming of the end of the world. The imagery is stark, even startling. Two men working in a field. Two women preparing food. Suddenly, in each place, only one is left. Such abruptness is meant to startle us. Our daily actions, those simple pleasures of living—eating, drinking, marrying, as in “the days of Noah”—that make up our everyday lives should never be thought of as comfortably complete.
 
The liturgical year has changed, but the lesson has not. Jesus tells us over and over to be prepared for the end of this age.
 
Today’s stark stories tell us that the Church should be a community of preparation, which means we who are members of the Church should be cultivating a different vision of human goals and of the hope for our lives.
 
– What do you think preparation and watchfulness consist of, and what are we being asked to focus on?
 
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International.

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Year_of_MercyIn this final column of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, which ends today, the message is to the point. Our call—as individuals—is nothing less than to spread the news of God’s mercy.
 
The Second Vatican Council issued this call to us, the laity, because we “live in the midst of the world and its concerns.”
 
Recall that after Jesus had sent out the Twelve (Luke 9:2), he sent seventy-two others to spread his kingdom throughout the earth to offer all people a share in God’s mercy.
 
In the Church there is a diversity of ministry but a unity of mission, with the laity sharing in the priestly office of Jesus. The council fathers stated flatly that we, the laity, are called by God to exercise our mission by openly bearing witness to Christ and promoting the salvation of humankind.
 
We are challenged to do this with the ardor Jesus himself demonstrated. This means with passion, fervor, zeal, intensity, fire, emotion, enthusiasm, eagerness.
 
It’s a tall order, but one we cannot walk away from now that the Year of Mercy has ended.
 
Our prayer today:
 

Lord, enkindle in us a missionary zeal
so we may boldly proclaim Jesus in our daily lives
and ceaselessly promote the salvation of our brothers and sisters
in every corner of the world.

 
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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“The rulers sneered at Jesus and said, ‘He saved others, let him save himself if he is the chosen one, the Christ of God.’ Even the soldiers jeered at him. As they approached to offer him wine they called out, ‘If you are King of the Jews, save yourself.’ Above him there was an inscription that read, ‘This is the King of the Jews.’ Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, ‘Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us.’ The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, ‘Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal.’ Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ He replied to him, ‘Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise’ (Luke 23:25-43).
 
In Old Testament times, the Jewish people sought a leader, a king, someone to shepherd the people and command the army. In Jesus’ time, they were looking for another king, a messiah, and some thought Jesus, a powerful speaker and worker of miracles, might be that king. But people tend to follow a leader only when they like where he’s going. When Jesus was multiplying loaves and healing the sick, huge crowds followed him. But as he came closer to Jerusalem and told more hard truths about discipleship and the reign of God and his own future, some turned away.
 
When he was arrested and brought before the court, many decided that Jesus wasn’t going where they wanted to go. It is an act of trust to follow someone. Not all leaders bring their people to success. The hecklers at the foot of the cross probably thought Jesus, as a leader, was a failure. The only way to save the situation was to somehow change direction and escape the cross. That was what one of the criminals suggested: Get off that cross, Jesus, and get us off these crosses too! Save yourself, and us!
 
Jesus said nothing, because it was not a mistake in direction that landed him at Golgotha. His whole life was leading to that cross and beyond it to the resurrection. He knew where he was going, and throughout Luke’s Gospel, we have accompanied Jesus on his journey to Jerusalem and the cross. Luke invites us to learn from Jesus, to make his experience our experience.
 
Isn’t that exactly what happens in the conversation between the other criminal and Jesus? “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” “Jesus, you’re leading…don’t leave me behind.” If we make that our prayer, we too can take comfort in Jesus’ reply, “Truly I tell you, this day you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:42-43).
 
Remember that the criminal did not have the benefit of hindsight as we do—we know how the story ends. What faith is in his simply expressed pleas. We know that through our baptism we join with Jesus on the cross so we can also share in the glory of his resurrection.
 
– How do I trust that Jesus is leading me?
 
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International.

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kindnessThe Jubilee Year of Mercy will end next Sunday.
 
So what to we do now?
 
We put into practice all the insights and graces we have gained during the past 12 months.
 
Saint Paul, in his letter to the early Church at Ephesus, told us how simple—and necessary—this is.
 
“Be kind to one another, compassionate and mutually forgiving,” he wrote, “just as God has forgiven you in Christ” (Ephesians 4:32).
 
But how difficult is this guidance! Because it’s up to us as individuals to swing the pendulum in the direction of love and respect for others.
 
Will you hold the door open for unappreciative people behind, let arrogant drivers cut in front of you, greet strangers with a smile as you go about your day?
 
Saint Theresa of Avila offers this advice: “Our Lord asks only two things of us: love for him and for our neighbor. If we practice these perfectly, we shall be doing his will and so shall be united with him” (Interior Castle: V, 3)
 
Our prayer today:
 

Merciful Lord of us all,
help us wrap our thoughts, words, and actions
within the embrace of your loving kindness,
so that we are pleasing to you this day and 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 peterwyaremko.com/paradise_diaries.

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They will persecute you“While some people were speaking about how the temple was adorned with costly stones and votive offerings, Jesus said, ‘All that you see here—the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.’
‘When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for such things must happen first, but it will not immediately be the end.’ Then he said to them, ‘Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues from place to place; and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky.
‘Before all this happens, however, they will seize and persecute you, they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons, and they will have you led before kings and governors because of my name. It will lead to your giving testimony. Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand, for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute. You will even be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends, and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name, but not a hair on your head will be destroyed. By your perseverance you will secure your lives’” (Luke 21:5-6; 9-19).
 
Luke wrote his Gospel to share the words and deeds of Jesus principally with a non-Jewish audience. These Gentiles did not have five hundred years of Jewish history urging them toward the end times. How unnerving it must have been for them to hear about Jesus’ predictions about earthquakes, famines, and plagues, and being persecuted, imprisoned, betrayed, hated, and possibly killed. But for those who hid, fearing the authorities, for those who sat in prison, Jesus’ words actually offered consolation.
 
For over five hundred years, the Jews had been oppressed and had sought liberation through prayer and obedience. They could not see how this could happen to “God’s chosen people” or how justice would ever prevail. Jesus tells his followers that persecution and arrest are opportunities to deepen faithfulness and trust in the Gospel. He provides his followers with the voice and the strength to share the truth with their persecutors. God will not abandoned them to these disastrous circumstances, but when they occur, “not a hair of your head will perish.” Jesus’ resurrection offered new hope to people who were looking for the triumph of God’s justice and love.
 
We who make up the Church today also find these words difficult to hear. Almost two thousand years later, the end has not arrived. We have witnessed the destruction of great buildings; we have seen wars and insurrections, earthquakes, famines, and plagues. Few of us have escaped personal tragedy. In different parts of the world, many people hide their faith out of fear. Our comfort and our mission, in the midst of all of this, arises from the reality that we are the people of God—the community that enfleshes the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Whatever joy or tragedy swells around us, our place is with Jesus and the hope his resurrection brings for life after our physical deaths, whether in this age or the next.
 
– Jesus speaks about the opportunity to “testify.” How do I talk about my faith with others?
 
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International.

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King_DavidPsalm 63 was composed more than 3,000 years ago. But it presents us with an idea that’s radical even today: “Your mercy is better than life itself.”
 
Better than life? Such unquestioning trust in the mercy of God is a hard notion to accept in our secular age. But no one less than the future ruler of Israel, David, expressed this thought when he was hiding in the desert from jealous King Saul, who wanted him dead.
 
After many days without enough water or food, David’s body weakened. But he offered his suffering as prayerful yearning for God.
 
The holy men and women of the early Church who fled to desert wilderness to seek God, could see and feel God’s presence and power in a unique way there.
 
Pope St. John Paul II pointed to this psalm to illustrate how essential and profound is our need for God’s mercy.
 
“Without him we lack breath and even life itself,” he told a general audience in 2001. “For this reason the Psalmist puts physical existence itself on the second level, if union with God should be lacking.”
 
Our prayer today:
 

Eternal Father,
we thank you for speaking to us today
as you did to David so long ago,
reminding us that our earthly life
has little meaning without you at its center.

 
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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St_Ann_Soup_Kitchen“Have a good day,” “Have a good day,” echoed throughout the hall as each guest was handed a dinner tray by a bright eyed happy little girl of about ten years of age. It was a holiday, and schools were closed. Tina was planning to go to the soup kitchen at St. Ann’s Church in Newark, New Jersey, to volunteer; since the kids were off, she asked if they’d like to join her. In the car on the way to St. Ann’s she talked with them about what it would be like, what they might see and experience, and how they could do something nice for some very vulnerable people.
 
The four girls jumped right in. They loved donning their matching aprons, hats, and gloves. They deliberated over who would collect tickets and who would dish out the food, pour drinks, and serve trays. Their excitement, engaging smiles, and chorus of “Have a good day” greeted each guest that came to the window for a dinner tray.
 

soup_kitchen_instructions

Getting instructions from the chief chef, John.


Many of the guests smiled back, thanked the girls, and bantered with them.
 
Others, in their own worlds, anxious, and distracted, said nothing. When all had been served, these four young girls fixed their own plates and joined the guests for dinner.
 
As I observed this scene, I noticed how once in a while one of the girls would check something out with Mom who was patient with their questions and affirming with her answers.
 
I also saw how many guests responded gratefully to their youth and their upbeat attitudes.
 
Most of all I saw how happy these young people were to be of service though unaware of what a profound difference they were making in the lives of the guests as well as those of us who were volunteering with them.
 
Pope Francis often speaks about the critical need in the Church to form missionary disciples who will reach out to others with the Good News and let them know that they are loved by God and by others. Forming missionary disciples might sound like a daunting task. This Mom, Tina, was doing it, preparing her children to be aware of the needs of the poor and vulnerable and, with them, doing something about it.
 
I commented to the Mom as she and the girls prepared to leave the soup kitchen that the conversation in the car on the way home would be priceless. She agreed and added that it would be a conversation for beyond the car ride.
 
Who knows how this day off from school spent helping others and learning a little about the poor among us will impact and form these little disciples?
 
Sister Honora is the Assistant Director and Director of Development at RENEW and a Dominican Sister of Amityville, NY.

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sadducees“Some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection, came forward. Jesus said to them, ‘The children of this age marry and remarry; but those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. They can no longer die, for they are like angels; and they are the children of God because they are the ones who will rise. That the dead will rise even Moses made known in the passage about the bush, when he called out “Lord,” the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; and he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive’”
(Luke 20:27, 34-38).
 
Who were the Sadducees? They were Jews who took a different view from other Jewish groups of what constituted the Law. They adhered strictly to the written Law, believing only the first five books of the Bible, the Torah, were legitimately God’s Word. Thus, they firmly refused to believe in the resurrection of the body nor in the immortality of the soul, neither of which is mentioned in the Torah. Politically, they were an aristocratic group with ties to the Romans, the rich, and the priests of Jerusalem who controlled the Temple, the center of Jewish religious practice. They enjoyed the respect of both the rich and poor.
 
The arrival of Jesus threatens their status. Huge crowds are following Jesus, listening to him preach about the kingdom of God, some extraordinary place where the last will be first, and the rich will struggle to get in.
 
These Sadducees presume a completely different idea of “eternal life,” one common in ancient societies and perhaps still present today. To live forever in any sense at all, you must accomplish great things, involving wealth or power, so people will remember and talk about you long after you’re gone. Better yet, have children who can preserve your blood line, take care of your amassed estate, and remind everyone not to forget you.
 
This is the assumption that Jesus challenges, distinguishing between “this age” and “the coming age.”
 
In this age people marry and work to become wealthy for status and bring forth children to preserve and inherit that status, but in the life of the resurrection none of that happens because none of that matters. Everyone—as we have consistently heard from Luke—is worthy to be a “child of the resurrection,” is a child of God, and there is no status greater than that.
 
– Where do you see evidence of the Sadducees’ notion of “eternal life” at work in the world today?
 
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International.

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come_follow_meWe’ve all heard the story. Jesus sees a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office and says to him, “Follow me.”
 
But do we really buy it? In the time of Jesus, tax collectors were despised. Not only did they work for the hated Romans, but they also cheated their own people out of even more money than the Romans demanded—which went right into the tax collectors’ own pockets.
 
Such a man dropped everything to take up with an itinerant preacher?
 
Yes.
 
Why is this story believable?
 
St. Bede the Venerable, a seventh-century monk, explains that Jesus saw Matthew not through the lens of Jesus’ merciful understanding of people.
 
Matthew, therefore, essentially shrank under the power of Christ’s eyes of mercy and surrendered to God’s grace.
 
When we look with “eyes of mercy” at those who disappoint us or disagree with us or even humiliate us, can we see buried beneath their “unworthiness” the seeds of a desire for God, the attempts to love—however botched—or the hunger for holiness—perhaps muddied and misdirected, but still there?
 
Our prayer today:
 

Lord,
you showed your great mercy to Matthew by calling him to be your apostle
May we, too, always be as eager as Matthew to answer your call to holiness.

 
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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Mary_RyanI am delighted to be a guest blogger here on the RENEW website and to be sharing some thoughts with you that I have titled “The Spirituality of Imperfection.”
 
I have borrowed this title from Franciscan Father Richard Rohr, who has used it many times in his books and lectures. I love this phrase, because it applies to me and to all of us: we try very hard to follow Jesus in discipleship, but we all are also broken or disabled, all of us in the human condition. It is in this brokenness, this imperfection, this vulnerability, that Jesus comes and joins with us, uniting with us and healing us.
 
When I say “broken,” I mean that none of us in the human condition can do anything perfectly. However, we should not be discouraged by our weaknesses, because Jesus knows that we are trying, and that we are doing it just right. Let’s keep in mind that Andrew, Bartholomew, Thomas, John and all the friends of Jesus at the time that he walked and lived and breathed among them, were also imperfect. I think we tend to lose sight of that: none of them were perfect!
 
So, broken discipleship should give us courage. It should remind us that we can’t be perfect every minute of every day, but as long as we live in the present moment with our Lord, we’re doing it just right.
 
I hope that any or all of this is ringing true for you. Let me give you a bit of background about myself. My husband and I have been involved in parish community as Pre-Cana leaders, members of the Parish Council, Eucharistic ministers and lectors, as well as active participants in RENEW programs.
 
I am 63 years old and have been a wife for 41 years, a mother to our four sons for 38 years, a foster parent to 27 children from Catholic Charities and Healing the Children, and “GranMary” to our eleven grandchildren.
 
I have also been totally blind for the past 36 years. My lack of sight has, at times, been a challenge for me and for my family, but I also found it to be a special opportunity to accept God’s grace in my life.
 
Jesus certainly knew first-hand the human condition and disability. We see this in his agony in the garden, where he asked God, our Father, “Please, take this from me. Please,” as he was filled with fear and confusion. But the most important thing about his prayer in that garden was this: “Father, let it be your will, and not mine.” We witness the love of Jesus for his Father, even in his desperation.
 
Jesus defines himself, and all of us, humbly and honorably, a “Servant.” He is fully aware of our imperfection, and yet he calls us to be of service to one another in his name. All in the human experience are disabled. By that I mean to say that all of us, in some area or another, are struggling, living with difficulties and challenges. So, whether child, adolescent or adult; African-American, Asian or Caucasian; male or female; and, indeed, sighted or blind: we are all challenged—emotionally, physically, psychologically or spiritually. In some way we must all face these challenges.
 
One definition of disability is any condition that may limit one’s independence, Blindness certainly fits the bill: it may limit my independence, but it must not, should not, and will not limit my identity. If I allow it to do so, if I enable it to dictate who I am and what I can accomplish, then blindness becomes for me not only a lack of sight, but a lack of vision. This is not what Jesus wants for me or from me, and it is definitely not what I intend to give him, as I journey this path of faith with him.
 
Mary Ryan lives in Westfield, New Jersey

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