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Thankful Leper“As Jesus continued his journey to Jerusalem, he traveled through Samaria and Galilee. As he was entering a village, ten lepers met him. They stood at a distance from him and raised their voices, saying, ‘Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!’ And when he saw them, he said, ‘Go show yourselves to the priests.’ As they were going they were cleansed. And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. He was a Samaritan. Jesus said in reply, ‘Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?’ Then he said to him, ‘Stand up and go; your faith has saved you’” (Luke 17:11-19).
 
In Jesus’ time many people believed that the honor and shame of a person or family was dependent on many factors, including health. Good health was a sign that God had shown favor to the person, while ailments, either physical or mental, meant that one (or one’s family) had sinned. Leprosy was one of the ailments that many people associated with sin. Lepers lived on the fringes of society, as their disease was contagious and incurable. While we may feel that we do not stigmatize people because of their illnesses or handicaps, today’s reading invites us to look a little closer.
 
A disease like lung cancer, for example, might be seen as the end result of an addictive habit. Diabetes might be seen as the result of poor eating choices and exercise habits, or AIDS as a result of sexual behavior or drug use. These types of suppositions are not limited to just physical diseases. Some may view poverty as the result of a series of bad personal choices or a lack of personal drive rather than the result of systemic injustice. Until recently, few ever dared speak of the heavy burden of mental illness for fear of being thought of as “less than.”
 
How often do we confuse a person with his or her ailment? Or age, physical ability, looks, or favorite brand of clothing? That is not Jesus’ way—nor, Luke is saying, should it be the way of those who claim to follow Jesus.
 
The story is set in the context of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem which is a metaphor for a Christian life. Jesus’ journey, and so our Christian life, includes welcoming the ten lepers. Remember, Jesus breaks all conventions and violates what people of his time considered to be good sense in welcoming these lepers who were outcasts, not just because of some cultural prejudice, but because of a real danger to the community’s health. The point is that no one is beyond the healing love of Christ.
 
Luke pushes it even further. One of the ten lepers is a Samaritan, someone doubly outcast because he is both ill and a foreigner. Luke does not immediately tell us that the leper was a Samaritan; he waits until the man returns to thank Jesus. The others have done only what was required of them, what Jesus reminded them to do: show themselves to the priests who had the authority to readmit them to normal society.
 
Through the sacrament of reconciliation, the Church facilitates our return from the “leprosy” of sin. We are not just welcomed back; as part of the Church, we also have the task of facilitating and encouraging the return of others.
 
– How can you be an instrument of healing—physical, emotional, or spiritual—in someone’s life?
 
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International.

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artisan_potterSome 25,000 people attended Pope Francis’s general audience in St. Peter’s Square a few days after the canonization of Saint Teresa of Kolkata.
 
Before delivering his final blessing, the pope called on young people to follow her example and be “artisans of mercy.”
 
Why did he use the example of an artisan to illustrate his call for us to do God’s missionary work through “an authentic evangelic path?”
 
An artisan is a worker in a trade that demands special skills, especially work that involves producing useful things by hand.
 
Both Jesus and his earthly father, Joseph, labored as skilled carpenters. Using handheld tools, they shaped wood for new uses and, therefore, could be called artisans.
 
Men and women today create false images of God, the pope said. They often think of him as a “psychological refuge” that provides comfort during difficult times. Or they reduce Jesus to just another teacher of ethics.
 
These erroneous perceptions “cancel out his missionary impulse that is capable of transforming the world and history.”
 
Christians, Francis said, believe in the God of Jesus Christ, who wants us “to grow in the living experience of his mystery of love.”
 
Our prayer today:
 

Lord Jesus,
grant us the gift of great faith
so that we can become signs and instruments of your mercy.

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

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mustard_seed_faith“The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith.’ The Lord replied, ‘If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, “Be uprooted and planted in the sea,” and it would obey you. Who among you would say to your servant who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, “Come here immediately and take your place at table”? Would he not rather say to him, “Prepare something for me to eat. Put on your apron and wait on me while I eat and drink. You may eat and drink when I am finished”? Is he grateful to that servant because he did what was commanded? So should it be with you. When you have done all you have been commanded, say, “We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do”’” (Luke 17:5-10).
 
Some students quickly figure out ways to do as little as possible while earning as high grades as they can. “Is this going to be on the test?” they ask in every class. Idealistic, dedicated professors find such questions exasperating, as if the knowledge they impart can simply be distilled down to a single exam in which students simply regurgitate information.
 
In this story Jesus is much like a professor. His top-flight students, the apostles, are seeking the gift of faith. He tells them something they may not want to hear: you who have been blessed are expected to do so much more. Don’t expect to be praised because you have done the barest minimum.
 
What Jesus expects is nothing less than the integration of our faith into all aspects of life. We who have been privileged to receive that saving message of Jesus can’t rest on our laurels. Luke is recalling the challenges of true discipleship — much more than doing just enough to get by. There are ways of nourishing this integration: personally through honest prayer and communally through our participation in the Sunday Eucharist, by service and by sharing faith.
 
If only we had faith as small as a mustard seed, we wouldn’t simply meet the barest minimum requirements: weekly Mass attendance and an occasional prayer uttered in a crisis. Instead, we would be on fire with faith and it would transform our lives. Its truth would grow in us, slowly and tentatively at first but eventually consuming us if we let it. In this test, we can’t be satisfied with just learning the answers. We will have to live them as well.
 
– In whose faith do you see evidence of a “faith the size of a mustard seed?”
 
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International.

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sleeping_on_streetWho is the Lazarus among us?
 
Our newest saint, Mother Teresa, recognized him in alleys and gutters:
 
“The outcasts, those who are rejected, the unloved, prisoners, alcoholics, the dying, those who are alone and abandoned, the marginalized, the untouchables and lepers, those in doubt and confusion, those who have not been touched by the light of Christ, those starving for the word and peace of God, sad and afflicted souls.”
 
Like Lazarus in the parable, the poor thirst for water. But the new Lazarus, St. Teresa reminds us, also thirsts “for peace, truth and justice. The poor are naked and need clothing, but also need human dignity and compassion for those who sin. The poor have no shelter and need shelters made of bricks, but also need a joyful heart, compassionate and full of love. They are sick and need medical attention, but also a helping hand and welcoming smile.”
 
In other words, the Lazarus among us needs not only God’s mercy, but ours as well.
 
The psalmist knew this in his darkest hour when he sang, “Your mercy is better than life itself.” (Psalm 62)
 
And St. Augustine, too, confessed, “On your exceedingly great mercy, and on that alone, rests all my hope.”
 
Our prayer today:
 

Jesus,
help us always be wholehearted in showing mercy to the needy among us,
just as you shower us with the full measure of your love.

 
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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September 25 is the feast day of Blessed Hermann of Reichenau.
 
Blessed_HermannPeople of a certain vintage will recall a time when after every “low” Mass we prayed the “Hail Mary” three times and then “Hail Holy Queen” — known in Latin as “Salve Regina.”
 
When I was a youngster I said those prayers every Sunday and on the frequent weekdays when I was the altar boy for a daily Mass.
 
In addition, on most Wednesday evenings, I assisted at devotions to Our Lady of Fatima in which we prayed the rosary, followed by “Hail Holy Queen.”
 
I was always attracted to the “Salve Regina,” and in those days I was not yet aware of its remarkable origins.
 
That prayer — “Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy, our life, our sweetness and our hope” — is essentially a poem written by Hermann of Reichenau, an 11th century Benedictine monk who was beatified by Pope Pius IX in 1863.
 
Hermann was a composer, a poet, a music theorist, a mathematician, an astronomer, and an historian.
 
The range of his scholarship and his achievements would have been remarkable if he had been in good health, but he was actually severely disabled.
 
He was born with a cleft palate and spoke only with great difficulty.
 
He had cerebral palsy and, researchers believe, either amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease) or spinal muscular atrophy. He could barely move and had to be carried from place to place.
 
Because his condition was so extreme, his parents couldn’t give him the care he needed, and they placed him with a community of Benedictine monks.
 
Hermann spent the rest of his life in a monastery, professing as a monk himself when he was 20 years old, eventually becoming the abbot. He died when he was 40.
 
Like Stephen Hawking in our own time, Hermann had a natural curiosity about the world around him, and a desire to learn, that were greater than his disabilities.
 
He was a well-known composer of religious music, and some of his work survives today. He wrote extensively about the science of music which, in his era, was considered a branch of mathematics. He also wrote on geometry and arithmetic.
 
He introduced to central Europe, from sources originating in Arabic Spain, a portable sundial and devices used for measure angles and distances in astronomy.
 
Also among his achievements in astronomy was accurately calculating the length of a lunar month.
 
Somehow, Hermann found time to write the first comprehensive history of the events of the first millennium, beginning with the birth of Jesus.
 
By the time he wrote the “Salve Regina,” he was blind.
 
It must take an almost unique combination of qualities for a person like Hermann to not only lead a productive life but also excel in multiple disciplines.
 
He may be an encouraging model for folks who have more than their share of physical challenges.
 
But while I have been spared any such disabilities, and even lesser ones, I apply Hermann’s example to myself, too.
 
Self- pity, fatigue, impatience, boredom, and indolence at times make it seem more attractive to patronize myself than to learn more about the world and put to good use what gifts God gave me.
 
But I think about Blessed Hermann, and I tango on.
 
This post first 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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Lazarus_the_Rich_Man“Jesus said to the Pharisees: ‘There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day. And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Dogs even used to come and lick his sores. When the poor man died, he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried, and from the netherworld, where he was in torment, he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he cried out, “Father Abraham, have pity on me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering torment in these flames.” Abraham replied, “My child, remember that you received what was good during your lifetime while Lazarus likewise received what was bad; but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented. Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go from our side to yours or from your side to ours”’ (Luke 16:19-26).
 
This passage from the Gospel of Luke offers a vivid image of the longing that is present in those separated from God for eternity. The rich man is a sinner who has violated, largely by his apathy, the beggar Lazarus—a sign of God’s presence. This reading is a rallying point for what is called the “preferential option for the poor”—putting those who have been denied the necessities of life ahead of those who have plenty and speaking for those who have no one to speak for them.
 
Many great Catholic saints, canonized and uncanonized, such as St. Francis of Assisi, Mother Teresa, and Dorothy Day, were known for their tireless devotion to the poor. This story may seem to be pretty far from our experience—we usually don’t wear fine linen, feast sumptuously, or have a personal gate outside which poor people lie. Maybe we just prefer jeans to fine linen, but still, we have privileges available to us that extend far beyond what most of the world experiences.
 
Many of the great saints were relatively affluent yet were compelled not to ignore the poor. An heir to a wealthy father, Francis of Assisi left behind all his fine clothing. Mother Teresa, before ministering to the poor in Calcutta, taught at a school for wealthy girls. Dorothy Day, before founding the Catholic Worker for the homeless and poor in New York City, spent much of her time amidst rich and famous writers and artists in Greenwich Village.
 
Saints are not simply to be held up for our admiration but serve as models of Christian discipleship. Following Christ means identifying with Lazarus, not with the rich man. This is what taking the Gospel seriously implies. These “saints” lived out their service to the poor in very personal and unique ways because it was who they felt God was calling them to be.
 
– Are you ready to recognize and to respond to the Lazarus in your life?
 
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International.

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WYD_Krakow_Cardinal_OMalley“Sometimes we think we are doing God a favor when we do a work of mercy. But actually we find mercy and salvation for ourselves.”
 
That’s what Cardinal Sean O’Malley, archbishop of Boston, told the 2016 World Youth Day audience in Krakow, Poland, in July.
 
“Only by making a gift of ourselves will we find fulfillment, happiness, and salvation,” he said.
 
Isn’t this the very difference between serving God and serving mammon, the biblical name given to the greedy pursuit of gain?
 
In an interview for the opening of this Jubilee Year of Mercy, Pope Francis described the duplicitous spirit of mammon that grips today’s world:
 
“We’re used to bad news, to cruelty and ever-greater atrocities that offend the name and the life of God. The world must discover that God is a Father, that there’s mercy, that cruelty isn’t the way.
 
What the world needs, the pope added, is a “revolution of tenderness.”
 
Perhaps this is what Jesus was telling us when he was nearly thrown off a cliff after his first preaching in a Nazareth synagogue. That threat did not stop him from talking about mercy throughout his ministry.
 
The Year of Mercy is a chance to reboot, to start over again, Cardinal O’Malley said. “We need to find a new route to take us where we need to go.”
 
Our prayer today:
 

Lord Jesus,
show us the way of mercy
and grant us the courage and perseverance to follow it.

 
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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Parable of the Crafty Steward“Jesus said to his disciples, ‘A rich man had a steward who was reported to him for squandering his property. He summoned him and said, “What is this I hear about you? Prepare a full account of your stewardship, because you can no longer be my steward.” The steward said to himself, “What shall I do, now that my master is taking the position of steward away from me? I am not strong enough to dig and I am ashamed to beg. I know what I shall do so that, when I am removed from the stewardship, they may welcome me into their homes.” He called in his master’s debtors one by one. To the first he said, “How much do you owe my master?” He replied, “One hundred measures of olive oil.” He said to him, “Here is your promissory note. Sit down and quickly write one for fifty.” Then to another the steward said, “And you, how much do you owe?” He replied, “One hundred kors of wheat.” The steward said to him, “Here is your promissory note; write one for eighty.” And the master commended that dishonest steward for acting prudently. For the children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.
If, therefore, you are not trustworthy with dishonest wealth, who will trust you with true wealth? If you are not trustworthy with what belongs to another, who will give you what is yours? No servant can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and mammon’” (Luke 16:1-8; 11-13).
 
The crafty manager knows he is on the way out, so he decides to create some friends who can help him when he is thrown out the door. After all, he freely admits that he is not one to beg or dig ditches! But the scheme works even better than expected as the master praises the unrighteous manager for looking after his own interests so well.
 
Some scholars suggest that this parable is about how we are “tested” on earth. Use your wealth and influence wisely on earth, and your reward will be great when you leave this earth. Those who build trust (through good management and appropriate giving) can be trusted with the greatest reward.
 
But Christian discipleship requires even more. No one, Jesus says, can serve two masters. You cannot serve God and wealth.
 
The ending of this parable offers a warning. We can be like the crafty and conniving manager, being successful in the ways of this world and finding ways to get our own cut. Or we can serve the master who survives beyond the “things” of this world. We are frequently tempted to keep our vision limited to simple material existence. Yet we are called to keep our minds and hearts on the prize that the world cannot give.
 
– What are the difficulties of serving two masters—God and wealth—and how do you find the proper balance between them?
 
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International.

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ground_zeroThe Holy Cross is a sign of God’s mercy. God in his mercy allowed his Son to die in order to heal the rift caused by original sin.
 
The significance of the Cross can be found not so much in “suffering” as in “obedience”—Christ’s willing and passionate surrender to his Father.
 
This is the truth we must make our own—that we live for
God alone.
 
It sounds so simple, but sacrifice and surrender is never easy. St. Peter Damian, eleventh-century hermit, bishop, and Doctor of the Church, once preached these words: “There is no burden heavier than our ego. What tyrant is crueler, what master more pitiless for man than his own will?”
 
St. Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, described Jesus as our inspiration and model in following the will of the Father: ‘He humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him.” (Ph 2:8-9)
 
It is through the wounds of Jesus that we can recognize and acknowledge the great mystery of his love and mercy. As St. Bernard said, “Where have your love, your mercy, your compassion shone more luminously than in your wounds, sweet, gentle Lord of mercy.”
 
Our prayer today:
 

Merciful Jesus,
for our sake you died in agony on the cross.
Help us never forget
that your mercy comes alive within us.

 
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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Benedict_XV

Cardinal Giacomo della Chiesa was crowned
Pope Benedict XV on September 6, 1914
.


It hasn’t gotten much attention, but we are now in the centennial of the reign of Pope Benedict XV.
 
I myself wouldn’t have noticed this except for an article in the Jesuit magazine “America.”
 
Benedict, the former Cardinal Giacomo della Chiesa, was pope from September 1914 until he died of pneumonia in January 1923.
 
That means that he was pope during the whole of World War I, which he characterized as “the suicide of civilized Europe”—an apt description of a conflict that cost 16 million lives.
 
When Pope Benedict XVI chose his papal name, he did so to honor both St. Benedict and Benedict XV—the latter because of his efforts to promote peace and his attention to the human crises brought on by both the war in Europe and the Russian revolution.
 
Although he was a career diplomat, Benedict XV was not in a good position to influence either side in the so-called “war to end all war.”
 
The Vatican’s international status had been seriously damaged in the previous century when Italy seized the Papal States and Pope Pius IX in 1870 declared himself a prisoner of King Victor Emmanuel. Benedict XV was the first pope to begin nudging the Vatican out of that isolation.
 
Benedict’s appeals to both sides to forswear violence reached passionate levels.
 
“The abounding wealth,” he wrote to the belligerents in 1915, “with which God the Creator has enriched the lands that are subject to you, allow you to go on with the struggle; but at what cost? Let the thousands of young lives quenched every day on the fields of battle make answer: answer, the ruins of so many towns and villages, of so many monuments raised by the piety and genius of your ancestors. And the bitter tears shed in the secrecy of home, or at the foot of altars where suppliants beseech; do not these also repeat that the price of the long drawn-out struggle is great, too great?’’
 
But neither side in the war, which was the culmination of a decades-old power struggle among the European nations, was interested in overtures from a voice that had no army and few diplomatic ties to back it up.
 
As Pius XII would do during World War II, Benedict strictly maintained neutrality, which had the ironic result of alienating both camps.
 
But Benedict persisted not only in arguing against the war itself and urging the parties to solve their differences through peaceful means but also in agitating for humane treatment of prisoners and release of interned civilians.
 
He succeeded in some of these humanitarian efforts, including an initiative in partnership with Switzerland to arrange for the exchange and treatment of seriously ill prisoners and detainees.
 
The pope also campaigned to raise money, including some of his personal funds, to assist civilians, including children, who were left destitute by the conflict.
 
When the war had played itself out, Benedict was concerned that the Allies would be vindictive, but his ambition for the Holy See to participate in the peace conference was rebuffed.
 
“Nations do not die,” he wrote. “Humbled and oppressed, they chafe under the yoke imposed on them … passing down from generation to generation a mournful heritage of hatred and revenge.’’
 
The onerous Treaty of Versailles and the subsequent rise of Adolf Hitler proved him right.
 
Benedict was a small man, slight of stature—so much so that when he was archbishop of Bologna he was known as “il piccolito,” “the little one.”
 
But in difficult circumstances a hundred years ago, he was a large man indeed as he took the only rational and moral position amid one of the worst catastrophes in human history.
 
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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“Tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus, but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying, ‘This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.’ So to them he addressed this parable. ‘What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it? And when he does find it, he sets it on his shoulders with great joy and, upon his arrival home, he calls together his friends and neighbors and says to them, “Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.” I tell you, in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance. Or what woman having ten coins and losing one would not light a lamp and sweep the house, searching carefully until she finds it? And when she does find it, she calls together her friends and neighbors and says to them, “Rejoice with me because I have found the coin that I lost.” In just the same way, I tell you, there will be rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents’” (Luke 15:1-10).
 
These two parables, together with the more famous one of the prodigal son which follows them in Luke’s Gospel, are offered by Jesus as his answer to the grumbles of some Pharisees and scribes about him welcoming—and worse—eating with sinners. These parables are so carefully crafted that everyone listening would have recognized them as a slap on the face to the self-righteous—including the grumblers themselves.
 
Today’s gospel reading is an invitation to recognize that it is a mistake to presume that we can decide who is worthy and who is not worthy of the divine. As Jesus showed, the unlikeliest of places ends up being the place where we are most likely to see God. St. Ignatius, the founder of the Society of Jesus, likewise calls us to recognize “God in all things.” The Source of Love lives and moves in every corner of creation, reaching out to draw each member of that creation back into the Source, God.
 
– With whom do you identify in this gospel passage: the lost sheep, one of the ninety-nine never-lost sheep, the shepherd, the woman, the friends, the sinners, or the Pharisees?
 
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International.

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teresa_of_calcuttaOn September 4, Pope Francis will canonize Mother Teresa, whose life sent the world a single, urgent message: that love and caring are the most important things in life.
 
Perhaps we can best understand why Mother Teresa is worthy of veneration and imitation by reflecting on some of her own words:
 
“The biggest disease today is not leprosy or tuberculosis, but rather the feeling of being unwanted, uncared for, and deserted by everybody. The greatest evil is the lack of love and charity, the terrible indifference toward one’s neighbor who lives at the roadside, assaulted by exploitation, corruption, poverty, and disease.
 
“Those who are a burden to society, who have lost all hope and faith in life, who have forgotten how to smile and no longer know what it means to receive a little human warmth, a gesture of love and friendship—they turn to us to receive a little bit of comfort. If we turn our backs on them, we turn our backs on Christ.
 
“Our love and our joy in serving must be in proportion to the degree to which our task is repugnant.”
 
Our prayer today:
 

Mother Teresa, Saint of Mercy,
pray for us
that we may truly see the image of God
in the most deprived and disfigured
of our brothers and sisters.

 
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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Gracious, loving Creator God,
how awesome, lovely, and manifold are the works of your creation.
 
In wisdom you have made them all:
from the tiniest ant to the huge whales of the sea,
from the all-seeing hawk to the slow-moving caterpillar.
Yet into this incredible variety you have formed a grammar of creation,
so that each created entity has its own role, its own relationship,
and its own value within the whole.
 
Help us Creator God, to recognize the many ways in which you speak to us
so that we may come to cherish and respect more deeply
our own relationships with you and the earth that you have created.
Amen.
 
—from Creation at the Crossroads

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“Great crowds were traveling with Jesus, and he turned and addressed them, ‘If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple’” (Luke 14:25-27).
 
Jesus continues on the road to Jerusalem—the road to the cross. It is not hard to imagine an exasperated Jesus turning to the crowd of light-hearted followers and saying these words.
 
Over the last few weeks of gospel reading, we have seen Jesus try several times in several different ways to get his followers to understand just what their commitment implies—yet still they don’t get it. The reference to the cross in this passage is a reference to an inhumane, vindictive method of demeaning and killing an enemy. Roman citizens were spared the indignity of the cross no matter what their crime. Only conquered peoples and enemies were humiliated by this manner of execution. Jesus is using this forceful image to break through the unreal expectation and false belief that he was soon to be honored and would take over earthly control.
 
So where does this leave us? More often than not, we are like the followers who just don’t quite get it. The seriousness of his followers’ commitment is also a commitment that we have signed on to—though we may not realize it. Baptism for many of us may mean little more than pictures of ourselves as babies in long white dresses. But if we have been baptized, we have had the cross traced on our foreheads; we have been claimed for Christ. We have been “baptized into the death” of Christ.
 
We are asked to die to ourselves—to abandon those parts of ourselves that draw us away from Christ—in order that we may rise to new and greater life. This is not just a one-time thing. Every day, our baptism asks us: to what do I need to die in order that I may live a life of freedom with Christ?
 
We go into death symbolically with Christ, so as to rise with him. But perhaps too often we speed through the cross and concentrate on the rising. Today’s Gospel is a reminder that Jesus is calling us to make the tough choices—to change our lives, perhaps even drastically, to follow the way he preaches.
 
– In what parts of your life do you need to die in order to rise to new and greater life?
 
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International.

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crouching_adamSo many events in life teach us not to trust. So often our trust has been betrayed in the political realm, in business dealings, and in personal relationships. So it’s no wonder that we might find it difficult to trust in God’s mercy.
 
But think about this: Humanity’s first sin was based on willful disobedience toward God and lack of trust in
his mercy.
 
When Adam and Eve heard God calling to them in Eden, they hid in fear. They knew they had done wrong, but they didn’t trust him.
 
The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains: “Man, tempted by the devil, let his trust in his creator die in his heart and, abusing his freedom, disobeyed God’s command.” (CCC, 2nd ed. 397)
 
Fr. Michael E. Gaitley, MIC, wrote about it this way: “Truly, sin begins with a lack of trust. Sure, pride was there, too. But the starting point, the origin of sin, is lack of trust in God. And this applies not only to the first sin but to all subsequent sin” (The Second Greatest Story Ever Told, Marian Press, p. 18).
 
Our prayer today:
 

Father,
you call to us today as you did our first parents in the Garden.
Strengthen our trust in your divine mercy,
so that we may never hide from you.

 
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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