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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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bateyWhen we think of forming small groups, we tend to stick to the familiar. Maybe there is a parish-wide effort, or maybe there are friends who are already part of your faith circle with whom you feel comfortable that you invite to participate in your faith-sharing group.
 
Those are good starting points, but are they enough?
 
In his apostolic exhortation The Joy of the Gospel Pope Francis challenges us to challenge ourselves and turn our churches into centers of missionary outreach. Our small groups should be part of that effort, and we should learn to think outside of our own comfort zone. We know the incredible power of working within our small groups. Why not share that power with others?
 
RENEW International is doing the same. We are stepping out of our own comfort zone to bring the Gospel and our small-group process to places we have never been before. Through the generosity of committed donors, Sister Terry, Father Alejandro López-Cardinale, and Manuel Hernandez this year traveled to the Dominican Republic to start working with marginalized people of Haitian descent living there. They are engaged in LEVÁNTATE. Unánomos en Cristo (ARISE Together in Christ) in the batey, the communities of migrant workers that formed around the sugar plantations.
 
While there have been many challenges, this has been a joy-filled experience for everyone involved. We know that the light of the Gospel will shine in the hearts of the people we touch and we will learn so much from them.
 
Where can your small group reach out to the marginalized? How can your small group become its own microcosm of a larger evangelizing Church? While you may not be able to travel to another country as RENEW has, you may be able to reach into places you have never been before.
 
This is the challenge the Gospel puts before us. When you think it is beyond you, keep in your heart the words of Pope Francis: “An authentic faith—which is never comfortable or completely personal—always involves a deep desire to change the world, to transmit values, to leave this earth somehow better than we found it.”
 

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Zacchaeus“At that time, Jesus came to Jericho and intended to pass through the town. Now a man there named Zacchaeus, who was a chief tax collector and also a wealthy man, was seeking to see who Jesus was; but he could not see him because of the crowd, for he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus, who was about to pass that way. When he reached the place, Jesus looked up and said, ‘Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.’ And he came down quickly and received him with joy. When they all saw this, they began to grumble, saying, ‘He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner.’ But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, ‘Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost’” (Luke 19:1-10).
 
We are all life-builders. We are constantly building our bodies, our personalities, our intellects, our relationships. And very often we trick ourselves into believing that we are the sum total of what we’ve built. Underneath, however, we question, and we long to know what is truly important at our core. This restlessness moves us past our fears and surprises us by prompting us to act in ways that are contrary to what we have built and contrary to whom people perceive us to be.
 
Here is Zacchaeus, a man who has built his life through tax collecting, apparently taking much wealth at the expense of others. He goes about his days seemingly content with the riches he has accumulated and the reputation he has established.
 
Then, one day, into his life walks a man and Zacchaeus needs to know him. The restlessness wells up in him and he finds himself atop a sycamore tree. What is he doing? He never does this, and yet there he is.
 
This man who walks into his life is not just anyone. Zacchaeus meets Jesus, the man who lives and dies to tell us that we are important and loved by God.
 
Jesus does notice Zacchaeus and, not only that, makes a home in the tax collector’s home by eating with him and making sure that the restlessness that rose up in Zacchaeus and prompted him to climb the tree is not unnoticed by God.
 
What does Zacchaeus find out about himself? He realizes that life at its core is vastly more than the one he’s built by accumulating wealth. He abandons his stockpiling because he sees that his restlessness is known, appreciated, and understood by God. To know this fully, as Jesus proclaims, is to find salvation.
 
– When have you surprised yourself—in a positive way—by your own actions, and what did you learn about yourself?
 
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International.

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Mercy_LoveLuke was not only an evangelist, but also an excellent journalist.
 
In his account of how Jesus restored life to Jairus’ daughter, Luke included the reaction of the crowd that laughed at Jesus before he performed this miracle: “they ridiculed him.”
 
Despite the crowd’s derision, Jesus brought the twelve-year-old girl back from the dead. Then, instead of going before the now-silenced crowd to take credit and “build his brand,” he instructed the girl’s parents not to tell anyone how he had restored the girl to life.
 
His was an act of pure mercy.
 
When things go bad for us or the world we live in, we sometimes blame God, questioning whether he cares about human suffering. But Christ’s selfless raising of Jairus’ little girl demonstrates that the Lord does care—a great deal more than we can know.
 
His willing compassion to restore life doesn’t depend on whether a person has just died or has been dead for days. In the same way, Jesus can restore our spiritual life no matter how long we have spent ourselves in sin or how badly we have sinned.
 
Because his mercy knows no bounds—and endures forever.
 
Our prayer today:
 

Merciful Jesus,
let us always be mindful of your compassionate love for us,
no matter what.

 
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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