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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“The Pharisees approached Jesus and asked, ‘Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?’ They were testing him. He said to them in reply, ‘What did Moses command you?’ They replied, ‘Moses permitted a husband to write a bill of divorce and dismiss her.’ But Jesus told them, ‘Because of the hardness of your hearts he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate’” (Mark 10:2-9).

Some of the Pharisees approached Jesus to “test” both his understanding of and his faithfulness to the Law of Moses. Jesus turned the question back to them, challenging them to look beyond the words of the law and instead to the underlying spirit of the law. Jesus referred to the Book of Genesis to affirm that men and women alike were created in God’s image, and therefore they both have value in God’s eyes.

The foundation of the Law is the love that God has for us: a love that begins from the moment of our creation in the image and likeness of God.

If we believe that we are created in God’s image and likeness, we must also believe in the dignity of each human person. We must be willing to reach out to others, who are just as much the image and likeness of God as we are. We must always do what is within our power to help others.

Jesus promotes an inclusive community of faith. Who are the people in the margins of your community? In what ways can you positively affect them?

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

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“At that time, John said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.’ Jesus replied, ‘Do not prevent him. There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me. For whoever is not against us is for us. Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward’” (Mark 9:38-41).

We are presented in this gospel reading with a contrast between “with Jesus” and “against Jesus.” The passage refers to followers of Christ, people doing works in his name, who were not a part of the inner circle. Jesus responded to his disciples’ doubts by speaking with encouragement of what those “outsiders” were doing.

How often do we become indignant when things aren’t being done the way we would do them or would like them done? Jesus’ statement that it is impossible to both do good deeds in his name and speak ill of God demonstrates how the good fruit of our works reflects the source of that goodness—God.

This Sunday’s Gospel reminds us of the importance of our fundamental shared belief in Jesus as the Christ. Jesus’ image of giving and receiving a cup of water in this context is a challenge to ask how we can be more receptive toward other Christians, and how we can be proactive in extending our hand in friendship and sincere dialog to other believers.

In what ways can you be more tolerant of those whose religious beliefs may differ from your own?

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

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“He was teaching his disciples and telling them, ‘The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death the Son of Man will rise.’ But they did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to question him. They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house, he began to ask them, ‘What were you arguing about on the way?’ But they remained silent. They had been discussing among themselves on the way who was the greatest. Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, ‘If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.’ Taking a child, he placed it in their midst, and putting his arms around it, he said to them, ‘Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me’” (Mark 9:31-37).

In our busy lives, we can easily become too caught up in our own concerns and goals. We may face the pressure to be the “greatest” in whatever we do. When we fall short of what we hope to accomplish, we can become disheartened.

This week’s Gospel reading begins with Jesus making a foreboding statement about his future that left his disciples confused and speechless. They seemed to have learned from Peter’s outburst described in last week’s Gospel reading and offered no challenge to this terrible announcement.

But just how little they understood Jesus’ real meaning soon becomes obvious as they started arguing about which of them was the greatest. They got caught up in the idea of being a disciple without having a sense of what true discipleship really means.

Jesus knew the disciples had the capacity to refocus their energy and concern on what was really important instead of promoting themselves as the “greatest” above everyone.

Our accomplishments and accolades, as great as they might be, do not exemplify discipleship. Rather, it’s our ability to be of service to others—to receive and attend to the most vulnerable in our society—that makes us good disciples.

This is a fairly simple message but so difficult to put into practice!

By our selfless giving and sharing of our gifts without expectation of anything in return, we are freed from the trappings of prestige and the need to be “the greatest.”

We can trust that God has called us to discipleship, and that means serving even the “littlest” members of our communities, knowing that being of service to others is what really matters.

When have you reached out to the most vulnerable in your community? How did that encounter change you?

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

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“He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days. He spoke this openly. Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. At this he turned around and, looking at his disciples, rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.’ He summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them, ‘Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it’” (Mark 8:31-35).

The disciples were sincere about wanting to follow Jesus, but they failed to understand both who Jesus was and what the demands of being a disciple were, which ultimately meant a willingness to undergo suffering just as Jesus would.

Peter had no problem proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah, but he did not seem to understand what kind of Messiah Jesus was called to be. How could his beloved leader have to suffer and die?

This passage serves as a reminder of how our understanding of God can’t be limited by our own imaginations. Even if we do recognize that we can’t know the mind of God, we often miss the point by trying to make our lives and others’ conform to our own unrealistic expectations. When do this with respect to God by making God too much in our own image, we put human constraints on God’s work in our lives.

Jesus’ command to deny ourselves is a challenge. While things such as money, food, success, or power may be good in and of themselves, they have the potential to overtake us if we let them dictate how we live. They can prevent us from living the freedom that a life in Christ offers.

We can take assurance from Jesus’ words that by letting go of the attachments we have to our own ways we will gain a better understanding of ourselves, others, and how God is calling us to live.

How has your image of God changed over time? What past experiences or images of God do you need to put aside in order to free you to have a better understanding of who God is?

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

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“And immediately the man’s ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly. He ordered them not to tell anyone. But the more he ordered them not to, the more they proclaimed it. They were exceedingly astonished and they said, ‘He has done all things well. He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak’” (Mark 7:35-37).

Imagine yourself in this scene. Filled with expectation, and maybe even some fear, you watch Jesus take this man aside and heal him. Think about the emotions you would feel. Most likely, you would want to share this good news with everyone you encountered, despite Jesus’ order not to do so. Such a miracle would make anyone believe in the power of Jesus, right? Then why would Jesus ask everyone to keep it a secret?

Jesus was teaching the crowd a deeper lesson. By telling them to say nothing, Jesus encouraged them (as well as us) to see beyond outside appearances. He didn’t want people to think he was simply a miracle worker. Rather, Jesus wanted the miracles to be signs of who he truly was. Jesus did not want to draw so much attention to his works that the crowd would not be able to understand his true identity as the one who would undergo suffering and death and then rise again.

Just as the crowd asked for healing, we, too, make requests in prayer for certain things: the health of a relative, the mending of a broken relationship, a job opportunity or promotion. Petitions are an important part of our prayer life, but they are not the only part. If this is the only way we communicate with God, we risk reducing God’s status to simply that of a “miracle worker.”

We are invited to look beyond how our petitions may change our situation to how they can change us, whether or not we receive our hoped-for answer.

This story teaches us that moments of experiencing God’s presence, although powerful and joy-filled, should not be ends in themselves. Rather, these moments possess the power to break open our hearts, allowing us to become vessels of healing for others.

When have you experienced healing in your life, or been a witness to someone else’s healing? How did it impact your understanding of the power of God?

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

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“So the Pharisees and scribes questioned him, ‘Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders but instead eat a meal with unclean hands?’ He responded, ‘Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written: This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts. You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.’

He summoned the crowd again and said to them, ‘Hear me, all of you, and understand. Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile’” (Mark 7:5-8, 14-15).

The “tradition of the elders” refers to a set of practices by which Pharisaic teachers meant to help the observant Jew fulfill the law as perfectly as humanly possible. For some, these practices took on the same importance as the law itself, which, in effect, equated these human traditions with the Law that God gave on Mt. Sinai. Jesus’ strong rebuke of the religious leaders served to return the emphasis to God’s Law and refocused the question on inward dispositions and not external practices.

This Gospel challenges us to take a long, hard look at how our actions are connected to what we believe. We attend Sunday Mass, we receive the sacrament of reconciliation regularly, we say the rosary, etc. Sometimes, these practices can become routine. Where are our hearts when we do these things? What is our attitude as we do them? How do we treat our families or neighbors after we pass through the church doors into the outside world?

Jesus reminds us that remembering why we do what we do and to do it with a heart turned toward God are more important than performing all the correct rituals without conviction and intention.

How does this Gospel challenge you?

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

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world_meeting_of_familisAs the time for Pope Francis’ first visit to the United States approaches, excitement is building for Catholics around the country. However, not all of us can travel to Washington, New York, or Philadelphia to join in the events scheduled there. So how do we participate in this historic visit from our own homes and parishes? Here are five ways that you can become a part of Pope Francis’ visit no matter where you are.
 
1. The Francis Effect
One of the reasons this visit is so exciting is the profound effect Pope Francis has had on the Church and the world in the short time since his election. His voice has resonated around the globe, with Catholics and non-Catholics alike, as he calls us to truly live the Gospel. There is a recent documentary, “The Francis Effect,’’ on that very topic. Arrange a viewing of the film as a family or a parish. Engage in a discussion about how to answer the pope’s call as an individual or a group.
 
2. Read All About It!
Many people are wondering what the Pope might say when he addresses Congress and the United Nations. One of the best ways to learn about Pope Francis is to read his writings. If you haven’t already, take time to read The Joy of the Gospel (Evangelii Gaudium), Francis’ apostolic exhortation on the New Evangelization, or his encyclical on ecology, On Care for Our Common Home (Laudato Si’). Engage children and teenagers in the excitement by creating a trivia game from what you learn about the papacy and Pope Francis.
 
3. Get Social
Share your excitement about the pope’s visit on social media. The Catholic Extension Society has created “Flat Francis,” a simple cutout figure of the Holy Father, and has started the hashtag #FlatFrancis on Twitter and Instagram. You can download and print the image, then take a photo to share on social media. Whether you use it with your family, your parish, or your school, it is a fun way to show your excitement for the upcoming visit.
 
4. A Family Affair
The Holy Father has arranged his visit to coincide with the World Meeting of Families taking place in Philadelphia. There is a special World Meeting of Families Prayer for the success of the event and for family intentions. There is also a hymn written for the event, “Sound the Bell of Holy Freedom.” Ask your parish music director to teach the hymn to the congregation and include it in the liturgies leading up to the visit and the meeting. You can also check out resources for the World Meeting of Families from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
 
5. Throw a Party
Host a Welcome Day in your diocese or parish, inviting the wider community to learn more about our Church, sharing the joy of the Gospel with all who are interested. When the days of the visit arrive there will be extensive media coverage. The USCCB will be livestreaming coverage of the events as well. Set up a viewing party for your parish. Listen to Pope Francis’ message together and pray that it will not only be heard but taken to heart by faithful around the world.
 
Jennifer Bober is a RENEW Marketing Associate with both non-profit and publishing experience. In addition to her marketing career, she is a professional liturgical musician.

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Does the thought of spontaneous prayer terrify you? The leader of a small group may at times want or find it necessary to offer a spontaneous prayer, perhaps to open or close the prayer portion of a session or to open or close the meeting itself. A practice that can make this experience go smoothly involves remembering four words that represent familiar elements in prayer. The words are “you,” “who,” “do,” and “through.”
 
You: We begin many of our prayers by addressing and praising God with titles such as “Almighty God,” “Ever-living God,” “Heavenly Father,” “Creator God.” If the prayer is addressed to the second person of the Holy Trinity, we often say such things as “Lord Jesus Christ.”
 
Who: After calling God by name, we acknowledge what God has done for the world and for us. This could include such statements as “who created the world and all that is in it,” “who give us grace through the sacraments,” “who gave your only begotten Son that we might live,” or “who gather us here to build your kingdom on earth.”
 
Do: We ask God to do something for us, for other individuals, for our parish or community, or for the world at large. We might ask God, for example, to “help us to be witnesses to your Gospel wherever we go,” “help us create a parish that is welcoming to strangers,” or “help us to set an example by caring for the world you created.”
 
Through: When we address our prayer to “God” or to “the Father,” we always pray through Jesus Christ and in the Holy Spirit.
 
And so, for example, a person who is invited to offer an opening prayer at a meeting of a parish council, might say, “(You) Almighty God, (Who) whose Son draws people to you through the holy Church, (Do) help us to be good stewards of this parish and to serve well those who worship here. Help us to act always in the spirit of your commandment of love.
(Through) We ask this through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.”
 
From Leading Prayer in Small Groups, published by RENEW International.

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papal_visitA prophetic and popular pope, the first ever from Latin America, will visit Washington, New York, and Philadelphia September 22-27. Pope Francis has captured the world’s attention through his warm gestures, simplicity, humility, message of mercy, and clear preference for those on the peripheries. He will go to the White House, Congress, and the United Nations, and he will make other important stops that highlight his vision for the Church—“a poor Church for the poor.” He will visit the homeless in Washington, immigrant children in a Catholic school in Harlem, and prisoners in Philadelphia. The Church, Francis proclaims, “has to go forth to everyone without exception. But to whom should she go first? When we read the Gospel we find a clear indication: not so much to those who are secure and comfortable, but to the poor and the sick, those who are usually despised and overlooked.”
 
The pope’s visit to the United States matters, and it is up to us to make his vision a reality—creating a Church that is more welcoming, more inclusive, and more merciful. The pope’s mission as the spiritual leader of the global Catholic Church is to set the vision and inspire us to fulfill that vision in our own cultural and religious contexts. He has been articulating a vision that is challenging our Church to reimagine itself in the twenty first century:
 

 
 

“Many of Jesus’ disciples who were listening said, ‘This saying is hard; who can accept it?’ Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, ‘Does this shock you? What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.’ Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him. And he said, ‘For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father.’ As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him. Jesus then said to the Twelve, ‘Do you also want to leave?’ Simon Peter answered him, ‘Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God’” (John 6: 60-69).

Over the past four Sundays, John’s Gospel portrays Jesus saying some difficult things that were not well received. In this Sunday’s Gospel, the disciples’ murmuring drew Jesus’ attention. They were incredulous, even a bit irritated when Jesus spoke of eating his flesh and drinking his blood. “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” (John 6:60) Their whole way of thinking and believing had been turned upside down.

In response, Jesus asked two very important questions. The first was “Does this shock you?” (John 6:61) Today, we have two thousand years of faith and tradition to help us understand what Jesus said. Accepting Jesus as the bread from heaven may not be as much of a burning issue for us as it was for the first disciples.

The second question, “Do you also want to leave?” (John 6:67), shows Jesus’ vulnerability with the Twelve. He had just explained to them who he was, where he came from, why he had come, and how to remain in relationship with him and the Father. Some left because it was too hard to bear. Peter met Jesus’ vulnerability with his own. Peter knew there was no place else to turn. God had marked them; to turn away was unthinkable.

We too are confronted with these questions in our daily lives. How we address any issue that shakes our faith is strongly influenced by our connection to the Living Bread.

Recall an experience when you felt your faith shaken. How did you make it through that difficult time?

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

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