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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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