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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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