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A reading from the Book of the prophet Isaiah
(Chapter 11:1-10)
 
The prophets of Israel preached several massages, some hopeful and some judgmental, but all to awaken the people of Israel during hard times and give them courage. Here, Isaiah talks about a new leader, a future king. “The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and understanding, a spirit of counsel and strength, a spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord…. Not by appearance shall he judge, nor by hearsay shall he decide, but he shall judge the poor with justice, and decide aright for the land’s afflicted. Justice shall be the band upon his waist, and faithfulness a belt upon his hips. Then the wolf shall be the guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them.”
 
The kings that followed the greatest king, David, were far from the image Isaiah presents. They led their country poorly, so Isaiah wants to give the people some hope. We believe that this promised new ruler is Jesus, the Christ, and we place our hope in him.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 72:1-2, 7-8, 12-13, 17)
 
The psalmist gives us the qualities of a true leader: “Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace forever.” The psalmist gives us the qualities of a true leader. Would that that were always the case.
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans
(Chapter 15:4-9)
 
Paul is writing for both Jews and gentiles who followed Jesus, knowing that these groups did not always get along. “May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to think in harmony with one another, in keeping with Christ Jesus, that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Welcome one another, then, as Christ welcomed you, for the glory of God.”
 
Throughout history, there have been differences of opinion among us Christians even to the point that large groups broke away from the Church and formed new denominations. We live in a time of divisions between the old order and emerging challenges in which, not doctrine but rather rules and traditions are being questioned. In this atmosphere, we need to keep focused on what Jesus himself preached and practiced, loving God and one another. That has not changed in two thousand years, nor will it ever.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew
(Chapter 3:1-12)
 
“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 crying out in the desert, prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.”
John must have been a sight to behold. He “wore clothing made of camel 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.”
 
But John was not fooled by the hypocrisy of many of the Pharisees and Sadducees who were coming for baptism. He said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? And do not presume to say to yourselves ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones…. 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.”
 
John knew his role in life. As popular as he was, he knew that he was to prepare the way for Jesus, not be the message himself. His mission, his very life, was short but absolutely essential for the mission of Jesus. Each of us also has a role to play in the living and sharing of our faith. We too are not the message, but we are the messengers.
 
Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved.
 
Bill Ayres was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. He has been a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years and has two weekly Sunday-night shows on WPLJ, 95.5 FM in New York. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.

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Loving God,
You desire that we grow ever more deeply
in our relationship with you.
As we begin our Advent journey waiting eagerly
for the coming of your Son, Jesus,
Bless our prayer, our contemplation, our sharing,
and our service to others.
Amen.

 
Adapted from Waiting With Joy: Weekly Reflections on the Sunday Readings, Advent, Year A, by Sr. Donna Ciangio, OP; © RENEW International.

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A reading from the Book of the prophet Isaiah
(Chapter Chapter 2:1-5)
 
“In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest mountain and raised above the hills….For from Zion shall go forth instruction and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and impose terms on many peoples.”
 
The two important points here are that God will “judge between the nations” and that God’s word comes “from Jerusalem.” What is God’s word to the nations? “They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again.” If they do these things, they will “walk in the light of the Lord.”
 
If only nations had obeyed this command, millions of innocent people would not have been killed right up to today. Jesus himself preached and lived non-violence as should we in our own lives.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 122:1-2, 3-4, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9)
 
“Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.” Have you come to the house of the Lord today rejoicing? Or, is it simply a matter of habit or obligation?
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans
(Chapter 13:11-14)
 
Paul tells the Romans, “For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed; the night is advanced, the day is at hand. Let us then throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light, let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in promiscuity and lust, not in rivalry and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ.”
 
Paul knows that he will be killed and so he wants to let the Romans to know how important it is for them to stay the course and not fall into bad habits that were rampant throughout the city. Of course, the same holds true for we who live in an age that is all too prone to excuse these same excesses.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew
(Chapter 24:37-44)
 
After Jesus died there was a belief that he would come back again on the last day. But when? Matthew wants to tell people to “Stay awake! For you do not know on what day your Lord will come. Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into. So too, you must also be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”
 
This belief that Jesus would come back, perhaps in their lifetime and that the world would then end was very popular among Christians in the decades after the death of Jesus. It was intensified by the constant threat of prison and execution at the hands of the Romans. Even today, there are sects of Christianity that believe that the world will end soon, and Jesus will return. They go up to a mountain or some other remote place and wait, and wait until it becomes apparent that the time is not now.
 
We have no idea when the world as we know it will end, but we do know that our lives here on earth will end at our death. We know not the day or the hour, but we pray for a long and healthy life and then, even more important, a new resurrected life forever with Jesus.
 
Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved.
 
Bill Ayres was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. He has been a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years and has two weekly Sunday-night shows on WPLJ, 95.5 FM in New York. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.

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Lord Jesus,
let your presence in my life
and the power of your Spirit
transform me and enable me
to choose living your kingdom
in my day and age,
and help me to remember
that I live in that presence
and with that Spirit.
Amen.

 
Adapted from The People’s Prayer Book, © RENEW International.

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A reading from the Book of the Second Book of Samuel
(Chapter Chapter 5:1-3)
 
David was the greatest king of Israel, chosen by God and “all the tribes of Israel.”
 
“And the Lord said to you, ‘You shall shepherd my people Israel and be commander of Israel.’” So, David had two responsibilities—shepherd, or spirit leader, and military commander. Despite his personal flaws, he was seen as successful in meeting both responsibilities.
 
Jesus called himself “the Good Shepherd” but was never considered to be a king. He himself said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” However, throughout history, kings were among the most powerful people on earth, and so the Church chose to refer to Jesus as a king, but expanded the title to “King of the Universe.” The point is that the power of Jesus goes way beyond that of earthly kings, whose use of power has often been corrupt and unjust. Jesus’ power, righteous and just, reaches to the ends of the universe.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 18:33B-17)
 
“Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.” That is exactly what we are doing here today, coming to the house of the Lord and rejoicing. What are you rejoicing about today?
 
A reading from the Letter of Paul to the Colossians
(Chapter 1:12-20)
 
This reading focuses on a beautiful prayer of thanksgiving and what was undoubtedly a hymn sung at early church liturgies. It deserves a full reading.
 
“Brothers and sisters: Let us give thanks to the Father, who has made you fit to share in the inheritance of the holy ones in light. He delivered us from the powers of darkness and transferred us to the Kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins …. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile all things for him, making peace through the blood of his cross through him, whether those on earth or those in heaven.”
 
Wow! What does all of that mean? It was written at a time when the people of Colossae were being bombarded by other teachers who were talking about other powers in the universe and other obligations that they must fulfill. Paul soars in this language to keep the Colossians on the right path, and the Church believes that this hymn was sung at liturgies throughout the early church to focus on the true power of Christ, “the firstborn of all creation …. in him all things hold together.”
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke
(Chapter 23:35-43)
 
The setting for this reading is the crucifixion of Jesus. “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. ‘If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself …. Above him there was an inscription that read, ‘This is the King of the Jews.’” Jesus gave no response that was recorded, but one of the criminals who were also being crucified with him “reviled Jesus, saying, ‘Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us.’” But the other man said, “This man has done nothing criminal.” Then the dying man said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” And Jesus replied, “Amen, I say to you, today, you will be with me in paradise.” So, at a moment of excruciating pain, Jesus offers total forgiveness to this man, the same forgiveness he offers us today.
 
Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved.
 
Bill Ayres was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. He has been a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years and has two weekly Sunday-night shows on WPLJ, 95.5 FM in New York. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.

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