Branching Out Blog

Early Spring Cleaning

Posted by Sharon Krause on Feb 19, 2024 6:00:00 AM

As we begin the season of Lent, we realize that it is time to refocus and renew our efforts to follow the ways of love that Jesus has taught us. We could think of it as a sort of spiritual spring cleaning.

Years ago, I had a friend who came to my house and helped me with my spring house cleaning. The first thing we did was to clean the windows. Even though the panes did not really appear that dirty, it certainly made a difference after the washing was done. Maybe we could do something spiritually to make our vision clearer in how we look at people and situations in our lives. It is easy to get stuck in certain modes of thought and opinion that may not be so charitable, understanding, or sensitive. Today’s liturgy reading from the Book of Leviticus reminds us to judge others justly. Perhaps we could look again through our relationship windows and consider if they are as clean as they should beeven in little matters and prejudices. Habits can form quite fast in our busy lives.

Spring cleaning can include sorting through possessions and deciding if some of them need to be tossed out, or, if in good condition, donated to worthy causes. We could sort through our talents and skills and possibly decide to donate some or our time and talent to help other people in need. Kind words, a random phone call, and gentle listening ears can fall into this category as well.

Dust seems to land and stay around in many places. Could it be that we should dust off that Bible or those books on a spiritual subject that we keep meaning to read, and spend some Lenten time reading? We do have to improve on purpose! Spring cleaning is work! It does make life better!

Repentance is a good way to spring clean our spiritual life. The sacrament of reconciliation is a way of drawing closer to our Savior, and we don’t have to wait until the last few days before Easter Sunday.

Psalm 51:12-14 is a good repentance prayer:

   A clean heart create for me, O God,

     and a steadfast spirit renew within me.

   Cast me not out from your presence,

       and your Holy Spirit take not from me.

   Give me back the joy of your salvation,

       and a willing spirit sustain in me.

 So, as we start on this year’s Lenten journey, we can pray with Ephesians 4:23-24:

    …and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created in

   God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth.

    

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Topics: Lent, Lenten journey, Lenten season, Sharon Krause, renewing our faith

"Hear the Word!" by Bill Ayres: First Sunday of Lent

Posted by Bill Ayres on Feb 17, 2024 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the Book of Genesis

(Chapter 9:8-15)

The term covenant is essential to understanding God’s relationship with Israel. It means a promise made by God to the people. This is the first covenant between God and his people—a promise to spare future generations from a devastating flood like the one that occurred in Noah’s time. This is all pre-history. There is no historical record, but it is a powerful story in which God makes a broad all-inclusive promise that includes protection of “every living creature.” A whole series of promises follow to Abraham, Moses, David, and Isaiah, each of which calls on the people to repent and be faithful to their promise. This leads to the New Covenant in Jesus Christ which you and I live today.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 24)

“Your ways O Lord, are love and truth to those who keep your covenant.” If we keep our promise, our covenant with God we will live in truth and love. Of course none of us does that perfectly, but part of God’s promise to us is forgiveness, beyond any we can imagine.

A reading from the First Letter of Peter

(Chapter 3:18-22)

As we read about the persecution and martyrdom of Christians around the world, including priest seized in Nigeria and Ukraine, let us pray for them and all those throughout the world who die through hatred and violence. And let us remember the martyrdom of Jesus that Paul talks about here as he tells us, “Put to death in the flesh, he was brought to life in the Spirit.” May we continue to remember and honor all who have followed the New Covenant of Jesus and given their lives in his service. May they rejoice forever as they are brought to new life in the Spirit as Jesus was.

A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Mark

(Chapter 1:12-15)

The Jewish people wandered in the desert for 40 years after they were liberated from Egypt through God’s covenant. Jesus goes into the desert and is tempted for 40 days as he prays about his role in bringing a New Covenant of Good News to all people. He came to proclaim the reign of God, not in some future time but now. The Gospel, the Good News, is now, for us. We are loved now, as we are, not as perfect beings in another life. Now is the time to hear the Good News, but we need to take the time during Lent to hear it again, to relish it, to appreciate what it really means to us. Jesus went into the desert for 40 days to reflect on who he was and what he was called to do. What about us? Can we take a little time this Lent to consider the gifts we have been given, to be truly thankful for all God has given us, and consider our continuing role as people of the New Covenant? What is God calling us to do in our families, our work, our communities, and our parish? Our lives can go by so fast. There are so many obligations and tasks every day and so many distractions that keep us from reflecting on the Good News in which we live. How can we find our own desert place from time to time this Lent to awaken the power of the Good News in us and around us?

 ✝️

Image: Temptation of Jesus in the Wilderness, William Hole (1908). Public domain.

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. The passage regarding the wedding garment is from The New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC 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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Topics: Bill Ayres, first sunday of Lent

Airplanes, Birds, and People

Posted by Sharon Krause on Feb 12, 2024 6:00:00 AM

I live near an airport, so I see and hear a number of airplanes above me every day. Recently my husband and I were patiently waiting in our car at a traffic light. Abig jet flew high above us as it headed east preparing to land at the airport. At the same time, a flock of about fifty black birds headed west flew over our car. I noticed the criss-cross of the objects I was watching, and it got me thinking of their different sizes, altitudes, and directions.

The season of Lent will be upon us by next Sunday. In our busy and varied lives, we all go about our agendas in multiple directions, and, you might even say, at various heights of activity. In all the hustle and bustle of approaching springtime, new big and small projects are started, seeds are planted, hopes are formulated. Intellectually, we are at different levels. Goals are in many lofty directions. Energies are prioritized.

Planning is important. Onward and upward! Let us lift ourselves up above winter doldrums. In today’s liturgy reading from the First Letter of James 1:1-11, we are encouraged to persevere and to pray to God for wisdom; so, we should set as a goal to possibly add a little more daily prayer time in preparation for Lent, and, before we know it, Easter. Our loving Lord will help us to rise above our trials and tribulations when we aim to come closer to him. We could decide to seek out a Bible study group or a faith-sharing group. We could mix and match different levels of personal experience with other people pursuing a Lent-inspired flight with the Holy Spirit.

If we want to try to lift ourselves above mundane concerns, we might pray with part of our Blessed Mother’s Magnificat (Luke 1:46-49) and add a few personal thoughts of our own.

   My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;

       my spirit rejoices in God my savior.

                                                                 Today, in February 2024, my soul takes

                                                                  time to consider how great and enduring

                                                                  the love of Jesus is in my life, especially…

   For he has looked upon his handmaid’s

   lowliness;                                              How forgiving is the Lord when I have

                                                                   fallen short! I will be patient with others,

                                                                   even in small things this Lent.

   behold, from now on will all ages call me

   blessed.                                                 I will draw others’ attention to our loving

                                                                   Lord’s blessings, and how to be thankful.

                                                                   I am especially grateful today for……

   The Mighty One has done great things for

       me, and holy is his name.            I will try to do some kind and loving

                                                                  things today for (names of others ) and

                                                                  I will praise God’s holy name.

 So, may we rise to new heights little by little, day by day! May we each use our own range of gifts and talents and encourage others to do the same. Let’s fly high!

   

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Topics: Lent, Lent prayer, Lenten journey, Lenten season, Sharon Krause, renewing our faith

"Hear the Word!" by Bill Ayres: Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted by Bill Ayres on Feb 10, 2024 6:00:00 PM

A reading from the Book of Leviticus

(Chapter 13:1-2, 44-46)

This passage describes the remedy for leprosy while the Hebrew people were wandering in the desert after their liberation from Egypt: “If a man is leprous and unclean, the priest shall declare him unclean by reason of the sore on his head…. He shall dwell apart, making his abode outside the camp.” It was a prescription for a horrible death away from a person’s family and friends. Yet, it was written in the book that was to help the priests of the tribe of Levi govern the people. It seemed the lesser of two evils, because there was no way to cure leprosy and similar diseases, and isolation seemed like the only way to prevent the disease from spreading throughout the camp. As we will see in the gospel passage, Jesus had a different approach.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 32:1-2, 5, 11)

“I turn to you, Lord, in time of trouble, and you fill me with the joy of salvation.” Do you turn to the Lord in time of trouble? Most of us do, and sometimes we feel better, a little relieved. Sometimes we even find an answer during our prayer, if we are listening. But there are times, perhaps many times, when it seems as if nothing is happening, no answers, no consolation. We are living in the immediacy of our pain or worry, and we want answers, healing of some sort, right now. We need to keep listening and to be open to answers and healing; that’s true even if they are not the answers we hoped for and even if the healing is not complete but only a step in the right direction that can be celebrated, not dismissed as lacking.

A reading from St. Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians

(Chapter 10:31-11:1)

“Brothers and sisters, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.” I don’t think I have ever taken those words as seriously as Paul intended them, even though I have heard and read them numerous times. How about you? Do you think your working, sleeping, driving, playing, talking, give glory to God? They can. They are blessed. We are blessed. Always! Our lives give glory to God, not just when we are praying or celebrating the Eucharist but each day in so many ways that we take for granted. And our routines, which can seem boring even to ourselves, have a purpose and give glory to God. Let us rejoice that we are loved.

A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Mark

(Chapter 1:40-45)

“A leper came to Jesus and kneeling down begged him and said ‘if you wish you can make me clean.’ Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched him, and said to him ‘I do will it. Be made clean.” Now, remember the first reading from the Book of Leviticus which reported that someone suffering leprosy was to be banished, not healed, and if you touched a leper you too would be ostracized. Jesus broke the law about leprosy and then told the man, “See that you tell no one anything, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed; that will be proof for them.” Of course, “The man went away and publicized the whole matter. He spread the report abroad so that it was impossible for Jesus to enter the town openly. He remained outside in deserted places.”

This is an extraordinary story, and it is only one of a dozen stories of healings in Mark’s Gospel. But here Jesus broke a religious law and, because he touched the leper, could be considered unclean himself. Imagine how threatening this was for the religious leaders. They had a law that in effect condemned innocent people to a horrible death, and this man, this nobody in their eyes, cured him.

One thing about Jesus that stands out throughout the gospels is his power to heal both body and spirit. In his death and resurrection, he healed us from sin and from death itself, gaining for us eternal life in the presence of God. Let us pray to Jesus the healer in our times of suffering and need and, at the same time recognize and use our own power, derived from his, to heal those around us of loneliness, despair, or material need.

 ✝️

Image: Jesus Cleansing a Leper, Melchior Doze (1864). Public domain.

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. The passage regarding the wedding garment is from The New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC 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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Topics: Bill Ayres, Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Hopeful Regrouping

Posted by Sharon Krause on Feb 5, 2024 6:00:00 AM

February already! Sometimes it is hard to believe how fast time passes! In less than two weeks, we will be starting the season of Lent. The big holidays of Christmas and New Year’s Day are over, the decorations are put away, the gift exchanges are done, and now it is time to regroup and refocus our prayers and energy. How to start fresh?

 The gospel readings from St. Mark yesterday and today at Mass recount the healing miracles Jesus worked among the crowds of followers. Jesus drove out demons from people who were possessed. He preached and kept moving in his loving ministry. He devoted himself to his flock, and his flock pursued even the tassel of his garment. The people could see Jesus’ power and strength. They did not give up!

 With these biblical reminders of the love and power of our Savior, it would be wise for us to take time to make a mental—- or even tangible—- list of the healings we know we or our loved ones need. We must thank Jesus again for all those little and big healing we have already seen in our lifetime. The healing can be mental, physical, spiritual, attitudinal, and repeated. It is normal to pray for healing, but we must be sure to spend time in thanksgiving when we experience answers to our prayers. We can learn from these healing occasions. We can even ask the Lord to make us healers in this troubled world. Perseverance is important. Humble faith keeps us going.

 Let us hopefully start these winter days with warm thoughts, perhaps drawing inspiration from Psalm 145:13b-20:

            The Lord is faithful in all his words

       and holy in all his works.

   The Lord lifts up all who are falling

       and raises up all who are bowed down.

   The eyes of all look hopefully to you,

       and you give them their food in due season;

   You open your hand

       and satisfy the desire of every living thing.

   The Lord is just in all his ways

       and holy in Lk his works.

   The Lord is near to all who call upon him,

       to all who call upon him in truth.

   He fulfills the desire of those who fear him,

       he hears their cry and saves them.

   The Lord keeps all who love him,

       but all the wicked he will destroy.

 

February is the shortest month of the year, but let’s try to make it long on listening for Jesus’ word and following his example of patient love.

   

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Topics: give thanks to God, Jesus healing, Sharon Krause, renewing our faith

"Hear the Word!" by Bill Ayres: Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted by Bill Ayres on Feb 3, 2024 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the Book of Job

(Chapter 7:1-4, 6-7)

Here is a cheery reading from Job, one of the most difficult characters in the Bible.

“Job spoke, saying: ‘Is not man’s life on earth a drudgery? Are not his days those of hirelings.? He is a slave who longs for the shade, a hireling who waits for his wages. So I have been assigned months of misery, and troubled nights have been allotted to me. If in bed I say, ‘When shall I arise?’ then the night drags on; I am filled with restlessness until the dawn. My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle; they come to an end without hope. Remember that my life is like the wind; I shall not see happiness again.”

Ow! What is this doing in our liturgy? It is a part of Job’s dialogue with three of his so-called friends who try to dissuade him from believing in God. But throughout his seemingly undeserved sufferings, Job does not lose his faith in God, and in the end, he is rewarded.

Have you or anyone you know ever felt like Job? Suffering? Sadness? Tossing and turning at night? No help from supposed friends or family? I hope that has not happened to you or anyone you love.

What we can learn from Job and his life of woes is that he did not give in. He did not lose his faith in God, even when his friends did not comfort him. Now, not only does God care for us, but God is not far from us, as he seemed to be far from Job. No! God lives within us. His Spirit is with us always. We have only to listen, especially when we feel down, depressed, or deserted. The Spirit is God within us.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 147:1-2, 3-4, 5-6)

“Praise the Lord who heals the brokenhearted.” Yes, sometimes our hearts do break for any number of reasons. But God is a healer. Ask Jesus, the healer of hearts, to help restore you to spiritual health.

A reading from St. Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians

(Chapter 9:16-19, 22-23)

Let us remember that the great Saint Paul that we meet in his letters was not always so great. He started off as a man who sought to murder Christians who he believed were following the wrong path. I have often wondered whether the Corinthians knew this when Paul came to preach to them. He seems to be trying to convince them that he is who he says he is, a true disciple of Jesus.

“Brothers and sisters: If I preach the gospel, this is no reason for me to boast, for an obligation has been imposed on me, and woe to me if I do not preach it…. Although I am free in regard to all, I have made myself a slave to all, to save at least some. All this I do for the sake of the gospel, so that I too may have a share in it.” Once he saw the light, Paul became filled with the calling to preach and live the gospel, the “Good News.”

You and I may not have the same passion to travel the world as Paul did to spread the “Good News,” but we can proclaim it in the way we live each day and witness to God’s love.

A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Mark

(Chapter 1:29-39)

This episode took place early in the ministry of Jesus, and right away we see that Jesus was a healer. “Jesus entered the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John. Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever. They immediately told him about her. He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up. Then the fever left her and she waited on them. When it was evening, after sunset, they brought to him all that were ill or possessed by demons. The whole town was gathered at the door. He cured many who were sick with various diseases, and he drove out many demons, not permitting them to speak because they knew him. Rising early before dawn, he left and went to a deserted place, where he prayed. Simon and those who were with him pursued him and on finding him said ‘Everyone is looking for you.’ He told them, ‘Let us go to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come.”

Jesus was a healer then, and he is now for us. Have you been healed by Jesus? No? Maybe not in the dramatic way that he healed when he walked the earth, but he does heal now in many ways. It is not as though we pray, and a prescription comes back to us to follow. It is rarely instantaneous. It is more like a lifelong relationship. Sometimes you may feel the power of Jesus working in some dramatic way, but more often it is an abiding presence. “I am with you!”

Jesus is with each of us in different ways at different times, even when he may seem far away. We need to abide with him. He always abides with us.

 ✝️

Image: Job Restored to Prosperity, Laurent de La Hyre (1648). Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, Virginia. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

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. The passage regarding the wedding garment is from The New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC 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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Topics: Bill Ayres, Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Let's Branch Out

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jan 29, 2024 6:00:00 AM

Next to the sidewalk that leads to our front door is a hibiscus bush in bloom. The yellow flowers seem to shout out, “Look how beautiful I am!” The buds are plentiful and large. The first big flower to open very wide seems to look the passerby right in the face and induce a smile. The flower bush has branched out in a number of directions.

This RENEW International blog is called Branching Out; perhaps it can help inspire us to branch out in our faith in our loving God this year. Sometimes we might feel stuck, mediocre, or just “same-ol’, same-ol” in expressing our Christian faith. It is very clear that our world needs redemption in many areas! Let’s branch out!

Just as the hibiscus flower has many parts, we have many areas in our lives: our family lives, our work lives, our social lives, and, above all, our faith lives. If we invite Jesus into each area each day, we open ourselves up to divine love that is full of strength, endurance, forgiveness, and healthy possibilities. These gifts can overflow and affect others we encounter. “Look how beautiful Jesus is!”

It is not always easy. We might be too tired or too busy to sit and pray. We could be overwhelmed with problems or even tragedy in our daily lives. We cannot text God and expect him to text back. There is no divine phone number to call.

But we are not alone. God knows what we are thinking. He hears our prayers even if they are short phrases: “Lord, give me wisdom!” “Jesus, save me from despair!” “Forgive me for that slip of the tongue!”

Our branching out might be facilitated by sharing faith joys with other family members, friends, or acquaintances. A short phone call, text, or chat to one of these people can be like a flower opening, bringing advice, comfort, love, or reassurance with the Lord as our powerful source.

We can read even just a few Bible verses a day. We can copy some verses onto a readily accessible index card or onto our cell phone and take a prayer break now and then. There are 150 psalms from which to draw! For example, we could share with a child a picture of some little lambs, sing the song, “Mary had a Little Lamb,” and then tell the child how we are lambs, and Jesus is our Good Shepherd..

 Maybe we could pray this week with John 15:5, 9:

    I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear

   much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.

    As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love.

Remember how beautiful the Lord is! Let’s branch out from that beautiful Vine!

   

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Topics: spreading good news, Sharon Krause, renewing our faith

"Hear the Word!" by Bill Ayres: Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted by Bill Ayres on Jan 27, 2024 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the Book of Deuteronomy

(Chapter 18:15-20)

God has always sent prophets to guide his people, so Moses said, “A prophet like me will the Lord, your God, raise up for you from among his own kin; to him you shall listen.” But Moses knew that there would also be false prophets, so he warned the people, “But if a prophet presumes to speak in my name an oracle that I have not commanded him to speak, or speaks in the name of other gods, he shall die.”

Throughout the history of Israel, there were many false prophets but also many genuine prophets who spoke the word of the Lord and helped the people in their times of great need. Who are the true prophets and who are the false prophets in our world today? Who speaks the truth and who spews lies? Who calls for healing and reconciliation and who calls for violence and destruction? Whom can we trust in all the dimensions of our lives? To decide, we should begin by asking whether any message is consistent with the Commandments and with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 95:1-2. 6-7, 7-9)

“If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” Where and how does the voice of God speak to you? In prayer and in times of quiet, in spiritual reading, or in conversations with people you trust? The voice of God may come to us from many sources. Let us pray to discern which voices deserve to be heard.

A reading from St. Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians

(Chapter 7:32-35)

“Brothers and sisters: I should like you to be free of anxieties.” Paul seems to be talking against marriage: “An unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord. But a married man is anxious about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and he is divided.” Then Paul says something similar to unmarried and married women.

All of this sounds as if Paul is disparaging marriage, and yet in other writings he is very positive about married love. What is going on here? We need to remember that Paul was not married, and so he was looking at marriage from the outside. More importantly, he believed that Jesus was coming again soon and that the world as he knew it would be gone. It is true that many thousands of Christians, including Paul, were martyred by the Romans, but the world went on and gradually people stopped regarding the end as imminent. They had enough to worry about under the harsh Roman authoritarian rule. What was important was living, whether married or single, as Christ would have them live.

A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Mark

(Chapter 1:21-28)

This episode takes place at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. There are two important dimensions to his visit to Capernaum. The first is the evidence that he is the real deal, he has authority: “On the sabbath Jesus entered the synagogue and taught. The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.”

Jesus words were powerful, and so were his actions. “In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit; he cried out, ‘What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the holy one of God!’ Jesus rebuked him and said, ‘Quiet! Come out of him!’ The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him. All were amazed and asked one another, ‘What is this? A new teaching with authority. He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.’ His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.”

In ancient times, physical, mental, and emotional illnesses that were not understood might be attributed to “an unclean spirit.” What is clear is that the people saw in Jesus a healer and because of that could at least begin to believe in something deeper in him.

Throughout your life, have you sought some kind of healing or blessing from Jesus? Did it happen? Perhaps it did. Great! Give thanks! Or perhaps not, or so it seemed. But often, healing and other gifts are given, and we miss them. They might appear but not necessarily in the form or manner that we sought. You did not get the job you wanted or the life partner you believed was the right one. But that need not be the end of the story. There are new even more precious gifts in store for you if you stay in the Spirit.

 ✝️

Image: Statue of Moses by Carol M. Highsmith in the Library of Congress. Public domain.

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. The passage regarding the wedding garment is from The New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC 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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Topics: Bill Ayres, fourth sunday in ordinary time

Many Names

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jan 22, 2024 6:00:00 AM

Throughout our lifetimes, we hear and use many names: wife or husband, Mom or Dad, Grammy or Gramps, doctor or nurse, teacher, friend, senator or president, sales rep, fisherman, just to name a few. The names usually come with special meanings and implications. Sometimes they have to do with one’s occupation. In many cases, names come with implied definitions. Names can be very important in marketing, too. Sometimes there are contests designed to choose the right name for a product.

Earlier this month, we read in the liturgy of the baptism of Jesus by John. A voice from the heavens called Jesus “my beloved Son” (Mark 1:11). On the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, we read in the gospel that John the Baptist called Jesus the “Lamb of God” (John 1:35-42). Two disciples called Jesus “Rabbi.” Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, called Jesus the “Messiah.” Jesus told Simon that he would thenceforth be called “Cepheus,” which is translated “Peter.”

In yesterday’s gospel reading, Jesus tells Simon and Andrew that if they follow him, he will make them “fishers of men” (Mark: 1:17). That is a whole new understanding of “fishermen.” These disciples can catch not fish, but new disciples for Jesus! Quite a difference!

When we pray these days of the new year, perhaps we can find inspiration from the many and various names for the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. For example, when we think about lambs, how innocent they are, how small and pure that are, we also remember how they were used in sacrificial services and prayers to God so long ago. We could think about the precious, innocent Lamb of God, who sacrificed his life for us. We can meditate on the concept of sacrifice. We can be so grateful to our generous Jesus who loves us so much.

How about “Messiah” or “Rabbi?” What has our wonderful anointed teacher taught us lately. Do we take the time to pray and listen? Have we thought that maybe, by our example, good will, and gentle faith-sharing we might be “fishers of others” ourselves? We might invite others to love Jesus, our Savior!

We could make a list of names that describe Jesus and, during each prayer time, meditate on each name: for example, Prince of Peace, Son of Mary, Good Shepherd, Savior of the World, Light in our Darkness, Wonderful Counselor, Emmanuel, Name above all Names.

May we all have a holy year all year long, In Jesus’ name, we pray!

   

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Topics: Jesus as teacher, Jesus' love, Sharon Krause

"Hear the Word!" by Deacon Charles Paolino: Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted by Bill Ayres on Jan 20, 2024 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the Book of Jonah

(Chapter 3:1-5, 10)

The events described in the first reading today take place after the famous episode in which God instructs Jonah to call on the people of Ninevah to repent their sins, and Jonah tries his best to avoid the assignment. After being thrown overboard by the crew of a ship, Jonah is swallowed by a “big fish” which spits him out—conveniently enough, on the shore of Nineveh. In today’s reading, we hear that Jonah took the hint and delivered God’s message, the people of Ninevah repented, and God spared them the punishment he had threatened. The story urges us to submit to God’s will and to spread his message of justice, mercy, and righteousness, even when it difficult for us.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9)

“Good and upright is the LORD; thus he shows sinners the way. He guides the humble to justice and teaches the humble his way.” These verses from the psalm follow nicely the passage from the Book of Jonah, because they reassure us that God welcomes repentant sinners and forgives our transgressions.

A reading from St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians

(Chapter 7:29-31)

“I tell you, brothers and sisters, the time is running out…. For the world in its present form is passing away.” Today’s excerpt from Paul’s letter to the Church in Corinth reflects the belief among Christians at that time that the end of the world and the second coming of Christ were imminent. But we shouldn’t dismiss Paul’s advice on this and other occasions that folks should prepare for those events. We shouldn’t try to live at peace with God because we don’t want to get caught short when the end comes, as though we were playing musical chairs, but rather because we want to live at peace with God all the time. God has given us existence, life, the world that sustains us, loving relationships, and—most important of all—his love so great that he gave the life of his only Son so that we might live forever. Every aspect of our lives should reflect our gratitude for God’s generosity whether the end is near or a billion years away.

 

A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Mark

(Mark 1:14-20)

Today’s gospel passage includes the episode in which Jesus offers to make Simon Peter and Andrew “fishers of men.” Jesus didn’t mean to confine that invitation to those brothers, nor did he intend to confine the target of their ministry to “men.” Jesus calls us to the same discipleship to which he summoned Peter and Andrew. That means that Jesus calls us to attract men and women to him by the way we live. That means showing that we are both grateful and proud to be Christians. It also means how others see us treating family members, friends, and strangers; helping people who are in material or spiritual need; caring for the earth; and worshipping God. How does that make us fishers of anyone? As the song says, “They’ll know we are Christians by our love.”

 ✝️

Image: The Calling of St. Peter and St. Andrew, Bernardo Strozzi (1581-1644). Public domain.

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. The passage regarding the wedding garment is from The New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC 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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Topics: Bill Ayres, Christian discipleship, third sunday in ordinary time

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