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Bill Ayres

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

Posted by Bill Ayres on Feb 4, 2023 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the prophecy of Isaiah

(Chapter 58:7-10)

“Thus says the Lord: Share your bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless; clothe the naked when you see them, and do not turn your back against your own. Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your wound shall quickly be healed; your vindication shall go before you, and the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. You shall call and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say: Here I am.”

This passage was written by a prophet in the tradition of Isaiah sometime after the Jewish people returned from the Babylonian Exile in the sixth century B.C. Finally home after all those years, they needed to remember where they came from, be thankful for the end of their exile, and help those who were in great need. Taking care of the poor, the homeless, widows, and orphans has been a strong part of Jewish tradition through multiple centuries right up to today. It is also an important part of our Christian belief. Please ask in your parish how you can share your time, talent, or material resources.

 Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 112: 4-5, 6-7, 8-9)

“The just man is a light in the darkness to the upright.” Are you now or have you ever been a “light in the darkness” to another person? Has anyone been that light for you? Do you ever think about who has given or received light from you and what that has meant for you?

A reading from the Letter to the Corinthians

(Chapter 2:1-5)

Paul is writing this letter or perhaps dictating it from prison. He does not know how long he will live, but he probably figures it will not be long. He knows that there are several teachers who are his competition, including people who have become Christians in name but who want to hedge their bets and expound on the teachings of Greek philosophers and other non- believers. Paul writes that he does not have the wisdom or eloquence of such teachers but offers something more valuable and true, the mystery of God.

“When I came to you, brothers and sisters, proclaiming the mystery of God, I did not come with sublimity of words or of wisdom. For I resolved to know nothing when I was with you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear and much trembling, and my message and my proclamation were not of persuasive words of wisdom, but with the demonstration of Spirit and power, so that your faith may not rest on human wisdom but on the power of God.”

Paul is no longer in town. He is in prison and is feeling threatened by those other preachers. His power is not in words but in “the demonstration of spirit.” He believes in the power of the Holy Spirit which dwells in all his converts. It is that same Holy Spirit that lives in all who are baptized. As I have said so often in these commentaries, that is the mystery of God in us—the Holy Spirit!

I never knew that as a child and teenager going to Catholic school, but when I finally “got it,” it made all the difference in my life. I hope it will in your life as well.

A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew

(Chapter 5:13-16)

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. … Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.”

We Christians must not hide our light. That does not necessarily mean that we must constantly talk about our faith but rather that we must live it in our family lives, our neighborhoods, our places of business or school, and in our wider society, by standing up for the gift of life, social and economic justice, and peace, and by acting on behalf of those in need of our help, support, prayers, and most important, our loving presence.

 ✝️

Photograph by Rohan Makhecha on Unsplash

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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Topics: Hear the Word! by Bill Ayres, Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, care for those in poverty, Awaken to the Spirit

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

Posted by Bill Ayres on Jan 21, 2023 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the prophecy of Isaiah

(Chapter 8:23-9:3)

We are in the eighth century B.C., and the Assyrian army has taken over the two lands of Zebulun and Naphtali—the northern Israeli homelands of tribes associated with two of Jacob’s sons. Isaiah says that darkness covers the land, but now, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shown. You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing, as they rejoice before you as at the harvest, as people make merry when dividing spoils. For the yoke that burdened them, the pole on their shoulder, and the rod of their taskmaster you have smashed.” The Assyrians were terrible rulers, but now God has spared his people from their domination.

Today, countless millions of the poorest people on earth are under the rule of despotic powers, and millions more in more developed countries such as Russia, Iran, and China live under stifling dictatorships. Let us be thankful for our democracy and the Constitution that protects us, and not take these gifts for granted.

 Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 27:1, 4, 13-14)

“The Lord is my light and my salvation.” There are times in our lives when the darkness seems to surround us, but the light of the Lord is always there to guide and protect us. Let us seek the light of the Lord when darkness tries to drag us down.

A reading from the Letter to the Corinthians

(Chapter 1:10-13, 17)

There are real divisions within our Church throughout the world and here in our country. As we hear from St. Paul today, this is nothing new. He beseeches the Corinthians, “I urge you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree in what you say, and that there be no divisions among you, but you be united in the same mind and in the same purpose. For it has been reported to me about you, my brothers and sisters, by Chloe’s people, that there are rivalries among you. I mean that each of you are saying, ‘I belong to Paul’ or ‘I belong to Cephas’ (Peter) or ‘I belong to Christ.’ Is Christ divided? … For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with the wisdom of human eloquence, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its meaning.”

As we know, there were real differences among the apostles and the various Christian communities, and yet, they stayed together. They worked out their differences. That is our challenge today, as it has been for Christians throughout the past 20 centuries—to work out our differences without bad mouthing the other side, and to focus on the great truths we all believe in that bind us together.

A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew

(Chapter 4:12-23)

Matthew tells us that when Jesus hears that John the Baptist has been arrested, he moves to the same land that we read about in the prophesy of Isaiah, the land of Zebulun and Naphtali, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” And Matthew reports that as Jesus “was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen. He said to them, ‘Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ At once, they left their nets and followed him. He walked along from there and saw two other brothers, James, the son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets. He called them and immediately they left their boats and their father and followed him.”

So, that is how it all started—poor, uneducated fishermen were somehow moved to make a radical change in their lives. Obviously, Matthew gives us only the short version of these conversations. There must have been much more said, but Matthew wants us to feel the immediacy and power of the call from Jesus.

You and I have a “call” from Jesus, not just once, but throughout our lives. We refer to it as a vocation, but not long ago that word, “vocation,” applied in popular use only to people who were called to priesthood or religious life. Now, we know that it is a call to each of us, perhaps several different and related calls. In any case, it is a call to serve others—as wife, husband, father, mother, sister, brother, friend, partner. Do you see your life as a response to a call from God, perhaps several calls at different times? Ask yourself if you feel called, if your life is a response to calls from God. Your calls are gifts as well as challenges. Have you said yes? It is never too late.

 

 

✝️

Painting: The Call of Saints Peter and Andrew, (circa 1603-1606) Michelangelo Merici da Caravaggio, Hampton Court Palace, London. 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.
 
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: Christian unity, Hear the Word! by Bill Ayres, third sunday in ordinary time

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

Posted by Bill Ayres on Jan 14, 2023 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the prophecy of Isaiah

(Chapter 49:3, 5-6)

“The Lord said to me: You are my servant, Israel, through whom I show my glory.” Then later, the Lord continues, “It is too little … for you to be my servant, to raise up the tribes of Israel; I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation shall reach to the ends of the earth.”

First, God is establishing Israel’s relationship to him, that of “servant,” But then God says that he will make Israel a “light to the nations.” Jesus also saw himself as a servant of his Father, eventually, a “suffering servant.” The word “servant” has a negative connotation in our society which proclaims equality for all, but what Jesus means by “servant” is quite different. It is a call to serve God and one another. It is a call to mission. It is a calling of strength and power, not weakness.

In what ways do you see yourself, in a positive light, as a servant of others? How do you feel about your service? Do you rejoice in it, feel put upon, or is it just something you take for granted? How do others serve you? Are you thankful for their service? How do you express your thanks?

 Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 40:2, 4, 7-8, 8-9, 10)

“Here I am Lord, I come to do your will.” Have you ever said anything like that to God? Do you try to determine what the will of God is for you in a difficult situation, or in a very happy time?

A reading from the Letter to the Corinthians

(Chapter 1:1-3)

Paul starts out his letter with a greeting: “To the church of God that is in Corinth, to you who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be holy, with all those everywhere who call upon the name of our Lord Christ Jesus, their Lord and ours.” Paul is writing to the people of one city, Corinth, but he wants the Corinthians to know that they are related spiritually to all who have been “called to be holy.” That means all the new churches throughout the part of the world that Paul and the other apostles have visited. Even then, Paul and the other apostles saw the Church as one, not as a series of individual churches but a community of churches. That is what we have today, except that our Church now is worldwide, universal.

A reading from the holy Gospel according to John

(Chapter 1:29-34)

John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. He is the one of whom I said, ‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.’ I did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he may be made known to Israel. I did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.”

At every Mass, we have a prayer that refers to Jesus as “the Lamb of God.” Here, the author tells us of the origin of this title that connects Jesus with the lamb offered at the Passoverthe animal whose blood was sprinkled on the doorposts to let the angel of death know that the inhabitants were part of God’s chosen people and were not to be harmed. Jesus, as the Lamb, is also seen as the “Suffering Servant” who gives his life for the people.

The author of this Gospel is telling us that Jesus has always had the Spirit of God living within him. When we are baptized, we share in that Spirit. That is truly amazing, that God’s Holy Spirit lives within each one of us. I did not know that as a child, but I believe it now as an adult. I hope you also not only believe it but remember that the presence of the Spirit in you is dynamic, guiding you and being your life partner. Imagine that! God’s very Spirit lives in you. I hope you share that Good News with your children and all whom you know and that you talk to your Spirit partner often.

 

✝️

Photo: Image of the Holy Spirit, window in the Altar of the Chair of St. Peter, Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680), St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican.

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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Topics: Hear the Word! by Bill Ayres, second sunday in ordinary time

"Hear the Word! by Bill Ayres: The Epiphany of the Lord

Posted by Bill Ayres on Jan 7, 2023 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the prophecy of Isaiah

(Chapter 60:1-6)

Most Jewish and Christian scholars believe that the prophecy of Isaiah was written by three authors at three different times. Today’s reading is from the last section of the prophecy, written at the end of the Babylonian Exile more than 500 years before the birth of Jesus. It was a time of great joy as the former captives returned to their homeland. “Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you…. Nations shall walk by your light, and kings by your shining radiance.”

The Church reads this passage today because, in the birth of Jesus, this promise and more has come true. Jesus is the fulfillment of all the prophesies and all the promises from God.

 Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 72)

“Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.” The psalmist knew when he wrote this, thousands of years ago that it was not true, but he prayed that it would be some day.

A reading from the Letter to the Ephesians

(Chapter 3:2-3a, 5-6)

Paul writes, “the mystery was made known to me by revelation.” The mystery he is referring to is God’s plan for salvation through Jesus. However, salvation is not only for Jews. “The Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body.”

Most of the early Christians were Jews, and many of them thought that Jesus came only for them. He certainly did come to proclaim the reign of God to Israel, but Paul makes it clear that salvation is for all people. We are all called to be a part of “the same body.” Paul dedicated his ministry to all people and traveled far and wide to reach the Gentiles. The Church of the apostles that you and I live in and believe in is inclusive and not only in terms of ethnicity or nationality. Pope Francis refers to himself as a sinner. We are all sinnersa Church of sinners forgiven and saved by the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. We need to always reach out with our arms and our hearts to those who have felt excluded or alienated from our Church.

A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew

(Chapter 2:1-12)

There has always been speculation about who the magi were. The best answer is that we do not know, but the important clue Matthew gives is that they came from the East, meaning they were gentiles. Matthew wanted his predominately Jewish audience to know that their Messiah was recognized far beyond their community. He is a universal savior. Our Church is universal, more than a billion people scattered across the earth. Do you feel connected to any of these far-flung communities? Many of them live in poverty and are persecuted in places such as Nigeria, Syria, Iraq, Sudan, and Pakistan. Let us pray in solidarity with them.

In the last century, we prayed for the conversion of Communist Russia and freedom for what were called the Iron Curtain countries. Let us pray now for the freedom from hunger and poverty and persecution that billions of our brothers and sisters suffer today.

May you have a Happy and Healthy New Year!

 

✝️

Photo by Inbal Malca on Unsplash.

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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Topics: Gentiles, Savior of the world, Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord

"Hear the Word! by Bill Ayres: The Nativity of Our Lord

Posted by Bill Ayres on Dec 24, 2022 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the prophecy of Isaiah

(Chapter 52:7-10)

Isaiah spoke about someone coming who “brings glad tidings, announcing peace, bearing good news.” The Church chooses this reading for Christmas day because we believe that the birth of Jesus fulfills this promise.

We do not live in a peaceful world, and each day brings headlines with bad news, sometimes terrifying news. There is plenty of bad news to go around, but there is also so much good news, so many people doing good for their neighbors, for their country, for their world. There are individuals and organizations working to reduce the number of poor and hungry people in the world, even though there are still far too many. There are more peaceful countries in the world in this century, even though there is still horrible violence in Ukraine and elsewhere. There is less crime, violence, poverty, unemployment, and hunger in our own country than there was 10 years ago, even though we still have a long way to go to be the just and peaceful people of our hopes and dreams.

The point is that the promise of Jesus does not work like magic. It is a gift of peace and good news offered to each of us that we can accept or reject. On the birthday of our Savior, let us accept this amazing gift on a deeper level than ever before. Let us remember that the power of his love that lives in our hearts is a more powerful force than all the negative forces that exist. We can live in his love despite all the unloving that we experience in our world, all this from a little baby whose birth we celebrate today.

 Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 98:1, 2-3, 3-4, 5-6}

“All the ends of the earth have seen the saving power of God.” Many have seen, but not all have believed. Let us pray that today more hearts will be opened to the transforming power of God.

A reading from the Letter to the Hebrews

(Chapter 1:1-6)

The author writes, “In times past, God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets; in these last days, he has spoken to us through his Son.”

Throughout history, God has spoken to his people in many ways: through nature, through various religious traditions, and especially through the Jewish people and their prophets. God continues to speak through all those means today, but the fullness of God’s message and presence is in Jesus.

A reading from the holy Gospel according to John

(Chapter 1:1-18)

This is the famous prologue to John’s Gospel, added on for an important reason. It starts with an amazing statement: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” So, who is this “Word”? The answer is clear: “And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.”

The author wants to be clear that this is Jesus. Jesus is equal to God, because Jesus is God who came among us in the form of a human being. For all the centuries before, God spoke especially through the Jewish people. That communication does not and will not ever end, but now there is a direct communication to the whole world in the presence of Jesus. Even though Jesus died and ascended into Heaven two thousand years ago, he sent us the divine Presence in the form of the Holy Spirit who lives within each of us. So, this Christmas Day and all days, if we want to experience the presence of God and live with true peace and good news, we need to listen to his Spirit within us and in the community of our Church.

Peace and good news to all on this Christmas day and always!

✝️

Painting: Adoration of the Shepherds, Gerard van Honthorst, Pomeranian State Museum. Greifswald, Germany. 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.
 
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: Christmas, Nativity of the Lord

"Hear the Word! by Bill Ayres: Fourth Sunday of Advent

Posted by Bill Ayres on Dec 17, 2022 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the prophecy of Isaiah

(Chapter 7:10-14)

Ahaz was the ruler of the kingdom of Judah in the eighth century before the birth of Jesus, at a time when Judah and other small nations were allied against the Assyrian Empire which was more powerful and certainly brutal. But Ahaz refused to be true to the coalition, so some of the nations that should have been his partners turned against him. While Judah was under attack from two directions, “The Lord spoke to Ahaz, saying: Ask for a sign from the Lord your God…. But Ahaz answered “I will not ask! I will not tempt the Lord.” This was a phony excuse designed to mask Ahaz’s lack of faith. Isaiah told him, “Is it not enough for you to weary people, must you also weary my God? Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin will conceive and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel”—a promise that Judah, the nation of David, would endure—in spite of its enemies and in spite of Ahaz.

Isaiah never tells us who the virgin is nor who the child is, except to say that his name will be Emmanuel which means “God with us.” The prophesy was fulfilled, not in Ahaz’s time but with the birth of Jesus, the Messiah.

 Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 24:1-2, 3-4, 5-6)

“Let the Lord enter; he is the king of glory.” Today, and every day, let us ask God to enter ever more deeply in our minds and hearts.

A reading from St. Paul's Letter to the Romans

(Chapter 1:1-7)

In this letter to the Christian community in Rome, Paul does two things. He lays claim to his credentials as “a slave of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God,” and he explains more specifically that, through Jesus, he had “received the grace of apostleship, to bring about the obedience of faith, for the sake of his name, among all the Gentiles, among whom are you also, who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.” Christians in Rome were being arrested and martyred every day. We do not risk our lives or suffer for the faith as the martyrs in Rome did, but we need to remember that our forebears in faith suffered and, in other parts of the world, many do today.

A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew

(Chapter 1:18-24)

This gospel passage focuses on Joseph who had a critical decision to make. Mary had not yet lived with Joseph, but she was pregnant. How? By whom? What should he do?

Matthew is the only evangelist who tells this story: “This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit. Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly.” Then Joseph had a dream in which the angel of the Lord said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins…. “When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.”

Each of us has difficult decisions to make throughout our lives, usually without the help of angels in our dreams. Praying and asking for counsel from family or friends can help, and then asking the Holy Spirit to guide us by helping us discern God’s will can lead us to the best decisions in troubling times.

✝️

Painting: St. Joseph with the Infant Jesus, oil on canvas, by Guido Reni (1575-1642). Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia. 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.
 
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: St. Joseph, say yes to God's will, fourth sunday of advent

"Hear the Word! by Bill Ayres: Third Sunday of Advent

Posted by Bill Ayres on Dec 10, 2022 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the prophecy of Isaiah

(Chapter 35:1-6a, 10)

This Sunday is called Gaudete Sunday, a day of rejoicing because of the great promise that we hear from Isaiah. The prophet addressed this message to the Jewish people in the sixth century before the birth of Jesus—a time of crisis: exile from their homeland, the destruction of their homes and temple, and their enslavement by a foreign power. Yet, amid all their suffering, Isaiah has this powerful message of hope: “Strengthen the hands that are feeble, make firm the knees that are weak, say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not! Here is your God; he comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save you.”

We do not face the same kind of horror in our society, but what sufferings are you going through now that may seem hopeless or at least painful? Have any of your relationships caused you suffering? How can you bring healing rather than continuing the pain? Have you allowed relatively minor troubles to diminish your joy? How can you turn that around into thankfulness for all you have been given?

 Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 146:6-7, 8-9, 9-10)

“Lord, come and save us.” Those words resonate with us thousands of years after they were written. How and when have you asked God to save you or someone you love? Do you feel you were heard?

A reading from the Letter of St. James

(Chapter 5:7-10)

James is telling his hearers to be patient for the coming of the Lord. Of course, he is talking about the Second Coming which the Christians of that time thought would occur any day. Today, we are not impatient for the Second Coming. We hardly think about it, but we should always be thinking and praying for the continuous coming of Jesus into our minds and hearts. Let us think of Christmas not as the coming again of the baby Jesus. That only happened once, 2000-plus years ago. Rather, let us rejoice in the remembrance of that event that changed the world and shaped our lives so profoundly, and then enter into an even deeper bond with Jesus whose Spirit lives in us.

A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew

(Chapter 11:2-11)

Put yourself in John’s shoes, or rather sandals, for a minute. Here he is, a man with a mission from God to prepare the way for the long-awaited Messiah, and he is stuck in prison. He is giving it his all, but he wants to make sure Jesus is the real deal, so he sends his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come or should we look for another?” John is risking his life, and he wants to be sure. Jesus answers, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.”

How many times has Jesus healed you, not necessarily from a physical ailment but emotionally or mentally? How many times has Jesus brought you or someone you love back from the death of sin or addiction or some other deep darkness? This week is a good time to remember all the times when Jesus healed you or a loved one in any way.

Maybe it is right now that you feel powerless or deeply injured. Ask Jesus to be present to you to help heal you. And this Christmas, let us thank Jesus for all the times of healing and all the gifts he has given us.

✝️

Painting: The prophet Isaiah, fresco by Michelangelo Buonarotti from the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican.

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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Topics: St John the Baptist, Second Sunday of Advent

"Hear the Word! by Bill Ayres: Second Sunday of Advent

Posted by Bill Ayres on Dec 3, 2022 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the prophecy of Isaiah

(Chapter 11:1-10)

The prophets of Israel preached several messages, some hopeful and some judgmental, but all intended 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 St. Paul's Letter 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 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.

✝️

 

Painting: St. John the Baptist in the Desert, Tiziano Vecelli (Titian), circa 1542. Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venise. 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.
 
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: St John the Baptist, Second Sunday of Advent

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

Posted by Bill Ayres on Nov 26, 2022 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the prophecy of Isaiah

(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 obeyed this command, millions of innocent people would not have been killed and many others would not be dying today. Jesus himself preached and lived non-violence as should we, as individuals, as societies, as nations.

 Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 122)

“Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.” Do you and I rejoice when we come for Mass each week, or do we take it for granted and as an obligation rather than a gift worthy of rejoicing?

A reading from St. Paul's Letter 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 Roman Christians know how important it is for them to stay the course and not fall into bad habits that were rampant in 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 many believed that he would come again on the last day. But when? Matthew tells people, “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 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 deaths. We know not the day or the hour. Rather than worrying about that, we should make the most of each day—serving God and each other—as we look forward to a new life forever in the divine presence.

✝️

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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Topics: First Sunday of Advent, second coming of Christ

"Hear the Word! by Bill Ayres: Solemnity of Jesus Christ, King

Posted by Bill Ayres on Nov 19, 2022 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the Second Book of Samuel

(Chapter 5:1-3)

In this passage we read that David was called to be king and leader of Israel. The Christian biblical writers saw Jesus as both the successor and the perfection of David’s rule—not only over Israel but over the whole world. These days, most kings and queens have only ceremonial functions where they exist at all. When the Church began observing this solemnity in 1925, it was identifying Jesus with the power still being exercised by royalty in many places but contrasting his eternal rule with the finite dominion of earthly kings. Today, we recognize that Jesus' kingdom embraces all mankind, but we focus too on the loving, healing aspects of his power.

 Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 122)

“Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.” Do you and I rejoice when we come for Mass each week, or do we take it for granted and as an obligation rather than a gift worthy of rejoicing?

A reading from St. Paul's Letter to the Colossians

(Chapter 1:12-20)

“He is the head of the body, the church.” This is a central teaching of our faith, that there is a bodily connection between Christ who is the head of the body, and the Church, which is itself the body of Christ. You can’t get any closer. “In him were created all things.” Everything was created in and for Christ. This was a hymn in the early Church, and it reflected what the followers of Jesus believed from the beginning and what we believe and experience in the assembly of the Church and in the Eucharist.

A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke

(Chapter 25:25-43)

The soldiers mockingly tell Jesus, “If you are King of the Jews, save yourself.” And one of the other two men being crucified that day implores Jesus, “Save yourself and us.” But Jesus uses his saving power not for himself but in response to the penance of one of those men who admitted his guilt and asked Jesus, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus forgives him and promises him eternal life. This is the climax of Luke’s portrayal of Jesus as a loving, forgiving savior, something we have heard throughout this liturgical year. The “good thief,” as he is often described, was a lucky man indeed. And so are we lucky. Each of us has that same chance for forgiveness at any and all times in our lives. We need only ask.

✝️

Image: Christ on the Cross Between Two Thieves, unknown author. Illumination from the Vaux Passional in the Peniarth Manuscripts. Public Domain. National Library of Wales.

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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Topics: Jesus Christ the King

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