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Bill Ayres

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

Posted by Bill Ayres on Dec 4, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the prophecy of Baruch

(Chapter 5:1-9)

How can you find hope amid desolation, exile from all that you have loved, and the never-ending feeling that you have been abandoned by the very God who you believed would save you? That was the situation for the Israelites as they suffered for what seemed like forever in exile in Babylon in the seventh century before the birth of Jesus. It is hard for us to imagine how awful life for the people was during that time, but here the prophet Baruch, a scribe of the prophet Jeremiah, offers a message of hope for a despairing people.

Has there ever been a time when you have felt abandoned by God, in exile from ones you loved, and perhaps also from your better self? The same message of hope that God sent to the Israelites he gives to us, not from afar but from the very Spirit who lives within each of us.

May we open our minds and hearts to the healing word of the Spirit for God. It might not come right away and it might come as a surprise from an unlikely source. But have faith that it will come.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 126)

“The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.” What are the great things that God has done for you that have given you joy? Please take some time during Advent to reflect on these gifts and how they have changed your life.

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Topics: Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, Advent, RENEW International, Second Sunday of Advent

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

Posted by Bill Ayres on Nov 27, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the prophecy of Jeremiah

(Chapter 33:14-16)

This is a prophecy by Jeremiah for the Jewish people who had suffered from the long exile in Babylon. “The days are coming says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and Judah. In those days, in that time, I will raise up for David a just shoot; he shall do what is right and just in the land. In those days Judah shall be safe and Jerusalem shall be secure.”

The early Christians and we today believe that Jesus was the person that Jeremiah foretold. This person was the Messiah, but much more than that, he was the Son of God, finally coming after all those generations to save his people. At the time, many believed but many did not, and that is still true today. Many who were brought up as followers of Jesus have rejected him. Just as God did not forsake the people who rejected him 2,000 years ago, we should not reject those of our families and friends who have drifted away now. Our God is a God of mercy and forgiveness.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 25)

“To you O Lord, I lift my soul.” Do you ever “Lift your soul” to God? It does not have to be a formal prayer. It can simply be an awareness of God’s loving presence.

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Topics: Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, Advent, First Sunday of Advent, RENEW International, second coming of Christ

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

Posted by Bill Ayres on Nov 20, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the prophecy of Daniel

(Chapter 7:13-14)

Daniel refers to “one like a Son of man coming.” Whom did he mean? Remember, this book was written less than 200 years before the birth of Jesus. It was a time of horrible persecution, and this scripture was intended to give the people hope. The “Son” envisioned here was probably seen as God’s messenger who would herald the last days. The last days of what? Probably, it was the last days of the evil Seleucid King Antiochus IV which did come soon after. This Son of man would have been considered the messiah, a messenger sent by God to bring justice and peace.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 93)

“The Lord is king; he is robed in majesty.” The psalm proclaims the one God, the God of Israel, who always was and always will beGod, whom we encounter in an intimacy unknown to the ancients, through his Son, Jesus Christ.

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Topics: Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, RENEW International, Jesus Christ the King

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted by Bill Ayres on Oct 30, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the Book of Deuteronomy

(Chapter 6:2-6)

“Moses spoke to the people, saying: “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone! Therefore, you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength.”

That is the basis of Judaism, monotheism, loving the one God. The Jews were the first and for centuries the only religious group to worship one God. What an amazing breakthrough! They have been hated and even killed for their faith from ancient times through the horrors of the Holocaust and down to our own time, in our own country. Let us pray for the Jewish people and give thank them for their faithfulness amid persecution.

“Fear the Lord your God, and keep, throughout the days of your lives, all his statutes and commandments which I enjoin on you, and thus have a long life.” This Moses’ challenge to his people. But the “statutes and commandments” imposed on the Jews eventually went way beyond what was handed down to Moses to include more than 600 regulations affecting every aspect of life.

Jesus challenged that approach, knowing that the laws were like a millstone around the necks of the people instead of their liberation. He was criticized and condemned for actually breaking the law to heal people on the Sabbath.

For us Christians, salvation that is more than “a long life” that Moses promised but rather eternal life comes from faith in Jesus. As St. Paul tells us, we are saved through faith in Jesus not through the Law.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 18)

“I love you O Lord, my strength.” Do you believe that your true and enduring strength comes from the Lord? How have you experienced that strength? Do you sometimes doubt it? Let us be thankful for all the times when God has strengthened us.

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Topics: Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, RENEW International, salvation is through Jesus, Jesus as high priest

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted by Bill Ayres on Oct 23, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the prophecy of Jeremiah

(Chapter 31:7-9)

“The Lord has delivered his people, the remnant of Israel. Behold, I will bring them back from the land of the north; I will gather them from the ends of the world, with the blind and the lame in their midst, the mothers and those with child; they shall return as an immense throng.”

Jeremiah is talking about the return of the Israelites from exile. But how are we to think of exiles returning today? There are almost 20 million exiles in our world now and the number is growing each year. Most are from Syria, Iraq, Sudan, Myanmar, Afghanistan, Niger, the Central African Republic, and several countries in Central and South America. Many of them are women and children fleeing violence, hunger and abject poverty. Some western countries have opened their doors to the refugees others have not. It is a very complex issue, but we need to hold these people in our hearts and do what we can to change hostility toward refugees, knowing that most of us have ancestors who were also refugees.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 126)

“The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.” What great things has the Lord done for you? Have you been thankful? Has it brought you joy? How do you express your joy and thanksgiving?

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Topics: Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, RENEW International, servant leadership, suffering servant

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted by Bill Ayres on Oct 16, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the prophecy of Isaiah

(Chapter 53:10-11)

This is the last of Isaiah’s “suffering servant” poems. Can one person take on the sufferings of a whole people, a whole nation? The Israelites thought that was possible, and we believe that Jesus is the ultimate suffering servant. He suffered and died for all of us.

What does that say about our own sufferings? To seek out suffering is, of course, not healthy. We do not need to look for suffering. It will find us. So, how should we deal with it? There are times of extreme and extended suffering. It may be very intense, and it does not seem to go away. The key is to reach out rather than turn within. A burden shared is always lighter even though it does not take away the suffering immediately. Knowing that you are heard and embraced on some level is healing. During times of deep suffering we need to find sources of life that will give us at least a little joy. And we need to know that Jesus, “the Suffering Servant,” is always with us. It is possible that our suffering, like his, may become “redemptive suffering.” Have you experienced this redemptive suffering? Has something good come out of something that was so hard? Maybe it has and maybe it will again if you go deep with the Spirit of Jesus in your suffering. It may become a source of life for you as hard as that can seem when you are in the midst of the pain.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 33)

“Lord, may your mercy be on us as we place our trust in you.” God’s mercy comes with our trust in him. He tells us repeatedly, “Do not be afraid.” Trust him.

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Topics: trust in God, Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, RENEW International, servant leadership, suffering servant, trust in God's mercy

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted by Bill Ayres on Oct 9, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the book of Wisdom

(Chapter 7:7-11)

“I prayed, and prudence was given me; I pleaded, and the spirit of wisdom came to me. I preferred her to scepter and throne, and deemed riches nothing in comparison with her.” We all pray for many different reasons, but have you ever prayed for wisdom or prudence? Maybe you did when you were taking a test at school, but what about now, when you have a difficult decision to make? It is not as though you are praying into some abyss. Rather, you and I have the very Spirit of God living within us, our partner, our source of wisdom and strength. Certainly, we should ask others that we trust when we are in need of wisdom, but let’s not forget the Holy Spirit, who is never far away, and seek the divine wisdom in prayer.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 90)

“Fill us with your love, O Lord, and we will sing for joy.” God’s love comes to us in many ways and always brings us joy. Reflect for a moment on times recently when love came to you, when someone in some way touched you with love. Did it bring a smile to your face even if you were not exactly singing for joy? That is a good start.

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Topics: Charity, wisdom, Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, Book of Wisdom, RENEW International, Indwelling of the Holy Spirit

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted by Bill Ayres on Oct 2, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the book of Genesis

(Chapter 2:18-24)

“It is not good for man to be alone.” We are created in the image and likeness of God, and God is not a solitary beingthat is, in the sense that God is a community of persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are communal beings, and the most basic community is between a man and a woman in marriage: “The two of them become one flesh.” That is truly amazing, beautiful to hear, challenging to live, but the goal of all marriages.

Still, we who are married need solitude sometimes, which is very different from loneliness. It is a time to reflect, to pray, and to just be, amid our busy lives. It can be a time of renewal of the deepest and best in us. It may not be easy to find this kind of time, but we should respect our own need and our partner’s need for this opportunity for renewal.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 128)

“Fill us with your love, O Lord, and we will sing for joy.” What a good reason to sing! Do you often feel the love of God in your life?

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Topics: divorce, Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, marriage, RENEW International, suffering, suffering servant, Indwelling of the Holy Spirit

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted by Bill Ayres on Sep 25, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the book of Numbers

(Chapter 11:25-29)

“The Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to Moses. Taking some of the spirit that was on Moses, the Lord bestowed it on the seventy elders; and as the spirit came to rest on them, they prophesied.” However, there were two men who were left in camp “yet the spirit came to rest on them also.” Joshua, Moses’ aide, said, “Moses, my Lord, stop them.” But Moses answered them, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the people of the Lord were prophets! Would that the Lord might bestow his spirit on them all!”

Moses obviously had a broader and deeper vision of God’s generosity than did Joshua who seemed to be stuck in legalism. But think about God’s generosity to us. God, the Holy Spirit, lives in us every day throughout our lives, even when we are not aware of this powerful presence or even if we are not faithful to the gift of the Spirit. The Spirit remains, abides in each of us. The Spirit is our constant companion, especially in our darkest hours and days and years. Do you talk to the Spirit within you? Even more important, do you listen to the Spirit?

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 19)

“The precepts of the Lord give joy to the heart.” For the Jewish people, following the precepts, the Law of Moses, was the way to salvation. For us Christians, the way to salvation is through faith in Jesus, and his law is simple: “Love your God with all your heart and soul and your neighbor as yourself.” It is so simple, yet so challenging.

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Topics: Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, inclusion, RENEW International, Indwelling of the Holy Spirit

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted by Bill Ayres on Sep 18, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the Book of Wisdom

(Chapter 2:12, 17-20)

This book was written less than a century before the birth of Jesus. Once again, the people of Israel were oppressed, this time by the Greeks who forced many Jews to choose between giving up their faith and death. In this text, the faithful person is characterized by his enemies as “the just one.” Such a person will be tortured and condemned “to a shameful death.” The disciples of Jesus later referred to Jesus as the “just one” because of the way he was abused and murdered.

In our own time, we have seen “just ones” persecuted and killed for standing up for justice and human rights. They are the prophets and martyrs among us whose cause is just and whose message must be heard and followed. Archbishop Romero and the three religious women who were killed in El Salvador come to mind, but there are hundreds and thousands more who are nameless to us but whose sacrifice is in the tradition of Jesus, the “just one.”

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 54)

“The Lord upholds my life.” The psalmist complains that “the haughty have risen up against me, the ruthless seek my life.” This is in keeping with the theme of the “just one” being attacked. Has that happened to you, that you were accused of something unjustly? It happens to most of us at some time in our lives. The key to making it through is knowing that “The Lord upholds my life.”

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Topics: Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, humility, RENEW International, the just one

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