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Bill Ayres

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'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted by Bill Ayres on Sep 11, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the prophecy of  Isaiah

(Chapter 50:5-9a)

Here are three powerful sentences from this reading: “The Lord God opens my ear that I may hear; and I have not rebelled, have not turned back.” “The Lord is my help, therefore I am not disgraced.” “See, the Lord God is my help; who will prove me wrong?’

Have you ever had the experience of God opening your ear or even your heart? Perhaps you had closed your heart to someone or to some truth, and you would not budge. But then something happened, and you had a change of heart that helped you to see another side of the person or the issue, and you moved on.

Did you ever feel rejected or even disgraced, but then someone came to your aid or your defense? Maybe God sent that person to you, because God is your help.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 116)

“I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living.” The line before this reads, “For he has freed my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling.” This amazing insight was written hundreds of years before the coming of Jesus Christ who truly saves our souls from the ultimate death.

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

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: 23nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

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

A reading from the prophecy of  Isaiah

(Chapter 35:4-7a)

When you are in a dire situation, you need a message of hope. Israel was almost always in some kind of danger, in this case attacks from the much more powerful Assyrians. Isaiah’s message from God is clear. “Fear not!” “Here is your God.”

Fear is one of the most destructive forces in our lives. Sometimes it is unwarranted fear that wells up from some dark place in us and takes over for a time, perhaps a long time. At other times it comes from a real concern about someone we love or something that is happening in our lives that threatens our well- being. Of course, we would like all fears to go away or at least leave us alone for a while. God’s message to us in all these situations is “Fear not” or “Be not afraid.” God says this to the Israelites over and over again through the prophets, and Jesus says it to his disciples. These words and their companion message“I am with you”are said more than any other expressions in the Bible. God wants to assure us, especially in our worst moments, that we are not alone.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 146)

“Praise the Lord, my soul.” This psalm is a litany of all the things God has done for his people, especially those most in need. It is a good psalm to pray in times of stress.

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Topics: do not be afraid, Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, RENEW International, care for those in poverty, divinity of Jesus, fear not

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted by Bill Ayres on Aug 28, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the Book of Deuteronomy

(Chapter 4:1-2, 6-8)

This is an important moment in the history of Israel. God establishes a Covenant with the people through Moses and gives them the Law which was not a purely external, juridical thing but rather was meant to be in their hearts. Moses warns them “you shall not add to what I command you nor subtract from it.” But by the time of Jesus, there were so many add-ons to the Law that Jesus challenged the leaders for placing a yoke on the shoulders of the people that God never intended. In contrast, he said “my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Over the years, our Roman Catholic Church has also added proscriptions Jesus’ teaching, but for the past 50 years the Church has moved slowly away from these “burdens,” focusing instead on the basic message of Jesus: Love God and one another and believe in the reign of God that Jesus came to make present.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 15)

“The one who does justice will live in the presence of the Lord.” Injustice has been present in every society, and it is today in our own country. There are always those who oppress and cheat others. We are called to speak up for those who are oppressed and treated unjustly.

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Topics: Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, reach out to others in mercy and love, RENEW International, care for those in poverty

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted by Bill Ayres on Aug 21, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the Book of Joshua

(Chapter 24:1-2a, 15-17, 18b)

When Moses knew he was about to die, he chose Joshua as the new leader of Israel. In this reading, the people are in the Promised Land, but they are not alone. There are several other groups, and each has its own gods. Joshua tells the people that they must choose: the God who revealed himself to Moses or false gods. The people have a very vivid memory of all that the Lord did for them, leading them out of their captivity in Egypt, so they choose the Lord.

This is a critical decision in the history of Israel, but it is not the last. There will be a series of decisions that lead the people to defeat, exile, and slavery once again. Whenever they turn away from God or do not trust God’s love and mercy, disaster befalls them.

Can you think of parallels in our lives today?

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 34)

“Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.” Sometimes God’s unconditional love and mercy are so good you can almost taste them.

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Topics: Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, RENEW International, Indwelling of the Holy Spirit, treatment of women, women in the Church, status of women, care for those in poverty

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Posted by Bill Ayres on Aug 14, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the Book of Revelation

(Chapters 11: 19a; 12:1-6a,10 ab )

The Book of Revelation is the last book in the New Testament. It was probably written in the last decade of the first century A.D. No one knows for certain who wrote it, but it was seemingly not written by St. John the Evangelist who wrote the Gospel of John. It was written to help the Christians who were being persecuted by the Romans and were being challenged by various groups of Christians to split from the main Church.

The Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin celebrates the Church’s teaching that, after her earthly life, Mary was assumed, body and soul, into the presence of God. The Church reads this text on this occasion mostly because of this passage, alluding to Mary, now Queen of Heaven: “A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed in the sun, with the moon under her feet and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was with child and she wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth…. Her child was caught up to God and his throne.”

This reading ends with a powerful message: “Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: ‘Now have salvation and power come, and the Kingdom of our God and the authority of his anointed one.’”

The overall message of Revelation is simply that God is ever present with his people, especially in times of stress and danger. In this time of COVID and fires and floods and global warming, we need the presence of our Loving God deep in our hearts and in our midst.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 45)

“The queen stands at your right hand, arrayed in gold.” This psalm was written many hundreds of years before Mary’s lifetime, but the liturgy relates it to her.

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Topics: Assumption of Mary, celebration of the Eucharist, Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, RENEW International, Son of God, son of Mary

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted by Bill Ayres on Aug 7, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the First Book of Kings

(Chapter 19:4-8)

Here we have another story of intrigue from Israelite history, this one about an evil king, Ahab, and his pagan wife, Jezebel. Israel was constantly surrounded by powerful pagan nations, and sometimes Israelites were corrupted by worship of pagan gods. In this story, the corruption is in the most powerful place, the ruling king and queen.

In the midst of this disaster is the prophet Elijah who ordered the deaths of pagan prophets and was therefore being chased by the queen’s men. Elijah is exhausted, so ready to give up that he even asks God to take him in death. But God feeds him and quenches his thirst, and Elijah goes on for the biblical symbolic 40 days into the desert.

How many times have you been so tired, depressed, or stressed that you almost gave up? You did not know what to do or where to turn. The interesting point here is that God restored Elijah’s hope after the prophet had turned to God in despair. God is always attentive to us even when we do not expect it or even believe it. The Spirit of God is never far away from us, even when we seem lost or detached. Jesus has told us that the Spirit of God lives within us. Do you believe that? Have there been times when you felt lost and then something happened that helped you get back to who you really are. Yes? Well, that is the work of the Spirit who never leaves you and comes to you in many different ways from many different sources, including some that you may least suspect.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 34)

“Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.” God’s goodness is delectably delicious. You say you have fears? “I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.” Do you have fears that are intruding in your life or even controlling you? For example, the virus? Ask the Lord to deliver you from the worst of your fears.

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Topics: celebration of the Eucharist, Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, bread of life, RENEW International

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted by Bill Ayres on Jul 31, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the Book of Exodus

(Chapter 16:12-15)

The Israelites were in abject slavery in Egypt, but the power of God freed them. Of course, they were grateful, but soon they were stuck in a barren desert and were starving. As bad as slavery in Egypt was, they at least had food, so they complained to Moses and Aaron, “But you had to lead us into the desert to make the whole community die of famine.” God responded to this complaint by sending the people food in the desert. We have no historical evidence about how that happened or what that food consisted of, but the point of the story is that God is the source if all life, including food.

Today, most of us are fortunate enough to be able to purchase our own food. Still, we need to remember that God is the ultimate source of our food and that we have an obligation to help those who are hungry in our community and beyond. It is not as though we have to do it by ourselves. There are several national and local anti-hunger organizations that do amazing work, including WhyHunger, a national organization that the late Harry Chapin (who died 40 years ago last month) and I co-founded in 1975. This and other organizations not only feed people but help them to get out of poverty which is the root cause of hunger.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 78)

“The Lord gave them bread from heaven.” When we participate in receiving the Eucharist we are indeed partaking of the bread of heaven. It is easy to forget that, but as we receive Communion, it is something to reflect on. Let the Eucharist nourish our spirits in hard times and in times of joy.

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Topics: celebration of the Eucharist, Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time, bread from heaven, RENEW International, Feeding the hungry

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted by Bill Ayres on Jul 24, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the Second Book of Kings

(Chapter 4:42-44)

Hunger and poverty were rampant in the ancient world. Very few people were well fed, and in times of drought many starved. This is the society that we hear about in today’s reading from the second Book of Kings. Elisha was a great prophet, the successor to another great prophet, Elijah. One of the signs of a great prophet sent from God was the power to feed hungry people. Elisha had that power and so did Jesus; however, it was not that they would feed all the people all the time. That was the responsibility for the whole society, starting with the leaders. It still is today.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 145)

“The hand of the Lord feeds us, he answers all our needs.” We do not think of God as the one who feeds us. We buy our own food, and in emergencies others help us. But there is a fine line for most of us in continuing our self-reliance. More than half of all workers in America make less than $30,000 a year, and an unexpected illness or job loss brought on by an event such as the COVID pandemic can drop formerly self-reliant peopleeven those making much more than $30,000into hunger and poverty. When we buy our food and eat it we need to remember that God gives us the strength to feed our families and also to help feed those in need.

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Topics: Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, RENEW International, Feeding the hungry, Jesus feeds the multitude

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted by Bill Ayres on Jul 17, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the prophecy of Jeremiah

(Chapter 23:1-6)

As we know, shepherds were very important people in a culture that depended on sheep for clothing as well as food. A good shepherd was highly valued, and so the Israelites often referred to their kings as shepherds. Jeremiah accuses these shepherd-kings of having driven the people away and “not cared for them.” “Woe to the shepherds who mislead and scatter the flock of my pasture, says the Lord.”

We often refer to bishops in our Church today as shepherds who are to lead us. Many do it well, but some in our country and around the world have not protected children and teens in their dioceses from abuse. Millions of people all over the world have left the Church in the past 30 years. There are many reasons but high among them is the anger people have toward abusive priests and those who closed their eyes to the crimes. Pope Francis has apologized for this laxity, promised to treat the matter seriously, and put mechanisms in place to do so.

Let us pray for all those who have been abused and for their families and for all those who were guilty that healing and forgiveness can spread throughout our Church.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 23)

“The Lord is my shepherd: there is nothing I shall want.” Jesus is the true shepherd who gives us unconditional love, forgiveness, and strength for all our needs. We need only to ask, to be patient, and to accept the gifts he gives us.

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Topics: Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Prophet Jeremiah, RENEW International, The Good Shepherd

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted by Bill Ayres on Jul 10, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the prophecy of Amos

(Chapter 7:12-15)

Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah and Amos were prophets who were rejected by their own people. Amos was rejected by Amaziah the priest of the important temple in Bethel. “Off with you visionary!” Amaziah told the prophet, but Amos refused. “The Lord took me from following the flock,” he said, “and said to me, Go, prophesy to my people Israel.”

Amos was especially concerned with the way poor people were treated by those in power. Most people in his time and place, in the eighth century BC, were poor, so he was most unpopular with the elite, because he spoke the truth to power no matter the consequences. He especially challenged people who thought of themselves as strictly religious but were unjust to those whom they considered inferior.

It is important to see Jesus as following the long tradition of Hebrew prophets whose messages of healing and warning were rejected. Jesus was much more than a prophet, but he certainly was that as well.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 85)

“Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.” When have you recently experienced the kindness of God? Perhaps it was in prayer, through the kind words of a loved one or help from a stranger or someone you hardly knew. God’s kindness comes to us in many ways through many people. Let us give thanks for God’s kindness and all those who share it with us.

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Topics: Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, Book of the Prophet Amos, call to discipleship, gifts from God, RENEW International

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