Branching-Out

Peter Yaremko

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Don’t Leave It To The Priests

Posted by Peter Yaremko on Nov 20, 2016 6:00:28 AM

In this final column of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, which ends today, the message is to the point. Our call—as individuals—is nothing less than to spread the news of God’s mercy.
 
The Second Vatican Council issued this call to us, the laity, because we “live in the midst of the world and its concerns.”
 
Recall that after Jesus had sent out the Twelve (Luke 9:2), he sent seventy-two others to spread his kingdom throughout the earth to offer all people a share in God’s mercy.
 
In the Church there is a diversity of ministry but a unity of mission, with the laity sharing in the priestly office of Jesus. The council fathers stated flatly that we, the laity, are called by God to exercise our mission by openly bearing witness to Christ and promoting the salvation of humankind.
 
We are challenged to do this with the ardor Jesus himself demonstrated. This means with passion, fervor, zeal, intensity, fire, emotion, enthusiasm, eagerness.
 
It’s a tall order, but one we cannot walk away from now that the Year of Mercy has ended.
 
Our prayer today:
 

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How To Put Mercy into Practice

Posted by Peter Yaremko on Nov 13, 2016 6:00:34 AM

The Jubilee Year of Mercy will end next Sunday.
 
So what to we do now?
 
We put into practice all the insights and graces we have gained during the past 12 months.
 
Saint Paul, in his letter to the early Church at Ephesus, told us how simple—and necessary—this is.
 
“Be kind to one another, compassionate and mutually forgiving,” he wrote, “just as God has forgiven you in Christ” (Ephesians 4:32).
 
But how difficult is this guidance! Because it’s up to us as individuals to swing the pendulum in the direction of love and respect for others.
 
Will you hold the door open for unappreciative people behind, let arrogant drivers cut in front of you, greet strangers with a smile as you go about your day?
 
Saint Theresa of Avila offers this advice: “Our Lord asks only two things of us: love for him and for our neighbor. If we practice these perfectly, we shall be doing his will and so shall be united with him” (Interior Castle: V, 3)
 
Our prayer today:
 

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Better Than Life?

Posted by Peter Yaremko on Nov 6, 2016 6:00:21 AM

Psalm 63 was composed more than 3,000 years ago. But it presents us with an idea that’s radical even today: “Your mercy is better than life itself.”
 
Better than life? Such unquestioning trust in the mercy of God is a hard notion to accept in our secular age. But no one less than the future ruler of Israel, David, expressed this thought when he was hiding in the desert from jealous King Saul, who wanted him dead.
 
After many days without enough water or food, David’s body weakened. But he offered his suffering as prayerful yearning for God.
 
The holy men and women of the early Church who fled to desert wilderness to seek God, could see and feel God’s presence and power in a unique way there.
 
Pope St. John Paul II pointed to this psalm to illustrate how essential and profound is our need for God’s mercy.
 
“Without him we lack breath and even life itself,” he told a general audience in 2001. “For this reason the Psalmist puts physical existence itself on the second level, if union with God should be lacking.”
 
Our prayer today:
 

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Eyes of Mercy

Posted by Peter Yaremko on Oct 30, 2016 7:00:43 AM

We’ve all heard the story. Jesus sees a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office and says to him, “Follow me.”
 
But do we really buy it? In the time of Jesus, tax collectors were despised. Not only did they work for the hated Romans, but they also cheated their own people out of even more money than the Romans demanded—which went right into the tax collectors’ own pockets.
 
Such a man dropped everything to take up with an itinerant preacher?
 
Yes.
 
Why is this story believable?
 
St. Bede the Venerable, a seventh-century monk, explains that Jesus saw Matthew not through the lens of Jesus’ merciful understanding of people.
 
Matthew, therefore, essentially shrank under the power of Christ’s eyes of mercy and surrendered to God’s grace.
 
When we look with “eyes of mercy” at those who disappoint us or disagree with us or even humiliate us, can we see buried beneath their “unworthiness” the seeds of a desire for God, the attempts to love—however botched—or the hunger for holiness—perhaps muddied and misdirected, but still there?
 
Our prayer today:
 

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They Laughed at Jesus

Posted by Peter Yaremko on Oct 23, 2016 7:00:11 AM

Luke was not only an evangelist, but also an excellent journalist.
 
In his account of how Jesus restored life to Jairus’ daughter, Luke included the reaction of the crowd that laughed at Jesus before he performed this miracle: “they ridiculed him.”
 
Despite the crowd’s derision, Jesus brought the twelve-year-old girl back from the dead. Then, instead of going before the now-silenced crowd to take credit and “build his brand,” he instructed the girl’s parents not to tell anyone how he had restored the girl to life.
 
His was an act of pure mercy.
 
When things go bad for us or the world we live in, we sometimes blame God, questioning whether he cares about human suffering. But Christ’s selfless raising of Jairus’ little girl demonstrates that the Lord does care—a great deal more than we can know.
 
His willing compassion to restore life doesn’t depend on whether a person has just died or has been dead for days. In the same way, Jesus can restore our spiritual life no matter how long we have spent ourselves in sin or how badly we have sinned.
 
Because his mercy knows no bounds—and endures forever.
 
Our prayer today:
 

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Greater Than God?

Posted by Peter Yaremko on Oct 16, 2016 7:00:01 AM

If after almost a year of reading, discussing, meditating, and praying about mercy we are still unconvinced, Pope Francis has laid it out in blunt terms, and his message bears repeating: “If God has forgiven me, why shouldn’t I forgive others? Am I greater than God?”
 
The pope goes on to underscore the fact that “judging and condemning one’s brother who sins is wrong.” Because, he explains, “to condemn the sinner breaks the bond of fraternity with him and ignores the mercy of God, who does not want to give up on any of his children.”
 
During a general audience in last month, Francis focused on a reading from Luke (6:36-38), in which Jesus instructs his disciples to stop judging others and be merciful, as God is.
 
The motto for the Year of Mercy, “Merciful Like the Father,” comes from this admonition.
 
Also, by showing mercy to others, God will return that measure of mercy to us after our deaths. As the pope said, “It is we ourselves who decide how we will be judged.”
 
Our prayer for today:
 

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Jesus Is All Mercy

Posted by Peter Yaremko on Oct 9, 2016 7:00:38 AM

When we take up our cross, we discover that it is freeing, that the yoke is easy and the burden light, just as Jesus promises.
 
Isn’t this what Jesus meant when, on the night of his passion, he offered his great Priestly Prayer to our heavenly Father: “so they may share my joy completely”?
(John 17:13)
 
Pope Francis must have had this prayer in mind when he wrote his book, The Joy of Discipleship.
 
Jesus is all mercy, all love, Francis writes. In Jesus’ eyes, each of us is the little lost lamb, the mislaid coin, the child who squanders an inheritance on illusions of happiness.
 
The Pope writes that God does not forget us, never abandons us. He is a patient father, always waiting for us. He respects our freedom, but he remains faithful forever. When we come back to him, he welcomes us like children into his house, for he never ceases to wait for us with love. And his heart rejoices over every child who trusts in his divine mercy and returns to him and asks his forgiveness.
 
Our prayer today:
 

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Artisans of Mercy

Posted by Peter Yaremko on Oct 2, 2016 7:00:21 AM

Some 25,000 people attended Pope Francis’s general audience in St. Peter's Square a few days after the canonization of Saint Teresa of Kolkata.
 
Before delivering his final blessing, the pope called on young people to follow her example and be “artisans of mercy.”
 
Why did he use the example of an artisan to illustrate his call for us to do God’s missionary work through “an authentic evangelic path?”
 
An artisan is a worker in a trade that demands special skills, especially work that involves producing useful things by hand.
 
Both Jesus and his earthly father, Joseph, labored as skilled carpenters. Using handheld tools, they shaped wood for new uses and, therefore, could be called artisans.
 
Men and women today create false images of God, the pope said. They often think of him as a “psychological refuge” that provides comfort during difficult times. Or they reduce Jesus to just another teacher of ethics.
 
These erroneous perceptions “cancel out his missionary impulse that is capable of transforming the world and history.”
 
Christians, Francis said, believe in the God of Jesus Christ, who wants us “to grow in the living experience of his mystery of love.”
 
Our prayer today:
 

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Lazarus Among Us

Posted by Peter Yaremko on Sep 25, 2016 7:00:27 AM

Who is the Lazarus among us?
 
Our newest saint, Mother Teresa, recognized him in alleys and gutters:
 
“The outcasts, those who are rejected, the unloved, prisoners, alcoholics, the dying, those who are alone and abandoned, the marginalized, the untouchables and lepers, those in doubt and confusion, those who have not been touched by the light of Christ, those starving for the word and peace of God, sad and afflicted souls.”
 
Like Lazarus in the parable, the poor thirst for water. But the new Lazarus, St. Teresa reminds us, also thirsts “for peace, truth and justice. The poor are naked and need clothing, but also need human dignity and compassion for those who sin. The poor have no shelter and need shelters made of bricks, but also need a joyful heart, compassionate and full of love. They are sick and need medical attention, but also a helping hand and welcoming smile.”
 
In other words, the Lazarus among us needs not only God’s mercy, but ours as well.
 
The psalmist knew this in his darkest hour when he sang, “Your mercy is better than life itself.” (Psalm 62)
 
And St. Augustine, too, confessed, “On your exceedingly great mercy, and on that alone, rests all my hope.”
 
Our prayer today:
 

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A Revolution of Tenderness

Posted by Peter Yaremko on Sep 18, 2016 7:00:35 AM

"Sometimes we think we are doing God a favor when we do a work of mercy. But actually we find mercy and salvation for ourselves.”
 
That’s what Cardinal Sean O'Malley, archbishop of Boston, told the 2016 World Youth Day audience in Krakow, Poland, in July.
 
“Only by making a gift of ourselves will we find fulfillment, happiness, and salvation," he said.
 
Isn’t this the very difference between serving God and serving mammon, the biblical name given to the greedy pursuit of gain?
 
In an interview for the opening of this Jubilee Year of Mercy, Pope Francis described the duplicitous spirit of mammon that grips today’s world:
 
“We’re used to bad news, to cruelty and ever-greater atrocities that offend the name and the life of God. The world must discover that God is a Father, that there’s mercy, that cruelty isn’t the way.
 
What the world needs, the pope added, is a “revolution of tenderness.”
 
Perhaps this is what Jesus was telling us when he was nearly thrown off a cliff after his first preaching in a Nazareth synagogue. That threat did not stop him from talking about mercy throughout his ministry.
 
The Year of Mercy is a chance to reboot, to start over again, Cardinal O'Malley said. "We need to find a new route to take us where we need to go.”
 
Our prayer today:
 

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