Branching-Out

Moments With the Virgin Mary

Posted by Sharon Krause on Oct 7, 2020 6:00:00 AM

 

 

October is the month the faithful devote to Marian devotions and praying the rosary. Our Blessed Mother deserves all the appreciation and respect we can give her. I offer 10 short meditations and prayers relating to her unique life.

1. The Immaculate Conception. From the very moment of her conception in Anne’s womb, Mary was free from any taint or inclination to sin. Innocent and spotless, Mary was highly favored and being prepared by God for her life of sacrificial love.

O Mary, conceived without sin,
pray for us who are trying to resist temptation
and to atone for our many small and not-so-small sins.

2. The Annunciation. (Luke 1:26-38) Gentle Mary, bathed in Gabriel’s angelic light, was ready to surrender to God’s will regardless of her youth and inexperience. Her brave openness to God is truly inspirational.

Mary, thank you for your humble generosity.
Help us be ready to do God’s will.
Pray for us that we may understand what is asked of us
and trust in God’s protection in every challenge.

3. The Visitation. (Luke 1:39-56) Mary shared joy with her pregnant cousin, Elizabeth. The two women were together one trimester, serving, loving, and encouraging each other as their babies grew within them.

Joyful Mary, be our example of joy as the word of Jesus grows in us,
and we
  endeavor to share it with our families and companions.

4. The Nativity of Our Lord. (Luke 2:1-7) In far from ideal circumstances, Mary gave birth to our Savior. The sights and smells around her must have presented numerous problems in the stable setting as Jesus entered the world.

Mother Mary, intercede for us with your Son.
Please ask Him to help us to make
 the best of bad situations.
May we learn your patience and ingenuity as we strive
to help the helpless in our troubled world.

5. The Presentation of the Lord in the Temple. (Luke 2:22-38) Amazed by the words of Simeon and Anna, Mary paid attention to these holy people. Mary followed prescriptions of the Law and treasured the good words in her heart that would eventually be pierced as with a sword.

Sweet Mary, pray for us that we may keep our worries at bay
and try to stay
optimistic with the knowledge that
our merciful God does not abandon us.

6. The Flight into Egypt. (Matthew 2:13-15) Most likely with a measure of anxiety and urgency, Mary and Joseph fled to Egypt to avoid Herod’s murderous plan for their Son. Just thinking about that journey that, most certainly, was far from comfortable makes us more aware of how comfortable our life often is.

Mary, pray for us that we may use good judgement
in our care of ourselves and our loved ones.
Remind us not to take our freedom and safety for granted.

7. Searching for 12-year-old Jesus in Jerusalem. (Luke 2:42-50) Mary and Joseph must have been concerned when, for a while, they could not locate Jesus. Their understanding of Jesus’ mission fell somewhat short, according to their son. We might remember, if we are parents, when our young children’s agendas were not what we expected or encouraged. Parenting is not easy.

Long-suffering Mary, pray for us who sometimes lose close contact
with your son
 through laziness, omission, or sin.
Remind us to see Jesus in the poor and the
 lonely,
especially now as we suffer through the pandemic.

8. The Wedding at Cana. (John 2:1-11) Mary knew her son well enough to expect he would somehow help the host who was caught short on wine. Although Jesus said it was really not his time, he helped after all.

Wise Mary, pray for us as we try to do whatever Jesus tells us to do
to turn our  problems into solutions, to never sell ourselves short.
Ask the Holy Spirit, to bless us with wisdom.

9. Dying, Jesus gives Mary to Us. (John 19:26-27) Jesus gave Mary into John’s care. As Jesus hung on the cross, he thought of others. Mary, in her agony at seeing her son’s suffering, is given a mission to mother all of us.

Mary, mother of all of God’s children, hold us closely as a loving mother does.
Be our model of perseverance.
Keep us mindful of the price your son paid for
our eternal reward.

10. The Assumption of Mary. How ecstatic Mary must have been when she, in her body, was assumed into heaven and reunited with her son! Mary, the Queen of Heaven, had fulfilled her mission of love on earth. And, in heaven, she still loves all of us!

Dearest Mary, we thank you for all you do for us,
for all of your intercessory
prayers.
Hail Mary! Full of grace! Praise to the Queen of Heaven!

Painting by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo

Sharon Krause is a RENEW volunteer whose writing has appeared in several resources for small-group faith sharing. She is a wife, mother, and grandmother residing in Manchester, CT. Over the years, she has served in many parish ministries.

RENEW's two Marian resources, At Prayer With Mary and No Temas, María will deepen your appreciation of and devotion to our Blessed Mother Mary and enrich your prayer experiences. Appropriate for seasonal groups, small Christian communities, and individual reflection and prayer.

 

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Topics: Marian devotion, Virgin Mary, Blessed Mother, catholic program renew, meditation, prayer, RENEW International, rosary

Open the Doors

Posted by Sharon Krause on Oct 5, 2020 6:00:00 AM

There I was, sitting in church on that summer day with my mother, as Monsignor Pearce read the Gospel during Mass. I must have been about 10 years old. After Monsignor read the scripture, he looked up and commented how warm it was in the church and requested that an usher open the door to let in some cooler air. At that moment, a breeze from an open window opposite the door blew hard enough to make the door open a few inches. It caused some chuckles, but I wondered if God had performed a little miracle then and there. Funny that I should remember that after all these years. Monsignor was a stern man and seemed very holy, but I don’t think he instigated a miracle. Breezes can open doors. 

I do think that sometimes we expect God to answer our prayers as if he were a magician. Certainly, he is all-powerful and did create the universe, but I have come to believe that we should not be surprised that our timeline is not his. 

Did you ever consider that God made the cycles and order of all things, all the processes, and configurations? If it were not for the patterns and predictabilities, the laws of nature, how would we be able to understand probabilities? How would new discoveries and inventions by us humans ever come about? Those breakthroughs and all-important “game-changers” are gifts from our loving Father! The more we use our brains and ingenuity to understand creation around us, the more we can be grateful for the gifts God gives us. 

Granted, sometimes miracles big and small do happen, and I suggest that even the definition of “miracle” can vary from person to person. I am sure you have heard that “God works in mysterious ways.” What is important is that God loves all of us, and we just have to open our doors of patience, trust and faith. Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight.
In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.(NRSV)

My stern pastor, Msgr. Pearce, did not have to wait long for his request to be answered by God, the breeze, or whatever. We, on the other hand, sometimes have to wait a long time before our desires are met. The Book of Psalms contains many keys to opening the doors to prayer as we wait.

Whether we are young or old, Isaiah 40:28-31 gives us hope and encouragement as well:

Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless.
Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted;
but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. (NRSV)

We can rely upon the Holy Spirit who will send breezes to open our occasionally creaky doors when we faithfully pray.

Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord! (Psalm 27)

Photo credit: Simon Berger

Scripture passages are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1965, 1966 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Sharon Krause is a RENEW volunteer whose writing has appeared in several resources for small-group faith sharing. She is a wife, mother, and grandmother residing in Manchester, CT. Over the years, she has served in many parish ministries.

 

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Topics: Church, catholic program renew, prayer, RENEW International, magician, trust in the Lord, God works in mysterious ways

Prayer: A Matter of Trust

Posted by RENEW on Oct 4, 2020 7:00:27 AM

Lord our God,
each day you invite us to come closer to you
and to live in your light.
Teach us to listen and understand your promptings
so that we can respond to you with our whole heart.
When our selfishness or human weakness
blocks us from doing your will,
touch us with your mercy and forgiveness.
May we become a people
who will produce abundant fruits
of peace and reconciliation.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Amen.

 Adapted from The Word on Campus © RENEW International.

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'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted by Bill Ayres on Oct 2, 2020 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah
(Chapter 5:1-7)

Vineyards were important in the ancient world because grapes were sweet to eat and wine was a favorite drink. Isaiah tells a story about a man who took very good care of his vineyard only to find that it did not bear sweet fruit but only wild, useless grapes. So, the owner destroyed the vineyard.

Isaiah then tells the people, “The vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the people of Judah are his cherished plant; he looked for judgement, but see, bloodshed; for justice, but hark, the outcry!” The outcry is from the people who are oppressed, and God’s judgement is upon them.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 80:9, 12, 13-14, 15-16, 19-20)

“The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel.” But our Psalm ends with a plea: “O Lord of hosts, restore us; if your face shines upon us, then we shall be saved.” What a beautiful image! Have you ever thought that the face of God shines upon you? No? You are not worthy? No! The all-powerful love of God can overcome any faults we may have.

A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Philippians

(Chapter 4:6-9)

“Brothers and sisters: Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

Paul is telling the Philippians to “have no anxiety at all.” Of course, they had much to be anxious about. Their neighbors could turn them in to the Roman authorities, and they might have been tortured and or killed. That did happen to thousands of Christians, but many more were spared. Paul assures them that, amid all this danger, they will have “the peace of God … in Christ Jesus.”

Until this year, it was hard to relate the terrifying experience of the first Christians to our lives today. Not now, thanks to the COVID 19 virus. Paul tells us today, “The God of peace will be with you.” In our crazy world, is the “God of peace” with you? Where have you found some peace in your life, some joy amidst sadness, deep inner love amidst division and the violence of words if not actions? The peace of God is always there. We have only to ask and believe.

A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew

(Chapter 21:33-43)

This long parable is the story of a landowner who planted a vineyard and leased it to tenants to harvest it and then share the produce. He sent his servants twice “to obtain his harvest,” but the tenants killed them. “Finally, he sent his son to them, thinking, ‘They will respect my son.’” But they killed the son too. “Jesus said to them, ‘Did you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; by the Lord has this been done and it is wonderful in our eyes? Therefore, I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.”

Jesus is saying this to “the chief priests and elders.” They and their predecessors have persecuted the prophets and they will kill Jesus, just as the tenants in the parable killed the landowner’s son. The kingdom of God will be taken away from them and given to his disciples and their followers. We do not use the word “kingdom” very much today, but that is where we live and where we are headed.

Image:”The Wicked Tenants” by Kazakhstan Artist Nelly Bube

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. Bill was a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.

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Topics: kingdom of God, a reflection on the coming Sunday's Gospel, catholic program renew, RENEW International, Sunday readings, COVID, the stone the builders rejected, parable of the wicked tenants, vineyard of the Lord

Position of Praise

Posted by Sharon Krause on Oct 1, 2020 6:00:00 AM

We don’t have to move around so much nowadays, because we have so much information available online. If we want to research a topic, we do not need to get up from our chairs and go to the bookshelf to find the right volume of the encyclopedia. We don’t have to drive to the library. We can stay seated on our desk chairs and key in the subjects on our computers. Many people are working from home during this pandemic. They can stay positioned at their desks at home and do their jobs. School children might be learning as they sit at their kitchen tables.

 What about our positions at church—if we have gone back to church yet. We certainly cannot sit near other church-goers.

 I began thinking about our body positions when we are at church, even in “normal” times when contagion is not an issue. If we are striving to be holy, or at least, trying to become holy, we do spend some time attending Mass. We change our positions a number of times during the liturgy. Do we think about the significance of these changes?

 Many of us genuflect as we pass the tabernacle or as we enter a pew. I realize that many of us have trouble genuflecting because of disability, arthritis, and the like. Better, then, just to do a little bow. I have wondered, however, about some of the genuflections I have seen. I question if we understand that it is supposed to be a prayerful gesture of respect and recognition. Do we demonstrate to others who are probably watching a thoughtful bending of the left knee as we go down on the right knee? Do we say a small Act of Faith or other prayer of praise?

 We stand when the celebrant enters, when we say the opening prayers, pray the Gloria, at the reading of the Gospel, when we say the Nicene Creed and the Prayer of the Faithful, as we begin the Liturgy of the Eucharist, when we are invited to recite the Lord’s Prayer and exchange a sign of peace, and as the Mass concludes and we receive the final blessing. Why do we stand? It is not just part of a program of Catholic aerobics! Our rising signifies a call to attention, a change of emphasis, a reminder that something important is about to happen that requires our attention.

 How about kneeling? We might kneel when we first come into church and say a few centering prayers as we adjust to our holy environment. We kneel again during the Liturgy of the Eucharist, as the celebrant prays the Eucharistic prayers and during the consecration and distribution of Communion. We kneel in reverence; we fall to our kneels in humility and devotion.

 And then there are the times we sit, when we listen to the first two readings, from the Old Testament and the New Testament, and the psalm. We sit and pay fervent attention also as the celebrant recites the offertory prayers, and we offer ourselves to the Lord.

 I conclude that body positions both influence and reveal our thinking. Our bodies and our minds are so importantly connected, and both have to be in the right place for us to be holy. Holiness involves stepping away from worldly things, being detached because of a higher, eternal goal. We have to slow down and strive for that which is sacred.

 Today we celebrate the memorial of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus. It is recorded that at age eleven, Thérèse developed a habit of mental prayer as she found a place between her bed and the wall to pray. She found a position in which she could think of God and eternity even at her very young age. She elevated the joy of simplicity to the realm of love.

 Let us pray and ask St. Thérèse to intercede for us that we may position ourselves in prayerful praise of God, our Father, in loving service to our neighbor, and in the attainment of personal holiness.

 Sharon Krause is a RENEW volunteer whose writing has appeared in several resources for small-group faith sharing. She is a wife, mother, and grandmother residing in Manchester, CT. Over the years, she has served in many parish ministries.

 Resource: Catholic Online/Saints & Angels

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Topics: Church, catholic program renew, holiness, intercessory prayer, prayer, RENEW International, St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, mind and body

'Medistations' on the Holy Spirit

Posted by Sharon Krause on Sep 30, 2020 6:00:00 AM

 

We are blessed to have guidance, inspiration, and enlightenment from the Holy Spirit. Let us pray with the following little meditations—kind of miniature stations—on the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity.

 

#1. The angel, Gabriel, tells Mary she will conceive by the Holy Spirit and bear a son, Jesus.

The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the most High will overshadow you;
therefore the child to be born will be holy;
he will be called Son of God. (Luke 1:35)

 
What a life-changing announcement! Mary’s holiness and favor with God have not been overlooked. As young and naive as she was, she was willing and able to be God’s servant. What excuses do we find for not taking on even small invitations to holiness? The Holy Spirit will give us the wisdom and openness to conceive of little acts of kindness for others and then deliver them.
 
#2. John the Baptist tells the people of a powerful Messiah who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.

John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water;
but one who is more powerful than I is coming;
I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals.
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and Fire. (Luke 3:16)

 Most of us were babies when we were baptized. Before we could even understand the gifts of power and strength that were given to us, we were favored by God through the Holy Spirit. So now, let us not waste time before spreading the fire of God’s love to others. Now we know about our potential!
 
#3. Jesus promises the disciples that the Holy Spirit will teach them to defend themselves.

When they bring you before the synagogues, the rulers, and the authorities,
do not worry about how you are to defend yourselves or what you are to say;
for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that very hour what you ought to say. (Lk 12:11-12)

Do we shy away from mentioning our faith, what we believe, when we talk to others?
We don’t have to be expert catechists to share our God experiences. Saying “omg” is not enough. We can vocalize our joy and gratitude for our blessings!
 
#4. Jesus promises the Holy Spirit will be sent to his disciples.

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name,
will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.
(John 14:26)

We can pray to the Holy Spirit and ask for help in understanding when we read the Gospels. We often need to be reminded of what Jesus has said to us. Sometimes we get used to hearing certain truths and need new insights. The Holy Spirit is great at new and practical insights! We just need to take the time to open our minds.
 
#5. Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit onto the disciples with the power to forgive sins.
 Jesus said to them again,

“Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,
“Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them;
if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” (John 20:21-23)

So, the sacrament of reconciliation was born. The Holy Spirit helps us with forgiveness—not only receiving it but also giving it. Do we have trouble forgiving certain offenses? Do we hold even simple grudges? God won’t hold a grudge. We can ask the Holy Spirit for help in the forgiveness department. Reconciliation invites us to peace and new beginnings. Check out that sacrament again!
 
#6. Jesus commissions the disciples in the name of the Trinity.
 And Jesus came and said to them,

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them
in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit….(Matt 28:18-19)

 We can make disciples with the Holy Spirit’s help. We know what it is like to share good news with someone. What better news can we possibly share than the good news of Jesus Christ? We don’t have to preach in order to teach. Actions speak quite loudly.
 
#7. The Holy Spirit comes at Pentecost.

All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages,
as the Spirit gave them ability. (Acts 2:4)

 Sometimes we don’t understand others, even when they are speaking our native tongue. People can get wrapped up in emotion, confusion, prejudice, fear, and say things they might not say in other circumstances. Words can take on many different meanings. We can ask the Holy Spirit to temper us in our language, help us think a little longer before we speak. We can pray to the Spirit for a unifying, patient language of love.
 
#8. The Holy Spirit helps us to pray.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness;
for we do not know how to pray as we ought,
but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.
And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit,
because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
(Romans 8:26-27)

 Help is out there! If we feel stale or rusty, or we need new prayer practices, we can ask the Holy Spirit for some help. We can ask help from friends and family, priests and deacons. Many resources are available through RENEW International. Ask the Holy Spirit for direction and motivation. 

Scripture passages are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 
Sharon Krause is a RENEW volunteer whose writing has appeared in several resources for small-group faith sharing. She is a wife, mother, and grandmother residing in Manchester, Connecticut. Over the years, she has served in many parish ministries.

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Topics: catholic renew progam, Holy Spirit, meditation, prayer, RENEW International, stations, Blessed Trinity

Stop and Think

Posted by Sharon Krause on Sep 28, 2020 7:00:58 AM

When I look out my kitchen window, I can see a stop sign. I have resided in this house for over 40 years, so that sign is nothing new to me, but, for some blogging reason, it has taken on a new significance.
 
In our quest for personal holiness, and in trying to spread the word and love of God, we might think about the stop sign. First, it is the only octagonal traffic sign—eight equal sides with eight junctures in its composition. In Matthew 5:1-11, we read about how we can be blessed and holy when we live by the eight beatitudes Jesus proclaims in his Sermon on the Mount. At each of the junctures or chapters of our lives, we have the Lord there, holding us together with hopefulness.
 
Noticing that the stop sign is red, a color often connoting warning or caution, I am reminded that there are many temptations and deceptions along our path to holiness. Under the influence of familiarity or habit, it is easy to become lax and distracted, especially when unprecedented challenges arise.
 
As a driver comes to a stop sign, he usually slows down. We are not so used to slowing down. High-speed everything contradicts slowing down. It is still true, I believe, as the old adage says, that haste makes waste. I have seen from my window a number of accidents at that nearby corner, because drivers did not slow down or stop. To take time to cherish God in our lives, to nourish a healthy spirituality, we need to slow down and regularly stop to pray and assess our progress.
 
I noticed that the top of the stop sign is straight, and every side, is the same size. We have to try to keep a level head, a balance in our thinking, an even keel in our spiritual endeavors. Because the stop sign is different from most shapes that we see, it stands out.
 
The contrast of white letters against the red background also draws our attention. May we stand out in good ways as we exemplify our Christian virtues. We should take note of the little God-instances in our lives and be happy to share witness stories with friends and co-workers.
 
I noticed that the town recently made my neighborhood stop sign taller. With all the troubles in our world right now, we ourselves have to rise to great heights of generosity, prayerfulness and selflessness. That traffic sign is in position to promote safety and good traffic flow. We can ask the Holy Spirit to help us to safely grow in self-discipline so God’s love may flow through us.
 In the midst of all the closings and reopenings, political speeches and protests and riots, I suggest we stop and think. Let us reflect on what St. Paul says in Ephesians 5:15-20: 

Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise,
making the most of the time because the days are evil.
So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery;
but be filled with the Spirit, as you sing psalms and hymns
and spiritual songs among yourselves,
singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts,
giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything
in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 Scripture passages are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 
Sharon Krause is a RENEW volunteer whose writing has appeared in several resources for small-group faith sharing. She is a wife, mother, and grandmother residing in Manchester, Connecticut. Over the years, she has served in many parish ministries.

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Prayer: In Word and Deed

Posted by RENEW on Sep 27, 2020 7:00:42 AM
Good and gracious God,
we thank you for creating us with the desire to do good
and to avoid evil.
We ask for forgiveness
for the ways we may have hurt others.
May we be willing to make amends for the pain caused,
for lost opportunities, and for the broken relationships.
And may we help create a family of peace and fellowship
to which you constantly invite us.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Amen.

 
Adapted from The Word on Campus © RENEW International.

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'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted by Bill Ayres on Sep 25, 2020 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel
(Chapter 18:25-28)

“Thus says the Lord: You say, ‘The Lord’s way is not fair.’” Many of the Israelites felt that the Babylonian Exile was not fair. God had not protected them. Ezekiel wanted them to know the truth: “Hear now, house of Israel: Is it my way that is not fair, or rather, are not your ways unfair? When someone virtuous turns away from virtue to commit iniquity, and dies, it is because of the iniquity he committed that he must die. But if he turns from the wickedness he has committed, and does what is right and just, he shall preserve his life; since he has turned away from all the sins that he has committed, he shall surely live, he shall not die.”

Before, during, and after the Babylonian Exile, numerous prophets tried to warn the people to turn away from their sinfulness and lack of faith. This is one of those numerous warnings. Here, Ezekiel wanted to make sure that the people knew they had another choice, to turn away from wickedness. We have the same choice many times throughout our lives. We always have another choice, another chance, no matter how far off the path we may have wandered.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 25:4-5, 8-9, 10, 14)

“Remember your mercies, O Lord.” Pope Francis has spoken and written repeatedly about God’s unbounded mercy for each of us. In the midst of our several societal challenges, have you sought God’s mercy, for yourself and your family but also for our country and our world? We all need God’s merciful healing power.

A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Philippians

(Chapter 2:1-11)

This passage is one of the most beautiful and powerful passages in the Christian Bible.
 
“Brothers and sisters: If there is any encouragement in Christ, any solace in love, any participation in the Spirit, any compassion and mercy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, with the same love, united in heart, thinking one thing. Do nothing out of selflessness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out for his own interests, but also for those of others.
 
“Have in you the same attitude that is also in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
 
Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew

(Chapter 21:28-32)

Jesus is talking to the “chief priests and elders.” These were the leaders, the supposedly wise and holiest people. He tells them a parable of two sons whose father asks them to go out and work in their vineyard. The first says, “I will not,” but afterwards changed his mind and went. The other son said, “Yes sir,” but didn’t go. Jesus asks: “Which of the two did his father’s will?” The priests and elders answer, “The first.” “Jesus said to them, ‘Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you.’”

The chief priests and elders were among the enemies of Jesus because he threatened their power and prestige. Tax collectors and prostitutes were at the bottom of society and yet, they “got” Jesus. They saw their own sinfulness and turned instead to Jesus. Throughout history, many, if not most of the rich and powerful did not truly “get” Jesus and follow him. Often, the people we might think of as unworthy because of their position in society are those who will enter the kingdom of God first. We should never “look down” on them but rather “look up” with them.

Image:”Two Sons” by Kazakhstan Artist Nelly Bube

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. Bill was a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.

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Topics: every knee shall bend, a reflection on the coming Sunday's Gospel, catholic program renew, RENEW International, Sunday readings, tax collectors, parable of the two sons, prostitutes

Friendship through Faith

Posted by Samantha Howath on Sep 23, 2020 7:00:55 AM

Even though I have already completed two weeks of remote classes, I still cannot believe I am a junior at Loyola University Maryland. Given my introverted nature, I was nervous about making friends in freshman year. I am grateful to have found a core group of friends early on that have always been there for me.
 
Although we met in different ways, something that connects us is a faith foundation. For instance, I reconnected with a high school classmate and became friends with her and her roommate by attending weekly Mass with themr. Meanwhile, I enjoy supporting my sophomore roommate and other friends who sing in chapel choir.
 
I got to know these friends even more when I joined their Campus Ministry Koinonia group and was welcomed by each member. Koinonia, which means “fellowship” in Greek, is a faith-sharing and reflection program. Since freshman year, we’ve all been involved in Campus Ministry in various forms as student interns, retreat leaders, liturgical ministers, and more.
 
I recently reunited with friends at Loyola after months of being apart. Until I saw them in person once again, I did not realize how much I had missed my friends! After a relaxing weekend with my sophomore roommates in August, I recently spent a week in Sea Isle City with those I planned to live with this semester. While we were at the beach, we had the chance to watch livestream Mass at which our friend was a lector.
 
Between hiking and roasting s’mores and then having September beach days, I feel incredibly blessed for these memories. Although 2020 has not been an ideal year for anyone, my friends remind me to live to the fullest.
 
I have witnessed the power of faith through my parents’ friendships with connections from childhood and Catholic school communities. I have always admired how they all look out for each other in joyful and trying times through prayer, thoughtful gestures, and meaningful conversations. I hope to emulate their compassion and loyalty in my own relationships.
 
What I love most about my friends is their demonstration of Christian values whether it be through engaging with the Baltimore community or reminding me to believe in myself. They allow me to be my authentic self: someone who overdresses for every occasion, lacks cooking skills, and takes endless sunset photos.
 
Even states away, my friends and I take time to reach out and discuss Taylor Swift’s “Folklore,” send good luck texts during finals, or recommend books and televisions shows. I’m so lucky to have found the gift of spirituality in friendship from my Loyola experience.
 
Photo: A view of Alumni Chapel at Loyola University Maryland.
 
Samantha Howath, who has been an intern at RENEW, is an occasional contributor to the RENEW blog.

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