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A reading from the book of Amos
(Chapter 6:1a, 4-7)
 
Amos is condemning the rich and powerful in the Northern Kingdom of Israel just before they are invaded by the Babylonians and sent into exile, roughly 800 years before the birth of Jesus. Amos blames the elite for their uncaring and unjust lifestyle and declares, “Therefore, they shall be the first to go into exile.” In the next century the rest of Israel, the Southern Kingdom, would be captured by the same nation and sent into the infamous Babylonian Exile. These are all dim historical memories for us, but they had a devastating effect on the Jewish people for generations.
 
What is the warning for us? After all, we are the most powerful country in the world. The lesson is the same for us as it was for the Israelites. Despite our power and wealth, our leaders and all of us need to take care of those in need, not in a condescending way but with a real feeling of brotherhood and sisterhood. That is why our parish ministries are so important not only for those we serve but also for those who serve.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 146:7, 8-9, 9-10)
 
“Praise the Lord my soul!” Praising the Lord may be the least practiced prayer of many of us, as opposed to prayers of petition. It can go right along with thanking God for all we are and all we have been given.
 
A reading from first Letter of Saint Paul to Timothy
(Chapter 6:11-16)
 
Timothy had accepted the call from God through Paul to preach the Good News of Jesus, the unconditional love and mercy of God that comes through Jesus. Paul wants to make sure that Timothy not only preaches this loving message but that he himself lives it with all those qualities: righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience and gentleness. Imagine if those who preached and taught and led our Church throughout history did so with all or even most of those qualities. There would not have been any inquisitions that brutally murdered thousands of innocent people, or religious wars that killed millions, and hundreds of millions who left the Church in anger and hopelessness. But that was the past. It need not be the present or the future as Pope Francis opens his arms to all who may feel they are outcasts and offers hope and God’s merciful love.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke
(Chapter 16:19-31)
 
The Pharisees were often depicted as “those who loved money.” So this is the audience that Jesus addresses, and he tells a parable about a rich man who in life did not care at all for the poor man, Lazarus, who “would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table.” After the rich man dies, he is in a place of torment and wants out. He asks Abraham, the father of the Jewish people, for help for himself and his five brothers. He never admits he is wrong, never asks for forgiveness. He simply wants to make a deal with Abraham.
 
Over the years, people have asked if hell is real and, if so, who is there since God is all-loving? Here, Luke gives us an example of hell. The rich man does not get out of hell in this story, because he never asks for forgiveness, never admits his sins.
 
God’s offers kindness and forgiveness to us throughout our lives. It is never too late for repentance, but it is possible for a person to refuse God’s love and mercy. We have had examples of mass murderers in our lifetime. Are they in hell? Perhaps, but that is not our business. What is our business is to proclaim God’s merciful forgiveness to all we know, especially those who may seem to have missed this most important message of all.
 
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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Compassionate and merciful God,
you adorn the earth with lush treasures
and clothe it in royal attire.
You provide human beings with every good gift
and you feed us with spiritual food.
Your compassion is endless;
your mercy flows freely like a river.
Gift us, your faithful servants,
with your wisdom and creativity,
so we may be good stewards
of the wealth you have entrusted to our care.
Strengthen us as we go forth
to share your truth with the rest of the world.
Grant this through your Son,
our Lord Jesus Christ,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever.

Amen.

 
Adapted from The People’s Prayer Book, © RENEW International.

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A reading from the book of Amos
(Chapter 8:4-7)
 
We tend to think of ancient Israel as a poor nation, and that is true. Most of the people were poor peasant farmers who barely got by and often were vulnerable to the whims of their landlords, seed providers, and more well-off merchants who cheated the poor families that depended on them for their livelihood.
 
Amos, teaching in the eighth century before the birth of Jesus, socks it to these predators: “The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob: Never will I forget a think they have done!” This was a time of relative economic growth, but poor people saw little if any of that money. Sound familiar? One of the biggest issues in our society today is economic inequality. It is not only an economic concern but also a moral issue. People who are working hard, often at two or three minimum-wage jobs per family, are still poor and hungry in our rich country. Imagine what Amos would be saying today, how angry he would be. How should we, as followers of Jesus, act to overcome economic injustice in our society? Can we say that we are truly on the side of the poor?
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 113:1-2, 4-6, 7-8)
 
“Praise the Lord who lifts up the poor.” How does God really lift up the poor unless we believers act as God’s partners here on earth?
 
A reading from first Letter of Saint Paul to Timothy
(Chapter 2:1-8)
 
The early Christians were not big fans of kings, the Roman emperor, and other officials, but the author of this letter calls upon Christians to pray “for kings and all authority.” He also asks the people to pray “without anger or argument.”
 
That was a difficult task then, and it is today, especially if we do not agree with our local, state, or national leaders. We can pray to change their minds, work to challenge their positions or their leadership within our democratic process, and join in an ongoing debate on the issues we hold dear.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke
(Chapter 16:1-13)
 
One of the challenges posed by this passage is that Luke combines a parable with moral teachings. The parable begins with a theft. Most of the Palestinian farmland at the time of Jesus was controlled by royalty or super-rich absentee landowners. This landowner had hired a steward to administer his land, and the steward stole from him and then was caught. Afraid that he would lose his position or worse, the steward decided to make friends with the farmers who were his business contacts. He made deals with several, thinking that they would treat him right after he lost his job. It is unclear whether he lowered the price by giving the landowner less or that he gave up part of his own share. In any case, the landowner found out and surprisingly “commended that dishonest steward for for acting prudently.”
 
Jesus then goes into a long explanation of “the children of this world” making friends with dishonest wealth. The two moral teachings here are about being trustworthy with small matters and large, and, most important, about Jesus’ exhortation, “You cannot serve God and mammon.” Whatever is mammon? It seems to be a term for ill-gotten or dishonest wealth.
 
Almost every day we learn of one or more examples of wealth that is not only excessive but acquired through dishonesty or out-and-out robbery with a fancy name. The people who swindled are all too often honest business people and hard-working investors or consumers.
 
It is interesting how stories and moral teachings from 2,000 years ago are still relevant today.
 
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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God of the lost,
through the incarnation of your Son,
you free human beings from the ravages of sin,
and you pour out your abundant mercy
on the lost and the broken.
Sinners find refuge in the shadow of your wings
and you provide your people with an abundant harvest.
Send workers into the world to seek out the lost
and offer life to sinners.
Direct my efforts and purify my heart,
as I go out seeking the lost sheep of this world.
May your Spirit empower me to become
a more effective ambassador
of your compassion.
I ask this in the name of Jesus, the Lord.
Amen.

 
Adapted from The People’s Prayer Book, © RENEW International.

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A reading from the book of Exodus
(Chapter 32:7-11, 13-14)
 
This reading is about the infidelity of the people who were saved by God from slavery in Egypt. “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Go down at once to your people. … They have soon turned aside from the way I pointed out to them, making for themselves a molten calf and worshiping it, sacrificing to it and crying out, “This is your God, O Israel, who brought you out of the land of Egypt!” I see how stiff-necked this people is. … Let me alone, then, that my wrath may blaze up against them to consume them.’
 
“But Moses implored the Lord, his God, saying ‘Why, O Lord, should your wrath raise up against your own people?’” Then Moses began to bargain with God. This may seem strange to us but “Semitic bargaining” was a feature of life at that time. And God relented and said to Moses, “I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and all this land that I promised, I will give your descendants as their perpetual inheritance.”
 
Notice that at first God refers to the Hebrews as “your people,” even though he has always considered them as his people. Then, after he has forgiven them for their idolatry, they are once again his people.
 
We do not worship any golden calf today, but we may be tempted to worship power or money or possessions. Of course, we would never say that, but we might be tempted to discard our values for power or possessions. It is good to ask ourselves these questions every once in a while. What are we tempted to worship? Does anything hold power over us?
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 51:3-4, 12-13, 17, 19)
 
“I will rise and go to my father.” The first line of the Psalm says, “Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness; in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense.” God’s mercy is always there for us.
 
A reading from first Letter of Saint Paul to Timothy
(Chapter 1:12-17)
 
Saint Paul was more responsible for the growth of the early Church than any other person. But he had been a really “bad guy.” As he writes, “I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and arrogant.” This great man had participated in the murder of Christians before his conversion: “I have been mercifully treated because I acted out of ignorance in my unbelief. Indeed, the grace of our Lord has been abundant, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. … Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Of these I am the foremost. But for that reason I was mercifully treated, so that as me as the foremost, Christ Jesus might display all his patience as an example for those who would come to believe in him for everlasting life.”
 
In the first reading, from the Book of Exodus, we read about God’s mercy for his people. Here, Paul talks about the great mercy that he received from Jesus, a mercy that literally turned his life around.
 
Has the forgiveness of God, the mercy of God ever turned your life around? Has it helped you out of depression, self-doubt, even self-hatred? The healing mercy of God is truly amazing, transforming, life- changing. Perhaps you know someone who is in need of God’s mercy but does not know it or does not know how to ask for it. Have you ever thought that one of our great gifts and roles in life is to embody the merciful love of Jesus in your life and work? It is right there within us, and the need is all around us.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke
(Chapter 15:1-32)
 
This passage contains the most beautiful and important parable of Jesus. It is often called “the parable of the Prodigal Son,” but the true focus is on the father’s Love, his crazy, over-the-top love for the son who demanded his inheritance even though, as the younger son, he should have waited until his older brother received his share. “He set off to a distant country where he squandered his inheritance on a life of dissipation. When he had freely spent everything, a severe famine struck that country, and he found himself in dire need.” So, he took the only job available, “to tend the swine.” What a disgusting, demeaning job for a formerly rich young Jewish man to have. It got so bad that “he longed to eat his fill of the pods on which the swine fed, but nobody gave him any.”
 
Finally, he came to his senses: “Here am I, dying of hunger. I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired workers.” Then, a remarkable, unsuspected thing happened. “While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him. His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son.’” You know the rest of the story. The father was so happy that he threw a homecoming celebration. This angered his older son who refused to enter the house and rightfully complained that he had been the worthy one. The father told him, “My son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours. But now we must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.”
 
Jesus told this parable to proclaim his Father’s love and mercy for all, even great sinners. Of course, his Father is also Our Father who continues to offer us his “crazy,” unconditional love. Always.
 
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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