Branching-Out

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

Posted by Bill Ayres on Nov 26, 2022 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the prophecy of Isaiah

(Chapter 2:1-5)

“In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest mountain and raised above the hills…. For from Zion shall go forth instruction and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and impose terms on many peoples.”

The two important points here are that God will “judge between the nations” and that God’s word comes “from Jerusalem.” What is God’s word to the nations? “They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again.” If they do these things, they will “walk in the light of the Lord.”

If only nations obeyed this command, millions of innocent people would not have been killed and many others would not be dying today. Jesus himself preached and lived non-violence as should we, as individuals, as societies, as nations.

 Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 122)

“Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.” Do you and I rejoice when we come for Mass each week, or do we take it for granted and as an obligation rather than a gift worthy of rejoicing?

A reading from St. Paul's Letter to the Romans

(Chapter 13:11-14)

Paul tells the Romans, “For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed; the night is advanced, the day is at hand. Let us then throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light, let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in promiscuity and lust, not in rivalry and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Paul knows that he will be killed and so he wants to let the Roman Christians know how important it is for them to stay the course and not fall into bad habits that were rampant in the city. Of course, the same holds true for we who live in an age that is all too prone to excuse these same excesses.

A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew

(Chapter 24:37-44)

After Jesus died many believed that he would come again on the last day. But when? Matthew tells people, “Stay awake! For you do not know on what day your Lord will come. Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into. So too, you must also be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”

This belief that Jesus would come back, perhaps in their lifetime, and that the world would then end was very popular among Christians in the decades after the death of Jesus. It was intensified by the constant threat of prison and execution at the hands of the Romans. Even today, there are sects of Christianity that believe that the world will end soon, and Jesus will return. They go up to a mountain or some other remote place and wait until it becomes apparent that the time is not now.

We have no idea when the world as we know it will end, but we do know that our lives here on earth will end at our deaths. We know not the day or the hour. Rather than worrying about that, we should make the most of each day—serving God and each other—as we look forward to a new life forever in the divine presence.

✝️

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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Topics: First Sunday of Advent, second coming of Christ

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

Posted by Bill Ayres on Nov 19, 2022 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the Second Book of Samuel

(Chapter 5:1-3)

In this passage we read that David was called to be king and leader of Israel. The Christian biblical writers saw Jesus as both the successor and the perfection of David’s rule—not only over Israel but over the whole world. These days, most kings and queens have only ceremonial functions where they exist at all. When the Church began observing this solemnity in 1925, it was identifying Jesus with the power still being exercised by royalty in many places but contrasting his eternal rule with the finite dominion of earthly kings. Today, we recognize that Jesus' kingdom embraces all mankind, but we focus too on the loving, healing aspects of his power.

 Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 122)

“Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.” Do you and I rejoice when we come for Mass each week, or do we take it for granted and as an obligation rather than a gift worthy of rejoicing?

A reading from St. Paul's Letter to the Colossians

(Chapter 1:12-20)

“He is the head of the body, the church.” This is a central teaching of our faith, that there is a bodily connection between Christ who is the head of the body, and the Church, which is itself the body of Christ. You can’t get any closer. “In him were created all things.” Everything was created in and for Christ. This was a hymn in the early Church, and it reflected what the followers of Jesus believed from the beginning and what we believe and experience in the assembly of the Church and in the Eucharist.

A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke

(Chapter 25:25-43)

The soldiers mockingly tell Jesus, “If you are King of the Jews, save yourself.” And one of the other two men being crucified that day implores Jesus, “Save yourself and us.” But Jesus uses his saving power not for himself but in response to the penance of one of those men who admitted his guilt and asked Jesus, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus forgives him and promises him eternal life. This is the climax of Luke’s portrayal of Jesus as a loving, forgiving savior, something we have heard throughout this liturgical year. The “good thief,” as he is often described, was a lucky man indeed. And so are we lucky. Each of us has that same chance for forgiveness at any and all times in our lives. We need only ask.

✝️

Image: Christ on the Cross Between Two Thieves, unknown author. Illumination from the Vaux Passional in the Peniarth Manuscripts. Public Domain. National Library of Wales.

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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Topics: Jesus Christ the King

The Everyday Gospel: And he shall reign

Posted by Charles Paolino on Nov 18, 2022 6:30:00 AM

One of the memorable images among the events surrounding the death of Queen Elizabeth II was of a woman kissing King Charles on the cheek as he greeted members of a crowd gathered outside Buckingham Palace.

The woman, a Cypriot named Jennifer Assiminios, later told the press that she had asked permission to kiss Charles and that he had granted it.

Although Elizabeth had established an emotional bond with many of her subjects, it did not exhibit itself in anything as intimate as a kiss. So perhaps, by accepting that one kiss, Charles nudged the monarchy a little way off of its traditional distance from its subjects.

Not being British, I have no opinion about the British monarchy either as an institution or, for that matter, about the endurance of monarchy in the modern world. I once asked a chemist in Denmark why such a progressive country still had a queen. He said, “Well she is Denmark, isn’t she?” and I suppose that was as good an answer as any.

Many countries have long since dispensed with their kings, queens, and emperors, but there are 44 sovereign states in the world that have monarchs, including 15 that recognize the British monarch as their own. In a few of these places, monarchs have absolute power; in a few, their role is largely symbolic. And in some countries, the king or queen shares the responsibilities of government with an elected body, a parliament or legislature.

Abdullah bin Hussein, the king of Jordan, has gone out of his way to have personal contact with Jordanian citizens. More often, though, kings prefer to be physically, emotionally, and spiritually distant, separate, apart from their subjects, That’s not our King.

As Americans, of course, we have no monarch, but as Christians we have a “King of the Universe” as we will again proclaim Jesus this weekend.

While we have the greatest respect for Jesus and try to live in keeping with what he taught us about love of God and love of each other, we do not have to keep our physical or psychic distance from him. On the contrary, Jesus invites, urges, all of us to approach him in the most intimate way possible.

Jesus is the king who, during his life on earth, made a point of touching people whom others would rather not touch ¾ and that was a clear sign of the relationship he wanted to have with all of us.

This why the Church, Pope Francis in particular, and the American Catholic bishops during the current three-year “Eucharistic revival,” stress the importance of each Christian having a personal encounter with Jesus -- an encounter that occurs in our prayer life, when we speak to Jesus as the loving friend he is, and in our liturgical life when we come in physical contact with him in the Eucharist, in his body and his blood.

In the prophecy of Daniel, we read about the Messiah, “He received dominion, glory, and kingship; nations and peoples of every language serve him.”

That is a legitimate image of Jesus, the Christ, who is the Son, the second person of the Holy Trinity—who is God. But it is indispensable to our Catholic faith to always keep before us, too, the words of the author of the book of Revelation who describes Jesus as “the ruler of the kings of the earth” but in the next breath as “him who loves us.’’

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Topics: RENEW International, The Everyday Gospel: Deacon Charles Paolino, Jesus Christ the King

"Hear the Word! by Bill Ayres: Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time (Clone)

Posted by Bill Ayres on Nov 12, 2022 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the prophecy of Malachi

(Chapter 3:19-20a)

“Lo, the day is coming, blasting like an oven, when all the proud and all evildoers will be stubble.”

This is one of many warnings that we read in the Hebrew Scriptures; it is directed at the Jewish people who had returned to Jerusalem after having been in exile in the fifth century before the birth of Jesus. Rather than showing gratitude to God for their deliverance, the people and religious figures had become careless about observing divine law. The warning is followed by a message of consolation for the faithful: “But for you who fear my name, there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays.” God makes the same promise to us if we are faithful to him and live according to his law.

 Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 98)

“The Lord comes to rule the earth with justice.” When we see all the violence and injustice in the world, it may be hard to believe that the Holy Spirit is alive among and within us. We must look carefully at our own leaders and those throughout the world to see who live and rule based on justice, mercy, and compassion. Did you think about that this past Election Day?

A reading from the Second Letter of Saint Paul to the Thessalonians

(Chapter 3: 7-12)

Most of the early Christians were not rich or famous. They worked hard for their food and sustenance. and Paul has strong words for those who could work but refused to. “We hear that some are conducting themselves among you in a disorderly way, by not keeping busy but minding the business of others.” It’s a reminder that in all things we should do our part and respect both the work and the privacy of others.

A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke

(Chapter 21: 5-19

It is hard for us to understand how dangerous and terrifying it was for the early Christians to be faithful to their calling and still stay alive. The Romans often chased them and punished them, sometimes with death. Christians were seen as troublemakers and disloyal to the government. Many of their fellow Jews also persecuted them as heretics.

Jesus predicted it: “They will seize and persecute you, they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons, and they will have you led before kings and governors because of my name. It will lead to your giving testimony. Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand, for I myself will give you a wisdom in speaking…. You will be hated by all because of my name, but not a hair on your head will be destroyed. By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”

These were truly troubled times for the young Church, yet through all the suffering and death the community grew and prospered. We may face rejection and even ridicule in different forms, but we, too, should be courageous in witnessing to our faith, relying on the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

✝️

Image: Model of the Second Temple in the Israel Museum, Jerusalem. Published here under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

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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Topics: persecution, courage, Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Human Dignity vs Dehumanization: Mental Incompetence

Posted by Alice Hugh Brown on Nov 9, 2022 11:47:59 AM

Benjamin Robert Cole, Sr.            

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Topics: justice, mercy, Catholic social teaching, death penalty, Dignity and the Death Penalty, mental incompetence

The Insignificant

Posted by Sharon Krause on Nov 7, 2022 6:00:00 AM

                                                      The Insignificat

 

                             My soul proclaims the insignificance of me,

                 and my spirit rejoices in God my very significant Savior;

                       because in my humble unimportance and smallness,

                         the Lord has done great things for and through me,

                                                    and holy is his name.

 

                             He who made the galaxies with countless stars,

                               and the trees in all their autumnal splendor,

                                     has graced me with existence;

                                and even though I am but a lowly speck

                                         In this vast expanse of creation,

                                 God finds me lovable, calls me his child,

                         and sent his only begotten Son to die to save me.

 

                             So all generations may call me insignificant,

                                     but they will also call me blessed,

                             because I can know, love and serve the God

                                               who chastises the proud

                                     and teaches the humble His way—-

                                               and his way is LOVE.

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Topics: magnificence of God's love, God's love, Sharon Krause

"Hear the Word! by Bill Ayres: Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted by Bill Ayres on Nov 5, 2022 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the Second Book of Maccabees

(Chapter 7:1-2, 9-14)

Seven brothers are tortured and killed by the Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanes for refusing to eat pork in violation of God’s law. This is a brutal story, but the reason it is included in this week’s readings is because it includes a promise of an afterlife. One of the brothers, near death, tells the king, “It is my choice to die at the hands of men with the hope God gives of being raised up with him, but for you, there will be no resurrection to life.”  

This is an early testament to the belief in resurrection, something that did not appear in the Hebrew scriptures previously but became a joyful and hopeful belief for Christians.

 Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 17)

“Lord, when your glory appears, my joy will be full.” This was written long before the ministry of Jesus Christ but points to a hope for an afterlife. “But I in justice shall behold your face; on waking I shall be content in your presence.”

A reading from the Second Letter of Saint Paul to the Thessalonians

(Chapter 2:16-35)

It was not easy to be a disciple of Jesus in the days following the Resurrection. Christians lived in fear of the Roman oppressors and often of their Jewish brothers and sisters who might consider them heretics. Paul assures them, “But the Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one. … May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the endurance of Christ.”

That is good advice now as it was then. We do not suffer persecution because of our faith—certainly, not in the way the early Christians did—but for us, the “evil one” may take other forms, such as a preoccupation with material things and with social prominence or political influence. If we open our hearts, God will direct them.

A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke

(Chapter 20:27-38)

The Sadducees did not believe in resurrection and tried to trick Jesus with a complicated hypothetical question about seven brothers. In their narrative, the oldest one marries but dies childless. Then each of the others in turn marry the widow. The Sadducees’ put this question to Jesus: “Finally the woman also died. Now at the resurrection whose wife will the woman be? For all seven had been married to her.”

Jesus does not answer this silly question but rather states the truth about God: “And he is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.”

Yes! We do are not called to die forever but rather to live with God forever. Do you ever pray about that? What a gift! The greatest gift of all—eternal life with our Father.

✝️

Image: Oldest known icon of Christ the Savior, sixth-century, Saint Catherine's Monastery, Mount Sinai, Egypt. Public domain.

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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Topics: 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, resurrection, Sadducees

Peace of Jesus

Posted by Sharon Krause on Oct 31, 2022 6:00:00 AM

The presiding priest gave the final blessing at the Saturday vigil Mass, and then the deacon said, “Go forth in the peace of Jesus.” I have heard similar dismissals many times, but for some reason, the invitation to peace resounded in my brain.

I was struck by just how dimensional that peace of Jesus really is and was prompted to suggest some of the facets of that peace as I see it.

P - Pastoral. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, offers guidance and direction to all of us. We can easily be lost sheep in this busy environment of ours. If we just keep our eyes on Jesus and humbly acknowledge that our loving Savior hears our prayers and knows what is best for us in his time, we can be peaceful. Joyfully, follow our Leader!

E- Evangelical. When we have Jesus’ peace, we know we cannot keep it to ourselves. We can happily spread it through witness stories that we share with others. Jesus’ peace is far-reaching and meant to be contagious. It helps us to be open and eager to be loving. Pass on the peace to others!

A - All-encompassing. The peace of Jesus affects all areas of our lives: our personal prayer life, our social life, our family life, our moral decisions, our work life. When we are truly open to experience Jesus, we can experience new vigor, strength, and perseverance. We see broader pictures in life. We are more open to forgiveness. Bring it on!

C - Calming. Many movies and television shows nowadays encourage and dramatize rushes of adrenalin in us. Everything has to be exciting and grossly stimulating! With the Lord’s peace, a calmness comes with more patience and ease. Easy does it!

E - Everlasting. So many things come and go quickly. Everything and everyone seem to be in a big hurry. The peace of Jesus is time-tested and guaranteed never to expire so long as we stay close to him through prayer and a humble willingness to follow scripture teaching. Happily ever after!

We read in John’s Gospel (20:19-23) that when Jesus’ first appeared to his apostles after his resurrection, his first words to them were, “Peace be with you.” He then gave them the power to forgive sins: “Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” (v. 22b-23)

Did you see? The peace came first. Let’s try to put Jesus’ peace first in our daily lives.

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Topics: everyday prayer, go in peace, inner peace, Sharon Krause

"Hear the Word! by Bill Ayres: Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted by Bill Ayres on Oct 29, 2022 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the Book of Wisdom

(Chapter 11:22-12:2)

The author uses poetic language to make a point about the power of God:. “Before the Lord the whole universe is as a grain or a drop of morning dew come down upon the earth…. But you have mercy on all because you can do all things; and you overlook people’s sins so that they may repent.”

Throughout history, people have sought a god who was both just and merciful. Here we have the God of Israel who is both just and merciful. This is the same God that we believe in thousands of years later.

Tragically, many of us were not taught about this loving Father when we were children. Instead, our instruction focused on God only as waiting to punish is if we sinned. If you have always been taught that our God is a loving and forgiving Father, wonderful! Congratulations! I hope that is the loving Father that you still believe in and trust.

 Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 145)

“I will praise your name forever, my king and my God.” The concept of “king” was important to the psalmist writing thousands of years ago. God is King, of course, but let us remember, too, what more the psalm says about God: The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness. The LORD is good to all and compassionate toward all his works.”

A reading from the Second Letter of Saint Paul to the Thessalonians

(Chapter 1:11-2:2)

There were all sorts of writings and speeches trying to convince converts that the second coming of Jesus was at hand. Paul wanted to make sure that his readers and listeners would not be fooled by such talk.

“We ask you, brothers and sisters, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our assembling with him, not to be shaken out of your minds suddenly, or by an oral statement, or by a letter allegedly from us to the effect that the day of the Lord is at hand.”

The fact that Paul felt it necessary to write with such assurance in the face of so many false rumors tells us that this was a big problem in the new community. Paul wanted Christians to know the truth, even though the wild stories of the return of Jesus were exciting, especially in the face of persecution. The lesson we can infer from this passage is we should not concern ourselves with the “when” and “how” of the end times but rather with living every day in keeping with Jesus’ commandments of love and justice.

A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke

(Chapter 19:1-10)

This is the story of Zacchaeus, “a chief tax collector and also a wealthy man.” He was also a very short man and so he climbed a tree so he could see Jesus. The Lord was so impressed by this man’s determination that he said to him, “Zacchaeus come down quickly, for today I must stay in your house.” The bystanders grumbled about Jesus: “He has gone to stay in the house of a sinner.” But then Zacchaeus made his conversion real. “Behold, Half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor and if I have extorted any one I shall repay it four times over.”

I guess you could say that Zacchaeus put his money where his mouth was. And Jesus said to him, ”Today, salvation has come to this house.” No one is too corrupt to resist the call of Jesus if he or she wants another chance and has a change of heart. Have you ever known someone like that? Did the conversion last? Did others accept this newly converted person? And what consolation can you take, personally, from the encounter between Zacchaeus and the Lord?

✝️

Painting: Paul the Apostle, Peter Paul Rubens. Circa 1611. Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain. Public domain.

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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Topics: Zacchaeus, 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Pumpkin

Posted by Sharon Krause on Oct 24, 2022 6:30:00 AM

Ah! What a fine specimen! Right there on the table! A big, fat, orange, round pumpkin, waiting for a carved personality!

The young man grabbed his carving knife, cut a circle around the stem, cleaned out the pulp and seeds, and proceeded to create his masterpiece for the Halloween season. Carefully, he carved first the right triangular eye, and then the left.

         Lord, help me to keep my eyes on you.

         Help me to see others as you do,

               with compassion and forgiveness and generous love.

         Give me clear focus on what is truly and purely truth in this world.

         Guide my eyes toward opportunities to share your Good News.

Ah! Next came the nose! With precision, the man carefully cut the big nose triangle from the middle of the evolving Jack-o’-lantern face. Plop! Out popped the chunk! No nostrils needed!

         Jesus! Help me to keep my nose away from others’ business where it doesn’t    

         belong. May I offer good help and Christian advice when it is called for,

         knowing my limitations.

         With every breath I take, may I somehow give glory to my Creator who loves

         me and made me in his image.

And the smiling mouth! The fellow carved a big, happy mouth for Mr. Pumpkin! The momentum was building. His masterpiece was almost finished! Up and down, carefully scraping! There! All complete!

         Lord, help me to be careful what I say to others. May my words be wise and

         effective. May my smiles brighten people’s days and lift their spirits. May I give

         you praise by echoing your message of compassion and understanding. Help

        me to speak up courageously in defense of those who have no means of

         speaking for themselves.

Ah, again! The last creative touch! The lighted candle inside, so that Mr. Pumpkin can shine brightly for all to appreciate! Flickers of autumnal joy! He rests on the porch step, and he beckons those who pass by to enjoy the warmth of his pretty face and spirited grin! Well done, Mr. Pumpkin-Carver!

         Come Holy Spirit! Be my inspirational Light in a world that can easily ramp up

         darkness and despair! Shine forth with goodness and genuine, contagious

         hope! Help me to be a light to others.

         Creator, Carver God! Sculpt me into the creation you want me to be! May I

         sit still long enough to glow with your saving light and be attentive to your many

         graces.

         Thank you for your multitude of daily blessings that I often take for granted!

                                                                                                                      Amen.

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Topics: everyday prayer, Creator God, spontaneous prayer, Sharon Krause

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