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“The rulers sneered at Jesus and said, ‘He saved others, let him save himself if he is the chosen one, the Christ of God.’ Even the soldiers jeered at him. As they approached to offer him wine they called out, ‘If you are King of the Jews, save yourself.’ Above him there was an inscription that read, ‘This is the King of the Jews.’ Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, ‘Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us.’ The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, ‘Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal.’ Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ He replied to him, ‘Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise’ (Luke 23:25-43).
 
In Old Testament times, the Jewish people sought a leader, a king, someone to shepherd the people and command the army. In Jesus’ time, they were looking for another king, a messiah, and some thought Jesus, a powerful speaker and worker of miracles, might be that king. But people tend to follow a leader only when they like where he’s going. When Jesus was multiplying loaves and healing the sick, huge crowds followed him. But as he came closer to Jerusalem and told more hard truths about discipleship and the reign of God and his own future, some turned away.
 
When he was arrested and brought before the court, many decided that Jesus wasn’t going where they wanted to go. It is an act of trust to follow someone. Not all leaders bring their people to success. The hecklers at the foot of the cross probably thought Jesus, as a leader, was a failure. The only way to save the situation was to somehow change direction and escape the cross. That was what one of the criminals suggested: Get off that cross, Jesus, and get us off these crosses too! Save yourself, and us!
 
Jesus said nothing, because it was not a mistake in direction that landed him at Golgotha. His whole life was leading to that cross and beyond it to the resurrection. He knew where he was going, and throughout Luke’s Gospel, we have accompanied Jesus on his journey to Jerusalem and the cross. Luke invites us to learn from Jesus, to make his experience our experience.
 
Isn’t that exactly what happens in the conversation between the other criminal and Jesus? “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” “Jesus, you’re leading…don’t leave me behind.” If we make that our prayer, we too can take comfort in Jesus’ reply, “Truly I tell you, this day you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:42-43).
 
Remember that the criminal did not have the benefit of hindsight as we do—we know how the story ends. What faith is in his simply expressed pleas. We know that through our baptism we join with Jesus on the cross so we can also share in the glory of his resurrection.
 
– How do I trust that Jesus is leading me?
 
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International.

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kindnessThe 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:
 

Merciful Lord of us all,
help us wrap our thoughts, words, and actions
within the embrace of your loving kindness,
so that we are pleasing to you this day and always.

 
Peter W. Yaremko, a former journalist, is the owner of Executive Media, Inc. and is a specialist in executive communications. He attends St. Peter the Apostle Church in Provincetown, Massachusetts and blogs at peterwyaremko.com/paradise_diaries.

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They will persecute you“While some people were speaking about how the temple was adorned with costly stones and votive offerings, Jesus said, ‘All that you see here—the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.’
‘When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for such things must happen first, but it will not immediately be the end.’ Then he said to them, ‘Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues from place to place; and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky.
‘Before all this happens, however, 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 shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute. You will even be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends, and they will put some of you to death. 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’” (Luke 21:5-6; 9-19).
 
Luke wrote his Gospel to share the words and deeds of Jesus principally with a non-Jewish audience. These Gentiles did not have five hundred years of Jewish history urging them toward the end times. How unnerving it must have been for them to hear about Jesus’ predictions about earthquakes, famines, and plagues, and being persecuted, imprisoned, betrayed, hated, and possibly killed. But for those who hid, fearing the authorities, for those who sat in prison, Jesus’ words actually offered consolation.
 
For over five hundred years, the Jews had been oppressed and had sought liberation through prayer and obedience. They could not see how this could happen to “God’s chosen people” or how justice would ever prevail. Jesus tells his followers that persecution and arrest are opportunities to deepen faithfulness and trust in the Gospel. He provides his followers with the voice and the strength to share the truth with their persecutors. God will not abandoned them to these disastrous circumstances, but when they occur, “not a hair of your head will perish.” Jesus’ resurrection offered new hope to people who were looking for the triumph of God’s justice and love.
 
We who make up the Church today also find these words difficult to hear. Almost two thousand years later, the end has not arrived. We have witnessed the destruction of great buildings; we have seen wars and insurrections, earthquakes, famines, and plagues. Few of us have escaped personal tragedy. In different parts of the world, many people hide their faith out of fear. Our comfort and our mission, in the midst of all of this, arises from the reality that we are the people of God—the community that enfleshes the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Whatever joy or tragedy swells around us, our place is with Jesus and the hope his resurrection brings for life after our physical deaths, whether in this age or the next.
 
– Jesus speaks about the opportunity to “testify.” How do I talk about my faith with others?
 
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International.

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King_DavidPsalm 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:
 

Eternal Father,
we thank you for speaking to us today
as you did to David so long ago,
reminding us that our earthly life
has little meaning without you at its center.

 
Peter W. Yaremko, a former journalist, is the owner of Executive Media, Inc. and is a specialist in executive communications. He attends St. Peter the Apostle Church in Provincetown, Massachusetts and blogs at peterwyaremko.com/paradise_diaries.

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St_Ann_Soup_Kitchen“Have a good day,” “Have a good day,” echoed throughout the hall as each guest was handed a dinner tray by a bright eyed happy little girl of about ten years of age. It was a holiday, and schools were closed. Tina was planning to go to the soup kitchen at St. Ann’s Church in Newark, New Jersey, to volunteer; since the kids were off, she asked if they’d like to join her. In the car on the way to St. Ann’s she talked with them about what it would be like, what they might see and experience, and how they could do something nice for some very vulnerable people.
 
The four girls jumped right in. They loved donning their matching aprons, hats, and gloves. They deliberated over who would collect tickets and who would dish out the food, pour drinks, and serve trays. Their excitement, engaging smiles, and chorus of “Have a good day” greeted each guest that came to the window for a dinner tray.
 

soup_kitchen_instructions

Getting instructions from the chief chef, John.


Many of the guests smiled back, thanked the girls, and bantered with them.
 
Others, in their own worlds, anxious, and distracted, said nothing. When all had been served, these four young girls fixed their own plates and joined the guests for dinner.
 
As I observed this scene, I noticed how once in a while one of the girls would check something out with Mom who was patient with their questions and affirming with her answers.
 
I also saw how many guests responded gratefully to their youth and their upbeat attitudes.
 
Most of all I saw how happy these young people were to be of service though unaware of what a profound difference they were making in the lives of the guests as well as those of us who were volunteering with them.
 
Pope Francis often speaks about the critical need in the Church to form missionary disciples who will reach out to others with the Good News and let them know that they are loved by God and by others. Forming missionary disciples might sound like a daunting task. This Mom, Tina, was doing it, preparing her children to be aware of the needs of the poor and vulnerable and, with them, doing something about it.
 
I commented to the Mom as she and the girls prepared to leave the soup kitchen that the conversation in the car on the way home would be priceless. She agreed and added that it would be a conversation for beyond the car ride.
 
Who knows how this day off from school spent helping others and learning a little about the poor among us will impact and form these little disciples?
 
Sister Honora is the Assistant Director and Director of Development at RENEW and a Dominican Sister of Amityville, NY.

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