Branching Out Blog

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: The Epiphany of the Lord

Posted by Bill Ayres on Jan 2, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah
(Chapter 60:1-6)

Most Jewish and Christian scholars believe that the Prophet Isaiah was really three different people writing at three different times. Today’s reading is from the last section of Isaiah, written at the end of the Babylonian Exile. It is a time of great joy: “Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you…. Nations shall walk by your light, and kings by your shining radiance.”

The Church reads this passage today because in the birth of Jesus all this and more has come. He is the fulfillment of all the prophesies and all the promises from God.

A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Ephesians
(Chapter 3:2-3a, 5-6)

Paul writes, “the mystery was made known to me by revelation.” The mystery he is referring to is God’s whole plan for salvation in Jesus. However, it is not only for Jews: “The Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body”

Most of the early Christians were Jews, and many of them thought that Jesus came only for them. He certainly did come to proclaim the reign of God to Israel, but Paul makes it clear that it is for all people. We are all called to be a part of “the same body.” Paul dedicated his ministry to all people but traveled far and wide to reach the Gentiles. Without him, Christianity might have been limited to being a sect of Judaism and most probably would have died out as many other Jewish communities did over the decades and centuries. No, the Church of the apostles that you and I live in and believe in is inclusive, not an exclusive club for the holy. Pope Francis refers to himself as a sinner. We are all sinners, a Church of sinners, forgiven and saved by the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. We need to always reach out our arms and our hearts to those who have felt excluded or alienated from our Church.

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Topics: magi, New Year, catholic renew progam, Jesus Christ, RENEW International, savior, Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord, Sunday readings, birth of our Savior, universal Church

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: The Nativity of the Lord, Christmas Day

Posted by Bill Ayres on Dec 25, 2020 12:00:00 AM

A reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah
(Chapter 52:7-10)

Isaiah talks about someone coming who “brings glad tidings, announcing peace, bearing good news.” The Church chooses this reading for Christmas day because we believe that the birth of Jesus fulfills this promise.

We do not live in a peaceful world, and each day brings headlines with bad news, sometimes terrifying news. How can that be? Is that really true, or is bad news merely what sells? Of course, there is plenty of bad news to go around, but there is also so much good news, so many people doing good for their neighbors, for their country, for their world. There are fewer poor and hungry people in the world than in past eras, even though there are still far too many. There are more peaceful countries in the world in this century, even though there is still horrible violence in the Middle East and elsewhere. There is less crime, violence, poverty, unemployment, and hunger in our own country than there was 10 years ago, even though we still have a long way to go to be the just and peaceful people of our hopes and dreams.

The point is that the promise of Jesus does not work like magic. It is a gift of peace and good news offered to each of us that we can accept or reject. On the birthday of our Savior, let us accept this amazing gift on a deeper level than ever before. Let us remember that the power of his love that lives in our hearts is a more powerful force than all the negative forces that exist. We can live in his love despite all the unloving that we experience in our world, all this from a little baby whose birth we celebrate today.

Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 98:1, 2-3, 3-4, 5-6)

“All the ends of the earth have seen the saving power of God.” Many have seen, but not all have believed. Let us pray that today more hearts will be opened to the transforming power of God.

A reading from the Letter to the Hebrews
(Chapter 1:1-6)

The author writes, “In times past, God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets; in these last days, he has spoken to us through his Son.”

Throughout history, God has spoken to his people in many ways: through nature, through various religious traditions, and especially through the Jewish people and their prophets. God continues to speak through all those means today, but the fullness of God’s message and presence is in Jesus.

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Topics: peace, catholic renew progam, Good News, Jesus Christ, Nativity of the Lord, RENEW International, wedding garment, Christmas Day, birth of our Savior

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