Branching-Out

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

Posted by Bill Ayres on Oct 16, 2020 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah
(Chapter 1:4-6 )

This was written in the sixth century before the birth of Jesus, towards the end of the Babylonian Exile, when Cyrus, the ruler of Persia, conquered Babylon and allowed the people of Israel to return home. The author wants the people to know that it was through the power of God that Israel was saved.

“For the sake of Jacob, my servant, of Israel, my chosen one, I have called you by your name, giving you a title, though you knew me not. I am the Lord and there is no other, there is no God beside me. It is I who arm you, though you know me not, so that from the rising to the setting of the sun people may know that there is none besides me. I am the Lord, there is no other.”

Here we have the classic principle, “repetition aids comprehension.” “I am the Lord, there is no other…. There is none besides me…. There is no God besides me.” OK! you say. We get it. But that is the point. The people did not always get it. “You knew me not.” Why? How could that have been? Well, people worshiped several gods, and there was always a temptation to seek another that seemed to be more powerful.

You and I worship the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one God in three persons, but sometimes we may be tempted or even seduced by the false gods of money, power, prestige, and empty pleasure. Temptations are always there, but during this time of COVID 19, emotional stress, isolation, financial worries, and boredom can challenge and sometimes overcome us, at least for a while. It is at these times that we need to reach out to someone we trust for strength and healing and take the time for prayer—often!

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 96: 1, 3, 4-5, 7-8, 9-10)

“Give the Lord glory and honor.” It is not that God needs it but that we need it. We need to stay in touch with God, in gratitude, and see what happens. Gifts will be given!

A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Thessalonians

(Chapter 1:1-5b)

“We give thanks to God always for all of you, remembering you in our prayers, unceasingly calling to mind your work of faith and labor of love and endurance in hope of our Lord Jesus Christ, before our God and Father…. For our gospel did not come to you in word alone, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with much conviction.”

Do you believe in the power of the Holy Spirit? Have you experienced it in your life? Did you ever think that something that went right for you, or something that seemed hopeless but worked out, or a gift that suddenly appeared, was through the power of the Holy Spirit who lives within you every day of your life? It happens! Sometimes, we are “surprised in the Spirit.”

Read More

Topics: Babylonian Exile, census tax, a reflection on the coming Sunday's Gospel, Book of the Prophet Isaiah, catholic program renew, renew catholic program, RENEW International, Sunday readings, COVID, Power of the Holy Spirit, render unto caesar

Brooklyn Haitian Creole Community Goes Virtual

Posted by Dr. Sœurette Fougère on Oct 14, 2020 6:00:00 AM

It is amazing that I am writing this blog post around the feast of St. Therese of Lisieux whom I consider an icon of love, patience, and perseverance. As I reflected on these virtues, I uncovered how essential they may be to pastoral works. In fact, the technology training for the Haitian Creole Community in the Diocese of Brooklyn, conducted in the beginning of the fall RENEW season testifies to the benefits of their implementation.

Read More

Topics: catholic program renew, RENEW International, small faith sharing groups, pandemic, Diocese of Brooklyn, COVID, Haitian Creole, St. Therese of Lisieux, virtual

True Colors

Posted by Sharon Krause on Oct 12, 2020 6:00:00 AM

With the change of the seasons comes pleasant memories of when my husband and I would go on little road trips to Maine and New Hampshire to moose watch. We were often successful in catching sight of those big animals, and in the process, I was made much more aware of the variety and beauty of the trees we would often just drive by and take for granted.

 So many massive, majestic trees proudly lift their limbs and branches skyward! The strong evergreens remind us of the ever-loving, ever-present, unchanging Lord! Nesting places for birds and forest creatures stand strong in the forests in all kinds of weather. Orchards provide wonderful fruits thanks to a God who loves to see his creation fulfill its true potentialand that includes us! Our prayer can rise to God that we may be more and more fruitful as we try to live out our holy potential. Our merciful Father gives us so many chances to turn over new leaves and show our true colors.

 We might be moved to pray with Psalm 1:1-3:

Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked,
or take the path
that sinners tread,
or sit in the seat of scoffers; but their delight is in the law
of the Lord,
and on his law they meditate day and night.
They are like trees planted by streams of water,
which yield their fruit in its
season,
and their leaves do not wither. In all they do, they prosper. (NRSV)

In the splendor of autumn’s colors, we can give glory to our Artist Creator. The cooler temperatures and decrease of daylight time bring about chemical changes in the deciduous trees. Because of these chemical changes, the green chlorophyll color goes away, and we see the beautiful leaf shades of red, orange, and yellow. What an amazing process! Thank you, Father, for such delight to our eyes!

When we think about some of the many trees in the Bible, we remember the Lord’s appearance to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre (Genesis 18:1), a detail that helps us get a picture in our mind’s eye in this life-changing story. And in the New Testament, in Luke 19, we recall the short tax collector, Zacchaeus, climbing a sycamore tree so he could see Jesus among the crowd. We might find it inspiring to take leaf-peeping rides or hikes and unite ourselves with the mighty oak trees. We might see Jesus a little better if we lift ourselves up higher above our everyday routines, challenges, and worries.

 Nowadays it is easy to take photos with our cell phones; we can easily take little notes of inspirations we might receive. We can find prayers easily online. I don’t think I am going out on a limb here when I suggest that autumn, with its numerous trees, could be one of the holiest and most prayerful times of the year if we give it a chance! And if we happen to see a moose pass by, what a bonus!

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.

 

Read More

Topics: Autumn, Church, Zaccheus, catholic program renew, holiness, prayer, RENEW International, autumn leaves, artist creator

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

Posted by Bill Ayres on Oct 9, 2020 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah
(Chapter 26:6-10)

The mountain that Isaiah is describing is the mountain, Mount Zion in Jerusalem. “On this mountain the Lord of hosts will provide for all peoples a feast of rich foods and choice wines…. The Lord God will wipe away the tears from every face…. Behold our God, to whom we looked to save us! This is the Lord for whom we looked; let us rejoice and be glad that he has saved us.” There is an important progression here, from “Our God, to whom we looked to save us” to “he has saved us.” For thousands of years, the people of Israel have believed in a relationship with God that will bring salvation. That belief has a past, a present, and a future.

We, too, have a relationship with God, in Jesus, who, by his life and sacrifice, won for us our salvation. That relationship is based on his past time on earth, his presence now in our lives, in our Church, and in the sacramentsespecially the Eucharistand in our future life with him forever.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 23:1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6)

“I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.” On one level, the “house of the Lord” is our Church. On another level, it is our own relationship with God. Has the COVID19 pandemic changed your relationship with God? Has it deepened it or damaged it? Do you pray for the victims every day and for those suffering in related ways? Can you do anything to help?

A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Philippians

(Chapter 4:12-14, 19-20)

Paul had a very exciting life, filled with hunger, poverty, abandonment, imprisonments, and also endless travels, celebrations, achievements beyond expectation, a growing wisdom, and deep faith. When he was in need, the people of Philippi reached out to him, and he responded, “Brothers and sisters: I know how to live in humble circumstances; I also know how to live with abundance…. I can do all things in him who strengthens me. Still, it was kind of you to share in my distress…. My God will fully supply whatever you need, in accord with his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”

There is one line here that tells us who Paul was and how he lived: “I can do all things in him who strengthens me.” Have you ever thought about that statement in terms of your own life? Have you ever done something that was extremely challenging and later wondered how you were able to do it? Try it. You might be surprised, and it might give you the strength to face something else that is seemingly beyond your abilities. You may be delighted at what you and Jesus can accomplish together.

A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew

(Chapter 22:1-14)

This is a very complex parable and one of the most difficult to understand. Here is the first part: “The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son.” He sent his servants “to summon the invited guests to the feast.” They refused to come. Jesus is probably talking about a whole series of prophets whose messages were rejected. The king tried again, sending other servants. “Some ignored the invitation and went away…. The rest laid hold of his servants, mistreated them and killed them…. Then he said to his servants, ‘The feast is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy to come…. The servants went out into the streets and gathered all they had found, good and bad alike, and the hall was filled with guests.” Jesus is talking about the new Christian community, to which all are invited, both Jews and pagans.

The parable ends with a strange addition. One man who came was “not dressed in a wedding garment” and the king ordered his servants to “cast him into the darkness outside.” What? The man is excluded because he did not have the right garment? No, the wedding garment is a symbol of something, but what? What could possibly exclude anyone from the kingdom of God? There are many possibilities, but none of them count if the person ultimately turns away from whatever sin caused the banishment. There is always another chance in God’s eternal mercy.

Image: ”The Wedding Feast” 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.

Read More

Topics: kingdom of God, parable, Wedding Feast, a reflection on the coming Sunday's Gospel, Book of the Prophet Isaiah, catholic program renew, house of the Lord, Psalm 23, renew catholic program, RENEW International, Sunday readings, The kingdom of God is at hand, COVID, vineyard of the Lord, wedding garment

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.

 

Read More

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.

 

Read More

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

'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.

Read More

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

Read More

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

'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.

Read More

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

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

Posted by Bill Ayres on Sep 18, 2020 9:13:00 AM

A reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah

(Chapter 55:6-9)

“Seek the Lord where he may be found, call him while he is near. Let the scoundrel forsake his way. And the wicked his thoughts; let him turn to the Lord for mercy; to our God, who is generous in forgiving. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts.”

In this time of massive fires and floods and a virus that has killed more than 200,000 of our brothers and sisters in our country, and nearly million throughout the world, God can seem far away. In this time of so much death and suffering, Isaiah reminds us of the tragedy of the Babylonian Exile when many of those held captive in a foreign land may have thought that God had abandoned them. Isaiah tells them to “Seek the Lord while he may be found, call him while he is near.”

This could be a time when tragedy can divide us and destroy us, but it need not be. We can “turn to the Lord for mercy” and see the good in one another and show respect for the natural world that nurtures us and yet now threatens us. We can “turn to the Lord for mercy” and show mercy for one another.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 145:2-3, 8-9, 17-18)

Does the Lord seem near to you in these times of chaos? The Psalmist says, “The Lord is near to all who call upon him, to all who call upon him in truth.” We each need to know our deepest truth and call upon the Lord from that truth. What is your deepest truth?

A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Philippians

(Chapter 20c-24, 27a)

Paul was in prison and knew that it was only a matter of time before he would be killed. “Brothers and sisters: Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or death. For me life is Christ, and death is gain. …I am caught between the two. I long to depart from this life and be with Christ, for that is far better. Yet, that I remain in the flesh is more necessary for your benefit.”

Paul had a powerful purpose for living. What is your purpose in life? Has it given you the strength to carry on in hard times and joy in the good times?

A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew

(Chapter 20:1-16a)

It can be difficult to see what is fair about the situation described in this parable. A landowner goes out at dawn and hires some workers. After agreeing with them about their wages, he sends them to his vineyard. He goes out again at nine o’clock, then again at three, and finally at five o’clock to hire more workers at the same pay. “When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.’” Naturally, when the latest laborers are given the same pay as those who have worked hard all day, the early workers protest. The landowner replies, “my friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Are you envious because I am generous?” And Jesus adds, “Thus, the last shall be first, and the first shall be last.”

On one level, this parable is about the enormous generosity and mercy of God. What may seem like an injustice is really unbounded grace. But why did Jesus tell this story in this way if he wanted to simply say how generous his Father was? Some scholars say that he wanted to make sure that the first disciples would not look down on new disciples. All would be treated with the same unconditional love. That is the way God treats us today and forever: no discrimination, no hierarchy, only total love and mercy for 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. 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.

Read More

Topics: a reflection on the coming Sunday's Gospel, catholic program renew, God's mercy, Gospel According to Matthew, RENEW International, Sunday readings, workers in the vineyard

Subscribe Here!

Recent Posts

Posts by Tag

See all