Branching Out Blog

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Posted by Bill Ayres on Aug 14, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the Book of Revelation

(Chapters 11: 19a; 12:1-6a,10 ab )

The Book of Revelation is the last book in the New Testament. It was probably written in the last decade of the first century A.D. No one knows for certain who wrote it, but it was seemingly not written by St. John the Evangelist who wrote the Gospel of John. It was written to help the Christians who were being persecuted by the Romans and were being challenged by various groups of Christians to split from the main Church.

The Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin celebrates the Church’s teaching that, after her earthly life, Mary was assumed, body and soul, into the presence of God. The Church reads this text on this occasion mostly because of this passage, alluding to Mary, now Queen of Heaven: “A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed in the sun, with the moon under her feet and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was with child and she wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth…. Her child was caught up to God and his throne.”

This reading ends with a powerful message: “Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: ‘Now have salvation and power come, and the Kingdom of our God and the authority of his anointed one.’”

The overall message of Revelation is simply that God is ever present with his people, especially in times of stress and danger. In this time of COVID and fires and floods and global warming, we need the presence of our Loving God deep in our hearts and in our midst.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 45)

“The queen stands at your right hand, arrayed in gold.” This psalm was written many hundreds of years before Mary’s lifetime, but the liturgy relates it to her.

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Topics: Assumption of Mary, celebration of the Eucharist, Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, RENEW International, Son of God, son of Mary

Words

Posted by Sharon Krause on Aug 9, 2021 6:00:00 AM

   Therefore, O Lord, we humbly implore you:

   by the same Spirit graciously make holy

   these gifts we have brought to you for consecration,

   that they may become the Body and Blood

   of your Son our Lord Jesus Christ,

   at whose command we celebrate these mysteries.

When I hear the priest say this prayer at Mass, I see a touch of irony in the word “command.” At the Last Supper, after Jesus changed the bread and wine into his Body and Blood, he told the apostles, Do this in memory of me.” That was the command. To me, that is like saying, “Win the top prize,” or, “Realize your best possible dream,” or, “Enjoy complete health and happiness.”

When I consider the word “command,” I think of an order—as in military service—or a strict rule I should follow. However, this “command” Jesus gave about repeating his action in remembrance of him, to me, has a different connotation. It is like being blessed and given life-saving sustenance with what outwardly appear to be simple bread and wine. How grateful we should all be for such a command.

By doing what Jesus did at the Last Supper, we are fed the very flesh and blood of our Savior. And he did not make it complicated. He turned a Jewish observance of Passover with a dozen guests into a feast that has been celebrated almost every day of the year by countless followers! How joyful we should be to have that command from Jesus!

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Topics: celebration of the Eucharist, Last Supper, body and blood of Christ, bread of life, RENEW International, Sharon Krause, Holy Communion

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted by Bill Ayres on Aug 7, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the First Book of Kings

(Chapter 19:4-8)

Here we have another story of intrigue from Israelite history, this one about an evil king, Ahab, and his pagan wife, Jezebel. Israel was constantly surrounded by powerful pagan nations, and sometimes Israelites were corrupted by worship of pagan gods. In this story, the corruption is in the most powerful place, the ruling king and queen.

In the midst of this disaster is the prophet Elijah who ordered the deaths of pagan prophets and was therefore being chased by the queen’s men. Elijah is exhausted, so ready to give up that he even asks God to take him in death. But God feeds him and quenches his thirst, and Elijah goes on for the biblical symbolic 40 days into the desert.

How many times have you been so tired, depressed, or stressed that you almost gave up? You did not know what to do or where to turn. The interesting point here is that God restored Elijah’s hope after the prophet had turned to God in despair. God is always attentive to us even when we do not expect it or even believe it. The Spirit of God is never far away from us, even when we seem lost or detached. Jesus has told us that the Spirit of God lives within us. Do you believe that? Have there been times when you felt lost and then something happened that helped you get back to who you really are. Yes? Well, that is the work of the Spirit who never leaves you and comes to you in many different ways from many different sources, including some that you may least suspect.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 34)

“Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.” God’s goodness is delectably delicious. You say you have fears? “I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.” Do you have fears that are intruding in your life or even controlling you? For example, the virus? Ask the Lord to deliver you from the worst of your fears.

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Topics: celebration of the Eucharist, Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, bread of life, RENEW International

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted by Bill Ayres on Jul 31, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the Book of Exodus

(Chapter 16:12-15)

The Israelites were in abject slavery in Egypt, but the power of God freed them. Of course, they were grateful, but soon they were stuck in a barren desert and were starving. As bad as slavery in Egypt was, they at least had food, so they complained to Moses and Aaron, “But you had to lead us into the desert to make the whole community die of famine.” God responded to this complaint by sending the people food in the desert. We have no historical evidence about how that happened or what that food consisted of, but the point of the story is that God is the source if all life, including food.

Today, most of us are fortunate enough to be able to purchase our own food. Still, we need to remember that God is the ultimate source of our food and that we have an obligation to help those who are hungry in our community and beyond. It is not as though we have to do it by ourselves. There are several national and local anti-hunger organizations that do amazing work, including WhyHunger, a national organization that the late Harry Chapin (who died 40 years ago last month) and I co-founded in 1975. This and other organizations not only feed people but help them to get out of poverty which is the root cause of hunger.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 78)

“The Lord gave them bread from heaven.” When we participate in receiving the Eucharist we are indeed partaking of the bread of heaven. It is easy to forget that, but as we receive Communion, it is something to reflect on. Let the Eucharist nourish our spirits in hard times and in times of joy.

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Topics: celebration of the Eucharist, Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time, bread from heaven, RENEW International, Feeding the hungry

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