Branching Out Blog

"Hear the Word!" by Bill Ayres: Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted by Bill Ayres on Feb 3, 2024 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the Book of Job

(Chapter 7:1-4, 6-7)

Here is a cheery reading from Job, one of the most difficult characters in the Bible.

“Job spoke, saying: ‘Is not man’s life on earth a drudgery? Are not his days those of hirelings.? He is a slave who longs for the shade, a hireling who waits for his wages. So I have been assigned months of misery, and troubled nights have been allotted to me. If in bed I say, ‘When shall I arise?’ then the night drags on; I am filled with restlessness until the dawn. My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle; they come to an end without hope. Remember that my life is like the wind; I shall not see happiness again.”

Ow! What is this doing in our liturgy? It is a part of Job’s dialogue with three of his so-called friends who try to dissuade him from believing in God. But throughout his seemingly undeserved sufferings, Job does not lose his faith in God, and in the end, he is rewarded.

Have you or anyone you know ever felt like Job? Suffering? Sadness? Tossing and turning at night? No help from supposed friends or family? I hope that has not happened to you or anyone you love.

What we can learn from Job and his life of woes is that he did not give in. He did not lose his faith in God, even when his friends did not comfort him. Now, not only does God care for us, but God is not far from us, as he seemed to be far from Job. No! God lives within us. His Spirit is with us always. We have only to listen, especially when we feel down, depressed, or deserted. The Spirit is God within us.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 147:1-2, 3-4, 5-6)

“Praise the Lord who heals the brokenhearted.” Yes, sometimes our hearts do break for any number of reasons. But God is a healer. Ask Jesus, the healer of hearts, to help restore you to spiritual health.

A reading from St. Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians

(Chapter 9:16-19, 22-23)

Let us remember that the great Saint Paul that we meet in his letters was not always so great. He started off as a man who sought to murder Christians who he believed were following the wrong path. I have often wondered whether the Corinthians knew this when Paul came to preach to them. He seems to be trying to convince them that he is who he says he is, a true disciple of Jesus.

“Brothers and sisters: If I preach the gospel, this is no reason for me to boast, for an obligation has been imposed on me, and woe to me if I do not preach it…. Although I am free in regard to all, I have made myself a slave to all, to save at least some. All this I do for the sake of the gospel, so that I too may have a share in it.” Once he saw the light, Paul became filled with the calling to preach and live the gospel, the “Good News.”

You and I may not have the same passion to travel the world as Paul did to spread the “Good News,” but we can proclaim it in the way we live each day and witness to God’s love.

A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Mark

(Chapter 1:29-39)

This episode took place early in the ministry of Jesus, and right away we see that Jesus was a healer. “Jesus entered the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John. Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever. They immediately told him about her. He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up. Then the fever left her and she waited on them. When it was evening, after sunset, they brought to him all that were ill or possessed by demons. The whole town was gathered at the door. He cured many who were sick with various diseases, and he drove out many demons, not permitting them to speak because they knew him. Rising early before dawn, he left and went to a deserted place, where he prayed. Simon and those who were with him pursued him and on finding him said ‘Everyone is looking for you.’ He told them, ‘Let us go to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come.”

Jesus was a healer then, and he is now for us. Have you been healed by Jesus? No? Maybe not in the dramatic way that he healed when he walked the earth, but he does heal now in many ways. It is not as though we pray, and a prescription comes back to us to follow. It is rarely instantaneous. It is more like a lifelong relationship. Sometimes you may feel the power of Jesus working in some dramatic way, but more often it is an abiding presence. “I am with you!”

Jesus is with each of us in different ways at different times, even when he may seem far away. We need to abide with him. He always abides with us.

 ✝️

Image: Job Restored to Prosperity, Laurent de La Hyre (1648). Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, Virginia. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

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. The passage regarding the wedding garment is from The New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC 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: Bill Ayres, Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

"Hear the Word! by Bill Ayres: Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted by Bill Ayres on Feb 4, 2023 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the prophecy of Isaiah

(Chapter 58:7-10)

“Thus says the Lord: Share your bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless; clothe the naked when you see them, and do not turn your back against your own. Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your wound shall quickly be healed; your vindication shall go before you, and the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. You shall call and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say: Here I am.”

This passage was written by a prophet in the tradition of Isaiah sometime after the Jewish people returned from the Babylonian Exile in the sixth century B.C. Finally home after all those years, they needed to remember where they came from, be thankful for the end of their exile, and help those who were in great need. Taking care of the poor, the homeless, widows, and orphans has been a strong part of Jewish tradition through multiple centuries right up to today. It is also an important part of our Christian belief. Please ask in your parish how you can share your time, talent, or material resources.

 Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 112: 4-5, 6-7, 8-9)

“The just man is a light in the darkness to the upright.” Are you now or have you ever been a “light in the darkness” to another person? Has anyone been that light for you? Do you ever think about who has given or received light from you and what that has meant for you?

A reading from the Letter to the Corinthians

(Chapter 2:1-5)

Paul is writing this letter or perhaps dictating it from prison. He does not know how long he will live, but he probably figures it will not be long. He knows that there are several teachers who are his competition, including people who have become Christians in name but who want to hedge their bets and expound on the teachings of Greek philosophers and other non- believers. Paul writes that he does not have the wisdom or eloquence of such teachers but offers something more valuable and true, the mystery of God.

“When I came to you, brothers and sisters, proclaiming the mystery of God, I did not come with sublimity of words or of wisdom. For I resolved to know nothing when I was with you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear and much trembling, and my message and my proclamation were not of persuasive words of wisdom, but with the demonstration of Spirit and power, so that your faith may not rest on human wisdom but on the power of God.”

Paul is no longer in town. He is in prison and is feeling threatened by those other preachers. His power is not in words but in “the demonstration of spirit.” He believes in the power of the Holy Spirit which dwells in all his converts. It is that same Holy Spirit that lives in all who are baptized. As I have said so often in these commentaries, that is the mystery of God in us—the Holy Spirit!

I never knew that as a child and teenager going to Catholic school, but when I finally “got it,” it made all the difference in my life. I hope it will in your life as well.

A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew

(Chapter 5:13-16)

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. … Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.”

We Christians must not hide our light. That does not necessarily mean that we must constantly talk about our faith but rather that we must live it in our family lives, our neighborhoods, our places of business or school, and in our wider society, by standing up for the gift of life, social and economic justice, and peace, and by acting on behalf of those in need of our help, support, prayers, and most important, our loving presence.

 ✝️

Photograph by Rohan Makhecha on Unsplash

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: Hear the Word! by Bill Ayres, Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, care for those in poverty, Awaken to the Spirit

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

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

A reading from the prophecy of Isaiah

(Chapter 6:1-2a, 3-8)

Last week, we read about the call to Jeremiah to be a prophet and his reluctance because he thought he was too young. Today, we read about God’s call to Isaiah who said he was unworthy. Isaiah’s first response was, “Woe is me, I am doomed.” That is not exactly the kind of response we might have expected but, that is what it was. Why?

Being a prophet is an awesome responsibility but, in both cases, God assured the would-be prophets that he was with them: “Whom shall I send? Who will go with me?” Then, with that assurance, Isaiah did not hesitate: “Here I am, send me.”

Most of us are not called to be prophets in that total life-giving sense, but we are often called to say or do something that is challenging, and sometimes we may feel threatened in such situations. “If I say these words, will people reject me?” “If I do not follow the crowd, will they cut me off or put me down?” It is hard to know when to speak up and when to let something go, at least for the moment. The key is to do what Saint Paul wrote in the letter we read from last week: Speak the truth with love, meaning not with criticism or rejection. Imagine if the leaders of our society talked that way. Imagine if everyone in our families talked that way. Then we could speak the more difficult truths to one another without fear of rejections or reprisals.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 138)

“In the sight of the angels I will sing your praises, Lord.” We can even sing his praises out of sight of the angels. When was the last time you actually praised God? When can the next time be?

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Topics: Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, RENEW International, Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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

Posted by Bill Ayres on Feb 6, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the book of Deuteronomy

A reading from the Book of Job

(Chapter 7:1-4, 6-7)

Here is a nice cheery reading from Job, one of the most difficult characters in the Bible.

“Job spoke, saying: “‘Is not man’s life on earth a drudgery? Are not his days those of hirelings.? He is a slave who longs for the shade, a hireling who waits for his wages. So I have been assigned months of misery, and troubled nights have been allotted to me. If in bed I say, ‘When shall I arise?’ then the night drags on; I am filled with restlessness until the dawn. My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle; they come to an end without hope. Remember that my life is like the wind; I shall not see happiness again.’”

Ow! What is this doing in our liturgy? It is actually a part of Job’s dialogue with three of his so-called friends who try to dissuade him from believing in God. But throughout his seemingly undeserved sufferings, Job does not lose his faith in God, and in the end, he is rewarded.

Have you or anyone you know ever felt like Job? Suffering! Sadness! Tossing and turning at night! No help from supposed friends or family! I hope that has not happened to you or anyone you love.

What we can learn from Job and his life of woes is that he did not give in. He did not lose his faith in God, even when his friends did not comfort him. Now, not only does God care for us, but God is not far from us, as he seemed to be far from Job. No! God lives within us. His Spirit is with us always. We have only to listen, especially when we feel down, depressed, or deserted. The Spirit is God within us.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 147:1-2, 3-4, 5-6)

“Praise the Lord who heals the brokenhearted.” Yes, sometimes our hearts do break for any number of reasons. But God is a healer. Ask Jesus, the healer of hearts, to help you to heal.

Read More

Topics: Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, Jesus Christ, RENEW International, Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Nearness of God, The Prophet Job, Jesus heals

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