Branching Out Blog

"Hear the Word! by Bill Ayres: First Sunday of Advent

Posted by Bill Ayres on Nov 26, 2022 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the prophecy of Isaiah

(Chapter 2:1-5)

“In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest mountain and raised above the hills…. For from Zion shall go forth instruction and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and impose terms on many peoples.”

The two important points here are that God will “judge between the nations” and that God’s word comes “from Jerusalem.” What is God’s word to the nations? “They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again.” If they do these things, they will “walk in the light of the Lord.”

If only nations obeyed this command, millions of innocent people would not have been killed and many others would not be dying today. Jesus himself preached and lived non-violence as should we, as individuals, as societies, as nations.

 Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 122)

“Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.” Do you and I rejoice when we come for Mass each week, or do we take it for granted and as an obligation rather than a gift worthy of rejoicing?

A reading from St. Paul's Letter to the Romans

(Chapter 13:11-14)

Paul tells the Romans, “For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed; the night is advanced, the day is at hand. Let us then throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light, let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in promiscuity and lust, not in rivalry and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Paul knows that he will be killed and so he wants to let the Roman Christians know how important it is for them to stay the course and not fall into bad habits that were rampant in the city. Of course, the same holds true for we who live in an age that is all too prone to excuse these same excesses.

A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew

(Chapter 24:37-44)

After Jesus died many believed that he would come again on the last day. But when? Matthew tells people, “Stay awake! For you do not know on what day your Lord will come. Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into. So too, you must also be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”

This belief that Jesus would come back, perhaps in their lifetime, and that the world would then end was very popular among Christians in the decades after the death of Jesus. It was intensified by the constant threat of prison and execution at the hands of the Romans. Even today, there are sects of Christianity that believe that the world will end soon, and Jesus will return. They go up to a mountain or some other remote place and wait until it becomes apparent that the time is not now.

We have no idea when the world as we know it will end, but we do know that our lives here on earth will end at our deaths. We know not the day or the hour. Rather than worrying about that, we should make the most of each day—serving God and each other—as we look forward to a new life forever in the divine presence.

✝️

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: First Sunday of Advent, second coming of Christ

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: First Sunday of Advent

Posted by Bill Ayres on Nov 27, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the prophecy of Jeremiah

(Chapter 33:14-16)

This is a prophecy by Jeremiah for the Jewish people who had suffered from the long exile in Babylon. “The days are coming says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and Judah. In those days, in that time, I will raise up for David a just shoot; he shall do what is right and just in the land. In those days Judah shall be safe and Jerusalem shall be secure.”

The early Christians and we today believe that Jesus was the person that Jeremiah foretold. This person was the Messiah, but much more than that, he was the Son of God, finally coming after all those generations to save his people. At the time, many believed but many did not, and that is still true today. Many who were brought up as followers of Jesus have rejected him. Just as God did not forsake the people who rejected him 2,000 years ago, we should not reject those of our families and friends who have drifted away now. Our God is a God of mercy and forgiveness.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 25)

“To you O Lord, I lift my soul.” Do you ever “Lift your soul” to God? It does not have to be a formal prayer. It can simply be an awareness of God’s loving presence.

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Topics: Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, Advent, First Sunday of Advent, RENEW International, second coming of Christ

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: Second Sunday of Advent

Posted by Bill Ayres on Dec 4, 2020 8:32:11 AM

A reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah 
(Chapter 40:1-5, 9-11)

Historical records show that the Babylonian Exile, which was a defining event in the relationship between God and Israel, ended around 538 B.C. This reading comes from just before that time and is truly prophetic. It looks to a time when God will make things right for Israel. The prophet sees the exile as a punishment for Israel’s sins, and now “her service is at an end, her guilt is expiated.” God is giving comfort to his people.

God offers comfort to us today even—no, especially—amid the COVID pandemic. Now is the time when we need to pray and remember the presence of the Holy Spirit within us. When we are dealing with addictions, family squabbles, betrayals and conflicts at work, or loss of work, God is there, helping us to deal with our responsibilities in these difficult times and forgiving others for their short tempers and fears.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 85:9-10, 11-12, 13-14)

“Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.”

How do you experience the kindness of God, especially in such troubled times? Perhaps it is reaching out to your neighbors, friends, and relatives that you miss but can’t be with physically, especially those who are struggling to make ends meet or are trapped in depression or constant anxiety. 

A reading from the Letter of Saint Peter

(Chapter 3:8-14)

The author and date of this letter are matters of debate among scholars. The earliest Christians, including Peter and Paul, believed that the Second Coming of Christ and the end of the world would occur in their lifetimes. This letter, perhaps written around 85 AD, reminds the faithful that “with the Lord one day is like a thousand years” and warns them that “all should come to repentance.” In other words, don’t worry about when the Lord will come again, be prepared all the time.

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Topics: Babylonian Exile, a reflection on the coming Sunday's Gospel, catholic program renew, First Sunday of Advent, Gospel According to Mark, Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ, John the Baptist, prepare the way of the Lord, Psalm 85, renew catholic program, RENEW International, Second Letter of St. Peter

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: First Sunday of Advent

Posted by Bill Ayres on Nov 27, 2020 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah 
(Chapter 63:16b-17, 19b; 64:2-7)

It has finally happened. The Jewish people have been freed from the long Babylonian Exile and can go home to Israel. But the temple in Jerusalem has been destroyed, and their land has been devastated. Worse! The people themselves are in terrible shape.

“Would that you might meet us doing right, that we were mindful of you in our ways! Behold, you are angry and we are sinful; all of us have become as unclean people, all our good deeds are like polluted rags; we have all withered like leaves, and our guilt carries us away like the wind. There is none who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to cling to you; you have hidden your face from us and delivered us up to our guilt.”

Yet, all is not lost. “You, Lord, are our father, our redeemer you are named forever…. Return for the sake of your servants the tribes of your heritage.” It was the faith of so many of the Israelites that helped them through their painful captivity.

I suppose that many of us feel as though we have been in a kind of captivity, exiles from our former lives for most of this year. Now there is hope that if we follow common sense rules and, as various vaccines appear safe and available, we too will emerge from our exile safe and healthy. Let us not fall victim to the sadness that is all around us, sometimes very close to us, and be strengthened by those near to us and our ever-present community.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 80: 2-3, 15-16, 18-19)

“Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.” Where do you see God’s face? In your loved ones! In those that you have not been able to see but remain in your heart and perhaps on the telephone? In the 54 million hungry people right here in America, 18 million of whom are children? In the hundreds of millions of poor and hungry people in our world, including the many millions of those struggling just to survive? We can’t help them all, but we can reach out to some and keep all in our hearts and prayers.

A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians

(Chapter 1:3-9)

“Brothers and sisters: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ…. He will keep you firm to the end, irreproachable on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, and by him you were called to fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Do you believe that Jesus “will keep you firm to the end”? We do live in shaky times. Have you felt shaken by what is going on in your life or in our world? Have you tried to find time each day to pray to Jesus for that firmness that seems to be hard to come by these days? What have you been especially thankful for this season?

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Topics: Babylonian Exile, Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians, a reflection on the coming Sunday's Gospel, catholic program renew, First Sunday of Advent, Gospel According to Mark, Jesus Christ, renew catholic program, RENEW International, Psalm 80, Be watchful

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