Branching-Out

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

Posted by Bill Ayres on Oct 23, 2020 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the Book of Exodus
(Chapter 22:20-26 )

Here we have several laws that God has given to his people to help them be just to themselves and to others.

“Thus says the Lord: You shall not molest or oppress an alien, for you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt. You shall not harm any widow or orphan. If ever you wrong them and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry…. If you lend money to one of your poor neighbors among my people, you shall not act as an extortioner toward him. If you take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, you shall return it to him before sunset; for this cloak is the only covering he has for his body. What else has he to sleep in? If he cries out to me, I will hear him; for I am compassionate.”

These were hard times, and yet the people were free from oppression by the Egyptians, so they must not act towards aliens and even one another in any way that could be considered like the way they had been treated.

In our own day, we are strong defenders of our own rights, relations, and property, as we should be. At the same time, we must protect the lives and rights of those around us, especially those less powerful and therefore vulnerable to oppression.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 18:2-3, 3-4- 47, 51)

“I love you, Lord my strength.” Have you experienced a certain kind of weakness during this COVID 19 pandemic? Don’t be surprised. Most of us feel that way at least some of the time. You and your family may be safe and healthy now, but you worry that the virus might infect your family. That is understandable, and we must be vigilant and take common sense precautions, but we cannot let worry take over our lives. That is where the strength of the Lord comes in through our prayer. Let us pray each day for those near us and also for those most in need who are infected as well as those who serve the sick or prevent folks from becoming sick.

A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Thessalonians

(Chapter 1:5c-10)

This letter is accepted by biblical scholars as the true writing of Paul, and it is considered to be, chronologically, the first book of the Christian Bible, written sometime around 50 A.D. Paul was in Thessalonica for only a short time before his persecutors drove him away, but during that time he established a small thriving community:

“Brothers and sisters: You know what sort of people we were among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, receiving the word in great affliction, with joy from the Holy Spirit, so that you became a model for all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place your faith in God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything. For they themselves openly declare about us what sort of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God and to await his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus, who delivers us from the coming wrath.”

Notice that Paul says that the community is “receiving the word in great affliction, with joy from the Holy Spirit.” Affliction and joy somehow come together, not only for these people but often for us. Has that happened for you? Amid some trouble or affliction, the joy and power of the Holy Spirit break through. The Holy Spirit is not out there in the air, but deep inside our souls. If only we can open our hearts to the Spirit within.

Read More

Topics: a reflection on the coming Sunday's Gospel, Book of the Prophet Isaiah, catholic program renew, Gospel According to Matthew, renew catholic program, RENEW International, Sunday readings, thirtieth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Love your neighbor as yourself, You shall love the Lord your God, Letter of St. Paul to the Thessalonians

'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