Branching-Out

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted by Bill Ayres on Oct 9, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the book of Wisdom

(Chapter 7:7-11)

“I prayed, and prudence was given me; I pleaded, and the spirit of wisdom came to me. I preferred her to scepter and throne, and deemed riches nothing in comparison with her.” We all pray for many different reasons, but have you ever prayed for wisdom or prudence? Maybe you did when you were taking a test at school, but what about now, when you have a difficult decision to make? It is not as though you are praying into some abyss. Rather, you and I have the very Spirit of God living within us, our partner, our source of wisdom and strength. Certainly, we should ask others that we trust when we are in need of wisdom, but let’s not forget the Holy Spirit, who is never far away, and seek the divine wisdom in prayer.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 90)

“Fill us with your love, O Lord, and we will sing for joy.” God’s love comes to us in many ways and always brings us joy. Reflect for a moment on times recently when love came to you, when someone in some way touched you with love. Did it bring a smile to your face even if you were not exactly singing for joy? That is a good start.

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Topics: Charity, wisdom, Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, Book of Wisdom, RENEW International, Indwelling of the Holy Spirit

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted by Bill Ayres on Oct 2, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the book of Genesis

(Chapter 2:18-24)

“It is not good for man to be alone.” We are created in the image and likeness of God, and God is not a solitary beingthat is, in the sense that God is a community of persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are communal beings, and the most basic community is between a man and a woman in marriage: “The two of them become one flesh.” That is truly amazing, beautiful to hear, challenging to live, but the goal of all marriages.

Still, we who are married need solitude sometimes, which is very different from loneliness. It is a time to reflect, to pray, and to just be, amid our busy lives. It can be a time of renewal of the deepest and best in us. It may not be easy to find this kind of time, but we should respect our own need and our partner’s need for this opportunity for renewal.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 128)

“Fill us with your love, O Lord, and we will sing for joy.” What a good reason to sing! Do you often feel the love of God in your life?

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Topics: divorce, Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, marriage, RENEW International, suffering, suffering servant, Indwelling of the Holy Spirit

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted by Bill Ayres on Sep 25, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the book of Numbers

(Chapter 11:25-29)

“The Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to Moses. Taking some of the spirit that was on Moses, the Lord bestowed it on the seventy elders; and as the spirit came to rest on them, they prophesied.” However, there were two men who were left in camp “yet the spirit came to rest on them also.” Joshua, Moses’ aide, said, “Moses, my Lord, stop them.” But Moses answered them, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the people of the Lord were prophets! Would that the Lord might bestow his spirit on them all!”

Moses obviously had a broader and deeper vision of God’s generosity than did Joshua who seemed to be stuck in legalism. But think about God’s generosity to us. God, the Holy Spirit, lives in us every day throughout our lives, even when we are not aware of this powerful presence or even if we are not faithful to the gift of the Spirit. The Spirit remains, abides in each of us. The Spirit is our constant companion, especially in our darkest hours and days and years. Do you talk to the Spirit within you? Even more important, do you listen to the Spirit?

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 19)

“The precepts of the Lord give joy to the heart.” For the Jewish people, following the precepts, the Law of Moses, was the way to salvation. For us Christians, the way to salvation is through faith in Jesus, and his law is simple: “Love your God with all your heart and soul and your neighbor as yourself.” It is so simple, yet so challenging.

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Topics: Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, inclusion, RENEW International, Indwelling of the Holy Spirit

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted by Bill Ayres on Aug 21, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the Book of Joshua

(Chapter 24:1-2a, 15-17, 18b)

When Moses knew he was about to die, he chose Joshua as the new leader of Israel. In this reading, the people are in the Promised Land, but they are not alone. There are several other groups, and each has its own gods. Joshua tells the people that they must choose: the God who revealed himself to Moses or false gods. The people have a very vivid memory of all that the Lord did for them, leading them out of their captivity in Egypt, so they choose the Lord.

This is a critical decision in the history of Israel, but it is not the last. There will be a series of decisions that lead the people to defeat, exile, and slavery once again. Whenever they turn away from God or do not trust God’s love and mercy, disaster befalls them.

Can you think of parallels in our lives today?

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 34)

“Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.” Sometimes God’s unconditional love and mercy are so good you can almost taste them.

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Topics: Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, RENEW International, Indwelling of the Holy Spirit, treatment of women, women in the Church, status of women, care for those in poverty

ABCs

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jun 25, 2021 6:00:00 AM

Sometimes, it is helpful to get back to basics, to simplify what we have made complicated. Whether we are talking about life in general or a particular area of life, it is good to occasionally go back to the ABCs and regroup.

Since I am a word-and-letter person, I will concentrate on spiritual life. It can be overwhelming to concentrate on too many subjects at once, so let’s just use a few of the many ABCs.

“A” reminds us of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. We are all asked to do many ordinary things during our lives, but Mary was chosen to the extraordinary, to carry and give birth to the Savior of the world. The Bible passages about the angel’s visit are not long, but Mary’s fiat and the everlasting effects of her generosity and humility should propel us into a feeling of wondrous gratitude.

Another favorite “A” for me is “Abba.” St. Paul, in his letter to the Galatians (4:6-7) tells us,

And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.

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Topics: Annunciation, Bible, Catholic Faith, RENEW International, sacrament of baptism, Scriptures, Sharon Krause, Indwelling of the Holy Spirit, Abba

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted by Bill Ayres on Jun 19, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the book of Job

(Chapter 38:1, 8-11)

Job is the prototypical suffering servant, a good and faithful person who suffers untold misfortunes, including grave illness, loss of loved ones and property, and misunderstanding from his three closest friends who see him as guilty of some sin. Where is God in all this? Why is he treating this good man so badly? How can Job still believe in a God who has not only abandoned him but seems to be the cause of his unjust pain?

In this reading toward the end of the book, God seems to begin to set things straight. He is all powerful, and he will not allow any more disasters to befall Job.

This is certainly a disturbing story about a God that is very foreign to us but for the people back then (likely the sixth century B.C.) it was a cautionary tale to help them deal with horrendous adversity. No matter how awful life may be, God is still in control and will save the person suffering.

We have a very different view of an all-merciful, loving God. Terrible things do happen in our lives, but we are never alone as Job seemed to be. The key message of Jesus is simple and stated over and over again: I am with you.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 107)

“Give thanks to the Lord, his love is everlasting.” Yes! God’s love is always there, even though we may not always be aware of that powerful presence, especially in our times of suffering or crisis. Those are the times when we most need the all-loving and powerful presence of God who is not only “out there” but lives within us in the presence of the Holy Spirit.

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Topics: trust in God, Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, holy spirit at work, RENEW International, Indwelling of the Holy Spirit

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: Pentecost

Posted by Bill Ayres on May 22, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the Acts of the Apostles 

(Chapter 2:1-11)

Among the ancient Jewish people, Pentecost was a harvest festival but was also associated with the occasion when God gave the Law to Moses on Mount Sinaiin a sense, the birth of Judaism.

Pentecost is also considered the birth of the Church, because it was during that feast that the Holy Spirit came down upon the apostles as we read in this passage. Did you ever wonder how the apostles had the courage to preach this new faith when everyone else seemed to be against it, and they were in constant danger of a violent death? The Pentecost event made the difference. The apostles and everyone with them were changed and found a new courage. Something powerful happened that bound them together in a new way in the power of the Holy Spirit. That same Spirit is in each of us personally and with all of us together now.

Imagine that! The very Spirit of God lives within youright now and always. The Holy Spirit of God is your life-long partner, forever. Have you been aware of that? Do you talk to the Holy Spirit in your prayer times? In your times of distress and anxiety? In moments of great joy or accomplishment? The Spirit is always there within you.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 104)

“Lord, send out your Spirit and renew the face of the earth.” This is a continuing process of the power of the Spirit renewing our wonderful planet. Right now, we really need that presence.

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Topics: Pentecost, Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, feast of pentecost, Jesus Christ, RENEW International, Indwelling of the Holy Spirit

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: Seventh Sunday of Easter

Posted by Bill Ayres on May 15, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the Acts of the Apostles 

(Chapter 1:15-17, 20a, 20c-26)

There were originally 12 apostles seen by some as representing the 12 tribes of Israel that Jesus wanted to reunite. With the tragic suicide of Judas, there were only eleven. The apostles knew that the mission of Jesus was to proclaim the reign of God over Israel, and they wanted to have the same number of apostles moving forward. Notice that Peter once again is the leader as they choose a man named Matthias by lot.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 103)

“The Lord has set his throne in heaven.” The Jewish people thought of God as a benevolent king with a throne someplace above them. We learned in the ministry of Jesus that God lives not only in heaven but also in us and all around us.

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Topics: Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, God is love, Jesus Christ, RENEW International, Indwelling of the Holy Spirit, Seventh Sunday of Easter

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: Sixth Sunday of Easter

Posted by Bill Ayres on May 8, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the Acts of the Apostles 

(Chapter 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48)

The first great internal crisis that the early Church faced was the question of inclusion or exclusion—who could be in the Church? Almost all of the first disciples were Jews, and Peter at first believed that new members who were not Jews had to be circumcised and keep other Jewish religious laws. Paul, who preached mostly to gentiles, disagreed. He wanted the Church to be inclusive, reaching out to non-believers. Here we have a great example of how Peter, who we consider to be our first pope, changed his mind and said, “In truth, I see that God shows no partiality.” This was a major breakthrough for the young Church. It meant that it was to be a universal church, a catholic Church, not merely a sect or offshoot of Judaism—a Church where everyone is welcome.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 98)

“The Lord has revealed to the nations his power.” God first revealed his power through the people of Israel. Today, he reveals his power through all of us who believe in him and in his Son, Jesus Christ.

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Topics: Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, God is love, Jesus Christ, RENEW International, Indwelling of the Holy Spirit, Sixth Sunday of Easter

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: Fifth Sunday of Easter

Posted by Bill Ayres on May 1, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the Acts of the Apostles 

(Chapter 9:26-31)

Let us try to imagine for a moment what it was like to be a Christian in the early years after the death of Jesus. The Romans targeted Christians as strange and possibly dangerous fanatics. Most Jews saw them as a danger to their faith and to their very lives if they were seen by the Romans as being at all sympathetic to this new movement. We know that Saul was a persecutor of Christians and that he had some sort of conversion experience on his way to Damascus where he had planned to help suppress Jesus’ disciples. Of course, people were afraid of him. He was a personification of the enemy, so Barnabas must have been well respected and trusted to get the community to accept the man now known as Paul.

It is amazing how someone we do not trust, someone we may even despise, can have a change of heart and become a friend or ally. Without Paul there would be no Roman Catholic Church as we know it. Redemption is possible, even for a persecutor, through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 22)

“I will praise you Lord, in the assembly of your people.” That is exactly what we are doing in church today and every day that we gather to celebrate the Eucharist.

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Topics: Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, Fifth Sunday of Easter, Jesus Christ, RENEW International, Indwelling of the Holy Spirit

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