Branching-Out

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted by Bill Ayres on Sep 11, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the prophecy of  Isaiah

(Chapter 50:5-9a)

Here are three powerful sentences from this reading: “The Lord God opens my ear that I may hear; and I have not rebelled, have not turned back.” “The Lord is my help, therefore I am not disgraced.” “See, the Lord God is my help; who will prove me wrong?’

Have you ever had the experience of God opening your ear or even your heart? Perhaps you had closed your heart to someone or to some truth, and you would not budge. But then something happened, and you had a change of heart that helped you to see another side of the person or the issue, and you moved on.

Did you ever feel rejected or even disgraced, but then someone came to your aid or your defense? Maybe God sent that person to you, because God is your help.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 116)

“I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living.” The line before this reads, “For he has freed my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling.” This amazing insight was written hundreds of years before the coming of Jesus Christ who truly saves our souls from the ultimate death.

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Topics: Messiah, Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, RENEW International, suffering servant, Suffering Messiah

Compete

Posted by Sharon Krause on Sep 7, 2021 6:00:00 AM

From the time children are quite young, they learn about competition. They play board games, sidewalk games, school playground games, and learn that there are winners and losers. As the children grow older, the competition becomes more varied and intense. This year, the Olympics reminded us of the joy and persistence of competition on many levels.

There are many rewards when we compete: trophies, certificates, money, notoriety, excitement, records to break, attention, self-satisfaction, and titles. Many athletes try to just beat their own best performance whenever they compete. From retailers’ points of view, advertising is a means of competing for consumers’ business. 

While competition challenges us to put forth our best performances, it can also be overwhelming. Rivalry and egocentricity can cause some sinful tendencies. As in most areas of life, extremes can be sources of temptation. Balance in life is always a finish line for which to strive.

Fortunately, we don’t have to compete for God’s love. For example, we read in the book of Deuteronomy,

   For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty

   and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe, who executes justice for

   the orphan and the widow, and who lives the strangers, providing them food and

   clothing. (10:17-18)

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Topics: RENEW International, Sharon Krause, growing in faith, growing in love

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: 23nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted by Bill Ayres on Sep 4, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the prophecy of  Isaiah

(Chapter 35:4-7a)

When you are in a dire situation, you need a message of hope. Israel was almost always in some kind of danger, in this case attacks from the much more powerful Assyrians. Isaiah’s message from God is clear. “Fear not!” “Here is your God.”

Fear is one of the most destructive forces in our lives. Sometimes it is unwarranted fear that wells up from some dark place in us and takes over for a time, perhaps a long time. At other times it comes from a real concern about someone we love or something that is happening in our lives that threatens our well- being. Of course, we would like all fears to go away or at least leave us alone for a while. God’s message to us in all these situations is “Fear not” or “Be not afraid.” God says this to the Israelites over and over again through the prophets, and Jesus says it to his disciples. These words and their companion message“I am with you”are said more than any other expressions in the Bible. God wants to assure us, especially in our worst moments, that we are not alone.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 146)

“Praise the Lord, my soul.” This psalm is a litany of all the things God has done for his people, especially those most in need. It is a good psalm to pray in times of stress.

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Topics: do not be afraid, Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, RENEW International, care for those in poverty, divinity of Jesus, fear not

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted by Bill Ayres on Aug 28, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the Book of Deuteronomy

(Chapter 4:1-2, 6-8)

This is an important moment in the history of Israel. God establishes a Covenant with the people through Moses and gives them the Law which was not a purely external, juridical thing but rather was meant to be in their hearts. Moses warns them “you shall not add to what I command you nor subtract from it.” But by the time of Jesus, there were so many add-ons to the Law that Jesus challenged the leaders for placing a yoke on the shoulders of the people that God never intended. In contrast, he said “my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Over the years, our Roman Catholic Church has also added proscriptions Jesus’ teaching, but for the past 50 years the Church has moved slowly away from these “burdens,” focusing instead on the basic message of Jesus: Love God and one another and believe in the reign of God that Jesus came to make present.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 15)

“The one who does justice will live in the presence of the Lord.” Injustice has been present in every society, and it is today in our own country. There are always those who oppress and cheat others. We are called to speak up for those who are oppressed and treated unjustly.

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Topics: Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, reach out to others in mercy and love, RENEW International, care for those in poverty

The Everyday Gospel: Keeping Clean

Posted by Charles Paolino on Aug 25, 2021 6:00:00 PM

In the 1997 movie As Good As It Gets, Jack Nicholson plays Marvin Udall, author of more than sixty romance novels. Udall lives alone in an upscale New York City apartment where he writes love stories.

He also washes his hands again and again during the day, each time peeling the shrink wrap off of one bar of antiseptic soap after another, passing each one across his hand only once and then throwing it out, because it has been contaminated. And he rinses his hands in water that is as hot as he can stand.

When he ventures outside of his apartment onto the busy Manhattan streets, he uses all kinds of maneuvers to make sure that he doesn’t come in contact with the other pedestrians.

So, from that point of view, Marvin Udall is clean, but there are other aspects to his personality. He is not interested in anything or anyone that does not serve his needs. He is rude. He is insulting. He is openly abusive of people he doesn’t approve of, such as homosexuals and Jews.

If Jesus had known about Marvin Udall—clean on the outside, on the inside not so much—he might have used him as the subject of a parable to answer the critics we read about in the synoptic gospels­—asking why Jesus’ disciples or, according to Luke, Jesus himself did not follow the Jewish practice of washing their hands before eating.

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Topics: RENEW International, The Everyday Gospel: Deacon Charles Paolino, interior life, say yes to God's will

Embracing the Unexpected

Posted by Samantha Howath on Aug 23, 2021 6:00:00 AM

As move-in and the fall semester approach, I still cannot believe I’m a senior at Loyola University Maryland. It seems like yesterday that I was saying goodbye to my parents in my dorm room, holding back tears.

To say that my college experience was unpredictable would be an understatement. Although I was not living amid a pandemic in my freshman year, I had to adjust to college itself. It would be easy to dwell on what I missed out on because of the pandemic, such as studying abroad, but I know I am not alone. Reflecting on the past three years, I realize that God has been a constant anchor in my times of need.

Since I was young, I have liked to know what comes next and be prepared. In college, I learned that sometimes plans do not work out the way I want them to. Whether a class project becomes stressful, or I get rejected for an internship, I lean into my faith. Through challenges, I encourage myself to trust in God’s plan. I’ve found that attending Mass and being a volunteer lector has been beneficial. I also pause to say the “Serenity Prayer” when I feel overwhelmed, and I wear a blessing bracelet every day.

 

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Topics: trust in God, RENEW International, trust in the Lord, God's plan

'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

The Everyday Gospel: Rushing to Jesus

Posted by Charles Paolino on Aug 18, 2021 6:00:00 AM

When we visited Krakow in Poland many years ago, our guide pointed out a monument to Thaddeus Kosciuszko.

I mentioned to the guide that there is a street named after Kosciuszko near my home in Whitehouse Station. She was surprised, but I don’t know why.

Kosciuszko came to the American colonies to take part in the revolution against Great Britain; he was one of the best engineers in the Continental Army.

He went back to Europe and led military resistance against attempts by Russia and Prussia to overrun their neighbors.

It would take hours to describe what Kosciuszko achieved and what he endured over 40 years of campaigning for human freedom.

Because of his passion for democracy and religious tolerance, he is the only person in human history to be a national hero in four different countries.

There are cities named after him in Mississippi and Texas; a county in Indiana; an island in Alaska; two bridges in New York and one in Connecticut; a park in East Chicago; a museum in Philadelphia; a mountain and a national park in Australia; numerous monuments and statues and uncounted streets, and a portrait in the lobby of the Polish-American Citizens Club about a mile from my house.

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Topics: RENEW International, The Everyday Gospel: Deacon Charles Paolino, renewing our faith

'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

Reception Challenges

Posted by Sharon Krause on Aug 13, 2021 6:00:00 AM

I still remember the phone call. My husband and I had just moved into our first apartment together, and I had the landlord on the phone. That was before cable TV, so people were dependent upon roof antennae and rabbit ears for their television reception. I was complaining to the landlord that every time trucks or heavy traffic passed by our abode the television picture would go kaflooey. The landlord said I should go out and buy a big box of nails and throw the nails onto the road surface outside the apartment. Of course, I did not follow his tongue-in-cheek suggestion.

I got to thinking about what can cause interference and poor reception in our spiritual life. Just as antennae reach upward, it is important for us to seek out God’s voice, to extend ourselves beyond ourselves, to reach out for the connection. A verse in the book of Lamentations encourages us:

The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him…. (3:25) 

And the book of Deuteronomy says,

From there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find him if you search after him with all your heart and soul. (4:29)

We also have a promise in the book of Proverbs:

          I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me. (8:17)

We can conclude that we have to be willing and active seekers of the Lord. So laziness or distractions can certainly slow down or inhibit our reception of God’s communication with us.

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Topics: listening to God, RENEW International, Sharon Krause, daily prayer, seek the Lord

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