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

Posted by Bill Ayres on Jul 30, 2022 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the Book of Ecclesiastes

(Chapter 1:2; 2:21-23)

This is a reading of uncertain origin. Some biblical scholars believe it was written about 300 years before the birth of Jesus, others say much earlier. “Qoheleth” is not a personal name but rather a title meaning teacher or preacher—a very gloomy and pessimistic one: “Vanity of vanities! All things are vanity. … For what profit comes to man from all the toil and anxiety of heart with which he has labored under the sun? All his days sorrow and grief are his occupation; even at night his mind is not at rest.” It’s a stark message that Jesus, with more context, repeats in the gospel passage for today.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 90:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 14, 17)

“If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” Do you know someone who has been so hurt, so disappointed, so misjudged, so betrayed, that he or she has a hardened heart? Maybe it was a child, a spouse, a friend, or a co-worker, but someone caused that person to harden his or her heart so as not to be hurt again. Could the offer of a kind word or a kind ear from you be the first step in the long healing process?

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

(Chapter 3:1-5; 9-11)

Paul wants to contrast this earthly life with the new life of glory with Christ: “When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory. Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the greed that is idolatry. Stop lying to one another, since you have taken off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed, for knowledge, in the image of its creator.”

You and I have “put on the new self,” the self of grace, God’s very Spirit living within us. We have a power in us that is a pure gift, but, of course, it is truly a gift that we did not earn but that was given to us freely by God. We need to believe in the gift, accept the gift, and share the gift with all, especially those in need. It is not that we have the answer or solution to everything but rather that we share our gift-filled presence. We may feel we have nothing to say to someone in sadness, loss, or conflict. It is our loving presence that in itself will share the gift of the Spirit, the gift of healing. It is not magical, and it is not from us but rather from the Spirit living within us.

Read More

Topics: Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, Hear the Word! by Bill Ayres, RENEW International

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

Posted by Bill Ayres on Jul 23, 2022 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the Book of Genesis

(Chapter 18:20-32)

Imagine making a deal with God, bargaining with God over the fate of thousands of people. That is the scene here with Abraham asking God to spare the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. It is like a scene from a Middle Eastern marketplace, except this one has the fate of two cities in the bargain. The authors of Genesis use this story because they know it will resonate with their audience.

“In those days, the Lord said: ‘The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great, and their sin so grave that I must go down and see whether or not their actions fully correspond to the cry against them that comes to me. I mean to find out.” Standing in the divine Presence, Abraham sees an opening and asks, “Will you sweep away the innocent with the guilty? Suppose there were fifty innocent people in the city; would you wipe out the place, rather than spare it for the sake of the fifty innocent people within it? Far be it from you to do such a thing to make the innocent die with the guilty so that the innocent and the guilty would be treated alike!’” God then says that he would spare the city for the sake of the innocent people, and the bargaining begins! Abraham keeps on lowering the bar to forty five, then forty, thirty, twenty, and finally ten. God then relents: “For the sake of those ten, I will not destroy it.”

This may seem like a strange story about an all-loving and forgiving God, but remember, this was written at a time when most people believed in pagan gods that were unloving, violent, and untrustworthy. Abraham was the first of a whole new order, a new relationship with a God who was just and always on the side of his people. We Christians come from that tradition, which was fulfilled in the long-awaited Messiah, Jesus Christ.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 138:1-2, 2-3, 6-7, 7-8)

“O Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me.” That’s the refrain, from verse 3; we also read in Psalm 138, “When I called, you answered me.” But there is no timetable. Prayer is not like putting your card in the machine, and out comes money. Even if we know that, we can be disappointed when it seems there is no answer, or at least not the one we want and when we want it. We need, then, to pray for discernment and patience.

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

(Chapter 2: 12-14)

“Brothers and sisters: You were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.” Paul wants all the converts to Christianity to know that in baptism they died with Christ and were raised with him. There was no need for them to be circumcised. “And even when you were dead in transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, he brought you to life along with him, having forgiven us all of our transgressions.”

There was a major controversy in the early Church about whether gentiles who wanted to be baptized needed to be circumcised. Paul spoke out many times against this obligation and eventually won the battle, thus opening the Church to thousands and soon millions of new converts.

For Paul, baptism was the first step in finding a new life, a new community, and the presence of the Holy Spirit who comes to all in baptism. That is so important for us to remember—that the very Spirit of God dwells in each of us, even if and when we may have our doubts and major failings.

Read More

Topics: Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, Hear the Word! by Bill Ayres, RENEW International

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

Posted by Bill Ayres on Jul 16, 2022 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the Book of Genesis

(Chapter 18:1-10a)

“The Lord appeared to Abraham by the terebinth of Mamre. … Looking up, Abraham saw three men standing nearby.” So, God appeared to Abraham, but not as one person but rather as three. It is hard to know who these men were except to say that they represented God or that one of them was God. In any case, Abraham knew that they were special, and so he asked his wife, Sarah, to make them a meal. After they ate, the men asked Abraham where Sarah was. He replied, “There in the tent.” Then, one of the men said something wonderful to a couple who had no children and a woman who was beyond child-bearing age: “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah will then have a son.”

This is how it all started. Abraham would be the father not only of children but of a whole nation who would be called the People of God. Throughout the Scriptures, God comes to his people in the context of a meal, and so he does today, at the celebration of the Eucharist.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 15:2-3, 3-4, 5)

“He who does justice will live in the presence of the Lord.” Do you consider yourself a just man or just woman—in your family, your business, your community? Great! Beyond that, where do you stand on so many of the justice issues of our day: sexism, racism, economic inequality, the criminal-justice system, immigration, tyrants around the world? It may be that you feel powerless facing these difficult issues but living in a democracy means we need to keep informed so we can act are not passive to injustice and can act when it is within our power.

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

In this letter, Paul writes about one of the deepest and most important elements in our lives, mystery not a mystery story that eventually is resolved but the Divine Mystery, the very presence of God in our lives, not in some far-off future but NOW. Paul writes that he is “to bring to completion for you the word of God, the mystery hidden from ages and from generations past. But now it has been manifested to his holy ones, to whom God chose to make known the riches of the glory of this MYSTERY among the Gentiles; it is Christ in you, the hope for glory.”

There it is! That is the great mystery, Christ in us. The spirit of Christ lives in us. Amazing, but, of course, like any great gift, we need to accept it. How and when have you experienced the presence of Christ in you and all around you? How have you responded? Please remember that you and I and all of us are living in the mystery of God’s eternal love right now.

Read More

Topics: Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, Hear the Word! by Bill Ayres, RENEW International

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

Posted by Bill Ayres on Jul 9, 2022 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the Book of Deuteronomy

(Chapter 30:10-14)

Moses said to the people: “If only you would heed the voice of the Lord, your God, and keep his commandments and statutes that are written in this book of the law, when you return to the Lord your God, with all your heart and all your soul. For this command that I enjoin on you today is not mysterious and remote for you. . . . No, it is something very near to you, already in your mouths and in your hearts; you have only to carry it out.”

The Law of Moses was superior to any other law that existed at that time. Moses was saying that the people had this Law not only in their mouths but in their hearts. There was a beautiful intimacy there that became much more complicated over the centuries as various priests of the temple, rabbis, Sadducees, and Pharisees piled on hundreds of dietary and other laws that became a terrible burden for the people and pushed them away from the powerful simplicity of the Mosaic Law, which focused on loyalty to the one God.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 69:14, 17, 30-31, 33-34, 36, 37)

“Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.” Which of God’s words give you Spirit and life? Ideally, it is love, God’s love for you and the love you share with others.

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

(Chapter 1:15-20)

This is one of the most beautiful canticles in all of Scripture. It tells us who Christ is: “Christ Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, … He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things he himself might be preeminent.”

Paul wants his readers and all who heard him to know the place of Jesus Christ in all of creation. This is not just another prophet or religious leader. No, he is the presence of God in our midst and being “the firstborn from the dead,” he brings eternal life to all. That is worth taking the chance that, even if you are martyred, you will have a new life with Jesus. That is the same promise that awaits us now.

Read More

Topics: Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, Hear the Word! by Bill Ayres, RENEW International

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

Posted by Bill Ayres on Jul 2, 2022 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the prophecy of Isaiah

(Chapter 66:10-14c)

This book has three sections, and this is the last. It refers to the Babylonian Exile from 597 B.C to 539 B.C. Jerusalem was in ruins as the exiles returned. Imagine how they felt coming back to their holy city, the center of their ancient religion, to find it destroyed.

God encourages them by promising that Jerusalem will be restored and will nurse them like a mother. “For thus says the Lord: Lo, I will spread prosperity over Jerusalem like a river, and the wealth of nations like an overflowing torrent. As nurslings, you shall be carried in her arms, and fondled in her lap; as a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you; in Jerusalem you shall find your comfort. When you see this your heart shall rejoice.”

These words gave the people hope and courage in the face of devastation and the exhaustion from having lived so long under tyranny. This is why Jerusalem is so important to the Jewish people today, after so many centuries of heartbreaking disasters and disappointments. It remains a powerful symbol of God’s promise.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 66:1-3, 4-5, 6-7, 16, 20)

“Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.” Sadly, our beautiful earth is crying out to us today in pain as we continue to pollute its land, water, and air. Let us learn more about this tragedy and how we can help.

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

(Chapter 6:14-18)

The Galatians were divided on the issue of circumcision; it was one of several issues that were causing division among them. Paul tells them, “neither does circumcision mean anything, nor does uncircumcision, but only a new creation.” There is something much more important: “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” The Galatians have argued among themselves and with Paul, so he tells them, “From now on, let no one make troubles for me; for I bear the marks of Jesus on my body.”

Paul knew what was most important, the powerful love and presence of Jesus. It is a good lesson for us as we sometimes become upset over small matters and miss the big picture.

Read More

Topics: Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, Hear the Word! by Bill Ayres, RENEW International

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time - 2022

Posted by Bill Ayres on Jun 25, 2022 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the First Book of Kings

(Chapter 19:16b, 19-21)

Elijah was one of the most important prophets of Israel, and now God was telling him that he must choose Elisha as his successor. The Lord said to Elijah, “You shall anoint Elisha, son of Shaphat of Abelmeholah as prophet to succeed you.” So, Elijah found Elisha “as he was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen. . . . Elijah went over to him and threw his cloak over him.” That was all the sign that Elisha needed to understand that he was chosen to be a prophet, so he slaughtered his twelve yoke of oxen and fed the people in his neighborhood. “Then Elisha left and followed Elijah as his attendant.”

This is one of many stories in the Bible about someone receiving a call to serve God, what we today would call a vocation. Most of us grew up thinking that the word vocation meant only being a priest or a religious sister or brother, but the truth is that each of us has a vocation, a calling from God to do some kind of service with our lives. For most of us, it means being a wife or husband or parent, but it can also mean being a devoted son or daughter, sister or brother or friend. It also may mean using our talents or positions in society to help others, especially those in need. It may be many of those roles, and we should celebrate each of them in our lives, especially those that are most challenging.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 16: 1-2, 5, 7-8, 9-10, 11)

“You are my inheritance, O Lord.” Most of us may or may not receive a large financial inheritance. No matter! In our response to the verses of this psalm, we acknowledge that God is our inheritance. What more do we need?

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

(Chapter 5:1, 13-18)

Paul tells the Galatians, “Brothers and sisters: for freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery. For you were called for freedom, brothers and sisters. But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve one another through love.”

The yoke of slavery that Paul is talking about is the old law with its hundreds of prescriptions, including circumcision. Jesus had simplified the law into two great commandments: Love God and love one another. But Paul does not want the people to emulate the mistakes of sects that promoted practices that were against Christian morality.

He concludes by telling the Galatians, “But if you are guided by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” So, when you and I are faced with difficult decisions, we need to reach for guidance to the Spirit that lives within each of us. The Holy Spirit is our partner in life and our guide. That may not be news to you, but even if it is, it is good news. The very Spirit of God lives within you!

Read More

Topics: Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, Hear the Word! by Bill Ayres, RENEW International

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

Posted by Bill Ayres on Jun 18, 2022 12:21:06 PM

A reading from the Book of Genesis

(Chapter 14:18-20)

Abraham was the father of the Jewish people. Melchizedek is a shadowy character from the Book of Genesis who is mentioned only one more time in the Hebrew Scriptures—in Psalm 110. “You are a priest forever, in the line of Melchizedek.” In this reading Melchizedek is described as a king who “brought out bread and wine and, being a priest of God most high, he blessed Abram with these words: ‘Blessed be Abram by God most high, the creator of heaven and earth; and blessed be God most high, who delivered your foes into your hand.’” So, Melchizedek is a priest and a king, and he shares bread and wine with Abram even before Abram becomes Abraham—the name God gives him as “God’s chosen one.”

It is an odd story, but it is in this liturgy because it mentions the sharing of bread and wine which is what we do during at each Mass, with one major difference. We believe that Jesus is truly present in the form of bread and wine as he was at the Last Supper.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 110:1, 2, 3, 4)

“You are a priest forever in the line of Melchizedek.” Every priest that is ordained in the Roman Catholic Church is ordained with these words.

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

(Chapter 11:23-26)

The Eucharist is the center of our weekly worship, and the center of the Eucharist is our participation in sharing the body and blood of Jesus Christ in the form of bread and wine. In this reading, Paul tells the Corinthians, “Brothers and sisters: I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and after he had given thanks, broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.”

Remember, in the beginning, after the death and resurrection of Jesus, most Christians, including Paul and the other apostles, believed that Jesus would soon return. Until then, they were to share his presence by celebrating a meal together as Jesus did with the apostles the night before he died. As it gradually became clear that Jesus would not come back as soon as the early Christians had hoped, the celebration of the Eucharist became more and more important and central to their worship, and it kept the various communities together just as it does today with us.

Read More

Topics: Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, Hear the Word! by Bill Ayres, RENEW International

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: Most Holy Trinity

Posted by Bill Ayres on Jun 11, 2022 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the Book of Proverbs

(Chapter 8:22-31)

“Thus says the wisdom of God: ‘The Lord possessed me, the beginning of his ways, the forerunner of his prodigies of long ago; from of old I was poured forth, at the first, before the earth.’” Who or what is this wisdom that seems to speak as a person? Is it God himself, or herself, because in the Hebrew Scriptures wisdom was often called Lady Wisdom? Later, in the Gospels, Jesus is called the Wisdom of God. Are you confused? Join the crowd that has been trying to determine this for two thousand years. We who are Christians or Jews refer to ourselves as monotheists, people who believe that there is only one God, and yet we Christians believe that Jesus is God and that the Holy Spirit that Jesus sent is also God. How does this all fit together? Welcome to the greatest mystery of our faith—the Holy Trinity, one God who is three Persons. This is not a mystery to be solved. It is the mystery that you and I live in every day, the mystery of God’s unconditional love.

Remember when you were taught as a child that you were created in the image and likeness of God? That God is not an isolated single being somewhere out there but rather a community of persons—the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And that God’s very Spirit lives within each of us even when we are off track, when we have seriously sinned or have disbelieved. God never abandons us.

It also means that we are not meant to be alone. We are communal beings created by our God who is a community of persons. That is why we long for the love and friendship of others, why we are willing to make great sacrifices for our families and friends and our larger communities. It is a major part of our spiritual DNA. Let us rejoice in who we truly are, not only created in the image and likeness of God but living our lives in that divine and human community.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 8”4-5, 6-7, 8-9)

“O Lord, our God, how wonderful is your name in all the earth.” Our love for one another is what makes God’s name wonderful. We are God’s messengers of that love.

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

(Chapter 5:1-5)

Paul is writing at a time of great persecution and suffering, so he wants his people to have hope. “Brothers and sisters . . . since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith to this grace in which we stand, and we boast in hope of the glory of God. Not only that but we boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character , hope, and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”

Do you pray in the Spirit of hope, realizing that the answer to our prayers is often not what we may expect or when we expect it? Some prayers seem to be answered soon, others in time, and still others in ways we had not imagined. Yet, we pray in hope in the embrace of our God—all three Persons—in our Community of Divine Love.

Read More

Topics: Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, Hear the Word! by Bill Ayres, RENEW International

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: Pentecost

Posted by Bill Ayres on Jun 4, 2022 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the Acts of the Apostles

(Chapter 2:1-11)

If you wonder why there were so many people from so many countries in Jerusalem at the time described in this reading, it is because Pentecost was first a Jewish feast and a time when pilgrims from all over the near world would come to Jerusalem to worship. Saint Luke tells us of strange happenings: “a noise like a strong wind” and “tongues of fire” similar to events at the time God established the original covenant with the Jewish people. Luke wanted his audience to believe that this was God confirming a new covenant with a new diverse people—thus, the diversity of languages, yet all understanding one another. Of course, Luke is writing all of this a few decades after the actual events, and he wants people to know that this was the beginning of something new that had its roots in a previous tradition and fulfilled that tradition. Today, we say that Pentecost is the birthday of the Church.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 104)

"Lord, send out your spirit, and renew the face of the earth." Here is a common thread between Judaism and Christianity—the Spirit of God. The difference for us Christians is that we believe that the Spirit of God is not “out there” somewhere but rather lives in each one of us. That is one of the major breakthroughs of Christianity. God is not some distant being but absolutely close to each of us even when we might not feel that presence. We are never alone.

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

(Chapter 12:3B-7, 12-13)

Saint Paul tells us that we may each have different gifts and forms of service, but what unites us all together is the one Spirit. And, “To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.”

You and I each have different gifts from the Spirit. Do you believe that? What are your spiritual gifts? How do you use them, share them? Can you appreciate the gifts of someone else even though you might disagree with that person on one or more issues? That is particularly important today when our country and even our Church are often divided in many ways.

As we read the Acts of the Apostles and the letters of Saint Paul, it becomes clear that there were a series of major differences within the early Church with so many groups coming in and out of focus, each believing that its version of the truth about Jesus was the right one. This has continued for some two thousand years and been the cause of wars and numerous unjust actions. It is only when we listen to the Spirit and act in the loving power of the Spirit that we have peace and true communion.

Read More

Topics: Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, Hear the Word! by Bill Ayres, RENEW International

The Everyday Gospel: The Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord

Posted by Charles Paolino on May 28, 2022 6:15:00 AM

Note: In some dioceses, the celebration of the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord is transferred from the traditional date, 40 days after Easter, to the Seventh Sunday of Easter.

A reading from the Acts of the Apostles

(Chapter 1:1-11)

This reading describes the episode in which the risen Jesus, who had appeared alive to his apostles on several occasions, finally disappears. The author reports that “he was lifted up and a cloud took him from their sight.’’ The apostles, as one might expect, were dumbfounded, having never witnessed or even imagined such a thing. Then, the account goes on, two men in white confronted the apostles and asked, “Why are you standing there looking at the sky?” The men went on to say that Jesus would return, which is part of our faith. That abrupt question—“Why are you standing there looking at the sky?”—didn’t imply that they should go back to their former trades and wait for Jesus to reappear. On the contrary, it implied that they should get busy spreading the word that Jesus had conquered sin and death, was alive, and was inviting all people to encounter him and carry on his work of healing, generosity, and justice. It’s the same invitation he extends to us.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 47)

This is an exuberant psalm that urges those who believe in God, “clap your hands, shout to God with cries of gladness.” God has given us existence itself, life, the earth and everything in it, and he has given us spirits that will live forever. Do we believe this? No wonder we should clap and shout!

Read More

Topics: RENEW International, The Everyday Gospel: Deacon Charles Paolino, The Ascension

Subscribe Here!

Recent Posts

Posts by Tag

See all