Branching Out Blog

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

Posted by Bill Ayres on Apr 24, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the Acts of the Apostles 

(Chapter 4:8-12)

Peter and the apostles are being criticized by the Scribes and Pharisees for healing a disabled man. Peter tells them that the man was healed in the name of Jesus Christ, the very person they condemned to death. This was not the kind of thing that the leaders wanted to hear. They thought they were done with Jesus forever when he was crucified, and now his followers are healing in his name. They thought they must put a stop to this, but they never could, no matter how hard they triedand they certainly tried.

Jesus was a healer and our Church, founded in his name, should always be about healing, reconciling, forgiving, not condemning and excluding. Pope Francis is working through his words and his deeds to heal so much of what is missing from our Church and to allow the power of the Spirit to heal and unify.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 118)

“The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone. “

Throughout the history of Israel, the people have rejected the God who revealed himself through Moses, yet he has remained the cornerstone of faith as Jesus is for us Christians.

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Topics: The Resurrection of the Lord, Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, Jesus Christ, RENEW International, The Good Shepherd

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

Posted by Bill Ayres on Apr 17, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the Acts of the Apostles 

(Chapter 3: 13-15,17-19)

This reading has been misinterpreted over the centuries and became a basis for the virulent anti-Semitism that caused the death and suffering of millions of our Jewish brothers and sisters. Peter said to the people, “The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus, whom you handed over and denied in Pilate’s presence when he decided to release him. You denied the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. The author of life you put to death, but God raised him from the dead; of this we are witnesses.”

There is the accusation that has led to millions of deaths. But somehow, Peter’s next words of Peter are forgotten: “Now I know brothers, that you acted out of ignorance, just as your leaders did; but God has thus brought to fulfillment what he had announced beforehand through the mouths of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer. Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away.”

All of the apostles were Jews, and most of the earliest Christians were as well. Moreover, the Church teaches that God’s covenant with Israel was fulfilled in Jesus, that covenant was in no way abrogated by his ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus. The Jewish people, the Second Vatican Council declared, “are most dear to God because of their fathers.”

Responsorial Psalm

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 4)

“Lord, let your face shine on us.” What a great and beautiful image! Imagine that, God’s face shines upon each of us. We cannot see the face of God in this life, but the face of God shines on us. I must say that I never thought of it that way, but it is never too late to learn more of God’s powerful love for us.

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Topics: The Resurrection of the Lord, Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, gift of faith, having faith, Jesus Christ, Jews, RENEW International, New Covenant, Covenant with Israel, Suffering Messiah

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

Posted by Bill Ayres on Apr 10, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the Acts of the Apostles 

(Chapter 4:32-35)

Saint Luke tells us, “The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own.” How could people be so generous? It may seem foolish to us. The answer lie in their powerful belief in the Resurrection: “With great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus and great favor was accorded them all.” The community had experienced something extraordinary. The man who was their beloved leader had been crucified, but they knew that he had conquered death. They also knew that they shared in that new life, a life in the Holy Spirit. Of course they would share what little they had with all in the community. None of that was really important. They had a new life, a life in the Spirit. They would never really die even though their bodies would die.

How would our lives be different if we really, deeply believed that we were living in the resurrected life of Jesus with his Spirit within us? Would we be as concerned so much with mere things, no matter how trendy or special or necessary they were portrayed?

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 118)

“Give thanks to the Lord for he is good; his love is everlasting.” Everlasting means everlasting. There is not much else that lasts forever. Let’s go with the sure thing, God’s love!

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Topics: The Resurrection of the Lord, Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, gift of faith, having faith, Jesus Christ, RENEW International

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

Posted by Bill Ayres on Apr 3, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the Acts of the Apostles 

(Chapter 10: 34a, 37-43)

The Acts of the Apostles is really a continuation of Saint Luke’s Gospel, completing the story of what happened after the Resurrection. Peter speaks for the community and recounts the major events in the life of Jesus: his anointing with the Holy Spirit, his ministry of healing and doing good for people, his death and resurrection, and his eating and drinking with the disciples after he conquered death. Peter wants everyone to know that he and the other apostles have been “commissioned” by Jesus to preach the Good News and that “everyone who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sins through his name.”

Imagine how difficult all this was for Peter and the other apostles. They had lost their friend and leader in whom they had placed all their hope. They had given up everything to follow him, and then they lost him to a horrible death. They could have called it quits and returned to their former lives. There were probably many who encouraged them to stop risking their lives and lead a “normal” existence, but they persisted. Why? Somehow, in ways we cannot understand, they still experienced the presence of Jesus. He was still there for them, and they continued to answer his call. Because of those relatively few courageous people, we have a community, a Church today. Let us be thankful for them.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 118)

“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.” The next line is so important: “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his mercy endures forever.” God’s mercy is always there, no matter how far we may have strayed or how much harm we may have done. Please pass that on to someone in your life that really needs to hear those words of everlasting mercy. That is something we can all “rejoice and be glad.”

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Topics: Easter, The Resurrection of the Lord, Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, Jesus Christ, RENEW International

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