Branching-Out

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

Posted by Bill Ayres on Jan 23, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the Book of the Prophet Jonah

(Chapter 3:1-5, 10)

God asks Jonah to go to Nineveh, not a Jewish city but the capital of Assyria, an enemy of Israel, and preach a message of repentance. Repentance is a very powerful word used throughout the Bible. It does not mean changing your mind or being sorry for something. It means having a change of heart, a whole change of direction in your life. We often say we are sorry for something, but repentance involves our whole being focused on something very serious. This was the second time that Jonah had preached this message, so it must have been a difficult and dangerous mission.

Prophets were special people called by God to carry a message to people who had lost their way and were mired in sinfulness. Every age has its prophets, even though they are not necessarily called prophets. Think about people in our own time that you consider as prophets. Who would they be? How can you know that they are true prophets, not false prophets?

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9)

The response to these psalm verses is, “Teach me your ways O Lord.” This is a life-long process, learning God’s ways. We need to be open to new insights and callings from God. What we learned in the third grade or even last year needs to grow continually. How are you open to God’s ongoing message as God speaks to you every day in so many ways? Is there some new call that you believe God is sending to you? How should you respond?

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Topics: Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, catholic renew progam, God's call, Jesus Christ, RENEW International, repent and believe in the gospel, resurrection in our lives, Ordinary Time, the prophet Jonah, third sunday in ordinary time

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

Posted by Bill Ayres on Jan 16, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the First Book of Samuel

(Chapter 3:3b-10, 19)

“Samuel was sleeping in the temple of the Lord where the ark of God was. The Lord called to Samuel , who answered ‘Here I am, you called me.’ ‘I did not call you,’ Eli said. ‘Go back to sleep.’ So, he went back to sleep.”

This happened again and then again, but eventually Eli understood what was happening, that it was God calling Samuel. So Eli said to Samuel, “Go to sleep, and if you are called, reply, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’”

Samuel went to sleep again and “the Lord came and revealed his presence.” “Samuel answered, ‘Speak, for your servant is listening.’ Samuel grew up, and the Lord was with him, not permitting any word of his to be without effect.” Indeed, he was one of the most important leaders in the history of ancient Israel.

Each of us must make decisions in lifesome minor, some life-changing such as choosing a new school and a direction in life or deciding to marry and have children. How do you approach your callings and opportunities? Do you pray? And, most of all, do you listen to the Spirit who lives within you?

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 40:2, 4, 7-8, 8-9, 10)

“Here I am Lord, I come to do your will.” Sometimes, it is certain what your path should be, but often, it is not clear. Is the voice of God coming directly to you in consciousness or dreams? How or through whom does the voice of God come to you? Can you say as Samuel said, “Speak, your servant is listening”?

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Topics: apostle Peter, Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, catholic renew progam, First Book of Samuel, God's call, Jesus Christ, RENEW International, Ordinary Time, Apostle Andrew

Hear the Word! by Bill Ayres: Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted by Bill Ayres on Nov 9, 2018 6:00:33 AM

A reading from the first Book of Kings
(Chapter 17:10-16)
 
The scene here is very stark. There is a drought in the region. The prophet Elijah comes into the city and he is hungry and thirsty. He asks a poor widow who is at the point of starvation herself for water and some bread. She has no bread but only a small amount of flour and oil. Yet, she has faith, and she feeds him; there is just enough left for her and her son. Then Elijah tells her, “For the Lord, the God of Israel says, ‘The jar of flour shall not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry, until the day when the Lord sends rain upon the earth.’” The widow is a woman of faith, and God is with her.
 
Today, drought threatens the lives of countless millions in dozens of countries all over the world—especially in Africa, the Middle East, and parts of Asia. It causes mass migrations, malnutrition, and endless political strife and violence. Let us pray for today’s widows and poor families who suffer from hunger and poverty caused by droughts and floods and crop erosion, and let us use our own water resources wisely.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 146:7, 8-9, 9-10)
 
“Praise the Lord, my soul.” We often pray to God and ask for help and forgiveness. Wonderful! Perhaps, sometimes we can simply offer a prayer of praise to God. It is not that God needs it but rather that we need it in order to enrich our souls.
 
A reading from the Letter to the Hebrews
(Chapter 9:24-28)
 
The author makes an important connection between the death of Jesus and our own deaths. “But now once for all he has appeared at the end of the ages to take away sin by his sacrifice. Just as it is appointed that human beings die once, and after this the judgement, so also Christ, offered once to take away the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to take away sin but to bring salvation to those who eagerly await him.”
 
The death and resurrection of Jesus radically changes our own deaths. It was not the end for him, and it will not be the end for us but rather a new beginning, a new life. Jesus the man died. Jesus the Son of God lives forever, and so will we. Have you ever thought much about this amazing gift? Please let the power of this gift enliven you every day, especially in times when you are troubled or feel alone.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Mark
(Chapter 12:28b-34)
 
Here, Jesus is not gentle. He is challenging: “Beware of the scribes, who like to go around in long robes and accept greetings in the marketplaces, seats of honor in synagogues, and places of honor at banquets. They devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext recite lengthy prayers. They will receive a very severe condemnation.”
 
Throughout the history of Israel, widows and orphans had a special place in society, because they were economically dependent on the community. The scribes were supposed to take care of them but did not always do their duty. One of the reasons that the scribes were so against Jesus was that he called them out, and they did not like it.
 
Later in this reading, Jesus talks about people contributing to the Temple: “Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents. Calling his disciples to himself he said to them, ‘Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributions to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.’” This woman’s gift has become famous throughout history as the “widow’s mite.” Sometimes, those who are the poorest are the most generous, not only in financial contributions but in the gift of their time and compassion. No matter how little we have, we can contribute in many other ways.
 
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. He has been a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years and has two weekly Sunday-night shows on WPLJ, 95.5 FM in New York. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.

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Topics: disciples, Elijah, Letter to the Hebrews, widows and orphans, widow's mite, Word of God, Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, a reflection on the coming Sunday's Gospel, Book of Kings, Catholic, catholic RENEW program, Good News, Gospel According to Mark, Hear the Word! by Bill Ayres, Jesus Christ, Psalm 146, RENEW International, Scripture, Sunday Gospel

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