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A reading from the Book of Proverbs
(Chapter 9:1-6)
 
The Book of Proverbs is a collection of seven sets of aphorisms that were collected and edited in their present form seven hundred years before the birth of Jesus and later. The writer of today’s passage wants his fellow Jews to pursue true wisdom, and he envisions Wisdom inviting people to a meal: “Come, eat of my food, and drink of the wine I have mixed! Forsake foolishness that you may live; advance in the way of understanding” (verses 5-6). The notion of coming to a meal to receive fine food and, at the same time, wisdom is important from a Christian perspective because of its relationship to the Eucharist.
 
When we come to the Eucharist, we are filled with the presence of Jesus and we are offered wisdom in many ways. Let us try to be open to the wisdom that is there for us at each Eucharistic celebration through the reading of the Scriptures, the homily, the music, and our own prayerful reflections. Amazing wisdom can come to us if we are truly listening with our heart as well as our minds.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7)
 
“Taste and see the goodness of the Lord” (verse 9a). Sometimes we say, “It is so good I can almost taste it.” Have you ever felt that way about the goodness of the Lord?
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Ephesians
(Chapter 5:15-20)
 
Saint Paul is talking here about that ever-elusive reality of wisdom. “Brothers and sisters: Watch carefully how you live, not as foolish persons but as wise… . Therefore, do not continue in ignorance, but try to understand what is the will of the Lord… but be filled with the Spirit” (verses 15, 17, 18b).
 
How can we find true wisdom? We are not talking about mere knowledge, as important as that may be. We are on another level here. Wisdom is a GIFT of the Spirit—a gift, and we only need ask for it, because it is always there where the Spirit lives deep within us. Yes, that has always been true, but too often we forget it as we struggle with so many challenges, disappointments, hard choices, and darkness of one kind or another. It calls for another kind of prayer, not necessarily saying prayers but in an open kind of silence. Have you had those moments when somehow you “got it?” It can happen more often if we let the Spirit in.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to John
(Chapter 6:51-58)
 
The notion of God feeding his people goes way back to the Lord feeding his people in the desert after their escape from Egypt. Throughout the history of the Jewish people, they depended on God for good harvests in the harsh drought-like conditions of much of Israel much of the time. So, it is understandable for Jesus to feed his people as well, and he did. But this is different: “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat of the flesh of the Son of Man and drink of his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink” (verses 53-55).
 
No wonder the Romans thought that Christians were crazed murderers and persecuted them. They took the words of Jesus quite literally, as did many Jews. That is obviously not what Jesus meant. Today, you and I believe that Jesus is really present in the bread and wine, that he nourishes us in a spiritual but powerful way. It is an ancient religious tradition going back to God sending food to his people in the wilderness, but in the Eucharist there is an intimacy with the Divine that is unknown in any other faith tradition. It is built on the Jewish experience of God feeding the people but in Jesus God actually became one of us, fed his people while he was on earth, and now continues to feed us spiritually.
 
How do you need to be nourished today? Ask Jesus to bring you that gift of nourishment as you receive communion this very day.
 
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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barelyA reading from the First Book of Kings
(Chapter 19:4-8)
 
David was a very good king of Israel—the best. Some hundred years later, in the ninth century before the birth of Jesus, Ahab was one of the worst kings of Israel. He had a very bad wife, Jezebel, whose name and reputation have survived for thousands of years. She worshiped the false god Baal and had her own band of false prophets protecting her.
 
Elijah was a true prophet of Israel, called by God to proclaim the truth and persecuted by the king and queen. In this reading, we find Elijah exhausted and in despair. “He prayed for death, saying: This is enough, O Lord! Take my life, for I am no better than my fathers” (verse 4b). Then he fell asleep and was awakened by an angel who provided him with food and water which Elijah consumed before falling asleep again. But the angel woke him up and ordered him, “Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you! He got up, ate, and drank; then strengthened by that food he walked forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God, Horeb” (verses 7b-8).
 
This story is a testament to God providing food and hope for his people in a time of great need. God also feeds us in many ways, especially in the Eucharist which gives us nourishment for our souls and strength to go on in the face of challenges and suffering.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 34:2-3,4-5,6-7,8-9)
 
“Taste and see the goodness of the Lord” (verse 9a). How has God’s goodness nourished you in your times of need?
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Ephesians
(Chapter 4:30-5:2)
 
“Brothers and sisters: Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were sealed for the day of redemption. All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice. And be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ. So be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love as Christ loved us” (verses 30-32).
 
Ephesus was the third largest city in early Christianity after Jerusalem and Antioch, and it was filled with a variety of magicians and other strange characters who often caused bad behavior and superstition. That is why Paul is insistent that Christians behave differently, based on the all-powerful love “as Christ loved us.”
 
Two thousand years later, the message is the same—to allow the love of Christ to overcome divisions and controversies in our families, our workplaces, our communities, our parishes, and our country. It all starts with our one-on-one relationships, whatever they may be. Of course, no one of us is perfect or always loving in the way we ought to be, and that is why the mercy and forgiveness of God is so important. Sometimes, when we have hurt someone, we may feel so guilty or stubborn or embarrassed that we do not try to heal the relationship, and then things get worse. But if we reach down deep in our hearts, we will find the love of the Spirit to guide us.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to John
(Chapter 6:41-51)
 
Jesus’ townspeople knew him and “his father and his mother,” so how can he say, “I am the bread that came down from heaven”? (verse 42). Jesus tells his critics to “stop murmuring” and then tells them, “I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world” (verses 48-51).
 
Bread was a major item in ancient Israel mainly because so many people were hungry for so much of the time. If the harvest was bad, they went hungry. If the Romans took too much of their crops, the people of Israel were hungry. If a farmer died or became disabled, his family often became hungry. Bread was life, and now Jesus says that he is the real bread, the eternal bread, the bread that came from God himself. All this was hard for people to believe, but some did and followed Jesus, because they knew what bread was and how it was also a symbol of life itself. They wanted to be fed in spirit as well as in body.
 
Today, as we come to the Eucharist, we too ask to be filled with the “Bread of Life” and we will not be denied. Jesus offers himself to us once again under the symbols of bread and wine, and so we are gifted by Jesus himself one more time.
 
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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eucharistA reading from the Book of Exodus
(Chapter 16: 2-4,12-15)
 
How could all this happen—bread in the morning and quail in the evening? Of course, we have no idea, except that through thousands of years this story has been told. Scientists and scripture scholars have made numerous suggestions, but the fact remains that this story has strengthened the faith of millions of people throughout the centuries. The point of the story is simple. God takes care of his people, is faithful to his people, even when they are doubtful, complaining, and angry. God’s people have often been unfaithful and have done horrible deeds. We have lost our way.
 
But God has never forsaken us, and we always come back to him through the power of his mercy and forgiveness. Has that been true in your life as well or in the lives of your loved ones? We do not live in perfection, we live in faith and forgiveness, and we continue to be nourished by the bread of life in the Eucharist.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 78:3-4,23-24,25,54)
 
“The Lord gave them bread from heaven” (verse 24b). Today, we too will receive the bread from heaven. Let us rejoice as we receive the Body of Christ.
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Ephesians
(Chapter 4:17,20-24)
 
Paul writes to the Ephesians, most of whom were Gentile converts, “You must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds” (verse 17). He is addressing new converts who all too easily might slip back into their old ways. After all, life as a Christian is new to them, a different way of life, a turning away from the old ways. It is also exciting to them, as though their minds and hearts have been suddenly opened to a whole new horizon. “Be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth” (verses 23-24).
 
“Put on the new self.” Have you ever wanted to do that—get rid of some of your worst fears and self-doubts; find that place “deep within” that you have glimpsed from time to time, perhaps when you were younger, or maybe just yesterday? It is there within you, within each of us. It is a gift, a gift of the Spirit. You and I need only to ask, to open our minds and hearts, and to never give up, to continue our journey into the ever-embracing power of the love of Jesus through his Spirit within us. Our “new self” is already there, struggling to emerge in the midst of our weakness as we continue to call it forth in faith and an enduring hope.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to John
(Chapter 6:24-35)
 
The story of God giving his people manna in the desert was still a powerful reminder at the time of Jesus of God’s care for his people. So, when Jesus fed the multitude, they were amazed and impressed, and then followed Jesus. He challenged them: “Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled. Do not work for food that perishes but for food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him the Father, God, has set his seal” (verses 26-27).
 
Now, Jesus has their attention and an amazing back-and-forth begins. The people ask him, “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?” Jesus says, “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one that he sent.” They reply, “What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you? What can you do?” Jesus reminds them that it was “God my Father” not Moses who fed them in the dessert. “My Father gives you the true bread from heaven.” Now, they are excited and they ask Jesus, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Then Jesus gives them the real answer: “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst” (cf. verses 28-35).
 
You and I gather at church on Sundays to be together, to hear the word of God, and especially to receive this Bread of Life, the very person of Jesus himself under the visible appearances of bread and wine. We are nourished, renewed, filled once again with the very presence of Jesus. It is so easy to take this all for granted. We have done it hundreds and hundreds of times, and yet it is always new, always regenerating for our deepest selves, beyond all those fears and doubts, into the joy of his loving presence.
 
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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A reading from the Second Book of Kings
(Chapter 4:42-44)
 
This reading, in which a hundred people are fed with 20 barley loaves, obviously is here because of its connection to today’s gospel passage which describes Jesus feeding thousands of people. In the Old Testament episode, a man brings the prophet Elisha twenty barley loaves in the midst of a famine. The man can’t believe it when Elisha tells him to give the bread to the people. Elisha insists, “Give it to the people to eat. For thus says the Lord. ‘They shall eat and there shall be some left over.’ ” Remember how God fed the Israelites in the dessert with manna from heaven and the many times God fed people who were in need. The message is clear: God takes care of his people.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 145:10-11,15-16-17-18)
 
“The hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all our needs.” Do you believe that? There are times in our lives when we may doubt that God is present, taking care of all our needs. But think about times when times when you thought yourself in dire need but, somehow, made it through. Do you think God was present then? It may just be that God sees more than we can possibly see and knows what we really need in the long run.
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Ephesians
(Chapter 4:1-6)
 
Paul and the other apostles had a major problem integrating gentile converts into a religious tradition that included Jews who had been told for centuries that they were God’s chosen people. That was their identity, their heritage, their gift from God. Imagine how difficult it was for them to abandon many of their practices and find common ground with folks who had been pagans. Paul, “a prisoner for the Lord,” knows he does not have long to live, and he wants to “urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and patience, bearing with one another through love striving to preserve the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace: one body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”
 
That is it. That is his message and the message of Jesus and the message for us today. As different as we may be from one another, as many different views as we may have about all sorts of issues and events, we must “preserve the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” We have significant divisions within our Church throughout the world, throughout our country, and right here in our own community but they are not as strong as what binds us together, “one God and Father of all.” Somehow, our Father is there for us—all of us—in the most joyful of times and the most challenging of times.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to John
(Chapter 6:1-15)
 
Jesus was aware of images, in the history of his people, of God feeding the people in time of need. We saw an example in the first reading today. In the incident described in this gospel passage, Jesus continues that pattern. He shows divine power disguised in the simple act of a boy being willing to share his meal. Notice that he has the people recline. That means that this is no quick meal but rather a banquet at which people take their time, celebrate in the Jewish tradition, and gather up what is left over, a Jewish banquet tradition. There are six variations of this story in the gospels, so obviously the early Church thought this was a big deal—not just feeding people but inviting them to a feast. It was a sign that the Kingdom of God had actually come in the person of Jesus.
 
You and I come to the feast of the Eucharist each week, but because we do it so often it can seem rote, a variation of something we have heard and seen before. But the Eucharist is really always new, because Jesus is inviting us to a feast, a celebration of the Kingdom of God in our midst, the presence of our Brother and Savior right here in our community. That is why we call it the celebration of the Eucharist not just “going to Mass.”
 
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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shepherdA reading from the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah
(Chapter 23:1-6)
 
Jeremiah was one of the most courageous and tortured of all the prophets. Today’s reading from his prophecy was composed in the context of the battle for power between the Babylonians and the Egyptians with Judea, and specifically Jerusalem, in the middle. The Jewish king Zedekiah was torn between the two enemies and was weak. Jeremiah has a message from God for the king and the people. “Woe to the shepherds who mislead and scatter the flock of my pasture. … You have scattered my sheep and driven them away. … I myself will gather the remnant of my flock from all the lands to which I have driven them and bring them back to their meadow; … Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will raise up a righteous shoot to David; as king he shall reign and govern wisely, he shall do what is right and just in the land. In his days Judah will be saved.”
 
Over the centuries Israel had many kings—some good, such as David, the best, and many others weak and dishonest, such as Zedekiah, who was responsible for the horrible Babylonian Exile and the destruction of Jerusalem. Jeremiah has God promising to send a new king in the quality of the great king David. Of course, the Gospels tell us that Jesus came from the line of David, so his disciples saw him as that righteous shepherd.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 23:1-3,3-4,5,6)
 
“The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.” This is the most quoted and prayed line in all the Psalms, even though shepherds are not a part of our daily lives or thinking. That’s because, for us, Jesus is the shepherd. He is always with us and takes care of us. Do you believe that? How have you experienced the care of Jesus?
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Ephesians
(Chapter 2:13-18)
 
This letter has some of the deepest and most meaningful messages for our faith. Here, Paul wants to bridge the gap between Jews and Gentiles.
 

“In Christ Jesus you who once were far off have become near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, he who made both one and broke down the dividing wall of enmity, through his flesh, abolishing the law with its commandments and legal claims, that he might create one new person in place of the two, thus establishing peace. … He came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near, for through him we both have access in one spirit to the Father.”

 
Paul was a devout Jew who loved his people and saw that their salvation was right there in Jesus. He also became friends with many Gentiles, and he saw that they, too, are called to follow Jesus: “Through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.” Paul spent his life trying to bring these two peoples together. Sometimes he succeeded, but more often he did not. It was a source of great suffering for him, but it never deterred him from his mission.
 
Sometimes, we, too, succeed in what is most important to us, and sometimes we seem to fail. But there is always another day, another chance, if we remember that we, too, are called to bring peace and love to all people, starting with those closest to us.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Mark
(Chapter 6:30-34)
 
Here we have the theme of Jesus as the Good Shepherd following from the two previous readings. The apostles have been out proclaiming the good news, teaching, and doing good deeds for the people. Jesus tells them, “’Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest for a while.’ …People were coming and going in great numbers, and they had no opportunity even to eat. So they went off in the boat by themselves to a deserted place.” Jesus is being the Good Shepherd to his apostles, telling them to take a break, have a meal, share stories from the road. But it doesn’t work. “People saw them leaving and many came to know about it. They hastened there on foot from all the towns and arrived at the place before them.”
 
Now, we see Jesus as the Good Shepherd for all the people. “When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd, and he began to teach them many things.” This notion of Jesus being the Good Shepherd is somewhat foreign to us who have never met a shepherd, but it was a powerful image for people of his time. It meant safety, caring, nurturing, and fidelity to the task of protecting. Those are things we can relate to in our lives. Jesus is our Protector.

 
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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A reading from the Book of the Prophet Amos
(Chapter 7:12-15)
 
“Amaziah, priest of Bethel, said to Amos, ‘Off with you, visionary, flee to the land of Judah! There earn your bread by prophesying, but never again prophesy in Bethel.” Amaziah is protecting his own turf and accusing Amos of being a prophet for money. Amos assures him that he is not a prophet but instead is “a shepherd and a dresser of sycamores.” But then, “The Lord took me from following the flock, and said to me, ‘Go prophesy to my people Israel.’ ”
 
People like Amos do not wake up one day and say, “I think I want to be a prophet.” No! A prophet has to be called by God, and Amos was indeed called by God. Of course, Amaziah could not see any of that, and so he refused to honor God’s call to Amos.
 
Amos preached against the corruption of the kingdom and the neglect of the poor, so like most prophets he was not popular in his time.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 85:9-10,11-12,13-14)
 
“Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.” God’s kindness is always there for us even when God seems so far away and silent. Often, we can meet God in that very silence if we can shut off all the everyday noise and listen.
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Ephesians
(Chapter 1:3-14)
 
Here we have a powerful statement about our redemption: “In him we have redemption by his blood, the forgiveness of transgressions, in accord with the riches of his grace that he lavished upon us.” Then later we hear. “In him you also, who have heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, which is the first installment of our inheritance toward redemption.”
 
Many scripture scholars believe that Paul wrote this letter while in prison in Rome where he would be executed. The letter was passed around the various Christian communities for the next twenty years as a summary of just what salvation in and from Jesus Christ really meant. As we hear it today, we know that it is about our redemption that has already started with the presence of the Holy Spirit within our very being NOW, in this life which Paul calls “the first installment of our inheritance toward redemption.” Yes, our redemption has already started.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Mark
(Chapter 6:7-13)
 
Jesus sends the apostles out two by two but with only the bare bones for travel: a staff and sandals but only one tunic and “no food, no sack and no money in their belts.” “Wherever you enter a house,” he tells them, “stay there until you leave. Whatever place does not welcome you or listen to you, leave there and shake the dust off your feet in testimony against them.” These are not easy journeys. We know that all the apostles except John were murdered, martyred for the cause; but while they were alive they continued the work of their leader. “The Twelve drove out many demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.” Many people accepted the “Good News” of salvation, but many more did not. The Romans thought Christians were another dangerous cult, and many Jews also believed Christians were a danger to the established order. Yet, the disciples moved on, and their communities multiplied from villages, to towns, to cities, including Rome. Some people accepted Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah, and many more accepted Jesus as God himself, sent by the Father to save all people. Because of their courage and determination, we share their faith. It is an amazing gift that the apostles have given to us, their legacy in faith. Let us remember to be thankful to them who gave their lives for us and for centuries of believers.
 
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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rejectionA reading from the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel
(Chapter 2:2-5)
 
The people of Israel revered the prophets but did not always treat them well. That was still true in the time of Jesus as well and it is true today. Prophets are often not honored by their own people in their own times. It is hard to be a prophet at any time. It is a dangerous calling.
 
Here the great prophet Ezekiel has a visit from God: “As the Lord spoke to me, the spirit entered into me and set me on my feet. … Hard of face and obstinate of heart are they to whom I am sending you. But you shall say to them: thus says the Lord God! And whether they heed or resist—for they are a rebellious house—they shall know that a prophet has been among them.”
 
Who are the prophets in our midst today? They are not necessarily those on the front pages or the stars of social media, but they are here, sent by God to bring peace and justice and love for all. Those especially who speak on behalf of the poor and troubled are challenging us with a call from the Spirit.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 123:1-2a,2b,3-4)
“Our eyes are fixed on the Lord, pleading for his mercy” (verse 2cd). God’s mercy is the most powerful force in the universe. We need only ask for it and accept it.
 
A reading from the second Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians
(Chapter 12:7-10)
 
Paul, this great traveling apostle of Jesus, had all sorts of physical as well as spiritual and emotional problems. He begs the Lord that this “thorn in the flesh” be taken away from him. But God says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” Paul responds, “I will boast most gladly of my weaknesses in order that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” Then he says, “for when I am weak, then I am strong.”
 
It seems at first like a contradiction, strength coming in the midst of weakness. But God’s strength can and often does come in the times of our greatest feelings of weakness, when we do not know the right thing to do or when we have seemed to fail repeatedly. Have you ever experienced a power that came to you in a difficult or challenging moment? Suddenly, you knew the right way to go, the best decision to make, the healing that you needed to share, and you did it or said it. You did not know that you had it in you, but the Spirit was there.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Mark
(Chapter 6:1-6)
 
Jesus has been traveling all over Israel, but here he comes to “his native place” or, as we might say, his hometown. At first, people seem impressed. “When the sabbath came he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished. What kind of wisdom has been given him? What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands!” Then the tone changes. The people see him as a home boy who has gotten too big for his own good: “Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with him? And they took offense at him.”
 
Jesus responds, “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house.” Imagine that! This great preacher and healer is challenged, not because what he is saying is wrong but because of his origin and family. And, because of this harsh rejection, “he was not able to perform any mighty deeds there.” Amazing! The very presence of God in their midst and their rejection takes away his power to do “mighty deeds.” Do you think that even today people are blocking the power of God to heal, to love, to bring justice and peace to all because of our inability to believe, to accept the gifts that Jesus has for us? It happened then in the very presence of the Son of God, and it can happen now when we shun the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.
 
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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Jesus-healerA reading from the Book of Wisdom
(Chapters 1:13-15; 2:23-24)
 
This is one of the latest books of the Hebrew Bible, written about two hundred years before the birth of Jesus. It is filled with wisdom about life and death and, most important, about God.
 
“God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living. For he fashioned all things that they may have being; and the creatures of the world are wholesome …. (verses 13-14)”.
 
“For God formed man to be imperishable; the image of his own nature he made him” (verse 23).
 
This is one of the clearest statements in the Old Testament about life after death. The Jews had been trying to deal with the question of the afterlife for centuries, and in the time of Jesus the Pharisees believed but the Sadducees did not. It is all part of God’s continuing revelation that comes to fulfillment in the death and resurrection of Jesus which is our own legacy today—life forever with Jesus.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 30:2, 4, 5-6, 11, 12, 13)
“I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me” (verse 2a).
 
How many times has the Lord rescued you? Probably it has been too many times to count and many times that you are not even aware of.
 
A reading from the second Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians
(Chapter 8:7,9,13-15)
 
Corinth was one of the larger and more prosperous cities that Paul visited, starting a Christian community. We tend to think that everyone was poor in those days, and by our standards they certainly were. But there were economic classes even then: some had more than others, and the community could work only if people shared.
 
First Paul writes about the generosity of Jesus: “For you know the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich. … not that others should have relief while you are burdened, but that as a matter of equality your abundance at the present time should supply their needs, so that their abundance may also supply your needs, that there may be equality” (verses 9,13b).
 
Imagine if we really believed that and lived it right here in our own country. Poverty would decrease, and equality would grow. Then we would not have millions of hungry children and seniors and single moms and veterans and hard-working people who do not make a living wage in our midst. Paul asked the Corinthians “that there may be equality.” We have the same calling today.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Mark
(Chapter 5:21-43)
 
Jesus was a remarkable healer. Here, he heals the daughter of Jairus, an official of the local synagogue, and “a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years.” This woman had been treated by many doctors and had spent all that she had, but her condition grew worse. Having heard about Jesus, she made her way through the crowd following him and touched his cloak, saying to herself, “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured” (verse 28). And she was cured, immediately. “She fell down before Jesus and told him the whole truth. He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has saved you’ ” (verse 34).
 
Then word came that the young girl Jairus had asked Jesus to heal had died. Jesus responds “Do not be afraid; just have faith” and went to Jairus’s home where he told the incredulous bystanders that the girl was not dead but asleep. “He took along the child’s father and mother and those with him and entered the room where the child was. He took the child by the hand and said to her, ‘Talitha koum,’ which means, ‘Little girl, I say to you arise!’ The girl, a child of twelve, arose immediately and walked around. At that they were utterly astounded” (verses 40b-42).
 
This was a “faith healing.” Jesus spoke these life-giving words: “Do not be afraid; just have faith.” DO NOT BE AFRAID! Those are powerful words. Too often, people live in fear, fear of this or that, fear of almost everything. Unnecessary fear can destroy our joy, destroy our lives. Let us remember the words of Jesus, “DO NOT BE AFRAID.” And let us help the people we know and love to live without the needless fears that may be crippling their lives.
 
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.
 
The lovely image is by Ed De Guzman, from http://www.touchtalent.com/painting/art/Jesus-the-Healer-51843

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A reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah
(Chapter 49:1-6)
 
This Book of the Prophet Isaiah is not one book written by one person. It is rather a collection of writings composed over many centuries by many people and placed together under the name of Isaiah—one of the greatest prophets of Israel. One of the most important themes throughout is that of the Suffering Servant that we encounter here. “The Lord called me from birth, from my mother’s womb he gave me my name. He made me a sharp-edged sword and concealed me in the shadow of his arm.” “You are my servant, he said to me, Israel, through whom I show my glory. Though I thought I had toiled in vain and for nothing, uselessly, spent my strength, yet my reward is with the Lord, my recompense is with my God.”
 
We can see the parallel here with John the Baptist who also was called from birth, was misunderstood in his short life, and was murdered seemingly before he could finish his mission. Yet, he did not toil in vain; he was a successful messenger for Jesus, and he was rewarded by God for his work.
 
Even when we may seem to fail in some part of our lives, it may be that there is another dimension, another truth, another level of success that we can know only in the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. Each of us has a mission, a calling from God to live in his love, to share his unconditional love, as insufficient and unsuccessful our mission may seem at any given time.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 139:1b-3; 13-14ab, 14c-15)
 
“I praise you for I am wonderfully made.” Do you think you are “wonderfully made”? When we are growing up, we may feel awkward and insecure. As we get much older, we may feel like a shadow of our younger selves. So, how can we feel wonderfully made through it all? Only if we see ourselves loved and gifted by our Father, even in and especially in our weaknesses and insufficiencies.
 
A reading from the Acts of the Apostles
(Chapter 13:22-26)
 
Luke wrote the Acts of the Apostles as a continuation of his Gospel, directed mainly at Gentiles. He wanted to help these converts as well as Jews to see the Jesus connection between David, the king of Israel hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus, and John the Baptist—both as called by God. “From this man’s descendants God, according to his promise, has brought to Israel a savior, Jesus. John heralded his coming by proclaiming a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel; and as John was completing his course, he would say, ‘What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. Behold, one is coming after me; I am not worthy to unfasten the sandals of his feet.’” John knew his role, his calling, his place in history. He did not try to be more than he was. He was given a calling, a gift from God, and he was faithful to it.
 
Each of us has been given a calling and gifts to fulfill that call. What is your calling in life, and what are the gifts that you have been given along the way and right now to answer your call? Do you see yourself as gifted? You are, we all are, only very often we do not believe it or focus on it. God asks us to humbly accept the gifts we have been given and use them to serve our Father and those with whom we share life.
 
The Holy Gospel according to Luke
(Chapter 1:57-66, 80)
 
Throughout the Old Testament, we read of the miraculous birth and life of numerous prophets and great leaders starting with the birth of Abraham’s son Isaac when Abraham’s wife was supposedly too old to give birth. For hundreds of years before the birth of John the Baptist, there were no significant prophets in Israel. Then came this strange man, John the Baptist, so his birth is told as a wonder-filled story, because he is in the words of Jesus “the greatest of the prophets.” John preached a message of repentance and baptized many others before he baptized Jesus. He prepared the way for Jesus, was his cousin, and yet we do not know if they were friends while growing up or even if Jesus knew him before John baptized him. But none of that is important. What is of utmost importance is that John “prepared the way for the Lord.” He had a calling, a mission from God, and he fulfilled it in a wonder-filled way.
 
Do you feel that it is unlikely that you have been called, that you have a mission, that you are to prepare the way for Jesus to enter—or in some cases reenter—the lives of people you know and love and even perhaps someone you hardly know? As unlikely as it might seem, that is part of the mission of each of us —to prepare the way of the Lord.
 
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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A reading from the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel
(Chapter 17:22-24)
 
Ancient Israel was a largely agricultural society, so the great Jewish prophets and Jesus himself often used agricultural images and allegories to convey deep truths. Here, Ezekiel uses the image of a majestic cedar tree. “Birds of every kind shall dwell beneath it, every winged thing in the shade of its boughs. And all the trees of the field shall know that I, the Lord, bring low the high tree, lift high the lowly tree, wither up the green tree, and make the withered tree bloom.”
 
Ezekiel wants his fellow Jews to know that Israel and all nations will recognize God’s power, as difficult it may be to believe in the face of powerlessness and oppression. “I the Lord, bring low the high tree, lift high the lowly tree.” Sometimes, we may feel like the lowly tree, but God will lift us high. It is a helpful message for us to hear in our troubled world today when we seem threatened in so many ways.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 92:2-3, 13-14, 15-16)
 
“Lord, it is good to give thanks to you.” What are you most thankful to God for today, right now? How do you give thanks to God, in word and deed?
 
A reading from the Second Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians
(Chapter 5:6-10)
 
“Brothers and sisters: We are always courageous, although we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith not by sight. Yet we are courageous.” It does take courage to walk in faith, doesn’t it? And sometimes our courage weakens, because our faith weakens. It all becomes too much for us, too much suffering, too many disappointments, too many of our loved ones who have died or are suffering, too much loneliness or emptiness. Then, clearly, we need to “walk by faith” and stay tuned in to the power of the Spirit within us who is our partner in life and our guide through the tough times as well as the joyful times.
 
The Holy Gospel according to Mark
(Chapter 4:26-34)
 
This is one of the many seed-growing parables of Jesus. “This is how it is with the kingdom of God, it is as though a man would scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and through it all the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how. On its own accord the land yields fruit.”
 
Then later he says, “To what shall we call the kingdom of God, or what parable can we use for it? It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth. But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.”
 
Jesus came to preach the coming of the kingdom of God and he used these agricultural images, because people would understand them. The kingdom starts off small, like a little seed, even a mustard seed, the smallest of all seeds, yet it grows silently, powerfully, and winds up being a tree that can house so many different birds or, in our language, all the peoples of the earth. The kingdom of God has that amazing power to grow from almost nothing to almost everything. You and I are part of God’s kingdom even when we do not sense the power that is right in our midst. It is a power that thrives in weakness, in conflict, in suffering and seeming defeat; yet it does grow in ways we may not have imagined and we are the seeds, we are the branches, we embody the kingdom which comes from the power of the Spirit within each of us.
 
You and I, at our seemingly least powerful moments have that power within us and all around us. The kingdom of God is within us.
 
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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A reading from the Book of Genesis
(Chapter 3:9-15)
 
gardenAncient cultures told stories to explain the most important realities of their world. This is such a story, one that ancient Jewish people developed to explain the existence of evil, the separation of the sexes, the dominance of the male, the inferior and sinister role of the woman, and the just punishments from God. This helped the ancients to justify their patriarchal social system which placed women in subservient roles. Tragically, many people throughout the ages, including many in our Church, have treated this passage and the verse that follows it as support for grievous injustices against one half of the human race. But the positive point here is that the God of Israel is presented as a personal God who interacts with human beings. The passage is not to be taken literally but should be understood as setting the relationship between God and human beings from the beginning.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 130:1-8)
 
“With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption.” The God of Israel is seen as a merciful God in the midst of so many violent merciless gods of the time. Our Father is the prototype of an extremely merciful and all-loving God.
 
A reading from the second Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians
(Chapter 4:13-5:1)
 
Saint Paul was the Great Evangelizer, the person, more than any other, who was responsible for spreading the Good News well beyond Israel to most of the then-known Mediterranean world. Yet, he knew how fragile a messenger he was. At this point in his life, he was suffering from several physical afflictions and the emotional burden of constant conflict, arrests, imprisonments, and misunderstandings from the very people he was trying to serve and to save. And yet, he can write, “Therefore, we are not discouraged, rather, although our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day” (4:16).
 
Have you ever felt burdens of that kind in your life, burdens that are physical, emotional and/or relational? In the midst of Paul’s struggles his faith renewed him “day by day.” How do you renew yourself? Do you think about your need for renewal or whether you deserve it? You do. We all need and deserve renewals of all kinds on all levels. But do you think that you do not have the time or that it would be a sign of weakness to admit your burdens? Paul knew he needed help. That is why this great apostle writes this way. We need help as well—every one of us, in so many ways, at so many times in our lives. Where can you find renewal of body, mind and spirit?
 
The Holy Gospel according to Mark
(Chapter 3:20-35)
 
Here we read that it is not only Paul who is misunderstood and threatened; it is also Jesus. “Jesus came home with his disciples. Again the crowd gathered, making it impossible for them even to eat. When his relatives heard of this they set out to seize him, for they said ‘He is out of his mind’ ” (verses 20-21). And, his opponents, the scribes, said “He is possessed by Beelzebul” and “By the prince of demons, he drives out demons” (verse 22).
 
So, even when Jesus is healing and teaching a message of love and forgiveness, he is called crazy, even by some of his relatives. That is hard to believe, but here it is in Mark’s Gospel. Jesus then takes the conversation to another level to talk about his larger family. “For whoever does the will of my Father is my brother and sister and mother” (verse 35). That is who we are. We are the family of Jesus. We accept his mercy and healing, and we believe in his promises of life everlasting.
 
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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The Book of Exodus
(Chapter 24:3-8)
 
Animal sacrifice was common among ancient religions, including Judaism. As strange as it may seem to us today, this was a major step away from human sacrifice which some of Israel’s neighbors practiced. The sprinkling of the blood of an animal was a sign of Israel’s fidelity to the Covenant God made with the Hebrews through Moses. That is the origin of the expression “blood of the covenant.” Sprinkling blood was also seen as a cleansing ritual and an act of forgiveness from God to his people.
 
chalice
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 116:12-13, 15-16, 17-18)
 
“I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord.” We certainly call upon the name of the Lord, usually in time of need, but how about calling on him in thanksgiving for all he gives us?
 
The letter to the Hebrews
(Chapter 9:11-15)
 
The author makes the point to his Hebrew Christian readers that the blood Jesus shed in his crucifixion is much more powerful and meaningful than the blood of animals. Jesus is “mediator of a new covenant” that brings with it “the promised eternal inheritance.” It was a difficult challenge for Jews, who had lived their whole lives under the original covenant with God, to believe that there was something new and deeper through the sacrifice of Jesus. Most could not believe, but some did. They were courageous, facing the wrath of the Romans and exclusion from their synagogues. This letter was written to explain the new covenant to them and to give them hope in the midst of their conversion from a lifelong religious practice to something new and largely unknown.
 
The Holy Gospel according to Mark
(Chapter 14:12-16, 22-26)
 
What Mark describes here is not just any Passover meal. Jesus sees it as the beginning of the new covenant, a powerful healing, and a promise of new life. The Eucharist that we celebrate together is not a reward for being part of the community or for doing the right thing. It is a healing, forgiving, peace-giving gathering that is meant to nourish us, to give us strength on our daily journey. If you know Catholics who have stopped coming to the Eucharist, please encourage them to return. This could be an important part of your ministry, helping people you know and love to come back to the banquet of unconditional love.
 
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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The Book of Deuteronomy
(Chapter 4:32-34,39-40)
Deuteronomy is the fifth and last book of the Torah, written around the time of the Babylonian Exile (600 BC). It begins with the story of the Hebrew people wandering in the desert for 40 years, and this chapter focuses on the reality and power of God.
Trinity
It is important for us to remember that monotheism was not widely practiced at the time. People believed in numerous gods, so Moses wanted to be certain that the Hebrews knew what distinguished the one and only true God. “Did a people ever hear the voice of God speaking from the midst of fire, as you did, and live? Or did any god ever venture to go and take a nation for himself, from the midst of another nation, by testings, by signs and wonders, by war, with strong hand and outstretched arm, and by great terrors, all of which the Lord, your God did for you in Egypt before your very eyes? This is why you must now know, and fix in your heart, that the Lord is God.” This is not just any god. This is THE GOD, and this God is your God. How great is that?
 
Up until this time, people believed in numerous gods that protected them from all sorts of evils. Now, for the first time, the Hebrews recognized ONE GOD who was their God and personally cared for them. This was one of the great breakthroughs in human history.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 33:4-5,6,9,18-19,20,22)
 
“Bless the people the Lord has chosen to be his own (verse 12b).” This Lord would “deliver them from death,” and now he does that for us as well.
 
St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans
(Chapter 8:14-17)
 
Paul wrote in an age filled with fear, especially for followers of Jesus. So Paul writes to assure them. “Those who were led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through whom we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ ” Abba is an Aramaic word that is the equivalent of “daddy.” It was the word that Jesus used in talking to his Father, and it denotes a deep intimacy with God, an unheard of way of speaking to God, yet it is the very same term for us now almost 2,000 years later. We too can cry out “Abba” to our Father.
 
The Holy Gospel according to Matthew
(Chapter 28:16-20)
 
In this reading, Jesus is approaching his last moments on earth, and he wants to make sure that his disciples will follow his teachings and bring them to “all nations.” Otherwise, his mission would not be fulfilled. “Jesus approached and said to them, ‘All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.’ ” All of the disciples, not just the apostles, were crucial for the continuance of the Gospel and the Church “until the end of the age.”
 
We are the present-day disciples. Have you ever thought of that? We are not simply a bunch of people who come to church on Sundays. We are a community of disciples, and Jesus calls us to spread the Good News of his love for all people, “all nations.” Sometimes, we think of that as the calling of missionaries, and theirs certainly is a distinct and holy calling. However, in our times we do not have to leave our country to encounter “all nations.” They are right here in our communities, and Jesus calls us to show our love to them as part of God’s people, whether or not they know or believe in the same God as we do. That is what the original disciples did. Filled with the Holy Spirit, they went way beyond their fellow Jews, eventually to the whole world that was known in their time. We need not go far to be the disciples of Jesus. We can start in our own families, our own communities, our own schools and workplaces, not with the power of our persuasive words but with the power of the love that lives in us every day. And we know that Jesus is still with us: “I am with you always, until the end of the age.” That means FOREVER.
 
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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