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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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lord_s_SupperJesus, we call you the Bread of Life.
We are reminded of your sacrifice for us
each time we receive the Eucharist.
Call us to your table
as we bring with us
all of our triumphs and joys,
hurts and disappointments,
all of our tears and pain
as well as our laughter.

We give everything to you,
our sacrifice mingled with yours.
For this is true communion;
this is how we come together,
the beginning of our knowing you.
Help us to be an example to children.
Open us up to their simple faith.
Give us wisdom, joy and peace
as we try to grow ever closer to you.
We ask this in your name.
Amen.

 
Adapted from The People’s Prayer Book, © RENEW International.
Original oil painting, “The Lord’s Supper,” by Brendan Clary.

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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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Lord, in John’s Gospel
we hear you say,
“Do not work for food that perishes.”
Lord, we know the food we need for life.
We do not fully understand
the mystery of your becoming present to us
in the Eucharist,
but we struggle to believe.

Your words help us to see
where we need to put our energies:
toward knowing you
and living as you would have us live.
We need help to avoid working
for those things that cannot last.
We need help to remember
what is really important in life.
Help us to be faithful to the Eucharist,
so that we may come to be more
in communion with one another and you.
Amen.

 
Adapted from The People’s Prayer Book, © RENEW International.

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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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