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My friends all know that I am a Catholic, because I have always been very open with them about my faith. So, when the news broke about Cardinal McCarrick, who long served in my home archdiocese of Newark, and the grand jury report was released in Pennsylvania where my father now lives, many people asked me, “How can you stay when the Church is so corrupt?”
 
I think my answer surprised them. I told them, “I stay, because the clergy are not the Church—I am. The Church is the millions of people of faith who sit in the pews every Sunday and then go out into the world to do good.”
 
I stay also because my Catholicism is so deeply rooted in my identity. My ethnic heritage, my family life, and now even my professional life are intertwined with my faith life. To walk away from the Church is to walk away from who I am.
 
Most importantly though, I stay because this is where I find God. I stay because through the sacraments and prayer I nurture my relationship with God. Where else would I go? As a Catholic, I believe that in the Eucharist I become one with my Savior. That cannot happen anywhere else.
 
We all have different reasons for staying. I believe, however, that we all need to think about my initial response to my friends. Now, more than ever, those of us who are not clergy need to stand up and claim our Church. We are the Church. We cannot be “consumer Catholics” who just show up at Mass on Sunday and then walk away. We need to engage. We need to be willing to take on leadership roles in which our voices are heard.
 
Many Catholics are hurt and angry and feel betrayed by this latest wave of abuse scandals. They have every right to those feelings, and we must address those feelings in our faith communities to begin working through them. At the same time, we need to understand our role in making sure that it does not happen again. We need to listen with open hearts to the stories of victims. We need to be vocal, engaged members of our parishes who will not be quiet until we know exactly what is being done to prevent future abuse. We need to be willing to serve on lay review boards or as secondary ministers/volunteers, so NO adult is ever left alone with children.
 
We are not powerless. We have a voice. We must use both. It is up to every single one of us to answer God’s call to St. Francis of Assisi: “Rebuild my Church.”

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marriage

Jesus, our brother,
you encounter us in a special way
in the sacrament of marriage.
You bestow upon us the graces
which strengthen our relationship.
Sometimes, however, it is not easy
to remember your presence.
Help us, Lord, to keep in mind
that you are indeed with us
and a part of our marriage relationship.
Strengthen us, in love, to remember that
you brought us together for a reason;
that we need to honor each other
and each other’s emotions.
Continue to remind us of your presence
as, together, we fulfill our marriage vows
until death.
Amen.

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

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A reading from the Book of Genesis
(Chapter 2:18-24)
 
This is the ancient story in which God creates woman from the rib of the man. It is a parable with a powerful message but one that has been used for centuries to defend the primacy of men over women on the premise that woman came from man. However, the text itself has quite a different meaning.
When God brought the woman to the man, the man said: “‘This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called ‘woman,’ for out of ‘her man’ this one has been taken.’ That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one flesh.”
 
The two become one flesh—an image that implies that they are equal partners. Yet for generations, people have used this passage to justify subjugation of women in civil society and in religious traditions, including our own. It often has been a foundation for male patriarchy rather than an insight into a breakthrough many thousands of years ago that spoke of the equality of men and women.
 
Our society is in creative turmoil on the issue of women’s rights in all dimensions of life, including that of institutional religion. We have come a long way, but we still have a long way to go, especially we men who are beginning to understand and even to feel the toxicity of sexism.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 128:1-2,3,4-5,6)
 
“May the Lord bless us all the days of our lives.” Do you feel that God has blessed you every day? When you are having a bad day after several bad days it might not feel that way. But then, something positive happens, you receive a gift, no matter how small. Let us be thankful even for small gifts.
 
A reading from the Letter to the Hebrews
(Chapter 2:9-11)
 
“Brothers and sisters: He ‘for a little while’ was made ‘lower than the angels’ that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting that he for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the leader of their salvation perfect through suffering.”
 
You and I believe in Jesus as a “suffering servant” who died a horrible death for us. No other people believe in such a reality—a God who becomes one of us and then dies for us. That is how much our all-loving Father loves us. He became one of us, shared our human reality, and embraced us as no other deity is reputed to have done. But, of course, it does not end with his death. Christianity would not be the faith that we believe in and live without the resurrection of Jesus and our own resurrection.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Mark
(Chapter 10:2-16)
 
The first part of this reading is about a confrontation that Jesus has with the Pharisees who ask him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” In the Law of Moses, there were certain circumstances in which a man could divorce his wife. But a wife could not divorce her husband, period. Jesus responds, “So they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” Jesus does not approve of men using the Law of Moses to do what women were not allowed to do—divorce.
 
The second part of this reading has to do with the love Jesus had for children: “And people were bringing children to him that he might touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this he became indignant and said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me; do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Amen I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.’ Then he embraced them and blessed them, placing his hands on them.”
 
What a beautiful passage, but what does it mean beyond the obvious love that Jesus had for children? What does it mean to “accept the kingdom of God like a child?” Is Jesus asking us to be childish? No. Rather, he is asking us to be “childlike,” being open to God’s unconditional love, accepting all the love and gifts that God gives us, even amid pain and suffering. Later in Jesus’ story, we learn just what being faithful to God in the deepest suffering really means. Jesus did it and broke through death in his resurrection, and so can we.
 
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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wisdomFather, Creator and giver of life,
help us to embrace the gifts you have
given to us and show us how to use them
generously in service to your people.
 
Jesus, Savior and Redeemer,
show us how to let go
of those aspects of our lives
that inhibit our growth,

make us timid and fearful,
and keep us from seeing the larger possibilities
that lie before us.
 
Spirit of wisdom and love,
fill our hearts with passion for your word
and a zealousness for your work.
 
May all good things come to us
as a result of Wisdom’s company
and true riches be ours
through God’s abundant grace.
Amen.

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

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millstoneA reading from the Book of Numbers
(Chapter 11:25-29)
 
“The Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to Moses. Taking some of the spirit that was on Moses, the Lord bestowed it on the seventy elders; and as the spirit came to rest on them, they prophesied.” However, there were two men who were left in camp, “yet the spirit came to rest on them also.” Joshua, Moses’ aide said, “Moses, my Lord, stop them.” But Moses answered them, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the people of the Lord were prophets! Would that the Lord might bestow his spirit on them all!”
 
Moses obviously has a broader and deeper vision of God’s generosity than Joshua, who seems to be stuck in legalism. But think about God’s generosity to us now. We do not receive some sort of spirit. We receive the Holy Spirit who then lives in us every day throughout our lives, even when we are not aware of this powerful presence or even if we are not faithful to the gift of the Spirit. The Spirit remains, abides in each of us. The Spirit is our constant companion, even in our darkest hours—especially in our deepest darkest hours and days and years. Do you talk to the Spirit within you? Even more important, do you listen to the Spirit?
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 19:8, 10, 12-13, 14)
 
“The precepts of the Lord give joy to the heart.” For the Jewish people following the precepts, the Law of Moses was the way to salvation. For us Christians, the way to salvation is through faith in Jesus, and his Law is simple: “Love your God with all your heart and soul and your neighbor as yourself.” It is so simple, yet so challenging.
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint James
(Chapter 5:1-6)
 
James is very hard on the few rich people of his time. “Come now, you rich, weep and wail over your impending miseries… . You have stored up treasures for the last days. Behold, the wages you withheld from the workers who harvested your fields are crying aloud, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.”
 
So, here we are two thousand years later, right here in our own country where there are billions of dollars in wages stolen each year from the poorest of the poor workers. Unlike some other countries, we have laws to protect people who are being cheated and dozens of organizations that work to promote justice, but it still happens, harming not only the workers but also the majority of businesses that treat workers fairly and do not steal their wages. This ancient admonition from James is as true today as it was centuries ago.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Mark
(Chapter 9:38-43, 45, 47-48)
 
There was a form of speech that was popular in the time of Jesus, and he used it from time to time to make his point. It is called “Semitic exaggeration,” and it certainly sounds strange to us today. When Jesus talks about cutting off a hand of a foot or plucking out an eye, he is using Semitic exaggeration, but over the years it has caused much confusion.
 
The point that Jesus is making is the importance of entering into the kingdom of God, or what we call heaven. That is what is most important. That is our goal.
 
In the beginning of this reading, there is a disagreement between Jesus and John, similar to the one we saw between Moses and Joshua: “Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.” Jesus replied, “Do not prevent him. There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who, at the same time, speaks ill of me. For whoever is not against us is for us. Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward.” Jesus is always more inclusive, more understanding than we might be, always looking at the deeper motivation rather than categories of exclusion.
 
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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