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jesus_childrenJesus,
your words have power
both to frighten and to delight me.
Help me be attentive, to hear
what you are teaching me about death and about life.
Open my eyes to the challenges you put before me.
Show me how to receive the “little ones.”
Give me a generous spirit and a compassionate heart.
I ask all of this in your holy name.

Amen.

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

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Jesus_childA reading from the Book of Wisdom
(Chapter 2:12, 17-20)
 
This book was written sometime between the late first century BC and the early first century AD—in other words, roughly around the lifetime of Jesus. And there are several verses that could apply to Jesus: “Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us; he sets himself against our doings. … For if the just one be the son of God, God will defend him and deliver him from the hands of his foes. … Let us condemn him to a shameful death; for according to him, God will take care of him.”
 
For centuries, the Jewish people hoped and prayed for a messiah. These passages could refer to such a person. Jesus did die “a shameful death,” and God did “take care of him” in the resurrection. Jesus has promised us that, even though we too may suffer unjustly, we will live forever with him.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 54:3-4, 5, 6, 8)
 
“The Lord upholds my life.” How have you experienced the Lord upholding your life? Maybe it has been a series of small gifts you have been given or one or more major saving interventions in your life. Let us remember and be thankful for God’s upholding presence in our lives.
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint James
(Chapter 3:16-4:3)
 
We live in a dangerous world. James was well aware of that in his own time, two thousand years ago. Where could his people, or we today, find peace? “Where jealousy and selfish ambitions exist, there is disorder and every foul practice. … Where do the wars and where do the conflicts among you come from? Is it not from your passions that make war within your members? You covet but do not possess. You kill and envy but you cannot obtain; you fight and wage war. You do not possess because you do not ask. You ask but do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”
 
Jesus said, “Ask and you shall receive.” James is saying that we need to ask with an open heart, not selfishly or ambitiously seeking power over others. In our prayers let us be open to God’s gifts, God’s answers, not just what we think we need. Surprises may abound.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Mark
(Chapter 9:30-37)
 
This reading is in two parts, but they are connected. First of all, Jesus is teaching his disciples, “‘The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death the Son of Man will rise.’ But they did not understand the saying and were afraid to question him.” Of course, Jesus is talking to a group consisting mostly of semi-illiterate farmers and fishermen, and he shocks them by speaking of his death and the seemingly impossible promise of rising again. What were they to make of this? What were they to think as Jesus began to prepare them for an experience at first heartbreaking and then hopeful—an experience unprecedented in human history. Have you ever asked yourself how you would have felt if you were in this band of apostles? How could you have believed this wild story and promise? Somehow, all but one stayed the course.
 
Then, in part two of this gospel story, Jesus hears the apostles arguing about “who was the greatest.” Jesus answers them, “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” Then, to make his point, “Taking a child, he placed it in their midst, and putting his arms around it, he said to them, “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me.”
 
Would it not be wonderful if the leaders of our church and our secular society lived by this model and truly cared for the children amongst us? We would not have hundreds of millions of children hungry in our world and tens of millions hungry in our own country. We would not have millions more abused and neglected. “Whoever receives one such child in my name, receives me. … If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” How can we help our leaders to be “servants of all”?
 
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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crossLoving God,
Jesus taught us so many lessons
during his time on this earth.
Open our hearts and minds
that we may see the goodness
you have put
in the highways and byways of our life.

Keep us attentive to your words
that our footsteps and actions may follow the same path,
the path that Jesus shows,
the path we claim to be walking.
Guide our feet that they may stay on the path of the gospel,
the way that Jesus the teacher has shown us.
We ask this through the same Christ, our Lord.
Amen.

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

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servant_leaderA reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah
(Chapter 50:5-9a)
 
Here are three powerful sentences from this reading: “The Lord God opens my ear that I may hear; and I have not rebelled, have not turned back.” “The Lord is my help, therefore I am not disgraced.” “See, the Lord God is my help; who will prove me wrong?”
 
Have you ever had the experience of God opening your ear or even your heart? Perhaps you had closed your heart to someone or to some truth, and you would not budge. But then, something happened, and you had a change of heart that helped you to see another side of the person or the issue that had closed you, and you moved on.
Did you ever feel rejected or even disgraced, but then someone came to your aid or your defense? Maybe God sent that person to you, because God is your help.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 116:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9)
 
“I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living.” The line before this reads, “For he has freed my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling.” This amazing insight was written hundreds of years before the coming of Jesus Christ, who truly saves our souls from the ultimate death.
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint James
(Chapter 2:14-18)
 
Here is Saint James with a strong statement about the age-old question about whether we are saved by faith or by good works. His answer is clear. We need BOTH.
 
“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone says that he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister says he has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well” but you do not give him the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also, faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”
 
Our parish has many excellent spiritual ministries, but we also have our social ministries to help those who have material needs. But that does not let us “off the hook.” Each of us needs to respond to those we know who are in material need by providing them help or connecting them with a person or an organization that has more resources. There are dozens of community-based organizations in our town and county that exist to help those who have problems. We need to become familiar with them or ask our parish social ministries director to connect us.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Mark
(Chapter 8:27-35)
 
For many centuries, the Jewish people believed in the coming of a Messiah who would save his people and restore Jerusalem to its rightful place in the world. When the apostles first became followers of this remarkable man who healed so many people in so many ways, they naturally saw him as that Messiah. But Jesus was a very different kind of Messiah, a suffering servant.
 
In this reading, Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” They answer, “John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others one of the prophets.” But then Peter really gets it. “You are the Christ.” Jesus replies in a seemingly strange way: “He warned them not to tell anyone about him. He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days.” Obviously, this is not the kind of Messiah that people had hoped for. What a disappointment! What a scandal! Jesus wants to keep all this a secret for the time being. He knows it is too much for his close followers and certainly for the people to accept.
 
Even Peter, who gets that Jesus is the Messiah, does not get what kind of Messiah he really is. “Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. At this he turned around and, looking at his disciples, rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind me Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.’” Then Jesus says something even more shocking: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.”
 
That’s it! The so-called Secret of Mark is out. Jesus is a very different kind of Messiah, not the person that people had been expecting. This Messiah will suffer and die horribly, but he will rise after three days! No wonder so many people did not believe. It was not what they had expected. But really, it was so much better, because it came with a promise of everlasting life, not just for Jesus but for all. That means for all of us, now and forever. That is the greatest gift from Jesus: Life forever with our all-loving God.
 
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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miraclesJesus,
I put my trust in your healing touch.
Unstop my ears and open my heart
to your message of justice, love, and compassion,
even when those words challenge me.
Remove the impediments from my speech—
fear, intimidation, apathy, or doubt.
Help me to proclaim my faith loudly
and my love for you with gladness.

I pray all of this in your holy name.
Amen.

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

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