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Lord our God,
it is your love that sustains us,
binds us to one another,
and calls us out into the world.
Stretch us to move beyond
our own limitations,
so that in all our actions
your love will be present
to bring about forgiveness, healing, and justice.
With grateful hearts,
we thank you
for your amazing love.
In Jesus’ name we pray.

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

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A reading from the Acts of the Apostles
(Chapter 14:21-27)
 
Another name for this book could be “The Travels of the Apostle Paul,” because even though other apostles are mentioned in the book, it is mostly about the heroic and enormously important 30-year journey of this amazing man. Paul was a driven man, driven by his new found faith in Jesus, driven by his guilt for having persecuted the early Church, but also energized by the forgiveness he received from the risen Jesus and by his initial belief that Jesus would soon come again and so would the end of the world. Of course, Paul was wrong about that expectation, as were so many early Christians. We don’t know when he became enlightened and changed his belief, but what is clear is that he was faithful to the end in preaching Christ crucified and resurrected.
 
Here we see Paul and Barnabas at the end of one of Paul’s early journeys. We are told that “they made a considerable number of disciples” and that they “strengthened the spirits of the disciples and exhorted them to persevere in the faith, saying, ‘It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.’” That was an understatement. Many of the new disciples would be martyred by the Roman Empire which regarded them as dangerous to imperial authority. That is why it was most important that they leave behind someone to be in charge, and so, “They appointed elders for them in each church.” The new faith spread everywhere Paul traveled.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 145:8-9, 10-11, 12-13)
 
“I will praise your name forever, my king and my God.” The Jewish people had a series of kings but worshiped God as their true king. We don’t think of God as a king but rather as a loving community of persons, the holy Trinity, in whose image we have been born and live in God’s all-loving presence.
 
A reading from the the Book of Revelation
(Chapter 21:1-5a)
 
There is a controversy about when the Book of Revelation was written, whether around 70 AD or much later in the 90s. We know from the text that it was written during a time of terrible persecution by the Roman emperors who saw Christians as a major threat to their power. In this reading, John gives the Christians hope, a new vision. “Then I, John, saw a new heaven and a new earth…. I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband…. I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them as their God.’”
 
And here is the best news for a persecuted people who were in danger of death and imprisonment every day: “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away.” Imagine hearing that in the midst of terror.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to John
(Chapter 13:31-33a, 34-35)
 
It is now time for Jesus to leave and go to his Father. He gives the disciples a beautiful gift and a challenge: “My children, I will be with you only a little while longer. I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
 
That’s it! Simple, powerful, life-giving, and challenging! It was all of that for the early disciples who needed to stand by one another in a time of crisis, persecution, and possible betrayals. History records many instances of persecution against the Church, in the Church, and sometimes by the Church. Could it all have been avoided if during the two thousand years of our history as the people of God we had followed this simple, profound gift, living the call of Jesus to love one another? Yes, of course, easier said than done, but possible for us today if we first totally accept the gift of merciful all powerful love from Jesus. This is not something we promise to do, and then it happens. It is a lifelong journey into the mystery of God’s unconditional, ever-present merciful love. It is a love that we can never earn, no matter how we might try. But we need not try, only accept this love that Jesus gave to the disciples two thousand years ago and still gives us today.
 
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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Loving Father, with a grateful heart,
I acknowledge the gift of your Son,
our Shepherd.
Help me learn to recognize his voice
when it is spoken to me every day,
but especially when I am vulnerable
and need protection and strength.
Give me the heart of a Good Shepherd,
that I, too, will care for those
who are vulnerable, anxious, lonely.
Help me to recognize myself in them
and to reach out to them in times of need.
I pray in union with the Holy Spirit,
through Christ our Lord.
Amen.

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

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A reading from the Acts of the Apostles
(Chapter 13:14, 43-52)
 
What we read in the Acts of the Apostles implies that Paul and Barnabas were inspired speakers who had a powerful effect on their listeners. They started out preaching mainly to Jewish people and converts to Judaism, but at this point their message is being received more positively by the Gentiles. It must have been hard for Paul who, in his previous life as Saul, was a rabid persecutor of the new Christian community. Up to this point, most of the followers of Jesus were Jews. From now on, Paul will truly be the Apostle to the Gentiles. It is because of him more than any of the other apostles that Christianity spread all over the Mediterranean world and beyond. Without him, it may have only been one more sect within Judaism. From what we know of Paul, he could be difficult at times but always courageous and persevering in his mission.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 100:1-2, 3, 5)
 
“We are his people, the sheep of his flock.” What does it mean for you to be a part of God’s people? How does that change you?
 
A reading from the the Book of Revelation
(Chapter 7:9, 14b-17)
 
This book was written long after the death and resurrection of Jesus—around 95 AD. By this time, there were many thousands of believers, but they were being persecuted by the Roman Empire. It is hard for us, centuries later, to imagine how hard it was for people to be practicing Christians. By then, the Romans saw them as a major threat to the empire’s power and did everything they could to wipe Christians out. Some emperors were worse than others, but persecution was the order of the day. The author of the Book of Revelation wants to assure his readers and listeners that God is with them. Their suffering will end, and they will be rewarded.
 
We do not face anything like the vicious all powerful and pervasive force that was ancient Rome, although Christians in other parts of the world are subject to violent persecution even today. We do all suffer in many ways at numerous times in our lives. When you are in your deepest and most prolonged suffering, do you still believe in the healing, saving power of God’s unconditional love? Are you able to go back in time to other occasions of deep suffering and remember how you made it through? Remembering those past experiences can help you be conscious of, and rely on, the supportive Spirit within you.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to John
(Chapter 10:27-30)
 
The role of shepherd in the ancient world is something that we often romanticize today. In ancient times, shepherds were shadowy figures, often shunned in everyday society. Some were good and took care of their sheep, but others were not devoted or honest. A good shepherd was highly regarded, because he had to take care of a large herd often in dangerous and lonely conditions. Jesus knows all this when he calls himself the Good Shepherd. He knows that his audience will get it in a way that is more difficult for us today when we do not like to be thought of as sheep.
 
The last line of this passage is the most important. “The Father and I are one.” Remember that this Gospel is the last to be written, long after the death of Jesus and the writing of the other three Gospels. Why does John write such a powerful sentence? It is precisely because that is what people believed about Jesus these many years later. Jesus is not only the Messiah, not only the Son of God, but Jesus and the Father are one. Gradually, this level of belief developed into the central dogma of our faith, the Holy Trinity. It took centuries, but then something so extraordinary was not to be written on the back of a napkin.
 
We are truly created in the image and likeness of God, and God is a community of persons, not a solitary isolated being. We are communal persons as well, in our families, among our friends, and in our parish. We are not meant to be alone. It is not in our nature.
 
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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Generous God,
thank you for the home I have
and for the food on my table.
You alone know the hungers I bear
and how they can best be satisfied.
As I look to you for my nourishment
open my eyes to the hungers around me
and with the Spirit of Jesus,
give me the voice to call out the invitation,
“Come and eat!”
Amen.

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

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