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This morning was one of those mornings. I had not slept well, I was dragging, and every little inconvenience was amplified as I dropped my keys while my hands were full, caught my sweater on the door, and the drive-thru line seemed to take forever. I was fighting hard to not let things get to me.
 
I was running a little behind and, as I got close to the office, I realized I had forgotten part of my lunch in my refrigerator at home. Okay. I was about to pass a grocery store, so I would run in quickly. When I got to the checkout line, I was the third person waiting. The old woman at the head of the line was talking to the cashier, and it was taking a while. The woman in front of me realized the problem before I did. The old woman didn’t have enough money for her groceries.
 
Without hesitation, the young woman in front of me pulled a dollar out of her wallet and handed it to the cashier. When the cashier said there was still change needed, I opened my own wallet and grabbed the extra quarter required. The old woman was so grateful. I commented to the woman in front of me that it was wonderful to be reminded that there are good people in this world. As the cashier wished the old woman a nice day, she replied, “It will be now. I am so blessed.”
 
What a profound truth to be reminded of for $1.25 contributed by two people. We are all blessed, and we are all called to share those blessings with those we encounter in our everyday lives—friends and strangers alike. Simple kindnesses have the power to change someone else’s day, and your own along with it. This morning, God reminded me of that in the best way possible.
 
Jennifer Bober is RENEW’s Manager of Marketing and Communications. In addition to her marketing career, she is a professional liturgical musician.

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God of radiant light,
you spoke to Moses through the burning bush.
You led the people through the desert
by a pillar of fire.
And you sent the purifying fire of your Spirit
to renew and transform the earth.
Strengthen our families
as we face the seductions of this world.
In these days of fulfillment, purify us
so that when the test comes,
families will stand united in their choice of you.
And in our own baptism by fire,
give us the grace to withstand the trials of our lives,
so that, like gold purified by fire,
we, too, may be fashioned in your brilliant image.
We ask this through Christ, our Lord.
Amen.

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

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A reading from the book of the prophet Jeremiah
(Chapter 38:4-6; 8-10)
 
There is an old saying that “no prophet is honored or accepted in his own time.” That was certainly the case with Jeremiah who lived just before the Babylonian Exile of the Jewish people. Israel was surrounded by Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon—all more powerful kingdoms. Jeremiah tried to warn the people of Israel of their impending doom at the hands of one of these kingdoms, but the powers that ruled in Jerusalem vowed to stop him. “In those days the princes said to the king: ‘Jeremiah ought to be put to death; he is demoralizing the soldiers that are left in the city, and all the people, by speaking such things to them; he is not interested in the welfare of the people, but in their ruin.’” Zedekiah, who was a very weak king gave in to them. “And so they took Jeremiah and threw him into the cistern…. There was no water in the cistern, only mud, and Jeremiah sank into the mud.” They left him to die a horrible death, but Ebed-melech, a court official, asked the king to release Jeremiah, and the king agreed. Prophets of any age often have to proclaim bad news, and people often are not receptive. Jeremiah suffered throughout his life for speaking the truth as God revealed it to him, and the consequences for Israel were catastrophic.
 
For many years, climate change prophets have been warning us about the dangers of man-made pollution of our air, water, and land. Global warming has already caused rising sea levels and has compromised our food production and our air quality. In this case, the prophets are not just politicians with elections to win but scientists whose numbers have grown exponentially in the past decades, across the world and throughout the scientific community. How can we listen to their wisdom without panic but with real concern?
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 40: 2, 3, 4, 18)
 
“Lord, come to my aid.” How often have you and I said that prayer in any number of ways? How often has it worked? Wait! Isn’t that the wrong question and the wrong approach? Our prayers are not always answered in our time and in exactly the way we desired. Prayer is not only “saying prayers”; often prayer consists of a deep openness to the Spirit within us which may help us to see the larger and long- term gifts that we are offered.
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Hebrews
(Chapter 12: 1-4)
 
This was a challenging and dangerous time for Jewish converts. They were often thrown out of their synagogues and treated as traitors to their faith. And now, their Roman rulers had two things against them—being Jews and belonging to this new band of strange believers who met to worship their dead leader, Jesus Christ, and partake in his body and blood. That was madness to the Romans, who saw it as threatening to their rule.
 
The author tells the readers. “Let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus the leader and perfecter of faith.” It was a race for the people then to keep one step ahead of their persecutors. Thankfully, we do not live under persecutors, but sometimes our own lack of faith and the distractions of material things and personal crises can slow us down in our own race to follow Jesus Christ.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke
(Chapter 12:49-53)
 
Many fire-and-brimstone preachers throughout history, including our own time, have used this text to justify their version of Jesus as a powerful, divisive, judgmental force in the world. “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing! There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished!” Of course, Jesus is talking about his death, which he knew was not going to be not peaceful but violent. That is the “baptism” that he is talking about.
 
Then he says something that many find shocking: “Do you think that I have come to establish peace on earth? No, I tell you but division. From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three.” Then he mentions a whole series of family divisions.
 
He had already experienced these divisions as he traveled the countryside, preaching and often having a meal with a family. Today, we call Jesus the Prince of Peace, but he was a most divisive figure, and he knew it. The divisions caused by his message—decisions to adopt or reject his gospel of mercy, love, and justice—were painful, as they are today in families all over the world. True peace comes not from the necessary accommodations we make in life but through the unselfish model taught and exemplified by Jesus who said that the whole law consisted of this: love God and love your neighbor.
 
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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When you’re little, the adults in your life tell you that sharing is “really fun” and “a nice thing to do.” Until you’re older though, you don’t realize how truly rewarding it is. One of my fellow summer interns here at RENEW is a junior at St. Edward’s University in Texas and originally from Ohio. Before working here, she had never been to New York or New Jersey. Being raised in northern New Jersey and so close to Manhattan, I like to think I know how to get around in the city. So, on a Wednesday afternoon adventure tour, my joy came from embracing the little things about my favorite city and sharing them with my friend.
 
Our day started across the street from Bryant Park, where we attended a meeting in the Salesforce tower. We met representatives from two other nonprofits as well as a few employees at Salesforces where we learned about the software and how it could benefit everyone here at RENEW. Along with meeting these wonderful new faces, we were taken up to the top of the Salesforce tower, where we got the opportunity to overlook a beautiful 360-degree view of the entire city. I was overwhelmed with joy seeing this view of the city and sharing it with my friend who had not seen anything like it.
 
After the meeting, our colleagues and Jessie and I went our separate ways, and we were given the chance to do some exploring and adventuring on our own. My day of showing my friend around my favorite city would continue wherever the wind took us. We landed in Times Square at the TKTS booth and bought last-minute tickets to the matinee performance of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. We were pleasantly surprised to see that our seats were much closer to the stage than either of us anticipated. By the end of the show, we were both so full of joy. The story was heartwarming, the music was fun, and we got to share it.
 
We continued to dinner at Stout on 33rd street, one of my favorite spots in the city. We shared a plethora of food that had us full for what felt like days, and plenty of stories that had us laughing and smiling for two-plus hours. When it came time to catch our trains home, neither of us wanted our day to end, despite the fact that we were going to see each other in less than twenty-four hours.
 
It was day filled with one joyous event after another. My joy was rooted in the idea of sharing my favorite place with my new friend. Being able to see New York City through another person’s eyes, where everything is new and getting to be the tour guide for it all was a job I loved. I will surely never forget our day in New York City with my forever friend, filled with nothing but smiles and joy from start to finish.
 
Anne Howath is a senior communications major at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. Annie plans to pursue a career in digital media and marketing. She is the editor-in-chief of the SJU Her Campus chapter and a former intern for Katz Media Group and Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville. “I am very grateful for my summer at RENEW,” she says, “and I have been learning a lot about working in a nonprofit environment!”

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Compassionate God,
you adorn the earth with beauty,
and gift the world with abundant life.
You created human beings in your image
and you instill in them your mercy and compassion.
Strengthen all your servants to grow more fully in the divinity
you have shared with us,
so that we may offer your divine compassion
to those who are broken
by the losses and disappointments of life.
Instill in us the strength and the wisdom
to be prepared for your coming in our lives.
I ask this through Christ, our Lord
and through your Holy Spirit.
Amen.

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

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