RENEW International - Home   RENEW International - Blog   RENEW International - Shop   RENEW International - Donate   RENEW International - Request Info
Search

 
 

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.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 
 

A reading from the book of Wisdom
(Chapter 18:6-9)
 
This reading is from the Book of Wisdom, so what is the wisdom offered here? Perhaps it is faithfulness to God’s promises in the face of challenges and persecutions over a long period of time. That was certainly true for the ancient Israelites, and it may be true for many of us at times. It is hard to keep faith with God when a series of bad things happen. There is a temptation to lose hope, but in troubled times faithfulness and trust in God’s promises must endure.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 33:1, 12, 18-19, 20-22)
 
“Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.” Do you feel chosen? Do you feel blessed? These are great gifts, given to us every day but often overlooked.
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Hebrews
(Chapter 11:1-2, 8-19)
 
This beautiful reflection on the history of the Jewish people focuses on faith under challenging circumstances, starting with Abraham. His faith must have seemed like foolishness, yet it was the foundation of a great nation, a great people of faith.
 
We Americans are also a people of faith, faith in a dream of freedom and justice for all people. We have maintained that faith, especially when it has been tested sorely through prejudice, wars, and economic depressions and recessions as well as attempts to limit our rights, freedom and wellbeing.
 
That same cycle can appear several times in our individual lives: childhood abuse of one kind or another, poverty, divorce or other broken relationships, betrayals, illness, and the death of loved ones. These realities may pop up randomly in our lives without warning. But in the midst of the darkness there is always light that comes from our faith in the ultimate salvation that God has promised us. That faith is the source of life for us, especially in the face of the “little deaths” we may experience during a lifetime.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke
(Chapter 12:32-48)
 
“Do not be afraid any longer little flock, for the father is pleased to give you the kingdom.” It is understandable that the early followers of Jesus were living in fear. They might be forbidden to worship in their local synagogue because of their faith in Jesus. They might be hunted down as believers in a forbidden sect by the Romans who were suspicious of any religious beliefs that would threaten their rule. Jesus wanted to be sure that his disciples did not live in fear but rather in joy and that they would be ready when the Lord would call them.
 
Of course, we all have unhealthy fears at times, but Jesus has also taught us that love casts out fear. If we believe that we are loved passionately and unconditionally by God, that love can cast out fear. But how do we know that we are loved in this way? Were we loved in that way by our parents and family? If so, rejoice! If not, all is not lost. A most important part of our journey in life is to connect with loving people, people who will open their hearts to us as we to them. Perhaps that happened to you with your life partner or close friends, or a teacher or mentor who was there for you at exactly the right times. It is never too late to experience the love of God poured out to you through others. It is never too late for you to love in the same way, even if you were not properly loved as you grew up or at other times in your life. After all, Jesus tells us that we have been given a kingdom, not of material power or possessions but of a powerful love. Imagine that! We live in a kingdom of love, if only we can open ourselves to the wonders of God’s embrace.
 
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.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 
 

A reading from the book of Ecclesiastes
(Chapter 1:2; 2:21-23)
 
This is a reading of uncertain origin. Some biblical scholars believe it was written about 300 years before the birth of Jesus, others say much earlier. “Qoheleth” is not a personal name but rather a title meaning teacher or preacher—a very gloomy and pessimistic one: “Vanity of vanities! All things are vanity. … For what profit comes to man from all the toil and anxiety of heart with which he has labored under the sun? All his days sorrow and grief are his occupation; even at night his mind is not at rest.” It’s a stark message that Jesus, with more context, repeats in the gospel passage for today.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 90:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 14, 17)
 
“If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” Do you know someone who has been so hurt, so disappointed, so misjudged, so betrayed, that he or she has a hardened heart? Maybe it was a child, a spouse, a friend, or a co-worker, but someone caused that person to harden his or her heart so as not to be hurt again. Could the offer of a kind word or a kind ear from you be the first step in the long healing process?
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Colossians
(Chapter 3:1-5, 9-11)
 
Paul wants to contrast this earthly life with the new life of glory with Christ: “When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory. Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the greed that is idolatry. Stop lying to one another, since you have taken off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed, for knowledge, in the image of its creator.”
 
You and I have “put on the new self,” the self of grace, God’s very Spirit living within us. We have a power in us that is a pure gift, but, of course, it is truly a gift that we did not earn but that was given to us freely by God. We need to believe in the gift, accept the gift, and share the gift with all, especially those in need. It is not that we have the answer or solution to everything but rather that we share our gift-filled presence. We may feel we have nothing to say to someone in sadness, loss, or conflict. It is our loving presence that in itself will share the gift of the Spirit, the gift of healing. It is not magical, and it is not from us but rather from the Spirit living within us.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke
(Chapter 12:13-21)
 
This is a challenging parable that Jesus told about greed. In ancient times in Israel, the oldest son received the major part of the family inheritance. That seems to be part of this story in which a man says to Jesus, “Teacher, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me.” Jesus avoids getting involved, but he makes a powerful point as he says to the crowd, “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.”
 
Then he tells the people a parable of “a rich farmer whose land produced a bountiful harvest.” This farmer has no space to store all his grain, so he decides to build bigger barns. Then he congratulates himself: “You have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat drink and be merry.”
 
Then God said to the farmer, “You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?” and Jesus adds, “Thus will it be for those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich in what matters to God.”
 
In our day, for many people, possessions mean more than basic security. They mean power and a kind of pseudo-contentment: bigger stuff and more stuff, more cars, boats, houses, the latest social media, and the best clothes and restaurants. All this “stuff” can easily choke out the Spirit and bring the kind of false security that trapped the rich man in this parable.
 
But what about we who are not super rich? Can we also get caught up in the material rat race that can steal away the true joy in our relationships, our creativity, and the beauties of nature? Yes, Jesus is not talking about ambition and wealth in themselves; he is talking about priorities and balance. Today, he keeps us, too, on track.
 
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.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 
 

prayingA reading from the book of Genesis
(Chapter 18:20-32)
 
Imagine making a deal with God, bargaining with God over the fate of thousands of people. That is the scene here with Abraham asking God to spare the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. It is like a scene from a Middle Eastern marketplace, except this one has the fate of two cities in the bargain. The authors of Genesis use this story because they know it will resonate with their audience.
 
“In those days, the Lord said: ‘The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great, and their sin so grave that I must go down and see whether or not their actions fully correspond to the cry against them that comes to me. I mean to find out.” Standing in the divine Presence, Abraham sees an opening and asks, “Will you sweep away the innocent with the guilty? Suppose there were fifty innocent people in the city; would you wipe out the place, rather than spare it for the sake of the fifty innocent people within it? Far be it from you to do such a thing to make the innocent die with the guilty so that the innocent and the guilty would be treated alike!’” God then says that he would spare the city for the sake of the innocent people, and the bargaining begins! Abraham keeps on lowering the bar to forty five, then forty, thirty, twenty, and finally ten. God then relents: “For the sake of those ten, I will not destroy it.”
 
This may seem like a strange story about an all-loving and forgiving God, but remember, this was written at a time when most people believed in pagan gods that were unloving, violent, and untrustworthy. Abraham was the first of a whole new order, a new relationship with a God who was just and always on the side of his people. We Christians come from that tradition, which was fulfilled in the long-awaited Messiah, Jesus Christ.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 138:1-2, 2-3, 6-7, 7-8)
 
“O Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me.” That’s the refrain, from verse 3; we also read in Psalm 138, “When I called, you answered me.” But there is no timetable. Prayer is not like putting your card in the machine, and out comes money. Even if we know that, we can be disappointed when it seems there is no answer, or at least not the one we want and when we want it. We need, then, to pray for discernment and patience.
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Colossians
(Chapter 1:24-28)
 
“Brothers and sisters: You were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.” Paul wants all the converts to Christianity to know that in baptism they died with Christ and were raised with him. There was no need for them to be circumcised. “And even when you were dead in transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, he brought you to life along with him, having forgiven us all of our transgressions.”
 
There was a major controversy in the early Church about whether gentiles who wanted to be baptized needed to be circumcised. Paul spoke out many times against this obligation and eventually won the battle, thus opening the Church to thousands and soon millions of new converts.
 
For Paul, baptism was the first step in finding a new life, a new community, and the presence of the Holy Spirit who comes to all in baptism. That is so important for us to remember—that the very Spirit of God dwells in each of us, even if and when we may have our doubts and major failings.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke
(Chapter 11:1-13)
 
A disciple said to Jesus, “‘Lord, teach us how to pray.’” He said to them, ‘When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name, your Kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread and forgive us our sins for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us, and do not subject us to the final test.’”
 
Then Jesus told a parable about a man who knocked on the door of his neighbor at midnight to ask for food for a friend who had just arrived hungry. The sleepy neighbor replied, “Do not bother me; the door has already been locked and my children and I are already in bed. I cannot get up to give you anything.” Jesus then said, “I tell you, if he does not get up to give the visitor the loaves because of their friendship, he will get up to give him whatever he needs because of his persistence. And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”
 
The point Jesus is making with this short parable is that we need to be persistent in prayer. It may be that we ask God to grant us a request, an important and appropriate request, but nothing seems to happen. Persistence! The answer may come to us slowly, or it may not be the answer we are hoping for, but we should persist and trust in a God who is not far away, but who lives within us.
 
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.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 
 

A reading from the book of Genesis
(Chapter 18:1-10a)
 
“The Lord appeared to Abraham by the terebinth of Mamre. … Looking up, Abraham saw three men standing nearby.” So, God appeared to Abraham, but not as one person but rather as three. It is hard to know who these men were except to say that they represented God or that one of them was God. In any case, Abraham knew that they were special, and so he asked his wife, Sarah, to make them a meal.  After they ate, the men asked Abraham where Sarah was. He replied, “There in the tent.” Then, one of the men said something wonderful to a couple who had no children and a woman who was beyond child-bearing age: “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah will then have a son.”
 
This is how it all started. Abraham would be the father not only of children but of a whole nation who would be called the People of God. Throughout the Scriptures, God comes to his people in the context of a meal, and so he does today, at the celebration of the Eucharist.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 15:2-3, 3-4, 5)
 
“He who does justice will live in the presence of the Lord.” Do you consider yourself a just man or just woman—in your family, your business, your community? Great! Beyond that, where do you stand on so many of the justice issues of our day: sexism, racism, economic inequality, the criminal-justice system, immigration, tyrants around the world? It may be that you feel powerless facing these difficult issues but living in a democracy means we need to keep informed so we can act are not passive to injustice and can act when it is within our power.
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Colossians
(Chapter 1:24-28)
 
In this letter, Paul writes about one of the deepest and most important elements in our lives, mystery— not a mystery story that eventually is resolved but the Divine Mystery, the very presence of God in our lives, not in some far-off future but NOW. Paul writes that he is “to bring to completion for you the word of God, the mystery hidden from ages and from generations past. But now it has been manifested to his holy ones, to whom God chose to make known the riches of the glory of this MYSTERY among the Gentiles; it is Christ in you, the hope for glory.”
 
There it is! That is the great mystery, Christ in us. The spirit of Christ lives in us. Amazing, but, of course, like any great gift, we need to accept it. How and when have you experienced the presence of Christ in you and all around you? How have you responded? Please remember that you and I and all of us are living in the mystery of God’s eternal love right now.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke
(Chapter 10:38-42)
 
This is the story of the two sisters, Martha and Mary, whom Jesus loved. At first, what occurs in the incident described in this passage may seem unfair. There was “Mary who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.” It sounds like a reasonable request. But, “The Lord said to her in reply, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need for only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.’” It seems as if Jesus is putting Martha in her place. Maybe so, in a way, but we know that Jesus deeply loved both Martha and Mary and their brother, Lazarus, so much so that he came at their call to raise brother Lazarus from the dead. Here, he is pointing out that he would rather the sisters, and we, spent more time with him and less time absorbed in worldly things.
 
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.
 
Image credit: JESUS MAFA. Martha and Mary, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=48311 [retrieved July 17, 2019]. Original source: http://www.librairie-emmanuel.fr (contact page: https://www.librairie-emmanuel.fr/contact).

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 
 

A reading from Book of Deuteronomy
(Chapter 30:10-14)
 
Moses said to the people: “If only you would heed the voice of the Lord, your God, and keep his commandments and statutes that are written in this book of the law, when you return to the Lord your God, with all your heart and all your soul. For this command that I enjoin on you today is not mysterious and remote for you. . . . No, it is something very near to you, already in your mouths and in your hearts; you have only to carry it out.”
 
The Law of Moses was superior to any other law that existed at that time. Moses was saying that the people had this Law not only in their mouths but in their hearts. There was a beautiful intimacy there that became much more complicated over the centuries as various priests of the temple, rabbis, Sadducees, and Pharisees piled on hundreds of dietary and other laws that became a terrible burden for the people and pushed them away from the powerful simplicity of the Mosaic Law, which focused on loyalty to the one God.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 69:14, 17, 30-31, 33-34, 36, 37)
 
“Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.” Which of God’s words give you Spirit and life? Ideally, it is love, God’s love for you and the love you share with others.
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Colossians
(Chapter 1:15-20)
 
This is one of the most beautiful canticles in all of Scripture. It tells us who Christ is: “Christ Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, … He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things he himself might be preeminent.”
 
Paul wants his readers and all who heard him to know the place of Jesus Christ in all of creation. This is not just another prophet or religious leader. No, he is the presence of God in our midst and being “the firstborn from the dead,” he brings eternal life to all. That is worth taking the chance that, even if you are martyred, you will have a new life with Jesus. That is the same promise that awaits us now.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke
(Chapter 10:25-37)
 
From time to time there were “smart guys,” in this case, “a scholar of the Law who stood up to test him and said, ‘Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ Jesus said to him, ‘What is written in the Law? How do you read it?’” So, this smart guy said, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus answered him, “You have answered correctly, do this and you will live.”
 
Then came the trick question. Because the man wanted to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied with one of the most important parables in the gospels, the story of the Good Samaritan. A man coming from Jerusalem “fell victim to robbers” who “stripped and beat him and went off leaving him half-dead.” A priest of the temple and a Levite came that way and passed him by. Why? Jesus does not say, but perhaps it was because they were on their way to the temple and did not want to be defiled by blood and prevented from worshiping in their official roles. Then, there was a twist in the story as “a Samaritan traveler who came upon him was moved with compassion at the sight. He approached the victim, poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them. Then he lifted him up on his own animal, took him to an inn and cared for him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper with the instruction, ‘Take care of him. If you spend more than what I have given you, I shall repay you on my way back.”
 
Then Jesus asked the man the key question: “Which of these three, in your opinion was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?” The man was trapped by his own smart-guy question. So he answered, “The one who treated him with mercy.” Jesus said to him “Go and do likewise.”
 
Jesus expanded the Law of Love to everyone, including someone you might consider your enemy, as a Jew would have regarded a Samaritan. That’s a tough one! Is there someone that you consider an enemy, in your family, your neighborhood, our country or state? Even though you may strongly disagree with that person, would you help the person in a time of need? Could you try to see that person in a different light, from a different perspective?
 
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.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 
 

A reading from Book of the Prophet Isaiah
(Chapter 19:16b, 19-21)
 
This book has three sections, and this is the last. It refers to the Babylonian Exile from 597 B.C to 539 B.C. Jerusalem was in ruins as the exiles returned. Imagine how they felt coming back to their holy city, the center of their ancient religion, to find it destroyed.
 
God encourages them by promising that Jerusalem will be restored and will nurse them like a mother. “For thus says the Lord: Lo, I will spread prosperity over Jerusalem like a river, and the wealth of nations like an overflowing torrent. As nurslings, you shall be carried in her arms, and fondled in her lap; as a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you; in Jerusalem you shall find your comfort. When you see this your heart shall rejoice.”
 
These words gave the people hope and courage in the face of devastation and the exhaustion from having lived so long under tyranny. This is why Jerusalem is so important to the Jewish people today, after so many centuries of heartbreaking disasters and disappointments. It remains a powerful symbol of God’s promise.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 66:1-3, 4-5, 6-7, 16, 20)
 
“Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.” Sadly, our beautiful earth is crying out to us today in pain as we continue to pollute its land, water and air. Let us learn more about this tragedy and how we can help.
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Galatians
(Chapter 6:14-18)
 
The Galatians were divided on the issue of circumcision; it was one of several issues that were causing division among them. Paul tells them, “neither does circumcision mean anything, nor does uncircumcision, but only a new creation.” There is something much more important: “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” The Galatians have argued among themselves and with Paul, so he tells them, “From now on, let no one make troubles for me; for I bear the marks of Jesus on my body.”
 
Paul knew what was most important, the powerful love and presence of Jesus. It is a good lesson for us as we sometimes become upset over small matters and miss the big picture.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke
(Chapter 10:1-12, 17-20)
 
Obviously twelve apostles were not enough to reach all the people who wanted to hear the Good News, so Jesus chose 72 more disciples and told them to depend on the generosity of the people in each town for food and lodging: “Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals, and greet no one on the way. Into whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this household.’ Stay in the same house and eat and drink what is offered to you, for the laborer deserves his payment. Whatever town you enter and they welcome you, eat what is set before you, cure the sick in it and say to them, ‘The Kingdom of God is at hand for you.’ Jesus was aware that not everyone would accept the message and he has especially harsh words for those who reject the message. “I tell you, it will be more tolerable for Sodom on that day than for that town.” Of course, there is no record of that happening anywhere the disciples went, so we have to consider this as hyperbole that Jesus used to make a point. These were going to be very hard and dangerous journeys. Many of these disciples were harmed and several were martyred, but the message was powerful, and it gradually reached far beyond Jerusalem. It is a truly amazing story of courage and the power of the Spirit of God that went with those disciples and is with each of us today. Can you think of times when you had to do something challenging, and it worked out? Have you thought how the power of the Holy Spirit within you helped you make the right decision and respond to the challenge?
 
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.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 
 

A reading from the First Book of Kings
(Chapter 19:16b, 19-21)
 
Elijah was one of the most important prophets of Israel, and now God was telling him that he must choose Elisha as his successor. The Lord said to Elijah, “You shall anoint Elisha, son of Shaphat of Abelmeholah as prophet to succeed you.” So, Elijah found Elisha “as he was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen. . . . Elijah went over to him and threw his cloak over him.” That was all the sign that Elisha needed to understand that he was chosen to be a prophet, so he slaughtered his twelve yoke of oxen and fed the people in his neighborhood. “Then Elisha left and followed Elijah as his attendant.”
 
This is one of many stories in the Bible about someone receiving a call to serve God, what we today would call a vocation. Most of us grew up thinking that the word vocation meant only being a priest or a religious sister or brother, but the truth is that each of us has a vocation, a calling from God to do some kind of service with our lives. For most of us, it means being a wife or husband or parent, but it can also mean being a devoted son or daughter, sister or brother or friend. It also may mean using our talents or positions in society to help others, especially those in need. It may be many of those roles, and we should celebrate each of them in our lives, especially those that are most challenging.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 16: 1-2, 5, 7-8, 9-10, 11)
 
“You are my inheritance, O Lord.” Most of us may or may not receive a large financial inheritance. No matter! In our response to the verses of this psalm, we acknowledge that God is our inheritance. What more do we need?
 
A reading from the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Galatians
(Chapter 5:1, 13-18)
 
Paul tells the Galatians, “Brothers and sisters: for freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery. For you were called for freedom, brothers and sisters. But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve one another through love.”
 
The yoke of slavery that Paul is talking about is the old law with its hundreds of prescriptions, including circumcision. Jesus had simplified the law into two great commandments: Love God and love one another. But Paul does not want the people to emulate the mistakes of sects that promoted practices that were against Christian morality.
 
He concludes by telling the Galatians, “But if you are guided by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” So, when you and I are faced with difficult decisions, we need to reach for guidance to the Spirit that lives within each of us. The Holy Spirit is our partner in life and our guide. That may not be news to you, but even if it is, it is good news. The very Spirit of God lives within you!
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke
(Chapter 9:51-62)
 
Jesus is preparing to make what will be his last journey to Jerusalem. He wants to stop in a Samaritan village first but is not permitted to enter because the Samaritans know he is going to Jerusalem, place they hate, because the Jewish people consider them to be heretics. The apostles James and John ask Jesus, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?” But vengeance is not the way of Jesus, so he rebukes them. Along the way, many people are attracted to him, and three say they want to follow him. “I will follow you wherever you go,” says one man. But each of the three had conditions, so Jesus did not accept any of them. And yet, we know he had many disciples who stayed faithful to his message after he died.
 
What does it mean for you to be a disciple of Jesus? What do you think he is asking you to do with your life? Perhaps it is something heroic, but more probably it is a series of loving responses and service to the people in your life—at home, at work, and in your community.
 
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.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 
 

A reading from the Book of Genesis
(Chapter 14:18-20)
 
Abraham was the father of the Jewish people. Melchizedek is a shadowy character from the Book of Genesis who is mentioned only one more time in the Hebrew Scriptures—in Psalm 110. “You are a priest forever, in the line of Melchizedek.” In this reading Melchizedek is described as a king who “brought out bread and wine and, being a priest of God most high, he blessed Abram with these words: ‘Blessed be Abram by God most high, the creator of heaven and earth; and blessed be God most high, who delivered your foes into your hand.’” So, Melchizedek is a priest and a king, and he shares bread and wine with Abram even before Abram becomes Abraham—the name God gives him as “God’s chosen one.”
 
It is an odd story, but it is in this liturgy because it mentions the sharing of bread and wine which is what we do during at each Mass, with one major difference. We believe that Jesus is truly present in the form of bread and wine as he was at the Last Supper.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 110:1, 2, 3, 4)
 
“You are a priest forever in the line of Melchizedek.” Every priest that is ordained in the Roman Catholic Church is ordained with these words.
 
A reading from the first Letter of Paul to the Corinthians
(Chapter 11:23-26)
 
The Eucharist is the center of our weekly worship, and the center of the Eucharist is our participation in sharing the body and blood of Jesus Christ in the form of bread and wine. In this reading, Paul tells the Corinthians, “Brothers and sisters: I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and after he had given thanks, broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.”
 
Remember, in the beginning, after the death and resurrection of Jesus, most Christians, including Paul and the other apostles, believed that Jesus would soon return. Until then, they were to share his presence by celebrating a meal together as Jesus did with the apostles the night before he died. As it gradually became clear that Jesus would not come back as soon as the early Christians had hoped, the celebration of the Eucharist became more and more important and central to their worship, and it kept the various communities together just as it does today with us.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke
(Chapter 9:11b-17)
 
“Jesus spoke to the crowds about the Kingdom of God, and he healed those who needed to be cured.” There we have the two most important ministries that Jesus pursued for three years and that almost all scripture scholars agree were at the core of his preaching: announcing the Kingdom of God and healing people who were suffering. Luke tells us in his Gospel that Jesus was doing this all day, and at the end of the day the apostles told him to “Dismiss the crowd so that they can go to the surrounding villages and farms and find lodgings and provisions; for we are in a deserted place here.” That made sense. They seemed to be saying, “Let’s call it a day. Everybody is hungry, and we do not have anything to give them.”
 
That is when Jesus displayed another dimension of his gifts. Five loaves and two fish for all those people! How did he do it? We do not know. The news media were not there. But we do know that he healed all sorts of illnesses and touched the minds and hearts of thousands of people. So, we believe that he did feed people on this occasion and many more. We also believe that he feeds us with his very presence at each Eucharist we celebrate. That is much more remarkable than feeding a large number of people, no matter how many, and it happens at every Eucharist.
 
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.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 
 

A reading from the Book of Proverbs
(Chapter 8:22-31)
 
“Thus says the wisdom of God: ‘The Lord possessed me, the beginning of his ways, the forerunner of his prodigies of long ago; from of old I was poured forth, at the first, before the earth.’” Who or what is this wisdom that seems to speak as a person? Is it God himself, or herself, because in the Hebrew Scriptures wisdom was often called Lady Wisdom? Later, in the Gospels, Jesus is called the Wisdom of God. Are you confused? Join the crowd that has been trying to determine this for two thousand years. We who are Christians or Jews refer to ourselves as monotheists, people who believe that there is only one God, and yet we Christians believe that Jesus is God and that the Holy Spirit that Jesus sent is also God. How does this all fit together? Welcome to the greatest mystery of our faith—the Holy Trinity, one God who is three Persons. This is not a mystery to be solved. It is the mystery that you and I live in every day, the mystery of God’s unconditional love.
 
Remember when you were taught as a child that you were created in the image and likeness of God? That God is not an isolated single being somewhere out there but rather a community of persons—the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And that God’s very Spirit lives within each of us even when we are off track, when we have seriously sinned or have disbelieved. God never abandons us.
 
It also means that we are not meant to be alone. We are communal beings created by our God who is a community of persons. That is why we long for the love and friendship of others, why we are willing to make great sacrifices for our families and friends and our larger communities. It is a major part of our spiritual DNA. Let us rejoice in who we truly are, not only created in the image and likeness of God but living our lives in that divine and human community.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 8:4-5, 6-7, 8-9)
 
“O Lord, our God, how wonderful is your name in all the earth.” Our love for one another is what makes God’s name wonderful. We are God’s messengers of that love.
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans
(Chapter 5:1-5)
 
Paul is writing at a time of great persecution and suffering, so he wants his people to have hope. “Brothers and sisters . . . since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith to this grace in which we stand, and we boast in hope of the glory of God. Not only that but we boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character , hope, and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”
 
Do you pray in the Spirit of hope, realizing that the answer to our prayers is often not what we may expect or when we expect it? Some prayers seem to be answered soon, others in time, and still others in ways we had not imagined. Yet, we pray in hope in the embrace of our God—all three Persons—in our Community of Divine Love.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to John
(Chapter 16:12-15)
 
Remember that John lived for many years after the death of Jesus and had much time to pray and be inspired to share deep truths not recorded in the other Gospels. Here, he gives us more clues about our relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. “But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his own, but will speak what he hears, and will declare for you the things that are coming. . . . Everything that the Father has is mine. . . .”
 
All of this is a deep, enduring truth. God is a community of persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. So, when we pray the Lord’s Prayer it is not just to the Father but also an entry prayer into the depths of the Holy Trinity. It is the Holy Spirit within us that carries forth the prayer, and it is Jesus our brother who is always with us in our prayer. Our prayer is not simply a series of words but a communication with the Holy Community of which we are a part, whether we pray silently by ourselves or as part of the Eucharistic Assembly.
 
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.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 
 

pentecostA reading from the Acts of the Apostles
(Chapter 2:1-11)
 
If you wonder why there were so many people from so many countries in Jerusalem on the occasion described in this passage, it was because Pentecost was first a Jewish feast and a time when pilgrims from all over the near world would travel to the holy city to worship. But on this particular Pentecost, Saint Luke tells us, there were strange happenings: “A noise like a strong wind” and “tongues of fire”, signs similar to those that occurred when God established the original covenant with the Jewish people. Luke wanted his audience to know that this was God confirming a new covenant with a new diverse people—thus, the people speaking many languages but still understanding one another. Luke wrote this a few decades after the actual events, and he wanted people to know that this was the beginning of something new that had its roots in a previous tradition and fulfilled that tradition. Today, we say that Pentecost is the birthday of the Church.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 104:1, 24, 29-30, 31, 34)
 
“Lord, send out your Spirit and renew the face of the earth.” Here is a common thread between Judaism and Christianity, the Spirit of God. The difference for us Christians is that we believe that the Spirit of God is not just “out there” somewhere but rather lives in each one of us. That is one of the major breakthroughs of Christianity. God is not some distant being but absolutely close to each of us even when we might not feel that presence. We are never alone.
 
A reading from the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians
(Chapter 12:3b-7, 12-13)
 
Saint Paul tells us that we may each have different gifts and forms of service, but what unites us all together is the one Spirit. And, “To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.”
 
You and I each have different gifts from the Spirit. Do you believe that? What are your spiritual gifts? How do you use them, share them? Can you appreciate the gifts of someone else, even though you might disagree with them on one or more issues? That is particularly important today when our country and even our Church are often divided in many ways.
 
As we read the Acts of the Apostles and the Letters of Saint Paul, it becomes clear that there were a series of major differences within the early Church with so many groups coming in and out of focus, each believing that their version of the truth about Jesus was the right one. This has continued for some two thousand years and has been the cause of wars and numerous unjust actions. It is only when we listen to the Spirit and act in the loving power of the Spirit that we have peace and true communion.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to John
(Chapter 20:19-23)
 
Jesus said to the Apostles, “Peace be with you. As the father has sent me, so also I send you.” Then, “He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”
 
John wrote these short few sentences, at the end of the first century, to validate the connection between the Church after Jesus with his words before he was no longer visibly present. Jesus conferred gifts, first the Holy Spirit and then the power to forgive sins. Remember, John wrote his Gospel during a time of persecution, and he wanted to make sure that his readers would know how blessed they were and how they were strengthened in the midst of endless trials. The Holy Spirit was with them and is with us today.
 
What are the special gifts that you have received in your life? How have you used them, especially the gifts of forgiveness and healing?
 
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.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 
 

A reading from the Acts of the Apostles
(Chapter 7:55-60)
 
Here we have two stories, one an end and one a beginning. Stephen, “filled with the Holy Spirit,” a deacon, was a powerful preacher and witness to the Gospel and who infuriated the religious leaders, who stoned him to death. Following in the footsteps of Jesus, Stephen forgave his murderers. He is considered the first Christian martyr, a glorious ending.
 
Saul is an avid Jew who feels called to persecute what he considers to be a dangerous sect of Judaism, the young Christian community. He obviously was held in esteem by the Sanhedrin, and the witnesses who testified against Stephen “laid down their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul” as they were stoning Stephen. This is a shocking story about the man, known to us as Paul, who was most instrumental in the growth of the early Church. He had a deep fear and hatred for all that Stephen proclaimed. Yet, after his dramatic conversion, he became the most important and courageous apostle who is more responsible than anyone for spreading the message of Christ. That is the power of the Holy Spirit at work in the Church, the same Spirit that abides in each of us today and in our Church with all its problems and weaknesses.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 97:1-2, 6-7, 9)
 
“The Lord is king, the most high over all the earth.” The psalmist lived in a time of kings. We do not, but his intention is the same as ours, to honor the power of God in our midst.
 
A reading from the the Book of Revelation
(Chapter 22:12-14, 16-17, 20)
 
“Come Lord Jesus.” These are the last words of the Book of Revelation and Revelation is the last book of the Bible. Those words were written at a time of persecution and great distress to give hope to a struggling people. “Come Lord Jesus. Come Lord Jesus.” Could these words be part of our prayer when we experience crises, disappointments, and fears for the safety of our loved ones or our own safety and health; when we see pictures and hear stories of the millions of refugees and victims of war and persecution? We may feel helpless in the face of such daunting personal or global tragedy. Let us pray, “Come Lord Jesus.”
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to John
(Chapter 17:20-26)
 
John wrote his Gospel long after the death of and resurrection of Jesus, and it includes not only the basic story that the other Gospels tell but also John’s accounts that are somewhat different from what the other evangelists recorded. This passage has a powerful theme: “so that they may all be one, as you Father, are in me and I in you, that they may also be in us.” The dual message here is that Jesus and the Father are one and that we are one with them. That is the basis of our faith. We do not believe in an isolated being up in the sky, as it were, but in a Trinity, a community of persons—the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—and the best part is that we, in a way, are part of that community. God is our Father, too. Jesus is our brother, and the Holy Spirit lives within us. That is quite a community in which to share!
 
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.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 
 

Holy_SpiritA reading from the Acts of the Apostles
(Chapter 15:1-2, 22-29)
 
One of the first great controversies in the early Church was about whether Gentiles needed to be circumcised. This issue arose in Antioch because, as Luke writes, “Some who had come down from Judea were instructing the brothers, ‘Unless you are circumcised according to the Mosaic practice, you cannot be saved.’” The apostles and elders in Jerusalem sent this response, which opened the Church to all: “It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us not to place any burden on you beyond these necessities, namely, to abstain from meat sacrificed to idols, from blood, from meats of strangled animals and from unlawful marriage. If you keep free of these, you will be doing what is right.”
 
The animal restrictions may seem strange to us, but it was an important part of Jewish practice that the apostles kept while eliminating the need for circumcision. This was a major breakthrough that opened the doors to thousands of Gentiles who otherwise might not have become Christians.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8)
 
“O God, let all the nations praise you.” Of course, not all nations praise God, but we do.
 
A reading from the the Book of Revelation
(Chapter 21:10-14, 22-23)
 
The writer tells us, “The angel took me in spirit to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city of Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God.” This was written long after the physical city of Jerusalem had been destroyed. “I saw no temple in the city for its temple is the Lord God almighty and the Lamb. The city had no sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gave it light.”
 
Jerusalem, the heart of Judaism, had been destroyed, but in the vision the new holy city came down from heaven. It was the symbol of the new faith, built on Judaism but fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to John
(Chapter 14: 23-29)
 
“Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him. . . . I have told you this while I am with you. The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. . . . Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. You heard me tell you, ‘I am going away and I will come back to you.’ If you loved me you would rejoice that I am going to the Father.’”
 
Here we have Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in one passage. This occurred right before Jesus left for the last time, so he wanted to be clear about what was most important for the apostles to remember and follow. They should not worry about what to teach. The Holy Spirit would teach them everything they needed to know and remind them of what Jesus had already taught them.
 
This is what was most important to remember—that the Holy Spirit would be with them, guiding them always and helping them make important and difficult decisions such as the question of circumcision that we heard about in the reading from the Acts of the Apostles. We believe that the same Holy Spirit is with us today, guiding us and our leaders. Of course, the Spirit has been stifled so many times throughout the history of the Church, including in our own time when some Church leaders failed to act property to deal with sexual abuse by clergy. That does not mean that the Spirit is absent but rather that it is not heard and followed.
 
Let us pray that our Church and each of us in our own lives will be open to the power of the Holy Spirit, that we may seek wisdom and follow it in the love of Jesus Christ.
 
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.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 
 

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.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 
 

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.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 
Page 1 of 612345...Last »
Home / Request Information / Site Map / Contact Us / Shop Online
Why Catholic? / ¿Por qué ser católico? / ARISE Together in Christ / Longing for the Holy
Campus RENEW / Theology on Tap / RENEW Worldwide