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Note: We can pray with the Sunday readings even if Sunday liturgies have been suspended due to the coronavirus.
Bill Ayres continues to offer his reflections to help our prayer.

 
Gospel at the Procession:
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew

(Chapter 21:1-11)
 
This is Matthew, a Jew writing especially for Jewish converts to Christ. He wants to make sure he conveys that Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promise for the Messiah. That is why he has Jesus “riding on a donkey” as the prophet Zechariah foretold and has the crowd cry out “Hosanna to the Son of David, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” from Psalm 118.
 
There are supporters who believe Jesus to be the Messiah, and yet not long after, in this same city, another crowd yells, “Crucify him.” Have you ever wondered why the people of Jerusalem changed sides so quickly? As we hear later in the story, it was the Pharisees and other religious leaders who were threatened by Jesus that wanted him dead and roused up many of the people to turn against him even though it was not in their best interest. It is a pattern that has continued throughout history.
 
A reading from the the Prophet Isaiah
(Chapter 50:4-7)
 
This is one of the four poems called “Suffering Servant Songs” that depict a messenger sent to convince the people to be true to the covenant they had with God. The Servant suffers rejection and even death while being faithful to his mission. The early Church saw Jesus as the embodiment of the Suffering Servant, as do we today.
 
Have you ever suffered for doing the right thing, for standing up for the truth, for helping someone in need? At times, we all may be called to be suffering servants but not people without hope. Our hope is in Jesus, especially in times of suffering.
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Philippians
(Chapter 2:6-11)
 
This passage was probably a hymn sung at early Christian liturgies that incorporates the image of the Suffering Servant that was familiar to the Jews of the time. But it goes beyond this image to one obedient to the point of death: “Because of this, God greatly exalted him” … “and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord”
 
This was a radical statement for any Jew to make. For Judaism, God is totally other, not embodied in some aspect of nature. God is God. That’s it. But here, the early Christians boldly sing of their belief “that Jesus Christ is Lord.” That may be easy for us to say now, but it was a dangerous song back then.
 
The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Matthew
(Chapters 26:14-27:66)
 
This is the most important part of the Gospels, and so we read the whole passage reverently. It is impossible to get all the many parts of the story all at once. Please try to read all four of the gospel Passion stories, or at least one of them, sometime this week if possible and talk about it with someone who shares your faith.
 
There are so many interesting characters and stories within stories. Let’s look more closely at Judas and Peter. Both betray Jesus but in different ways and for different reasons. Peter is afraid, afraid for his life. He knew how hideous the Roman crucifixions were. So, here he is the one chosen by Jesus to be the leader, the “rock,” and he crumbles. We do not know why Judas betrayed Jesus to the Romans. Was it just for money or were there other motives? In any case, Judas becomes so wrapped in guilt that he kills himself. He does not believe that he can be forgiven. That means that he did not really understand who Jesus was, the healer, full of compassionate forgiveness, and so he cut himself off from the gift that Jesus offered him. Peter recognized his tragic mistake and turned himself around, had a change of heart, and asked for forgiveness. Later, of course, he gave his life for Jesus and for the message of forgiveness. And what of Judas? Did his suicide mean that he was forever condemned for his lack of faith in forgiveness? No! Who are we to judge?
 
As we celebrate this Palm Sunday in the midst of a global pandemic and remember all the horrible suffering that Jesus endured, let us pray to the suffering Jesus who bore the suffering of his people and the risen Jesus who overcame suffering and death and is now with all who suffer throughout the world.
 
Let us also ask ourselves what we can do to help those who are in danger and who may be hungry.
 
As you may know, I co-founded WhyHunger with the late Harry Chapin. We started the first hunger hotline in America, the New York Hunger Hotline. Some years later, we started the National Hunger Hotline which still operates at 1-800-548-6479. Over the years, we have helped millions of hungry people find food in their neighborhoods. During the past two weeks our calls have gone up 300 percent. If you know people who are hungry, please tell them to call that hotline. And if you can do anything to help hungry people near you or far away, please do.
 
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.
 
Image courtesy of www.LumoProject.com and can be found at FreeBibleImages.org
 
Bill Ayres was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. Bill was a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.

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Note: We can pray with the Sunday readings even if Sunday liturgies have been suspended due to the coronavirus.
Bill Ayres continues to offer his reflections to help our prayer.

A reading from the the Prophet Ezekiel
(Chapter 37:12-14)
 
The Babylonian Exile (597 BC to 538 BC) was a terrible period in the history of the Jewish people. Many thousands died and many more lost hope. Amid this tragedy, the prophet Ezekiel preached hope. Ezekiel lived in exile in Babylon which for thousands of Israelites was a grave. But Ezekiel has a message from God: “O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them, and bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the Lord…. “I will put my spirit in you that you may live, and I will settle you upon your land…. I have promised, and I will do it.”
 
In times of disaster, there are true prophets, sent from God, and false prophets. Sometimes, it is hard to tell the difference unless we listen to the Spirit dwelling within us and all around us.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 130:1-8)
 
“With the Lord there is mercy and the fullness of redemption.” Mercy is a key word for Pope Francis. He feels he experienced God’s mercy in powerful way when he was a bishop in Argentina in a period of political strife and violence. It changed his life forever. He encourages us to seek God’s mercy throughout our lives.
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans
(Chapter 8:8-11)
 
Paul tells the Romans, “You are in the spirit, if only the Spirit of God dwells in you…. If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit dwelling in you.”
 
As you know, Paul was not always a believer in Jesus, but once he “got it” he was all in. He experienced the Holy Spirit in him, and he knew the power it gave him to face adversity, torture, and even death. He believed that his mortal body would be given a new life after death. Jesus died and will live forever, a seeming contradiction but not for Jesus and not for us because God’s Spirit lives in us.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to John
(Chapter 11:1-45)
 
Have you noticed that as we come closer to Holy Week the gospel readings have been longer? Let us try to really get into this beautiful story: “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.” Yes, Jesus loved everyone, but he was also fully human and had an especially deep friendship with this family. So, you would think that when Jesus heard that Lazarus had died, he would have rushed to comfort the family. No! “So, when he heard that (Lazarus) was ill, he remained for two days in the place where he was.” Then finally he said to his companions, “Let us go back to Judea.”
 
Of course, by then Lazarus was not only dead but already entombed. “Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you…. Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise.’ Martha said to him, ‘I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day.’ Jesus told her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will live forever. Do you believe this?’ She said, ‘Yes, Lord….’”
 
So, Jesus went to the tomb and “cried out in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’” John ends the story by telling us, “Now many of the Jews who had come to Mary and seen what had been done began to believe in him.” Still, many more did not, just as many today who are Christians doubt that we will also be resurrected. Yet, there are only two choices: believe in resurrection or there is nothingness. I am going with Jesus and the promise of resurrection. How about you?
 
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. Bill was a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.

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Note: We can pray with the Sunday readings even if Sunday liturgies have been suspended due to the coronavirus.
Bill Ayres continues to offer his reflections to help our prayer.

A reading from the First book of Samuel
(Chapter 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a)
 
Saul was the king of Israel, but he had fallen out of favor with the Lord. It was time for a new king who would be faithful and just. “The Lord said to Samuel: Fill your horn with oil and be on your way. I am sending you to Jesse of Jerusalem for I have chosen my king from among his sons.” Samuel knew that Jesse had seven sons, but which one would it be? Perhaps Eliab? The Lord said to Samuel, “Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature, because I have rejected him.” So, Jesse presented six of his sons, and the Lord rejected all of them. But there was a surprise. Jesse had one more son whose name was David. “The Lord said ‘There, anoint him, for this is the one.’” Why would God choose someone so seemingly inappropriate and so young? “Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance, but God looks into the heart.” The heart of David was good and strong.
 
Yes! That is the way God chooses—not by appearances but by looking into our hearts. Let us look into our own hearts especially, now as we live in daily crisis. God is there.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 23:1-3a, 3b-4; 5, 6)
 
“The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I should want. In verdant pastures he gives me repose; beside restful waters he leads me; he refreshes my soul.” Whatever you are going through that is painful, stressful, or despairing, God will refresh your soul, even now. Call on him.
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Ephesians
(Chapter 5:8-14)
 
“Brothers and sisters: You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth…. Therefore, it says: ‘Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.’’’
 
This theme of darkness and light has been used throughout history, because both elements—darkness and light—are so powerful and relate to our everyday experience. Entering a dark room, having the light go out suddenly, and having to read without good light can be challenging and even scary. Light brings clarity, warmth, and comfort. So, as the author says, “Christ will give you light.”
 
In these times of darkness, ask Christ to give us, give you, light.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to John
(Chapter 9:1-41)
 
This is one of the longest gospel stories, and it has one self-evident meaning and one deeper meaning. Jesus meets a man born blind. In this culture at this time, someone is to be blamed for the blindness—usually, the blind person’s parents. That is why the disciples ask Jesus, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answers, “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him.” Jesus then rubs the man’s eyes with clay and tells him to go and wash in the Pool of Siloam. The man does that, and when people ask him how he can now see, he tells them about Jesus healing him. Then the Pharisees ask him, and he tells them the same story. Some of them condemn Jesus: “This man is not from God, because he does not keep the Sabbath.” Others ask the formerly blind man, “What do you have to say about him since he opened your eyes.” He says, “He is a prophet.”
 
The Pharisees, who are supposed to be the truly religious people, condemn Jesus because he healed on the Sabbath and did therefore did not follow the letter of the Law. For Jesus, the Law of Love that came from his Father was the true Law. The Pharisees remain in darkness, but the man has come into the light and can see because of his faith in Jesus.
 
Do you ever feel a sense of darkness in your life or in your very soul? It can come from within for any number of reasons: illness, disappointment, the loss of mental or physical abilities, or a loss of faith. It can also originate from outside events, threats, or broken relationships—or a combination of such things. It may even be just one thing in the midst of an otherwise happy life. Where can you find the light in the midst of darkness? Is there an action you can take? Can you ask for someone’s help? The one source of healing and light that is always there is your Spirit, your lifelong partner who lives within you. Keep saying hello to the Holy Spirit
 
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. Bill was a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.

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A reading from the Book of Exodus
(Chapter 12:1-4a)
 
The Israelites have been wandering in the dessert for years since their escape from Egypt; they are hungry and, more importantly, thirsty. The complain to Moses:“Why did you ever make us leave Egypt? Was it just to have us die of thirst with our children and our livestock?” In Egypt, they led a horrible existence of slavery and violence; yet, that seems better compared to their present suffering. “So, Moses cried out to the Lord, ‘What shall I do with this people?’” The Lord instructs Moses to go to the rock of Horeb: “Strike the rock, and the water will flow from it for the people to drink.”
 
So goes the continuing story of God’s relationship with the Israelites. With each crisis they face, their faith is tested and often beyond their ability to be faithful. No matter! God is always with them.
 
Thousands of years later, we continue face our own crises on personal and societal levels. A family member dies painfully, tragically, or unexpectedly. Sickness strikes. A relationship shatters. Addiction takes over a family. And then there are the crises of our society: hunger, poverty, injustice, racism, sexism, and now a creeping virus. Our relationship with God is tested in all these crises and many more.
 
The key to our relationship with God and our spiritual, emotional, and physical health is what God has said to us in the Hebrew Scriptures and what Jesus said in the Gospels: “I am with you always.”
 
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 95: 1-2, 6-7, 8-9)
 
“If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” Do you know someone who has a hardened heart, someone who can no longer hear God’s voice? Maybe your prayer for that person will reach his or her. It may take a while, maybe a long while, but do not give up. “I am with you.”
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans
(Chapter 5:1-2, 5-8)
 
Paul tells his brothers and sisters in Rome, “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 for the glory of God. And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
 
Let’s read that last line again: “The love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” It is not as though the love of God is something outside of us. No, it is within us, because the very Spirit of God is in us. Do you believe that God’s Spirit is alive in you?
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to John
(Chapter 4:5-42)
 
This is the story of Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman at the well, and it links with our first reading about water flowing from a rock through the power of God.
 
“Jesus, tired from his journey, sat down there at the well…. A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her ‘Give me a drink.’” The Samaritan woman then asks, “‘How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman for a drink? For Jews have nothing to do with Samaritans….’ Jesus answered and said to her, ‘If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you ‘Give me a drink’ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.’”
 
The woman is skeptical and asks him, “Are you greater than our father Jacob who gave us this cistern and drank from it himself?” Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I will give will never thirst; the water I will give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
 
This woman has had a hard life, with five different husbands, but Jesus does not condemn her. She believes in him and tells everyone in town about him. Jesus winds up staying there two days, and, “Many more began to believe in him because of his word.”
 
The fact that Jesus is speaking in public to a woman who was not his wife—and speaking to a Samaritan at that—shocked his disciples at first, but Jesus does not care. He wants to reach out to someone whose neighbors may see her as a great sinner, so he says, “the Father seeks such people to worship him.” She did, and so did the other Samaritans who were considered by Jewish people to be heretics. We can declare with them: “We know that this is truly the savior of the world.”
 
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 over 40 years. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.

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A reading from the Book of Genesis
(Chapter 12:1-4a)
 
“The Lord said to Abram: ‘Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you and curse those that curse you. All the communities of the earth shall find blessing in you.’ Abram went as the Lord directed him.”
 
Abram’s conversation with God marks the beginning of the Jewish people. God tells Abram, whom he soon will call Abraham, “I will make of you a great nation.” These words often have often been a comfort and source of hope to the Jewish people during their historic suffering and their frequent dispersion.
 
The same is true for us today amid turmoil throughout the world and in our own country and perhaps a worldwide health crisis. Let us ask in hope for God’s blessing for our country and our world. And let us ask for that blessing in the name of our Brother and Savior, Jesus Christ.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 33:4-5, 18-19, 20, 22)
 
“Lord, let your mercy be upon us, as we place our trust in you…. May your kindness, O Lord, be upon us who have put our hope in you.” Let us remember that our hope, in God, is ever present and eternal. Do you believe that?
 
A reading from the second letter of Saint Paul to Timothy
(Chapter 1:8b-10)
 
Paul is writing to his disciple Timothy at a time of persecution and death for the early Christians, and Paul wants to encourage them. “Beloved: Bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God.” How does your strength come from God? Do you ask for strength? How do you respond when it seems that no strength comes?
 
Paul write that God “saved us and called us to his own design and the grace bestowed on us in Christ Jesus before time began, but now made manifest through the appearance of our savior Christ Jesus who destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” The word “gospel” means good news, and the good news, as we know it, is that Christ Jesus destroyed the finality of death “and brought life and immortality.”
 
Do you believe the amazing promise that death is not the end, that we will live another life, that we are immortal? That is the teaching of Jesus, and it has been the teaching of the Church for more than two thousand years. It is the gospel, the good news, of our salvation.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew
(Chapter 17:1-9)
 
“Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him.”
The Book of Genesis tells of God making himself known to Moses. Matthew, who is writing for a mostly Jewish audience, wants his readers to know that Jesus too had such an experience and that Moses himself and Elijah were there. If Matthew’s readers were good Jews, they believed in God’s manifestations to Moses. So, now too, they should believe in the apparition that Jesus and the three apostles experienced.
 
Of course, Peter is overwhelmed, especially when he hears a voice saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased, listen to him.” Peter does not want to come down from the mountain. He is ready to build three tents, one for Jesus, one for Moses and one for Elijah. “But Jesus came and touched them, saying, ‘Rise, and do not be afraid.’’’
 
Have you ever had moments when you were, in a sense, “on the mountain with Jesus”? Maybe it was at Mass or in prayer or at a time of healing with someone you were present with in a deep way. Or perhaps it was simply being in nature or anywhere that you felt the presence of Jesus. Did you feel as Peter did and not want to “come down from the mountain”? These special moments with Jesus or with the Spirit or with our Father occur to help us deal with our everyday challenges, hurts, disappointments, failures. The key is being open to the mystery of God being with you.
 
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.
 
Image courtesy of freebibleimages.org.
 
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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A reading from the Book of Genesis
(Chapter 2:7-9, 3:1-7)
 
No one knows exactly when the Book of Genesis was written, but biblical scholars calculate that it was sometime after the Jewish people came back from the Babylonian Exile in the sixth century B.C. and people questioned why they were away so long and why God had allowed them to experience such misery.
 
This story of Adam and Eve is obviously an allegory, but it provides answers to two of life’s most important questions. Why are we not immortal; why do we all have to die? And, is there not some super wisdom that can protect us from making wrong decisions that might lead to death or ruin?
 
The authors answer these questions by telling a two-part story. First, “The Lord God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being.” The authors wanted their listeners or readers to know that God is the creator of all that exists, and that everything God has created is good. It was important to begin the story in a positive vein for a people who had just been through the hell of the Babylonian Exile and for people to follow who might experience similar horrors.
 
The story then switches to the woman, and it turns dark. “The serpent asked the woman, ‘Did God really tell you not to eat from any of the trees in the garden?’” The woman answers, “It is only about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden that God said, ‘You shall not eat or even touch it, lest you die’ …. But the serpent said to the woman: ‘You certainly will not die! No, God knows well that the moment you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods who know what is good and what is evil.” Of course, we know that the woman gives in to the serpent, eats some fruit, and then gives some to the man, Adam.
 
The authors answer both those seminal questions. We do not have immortality, because the woman and man disobeyed God, and there is no super wisdom to prevent us from wrong decisions and sin. It is gone because of the bad decision made by the first human beings.
 
Because of the way this story is constructed, it has been interpreted to mean that woman is to blame for evil in the world. Nonsense! The message of this creation story is not that women are weaker or less capable than men. Perhaps we’re still learning that, step by painful step.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 51:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 17)
 
“Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.” Let us ask for God’s forgiveness for any time we may have discriminated against another person, at any time, for any reason.
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans
(Chapter 5:12-19)
 
Here, Paul traces the root of sin to Adam and forgiveness of sin to Jesus Christ. “But death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who did not sin after the pattern of the trespass of Adam…. But the gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one, the many died, how much more did the grace of God and the gracious gift of the one man Jesus Christ overflow for the many.” Notice the word “gift.” It is one of the most important words in our faith. Our life itself is a gift. Our faith is a gift. God’s unconditional love is a gift. We did not earn any of it.
 
For centuries, people have asked the question, “How can I get to heaven?” The answer is that we can’t do it ourselves. We need to accept the gift of life, of God’s unconditional love, and the presence of the Holy Spirit, our life partner, within our souls. It is all gift from our merciful Father who never stops loving us. Please share the gift with those you love and especially those you may find hard to love.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew
(Chapter 4:1-11)
 
This is an amazing story of one man’s battle with evil temptations. Notice who leads him and stays with him throughout. “At that time Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.” Jesus fasts forty days and forty nights, and he is hungry and vulnerable. “The tempter approached and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread.” That was the first temptation, physical hunger. Most of us have not experienced that kind of extreme hunger but think of the millions of our brothers and sisters all over the world who live with hunger every day. Jesus responds, “One does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.” Then the devil ups the ante to life itself and tells Jesus that he should throw himself down from the parapet of the temple. Then, finally, he shows Jesus “All the kingdoms of this world in their magnificence, and he said to him, ‘All these I will give you.’ … Jesus said to him, ‘Go away Satan.’”
 
That covers all the temptations that you and I might experience—all sorts of hungers, lack of trust in God, and desire for power. Jesus faced them all, and he is with us in all of our temptations. We live in the mystery of God’s mercy and our life partner, the Holy Spirit, 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.
 
Image courtesy of freebibleimages.org.
 
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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A reading from the Book of Leviticus
(Chapter 19:1-2, 17-18)
 
“Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy.” This is the beginning of a whole series of laws that Moses is proclaiming to the people, including how they are to treat one another. The reading ends with one of the most important: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
 
Jesus taught the same law many years later, and it is still most important today. Imagine how many millions of lives could have been saved and wars avoided if that Law Above All Laws had been not only proclaimed but lived.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 103: 1-2, 3-4, 8, 10, 12-13)
 
“The Lord is kind and merciful…. He pardons all your iniquities, heals all your ills. He redeems your life from destruction, crowns you with kindness and compassion.” Do you know this God? This is the God of Moses and of Jesus. This is our God.
 
A reading from Saint Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians
(Chapter 3:16-23)
 
Paul tells the Christian community in Corinth, “Brothers and sisters: Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells within you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for the temple of God, which you are, is holy.” Throughout the history of the Jewish people, they lived in awe of the temple in Jerusalem and yet, their holy temple was destroyed. Paul is telling them that the true temple of God is within them because the very Spirit of God lives in them.
 
This wisdom that the Spirit of God lives in us is a wisdom that is often neglected or not understood. In Paul’s day, there were many other wisdom teachers, Greek philosophers and so called mystics, and he wants them to know that “the wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of God.”
 
In our own day, there are so many sources of information on the internet and in public media, but where is true wisdom? It is, as always, a gift from the Spirit, given in the spirit of Love.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew
(Chapter 5:38-48)
 
Jesus said to his disciples, “You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes the sun shine on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly father is perfect.”
 
Moses told the people, “love your neighbors.” Jesus goes way beyond that to embrace enemies. He says that even tax collectors, who were universally hated, loved their neighbors. But imagine trying to love the Roman rulers who were killing Jesus’ followers and would continue to murder Christians for almost three hundred years.
 
Unfortunately, the word “hate” has entered into our political and social discourse with increasing frequency. We hear it every day from all sorts of people and groups. Even when there is serious reason for disagreements, there is no excuse for hatred. It only breeds more hatred and division, not love. It is not the way of Jesus.
 
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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A reading from the Book of the Prophet Sirach
(Chapter 15:15-20)
 
This is in our liturgy because the author, a scribe named Yeshua ben Sira, writing about two hundred years before the birth of Jesus, alludes to a thought from the wisdom of Moses: “If you choose you can keep the commandments, they will save you; if you trust in God, you too shall live.” Then later, he writes, “The eyes of God are on those who fear him.” The word “fear,” when related to God, has been often misunderstood. It means a sense of awe, not the cringing kind of fear that was often taught to children and adults to keep them subservient. True love of God “casts out fear.”
 
Have you grown up in the wrong kind of fear of God, one that has not allowed you to be close to the true God of unconditional love? I hope not, or, if you were taught that as a child, you have learned the truth as an adult, that our Father has the kind of “crazy love” that Jesus taught us in the powerful parable of the Prodigal Son.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 119:1-2, 4-5, 17-18, 33-34)
 
“Blessed are those who follow the law of the Lord.” Jesus said that the whole Law was this: “Love the Lord, your God, with your whole heart, your whole soul, and your whole mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.” Easy, right!
 
A reading from Saint Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians
(Chapter 2:6-10)
 
“But as it is written: What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love him, this God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit scrutinizes everything, even the depths of God.” Paul tells us that the mystery of God is revealed to us through the Spirit who lives in us.
 
Do you tend to think of God as “up there” or “out there,” far away, not near to us? Yet here, Paul tells us that “God has revealed to us through the Spirit.” This is the same Spirit that lives within us.
 
So, that is the clue to prayer. It is not so much reaching out to God—who knows where?—but listening to the Spirit who is within us, and being aware of what is really happening in our lives every day. In our encounters with other people, in our daily routines, we can experience the mystery of God—momentarily or for a while. It need not be earth-shattering but rather a gentle presence. Rejoice in the Spirit!
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew
(Chapter 5:17-37)
 
This long Gospel passage has some strong language from Jesus: “I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” The scribes and Pharisees interpreted the Law of Moses and how it was to be observed in people’s lives. Jesus challenged their hypocrisy and the control the exerted over the people. Jesus also looked beyond the letter of the Law: “You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, ‘You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgement. But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgement…. Therefore, if you bring your gifts to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” Jesus follows with several other challenges, often using extreme language that was not meant to be taken literally, like throwing away an eye or cutting off a hand. The people at the time knew this to be what was called “Semitic exaggeration.” Jesus was calling people then as he calls us now to go beyond written law and live by the Law of Love.
 
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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A reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah
(Chapter 58:7-10)
 
“Thus says the Lord: Share your bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless; clothe the naked when you see them, and do not turn your back against your own. Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your wound shall quickly be healed; your vindication shall go before you, and the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. You shall call and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say: Here I am.”
 
This passage was written by a prophet in the tradition of Isaiah sometime after the Jewish people returned from the Babylonian Exile. Finally, home after all those years, they needed to remember where they came from, be thankful for the end of their exile, and help those who were in great need. Taking care of the poor, the homeless, widows, and orphans has been a strong part of Jewish tradition through multiple centuries right up to today. It is also an important part of our Christian belief. Please ask in your parish how you can share your time, talent, or material resources.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 112: 4-5, 6-7, 8-9)
 
“The just man is a light in the darkness to the upright.” Are you now or have you ever been a “light in the darkness” to another person? Has anyone been that light for you? Do you ever think about who has given or received light from you and what that has meant for you?
 
A reading from Saint Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians
(Chapter 2:1-5)
 
Paul is writing this letter or perhaps dictating it from prison. He does not know how long he will live, but he probably figures it will not be long. He knows that there are several teachers who are his competition, including people who have become Christians in name but who want to hedge their bets and expound on the teachings of Greek philosophers and other non- believers. Paul writes that he does not have the wisdom or eloquence of such teachers but offers something more valuable and true, the mystery of God.
 
“When I came to you, brothers and sisters, proclaiming the mystery of God, I did not come with sublimity of words or of wisdom. For I resolved to know nothing when I was with you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear and much trembling, and my message and my proclamation were not of persuasive words of wisdom, but with the demonstration of Spirit and power, so that your faith may not rest on human wisdom but on the power of God.”
 
Paul is no longer in town. He is in prison and is feeling threatened by those other preachers. His power is not in words but in “the demonstration of spirit.” He believes in the power of the Holy Spirit which dwells in all his converts. It is that same Holy Spirit that lives in all who are baptized. As I have said so often in these commentaries, that is the mystery of God in us—the Holy Spirit!
 
I never knew that as a child and teenager going to Catholic school, but when I finally “got it,” it made all the difference in my life. I hope it will in your life as well.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew
(Chapter 5:13-16)
 
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. … Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.”
 
We Christians must not hide our light. That does not necessarily mean that we must constantly talk about our faith but rather that we must live it in our family lives, our neighborhoods, our places of business or school, and in our wider society, by standing up for the gift of life, social and economic justice, and peace, and by acting on behalf of those in need of our help, support, prayers, and most important, our loving presence.
 
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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A reading from the Book of the Prophet Malachi
(Chapter 3:1-4)
 
“Thus says the Lord God: I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me. And suddenly there will come to the temple the Lord whom you seek. … But who will endure the day of his coming? And who can stand when he appears? For he is like the refiner’s fire. … He will purify the sons
of Levi.”
 
Who is Malachi, and who is the messenger he writes of? The name “Malachi” means “messenger.” This book was probably written after 500 BC by one or several prophets. The text talks about the sins and lawlessness of the people—especially the priests of the temple, who were not being just to the poor, widows, orphans, and aliens, and not paying their own contributions to the temple. These priests and other offenders will be purified “like gold or silver.” Throughout the history of Israel, there were many prophets who delivered this kind of message to the people, but especially to the priests of the temple who, above all, should have been examples for the people.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 24:7, 8, 9, 10)
 
“Who is this king of glory? It is the Lord” “King” is a kind of a foreign word for us who overthrew a British king to gain our freedom, but for the Israelites it conveyed the greatest of honors. It is in that spirit that we pray this Psalm of praise to God.
 
A reading from the Letter to the Hebrews
(Chapter 2:14-18)
 
The author wants his audience to know this about Jesus: “Through death he might destroy the one who has the power over death, that is, the devil, and free those who through fear of death had been subject to slavery all their life.” This is important, because at that time many people believed that the devil controlled life and death. No! It is Jesus: “He had to become like his brothers and sisters in every way that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest before God to expiate the sins of the people. Because he himself was tested through what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.” As we read today in the prophecy of Malachi and can read in the words of other prophets, the high priests were not always faithful and holy. They could not be effective ministers for the people in life and death. Jesus could and can.
 
Do you experience the presence of Jesus in your life? He is present always, especially in our times of greatest suffering, doubt, and need, and yes, even when death threatens us or those whom we love. Jesus is there for us in life and in death.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke
(Chapter 2:22-40)
 
Biblical scholars tell us that Luke was probably a Gentile convert who had studied the Jewish scriptures. He also wrote the Acts of the Apostles and was a companion of Saint Paul on some of his journeys. His Gospel was written sometime after those of Mark and Matthew but well before that of John, which is believed to have been written around 90 AD. That is important, because it means that Luke wrote well after the death of Jesus, when the Church had spread throughout the eastern Mediterranean. Luke wrote as dozens of churches had sprung up, and many people had died as martyrs for their faith.
 
Luke’s Gospel is often referred to as the Gospel of the Spirit, because he uses that term, “Spirit,” more than any other gospel writer, and he sees Jesus as the fulfillment of a long line of Jewish prophets, but as much more. Simeon, described in this passage, has been waiting all his life for the Messiah: “It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Christ of the Lord. He came in the Sprit into the temple; and when the parents had brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him, he took him into his arms and blessed God saying: ‘Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in the sight of all the peoples: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.’” As always, Luke makes the connection between his Gentile roots and his Jewish faith fulfilled in Jesus.
 
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.
 
Image courtesy of freebibleimages.org.
 
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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A reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah
(Chapter 8:23-9:3)
 
We are way back in the eighth century B.C., and the Assyrian army has taken over the two provinces Zebulun and Naphtali. Isaiah says that darkness covers the land, but now, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shown. You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing, as they rejoice before you as at the harvest, as people make merry when dividing spoils. For the yoke that burdened them, the pole on their shoulder, and the rod of their taskmaster you have smashed.” The Assyrians were terrible rulers, but now God has spared his people from domination.
 
Today, countless millions of the poorest people on earth are under the rule of despotic powers, and millions more in more developed countries such as Russia, Iran, and Brazil live in dictatorships where democracy is being strangled. Let us be thankful for our democracy and the Constitution that protects us, and not take these gifts for granted.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 27:1, 4, 13-14)
 
“The Lord is my light and my salvation.” There are times in our lives when the darkness seems to surround us, but the light of the Lord is always there to guide and protect us. Let us seek the light of the Lord when darkness tries to drag us down.
 
A reading from the First Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians
(Chapter 1:10-13, 17)
 
There are real divisions within our Church throughout the world and right here in our country. As we hear from St. Paul today, this is nothing new. He beseeches the Corinthians, “I urge you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree in what you say, and that there be no divisions among you, but you be united in the same mind and in the same purpose. For it has been reported to me about you, my brothers and sisters, by Chloe’s people, that there are rivalries among you. I mean that each of you are saying, ‘I belong to Paul’ or ‘I belong to Cephas’ (Peter) or ‘I belong to Christ.’ Is Christ divided? … For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with the wisdom of human eloquence, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its meaning.”
 
As we know, there were real differences among the apostles and the various Christian communities, and yet, they stayed together. They worked out their differences. That is our challenge today, as it has been for Christians throughout the past twenty centuries—to work out our differences without bad mouthing the other side, and to focus on the great truths we all believe in that bind us together.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew
(Chapter 4:12-23)
 
Matthew tells us that when Jesus hears that John the Baptist has been arrested, he moves to the same land that we read about in the prophesy of Isaiah, the land of Zebulun and Naphtali, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” And Matthew reports that as Jesus “was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen. He said to them, ‘Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ At once, they left their nets and followed him. He walked along from there and saw two other brothers, James, the son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets. He called them and immediately they left their boats and their father and followed him.”
 
So, that is how it all started—poor, uneducated fishermen were somehow moved to make a radical change in their lives. Obviously, Matthew gives us only the short version of these conversations. There must have been much more said, but Matthew wants us to feel the immediacy and power of the call from Jesus.
 
You and I have a “call” from Jesus, not just once, but throughout our lives. We refer to it as a vocation, but not long ago that word, “vocation,” applied in popular use only to people who were called to priesthood or religious life. Now, we know that it is a call to each of us, perhaps several different and related calls. In any case, it is a call to serve others—as wife, husband, father, mother, sister, brother, friend, partner. Do you see your life as a response to a call from God, perhaps several calls at different times? Ask yourself if you feel called, if your life is a response to calls from God. Your calls are gifts as well as challenges. Have you said yes? It is never too late.
 
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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A reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah
(Chapter 49:3, 5-6)
 
“The Lord said to me: You are my servant, Israel, through whom I show my glory.” Then later, the Lord continues, “It is too little … for you to be my servant, to raise up the tribes of Israel; I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation shall reach to the ends of the earth.”
 
First, God is establishing Israel’s relationship to God, that of “servant,” But then God says that he will make Israel a “light to the nations.” Jesus also saw himself as a servant of his Father, eventually, a “suffering servant.” The word “servant” has a negative connotation in our society which proclaims equality for all, but what Jesus means by “servant” is quite different. It is a calling to serve God and one another. It is a calling of strength and power, not weakness.
 
In what ways do you see yourself, in a positive light, as a servant of others? How do you feel about your service? Do you rejoice in it, feel put upon, or is it just something you take for granted? How do others serve you? Are you thankful for their service? How do you express your thanks?
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 40:2, 4, 7-8, 8-9, 10)
 
“Here I am Lord, I come to do your will.” Have you ever said anything like that to God? Do you try to determine what the will of God is for you in a difficult situation, or in a very happy time?
 
A reading from the First Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians
(Chapter 1:1-3)
 
Paul starts out his letter with a greeting: “To the church of God that is in Corinth, to you who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be holy, with all those everywhere who call upon the name of our Lord Christ Jesus, their Lord and ours.” Paul is writing to the people of one city, Corinth, but he wants the Corinthians to know that they are related spiritually with all who have been “called to be holy.” That means all the new churches throughout the part of the world that Paul and the other apostles have visited. Even then, Paul and the other apostles saw the Church as one, not as a series of individual churches but a community of churches. That is what we have today, except that our Church now is worldwide, universal.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to John
(Chapter 1:29-34)
 
John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. He is the one of whom I said, ‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.’ I did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he may be made known to Israel. I did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.”
 
At every Mass, we have a prayer that refers to Jesus as “the Lamb of God.” Here, the author tells us of the origin of this title that connects Jesus with the lamb offered at the Passover—the animal whose blood was sprinkled on the doorposts to let the angel of death know that the inhabitants were part of God’s chosen people and were not to be harmed. Jesus, as the Lamb, is also seen as the “Suffering Servant” who gives his life for the people.
 
John, the Gospel writer, is telling us that Jesus has always had the Spirit of God living within him. When we are baptized, we too share in that Spirit. That is truly amazing, that God’s Holy Spirit lives within each one of us. I did not know that as a child, but I believe it now as an adult. I hope you also not only believe it but remember that the presence of the Spirit in you is dynamic, guiding you and being your life partner. Imagine that! God’s very Spirit lives in you. I hope you share that Good News with your children and all whom you know and that you talk to your Spirit partner often.
 
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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A reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah
(Chapter 42:1-4; 6-7)
 
“Thus says the Lord: Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased, upon whom I have placed my spirit.” Who is this servant that the Lord says is his chosen one? Is it Isaiah, a prophet after him, or the Messiah? There are many schools of thought, but what is certain is that the early Church saw this mysterious figure as Jesus Christ. He is “a light for the nations.” He will “open the eyes of the blind and bring out prisoners from confinement, and from the dungeons those who live in darkness.” The love of Jesus has done all that and more throughout the ages.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 29:1-2, 3-4, 9-11)
 
“The Lord will bless his people with peace.” Do you normally feel you are at peace in your life? If so, how do you experience that peace? If not, what is keeping you from that feeling, and how can you find peace?
 
A reading from the Acts of the Apostles
(Chapter 10:34-38)
 
“Peter proceeded to speak to those gathered in the house of Cornelius, saying: ‘In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts rightly is acceptable to him.” Who is Cornelius? We know for certain that he is a Gentile and that Peter is in this Gentile’s house when he makes it clear that Jesus came for all, not only the Jewish people. That is something we have mentioned in previous commentaries, because it is essential for understanding the history and meaning of the Catholic faith. This faith is inclusive, a joyful, hopeful community with a powerful message of unconditional love and a challenge to live in service to others, especially those in need.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew
(Chapter 3:13-17)
 
“Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. John tried to prevent him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?’ Jesus said to him in reply, ‘Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.’” John the Baptist was a big deal, a powerful preacher who had a large following and who baptized hundreds. Yet, he knew his role. At first, he did not want to baptize Jesus, because he recognized that Jesus was more important than him. It is not easy for an influential leader to know the importance of his own calling while deferring to someone who is more powerful. John was able to do it, because he did not let his pride get in the way of following Jesus. The leader became the faithful follower.
 
Jesus sought John’s baptism and took on the role of Suffering Servant that Isaiah foretold. Both John and Jesus had callings, missions in life. John could not be Jesus, but he had a most important role in preparing the way for Jesus.
 
Each of us has a calling in life from God. Sometimes it is not easily discernable but rather remote or confusing. We need to know that we, too, have callings and work to discover them several times in our lives. One’s calling may have several elements. A person often has a calling to be a spouse, a parent, a good trusted friend, a dedicated worker, and a member of one or more creative communities. Then, after many years of being faithful to those calls, they may change or evolve. There are new challenges and opportunities, but the experience of change can be hard to accept unless we see it as the next step in our following God’s call.
 
Where has your call led you so far? How have you responded to it? Is it evolving now? How are you dealing with the new direction your call is taking you? The key is to remember you are not alone. The Holy Spirit who lives in you will guide you. Try to stay connected to the Spirit of God each day, sometime, somewhere, in whatever way works for you.
 
I am very aware that I am at a point in my life that has brought major changes. I will try to follow my own suggestions and listen to the Spirit. Peace!
 
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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A reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah
(Chapter 60:1-6)
 
Light and darkness are two of the great biblical images. In this reading, Isaiah is telling the people of Israel that “your light has come.” Although “darkness covers the earth,” God will bring light to the whole world through Israel.
 
The word “catholic” means universal. We are part of the Catholic Church, a universal church whose light and presence should touch the whole world. Pope Francis is a truly catholic—that is universal—leader. He preaches and lives a life of peace, concern for the poor and forgotten and a broad, welcoming message. He sees the Catholic Church not as some exclusive club but rather as a warm loving embrace for all. He believes that our mission is to all, and we should welcome all, be a light for all, not an obstacle.
 
Isaiah was preaching this message at a most challenging time for the people of Israel—the exile in Babylon—when their world had been turned upside down and they endured great suffering. He came with a message of hope. Pope Francis has that message of hope for us and for all people.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 72:1-2 7-8, 10-11, 12-13)
 
“Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.” The psalmist knew when he wrote this, thousands of years ago, that it was not true but, he prayed that it would be someday, as we do today.
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Ephesians
(Chapter 3:2-3a, 5-6)
 
Paul talks about the mystery that has been revealed and writes that it is not only for Jews but for Gentiles as well. It is an inclusive message, a universal mystery. This may seem obvious to us, but it was the occasion for the first major division in the early Church. There were many, including Saint Peter for a while, who thought the new Church was only for Jews. Imagine that: our first pope was wrong about a crucial truth and was big enough to admit it and move on.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew
(Chapter 2:1-12)
 
Who were these men? Scholars have speculated about their identity for centuries. There are several theories, but the real importance of the visitors is that they represent the Gentiles, the wider world beyond Judaism. Jesus came for all, no matter where they come from or what their religion is. His appeal and call are universal.
 
The other significant figure here is Herod, the prototype of the bad king, the selfish ruler who thinks only of himself and will do anything, including mass murder, to protect his position. Of course, Herod’s plan to have the newborn king killed fails, and although Herod’s son plays a role in the death of Jesus, Jesus by then has grown into a charismatic healer who attracts large masses of followers and proclaims a message that is truly life giving.
 
This is a classic story of the seemingly powerless overcoming powerful evil rulers. It is a great model for our time when we have seen numerous despotic rulers rise and then fall before the power of the powerless.
 
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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A reading from the Book of Sirach
(Chapter 3:2-6, 12-14)
 
The Book of Sirach was written about two hundred years before the birth of Jesus when male patriarchy was much more common than it is today when we are moving—though too slowly—towards equality between the sexes. Thus, the author of this book writes mainly about honoring the father and hardly at all about honoring the mother in the family. Here are some of the main points:
 
“God sets a father in honor over his children; a mother’s authority he confirms over her sons.” That’s about it for the mother. The rest of the reading focuses on fathers: “Whoever honors his father atones for sins…. Whoever honors his father is gladdened by children and, when he prays, is heard…. Whoever reveres his father will live a long life.” Then, the writer offers advice on how to care for an aging father, but nothing for the mother: “My son, take care of your father when he is old…. Even if his mind fails, be considerate of him, revile him not all the days of his life; kindness to a father will not be forgotten.” Sirach does have one other line for mothers: “He who obeys his father brings comfort to his mother.”
 
Most of us have heard this reading many times and perhaps have not thought much about gender inequality, because that is the way it was when this book was written. But we should remember that it is still that way, and worse, for millions of women throughout the world, even some in our own society.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 128:1-2, 3, 4-5)
 
“Blessed are those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways.” The expression “fear the Lord” in the Bible does not mean a haunting, dominating, cringing fear of God’s punishment. It means respect, honor, recognition of God’s power, and openness to hearing God’s word.
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Colossians
(Chapter 3:12-21)
 
Paul has some beautiful words for these people whom he loved dearly: “Brothers and sisters, put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love that is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts.” May those words guide our family lives and all of our relationships.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew
(Chapter 2:13-15)
 
Matthew is the only evangelist who tells the story of the magi, the flight to Egypt to escape the evil king Herod, and the eventual return to Israel—not to Judah but to Galilee. What does all this mean? First of all, who are these magi? They are not Jews, nor are they kings, but probably astrologers. More importantly, they represent the whole world outside of Israel. Their appearance means that Jesus has come for everyone.
 
What about Herod, the evil king? He is afraid that this baby might one day challenge him or his successors, so he tries to kill Jesus. In a dream, Joseph finds out about this plan. An angel tells him, “Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him. Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt, and stayed there until the death of Herod.” Why Egypt? “That what the Lord had said through the prophet (Hosea) might be fulfilled, Out of Egypt I called my son.” Moses was called out of Egypt to save his people. Jesus is considered the new Moses as well as the new David, a real king. Matthew tells us this so that we may know that these promises have been fulfilled in Jesus who has come to save his people.
 
Then, after Herod has died, Joseph has still another dream in which an angel says, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel.” But Herod’s son, Archelaus, is now the ruler, so Joseph does not go back to Judea but to Nazareth in Galilee. There, Jesus would grow up among Jews and gentiles, again foreshadowing his ministry to all people.
 
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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