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familyA reading from the Book of the First Book of Samuel
(Chapter 3:20-22, 24-28)
 
This is a heart-warming and heartbreaking story, especially for those of us who are parents. Many of us have prayed for a child as Hannah did and were overjoyed when that child was born. I suspect that none of us would do what Hannah did nor would we ever be asked to do so. This story, however, took place thousands of years ago in a different culture. Hannah did what she thought was right and, in a sense, sacrificed the life of her child to God’s service. He did indeed perform great service to God and to God’s people.
 
Sometimes, we make sacrifices for our children and for others, and make do them with some pain but also with the joy of giving from deep in our hearts.
 
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” has been misunderstood for centuries and has been used to frighten and mislead people into both spiritual and emotional illness. The fear of the Lord that the Psalmist is talking about is not the cringing, debilitating fear that drains the joy from people and keeps them from the all-powerful and all-forgiving love of God. The real meaning of the word “fear” in Hebrew is awe and wonder at God’s great power and might.
 
Are you truly in awe of God, enthralled with his goodness, in wonder of his great creation? Or are you still caught up in the words you may have heard in your childhood: “You better be good, or God will punish you.” How you answer that question may either bring you a powerful sense of God’s peace and protection or encourage that little voice that sometimes in your head that says, “You’re not good enough.”
 
A reading from the first Letter of Saint John
(Chapter 3:1-2, 21-24)
 
Saint John is writing to people who have been shunned by their fellow Jews and persecuted by the ruling Roman Empire. These Christians risk their lives every day. What do they have to show for it? First, they are the “children of God.” “They shall be like him.” They “shall see him as he is.” And, “the way that we know that he remains in us is from the Spirit he gave us.” That’s not bad for anyone but especially for people who were on the bottom of the social and economic ladder. Imagine that you are being told that you are like God, that you will see him face to face, and that his very Spirit lives in you right now. That was John’s great message then, and it is ours now. This is what we have been told. This is who we are. God’s Spirit lives in us, now and always.
 
As we celebrate this feast of the Holy Family, we need not only to look into the past at the family of Jesus but also to look into our own families. We can rediscover the Spirit that can help us heal all our wounds, including those that we inflict on one another. We can celebrate the Spirit-filled family that we are, despite our faults and insufficiencies, and forgive each other as the Father forgives us.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke
(Chapter 2:41-52)
 
Some years ago, I read a novel about a man who takes his daughter, his only child, to the supermarket and has her sitting in the shopping cart as they reach the checkout. She asks him to take her down and let her stand behind him as he puts the items on the counter. Against his better judgement, he agrees, and when he is finished and turns around, she is gone. He never sees her again even though he spends the rest of his life looking for her.
 
Losing a child, even for a while, is a horrifying experience. Imagine how Mary and Joseph must have felt. They knew how special Jesus was, and now he was nowhere to be found. How distraught they must have been until they found him in the temple conversing with the teachers.
 
Mary “kept all these things in her heart” until one day when she lost her son for what may have seemed to her forever. But a short time later she had him back in a new life that he shares with her and offers to share with all of us—life in his presence forever.
 
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 Micah
(Chapter 5:1-4a)
 
The prophet Micah lived some 700 years before Jesus at a time when Israel was overtaken by the Assyrians. Micah offers a hopeful promise for a messiah: “He shall stand firm and shepherd his flock by the strength of the Lord, in the majestic name of the Lord, his God; and they shall remain, for now his greatness shall reach to the ends of the earth;
he shall be peace.”
 
We Christians see this as a prophecy proclaiming the true Messiah, Jesus, and most important, his mission: “he shall be peace.”
 
Jesus brings peace for all who truly seek peace not just those who say it but don’t live it. How do you see yourself as living the peace of Jesus? Are you a peace maker?
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 80:2-3, 15-16, 18-19)
 
“Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.”
How often do you turn to Jesus? Do you ever make the turn when you are not asking for anything but simply to be near Jesus?
 
A reading from the Letter to the Hebrews
(Chapter 10:5-10)
 
In the Jewish faith when this letter was written, a whole series of offerings and sacrifices were fulfilled at different times in the year. Attributing the words to Jesus, the author says, “‘Sacrifices and offerings, holocausts and sin offerings, you neither desired nor delighted in. They are offered according to the law.’ Then he says, ‘Behold, I come to do your will.’ He takes away the first to establish the second.”
 
Jesus challenges the Old Law and replaces it with a new law, himself. He replaces the Old Law with its hundreds of impossible prescriptions with his Law of Love for God and one another. No wonder the religious leaders opposed him so dramatically. They felt, in effect, that he was putting them out of business, the business of ruling, of deciding who was in and who was out. For Jesus, everyone could be in who believed and lived accordingly, as it should be today.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke
(Chapter 1:39-45)
 
Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures there are a series of unexpected, miraculous births. They all come through the power of God to exceptional women who were called by God to greatness through their children. For both Elizabeth and Mary, the births were full of joy, but the deaths of their sons were painful for the sons to experience and for the mothers to bear.
 
When we see the emaciated bodies of children dying in Yemen and Syria and on and on, imagine the extreme sorrow of their mothers and fathers. Mary and Elizabeth bore that sorrow but did it in faith, knowing that their sons were living and dying for the salvation of a whole people. So many mothers today who lose their children to starvation, violence, illness, or the disease of addiction are left only with memories, lifelong and very painful. Let us pray and act in solidarity with those mothers and fathers in their grief that they may believe in the power of the Resurrection of Jesus and of their children and all children.
 
And let us do our part to bring peace to our broken world, the peace that Jesus offers to 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.
 
Image, “Mary’s Song,” by Sr. Therese Quinn, RSJ

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A reading from the Book of the Prophet Zephaniah
(Chapter 3:14-18A)
 
This prophecy warns the Jewish people of God’s judgment of the nation because of its sins but, like much of the prophetic literature, it ends with a promise of God’s blessings on those who survive: “Shout for joy, O daughter Zion! Sing joyfully, O Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem!”
 
Now, that’s excitement! We Americans have had such moments—most recently VJ Day, the end of World War Two. People came out in the streets, bands played, and a whole country rejoiced at the end of that terrible war. The Jewish people, whose punishment would consist of the destruction of Jerusalem and exile in Babylon, would ultimately experience similar elation, but Zephaniah wants them to know that all this comes from the power of God. “The Lord has removed the judgement against you, he has turned away your enemies; the King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst, you have no further misfortune to fear. … He will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love.” The prophet is well aware that there are political reasons why this could happen, but he wants the people to know that the mercy of God is the ultimate reason.
 
Today, something positive and important might happen to any one of us for what seem like obvious reasons but there is also the deeper dimension of our Father at work.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Isaiah 12:2-3, 4, 5-6)
 
“Cry out with Joy and gladness: for among you is the great and Holy One of Israel.” When was the last time that you cried out with joy and gladness because of the presence of God in your life? Try to bring back that feeling in your life. It may have been lost among so much other “stuff.”
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Philippians
(Chapter 4:4-7)
 
Here is the whole of this beautiful reading: “Brothers and sisters: Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: but, in everything, by prayer and petition rejoice! Your kindness shall be known to all. The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
 
“Have no anxiety at all.” How can that work for us who live in an age of anxiety? Anxiety is a billion-dollar industry of multiple medications and therapies, many of which are extremely helpful in the healing process. But what about spiritual healing? More and more people seek spiritual healing through a variety of methods but all too often give up when they do not receive immediate relief from anxiety and the disorders associated with it. That is where prayer comes in—not a prayer here and there but an ongoing spirit of prayer to our all-loving Savior.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke
(Chapter 3:10-18)
 
People were attracted to John the Baptist. They could hear and feel the power of his message, so they asked him. “ ‘What should we do?’ He said to them in reply, ‘Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise.’ Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him, ‘Teacher, what should we do?’ He answered them. ‘Stop collecting more than what has been prescribed.’ Soldiers also asked him, ‘And what is that that we should we do?’ He told them, ‘Do not practice extortion, do not falsely accuse anyone, and be satisfied with your wages.’ ”
 
John the Baptist was a challenging prophet and leader, calling on the powerful people of society to act with justice toward the poor and the oppressed. This did not sit well with the rulers of Israel and John died for his beliefs.
 
But in this passage, John says something amazing: “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. This is the same baptism that we receive today, and it imparts to us the presence of the Holy Spirit. That means that you and I are never alone. We have our lifetime spiritual partner living within us, the very Spirit of God. Please remember that, especially in times of trouble, and yes, anxiety.
 
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 Baruch
(Chapter 5:1-9)
 
The Hebrew word baruch means “blessing.” The man Baruch was said to have been a scribe of the prophet Jeremiah, but this book was written much later than the time of Jeremiah, around the era of the Maccabees when the Jews were being persecuted by the Greeks:
 
“Jerusalem, take off your robe of misery and mourning; put on the splendor of glory from God forever. … For God will show all the earth your splendor: you will be named by God forever the peace of justice, the glory of God’s worship.”
 
This is similar to messages of hope attributed in Scripture to a series of prophets who lived over many centuries. Throughout their history, the people of Israel were subjugated by other countries and rulers, and yet, they never gave up hope. One of the roles of the prophets was to give the people hope but also to remind them of God’s great love and mercy in the midst of their suffering. It is a powerful message for us today in the midst of the crises we face as a country and as a people of faith.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 126:1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 6)
 
“The Lord has done great things for us, we are filled with joy.” Think for a moment of all the great things that the Lord has done for you. Allow yourself to rejoice in God’s goodness to you and experience the joy, even—no, especially—in your times of sorrow, disappointment, or suffering.
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Philippians
(Chapters 1:4-6, 8-11)
 
Paul traveled all over what is now Israel, Syria, Lebanon, western Turkey, Greece, and eventually Italy, but he never forgot the people he loved so much in the city of Philippi: “I pray always with joy in my every prayer for all of you, because of your partnership for the gospel from the first day until now. … God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer: that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge.”
 
Paul had a hard, often torturous life preaching the Gospel of Jesus. Without Paul, Christianity would not have flourished as it did in the decades after Jesus died. He was a dedicated, passionate man who was sometimes wrong but who always followed the man he had never met, Jesus Christ. Think of him sometimes as you travel in your car or on a train or plane, none of which had been invented in his time. His road was hot and dusty, often dangerous and always tiring, but he found peace and love among the many who heard and followed him, including his beloved Philippians.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke
(Chapter 3:1-6)
 
Luke introduces us to John the Baptist by mentioning many of the leading political and religious leaders of the day. But then Luke tells us that “The word of God came to John, the son of Zechariah in the desert. John went throughout the whole region of the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sin.” Luke then has a long passage from the prophecy of Isaiah that ends with these words: “and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”
 
The Jewish people were familiar with a form of baptism that was for the forgiveness of sins. That is what John preached. Jesus brought a different form of baptism—the sacrament that we know today that brings us the everlasting presence of the Holy Spirit. Jesus referred to John as the greatest of all the prophets, and John led many to Jesus. We always think of him as the one who prepared the way of the Lord.
 
Most of us were baptized as infants, and we may not have been told about the true meaning of baptism when we grew up. It is no less a gift than the presence of the Holy Spirit. I say it again here because it is life-changing. We are never alone. God’s Spirit is always with us. How often do you think about your life partner, and pray to the Holy Spirit? It could be a life-changer.
 
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 Jeremiah
(Chapter 33:14-16)
 
This is a prophecy by Jeremiah for the Jewish people who had suffered from the long exile in Babylon. “The days are coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and Judah. In those days, in that time, I will raise up for David a just shoot; he shall do what is right and just in the land. In those days Judah shall be safe, and Jerusalem shall be secure.”
 
The Church teaches that Jesus was the person that Jeremiah foretold. He was the Messiah, but—much more than that—he was the Son of God, finally coming, after all those generations, to save his people. In the early days of the Christian era, many believed, but many did not. That is true today. Many who were brought up as followers of Jesus have rejected or abandoned him. Just as God did not blame the people who rejected him 2,000 years ago, we should not reject those of our families and friends who have drifted away now. Our God is a God of mercy and forgiveness.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 25:4-5, 8-9, 10, 14)
 
“To you O Lord, I lift my soul.” Do you at whatever time and place ever “lift your soul” to God? It does not have to be a formal prayer. It can simply be an awareness of God’s loving presence.
 
A reading from St. Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians
(Chapters 3:12-4:2)
 
At this point in his life, Paul believed that Jesus would be coming again soon: “Brothers and sisters: may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we have for you, so as to strengthen your hearts, to be blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones.”
 
The early Christians were always in danger of persecution by the Romans and expulsion from their synagogues as heretics by their fellow Jews. So Paul is trying to encourage them to hold on because Jesus is coming back soon. Of course, Jesus did not come back in Paul’s lifetime, and eventually Paul would accept that. But for many years many Christians believed it. Imagine yourself as a semi-literate peasant two thousand years ago, placing all your faith in something that would not happen in your lifetime. How would you have continued to believe? Yet, most did believe, and many gave their lives for their beliefs. They are the many unremembered heroes among our spiritual ancestors.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke
(Chapter 21:25-28, 34-36)
 
If you wonder why so many people believed that Jesus was coming back soon, read this: “Jesus said to his disciples: “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on earth nations will be in dismay, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of heaven will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.”
 
This is what is called apocalyptic language—language that had been used for centuries before Christ to depict the end of the world. Jesus had heard this language, and here he is giving it a far different meaning. Instead of stressing terror, Jesus is saying that this will be the time of redemption, something to celebrate. He did not say it was coming soon, and yet that is how Paul and many in the early Church understood it. Twenty centuries later, Jesus has not yet returned, and the world has not been destroyed despite all the devastation we humans have brought to it. And still we have faith that he will come to reclaim the just who have believed in him and lived by his word.
 
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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universeA reading from the Book of the Prophet Daniel
(Chapter 7:13-14)
 
This is one of the last books of the Hebrew Scriptures, written about 165 years before the birth of Jesus. It was a time of persecution by the Greeks and it is written in the form of an Apocalypse, a popular form of writing at the time. The main character, Daniel, describes a vision of the of the end of the world. He sees “one like a Son of Man received dominion, glory and kingship; all peoples, nations and languages serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away, his kingship shall not be destroyed.”
 
The title Son of Man appears many times in the Gospels, and it is related to the idea of Christ as king. The notion of kingship is somewhat foreign to us in the United States since we fought a war of independence to free ourselves from a tyrannical king. But the meaning in Scripture is simply that Jesus is all powerful but in a beneficent way. Throughout the history of Israel, the people yearned for such a king and were almost always disappointed. We are never disappointed in Jesus.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 93:1, 1-2, 5)
 
“The Lord is king; he is robed in majesty.” Later in the Psalm, we read, “Holiness befits your house, O Lord, for length of days.” That means forever. Our God is forever.
 
A reading from the Book of Revelation
(Chapter 1:5-8)
 
This last book of the Bible is the most difficult to read and understand. It is attributed to someone named John, but probably not the same John that wrote the fourth Gospel. It was written during a time of persecution by several Roman emperors and was a polemic against them. The author pictures Jesus as the Son of Man who is “the firstborn of the dead and ruler of the kings of the earth. … who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood. … Behold, he is coming amid the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him. All peoples of the earth will lament him.”
 
The author is writing to give his fellow Christians faith and courage in the face of persecution at the hands of unjust and cruel emperors. Today, we are fortunate to live in a land of freedom and justice, at least for most. We must cherish our freedom and work to bring freedom and justice for all.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to John
(Chapter 18:33b-37)
 
This is the famous scene in which Jesus has to defend himself before Pontius Pilate, the Roman procurator in Judea: “Pilate said to Jesus, ‘Are you King of the Jews?’ Jesus answered, ‘Do you say this on your own or have others told you about me?’ Pilate answered, ‘I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests handed you over to me. What have you done?’” They have a dialogue about whether Jesus is claiming to be a king and what that could mean. Finally we read, “So Pilate said to him, ‘Then you are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.’”
 
Pilate is a very interesting and troubling character. We read in all four Gospels that he does not believe that Jesus is guilty of anything, but he does not have the courage to stand up for this belief. Why? It could cause trouble and cost him his job. Historians tell us that some years later Pilate did lose his job, because he massacred many Samaritans, thereby causing trouble that Rome did not need. Some scholars say that he committed suicide soon after at the order of the emperor.
 
The point of this Gospel passage is that Jesus is using a title that was very important in his time and place, “king,” but giving it a new meaning, going beyond anything that people could imagine—a king of souls. In that sense, we can call Jesus King, not of any one place of but the whole universe.
 
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 Daniel
(Chapter 17:10-16)
 
When you were a child were you ever taught that you had a guardian angel? Well, the archangel Michael was considered to be the guardian of Israel. Here, the prophet Daniel associates the appearance of Michael with these words from God: “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake; some shall lie forever, others shall be an everlasting horror and disgrace. But the wise shall shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament, and those who lead many to justice shall be like the stars forever.”
 
This is one of the few places in which the Hebrew Scriptures talks about life after death. At the time of Jesus, the scribes did not believe in an afterlife, but the Pharisees did. Jesus took the idea much further, promising resurrection and everlasting life to all who believed and followed him—a promise he made to us as well as to people of his own time.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 16:5, 8, 9-10, 11)
 
“You are my inheritance, O Lord.” Did you inherit anything from your family? Was it significant? Did it make a difference in your life? Whether you did or did not inherit wealth, you have a priceless inheritance from Jesus—the presence of the Spirit of God within you every day of your life and the assurance of everlasting life with God. Let us remember this and rejoice in it.
 
A reading from the Letter to the Hebrews
(Chapter 10:11-14, 18)
 
Every day, the high priest went into the temple to offer sacrifices for sins. The author says here that these are “those same sacrifices that can never take away sins.” With Jesus, it is different: “But this one offered one sacrifice for sins. … For by one offering he has made perfect forever those who are being consecrated. Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer offering for sin.” Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, the ancient sacrifice is no longer necessary. Our path to forgiveness is through Jesus, and it is assured.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Mark
(Chapter 13:24-32)
 
For centuries, the Jewish people wondered what the “last days” would be like and when they would come. This is understandable considering all they had been through—exiles, endless wars and subjugation, famines, droughts, betrayals, and numerous false prophets and bad kings.
 
The disciples of Jesus also wanted to know about the last days. So Jesus told them, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. But of that day and hour, no one knows, neither angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” So, today, amid threats of nuclear war, global warming, massive fires, droughts, and floods, we need not think or worry about a scary end of the world as people have for thousands of years, but rather focus on the present. Our Father wants us to protect our beautiful earth in all the ways we are able but also to live life to its fullest, sharing the gifts we have been given with those we love and with those who may not be loved by anyone.
 
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 first Book of Kings
(Chapter 17:10-16)
 
The scene here is very stark. There is a drought in the region. The prophet Elijah comes into the city and he is hungry and thirsty. He asks a poor widow who is at the point of starvation herself for water and some bread. She has no bread but only a small amount of flour and oil. Yet, she has faith, and she feeds him; there is just enough left for her and her son. Then Elijah tells her, “For the Lord, the God of Israel says, ‘The jar of flour shall not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry, until the day when the Lord sends rain upon the earth.’” The widow is a woman of faith, and God is with her.
 
Today, drought threatens the lives of countless millions in dozens of countries all over the world—especially in Africa, the Middle East, and parts of Asia. It causes mass migrations, malnutrition, and endless political strife and violence. Let us pray for today’s widows and poor families who suffer from hunger and poverty caused by droughts and floods and crop erosion, and let us use our own water resources wisely.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 146:7, 8-9, 9-10)
 
“Praise the Lord, my soul.” We often pray to God and ask for help and forgiveness. Wonderful! Perhaps, sometimes we can simply offer a prayer of praise to God. It is not that God needs it but rather that we need it in order to enrich our souls.
 
A reading from the Letter to the Hebrews
(Chapter 9:24-28)
 
The author makes an important connection between the death of Jesus and our own deaths. “But now once for all he has appeared at the end of the ages to take away sin by his sacrifice. Just as it is appointed that human beings die once, and after this the judgement, so also Christ, offered once to take away the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to take away sin but to bring salvation to those who eagerly await him.”
 
The death and resurrection of Jesus radically changes our own deaths. It was not the end for him, and it will not be the end for us but rather a new beginning, a new life. Jesus the man died. Jesus the Son of God lives forever, and so will we. Have you ever thought much about this amazing gift? Please let the power of this gift enliven you every day, especially in times when you are troubled or feel alone.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Mark
(Chapter 12:28b-34)
 
Here, Jesus is not gentle. He is challenging: “Beware of the scribes, who like to go around in long robes and accept greetings in the marketplaces, seats of honor in synagogues, and places of honor at banquets. They devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext recite lengthy prayers. They will receive a very severe condemnation.”
 
Throughout the history of Israel, widows and orphans had a special place in society, because they were economically dependent on the community. The scribes were supposed to take care of them but did not always do their duty. One of the reasons that the scribes were so against Jesus was that he called them out, and they did not like it.
 
Later in this reading, Jesus talks about people contributing to the Temple: “Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents. Calling his disciples to himself he said to them, ‘Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributions to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.’” This woman’s gift has become famous throughout history as the “widow’s mite.” Sometimes, those who are the poorest are the most generous, not only in financial contributions but in the gift of their time and compassion. No matter how little we have, we can contribute in many other ways.
 
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 Deuteronomy
(Chapter 31:7-9)
 
“Moses spoke to the people, saying: “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone! Therefore, you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength.”
 
That is the basis of Judaism, monotheism, loving one God. The Jews were the first and for centuries the only people to worship one God. What an amazing breakthrough! They were hated and killed for their faith way back then and for centuries thereafter, including in the Holocaust of the last century, and they are persecuted today—even in our own country. Let us pray for and give thanks for our Jewish brethren for their faith amidst persecution.
 
“Fear the Lord your God, and keep, throughout the days of your lives, all his statutes and commandments which I enjoin on you, and thus have a long life.” This was the promise of Moses to his people. It was based on keeping the Law which eventually went way beyond the Ten Commandments to include more than 600 laws and dietary restrictions.
 
Jesus challenged that approach, knowing that the laws were like a millstone around the necks of the people instead of an instrument of their liberation. He was criticized and condemned for actually breaking the law in order to heal people on the Sabbath.
For us Christians, salvation that is more than “a long life” that Moses promised but rather eternal life that comes from faith in Jesus. As Saint Paul tells us, we are saved through faith in Jesus, not through the Law.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 18:2-3, 3-4, 47, 51)
 
“I love you O Lord, my strength.” Do you believe that your true and enduring strength comes from the Lord? How have you experienced that strength? Do you sometimes doubt it? Let us be thankful for all the times when God has strengthened us.
 
A reading from the Letter to the Hebrews
(Chapter 7:23-28)
 
The high priest was a very important figure in the Jewish religion. The author wanted his audience, who were mostly Jewish Christians, to know that Jesus was the one high priest. “Brothers and sisters, The Levitical priests were many because they were prevented by death from remaining in office, but Jesus, because he remains forever, has a priesthood that does not pass away. … He has no need, as did the high priests, to offer sacrifice day after day, first for his own sins and then for those of the people; he did that once for all when he offered himself.”
 
This is a radical statement because it gets to the root of Christianity. Salvation comes from Jesus, not from the high priest offering sacrifices every day. The Eucharist—Jesus sacrificing himself again on the altar—brings his very presence to us in the forms of bread and wine.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Mark
(Chapter 12:28b-34)
 
“One of the scribes came to Jesus and asked him, ‘Which is the first of all the commandments?’ Jesus replied, ‘The first is this. Hear O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ The scribe said to him ‘Well said, teacher.’ Then Jesus said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ And no one dared to ask him any questions.”
 
That’s it! Love God and love your neighbor as yourself—two seemingly simple commandments. Yet, they are endlessly challenging. What does it really mean to love God and your neighbor? And—the age-old question that Jesus was asked two thousand years ago—who is my neighbor? It is certainly not only the folks next door. Is it only the people we work with, play with, worship with, and do business with? Is it only those who think as we do, believe as we do, vote as we do, and have the same nationality or color as we do? Or is our neighbor the man in the story Jesus told about the Good Samaritan when someone asked that question? That was a man who Jews thought of as an enemy, a heretic, and yet he was the person who saved the life of the man who had been attacked by robbers. His own people passed him by but then the “enemy,” the infidel was the true neighbor.
 
Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved.
 
Bill Ayres was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. He has been a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years and has two weekly Sunday-night shows on WPLJ, 95.5 FM in New York. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.

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A reading from the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah
(Chapter 31:7-9)
 
“The Lord has delivered his people, the remnant of Israel. Behold, I will bring them back from the land of the north; I will gather them from the ends of the world, with the blind and the lame in their midst, the mothers and those with child; they shall return as an immense throng.”
 
Jeremiah is talking about the return of the Israelites from exile. But how are we to think of exiles returning today? There are almost 20 million exiles in the world now, and the number is growing each year. Most are from Syria, Iraq, Sudan, Myanmar, Afghanistan, Niger, the Central African Republic, and several countries in Central and South America. Many of them are women and children fleeing violence, hunger, and abject poverty. Some western countries have opened their doors to the refugees; others have not. It is a very complex issue, but we need to hold these people in our hearts and do what we can to change hostility to refugees, knowing that many of us have ancestors who once were refugees.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 126:1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 6)
 
“The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.” What great things has the Lord done for you? Have you been thankful? Has it brought you joy? How do you express your joy and thanksgiving?
 
A reading from the Letter to the Hebrews
(Chapter 5:1-6)
 
The author of the Letter to the Hebrews is writing about the role of high priest in the Jewish religion: “Every high priest is taken from among men and made their representative before God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He is able to deal patiently with the ignorant and erring, for he himself is beset by weakness and so, must make sin offerings for himself as well as for the people. No one takes this honor upon himself but only when called by God as Aaron was.” The role of high priest was an enormously important part of the Jewish tradition of the time, and the author makes it clear that the priest was “beset by weakness.” He was to be a servant, not someone to lord it over the people. Of course—precisely because of human weakness—it did not always work out that way and has not throughout history.
 
The main point of the reading, though, is that even Jesus was called by the Father: “In the same way, it was not Christ who glorified himself in becoming high priest, but rather the one who sent him. … ‘You are my son: this day I have begotten you.’” Jesus was called by the Father and responded as our “suffering servant.” It is the same today in our Church. People are called to priesthood by our Father to serve all of us.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Mark
(Chapter 10:46-52)
 
As Jesus left Jericho, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, was on the side of the road. “On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me.’ … Jesus stopped and said, ‘Call him.’ So they called the blind man, saying to him, ‘Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you.’ He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus.’” When Jesus asked what Bartimaeus wanted, the blind man answered, “Master, I want to see,” and Jesus answered, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.” Bartimaeus immediately received his sight and followed Jesus.
 
Notice that Bartimaeus called Jesus “Son of David.” He knew that Jesus was not just any man, any healer; Bartimaeus was healed by his faith in Jesus who, he recognized, was in the tradition of the great King David. And then, Bartimaeus did not go away but “followed him on the way.” We never hear of this man again, but we know from this story that once his eyes were opened, he followed Jesus.
 
Have you ever experienced a healing, either of some part of your physical or spiritual person or of a relationship, and thought that, although there were human agents involved, it came through the grace of Jesus? If your answer is yes, give thanks. If not, think again. Maybe you missed the most important dimension of your 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.

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A reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah
(Chapter 53:10-11)
 
“Because of his affliction he shall see the light in fullness of days: through his suffering, my servant shall justify many, and their guilt they shall bear.” The suffering servant here is not any one person but rather all of the people of Israel who had suffered the exile in Babylon. The prophet sees redemption of many through the suffering of the people.
 
Have you ever thought that your suffering can connect you to those in need of forgiveness? No one of us should ever seek to suffer, but when suffering is upon us we can offer it up for the needs of others for healing and forgiveness while at the same time working for our own healing. Our Father does not inflict suffering on us; suffering arises from the perils of life, and we need to seek healing and freedom from whatever the suffering has brought. However, it is also an opportunity to become connected with all those who suffer, especially someone close to us whose suffering we may have taken too lightly.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 33:4-5. 18-19, 20, 22)
 
“Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.” What does it mean to trust in God? Is our trust focused on a specific prayer or request, or is it something that is deep within us, a powerful openness to God’s mercy at any moment and every moment in our lives? A deep enduring trust in God is a gift that no one of us can accomplish by ourselves but only by accepting God’s merciful love.
 
A reading from the Letter to the Hebrews
(Chapter 4:14-16)
 
The author tells us that “we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God…. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin. So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.”
 
The message is clearly that Jesus was one of us, and we do not have to be afraid to ask for his mercy and help. Do you think of Jesus that way, as your brother and friend?
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Mark
(Chapter 10:35-45)
 
Did you ever think that there were scandalous squabbles among the apostles—selfish outrageous demands of Jesus about who was the greatest? Here we have a big one. “James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus and said to him, ‘Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.’ He replied, ‘What do you wish me to do for you?’ They answered him, ‘Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right hand and the other at your left.’ Jesus said to them, ‘You do not know what you are asking.’” Then Jesus asked them whether they could “drink the cup that I drink,” meaning his suffering and death, and they said yes. Then Jesus let them know that, indeed, they too would suffer and die, but he would not promise to seat them in places of honor. When the rest of the apostles heard this “they became indignant at James and John.” So, Jesus let them know that “those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles Lord it over them and their great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
 
Imagine if all of the successors to the apostles, the bishops throughout the centuries—and, for that matter, if all Christians—had followed the command of Jesus and served rather than dominated, listened rather than demanded, and lived the humble and heroic lives that the apostles eventually led. Many have done so, of course, and have been true servants of Jesus and of each other.
 
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 Wisdom
(Chapter 7:7-11)
 
The Book of Wisdom is one of the last books in the Hebrew Bible, compiled not too long before the birth of Jesus. Notice that Wisdom is referred to as “she,” an interesting term in a patriarchal society. The writer imagines the words coming from the mouth of one of Israel’s greatest leaders, King Solomon. Here, Solomon prays for prudence and wisdom which are more precious than gold and silver.
 
Have you ever prayed for wisdom in the midst of a crisis or difficult decision? Have you asked the Holy Spirit, the giver of wisdom, to help you decide or act prudently or boldly in times of distress? Remember, the Spirit is not “out there” somewhere but lives in each of us. That is exactly what Jesus told the disciples, and we have been given that same Spirit. Try being quiet in times of stress or crucial decisions, and pray for the wisdom to make the right choice, to help someone you care about, or to heal wounds that are causing pain.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 90:12-13, 14-15, 16-17)
 
“Fill us with your love, O Lord, and we will sing for joy.” That is why we can sing with joy—because God has given us unconditional love, way beyond our imagining. It is rejoicing for receiving such an unimaginable gift.
 
A reading from the Letter to the Hebrews
(Chapter 4:12-13)
 
“Indeed, the word of God is living and effective.” What does the “word of God” mean? We know that Jesus is the “Word of God,” the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, but we also call the Gospels the word of God. Which is it? Perhaps the author, who can be very enigmatic at times, means both. The point the author is making is that God’s word is alive, not a dead set of letters, and it is effective, not like so many words that are just words with no power or deep meaning.
 
Have you ever noticed that words you hear and speak sometimes have a surface meaning but also a deeper meaning that can be heard and known only by the heart?
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Mark
(Chapter 10:17-30)
 
This is the famous and controversial story of the rich young man. Jesus challenges him to take the next step, to follow his call. Jesus is talking to this one man, not proclaiming a universal commandment. He is not condemning the man to hell but giving him an opportunity to have a much richer life as a disciple. Jesus was a poor man living in a society comprising mostly poor people. This man was an exception. We might say today that he was a part of the one percent. Jesus knew how difficult it would be for the man to go beyond his worldly riches. Jesus knew this was a good man: “Jesus, looking at him, loved him.” Imagine that. Jesus looked right at the young man, into his heart, and called him.
 
When we talk today about a calling, we usually mean our profession in life, but each of us has a deeper more wonderful calling to follow Jesus. It does not mean that we all have to sell everything we own but rather not to put material things first. We live in a super-materialistic society, and it is so easy for us to be seduced by products—bigger and better things. We are told that “greed is good,” and many of the richest people in America have power over so many less affluent people. Sometimes the wealthy use that power for good, but sometimes they treat people—especially those who are poor—unfairly, or at least indifferently. Pope Francis asks us to follow the example of Jesus and reach out to those who are the poorest in our society and around the world. One way to do that is to support and volunteer with an organization in our community that is working to help people in need.
 
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 Genesis
(Chapter 2:18-24)
 
This is the ancient story in which God creates woman from the rib of the man. It is a parable with a powerful message but one that has been used for centuries to defend the primacy of men over women on the premise that woman came from man. However, the text itself has quite a different meaning.
When God brought the woman to the man, the man said: “‘This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called ‘woman,’ for out of ‘her man’ this one has been taken.’ That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one flesh.”
 
The two become one flesh—an image that implies that they are equal partners. Yet for generations, people have used this passage to justify subjugation of women in civil society and in religious traditions, including our own. It often has been a foundation for male patriarchy rather than an insight into a breakthrough many thousands of years ago that spoke of the equality of men and women.
 
Our society is in creative turmoil on the issue of women’s rights in all dimensions of life, including that of institutional religion. We have come a long way, but we still have a long way to go, especially we men who are beginning to understand and even to feel the toxicity of sexism.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 128:1-2,3,4-5,6)
 
“May the Lord bless us all the days of our lives.” Do you feel that God has blessed you every day? When you are having a bad day after several bad days it might not feel that way. But then, something positive happens, you receive a gift, no matter how small. Let us be thankful even for small gifts.
 
A reading from the Letter to the Hebrews
(Chapter 2:9-11)
 
“Brothers and sisters: He ‘for a little while’ was made ‘lower than the angels’ that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting that he for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the leader of their salvation perfect through suffering.”
 
You and I believe in Jesus as a “suffering servant” who died a horrible death for us. No other people believe in such a reality—a God who becomes one of us and then dies for us. That is how much our all-loving Father loves us. He became one of us, shared our human reality, and embraced us as no other deity is reputed to have done. But, of course, it does not end with his death. Christianity would not be the faith that we believe in and live without the resurrection of Jesus and our own resurrection.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Mark
(Chapter 10:2-16)
 
The first part of this reading is about a confrontation that Jesus has with the Pharisees who ask him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” In the Law of Moses, there were certain circumstances in which a man could divorce his wife. But a wife could not divorce her husband, period. Jesus responds, “So they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” Jesus does not approve of men using the Law of Moses to do what women were not allowed to do—divorce.
 
The second part of this reading has to do with the love Jesus had for children: “And people were bringing children to him that he might touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this he became indignant and said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me; do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Amen I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.’ Then he embraced them and blessed them, placing his hands on them.”
 
What a beautiful passage, but what does it mean beyond the obvious love that Jesus had for children? What does it mean to “accept the kingdom of God like a child?” Is Jesus asking us to be childish? No. Rather, he is asking us to be “childlike,” being open to God’s unconditional love, accepting all the love and gifts that God gives us, even amid pain and suffering. Later in Jesus’ story, we learn just what being faithful to God in the deepest suffering really means. Jesus did it and broke through death in his resurrection, and so can we.
 
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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millstoneA reading from the Book of Numbers
(Chapter 11:25-29)
 
“The Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to Moses. Taking some of the spirit that was on Moses, the Lord bestowed it on the seventy elders; and as the spirit came to rest on them, they prophesied.” However, there were two men who were left in camp, “yet the spirit came to rest on them also.” Joshua, Moses’ aide said, “Moses, my Lord, stop them.” But Moses answered them, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the people of the Lord were prophets! Would that the Lord might bestow his spirit on them all!”
 
Moses obviously has a broader and deeper vision of God’s generosity than Joshua, who seems to be stuck in legalism. But think about God’s generosity to us now. We do not receive some sort of spirit. We receive the Holy Spirit who then lives in us every day throughout our lives, even when we are not aware of this powerful presence or even if we are not faithful to the gift of the Spirit. The Spirit remains, abides in each of us. The Spirit is our constant companion, even in our darkest hours—especially in our deepest darkest hours and days and years. Do you talk to the Spirit within you? Even more important, do you listen to the Spirit?
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 19:8, 10, 12-13, 14)
 
“The precepts of the Lord give joy to the heart.” For the Jewish people following the precepts, the Law of Moses was the way to salvation. For us Christians, the way to salvation is through faith in Jesus, and his Law is simple: “Love your God with all your heart and soul and your neighbor as yourself.” It is so simple, yet so challenging.
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint James
(Chapter 5:1-6)
 
James is very hard on the few rich people of his time. “Come now, you rich, weep and wail over your impending miseries… . You have stored up treasures for the last days. Behold, the wages you withheld from the workers who harvested your fields are crying aloud, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.”
 
So, here we are two thousand years later, right here in our own country where there are billions of dollars in wages stolen each year from the poorest of the poor workers. Unlike some other countries, we have laws to protect people who are being cheated and dozens of organizations that work to promote justice, but it still happens, harming not only the workers but also the majority of businesses that treat workers fairly and do not steal their wages. This ancient admonition from James is as true today as it was centuries ago.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Mark
(Chapter 9:38-43, 45, 47-48)
 
There was a form of speech that was popular in the time of Jesus, and he used it from time to time to make his point. It is called “Semitic exaggeration,” and it certainly sounds strange to us today. When Jesus talks about cutting off a hand of a foot or plucking out an eye, he is using Semitic exaggeration, but over the years it has caused much confusion.
 
The point that Jesus is making is the importance of entering into the kingdom of God, or what we call heaven. That is what is most important. That is our goal.
 
In the beginning of this reading, there is a disagreement between Jesus and John, similar to the one we saw between Moses and Joshua: “Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.” Jesus replied, “Do not prevent him. There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who, at the same time, speaks ill of me. For whoever is not against us is for us. Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward.” Jesus is always more inclusive, more understanding than we might be, always looking at the deeper motivation rather than categories of exclusion.
 
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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Jesus_childA reading from the Book of Wisdom
(Chapter 2:12, 17-20)
 
This book was written sometime between the late first century BC and the early first century AD—in other words, roughly around the lifetime of Jesus. And there are several verses that could apply to Jesus: “Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us; he sets himself against our doings. … For if the just one be the son of God, God will defend him and deliver him from the hands of his foes. … Let us condemn him to a shameful death; for according to him, God will take care of him.”
 
For centuries, the Jewish people hoped and prayed for a messiah. These passages could refer to such a person. Jesus did die “a shameful death,” and God did “take care of him” in the resurrection. Jesus has promised us that, even though we too may suffer unjustly, we will live forever with him.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 54:3-4, 5, 6, 8)
 
“The Lord upholds my life.” How have you experienced the Lord upholding your life? Maybe it has been a series of small gifts you have been given or one or more major saving interventions in your life. Let us remember and be thankful for God’s upholding presence in our lives.
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint James
(Chapter 3:16-4:3)
 
We live in a dangerous world. James was well aware of that in his own time, two thousand years ago. Where could his people, or we today, find peace? “Where jealousy and selfish ambitions exist, there is disorder and every foul practice. … Where do the wars and where do the conflicts among you come from? Is it not from your passions that make war within your members? You covet but do not possess. You kill and envy but you cannot obtain; you fight and wage war. You do not possess because you do not ask. You ask but do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”
 
Jesus said, “Ask and you shall receive.” James is saying that we need to ask with an open heart, not selfishly or ambitiously seeking power over others. In our prayers let us be open to God’s gifts, God’s answers, not just what we think we need. Surprises may abound.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Mark
(Chapter 9:30-37)
 
This reading is in two parts, but they are connected. First of all, Jesus is teaching his disciples, “‘The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death the Son of Man will rise.’ But they did not understand the saying and were afraid to question him.” Of course, Jesus is talking to a group consisting mostly of semi-illiterate farmers and fishermen, and he shocks them by speaking of his death and the seemingly impossible promise of rising again. What were they to make of this? What were they to think as Jesus began to prepare them for an experience at first heartbreaking and then hopeful—an experience unprecedented in human history. Have you ever asked yourself how you would have felt if you were in this band of apostles? How could you have believed this wild story and promise? Somehow, all but one stayed the course.
 
Then, in part two of this gospel story, Jesus hears the apostles arguing about “who was the greatest.” Jesus answers them, “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” Then, to make his point, “Taking a child, he placed it in their midst, and putting his arms around it, he said to them, “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me.”
 
Would it not be wonderful if the leaders of our church and our secular society lived by this model and truly cared for the children amongst us? We would not have hundreds of millions of children hungry in our world and tens of millions hungry in our own country. We would not have millions more abused and neglected. “Whoever receives one such child in my name, receives me. … If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” How can we help our leaders to be “servants of all”?
 
Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved.
 
Bill Ayres was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. He has been a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years and has two weekly Sunday-night shows on WPLJ, 95.5 FM in New York. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.

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