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

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

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

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A reading from the book of the prophet Jeremiah
(Chapter 38:4-6; 8-10)
 
There is an old saying that “no prophet is honored or accepted in his own time.” That was certainly the case with Jeremiah who lived just before the Babylonian Exile of the Jewish people. Israel was surrounded by Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon—all more powerful kingdoms. Jeremiah tried to warn the people of Israel of their impending doom at the hands of one of these kingdoms, but the powers that ruled in Jerusalem vowed to stop him. “In those days the princes said to the king: ‘Jeremiah ought to be put to death; he is demoralizing the soldiers that are left in the city, and all the people, by speaking such things to them; he is not interested in the welfare of the people, but in their ruin.’” Zedekiah, who was a very weak king gave in to them. “And so they took Jeremiah and threw him into the cistern…. There was no water in the cistern, only mud, and Jeremiah sank into the mud.” They left him to die a horrible death, but Ebed-melech, a court official, asked the king to release Jeremiah, and the king agreed. Prophets of any age often have to proclaim bad news, and people often are not receptive. Jeremiah suffered throughout his life for speaking the truth as God revealed it to him, and the consequences for Israel were catastrophic.
 
For many years, climate change prophets have been warning us about the dangers of man-made pollution of our air, water, and land. Global warming has already caused rising sea levels and has compromised our food production and our air quality. In this case, the prophets are not just politicians with elections to win but scientists whose numbers have grown exponentially in the past decades, across the world and throughout the scientific community. How can we listen to their wisdom without panic but with real concern?
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 40: 2, 3, 4, 18)
 
“Lord, come to my aid.” How often have you and I said that prayer in any number of ways? How often has it worked? Wait! Isn’t that the wrong question and the wrong approach? Our prayers are not always answered in our time and in exactly the way we desired. Prayer is not only “saying prayers”; often prayer consists of a deep openness to the Spirit within us which may help us to see the larger and long- term gifts that we are offered.
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Hebrews
(Chapter 12: 1-4)
 
This was a challenging and dangerous time for Jewish converts. They were often thrown out of their synagogues and treated as traitors to their faith. And now, their Roman rulers had two things against them—being Jews and belonging to this new band of strange believers who met to worship their dead leader, Jesus Christ, and partake in his body and blood. That was madness to the Romans, who saw it as threatening to their rule.
 
The author tells the readers. “Let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus the leader and perfecter of faith.” It was a race for the people then to keep one step ahead of their persecutors. Thankfully, we do not live under persecutors, but sometimes our own lack of faith and the distractions of material things and personal crises can slow us down in our own race to follow Jesus Christ.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke
(Chapter 12:49-53)
 
Many fire-and-brimstone preachers throughout history, including our own time, have used this text to justify their version of Jesus as a powerful, divisive, judgmental force in the world. “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing! There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished!” Of course, Jesus is talking about his death, which he knew was not going to be not peaceful but violent. That is the “baptism” that he is talking about.
 
Then he says something that many find shocking: “Do you think that I have come to establish peace on earth? No, I tell you but division. From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three.” Then he mentions a whole series of family divisions.
 
He had already experienced these divisions as he traveled the countryside, preaching and often having a meal with a family. Today, we call Jesus the Prince of Peace, but he was a most divisive figure, and he knew it. The divisions caused by his message—decisions to adopt or reject his gospel of mercy, love, and justice—were painful, as they are today in families all over the world. True peace comes not from the necessary accommodations we make in life but through the unselfish model taught and exemplified by Jesus who said that the whole law consisted of this: love God and love your neighbor.
 
Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved.
 
Bill Ayres was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. He has been a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years and has two weekly Sunday-night shows on WPLJ, 95.5 FM in New York. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.

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When you’re little, the adults in your life tell you that sharing is “really fun” and “a nice thing to do.” Until you’re older though, you don’t realize how truly rewarding it is. One of my fellow summer interns here at RENEW is a junior at St. Edward’s University in Texas and originally from Ohio. Before working here, she had never been to New York or New Jersey. Being raised in northern New Jersey and so close to Manhattan, I like to think I know how to get around in the city. So, on a Wednesday afternoon adventure tour, my joy came from embracing the little things about my favorite city and sharing them with my friend.
 
Our day started across the street from Bryant Park, where we attended a meeting in the Salesforce tower. We met representatives from two other nonprofits as well as a few employees at Salesforces where we learned about the software and how it could benefit everyone here at RENEW. Along with meeting these wonderful new faces, we were taken up to the top of the Salesforce tower, where we got the opportunity to overlook a beautiful 360-degree view of the entire city. I was overwhelmed with joy seeing this view of the city and sharing it with my friend who had not seen anything like it.
 
After the meeting, our colleagues and Jessie and I went our separate ways, and we were given the chance to do some exploring and adventuring on our own. My day of showing my friend around my favorite city would continue wherever the wind took us. We landed in Times Square at the TKTS booth and bought last-minute tickets to the matinee performance of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. We were pleasantly surprised to see that our seats were much closer to the stage than either of us anticipated. By the end of the show, we were both so full of joy. The story was heartwarming, the music was fun, and we got to share it.
 
We continued to dinner at Stout on 33rd street, one of my favorite spots in the city. We shared a plethora of food that had us full for what felt like days, and plenty of stories that had us laughing and smiling for two-plus hours. When it came time to catch our trains home, neither of us wanted our day to end, despite the fact that we were going to see each other in less than twenty-four hours.
 
It was day filled with one joyous event after another. My joy was rooted in the idea of sharing my favorite place with my new friend. Being able to see New York City through another person’s eyes, where everything is new and getting to be the tour guide for it all was a job I loved. I will surely never forget our day in New York City with my forever friend, filled with nothing but smiles and joy from start to finish.
 
Anne Howath is a senior communications major at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. Annie plans to pursue a career in digital media and marketing. She is the editor-in-chief of the SJU Her Campus chapter and a former intern for Katz Media Group and Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville. “I am very grateful for my summer at RENEW,” she says, “and I have been learning a lot about working in a nonprofit environment!”

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

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

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A reading from the book of Wisdom
(Chapter 18:6-9)
 
This reading is from the Book of Wisdom, so what is the wisdom offered here? Perhaps it is faithfulness to God’s promises in the face of challenges and persecutions over a long period of time. That was certainly true for the ancient Israelites, and it may be true for many of us at times. It is hard to keep faith with God when a series of bad things happen. There is a temptation to lose hope, but in troubled times faithfulness and trust in God’s promises must endure.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 33:1, 12, 18-19, 20-22)
 
“Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.” Do you feel chosen? Do you feel blessed? These are great gifts, given to us every day but often overlooked.
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Hebrews
(Chapter 11:1-2, 8-19)
 
This beautiful reflection on the history of the Jewish people focuses on faith under challenging circumstances, starting with Abraham. His faith must have seemed like foolishness, yet it was the foundation of a great nation, a great people of faith.
 
We Americans are also a people of faith, faith in a dream of freedom and justice for all people. We have maintained that faith, especially when it has been tested sorely through prejudice, wars, and economic depressions and recessions as well as attempts to limit our rights, freedom and wellbeing.
 
That same cycle can appear several times in our individual lives: childhood abuse of one kind or another, poverty, divorce or other broken relationships, betrayals, illness, and the death of loved ones. These realities may pop up randomly in our lives without warning. But in the midst of the darkness there is always light that comes from our faith in the ultimate salvation that God has promised us. That faith is the source of life for us, especially in the face of the “little deaths” we may experience during a lifetime.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke
(Chapter 12:32-48)
 
“Do not be afraid any longer little flock, for the father is pleased to give you the kingdom.” It is understandable that the early followers of Jesus were living in fear. They might be forbidden to worship in their local synagogue because of their faith in Jesus. They might be hunted down as believers in a forbidden sect by the Romans who were suspicious of any religious beliefs that would threaten their rule. Jesus wanted to be sure that his disciples did not live in fear but rather in joy and that they would be ready when the Lord would call them.
 
Of course, we all have unhealthy fears at times, but Jesus has also taught us that love casts out fear. If we believe that we are loved passionately and unconditionally by God, that love can cast out fear. But how do we know that we are loved in this way? Were we loved in that way by our parents and family? If so, rejoice! If not, all is not lost. A most important part of our journey in life is to connect with loving people, people who will open their hearts to us as we to them. Perhaps that happened to you with your life partner or close friends, or a teacher or mentor who was there for you at exactly the right times. It is never too late to experience the love of God poured out to you through others. It is never too late for you to love in the same way, even if you were not properly loved as you grew up or at other times in your life. After all, Jesus tells us that we have been given a kingdom, not of material power or possessions but of a powerful love. Imagine that! We live in a kingdom of love, if only we can open ourselves to the wonders of God’s embrace.
 
Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved.
 
Bill Ayres was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. He has been a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years and has two weekly Sunday-night shows on WPLJ, 95.5 FM in New York. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.

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Jesus, you showed us
how a community should live.
Loving and caring and helping
one another were the cornerstones.
We need to remember
that we can help to create community.
We can come together
and share with one another,
support one another, and love one another.
It may seem difficult in these times,
but your example shows us the way.
Guide us, dear Jesus,
for we need your help.
We ask this in your name.
Amen.

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

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A reading from the book of Ecclesiastes
(Chapter 1:2; 2:21-23)
 
This is a reading of uncertain origin. Some biblical scholars believe it was written about 300 years before the birth of Jesus, others say much earlier. “Qoheleth” is not a personal name but rather a title meaning teacher or preacher—a very gloomy and pessimistic one: “Vanity of vanities! All things are vanity. … For what profit comes to man from all the toil and anxiety of heart with which he has labored under the sun? All his days sorrow and grief are his occupation; even at night his mind is not at rest.” It’s a stark message that Jesus, with more context, repeats in the gospel passage for today.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 90:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 14, 17)
 
“If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” Do you know someone who has been so hurt, so disappointed, so misjudged, so betrayed, that he or she has a hardened heart? Maybe it was a child, a spouse, a friend, or a co-worker, but someone caused that person to harden his or her heart so as not to be hurt again. Could the offer of a kind word or a kind ear from you be the first step in the long healing process?
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Colossians
(Chapter 3:1-5, 9-11)
 
Paul wants to contrast this earthly life with the new life of glory with Christ: “When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory. Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the greed that is idolatry. Stop lying to one another, since you have taken off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed, for knowledge, in the image of its creator.”
 
You and I have “put on the new self,” the self of grace, God’s very Spirit living within us. We have a power in us that is a pure gift, but, of course, it is truly a gift that we did not earn but that was given to us freely by God. We need to believe in the gift, accept the gift, and share the gift with all, especially those in need. It is not that we have the answer or solution to everything but rather that we share our gift-filled presence. We may feel we have nothing to say to someone in sadness, loss, or conflict. It is our loving presence that in itself will share the gift of the Spirit, the gift of healing. It is not magical, and it is not from us but rather from the Spirit living within us.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke
(Chapter 12:13-21)
 
This is a challenging parable that Jesus told about greed. In ancient times in Israel, the oldest son received the major part of the family inheritance. That seems to be part of this story in which a man says to Jesus, “Teacher, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me.” Jesus avoids getting involved, but he makes a powerful point as he says to the crowd, “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.”
 
Then he tells the people a parable of “a rich farmer whose land produced a bountiful harvest.” This farmer has no space to store all his grain, so he decides to build bigger barns. Then he congratulates himself: “You have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat drink and be merry.”
 
Then God said to the farmer, “You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?” and Jesus adds, “Thus will it be for those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich in what matters to God.”
 
In our day, for many people, possessions mean more than basic security. They mean power and a kind of pseudo-contentment: bigger stuff and more stuff, more cars, boats, houses, the latest social media, and the best clothes and restaurants. All this “stuff” can easily choke out the Spirit and bring the kind of false security that trapped the rich man in this parable.
 
But what about we who are not super rich? Can we also get caught up in the material rat race that can steal away the true joy in our relationships, our creativity, and the beauties of nature? Yes, Jesus is not talking about ambition and wealth in themselves; he is talking about priorities and balance. Today, he keeps us, too, on track.
 
Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved.
 
Bill Ayres was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. He has been a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years and has two weekly Sunday-night shows on WPLJ, 95.5 FM in New York. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.

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I recently had a once-in-a-lifetime experience I’ll never forget with my fellow RENEW interns. I attended the ticker-tape parade in New York City to celebrate the United States Women’s National Soccer Team after their victory in the World Cup. Throughout the day, I couldn’t help feeling proud, empowered, and hopeful. Without a doubt, this event exceeded my expectations, and I continue to look for moments where I see God in everyday happenings.
 
As someone who tends to analyze the past or wonder what comes next, I often have a hard time being fully present. One of my theology teachers reminded her students to focus on the now, because God is always with us and has a plan that will work out. Going into the parade, I encouraged myself to let go of my worries in this way and appreciate all the beauty right in front of me. By living in the moment at the parade, I was able to notice the God moments I might have otherwise missed.
 
Something I truly admire about Jesus’ mission is is emphasis on love of neighbor. Even before the parade began, there were many times in which I witnessed everyday acts of kindness. Whether it was the strangers from Vermont who offered to take our photo or the police officers inviting young girls to stand on a float, I could feel the Holy Spirit working through people’s thoughtful gestures. These uplifting moments reminded me that Jesus’ message is all around us.
 
It is no secret that we live in a divided society. Yet, it warmed my heart to see so many people gathered in one place celebrating the best that our country has to offer. I believe that the ultimate goal of Jesus’ mission is unity among people. I was moved by the contagious energy among the crowd, expressed through the loud cheers, bright smiles, waving flags, and steady stream of confetti decorating the roadway. On many of the parade floats, this message was displayed: “One nation, one team.” I saw people of all ages and cultures, proving that this team attracted a universal audience. No matter what background anyone at the parade may have had, we were all God’s children gathering to support one another.
 
Throughout his ministry, Jesus advocated for every member of society, such as the Samaritan woman at the well, regardless of gender or creed. Many signs at the parade called for equal pay for women. Even though the women’s soccer team has won four World Cups, the men’s team is paid significantly more. Unfortunately, this wage gap occurs in many industries which reminds us that we must make progress to reach equality. I admire the women’s soccer team not only for standing up for this cause and using their platform for good, but also for inspiring their fans to become active members of society promoting awareness of this issue.
 
When we stand up for others, the social justice that Jesus preached still resonates in our world. I feel so blessed to have had this opportunity that reminded me of the presence of Christ and the goodness of people.
 
Samantha Howath, at right in the above photo, is a rising sophomore at Loyola University Maryland where she studies Communications and Marketing. She looks forward to starting a position as office assistant for Campus Ministry while continuing to be a lector. Samantha is also a marketer for Loyola’s chapter of Spoon University, a food blog, and a Greyhound Ambassador for Admissions.

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We had been waiting for the parade in lower Manhattan to start for around an hour, when we were approached by two younger girls who asked us to take their picture. They had colorfully decorated signs, apparel, stickers, glitter, and went the distance to show the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team their support and love.
 
After we took their pictures, we stuck around to chat with our new friends and get to know them a little. They had traveled from Northern Vermont to see their World Cup champs wave to them from the parade. Both explained to us that they were seniors in high school and going off to their freshman years of college in the fall, that they met at soccer camp when they were little girls, and that soccer is what made their friendship so strong.
 
We explained to them that we were students also, but that, being from New Jersey and Ohio, we were unfamiliar with their hometowns and the colleges they were going to. However, we were all there for the same reason: to celebrate our country’s victorious women’s soccer team in their ticker tape parade.
 
I saw signs of holiness in the thousands of people who stood together, on the Canyon of Heroes parade route. It seemed that every person in the crowd shared one purpose—celebrating these women. We were all eager, excited, and ready to see these women who had been representing the United States celebrate on the parade route that had been traveled by many championship teams before. This celebration was an opportunity, on a Wednesday morning in July, for all Americans to come together and be supportive and excited for the women who had won another World Cup title.
 
The holiness comes from putting our differences aside and supporting our country. At the end of the day, we are all Americans. We share the same history, pride, and flag, and we proudly raised 50 stars and 13 stripes on flags, t-shirts, headbands, signs, and so much more to show the U.S. Women that we were happy for them, excited for them, and always rooting for them in the place we all call home.
 
The women’s team motto is “one nation, one team.” In our Pledge of Allegiance, we state that we are “one nation, under God.” It is only fitting that the two are lines combined, one nation, one team, under God—which is exactly what most of the parade goers and team members experienced that day. One team, one parade route, lined with people supporting other people, proudly representing America.
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Anne Howath is a senior communications major at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. Annie plans to pursue a career in digital media and marketing. She is the editor-in-chief of the SJU Her Campus chapter and a former intern for Katz Media Group and Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville. “I am very grateful for my summer at RENEW,” she says, “and I have been learning a lot about working in a nonprofit environment!”

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So often, we get bogged down with negative emotions. I’m tired, I’m stressed, I’m anxious. I’m bored, I have too much going on, I don’t have enough going on. Rarely do we pause to celebrate the glorious life we are living. Do we ever stop to recognize the beauty in the mundane, the miracle in the everyday? Often, we don’t. Instead, we need a cause for celebration—a wedding, a birthday, a promotion. But this past Wednesday was a day for celebration—for the United States, for women, for life. And while some may say that the United States Women’s National Team danced and celebrated a little too big, I disagree. We are called to live a joyous life, and when we live filled with joy, we are praising, thanking, and glorifying our Creator.
 
Pope Francis writes in his encyclical Christus Vivit, “Dear young people, make the most of these years of your youth. …dream freely and make good decisions. …Make a ruckus! Cast out the fears that paralyze you, so that you don’t become young mummies. Live! Give yourselves over to the best of life!” Our Holy Father is encouraging each of us to celebrate, to take risks, to be joyful. I would argue, that when we live like that, we are living holy lives.
 
Annie, Samantha, and I—interns at RENEW International—were encouraged to attend the United States Women’s National Team’s ticker-tape parade in Lower Manhattan on Wednesday morning. We quickly agreed and figured out the logistics of it, while maintaining an attitude of thanksgiving and excitement for this opportunity. Throughout Wednesday morning, I was astounded by the moments that were filled with grace, or holiness—for example, when we made it into the city with no complications or over-crowded trains, and when we had time to grab some yummy coffees. Another such moment occurred when we found a great spot to watch from, with no one in front of us! A few minutes later, we met our neighbors, two young women who had traveled from Vermont to celebrate!
 
Soon, the crowd began to thicken, and we overheard stories of women who had played soccer their entire lives and young girls sharing which players were their favorites. We saw police officers selflessly and bravely protecting the people, acting with integrity. We witnessed sign after sign held by young and old, boys and girls, demanding equal pay for the soccer players they had watched diligently throughout the season. We had an easy and safe walk after the parade and caught trains that worked seamlessly and helped us make it back to the RENEW office on time.
 
But, most of all, there was holiness in the joy. There was holiness in the faces of the young girls who rode down Broadway on floats and looked out into the crowd with excitement, joy, and dreams. There was holiness as people in office buildings threw confetti from their windows, and others watched with awe as it fell beautifully. There was holiness when we saw the U.S. Women’s Team dance and laugh with joy, experiencing disbelief at the support. There was holiness when the young women next to us laughed with joy when they saw women in real life whom they have supported from afar. There was holiness everywhere.
 
Pope Francis also writes in Christus Vivit that when St. John Bosco taught St. Dominic Savio that “holiness involves being constantly joyful, he (St. Dominic) opened his heart to a contagious joy. …Dominic died in 1857 at fourteen years of age, saying: ‘What a wondrous thing I am experiencing!’” Indeed, while standing on the streets of New York City, laughing and cheering amongst new friends and strangers, I paused to think, “What a wonderful thing I am experiencing.”
 
Jessica Guerriero, at left in photo above, will be a junior Catholic Studies major at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas this fall. Jessie was born and raised in Ohio, but enjoys travelling and adventuring across the country and the world. “I love learning about social justice, women in the Church, and the Holy Cross Tradition,” she says, “and I am so grateful for my time spent here at RENEW this summer.”

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The word of the Lord came to me:
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I dedicated you,
a prophet to the nations I appointed you.
“Ah, Lord God!” I said,
“I do not know how to speak. I am too young!”
But the Lord answered me,
Do not say, “I am too young.”
To whomever I send you, you shall go;
whatever I command you, you shall speak. Jeremiah 1:4-10

 
This summer we have fresh air blowing through the corridors of our RENEW office. Along with the Holy Spirit, the source of this fresh air is three young, faith-filled, and talented interns. Besides significantly lowering the median age of our staff for the summer, Samantha, Jessie, and Annie have brought a new and vibrant perspective on all things faith and Church. Please read more about them—and from them—in this newsletter.
 
The faith and exuberance of these young women is exhilarating. Still, it reminds me that young Catholic like them are becoming more and more exceptional. The 2014 U.S. Religious Landscape survey by the Pew Research Center found that almost 23 percent of the public in the United States identified themselves as religious “nones” (unaffiliated with any faith group). Close to another 16 percent said “nothing in particular” when asked about their religious affiliation. Adults under 30 made up 35 percent of “nones.” These are startling but not surprising statistics.
 
RENEW is deeply concerned about the loss of young people engaged in our Church. We believe the significant number of Catholic young adults and young families who are disengaged from their Catholic faith, or who now number themselves among the “nones,” has made it urgent for everyone in the Church to focus our attention on children, adolescents, and young adults. My hope is, first, that more pastors and lay ministers will recognize the urgency of this situation and, second, that this recognition will move them to change, renewal, and reform.
 
Young people force us to revisit, rethink, and redo the ways we think about and do Church. We not only need to listen to young people who are still practicing the faith (and those who are not) but also invite them to participate in reimagining the context in which the sacred teachings of Christ and his Church are presented in the 21st century. We should encourage them to not only speak but lead. Their ideas are unique and relevant and are needed to attract other young people and make our parishes vibrant. Young people are not only the future of the Church they need to be called and encouraged to be leaders in the present.
 
Sr. Terry Rickard is the Executive Director of RENEW International and a Dominican Sister from Blauvelt, NY.

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God of power and might,
you teach us the marvels of the universe.
You have given us your Son,
the revelation of your divine presence,
and you invite us into deep and everlasting relationship.
Help me
to grow in my desire to know you,
my hunger to be fed with your love,
and my longing to be imbued with the wisdom of your Spirit.
Strengthen me
to become an effective witness of the gospel
and to promote your reign of God in the world.
I ask this through Christ, Our Lord.
Amen.

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

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prayingA reading from the book of Genesis
(Chapter 18:20-32)
 
Imagine making a deal with God, bargaining with God over the fate of thousands of people. That is the scene here with Abraham asking God to spare the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. It is like a scene from a Middle Eastern marketplace, except this one has the fate of two cities in the bargain. The authors of Genesis use this story because they know it will resonate with their audience.
 
“In those days, the Lord said: ‘The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great, and their sin so grave that I must go down and see whether or not their actions fully correspond to the cry against them that comes to me. I mean to find out.” Standing in the divine Presence, Abraham sees an opening and asks, “Will you sweep away the innocent with the guilty? Suppose there were fifty innocent people in the city; would you wipe out the place, rather than spare it for the sake of the fifty innocent people within it? Far be it from you to do such a thing to make the innocent die with the guilty so that the innocent and the guilty would be treated alike!’” God then says that he would spare the city for the sake of the innocent people, and the bargaining begins! Abraham keeps on lowering the bar to forty five, then forty, thirty, twenty, and finally ten. God then relents: “For the sake of those ten, I will not destroy it.”
 
This may seem like a strange story about an all-loving and forgiving God, but remember, this was written at a time when most people believed in pagan gods that were unloving, violent, and untrustworthy. Abraham was the first of a whole new order, a new relationship with a God who was just and always on the side of his people. We Christians come from that tradition, which was fulfilled in the long-awaited Messiah, Jesus Christ.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 138:1-2, 2-3, 6-7, 7-8)
 
“O Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me.” That’s the refrain, from verse 3; we also read in Psalm 138, “When I called, you answered me.” But there is no timetable. Prayer is not like putting your card in the machine, and out comes money. Even if we know that, we can be disappointed when it seems there is no answer, or at least not the one we want and when we want it. We need, then, to pray for discernment and patience.
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Colossians
(Chapter 1:24-28)
 
“Brothers and sisters: You were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.” Paul wants all the converts to Christianity to know that in baptism they died with Christ and were raised with him. There was no need for them to be circumcised. “And even when you were dead in transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, he brought you to life along with him, having forgiven us all of our transgressions.”
 
There was a major controversy in the early Church about whether gentiles who wanted to be baptized needed to be circumcised. Paul spoke out many times against this obligation and eventually won the battle, thus opening the Church to thousands and soon millions of new converts.
 
For Paul, baptism was the first step in finding a new life, a new community, and the presence of the Holy Spirit who comes to all in baptism. That is so important for us to remember—that the very Spirit of God dwells in each of us, even if and when we may have our doubts and major failings.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke
(Chapter 11:1-13)
 
A disciple said to Jesus, “‘Lord, teach us how to pray.’” He said to them, ‘When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name, your Kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread and forgive us our sins for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us, and do not subject us to the final test.’”
 
Then Jesus told a parable about a man who knocked on the door of his neighbor at midnight to ask for food for a friend who had just arrived hungry. The sleepy neighbor replied, “Do not bother me; the door has already been locked and my children and I are already in bed. I cannot get up to give you anything.” Jesus then said, “I tell you, if he does not get up to give the visitor the loaves because of their friendship, he will get up to give him whatever he needs because of his persistence. And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”
 
The point Jesus is making with this short parable is that we need to be persistent in prayer. It may be that we ask God to grant us a request, an important and appropriate request, but nothing seems to happen. Persistence! The answer may come to us slowly, or it may not be the answer we are hoping for, but we should persist and trust in a God who is not far away, but who lives within us.
 
Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved.
 
Bill Ayres was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. He has been a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years and has two weekly Sunday-night shows on WPLJ, 95.5 FM in New York. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.

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Lord God,
in your wisdom you invite us
out of our complacency.
You open our eyes
to see you with new vision.
You open our hearts
to love you with greater passion,
and you open our hands
to serve you with the purest intentions.
Lead us more deeply
into the mystery of discipleship
so that we may follow you
with steadfast faithfulness.
Give us the heart of Mary,
so that we may be transformed
by your Word
and fortified by your presence.
Give us the mind of Martha,
so that we can diligently accomplish your mission.
But above all, continue to invite us
into intimate and lasting relationship.
We ask this through Christ, our Lord.
Amen.

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

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