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wisdomFather, Creator and giver of life,
help us to embrace the gifts you have
given to us and show us how to use them
generously in service to your people.
 
Jesus, Savior and Redeemer,
show us how to let go
of those aspects of our lives
that inhibit our growth,

make us timid and fearful,
and keep us from seeing the larger possibilities
that lie before us.
 
Spirit of wisdom and love,
fill our hearts with passion for your word
and a zealousness for your work.
 
May all good things come to us
as a result of Wisdom’s company
and true riches be ours
through God’s abundant grace.
Amen.

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

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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_childrenJesus,
your words have power
both to frighten and to delight me.
Help me be attentive, to hear
what you are teaching me about death and about life.
Open my eyes to the challenges you put before me.
Show me how to receive the “little ones.”
Give me a generous spirit and a compassionate heart.
I ask all of this in your holy name.

Amen.

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

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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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crossLoving God,
Jesus taught us so many lessons
during his time on this earth.
Open our hearts and minds
that we may see the goodness
you have put
in the highways and byways of our life.

Keep us attentive to your words
that our footsteps and actions may follow the same path,
the path that Jesus shows,
the path we claim to be walking.
Guide our feet that they may stay on the path of the gospel,
the way that Jesus the teacher has shown us.
We ask this through the same Christ, our Lord.
Amen.

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

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servant_leaderA reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah
(Chapter 50:5-9a)
 
Here are three powerful sentences from this reading: “The Lord God opens my ear that I may hear; and I have not rebelled, have not turned back.” “The Lord is my help, therefore I am not disgraced.” “See, the Lord God is my help; who will prove me wrong?”
 
Have you ever had the experience of God opening your ear or even your heart? Perhaps you had closed your heart to someone or to some truth, and you would not budge. But then, something happened, and you had a change of heart that helped you to see another side of the person or the issue that had closed you, and you moved on.
Did you ever feel rejected or even disgraced, but then someone came to your aid or your defense? Maybe God sent that person to you, because God is your help.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 116:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9)
 
“I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living.” The line before this reads, “For he has freed my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling.” This amazing insight was written hundreds of years before the coming of Jesus Christ, who truly saves our souls from the ultimate death.
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint James
(Chapter 2:14-18)
 
Here is Saint James with a strong statement about the age-old question about whether we are saved by faith or by good works. His answer is clear. We need BOTH.
 
“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone says that he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister says he has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well” but you do not give him the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also, faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”
 
Our parish has many excellent spiritual ministries, but we also have our social ministries to help those who have material needs. But that does not let us “off the hook.” Each of us needs to respond to those we know who are in material need by providing them help or connecting them with a person or an organization that has more resources. There are dozens of community-based organizations in our town and county that exist to help those who have problems. We need to become familiar with them or ask our parish social ministries director to connect us.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Mark
(Chapter 8:27-35)
 
For many centuries, the Jewish people believed in the coming of a Messiah who would save his people and restore Jerusalem to its rightful place in the world. When the apostles first became followers of this remarkable man who healed so many people in so many ways, they naturally saw him as that Messiah. But Jesus was a very different kind of Messiah, a suffering servant.
 
In this reading, Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” They answer, “John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others one of the prophets.” But then Peter really gets it. “You are the Christ.” Jesus replies in a seemingly strange way: “He warned them not to tell anyone about him. He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days.” Obviously, this is not the kind of Messiah that people had hoped for. What a disappointment! What a scandal! Jesus wants to keep all this a secret for the time being. He knows it is too much for his close followers and certainly for the people to accept.
 
Even Peter, who gets that Jesus is the Messiah, does not get what kind of Messiah he really is. “Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. At this he turned around and, looking at his disciples, rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind me Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.’” Then Jesus says something even more shocking: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.”
 
That’s it! The so-called Secret of Mark is out. Jesus is a very different kind of Messiah, not the person that people had been expecting. This Messiah will suffer and die horribly, but he will rise after three days! No wonder so many people did not believe. It was not what they had expected. But really, it was so much better, because it came with a promise of everlasting life, not just for Jesus but for all. That means for all of us, now and forever. That is the greatest gift from Jesus: Life forever with our all-loving God.
 
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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miraclesJesus,
I put my trust in your healing touch.
Unstop my ears and open my heart
to your message of justice, love, and compassion,
even when those words challenge me.
Remove the impediments from my speech—
fear, intimidation, apathy, or doubt.
Help me to proclaim my faith loudly
and my love for you with gladness.

I pray all of this in your holy name.
Amen.

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

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healingA reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah
(Chapter 35:4-7a)
 
“Thus says the Lord: Say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, he comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save you.” This is a promise from the Lord that becomes very specific and includes assurances that “the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared,” “the tongue of the mute will sing.” Then, to top it off for people struggling in a parched desert, “the burning sands will become pools, and the thirsty ground, springs of water.”
 
This is God giving new life to the people of Israel who have suffered so much. It is a messianic prophesy of a new kingdom, a new relationship between God and his people. However, there is untold new suffering, new trials to come for thousands of years. Yet, people have returned to Isaiah, and this passage in particular, to give them hope. We Christians believe that this promise has been fulfilled in Jesus and we live in that promise.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 146:6-7, 8-9, 9-10)
 
“Praise the Lord, my soul.” How often do you say a prayer of praise to God? Most of our prayers are asking God for something or for forgiveness. Of course, those are necessary and often heartfelt prayers. But what about saying a prayer of praise that can be added to our prayer of thanksgiving or just stand alone in our moments of awe before our loving God?
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint James
(Chapter 2:1-5)
 
Most of the early Christians were not rich, but a few were and apparently there were situations in which the relatively rich person was given the choice seat at the celebration, and the poor man was treated shabbily. James wanted to put an end to that.
 
“For if a man with gold rings and fine clothes comes into your assembly, and a poor person in shabby clothes also comes in, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say ‘Sit here, please,’ while you say to the poor one, ‘Stand there,’ or ‘Sit at my feet,’ have you not made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil designs? … “Did not God choose those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom that he promised to those who loved him?”
 
There was a time in many Christian churches when rich people “bought” the best seats in the church and had them reserved each Sunday. I have never known that in any parish I have been in, but I suspect it still exists in some places. You never know if someone sitting next to you may be “poor in the world” but is rich in faith.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Mark
(Chapter 7:31-37)
 
People at the time of Jesus suffered many afflictions for which there was no medical cure. They also lived in continual political and economic chaos, feeling powerless in the face of oppression from the Romans and from their own countrymen who had power over them in so many ways.
 
So you can imagine how popular Jesus was because of his many cures. “They were exceedingly astonished and they said, ‘He has done all things well. He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.’” But this is only one instance of Jesus healing. We know of many occasions when he healed someone of illness or infirmity, raised the dead to life, and—most important—forgave people for their sins.
 
Jesus was a healer, unlike any before him, and he wants all of us his followers to be healers as well. What opportunities do you see in your life for healing someone? Perhaps it is an emotional or spiritual healing or maybe the healing of a relationship. How about the healing of your marriage or your family? That does not necessarily mean that something is badly broken but rather that there are wounds of one kind or another that need the healing mercy of Jesus.
 
And, what about you? Where and how do you need healing in your life? Is it the loss of a loved one, the loss of some part of yourself that does not work the way it used to, the loss of memory, or simply the loss of a joy that used to be there every day of your life but now comes and goes. What steps can you take to restore your joy? How can you pray to Jesus to be with you on your journey to healing and wholeness? Jesus offers us healing gifts every day of our lives, but sometimes we are too busy or tired or wounded to experience them. His healing touch doesn’t work like magic. He wasn’t a magician; he was a healer.
 
Let us pray for whatever healing we may need and be aware of the healing gifts we are offered—in prayer, in the sacraments, in the empathy of others.
 
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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Life Begins at Forty was a 1932 bestselling self-help book by Walter B. Pitkin. It was very popular and influential. Although Pitkin did not coin the phrase “life begins at forty,” the success of his book put it into general circulation, so much so that after 1932 it became an American catchphrase for the remainder of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first. There have been movies, songs, and two television series and several books that bear the same title.
 
I would like to claim that phrase for RENEW—the life of RENEW is beginning anew on this, our 40th anniversary. RENEW International is entering its fifth decade on mission for the Church and the world. And we believe life has just begun. During this year, we certainly are celebrating our founding and the many blessings God has poured forth on the Church through the work of RENEW, but we believe the best is yet to come. God is always doing something new.
 
For RENEW this milestone is about more than history; it is the impetus for us to look “Forward at Forty,” and that has been the motto of our observances. Our anniversary coincides with a critical period for the Catholic Church. A recent Pew Research Center study shows that a high percentage of millennials (ages 22-37) describe themselves as religious “nones” (atheists, agnostics, or “nothing in particular”). Today, more than 50 percent of those raised in Catholic households no longer identify as Catholics when they reach adulthood. Many factors have contributed to this reality, and the recent eruption in the sexual-abuse scandals has only contributed to people’s disengagement with the Church. We are poised to address these issues and, through our resources and programs, invite people of all ages to a renewed faith and energy to transform the Church for the sake of the world.
 
We began our anniversary celebration at the fall meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. We continued in April with a Symposium on Pastoral Renewal that drew more than 200 lay men and women, clergy, and religious to Seton Hall University to hear presentations by national leaders in the field. The symposium was named to honor our co-founders—Monsignors Thomas A. Kleissler and Thomas Ivory, both of whom attended.
 
In September, we will mark the anniversary with a pilgrimage to important religious sites in Italy. And on November 4, we will conclude our celebration with a Mass of Thanksgiving at Our Lady of Mercy Church in Park Ridge, New Jersey, where Monsignor Thomas A. Kleissler, our longtime director, began his priestly ministry. Bishop Mark Bartchak of the Diocese of Altoona-Johnston will be the principal celebrant.
 
We invite you to come to this Mass of Thanksgiving and to join us at the reception that will immediately follow. With you at our side, we know that as we move “Forward at Forty” we will have even more to celebrate in the years ahead.
 
Sr. Terry Rickard is the Executive Director of RENEW International and a Dominican Sister from Blauvelt, NY.

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ToolsLoving God,
For the opportunity to find
work meaningful,
We thank you, God.
For those with whom we work,
We ask your blessing, God.
For the times we were not conscious
of our partnership with you,
We ask forgiveness, O God.

For those who have taught us skills
and wisdom and patience,
We praise you, O God.
Amen.

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

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justic3A reading from the Book of Deuteronomy
(Chapter 4:1-2, 6-8)
 
This is an important moment in the history of Israel. God establishes a Covenant with the people through Moses and gives them the Law which was not a purely external, juridical thing but rather was meant to be in their hearts. Moses warns the people on the Lord’s behalf, “you shall not add to what I command you nor subtract from it.” But by the time of Jesus, there were so many add-ons to the Law that Jesus challenged religious leaders for placing a yoke on the shoulders of the people that God never intended. In contrast, Jesus said, “my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” For the past fifty years, the Church has moved slowly away from rules, such as abstinence from meat on Fridays, so as to focus our attention more on the basic message of Jesus: Love God and one another, and believe in the reign of God that Jesus came to make present.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 15:2-3, 3-4, 4-5)
 
The one who does justice will live in the presence of the Lord.” Injustice has been present in every society, and it is present today in our own country. There are always those who oppress and cheat others. We are called to live justly and speak up for those who are oppressed and treated unjustly.
 
A reading from the Letter of James
(Chapter 1:17-18, 21b-22, 27)
 
James has a strong, challenging message. “Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves.” It is not enough to only hear God’s word. We must act on it. How? He tells us: “Religion that is pure and undefiled is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” Widows and orphans were often the poorest people in society and so needed special care. They represented others who were also poor and who also suffered physical, emotional, or mental illnesses. The early Christian community kept to this calling, and most of our churches do today, individually and collectively. It is the responsibility of the Christian community and each of us to leave no one behind.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Mark
(Chapter 7:1-8, 15-15, 21-23)
 
At the time of Jesus, there were some 613 commands in Jewish religious law, most of which were not in the Torah or Law that God gave to Moses. Several of these commands had to do not so much with cleanliness but with ritual purity. Jesus and his disciples did not observe all these burdensome commands, and that was one of many reasons that the Scribes and Pharisees wanted Jesus gone. He challenged the burdensome authority that they exercised on people. Jesus argued that “Nothing that enters one from outside can defile the person, but the things that come out from within are what defile.” Then he mentions several things that come from within a person that defile: “evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, and folly.” It sounds like a list from today’s tabloids, but we can become so used to it that we take it for granted or rail against it to no effect. The message of Jesus is love, accepting his gift of unconditional love, living it in our lives, and standing up for justice, especially for the poor and oppressed, and seeking God’s mercy as well as showing mercy to others.
 
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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companions_journeyHeavenly Father, I thank you
for the words, example, and actions
of your Son, Jesus,
which give us the path to follow.
I am grateful for the Spirit
who comes to be with us on our journey,
on the path of unity, forgiveness, care,
and love for one another.
Graced with the Resurrection of Jesus

and the Presence of the Spirit
help me to witness to others as a member
of a community of baptized believers.
Amen.

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

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A reading from the Book of Joshua
(Chapter 24:1-2a, 15-17, 18b)
 
Joshua is an important person in the history of the Jewish people. He took over when Moses died and had to lead the people into the Promised Land. Under Joshua, the Israelites fought the city of Jericho and destroyed it, then moved on to take over the rest of nearby towns and cities. In today’s passage, Joshua is talking to all the people, including those who had been conquered, and tells them they have a choice:
 
“If it does not please you to serve the Lord, decide today whom you will serve, the gods your fathers served beyond the River (the famous Jordan River) or the gods of the Amorites in whose country you are now dwelling. As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” But the people answered, “Far be it from us to forsake the Lord for the service of other gods. … Therefore, we also will serve the Lord, for he is our God.”
 
This seems like an obvious thing for people to say after being saved from slavery in Egypt, saved from starvation in the dessert, and led to victory over a strong foe, but monotheism was a new concept. The Jewish people gave the world a great gift—faith and worship of one God, not many.
 
Skip now to the time of Jesus, generations and generations later, and we can see how difficult it was for most Jews to believe in a trinitarian God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, all fully God. Many did believe because of the power of Jesus and his message, but many more could not bring themselves to believe in a God who was among them in the person of this Teacher. But we continue to honor our Jewish brethren who kept the belief in one God for all those years in the face of so many false gods.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 34:2-3, 16-17, 18-19, 29-21)
 
“Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.” Did you ever have someone offer you a piece of fruit that you never had before? You tasted it and were delighted that it was, indeed, sweet. God’s goodness is like that. Take a few moments this week to sit back and savor that sweetness. Maybe it will come in a surprise encounter or with someone you hold dear, or it may be just you in a powerfully quiet moment.
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Ephesians
(Chapter 5:21-32)
 
This reading includes one of the most disliked and misunderstood lines in the whole New Testament.
 
“Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord.” Wham! Those words have reverberated throughout history and today have driven many women, and men too, out of our Church. What about equality?
 
Paul then says “The husband is head of his wife just as Christ is head of the church.” We hear this in the male-dominated terms of Paul’s time, but we do not have to take it literally now as we are working to bring gender equality to our Church and our world. Let’s not forget the last two beautiful sentences of this reading: “So also husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.” Can you recall anything written two thousand years ago that is so positive about the relationship of a man and wife? And there is also a call to husbands: “Husbands love your wives even as Christ loved the church.”
 
Sexism is a grave injustice, whether in our Church, our country, our workplaces, or our families. Let us all work for true gender justice at all times, in all places.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to John
(Chapter 6:60-69)
 
This reading follows last week’s gospel passage in which Jesus said, “I am the living bread that comes down from heaven… . whoever eats this bread will live forever.” Many of Jesus’ disciples said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” It is one thing to hear the words of Jesus and be excited and then to experience his healings. Jesus offers those who eat his body and drink his blood eternal life. But who is he? How can this be a real offer? It seems to many to be bizarre. Jesus knows this and says, “The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe. For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted to him by my Father.”
 
Jesus is offering them an amazing gift, eternal life with him, but for some it is just too hard to believe. “Many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.” Remember, this was written fifty years or more after the death of Jesus. John, who is the last living apostle, wants everyone to know that the journey of Jesus was not easy. His message was rejected even by some who started out to be his disciples. It all depended on their accepting a remarkable and yet almost unbelievable gift. When you think about it, that is the same for us today. Can we accept this wondrous gift from Jesus?
 
Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved.
 
Bill Ayres was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. He has been a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years and has two weekly Sunday-night shows on WPLJ, 95.5 FM in New York. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.

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Thank you, God, for your faithful servants
who give a helping hand to the hungry.
Bless them and those whose pain and hardship
make their work so essential.
Show us how we can stand with them.
Give bread to the hungry
and give hunger for you
to those who have bread.
We pray in the name of Jesus

our Savior and brother who feeds us
with the bread of life
and who lives in loving community
with you and the Holy Spirit.
Amen.

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

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A reading from the Book of Proverbs
(Chapter 9:1-6)
 
The Book of Proverbs is a collection of seven sets of aphorisms that were collected and edited in their present form seven hundred years before the birth of Jesus and later. The writer of today’s passage wants his fellow Jews to pursue true wisdom, and he envisions Wisdom inviting people to a meal: “Come, eat of my food, and drink of the wine I have mixed! Forsake foolishness that you may live; advance in the way of understanding” (verses 5-6). The notion of coming to a meal to receive fine food and, at the same time, wisdom is important from a Christian perspective because of its relationship to the Eucharist.
 
When we come to the Eucharist, we are filled with the presence of Jesus and we are offered wisdom in many ways. Let us try to be open to the wisdom that is there for us at each Eucharistic celebration through the reading of the Scriptures, the homily, the music, and our own prayerful reflections. Amazing wisdom can come to us if we are truly listening with our heart as well as our minds.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7)
 
“Taste and see the goodness of the Lord” (verse 9a). Sometimes we say, “It is so good I can almost taste it.” Have you ever felt that way about the goodness of the Lord?
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Ephesians
(Chapter 5:15-20)
 
Saint Paul is talking here about that ever-elusive reality of wisdom. “Brothers and sisters: Watch carefully how you live, not as foolish persons but as wise… . Therefore, do not continue in ignorance, but try to understand what is the will of the Lord… but be filled with the Spirit” (verses 15, 17, 18b).
 
How can we find true wisdom? We are not talking about mere knowledge, as important as that may be. We are on another level here. Wisdom is a GIFT of the Spirit—a gift, and we only need ask for it, because it is always there where the Spirit lives deep within us. Yes, that has always been true, but too often we forget it as we struggle with so many challenges, disappointments, hard choices, and darkness of one kind or another. It calls for another kind of prayer, not necessarily saying prayers but in an open kind of silence. Have you had those moments when somehow you “got it?” It can happen more often if we let the Spirit in.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to John
(Chapter 6:51-58)
 
The notion of God feeding his people goes way back to the Lord feeding his people in the desert after their escape from Egypt. Throughout the history of the Jewish people, they depended on God for good harvests in the harsh drought-like conditions of much of Israel much of the time. So, it is understandable for Jesus to feed his people as well, and he did. But this is different: “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat of the flesh of the Son of Man and drink of his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink” (verses 53-55).
 
No wonder the Romans thought that Christians were crazed murderers and persecuted them. They took the words of Jesus quite literally, as did many Jews. That is obviously not what Jesus meant. Today, you and I believe that Jesus is really present in the bread and wine, that he nourishes us in a spiritual but powerful way. It is an ancient religious tradition going back to God sending food to his people in the wilderness, but in the Eucharist there is an intimacy with the Divine that is unknown in any other faith tradition. It is built on the Jewish experience of God feeding the people but in Jesus God actually became one of us, fed his people while he was on earth, and now continues to feed us spiritually.
 
How do you need to be nourished today? Ask Jesus to bring you that gift of nourishment as you receive communion this very day.
 
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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