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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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The earth is yours, O Creator,
and all that dwells therein is sacred.
There is nothing that exists
without your mark of divine love.
Enlighten my mind, open my heart,
empower me to act with justice.
Help me feed the hungry,
rather than hoard,
clothe the impoverished,
rather than consume,
give out of my wants and needs,
rather than oppress.
I pray that justice will reign
on the earth
and the light of your shalom
will break through the darkness.
I ask this through Jesus and in the Holy Spirit.
Amen.

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

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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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credit_card

Lord God, you came to set us free,
but materialism threatens to enslave us.
Give me the strength
to confront my own unreasonable desires.
Help me to take to heart your command
not to worry about what we are to eat
or what we are to put on.
Free me from worry about my possessions.
Help me to love people and use things,
rather than love things and use people.
Give me the grace
to embrace your whole vision of life,
to see your handiwork in all of your creation
and in all those I meet.
I 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 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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My friends all know that I am a Catholic, because I have always been very open with them about my faith. So, when the news broke about Cardinal McCarrick, who long served in my home archdiocese of Newark, and the grand jury report was released in Pennsylvania where my father now lives, many people asked me, “How can you stay when the Church is so corrupt?”
 
I think my answer surprised them. I told them, “I stay, because the clergy are not the Church—I am. The Church is the millions of people of faith who sit in the pews every Sunday and then go out into the world to do good.”
 
I stay also because my Catholicism is so deeply rooted in my identity. My ethnic heritage, my family life, and now even my professional life are intertwined with my faith life. To walk away from the Church is to walk away from who I am.
 
Most importantly though, I stay because this is where I find God. I stay because through the sacraments and prayer I nurture my relationship with God. Where else would I go? As a Catholic, I believe that in the Eucharist I become one with my Savior. That cannot happen anywhere else.
 
We all have different reasons for staying. I believe, however, that we all need to think about my initial response to my friends. Now, more than ever, those of us who are not clergy need to stand up and claim our Church. We are the Church. We cannot be “consumer Catholics” who just show up at Mass on Sunday and then walk away. We need to engage. We need to be willing to take on leadership roles in which our voices are heard.
 
Many Catholics are hurt and angry and feel betrayed by this latest wave of abuse scandals. They have every right to those feelings, and we must address those feelings in our faith communities to begin working through them. At the same time, we need to understand our role in making sure that it does not happen again. We need to listen with open hearts to the stories of victims. We need to be vocal, engaged members of our parishes who will not be quiet until we know exactly what is being done to prevent future abuse. We need to be willing to serve on lay review boards or as secondary ministers/volunteers, so NO adult is ever left alone with children.
 
We are not powerless. We have a voice. We must use both. It is up to every single one of us to answer God’s call to St. Francis of Assisi: “Rebuild my Church.”

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marriage

Jesus, our brother,
you encounter us in a special way
in the sacrament of marriage.
You bestow upon us the graces
which strengthen our relationship.
Sometimes, however, it is not easy
to remember your presence.
Help us, Lord, to keep in mind
that you are indeed with us
and a part of our marriage relationship.
Strengthen us, in love, to remember that
you brought us together for a reason;
that we need to honor each other
and each other’s emotions.
Continue to remind us of your presence
as, together, we fulfill our marriage vows
until death.
Amen.

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

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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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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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