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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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lord_s_SupperJesus, we call you the Bread of Life.
We are reminded of your sacrifice for us
each time we receive the Eucharist.
Call us to your table
as we bring with us
all of our triumphs and joys,
hurts and disappointments,
all of our tears and pain
as well as our laughter.

We give everything to you,
our sacrifice mingled with yours.
For this is true communion;
this is how we come together,
the beginning of our knowing you.
Help us to be an example to children.
Open us up to their simple faith.
Give us wisdom, joy and peace
as we try to grow ever closer to you.
We ask this in your name.
Amen.

 
Adapted from The People’s Prayer Book, © RENEW International.
Original oil painting, “The Lord’s Supper,” by Brendan Clary.

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barelyA reading from the First Book of Kings
(Chapter 19:4-8)
 
David was a very good king of Israel—the best. Some hundred years later, in the ninth century before the birth of Jesus, Ahab was one of the worst kings of Israel. He had a very bad wife, Jezebel, whose name and reputation have survived for thousands of years. She worshiped the false god Baal and had her own band of false prophets protecting her.
 
Elijah was a true prophet of Israel, called by God to proclaim the truth and persecuted by the king and queen. In this reading, we find Elijah exhausted and in despair. “He prayed for death, saying: This is enough, O Lord! Take my life, for I am no better than my fathers” (verse 4b). Then he fell asleep and was awakened by an angel who provided him with food and water which Elijah consumed before falling asleep again. But the angel woke him up and ordered him, “Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you! He got up, ate, and drank; then strengthened by that food he walked forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God, Horeb” (verses 7b-8).
 
This story is a testament to God providing food and hope for his people in a time of great need. God also feeds us in many ways, especially in the Eucharist which gives us nourishment for our souls and strength to go on in the face of challenges and suffering.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 34:2-3,4-5,6-7,8-9)
 
“Taste and see the goodness of the Lord” (verse 9a). How has God’s goodness nourished you in your times of need?
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Ephesians
(Chapter 4:30-5:2)
 
“Brothers and sisters: Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were sealed for the day of redemption. All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice. And be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ. So be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love as Christ loved us” (verses 30-32).
 
Ephesus was the third largest city in early Christianity after Jerusalem and Antioch, and it was filled with a variety of magicians and other strange characters who often caused bad behavior and superstition. That is why Paul is insistent that Christians behave differently, based on the all-powerful love “as Christ loved us.”
 
Two thousand years later, the message is the same—to allow the love of Christ to overcome divisions and controversies in our families, our workplaces, our communities, our parishes, and our country. It all starts with our one-on-one relationships, whatever they may be. Of course, no one of us is perfect or always loving in the way we ought to be, and that is why the mercy and forgiveness of God is so important. Sometimes, when we have hurt someone, we may feel so guilty or stubborn or embarrassed that we do not try to heal the relationship, and then things get worse. But if we reach down deep in our hearts, we will find the love of the Spirit to guide us.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to John
(Chapter 6:41-51)
 
Jesus’ townspeople knew him and “his father and his mother,” so how can he say, “I am the bread that came down from heaven”? (verse 42). Jesus tells his critics to “stop murmuring” and then tells them, “I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world” (verses 48-51).
 
Bread was a major item in ancient Israel mainly because so many people were hungry for so much of the time. If the harvest was bad, they went hungry. If the Romans took too much of their crops, the people of Israel were hungry. If a farmer died or became disabled, his family often became hungry. Bread was life, and now Jesus says that he is the real bread, the eternal bread, the bread that came from God himself. All this was hard for people to believe, but some did and followed Jesus, because they knew what bread was and how it was also a symbol of life itself. They wanted to be fed in spirit as well as in body.
 
Today, as we come to the Eucharist, we too ask to be filled with the “Bread of Life” and we will not be denied. Jesus offers himself to us once again under the symbols of bread and wine, and so we are gifted by Jesus himself one more time.
 
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, in John’s Gospel
we hear you say,
“Do not work for food that perishes.”
Lord, we know the food we need for life.
We do not fully understand
the mystery of your becoming present to us
in the Eucharist,
but we struggle to believe.

Your words help us to see
where we need to put our energies:
toward knowing you
and living as you would have us live.
We need help to avoid working
for those things that cannot last.
We need help to remember
what is really important in life.
Help us to be faithful to the Eucharist,
so that we may come to be more
in communion with one another and you.
Amen.

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

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eucharistA reading from the Book of Exodus
(Chapter 16: 2-4,12-15)
 
How could all this happen—bread in the morning and quail in the evening? Of course, we have no idea, except that through thousands of years this story has been told. Scientists and scripture scholars have made numerous suggestions, but the fact remains that this story has strengthened the faith of millions of people throughout the centuries. The point of the story is simple. God takes care of his people, is faithful to his people, even when they are doubtful, complaining, and angry. God’s people have often been unfaithful and have done horrible deeds. We have lost our way.
 
But God has never forsaken us, and we always come back to him through the power of his mercy and forgiveness. Has that been true in your life as well or in the lives of your loved ones? We do not live in perfection, we live in faith and forgiveness, and we continue to be nourished by the bread of life in the Eucharist.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 78:3-4,23-24,25,54)
 
“The Lord gave them bread from heaven” (verse 24b). Today, we too will receive the bread from heaven. Let us rejoice as we receive the Body of Christ.
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Ephesians
(Chapter 4:17,20-24)
 
Paul writes to the Ephesians, most of whom were Gentile converts, “You must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds” (verse 17). He is addressing new converts who all too easily might slip back into their old ways. After all, life as a Christian is new to them, a different way of life, a turning away from the old ways. It is also exciting to them, as though their minds and hearts have been suddenly opened to a whole new horizon. “Be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth” (verses 23-24).
 
“Put on the new self.” Have you ever wanted to do that—get rid of some of your worst fears and self-doubts; find that place “deep within” that you have glimpsed from time to time, perhaps when you were younger, or maybe just yesterday? It is there within you, within each of us. It is a gift, a gift of the Spirit. You and I need only to ask, to open our minds and hearts, and to never give up, to continue our journey into the ever-embracing power of the love of Jesus through his Spirit within us. Our “new self” is already there, struggling to emerge in the midst of our weakness as we continue to call it forth in faith and an enduring hope.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to John
(Chapter 6:24-35)
 
The story of God giving his people manna in the desert was still a powerful reminder at the time of Jesus of God’s care for his people. So, when Jesus fed the multitude, they were amazed and impressed, and then followed Jesus. He challenged them: “Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled. Do not work for food that perishes but for food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him the Father, God, has set his seal” (verses 26-27).
 
Now, Jesus has their attention and an amazing back-and-forth begins. The people ask him, “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?” Jesus says, “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one that he sent.” They reply, “What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you? What can you do?” Jesus reminds them that it was “God my Father” not Moses who fed them in the dessert. “My Father gives you the true bread from heaven.” Now, they are excited and they ask Jesus, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Then Jesus gives them the real answer: “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst” (cf. verses 28-35).
 
You and I gather at church on Sundays to be together, to hear the word of God, and especially to receive this Bread of Life, the very person of Jesus himself under the visible appearances of bread and wine. We are nourished, renewed, filled once again with the very presence of Jesus. It is so easy to take this all for granted. We have done it hundreds and hundreds of times, and yet it is always new, always regenerating for our deepest selves, beyond all those fears and doubts, into the joy of his loving presence.
 
Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved.
 
Bill Ayres was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. He has been a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years and has two weekly Sunday-night shows on WPLJ, 95.5 FM in New York. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.

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bread_wineHeavenly Father,
thank you for giving us yourself in Jesus,
through the Eucharist.
As we are fed by you,
open our eyes to see the hungry, the lonely,
and those in need of your presence.
By the grace of your Spirit,
may we live as the Body of Christ.
With grateful hearts, we offer the gifts we have

so that we may become bread
for the life of the world.
In Jesus name I pray.
Amen.

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

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A reading from the Second Book of Kings
(Chapter 4:42-44)
 
This reading, in which a hundred people are fed with 20 barley loaves, obviously is here because of its connection to today’s gospel passage which describes Jesus feeding thousands of people. In the Old Testament episode, a man brings the prophet Elisha twenty barley loaves in the midst of a famine. The man can’t believe it when Elisha tells him to give the bread to the people. Elisha insists, “Give it to the people to eat. For thus says the Lord. ‘They shall eat and there shall be some left over.’ ” Remember how God fed the Israelites in the dessert with manna from heaven and the many times God fed people who were in need. The message is clear: God takes care of his people.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 145:10-11,15-16-17-18)
 
“The hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all our needs.” Do you believe that? There are times in our lives when we may doubt that God is present, taking care of all our needs. But think about times when times when you thought yourself in dire need but, somehow, made it through. Do you think God was present then? It may just be that God sees more than we can possibly see and knows what we really need in the long run.
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Ephesians
(Chapter 4:1-6)
 
Paul and the other apostles had a major problem integrating gentile converts into a religious tradition that included Jews who had been told for centuries that they were God’s chosen people. That was their identity, their heritage, their gift from God. Imagine how difficult it was for them to abandon many of their practices and find common ground with folks who had been pagans. Paul, “a prisoner for the Lord,” knows he does not have long to live, and he wants to “urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and patience, bearing with one another through love striving to preserve the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace: one body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”
 
That is it. That is his message and the message of Jesus and the message for us today. As different as we may be from one another, as many different views as we may have about all sorts of issues and events, we must “preserve the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” We have significant divisions within our Church throughout the world, throughout our country, and right here in our own community but they are not as strong as what binds us together, “one God and Father of all.” Somehow, our Father is there for us—all of us—in the most joyful of times and the most challenging of times.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to John
(Chapter 6:1-15)
 
Jesus was aware of images, in the history of his people, of God feeding the people in time of need. We saw an example in the first reading today. In the incident described in this gospel passage, Jesus continues that pattern. He shows divine power disguised in the simple act of a boy being willing to share his meal. Notice that he has the people recline. That means that this is no quick meal but rather a banquet at which people take their time, celebrate in the Jewish tradition, and gather up what is left over, a Jewish banquet tradition. There are six variations of this story in the gospels, so obviously the early Church thought this was a big deal—not just feeding people but inviting them to a feast. It was a sign that the Kingdom of God had actually come in the person of Jesus.
 
You and I come to the feast of the Eucharist each week, but because we do it so often it can seem rote, a variation of something we have heard and seen before. But the Eucharist is really always new, because Jesus is inviting us to a feast, a celebration of the Kingdom of God in our midst, the presence of our Brother and Savior right here in our community. That is why we call it the celebration of the Eucharist not just “going to Mass.”
 
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_shepherdLord Jesus, help me to follow you faithfully
and offer assistance to our brothers and sisters
who may wander.
Teach me to know the ways I can begin
to live and share eternal life
while in this world.
Thank you for sending your Holy Spirit
to bring me into the intimacy of your relationship
with the Father.

Enlarge my heart
to embrace those who have wandered from you
and help me to love and protect them
with the heart of a shepherd.
Amen.

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

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