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A reading from the book of Wisdom
(Chapter 9:13-18b)
 
The author of the Book of Wisdom asks, “Who can know God’s counsel, or who can conceive what the Lord intends?” The author gives his answer toward the end of this passage: “Or who ever knew your counsel, except you had given wisdom and sent your holy spirit from on high?”
 
The only knowledge we have of God comes from God. God sends us his holy spirit, according to the author, writing during the century before the birth of Jesus. Today, we Christians say our knowledge of God comes from the Holy Spirit who dwells in us.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 90:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 14-17)
 
“In every age O Lord, you have been our refuge.” Throughout the history of Judaism and Christianity God has always been presented as the recourse of those who are troubled. In your darkest times, do you experience God as your refuge?
 
A reading from the Letter of Paul to Philemon
(Chapter 12:18-19, 22-24a)
 
In ancient times, slaves were often treated cruelly as we might imagine, but there were also slaves who rose to positions of wealth and even authority in the Roman Empire. Onesimus was not one of those elite slaves, but he was much loved and respected by Paul who considered him a brother. Paul writes from prison to Philemon, a leader of the Church in Colossae, asking him to also consider Onesimus as a brother. Paul is not challenging the institution of slavery but rather calling this young man, Onesimus, to a whole new identity.
 
Tragically, it took two thousand years and hundreds of millions of destroyed lives before slavery came to be regarded as unjust and immoral in much of the world. Yet, even today, there are more than a million people still living in bondage. Let us remember to pray for all those who have lived and died in slavery and for those who are still enslaved.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke
(Chapter 14:25-33)
 
This is certainly one of the challenging Gospel readings. The context is important. These remarks by Jesus follow his discourse about people being invited to a banquet and giving a variety of lame excuses for not attending (Luke 14: 15-25). Jesus follows this parable with a strong sermon to the crowd following him in which he uses the word “hate” (misein in Greek) in reference to a person’s family. Matthew includes the same account in his Gospel and uses the term equivalent to “love less.”
 
Jesus is not telling the crowd to hate their families, in the sense that we usually use the word “hate,” but rather saying that anyone who wishes to follow him must make a radical commitment to him, over and above their commitment to their families and possessions. Many did literally leave their families, but many more followed Jesus while remaining with their families, some of whom Jesus visited, partaking of their hospitality at meals. In our own day, many people have answered the call of Jesus and joined religious orders. We owe them our admiration and support for their sacrifice. However, most of us have chosen to follow Jesus as members of families whom we love dearly. It is in our families and the larger family of our community that we are called to follow Jesus.
 
Jesus also says, “Anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.” This may be another case of Jesus using what is known as “Semitic exaggeration” to make a point. The challenge for us today is not necessarily renouncing all our possessions but rather rethinking the role our possessions play in our lives. Are we seduced by the call of advertisers to have more and more and the best and the newest rather than sharing with those in need, starting with our families and going beyond when and where we can?
 
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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Dear God,
I praise and thank you
for Jesus who is your Word, your revelation.
Please help me to open my heart,
my mind, and my life
to your truth and your way.
Help me to accept my own burdens
and to be willing to work
toward easing the burdens of others.
I believe my life will be easy
and my burdens light
if I am joined to your Son
who is gentle and humble of heart.
Thank you for this great Incarnation of your love.
In Jesus’ name I pray.
Amen.

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

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A reading from the book of the prophet Sirach
(Chapter 3:17-18, 20, 28-29)
 
This is one of the few times in the liturgical cycles when we read from a book of Jewish writings that is not an accepted part of the Hebrew Bible. Yet, it is part of Jewish wisdom teaching. The first line is somewhat problematic: “My child, conduct your affairs with humility, and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts.” Do you think that is true? I suppose it depends on what gifts you are giving and whether you are looking for anything in return. A true giver of gifts such as love, compassion, honesty, and service does not look for anything in return and usually is a very humble person rooted in the truth.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 68:4-5, 6-7, 10-11)
 
“God, in your goodness, you have made a home for the poor.” If that is really true, God has a tremendous amount of work to do. We have more than a million homeless people here in our own country and hundreds of millions all over the world, especially refugees. Actually, it is more accurate to say that we humans are God’s partners in making a home for poor people.
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Hebrews
(Chapter 12:18-19, 22-24a)
 
The early Christians made a clear distinction between the Old Covenant that was approached in fear and the New Covenant that we approach in communion with Jesus and “the Spirits of the just made perfect.” So too, when we approach our Loving Father at the time of our death, we are not alone. We journey in the presence of the Holy Spirit and Jesus and all our previously departed loved ones. As Jesus says over and over again in the Gospels, we are never alone. He is always with us, not only in life but also as we pass from this life to the other ever-lasting life. It is so important for all of us to believe this, especially those in danger of death.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke
(Chapter 14:1, 7-14)
 
At first, this seems like a perfect pairing with the first reading from the book of Sirach. The message again seems simple—be humble. That is only the first point, however.
 
There was a severe class distinction in ancient Israel that the prophets had railed against for centuries. The poor were exploited, often treated as little more than slaves. There is no way that a relatively well- off Pharisee in the time of Jesus would have even thought to “invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind.” Then Jesus adds, “Blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you.”
 
There is no silver-bullet answer to ending or even reducing poverty. Everyone needs to share the table of plenty in America so that everyone can eat from the bounty of our great nation: the government at all levels, businesses both big and small, labor unions, faith communities, the super-rich and all of us. And we all need to do it without expecting a payback. God will reward us in ways we may never expect or understand. Actually, given where we live, we have already been rewarded in so many ways.
 

“The Lowest Places at the Feast” by Kazakhstan Artist Nelly Bube.

 
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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God of mercy, Father of all,
you welcome the downtrodden
and are a voice for the voiceless.
You feed the poor
and offer forgiveness to sinners.
And, above all, you sent your Son
for the salvation of the world.
Reveal to me my unrepentant, stony heart
and replace it
with a heart full of love and compassion.
Place your Spirit within me,
so that I might walk in your footsteps
and speak your word to a waiting world.
Enfold me in your protective arms
and help me grow in the intimacy
you long to share with me.
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 the prophet Isaiah
(Chapter 66:18-21)
 
The Book of the Prophet Isaiah was not written by one person all at once. There are three main sections, and today’s reading comes from the last chapter of the third section, written as the Jewish people were finally returning from the terrible Babylonian exile.
 
Isaiah writes, “I know their works and their thoughts, and I come to gather nations of every language; they shall come and see my glory. … They shall bring all your brothers and sisters from all the nations as an offering to the Lord. To Jerusalem, my holy mountain, says the Lord.”
 
This was always the dream for Israel, to bring all the nations, including the many gentiles, to worship at Jerusalem. There were moments of breakthrough and hope throughout many centuries, but the hope was not fulfilled. Yet, many of the people maintained that hope. When Jesus began his ministry, there were those who wished that he would fulfill this promise. He did much more than that.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 117:1, 2)
 
“Go out to all the world and tell the good news.” What is the “good news” as you know it? What does it mean to you? How do you share it with those whom you love and with others whom you may hardly know? In the midst of some bad news in your life, can you still believe in the good news of Jesus?
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Hebrews
(Chapter 12:5-7, 11-13)
 
We often think of discipline as harsh and painful, but the author here is talking about a different kind of discipline—God’s discipline. “My son, do not distain the discipline of the Lord or lose heart when reproved by him; for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines. … At the time, all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain, later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those trained by it.”
 
So, if we get into that “Woe is me” mentality and wonder where God is in a time of trouble, perhaps the trouble will lead to a breakthrough and healing. The key is knowing that we are not alone and remembering the times when we felt lost but found our way. That may be hard to do in the midst of whatever pain we may be feeling, but it can help us to overcome adversity and move on to a better place.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke
(Chapter 13:22-30)
 
Someone asked Jesus, “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” Jesus answered with a story, as he often did: “After the master of the house has arisen and locked the door, then you will stand outside knocking and saying, ‘Lord, open the door for us.’ He will say to you in reply, ‘I do not know where you are from.’”
 
Jesus was talking to traditional Jews who believed that they had a sure thing in entering the kingdom. But Jesus was widening the entrance to the Kingdom: “And people will come from the east and the west and from the north and the south and will recline at the table in the Kingdom of God. For behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”
 
Jesus is making an important point here. The Kingdom of God, or what we call heaven, is not limited to people who are Jews or have any other identity. It is for all people. So, just as the Jewish people of Jesus’ time did not get a free pass, so we Christians do not enter heaven simply because we bear the name of Christ. We have been given a free gift that we could never earn by being good or simply keeping the Commandments. It is in accepting this gift—God’s love in our lives—and sharing it with those close to us and those afar that we gain eternal life.
 
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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This morning was one of those mornings. I had not slept well, I was dragging, and every little inconvenience was amplified as I dropped my keys while my hands were full, caught my sweater on the door, and the drive-thru line seemed to take forever. I was fighting hard to not let things get to me.
 
I was running a little behind and, as I got close to the office, I realized I had forgotten part of my lunch in my refrigerator at home. Okay. I was about to pass a grocery store, so I would run in quickly. When I got to the checkout line, I was the third person waiting. The old woman at the head of the line was talking to the cashier, and it was taking a while. The woman in front of me realized the problem before I did. The old woman didn’t have enough money for her groceries.
 
Without hesitation, the young woman in front of me pulled a dollar out of her wallet and handed it to the cashier. When the cashier said there was still change needed, I opened my own wallet and grabbed the extra quarter required. The old woman was so grateful. I commented to the woman in front of me that it was wonderful to be reminded that there are good people in this world. As the cashier wished the old woman a nice day, she replied, “It will be now. I am so blessed.”
 
What a profound truth to be reminded of for $1.25 contributed by two people. We are all blessed, and we are all called to share those blessings with those we encounter in our everyday lives—friends and strangers alike. Simple kindnesses have the power to change someone else’s day, and your own along with it. This morning, God reminded me of that in the best way possible.
 
Jennifer Bober is RENEW’s Manager of Marketing and Communications. In addition to her marketing career, she is a professional liturgical musician.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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