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“Hear the Word!” by Bill Ayres: Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time


A reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah
(Chapter 55:1-3)
 
God had established a covenant with Israel and Moses, but the Israelites broke the covenant and wound up in a long exile in Babylon. This reading is from the final days of the Babylonian Exile as the people were coming home at last. The prophet has God speaking to the people with a new chance to renew the covenant:
 
“Thus says the Lord: All you who are thirsty, come to the water! You who have no money, come, receive grain and eat; come, without paying and without cost, drink wine and milk! Why spend your money on what is not bread, your wages for what fails to satisfy? Heed me and you shall eat well, you shall delight in rich fare. Come to me heedfully, listen, so that you may have life. I will renew with you the everlasting covenant, the benefits assured to David.”
 
Throughout their history the ancient Israelites struggled to grow enough food for all and to provide water in a desert-like land. As the people are finally returning to what was the Promised Land, the prophet wants to assure them that God will continue to be faithful to his covenant with them. Isaiah brings an invitation from God to start over.
 
How often have you wandered in the desert, lost in some way or another? This COVID 19 Pandemic has put all of us in a kind of exile from our former lives, at least in part. The challenge is to stay faithful to our God and loving Father and to one another. Our exile, too, will come to an end, but not as quickly as we all desire. Faith!
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 145:8-9, 15-16, 17-18)
 
“The hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all our needs.” We can be thankful that most of us are well fed, even though we may miss going out to eat or may not always find our favorite foods at the store. But what about missing work or school or losing a job or visits with friends and families? What do you miss the most? Is there anything you can do about it? How do you need to spread joy in your home in this hard time?
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans
(Chapter 8:35, 37-39)
 
“Brothers and sisters: What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who has loved us.”
 
Paul’s audience, the Christians of Rome, lived in a hot spot, the very seat of the Roman Empire, where dissent was punished by torture and death. He knew that the Christians were in danger every day, in so many ways. He wanted them to know that the all-powerful love of Christ would be with them in their darkest days.
That same love of Christ is with us today in our darkest days as well. Let us pray every day for those who have died, their families, our first responders, our medical healers, and all those who continue to work so that we all may be safe and fed.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew
(Chapter 14:13-21)
 
This is the amazing story of Jesus feeding the five thousand. It follows the several times that God fed his people in the desert through Moses. Throughout the centuries, people have asked, “How did Jesus do it?” The answer is, we do not know. Something extraordinary happened. Jesus showed his compassion and power in some way that we will never know. What we do know is that he continues to feed us today in our Eucharist. Have you missed it during the shutdown? I have. But even when we cannot gather to celebrate with one another, we can pray for the nourishing presence of Jesus in our hearts.
 
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. Bill was a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.

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