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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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