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A reading from the second Book of Sirach
(Chapter 35:12-14, 16-18)
 
“The Lord is a God of justice, who knows no favorites. Though not unduly partial to the weak, yet he hears the cry of the oppressed. The Lord is not deaf to the wail of the orphan, nor to the widow when she pours out her complaint. … The prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds; it does not rest till it reaches its goal.”
 
The Hebrew Scriptures express the Jewish people’s historic sense of responsibility to the poor and oppressed, especially orphans and widows. Jesus shared that passion, as do we who are his followers. We recognize that food is a human right and that hunger anywhere is unjust, including our country, the richest in the world. That is why we in our parish help to feed the hungry. But we must also realize that the root cause of hunger is poverty and the root cause of poverty is powerlessness, so we also support programs that help people to get out of powerless situations through counseling and help in finding a job that pays a living wage. At the same time, we understand that powerlessness also comes from sexism, ageism, racism, and economic injustice which we must not have in our own lives.
 
How can you and I try to “hear the cry of the oppressed” and work for true charity and justice?
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 34:2-3, 17-18, 19, 23)
 
“The Lord hears the cry of the poor.” When have you heard the “cry of the poor?” Have you really listened? How have you responded? Is there anything more that you can do to help one person or family that is poor? Support your parish’s efforts to reach out to the poor or support another organization that is doing good work to help poor people? Learn about how various government anti-poverty programs work?
 
A reading from second Letter of Saint Paul to Timothy
(Chapter 4:6-8, 16-18)
 
Paul is in prison, suffering deeply and nearing execution: “I am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith.” Let’s hope that you and I remember those powerful words and can say something like that at the time of our deaths. And let us also remember, “The Lord will rescue me from every evil threat and will bring me safe to his heavenly Kingdom.”
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke
(Chapter 18:9-14)
 
Here we have another parable that is both shocking and right on target: “Jesus addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else. … Two people went up to the temple area to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector.” So, one would have been considered the “good guy” and the other—the tax collector—was definitely the “bad guy.”
 
The Pharisee says, “O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity—greedy, dishonest, adulterous—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and I pay tithes on my whole income.” Of course, he may also be taxing the poor and oppressed without justice or mercy. “But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed ‘O God, be merciful to me, a sinner.’” Jesus gets the picture and responds: “I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
 
What does it mean for us to be truly humble? It is not about poor self-esteem or putting ourselves down. It is rather about being thankful for all the gifts we have been given, not only material gifts but the gifts of health, loving friends, and family, the ability to make a living.
 
Do you often think about all the gifts you have been given by God, and give thanks? There, that’s true humility.
 
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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Almighty God,
we remember before you
all those among us who are treated unjustly.
Bless and guide us,
that your love may be shown
in our concern for them.
In the name of Jesus we pray!
Amen.

 
Adapted from PrayerTime, Cycle C, © RENEW International.

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A reading from the second Book of Exodus
(Chapter 17:8-13)
 
The Amalekites were a tribal desert people who did not like these new people, the Israelites, entering their land sometime after the exodus from Egypt. And so, the Amalekites attacked. Moses told Joshua to resist: “‘Tomorrow go out and engage Amalek in battle. I will be standing on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.’ … As long as Moses kept his hands raised up, Israel had the better of the fight, but when he let his hands rest, Amalek had the better of the fight. Moses’ hands, however, grew tired, so they put a rock in place for him to sit on. Meanwhile Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side and one on the other, so that his hands remained steady till sunset.” The key here is that the “staff of God,” is the sign of God’s power and protection. But Moses could not do it all by himself, he needed the help of Aaron and Hur.
 
So often, God’s power and protection for us comes through the help of others. Have you experienced that in your life when someone was there for you or you for someone? The power of God is not some kind of magic. It often comes through the support and kindness of others.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 121:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8)
 
“Our help is from the Lord who made heaven and earth.” When does this happen? Later in this Psalm, the author tells us. “The Lord will guard your coming and going, both now and forever.” Let us remember a time when God helped us, and give thanks. Actually, the presence of God is not far away. God lives in each of us, but all too often we forget and feel disconnected. Prayer and the celebration of the Eucharist help us to reconnect.
 
A reading from second Letter of Saint Paul to Timothy
(Chapter 2:8-13)
 
“Remain faithful to what you have learned and believed.” That is great advice, but suppose you learned some of the wrong teachings. Suppose you were taught that God was a judgmental, disconnected force somewhere “up there” in heaven. Suppose you were taught that “You’d better be good, or God will punish you.” Then your basic relationship with God would be founded on fear. Where do you find the true God? Paul tells Timothy, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction and for training and righteousness, so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”
 
I was not taught very much from Scripture as a child but as an adult I have found reading from Scripture to be enlightening and faith filled. I hope that your experience of the Scriptures, listening and reading, has been life-giving. A whole world of wonder and grace is to be found there.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke
(Chapter 18:1-8)
 
“Jesus told his disciples a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary. There was a judge in a certain town who neither feared God nor respected any human being. And a widow in that town used to come to him and say, ‘Render a just decision for me against my adversary.’ For a long time the judge was unwilling, but eventually he thought, ‘While it is true that I neither fear God nor respect any human being, because this widow keeps bothering me I shall deliver a just decision for her lest she might finally come and strike me.’” Then Jesus makes his point: “Then will not God secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night? Will he be slow to answer them? I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily.”
 
The point of this parable is persistence. The widow was on the bottom of the social scale in Israel, and yet, even she received an answer because she was such a persistent pest. Of course, God does not think of us as pests when we pray, but Jesus is suggesting that we need to be persistent in prayer. You might ask how we can actually change God’s mind with our persistence. That is not the point. Our persistence can help us to change our own minds and hearts to be able to listen to and follow God’s help.
 
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.
 
Image courtesy of FreeBibleimages.org.
 
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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Almighty God,
I am grateful to you for my existence.
I am sorry for the complaints
you often hear from me.
In fact, “my cup runneth over.”
Help me to live your gift of life
to the fullest
each day of my life.
Amen.

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

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A reading from the second Book of Kings
(Chapter 5:14-17)
 
In ancient times, lepers were considered unclean. They were avoided and were almost never in positions of power. Naaman was a leper but also was a commander in the army of the king of Aram. The king had such high regard for Naaman that he told him to ask the prophet Elisha to cure the leprosy. Elisha told Naaman to plunge into the Jordan River seven times. At first, Naaman refused, but his servants talked him into it, and he was cured of leprosy. He then told Elisha, “Now I know that there is no God in all the earth except in Israel. Please accept a gift from your servant.” But Elisha would not accept the gift. So, Naaman said, “If you will not accept, please let me, your servant, have two mule-loads of earth, for I will no longer offer holocaust or sacrifice to any other God except to the Lord.”
 
This was a big deal. A high-ranking pagan had converted to the God of Israel, and he asked for a bit of Israel (“two mule-loads of earth”) to take with him so that he could worship in Israel no matter where he is. The author wants his readers to know that even a powerful pagan army commander came to believe because of the power of the true God.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 98:1, 2-3, 3-4)
 
“The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power.” Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, we read that God did reveal his saving power over and over. Have you ever asked yourself how God has gifted you in all sorts of ways? Perhaps it was a surprise gift in the form of a new and important love in your life or a healing for you or someone you love. Or perhaps it is the all-abiding presence of the Holy Spirit in your life every day.
 
A reading from second Letter of Saint Paul to Timothy
(Chapter 2:8-13)
 
Paul is in prison once again, but this time it is very serious. “I am suffering, even to the point of chains, like a criminal. But the word of God is not chained. Therefore, I bear with everything for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, together with eternal glory. … If we have died with him we shall also live with him; If we persevere we shall also reign with him.”
 
We’re thankful that none of us suffers for our faith in the way that Paul did, but there are times when we do experience intense suffering. When has that kind of deep suffering hit you, surrounded you, gotten inside you? How did you get through it? Are you still going through it? Maybe a certain cause of suffering has passed, only to be replaced by a newer and more intense form of pain. Have you asked for help from someone close to you or a counselor or therapist? Maybe there is someone who can help ease your suffering even if that person can’t take it away entirely. Or, maybe you can learn to live with it and go on with the more loving and positive aspects of your life. Often, we can become overwhelmed by one painful part of life and lose sight of all the gifts we continue to receive amid the suffering. A suffering time might be a good time to recall the gifts you continue to experience and the times in your life when God did help you through your pain.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke
(Chapter 17:11-19)
 
In the first reading, we heard about a leper being healed. Here, we have ten lepers. “They stood at a distance from him and raised their voices, saying, ‘Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!’ And when he saw them, he said ‘Go show yourselves to the priests.’ As they were going they were cleansed. And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God with a loud voice; and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. He was a Samaritan. Jesus said in reply, ‘Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?’ Then he said to him, ‘Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.”
 
Jesus was a healer. Even scholars who do not believe he was the Son of God agree, and there are examples of Jesus healing many people and sometimes only one. This time, he tells the lepers to “show yourselves to the priests.” But it is not the priests who heal them. “As they were going they were cleansed.” Jesus was the one who healed all ten, but only one, a Samaritan, came back to thank him. Jesus asks, “Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” So now, Jesus takes the healing one step further. “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.” The man who had been considered a heretic because he was a Samaritan is not only healed but he is saved for all eternity.
 
You and I may ask Jesus for healing at many times in our lives, but he gives us much more, the gift of 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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