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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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So often, we get bogged down with negative emotions. I’m tired, I’m stressed, I’m anxious. I’m bored, I have too much going on, I don’t have enough going on. Rarely do we pause to celebrate the glorious life we are living. Do we ever stop to recognize the beauty in the mundane, the miracle in the everyday? Often, we don’t. Instead, we need a cause for celebration—a wedding, a birthday, a promotion. But this past Wednesday was a day for celebration—for the United States, for women, for life. And while some may say that the United States Women’s National Team danced and celebrated a little too big, I disagree. We are called to live a joyous life, and when we live filled with joy, we are praising, thanking, and glorifying our Creator.
 
Pope Francis writes in his encyclical Christus Vivit, “Dear young people, make the most of these years of your youth. …dream freely and make good decisions. …Make a ruckus! Cast out the fears that paralyze you, so that you don’t become young mummies. Live! Give yourselves over to the best of life!” Our Holy Father is encouraging each of us to celebrate, to take risks, to be joyful. I would argue, that when we live like that, we are living holy lives.
 
Annie, Samantha, and I—interns at RENEW International—were encouraged to attend the United States Women’s National Team’s ticker-tape parade in Lower Manhattan on Wednesday morning. We quickly agreed and figured out the logistics of it, while maintaining an attitude of thanksgiving and excitement for this opportunity. Throughout Wednesday morning, I was astounded by the moments that were filled with grace, or holiness—for example, when we made it into the city with no complications or over-crowded trains, and when we had time to grab some yummy coffees. Another such moment occurred when we found a great spot to watch from, with no one in front of us! A few minutes later, we met our neighbors, two young women who had traveled from Vermont to celebrate!
 
Soon, the crowd began to thicken, and we overheard stories of women who had played soccer their entire lives and young girls sharing which players were their favorites. We saw police officers selflessly and bravely protecting the people, acting with integrity. We witnessed sign after sign held by young and old, boys and girls, demanding equal pay for the soccer players they had watched diligently throughout the season. We had an easy and safe walk after the parade and caught trains that worked seamlessly and helped us make it back to the RENEW office on time.
 
But, most of all, there was holiness in the joy. There was holiness in the faces of the young girls who rode down Broadway on floats and looked out into the crowd with excitement, joy, and dreams. There was holiness as people in office buildings threw confetti from their windows, and others watched with awe as it fell beautifully. There was holiness when we saw the U.S. Women’s Team dance and laugh with joy, experiencing disbelief at the support. There was holiness when the young women next to us laughed with joy when they saw women in real life whom they have supported from afar. There was holiness everywhere.
 
Pope Francis also writes in Christus Vivit that when St. John Bosco taught St. Dominic Savio that “holiness involves being constantly joyful, he (St. Dominic) opened his heart to a contagious joy. …Dominic died in 1857 at fourteen years of age, saying: ‘What a wondrous thing I am experiencing!’” Indeed, while standing on the streets of New York City, laughing and cheering amongst new friends and strangers, I paused to think, “What a wonderful thing I am experiencing.”
 
Jessica Guerriero, at left in photo above, will be a junior Catholic Studies major at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas this fall. Jessie was born and raised in Ohio, but enjoys travelling and adventuring across the country and the world. “I love learning about social justice, women in the Church, and the Holy Cross Tradition,” she says, “and I am so grateful for my time spent here at RENEW this summer.”

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