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Jesus-healerA reading from the Book of Wisdom
(Chapters 1:13-15; 2:23-24)
This is one of the latest books of the Hebrew Bible, written about two hundred years before the birth of Jesus. It is filled with wisdom about life and death and, most important, about God.
“God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living. For he fashioned all things that they may have being; and the creatures of the world are wholesome …. (verses 13-14)”.
“For God formed man to be imperishable; the image of his own nature he made him” (verse 23).
This is one of the clearest statements in the Old Testament about life after death. The Jews had been trying to deal with the question of the afterlife for centuries, and in the time of Jesus the Pharisees believed but the Sadducees did not. It is all part of God’s continuing revelation that comes to fulfillment in the death and resurrection of Jesus which is our own legacy today—life forever with Jesus.
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 30:2, 4, 5-6, 11, 12, 13)
“I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me” (verse 2a).
How many times has the Lord rescued you? Probably it has been too many times to count and many times that you are not even aware of.
A reading from the second Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians
(Chapter 8:7,9,13-15)
Corinth was one of the larger and more prosperous cities that Paul visited, starting a Christian community. We tend to think that everyone was poor in those days, and by our standards they certainly were. But there were economic classes even then: some had more than others, and the community could work only if people shared.
First Paul writes about the generosity of Jesus: “For you know the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich. … not that others should have relief while you are burdened, but that as a matter of equality your abundance at the present time should supply their needs, so that their abundance may also supply your needs, that there may be equality” (verses 9,13b).
Imagine if we really believed that and lived it right here in our own country. Poverty would decrease, and equality would grow. Then we would not have millions of hungry children and seniors and single moms and veterans and hard-working people who do not make a living wage in our midst. Paul asked the Corinthians “that there may be equality.” We have the same calling today.
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Mark
(Chapter 5:21-43)
Jesus was a remarkable healer. Here, he heals the daughter of Jairus, an official of the local synagogue, and “a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years.” This woman had been treated by many doctors and had spent all that she had, but her condition grew worse. Having heard about Jesus, she made her way through the crowd following him and touched his cloak, saying to herself, “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured” (verse 28). And she was cured, immediately. “She fell down before Jesus and told him the whole truth. He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has saved you’ ” (verse 34).
Then word came that the young girl Jairus had asked Jesus to heal had died. Jesus responds “Do not be afraid; just have faith” and went to Jairus’s home where he told the incredulous bystanders that the girl was not dead but asleep. “He took along the child’s father and mother and those with him and entered the room where the child was. He took the child by the hand and said to her, ‘Talitha koum,’ which means, ‘Little girl, I say to you arise!’ The girl, a child of twelve, arose immediately and walked around. At that they were utterly astounded” (verses 40b-42).
This was a “faith healing.” Jesus spoke these life-giving words: “Do not be afraid; just have faith.” DO NOT BE AFRAID! Those are powerful words. Too often, people live in fear, fear of this or that, fear of almost everything. Unnecessary fear can destroy our joy, destroy our lives. Let us remember the words of Jesus, “DO NOT BE AFRAID.” And let us help the people we know and love to live without the needless fears that may be crippling their lives.
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.
The lovely image is by Ed De Guzman, from

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summerGracious God,
you provide for us always.
These early summer days explode
with the glory of greening and growing;
small seeds putting forth shoots,
and trees expanding their reach
as their canopies flourish and fill.
May they always be for
physical reminders of the presence

of your kingdom.
May my hope be as constant
as the leaves that grow back year after year.
And may that hope be a haven for those who need rest.
With praise for the glory of these days
I offer my prayer in Jesus’name.

From The People’s Prayer Book, © RENEW International

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A reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah
(Chapter 49:1-6)
This Book of the Prophet Isaiah is not one book written by one person. It is rather a collection of writings composed over many centuries by many people and placed together under the name of Isaiah—one of the greatest prophets of Israel. One of the most important themes throughout is that of the Suffering Servant that we encounter here. “The Lord called me from birth, from my mother’s womb he gave me my name. He made me a sharp-edged sword and concealed me in the shadow of his arm.” “You are my servant, he said to me, Israel, through whom I show my glory. Though I thought I had toiled in vain and for nothing, uselessly, spent my strength, yet my reward is with the Lord, my recompense is with my God.”
We can see the parallel here with John the Baptist who also was called from birth, was misunderstood in his short life, and was murdered seemingly before he could finish his mission. Yet, he did not toil in vain; he was a successful messenger for Jesus, and he was rewarded by God for his work.
Even when we may seem to fail in some part of our lives, it may be that there is another dimension, another truth, another level of success that we can know only in the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. Each of us has a mission, a calling from God to live in his love, to share his unconditional love, as insufficient and unsuccessful our mission may seem at any given time.
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 139:1b-3; 13-14ab, 14c-15)
“I praise you for I am wonderfully made.” Do you think you are “wonderfully made”? When we are growing up, we may feel awkward and insecure. As we get much older, we may feel like a shadow of our younger selves. So, how can we feel wonderfully made through it all? Only if we see ourselves loved and gifted by our Father, even in and especially in our weaknesses and insufficiencies.
A reading from the Acts of the Apostles
(Chapter 13:22-26)
Luke wrote the Acts of the Apostles as a continuation of his Gospel, directed mainly at Gentiles. He wanted to help these converts as well as Jews to see the Jesus connection between David, the king of Israel hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus, and John the Baptist—both as called by God. “From this man’s descendants God, according to his promise, has brought to Israel a savior, Jesus. John heralded his coming by proclaiming a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel; and as John was completing his course, he would say, ‘What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. Behold, one is coming after me; I am not worthy to unfasten the sandals of his feet.’” John knew his role, his calling, his place in history. He did not try to be more than he was. He was given a calling, a gift from God, and he was faithful to it.
Each of us has been given a calling and gifts to fulfill that call. What is your calling in life, and what are the gifts that you have been given along the way and right now to answer your call? Do you see yourself as gifted? You are, we all are, only very often we do not believe it or focus on it. God asks us to humbly accept the gifts we have been given and use them to serve our Father and those with whom we share life.
The Holy Gospel according to Luke
(Chapter 1:57-66, 80)
Throughout the Old Testament, we read of the miraculous birth and life of numerous prophets and great leaders starting with the birth of Abraham’s son Isaac when Abraham’s wife was supposedly too old to give birth. For hundreds of years before the birth of John the Baptist, there were no significant prophets in Israel. Then came this strange man, John the Baptist, so his birth is told as a wonder-filled story, because he is in the words of Jesus “the greatest of the prophets.” John preached a message of repentance and baptized many others before he baptized Jesus. He prepared the way for Jesus, was his cousin, and yet we do not know if they were friends while growing up or even if Jesus knew him before John baptized him. But none of that is important. What is of utmost importance is that John “prepared the way for the Lord.” He had a calling, a mission from God, and he fulfilled it in a wonder-filled way.
Do you feel that it is unlikely that you have been called, that you have a mission, that you are to prepare the way for Jesus to enter—or in some cases reenter—the lives of people you know and love and even perhaps someone you hardly know? As unlikely as it might seem, that is part of the mission of each of us —to prepare the way of the Lord.
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 the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy toward her,and they rejoiced with her. When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child, they were going to call him Zechariah after his father, but his mother said in reply, ‘No. He will be called John.’ But they answered her, ‘There is no one among your relatives who has this name.’ So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called. He asked for a tablet and wrote, ‘John is his name,’ and all were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God. Then fear came upon all their neighbors, and all these matters were discussed throughout the hill country of Judea. All who heard these things took them to heart, saying, ‘What, then, will this child be?’ For surely the hand of the Lord was with him. The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel” (Luke 1:57-66, 80).
The adults around John the Baptist had reasons to wonder what this baby would do with his life. One reason was that the birth of John was foretold to his father, Zachariah, by the archangel Gabriel (Luke 1:13). Another reason was that John’s mother, Elizabeth, was childless and well beyond the age for childbirth. Still another reason was that, as today’s Gospel reading recalls, Gabriel had taken away Zachariah’s ability to speak after Zachariah refused to believe the angel (Luke 1:20) and restored it only after Zachariah gave the unborn child the name the angel had prescribed. No wonder people asked, “What, then, will this child become?”
The only person who could answer that question, in the fullness of time, was John himself. Certainly, when he “grew and became strong in spirit,” John discerned God’s will. John understood that God wanted him to call on people to re-form their lives, to live with each other in a relationship of social and economic justice, and to prepare for the immanent coming of the messiah, the judge and savior of the world.
This was not a simple vocation. By deciding to undertake it, John was deciding to forgo any occupation that might have provided him with common food, clothing, and housing. He was deciding to forgo any chance at status and privilege. Moreover, he was deciding to confront people who were comfortable in their positions of wealth and power, people who were not accustomed to looking honestly at their lives and their relationships. He was deciding to make himself the target of what turned out to be a lethal antagonism. This was the future John accepted when he accepted the will of God.
How have you responded when you have felt God calling you to do something that might disrupt the usual order of your life?
Adapted from PrayerTime: Faith-Sharing Reflections on the Sunday Gospels, available at the RENEW International store

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A reading from the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel
(Chapter 17:22-24)
Ancient Israel was a largely agricultural society, so the great Jewish prophets and Jesus himself often used agricultural images and allegories to convey deep truths. Here, Ezekiel uses the image of a majestic cedar tree. “Birds of every kind shall dwell beneath it, every winged thing in the shade of its boughs. And all the trees of the field shall know that I, the Lord, bring low the high tree, lift high the lowly tree, wither up the green tree, and make the withered tree bloom.”
Ezekiel wants his fellow Jews to know that Israel and all nations will recognize God’s power, as difficult it may be to believe in the face of powerlessness and oppression. “I the Lord, bring low the high tree, lift high the lowly tree.” Sometimes, we may feel like the lowly tree, but God will lift us high. It is a helpful message for us to hear in our troubled world today when we seem threatened in so many ways.
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 92:2-3, 13-14, 15-16)
“Lord, it is good to give thanks to you.” What are you most thankful to God for today, right now? How do you give thanks to God, in word and deed?
A reading from the Second Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians
(Chapter 5:6-10)
“Brothers and sisters: We are always courageous, although we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith not by sight. Yet we are courageous.” It does take courage to walk in faith, doesn’t it? And sometimes our courage weakens, because our faith weakens. It all becomes too much for us, too much suffering, too many disappointments, too many of our loved ones who have died or are suffering, too much loneliness or emptiness. Then, clearly, we need to “walk by faith” and stay tuned in to the power of the Spirit within us who is our partner in life and our guide through the tough times as well as the joyful times.
The Holy Gospel according to Mark
(Chapter 4:26-34)
This is one of the many seed-growing parables of Jesus. “This is how it is with the kingdom of God, it is as though a man would scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and through it all the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how. On its own accord the land yields fruit.”
Then later he says, “To what shall we call the kingdom of God, or what parable can we use for it? It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth. But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.”
Jesus came to preach the coming of the kingdom of God and he used these agricultural images, because people would understand them. The kingdom starts off small, like a little seed, even a mustard seed, the smallest of all seeds, yet it grows silently, powerfully, and winds up being a tree that can house so many different birds or, in our language, all the peoples of the earth. The kingdom of God has that amazing power to grow from almost nothing to almost everything. You and I are part of God’s kingdom even when we do not sense the power that is right in our midst. It is a power that thrives in weakness, in conflict, in suffering and seeming defeat; yet it does grow in ways we may not have imagined and we are the seeds, we are the branches, we embody the kingdom which comes from the power of the Spirit within each of us.
You and I, at our seemingly least powerful moments have that power within us and all around us. The kingdom of God is within us.
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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