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God of power and might,
you teach us the marvels of the universe.
You have given us your Son,
the revelation of your divine presence,
and you invite us into deep and everlasting relationship.
Help me
to grow in my desire to know you,
my hunger to be fed with your love,
and my longing to be imbued with the wisdom of your Spirit.
Strengthen me
to become an effective witness of the gospel
and to promote your reign of God in the world.
I ask this through Christ, Our Lord.
Amen.

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

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prayingA reading from the book of Genesis
(Chapter 18:20-32)
 
Imagine making a deal with God, bargaining with God over the fate of thousands of people. That is the scene here with Abraham asking God to spare the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. It is like a scene from a Middle Eastern marketplace, except this one has the fate of two cities in the bargain. The authors of Genesis use this story because they know it will resonate with their audience.
 
“In those days, the Lord said: ‘The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great, and their sin so grave that I must go down and see whether or not their actions fully correspond to the cry against them that comes to me. I mean to find out.” Standing in the divine Presence, Abraham sees an opening and asks, “Will you sweep away the innocent with the guilty? Suppose there were fifty innocent people in the city; would you wipe out the place, rather than spare it for the sake of the fifty innocent people within it? Far be it from you to do such a thing to make the innocent die with the guilty so that the innocent and the guilty would be treated alike!’” God then says that he would spare the city for the sake of the innocent people, and the bargaining begins! Abraham keeps on lowering the bar to forty five, then forty, thirty, twenty, and finally ten. God then relents: “For the sake of those ten, I will not destroy it.”
 
This may seem like a strange story about an all-loving and forgiving God, but remember, this was written at a time when most people believed in pagan gods that were unloving, violent, and untrustworthy. Abraham was the first of a whole new order, a new relationship with a God who was just and always on the side of his people. We Christians come from that tradition, which was fulfilled in the long-awaited Messiah, Jesus Christ.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 138:1-2, 2-3, 6-7, 7-8)
 
“O Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me.” That’s the refrain, from verse 3; we also read in Psalm 138, “When I called, you answered me.” But there is no timetable. Prayer is not like putting your card in the machine, and out comes money. Even if we know that, we can be disappointed when it seems there is no answer, or at least not the one we want and when we want it. We need, then, to pray for discernment and patience.
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Colossians
(Chapter 1:24-28)
 
“Brothers and sisters: You were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.” Paul wants all the converts to Christianity to know that in baptism they died with Christ and were raised with him. There was no need for them to be circumcised. “And even when you were dead in transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, he brought you to life along with him, having forgiven us all of our transgressions.”
 
There was a major controversy in the early Church about whether gentiles who wanted to be baptized needed to be circumcised. Paul spoke out many times against this obligation and eventually won the battle, thus opening the Church to thousands and soon millions of new converts.
 
For Paul, baptism was the first step in finding a new life, a new community, and the presence of the Holy Spirit who comes to all in baptism. That is so important for us to remember—that the very Spirit of God dwells in each of us, even if and when we may have our doubts and major failings.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke
(Chapter 11:1-13)
 
A disciple said to Jesus, “‘Lord, teach us how to pray.’” He said to them, ‘When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name, your Kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread and forgive us our sins for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us, and do not subject us to the final test.’”
 
Then Jesus told a parable about a man who knocked on the door of his neighbor at midnight to ask for food for a friend who had just arrived hungry. The sleepy neighbor replied, “Do not bother me; the door has already been locked and my children and I are already in bed. I cannot get up to give you anything.” Jesus then said, “I tell you, if he does not get up to give the visitor the loaves because of their friendship, he will get up to give him whatever he needs because of his persistence. And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”
 
The point Jesus is making with this short parable is that we need to be persistent in prayer. It may be that we ask God to grant us a request, an important and appropriate request, but nothing seems to happen. Persistence! The answer may come to us slowly, or it may not be the answer we are hoping for, but we should persist and trust in a God who is not far away, but who lives 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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Lord God,
in your wisdom you invite us
out of our complacency.
You open our eyes
to see you with new vision.
You open our hearts
to love you with greater passion,
and you open our hands
to serve you with the purest intentions.
Lead us more deeply
into the mystery of discipleship
so that we may follow you
with steadfast faithfulness.
Give us the heart of Mary,
so that we may be transformed
by your Word
and fortified by your presence.
Give us the mind of Martha,
so that we can diligently accomplish your mission.
But above all, continue to invite us
into intimate and lasting relationship.
We 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 Genesis
(Chapter 18:1-10a)
 
“The Lord appeared to Abraham by the terebinth of Mamre. … Looking up, Abraham saw three men standing nearby.” So, God appeared to Abraham, but not as one person but rather as three. It is hard to know who these men were except to say that they represented God or that one of them was God. In any case, Abraham knew that they were special, and so he asked his wife, Sarah, to make them a meal.  After they ate, the men asked Abraham where Sarah was. He replied, “There in the tent.” Then, one of the men said something wonderful to a couple who had no children and a woman who was beyond child-bearing age: “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah will then have a son.”
 
This is how it all started. Abraham would be the father not only of children but of a whole nation who would be called the People of God. Throughout the Scriptures, God comes to his people in the context of a meal, and so he does today, at the celebration of the Eucharist.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 15:2-3, 3-4, 5)
 
“He who does justice will live in the presence of the Lord.” Do you consider yourself a just man or just woman—in your family, your business, your community? Great! Beyond that, where do you stand on so many of the justice issues of our day: sexism, racism, economic inequality, the criminal-justice system, immigration, tyrants around the world? It may be that you feel powerless facing these difficult issues but living in a democracy means we need to keep informed so we can act are not passive to injustice and can act when it is within our power.
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Colossians
(Chapter 1:24-28)
 
In this letter, Paul writes about one of the deepest and most important elements in our lives, mystery— not a mystery story that eventually is resolved but the Divine Mystery, the very presence of God in our lives, not in some far-off future but NOW. Paul writes that he is “to bring to completion for you the word of God, the mystery hidden from ages and from generations past. But now it has been manifested to his holy ones, to whom God chose to make known the riches of the glory of this MYSTERY among the Gentiles; it is Christ in you, the hope for glory.”
 
There it is! That is the great mystery, Christ in us. The spirit of Christ lives in us. Amazing, but, of course, like any great gift, we need to accept it. How and when have you experienced the presence of Christ in you and all around you? How have you responded? Please remember that you and I and all of us are living in the mystery of God’s eternal love right now.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke
(Chapter 10:38-42)
 
This is the story of the two sisters, Martha and Mary, whom Jesus loved. At first, what occurs in the incident described in this passage may seem unfair. There was “Mary who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.” It sounds like a reasonable request. But, “The Lord said to her in reply, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need for only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.’” It seems as if Jesus is putting Martha in her place. Maybe so, in a way, but we know that Jesus deeply loved both Martha and Mary and their brother, Lazarus, so much so that he came at their call to raise brother Lazarus from the dead. Here, he is pointing out that he would rather the sisters, and we, spent more time with him and less time absorbed in worldly things.
 
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.
 
Image credit: JESUS MAFA. Martha and Mary, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=48311 [retrieved July 17, 2019]. Original source: http://www.librairie-emmanuel.fr (contact page: https://www.librairie-emmanuel.fr/contact).

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Jesus,
please help us open our eyes and hearts and hands
to those children of God suffering in our midst.
Help us stand with people, as you did,
when they are victimized or vilified
because of their sexual orientation,
their race or nationality,
a disease they have,
or criminal deeds they have done.
Help us, O gracious God,
become good neighbors to all your children.
Help us to become sisters and brothers,
in deeds as well as in words,
and advance the coming of your beloved community.
We pray in the name of your Son, Jesus
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever
Amen.

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

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