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A reading from the first Book of Kings
(Chapter 17:10-16)
 
The scene here is very stark. There is a drought in the region. The prophet Elijah comes into the city and he is hungry and thirsty. He asks a poor widow who is at the point of starvation herself for water and some bread. She has no bread but only a small amount of flour and oil. Yet, she has faith, and she feeds him; there is just enough left for her and her son. Then Elijah tells her, “For the Lord, the God of Israel says, ‘The jar of flour shall not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry, until the day when the Lord sends rain upon the earth.’” The widow is a woman of faith, and God is with her.
 
Today, drought threatens the lives of countless millions in dozens of countries all over the world—especially in Africa, the Middle East, and parts of Asia. It causes mass migrations, malnutrition, and endless political strife and violence. Let us pray for today’s widows and poor families who suffer from hunger and poverty caused by droughts and floods and crop erosion, and let us use our own water resources wisely.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 146:7, 8-9, 9-10)
 
“Praise the Lord, my soul.” We often pray to God and ask for help and forgiveness. Wonderful! Perhaps, sometimes we can simply offer a prayer of praise to God. It is not that God needs it but rather that we need it in order to enrich our souls.
 
A reading from the Letter to the Hebrews
(Chapter 9:24-28)
 
The author makes an important connection between the death of Jesus and our own deaths. “But now once for all he has appeared at the end of the ages to take away sin by his sacrifice. Just as it is appointed that human beings die once, and after this the judgement, so also Christ, offered once to take away the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to take away sin but to bring salvation to those who eagerly await him.”
 
The death and resurrection of Jesus radically changes our own deaths. It was not the end for him, and it will not be the end for us but rather a new beginning, a new life. Jesus the man died. Jesus the Son of God lives forever, and so will we. Have you ever thought much about this amazing gift? Please let the power of this gift enliven you every day, especially in times when you are troubled or feel alone.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Mark
(Chapter 12:28b-34)
 
Here, Jesus is not gentle. He is challenging: “Beware of the scribes, who like to go around in long robes and accept greetings in the marketplaces, seats of honor in synagogues, and places of honor at banquets. They devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext recite lengthy prayers. They will receive a very severe condemnation.”
 
Throughout the history of Israel, widows and orphans had a special place in society, because they were economically dependent on the community. The scribes were supposed to take care of them but did not always do their duty. One of the reasons that the scribes were so against Jesus was that he called them out, and they did not like it.
 
Later in this reading, Jesus talks about people contributing to the Temple: “Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents. Calling his disciples to himself he said to them, ‘Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributions to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.’” This woman’s gift has become famous throughout history as the “widow’s mite.” Sometimes, those who are the poorest are the most generous, not only in financial contributions but in the gift of their time and compassion. No matter how little we have, we can contribute in many other ways.
 
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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Gracious God and Father,
we are your people embraced by your love.
We thank you for your presence with us throughout all time.
Create us anew through Jesus Christ your Son.
Liberate us from all that keeps us from you.
Send your Holy Spirit, enabling us
to share in your work of recreating our world
and restoring justice.
Heal us from every form of sin and violence.
Transform us to live your Word more profoundly.
Reconcile us so enemies become friends.
Awaken us to the sacred;
nurture our relationships.
Enliven our parishes; reunite our families.
Fill us with joy to celebrate the fullness of life.
Empower us to be a community of love
growing in your likeness
by the grace of Christ our Lord.
Amen.

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

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A reading from the Book of Deuteronomy
(Chapter 31:7-9)
 
“Moses spoke to the people, saying: “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone! Therefore, you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength.”
 
That is the basis of Judaism, monotheism, loving one God. The Jews were the first and for centuries the only people to worship one God. What an amazing breakthrough! They were hated and killed for their faith way back then and for centuries thereafter, including in the Holocaust of the last century, and they are persecuted today—even in our own country. Let us pray for and give thanks for our Jewish brethren for their faith amidst persecution.
 
“Fear the Lord your God, and keep, throughout the days of your lives, all his statutes and commandments which I enjoin on you, and thus have a long life.” This was the promise of Moses to his people. It was based on keeping the Law which eventually went way beyond the Ten Commandments to include more than 600 laws and dietary restrictions.
 
Jesus challenged that approach, knowing that the laws were like a millstone around the necks of the people instead of an instrument of their liberation. He was criticized and condemned for actually breaking the law in order to heal people on the Sabbath.
For us Christians, salvation that is more than “a long life” that Moses promised but rather eternal life that comes from faith in Jesus. As Saint Paul tells us, we are saved through faith in Jesus, not through the Law.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 18:2-3, 3-4, 47, 51)
 
“I love you O Lord, my strength.” Do you believe that your true and enduring strength comes from the Lord? How have you experienced that strength? Do you sometimes doubt it? Let us be thankful for all the times when God has strengthened us.
 
A reading from the Letter to the Hebrews
(Chapter 7:23-28)
 
The high priest was a very important figure in the Jewish religion. The author wanted his audience, who were mostly Jewish Christians, to know that Jesus was the one high priest. “Brothers and sisters, The Levitical priests were many because they were prevented by death from remaining in office, but Jesus, because he remains forever, has a priesthood that does not pass away. … He has no need, as did the high priests, to offer sacrifice day after day, first for his own sins and then for those of the people; he did that once for all when he offered himself.”
 
This is a radical statement because it gets to the root of Christianity. Salvation comes from Jesus, not from the high priest offering sacrifices every day. The Eucharist—Jesus sacrificing himself again on the altar—brings his very presence to us in the forms of bread and wine.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Mark
(Chapter 12:28b-34)
 
“One of the scribes came to Jesus and asked him, ‘Which is the first of all the commandments?’ Jesus replied, ‘The first is this. Hear O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ The scribe said to him ‘Well said, teacher.’ Then Jesus said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ And no one dared to ask him any questions.”
 
That’s it! Love God and love your neighbor as yourself—two seemingly simple commandments. Yet, they are endlessly challenging. What does it really mean to love God and your neighbor? And—the age-old question that Jesus was asked two thousand years ago—who is my neighbor? It is certainly not only the folks next door. Is it only the people we work with, play with, worship with, and do business with? Is it only those who think as we do, believe as we do, vote as we do, and have the same nationality or color as we do? Or is our neighbor the man in the story Jesus told about the Good Samaritan when someone asked that question? That was a man who Jews thought of as an enemy, a heretic, and yet he was the person who saved the life of the man who had been attacked by robbers. His own people passed him by but then the “enemy,” the infidel was the true neighbor.
 
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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Loving and generous Father,
You alone know the workings of the human heart.
Show us how to listen to the yearnings
we have deep within ourselves.
Remove from our midst any impediments or distractions
that block us from turning to you in our need.
Open us up to your healing touch
and your bounteous goodness.
Then we shall be free to rejoice,
along with those faithful ones of ages past,
in your generosity
and in your power to heal and console.
We offer this prayer and all of our deepest needs
in the name of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.
Amen.

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

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A reading from the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah
(Chapter 31:7-9)
 
“The Lord has delivered his people, the remnant of Israel. Behold, I will bring them back from the land of the north; I will gather them from the ends of the world, with the blind and the lame in their midst, the mothers and those with child; they shall return as an immense throng.”
 
Jeremiah is talking about the return of the Israelites from exile. But how are we to think of exiles returning today? There are almost 20 million exiles in the world now, and the number is growing each year. Most are from Syria, Iraq, Sudan, Myanmar, Afghanistan, Niger, the Central African Republic, and several countries in Central and South America. Many of them are women and children fleeing violence, hunger, and abject poverty. Some western countries have opened their doors to the refugees; others have not. It is a very complex issue, but we need to hold these people in our hearts and do what we can to change hostility to refugees, knowing that many of us have ancestors who once were refugees.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 126:1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 6)
 
“The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.” What great things has the Lord done for you? Have you been thankful? Has it brought you joy? How do you express your joy and thanksgiving?
 
A reading from the Letter to the Hebrews
(Chapter 5:1-6)
 
The author of the Letter to the Hebrews is writing about the role of high priest in the Jewish religion: “Every high priest is taken from among men and made their representative before God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He is able to deal patiently with the ignorant and erring, for he himself is beset by weakness and so, must make sin offerings for himself as well as for the people. No one takes this honor upon himself but only when called by God as Aaron was.” The role of high priest was an enormously important part of the Jewish tradition of the time, and the author makes it clear that the priest was “beset by weakness.” He was to be a servant, not someone to lord it over the people. Of course—precisely because of human weakness—it did not always work out that way and has not throughout history.
 
The main point of the reading, though, is that even Jesus was called by the Father: “In the same way, it was not Christ who glorified himself in becoming high priest, but rather the one who sent him. … ‘You are my son: this day I have begotten you.’” Jesus was called by the Father and responded as our “suffering servant.” It is the same today in our Church. People are called to priesthood by our Father to serve all of us.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Mark
(Chapter 10:46-52)
 
As Jesus left Jericho, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, was on the side of the road. “On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me.’ … Jesus stopped and said, ‘Call him.’ So they called the blind man, saying to him, ‘Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you.’ He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus.’” When Jesus asked what Bartimaeus wanted, the blind man answered, “Master, I want to see,” and Jesus answered, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.” Bartimaeus immediately received his sight and followed Jesus.
 
Notice that Bartimaeus called Jesus “Son of David.” He knew that Jesus was not just any man, any healer; Bartimaeus was healed by his faith in Jesus who, he recognized, was in the tradition of the great King David. And then, Bartimaeus did not go away but “followed him on the way.” We never hear of this man again, but we know from this story that once his eyes were opened, he followed Jesus.
 
Have you ever experienced a healing, either of some part of your physical or spiritual person or of a relationship, and thought that, although there were human agents involved, it came through the grace of Jesus? If your answer is yes, give thanks. If not, think again. Maybe you missed the most important dimension of your healing.
 
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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