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A reading from the book of Wisdom
(Chapter 18:6-9)
 
This reading is from the Book of Wisdom, so what is the wisdom offered here? Perhaps it is faithfulness to God’s promises in the face of challenges and persecutions over a long period of time. That was certainly true for the ancient Israelites, and it may be true for many of us at times. It is hard to keep faith with God when a series of bad things happen. There is a temptation to lose hope, but in troubled times faithfulness and trust in God’s promises must endure.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 33:1, 12, 18-19, 20-22)
 
“Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.” Do you feel chosen? Do you feel blessed? These are great gifts, given to us every day but often overlooked.
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Hebrews
(Chapter 11:1-2, 8-19)
 
This beautiful reflection on the history of the Jewish people focuses on faith under challenging circumstances, starting with Abraham. His faith must have seemed like foolishness, yet it was the foundation of a great nation, a great people of faith.
 
We Americans are also a people of faith, faith in a dream of freedom and justice for all people. We have maintained that faith, especially when it has been tested sorely through prejudice, wars, and economic depressions and recessions as well as attempts to limit our rights, freedom and wellbeing.
 
That same cycle can appear several times in our individual lives: childhood abuse of one kind or another, poverty, divorce or other broken relationships, betrayals, illness, and the death of loved ones. These realities may pop up randomly in our lives without warning. But in the midst of the darkness there is always light that comes from our faith in the ultimate salvation that God has promised us. That faith is the source of life for us, especially in the face of the “little deaths” we may experience during a lifetime.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke
(Chapter 12:32-48)
 
“Do not be afraid any longer little flock, for the father is pleased to give you the kingdom.” It is understandable that the early followers of Jesus were living in fear. They might be forbidden to worship in their local synagogue because of their faith in Jesus. They might be hunted down as believers in a forbidden sect by the Romans who were suspicious of any religious beliefs that would threaten their rule. Jesus wanted to be sure that his disciples did not live in fear but rather in joy and that they would be ready when the Lord would call them.
 
Of course, we all have unhealthy fears at times, but Jesus has also taught us that love casts out fear. If we believe that we are loved passionately and unconditionally by God, that love can cast out fear. But how do we know that we are loved in this way? Were we loved in that way by our parents and family? If so, rejoice! If not, all is not lost. A most important part of our journey in life is to connect with loving people, people who will open their hearts to us as we to them. Perhaps that happened to you with your life partner or close friends, or a teacher or mentor who was there for you at exactly the right times. It is never too late to experience the love of God poured out to you through others. It is never too late for you to love in the same way, even if you were not properly loved as you grew up or at other times in your life. After all, Jesus tells us that we have been given a kingdom, not of material power or possessions but of a powerful love. Imagine that! We live in a kingdom of love, if only we can open ourselves to the wonders of God’s embrace.
 
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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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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