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A reading from the Book of Joshua
(Chapter 24:1-2a, 15-17, 18b)
 
Joshua is an important person in the history of the Jewish people. He took over when Moses died and had to lead the people into the Promised Land. Under Joshua, the Israelites fought the city of Jericho and destroyed it, then moved on to take over the rest of nearby towns and cities. In today’s passage, Joshua is talking to all the people, including those who had been conquered, and tells them they have a choice:
 
“If it does not please you to serve the Lord, decide today whom you will serve, the gods your fathers served beyond the River (the famous Jordan River) or the gods of the Amorites in whose country you are now dwelling. As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” But the people answered, “Far be it from us to forsake the Lord for the service of other gods. … Therefore, we also will serve the Lord, for he is our God.”
 
This seems like an obvious thing for people to say after being saved from slavery in Egypt, saved from starvation in the dessert, and led to victory over a strong foe, but monotheism was a new concept. The Jewish people gave the world a great gift—faith and worship of one God, not many.
 
Skip now to the time of Jesus, generations and generations later, and we can see how difficult it was for most Jews to believe in a trinitarian God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, all fully God. Many did believe because of the power of Jesus and his message, but many more could not bring themselves to believe in a God who was among them in the person of this Teacher. But we continue to honor our Jewish brethren who kept the belief in one God for all those years in the face of so many false gods.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 34:2-3, 16-17, 18-19, 29-21)
 
“Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.” Did you ever have someone offer you a piece of fruit that you never had before? You tasted it and were delighted that it was, indeed, sweet. God’s goodness is like that. Take a few moments this week to sit back and savor that sweetness. Maybe it will come in a surprise encounter or with someone you hold dear, or it may be just you in a powerfully quiet moment.
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Ephesians
(Chapter 5:21-32)
 
This reading includes one of the most disliked and misunderstood lines in the whole New Testament.
 
“Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord.” Wham! Those words have reverberated throughout history and today have driven many women, and men too, out of our Church. What about equality?
 
Paul then says “The husband is head of his wife just as Christ is head of the church.” We hear this in the male-dominated terms of Paul’s time, but we do not have to take it literally now as we are working to bring gender equality to our Church and our world. Let’s not forget the last two beautiful sentences of this reading: “So also husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.” Can you recall anything written two thousand years ago that is so positive about the relationship of a man and wife? And there is also a call to husbands: “Husbands love your wives even as Christ loved the church.”
 
Sexism is a grave injustice, whether in our Church, our country, our workplaces, or our families. Let us all work for true gender justice at all times, in all places.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to John
(Chapter 6:60-69)
 
This reading follows last week’s gospel passage in which Jesus said, “I am the living bread that comes down from heaven… . whoever eats this bread will live forever.” Many of Jesus’ disciples said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” It is one thing to hear the words of Jesus and be excited and then to experience his healings. Jesus offers those who eat his body and drink his blood eternal life. But who is he? How can this be a real offer? It seems to many to be bizarre. Jesus knows this and says, “The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe. For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted to him by my Father.”
 
Jesus is offering them an amazing gift, eternal life with him, but for some it is just too hard to believe. “Many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.” Remember, this was written fifty years or more after the death of Jesus. John, who is the last living apostle, wants everyone to know that the journey of Jesus was not easy. His message was rejected even by some who started out to be his disciples. It all depended on their accepting a remarkable and yet almost unbelievable gift. When you think about it, that is the same for us today. Can we accept this wondrous gift from Jesus?
 
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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Thank you, God, for your faithful servants
who give a helping hand to the hungry.
Bless them and those whose pain and hardship
make their work so essential.
Show us how we can stand with them.
Give bread to the hungry
and give hunger for you
to those who have bread.
We pray in the name of Jesus

our Savior and brother who feeds us
with the bread of life
and who lives in loving community
with you and the Holy Spirit.
Amen.

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

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A reading from the Book of Proverbs
(Chapter 9:1-6)
 
The Book of Proverbs is a collection of seven sets of aphorisms that were collected and edited in their present form seven hundred years before the birth of Jesus and later. The writer of today’s passage wants his fellow Jews to pursue true wisdom, and he envisions Wisdom inviting people to a meal: “Come, eat of my food, and drink of the wine I have mixed! Forsake foolishness that you may live; advance in the way of understanding” (verses 5-6). The notion of coming to a meal to receive fine food and, at the same time, wisdom is important from a Christian perspective because of its relationship to the Eucharist.
 
When we come to the Eucharist, we are filled with the presence of Jesus and we are offered wisdom in many ways. Let us try to be open to the wisdom that is there for us at each Eucharistic celebration through the reading of the Scriptures, the homily, the music, and our own prayerful reflections. Amazing wisdom can come to us if we are truly listening with our heart as well as our minds.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7)
 
“Taste and see the goodness of the Lord” (verse 9a). Sometimes we say, “It is so good I can almost taste it.” Have you ever felt that way about the goodness of the Lord?
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Ephesians
(Chapter 5:15-20)
 
Saint Paul is talking here about that ever-elusive reality of wisdom. “Brothers and sisters: Watch carefully how you live, not as foolish persons but as wise… . Therefore, do not continue in ignorance, but try to understand what is the will of the Lord… but be filled with the Spirit” (verses 15, 17, 18b).
 
How can we find true wisdom? We are not talking about mere knowledge, as important as that may be. We are on another level here. Wisdom is a GIFT of the Spirit—a gift, and we only need ask for it, because it is always there where the Spirit lives deep within us. Yes, that has always been true, but too often we forget it as we struggle with so many challenges, disappointments, hard choices, and darkness of one kind or another. It calls for another kind of prayer, not necessarily saying prayers but in an open kind of silence. Have you had those moments when somehow you “got it?” It can happen more often if we let the Spirit in.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to John
(Chapter 6:51-58)
 
The notion of God feeding his people goes way back to the Lord feeding his people in the desert after their escape from Egypt. Throughout the history of the Jewish people, they depended on God for good harvests in the harsh drought-like conditions of much of Israel much of the time. So, it is understandable for Jesus to feed his people as well, and he did. But this is different: “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat of the flesh of the Son of Man and drink of his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink” (verses 53-55).
 
No wonder the Romans thought that Christians were crazed murderers and persecuted them. They took the words of Jesus quite literally, as did many Jews. That is obviously not what Jesus meant. Today, you and I believe that Jesus is really present in the bread and wine, that he nourishes us in a spiritual but powerful way. It is an ancient religious tradition going back to God sending food to his people in the wilderness, but in the Eucharist there is an intimacy with the Divine that is unknown in any other faith tradition. It is built on the Jewish experience of God feeding the people but in Jesus God actually became one of us, fed his people while he was on earth, and now continues to feed us spiritually.
 
How do you need to be nourished today? Ask Jesus to bring you that gift of nourishment as you receive communion this very day.
 
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_s_SupperJesus, we call you the Bread of Life.
We are reminded of your sacrifice for us
each time we receive the Eucharist.
Call us to your table
as we bring with us
all of our triumphs and joys,
hurts and disappointments,
all of our tears and pain
as well as our laughter.

We give everything to you,
our sacrifice mingled with yours.
For this is true communion;
this is how we come together,
the beginning of our knowing you.
Help us to be an example to children.
Open us up to their simple faith.
Give us wisdom, joy and peace
as we try to grow ever closer to you.
We ask this in your name.
Amen.

 
Adapted from The People’s Prayer Book, © RENEW International.
Original oil painting, “The Lord’s Supper,” by Brendan Clary.

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barelyA reading from the First Book of Kings
(Chapter 19:4-8)
 
David was a very good king of Israel—the best. Some hundred years later, in the ninth century before the birth of Jesus, Ahab was one of the worst kings of Israel. He had a very bad wife, Jezebel, whose name and reputation have survived for thousands of years. She worshiped the false god Baal and had her own band of false prophets protecting her.
 
Elijah was a true prophet of Israel, called by God to proclaim the truth and persecuted by the king and queen. In this reading, we find Elijah exhausted and in despair. “He prayed for death, saying: This is enough, O Lord! Take my life, for I am no better than my fathers” (verse 4b). Then he fell asleep and was awakened by an angel who provided him with food and water which Elijah consumed before falling asleep again. But the angel woke him up and ordered him, “Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you! He got up, ate, and drank; then strengthened by that food he walked forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God, Horeb” (verses 7b-8).
 
This story is a testament to God providing food and hope for his people in a time of great need. God also feeds us in many ways, especially in the Eucharist which gives us nourishment for our souls and strength to go on in the face of challenges and suffering.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 34:2-3,4-5,6-7,8-9)
 
“Taste and see the goodness of the Lord” (verse 9a). How has God’s goodness nourished you in your times of need?
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Ephesians
(Chapter 4:30-5:2)
 
“Brothers and sisters: Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were sealed for the day of redemption. All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice. And be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ. So be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love as Christ loved us” (verses 30-32).
 
Ephesus was the third largest city in early Christianity after Jerusalem and Antioch, and it was filled with a variety of magicians and other strange characters who often caused bad behavior and superstition. That is why Paul is insistent that Christians behave differently, based on the all-powerful love “as Christ loved us.”
 
Two thousand years later, the message is the same—to allow the love of Christ to overcome divisions and controversies in our families, our workplaces, our communities, our parishes, and our country. It all starts with our one-on-one relationships, whatever they may be. Of course, no one of us is perfect or always loving in the way we ought to be, and that is why the mercy and forgiveness of God is so important. Sometimes, when we have hurt someone, we may feel so guilty or stubborn or embarrassed that we do not try to heal the relationship, and then things get worse. But if we reach down deep in our hearts, we will find the love of the Spirit to guide us.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to John
(Chapter 6:41-51)
 
Jesus’ townspeople knew him and “his father and his mother,” so how can he say, “I am the bread that came down from heaven”? (verse 42). Jesus tells his critics to “stop murmuring” and then tells them, “I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world” (verses 48-51).
 
Bread was a major item in ancient Israel mainly because so many people were hungry for so much of the time. If the harvest was bad, they went hungry. If the Romans took too much of their crops, the people of Israel were hungry. If a farmer died or became disabled, his family often became hungry. Bread was life, and now Jesus says that he is the real bread, the eternal bread, the bread that came from God himself. All this was hard for people to believe, but some did and followed Jesus, because they knew what bread was and how it was also a symbol of life itself. They wanted to be fed in spirit as well as in body.
 
Today, as we come to the Eucharist, we too ask to be filled with the “Bread of Life” and we will not be denied. Jesus offers himself to us once again under the symbols of bread and wine, and so we are gifted by Jesus himself one more time.
 
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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