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God of the living,
all the earth bows down before you.
All creation groans in praise of you.
You alone are the Lord of lords.
You alone are the God of all creation.
You invite all human beings
into deep and personal relationship.
You insist that we shall have no other gods before you.
Help me as I seek to place you first in my life.
Send your Spirit to strengthen me
as I strive to embrace the cross,
and fill me with the wisdom I need
to resist the attachments of this world.
Alone I can do nothing;
with God all things are possible.
I ask this prayer through the power of Jesus’ name.
Amen.

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

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A reading from the book of Wisdom
(Chapter 9:13-18b)
 
The author of the Book of Wisdom asks, “Who can know God’s counsel, or who can conceive what the Lord intends?” The author gives his answer toward the end of this passage: “Or who ever knew your counsel, except you had given wisdom and sent your holy spirit from on high?”
 
The only knowledge we have of God comes from God. God sends us his holy spirit, according to the author, writing during the century before the birth of Jesus. Today, we Christians say our knowledge of God comes from the Holy Spirit who dwells in us.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 90:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 14-17)
 
“In every age O Lord, you have been our refuge.” Throughout the history of Judaism and Christianity God has always been presented as the recourse of those who are troubled. In your darkest times, do you experience God as your refuge?
 
A reading from the Letter of Paul to Philemon
(Chapter 12:18-19, 22-24a)
 
In ancient times, slaves were often treated cruelly as we might imagine, but there were also slaves who rose to positions of wealth and even authority in the Roman Empire. Onesimus was not one of those elite slaves, but he was much loved and respected by Paul who considered him a brother. Paul writes from prison to Philemon, a leader of the Church in Colossae, asking him to also consider Onesimus as a brother. Paul is not challenging the institution of slavery but rather calling this young man, Onesimus, to a whole new identity.
 
Tragically, it took two thousand years and hundreds of millions of destroyed lives before slavery came to be regarded as unjust and immoral in much of the world. Yet, even today, there are more than a million people still living in bondage. Let us remember to pray for all those who have lived and died in slavery and for those who are still enslaved.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke
(Chapter 14:25-33)
 
This is certainly one of the challenging Gospel readings. The context is important. These remarks by Jesus follow his discourse about people being invited to a banquet and giving a variety of lame excuses for not attending (Luke 14: 15-25). Jesus follows this parable with a strong sermon to the crowd following him in which he uses the word “hate” (misein in Greek) in reference to a person’s family. Matthew includes the same account in his Gospel and uses the term equivalent to “love less.”
 
Jesus is not telling the crowd to hate their families, in the sense that we usually use the word “hate,” but rather saying that anyone who wishes to follow him must make a radical commitment to him, over and above their commitment to their families and possessions. Many did literally leave their families, but many more followed Jesus while remaining with their families, some of whom Jesus visited, partaking of their hospitality at meals. In our own day, many people have answered the call of Jesus and joined religious orders. We owe them our admiration and support for their sacrifice. However, most of us have chosen to follow Jesus as members of families whom we love dearly. It is in our families and the larger family of our community that we are called to follow Jesus.
 
Jesus also says, “Anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.” This may be another case of Jesus using what is known as “Semitic exaggeration” to make a point. The challenge for us today is not necessarily renouncing all our possessions but rather rethinking the role our possessions play in our lives. Are we seduced by the call of advertisers to have more and more and the best and the newest rather than sharing with those in need, starting with our families and going beyond when and where we can?
 
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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Dear God,
I praise and thank you
for Jesus who is your Word, your revelation.
Please help me to open my heart,
my mind, and my life
to your truth and your way.
Help me to accept my own burdens
and to be willing to work
toward easing the burdens of others.
I believe my life will be easy
and my burdens light
if I am joined to your Son
who is gentle and humble of heart.
Thank you for this great Incarnation of your love.
In Jesus’ name I pray.
Amen.

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

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A reading from the book of the prophet Sirach
(Chapter 3:17-18, 20, 28-29)
 
This is one of the few times in the liturgical cycles when we read from a book of Jewish writings that is not an accepted part of the Hebrew Bible. Yet, it is part of Jewish wisdom teaching. The first line is somewhat problematic: “My child, conduct your affairs with humility, and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts.” Do you think that is true? I suppose it depends on what gifts you are giving and whether you are looking for anything in return. A true giver of gifts such as love, compassion, honesty, and service does not look for anything in return and usually is a very humble person rooted in the truth.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 68:4-5, 6-7, 10-11)
 
“God, in your goodness, you have made a home for the poor.” If that is really true, God has a tremendous amount of work to do. We have more than a million homeless people here in our own country and hundreds of millions all over the world, especially refugees. Actually, it is more accurate to say that we humans are God’s partners in making a home for poor people.
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Hebrews
(Chapter 12:18-19, 22-24a)
 
The early Christians made a clear distinction between the Old Covenant that was approached in fear and the New Covenant that we approach in communion with Jesus and “the Spirits of the just made perfect.” So too, when we approach our Loving Father at the time of our death, we are not alone. We journey in the presence of the Holy Spirit and Jesus and all our previously departed loved ones. As Jesus says over and over again in the Gospels, we are never alone. He is always with us, not only in life but also as we pass from this life to the other ever-lasting life. It is so important for all of us to believe this, especially those in danger of death.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke
(Chapter 14:1, 7-14)
 
At first, this seems like a perfect pairing with the first reading from the book of Sirach. The message again seems simple—be humble. That is only the first point, however.
 
There was a severe class distinction in ancient Israel that the prophets had railed against for centuries. The poor were exploited, often treated as little more than slaves. There is no way that a relatively well- off Pharisee in the time of Jesus would have even thought to “invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind.” Then Jesus adds, “Blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you.”
 
There is no silver-bullet answer to ending or even reducing poverty. Everyone needs to share the table of plenty in America so that everyone can eat from the bounty of our great nation: the government at all levels, businesses both big and small, labor unions, faith communities, the super-rich and all of us. And we all need to do it without expecting a payback. God will reward us in ways we may never expect or understand. Actually, given where we live, we have already been rewarded in so many ways.
 

“The Lowest Places at the Feast” by Kazakhstan Artist Nelly Bube.

 
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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God of mercy, Father of all,
you welcome the downtrodden
and are a voice for the voiceless.
You feed the poor
and offer forgiveness to sinners.
And, above all, you sent your Son
for the salvation of the world.
Reveal to me my unrepentant, stony heart
and replace it
with a heart full of love and compassion.
Place your Spirit within me,
so that I might walk in your footsteps
and speak your word to a waiting world.
Enfold me in your protective arms
and help me grow in the intimacy
you long to share with me.
I ask this through Christ, our Lord.
Amen.

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

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