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“When it was evening, the disciples approached him and said, ‘This is a deserted place and it is already late; dismiss the crowds so that they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.’ Jesus said to them, ‘There is no need for them to go away; give them some food yourselves.’ But they said to him, ‘Five loaves and two fish are all we have here.’ Then he said, ‘Bring them here to me,’ and he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds. They all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up the fragments left over—twelve wicker baskets full. Those who ate were about five thousand men, not counting women and children” (Matthew 14:15-21).
 
How much would it take to feed all the hungry people? This is a question with two answers.
 
First, not much at all. The Eucharist—the presence of Jesus among us—is all we need to be fully nourished and satisfied. Receiving the Eucharist is the single most important and powerful act a believer can undertake. The Eucharist. It is really our identity, our assembly, our life.
 
We could take away all the Church’s schools, all the youth centers, all the convents and rectories, all the parish programs—but if we still have the Eucharist, we’re still Catholic. If we filled our schools to the windows and our churches to the rafters, if we had all the buildings and money we thought we’d ever need—but didn’t have the Eucharist—what would we be? Hungry, starving, and spiritually malnourished.
 
How much would it take to feed the hungry people? The second answer, which is connected to the first, is that it would take everything we’ve got! When his disciples asked Jesus this question, his answer was disarming.
 
“Give them some food yourselves,” he told them. Yes, you. Jesus was talking about the real bread of everyday nourishment. The real fish needed for supper tonight.
 
In today’s world, who will feed the hungry? Those nourished with Christ at the Eucharist, that’s who. We tend to think the government will do it or that someone else will surely step in before the hungry starve.
 
But the fact of the matter is that each time we receive Communion we are receiving the Body of Christ which is also who we are, the body of Christ in today’s world. Those who are hungry are waiting for us to get moving.
 
- How does this gospel passage help you understand how we, as Christians, are called upon to feed the hungry?
 
Adapted from PrayerTime: Faith-Sharing Reflections on the Sunday Gospels, available at the RENEW International store

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Last week, a friend and I were exploring Central Park in New York City. We stopped to rest by a cool fountain in the center of the park. My sister Mary and my colleague Mary Beth, both battling cancer, were very much on my mind. As we sat by the fountain, I shared with my friend the tremendous prayer and support these courageous women were receiving from their faith communities. The night before my sister’s first chemotherapy treatment, her RENEW group and others gathered in Mary and Doug’s living room to pray the rosary. While I was visiting Mary Beth in the hospital, a co-worker of Mary Beth’s sister JoAnn came to share prayers of mercy and healing. These are just two examples of the daily support through prayers, rosaries, and Masses offered, sentiments of solidarity expressed through social media, calls, visits, and meals delivered and other acts of kindness by those near and far.
 
While peacefully watching the boats on the lake and listening to the music of a quartet playing on the terrace, I noticed that the large bronze figure in the center of the fountain looked like an angel. I searched Central Park on my smart phone and learned that we were on the Bethesda Terrace and that the figure was indeed an angel, the Angel of the Waters. It was another God moment! The website stated that the four small cherubim at the angel’s feet represent health, purity, temperance, and peace. The short article described the angel carrying a lily in one hand and extending the other hand in a blessing on the water pouring into the basin of the fountain. At the dedication ceremony in 1873, the sculptor, Emma Stebbins, connected the pure water flowing from the fountain with the healing powers of the biblical pool at Bethesda. She quoted John 5:2-4:
 

Now there is at Jerusalem by the Sheep market a pool, which is called…Bethesda…whoever stepped in first after the troubling of the water was made well from whatever disease that person had.

 
This biblical story unfolds at the side of the Bethesda pool as Jesus meets a man paralyzed for more than thirty-eight years. Jesus asks him, “Do you want to be made well?” The man explains that he has no one to put him in the pool when the angel stirred the water. Jesus immediately heals the man saying, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.”
 
My friend and I prayed at the Bethesda pool in Central Park for Mary and Mary Beth, asking God to take away any fear that paralyzes, give them strength as they undergo treatment, and heal them in body, mind, and spirit. We remembered the many people who are daily placing Mary and Mary Beth into the healing waters of Christ’s love. We gave God thanks. We then prayed for those like the paralyzed man in the biblical story who have no one to accompany them during times of trial. The homeless people living in the park are a reminder of the lost and separated—they belong to someone’s family. Lord, have mercy on those who have no one to place them in the pool of mercy and healing. The sojourn into Central Park was another time when God revealed himself in the stuff of life.
 
Sr. Terry Rickard is the Executive Director of RENEW International and a Dominican Sister from Blauvelt, NY.

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postcardsMany small groups meet in the spring and fall for six weeks, and for many reasons there is no opportunity to gather or even talk to or see each other between seasons.
 
With many people on vacation, at home or away from home, a colorful postcard with an “I’m thinking of you” expression, can be a most welcome—and needed—blessing for the recipient.
 
Follow this greeting with a word or two about yourself…

“enjoying the grandchildren;”
or “taking a cruise;”
or “having a stay-cation…just what I needed.”

 
Close with: “I trust you know God’s love and how much I care for you.” “How are you?”
 
Blessings,
Your name
 
In just a few minutes, you can create an unexpected blessing for someone with whom you have shared your faith, and you yourself likely will feel blessed by touching another’s life in this way.
 
It’s a great way to prepare the soil of souls for a new season of faith, friendship, and fun.
 
Anne Scanlan is a member of the RENEW International Pastoral Services Team and is an exceptional liturgist.

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“Jesus said to his disciples: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it’” (Matthew 13:44-46).
 
 
In this series of sayings, Jesus continues his teaching about the reign of God. What will it be like? What can we expect? His teaching is both clear as a bell and yet filled with mystery we cannot fully grasp. The treasure in the field he describes must have been very great, indeed. The fellow who found it, the text tells us, hid it so he could go and buy the entire field! He sold all he had to possess this great treasure.
 
And the merchant who sold everything to buy that fine pearl must have nearly put himself out of business. Apparently it wasn’t the enterprise of selling pearls that attracted him but the beauty of the one fine pearl that superseded all others. Apparently half measures won’t do when it comes to fine pearls.
 
In today’s world, it can be very difficult to sort out the good pearls from all the others. We are confused by a cacophony of noise coming from everywhere: media, Internet, neighbors, family, and our own inner voices. Which voice is of God? How can we sort it out? The key to all this is found in a simple word, easy to overlook, in the first line of the reading. Look again.
 
Jesus teaches us that the mark of the right choice, the way we can know it, is that we will experience joy. In the old Baltimore Catechism, widely used in the Church until the Second Vatican Council, we were taught that God made us to know, love, and serve him but with the ultimate goal of being happy. When you pause to take the temperature of your conscience, finding deep joy tells you that you have made the right choices, even if the times are tough, even if the work is terribly hard. Still, if there is joy deep in your heart, it is a sign that God’s reign is present within you.
 
- What are the times or decisions in your life that have clearly resulted in a deep inner sense of joy?
 
Adapted from PrayerTime: Faith-Sharing Reflections on the Sunday Gospels, available at the RENEW International store

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“Jesus proposed another parable to the crowds, saying: ‘The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field. While everyone was asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off. When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well. The slaves of the householder came to him and said, “Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where have the weeds come from?” He answered, “An enemy has done this.” His slaves said to him, “Do you want us to go and pull them up?” He replied, “No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, ‘First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn’”’” (Matthew 13:24-30).
 
Each of the parables in Matthew’s Gospel offers us a dimension of God’s reign. God’s kingdom, we believe, will exist in its fullness at the end of the world. God alone will bring it about.
 
God’s reign also exists on earth, although not yet completely fulfilled. We are God’s instruments on earth, with Jesus whose Spirit enables us to do God’s work.
 
When Jesus speaks of the tiny mustard seed growing into the huge shrub or the small amount of yeast that enables the whole mass of dough to rise, we see God’s reign in process. The reign of God comes into being and gains strength and prominence. The reign of God exists where people treat each other with justice, as Jesus treated all people.
 
Another perspective of God’s reign is offered through the parable of the weeds. Here wheat and weeds grow together until harvest, and then are separated. Jesus explains the strong symbolism of this parable. The field is the world; the good seed, those who want to be part of God’s kingdom; the weeds, those who choose to follow evil ways. The harvest is the end of the world. Jesus uses very vivid, ancient imagery to explain to his disciples how people will either enter into God’s ultimate reign or, through their sinful choices, will be separated from it and be punished.
 
Certainly Jesus was urging his followers to be people of God’s reign. However one images the end of the world, no believer wants to be separated from God.
 
- Where do you see glimpses of God’s reign in our world?
 
Adapted from PrayerTime: Faith-Sharing Reflections on the Sunday Gospels, available at the RENEW International store

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