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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 Apparently it wasn’t the enterprise of selling pearls that attracted him but the beauty of the one fine pearl that superseded all others.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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Where once there was a place of torture and torment there now lies a very peaceful area in Auriesville, New York—a holy spot dedicated to the saints who once roamed there. In fact, this holy place not only contains the resting grounds of many North American martyrs who sacrificed their lives for the salvation of souls but is also the birthplace of Native American St. Kateri Tekakwitha.
 
In midsummer of 2011, I was able to make a pilgrimage to this location. It was a very special time for me, because I was preparing to be confirmed in the Catholic Church; because of this, my confirmation sponsor suggested we take a holy trip. I was twenty years old when I made the trek up to Auriesville. Never having made a pilgrimage before, I had no idea what to expect, but I had a great devotion to St. Kateri Tekakwitha, and I was more than excited to see her birthplace.
 
That area in upstate New York is absolutely breath-taking and beautiful. Surrounded by rolling hills and wide-open spaces, you can’t help but feel at peace. Even when I walked what used to be the gauntlet, where many people, including the North American martyrs, were beaten and tortured, I still felt peace. I knew their suffering wasn’t in vain. Throughout the trip I felt St. Kateri’s presence all around me.
 
St. Kateri Tekakwitha always captivated me. She is known as the Lily of the Mohawks because of her virginal purity but also because she tried to evangelize people in her Mohawk village. Even though she wasn’t officially catechized, she connected to God and the Blessed Virgin Mary at a very young age. The Jesuits had visited her village and tried to teach the Native Americans about Jesus. To do this the missionaries began learning the native language and would often refer to the faith in terms and signs that were relevant to the Native Americans. Many parallels between the Catholic faith and North American tradition started to become clear, and the Jesuits were even able to translate the Lord’s Prayer into the language of the Mohawks. However, Mohicans intruded on Kateri’s village and, as a result, the Jesuit missionaries were captured and killed, along with the chiefs of the tribe.
 
Kateri faced many difficulties, not just with the attacks from other tribes, but also from disease. She suffered from a bout of smallpox that left her face scarred and almost blinded her. This disease killed her parents, leaving Kateri orphaned. However, she did not suffer in vain; she would offer up her pain and sickness for the conversion of those around her. She would even sleep with thorns in her bed as corporal mortification for the conversion of souls.
 
Even though Kateri never really studied the faith, her heart was completely invested in the mission of Jesus. She remained pure of heart, even when she was forced to marry, and steadfast in her attempts toward the salvation of others. She chose to be baptized against the wishes of many of her friends and family. At twenty-four, I am now the age at which she died after a long period of declining health; it is worth mentioning that at the time of her death the scars on her face were cleared and some say she was glowing. St. Kateri Tekakwitha was canonized as the first Native American saint by Pope Benedict XVI on October 21, 2012.
 
When I was later able to spend a week for a mission trip with the the Native Americans of the Turtle Clan in North Dakota (Kateri was thought to be from this clan), my love and devotion for St. Kateri grew even more. Their Catholic identity is so great on that mountain in North Dakota, that I can’t help but think it is a result of the hard work, sacrifice, and prayers made by St. Kateri and the North American martyrs. They paved the way for our faith in America and we must not forget their sacrifices.
 
St. Kateri was young when she died, but she lived her life selflessly for others. As Catholics, both young and old, we can take St. Kateri’s example and apply it to our own lives. It’s never too late to start living for others, and especially for Christ. Let us follow St. Kateri’s example of faith, hope, and charity. St. Kateri Tekakwitha, Lily of the Mohawks, pray for us!
 
Callie Kowalski is a member of RENEW’s marketing and communications team and directs its young adult programs.

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Sower_Seed“On that day, Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the sea. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat down, and the whole crowd stood along the shore. And he spoke to them at length in parables, saying: ‘A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep, and when the sun rose it was scorched, and it withered for lack of roots. Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it. But some seed fell on rich soil and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold. Whoever has ears ought to hear’” (Matthew 13:1-9).
 
A biblical scholar, C. H. Dodd, offers the classic definition of a parable: “At its simplest, the parable is a metaphor of common life, arresting the hearer by its vividness or strangeness, and leaving the mind in sufficient doubt about its precise application to tease it into active thought.”
 
Jesus very often taught the crowds in parables. Parables offer deep truth in story form. They allow the hearers to judge for themselves where they fit in the story. Jesus is the master teacher. He offers his word to us. Each person who has heard the word will receive it in his or her own way. Jesus, the sower, generously plants the seeds, but the rest is up to us. Only if we accept the Lord’s words deeply within us will they have a lasting effect. Any person who has worked in a garden to grow flowers or vegetables knows the peril of the seed that does not find itself in good, rich soil.
 
It is so easy to have good initial intentions to follow the Word of God, but the world is rarely a nurturing place. Trials and temptations confront us daily. Jesus is completely aware of the many pulls and distractions of our lives. He knows the presence and power of evil. He is so painfully aware that even his Good News depends on our acceptance. He sows the seed with love, knowing the greatness of his message. As difficult as it may be to hold fast to the Word of God, those seeds that take root in our hearts, Jesus assures us, will bring blessings “a hundred or sixty or thirty-fold.”
 
- What seed of God’s Word needs greater nurturing in your life?
 
Adapted from PrayerTime: Faith-Sharing Reflections on the Sunday Gospels, available at the RENEW International store

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As we move into summer, the time of year when many of us have a break from the normal routine, here are a few suggestions to help you rest, relax and be renewed.
 
Try a walking meditation… This is not just taking a walk. This is a walk where you focus on listening to and directing the movements of your body. A walking meditation practice allows a quiet, focused mind to become an integral part of your life. If walking is not an option for you, apply the same principles to how you do move. Our bodies respond and react to sloping pathways, pebbles beneath our feet, and branches that have pushed through the sidewalk. God created our bodies to adapt and adjust to these changes. Attend to the marvelous gift from God that your body is. May you be blessed and amazed at the profound gift of your body.
 
Be inspired… Read a paragraph, a chapter, or the entire The Joy of the Gospel by Pope Francis. This wonderful reminder of who Jesus is and how the Gospel finds life in today’s world – in ourselves and in and with others. It inspires and confirms the life of Christ alive and well in you.
 
Visit other Catholic communities… No matter where we go on the planet, the Eucharistic celebration is the same. The language may be different or some rituals may be adapted for the culture, but Jesus is the same. When you are away from home, take the time to see how vast, unique, and connected we are as the People of God, the universal church, the Catholic community.
 
In this Ordinary Time of our Liturgical Year, may you enjoy the extraordinary love and faithfulness of God.
 
Anne Scanlan is a member of the RENEW staff, serves on the Why Catholic? team, and is an exceptional liturgist.

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My_Yoke_Is_Easy“At that time Jesus exclaimed: ‘I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to little ones. Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.’
‘Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light’” (Matthew 11:25-30).
 
In this Gospel passage, Jesus himself is praising and thanking God for the revelation given to him. Jesus was able to receive everything from the Father, for his heart and mind were totally open to the will of God. Jesus was without personal desires; he had no agenda of his own. He was not interested in his own glory but only that of God. His humility was complete. And humility is truth.
 
In our lives, we reveal ourselves to very few people. We reveal ourselves only to those who completely accept and love us. We hold back the deep, sacred truth in our lives from all those who could use that truth against us or mock our self-revelation. When Jesus speaks of his relationship with the Father, we learn of a relationship of complete love and trust, a relationship of oneness. Through Jesus, we learn of God, for he has revealed God’s truth and God’s way to us, the merest of children. Only our own desires and our own life agendas can prevent us from knowing and accepting the fullness of divine truth.
 
Certainly all people have known the weariness and burdens of life. Jesus is inviting us to be one with him and to learn from his gentleness and his heart’s humility. Knowing what God wishes to reveal to our hearts would lighten our burdens and give rest to our souls. To find this rest, we must be willing to accept Jesus, who is eager not only to share our burdens but also to bring us to the love of the Father.
 
- How do I turn to Jesus when I am suffering the burdens and weariness of life?
 
Adapted from PrayerTime: Faith-Sharing Reflections on the Sunday Gospels, available at the RENEW International store

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Saints_Peter_and_Paul“When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter said in reply, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ Jesus said to him in reply, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven’” (Matthew 16:13-19).
 
Have you ever watched a ceremony televised from the square outside the Vatican Basilica in Rome? During quiet moments in ceremonies, when not too much is happening, the camera often focuses on two giant statues near the stairs leading up to the basilica doors. They represent St. Peter, holding keys, and St. Paul, holding a letter in his left hand and a sword in his right.
 
Today the Church invites us to celebrate these two foundational figures with passages from Scripture that focus on Peter and Paul. Through them, the Scriptures invite us to consider what it means to be a follower of Christ today.
 
In this Gospel, Jesus starts with the question, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” The answers he gets recognize him as the equal of great prophets. When Jesus asks the disciples directly “Who do you say that I am?”, it is Peter who speaks up on behalf of them all, recognizing Jesus as the Christ and as the Son of the living God. Jesus then makes the promise that probably all of us can recite by heart: “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church … I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven.”
 
An important part of today’s feast is that for both Peter and Paul what they “said” about Jesus in their words or letters was matched by what they “said” with their actions, how they lived their lives, to the extent that both were martyred for acclaiming Jesus as the Son of the living God.
 
We do not live in a culture in which we are likely to suffer outright martyrdom for our beliefs, but there are so many little ways that today’s culture can kill off our spiritual or faith life. The Gospel is realistic about the struggle to be a Christian. The Gospel is always mindful of our human nature, and one way in which that is expressed is in the lives of the two saints we celebrate today. Scripture does not sanitize their stories, but shows us that there was another side. Paul, remember, was a fanatical persecutor of the Church; and Peter had his moments of sinking doubt and denial. The Gospel does not deny that we may get things wrong; it asks us not to deny it, and to get it right from then on.
 
Too difficult, some say, and that’s another reason to look to Peter and Paul. Underlying all they achieved there is a fundamental conviction that we are invited to share: we are what we are by the grace of God. Baptism is a call to follow Jesus, but it is entrusts us to the Spirit who strengthens us to live up to this high calling.
 
Next time we see St. Peter’s Square, full of people, being televised, perhaps we can watch out for those two statues and remember: one Church, many people; one mission, many ministries. That’s what “Catholic” really means.
 
-What does being “Catholic” mean in your life?
 
Adapted from PrayerTime: Faith-Sharing Reflections on the Sunday Gospels, available at the RENEW International store

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Bread_ofLife_Kennedy_A_Paizs“Jesus said to the Jewish crowds:
‘I am the living bread that came 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.’” (John 6:51-58)
 
Speaking of the Eucharist, Pope Benedict XVI said, “We ourselves, with our whole being, must be adoration and sacrifice, and by transforming our world, give it back to God. The role of the priesthood is to consecrate the world so that it may become a living host, a liturgy: so that the liturgy may not be something alongside the reality of the world, but that the world itself shall become a living host, a liturgy. This is also the great vision of Teilhard de Chardin: in the end we shall achieve a true cosmic liturgy, where the cosmos becomes a living host. And let us pray the Lord to help us become priests in this sense, to aid in the transformation of the world, in adoration of God, beginning with ourselves. That our lives may speak of God, that our lives may be a true liturgy, an announcement of God, a door through which the distant God may become the present God, and a true giving of ourselves to God.” (Homily, July 24, 2009).
 
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was a French paleontologist, geologist, and Jesuit priest who worked extensively in China in the early twentieth century. Initially his scientifically-informed lectures and writings on original sin and the nature of the Eucharist were misunderstood by the Roman Curia, to the point where they were censored. Today we know that to these ideas of Teilhard de Chardin are not heretical; this revised view is not least due to Pope Benedict XVI’s acceptance and appreciation for Teilhard’s thought in these areas, as exemplified above.
 
It is eye-opening to realize that our actions, but especially our acceptance and love of the Eucharist, as explained by Pope Benedict XVI, allow us to play a part in not only the transformation of ourselves but in giving the universe back to God. Just as it must have been difficult for Pierre Teilhard de Chardin to face rejection upon presenting concepts toward which God had led him, it must have been difficult for Jesus to offer such an amazing life-giving gift only to hear the following directly afterward: “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” We may have reacted in a similar way; perhaps we still do. Therefore, let us commit to learning more about the Eucharist, but, especially, to spending time in eucharistic adoration so that which we cannot understand mentally is instead illuminated by intimacy—like that which we receive from any special relationship—but which is most readily available in our relationship with Christ.
 
Matt is a summer intern for RENEW’s Publications and Resources team and will begin a master’s degree program at Providence College in the fall.

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four_easy_stepsHow many of us have ever needed help? How many of us see the same folks on every committee, every project, every team? Whether you are in need of small-community leaders, new members for your RENEW parish team, or any other ministry RENEW suggests four easy steps to get the results you want. These steps do work. Before you undertake them, do some preparation:
 
Ask yourself, “What do I need?” (This is a little like a job description), “How much time am I talking about?” and “How many people do I need?”
 
Acknowledge your need for God’s help, remembering that you are inviting others to share in a ministry. In a real way, you are partnering with Christ, who ultimately is the one that invites. Ask others to join you in prayerful discernment of whom to invite to this ministry. “Others” should include folks you know who have a sense of openness and outreach and who know other people who may wish to get involved.
 
Now, together, you engage with the “Four Easy Steps.”
 
1. Personal Reflection: each person is asked to prayerfully reflect on what is required and on whom they know who might meet the need. Ask each person to make a list of the names and qualities of candidates.
2. Communal Reflection: each person, in turn, shares a the name and qualities of an individual man or woman until all the suggestions have been presented. Have newsprint or a similar medium ready to record these suggestions.
3. Discernment: the discernment group prays for guidance from the Holy Spirit in determining whom will be invited to ministry. Make a list that reflects the priorities that surfaced through prayer.
4. Invitation: you or other members of your discernment group begin to invite those who have been identified as candidates. Let each person know how he or she was chosen, let each person know the task at hand, ask each invitee to prayerfully consider the call, and then tell each one you will be in contact for a response in a week.
 
Continue this process of invitation until you have the number of people you need for the ministry at hand.
 
Have a gathering for all who said yes. Begin with introductions, offer a prayer with faith sharing, talk briefly about the ministry, and have some social time with refreshments.
 
Thank God.

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“God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:16-18).
 
Trinity Sunday celebrates the mystery we reaffirm every time we make the sign of the cross, recite the creed, or attend a baptism. This teaching is drawn from many texts in which Jesus reveals the actions of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Today’s gospel reading, extracted from Jesus’ instruction on baptism, focuses on the Father’s supreme act of divine love.
 
To better understand this passage, it is helpful to look at its context. Jesus was speaking to a Pharisee named Nicodemus. In the Jewish community of Jesus’ time, the Pharisees were the accepted religious authority. Some of them opposed Jesus and his values so, for fear of offending this particular group, Nicodemus came to Jesus secretly in the night. Nicodemus opened his mind to a new understanding of religion that clashed with the Pharisees’ priorities, but he found a way to escape the domination of the “in crowd.”
 
Where do we see Nicodemus in our community? When we are honest with ourselves, we admit that we too can be controlled by peer pressure and political correctness. Perhaps we pretend that we have given up religious practice because we’re “too mature,” “too sophisticated,” or “too smart” for such things. Only in secret do we admit that we’ve stopped attending Sunday Mass for fear of friends’ ridicule or because we are simply too lazy. But Nicodemus gives us hope. Strengthened by his new faith, as we see through his later appearances in the Gospels, he became a follower of Jesus.
 
Jesus spoke of a divine love that in dying bestows eternal life. By eternal life, Jesus meant not just life that will go on after death but the fullness of life now, a life in God that cannot be terminated by death. When Jesus made clear to this fearful man—and to each of us—the soft truth that the Father loves even the unlovable, he also implied the hard truth that Christians must love their enemies. Jesus’ final words offer an even greater challenge: “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.” Condemning is easy, but God gives us a greater challenge: to love the world enough to change it.
 
- How do you allow outside influences to prevent you from fully living your faith?
 
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International

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Peres_Abbas_Francis“Peacemaking calls for courage, much more so than warfare. It calls for the courage to say yes to encounter and no to conflict: yes to dialogue and no to violence; yes to negotiations and no to hostilities; yes to respect for agreements and no to acts of provocation; yes to sincerity and no to duplicity. All of this takes courage, it takes strength and tenacity.” These were the words of Pope Francis as he gave his address for the Invocation of Peace on Sunday. The gathering was held in the Vatican Gardens and involved Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whom Pope Francis had invited during his trip to the Middle East last month. The Orthodox Christian leader Patriarch Bartholomew I, was also in attendance.
 
Reflecting on these words, I think of a friend who personifies them. My friend was a Muslim student at a Catholic College, so saying that she was a minority was an understatement. At one point, she told me, she accounted for twenty percent of the college’s Muslim students; additionally, out of this population she was one of the few practicing Muslims. Despite all of this, she chose to deeply immerse herself in unfamiliar territory by taking time to attend the Mass on campus, making friends with the priests, and taking Catholic theology courses. Her actions have caused me to reflect on my own ability to face what I perceive as unknown or intimidating – a stranger, a new environment, or a non-Catholic place of worship – with courage and a resolve to risk my own sense of comfort in order to perhaps bring about new connections.
 
When I think of this kind of courage I also think of the late Bishop Joseph McFadden of the Diocese of Harrisburg — my hometown diocese — who chose to attend and speak alone at a PA Nonbelievers meeting he had been invited to. His courage was to talk of our faith and yet also to listen, even if that meant going into an uncomfortable situation.
 
It has often been said that religious differences are the causes of many wars. Yet we know that typically the violence between different religious or cultural groups is a complex situation that is the result of multiple sociological, economic, or political factors. When religion is brought into the mix, it is often used as an ultimate stamp of justification for one party’s violent actions against another. The danger is not necessarily in the religion itself but in people in power who manipulate religion into a device for destructive purposes. This creates a situation in which the enemy is dehumanized due to its dissociation with the “right” religion.
 
Jesus’ action in reaching out to gentiles, on the other hand, is something we can imitate just as Pope Francis has done: by reaching out to those of different faiths and those of no faith, whether in dialogue or in prayer. In this way, we can give life to the principle that the religious “other” is really not a stranger but a fellow human being — perhaps even a future friend! In this way, lines drawn according to religious difference will fail before they can ever become established, and our fellow humans will not become “them” or “they” but “we” and “us.” Granted, we should also recognize, given the situation, that peace will not necessarily occur simply or without sacrifice, but that small steps performed today are the ones that increasingly ensure violence never escalates.
 
As Pope Francis has also just demonstrated, even if all these steps fail there is still prayer. Besides praying for peaceful results to conflict we also in this way ensure that our peacemaking starts with our Holy Father. So let us pray in the words of St. Francis:
 

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love,
where there is injury, pardon,
where there is discord, harmony,
where there is error, truth,
where there is doubt, faith,
where there is despair, hope,
where there is darkness, light,
and where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Amen.

 
A question to consider: How can I be a peacemaker in my office, neighborhood, or religious community?

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Holy_Spirit_Wild_GooseThere are a variety of images in both Scripture and tradition that help us to grasp the meaning of the Holy Spirit. In the Old Testament we encounter the Holy Spirit as “ruach” the very breath of God. In the New Testament, the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary and she was filled with God’s life. When Jesus was baptized, the spirit of God descended upon him as a dove and empowered him for mission. On the day of Pentecost, a rush of wind shook the house and heart of the disciples and flames of fire rested on their heads, transforming their fear and uncertainty into faith and conviction.
 
In the Celtic tradition the Holy Spirit is represented not as a peaceful dove but instead as a “wild goose.” The wild goose reveals a spirit which is passionate, noisy, and courageous. This symbol reminds us that God’s spirit cannot be tamed or contained. I suspect the wild goose was at work in the election of Pope Francis and continues to stir up the world through his homespun yet poignant language and prophetic actions.
 
There is an ancient tale about a flock of geese that through their loud cackling forewarned the lookouts in a Roman city-state of an invading army. Throughout Christian history the prophetic cries of saints, movements, and religious communities — like the calls of those geese — have alerted the Church to the need for renewal and reform. The work of renewing and reforming is never done in isolation but as part of the community of the faithful which is very human and often fearful and uncertain.
 
The Holy Spirit works through ordinary human beings like you and me to bring God’s healing and purifying presence to all of creation. Ask the Spirit of the living God, the “wild goose,” to send upon you, our Church, and our world an outpouring of God’s spirit, transforming our fear and uncertainty into faith and conviction.
 
Sr. Terry is the Executive Director of RENEW International and a Dominican Sister from Blauvelt, NY.

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Looking through a photo album, we submerge ourselves in sweet memories and reawaken long-forgotten thoughts and feelings. When we surface from this experience, we may have a better understanding of how all the connections of the past brought us through the journey of life to our present situation. In a similar manner, the communion of saints is like a photo album; each of their stories is like a snapshot that, when pieced together with the rest, gives us a better sense of connectedness within the grand narrative that is the life of the Church. Because of this compendium of holy humans, we are able to see just how the Church is better today because of their efforts in the past.
 
Today is the feast day of St. Boniface, a bishop and martyr who sought to bring Christ’s light to the German peoples in the eighth century. Pope Benedict XVI gave his impression of St. Boniface: “His ardent zeal for the Gospel never fails to impress me. At the age of 41 he left a beautiful and fruitful monastic life, the life of a monk and teacher, in order to proclaim the Gospel to the simple, to barbarians; once again at the age of 80, he went to a region in which he foresaw his martyrdom.” Benedict XVI continued: “By comparing his ardent faith, this zeal for the Gospel with our own often lukewarm and bureaucratized faith, we see what we must do and how to renew our faith, in order to give the precious pearl of the Gospel as a gift to our time” (General Audience, March 11, 2009). Additionally, we know that St. Boniface enacted many reforms within what was left of the Church of Gaul, with the result that the Church there (in western Europe) “was seen to flourish again and to shine with new splendor” (Pope Pius XII, Ecclesiae Fastos).
 
Besides being the patron saint of Germany, St. Boniface is also the patron saint of brewers. It could be surmised, then, that he would have known about the ability to procure beer through multiple generations of the same strain of yeast. If desired, during the brewing process the living yeast may be separated from the “trub” or the excess proteins, fats, and inactive yeast lying at the bottom of the brewing vat in order that the live yeast can continue to be used for additional batches of brew. This too provides an apt metaphor for the mission of St. Boniface: by reforming the corrupted Church in many of the German provinces, St. Boniface brought forth the living Church from that which had appeared to be dead. The renewed Church was then free to expand and plant new seeds that in turn sustained multiple generations.
 
It is perhaps in this way that Thuringia, a central location in Germany which was one of the many provinces St. Boniface evangelized in, continued to preserve and regenerate the faith even up until my German ancestors moved from that province in the nineteenth century and came to America. Even if quite indirectly, therefore, it is possible that the work of St. Boniface played a part in the Catholic beliefs my family held over a thousand years later. The Church brings with it and through its members an interconnectedness that has the ability to feed countless generations after it, just as Jesus’ distribution of the loaves and fish fed the five thousand. Like St. Boniface, reflecting on our place in the Church we can ask ourselves, “In what ways am I renewing my faith?” and “What actions am I taking today to foster a better Church for tomorrow?”
 
Matt is a summer intern for RENEW’s Publications and Resources team and will begin a master’s degree program at Providence College in the fall.

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“On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained’” (John 20:19-23).
 
In John’s Gospel, the silent, reassuring way Jesus came into the room was much like the way he comes into our hearts. This quiet scene is rich with both literal and symbolic significance. The locked door reveals that Jesus’ glorified body was different, uninhibited by the limitations of earthly bodies. Even more significant is God’s entrance into a heart locked by fear, prejudice, or unpleasant memories. When Jesus—without fanfare—simply stood in the midst of his frightened disciples, it suggested that from then on, his real presence would be found in the community of believers. Finally, with the symbolic gesture of breathing, Jesus signaled the infusion of an even more intense presence and power, the life-giving breath of the Spirit.
 
Since this scene took place on the Sunday evening of the Resurrection, Jesus’ first concern was to convince his startled audience that they were not seeing things. To prove that he was indeed the same person they saw nailed to the cross, he showed them his wounds. Jesus offers us the same proof of his presence by showing us the wounds all around us, not just on battlefields or in hospitals but in slums and prisons, and even in our own living rooms. Recognizing Jesus in the wounded and serving him there opens the community to receive all that he wants to give when he repeats the powerful word, “Peace.”
 
Jesus commissioned them and fulfilled his promise to send the Holy Spirit to empower them in their work. Then, the first thing Jesus told them to do with their new power was to forgive. Forgiveness opens the door to peace. Forgiveness liberates the one who forgives as well as the one forgiven. Even more, the human act of forgiveness releases the power of the Spirit into the community. Think of the power of John Paul II forgiving his would-be assassin; Nelson Mandela working for reconciliation with the very people who had imprisoned him; or the Amish of Pennsylvania reaching out in forgiveness to the family of the man who had killed a number of their young girls. Forgiveness has the power to transform our lives if we allow the Spirit to work. Imagine how different the history of the world would be, how different our daily headlines would be, if we acted out the Pentecost Gospel: “Receive the Holy Spirit of forgiveness. Open the door to peace.”
 
- Who in your life are you called to forgive, and from whom do you need to seek forgiveness?
 
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International

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Pope_Francis_Western_WallAs the disciples came to meet Jesus on a mountain just before his ascension into heaven, he gave them the commandment to “make disciples of all nations” (Mt. 28:19). Perhaps not by coincidence then, Pope Francis’ recent trip to the Middle East, in which many of his stops were characterized by ecumenical or peace-making intent, fell on the weekend before the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord. Pope Francis carried with him a sincere desire to take the love of Christ into areas ravaged by war, terrorism, and feuding based on religious, political, or ideological differences that have lasted for decades or longer.
 
In light of this trip, and of the constant barrage of news reports about world destruction, we might wonder how we can make bringing the light of Christ to all nations a reality in our daily lives. Most of us do not have the resources to travel the world nor the time to spend long stints as missionaries in foreign countries. We also do not have the ability to meet with great dignitaries or political figures as does our Holy Father. However, all of this is not to say that we can’t learn a lot from his example, or from the many great missionary saints for that matter, in order to apply this teaching to our lives.
 
For those living in the United States, or nations with great diversity, the answer should come easily. Often in our own local communities there are a large variety of ethnicities and religions that give us ample opportunity to cross cultural boundaries. In his trip, Pope Francis met with Holocaust survivors, prayed at the Western Wall, and met Patriarch Bartholomew of the Eastern Orthodox Church to discuss Christian unity. These are just a few examples of actions he performed in order to highlight the need for peace and understanding in the Middle East. Likewise, in our own communities, there are ample opportunities to explore what is beyond our current scope of living. Here are just a few examples: visit a Shabbat service with a Jewish friend while reciprocating with an invitation to attend Mass; attend a Mass in another language, or organize an interdenominational dinner in order to highlight Christian unity.
 
Recently I had an opportunity to do something just like this. While volunteering at a local library, I got to know a young woman who was a non-practicing Baptist. After a while of getting to know one another, eventually we landed on the topic of religion. As she got to know more about my Catholic background I got to know more about her Baptist background. This led to invitations to visit each other’s churches. These experiences, from which we both gained, could not have happened had either of us decided to stay within our comfort zones. During his trip, Pope Francis illustrated, as have many other popes and saints, that making disciples of all nations does not mean that we call others to come to us, but that we go out to others. Often, however, this is not a one-way street; just as Pope Francis saw Christ in the Holocaust survivors he met with, but was also Christ to them through a kiss on each of their hands, we can also both bring Christ to and see Christ in areas surrounding us that we may have overlooked.
 
- What are some of the ways that separations in our community distract us from bringing Christ to others or seeing Christ in others?
 
Matt is a summer intern for RENEW’s Publications & Resources team and will begin a master’s degree program at Providence College in the fall.

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