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“Then taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing over them, broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. They all ate and were satisfied. And when the leftover fragments were picked up, they filled twelve wicker baskets”
(Luke 9:16-17).
 
Bread is a simple, filling food, the mainstay of the poor. Until relatively recently in history, bread or other grain products made up the bulk of most people’s diets.
 
In Angela’s Ashes, Frank McCourt’s account of his impoverished childhood in Ireland, he describes going to confession, ready to atone for stealing bread for his hungry family. He expected the worst from the priest, but the priest offered instead a scathing indictment of the social conditions in which young Frank was forced to steal bread for his very survival. The priest told the boy that he was not a sinner but that rest of the community might have something to atone for.
 
That priest was echoing the compassion of Jesus in the gospel story of the multiplication of loaves and fishes. The Lord knew that the people who had gathered to listen to him were hungry. Yet, he didn’t let them remain hungry nor send them back to town where they may or may not have found provisions. Instead, Jesus broke bread and some simple fish, blessed them, and distributed them to the crowd.
 
Just before we receive the Eucharist at every Mass we attend, we pray that God will “give us this day our daily bread.” Yet many go without food while we enjoy more than enough and throw away what we don’t care to eat. What does it mean to receive the Body of Christ while others go hungry? Eucharist is about helping to satisfy spiritual hunger, and it nourishes us for the work of bringing about justice, of providing for the hungry, and working to eliminate hunger. Eucharist is about living who we are as the body of Christ in our world.
 
The next time you are offered the body of Christ, think about the work it is giving you the strength to do. Pope Benedict the XVI said it well: “A Eucharist which does not pass over into the concrete practice of love is intrinsically fragmented.”
 
– How does thinking about physical hunger affect your experience of receiving the Body of Christ?
 
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International

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TrinityFrom earliest times, our ancestors have recognized and been awestruck by God’s love for us and his mercy in creating and sustaining us. The Book of Proverbs revels in the idea that the creator “found delight in the human race” (Proverbs 8:31). And the Psalmist sings a song of wonder: “What is man that you should be mindful of him, or the son of man that you should care for him?” (Psalm 8:4-5).
 
Shortly after becoming bishop of Rome, Pope Francis explained that “God is not something vague, abstract, but has a name: ‘God is love.’” This love is not sentimental or emotional, “but the love of the Father who is the source of all life, the love of the Son who died on the cross and rose, the love of the Spirit who renews man and the world.”
 
This we know as the Trinity, one God in three Persons, the central mystery of our faith, beyond the power of human reasoning to understand or explain. The Trinity, Pope Francis says, is “the face which God himself revealed.”
 
Our prayer today:
 

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ
and the love of God
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all.

 
Peter W. Yaremko, a former journalist, is the owner of Executive Media, Inc. and is a specialist in executive communications. He attends St. Peter the Apostle Church in Provincetown, Massachusetts and blogs at peterwyaremko.com/paradise_diaries.

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“Jesus said to his disciples: ‘I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming. He will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you. Everything that the Father has is mine; for this reason I told you that he will take from what is mine and declare it to you'” (John 16:12-15).
 
The feast we celebrate this Sunday is all about relationships. The Trinity offers us a model for living in right relationship. The Trinity is at the center of what being a Christian is all about: being in right relationship with our God, our brothers and sisters, and our world.
 
How can we begin to understand the relationships within the Trinity—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit? The Father cannot do anything but love, and that love is poured out in creation and in the sending of Jesus Christ, God’s Son. God’s love is so immense that one can make sense of God as Father only as He is in relationship with the Son and the Spirit. We can’t understand Christ as God’s son without thinking of the Father as sending forth Christ. The Son makes sense only in returning to the Father. God calls the Son back, and the Son chooses to return to him The Spirit has moved throughout history, inspiring the prophets so that in the fullness of time Christ came to earth and redeemed us. That presence of Christ continues today through the Spirit, as we are continually called back to Christ through the way we live and love.
 
We are made to be in relationships, because we are human beings who are created in the image and likeness of God. And through our baptism we are adopted as God’s children, as we are plunged into the relationship of the Trinity—we are literally baptized “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
 
Only in relationships are we fully human, fully alive, as God has created us to be. The Trinity is a model of this sense of radical interconnectedness to which we are called—and it is through the Trinity that all our right relationships flourish.
 
Relationships are inherently dynamic—they change and grow, as do the people within them. They are meant to be life-enhancing, and at their best, allow each of us to become more fully who we’re meant to be.
 
The Trinity offers us great encouragement but also great challenge. For in and through others we are led to God; however, we are also called to help lead others to God. The Trinity is a model that can serve as a great witness to how we are to live, love, and grow throughout our lives.
 
– How are you imitating the model of God’s love in your relationships?
 
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International

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Holy_SpiritThe prophet Elijah sought God in windstorm and earthquake and fire. But he heard God only as a “still, small voice” (1 Kings 19:12). In Psalm 46, we are advised to “Be still, and know that I am God.”
 
But after more than a week of prayer in the upper room, the apostles were visited by the Paraclete, who came like a wind that shook the place where they were hiding and poured out tongues of flame.
 
The apostles, their souls now on fire, boldly went out into a perilous marketplace to announce the good news of God’s love. Jesus had fulfilled his promise that “the Spirit of truth” would come to guide them to a new understanding of God’s redeeming mercy.
 
“Now they would no longer be ashamed to be Christ’s disciples,” Pope Francis said in his Pentecost homily last year. “Filled with the Holy Spirit, they would now understand ‘all the truth,’ that the death of Jesus was not his defeat but the ultimate expression of God’s love.”
 
Our prayer today:
 

Holy Spirit of Truth,
grant us the same courage you gave to the apostles so we, too,
may be bold witnesses to the Father’s loving mercy.

 
Peter W. Yaremko, a former journalist, is the owner of Executive Media, Inc. and is a specialist in executive communications. He attends St. Peter the Apostle Church in Provincetown, Massachusetts and blogs at peterwyaremko.com/paradise_diaries.

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Pentecost“When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.
 
Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem. At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd, but they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language. They were astounded, and in amazement they asked, ‘Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans? Then how does each of us hear them in his native language?’” (Acts 2:1-9).
 
The story of Pentecost is fundamentally about understanding and communication; but to better appreciate it, we need to look back at story of the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11). In this familiar story, the arrogant people try to build a tower to heaven in order to gain fame. God is not pleased by this and decides to “confuse their language, so that one will not understand what another says” (Genesis 11:7). The people can no longer communicate, the tower project is abandoned, and the people spread apart from each other. This story is more than an attempt to explain the different languages of the world. It warns us to rely on God rather than our own abilities and arrogance, or risk losing an understanding of each other and the security of community.
 
At Pentecost, the tower event is reversed! The disciples, all from Galilee, are able to communicate what they have experienced and heard to people from all around the world. The disciples had experienced Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection and then had been commissioned by the Spirit to bring Jesus’ message of love, tolerance, renewal, and mission all people. Jesus becomes that which unites people and allows for common understanding.
 
We, too, are commissioned to be disciples of Jesus and to communicate his message to others. We can recommit ourselves today to being open to the Spirit of God at work, as the disciples were at Pentecost. Through the Spirit, we can become witnesses to love through both word and action. Living our lives in the service of others communicates the incredible depth of God’s love to those for whom and with whom we serve.
 
– What part of Jesus’ message of love is most challenging for me to accept or live out?
 
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International.

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child_at_mass“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea, and Samaria, and to the ends of the world.’’ Acts 1:8
 
The act of sharing your faith, being a witness to Christ, can be difficult, a bit scary, and sometimes risky. Recently a young mother shared with me how she took that risk in a very natural and authentic way. Amy admits that her faith used to be more cultural than a personal faith in Christ. But she now has a living faith and tries to give her crazy, busy life over to God each day with intention and joy. Although it is a struggle with two very active preschool boys, she and her husband attend Mass weekly. She recently moved into a new neighborhood and joined the local parish. She mentioned this to a new neighbor, also a young mother. Her neighbor said that she, too, is a Catholic, but that it was difficult to take her small children to Mass. She told Amy that her family would eventually go to Mass once the children needed to go to religion class. Amy shared how much attending Mass strengthened her faith and their family, and how she managed her two young boys during Mass. “I bring Cheerios and a book,” she said, “and the boys are usually pretty good.” Their sharing continued, and then Amy said, “Why don’t you go with us next week? We can all sit together.” The woman replied, “Yes, okay, I would like that. I haven’t felt right about not going to Mass.”
 
Although sharing your faith can be difficult, it can also be natural, loving and fulfilling.
 
Studies reveal that the most effective way to share one’s faith is through meaningful relationships. More than 80 percent of unchurched people who come to faith in Christ said it was through the witness of a friend, neighbor, co-worker or a family member. Evangelization is simply sharing how God is real in our lives, how God loves, accompanies, and strengthens us on our life’s journey. We witness to Christ alive in us through our words and through the goodness of our lives.
 
We cannot change hearts, or give someone faith—faith is a gift that comes through God’s grace. But we can be God’s humble, gentle, and persistent instruments. Our faith sharing must be rooted in the joy and ongoing transformation that grows from a vibrant relationship with God and the love for the person to whom we give witness. Jesus invites us in Acts 1:8 not to do witnessing but to be witnesses by embodying the teaching of Christ to love one another especially the least among us.
 
Sr. Terry Rickard is the Executive Director of RENEW International and a Dominican Sister from Blauvelt, NY.
 
Listen to Sr. Terry’s podcast of this blog.
 

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JesusIf Jesus forgave and prayed for those who were nailing his hands and feet to the cross, how much more does he love us who turned to him in repentance during Lent? This is a most welcome thought as we journey through this Jubilee Year of Mercy.
 
As Eastertide draws to an end, we should pay attention to the urging of Saint Leo the Great, who was pope from 440 until his death in 461. In one of his sermons, he said, “What is to happen to our bodies should now take place in our hearts.”
 
In other words, not only should we keep the reality of Christ’s resurrection alive in spirit, but we should also conduct ourselves as resurrection people who someday will be citizens of heaven.
 
As members of the Body of Christ, we can take comfort in Pope Leo’s promise that “the body that ascended above all the heights of heaven to the right hand of the Father’s glory is ours. If we walk in the way of his commandments, we, too, will rise to share in the glory of Easter.”
 
Our prayer today:
 

Jesus, we thank you today
for sharing your resurrection with us
and making us forever an Easter people.

 
Peter W. Yaremko, a former journalist, is the owner of Executive Media, Inc. and is a specialist in executive communications. He attends St. Peter the Apostle Church in Provincetown, Massachusetts and blogs at peterwyaremko.com/paradise_diaries.

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“Jesus said to his disciples:
‘Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold I am sending the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.’
Then he led them out as far as Bethany, raised his hands, and blessed them. As he blessed them he parted from them and was taken up to heaven. They did him homage and then returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and they were continually in the temple praising God” (Luke 24:46-53).
 
Have you ever had a friend who moved away and who at first, visited so often that it was as if the move never happened? But after a while the new place took precedence, and the visits became less frequent and, finally, came to an end. How might you have responded differently if you knew a certain visit was the last time you were going to see your friend? Would that visit have been special?
 
It may have seemed much the same way for the disciples after the resurrection. Jesus was gone, but he appeared and spoke with them several times. When he took the disciples out to Bethany, blessed them, and ascended into heaven, surely it gave them quite a shock! Was Jesus gone? Jesus left the disciples physically, but they knew he wasn’t completely “gone,” because he promised that God would send to them the power to continue preaching his mission of love.
 
We are the inheritors of this same mission. The disciples handed off this mission to spread the Word to others who handed it off to others, all the way down to us. God did not send “power from on high” only to the disciples in Jesus’ time. We have come to recognize that the Holy Spirit still moves in us and among us, filling us with joy and enabling us to speak of and praise God.
 
– In what ways have you felt empowered by God to speak or do something?
 
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International.

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“Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed saying:
‘Holy Father, I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them
                                 even as you loved me’ ” (John 17:20-23).
 
Perhaps you’ve heard of a “Last Lecture Series” wherein noted experts in their fields share the wisdom they would impart to the world if they knew it was their last chance. Maybe you’ve seen the last lecture of Carnegie Mellon professor, Dr. Randy Pausch. Because he was dying of cancer, Dr. Pausch’s last lecture was not an imagined premise but truly one of his last chances to pass on his wisdom. It is an inspiring testament.
 
This gospel passage is known as Jesus’ farewell discourse, the last time he addressed his disciples before he was arrested and crucified. Here he expresses his deepest prayers for himself, his disciples, and for those who will come to believe in him.
 
Jesus prays explicitly that our participation in the divine life be realized in a life of love and unity. Several times he prays that his followers may be one, just as he and the Father are one. We are to share in the oneness of God by being one with each other and by recognizing our unity in Christ.
 
Hearing this account of Jesus’ “last lecture” is a good opportunity to assess those places in our lives that do not reflect the divine life within us and that draw us away from unity and love. When we do not act according to our beliefs, we can experience division within ourselves, and that promotes division in our relationships with others and with God. Jesus’ challenge and promise in this passage offer us an opportunity to look at these struggles and ask ourselves if our actions reflect the life that Christ prays for us to have.
 
– In what areas of your life do you struggle most to maintain unity between your Christian beliefs and your actions?
 
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International.

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Mary_JesusMay is traditionally the month dedicated to the Mother of God. She holds special significance for us during this Jubilee Year of Mercy because, through her willingness to bear the Christ child, God became “visible’’ in a particular way as the Father who is rich in mercy.
 
Pope Saint John Paul II, in his encyclical Dives in Misericordia (Rich in Mercy), calls Jesus the incarnation of mercy. No one has ever seen God (John 1:18), but by virtue of Mary’s motherhood, God is made known to us by Christ, and known above all in Christ’s “relationship of love” for humanity.
 
Mary spoke some very heart-warming words during her visit to her cousin, Elizabeth—“His mercy is from generation to generation”—heart-warming words because God’s mercy continues to be revealed in her and through her—right down to us today.
 
Mary obtained mercy in an exceptional way, as no other person has. She, then, has the deepest knowledge of the mystery of God’s mercy.
 
Our prayer today:
 

Mary, Mother of Mercy,
we thank you for your share in revealing God’s mercy.
Pray for us now and at the hour of our death.

 
Peter W. Yaremko, a former journalist, is the owner of Executive Media, Inc. and is a specialist in executive communications. He attends St. Peter the Apostle Church in Provincetown, Massachusetts and blogs at peterwyaremko.com/paradise_diaries.

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“Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.
‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid’” (John 14:23, 27).
 
Peace and love, love and peace. It seems this is all we’ve been hearing for several weeks; yet, just as the disciples before us, we are challenged once again to love and to be peace for the world. When we read or hear about a violent place where people are hoping for or working to achieve peace, it is not the same as the peace spoken of in this Scripture reading—“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.”
 
Shalom—the one word of Hebrew that almost everyone knows. Jesus entrusts to us the rich heritage of peace that he received from his own tradition and from his Father. Shalom is not what we usually consider to be peace—the absence of war and strife. It is a positive state in which all is right between us and God, and between us and all of God’s creation. This is the true peace that Jesus wishes for us. Such shalom is made possible only by the reconciliation of the world to the Father in Christ.
 
Jesus promises shalom, an active peace. It is the task of peace, the making right of relationships, the seeking of peace. Shalom is similar to the peace we are to seek with others before we gather in the celebration of the Eucharist. We are to heal the broken body of the Church and any of our relationships before sharing the Body of Christ and the shalom that calls us to “be peace” for others.
 
We are called to make shalom happen—to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to bring good news to all those who need it, to bring peace to all. Shalom is the greatest gift Christ left us. Spreading this peace is the greatest gift we can give to others.
 
How have you experienced shalom in your life?
 
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International.

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last_supperAt the Last Supper, Jesus gave us what could be called his final, “death bed” request.
 
He summed up the entire sense of his incarnation, teaching, passion, death, and resurrection in these few words:
 

“Love one another.
As I have loved you, so you also should love
one another.
This is how all will know that you are my disciples,
if you have love for one another.”

 
This might also be the greatest message of the Jubilee Year of Mercy—that we can be assured God loves us.
 
St. John Chrysostom, the revered archbishop of Constantinople and Father of the Church, pointed out that for St. Paul, “The most important thing of all was that he knew himself to be loved by Christ. Enjoying this love, he considered himself happier than anyone else.”
 
There is a beautiful song by Gregory Norbert, often heard in our churches. Its refrain says, “All I ask of you is forever to remember me as loving you.”
 
If we can live a life rich in love for God, self, and one another, as Jesus instructs, we will be blessed to have these poetic and saving words as our epitaph.
 
Our prayer today:
 

Dear Jesus,
grant us the grace and perseverance
to love one another as you love us.

 
Peter W. Yaremko, a former journalist, is the owner of Executive Media, Inc. and is a specialist in executive communications. He attends St. Peter the Apostle Church in Provincetown, Massachusetts and blogs at peterwyaremko.com/paradise_diaries.

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“’My children, I will be with you only a little while longer. I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another’” (John 13:33a, 34-35).
 
James and Kati Kim and their two small daughters settled into their car to return home from their Thanksgiving trip to the Pacific Northwest. Soon they would be sharing the news of their trip with family and friends. All it took was one wrong turn and their car became hopelessly stuck in deep snow. With no cars and no people in sight, James and Kati knew they were in serious trouble. They rationed their food, ran the car to keep warm until the gas was gone, and even burned the car’s tires to attract attention. Finally, after several days, James made a tough decision—he would have to leave and go look for help.
 
“Husband and father lost!” became the headline after Kati and the girls were rescued. People across the country prayed for James’ rescue, but days later his body was discovered about a mile away from the car.
 
James’ love for his family led him to make the decision to risk his life in order to save the lives of his wife and daughters. This is the kind of love to which Jesus challenges the disciples in this Gospel passage, a serious, doing for others, giving-of-my-whole-self love! Jesus tells the disciples their love should be based on the love he has shown them, from the lowly task of washing their feet, to a painful and humiliating death on the cross.
 
In light of the depth of Jesus’ love, the command to “love as I have loved,” can seem daunting, but we must do what we can to live it out. Some show it by working toward justice; by reaching out to those in need; by running into the wilderness or a burning building to save others, reaching out beyond themselves to love in the way Jesus challenges us all to love.
 
– When have you experienced agapé (self-sacrificial love) or shown it for others?
 
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International.

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jesus_good_shepherdThe relationship we have with Jesus is wonderfully expressed when we call him the “Good Shepherd.” Jesus guards, guides, protects, and watches over us, just as a human shepherd cares for his flock.
 
The image of Christ bearing a lamb on his shoulders is one of the earliest expressions of his love for us. The Good Shepherd leaves the ninety-nine in the flock to save the lost one. When he finds the lamb wandering in the mountains, he does not exhaust it by driving it ahead of himself. Instead, he lifts it to his shoulders and, mercifully, restores it to safety.
 
Then he instructs us to be like our heavenly Father—holy, perfect, and merciful.
 
In proclaiming the Holy Year of Mercy, Pope Francis called it an opportunity “to experience strongly within ourselves the joy of having been found by Jesus, the Good Shepherd who has come in search of us because we were lost.” It is a year, he noted, “in which to be touched by the Lord Jesus and to be transformed by his mercy, so that we may become witnesses to mercy.”
 
Our prayer today:
 

We thank you, Jesus,
that in your boundless mercy you embrace our lost souls
and carry us to redemption.

 
Peter W. Yaremko, a former journalist, is the owner of Executive Media, Inc. and is a specialist in executive communications. He attends St. Peter the Apostle Church in Provincetown, Massachusetts and blogs at peterwyaremko.com/paradise_diaries.

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The Good Shepherd“Jesus said: ’My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one’” (John 10:27-30).
 
A missionary priest, reflecting on his ministry among the Maasai people of Tanzania and Kenya, admitted he sometimes had problems explaining to them the references in scripture. However, they instinctively understood one magnificent image —the Good Shepherd. In their culture, the work and image of a shepherd is part of their everyday life.
 
As a nomadic people who live with an oral tradition, the Maasai do not have a complex numbering system. Maasai shepherds give each animal a name, often a nickname that describes its character and attributes. The shepherd identifies the sheep this way because he knows each one individually. This is exactly the image which Jesus uses in this Sunday’s Gospel reading: “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.”
 
In our culture, being called a sheep generally means a person is too easily led or thoughtlessly goes along with the crowd. But in this Gospel passage, Jesus is not calling us to be mindless followers. Rather, Jesus, who knows us better than we know ourselves, calls each of us by name. He says that the sheep that belong to him will never be lost. They cannot even be taken from him. What person, valued by the Good Shepherd as a unique man or woman, would ever want to leave?
 
– The Good Shepherd will never let his sheep be lost or be taken from him. How does this image comfort you? How does this image challenge you?
 
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International.

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