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When my husband and I take road trips, I take a little notebook with me and jot down highlights to remember about the journeys. When I go on a religious retreat weekend or to a day of spiritual reflection, I take a journal with me so I can record interesting and helpful concepts I hear or reflect upon throughout the experience. When I am trying to pay good attention in my personal prayer time, I write down little inspirations I receive or Bible verses that particularly touch me at the time.
 
It is useful and often enlightening to go back and review all these notes. With the road trip entries, it can be fun to relive our family adventures. The spiritual journal entries sometimes enlighten me all over again. I might read a passage and refocus on a particular word. I might surprise myself with a bit of self-revelation. I might even read a special message that God wants me to notice.
 
The writing does not have to be perfect grammar or publish-worthy. It can be just random phrases, stream of consciousness, or a Bible notation reference. Nowadays, I would not even have to carry a notebook around with me; iPads and cell phones can provide a handy place to record.
 
A number of years ago, I was inspired by some of the books of the Bible (with all due respect to biblical book titles) to begin writing a short journal-like review of my spiritual life. I suggest you might like to try your own version. For example, how about writing in gratitude about your beginnings, your fond memories of childhood—your genesis? How about the numbers in your life—, for example, 1. your relatives, 2. your friends over the years, 3. your favorite teachers or mentors, 4. your co-workers and acquaintances? What are your three favorite life maxims? What are your four best memories about church sacraments or ceremonies?
 
I made up a what-do-you-want-of-me? section in which I sought to ask the Lord what he wanted me to improve upon in my life. So as not to get too heavy, I did have a section called the book of levity, so I could record some lighter, sillier life moments.
 
Without being a poet or a songwriter, anyone can write his or her own psalms to praise and thank the Lord for all the blessings he showers down.
 
Favorite gospel stories are great jump-off places for reflection and personal life comparisons and checkups. Again, I am not recommending long, drawn-out ramblings; highlights and focus words are very useful.
 
My acts of my adulthood is a book that is still ongoing, sort of a continuing memoir—-but of the spiritual-life ilk. I hope it will contain a measure of wisdom acquired over the years. The more I write, the more there are revelations of what I need to work on to grow.
 
I cannot put myself on the same level as the prophet Jeremiah:
 

The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Write in a book all the words that I have spoken to you.

 
However, I can attest to the usefulness of journaling. As I get older, I find it very beneficial to read over important information more than once. If it has a divine flavor, better still!
 
Whether I am writing or speaking, Psalm 45:1 seems to fit right in here:
 

My heart overflows with a goodly theme;
I address my verses to the king,
my tongue is like the pen of a ready scribe.

 
Sharon Krause is a RENEW volunteer whose writing has appeared in several resources for small-group faith sharing. She is a wife, mother, and grandmother residing in Manchester, Connecticut. Over the years, she has served in many parish ministries.
 
The scripture passages are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Loving Father,
our lives are full of rocky patches and briars.
Many of these obstacles we ourselves create,
for our desires are not rooted in your Word.
Help us renew our love
and understanding of your message.
Spirit of God,
be with us and take away our fears.
Strengthen our resolve to nurture the seed
you have planted within us.
Keep us on the right path
where we can grow and truly be your disciples.
Lord Jesus, open our minds,
our eyes, our ears, and our hearts
to your loving presence in our lives.
Amen.

 
Image courtesy of www.LumoProject.com and is found at www.freebibleimages.org.
 
Adapted from PrayerTime, Cycle A: Faith-Sharing Reflections on the Sunday Gospels © RENEW International.

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A reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah
(Chapter 55:10-11)
 
Most of Israel at this time—the sixth century before the birth of Jesus—was a desert or close to it. The people were dependent on the spring rains to grow food. This last part of the Book of the Prophet Isaiah was written as the people came back from the Babylonian Exile. At last they are home, but home is a desert. Isaiah assures them that “the rain and snow come down and do not return till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, giving seed for the one who sows and bread for the one who eats.” Then, he connects it with something even more important. “So shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; my word shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I send it.” The Israelites understood this, that God’s word is powerful and accomplishes what God intends.
 
As we suffer through another week of deaths and illnesses in the pandemic, we may wonder, in our darkest moments, where the word of God is taking root. It’s taking root in the free will and goodness and bravery of so many people who are doing the right thing and saving lives.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 65:10, 11, 12-13, 14)
 
“The seed that falls on good ground will yield a fruitful harvest.” Our hope is that the “good ground” of the world’s best scientists will yield the fruit that will heal the world. Let us pray for them.
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans
(Chapter 8:18-23)
 
Here is a statement by Saint Paul that we need to hear and understand: “Brothers and sisters: I consider that the sufferings of the present time are as nothing compared to the glory to be revealed for us.” The sufferings that Paul was talking about included the oppression imposed by the Roman Empire and the grinding poverty that affected most people. But there is a great hope:
 
“We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now; and not only that, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, who also groans within ourselves as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.” I never thought of it what way, but maybe that groaning that we feel inside of us from time to time, especially now, is the Spirit inside of us, letting us know that we are not alone.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew
(Chapter 13:1-23)
 
Most of the Israelites were farmers, so Jesus often used examples that they could understand. Here he tells them, “A sower went out to sow.” This was an important job. If you did not do it correctly, nothing would grow. “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 withered for lack of roots. Some fell among thorns and the thorns grew up and chocked it. But some fell on rich soil and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold. Whoever has ears ought to hear.”
 
“The disciples approached him and said, ‘Why do you speak to them in parables?’” And Jesus answered, “Because knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted…. But blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears because they hear. Amen, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.”
 
Then, Jesus explained the parable to the disciples: “The seed sown on the path is the one who hears the word of the kingdom without understanding it, and the evil one comes and steals away what was sown in his heart. The seed on rocky ground is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy. But he has no root and lasts only for a time. When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, he immediately falls away. The seed sown among the thorns is the one who hears the word but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word and it bears no fruit. But the seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.”
 
Now, let’s move away from agriculture to our lives today. Have you ever had the Word stolen from your heart? Was it because of personal tragedy or our present societal tragedies? Did you grow up with joy in your heart as a child, only to have it lose its power as you grew older? Have the “thorns of anxiety” chocked the Word in your heart? Do you worry about things that you cannot control and shouldn’t try to, but you do, over and over? Are you a one who hears the Word and understands it, and has it borne great fruit in your life? Or, have you had several of those experiences going on at different times in your life? Join the club! Or should I say, come to the community of us believers who do not always find it easy to believe but persevere in faith.
 
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. Bill was a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.

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One day when I was around nine or ten years old, I was walking to the corner convenience store to buy a Popsicle to cool me off on a summer day. On the way, I noticed a bunch of buttons lying in the street. Hmm! I walked on by, but when they were still there the next Popsicle day, I decided to get a bag, take them home, and foster them. Why not? A little serendipitous treasure!
 
I got the buttons home and inspected them. They numbered around 50 and were quite interesting. The buttons had patterns on them: some green gingham check, some floral pattern, some raised butterfly, anchor, or beetle patterns. The buttons were small—-only about one-half inch diameter.
 
Those buttons sat in my button box for decades, like old friends-in-waiting. One day, I got creative and decided to use some of the floral buttons to decorate a plain yellow shirt I had purchased. I sewed the buttons on the bodice and sleeves. I now call this shirt my “blessings blouse” because those little buttons remind me of the plentiful, surprising, small blessings from the Lord that I have experienced in my lifetime—-like fancy buttons in the road.
 
And my gratitude grows the more I am moved to prayers and reflection. I recall other small things that lead to big and wonderful surprises. Look at Micah 5:2:
 

But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is
from of old, from ancient days.

 
Or how about the conversion of Zacchaeus, who was a man of diminutive stature? He climbed a tree to see Jesus and grew, himself, from a sinful tax collector to a generous, repentant helper of the poor. (Luke 19:1-10).
 
Although we can find many examples in the Bible of big outcomes from small beginnings, in this season of tending gardens and watching vegetation grow, I point out two more which, I am sure, are timely familiar.
 

He put before them another parable: ”The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard
seed that someone took and sewed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds,
but when it has grown, it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that
the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” (Matthew 13:31-32.)

 
Jesus tells us in Matthew 17:20b
 

“…if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain
‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.”

 
Finally, consider what Jesus did with just five barley loaves and two fish….a very small food supply for lunch for five thousand listeners! (John 6:1-14). Jesus fed all the people, and there were leftovers! What an example for us! I know we cannot work miracles like that, but sometimes our small gestures of kindness, our brief, fervent prayers, or our little gentle words of encouragement can feed the needs of others in our lives in big ways that are truly satisfying.
 
Sharon Krause is a RENEW volunteer whose writing has appeared in several resources for small-group faith sharing. She is a wife, mother, and grandmother residing in Manchester, Connecticut. Over the years, she has served in many parish ministries.
 
The scripture passages are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Dear God, we praise and thank you
for Jesus who is your Word, your revelation.
Please help us to open our hearts,
our minds, and our lives
to your truth and your way.
Help us to accept our own burdens
and to be willing to work toward
easing the burdens of others.
We believe our lives will be easy
and our burdens light
if we are joined to your Son,
who is gentle and humble of heart.
Thank you for this great Incarnation of your love!
In Jesus’ name we pray.
Amen.

 
Adapted from PrayerTime, Cycle A: Faith-Sharing Reflections on the Sunday Gospels © RENEW International.

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