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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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A reading from the Book of the Prophet Zechariah
(Chapter 9:9-10)
 
Israel was surrounded geographically on all sides by larger, more powerful nations and was often conquered as war-like kings came riding into town in horse-drawn chariots. But the prophet Zechariah presents a quite different picture of the true king:
 
“Thus says the Lord: Rejoice heartily, O daughter Zion, shout for joy O daughter Jerusalem! See, your king shall come to you; a just savior is he, meek and riding on an ass, on a colt, the foal of an ass. He shall banish the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem; the warrior’s bow shall be banished, and he shall proclaim peace to the nations. His dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth.”
 
Zechariah is talking about the hoped-for messiah who we believe was Jesus who did not enter Jerusalem on a horse and chariot as a conqueror but on an ass, a beast of burden, as a servant. He did that intentionally, to make an important point about who he really was.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 145:1-2, 8-9, 10-11, 13-14)
 
“I will praise your name forever, my king and my God.” This king is not like any other. He is “gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness.”
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans
(Chapter 8:9, 11-13)
 
“You are in the Spirit, if only the Spirit of God dwells in you. Whoever does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit that dwells in you.”
 
Paul uses the word Spirit four times in this short saying because he wants to make sure that his readers know this most important truth, that the very Spirit of God, which we call the Holy Spirit, lives in each one of us. Do you believe that for you? Do you call upon the Holy Spirit, pray to the Holy Spirit?
 
I must say that as a young man attending Catholic high school and college, I did not “get it.” I prayed to Jesus and to our Father, who were apart from me, but not the Holy Spirit who I later learned lived within me. Coming to know the presence of the Holy Spirit within my soul has been a wonderful gift. Think about it. You and I are never really alone. We have the presence of God’s own Spirit within us—always, even in our darkest, most painful moments. Please take a little time to say hello and open your heart to the Spirit.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew
(Chapter 11:25-30)
 
Jesus said to the apostles, “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 heavy 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 is light.”
 
The Jewish people were monotheists. They believed in one God who they thought of as their Father. Jesus is saying that he is the Son of that same Father and that he and the Father are one. So, Jesus is saying only that he is the Messiah but much more. He shares the very life of God. Many in his time could not get it, but Jesus wants those who do to know a different way of living—not under the yoke of an enslaver but in companionship with one who shares a yoke that is easy and a burden that is light.
 
Sometimes, especially in these hard days, it might seem that our burdens are not so light but rather heavy: the constant threat of possible illness from the pandemic, economic hardships, disruptions in our worship, isolation from so many we love, and limitations on where we can travel and what we can do.
 
What are you doing to lighten your burdens and those of people around you? What are the main sources of life for you? Do you seek them out and rejoice in them? Let us remember to be in touch with the very Spirit of God who lives in each of us.
 
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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I enjoy writing and am very conscious of words and letters. I enjoy word play, poetry, and the study of words. It is not a surprise, therefore, that I noticed the repetition of the letter P in recent news reports. For example, lately I see the words and initialisms: pandemic, protesters, protocol, politics, prejudice, PPE (personal protection equipment), and PPP (payroll protection plan). I don’t make light of the sad challenges our world is experiencing at the moment, but my brain started thinking of other uses of the letter P

for more positive words.

 
P is the first letter in prayer, and prayer is our personal and sometimes communal communication with our loving God. It should not be our last resort when all our other means of control come up short. Prayer should be our first and ongoing conversation with God, whether it is to express our love and gratitude or our cries for help.
 
P is the first letter in a title of Jesus: Prince of Peace. In the Old Testament, the prophet Isaiah (9:6) declares that a child to be born—now understood to be the Messiah—would be called the Prince of Peace. While this verse is often repeated around Christmas, we know Jesus is our Prince of Peace all of the time. In fact, now is a perfect time to pray to Jesus and invoke him by that special name as we ask for peace in our hearts and in our societies.
 
P is the first letter in psalms The Book of Psalms in the Old Testament is a collection of songs of praise, thanksgiving, history, and supplication. The psalms can be great springboards for prayer: helpful starts to personal prayer time. A favorite of mine is Psalm 111 from which I take this quote:
 

Great are the works of the Lord,
    studied by all who delight in them.
Full of honor and majesty is his work,
    and his righteousness endures forever.
(v. 2-3)

 
The Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, begins with p, and the Spirit came with many gifts for us at Pentecost. Wisdom, understanding, counsel, knowledge, fortitude, piety, and fear of the Lord are very positive, holy tools with which to carry out our evangelical mission of sharing God’s kingdom.
 
One more use of p that comes to my lettered mind is in the word praise. Every day we have so many opportunities to praise the Lord. Despite our difficulties, there is so much of God’s created beauty in nature, in our personal families, in our church families, in our own great potential, and in our hopeful hearts for which to praise him. For Jesus’ saving sacrifice for us, for giving us His Body and Blood in the Eucharist, for His guidance, patience, and mercy—the list is endless, we rightly give praise!
 
Pray, praise, and prepare the way daily for the Prince of Peace….please!
 
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 passage from Psalm 111 is 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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When my parents and I picked up my belongings from my spring semester at Loyola University in Maryland, I could not help but notice the emptiness around campus. While I returned my key and walked across the quiet bridge, I recalled the liveliness of the campus when we all had returned from spring break in March.
 
Although I could not visit the bookstore or say hello to the dining hall staff, I asked my parents if I could stop by the quad, the center of Loyola’s Evergreen campus. My favorite spot on campus, I have many fond memories on the quad: eating lunch with friends on the Humanities building porch, leading campus tours, spring concerts, and the activities fair. As I took a moment to take it all in, the statue of St. Ignatius Loyola stood out to me. It reminded me of the passion for community that the early Jesuits created, inspired by Jesus and his disciples. I’ll always remember learning about care for the whole person, one of Loyola’s core values, at my orientation. Like the Jesuits, Loyola encourages every individual to grow in mind, body, and spirit. A rising junior, I still feel the power of community through the relationships that I have made with friends, professors, fellow campus ministry interns, and peers.
 
Even though the spring semester did not finish the way I expected, the Loyola community remained strong despite physical distance. Both students and staff came together in creative ways: virtual meetings with the career center, campus ministry gatherings on Zoom, livestream masses, and Facetimes with friends. I was especially touched by the tributes and virtual send-offs for the 2020 graduates. I was happy for them that the university recognized all their hard work and accomplishments. Despite disappointments, through the pandemic we have learned to adapt and to not take for granted the gift of human connection.
 
Without a doubt, campus life will be different in the fall through virtual classes, dining hall restrictions, event cancellations, and inability to travel from campus until Thanksgiving. But I am so thankful that I will safely return to my “home away from home” in August. I got to say goodbye to my friends in March knowing that I have two years left at Loyola. I know that I will come back to campus with a deeper appreciation for my family, friends, and the wonderful community that helps me find God in everyday situations.
 
Samantha Howath, a summer intern at RENEW International, is a rising junior at Loyola University Maryland where she studies Communications and Marketing. She is a lector for Campus Ministry. Samantha is also a marketer for Loyola’s chapter of Spoon University, a food blog, and a Greyhound Ambassador for Admissions.

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Doors are a big part of our lives. We use many kinds of doors every day. We lock doors, knock on doors, hold doors for others, see who is at our door, and open and shut doors more times than would want to count. Doors symbolize opportunity, protection, freedom, new beginnings, separation, privacy, and potential. We remember that in the story of the Three Little Pigs, there was a wolf at their door!
 
We can find numerous references to doors, gates, and other entrances in the Old and New Testaments. For example, in Psalm 100, verse 4 we are told how to enter through the temple door:
 

Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise.
Give thanks to him, bless his name.

 
We should try to remember to praise and thank the Lord whenever we go through the entry of our parish church. How blessed we are to have our churches!
 
We celebrate the solemnity of the apostles Peter and Paul today. In the reading from the Acts of the Apostles (12:1-11), Peter is locked in prison, and guards keep watch at his prison door. Despite that, an angel comes and leads Peter safely out the door—an iron gate, that opened of its own accord—to leave the city. Another passage in this book records that Paul and his companion, Silas, were in prison in Philippi when an earthquake knocked down the gates. They did not flee the prison, and that led to the conversion of their jailor and the two disciples’ safe passage out of the city (16:25-40).
 
In Matthew’s Gospel (16:13-19), we read that the Church Jesus established upon the rock, Peter, will be strong; “…and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it” (v. 18b).
 
There is no question about it: doors or entrances will not stop the love and power of our Almighty God and Father. That is very reassuring! We often hear of standing before the “pearly gates” of heaven and hoping we can be admitted. We will need God’s tender mercy when we knock on heaven’s door.
 
In Deuteronomy 6, God commands Israel to love him above all things, with all of their strength, to teach the children those words, “and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (v.9). That verse inspired some simple everyday prayers that maybe we could all attach to our doors.
 
Front door prayer: Lord, bless me and my family, friends coming through this door; delivery persons doing their jobs, any strangers, rich or poor. Help me welcome everyone and pass along your peace, and whether I’m coming or going, may my love for you increase.
 
Back door prayer: Sometimes I’m not so formal; I’m more “back door” than the front! But, Lord, no matter how I am, help me be just what you want!
 
Medicine cabinet door prayer: I see toothpaste, floss and brushes, multivitamins and pills. I thank you, Lord, for healing me of my many little ills. Help keep me clean in every way, and make it always clear how I reflect your image when I look into this mirror.
 
Refrigerator door prayer: Lord, help me to be careful, to wisely stop and think, of how you want me to love myself in what I eat and drink. Thank you for my tastebuds, my senses and appetite. Help me to be generous with anyone who is hungry day and night.
 
Car door prayer: Lord, as I go for a ride in this car, keep me safe and secure, no matter how far. Protect me from danger and keep me alert, so I and my passengers will not get hurt. Thank you for all the fun journeys I’ve made, those rescues from close calls when I was afraid. Be the King of my car and the Lord of my tires. Remind me when my emission sticker expires!
 
(Bible quotes from the NRSV).
 
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.

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We are loved by our God,
yet we often love poorly.
Show us the way, Lord.
 
You have made us your sisters and brothers,
yet we often ignore the crosses
of our sisters and brothers
in God’s human family.
Show us the way, Lord.
 
Although you accept us as we are,
we often do not accept others or ourselves.
Show us the way, Lord.
 
You have showered upon us life’s blessings,
yet we often refuse to help the needy.
Show us the way, Lord.
 
Dear God, give us a new perspective.
Help us look at the world
through the eyes of Jesus the Christ,
and be truly willing to take up
our crosses and follow him.
Amen.

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

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A reading from the second Book of Kings
(Chapter 4:8-11, 14-16a)
 
The prophet Elisha was traveling to a town named Shunem where he was invited for dinner with the family of a “woman of influence.” This became the place for a meal whenever Elisha traveled in that direction. The woman suggested to her husband that they prepare a room for the prophet to stay overnight. Elisha was grateful for her generosity and asked, “Can something be done for her? His servant, Gehazi, answered, “‘Yes! She has no son, and her husband is getting on in years.’ Elisha said, ‘Call her’ When the woman had been called and stood at the door, Elisha promised, ‘This time next year you will be fondling a baby boy.’”
 
This is one of many instances in the Jewish scriptures of the power of God to bring forth new life unexpectedly, a power that would take on new meaning in the Christian era.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 89:2-3, 16-17, 18-19)
 
“Forever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.” Sometimes it is hard to see the “goodness of the Lord,” especially during times of overwhelming tragedy and sadness. We are in such times now; yet, the “goodness of the Lord” still shines forth. Where and when have you experienced this goodness? How have these experiences of love and friendship and support helped you through hard times?
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans
(Chapter 6:3-4, 8-11)
 
Here is this deep and powerful reading from the letter to the Christian community in Rome:
 
“Brothers and sisters: Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live a new life. If, then, we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. We know that Christ, raised from the dead, dies no more, death no longer has power over him. As to his death, he died to sin once and for all, as to his life, he lives for God. Consequently, you too must think of yourselves as dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus.”
 
Paul wanted his readers to know that their baptism was not just one more event in their lives; it was a life-changing event. Of course, most of the people that he was talking to were baptized as adults. Today, almost all of us were baptized as babies, so it is harder for us to realize the power of our baptism, how it unites us with Christ even before we are conscious of who he is. What does it mean for you to be “living for God in Christ Jesus”? The Spirit of God lives in each one of us. Do you ever think about that?
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew
(Chapter 10:37-42)
 
The apostles had families, and there were conflicts between the all-consuming ministry of following Jesus and family obligations. Jesus knew how hard it was for the apostles to leave their families. That is the context for what appear to be very harsh requirements for being an apostle: “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
 
But then, listen to this powerful statement: “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.” Jesus knows that his time on earth is short, so he wants to make sure that the apostles understand how hard their mission really is and how important it is.
 
What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus today? What qualities and teachings of Jesus do we live every day? How should we bear witness to the teachings of Jesus in our everyday lives, especially facing many of the evils we experience that harm individuals and whole groups of people?
 
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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I am sure we have all noticed the new practice of drive-by birthday celebrations in these days of contagion precautions. The birthday person stands outside and waves as relatives and friends—-and sometimes even the local police or rescue squads drive past the house and shout or sound their horns and sirens. It is like a party on wheels, and it is over in just a few minutes, but the message of love and caring is cleverly conveyed with posters, balloons, and celebratory smiles.
 
Today, we celebrate the nativity of John the Baptist. We cannot do a drive-by or a camel or donkey ride-by, but we can take some time to run by the story and some reasons for thanking God for such a humble and dedicated messenger of the good news of Christ’s coming.
 
The birth of John the Baptist was foretold in the Old Testament by the prophets Isaiah (40:3-5) and Malachi (3:1), but when the angel Gabriel told Zechariah that he and his wife, Elizabeth, were going to parent a son who they were to name John, Zechariah did not believe him. The angel responded by rendering Zechariah mute (Luke 1:5-25.)
 
When Elizabeth gave birth, and Zechariah insisted the baby’s name was to be John, the neighbors were more amazed and fearful than celebratory as they wondered what was in store for this child! (Luke 1:59-66) Questions! Who is this John?
 
As he grew into his mission, John was not a fancy dresser, opting for camel-hair clothing and leather belt. The attention was not supposed to be on him but on his message to his followers—namely, the importance of repentance because of the coming of the Messiah. John was the advance man, the one who baptized with water in advance of the Savior who would baptize with the Spirit and fire. John baptized Jesus at Jesus’ request, but John knew he was not worthy of performing this ritual. And at that moment, “a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’”
 
John had a calling to fulfill, and he was diligent and faithful. We know the good news about Jesus, but how diligent and faithful are we about spreading it? We certainly have a good model to follow, although we may need to use personal anecdotal stories or carefully look for opportunities to teach others about the God of mercy, love, and kindness. John was not afraid to admonish people who were sinful. We can more gently encourage others to turn from sinful tendencies and trust in God’s forgiveness.
 
John the Baptist understood that his job was to point the way to the Messiah. He was there to guide others, and ultimately, he died a martyr’s death. In Matthew 11:11a, Jesus said: Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist….
 
Let us pray and ask John the Baptist to help us look attentively for Jesus in our everyday life experiences and to proclaim Jesus’ saving presence in this drive-by world of ours!
 
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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The Church recently celebrated Corpus Christi: the solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Jesus. As I listened to my priest give a homily on what it means to be the body of Christ, my mind wandered to America’s current unrest. “When I distribute Communion and say ‘the body of Christ,’” the priest said, “I am both affirming the individual in front of me and the physical host in my hand.” These words reminded me that we are the body of Christ, and our brothers and sisters in Christ are hurting because of injustice. As Catholics, we must both prepare ourselves to receive Communion and allow the reception of it to inspire our actions.
 
Catholic Social Teaching informs Catholics about the values of solidarity, the life and dignity of the human person, call to family, community and participation, rights and responsibilities, the preferential option for the poor and vulnerable, the dignity of work and workers, and care for God’s creation. All of these values add up to tell us that we should care about our black brothers and sisters.
 
In the past few weeks, we have seen protestors gather in huge numbers in cities and towns across the country. Many of the young people looking to change the unjust situation in our country are the same young people who sit next to you in your Church pews on Sunday. Perhaps they are fighting for justice because they remember the stories of Jesus radically loving the vulnerable and marginalized of society.
 
By acknowledging how police brutality and systemic racism devalue the life of black Americans the Church has a powerful opportunity to show what it means to be pro-life. While being pro-life means working to eliminate abortion or the death penalty, it also means fighting for equality for all people. Actively living a pro-life lifestyle means working to end discrimination and promote anti-racist language, behavior, and policies. It means standing up for populations who do not have a voice. It means listening, learning, extending empathy, and amplifying voices that are different from yours.
 
We are the Body of Christ. Let us be the hands that help, the ears that listen, the minds that work for reform, and the bodies that work for justice.
 
Jessica Guerriero is the RENEW Theology on Tap Coordinator and is a student majoring in Catholic Studies at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas.

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If we stop and think, we all can pinpoint certain turning points in our lives. It is surely an understatement to say that there are numerous life-changing events taking place in this virus-ridden, protest-filled world of ours. When something drastic and traumatic explodes in our lives, life’s puzzle pieces might not fall back to configure as once they did.
 
St. Paulinus of Nola, whom we remember today, had many pieces to his life story. Biographical summaries tell us that he took an early retirement from his practice of law and public office only to turn from this whole luxurious way of life after his newborn child died. Subsequently, he and his wife were baptized and chose a very austere life filled with charity and love for the poor. He was ordained a priest, founded a monastic community, and eventually became the bishop of Nola, in Campania, Italy. He had many famous and influential friends and was a notable prose writer and poet. Ultimately, many people benefited from St. Paulinus’s alteration of lifestyle.
 
St. Paulinus followed the message in the gospel passage read at his memorial mass:
 
“Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Luke 12:33-34)
 
We are bombarded with advertising promotions and gimmicks. We are encouraged to want and buy more and more products. The ads don’t encourage us to buy for the poor or downsize our own wardrobes or the contents of our cupboards and donate the proceeds to those in need. It would be quite a turning point in our economy if, instead of trying to get businesses flourishing again by buying more extravagantly, we were to sell our possessions and give our excesses away. Granted, we don’t want to see businesses go under, but what if we were to try, little by little, to refocus our perceptions of and responses to those people less fortunate than we are? Drastic changes can cause trauma and drama, but one small calculated turn can lead to another.
 
Recent pandemic experience has brought to light the fact that many people live from paycheck to paycheck. On the other hand, it highlighted for me how much I spend on eating at restaurants and shopping recreationally for items I really don’t need. Perhaps enlightened turning points are at hand.
 
Just as we do when we turn a car at an intersection, it is wise to slow down and look around. Maybe it is time to reassess our treasures, check our hearts, and invite God into our individual challenges. As we pray for peace, justice, and health in our troubled world, may we find renewed strength in the knowledge that God’s masterful timing and presence are always with us.
 
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 Gospel Passage is 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.

(Resources: franciscanmedia.org , Catholic Encyclopedia, and catholic.org)

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Lord, your love for us is overwhelming.
The very hairs on our head are counted,
yet we ignore the needs of others.
You have guided us toward goodness and life
despite our unfaithfulness.
The power of the world often is the voice
to which we turn.
We are a fearful people, often lacking in faith
and trust in you.
Lord, give us the courage
to speak and act in your name.
You are our loving Father.
We rejoice in your compassionate concern for us.
Help us to show compassion to the people in our world.
With the help of your Holy Spirit,
we will be your witnesses.
We pray in Jesus’ name.
Amen.

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

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