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A reading from the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah
(Chapter 20:7-9)
 
Being a prophet of God has never been easy for anyone, but for Jeremiah it was excruciating: “I say to myself, I will not mention him, I will speak in his name no more. But then it becomes like a fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it.” Wow! Talk about suffering and unhappiness, and this is only one of Jeremiah’s famous lamentations. Jeremiah had much to be unhappy about. God asked him to deliver a powerful message of repentance to the people in a time of crisis. Jeremiah did, and the people hated him for it and tortured him, imprisoned him, and tried to murder him. No wonder he was so angry with God; and yet, he stayed on message, faithful to his call.
 
Have you ever had an especially difficult call from God? Maybe it did not entail such a dangerous undertaking, but it had a painful effect on you. Perhaps it was the loss of someone you loved, a long illness, another kind of tragedy. Or perhaps it was having to stand up for truth and love in the face of rejection and condemnation. Whatever it was, you need not be alone in your suffering. A willing listener may not heal your pain but may lighten your load.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 63:2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9)
 
“My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.” This is the prayer of a man who lived in the desert and knew what it meant to be thirsty every day. We have only to turn on a faucet to quench our thirst, and we have only to ask God for the water of life, and we will receive.
 
A reading from the letter to the Romans
(Chapter 12:1-2)
 
“Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind that you may discern what is the will of God.” Rome, in Paul’s time, was a very sophisticated, cosmopolitan city. The Romans had brought clean water through a series of aqueducts as well as the best roads and architecture of the time, but they had also brought many false gods, a violent tyranny, and racist repression of Jews and other minorities. However, since the overall material standard of living was better than it was in most places in the ancient world, Christians could easily fall away from the deeper truth.
 
I think Paul would see a parallel in our society today with all its modern wonders but also with the over-the-top graphic violence, extreme injustice, distortions of sexuality, and worship of the false god of greed. He would ask us again to “be transformed by the renewal of your mind.”
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew
(Chapter 16:21-27)
 
In gospel passage read at last Sunday’s Masses, Peter gets it right. He identifies Jesus as the Son of God, and Jesus calls him a rock upon which Jesus will build his Church. Here, Peter gets it wrong. He can’t believe that Jesus will be killed: “Then Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him. God forbid, Lord! No such thing should ever happen to you.” But Jesus replies, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” So now Peter is not being called a rock, but rather an obstacle, a “stumbling stone.” Why? “Because you are thinking not as God does but as human beings do.” That is certainly a great deal to ask of Peter—to think as God does—but it is necessary if Peter is to lead the Church. Be steadfast, like a rock not a stumbling stone.
 
Have you ever tried to think as God does? Suppose someone treats you unjustly and tries to make it feel as if it is your fault. You’re furious, and rightfully so, but what do you do? Do you focus your righteous anger on the offender and go after him or her? Or do you step back, ask someone you trust for advice, and then move forward, not seeking revenge but rather truth and justice? Suppose someone betrays your trust on a very important matter in such a way that your reputation is at risk? Or think of something that has actually happened to you. Did you respond in God’s way or in your way?
 
Jesus never asked Peter to be perfect. He knew all too well that Peter was an impetuous, imperfect man, but he challenged Peter to think “as God does.” It did not always work for Peter, and it won’t for us either, but we can try, one step at a time, one decision at a time, one move, one word that is more loving, more compassionate than before.
 
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 have way too many shoes! I am not a collector as Imelda Marcos was, but over the years I have acquired different colored shoes to go with certain outfits, shoes that are so comfortable I just cannot get rid of them, and shoes that are appropriate for certain sports activities. Shoes go with different occupations I have had; I worked in a store for about a year, and I was on my feet the whole work shift, so I had to have foot comfort. If one’s feet hurt, it can be very distracting! Today, shoes also bring to my mind the many varied paths we are called to follow in life.
 
St. Monica of Hippo, whose memorial we celebrate today, probably did not have much time to think about her shoes or how comfortable she was. She lived with a testy mother-in-law and a husband who had a bad temper and licentious habits. Her son, Augustine, grew up acquiring immoral life habits of his own, and adopting a Manichean heresy. However Monica was shod, she walked a life of deep faith, persistent prayer, and fasting. Her efforts were rewarded as her mother-in-law and husband at last became Christians. After following her son to Rome and Milan, she finally got to see Augustine baptized before she died.
 
Without a doubt, a mother’s shoes can be hard to fill. The gospel reading for the optional memorial mass today (Luke 7:11-17) includes the account of the poor widowed mother in Nain coping with the death of her only son. Jesus was filled with compassion and brought the man back to life.
 
So many times, as I saw my daughter growing up, I prayed to the Lord for guidance, and he was always there to help, even if I grew impatient because he did not necessarily agree with my timeline. Have you had that experience?
 
I think of the teachers who may be struggling with the prospect of putting on their classroom shoes as they return to instruct children while the virus pandemic makes outcomes iffy. I encourage prayers for safe outcomes.
 
I think of all the medical professionals’ worn-out shoes as doctors, nurses, and technicians struggle to do the best jobs they can do. I pray for good soles for these good souls!
 
I think about the shoes, usually sandals, mentioned in Bible stories. I would not need any shoes if I were with Moses as God spoke to him in the burning bush (Exodus 3:5) or with Joshua as he spoke to the commander of the army of the Lord in a vision (Joshua 5:15); in both cases all shoes were off as Moses and Joshua stood on holy ground. In Ruth 4:7-8, we read of the practice of giving a sandal to attest to the exchange of property. And, of course, we remember how John the Baptist declared how unworthy he was to even untie the thong of Jesus’ sandal (John 1:27).
 
As the presidential election approaches, the campaigning gets hot and heavy. With the decision of who will wear the shoes of the U.S. president in January getting closer, I hope the contenders will consider St. Paul’s advice to the Ephesians (6:15) as he describes the whole armor of God, including the shoes:

As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim
the gospel of peace.

 
Resources: OpenBible.info; franciscanmedia.org.
 
Photo credit: William Warby
 
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.
 
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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Having attended parochial schools most of my school-age years, I was well acquainted with rules, laws, and commandments. Fear of breaking rules became second nature to me; I always wanted to please everyone. I was very compliant. As I got older, however, I got a bit weary and tended toward minimalism of a sort: I did pretty much what I was supposed to do, but did not add much frosting on the duty-cake of life. I just wanted to stay in good standing with God and others.
 
Fortunately, more self-awareness, a degree of maturity, and some wonderful, inspirational people have helped me to understand a better approach to being a loving follower of Jesus. While I have not attained sainthood yet, I will share a few observations.
 
Let’s start at the top. Matthew quotes Jesus in chapter 5 of his Gospel:

“But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile,go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.” (v. 39-42)

 
Certainly, one message here is to not return evil with evil; but another dimension to this instruction taps into our abilities to be generous, to offer a bit more than just breaking even.
 
Consider the familiar Bible story of the Good Samaritan. Yes, Jesus teaches about who is our neighbor, but that Samaritan is very generous! He could have just applied first aid and dropped the wounded man off at the inn; but he went farther, offering to pay any additional cost for the man’s care.
 
Also, in Matthew’s Gospel (18:22), Jesus tells us to forgive others—not seven times, but seventy-seven. Couldn’t Jesus have suggested seventeen or forty-seven times? He knew we would be happier if we went the distance, a little farther.
 
I have some suggestions for you which have proven helpful to me. At your prayer time, when reading a Bible passage, take the time to read it a second or third time. Perhaps, see how other gospel writers describe the same incident in Jesus’ life. Add just a few minutes of reflection.
 
When you pray for a friend or relative, take a little more time to pray for that person’s caregiver, spouse, or parent, or maybe pray about a special worry with which that person struggles. It only takes an extra minute or two.
 
I packed two bags of my clothes to donate to charity. I stopped and took a few extra minutes to look around; I found some hats and gloves in other drawers that I could add to the offerings.
 
I took a short walk this morning around my neighborhood. It was a lovely, cool morning. I saw some gorgeous dark red flowers on a bush and a stunning Rose of Sharon bush with pretty blue blossoms. I was moved to praise and thank God for his beautiful creation, and then I added a small thank-you prayer for his gifts to me—that I could walk and see. It was like a P.S. on a written letter, a little afterthought that I could not forget.
 
My last suggestion concerns store clerks. I always thank them for any assistance they give me, but now I try to compliment their smile or their hairdo or something that requires me to add a little more loving attention.
 
Now I thank you, readers, for your attention today. Know that I have added just a few more prayers for your peace and joy to my prayer list.
 
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.
 
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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Loving Redeemer,
thank you for the chance to live in your presence
and to continue to learn more about you.
Help us to seek you in all we say and do.
Reveal yourself to us and help us to grow
in our love and devotion to you.
In your name we pray.
Amen.

 
Adapted from The Word on Campus © RENEW International.

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A reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah
(Chapter 22:19-23)
 
This is the sad story of two men who, in turn, held a powerful position in the royal house, being master of the palace. “Thus says the Lord to Shebna, master of the palace: ‘I will thrust you from your office and pull you down from your station. On that day I will summon my servant Eliakim, son of Hilkiah; I will clothe him with your robe, and gird him with your sash, and give over to him your authority.”
 
That seems to be it. God choses a new man who will be faithful and do the right thing. Shebna was a bad, self-absorbed leader, so God chooses Eliakim who will do better. But that is not the end of the story, because Eliakim turns out no better and abuses his power to enhance his relatives.
 
This passage prepares us for the gospel reading in today’s Mass in which Jesus promises the “keys to the kingdom of heaven” to Peter, who will faithfully carry out his responsibilities. Does God ask less of us?
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 138:1-2, 2. 3. 6-8)
 
“Lord, your love is eternal: do not forsake the work of your hands.” There is another verse that follows. “When I called, you answered me; you built up strength within me.” This is certainly a time when we need to call out to the Lord. He does not forsake us nor the millions of people who are in far worse conditions than most of us and for whom we pray.
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans
(Chapter 11:33-36)
 
This is the way Paul ends his Letter to the Romans:
 
“Oh, the depths of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How inscrutable are his judgements and how unsearchable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord or who has been his counselor? Or who has given the Lord anything that may be repaid? For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be glory forever.”
 
Paul was always aware that all that we have and all that we are is all gift. We do not have a “deal” with God: “You do this for me God, and I will do this for you.” Our very lives and all that we have is a gift. Let us give thanks today and every day. Even on, no—especially on the days when we do not feel especially gifted.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew
(Chapter 16:13-20)
 
This reading has a question from Jesus, an answer from Peter, and a calling from Jesus to Peter. Here is the question: “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” The disciples tell Jesus what people are saying: “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” Good guesses, but no. Finally, “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.’”
 
Then comes Peter’s calling from Jesus: “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.”
 
Peter is the one chosen by God, but Peter is far from perfect. At crucial times, he denies Jesus, and after Jesus dies Peter is on the wrong side of one of the first crucial decisions for the early Church, whether non-Jewish converts must be circumcised. Peter said yes, but Paul said no. Peter eventually agreed. He was not perfect, but he was always faithful.
 
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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Have you noticed that people, and especially young people, do not make eye contact with others as much as they used to? Many individuals don’t look up from their cell phones or computers even when they are sitting at a table together. I think we miss a lot when we don’t look into others’ eyes. Tapping in words on a keyboard does not really convey connotation, emphasis, or attitude in the same way as facial expressions do. Some of the messages get lost.
 
We all know people who express themselves very well verbally. We may enjoy the way certain priests or deacons, for example, express themselves in homilies. If they look up at the audience instead of just reading words from a page they connect better and impress their message more effectively.
 
St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) did not have the options of all our 21st-century computer devices, and it is probably better that he did not. One of the reasons Franciscan Media labels him the “man of the 12th Century” is the fact that Bernard was a very eloquent preacher. He spoke! I think I would have learned a lot from this gifted scholar and theologian. St. Bernard was also a reformer, a counselor, and a great arbitrator. All those talents require the ability to make one’s points out loud while maintaining another’s attention.
 
While we are not all called to be preachers or public speakers, we do have a wonderful, powerful message to share about how much we are loved by God and have the promise of eternal joy with him in heaven. In the Gospels, Jesus teaches us how to be deliverers of this good news. From my experience, witness accounts and personal stories conveyed as someone looks up at the listeners are quite effective and often enjoyable.
 
In the suggested gospel reading for this memorial for St. Bernard (John 17:20-26), Jesus prays for his disciples, for holiness and unity:

“I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (v.20-21)

 
I am not saying we cannot evangelize by texting; but how much more meaning is shared with the help of heartfelt spoken words and eye contact! I am not talking about long, drawn out sermons either. If we are watchful and attentive, we will recognize many small instances in our daily lives wherein we have opportunities to remark about God’s goodness, his beautiful works of creation, his gentle mercy, and the numerous chances he gives us. We don’t have to have halos on our heads to say out loud that God is good, loves us, and is with us in all our challenges.
 
The first reading at today’s memorial of St. Bernard is from Sirach 15:1-6. It is about the happiness of someone who is seeking wisdom. Wisdom is referred to as she:

She will feed him with the bread of learning, and give him the water of wisdom to drink. He will lean on her and not fall, and he will rely on her and not be put to shame. She will exalt him above his neighbors, and will open his mouth in the midst of the assembly. (v. 3-5)

 
With Jesus calling us to talk to others about him and the confidence of having wisdom to help us, we should be joyful in saying over and over again, right to others’ faces, that we are constantly in good loving company!
 
(Resource: franciscanmedia.org)
 
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.
 
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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My husband surprised me with a gift of an opal pendant. The pretty milky white stone has lots of “fire” in it—meaning there are a lot of color spots in it and it is pleasant to look at it as I turn it this way and that. As I thought about it, I could see some parallels between opals and ourselves.
 
The main body of the pin-fire opal, such as I have, is usually white and shows a myriad of small pinpoint-like colors all through the surface. The flashes of color are due to a special optical effect occurring when a ray of light meets a very thin film of the opal which has a different optical density from that of the light. Precious opal contains a large number of these thin films which are thin layers of submicroscopic spheres. The flashes of color vary as the stone is rotated.
 
Now, how can we compare ourselves to opals? First of all, an opal with lots of fire in it, is attractive, and is very precious. When we have the fire of the Holy Spirit in us, we can attract others by our Christian attitude and behavior. We can draw more people to us and to our Lord.
 
Every opal is different. Each of us is very different—unique and precious in God’s eyes. Each of us has different color spots: different ways of reflecting to those around us the Light that is Jesus. When I turn my opal, I see different colors; when we show our talents and God-given gifts to our brothers and sisters, we find more colorful ways to lovingly serve the Lord.
 
Color, or fire, in opals is caused by the collision with light. Our fire is caused by our collision or meeting with the Holy Spirit who can fill us with zeal and power if we are open. In the Old Testament especially, fire was a symbol of theophany, the presence of God, and it was an instrument of his power. God came to Moses in a burning bush.

Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the Lord had descended upon it in fire…(Exodus 19:18a, NRSV).

Fire is refining and purifying in its power, as we read in Isaiah 43:2b:

…when you walk through fire you shall not be burned and the flame shall not consume you;..(NRSV)

The fire is purifying us and many times in the scriptures, God speaks of the refining fire.
 
In the New Testament, the Holy Spirit brought power to the disciples as tongues of fire rested upon their heads. And after that, the disciples were filled with evangelizing zeal and the fire of God’s message of love.
 
For years, there was a lot of mystery surrounding the opal and what caused its various properties. We, too, are accustomed to certain mysteries of our faith that we don’t fully understand. However, we do have faith and that does not have to be totally explained to be beautiful.
 
There was an ancient superstition that opals could restore keenness of vision. We know that the light of Jesus Christ can bring greater clarity to our vision of his kingdom. We see things of this world differently when we look through Spirit-filled eyes of joy-filled faith.
 
Opals can be fluorescent, can glow in the dark. With the gifts of the Holy Spirit in us, we can have a special glow about us amid the darkness of temptations, materialism, pandemic, and worldly unrest.
 
How do we keep our fire burning? We need to be prayerful and willing to surrender to the Lord who is our source of heat, light, and breath of life. We must fan our fires and stay close to the one who adds the color to our humble lives.
 
One final note about the opal: potch is opal that does not show the play of color, or as miners say, is not alive. Let us be sure we treasure and nurture the fire within us, so no one can say we are potch! Let the glow show!
 
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.
 
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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Jesus, our Friend,
thank you for your presence with us today.
Be with us,
especially as we perform our chosen actions
and listen for your call.
Help us always to keep you in mind,
to seek in every moment
a chance to grow closer to you
in those you send into our lives.
In your name we pray.
Amen.

 
Adapted from The Word on Campus © RENEW International.

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A reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah
(Chapter 56:1, 6-7)
 
The context for this passage is the return of the Jewish people from exile in Babylon in the sixth century before the birth of Jesus. Isaiah starts off with a call and a promise: “Thus says the Lord: Observe what is right, do what is just; for my salvation is about to come, my justice, about to be revealed.” There were many foreigners who wanted to convert to Judaism. “Them I will bring to my holy mountain and make joyful in my house of prayer…. For my house shall be called a house of prayer for all the peoples.” Isaiah is proclaiming a much more inclusive religion, one that welcomes foreigners.
 
Our Catholic Church in the United States has always welcomed immigrants and foreigners, including our own ancestors. Today, immigrants are still a growing part of our Church and we welcome them.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8)
 
“O God, let all the nations praise you.” Imagine, if that really happened!
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans
(Chapter 11:13-15, 29-32)
 
Paul refers to himself as “the apostle to the Gentiles,” and he is saying that both Jews and Gentiles have a history of rejecting Jesus. Yet, from their disobedience has come reconciliation. “For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? … For God delivered all to disobedience, that he might have mercy upon all.”
 
God made a promise to the Jewish people and, even though many of them rejected Jesus as the Messiah and the Son of God, the promise remains. “Just as you once disobeyed God but have now received mercy because of their disobedience, so they have now disobeyed in order that , by virtue of the mercy shown to you, they too may now receive mercy. … For God delivered all to disobedience, that he might have mercy upon all,”
 
Have you thought very much about God’s mercy? Pope Francis has and has written about mercy because he experienced it many years after he made a decision that harmed some of his fellow Jesuits in Argentina.
 
Whatever you or I may have done, the loving mercy of God is always there for us. We need only ask for it and express genuine sorrow.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew
(Chapter 15:21-28)
 
Matthew wrote his Gospel especially for his fellow Jews. So, at first, he has Jesus being reluctant to deal with a Canaanite woman because she was not a Jew. “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon.” The disciples were annoyed at her. “Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.” But the woman did not give up. “Lord, help me.” Then, Jesus said something that seemed to be a rejection: “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” The woman was desperate and not deterred. “‘Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.’ … Jesus said to her in reply, ‘O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.’ … And the woman’s daughter was healed from that hour.”
 
Matthew clearly sees the mission of Jesus as the savior of Israel and yet, he adds this story that expands the mission of Jesus to all.
 
The lesson for us is perseverance, even when we too are desperate, frustrated, and almost without hope. God hears us but not necessarily on our time.
 
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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No one has ever complimented me on having a green thumb. I am not really a plant person, although I do love looking at flowers and plants of many kinds. It was not a surprise that last spring I noticed a small clump of pretty yellow flowers on one side of my front porch. They were impatiens, and the name was not lost on me; I quickly found the wordplay and realized that it would not hurt to continue to try to work on my problem with impatience—especially during these months of limited socializing and freedom to just go out and about.
 
Patience can be a virtue in short supply when we are confined or forced to change our daily way of life. It is hard to be patient, for example, waiting for a Corona vaccine to be tried and tested properly. It can be trying to wear a face mask, to be constantly worrying about contagion and hygiene, to wait farther back on a line of people because of social distancing.
 
A saint who is a powerful example of a person with patience is St. Jane Frances de Chantal whose memorial is celebrated today. Born in France in 1572, she wisely learned to order and manage a feudal household with her husband and their four children. Any parent knows how much patience is needed to raise children.
 
Jane was widowed at a young age, and even though she had to live with her father-in-law and a testy servant, she maintained a faithful way of life and was even known for her great sanctity. With the help of St. Francis de Sales, she founded the Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary which accepted older and infirm women. Despite family troubles and her own spiritual challenges, Jane was patiently generous to the poor that repeatedly came to her door. She lived a virtuous and austere life as she tried to guide those she loved. She even forgave the man who had accidentally killed her husband. Personally, I think it would have been difficult living in St. Jane Frances’ shoes.
 
Those clumps of impatience that we all experience, that are hard to overcome, can be gradually weeded out with prayer as we gratefully remember God’s patience with us! St. Paul tells us that “Love is patient” (1 Cor 13:4a); and that we should “clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience” (Col 3:12).
 
We can be encouraged to be patient. The psalmist says in Psalm 40:1, “I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry.” Proverbs 14:29 says, “Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but one who has a hasty temper exalts folly.” And Proverbs 15:18 says, “Those who are hot-tempered stir up strife, but those who are slow to anger calm contention.”
 
It seems logical to conclude that when we are patient, we have God waiting with us; we might gain greater understanding, and we can help to establish a certain calmness to a situation. Whether we are impatient with ourselves, others, or a circumstance, we should remind ourselves that God’s timing is not our timing. We are always in control. Patience comes as fruit of the Holy Spirit, so I try to remember to ask the Spirit for help.
 
Thank you for your patience, readers. I end with some encouragement from the Letter of James (1:2-4): “My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance, and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.
 
Resources: Catholic Online; Catholic Encyclopedia.
 
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.
 
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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Good ol’ tropical storm Isaias paid a nasty visit to my neighborhood and left part of the street on which I reside with no power for almost five days. That may not sound like a lot of time until you are the family without electricity to power an air-conditioner in very hot August weather or even a fan to help keep the air moving.
 
The situation would have been worse for my husband and me had it not been for a neighbor who lives on a street perpendicular to mine. His street did not lose power. He rapped at our door the morning after the transformer on our utility pole blew out with a loud bang and asked if we would like to string an electrical cord from one of his home outlets so that we could at least plug in our refrigerator. After that, for about four days, a bright orange, fifty-foot-long extension cord could be seen stretching from my neighbor’s cellar hatchway to our slightly open kitchen window. That one skinny power line meant cold water, cold milk for cereal in the morning, and all those other convenient foods that taste much better unspoiled!
 
One line—not a whole bunch of lines, just one—made such a difference. I got to thinking about simple things and how they can bring about change. I remember how, when I was in parochial school, my sixth-grade teacher used to have us students recite a simple prayer when we were changing from one subject of study to another:

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.

 
That little prayer brought our attention to Mary and how she helps us with her prayers; it was a sort of holy way to transition from one task to another. It was a good little habit of prayer to adopt at our early age.
 
Short prayers like that are useful ways to go about a busy day; I like to call them spiritual segues. In today’s world, with so many distractions away from spiritual thoughts, a short, even one-line prayer, sometimes called an aspiration or ejaculatory prayer, can serve useful purposes. One little line can be a prayer-starter, a re-focuser, maybe even a beginning of a mantra.

Father, Creator, thank you for blessing me with the sight of such a
beautiful sunrise!

 
The aspiration can be a power line to prayer. While there is certainly no substitute for spending blocks of time in prayer conversation with our Lord each day, we can ask for special help with a certain task at hand or put a loved one into his loving hands as we get word of an unexpected problem:

Jesus, our Loving Savior, be with (name) and give her strength.

 
There are litany prayers, lists of petitions we often use for novenas or public prayer gatherings. We can certainly borrow from those lists for our little prayer shortcuts. We can borrow a line from the prayer at mass, the Gloria;

We praise you, we bless you, we adore you, we give you thanks for your
great glory….

 
If we can punctuate our day with these one-line holies but goodies, these small prayers of praise, thanksgiving, or supplication, we might be holier and happier or, at least, more in touch with our main source of power.
 
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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Sometimes I think about the different neighborhoods I have lived in over my lifetime. When I was a child, the people that lived in the nearby houses were, for the most part, familiar and friendly with me and each other. The first neighborhood I encountered after I got married was quite different. The houses were farther apart, in a more out-of-town setting; there were no sidewalks and a state road passed by my dwelling. I really did not get to know many neighbors.
 
Then we lived for a few years in a four-family apartment house in a town’s historic district before moving just down the same street to a duplex that we purchased. This neighborhood has lent itself to more interaction and familiarity. Over the many years, children played together. Porch and backyard conversations were not uncommon. We knew a lot about each other’s lives.
 
Now, in a broader sense, I suggest that we each live in a spiritual neighborhood of sorts. We may feel close to various saints in our lives, for example. My middle name is Anne, after St. Anne, our Blessed Mother’s mother. I was made aware of that as a youngster and have prayed for her intercession over the years. She is one of my spiritual neighbors.
 
I chose Mary as my confirmation name, so Jesus’s mother is one of my close companions. I guess many of us have St. Anthony as one of our helpful neighbors whom we have asked to pray and intercede to help us find something we had lost. My family and friends, whose souls I pray for and who pray for mine, are spiritual neighbors as well. I think we all have favorite saints whose help we often seek, and whose virtues we try to make our own. I know many of my relatives and friends who have died pray for me, too, so my neighborhood is happily well-populated. The more the holier!
 
It is not only at Pentecost that I personally recite the sequence prayer (from which I partially quote) and invite the Holy Spirit to come in my spiritual neighborhood:
 

Come, Holy Spirit, come.
And from your celestial home
Shed a ray of light divine.
…..
In our labor, rest most sweet;
Grateful coolness in the heat;
Solace in the midst of woe.
…..
Heal our wounds, our strength renew;
On our dryness pour your dew;
Wash the stains of guilt away:
…..
In your sevenfold gift descend….

 
The saint whose memorial we celebrate today, St. Clare of Assisi (1194-1253), is a spiritual neighbor to emulate because of her humility and piety. Greatly influenced by St. Francis of Assisi, she founded the order of the Poor Clares. Through her prayers, her sisters’ prayers, and her arranging to have the Blessed Sacrament visible to enemies who were going to attack Assisi, she saw the enemies change their plans and flee. Numerous other miracles were credited to St. Clare. In 1958, she was declared the patron saint of television; when she was too ill to leave her room, she was able to see and hear Mass on a wall in her room.
 
I remember the children’s television show, Sesame Street, featured a song that still rings in my ears: Who are the people in your neighborhood? Now, you might want to consider: who are the people in your spiritual neighborhood?
 
The passage from the Pentecost sequence is from the Roman Missal, Catholic Book Publishing; 3rd Chapel ed. edition (October 25, 2011).
 
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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When we talk about creating community online, I have to admit that the tagline to an ad from an internet financial services and information company comes to mind: “Turn to the Nerds.”
 
Now, I have many friends who would proudly declare themselves nerds of one form or another, so I am familiar with the idea of online community. They meet people in online games or in Facebook communities. They talk to their online team as they play a game, or comment about a topic that interests them which leads to a deeper discussion. Friendships form between people who have never met in person.
 
That can seem strange to those who are used to relationships formed in person. However, to those in these communities, these relationships are real and strong, and we can learn from them.
 
During the past several months, I participated in an online faith-sharing group that we hosted here at RENEW. Aside from Sister Terry, president of RENEW, there were two people in the group whom I knew in person. Yet, after our weeks of sharing, I feel connected to the other members of the group.
 
Each week we would log in a bit early and chat beforehand. I learned that one member’s wife and I went to the same college and, in fact, knew several people in common. We discovered common interests, learned about each other’s families, and, most importantly, grew in faith together.
 
The very definition of the word internet is: “a global computer network providing a variety of information and communication facilities, consisting of interconnected networks.” It is all about connections. Using this medium to help our parishioners form connections with each other and with our Church is a natural progression. While the message of the Church is eternal, the way we communicate that message must evolve as our communication forms evolve.
 
While creating community through online forums may be new to many of us, it is old hat to many and if we take our cue from them, we can continue to strengthen the bonds of community in our parishes, even in this time of social distancing.
 
Jennifer Bober is manager of marketing at RENEW International.

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Loving God,
open our mind’s eye
to understand more fully
what having faith in you
leads us to do.
Guide our faltering faith,
and increase our trust
so that, like you,
we may offer to others
the security, love,
and wonder of life in you.
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 first Book of Kings
(Chapter 9:9a, 11-13a)
 
How and when do we experience God in our everyday lives? I just finished writing a book about that experience. It is called The Journey into the Mystery: Finding God in Our Everyday Lives. I did not think about this reading while writing, but it fits right in.
 
“At the mountain of God, Horeb, Elijah came to a cave where he took shelter. The Lord then said to him, ‘Go outside and stand on the mountain before the Lord; the Lord will be passing by.’”
 
So, Elijah stands outside and along comes a heavy wind that crushes rocks, but the Lord was not in the wind. Then, there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not there either. Next came fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. “After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound. When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went and stood at the entrance of the cave.”
 
That’s right, God was not in any of the powerful forces of nature this time, but rather in a tiny whisper. Of course, God does communicate to us in extreme or troubled times, but what about the quiet whispers that might come at any time, in any place—in prayer, and also during the everyday, ordinary times when we may least expect it. Has that ever happened to you? God is full of surprises if we have open hearts.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 85:9, 10, 11-12, 13-14)
 
“Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.” When have you experienced the Lord’s kindness recently? Was it through the kindness of another person toward you or someone you love? Was it a physical or emotional or spiritual healing? How have you expressed your thankfulness?
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans
(Chapter 9:1-5)
 
Paul was a devout Jew before his conversion and had a deep sorrow in his heart for his fellow Jews. “Brothers and sisters: I speak the truth in Christ, I do not lie; my conscience joins with the Holy Spirit in bearing me witness that I have great sorrow and constant anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh. They are Israelites; theirs the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship and the promises: theirs the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.”
 
Paul expresses a powerful, heartfelt emotion. He would give up everything for the conversion of his people. Of course, many Jews did follow Christ. They were among the first who did. Yet, others did not, and that was heartbreaking for Paul.
 
Many of us have also had heartbreaking moments when our children or grandchildren seem to have lost their faith or moved to a different faith. But we continue to love them and pray for them, believing that the Spirit of God continues to live in each of them, whatever we may think and however we may feel.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew
(Chapter 14:22-33)
 
Have you ever been out in a boat in very bad weather? Jesus has just fed the multitudes, and now he is with the apostles who are going to fish. Jesus goes off by himself to pray.
 
“Meanwhile, the boat, already a few miles offshore, was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it. During the fourth watch of the night, he came towards them walking on the sea. When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified. ‘It is a ghost,’ they said and they cried out in fear. At once, Jesus spoke to them, ‘Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid.’ Peter said to him in reply, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ He said, ‘Come.’”
 
The impetuous Peter starts off okay, but then he becomes frightened by the waves and starts to sink. “He cried out, “‘Lord, save me.’ Immediately, Jesus stretched out his hand and caught Peter, and said to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’”
 
This is not the only time that Peter lost his courage. As we know, he denied Jesus three times the night that Jesus was arrested. Yet, Jesus forgave him again and made him the leader of the apostles. Imagine that—a man with a big heart and a deep faith in Jesus, who was trusted by Jesus, failed him, and still Jesus called him to be the leader of the early Church.
 
Throughout the history of the Church, many of its leaders, including popes, have failed to live up to the trust given them; and yet, others have come forward in true leadership and the Spirit has guided them and us. We must have faith in the Spirit, especially in these challenging times.
 
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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