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Having never been to Rome, I have not had the privilege of visiting the Basilica of St. Mary Major. My research tells me that it is one of the four major churches in Rome, a patriarchal cathedral, the largest church in the world that honors Mary, the mother of God. Originally built in 313, it was restored and redecorated in 431, and redecorated and embellished over the years. It contains a relic of the manger of Jesus, the bones of St. Jerome, as well as numerous religious signs, pictures, and emblems. It sounds to me like a very inspiring place to sit and pray.
 
Today’s liturgy celebrates the dedication of this basilica. A suggested first reading (Revelations 21:1-5a) would be so fitting to mull over whether or not we are able to sit in this beautiful house of God.
 

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth
had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new
Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for
her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
“See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them;
he will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.”
And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.”

 
While that particular reading is very uplifting and hope-inspiring, it brought a little smile to my face because there has been something new for me recently: a new place to pray. Instead of a special spot in a room inside my house or a certain pew in my parish church, my front porch has recently afforded a pleasant area to visit with God who dwells with me. My pew is a webbed aluminum collapsible (hopefully not while I am in it) chair. It may not be the quietest place I could find, but it is comfortable and familiar. People may walk by, but not to stop and have long conversations. Birds’ songs often accompany my prayer. Soft breezes might add a calm atmosphere. Who knows? I might inspire some passerby to say a few prayers too.
 
Matthew’s Gospel (6:6) suggests that when we pray, we should go into our room and shut the door. In the Acts of the Apostles (10:9), Peter went up on the roof to pray. In Acts 16:13, there was a place of prayer by a riverside. Jesus went out to a mountain to pray (Luke 6:12) and to a deserted place while it was still dark (Mark 1:35.) We can safely conclude that there are many available places to pray—just so long as we are faithful and fervent in our prayer time. We might inconspicuously bless our prayer spot with a little sprinkle of holy water. We could have our Bible, rosary beads, prayer books, and any other helpful resources in a bag, readily accessible.
 
I am sure all of us for months have had our daily routines disrupted. I know I am home a lot more than I used to be. I have formed a few new habits. It is so important not to misplace the good habit of prayer. In my prayer place on my porch, for a little while each day, I can mindfully put myself in the presence in my Lord. And especially today, I can pray and thank holy Mary again for her selfless giving of herself to be Jesus’ mother and now our Blessed Mother, too.
 
Resources: franciscanmedia.org; mycatholic.life
 
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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When so many things in life are habitual, it is easy to lose sight of the true depth of meaning in them. When we slow down our pace a little, it is possible to refocus our attention and find new value in the familiar. For example, here are a few thoughts about the prayers and components of the Mass that you may find worthwhile.
 
Have you noticed that we start the Mass with the Sign of the Cross and end the Mass with the Sign of the Cross as the celebrant prays a blessing on us? I sometimes try to say the words of that little prayer just a tad more slowly to think of my Creator, my Savior, and my Advocate. While the Trinity is a mystery, three Persons in one God, we have three times the wealth and blessing!
 
We pray to put ourselves in a good place, in good standing with the Lord, by saying we are sorry for our bad choices and ask the Communion of Saints to pray for us to do better.
 
When we come to the prayer called the Gloria, we are blessed with almost a cheat-sheet filled with wonderful reminders of how we can praise God:

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

 
We call Jesus only Begotten Son, Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father…
the Holy One….the Lord….the Most High…
and again we reference the Holy Trinity. When I have a problem getting into my own private personal prayer time, beginning with recitation of the Gloria can be quite helpful.
 
When we come to the Bible readings, we might notice that they are often thematically related. When the priest or deacon announces the gospel reading, we say a little prayer with gestures. I used to give religious instruction to children around the age of seven or eight. They seemed to like learning to make little crosses with their thumb tip on their forehead, lips, and heart while saying, May the Word of Christ be always on my mind, on my lips and in my heart. Those are great places for the Word of Christ to be, so that is a prayer to think about.
 
Right after the priest offers up the bread and wine that will be consecrated, and we say twice, Blessed be God forever, he prays that we will be accepted as an offering as well. He invites us to lift our hearts, and we say that we lift them up to the Lord. Have you thought about that, and not just chimed in with the response? Our hearts are the seat of our emotions, the place where love lives, where our most strong feelings reside. Can we focus and really lift up our hearts right at that time during that holy sacrifice of the Mass?
 
After the consecration, we say or sing the Agnus Dei, the Lamb of God. When we are reminded that Jesus takes away the sins of the world, I remember our troops who defend us from the consequences of certain sins of the world and who work to uphold world peace. Of course, that prayer can be prayed on a much more personal level, but so often I make resolutions to pray for particular people or causes and, with my forgetfulness, they fall by the wayside.
 
When I was younger, after the distribution of Holy Communion, the priest used to read what we called “the last Gospel” which was actually the first 14 verses of the Gospel according to John. The passage began, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a God. He was in the beginning with God. (V 1-2 NRSV).
 
You can read the rest on your own. I miss that reading at the end of Mass. I want Jesus to be with me at all my beginnings, and, especially if I am at Mass on Sunday and a new week will be beginning. Ah! Mindfulness is so important! May that Light that shines in the darkness shine in us today!
 
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.
 
Photo by Ben White.
 

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Jesus, Lord and Provider,
we have so much to be thankful for,
so much to live on and make us comfortable.
Thank you for calling us to discomfort,
to a more generous giving of
our time, talent, and treasure.
Thank you for leading us to your reign
through the eye of the needle.
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 55:1-3)
 
God had established a covenant with Israel and Moses, but the Israelites broke the covenant and wound up in a long exile in Babylon. This reading is from the final days of the Babylonian Exile as the people were coming home at last. The prophet has God speaking to the people with a new chance to renew the covenant:
 
“Thus says the Lord: All you who are thirsty, come to the water! You who have no money, come, receive grain and eat; come, without paying and without cost, drink wine and milk! Why spend your money on what is not bread, your wages for what fails to satisfy? Heed me and you shall eat well, you shall delight in rich fare. Come to me heedfully, listen, so that you may have life. I will renew with you the everlasting covenant, the benefits assured to David.”
 
Throughout their history the ancient Israelites struggled to grow enough food for all and to provide water in a desert-like land. As the people are finally returning to what was the Promised Land, the prophet wants to assure them that God will continue to be faithful to his covenant with them. Isaiah brings an invitation from God to start over.
 
How often have you wandered in the desert, lost in some way or another? This COVID 19 Pandemic has put all of us in a kind of exile from our former lives, at least in part. The challenge is to stay faithful to our God and loving Father and to one another. Our exile, too, will come to an end, but not as quickly as we all desire. Faith!
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 145:8-9, 15-16, 17-18)
 
“The hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all our needs.” We can be thankful that most of us are well fed, even though we may miss going out to eat or may not always find our favorite foods at the store. But what about missing work or school or losing a job or visits with friends and families? What do you miss the most? Is there anything you can do about it? How do you need to spread joy in your home in this hard time?
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans
(Chapter 8:35, 37-39)
 
“Brothers and sisters: What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who has loved us.”
 
Paul’s audience, the Christians of Rome, lived in a hot spot, the very seat of the Roman Empire, where dissent was punished by torture and death. He knew that the Christians were in danger every day, in so many ways. He wanted them to know that the all-powerful love of Christ would be with them in their darkest days.
That same love of Christ is with us today in our darkest days as well. Let us pray every day for those who have died, their families, our first responders, our medical healers, and all those who continue to work so that we all may be safe and fed.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew
(Chapter 14:13-21)
 
This is the amazing story of Jesus feeding the five thousand. It follows the several times that God fed his people in the desert through Moses. Throughout the centuries, people have asked, “How did Jesus do it?” The answer is, we do not know. Something extraordinary happened. Jesus showed his compassion and power in some way that we will never know. What we do know is that he continues to feed us today in our Eucharist. Have you missed it during the shutdown? I have. But even when we cannot gather to celebrate with one another, we can pray for the nourishing presence of Jesus in our hearts.
 
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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Since I was little, my favorite week of the year has been the annual beach vacation I have with my immediate and extended family in July. This year we were blessed in that everyone was healthy and able to come under the circumstances. I have always felt closest to God through nature and through my relationships, so what better way to deepen my spirituality than at the beach with my loved ones? Between long beach days and outdoor gatherings, I took time to pause and reflect on what I call “God moments,” when I feel his presence in my everyday life.
 
Perhaps the most memorable “God moment” was the family Wiffle ball game on our last day. I am lucky to belong to a tight-knit family that makes every person feel special. I loved that everyone had a role: my father and uncle coached, my sister patiently pitched, my mother and cousin were outfielders, and both players and spectators cheered for every hit. I recall looking around and thinking to myself how much this moment meant to me. God placed a wonderful group of people in my life that remind me of his unconditional love. I realized that I will cherish this memory forever, and I hope to carry on the annual tradition when I have my own children.
 
Whenever I caught the sunrise on the beach or watched the sunset from the deck, I was in awe of the fresh start God provides every morning and the heavenly sky reminded me of my grandparents watching over us. I also enjoyed living vicariously through my younger cousins while we jumped over ocean waves and built sandcastles. I admire their excitement for life’s simple joys whether it be crab hunting on the beach and riding bikes around the block. We are all children of God who have so much to laugh and smile about despite an uncertain world. I felt that same happiness when we spotted dolphins, and I spent hours on inner tubes giggling with my cousins.
 
I may not see my extended family often or live at the beach, so the bonds formed make our time spent together even more meaningful. As I settle into reality, I encourage myself to find beauty in creation. I know that some days may seem easier than others, but the peace and comfort of God’s presence is all around if I look closely enough.
 
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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What a nuisance! A certain weedy vine kept growing up around the railing of our porch and even through the floorboards. It was heading toward the mailbox mounted on the porch wall near the front door. Persistent vine!
 
On our walk around the neighborhood the other day, I noticed for the first time a vine growing up the outside fireplace brick chimney. It just looked so lovely, as if some gardener/artist planned it that way.
 

I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them
bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)

 
What a nuisance! I don’t go too far from home during these days of pandemic, so for a change of environment, I go out and quietly read a book on the front porch. I get interrupted so often with people out walking their dogs and stopping to chat. How can I do my reading?
 
I have made some new friends. I have brightened a lonely lady’s day by listening to her problems. I have met some very friendly dogs.
 

…love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. (Romans 12:10)

 
What a nuisance! My husband and I are pretty much stuck at home and are cooking all our meals. All the grocery-shopping and meal-planning we have to do, even if it is just for us. Day after day!
 
My husband and I have decided to try some new recipes together. Not bad! We have found some interesting television shows about different styles of cooking. We enjoy watching the shows together.
 

O taste and see that the Lord is good; happy are those who take refuge in him. (Psalm 34:8)

 
What a nuisance! With some slightly compromising health conditions, I am not safe going to Mass even though the churches have reopened with some restrictions. Here I am at home.
 
There are masses on YouTube, and some parishes are streaming Masses online. I can watch my parish Mass at home and even surf to other parish websites and enjoy the homilies from other priests I know.
 

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of
services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is same
God who activates all of them in everyone. (1Corinthians 12:4-6)

 
What a nuisance! The hair salons had been closed for months. I couldn’t do a good job of cutting or perming my own hair. I had to put up with my roots growing in and my perm growing out!
 
The salons did eventually open with precaution protocols in place. But the world did not come to an end. Not many people saw me anyway with my problem hair. What is really important?
 

Do not adorn yourselves outwardly by braiding your hair, and by wearing gold ornaments or fine clothing; rather, let the adornment be the inner self with the lasting beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in God’s sight. (1 Peter 3:3-4)

 
What a nuisance! All these initialisms to decipher: PPE, PPP, WHO,,,etc.
 
How about making up spiritually-related initialisms just for some variety and new perspective? BLT could stand for Be Loving Today, LOL could mean Love Others Lavishly, CPR could stand for Christ Purchased Redemption, GPS could mean God’s Perfect Solutions, and PPP could stand for Prayer Produces Peace.
 
Nuisance or new attitude or new sense of what is really important? What do you think?
 
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.
 
Resource: Ignatian Spirituality.com
 
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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O Divine Teacher,
open our ears to hear your voice
and our eyes to see your presence in our world.
Guide us to choose well
from the many good avenues
that are open to each of us.
Send your Spirit to fill us with the fire of love
and the joy of knowing you are near.
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 Kings
(Chapter 3:5, 7-12)
 
Have you ever heard the phrase “The Wisdom of King Solomon”? This is where it originated.
 
“The LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream at night. God said, ‘Ask something of me and I will give it to you.’ Solomon answered, ‘Give your servant … an understanding heart to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong. For who is able to govern this vast people of yours?’ The LORD was pleased that Solomon made this request. So God said to him: ‘Because you have asked for this—not for a long life for yourself, not for riches, not for the life of your enemies, but for understanding so that you may know what is right—I do what you requested. I give you a heart so wise and understanding that there has never been anyone like you up to now, and after you there will come no one to equal you.’”
 
Solomon could have asked for anything, but he asked for the one really important quality that would make him a great ruler, the wisdom to serve the people.
 
When you pray, what do you ask of God? Is it a series of things that seem important at the time, or is it what is truly important in your life, whatever that might be?
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 119:57, 72, 76-77, 127-128, 129-130)
 
“Lord, I love your commands.” Really? Do we always love God’s commands—not only the Ten Commandments but personal callings from God at different points in our lives?
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans
(Chapter 8:28-30)
 
There is an amazing statement in this reading: “We know that all things work for good for those who love God.” Do you believe that? Always? Sometimes, the “good” is hard to see in the moment, but eventually, you get it or at least accept it. But there are other things, other occurrences that you never seem to understand. Why did this person that you loved die at such a young age? Why were you treated so unjustly at work? Why did a person that you loved leave you? How can a horrible disease like COVID 19 be a part of God’s plan? What good can come out of it?
 
Where is God amid so many disappointments and tragedies? God is always there, somehow, somewhere, in the love of supportive people, in the wisdom and care of people who somehow appear in our lives at crucial times, in our conversations with the Holy Spirit who lives within us. Yes! “All things work for good for those who love God.” The road is often bumpy and the journey painful, and still we travel on our everlasting journey into the mystery of God’s everlasting love.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew
(Chapter 13:44-52)
 
Jesus preached a Kingdom but not of this world. To explain it, he used parables from nature that the people could understand. “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and then hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.” Jesus also talks, in this discourse, about fisherman separating the good fish from the bad.
 
The point of all these parables is that the kingdom of heaven is a gift to each of us, not something we have earned. We need to accept the gift and experience it as what is most important in our lives. Let us behold the gift of new life, eternal life, that we have been given and live and share it joyfully, especially in our times of greatest challenge and need.
 
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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Soul of Christ, be my sanctification,
Body of Christ, be my salvation.
Blood of Christ fill all my veins,
Water from Christ’s side, wash out my stains.
Passion of Christ, my comfort be,
O good Jesus, listen to me.
In thy wounds, I fain would hide
Never to be parted from thy side.
Guard me should the foe assail me,

Called when my life shall fail me.
Bid me come to thee above,
With thy saint to sing thy love. Amen.

 
This is a prayer that I learned by heart at an early age. I choose to say that prayer in thanksgiving after I receive Holy Communion. However, I have other memories that are not so poetic. For example, a very unimportant detail that I still remember from my childhood is about the morning I received my first Holy Communion. As a typical seven-year-old, I certainly did not grasp the holiness and blessing of the experience, particularly because the headband to which my little white veil was attached kept annoying me by creeping forward on my head. Now, after having received the Blessed Sacrament thousands of times, I can say I do appreciate what a blessing being fed the Bread of Life is for me.
 
St. Sharbel Makhlūf, whose memorial we may celebrate today, also had a devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. Born in 1828 in Beka-Kafra, Lebanon, he became a monk of the Maronite Rite, one of the Eastern Catholic Churches. Although he lived as a hermit, he was very willing to assist when needed with the celebration of the sacraments in nearby towns. He was known for his holiness, which I would assume was fed by his love of the Eucharist.
 
So, let us consider this idea of devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. When we can easily receive the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, we could take the privilege for granted. During this pandemic, with churches only gradually reopening for masses, we may start to appreciate what we have been missing.
 
Just imagine sitting at that Last Supper table. Those gentle hands of Jesus, that would soon be bleeding from nail holes, were serving his friends. Jesus, in his deep love for all of us, kept it simple—bread and wine with which to begin. As he was once transfigured on Mt. Tabor and showed his great glory, so he generously transformed the simple bread and the wine into his glorious Body and Blood. Now, every time the Eucharistic feast is celebrated, that transformation happens through the words of consecration. Ideally, we are changed little by little every time we receive the Bread of Heaven!
 
Two other prayers that I have memorized and love to recite after I receive Holy Communion are these that the priest might say as he purifies the chalice.
 

What has passed our lips as food, O Lord, may we possess as purity of heart.
That which is given to us in time, may be our healing for eternity.

 
May Your Body, which I have eaten, and Your Blood, which I have drunk,
cleave to my very soul; and grant that no trace of sin may be found in me
whom Your pure and holy mysteries have renewed. Who live and reign, world
without end. Amen.

 
As we remind ourselves of how blessed we are to be able to receive Jesus in Holy Communion, let us also take sufficient time to be reverent, thoughtful, and thankful in this high-speed, high-tech world of ours. We might even learn some new thank-you prayers by heart!
 
Resources: Franciscan Media, The Roman Missal
 
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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Recently, while I was talking on the phone with a dear friend, I happened to look down at my left hand and noticed that the heart-shaped diamond in my engagement ring was slightly turned off-center. I showed my husband and asked him if he thought the diamond was in danger of falling out of the setting. He did not think so, but we agreed to take the ring to a jeweler for repair of the bent prong.
 
Later that day, while I was waiting for some onions, peppers, and zucchini to finish simmering on the stove, I sat down at the kitchen table. All of a sudden, the diamond fell out of the ring and onto the table in plain sight. Whew! That was a close one! I could have lost that diamond in the trash as I tossed out the onion skins, or down the sink drain as I washed the vegetables, or anywhere! I had been praying for inspiration for writing a blog entry, and there it was! And nothing was lost!
 
I started thinking about our spiritual life and the promise of our eternal treasure of heaven and how easy it is for any of us to get off-track or off-center. Especially with the pandemic forcing changes in our routines, it is easy to get distracted from our good habits and practices. We might get caught up in certain television programming that doesn’t encourage solid Christian lifestyles and beliefs. With our extra time away from work, we might lapse into habits of gossip, laziness, or overeating. Remember that adage: An idle mind is the devil’s workshop?
 
Let us look to Proverbs 4:23-27:

Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.
Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you.
Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you.
Keep straight the path of your feet, and all your ways will be sure.
Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil.

 
Ideally, I should have had my ring checked periodically to be sure the setting was secure. On a spiritual level, ideally, we should periodically take advantage of the sacrament of reconciliation (confession) to be sure we maintain the proper direction in our life journey. If we have some time, we could look into practicing St. Ignatius’ Daily Examen which helps us review each day’s activities and see God working in our lives.
 
It did not take much pressure to bend my ring prong and endanger my treasured diamond. I did not even know when it happened. In our spiritual lives, our holy supports can subtlety be weakened if we do not stay vigilant. We have the treasured good news of salvation. Hebrews 2:1 exhorts us:

Therefore we must pay greater attention to what we have heard, so that
we do not drift away from it.

 
I pray we stay straight on our path to the Lord. Through his mercy, if we get off-center, we can be forgiven. I could have easily lost my diamond—my precious stone, but, I am thankful that I will not lose God’s love. I invite you, readers, to pray with me as I happily quote Psalm 19:14:

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

 
Let’s stay centered on Jesus!
 
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.
 
Reource: IgnatianSpirituality.com
 
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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For the times we have heard your call
and responded with justice,
for the times we have realized our injustices
and changed our hearts,
For the times people have loved us
even though we were ungrateful and even sinful,
for the times we have been yeast or
good seed for others,
Your kingdom come.
 
God of Love, Lord of Justice,
Spirit of Understanding,
we thank you for the blessing of coming together
to pray and live in your kingdom.
Help us to seek your will and your kingdom forever.
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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When we are baptized as babies, our godparents make promises for us. When we receive the sacrament of Confirmation, we renew those promises to renounce Satan, Satan’s works and Satan’s empty promises. We make those same promises during Holy Week Masses, and undoubtedly even in our own personal prayer time. We sometimes break those promises and have to seek forgiveness and make atonement. Did you ever notice, though, that when we make promises out loud, we can hear and feel anew our dedication

and zeal?

 
I got thinking about promises, pledges, and oaths, and the like. Brides and grooms promise to love, honor, and be faithful to each other. Doctors and nurses easily come to my mind in this time of pandemic. We have heard of the Hippocratic Oath for doctors, the Florence Nightingale Pledge for nurses, and similar promises medical personnel take to heart.
 
The saint whom we celebrate today, St. Camillus of Lellis of what is now Abruzzo, Italy, whether he had formally recited an oath, pledge, or promise, certainly followed a dedicated way of ministry, especially to the sick during the second half of his life. He did not find his true way until he was in his early thirties and was ordained to the priesthood in 1584. His early years had been punctuated with bad choices and self-defeating habits—notably gambling.
 
Camillus eventually founded an order whose ministry was devoted to plague-stricken and poor patients. Despite his own chronic foot infirmity—the result of a war injury—he was a guide and inspiration to others as he sacrificed his own comfort to be of assistance. He assumed the helm in hospitals. He also worked to send medical aid to wounded troops who had promised their service to their countries.
 
We can learn much from St. Camillus and from others who strive to fulfill promises they have made to God, to themselves, or to others. With so many distractions and temptations in our world today, commitment to any worthwhile cause requires focused strength. That strength is nurtured with prayer and humility. We have to be so careful to avoid those empty promises of Satan, those subtle, misinformed, persistent, little lies that try to sneak their way into our thinking.
 
We know that we serve a faithful God who helps us keep our living and loving promises.

Because the Lord your God is a merciful God, he will neither abandon you
nor destroy you; he will not forget the covenant with your ancestors that
he swore to them. (Deut 4:31)

 
And we have the assurance of the presence of Jesus at all times. He gave his word to his apostles at his ascension:

“And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matt 28:20b)

 
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.
 
Resource: catholic.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.

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A reading from the Book of Wisdom
(Chapter 12:13, 16-19)
 
This reading is praise for the all-powerful, just, and merciful God. “For your might is the source of justice: for your mastery over all things makes you lenient to all…. And you taught your people, by these deeds, that those who are just must be kind.” There it is. The God of the Judeo-Christian tradition is powerful, just, and kind, and that is what we too

should be.

 
I wonder how Jews who suffered through the Holocaust or Christians who just lived through three years of terror in Mosul under ISIS brutality would have heard those words. What about people who live in our own country who are victims of horrible violence or families in our own community who live with addictions that have taken or might take the lives of their loved ones?
 
Why doesn’t the all-powerful, just, and merciful God swoop down to fight these injustices and heal all this suffering? Of course, we know very well that fighting for justice and healing suffering is our job in partnership with God, though sometimes it may seem that God is too silent a partner. But maybe God is not really silent. Maybe we are not tuned into the powerful healing presence that is always there. Maybe we want healing and understanding only on our terms, not God’s. “I AM WITH YOU ALWAYS”. That is the promise of Jesus. Can we tune in? Can we be open? Can we get past what we think God should be doing and become aware of what God is already doing in our lives?
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 86:5-6, 9-10, 15-16)
 
“Lord, you are good and forgiving.” Are you good at asking God for forgiveness and at giving forgiveness to others?
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans
(Chapter 8:26-27)
 
Saint Paul has an answer to the questions we have been asking so far in this commentary. “The Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness, for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit intercedes with inexpressible groanings.” If you and I ever feel as if we can’t really pray, as if we are not connected to God, that’s all right because the Spirit of God, the very person of the Holy Spirit, lives within us. It is the Holy Spirit who intercedes for us. It may not happen in the time that we want or in the manner we choose, but if we stay present, healing will happen.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew
(Chapter 13:24-43)
 
Here we have a series of parables about agriculture, the sowing of seeds and harvesting of grain. Jesus uses these stories because everyone in his society would know what he was talking about. They were almost all poor farmers who had to deal with dry rocky soil to grow the crops. What was worse, because of the power of the Roman Empire, most of them had lost their land and were forced to work as day laborers for unjust wages.
 
Jesus was talking about hope in the kingdom of heaven, not something in the far distant future but something that was growing silently right before their eyes and that continues to grow in our own age. He was calling a new Israel together as a powerful force for justice and mercy, just as he calls us now to be a presence of the kingdom of God in our society.
 
The kingdom of God is not a political reality but rather a way of living and believing that has the power to affect all of the reality that we live in.
 
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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Whether we choose to or not, we mostly likely see a number of bare feet this time of year. In the hot, humid weather, people wear sandals or flip-flops or nothing on their feet when they can. My question for you today is what kind of information do these barefoot or almost-barefoot individuals bring with them? Do we put our best feet forward and share the saving good news we have experienced?
 
The prophet Isaiah 52:7 says:

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who
announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation,
who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”

 
We can imagine Jesus, plodding along around Nazareth and the neighboring towns in his sandals, with his suntanned and calloused feet, and bringing the good news of God’s Kingdom. When we read of the saint and Doctor of the Church St. Bonaventure, whose memorial we celebrate today, we see that he followed ardently in Jesus’ footsteps with that same wonderful proclamation.
 
St. Bonaventure became a Franciscan in his early twenties. Keeping Jesus as his center, he was a gifted, influential, prolific writer and philosopher who preached the good news of God’s reign. He left his footprint by writing—among many other works—a life of St Francis. It has been noted that despite all his accomplishments, he was a humble man who did not want to be coerced into accepting the position of archbishop of York for which he was nominated by Pope Clement V. A passage from the gospel reading for today’s memorial mass (Matthew 23:12) seems relevant to St. Bonaventure’s choice:

All who exalt themselves will be humbled,
and all who humbled themselves will be exalted.

 
We are reminded of humility again when we think of John the Baptist remarking that he was not worthy to untie the thong of Jesus’ sandals (Mark 1:7). And how about Jesus at the Last Supper teaching about humble service to each other as he washed the feet of his apostles? (John 13:1-11)
 
And the weary feet of Jesus were bathed with tears and dried with the hair of the penitent woman in the incident recorded in Luke 7:36-50. Mary, Martha’s sister, choosing the better part, sat at Jesus’ feet to listen to his words (Luke 10:39). Of course, we recall the terrible crucifixion nails in Jesus’ feet on the cross. Finally, in Matthew 28, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were told by an angel that Jesus is risen. As they were on the way to tell the apostles,

Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him,
took hold of his feet,and worshipped him (v. 9.)

 
In Ephesians 3:18 we read today St. Paul’s prayer:
 

I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints,
what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the
love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with
all the fullness of God.

 
Now if that message doesn’t knock your socks off, I don’t know what will! Come, Lord Jesus, and fill us, head to toe, with the power of your Spirit!
 
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.
 
Resource: http://www.catholic.org
 
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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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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