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Note: We can pray with the Sunday readings even if Sunday liturgies have been suspended due to the coronavirus.
Bill Ayres continues to offer his reflections to help our prayer.

A reading from the Acts of the Apostles
(Chapter 2:1-11)
 
If you wonder why there were so many people from so many countries in Jerusalem on the occasion St. Luke describes in this passage, it was because Pentecost was a Jewish feast when pilgrims from all over the near world would come to Jerusalem to worship. But Luke tells us of strange happenings: “a noise like a strong wind” and “tongues of fire” images that recall the time God established the original covenant with the Jewish people. Luke wanted his audience to understanding that this was God confirming a new covenant with a new, diverse people—hence the people of many languages understanding the apostles from Galilee. Of course, Luke wrote this a few decades after the actual events, and he wanted people to know that this was the beginning of something new that had its roots in a previous tradition—and fulfilled that tradition. Today, we say that Pentecost, the descent of the Holy Spirit on the apostles, was the birthday of the Church.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 104: 1, 24, 29-30, 31, 34)
 
“Lord, send out your Spirit and renew the face of the earth.” Here is a common thread between Judaism and Christianity, the Spirit of God. The difference for us Christians is that we believe that the Spirit of God is not just “out there” somewhere but rather lives in each one of us. That is one of the major breakthroughs of Christianity. God is not some distant being but absolutely close to each of us, even when we might not feel that presence. We are never alone.
 
A reading from the letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians
(Chapter 12:3b-7, 12-13)
 
St. Paul tells us that we may each have different gifts and forms of service, but what unites us all together is the one Spirit. And, “To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.”
 
You and I each have different gifts from the Spirit. Do you believe that? What are your spiritual gifts? How do you use them, share them? Can you appreciate the gifts of someone else, even though you might disagree with that person on one or more issues? That is particularly important today when our country and even our Church are often divided in many ways.
 
As we read the Acts of the Apostles and the Letters of St. Paul, it becomes clear that there were a series of major differences within the early Church with so many groups coming in and out of focus, each believing that their version of the truth about Jesus was the right one. This has continued for some two thousand years and been the cause of wars and numerous unjust actions. It is only when we listen to the Spirit and act in the loving power of the Spirit that we have peace and true communion.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to John
(Chapter 20: 19-23)
 
Jesus says to the apostles, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so also I send you.” Then, “he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.’”
 
These few sentences written at the end of the first century, long after the events described, are meant by John to validate the connection between the Church after Jesus with the powerful words of Jesus before he ascended into heaven. He conferred gifts, starting with the Holy Spirit and then the power to forgive sins. Remember, John is writing his Gospel during a time of persecution, and he wants to make sure that his readers know how blessed they are and how they are strengthened amid endless trials and dangers. The Holy Spirit is with them, just as it is with us today.
 
What are the special gifts that you have received in your life? How have you used them, especially the gifts of forgiveness and healing?
 
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 so many parents and children have been staying home for long stretches of time, people have gotten creative with chalk drawings and challenges on sidewalks. I have seen the game of hopscotch in front of neighbors’ homes and have been reminded of the fun I used to have as a child playing outside.
 
Well, why not make hopscotch a learning game? And who says it has to be only for kids? We all need physical and mental exercise! As we hop from 1 to 10, let’s review some biblical facts? We can teach and rejoice together!
 

  • One: One God, the Father of all
  • Two: Two natures of Jesus, true God and true man
  • Three: Three Divine Persons make up the Trinity
  • Four: Four evangelists who wrote the four gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke and John
  • Five: Five Books of Moses, the first five books of the Bible, the Pentateuch
  • Six: Six days of creation (Maybe review in the Book of Genesis what was created each day.)
  • Seven: Seven sacraments of the Catholic Church: baptism, sacrament of reconciliation, the Holy Eucharist, confirmation, holy orders, matrimony, the sacrament if the sick
  • Eight: Eight beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12) given by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount
  • Nine: Nine fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self- control (Galatians 5.)
  • Ten: Ten Commandments, the Decalogue, found in the books of Exodus and Deuteronomy in the Bible (How many do you remember?)

 
How about challenging youngsters (or those young at heart) to come up with some “Me-attitudes” that would be helpful coping and learning tools? I can get you started.
 

  1. Happy are they who share with others, for they shall see others smile.
  2. Happy are they who express thankfulness for even small favors, for they shall be appreciated themselves.
  3. Happy are they who perform little acts of kindness, for they will be pleasantly surprised.
  4. Happy are they who are carefully curious, for they will learn many new things.
  5. Happy are they who say little prayers throughout the day, for they will feel God’s closeness to them.
  6. Happy are they who stay calm and count to ten, for they will find quiet comfort.
  7. Happy are they who pay attention to little daily blessings, for they shall see God’s love.
  8. Happy are they who are cheerful, for they will spread laughter to others.

 
Numbers, numbers everywhere! Let’s be sure to count on our own God-given resilience and creativity to start fresh every day with new hope and peace!
 
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, CT. Over the years, she has served in many parish ministries.

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God of inexhaustible freshness,
we thank you for the glory of these spring days
when all creation celebrates the mystery of resurrection.
Give us a little time to “waste” today
just to praise you with our whole being
and enjoy being part of the glory of spring.
This we ask through Jesus Christ, Your Son,
in whom we live and move and have our being.
Amen.

 
Adapted from The Word on Campus © RENEW International.

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Sources I have read online tell me that St. Rita of Cascia, the saint remembered today (May 22) in our liturgy, is sometimes honored as the patron saint of the sick and bodily ills. She was a very prayerful and charitable woman who lived in Italy in the fourteenth century, A.D. Now, in the twenty-first century, many people are asking saints and saints-in-process for prayers as they have never asked before, especially because there are so many unknown aspects of the lethal virus threatening loved ones. The readings for the memorial of St. Rita give us what seem to be good prescriptions for combatting many problems humanity is experiencing.
 
Let’s look at Philippians 4:4-9. St. Paul was not a doctor, but he is prescribing wonderful ways to combat anxiety. He encourages us to rejoice and be grateful as we talk to God. He lists what we should think about: true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, gracious, excellent, praiseworthy things. We have his promise of the presence of the God of peace. So many of us can overdose on anxiety after listening to a news report! Time to change the channel!
 
Looking next at Luke’s Gospel (6:27-38), we see Jesus’ detailed how-to list for treating the deficiencies of true love among his children. He tells us to be generous, non-judgmental and forgiving. St. Rita was a such a generous forgiver: She even forgave those who were responsible for her husband’s death and worked to reconcile the family feud that ultimately was the cause of his murder. She worked hard to encourage her sons to be forgiving too.
 
So, shall we patiently start anew in our spiritual realm, just as we try to reboot our personal home and social lives? Jesus tells us to rethink the usual ways we might respond to situations. Change the indications on our prescriptions for human interactions. Be sure there is a high dosage of mercy in those relationships with others. Pray for the wisdom to be more selfless—even generous—in our expectations of reciprocity. As Jesus says in verse 38: “For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.”
 
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, CT. Over the years, she has served in many parish ministries.

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Note: We can pray with the Sunday readings even if Sunday liturgies have been suspended due to the coronavirus.
Bill Ayres continues to offer his reflections to help our prayer.

A reading from the Acts of the Apostles
(Chapter 1:1-11)
 
Saint Luke, who wrote the Acts of the Apostles, tells us here that Jesus “presented himself alive to them by many proofs after he had suffered, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.” So, is this the actual historical day when Jesus ascended to heaven? Maybe, but this same Luke writes in his Gospel, and John writes in his Gospel, that Jesus ascended on the day of the Resurrection. We do not know the exact day. What is much more important for us is that Jesus told his disciples that “John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit,” and, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes to you.”
 
With respect to his bodily presence, Jesus is leaving, but he is sending his Holy Spirit to be with the Church and with each one of us. We all have received the gift of the Holy Spirit, but we need to accept this most precious gift, the very presence of God in us. It is possible to turn away from the gift or even turn against the gift of the Holy Spirit. What is more likely, it is possible to simply forget about the gift of the Spirit or believe that it does not apply to us, or to give up on the Spirit when we fall into hard times, as we have now, and the Spirit seems absent or at least silent. Yet, the Holy Spirit of God never leaves us and becomes present to us in sometimes unexpected and amazing ways. Let this be our prayer: “Come, Holy Spirit.”
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 47:2-3, 6-7, 8-9)
 
“God mounts his throne of joy: a blare of trumpets for the Lord.” This is ancient imagery from a far distant place and time. However, notice that it is the image of a “throne of joy”, not a grumpy and punitive God.
 
A reading from the letter of Saint Paul to the Ephesians
(Chapter 1:17-23)
 
This is a beautifully poetic description of the power of the resurrected Christ. “May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know the hope that belongs to his call, what are the riches of glory in his inheritance among the holy ones, and what is the surpassing greatness of his power for us who believe.”
 
Remember, Paul is speaking to a people who knew power, a fierce, often unjust and unloving power, the most powerful force in the world, the Roman Empire. They lived in constant fear and with few real rights, a poor beaten people. In the face of this, Paul talks of “the surpassing greatness of his power for us who believe.” Take that, Roman emperor! We have a different kind of power that you can find only in Jesus Christ. It is an eternal power from the man you killed but who defied death, rose again, and lives forever in the presence of God and in his Mystical Body on earth, the Church, which survives your empire.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew
(Chapter 28:16-20)
 
Jesus said to his disciples, “Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. … Then he led them out as far as Bethany, raised his hands, and blessed them. As he blessed them he parted from them and was taken up to heaven.”
 
That was the end but also the beginning of the life that unites us with him today.
 
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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