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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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