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Today, the Church celebrates the memorial of St. Anthony of Padua. The story goes that St. Anthony, an excellent preacher and teacher—now honored as a Doctor of the Church—prayed for the return of a special book that was stolen from him by a novice at the Franciscan hermitage where Anthony taught. The book was returned, and Anthony eventually became the patron saint of lost articles.
 
I am sure many of us have prayed to St. Anthony when we have lost something important or necessary to us. Often, we subsequently find the lost item. How do we understand that? When we pray to the saints, what are we really doing?
 
I am reminded of a few experiences I had when I was employed as a salesperson at a Christian bookstore. Occasionally a customer would come in looking for a little statue of St. Joseph to bury in their yard to assure success in selling a house. My wide-eyed non-Catholic Christian would wonder how we Catholics could be so superstitious! I would try to explain what the customer might have thought, but I wondered how many times any of us have given the wrong impression. Statues are not lucky charms or idols. They are reminders of holy people who will come to our aid, who can help us as we pray, whose examples we can follow.
 
When we pray and ask St. Anthony, St. Joseph, our Blessed Mother, or any other saint to help us, we are not looking to those saints as gods or goddesses. We are asking them to intercede for us with God, to pray for us and for our intentions. We are requesting their special prayerful help.
 
In the reading from Isaiah today (61:1-3d), we are reminded that there are many people who are suffering: the lowly, the broken-hearted, the captives, prisoners, and those who mourn. Especially now, with the coronavirus weighing so heavily, we can pray extra prayers and teach others about intercessory prayer. St. Anthony, pray for all of us who feel lost in some way!
 
And in the gospel today (Luke 10:1-9), as we read of Jesus sending out the seventy-two ahead of him, we rejoice that God’s kingdom is at hand. That is the wonderful news that enlivens our weary spirits with the desire to be less concerned about earthly things and more inspired to teach by correct example about the gift of the many kinds of prayer available to us.
 
Image courtesy of Pat Wiley Folk Art: Tales Told in Paint.
 
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 Book of Deuteronomy
(Chapter 8:2-3, 14b-16a)
 
Moses was the leader of the Hebrews as they escaped from Egypt into the horrors of the Sinai Desert where they suffered for forty years from extreme thirst, hunger, and attacks from poisonous serpents and scorpions. Here, he explains that this was a test. “Remember how for forty years now the Lord, your God, has directed all your journeying in the desert, so as to test you by affliction and find out whether or not it was your attention to keep the commandments. He therefore let you be afflicted with hunger, and then fed you with manna, a food unknown to your fathers, in order to show that not by bread alone does one live, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of the Lord.”
 
As they established their new homeland, the Hebrews had many battles with other tribes and nations, and the message was always that God was with them, even in their worst suffering and challenges.
 
It is most important to hear this message of “God With Us” now, as we suffer our own kind of exile, often separated from people we love and the work that sustains us in so many ways.
 
Do you take a little time each day to reconnect with the Spirit of God within you who will help you to get through the “desert” that we now travel?
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 147:12-13, 14-15, 19-20)
 
“Praise the Lord, Jerusalem.” This psalm celebrates the blessings that God has showered on Jerusalem and on all of Israel. It helps us to remember all the blessings that God has given to our community and our country, lest we forget or take them for granted.
 
A reading from the First Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians
(Chapter 10:16-17)
 
Paul wants his readers to know that the meal that they celebrate is not just any meal but rather the presence of the body and blood of Jesus Christ.
 
“Brothers and sisters: The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.”
 
If we have ever taken the Eucharistic Meal for granted, we certainly do not now, when most of us have not been able to celebrate together for months. Hopefully, we will come back soon and do so with caution and joy, remembering all our sisters and brothers who have died from the virus or any other cause and all those who are still afflicted.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to John
(Chapter 6:51-58)
 
The following words must have seemed dangerous to many who did not believe, including the Roman rulers, but the followers of Jesus knew what the words really meant.
 
Jesus said to the Jewish crowds: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” The Jewish audience were shocked by these words. “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” They knew from Moses about the manna that God sent from heaven when the people were starving in the desert, but this was very different. “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise him on the last day. … “This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died. Whoever eats this bread will live forever.”
 
That is the same promise the Lord makes to us today. We will live forever! Amen!
 
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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Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another
in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts
sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.
(Colossians 3:16)

 
St. Ephrem, whom we celebrate today, a doctor of the Church, saw the great value of songs in our public worship. He has been given the title “Harp of the Holy Spirit.” He knew, as we all do if we think about it, that songs are useful teaching tools. He astutely used the melodies of heretics’ songs, replacing the original lyrics with orthodox teachings to educate the faithful.
 
Recently, songwriters have adapted certain songs to teach lessons; for example, the lyrics that mention ‘touching hands’ in Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” have been altered to ‘washing hands’ in light of the COVID pandemic. It is clear that songs convey stories, lessons, emotions, and celebration. Commercials on radio and television use songs or jingles to make consumers want to buy the advertised products. How would little children learn the alphabet without that “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” melody? Everyone likes to hear a story, whether it be a Christian witness story or a parable that a Jesus used in his teaching. A sung story is just the pleasant addition of music. We can listen and learn.
 
Thanks to St. Ephrem, who promoted songs in public worship in the fourth century, we have an array of spiritual songs that we sing at Mass. I take them for granted sometimes. Those songs often use psalms from the Bible, or quotations from gospel passages. The repetition of those songs in my head can be pleasant vehicles of prayer—-if I am paying attention to the lyrics. Nowadays it is also easy to find an assortment of Christian music on the internet.
 
Perhaps it could be time to introduce a bit more of a variety into our prayer time. Songs reminding us how God is always present with his mercy, love, and power can be very reassuring in these troubled times. Singing or listening to songs about our grateful love for Jesus can lift us up when we are feeling anxious and give us opportunities for reflection. Why not share a favorite spiritual song with some family members or friends? Instead of paying it forward, we can pray it forward in song!
 
No matter in what key we sing, we can get into the spirit St. Paul urged on the Colossians (3:14): Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
 
(Resource: franciscanmedia.org)
 
The scripture verses 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, CT. Over the years, she has served in many parish ministries.

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Father, we give you thanks
for loving our world enough to give us your Son.
Through the light of the Spirit, help us to judge clearly
as we seek to make informed and unselfish decisions
for ourselves and for others.
This we ask through Jesus Christ, your Son
Who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit.
Amen.

 
Adapted from The Word on Campus © RENEW International.

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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 Book of Exodus
(Chapter 34:4b-6, 8, 9)
 
“Early in the morning Moses went up Mount Sinai as the Lord had commanded him, taking along the. two stone tablets. Having come down in a cloud, the Lord stood with Moses there and proclaimed his name, ‘Lord.’ Thus the Lord passed before him and cried out, ‘The Lord, the Lord, a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity.’ Moses at once bowed down to the ground in worship.”
 
This is one of the truly monumental moments in the history of Israel, Moses receiving the Ten Commandments from God and pleading with God, “O Lord, do come along in our company. This is indeed a stiff-necked people; yet pardon our wickedness and sins and receive us as your own.”
 
The false gods that Moses knew of at that time did not have the wonderful qualities that Moses attributes to the one true God: merciful, gracious, slow to anger, full of kindness and fidelity. That is the God that we believe in today.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Daniel 3:52, 53, 54, 55, 56)
 
“Glory and praise forever.” Yes, especially today, amid the horrors that we face in our society and in our world. In these times, it may be harder for some to believe in this one true God, but it is ever more important.
 
A reading from the Second Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians
(Chapter 13:11-13)
 
Here is a beautiful blessing from Paul to a people in crisis and great danger. “Brothers and sisters, rejoice. Mend your ways, encourage one another, agree with one another, live in peace, and the love of God and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the holy ones greet you. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.”
 
Here we have a trinitarian blessing has been used from the beginning of Christianity.
 
I remember being taught as a child in Catholic school that we are all created “in the image and likeness of God” and that God was not an isolated being but a community of persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. That being true, then we are all communal beings, starting with our families and moving out from there to friendships, various communal groups, and the community of our church. Of course, each of us is an individual, and we can and should pray to God in our own solitude, but praying in community is also something in our very nature. So, we miss our communal celebrations of the Eucharist. Let us pray for one another while apart and hope for our coming together again soon.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to John
(Chapter 3:16-18)
 
“God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.”
 
Many people think of God as “up there” or “out there somewhere,” but the true God, shared his life with us in Jesus, and his Holy Spirit lives within every one of us. Sadly, right now we cannot experience that presence in community. We may have become separated from several other communities that give us joy. Let us do our best through the various electronic means to stay in touch with so many people who make up our community until we can see them in person and rejoice in the love and presence we share with them.
 
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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