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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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