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With all the talk about social distancing, I got thinking about the company we still can joyfully and safely keep. We don’t have to spiritually distance ourselves; being mindful of our privilege of praying for others in the presence and nearness of God should give us great reassurance. We are not alone.
 
You may have heard the adage that people can be judged by the company they keep. Whether we pay attention daily or not, we all are in the presence of the Holy Trinity with all of our Triune God’s wonderful attributes. God, the Father, is the kind of company that comes to dinner and brings the food—-and even prepares the meal. The Father, our Creator, is full of mercy and strength. Jesus is the Living Bread who came down from heaven, to be with us always. He relates to us with fullness of understanding, and his shoulder is always next to us if we need to cry. He saves us over and over again. The Holy Spirit is a motivating and consoling companion who gives us nudges to pray and extend love to others. The Spirit prays for us and with us, even when we cannot find the words. This Holy Trinity is a divine Light and Power Company, and any brown-outs are from our lack of attention.
 
I suggest to you a little exercise to help you to be more aware of your divine Companions. Make the Sign of the Cross or say the “Glory Be” prayer with additions like these: “Glory be to the Father, who is Abba, and to the Son, who saves me, and to the Holy Spirit, who fires me up, as it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be. Amen.” You can even change the attributes you praise each day!
 
Even when we are not out and about with others as we are used to being, our Blessed Mother, the Communion of Saints, and our friends and families are spiritually there offering prayers for us. I add to this company some other companions with whom I like to fraternize. I refer to them as the “Tudes.” A very important “Tude” is gratitude. When I focus my attention on all the blessings in my life, past and present, my mood easily changes for the better. One of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, fortitude, is another “Tude” I seek out. Fortitude helps me to get through any pain or adversity. It makes me strong and positive. Solitude is another friend that gives me mindfulness to clear my head and adjust my thinking. With solitude, I quiet myself to pray and reflect.
 
I know we all have friends and associates on Facebook, Twitter, and other computer groups. To me, the most important things about the company we keep are our keen awareness of that company, our relationship with that company, and how, ultimately, that company leads us to holiness.
 
Ephesians 4:4 reminds us:
 
“There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.” (NRSV)
 
Image: St. Catherine of Siena Parish, West Simsbury, Connecticut
 
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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Jesus, through the gift of the Eucharist,
you have promised to share with us
your own life in the Father.
This mystery is deep,
help us to understand and believe in you.
We ask this through you, our Bread of Life. Amen.
Amen.

 
Adapted from The Word on Campus © RENEW International.

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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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