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I have an office/workroom upstairs in my old house. There are two windows, side by side, offering a treetop view. One day as I was doing some ironing—yes, I am one of those people who still irons clothes—I saw what I thought was a clump of brownish leaves at the very top of a 90-foot fir tree down the street. All of a sudden, those “leaves” took flight and flapped away! What I had thought were leftover dead leaves from the preceding autumn were small birds, full of life and energy. I was pleasantly surprised. How did those birds all balance on that little top limb?
 
How often have I made incorrect, pessimistic assumptions about life circumstances and not prayerfully looked up with hopeful expectations? After all, Psalm 212:1-2 says: “I lift up my eyes to the hills—from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” If I go out on a limb, my Lord, my Creator, will hold me up and support me.
 
Another day, my attention was seized by a commotion just outside my windows, in the cedar tree next to our garage. A big—and I do mean big—flock of starlings flew in wonderful synchronization and landed in that cedar tree! Apparently, a large number of the birds somehow got the message that that tree was the place to be together at that moment. It was a sight to behold! As quickly as they arrived, they departed in one fell swoop! It got me thinking about my flock. I have so many family members and friends with whom I am blessed. I must not leave out my guardian angel or the Communion of Saints, on earth and in heaven, who pray for me.
 
We can be thankful that none of us is alone, and we have the promise that we will never be alone; we will have a home for eternity. Psalm 84:3-4 reminds us, “Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God. Happy are those who live in your house, ever singing your praise.”
 
One afternoon I shared a few minutes with a nice plump robin who came to rest in that same big cedar tree in my yard. I had a good view from my upstairs window. The robin landed on a wide branch and just sat there…and sat there…and sat there. I expected him to leave and flit from one neighborhood tree to another. No, he just sat there in all his robin glory for at least ten minutes. Of course, I started thinking about my personal benefit of just sitting still and praying or meditating…or just being. Psalm 46:10-11 says: “‘Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.’ The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.”
 
Being my best self, my true self, and not my rushed, distracted self is a good idea. Thank you, Mr. Robin, for that reminder! Perhaps my upstairs reflections may help you take flight from this troubled world for a little while.
 
(Bible quotes are from the New Revised Standard Version.)
 
Image: Lynn Curwin/Truro Daily
 
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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Come Holy Spirit, come!
Open our eyes to those whose minds are locked in fear,
whose hearts still cling to what was.
Direct us to those who need a sign of your love.
Show us how to heal our world, one person at a time.
This we ask through Jesus Christ
who abides with us through you.
Amen.

 
Adapted from The Word on Campus © RENEW International.

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Openings and reopenings…comings and goings…home and not home! How are we supposed to know if we are coming or going in our troubled world? To remain calm and control our anxiety, it is helpful to take time to pray and remember who is really always in control.
 
I have been thinking about some of the numerous comings of God in the Old and New Testaments. Remember when Adam and Eve heard God coming in the garden right after they had sinned, and they felt the need to hide? (Genesis 3, 8-10) Recall when God came to Moses in the burning bush (Exodus 3:1-4:17) and again to Moses with the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17). How about when God came to Elijah at Mt. Horeb, not in the wind, the earthquake or fire, but just in a quiet voice? (1Kings 19:11-13) Such variety in those few examples! That should not be surprising. After all, God is the Creator!
 
Let’s consider the comings of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. Look at the birth of Jesus (Luke 2:6-7). The Son of God came to earth and was laid in a meager manger in a stable. In his ministry, he walked through Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and beyond the Jordan. Jesus’ wonderful sermon on the mount (Matthew 5-7) should give us cause to be so grateful that he came to the multitudes! Once, he even came walking on the sea (Matthew 14:25)! Yet again, after Jesus rose from the dead, he appeared to the apostles despite locked doors (John 20:19). Who would expect that? How wonderful when we stay unlocked and keep a lookout for God among us! When the eleven apostles came to the mountain in Galilee where Jesus was present but about to ascend into heaven, he blessed them and commissioned them to make many more disciples; he promised to be with them always (Matthew 28:16-20.) The apostles—and we—have a mission, but it comes with a reassuring promise of help!
 
Now, in the afterglow of the celebration of Pentecost, we can meditate on the great coming of the Holy Spirit with all the spiritual gifts, refreshment, comfort, healing, guidance, and zeal that could come only from a God who is love. We are fortified for our mission of coming and going to small and even great lengths to spread that love.
 
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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With only three days left in this month of May in which we honor our Blessed Mother, Mary, it is fitting that today we remember Pope St. Paul VI who ardently encouraged devotion to her. In fact, Pope Paul wrote several documents concerning Mary and the prayers with which we, her Church, express our love for her and ask for her intercession.
 
Paul VI, who has been called: “Defender of the Rosary” (Catholic Exchange), promoted recitation of the rosary and opposed changes to the devotion. He officially gave Mary the title of “Mother of the Church” as the Second Vatican Council concluded.
 
Mary has many beautiful titles, all given to her by others, but she described herself as the Lord’s “lowly servant” (Luke 1:48). The namesake of Paul XI—St. Paul the Apostle—displayed similar humility by calling himself “a slave to all,” (1 Corinthians 9:19), fulfilling his vocation to preach the word of God “free of charge.” Paul added, “I have become all things to all, to save at least some.” (v. 22.) Paul seeks to identify with the people to whom he is preaching in order to bring them the good news of salvation. It seems that, in his humility, he understands the importance of his spreading his message which supersedes any need for recognition as a titled preacher.
 
In the gospel reading for this memorial, (Mt 16:13-19, 22-23), Jesus asks who people say he is. Simon Peter already knows that Jesus is not John the Baptist, Elijah, or Jeremiah. The apostle declares that Jesus is Christ, the Son of the living God. Then Jesus calls his disciple Peter, the rock on which Jesus will build His church. Certainly, the name, “rock” suggests great strength and power.
 
Ah, the importance of names! Let us consider today: with what names or titles do we identify? Do we live up to the expectations that accompany those designations? We can delight in the fact that we are: “children of God,” “Christians,” “disciples,” and “brothers and sisters in Christ.” In John’s Gospel, (15:15), Jesus even says we are his “friends” if we love one another as he commands. Clearly, we have work to do.
 
We will celebrate the feast of Pentecost in two days. We are reminded that the Holy Spirit, also named the Advocate, has given us many spiritual gifts to help us to live up to our names and love others while sharing the good news of the Kingdom of God. Of course, as always, we pray in Jesus’ name!
 
(Resource: St. Pope Paul VI: Defender of the Rosary, Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC, October 19, 2018.)
 
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 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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