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My husband surprised me with a gift of an opal pendant. The pretty milky white stone has lots of “fire” in it—meaning there are a lot of color spots in it and it is pleasant to look at it as I turn it this way and that. As I thought about it, I could see some parallels between opals and ourselves.
 
The main body of the pin-fire opal, such as I have, is usually white and shows a myriad of small pinpoint-like colors all through the surface. The flashes of color are due to a special optical effect occurring when a ray of light meets a very thin film of the opal which has a different optical density from that of the light. Precious opal contains a large number of these thin films which are thin layers of submicroscopic spheres. The flashes of color vary as the stone is rotated.
 
Now, how can we compare ourselves to opals? First of all, an opal with lots of fire in it, is attractive, and is very precious. When we have the fire of the Holy Spirit in us, we can attract others by our Christian attitude and behavior. We can draw more people to us and to our Lord.
 
Every opal is different. Each of us is very different—unique and precious in God’s eyes. Each of us has different color spots: different ways of reflecting to those around us the Light that is Jesus. When I turn my opal, I see different colors; when we show our talents and God-given gifts to our brothers and sisters, we find more colorful ways to lovingly serve the Lord.
 
Color, or fire, in opals is caused by the collision with light. Our fire is caused by our collision or meeting with the Holy Spirit who can fill us with zeal and power if we are open. In the Old Testament especially, fire was a symbol of theophany, the presence of God, and it was an instrument of his power. God came to Moses in a burning bush.

Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the Lord had descended upon it in fire…(Exodus 19:18a, NRSV).

Fire is refining and purifying in its power, as we read in Isaiah 43:2b:

…when you walk through fire you shall not be burned and the flame shall not consume you;..(NRSV)

The fire is purifying us and many times in the scriptures, God speaks of the refining fire.
 
In the New Testament, the Holy Spirit brought power to the disciples as tongues of fire rested upon their heads. And after that, the disciples were filled with evangelizing zeal and the fire of God’s message of love.
 
For years, there was a lot of mystery surrounding the opal and what caused its various properties. We, too, are accustomed to certain mysteries of our faith that we don’t fully understand. However, we do have faith and that does not have to be totally explained to be beautiful.
 
There was an ancient superstition that opals could restore keenness of vision. We know that the light of Jesus Christ can bring greater clarity to our vision of his kingdom. We see things of this world differently when we look through Spirit-filled eyes of joy-filled faith.
 
Opals can be fluorescent, can glow in the dark. With the gifts of the Holy Spirit in us, we can have a special glow about us amid the darkness of temptations, materialism, pandemic, and worldly unrest.
 
How do we keep our fire burning? We need to be prayerful and willing to surrender to the Lord who is our source of heat, light, and breath of life. We must fan our fires and stay close to the one who adds the color to our humble lives.
 
One final note about the opal: potch is opal that does not show the play of color, or as miners say, is not alive. Let us be sure we treasure and nurture the fire within us, so no one can say we are potch! Let the glow show!
 
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.
 
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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Jesus, our Friend,
thank you for your presence with us today.
Be with us,
especially as we perform our chosen actions
and listen for your call.
Help us always to keep you in mind,
to seek in every moment
a chance to grow closer to you
in those you send into our lives.
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 56:1, 6-7)
 
The context for this passage is the return of the Jewish people from exile in Babylon in the sixth century before the birth of Jesus. Isaiah starts off with a call and a promise: “Thus says the Lord: Observe what is right, do what is just; for my salvation is about to come, my justice, about to be revealed.” There were many foreigners who wanted to convert to Judaism. “Them I will bring to my holy mountain and make joyful in my house of prayer…. For my house shall be called a house of prayer for all the peoples.” Isaiah is proclaiming a much more inclusive religion, one that welcomes foreigners.
 
Our Catholic Church in the United States has always welcomed immigrants and foreigners, including our own ancestors. Today, immigrants are still a growing part of our Church and we welcome them.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8)
 
“O God, let all the nations praise you.” Imagine, if that really happened!
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans
(Chapter 11:13-15, 29-32)
 
Paul refers to himself as “the apostle to the Gentiles,” and he is saying that both Jews and Gentiles have a history of rejecting Jesus. Yet, from their disobedience has come reconciliation. “For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? … For God delivered all to disobedience, that he might have mercy upon all.”
 
God made a promise to the Jewish people and, even though many of them rejected Jesus as the Messiah and the Son of God, the promise remains. “Just as you once disobeyed God but have now received mercy because of their disobedience, so they have now disobeyed in order that , by virtue of the mercy shown to you, they too may now receive mercy. … For God delivered all to disobedience, that he might have mercy upon all,”
 
Have you thought very much about God’s mercy? Pope Francis has and has written about mercy because he experienced it many years after he made a decision that harmed some of his fellow Jesuits in Argentina.
 
Whatever you or I may have done, the loving mercy of God is always there for us. We need only ask for it and express genuine sorrow.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew
(Chapter 15:21-28)
 
Matthew wrote his Gospel especially for his fellow Jews. So, at first, he has Jesus being reluctant to deal with a Canaanite woman because she was not a Jew. “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon.” The disciples were annoyed at her. “Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.” But the woman did not give up. “Lord, help me.” Then, Jesus said something that seemed to be a rejection: “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” The woman was desperate and not deterred. “‘Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.’ … Jesus said to her in reply, ‘O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.’ … And the woman’s daughter was healed from that hour.”
 
Matthew clearly sees the mission of Jesus as the savior of Israel and yet, he adds this story that expands the mission of Jesus to all.
 
The lesson for us is perseverance, even when we too are desperate, frustrated, and almost without hope. God hears us but not necessarily on our time.
 
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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No one has ever complimented me on having a green thumb. I am not really a plant person, although I do love looking at flowers and plants of many kinds. It was not a surprise that last spring I noticed a small clump of pretty yellow flowers on one side of my front porch. They were impatiens, and the name was not lost on me; I quickly found the wordplay and realized that it would not hurt to continue to try to work on my problem with impatience—especially during these months of limited socializing and freedom to just go out and about.
 
Patience can be a virtue in short supply when we are confined or forced to change our daily way of life. It is hard to be patient, for example, waiting for a Corona vaccine to be tried and tested properly. It can be trying to wear a face mask, to be constantly worrying about contagion and hygiene, to wait farther back on a line of people because of social distancing.
 
A saint who is a powerful example of a person with patience is St. Jane Frances de Chantal whose memorial is celebrated today. Born in France in 1572, she wisely learned to order and manage a feudal household with her husband and their four children. Any parent knows how much patience is needed to raise children.
 
Jane was widowed at a young age, and even though she had to live with her father-in-law and a testy servant, she maintained a faithful way of life and was even known for her great sanctity. With the help of St. Francis de Sales, she founded the Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary which accepted older and infirm women. Despite family troubles and her own spiritual challenges, Jane was patiently generous to the poor that repeatedly came to her door. She lived a virtuous and austere life as she tried to guide those she loved. She even forgave the man who had accidentally killed her husband. Personally, I think it would have been difficult living in St. Jane Frances’ shoes.
 
Those clumps of impatience that we all experience, that are hard to overcome, can be gradually weeded out with prayer as we gratefully remember God’s patience with us! St. Paul tells us that “Love is patient” (1 Cor 13:4a); and that we should “clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience” (Col 3:12).
 
We can be encouraged to be patient. The psalmist says in Psalm 40:1, “I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry.” Proverbs 14:29 says, “Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but one who has a hasty temper exalts folly.” And Proverbs 15:18 says, “Those who are hot-tempered stir up strife, but those who are slow to anger calm contention.”
 
It seems logical to conclude that when we are patient, we have God waiting with us; we might gain greater understanding, and we can help to establish a certain calmness to a situation. Whether we are impatient with ourselves, others, or a circumstance, we should remind ourselves that God’s timing is not our timing. We are always in control. Patience comes as fruit of the Holy Spirit, so I try to remember to ask the Spirit for help.
 
Thank you for your patience, readers. I end with some encouragement from the Letter of James (1:2-4): “My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance, and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.
 
Resources: Catholic Online; Catholic Encyclopedia.
 
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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Good ol’ tropical storm Isaias paid a nasty visit to my neighborhood and left part of the street on which I reside with no power for almost five days. That may not sound like a lot of time until you are the family without electricity to power an air-conditioner in very hot August weather or even a fan to help keep the air moving.
 
The situation would have been worse for my husband and me had it not been for a neighbor who lives on a street perpendicular to mine. His street did not lose power. He rapped at our door the morning after the transformer on our utility pole blew out with a loud bang and asked if we would like to string an electrical cord from one of his home outlets so that we could at least plug in our refrigerator. After that, for about four days, a bright orange, fifty-foot-long extension cord could be seen stretching from my neighbor’s cellar hatchway to our slightly open kitchen window. That one skinny power line meant cold water, cold milk for cereal in the morning, and all those other convenient foods that taste much better unspoiled!
 
One line—not a whole bunch of lines, just one—made such a difference. I got to thinking about simple things and how they can bring about change. I remember how, when I was in parochial school, my sixth-grade teacher used to have us students recite a simple prayer when we were changing from one subject of study to another:

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.

 
That little prayer brought our attention to Mary and how she helps us with her prayers; it was a sort of holy way to transition from one task to another. It was a good little habit of prayer to adopt at our early age.
 
Short prayers like that are useful ways to go about a busy day; I like to call them spiritual segues. In today’s world, with so many distractions away from spiritual thoughts, a short, even one-line prayer, sometimes called an aspiration or ejaculatory prayer, can serve useful purposes. One little line can be a prayer-starter, a re-focuser, maybe even a beginning of a mantra.

Father, Creator, thank you for blessing me with the sight of such a
beautiful sunrise!

 
The aspiration can be a power line to prayer. While there is certainly no substitute for spending blocks of time in prayer conversation with our Lord each day, we can ask for special help with a certain task at hand or put a loved one into his loving hands as we get word of an unexpected problem:

Jesus, our Loving Savior, be with (name) and give her strength.

 
There are litany prayers, lists of petitions we often use for novenas or public prayer gatherings. We can certainly borrow from those lists for our little prayer shortcuts. We can borrow a line from the prayer at mass, the Gloria;

We praise you, we bless you, we adore you, we give you thanks for your
great glory….

 
If we can punctuate our day with these one-line holies but goodies, these small prayers of praise, thanksgiving, or supplication, we might be holier and happier or, at least, more in touch with our main source of power.
 
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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