Branching-Out

White Snow and the Seven Shovels

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jan 24, 2022 6:00:00 AM

As I write this blog post, Connecticut is covered in a blanket of snow. It is time to break out the shovels to clear the sidewalks and driveways in order to make passage easier. Meanwhile, how about breaking out seven prayer shovels to scoop away anything that interferes with our joyful passage into the new year?

Shovel No. 1 will push away denial of the need for God in our lives and institutions. It can be easy to take our blessings for granted or substitute people or objects for God. Sometimes I recall all the small healings in my life over the years and, I have to reset my gratitude meter.

Shovel No. 2 can be used to scoop away persistent physical viruses and push in good health for soul, mind, and body. We can get so inundated with symptoms and fear of contagion that every part of our lives can be adversely affected.

Shovel No. 3 should be busy clearing impatience out of our way. Technology has helped make so many processes in our daily living very speedy that we can forget how to exercise self-control self-discipline. Patience remains a desirable virtue.

Shovel No. 4 can shove away controversy between individuals and nations. May peace reign in our hearts and in our lands this year. With the help of God, controversies and threats can be reduced and maybe even eliminated.

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Topics: recreate yourself this New Year, Sharon Krause

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted by Bill Ayres on Jan 22, 2022 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the Book of Nehemiah

(Chapter 8:2-4a, 5-6, 8-10)

The events in this book took place in the fifth century before the birth of Jesus, when the Jewish people had been freed from exile in Babylon. People are returning to their own land, rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem, and learning anew the law that God handed down through Moses. They weep as Nehemiah reads it to them, not out of sadness but in joy, that this essential part of their faith has been restored to them. But Nehemiah tells them, “Go, and eat rich food and sweet drink…. Do not be saddened this day, for rejoicing in the Lord must be your strength.”

If the Israelites were told to rejoice in a law that took half a day to read, how much more should we rejoice in the law of Jesus which is a law of Love not of fear?

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 19)

“Your words, Lord, are spirit and life.” We Christians should say ,“Your Word, O Lord, is Jesus who gave his life to save us, and your Spirit is the Holy Spirit who lives within us.”

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Topics: Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, RENEW International, third sunday in ordinary time

The Stairway

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jan 17, 2022 6:00:00 AM

“….10, ouch! 11, ow! 12, oof! 13, whew!”

That’s how I sound sometimes when I climb the stairs to our second floor. I live in a house that is over 100 years old, and my arthritic knees get very weary from my frequent travel up that stairway.

Superstition holds that 13 is an unlucky number, so maybe those 13 steps are just too unlucky for my joints.

In another context, 13 sins are listed in Mark 7:21 as Jesus cautions us,

From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft,    murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy,    arrogance, folly.

On the other hand, perhaps I can come up with 13 little prayers or praises about God which I can call upon, step by step. I might pick out different attributes of God: Lord, you are merciful; Lord, you are all-knowing; Lord, you are my light in my darkness; Lord, you are all-just; Lord, you seek relationship with me; Lord, you teach me; Lord, you make all things new; Lord, you are unchanging; Lord, you offer me strength; Lord, your presence is always available to me; Lord, you are so generous; you are forgiving; and Lord, you are understanding and compassionate.

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Topics: Sharon Krause

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted by Bill Ayres on Jan 15, 2022 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the prophecy of Isaiah

(Chapter 62:1-5)

The Babylonian Exile took place from 597 B.C. to 538 B.C. and was a horrific experience for the Jewish people. This reading is from the last part of the Book of Isaiah and was written as the Jewish people returned from captivity.

The author wants to celebrate the return and let it be known that it happened by the power of God. “No more shall people call you ‘Forsaken,’ or your land ‘Desolate,’ but you shall be called ‘My Delight,’ and your land ‘Espoused.’ For the Lord delights in you and makes your land his spouse.”

That may be strange language for us, but it was a powerful, joyful truth for the Jewish people after so many years of suffering in a foreign land.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 96)

“Proclaim the marvelous deeds to all the nations.” Our God continues to give us “marvelous deeds.” Are you aware of any in your life?

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Topics: Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, RENEW International, wedding feast at Cana

Look Again!

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jan 10, 2022 6:00:00 AM

My backyard is populated by lots of squirrels. Part of the reason for the popularity of my property is that my husband loves to feed the squirrels and the birds. He is in the yard daily filling the feeders. It is amusing to watch the squirrels hanging upside down from the bird feeder as they angle for anything edible.

I have noticed that the squirrels are not just typical gray squirrels. Some of the critters have gray bodies with brown tails. Some have brown ears, and some have white ears! It is fun to give them names, although I really don’t know which white-eared squirrel is which. There are more than one “Mr. White Ears” and surely multiple “Missy Brown Tails.” It is entertaining to see the squirrels feeding and to look again to be more specific about who the voracious creatures are at any given time.

Lots of things in life require a second look.and maybe even a third and fourth. Different perspectives can lead to different judgements and varied conclusions. New details can come to the forefront. Different lights can show different angles. Snap judgements and stubborn opinions can prove iffy. Beautiful things can be even more beautiful. In some instances, a little extra time for consideration can be beneficial.

For example, did you ever read the same Bible passage three times at the same sitting? Did you ever visualize yourself, for example, standing in the stable and actually paying a visit to Mary and her new baby? I saw a television program about Jesus’ birth, and the speaker suggested that the manger, an animal’s feeding trough, could have been made of stone and not wood as we usually see depicted on Christmas cards. Hmm. Look again!

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Topics: New Year, recreate yourself this New Year, Sharon Krause, something new

The Baptism of the Lord

Posted by Bill Ayres on Jan 8, 2022 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the prophecy of Isaiah

(Chapter 40:1-5, 9-11)

There are many beautiful passages in the Hebrew Scriptures in which God speaks soulfully to the people of Israel. This is one of the most powerful: “Comfort, give comfort to my people.”   “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem.” “Fear not to cry out.” “Here comes with power the Lord God.”

Did they listen? Did they hear the words in their hearts? Perhaps many did, but others did not. God speaks to us tenderly and with power so many times in our lives in so many ways, through many different people and situations. How often do we really listen, in times of joy and times of sadness, in stress and in peace, and so many times in between?

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 104)

“O bless the Lord, my soul.” Let us bless the Lord because of all the blessings he gives to us.

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Topics: baptism, Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, John the Baptist, RENEW International, Indwelling of the Holy Spirit, Baptism of the Lord

Time Goes On

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jan 4, 2022 6:00:00 AM

When someone in the family celebrates a birthday, how fast time flies is brought to mind. Recently our grandson turned 21, and the memories of his early childhood brought a smile of wonder to my face. How fast time goes by!

As we enjoy the beginning of a new year and we read the gospels in the post-Christmas liturgies, our focus turns from the birth of our Savior to his public ministry. Scripture tells of Jesus reading from a scroll in the synagogue, healing many people of illnesses, teaching crowds, feeding thousands with only five loaves of bread and two fish, and even walking on water. What a jump from an infant lying in a manger to a 30-something adult teaching and working miracles!

What can we learn from this transition? For one thing, it is important to remember and celebrate milestones. The birth of the Christ child was an unprecedented breakthrough in history. God became visible on earth in the person of a human being! If he did not come as a human comes, how would he grow to be a 30-year-old rabbi? He experienced years of humanity with all its ups and downs, with its desperate challenges.

Jesus was taught how to pray, to work, and to be responsible; we hopefully teach our children to do those things as well. As an adult, Jesus ministered to the multitudes, but often used time away to pray. Prayer is an important part of proper growth. If we want to continue to grow spiritually, we must pray. We pray to keep up with life events as they speedily present themselves to us. Prayer helps us to keep up the pace.

Mary and Joseph were resilient. They responded to challenges with faith-filled action. They had to adjust to Jesus’ being born in a stable. They had to flee to Egypt for safety when Jesus was an infant. Travel was not easy or comfortable, but they did it. They did not have a network of family and friends to help them in their journeys. They trusted God to give them strength and hope.

 

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Topics: Sharon Krause, imitating Jesus, use time well

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: The Epiphany of the Lord

Posted by Bill Ayres on Jan 1, 2022 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the prophecy of Isaiah

(Chapter 60:1-6)

Most Jewish and Christian scholars believe that the prophecy of Isaiah was written by three different people at three different times. Today’s reading is from the last section of the prophecy, written at the end of the Babylonian Exile. It is a time of great joy. “Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you…. Nations shall walk by your light, and kings by your shining radiance.”

The reason the Church reads this passage today is that in the birth of Jesus all this and more has come. Jesus is the fulfillment of all the prophesies and all the promises from God.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 72)

“Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.” The psalmist knew when he wrote this, thousands of years ago that it was not true, but he prayed that it would be some day.

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Topics: epiphany, Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, Advent, RENEW International

Take the Leap

Posted by Sharon Krause on Dec 29, 2021 6:00:00 AM

The gospel reading on fourth Sunday of AdventSt. Luke’s account of Mary’s visit to Elizabeth and the infant in Elizabeth’s womb leaping at the sound of Mary’s greeting, I have been stuck in idea of leaping. Even though 2022 is not a leap year, after all the grief and anxiety the pandemic had been causing, I believe it is time to leap with joy into the new year. Yes, I know the virus has not gone away; but just as John the Baptist leaped in acknowledgement of the presence of our Savior, we can confidently take a leap of faith in the abiding presence of our Lord of Life.

Now let’s consider the nature of leaping. Leaping implies elevation as we jump up and into something. This reminds me of the responses at the beginning of the Eucharistic Prayer. The celebrant says, “The Lord be with you.” We respond, “And with your spirit.” Then the celebrant says, “Lift up your hearts,” and we respond, “We lift them up to the Lord.”

I say that is a good place for us to start fresh. Let’s lift up our hearts to the Lord as we confidently leap into the new year. Also, leaping, in my mind, implies a kind of distance. A jump could be a short distance, but a leap seems to be long, encompassing more space. We may have to leap over past regrets, past fears, past failures and doubts, past disappointments and losses; but, with the help of our loving Jesus, we can go the distance.

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Topics: New Year, recreate yourself this New Year, Sharon Krause, something new

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: Feast of the Holy Family

Posted by Bill Ayres on Dec 26, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the First Book of Samuel

(Chapter 1:20-22, 24-28)

This is a heart-warming and heartbreaking story, especially for those of us who are parents. Many of us have prayed for a child as Hannah did and were overjoyed when that child was born. I suspect that none of us would do what Hannah did, nor would we ever be asked to do so. This event, however, took place thousands of years ago in the context of a different culture and religion. Hannah did what she thought was right and dedicated the life of her child to God’s service. And Samuel did, indeed, perform great service to God and to the people of Israel.

We can identify with Hannah in this sense: We sometimes make sacrifices for our children and for others, and we them with some pain but also with the joy of giving from deep in our hearts.

(An alternate reading for this feast is from the Book of Sirach, Chapter 3:2-6,, 12-14)

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 128)

“Blessed are those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways.” This expression, “fear the Lord,” has been misunderstood for centuries and has been used to frighten and mislead people into both spiritual and emotional illness. The fear of the Lord that the Psalmist is talking about is not the cringing, debilitating fear that drains the joy in people and keeps them from the all- powerful and all-forgiving love of God. The real sense of the word “fear” in Hebrew is “awe” and “wonder” at God’s great power and might.

Are you truly in awe of God, enthralled with his goodness, in wonder of his great creation? Or are you still caught up in the words you may have heard in your childhood: “You better be good or God will punish you.” How you answer that question may either bring you a powerful sense of God’s peace and protection or encourage that little voice that is sometimes in your head that says, “You’re not good enough.”

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Topics: Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, Feast of the Holy Family, John the Baptist, RENEW International, Indwelling of the Holy Spirit

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