Branching-Out

Back Up and Switch Gears

Posted by Sharon Krause on Oct 28, 2020 6:00:00 AM

When I taught second graders in Sunday school, I tried to explain why we sometimes choose to sin. I would slowly walk backwards as I talked about what I called “back-up thinking” and explained to the children that we make choices that we initially see as good. For example, I see Susie’s unattended candy bar on her desk. I like the taste of candy; it is good; she is not at her desk, so I can safely take the candy and eat it. My thinking stops there, and I take the candy bar. However, if I back up farther, I might say, “But God says stealing is a sin, and I am not being the best person I can be in this situation if I choose to sin.”

Thinking things through is important, but it may take a little extra reverse-thinking time. In this speedy 21st century, we are used to thinking and doing things in a forward hurry, sometimes without thorough consideration. We also get into habits that are really thought shortcuts. Sometimes with habits comes less sense of value or appreciation. We might take some things for granted or get a bit lax.

Have you ever thought of backing up in some block of your routine and perhaps switching into slower first gear just to get a new perspective? I read an article years ago about changing the usual way you do something just to keep your brain active and flexible. For example, how about sitting on a different chair at your kitchen table? How about holding your toothbrush in your non-dominant hand as you brush your teeth?

In a more spiritual vein, I got to thinking about backing up and saying grace in-between courses of a special meal instead of before and after the meal. It may cause some interesting family conversation at the dinner tablefor example, thanking God for our tastebuds, being grateful for Grandma and her recipe for baked potatoes, praying a prayer for the truckers who deliver the foods to the stores.

So often I hear about praying one “Our Father,” one “Hail Mary,” and one “Glory Be” part of a series. How about mindfully praying them in the opposite order? Granted, routines are useful for efficiency and comfort, but especially now, during this pandemic, when our routines are somewhat disrupted anyway, it may be a good time to back up and start over in some areas of our lives. Take a new detour. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you be creative.

We might start some new spiritual habits, such as praying daily an abbreviated version of the Divine Office or praying a decade of the rosary in breaks throughout the day. Meditate on just a few verses of a book of the New Testament. We might back up and look again at little near occasions of sin to avoid—-maybe certain words we shouldn’t use or thought patterns we should avoid—-one patient backup step at a time.

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Topics: Divine Office, catholic renew progam, prayer, RENEW International, rosary, sinfulness, sins, spiritual life, slow down, saying grace

Witnesses, Sponsors, and Saints. Oh, my!

Posted by Sharon Krause on Oct 26, 2020 6:00:00 AM

More and more people are having their DNA analyzed to learn about their ancestry. Perhaps it would be interesting to have your SLI analyzed, that is your Spiritual Life Influencesno swabbing required!

Let’s start with your name. Maybe you were named in honor of a certain saintif not your first name, your middle name. If that is so, have you been mindful of that particular saint in your spiritual life? I have prayed and asked St. Anne to intercede for me occasionally; Anne is my middle name.

Have your godparents been present to you in your spiritual development? Conversely, have you prayed for your godparents and their spiritual welfare? Baptism is such an important beginning, the sacrament that makes us spotless members of the Body of Christ. Unless administered in a case of emergency, this sacrament is accompanied with joy and family unity.

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Topics: Christian witness, witness, witness to the baptism, catholic renew progam, devotion to Saints, prayer, RENEW International, confirmation sponsor, godparents, witness to matrimony

Prayer: The Law of Love

Posted by RENEW on Oct 25, 2020 6:00:00 AM

Lord, God, Creator of all,
you have loved us into being:
Grace us with love of you.

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Topics: love of God, love of neighbor, love of self, catholic RENEW program, First Commandment, greatest commandment, prayer, RENEW prayers, RENEW International, Questions and Answers

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

Posted by Bill Ayres on Oct 23, 2020 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the Book of Exodus
(Chapter 22:20-26 )

Here we have several laws that God has given to his people to help them be just to themselves and to others.

“Thus says the Lord: You shall not molest or oppress an alien, for you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt. You shall not harm any widow or orphan. If ever you wrong them and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry…. If you lend money to one of your poor neighbors among my people, you shall not act as an extortioner toward him. If you take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, you shall return it to him before sunset; for this cloak is the only covering he has for his body. What else has he to sleep in? If he cries out to me, I will hear him; for I am compassionate.”

These were hard times, and yet the people were free from oppression by the Egyptians, so they must not act towards aliens and even one another in any way that could be considered like the way they had been treated.

In our own day, we are strong defenders of our own rights, relations, and property, as we should be. At the same time, we must protect the lives and rights of those around us, especially those less powerful and therefore vulnerable to oppression.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 18:2-3, 3-4- 47, 51)

“I love you, Lord my strength.” Have you experienced a certain kind of weakness during this COVID 19 pandemic? Don’t be surprised. Most of us feel that way at least some of the time. You and your family may be safe and healthy now, but you worry that the virus might infect your family. That is understandable, and we must be vigilant and take common sense precautions, but we cannot let worry take over our lives. That is where the strength of the Lord comes in through our prayer. Let us pray each day for those near us and also for those most in need who are infected as well as those who serve the sick or prevent folks from becoming sick.

A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Thessalonians

(Chapter 1:5c-10)

This letter is accepted by biblical scholars as the true writing of Paul, and it is considered to be, chronologically, the first book of the Christian Bible, written sometime around 50 A.D. Paul was in Thessalonica for only a short time before his persecutors drove him away, but during that time he established a small thriving community:

“Brothers and sisters: You know what sort of people we were among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, receiving the word in great affliction, with joy from the Holy Spirit, so that you became a model for all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place your faith in God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything. For they themselves openly declare about us what sort of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God and to await his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus, who delivers us from the coming wrath.”

Notice that Paul says that the community is “receiving the word in great affliction, with joy from the Holy Spirit.” Affliction and joy somehow come together, not only for these people but often for us. Has that happened for you? Amid some trouble or affliction, the joy and power of the Holy Spirit break through. The Holy Spirit is not out there in the air, but deep inside our souls. If only we can open our hearts to the Spirit within.

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Topics: a reflection on the coming Sunday's Gospel, Book of the Prophet Isaiah, catholic program renew, Gospel According to Matthew, renew catholic program, RENEW International, Sunday readings, thirtieth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Love your neighbor as yourself, You shall love the Lord your God, Letter of St. Paul to the Thessalonians

Slogans and Shortcuts

Posted by Sharon Krause on Oct 21, 2020 6:00:00 AM

Did you ever notice how we use catchy sayings in the name of efficiency or expediency in getting messages across? Certainly, it can be profitable in merchandising and advertising. Good ol’ Benjamin Franklin knew that proverbs and maxims were useful. For example, he wrote, “God helps those who help themselves,” in his Poor Richard’s Almanac.

These concise sayings can be like little lectures or sermons that are easy to remember and repeat. There are a number of these verbal shortcuts that mention God. I will mention a few and maybe some timely implications.

Let’s look at that selection from Mr. Franklin I just mentioned. The implication is that God is always there to help people who take the initiative to help themselves. While the maxim might have the purpose of encouraging us not to be lazy or dependent upon others, it is important to remember that in all circumstances, God is ever-present to us to give us physical, intellectual, or emotional strength.

Be strong and bold; have no fear or dread that of them,
because it is the Lord,
your God who goes with you;
he will not fail you or forsake you. (Deut. 31:6)

“In God we trust” is a brief statement we see on our currency; we may not really stop to think about the implications of such a familiar idea. Especially in these stressful days of pandemic, political sparring, and civil unrest, do we really trust God? Many institutions have managed to remove references to God, so it would not matter if he were trusted. How about us, personally; do we really trust God? Perhaps we should pray and ask the Lord to make us more trusting.

There are numerous prayer resources available online, but even a simple ad-libbed shortcut is useful: “Faithful Lord, I trust in your mercy and love. Strengthen my faith and trust in You.” We might want to read the story of Shadrach, Mechach, and Abed-Nego again in Daniel, Chapter 3.

I have heard people rattle off this Bible quote: “for God loves a cheerful giver.” ( 2 Cor 9:7b) and just smiled in passing. Again, in these days of businesses being closed, people scrimping and scraping to pay for necessities, and anxiety affecting many households, being a cheerful giver to those in special need is a very good idea. There are food banks and community collections that truly need cheerful donors bringing aid and support. While we know God loves us all, this short scripture quote brings home the truth that God especially loves donors whose hearts and attitudes are joy-focused.

We often hear the expression, “What would Jesus do?” There were T-shirts and various other items carrying that logo. While only four words, the question had a wide range of implications, all begging the question of how Jesus would react to our modern-day situations. Do we ever think about that now?

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Topics: catholic renew progam, prayer, RENEW International, thanksgiving, COVID, In God We Trust, What would Jesus do, slogans, Poor Richard's Almanac

The Seventeen

Posted by Sharon Krause on Oct 19, 2020 6:00:00 AM

One summer morning my husband and I were on the way to accomplishing some errands. As we drove past a church, we caught sight of the busy movement of wildlife. Filled with curiosity, we turned into the church driveway to get a better look. To our amazement, there was a flock of turkeys: one hen, one tom, and 15we counted ‘em—15 very little turkey chicks! They were busy looking for breakfast and did not disappear into the cluster of bushes bordering the parking lot. We got a good look at our feathered friends as they cavorted around the nearby neighbor’s backyard. What a family! What a serendipitous morning ride for us!

In retrospect, those turkeys remind me that, throughout the course of any given day, a few large and a number of small blessings come my way, and I don’t always pay attention or thank the Lord for them. Perhaps we should teach, or, by our example, at least remind others about gratitude.

I remember being challenged to jot down things for which I am grateful, beginning with each letter of the word, thanksgiving. That might be a good lesson for children who have extra time and challenges learning at home instead of in classroom settings nowadays. Young children could use just the letters in their first names or their pets’ names.

For adults and children, however, gratitude is not a word game. It is a means of prioritizing and resetting our thinking. I used to belong to a small faith-sharing community, and its purposeful existence was focused on thankfulness. We were called “the Glory Gang,” striving for a measure of gratitude in action and not just words. We all might be pleasantly surprised at our creativity when we tap into it.

There are a number of passages in the Bible about gratitude. Psalm 100 is short enough to copy and keep handy and visible, perhaps on the refrigerator door or nightstand:

     Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come into his presence with singing.

     Know that the Lord is God.
It is he that made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

     Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise.
Give thanks to him, bless his name.

     For the Lord is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.

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Topics: catholic renew progam, gratitude, prayer, RENEW International, thanksgiving, Psalm 100, wild turkeys

Prayer: Questions and Answers

Posted by RENEW on Oct 18, 2020 6:00:00 AM

Creator God and Father,
you are closer to us
than we are to ourselves;
you plant the deepest questions
in our human hearts and minds;
inspire us to struggle honestly with these real questions
and to refuse the false confidence of easy answers.
We ask this through Christ, your living Word,
sent to reawaken your Spirit within us.
Amen.

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Topics: catholic RENEW program, prayer, RENEW prayers, RENEW International, hearts and minds, Questions and Answers

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted by Bill Ayres on Oct 16, 2020 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah
(Chapter 1:4-6 )

This was written in the sixth century before the birth of Jesus, towards the end of the Babylonian Exile, when Cyrus, the ruler of Persia, conquered Babylon and allowed the people of Israel to return home. The author wants the people to know that it was through the power of God that Israel was saved.

“For the sake of Jacob, my servant, of Israel, my chosen one, I have called you by your name, giving you a title, though you knew me not. I am the Lord and there is no other, there is no God beside me. It is I who arm you, though you know me not, so that from the rising to the setting of the sun people may know that there is none besides me. I am the Lord, there is no other.”

Here we have the classic principle, “repetition aids comprehension.” “I am the Lord, there is no other…. There is none besides me…. There is no God besides me.” OK! you say. We get it. But that is the point. The people did not always get it. “You knew me not.” Why? How could that have been? Well, people worshiped several gods, and there was always a temptation to seek another that seemed to be more powerful.

You and I worship the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one God in three persons, but sometimes we may be tempted or even seduced by the false gods of money, power, prestige, and empty pleasure. Temptations are always there, but during this time of COVID 19, emotional stress, isolation, financial worries, and boredom can challenge and sometimes overcome us, at least for a while. It is at these times that we need to reach out to someone we trust for strength and healing and take the time for prayer—often!

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 96: 1, 3, 4-5, 7-8, 9-10)

“Give the Lord glory and honor.” It is not that God needs it but that we need it. We need to stay in touch with God, in gratitude, and see what happens. Gifts will be given!

A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Thessalonians

(Chapter 1:1-5b)

“We give thanks to God always for all of you, remembering you in our prayers, unceasingly calling to mind your work of faith and labor of love and endurance in hope of our Lord Jesus Christ, before our God and Father…. For our gospel did not come to you in word alone, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with much conviction.”

Do you believe in the power of the Holy Spirit? Have you experienced it in your life? Did you ever think that something that went right for you, or something that seemed hopeless but worked out, or a gift that suddenly appeared, was through the power of the Holy Spirit who lives within you every day of your life? It happens! Sometimes, we are “surprised in the Spirit.”

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Topics: Babylonian Exile, census tax, a reflection on the coming Sunday's Gospel, Book of the Prophet Isaiah, catholic program renew, renew catholic program, RENEW International, Sunday readings, COVID, Power of the Holy Spirit, render unto caesar

Prayer in a Pandemic

Posted by Jessica Guerriero on Oct 15, 2020 6:00:00 AM

The start of this month made me realize that we have been living in a pandemic life for half a year. What started as a whisper, a rumor, has taken over our everyday lives, and the effects are limitless. The struggles and losses have been tremendous and heartbreaking.

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Topics: bible study, adoration, catholic RENEW program, prayer, RENEW International, Sunday Mass, pandemic, COVID, social distancing, Zoom

How You See It

Posted by Sharon Krause on Oct 14, 2020 10:28:20 AM

Have you ever heard of lenticular printing? Well, that is the process that is used to create the print I have hanging in my kitchen. Basically, if I look at the picture from one angle, I see Jesus at the Last Supper. If I move slightly and look again, I see Jesus on the cross. If I move again, I see Jesus as the Good Shepherd. It’s all in one picture frame, all colorful and very detailed. It is one of the best purchases I’ve ever made!

I don’t know about you, but I am inspired by visual aids. For example, I might be getting something out of the refrigerator, and as I close the door and look over on the wall where that print hangs, I see the Good Shepherd and am reminded of that beautiful Psalm 23, “the Lord is my shepherd.” A few verses might come to mind and a little prayer may be inspired. Lovely, useful visual stimulation!

We know people’s observations and conclusions do not always agree. Three individuals could understand the same concept in three different ways. We come from different backgrounds, disciplines, experiences, and belief systems; no wonder we hear of controversies and arguments.

Today is the optional memorial of St. Callistus I, a third-century pope who was greatly criticized, particularly by St. Hippolytus, on matters of discipline and doctrine. From the writings of Hippolytus, we gather that he considered Callistus too lenient toward sinners and differed with the pope on issues including the reception of Holy Communion, marriage, and even ordination requirements. They probably had read many of the same texts and documents but had come to different interpretations.

How we see things is a subject in sacred scripture too. In a few of the verses from the optional gospel reading for the memorial, Luke 22:24-26, we read about Jesus correcting the disciples’ vision of greatness.

A dispute also arose among them as to which one of them
was to be regarded
as the greatest.
But he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles Lord it over
them;
and those in authority over them are called benefactors.
But not so with
you; rather the greatest among you must become
like the youngest, and the
 leader like one who serves.”

Certainly today, with politicians at odds over a number of issues, we are bombarded with more than one opinion about many important matters affecting our country. I suggest that we bombard Jesus, our Good Shepherd, with prayers for patience, mutual understanding, and above all, for God’s will to be fully accomplished.

The way I see it, St. Paul had wonderful instructions for the Philippians that we should follow:

Do not worry about anything,
but in everything by prayer and supplication
with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
And the peace
of God, which surpasses all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your
minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7).

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.

 Scripture passages are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1965, 1966 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.

 Resource: franciscanmedia.org

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Topics: catholic renew progam, Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, prayer, Psalm 23, RENEW International, St. Hippolytus, St. Callistus I, Letter of St. Paul to the Philippians, Lenticular printing

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