Branching-Out

Love in a Mitten

Posted by Sharon Krause on Dec 8, 2021 6:00:00 AM

Brrr! It is a cold morning here in New England! I woke up thinking about how I will have to dig out my gloves to keep my hands warm if I go outside today. Then I remembered a piece of information: mittens will keep your hands warmer than gloves, because your fingers are nestled all together inside mittens. Sure, there are dexterity benefits with wearing gloves, but if it is warmth you are after, mittens are the answer.

In this gloves-versus-mittens topic, I see some parallels in spiritual life. Certainly, each of us has specific gifts and talents that help us live out life as followers of Jesus Christ. On my own, I can give my time, talent, and treasure to help those among us who live in poverty. By myself, I might be a church choir director, a Sunday school teacher, a lay minister, a clergyman, a spiritual blog-writer, a church usher, an altar server, a volunteer at a soup kitchen or convalescent home.

Let us consider the “mitten” side of this discussion. We can enjoy a wonderful warm feeling when we meet with a group of people who are pursuing fellowship with each other and with Jesus Christ. Especially in the season of Advent, as we build our excitement and remind ourselves of the day our Savior came to earth, gathering with other like-minded believers can be very rewarding.

For years, I was a member of a small Christian community of faith-sharers that met on Wednesday afternoons in our church basement. We used booklets that offered discussion questions and reflections about the liturgical weekly readings. (Amazing materials like this are available now from RENEW International.) Getting to know the people in the small group, their expressions and responses in faith, their past and present encounters with the Lord in prayer and action was inspiring.

Jesus was at those meetings. There was no question about that!

   “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”

   (Matthew 18:20)

 

Read More

Topics: faith sharing group, Sharon Krause, prepare for Christmas, pray together

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: Second Sunday of Advent

Posted by Bill Ayres on Dec 4, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the prophecy of Baruch

(Chapter 5:1-9)

How can you find hope amid desolation, exile from all that you have loved, and the never-ending feeling that you have been abandoned by the very God who you believed would save you? That was the situation for the Israelites as they suffered for what seemed like forever in exile in Babylon in the seventh century before the birth of Jesus. It is hard for us to imagine how awful life for the people was during that time, but here the prophet Baruch, a scribe of the prophet Jeremiah, offers a message of hope for a despairing people.

Has there ever been a time when you have felt abandoned by God, in exile from ones you loved, and perhaps also from your better self? The same message of hope that God sent to the Israelites he gives to us, not from afar but from the very Spirit who lives within each of us.

May we open our minds and hearts to the healing word of the Spirit for God. It might not come right away and it might come as a surprise from an unlikely source. But have faith that it will come.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 126)

“The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.” What are the great things that God has done for you that have given you joy? Please take some time during Advent to reflect on these gifts and how they have changed your life.

Read More

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

Advent Calendars

Posted by Sharon Krause on Dec 1, 2021 6:00:00 AM

These days I see advertisements for Advent calendars. What I see are kits that have the first 24 days of December displayed with either candies or trinkets of some kind for each day. I think that, by and large, it is children who are attracted to these calendars that help build excitement and anticipation as Christmas Day draws nearer and nearer. Certainly, retailers will do all they can to build enthusiasm for the approach of the big day. Also, Advent calendars are more items to offer consumers.

If we get away from the buyers’ calendars and check out the liturgical calendar, we consider the days before the feast of the Nativity with a focus on the joyful anticipation of God’s greatest Gift to the world. Sure, Advent calendars offer the viewer a little gift every day; but we need to think about the many gifts God gives us every day.

Let’s make up a spiritual Advent calendar. Based on the readings for Masses, let’s concentrate on a gift God gives us each day. A certain word, psalm verse, or clause from a reading might be chosen. There are so many possibilities, but I will get us started. Ready?

Read More

Topics: Christmas, Advent, Advent calendar, Sharon Krause

Thoughts and Concerns

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

Here we are, coming fast to the end of the year. Two big holidays punctuate these last days: Thanksgiving and Christmas. People have already wished me happy holidays.

 What are the current concerns we hear about on the news? For Thanksgiving, the prices of turkey and all the fixings will be going up because of shortages and pandemic repercussions. If the most important thing about the holiday is food and making it taste the way it should, then we had better get shopping and searching for sales and supplies. After all, isn’t Thanksgiving mainly about those favorite recipes and eating a feast? Who are we thanking anyway: the workers at the farms and grocery stores, those who prepare the savory dishes, those who planted the vegetables? Do we go far enough and thank the Creator for all the blessings? Do we think more about our appetites and our pigging out than the true meaning of the holiday? Certainly, it is enjoyable to eat lots of good food and share time and stories with family and friends; but do we also take the time to truly be thankful to God for all we have? Is one little “Grace Before Meals” prayer the beginning and end of our effort of giving thanks? How do we allot our time?

 Retailers are getting nervous about the supply shortages. They are urging consumers to shop very early. After all, isn’t the Christmas holiday supposed to be when we all splurge and spoil our families and friends? Aren’t all the decorations, lights, and gifts the objects of our hectic activities? Who cares whether we call the season “the holidays,” or “Christmas?” Isn’t the focus on those special presents and Santa Claus? Spend that money! Everyone should be merry and bright as we concentrate on material goods!

Read More

Topics: Christmas, Christmas season, thanksgiving, Sharon Krause, Meaning of Christmas

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: First Sunday of Advent

Posted by Bill Ayres on Nov 27, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the prophecy of Jeremiah

(Chapter 33:14-16)

This is a prophecy by Jeremiah for the Jewish people who had suffered from the long exile in Babylon. “The days are coming says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and Judah. In those days, in that time, I will raise up for David a just shoot; he shall do what is right and just in the land. In those days Judah shall be safe and Jerusalem shall be secure.”

The early Christians and we today believe that Jesus was the person that Jeremiah foretold. This person was the Messiah, but much more than that, he was the Son of God, finally coming after all those generations to save his people. At the time, many believed but many did not, and that is still true today. Many who were brought up as followers of Jesus have rejected him. Just as God did not forsake the people who rejected him 2,000 years ago, we should not reject those of our families and friends who have drifted away now. Our God is a God of mercy and forgiveness.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 25)

“To you O Lord, I lift my soul.” Do you ever “Lift your soul” to God? It does not have to be a formal prayer. It can simply be an awareness of God’s loving presence.

Read More

Topics: Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, Advent, First Sunday of Advent, RENEW International, second coming of Christ

An Advent Prayer

Posted by Sharon Krause on Nov 26, 2021 6:00:00 AM

As I seek a new approach to welcoming Advent this year, Psalm 51, especially verses 10-17, has inspired a personal prayer that I am moved to share.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me, (v. 10)

Lord, I know you are very patient with me. You did not create only in the Garden of Eden. Your power to create, correct, and enhance creation will encourage me as I proceed through the days of Advent. Help me to focus on your Son and what a gift he is to me. Assist me as I endeavor to rid myself of trivial concerns and to pay closer attention to my spiritual priorities. Take away any tendency to give in to discouragement or testy moodiness brought on by fatigue,

Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit. (vv. 11-12)

The Holy Spirit offers amazing inspiration when I am open and paying attention. Lord, send me that Spirit and help me recognize the Spirit’s promptings. How awesome is the joy of salvation that I enjoy thanks to Jesus’ selfless gift of himself. I can know sweet joy every day of this Advent season: J-esus O-nly Y-ou!

Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you. (v. 13)

 

Read More

Topics: personal reflection, Advent prayer, prayer life, Sharon Krause

Just for a Day

Posted by Sharon Krause on Nov 22, 2021 6:00:00 AM

I enjoy religious days of reflection and retreat weekends, but due to the pandemic and perhaps to my being overly cautious, I have not indulged in such a program since February 2020. Any of us, however, can choose a day and make it retreat-like. It would have to be a work-free day, maybe on a weekend, on which we could somewhat separate ourselves from family and friends to create a private holy space in which to think, read, and pray.

Starting the retreat day with a Mass is a good idea. Invite the Body of Christ to walk with you. It would not be necessary to lock yourself in your bedroom. Retreat houses have various rooms and comfortable furniture. Many of them also have lovely grounds on which to take meditative, prayerful walks. On this self-retreat day, a walk or two in your own yard or around your neighborhood is a possible activity, weather permitting. Praying with nature often prompts reflection on the beauty and grandeur surrounding us: the vastness and bounty of our Creator. We may have to direct our eyes upward with more attention on small wonders or simple miracles of creation. Look again, and again.

Prayer books or spiritual reading material can provide food for reflection. I have books I keep promising myself I am going to read and never quite get to them. On this proposed “day away,” allowing time to relax with good spiritual reading material can allow the Holy Spirit to teach and inspire you.

Read More

Topics: personal reflection, prayer life, spend time with God, Sharon Krause

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: Solemnity of Jesus Christ the King

Posted by Bill Ayres on Nov 20, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the prophecy of Daniel

(Chapter 7:13-14)

Daniel refers to “one like a Son of man coming.” Whom did he mean? Remember, this book was written less than 200 years before the birth of Jesus. It was a time of horrible persecution, and this scripture was intended to give the people hope. The “Son” envisioned here was probably seen as God’s messenger who would herald the last days. The last days of what? Probably, it was the last days of the evil Seleucid King Antiochus IV which did come soon after. This Son of man would have been considered the messiah, a messenger sent by God to bring justice and peace.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 93)

“The Lord is king; he is robed in majesty.” The psalm proclaims the one God, the God of Israel, who always was and always will beGod, whom we encounter in an intimacy unknown to the ancients, through his Son, Jesus Christ.

Read More

Topics: Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, RENEW International, Jesus Christ the King

Call Out the Team

Posted by Sharon Krause on Nov 17, 2021 6:00:00 AM

When you listen to the news, there is a good chance you will hear that retailers are urging consumers to start their Christmas shopping now because of expected shortages of products due to backups at shipping docks and the shortage of truck drivers. Couple with all of that our gradual and anxious recovery from the virus pandemic, and we are faced with a good amount of pressure, uncertainty, and stress.

I have noticed stores rushing to display Christmas merchandise and decorations even before Halloween. Right there among the skeletons and bats it was possible to see displays featuring Santa and his sleigh waiting to be purchased by COVID-weary customers.

Clement Moore’s “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” gives Santa’s reindeer names: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, and Blitzen. To keep our focus on good spirituality while making necessary Christmas preparations for the next five and a half weeks or so, perhaps it may be a good idea to summon our own personal teams of spiritual reindeer to pull us along. Allow me to introduce you to my team.

The lead deer are called Grace and Joy. Grace reminds me gently that the Lord shares his life with me. God is generous and loving as he gives me strength every day. He is a personal, ever-present God. Joy pushes through any dark or challenging times as she tells me repeatedly that eternal joy is offered to me, that Jesus willingly paid the price for me.

 

The next two deer are named Sanctus and Serenity. Sanctus helps me to separate myself somewhat from worldly concerns so that I take time to strive to be holy as God is holy. As the holiday season ramps up, it is easy to get immersed in material concerns. Serenity encourages me to be sure I get enough peaceful rest so I can cope with the momentum of everyday challenges.

 

Read More

Topics: patience, prayer life, Sharon Krause, prepare for Christmas

Hear the Word: 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted by Charles Paolino on Nov 13, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the Book of Daniel

(Chapter 12:1-3)

This reading from the prophecy of Daniel always reminds me of a poem several generations of school children were forced to memorize: “Abou ben Adhem” by Leigh Hunt. According to that poem, Ben Adhem awoke one night to find an angel in his room writing in a golden book. The angel said he was writing the names of “those who love the Lord,” and that Ben Adhem’s name wasn’t among them. In that case, Ben Adhem said, “Write me as one who loves his fellow men.” The angel wrote and disappeared but returned the next night and “showed the names whom love of God had blest, and lo! Ben Adhem’s name led all the rest.”

There’s quite a contrast between that account of Ben Adhem’s encounter in the stillness of his room and Daniel’s description of the day of judgment when “everyone who are found written in the book … shall live forever, [but] others shall be an everlasting horror and disgrace.”

But, of course, if we take to heart the outcome of “Abou ben Adhem” we needn’t be terrorized by the prospect of condemnation. Love of God and love of neighbor (the “fellow men” of the poem) are two sides of the same coin in our Christian belief. Indeed, Jesus said they are the two greatest commandments. We have opportunities every day to practice love in how we speak to each other in person, how we write to each other online, how we work with each other, how we drive, how we treat restaurant servers and grocery clerks, how we share what we have with those who have less, or little, or nothing.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 16)

“I set the LORD ever before me; with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.” That is a key to finding our names “written in the book.” If we are mindful—let’s say through little moments of prayer throughout the day—that we are always in the presence of God, we will have a sound foundation for the choices we make, the actions we take, and the things we say.

Read More

Topics: Hear the Word! by Bill Ayres, RENEW International

Subscribe Here!

Recent Posts

Posts by Tag

See all