Branching-Out

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted by Bill Ayres on Jul 24, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the Second Book of Kings

(Chapter 4:42-44)

Hunger and poverty were rampant in the ancient world. Very few people were well fed, and in times of drought many starved. This is the society that we hear about in today’s reading from the second Book of Kings. Elisha was a great prophet, the successor to another great prophet, Elijah. One of the signs of a great prophet sent from God was the power to feed hungry people. Elisha had that power and so did Jesus; however, it was not that they would feed all the people all the time. That was the responsibility for the whole society, starting with the leaders. It still is today.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 145)

“The hand of the Lord feeds us, he answers all our needs.” We do not think of God as the one who feeds us. We buy our own food, and in emergencies others help us. But there is a fine line for most of us in continuing our self-reliance. More than half of all workers in America make less than $30,000 a year, and an unexpected illness or job loss brought on by an event such as the COVID pandemic can drop formerly self-reliant peopleeven those making much more than $30,000into hunger and poverty. When we buy our food and eat it we need to remember that God gives us the strength to feed our families and also to help feed those in need.

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Topics: Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, RENEW International, Feeding the hungry, Jesus feeds the multitude

Precious Gift

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jul 23, 2021 6:00:00 AM

It is easy to take gifts for granted. We don’t set out to be ungrateful, but when a gift is not something we can hold in our hands, we might become a bit oblivious to its value and implications.

I am thinking about our gift of faith in God. We might not talk about it much. We might not even act on our beliefs until some big challenge or tragedy pops up in our lives. But faith is truly a blessing. It is our passport to eternal life with our loving Trinity.

Let us consider five aspects of faith as we look at the letters in the word, faith.

FFundamentals. We read in the passage from the Book of Exodus included in today’s liturgy that God delivered commandments to through Moses. In these commandments, God communicated what was expected of us. We have the basic rules of how to love God and others. God spelled it out for us. We can easily ignore the commandments, rationalize our behavior, or make excuses, but we cannot say we were not informed.

AAlienation. Because of the sin of Adam and Eve, humankind was alienated from God. God did promise to help us, although mankind wandered and sinned for many years. Prophets spoke of hope. People struggled. There were good, God-fearing men and women who did the best they could. No more Garden of Eden, but an ark was built. Life went on.

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Topics: RENEW International, Sharon Krause, The Gift of Faith

Step by Step

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jul 19, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A man who lives four houses up the street from us likes to plant tomatoes. He doesn’t plant them in his side yard but instead on his paved driveway in a row of 18 buckets equipped with tall stakes. When my husband and I take our neighborhood walks, we can watch the progress of this gent’s bucket garden.

 I do not know of another driveway bucket brigade such as my neighbor’s, but I do admire this man’s systematic method of procuring his summer harvest! He must be diligent about watering his plants and caring for them, as they grow, inch by inch, tomato by tomato.

As we endeavor to get back to some semblance of a normal routine as the pandemic appears to be letting up, we, like the tomato gardener, should try to be methodical. Step by step, we might ease up on our zealous sanitizing, masking, and distancing, while being forgiving of those who have made mistakes in predictions and advisories.

Lessons we have learned during the pandemic can help us in our everyday material and spiritual lives. For sure, it is a good idea to proceed daily, step by step, and not leap by leap. We know we can depend on God each day to help us. In Lamentations 3:22-23 we read:

       The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,

       his mercies never come to an end;

       they are new every morning,

       great is your faithfulness.

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Topics: RENEW International, spiritual renewal, Sharon Krause

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted by Bill Ayres on Jul 17, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the prophecy of Jeremiah

(Chapter 23:1-6)

As we know, shepherds were very important people in a culture that depended on sheep for clothing as well as food. A good shepherd was highly valued, and so the Israelites often referred to their kings as shepherds. Jeremiah accuses these shepherd-kings of having driven the people away and “not cared for them.” “Woe to the shepherds who mislead and scatter the flock of my pasture, says the Lord.”

We often refer to bishops in our Church today as shepherds who are to lead us. Many do it well, but some in our country and around the world have not protected children and teens in their dioceses from abuse. Millions of people all over the world have left the Church in the past 30 years. There are many reasons but high among them is the anger people have toward abusive priests and those who closed their eyes to the crimes. Pope Francis has apologized for this laxity, promised to treat the matter seriously, and put mechanisms in place to do so.

Let us pray for all those who have been abused and for their families and for all those who were guilty that healing and forgiveness can spread throughout our Church.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 23)

“The Lord is my shepherd: there is nothing I shall want.” Jesus is the true shepherd who gives us unconditional love, forgiveness, and strength for all our needs. We need only to ask, to be patient, and to accept the gifts he gives us.

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Topics: Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Prophet Jeremiah, RENEW International, The Good Shepherd

Summer Thoughts

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jul 16, 2021 6:00:00 AM

I live in Connecticut and have been known to complain when the summer temperatures get into the 90s and the humidity becomes unbearable. I think many of us are good at complaining about things that annoy us.

Let’s look on the brighter side today. I say it is time to thank God for the gifts he gives us especially, but not exclusively, in the summer. When we think about summer activities such as swimming, playing golf or tennis, enjoying baseball or soccer, we should take time to thank the Lord for our muscles, our eyesight, our coordination, and our strength. Even when we have summer chores to do, such as weeding the garden or mowing the lawn, we have to admit that God is very generous with us. When was the last time we thanked God for the inventions of sunscreen, bug repellant, ice cream, and beach umbrellas?

While vacationing in Maine one summer, I happened got up very early one morning and looked out the window of the motel which overlooked Moosehead Lake. The sun looked like a giant raspberry rising out of the lake. It was a breathtaking sight. God is such an artist!

Summer skies, configured with puffy clouds, delight any of us that take the time to notice! Sure, lately there have been numerous frightening storm clouds, but storms pass, and God gives us new days and new vistas.

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Topics: God's gifts, gratitude, RENEW International, Sharon Krause, thanking God

The Everyday Gospel: '... to the point of folly.'

Posted by Charles Paolino on Jul 14, 2021 6:00:00 AM

Rabbi Leon Klenicki wrapped up an interfaith-dialogue meeting I attended by saying, “We all believe that the Messiah is coming. Whether it’s the first coming or the second coming we can sort out after he arrives.”

The remark got a good-natured chuckle from the Jewish and Christian people in the room.

Of course, Rabbi Klenicki, a leader in interfaith dialogue, knew that differences between the two religions were more complex than his comment expressed, but still, his message was important.

His point was that in order for Jews and Christians—or any two or more communities—to coexist in peace there must first be good will. Another way to say that is that in order for any two or more communities to coexist in peace there must first be love.

Amid the information flying past me on the internet recently, I noticed a post by the magazine Commonweal with this statement attributed to Dorothy Day: “We must love to the point of folly.” That is not a soft-soap message from a Hallmark card. That is the unvarnished reality that governs our successes or failures as civilized people, and, for us, as disciples of Jesus.

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Topics: RENEW International, The Everyday Gospel: Deacon Charles Paolino

Climb It!

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jul 12, 2021 6:00:00 AM

My retired husband has our television turned on a good part of any day he is not busy with an around-the-house project, so I hear a lot of commentary about the news. Climate change is often in the headlines. That got me thinking about instances in the Bible when someone comes to a high place and decides to climb it.

Bear with me. I have read that Jesus would go to a secluded place, away from the crowds, and pray to his Father. For example, check with Matthew 14:23, Mark 6:46, and Luke 6:12. Jesus wanted alone time, chose a mountainprobably not really a big oneand decided to climb it. Jesus knew what was important, his communion with God the Father, and rose to an occasion to pray in solitude.

Remember the story of vertically challenged Zacchaeus? He sought out a tree to give him some height and climbed it so he could see Jesus. His assent in the encounter that followed was life-changing and life-saving! (Luke 19:1-10).

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Topics: personal reflection, prayer life, reflection, RENEW International, Sharon Krause

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted by Bill Ayres on Jul 10, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the prophecy of Amos

(Chapter 7:12-15)

Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah and Amos were prophets who were rejected by their own people. Amos was rejected by Amaziah the priest of the important temple in Bethel. “Off with you visionary!” Amaziah told the prophet, but Amos refused. “The Lord took me from following the flock,” he said, “and said to me, Go, prophesy to my people Israel.”

Amos was especially concerned with the way poor people were treated by those in power. Most people in his time and place, in the eighth century BC, were poor, so he was most unpopular with the elite, because he spoke the truth to power no matter the consequences. He especially challenged people who thought of themselves as strictly religious but were unjust to those whom they considered inferior.

It is important to see Jesus as following the long tradition of Hebrew prophets whose messages of healing and warning were rejected. Jesus was much more than a prophet, but he certainly was that as well.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 85)

“Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.” When have you recently experienced the kindness of God? Perhaps it was in prayer, through the kind words of a loved one or help from a stranger or someone you hardly knew. God’s kindness comes to us in many ways through many people. Let us give thanks for God’s kindness and all those who share it with us.

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Topics: Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, Book of the Prophet Amos, call to discipleship, gifts from God, RENEW International

The Lighter Side

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jul 9, 2021 6:00:00 AM

When I was a minister of the Eucharist in my parish, I was serving during a Mass one hot and humid summer morning. I stood near the altar preparing to receive the Holy Eucharist myself, before helping to distribute it to the congregation. We were singing the “Agnus Dei” when a big horsefly came flying towards me, heading for my nose and/or open mouth! I quicklyand, I hope, discreetly batted him away and tried to maintain my holy demeanor. To distribute Holy Communion, I stood off to the side with the ciborium in my hand. My teen-aged daughter, Sherry, came to me for the host. She raised her eyes to me and said, “Mom, I saw it! “Well, I had all I could do to keep from giggling out loud, but I mustered all my efforts at composure and went on with my task. Thanks, Daughter!

Another time when I was serving as minister of the Eucharist, all four-feet, eleven inches of me was standing behind the six-foot, five inch Deacon Tom. When it came time for him to hand me Holy Communion, he turned and I steppedwe were out of sync, and, for a moment, he couldn’t find me. Chuckle time!

My mother told me that she once went to Mass while she was fighting a persistent cough. She was chewing a piece of gum inconspicuously, just to keep her throat moist. All of a sudden, she had to cough, and that little piece of gum flew like a missile out of her mouth, barely missing the bald head of the man praying in the pew in front of her. Close call!

 

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Topics: Gratitude to God, RENEW International, Sharon Krause

The Lord's Day

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jul 5, 2021 6:00:00 AM

When I was a little child, my mother used to take me to Sunday morning Mass. We did not own a car, so she and I would take the 15-minute walk to St. Joseph’s Church on Cottage Street in Middletown, New York. We would pass a restaurant, and it would be closed, because it was Sunday, and most businesses were closed on Sundays in those days. However, after Mass, we would often stop into a little convenience store to buy a newspaper for my non-Catholic dad. The lady in this very tiny store would stand behind the counter and solicitously listen to little ol’ wide-eyed me as I told her which of the numerous penny candies in their respective bins I had selected. While I did not come away with too much, I was happy with my treats.

Over the years, I have seen how the Lord’s Day has gotten so much busier. Gradually, stores and restaurants opened seven days a week. More and more people were needed to work on Sundays. The economy was getting more robust. Retailers were getting busier and busier. Vigil masses became popular to help the Sunday workers more easily attend Mass.

So now, in this busy 21st century, how do we keep holy the Lord’s Day? I know that during the pandemic many people wisely stayed away from indoor crowds and perhaps watched liturgies online. Now life is getting back to a semblance of normal, and churches are open with fewer or no restrictions on attendance.

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Topics: RENEW International, Sharon Krause, The Lord's Day

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