Branching-Out

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted by Bill Ayres on Sep 25, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the book of Numbers

(Chapter 11:25-29)

“The Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to Moses. Taking some of the spirit that was on Moses, the Lord bestowed it on the seventy elders; and as the spirit came to rest on them, they prophesied.” However, there were two men who were left in camp “yet the spirit came to rest on them also.” Joshua, Moses’ aide, said, “Moses, my Lord, stop them.” But Moses answered them, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the people of the Lord were prophets! Would that the Lord might bestow his spirit on them all!”

Moses obviously had a broader and deeper vision of God’s generosity than did Joshua who seemed to be stuck in legalism. But think about God’s generosity to us. God, the Holy Spirit, lives in us every day throughout our lives, even when we are not aware of this powerful presence or even if we are not faithful to the gift of the Spirit. The Spirit remains, abides in each of us. The Spirit is our constant companion, especially in our darkest hours and days and years. Do you talk to the Spirit within you? Even more important, do you listen to the Spirit?

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 19)

“The precepts of the Lord give joy to the heart.” For the Jewish people, following the precepts, the Law of Moses, was the way to salvation. For us Christians, the way to salvation is through faith in Jesus, and his law is simple: “Love your God with all your heart and soul and your neighbor as yourself.” It is so simple, yet so challenging.

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Topics: Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, inclusion, RENEW International, Indwelling of the Holy Spirit

Autumn Prayer

Posted by Sharon Krause on Sep 24, 2021 6:00:00 AM

With autumn coming fast, pictures and other representations of pumpkins are populating the retail stores. Pumpkins are almost ready to be harvested from leafy gardens. Pumpkin-flavored everything can be found in numerous locations. It is fitting to present to you a prayer for autumn with pumpkins in mind!

Praise to you, God of the seasons!

Under the autumn sky, we behold your glory and artistic splendor.

Many are your beautiful creations

Perceived amid the colorful leaves and harvest miracles!

Keep us mindful of our own true colors as we

Image you, and show love and openness to our brothers and sisters,

Never forgetting your promise of eternal life with Jesus, your Son, and all the

Saints who sing of your unending mercy and love. Amen.

 

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Topics: RENEW International, Sharon Krause, autumn prayer

About a Boat

Posted by Sharon Krause on Sep 20, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A friend of mine, Mary, was taking a course in spiritual direction many years ago. She asked me if I would let her do a practice session with me. We had had talks of a spiritual nature in the past, so I was happy to oblige.

We met and she asked me to try to visualize an encounter with Jesus. It wasn’t long before I could see, in my imagination, Jesus with me. We were in a rowboat, and Jesus was smiling a wonderful smile as he rowed. Jesus certainly knows me and my love of words very well, and so I saw a connection right away: my maiden name is Rowan, so, of course, Jesus was rowin’ the boat in which I was the passenger!

To this day, I remember how safe and secure I felt with Jesus in control. There were no troubles, threats, or worries in the boat, just Jesus and me. There was no real destination, but just a quiet togetherness. The whole exercise is a treasured memory, with an image I can recall when anxieties creep into my consciousness. The boat did not sink, because Jesus was rowing.

We read in the Synoptic Gospels about Jesus falling asleep while a storm tosses the boat, and his companions think they all will perish. When they wake Jesus, he calms the waters and sternly questions the apostles about the whereabouts of their faith. Jesus has control in this boating adventure.

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Topics: Sharon Krause, Rely on Jesus

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted by Bill Ayres on Sep 18, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the Book of Wisdom

(Chapter 2:12, 17-20)

This book was written less than a century before the birth of Jesus. Once again, the people of Israel were oppressed, this time by the Greeks who forced many Jews to choose between giving up their faith and death. In this text, the faithful person is characterized by his enemies as “the just one.” Such a person will be tortured and condemned “to a shameful death.” The disciples of Jesus later referred to Jesus as the “just one” because of the way he was abused and murdered.

In our own time, we have seen “just ones” persecuted and killed for standing up for justice and human rights. They are the prophets and martyrs among us whose cause is just and whose message must be heard and followed. Archbishop Romero and the three religious women who were killed in El Salvador come to mind, but there are hundreds and thousands more who are nameless to us but whose sacrifice is in the tradition of Jesus, the “just one.”

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 54)

“The Lord upholds my life.” The psalmist complains that “the haughty have risen up against me, the ruthless seek my life.” This is in keeping with the theme of the “just one” being attacked. Has that happened to you, that you were accused of something unjustly? It happens to most of us at some time in our lives. The key to making it through is knowing that “The Lord upholds my life.”

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Topics: Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, humility, RENEW International, the just one

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted by Bill Ayres on Sep 11, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the prophecy of  Isaiah

(Chapter 50:5-9a)

Here are three powerful sentences from this reading: “The Lord God opens my ear that I may hear; and I have not rebelled, have not turned back.” “The Lord is my help, therefore I am not disgraced.” “See, the Lord God is my help; who will prove me wrong?’

Have you ever had the experience of God opening your ear or even your heart? Perhaps you had closed your heart to someone or to some truth, and you would not budge. But then something happened, and you had a change of heart that helped you to see another side of the person or the issue, and you moved on.

Did you ever feel rejected or even disgraced, but then someone came to your aid or your defense? Maybe God sent that person to you, because God is your help.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 116)

“I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living.” The line before this reads, “For he has freed my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling.” This amazing insight was written hundreds of years before the coming of Jesus Christ who truly saves our souls from the ultimate death.

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Topics: Messiah, Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, RENEW International, suffering servant, Suffering Messiah

Same Numbers

Posted by Sharon Krause on Sep 10, 2021 6:00:00 AM

How we use words and numbers evokes different responses and understanding. Let’s consider the numbers 9 and 1. If we call 9-1-1 on the telephone, we are calling for help in an emergency or accident situation. When we solemnly recall the horrific events of 9/11, we remember the terrible terrorist attacks that claimed so many innocent lives. However, there are at least 11 instances in the various books of the Bible that present hopeful messages when we check out 9:11that is, chapter 9, verse 11. I will show you what I mean.

In Deuteronomy 9:11, we read that after 40 days and 40 nights, Moses received the stone tablets containing the Ten Commandments. Even though Moses would fling those tablets in anger at the sinning Israelites, we do see that God was seeking a covenant with his people. God gives us many second chances and wants relationship with us. That should inspire hope in all of us.

In Nehemiah 9:11, we are reminded of how God divided the Red Sea so the Israelites were able to pass and get away from the Egyptians who had enslaved them. Again, we see a reason for hopefulness.

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Topics: hope, hope and promise, Sharon Krause, hope in God

Compete

Posted by Sharon Krause on Sep 7, 2021 6:00:00 AM

From the time children are quite young, they learn about competition. They play board games, sidewalk games, school playground games, and learn that there are winners and losers. As the children grow older, the competition becomes more varied and intense. This year, the Olympics reminded us of the joy and persistence of competition on many levels.

There are many rewards when we compete: trophies, certificates, money, notoriety, excitement, records to break, attention, self-satisfaction, and titles. Many athletes try to just beat their own best performance whenever they compete. From retailers’ points of view, advertising is a means of competing for consumers’ business. 

While competition challenges us to put forth our best performances, it can also be overwhelming. Rivalry and egocentricity can cause some sinful tendencies. As in most areas of life, extremes can be sources of temptation. Balance in life is always a finish line for which to strive.

Fortunately, we don’t have to compete for God’s love. For example, we read in the book of Deuteronomy,

   For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty

   and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe, who executes justice for

   the orphan and the widow, and who lives the strangers, providing them food and

   clothing. (10:17-18)

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Topics: RENEW International, Sharon Krause, growing in faith, growing in love

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: 23nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

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

A reading from the prophecy of  Isaiah

(Chapter 35:4-7a)

When you are in a dire situation, you need a message of hope. Israel was almost always in some kind of danger, in this case attacks from the much more powerful Assyrians. Isaiah’s message from God is clear. “Fear not!” “Here is your God.”

Fear is one of the most destructive forces in our lives. Sometimes it is unwarranted fear that wells up from some dark place in us and takes over for a time, perhaps a long time. At other times it comes from a real concern about someone we love or something that is happening in our lives that threatens our well- being. Of course, we would like all fears to go away or at least leave us alone for a while. God’s message to us in all these situations is “Fear not” or “Be not afraid.” God says this to the Israelites over and over again through the prophets, and Jesus says it to his disciples. These words and their companion message“I am with you”are said more than any other expressions in the Bible. God wants to assure us, especially in our worst moments, that we are not alone.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 146)

“Praise the Lord, my soul.” This psalm is a litany of all the things God has done for his people, especially those most in need. It is a good psalm to pray in times of stress.

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Topics: do not be afraid, Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, RENEW International, care for those in poverty, divinity of Jesus, fear not

Amazing!

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

This time of year, I like to take rides on country roads and look for little hints of color changes in the trees. I love the season of autumn, especially here in New England,  and usually wait impatiently for stores to start displaying fall-themed products. To me, it is amazing how Creator God has equipped nature with such beautiful colors and the chemistry to realize them. It is all very pleasing to the eye.

But amazement goes a lot farther than color hitting the eye. True amazement cuts to our very core and can be life changing. Jesus, the Creator’s Son, filled many people with awe and amazement and astounded his followers over and over again when he walked among them. His miracles, teaching, and actions captured their rapt attention.

Particularly in the Gospel of Mark we read many examples of how Jesus inspired awe. In at least 13 verses we read words such as astounded, awe, and amazement. In Mark 15:5 we read that even Pilate was amazed.

My question is, do we take the time to be amazed at all the positive realities around us these days? Every time I turn on a newscast, there is mostly bad news, especially related to the pandemic virus and its variants. People’s reactions to limitations and mandates take up so much of their energy and time.

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Topics: appreciation, gratitude, Sharon Krause

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted by Bill Ayres on Aug 28, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the Book of Deuteronomy

(Chapter 4:1-2, 6-8)

This is an important moment in the history of Israel. God establishes a Covenant with the people through Moses and gives them the Law which was not a purely external, juridical thing but rather was meant to be in their hearts. Moses warns them “you shall not add to what I command you nor subtract from it.” But by the time of Jesus, there were so many add-ons to the Law that Jesus challenged the leaders for placing a yoke on the shoulders of the people that God never intended. In contrast, he said “my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Over the years, our Roman Catholic Church has also added proscriptions Jesus’ teaching, but for the past 50 years the Church has moved slowly away from these “burdens,” focusing instead on the basic message of Jesus: Love God and one another and believe in the reign of God that Jesus came to make present.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 15)

“The one who does justice will live in the presence of the Lord.” Injustice has been present in every society, and it is today in our own country. There are always those who oppress and cheat others. We are called to speak up for those who are oppressed and treated unjustly.

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Topics: Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, reach out to others in mercy and love, RENEW International, care for those in poverty

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