Branching-Out

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted by Bill Ayres on Nov 6, 2020 6:00:00 AM

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

No one knows who the author of the Book of Wisdom was or if there were several authors. We do know that it was written in Greek only about 50 years before the birth of Jesus for the Jewish community in Alexandria, to give them hope in the midst of persecution.

Wisdom is portrayed as a woman, a God-like figure giving advice and comfort to the people. “Resplendent and unfading is wisdom, and she is readily perceived by those who love her, and found by those who seek her.”

We all need wisdom that goes beyond mere knowledge of facts into a deeper level of knowing. We often refer to this special level of wisdom when we say, “She was very wise for her age.” “He is a wise old soul.” Wisdom is a gift that comes to us at different times and from many sources. Do you believe in your own wisdom? How does it help you at important times in your life? From whom do you seek wisdom? Who are your go-to wisdom sources, not necessarily the most knowledgeable people, but folks who have life-teaching wisdom? Do you pray for wisdom, especially during difficult times or in situations that call for you to make hard decisions? The Holy Spirit within you will answer those prayers. Wisdom is never far away if you seek it with an open heart.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 63:2, 3-4,, 5-6, 7-8)

“My soul is thirsting for you my God…. For you my flesh pines and my soul thirsts like the earth, parched, lifeless and without water.” The author of the psalm lived in a desert area where water was both a necessity and a gift. Thirsting for God was an expression that every desert people could identify with.

Think of a time when you were really thirsty. How did it feel, and how did it also feel when you finally had that drink of water? Your soul and mine thirst for God, but we don’t always realize it until we are in need or when we are struck by the awesomeness of creation or the challenges of our lives.

A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Thessalonians

(Chapter 4:13-18)

We Christians believe in a life after death. Paul did as well, and here he wants to say it clearly to his beloved people, the Thessalonians. “We do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, about those who have fallen asleep, so that you may not grieve, like the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose, so too will God, through Jesus, bring with him those who have fallen asleep.”

It is a great blessing to believe that our loved ones are alive in the peace and loving embrace of God, that they have been forgiven, healed and now live again. Do you believe that for them and for yourself? Do you truly believe that heaven is not some dream, or something made up but rather a new level of reality for all of us, no matter who we are? We cannot gain heaven by our deeds alone. It is a gift that God offers to us and, like all gifts, we need to accept it and live our life here in gratitude for it.

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Topics: parable of the 10 virgins, a reflection on the coming Sunday's Gospel, Book of Wisdom, catholic program renew, Gospel According to Matthew, Jesus Christ, Psalm 63, renew catholic program, RENEW International, stay awake, Letter of St. Paul to the Thessalonians

Thoughts on Genesis

Posted by Sharon Krause on Nov 4, 2020 6:00:00 AM

Creation seems so long ago, especially if you watch any educational shows about archeology and the dating of certain relics found during digs. However, if we go to the Bible account in Genesis, chapter 1, we can still find some food for thought and meditation today. We read that from formless void and darkness, God brought forth day and night, the sky, the earth, the seas, vegetation, the sun, the moon, animals and, finally, humans made in his own image. He saw that it all was good. That is a lot to create! 

I pray, Lord, help me make of my formless and dark day today something that is good and worthy of me, your child, whom you have made in your image. Push me to brighten someone’s day or assist someone in awakening to and appreciating you. As vegetation grows and nourishes, teach me the best ways to grow and nourish myself so that I can be of better service to my family members and my neighbors. Give me a new understanding of life’s purpose. Share with me a new optimistic beginning today. Thank you for teaching me creativity. Amen. 

We read that on the seventh day, God rested. He also blessed that day. There is a reason for this resting. I think God is instructing us on how to separate ourselves from all the busyness—-although often necessary—and work and struggle. Nowadays, when most stores and many businesses do not close on Sunday, it is so easy to enable others to work while we shop. Understandably, there are those who have to work or shop on Sunday, but I have found it is so easy to recreate on Sunday without much thought about keeping it holy other than attending Mass or watching a Mass that is live-streaming. I am not suggesting that we spend the whole day polishing our halos, but maybe a little more time for spiritual reflection or a few extra prayers would be warranted. Maybe helping with a food kitchen would bless a Sunday as well. 

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Topics: Adam and Eve, catholic renew progam, creation, Genesis, pray, prayer, RENEW International, sabbath, spiritual life, Sunday Mass, temptation, Noah, ark

Close Encounters

Posted by Sharon Krause on Nov 2, 2020 6:00:00 AM

I believe most of us have experienced a close encounter with the Lord every once in a while, perhaps while we are praying or attending a religious function. I will never forget the wonderful closeness I felt with God as I attended the Mass being celebrated for my graduating class of the Catholic Biblical School in Newington, Connecticut. The celebrant was reading from Chapter 17 of the Gospel of John, as Jesus prays for his disciples, which I quote in part:

I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who
will believe in me
  through their word, that they may all be one.
As you, Father, are in me and I am in
you, may they also be in us,
so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
The glory that you have given me I have given them,
so that they may be one, as
we are one, I in them and you in me,
that they may become completely one, so
that the world may know
that you have sent me and have loved them
even as you
 have loved me.” (Vs 20-23) 

It seemed as if the reading was meant for me, that Jesus was praying for me very personally. There was a peace that lingered, a graduation gift I still hold dear.

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Topics: catholic renew progam, Good Shepherd, Gospel according to John, prayer, Psalm 23, RENEW International, sins, spiritual life, centering prayer, close encounter

Prayer: Finding God; Serving God

Posted by RENEW on Nov 1, 2020 5:00:00 AM

Lord, help me not to fear
poverty
sorrow
weakness
hunger
thirst
We find you in our emptiness.

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Topics: beatitudes, the people's prayer book, God's blessings, prayer, renew catholic program, RENEW International

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: Solemnity of All Saints

Posted by Bill Ayres on Oct 30, 2020 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the Book of Revelation
(Chapter 7:2-4, 9-14)

The Book of Revelation is most difficult book of the New Testament to understand. The context in which it was written is an important factor in increasing our understanding. It was a time of persecution, around 65 AD. Christians were being martyred for their faith, and it seemed to them to be the end of days. Many thought the world as they knew it would end. The author of Revelation assures them that they are the elect and will be saved by Jesus, the Lamb of God.

Over the centuries, and even in our time, various sects have taken these words literally and gone to a mountain or desert to wait for the end of the world. Of course, nothing happens, and then they go about their lives wondering what it was all about.

Sometimes, in the worst times of our lives, we experience our own little apocalypse when we do not know how we might go on in the face of loss or deep suffering. At those times, we can experience the gift of the Holy Spirit, who is always with us but whose presence is often somewhere in the background of our lives. The worst times can turn out to be times of enlightenment and healing in the Spirit. Has that happened to you? Do you pray to the Spirit of God within you during those times?

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 24:1bc-2, 3-4ab, 5-6)

“Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.” We are that people today. We long to see God’s face but in good time, not yet. Most of us would like to stay in this life as long as we are able, and so we can see the face of God even now in so many ways, in so many people, if we have the eyes and hearts to see. Where or in whom do you see the face of God?

A reading from the  first Letter of Saint John

(Chapter 3:1-3)

“Beloved, we are God’s children now, what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” Wow! That is one of the most joyful and amazing passages in the whole Bible: “We shall be like him., for we shall see him as he is.” Please spend some time reflecting on what that means to you. This is what our faith teaches us. It is what we believe as Christians, but too often it gets lost in so many other laws, teachings, and rituals. This is it. This is the promise. This is our greatest hope. Let us rejoice.

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Topics: beatitudes, life in christ, a reflection on the coming Sunday's Gospel, blessed, catholic program renew, feast of unity, Gospel According to Matthew, renew catholic program, RENEW International, share love of Christ, Solemnity of All Saints, Sunday readings, Rejoice and Be Glad, First letter of Saint John, Psalm 24

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

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