Branching-Out

Glory

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

We hear the Christmas song, “Angels We Have Heard on High,” this time of year. It is one of my favorite songs. The chorus starts with the word, gloria.

And there is that little prayer we say when we say the rosary, and other times:

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

And the Gloria prayer at Mass starts, “Glory to God in the highest.” With all this glory going on, I got thinking about just how can we give God glory? I looked up the word, and saw that glory means praise or giving great honor.

God does not need my praise or honor, but I need to praise and honor him; I need to acknowledge his greatness and majesty. How can I do that?

I suggest that giving God the glory that is due him involves singleness of purpose. I praise him with all my attention to what I am saying or singing. I think about God’s joy of transcendence: He does not have to make himself available to me, but he does. He wants a relationship with me! I am truly in awe of His generosity!

 

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Topics: glory, prayer life, Sharon Krause, give glory

Visual Aids

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

We recently been seeing the removal and even destruction of statues of certain famous people who, besides their heroic deeds, had either committed or permitted some not-so-admirable practices.

This underscores for me the fact that we humans like visual aids to reinforce certain ideals or to perpetuate certain virtues. Eyes-on and even hands-on experiences are effective for teaching and making lasting impressions on us. We find it helpful to see tangible things and not just rely on understanding abstract concepts. We need to “flesh things out.”

While I understand and appreciate Jesus’ birth, there are no photos of his coming. However, I have a lovely set of nativity figurines I put on display every Advent and Christmas season. Right after Thanksgiving, I brought out my set and carefully arranged the porcelain figures on the top of a small bookcase in my living room. I know some people don’t put out the baby Jesus until Christmas Day, but I love that baby all season long, and I know he came, so I don’t wait.

I finished my decorating and went to bed. In the middle of the night, I heard the telltale sound of porcelain clinking together, and then bang! My husband went downstairs and found the donkey from my nativity set broken on the floor. Buddy, our senior cat, had jumped up onto the bookcase and could not get out of his own way. He took off in a guilty flurry and zipped up and down the staircase a couple of times at top speed.

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Topics: Christmas, Christmas season, Advent, crèche, prayer, Sharon Krause

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

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

A reading from the prophecy of Micah

(Chapter 5:1-4a)

Throughout the church year we hear readings from the major prophets, such as Isaiah and Jeremiah, and from several of what are called the minor prophetsZephaniah, Baruch, and Micah, the last of whom we encounter today. You may notice a common theme in these prophetic readings. The setting is a terrible time for the Hebrew people, usually an exile and period of persecution. But there is always a message of hope that God will save the people through a new leader, a messiah.

We believe that the savior the prophets foretold came in the person of Jesus. He believed it. He called the people together and proclaimed the reign of God beginning here on earth. Many people accepted and followed him, but the religious and political leaders did not. Jesus threatened their power. They wanted to destroy him, but they could only murder him, not destroy him.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 80)

“Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.” That sounds wonderful, but how can we see the face of God? If we have the eyes of love and faith we can see the face of God in our loved ones, in our friends and partners, and in the faces of the faceless and forgotten in our society: the orphan; the elder in a nursing home without family; the single mom working two jobs, struggling to feed her children; and the person begging on the streetperhaps especially that person that is so easy to pass by. May we look more deeply into the faces of God’s children to see his face.

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Topics: Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, Advent, John the Baptist, RENEW International, Indwelling of the Holy Spirit, fourth sunday of advent

Gift Wrapping

Posted by Sharon Krause on Dec 15, 2021 6:00:00 AM

I have a fond memory from when I was a young teenager of volunteering to wrap Christmas gifts as a favor to my Aunt Margie. She had many grandchildren for whom she purchased gifts; she would bring the purchases to me, with wrapping paper, and I would go to work. I liked the job, and she liked not having the job.

Why do we wrap gifts, anyway? I assume it is to increase the excitement and surprise and add a little mystery or guesswork. Gift-wrapping also can add more color to the experience.

I remember trying to disguise packages to look nothing like what gift was under wraps. One time we bought my daughter a necklace for Christmas and hid it inside a wrapped-up ball of yarn. She grew a bit impatient as she unwound the yards of wool! Another time I wrapped a lunch box for my husband so that it looked like a big beach ball. Wrapping and unwrapping take time, but sometimes it can add to the fun and festivity.

When I turn to thoughts of the real essence of Christmas, I remember the description of the newborn Jesus, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. I think about Mary who did not even have the luxury, if you can call it that, of giving birth at home, maybe with her mother nearby. There in Bethlehem, in a stable, Mary gave birth to the greatest gift to mankind. He was put in a manger, not a cradle or crib. It certainly was not an ideal situation! However, I am sure the baby was wrapped in the love of Mary and Joseph, despite the uncertainty of the situation.

 

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Topics: Eucharist, gift of God, greatest gift, Sharon Krause, Holy Communion

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

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

A reading from the prophecy of Zephaniah

This Sunday in the church year is called Gaudete Sunday: Gaudete means “rejoice.” We hear the reason for this title throughout this reading: “Shout for joy,” “Sing joyfully,” “Be glad and exult with all your heart.” Why is the prophet Zephaniah saying this to the people of Israel? Because “The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior.”

Throughout the history of ancient Israel there was the expectation that God would become present among the people and save them from their enemies. We believe that Jesus was and is that presence of God. The promise to Israel and to all peoples has been fulfilled in him.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 12)

“Cry out with joy and gladness: for among you is the great and Holy One of Israel.” The Holy One of Israel is, of course, Jesus.

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Topics: Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, Advent, John the Baptist, RENEW International, Indwelling of the Holy Spirit, third sunday of advent

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)

 

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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.

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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?

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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!

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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.

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

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