Branching Out Blog

Share the Good News

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jan 15, 2024 6:00:00 AM

When my daughter was ready to attend first-grade religious instructions, the CCD coordinator asked if I would consider teaching a few children myself, in my home, for an hour a week. The parents could drop the children off at my house, with their little workbooks, and my daughter, of course, would be a member of that class. I felt qualified since I had had 16 years of Catholic education myself and had been a faithful practicing Catholic.

 I have to confess that the first time I actually started talking about Jesus out loud I was a bit challenged. Even with all my theology classes, I had not really shared my faith vocally. It had been a very personal thing. My non-Catholic husband is a Christian but not a churchgoer except to support some program or class with which I was involved. My mother had always taken me to church when I was young, but we did not sit and talk about our faith. Catechism answers, church rules and commandments, and rites and rituals were important but not something we chatted about.

 As it turned out, I ended up teaching religious instruction for 18 years, in home and at the Catholic grammar school a mile away from my home. There were times when the CCD teachers would meet with the coordinator to talk about teaching issues and challenges. I eventually got involved with more adults who actually shared their personal religious experiences and thoughts.

 An office of small Christian communities formed in my area and there was a program created whereby our parish offered about five or six small Christian Community groups that met weekly, for about an hour, either at the church or in individual’s homes. I joined a small Christian community that met after the noon Mass on Wednesdays. In the group, we talked about our faith as it related to the weekly Sunday Mass readings. We did not get extremely technical or doctrinal or theological. We shared anecdotally how God was in our little and big life experiences. We were actually sharing our faith stories and enlightening ourselves and each other. We talked out loud, and we prayed. We grew closer to Jesus and to each other.

 And now, even apart from any group, it is easier for me to share God with others and to draw attention to his blessings and loving presence. I don’t have to preach but just joyfully point out where I see God working and remember to pray and ask his help. Sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ uplifts me and those with whom I interact. It is more than an occasional “God bless you!” It could be “God is so good!” or “God loves you and will help you through!” or “Let’s pray together!”

  

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Topics: sharing your faith, small faith sharing groups, Sharon Krause

"Hear the Word!" by Bill Ayres: Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted by Bill Ayres on Jan 13, 2024 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the First Book of Samuel

(Chapter 3:3b-10, 19)

“Samuel was sleeping in the temple of the Lord where the ark of God was. The Lord called to Samuel , who answered ‘Here I am, you called me.’ ‘I did not call you,’ Eli said. ‘Go back to sleep.’ So, he went back to sleep.”

This happened again and then again, but eventually Eli, a priest of the Temple, understood what was happening, that it was God calling Samuel. So Eli said to Samuel, “Go to sleep, and if you are called, reply, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’”

Samuel went to sleep again and “the Lord came and revealed his presence.” “Samuel answered, ‘Speak, for your servant is listening.’ Samuel grew up, and the Lord was with him, not permitting any word of his to be without effect.” Indeed, he was one of the most important leaders in the history of ancient Israel.

Each of us must make decisions in life—some minor, some life-changing, such as choosing a new school and a direction in life or deciding to marry and have children. How do you approach your callings and opportunities? Do you pray? And, most of all, do you listen to the Spirit who lives within you?

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 40:2, 4, 7-8, 8-9, 10)

“Here I am Lord, I come to do your will.” Sometimes, it is certain what your path should be, but often, it is not clear. Is the voice of God coming directly to you in consciousness or dreams? How or through whom does the voice of God come to you? Can you say as Samuel said, “Speak, your servant is listening”?

A reading from St. Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians

(Chapter 6:13c-15a, 17-20)

Some of Paul’s converts thought that they could harm their bodies without harming their souls. Paul is very clear. “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God and that you are not your own? For you have been purchased at a price. Therefore glorify God in your body.” Sometimes, we forget that the Spirit of God lives within us. There are so many ways that we can fail to take care of our bodies. That neglect will affect our souls as well.

A reading from the Holy Gospel according to John

(Chapter 1:35-42)

This story is about the calling of Peter, but it does not start with Peter: “John (the Baptist) was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God.’ The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, ‘What are you looking for?’ They said to him, ‘Rabbi,’—which translated means Teacher—where are you staying?’ He said to them ‘Come, and you will see.’ So they went and saw where Jesus was staying and stayed with him that day…. Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus. He first found his own brother Simon and told him, ‘We have found the Messiah’—which is translated Christ. Then he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon, the son of John; you will be called Cephas’—which is translated Peter.’”

Peter, whom Jesus would make head of the Church, was not the first to meet Jesus. Andrew met him first and saw immediately that Jesus was the one, the Messiah. So, Peter came to know Jesus through Andrew who met Jesus through John the Baptist. On one level, it seems to be a coincidence. Andrew just happened to meet John the Baptist, listened to him, and was so moved by his time with Jesus that he told brother Peter. That is where it all started. But there are no coincidences. There is a call and a response.

We never know when we might be called to do something that may seem small but could have major consequences on our path to follow Jesus. I have never thought to pray to Andrew. Reading this passage now, after many years of reading and hearing it, I think I will have a conversation with Andrew who knew Jesus first.

May this year be blessed with peace, collaboration, and better health for all of us and our country and our world.

 ✝️

Image: The Calling of Saints Peter and Andrew, Michelangelo Merisi (Caravaggio), circa 1603-1606, Royal Collection, Hampton Court Palace, London..

Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved. The passage regarding the wedding garment is from The New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC All Rights Reserved.

 Bill Ayres was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. He has been a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years and has two weekly Sunday-night shows on WPLJ, 95.5 FM in New York. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.

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Topics: Bill Ayres, need prayer and reflection, second sunday in ordinary time

So Many Gifts

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jan 8, 2024 6:00:00 AM

Are we done yet? Are we weary from thinking about making Christmas-gift lists, shopping for gifts, paying for gifts, wrapping gifts, and, lately, exchanging or returning gifts?

We know gifts are means of giving of ourselves to people whom we love and cherish, but we don’t always find the exact gifts we want to give or receive the gifts we have been desiring. In this “material” world, we can easily get misdirected and distracted. Usually we are grateful for the well-intentioned gifts others give us and are reminded at the time of the good feelings we share.

Before the feast of the Nativity, we heard of various gifts: Mary’s accepting the gift of being the mother of Jesus, her visit to Elizabeth, and the dream Joseph was given telling him to take Mary into his home. John the Baptist was gifted with the chance to share the good news of the coming Messiah. Yesterday, we heard of the gifts the magi brought to Jesus. Mary was given the gifts of wonderful memories to treasure in her beautiful young heart.

We are surrounded by gifts from God. This year ahead could be a good time to heighten our awareness of our numerous blessings that don’t come wrapped in fancy holiday paper. Available to us are the gift of awareness of God, the joy of receiving Jesus’ Body in the Holy Eucharist, the wonderful, inspiring words of Sacred Scripture, the Communion of Saints that prays for us, the inspirations of the Holy Spirit, to name just a few.

The beautiful and poetic Psalm 104 can help us acknowledge other gifts. Not only can we read the various verses, but we can easily meditate and personalize them. The psalm mentions the great things of nature: waters, mountains, clouds, trees, creatures. We can interject our experiences of nature for which we are so grateful. Verse 33 reads:

   I will sing to the Lord all my life;

       I will sing praise to my God while I live.

 And we can follow the suggestion of the first two verses of today’s Mass responsorial psalm (Psalm 29: 1-2) and give heartfelt gifts of praise and glory:

   Give to the Lord, you sons of God,

       give to the Lord glory and praise,

   Give to the Lord the glory due his name;

     adore the Lord in holy attire.

It is so easy to take for granted the God-given gifts we encounter every day. Those resolutions we often make at the beginning of the new year are easily broken or forgotten, but we do have the gift of prayerfulness so that we can ask Jesus to strengthen our resolve to draw closer to him day by day. Happy new love!

  

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Topics: God's gifts, gratefulness, Sharon Krause

"Hear the Word!" by Bill Ayres: The Epiphany of the Lord

Posted by Bill Ayres on Jan 6, 2024 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the Book of Isaiah

(Chapter 60:1-6)

Most Jewish and Christian scholars believe that the prophecy of Isaiah was written by three different people at three different times. Today’s reading is from the last section of the prophecy, written at the end of the Babylonian Exile in the sixth century before the birth of Jesus. It is a time of great joy as the Jewish people who had been held in Babylon are allowed to return to their home. “Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you…. Nations shall walk by your light, and kings by your shining radiance.”

The reason the Church reads this passage today is that in the birth of Jesus all this and more has come. Jesus is the fulfillment of all the prophesies and all the promises from God.

Responsorial Psalm

Psalm 72: 1-2, 7-8, 10-11, 12-13

“Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.” The psalmist knew when he wrote this, thousands of years ago, that it was not true, but he prayed that it would be some day.

A reading from St. Paul's Letter to the Ephesians

(Chapter 3:2-3a, 5-6)

Paul says, “the mystery was made known to me by revelation.” The mystery he is talking about is God’s plan for salvation through Jesus. However, salvation was not only for Jews. “The Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body”

Most of the early Christians were Jews, and many of them thought that Jesus came only for them. He certainly did come to proclaim the reign of God to Israel, but Paul makes it clear that salvation is for all people. We are all called to be a part of “the same body.” Paul dedicated his ministry to all people and traveled far and wide to reach the Gentiles. The Church of the apostles that you and I live in and believe in is inclusive and not only in terms of ethnicity or nationality. Pope Francis refers to himself as a sinner. We are all sinners—a Church of sinners forgiven and saved by the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. We need to always reach out our arms and our hearts to those who have felt excluded or alienated from our Church.

A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Matthew

(Chapter 2:1-12)

There has always been speculation about who the magi were. The best answer is that we do not know, but the important clue Matthew gives is that they came from the East, meaning they were Gentiles. Matthew wants his predominately Jewish audience to know that their Messiah had come to accomplish the salvation of the whole world. He is a universal savior. Our Church is universal, “catholic,” more than a billion people scattered across the earth. Do you feel connected to any of these far-flung communities? Many of them live in poverty and are persecuted in places such as Nigeria, Syria, Iraq, Sudan, and Pakistan. Let us pray in solidarity with them.

In the last century, we prayed for the conversion of communist Russia and freedom for what were called the Iron Curtain countries. Let us pray now for the freedom from hunger and poverty and persecution that m millions of our brothers and sisters suffer today.

May you have a happy and healthy New Year!

 ✝️

Image: Adoration of the Magi, Bartolome Esteban Murillo, seventeenth century, Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo, Ohio.

Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved. The passage regarding the wedding garment is from The New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC All Rights Reserved.

 Bill Ayres was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. He has been a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years and has two weekly Sunday-night shows on WPLJ, 95.5 FM in New York. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.

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Topics: Bill Ayres, Feast of the Presentation of the Lord

"Hear the Word!" by Bill Ayres: Feast of the Presentation of the Lord.

Posted by Bill Ayres on Dec 30, 2023 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the Book of Sirach

(Chapter 3:2-6, 12-14)

The Book of Sirach was written about two hundred years before the birth of Jesus when patriarchy was much more common than it is today when we are moving—though too slowly—towards equality between the sexes. Thus, the author of this book writes mainly about honoring the father and hardly at all about honoring the mother in the family. Here are some of the main points which, in themselves we should take to heart:

“God sets a father in honor over his children; a mother’s authority he confirms over her sons. …Whoever honors his father atones for sins…. Whoever honors his father is gladdened by children and, when he prays, is heard…. Whoever reveres his father will live a long life.” Then, the writer offers advice on how to care for an aging father: “My son, take care of your father when he is old…. Even if his mind fails, be considerate of him, revile him not all the days of his life; kindness to a father will not be forgotten.” Sirach does mention mothers once more: “He who obeys his father brings comfort to his mother.”

Most of us have heard this reading many times and perhaps have not thought much about gender inequality, because that is the way it was when this book was written. But we should remember that many women, around the world and in our own society, have still not achieved equality with men. Jesus, in his public ministry, publicly respected and acknowledged women in ways that were not common in that time and place. It is one of the many ways in which he was a model for men today.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 128:1-2, 3, 4-5)

“Blessed are those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways.” The expression “fear the Lord” in the Bible does not mean a haunting, dominating, cringing fear of God’s punishment. It means respect, honor, recognition of God’s power, and openness to hearing God’s word.

A reading from St. Paul's Letter to the Colossians

(Chapter 16:25-27)

(Chapter 3:12-21)

Paul has some beautiful words for these people whom he loves dearly: “Brothers and sisters, put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love that is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts.” May those words guide our family lives and all of our relationships.

A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Luke

(Chapter 2:22-40)

Biblical scholars tell us that Luke was probably a Gentile convert who had studied the Jewish scriptures. He also wrote the Acts of the Apostles and was a companion of Saint Paul on some of his journeys. Luke’s Gospel was written sometime after those of Mark and Matthew but well before that of John, which is believed to have been written around 90 AD. That is important, because it means that Luke wrote well after the death of Jesus, when the Church had spread throughout the eastern Mediterranean. Luke wrote as dozens of churches had sprung up, and many people had died as martyrs for their faith.

Luke’s Gospel is often referred to as the Gospel of the Spirit, because he uses that term, “Spirit,” more than any other gospel writer, and he sees Jesus as the fulfilment of a long line of Jewish prophets, but as much more. Simeon, described in this passage, has been waiting all his life for the Messiah: “It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Christ of the Lord. He came in the Sprit into the temple; and when the parents had brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him, he took him into his arms and blessed God saying: ‘Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in the sight of all the peoples: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.’” As always, Luke makes the connection between his gentile roots and his Jewish faith fulfilled in Jesus.

 ✝️

Image: Presentation at the Temple, Ambrogio Lorenzetti (1232). Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence. Public domain.

Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved. The passage regarding the wedding garment is from The New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC All Rights Reserved.

 Bill Ayres was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. He has been a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years and has two weekly Sunday-night shows on WPLJ, 95.5 FM in New York. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.

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Topics: Bill Ayres, Feast of the Presentation of the Lord

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

Posted by Bill Ayres on Dec 23, 2023 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the Second Book of Samuel

(Chapter 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16)

God made a series of promises to his people, recorded throughout the Old Testament, that are called covenants. The one described in the Second Book of Samuel is the Davidic covenant with King David and the whole Jewish people. God says that covenant will endure forever, an important thing to remember as we celebrate the birth of the Messiah.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 89:2-3, 4-5, 27, 29)

This psalm refers to the previous reading about the promise to David. The response that we sing is “Forever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.” Saint Augustine said that when we sing our prayers it is like praying twice. That is something to be aware of when we sing hymns or psalms.

A reading from St. Paul's Letter to the Romans

(Chapter 16:25-27)

Paul talks about “the revelation of the mystery kept secret for long ages.” This is a mystery in the deepest sense of the word, not like a mystery story in which there is an answer, even though it may take a while for the detective to find out “who done it.” No! This mystery is the continual unfolding of God’s love for us in Jesus, and it is this mystery that you and I live every day. Imagine that! The true mystery of life is the unfolding of God’s love for us in and through our brother Jesus Christ. We live in mystery. Although we may not think about it often, it is always there.

A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Luke

(Chapter 1:26-38)

This reading is preceded by Luke’s account of the birth of John the Baptist. John is seen as the end of a whole series of Old Testament prophets through whom God visits his people. Jesus is someone entirely different: “The child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.” He is descended from the line of David through his foster father, Joseph, but he is born of his mother, Mary, a poor young woman, by the power of the Holy Spirit. That is all we know. A unique person is born in a unique way through the power of God. It is just the beginning of a unique life that has a unique conclusion. CNN or The New York Times were not there to record it. For us, it is part of our journey into the mystery of God’s agape, his unconditional love.

May you have a joyous Christmas and know that the Spirit of God is always within you.

 ✝️

Painting: St. Joseph with the Infant Jesus, Guido Reni (1620s). Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia. Public domain.

Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved. The passage regarding the wedding garment is from The New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC All Rights Reserved.

 Bill Ayres was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. He has been a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years and has two weekly Sunday-night shows on WPLJ, 95.5 FM in New York. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.

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Topics: Bill Ayres, Jesus Christ is born, John the Baptist, Nativity

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

Posted by Bill Ayres on Dec 16, 2023 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the prophecy of Isaiah

(Chapter 61:1-2, 10-11)

Have you noticed the continuity between the Hebrew scriptures, especially the prophets, and the gospels? That is because Jesus was a practicing Jew, a respected teacher and preacher who had studied and often referred to the scriptures of his people. Jesus quoted the first two lines of this passage, as we read in the fourth chapter of Luke’s Gospel. Jesus is telling the people who he is and what his mission is. He uses these words of Isaiah: “The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me.” He is the fulfillment of God’s promise to Israel, and his mission is to heal, to bring freedom and justice to the people, and to proclaim God’s favor, God’s reign.

Isaiah is saying these words at the end of the long Babylonian Exile. Jesus will say them many centuries later to assure people that he has come to free them from their present captivity and proclaim the reign of God.

Responsorial Psalm

(Luke 1:46-48, 49-50, 53-54)

This week’s “psalm” is not from the Book of Psalms but rather the beautiful Magnificat prayer of Mary that has its roots in the song of Hannah in the First Book of Samuel. “My soul proclaims the greatness of God,” Mary sings. Her soul and her whole life certainly did just that. It is a powerful prayer to say at any time, but especially now.

A reading from St. Paul's first letter to the Thessalonians

(Chapter 5:16-24)

Here we have St. Paul dealing once again with one of the major questions in the early Church. The question for the early Christians, which may not seem urgent to us, was when the Lord would come again at the end of time. People in the early Christian community thought Jesus was coming in their lifetime. Of course, he did not, but Paul’s advice to the Thessalonians was on target nevertheless. “Rejoice always…. Do not quench the Spirit…. Refrain from every kind of evil.” It was good advice then, and it is now for us. This is a time for rejoicing, not just giving and receiving gifts. It is also a time to prepare for the coming of Jesus into our lives on a deeper level. How are you preparing the way for Jesus coming to you?

A reading from the Holy Gospel according to John

(Chapter 1:6-8, 19-28)

John the Baptist knows who he is. He does not have an identity crisis or a crisis over his vocation. He never thinks he is more than he has been called to be. It would be a wonderful gift if we all knew our true identities and calling. For most of us, learning that is a lifelong process. As we go on our journey into the mystery of God’s love, we are given many gifts, challenges, hardships, and healings. Numerous people appear in our lives. Some pass almost unnoticed, but others make their mark, sometimes happily and other times not. Can we humbly accept the gifts and use them well, treat the people with respect, whoever they may be, and keep our hearts open to wonder and joy even in the hard times of rejection, failure, or loss? John the Baptist was murdered, but his mission was not a failure. He died for Jesus. We are called to live for Jesus.

 ✝️

Image: Limestone panel with relief image of John the Baptist. From the Timlos Prodromos Monastery, Zakynthos, Greece.. Byzantine and Christian Museum, Athens, Greece. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved. The passage regarding the wedding garment is from The New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC All Rights Reserved.

 Bill Ayres was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. He has been a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years and has two weekly Sunday-night shows on WPLJ, 95.5 FM in New York. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.

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Topics: Bill Ayres, John the Baptist, third sunday of advent

Connections

Posted by Sharon Krause on Dec 11, 2023 9:15:00 AM

Ta-da! The outside Christmas lights are turned on! The electricity is connected, and the brightness shines forth! It is that time of year when the yards display the excitement of Christmastime! The darkness of standard time and winter weather is brightened up with hopeful, twinkling lighting!

Aha! Christmas cards show up in the mailbox! More connections! Friends and family send seasonal greeting cards—perhaps even people we may not hear from often. We might get the year’s news from a printed-out letter nestled in the greeting card.

People who work for the same business or large company might get to connect with workers they don’t see every day by attending a wonderful Christmas party. Relatives might come from near and far for a scrumptious dinner. Things and people are coming together in one way or another.

In today’s liturgy, Luke 5:17-26, we read that a paralyzed man connected with Jesus via a stretcher lowered through the roof and was healed. Every person there was amazed! Doesn’t it make you just stop and think how wonderful our relationship—our connection—with Jesus Christ can be? Maybe some of our own “roof tiles,” our ways of thinking, have to be moved aside as we connect with the ways that Jesus lovingly wants us to walk with him.

It might be a good idea to reconnect with the Lord in a special way throughout this Advent season. We may want to pray with Psalm 16:7-9,11:

   I bless the Lord who counsels me;

       even in the night my heart exhorts me.

   I set the Lord ever before me;

       with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.

   Therefore my heart is glad and my soul rejoices,

       my body, too, abides in confidence;

 

   You will show me the path to life,

       fullness of joys in your presence,

       the delights at your right hand forever.

 

It is good to think about the times the Lord has counseled and comforted us. Did we thank him? Did we learn from him? We all need an openness to Jesus so he can counsel and comfort us. Advent is a good time for us to make sure we are plugged into the right outlet! Our source of power is our God who is forgiving, strong, generous, and loving.

 It is so easy to get distracted this time of year. We get so busy. We indulge in lots of shopping, partying, and cooking. Let’s be sure to pray. Let’s stay united with our Savior.

    Every day will I bless you,

       and I will praise your name forever and ever.

   Great is the Lord and highly to be praised;

       his greatness is unsearchable.

                                                 (Psalm 145:2-3)

  

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Topics: Advent, Advent prayer

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

Posted by Bill Ayres on Dec 9, 2023 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the prophecy of Isaiah

(Chapter 40:1-5, 9-11)

Historical records show that the Babylonian Exile, which was a defining event in the relationship between God and Israel, ended around 538 B.C. This reading, which comes from just before that time, looks forward to a time when God will make things right for Israel. The prophet sees the exile as a punishment for Israel’s sins, but now “her service is at an end, her guilt is expiated.” God is giving comfort to his people.

God offers comfort to us today even amid wars, climate crises, political divisiveness, and the lingering effects of Covid. Now is the time when we need to pray and remember the presence of the Holy Spirit within us. Even closer to home, when we are dealing with addictions, family squabbles, betrayals and conflicts at work, or loss of work, God is there, helping us to deal with our responsibilities in these difficult times and forgiving others for their short tempers and fears.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 85:9-10, 11-12, 13-14)

“Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.”

How do you experience the kindness of God, especially in such troubled times? Perhaps it is reaching out to your neighbors, friends, and relatives that you miss but can’t be with physically, especially those who are struggling to make ends meet or are trapped in depression or constant anxiety.

A reading from the Second Letter of Peter

(Chapter 3:8-14)

The author and date of this letter are matters of debate among scholars. The earliest Christians, including Peter and Paul, believed that the Second Coming of Christ and the end of the world would occur in their lifetimes. This letter, perhaps written around 85 A.D., reminds the faithful that “with the Lord one day is like a thousand years” and warns them that “all should come to repentance.” In other words, don’t worry about when the Lord will come again, be prepared all the time.

A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Mark

(Chapter 1:1-8)

John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus, “proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” John’s baptism is different from the sacrament we know. “I have baptized you with water, he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” John knows his role. He never tries to be what he is not, and he cherishes his mission, giving his life for the cause, which is pointing people to Christ.

You and I were baptized in the Holy Spirit. When many of us were growing up, we did not hear much about the Holy Spirit who seemed to be the forgotten member of the Holy Trinity. Today, we live in a time of renewed awareness of the importance for the Holy Spirit in our lives. When I was growing up, I did not realize that the Holy Spirit lived in me and in each person. Did you? It has made a difference to me to know that the Spirit is in me and in everyone that I meet—even though they may not be aware of it. I experience the Holy Spirit as a kind of partner, someone who is there in the good times of blessing and the challenging times that could also be blessings if I could only see them that way.

How about you? Have you become friends with your inner partner, the Holy Spirit? Try it. It is a gradual process of listening and becoming aware of the presence within you. That is not to say that you will always be tuned in to the Spirit or that your troubles will melt away. What it does mean is that you are not alone. Let us remember the prevailing message of the scriptures, “I am with you.”

 ✝️

Painting: John the Baptist Preaching, Mattia Preti (1630-1699), Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. Public Domain.

Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved. The passage regarding the wedding garment is from The New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC All Rights Reserved.

 Bill Ayres was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. He has been a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years and has two weekly Sunday-night shows on WPLJ, 95.5 FM in New York. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.

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Topics: Bill Ayres, John the Baptist, Indwelling of the Holy Spirit, Second Sunday of Advent

You Can Say That Again

Posted by Sharon Krause on Dec 4, 2023 6:00:00 AM

“Wash, rinse, repeat.” Ah! Those are the familiar instructions on the shampoo bottle. We repeat many procedures and words for numerous reasons. We repeat to stress a point we are trying to make. We repeat to help us learn or memorize. We repeat because someone is hard of hearing or resistant to the issue at hand. We repeat because we like to hear what is repeated, perhaps song lyrics or melody, or a prayer psalm.

At times, when something is repeated, we may not pay attention: “Oh, I have heard that so many times before! I know all about that!"

Have you ever stopped to think that there are different ways to approach, explore, and elaborate on the matter at hand? A repetitive background could offer a comfortable or familiar jump-off point for creativity. Contemplative prayer is one example.

In the passage from the Gospel of Mark that we heard at Mass yesterday (13:33-37), we are told to be watchful and stay alert because we don’t know when the Master will come. As we begin our new liturgical year with the season of Advent, we know again we must be careful how we observe our environment which can be full of temptations. St. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians (1:3-9) gives us hope that we won’t lack spiritual gifts to help us. So we will say it again, “Watch! stay alert!”

At time of year, we read and hear repeated ads for all kinds of Christmas gifts and decorations. Materialism at its finest! How about repeating some beautiful Bible verses? Instead of “Black Friday” sales that repeat beyond Black Friday, consider reading and rejoicing with Isaiah 40:3-5:

   A voice cries out:

In the desert prepare the way of the Lord!

   Make straight in the wasteland a highway

       for our God!

Every valley shall be filled in,

   every mountain and hill shall be made low;

The rugged land shall be made a plain,

   the rough country, a broad valley.

Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,

   and all mankind shall see it together;

   for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

 

Psalms 85, 96 and 98 also give us hope and peace when we pray with them during Advent. We are hopeful, and hope is a good thing to repeat and pass on to others. When we read these familiar lines, we can thoughtfully, slowly emphasize one line and then another as we meditate. We can make the lines personal to ourselves and to our current situations. We can invite our loving, forgiving, generous Lord into the words and phrases and ask him for inspiration and fresh understanding.

Happy Advent! Again — Happy Advent!

  

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Topics: Christmas shopping, Jesus Christ the King, Sharon Krause

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