Branching-Out

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted by Bill Ayres on Jul 3, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the prophecy of Ezekiel

(Chapter 1: 13-15; 2:23-24)

(Chapter 2:2-5)

Throughout history, prophets have emerged during times of stress, enslavement, and destruction. The Spirit of God is in them as we read today about Ezekiel, who was called by God amid the destruction of Israel by the Babylonians in the sixth century BC. The Israelites had refused to listen to the prophets who preceded Ezekiel, and so God is sending him into a most difficult situation.

Who are the prophets today in our world and in our country? They may be famous people like Pope Francis or others that work locally and in obscurity. How can we know? How can we discern among so many voices? Abraham Lincoln is seen as prophetic today, but in his day he was also hated by millions and was murdered for his actions. Being a prophet has never been easy, and false prophets emerge frequently. Who are the real prophets who speak the truth to power and endure rejection and harm to fulfill their mission?

You and I might not consider ourselves prophets, but there may be times when we are called to have the voice of a prophet in our family, our community, our place of work, or our country.  But we should never forget that our words must be truthful, humble, and loving.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 123)

“Our eyes are fixed on the Lord, pleading for his mercy.” One of our most powerful prayers is “Lord, have mercy on me.”

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Topics: eternal life, Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, Prophet Ezekiel, RENEW International, authority of Jesus, Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Categories

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jul 2, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A few months ago, I resurrected a craft that makes use of recycled greeting cards. I had bought a couple ornaments at a crafts fair and had taken them apart to figure out how to make them myself. I have added some extra decorations and personal touches to what I now call “categornaments,” and have really gotten into making them again. Each ornament has a particular categoryfor example, deer, birds, Nativity scenes, children, and dogs. Needless to say, I am limited by the subject matter of the cards I happen to have. Each ornament requires 20 circular pictures.

I was taught brainstorming in high school as an aid to answering essay questions on exams or assignments requiring creative writing. It is a very useful problem-solving tool. We just storm our brains to list items on a certain topic and then work from there.

Of course, one thought led me to another, and I started considering just how much we all categorize things, sometimes unintentionally. When we are faced with challenging situations, our brains start going up and down the list of possible solutions.

Brainstorming for certain categories can be helpful in our spiritual life, too. Certainly, it helps with examining our conscience at the end of the day so that we can humbly tell our Lord any sins we may have committed. On the positive side, we can also categorize all the little daily blessings we have enjoyed and thank him for them, one by one.

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Topics: God's love, RENEW International, Sharon Krause, examining conscience

Fantastic Fans

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jun 28, 2021 6:00:00 AM

I once decided to decorate a bedroom wall with a collection of pretty paper fans. I arranged the floral half-circles symmetrically in a colorful display of airy creativity. Of course, the fans were opened to reveal their respective patterns and vibrancy. It was a unique and pleasing wall displayat least to me. My husband did not have much to say about it.

Fans are interesting, like people. The more a fan is unfolded, the more the true picture emerges and the more the fan is available to keep someone cool. Both beauty and function improve the more the fan is opened. As people learn more about themselves, the more their beauty shines forth, and the more they can use their talents and energy to live life in a fuller, more genuine way.

As followers of Christ, we are challenged to unfold our layers of potential goodness, calling upon the guidance and example of Jesus. We seek to use our God-given gifts for the love of others. St. Paul reminds us of this in his letter to the Christians in Rome (2:6):

We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader in diligence; the compassionate in cheerfulness.

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Topics: RENEW International, Sharon Krause, serving others, sharing our gifts, unlocking our potential

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted by Bill Ayres on Jun 26, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the book of Wisdom

(Chapter 1: 13-15; 2:23-24)

The Book of Wisdom was probably written less than one hundred years before the birth of Jesus. It contains one of the most overt references to life after death in the Hebrew Scriptures. The author wants to convey that “God formed man to be imperishable…. God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living.” Sometimes death comes peacefully to a person surrounded by loved ones. At other times, it is the result of violence. In any case, it is the termination of a precious life. What comes next? Those who do not believe in an afterlife anticipate nothing. Those of us who believe have hope in the promise of new life. That promise begins in the scriptures right here and comes to fullness in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 30)

“I will praise you Lord, for you have rescued me.” Think of all the times the Lord has rescued you. Sometimes it is dramatic. Sometimes it is hardly noticeable until you think about it and then give thanks.

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Topics: eternal life, Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, RENEW International, resurrection, thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, promise of new life

ABCs

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jun 25, 2021 6:00:00 AM

Sometimes, it is helpful to get back to basics, to simplify what we have made complicated. Whether we are talking about life in general or a particular area of life, it is good to occasionally go back to the ABCs and regroup.

Since I am a word-and-letter person, I will concentrate on spiritual life. It can be overwhelming to concentrate on too many subjects at once, so let’s just use a few of the many ABCs.

“A” reminds us of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. We are all asked to do many ordinary things during our lives, but Mary was chosen to the extraordinary, to carry and give birth to the Savior of the world. The Bible passages about the angel’s visit are not long, but Mary’s fiat and the everlasting effects of her generosity and humility should propel us into a feeling of wondrous gratitude.

Another favorite “A” for me is “Abba.” St. Paul, in his letter to the Galatians (4:6-7) tells us,

And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.

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Topics: Annunciation, Bible, Catholic Faith, RENEW International, sacrament of baptism, Scriptures, Sharon Krause, Indwelling of the Holy Spirit, Abba

Thoughtfulness 101

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jun 21, 2021 6:00:00 AM

I have often heard of courses designed to help students acquire skills they will need as adults. There are courses whereby a person learns how to make up a monthly budget, or care for a baby, or fill out tax forms, and probably, nowadays, how to use computer programs for various needs. I started thinking that perhaps there should be a course called “Thoughtfulness 101.”

Thoughtfulness mean being immersed in a meditative state, and that can certainly be useful, calming, and productive. My course on thoughtfulness, however, would be associated with the second meaning I found online in Oxford Languages: consideration for the needs of others.

Being thoughtful in this way takes a little extra time. We might have to slow down a bit. It involves pushing the focus off oneself and asks us to intentionally look at others. It can even be anonymous—for example, picking up some object someone had dropped onto the floor or holding a door open for someone coming behind you with their hands full. Thoughtfulness does not have to be expensive, moneywise or time wise. A greeting card can be purchased at a dollar store for 50 cents. Eye contact and a smile take only a second but can be contagious and encouraging.

 

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Topics: kindness, RENEW International, Sharon Krause, thoughtfulness

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted by Bill Ayres on Jun 19, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the book of Job

(Chapter 38:1, 8-11)

Job is the prototypical suffering servant, a good and faithful person who suffers untold misfortunes, including grave illness, loss of loved ones and property, and misunderstanding from his three closest friends who see him as guilty of some sin. Where is God in all this? Why is he treating this good man so badly? How can Job still believe in a God who has not only abandoned him but seems to be the cause of his unjust pain?

In this reading toward the end of the book, God seems to begin to set things straight. He is all powerful, and he will not allow any more disasters to befall Job.

This is certainly a disturbing story about a God that is very foreign to us but for the people back then (likely the sixth century B.C.) it was a cautionary tale to help them deal with horrendous adversity. No matter how awful life may be, God is still in control and will save the person suffering.

We have a very different view of an all-merciful, loving God. Terrible things do happen in our lives, but we are never alone as Job seemed to be. The key message of Jesus is simple and stated over and over again: I am with you.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 107)

“Give thanks to the Lord, his love is everlasting.” Yes! God’s love is always there, even though we may not always be aware of that powerful presence, especially in our times of suffering or crisis. Those are the times when we most need the all-loving and powerful presence of God who is not only “out there” but lives within us in the presence of the Holy Spirit.

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Topics: trust in God, Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, holy spirit at work, RENEW International, Indwelling of the Holy Spirit

Praying with a Psalm

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jun 18, 2021 6:00:00 AM

There are 22 verses in Psalm 34, six of which are prayed during the liturgy today. If you have ever prayed with Psalm 34, you probably realize how uplifting and reassuring it is. Instead of breezing through only the six verses, it is good to read and pray with the whole psalm, especially in this transitional time as the pandemic seems to be abating somewhat.

This psalm is a call to prayer and praise. We read the words “praise,” “be glad,” “magnify,” and “exalt.” These are not words we commonly use in our mundane conversation. When we use them as we talk about our relationship with God, we should feel joyful and positive. There is a call for praying and praising with others:

O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together. (verse 3)

In the next few verses, we read that we are “answered,” “delivered from fears,” “heard” and “saved” by the Lord. If we need a dose of optimism, here we are! We are encouraged and advised,

   ...happy are those who take refuge in him. (verse 8b)

   ...those who seek the Lord lack no good thing. (verse 10b)

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Topics: Psalm 34, psalms, RENEW International, Sharon Krause, psalm 131, praying with a psalm

Growing Up

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jun 14, 2021 6:00:00 AM

Recently my friends were telling me about going to their granddaughters’ dance recitals. I also heard about a couple of graduations they were attending. I was happy for them and have fond memories myself of recitals and graduations of my own grandchildren. I also have fun memories of reading stories to my grandkids when they were little and laughing over craft projects and outdoor sidewalk games. Somehow, a measure of sadness crept in because those fun days are gone, all but the memories. How I would love to sit under what we called the “story blanket” and read, for the hundredth time, the same silly stories my grandchildren enjoyed.

My three grandkids are young adults now. I don’t see them as often as I once did. The youngest grandchild, Josh, is finishing his second year of college. However, he was with me last week, and we got into a discussion about current news-making events. I heard myself talking to Josh as an adult, and I knew he was comprehending and formulating his responses. The same fellow that drew wonderful drawings as he sat at my kitchen table was now drawing mature discussion conclusions at that same table. He is growing up to be a thoughtful and wise young man.

Nostalgia can be a kind of growing pain, and yet, it is a pain that can be managed. It certainly can be pleasant to review various life events. However, it is important to immerse oneself in the present and be open to the growth that is happening. In our spiritual life, we can approach growth confidently thanks to the inspirations from the Holy Spirit, the nourishment from Jesus, our Living Bread, and the perfect will of our Loving Father, God.

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

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted by Bill Ayres on Jun 12, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the book of the Prophet Ezekiel

(Chapter 17:22-24)

Here we are, in the Babylonian Captivity once again. It was one of the lowest, seemingly hopeless periods in the history of Israel, and Ezekiel was one of the exiles. This story about God planting a small branch of a majestic cedar (the famous Cedar of Lebanon) on the top of “a high and lofty mountain” is a metaphor for God bringing hope to Israel even in its darkest hour. That hope could have come only from God.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 92)

“Lord, it is good to give thanks to you.” It can happen at any time. You look into the eyes of someone you love. You walk the beach and see a beautiful sunset. You are given a true gift that means so much to you. Or it is nothing so profound. You simply open your heart to God for all God’s goodness, and you give thanks.

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Topics: Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, gifts from God, holy spirit at work, RENEW International

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