Branching-Out

Prayer: Family Life

Posted by RENEW International on Dec 27, 2020 6:00:00 AM

God of our ancestors,
you entrusted your Son
to the care of Mary and Joseph.
We praise you for the example
of the Holy Family of Nazareth.
You have made the family
a privileged community of love and service.
Guide our families in faith, hope, and charity.
You have made us
your sons and daughters in baptism.
Bring us at life’s end to the joy
and peace of your eternal home.
Amen.

 Adapted from PrayerTime: Faith-Sharing Reflections on the Sunday Gospels, Cycle B.

© RENEW International

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Topics: Virgin Mary, catholic RENEW program, Feast of the Holy Family, Jesus Christ, prayer, RENEW International, St. Joseph

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: The Nativity of the Lord, Christmas Day

Posted by Bill Ayres on Dec 25, 2020 12:00:00 AM

A reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah
(Chapter 52:7-10)

Isaiah talks about someone coming who “brings glad tidings, announcing peace, bearing good news.” The Church chooses this reading for Christmas day because we believe that the birth of Jesus fulfills this promise.

We do not live in a peaceful world, and each day brings headlines with bad news, sometimes terrifying news. How can that be? Is that really true, or is bad news merely what sells? Of course, there is plenty of bad news to go around, but there is also so much good news, so many people doing good for their neighbors, for their country, for their world. There are fewer poor and hungry people in the world than in past eras, even though there are still far too many. There are more peaceful countries in the world in this century, even though there is still horrible violence in the Middle East and elsewhere. There is less crime, violence, poverty, unemployment, and hunger in our own country than there was 10 years ago, even though we still have a long way to go to be the just and peaceful people of our hopes and dreams.

The point is that the promise of Jesus does not work like magic. It is a gift of peace and good news offered to each of us that we can accept or reject. On the birthday of our Savior, let us accept this amazing gift on a deeper level than ever before. Let us remember that the power of his love that lives in our hearts is a more powerful force than all the negative forces that exist. We can live in his love despite all the unloving that we experience in our world, all this from a little baby whose birth we celebrate today.

Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 98:1, 2-3, 3-4, 5-6)

“All the ends of the earth have seen the saving power of God.” Many have seen, but not all have believed. Let us pray that today more hearts will be opened to the transforming power of God.

A reading from the Letter to the Hebrews
(Chapter 1:1-6)

The author writes, “In times past, God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets; in these last days, he has spoken to us through his Son.”

Throughout history, God has spoken to his people in many ways: through nature, through various religious traditions, and especially through the Jewish people and their prophets. God continues to speak through all those means today, but the fullness of God’s message and presence is in Jesus.

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Topics: peace, catholic renew progam, Good News, Jesus Christ, Nativity of the Lord, RENEW International, wedding garment, Christmas Day, birth of our Savior

The Cs of Christmastime

Posted by Sharon Krause on Dec 24, 2020 6:00:00 AM

When I was in seventh grade at St. Joseph’s School, our class was part of the Christmas pageant, and we were chosen to sing all the stanzas of several Christmas carols. I went home from school one day and proceeded to memorize the stanzas of the most popular carols. That was a long time ago, but I still remember some of those stanzas.

Many of us welcome those familiar songs as we hear and sing them, usually beginning right after Thanksgiving. I wonder, though, as with so many things that become familiar, do we pay attention to the meaning of the words? The words of some of those second and third stanzas may be passed over; some of the melodies and rhythms may draw our attention away from the words. Don’t get me wrong. Music is fine; but these popular songs tell of the important news of Christ’s birth for a very weary world. C is for carols.

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Topics: angels, Christ child, Christmas, catholic program renew, Immaculate Conception, Jesus Christ, Mary and Joseph, prayer, renew catholic program, RENEW International, Christmas pageant, crib, Christmas carols

The Word Became Flesh

Posted by Sharon Krause on Dec 23, 2020 6:00:00 AM

Even as a child, I was drawn to what was called at Mass “the Last Gospel”the Gospel of John, chapter 1, verses 1-14, that that the celebrant recited before the final blessing and dismissal. As I wrote in an earlier post, I miss hearing that passage at Mass and wish it had not been taken out. It is not just the cadence of the reading, although I do like that; I think it’s the progression, the build up to the magnificent climaxthat the Word became flesh.

This is a wonderful gospel passage with which to pray during this season of Advent.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God,
and the Word was
God. He was in the beginning with God.

I love to listen to words. They are informative, soothing, inspirational, and thought-provoking. So is the Word of God! Jesus was there, in the beginning, right from the start of creation.

All things came into being through him,
and without him not one thing came into
being.
What has come into being in him was life,
and the life was the light of all
people.
The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness did not overcome it.

Life and light! Topics of discussion especially during this pandemic year! People are taking great measures to be safe from infection and protect their precious gift of life. So many families are putting up their Christmas lights earlier than usual to brighten their spirits. If we turn to Jesus in prayer, he is the best Light of all. He shows us how to look at life. He is our loving Light-giver! If we feel overwhelmed by the darkness of fear or doubt, Jesus is right there to give us hope. He is more powerful!

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Topics: Christmas, Emmanuel, catholic program renew, Gospel according to John, Jesus Christ, John the Baptist, prayer, renew catholic program, RENEW International, pandemic, God with us, The Word became flesh, In the beginning was the Word

Stress Relief

Posted by Sharon Krause on Dec 21, 2020 6:00:00 AM

For many reasons, it is easy to feel stressed right now. Stress is intensified by a lack of hope or the assumption that relief is far away. Disruption of our normal routines contributes to the already-bad situation. So what can we do? 

Turning to the Book of Wisdom can be comforting. It is an easy read, and I highly recommend Chapter 7:22b-8:1. We read of the nature of Wisdom, and I am reminded right away of the multitude of reasons I should continue to pray for a personal outpouring. 

The passage to which I refer lists numerous attributes of Wisdom’s spirit: holy, humane, free from anxiety, all-powerful, loving the good—-to name a few. If we feel stuck in our stress, we need Wisdom to get us unstuck, verse 24:

For wisdom is more mobile than any motion;
because of her pureness
she
 pervades and penetrates all things.

Since we are praying in this season of Advent in preparation for celebrating the birth of Jesus, the Light of the world, I particularly delight in verse 26 which tells us:

For she is reflection of eternal light,
a spotless mirror of the working of God,
and an image of his goodness.

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Topics: Christmas, Book of Wisdom, catholic program renew, Jesus Christ, prayer, renew catholic program, RENEW International, stress, Christmas Star, Star of Bethlehem

Prayer: Hail Full of Grace!

Posted by Sr. Donna Ciangio, OP on Dec 20, 2020 6:00:00 AM

All-powerful God,
Your eternal Word took flesh
when the Virgin Mary placed her life
at your service.
Lift our minds and hearts
in watchful hope
to hear the voice which announces
the coming of Jesus in glory.
May we be open to the Holy Spirit
as Mary was,
that we too may make Christ present
to our hurting world.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Adapted from Waiting With Joy, Year B: Weekly Reflections on the Sunday Readingsone of RENEW International's Advent resources for small group, individual or family prayer and reflection.

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Topics: time of anticipation, welcome, Advent, catholic RENEW program, faithful, Holy Spirit, hope, Jesus Christ, joy, prayer, RENEW International, spirit of the lord, Advent journey, season of preparation

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

Posted by Bill Ayres on Dec 18, 2020 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 throughout the Old Testament that are called covenants. This one is the Davidic covenant because it is with King David and the whole people. God says it will endure forever.

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 the letter of Saint Paul 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.

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Topics: 4th Sunday of Advent, a reflection on the coming Sunday's Gospel, agapé, catholic renew progam, God's love, Gospel according to Luke, Jesus Christ, John the Baptist, RENEW International

Identity and Essence

Posted by Sharon Krause on Dec 16, 2020 6:00:00 AM

I was sitting in the kitchen half-listening to what my husband was watching on television. All of a sudden, I heard a movie character yell, “Jesus Christ!” He was not having a religious epiphany; he was expressing disfavor at some occurrence in the movie plot. I asked, “What are you watching?” Immediately my spouse changed the channel, he frequently does anyway. It certainly got my attention, but not in a good way.  

I got thinking about the misuse of God’s and Jesus’ name in everyday language, and it is disturbing. How many times I have seen OMG on social media and have heard the expression in everyday conversation. It used to be that “Oh my God!” was the beginning of a short prayer for divine assistance or the start of an acknowledgement of some wonderful blessing from God. It has become a careless habitual expression that really does not call on the Almighty. 

God’s name and Jesus’ name deserve honor and praise. In many instances recorded in Sacred Scripture, names do not just identify people but also define their essence. There are numerous passages in the Bible in which God is referred to with titles or metaphors that point out desirable attributes. For example, we read in Psalm 18:2-3:

The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer,
m
y God, my rock in whom I take refuge,
my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. 

I have noticed comedians often throw some irreverent language or slang terms into their routines to be outrageous or cause listeners to pay attention. It may give certain individuals a sense of power or control if they disrespect those who are supposed to be respected. However, Romans 12:2 reminds us:

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.

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Topics: Emmanuel, every knee shall bend, Advent, catholic program renew, Jesus Christ, prayer, renew catholic program, RENEW International, Oh My God, The Lord is my rock, God with us, hallowed be thy name

Unwrapping Now

Posted by Sharon Krause on Dec 14, 2020 6:00:00 AM

Recently, a friend of mine gleefully shared that her Christmas shopping was done already, and she has even wrapped all the gifts. Have you ever thought about why we wrap all those presents? Wouldn’t it still be a surprise if we just said, “Here, I bought this for you because I care?” There is something to be said for the experience of wrapping, I guess; we humans seem to enjoy the anticipation, and the fancier the better. Besides, retailers make more money by selling us the fancy wrapping paper. 

One year, I decided to decorate the outside of my wrapped packages with designs made with ribbonthat is, spelling out the recipient’s name with ribbon, making the bows the flower-blossom tops of ribbon stems on the package front. It was fun for me, but quite time-consuming, and all to be ripped apart in the speedy opening of the gifts. 

I suggest to you today that we each have certain personal gifts we should unwrap during this Advent season. Let’s talk about a few of them. We are blessed to have the gift of faith in God; that we all know and are very thankful. How about the gift of gab? Some of us are easy conversationalists. It might be a good idea to strike up a cheerful conversation with a person doing a repetitive, mundane job during this busy season, just to put a smile on his or her face. It could even be a two-word opener, like: “Nice tie!” or “Lovely blouse!” I saw a store clerk the other day and remarked, “Pretty eyelashes!” She was pleasantly surprised that I had noticed. 

We could phone someone who is stuck at home during this pandemic and just share some kind thoughts or listen to that person’ s news. We might unwrap our gift of a sense of humor and share a few corny jokes or humorous anecdotes.

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Topics: Christmas, Christmas shopping, Advent, catholic program renew, God's gifts, prayer, renew catholic program, RENEW International, scripture readings, gift wrapping

Prayer: The Spirit of the Lord is Upon Me!

Posted by Sr. Donna Ciangio, OP on Dec 13, 2020 6:00:00 AM

Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
ever faithful to your promises
and ever close to your Church:
The earth rejoices in hope
of the Savior’s coming
and looks forward with longing
to his return at the end of time.
Prepare our hearts and
remove the sadness
that hinders us from feeling
the joy and the hope
that Christ’s presence will bring.
For he is Lord forever and ever. Amen.

Adapted from Waiting With Joy, Year B: Weekly Reflections on the Sunday Readingsone of RENEW International's Advent resources for small group, individual or family prayer and reflection.

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Topics: time of anticipation, welcome, Advent, catholic RENEW program, faithful, Holy Spirit, hope, Jesus Christ, joy, prayer, RENEW International, spirit of the lord, Advent journey, season of preparation

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