Branching-Out

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

Posted by Bill Ayres on Oct 22, 2022 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the Book of Sirach

(Chapter 35:12-14, 16-18)

Sirach is saying two things at the same time: “The Lord is a God of justice, who knows no favorites” and “Though not unduly partial to the weak, yet he hears the cry of the oppressed. The Lord is not deaf to the wail of the orphan, nor to the widow when she pours out her complaint.”

Widows and orphans were special people In Israel because of their lack of power and money. In our society, not all widows and orphans are impoverished, but many are. We need to support policies that help them in several ways, including financially, and if we know people who are impoverished widows or orphans or anyone else, let us reach out to them with a helping hand.

 Responsorial Psalm

Psalm 34

“The Lord hears the cry of the poor.” We need to be part of the Lord’s answer when we are able.

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Topics: parable of the tax collector and the Pharisee, 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time

True Colors

Posted by Sharon Krause on Oct 17, 2022 6:00:00 AM

With the change of the seasons comes pleasant memories of when my husband and I would go on little road trips to Maine and New Hampshire to moose watch. We were often successful in catching sight of those big animals and, in the process, I was made much more aware of the variety and beauty of the trees we would often just drive by and take for granted.

So many majestic trees proudly lift their limbs and branches skyward! The strong evergreens remind us of the ever-loving, ever-present, unchanging Lord! Nesting places for birds and forest creatures stand strong in the forests in all kinds of weather. Orchards provide wonderful fruits thanks to a God who loves to see his creation fulfill its true potential—and that includes us! Our prayer can rise to God that we may be more and more fruitful as we try to live out our holy potential. Our merciful Father gives us so many chances to turn over new leaves and show our true colors.

We might be moved to pray with Psalm 1:1-3:

   Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path

   that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers; but their delight is in the law

   of the Lord, and on his law they meditate day and night.

   They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its

   season, and their leaves do not wither. In all they do, they prosper. (NRSV)

In the splendor of autumn’s colors, we can give glory to our Artist Creator. The cooler temperatures and decrease of daylight time bring about chemical changes in the deciduous trees. Because of these chemical changes, the green chlorophyll color goes away, and we see the beautiful leaf shades of red, orange, and yellow. What an amazing process! Thank you, Father, for such delight to our eyes!

When we think about some of the many trees mentioned in the Bible, we remember the Lord’s appearance to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre (Genesis 18:1), a detail that helps us get a picture in our mind’s eye in this life-changing story. And in the 19th chapter of Luke’s Gospel, we read of the short tax collector, Zacchaeus, climbing a sycamore tree so he could see Jesus among the crowd. We might find it inspiring to take leaf-peeping rides or hikes and unite ourselves with the mighty oak trees. We also might see Jesus a little better if we lift ourselves up higher above our everyday routines, challenges, and worries.

Nowadays it is easy to take photos with our cell phones; we can easily take little notes of inspirations we might receive. We can find prayers easily online. I don’t think I am going out on a limb here when I suggest that autumn, with its numerous trees, could be one of the holiest and prayerful times of the year if we give it a chance! And if we happen to see a moose pass by, what a bonus!

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Topics: everyday prayer, spontaneous prayer, Sharon Krause

"Hear the Word! by Bill Ayres: Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted by Bill Ayres on Oct 15, 2022 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the Book of Exodus

Chapter 17: 8-13

It seems that Israel was always fighting some foreign power. In the episode described in this passage, it was the Amalekites. The Israelites have a special power: As long as Moses, stationed on a hilltop, holds aloft the staff of God. in his hand. But eventually his arms grow tired, and the tide of battle turns in the Amalekites’ favor. The passage tells us that “Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side and one on the other, so that his hands remained steady till sunset.” Once again, as throughout the history of Israel, God supports his chosen people. The message for us is that today God also supports us in our darkest times.

 Responsorial Psalm

Psalm 121

“Our help is from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” We see, in the episode described in the Book of Exodus, a dramatic example of this declaration. Do you believe that God is there for you in your most troubling times? Sometimes, that is difficult to believe, but it is at those very times when we need to have deep faith.

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Night Sounds

Posted by Sharon Krause on Oct 10, 2022 6:00:00 AM

Nighttime can be noisy, at least in my house. Our cat, Buddy, likes to sleep with my husband and me every night. Buddy is a good ol’ cat, but he snores. He usually sleeps on the bottom right side of our bed, just below my feet. My six-foot husband, to my left, also snoresnot necessarily in harmony with Buddy. It has been suggested that I join that snore symphony, but I never hear that!

Add to that cacophony the occasional sounds of emergency sirens from the vehicles at the firehouse a couple of streets from our house. And I cannot forget the young gent who lives across the street from us who, for reasons I don’t know, sometimes decides to warm up his large diesel-fueled pickup truck to go out driving at about 12:45 a.m. I think he works for a repair garage, so he may be going out to rescue a driver in need, so I should not really pronounce judgement.

With the various night sounds comes the opportunity for me to be awake in the darkness of the room. Instead of being annoyed, I can decide to add a little prayer time to my tossing and turning. Certainly it is good to have a regular daily prayer routine, but impromptu prayer minutes can be stress-free and thought-provoking.

One such prayer-poem I have written could, perhaps, find a place on someone’s nightstand.

     Sing me a lullaby, Jesus.

     Put a love song in my heart.

     Fondle my fears ‘til they fizzle;

     Give my sleep time a good start.

     Christ, be the Lord of my dreaming;

     Send all my nightmares away.

     Grant me forgiveness and mercy

     For sins I chose yesterday.

     Thank you for all of my blessings.

     I know there are more to come.

     Tuck me into your joy and peace,

     Keep my loved ones safe, every one.

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Topics: everyday prayer, Holy Spirit, spontaneous prayer, Sharon Krause

"Hear the Word! by Bill Ayres: Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted by Bill Ayres on Oct 8, 2022 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the Second Book of Kings

(Chapter 5:14-17)

In ancient times, lepers were considered unclean. They were avoided and were almost never in positions of power. Naaman was a leper but also was a commander in the army of the king of Aram. The king had such high regard for Naaman that he told him to ask the prophet Elisha to cure the leprosy. Elisha told Naaman to plunge into the Jordan River seven times. At first, Naaman refused, but his servants talked him into it, and he was cured of leprosy. He then told Elisha, “Now I know that there is no God in all the earth except in Israel. Please accept a gift from your servant.” But Elisha would not accept the gift. So, Naaman said, “If you will not accept, please let me, your servant, have two mule-loads of earth, for I will no longer offer holocaust or sacrifice to any other God except to the Lord.”

This was a big deal. A high-ranking pagan had converted to the God of Israel, and he asked for a bit of Israel (“two mule-loads of earth”) to take with him so that he could worship in Israel no matter where he is. The author wants his readers to know that even a powerful pagan army commander came to believe because of the power of the true God.

 Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 98:1, 2-3, 3-4)

“The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power.” Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, we read that God did reveal his saving power over and over. Have you ever asked yourself how God has gifted you in all sorts of ways? Perhaps it was a surprise gift in the form of a new and important love in your life or a healing for you or someone you love. Or perhaps it is the all-abiding presence of the Holy Spirit in your life every day.

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The Everyday Gospel: On the Road

Posted by Charles Paolino on Oct 6, 2022 6:00:00 AM


During the summer, John Monahan, a permanent deacon of the Diocese of Metuchen, died as a result of a motor-vehicle collision. The initial report was that the driver of a car carrier had run a red light along a busy New Jersey highway. I knew John, and I can say that this loss—to his family, his community, and the Church—is incalculable.

On several occasions since that happened, I have seen drivers run red lights; in one case, the driver in front of me narrowly missed being “t-boned” by a driver who ignored the signal.

Not long after those incidents, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that more than 9,500 people had died in motor-vehicle collisions in this country in the first quarter of this year. That was seven percent more deaths than in the same period last year and the most motor-vehicle deaths in the first quarter of a year since 2002.

I am not surprised by those statistics. Despite my advanced age, I still drive to work four days a week along Route 22 between Whitehouse Station and Plainfield, New Jersey. And every day, I seen drivers speeding, weaving in and out of lanes, aggressively entering a highway despite “yield” signs and common sense, following too closely, rushing through amber and red signals, and cutting off other vehicles, including semi-tractors that weigh tens of thousands of pounds. In one episode, I was driving at or slightly over the speed limit and could tell when I glanced in my rear-view mirror that the woman driving close behind me was impatient. Finally, she passed me on the shoulder and, a few hundred feet down the highway, pulled into a Dunkin Donuts where, I guess, her coffee was getting cold.

I presume that most of these drivers are at least nominally Christians, Jews, Muslims, and Hindus all of whose religions teach that the common good supersedes individual desires. But even if they believe that in the abstract, they apparently don’t think it applies to their driving. But states impose and enforce traffic laws precisely in order to protect the common good.

This is a disconnect that affects not only driving but every aspect of life. In our case, as Christians, we presumably believe that we should love our neighbors as our selves. But a driver I often see from my kitchen window who routinely drives past a stop sign as though it weren’t there is not concerned about a neighbor who might be backing out of his driveway or walking her dog or riding a bike in that vicinity.

When I was a newspaper editor, there was an incident in which a police officer gave a county prosecutor a summons for speeding. The prosecutor publicly objected that he was on his way to a murder scene. I calculated that if he had been driving at the speed limit, he would have arrived at his destination—where, not incidentally, the victim was already dead—about four minutes later than if that officer had not stopped him from speeding. That is usually the case when drivers speed or run red lights or otherwise behave as though their time, even three or four minutes, is more important than other people’s safety.

We’re not on the road alone. Let us love one another.

 

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Topics: love of neighbor, RENEW International, The Everyday Gospel: Deacon Charles Paolino, driving responsibly, the common good

Grandma's Attic

Posted by Sharon Krause on Oct 3, 2022 6:00:00 AM

Many years ago, while driving two and a half hours to see our extended family, my husband and I used to play a word game with our little daughter so the ride would not seem so long. It was called “What’s in Grandma’s Attic?” Long before video games and cellphones, this alphabet game would keep our daughter amused, at least for a while. Using the letters of the alphabet, and players taking turns, the answers to the game’s question might be to say that in Grandma’s attic there was an Album, a Ball, a Cane, a Dolly, a toy Elephant, and so on. The game often got us laughing and thinking of silly answers.

Now what would make me think of that game after decades? We are in the process of moving out of the house we have occupied for a very long time. We are busy cleaning out our rather big attic! Let me tell you, there is a lot of stuff in this grandma’s attic! I don’t find the work amusing, but it is interesting so see how, for various reasons, when something is out of sight, it is often out of mind!

I have been finding items that bring back very fond memories. I feel the need to thank God for some wonderful past experiences just in case I forgot to thank him at the time, in all the excitement. I am sure there is no statute of limitations on gratitude to our loving Lord! Blessings come in all different ways and at any time throughout our lives.

I have been finding things upstairs that I have decided not to keep anymore, things that have outlived their usefulness. In my present life, maybe I should pause and think about any thought patterns, habits, or attitudes that have also outlived their role in my life. Maybe it is time to ask Jesus to help me to be honest with myself and weigh what really is important in my quest to love him above anything else.

There may be items in this attic that I could donate to others in need. My “treasures” could be shared if someone else’s need arises. For example, I some perfectly good, original, only-worn-once Halloween costumes that I had designed and made for my three grandchildren. Why not pass on the fun?

And why not pass on “What’s in Grandma’s Attic” with a few changes? How about sharing with children or grandchildren a game about our wonderful Catholic faith? We could call it: “What About our Faith Words?” and use the alphabet to teach or review. We could start with Absolution, Baptism, Confirmation, Deity, Eucharist, Forgiveness, Grace, and so on. We could even consult the Bible for some Old Testament words or names. Time spent with children to learn about the love of God is certainly worth the effort!

There is a commercial on television that asks, “What’s in your wallet?” I am asking you now, What’s in your attic? If you don’t have an attic, you might have a basement or closets that offer the same answers! Go for it!

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Topics: God's blessings, Holy Spirit, teaching children about God, Sharon Krause

"Hear the Word! by Bill Ayres: Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted by Bill Ayres on Oct 1, 2022 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the prophecy of Habakkuk

(Chapter 1:2-3; 2:2-4)

“How long O Lord? I cry for help but you do not listen! I cry out to you, ‘Violence!’ but you do not intervene. Why do you let me see ruin; why must I see misery?” Habakkuk was one of the 12 minor prophets of Israel and, like most, he was speaking in a time of oppression by a foreign power. God answers him: “For the vision still has its time, presses on to its fulfillment, and will not disappoint; if it delays, wait for it, it will surely come, it will not be late.”

This was written thousands of years ago, but it has meaning for us today even though our situation is not so challenging. Or is it? Perhaps there are times when we can identify with this ancient man’s cry. Not that we have to deal with hostile Babylonians, but maybe we have troubles with our health, our family, or our work. We still can rely on God’s promise of ultimate salvation.  

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9)

“If today you hear his voice, harden not your heart.” How and where can we hear the voice of God? Sometimes it is at prayer, at our Eucharistic celebration, in nature, or any time when we speak to a loved one or look into her or his eyes. Or, it may be in times of stress, danger or disappointment. But we can truly hear God’s voice only if we have open, not hardened hearts.

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Stays of Execution

Posted by Alice Hugh Brown on Sep 27, 2022 9:00:00 AM

None of us want to have a dreaded appointment delayed time and again. Think, then, of the great anxiety caused when a prisoner must repeatedly anticipate his death. Then consider these stays of execution for Richard Glossip:

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Topics: justice, mercy, Catholic social teaching, dignity of each person, social justice, Dignity and the Death Penalty

Roads We Travel

Posted by Sharon Krause on Sep 26, 2022 6:00:00 AM

I was cruising the television channels recently and landed on a station that was airing an episode of the classic series, M*A*S*H*. I saw the wooden directional road sign that displayed the names of various cities in America as well as Seoul and Tokyo. It got me thinking about the various roads we travel or places we go in our lives and the virtual road signs we could use to help us find our way. Just as in the TV series, road signs can be a way of coping with challenging situations.

Let’s imagine, for example, some hypothetical road signs. So much in our lives is very literal and visual. If we can visualize a sign that reads “Patience,” we might try to follow that road when tempted to lose our temper. The arrow on the sign may point us to Ephesians 4:1-3:

   I, then, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you

   have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one

   another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond

   of peace…

Life can present us with many problems. We can get stuck on the road of “Resentment” toward someone concerning a past conflict. It is best not to go there! Our new road sign could point us to Philippians 3:12-14:

   It is not that I have already taken hold of it or have already attained perfect

   maturity, but I continue my pursuit in hope that I may possess it, since I have

   indeed been taken possession of by Christ Jesus. Brothers, I for my part do not

   consider myself to have taken possession. Just one thing: forgetting what lies

   behind but straining forward to what lies ahead, I continue my pursuit toward the

   goal, the prize of God’s upward calling, in Jesus Christ.

Another sign that can easily pop up on our brain-post is “Anxiety.” What direction can we take to relieve anxiety or that of someone else? Proverbs 12:25 tells us:

   Anxiety in a man’s heart depresses it,

   but a kindly word makes it glad.

And St. Matthew tells us in his Gospel, 6:34:

   Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day

   is its own evil.

And St. Paul reassures us in Romans 8:38-39:

     For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor

     present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other

   creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

The post in M*A*S*H* had 11 directional signs displayed in a bit of disarray. Our personal signposts may have more or fewer signs and can change as time passes. Sacred Scripture is full of wonderful hope and direction to point us to the right pathways. I have provided only a few examples. Each of us can find our own help. Even if our signs say things like “Doubt,” “Temptation,” “Fear,” “Confusion,” or “Transition,” the Holy Spirit is a great travel guide through prayer and Sacred Scripture. Blessed travels to all of us!

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Topics: applying Scripture to your life, Holy Spirit, Sharon Krause, choices

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