Branching-Out

Questions and Answers

Posted by Sharon Krause on Feb 8, 2021 6:00:00 PM

There I sat on the stage. I was dressed in my green uniform jumper and white blouse, clip bow tie on my blouse collar, and green knee socks. I was chosen from my fifth-grade class to be in a religion bee. I had committed to memory the answers from my Baltimore Catechism so that I could fare well in competition with students from other nearby Catholic schools. I was ready.

Upon reading about St. Jerome Emiliani (1481-1537), whose memorial is celebrated in the liturgy today, I learned that he is credited with developing the “question-and-answer catechism technique” to teach children religion. A great protector of orphans, St. Jerome apparently never fell short in taking care of the needs of the poor and needy.

Thanks to St. Jerome, I did pretty well in the spelling bee, but I honestly don’t recall who wonprobably not me. What I do remember is that I grew up knowing there were many laws and commandments I had to obey. I did go through a period of scrupulosity as a young teen. I got lost in the mountain of laws and prescriptions and, being a very conscientious and detail-oriented person, I found it difficult to be grateful for the underlying truth and love taught by the laws.

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Topics: beatitudes, Catechism, God's love, RENEW International, Saint Jerome Emiliani, rote learning

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

Posted by Bill Ayres on Feb 6, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the book of Deuteronomy

A reading from the Book of Job

(Chapter 7:1-4, 6-7)

Here is a nice cheery reading from Job, one of the most difficult characters in the Bible.

“Job spoke, saying: “‘Is not man’s life on earth a drudgery? Are not his days those of hirelings.? He is a slave who longs for the shade, a hireling who waits for his wages. So I have been assigned months of misery, and troubled nights have been allotted to me. If in bed I say, ‘When shall I arise?’ then the night drags on; I am filled with restlessness until the dawn. My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle; they come to an end without hope. Remember that my life is like the wind; I shall not see happiness again.’”

Ow! What is this doing in our liturgy? It is actually a part of Job’s dialogue with three of his so-called friends who try to dissuade him from believing in God. But throughout his seemingly undeserved sufferings, Job does not lose his faith in God, and in the end, he is rewarded.

Have you or anyone you know ever felt like Job? Suffering! Sadness! Tossing and turning at night! No help from supposed friends or family! I hope that has not happened to you or anyone you love.

What we can learn from Job and his life of woes is that he did not give in. He did not lose his faith in God, even when his friends did not comfort him. Now, not only does God care for us, but God is not far from us, as he seemed to be far from Job. No! God lives within us. His Spirit is with us always. We have only to listen, especially when we feel down, depressed, or deserted. The Spirit is God within us.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 147:1-2, 3-4, 5-6)

“Praise the Lord who heals the brokenhearted.” Yes, sometimes our hearts do break for any number of reasons. But God is a healer. Ask Jesus, the healer of hearts, to help you to heal.

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Topics: Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, Jesus Christ, RENEW International, Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Nearness of God, The Prophet Job, Jesus heals

Thoughts on the Memorial of St. Blaise

Posted by Sharon Krause on Feb 3, 2021 6:00:00 AM

Dane was a big girl. She sat behind me on the school bus that transported us to a private high school in a nearby town. My cousin, Donna, was sitting next to me. I don’t recall what I said to Dane or what exactly provoked her, but, to my surprise, she grabbed the two ends of my winter scarf that was draped around my neck and proceeded to pull. I don’t think she was trying to end my life or even injure me, but she certainly scared me.

Dane was twice my size and probably did not realize her own strength. I poked Donna and she reached over and freed me from my predicament. I suffered no ill after-effects from the incident, but when my mother saw the remaining irritation mark on my neck when I got home from school, she had quite a phone conversation with Dane’s mother. Needless to say, I did not sit in front of Dane on the bus after that.

What brought that incident to my mind? Well, February 3, the memorial of St. Blaise, is the day we Catholics have our throats blessed in church. St. Blaise, a doctor and bishop of Sebastea, in what is now Turkey, is credited with having saved a child who was choking on a fishbone. Saints & Angels Catholic Online tells us that St. Blaise was a “physician of souls” and a “beast tamer” as well.

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Topics: God's love, praise God, prayer life, RENEW International, Saint Blaise, blessing of throats

Prayer: To Be Attentive

Posted by RENEW International on Jan 31, 2021 6:00:00 AM

Gracious God,
help us to grow 
in our knowledge
and love of you.
Open our ears to all
you would have us hear
as we go about
our daily lives.
Help us to be truly attentive
to your presence within and among us.
Keep us mindful of your nearness,
open to your challenge,
committed to your compassion,
and present to your people.
In your name we pray.

Adapted from The Word on the Go, Cycle B,
© RENEW International

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Topics: attentiveness, catholic RENEW program, compassion, God's presence, prayer, RENEW International

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

Posted by Bill Ayres on Jan 30, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the book of Deuteronomy

(Chapter 18:15-20)

God has always sent prophets to guide his people, so Moses said, “A prophet like me will the Lord, your God, raise up for you from among his own kin; to him you shall listen.” But Moses knew that there would also be false prophets, so he warned the people, “But if a prophet presumes to speak in my name an oracle that I have not commanded him to speak, or speaks in the name of other gods, he shall die.”

Throughout the history of Israel, there were many false prophets but also many genuine prophets who truly spoke the word of the Lord and helped the people in their times of great need. Who are the true prophets and who are the false prophets in our world today? Who speaks the truth and who spews lies? Who calls for healing and reconciliation and who calls for violence and destruction? Whom can we trust in all the dimensions of our lives?

Responsorial Psalm

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

“If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” Where and how does the voice of God speak to you? In prayer and in times of quiet, or in conversations with people you trust and sometimes, even with people you do not trust or respect but still have something that strikes you as true and important? The voice of God may come to us from many sources. Let us pray to discern which voices deserve to be heard.

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Topics: Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, Jesus Christ, Moses, RENEW International, Ordinary Time, authority of Jesus, fourth sunday in ordinary time, false prophets

Tobit's Journeys

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

The Old Testament book of Tobit is interesting. As I see it, Tobit, progressed through about six life journeys before dying at a very old age. He certainly had a prayerful relationship with God; in the short book, we read his heartfelt prayers in chapters 3, 11, and 13.

Before Tobit was taken into captivity, with other Israelites, from Thisbe to Nineveh, he lived a life full of virtue and works of charity. He followed the law of Moses and was very generous with any money he could amass.

Once Tobit was taken to Nineveh, he courageously expedited the burials any of his people the king had ordered executed. Tobit faithfully performed numerous corporal works of mercy for his tribal brethren. However, one night, after burying one of his own people, his journey into blindness began after he fell asleep by a courtyard wall; his eyes were covered with sparrow droppings that produced white films that obscured his vision.

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Topics: God's love, gratitude, prayer life, RENEW International, Scripture

Prayer: Repentance

Posted by RENEW International on Jan 24, 2021 6:00:00 AM

Loving and gentle God,
for the times we have been
insensitive to the needs of others …

For the times we have not resisted evil
but have given in to it instead …

For the times we have failed to offer hope and support …

For the times we have shut ourselves off
from comfort, hope, and support …

For the times we have allowed cynicism to reign …

Lord, we repent and believe in the Good News.

Loving God, we turn to you in love and trust.
Allow your reign to grow continually in our hearts,
now and always. Amen.

Adapted from PrayerTime, Faith-Sharing Reflections on the Sunday Gospels, Cycle B,
© RENEW International

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Topics: catholic RENEW program, Good News, Gospel of Mark, Jesus Christ, prayer, RENEW International, repent and believe in the gospel

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

Posted by Bill Ayres on Jan 23, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the Book of the Prophet Jonah

(Chapter 3:1-5, 10)

God asks Jonah to go to Nineveh, not a Jewish city but the capital of Assyria, an enemy of Israel, and preach a message of repentance. Repentance is a very powerful word used throughout the Bible. It does not mean changing your mind or being sorry for something. It means having a change of heart, a whole change of direction in your life. We often say we are sorry for something, but repentance involves our whole being focused on something very serious. This was the second time that Jonah had preached this message, so it must have been a difficult and dangerous mission.

Prophets were special people called by God to carry a message to people who had lost their way and were mired in sinfulness. Every age has its prophets, even though they are not necessarily called prophets. Think about people in our own time that you consider as prophets. Who would they be? How can you know that they are true prophets, not false prophets?

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9)

The response to these psalm verses is, “Teach me your ways O Lord.” This is a life-long process, learning God’s ways. We need to be open to new insights and callings from God. What we learned in the third grade or even last year needs to grow continually. How are you open to God’s ongoing message as God speaks to you every day in so many ways? Is there some new call that you believe God is sending to you? How should you respond?

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Topics: Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, catholic renew progam, God's call, Jesus Christ, RENEW International, repent and believe in the gospel, resurrection in our lives, Ordinary Time, the prophet Jonah, third sunday in ordinary time

Bird Watching

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

As my husband and I were out running an errand, we came upon a woman who had stopped her car on the side of a busy road. She was looking up at a nearby tree. There, on a branch, was perched a beautiful bald eagle. He was quite a sight to see.

In the colder New England weather, we often see vultures warming themselves as they sit on chimneys and rooftops near where we live. My husband and I do a vulture count on cold mornings if we happen to be out and about. This morning, the vulture count was very high! They were even populating the trees a couple of blocks from our house.

Vultures, eagles, sparrows, ostriches, and plenty of other birds are mentioned in the Bible; if you were to conduct an online topic search, you might be surprised at how many!

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Topics: God's love, Good News, HolySpirit, RENEW International, Scripture, sense of hope

Big Fish Lessons

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

For some reason, the story of Jonah and his three days and three nights inside a great big fish inspired some comparisons with life circumstances today. Hmm! Does that sound odd? Let’s think about it.

My husband and I have been somewhat quarantined in our house since last March. Yes, we go out for a few errands now and then, but most of our time is spent inside the belly of our house. So far, we have been safe from the COVID virus waves. Praise God, who has blessed us with resources, retirement, health, and stability.

I went to the Bible and reread the Book of Jonah and found a great deal to consider. Whether we believe that this account is just a teaching story or a description of a truly interesting miracle, the reread was worth the time. Allow me to share.

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Topics: divine mercy, catholic program renew, God's forgiveness, God's love, Good News, his people on earth, prayer, RENEW International, repentance, Jonah

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