Branching-Out

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

Posted by Bill Ayres on Feb 12, 2022 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the prophecy of Jeremiah

(Chapter 17:5-8)

Many of the people the prophet Jeremiah encountered were farmers who lived from harvest to harvest and depended on the land for their survival. In the passage read at Mass today, Jeremiah taps into that background as he invokes a metaphor for trust.

Jeremiah says, “Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose hope is the Lord.” Then he tells the people why they should have that trust. “He is like a tree planted beside the waters that stretches out its roots to the stream. It fears not the heat when it comes; its leaves stay green; in the year of drought it shows no distress, but still bears fruit.” The key word is trust. The farmers who are his audience will understand the meaning of trust from this farming story.

What does it mean for you to trust in God? Has anything caused your trust to waver? Did that wavering become a crisis of faith? Has it been resolved?

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 1)

“Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.” Amid the pandemic and so many other threatening issues, are you still a hopeful person? Who or what continues to give you hope?

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Topics: trust in God, Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, RENEW International, Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Being Positive

Posted by Sharon Krause on Feb 7, 2022 6:00:00 AM

You’ve got to accentuate the positive

   Eliminate the negative

   Latch on to the affirmative

   Don’t mess with Mr. In-Between

 These words are from the song, “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive,” written by Johnny Mercer and Harold Arlen and published in 1944. The lyrics seem to be good advice after two years of a pandemic and the weariness many of us are experiencing with all the bad news we hear every day.

It takes a firm effort and constant determination to be a positive thinker nowadays. We cannot deny or minimize the hardships the virus has caused many of us, but, with the help of God, we have to try to keep moving positively forward, little by little.

I can find myself starting to complain about somethingfor example, not going out to restaurants where many people could be, and thus, having to do so much cooking at home; then I remind myself how grateful I am that I have food and the ways and means to prepare it. I try to turn complaining into thanking God for his gifts to me.

I could complain about food prices rising, but then I realize that it would not hurt me to lose a little weight and to cut back on the foods I really don’t need! It is so easy to become negative and feel sorry for ourselves, but we can be better than that if we recognize that the Lord loves us and will help us. We read in Isaiah 41:10,

   (Do) not fear, for I am with you,

   do not be afraid, for I am your God;

   I will strengthen you, I will help you,

   I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.

 

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Topics: optimism, Gratitude to God, Sharon Krause, being positive

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

Posted by Bill Ayres on Feb 5, 2022 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the prophecy of Isaiah

(Chapter 6:1-2a, 3-8)

Last week, we read about the call to Jeremiah to be a prophet and his reluctance because he thought he was too young. Today, we read about God’s call to Isaiah who said he was unworthy. Isaiah’s first response was, “Woe is me, I am doomed.” That is not exactly the kind of response we might have expected but, that is what it was. Why?

Being a prophet is an awesome responsibility but, in both cases, God assured the would-be prophets that he was with them: “Whom shall I send? Who will go with me?” Then, with that assurance, Isaiah did not hesitate: “Here I am, send me.”

Most of us are not called to be prophets in that total life-giving sense, but we are often called to say or do something that is challenging, and sometimes we may feel threatened in such situations. “If I say these words, will people reject me?” “If I do not follow the crowd, will they cut me off or put me down?” It is hard to know when to speak up and when to let something go, at least for the moment. The key is to do what Saint Paul wrote in the letter we read from last week: Speak the truth with love, meaning not with criticism or rejection. Imagine if the leaders of our society talked that way. Imagine if everyone in our families talked that way. Then we could speak the more difficult truths to one another without fear of rejections or reprisals.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 138)

“In the sight of the angels I will sing your praises, Lord.” We can even sing his praises out of sight of the angels. When was the last time you actually praised God? When can the next time be?

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Topics: Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, RENEW International, Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

My Norfolk Island Pine

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jan 31, 2022 6:00:00 AM

This past Christmas I received a surprise gift from a new acquaintance: a small Norfolk Island Pine tree in a silver pot. It resides atop my computer table in the kitchen, so I look at it often. In a way, it is like a new little friend given to me by a new human friend. As frequently happens, I have been led to some blog-worthy thoughts.

Do you ever think about the little surprise gifts God has given you? He gave me a little poem about a snowflake one day; another time, it was a favorite song popping up on the car radio at a time when I was feeling a bit weary. One day a friend from many years ago found my phone number and called me. Some people call those things coincidences, but I don’t.

I am partial to green, so my little green friend is certainly welcome in my home. Liturgically, green is the color of hopesomething we all need after two years of a pandemic. The tree is a lovely deep green color, and I pray our hope runs deep for a happier, healthier, year ahead.

   (B)ut the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him,

   in those who hope in his steadfast love. (Psalm 147:11)

 

   For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your

   welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)

So long as I remember to water wee “Verdie” (the name I have given my tree), it will continue to grow. I believe Verdie has good roots in the soil in that silver pot. We, too, strongly rooted in a belief in a loving, ever-present God, can grow to be more loving and understanding of others. I don’t know how high Verdie will ultimately grow, but we can challenge ourselves and see how much we can grow closer to our Savior Jesus in this new year. We have to nurture our faith with a faithful prayer life and stock up on spiritual food for thought.

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Topics: use your gifts, Sharon Krause, silent prayer

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

Posted by Bill Ayres on Jan 29, 2022 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the prophecy of Jeremiah

(Chapter 1:4-5, 17-19)

Jesus once remarked that a prophet is not honored in his own country (Mark 6:4). That was certainly true of Jeremiah. He was treated terribly by his own people and was almost killed. In the passage read in today’s Mass, God is preparing Jeremiah for his “terrible task” and assuring him, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you a prophet to the nations I appointed you…. Stand up and tell them all that I command you. Be not crushed on my account.”

Jeremiah suffered greatly and was almost crushed. Still, he was faithful to God despite his many fears and depression. Somehow, God’s strength was with him in the most painful and desperate times.

We all have times of fear, depression, and the concern that we are not up to the task before us. It seems to be just too much. At those very times, God will be present to us in numerous ways, if we can listen to his saving message and accept the support that might be near at hand.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 71)

“I will sing of your salvation.” This beautiful psalm is an affirmation that God is on our side always, “a stronghold to give me safety. “

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Topics: Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, RENEW International, fourth sunday in ordinary time

White Snow and the Seven Shovels

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jan 24, 2022 6:00:00 AM

As I write this blog post, Connecticut is covered in a blanket of snow. It is time to break out the shovels to clear the sidewalks and driveways in order to make passage easier. Meanwhile, how about breaking out seven prayer shovels to scoop away anything that interferes with our joyful passage into the new year?

Shovel No. 1 will push away denial of the need for God in our lives and institutions. It can be easy to take our blessings for granted or substitute people or objects for God. Sometimes I recall all the small healings in my life over the years and, I have to reset my gratitude meter.

Shovel No. 2 can be used to scoop away persistent physical viruses and push in good health for soul, mind, and body. We can get so inundated with symptoms and fear of contagion that every part of our lives can be adversely affected.

Shovel No. 3 should be busy clearing impatience out of our way. Technology has helped make so many processes in our daily living very speedy that we can forget how to exercise self-control self-discipline. Patience remains a desirable virtue.

Shovel No. 4 can shove away controversy between individuals and nations. May peace reign in our hearts and in our lands this year. With the help of God, controversies and threats can be reduced and maybe even eliminated.

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Topics: recreate yourself this New Year, Sharon Krause

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

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

A reading from the Book of Nehemiah

(Chapter 8:2-4a, 5-6, 8-10)

The events in this book took place in the fifth century before the birth of Jesus, when the Jewish people had been freed from exile in Babylon. People are returning to their own land, rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem, and learning anew the law that God handed down through Moses. They weep as Nehemiah reads it to them, not out of sadness but in joy, that this essential part of their faith has been restored to them. But Nehemiah tells them, “Go, and eat rich food and sweet drink…. Do not be saddened this day, for rejoicing in the Lord must be your strength.”

If the Israelites were told to rejoice in a law that took half a day to read, how much more should we rejoice in the law of Jesus which is a law of Love not of fear?

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 19)

“Your words, Lord, are spirit and life.” We Christians should say ,“Your Word, O Lord, is Jesus who gave his life to save us, and your Spirit is the Holy Spirit who lives within us.”

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Topics: Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, RENEW International, third sunday in ordinary time

The Stairway

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

“….10, ouch! 11, ow! 12, oof! 13, whew!”

That’s how I sound sometimes when I climb the stairs to our second floor. I live in a house that is over 100 years old, and my arthritic knees get very weary from my frequent travel up that stairway.

Superstition holds that 13 is an unlucky number, so maybe those 13 steps are just too unlucky for my joints.

In another context, 13 sins are listed in Mark 7:21 as Jesus cautions us,

From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft,    murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy,    arrogance, folly.

On the other hand, perhaps I can come up with 13 little prayers or praises about God which I can call upon, step by step. I might pick out different attributes of God: Lord, you are merciful; Lord, you are all-knowing; Lord, you are my light in my darkness; Lord, you are all-just; Lord, you seek relationship with me; Lord, you teach me; Lord, you make all things new; Lord, you are unchanging; Lord, you offer me strength; Lord, your presence is always available to me; Lord, you are so generous; you are forgiving; and Lord, you are understanding and compassionate.

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Topics: Sharon Krause

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

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

A reading from the prophecy of Isaiah

(Chapter 62:1-5)

The Babylonian Exile took place from 597 B.C. to 538 B.C. and was a horrific experience for the Jewish people. This reading is from the last part of the Book of Isaiah and was written as the Jewish people returned from captivity.

The author wants to celebrate the return and let it be known that it happened by the power of God. “No more shall people call you ‘Forsaken,’ or your land ‘Desolate,’ but you shall be called ‘My Delight,’ and your land ‘Espoused.’ For the Lord delights in you and makes your land his spouse.”

That may be strange language for us, but it was a powerful, joyful truth for the Jewish people after so many years of suffering in a foreign land.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 96)

“Proclaim the marvelous deeds to all the nations.” Our God continues to give us “marvelous deeds.” Are you aware of any in your life?

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Topics: Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, RENEW International, wedding feast at Cana

Look Again!

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

My backyard is populated by lots of squirrels. Part of the reason for the popularity of my property is that my husband loves to feed the squirrels and the birds. He is in the yard daily filling the feeders. It is amusing to watch the squirrels hanging upside down from the bird feeder as they angle for anything edible.

I have noticed that the squirrels are not just typical gray squirrels. Some of the critters have gray bodies with brown tails. Some have brown ears, and some have white ears! It is fun to give them names, although I really don’t know which white-eared squirrel is which. There are more than one “Mr. White Ears” and surely multiple “Missy Brown Tails.” It is entertaining to see the squirrels feeding and to look again to be more specific about who the voracious creatures are at any given time.

Lots of things in life require a second look.and maybe even a third and fourth. Different perspectives can lead to different judgements and varied conclusions. New details can come to the forefront. Different lights can show different angles. Snap judgements and stubborn opinions can prove iffy. Beautiful things can be even more beautiful. In some instances, a little extra time for consideration can be beneficial.

For example, did you ever read the same Bible passage three times at the same sitting? Did you ever visualize yourself, for example, standing in the stable and actually paying a visit to Mary and her new baby? I saw a television program about Jesus’ birth, and the speaker suggested that the manger, an animal’s feeding trough, could have been made of stone and not wood as we usually see depicted on Christmas cards. Hmm. Look again!

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Topics: New Year, recreate yourself this New Year, Sharon Krause, something new

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