Branching-Out

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

Posted by Bill Ayres on Dec 11, 2020 2:41:55 PM

A reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah 61:1-2, 10-11

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Topics: 3rd Sunday of Advent, a reflection on the coming Sunday's Gospel, catholic renew progam, RENEW International, Magnificat, Gospel of John

Twelve Days Before Christmas

Posted by Sharon Krause on Dec 9, 2020 6:00:00 AM

I was thinking about that song “The Twelve Days of Christmas and decided to check out the readings for the daily liturgies on the twelve days before Christmas concerning the readings for the daily liturgies. Perhaps it would be helpful for prayer if we consider a phrase from each day’s readings.

December 13, from 1Thessalonians 5:16-24. Test everything; retain what is good. 
That is really good advice, especially with all the dangers lurking today. The Holy Spirit is a faithful aid with discernment. Call on the Spirit.

December 14, from Matthew 21:23-27. “By what authority are you doing these things.”
The chief priests and elders are questioning Jesus. We know Jesus acts with heavenly authority, and that is the best guarantee available. How blessed are we to have God’s love in the person of Jesus!

December 15, from Matthew 21:28-32. “Which of the two did his father’s will?”
C
onsider obedience in today’s world. It is so easy to rationalize our sins, to make little excuses for sinning. We can pray for more faithfulness to doing God’s will in our everyday lives.

December 16, from Isaiah 45:6c-8,18, 21c-25. Turn to me and be safe.
What an invitation! That should be our first reaction whenever we are challenged or threatened. As we have heard many times, God is always waiting to save us.

December 17, from Matthew 1:1-17. We are given the genealogy of Jesus. How are we doing with praying for our families? While some of our family members may not follow in our spiritual or religious observances, we pray for blessings and wisdom for them. Our loving example can be visual prayers for their increase in faith. 

December 18, from Matthew 1:18-25. They shall name him Emmanuel, which means God with us. 
We are assured of the Divine Presence, even when we feel most alone and dismayed. This child’s name tells us who he is right from the start of his earthy conception. What a wonderful name!

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Topics: Christmas, Book of the Prophet Isaiah, catholic program renew, Gospel according to Luke, Gospel According to Matthew, Mary, prayer, renew catholic program, RENEW International, scripture readings, Book of Judges, Magnificat

Opting for Silence

Posted by Sharon Krause on Dec 7, 2020 6:00:00 AM

Years ago, when our daughter and her family lived in the duplex apartment next door to us, my three grandkids would pop in to visit unannounced. One day, the 10-year old made an entrance and found me sitting on my couch in silence. I was not reading or working on a craft or watching television or even listening to a radio. Mandy was concerned. Was everything all right? Little Miss Busy Person could not figure out how I could be sitting there in silence. Of course, I reassured her that I was fine and just collecting my thoughts and enjoying the quiet.

At least once a year, I try to attend a silent weekend retreat at a retreat house in Massachusetts. There are inspirational sessions each day led by the retreat presenters, but for the rest of the time the retreatants do not intermingle or socialize. We pray and talk to God, read, and take peaceful walks around the lovely grounds. We take time to rest and refresh.

A long time ago, I went on a six-day silent retreat. That was really a shock to my active life. I had to get used to not seeking eye contact or exchanging friendly greetings with other retreatants I would pass in the hallways or at meals. However, I visited the reservation chapels many times, I read my Bible, I prayed, I journaled, I felt the closeness of the Lord in a very comforting way. He spoke to me in marriage images. He put happiness in my heart. He filled my silence. 

So today I am touting the praises of occasional times of silence. Silence is almost counter-cultural during these days of hi-tech electronics and constant media bombardment. We are a very audibly-informed society. We might need to enforce radio silence—-like a submarine—and take a dive into quiet for a little while.

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Topics: catholic renew progam, Jesus Christ, Martha and Mary, prayer, RENEW International, silence, pandemic, COVID, virus, retreat, Be still

Prayer: Prepare the Way of the Lord!

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

God of power and mercy,
Open our hearts in welcome.
Remove the things that hinder us from
receiving Christ with joy
so that we may share his wisdom and
become one with him in glory
for he lives and reigns with you and
the Holy Spirit,
now and forever. 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, Holy Spirit, joy, prayer, RENEW International, Advent journey, season of preparation

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

Posted by Bill Ayres on Dec 4, 2020 8:32:11 AM

A reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah 
(Chapter 40:1-5, 9-11)

Historical records show that the Babylonian Exile, which was a defining event in the relationship between God and Israel, ended around 538 B.C. This reading comes from just before that time and is truly prophetic. It looks to a time when God will make things right for Israel. The prophet sees the exile as a punishment for Israel’s sins, and now “her service is at an end, her guilt is expiated.” God is giving comfort to his people.

God offers comfort to us today even—no, especially—amid the COVID pandemic. Now is the time when we need to pray and remember the presence of the Holy Spirit within us. When we are dealing with addictions, family squabbles, betrayals and conflicts at work, or loss of work, God is there, helping us to deal with our responsibilities in these difficult times and forgiving others for their short tempers and fears.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 85:9-10, 11-12, 13-14)

“Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.”

How do you experience the kindness of God, especially in such troubled times? Perhaps it is reaching out to your neighbors, friends, and relatives that you miss but can’t be with physically, especially those who are struggling to make ends meet or are trapped in depression or constant anxiety. 

A reading from the Letter of Saint Peter

(Chapter 3:8-14)

The author and date of this letter are matters of debate among scholars. The earliest Christians, including Peter and Paul, believed that the Second Coming of Christ and the end of the world would occur in their lifetimes. This letter, perhaps written around 85 AD, reminds the faithful that “with the Lord one day is like a thousand years” and warns them that “all should come to repentance.” In other words, don’t worry about when the Lord will come again, be prepared all the time.

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Topics: Babylonian Exile, a reflection on the coming Sunday's Gospel, catholic program renew, First Sunday of Advent, Gospel According to Mark, Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ, John the Baptist, prepare the way of the Lord, Psalm 85, renew catholic program, RENEW International, Second Letter of St. Peter

Wreath Reflections

Posted by Sharon Krause on Dec 2, 2020 6:00:00 AM

Like just about everything this year, the season of Advent will be different in a number of ways. I am considering four important words we will see in sacred scripture, reflection pieces, and other spiritual offerings: awake, prepare, rejoice, and behold. Often the first word in one of the Sunday readings during Advent, each one may grab our attention as if in boldface typeand that is a good thing! 

Awake. Pay attention! We have had to be so alert and careful about avoiding the COVID virus contagion that we are weary. However, this Awake we are seeing is a more positive encouragement. Wake up and hear the wonderful news: the best is yet to come! Sure, we have to watch out to avoid anything that will make us too content in our earthly comfort zones. Jesus came to save us and will come again at the end of time. Be ready! Be joyful! It’s really good news!

Lord, send me gentle reminders to be vigilant,
to grasp more fully my responsibility
to focus
on opportunities for goodness and positivity.
Teach me to celebrate that I
am graced
with your message of salvation and am waiting
to see your awesome
face in our kingdom of everlasting love. Amen.

Prepare. John the Baptist was very good at his job of preparing the way of the Lord. He did his work, and we can do ours. Regardless of the world situation, we can all be creative as we give witness, example, and encouragement to othersin mundane issues but, more importantly, in spiritual things. So many people are preparing their houses for Christmas with bright fancy decorations, but how much more important is the preparation we do to repent of our sins, to open the windows of our hearts to let the Holy Spirit decorate our lives with hope. 

I ask you, John the Baptist, to intercede for me
that I may shake off the shackles of
complacency and habit
so as to make straight my path to the Lord and his to me.
Help me to convey the message of the truth of Christmas
in pure and simple ways.
 Amen.

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Topics: Advent Wreath, catholic renew progam, hope, Jesus Christ, John the Baptist, prayer, rejoice, RENEW International, pandemic, COVID, virus, Prepare, Awake, Behold

Temptations

Posted by Sharon Krause on Nov 30, 2020 6:00:00 AM

With so much instability in the world today, we have had to adjust to cope with the disruption of routines and ways of thinking. Unfortunately, we might be faced with adapting to compromises and battling temptations. I have heard that the devil is in the details, but it is just as true that the devil is in the derailsthose times we get off track for one reason or another.

 As I thought about the possible temptations to sin, my categorizing brain reminded me that in the 1960s and 1970s there was a very popular singing group called the Temptations. They were not something to be avoided; their music and the way they did their choreography were very entertaining. Next, I looked at some of the names of this quintet’s famous recordings. So, without going into the lyrics specifically, there are song titles that seem fitting with today’s not-so-desirable temptations.

 One song was called Ball of Confusion (That’s What the World is Today). I certainly see how that designation could apply to our poor world today. I told my husband I never thought before that I might envy the four astronauts that recently left the earth for six months away at the space station. Of course I was joking, but with so many openings and closings of schools, stores, and restaurants, it is easy to become a little cranky or short with people around us. We might be tempted to lose our patience and our temper. We might say things that are not so loving. We might indulge in a bit of self-pity. A good antidote is a few thoughts of gratitude, taken with a tall glass of water or a walk around the block.

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Topics: catholic renew progam, hope, Jesus Christ, prayer, RENEW International, temptation, pandemic, COVID, virus, despair

Prayer: Be Watchful! Be Alert

Posted by Sr. Donna Ciangio, OP on Nov 29, 2020 6:00:00 AM

Loving God,
You desire that we grow ever more deeply
in our relationship with you.
As we begin our Advent journey
waiting eagerly
for the coming of your Son, Jesus,
bless our prayer, our contemplation,
our sharing,
and our service to others. 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, Advent, catholic RENEW program, prayer, RENEW International, Advent journey, season of preparation

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

Posted by Bill Ayres on Nov 27, 2020 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah 
(Chapter 63:16b-17, 19b; 64:2-7)

It has finally happened. The Jewish people have been freed from the long Babylonian Exile and can go home to Israel. But the temple in Jerusalem has been destroyed, and their land has been devastated. Worse! The people themselves are in terrible shape.

“Would that you might meet us doing right, that we were mindful of you in our ways! Behold, you are angry and we are sinful; all of us have become as unclean people, all our good deeds are like polluted rags; we have all withered like leaves, and our guilt carries us away like the wind. There is none who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to cling to you; you have hidden your face from us and delivered us up to our guilt.”

Yet, all is not lost. “You, Lord, are our father, our redeemer you are named forever…. Return for the sake of your servants the tribes of your heritage.” It was the faith of so many of the Israelites that helped them through their painful captivity.

I suppose that many of us feel as though we have been in a kind of captivity, exiles from our former lives for most of this year. Now there is hope that if we follow common sense rules and, as various vaccines appear safe and available, we too will emerge from our exile safe and healthy. Let us not fall victim to the sadness that is all around us, sometimes very close to us, and be strengthened by those near to us and our ever-present community.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 80: 2-3, 15-16, 18-19)

“Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.” Where do you see God’s face? In your loved ones! In those that you have not been able to see but remain in your heart and perhaps on the telephone? In the 54 million hungry people right here in America, 18 million of whom are children? In the hundreds of millions of poor and hungry people in our world, including the many millions of those struggling just to survive? We can’t help them all, but we can reach out to some and keep all in our hearts and prayers.

A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians

(Chapter 1:3-9)

“Brothers and sisters: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ…. He will keep you firm to the end, irreproachable on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, and by him you were called to fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Do you believe that Jesus “will keep you firm to the end”? We do live in shaky times. Have you felt shaken by what is going on in your life or in our world? Have you tried to find time each day to pray to Jesus for that firmness that seems to be hard to come by these days? What have you been especially thankful for this season?

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Topics: Babylonian Exile, Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians, a reflection on the coming Sunday's Gospel, catholic program renew, First Sunday of Advent, Gospel According to Mark, Jesus Christ, renew catholic program, RENEW International, Psalm 80, Be watchful

All the Trimmings

Posted by Sharon Krause on Nov 25, 2020 6:00:00 AM

According to reports in the media, people have begun decorating for the approaching holidays already. One woman who was interviewed said that it makes her kids feel better to see all the bright lights inside and outside her house. Some families have put up their Christmas trees even before Thanksgiving. A business advertised on television that it employs workers who will decorate your whole front yard with tons of lights and electronic trimmings. Granted, it has been a dark year of pandemic and controversy, so we do need to lighten up.

Whether we are planning a big family meal on Thanksgiving or a small gathering, most likely the turkey will be trimmed with savory basting and spices. We may even dress to decorate ourselves a little fancier during holiday celebrations or at least wear a special gaudy Christmas sweater in December.

 As we enhance the walls of our homes and our shrubbery, our luscious turkeys and desserts, and our own physical bodies, we could lose touch with the fact that we have to have positive foundations under the trimmings. If our fuses blow, our bushes collapse, our fowl is really foul-tasting, or our appearance is disheveled, our original intentions may not realize the desired results.

 We should try to remember, for example, that while lights brighten up the early darkness outside and the pine trees in our living rooms, the true Light in our world all year long is Jesus, who shows us the way out of the darkness of sin and evil. In the incident described in John 8:12, the Pharisees were with Jesus:

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world.
Whoever follows
me will never walk in darkness
but will have the light of life.”
   

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Topics: Christmas, Christmas season, catholic renew progam, holiday, Jesus Christ, prayer, RENEW International, pandemic, COVID, virus, trimmings, decorations, I am the light of the world

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