Branching-Out

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted by Bill Ayres on Jul 31, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the Book of Exodus

(Chapter 16:12-15)

The Israelites were in abject slavery in Egypt, but the power of God freed them. Of course, they were grateful, but soon they were stuck in a barren desert and were starving. As bad as slavery in Egypt was, they at least had food, so they complained to Moses and Aaron, “But you had to lead us into the desert to make the whole community die of famine.” God responded to this complaint by sending the people food in the desert. We have no historical evidence about how that happened or what that food consisted of, but the point of the story is that God is the source if all life, including food.

Today, most of us are fortunate enough to be able to purchase our own food. Still, we need to remember that God is the ultimate source of our food and that we have an obligation to help those who are hungry in our community and beyond. It is not as though we have to do it by ourselves. There are several national and local anti-hunger organizations that do amazing work, including WhyHunger, a national organization that the late Harry Chapin (who died 40 years ago last month) and I co-founded in 1975. This and other organizations not only feed people but help them to get out of poverty which is the root cause of hunger.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 78)

“The Lord gave them bread from heaven.” When we participate in receiving the Eucharist we are indeed partaking of the bread of heaven. It is easy to forget that, but as we receive Communion, it is something to reflect on. Let the Eucharist nourish our spirits in hard times and in times of joy.

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Topics: celebration of the Eucharist, Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time, bread from heaven, RENEW International, Feeding the hungry

Pillows and Prayers

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jul 30, 2021 6:00:00 AM

The other day, I was cleaning out and rearranging items in a closet in my upstairs hallway. My husband was helping because he is much taller than I. He was passing down to me things from the upper shelf, and he just kept handing me throw pillows. I realized that I have a very large number of these decorative pillows, but I chose not to give away or dispose of any of them because they help me to decorate for different seasons and holidays. Their variety gives me choices and opportunities for different looks in my living room.

Leave it to me to think about correspondences between prayers and such mundane objects as throw pillows. Please take a comfortable seat, maybe with assistance of a throw pillow, and keep reading.

In our ideal daily prayer routine, we probably pray certain prayers in the morning and before retiring at night. Throughout the day, even if we are busy, we certainly can offer up little prayers for different people or circumstances.

What is it about throw pillows that I like so much? For one thing, they can offer support for your back. They are movable and flexible enough to stuff behind you as you nestle in to watch a television show or share in a conversation. With this same idea of support, you can offer a short prayer at any time of day for someone in the midst of a struggle. If that person know that you are praying for him or her, I am certain your support is a comfort. It is good for a troubled people to know that someone “has their back.” Prayer is a proven good way to do that!

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Topics: RENEW International, Sharon Krause, daily prayer

Ready and Waiting

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jul 26, 2021 6:00:00 AM

The young man who resides next door to my husband and me has something hanging from his car’s rear-view mirror that caught my eye. Instead of fuzzy dice (Remember those?), a set of rosary beads, or a shiny crystal ornament that refracts the sunlight, he has a face mask or two dangling in their protective glory. I am sure he doesn’t misplace his virus shield and even has a spare if he does. It hangs there ready and waiting to be of service.

Nowadays, when we enter a store, we often see a jar of hand sanitizer or a sanitary-wipe dispenser ready and waiting for germ-laden customers’ hands or shopping carriage handles.

Meanwhile, bags nestle on the back seat of our car ready and waiting to be filled with groceries or other purchases because the stores we visit now have to sell us new bags if we don’t supply our own or choose to somehow juggle our treasures to our car. In many cases, we are asked to pack our own purchases in the bags we have brought. Safety first!

Extra air-purifier machines are strategically placed to frequently recycle the air we breathe. These machines are in medical buildings for sure, but not exclusively.

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Topics: RENEW International, Sharon Krause, daily prayer, God is our help

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted by Bill Ayres on Jul 24, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the Second Book of Kings

(Chapter 4:42-44)

Hunger and poverty were rampant in the ancient world. Very few people were well fed, and in times of drought many starved. This is the society that we hear about in today’s reading from the second Book of Kings. Elisha was a great prophet, the successor to another great prophet, Elijah. One of the signs of a great prophet sent from God was the power to feed hungry people. Elisha had that power and so did Jesus; however, it was not that they would feed all the people all the time. That was the responsibility for the whole society, starting with the leaders. It still is today.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 145)

“The hand of the Lord feeds us, he answers all our needs.” We do not think of God as the one who feeds us. We buy our own food, and in emergencies others help us. But there is a fine line for most of us in continuing our self-reliance. More than half of all workers in America make less than $30,000 a year, and an unexpected illness or job loss brought on by an event such as the COVID pandemic can drop formerly self-reliant peopleeven those making much more than $30,000into hunger and poverty. When we buy our food and eat it we need to remember that God gives us the strength to feed our families and also to help feed those in need.

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Topics: Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, RENEW International, Feeding the hungry, Jesus feeds the multitude

Precious Gift

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jul 23, 2021 6:00:00 AM

It is easy to take gifts for granted. We don’t set out to be ungrateful, but when a gift is not something we can hold in our hands, we might become a bit oblivious to its value and implications.

I am thinking about our gift of faith in God. We might not talk about it much. We might not even act on our beliefs until some big challenge or tragedy pops up in our lives. But faith is truly a blessing. It is our passport to eternal life with our loving Trinity.

Let us consider five aspects of faith as we look at the letters in the word, faith.

FFundamentals. We read in the passage from the Book of Exodus included in today’s liturgy that God delivered commandments to through Moses. In these commandments, God communicated what was expected of us. We have the basic rules of how to love God and others. God spelled it out for us. We can easily ignore the commandments, rationalize our behavior, or make excuses, but we cannot say we were not informed.

AAlienation. Because of the sin of Adam and Eve, humankind was alienated from God. God did promise to help us, although mankind wandered and sinned for many years. Prophets spoke of hope. People struggled. There were good, God-fearing men and women who did the best they could. No more Garden of Eden, but an ark was built. Life went on.

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Topics: RENEW International, Sharon Krause, The Gift of Faith

Step by Step

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jul 19, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A man who lives four houses up the street from us likes to plant tomatoes. He doesn’t plant them in his side yard but instead on his paved driveway in a row of 18 buckets equipped with tall stakes. When my husband and I take our neighborhood walks, we can watch the progress of this gent’s bucket garden.

 I do not know of another driveway bucket brigade such as my neighbor’s, but I do admire this man’s systematic method of procuring his summer harvest! He must be diligent about watering his plants and caring for them, as they grow, inch by inch, tomato by tomato.

As we endeavor to get back to some semblance of a normal routine as the pandemic appears to be letting up, we, like the tomato gardener, should try to be methodical. Step by step, we might ease up on our zealous sanitizing, masking, and distancing, while being forgiving of those who have made mistakes in predictions and advisories.

Lessons we have learned during the pandemic can help us in our everyday material and spiritual lives. For sure, it is a good idea to proceed daily, step by step, and not leap by leap. We know we can depend on God each day to help us. In Lamentations 3:22-23 we read:

       The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,

       his mercies never come to an end;

       they are new every morning,

       great is your faithfulness.

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Topics: RENEW International, spiritual renewal, Sharon Krause

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted by Bill Ayres on Jul 17, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the prophecy of Jeremiah

(Chapter 23:1-6)

As we know, shepherds were very important people in a culture that depended on sheep for clothing as well as food. A good shepherd was highly valued, and so the Israelites often referred to their kings as shepherds. Jeremiah accuses these shepherd-kings of having driven the people away and “not cared for them.” “Woe to the shepherds who mislead and scatter the flock of my pasture, says the Lord.”

We often refer to bishops in our Church today as shepherds who are to lead us. Many do it well, but some in our country and around the world have not protected children and teens in their dioceses from abuse. Millions of people all over the world have left the Church in the past 30 years. There are many reasons but high among them is the anger people have toward abusive priests and those who closed their eyes to the crimes. Pope Francis has apologized for this laxity, promised to treat the matter seriously, and put mechanisms in place to do so.

Let us pray for all those who have been abused and for their families and for all those who were guilty that healing and forgiveness can spread throughout our Church.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 23)

“The Lord is my shepherd: there is nothing I shall want.” Jesus is the true shepherd who gives us unconditional love, forgiveness, and strength for all our needs. We need only to ask, to be patient, and to accept the gifts he gives us.

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Topics: Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Prophet Jeremiah, RENEW International, The Good Shepherd

Summer Thoughts

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jul 16, 2021 6:00:00 AM

I live in Connecticut and have been known to complain when the summer temperatures get into the 90s and the humidity becomes unbearable. I think many of us are good at complaining about things that annoy us.

Let’s look on the brighter side today. I say it is time to thank God for the gifts he gives us especially, but not exclusively, in the summer. When we think about summer activities such as swimming, playing golf or tennis, enjoying baseball or soccer, we should take time to thank the Lord for our muscles, our eyesight, our coordination, and our strength. Even when we have summer chores to do, such as weeding the garden or mowing the lawn, we have to admit that God is very generous with us. When was the last time we thanked God for the inventions of sunscreen, bug repellant, ice cream, and beach umbrellas?

While vacationing in Maine one summer, I happened got up very early one morning and looked out the window of the motel which overlooked Moosehead Lake. The sun looked like a giant raspberry rising out of the lake. It was a breathtaking sight. God is such an artist!

Summer skies, configured with puffy clouds, delight any of us that take the time to notice! Sure, lately there have been numerous frightening storm clouds, but storms pass, and God gives us new days and new vistas.

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Topics: God's gifts, gratitude, RENEW International, Sharon Krause, thanking God

The Everyday Gospel: '... to the point of folly.'

Posted by Charles Paolino on Jul 14, 2021 6:00:00 AM

Rabbi Leon Klenicki wrapped up an interfaith-dialogue meeting I attended by saying, “We all believe that the Messiah is coming. Whether it’s the first coming or the second coming we can sort out after he arrives.”

The remark got a good-natured chuckle from the Jewish and Christian people in the room.

Of course, Rabbi Klenicki, a leader in interfaith dialogue, knew that differences between the two religions were more complex than his comment expressed, but still, his message was important.

His point was that in order for Jews and Christians—or any two or more communities—to coexist in peace there must first be good will. Another way to say that is that in order for any two or more communities to coexist in peace there must first be love.

Amid the information flying past me on the internet recently, I noticed a post by the magazine Commonweal with this statement attributed to Dorothy Day: “We must love to the point of folly.” That is not a soft-soap message from a Hallmark card. That is the unvarnished reality that governs our successes or failures as civilized people, and, for us, as disciples of Jesus.

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Topics: RENEW International, The Everyday Gospel: Deacon Charles Paolino

Climb It!

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jul 12, 2021 6:00:00 AM

My retired husband has our television turned on a good part of any day he is not busy with an around-the-house project, so I hear a lot of commentary about the news. Climate change is often in the headlines. That got me thinking about instances in the Bible when someone comes to a high place and decides to climb it.

Bear with me. I have read that Jesus would go to a secluded place, away from the crowds, and pray to his Father. For example, check with Matthew 14:23, Mark 6:46, and Luke 6:12. Jesus wanted alone time, chose a mountainprobably not really a big oneand decided to climb it. Jesus knew what was important, his communion with God the Father, and rose to an occasion to pray in solitude.

Remember the story of vertically challenged Zacchaeus? He sought out a tree to give him some height and climbed it so he could see Jesus. His assent in the encounter that followed was life-changing and life-saving! (Luke 19:1-10).

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Topics: personal reflection, prayer life, reflection, RENEW International, Sharon Krause

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