Branching-Out

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted by Bill Ayres on Jul 10, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the prophecy of Amos

(Chapter 7:12-15)

Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah and Amos were prophets who were rejected by their own people. Amos was rejected by Amaziah the priest of the important temple in Bethel. “Off with you visionary!” Amaziah told the prophet, but Amos refused. “The Lord took me from following the flock,” he said, “and said to me, Go, prophesy to my people Israel.”

Amos was especially concerned with the way poor people were treated by those in power. Most people in his time and place, in the eighth century BC, were poor, so he was most unpopular with the elite, because he spoke the truth to power no matter the consequences. He especially challenged people who thought of themselves as strictly religious but were unjust to those whom they considered inferior.

It is important to see Jesus as following the long tradition of Hebrew prophets whose messages of healing and warning were rejected. Jesus was much more than a prophet, but he certainly was that as well.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 85)

“Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.” When have you recently experienced the kindness of God? Perhaps it was in prayer, through the kind words of a loved one or help from a stranger or someone you hardly knew. God’s kindness comes to us in many ways through many people. Let us give thanks for God’s kindness and all those who share it with us.

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Topics: Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, Book of the Prophet Amos, call to discipleship, gifts from God, RENEW International

The Lighter Side

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jul 9, 2021 6:00:00 AM

When I was a minister of the Eucharist in my parish, I was serving during a Mass one hot and humid summer morning. I stood near the altar preparing to receive the Holy Eucharist myself, before helping to distribute it to the congregation. We were singing the “Agnus Dei” when a big horsefly came flying towards me, heading for my nose and/or open mouth! I quicklyand, I hope, discreetly batted him away and tried to maintain my holy demeanor. To distribute Holy Communion, I stood off to the side with the ciborium in my hand. My teen-aged daughter, Sherry, came to me for the host. She raised her eyes to me and said, “Mom, I saw it! “Well, I had all I could do to keep from giggling out loud, but I mustered all my efforts at composure and went on with my task. Thanks, Daughter!

Another time when I was serving as minister of the Eucharist, all four-feet, eleven inches of me was standing behind the six-foot, five inch Deacon Tom. When it came time for him to hand me Holy Communion, he turned and I steppedwe were out of sync, and, for a moment, he couldn’t find me. Chuckle time!

My mother told me that she once went to Mass while she was fighting a persistent cough. She was chewing a piece of gum inconspicuously, just to keep her throat moist. All of a sudden, she had to cough, and that little piece of gum flew like a missile out of her mouth, barely missing the bald head of the man praying in the pew in front of her. Close call!

 

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Topics: Gratitude to God, RENEW International, Sharon Krause

The Lord's Day

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jul 5, 2021 6:00:00 AM

When I was a little child, my mother used to take me to Sunday morning Mass. We did not own a car, so she and I would take the 15-minute walk to St. Joseph’s Church on Cottage Street in Middletown, New York. We would pass a restaurant, and it would be closed, because it was Sunday, and most businesses were closed on Sundays in those days. However, after Mass, we would often stop into a little convenience store to buy a newspaper for my non-Catholic dad. The lady in this very tiny store would stand behind the counter and solicitously listen to little ol’ wide-eyed me as I told her which of the numerous penny candies in their respective bins I had selected. While I did not come away with too much, I was happy with my treats.

Over the years, I have seen how the Lord’s Day has gotten so much busier. Gradually, stores and restaurants opened seven days a week. More and more people were needed to work on Sundays. The economy was getting more robust. Retailers were getting busier and busier. Vigil masses became popular to help the Sunday workers more easily attend Mass.

So now, in this busy 21st century, how do we keep holy the Lord’s Day? I know that during the pandemic many people wisely stayed away from indoor crowds and perhaps watched liturgies online. Now life is getting back to a semblance of normal, and churches are open with fewer or no restrictions on attendance.

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Topics: RENEW International, Sharon Krause, The Lord's Day

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted by Bill Ayres on Jul 3, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the prophecy of Ezekiel

(Chapter 1: 13-15; 2:23-24)

(Chapter 2:2-5)

Throughout history, prophets have emerged during times of stress, enslavement, and destruction. The Spirit of God is in them as we read today about Ezekiel, who was called by God amid the destruction of Israel by the Babylonians in the sixth century BC. The Israelites had refused to listen to the prophets who preceded Ezekiel, and so God is sending him into a most difficult situation.

Who are the prophets today in our world and in our country? They may be famous people like Pope Francis or others that work locally and in obscurity. How can we know? How can we discern among so many voices? Abraham Lincoln is seen as prophetic today, but in his day he was also hated by millions and was murdered for his actions. Being a prophet has never been easy, and false prophets emerge frequently. Who are the real prophets who speak the truth to power and endure rejection and harm to fulfill their mission?

You and I might not consider ourselves prophets, but there may be times when we are called to have the voice of a prophet in our family, our community, our place of work, or our country.  But we should never forget that our words must be truthful, humble, and loving.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 123)

“Our eyes are fixed on the Lord, pleading for his mercy.” One of our most powerful prayers is “Lord, have mercy on me.”

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Topics: eternal life, Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, Prophet Ezekiel, RENEW International, authority of Jesus, Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Categories

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jul 2, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A few months ago, I resurrected a craft that makes use of recycled greeting cards. I had bought a couple ornaments at a crafts fair and had taken them apart to figure out how to make them myself. I have added some extra decorations and personal touches to what I now call “categornaments,” and have really gotten into making them again. Each ornament has a particular categoryfor example, deer, birds, Nativity scenes, children, and dogs. Needless to say, I am limited by the subject matter of the cards I happen to have. Each ornament requires 20 circular pictures.

I was taught brainstorming in high school as an aid to answering essay questions on exams or assignments requiring creative writing. It is a very useful problem-solving tool. We just storm our brains to list items on a certain topic and then work from there.

Of course, one thought led me to another, and I started considering just how much we all categorize things, sometimes unintentionally. When we are faced with challenging situations, our brains start going up and down the list of possible solutions.

Brainstorming for certain categories can be helpful in our spiritual life, too. Certainly, it helps with examining our conscience at the end of the day so that we can humbly tell our Lord any sins we may have committed. On the positive side, we can also categorize all the little daily blessings we have enjoyed and thank him for them, one by one.

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Topics: God's love, RENEW International, Sharon Krause, examining conscience

Fantastic Fans

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jun 28, 2021 6:00:00 AM

I once decided to decorate a bedroom wall with a collection of pretty paper fans. I arranged the floral half-circles symmetrically in a colorful display of airy creativity. Of course, the fans were opened to reveal their respective patterns and vibrancy. It was a unique and pleasing wall displayat least to me. My husband did not have much to say about it.

Fans are interesting, like people. The more a fan is unfolded, the more the true picture emerges and the more the fan is available to keep someone cool. Both beauty and function improve the more the fan is opened. As people learn more about themselves, the more their beauty shines forth, and the more they can use their talents and energy to live life in a fuller, more genuine way.

As followers of Christ, we are challenged to unfold our layers of potential goodness, calling upon the guidance and example of Jesus. We seek to use our God-given gifts for the love of others. St. Paul reminds us of this in his letter to the Christians in Rome (2:6):

We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader in diligence; the compassionate in cheerfulness.

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Topics: RENEW International, Sharon Krause, serving others, sharing our gifts, unlocking our potential

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted by Bill Ayres on Jun 26, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the book of Wisdom

(Chapter 1: 13-15; 2:23-24)

The Book of Wisdom was probably written less than one hundred years before the birth of Jesus. It contains one of the most overt references to life after death in the Hebrew Scriptures. The author wants to convey that “God formed man to be imperishable…. God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living.” Sometimes death comes peacefully to a person surrounded by loved ones. At other times, it is the result of violence. In any case, it is the termination of a precious life. What comes next? Those who do not believe in an afterlife anticipate nothing. Those of us who believe have hope in the promise of new life. That promise begins in the scriptures right here and comes to fullness in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 30)

“I will praise you Lord, for you have rescued me.” Think of all the times the Lord has rescued you. Sometimes it is dramatic. Sometimes it is hardly noticeable until you think about it and then give thanks.

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Topics: eternal life, Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, RENEW International, resurrection, thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, promise of new life

ABCs

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

Sometimes, it is helpful to get back to basics, to simplify what we have made complicated. Whether we are talking about life in general or a particular area of life, it is good to occasionally go back to the ABCs and regroup.

Since I am a word-and-letter person, I will concentrate on spiritual life. It can be overwhelming to concentrate on too many subjects at once, so let’s just use a few of the many ABCs.

“A” reminds us of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. We are all asked to do many ordinary things during our lives, but Mary was chosen to the extraordinary, to carry and give birth to the Savior of the world. The Bible passages about the angel’s visit are not long, but Mary’s fiat and the everlasting effects of her generosity and humility should propel us into a feeling of wondrous gratitude.

Another favorite “A” for me is “Abba.” St. Paul, in his letter to the Galatians (4:6-7) tells us,

And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.

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Topics: Annunciation, Bible, Catholic Faith, RENEW International, sacrament of baptism, Scriptures, Sharon Krause, Indwelling of the Holy Spirit, Abba

Thoughtfulness 101

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jun 21, 2021 6:00:00 AM

I have often heard of courses designed to help students acquire skills they will need as adults. There are courses whereby a person learns how to make up a monthly budget, or care for a baby, or fill out tax forms, and probably, nowadays, how to use computer programs for various needs. I started thinking that perhaps there should be a course called “Thoughtfulness 101.”

Thoughtfulness mean being immersed in a meditative state, and that can certainly be useful, calming, and productive. My course on thoughtfulness, however, would be associated with the second meaning I found online in Oxford Languages: consideration for the needs of others.

Being thoughtful in this way takes a little extra time. We might have to slow down a bit. It involves pushing the focus off oneself and asks us to intentionally look at others. It can even be anonymous—for example, picking up some object someone had dropped onto the floor or holding a door open for someone coming behind you with their hands full. Thoughtfulness does not have to be expensive, moneywise or time wise. A greeting card can be purchased at a dollar store for 50 cents. Eye contact and a smile take only a second but can be contagious and encouraging.

 

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Topics: kindness, RENEW International, Sharon Krause, thoughtfulness

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted by Bill Ayres on Jun 19, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the book of Job

(Chapter 38:1, 8-11)

Job is the prototypical suffering servant, a good and faithful person who suffers untold misfortunes, including grave illness, loss of loved ones and property, and misunderstanding from his three closest friends who see him as guilty of some sin. Where is God in all this? Why is he treating this good man so badly? How can Job still believe in a God who has not only abandoned him but seems to be the cause of his unjust pain?

In this reading toward the end of the book, God seems to begin to set things straight. He is all powerful, and he will not allow any more disasters to befall Job.

This is certainly a disturbing story about a God that is very foreign to us but for the people back then (likely the sixth century B.C.) it was a cautionary tale to help them deal with horrendous adversity. No matter how awful life may be, God is still in control and will save the person suffering.

We have a very different view of an all-merciful, loving God. Terrible things do happen in our lives, but we are never alone as Job seemed to be. The key message of Jesus is simple and stated over and over again: I am with you.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 107)

“Give thanks to the Lord, his love is everlasting.” Yes! God’s love is always there, even though we may not always be aware of that powerful presence, especially in our times of suffering or crisis. Those are the times when we most need the all-loving and powerful presence of God who is not only “out there” but lives within us in the presence of the Holy Spirit.

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Topics: trust in God, Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, holy spirit at work, RENEW International, Indwelling of the Holy Spirit

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