Branching-Out

The Baptism of the Lord

Posted by Bill Ayres on Jan 8, 2022 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the prophecy of Isaiah

(Chapter 40:1-5, 9-11)

There are many beautiful passages in the Hebrew Scriptures in which God speaks soulfully to the people of Israel. This is one of the most powerful: “Comfort, give comfort to my people.”   “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem.” “Fear not to cry out.” “Here comes with power the Lord God.”

Did they listen? Did they hear the words in their hearts? Perhaps many did, but others did not. God speaks to us tenderly and with power so many times in our lives in so many ways, through many different people and situations. How often do we really listen, in times of joy and times of sadness, in stress and in peace, and so many times in between?

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 104)

“O bless the Lord, my soul.” Let us bless the Lord because of all the blessings he gives to us.

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Topics: baptism, Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, John the Baptist, RENEW International, Indwelling of the Holy Spirit, Baptism of the Lord

Time Goes On

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jan 4, 2022 6:00:00 AM

When someone in the family celebrates a birthday, how fast time flies is brought to mind. Recently our grandson turned 21, and the memories of his early childhood brought a smile of wonder to my face. How fast time goes by!

As we enjoy the beginning of a new year and we read the gospels in the post-Christmas liturgies, our focus turns from the birth of our Savior to his public ministry. Scripture tells of Jesus reading from a scroll in the synagogue, healing many people of illnesses, teaching crowds, feeding thousands with only five loaves of bread and two fish, and even walking on water. What a jump from an infant lying in a manger to a 30-something adult teaching and working miracles!

What can we learn from this transition? For one thing, it is important to remember and celebrate milestones. The birth of the Christ child was an unprecedented breakthrough in history. God became visible on earth in the person of a human being! If he did not come as a human comes, how would he grow to be a 30-year-old rabbi? He experienced years of humanity with all its ups and downs, with its desperate challenges.

Jesus was taught how to pray, to work, and to be responsible; we hopefully teach our children to do those things as well. As an adult, Jesus ministered to the multitudes, but often used time away to pray. Prayer is an important part of proper growth. If we want to continue to grow spiritually, we must pray. We pray to keep up with life events as they speedily present themselves to us. Prayer helps us to keep up the pace.

Mary and Joseph were resilient. They responded to challenges with faith-filled action. They had to adjust to Jesus’ being born in a stable. They had to flee to Egypt for safety when Jesus was an infant. Travel was not easy or comfortable, but they did it. They did not have a network of family and friends to help them in their journeys. They trusted God to give them strength and hope.

 

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Topics: Sharon Krause, imitating Jesus, use time well

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: The Epiphany of the Lord

Posted by Bill Ayres on Jan 1, 2022 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the prophecy of Isaiah

(Chapter 60:1-6)

Most Jewish and Christian scholars believe that the prophecy of Isaiah was written by three different people at three different times. Today’s reading is from the last section of the prophecy, written at the end of the Babylonian Exile. It is a time of great joy. “Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you…. Nations shall walk by your light, and kings by your shining radiance.”

The reason the Church reads this passage today is that in the birth of Jesus all this and more has come. Jesus is the fulfillment of all the prophesies and all the promises from God.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 72)

“Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.” The psalmist knew when he wrote this, thousands of years ago that it was not true, but he prayed that it would be some day.

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Topics: epiphany, Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, Advent, RENEW International

Take the Leap

Posted by Sharon Krause on Dec 29, 2021 6:00:00 AM

The gospel reading on fourth Sunday of AdventSt. Luke’s account of Mary’s visit to Elizabeth and the infant in Elizabeth’s womb leaping at the sound of Mary’s greeting, I have been stuck in idea of leaping. Even though 2022 is not a leap year, after all the grief and anxiety the pandemic had been causing, I believe it is time to leap with joy into the new year. Yes, I know the virus has not gone away; but just as John the Baptist leaped in acknowledgement of the presence of our Savior, we can confidently take a leap of faith in the abiding presence of our Lord of Life.

Now let’s consider the nature of leaping. Leaping implies elevation as we jump up and into something. This reminds me of the responses at the beginning of the Eucharistic Prayer. The celebrant says, “The Lord be with you.” We respond, “And with your spirit.” Then the celebrant says, “Lift up your hearts,” and we respond, “We lift them up to the Lord.”

I say that is a good place for us to start fresh. Let’s lift up our hearts to the Lord as we confidently leap into the new year. Also, leaping, in my mind, implies a kind of distance. A jump could be a short distance, but a leap seems to be long, encompassing more space. We may have to leap over past regrets, past fears, past failures and doubts, past disappointments and losses; but, with the help of our loving Jesus, we can go the distance.

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

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: Feast of the Holy Family

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

A reading from the First Book of Samuel

(Chapter 1:20-22, 24-28)

This is a heart-warming and heartbreaking story, especially for those of us who are parents. Many of us have prayed for a child as Hannah did and were overjoyed when that child was born. I suspect that none of us would do what Hannah did, nor would we ever be asked to do so. This event, however, took place thousands of years ago in the context of a different culture and religion. Hannah did what she thought was right and dedicated the life of her child to God’s service. And Samuel did, indeed, perform great service to God and to the people of Israel.

We can identify with Hannah in this sense: We sometimes make sacrifices for our children and for others, and we them with some pain but also with the joy of giving from deep in our hearts.

(An alternate reading for this feast is from the Book of Sirach, Chapter 3:2-6,, 12-14)

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 128)

“Blessed are those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways.” This expression, “fear the Lord,” has been misunderstood for centuries and has been used to frighten and mislead people into both spiritual and emotional illness. The fear of the Lord that the Psalmist is talking about is not the cringing, debilitating fear that drains the joy in people and keeps them from the all- powerful and all-forgiving love of God. The real sense of the word “fear” in Hebrew is “awe” and “wonder” at God’s great power and might.

Are you truly in awe of God, enthralled with his goodness, in wonder of his great creation? Or are you still caught up in the words you may have heard in your childhood: “You better be good or God will punish you.” How you answer that question may either bring you a powerful sense of God’s peace and protection or encourage that little voice that is sometimes in your head that says, “You’re not good enough.”

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Topics: Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, Feast of the Holy Family, John the Baptist, RENEW International, Indwelling of the Holy Spirit

"Christ the Savior is born"

Posted by Charles Paolino on Dec 23, 2021 6:00:00 AM
Joseph Mohr was born in Salzburg, in what is now Austria, in 1792 under inauspicious circumstances. His mother was an unmarried embroiderer, and his father was a soldier who hired himself out to fight for one of the many armies in the field in Europe in those days.
 
The father was also a deserter twice over—he deserted his army post, and he deserted his wife before she gave birth to Joseph.
 
The boy was lucky, though. The music director at the cathedral in Salzburg took an interest in him and saw to it that he got an education, and the young Joseph also sang and played the violin at a church and a monastery.
 
Joseph entered a seminary and, in 1815, he was ordained a priest; he served parishes in the region, including Orberndorf bei Salzburg. Joseph was serving at St. Nicholas parish on Christmas Eve in 1818 and was wishing he had an original song for the Nativity Mass
that night. So, he took a poem he had written and walked about two miles to visit his friend Franz Gruber, who was choirmaster at St. Nicholas. He asked if Gruber could set the poem to music in time for the Mass.
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Topics: Christmas, God's love, RENEW International, Silent Night, Joseph Mohr

Glory

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

We hear the Christmas song, “Angels We Have Heard on High,” this time of year. It is one of my favorite songs. The chorus starts with the word, gloria.

And there is that little prayer we say when we say the rosary, and other times:

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

And the Gloria prayer at Mass starts, “Glory to God in the highest.” With all this glory going on, I got thinking about just how can we give God glory? I looked up the word, and saw that glory means praise or giving great honor.

God does not need my praise or honor, but I need to praise and honor him; I need to acknowledge his greatness and majesty. How can I do that?

I suggest that giving God the glory that is due him involves singleness of purpose. I praise him with all my attention to what I am saying or singing. I think about God’s joy of transcendence: He does not have to make himself available to me, but he does. He wants a relationship with me! I am truly in awe of His generosity!

 

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Topics: glory, prayer life, Sharon Krause, give glory

Visual Aids

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

We recently been seeing the removal and even destruction of statues of certain famous people who, besides their heroic deeds, had either committed or permitted some not-so-admirable practices.

This underscores for me the fact that we humans like visual aids to reinforce certain ideals or to perpetuate certain virtues. Eyes-on and even hands-on experiences are effective for teaching and making lasting impressions on us. We find it helpful to see tangible things and not just rely on understanding abstract concepts. We need to “flesh things out.”

While I understand and appreciate Jesus’ birth, there are no photos of his coming. However, I have a lovely set of nativity figurines I put on display every Advent and Christmas season. Right after Thanksgiving, I brought out my set and carefully arranged the porcelain figures on the top of a small bookcase in my living room. I know some people don’t put out the baby Jesus until Christmas Day, but I love that baby all season long, and I know he came, so I don’t wait.

I finished my decorating and went to bed. In the middle of the night, I heard the telltale sound of porcelain clinking together, and then bang! My husband went downstairs and found the donkey from my nativity set broken on the floor. Buddy, our senior cat, had jumped up onto the bookcase and could not get out of his own way. He took off in a guilty flurry and zipped up and down the staircase a couple of times at top speed.

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Topics: Christmas, Christmas season, Advent, crèche, prayer, Sharon Krause

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

Posted by Bill Ayres on Dec 18, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the prophecy of Micah

(Chapter 5:1-4a)

Throughout the church year we hear readings from the major prophets, such as Isaiah and Jeremiah, and from several of what are called the minor prophetsZephaniah, Baruch, and Micah, the last of whom we encounter today. You may notice a common theme in these prophetic readings. The setting is a terrible time for the Hebrew people, usually an exile and period of persecution. But there is always a message of hope that God will save the people through a new leader, a messiah.

We believe that the savior the prophets foretold came in the person of Jesus. He believed it. He called the people together and proclaimed the reign of God beginning here on earth. Many people accepted and followed him, but the religious and political leaders did not. Jesus threatened their power. They wanted to destroy him, but they could only murder him, not destroy him.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 80)

“Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.” That sounds wonderful, but how can we see the face of God? If we have the eyes of love and faith we can see the face of God in our loved ones, in our friends and partners, and in the faces of the faceless and forgotten in our society: the orphan; the elder in a nursing home without family; the single mom working two jobs, struggling to feed her children; and the person begging on the streetperhaps especially that person that is so easy to pass by. May we look more deeply into the faces of God’s children to see his face.

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Topics: Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, Advent, John the Baptist, RENEW International, Indwelling of the Holy Spirit, fourth sunday of advent

Gift Wrapping

Posted by Sharon Krause on Dec 15, 2021 6:00:00 AM

I have a fond memory from when I was a young teenager of volunteering to wrap Christmas gifts as a favor to my Aunt Margie. She had many grandchildren for whom she purchased gifts; she would bring the purchases to me, with wrapping paper, and I would go to work. I liked the job, and she liked not having the job.

Why do we wrap gifts, anyway? I assume it is to increase the excitement and surprise and add a little mystery or guesswork. Gift-wrapping also can add more color to the experience.

I remember trying to disguise packages to look nothing like what gift was under wraps. One time we bought my daughter a necklace for Christmas and hid it inside a wrapped-up ball of yarn. She grew a bit impatient as she unwound the yards of wool! Another time I wrapped a lunch box for my husband so that it looked like a big beach ball. Wrapping and unwrapping take time, but sometimes it can add to the fun and festivity.

When I turn to thoughts of the real essence of Christmas, I remember the description of the newborn Jesus, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. I think about Mary who did not even have the luxury, if you can call it that, of giving birth at home, maybe with her mother nearby. There in Bethlehem, in a stable, Mary gave birth to the greatest gift to mankind. He was put in a manger, not a cradle or crib. It certainly was not an ideal situation! However, I am sure the baby was wrapped in the love of Mary and Joseph, despite the uncertainty of the situation.

 

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Topics: Eucharist, gift of God, greatest gift, Sharon Krause, Holy Communion

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