Branching-Out

Open Flight

Posted by Sharon Krause on Dec 6, 2022 6:00:00 AM

There I sat, in the passenger’s side of our pickup truck, for hours and hours as my husband drove us from Connecticut to our new residence in Royal Palm Beach Florida. Being of short stature, I had the pleasure of the sun in my face when the visors were not long enough; but I also had wonderful views of large birds gliding among the clouds high in the sky above us. I noticed how gracefully they flew, how unencumbered their flights were in contrast to the sometimes jerky, crowded, stop-and-go vehicle traffic below them. I also became aware of how wide open and full the wingspreads of the birds were. Those natural aviators were fully open to the power and directions of the wind currents. While I could not ask the birds their opinions, their travels looked very peaceful and delightful.

So I propose the question to all of us: do we open our wings fully to the power and direction of the Lord? Apart from all the confusion and distractions of our daily lives, are we able to open ourselves up to the love and inspirations from the Holy Spirit? Not one of those birds had its wings open only halfway or one-sided. There was a complete openness to that which would offer efficient and safe propulsion. With the resources of prayer and sacraments, we can get through our busy traffic, and now, the holiday traffic…with a cushion of faith and confidence.

At the same time, we have the joy of the season of Advent when we can try to spread our wings fully, to open up and prepare for the celebration of the Lord’s nativity. It is so easy to get “jammed up” with lists, shopping, decorating, rearranging, parties and party-planning, wrapping, and errands that can really cramp our style. Circumstances can ruffle our feathers! At the end of a busy day, who feels like praying? And yet, what and who should be our real priorities?

I suggest we wrap up a little prayer-time gift for Jesus every day. If we spread ourselves out and lift up our thoughts and imaginations with gratitude and trust in our loving Savior, we can be pleasantly surprised at the gifts we receive, even before Christmas Day! Open up to the Lord!

We might choose to look to St. Paul for some scripture verses to form the bases of our prayer-time gifts:

Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect. (Romans 12:2)

 I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6)

Or we might look to Proverbs 3:5-6:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,

    on your own intelligence do not rely;

In all your ways be mindful of him,

    and he will make straight your paths.

Let’s take flight this Advent!

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Topics: everyday prayer, Advent, Advent prayer, Sharon Krause

'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

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

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

Posted by Bill Ayres on Dec 11, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the prophecy of Zephaniah

This Sunday in the church year is called Gaudete Sunday: Gaudete means “rejoice.” We hear the reason for this title throughout this reading: “Shout for joy,” “Sing joyfully,” “Be glad and exult with all your heart.” Why is the prophet Zephaniah saying this to the people of Israel? Because “The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior.”

Throughout the history of ancient Israel there was the expectation that God would become present among the people and save them from their enemies. We believe that Jesus was and is that presence of God. The promise to Israel and to all peoples has been fulfilled in him.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 12)

“Cry out with joy and gladness: for among you is the great and Holy One of Israel.” The Holy One of Israel is, of course, Jesus.

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

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

Posted by Bill Ayres on Dec 4, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the prophecy of Baruch

(Chapter 5:1-9)

How can you find hope amid desolation, exile from all that you have loved, and the never-ending feeling that you have been abandoned by the very God who you believed would save you? That was the situation for the Israelites as they suffered for what seemed like forever in exile in Babylon in the seventh century before the birth of Jesus. It is hard for us to imagine how awful life for the people was during that time, but here the prophet Baruch, a scribe of the prophet Jeremiah, offers a message of hope for a despairing people.

Has there ever been a time when you have felt abandoned by God, in exile from ones you loved, and perhaps also from your better self? The same message of hope that God sent to the Israelites he gives to us, not from afar but from the very Spirit who lives within each of us.

May we open our minds and hearts to the healing word of the Spirit for God. It might not come right away and it might come as a surprise from an unlikely source. But have faith that it will come.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 126)

“The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.” What are the great things that God has done for you that have given you joy? Please take some time during Advent to reflect on these gifts and how they have changed your life.

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

Advent Calendars

Posted by Sharon Krause on Dec 1, 2021 6:00:00 AM

These days I see advertisements for Advent calendars. What I see are kits that have the first 24 days of December displayed with either candies or trinkets of some kind for each day. I think that, by and large, it is children who are attracted to these calendars that help build excitement and anticipation as Christmas Day draws nearer and nearer. Certainly, retailers will do all they can to build enthusiasm for the approach of the big day. Also, Advent calendars are more items to offer consumers.

If we get away from the buyers’ calendars and check out the liturgical calendar, we consider the days before the feast of the Nativity with a focus on the joyful anticipation of God’s greatest Gift to the world. Sure, Advent calendars offer the viewer a little gift every day; but we need to think about the many gifts God gives us every day.

Let’s make up a spiritual Advent calendar. Based on the readings for Masses, let’s concentrate on a gift God gives us each day. A certain word, psalm verse, or clause from a reading might be chosen. There are so many possibilities, but I will get us started. Ready?

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Topics: Christmas, Advent, Advent calendar, Sharon Krause

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

Posted by Bill Ayres on Nov 27, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the prophecy of Jeremiah

(Chapter 33:14-16)

This is a prophecy by Jeremiah for the Jewish people who had suffered from the long exile in Babylon. “The days are coming says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and Judah. In those days, in that time, I will raise up for David a just shoot; he shall do what is right and just in the land. In those days Judah shall be safe and Jerusalem shall be secure.”

The early Christians and we today believe that Jesus was the person that Jeremiah foretold. This person was the Messiah, but much more than that, he was the Son of God, finally coming after all those generations to save his people. At the time, many believed but many did not, and that is still true today. Many who were brought up as followers of Jesus have rejected him. Just as God did not forsake the people who rejected him 2,000 years ago, we should not reject those of our families and friends who have drifted away now. Our God is a God of mercy and forgiveness.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 25)

“To you O Lord, I lift my soul.” Do you ever “Lift your soul” to God? It does not have to be a formal prayer. It can simply be an awareness of God’s loving presence.

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Topics: Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, Advent, First Sunday of Advent, RENEW International, second coming of Christ

Prayer: Hail Full of Grace!

Posted by Sr. Donna Ciangio, OP on Dec 20, 2020 6:00:00 AM

All-powerful God,
Your eternal Word took flesh
when the Virgin Mary placed her life
at your service.
Lift our minds and hearts
in watchful hope
to hear the voice which announces
the coming of Jesus in glory.
May we be open to the Holy Spirit
as Mary was,
that we too may make Christ present
to our hurting world.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. 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, faithful, Holy Spirit, hope, Jesus Christ, joy, prayer, RENEW International, spirit of the lord, Advent journey, season of preparation

Identity and Essence

Posted by Sharon Krause on Dec 16, 2020 6:00:00 AM

I was sitting in the kitchen half-listening to what my husband was watching on television. All of a sudden, I heard a movie character yell, “Jesus Christ!” He was not having a religious epiphany; he was expressing disfavor at some occurrence in the movie plot. I asked, “What are you watching?” Immediately my spouse changed the channel, he frequently does anyway. It certainly got my attention, but not in a good way.  

I got thinking about the misuse of God’s and Jesus’ name in everyday language, and it is disturbing. How many times I have seen OMG on social media and have heard the expression in everyday conversation. It used to be that “Oh my God!” was the beginning of a short prayer for divine assistance or the start of an acknowledgement of some wonderful blessing from God. It has become a careless habitual expression that really does not call on the Almighty. 

God’s name and Jesus’ name deserve honor and praise. In many instances recorded in Sacred Scripture, names do not just identify people but also define their essence. There are numerous passages in the Bible in which God is referred to with titles or metaphors that point out desirable attributes. For example, we read in Psalm 18:2-3:

The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer,
m
y God, my rock in whom I take refuge,
my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. 

I have noticed comedians often throw some irreverent language or slang terms into their routines to be outrageous or cause listeners to pay attention. It may give certain individuals a sense of power or control if they disrespect those who are supposed to be respected. However, Romans 12:2 reminds us:

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.

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Topics: Emmanuel, every knee shall bend, Advent, catholic program renew, Jesus Christ, prayer, renew catholic program, RENEW International, Oh My God, The Lord is my rock, God with us, hallowed be thy name

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