Branching-Out

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

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

A reading from the Acts of the Apostles 

(Chapter 4:32-35)

Saint Luke tells us, “The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own.” How could people be so generous? It may seem foolish to us. The answer lie in their powerful belief in the Resurrection: “With great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus and great favor was accorded them all.” The community had experienced something extraordinary. The man who was their beloved leader had been crucified, but they knew that he had conquered death. They also knew that they shared in that new life, a life in the Holy Spirit. Of course they would share what little they had with all in the community. None of that was really important. They had a new life, a life in the Spirit. They would never really die even though their bodies would die.

How would our lives be different if we really, deeply believed that we were living in the resurrected life of Jesus with his Spirit within us? Would we be as concerned so much with mere things, no matter how trendy or special or necessary they were portrayed?

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 118)

“Give thanks to the Lord for he is good; his love is everlasting.” Everlasting means everlasting. There is not much else that lasts forever. Let’s go with the sure thing, God’s love!

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Topics: The Resurrection of the Lord, Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, gift of faith, having faith, Jesus Christ, RENEW International

Road Repairs

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

When springtime arrives here in New England, driver complaints about all the potholes in the paved roads are rampant. The bouts of freezing and thawing of the asphalt over the winter cause cracks and crumbles that often lead to some very large car-threatening holes. If the potholes don’t slow us down, the prospect of wending around the road-repair crew trucks will certainly challenge us.

Have we ever thought about the potholes in our spiritual lives? Sometimes we fluctuate in the warmth of our prayer life and religious fervor. Sometimes we yield to temptations for immediate, selfish gratification. The season of Lent has been a good time to evaluate and atone for those ruts and bumps in our road to holiness; and now that Easter has come, we can rejoice in the perfect Savior solution to our challenges.

Jesus has risen! His tomb is empty, and we are full of joy and hope! We can rise, tooabove all the sickness, anxiety, and world-threatening problems that menace us with doubt and despair. Jesus’ terrible suffering and death give us powerful examples of how to follow God’s will. God the Father raised his Son to new life and showed us that, thanks to Jesus, our road to new life in heaven is open. It may not always be a smooth road, but we know how much God loves us and offers us help to avoid the ruts.

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Topics: Easter Season, Jesus Christ, prayer life, RENEW International, Sharon Krause

Easter Basket Prayers

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

Come Easter morning when I was a little child, there would usually be a good-sized, fancy-wrapped Easter basket waiting for me on the dining room table. Through the colorful cellophane wrap I would see a rainbow of yummy jellybeans half-circling marshmallow yellow chicks, small chocolate eggs, and a fair-sized hollow chocolate bunny decorated with little candy flowers. I think it is a safe guess that many of my readers share a similar memory. A perennial question is, what part of the chocolate bunny you eat first? All these thoughts about the Easter basket and its contents have inspired an Easter basket prayer.

The Easter basket, possibly made of woven wicker, is the container that holds the colored plastic grass; it is the foundation or base holding all the good stuff! I think of the foundation of my spiritual life: the religious instruction I have had, the materials I have read, the teachers I have had, and the spiritual experiences I have had in my decades of life. What holds my spirituality together? What keeps me together and supports me?

Risen Savior, I acknowledge and appreciate how You lift me up and lovingly keep me from losing my way to You. Sometimes I feel like I cannot “keep it all together,” but You are always with me, and ready to help me through my tough times.

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Topics: Easter, Jesus Christ, prayer life, RENEW International, Sharon Krause

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: Easter Sunday

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

A reading from the Acts of the Apostles 

(Chapter 10: 34a, 37-43)

The Acts of the Apostles is really a continuation of Saint Luke’s Gospel, completing the story of what happened after the Resurrection. Peter speaks for the community and recounts the major events in the life of Jesus: his anointing with the Holy Spirit, his ministry of healing and doing good for people, his death and resurrection, and his eating and drinking with the disciples after he conquered death. Peter wants everyone to know that he and the other apostles have been “commissioned” by Jesus to preach the Good News and that “everyone who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sins through his name.”

Imagine how difficult all this was for Peter and the other apostles. They had lost their friend and leader in whom they had placed all their hope. They had given up everything to follow him, and then they lost him to a horrible death. They could have called it quits and returned to their former lives. There were probably many who encouraged them to stop risking their lives and lead a “normal” existence, but they persisted. Why? Somehow, in ways we cannot understand, they still experienced the presence of Jesus. He was still there for them, and they continued to answer his call. Because of those relatively few courageous people, we have a community, a Church today. Let us be thankful for them.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 118)

“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.” The next line is so important: “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his mercy endures forever.” God’s mercy is always there, no matter how far we may have strayed or how much harm we may have done. Please pass that on to someone in your life that really needs to hear those words of everlasting mercy. That is something we can all “rejoice and be glad.”

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Topics: Easter, The Resurrection of the Lord, Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, Jesus Christ, RENEW International

Lamb of God

Posted by Sharon Krause on Mar 31, 2021 6:00:00 AM

When I hear and pray the Agnus Dei prayer at Mass, the words, “Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world” really affect me. When I think of my own sins, I know there have been many over my lifetime; but Jesus takes away the sins of the world! We have all been fallen children of God, and Jesus died to save all of us! How phenomenal is that?

I think about that nasty crown of thorns they jammed onto Jesus’ precious head. Droplets of blood and sweat must have dripped into his eyeseyes that had seen the crowds of people who listened to his teachings and tried to understand, eyes that hd beheld the hungry multitude he fed with bread and fish, eyes that had cried at the news of his friend’s death.

Perhaps the blood droplets fell into Jesus’ earsears that had heard the conversations of his apostles, the cries of the widow of Naim, the complaints of Martha that she was doing all the housework, and the crack of the whips at his scourging.

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Topics: lamb of God, Passion of Our Lord, crucifixion, Jesus Christ, RENEW International, Sharon Krause

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: Palm Sunday

Posted by Bill Ayres on Mar 28, 2021 11:11:01 AM

A reading from the prophecy of Isaiah

(Chapter 50:4-7)

This reading is one of Isaiah’s “Suffering Servant” songs. The early Christians, who were almost all Jews, related this passage to Jesus. He suffered rejection, torture, and death, but He did not turn back and was not disgraced. The early community could believe that about Jesus even though he had a terrible death, because they also believed in his Resurrection. He lives!

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 22)

“My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” Jesus could very well have felt abandoned, but he made it through terrible torture, because his Father was with him. Our Father has given us his Spirit who lives within us. Let us call upon the Holy Spirit in our times of greatest suffering. It is not as though we will suddenly be freed from that suffering, but the Spirit will remain with us and help us to make it through.

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Topics: Palm Sunday, Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, Jesus Christ, RENEW International, The Passion of the Lord, Crucifxion, Dying to new life

Being Prepared

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

It was a very cold winter morning. My husband, our baby daughter, and I were in the car on our way from Pennsylvania relatives to home in Connecticut. We did not get very far on the highway when the fan belt on the car broke. This was before the days of cellphones. My husband pulled over and walked down a nearby exit ramp to find a place to phone his father to come and help us. It worked out fine, but the incident taught my husband a big lesson. From then on, he carried an extra fan belt, a box of many tools, and extra oil in the trunk of our car whenever we took a trip.

“Be prepared” is the motto of the Boy Scouts, and being prepared is a good idea for all of us, even though technology can bring help for any problem quite quickly nowadays.

It seems as if, in everyday life, we are always preparing for something. Most of the time we have advance notice of an exam we will be taking, a dinner we will be serving, an appointment we have made. We can plan our preparation. Sometimes, unexpected things happen; that’s when we need to have our “tools” in our trunks.

Right now, we are preparing to celebrate something wonderful: Easter and the Easter season. Lenten liturgy readings recount miracles Jesus performed, his teachings about love and the laws, the mission and identity of Jesus, and the plots to kill Jesus. We get ready for the miracle of Easter by appreciating all Jesus’ did in preparation for his crucifixion and death that redeemed us.

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Topics: Lent, Jesus Christ, prayer life, RENEW International, Sharon Krause, prepare for Easter

Medi-stations on Jesus' Forgiveness

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

Lent is an ideal time to remember how Jesus forgives sinners. Below are six “medi-stations” based on gospel accounts wherein Jesus forgave sinners publicly.

1. Jesus forgives a paralytic. In Mark’s Gospel (2:1-12), we read of a paralytic who was brought to Jesus for physical healing. After four companions lowered the man from an opening in the roof. Jesus first said, “Son, your sins are forgiven” (v. 5). Jesus teaches about priorities. Certainly, it is important to be able to walk; but having one’s sins forgiven is even more important. How are my priorities this Lent? Should I walk on over to the Sacrament of Reconciliation? The all-powerful, all-loving Jesus will give us a clean bill of spiritual health if we ask for it in faithful prayer.

Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.    Happy are those to whom the Lord imputes no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. (Psalm 32:1-2)

2. Jesus forgives a woman caught in adultery. In John’s Gospel (7:53-8:1-11), Jesus says he will not condemn an adulteress and cautions her not to sin again. Jesus had just told the people watching, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” (v. 7). Am I quick to judge other people? Have I ever considered sharing with others little strategies I have used to help me refrain from some sinful behavior? Helping can be better than criticizing.

Then I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not hide my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the guilt of my sin. (Psalm 32:5)

3. Jesus says salvation has come to the house of Zacchaeus. Jesus says salvation has come to the house of Zacchaeus. In Luke’s Gospel (19:1-10), Jesus tells Zacchaeus that salvation has come to his house and that the lost has been saved. Zacchaeus was inspired by Jesus to atone and make reparations for all his sins as the chief tax collector in Jericho. He did not just climb a tree but also climbed out of his sinful ways of extortion. At times, I might feel that my sinful habits are too hard to overcome; but if I invite Jesus to stay at my house and help me to be persistent in prayer, I can be hopeful and willingly keep trying.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit. (Psalm 51:10-12)

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Topics: penance, forgiveness, Jesus Christ, RENEW International, Sharon Krause, God forgives, Jesus forgives

Expectations

Posted by Sharon Krause on Mar 10, 2021 6:00:00 AM

Over the past year, I have been at home, staying away from places where people congregate. I have been watching more television shows, both series and news programs. I conclude that audiences seem to expect and consume more drama, intensity, “breaking news,” danger, and the outrageous. Presentations that get the ol’ adrenaline pumping, or super sales offers that get encourage folks to use their credit cards to order more “stuff” are what prevail. Shows that investigate crimes and analyze in great detail the how-tos of perpetrating those crimes are portrayed as “entertaining.”

Because of modern technology, people expect to be quickly entertained. It can be easy to swallow spoonsful of self-indulgence when they are so readily available. If there is good news or incidents that are not so violent, we often see and hear about them only in the last few minutes at the ends of broadcasts.

I also hear about people of all ages being more stressed out and depressed. The virus pandemic has been blamed for this, but I suggest that the intensity of media presentations might be a contributing factorsort of a CTSD, Current Traumatic Stress Syndrome.

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Topics: patience, Jesus Christ, prayer, RENEW International, talents, Sharon Krause

Stories to Live By

Posted by Sharon Krause on Mar 8, 2021 6:00:00 AM

The charismatic prayer group that I attended before the pandemic would occasionally run an eight-week Life in the Spirit seminar for the parish at large. Most of the meetings’ weekly format consisted of music and singing, silent prayer, a teaching, and a personal witness talk. I always especially enjoyed the witness talksbut then, who does not enjoy a personal story to which we might be able to relate or with which we can empathize?

When my daughter was little, I would read storybooks to her almost every night. She would bring me one book after another after another until I would almost lose my voice. Most of those short stories would teach a lesson about friendship or coping or solving problems.

It is no wonder that Jesus would use parables to teach his followers. He used everyday circumstances, familiar situations, and common objects in brief stories to convey important truths. Although some disciples may have found it challenging or impossible to understand the meanings behind the narratives, those who were open and willing were gifted with ways of understanding how God thinks. Thank you, Jesus! We know we have so very much to learn and absorb about God’s ways; for we read in the prophecy of Isaiah (55:8-9),

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

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Topics: Lent, parables, Jesus Christ, RENEW International, Sharon Krause

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