Branching Out Blog

You Can Say That Again

Posted by Sharon Krause on Dec 4, 2023 6:00:00 AM

“Wash, rinse, repeat.” Ah! Those are the familiar instructions on the shampoo bottle. We repeat many procedures and words for numerous reasons. We repeat to stress a point we are trying to make. We repeat to help us learn or memorize. We repeat because someone is hard of hearing or resistant to the issue at hand. We repeat because we like to hear what is repeated, perhaps song lyrics or melody, or a prayer psalm.

At times, when something is repeated, we may not pay attention: “Oh, I have heard that so many times before! I know all about that!"

Have you ever stopped to think that there are different ways to approach, explore, and elaborate on the matter at hand? A repetitive background could offer a comfortable or familiar jump-off point for creativity. Contemplative prayer is one example.

In the passage from the Gospel of Mark that we heard at Mass yesterday (13:33-37), we are told to be watchful and stay alert because we don’t know when the Master will come. As we begin our new liturgical year with the season of Advent, we know again we must be careful how we observe our environment which can be full of temptations. St. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians (1:3-9) gives us hope that we won’t lack spiritual gifts to help us. So we will say it again, “Watch! stay alert!”

At time of year, we read and hear repeated ads for all kinds of Christmas gifts and decorations. Materialism at its finest! How about repeating some beautiful Bible verses? Instead of “Black Friday” sales that repeat beyond Black Friday, consider reading and rejoicing with Isaiah 40:3-5:

   A voice cries out:

In the desert prepare the way of the Lord!

   Make straight in the wasteland a highway

       for our God!

Every valley shall be filled in,

   every mountain and hill shall be made low;

The rugged land shall be made a plain,

   the rough country, a broad valley.

Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,

   and all mankind shall see it together;

   for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

 

Psalms 85, 96 and 98 also give us hope and peace when we pray with them during Advent. We are hopeful, and hope is a good thing to repeat and pass on to others. When we read these familiar lines, we can thoughtfully, slowly emphasize one line and then another as we meditate. We can make the lines personal to ourselves and to our current situations. We can invite our loving, forgiving, generous Lord into the words and phrases and ask him for inspiration and fresh understanding.

Happy Advent! Again — Happy Advent!

  

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Topics: Christmas shopping, Jesus Christ the King, Sharon Krause

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

Posted by Bill Ayres on Dec 2, 2023 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the prophecy of Isaiah

(Chapter 63:16b-17, 19b; 64:2-7)

It has finally happened. The Jewish people have been freed from the long Babylonian Exile in the sixth century B.C., and they can go home to Israel. But the Temple in Jerusalem has been destroyed, and their land has been devastated. Worse! The people themselves are in terrible shape. They interpret the ravaging of their city and their long captivity as punishment their sins, particularly for idolatry.

“Would that you might meet us doing right, that we were mindful of you in our ways! Behold, you are angry and we are sinful; all of us have become as unclean people, all our good deeds are like polluted rags; we have all withered like leaves, and our guilt carries us away like the wind. There is none who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to cling to you; you have hidden your face from us and delivered us up to our guilt.”

Yet, all is not lost. “You, Lord, are our father, our redeemer you are named forever…. Return for the sake of your servants the tribes of your heritage.” It was the faith of so many of the Israelites that helped them through their painful captivity.

We should not interpret misfortune or illness as punishment from God, but we might, perhaps should, feel as though we are in exile if we neglect to give God the praise and gratitude that is due to him and if we do not live by his commandments. That feeling of exile is self-imposed, but, like the Israelites of long ago, we can return home. And for us, going home doesn’t require a long journey, only penance and a renewed commitment to the God who loves us.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 80: 2-3, 15-16, 18-19)
“Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.” Where do you see God’s face? In your loved ones! In those that you have not been able to see but remain in your heart and perhaps on the telephone? In the 54 million hungry people right here in America, 18 million of whom are children? In the hundreds of millions of poor and hungry people in our world, including the many millions of those struggling just to survive? We can’t help them all, but we can reach out to some and keep all in our hearts and prayers.

A reading from St. Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians

(Chapter 1:3-9)

“Brothers and sisters: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ…. He will keep you firm to the end, irreproachable on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, and by him you were called to fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Do you believe that Jesus “will keep you firm to the end”? We do live in shaky times. Have you felt shaken by what is going on in your life or in our world? Have you tried to find time each day to pray to Jesus for that firmness that seems to be hard to come by these days? What have you been especially thankful?

A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Mark

“Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come…. What I say to you, I say to all. Watch!’” This is a major theme in Mark’s Gospel—Watch!

The early Christians were often focused on the end time when Christ would come again. We do not think in those terms today, but we do need to watch, to watch what is going on around us, in our families, our workplaces, our communities, and our world. How is Jesus present in each of these aspects of our lives, and how is he calling us to bring love and kindness and mercy and justice to all?

 ✝️

Photo by Waldemar on Unsplash.

Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved. The passage regarding the wedding garment is from The New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC All Rights Reserved.

 Bill Ayres was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. He has been a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years and has two weekly Sunday-night shows on WPLJ, 95.5 FM in New York. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.

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Topics: Bill Ayres, Christ the King, Jesus Christ the King

Eyes on the King

Posted by Sharon Krause on Nov 27, 2023 6:00:00 AM

Sales! Sales! Sales! That’s all we are supposed to keep thinking about as we try to find wonderful Christmas gifts for the people we love. We see decorations displayed in stores and neighborhoods. Lights everywhere! Spend your money! Spend your time shopping! Keep looking! Give your attention to the holiday festivities! It is all exciting and colorful!

Yesterday, we celebrated the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus, King of the Universe. It would be spiritually beneficial for us to focus on our loving King, Jesus, who teaches us about a different kind of giving of gifts and attention. Certainly, we use material objects as gifts to show our love, but our personal talent—gifts of understanding, hospitality, sense of humor, and gentle solicitous listening—are valuable ways to show others we care about them. Jesus is our perfect example of gift-giver! Our eyes should be on him!

We might think of kings in the context of pageantry, wealth, and spectacle. Our Christ, the King, is a teacher, a loving chastiser, the Son of God who willingly gave his life for the redemption of all of us. His self-sacrificing love for us can sustain us even in the bleakest of times, but we have to keep our busy eyes on him. Every now and then, it is a good idea to check our priorities. Take time to visit his throne room.

One of the best things Jesus taught us is to trust in his Father’s will. At this busy time of the year, let’s be sure to take time to pray to our King, Jesus. Let’s ask for his help in following His Father’s will for us, even when it seems very difficult.

 

The Scarecrow

The rabbit approached the scarecrow:

“Won’t you teach me how to dance.

I watch you here in the cornfield.

Such moves cannot be by chance,”

The scarecrow replied quite modestly,

“Our Creator is my teacher.

He sends the songbirds with music,

And the winds to set the meter.

I’ve learned to rest upon this pole,

To stay ready day and night,

I trust in the Master’s direction,

In this Spirit-filled dance of life.”

 

  

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Topics: Christmas shopping, Jesus Christ the King, Sharon Krause

"Hear the Word!" by Bill Ayres: Solemnity of Jesus Christ, King

Posted by Bill Ayres on Nov 25, 2023 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the prophecy of Ezekiel

(Chapter 34: 11-12,15-17)

Here we are at the end of another liturgical year. Next Sunday, December 3, Advent begins.

Ancient Israel was a pastoral country with numerous herds of sheep and many shepherds to protect them from predators and bad weather. David, who became Israel’s greatest king, was a shepherd who took good care of his people. Every king was required to, in a sense, be a good shepherd, but not all did. In this passage, Ezekiel has God saying that he will take care of the people in every way. In one of the truly moving passages in the scriptures, God says he will rescue them, give them land and rest, seek out the strays, and bring them back, bind up the injured, and heal the sick.

That and more is what our God does for us every day. God lives within us and all around us. That is true even when God seems far away, and we may feel unworthy or lost in depression, addiction, loss of a loved one, or some combination of painful situations. As we seek God, God is already there. We need only to be open and not think of God’s love as having magical powers. We ask for something, and there it is. No! What we have with God is never magic but rather mystery in the best and deepest sense—the mystery of unconditional love, a true ongoing relationship beyond our deepest longings.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 23:2-3, 3-4, 5-6)

“The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.” We truly want for nothing, at least not what we truly need, because Jesus, our shepherd, is always there for us. We have only to ask and wait patiently, something that is most difficult for us to do.

A reading from St. Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians

(Chapter 15:20-26, 28)

A paradox is not the same as a contradiction. Our faith is full of paradoxes that are not contradictions. Saint Paul is talking about the paradox of the Resurrection. Through the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, we share in new life. It is happening now, but the paradox is that it is not yet complete. As we have mentioned several times in these commentaries, Paul and most of the early Christians thought that the completion, the Second Coming of Christ, was coming in their lifetime. That did not happen, and so, over the centuries, we have learned to live in the paradox—the life of the Resurrection has already begun but is not complete. Let us focus on what already is and rejoice in it.

A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Matthew

(Chapter 25:31-46)

Many people call themselves “Matthew 25 Christians” because they hear this part of the Gospel as a call from Jesus for social justice. The words are powerful and challenging.

“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.” Jesus says that then the righteous will ask when did they do all of these things for him, and Jesus replies, “Whatever you did for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me.”

The next section has Jesus being harsh with those who did not do any of these things to help “one of the least ones.” So, where do you and I stand in our generosity and justice for those on the bottom of society? What is our responsibility? Can we actually do all those things for all those in need?

The key in this is to remember that we are not only individuals but part of communities. We can help through our parish outreach, by contributing to the Catholic Campaign collection, one of the most effective anti-poverty programs in America. We can also let our leaders know that we want them to provide services for those truly in need, through federal, state, and local programs. There are so many ways that we can fulfill our responsibilities to “these least ones.” It is one of the strongest commands of Jesus.

 ✝️

Image: Stained glass window at the Melkite Catholic Annunciation Cathedral in Roslindale depicting Christ the King with the regalia of a Byzantine emperor. January Detail from photo by John Stephen Dwyer.  Boston at English Wikipedia. This file is licensed under the This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. 

Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved. The passage regarding the wedding garment is from The New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC All Rights Reserved.

 Bill Ayres was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. He has been a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years and has two weekly Sunday-night shows on WPLJ, 95.5 FM in New York. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.

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Topics: Bill Ayres, Christ the King, Jesus Christ the King

"Hear the Word! by Bill Ayres: Solemnity of Jesus Christ, King

Posted by Bill Ayres on Nov 19, 2022 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the Second Book of Samuel

(Chapter 5:1-3)

In this passage we read that David was called to be king and leader of Israel. The Christian biblical writers saw Jesus as both the successor and the perfection of David’s rule—not only over Israel but over the whole world. These days, most kings and queens have only ceremonial functions where they exist at all. When the Church began observing this solemnity in 1925, it was identifying Jesus with the power still being exercised by royalty in many places but contrasting his eternal rule with the finite dominion of earthly kings. Today, we recognize that Jesus' kingdom embraces all mankind, but we focus too on the loving, healing aspects of his power.

 Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 122)

“Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.” Do you and I rejoice when we come for Mass each week, or do we take it for granted and as an obligation rather than a gift worthy of rejoicing?

A reading from St. Paul's Letter to the Colossians

(Chapter 1:12-20)

“He is the head of the body, the church.” This is a central teaching of our faith, that there is a bodily connection between Christ who is the head of the body, and the Church, which is itself the body of Christ. You can’t get any closer. “In him were created all things.” Everything was created in and for Christ. This was a hymn in the early Church, and it reflected what the followers of Jesus believed from the beginning and what we believe and experience in the assembly of the Church and in the Eucharist.

A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke

(Chapter 25:25-43)

The soldiers mockingly tell Jesus, “If you are King of the Jews, save yourself.” And one of the other two men being crucified that day implores Jesus, “Save yourself and us.” But Jesus uses his saving power not for himself but in response to the penance of one of those men who admitted his guilt and asked Jesus, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus forgives him and promises him eternal life. This is the climax of Luke’s portrayal of Jesus as a loving, forgiving savior, something we have heard throughout this liturgical year. The “good thief,” as he is often described, was a lucky man indeed. And so are we lucky. Each of us has that same chance for forgiveness at any and all times in our lives. We need only ask.

✝️

Image: Christ on the Cross Between Two Thieves, unknown author. Illumination from the Vaux Passional in the Peniarth Manuscripts. Public Domain. National Library of Wales.

Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved.
 
Bill Ayres was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. He has been a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years and has two weekly Sunday-night shows on WPLJ, 95.5 FM in New York. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.

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Topics: Jesus Christ the King

The Everyday Gospel: And he shall reign

Posted by Charles Paolino on Nov 18, 2022 6:30:00 AM

One of the memorable images among the events surrounding the death of Queen Elizabeth II was of a woman kissing King Charles on the cheek as he greeted members of a crowd gathered outside Buckingham Palace.

The woman, a Cypriot named Jennifer Assiminios, later told the press that she had asked permission to kiss Charles and that he had granted it.

Although Elizabeth had established an emotional bond with many of her subjects, it did not exhibit itself in anything as intimate as a kiss. So perhaps, by accepting that one kiss, Charles nudged the monarchy a little way off of its traditional distance from its subjects.

Not being British, I have no opinion about the British monarchy either as an institution or, for that matter, about the endurance of monarchy in the modern world. I once asked a chemist in Denmark why such a progressive country still had a queen. He said, “Well she is Denmark, isn’t she?” and I suppose that was as good an answer as any.

Many countries have long since dispensed with their kings, queens, and emperors, but there are 44 sovereign states in the world that have monarchs, including 15 that recognize the British monarch as their own. In a few of these places, monarchs have absolute power; in a few, their role is largely symbolic. And in some countries, the king or queen shares the responsibilities of government with an elected body, a parliament or legislature.

Abdullah bin Hussein, the king of Jordan, has gone out of his way to have personal contact with Jordanian citizens. More often, though, kings prefer to be physically, emotionally, and spiritually distant, separate, apart from their subjects, That’s not our King.

As Americans, of course, we have no monarch, but as Christians we have a “King of the Universe” as we will again proclaim Jesus this weekend.

While we have the greatest respect for Jesus and try to live in keeping with what he taught us about love of God and love of each other, we do not have to keep our physical or psychic distance from him. On the contrary, Jesus invites, urges, all of us to approach him in the most intimate way possible.

Jesus is the king who, during his life on earth, made a point of touching people whom others would rather not touch ¾ and that was a clear sign of the relationship he wanted to have with all of us.

This why the Church, Pope Francis in particular, and the American Catholic bishops during the current three-year “Eucharistic revival,” stress the importance of each Christian having a personal encounter with Jesus -- an encounter that occurs in our prayer life, when we speak to Jesus as the loving friend he is, and in our liturgical life when we come in physical contact with him in the Eucharist, in his body and his blood.

In the prophecy of Daniel, we read about the Messiah, “He received dominion, glory, and kingship; nations and peoples of every language serve him.”

That is a legitimate image of Jesus, the Christ, who is the Son, the second person of the Holy Trinity—who is God. But it is indispensable to our Catholic faith to always keep before us, too, the words of the author of the book of Revelation who describes Jesus as “the ruler of the kings of the earth” but in the next breath as “him who loves us.’’

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Topics: RENEW International, The Everyday Gospel: Deacon Charles Paolino, Jesus Christ the King

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: Solemnity of Jesus Christ the King

Posted by Bill Ayres on Nov 20, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the prophecy of Daniel

(Chapter 7:13-14)

Daniel refers to “one like a Son of man coming.” Whom did he mean? Remember, this book was written less than 200 years before the birth of Jesus. It was a time of horrible persecution, and this scripture was intended to give the people hope. The “Son” envisioned here was probably seen as God’s messenger who would herald the last days. The last days of what? Probably, it was the last days of the evil Seleucid King Antiochus IV which did come soon after. This Son of man would have been considered the messiah, a messenger sent by God to bring justice and peace.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 93)

“The Lord is king; he is robed in majesty.” The psalm proclaims the one God, the God of Israel, who always was and always will beGod, whom we encounter in an intimacy unknown to the ancients, through his Son, Jesus Christ.

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Topics: Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, RENEW International, Jesus Christ the King

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