Branching-Out

'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

Praying with a Psalm

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jun 18, 2021 6:00:00 AM

There are 22 verses in Psalm 34, six of which are prayed during the liturgy today. If you have ever prayed with Psalm 34, you probably realize how uplifting and reassuring it is. Instead of breezing through only the six verses, it is good to read and pray with the whole psalm, especially in this transitional time as the pandemic seems to be abating somewhat.

This psalm is a call to prayer and praise. We read the words “praise,” “be glad,” “magnify,” and “exalt.” These are not words we commonly use in our mundane conversation. When we use them as we talk about our relationship with God, we should feel joyful and positive. There is a call for praying and praising with others:

O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together. (verse 3)

In the next few verses, we read that we are “answered,” “delivered from fears,” “heard” and “saved” by the Lord. If we need a dose of optimism, here we are! We are encouraged and advised,

   ...happy are those who take refuge in him. (verse 8b)

   ...those who seek the Lord lack no good thing. (verse 10b)

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Topics: Psalm 34, psalms, RENEW International, Sharon Krause, psalm 131, praying with a psalm

Growing Up

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jun 14, 2021 6:00:00 AM

Recently my friends were telling me about going to their granddaughters’ dance recitals. I also heard about a couple of graduations they were attending. I was happy for them and have fond memories myself of recitals and graduations of my own grandchildren. I also have fun memories of reading stories to my grandkids when they were little and laughing over craft projects and outdoor sidewalk games. Somehow, a measure of sadness crept in because those fun days are gone, all but the memories. How I would love to sit under what we called the “story blanket” and read, for the hundredth time, the same silly stories my grandchildren enjoyed.

My three grandkids are young adults now. I don’t see them as often as I once did. The youngest grandchild, Josh, is finishing his second year of college. However, he was with me last week, and we got into a discussion about current news-making events. I heard myself talking to Josh as an adult, and I knew he was comprehending and formulating his responses. The same fellow that drew wonderful drawings as he sat at my kitchen table was now drawing mature discussion conclusions at that same table. He is growing up to be a thoughtful and wise young man.

Nostalgia can be a kind of growing pain, and yet, it is a pain that can be managed. It certainly can be pleasant to review various life events. However, it is important to immerse oneself in the present and be open to the growth that is happening. In our spiritual life, we can approach growth confidently thanks to the inspirations from the Holy Spirit, the nourishment from Jesus, our Living Bread, and the perfect will of our Loving Father, God.

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Topics: RENEW International, Sharon Krause, growing in faith, maturing in faith

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted by Bill Ayres on Jun 12, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the book of the Prophet Ezekiel

(Chapter 17:22-24)

Here we are, in the Babylonian Captivity once again. It was one of the lowest, seemingly hopeless periods in the history of Israel, and Ezekiel was one of the exiles. This story about God planting a small branch of a majestic cedar (the famous Cedar of Lebanon) on the top of “a high and lofty mountain” is a metaphor for God bringing hope to Israel even in its darkest hour. That hope could have come only from God.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 92)

“Lord, it is good to give thanks to you.” It can happen at any time. You look into the eyes of someone you love. You walk the beach and see a beautiful sunset. You are given a true gift that means so much to you. Or it is nothing so profound. You simply open your heart to God for all God’s goodness, and you give thanks.

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Topics: Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, gifts from God, holy spirit at work, RENEW International

Collections

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jun 11, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A few years ago in my parish, a visiting priest began a homily by asking us how many things, beyond necessities, we had accumulated. There was silence as we thought about the extra clothes and accessories in our closets, drawers, and cabinets. Over the years, it is very easy to collect articles we don’t really need or need to keep. I am very guilty! Many of the objects were attractive or good at the time I acquired them, but they can certainly pile up over time.

How about books? As I scan the reading materials in my four bookcases, I see books I have said I may read some day, books that I have read once, reference books and prayer books and booklets I have kept with my most pious intentions proclaimed.

I probably should mention all the figurines that proudly collect little dust coatings as they smile atop my flat-topped wooden furniture pieces. Those decorative accessories complement the pictures on the walls and give me “aha” moments when I shop at yard sales.

Now, I am not saying that all collections are bad or sinful or should be disbanded. After having spent more at-home time over the past 15 months, however, I do notice that collections can easily grow and that material things can gain somewhat of a grip on space and attention. Some repurposing might be wise. Is it time to think about priorities and actual needs? Could others with fewer clothes and less income somehow benefit from my downsizing?

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Topics: RENEW International, Sharon Krause, counting our blessings

Right Order

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jun 7, 2021 6:00:00 AM

Every time I hear the priest during the consecration at Mass echo Jesus’ words “Do this in memory of me,” I think that this is something Jesus wants us to doalmost like a commandbut it is the best direction or responsibility he could have given his followers: Receive the true Body and Blood of our saving Lord! That is better than winning any lottery or taking any life-saving, tried-and-true medication!

To receive the actual Body of the Lord into your own body, to be that intimate with Christ, who died on the cross and rose from the dead, and who is the Second Person of the Trinity is such a tremendous gift to each of us! What an awesome invitation he gives us at every celebration of the Eucharist! I am so blessed to comply!

And how about that prayer we say at Mass, theGloria”? We say, “We praise you, we bless you, we adore you, we glorify you, we give you thanks for your great glory.” What we are doing is really helping us! We are giving the attention, praise, gratitude, and honor to God, and taking the focus off ourselves! God won’t be less of who he is if we don’t do this, but we gain by reinforcing our understanding, as we prioritize and emphasize who deserves our love and attention. We are creatures with emotions and intelligence; we are reminded that we should use our power and creativity to give proper time and attention to acknowledge who God is and that he is always with us.

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Topics: glory to god, praise God, RENEW International, Sharon Krause

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: The Body and Blood of Christ

Posted by Bill Ayres on Jun 5, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the book of Exodus 

(Chapter 24:3-8)

“When Moses came to the people and related all the words and ordinances of the Lord, they all answered with one voice, ‘We will do everything that the Lord has told us.’ Moses then wrote down all the words of the Lord, and rising early the next day, he erected at the foot of the mountain an altar and twelve pillars for the twelve tribes of Israel.”

Animal sacrifice was common among ancient religions, including Judaism. As strange as it seems to us, it was a major step away from human sacrifice which some of Israel’s neighbors practiced. The sprinkling of the blood of animals was a sign of Israel’s fidelity to the Covenant and so was called the “blood of the covenant.” It was also seen as a cleansing and an act of forgiveness from God to his people.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 116)

“I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord.” We certainly call upon the name of the Lord, usually in time of need, but how about in thanksgiving for all God gives us?

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Topics: Eucharist, Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, body and blood of Christ, Holy Eucharist, RENEW International, solemnity of the most holy body and blood of chris, New Covenant

Good Gardening

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jun 4, 2021 6:00:00 AM

My recent walks in my neighborhood have revealed some beautiful flowers that have bloomed in various yards. The yellows, the whites, the purples and lavenders are so eye-captivating. It appears that some of my neighbors are very careful and methodical gardeners. I am confident that as the summer arrives, even more loveliness will grace the nearby flowerbeds. I wonder if the gardeners ever come outside with their scissors and cut off lovely bouquets to bring inside their houses to adorn their tables and please their eyes.

In the gardens of our interior lives, I wonder what has grown and blossomed during the pandemic. As the tenders of our own personal spiritual gardens, let us consider what might be desirable blossoms and what we might have to weed out.

I suggest it was very easy to plant seeds of doubt, anxiety, uncertainty, and worry over these past months. Every day came with news of high numbers of cases of the virus, suggestions of how and what to sanitize, and reports of measures we might take to fend off the nasty virus that even has nastier variants. We could easily feed our interior gardens with sprinkles of doubt, impatience, anger, and resentment.

Now it appears that, because of the vaccine distribution, the virus’s hold on us may be waning. Let’s inspect our gardens and see what we can weed out and what blossoms we can gather and perhaps bring closer to us to savor and enjoy.

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Topics: RENEW International, pandemic, COVID, Sharon Krause, pandemic lessons

Best Coach Ever

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

With the easing of pandemic restrictions and the beginning of many summer sports seasons, I have been hearing about coachesfor instance, who coaches which team and whose contract has been renewed. Out of curiosity, I checked online to see what are considered necessary attributes of a good coach. I found that, in general, coaches have to be enthusiastic, positive, good teachers, supportive, focused, goal-oriented, knowledgeable, patient, clear communicators, prepared, inspirational, and good leaders. Whew! That’s a lot of qualifications!

Towards the end of last month, we celebrated the feast of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came to the disciples as tongues of fire, instilling in them the ability to tell people of many different languages about the wonderful acts of God. I started to think how the Holy Spirit is probably a kind of divine coach who has all the attributes of the best coach ever.

As we pray in the Nicene Creed, the Holy Spirit is the Lord and giver of life, who spoke through the prophets. In John’s Gospel (14:26), Jesus tells us,

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and will remind you of all that I have said to you.

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Topics: wisdom, Holy Spirit, insight, prayer life, RENEW International, Sharon Krause, Gifts of the Holy Spirit

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: The Most Holy Trinity

Posted by Bill Ayres on May 29, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the book of Deuteronomy 

(Chapter 4:32-34, 39-40)

At the time of this writing, about 1200 B.C., virtually all the nations and tribes that surrounded the Hebrews believed in more than one god, in some cases many gods. Moses was telling his people once again that there was only one God, and that it was the one God who had given them a new homeland. The Hebrews had been in the desert for 40 years, and now the day had arrived for them to enter the Promised Land. But, there were two conditions. They must worship only the one God, no false gods, and they must keep God’s commandments. Of course, the people said yes, but they were often seduced by false gods that led them to disaster.

We can all think of celebrities and millionaires that have given into money, power, and prestige. But about us? What false gods can take the place of the one God in our lives?

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 33)

“Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.” We are that people, and we are blessed.” That is quite a gift and quite a responsibility. It does not call for passivity or false pride but rather for joyful thanks.

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Topics: Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, Holy Trinity, RENEW International, Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, Abba

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