Branching Out Blog

Problem Solving

Posted by Sharon Krause on Oct 9, 2023 6:00:00 AM

In today’s Mass, we read about Jonah and the big fish and about the Good Samaritan. In both readings, men made decisions as to how to solve problems. In the case of Jonah, the mariners decided to solve the problem of a storm, which threatened to capsize their boat and drown them, by throwing Jonah into the sea. In the parable in Luke’s Gospel today, a priest and a Levite solved their problem of dealing with a severely injured man by avoiding any contact with him. There are many ways we can devise solutions to problems and challenges in our lives; some solutions can be drastic, some can be avoidance, and some can be wise, caring and systematic.

As we begin the colorful season of autumn, we might consider what colors our decisions as we solve life’s problems. Fears, worries, memories can all influence our choices. We know it is so important to call upon the Lord in prayer when we have problems to solve. He has enriched us with gifts and talents, and we need the Holy Spirit’s help to tap into our resources to find proper and loving solutions.

 Autumn Chores

Our autumn is full of truer colors with frost on the growing edges.

We rake together our cherished gifts: the shapes, shades, shadows, shifts, and shivers.

The breath of the Spirit scatters our leaves as we pile up countless blessings:

Patterns, passings, pauses, pursuits and passions.

And there, in the season, we find the Divine Artist who endeavors to teach us wisely

how to harvest his handiwork,

And somehow, in all the changes, distribute our wealth to those we love.

 As we prepare for the secular and holy celebrations as the year winds down, may we not get swallowed up by the size of any problem. May love be our response when we encounter a stranger in distress. May we color our lives with trust in our loving Creator!


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Topics: trust in God, Sharon Krause, problem solving

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

Posted by Bill Ayres on Feb 12, 2022 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the prophecy of Jeremiah

(Chapter 17:5-8)

Many of the people the prophet Jeremiah encountered were farmers who lived from harvest to harvest and depended on the land for their survival. In the passage read at Mass today, Jeremiah taps into that background as he invokes a metaphor for trust.

Jeremiah says, “Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose hope is the Lord.” Then he tells the people why they should have that trust. “He is like a tree planted beside the waters that stretches out its roots to the stream. It fears not the heat when it comes; its leaves stay green; in the year of drought it shows no distress, but still bears fruit.” The key word is trust. The farmers who are his audience will understand the meaning of trust from this farming story.

What does it mean for you to trust in God? Has anything caused your trust to waver? Did that wavering become a crisis of faith? Has it been resolved?

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 1)

“Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.” Amid the pandemic and so many other threatening issues, are you still a hopeful person? Who or what continues to give you hope?

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Topics: trust in God, Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, RENEW International, Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted by Bill Ayres on Oct 16, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the prophecy of Isaiah

(Chapter 53:10-11)

This is the last of Isaiah’s “suffering servant” poems. Can one person take on the sufferings of a whole people, a whole nation? The Israelites thought that was possible, and we believe that Jesus is the ultimate suffering servant. He suffered and died for all of us.

What does that say about our own sufferings? To seek out suffering is, of course, not healthy. We do not need to look for suffering. It will find us. So, how should we deal with it? There are times of extreme and extended suffering. It may be very intense, and it does not seem to go away. The key is to reach out rather than turn within. A burden shared is always lighter even though it does not take away the suffering immediately. Knowing that you are heard and embraced on some level is healing. During times of deep suffering we need to find sources of life that will give us at least a little joy. And we need to know that Jesus, “the Suffering Servant,” is always with us. It is possible that our suffering, like his, may become “redemptive suffering.” Have you experienced this redemptive suffering? Has something good come out of something that was so hard? Maybe it has and maybe it will again if you go deep with the Spirit of Jesus in your suffering. It may become a source of life for you as hard as that can seem when you are in the midst of the pain.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 33)

“Lord, may your mercy be on us as we place our trust in you.” God’s mercy comes with our trust in him. He tells us repeatedly, “Do not be afraid.” Trust him.

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Topics: trust in God, Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, RENEW International, servant leadership, suffering servant, trust in God's mercy

Embracing the Unexpected

Posted by Samantha Howath on Aug 23, 2021 6:00:00 AM

As move-in and the fall semester approach, I still cannot believe I’m a senior at Loyola University Maryland. It seems like yesterday that I was saying goodbye to my parents in my dorm room, holding back tears.

To say that my college experience was unpredictable would be an understatement. Although I was not living amid a pandemic in my freshman year, I had to adjust to college itself. It would be easy to dwell on what I missed out on because of the pandemic, such as studying abroad, but I know I am not alone. Reflecting on the past three years, I realize that God has been a constant anchor in my times of need.

Since I was young, I have liked to know what comes next and be prepared. In college, I learned that sometimes plans do not work out the way I want them to. Whether a class project becomes stressful, or I get rejected for an internship, I lean into my faith. Through challenges, I encourage myself to trust in God’s plan. I’ve found that attending Mass and being a volunteer lector has been beneficial. I also pause to say the “Serenity Prayer” when I feel overwhelmed, and I wear a blessing bracelet every day.


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Topics: trust in God, RENEW International, trust in the Lord, God's plan

'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

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