December 10:  While the squirrels climb and nest in the Magnolia or Maple tree in my Dad’s back yard, one was wondering what a Jesse Tree was and why squirrels couldn’t nest in such a tree?!!  Well,
Jesse Trees are a very old Christmas Tradition and first started in medieval times.  They are used to help tell the story of the Bible from creation to the Christmas Story. 
The name comes from Jesse, who was the Father of the great Jewish King David.  One prophecy in the Bible, in the book of Isaiah, says:
“A shoot will come from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit…..”  A branch is a sign of new life and new beginnings.  Jesus was a descendent of King David and Christians believe that Jesus is the new branch.
The first Jesse trees were large carvings, tapestries or even stained glass windows put in Churches that helped illiterate people who couldn’t read or write to learn the Christmas Story.  But now Jesse Trees are used as a kind of Advent Calendar.  One could use a normal Christmas tree, a banner which displays symbols included in the Christmas Story!
Like my Dad says and that which I keep saying to the squirrels:  It’s all about knowing your faith, loving your faith, living your faith and sharing your faith – and my squirrel friends are doing just that! 

December 3:  My Dad is “Leaving the Light On” each Wednesday evening during Advent 6:00-7:00 pm. 

One of the squirrels asked “what is the Sacrament of Confession?”  Well, once again, my Sheltie knowledge tried to explain!   The Sacrament of Reconciliation is one of the most unique and beautiful aspects of Catholicism. Jesus Christ, in His abundant love and mercy, established the Sacrament of Confession, so that we as sinners can obtain forgiveness for our sins and reconcile with God and the Church. The sacrament “washes us clean,” and renews us in Christ. “Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained’” (John 20:21-23). 

If you haven’t been to Confession in a while, the Catholic Church wants to welcome you back, and invites you to participate in this beautiful sacrament of healing. Take a step in faith. You’ll be surprised about how free you feel after taking part in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. So many Catholics describe incredible feelings of peace, joy, relief, and love that they never expected. Jesus is calling you to experience His mercy in this way too.

November 26:  So the squirrels were talking in my Sheltie Theology class 101 that they’ve heard that Catholics believe they can “work” their way into Heaven but others believe they are saved by faith alone.  Well….

First of all, I ask them to show me where in the Catechism, the official teaching of the Catholic Church, does it teach that we can “work” our way into Heaven? They can’t, because it doesn’t. The Catholic Church does not now, nor has it ever, taught a doctrine of salvation by works…that we can “work” our way into Heaven.

Second, I ask them to show me where in the Bible does it teach that we are saved by “faith alone.” They can’t, because it doesn’t. The only place in all of Scripture where the phrase “Faith Alone” appears, is in James…James 2:24, where it says that we are not…not…justified (or saved) by faith alone.

So, one of the two main pillars of Protestantism…the doctrine of salvation by faith alone…not only doesn’t appear in the Bible, but the Bible actually says the exact opposite – that we are not saved by faith alone.

Third, I ask them that if works have nothing to do with our salvation…then how come every passage in the New Testament that I know of that talks about judgment says we will be judged by our works, not by whether or not we have faith alone? We see this in Romans 2, Matthew 15 and 16, 1 Ptr 1, Rev 20 and 22, 2 Cor 5, and many, many more verses.

Fourth, I ask them that if we are saved by faith alone, why does 1 Cor 13:13 say that love is greater than faith? Shouldn’t it be the other way around?

As Catholics we believe that we are saved by God’s grace alone. We can do nothing, apart from God’s grace, to receive the free gift of salvation. We also believe, however, that we have to respond to God’s grace. Protestants believe that, too. However, many Protestants believe that the only response necessary is an act of faith; whereas, Catholics believe a response of faith and works is necessary…or, as the Bible puts it in Galatians 5:6, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumsion is of any avail, but faith working through love…just as the Church teaches. 

Now you know!!!!!

November 19:  I found these following "Eight Steps Toward a More Satisfying Life" that I thought were good for the squirrels, the rabbits and just about anyone else that might want to improve their livelihood.  Here are the Eight Steps:

1. Count your blessings.
2. Practice acts of kindness.
3. Savor life's joys.
4. Thank a mentor.
5. Learn to forgive.
6. Invest time and energy in friends and family.
7. Take care of your body.
8. Develop strategies for coping with stress and hardship. 

And because the readings are all about being prepared, I thought I’d add one more step, a 9th Step to the strategy: Be prepared. Be prepared to step off life's planned paths, and trust the Spirit. After all, the Spirit can appear in many guises, disguises, and surprises.

For more of Maggie's musings, see our online bulletin archives.  Maggie's column appears on page 3.